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/I L ^ -3 C 7.x '\ jr,




HARVARD COLLEGE
LIBRARY



THE GIFT OF
WnUS ARNOLD BOUGHTON

CLASS OP 1907



m



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FLEXIBLE FERDINAND

By JULIE N. UPPNAIW

Author of
"Martka by the Day,*' Etc.

Flexible Ferdinand, who
earned his title because he
could always make the best
of thin8:s, enters the story
I when still a young boy,
bringing with him a breath
I of gaiety and charm and the
.glimpse of that prismJike
j thing called youth — happy
I and mirthful, foolish and wise
, —always endearing. Later as
! he was attaining manhood,
j he was compelled to give up
I his dreams of art and become
fa surgeon, and then fame
waited upon him. To those
who loved the "Martha
Books/' with their clean,
wholesome, whimsical, cheer-
ful charm, this book will be
a happy godsend.



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FLEXIBLE FERDINAND
JULIE M.LIPPMANN



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FLEXIBLE
FERDINAND



BY



JULIE M. LIPPMANN



AUTHOR OF

MARTHA BY THE DAY,

MAKING OVER MARTHA,

MARTHA AND CUPID.



i^A/



GROSSET & DUNLAP

PUBLISHERS NEW YORK



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41 3,3^7. :^o./o



HARVARD COLLEGt LIB'-UTi^

GIFT OF

V/ILLIS A. BDUG.ITC^H



Copyright, 1919,
By George E. Doran Compare



PrifOed in the United States of America

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TO THE DEAR MEMQRT

OF

IfY MOTHER AND SISTER



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CONTENTS



PART I

FAGS
^'ThB TUflB OF Ck)MPRBSSION'' • • • • • • 11



PARTH
"Thb Tma of Rbstitution" . • .^ • • • 149



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PARTI
"THE TIME OF COMPRESSION"



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FLEXIBLE FERDINAND

PAKT I
"THE TIME OF COMPRESSION**

CHAPTER I

I^mDiNAND was bom when he was five yearB old.
That is to say he came into the world at that age
as an actively conscious^ deliberately reasoning
human creature, and began to "shape up" for a
future that doubtless gave him just about what was
"coming to him."

Impressions, sensations, emotions he had had in
plenty before then, but they were fleeting, unrelated.
He moved as in a mirage, apparently realising no
more than any well-fed, well-cared-for little animal
realises of the tremendous Cosmos of which he is an
unsuspecting atom.

He took his universe for granted. He would have
been abnormal if he had doubted that every other
small boy in creation had his full complement of
father and mother, "big brother James-Barnes," sis-
ter Alice (Alicita for short, two years his senior),
Bridget Cassidy in the kitchen, Katy Mahon^ up-
stairs, and above all, supervising, directing, deter-
mining the course of human events from her own
particular seventh heaven, "the nurs'ry," a stem
"down-east" deity answering to the name of Ma-
tilda Mueller, pronounced Mewler.

11

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12 FLEXIBLE FERDINAND

The Matilda was pure Yankee and if the Mueller
was German it was "by dint of a foreign-bom hus-
band" around and about whom a veU of impen-
etrable silence hung. It remained to Time and Alic-
ita to draw the veil proving that in one instance at
least "the evil men do lives after them, the good is
oft interred with their bones."

In the scheme of creation, as Ferdinand knew it,
Matilda reigned supreme. To her one looked for
daily sustenance, articles of clothing, all the neces-
saries of life. And when one said Matilda one really
meant Matilda and Peter, Peter being Matilda*s in-
separable companion, as it were, her mid-day
shadow, a large, grey cat, around and about whom
all sorts and manner of mystery clung. In Ferdi-
nand's mind Matilda stood for an occidental Allah
and Peter was her prophet.

It came upon him as with a shock of fell catas-
trophe when, on being taken to a place called by
Alicita Sumchool and placed in the Infanclass, the
teacher asking: "Who made the world?" his prompt
and confident answer: "Matilda!" brought down the
house. The other injans squealed in ridicule.

