Dr. Graham laughed heartily when he heard of the mishap, and told Edward that there was no cause for alarm; as, although he would not advise unlimited indulgence in the lotion as a beverage, such harmful qualities as its ingredients possessed would be reduced to a minimum when mixed in the proportion Edward mentioned with the other articles of which the "food for the gods" was compounded.
So the matter became a joke to every one but me and the old cook, who received a severe reprimand for her carelessness in putting the liniment in an improper receptacle, and then leaving it in an improper place.
Thus ended my attempt at culinary distinction; a regard for the well-being of my friends and even for their lives, inducing me to quit the field without further trial of my powers.
What a long tale about a foolish mistake, it may be said; but, as "great events from little causes spring," the results of that mistake were vast and far-reaching, and we had not yet heard the last of the "food for the gods."
THE "MORNING BUGLE."
"Look at this disconsolate pair; melancholy has evidently marked them for her own," said Bessie Sanford, as she and I crossed the corner of the square, bound for an afternoon walk; aimless, except in the search for fresh air and exercise.
The "disconsolate pair" were my little sisters, Allie and Daisy, who now approached, trundling their dolls' perambulators in front of them, and followed by mammy, who came limping after, also wearing a most lugubrious expression; but whereas their distress was plainly mental, her's was physical, drawn forth by pain.
"Old mammy has an attack of her pet bunion," I said, "and I suppose that the children are, in consequence, debarred from their walk, and they have but just come out. Poor little things! What do you say, Bessie, to taking them with us? They would be enchanted."
"So should I. By all means let us take them," answered Bessie, who had a love for children and their company, only second to my own.
"O, sister Amy!" cried both the little ones, dropping the perambulators, and rushing up to us as soon as their eyes fell upon us, "Mammy's bunion hurts so, she can't take us to walk, and it's such a lovely day, and we want to go Jim's peanut-stand."
And the ever ready tears rushed to the eyes of Allie, who was prone to weep upon slight provocation; and even Daisy, who was more philosophical, though younger, looked heart-broken.
Sunshine speedily succeeded the showers, however, for my proposal that they should accompany us was received with rapture; and, taking their dolls into their arms, they abandoned the perambulators to the care of mammy, who hobbled towards home with them. This bunion was mammy's choice grievance, and she doubtless suffered much from it; but it was an article of the family faith, that, when for any reason she was disinclined to take her walks abroad with the children, the bunion sympathized with this reluctance, and crippled her to an unusual extent.
"And where do you want to go?" I asked of the beaming pair, who were now hanging, the one on Bessie's arm, the other on mine. "Bessie and I do not much care which way we go."
"Oh," said Daisy, ecstatically, "if you would only take us to Jim's peanut-stand! Mother said we might go, and then mammy couldn't take us."
"It's not fash'nable, but it's very respectable, Amy," said Allie, impressively.
"But we cannot go to a peanut-stand, even though it belongs to Jim," I expostulated.
"But it's not in the street; it's—you know Johnny, the flower-man, sister?" said Allie.
"Johnny the flower-man" was a German florist on a small scale, who had a little glass-enclosed stand on the corner of the avenue next to that on which we lived, and who was extensively patronized by our family and many of our neighbors. His box of a place, cosey, warm, and fragrant, was a favorite resort of our children; and much of their pocket-money went to the purchase of the potted plants and cut flowers which he sold to them at a wonderfully reasonable rate. But what had the little German to do with Jim and his peanut-stand? Allie soon enlightened us.
"Jim was going to have the stand on that corner," she said, "and he had leave to do it; but mamma and aunt Emily said it would not do for Tony and Matty to sit out of doors in the cold weather; it would kill Matty, they said. And Jim was so disappointed, and he didn't know what to do; and one day when sister Milly sent him to Johnny's, he told him about it, and about Tony and Matty; and that lovely old Johnny,—Daisy and I ask God to bless him every night when we've done our own people,—he told Jim he could have a little corner of his store where it was all glass, and the stand could be seen from the street; and then Matty could sit there, and people would come in and buy her peanuts. Wasn't it good in him? We love Johnny, if he does squint, and smell of tobacco, and can't talk very plain."
"And then," said Daisy, taking up the tale in her turn, as Allie paused for breath, "and then there wasn't room there for the roaster, 'cause it's pretty squeezed up in Matty's corner, and in Johnny's store, too, wif the stand there; so Johnny's wife, who lives just a little bit of a way off, lets Tony have the roaster up in her room, and roast the peanuts, and then he runs very quick wif 'em over to Matty, or, if it's a nice, pleasant day, he has it put outside the door. But the smell of the peanuts gets mixed up wif the smell of the flowers, and that isn't so very nice."
"But Jim is making lots of money, he says," continued Allie; "'cause most always when people come in to buy flowers, Johnny tells 'em they'd better buy peanuts, too; and Jim printed a sign in German about peanuts inside, and put the meaning in English beneath, and he says he thinks he is doing a better business than if Matty sat outside. Norman and Douglas buy lots, but," with a little sigh, "mother don't like Daisy and me to eat peanuts. It would be a good way to do charity if she would let us; but sometimes we buy some, and give them to the servants."
Jim and his "peanut undertakin'," as Captain Yorke had called it, had, in the press of other and greater interests, almost passed from my mind, and I had made no inquiries about it lately; but, as visions of numerous peanut-shells in the most unheard of places returned to my recollection, I could not doubt the truth of Allie's assertion in regard to my brothers.
While the children had been talking, we had been gradually walking on towards the desired haven,—the corner where the German florist had his tiny store; and presently we came to it. The little glass enclosure was one mass of vivid green, and brilliant, glowing color; for Johnny was remarkably successful in the treatment of his plants, and they always wore a thrifty, healthy aspect, delightful to behold.
Without, just at the side of the door of entrance, hung the sign described by Allie; and Daisy at once drew our attention to it.
The "German" legend ran thus:—
"Goot rost benuts ish incite, nein sents a quoort. Shtep in unt py."
The English translation followed:—
"Good roost peanuts is inside, nine cents a quart. Step in and by."
Bessie and I were inwardly amused, but did not let it appear to the admiring children. Allie, however, had her own misgivings as to the absolute correctness of the sign, and said, doubtfully,—
"I suppose the German must be all right, because Jim says that is the way Johnny talks; but the English is not spelled quite right, is it, sister Amy?"
"Not altogether," I answered; "but perhaps it attracts more attention than it would do if it were quite correct, Allie, and that, you know, is the object of a sign or notice."
"Yees," said Allie, doubtfully, lingering behind a moment to scan the sign as I opened the door, and still inclined to criticise; "ye-es, but somebody might laugh if it is not spelled quite right."
"That is of no consequence so long as it does not hurt business," I said, shamelessly indifferent to the orthographical merits of the case. "Come in, Allie, we must not keep the door open too long."
At the farthest end of the crowded little cubby-hole,—all the more crowded, of course, for the accommodation which the good-hearted German had afforded to Jim's beneficiaries,—sat the little deformed Matty, behind her stand, on which were displayed a tempting pile of freshly roasted peanuts, and various bright, new measures. Outside, on the street, could be seen Tony, grinding away at his revolving roaster; for the day was so exceptionally lovely, that there could be nothing in the air to injure him, and he doubtless preferred its freshness, and the brilliant sunshine, to the presumably dark and stuffy quarters of Mrs. Johnny.
Poor, poor Matty! Deformed, shrunken, and wizened, she was a painful contrast to all the beauty and brightness surrounding her in the little conservatory. Beyond the sympathy unavoidably drawn forth by her helpless and crippled condition, there was absolutely nothing to attract one toward her. She looked peevish and fretful, too, so far as there was any expression in the dull, heavy face. Was it to be wondered at? There had been but little of brightness in her young life; and as I looked from her to my little sisters, our petted household darlings, carefully guarded and shielded, so full of life and joyousness, so free from all pain or care, my heart swelled with thankfulness, that to them had been allotted no such fate, and with the desire to brighten the lot of this little unfortunate.
It was not so with her brother Tony: he was the jolliest, most active little cripple that ever hobbled round on one leg and a crutch. The celerity of his movements was something surprising; his voice was merry and cheery; and his ugly young face, despite the many hardships of his lot, generally wore a smile.
Now and then he would be seen with his face pressed against the glass, with a nod of good-fellowship to his sister or Johnny, or staring at such customers as happened to be within; and, if these proved to be Matty's patrons, he would watch the progress of the sale with great interest. Then he would turn to his roaster, and work it violently for a few moments, then be off to the curbstone or crossing, exchanging some, probably not very choice, joke with some other street-gamin, or the conductor or driver of a passing street-car.
The children, Allie and Daisy, made their investments while I was taking these observations, and Bessie was purchasing cut-flowers from the old German. She was a good German scholar, and delighted the heart of the old man with the familiar language of the fatherland, which flowed glibly from her tongue. The consequence was, that that politic young woman left the florist's with three times the amount of flowers that I had, although I had spent just twice as much money. But, then, I could not speak German.
