Jack and Jill
Louisa May Alcott
Part 3 out of 6
eagerness, "It is the only thing poor Jill can be, and it would make
her so happy; Jack would like it, and it would please every one, I
know. Perhaps she will never walk again, so we ought to be very
good to her, poor dear."
The last words, whispered with a little quiver in the voice, settled
the matter better than hours of talking, for girls are tender-hearted
creatures, and not one of these but would have gladly given all the
pretty things she owned to see Jill dancing about well and strong
again. Like a ray of sunshine the kind thought touched and
brightened every face; envy, impatience, vanity, and discontent
flew away like imps at the coming of the good fairy, and with one
accord they all cried,--
"It will be lovely; let us go and tell her!"
Forgetting their own adornment, out they trooped after Merry, who
ran to the sofa, saying, with a smile which was reflected in all the
other faces, "Jill, dear, we have chosen another Princess, and I
know you'll like her."
"Who is it?" asked Jill, languidly, opening her eyes without the
least suspicion of the truth.
"I'll show you;" and taking the cherished veil from her own head,
Merry dropped it like a soft cloud over Jill; Annette added the long
plume, Susy laid the white silk dress about her, while Juliet and
Mabel lifted the scarlet shawl to spread it over the foot of the sofa,
and Molly tore the last ornament from her turban, a silver star, to
shine on Jill's breast. Then they all took hands and danced round
the couch, singing, as they laughed at her astonishment, "There she
is! There she is! Princess Jill as fine as you please!
"Do you really mean it? But can I? Is it fair? How sweet of you!
Come here and let me hug you all!" cried Jill, in a rapture at the
surprise, and the pretty way in which it was done.
The grand scene on the Twenty-second was very fine, indeed; but
the little tableau of that minute was infinitely better, though no one
saw it, as Jill tried to gather them all in her arms, for that nosegay
of girlish faces was the sweeter, because each one had sacrificed
her own little vanity to please a friend, and her joy was reflected in
the eyes that sparkled round the happy Princess.
"Oh, you dear, kind things, to think of me and give me all your
best clothes! I never shall forget it, and I'll do anything for you.
Yes! I'll write and ask Mrs. Piper to lend us her ermine cloak for
the king. See if I don't!"
Shrieks of delight hailed this noble offer, for no one had dared to
borrow the much-coveted mantle, but all agreed that the old lady
would not refuse Jill. It was astonishing how smoothly everything
went after this, for each was eager to help, admire, and suggest, in
the friendliest way; and when all were dressed, the boys found a
party of very gay ladies waiting for them round the couch, where
lay the brightest little Princess ever seen.
"Oh, Jack, I'm to act! Wasn't it dear of the girls to choose me?
Don't they look lovely? Aren't you glad?" cried Jill, as the lads
stared and the lasses blushed and smiled, well pleased at the frank
admiration the boyish faces showed.
"I guess I am! You are a set of trumps, and we'll give you a
first-class spread after the play to pay for it. Won't we, fellows?"
answered Jack, much gratified, and feeling that now he could act
his own part capitally.
"We will. It was a handsome thing to do, and we think well of you
for it. Hey, Gus?" and Frank nodded approvingly at all, though he
looked only at Annette.
"As king of this crowd, I call it to order," said Gus, retiring to the
throne, where Juliet sat laughing in her red table-cloth.
"We'll have 'The Fair One with Golden Locks' next time; I promise
you that," whispered Ed to Mabel, whose shining hair streamed
over her blue dress like a mantle of gold-colored silk.
"Girls are pretty nice things, aren't they? Kind of 'em to take Jill in.
Don't Molly look fine, though?" and Grif's black eyes twinkled as
he planned to pin her skirts to Merry's at the first opportunity.
"Susy looks as gay as a feather-duster. I like her. She never snubs a
fellow," said Joe, much impressed with the splendor of the court
The boys' costumes were not yet ready, but they posed well, and all
had a merry time, ending with a game of blind-man's-buff, in
which every one caught the right person in the most singular way,
and all agreed as they went home in the moonlight that it had been
an unusually jolly meeting.
So the fairy play woke the sleeping beauty that lies in all of us, and
makes us lovely when we rouse it with a kiss of unselfish
good-will, for, though the girls did not know it then, they had
adorned themselves with pearls more precious than the waxen
ones they decked their Princess in.
The greatest people have their weak points, and the best-behaved
boys now and then yield to temptation and get into trouble, as
everybody knows. Frank was considered a remarkably well-bred
and proper lad, and rather prided himself on his good reputation,
for he never got into scrapes like the other fellows. Well, hardly
ever, for we must confess that at rare intervals his besetting sin
overcame his prudence, and he proved himself an erring, human
boy. Steam-engines had been his idols for years, and they alone
could lure him from the path of virtue. Once, in trying to
investigate the mechanism of a toy specimen, which had its little
boiler and ran about whistling and puffing in the most delightful
way, he nearly set the house afire by the sparks that dropped on the
straw carpet. Another time, in trying experiments with the kitchen
tea-kettle, he blew himself up, and the scars of that explosion he
still carried on his hands.
He was long past such childish amusements now, but his favorite
haunt was the engine-house of the new railroad, where he observed
the habits of his pets with never-failing interest, and cultivated the
good-will of stokers and brakemen till they allowed him many
liberties, and were rather flattered by the admiration expressed for
their iron horses by a young gentleman who liked them better even
than his Greek and Latin.
There was not much business doing on this road as yet, and the
two cars of the passenger-trains were often nearly empty, though
full freight-trains rolled from the factory to the main road, of
which this was only a branch. So things went on in a leisurely
manner, which gave Frank many opportunities of pursuing his
favorite pastime. He soon knew all about No. 11, his pet engine,
and had several rides on it with Bill, the engineer, so that he felt at
home there, and privately resolved that when he was a rich man he
would have a road of his own, and run trains as often as he liked.
Gus took less interest than his friend in the study of steam, but
usually accompanied him when he went over after school to
disport himself in the engine-house, interview the stoker, or see if
there was anything new in the way of brakes.
One afternoon they found No. 11 on the side-track, puffing away
as if enjoying a quiet smoke before starting. No cars were attached,
and no driver was to be seen, for Bill was off with the other men
behind the station-house, helping the expressman, whose horse had
backed down a bank and upset the wagon.
"Good chance for a look at the old lady," said Frank, speaking of
the engine as Bill did, and jumping aboard with great satisfaction,
followed by Gus.
"I'd give ten dollars if I could run her up to the bend and back," he
added, fondly touching the bright brass knobs and glancing at the
fire with a critical eye.
"You couldn't do it alone," answered Gus, sitting down on the
grimy little perch, willing to indulge his mate's amiable weakness.
"Give me leave to try? Steam is up, and I could do it as easy as
not;" and Frank put his hand on the throttle-valve, as if daring Gus
to give the word.
"Fire up and make her hum!" laughed Gus, quoting Bill's frequent
order to his mate, but with no idea of being obeyed.
"All right; I'll just roll her up to the switch and back again. I've
often done it with Bill;" and Frank cautiously opened the
throttle-valve, threw back the lever, and the great thing moved
with a throb and a puff.
"Steady, old fellow, or you'll come to grief. Here, don't open that!"
shouted Gus, for just at that moment Joe appeared at the switch,
looking ready for mischief.
"Wish he would; no train for twenty minutes, and we could run up
to the bend as well as not," said Frank, getting excited with the
sense of power, as the monster obeyed his hand so entirely that it
was impossible to resist prolonging the delight.
"By George, he has! Stop her! Back her! Hold on, Frank!" cried
Gus, as Joe, only catching the words "Open that!" obeyed, without
the least idea that they would dare to leave the siding.
But they did, for Frank rather lost his head for a minute, and out
upon the main track rolled No. 11 as quietly as a well-trained
horse taking a familiar road.
"Now you've done it! I'll give you a good thrashing when I get
back!" roared Gus, shaking his fist at Joe, who stood staring,
half-pleased, half-scared, at what he had done.
"Are you really going to try it?" asked Gus, as they glided on with
increasing speed, and he, too, felt the charm of such a novel
adventure, though the consequences bid fair to be serious.
"Yes, I am," answered Frank, with the grim look he always wore
when his strong will got the upper hand. "Bill will give it to us,
any way, so we may as well have our fun out. If you are afraid, I'll
slow down and you can jump off," and his brown eyes sparkled
with the double delight of getting his heart's desire and astonishing
his friend at the same time by his skill and coolness.
"Go ahead. I'll jump when you do;" and Gus calmly sat down
again, bound in honor to stand by his mate till the smash came,
though rather dismayed at the audacity of the prank.
"Don't you call this just splendid?" exclaimed Frank, as they rolled
along over the crossing, past the bridge, toward the curve, a mile
from the station.
"Not bad. They are yelling like mad after us. Better go back, if you
can," said Gus, who was anxiously peering out, and, in spite of his
efforts to seem at ease, not enjoying the trip a particle.
"Let them yell. I started to go to the curve, and I'll do it if it costs
me a hundred dollars. No danger; there's no train under twenty
minutes, I tell you," and Frank pulled out his watch. But the sun
was in his eyes, and he did not see clearly, or he would have
discovered that it was later than he thought.
On they went, and were just rounding the bend when a shrill
whistle in front startled both boys, and drove the color out of their
"It's the factory train!" cried Gus, in a husky tone, as he sprang to
"No; it's the five-forty on the other road," answered Frank, with a
queer thrill all through him at the thought of what might happen if
it was not. Both looked straight ahead as the last tree glided by,
and the long track lay before them, with the freight train slowly
coming down. For an instant, the boys stood as if paralyzed.
"Jump!" said Gus, looking at the steep bank on one side and the
river on the other, undecided which to try.
"Sit still!" commanded Frank, collecting his wits, as he gave a
warning whistle to retard the on-coming train, while he reversed
the engine and went back faster than he came.
