Humorous Masterpieces from American Literature
By Various

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Fitz Hugh Ludlow

(born, 1836–died, 1870.)



My name is Ben Thirlwall, and I am the son of rich but honest parents. I never had a wish ungratified until I was twelve years of age. My wish then was to stay on a two-year-old colt which had never been broken. He did not coincide with me, and a vast revelation of the resistances to individual will of which the universe is capable, also of a terrestrial horizon, bottom upward, burst upon me during the brief space which I spent in flying over his head. Picked up senseless, I was carried to the bosom of my family on a wheelbarrow, and awoke to the consciousness that my parents had decided on sending me to a boarding-school,–a remedy to this day sovereign in the opinion of all well-regulated parents for all tangential aberrations from the back of a colt or the laws of society.

The principal’s name was Barker; and my only clue to his character consisted in overhearing that he was an excellent disciplinarian. I was afraid to ask what that meant, but on reflection concluded it to be a geographical distinction, and, associating him with Mesopotamia or Beloochistan, expected to find him a person of mild manners, who shaved his head, wore a tall hat of dyed sheep’s wool, and did a large business in spices with people who visited him on camels in a front-yard surrounded by sheds, and having a fountain that played in the middle.

Having read several books of travels, I was corroborated in my view when I learned that Mr. Barker lived at the east, and still further, when on going around point Judith on the steamboat with my father, I became very sick at the stomach, as all the travellers had done in their first chapter.

I need not say that the reality of Mr. Barker was a very terrible awakening, which contained no lineament of my purple dream, save the bastinado. Without distinction of age or season the youths who, as per circular, enjoyed the softening influence of his refined Christian home, rose to the sound of the gong at five A.M., which may have been very nice in a home for the early Christians, but was reported among the boys to have entirely stopped the growth of Little Briggs. This was a child, whose mother had married again, and whose step-father had felt his duty to his future too keenly to deprive him of the benign influences of Barker at any time in the last six years. After rising, we had ten minutes to wash our faces and hands,–a period by the experience of mankind demonstrably insufficient, where the soap is of that kind very properly denominated cast-steel (though purists have a different spelling), and you have to break an inch of ice to get into the available region of your water-pitcher. Chunks, who has since made a large fortune on war-contracts, kept himself in peanuts and four-cent pies for an entire winter session, by selling an invention of his own, which consisted of soap, dissolved in water on the stove during the day-time, put in bottles hooked from the lamp-room by means of a false key, to be carried to bed and kept warm by boys, whose pocket-money and desire for a prompt detergent in the morning were adequate to the disbursement of half a dime a package. I myself took several violent colds from having the glass next my skin during severe nights; but that was nothing so bad as the case of Little Briggs, who from lack of the half-dime, often came down to prayers with a stripe of yesterday’s pencil black on one side of his nose, and a shaving of soap, which, in the frenzy of despair he had gouged out of his stony cake, on the other. The state of mind consistent with such a condition of countenance did not favor correct recitation of the tougher names in Deuteronomy; so, it can be a cause of surprise to no one, that, when called on at prayers, and prompted by a ridiculous neighbor, little Briggs sometimes asserted Joshua to have driven out the Hivites and the Amorites, and the Canaanites and the Jebusites, and the Hittites and the Perizzites, and the Moabites and the Musquito-bites, for which he was regularly sent to bed on Saturday afternoon, as he had no pocket-money to stop, his papa desiring him to learn self-denial young, as he was intended for a missionary; though goodness knows that there wasn’t enough of him to go round among many heathen.

From this specimen of discipline may be learned the entire Barkerian system of training. I was about to say, ’ex uno disce omnes,” but, as it’s the only Latin I remember from the lot which got rubbed into–or rather over–me at Barker’s, I’m rather sparing of it, not knowing but I can bring it in somewhere else with better effect. As with the Word of God, so with that of man,–the grand Barkerian idea of how to fix it in a boy’s memory was to send him to bed, or excoriate his palm. If religion and polite learning could have been communicated by sheets, like chicken-pox, or blistered into one like the stern but curative cantharides, Mr. Barker’s boys would have become the envy of mankind and the beloved of the gods; but not even Little Briggs died young from the latter or any other cause, which speaks volumes for his constitution....

