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Title: Helen's Babies
Author: Habberton, John
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Helen's Babies" ***

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[Illustration: Woman, Man, and two children]


                            HELEN’S BABIES

                                 _by_

                            JOHN HABBERTON

                           _Illustrated by_

                             Tod Dwiggins

                           GROSSET & DUNLAP
                       PUBLISHERS      NEW YORK



                          COPYRIGHT, 1908, BY
                           GROSSET & DUNLAP

                           _HELEN’S BABIES_

                         _All Rights Reserved_


               _Printed in the United States of America_



Dedication


Everyone knows that there are, in the World, hundreds of thousands of
fathers and mothers, each one of whom possesses the best children that
ever lived. I am, therefore, moved by a sense of the eternal fitness of
things to dedicate this little volume to

                          The Parents of the
                      Best Children in the World

with the reminder that it is considered the proper thing for each
person, to whom a book is dedicated, to purchase and read a copy.



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                _Page_

 “We Call ’Em the Imps”                             5

 “Here’s My Grass-Cutter”                           7

 “Wheels Go Wound”                                 11

 “I Believe You Arranged the Floral Decorations”   15

 Dropping Them Into the Bathtub                    17

 Budge’s Idea of Jonah and the Whale               25

 “We Hope He’s Got Lots of Candy”                  29

 I Encountered a Door Ajar                         35

 The Dolly Found                                   37

 “Papa Don’t Whip Us With Sticks”                  41

 An Amateur in Packing                             45

 “I Hunged Over More Than Toddie Did”              58

 “We’ve Got an Umbrella”                           67

 “When I Was a Soldier,” Remarked Toddie           71

 “Kish My Dolly, Too”                              79

 Two Little Savages                                85

 My Nephew Budge In His Best                       91

 Putting an Extension on the Afternoon             97

 “I Was All Ate Up By a Lion”                     103

 Toddie Investigating a Hornet’s Nest             109

 “But Let’s Hurry Home”                           113

 “Oo-Ee! Zha Turtle On My Plate”                  125

 Acting Upon Budge’s Suggestion                   133

 To Skip All Love Talk in Novels                  139

 The Goat, the Carriage, and the Boys             143

 “An’ Wawtoo to Make Mud-Pies”                    151

 “Wantsh Dancin’ Tune”                            157

 Two Great Hands Seized Toddie                    163

 “He’s Got a Dead Mouse to be Jonah Now”          165

 Holding Over His Head a Ragged Umbrella          177

 “I Didn’t Hurt De ’Ittle Mousie”                 181

 A Tribute to Mothers                             185

 I Shouted “Hurrah”                               191

 Two Clouds Go Bump Into Each Other               199

 “Can’t You Be a Whay-al?”                        203

 “Azh Wadiant Azh ze Matchless Wose”              213

 Mrs Mayton Stooped to Pick Up Her Glasses        219

 Made Him Awful Sick                              225

 “The Sun’ll Be Disappointed If It Don’t Have Us
 to Look At”                                      231

 Galloping Furiously to the Village               235

 Mike Telling Maggie to Get Lunch                 237



HELEN’S BABIES


The first cause, so far as it can be determined, of the existence of
this book may be found in the following letter, written by my only
married sister, and received by me, Harry Burton, salesman of white
goods, bachelor, aged twenty-eight, and received just as I was trying
to decide where I should spend a fortnight’s vacation:

  “HILLCREST, June 15, 1875.

 “DEAR HARRY:—Remembering that you are always complaining that you
 never have a chance to read, and knowing you won’t get it this summer,
 if you spend your vacation among people of your own set, I write to
 ask you to come up here. I admit that I am not wholly disinterested in
 inviting you. The truth is, Tom and I are invited to spend a fortnight
 with my old school-mate, Alice Wayne, who, you know, is the dearest
 girl in the world, though you _didn’t_ obey me and marry her before
 Frank Wayne appeared. Well, we’re dying to go, for Alice and Frank
 live in splendid style; but as they haven’t included our children in
 their invitation, and have no children of their own, we must leave
 Budge and Toddie at home. I’ve no doubt they’ll be perfectly safe, for
 my girl is a jewel, and devoted to the children, but I would feel a
 great deal easier if there was a man in the house. Besides, there’s
 the silver, and burglars are less likely to break into a house where
 there’s a savage-looking man. (Never mind about thanking me for the
 compliment.) If _you’ll_ only come up, my mind will be completely at
 rest. The children won’t give you the slightest trouble; they’re the
 best children in the world—everybody says so.

 “Tom has plenty of cigars, I know, for the money I should have had
 for a new suit went to pay his cigar-man. He has some new claret,
 too, that _he_ goes into ecstasies over, though _I_ can’t tell it
 from the vilest black ink, except by the color. Our horses are in
 splendid condition, and so is the garden—you see I don’t forget your
 old passion for flowers. And, last and best, there never were so many
 handsome girls at Hillcrest as there are among the summer boarders
 already here; the girls you are already acquainted with here will see
 that you meet all the newer acquisitions.

 “Reply by telegraph right away. Of course you’ll say ‘Yes.’

  “In great haste, your loving
  “SISTER HELEN.

 “P.S.—You shall have our own chamber; it catches every breeze, and
 commands the finest views. The children’s room communicates with it;
 so, if anything _should_ happen to the darlings at night, you’ll be
 sure to hear them.”

“Just the thing!” I ejaculated. Five minutes later I had telegraphed
Helen my acceptance of her invitation, and had mentally selected books
enough to busy me during a dozen vacations. Without sharing Helen’s
belief that her boys were the best ones in the world, I knew them well
enough to feel assured that they would not give me any annoyance. There
were two of them, since Baby Phil died last fall; Budge, the elder,
was five years of age, and had generally, during my flying visits to
Helen, worn a shy, serious, meditative, noble face, with great, pure,
penetrating eyes, that made me almost fear their stare. Tom declared he
was a born philanthropist or prophet, and Helen made so free with Miss
Mulock’s lines as to sing:

    “Ah, the day that _thou_ goest a wooing,
      Budgie, my boy!”

Toddie had seen but three summers, and was a happy little know-nothing,
with a head full of tangled yellow hair, and a very pretty fancy for
finding out sunbeams and dancing in them. I had long envied Tom
his horses, his garden, his house and his location, and the idea of
controlling them for a fortnight was particularly delightful. Tom’s
taste in cigars and claret I had always respected, while the lady
inhabitants of Hillcrest were, according to my memory, much like those
of every other suburban village—the fairest of their sex.

Three days later I made the hour and a half trip between New York and
Hillcrest, and hired a hackman to drive me over to Tom’s. Half a mile
from my brother-in-law’s residence, our horses shied violently, and the
driver, after talking freely to them, turned to me and remarked:

“That was one of the ‘Imps.’”

“What was?” I asked.

“That little cuss that scared the hosses. There he is, now, holdin’ up
that piece of brushwood. ’Twould be just like his cheek, now, to ask me
to let him ride. Here he comes, runnin’. Wonder where t’other is?—they
most generally travel together. We call ’em the Imps, about these
parts, because they’re so uncommon likely at mischief. Always skeerin’
hosses, or chasin’ cows, ro frightenin’ chickens. Nice enough father
an’ mother, too—queer, how young ones do turn out!”

[Illustration: “WE CALL ’EM THE IMPS”]

As he spoke, the offending youth came panting beside our carriage, and
in a very dirty sailor-suit, and under a broad-brimmed straw hat, with
one stocking about his ankle, and two shoes averaging about two buttons
each, I recognized my nephew, Budge! About the same time there emerged
from the bushes by the roadside a smaller boy, in a green gingham
dress, a ruffle which might once have been white, dirty stockings,
blue slippers worn through at the toes, and an old-fashioned straw
turban. Thrusting into the dust of the road a branch from a bush, and
shouting, “Here’s my grass-cutter!” he ran toward us enveloped in a
“pillar of cloud,” which might have served the purpose of Israel in
Egypt. When we paused, and the dust had somewhat subsided, I beheld the
unmistakable lineaments of the child Toddie!

“They’re—my nephews,” I gasped.

“What!” exclaimed the driver. “By gracious! I forgot you were going to
Colonel Lawrence’s! I didn’t tell anything but the truth about ’em,
though; they’re smart enough, an’ good enough, as boys go; but they’d
never die of the complaint that children has in Sunday-school books.”

“Budge,” said I, with all the sternness I could command, “do you know
me?”

The searching eyes of the embryo prophet and philanthropist scanned me
for a moment, then their owner replied:

“Yes, you’re Uncle Harry. Did you bring us anything?”

“Bring us anything?” echoed Toddie.

“I wish I could have brought you some big whippings,” said I, with
great severity of manner, “for behaving so badly. Get into this
carriage.”

“Come on, Tod,” shouted Budge, although Toddie’s farther ear was not a
yard from Budge’s mouth, “Uncle Harry’s going to take us riding!”

[Illustration: “HERE’S MY GRASS-CUTTER”]

“Going to take us riding!” echoed Toddie, with the air of one in
a reverie; both the echo and the reverie I soon learned were
characteristics of Toddie.

As they clambered into the carriage I noticed that each one carried
a very dirty towel, knotted in the center into what is known as a
slip-noose knot, drawn very tight. After some moments of disgusted
contemplation of these rags, without being in the least able to
comprehend their purpose, I asked Budge what those towels were for.

“They’re not towels—they’re dollies,” promptly answered my nephew.

“Goodness!” I exclaimed. “I should think your mother could buy you
respectable dolls, and not let you appear in public with those
loathsome rags.”

“We don’t like buyed dollies,” explained Budge. “These dollies is
lovely; mine’s name is Mary, an’ Toddie’s is Marfa.”

“Marfa?” I queried.

“Yes; don’t you know about

    ‘Marfa and Mary’s jus’ gone along
    To ring dem charmin’ bells,’

that them Jubilees sings about?”

“Oh, Martha, you mean?”

“Yes, Marfa—that’s what I say. Toddie’s dolly’s got brown eyes, an’ my
dolly’s got blue eyes.”

“I want to shee yours watch,” remarked Toddie, snatching at my chain,
and rolling into my lap.

“Oh—oo—ee, so do I,” shouted Budge, hastening to occupy one knee, and
_in transitu_ wiping his shoes on my trousers and the skirts of my
coat. Each imp put an arm about me to steady himself, as I produced my
three-hundred dollar time-keeper, and showed them the dial.

“I want to see the wheels go round,” said Budge.

“Want to shee wheels go wound,” echoed Toddie.

“No; I can’t open my watch where there’s so much dust,” I said.

“What for?” inquired Budge.

“Want to shee the wheels go wound,” repeated Toddie.

“The dust gets inside the watch and spoils it,” I explained.

“Want to shee the wheels go wound,” said Toddie, once more.

“I tell you I can’t, Toddie,” said I, with considerable asperity. “Dust
spoils watches.”

The innocent gray eyes looked up wonderingly, the dirty but pretty lips
parted slightly, and Toddie murmured:—

“Want to shee the wheels go wound.”

I abruptly closed my watch, and put it into my pocket. Instantly
Toddie’s lower lip commenced to turn outward, and continued to do so,
until I seriously feared the bony portion of his chin would be exposed
to view. Then his lower jaw dropped, and he cried:—

“Ah—h—h—h—h—h—want—to—shee—the wheels—go wou—_ound_.”

“Charles” (Charles is his baptismal name),—“Charles,” I exclaimed, with
some anger, “stop that noise this instant! Do you hear me?”

“Yes—oo—oo—oo—ahoo—ahoo.”

“Then stop it.”

“Wants to shee——”

“Toddie, I’ve got some candy in my trunk, but I won’t give you a bit if
you don’t stop that infernal noise.”

“Well, I wants to shee wheels go wound. Ah—ah—h—h—h—h!”

“Toddie, dear, don’t cry so. Here’s some ladies coming in a carriage;
you wouldn’t let _them_ see you crying, would you? You shall see the
wheels go round as soon as we get home.”

[Illustration: “WHEELS GO WOUND”]

A carriage containing a couple of ladies was rapidly approaching, as
Toddie again raised his voice.

“Ah—h—h—want’s to shee wheels——”

Madly I snatched my watch from my pocket, opened the case, and exposed
the works to view. The other carriage was passing ours, and I dropped
my head to avoid meeting the glance of the unknown occupants, for
my few moments of contact with my dreadful nephews had made me feel
inexpressibly unneat. Suddenly the carriage with the ladies stopped. I
heard my own name spoken, and, raising my head quickly (encountering
Budge’s bullet head _en route_, to the serious disarrangement of my
hat), I looked into the other carriage. There, erect, fresh, neat,
composed, bright-eyed, fair-faced, smiling and observant,—she would
have been all this, even if the angel of the resurrection had just
sounded his dreadful trump,—sat Miss Alice Mayton, a lady who, for
about a year, I had been adoring from afar.

“When did _you_ arrive, Mr. Burton?” she asked, “and how long have you
been officiating as child’s companion? You’re certainly a happy-looking
trio—so unconventional. I hate to see children all dressed up and stiff
as little manikins, when they go out to ride. And you look as if you’d
been having _such_ a good time with them.”

“I—I assure you, Miss Mayton,” said I, “that my experience has been
the exact reverse of a pleasant one. If King Herod were yet alive I’d
volunteer as an executioner, and engage to deliver two interesting
corpses at a moment’s notice.”

“You dreadful wretch!” exclaimed the lady. “Mother, let me make you
acquainted with Mr. Burton, Helen Lawrence’s brother. How is your
sister, Mr. Burton?”

“I don’t know,” I replied; “she has gone with her husband on a
fortnight’s visit to Captain and Mrs. Wayne, and I’ve been silly enough
to promise to have an eye to the place while they’re away.”

“Why, how delightful!” exclaimed Miss Mayton. “_Such_ horses! _Such_
flowers! _Such_ a cook!”

“And such children,” said I, glaring suggestively at the imps, and
rescuing from Toddie a handkerchief which he had extracted from my
pocket, and was waving to the breeze.

“Why, they’re the best children in the world. Helen told me so the
first time I met her this season. Children will be children, you know.
We had three little cousins with us last summer, and I’m sure they made
me look years older than I really am.”

“How young you must be, then, Miss Mayton!” said I. I suppose I looked
at her as if I meant what I said, for although she inclined her head
and said, “Oh, thank you,” she didn’t seem to turn my compliment off
in her usual invulnerable style. Nothing happening in the course of
conversation ever discomposed Alice Mayton for more than a hundred
seconds, however, so she soon recovered her usual expression and
self-command, as her next remark fully indicated.

“I believe you arranged the floral decorations at the St. Zephaniah’s
Fair, last winter, Mr. Burton? ’Twas the most tasteful display of the
season. I don’t wish to give any hints, but at Mrs. Clarkson’s, where
we’re boarding, there’s not a flower in the whole garden. I break
the Tenth Commandment dreadfully every time I pass Colonel Lawrence’s
garden. Good-by, Mr. Burton.”

[Illustration: “I BELIEVE YOU ARRANGED THE FLORAL DECORATIONS”]

“Ah, thank you; I shall be delighted. Good-by.”

“Of course you’ll call,” said Miss Mayton, as her carriage started.
“It’s dreadfully stupid here—no men except on Sundays.”

I bowed assent. In the contemplation of all the shy possibilities which
my short chat with Miss Mayton had suggested, I had quite forgotten
my dusty clothing and the two living causes thereof. While in Miss
Mayton’s presence the imps had preserved perfect silence, but now their
tongues were loosened.

“Uncle Harry,” said Budge, “do you know how to make whistles?”

“Unken Hawwy,” murmured Toddie, “does you love dat lady?”

“No, Toddie, of course not.”

“Then you’s a baddy man, an’ de Lord won’t let you go to heaven if you
don’t love peoples.”

“Yes, Budge,” I answered hastily, “I _do_ know how to make whistles,
and you shall have one.”

“Lord don’t like mans what don’t love peoples,” reiterated Toddie.

“All right, Toddie,” said I. “I’ll see if I can’t please the Lord
some way. Driver, whip up, won’t you? I’m in a hurry to turn these
youngsters over to the girl, and ask her to drop them into the
bath-tub.”

[Illustration: DROPPING THEM INTO THE BATHTUB]

I found Helen had made every possible arrangement for my comfort. Her
room commanded exquisite views of mountain slope and valley, and even
the fact that the imps’ bedroom adjoined mine gave me comfort, for I
thought of the pleasure of contemplating them while they were asleep,
and beyond the power of tormenting their deluded uncle.

At the supper-table Budge and Toddie appeared cleanly clothed and in
their rightful faces. Budge seated himself at the table; Toddie pushed
back his high-chair, climbed into it, and shouted:—

“Put my legs under ze tabo!”

Rightfully construing this remark as a request to be moved to the
table, I fulfilled his desire. The girl poured tea for me and milk
for the children, and retired; and then I remembered, to my dismay,
that Helen never had a servant in the dining-room, except upon grand
occasions, her idea being that servants retail to their friends the
cream of the private conversation of the family circle. In principle
I agreed with her, but the penalty of the practical application, with
these two little cormorants on my hands, was greater suffering than any
I had ever been called upon to endure for principle’s sake; but there
was no help for it. I resignedly rapped on the table, bowed my head,
said, “For what we are about to receive, the Lord make us thankful,”
and asked Budge whether he ate bread or biscuit.

“Why, we ain’t asked no blessin’ yet,” said he.

“Yes, I did, Budge,” said I. “Didn’t you hear me?”

“Do you mean what you said just now?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, I don’t think that was no blessin’ at all. Papa never says that
kind of a blessin’.”

“What does papa say, may I ask?” I inquired, with becoming meekness.

“Why, papa says, ’Our Father, we thank thee for this food; mercifully
remember with us all the hungry and needy to-day, for Christ’s sake,
Amen.’ That’s what he says.”

“It means the same thing, Budge.”

“_I_ don’t think it does; and Toddie didn’t have no time to say _his_
blessin’. I don’t think the Lord’ll like it if you do it that way.”

“Yes, He will, old boy; He knows what people mean.”

“Well, how can he tell what Toddie means if Toddie can’t say anything?”

“Wantsh to shay my blessin’,” whined Toddie.

It was enough; my single encounter with Toddie had taught me to respect
the young gentleman’s force of character. So again I bowed my head
and repeated what Budge had reported as “papa’s blessin’,” Budge
kindly prompting me where my memory failed. The moment I began, Toddie
commenced to jabber rapidly and aloud, and the instant the “Amen” was
pronounced he raised his head and remarked with evident satisfaction:—

“I shed my blessin’ _two_ timesh.”

And Budge said gravely: “_Now_ I guess we’re all right.”

The supper was an exquisite one, but the appetites of those dreadful
children effectually prevented my enjoying the repast. I hastily
retired, called the girl, and instructed her to see that the children
had enough to eat, and were put to bed immediately after; then I lit a
cigar and strolled into the garden. The roses were just in bloom, the
air was full of the perfume of honeysuckles, the rhododendrons had not
disappeared, while I saw promise of the early unfolding of many other
pet flowers of mine. I confess that I took a careful survey of the
garden to see how fine a bouquet I might make for Miss Mayton, and
was so abundantly satisfied with the material before me that I longed
to begin the work at once, but that it would seem too hasty for true
gentility. So I paced the paths, my hands behind my back, and my face
well hidden by fragrant clouds of smoke, and went into wondering and
reveries. I wondered if there was any sense in the language of flowers,
of which I had occasionally seen mention made by silly writers; I
wished I had learned it if it had any meaning; I wondered if Miss
Mayton understood it. At any rate, I fancied I could arrange flowers to
the taste of any lady whose face I had ever seen; and for Alice Mayton
I would make something so superb that her face could not help lighting
up when she beheld it. I imagined just how her bluish-gray eyes would
brighten, her cheeks would redden,—not with sentiment, not a bit of
it, but with genuine pleasure,—how her strong lips would part slightly
and disclose sweet lines not displayed when she held her features well
in hand. I—I, a clear-headed, driving, successful salesman of white
goods—actually wished I might be divested of all nineteenth-century
abilities and characteristics, and be one of those fairies that only
silly girls and crazy poets think of, and might, unseen, behold the
meeting of my flowers with this highly cultivated specimen of the only
sort of flowers our cities produce. What flower did she most resemble?
A lily?—no; too—not exactly too bold, but too—too, well, I couldn’t
think of the word, but clearly it wasn’t bold. A rose? Certainly,
not like those glorious but blazing remontants, nor yet like the
shy, delicate, ethereal tea roses with their tender suggestions of
color. Like this perfect Gloire de Dijon, perhaps; strong, vigorous,
self-asserting, among its more delicate sisterhood; yet shapely,
perfect in outline and development, exquisite, enchanting in its never
fully analyzed tints, yet compelling the admiration of everyone, and
recalling its admirers again and again by the unspoken appeal of its
own perfection—its unvarying radiance.

“Ah—h—h—h—ee—ee—ee—ee—ee—oo —oo—oo—oo!” came from the window over my
head. Then came a shout of—“Uncle Harry!” in a voice I recognized as
that of Budge. I made no reply: there are moments when the soul is full
of utterances unfit to be heard by childish ears. “Uncle Har_ray_!”
repeated Budge. Then I heard a window blind open, and Budge exclaiming:—

“Uncle Harry, we want you to come and tell us stories.”

I turned my eyes upward quickly, and was about to send a savage
negative in the same direction, when I saw in the window a face unknown
and yet remembered. Could those great, wistful eyes, that angelic
mouth, that spiritual expression, belong to my nephew Budge? Yes, it
must be certainly that super-celestial nose and those enormous ears
never belonged to anyone else. I turned abruptly, and entered the
house, and was received at the head of the stairway by two little
figures in white, the larger of which remarked:—

“We want you to tell us stories—papa always does nights.”

“Very well, jump into bed—what kind of stories do you like?”

“Oh, ’bout Jonah,” said Budge.

”’Bout Jonah,” echoed Toddie.

“Well, Jonah was out in the sun one day, and a gourd-vine grew up all
of a sudden, and made it nice and shady for him, and then it all faded
as quick as it came.”

A dead silence prevailed for a moment, and then Budge indignantly
remarked:

“That ain’t Jonah a bit—_I_ know ’bout Jonah.”

“Oh, you do, do you?” said I. “Then maybe you’ll be so good as to
enlighten me?”

“Huh?”

“If you know about Jonah, tell me the story; I’d really enjoy listening
to it.”