"I am going to take my flowers to cousin Serena," I said, after we had left the florist's, and exchanged a word or two with jolly little Tony as we passed. "Will you come and see her, Bessie?"
Bessie assented, and the two little ones were only too glad to accompany us. A visit to cousin Serena was always a treat to them.
"And we will give her the peanuts we bought; she likes peanuts," said Daisy, who, as well as Allie, had maintained a silence, quite unusual with them, during several minutes.
"But we'd like her and all our people to understand," said Allie, loftily, "that we buy peanuts because of Jim, and not at all because of Matty. She's the most unchristianest child we ever saw; and I think her soul is hunchback, too, just as well as herself."
I had seen that Matty had repelled the advances of the children, who had wished to show her their dolls, and to be kind to her; and I endeavored to soothe them, and excuse her, by telling them how much she had to suffer, and how her disposition might have been spoiled by all that she had undergone.
But my words made no impression; the children were not to be mollified. Allie still wore an air of outraged and offended dignity; and Daisy not only maintained that solemn silence, but she looked grieved and hurt. Our little ones were not accustomed to be snubbed, and took it hard when such an experience did befall them; but there was a preternatural gravity about them now, which excited my wonder.
"Why, Daisy," exclaimed Bessie, suddenly, "what is the matter with your cheek? It is all red and scratched. What have you been doing to yourself?"
"She didn't do it to herself," said Allie, indignantly, and before Daisy could speak. "We didn't want to tell tales; but, sister Amy and cousin Bessie, I think you are not very noticeable, not to see Daisy's cheek before this. We are very much disappointed in you."
We apologized humbly, saying that Daisy's broad felt hat had prevented us from seeing the state of her cheek before this, and inquired more minutely into the cause thereof.
With some reluctance the children told, that, while Bessie and I had been making our purchases of flowers, they had, after buying their peanuts, tried to make themselves agreeable to Matty; but she had proved far from responsive, and would not even look at the beautiful dolls which they proffered for her admiration. Believing that shyness alone was the cause of this ungraciousness, and filled with pity for her condition, Daisy had at last raised Matty's arm and placed her doll within it, when the cripple suddenly turned upon her, and drew the nails of the disengaged hand viciously down poor little Daisy's soft cheek, while, with the other, she threw the doll from her. Fortunately, the doll was not hurt; but the insult to her cherished darling had grieved Daisy more deeply than did the injury to herself. She had heroically refrained from crying out, or making any complaint, lest Johnny should be moved to espouse her cause, and avenge it on Matty; but it had gone to her heart, and to Allie's as well, that, after such forbearance, neither Bessie nor I should have noticed her plight. However, we made up for it now by an outburst of indignation and resentment, especially violent on my part; whereupon, the sage Allie turned my own moral lecture, so lately delivered, upon myself, recalling my exhortations to the effect that we should be patient and forgiving with one so sorely afflicted as Matty Blair.
When we reached cousin Serena's, a little arnica and some French bonbons healed Daisy's wounds, both mental and physical; but when happiness and peace were once more restored, and she was seated upon Miss Craven's lap, with Allie beside her, and the box of chocolates between them, cousin Serena herself was discovered to be in a state of no small flutter and excitement.
"My dears," she said, "have you seen the 'Morning Bugle' of to-day?"
"No," I said, emphatically. "Father would not allow that paper to come into our house."
"Nor would my father," said Bessie.
"He says it is a scandalous sheet," I added. "He would not have it if there were not another newspaper in the city."
"Nor would I in my own house," said Miss Craven; "but," apologetically, "when one is in a boarding-house, my loves, you know one cannot control other people."
"I should think not," said Bessie. "It would be hard, indeed, if you were held responsible for the morals, or the literary tastes, of Mrs. Dutton's other boarders."
"But you dearest of Serenas," I said, "you know you need not read the 'Morning Bugle' because some of the other people in the house take it. O Serena, Serena," reproachfully, "I thought better things of you! That you should allow your mind and morals to be poisoned in that way!"
"My dear Amy! My dear children!" exclaimed the dear, matter-of-fact old lady, who never knew when she was being teased, which made it all the more delightful to tease her. "My dear loves, you do not think I read that scandalous sheet! Why, this morning I should have said that nothing would induce me to touch it; but when Mrs. Dutton came up with the paper in her hand, and said, 'Is not this meant for your friends?' what could I do? I had to take it, and read the paragraph; and, my dears, here it is. Oh, I have been so unhappy all day about it! What will your father and brother do? Mrs. Dutton let me cut this out, when she saw how I felt about it."
I took the scrap of paper which she handed to me; and the blood rushed to my heart, as I read an item with the following heading:—
"A MADISON-SQUARE SENSATION."
It was a garbled and scurrilous account of the late little incident at our house, implying, indeed openly asserting, that there had been a wholesale attempt at poisoning. Names were not given, not even the initials under which the reporters of such gossip often pretend to disguise publicity, and in a measure avoid responsibility; but, to the initiated, there could be no doubt that the paragraph referred to my unlucky cookery. Further particulars, it was said, would be given at a later date, although it was difficult to obtain information, as the parties concerned had endeavored to hush up the matter; and "money is a power in this community."
I turned faint and giddy as I read; while Bessie, who looked over my shoulder, burst into a tempest of indignant exclamation.
"Dear child! Don't turn so white, Amy, my dear; I am so sorry I showed it to you," cried Miss Craven, aghast at my alarm and agitation. "It is outrageous, scandalous; but it cannot hurt you: you see no names are given. But I shall never forgive myself, for I told Mrs. Dutton about the 'food for the gods'. She was interested, you know, when you were here with me learning to make it, and asked me how it turned out. But she is discretion itself; she would not say a word, nor let any one know—Oh! my dear child, what shall I do? What shall we all do?"
But the vivid imagination with which I was credited by my friends, and which not unseldom did cause me many a needless foreboding, was rampant now; and visions arose before me of disgrace to the family, if those dreadful newspaper people did, as they threatened, "give further particulars," and perhaps go to greater lengths, and even print my name in their horrible sheet. Should I ever be able to hold up my head again? I sat in dumb, terrified astonishment.
But here, Bessie, with her practical common sense, came to the front, and brought me back to reason.
"So that is the way you meant to make such a success of your 'food for the gods,' is it, you fraud?" she said, putting her hands on my shoulders, and playfully shaking me, "coming here and practising with cousin Serena, forsooth; and the rest of us experimenting with our first efforts. O Amy, Amy, I would not have believed it of you. And the gods themselves turned against you. Their mills did grind exceeding sure that time, and not so slowly, either; vengeance followed, swift and sure. You deserve this. Cheating play never prospers, Amy; and 'honesty is the best policy,' and all that."
Meanwhile, the children were gazing from one to another of their elders, not knowing what to make of all this,—Allie uncertain whether or no she had better call upon her ever ready tears, Daisy bewildered, and at a loss to know upon whom to bestow her sympathy, cousin Serena or me; for I had not yet put my miserable imaginings into words, and my startled looks alone appealed to her; while Miss Craven was in a half-frantic state of excitement; and, as for Bessie, she had at first appeared furiously angry, and now, with a sudden change, was turning the whole thing into a laugh. What could it all be about? wondered these innocents.
"Oh," I gasped at last, "what shall we do? What will papa say? What will uncle Rutherford say? What will Edward say? What will——"
"Yes, my dear, what will Fred say?" Bessie completed my unfinished sentence, as I paused, overwhelmed. "They will each and every man of them settle this matter, to the anguish of that editor, if I know them, and without one word of trouble or publicity to you, or any one of the family. You dear goose, you, to make such a personal matter of it. Why not, Jim; why not still more, Mary Jane?"
"I must go home," I said, feeling a burning desire to find at once my natural protectors, and to place the matter in their hands; and go I would and did, cousin Serena accompanying me, with Bessie and the children. We paused by the way, to knock at Mrs. Dutton's door, and to ask her if she had called the attention of any of the other boarders to that shameful paragraph.
Mrs. Dutton, motherly, gentle, refined, a lady in birth, education, and manner, and with a warm corner in her heart for the girls, big and little, who ran in and out on their visits to Miss Craven, assured us that she had not done so; and, in answer to my anxious inquiries, said, also, that she had never mentioned the incident of the "food for the gods" to any one.
It is not necessary to state, that my mankind were incensed when they saw the objectionable paragraph, although they did make light before me of my terrors and apprehensions; and it remained a fact, that Edward went at once to a friend and brother lawyer, to request him to take steps to prevent any further annoyance or developments in the matter. It so happened, said this gentleman, that he had a hold upon the editor of the "Morning Bugle," which that personage would be very sorry to have him use to his disadvantage; and he assured Edward that he would settle the affair in such a way that none of us need fear any future trouble or publicity.
How the thing had become known so as to afford matter for newspaper gossip, we could not tell, and did not much care to know; probably, through the talk of the servants, who had, of course, been acquainted with all the particulars of the unfortunate incident. Exaggeration, and a wilful desire to falsify a trifle to the discredit of those concerned had done the rest; but our lawyer friend's remedy proved effectual, and the "Morning Bugle" was silenced.