The recollection dimmed, disappeared, and he ac-
cepted God as unquestioningly as he had accepted
Matilda, but the experience, safely tucked away in
his subconscious mind, served with the rest of his
accumulated impressions to prepare him for what
was to come, his gradual awakening, his awareness
of himself, of his environment, even, in a way, of his
peculiar individual relation to the great fact of being.

He discovered the social group when he found
"folks grow in families."

"Why do they?"

Miss Katy Mahoney, to whom the question was
addressed, shook her head.

"I d'know. But that 's the way they do be. The
like as if they was job-lots, some bigger, some smaller,



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*'TIME OF COMPRESSION'' 19

but all sorta prize-packages, as you might say, that
you must take 'em as you find 'em, no mattw what
you draw. Fathers 'n mothers 'n children. That 's
the size of it. The children can be assorted shapes
and nimibers, like needles, say. But the fatha^ 'n
mothers you can't have but the one way, a couple at
a time."

Ferdinand, propping himself against the butler's
pantry wall, gazed meditatively up at Miss Ma-
honey leisurely engaged in her work of "doin' up the
limch dishes."

"Did you ever have a father and mother, Katy?"

"Did I? Sure I did. I ain't no different from
annybody else."

"Oh."

"Why, o' course I am't. What did you thmk?"

"I d'know. I just thou^t . . . you seem differ-
ent from . . . from "

"Well, different from who?"

"Different from my mother."

It would have been sacrilege to say Matilda.

It was Miss Mahoney's turn to ponder.

"Well, come to think of it, so I am," she admitted
liberally. "But I never woulda guessed youda no-
ticed it . . . and you only five. It's what I call re-
markable of you. The fact is, me and your mother U
different. Different-sized and different-complected.
She's so small-like you could put her in your pocket.
And I'm a fine, big figger of a girl as ever come out
of County Clare. She's what they call brunetty.
I'm blondey. Which, knowing beforehand that
you'll ask, brunetty 's dark hair, blondey 's light."

"Am I brunetty, Katy?"

Miss Mahoney paused to weigh the question de-
liberately.

"Well, le's see. You take after your mother in the
matter of hair and skin, but your eyes bein' blue
(if they ain't grey) with black lashes, would seem to

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14 FLEXIBLE FERDINAND

knock you out as straight brunetty goods, so I ain't
dead sure what I'd call you. But if you keep the
looks you got now, along with the same sorta chin
that they'd tell you in the old country 's got the
lucky cleff in it, you'll do well.

"They do be sayin' the way the first fella got the
chin was, once upon a time one of the blessed saints
when he was way-farin' here below, begged a bite-
an'-a-sup off a poor bucko by the roadside was chew-
in' his crust. An' the poor creature took the morsel
from his own lips to share it with the beggarman.
Say see: 'It's little it is an' stale at that, but so
you've fasted longer than meself, you're welcome to
it,' he says.

"An' the beggarman (which was the blessed saint
unbeknownst) took the crust an' swallowed it down
in a gulp, the poor fella watchin' 'm with hungry
eyes.

" 'Have you no moar?' says the blessed saint.

" 'I have not,' says the poor fella. 'Nary a bit.
An' that's the livin' truth. I've give you my last
crumb,' saysee.

" 'The Lord love you for a cheerful liar,' says the
blessed saint, castin' a hard eye on the poor fella
the way he shook in his shoes, only he was barefoot.
'The livin' truth is it? When I've only to look at
you standin' feminst me to see you have moar itself.'

"An' the poor fella was par'lysed with fright, for
he'd truly give'm all he had.

" 'If it's the last word ever I speak,' saysee, 'I've
give you my last crumb.'

"Then the blessed saint took his finger and thumb,
an' plucked a crumb from off the chin of the poor
fella. An' where he'd touched the chin of 'm, the
bone give way to make the like of a little cleff, an'
out of the eyes of the blessed saint beamed glory, an*
saysee to the poor fella:
, " 'It's yourself that'll prosper ever after, for the



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"TIME OF COMPRESSION" 16

ft

deed you done this day, for never shall you want for
bread, or fear for your last crumb,' saysee. 'An' you
an' the likes of you ... all them that bear the trace
of my finger an' thumb on your chin-bone . . . shall
be the lucky laddy-bucks, for they've that as will
open the hearts of every one to themselves.'

