Frank J. Webb.

The Garies and Their Friends online

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Winter-street, or take a private conveyance. At any rate, I shall call for
you to-morrow at ten. Good night - remember, at ten." "Well, this is a
strange piece of intelligence," exclaimed Mrs. Ellis, as the door closed
upon Mr. Walters. "I wonder what on earth can induce them to move on here.
Their place, I am told, is a perfect paradise. In old Colonel Garie's time
it was said to be the finest in Georgia. I wonder if he really intends to
live here permanently?"

"I can't say, my dear," replied Mrs. Ellis; "I am as much in the dark as
you are."

"Perhaps they are getting poor, Ellis, and are coming here because they can
live cheaper."

"Oh, no, wife; I don't think that can be the occasion of their removal. I
rather imagine he purposes emancipating his children. He cannot do it
legally in Georgia; and, you know, by bringing them here, and letting them
remain six months, they are free - so says the law of some of the Southern
States, and I think of Georgia."

The next morning Mrs. Ellis, Caddy, and Mr. Walters, started for
Winter-street; it was a very long walk, and when they arrived there, they
were all pretty well exhausted.

"Oh, dear," exclaimed Mrs. Ellis, after walking upstairs, "I am so tired,
and there is not a chair in the house. I must rest here," said she, seating
herself upon the stairs, and looking out upon the garden. "What a large
yard! if ours were only as large as this, what a delightful place I could
make of it! But there is no room to plant anything at our house, the garden
is so very small."

After they were all somewhat rested, they walked through the house and
surveyed the rooms, making some favourable commentary upon each.

"The house don't look as if it would want much cleaning," said Caddy, with
a tone of regret.

"So much the better, I should say," suggested Mr. Walters.

"Not as Caddy views the matter," rejoined Mrs. Ellis. "She is so fond of
house-cleaning, that I positively think she regards the cleanly state of
the premises as rather a disadvantage than otherwise." They were all,
however, very well pleased with the place; and on their way home they
settled which should be the best bedroom, and where the children should
sleep. They also calculated how much carpet and oilcloth would be
necessary, and what style of furniture should be put in the parlour.

"I think the letter said plain, neat furniture, and not too expensive, did
it not?" asked Mrs. Ellis.

"I think those were the very words," replied Caddy; "and, oh, mother, isn't
it nice to have the buying of so many pretty things? I do so love to shop!"

"Particularly with some one else's money," rejoined her mother, with a
smile.

"Yes, or one's own either, when one has it," continued Caddy; "I like to
spend money under any circumstances."

Thus in conversation relative to the house and its fixtures, they beguiled
the time until they reached their home. On arriving there, Mrs. Ellis found
Robberts awaiting her return with a very anxious countenance. He informed
her that Mrs. Thomas wished to see her immediately; that Charlie had been
giving that estimable lady a world of trouble; and that her presence was
necessary to set things to rights.

"What has he been doing?" asked Mrs. Ellis.

"Oh, lots of things! He and aunt Rachel don't get on together at all; and
last night he came nigh having the house burned down over our heads."

"Why, Robberts, you don't tell me so! What a trial boys are," sighed Mrs.
Ellis.

"He got on first rate for a week or two; but since that he has been raising
Satan. He and aunt Rachel had a regular brush yesterday, and he has
actually lamed the old woman to that extent she won't be able to work for a
week to come."

"Dear, dear, what am I to do?" said the perplexed Mrs. Ellis; "I can't go
up there immediately, I am too tired. Say to Mrs. Thomas I will come up
this evening. I wonder," concluded she, "what has come over the boy."
"Mother, you know how cross aunt Rachel is; I expect she has been
ill-treating him. He is so good-natured, that he never would behave
improperly to an old person unless goaded to it by some very harsh usage."

"That's the way - go on, Esther, find some excuse for your angel," said
Caddy, ironically. "Of course that lamb could not do anything wrong, and,
according to your judgment, he never does; but, I tell you, he is as bad as
any other boy - boys are boys. I expect he has been tracking over the floor
after aunt Rachel has scrubbed it, or has been doing something equally
provoking; he has been in mischief, depend upon it."

