fortably on a settee between the windows.
The small boy considered himself a judge of
girls, and he rapidly came to the following con
clusions : That Miss Nelly was about nineteen ;
that she had not given away much of her back
hair, which hung in two massive chestnut
braids over her shoulders ; that she was a shade
too pale and a trifle too tall ; that her hands
were nicely shaped and her feet much too
diminutive for daily use. He furthermore ob
served that her voice was musical, and that
her face lighted up with an indescribable
brightness when she smiled.
On the whole, the small boy liked her well
enough ; and, satisfied that she was not a per
son to be afraid of, but, on the contrary, one
who might turn out to be quite agreeable, he
departed to keep an appointment with his
friend Sir Pepper Whitcomb.
But the next morning, when Miss Glent-
worth came down to breakfast in a purple
dress, her face as fresh as one of the moss-
roses on the bureau up-stairs, and her laugh
as contagious as the merriment of a robin, the
small boy experienced a strange sensation, and
mentally compared her with the loveliest of
Miss Gibbs s young ladies, and found those
young ladies wanting in the balance.
230 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
A night s rest had wrought a wonderful
change in Miss Nelly. The pallor and weari
ness of the journey had passed away. I looked
at her through the toast-rack and thought I
had never seen anything more winning than
After breakfast she went out with me to the
stable to see Gypsy, and the three of us be
came friends then and there. Nelly was the
only girl that Gypsy ever took the slightest
It chanced to be a half-holiday, and a base
ball match of unusual interest was to come off
on the school ground that afternoon ; but,
somehow, I did not go. I hung about the
house abstractedly. The Captain went up
town, and Miss Abigail was busy in the kitchen
making immortal gingerbread. I drifted into
the sitting-room, and had our guest all to my
self for I do not know how many hours. It
was twilight, I recollect, when the Captain
returned with letters for Miss Nelly.
Many a time after that I sat with her
through the dreamy September afternoons. If
I had played baseball it would have been much
better for me.
Those first days of Miss Nelly s visit are
very misty in my remembrance. I try in vain
to remember just when I began to fall in love
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 231
with her. Whether the spell worked upon me
gradually or fell upon me all at once, I do not
know. I only know that it seemed to me as
if I had always loved her. Things that took
place before she came were dim to me, like
events that had occurred in the Middle Ages.
Nelly was at least five years my senior. But
what of that ? Adam is the only man I ever
heard of who did not in early youth fall in love
with a woman older than himself, and I am
convinced that he would have done so if he
had had the opportunity.
I wonder if girls from fifteen to twenty are
aware of the glamour they cast over the strag
gling awkward boys whom they regard and
treat as mere children. I wonder, now. Young
women are so keen in such matters. I wonder
if Miss Nelly Glentworth never suspected until
the very last night of her visit at Rivermouth
that I was over ears in love with her pretty
self, and was suffering pangs as poignant as if
I had been ten feet high and as old as Methu
selah. For, indeed, I was miserable through
out all those five weeks. I went down in the
Latin class at the rate of three boys a day.
Her fresh young eyes came between me and
my book, and there was an end of Virgil.
" O love, love, love !
Love is like a dizziness,
232 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
It winna let a body
Gang about his business."
I was wretched away from her, and only less
wretched in her presence. The especial cause
of my woe was this : I was simply a little boy
to Miss Glentworth. I knew it. I bewailed
it. I ground my teeth and wept in secret over
the fact. If I had been aught else in her eyes
would she have smoothed my hair so carelessly,
sending an electric shock through my whole
system ? would she have walked with me, hand
in hand, for hours in the old garden ? and once
when I lay on the sofa, my head aching with
love and mortification, would she have stooped
down and kissed me if I had not been a little
boy ? How I despised little boys ! How I
hated one particular little boy too little to
be loved !