UNCLE RUTHERFORD'S PRIZE.
Uncle Rutherford, the most generous, the most benevolent, of men, had, nevertheless, the most exasperating way of carrying out his kindnesses. He would suggest or hint at something delightful, and which just met the views or desires of his hearers, dwell upon it for a time, then, after leading one to the very height of expectation, would apparently put the matter entirely from his thoughts, and for days, weeks, or months, nothing further would be heard of it.
To urge its fulfilment, or to endeavor to discover what his intentions might be, was never productive of any good; on the contrary, his intimates believed that this still further deferred the wished-for result. Even aunt Emily, his much beloved and trusted wife, had learned to possess her soul in patience, when he was supposed to be revolving any thing of this nature in his mind.
The question of Jim's future had never been alluded to by him since that day last September, when it had been discussed at our seaside-home; and now it was nearly Christmas, and Milly was on tenter-hooks to know if there was any thing favorable in store for her protege. She knew better, as I have said, than to hurry matters, or to ask any questions. That uncle Rutherford had not forgotten it, however, was evident from the way in which he watched, and apparently studied, the boy's ways and character; Jim all the while quite unconscious of such scrutiny.
"Milly," he said, on the evening of the day following that of the episode of the "Morning Bugle,"—"Milly, I see that boy Jim has a temper which needs some curbing."
Now, "a temper" was uncle Rutherford's bete noir, albeit his own was not of the most placid type, and that it was liable to be roused to what he called "just indignation," on that which to others appeared small provocation. The flash was always momentary, but it was severe while it lasted; and it had ever been a cross and a stumbling-block to him, spite of the polite name by which he called its manifestations. It was probably the recollection of the trouble it had brought to him, and of the struggles which even now it cost him, an elderly man, which made him so intolerant of its existence in others, especially the young. It is not necessary for the reader to quote the oft-repeated proverb about dwellers in glass houses, for uncle Rutherford was perfectly conscious of the exceeding fragility of his own panes; and his only wish was to warn and help those who were cursed with a fiery, impetuous spirit like his own.
That Jim was a victim to this, no one could deny, and Milly did not attempt to dispute it now; she merely assented meekly, and acknowledged that Thomas and Bill were constantly rescuing him from street-fights, and other escapades of that nature. And there were times when, in some of his rages with his fellow-servants, the raised tones of his furious voice had penetrated to the upper regions, and called for interference from the higher powers; but these occasions were becoming more and more rare. His devotion and loyalty to Milly and the other members of the family who had befriended him were not infrequently the occasion of these outbursts; for, at the smallest real or fancied injury or slight to any one among us, he was up in arms, and his tongue and his fists were only too ready to avenge us. He was very impatient, too, of any allusion by others to his own origin, or to the state of degradation from which Milly had rescued him and Bill, although he would discuss it more or less freely with her, and with his boon companion and chum.
"What has Jim been doing now, uncle?" asked Milly; her hopes for the advancement of the boy through uncle Rutherford's means falling, as she wondered if he were noticing only to find out the flaws in a by no means faultless character.
"Just that; been in a street-fight, or what would have proved a street-fight, if I had not come upon the scene just in time to call him to his senses, and to order him into the house instanter," said our uncle; "and, from what I could learn, he attacked a boy much larger than himself, on very small provocation,—merely, that the boy disputed his claim to the name of Livingstone, by which it appears he chooses to dub himself."
"He does not know his own name," said Milly, apologetically.
"That is no reason that he should call himself by yours," rejoined uncle Rutherford.
"It is something of the old feeling of feudal times, or that which used to make our Southern slaves adopt the surnames of their masters, I think," said Edward. "Jim thinks that 'them as belongs to Livingstones ought to be called Livingstone.'"
"Captain Yorke proposed to him to take his," said I, "but Jim declined, on the ground that Yorke was not so nice a name as Livingstone for the 'President of these States.' He has it in his heart, too, to confer honor upon our family name by the reflected glories of the position to which he aspires."
"The boy's spirit of gratitude and appreciation, at least, are worthy of all credit," said aunt Emily.
"And, whatever he may owe to Milly and the family, he has already repaid the debt with interest," said mother; her thoughts, doubtless, recurring to Jim's heroic rescue of the youngling of her flock—her baby Daisy—from a frightful death; to say nothing of his sturdy fidelity to the welfare of our household and property under circumstances of great temptation and fear during the last summer.
"I had thought," said uncle Rutherford, slowly, and Milly's face lighted up; was it coming at last? "I had thought, if you judged well of it," turning to mother, "of having him go to the public grammar-school for this year, and there to test his capabilities, not only in the way of learning, but even more in his power and desire to control this temper of his. If he gives satisfaction, and proves himself worthy of it, let him continue at school until he is fitted for it, when I will give him a scholarship which I own in the School of Mines. At present it is filled, but will fall vacant about the time that Jim will be ready to take it. There is another boy on whom I have my eye, who has the same bent for a calling that Jim has, and whom I wish to befriend and help; but he, too, has faults which I hope to see him correct,—faults in some respects more serious than Jim's,—and the prize will lie between these two. Whoever proves himself most worthy and capable, the most steady, reliable, and best master of himself, shall take the scholarship. But, if Jim goes regularly to school, he will, of course, have to resign, in a great measure, his duties as a household servant. Are you willing to have him do this? For I do not wish or intend to inconvenience you. What is your opinion of the whole matter?"
"Ask Milly," said mother, "she is the arbitress of his fate."
And uncle Rutherford looked to that young damsel.
"What say you, Milly?"
There was little need of words. Milly's sparkling eyes and flushed cheeks spoke for her. This was so much beyond any thing she had hoped for on behalf of the boy, that at first it seemed to her almost too good to be true. And, yet, there were lions in the way. And, after a moment's consideration, she answered, somewhat hesitatingly,—
"I hardly know what to say, sir."
We all looked in astonishment. Most of the family thought that Milly's hopes and ideas for the future of her proteges were rather quixotic and unreasonable, aiming at taking them out of their proper sphere. But here her clear judgment and good sense saw some objections to uncle Rutherford's plan.
"You are very kind, more than kind, uncle," she continued. "Such an offer is, indeed, a 'chance' for Jim such as I had never dreamed of, and there could be no question between this, and his training as a household servant; but I fear for the effect of the emulation upon him. If he is to gain this prize by outstripping or defeating another, the spirit of victory for victory's sake will take possession of him, and he will make every thing give way to it."
"Then he will not prove himself worthy of the prize," said uncle Rutherford, who had a fancy for inciting young people to efforts of this nature, and who was always holding out some prize to be striven for.
"I don't know," said Milly, a little wistfully; "he is so impulsive, so eager, so almost passionate, in the pursuit of any object on which he has set his mind, that I am afraid too much of the spirit of rivalry will enter into his efforts to win this."
"And," put in Norman, "he will be so cock-a-hoop if he is set to study for a scholarship, that there will be no bearing him, and——"
But Norman was brought to an abrupt silence, by a quick reprimand from father; while uncle Rutherford took no notice of the interruption, but continued to urge upon Milly the acceptance of his project. It undoubtedly presented so many advantages for Jim, that these finally outweighed her scruples, and she agreed thereto with earnest thanks.
"Who is the other fellow, uncle?" asked Norman the irrepressible, "any one whom we know?"
"Yorke's eldest grandson," said uncle Rutherford.
"That sneak!" ejaculated Norman.
"So that is your opinion of him," said uncle, turning towards Norman. "Well, I have not myself much confidence in the boy. There is something about him which I do not like; he is not frank and outspoken. He is a bright lad, however, ambitious, and disposed to make the most of any opportunities which fall in his way; and, for old Yorke's sake, I would like to help him. Yorke pinched and saved and denied himself, to give that boy's father an education, and illy he was repaid by the graceless scoundrel, who dissipated his father's hard-earned savings, and half broke his heart, and that of his poor mother. The captain is building on this boy's future, now; and, if he does not show himself fit for a college course, he may, at least, when he has had sufficient schooling, be taught a trade, and share the burden of the family support. We shall see which will win the prize, Jim or Theodore."
Douglas began to laugh in his quiet way, but Norman spoke out again.
"Won't there be jolly rows, when those two come to be pitted against one another," he said. "Either one will do his best to keep the other from winning it, even if he don't care for it himself."
There was too much reason to believe that Norman's prophecy would prove true. From the time that Theodore Yorke had appeared at his grandfather's, a pronounced state of antagonism had declared itself between the two boys; and this had continued up to the time of our leaving the Point. Jim, who was a great favorite with the old captain and his wife, seemed to look upon Theodore as an interloper, and trespasser upon his preserves; and the latter at once resented the familiar footing on which he found Jim established in his grandfather's house, although he himself had never been there before, and had hitherto been a stranger to all of his father's family.