Things had gone on very well with Master Charlie for the first two weeks
after his introduction into the house of the fashionable descendant of the
worthy maker of leathern breeches. His intelligence, combined with the
quickness and good-humour with which he performed the duties assigned him,
quite won the regard of the venerable lady who presided over that
establishment. It is true she had detected him in several attempts upon the
peace and well-being of aunt Rachel's Tom; but with Tom she had little
sympathy, he having recently made several felonious descents upon her
stores of cream and custards. In fact, it was not highly probable, if any
of his schemes had resulted seriously to the spiteful _protege_ of aunt
Rachel, that Mrs. Thomas would have been overwhelmed with grief, or
disposed to inflict any severe punishment on the author of the catastrophe.

Unfortunately for Mrs. Thomas, Charlie, whilst going on an errand, had
fallen in with his ancient friend and adviser - in short, he had met no less
a person than the formerly all-sufficient Kinch. Great was the delight of
both parties at this unexpected meeting, and warm, indeed, was the exchange
of mutual congratulations on this auspicious event.

Kinch, in the excess of his delight, threw his hat several feet in the air;
nor did his feelings of pleasure undergo the least abatement when that
dilapidated portion of his costume fell into a bed of newly-mixed lime,
from which he rescued it with great difficulty and at no little personal
risk.

"Hallo! Kinch, old fellow, how are you?" cried Charlie; "I've been dying to
see you - why haven't you been up?"

"Why, I did come up often, but that old witch in the kitchen wouldn't let
me see you - she abused me scandalous. I wanted to pull her turban off and
throw it in the gutter. Why, she called me a dirty beggar, and threatened
to throw cold water on me if I didn't go away. Phew! ain't she an old
buster!"

"Why, I never knew you were there."

"Yes," continued Kinch; "and I saw you another time hung up behind the
carriage. I declare, Charlie, you looked so like a little monkey, dressed
up in that sky-blue coat and silver buttons, that I liked to have died
a-laughing at you;" and Kinch was so overcome by the recollection of the
event in question, that he was obliged to sit down upon a door-step to
recover himself.

"Oh, I do hate to wear this confounded livery!' said Charlie, dolefully - "
the boys scream 'Johnny Coat-tail' after me in the streets, and call me
'blue jay,' and 'blue nigger,' and lots of other names. I feel that all
that's wanting to make a complete monkey of me, is for some one to carry me
about on an organ."

"What do you wear it for, then?" asked Kinch.

"Because I can't help myself, that's the reason. The boys plague me to that
extent sometimes, that I feel like tearing the things into bits - but mother
says I must wear it. Kinch," concluded he, significantly, "something will
have to be done, I can't stand it."

"You remember what I told you about the wig, don't you?" asked Kinch; and,
on receiving an affirmative reply, he continued, "Just try that on, and see
how it goes - you'll find it'll work like a charm; it's a regular
footman-expatriator - just try it now; you'll see if it isn't the thing to
do the business for you." "I'm determined to be as bad as I can,"
rejoined Charlie; "I'm tired enough of staying there: that old aunt Rach is
a devil - I don't believe a saint from heaven could get on with her; I'm
expecting we'll have a pitched battle every day."

Beguiling the time with this and similar conversation, they reached the
house to which Charlie had been despatched with a note; after which, he
turned his steps homeward, still accompanied by the redoubtable Kinch.

As ill luck would have it, they passed some boys who were engaged in a game
of marbles, Charlie's favourite pastime, and, on Kinch's offering him the
necessary stock to commence play, he launched into the game, regardless of
the fact that the carriage was ordered for a drive within an hour, and that
he was expected to fill his accustomed place in the rear of that splendid
vehicle.

Once immersed in the game, time flew rapidly on. Mrs. Thomas awaited his
return until her patience was exhausted, when she started on her drive
without him. As they were going through a quiet street, to her horror and
surprise, prominent amidst a crowd of dirty boys, she discovered her little
footman, with his elegant blue livery covered with dirt and sketches in
white chalk; for, in the excitement of the game, Charlie had not observed
that Kinch was engaged in drawing on the back of his coat his favourite
illustration, to wit, a skull and cross-bones.

"Isn't that our Charlie?" said she to her daughter, surveying the crowd of
noisy boys through her eye-glass. "I really believe it is - that is
certainly our livery; pull the check-string, and stop the carriage."