I smile over this very grimly even now. My
sorrow was genuine and bitter. It is a great
mistake on the part of elderly ladies, male and
female, to tell a child that he is seeing his hap
piest days. Do not you believe a word of it,
my little friend. The burdens of childhood
are as hard to bear as the crosses that weigh
us down later in life, while the happinesses of
childhood are tame compared with those of our
maturer years. And even if this were not so,
it is rank cruelty to throw shadows over the
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 233
young heart by croaking, "Be merry, for to
morrow you die ! "
As the last days of Nelly s visit drew near,
I fell into a very unhealthy state of mind. To
have her so frank and unconsciously coquet
tish with me was a daily torment ; to be looked
upon and treated as a child was bitter almonds ;
but the thought of losing her altogether was
The summer was at an end. The days were
perceptibly shorter, and now and then came
an evening when it was chilly enough to have
a wood-fire in our sitting-room. The leaves
were beginning to take hectic tints, and the
wind was practising the minor pathetic notes
of its autumnal dirge. Nature and myself ap
peared to be approaching our dissolution simul
One evening, the evening previous to the
day set for Nelly s departure how well I re
member it ! I found her sitting alone by the
wide chimney-piece looking musingly at the
crackling backlog. There were no candles in
the room. On her face and hands, and on the
small golden cross at her throat, fell the flick
ering firelight that ruddy, mellow firelight
in which one s grandmother would look po
I drew a low stool from the corner and
234 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
placed it by the side of her chair. She
reached out her hand to me, as was her pretty
fashion, and so we sat for several moments
silent in the changing glow of the burning
logs. Presently I moved back the stool so
that I could see her face in profile without
being seen by her. I lost her hand by this
movement, but I could not have spoken with
the listless touch of her fingers on mine.
After two or three attempts I said " Nelly " a
good deal louder than I intended.
Perhaps the effort it cost me was evident in
my voice. She raised herself quickly in the
chair and half turned towards me.
"I I am very sorry you are going away."
" So am I. I have enjoyed every hour of
"Do you think you will ever come back
here ? "
"Possibly," said Nelly, and her eyes wan
dered off into the fitful firelight.
" I suppose you will forget us all very
"Indeed I shall not. I shall always have
the pleasantest recollections of Rivermouth."
Here the conversation died a natural death.
Nelly sank into a sort of dream, and I medi
tated. Fearing every moment to be inter-
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 235
rupted by some member of the family, I nerved
myself to make a bold dash.
" Do you " I hesitated.
" Do I what ? "
" Love any one very much ? "
" Why, of course I do," said Nelly, scatter
ing her reverie with a merry laugh. " I love
Uncle Nutter, and Aunt Nutter, and you
Towser, our new dog ! I could not stand
that. I pushed back the stool impatiently and
stood in front of her.
" That s not what I mean," I said angrily.
" Well, what do you mean ? "
" Do you love any one to marry him ? "
" The idea of it," cried Nelly, laughing.
"But you must tell me."
" Must, Tom ? "
" Indeed you must, Nelly."
She had risen from the chair with an amused,
perplexed look in her eyes. I held her an
instant by the dress.
" Please tell me."
" Oh, you silly boy ! " cried Nelly. Then
she rumpled my hair all over my forehead and
ran laughing out of the room.
Suppose Cinderella had rumpled the prince s
236 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
hair all over his forehead, how would he have
liked it ? Suppose the Sleeping Beauty when
the king s son with a kiss set her and all the
old clocks a-going in the spellbound castle
suppose the young minx had looked up and
coolly laughed in his eye, I guess the king s son
would not have been greatly pleased.
I hesitated a second or two, and then rushed
after Nelly just in time to run against Miss
Abigail, who entered the room with a couple
of lighted candles.
" Goodness gracious, Tom ! " exclaimed Miss
Abigail, " are you possessed ? "
I left her scraping the warm spermaceti from
one of her thumbs.
Nelly was in the kitchen talking quite uncon
cernedly with Kitty Collins. There she re
mained until supper-time. Supper over, we all
adjourned to the sitting-room. I planned and
plotted, but could manage in no way to get
Nelly alone. She and the Captain played
cribbage all the evening.
The next morning my lady did not make her
appearance until we were seated at the break
fast-table. I had got up at daylight myself.
Immediately after breakfast the carriage arrived
to take her to the railroad station. A gentle
man stepped from this carriage, and greatly
to my surprise was warmly welcomed by the
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 237
Captain and Miss Abigail, and by Miss Nelly
herself, who seemed unnecessarily glad to see
him. From the hasty conversation that fol
lowed I learned that the gentleman had come
somewhat unexpectedly to conduct Miss Nelly
to Boston. But how did he know that she was
to leave that morning? Nelly bade farewell
to the Captain and Miss Abigail, made a little
rush and kissed me on the nose, and was gone.
