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Title: A Brace Of Boys - 1867, From "Little Brother"
Author: Ludlow, Fitz Hugh
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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A BRACE OF BOYS

By Fitz Hugh Ludlow

From "Little Brother,"

Copyright, 1867, by Lee & Shepard


I am a bachelor uncle. That, as a mere fact, might happen to anybody;
but I am a bachelor uncle by internal fitness. I am one essentially,
just as I am an individual of the Caucasian division of the human race;
and if, through untoward circumstances--which Heaven forbid--I should
lose my present position, I shouldn't be surprised if you saw me out
in the "Herald" under "Situations Wanted--Males." Thanks to a marrying
tendency in the rest of my family, I have now little need to advertise,
all the business being thrown into my way which a single member of my
profession can attend to. I suppose you won't agree with me; but, do you
know, sometimes I think it's better than having children of one's own?
People tell me that I'd feel very differently if I did have any. Perhaps
so, but then, too, I might be unwise with them; I might bother them
into mischief by trying to keep them out. I might be avaricious
of them--might be tempted to lock them up in my own stingy old
nursery-chest instead of paying them out to meet the bills of humanity
and keep the Lord's business moving. I might forget, when I had spent
my life in fining their gold and polishing their graven-work, that
they were still vessels for the Master's use--I only the Butler--the
sweetness and the spirit with which they brimmed all belonging to His
lips who tasted bitterness for me. Then, if seeking to drain another's
wine, I raised the chalice to my lips and found it gall, or felt it
steal into my old veins to poison the heart and paralyze the hand which
had kept it from the Master, what further good would there be for me in
the world? Who doesn't know, in some friend's house, a closet containing
that worst of skeletons--the skeleton which, in becoming naked, grim and
ghastly, tears its way through our own flesh and blood? To be an uncle
is a different kind of thing. There you have nothing of the excitement
of responsibility to shake your judgment That's what makes us bachelor
uncles so much better judges of what's good for children and their
fathers and mothers. We know that nobody will blame us if our nephews
unjoint their knuckles or cut their fingers off; so we give them
five-bladed knives and boxing gloves. This involves getting thanked at
the time, which is pleasant; and if no catastrophe occurs, when they
have grown stout and ingenious, with what calm satisfaction we hear
people say, "See what a pretty windmill the child's whittled out with
Uncle Ned's birthday present!" or, "That boy's grown an inch round the
chest since you set him sparring!" Uncles never get stale. They don't
come every day like parents and plain pudding; they're a sort of holiday
relative with a plummy, Christmas flavor about them. Everybody
hasn't got them; they are not so rare as the meteoric showers, but as
occasional as a particularly fine day, and whenever they come to a house
they're in the nature of a pleasant surprise.

I meander, like a desultory, placid river of an old bachelor as I am,
through the flowery mead of several nurseries. I am detained by all the
little roots that run down into me to drink happiness, but I linger
longest among the children of my sister Lu.

Lu married Mr. Lovegrove. He is a merchant, retired, with a fortune
amassed by the old-fashioned slow process of trade, and regards the
mercantile life of the present day only as so much greed and gambling
Christianly baptized. For the ten years elapsing since he sold out of
Lovegrove, Cashdown & Co., he has devoted himself to his family and a
revival of letters, taking up again the Latin and Greek which he had not
looked at since his college days, until he dismissed teas and silks to
adorn a suburban villa with a spectacle of a prime Christian parent and
Pagan scholar. Lu is my favorite sister; Lovegrove an unusually good
article of brother-in-law; and I can not say that any of my nieces
and nephews interest me more than their two children, Daniel and Billy,
who are more unlike than words can paint them. They are far apart in
point of years; Daniel is twenty-two, Billy eleven. I was reminded of
this fact the other day by Billy, as he stood between my legs, scowling
at his book of sums.

"'A boy has 85 turnips and gives his sister 80'--pretty present for
a girl, isn't it?" said Billy with an air of supreme contempt. "Could
_you_ stand such stuff--say?"

I put on my instructive face and answered: "Well, my dear Billy,
you know that arithmetic is necessary to you if you mean to be an
industrious man and succeed in business. Suppose your parents were to
lose all their property, what would become of them without a little son
who could make money and keep accounts?"

"Oh!" said Billy with surprise. "Hasn't father got enough stamps to see
him through?"

"He has now, I hope; but people don't always keep them. Suppose they
should go by some accident when your father was too old to make any more
stamps for himself?"

"You haven't thought of brother Daniel--"

True; for nobody ever had, in connection with the active employments of
life.

"No, Billy," I replied; "I forgot him; but then, you know, Daniel is
more of a student than a business man, and--"

"Oh, Uncle Teddy! you don't think I meant he'd support them? I meant I'd
have to take care of father and mother and of all when they'd all got to
be old people together. Just think! I'm eleven and he's twenty-two; so
he is just twice as old as I am. How old are you?"

"Forty, Billy, last August."

"Well, you aren't so awful old, and when I get to be as old as you
Daniel will be eighty. Seth Kendall's grandfather isn't more than that,
and he has to be fed with a spoon, and a nurse puts him to bed and
wheels him around in a chair like a baby. That takes the stamps, _I_
bet! Well, I'll tell you how I'll keep my accounts; I'll have a stick
like Robinson Crusoe, and every time I make a toadskin I'll gouge a
piece out of one side of the stick, and every time I spend one I'll
gouge a piece out of the other."

"Spend a what!" said the gentle and astonished voice of my sister Lu,
who, unperceived, had slipped into the room.

"A toadskin, ma," replied Billy, shutting up Colburn with a farewell
glance of contempt.

"Dear! dear! where does the boy learn such horrid words?"

"Why, ma! don't you know what a toadskin is? Here's one," said Billy,
drawing a dingy five-cent stamp from his pocket. "And don't I wish I had
lots of 'em!"

"Oh!" sighed his mother, "to think I should have a child so addicted to
slang! How I wish he were like Daniel!"

"Well, mother," replied Billy, "if you wanted two boys just alike you'd
oughter had twins. There ain't any use of my trying to be like Daniel
now when he's got eleven years the start. Whoop! There's a dog-fight!
Hear 'em! It's Joe Casey's dog--I know his bark!"

With these words my nephew snatched his Glengarry bonnet from the table
and bolted downstairs to see the fun.

"What will become of him?" said Lu hopelessly; "he has no taste for
anything but rough play; and then such language as he uses! Why _isn't_
he like Daniel?"

"I suppose because his Maker never repeats himself. Even twins often
possess strongly marked individualities. Don't you think it would be a
good plan to learn Billy better before you try to teach him? If you do
you'll make something as good of him as Daniel; though it will be rather
different from that model."

"Remember, Ned, that you never did like Daniel as well as you do
Billy. But we all know the proverb about old maids' daughters and old
bachelors' sons. I wish you had Billy for a month--then you'd see."

"I'm not sure that I'd do any better than you. I might err as much in
other directions. But I'd try to start right by acknowledging that he
was a new problem, not to be worked without finding the value of 'x' in
his particular instance. The formula which solves one boy will no more
solve the next one than the rule of three will solve a question
in calculus--or, to rise into your sphere, than the receipt for
one-two-three-four cake conduct you to a successful issue through plum
pudding--"

I excel in metaphysical discussions, and was about giving further
elaboration of my favorite idea when the door burst open. Master Billy
came tumbling in with a torn jacket, a bloody nose, the trace of a few
tears in his eyes, and the mangiest of cur dogs in his hands.