"An' with that he vanidied, an' the poor fella
saw him no moar, exceptin' for the dent in his chin
an' the weight of his pockets which was heavy with
gold. An' everybody loved'm after that."

"Coz he'd the gold?" asked Ferdinand.

"Coz he'd the chin," answered Miss Mahoney.
"An' by the same token, it's the very one yourself
has got this minute, so that if you hang on to it,
together with your second teeth comin' in white an'
even, an' your wheedlin' smile, an' the way you have
with you of lookin' as if your eyes had kissed the
Blarney-stone when you cast 'em on a body, why I
guess you'll do all ri^t, as I said befoar."

"Is AUcita brunetty, Katy?"

"Siu-e she is that same. No mistake about her now.
If Alluseeta had of took your ma's hair oflf of her
head an' her flashin' black eyes outa her skull she
couldn't be more her livin' image. Your sister Allus-
eeta is bnmetty by name an' brunetty by nature.
A regular chip of the old block."

"What's 'chip off the whole block'?"

"Favoiuin' your parents. Alluseeta's a prancCT, if
ever there lived one."

"Is it good to be a prancer?"

"We — el, that's as you look at it. What's good for
the one mayn't be so good for the other. In this case
I should say it's better for Alluseeta than it is for
you."

"Why?"

"No matter, young sir. But this I will say. I
wisht you had some of your sister's get-up-an'-go.
The way you are pushed to the wall by some as shall



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16 FLEXIBLE FERDINAND

be nameless, not countin' others that I could men-
tion, is something simply awful. If you don't take a
brace and stand up for yourself I tremble for the
consequences, I do that."

Deeply impressed by her earnestness, puzzled, too,
by words whose meaning he but partially grasped,
Ferdinand drew himself away from the wall to
which he had no recollection of having been pushed.

"I can stand up for myself," he dropped, wonder-
ing vaguely how the bri^t accomplishment had
escaped attention.

"Well, see you do it then. It'd be a shame, have
a nice little fella like yourself ruined for lack of
a backbone in his spine. It's the truth I'm telling
you. No mush-mush of a sawny will ever get on in
this life whatever he may do in the next. I don't say
there ain't different ways o' managin'. There's some
throws a chest an' sets a jaw at you, an' others casts
sheep's-eyes, but none of 'm ever'll convince you
he's the fine figga of a man you couldn't live without
'm, less'n he proves he 's a will of his own behind his
beguilements, an' 'd give you a good clout over your
cocoanut as quick as he'd wink, the time you'd be
deservin' it. That's the kind of party anny lady,
be she high or low, 'd select to be her follower, for
it 's a winner he is, an' no mistake."

Ferdinand regarded Miss Mahoney with more
than Swinbumian rapture. He not only "wondered
At her bright hair," he responded powerfully to the
sound, if not the sense of her prodigious flow of
rhetoric.

"Katy," he breathed shyly, "I think you are very
nice. I'd like to be sparkin' you, Katy."

Miss Mahoney was plainly taken aback. She
stared at him speechless for a second, till something
that looked to him like a paroxysm of emotion
taused her to hide her face in her apron. When she



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*'TIME OF COMPRESSION'' IT

emerged: ''What do you know about sparkin'?" she
aiquired, her eyes stUl moist.

"Alicita told me. Alicita told me Sammy Bris-
tow is."

"Is what?''

"Sparkin'."

"Sammy Bristow's sparkin' who?"

"You. Alicita said so. Alicita said she heard
Bridget tell Sammy Bristow the last time he was
bringin' grocery things, that if he was sweet on you
he could be sweet on you, but if he was goin' to be
sparkin' you an' other parties at the same time, an'
make you cry he could get out an' stay out, an' bad
cess to him."

"Oho!" said Miss Mahoney. "Did she so?"

"Yes, die did. And I don't want Sammy Bristow
to make you cry, Katy. If he is sparkin' you with a
ring an' makin' you cry, I'm very sorry, Katy. I'd
rather be sparkin' you myself with a ring an' then
you wouldn't cry."

"Well now, who'd 'a believed it! Me, a poor
greenhorn out of County Clare barely ten years come
next January itself an' ah^ady the blushin' bride of
a young gentleman of fame an' fortune . . . mean-
in' yourself, not Sammy Bristow. Young sir, you
do me proud. I accept your offer with thanks. Like-
wise your ring."