As the wheels of the hack rolled up the
street and over my finer feelings, I turned to
" Who was that gentleman, sir ? "
"That was Mr. Waldron."
" A relation of yours, sir ? " I asked craftily.
" No relation of mine a relation of Nelly s,"
said the Captain, smiling.
"A cousin," I suggested, feeling a strange
hatred spring up in my bosom for the un
"Well, I suppose you might call him a
cousin for the present. He s going to marry
little Nelly next summer."
In one of Peter Parley s valuable historical
works is a description of an earthquake at Lis
bon. "At the first shock the inhabitants
rushed into the streets ; the earth yawned at
their feet and the houses tottered and fell on
every side." I staggered past the Captain
238 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
into the street ; a giddiness came over me ;
the earth yawned at my feet, and the houses
threatened to fall in on every side of me. How
distinctly I remember that momentary sense
of confusion when everything in the world
seemed toppling over into ruins.
As I have remarked, my love for Nelly is a
thing of the past. I had not thought of her
for years until I sat down to write this chapter,
and yet, now that all is said and done, I should
not care particularly to come across Mrs. Wal-
dron s eldest boy in my afternoon s walk. He
must be fourteen or fifteen years old by this
time the young villain !
I BECOME A BLIGHTED BEING
WHEN a young boy gets to be an old boy,
when the hair is growing rather thin on the
top of the old boy s head, and he has been
tamed sufficiently to take a sort of chastened
pleasure in allowing the baby to play with his
watch-seals when, I say, an old boy has
reached this stage in the journey of life, he is
sometimes apt to indulge in sportive remarks
concerning his first love.
Now, though I bless my stars that it was not
in my power to marry Miss Nelly, I am not
going to deny my boyish regard for her nor
laugh at it. As long as it lasted it was a very
sincere and unselfish love, and rendered me
proportionately wretched. I say as long as it
lasted, for one s first love does not last for
I am ready, however, to laugh at the amus
ing figure I cut after I had really ceased to
have any deep feeling in the matter. It was
then I took it into my head to be a Blighted
240 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
Being. This was about two weeks after the
spectral appearance of Mr. Waldron.
For a boy of a naturally vivacious disposi
tion, the part of a blighted being presented
difficulties. I had an excellent appetite, I liked
society, I liked out-of-door sports, I was fond
of handsome clothes. Now all these things
were incompatible with the doleful character
I was to assume, and I proceeded to cast them
from me. I neglected my hair. I avoided
my playmates. I frowned abstractedly. I did
not eat as much as was good for me. I took
lonely walks. I brooded in solitude. I not
only committed to memory the more turgid
poems of the late Lord Byron Fare thee
well, and if forever, etc. but I became a
despondent poet on my own account, and com
posed a string of " Stanzas to One who will
understand them." I think I was a trifle too
hopeful on that point, for I came across the
verses several years afterwards, and was quite
unable to understand them myself.
It was a great comfort to be so perfectly
miserable and yet not suffer any. I used to
look in the glass and gloat over the amount and
variety of mournful expressions I could throw
into my features. If I caught myself smiling
at anything, I cut the smile short with a sigh.
The oddest thing about all this is, I never
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 241
once suspected that I was not unhappy. No
one, not even Pepper Whitcomb, was more
deceived than I.
Among the minor pleasures of being blighted
were the interest and perplexity I excited in
the simple souls that were thrown in daily con
tact with me. Pepper especially. I nearly
drove him into a corresponding state of mind.
I had from time to time given Pepper slight
but impressive hints of my admiration for Some
One (this was in the early part of Miss Glent-
worth s visit) ; I had also led him to infer that
my admiration was not altogether in vain. He
was therefore unable to explain the cause of
my strange behavior, for I had carefully re
frained from mentioning to Pepper the fact
that Some One had turned out to be An
I treated Pepper shabbily. I could not resist
playing on his tenderer feelings. He was a boy
bubbling over with sympathy for any one in
any kind of trouble. Our intimacy since Binny
Wallace s death had been uninterrupted ; but
now I moved in a sphere apart, not to be pro
faned by the step of an outsider.