A crowd of angry men was waiting for them, and Bill stood at the
open switch in a towering passion as No. 11 returned to her place
unharmed, but bearing two pale and frightened boys, who stepped
slowly and silently down, without a word to say for themselves,
while the freight train rumbled by on the main track.
Frank and Gus never had a very clear idea as to what occurred
during the next few minutes, but vaguely remembered being well
shaken, sworn at, questioned, threatened with direful penalties,
and finally ordered off the premises forever by the wrathful
depot-master. Joe was nowhere to be seen, and as the two culprits
walked away, trying to go steadily, while their heads spun round,
and all the strength seemed to have departed from their legs, Frank
said, in an exhausted tone,--
"Come down to the boat-house and rest a minute."
Both were glad to get out of sight, and dropped upon the steps red,
rumpled, and breathless, after the late exciting scene. Gus
generously forebore to speak, though he felt that he was the least
to blame; and Frank, after eating a bit of snow to moisten his dry
lips, said, handsomely,--
"Now, don't you worry, old man. I'll pay the damages, for it was
my fault. Joe will dodge, but I won't, so make your mind easy.
"We sha'n't hear the last of this in a hurry," responded Gus,
relieved, yet anxious, as he thought of the reprimand his father
would give him.
"I hope mother won't hear of it till I tell her quietly myself. She
will be so frightened, and think I'm surely smashed up, if she is
told in a hurry;" and Frank gave a shiver, as all the danger he had
run came over him suddenly.
"I thought we were done for when we saw that train. Guess we
should have been if you had not had your wits about you. I always
said you were a cool one;" and Gus patted Frank's back with a look
of great admiration, for, now that it was all over, he considered it a
very remarkable performance.
"Which do you suppose it will be, fine or imprisonment?" asked
Frank, after sitting in a despondent attitude for a moment.
"Shouldn't wonder if it was both. Running off with an engine is no
joke, you know."
"What did possess me to be such a fool?" groaned Frank, repenting,
all too late, of yielding to the temptation which assailed him.
"Bear up, old fellow, I'll stand by you; and if the worst comes, I'll
call as often as the rules of the prison allow," said Gus,
consolingly, as he gave his afflicted friend an arm, and they
walked away, both feeling that they were marked men from that
Meantime, Joe, as soon as he recovered from the shock of seeing
the boys actually go off, ran away, as fast as his legs could carry
him, to prepare Mrs. Minot for the loss of her son; for the idea of
their coming safely back never occurred to him, his knowledge of
engines being limited. A loud ring at the bell brought Mrs. Pecq,
who was guarding the house, while Mrs. Minot entertained a
parlor full of company.
"Frank's run off with No. 11, and he'll be killed sure. Thought I'd
come up and tell you," stammered Joe, all out of breath and
He got no further, for Mrs. Pecq clapped one hand over his mouth,
caught him by the collar with the other, and hustled him into the
ante-room before any one else could hear the bad news.
"Tell me all about it, and don't shout. What's come to the boy?" she
demanded, in a tone that reduced Joe to a whisper at once.
"Go right back and see what has happened to him, then come and
tell me quietly. I'll wait for you here. I wouldn't have his mother
startled for the world," said the good soul, when she knew all.
"Oh, I dar'sn't! I opened the switch as they told me to, and Bill will
half kill me when he knows it!" cried Joe, in a panic, as the awful
consequences of his deed rose before him, showing both boys
mortally injured and several trains wrecked.
"Then take yourself off home and hold your tongue. I'll watch the
door, for I won't have any more ridiculous boys tearing in to
disturb my lady."
Mrs. Pecq often called this good neighbor "my lady" when
speaking of her, for Mrs. Minot was a true gentlewoman, and
much pleasanter to live with than the titled mistress had been.
Joe scudded away as if the constable was after him, and presently
Frank was seen slowly approaching with an unusually sober face
and a pair of very dirty hands.
"Thank heaven, he's safe!" and, softly opening the door, Mrs. Pecq
actually hustled the young master into the ante-room as
unceremoniously as she had hustled Joe.
"I beg pardon, but the parlor is full of company, and that fool of a
Joe came roaring in with a cock-and-bull story that gave me quite
a turn. What is it, Mr. Frank?" she asked eagerly, seeing that
something was amiss.
He told her in a few words, and she was much relieved to find that
no harm had been done.
"Ah, the danger is to come," said Frank, darkly, as be went away to
wash his hands and prepare to relate his misdeeds.
It was a very bad quarter of an hour for the poor fellow, who so
seldom had any grave faults to confess; but he did it manfully, and
his mother was so grateful for the safety of her boy that she found
it difficult to be severe enough, and contented herself with
forbidding any more visits to the too charming No. 11.
"What do you suppose will be done to me?" asked Frank, on whom
the idea of imprisonment had made a deep impression.
"I don't know, dear, but I shall go over to see Mr. Burton right
after tea. He will tell us what to do and what to expect. Gus must
not suffer for your fault."
"He'll come off clear enough, but Joe must take his share, for if he
hadn't opened that confounded switch, no harm would have been
done. But when I saw the way clear, I actually couldn't resist going
ahead," said Frank, getting excited again at the memory of that
blissful moment when he started the engine.
Here Jack came hurrying in, having heard the news, and refused to
believe it from any lips but Frank's. When he could no longer
doubt, he was so much impressed with the daring of the deed that
he had nothing but admiration for his brother, till a sudden thought
made him clap his hands and exclaim exultingly,--
"His runaway beats mine all hollow, and now he can't crow over
me! Won't that be a comfort? The good boy has got into a scrape.
This was such a droll way of taking it, that they had to laugh; and
Frank took his humiliation so meekly that Jack soon fell to
comforting him, instead of crowing over him.
Jill thought it a most interesting event; and, when Frank and his
mother went over to consult Mr. Burton, she and Jack planned out
for the dear culprit a dramatic trial which would have convulsed
the soberest of judges. His sentence was ten years' imprisonment,
and such heavy fines that the family would have been reduced to
beggary but for the sums made by Jill's fancy work and Jack's
success as a champion pedestrian.
They found such comfort and amusement in this sensational
programme that they were rather disappointed when Frank
returned, reporting that a fine would probably be all the penalty
exacted, as no harm had been done, and he and Gus were such
respectable boys. What would happen to Joe, he could not tell, but
he thought a good whipping ought to be added to his share.
Of course, the affair made a stir in the little world of children; and
when Frank went to school, feeling that his character for good
behavior was forever damaged, he found himself a lion, and was in
danger of being spoiled by the admiration of his comrades, who
pointed him out with pride as "the fellow who ran off with a
But an interview with Judge Kemble, a fine of twenty-five dollars,
and lectures from all the grown people of his acquaintance,
prevented him from regarding his escapade as a feat to boast of.
He discovered, also, how fickle a thing is public favor, for very
soon those who had praised began to tease, and it took all his
courage, patience, and pride to carry him through the next week or
two. The lads were never tired of alluding to No. 11, giving shrill
whistles in his ear, asking if his watch was right, and drawing
locomotives on the blackboard whenever they got a chance.
The girls, too, had sly nods and smiles, hints and jokes of a milder
sort, which made him color and fume, and once lose his dignity
entirely. Molly Loo, who dearly loved to torment the big boys, and
dared attack even solemn Frank, left one of Boo's old tin trains on
the door-step, directed to "Conductor Minot," who, I regret to say,
could not refrain from kicking it into the street, and slamming the
door with a bang that shook the house. Shrieks of laughter from
wicked Molly and her coadjutor, Grif, greeted this explosion of
wrath, which did no good, however, for half an hour later the same
cars, all in a heap, were on the steps again, with two headless dolls
tumbling out of the cab, and the dilapidated engine labelled, "No.
11 after the collision."
No one ever saw that ruin again, and for days Frank was utterly
unconscious of Molly's existence, as propriety forbade his having
it out with her as he had with Grif. Then Annette made peace
between them, and the approach of the Twenty-second gave the
wags something else to think of.
But it was long before Frank forgot that costly prank; for he was a
thoughtful boy, who honestly wanted to be good; so he remembered
this episode humbly, and whenever he felt the approach of temptation
he made the strong will master it, saying to himself "Down brakes!"
thus saving the precious freight he carried from many of the accidents
which befall us when we try to run our trains without orders, and so
often wreck ourselves as well as others.
The Twenty-Second of February
Of course, the young ladies and gentlemen had a ball on the
evening of that day, but the boys and girls were full of excitement
about their "Scenes from the Life of Washington and other brilliant
tableaux," as the programme announced. The Bird Room was the
theatre, being very large, with four doors conveniently placed.
Ralph was in his element, putting up a little stage, drilling boys,
arranging groups, and uniting in himself carpenter, scene-painter,
manager, and gas man. Mrs. Minot permitted the house to be
turned topsy-turvy, and Mrs. Pecq flew about, lending a hand
everywhere. Jill was costumer, with help from Miss Delano, who
did not care for balls, and kindly took charge of the girls. Jack
printed tickets, programmes, and placards of the most imposing
sort, and the work went gayly on till all was ready.
When the evening came, the Bird Room presented a fine
appearance. One end was curtained off with red drapery; and real
footlights, with tin shades, gave a truly theatrical air to the little
stage. Rows of chairs, filled with mammas and little people,
occupied the rest of the space. The hall and Frank's room were full
of amused papas, uncles, and old gentlemen whose patriotism
brought them out in spite of rheumatism. There was a great
rustling of skirts, fluttering of fans, and much lively chat, till a bell
rang and the orchestra struck up.
Yes, there really was an orchestra, for Ed declared that the national
airs _must_ be played, or the whole thing would be a failure. So he
had exerted himself to collect all the musical talent he could find,
a horn, a fiddle, and a flute, with drum and fife for the martial
scenes. Ed looked more beaming than ever, as he waved his baton
and led off with Yankee Doodle as a safe beginning, for every one
knew that. It was fun to see little Johnny Cooper bang away on a
big drum, and old Mr. Munson, who had been a fifer all his days,
blow till he was as red as a lobster, while every one kept time to the
music which put them all in good spirits for the opening scene.