"Oh my! my!! my!!!" exclaimed his mother.

"Don't you get scared, ma!" cried Billy, smiling a stern smile of
triumph; "I smashed the nose off him! He won't sass me again for nothing
_this_ while! Uncle Teddy, d'ye know it wasn't a dogfight after all?
There was that nasty good-for-nothing Joe Casey 'n' Patsy Grogan and a
lot of bad boys from Mackerelville; and they'd caught this poor little
ki-oodle and tied a tin pot to his tail and were trying to set Joe's dog
on him, though he's ten times littler--"

"You naughty, naughty boy! How did you suppose your mother'd feel to see
you playing with those ragamuffins?"

"Yes, I _played_ 'em! I polished 'em--that's the play I did! Says I,
'Put down that poor little pup! Ain't you ashamed of yourself, Patsy
Grogan?' 'I guess you don't know who I am,' says he. That's the way they
always say, Uncle Teddy, to make a fellow think they're some awful great
fighters. So says I again, 'Well, you put down that dog or I'll show you
who _I_ am'; and when he held on, I let him have it. Then he dropped the
pup, and as I stooped to pick it up he gave me one on the bugle."

"_Bugle!_ Oh! oh! oh!"

"The rest pitched in to help him; but I grabbed the pup, and while I
was trying to give as good as I got--only a fellow can't do it well with
only one hand, Uncle Teddy--up came a policeman and the whole crowd ran
away. So I got the dog safe, and here he is!"

With that Billy set down his "ki-oodle," bade farewell to every fear,
and wiped his bleeding nose. The unhappy beast slunk back between the
legs of his preserver and followed him out of the room, as Lu, with an
expression of maternal despair, bore him away for the correction of his
dilapidated raiment and depraved associations. I felt such sincere
pride in this young Mazzini of the dog-nation that I was vexed at Lu for
bestowing on him reproof instead of congratulation; but she was not the
only conservative who fails to see a good cause and a heroic heart under
a bloody nose and torn jacket. I resolved that if Billy was punished, he
should have his recompense before long in an extra holiday at Barnum's
or the Hippotheatron.

You already have some idea of my other nephew if you have noticed that
none of us, not even that habitual disrespecter of dignities, Billy,
ever called him Dan. It would have seemed as incongruous as to call
Billy William.

He was one of those youths who never give their parents a moment's
uneasiness; who never have to have their wills broken, and never forget
to put on their rubbers or take an umbrella. In boyhood he was intended
for a missionary. Had it been possible for him to go to Greenland's
icy mountains without catching cold, or to India's coral strand without
getting bilious, his parents would have carried out their pleasing dream
of contributing him to the world's evangelization. Lu and Mr. Lovegrove
had no doubt that he would have been greatly blessed if he could have
stood it. They brought him up in the most careful manner, and I can not
recollect the time when he was not president, secretary, or something in
some society of small yet good children. He was not only an exemplar to
whom all Lu's friends pointed their own nursery as the little boy who
could say most hymns and sit stillest in church, but he was a reproof
even unto his elders. One Sunday afternoon, in the Connecticut village
where my brother-in-law used to spend his summers, when half of the
congregation was slumbering under the combined effect of the heat, a
lunch of cheese and apples, and the sermon, my nephew, then aged five,
sat bolt upright in the pew, winkless as a demon hearing a new candidate
suspected of shakiness on a "a card'nal p'int," and mortified almost to
death poor old Mrs. Pringle, who, compassionating his years, had handed
him a sprig of her "meetin'-seed" over the back of the seat, by saying,
in a loud and stern voice: "I don't eat things in church."

I should have spanked the boy when I got home, but Lu, with tears in her
eyes, quoted something about the mouths of babes and sucklings.

Both she and his father always encouraged old manners in him. I think
they took such pride in raising a peculiarly pale boy as a gardener
does in getting a nice blanch on his celery, and, so long as he was
not absolutely sick, the graver he was, the better. He was a sensitive
plant, a violet by a mossy stone, and all that sort of thing. But when
in his tenth year he had the measles, and was narrowly carried through,
Lu got a scare about him. During his convalescence, reading aloud a life
of Henry Martyn to amuse him, she found in it a picture of that young
apostle preaching to a crowd of Hindus without any boots on. An American
mother's association of such behavior with croup and ipecac was too
strong to be counteracted by known climatic facts; and from that hour,
as she never had before, Lu realized that being a missionary might
involve going to carry the gospel to the heathen in your stocking-feet.

When they had decided that such a life would not do for him, his
training had almost entirely unfitted him for any other active calling.
The strict propriety with which he had been brought up had resulted
in weak lungs, poor digestion, sluggish circulation, and torpid liver.
Moreover, he was troubled with the painfulest bashfulness which ever
made a mother think her child too ethereal, or a dispassionate outsider
regard him as too flimsy, for this world. These were weights enough
to carry, even if he had not labored under that heaviest of all, a
well-stored mind.

No misnomer that last to any one who has ever frequented the Atlantic
Docks, or seen storage in any large port of entry. How does a storehouse
look? It's a vast, dark, cold chamber-dust an inch deep on the floor,
cobwebs festooning the girders--and piled from floor to ceiling on the
principle of getting the largest bulk into the least room, with barrels,
boxes, bales, baskets, chests, crates, and carboys--merchandise of all
description, from the rough, raw material to the most exquisite _choses
de luxe_. The inmost layers are inextricable without pulling down the
outer ones. If you want a particular case of broadcloth you must clear
yourself an alleyway through a hundred tierces of hams, and last week's
entry of clayed sugars is inaccessible without tumbling on your head a
mountain of Yankee notions.

In my nephew's unfortunate youth such storage as this had minds. As long
as the crown of his brain's arch was not crushed in by some intellectual
Furman Street diaster, those stevedores of learning, the schoolmasters,
kept on unloading the Rome and Athens lighters into a boy's crowded
skull, and breaking out of the hold of that colossal old junk, The
Pure Mathematics, all the formulas which could be crowded into the
interstices between his Latin and Greek. At the time I introduce Billy,
both Lu and her husband were much changed. They had gained a great
deal in width of view and liberality of judgment. They read Dickens and
Thackeray with avidity; went now and then to the opera; proposed to let
Billy take a quarter at Dod-worth's; had statues in their parlor without
any thought of shame at their lack of petticoats, and did multitudes of
things which, in their early married life, they would have considered
shocking. Part of this change was due to the great increase of travel,
the wonderful progress in art and refinement which has enlarged this
generation's thought and corrected its ignorant opinions; infusing
cosmopolitanism into our manners by a revolution so gradual that its
subjects were a new people before their combativeness became alarmed,
yet so rapid that a man of thirty can scarcely believe his birthday, and
questions whether he has not added his life up wrong by a century or so
when he compares his own boy-Hood with that of the present day. But a
good deal of the transformation resulted from the means of gratifying
elegant tastes, the comfort, luxury, and culture which came with
Lovegrove's retirement on a fortune. They had mellowed on the sunny
shelves of prosperity, like every good thing which has an astringent
skin when it is green. They would greatly have liked to see Daniel shine
in society. Of his erudition they were proud, even to worship. The young
man never had any business, and his father never seemed to think of
giving him any; knowing, as Billy would say, that he had stamps enough
to "see him through." If Daniel liked, his father would have endowed
a professorship in some college and have given him the chair; but that
would have taken him away from his own room and the family physician.