Now Robberts had been pressed into service in consequence of Charlie's
absence, and was in no very good humour at being compelled to air his
rheumatic old shins behind the family-carriage. It can therefore be readily
imagined with what delight he recognized the delinquent footman amidst the
crowd, and with what alacrity he descended and pounced upon him just at the
most critical moment of the game. Clutching fast hold of him by the
collar of his coat, he dragged him to the carriage-window, and held him
before the astonished eyes of his indignant mistress, who lifted up her
hands in horror at the picture he presented. "Oh! you wretched boy," said
she, "just look at your clothes, all covered with chalk-marks and
bespattered with lime! Your livery is totally ruined - and your knees,
too - only look at them - the dirt is completely ground into them."

"But you haven't seed his back, marm," said Robberts; "he's got the
pirate's flag drawn on it. That boy'll go straight to the devil - I know he
will."

All this time Charlie, to his great discomfiture, was being shaken and
turned about by Robberts in the most unceremonious manner. Kinch, with his
usual audacity, was meanwhile industriously engaged in tracing on Robbert's
coat a similar picture to that he had so skilfully drawn on Charlie's, to
the great delight of a crowd of boys who stood admiring spectators of his
artistic performances. The coachman, however, observing this operation,
brought it to a rather hasty conclusion by a well directed cut of the whip
across the fingers of the daring young artist. This so enraged Kinch, that
in default of any other missile, he threw his lime-covered cap at the head
of the coachman; but, unfortunately for himself, the only result of his
exertions was the lodgment of his cap in the topmost bough of a
neighbouring tree, from whence it was rescued with great difficulty.

"What _shall_ we do with him?" asked Mrs. Thomas, in a despairing tone, as
she looked at Charlie.

"Put him with the coachman," suggested Mrs. Morton.

"He can't sit there, the horses are so restive, and the seat is only
constructed for one, and he would be in the coachman's way. I suppose he
must find room on behind with Robberts."

"I won't ride on the old carriage," cried Charlie, nerved by despair; "I
won't stay here nohow. I'm going home to my mother;" and as he spoke he
endeavoured to wrest himself from Robberts' grasp. "Put him in here,"
said Mrs. Thomas; "it would never do to let him go, for he will run home
with some distressing tale of ill-treatment; no, we must keep him until I
can send for his mother - put him in here."

Much to Mrs. Morton's disgust, Charlie was bundled by Robberts into the
bottom of the carriage, where he sat listening to the scolding of Mrs.
Thomas and her daughter until they arrived at home. He remained in disgrace
for several days after this adventure; but as Mrs. Thomas well knew that
she could not readily fill his place with another, she made a virtue of
necessity, and kindly looked over this first offence.

The situation was, however, growing more and more intolerable. Aunt Rachel
and he had daily skirmishes, in which he was very frequently worsted. He
had held several hurried consultations with Kinch through the grating of
the cellar window, and was greatly cheered and stimulated in the plans he
intended to pursue by the advice and sympathy of his devoted friend. Master
Kinch's efforts to console Charlie were not without great risk to himself,
as he had on two or three occasions narrowly escaped falling into the
clutches of Robberts, who well remembered Kinch's unprecedented attempt
upon the sacredness of his livery; and what the result might have been had
the latter fallen into his hands, we cannot contemplate without a shudder.

These conferences between Kinch and Charlie produced their natural effect,
and latterly it had been several times affirmed by aunt Rachel that, "Dat
air boy was gittin' 'tirely too high - gittin' bove hissef 'pletely - dat he
was gittin' more and more aggriwatin' every day - dat she itched to git at
him - dat she 'spected nothin' else but what she'd be 'bliged to take hold
o' him;" and she comported herself generally as if she was crazy for the
conflict which she saw must sooner or later occur.

Charlie, unable on these occasions to reply to her remarks without
precipitating a conflict for which he did not feel prepared, sought to
revenge himself upon the veteran Tom; and such was the state of his
feelings, that he bribed Kinch, with a large lump of sugar and the leg of a
turkey, to bring up his mother's Jerry, a fierce young cat, and they had
the satisfaction of shutting him up in the wood-house with the belligerent
Tom, who suffered a signal defeat at Jerry's claws, and was obliged to beat
a hasty retreat through the window, with a seriously damaged eye, and with
the fur torn off his back in numberless places. After this Charlie had the
pleasure of hearing aunt Rachel frequently bewail the condition of her
favourite, whose deplorable state she was inclined to ascribe to his
influence, though she was unable to bring it home to him in such a manner
as to insure his conviction.