Up went the curtain and several trees in tubs appeared, then a
stately gentleman in small clothes, cocked hat, gray wig, and an
imposing cane, came slowly walking in. It was Gus, who had been
unanimously chosen not only for Washington but for the father of
the hero also, that the family traits of long legs and a somewhat
massive nose might be preserved.
"Ahem! My trees are doing finely," observed Mr. W., senior,
strolling along with his hands behind him, casting satisfied glances
at the dwarf orange, oleander, abutilon, and little pine that
represented his orchard.
Suddenly he starts, pauses, frowns, and, after examining the latter
shrub, which displayed several hacks in its stem and a broken limb
with six red-velvet cherries hanging on it, he gave a thump with
his cane that made the little ones jump, and cried out,--
"Can it have been my son?"
He evidently thought it _was_, for he called, in tones of thunder,--
"George! George Washington, come hither this moment!"
Great suspense on the part of the audience, then a general burst of
laughter as Boo trotted in, a perfect miniature of his honored
parent, knee breeches, cocked hat, shoe buckles and all. He was so
fat that the little tails of his coat stuck out in the drollest way, his
chubby legs could hardly carry the big buckles, and the rosy face
displayed, when he took his hat off with a dutiful bow, was so
solemn, the real George could not have looked more anxious when
he gave the immortal answer.
"Sirrah, did you cut that tree?" demanded the papa, with another
rap of the cane, and such a frown that poor Boo looked dismayed,
till Molly whispered, "Put your hand up, dear." Then he
remembered his part, and, putting one finger in his mouth, looked
down at his square-toed shoes, the image of a shame-stricken boy.
"My son, do not deceive me. If you have done this deed I shall
chastise you, for it is my duty not to spare the rod, lest I spoil the
child. But if you lie about it you disgrace the name of Washington
This appeal seemed to convulse George with inward agony, for he
squirmed most effectively as he drew from his pocket a toy
hatchet, which would not have cut a straw, then looking straight up
into the awe-inspiring countenance of his parent, he bravely lisped,--
"Papa, I tannot tell a lie. I did tut it with my little hanchet."
"Noble boy--come to my arms! I had rather you spoilt _all_ my
cherry trees than tell one lie!" cried the delighted gentleman,
catching his son in an embrace so close that the fat legs kicked
convulsively, and the little coat-tails waved in the breeze, while
cane and hatchet fell with a dramatic bang.
The curtain descended on this affecting tableau; but the audience
called out both Washingtons, and they came, hand in hand, bowing
with the cocked hats pressed to their breasts, the elder smiling
blandly, while the younger, still flushed by his exertions, nodded to
his friends, asking, with engaging frankness, "Wasn't it nice?"
The next was a marine piece, for a boat was seen, surrounded by
tumultuous waves of blue cambric, and rowed by a party of
stalwart men in regimentals, who with difficulty kept their seats,
for the boat was only a painted board, and they sat on boxes or
stools behind it. But few marked the rowers, for in their midst, tall,
straight, and steadfast as a mast, stood one figure in a cloak, with
folded arms, high boots, and, under the turned-up hat, a noble
countenance, stern with indomitable courage. A sword glittered at
his side, and a banner waved over him, but his eye was fixed on
the distant shore, and he was evidently unconscious of the roaring
billows, the blocks of ice, the discouragement of his men, or the
danger and death that might await him. Napoleon crossing the
Alps was not half so sublime, and with one voice the audience
cried, "Washington crossing the Delaware!" while the band burst
forth with, "See, the conquering hero comes!" all out of tune, but
bound to play it or die in the attempt.
It would have been very successful if, all of a sudden, one of the
rowers had not "caught a crab" with disastrous consequences. The
oars were not moving, but a veteran, who looked very much like
Joe, dropped the one he held, and in trying to turn and pummel the
black-eyed warrior behind him, he tumbled off his seat, upsetting
two other men, and pulling the painted boat upon them as they lay
kicking in the cambric deep. Shouts of laughter greeted this
mishap, but George Washington never stirred. Grasping the
banner, he stood firm when all else went down in the general
wreck, and the icy waves engulfed his gallant crew, leaving him
erect amid a chaos of wildly tossing boots, entangled oars, and
red-faced victims. Such god-like dignity could not fail to impress
the frivolous crowd of laughers, and the curtain fell amid a round
of applause for him alone.
"Quite exciting, wasn't it? Didn't know Gus had so much presence
of mind," said Mr. Burton, well pleased with his boy.
"If we did not know that Washington died in his bed, December
14, 1799, I should fear that we'd seen the last of him in that
shipwreck," laughed an old gentleman, proud of his memory for
Much confusion reigned behind the scenes; Ralph was heard
scolding, and Joe set every one off again by explaining, audibly,
that Grif tickled him, and he couldn't stand it. A pretty,
old-fashioned picture of the "Daughters of Liberty" followed, for
the girls were determined to do honor to the brave and patient women
who so nobly bore their part in the struggle, yet are usually
forgotten when those days are celebrated. The damsels were
charming in the big caps, flowered gowns, and high-heeled shoes
of their great-grandmothers, as they sat about a spider-legged table
talking over the tax, and pledging themselves to drink no more tea
till it was taken off. Molly was on her feet proposing, "Liberty
forever, and down with all tyrants," to judge from her flashing eyes
as she held her egg-shell cup aloft, while the others lifted theirs to
drink the toast, and Merry, as hostess, sat with her hand on an
antique teapot, labelled "Sage," ready to fill again when the
patriotic ladies were ready for a second "dish."
This was much applauded, and the curtain went up again, for the
proud parents enjoyed seeing their pretty girls in the faded finery
of a hundred years ago. The band played "Auld Lang Syne," as a
gentle hint that our fore-mothers should be remembered as well as
It was evident that something very martial was to follow, for a
great tramping, clashing, and flying about took place behind the
scenes while the tea-party was going on. After some delay, "The
Surrender of Cornwallis" was presented in the most superb
manner, as you can believe when I tell you that the stage was
actually lined with a glittering array of Washington and his
generals, Lafayette, Kosciusko, Rochambeau and the rest, all in
astonishing uniforms, with swords which were evidently the pride
of their lives. Fife and drum struck up a march, and in came
Cornwallis, much cast down but full of manly resignation, as he
surrendered his sword, and stood aside with averted eyes while his
army marched past, piling their arms at the hero's feet.
This scene was the delight of the boys, for the rifles of Company F
had been secured, and at least a dozen soldiers kept filing in and
out in British uniform till Washington's august legs were hidden by
the heaps of arms rattled down before him. The martial music, the
steady tramp, and the patriotic memories awakened, caused this
scene to be enthusiastically encored, and the boys would have
gone on marching till midnight if Ralph had not peremptorily
ordered down the curtain and cleared the stage for the next
This had been artfully slipped in between two brilliant ones, to
show that the Father of his Country had to pay a high price for his
glory. The darkened stage represented what seemed to be a camp
in a snow-storm, and a very forlorn camp, too; for on "the cold,
cold ground" (a reckless display of cotton batting) lay ragged
soldiers, sleeping without blankets, their worn-out boots turned up
pathetically, and no sign of food or fire to be seen. A very shabby
sentinel, with feet bound in bloody cloths, and his face as pale as
chalk could make it, gnawed a dry crust as he kept his watch in the
A tent at the back of the stage showed a solitary figure sitting on a
log of wood, poring over the map spread upon his knee, by the
light of one candle stuck in a bottle. There could be no doubt who
this was, for the buff-and-blue coat, the legs, the nose, the attitude,
all betrayed the great George laboring to save his country, in spite
of privations, discouragements, and dangers which would have
daunted any other man.
"Valley Forge," said someone, and the room was very still as old
and young looked silently at this little picture of a great and noble
struggle in one of its dark hours. The crust, the wounded feet, the
rags, the snow, the loneliness, the indomitable courage and
endurance of these men touched the hearts of all, for the mimic
scene grew real for a moment; and, when a child's voice broke the
silence, asking pitifully, "Oh, mamma, was it truly as dreadful as
that?" a general outburst answered, as if every one wanted to cheer
up the brave fellows and bid them fight on, for victory was surely
In the next scene it did come, and "Washington at Trenton" was
prettily done. An arch of flowers crossed the stage, with the motto,
"The Defender of the Mothers will be the Preserver of the
Daughters;" and, as the hero with his generals advanced on one
side, a troop of girls, in old-fashioned muslin frocks, came to
scatter flowers before him, singing the song of long ago:--
"Welcome, mighty chief, once more
Welcome to this grateful shore;
Now no mercenary foe
Aims again the fatal blow,--
Aims at thee the fatal blow.
"Virgins fair and matrons grave,
Those thy conquering arm did save,
Build for thee triumphal bowers;
Strew, ye fair, his way with flowers,--
Strew your hero's way with flowers."
And they did, singing with all their hearts as they flung artificial
roses and lilies at the feet of the great men, who bowed with
benign grace. Jack, who did Lafayette with a limp, covered himself
with glory by picking up one of the bouquets and pressing it to his
heart with all the gallantry of a Frenchman; and when Washington
lifted the smallest of the maids and kissed her, the audience
cheered. Couldn't help it, you know, it was so pretty and inspiring.
The Washington Family, after the famous picture, came next, with
Annette as the serene and sensible Martha, in a very becoming cap.
The General was in uniform, there being no time to change, but his
attitude was quite correct, and the Custis boy and girl displayed the
wide sash and ruffled collar with historic fidelity. The band played
"Home," and every one agreed that it was "Sweet!"