Daniel knew how much his parents wished him to make a figure in the
world, and only blamed himself for his failure, magnanimously forgetting
that they had crushed out the faculties which enable a man to mint the
small change of everyday society in the exclusive cultivation of such as
fit him for smelting its ponderous ingots. With that merciful blindness
which alone prevents all our lives from becoming a horror of nerveless
reproach, his parents were equally unaware of their share in the harm
done him, when they ascribed to his delicate organization the fact that,
at an age when love runs riot in all healthy blood, he could not see a
balmoral without his cheeks rivaling the most vivid stripe in it. They
flattered themselves that he would outgrow his bashfulness, but Daniel
had no such hope, and frequently confided in me that he thought he
should never marry at all.

About two hours after Billy's disappearance under his mother's convoy,
the defender of the oppressed returned to my room bearing the dog under
his arm. His cheeks shone with washing like a pair of waxy Spitzenbergs,
and other indignities had been offered him to the extent of the brush
and comb. He also had a whole jacket on.

"Well, Billy," said I, "what are you going to do with your dog?"

"I don't know what I'm going to do. I've a great mind to be a bad,
disobedient boy with him, and _not_ have my days long in the land which
the Lord my God giveth me."

"O Billy!"

"I can't help it. They won't be long if I don't mind ma, she says; and
she wants me to be mean, and put Crab out in the street to have Patsy
catch him and tie coffee-pots to his tail. I--I--I--"

Here my small nephew dug his fist into his eye and looked down.

I told Billy to stop where he was, and went to intercede with Lu. She
was persuaded to entertain the angels of magnanimity and heroism in the
disguise of a young fighting character, and to accept my surety for
the behavior of his dog. Billy and I also obtained permission to go out
together and be gone the entire afternoon.

We put Crab on a comfortable bed of rags in an old shoe box, and
then strolled, hand-in-hand, across that most delightful of New York
breathing-places, Stuyvesant Square.

"Uncle Teddy!" exclaimed Billy with ardor; "I wish I could do something
to show you how much I think of you for being so good to me. I don't
know how. Would it make you happy if I was to learn a hymn for you--a
smashing big hymn--six verses, long metre, and no grumbling?"

"No, Billy; you make me happy enough just by being a good boy."

"Oh, Uncle Teddy!" replied Billy decidedly, "I'm afraid I can't do it.
I've tried so often and I always make such an awful mess of it."

"Perhaps you get discouraged too easily--"

"Well, if a savings-bank won't do it, there ain't any chance for a boy.
I got father to get me a savings-bank once and began being good just as
hard as ever I could for three cents a day. Every night I got 'em, I
put 'em in reg'lar, and sometimes I'd keep being good three whole days
running. That made a sight of money, I tell you. Then I'd do something,
ma said, to kick my pail of milk over, and those nights I didn't get
anything. I used to put in most of my marble and candy money, too."

"What were you going to do with it?"

"It was for an Objeck, Uncle Teddy. That's a kind of Indian, you know,
that eats people and wants the gospel. That's what pa says, anyway; I
didn't ever see one."

"Well, didn't that make you happy--to help the poor little heathen
children?"

"Oh, does it, Uncle Teddy? They never got a cent of it. One time I was
good so long I got scared. I was afraid I'd never want to fly my kite
on a roof again or go anywhere where I oughtn't, or have any fun. I
couldn't see any use of going and saving my money to send out to the
Objecks if it was going to make good boys of 'em. It was awful hard for
me to have to be a good boy, and it must be worse for them 'cause they
ain't used to it. So when there wasn't anybody upstairs I went and shook
a lot of pennies out of my chimney and bought ever so much taffy and
marbles and popcorn. Was that awful mean, Uncle Teddy?"

The question involved such complications that I hesitated. Before I
could decide what to answer Billy continued:

"Ma said it was robbing the heathen, and didn't I get it? I thought if
it was robbing I'd have a cop after me."

"What's a 'cop'?"

"That's what the boys call a policeman, Uncle Teddy; and then I should
be taken away and put in an awful black place underground, like Johnny
Wilson when he broke Mrs. Perkins's window. I was scared, I tell you.
But I didn't get anything worse than a whipping, and having my savings
bank taken away from me with all that was left in it, I haven't tried to
be good since, much."

We now got into a Broadway stage going down, and being unable, on
account of the noise, to converse further upon those spiritual conflicts
of Billy's which so much interested me, we amused ourselves with looking
out until just as we reached the Astor House, when he asked me where we
were going.

"Where do you guess?" said I.

He cast a glance through the front window and his face became
irradiated. Oh, there's nothing like the simple, cheap luxury of
pleasing a child, to create sunshine enough for the chasing away of the
bluest adult devils!

"We're going to Barnum's," said Billy, involuntarily clapping his hands.

So we were; and, much as stuck-up people pretend to look down at the
place, I frequently am. Not only so, but I always see that class largely
represented there when I do go. To be sure, they always make believe
that they only come to amuse the children, or because their country
cousins visit them; and never fail to refer to the vulgar set one finds
there, and the fact of the animals smelling like anything but Jockey
Club; yet I notice that after they've been in the hall three minutes
they're as much interested as any of the people they come to poh-poh,
and only put on the high-bred air when they fancy some of their own
class are looking at them. I boldly acknowledge that I go because I like
it. I am especially happy, to be sure, if I have a child along to
go into ecstasies and give me a chance, by asking questions, for the
exhibition of that fund of information which is said to be one of my
chief charms in the social circle, and on several occasions has led
that portion of the public immediately about the Happy Family into the
erroneous impression that I was Mr. Barnum explaining his five hundred
thousand curiosities. On the present occasion we found several visitors
of the better class in the room devoted to the Aquarium. Among these was
a young lady, apparently about nineteen, in a tight-fitting basque of
black velvet, which showed her elegant figure to fine advantage, a skirt
of garnet silk, looped up over a pretty Balmoral, and the daintiest
imaginable pair of kid walking-boots. Her height was a trifle over the
medium, her eyes, a soft expressive brown, shaded by masses of hair
which exactly matched their color, and, at that rat-and-miceless day,
fell in such graceful abandon as to show at once that nature was the
only maid who crimped their waves into them. Her complexion was rosy
with health and sympathetic enjoyment; her mouth was faultless, her nose
sensitive, her manners full of refinement, and her voice musical as a
wood-robin's, when she spoke to the little boy of six at her side, to
whom she was revealing the palace of the great show-king. Billy and
I were flattening our noses against the abode of the balloon-fish and
determining whether he looked most like a horse-chestnut burr or a ripe
cucumber, when his eyes and my own simultaneously fell on the child and
lady. In a moment, to Billy the balloon-fish was as though he had not
been.

"That's a pretty little boy!" said I. And then I asked Billy one of
those senseless routine questions which must make children look at us,
regarding the scope of our intellects very much as we look at Bushmen.