The two Misses Moodle came to establish a young ladies’ seminary in the village of Mungerville, on whose outskirts our own school was situated, bringing along with them, as the county paper stated, “that charming atmosphere of refinement and intellectuality in which they ever moved"; and, what was of more consequence, a capital of twenty girls to start with. Professional politeness inspired Mr. Barker to make a call on the fair strangers, which the personal fascinations of the younger Miss Moodle induced him to repeat. The atmosphere of refinement and intellectuality gradually acted on him in the nature of an intoxicating gas, until at length, after twenty-five years of successfully intrenched widowhood, he laid his heart in the mits of the younger Miss Moodle, and the two became one Barker.

As a consequence of this union, social relations began to be established between the two schools. Mrs. Barker, of an occasional evening, wished to run down and visit her sister. If Mr. Barker was engaged in quarrying a page of Cicero out of some stony boy in whom nature had never made any Latin deposit, or had just put a fresh batch of offenders into the penal oven of untimely bed, and felt compelled to run up now and then to keep up the fire under them, by a harrowing description of the way their parents would feel if they knew of their behavior–an instrument dear to Mr. Barker as a favorite poker to a boss-baker in love with his profession–then, after a clucking noise, indicative of how much he would like to chuck her under the chin, but for the presence of company, Mr. Barker would coo to Mrs. Barker, “Lovey, your pick, sweet!” waving his hand comprehensively over the whole school-room; or “Dear, suppose we say Briggs, or Chunks, or Thirlwall,” as the case might be. The only difficulty about Briggs was clothes. That used to be obviated by a selection from the trunks of intimate friends; and Briggs was such a nice boy, that it was a real gratification to see him with your best jacket on. Many’s the time the old fellow has said to Chunks or me, “What a blessing that I grew! If I hadn’t, how could I ever wear your trousers?” In process of time these occasional visits, as escort to Mrs. Barker, expanded into an attendance of all the older boys (when not in bed for moral baking purposes) upon a series of bi-monthly soirees, given by the remaining Miss Moodle, with a superficial view to her pupils’ attainment of ease in society; and a material substratum of sandwiches, which Miss Moodle preferred to see, through the atmosphere of refinement and intellectuality, as “a simple repast.” To this was occasionally added a refreshment, which I have seen elsewhere only at Sunday-school picnics,–a mild tap of slightly sweetened water, which tasted as if lemons had formerly been kept in the pail it was made in;–only for Sunday-schools they make it strong at the outset, and add water during the hymns, with a vague but praiseworthy expectation that, in view of the sacredness of the occasion, there will be some miraculous interposition, as in the case of the widow’s cruse, to keep the beverage up to proof; while Miss Moodle’s liquor preserved throughout the evening a weakness of which generous natures scorned to take advantage beyond the first tumbler.

At this portion of my career I was dawned upon by Miss Tucker. From mature years I look back with a shudder upon the number of parchmenty sandwiches which I ate, the reservoirs of lemony water which I drank, in order to be in that lovely creature’s society. I experienced agonies in thinking how much longer it might be before I could get a coat with tails, when I calculated how soon she would be putting up her back hair. Her eyes were as blue as I was when I thought she liked Briggs; and she had a complexion compared with which strawberries and cream were nowhere. When she was sent to the piano, to show people what the Moodle system could do in the way of a musical education, I fell into a cataleptic state and floated off upon a flood of harmony. Miss Moodle and her mits, self and lemon kids, even the sleepless eye of Barker, watching for an indiscretion, upon the strength of which he might defensibly send somebody to bed the next Saturday afternoon, all vanished from before me, swallowed up in a mild glory, which contained but two objects,–an angel with low neck and short sleeves, and an insensate hippopotamus of a piano, which did not wriggle all over with ecstasy when her white fingers tickled him.