"Now I don't see what more they can have except the death-bed,
and that would be rather out of place in this gay company," said
the old gentleman to Mr. Burton, as he mopped his heated face
after pounding so heartily he nearly knocked the ferule off his
"No; they gave that up, for my boy wouldn't wear a night-gown in
public. I can't tell secrets, but I think they have got a very clever
little finale for the first part--a pretty compliment to one person
and a pleasant surprise to all," answered Mr. Burton, who was in
great spirits, being fond of theatricals and very justly proud of his
children, for the little girls had been among the Trenton maids, and
the mimic General had kissed his own small sister, Nelly, very
A great deal of interest was felt as to what this surprise was to be,
and a general "Oh!" greeted the "Minute Man," standing motionless
upon his pedestal. It was Frank, and Ralph had done his best
to have the figure as perfect as possible, for the maker of the
original had been a good friend to him; and, while the young
sculptor was dancing gayly at the ball, this copy of his work was
doing him honor among the children. Frank looked it very well, for
his firm-set mouth was full of resolution, his eyes shone keen and
courageous under the three-cornered hat, and the muscles stood
out upon the bare arm that clutched the old gun. Even the buttons
on the gaiters seemed to flash defiance, as the sturdy legs took the
first step from the furrow toward the bridge where the young
farmer became a hero when he "fired the shot heard 'round the
"That _is_ splendid!" "As like to the original as flesh can be to
bronze." "How still he stands!" "He'll fight when the time comes,
and die hard, won't he?" "Hush! You make the statue blush!" These
very audible remarks certainly did, for the color rose visibly as the
modest lad heard himself praised, though he saw but one face in
all the crowd, his mother's, far back, but full of love and pride, as
she looked up at her young minute man waiting for the battle
which often calls us when we least expect it, and for which she
had done her best to make him ready.
If there had been any danger of Frank being puffed up by the
success of his statue, it was counteracted by irrepressible Grif,
who, just at the most interesting moment, when all were gazing
silently, gave a whistle, followed by a "Choo, choo, choo!" and
"All aboard!" so naturally that no one could mistake the joke,
especially as another laughing voice added, "Now, then, No. 11!"
which brought down the house and the curtain too.
Frank was so angry, it was very difficult to keep him on his perch
for the last scene of all. He submitted, however, rather than spoil
the grand finale, hoping that its beauty would efface that ill-timed
pleasantry from the public mind. So, when the agreeable clamor of
hands and voices called for a repetition, the Minute Man
reappeared, grimmer than before. But not alone, for grouped all
about his pedestal were Washington and his generals, the matrons
and maids, with a background of troops shouldering arms, Grif and
Joe doing such rash things with their muskets, that more than one
hero received a poke in his august back. Before the full richness of
this picture had been taken in, Ed gave a rap, and all burst out with
"Hail Columbia," in such an inspiring style that it was impossible
for the audience to refrain from joining, which they did, all
standing and all singing with a heartiness that made the walls ring.
The fife shrilled, the horn blew sweet and clear, the fiddle was
nearly drowned by the energetic boom of the drum, and out into
the starry night, through open windows, rolled the song that stirs
the coldest heart with patriotic warmth and tunes every voice to
"'America!' We must have 'America!' Pipe up, Ed, this is too good
to end without one song more," cried Mr. Burton, who had been
singing like a trumpet; and, hardly waiting to get their breath, off
they all went again with the national hymn, singing as they never
had sung it before, for somehow the little scenes they had just
acted or beheld seemed to show how much this dear America of
ours had cost in more than one revolution, how full of courage,
energy, and virtue it was in spite of all its faults, and what a
privilege, as well as duty, it was for each to do his part toward its
safety and its honor in the present, as did those brave men and
women in the past.
So the "Scenes from the Life of Washington" were a great success,
and, when the songs were over, people were glad of a brief recess
while they had raptures, and refreshed themselves with lemonade.
The girls had kept the secret of who the "Princess" was to be, and,
when the curtain rose, a hum of surprise and pleasure greeted the
pretty group. Jill lay asleep in all her splendor, the bonny "Prince"
just lifting the veil to wake her with a kiss, and all about them the
court in its nap of a hundred years. The "King" and "Queen"
dozing comfortably on the throne; the maids of honor, like a
garland of nodding flowers, about the couch; the little page,
unconscious of the blow about to fall, and the fool dreaming, with
his mouth wide open.
It was so pretty, people did not tire of looking, till Jack's lame leg
began to tremble, and he whispered: "Drop her or I shall pitch."
Down went the curtain; but it rose in a moment, and there was the
court after the awakening: the "King" and "Queen" looking about
them with sleepy dignity, the maids in various attitudes of surprise,
the fool grinning from ear to ear, and the "Princess" holding out
her hand to the "Prince," as if glad to welcome the right lover
when he came at last.
Molly got the laugh this time, for she could not resist giving poor
Boo the cuff which had been hanging over him so long. She gave it
with unconscious energy, and Boo cried "Ow!" so naturally that all
the children were delighted and wanted it repeated. But Boo
declined, and the scenes which followed were found quite as much
to their taste, having been expressly prepared for the little people.
Mother Goose's Reception was really very funny, for Ralph was
the old lady, and had hired a representation of the immortal bird
from a real theatre for this occasion. There they stood, the dame in
her pointed hat, red petticoat, cap, and cane, with the noble fowl, a
good deal larger than life, beside her, and Grif inside, enjoying
himself immensely as he flapped the wings, moved the yellow
legs, and waved the long neck about, while unearthly quacks
issued from the bill. That was a great surprise for the children, and
they got up in their seats to gaze their fill, many of them firmly
believing that they actually beheld the blessed old woman who
wrote the nursery songs they loved so well.
Then in came, one after another, the best of the characters she has
made famous, while a voice behind the scenes sang the proper
rhyme as each made their manners to the interesting pair.
"Mistress Mary," and her "pretty maids all in a row," passed by to
their places in the background; "King Cole" and his "fiddlers
three" made a goodly show; so did the royal couple, who followed
the great pie borne before them, with the "four-and-twenty
blackbirds" popping their heads out in the most delightful way.
Little "Bo-Peep" led a woolly lamb and wept over its lost tail, for
not a sign of one appeared on the poor thing. "Simple Simon"
followed the pie-man, gloating over his wares with the drollest
antics. The little wife came trundling by in a wheelbarrow and was
not upset; neither was the lady with "rings on her fingers and bells
on her toes," as she cantered along on a rocking-horse. "Bobby
Shafto's" yellow hair shone finely as he led in the maid whom he
came back from sea to marry. "Miss Muffet," bowl in hand, ran
away from an immense black spider, which waggled its long legs
in a way so life-like that some of the children shook in their little
shoes. The beggars who came to town were out in full force, "rags,
tags, and velvet gowns," quite true to life. "Boy Blue" rubbed his
eyes, with hay sticking in his hair, and tooted on a tin horn as if
bound to get the cows out of the corn. Molly, with a long-handled
frying-pan, made a capital "Queen," in a tucked-up gown, checked
apron, and high crown, to good "King Arthur," who, very properly,
did not appear after stealing the barley-meal, which might be seen
in the pan tied up in a pudding, like a cannon-ball, ready to fry.
But Tobias, Molly's black cat, covered himself with glory by the
spirit with which he acted his part in,
"Sing, sing, what shall I sing?
The cat's run away with the pudding-bag string."
First he was led across the stage on his hind legs, looking very
fierce and indignant, with a long tape trailing behind him; and,
being set free at the proper moment, he gave one bound over the
four-and-twenty blackbirds who happened to be in the way, and
dashed off as if an enraged cook had actually been after him,
straight downstairs to the coal-bin, where he sat glaring in the
dark, till the fun was over.
When all the characters had filed in and stood in two long rows,
music struck up and they danced, "All the way to Boston," a
simple but lively affair, which gave each a chance to show his or
her costume as they pranced down the middle and up outside.
Such a funny medley as it was, for there went fat "King Cole" with
the most ragged of the beggar-maids. "Mistress Mary," in her
pretty blue dress, tripped along with "Simple Simon" staring about
him like a blockhead. The fine lady left her horse to dance with
"Bobby Shafto" till every bell on her slippers tinkled its tongue
out. "Bo-Peep" and a jolly fiddler skipped gayly up and down.
"Miss Muffet" took the big spider for her partner, and made his
many legs fly about in the wildest way. The little wife got out of
the wheelbarrow to help "Boy Blue" along, and Molly, with the
frying-pan over her shoulder, led off splendidly when it was
"Grand right and left."
But the old lady and her goose were the best of all, for the dame's
shoe-buckles cut the most astonishing pigeon-wings, and to see
that mammoth bird waddle down the middle with its wings half
open, its long neck bridling, and its yellow legs in the first position
as it curtsied to its partner, was a sight to remember, it was so
The merry old gentleman laughed till he cried; Mr. Burton split his
gloves, he applauded so enthusiastically; while the children beat
the dust out of the carpet hopping up and down, as they cried: "Do
it again!" "We want it all over!" when the curtain went down at last
on the flushed and panting party, Mother G---- bowing, with her hat
all awry, and the goose doing a double shuffle as if it did not know
how to leave off.
But they could not "do it all over again," for it was growing late,
and the people felt that they certainly had received their money's
worth that evening.
So it all ended merrily, and when the guests departed the boys
cleared the room like magic, and the promised supper to the actors
was served in handsome style. Jack and Jill were at one end, Mrs.
Goose and her bird at the other, and all between was a comical
collection of military heroes, fairy characters, and nursery
celebrities. All felt the need of refreshment after their labors, and
swept over the table like a flight of locusts, leaving devastation
behind. But they had earned their fun: and much innocent jollity
prevailed, while a few lingering papas and mammas watched the
revel from afar, and had not the heart to order these noble beings
home till even the Father of his Country declared "that he'd had a
perfectly splendid time, but couldn't keep his eyes open another
minute," and very wisely retired to replace the immortal cocked
hat with a night-cap.
Jack Has a Mystery
"What is the matter? Does your head ache?" asked Jill, one
evening in March, observing that Jack sat with his head in his
hands, an attitude which, with him, meant either pain or
"No; but I'm bothered. I want some money, and I don't see how I
can earn it," he answered, tumbling his hair about, and frowning
darkly at the fire.