"How would you like to play with him?"

"Him!" replied Billy scornfully, "that's his first pair of boots; see
him pull up his little breeches to show the red tops to them! But,
crackey! isn't _she_ a smasher!"

After that we visited the wax figures and the sleepy snakes, the learned
seal, and the glass-blowers. Whenever we passed from one room into
another, Billy could be caught looking anxiously to see if the pretty
girl and child were coming, too.

Time fails me to describe how Billy was lost in the astonishment at the
Lightning Calculator--wanted me to beg the secret of that prodigy
for him to do his sums by--finally thought he had discovered it, and
resolved to keep his arm whirling all the time he studied his arithmetic
lesson the next morning. Equally inadequate is it to relate in full how
he became so confused among the waxworks that he pinched the solemnest
showman's legs to see if he was real, and perplexed the beautiful
Circassian to the verge of idiocy by telling her he had read all about
the way they sold girls like her in his geography.

We had reached the stairs to that subterranean chamber in which the
Behemoth of Holy Writ was wallowing about without a thought of the
dignity which one expects from a canonical character. Billy had always
languished upon his memories of this diverting beast, and I stood ready
to see him plunge headlong the moment that he read the signboard at the
head of the stairs. When he paused and hesitated there, not seeming
at all anxious to go down till he saw the pretty girl and the child
following after--a sudden intuition flashed across me. Could it be
possible that Billy was caught in that vortex which whirled me down at
ten years--a little boy's first love?

We were lingering about the elliptical basin, and catching occasional
glimpses between bubbles of a vivified hair trunk of monstrous compass,
whose knobby lid opened at one end and showed a red morocco lining,
when the pretty girl, in leaning over to point out the rising monster,
dropped into the water one of her little gloves, and the swash made by
the hippopotamus drifted it close under Billy's hand. Either in play, or
as a mere coincidence, the animal followed it. The other children about
the tank screamed and started back as he bumped his nose against the
side; but Billy manfully bent down and grabbed the glove, not an inch
from one of his big tusks, then marched around the tank and presented
it to the lady with a chivalry of manner in one of his years quite
surprising.

"That's a real nice boy--you said so, didn't you, Lottie? And I wish
he'd come and play with me," said the little fellow by the young lady's
side, as Billy turned away, gracefully thanked, to come back to me with
his cheeks roseate with blushes.

As he heard this, Billy sidled along the edge of the tank for a moment,
then faced about and said:

"P'rhaps I will some day--where do you live?"

"I live on East Seventeenth Street with papa--and Lottie stays there too
now--she's my cousin: where d'you live?"

"Oh, I live close by--right on that big green square where I guess
the nurse takes you once in a while," said Billy patronizingly. Then,
looking up pluckily at the young lady, he added, "I never saw you out
there."

"No, Jimmy's papa has only been in his new house a little while, and
I've just come to visit him."

"Say, will you come and play with me some time?" chimed in the
inextinguishable Jimmy. "I've got a cooking stove--for real fire--and
blocks and a ball with a string."

Billy, who belonged to a club for the practice of the great American
game, and was what A. Ward would call the most superior battest among
the I. G. B. B. C, or "Infant Giants," smiled from that altitude upon
Jimmy, but promised to go and play with him the next Saturday afternoon.

Late that evening, after we had got home and dined, as I sat in my room
over Pickwick, with a sedative cigar, a gentle knock at the door told of
Daniel. I called "Come in!" and, entering with a slow dejected air,
he sat down by my fire. For ten minutes he remained silent, though
occasionally looking up as if about to speak, then dropping his head
again to ponder on the coals. Finally I laid down Dickens, and spoke
myself.

"You don't seem well to-night, Daniel?"

"I don't feel very well, uncle."

"What's the matter, my boy?"

"Oh--ah--I don't know. That is, I wish I knew how to tell you."

I studied him for a few moments with kindly curiosity, then answered:
"Perhaps I can save you the trouble by cross-examining it out of you.
Let's try the method of elimination. I know that you are not harassed by
any economical considerations, for you've all the money you want; and I
know that ambition doesn't trouble you, for your tastes are scholarly.
This narrows down the investigation of your symptoms--listlessness,
general dejection, and all--to three causes: Dyspepsia, religious
conflicts, love. Now is your digestion awry?"

"No, sir, good as usual. I'm not melancholy on religion and--"

"You don't tell me you're in love?"

"Well--yes--I suppose that's about it, Uncle Teddy."

I took a long breath to recover from my astonishment at this
unimaginable revelation, then said:

"Is your feeling returned?"

"I really don't know, uncle. I don't believe it is. I don't see how it
can be. I never did anything to make her love me. What is there in me to
love! I've borne enough for her--that is, nothing that could do her any
good--though I've endured on her account, I may say, anguish. So, look
at it any way you please, I neither am, do, nor suffer anything that can
get a woman's love."

"Oh, you man of learning! Even in love you tote your grammar along
with you, and arrange a divine passion under the active, passive, and
neuter!"

Daniel smiled faintly.

"You've no idea, Uncle Teddy, that you are twitting on facts; but you
hit the truth there; indeed you do. If she were a Greek or Latin woman
I could talk Anacreon or Horace to her. If women only understood the
philosophy of the flowers as well as they do the poetry--"

"Thank God they don't, Daniel!" sighed out I devoutly.

"Never mind--in that case I could entrance her for hours, talking about
the grounds of difference between Linnaeus and Jussieu. Women like
the star business, they say--and I could tell her where all the
constellations are; but sure as I tried to get off any sentiment about
them, I'd break down and make myself ridiculous. But what earthly chance
would the greatest philosopher that ever lived have with the woman
he loved, if he depended for her favor on his ability to analyze her
bouquet or tell her when she might look out for the next occultation of
Orion? I can't talk bread and butter. I can't do anything that makes a
man even tolerable to a woman!"

"I hope you don't mean that nothing but bread and butter talk is
tolerable to a woman!"

"No; but it's necessary to some extent--at any rate the ability is--in
order to succeed in society; and it is in society men first meet
and strike women. And Uncle Teddy! I'm such a fish out of water in
society!--such a dreadful floundering fish! When I see her dancing
gracefully as a swan swims, and feel that fellows, like little Jack
Mankyn, 'who don't know twelve times,' can dance to her perfect
admiration; when I see that she likes ease of manners--and all sorts of
men without an idea in their heads have that--while I turn all colors
when I speak to her, and am clumsy; and abrupt, and abstracted, and bad
at repartee--Uncle Teddy! sometimes (though it seems so ungrateful to
father and mother, who have spent such pains for me)--sometimes, do you
know, it seems to me as if I'd exchange all I've ever learned for the
power to make a good appearance before her!"

"Daniel, my boy, it's too much a matter of reflection with you! A woman
is not to be taken by laying plans. If you love the lady (whose name I
don't ask you because I know you'll tell me as soon as you think best),
you must seek her companionship until you're well enough acquainted with
her to have her regard you as something different from the men whom she
meets merely in society, and judge your qualities by another standard
than that she applies to them. If she's a sensible girl (and God forbid
you should marry her otherwise!) she knows that people can't always be
dancing, or holding fans, or running after orange ice. If she's a girl
capable of appreciating your best points (and woe to you if you marry
a girl who can't!), she'll find them out upon closer intimacy, and once
found they'll a hundred times outweigh all brilliant advantages kept in
the showcase of fellows who have nothing on the shelves. When this comes
about, you will pop the question unconsciously, and, to adopt Milton,
she will drop into your lap, 'gathered--not harshly plucked.'"