CHAPTER VII.

Mrs. Thomas has her Troubles.


Mrs. Thomas was affected, as silly women sometimes are, with an intense
desire to be at the head of the _ton_. For this object she gave grand
dinners and large evening parties, to which were invited all who, being two
or three removes from the class whose members occupy the cobbler's bench or
the huckster's stall, felt themselves at liberty to look down upon the rest
of the world from the pinnacle on which they imagined themselves placed. At
these social gatherings the conversation never turned upon pedigree, and if
any of the guests chanced by accident to allude to their ancestors, they
spoke of them as members of the family, who, at an early period of their
lives, were engaged in mercantile pursuits.

At such dinners Mrs. Thomas would sit for hours, mumbling dishes that
disagreed with her; smiling at conversations carried on in villanous
French, of which language she did not understand a word; and admiring the
manners of addle-headed young men (who got tipsy at her evening parties),
because they had been to Europe, and were therefore considered quite men of
the world. These parties and dinners she could not be induced to forego,
although the late hours and fatigue consequent thereon would place her on
the sick-list for several days afterwards. As soon, however, as she
recovered sufficiently to resume her place at the table, she would console
herself with a dinner of boiled mutton and roasted turnips, as a slight
compensation for the unwholesome French dishes she had compelled herself to
swallow on the occasions before mentioned. Amongst the other modern
fashions she had adopted, was that of setting apart one morning of the week
for the reception of visitors; and she had mortally offended several of her
oldest friends by obstinately refusing to admit them at any other time. Two
or three difficulties had occurred with Robberts, in consequence of this
new arrangement, as he could not be brought to see the propriety of saying
to visitors that Mrs. Thomas was "not at home," when he knew she was at
that very moment upstairs peeping over the banisters. His obstinacy on this
point had induced her to try whether she could not train Charlie so as to
fit him for the important office of uttering the fashionable and truthless
"not at home" with unhesitating gravity and decorum; and, after a series of
mishaps, she at last believed her object was effected, until an unlucky
occurrence convinced her to the contrary.

Mrs. Thomas, during the days on which she did not receive company, would
have presented, to any one who might have had the honour to see that
venerable lady, an entirely different appearance to that which she assumed
on gala days. A white handkerchief supplied the place of the curling wig,
and the tasty French cap was replaced by a muslin one, decorated with an
immense border of ruffling, that flapped up and down over her silver
spectacles in the most comical manner possible. A short flannel gown and a
dimity petticoat of very antique pattern and scanty dimensions, completed
her costume. Thus attired, and provided with a duster, she would make
unexpected sallies into the various domestic departments, to see that
everything was being properly conducted, and that no mal-practices were
perpetrated at times when it was supposed she was elsewhere. She showed an
intuitive knowledge of all traps set to give intimation of her approach,
and would come upon aunt Rachel so stealthily as to induce her to declare,
"Dat old Mrs. Thomas put her more in mind of a ghost dan of any other libin
animal."

One morning, whilst attired in the manner described, Mrs. Thomas had been
particularly active in her excursions through the house, and had driven the
servants to their wits' ends by her frequent descents upon them at the most
unexpected times, thereby effectually depriving them of the short breathing
intervals they were anxious to enjoy. Charlie in particular had been
greatly harassed by her, and was sent flying from place to place until his
legs were nearly run off, as he expressed it. And so, when Lord Cutanrun,
who was travelling in America to give his estates in England an opportunity
to recuperate, presented his card, Charlie, in revenge, showed him into the
drawing-room, where he knew that Mrs. Thomas was busily engaged trimming an
oil-lamp. Belying on the explicit order she had given to say that she was
not at home, she did not even look up when his lordship entered, and as he
advanced towards her, she extended to him a basin of dirty water, saying,
"Here, take this." Receiving no response she looked up, and to her
astonishment and horror beheld, not Charlie, but Lord Cutanrun. In the
agitation consequent upon his unexpected appearance, she dropped the basin,
the contents of which, splashing in all directions, sadly discoloured his
lordship's light pants, and greatly damaged the elegant carpet.

"Oh! my lord," she exclaimed, "I didn't - couldn't - wouldn't - " and, unable
to ejaculate further, she fairly ran out of the apartment into the entry,
where she nearly fell over Charlie, who was enjoying the confusion his
conduct had created. "Oh! you limb! - you little wretch!" said she. "You
knew I was not at home!"