It had required the exercise of the strictest authority to maintain any thing like a semblance of peace during the remainder of our stay at the seaside; and there were occasional outbreaks, which tended to any thing but comfort to Captain Yorke's household. Our house and grounds were forbidden to Theodore Yorke, in consequence of this feud; but Jim's duties called him, at times, to the home of the old sailor, whence he was accustomed to bring the daily supply of milk for the consumption of the family, and where he had been wont to linger as long as he dared when sent on this errand. More than once had he returned with a black eye, cut lip, or other adornment of a warlike nature; and several milk-pails had been degraded from things of usefulness, by reason of being used as weapons of offence and defence.
And, although he knew all this, here was uncle Rutherford actually setting up these two already belligerent lads as rivals in the race for learning and character, with such a prize in the future to the winner. His object would defeat itself. Was it to be supposed that tempers would be controlled, that any little tendency to take advantage of an enemy would be smothered, under these circumstances?
"Dear uncle," said Milly, whose face had fallen when she heard who was to be the rival candidate, "Jim is my charge; and you will not think me ungracious, if I say that I cannot consent to let him enter the lists against Theodore Yorke. I know only too well that it would arouse all his bad passions. As I said before, rivalry in any case would not be best for him, but, against Theodore, it would be simply ruinous; and I would rather see him remain under Thomas's tuition, learning to be a thorough and efficient servant, and to control his temper because right is right, than to have him take the first honors in any college in the world, if these are to be purchased by the fostering of an envy and jealousy which I am sure would be the result of your plan."
"Saint Millicent is right, as usual, when her brands snatched from the burning are concerned," said father, putting his arm over her shoulder. "I quite agree with her, Rutherford. We shall always see that both those boys, Jim and Bill, are well provided for; and neither of them shall lack for such an amount of education as may fit him to make his way in some respectable calling. To Jim we owe a debt which far outbalances the benefit he has received at our hands." And papa's eye turned, with lingering tenderness, to the far corner of the room, where Allie and Daisy, unconscious of the weighty matters which were being discussed among their elders, were absorbed in happy play with dolls and dog. "When he is old enough and steady enough, we will set him up in some line of business which he may choose—eh, Milly?—that is, if he shows any aptitude for a mercantile life; and he may work his way thence to the Chief Magistracy, if he find the path which he imagines lies open to him. As for Bill, he runs Wall Street, you know; and his voice, and talent for music, would make his way in the world. There is something that must be cultivated."
"Do you mean, Millicent, that you are actually going to refuse my offer for Jim?" said uncle Rutherford, in a tone of deep displeasure; for he did not like to be circumvented when he had set his mind upon a thing, especially if it chanced to be one of his philanthropic schemes. And that same quick temper, which he had found his own bane, showed itself now, in the flush which mounted to his brow, and the sudden flash which shot from his eyes. "Then, my dear, all I have to say is——"
That was all he had to say; and Milly escaped something which would have hurt her feelings, and which uncle Rutherford himself would have regretted when another moment should have passed, for aunt Emily laid her hand upon his arm, half-whispering, as a noted imperial wife was once wont to do to her impetuous and fiery lord, "Nicholas, Nicholas!" and with a like, calming effect, for further words were arrested on his lips.
There was a little awkward silence for a moment; then, as if by a sudden inspiration, uncle Rutherford said pleasantly,—
"How absurd we all are! What need for either boy to know that he is a rival to the other? Put the reward before each one, and tell him that the winning of it depends upon himself, and then we shall see."
So, then, was it settled, to the satisfaction of all; uncle Rutherford, it is true, a little disappointed that the stimulus of emulation was not to enter into the contest; and the discussion was here brought to a close by the appearance of Bill with a box of flowers "for Miss Amy."
But there was a factor in the case, upon which we had not counted.
In the privacy of their room over the stable, Bill and Jim held converse that night; and this was the substance of their communing, divested of unnecessary adornments of speech, with which those young gentlemen were wont to garnish their conversation when removed from the restraints of polite society.
"There's a big thing up for you, Jim," said Bill. "You'll hear of it yourself soon, I guess, from Miss Milly or Mr. Rutherford; but I got first word of it."
"What is it?" asked Jim.
"You're goin' to school; you and Theodore Yorke," said Bill.
"I ain't goin' to no school with Theodore Yorke," interrupted Jim. "There ain't no school would hold me an' him."
"Yes, you are, if you know what's good for yourself," said Bill; "and there's some kind of a big prize for whichever comes out best man."
"Then I'll go, if Miss Milly lets me; an' beat him, too, if it was just for the sake of beatin'," said Jim, verifying the prophecy of his young mistress. "But how do you know so much, an' what do you mean, Bill?"
"I didn't hear all they was sayin', and I s'pose I wasn't meant to hear none of it," answered Bill. "It was all the fam'ly folks, 'cept the children, was talkin'. Mr. Brady sent me to open the front-door when the bell rang, and it was some flowers for Miss Amy; and, when I went to the door with 'em, they was all talkin' so busy they didn't hear me knock. I couldn't make out just what it all was; but you're to get schoolin', you and Theodore, and whichever does the best is to get more schoolin', and some prize at the end when the schoolin's done; but Miss Milly, she didn't want you nor him to know you was fightin' for it, 'cause she didn't think 'twould be good for you. She thought you'd be too set on it, maybe, just to spite Theodore. She knows him and you, you see."
"Yes, she might ha' knowed I wouldn't let him get the best of me," said Jim, viciously. "And you say I wasn't to be let know I was set on to beat him."
"No, them was Miss Milly's orders; and I take it Mr. Rutherford didn't like it too much," answered Bill. "He wanted you to know, and be set on yer mettle. But Miss Milly, she's boss of us, you know, and she got her own way. So, as I say, they ain't goin' to tell you nothin' about Theodore."
"Then, maybe you oughtn't to ha' told me," said Jim, musingly. "I don't believe you ought."
"I don't see the harm," said Bill. "I wasn't told not to tell; they didn't know I heard."
"All the same," said Jim, "you oughtn't to ha' told, when Miss Milly didn't want me to know. I am glad I do know, so as I can set out to beat Theodore; and, Bill, this is goin' to give me a first-rate chance. You see if I don't get to be President, now. An', when I do, you'll see what'll be done to Theodore Yorke."
"What?" asked Bill.
"I don' know, I've got to think," answered Jim; "but jus' you wait till I get to be top man of these States. Won't Theodore get it!"
"Miss Milly didn't want you to know, 'cause she thought you'd be so set against him, and she thought you was bad enough that way a'ready," said Bill.
"I feel kinder sneaky to know it when she didn't want me to," said Jim. "I guess, after all, I'm sorry you tole me, Bill; you hadn't a right to, I guess. You come by it yourself kinder listenin'."
Here the question of conscience and honor was broken in upon by the coachman, who slept in an adjoining room, and who bade the boys cease their chattering, as they disturbed him.
Uncle Rutherford had left to Milly the telling of his plans for Jim's future; and the following morning she called the boy to her, and set them forth before him.
He was to go to school this winter, beginning as soon as the Christmas holidays were over. With many earnest warnings, she pressed upon him the necessity for self-control, as well as attention to his studies; telling him of the prize to be won if his course should prove satisfactory to Mr. Rutherford, but making no mention, of course, of the other candidate. He promised over and over again, that he would do his very best to prove a credit to her, and to make her "awful proud" of him in the future, and that she should have no cause for complaint, either with his temper, or his lack of diligence.
That he was enchanted with the opportunity thus offered to him, there could be no doubt, but he did not appear as much surprised as Milly imagined that he would be; and there was something in his manner, which, at the time, struck Milly as rather strange,—a something repressed, as it were, but excited; and, all the while, there was a gleam of mischief in his eye. In the light of later developments, the cause of this was made plain; but now it was a mystery.
"And now, Jim," continued his young mistress, when she had told him of all that lay within his grasp, and had added a gentle and persuasive modicum of moral suasion,—"now that you are going out into the world to make a way, it may be a name, for yourself, you must choose what that name shall be. You remember," soothingly, for this was a sore point with the boy,—"you remember that we know you only as Jim."
"It's Livin'stone, Jim—no, I mean James Rutherford Livin'stone," said the boy, decidedly. "I'm goin' to put in the Rutherford on account of Mr. Rutherford bein' so good to me, Miss Milly; an' won't you an' him be set up when you see Rutherford Livin'stone names onto a President of these States? I ain't never goin' to disgrace them names, that I ain't."
But Milly, mindful of the prejudices of her relatives, and of the objections which she foresaw from both sides of the family, found it needful to decline the compliment. In order to avoid hurting the boy's pride, however, she went about it most diplomatically.
"Do you not think, Jim," she said, "that it would be a good thing for you to call yourself by the name of Washington, the first and greatest of our Presidents?"
"Jim George Washington, Miss Milly?" answered the lad. "Well, that would sound nice; but, you see, I wanted to put the compliment on you, an' to show what lots of gratitude I've got for you an' your folks, Miss Milly."
"The best compliment you could pay to me, and to my care for you, Jim, would be to show yourself in any way worthy of bearing the name of that great and good man," said Milly, non-plussed how to carry her point, and still not to wound her charge. "And," she continued, "that name might always prove a reminder to you of the truth and uprightness, the bravery and self-control, which distinguished him."