“Well,” said Budge, “Once upon a time the Lord told Jonah to go to
Nineveh and tell the people they was all bad. But Jonah didn’t want to
go, so he went on a boat that was going to Joppa. An’ then there was a
big storm, an’ it rained an’ blowed and the big waves went as high as a
house. An’ the sailors thought there must be somebody on the boat that
the Lord didn’t like. An’ Jonah said he guessed _he_ was the man. So
they picked him up and froed him in the ocean, an’ I don’t think it was
well for ’em to do that after Jonah told the troof. An’ a big whale was
comin’ along, an’ he was awful hungry, ’cos the little fishes what he
likes to eat all went down to the bottom of the ocean when it began to
storm, and whales can’t go to the bottom of the ocean, ’cos they have
to come up to breeve, an’ little fishes don’t. An’ Jonah found ’twas
all dark inside the whale, and there wasn’t any fire there, an’ it was
all wet, an’ he couldn’t take off his clothes to dry, ’cos there wasn’t
no place to hang ’em, and there wasn’t no windows to look out of, nor
nothin’ to eat, nor nothin’ nor nothin’ nor nothin’. So he asked the
Lord to let him out, an’ the Lord was sorry for him, an’ He made the
whale go up close to the land, an’ Jonah jumped right out of his mouth,
and _wasn’t_ he glad? An’ then he went to Nineveh, an’ done what the
Lord told him to, an’ he ought to have done it in the first place if he
had known what was good for him.”

[Illustration: BUDGE’S IDEA OF JONAH AND THE WHALE]

“Done first payshe, know what’s dood for him,” asserted Toddie, in
support of his brother’s assertion. “Tell us ’nudder story.”

“Oh, no, sing us a song,” suggested Budge.

“Shing us shong,” echoed Toddie.

I searched my mind for a song, but the only one which came promptly was
“M’Appari,” several bars of which I gave my juvenile audience, when
Budge interrupted me, saying:—

“I don’t think that’s a very good song.”

“Why not, Budge?”

”’Cos I don’t. I don’t know a word what you’re talking ’bout.”

“Shing ’bout ‘Glory, glory, hallelulyah,’” suggested Toddie, and I
meekly obeyed. The old air has a wonderful influence over me. I heard
it in western campmeetings and negro cabins when I was a boy; I saw the
22nd Massachusetts march down Broadway, singing the same air during the
rush to the front in the early days of the war; I have heard it sung
by warrior tongues in nearly every southern state; I heard it roared
by three hundred good old Hunker Democrats as they escorted New York’s
first colored regiment to their place of embarkation; my old brigade
sang it softly, but with a swing that was terrible in its earnestness,
as they lay behind their stacks of arms just before going into action;
I have heard it played over the grave of many a dead comrade; the
semi-mutinous—th cavalry became peaceful and patriotic again, as their
bandmaster played the old air after having asked permission to try
_his_ hand on them; it is the same that burst forth spontaneously in
our barracks, on that glorious morning when we learned that the war was
over, and it was sung, with words adapted to the occasion, by some good
rebel friends of mine, on our first social meeting after the war. All
these recollections came hurrying into my mind as I sang, and probably
excited me beyond my knowledge. For Budge suddenly remarked:—

“Don’t sing that all day, Uncle Harry; you sing so loud, it hurts my
head.”

“Beg your pardon, Budge,” said I. “Good night.”

“Why, Uncle Harry, are you going? You didn’t hear us say our
prayers,—papa always does.”

“Oh! Well, go ahead.”

“You must say yours first,” said Budge; “that’s the way papa does.”

“Very well,” said I, and I repeated St. Chrysostom’s prayer, from the
Episcopal service. I had hardly said “Amen,” when Budge remarked:—

“My papa don’t say any of them things at all; I don’t think that’s a
very good prayer.”

“Well, you say a good prayer, Budge.”

[Illustration: “WE HOPE HE’S GOT LOTS OF CANDY”]

“All right.” Budge shut his eyes, dropped his voice to the most perfect
tone of supplication, while his face seemed fit for a sleeping angel;
then he said:—

“Dear Lord, we thank you for lettin’ us have a good time to-day, an’
we hope all the little boys everywhere have had good times too. We
pray you to take care of us an’ everybody else to-night, an’ don’t let
’em have any trouble. Oh, yes, an’ Uncle Harry’s got some candy in
his trunk, ’cos he said so in the carriage,—we thank you for lettin’
Uncle Harry come to see us, an’ we hope he’s got _lots_ of candy—lots
an’ piles. An’ we pray you to take care of all the poor little boys
and girls that haven’t got any papas an’ mammas an’ Uncle Harrys an’
candy an’ beds to sleep in. An’ take us all to Heaven when we die, for
Christ’s sake. Amen. Now give us the candy, Uncle Harry.”

“Hush, Budge; don’t Toddie say any prayers?”

“Oh, yes; go on, Tod.”

Toddie closed his eyes, wriggled, twisted, breathed hard and quick,
acting generally as if prayers were principally a matter of physical
exertion. At last he began:—

“Dee Lord, not make me sho bad, an’ besh mamma, an’ papa, an’ Budgie,
an’ doppity,[1] an’ both boggies,[2] an’ all good people in dish house,
an’ everybody else, an’ my dolly. A—a—amen!”

  [1] Grandfather.

  [2] Grandmothers.

“Now give us the candy,” said Budge, with the usual echo from Toddie.

I hastily extracted the candy from my trunk, gave some to each boy, the
recipients fairly shrieking with delight, and once more said good night.

“Oh, you didn’t give us any pennies,” said Budge. “Papa gives us some
to put in our banks, every night.”

“Well, I haven’t got any now—wait until to-morrow.”

“Then we want drinks.”

“I’ll let Maggie bring you drink.”

“Want my dolly,” murmured Toddie.

I found the knotted towels, took the dirty things up gingerly and threw
them upon the bed.

“Now want to shee wheels go wound,” said Toddie.

I hurried out of the room and slammed the door. I looked at my watch—it
was half-past eight; I had spent an hour and a half with those dreadful
children. They _were_ funny, to be sure—I found myself laughing, in
spite of my indignation. Still, if they were to monopolize my time as
they had already done, when was I to do my reading? Taking Fiske’s
“Cosmic Philosophy” from my trunk, I descended to the back parlor,
lit a cigar and a student-lamp, and began to read. I had not fairly
commenced when I heard a patter of small feet, and saw my elder nephew
before me. There was sorrowful protestation in every line of his
countenance, as he exclaimed:—

“You didn’t say ‘Good-by,’ nor ‘God bless you,’ nor anything.”

“Oh—good-by.”

“Good-by.”

“God bless you.”

“God bless you.”

Budge seemed waiting for something else. At last he said:—

“Papa says, ‘God bless everybody.’”

“Well, God bless everybody.”

“God bless everybody,” responded Budge, and turned silently and went
upstairs.

“Bless your tormenting honest little heart.” I said to myself; “if men
trusted God as you do your papa, how little business there’d be for
preachers to do.”

The night was a perfect one. The pure, fresh air, the perfume of the
flowers, the music of the insect choir in the trees and shrubbery—the
very season itself seemed to forbid my reading philosophy, so I laid
Fiske aside, delighted myself with a few rare bits from Paul Hayne’s
new volume of poems, read a few chapters of “One Summer,” and finally
sauntered off to bed. My nephews were slumbering sweetly; it seemed
impossible that the pure, exquisite, angelic faces before me belonged
to my tormentors of a few hours before. As I lay on my couch I could
see the dark shadow and rugged crest of the mountain; above it, the
silver stars against the blue, and below it the rival lights of the
fireflies against the dark background formed by the mountain itself.
No rumbling of wheels tormented me, nor any of the thousand noises
that fill city air with the spirit of unrest, and I fell into a wonder
almost indignant that sensible, comfort-loving beings could live in
horrible New York, while such delightful rural homes were so near at
hand. Then Alice Mayton came into my mind, and then a customer; later,
stars and trade-marks, and bouquets, and dirty nephews, and fireflies
and bad accounts, and railway tickets, and candy and Herbert Spencer,
mixed themselves confusingly in my mind. Then a vision of a proud
angel, in the most fashionable attire and a modern carriage, came and
banished them all by its perfect radiance, and I was sinking in the
most blissful unconsciousness—

“Ah—h—h—h—h—h—oo—oo—oo—oo—ee—ee—e—”

“Sh—h—h!” I hissed.

The warning was heeded, and I soon relapsed into oblivion.

“Ah—h—h—h—oo—oo—ee—_ee_—EE—ee!”

“Toddie, do you want your uncle to whip you?”

“No.”

“Then lie still.”

“Well, I’ze lost my dolly, an’ I tan’t find her anywhere.”

“Well, I’ll find her for you in the morning.”

“Oo—oo—ee—I want my dolly.”

“Well, I tell you I’ll find her for you in the morning.”

“I want her _now_—oo—oo—”

“You can’t have her now, so you can go to sleep.”

[Illustration: I ENCOUNTERED A DOOR AJAR]

“Oh—oo—oo—oo—ee—”

Springing madly to my feet, I started for the offender’s room. I
encountered a door ajar by the way, my forehead being the first to
discover it. I ground my teeth, lit a candle, and said something—no
matter what.

“Oh, you said a bad swear!” ejaculated Toddie; “you won’t go to heaven
when you die.”

“Neither will you, if you howl like a little demon all night. Are you
going to be quiet, now?”

“Yesh, but I wants my dolly.”

“_I_ don’t know where your dolly is—do you suppose I’m going to search
this entire house for that confounded dolly?”

“_’Tain’t_ ’founded. I wants my dolly.”

“I don’t know where it is. You don’t think I stole your dolly, do you?”

“Well, I wants it, in de bed wif me.”

“Charles,” said I, “when you arise in the morning, I hope your doll
will be found. At present, however, you must be resigned and go to
sleep. I’ll cover you up nicely”; here I began to rearrange the bed
clothing, when the fateful dolly, source of all my woes, tumbled out of
them. Toddie clutched it, his whole face lighting up with affectionate
delight, and he screamed:—

“Oh, dare is my dee dolly; turn to your own papa, dolly, an’ I’ll love
you.”

And that ridiculous child was so completely satisfied by his outlay
of affection, that my own indignation gave place to genuine artistic
pleasure. One _can_ tire of even beautiful pictures, though, when he
is not fully awake, and is holding a candle in a draught of air; so I
covered my nephews and returned to my own room, where I mused upon the
contradictoriness of childhood until I fell asleep.

[Illustration: THE DOLLY FOUND]

In the morning I was awakened very early by the light streaming in the
window, the blinds of which I had left open the night before. The air
was alive with bird-song, and the eastern sky was flushed with tints
which no painter’s canvas ever caught. But ante-sunrise skies and songs
are not fit subjects for the continued contemplation of men who read
until midnight; so I hastily closed the blinds, drew the shade, dropped
the curtains and lay down again, dreamily thanking Heaven that I was to
fall asleep to such exquisite music. I am sure that I mentally forgave
all my enemies as I dropped off into a most delicious doze, but the
sudden realization that a light hand was passing over my cheek roused
me to savage anger in an instant. I sprang up, and saw Budge shrink
timidly away from my bedside.

“I was only lovin’ you, ’cos you was good, and brought us candy. Papa
lets us love him whenever we want to—every morning he does.”

“As early as this?” demanded I.

“Yes, just as soon as we can see, if we want to.”

Poor Tom! I never _could_ comprehend why, with a good wife, a
comfortable income, and a clear conscience, he need always look thin
and worn—worse than he ever did in Virginia woods or Louisiana swamps.
But now I knew all. And yet, what could one do? That child’s eyes
and voice, and his expression, which exceeded in sweetness that of
any of the angels I had ever imagined,—that child could coax a man
to do more self-forgetting deeds than the shortening of his precious
sleeping-hours amounted to. In fact, he was fast divesting me of my
rightful sleepiness, so I kissed him and said:—

“Run to bed, now, dear old fellow, and let uncle go to sleep again.
After breakfast I’ll make you a whistle.”

“Oh! will you?” The angel turned into a boy at once.

“Yes; now run along.”

“A _loud_ whistle—a real loud one?”

“Yes, but not if you don’t go right back to bed.”

The sound of little footsteps receded as I turned over and closed
my eyes. Speedily the bird-song seemed to grow fainter; my thoughts
dropped to pieces; I seemed to be floating on fleecy clouds, in company
with hundreds of cherubs with Budge’s features and night-drawers—

“Uncle Harry!”

May the Lord forget the prayer I put up just then!

“I’ll discipline you, my fine little boy,” thought I. “Perhaps, if
I let you shriek your abominable little throat hoarse, you’ll learn
better than to torment your uncle, that was just getting ready to love
you dearly.”

“Uncle Har—_ray_!”

“Howl away, you little imp,” thought I. “You’ve got me wide awake,
and your lungs may suffer for it.” Suddenly I heard, although in
sleepy tones, and with a lazy drawl, some words which appalled me. The
murmurer was Toddie:—

“Want—shee—wheels—go—wound.”

“Budge!” I shouted, in the desperation of my dread lest Toddie, too,
might wake up, “what _do_ you want?”

“Uncle Harry!”

“WHAT!”

“Uncle Harry, what kind of wood are you going to make the whistle out
of?”

“I won’t make any at all—I’ll cut a big stick and give you a sound
whipping with it, for not keeping quiet, as I told you to.”

“Why, Uncle Harry, papa don’t whip us with sticks—he spanks us.”

[Illustration: “PAPA DON’T WHIP US WITH STICKS”]

Heavens! Papa! papa! papa! Was I never to have done with this eternal
quotation of “papa”? I was horrified to find myself gradually
conceiving a dire hatred of my excellent brother-in-law. One thing
was certain, at any rate: sleep was no longer possible; so I hastily
dressed and went into the garden. Among the beauty and the fragrance of
the flowers, and in the delicious morning air, I succeeded in regaining
my temper, and was delighted, on answering the breakfast-bell, two
hours later, to have Budge accost me with:—

“Why, Uncle Harry, where was you? We looked all over the house for you,
and couldn’t find a speck of you.”

The breakfast was an excellent one. I afterward learned that Helen,
dear old girl, had herself prepared a bill of fare for every meal I
should take in the house. As the table talk of myself and nephews was
not such as could do harm by being repeated, I requested Maggie, the
servant, to wait upon the children, and I accompanied my request with
a small treasury note. Relieved, thus, of all responsibility for the
dreadful appetites of my nephews, I did full justice to the repast,
and even regarded with some interest and amusement the industry of
Budge and Toddie with their tiny forks and spoons. They ate rapidly
for a while, but soon their appetites weakened and their tongues were
unloosed.

“Ocken Hawwy,” remarked Toddie, “daysh an awfoo funny chunt up
’tairs—awfoo _big_ chunt. I show it you after brepspup.”

“Toddie’s a silly little boy,” said Budge, “he always says brepspup for
brekbux.”[3]

  [3] Breakfast.

“Oh! What does he mean by chunt, Budge?”

“I _guess_ he means trunk,” replied my oldest nephew.

Recollections of my childish delight in rummaging an old trunk—it seems
a century ago that I did it—caused me to smile sympathetically at
Toddie, to his apparent great delight. “How delightful it is to strike
a sympathetic chord in child nature,” thought I; “how quickly the
infant eye comprehends the look which precedes the verbal expression
of an idea? Dear Toddie! for years we might sit at one table, careless
of each other’s words, but the casual mention of one of thy delights
has suddenly brought our souls into that sweetest of all human
communions—that one which doubtless bound the Master himself to that
apostle who was otherwise apparently the weakest among the chosen
twelve.” “An awfoo funny chunt” seemed to annihilate suddenly all
differences of age, condition and experience between the wee boy and
myself, and——

A direful thought struck me. I dashed up stairs and into my room. Yes,
he _did_ mean my trunk. _I_ could see nothing funny about it—quite
the contrary. The bond of sympathy between my nephew and myself was
suddenly broken. Looking at the matter from the comparative distance
which a few weeks have placed between that day and this, I can see
that I was unable to consider the scene before me with a calm and
unprejudiced mind. I am now satisfied that the sudden birth and hasty
decease of my sympathy with Toddie were striking instances of human
inconsistency. My soul had gone out to his because he loved to rummage
in trunks, and because I imagined he loved to see the monument of
incongruous material which resulted from such an operation; the scene
before me showed clearly that I had rightly divined my nephew’s nature.
And yet my selfish instincts hastened to obscure my soul’s vision, and
to prevent that joy which should ensue when “faith is lost in full
fruition.”

[Illustration: AN AMATEUR IN PACKING]

My trunk had contained nearly everything, for while a campaigner I had
learned to reduce packing to an exact science. Now, had there been an
atom of pride in my composition I might have glorified myself, for
it certainly seemed as if the heap upon the floor could never have
come out of a single trunk. Clearly, Toddie was more of a general
connoisseur than an amateur in packing. The method of his work I
quickly discerned, and the discovery threw some light upon the size of
the heap in front of my trunk. A dress hat and its case, when their
natural relationship is dissolved, occupy nearly twice as much space
as before, even if the former contains a blacking-box not usually kept
in it, and the latter a few cigars soaking in bay rum. The same might
be said of a portable dressing-case and its contents, bought for me
in Vienna by a brother ex-soldier, and designed by an old Continental
campaigner to be perfection itself. The straps which prevented the
cover from falling entirely back had been cut, broken or parted in some
way, and in its hollow lay my dress-coat, tightly rolled up. Snatching
it up with a violent exclamation, and unrolling it, there dropped from
it—one of those infernal dolls. At the same time a howl was sounded
from the doorway.

“You tookted my dolly out of her cradle—I want to wock[4] my
dolly—oo—oo—oo—ee—ee—ee—!”

  [4] Rock.

“You young scoundrel!” I screamed—yes, howled, I was so enraged—“I’ve a
great mind to cut your throat this minute. What do you mean by meddling
with my trunk?”

“I—doe—know.” Outward turned Toddie’s lower lip; I believe the sight of
it would move a Bengal tiger to pity, but no such thought occurred to
me just then.

“What made you do it?”

“_Be_—cause.”

“Because what?”

“I—doe—know.”

Just then a terrific roar arose from the garden. Looking out, I saw
Budge with a bleeding finger upon one hand, and my razor in the other;
he afterward explained he had been making a boat, and that the knife
was bad to him. To apply adhesive plaster to the cut was the work
of but a minute, and I had barely completed this surgical operation
when Tom’s gardener-coachman appeared, and handed me a letter. It was
addressed in Helen’s well-known hand, and read as follows (the passages
in brackets were my own comments):—

  “BLOOMDALE, JUNE 21, 1875.

 “DEAR HARRY:—I’m very happy in the thought that you are with my
 darling children, and, although I’m having a lovely time here, I often
 wish I was with you. [Ump—so do I.] I want you to know the little
 treasures real well. [Thank you, but I don’t think I care to extend
 the acquaintanceship farther than is absolutely necessary.] It seems
 to me so unnatural that relatives know so little of those of their own
 blood, and especially of the innocent little spirits whose existence
 is almost unheeded. [Not when there’s unlocked trunks standing about,
 sis.]

 “Now I want to ask a favor of you. When we were boys and girls
 at home, you used to talk perfect oceans about physiognomy, and
 phrenology, and unerring signs of character. I thought it was all
 nonsense then, but if you believe it now, I wish you’d study the
 children, and give me your well-considered opinion of them. [Perfect
 demons, ma’am; imps, rascals, born to be hung—both of them.]

 “I can’t get over the feeling that dear Budge is born for something
 grand. [Grand nuisance.] He is sometimes so thoughtful and so
 absorbed, that I almost fear the result of disturbing him; then, he
 has that faculty of perseverance which seems to be the only thing
 some men have lacked to make them great. [He certainly has it; he
 exemplified it while I was trying to get to sleep this morning.]

 “Toddie is going to make a poet or a musician or an artist. [That’s
 so; all abominable scamps take to some artistic pursuit as an excuse
 for loafing.] His fancies take hold of him very strongly. [They
 do—they do; “shee wheels go wound,” for instance.] He has not Budgie’s
 sublime earnestness, but he doesn’t need it; the irresistible force
 with which he is drawn toward whatever is beautiful compensates for
 the lack. [Ah—perhaps that explains his operation with my trunk.]
 But I want your _own_ opinion, for I know you make more careful
 distinction in character than I do.

 “Delighting myself with the idea that I deserve most of the credit
 for the lots of reading you will have done by this time, and hoping I
 shall soon have a line telling me how my darlings are, I am, as ever,

  “Your loving sister,
  “HELEN.”

Seldom have I been so roused by a letter as I was by this one, and
never did I promise myself more genuine pleasure in writing a reply. I
determined that it should be a masterpiece of analysis and of calm yet
forcible expression of opinion.

Upon one step, at any rate, I was positively determined. Calling the
girl, I asked her where the key was that locked the door between my
room and the children.

“Please, sir, Toddie threw it down the well.”

“Is there a locksmith in the village?”

“No, sir; the nearest one is at Paterson.”

“Is there a screw-driver in the house?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Bring it to me, and tell the coachman to get ready at once to drive me
to Paterson.”

The screw-driver was brought, and with it I removed the lock, got into
the carriage, and told the driver to take me to Paterson by the hill
road—one of the most beautiful roads in America.

“Paterson!” exclaimed Budge. “Oh, there’s a candy store in that town;
come on, Toddie.”

“Will you?” thought I, snatching the whip and giving the horses a cut.
“Not if _I_ can help it. The idea of having such a drive spoiled by
the clatter of _such_ a couple!”

Away went the horses, and up went a piercing shriek and a terrible
roar. It seemed that both children must have been mortally hurt, and
I looked out hastily, only to see Budge and Toddie running after the
carriage, and crying pitifully. It was too pitiful,—I could not have
proceeded without them, even if they had been inflicted with smallpox.
The driver stopped of his own accord,—he seemed to know the children’s
ways and their results,—and I helped Budge and Toddie in, meekly hoping
that the eye of Providence was upon me, and that so self-sacrificing
an act would be duly passed to my credit. As we reached the hill road,
my kindness to my nephews seemed to assume greater proportions, for
the view before me was inexpressibly beautiful. The air was perfectly
clear, and across two score towns I saw the great metropolis itself,
the silent city of Greenwood beyond it, the bay, the Narrows, the
Sound, the two silvery rivers lying between me and the Palisades, and
even, across and to the south of Brooklyn, the ocean itself. Wonderful
effects of light and shadow, picturesque masses, composed of detached
buildings, so far distant that they seemed huddled together; grim
factories turned to beautiful palaces by the dazzling reflection of
sunlight from their window-panes; great ships seeming in the distance
to be toy boats floating idly;—with no signs of life perceptible, the
whole scene recalled the fairy stories read in my youthful days, of
enchanted cities, and the illusion was greatly strengthened by the
dragon-like shape of the roof of New York’s new post-office, lying in
the center of everything, and seeming to brood over all.

“Uncle Harry!”

Ah, that was what I expected!

“Uncle Harry!”

“Well, Budge?”

“I always think that looks like heaven.”

“What does?”

“Why, all that,—from here over to that other sky ’way back there behind
everything I mean. And I think _that_ (here he pointed toward what
probably was a photographer’s roof-light)—that place where it’s so
shiny, is where God stays.”

Bless the child! The scene had suggested only elfindom to _me_, and yet
I prided myself on my quick sense of artistic effects.

“An’ over there where that awful bright _little_ speck is,” continued
Budge, “that’s where dear little brother Phillie is; whenever I look
over there, I see him putting his hand out.”