I no longer joined the boys on the play
ground at recess. I stayed at my desk read
ing some lugubrious volume usually The
Mysteries of Udolpho, by the amiable Mrs.
242 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
Radcliffe. A translation of The Sorrows of
Werther fell into my hands at this period, and
if I could have committed suicide without kill
ing myself, I should certainly have done so.
On half -holidays, instead of fraternizing with
Pepper and the rest of our clique, I would
wander off alone to Grave Point.
Grave Point the place where Binny Wal
lace s body came ashore was a narrow strip
of land running out into the river. A line of
Lombardy poplars, stiff and severe, like a row
of grenadiers, mounted guard on the water
side. On the extreme end of the peninsula
was an old disused graveyard, tenanted prin
cipally by the early settlers who had been
scalped by the Indians. In a remote corner
of the cemetery, set apart from the other
mounds, was the grave of a woman who had
been hanged in the old colonial times for the
murder of her infant. Goodwife Polly Haines
had denied the crime to the last, and after her
death there had arisen strong doubts as to her
actual guilt. It was a belief current among
the lads of the town, that if you went to this
grave at nightfall on the loth of November
the anniversary of her execution and asked,
" For what did the magistrates hang you ? " a
voice would reply, " Nothing."
Many a Rivermouth boy has tremblingly
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 243
put this question in the dark, and, sure enough,
Polly Haines invariably answered nothing !
A low red-brick wall, broken down in many
places and frosted over with silvery moss, sur
rounded this burial-ground of our Pilgrim Fa
thers and their immediate descendants. The
latest date on any of the headstones was 1760.
A crop of very funny epitaphs sprung up here
and there among the overgrown thistles and
burdocks, and almost every tablet had a death s-
head with crossbones engraved upon it, or else
a puffy round face with a pair of wings stretch
ing out from the ears, like this
These mortuary emblems furnished me with
congenial food for reflection. I used to lie in
the long grass, and speculate on the advantages
and disadvantages of being a cherub.
I forget what I thought the advantages were,
but I remember distinctly of getting into an
inextricable tangle on two points : How could
a cherub, being all head and wings, manage to
sit down when he was tired ? To have to sit
244 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
down on the back of his head struck me as an
awkward alternative. Again : Where did a
cherub carry those indispensable articles (such
as jackknives, marbles, and pieces of twine)
which boys in an earthly state of existence
usually stow away in their trousers-pockets ?
These were knotty questions, and I was
never able to dispose of them satisfactorily.
Meanwhile Pepper Whitcomb would scour
the whole town in search of me. He finally
discovered my retreat, and dropped in on me
abruptly one afternoon, while I was deep in
the cherub problem.
" Look here, Tom Bailey ! " said Pepper,
shying a piece of clam-shell indignantly at the
Hie jacet on a neighboring gravestone, " you
are just going to the dogs ! Can t you tell a
fellow what in thunder ails you, instead of
prowling round among the tombs like a jolly
old vampire ? "
" Pepper," I replied solemnly, " don t ask
me ; you would n t understand. Some day you
may. You are too fat and thoughtless now."
Pepper stared at me.
" Earthly happiness," I continued, "is a de
lusion and a snare. You will never be happy,
Pepper, until you are a cherub."
Pepper, by the bye, would have made an ex
cellent cherub, he was so chubby. Having
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 245
delivered myself of these gloomy remarks, I
arose languidly from the grass and moved
away, leaving Pepper staring after me in mute
astonishment. I was Hamlet and Werther
and the late Lord Byron all in one.
You will ask what my purpose was in culti
vating this factitious despondency. I had none.
Blighted Beings never have any purpose in life
excepting to be as blighted as possible.
Of course my present line of business could
not long escape the eye of Captain Nutter. I
do not know if the Captain suspected my at
tachment for Miss Glentworth. He never
alluded to it ; but he watched me. Miss Abi
gail watched me, Kitty Collins watched me,
and Sailor Ben watched me.
"I can t make out his signals," I overheard
the Admiral remark to my grandfather one day.
" I hope he ain t got no kind of sickness aboard."
There was something singularly agreeable in
being an object of so great interest. Some
times I had all I could do to preserve my de
jected aspect, it was so pleasant to be miserable.