"How much?" and Jill's ready hand went to the pocket where her
little purse lay, for she felt rich with several presents lately made
"Two seventy-five. No, thank you, I won't borrow."
"What is it for?"
"Why, I thought you told me everything."
"Sorry, but I can't this time. Don't you worry; I shall think of
"Couldn't your mother help?"
"Don't wish to ask her."
"Why! can't _she_ know?"
"How queer! Is it a scrape, Jack?" asked Jill, looking as curious as
"It is likely to be, if I can't get out of it this week, somehow."
"Well, I don't see how I can help if I'm not to know anything;" and
Jill seemed rather hurt.
"You can just stop asking questions, and tell me how a fellow can
earn some money. That would help. I've got one dollar, but I must
have some more;" and Jack looked worried as he fingered the little
gold dollar on his watch-guard.
"Oh, do you mean to use that?"
"Yes, I do; a man must pay his debts if he sells all he has to do it,"
said Jack sternly.
"Dear me; it must be something very serious." And Jill lay quite
still for five minutes, thinking over all the ways in which Jack ever
did earn money, for Mrs. Minot liked to have her boys work, and
paid them in some way for all they did.
"Is there any wood to saw?" she asked presently, being very
anxious to help.
"Paths to shovel?"
"Lawn to rake, then?"
"Not time for that yet."
"Catalogue of books?"
"Frank got that job."
"Copy those letters for your mother?"
"Take me too long. Must have my money Friday, if possible."
"I don't see what we can do, then. It is too early or too late for
everything, and you won't borrow."
"Not of you. No, nor of any one else, if I can possibly help it. I've
promised to do this myself, and I will;" and Jack wagged his head
"Couldn't you do something with the printing-press? Do me some
cards, and then, perhaps, the other girls will want some," said Jill,
as a forlorn hope.
"Just the thing! What a goose I was not to think of it. I'll rig the old
machine up at once." And, starting from his seat, Jack dived into
the big closet, dragged out the little press, and fell to oiling,
dusting, and putting it in order, like one relieved of a great anxiety.
"Give me the types; I'll sort them and set up my name, so you can
begin as soon as you are ready. You know what a help I was when
we did the programmes. I'm almost sure the girls _will_ want cards,
and I know your mother would like some more tags," said Jill,
briskly rattling the letters into the different compartments, while
Jack inked the rollers and hunted up his big apron, whistling the
while with recovered spirits.
A dozen neat cards were soon printed, and Jill insisted on paying
six cents for them, as earning was not borrowing. A few odd tags
were found and done for Mamma, who immediately ordered four
dozen at six cents a dozen, though she was not told why there was
such a pressing call for money.
Jack's monthly half-dollar had been spent the first week,--
twenty-five cents for a concert, ten paid a fine for keeping a book
too long from the library, ten more to have his knife ground, and
five in candy, for he dearly loved sweeties, and was under bonds to
Mamma not to spend more than five cents a month on these
unwholesome temptations. She never asked the boys what they did
with their money, but expected them to keep account in the little
books she gave them; and, now and then, they showed the neat
pages with pardonable pride, though she often laughed at the queer
All that evening Jack & Co. worked busily, for when Frank came
in he good-naturedly ordered some pale-pink cards for Annette,
and ran to the store to choose the right shade, and buy some
packages for the young printer also.
"What _do_ you suppose he is in such a pucker for?" whispered Jill,
as she set up the new name, to Frank, who sat close by, with one
eye on his book and one on her.
"Oh, some notion. He's a queer chap; but I guess it isn't much of a
scrape, or I should know it. He's so good-natured he's always
promising to do things for people, and has too much pluck to give
up when he finds he can't. Let him alone, and it will all come out
soon enough," answered Frank, who laughed at his brother, but
loved him none the less for the tender heart that often got the
better of his young head.
But for once Frank was mistaken; the mystery did not come out,
and Jack worked like a beaver all that week, as orders poured in
when Jill and Annette showed their elegant cards; for, as
everybody knows, if one girl has a new thing all the rest must,
whether it is a bow on the top of her head, a peculiar sort of pencil,
or the latest kind of chewing-gum. Little play did the poor fellow
get, for every spare minute was spent at the press, and no
invitation could tempt him away, so much in earnest was our
honest little Franklin about paying his debt. Jill helped all she
could, and cheered his labors with her encouragement, remembering
how he stayed at home for her.
"It is real good of you to lend a hand, and I'm ever so much
obliged," said Jack, as the last order was struck off, and the drawer
of the type-box held a pile of shining five and ten cent pieces, with
two or three quarters.
"I love to; only it would be nicer if I knew what we were working
for," she said demurely, as she scattered type for the last time; and
seeing that Jack was both tired and grateful, hoped to get a hint of
"I want to tell you, dreadfully; but I can't, because I've promised."
"Never!" and Jack looked as firm as a rock.
"Then I shall find out, for _I_ haven't promised."
"See if I don't!"
"You are sharp, but you won't guess this. It's a tremendous secret,
and nobody will tell it."
"You'll tell it yourself. You always do."
"I won't tell this. It would be mean."
"Wait and see; I can get anything out of you if I try;" and Jill
laughed, knowing her power well, for Jack found it very hard to
keep a secret from her.
"Don't try; please don't! It wouldn't be right, and you don't want to
make me do a dishonorable thing for your sake, I know."
Jack looked so distressed that Jill promised not to _make_ him tell,
though she held herself free to find out in other ways, if she could.
Thus relieved, Jack trudged off to school on Friday with the two
dollars and seventy-five cents jingling in his pocket, though the
dear gold coin had to be sacrificed to make up the sum. He did his
lessons badly that day, was late at recess in the afternoon, and, as
soon as school was over, departed in his rubber boots "to take a
walk," he said, though the roads were in a bad state with a spring
thaw. Nothing was seen of him till after tea-time, when he came
limping in, very dirty and tired, but with a reposeful expression,
which betrayed that a load was off his mind. Frank was busy about
his own affairs and paid little attention to him, but Jill was on
tenter-hooks to know where he had been, yet dared not ask the
"Merry's brother wants some cards. He liked hers so much he
wishes to make his lady-love a present. Here's the name;" and Jill
held up the order from Harry Grant, who was to be married in the
"Must wait till next week. I'm too tired to do a thing to-night, and I
hate the sight of that old press," answered Jack, laying himself
down upon the rug as if every joint ached.
"What made you take such a long walk? You look as tired as if
you'd been ten miles," said Jill, hoping to discover the length of the
"Had to. Four or five miles isn't much, only my leg bothered me;"
and Jack gave the ailing member a slap, as if he had found it much
in his way that day; for, though he had given up the crutches long
ago, he rather missed their support sometimes. Then, with a great
yawn, he stretched himself out to bask in the blaze, pillowing his
head on his arms.
"Dear old thing, he looks all used up; I won't plague him with
talking;" and Jill began to sing, as she often did in the twilight.
By the time the first song ended a gentle snore was heard, and Jack
lay fast asleep, worn out with the busy week and the walk, which
had been longer and harder than any one guessed. Jill took up her
knitting and worked quietly by firelight, still wondering and
guessing what the secret could be; for she had not much to amuse
her, and little things were very interesting if connected with her
friends. Presently Jack rolled over and began to mutter in his sleep,
as he often did when too weary for sound slumber. Jill paid no
attention till he uttered a name which made her prick up her ears
and listen to the broken sentences which followed. Only a few
words, but she dropped her work, saying to herself,--
"I do believe he is talking about the secret. Now I shall find out,
and he _will_ tell me himself, as I said he would."
Much pleased, she leaned and listened, but could make no sense of
the confused babble about "heavy boots;" "All right, old fellow;"
"Jerry's off;" and "The ink is too thick."
The slam of the front door woke Jack, and he pulled himself up,
declaring that he believed he had been having a nap.
"I wish you'd have another," said Jill, greatly disappointed at the
loss of the intelligence she seemed to be so near getting.
"Floor is too hard for tired bones. Guess I'll go to bed and get
rested up for Monday. I've worked like fury this week, so next
I'm going in for fun;" and, little dreaming what hard times were in
store for him, Jack went off to enjoy his warm bath and welcome
bed, where he was soon sleeping with the serene look of one
whose dreams were happy, whose conscience was at rest.
* * * * *
"I have a few words to say to you before you go," said Mr. Acton,
pausing with his hand on the bell, Monday afternoon, when the
hour came for dismissing school.
The bustle of putting away books and preparing for as rapid a
departure as propriety allowed, subsided suddenly, and the boys
and girls sat as still as mice, while the hearts of such as had been
guilty of any small sins began to beat fast.
"You remember that we had some trouble last winter about
keeping the boys away from the saloon, and that a rule was made
forbidding any pupil to go to town during recess?" began Mr.
Acton, who, being a conscientious man as well as an excellent
teacher, felt that he was responsible for the children in school
hours, and did his best to aid parents in guarding them from the
few temptations which beset them in a country town. A certain
attractive little shop, where confectionery, baseballs, stationery,
and picture papers were sold, was a favorite loafing place for some
of the boys till the rule forbidding it was made, because in the rear
of the shop was a beer and billiard saloon. A wise rule, for the
picture papers were not always of the best sort; cigars were to be
had; idle fellows hung about there, and some of the lads, who
wanted to be thought manly, ventured to pass the green baize door
"just to look on."
A murmur answered the teacher's question, and he continued,
"You all know that the rule was broken several times, and I told
you the next offender would be publicly reprimanded, as private
punishments had no effect. I am sorry to say that the time has
come, and the offender is a boy whom I trusted entirely. It grieves
me to do this, but I must keep my promise, and hope the example
will have a good effect."
Mr. Acton paused, as if he found it hard to go on, and the boys
looked at one another with inquiring eyes, for their teacher seldom
punished, and when he did, it was a very solemn thing. Several of
these anxious glances fell upon Joe, who was very red and sat
whittling a pencil as if he dared not lift his eyes.