At such moments I would gladly have gone down on all fours, and had a key-board mortised into my side at any expense of personal torture, if Miss Tucker could only have played a piece on me, and herself been conscious of the chords she was awakening inside my jacket. I loved her to that degree that my hair never seemed brushed enough when I beheld her; and I quite spoiled the shape of my best boots through an elevation of the instep, caused by putting a rolled-up pair of stockings inside each heel, to approximate the manly stature, at our bi-monthly meetings. Even her friend, Miss Crickey, a mealy-faced little girl, with saffron hair, who had been pushed by Miss Moodle so far into the higher branches, that she had a look of being perpetually frightened to death with the expectation of hearing them crack and let her down from a great height,–seemed beautiful to me from the mere fact of daily breathing the same air with such an angel, sharing her liquorice-stick, and borrowing her sweet little thimble.

I had other reasons for prejudice in Miss Crickey’s favor. She was the only person to whom I could talk freely regarding the depth of my passion for Miss Tucker. Not even to the object of that tremendous feeling could I utter a syllable which seemed in any way adequate. With an overpowering consciousness how ridiculous it was, and not only so, but how far from original, I could give her papers of lemon Jackson-balls, hinting simultaneously that, though plump as her cheeks, they were not half so sweet; and through a figure, whose correct name I have since learned to be periphrasis, I could suggest how much my soul yearned to expire on her ruby lips, by asking if she had ever played doorkeeper; regretting that the atmosphere of refinement and intellectuality did not admit of that healthful recreation at Moodle’s, and begging her to guess whom I would call out if I were doorkeeper myself. When she opened her blue eyes innocently, and said, “Miss Crickey?” the intimation was rejected with a melancholy dissatisfaction, which would have been disdain but for the character of my feelings to its source. And when, on my pressing her for the name of the favored mortal whom she would call out if she were doorkeeper, she slyly dropped her eyes and asked if Briggs sounded any thing like it, I savagely refused to consider the proposition at all, and for the rest of the evening ate sandwiches to that degree I wonder my life was not despaired of, and fled for relief to the lemony bowl. The result of this mad vortex having been colic and calomel, after my return to Barker’s on that evening, I foreswore such dangerous excesses at the next bi-monthly; but putting a larger pair of stockings in each boot-heel, to impress Miss Tucker with a sense of what she had lost, I devoted myself during the earlier part of the evening to a growing young woman, of the name of Wagstaff, considerably older than myself and runing straight up and down from whatever side one might contemplate her. Her conversation was not entertaining, unless from the Chinese point of view, which, I understand, distinctly favors monosyllables, and she giggled at me so persistently that I feared Miss Tucker would think I must be making myself ridiculous; but, on her being sent to the piano, I stood and turned over her music with a consciousness that if I ever looked impressive it was then. All this I did in the effort to seem gay, although my heart was breaking. I had no comfort on earth save the thought that I had been brutal to Briggs, and that he sat in an obscure corner of the room among some little girls in Long Division, hiding, behind an assistant teacher’s skirts, the whitey-brown toe which my blacking-brush refused to refresh, while I bore my grief upon a pair of new boots plentifully provided with squeak-leather. When Miss Tucker slipped a little piece of paper into my hand, as I made a hollow show of passing her the sandwiches, I came very near dropping the plate; and when I had a chance to open it unobserved, and read the words, “Are you mad with me?” I could not occupy my cold and dreary pinnacle a moment longer, but sought an early opportunity of squeezing her hand two seats behind the voluminous asylum of Briggs’s toes, and whispering, slightly confused by intensity of feeling, that if I had done any thing I was sorry for, I was willing to be forgiven. From that moment I was Miss Tucker’s slave. Oh, woman, woman! The string on which you play us is as long as life; it ties your baby-bib; it laces your queenly bodice; and on its slenderest tag we dangle everywhere!–Little Briggs and I.(From Little Brother and Other Genre Pictures.)

Selections From a Brace of Boys.

I am a bachelor uncle. That, as a mere fact, might happen to anybody; but I am a bachelor uncle by internal fitness. I am one essentially, just as I am an individual of the Caucasian division of the human race; and if, through untoward circumstances,–which Heaven forbid,–I should lose my present position, I shouldn’t be surprised if you saw me out in the Herald under “Situations Wanted–Males.” Thanks to a marrying tendency in the rest of my family, I have now little need to advertise, all the business being thrown into my way which a single member of my profession can attend to....