“Dee ’ittle Phillie went to s’eep in a box, and ze Lord took him to
heaven,” murmured Toddie, putting together all he had seen and heard of
death. Then he raised his voice and exclaimed:—

“Ocken Hawwy, you know what Iz’he goin’ do when I be’s big man? Iz’he
goin’ to have hosses an’ tarridge, an’ Iz’he goin’ to wide over all
ze chees an’ all ze houses an’ all ze world an’ ewyfing. An’ whole
lots of little birdies is comin’ in my tarridge an’ sing songs to me,
an’ you can come too if you want to, an’ we’ll have _ice_-cream an’
trawberries an’ see ’ittle fishes swimmin’ down in ze water, an’ we’ll
get a g’eat big house that’s all p’itty on the outshide an’ all p’itty
on the inshide, an’ it’ll all be ours an’ we’ll do just ewyfing we want
to.”

“Toddie, you’re an idealist.”

“_Ain’t_ a ’dealisht.”

“Toddie’s a goosey-gander,” remarked Budge, with great gravity. “Uncle
Harry, do you think heaven’s as nice as that place over there?”

“Yes, Budge, a great deal nicer.”

“Then why don’t we die an’ go there? I don’t want to go on livin’
forever an’ ever. I don’t see why we don’t die right away; I think
we’ve lived enough of days.”

“The Lord wants us to live until we get good and strong and smart, and
do a great deal of good before we die, old fellow—that’s why we don’t
die right away.”

“Well, I want to see dear little Phillie, an’ if the Lord won’t let him
come down here, I think he might let me die an’ go to heaven. Little
Phillie always laughed when I jumped for him. Uncle Harry, angels has
wings, don’t they?”

“Some people think they have, old boy.”

“Well, I know they _don’t_, ’cos if Phillie had wings, I know he’d fly
right down an’ see me. So they don’t.”

“But maybe he has to go somewhere else, Budge, or maybe he comes and
you can’t see him. We can’t see angels with _our_ eyes, you know.”

“Then what made the Hebrew children in the fiery furnace see one? Their
eyes was just like ours, wasn’t they? I don’t care; I want to see dear
little Phillie _awful_ much. Uncle Harry, if I went to heaven, do you
know what I’d do?”

“What _would_ you do, Budge?”

“Why, after I saw little Phillie, I’d go right up to the Lord an’ give
him a great big hug.”

“What for, Budge?”

“Oh, ’cos he lets us have nice times, an’ gave me my mamma an’ papa,
an’ Phillie— but he took him away again—an’ Toddie, but Toddie’s a
dreadful bad boy sometimes, though.”

“Very true, Budge,” said I, remembering my trunk and the object of my
ride.

“Uncle Harry, did you ever see the Lord?”

“No, Budge; he has been very close to me a good many times, but I never
saw him.”

“Well, _I_ have; I see him every time I look up in the sky, and there
ain’t nobody with me.”

The driver crossed himself and whispered, “He’s foriver a-sayin’ that,
an’ be the powers, I belave him. Sometimes ye’d think that the howly
saints themselves was a-spakin’ whin that bye gits to goin’ on that
way.”

It _was_ wonderful. Budge’s countenance seemed too pure to be of the
earth as he continued to express his ideas of the better land and its
denizens. As for Toddie, his tongue was going incessantly, although in
a tone scarcely audible; but when I chanced to catch his expressions,
they were so droll and fanciful, that I took him upon my lap that I
might hear him more distinctly. I even detected myself in the act of
examining the mental draft of my proposed letter to Helen, and of being
ashamed of it. But neither Toddie’s fancy nor Budge’s spirituality
caused me to forget the principal object of my ride. I found a
locksmith and left the lock to be fitted with a key; then we drove to
the Falls. Both boys discharged volleys of questions as we stood by
the gorge, and the fact that the roar of the falling water prevented
me from hearing them did not cause them to relax their efforts in the
least. I walked to the hotel for a cigar, taking the children with me.
I certainly spent no more than three minutes in selecting and lighting
a cigar, and asking the barkeeper a few questions about the Falls; but
when I turned, the children were missing, nor could I see them in any
direction. Suddenly, before my eyes, arose from the nearer brink of
the gorge two yellowish disks, which I recognized as the hats of my
nephews; then I saw between the disks and me two small figures lying
upon the ground. I was afraid to shout, for fear of scaring them if
they happened to hear me. I bounded across the grass, industriously
raving and praying by turns. They were lying on their stomachs and
looking over the edge of the cliff. I approached them on tiptoe, threw
myself upon the ground, and grasped a foot of each child.

“Oh, Uncle Harry!” screamed Budge in my ear, as I dragged him close
to me, kissing and shaking him alternately; “I hunged over more than
Toddie did.”

[Illustration: “I HUNGED OVER MORE THAN TODDIE DID”]

“Well, I—I—I—I—I—I—I—hunged over a good deal, _any_how,” said Toddie,
in self-defense.

That afternoon I devoted to making a bouquet for Miss Mayton, and a
most delightful occupation I found it. It was no florist’s bouquet,
composed of only a few kinds of flowers, wired upon sticks, and
arranged according to geometric pattern. I used many a rare flower,
too shy of bloom to recommend itself to florists; I combined tints
almost as numerous as the flowers were, and perfumes to which city
bouquets are utter strangers. Arranging flowers is a favorite pastime
of mine, but upon this particular occasion I enjoyed my work more than
I had ever done before. Not that I was in love with Miss Mayton; a man
may honestly and strongly admire a handsome, brilliant woman without
being in love with her; he can delight himself in trying to give her
pleasure, without feeling it necessary that she shall give him herself
in return. Since I arrived at years of discretion I have always smiled
sarcastically at the mention of the generosity of men who were in
love; they have seemed to me rather to be asking an immense price for
what they offered. I had no such feeling toward Miss Mayton. There have
been heathens who have offered gifts to goddesses out of pure adoration
and without any idea of ever having the exclusive companionship of
their favorite divinities. I never offered Miss Mayton any attention
which did not put me into closer sympathy with these same great-souled
old Pagans; and with such Christians as follow their good example.
With each new grace my bouquet took on, my pleasure and satisfaction
increased at the thought of how _she_ would enjoy the completed
evidence of my taste.

At length it was finished, but my delight suddenly became clouded
by the dreadful thought, “What will folks say?” Had we been in New
York instead of Hillcrest, no one but the florist, his messenger, the
lady and myself would know if I sent a bouquet to Miss Mayton; but
in Hillcrest, with its several hundred native-born gossips, and its
acquaintance of everybody with everybody else and their affairs—I
feared talk. Upon the discretion of Mike, the coachman, I could safely
rely; I had already confidentially conveyed sundry bits of fractional
currency to him, and informed him of one of the parties at our store
whose family Mike had known in Old Erin; but every one knew where Mike
was employed; every one knew—mysterious, unseen and swift are the
ways of communication in the country!—that I was the only gentleman
at present residing at Colonel Lawrence’s. Ah!—I had it. I had seen
in one of the library drawers a small pasteboard box, shaped like a
bandbox—doubtless _that_ would hold it. I found the box—it was of just
the size I needed. I dropped my card into the bottom—no danger of a
lady not finding the card accompanying a gift of flowers—neatly fitted
the bouquet in the center of the box, and went in search of Mike. He
winked cheeringly as I explained the nature of his errand, and he
whispered:—

“I’ll do it as clane as a whistle, yer honor. Mistress Clarkson’s cook
an’ mesilf understhand each other, an’ I’m used to goin’ up the back
way. Dhivil a man can see but the angels, an’ they won’t tell.”

“Very well, Mike; here’s a dollar for you; you’ll find the box on the
hat-rack, in the hall.”

Half an hour later, while I sat in my chamber window, reading, I beheld
Mike, cleanly shaved, dressed and brushed, swinging up the road, with
my box balanced on one of his enormous hands. With a head full of
pleasing fancies, I went down to supper. My new friends were unusually
good. Their ride seemed to have toned down their boisterousness and
elevated their little souls; their appetites exhibited no diminution
of force, but they talked but little, and all that they said was
smart, funny, or startling—so much so that when, after supper, they
invited me to put them to bed, I gladly accepted the invitation. Toddie
disappeared somewhere, and came back very disconsolate.

“I can’t find my dolly’s k’adle,” he whined.

“Never mind, old pet,” said I, soothingly. “Uncle will ride you on his
foot.”

“But I _want_ my dolly’s k’adle,” said he, piteously rolling out his
lower lip.

I remembered my experience when Toddie wanted to “shee wheels go
wound,” and I trembled.

“Toddie,” said I, in a tone so persuasive that it would be worth
thousands a year to me, as a salesman, if I could only command it at
will; “Toddie, don’t you want to ride on uncle’s back?”

“No; want my dolly’s k’adle.”

“Don’t you want me to tell you a story?”

For a moment Toddie’s face indicated a terrible internal conflict
between old Adam and mother Eve, but curiosity finally overpowered
natural depravity, and Toddie murmured:—Yesh.”

“What shall I tell you about?”

”’Bout Nawndeark.”

“About _what_?”

“He means Noah an’ the ark,” exclaimed Budge.

“Datsh what _I_ shay—Nawndeark,” declared Toddie.

“Well,” said I, hastily refreshing my memory by picking up the
Bible,—for Helen, like most people, is pretty sure to forget to pack
her Bible when she runs away from home for a few days,—“well, once it
rained forty days and nights, and everybody was drowned from the face
of the earth excepting Noah, a righteous man, who was saved with all
his family, in an ark which the Lord commanded him to build.”

“Uncle Harry,” said Budge, after contemplating me with open eyes and
mouth for at least two minutes after I had finished, “do you think
that’s Noah?”

“Certainly, Budge; here’s the whole story in the Bible.”

“Well, _I_ don’t think it’s Noah one single bit,” said he, with
increasing emphasis.

“I’m beginning to think we read different Bibles, Budge; but let’s hear
_your_ version.”

“Huh?”

“Tell _me_ about Noah, if you know so much about him.”

“I will, if you want me to. Once the Lord felt so uncomfortable ’cos
folks was bad that he was sorry he ever made anybody, or any world
or anything. But Noah wasn’t bad—the Lord liked him first-rate, so
he told Noah to build a big ark, and then the Lord would make it
rain so everybody should be drownded but Noah an’ his little boys
an’ girls, an’ doggies, an’ pussies, an’ mamma cows, an’ little-boy
cows, an’ little-girl cows, an’ hosses, an’ everything—they’d go in
the ark an’ wouldn’t get wetted a bit, when it rained. An’ Noah took
lots of things to eat in the ark—cookies an’ milk, an’ oatmeal an’
strawberries, an’ porgies an’—oh, yes; an’ plum puddin’s an’ pumpkin
pies. But Noah didn’t want everybody to get drownded, so he talked to
folks an’ said, ‘It’s goin’ to rain _awful_ pretty soon; you’d better
be good, an’ then the Lord’ll let you come into my ark.” An’ they jus’
said ‘Oh, if it rains we’ll go in the house till it stops’; an’ other
folks said, ‘_We_ ain’t afraid of rain—we’ve got an umbrella.’ An’
some more said, they wasn’t goin’ to be afraid of just a rain. But it
_did_ rain, though, an’ folks went in their houses an’ the water came
in, an’ they got on the tops of the houses, an’ up in big trees, an’
up in mountains, an’ the water went after ’em everywhere an’ drownded
everybody, only just except Noah and the people in the ark. An’ it
rained forty days an’ nights, an’ then it stopped, an’ Noah got out of
the ark, an’ he an’ his little boys an’ girls went wherever they wanted
to, an’ everything in the world was all theirs; there wasn’t anybody to
tell ’em to go home, nor no Kindergarten schools to go to, nor no bad
boys to fight ’em, nor nothin’. Now tell us ’nother story.”

I determined that I would not again attempt to repeat portions of
the Scripture narrative—my experience in that direction had not been
encouraging. I ventured upon a war story.

“Do you know what the war was?” I asked, by way of reconnoissance.

“Oh, yes,” said Budge, “papa was there an’ he’s got a sword; don’t you
see it, hangin’ up there?”

Yes, I saw it, and the difference between the terrible field where last
I saw Tom’s sword in action, and this quiet room where it now hung,
forced me into a reverie from which I was aroused by Budge remarking:—

[Illustration: “WE’VE GOT AN UMBRELLA”]

“Ain’t you goin’ to tell us one?”

“Oh, yes, Budge. One day while the war was going on, there was a whole
lot of soldiers going along a road, and they were hungry as they could
be; they hadn’t had anything to eat that day.”

“Why didn’t they go into the houses, and tell the people they was
hungry? That’s what _I_ do when I goes along roads.”

“Because the people in that country didn’t like them; the brothers and
papas and husbands of those people were soldiers, too; but they didn’t
like the soldiers I told you about first, and they wanted to kill them.”

“I don’t think they were a bit nice,” said Budge, with considerable
decision.

“Well, the first soldiers wanted to kill _them_, Budge.”

“Then they was _all_ bad, to want to kill each other.”

“Oh no, they weren’t; there were a great many real good men on both
sides.”

Poor Budge looked sadly puzzled, as he had an excellent right to do,
since the wisest and best men are sorely perplexed by the nature of
warlike feeling.

“Both parties of soldiers were on horseback,” I continued, “and they
were near each other, and when they saw each other they made their
horses run fast, and the bugles blew, and the soldiers all took their
swords out to kill each other with. Just then a little boy, who had
been out in the woods to pick berries for his mamma, tried to run
across the road, and caught his toe some way, and fell down and cried.
Then somebody hallooed ‘Halt!’ very loud, and all the horses on one
side stopped, and then somebody else hallooed ‘Halt!’ and a lot of
bugles blew, and every horse on the other side stopped, and one soldier
jumped off his horse, and picked up the little boy—he was only about
as big as you, Budge—and tried to comfort him, and then a soldier from
the other side came up to look at him; and then more soldiers came from
both sides to look at him; and when he got better and walked home, the
soldiers all rode away, because they didn’t feel like fighting just
then.”

“O Uncle Harry! I think it was an _awful_ good soldier that got off his
horse to take care of that poor little boy.”

“Do you, Budge? who do you think it was?”

“I dunno.”

“It was your papa.”

“Oh—h—h—h—h!” If Tom could have but seen the expression upon his boy’s
face as he prolonged this exclamation, his loss of one of the grandest
chances a cavalry officer ever had would not have seemed so great to
him as it had done for years. He seemed to take in the story in all its
bearings, and his great eyes grew in depth as they took on the far-away
look which seemed too earnest for the strength of an earthly being to
support.

But Toddie—he who a fond mamma thought endowed with art sense—Toddie
had throughout my recital the air of a man who was musing on some
affair of his own, and Budge’s exclamation had hardly died away, when
Toddie commenced to weave aloud an extravaganza wholly his own.

“When _I_ was a soldier,” he remarked, very gravely, “I had a coat
an’ a hat on, an’ a muff, an’ a little knake[5] wound my neck to keep
me warm, an’ it wained, an’ hailed, an’ ’tormed, an’ I felt bad, so I
whallowed a sword an’ burned me all down dead.”

  [5] Snake: tippet.

“And how did you get here?” I asked, with interest proportioned to the
importance of Toddie’s last clause.

“Oh, I got up from the burn-down dead, an’ _comed_ right here. I want
my dolly’s k’adle.”

O persistent little dragon! If you were of age, what a fortune you
might make in business!

“Uncle Harry, I wish my papa would come home right away,” said Budge.

“Why, Budge?”

“I want to love him for bein’ so good to that poor little boy in the
war.”

[Illustration: “WHEN I WAS A SOLDIER,” REMARKED TODDIE]

“Ocken Hawwy, I wants my dolly’s k’adle, ’tause my dolly’s in it, an’ I
want to shee her”; thus spake Toddie.

“Don’t you think the Lord loved my papa awful much for doin’ that sweet
thing, Uncle Harry?” asked Budge.

“Yes, old fellow, I feel sure that he did.”

“Lord lovesh my papa vewy much, so I love ze Lord vewy much,” remarked
Toddie. “An’ I wants my dolly’s k’adle an’ my dolly.”

“Toddie, I don’t know where either of them are—I can’t find them
now—_do_ wait until morning, when Uncle Harry will look for them.”

“I don’t see how the Lord can get along in heaven without my papa,
Uncle Harry,” said Budge.

“Lord takesh papa to heaven, an’ Budge an’ me, and we’ll go walkin’
an’ see ze Lord, an play wif ze angels’ wings, an hazh good timsh, an’
never have to go to bed at all, at all.”

Pure-hearted little innocents! compared with older people whom we
endure, how great thy faith and how few thy faults! How superior thy
love——

A knock at the door interrupted me. “Come in!” I shouted.

In stepped Mike, with an air of the greatest secrecy, handed me a
letter and the identical box in which I had sent the flowers to Miss
Mayton. What _could_ it mean? I hastily opened the envelope, and at the
same time Toddie shrieked:—

“Oh, darsh my dolly’s k’adle—dare tizh!” snatched and opened the box,
and displayed—his doll! My heart sickened, and did _not_ regain its
strength during the perusal of the following note:—

 “Miss Mayton herewith returns to Mr. Burton the package which just
 arrived, with his card. She recognizes the contents as a portion of
 the apparent property of one of Mr. Burton’s nephews, but is unable to
 understand why it should have been sent to her.

  “JUNE 20, 1875.”

“Toddie,” I roared, as my younger nephew caressed his loathsome doll,
and murmured endearing words to it, “where did you get that box?”

“On the hat-wack,” replied the youth, with perfect fearlessness. “I
keeps it in ze book-case djawer, and somebody took it ’way, and put
nasty ole flowers in it.”

“Where are those flowers?” I demanded.

Toddie looked up with considerable surprise, but promptly replied:—

“I froed ’em away—don’t want no ole flowers in my dolly’s k’adle.
That’s ze way she wocks—see!” And the horrible little destroyer
of human hopes rolled that box back and forth with the most utter
unconcern, as he spoke endearing words to the substitute for my
beautiful bouquet!

To say that I looked at Toddie reprovingly is to express my feelings in
the most inadequate language, but of language in which to express my
feelings to Toddie, I could find absolutely none. Within two or three
short moments I had discovered how very anxious I really was to merit
Miss Mayton’s regard, and how very different was the regard I wanted
from that which I had previously hoped might be accorded me. It seemed
too ridiculous to be true that I, who had for years had dozens of
charming lady acquaintances, and yet had always maintained my common
sense and self-control; I, who had always considered it unmanly for a
man to specially interest himself in _any_ lady until he had an income
of five thousand a year; I, who had skilfully, and many times, argued
that life attachments, or attempts thereat, which were made without a
careful preliminary study of the mental characteristics of the partner
desired, were the most unpardonable folly,—_I_ had transgressed every
one of my own rules, and, as if to mock me for any pretended wisdom and
care, my weakness was made known to me by a three-year-old marplot and
a hideous rag doll!

That merciful and ennobling dispensation by which Providence enables us
to temper the severity of our own sufferings by alleviating those of
others, came soon to my rescue. Under my stern glance, Toddie gradually
lost interest in his doll and its cradle, and began to thrust forth and
outward his piteous lower lip, and to weep copiously.

“Dee Lord not make me sho bad,” he cried through his tears. I doubt
his having had any very clear idea of what he was saying, or whom he
was addressing; but had the publican of whose prayer Toddie made so
fair a paraphrase worn such a face when he offered his famous petition,
it could not have been denied for a moment. Toddie even retired to a
corner, and hid his face in self-imposed penance.

“Never mind, Toddie,” said I sadly; “you didn’t mean to do it, I know.”

“I wantsh to love you,” sobbed Toddie.

“Well, come here, you poor little fellow,” said I, opening my arms, and
wondering whether ’twas not after contemplation of some such sinner
that good Bishop Tegner wrote:—

  “Depths of love are atonement’s depths, for love is atonement.”

Toddie came to my arms, shed tears freely upon my shirt-front, and
finally, after heaving a very long sigh, remarked:—

“Wantsh _you_ to love _me_.”

I complied with his request. Theoretically I had long believed
that the higher wisdom of the Creator was most frequently expressed
through the medium of his most innocent creations. Surely here was a
confirmation of my theory, for who else had ever practically taught
me the duty of the injured one toward his offender? I kissed Toddie
and petted him, and at length succeeded in quieting him; his little
face, in spite of much dirt and many tear-stains, was upturned with
more of beauty in it than it ever held when its owner was full of joy;
he looked earnestly, confidingly, into my eyes, and I congratulated
myself upon the perfection of my forgiving spirit, when Toddie suddenly
re-exhibited to me my old unregenerate nature, and the incompleteness
of my forgiveness, by saying:—

“Kish my dolly, too.”

[Illustration: “KISH MY DOLLY, TOO”]

I obeyed. My forgiveness was made complete, but so was my humiliation.
I abruptly closed our interview. We exchanged “God bless you’s,”
according to Budge’s instructions of the previous night, and at
least one of the participants in this devotional exercise hoped the
petitions made by the other were distinctly heard. Then I dropped into
an easy-chair in the library, and fell to thinking. I found myself
really and seriously troubled by the results of Toddie’s operation with
my bouquet. I might explain the matter to Miss Mayton—I undoubtedly
could, for she was too sensible a woman to be easily offended merely
by a ridiculous mistake, caused by a child. But she would laugh at
_me_—how could she help it?—and to be laughed at by Miss Mayton was
a something, the mere thought of which tormented me in a manner that
made me fairly ashamed of myself. Like every other young man among
young men, I had been the butt of many a rough joke, and had borne them
without wincing; it seemed cowardly and contemptible that I should be
so sensitive under the mere thought of laughter which would probably
be heard by no one but Miss Mayton herself. But the laughter of a
mere acquaintance is likely to lessen respect for the person laughed
at. Heavens! the thought was unendurable! At any rate, I must write
an early apology. When I was correspondent for the house with which
I am now salesman, I reclaimed many an old customer who had wandered
off—certainly I might hope, by a well-written letter, to regain in Miss
Mayton’s respect whatever position I had lost. I hastily drafted a
letter, corrected it carefully, copied it in due form, and forwarded
it by the faithful Michael. Then I tried to read, but without the least
success. For hours I paced the piazza and consumed cigars; when at last
I retired it was with many ideas, hopes, fears, and fancies which had
never before been mine. True to my trust, I looked into my nephews’
room; there lay the boys, in postures more graceful than any which
brush or chisel have ever reproduced. Toddie, in particular, wore so
lovely an expression that I could not refrain from kissing him. But I
was none the less careful to make use of my new key, and to lock my
other door also.