"He's the chap. Won't he catch it?" whispered Gus to Frank, for
both owed him a grudge.
"The boy who broke the rule last Friday, at afternoon recess, will
come to the desk," said Mr. Acton in his most impressive manner.
If a thunderbolt had fallen through the roof it would hardly have
caused a greater surprise than the sight of Jack Minot walking
slowly down the aisle, with a wrathful flash in the eyes he turned
on Joe as he passed him.
"Now, Minot, let us have this over as soon as possible, for I do not
like it any better than you do, and I am sure there is some mistake.
I'm told you went to the shop on Friday. Is it true?" asked Mr.
Acton very gently, for he liked Jack and seldom had to correct him
in any way.
"Yes, sir;" and Jack looked up as if proud to show that he was not
afraid to tell the truth as far as he could.
"To buy something?"
"To meet someone?"
"Was it Jerry Shannon?"
No answer, but Jack's fists doubled up of themselves as he shot
another fiery glance at Joe, whose face burned as if it scorched
"I am told it was; also that you were seen to go into the saloon
with him. Did you?" and Mr. Acton looked so sure that it was a
mistake that it cost Jack a great effort to say, slowly,--
Quite a thrill pervaded the school at this confession, for Jerry was
one of the wild fellows the boys all shunned, and to have any
dealings with him was considered a very disgraceful thing.
"Did you play?"
"No, sir. I can't."
"I belong to the Lodge;" and Jack stood as erect as any little soldier
who ever marched under a temperance banner, and fought for the
cause none are too young nor too old to help along.
"I was sure of that. Then what took you there, my boy?"
The question was so kindly put that Jack forgot himself an instant,
and blurted out,--
"I only went to pay him some money, sir."
"Ah, how much?"
"Two seventy-five," muttered Jack, as red as a cherry at not being
able to keep a secret better.
"Too much for a lad like you to owe such a fellow as Jerry. How
came it?" And Mr. Acton looked disturbed.
Jack opened his lips to speak, but shut them again, and stood
looking down with a little quiver about the mouth that showed
how much it cost him to be silent.
"Does any one beside Jerry know of this?"
"One other fellow," after a pause.
"Yes, I understand;" and Mr. Acton's eye glanced at Joe with a
look that seemed to say, "I wish he'd held his tongue."
A queer smile flitted over Jack's face, for Joe was not the "other
fellow," and knew very little about it, excepting what he had seen
when he was sent on an errand by Mr. Acton on Friday.
"I wish you would explain the matter, John, for I am sure it is
better than it seems, and it would be very hard to punish you when
you don't deserve it."
"But I do deserve it; I've broken the rule, and I ought to be
punished," said Jack, as if a good whipping would be easier to bear
than this public cross-examination.
"And you can't explain, or even say you are sorry or ashamed?"
asked Mr. Acton, hoping to surprise another fact out of the boy.
"No, sir; I can't; I'm not ashamed; I'm not sorry, and I'd do it again
to-morrow if I had to," cried Jack, losing patience, and looking as
if he would not bear much more.
A groan from the boys greeted this bare-faced declaration, and
Susy quite shivered at the idea of having taken two bites out of the
apple of such a hardened desperado.
"Think it over till to-morrow, and perhaps you will change your
mind. Remember that this is the last week of the month, and
reports are given out next Friday," said Mr. Acton, knowing how
much the boy prided himself on always having good ones to show
Poor Jack turned scarlet and bit his lips to keep them still, for he
had forgotten this when he plunged into the affair which was likely
to cost him dear. Then the color faded away, the boyish face grew
steady, and the honest eyes looked up at his teacher as he said very
low, but all heard him, the room was so still,--
"It isn't as bad as it looks, sir, but I can't say any more. No one is to
blame but me; and I couldn't help breaking the rule, for Jerry was
going away, I had only that time, and I'd promised to pay up, so I
Mr. Acton believed every word he said, and regretted that they had
not been able to have it out privately, but he, too, must keep his
promise and punish the offender, whoever he was.
"Very well, you will lose your recess for a week, and this month's
report will be the first one in which behavior does not get the
highest mark. You may go; and I wish it understood that Master
Minot is not to be troubled with questions till he chooses to set this
Then the bell rang, the children trooped out, Mr. Acton went off
without another word, and Jack was left alone to put up his books
and hide a few tears that would come because Frank turned his
eyes away from the imploring look cast upon him as the culprit
came down from the platform, a disgraced boy.
Elder brothers are apt to be a little hard on younger ones, so it is
not surprising that Frank, who was an eminently proper boy, was
much cut up when Jack publicly confessed to dealings with Jerry,
leaving it to be supposed that the worst half of the story remained
untold. He felt it his duty, therefore, to collar poor Jack when he
came out, and talk to him all the way home, like a judge bent on
getting at the truth by main force. A kind word would have been
very comforting, but the scolding was too much for Jack's temper,
so he turned dogged and would not say a word, though Frank
threatened not to speak to him for a week.
At tea-time both boys were very silent, one looking grim, the other
excited. Frank stared sternly at his brother across the table, and no
amount of marmalade sweetened or softened that reproachful look.
Jack defiantly crunched his toast, with occasional slashes at the
butter, as if he must vent the pent-up emotions which half
distracted him. Of course, their mother saw that something was
amiss, but did not allude to it, hoping that the cloud would blow
over as so many did if left alone. But this one did not, and when
both refused cake, this sure sign of unusual perturbation made her
anxious to know the cause. As soon as tea was over, Jack retired
with gloomy dignity to his own room, and Frank, casting away the
paper he had been pretending to read, burst out with the whole
story. Mrs. Minot was as much surprised as he, but not angry,
because, like most mothers, she was sure that her sons could not
do anything very bad.
"I will speak to him; my boy won't refuse to give _me_ some
explanation," she said, when Frank had freed his mind with as
much warmth as if Jack had broken all the ten commandments.
"He will. You often call me obstinate, but he is as pig-headed as a
mule; Joe only knows what he saw, old tell-tale! and Jerry has left
town, or I'd have it out of him. Make Jack own up, whether he can
or not. Little donkey!" stormed Frank, who hated rowdies and
could not forgive his brother for being seen with one.
"My dear, all boys do foolish things sometimes, even the wisest
and best behaved, so don't be hard on the poor child. He has got
into trouble, I've no doubt, but it cannot be very bad, and he earned
the money to pay for his prank, whatever it was."
Mrs. Minot left the room as she spoke, and Frank cooled down as
if her words had been a shower-bath, for he remembered his own
costly escapade, and how kindly both his mother and Jack had
stood by him on that trying occasion. So, feeling rather remorseful,
he went off to talk it over with Gus, leaving Jill in a fever of
curiosity, for Merry and Molly had dropped in on their way home
to break the blow to her, and Frank declined to discuss it with her,
after mildly stating that Jack was "a ninny," in his opinion.
"Well, I know one thing," said Jill confidentially to Snow-ball,
when they were left alone together, "if every one else is scolding
him I won't say a word. It's so mean to crow over people when they
are down, and I'm sure he hasn't done anything to be ashamed of,
though he won't tell."
Snow-ball seemed to agree to this, for he went and sat down by
Jack's slippers waiting for him on the hearth, and Jill thought that a
very touching proof of affectionate fidelity to the little master who
ruled them both.
When he came, it was evident that he had found it harder to refuse
his mother than all the rest. But she trusted him in spite of
appearances, and that was such a comfort! For poor Jack's heart
was very full, and he longed to tell the whole story, but he would
not break his promise, and so kept silence bravely. Jill asked no
questions, affecting to be anxious for the games they always
played together in the evening, but while they played, though the
lips were sealed, the bright eyes said as plainly as words, "I trust
you," and Jack was very grateful.
It was well he had something to cheer him up at home, for he got
little peace at school. He bore the grave looks of Mr. Acton
meekly, took the boys' jokes good-naturedly, and withstood the
artful teasing of the girls with patient silence. But it was very hard
for the social, affectionate fellow to bear the general distrust, for
he had been such a favorite he felt the change keenly.
But the thing that tried him most was the knowledge that his report
would not be what it usually was. It was always a happy moment
when he showed it to his mother, and saw her eye brighten as it
fell on the 99 or 100, for she cared more for good behavior than
for perfect lessons. Mr. Acton once said that Frank Minot's moral
influence in the school was unusual, and Jack never forgot her
pride and delight as she told them what Frank himself had not
known till then. It was Jack's ambition to have the same said of
him, for he was not much of a scholar, and he had tried hard since
he went back to school to get good records in that respect at least.
Now here was a dreadful downfall, tardy marks, bad company,
broken rules, and something too wrong to tell, apparently.
"Well, I deserve a good report, and that's a comfort, though nobody
believes it," he said to himself, trying to keep up his spirits, as the
slow week went by, and no word from him had cleared up the
And Jill Finds It Out
Jill worried about it more than he did, for she was a faithful little
friend, and it was a great trial to have Jack even suspected of doing
anything wrong. School is a child's world while he is there, and its
small affairs are very important to him, so Jill felt that the one
thing to be done was to clear away the cloud about her dear boy,
and restore him to public favor.
"Ed will be here Saturday night and may be he will find out, for
Jack tells him everything. I do hate to have him hectored so, for I
know he is, though he's too proud to complain," she said, on
Thursday evening, when Frank told her some joke played upon his
brother that day.
"I let him alone, but I see that he isn't badgered too much. That's
all I can do. If Ed had only come home last Saturday it might have
done some good, but now it will be too late; for the reports are
given out to-morrow, you know," answered Frank, feeling a little
jealous of Ed's influence over Jack, though his own would have
been as great if he had been as gentle.
"Has Jerry come back?" asked Jill, who kept all her questions for
Frank, because she seldom alluded to the tender subject when with
"No, he's off for the summer. Got a place somewhere. Hope he'll
stay there and let Bob alone."