"Miss Milly," Jim broke forth, irrelevantly, it would seem, "you know Bill gets time for lots of readin' an' studyin' down at the office. When Mr. Edward don't have any thin' for him to do, an' he might be just loafin' round, he's doin' his 'rithmetic, or his jography or spellin', an', if he wants a bit of help, Mr. Edward gives it to him, if he ain't too busy just then; so Bill, he's comin' on with his learnin' heaps faster than me; he's gettin' splendid at figgers, an' he reads the paper, too, on'y Mr. Edward, he don't like him to read the murders an' the hangin's, and them very interestin' things; but Bill read the other day in the paper how a man said George Washington had a big temper, an' could get as mad—as mad as any thin'. But Bill, he said he'd heard Mr. Edward an' some other gentleman talkin' 'bout how folks was always tryin' now to be upsettin' of hist'ry; an' Bill says he reckons that 'bout George Washington was just another upsettin', an' him an' me ain't goin' to believe it."
"That's right, Jim, keep your faith in Washington, and show that you do so by adopting his name," said Milly.
Do not let it be thought that Milly slighted the Father of her country, by thus turning over to him the "compliment" she declined for herself and her family; for, in the multitude of namesakes who have helped to perpetuate that illustrious memory, poor Jim could reflect but an infinitesimal share of credit or discredit.
Jim pondered. The advantages of the world-renowned historic cognomen were, doubtless, great. But the "compliment" to his friends! could he defraud them of that?
Suddenly his face lighted; a brilliant idea had struck him. He could combine both.
"Miss Milly," he said, "I'll tell you. Now, I'll be named James Rutherford Livin'stone Washin'ton, an' stick to that till I get inter President polyticks; then I'll put the Livin'stone last, James Rutherford Washin'ton Livin'stone, so folks'll be sure I belong to you. Bill says folks can change their names, if they has a mind to, when they come twenty-one. Bill's learned lots of law down to Wall Street, Miss Milly; he's up in it, I can tell you."
"Very well, that will be best," said Milly, content to defer to the doubtful future the risk of having the family names appear in "President polyticks;" and so it was arranged, and her charge prepared to face the world as James Washington.
Allie stood before the glorious wood fire, around which we were all gathered awaiting the summons to dinner, gazing intently into its glowing depths, and evidently sunk in such deep meditation as to be oblivious, for the moment, of her surroundings, and of what she was doing; for her doll, a new and much prized Christmas-gift from uncle Rutherford, and a beauty, hung disregarded, head downwards, in the hand which had sunk unconsciously by her side, while, with the forefinger of the other pressed upon her rosy little lips, she seemed to be pondering some weighty matter.
Daisy lay stretched with her doll upon the tiger-skin, and presently, looking up, roused Allie from her distraction.
"Why, Allie," she exclaimed, "what you finking about so much? Serena Victoria is most upside down. Just look at her!"
Allie reversed her doll to its proper position; and, as she settled its costume, gave Daisy her answer, by putting into words the thought which was vexing the minds of some of her elders, but addressed herself to me, as a kindred spirit.
"Amy, do you b'lieve Mrs. Yorke will be very fit-to-be-seen to take out walking or driving on the avenue, or in the park?"
"Why, Allie," I said, weakly evading the question, and also answering by another, "do you not think your friend Mrs. Yorke is always fit to be seen?"
Still, Allie replied by a fresh query.
"Amy, have you seen Mrs. Yorke's best bonnet? her 'sabbath bonnet,' she calls it." And she turned upon me large eyes, full of solemn meaning.
Yes, I had, indeed, seen Mrs. Yorke's "sabbath bonnet;" and it was the recollection of that appalling article of attire which at the present moment was weighing on my own spirits.
Here Daisy piped up, also giving voice to the sentiments of her sisters.
"Mrs. Yorke is very nice," she said, "and we love her lots, but in her Sunday clothes she don't seem like Mrs. Yorke."
It was even so. Mrs. Yorke in her every-day costume, and Mrs. Yorke in gorgeous Sunday array, were two—and "oh the difference to me!"
"How do you know," said uncle Rutherford, "but that Santa Claus himself may have taken the matter in hand? Mrs. Yorke's Sunday bonnet may not have been to his taste, and he may have provided her with another."
"I hope, then," answered Allie, sceptically, "that he hasn't brought her a brown felt with red feathers and a terra-cotta bow."
"That would not have improved matters much, would it?" asked uncle Rutherford, with a twinkle in his eye. "No; I think his taste would run to black, perhaps. What do you say, aunt Emily?"
"I should say his fancy would lie in a black felt, with black velvet trimmings and feathers," answered aunt Emily. "How would that do, Allie?"
"Very well," said Allie, "if he brought her a black dress, too, 'stead of a' old plaid."
"And a new cloak, too," put in Daisy. "Her's isn't very pretty; I saw it once; but I'd just as lieve have Mrs. Yorke anyhow she was."
The grammar might be childishly faulty, but the feeling of the speech was without a flaw, and from the heart Daisy would have accepted Mrs. Yorke as she was, and thought it no shame or embarrassment to escort her anywhere; but bonny Allie was a lady of high degree, with an eye for appearances and the proprieties, and Mrs. Yorke's antiquated and incongruous gala costume would sorely have tried her soul, although she would doubtless have borne her company with a good grace, and with no outward show of the pangs she might be enduring. How greatly she was relieved now could be judged by the laughing light which sparkled in her eyes, the dimples which showed themselves at the corners of her mouth, and the ecstatic way in which she hugged the long-suffering doll.
"She'll be lovely and fit-to-be-seen now!" she exclaimed. "Won't she, Daisy? She'll look just like mammy."
"But," said Daisy, doubtfully, unconscious of the knowing gaze which her older little sister had fixed upon uncle Rutherford's face, a gaze which he returned with interest—"but did Santa Claus bring Mrs. Yorke all those things, Allie?"
"Yes, he did; a Santa Claus did; I'm perfectly sure he did," said Allie. "But they didn't come in her stocking, or grow on a Christmas-tree, either, I know."
"I fink he was real mean if he brought her all those, and didn't bring her a muff and some gloves and a' umbulla, too," said Daisy.
Before the laugh, which followed, had subsided, Thomas appeared at one entrance to announce dinner, and mammy at the other to carry off her charges. Full of the news they had to impart to her, of Santa Claus's supposed benefactions to Mrs. Yorke, they went more willingly than usual.
Yes, Christmas had come and gone,—Christmas with all its sacred, hallowed associations, its pastimes and pleasures, its loving remembrances and family gatherings; and never had a dearer and happier one been passed beneath our roof. No, nor one more productive of choice and beautiful gifts from each one to each; and the little ones had outdone themselves for the blessed and beloved holiday.
And it was an article of the family creed, both on the Livingstone and Rutherford sides, that the good things which had been so bountifully showered upon our pathway in life should be shared with others, especially at this season of peace and good-will. So it was no surprise, although it was a great relief to some of us, to learn that Mrs. Yorke had been made presentable for the visit to the city, which would involve some attentions on our part that might have proved embarrassing had she appeared in her wonted holiday costume. Mother and aunt Emily had been the two good fairies who had wrought the transformation through the medium of a Christmas-box, which had contained bountiful gifts for the whole Yorke family.
And now Captain and Mrs. Yorke were to come to the city on the very next day, accompanied by the—to Jim, at least—objectionable Theodore. Mrs. Yorke, whose crippled condition sadly interfered with her comfort and usefulness in life, was to be placed immediately under the care of our own family physician, who had become interested in her case during a visit paid to us at the seashore during the previous summer; and aunt Emily had secured a comfortable abiding-place for her, not very far from our own home, where the children, whom she adored, and mammy could often run in to see her, and where the elder members of the family could now and then pay her a visit. The captain was to remain with her, or not, as his inclination might prompt; but uncle Rutherford thought, that, the novelty of city sights and sounds once exhausted, the old man would prefer to return to his accustomed haunts by the sea. Theodore was to board with his grandparents, and to begin school with the New Year; at the same time, and—alas! for the inexpediency of uncle Rutherford's arrangements—in the same school, with Jim.
Such were the plans which had been made for the Yorkes, and the junior portion of our household were in a state of eager expectation over their approaching arrival; the desire to witness the old seaman's first impressions of a city life, and his own conduct therein, being strong within us.
"We'll give him a good time, and get lots of fun out of it for ourselves," said Norman and Douglas, who proposed to be his pioneers.
As for Bill and Jim, there was no telling what manner of projects they might have formed for his edification, and their own amusement and his; and father considered it necessary to bid Milly give them a word of warning not to practise on the credulity of the old sailor, as they had at times been wont to do while we were at the seashore.
"And what about the mercantile enterprise of that youth, with so many irons in the fire?" asked uncle Rutherford, when dinner was over, and the door closed behind the retreating servants, while we still lingered around the table; the little girls having been allowed to come down to dessert. "How does the peanut-business flourish, Milly? You are posted, I suppose."
"Not so thoroughly as Allie and Daisy," answered Milly. "I understand that it is flourishing; but, if you wish for minute particulars, you must apply to them."