The next day was the Sabbath. Believing fully in the binding force
and worldly wisdom of the Fourth Commandment, so far as it refers to
rest, I have conscientiously trained myself to sleep two hours later
on the morning of the holy day than I ever allowed myself to do on
business days. But having inherited, besides a New England conscience,
a New England abhorrence of waste, I regularly sit up two hours later
on Saturday nights than on any others; and the night preceding this
particular Sabbath was no exception to the rule, as the reader may
imagine from the foregoing recital. At about 5.30 A.M., however, I
became conscious that my nephews were not in accord with me on the
Sinaitic law. They were not only awake, but were disputing vigorously,
and, seemingly very loudly, for I heard their words quite distinctly.
With sleepy condescension I endeavored to ignore these noisy
irreverents, but I was suddenly moved to a belief in the doctrine of
vicarious atonement, for a flying body, with more momentum than weight,
struck me upon the not prominent bridge of my nose, and speedily and
with unnecessary force accommodated itself to the outline of my eyes.
After a moment spent in anguish, and in wondering how the missive came
through closed doors and windows, I discovered that my pain had been
caused by one of the dolls, which from its extreme uncleanness, I
suspected belonged to Toddie; I also discovered that the door between
the rooms was open.

“Who threw that doll?” I shouted, sternly.

There came no response.

“Do you hear?” I roared.

“What is it, Uncle Harry?” asked Budge, with most exquisitely polite
inflection.

“Who threw that doll?”

“Huh?”

“I say, who threw that doll?”

“Why, nobody did it.”

“Toddie, who threw that doll?”

“Budge did,” replied Toddie, in muffled tones, suggestive of a
brotherly hand laid forcibly over a pair of small lips.

“Budge, what did you do it for?”

“Why—why—I—because—why, you see—because, why, Toddie froo his dolly in
my mouth; some of her hair went in, anyhow, an’ I didn’t want his dolly
in my mouth, so I sent it back to him, an’ the foot of the bed didn’t
stick up enough, so it went froo the door to your bed—that’s what for.”

The explanation seemed to bear marks of genuineness, albeit the pain
in my eye was not alleviated thereby, while the exertion expended in
eliciting the information had so thoroughly awakened me that further
sleep was out of the question. Besides, the open door—had a burglar
been in the room? No, my watch and pocket-book were undisturbed.

“Budge, who opened that door?”

After some hesitation, as if wondering who really did it, Budge
replied:—

“Me.”

“How did you do it?”

“Why, you see we wanted a drink, an’ the door was fast, so we got out
the window on the parazzo roof, an’ comed in your window.” (Here a
slight pause.) “An’ ’twas fun. An’ then we unlocked the door, an’ comed
back.”

Then I should be compelled to lock my window blinds—or theirs, and
this in the summer season, too! Oh, if Helen could have but passed the
house as that white-robed procession had filed along the piazza roof! I
lay pondering over the vast amount of unused ingenuity that was locked
up in millions of children, or employed only to work misery among
unsuspecting adults, when I heard light footfalls at my bedside, and
saw a small shape with a grave face approach and remark:

“I wants to come in your bed.”

“What for, Toddie?”

“To fwolic; papa always fwolics us Sunday mornin’s. Tum, Budgie, Ocken
Hawwy’s doin’ to fwolic us.”

[Illustration: TWO LITTLE SAVAGES]

Budge replied by shrieking with delight, tumbling out of bed, and
hurrying to that side of my bed not already occupied by Toddie.
Then those two little savages sounded the onslaught and advanced
precipitately upon me. Sometimes, during the course of my life, I
have had day-dreams which I have told to no one. Among these has
been one—not now so distinct as it was before my four years of
campaigning—of one day meeting in deadly combat the painted Indian
of the plains; of listening undismayed to his frightful war-whoop,
and of exemplifying in my own person the inevitable result of the
paleface’s superior intelligence. But upon this particular Sunday
morning I relinquished this idea informally but forever. Before the
advance of these diminutive warriors I quailed contemptibly, and
their battle-cry sent more terror to my soul than that member ever
experienced from the well-remembered rebel yell. According to Toddie,
I was going to “fwolic” _them_; but from the first they took the whole
business into their own little but effective hands. Toddie pronounced
my knees, collectively, “a horsie-bonnie.” and bestrode them, laughing
gleefully at my efforts to unseat him, and holding himself in position
by digging his pudgy fingers into whatever portions of my anatomy
he could most easily seize. Budge shouted,” I want a horsie, too!”
and seated himself upon my chest. “This is the way the horsie goes,”
explained he, as he slowly rocked himself backward and forward. I began
to realize how my brother-in-law, who had once been a fine gymnast, had
become so flat-chested. Just then Budge’s face assumed a more spirited
expression, his eyes opened wide and lighted up, and shouting,” This
the way the horsie _trots_,” he stood upright, threw up his feet, and
dropped his forty-three avoirdupois pounds forcibly upon my lungs. He
repeated this operation several times before I fully recovered from the
shock conveyed by his combined impudence and weight; but pain finally
brought my senses back, and with a wild plunge I unseated my demoniac
riders and gained a clear space in the middle of the floor.

“Ah—h—h—h—h—h—h!” screamed Toddie; “I wants to ride horshie backen.”

“Boo—oo—oo—oo—!” roared Budge; “I think you’re real mean. I don’t love
you at all.”

Regardless alike of Toddie’s desires, of Budge’s opinion and the
cessation of his regard, I performed a hasty toilet. Notwithstanding my
lost rest, I savagely thanked the Lord for Sunday; at church, at least,
I could be free from my tormentors. At the breakfast table both boys
invited themselves to accompany me to the sanctuary, but I declined,
without thanks. To take them might be to assist somewhat in teaching
them one of the best habits, but I strongly doubted whether the
severest Providence would consider it my duty to endure the probable
consequences of such an attempt. Besides I _might_ meet Miss Mayton.
I both hoped and feared I might, and I could not endure the thought
of appearing before her with the causes of my pleasant _remembrance_.
Budge protested, and Toddie wept, but I remained firm, although I
was so willing to gratify their reasonable desires that I took them
out for a long ante-service walk. While enjoying this little trip I
delighted the children by killing a snake and spoiling a slender cane
at the same time, my own sole consolation coming from the discovery
that the remains of the staff were sufficient to make a cane for
Budge. While returning to the house and preparing for church I entered
into a solemn agreement with Budge, who was usually recognized as the
head of this fraternal partnership. Budge contracted, for himself
and brother, to make no attempts to enter my room; to refrain from
fighting; to raise loose dirt only with a shovel, and to convey it to
its destination by means other than their own hats and aprons; to pick
no flowers; to open no water-faucets; to refer all disagreements to the
cook, as arbitrator, and to build no houses of the new books which I
had stacked upon the library table. In consideration of the promised
faithful observance of these conditions, I agreed that Budge should
be allowed to come alone to Sabbath-school, which convened directly
after morning service, he to start only after Maggie had pronounced
him duly cleansed and clothed. As Toddie was daily kept in bed from
eleven till one, I felt that I might safely worship without distracting
fears, for Budge could not alone, and in a single hour, become guilty
of any particular sin. The church at Hillcrest had many more seats
than members, and as but few summer visitors had yet appeared in the
town, I was conscious of being industriously stared at by the native
members of the congregation. This was of itself discomfort enough,
but not all to which I was destined, for the usher conducted me quite
near to the altar, and showed me into a pew whose only other occupant
was Miss Mayton! Of course the lady did not recognize me—she was too
carefully bred to do anything of the sort in church, and I spent ten
uncomfortable minutes in mentally abusing the customs of good society.
The beginning of the service partially ended my uneasiness, for I had
no hymn-book—the pew contained none—so Miss Mayton kindly offered me
a share in her own. And yet so faultlessly perfect and stranger-like
was her manner that I wondered whether her action might not have been
prompted merely by a sense of Christian duty; had I been the Khan of
Tartary she could not have been more polite and frigid. The music to
the first hymn was an air I had never heard before, so I stumbled
miserably through the tenor, although Miss Mayton rendered the soprano
without a single false note. The sermon was longer than I was in the
habit of listening to, and I was frequently conscious of not listening
at all. As for my position and appearance, neither ever seemed so
insignificant as they did throughout the entire service.

[Illustration: MY NEPHEW BUDGE IN HIS BEST]

The minister reached “And finally, dear brethren,” with my earnest
prayers for a successful and speedy finale. It seemed to me that the
congregation sympathized with me, for there was a general rustle
behind me as these words were spoken. It soon became evident, however,
that the hearers were moved by some other feeling, for I heard a
profound titter or two behind me. Even Miss Mayton turned her head
with more alacrity than was consistent with that grace which usually
characterized her motions, and the minister himself made a pause of
unusual length, I turned in my seat, and saw my nephew Budge, dressed
in his best, his head irreverently covered, and his new cane swinging
in the most stylish manner. He paused at each pew, carefully surveyed
its occupants, seemed to fail in finding the object of his search,
but continued his efforts in spite of my endeavors to catch his eye.
Finally he recognized a family acquaintance, and to him he unburdened
his bosom by remarking, in tones easily heard throughout the church:—

“I want to find my uncle.”

Just then he caught my eye, smiled rapturously, hurried to me, and laid
his rascally soft cheek confidingly against mine, while an audible
sensation pervaded the church. What to do or say to him I scarcely
knew; but my quandary was turned to wonder, as Miss Mayton, her face
full of ill-repressed mirth, but her eyes full of tenderness, drew the
little scamp close to her, and kissed him soundly. At the same instant,
the minister, not without some little hesitation, said, “Let us pray.”
I hastily bowed my head, glad of a chance to hide my face; but as I
stole a glance at the cause of this irreligious disturbance, I caught
Miss Mayton’s eye. She was laughing so violently that the contagion
was unavoidable, and I laughed all the harder as I felt that one
mischievous boy had undone the mischief caused by another.

After the benediction, Budge was the recipient of a great deal of
attention, during the confusion of which I embraced the opportunity to
say to Miss Mayton:—

“Do you still sustain my sister in her opinion of my nephews, Miss
Mayton?”

“I think they’re too funny for anything,” replied the lady, with great
enthusiasm. “I _do_ wish you would bring them to call upon me. I’m
longing to see an _original_ young gentleman.”

“Thank you,” said I. “And I’ll have Toddie bring a bouquet by way of
atonement.”

“Do,” she replied, as I allowed her to pass from the pew. The word was
an insignificant one, but it made me happy once more.

“You see, Uncle Harry,” exclaimed Budge, as we left the church
together, “the Sunday-school wasn’t open yet, an’ I wanted to hear if
they’d sing again in church; so I came in, an’ you wasn’t in papa’s
seat, an’ I knew you was _some_where, so I _looked_ for you.”

“Bless you,” thought I, snatching him into my arms as if to hurry
him into Sabbath-school, but really to give him a kiss of grateful
affection, “you did right—_exactly_ right.”

My Sunday dinner was unexceptional in point of quantity and quality,
and a bottle of my brother-in-law’s claret proved to be the most
excellent; yet a certain uneasiness of mind prevented my enjoying the
meal as thoroughly as under other circumstances I might have done. My
uneasiness came of a mingled sense of responsibility and ignorance. I
felt that it was the proper thing for me to see that my nephews spent
the day with some sense of the requirements and duties of the Sabbath;
but how I was to bring it about I hardly knew. The boys were too small
to have Bible-lessons administered to them, and they were too lively to
be kept quiet by any ordinary means. After a great deal of thought, I
determined to consult the children themselves, and try to learn what
their parents’ custom had been.

“Budge,” said I, “what do you do Sundays when your papa and mamma are
home? What do they read to you—what do they talk about?”

“Oh, they swing us—lots!” said Budge, with brightening eyes.

“An’ zey takes us to get jacks,” observed Toddie.

“Oh, yes!” exclaimed Budge; “jacks-in-the-pulpit,—don’t you know?”

“Hum—ye—es; I do remember some such thing in my youthful days; they
grow where there’s plenty of mud, don’t they?”

“Yes, an’ there’s a brook there, an’ ferns, an’ birchbark, an’ if you
don’t look out you’ll tumble into the brook when you go to get birch.”

“An’ we goes to Hawksnest Rock,” piped Toddie, “an’ papa carries us up
on his back when we gets tired.”

“An’ he makes us whistles,” said Budge.

“Budge,” said I, rather hastily, “enough. In the language of the poet

  ‘These earthly pleasures I resign’

and I’m rather astonished that your papa hasn’t taught you to do
likewise. Don’t he ever read to you?”

“Oh, yes,” cried Budge, clapping his hands as a happy thought struck
him. “He gets down the Bible—the great _big_ Bible, you know—an’ we all
lay on the floor, an’ he reads us stories out of it. There’s David,
an’ Noah, an’ when Christ was a little boy, an’ Joseph, an’ turn back
Pharo’s army hallelujah——”

“And what?”

“TurnbackPharo’sarmyhallelujah,” repeated Budge. “Don’t you know
how Moses held his cane out over the Red Sea, an’ the water went
’way up one side, an’ ’way up the other side, and all the Isrulites
went across? It’s just the same thing as _drown_ old Pharo’s army
hallelujah—don’t you know.”

“Budge,” said I; “I suspect you of having, heard the Jubilee Singers.”

“Oh, an’ papa an’ mamma sings us all those jubilee songs—there’s ‘Swing
Low,’ an’ ‘Roll Jordan,’ an’ ‘Steal Away,’ an’ ‘My Way’s Cloudy,’ an’
’Get on Board, Childuns,’ an’ lots. An’ you can sing us every one of
’em.”

“An’ papa takes us in the woods and makesh us canes,” said Toddie.

[Illustration: PUTTING AN EXTENSION ON THE AFTERNOON]

“Yes,” said Budge, “and where there’s new houses buildin’, he takes us
up ladders.”

“Has he any way of putting an extension on the afternoon?” I asked.

“I don’t know what that is,” said Budge, “but he puts an India-rubber
blanket on the grass, and then we all lie down and make b’lieve we’re
soldiers asleep. Only sometimes when we wake up, papa stays asleep, an’
mamma won’t let us wake him. I don’t think that’s a very nice play.”

“Well, I think Bible stories are nicer than anything else, don’t you?”

Budge seemed somewhat in doubt. “I think swingin’ is nicer,” said
he—“oh, no;—let’s get some jacks—_I’ll_ tell you what!—make us
whistles, an’ we can blow on ’em while we’re goin’ to get the jacks.
Toddie, dear, wouldn’t _you_ like jacks an’ whistles?”

“Yesh—an’ swingin’—an’ birch—an’ wantsh to go to Hawksnesh Rock,”
answered Toddie.

“Let’s have Bible stories first,” said I. “The Lord mightn’t like it if
you didn’t learn anything good to-day.”

“Well,” said Budge, with the regulation religious-matter-of-duty face,
“let’s. I guess I like ’bout Joseph best.”

“Tell us ’bout Bliaff,” suggested Toddie.

“Oh, no, Tod,” remonstrated Budge; “Joseph’s coat was just as bloody
as Goliath’s head was.” Then Budge turned to me and explained that
“all Tod likes Goliath for is ’cause when his head was cut off it was
all bloody.” And then Toddie—the airy sprite whom his mother described
as being irresistibly drawn to whatever was beautiful—Toddie glared
upon me, as a butcher’s apprentice might stare at a doomed lamb, and
remarked:—

“Bliaff’s head was all bluggy, an’ David’s sword was all bluggy—bluggy
as everyfing.”

I hastily breathed a small prayer, opened the Bible, turned to the
story of Joseph, and audibly condensed it, as I read:

“Joseph was a good little boy, whose papa loved him very dearly. But
his brothers didn’t like him. And they sold him to go to Egypt. And he
was very smart, and told people what their dreams meant, and he got to
be a great man. And his brothers went to Egypt to buy corn, and Joseph
sold them some, and then he let them know who he was. And he sent them
home to bring their papa to Egypt, and then they all lived there
together.”

“That ain’t it,” remarked Toddie, with the air of a man who felt
himself to be unjustly treated. “Is it, Budge?”

“Oh, no,” said Budge, “you didn’t read it good a bit; _I’ll_ tell you
how it is. Once there was a little boy named Joseph, an’ he had eleven
budders—they was _awful_ eleven budders. An’ his papa gave him a new
coat, an’ his budders hadn’t nothin’ but their old jackets to wear. An’
one day he was carrying ’em their dinner, an’ they put him in a deep,
dark hole, but they didn’t put his nice new coat in—they killed a kid,
an’ dipped the coat—just think of doin’ that to a nice new coat—they
dipped it in the kid’s blood, an’ made it all bloody.”

“All bluggy,” echoed Toddie, with ferocious emphasis. Budge continued:—

“But there were some Ishmalites comin’ along that way, and the awful
eleven budders took him out of the deep, dark hole, an’ sold him
to the Ishmalites, an’ they sold him away down in Egypt. An’ his
poor old papa cried, an’ cried, an’ cried, ’cause he thought a big
lion ate Joseph up; but he wasn’t ate up a bit; but there wasn’t no
post-office nor choo-choos,[6] nor stages in Egypt, an’ there wasn’t
any telegraphs, so Joseph couldn’t let his papa know where he was; an’
he got so smart an’ so good that the king of Egypt let him sell all
the corn an’ take care of the money; ’an one day some men came to buy
some com, an’ Joseph looked at ’em ’an they was his own budders! An’ he
scared ’em like everything; _I’d_ have _slapped_ ’em all if _I’d_ been
Joseph, but he just scared ’em, an’ then he let ’em know who he was,
an’ he kissed ’em an’ he didn’t whip ’em, or make ’em go without their
breakfast, or stand in a corner, nor none of them things; an’ then he
sent them back for their papa, an’ when he saw his papa comin’, he ran
like everything, and gave him a great big hug and a kiss. Joseph was
too big to ask him if he’d brought him any candy, but he was awful glad
to see him. An’ the king gave Joseph’s papa a nice farm, an’ they all
had real good times after that.”

  [6] Railway cars.

“An’ they dipped the coat in the blood, an’ made it all bluggy,”
reiterated Toddie.

“Uncle Harry,” said Budge, “what do you think _my_ papa would do, if
he thought I was all ate up by a lion? I guess he’d cry _awful_, don’t
you? Now tell us another story—oh, _I’ll_ tell you—read us ’bout—”

”’Bout Bliaff,” interrupted Toddie.

“_You_ tell _me_ about him, Toddie,” said I.

“Why,” said Toddie, “Bliaff was a brate bid man, an’ Dave was brate
little man, an’ Bliaff said, ‘Come over here, an’ I’ll eat you up,’ an’
Dave said, ‘_I_ ain’t fyaid of you.’ So Dave put five little stones in
a sling an’ asked de Lord to help him, an’ let ze sling go bang into
bequeen Bliaff’s eyes an’ knocked him down dead, an’ Dave took Bliaff’s
sword an’ sworded Bliaff’s head off, an’ made it all bluggy, an’ Bliaff
runned away.” This short narration was accompanied by more spirited and
unexpected gestures than Mr. Gough ever puts into a long lecture.

“I don’t like ’bout Goliath at all,” remarked Budge, “_I’d_ like to
hear ’bout Ferus.”

“Who?”

“Ferus; don’t you know?”

“Never heard of him, Budge.”

[Illustration: “IF I WAS ALL ATE UP BY A LION”]

“Why—y—y—!” exclaimed Budge; “didn’t you have no papa when you was a
little boy?”

“Yes, but he never told me about any one named Ferus; there is no such
person named in Anthon’s Classical Dictionary, either. What sort of a
man was he?”

“Why, once there was a man, an’ his name was Ferus—_Of_ferus, an’ he
went about fightin’ for kings, but when any king got afraid of anybody,
he wouldn’t fight for him no more. An’ one day he couldn’t find no
kings that wasn’t afraid of nobody. An’ the people told him the Lord
was the biggest king in the world, an’ he wasn’t afraid of nobody nor
nothing. An’ he asked ’em where he could find the Lord, an’ they said
he was ’way up in heaven so nobody couldn’t see him but the angels,
but he liked folks to _work_ for him instead of fight. So Ferus wanted
to know what kind of work he could do, an’ the people said there was a
river not far off, where there wasn’t no ferry-boats, ’cos the water
run so fast, an’ they guessed if he’d carry folks across, the Lord
would like it. So Ferus went there, an’ he cut him a good, strong cane,
an’ whenever anybody wanted to go across the river he’d carry ’em on
his back.

“One night he was sittin’ in his little house by the fire, and smokin’
his pipe an’ readin’ the paper, an’ ’twas rainin’ an’ blowin’ an’
hailin’ an’ stormin’, an’ he was so glad there wasn’t anybody wantin’
to go ’cross the river, when he heard somebody call out, ‘Ferus!’ An’
he looked out the window, but he couldn’t see nobody, so he sat down
again. Then somebody called, ‘Ferus!’ again, and he opened the door
again, an’ there was a little bit of a boy, ’bout as big as Toddie.
An’ Ferus said, ‘Hello, young fellow, does your mother know you’re
out?’ An’ the little boy said, ‘I want to go ’cross the river.’—‘Well,’
says Ferus, ‘you’re a mighty little fellow to be travelin’ alone, but
hop up.’ So the little boy jumped up on Ferus’ back, and Ferus walked
into the water. Oh, my—_wasn’t_ it cold? An’ every step he took, the
little boy got heavier, so Ferus nearly tumbled down an’ they liked
to both got drownded. An’ when they got across the river Ferus said,
’Well, you _are_ the heaviest small fry I ever carried,’ an’ he turned
around to look at him, an’ ’twasn’t no little boy at all—’twas a big
man—’twas Christ. An’ Christ said, ‘Ferus, I heard you was tryin’ to
work for me, so I thought I’d come down an’ see you, an’ not let you
know who I was. An’ now you shall have a new name; you shall be called
_Christ_offerus, ’cos that means Christ-carrier.’ An’ everybody called
him Christofferus after that, an’ when he died they called him _Saint_
Christopher, ’cos Saint is what they call good people when they’re
dead.”

Budge, himself, had the face of a rapt saint as he told this story, but
my contemplation of his countenance was suddenly arrested by Toddie,
who, disapproving of the unexciting nature of his brother’s recital,
had strayed into the garden, investigated a hornet’s nest, been stung,
and set up a piercing shriek. He ran in to me, and as I hastily picked
him up, he sobbed:—

“Want to be wocked.[7] Want ‘Toddie one boy day.’”

  [7] Rocked

I rocked him violently, and petted him tenderly, but again he sobbed:—

“Want ‘Toddie one boy day.’”

“What _does_ the child mean?” I exclaimed.

“He wants you to sing to him about ‘Charlie boy one day,’” said Budge.
“He always wants mamma to sing that when he’s hurt, an’ then he stops
crying.”

“I don’t know it,” said I. “Won’t ‘Roll, Jordan,’ do, Toddie?”

“_I’ll_ tell you how it goes,” said Budge, and forthwith the youth sang
the following song, a line at a time, I following him in words and air:—

    “Where is my little bastik[8] gone?
      Said Charley boy one day;
    I guess some little boy or girl
      Has taken it away.

    “An’ kittie, too—where _ish_ she gone?
      Oh, dear, what I shall do?
    I wish I could my bastik find,
      An’ little kittie, too.