"I know that's sensible, Uncle Teddy, and I'll try. Let me tell you the
sacredest of secrets--regularly every day of my life I send her a little
poem fastened round the prettiest bouquet I can get at Hanfts."

"Does she know who sends them?"

"She can't have any idea. The German boy that takes them knows not a
word of English except her name and address. You'll forgive me, Uncle,
for not mentioning her name yet? You see she may despise or hate me some
day when she knows who it is that has paid her these attentions; and
then I'd like to be able to feel that at least I've never hurt her by
any absurd connection with myself."

"Forgive you? Nonsense! The feeling does your heart infinite credit,
though a little counsel with your head would show you that your only
absurdity is self-depreciation."

Daniel bade me good-night. As I put out my cigar and went to bed,
my mind reverted to the dauntless little Hotspur who had spent the
afternoon with me, and reversed his mother's wish, thinking: "Oh, if
Daniel were more like Billy!"

It was always Billy's habit to come and sit with me while I smoked my
after-breakfast cigar, but the next morning did not see him enter my
room till St. George's hands pointed to a quarter of nine.

"Well, Billy Boy Blue, come blow your horn; what haystack have you been
under till this time of day? We shan't have a minute to look over our
spelling together, and I know a boy is going in for promotion next week.
Have you had your breakfast and taken care of Crab?"

"Yes, sir, but I didn't feel like getting up this morning."

"Are you sick?"

"No-o-o--it isn't that; but you'll laugh at me if I tell you."

"Indeed, I won't, Billy!"

"Well"--his voice dropped to a whisper and he stole close to my side--"I
had such a nice dream about _her_ just the last thing before the bell
rang; and when I woke up I felt so queer--so kinder good and kinder
bad--and I wanted to see her so much, that if I hadn't been a big boy, I
believe I should have blubbered. I tried ever so much to go to sleep and
see her again; but the more I tried the more I couldn't. After all, I
had to get up without it, though I didn't want any breakfast, and only
ate two buckwheat cakes, when I always eat six, you know, Uncle Teddy.
Can you keep a secret?"

"Yes, dear, so you couldn't get it out of me if you were to shake me
upside down like a savings-bank."

"Oh, ain't you mean! That was when I was small I did that. I'll tell you
the secret, though--that girl and I are going to get married. I mean to
ask her the first chance I get. Oh, isn't she a smasher!"

"My dear Billy, shan't you wait a little while to see if you always like
her as well as you do now? Then, too, you'll be older."

"I'm old enough, Uncle Teddy, and I love her dearly. I am as old as the
Kings of France used to be when they got married--I read it in Abbott's
history. But there's the clock striking nine! I must run or I shall get
a tardy mark and perhaps she'll want to see my certificate some time."

So saying, he kissed me on the cheek and set off for school as fast
as his legs could carry him. Oh, Love, omnivorous Love, that sparest
neither the dotard leaning on his staff nor the boy with pantaloons
buttoning on his jacket--omnipotent Love, that, after parents and
teachers have failed, in one instant can make Billy try to become a good
boy!

With both of my nephews hopelessly enamored and myself the confidant
of both, I had my hands full. Daniel was generally dejected and
distrustful; Billy buoyant and jolly. Daniel found it impossible to
overcome his bashfulness, was spontaneous only in sonnets, brilliant
only in bouquets. Billy was always coming to me with pleasant news, told
in his slangy New York boy vernacular. One day he would exclaim: "Oh,
I'm getting on prime! I got such a smile off her this morning as I went
by the window!" Another day he wanted counsel how to get a valentine to
her--because it was too big to shove in a lamppost and she might catch
him if he left it on the steps, rang the bell, and ran away. Daniel
wrote his own valentine, but, despite its originality, that document
gave him no such comfort as Billy got from twenty-five cents' worth of
embossed paper, pink cupids, and doggerel.

Finally Billy announced to me that he had been to play with Jimmy and
got introduced to his girl.

Shortly after this Lu gave what they call "a little company"--not a
party, but a reunion of forty or fifty people with whom the family were
well acquainted, several of them living in our immediate neighborhood.
There was a goodly proportion of young fold and there was to be dancing;
but the music was limited to a single piano played by the German exile
usual on such occasions, and the refreshments did not rise to the
splendor of a costly supper. This kind of compromise with fashionable
gayety was wisely deemed by Lu the best method of introducing Daniel to
the _beau monde_--a push given the timid eaglet by the maternal bird,
with a soft tree-top between him and the vast expanse of society. How
simple was the entertainment may be inferred from the fact that Lu felt
somewhat discomposed when she got a note from one of her guests asking
leave to bring along her niece who was making her a few weeks' visit. As
a matter of course, however, she returned answer to bring the young lady
and welcome.

Daniel's dressing-room having been given up to the gentlemen, I invited
him to make his toilet in mine, and indeed, wanting him to create a
favorable impression, became his valet _pro tem_., tying his cravat and
teasing the divinity-student look out of his side hair. My little dandy
Billy came in for another share of attention, and when I managed to
button his jacket for him so that it showed his shirt studs "like
a man's," Count d'Orsay could not have felt a greater sense of his
sufficiency for all the demands of the gay world.

When we reached the parlor we found Pa and Ma Lovegrove already
receiving. About a score of guests had arrived. Most of them were old
married couples which, after paying their devoirs, fell in two like
unriveted scissors, the gentlemen finding a new pivot in pa and the
ladies in ma, where they mildly opened and shut upon such questions as
severally concerned them, such as "The way gold closed" and "How the
children were."

Besides the old married people there were several old young men, of
distinctly hopeless and unmarried aspect, who, having nothing in
common with the other class, nor sufficient energy of character to band
themselves for mutual protection, hovered dejectedly about the arch
pillars or appeared to be considering whether on the whole it would not
be feasible and best to sit down on the centre-table. These subsisted
upon such crumbs of comfort as Lu could get an occasional chance to
throw them by rapid sorties of conversation--became galvanically active
the moment they were punched up and fell flat the moment the punching
was remitted. I did all I could for them, but, having Daniel in tow,
dared not sail too near the edge of the Doldrums, lest he should drop
into sympathetic stagnation and be taken preternaturally bashful with
his sails all aback, just as I wanted to carry him gallantly into
action with some clipper-built cruiser of a nice young lady. Finally, Lu
bethought herself of that last plank of drowning conversationalists, the
photograph album. All the dejected young men made for it at once, some
reaching it just as they were about to sink for the last time, but all
getting a grip on it somehow and staying there, in company with other
people's babies whom they didn't know, and celebrities whom they knew to
death, until, one by one, they either stranded upon a motherly dowager
by the Fire-Place Shoals, or were rescued from the Sofa Reef by some
gallant wrecker of a strong-minded young lady, with a view of taking
salvage out of them in the German.

