Mary Catherine Crowley.

Apples, Ripe and Rosy, Sir online

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Produced by Al Haines









D. E. HUDSON, C. S. C.


BECKTOLD & Co., Printers and Binders,

ST. Louis, Mo.


Apples, Ripe and Rosy, Sir

Better than Riches

Building a Boat

A May-Day Gift


A Little White Dress

A Miser's Gold

That Red Silk Frock

A Lesson with a Sequel

Uncle Tom's Story

Hanging May-Baskets




What a month of March it was! And after an unusually mild season, too.
Old Winter seemed to have hoarded up all his stock of snow and cold
weather, and left it as an inheritance to his wild and rollicking heir,
that was expending it with lavish extravagance.

March was a jolly good fellow though, in spite of his bluster and
boisterous ways. There was a wealth of sunshine in his honest heart,
and he evidently wanted to render everybody happy. He appeared to have
entered into a compact with Santa Claus to make it his business to see
that the boys and girls should not, in the end, be deprived of their
fair share of the season's merrymaking; that innumerable sleds and
toboggans and skates, which had laid idle since Christmas, and been the
objects of much sad contemplation, should have their day, after all.

And he was not really inconsiderate of the poor either; for though,
very frequently, in a spirit of mischief, he and his chum Jack frost
drew caricatures of spring flowers on their window-panes, knocked at
their doors only to run away in a trice, and played other pranks upon
them, they did not feel the same dread of all this that they would have
felt in December. He would make up for it by being on his best and
balmiest behavior for some days following; would promise that milder
weather, when the need and the price of coal would be less, was surely
coming; and that both the wild blossoms of the country fields, and the
stray dandelions which struggle into bloom in city yards, would be on
time, as usual.

On the special day with which we have to do, however, March was not in
"a melting mood." On the contrary, the temperature was sharp and
frosty, the ground white, the clouds heavy with snow. The storm of the
night before had only ceased temporarily; it would begin again
soon, - indeed a few flakes were already floating in the air. At four
o'clock in the afternoon the children commenced to troop out of the
schools. How pleasant to watch them! - to see the great doors swing
open and emit, now a throng of bright-eyed, chattering little girls, in
gay cloaks and hoods and mittens; or again a crowd of sturdy boys, - a
few vociferating and disputing, others trudging along discussing games
and sports, and others again indulging in a little random snowballing
of their comrades, by the way. Half an hour later the snow was falling
thick and fast. The boys were in their element. A number of them had
gathered in one of the parks or squares for which the garden-like city
of E - - - is noted, and were busy completing a snow-fort. The jingle
of sleigh-bells became less frequent, however; people hurried home; it
was sure to be a disagreeable evening.

These indications were dolefully noted by one person in particular, to
whom they meant more than to others in general. This was the good old
Irishwoman who kept the apple and peanut stand at the street corner,
and was the centre of attraction to the children on their way to and
from school.

"Wisha, this is goin' to be a wild night, I'm thinkin'!" sighed she,
wrapping a faded and much-worn "broshay" shawl more securely about her,
and striving to protect both herself and her wares beneath the shelter
of a dilapidated umbrella, one of the ribs of which had parted company
with the cotton covering, - escaped from its moorings, as it were, and
stood out independently. "Glory be to God, but what bad luck I've had
the day!" she continued under her breath, from habit still scanning the
faces of the passers-by, though she had now faint hope that any would
pause to purchase. "An' it's a bigger lot than usual I laid in, too.
The peanuts is extry size; an' them Baldwins look so fine and rosy, I
thought it ud make anybody's mouth water to see them. I counted upon
the schoolb'ys to buy them up in a twinklin', by reason of me markin'
them down to two for a cent. An' so they would, but they're so taken
up with sportin' in the snow that they can think of nothin' else. An'
now that it's turned so raw, sure I'm afraid it's cold comfort any one
but a lad would think it, settin' his teeth on edge tryin' to eat them.
I'll tarry a bit longer; an' then, if no better fortune comes, I'll
take meself to me little room, even though I'll have to drink me tea
without a tint of milk or a dust of sugar the night, and be thankful
for that same."

Patiently she waited. The clock struck five. As no other customers
appeared, the old woman, who was known as Widow Barry, concluded that
she would be moving. "Though it is too bad," she murmured; "an' this
the best stand anywhere hereabouts."