    “I’ll go to mamma’s room an’ look;
      Perhaps she may be there;
    For kittie likes to take a nap
      In mamma’s easy chair.

    “O mamma, mamma, come an’ look!
      See what a little heap!
    Here’s kittie in the bastik here,
      All cuddled down to sleep.”

  [8] Basket.

Where the applicability of this poem to my nephew’s peculiar trouble
appeared, I could not see, but as I finished it, his sobs gave place to
a sigh of relief.

“Toddie,” said I, “do you love your Uncle Harry?”

“Esh, I _do_ love you.”

“Then tell me how that ridiculous song comforts you?”

“Makes me feel good, an’ all nicey,” replied Toddie.

“Wouldn’t you feel just as good if I sang, ‘Plunged in a gulf of dark
despair’?”

“No, don’t like dokdishpairs; if a dokdishpair done anyfing to me, I’d
knock it right down dead.”

With this extremely lucid remark, our conversation on this particular
subject ended; but I wondered, during a few uneasy moments, whether
the temporary mental aberration which had once afflicted Helen’s
grandfather and mine was not reappearing in this, his youngest
descendant. My wondering was cut short by Budge, who remarked, in a
confidential tone:—

“Now, Uncle Harry, we’ll have the whistles, I guess.”

[Illustration: TODDIE INVESTIGATING A HORNET’S NEST]

I acted upon the suggestion, and led the way to the woods. I had not
had occasion to seek a hickory sapling before for years; not since
the war, in fact, when I learned how hot a fire small hickory sticks
would make. I had not sought wood for whistles since—— Gracious,
nearly a quarter of a century ago! The dissimilar associations called
up by these recollections threatened to put me in a frame of mind
which might have resulted in a bad poem, had not my nephews kept up
a lively succession of questions, such as no one but children can
ask. The whistles completed, I was marched, with music, to the place
where the “jacks” grew. It was just such a place as boys instinctively
delight in—low, damp, and boggy, with a brook hiding treacherously
away, under overhanging ferns and grasses. The children knew by sight
the plant which bore the “jacks,” and every discovery was announced
by a piercing shriek of delight. At first, I looked hurriedly toward
the brook as each yell clove the air; but, as I became accustomed
to it, my attention was diverted by some exquisite ferns. Suddenly,
however, a succession of shrieks announced that something was wrong,
and across a large fern I saw a small face in a great deal of agony.
Budge was hurrying to the relief of his brother, and was soon as deeply
imbedded as Toddie was, in the rich black mud at the bottom of the
brook. I dashed to the rescue, stood astride the brook, and offered a
hand to each boy, when a treacherous tuft of grass gave way, and, with
a glorious splash, I went in myself. This accident turned Toddie’s
sorrow to laughter, but I can’t say I made light of my misfortune on
that account. To fall into _clean_ water is not pleasant, even when
one is trout-fishing; but to be clad in white pants, and suddenly
drop knee-deep in the lap of mother Earth is quite a different thing.
I hastily picked up the children, and threw them upon the bank, and
then wrathfully strode out myself, and tried to shake myself as I have
seen a Newfoundland dog do. The shake was not a success—it caused my
trouser-leg to flap dismally about my ankles, and sent the streams of
loathsome ooze trickling down into my shoes. My hat, of drab felt, had
fallen off by the brookside, and been plentifully spattered as I got
out. I looked at my youngest nephew with speechless indignation.

“Uncle Harry,” said Budge, ”’twas real good of the Lord to let you be
with us, else Toddie might have been drownded.”

“Yes,” said I, “and I shouldn’t have much——”

“Ocken Hawwy,” cried Toddie, running impetuously toward me, pulling me
down, and patting my cheek with his muddy, black hand, “I _loves_ you
for taking me out de water.”

“I accept your apology,” said I, “but let’s hurry home.” There was
but one residence to pass, and that, thank fortune, was so densely
screened by shrubbery that the inmates could not see the road. To be
sure, we were on a favorite driving-road, but we could reach home in
five minutes, and we might dodge into the woods if we heard a carriage
coming. Ha! There came a carriage already, and we—was there ever a
sorrier-looking group? There were ladies in the carriage, too—could it
be—of course it was—did the evil spirit, which guided those children
always, send an attendant for Miss Mayton before he began operations?
There she was, anyway—cool, neat, dainty, trying to look collected, but
severely flushed by the attempt. It was of no use to drop my eyes, for
she had already recognized me; so I turned to her a face which I think
must have been just the one—unless more defiant—that I carried into two
or three cavalry charges.

“You seem to have been having a real good time together,” said she,
with a conventional smile, as the carriage passed. “Remember, you’re
all going to call on me to-morrow afternoon.”

[Illustration: “BUT LET’S HURRY HOME”]

Bless the girl! Her heart was as quick as her eyes—almost any other
young lady would have devoted her entire energy to laughing on such
an occasion, but _she_ took her earliest opportunity to make me feel
at ease. Such a royal-hearted woman deserves to—I caught myself just
here, with my cheeks growing quite hot under the mud Toddie had put
on them, and I led our retreat with a more stylish carriage than my
appearance could possibly have warranted, and then I consigned my
nephews to the maid with very much the air of an officer turning over a
large number of prisoners he had captured. I hastily changed my soiled
clothing for my best—not that I expected to see anyone, but because of
a sudden increase in the degree of respect I felt toward myself. When
the children were put to bed, and I had no one but my thoughts for
companions, I spent a delightful hour or two in imagining as possible
some changes of which I had never dared to think before.

On Monday morning I was in the garden at sunrise. Toddie was to carry
his expiatory bouquet to Miss Mayton that day, and I proposed that no
pains should be spared to make his atonement as handsome as possible.
I canvassed carefully every border, bed, and detached flowering plant
until I had as accurate an idea of their possibilities as if I had
inventoried the flowers in pen and ink. This done, I consulted the
servant as to the unsoiled clothing of my nephews? She laid out the
entire wardrobe for my inspection, and after a rigid examination of
everything, I selected the suits which the boys were to wear in the
afternoon. Then I told the girl that the boys were going with me after
dinner to call on some ladies and that I desired that she should wash
and dress them carefully.

“Tell me just what time you’ll start, sir, and I’ll begin an hour
beforehand,” said she. “That’s the only way to be sure that they don’t
disgrace you.”

For breakfast, we had, among other things, some stewed oysters served
in soup-plates.

“O Tod,” shrieked Budge, “there’s the turtle-plates again—oh, _ain’t_ I
glad!”

“Oo—ee—turtle pyates!” squealed Toddie.

“What on earth do you mean, boys?” I demanded.

“_I’ll_ show you,” said Budge, jumping down from his chair, and
bringing his plate of oysters cautiously toward me. “Now you just put
your head down underneath my plate, and look up, and you’ll see a
turtle.”

For a moment I forgot that I was not at a restaurant, and I took the
plate, held it up, and examined its bottom.

“There!” said Budge, pointing to the trade-mark, in colors, of the
makers of the crockery, “don’t you see the turtle?”

I abruptly ordered Budge to his seat, unmoved even by Toddie’s remark,
that—

“Dey ish turtles, but dey can’t kwawl awound like udder turtles.”

After breakfast I devoted a great deal of fussy attention to myself.
Never did my own wardrobe seem so meager and ill-assorted; never
did I cut myself so many times while shaving; never did I use such
unsatisfactory shoe-polish. I finally gave up in despair my effort to
appear genteel, and devoted myself to the bouquet. I cut almost flowers
enough to dress a church, and then remorselessly excluded every one
which was in the least particular imperfect. In making the bouquet I
enjoyed the benefit of my nephews’ assistance and counsel, and took
enforced part in conversation which flowers suggested.

“Ocken Hawwy,” said Toddie, “ish heaven all like this, wif pretty
f’owers? ’Cos I don’t see what ze angels ever turns out for if ’tis.”

“Uncle Harry,” said Budge, “when the leaves all go up and down and
wriggle around so, are they talking to the wind?”

“I—I guess so, old fellow.”

“Who are you making that bouquet for, Uncle Harry?” asked Budge.

“For a lady—for Miss Mayton—that lady that saw us all muddy yesterday
afternoon,” said I.

“Oh, I like her,” said Budge. “She looks so nice and pretty—just like a
cake—just as if she was good to eat—oh, I just love her, don’t _you_?”

“Well, I respect her very highly, Budge.”

”’Spect? What does ’spect mean?”

“Why it means that I think she’s a lady—a real pleasant lady—just the
nicest sort of lady in the world—the sort of person I’d like to see
every day, and like to see her better than anyone else.”

“Oh, why, ’spect an’ love means just the same thing, don’t they, Uncle
Har——”

“Budge,” I exclaimed, somewhat hastily, “run, ask Maggie for a piece of
string—quick!”

“All right,” said Budge, moving off, “but they _do_, don’t they?”

At two o’clock I instructed Maggie to dress my nephews, and at three
we started to make our call. To carry Toddie’s bouquet, and hold a
hand of each boy so as to keep them from darting into the hedges for
grasshoppers and the gutters for butterflies, was no easy work, but
I managed to do it. As we approached Mrs. Clarkson’s boarding-house
I felt my hat was over one ear, and my cravat awry, but there was no
opportunity to rearrange them, for I saw Alice Mayton on the piazza,
and felt that she saw me. Handing the bouquet to Toddie, and promising
him three sticks of candy if he would be careful and not drop it, we
entered the garden. The moment we were inside the hedge and Toddie
saw a man going over the lawn with a lawn-mower, he shrieked: “Oh,
deresh a cutter-grass!” and dropped the bouquet with the carelessness
born of perfect ecstasy. I snatched it before it reached the ground,
dragged the offending youth up the walk, saluted Miss Mayton, and told
Toddie to give the bouquet to the lady. This he succeeded in doing,
but as Miss Mayton thanked him and stooped to kiss him he wriggled
off the piazza like a little eel, shouted, “Turn on!” to his brother,
and a moment later my nephews were following the “cutter-grass” at a
respectful distance in the rear.

“Those are my sister’s ‘best children in the world,’ Miss Mayton,” said
I.

“Bless the little darlings!” replied the lady; “I _do_ love to see
children enjoying themselves.”

“So do I,” said I, “when I’m not responsible for their well-being; but
if the effort I’ve expended on those boys had been directed toward the
interests of my employers, those worthy gentlemen would consider me
invaluable.”

Miss Mayton made some witty reply, and we settled to a pleasant chat
about mutual acquaintances, about books, pictures, music and gossip of
our set. I would cheerfully have discussed Herbert Spencer’s system,
the Assyrian Tablets, or any other dry subject with Miss Mayton, and
felt that I was richly repaid by the pleasure of seeing her. Handsome,
intelligent, composed, tastefully dressed, without a suspicion of
the flirt or the languid woman of fashion about her, she awakened to
the uttermost every admiring sentiment and every manly feeling. But,
alas! my enjoyment was probably more than I deserved, so it was cut
short. There were other ladies boarding at Mrs. Clarkson’s, and, as
Miss Mayton truthfully observed at our first meeting, men were very
scarce at Hillcrest. So the ladies, by the merest accident, of course,
happened upon the piazza and each one was presented to me, and common
civility made it impossible for me to speak to Miss Mayton more than
once in ten minutes. At any other time and place I should have found
the meeting of so many ladies a delightful experience, but now——

Suddenly, a compound shriek arose from the lawn, and all the ladies
sprang to their feet. I followed their example, setting my teeth firmly
and viciously, hoping that whichever nephew had been hurt was _badly_
hurt. We saw Toddie running toward us with one hand in his mouth, while
Budge ran beside him, exclaiming:—

“_Poor_ little Toddie! Don’t cry! _Does_ it hurt you awful? Never
mind—Uncle Harry’ll comfort you. Don’t cry, Toddie, _de_-ar!”

Both boys reached the piazza steps, and clambered up, Budge exclaiming:—

“O Uncle Harry, Toddie put his fingers in the little wheels of the
cutter-grass, an’ it turned just the least little biddie, an’ it hurted
him.”

But Toddie ran up to me, clasped my legs and sobbed: “Sing ‘Toddie one
boy day.’”

My blood seemed to freeze. I could have choked that dreadful child,
suffering though he was. I stooped over him, caressed him, promised
him candy, took out my watch and gave it to him to play with, but
he returned to his original demand. A lady—the homeliest in the
party—suggested that she should bind up his hand, and I inwardly
blessed her, but he reiterated his request for “Toddie one boy day,”
and sobbed pitifully.

“What _does_ he mean?” asked Miss Mayton.

“He wants Uncle Harry to sing, ‘Charley boy one day,’” explained Budge;
“he always wants that song when he’s hurt anyway.”

“Oh, do sing it to him, Mr. Burton,” pleaded Miss Mayton; and all the
other ladies exclaimed, “Oh, do!”

I wrathfully picked him up in my arms and hummed the air of the
detested song.

“Sit in a wockin’-chair,” sobbed Toddie.

I obeyed; and then my tormentor remarked:—

“You don’t sing the wydes [words]—I wants the wydes.”

I sang the words as softly as possible, with my lips close to his ear,
but he roared:—

“Sing louder!”

“I don’t know any more of it, Toddle,” I exclaimed in desperation.

“Oh, I’ll tell it all to you, Uncle Harry,” said Budge. And there,
before that audience, and _her_, I was obliged to sing that dreadful
doggerel, line for line, as Budge repeated it. My teeth were set tight,
my brow grew clammy, and I gazed upon Toddie with terrible thoughts in
my mind. No one laughed—I grew so desperate that a titter would have
given relief. At last I heard someone whisper:—

“_See_ how he loves him! Poor man!—he’s in perfect agony over the
little fellow.”

Had not the song reached its natural end just then, I believe I should
have tossed my wounded nephew over the piazza rail. As it was, I set
him upon his feet, announced the necessity of our departure, and began
to take leave, when Miss Mayton’s mother insisted that we should stay
to dinner.

“For myself, I should be delighted, Mrs. Mayton,” said I; “but my
nephews have hardly learned company manners yet. I’m afraid my sister
wouldn’t forgive me if she heard I had taken them out to dinner.”

“Oh, I’ll take care of the little dears,” said Miss Mayton; “they’ll be
good with _me_, I _know_.”

“I couldn’t be so unkind as to let you try it, Miss Mayton,” I replied.
But she insisted, and the pleasure of submitting to her will was so
great that I would have risked even greater mischief. So Miss Mayton
sat down to dinner with Budge upon one side and Toddie on the other,
while I was fortunately placed opposite, from which position I could
indulge in warning winks and frowns. The soup was served. I signaled
the boys to tuck their napkins under their chins, and then turned to
speak to the lady on my right. She politely inclined her head toward
me, but her thoughts seemed elsewhere; following her eyes, I beheld my
youngest nephew with his plate upraised in both hands, his head on the
tablecloth, and his eyes turned painfully upward. I dared not speak,
for fear he would drop the plate. Suddenly he withdrew his head, put
on an angelic smile, tilted his plate so part of its contents sought
refuge in the folds of Miss Mayton’s dainty, snowy dress, while the
offender screamed:—

“Oo-ee! zha turtle on my pyate!—Budgie, zha turtle on my pyate!”

[Illustration: “OO-EE! ZHA TURTLE ON MY PYATE”]

Budge was about to raise his plate when he caught my eye and desisted.
Poor Miss Mayton actually looked discomposed for the first time in
her life, so far as I knew or could imagine. She recovered quickly,
however, and treated that wretched boy with the most Christian
forbearance and consideration during the remainder of the meal. When
the dessert was finished she quickly excused herself, while I removed
Toddie to a secluded corner of the piazza, and favored him with a
lecture which caused him to howl pitifully, and compelled me to caress
him and undo all the good which my rebukes had done. Then he and
Budge removed themselves to the lawn, while I awaited Miss Mayton’s
reappearance to offer an apology for Toddie, and make our adieus.
It was the custom of the ladies at Mrs. Clarkson’s to stroll about
the lovely rural walks after dinner and until twilight; and on this
particular evening they departed in twos and threes, leaving me to make
my apology without witnesses. I was rather sorry they went; it was not
pleasant to feel that I was principally responsible for my nephew’s
blunder, and to have no opportunity to allay my conscience-pangs by
conversation. It seemed to me Miss Mayton was forever in appearing; I
even called up my nephews to have some one to talk to.

Suddenly she appeared, and in an instant I fervently blessed Toddie and
the soup which the child had sent upon its aimless wanderings. I would
rather pay the price of a fine dress than try to describe Miss Mayton’s
attire; I can only say that in style, color and ornament it became her
perfectly, and set off the beauties of a face which I had never before
thought was more than pleasing and intelligent. Perhaps the anger,
which was excusable after Toddie’s graceless caper, had something to
do with putting unusual color into her cheeks, and a brighter sparkle
than usual in her eyes. Whatever was the cause, she looked queenly, and
I half imagined that I detected in her face a gleam of satisfaction
at the involuntary start which her unexpected appearance caused me to
make. She accepted my apology for Toddie with queenly graciousness, and
then, instead of proposing that we should follow the other ladies,
as a moment before I had hoped she would, she dropped into a chair.
I accepted the invitation; the children should have been in bed half
an hour before, but my sense of responsibility had departed when
Miss Mayton appeared. The little scamps were safe until they should
perform some new and unexpected act of impishness. They retired to
one end of the piazza, and busied themselves in experiments upon a
large Newfoundland dog, while I, the happiest man alive, talked to the
glorious woman before me, and enjoyed the spectacle of her radiant
beauty. The twilight came and deepened, but imagination prevented the
vision from fading. With the coming of the darkness and the starlight,
our voices unconsciously dropped to lower tones, and _her_ voice seemed
purest music. And yet we said nothing which all the world might not
have listened to without suspecting a secret. The ladies returned in
little groups, but either out of womanly intuition or in answer to my
unspoken but fervent prayers, passed us and went into the house. I
was affected by an odd mixture of desperate courage and despicable
cowardice. I determined to tell her all, yet I shrank from the task
with more terror than ever befell me in the first steps of a charge.

Suddenly a small shadow came from behind us and stood between us, and
the voice of Budge remarked:—

“Uncle Harry ’spects you, Miss Mayton.”

“Suspects me?—of what, pray?” exclaimed the lady, patting my nephew’s
cheek.

“Budge!” said I—I feel that my voice rose nearly to a scream—“Budge, I
must beg of you to respect the sanctity of confidential communications.”

“What is it, Budge?” persisted Miss Mayton. “You know the old adage,
Mr. Burton: ‘Children and fools speak the truth.’ Of what does he
suspect me, Budge?”

”’Taint _sus_-pect at all,” said Budge, “it’s es-spect.”

“Expect?” echoed Miss Mayton.

“No, not ‘ex,’ it’s _es_-spect. I know all about it, ’cause I asked
him. Es-spect is what folks do when they think you’re nice, and like
to talk to you, and——”

“Respect is what the boy is trying to say, Miss Mayton,” I interrupted,
to prevent what I feared might follow. “Budge has a terrifying faculty
for asking questions, and the result of some of them, this morning,
was my endeavor to explain to him the nature of the respect in which
gentlemen hold ladies.”

“Yes,” continued Budge, “I know all about it. Only Uncle Harry don’t
say it right. What he calls espect _I_ calls _love_.”

There was an awkward pause—it seemed an age. Another blunder, and all
on account of those dreadful children. I could think of no possible way
to turn the conversation; stranger yet, Miss Mayton could not do so,
either. Something _must_ be done—I could at least be honest, come what
would—I would be honest.

“Miss Mayton,” said I, hastily, earnestly, but in a very low tone.
“Budge is a marplot, but he is a truthful interpreter for all that. But
whatever my fate may be, please do not suspect me of falling suddenly
in love for a holiday’s diversion. My malady is of some months’
standing. I——”

“_I_ want to talk _some_” observed Budge. “You talk all the whole time.
I—I—when I loves anybody, I kisses them.”

Miss Mayton gave a little start, and my thoughts followed each other
with unimagined rapidity. _She_ did not turn the conversation—it could
not be possible that she _could_ not. She was not angry, or she would
have expressed herself. Could it be that——

I bent over her, and acted upon Budge’s suggestion. As she displayed no
resentment, I pressed my lips a second time to her forehead, then she
raised her head slightly, and I saw, in spite of darkness and shadows,
that Alice Mayton had surrendered at discretion. Taking her hand and
straightening myself to my full height, I offered to the Lord more
fervent thanks than He ever heard from me in church. Then I heard Budge
say, “_I_ wants to kiss you, too,” and I saw my glorious Alice snatch
the little scamp into her arms, and treat him with more affection than
I ever imagined was in her nature. Then she seized Toddie, and gave him
a few tokens of forgiveness—I dare not think they were of gratitude.

Suddenly two or three ladies came upon the piazza.

“Come, boys,” said I; “then I’ll call with the carriage to-morrow at
three, Miss Mayton. Good evening.”

“Good evening,” replied the sweetest voice in the world; “I’ll be ready
at three.”

“Budge,” said I, as soon as we were fairly outside the hedge-gate,
“what do you like better than anything else in the world?”

“Candy,” said Budge, very promptly.

“What next?”

“Oranges.”

“What next?”

“Oh, figs, an’ raisins, an’ dear little kittie-kitties, an’ drums,
an’ picture-books, an’ little bakin’ dishes to make mud-pies in, an’
turtles, an’ little wheelbarrows.”

“Anything else?”

“Oh, yes—great big black dogs—an’ a goat, an’ a wagon for him to draw
me in.”

Very well, old fellow—you shall have every one of those things
to-morrow.”

“Oh—h—h—h—h!” exclaimed Budge,” I guess you’re something like the Lord,
ain’t you?”

[Illustration: ACTING UPON BUDGES’ SUGGESTION]

“What makes you think so, Budge?”

“Oh, ’cause you can do such lots of things at once. But ain’t poor
little Tod goin’ to have noffin’?”

“Yes, everything he wants. What would you like, Toddie?”

“Wants a candy cigar,” replied Toddie.

“What else?”

“Don’t want _nuffin’_ else—don’t want to be boddered wif _lots_ of
fings.”

The thoughts which were mine that night—the sense of how glorious a
thing it is to be a man and be loved—the humility that comes with such
a victory as I had gained—the rapid alternation of happy thoughts and
noble resolutions—what man is there who does not know my whole story
better than I can tell it? I put my nephews to bed; I told them every
story they asked for; and when Budge, in saying his prayers, said,
“an’ bless that nice lady that Uncle Harry ’spects,” I interrupted his
devotions with a hearty hug. The children had been awake so far beyond
their usual hour for retiring that they dropped asleep without giving
any special notice of their intention to do so. Asleep, their faces
were simply angelic. As I stood, candle in hand, gazing gratefully upon
them, I remembered a sadly neglected duty. I hurried to the library and
wrote the following to my sister:—

  “HILLCREST. MONDAY NIGHT.