Allie, hearing what was passing, forthwith dived into the depths of her small pocket, and produced from thence a miniature account-book, saying triumphantly as she did so,—
"Jim's sold the first bag of peanuts, and bought another, and then sold that; and now he's bought two at once, and"—opening the book, and poring over it,—"and he's made—see, uncle Rutherford, here it is," and she pointed out a row of crooked, childish, illegible figures; to be understood, doubtless, by the initiated, but Greek to uncle Rutherford.
"How does the boy manage to keep account of his business?" asked uncle Rutherford, returning the book to Allie, as wise as when she handed it to him, but not confessing his ignorance.
"By preparing himself for a dyspeptic existence," said Milly. "He swallows his meals in haste, Thomas says, and rushes from the table, and around to the Fourth Avenue to receive Tony's report, and be back in time for his work. Nor is he always quite in time, I imagine; but Thomas is indulgent and patient, and Bill helps him. I understand that the little cripples are really making fair sales, and Jim is reaping quite a harvest."
"Yes, uncle Rutherford knows that by my 'count-book," said unsuspicious Allie. "Read it aloud, please, uncle, so they can all hear."
"Hm—hm, yes, my dear; but I do not like to read aloud after dinner," said uncle Rutherford, still forbearing to enlighten her innocence.
"It isn't so much reading," murmured Allie, rather hurt, for she was an over-sensitive child, prone to imagine slights, and, as we know, given to ready tears. "I'll tell you, people;" and she proceeded to give the amount made by Jim since he had established the peanut-stand, with its various divisions for the separate objects of his benevolence and ambition. The latter figured under the head of "For to be President;" and if her accounts, or, rather, Jim's as set down by her, were to be trusted, he had really done very well in the stand business.
"We know two deforms," quoth Daisy, solemnly, as Allie closed; "one deform is very nice and good, and the ofer is horrid and scratching. One is Captain Yorke's, and the ofer is Jim's peanut-stand girl. But we have to be good to the cross deform, 'cause God made her that way. Allie and I are going to try and make her nice and pleasant, too."
"She thinks we're proud, and only like to go to see her, and show her our nice dolls and things, to make her feel sorry," said Allie; "Tony said so. And she turns her hump at us, and makes faces at us, and won't think we want to be good to her. She thinks we're proud at her, 'cause she has to sell peanuts."
"You go and sell peanuts, then, and show her you're not too proud to do it," said Douglas, carelessly, and certainly with no thought that the suggestion would ever be acted upon.
"We needn't to have been afraid about Mrs. Yorke's fit-to-be-seenedness," said Allie, hopping delightedly around on one foot, the day after the arrival of the Yorkes, and on her return from her first visit to them. "Why, she does look so nice; just as nice as mammy in her Sunday clothes. She looks almost lady."
"Yes, she does, and it don't make any dif'ence, if she behaves lady," said Daisy; "and I fink she always behaves very lady. Mamma," with a sudden and startling change of subject, "if somebody told you you could do somefing to help somebody, oughtn't you to do it?"
"Yes, my darling, if you can," answered mother, rather oblivious, to tell the truth, of the child's earnestness in putting the question; for she was at the moment writing an answer to a note which had been just brought in.
"And it's very nice to do the kind fing, and not speak about it, isn't it?" questioned Daisy.
"Very, dear," answered mother, still only half hearing the little one, and far from thinking that she was supposed to be giving her sanction to a most unheard of proceeding.
Mrs. Yorke's attire and general appearance proved satisfactory even to fastidious Miss Allie and myself; indeed, she would have passed muster among any hundred elderly women of the respectable middle class; and there was nothing whatever about her to attract special attention, unless one turned again for a second look at the kind, motherly old face. There was a sort of natural refinement about her, too, which made her adapt herself with some ease to her unaccustomed surroundings.
As for the captain, he was a hopeless subject for those who had an eye to fashion or the commonplace. No amount of attempts at smoothing or trimming him down, no efforts at personal adornment in his case, could make of him any thing but what he was, here in the great city, as well as at his seaside home, the typical old sea-faring man, rough, hearty, simple, and good-natured, garrulous to excess, as we had often proved, and not to be polished, or made what he called "cityfied."
"'Tain't no sort of use whitewashin' the old hulk," he asserted; "an' I guess my Sunday clo's, as is good enough for the Lord's meetin'-house up to the Pint, is got to be good enough for these messed-up city streets; an' ye can't make no bricky-bracky outer me."
To the boys he was a source of unmixed delight, both to our own young brothers, and to the two servant-lads; and no care for the eyes or comments of the world troubled any one of them when he happened to be under their escort. And little Daisy was equally independent, or perhaps too innocent to take any heed of such matters.
A feverish, influenza cold confined both Allie and mammy to the house for a day or two soon after the arrival of the Yorkes in the city, and Daisy was consequently obliged to be confided to the care of others when she took her walks.
She had been out driving one afternoon with mother and aunt Emily; and they, having an engagement for "a tea," to which they could not take her, brought her home. At the foot of our front-steps stood Captain Yorke, complacently basking in the almost April sunshine, and amusing himself by gazing up and down the street, and across the park, on which our house fronted. It was an exceptionally beautiful day for the time of year, soft, balmy, and springlike.
"Ye won't git another like it to-morrer; two sich don't come together this time o' year," said the captain, as mother, greeting him, remarked on the loveliness of the weather. "Ye kin look out for a gale to close out the year with, I reckon. There's mischief brewin' over yonder," pointing to where a bank of clouds lay low upon the southwestern horizon. "Ye'd best take yer fill of bein' out doors to-day."
"Yes," said Daisy, pleadingly, "it's so nice and pleasant. Mamma, couldn't some of the servants take me out a little more? I don't want to go in yet."
"Leave her along of me, Mis' Livin'stone," said the old man. "Me an' her'll take care of one another."
Daisy beamed at the proposition; and mother had not the heart to refuse her, or the old sailor.
"Well," she said, "you may stay out a while with the captain; but only on condition that you both promise not to go far from the house, but remain either on the Square, or on this block. You see, captain," she continued, "Daisy is too little to pilot you about, and you are too much of a stranger in the city to be a guide for her beyond the neighborhood of home. If you want to leave her, or she tires, just take her to the door, and ring the bell for her. Or perhaps you will go in yourself, and see Allie and mammy.—They cannot go astray or get into any trouble so near home," she said to aunt Emily, when she had given her orders, and the carriage moved on, leaving Daisy and the captain standing side by side on the pavement, the little one with her tiny hand clasped in the toil-worn palm of the veteran.
"Impossible!" said aunt Emily; "and the captain is as good as any nurse, you know. I would quite as soon trust her with him as with mammy."
But aunt Emily, and mother too, had forgotten to take into account the captain's deficiency of a sense of the fitness of things,—at least, of matters appertaining to a city-life.
He and Daisy rambled contentedly up and down the block, from one corner to another, for some time, she prattling away to him, and enlightening his ignorance so far as she was able, until, at last, they unfortunately touched upon Jim's affairs.
"Let's go round an' buy some peanuts outer Jim's stand," said the captain. "'Tain't far, ye know."
"No," answered obedient Daisy, "not far; but mamma said we mustn't go way from sight of our house, fear we would be lost, and we'd be way from sight of it if we went to Jim's peanut-stand. But, Captain Yorke, Matty is cross wif Allie and me, 'cause she finks we're proud 'cause we don't sell peanuts; and Douglas says I ought to sell peanuts, so she'll know I'm not proud. Do you fink we could sell a few peanuts now? I know where Jim keeps 'em."
"Wal, I reckon ye kin sell peanuts, my pretty, if ye have 'em to sell," answered the old man, seeing no reason why Daisy should not have her own way, and perhaps scenting a little diversion for himself in the project; "but if ye can't go round to t'other street, how are ye goin' to get 'em?"
"Oh, Jim keeps 'em—his bags of peanuts—out in a pantry under our back-stoop," said Daisy; "and ev'y morning Tony comes for some to sell. We'll go in, and ask some of the servants to give us some, and then we'll sell 'em."
If "some of the servants" had been found, this unprecedented plan would have met with due interference; but it so happened, that they were all scattered at their various avocations in different parts of the house, and none were in the kitchen save old Mary Jane, to whom Daisy knew better than to appeal on behalf of any interests of Jim's. She was busy grinding coffee; and the noise of the mill prevented her from hearing the footsteps of the invaders of her domain, who passed through the basement-hall, and out of the back-door, where, although they found no one to help them, Daisy, to her great delight, discovered the key of the closet in the lock. To open the door, bid the captain take down an empty basket, which hung on a hook, and to fill this with peanuts from an open bag, was but the work of a few moments; the captain's huge hands scooping up the nuts in quantities, and soon accomplishing the task. Then, arming themselves with a tin cup, which they also found near at hand, by way of a measure, the two conspirators once more stole past the unconscious Mary Jane, and out into the street, the captain bearing the basket.
"Shall we sell 'em on our stoop?" asked Daisy, all this time quite guiltless of any intention of wrong-doing.
