Mary Catherine Crowley.

Apples, Ripe and Rosy, Sir online

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After a slight demur, she allowed him to carry the package, while she
trudged along at his side. The stores were closed, the gay throng of
shoppers had disappeared. People were still abroad upon the great
thoroughfares; but the side streets were deserted, except when, now and
again, overtaxed workers like herself were to be met making their way
home. The lamps burned dim, save where, occasionally, an electric
light flared up with a spectral glare. The glitter of the world had
departed. It was past midnight; in the deep blue of the winter's sky
the stars glowed with a peaceful radiance. Looking up at them, Katy
began to think, in her own simple fashion, of the meaning of Christmas
and of Christmas gifts; of Bethlehem, the Virgin Mother, and the Divine
Child; of the Love that came into the world on that holy night of long
ago, to kindle in all hearts a spirit of kindliness and helpfulness
toward one another, making it more blessed to give than to receive.
The little girl realized the happiness of making others happy, when she
handed to Ellie the bulky package over which she had kept watch all the
way to the house.

The usually pale face of the young invalid flushed with excitement,
while, with trembling fingers, she unfastened the wrappings and opened
the box.

"O Katy!" she exclaimed, as she beheld the hard-won present, - "O Katy!"
It was all she could say, but the tone and the look which accompanied
it were quite enough.

At first neither of the children could think of anything besides the
doll; but after a while Ellie made another discovery. As she trifled
with the box, she cried:

"Why, there's something else here!"

The next moment she drew out a doll precisely like the first, except
that its shoes had red buckles; at the sight of which Katy immediately
concluded that, for herself, she liked red buckles better. Attached to
it was a card on which was written: "For an unselfish little sister."

"It did not get there by mistake: it's for you, Katy," said Ellie,
ecstatically.

"Then the Rose-lady must have sent it," declared Katy, feeling as if
she were in a dream.

That her conjecture was correct was evident the next day; for about
noon a carriage stopped at the door of the dilapidated house in - -
street; and a visitor, who seemed to bring with her an additional share
of Christmas sunshine, was shown up to the Connors' tenement. She was
followed by a tall footman, who quietly deposited upon the table a
generous basket of the season's delicacies.

"The Rose-lady, mother!" cried Katy, pinching her own arm to see if she
could possibly be awake.

It was all true, however; and that day the Connors family found a
devoted friend. Henceforth the Rose-lady took a special interest in
Ellie. She induced a celebrated doctor to go and see her. The great
man said there was a chance that the crippled child might be cured by
electricity; and it was arranged that the mother should take her
regularly to his office for treatment, Mrs. M - - offering the use of
her carriage.

Now Ellie can walk almost as well as ever. She is growing stronger
every day, and will probably before long be able to attain her
ambition - "to earn money to help mother."

"And to think, Katy," the little girl often says, affectionately, "it
all came about through your wanting to give me that Christmas doll!"




BUILDING A BOAT.

I.

"Oh, if we only had a boat, what jolly fun we might have!" exclaimed
Jack Gordon regretfully, following with his eyes the bright waters as
they rushed along, - now coursing smoothly, now leaping in the sunshine;
again darkened for the moment, and eddying beneath the shade of the
overhanging branches of a willow tree; then in the distance coming
almost to a standstill, and expanding into the clear, floating mirror
of the mill-pond.

"That's so," answered Rob Stuart, laconically. The two boys were
lounging on the bank of the creek, which, though dignified by the name
of Hohokus River and situated in New Jersey, is not considered of
sufficient importance to be designated on the map of that State, even
by one of those wavering, nameless lines which seem to be hopelessly
entangled with one another for the express purpose of confusing a
fellow who has neglected his geography lesson until the last moment.

"Yes, if we had a boat we might explore this stream from source to
mouth," continued Jack, who was always in search of adventures.

"A canoe?" suggested Rob.

"That would be just the thing," agreed Jack. "But a regular canoe,
made of birch bark or paper, would cost too much. I'll tell you what
it is, Rob. Jim and I have next to nothing in the treasury at present.
We haven't had a chance to earn much lately."

"I'm about dead broke, too," replied Rob.

"I say," exclaimed Jack, after a moment of silence, "suppose we make
one?"

"Make one!" echoed Rob, surprised.

"Why, yes. All we need is a flat-bottomed boat; and it ought not to be
hard to put one together. Uncle Gerald promised to give me some boards
for my chicken-coops; perhaps he would add a few more if he knew what
we wanted them for. Let's go over and see if he is at home now,"

"All right," answered Rob, preparing to start.

Jack and Rob might almost always be found together. They were of about
the same age, - Jack being fourteen on his last birthday, the 22d of
January, and Rob on the 30th of the following March. They lived within
a stone's-throw of each other, and had been friends from the time they
were little chaps.

Mr. Gerald Sheridan was a merchant who did business in New York, but he
was now taking a few days' vacation, to look a little after the work
upon his farm, which was in charge of a hired man. His house, situated
a short distance down the road, was large and spacious. The boys
walked briskly toward it, planning as they went.

At Uncle Gerald's the latch string was always out - that is, if the door
was not standing hospitably open, as was usually the case in pleasant
spring or summer weather; one had only to turn the knob and walk in.
Just as they were about to enter the square, home-like hall, lined with
old-fashioned settles and adorned with fowling-pieces, fishing-rods,
tennis rackets, and the like, Jack's cousin, eleven-year-old Leo, came
out of an adjoining room and said;

"Hello! You want to see father? Well, he's over yonder" - pointing to
a sunny patch of ground toward the south, - "showing Michael how he
wants the vegetable garden planted. Wait a minute and I'll go with
you."