 “DEAR HELEN:—I should have written you before had I been exactly
 certain what to say about your boys. I confess that until now I have
 been blind to some of their virtues, and have imagined I detected an
 occasional fault. But the scales have fallen from my eyes, and I see
 clearly that my nephews are angels—positively angels. If I seem to
 speak extravagantly, I beg to refer you to Alice Mayton for collateral
 evidence. Don’t come home at all—everything is just as it should
 be—even if you come, I guess I’ll invite myself to spend the rest of
 the summer with you; I’ve changed my mind about its being a bore to
 live out of town and take trains back and forth every day. Ask Tom
 to think over such bits of real estate in your neighborhood as he
 imagines I might like.

 “I repeat it, the boys are angels, and Alice Mayton is another, while
 the happiest man in the white goods trade is

  “Your affectionate brother

  “HARRY.”

Early next morning I sought the society of my nephews. It was
absolutely necessary that I should overflow to _some_ one—some one
who was sympathetic and innocent and pure. I longed for my sister—my
mother, but to _some_ one I must talk at once. Budge fulfilled my
requirements exactly; he was an excellent listener, very sympathetic by
nature, and quick to respond. Not the wisdom of the most reverend sage
alive could have been so grateful to my ear as that child’s prattle
was on that delightful morning. As for Toddie—blessed be the law of
compensation!—his faculty of repetition, and of echoing whatever he
heard said, caused him to murmur, “Miff Mayton, Miff Mayton,” all
morning long, and the sound gained in sweetness by its ceaseless
iteration. To be sure, Budge took early and frequent occasions to
remind me of my promises of the night before, and Toddie occasionally
demanded the promised candy cigar; but these very interruptions only
added joy to my own topic of interest each time it was resumed. The
filling of Budge’s orders occupied two or three hours and all the
vacant space in the carriage; even then the goat and goat-carriage
were compelled to follow behind.

The program for the afternoon was arranged to the satisfaction of every
one. I gave the coachman, Mike, a dollar to harness the goat and teach
the children to drive him; this left me free to drive off without being
followed by two small figures and two pitiful howls.

I always believed a horse was infected by the spirit of his driver. My
dear old four-footed military companions always seemed to perfectly
comprehend my desires and intentions, and certainly my brother-in-law’s
horses entered into my own spirits on this particular afternoon. They
stepped proudly, they arched their powerful necks handsomely, their
feet seemed barely to touch the ground; yet they did not grow restive
under the bit, nor were they frightened, even, at a hideous steam
road-rolling machine which passed us. As I drove up to Mrs. Clarkson’s
door I found that most of the boarders were on the piazza—the memories
of ladies are usually good at times. Alice immediately appeared,
composed of course, but more radiant than ever.

“Why, where are the boys?” she exclaimed.

“I was afraid they might annoy your mother,” I replied, “so I left them
behind.”

“Oh, mother hardly feels well enough to go to-day,” said she; “she is
lying down.”

“Then we can pick up the boys on the road,” said I, for which remark
my enchantress, already descending the steps, gave me a look which the
ladies behind her would have given their best switches to have seen.
We drove off as decorously as if it were Sunday and we were going to
church; we industriously pointed out to each other every handsome
garden and tasteful residence we passed; we met other people driving,
and conversed fluently upon their horses, carriages and dress. But when
we reached the edge of the town, and I turned into “Happy Valley,”
a road following the depressions and curves of a long, well-wooded
valley, in which there was not a single straight line, I turned and
looked into my darling’s face. Her eyes met mine, and although they
were full of a happiness which I had never seen in them before, they
filled with tears, and their dear owner dropped her head on my shoulder.

[Illustration: TO SKIP ALL LOVE TALKS IN NOVELS]

What we said on that long drive would not interest the reader. I have
learned by experience to skip all love talks in novels, no matter how
delightful the lovers may be. Recalling now our conversation, it does
not seem to have had anything wonderful in it. I will only say, that
if I had been happy on the evening before, my happiness now seemed to
be sanctified; to be favored with the love and confidence of a simple
girl scarcely past her childhood, is to receive a greater honor than
court or field can bestow; but even this honor is far surpassed by
that which comes to a man when a woman of rare intelligence, tact and
knowledge of society and the world, unburdens her heart of all its
hopes and fears, and unhesitatingly leaves her destiny to be shaped
by his love. Women like Alice Mayton do not thus give themselves
unreservedly away, except when their trust is born of knowledge as
well as affection, and the realization of all this changed me on that
afternoon from whatever I had been, into what I had long hoped I might
one day be.

But the hours flew rapidly, and I reluctantly turned the horses’ heads
homeward. We had left almost the whole of “Happy Valley” behind us, and
were approaching residences again.

“Now we must be very proper,” said Alice.

“Certainly,” I replied, “here’s a good-by to happy nonsense for this
afternoon.”

I leaned toward her, and gently placed one arm about her neck; she
raised her dear face, from which joy and trust had banished every
indication of caution and reserve, my lips sought hers, when suddenly
we heard a most unearthly, discordant shriek, which presently
separated into two, each of which prolonged itself indefinitely. The
horses started, and Alice—blessed be all frights now, henceforth and
forevermore!—clung tightly to me. The sounds seemed to be approaching
us, and were accompanied by a lively rattling noise, that seemed to
be made by something wooden. Suddenly, as we approached a bend in
the road, I saw my youngest nephew appear from some unknown space,
describe a parabolic curve in the air, ricochet slightly from an earthy
protuberance in the road, and make a final stop in the gutter. At the
same time, there appeared from behind the bend, the goat, then the
carriage dragging on one side, and, lastly, the boy Budge, grasping
tightly the back of the carriage body, and howling frightfully. A
direct collision between the carriage and a stone caused Budge to loose
his hold, while the goat, after taking in the scene, trotted leisurely
off, and disappeared in a road leading to the house of his late owner.

“Budge,” I shouted, “stop that bawling and come here! Where’s Mike?”

“He—boo—hoo—went to—boo—light—his—boo—hoo—hoo—pipe, an’ I just let
the—boo—hoo—whip go against to the goat, an’ he scattooed.”

“Nashty old goat scaddooed,” said Toddie, in corroboration.

“Well, walk right home, and tell Maggie to wash and dress you,” said I.

“O Harry,” pleaded Alice, “after they’ve been in such danger! Come
here to your own Aunt Alice, Budgie, dear,—and you, too, Toddie,—you
know you said we could pick the boys up on the road, Harry. There,
there—don’t cry—let me wipe the ugly old dirt off you, and kiss the
face, and make it well.”

“Alice,” I protested,” don’t let those dirty boys clamber all over you
in that way.”

“Silence, sir,” said she, with mock dignity, “who gave me my lover, I
should like to ask?”

So we drove up to the boarding-house with the air of people who had
been devoting themselves to a couple of very disreputable children,
and I drove swiftly away again, lest the children should dispel the
illusion. We soon met Mike, running. The moment he recognized us, he
shouted:

“Ah, ye little dhivils,—beggin’ yer pardon, Masther Harry, an’ thankin’
the Howly Mither that their good-for-nothin’ little bones ain’t broke
to bits. Av they saw a hippypottymus hitched to Pharaoh’s chariot
they’d think ’emselves jist the byes to take the bossin’ av it, the
spalpeens!”

[Illustration: THE GOAT, THE CARRIAGE AND THE BOYS]

But no number of ordinary hippopotami and chariots could have
disturbed the heavenly tranquillity of my mind on this most glorious
of evenings. Even a subtle sense of the fitness of things seemed to
overshadow my nephews. Perhaps the touch of my enchantress did it;
perhaps it came only from the natural relapse from great excitement;
but no matter what the reason was, the fact remains that for the rest
of the evening two very dirty suits of clothes held two children who
gave one some idea of how the denizens of Paradise might seem and
act. They even ate their suppers without indulging in any of the
repulsive ways of which they had so large an assortment, and they did
not surreptitiously remove from the table any fragments of bread and
butter to leave on the piano, in the card-basket, and other places
inappropriate to the reception of such varieties of abandoned property.
They demanded a song after supper, but when I sang, “Drink to me only
with Thine Eyes,” and “Thou, Thou, Reign’st in this Bosom,” they stood
by with silent tongues and appreciative eyes. When they went to bed, I
accompanied them by special invitation, but they showed no disposition
to engage in the usual bedtime frolic and miniature pandemonium. Budge,
when in bed, closed his eyes, folded his hands and prayed:—

“Dear Lord, bless papa an’ mamma, an’ Toddie, an’ Uncle Harry, an’
everybody else; yes, an’ bless just lots that lovely, lovely lady that
comforted me after the goat was bad to me, an’ let her comfort me lots
of times, for Christ’s sake, Amen.”

And Toddie wriggled, twisted, breathed heavily, threw his head back,
and prayed:—

“Dee Lord, don’t let dat old goat fro me into de gutter on my head
aden, an’ let Ocken Hawwy an’ ze pitty lady be dere netst time I dets
hurted.”

Then the good-night salutations were exchanged, and I left the little
darlings and enjoyed communion with my own thoughts, which were as
peaceful and ecstatic as if the world contained no white goods houses,
no doubtful customers, no business competition, no politics, gold
rooms, stock-boards, doubtful banks, political scandals, personal
iniquity nor anything which would prevent a short vacation from lasting
through a long lifetime.

The next morning would have struck terror to the heart of any one but
a newly accepted lover. Rain was falling fast, and in that steady,
industrious manner which seemed to assert an intention to stick closely
to business for the whole day. The sky was covered by one impenetrable,
leaden cloud, water stood in pools in the streets which were soft
with dust a few hours before; the flowers all hung their heads, like
vagabonds who had been awake all night and were ashamed to face the
daylight. Even the chickens stood about in dejected attitudes, and
stray roosters from other poultry yards found refuge in Tom’s coop,
without first being subjected to a trial of strength and skill by Tom’s
gamecock.

But no man in my condition of mind could be easily depressed by bad
weather. I would rather have been able to drive about under a clear
sky, or lounge under the trees, or walk to the post-office in the
afternoon by the road which passed directly in front of Mrs. Clarkson’s
boarding-house; but man should not live for himself alone. In the room
next mine, were slumbering two wee people to whom I owed a great deal,
and who would mourn bitterly when they saw the condition of the skies
and ground—I would devote myself to the task of making _them_ so happy
that they would forget the absence of sunshine out of doors—I would sit
by their bedside and have a story ready for them the moment they awoke,
and put them in such a good humor that they could laugh, with me, at
cloud and rain.

I began at once to construct a story for their especial benefit; the
scene was to be a country residence on a rainy day, and the actors
two little boys who should become uproariously jolly in spite of the
weather. Like most people not used to story-making, my progress was
not very rapid; in fact, I had got no farther than the plot indicated
above when an angry snarl came from the children’s room.

“What’s the matter, Budge?” I shouted, dressing myself as rapidly as
possible.

“Ow—oo—ya—ng—um—boo—gaa!” was the somewhat complicated response.

“What did you say, Budge?”

“Didn’t say noffin’.”

“Oh—that’s what I thought.”

“_Didn’t_ thought.”

“Budge,—Budge,—be good.”

“Don’t _want_ to be good—_ya_—A—A!”

“Let’s have some fun, Budge—don’t you want to frolic?”

“No; I don’t think frolics is nice.”

“Don’t you want some candy, Budge?”

“No—you ain’t _got_ no candy, I bleeve.”

“Well, you sha’n’t have any, if you don’t stop being so cross.”

The only reply to this was a mighty and audible rustling of the bedding
in the boys’ room, followed by a sound strongly resembling that caused
by a slap; then came a prolonged wail, resembling that of an ungreased
wagon wheel.

“What’s the matter, Toddie?”

“Budge s’apped me—ah—h—h—h!”

“What made you slap your brother, Budge?”

“I _didn’t_.”

“You _did_!” screamed Toddie.

“I tell you I didn’t—you’re a naughty, bad boy to tell such lies,
Toddie.”

“What _did_ you do, Budge?” I asked.

“Why—why—I was—I was turnin’ over in bed, an’ my hand was out, an’ it
tumbled against to Toddie—that’s what.”

By this time I was dressed and in the boys’ room. Both my nephews were
sitting up in bed, Budge looking as sullen as an old jailbird, and
Toddie with tears streaming all over his face.

“Boys,” said I, “don’t be angry with each other—it isn’t right. What do
you suppose the Lord thinks, when He sees you so cross to each other?”

“He don’t think noffin’,” said Budge; “you don’t think He can look
through a black sky like that, do you?”

“He can look anywhere, Budge, and He feels very unhappy when He sees
little brothers angry with each other.”

“Well, I feel unhappy, too—I wish there wasn’t never no old rain, nor
noffin’.”

“Then what would plants and flowers do for a drink and where would
rivers come from for you to go sailing on?”

“An’ wawtoo to mate mud-pies,” added Toddie. “You’s a naughty boy,
Budgie”; and here Toddie’s tears began to flow afresh.

“I _ain’t_ a bad boy, an’ I don’t want no old rain nohow, an’ that’s
all about it. An’ I don’t want to get up, an’ Maggie must bring me up
my breakfast in bed.”

“Boo—hoo—oo,” wept Toddie, “wants my brepspup in bed too.”

“Boys,” said I, “now listen. You can’t have any breakfast at all,
unless you are up and dressed by the time the bell rings. The
rising-bell rang some time ago. Now dress like good boys, and you shall
have some breakfast, and then you’ll feel a great deal nicer, and then
Uncle Harry will play with you and tell you stories all day long.”

Budge crept reluctantly out of bed and caught up one of his stockings,
while Toddie again began to cry.

[Illustration: “AN’ WAWTOO TO MATE MUD-PIES”]

“Toddie!” I shouted, “stop that dreadful racket, and dress yourself!
What are you crying for?”

“Well, I feelsh bad.”

“Well, dress yourself, and you’ll feel better.”

“Wantsh _you_ to djesh me.”

“Bring me your clothes, then—quick!”

Again the tears flowed copiously. “Don’t _want_ to bring ’em,” said
Toddie.

“Then come here!” I shouted, dragging him across the room and snatching
up his tiny articles of apparel. I had dressed no small children since
I was rather a small boy myself, and Toddies clothing confused me
somewhat. I finally got something on him, when a contemptuous laugh
from Budge interrupted me.

“How you goin’ to put his shirt on under them things?” queried my
oldest nephew.

“Budge,” I retorted, “how are you going to get any breakfast if you
don’t put on something besides that stocking?”

The young man’s countenance fell, and just then the breakfast-bell
rang. Budge raised a blank face, hurried to the head of the stairs and
shouted:—

“Maggie?”

“What is it, Budge?”

“Was—was that the rising-bell or the breakfast-bell?”

”’Twas the breakfast-bell.”

There was dead silence for a moment, and then Budge shouted:—

“Well, we’ll call that the risin’-bell. You can ring another bell
for breakfast pretty soon, when I get dressed.” Then this volunteer
adjuster of household affairs came calmly back and commenced dressing
in good earnest, while I labored along with Toddie’s wardrobe.

“Where’s the button-hook, Budge?” said I.

“It’s—I—oh—um—I put it—say, Tod, what did you do with the button-hook
yesterday?”

“Didn’t hazh no button-hook,” asserted Toddie.

“Yes, you did; don’t you ’member how we was a playin’ draw teef, an’
the doctor’s dog had the toofache, and I was pullin’ his teef with the
button-hook an’ you was my little boy, an’ I gived the toof-puller to
you to hold for me? Where did you put it?”

“_I’d_ no,” replied Toddie, putting his hand in his pocket and bringing
out a sickly-looking toad.

“Feel again,” said I, throwing the toad out of the window, where it
was followed by an agonized shriek from Toddie. Again he felt, and his
search was rewarded by the tension-screw of Helen’s sewing-machine.
Then I attempted some research myself, and speedily found my fingers
adhering to something of a sticky consistency. I quickly withdrew my
hand, exclaiming:—

“What nasty stuff _have_ you got in your pocket, Toddie?”

”’Tain’t nashty ’tuff—it’s byead an’ lasses, an’ it’s nice, an’ Budge
an’ me hazh little tea parties in de kicken-coop, an’ we eats it, an’
its _dovely_.”

All this was lucid and disgusting, but utterly unproductive of
button-hooks, and meanwhile the breakfast was growing cold. I succeeded
in buttoning Toddie’s shoes with my fingers, splitting most of my nails
in the operation. I had been too busily engaged with Toddie to pay any
attention to Budge, who I now found about half dressed and trying to
catch flies on the window pane.

Snatching Toddie, I started for the dining-room, when Budge remarked
reprovingly:

“Uncle Harry, _you_ wasn’t dressed when the bell rang, and _you_
oughtn’t to have any breakfast.”

True enough—I was minus collar, cravat, and coat. Hurrying these on,
and starting again, I was once more arrested:—

“Uncle Harry, must I brush my teeth this morning?”

“No—hurry up—come down without doing anything more, if you like, but
_come_—it’ll be dinner-time before we get breakfast.”

Then that imp was moved, for the first time that morning to something
like good-nature, and he exclaimed with a giggle:—

“My! What big stomachs we’d have when we got done, wouldn’t we?”

At the breakfast table Toddie wept again, because I insisted on
beginning operations before Budge came. Then neither boy knew exactly
what he wanted. Then Budge managed to upset the contents of his plate
into his lap, and while I was helping him to clear away the débris,
Toddie improved the opportunity to pour his milk upon his fish and put
several spoonfuls of oatmeal porridge into my coffee-cup. I made an
early excuse to leave the table and turn the children over to Maggie.
I felt as tired as if I had done a hard day’s work, and was somewhat
appalled at realizing that the day had barely begun. I lit a cigar and
sat down to Helen’s piano. I am not a musician, but even the chords of
a hand-organ would have seemed sweet music to me on that morning. The
music-book nearest to my hand was a church hymn-book, and the first
air my eye struck was “Greenville.” I lived once in a town, where,
on a single day, a peddler disposed of thirty-eight accordions, each
with an instruction-book in which this same air, under its original
name, was the only air. For years after, a single bar of this air
awakened the most melancholy reflections in my mind, but now I forgave
all my musical tormentors as the familiar strains came comfortingly
from the piano-keys. But suddenly I heard an accompaniment—a sort of
reedy sound—and looking round, I saw Toddie again in tears. I stopped
abruptly and asked:—

“What’s the matter _now_, Toddie?”

“Don’t want dat old tune; wantsh dancin’ tune, so I can dance.”

[Illustration: “WANTSH DANCIN’ TUNE”]

I promptly played “Yankee Doodle,” and Toddie began to trot around the
room with the expression of a man who intended to do his whole duty.
Then Budge appeared, hugging a bound volume of “St. Nicholas.” The
moment that Toddie espied this he stopped dancing and devoted himself
anew to the task of weeping.

“Toddie!” I shouted, springing from the piano stool, “what do you mean
by crying at everything? I shall have to put you to bed again if you’re
going to be such a baby.”

“That’s the way he _always_ does, rainy days,” exclaimed Budge.

“Wantsh to see the whay-al what fwallowed Djonah,” sobbed Toddie.

“Can’t you demand something that’s within the range of possibility,
Toddie?” I mildly asked.

“The whale Toddie means is in this big red book; I’ll find it for you,”
said Budge, turning over the leaves.

Suddenly a rejoicing squeal from Toddie announced that leviathan had
been found, and I hastened to gaze. He was certainly a dreadful-looking
animal, but he had an enormous mouth, which Toddie caressed with his
pudgy little hand, and kissed with tenderness, murmuring as he did so:—

“_Dee_ old whay-al, I loves you. Is Djonah all goneded out of you
’tomach, whay-al? I finks ’twas weal mean in Djonah to get froed up
when you hadn’t noffin’ else to eat, _poor_ old whay-al.”

“Of _course_ Jonah’s gone,” said Budge, “he went to heaven long
ago—pretty soon after he went to Nineveh an’ done what the Lord told
him to do. Now swing us, Uncle Harry.”

The swing was on the piazza under cover from the rain; so I obeyed.
Both boys fought for the right to swing first, and when I decided in
favor of Budge, Toddie went off weeping, and declaring that he would
look at his dear whay-al anyhow. A moment later his wail changed to a
piercing shriek; and, running to his assistance, I saw him holding one
finger tenderly and trampling on a wasp.

“What’s the matter, Toddie?”

“Oo—oo—ee—ee—ee—_ee_—I putted my finger on a waps, and—oo—oo—the nasty
old waps—oo—bited me. An’ I don’t like wapses a bit, but I likes
whay-als—oo—ee—ee.”

A happy thought struck me. “Why don’t you boys make believe that big
packing-box in your play-room is a whale?” said I.

A compound shriek of delight followed the suggestion, and both boys
scrambled upstairs, leaving me a free man again. I looked remorsefully
at the tableful of books which I had brought to read, and had not
looked at for a week. Even now my remorse did not move me to open
them—I found myself, instead, attracted toward Tom’s library, and
conning the titles of novels and volumes of poems. My eye was caught
by “Initials,” a love story which I had always avoided because I had
heard impressionable young ladies rave about it; but now I picked it up
and dropped into an easy chair. Suddenly I heard Mike, the coachman,
shouting:—

“Go ’way from there, will ye? Ah, ye little spalpeen, it’s good for ye
that yer fahder don’t see ye perched up dhere. Go ’way from dhat, or
I’ll be tellin’ yer uncle.”

“Don’t care for nashty old uncle,” piped Toddie’s voice.

I laid down my book with a sigh, and went into the garden. Mike saw me
and shouted:

“Mister Burthon, will you look dhere? Did ye’s ever see the loike av
dhat bye?”

Looking up at the play-room window, a long, narrow sort of loop-hole
in a Gothic gable, I beheld my youngest nephew standing upright on the
sill.

“Toddie, go in—quick!” I shouted, hurrying under the window to catch
him in case he fell outward.

“I tan’t!” squealed Toddie.

“Mike, run upstairs and snatch him in! Toddie, go in, I tell you!”

“Tell you I _tan’t_ doe in,” repeated Toddie. “_Ze_ bid bots ish ze
whay-al, an’ I’ze Djonah, an’ ze whay-al’s froed me up, an’ I’ze dot to
’tay up here else ze whay-al ’ill fwallow me aden.”

“I won’t _let_ him swallow you. Get in now—hurry,” said I.

“Will you give him a penny not to fwallow me no more?” queried Toddie.

“Yes—a whole lot of pennies.”

“Aw wight. Whay-al, don’t you fwallow me no more, an’ zen my Ocken
Hawwy div you whole lots of pennies. You must be weal dood whay-al now,
an’ then I buys you some tandy wif your pennies, an’——”

Just then two great hands seized Toddie’s frock in front, and he
disappeared with a howl, while I, with the first feeling of faintness I
had ever experienced, went in search of hammer, nails, and some strips
of board, to nail on the outside of the window-frame. But boards could
not be found, so I went up to the play-room and began to knock a piece
or two off the box which had done duty as whale. A pitiful scream from
Toddie caused me to stop.

“You’re hurtin’ my dee old whay-al; you’s breakin’ his ’tomach all
open—you’s a baddy man—’_top_ hurtin’ my whay-al, ee—ee—ee!” cried my
nephew.