Besides these, were already arrived a dozen nice little boys and girls
who had been invited to make it pleasant for Billy. I had to remind him
of the fact that they were his guests, for, in comparison with the queen
of his affections, they were in danger of being despised by him as small
fry.

The younger ladies and gentlemen--those who had fascinations to disport
or were in the habit of disporting what they considered such--were
probably still at home consulting the looking-glass until that oracle
should announce the auspicious moment for their setting forth.

Daniel was in conversation with a perfect godsend of a girl who
understood Latin and had taken up Greek.

Billy was taking a moment's vacation from his boys and girls, busy with
"Old Maid" in the extension room, and whispering, with his hand in mine,
"Oh, don't I wish _she_ were here!" when a fresh invoice of ladies, just
unpacked from the dressing-room, in all the airy elegance of evening
costume, floated through the door. I heard Lu say:

"Ah, Mrs. Rumbullion! happy to see your niece, too. How do you do, Miss
Pilgrim?"

At this last word Billy jumped as if he had been shot, and the bevy of
ladies opening about Sister Lu disclosed the charming face and figure of
the pretty girl we had met at Barnum's.

Billy's countenance rapidly changed from astonishment to joy.

"Isn't that splendid, Uncle Teddy? Just as I was wishing it! It's just
like the fairy books!" and, rushing up to the party of new-comers, "My
dear Lottie!" cried he, "if I had only known you were coming I'd have
come after you!"

As he caught her by the hand, I was pleased to see her soft eyes
brighten with gratification at his enthusiasm, but my sister Lu looked
on, naturally with astonishment in every feature.

"Why Billy!" said she, "you ought not to call a strange young lady
'_Lottie?_ Miss Pilgrim, you must excuse my wild boy--"

"And you must excuse my mother, Lottie," said Billy, affectionately
patting Miss Pilgrim's rose kid, "for calling you a strange young lady.
You are not strange at all--you're just as nice a girl as there is."

"There are no excuses necessary," said Miss Pilgrim, with a bewitching
little laugh. "Billy and I know each other intimately well, Mrs.
Lovegrove, and I confess that when I heard the lady Aunt had been
invited to visit was his mother, I felt all the more willing to
infringe on etiquette this evening, by coming where I had no previous
introduction."

"Don't you care!" said Billy encouragingly, "I'll introduce you to every
one of our family; I know 'em if you don't."

At this moment I came up as Billy's reinforcement, and, fearing lest, in
his enthusiasm, he might forget the canon of society which introduced
a gentleman to a lady, not a lady to him, I ventured to suggest
it delicately by saying, "Billy, will you grant me the favor of a
presentation to Miss Pilgrim?"

"In a minute, Uncle Teddy," answered Billy, considerably lowering his
voice. "The older people first;" and after this reproof I was left to
wait in the cold until he had gone through the ceremony of introducing
to the young lady his father and his mother.

Billy, who had now assumed entire guardianship of Miss Pilgrim, with an
air of great dignity intrusted her to my care, and left us promenading
while he went in search of Daniel. I, myself, looked in vain for that
youth, whom I had not seen since the entrance of the last comers. Miss
Pilgrim and I found a congenial common ground in Billy, whom she spoke
of as one of the most delightfully original boys she had ever met; in
fact, altogether the most fascinating young gentleman she had seen
in New York society. You may be sure it wasn't Billy's left ear which
burned when I made my responses.

In five minutes he reappeared to announce, in a tone of disappointment,
that he could find Daniel nowhere. He could see a light through his
keyhole, but the door was locked and he could get no admittance. Just
then Lu came up to present a certain--no, an uncertain--young man of the
fleet stranded on parlor furniture earlier in the evening. To Lu's great
astonishment, Miss Pilgrim asked Billy's permission to leave him. It was
granted with all the courtesy of a _preux chevalier_, on the condition,
readily assented to, that she should dance one Lancers with him during
the evening.

"Dear me!" exclaimed Lu, after Billy had gone back like a superior
being, to assist at the childish amusement of his contemporaries, "would
anybody ever suppose that was our Billy?"

"I should, my dear sister," said I, with proud satisfaction; "but you
remember I always was just to Billy."

Left free, I went myself to hunt up Daniel. I found his door locked
and a light showing through the keyhole, as Billy had said. I made no
attempt to enter by knocking; but, going to my room and opening the
window next his, I leaned out as far as I could, shoved up his sash
with my cane and pushed aside his curtain. Such an unusual method of
communication could not fail to bring him to the window with a rush.
When he saw me, he trembled like a guilty thing, his countenance fell,
and, no longer able to feign absence, he unlocked his door and let me
enter by the normal mode.

"Why, Daniel Lovegrove, my nephew, what does this mean; are you sick?"

"Uncle Edward, I am not sick, and this means that I am a fool. Even a
little boy like Billy puts me to shame. I feel humbled to the very dust.
I wish I'd been a missionary and got massacred by savages. Oh, that I'd
been permitted to wear damp stockings in childhood, or that my mother
hadn't carried me through the measles! If it weren't wrong to take my
life into my own hands, I'd open that window and--and--sit in a draught
this very evening! Oh, yes! I'm just that bitter! Oh! Oh! Oh!"

And Daniel paced the floor with strides of frenzy.

"Well, my dear fellow, let's look at the matter calmly for a minute.
What brought on this sudden attack? You seemed doing well enough the
first ten minutes after we came down. I was only out of your sight long
enough to speak to the Rumbullion party who had just come in, and when
I turned you were gone. Now you are in this fearful condition. What
is there in the Rumbullions to start you off on such a bender of
bash-fulness as this which I here behold?"

"Rumbullions indeed!" said Daniel. "A hundred Rumbillions could not make
me feel as I do; but _she_ can shake me into a whirlwind with her little
finger, and _she_ came with the Rumbullions!"

"What! D'you--Miss Pilgrim?"

"Miss Pilgrim!"

I labored with Daniel for ten minutes, using every encouragement and
argument I could think of, and finally threatened him that I would bring
up the whole Rumbullion party, Miss Pilgrim included, telling them
that he invited them to look at his conchological cabinet, unless he
instantly shook the ice out of his manner and accompanied me downstairs.
This dreadful menace had the desired effect. He knew that I would not
scruple to fulfil it; and at the same time that it made him surrender it
also provoked him with me to a degree which gave his eyes and cheeks
as fine a glow as I could have wished for the purpose of a favorable
impression. The stimulus of wrath was good for him, and there was little
tremor in his knees when he descended the stairs. Well-a-day--so Daniel
and Billy were rivals!

The latter gentleman met us at the foot of the staircase.

"Oh, there you are, Daniel!" said he, cheerily. "I was just going to
look for you and Uncle Teddy. We wanted you for the dances. We have
had the Lancers twice and three round dances; and I danced the second
Lancers with Lottie. Now we're going to play some games to amuse the
children, you know," he added loftily with the adult gesture of pointing
his thumb over his shoulder at the extension room. "Lottie's going to
play, too, so will you and Daniel, won't you, uncle? Oh, here comes
Lottie now! This is my brother, Miss Pilgrim; let me introduce him to
you. I'm sure you'll like him. There's nothing he don't know."

Miss Pilgrim had just come to the newel post of the staircase, and when
she looked into Daniel's face blushed like the red, red rose, losing her
self-possession perceptibly more than Daniel.