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

Lu married Mr. Lovegrove. He is a merchant, retired with a fortune amassed by the old-fashioned, slow processes of trade, and regards the mercantile life of the present day only as so much greed and gambling Christianly baptized.... Lu is my favorite sister; Lovegrove an unusually good article of brother-in-law and I cannot say that any of my nieces and nephews interest me more than their two children, Daniel and Billy, who are more unlike than words can paint them. They are far apart in point of years; Daniel is twenty-two, Billy eleven. I was reminded of this fact the other day by Billy, as he stood between my legs, scowling at his book of sums.

“’A boy has eighty-five turnips, and gives his sister thirty,’–pretty present for a girl, isn’t it?” said Billy, with an air of supreme contempt. “Could you stand such stuff,–say?”

I put on my instructive face and answered,–

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

“Oh,” said Billy, with surprise. “Hasn’t father got enough stamps to see him through?”

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

“You haven’t thought of brother Daniel–”

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

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

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

“Forty, Billy, last August.”

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

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

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

“Dear, dear! Where does the boy learn such horrid words?”

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

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

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

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

“What will become of him?” said Lu, hopelessly; “he has no taste for any thing but rough play; and then such language as he uses! Why isn’t he like Daniel?”

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

“Remember, Ned, that you never did like Daniel as well as you do Billy. But we all know the proverb about old maid’s daughters and old bachelor’s sons. I wish you had Billy for a month,–then you’d see.”

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

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

“Oh my! my!! my!!!” exclaimed his mother.

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

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

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

Bugle! Oh! oh! oh!”

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

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

You already have some idea of my other nephew, if you have noticed that none of us, not even that habitual disrespecter of dignities, Billy, ever called him Dan. It would have seemed as incongruous as to call Billy William. He was one of those youths who never gave their parents a moment’s uneasiness; who never had to have their wills broken, and never forget to put on their rubbers or take an umbrella. In boyhood he was intended for a missionary. Had it been possible for him to go to Greenland’s icy mountains without catching cold, or India’s coral strand, without getting bilious, his parents would have carried out their pleasing dream of contributing him to the world’s evangelization. Lu and Mr. Lovegrove had no doubt that he would have been greatly blessed if he could have stood it....

Both she and his father always encouraged old manners in him. I think they took such pride in raising a peculiarly pale boy as a gardener does in getting a nice blanch on his celery, and so long as he was not absolutely sick, the graver he was the better. He was a sensitive plant, a violet by a mossy stone, and all that sort of thing....

At the time I introduce Billy, both Lu and her husband were much changed. They had gained a great deal in width of view and liberality of judgment. They read Dickens, and Thackeray with avidity; went now and then to the opera; proposed to let Billy take a quarter at Dodworth’s; had statues in their parlor without any thought of shame at their lack of petticoats, and did multitudes of things which, in their early married life, they would have considered shocking.... They would greatly have liked to see Daniel shine in society. Of his erudition they were proud even to worship. The young man never had any business, and his father never seemed to think of giving him any, knowing, as Billy would say, that he had stamps enough to “see him through.” If Daniel liked, his father would have endowed a professorship in some college and given him the chair; but that would have taken him away from his own room and the family physician.

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

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

Billy and I also obtained permission to go out together and be gone the entire afternoon. We put Crab on a comfortable bed of rags in an old shoe-box, and then strolled hand-in-hand across that most delightful of New York breathing-places–Stuyvesant Square.

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

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

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

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

“Where do you guess?” said I.

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

“We’re going to Barnum’s!” said Billy, involuntarily clapping his hands.

So we were; and, much as stuck-up people pretend to look down on the place, I frequently am. Not only so, but I always see that class largely represented there when I do go. To be sure, they always make believe that they only come to amuse the children, or because they’ve country cousins visiting them, and never fail to refer to the vulgar set one finds there, and the fact of the animals smelling like any thing but Jockey Club; yet I notice that after they’ve been in the hall three minutes they’re as much interested as any of the people they come to pooh-pooh, and only put on the high-bred air when they fancy some of their own class are looking at them. I boldly acknowledge that I go because I like it. I am especially happy, to be sure, if I have a child along to go into ecstasies, and give me a chance, by asking questions, for the exhibition of that fund of information which is said to be one of my chief charms in the social circle, and on several occasions has led that portion of the public immediately about the Happy Family into the erroneous impression that I was Mr. Barnum, explaining his five hundred thousand curiosities.