"I reckon ye'd best go down to the corner there, where the two streets comes together," answered the captain, pointing to where a much-frequented cross-street intersected our avenue. "Them's my opinions, for I see lots more folks walkin' that way than this."
Unfortunately, Daisy saw the force of his reasoning; and the two innocents had presently established themselves, quite to their own satisfaction, on this public corner.
It was not long before they attracted sufficient attention, for they were two rather unusual looking figures to be engaged in such an occupation, to say nothing of the contrast between them; the weather-beaten, rugged, by no means handsome old sailor standing guard, as it were, over the daintily dressed little child with her beautiful, beaming face, and winning ways.
Custom flowed in without delay, the captain not hesitating to hail the passers-by, and to direct their attention to the tiny saleswoman before him; while she, with her sweet voice, pleading, "Please buy some peanuts to help some poor children;" and her attractive air and appearance was irresistible.
Fortunately for the pecuniary interests of the firm, or, rather, of the capitalist whom they represented, Daisy knew from the boys the price that the peanuts should be; and the captain, who, spite of his simplicity, had a keen eye to business, and who was accustomed to peddling about "the Point" during the summer season, constituted himself cash-taker, and saw that she received her dues.
But public curiosity was naturally excited by the unusual situation, and presently both Daisy and Captain Yorke were besieged with questions, which the latter resented as implying a distrust of his ability to care for the child. Truly, it might well be doubted. But this was no check upon custom, and the stock in the basket at Daisy's feet speedily dwindled down. The bottom had nearly been reached, when a policeman sauntered by on the other side of the street; and, being attracted by the gathering on the corner,—for those who came to buy, in many cases remained to admire,—he crossed over to ascertain the cause. Great was his astonishment, and small his approbation, when he discovered the state of things; for he knew our children by sight, and could not but be aware that such doings as these could not be with the approbation of Daisy's family.
"Why, that is—isn't that Mr. Livingstone's little girl?" he asked of the captain.
The captain nodded; he was too busily engaged in keeping an eye on the money Daisy received, to do more.
"Well, if ever I saw a thing like this!" ejaculated the guardian of the peace. "To see a little lady like that—my dear, do your pa and ma know what you're a doing?"
"No, not yet," answered Daisy; who looked with cordial eye upon all policemen, as being, according to her code, the defenders of the right, and avengers of the wrong.—"No, not yet; I'll tell them by and by, and they'll be glad, 'cause they like me to do a kindness, and not speak about it."
"Will they?" said the policeman, with a clearer insight into the fitness of things, than was possessed by Daisy or the old sailor. "Now, my little lady, you've got to go straight home; I know what your pa and ma will say. You come right along home, like a good child."
"Now, you let her alone," interposed Captain Yorke. "'Tain't no case for the law, 'sposin' her folks don't like it; an' I'll wager they do."
"You old lunatic," said the policeman, "what are you encouragin' of her for? Who ever saw a little lady like that sellin' peanuts in the streets! I ain't goin' to allow it nohow; it's drawin' a crowd; and, as to the law, she nor you ain't any right to be sellin' 'em here without a license.—Come along home, little Miss."
But here a new actor appeared upon the scene, and prevented any further opposition on the part of the captain. This was Jim, who was returning from an errand; and, seeing Captain Yorke's tall figure standing by the lamp-post with an unmistakably belligerent expression in every line, he elbowed his way through the fast increasing crowd, and stood astonished and dismayed before Daisy.
"Miss Daisy, whatever do you mean by this? You sellin' peanuts here in the street!"
"Matty Blair does," faltered Daisy, beginning, by virtue of all these various protests, to see that perhaps she might have strayed from the way in which she should go.
"Matty Blair!" ejaculated Jim, again. "Well, Miss Daisy, I guess Matty Blair's one, an' you're another. Won't your pa an' ma, an' all of 'em, be mad, though!"
"So I was sayin'," said the policeman, who was quite well acquainted with Jim; "and now, youngster, the best thing you can do is to take the little lady home, and tell her folks to look out for her better than to put her under the care of this old know-nothing."
This entirely met Jim's views; and, snatching up the almost empty basket, he seized the hand of the now frightened Daisy, and hurried her homeward, leaving the policeman and the captain exchanging compliments until such time as the latter saw fit to retire from the field, and hasten to our house to deliver up the results of poor Daisy's sale.
It may be imagined what consternation reigned in the Livingstone household, when this escapade of its youngest member came to light; while the grief and bewilderment of that little damsel herself, who had, in all good faith, believed that she had mother's sanction for her course, were pitiable to witness. As for Jim, not even the gratifying pecuniary results could nullify his mortification at the disgrace which he believed to have fallen upon the family, especially his beloved Miss Daisy; and he found it hard to forgive the captain, who had encouraged and abetted her.
"Philanthropy has certainly seized upon this family to an alarming extent," said Bessie Sandford, when she heard the story, "but I wish that I had been there to see pet Daisy at her post acting peanut-vender."
How far Daisy's effort to prove to Matty that she "was not proud" affected that young cripple, could not be told; but she did not fail to hear of the thing from Jim.
As for Captain Yorke, he received his full share of reprimand, and caution for the future, from his wife, who, all unaccustomed as she, too, was to city ways, had far more natural sense of what was fitting and advisable.
"If I could but go round with him to keep him up to the mark, Mrs. Livingstone," she said, when apologizing to mother for the captain's share in the late escapade; "but, bless you, dear lady, he's more of a child than little Daisy herself, when he's out of his usual bearings. I think he's best off at home, with Jabez and Matildy Jane to look after him, when I can't."
And she sighed heavily, as if the responsibility were too much for her.
But the captain could not be brought to this view of the case. He was enjoying himself in his own way among the city sights and sounds.
NOT ON THE PROGRAMME.
Uncle Rutherford stood at the far end of the great schoolroom, awaiting the admission of his two candidates for its privileges and opportunities. It was the opening-day after the conclusion of the Christmas holidays; and half a dozen boys, besides Theodore Yorke and Jim, had presented themselves as new scholars, and they now stood before the principal,—Theodore at one end of the line, and Jim at the other.
"What is your name?" asked the principal of Theodore; to which the boy responded simply, "Theodore Yorke," and then answered in like manner the few more questions put to him relative to age and so forth; and the gentleman passed down the line till he came to Jim.
"What is your name?"
To uncle Rutherford's consternation, Jim, straightening himself up, answered in a loud, confident tone, "Jim,"—he had meant to say "James," but the more familiar appellation escaped him,—"Jim Grant Garfield Rutherford Livingstone Washington;" and then glanced down the line as if to say, "Beat that if you can!"
A titter ran around the room, speedily checked by the stern eye of the principal, and one or two of the new boys giggled outright; but Jim, with head erect, and fearless eyes fixed upon the master, was unmoved, perhaps did not even guess that the merriment was caused by himself.
The principal found it necessary to caress his whiskers a little, then said,—
"Good names, my boy, every one of them. Try to prove worthy to bear them. Your age?"
This and the other needful preliminaries being settled, the new boys were turned over to the examiners, to have their classes and position in the school defined; and uncle Rutherford made his exit, only too thankful that the irrepressible Jim had not added to his list of high-sounding appellations, "President that is to be of these United States."
School discipline, of course, had, for the time, restrained the gibes and sneers, the open laugh, which would have greeted Jim's announcement of his adopted name or names; but the time was only deferred. The joke was, to the schoolboy mind, too good to be lost; and when the recess came, and the boys were for a while at liberty, Jim became the target for many sorry witticisms, and "Jim Grant Garfield Rutherford Livingstone Washington" was called from all sides of the playground in almost as many tones of mockery as there were boys; and Jim speedily found that he had taken too much upon himself for his own comfort. The "Grant Garfield" had been an after-thought, and he had been prompted thereto by hearing another boy give his name—to which he was probably justly entitled—as "George William Winfield Scott Jones." Jim was not going to be outdone, or to be satisfied with four names, when here was a fellow with five; hence the "Grant Garfield" on the spur of the moment.
Milly had feared that even the "Rutherford Livingstone Washington" would excite derisive comment; and when she heard uncle Rutherford's report of Jim's further adoption of great names, she groaned in spirit, and awaited with sundry apprehensions his return from school, fearing that his excitable temper might have been provoked into some manifestation, which would not only affect his creditable entrance into the school, but also his standing with uncle Rutherford.
But Jim had a check upon himself whereof Milly wot not; namely, that he knew of the prize to be secured in case he gained the approbation of uncle Rutherford,—a prize which, as we know, he was more anxious to win for the sake of defeating Theodore Yorke than for the attainment of the scholarship itself.
So, although he had to put a strong restraint upon himself, and was inwardly boiling with wrath and indignation, he bore the gibes and sneers with the utmost self-command, and apparently unfailing good-nature, till Theodore Yorke, who had made himself at home among his new surroundings as readily as Jim had done, joined in the "chaffing" with a vim and bitterness which could have their source only in a feeling of personal spite and hatred.
"Jim Grant Garfield Rutherford Livingstone Washington," he repeated; "and he hasn't a right to one of the names, unless it's Jim. He hasn't got any name; nobody knows what his name is, or who he is, or where he came from. He hasn't got any folks, either."