In reality, the stand consisted of a large basket, a camp-seat, the
tiresome privilege of leaning against two feet of stone-wall, and the
aforesaid umbrella, which was intended to afford, not only a roof, but
an air of dignity to the concern, and was therefore always open, rain
or shine.

To "shut up shop," though it meant simply to lower the umbrella, gather
up the goods and depart, was to the apple-vender a momentous affair.
Every merchant who attempts, as the saying is, to carry his
establishment, finds it no easy task; yet this is what the widow was
obliged literally to do. To make her way, thus laden, in the midst of
a driving snowstorm was indeed a difficult matter. Half a dozen times
she faltered in discouragement. The street led over a steep hill; how
was she to reach the top? She struggled along; the wind blew through
her thin garments and drove her back; the umbrella bobbed wildly about;
her hands grew numb; now the basket, again the camp-seat, kept slipping
from her grasp. Several persons passed, but no one seemed to think of
stopping to assist her. A party of well-dressed boys were coasting
down the middle of the street; what cared they for the storm? Several,
who were standing awaiting their turn, glanced idly at the grotesque

"What a guy!" cried Ed Brown, with a laugh, sending a well-aimed
snowball straight against the umbrella, which it shook with a thud. He
was on the point of following up with another.

"Oh, come!" protested a carelessly good-natured companion. "That's no
fun. But here - look out for the other double-runner! Now we go,

And, presto, they whizzed by, without another thought of the aged
creature toiling up the ascent. No one appeared to have time to help

Presently, however, she heard a firm, light step behind her. The next
moment a pair of merry brown eyes peered under the umbrella; a face as
round and ruddy as one of her best Baldwins beamed upon her with the
smile of old friendship, and a gay, youthful voice cried out:

"Good afternoon, Missis Barry! It's hard work getting on to-day, isn't

A singularly gentle expression lighted up the apple-woman's
weather-beaten features as she recognized the little fellow in the
handsome overcoat, who was evidently returning from an errand, as he
carried a milk can in one hand while drawing a sled with the other.

"Indade an' it is, Masther Tom!" she replied, pausing a second.

"Let us see if we can't manage differently," he went on, taking her
burden and setting it upon the sled. "There, that is better. Now give
me your hand."

She had watched him mechanically; but, thus recalled to herself, she
answered hastily:

"Oh, thank ye kindly, sir! It's too much for ye to be takin' this
trouble; but I can get along very well now, with only the umbrelly to

"No trouble at all," said he. "Look, then, - follow me; I'll pick out
the best places for you to walk in, - the snow is drifting so!"

He trudged on ahead, glancing back occasionally to see if the basket
and camp-seat were safe, or to direct her steps, - as if all this were
the most natural thing in the world for him to do, as in truth it was;
for, though he thought it a great joke that she should call him "sir,"
will not any one admit that he deserved the title which belongs to a
gentleman? He and Widow Barry had been good friends for some time.

"Sure, an' didn't he buy out me whole supply one day this last
January?" she would say. "His birthday it was, and the dear creature
was eleven years old. He spent the big silver dollar his grandfather
gave him like a prince, a treatin' all the b'ys of the neighborhood to
apples an' peanuts, an' sendin' me home to take me comfort."

Tom, moreover, was a regular patron of "the stand." He always declared
that "she knew what suited him to a T." During the selection he was
accustomed to discuss with her many weighty questions, especially Irish
politics, in which they both took a deep if not very well-informed

"Guess I'll have that dark-red one over there. Don't you think Mr.
Gladstone is the greatest statesman of the age, Missis Barry? - what?
That other one is bigger? Well! - and your father knew Daniel O'Connell
you say? - ah, I tell you that's a fine fellow!"

Whether he meant the patriot or the pippin it might be difficult to
determine. This, however, is but a specimen of their conversation.
Then in the end she would produce the ripest and rosiest of her
stock - which she had been keeping for him all the while, - and, leaving
a penny in her palm, he would hurry away in order to reach St. Francis'
School before the bell rang.

This particular afternoon, when he had helped her over the worst part
of the way, she glanced uneasily at the can which he carried, and said:

"Faith, Masther Tom, it's afraid I am that they'll be waitin' at home
for the milk ye were sent for. Sure I wouldn't want ye to be blamed
for not makin' haste, avick! An' all because of yer doin' a kindly
turn for a poor old woman."