I incline to the opinion that persons who are
melancholy without any particular reason, such
as poets, artists, and young musicians with
long hair, have rather an enviable time of it.
In a quiet way I never enjoyed myself better in
my life than when I was a Blighted Being.
IN WHICH I PROVE MYSELF TO BE THE GRANDSON
OF MY GRANDFATHER
IT was not possible for a boy of my tempera
ment to be a blighted being longer than three
I was gradually emerging from my self-im
posed cloud when events took place that greatly
assisted in restoring me to a more natural
frame of mind. I awoke from an imaginary
trouble to face a real one.
I suppose you do not know what a financial
crisis is ? I will give you an illustration.
You are deeply in debt say to the amount
of a quarter of a dollar to the little knick-
knack shop round the corner, where they sell
picture-papers, spruce-gum, needles, and Ma
laga raisins. A boy owes you a quarter of a
dollar, which he promises to pay at a certain
time. You are depending on this quarter to
settle accounts with the small shopkeeper.
The time arrives and the quarter does not.
That s a financial crisis, in one sense in
twenty-five senses, if I may say so.
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 247
When this same thing happens, on a grander
scale, in the mercantile world, it produces what
is called a panic. One man s inability to pay
his debts ruins another man, who, in turn,
ruins some one else, and so on, until failure
after failure makes even the richest capitalists
tremble. Public confidence is suspended, and
the smaller fry of merchants are knocked over
These commercial panics occur periodically,
after the fashion of comets and earthquakes
and other disagreeable things. Such a panic
took place in New Orleans in the year 18
and my father s banking-house went to pieces
in the crash.
Of a comparatively large fortune nothing
remained after paying his debts excepting a
few thousand dollars, with which he proposed
to return North and embark in some less haz
ardous enterprise. In the meantime it was
necessary for him to stay in New Orleans to
wind up the business.
My grandfather was in some way involved in
this failure, and lost, I fancy, a considerable
sum of money ; but he never talked much on
the subject. He was an unflinching believer
in the spilt-milk proverb.
" It can t be gathered up," he would say,
" and it s no use crying over it. Pitch into
248 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
the cow and get some more milk, is my
The suspension of the banking-house was
bad enough, but there was an attending cir
cumstance that gave us, at Rivermouth, a great
deal more anxiety. The cholera, which some
one predicted would visit the country that
year, and which, indeed, had made its appear
ance in a mild form at several points along the
Mississippi River, had broken out with much
violence at New Orleans.
The report that first reached us through the
newspapers was meagre and contradictory ;
many persons discredited it ; but a letter from
my mother left us no room for doubt. The
sickness was in the city. The hospitals were
filling up, and hundreds of the citizens were
flying from the stricken place by every steam
boat. The unsettled state of my father s
affairs made it imperative for him to remain at
his post ; his desertion at that moment would
have been at the sacrifice of all he had saved
from the general wreck.
As he would be detained in New Orleans at
least three months, my mother declined to
come North without him.
After this we awaited with feverish impa
tience the weekly news that came to us from
the South. The next letter advised us that my
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 249
parents were well, and that the sickness, so
far, had not penetrated to the faubourg, or dis
trict, where they lived. The following week
brought less cheering tidings. My father s
business, in consequence of the flight of the
other partners, would keep him in the city be
yond the period he had mentioned. The fam
ily had moved to Pass Christian, a favorite
watering-place on Lake Pontchartrain, near
New Orleans, where he was able to spend part
of each week So the return North was post
It was now that the old longing to see my
parents came back to me with irresistible force.
I knew my grandfather would not listen to the
idea of my going to New Orleans at such a
dangerous time, since he had opposed the jour
ney so strongly when the same objection did
not exist. But I determined to go neverthe
I think I have mentioned the fact that all
the male members of our family, on my father s
side as far back as the Middle Ages have
exhibited in early youth a decided talent for
running away. It was an hereditary talent. It
ran in the blood to run away. I do not pretend
to explain the peculiarity. I simply admit it.
It was not my fate to change the prescribed
order of things. I, too, was to run away,
250 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
thereby proving, if any proof were needed, that
I was the grandson of my grandfather. I do
not hold myself responsible for the step any