The courage of weak warriors and timid gallants mounts as the opposite
party's falls, and Daniel made out to say, in a firm tone, that it was
long since he had enjoyed the pleasure of meeting Miss Pilgrim.

"Not since Mrs. Cramcroud's last sociable, I think," replied Miss
Pilgrim, her cheeks and eyes still playing the telltale.

"Oho! so you don't want any introduction," exclaimed Master Billy. I
didn't know you knew each other, Lottie."

"I have met Mr. Lovegrove in society. Shall we go and join in the
plays?"

"To be sure we shall!" cried Billy. "You needn't mind; all the grown
people are going to."

On entering the parlor we found it as he had said. The guests being
almost all well acquainted with each other, at the solicitation of
jolly little Mrs. Bloomingal, Sister Lu had consented to make a pleasant
Christmas kind of time of it, in which everybody was permitted to be
young again and romp with the rompiest. We played Blindman's-buff till
we tired of that--Daniel, to Lu's great delight, coming out splendidly
as Blindman, and evincing such "cheek" in the style he hunted down and
caught the ladies, as satisfied me that nothing but his sight stood in
the way of his making an audacious figure in the world. Then a pretty
little girl, Tilly Turtelle, who seemed quite a premature flirt,
proposed "Doorkeeper"--a suggestion accepted with great _éclat_ by all
the children, several grown people assenting.

To Billy--quite as much on account of his shining prominence in the
executive faculties of his character, as host--was committed the duty
of counting out the first person to be sent into the hall. There were so
many of us that "Aina-maina-mona-mike" would not go quite around;
but with that promptness of expedient which belongs to genius, Billy
instantly added on "Intery-mintery-cutery-corn," and the last word of
the cabalistic formula fell upon me, Edward Balbus. I disappeared into
the entry amid peals of happy laughter from both old and young, calling,
when the door opened again to ask me who I wanted, for the pretty,
lisping flirt who had proposed the game. After giving me a coquettish
little chirrup of a kiss and telling me my beard scratched, she bade me,
on my return, send out to her "Mither Billy Lovegrove." I obeyed her;
my youngest nephew retired and, after a couple of seconds, during which
Tilly undoubtedly got what she proposed the game for, Billy being
a great favorite with the little girls, she came back pouting and
blushing, to announce that he wanted Miss Pilgrim. The young lady
showed no mock modesty, but arose at once and laughingly went out to her
youthful admirer, who, as I afterward learned, embraced her ardently and
told her he loved her better than any girl in the world. As he turned
to go back she told him that he might send to her one of her juvenile
cousins, Reginald Rumbullion. Now, whether because on this youthful
Rumbullion's account Billy had suffered the pangs of that most terrible
passion, jealousy, or from his natural enjoyment of playing practical
jokes destructive of all dignity in his elders, Billy marched into the
room, and, having shut the door behind him, paralyzed the crowded parlor
by an announcement that Mr. Daniel Lovegrove was wanted.

I was standing at his side and could feel him' tremble--see him turn
pale.

"Dear me!" he whispered, in a choking voice; "can she mean me?"

"Of course she does," said I. "Who else? Do you hesitate? Surely you
can't refuse such an invitation from a lady."

"No; I suppose not," said he, mechanically. And, amid much laughter from
the disinterested, while the faces of Mrs. Rumbullion and his mother
were spectacles of crimson astonishment, he made his exit from the room.
Never in my life did I so much long for that instrument, described
by Mr. Samuel Weller--a pair of patent, double-million magnifying
microscopes of hex-tery power, to see through a deal door. Instead of
this I had to learn what happened only by report.

Lottie Pilgrim was standing under the hall burners with her elbow on the
newel-post, more vividly charming than he had ever seen her before, at
Mrs. Crajncroud's sociable or elsewhere. When startled by the apparition
of Mr. Daniel Lovegrove instead of little Rumbullion whom she was
expecting--she had no time to exclaim or hide her mounting color, none
at all to explain to her own mind the mistake that had occurred, before
his arm was clasped around her waist and his lips so closely pressed to
hers that, through her soft, thick hair she could feel the throbbing of
his temples. As for Daniel, he seemed in a walking dream, from which he
waked to see Miss Pilgrim looking into his eyes with utter, though
not incensed stupefaction,--to stammer, "Forgive me! do forgive me! I
thought you were in, earnest."

"So I was," she said tremulously, as soon as she could catch her voice,
"in sending for my cousin Reginald."

"Oh dear, what shall I do! Believe me, I was told you wanted me. Let
me go and explain it to mother. She will tell the rest--I couldn't do
it--I'd die of mortification. Oh, that wretched boy Billy!"

On the principle already mentioned, his agitation reassured her.

"Don't try to explain it now--it may get Billy a scolding. Are there any
but intimate family friends here this evening?"

"No--I believe--no--I'm sure," replied Daniel, collecting his faculties.

"Then I don't mind what they think. Perhaps they'll suppose we've known
each other long; but we'll arrange it by and by. They'll think the more
of it the longer we stay out here--hear them laugh! I must run back now.
I'll send you somebody."

A round of juvenile applause greeted her as she hurried into the parlor,
and a number of grown people smiled quite musically. Her quick woman's
wit told her how to retaliate and divide the embarrassment of the
occasion. As she passed me she said in an undertone:

"Answer quick! Who is that fat lady on the sofa who laughed so loud?"

"Mrs. Cromwell Craggs," said I, quietly.

Miss Pilgrim made a satirically low courtesy and spoke in a modest but
distinct voice:

"I really must be excused for asking. I'm a stranger, you know; but is
there such a lady here as Mrs. Craggs--Mrs. _Cromwell_ Craggs? For, if
so, the present doorkeeper would like to see Mrs. Cromwell Craggs."

Then came the turn of the fat lady to be laughed at; but out she had to
go and get kissed like the rest of us. Before the close of the evening
Billy was made as jealous as his parents and I were surprised to see
Daniel in close conversation with Miss Pilgrim among the geraniums and
fuchsias of the conservatory.

"A regular flirtation," said Billy, somewhat indignantly. The conclusion
which they arrived at was that after all no great harm had been done,
and that the dear little fellow ought not to be peached on for his fun.
If I had known at the time how easily they forgave him, I should have
suspected that the offence Billy had led Daniel into committing was not
unlikely to be repeated on the offender's own account; but so much as I
could see showed me that the ice was broken.

Billy's jealousy did not outlast the party. He became more and more
interested in "his girl," and often went in the afternoon, after getting
out of school, ostensibly to play with Jimmy. Daniel's calls, according
to adult etiquette, made in the evening, did not interfere with my
younger nephew's, and as neither knew that the other, after his fashion,
was his most uncompromising rival, my position, as the confidant of
both, was one of extreme delicacy. But the matter was more speedily
settled than I expected.