On the present occasion, we found several visitors of the better class in the room devoted to the aquarium. Among these was a young lady, apparently about nineteen, in a tight-fitting basque of black velvet, which showed her elegant figure to fine advantage, a skirt of garnet silk, looped up over a pretty Balmoral, and the daintiest imaginable pair of kid walking-boots. Her height was a trifle over the medium; her eyes a soft, expressive brown, shaded by masses of hair which exactly matched their color, and, at that rat-and-miceless day fell in such graceful abandon as to show at once that nature was the only maid who crimped their waves into them. Her complexion was rosy with health and sympathetic enjoyment; her mouth was faultless, her nose sensitive, her manners full of refinement, and her voice musical as a wood-robin’s, when she spoke to the little boy of six at her side, to whom she was revealing the palace of the great show-king. Billy and I were flattening our noses against the abode of the balloon-fish, and determining whether he looked most like a horse-chestnut burr or a ripe cucumber, when his eyes and my own simultaneously fell on the child and lady, In a moment, to Billy, the balloon-fish was as though he had not been.

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

“How would you like to play with him?”

“Him!” replied Billy, scornfully, “that’s his first pair of boots; see him pull up his little breeches to show the red tops to ’em! But, crackey! isn’t she a smasher!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“P’raps I will some day,–where do you live?”

“I live on East Seventeenth street with papa,–and Lottie stays there, too, now,–she’s my cousin. Where d’ you live?”

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

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

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

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

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

“You don’t seem well to-night, Daniel?”

“I don’t feel very well, uncle.”

“What’s the matter, my boy?”

“Oh-ah, I don’t know. That is, I wish I knew how to tell you.”

I studied him for a few moments with kindly curiosity, then answered,–

“Perhaps I can save you the trouble by cross-examining it out of you. Let’s try the method of elimination. I know that you’re not harassed by any economical considerations, for you’ve all the money you want; and I know that ambition doesn’t trouble you, for your tastes are scholarly. This narrows down the investigation of your symptoms–listlessness, general dejection, and all–to three causes,–dyspepsia, religious conflicts, love. Now, is your digestion awry?”

“No, sir; good as usual. I’m not melanancholy on religion, and"–

“You don’t tell me you’re in love?”

“Well–yes–I suppose that’s about it, Uncle Teddy.”

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

“Is your feeling returned?”

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

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

Daniel smiled faintly.

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

“Thank God they don’t, Daniel!” sighed I, devoutly.

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

“I hope you don’t mean that nothing but bread-and-butter talk is tolerable to a woman!”

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

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

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

“Does she know who sends them?’”

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

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

Daniel bid me good-night. As I put out my cigar and went to bed, my mind reverted to the dauntless little Hotspur who had spent the afternoon with me and reversed his mother’s wish, thinking,–

“Oh, if Daniel were more like Billy!”

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

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

“Yes, sir; but I didn’t feel like getting up this morning.”

“Are you sick?”

“No-o-o–it isn’t that; but you’ll laugh at me if I tell you.”

“Indeed I won’t, Billy!”

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

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

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

“My dear Billy, sha’n’t you wait a little while to see if you always like her as well as you do now? Then, too, you’ll be older.”

“I’m old enough, Uncle Teddy, and I love her dearly! I’m as old as the kings of France used to be when they got married,–I read it in Abbott’s histories. But there’s the clock striking nine! I must run or I shall get a tardy mark, and, perhaps, she’ll want to see my certificate sometimes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daniel was in conversation with a perfect godsend of a girl, who understood Latin and had begun Greek. Billy was taking a moment’s vacation from his boys and girls, busy with “Old Maid” in the extension-room, and whispering with his hand in mine, “Oh, don’t I wish she were here!” when a fresh invoice of ladies, just unpacked from the dressing-room in all the airy elegance of evening costume, floated through the door. I heard Lu say,–

“Ah, Mrs. Rumbullion! Happy to see your niece, too. How d’ye do, Miss Pilgrim?”