"Why, where are you now?" he asked, with the most provoking air of
innocence. "If you ain't in the house now, you never was."

"Never mind, sir," said she, "never mind. I'll settle with you for this.
Don't stand there grinning at me; go upstairs and tell Mrs. Morton to come
down immediately, and then get something to wipe up that water. O dear! my
beautiful carpet! And for a lord to see me in such a plight! Oh! it's
abominable! I'll give it to you, you scamp! You did it on purpose,"
continued the indignant Mrs. Thomas. "Don't deny it - I know you did. What
are you standing there for? Why don't you call Mrs. Morton?" she concluded,
as Charlie, chuckling over the result of his trick, walked leisurely
upstairs. "That boy will be the death of me," she afterwards said, on
relating the occurrence to her daughter. "Just to think, after all the
trouble I've had teaching him when to admit people and when not, that he
should serve me such a trick. I'm confident he did it purposely." Alas! for
poor Mrs. Thomas; this was only the first of a series of annoyances that
Charlie had in store, with which to test her patience and effect his own
deliverance.

A few days after, one of their grand dinners was to take place, and Charlie
had been revolving in his mind the possibility of his finding some
opportunity, on that occasion, to remove the old lady's wig; feeling
confident that, could he accomplish that feat, he would be permitted to
turn his back for ever on the mansion of Mrs. Thomas.

Never had Mrs. Thomas appeared more radiant than at this dinner. All the
guests whose attendance she had most desired were present, a new set of
china had lately arrived from Paris, and she was in full anticipation of a
grand triumph. Now, to Charlie had been assigned the important duty of
removing the cover from the soup-tureen which was placed before his
mistress, and the little rogue had settled upon that moment as the most
favourable for the execution of his purpose. He therefore secretly affixed
a nicely crooked pin to the elbow of his sleeve, and, as he lifted the
cover, adroitly hooked it into her cap, to which he knew the wig was
fastened, and in a twinkling had it off her head, and before she could
recover from her astonishment and lay down the soup-ladle he had left the
room. The guests stared and tittered at the grotesque figure she
presented, - her head being covered with short white hair, and her face as
red as a peony at the mortifying situation in which she was placed. As she
rose from her chair Charlie presented himself, and handed her the wig, with
an apology for the _accident_. In her haste to put it on, she turned it
wrong side foremost; the laughter of the guests could now no longer be
restrained, and in the midst of it Mrs. Thomas left the room. Encountering
Charlie as she went, she almost demolished him in her wrath; not ceasing to
belabour him till his outcries became so loud as to render her fearful that
he would alarm the guests; and she then retired to her room, where she
remained until the party broke up.

It was her custom, after these grand entertainments, to make nocturnal
surveys of the kitchen, to assure herself that none of the delicacies had
been secreted by the servants for their personal use and refreshment.
Charlie, aware of this, took his measures for an ample revenge for the
beating he had received at her hands. At night, when all the rest of the
family had retired, he hastily descended to the kitchen, and, by some
process known only to himself, imprisoned the cat in a stone jar that
always stood upon the dresser, and into which he was confident Mrs. Thomas
would peep. He then stationed himself upon the stairs, to watch the result.
He had not long to wait, for as soon as she thought the servants were
asleep, she came softly into the kitchen, and, after peering about in
various places, she at last lifted up the lid of the jar. Tom, tired of his
long confinement, sprang out, and, in so doing, knocked the lamp out of her
hand, the fluid from which ignited and ran over the floor.

"Murder! - Fire! - Watch!" screamed the thoroughly frightened old woman. "Oh,
help! help! fire!" At this terrible noise nearly every one in the household
was aroused, and hurried to the spot whence it proceeded. They found Mrs.
Thomas standing in the dark, with the lid of the jar in her hand, herself
the personification of terror. The carpet was badly burned in several
places, and the fragments of the lamp were scattered about the floor.

"What has happened?" exclaimed Mr. Morton, who was the first to enter the
kitchen. "What is all this frightful noise occasioned by?"

"Oh, there is a man in the house!" answered Mrs. Thomas, her teeth
chattering with fright. "There was a man in here - he has just sprung out,"



Online LibraryFrank J. WebbThe Garies and Their Friends → online text (page 6 of 30)