"I'U go get it," said Ferdinand, making for the
door.

When he returned Bridget Cassidy was in the
butler's pantry 'along with Katy."

At sight of her he stood irresolute, ova'come by a
subtly terrifying inhibition which something in him,
equally as powerful, made him struggle to overcome.
His own natural shyness, added to the deep reticence
characteristic of childhood, urged him to dodge the
issue, run away. Another impulse chivalrous, manly,
bade him publicly stand by his private pledge. He



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18 FLEXIBLE FERDINAND

struggled. Paling, flushing, paling again, as the
gallant inner warfare waxed and waned, he stood
before the two women looking down at him in his
torture absolutely blind to its real significance. At
last, gathering himself together with a supreme ef-
fort, he thrust an open hand toward Katy. On its
palm lay a rubber circlet filched from an old umbrella
in the hall.

"Here's the ring, Katy," he gasped, his breath
catching painfully in his throat. "Now we're be-
gaged, ain't we?"

With a shriek-of resounding lau^ter Bridget Cas-
sidy fled down the pantry stairs.

Ferdinand was five. But the birth-pang that
ushered him into the world of struggle, mastery,
ridicule, acclaim, was as actual in its intensity as
anything he was ever to feel in days to come.

"Never you mind her," crooned Katy in his ear.
"She's a silly old thing to be laughin' at us. An*
you're a dead game sport if ever there was one."



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CHAPTER II

If in those days any one had interviewed Ferdinand
on the subject of "grown-up ladies and gentlemen/'
and Ferdinand had been able to express himself in
their highly unintelligible jargon, he would have said
that, speaking not necessarily for publication but in
perfect good faith, the impression they produced
upon a recent arrival, like himself, was one of de-
plorable levity. Grown-up ladies and gentlemefi
seemed to be perpetually laughing at nothing.

It struck Ferdinand as extremely gratuitous, not
to say foolish, the way they lauded without provo-
cation.

For example: One would have been especially en-
joined to "speak up like a little man, when mother's
'n' father's friends talk to you." Following instruc-
tions, with the best will in the world to be obedient
not to say obliging, it was certainly disconcerting to
find oneself being laughed at. Not with, mind you,
but unequivocally, at. (Oh, never doubt but that
even at five-years-old-going-on-six one is able to dis-
criminate.)

"So you go to Sunday-school! How very nice
that is. And what do you learn at Sunday-school?"

"My cattykissum, I learn."

"Really?"

"Yessir, ma'am. It begins, 'What is your name
N or Mf FirstoflP I said it ain't either of those, it's
Ferdinaud, but that ain't the right answer. The
next is: 'Who gave you this name?' My sponsors
in baptissum wherein I was made ... I kinda for-
get what I was made. But it goes on: 'What did

19

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20 FLEXIBLE FERDINAND

your sponsors then for you? They did promise and
vow three things in my name, first that I should
renouns the devil and all his works the pumps and
vanities of this wicket world and all the sinfiil lusts
of the flesh. Secont:'''

Pause.

'Well?"

"I guess I kinda forget secont. And then, 'sides
the cattykissum there's prayers and things we learn.*'

"Could you repeat one for me? One of the pray-
ers and things?"

"I know more than one prayer. I know 'Our
Father,' and 'Now I lay me,' and I know There are
four comers.' Shall I say 'There are four comers'?"

"By all means say, There are four comers.' "

^ 'There are four comers to me bed.

There are four saints around me head*

Mat-thoo, Mark, Lewk, an' John

Bless the bed that I lay onJ "

(Laugh.)
"But did you leam that at Sunday-school, brogue
and all?"

"Nosir, ma'am. Katy an' Bridget learned me
that one. AU the other ones, butceptin' 'Our
Father,' 'Tilda learned me."

(Laugh.)
"What else butceptin' prayers and things do you
do at Sunday-school?"

"We pay the teacher money so she can s'port her
little heathen children."

(Laugh.)
"And what else do you do, after you have enabled
the teacher to display her pagan offspring?"
"We sing."