"No fear of that, ma'am," answered Tom, confidently. "There is no
hurry; the milk won't be needed till supper time."

Then, noticing that she was tired and panting for breath, he took out
the stopper and held the can toward her, saying impulsively,

"Have a drink, Missis Barry, - yes, it will do you good."

A suspicious moisture dimmed the widow's faded eyes for a moment, and
her heart gave a throb of grateful surprise at the child's ingenuous
friendliness; but she drew back with a deprecating gesture, saying,

"Well, well, Masther Tom, ye're the thoughtfullest young gentleman that
ever I see! An' I'm sure I thank ye kindly. It isn't for the likes of
me to be tellin' ye what is right an' proper, but what would yer mother
say to yer not bringin' the milk home just as ye got it from the store,
an' to ye givin' a poor creature like me a drink out of the can?"

"Oh, she wouldn't care!" replied Tom. "Didn't she say you were welcome
at the house any time, to have a cup of tea and get warm by the kitchen
fire? Do you think she'd grudge you a sup of milk?"

"It isn't that; for I know she wouldn't, God bless her!" said the
apple-woman, heartily. "Still, asthore, take heed of what I say.
Never meddle with what's trusted to ye, but carry it safe an' whole to
the person it's meant for, or the place ye are told to fetch it to.
It's the best plan, dear."

"I suppose it is, Missis Barry, generally," agreed Tom. "I remember
once Ed Brown and I made away with half of a big package of raisins
that mother sent me for, and she scolded me about it. But that was
different, you know. Pshaw! I didn't mean to tell you it was Ed.
Here we are at your door, ma'am. I'll put your things inside - oh, no!
Never mind. I was glad to come. Really I oughtn't to take it. Well,
thank you. Good-bye!"

And Tom scampered off with an especially toothsome-looking apple, which
the woman forced into his hand.

"Ah, but he's the dear, blithe, generous-hearted b'y!" she exclaimed,
with a warmth of affectionate admiration, as she stood looking after
him. "There's not a bit of worldly pride or meanness about him. May
the Lord keep him so! The only thing I'd be afraid of is that, like
many such, he'd be easily led. There's that Ed Brown now, - Heaven
forgive me, but somehow I don't like that lad. Though he's the son of
the richest man in the neighborhood, an' his people live in grand
style, he's no fit companion for Masther Tom Norris, I'm thinkin'."


Tom lost no time now in getting home. A little later he had entered a
spacious brick house on Florence Street, deposited the milk can on the
kitchen table, set the cook a laughing by some droll speech, and,
passing on, sought his mother in her cheerful sitting-room.

"Why, my son, what delayed you so long?" she inquired, folding away her
sewing; for it was becoming too dark to work.

"Oh, I went home with Missis Barry!" he answered, with the
matter-of-fact air with which he might have said that he had been
escorting some particular friend of the family.

Mrs. Norris smiled and drew nearer to the bright fire which burned in
the grate. Tom slipped into a seat beside her upon the wide,
old-fashioned sofa, which was just the place for one of those cosy
twilight chats with mother, which boys especially love so much, and the
memory of which gleams, star-like, through the mists of years, exerting
even far greater influence than she dreams of upon their lives. Tom
considered this quiet half hour the pleasantest of the day. Mrs.
Norris, with a gentle wisdom worthy of wider imitation, encouraged him
to talk to her about whatever interested him. She was seldom too tired
or too preoccupied at this time to hear of the mechanism of the
steam-engine, the mysteries of the printing-press, or the feats that
may be performed with a bicycle, - of which "taking a header," or the
method by which the rider learns to fly off the machine head foremost
into a ditch with impunity, appeared to be the most desirable. Her
patience in this respect was rewarded by that most precious possession
to a mother, a son's confidence.

Tom liked to tell her of various things that happened during the day;
to compare notes, and get her opinions of matters in general; at the
same time giving his own, which were often quaint and entertaining.

"Really, mother, Missis Barry knows a lot!" he now exclaimed, abruptly,
clasping his knee and staring at the fire in a meditative manner.

Mrs. Norris looked amused, but she did not venture to question the
apple-vender's wisdom. One or two kindly inquiries about the old
woman, however, prompted him to speak of her further, - of his meeting
her as she struggled along with her burden, his drawing it on the sled,
and last of her refusal of the drink he offered.