Billy came to me one day and told me that he intended to get married
immediately; that he was going to speak to his Lottie that very
afternoon. He was prepared to meet every objection. He had asked his
father if he might, and his father said yes, if he had money enough to
support a wife--and Billy thought he had. He'd saved up all the money
his Uncle Jim and Aunt Jane had sent him for Christmas; and besides, if
he were once married, his father wouldn't see him want for stamps, he
knew. Then, too, he was going to leave school and be a merchant next
year--and I'd help him now and then, if he got hard up, wouldn't I?
If he were driven to it, he could be a good boy again, and save up the
money to buy Lottie presents with, instead of giving it to nasty old
"Objecks." He was so much older than when he had the savings-bank that
he ought to have at least ten cents a day now for being good; didn't
I think that was fair? As to his age, if Lottie loved him, he didn't
care--anyway he would be lots bigger than she was before long--and he'd
often heard his ma say she approved of early marriages; hers and pa's
was one. So he ran off up Livingston Place, the most undaunted lover
that ever put an extra shine on his proposal boots, or spent half an
hour on the bow of his popping necktie.

Shortly after, Daniel went into the street. Not meaning to call upon his
_inamorata_, but drawn by the irresistible fascination of passing her
house, he strolled in the direction that Billy had gone. As he came to
the Rumbullions', something suddenly bade him enter--a whim he called
it, but not his own--one of the whims of destiny which are always
gratified.

"Yes, sir," said the servant, "Miss Pilgrim is in, I will call her."

His step was always light. He passed noiselessly into the front parlor
and sat down among the heavy brocatelle curtains which shadowed the
recess of one of the windows. He supposed Miss Pilgrim to be upstairs,
and while his heart fluttered, expecting her footfall at the particular
door, he heard an earnest boyish voice in the inside room. Looking from
his concealment he beheld Miss Pilgrim on a sofa in the pier and sitting
by her side, with her hand clasped in his, his brother Billy. Before he
could avoid it, he became aware that Billy was unconsciously but eagerly
forestalling him.

"Now, Lottie, my dear Lottie! I wish you would! I'll do everything I can
to make you happy. If you'll only marry me, I'll be good all the
time! Come now! Say yes! Father's got a really nice place over the
stable--they only use it for a tool room now; we could clear it out and
have it scrubbed and go to housekeeping right away. Ma'd let us have all
her old set of chinai I've got a silver mug Uncle Teddy gave me and a
napkin ring and four spoons. As soon as I make my money I'll buy a nice
carriage and horses, any color you want 'em. Oh, my darling, darling
Lottie, I do love you so much and we could have such a splendid time! Do
say yes, Lottie--please, _do_ please!"

Miss Pilgrim looked at the earnest little suitor with a face in
which tender interest and compassion quite overrode any sense of
the whimsicality of the situation which might lurk there. Daniel's
astonishment at the sight was so great that he realized the entire state
of the case before he could recover himself sufficiently to rise and go
into the back room.

Billy jumped up and looked defiantly at the intruder. Miss Pilgrim
blushed violently, but turned away her head to avoid the exhibition of a
still more convulsing emotion than embarrassment.

"I must beg your pardon, Miss Pilgrim--and yours, too, Billy," began
Daniel in a hesitating way, hardly knowing how to treat the posture in
which he found things, "but--you see--the fact is the servant said she'd
go to announce me--and really when I came in, I hadn't any idea you were
here, or Billy either."

"Then," said Billy, moderating the defiant attitude, "you actually
weren't dodging around and trying to find out what Lottie and I were
about on the sly? Well, I'll believe you. I'm sure you couldn't be as
mean as that, when I'm the only brother you have got, that always brings
you oranges when you're sick, and never plays ball on the stairs when
you've got a headache. Now, then, I'll trust you, I've been asking
Lottie to marry me, and I want you to help me. Ask her if she won't,
Daniel--see if she won't do it for you!"

Miss Pilgrim had been trying to find words, but her face was too much
for her and she was obliged to seek retirement in her handkerchief. As
she drew it from her pocket, a well-worn piece of paper followed it and
fell upon the floor. Billy picked it up before she noticed it, and
was about to hand it to her, when his jealous eye fell upon a withered
rosebud sewed to its margin. As he looked at it, with his little
brows knit into a precocious sternness, he recognized his brother's
handwriting immediately beneath the flower. It was one of the daily
anonymous sonnets, of which Daniel had told me, and the bud a relic of
the bouquet accompanying it. Still Daniel was silent. What else could he
be?

"Very well, very well, Master Daniel!" exclaimed Billy, in a voice
trembling with grief and indignation, "there's good enough reason why
you won't speak a word for me. You want her yourself--here it is in your
own writing. No wonder you won't tell Lottie to be my wife, when you're
trying to take her away from me. Oh, Lottie, dear Lottie! I love you
just as much as he does, though I don't know everything and can't write
you poetry like it was out of the Fifth Reader! Daniel, how could you
go and write to my Lottie this way: 'My churner'--no, it isn't churner,
it's charmer,--'let me call thee mine'?"

Forgetting the sacredness of private MS. in that of private grief,
he would have gone on, with a pause here and there for certainty of
spelling, to the conclusion of the poem, had not Lottie sprung up, with
her imploring face suffused by her discovery, for the first time, of
the identity of her secret lover and the escape of his sonnet from her
pocket. It was too late! There he stood before her unmistakably proved,
and herself unmistakably proving in what estimation she held his verses
and bouquets.

"Oh Billy, dear Billy! If you do love me, don't do so!" So exclaiming,
she held out her hand, and Billy put the MS. into it with all the
dignity of a wounded spirit.

"Mr. Lovegrove," said Miss Pilgrim, "I don't know what to say."

"I feel very much that way myself," said Daniel.

"_I_ don't," said Billy, now in command of his voice. "I'll tell
you what it is: perhaps Daniel didn't know how much I wanted you,
Lottie--and perhaps he wants you 'most as bad as I do. But whatever way
it is, I want you to choose between us, fair and square, and no dodging.
Come now! You can take just whichever one of us you please, and the
other won't lay up any grudge, though I know if that's me, or like me,
he'll feel awful. You can have till to-morrow morning to make up your
mind between me and Daniel, and if he won't say anything about it to pa
and ma till then, I won't. Good-by, _dear_ Lottie!"

He drew her face down to his, kissed her almost affectionately and then
marched out of the door, feeling, as he afterward told me, as if he
had blackened his boots all for nothing. Ah me! my dear Billy, how many
times we do that in this world! Of what followed when Daniel and Miss
Pilgrim were left alone, I have never had full details.

But I do know that the young lady obeyed Billy and made her choice. Six
months after that both my nephews stood up in Mrs. Rumbullion's parlor
to take their several shares in a ceremony in which Miss Pilgrim was
the central figure when it began, and Mrs. Daniel Lovegrove when it
concluded. Time and elasticity of boyhood had so closed the sharp but
evanescent wound in Billy's heart that he could stand the trial of being
groomsman where he had wanted to be groom--more especially since he
was supported through the emergency by a little sister of Lottie's who
promised to be wondrously like her by the time Billy could stand up in
the more enviable capacity. Neither Daniel nor Lottie would listen to
any objection to such a groomsman on the score of his extreme youth,
for, as they said, Billy had been quite as instrumental in bringing them
together as any agent, save the Divinity shaping the ends and tying all
the knots in which there are heartstrings concerned, as well as white
ribbon.

Since then Lu has stopped wishing that Billy were like Daniel, for she
says that if he had been, there would never have been any Mrs. Daniel
Lovegrove in the world.





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