Fitz Hugh Ludlow.

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" 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."



A Brace of Boys. 267

" Say, will you come and play with me sometime ? "
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 rickwith 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 si-
lent, 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 curios-
ity, then answered,

" Perhaps I can save you the trouble by cross-examin-
ing it out of you. Let's try the method of elimination.
I know that you're not harassed by any economical con-
siderations, for you've all the money you want; and I



268 A Brace of Boys.

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, Eeligious Conflicts,
Love. Kow, is your digestion awry ? "

" No, sir, good as usual. I'm not melancholy on re-
ligion, and"

" You don't tell me you're in love ? "

" "Well yes I suppose that's about it, Uncle Ted-
dy." -

I took a long breath to recover from my astonish-
ment 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 anything 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 anything 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 Anac-
reon or Horace to her. If women only understood



A Brace of Boys. 269

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
Linnaeus and Jussieu. Women like the star business,
they say, and I could tell her where all the constella-
tions 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 de-
pended for her favor on his ability to analyze her bou-
quet 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 anything that makes a man even toler-
able 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 O
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 fel-
lows, 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
23*



270 A Brace of Boys.

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 ex-
change 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 yoii ! 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 o them. If she's a sen-
sible girl (and God forbid you should marry her other-
wise !), 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 I ), 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."



A Brace of Boys. 271

" 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 con-
nection 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 lit-
tle 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 niy after-breakfast cigar, but the next
morning did not see him enter ray 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 to-
gether, 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 morn-



272 A Brace of Boys.

" Are you sick ! "

"No-o-o it isn't that; but you'll laugh at me if I
tell you."

" Indeed I wont, Billy ! "

"Well," his voice dropped to a whisper, and he
stole close to niy 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 blub-
bered. 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, aint 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 pine ! I must run or I shall



A Brace of Bovs. 273

get a tardy mark, and, perhaps, she'll want to see my
certificate sometime."

So saying, he kissed me on the cheek and set off for
school as fast as his legs could carrj^ him. O Love, om-
nivorous 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 over-
come his bashfulness: was spontaneous only in sonnets,
brilliant only in bouquets. Billy was always coming to
me with pleasant news, told yi 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 t*> 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 an-
nounced to me that he had been to play with Jimmy,
and got introduced to his girl.

Shortly after this Ln gave what they call " a little.



274 -^ Brace of Boys.

company," not a party, but a reunion of forty or fifty
people with whom the family were well acquainted, sev-
eral 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 sin-
gle piano played_ by the German exile usual on such oc-
casions, and the refreshments did not rise to the splen-
dor 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 soci-
ety. How simple was the entertainment may be in-
ferred 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 he 1 a few
weeks' visit. As a matter of course, however, sne re-
turned 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 tern., 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 suffi-
ciency for all the demands of the gay world.

When we reached the parlor we found Pa and Ma



. 1 Brace of Boys. 275

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 unriv-
eted 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 eonversation, became gal-
vanically 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 pre-
ternaturally 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 con-
versationists, the photograph album. All the dejected
young men made for it at once, some reaching it just as



276 A Brace of Boys.

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 pleas-
ant 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 an-
nounce 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.
3. heard Lu say,



A- Brace of Bov*. 277

" Ah, Mrs. Kumbullion ! 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 astonish-
ment to joy.

" Isn't that splendid, Uncle Teddy ? Just as I was
wishing it I It's just like the fairy books I " and, rush-
ing up to the party of new-comers, " My dear Lottie 1 "
cried he, " if I'd only known you were coming I'd have
gone after you I "

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

" Why, Billy ! " said she, " you ought not to call a
strange young lady ' Lottie I ' Miss Pilgrim, you must
excuse my wild boy "

" And you must excuse my mother, Lottie," said Bil-
ly, 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 liis mother. I felt all the more willing to in-



278 A Brace of Boys.

fringe 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 deli-
cately by saying,

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

" In a minute, Uncle Teddy," answered Billy, consid-
erably lowering his voice. "The older people first;"
and after this reproof 1 was left to wait in the cold un-
til 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 gentle-
man she had seen in Xew York society. You may be
sure it wasn't Billy's left ear which burned when I made
my responses.



A Brace of Boys. 279

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
ranted with all the courtesy of a preux chcodur,
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 Bill}' had gone back
like a superior being to assist at the childish amusement
of his contemporaries. Would anybody ever suppose
that was our Billy ? "

" I should, my dear sister," said I, with proud satis-
faction; "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 showing through the key-
hole, 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 1.
me he trembled like a guilty thing, his countenance fell,



280 A Brace of Boys.

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 I 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 Rum-
bullions to start you off on such a bender of bashful-
ness 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 ! "



A Brace of Boys. 281

" What ! D'you - Miss Pilgrim V "

" Miss Pilgrim ! "

I labored with Daniel for ten minutes, using every en-
couragement and argument I coiild think of, and finally
threatened him that I would bring up the whole Rum-
bullion party, Miss Pilgrim included, telling them that
he had invited them to look at his couchological cabinet,
unless he instantly shook the ice out of his manner and
accompanied me downstairs. 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 sur-
render, 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 I

The latter gentleman met us at the foot of the stair-
case.

" Oh, there you are, Daniel I " 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
pluy M>me 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. " Lot-
tie's going to play, too; so will you and Daniel, wont
you, uncle ? Oh, here comes Lottie now ! This is my
24*



282 A Brace of Boys.

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 ! " ex-
claimed Master Billy. " I didn't know you knew each
other, Lottie. ? "

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

" To be sure we shall ! " cried Billy. " You needn't
mind, all the grown people are going to."

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-buft' till we were tired of
that, Daniel, to Lu's great delight, coming out splen-



A Brace of Boys. 283

didly 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 <>t"
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 eclat by all the children, several
grown people assenting.


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Online LibraryFitz Hugh LudlowLittle brother; and other genre-pictures → online text (page 16 of 18)