"You would not have minded, would you, mother?" he asked.

"No, not for the sake of the milk, certainly," responded Mrs. Norris,
laughing; "but - " then she hesitated. How could she hamper the mind of
this ingenuous little lad of hers with false and finical ideas of
refinement and delicacy! Why should she suggest to him that it is at
least not customary to go about giving the poor to drink out of our own
especial milk cans? There came to her mind the noble lines which but
frame as with jewels the simple Christian precept, - the words spoken to
Sir Launfal when, weary, poverty-stricken, and disheartened, the knight
returns from his fruitless search for the Holy Grail; when humbly he
shares his cup and crust with the leper at the gate, - the leper who
straightway stands before him glorified, a vision of Our Lord, and
tells him that true love of our neighbor consists in,

"Not what we give, but what we share;
For the gift without the giver is bare."

And then the mother's hands rested lovingly a moment upon Tom's head,
as again she repeated more softly: "No, certainly."

* * * * *

As Widow Barry had surmised, the keynote of Tom's nature was that he
was easily led, and therein rested the possibilities of great good or
evil. The little confidential chats with his mother were a strong
safeguard to him, and laid the foundation of the true principles by
which he should be guided; but, as he mingled more with other boys, he
was not always steadfast in acting up to his knowledge of what was
right, and was apt to be more influenced by his companions than his
best friends cared to see him. At present he was inclined to make a
chum of Ed Brown, who, though only a year older, was so precociously
shrewd, and what the world calls "smart," that, according to good Widow
Barry's opinion, "he could buy and sell Masther Tom any day."

The old woman had, indeed, many opportunities for observation; for is
not sometimes so simple a transaction as the buying of an apple a real
test of character? If a boy or man is tricky or mean or unjust in his
business dealings, is it likely that we shall find him upright and
honorable in other things? Though Mrs. Norris was not as well posted
as the apple-vender, one or two occurrences had caused her to
positively forbid Tom to have any more to do with Ed, - a command which
he grumbled a good deal about, and, alas! occasionally disobeyed.

But to continue our story. The following Saturday morning the skies
were blue, the sun shone bright, the gladness of spring was in the
air, - all promised a long, pleasant holiday. The apple stand at the
corner had a prosperous aspect. The umbrella, though shabbier and more
rakish-looking than ever, wore a cheery, hail-fellow-well-met
appearance. Widow Barry had, as she told a neighbor, "spruced up her
old bonnet a bit," - an evidence of the approach of spring, which the
boys recognized and appreciated. Now she was engaged in polishing up
her apples, and arranging the peanuts as invitingly as possible; a
number of pennies already jingled in the small bag attached to her
apron-string, in which she kept her money.

"Ah, here comes Masther Tom!" she exclaimed, presently. "An' right
glad I am; for he always brings me a good hansel."

"Hello, Missis Barry!" cried he. "How's trade to-day? Too early to
tell yet? Well, see if I can't boom it a little. Give me a dozen
apples, and one - yes, two quarts of nuts."

Pleased and flustered at this stroke of fortune, she busied herself in
getting out two of the largest of her paper bags, and filling the
munificent order. But Tom was not like himself this morning. He had
plenty to say, to be sure; but he talked away with a kind of reckless
gaiety that appeared a trifle forced, and he was eager to be off.

The old woman paused a second, as if suddenly impressed by the
difference in his manner; then, by a shake of the head, she strove to
banish the thought, which she reproached herself for as an unworthy
suspicion, and smiled as if to reassure herself. With a pleasant word
she put the well-filled bags into Tom's hands, and received the silver
he offered in payment - three bright new dimes. At that moment she
caught a glimpse of Ed Brown lurking in the area way of a house at the
other end of the block. The sight filled her with a vague misgiving
which she could not have explained. She glanced again at Tom; he was
nervous and excited.

"Wait a bit," said she, laying a restraining hand upon his arm.

"What is the matter? Didn't I give you just the price?" he inquired,
somewhat impatiently.

The old woman bent forward and peered anxiously into his face; her kind
but searching eyes seemed to look down into his very soul, as, in a
voice trembling with emotion, she replied: "Yes: but tell me, asthore,
where did ye get the money?"