"Where is Bob now? I don't hear much about him lately," said Jill,
who was constantly on the lookout for "the other fellow," since it
was not Joe.
"Oh, he went to Captain Skinner's the first of March, chores round,
and goes to school up there. Captain is strict, and won't let Bob
come to town, except Sundays; but he don't mind it much, for he
likes horses, has nice grub, and the Hill fellows are good chaps for
him to be with. So he's all right, if he only behaves."
"How far is it to Captain Skinner's?" asked Jill suddenly, having
listened, with her sharp eyes on Frank, as he tinkered away at his
model, since he was forbidden all other indulgence in his beloved
"It's four miles to Hill District, but the Captain lives this side of the
school-house. About three from here, I should say."
"How long would it take a boy to walk up there?" went on the
questioner, with a new idea in her head.
"Depends on how much of a walkist he is."
"Suppose he was lame and it was sloshy, and he made a call and
came back. How long would that take?" asked Jill impatiently.
"Well, in that case, I should say two or three hours. But it's
impossible to tell exactly, unless you know how lame the fellow
was, and how long a call he made," said Frank, who liked to be
"Jack couldn't do it in less, could he?"
"He used to run up that hilly road for a breather, and think nothing
of it. It would be a long job for him now, poor little chap, for his
leg often troubles him, though he hates to own it."
Jill lay back and laughed, a happy little laugh, as if she was
pleased about something, and Frank looked over his shoulder to
ask questions in his turn.
"What are you laughing at?"
"Why do you want to know about Hill District? Are you going
"Wish I could! I'd soon have it out of him."
"Never mind. Please push up my table. I must write a letter, and I
want you to post it for me to-night, and never say a word till I give
"Oh, now _you_ are going to have secrets and be mysterious, and get
into a mess, are you?" and Frank looked down at her with a
suspicious air, though he was intensely curious to know what she
"Go away till I'm done. You will have to see the outside, but you
can't know the inside till the answer comes;" and propping herself
up, Jill wrote the following note, with some hesitation at the
beginning and end, for she did not know the gentleman she was
addressing, except by sight, and it was rather awkward:--
"Dear Sir, I want to ask if Jack Minot came to see you last Friday
afternoon. He got into trouble being seen with Jerry Shannon. He
paid him some money. Jack won't tell, and Mr. Acton talked to
him about it before all the school. We feel bad, because we think
Jack did not do wrong. I don't know as you have anything to do
with it, but I thought I'd ask. Please answer quick. Respectfully
To make sure that her despatch was not tampered with, Jill put a
great splash of red sealing-wax on it, which gave it a very official
look, and much impressed Bob when he received it.
"There! Go and post it, and don't let any one see or know about it,"
she said, handing it over to Frank, who left his work with unusual
alacrity to do her errand. When his eye fell on the address, he
laughed, and said in a teasing way,--
"Are you and Bob such good friends that you correspond? What
will Jack say?"
"Don't know, and don't care! Be good, now, and let's have a little
secret as well as other folks. I'll tell you all about it when he
answers," said Jill in her most coaxing tone.
"Suppose he doesn't?"
"Then I shall send you up to see him. I _must_ know something, and
I want to do it myself, if I can."
"Look here; what are you after? I do believe you think----" Frank
got no farther, for Jill gave a little scream, and stopped him by
crying eagerly, "Don't say it out loud! I really do believe it may be,
and I'm going to find out."
"What made you think of him?" and Frank looked thoughtfully at
the letter, as if turning carefully over in his mind the idea that Jill's
quick wits had jumped at.
"Come here and I'll tell you."
Holding him by one button, she whispered something in his ear
that made him exclaim, with a look at the rug,--
"No! did he? I declare I shouldn't wonder! It would be just like the
dear old blunder-head."
"I never thought of it till you told me where Bob was, and then it
all sort of burst upon me in one minute!" cried Jill, waving her
arms about to express the intellectual explosion which had thrown
light upon the mystery, like sky-rockets in a dark night.
"You are as bright as a button. No time to lose; I'm off;" and off he
was, splashing through the mud to post the letter, on the back of
which he added, to make the thing sure, "Hurry up. F.M."
Both felt rather guilty next day, but enjoyed themselves very much
nevertheless, and kept chuckling over the mine they were making
under Jack's unconscious feet. They hardly expected an answer at
noon, as the Hill people were not very eager for their mail, but at
night Jill was sure of a letter, and to her great delight it came. Jack
brought it himself, which added to the fun, and while she eagerly
read it he sat calmly poring over the latest number of his own
private and particular "Youth's Companion."
Bob was not a "complete letter-writer" by any means, and with
great labor and much ink had produced the following brief but
highly satisfactory epistle. Not knowing how to address his fair
correspondent he let it alone, and went at once to the point in the
frankest possible way:--
"Jack did come up Friday. Sorry he got into a mess. It was real
kind of him, and I shall pay him back soon. Jack paid Jerry for me
and I made him promise not to tell. Jerry said he'd come here and
make a row if I didn't cash up. I was afraid I'd lose the place if he
did, for the Capt. is awful strict. If Jack don't tell now, I will. I ain't
mean. Glad you wrote.
"Hurrah!" cried Jill, waving the letter over her head in great
triumph. "Call everybody and read it out," she added, as Frank
snatched it, and ran for his mother, seeing at a glance that the news
was good. Jill was so afraid she should tell before the others came
that she burst out singing "Pretty Bobby Shafto" at the top of her
voice, to Jack's great disgust, for he considered the song very
personal, as he _was_ rather fond of "combing down his yellow
hair," and Jill often plagued him by singing it when he came in
with the golden quirls very smooth and nice to hide the scar on his
In about five minutes the door flew open and in came Mamma,
making straight for bewildered Jack, who thought the family had
gone crazy when his parent caught him in her arms, saying
"My good, generous boy! I knew he was right all the time!" while
Frank worked his hand up and down like a pump-handle, exclaiming
"You're a trump, sir, and I'm proud of you!" Jill meantime calling
out, in wild delight,--
"I told you so! I told you so! I did find out; ha, ha, I did!"
"Come, I say! What's the matter? I'm all right. Don't squeeze the
breath out of me, please," expostulated Jack, looking so startled
and innocent, as he struggled feebly, that they all laughed, and this
plaintive protest caused him to be released. But the next
proceeding did not enlighten him much, for Frank kept waving a
very inky paper before him and ordering him to read it, while
Mamma made a charge at Jill, as if it was absolutely necessary to
"Hullo!" said Jack, when he got the letter into his own hand and
read it. "Now who put Bob up to this? Nobody had any business to
interfere--but it's mighty good of him, anyway," he added, as the
anxious lines in his round face smoothed themselves away, while a
smile of relief told how hard it had been for him to keep his word.
"I did!" cried Jill, clapping her hands, and looking so happy that he
could not have scolded her if he had wanted to.
"Who told you he was in the scrape?" demanded Jack, in a hurry to
know all about it now the seal was taken off his own lips.
"You did;" and Jill's face twinkled with naughty satisfaction, for
this was the best fun of all.
"I didn't! When? Where? It's a joke!"
"You did," cried Jill, pointing to the rug. "You went to sleep there
after the long walk, and talked in your sleep about 'Bob' and 'All
right, old boy,' and ever so much gibberish. I didn't think about it
then, but when I heard that Bob was up there I thought may be he
knew something about it, and last night I wrote and asked him, and
that's the answer, and now it _is_ all right, and you are the best boy
that ever was, and I'm so glad!"
Here Jill paused, all out of breath, and Frank said, with an
approving pat on the head,--
"It won't do to have such a sharp young person round if we are
going to have secrets. You'd make a good detective, miss."
"Catch me taking naps before people again;" and Jack looked
rather crestfallen that his own words had set "Fine Ear" on the
track. "Never mind, I didn't _mean_ to tell, though I just ached to do
it all the time, so I haven't broken my word. I'm glad you all know,
but you needn't let it get out, for Bob is a good fellow, and it might
make trouble for him," added Jack, anxious lest his gain should be
the other's loss.
"I shall tell Mr. Acton myself, and the Captain, also, for I'm not
going to have my son suspected of wrong-doing when he has only
tried to help a friend, and borne enough for his sake," said
Mamma, much excited by this discovery of generous fidelity in her
boy; though when one came to look at it calmly, one saw that it
might have been done in a wiser way.
"Now, please, don't make a fuss about it; that would be most as
bad as having every one down on me. I can stand your praising me,
but I won't be patted on the head by anybody else;" and Jack
assumed a manly air, though his face was full of genuine boyish
pleasure at being set right in the eyes of those he loved.
"I'll be discreet, dear, but you owe it to yourself, as well as Bob, to
have the truth known. Both have behaved well, and no harm will
come to him, I am sure. I'll see to that myself," said Mrs. Minot, in
a tone that set Jack's mind at rest on that point.
"Now do tell all about it," cried Jill, who was pining to know the
whole story, and felt as if she had earned the right to hear it.
"Oh, it wasn't much. We promised Ed to stand by Bob, so I did as
well as I knew how;" and Jack seemed to think that was about all
there was to say.
"I never saw such a fellow for keeping a promise! You stick to it
through thick and thin, no matter how silly or hard it is. You
remember, mother, last summer, how you told him not to go in a
boat and he promised, the day we went on the picnic. We rode up,
but the horse ran off home, so we had to come back by way of the
river, all but Jack, and he walked every step of five miles because
he wouldn't go near a boat, though Mr. Burton was there to take
care of him. I call that rather overdoing the matter;" and Frank
looked as if he thought moderation even in virtue a good thing.
"And I call it a fine sample of entire obedience. He obeyed orders,
and that is what we all must do, without always seeing why, or
daring to use our own judgment. It is a great safeguard to Jack, and
a very great comfort to me; for I know that if he promises he will
keep his word, no matter what it costs him," said Mamma warmly,
as she tumbled up the quirls with an irrepressible caress,
remembering how the boy came wearily in after all the others,
without seeming for a moment to think that he could have done
"Like Casabianca!" cried Jill, much impressed, for obedience was
her hardest trial.