This was wounding poor Jim in the tenderest point, as the amiable Theodore well knew; and it was more than his victim could well stand.
"And I'd rather have no folks at all than have such as yours," he shouted, almost beside himself with rage at this exposure of that which he considered to be his disgrace. Then suddenly recalled to a sense of his regard for this boy's grandparents, Captain and Mrs. Yorke, and of all the kindness he had received from them,—for a hearty gratitude for favors received was one of the strongest features of Jim's character,—he hastened to set matters in their true light; "at least, such a father as they tell yours was. If I had a gran'father or gran'mother like yours, there couldn't be none better; but if I had a father was such a scallywag as yours, I say a good sight better have none. And you ain't a bit like the old folks, neither; you're another such a one as your father. I wouldn't own such a one!"
This tirade was interspersed with other expressions more forcible than choice, and which are better omitted; and, as may be supposed, it did not tend to mend matters. Recrimination followed recrimination; insults from one to another went from bad to worse, Theodore being even more of an adept in such language than Jim, who had always been considered a proficient; and one of the teachers came upon the playground just in time to see Jim deal a furious blow at his opponent, who caught sight of the master before he had returned it, which he would otherwise doubtless have done; and who immediately assumed an air of innocent, injured virtue, too lofty-minded and forgiving to return the blow.
As the rules against fighting within school bounds were particularly severe, Jim's was a heinous offence. He was sternly called to order and reprimanded with severity; and although, in consideration of his being a new boy, he was let off with this, he began his school career somewhat under a cloud; while Theodore posed as a martyr, and a boy with a regard for school discipline,—to his teachers,—but the other boys knew better, and with few exceptions espoused Jim's cause, and at once pronounced Theodore the "sneak" and "bully" that he was. But that was small comfort to Jim, who, on coming home, had to report, as he truthfully did, that he had failed to keep his temper on this the very first day of his entrance into the school.
Milly consoled and encouraged him as best she might, bidding him to take heart and to struggle even harder for the future, and being very sparing of blame for his share in the quarrel.
Fate, as short-sighted and with as dull an eye to expediency as uncle Rutherford, had decreed not only that the two boys, Jim and Theodore, should be in the same school, but, their attainments being of about the same range, that they should be put into the same class, an arrangement which did not tend to the maintenance of the peace so much to be desired.
But, in spite of his unlucky beginning, Jim speedily became a favorite in the school, both with masters and schoolmates. His frank, merry ways, obliging disposition, ready wit, and quickness at repartee, soon gained him a host of friends on the playground; while his evident desire to make progress in his studies,—wherein he had a stimulus unsuspected by any one but Bill,—his sturdy truthfulness, and general obedience to rules and regulations, won him golden opinions from those in authority. Ambition, whether for greater or lesser aims, was Jim's ruling passion, and now he had so many spurs to urge him on; for, added to his own personal aspirations and the determination to prove himself a credit to his benefactors, was the overwhelming desire to outstrip Theodore, and wrest from him the prize.
Milly noticed, whenever he reported progress to her, that there was a certain sort of repressed excitability about him, a wistful nervousness very foreign to his assured independence and self-confidence, and he several times seemed as if he were going to make some disclosure to her; all of which made his young mistress think that he had something on his mind which he was half inclined to impart to her, although he could not quite resolve to do so. She bided her time, however, being sure that it would come sooner or later, and only now and then tried to open the way by asking him if he had any thing further to tell her.
But the only result of this would be a shame-faced embarrassment and a sheepish denial, followed by an evident desire to cut short the interview.
When Jim had been at school about a month, making, according to the reports of his teachers, who were closely questioned by uncle Rutherford, fair progress with his studies, and showing a self-command and control over his temper which had not been expected from him after the fiery outburst of the first day, an incident occurred which would have afforded him an opportunity for mortifying Theodore, had he not been restrained by a motive which was stronger than his antagonism to his rival.
The vagaries and peculiarities of Captain Yorke, with his ignorance and indifference to city ways and manners, had more than once drawn public notice upon him; the episode of Daisy as a peanut-vender, with the old sailor as her aider and abetter, being but a trifling circumstance compared to some others; and Mrs. Yorke was in constant terror lest he should in some way make himself more notorious than would prove agreeable.
About this time, a celebrated actor was performing in the city in the farce of "Dundreary Married," wherein Lord Dundreary having, as the title indicates, taken to himself a wife, falls beneath the tyranny of a domineering mother-in-law, to whom he submits till submission becomes intolerable, when he turns upon her, asserts himself, and proclaims himself master in his own house.
Our boys, Norman and Douglas, having seen the farce in company with the rest of the family, and having been greatly amused by it, conceived the idea of treating the captain to a sight of the same; and, having obtained father's permission to do so, they invited the old man to an evening's entertainment.
"Wa'al," he drawled with his usual deliberation when considering any matter, "I don' care if I do. When I was a youngster, I was brung up to think play-actin' was a sin, an' I'd about as soon a thought of shakin' han's with the evil one hisself, as of goin' to the theayter; but either I've gotten wiser as I've gotten older, or else maybe the play-actin' folks has gotten better behaved; but times is changed somehow, an' I seen some play-actin' in the hotel down to the P'int, an' they was real ladies an' gentlemen did it, too. I was a peepin' in at the winders more'n once; an' the hotel-keepers, Mr. Loydd an' Mr. Field, if they didn't come, one one time, an' t'other another, an' bring me into the hall an' near to the doors where I could see fust-rate. An' I didn't see no harm onto it. The play-actors was very pretty behaved, an' I didn't see no breakin' of comman'ments. I never could see what folks wanted to purtend they was other folks for, and sometimes to go a-talkin' as if they was come out of by-gone days. But if you're for takin' me to the theayter, I reckon I won't come to no harm by it. Enyhow, I know ye've got to come to city ways when ye're to the city; folks kinder look daggers at ye ef ye don't. There's the landlady to the house where me and Mis' Yorke puts up; she's the best, an allers doin' for Mis' Yorke, an' come an' sit with her an' talk—my talk by the hour she will, straight on, like as she'd been woun' up; an' she come yesterday, all kin' of fussy like, an' her face red, an' she says, says she, 'Captain Yorke,' says she, 'ef ye wouldn't mind me askin' a little favor of ye?'"
"'Sartinly not, ma'am,' says I; an' I was reckonin' she was wantin' to borrer money. But what do ye s'pose it was, Norman? She goes and she says, says she, kinder hesitatin' like yet, 'Would ye mind, capt'in, a-eatin' with yer fork, 'stead of yer knife? Miss Jarvis, what sits next ye at the table, she's kinder narvous, an' she says it sets her teeth on edge, an' she says she can't stan' it; an' she's my best payin' boarder, bein' she has the second-story front an' back; an' it would obleege me, ef ye don't min'.'
"'Jes' as lief eat off ten forks, ma'am,' says I, 'ef it suits ye an' Mis' Jarvis. I been a-noticin' she was kinder pernikity like an' fussy, an' kinder offish with me; but if it's the difference of knives or forks, the best payin' boarder ain't goin' to be hurt by me.' But, boys! I didn't know by a long shot what I was a-promisin'. I tell ye, the knife would keep goin' up the nateral way as it was used to; an' yesterday I didn't get no kind of a dinner, nor a breakfast this mornin', thinkin' of that pesky fork. So to-day I was boun' I'd get my dinner; so I cuts it up an' spoon-victuals it, for fear of hurtin' the feelin's of the best payin' boarder. City ways is uncommon troublesome, when ye ain't let eat the way is most handy. But I don't care if I go to the theayter with ye. I never see the inside of one of them places."
"Oh, a real theatre is nothing like the dining-rooms of the hotels, where you saw the amateur theatricals," said the posted Norman; "and father wouldn't let us go if it were any harm. He said we could take you, captain."
"No; an' I reckon the governor wouldn't be for goin' to no place he shouldn't go," said the captain reflectively. "An' he was along of you t'other night, wasn't he?"
Norman and Douglas, anxious to overcome any scruples the old man might have, assured him that uncle Rutherford went quite often to the "theayter," and thus quieted any remaining qualms of conscience which he might have; for Captain Yorke pinned his faith on uncle Rutherford, and all that the governor did was right in his eyes. So the expedition to the theatre was arranged to the satisfaction of my brothers, who anticipated much amusement in watching the impression the play would make upon the unsophisticated old veteran.
But a shock was in store for them which they had not foreseen; for the amount of observation which the captain saw fit to draw upon the party was almost too much for even their well-seasoned boyish nerves.
For the sake of obtaining an uninterrupted view of the stage, the boys had secured seats which the event proved to be too conspicuous for their comfort. No sooner were they all seated than the captain began with his comments and criticisms, his "them's my opinions," in a manner and tone which they vainly strove to moderate. Fortunately they were in the main complimentary and approving; and the old seaman's quaint appearance, his evidently childlike ignorance and inexperience, diverted those of the audience who were within hearing, and led them to be indulgent to his rather obtrusive reflections upon men and things.