Tom's countenance changed; he tried to put her off, saying, "Pshaw!
Why do you want to ask a fellow such a question? Haven't I bought more
than this of you before?"

"Troth an' ye have, dear; but not in this way, I'm thinkin'," she

"It's all right. Do let me go, Missis Barry!" cried he, vexed and
beginning to feel decidedly frightened.

"Hi, Tom, come on!" called Ed Brown, emerging from the area.

"Look here, Masther Tom, darlin'! You'll not move a step with them
things, an' I'll not put up that money till I know where it came from."

"Well, then," said Tom, doggedly, seeing that escape was impossible, "I
got it at home, off the mantel in the sitting-room."

"Oh, yes!" ejaculated Mrs. Barry, raising her eyes toward heaven, as if
praying for the pardon of the offence.

"Why, that's nothing!" he went on. "Ed Brown says lots of boys do it.
Some take the change out of their father's pockets even, if they get a
chance. His father don't mind a bit. He always has plenty of cash, Ed

"Ah, yes, that ne'er-do-well, Ed Brown!" said the old woman, shaking
her fist at the distant Ed, who, realizing that Tom had got into
trouble, disappeared in a twinkling.

"An' his father don't mind! Then it's because he knows nothin' about
it. They'll come a day of reckonin' for him. An' you - "

"Oh, the folks at home won't care!" persisted Tom, thoroughly ashamed,
but still anxious to excuse himself. "Mother always says that
everything in the house is for the use of the family. If we children
should make a raid on the pantry, and carry off a pie or cake, she
might punish us for the disobedience, but she wouldn't call it
stealing." He blushed as he uttered the ugly word.

"Yes, but to take money is different, ye know," continued his
relentless mentor, whose heart, however, was sorrowing over him with
the tenderness of a mother for her child.

Tom was silent; he did know, had really known from the first, though
now his fault stood before him in its unsightliness; all the pretexts
by which he had attempted to palliate it fell from it like a veil, and
showed the hateful thing it was. He could not bring himself to
acknowledge it, however. Sullenly he set down the apples and peanuts,
murmuring, "I never did it before, anyhow!"

"No, nor never will again, I'm sure, avick! This'll be a lifelong
lesson to ye," returned the old woman, with agitation, as she put the
dimes back into his hand. "Go right home with them now, an' tell yer
father all about it."

"My father!" faltered Tom, doubtful of the consequences of such a

"Well, yer mother, then. She'll be gentle with ye, never fear, if ye
are really sorry."

"Indeed I am, Missis Barry," declared Tom, quite breaking down at last.

"I'm certain ye are, asthore!" continued the good creature, heartily.
"An', whisper, when ye get home go to yer own little room, an' there on
yer bended knees ask God to forgive ye. Make up yer mind to shun bad
company for the future; an' never, from this hour, will we speak
another word about this - either ye to me or I to ye, - save an' except
ye may come an' say: 'I've done as ye bid me, Missis Barry. It's all
hunkey dory!'"

The old woman smiled with grim humor as she found herself quoting the
boy's favorite slang expression.

Tom laughed in spite of himself, so droll did it sound from her lips;
but at the same time he drew his jacket sleeve across his eyes, which
had grown strangely dim, and said:

"I will, Missis Barry. You may trust me: I will."

And Tom did. From that day he and the honest old apple-woman were
better friends than ever. Meanwhile her trade improved so much that
before long she was able to set up a more pretentious establishment, - a
genuine stand, with an awning to replace the faithful umbrella, which
was forthwith honorably retired from service. Here she carried on a
thriving business for several years, Tom, though now a student at St.
Jerome's College, often bought apples and peanuts of her.

"You see that old woman?" said he to a comrade one day. "Don't look
much like an angel, does she?"

His friend, glancing at the queer figure and plain, ordinary features,
was amused at the comparison.

"And yet," continued Tom, earnestly, "she proved a second Guardian
Angel to me once, and I'll bless her all my life for it."



"Cash! Cash! here!" cried an attendant at the stationery counter of
one of New York's great shopping emporiums. At the summons a
delicate-looking little girl came wearily up, and held out a small
wicker basket for the goods and the money. "Be quick now: the lady's
in a hurry."

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Online LibraryMary Catherine CrowleyApples, Ripe and Rosy, Sir → online text (page 1 of 13)