"I think he was a fool to burn up," said Frank, bound not to give in.
"I don't. It's a splendid piece, and every one likes to speak it, and it
was true, and it wouldn't be in all the books if he was a fool.
Grown people know what is good," declared Jill, who liked heroic
actions, and was always hoping for a chance to distinguish herself
in that way.
"You admire 'The Charge of the Light Brigade,' and glow all over
as you thunder it out. Yet they went gallantly to their death rather
than disobey orders. A mistake, perhaps, but it makes us thrill to
hear of it; and the same spirit keeps my Jack true as steel when
once his word is passed, or he thinks it is his duty. Don't be
laughed out of it, my son, for faithfulness in little things fits one
for heroism when the great trials come. One's conscience can
hardly be too tender when honor and honesty are concerned."
"You are right, mother, and I am wrong. I beg your pardon, Jack,
and you sha'n't get ahead of me next time."
Frank made his mother a little bow, gave his brother a shake of the
hand, and nodded to Jill, as if anxious to show that he was not too
proud to own up when he made a mistake.
"Please tell on, Jack. This is very nice, but I do want to know all
about the other," said Jill, after a short pause.
"Let me see. Oh, I saw Bob at church, and he looked rather blue;
so, after Sunday School, I asked what the matter was. He said Jerry
bothered him for some money he lent him at different times when
they were loafing round together, before we took him up. He
wouldn't get any wages for some time. The Captain keeps him
short on purpose, I guess, and won't let him come down town
except on Sundays. He didn't want any one to know about it, for
fear he'd lose his place. So I promised I wouldn't tell. Then I was
afraid Jerry would go and make a fuss, and Bob would run off, or
do something desperate, being worried, and I said I'd pay it for
him, if I could. So he went home pretty jolly, and I scratched
'round for the money. Got it, too, and wasn't I glad?"
Jack paused to rub his hands, and Frank said, with more than usual
"Couldn't you get hold of Jerry in any other place, and out of
school time? That did the mischief, thanks to Joe. I thrashed him,
Jill--did I mention it?"
"I couldn't get all my money till Friday morning, and I knew Jerry
was off at night. I looked for him before school, and at noon, but
couldn't find him, so afternoon recess was my last chance. I was
bound to do it and I didn't mean to break the rule, but Jerry was
just going into the shop, so I pelted after him, and as it was private
business we went to the billiard-room. I declare I never was so
relieved as when I handed over that money, and made him say it
was all right, and he wouldn't go near Bob. He's off, so my mind is
easy, and Bob will be so grateful I can keep him steady, perhaps.
That will be worth two seventy-five, I think," said Jack heartily.
"You should have come to me," began Frank.
"And got laughed at--no, thank you," interrupted Jack, recollecting
several philanthropic little enterprises which were nipped in the
bud for want of co-operation.
"To me, then," said his mother. "It would have saved so much
"I thought of it, but Bob didn't want the big fellows to know for
fear they'd be down on him, so I thought he might not like me to
tell grown people. I don't mind the fuss now, and Bob is as kind as
he can be. Wanted to give me his big knife, but I wouldn't take it.
I'd rather have this," and Jack put the letter in his pocket with a
slap outside, as if it warmed the cockles of his heart to have it
"Well, it seems rather like a tempest in a teapot, now it is all over,
but I do admire your pluck, little boy, in holding out so well when
every one was scolding at you, and you in the right all the time,"
said Frank, glad to praise, now that he honestly could, after his
"That is what pulled me through, I suppose. I used to think if I _had_
done anything wrong, that I couldn't stand the snubbing a day. I
should have told right off, and had it over. Now, I guess I'll have a
good report if you do tell Mr. Acton," said Jack, looking at his
mother so wistfully, that she resolved to slip away that very
evening, and make sure that the thing was done.
"That will make you happier than anything else, won't it?" asked
Jill, eager to have him rewarded after his trials.
"There's one thing I like better, though I'd be very sorry to lose my
report. It's the fun of telling Ed I tried to do as he wanted us to, and
seeing how pleased he'll be," added Jack, rather bashfully, for the
boys laughed at him sometimes for his love of this friend.
"I know he won't be any happier about it than someone else, who
stood by you all through, and set her bright wits to work till the
trouble was all cleared away," said Mrs. Minot, looking at Jill's
contented face, as she lay smiling on them all.
Jack understood, and, hopping across the room, gave both the thin
hands a hearty shake; then, not finding any words quite cordial
enough in which to thank this faithful little sister, he stooped down
and kissed her gratefully.
Saturday was a busy and a happy time to Jack, for in the morning
Mr. Acton came to see him, having heard the story overnight, and
promised to keep Bob's secret while giving Jack an acquittal as
public as the reprimand had been. Then he asked for the report
which Jack had bravely received the day before and put away
without showing to anybody.
"There is one mistake here which we must rectify," said Mr.
Acton, as he crossed out the low figures under the word
"Behavior," and put the much-desired 100 there.
"But I did break the rule, sir," said Jack, though his face glowed
with pleasure, for Mamma was looking on.
"I overlook that as I should your breaking into my house if you saw
it was on fire. You ran to save a friend, and I wish I could tell
those fellows why you were there. It would do them good. I am not
going to praise you, John, but I did believe you in spite of
appearances, and I am glad to have for a pupil a boy who loves his
neighbor better than himself."
Then, having shaken hands heartily, Mr. Acton went away, and
Jack flew off to have rejoicings with Jill, who sat up on her sofa,
without knowing it, so eager was she to hear all about the call.
In the afternoon Jack drove his mother to the Captain's, confiding
to her on the way what a hard time he had when he went before,
and how nothing but the thought of cheering Bob kept him up
when he slipped and hurt his knee, and his boot sprung a leak, and
the wind came up very cold, and the hill seemed an endless
mountain of mud and snow.
Mrs. Minot had such a gentle way of putting things that she would
have won over a much harder man than the strict old Captain, who
heard the story with interest, and was much pleased with the boys'
efforts to keep Bob straight. That young person dodged away into
the barn with Jack, and only appeared at the last minute to shove a
bag of chestnuts into the chaise. But he got a few kind words that
did him good, from Mrs. Minot and the Captain, and from that day
felt himself under bonds to behave well if he would keep their
"I shall give Jill the nuts; and I wish I had something she wanted
very, very much, for I do think she ought to be rewarded for
getting me out of the mess," said Jack, as they drove happily
"I hope to have something in a day or two that _will_ delight her very
much. I will say no more now, but keep my little secret and let it
be a surprise to all by and by," answered his mother, looking as if
she had not much doubt about the matter.
"That will be jolly. You are welcome to your secret, Mamma. I've
had enough of them for one while;" and Jack shrugged his broad
shoulders as if a burden had been taken off.
In the evening Ed came, and Jack was quite satisfied when he saw
how pleased his friend was at what he had done.
"I never meant you should take so much trouble, only be kind to
Bob," said Ed, who did not know how strong his influence was,
nor what a sweet example of quiet well-doing his own life was to
all his mates.
"I wished to be really useful; not just to talk about it and do
nothing. That isn't your way, and I want to be like you," answered
Jack, with such affectionate sincerity that Ed could not help
believing him, though he modestly declined the compliment by
saying, as he began to play softly, "Better than I am, I hope. I don't
amount to much."
"Yes, you do! and if any one says you don't I'll shake him. I can't
tell what it is, only you always look so happy and contented--sort
of sweet and shiny," said Jack, as he stroked the smooth brown
head, rather at a loss to describe the unusually fresh and sunny
expression of Ed's face, which was always cheerful, yet had a
certain thoughtfulness that made it very attractive to both young
"Soap makes him shiny; I never saw such a fellow to wash and
brush," put in Frank, as he came up with one of the pieces of music
he and Ed were fond of practising together.
"I don't mean that!" said Jack indignantly. "I wash and brush till
you call me a dandy, but I don't have the same look--it seems to
come from the inside, somehow, as if he was always jolly and
clean and good in his mind, you know."
"Born so," said Frank, rumbling away in the bass with a pair of
hands that would have been the better for some of the above-
mentioned soap, for he did not love to do much in the washing and
"I suppose that's it. Well, I like it, and I shall keep on trying, for
being loved by every one is about the nicest thing in the world. Isn't
it, Ed?" asked Jack, with a gentle tweak of the ear as he put a
question which he knew would get no answer, for Ed was so
modest he could not see wherein he differed from other boys, nor
believe that the sunshine he saw in other faces was only the
reflection from his own.
Sunday evening Mrs. Minot sat by the fire, planning how she
should tell some good news she had been saving up all day. Mrs.
Pecq knew it, and seemed so delighted that she went about smiling
as if she did not know what trouble meant, and could not do
enough for the family. She was downstairs now, seeing that the
clothes were properly prepared for the wash, so there was no one
in the Bird Room but Mamma and the children. Frank was reading
up all he could find about some Biblical hero mentioned in the
day's sermon; Jill lay where she had lain for nearly four long
months, and though her face was pale and thin with the confinement,
there was an expression on it now sweeter even than health. Jack
sat on the rug beside her, looking at a white carnation through
the magnifying glass, while she was enjoying the perfume of a
red one as she talked to him.
"If you look at the white petals you'll see that they sparkle like
marble, and go winding a long way down to the middle of the
flower where it grows sort of rosy; and in among the small, curly
leaves, like fringed curtains, you can see the little green fairy
sitting all alone. Your mother showed me that, and I think it is very
pretty. I call it a 'fairy,' but it is really where the seeds are hidden
and the sweet smell comes from."
Jill spoke softly lest she should disturb the others, and, as she
turned to push up her pillow, she saw Mrs. Minot looking at her
with a smile she did not understand.
"Did you speak, 'm?" she asked, smiling back again, without in the
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