(Laugh.)
"Really! What, for instance, do you sing?"
"Hymns."



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••TIME OF COMPRESSION'' 21

^^Ah; indeed. Can you remember a hymn for me
— or maybe a hert"

(Laugh.)

"I can't 'member very well, but there's one goes:
'Comm' in from Joysey bringin' in the cheese.' I
like that best of . . ."

(Conclusion lost in burst of lau^ter.)

While Ferdinand was perfectly willing to be agree-
able for the benefit of whom it mi^t concern, he
shrank with painful sensitiveness from figuring as a
butt of ridicule. As time went on he grew more
and more wary, trying to steer a course Siat would
float him safely between the Scylla and Charybdis of
parental reproof, and the agonising exploitation of
clumsy strangers.

Alicita, from whom no mystery in heaven or on
earth could long be concealed, discovered his weak-
ness and taunted him with it.

" 'Fraidcat! 'Fraidcat!" she chanted mercilessly,
and James-Barnes, overhearing, paused in his sev-
enteen-year-old magisterial progress throu^ the
nursery long enou^ to proclaim:

"Before I'd let a brother of mine grow up a 'fraid-
cat I'd take him out in the street and hire a real
thoroughbred of a feller his own size to give him a
licking he wouldn't forget in a hiury, so next time
he'd know better than to show the white feather.
That's what Fd do, before I'd let a brother of mine
grow up a 'fraidcat."

Following which James-Barnes strode out and off,
whistling a tune then greatly in vogue: "Down
went McGinty to the bottom of the sea!"

"He says it well, does Jamus-Bamus," muttered
Katy MsJioney aside with a resentful curl of the
lip. "It's himself I'd be tickled to death to land a
good cuff on the ear to, ere he'd be bullyin' the little
fella with his braggin' tongue." »

Matilda Mueller frowned.



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22 FLEXIBLE FERDINAND

"Better bullied than coddled," came from be-
tween her stem lips as she clicked her knitting-
needles with unremitting zeal.

Katy looked at her and wondered. Matilda and
Peter pursuing their way apparently unaffected by
the passage of time or the planets in their courses,
struck awe into the heart of the simple daughter of
Erin. They could not have shown the effect of gen-
eral wear and tear any less if they had been made
of the same immutable stuff as the everlasting hills.
It was not difficult to guess that the same spare
straight presence that presided over the nursery now,
would still be there unchanged a hundred years from
now. There would be the same black alpaca dress,
the same prunella gaiters with elastic gussets at the
«ides (where in creation did she get them nowa-
days?). And when she moved about it would be
ivith the same soft, surreptitious step, the step that
fairly frightened the life out of Katy and Bridget,
it being, "as ye might say, that mysterious ye could
never tell when she was comin' till she'd be on ye,
and youse only havin' a bite an' a sup kinda com-
panionable-like wit' your cousin lately landed."

Matilda's hair, glossy-black at the beginning of
the week, greenish-grey toward the end, was another
source of speculation. It was parted in the middle
and looped over her cheeks bandeau-fashion, giving
her the strange, solemn aspect of a long-eared moun-
tain goat. Peter's round, glassy stare created a
queer feeling in the pit of your stomach, Bridget as-
severated.

"I tell ye^ it's against humanity! It's not flesh-
an'-blood at all, at all. An' ye'd betther be believin'
it's the truth I'm tellin' ye, for it is that same an'
no other, the blessed saints be my witness."

On no subject but Ferdinand did "the nursery"
and "downstairs" agree, and even then there was no
love lost between them.



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**TIME OF COMPRESSION'* 28

Ask any self-respecting "party liviu' out if she
^ould like to have her premises invaded by ones it
was none of their business, wearin' list slippers, to
be on yez unawares anny time of the day or night,
the way you couldn't tell when they was prowlin'
'round itself, listenin' wit' their ear cocked for anny-
thin' handy to make mischief out of. Let alone
waitin' till yeVe yer back turned (goin' to bed, or
your day out) an' then snoopin' into your safe or
your refrigerator, when you'd your meals planned
for the next da', an' cuttin' off the good white breast
of the turkey for to be givin' it to Peter, till your
Toast'd be desthroyed on ye.'*


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