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

Billy’s countenance rapidly changed from astonishment to joy.

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

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

“Why, Billy!” said she, “you ought not to call a strange young lady’ Lottie!’ Miss Pilgrim, you must excuse my wild boy.”

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

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

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

At this moment I came up as Billy’s reinforcement, and fearing lest in his enthusiasm he might forget the canon of society which introduces a gentleman to a lady, not the lady to him, I ventured to suggest it delicately by saying,–

“Billy, will you grant me the favor of a presentation to Miss Pilgrim?”

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

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

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

“Dear me!” exclaimed Lu, after Billy had gone back like a superior being to assist at the childish amusement of his contemporaries, “Would any body ever suppose that was our Billy?”

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

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

“Why, Daniel Lovegrove, my nephew, what does this mean? Are you sick?”

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

And Daniel paced the floor with strides of frenzy.

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

“Rumbullion indeed!” said Daniel. “A hundred Rumbullions could not make me feel as I do. But she can shake me into a whirlwind with her little finger; and she came with the Rumbullions!”

“What! D’you–Miss Pilgrim?”

“Miss Pilgrim!”

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

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

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

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

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

“Not since Mrs. Cramcroud’s last sociable, I think,” replied Miss Pilgrim, her cheeks and eyes still playing the tell-tale.

“Oho! so you don’t want any introduction!” exclaimed Master Billy. “I didn’t know you knew each other, Lottie?”

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

“To be sure we shall!” cried Billy. “You needn’t mind,–all the grown people are going too.”

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

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

I was standing at his side, and could feel him tremble,–see him turn pale.

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

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

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

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

“Forgive me! Do forgive me! I thought you were in earnest.”

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

“Oh, dear, what shall I do! Believe me, I was told you wanted me,–let me go and explain it to mother,–she’ll tell the rest,–I couldn’t do it,–I’d die of mortification. Oh, that wretched boy Billy!”

On the principle already mentioned, his agitation reassured her.

“Don’t try to explain it now,–it may get Billy a scolding. Are there any but intimate family friends here this evening?”

“No–I believe–no–I’m sure,” replied Daniel, collecting his faculties.

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

A round of juvenile applause greeted her as she hurried into the parlor, and a number of grown people smiled quite musically. Her quick woman-wit showed her how to retaliate and divide the embarrassment of the occasion. As she passed me she said in an undertone,–"Answer quick! Who’s that fat lady on the sofa, that laughs so loud?”

“Mrs. Cromwell Craggs,” said I, as quietly.

Miss Pilgrim made a satirically low courtesy, and spoke in a modest but distinct voice,–"I really must be excused for asking. I’m a stranger, you know; but is there such a lady here as Mrs. Craggs,–Mrs. CromwellCraggs? For if so, the present doorkeeper would like to see Mrs. Cromwell Craggs.”

Then came the turn of the fat lady to be laughed at; but out she had to go and get kissed like the rest of us.

Before the close of the evening, Billy was made as jealous as his parents and I were surprised to see Daniel in close conversation with Miss Pilgrim among the geraniums and fuschias of the conservatory. “A regular flirtation,” said Billy, somewhat indignantly. The conclusion they arrived at was, that after all no great harm had been done, and that the dear little fellow ought not to be peached on for his fun. If I had known at the time how easily they forgave him, I should have suspected that the offence Billy had led Daniel into committing was not unlikely to be repeated on the offender’s own account; but so much as I could see showed me that the ice was broken....

–Little Brother, and Other Genre Pictures.


Bayard Taylor  •  William Allen Butler  •  John William De Forest  •  John Townsend Trowbridge  •  Oliver Bell Bunce  •  Charles Dudley Warner  •  Frances Lee Pratt  •  Louisa May Alcott  •  William Wirt Howe  •  Artemus Ward  •  Frank R. Stockton  •  Andrew Scoggin  •  Samuel Langhorne Clemens  •  Fitz Hugh Ludlow  •  Thomas Bailey Aldrich