“I’m not hurting him, Toddie,” said I. “I’m making his mouth bigger,
so he can swallow you easier.”

A bright thought came into Toddie’s face and shone through his tears.
“Then he can fwallow Budgie too, an’ there’ll be two Djonahs—ha—ha—ha!
Make his mouf so big he can fwallow Mike, an’ zen mate it ’ittle aden,
so Mike tan’t det _out_; nashty old Mike!”

[Illustration: TWO GREAT HANDS SEIZED TODDIE]

I explained that Mike would not come upstairs again, so I was permitted
to depart after securing the window.

Again I settled myself with book and cigar; there was at least for me
the extra enjoyment that comes from the sense of pleasure earned by
honest toil. Pretty soon Budge entered the room. I affected not to
notice him, but he was not in the least abashed by my neglect.

“Uncle Harry,” said he, throwing himself in my lap, between my book and
me, “I don’t feel a bit nice.”

“What’s the matter, old fellow?” I asked. Until he spoke I could have
boxed his ears with great satisfaction to myself; but there is so much
genuine feeling in whatever Budge says that he commands respect.

“Oh, I’m tired of playin’ with Toddie, an’ I feel lonesome. Won’t you
tell me a story?”

“Then what’ll poor Toddie do, Budge?”

“Oh, he won’t mind—he’s got a dead mouse to be Jonah now, so I don’t
have no fun at all. Won’t you tell me a story?”

“Which one?”

“Tell me one that I never heard before at all.”

“Well, let’s see; I guess I’ll tell——”

“Ah—ah—ah—ah—ee—ee—ee!” sounded afar off, but fatefully. It came
nearer—it came down the stairway and into the library, accompanied by
Toddie, who, on spying me, dropped his inarticulate utterance, held up
both hands, and exclaimed:—

“Djonah bwoke he tay-al!”

[Illustration: “HE’S GOT A DEAD MOUSE TO BE JONAH NOW”]

True enough; in one hand Toddie held the body of a mouse, and in the
other that animal’s caudal appendage; there was also perceptible,
though not by the sense of sight, an objectionable odor in the room.

“Toddie,” said I, “go throw Jonah into the chicken coop, and I’ll give
you some candy.”

“Me too,” shouted Budge, ”’cos I found the mouse for him.”

I made both boys happy with candy, exacted a pledge not to go out in
the rain, and then, turning them loose on the piazza, returned to my
book. I had read, perhaps, half a dozen pages, when there arose and
swelled rapidly in volume a scream from Toddie. Madly determined to put
both boys into chairs, tie them, and clap adhesive plaster over their
mouths, I rushed out upon the piazza.

“Budgie tried to eat my candy,” complained Toddie.

“I didn’t,” said Budge.

“What _did_ you do?” I demanded.

“I didn’t bite it at all—I only wanted to see how it would feel between
my teeth—that’s all.”

I felt the corners of my mouth breaking down, and hurried back to the
library, where I spent a quiet quarter of an hour in pondering over
the demoralizing influence exerted upon principle by a sense of the
ludicrous. For some time afterward the boys got along without doing
anything worse than make a dreadful noise, which caused me to resolve
to find some method of deadening piazza floors if _I_ ever owned a
house in the country. In the occasional intervals of comparative quiet,
I caught snatches of very funny conversation. The boys had coined a
great many words whose meaning was evident enough, but I wondered
greatly why Tom and Helen had never taught them the proper substitutes.

Among others was the word “deader,” whose meaning I could not imagine.
Budge shouted:—

“O Tod! there comes a deader! See where all them things like rooster’s
tails are a-shakin’?—Well, there’s a deader under them.”

“Datsh funny,” remarked Toddie.

“An’ see all the peoples a-comin’ along,” continued Budge, “_they_ know
’bout the deader, an’ they’re goin’ to see it fixed. Here it comes.
Hello, deader!”

“Hay-oh, deader!” echoed Toddie.

What _could_ “deader” mean?

“Oh, here it is right in front of us,” cried Budge, “and _ain’t_ there
lots of people? An’ two horses to pull the deader—_some_ deaders has
only one.”

My curiosity was too much for my weariness; I went to the front window,
and, peering through, saw—a funeral procession! In a second I was on
the piazza, with my hands on the children’s collars; a second later two
small boys were on the floor of the hall, the front door was closed,
and two determined hands covered two threatening little mouths.

When the procession had fairly passed the house, I released the boys
and heard two prolonged howls for my pains. Then I asked Budge if he
wasn’t ashamed to talk that way when a funeral was passing.

“_’Twasn’t_ a funeral,” said he, ”’Twas only a deader, an’ deaders
can’t hear noffin’.”

“But the people in the carriages could,” said I.

“Well,” said he, “they were so glad that the other part of the deader
had gone to heaven that they didn’t care _what_ I said. Everbody’s glad
when the other part of deaders go to heaven. Papa told me he was glad
dear little Phillie was in heaven, an’ I _was_, but I do want to see
him again awful.”

“Wantsh to shee Phillie aden awfoo,” said Toddie, as I kissed Budge
and hurried off to the library, unfit just then to administer further
instruction or reproof. Of one thing I was very certain—I wished the
rain would cease falling, so the children could go out of doors, and
I could get a little rest, and freedom from responsibility. But the
skies showed no sign of being emptied, the boys were snarling on the
stairway, and I was losing my temper quite rapidly.

Suddenly I bethought me of one of the delights of my own childish
days—the making of scrap-books. One of Tom’s library drawers held
a great many _Lady’s Journals_. Of course Helen meant to have them
bound, but I could easily re-purchase the numbers for her; they would
cost two or three dollars, but peace was cheap at that price. On a
high shelf in the play-room I had seen some supplementary volumes of
“Mercantile Agency” reports, which would in time reach the rag-bag;
there was a bottle of mucilage in the library desk, and the children
owned an old pair of scissors. Within five minutes I had located two
happy children on the bath-room floor, taught them to cut out pictures
(which operation I quickly found they understood as well as I did)
and to paste them into the extemporized scrap-book. Then I left them,
recalling something from Newman Hall’s address on the “Dignity of
Labor.” Why hadn’t I thought before of showing my nephews some way of
occupying their minds and hands? Who could blame the helpless little
things for following every prompting of their unguided minds? Had I not
a hundred times been told, when sent to the woodpile or the weediest
part of the garden in my youthful days, that

    “Satan finds some mischief still
    For idle hands to do?”

Never again would I blame the children for being mischievous when their
minds were neglected.

I spent a peaceful, pleasant hour over my novel, when I felt that a
fresh cigar would be acceptable. Going upstairs in search of one, I
found that Budge had filled the bath-tub with water, and was sailing
boats, that is, hair-brushes.

Even this seemed too mild an offense to call for a rebuke, so I passed
on without disturbing him, and went to my own room. I heard Toddie’s
voice, and having heard from my sister that Toddie’s conversations with
himself were worth listening to, I paused outside the door. I heard
Toddie softly murmur:—

“Zere, pitty yady, ’tay _zere_. Now, ’ittle boy, I put you wif your
mudder, ’tause mudders like zere ’ittle boys wif zem. An’ you s’all
have ’ittle sister tudder side of you,—zere. Now, ’ittle boy’s an’
’ittle girl’s mudder, don’t you feel happy?—isn’t I awfoo good to give
you your ’ittle tsilderns? You ought to say, ‘Fank you, Toddie,—you’s a
nice, fweet ’ittle djentleman.’”

I peered cautiously—then I entered the room hastily. I didn’t
say anything for a moment, for it was impossible to do justice
impromptu, to the subject. Toddie had a progressive mind—if pictorial
ornamentation was good for old books, why should not similar
ornamentation be extended to objects more likely to be seen? Such may
not have been Toddie’s line of thought, but his recent operations
warranted such a supposition. He had cut out a number of pictures, and
pasted them upon the wall of my room—my sister’s darling room, with its
walls tinted exquisitely in pink. As a member of a hanging committee,
Toddie would hardly have satisfied taller people, but he had arranged
the pictures quite regularly, at about the height of his own eyes, had
favored no one artist more than another, and had hung indiscriminately
figure pieces, landscapes, and genre pictures. The temporary break of
wall-line occasioned by the door communicating with his own room he had
overcome by closing the door and carrying a line of pictures across
its lower panels. Occasionally a picture fell off the wall, but the
mucilage remained faithful, and glistened with its fervor of devotion.
And yet so untouched was I by this artistic display, that when I
found strength to shout, “Toddie,” it was in a tone which caused this
industrious amateur decorator to start violently, and drop his mucilage
bottle, open end first, upon the carpet.

“What will mamma say?” I asked.

Toddie gazed, first blankly, and then inquiringly, into my face;
finding no answer or sympathy there he burst into tears, and replied:—

“I dunno.”

The ringing of the lunch bell changed Toddie from a tearful cherub into
a very practical, business-like boy, and shouting, “Come on, Budge!” he
hurried downstairs, while I tormented myself with wonder as to how I
could best and most quickly undo the mischief Toddie had done.

I will concede to my nephews the credit of keeping reasonably quiet
during meals; their tongues, doubtless, longed to be active in both the
principal capacities of those useful members, but they had no doubt
as to how to choose between silence and hunger. The result was a
reasonably comfortable half-hour. Just as I began to cut a melon, Budge
broke the silence by exclaiming:—

“O Uncle Harry, we haven’t been out to see the goat to-day!”

“Budge,” I replied, “I’ll carry you out there under an umbrella after
lunch, and you may play with that goat all the afternoon, if you like.”

“Oh, won’t that be nice?” exclaimed Budge. “The poor goat! he’ll think
I don’t love him a bit, ’cause I haven’t been to see him to-day. Does
goats go to heaven when they die, Uncle Harry?”

“Guess not—they’d make trouble in the golden streets I’m afraid.”

“Oh, dear! then Phillie can’t see my goat. I’m so awful sorry,” said
Budge.

“_I_ can see your goat, Budgie,” suggested Toddie.

“Huh!” said Budge, very contemptuously. “_You_ ain’t dead.”

“Well, Izhe _goin’_ to be dead some day, an’ zen your nashty old
goat sha’n’t see me a bit—see how he like _zat_.” And Toddie made a
ferocious attack on a slice of melon nearly as large as himself.

After lunch, Toddie was sent to his room to take his afternoon nap,
and Budge went to the barn on my shoulders. I gave Mike a dollar, with
instructions to keep Budge in sight, to keep him from teasing the
goat, and to prevent his being impaled or butted. Then I stretched
myself on a lounge and wondered whether only half a day of daylight
had elapsed since I and the most adorable woman in the world had been
so happy together. How much happier I would be when next I met her!
The very torments of this rainy day would make my joy seem all the
dearer and more intense. I dreamed happily for a few moments with my
eyes open, and then somehow they closed, without my knowledge. What
put into my mind the wreck scene from the play of “David Copperfield,”
I don’t know; but there it came, and in my dream I was sitting in the
balcony at Booth’s, and taking a proper interest in the scene, when
it occurred to me that the thunder had less of reverberation and more
woodenness than good stage thunder should have. The mental exertion
I underwent on this subject disturbed the course of my nap, but as
wakefulness returned, the sound of the poorly simulated thunder did
not cease; on the contrary, it was just as noisy, and more hopelessly
a counterfeit than ever. What could the sound be? I stepped through
the window to the piazza, and the sound was directly over my head. I
sprang down the terrace and out upon the lawn, looked up, and beheld
my youngest nephew strutting back and forth on the tin roof of the
piazza, holding over his head a ragged old parasol. I roared:—“Go in,
Toddie—this instant!”

The sound of my voice startled the young man so severely that he lost
his footing, fell, and began to roll toward the edge and to scream,
both operations being performed with great rapidity. I ran to catch him
as he fell, but the outer edge of the water trough was high enough to
arrest his progress, though it had no effect in reducing the volume of
his howls.

“Toddie,” I shouted, “lie perfectly still until uncle can get to you!
Do you hear?”

“Ess, but don’t want to lie ’till,” came in reply from the roof.

”’Tan’t shee noffin’ but sky an’ wain.”

[Illustration: HOLDING OVER HIS HEAD A RAGGED PARASOL]

“Lie still,” I reiterated, “or I’ll whip you dreadfully.” Then I dashed
upstairs, removed my shoes, climbed out and rescued Toddie, shook him
soundly, and then shook myself.

“I wash only djust pyayin mamma, an’ walkin’ in ze wain wif an
umbayalla,” Toddie explained.

I threw him upon his bed and departed. It was plain that neither logic,
threats, nor the presence of danger could keep this dreadful child
from doing whatever he chose; what other means of restraint could be
employed? Although not as religious a man as my good mother could
wish, I really wondered whether prayer, as a last resort, might not
be effective. For his good and my own peace, I would cheerfully have
read through the whole prayer-book. I could hardly have done it just
then, though, for Mike solicited an audience at the back door, and
reported that Budge had given the carriage sponge to the goat, put
handfuls of oats into the pump cylinder, pulled hairs out of the black
mare’s tail, and with a sharp nail drawn pictures on the enamel of the
carriage-body. Budge made no denial, but looked very much aggrieved,
and remarked that he couldn’t never be happy without somebody having
to go get bothered; and he wished there wasn’t nobody in the world
but organ-grinders and candy-store men. He followed me into the house,
flung himself into a chair, put on a look which I imagine Byron wore
before he was old enough to be malicious, and exclaimed:—

“I don’t see what little boys was made for, anyhow; if ev’rybody gets
cross with them, an’ don’t let ’em do what they want to. I’ll bet when
I get to heaven, the Lord won’t be as ugly to me as Mike is,—an’ some
other folks, too. I wish I could die and be buried right away,—me an’
the goat—an’ go to heaven, where we wouldn’t be scolded.”

Poor little fellow! First I laughed inwardly at his idea of heaven,
and then I wondered whether my own was very different from it, or
any more creditable. I had no time to spend, however, even in pious
reflection. Budge was quite wet, his shoes were soaking, and he already
had an attack of catarrh; so I took him to his room and redressed him,
wondering all the while how much similar duties my own father had had
to do for me had shortened his life, and how with such a son as I was,
he lived as long as he did. The idea that I was in some slight degree
atoning for my early sins, so filled my thoughts that I did not at
first notice the absence of Toddie. When it _did_ become evident to me
that my youngest nephew was not in the bed in which I had placed him,
I went in search of him. He was in none of the chambers, but hearing
gentle murmurs issue from a long, light closet, I looked in and saw
Toddie sitting on the floor, and eating the cheese out of a mouse-trap.
A squeak of my boots betrayed me, and Toddie, equal to the emergency,
sprang to his feet and exclaimed:—

“I didn’t hurt de ’ittle mousie one bittie; I just letted him out, and
he runded away.”

[Illustration: “I DIDN’T HURT DE ’ITTLE MOUSIE”]

And still it rained. Oh, for a single hour of sunlight, so that the
mud might be only damp dirt, and the children could play without
tormenting other people! But it was not to be; slowly, and by the aid
of songs, stories, an improvised menagerie, in which I personated
every animal, besides playing ostrich and armadillo, and with a great
many disagreements, the afternoon wore to its close, and my heart
slowly lightened. Only an hour or two more, and the children would be
in bed for the night, and then I would enjoy, in unutterable measure,
the peaceful hours which would be mine. Even now they were inclined to
behave themselves; they were tired and hungry, and stretched themselves
on the floor to await dinner. I embraced the opportunity to return
to my book, but I had hardly read a page, when a combined crash and
scream summoned me to the dining-room. On the floor lay Toddie, a great
many dishes, a roast leg of lamb, several ears of green corn, the
butter-dish and its contents, and several other misplaced edibles. One
thing was quite evident; the scalding contents of the gravy-dish had
been emptied on Toddie’s arm, and how severely the poor child might
be scalded I did not know. I hastily split open his sleeve from wrist
to shoulder, and found the skin very red; so, remembering my mother’s
favorite treatment for scalds and bums, I quickly spread the contents
of a dish of mashed potato on a clean handkerchief, and wound the whole
around Toddie’s arm as a poultice. Then I demanded an explanation.

“I was only djust reatchin’ for a pieshe of bwed,” sobbed Toddie, “an’
then the bad old tabo beginded to froe all its fings at me, an’ tumble
down bang.”

He undoubtedly told the truth as far as he knew it; but reaching over
tables is a bad habit in small boys, especially when their mothers
cling to old-fashioned heirlooms of tables, which have folding leaves;
so I banished Toddie to his room, supperless, to think of what he had
done. With Budge alone, I had a comfortable dinner off the salvage from
the wreck caused by Toddie, and then I went upstairs to see if the
offender had repented. It was hard to tell, by sight, whether he had
or not, for his back was to me, as he flattened his nose against the
window, but I could see that my poultice was gone.

“Where is what uncle put on your arm, Toddie?” I asked.

“I ate it up,” said the truthful youth.

“Did you eat the handkerchief, too?”

“No; I froed nashty old handkerchief out the window—don’t want dirty
old handkerchiefs in my nice ’ittle room.”

I was so glad that his burn had been slight that I forgave the
insult to my handkerchief, and called up Budge, so that I might at
once get both boys into bed, and emerge from the bondage in which I
had lived all day long. But the task was no easy one. Of course my
brother-in-law, Tom Lawrence, knows better than any other man the
necessities of his own children, but no children of mine shall ever
be taught so many methods of imposing upon parental good-nature. Their
program called for stories, songs, moral conversations, frolics, the
presentation of pennies, the dropping of the same, at long intervals,
into tin savings-banks, followed by a deafening shaking-up of both
banks; then a prayer must be offered, and no conventional one would be
tolerated; then the boys performed their own devotions, after which I
was allowed to depart with an interchange of “God bless yous.” As this
evening I left the room with their innocent benedictions sounding in my
ears, a sense of personal weakness, induced by the events of the day,
moved me to fervently respond “Amen!”

[Illustration: A TRIBUTE TO MOTHERS]

Mothers of American boys, accept from me a tribute of respect, which
no words can fitly express—of wonder greater than any of the great
things of the world ever inspired—of adoration as earnest and devout
as the Catholic pays to the Virgin. In a single day, I, a strong man,
with nothing else to occupy my mind, am reduced to physical and mental
worthlessness by the necessities of two boys not overmischievous or
bad. And you—Heaven only knows how—have unbroken weeks, months, years,
yes, lifetimes of just such experiences, and with them the burden of
household cares, of physical ills and depressions, of mental anxieties
that pierce thy hearts with as many sorrows as grieved the Holy
Mother of old. Compared with thy endurance, that of the young man,
the athlete, is as weakness; the secret of thy nerves, wonderful even
in their weakness, is as great as that of the power of the winds. To
display decision, thy opportunities are more frequent than those of the
greatest statesmen; thy heroism laughs into insignificance that of
fort and field; thou art trained in a school of diplomacy such as the
most experienced court cannot furnish. Do scoffers say thou canst not
hold the reins of government? Easier is it to rule a band of savages
than to be the successful autocrat of thy little kingdom. Compared with
the ways of men, even thy failures are full of glory. Be thy faults
what they may, thy one great, mysterious, unapproachable success places
thee, in desert, far above warrior, ruler or priest.

The foregoing soliloquy passed through my mind as I lay upon the bed
where I had thrown myself after leaving the children’s room. Whatever
else attempted to affect me mentally, found my mind a blank until the
next morning, when I awoke to realize that I had dropped asleep just
where I fell, and that I had spent nearly twelve hours lying across a
bed in an uncomfortable position, and without removing my daily attire.
My next impression was that quite a bulky letter had been pushed under
my chamber-door. Could it be that my darling—I hastily seized the
envelope and found it addressed in my sister’s writing, and promising a
more voluminous letter than that lady had ever before honored me with.
I opened it, dropping an enclosure which, doubtless, was a list of
necessities which I would please pack, etc. and read as follows:—

  JULY 1, 1875.

 “MY DEAR OLD BROTHER:—_Wouldn’t_ I like to give you the warmest of
 sisterly hugs? I can’t believe it, and yet I am in ecstasies over it.
 To think that _you_ should have got that perfection of a girl, who
 has declined so many great catches—_you_, my sober, business-like,
 unromantic big brother—oh, it’s too wonderful! But now I think of it,
 you are just the people for each other. I’d like to say that it’s just
 what I’d always longed for, and I invited you to Hillcrest to bring
 it about; but the trouble with such a story would be that it wouldn’t
 have a word of truth in it. You always _did_ have a faculty for doing
 just what you pleased, and what nobody ever expected you to do, but
 now you’ve exceeded yourself.

 “And to think that my little darlings played an important part in
 bringing it all about! I shall take the credit of _that_, for if it
 hadn’t been for me who would have helped you, sir? I shall expect you
 to remember both of them handsomely at Christmas.

 “I don’t believe I am guilty of breach of confidence in sending the
 enclosed, which I have just received from my sister-in-law that is to
 be. It will tell you some causes of your success of which you, with
 a man’s conceit, haven’t imagined for a minute, and it will tell you,
 too, of a maiden’s first and natural fear under such circumstances—a
 fear which I know you, with your honest, generous heart, will hasten
 to dispel. As you’re a man, you’re quite likely to be too stupid to
 read what’s written between the lines; so I’d better tell you that
 Alice’s fear is that in letting herself go so easily, she may have
 seemed to lack proper reserve and self-respect. You don’t need to be
 told that no woman alive has more of these very qualities.

 “Bless your dear old heart, Harry,—you deserve to be shaken to death
 if you’re not the happiest man alive. I _must_ hurry home and see you
 both with my own eyes, and learn to believe that all this wonderful,
 glorious thing has come to pass. Give Alice a sister’s kiss for me
 (if you know how to give more than one kind), and give my cherubs a
 hundred each from the mother that wants to see them so much.

  “With love and congratulations,

  “HELEN.”

The other letter, which I opened with considerable reverence and more
delight, ran as follows:

  “HILLCREST, June 29, 1875.

 “DEAR FRIEND HELEN:—Something has happened and I am very happy, but I
 am more than a little troubled over it, too, and, as you are one of
 the persons nearly concerned, I am going to confess to you as soon as
 possible. Harry—your brother, I mean—will be sure to tell you very
 soon, if he hasn’t done so already, and I want to make all possible
 haste to solemnly assure you that I hadn’t the slightest idea of such
 a thing coming to pass, and I didn’t do the slightest thing to bring
 it about.

 “I always thought your brother was a splendid fellow, and have never
 been afraid to express my mind about him, when there was no one but
 girls to listen. But out here, I have somehow learned to admire him
 more than ever. I cheerfully acquit _him_ of intentionally doing
 anything to create a favorable impression; if his several appearances
 before me _have_ been studied, he is certainly the most original being
 I ever heard of. Your children are angels—you’ve told me so yourself,
 and I’ve my own very distinct impression on the subject, but they
 _don’t_ study to save their uncle’s appearance. The figures that
 unfortunate man has cut several times—well, I won’t try to describe
 them on paper, for fear he might some day see a scrap of it and take
 offense. But he always seems to be patient with them, and devoted
 to them, and I haven’t been able to keep from seeing that a man who
 could be so lovable with thoughtless and unreasonable children must be
 perfectly adorable to the woman he loved, if she were a woman at all.
 Still, I hadn’t the faintest idea that I would be the fortunate woman.
 At last _the_ day came, but I was in blissful ignorance of what was to
 happen. Your little Charley hurt himself, and insisted upon Har—your
 brother singing an odd song to him; and just when the young gentleman
 was doing the elegant to a dozen of us ladies at once, too! If you
 _could_ have seen his face!—it was too funny, until he got over his
 annoyance, and began to feel properly sorry for the little fellow—then
 he seemed all at once to be all tenderness and heart, and I _did_ wish
 for a moment that conventionalities didn’t exist, and I might tell
 him that he was a model. Then your youngest playfully spilt a plate
 of soup on my dress (don’t be worried—’twas only a common muslin, and
 ’twill wash). Of course I had to change it and, as I retired, the
 happy thought struck me that I’d make so elaborate a toilet that I
 wouldn’t finish in time to join the other ladies for the usual evening
 walk; consequence, I would have a chance to monopolize a gentleman for
 half an hour or more—a chance which, no thanks to the gentlemen who
 don’t come to Hillcrest, no lady here has had this season. Every time
 I peered through the blinds to see if the other girls had started, I
 could see _him_ looking so distressed, and brooding over those two
 children as if he were their mother, and he seemed _so_ good. He
 seemed pleased to see _me_ when I appeared, and coming from such a
 man the implied compliment was fully appreciated; everything he said
 to me seemed a little more worth hearing than if it had come from any
 man not so good. Then, suddenly, your eldest insisted on retailing the
 result of a conversation he had had with his uncle, and the upshot was
 that Harry declared himself; he wasn’t romantic a bit, but he was real
 straightforward and manly, while I was so completely taken back that
 I couldn’t think of a thing to say. Then the impudent fellow kissed
 me, and I lost my tongue worse than ever. If I had known anything of
 his feelings beforehand, I should have been prepared to behave more
 properly; but—O Helen, I’m so glad I _didn’t_ know! I should be the
 happiest being that ever lived, if I wasn’t afraid that you or your
 husband might think that I had given myself away too hastily. As to
 other people, we will see that they don’t know a word about it for
 months to come.

 “_Do_ write that I was not to blame, and make believe accept me as a
 sister, because I _can’t_ offer to give Harry up to any one else you
 may have picked out for him.

  “Your sincere friend,

  “ALICE MAYTON.”

[Illustration: I SHOUTED “HURRAH”.]

Was there ever so delightful a reveille? All the boyishness in me
seemed suddenly to come to the surface, and instead of saying and
doing the decorous thing which novelists’ heroes do under similar
circumstances. I shouted “Hurrah!” and danced into the children’s room
so violently that Budge sat up in bed and regarded me with reproving
eyes, while Toddie burst into a happy laugh, and volunteered as a
partner in the dance. Then I realized that the rain was over, and the
sun was shining—I could take Alice out for another drive, and until
then the children could take care of themselves. I remembered suddenly,
and with a sharp pang, that my vacation was nearly at an end, and I
found myself consuming with impatience to know how much longer Alice
would remain at Hillcrest. It would be cruel to wish her in the city
before the end of August, yet I——

“Uncle Harry,” said Budge, “my papa says ’tisn’t nice for folks
to sit down an’ go to thinkin’ before they’ve brushed their hair
mornin’s—that’s what he tells _me_.”

“I beg your pardon, Budge,” said I, springing up in some confusion; “I
was thinking over a matter of a great deal of importance.”

“What was it—my goat?”

“No—of course not. Don’t be silly, Budge.”

“Well, I think about him a good deal, an’ I don’t think it’s silly
a bit. I hope he’ll go to heaven when he dies. Do angels have
goat-carriages, Uncle Harry?”

“No, old fellow—they can go about without carriages.”

“When I goesh to hebben,” said Toddie, rising in bed, “Izhe goin’
to have lots of goat cawidjes an’ Izhe goin’ to tate all ze andjels
a-widen.”

With many other bits of prophesy and celestial description I was
regaled as I completed my toilet, and I hurried out of doors for an
opportunity to think without disturbance. Strolling past the hen-yard,
I saw a meditative turtle, and, picking him up and shouting to my
nephews, I held the reptile up for their inspection. Their window
blinds flew open and a unanimous though not exactly harmonious “Oh!”
greeted my prize.”

“Where did you get it, Uncle Harry?” asked Budge.

“Down by the hen-coop.”

Budge’s eyes opened wide; he seemed to devote a moment to profound
thought, and then he exclaimed:—

“Why, I don’t see how the hens _could_ lay such a big thing—just put
him in your hat till I come down, will you?”

I dropped the turtle into Budge’s wheelbarrow, and made a tour of the
flower-borders. The flowers, always full of suggestion to me, seemed
suddenly to have new charms and powers; they actually impelled me to
try to make rhymes,—me, a steady white-goods salesman! The impulse was
too strong to be resisted, though I must admit that the results were
pitifully meager:—

    “As radiant as that matchless rose
      Which poet-artists fancy;
    As fair as whitest lily-blows,
      As modest as the pansy;
    As pure as dew which hides within
      Aurora’s sun-kissed chalice;
    As tender as the primrose sweet—
      All this, and more, is Alice.”

In inflicting this fragment upon the reader I have not the faintest
idea that he can discover any merit in it; I quote it only that a
subsequent experience of mine may be more intelligible. When I had
composed these wretched lines I became conscious that I had neither
pencil nor paper wherewith to preserve them. Should I lose them—my
first self-constructed poem? Never! This was not the first time in
which I had found it necessary to preserve words by memory alone. So I
repeated my ridiculous lines over and over again, until the eloquent
feeling of which they were the graceless expression inspired me to
accompany my recital with gestures. Six—eight—ten—a dozen—twenty times
I repeated these lines, each time with additional emotion and gesture,
when a thin voice, very near me, remarked:—

“Ocken Hawwy, you does djust as if you was swimmin’.”

Turning, I beheld my nephew, Toddie—how long he had been behind me I
had no idea. He looked earnestly into my eyes, and then remarked:—

“Ocken Hawwy, your faysh is wed, djust like a wosy-posy.”

“Let’s go right in to breakfast, Toddie,” said I aloud, as I grumbled
to myself about the faculty of observation which Tom’s children seemed
to have.

Immediately after breakfast I despatched Mike with a note to Alice,
informing her that I would be glad to drive her to the Falls in the
afternoon, calling for her at two. Then I placed myself unreservedly
at the disposal of the boys for the morning, it being distinctly
understood that they must not expect to see me between lunch and
dinner. I was first instructed to harness the goat, which order I
obeyed, and I afterward watched that grave animal as he drew my nephews
up and down the carriage-road, his countenance as demure as if he
had no idea of suddenly departing when my back should be turned. The
wheels of the goat-carriage uttered the most heart-rending noises I had
ever heard from ungreased axle; so I persuaded the boys to dismount,
and submit to the temporary unharnessing of the goat, while I should
lubricate the axles. Half an hour of dirty work sufficed, with such
assistance as I gained from juvenile advice, to accomplish the task
properly; then I put the horned steed into the shafts, Budge cracked
the whip, the carriage moved off without noise, and Toddie began to
weep bitterly.

“Cawwidge is all bwoke,” said he; “_wheelsh don’t sing a bittie no
more_,” while Budge remarked:—

“I think the carriage sounds kind o’ lonesome now, don’t you, Uncle
Harry?”

“Uncle Harry,” asked Budge, a little later in the morning, “do you know
what makes the thunder?”

“Yes, Budge—when two clouds go bump into each other they make a good
deal of noise, and they call it thunder.”

“That ain’t it at all,” said Budge “When it thundered yesterday it was
because the Lord was riding along through the sky an’ the wheels of his
carriage made an awful noise, an’ that was the thunder.”

“Don’t like nashty old funder,” remarked Toddie. “It goesh into our
cellar an’ makesh all ze milk sour—Maggie said so. An’ so I can’t hazh
no nice white tea for my brepspup.”

“I should think you’d like the Lord to go a-ridin’, Toddie, with all
the angels running after Him,” said Budge, “even if the thunder _does_
make the milk sour. And it’s so splendid to _see_ the thunder bang.”

“How do you see it, Budge?” I asked.

“Why, don’t you know when the thunder bangs, and then you see an awful
bright place in the sky?—that’s where the Lord’s carriage gives an
awful pound, an’ makes little cracks through the floor of heaven,
an’ we see right in. But what’s the reason we can’t ever see anybody
through the cracks, Uncle Harry?”

“I don’t know, old fellow—I guess it’s because it isn’t cracks in
heaven that look so bright,—it’s a kind of fire that the Lord makes up
in the clouds. You’ll know all about it when you get bigger.”

“Well, I’ll feel awful sorry if ’tain’t anything but fire. Do you know
that funny song my papa sings ’bout:—

    “‘Roarin’ thunders, lightenin’s blazes,
    Shout the great Creator’s praises?’

I don’t know ’zactly what it means, but I think it’s kind o’ splendid,
don’t you?”

[Illustration: “TWO CLOUDS GO BUMP INTO EACH OTHER”]

I _did_ know the old song; I had heard it in a Western camp-meeting,
when scarcely older than Budge, and it left upon my mind just the
effect it seemed to have done on his. I blessed his sympathetic young
heart, and snatched him into my arms. Instantly, he became all boy
again.

“Uncle Harry,” he shouted, “you crawl on your hands and knees and play
you was a horse, and I’ll ride on your back.”

“No, thank you, Budge, not on the dirt.”

“Then let’s play menagerie, an’ you be all the animals.”

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

“Miauw! Miauw!” said he, “dat’s what cats saysh when they goesh down
wells.”

“Faith, an’ it’s him that knows,” remarked Mike, who had invited
himself to a free seat in the menagerie, and assisted in the applause
which had greeted each personation. “Would ye belave it, Misther Harry,
dhat young dhivil got out the front door one mornin’ afore sunroise,
all in his little noight-gown, an’ wint over to dhe docthor’s an’
picked up a kitten lyin’ on dhe kitchen door-mat, an’ throwed it down
dhe well. Dhe docthor wasn’t home, but dhe missis saw him, an’ her
heart was dhat tindher dhat she hurried out and throwed boords down for
dhe poor little baste to stand on, an’ let down a hoe on a sthring,
an’ whin she got dhe poor little dhing out, she was dhat faint dhat
she dhrapped on dhe grass. An’ it cost Mr. Lawrence nigh onto thirty
dollars to have the docthor’s well claned out.”

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

“Whales don’t make a noise, Toddie; they only splash about in the
water.”

“Zen grop in ze cistern an’ ’plash, can’t you?”

       *       *       *       *       *

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

“Uncle Harry,” said he, “do you s’pose folks ever get lonesome in
heaven?”

“I guess not, Budge.”

“Do little boy angels’ papas an’ mammas go off visitin’, an’ stay ever
so long?”

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

“Well, I don’t b’leeve they could make _me_ happy, when I wanted to see
my papa an’ mamma. When I haven’t got anybody to play with, then I want
papa an’ mamma _so_ bad—so bad as if I would die if I didn’t see ’em
right away.”

[Illustration: “CAN’T YOU BE A WHAY-AL?”]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“_Don’t_ keep it from her,” said I, “unless for some reason of your
own. Let me tell the whole story, take all the responsibility, and
accept the penalties, if there are any. Your mother is right in
principle, if there _is_ a certain delightful exception that we know
of.”

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

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

“And you’re a noble fellow, and——” Whatever other sentiment my
companion failed to put into words was impulsively and eloquently
communicated by her dear eyes.

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

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

“Let me talk to her _now_, Alice, won’t you? Delays are only cowardly.”

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

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

“We’re nearly there, darling,” said I, with a reassuring embrace.

“Yes, and you sha’n’t be the only hero,” said she, straightening
herself proudly, and looking a fit model for a Zenobia.

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

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

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

Alice looked blank;—I am sure that _I_ did. But safety could only lie
in action, so I stammered out:——

“If you refer to an apparently unwarrantable intrusion upon your family
circle, Mrs.——”

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

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

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

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

“Trust me for that,” hastily exclaimed Alice.

“And me,” said I.

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

Again the laugh broke forth under the window.

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

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

“Say it again,” said one of the ladies.

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

    “Azh wadiant azh ze matchless woze
      Zat poeck-artuss fanshy;
    Azh fair azh whituss lily-blowzh;
      Azh moduss azh a panzhy;
    Azh pure azh dew zat hides wiffin
      Awwahwah’s sun-tissed tsallish;
    Azh tender azh ze pwimwose tweet,
      All zish, an’ moah, izh Alish.”

[Illustration: “AZH WADIANT AZH ZE MATCHLESS WOZE”]

I gasped for breath.

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

“Nobody didn’t taught me—I lyned[9] it.”

  [9] Learned.

“When did you learn it?”

“Lyned it zish mornin’. Ocken Hawwy said it over, an’ over, an’ over,
djust yots of timezh, out in ze garden.”

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

“Too late! too late!”

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

“Uncle Harry,” said Budge, suddenly, “do you know we haven’t ever sung,—

  ‘Drown old Pharaoh’s Army, Hallelujah,’

since you’ve been here? Let’s do it now.”

“All right, old fellow.” I knew the song—such as there was of it—and
its chorus, as _every_ one does who ever heard the Jubilee Singers
render it; but I scarcely understood the meaning of the preparations
which Budge made. He drew a large rocking-chair into the middle of the
room, and exclaimed:—

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

I sang the first line:—

  “When Israel was in bondage, they cried unto the Lord,”

without any assistance, but the boys came in powerfully on the refrain,
beating time simultaneously with their four fists upon my chest. I
cannot think it strange that I suddenly ceased singing, but the boys
viewed my action from a different standpoint.

“What makes you stop, Uncle Harry?” asked Budge.

“Because you hurt me badly, my boy; you mustn’t do that again.”

“Why, I guess you ain’t very strong: that’s the way we do to papa, an’
it don’t hurt _him_.”

Poor Tom! No wonder he grows flat-chested.

“Guesh you’s a ky-baby,” suggested Toddie.

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

  “I’m a-rolling through an unfriendly World!”

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

“Dear Lord, bless papa an’ mamma, an’ Toddie an’ me, an’ that turtle
Uncle Harry found; and bless that lovely lady Uncle Harry goes ridin’
with, an’ make ’em take me too, an’ bless that nice old lady with white
hair, that cried, an’ said I was a smart boy. Amen.”

Toddie sighed as he drew his stick of candy from his lips; then he
shut his eyes and remarked:—“Dee Lord, blesh Toddie, an’ make him good
boy, an’ blesh zem ladies zat told me to say it aden”; the particular
“it” referred to being well understood by at least three adults of my
acquaintance.

The course of Budge’s interview with Mrs. Mayton was afterward related
by that lady, as follows:—

She was sitting in her own room (which was on the parlor floor, and in
the rear of the house), and was leisurely reading “Fated to be Free,”
when she accidentally dropped her glasses. Stooping to pick them up,
she became aware that she was not alone. A small, very dirty, but
good-featured boy stood before her, his hands behind his back, and an
inquiring look in his eyes.

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

“I’m lookin’ for my uncle,” said Budge, in most melodious accents, “an’
the other ladies said you would know when he would come back.”

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

“Well,” continued Budge, “they said your little girl went with him, and
you’d know when _she_ would come back.”

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

“She isn’t a _very_ little girl,” said Budge, honestly anxious to
conciliate; “that is, she’s bigger’n _I_ am, but they said you was
her mother, an’ so she’s your little girl, isn’t she? _I_ think she’s
lovely, too.”

[Illustration: MRS. MAYTON STOOPED TO PICK UP HER GLASSES]

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

“Oh, yes—that’s her name—I couldn’t think of it,” eagerly replied
Budge. “An ain’t she AWFUL nice—I _know_ she is!”

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

“Why, my Uncle Harry told me so,” replied Budge, “and _he_ knows
_everything_.”

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

“Who _is_ your Uncle Harry, little boy?”

“He’s Uncle Harry; don’t you know him? He can make nicer whistles than
my papa can. An’ he found a turtle——”

“Who is your papa?” interrupted the old lady.

“Why, he’s papa—I thought everybody knew who _he_ was.”

“What is your name?” asked Mrs. Mayton.

“John Burton Lawrence,” promptly answered Budge.

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

“Is Mr. Burton the uncle you are looking for?”

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

“Humph!” remarked the old lady with so much emphasis that Budge ceased
talking. A moment later she said:—

“I didn’t mean to interrupt you, little boy; go on.”

“An’ he rides with just the loveliest lady that ever was. _He_ thinks
so, an’ _I_ KNOW she is. An’ he ’spects her.”

“What?” exclaimed the old lady.

”’Spects her, I say—that’s what _he_ says. _I_ say ’spect means just
what I call _love_. ’Cos if it don’t, what makes him give her hugs an’
kisses?”

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

“How do you know he—gives her hugs and kisses?”

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

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

“I’m awful sorry you feel bad,” said he. “Are you ’fraid to have your
little girl ridin’ so long?”

“Yes!” exclaimed Mrs. Mayton, with great decision.

“Well, you needn’t be,” said Budge, “for Uncle Harry’s awful careful
an’ smart.”

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

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

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

“I know you’d ’spect _him_, if you knew how nice he was,” continued
Budge. “He sings awful funny songs, an’ tells splendid stories.”

“Nonsense!” exclaimed the angry mother.

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

“Yes, I suppose so,” said Mrs. Mayton.

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

“How do you know?” demanded Mrs. Mayton.

”’Cos he always kisses us when we do it an’ that’s what my papa does
when he likes what we pray.”

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

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

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

“An’ wasn’t he good to me to-day? Just ’cos I was forlorn, ’cos I
hadn’t nobody to play with, an’ wanted to die an’ go to heaven, he
stopped shavin’, so as to comfort me.”

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

“Suppose,” she said, “that I don’t let my little girl go riding with
him any more?”

“Then,” said Budge, “I know he’ll be awful, awful unhappy, an’ I’ll be
awful sorry for him, ’cos nice folks oughtn’t to be made unhappy.”

“Suppose, then, that I _do_ let her go?” said Mrs. Mayton.

[Illustration: MADE HIM AWFUL SICK]

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

“Bless your dear little heart! exclaimed Mrs. Mayton; “you’re of the
same blood, and it _is_ good, if it _is_ rather hasty.”

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

  “July 1, 1875.

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

  “Lovingly your sister,
  “HELEN.

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

 “P. S. _Would_ it annoy you to move into the best guest-chamber? I
 can’t bear to sleep where I can’t have _them_ within reach.”

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

“Toddie! Budge! who do you think is coming to see you this morning?”

“Who?” asked Budge.

“Organ-grinder?” queried Toddie.

“No, your papa and mamma.”

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

“I fought it wash an organ-grinder.”

“O Uncle Harry!” said Budge, springing out of bed in a perfect delirium
of delight, “I believe if my papa and mamma had stayed away any longer,
I believe I would _die_. I’ve been _so_ lonesome for ’em that I haven’t
known what to do—I’ve cried whole pillowsful about it, right here in
the dark.”

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

“I _couldn’t_,” said Budge; “when I gets lonesome, it feels as if my
mouth was all tied up, an’ a great big stone was right in here.” And
Budge put his hand on his chest.

“If a big ’tone wazh inshide of _me_,” said Toddie, “I’d take it out
an’ fro it at the shickens.”

“Toddie,” said I, “aren’t you glad papa and mamma are coming?”

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

“Toddie, you’re a mercenary wretch.”

“_Ain’t_ a mernesary wetch; Izhe Toddie Yawncie.”

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

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

“Of course not,” said Budge.

“Oh, izh I goin’ to be djessed up all nicey?” asked Toddie. “Goody!
goody! goody!”

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

“An’ I wantsh my shoes made all nigger,” said Toddie.

“What?”

“Wantsh my shoes made all nigger wif a bottle-bwush, too,” said Toddie.

I looked appealingly at Budge, who answered:—

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

“An’ I wantsh a thath on,” continued Toddie.

“Sash, he means,” said Budge. “He’s awful proud.”

“An’ Izhe doin’ to wear my takker-hat,” said Toddie. “An’ my wed
djuvs.”

“That’s his tassel-hat an’ his red gloves,” continued the interpreter.

“Toddie, you can’t wear gloves such hot days as these,” said I.

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

“Put them on, then—put on the mantle of rude Boreas if you choose; but
don’t go to crying.”

“Don’t want no mantle-o’wude-baw-yusses,” declared Toddie, following me
phonetically, “wantsh my own pitty cozhesh, an’ nobody eshesh.”

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

“The goat isn’t strong enough, Budge, to draw mamma and you.”

“Well, then, let me drive down to the depot, just to _show_ papa an’
mamma I’ve got a goat-carriage—I’m sure mamma would be very unhappy
when she found out I had one, and she hadn’t seen it first thing.”

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

“Oh, yes—I wouldn’t get us hurt when mamma was coming for _any_thing.”

“Now, boys,” said I, “I want you to stay in the house and play this
morning. If you go out of doors you’ll get yourselves dirty.”

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

[Illustration: “THE SUN’LL BE DISAPPOINTED IF IT DON’T HAVE US TO LOOK
AT”]

“Never mind,” said I, “the sun’s old enough to have learned to be
patient.”

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

“Izhe tatin’ black medshin,” said Toddie; “I likes black medshin awfoo
muts.”

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

“Makesh it out of shoda mitsture,” said Toddie.

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

“How much did you take, Toddie?”

“Took whole bottoo full—’twas nysh,” said he.

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

“Give this child a strong emetic—quick! He’s swallowed poison!”

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

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

[Illustration: GALLOPING FURIOUSLY TO THE VILLAGE]

“Budgie, down to the village I was a whay-al. I didn’t froe up Djonah,
but I froed up a whole floor full of uvver fings.”

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

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

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

“I dess _my_ hairs is a-goin’ to drop out pitty soon, then,” remarked
Toddie, with an injured air.

[Illustration: MIKE TELLING MAGGIE TO GET LUNCH]

“Harness the horses, Mike!” I shouted.

“An’ the goat, too,” added Budge.

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

“Oye, oye, sur,” said Mike, and off he went.

“Are you all ready, boys?” I asked.

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

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

“All right,” said Budge, “but I like to look like mans when I drive.”

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

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

“What in thunder did you let ’em hitch that goat to your axle-tree for?”

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

“See my goat, papa!”

Helen opened her arms, and Toddie threw himself into them, sobbing:—

“Mam—_ma_! shing ’Toddie one-boy-day!’”

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

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

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

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

 HELEN’S BABIES.


       *       *       *       *       *


Transcriber’s Notes

Obvious typographical errors have been silently corrected. Other
variations in spelling, punctuation, hyphenation and accents remain
unchanged.

Italics are represented thus _italic_.





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