Leo's hat having been discovered in a corner where he had tossed it an
hour or two earlier, they started on a race to the garden, and brought
up suddenly in front of Uncle Gerald, who now, in a dark blue flannel
shirt, trousers to match, and a broad-brimmed hat of grey felt, was
evidently dressed for the _role_ of a farmer. He was a pleasant man,
tall and slight in figure, with blue eyes, a brown beard, and a cheery,
kindly manner, which made him a favorite with everybody, and especially
with boys, in whose projects he was always interested.

"Give you the wood to build a boat?" he repeated, when told what Jack
and Rob wanted to accomplish. "Willingly. I am glad to have you
attempt something of the kind. I have always maintained that boys
should be taught to work with their hands. Every youth ought to learn
the use of tools, just as a girl learns to sew, to cook, and help her
mother in household duties. Then we should not have so many awkward,
stupid, bungling fellows, who can not do anything for themselves. It
is as disgraceful for a lad not to be able to drive a nail straight
without pounding his fingers or thumb as it is for a girl not to know
how to stitch on a button. But I am letting my hobby run away with me,
and no doubt you are anxious to be off. You will find the lumber piled
in the storeroom of the barn. Take what you need. Perhaps Leo will
lend you his pony to draw the load home."

"Thank you, sir!" answered Jack, heartily.

Now that the means of carrying out his plan were insured to him, he did
not feel in such a hurry; and, furthermore, though quite satisfied that
he should have no trouble about it, he would not have objected to a few
hints as to how to begin.

"Can you tell me, Uncle," asked the boy, half jocosely, "if any of the
distinguished men you are thinking of ever attempted to make a boat?"

"To be sure," returned the gentleman. "There was Peter the Great, who,
though a tyrannical ruler, might have earned fair wages as a
ship-builder. But we shall have to talk about him another time, when I
have leisure; for I see that at present Michael wants me to devote all
my attention to tomato plants, peas, beans, and seed potatoes. If you
wait till tomorrow, I will show you how to set to work."

"Oh, I guess we can get on!" returned Jack, becoming impatient again,
and feeling that it would be impossible to delay, with the whole bright
day before them. Rob seemed to be of the same opinion.

Uncle Gerald smiled, reflecting that, since manual training does not
begin with boat-building, they would soon discover the task so
confidently undertaken to be a far greater one than they realized. He
made no comment, however; and the boys started for the barn-loft, where
they selected the wood best suited to their purpose, and carried it
down to the yard, where Leo had dragged out the pony wagon.

"Here," said he, "you may stow the boards into this; and I'll lend you
Winkie to draw them home, if you'll promise to let Jim and me see you
build the boat."

Jack's brother Jim was a year older than Leo; but the two chummed
together, and were accustomed to stand up for each other, and thus hold
their own against the big boys, who were sometimes rather too much
inclined to adopt a patronizing tone toward them.

Jack and Rob now exchanged significant glances, which said plainly that
they would prefer the loan of the pony without any conditions. It
would be annoying to have the little fellows "tagging after them." But
there was no help for it. The pony belonged to Leo, and they could not
take it without his permission.

"Oh - ahem - I suppose so! Hey, Rob?" said Jack, shutting one eye
expressively.

"Well - yes," agreed Rob, appreciating the situation.

They went round to the front of Winkie's stall. Immediately a shaggy
head protruded through the window-like opening, a pair of bright eyes
passed over the other visitors and rested upon Leo, with a look which
might well be interpreted as one of affection; and a rough nose rubbed
up against the boy's arm, this being Winkle's way of expressing delight
at seeing his master. He rather resented any attempt at petting from
Jack or Rob, however; which led them to tease him, much as they would
play with a dog, - for he was only a little Shetland pony, hardly larger
than a good-sized Newfoundland.

"Kittelywink!" exclaimed Rob, giving him his full name, which had been
shortened for the sake of euphony. "What in the world did you call him
that for?"

"Well, I can't exactly say," replied Leo; "but somehow it's a name
that's all jumbled up and confused like, and, that is just about how
you feel when he gets playing his pranks. Presto, change! you know.
Now you're here, and now you don't know where you are, but most likely
it is in the middle of a dusty or muddy road. Oh, you don't mind the
fall, 'cause he has an accommodating way of letting you down easy; but
it hurts your feelings awful, especially if there's anybody round. You
don't seem as big as you were a few moments before. He doesn't act
that way with me now, because I try to be always kind and gentle with
him. But you just attempt to really plague him, and see who'll get the
best of it."

"Thank you, I guess I won't mind," responded Rob, in a dry tone, which
made the others laugh. He already knew by experience something of the
pony's capers, though it had been in Leo's possession only a few weeks;
while Jack, having been away on a visit, had never driven Winkie.

"Perhaps if you changed his name he would behave better," suggested Rob.

"I did think of that," answered Leo, seriously. "I had half a mind to
call him Cream Puff; you see he's just the color of those lovely ones
they sell at the baker's."

Both the boys laughed heartily.

"Crickey! that is an odd name, sure enough, and would suit him
splendidly!" said Rob.

"Yes, and he'd have to be sweet and nice all the time, in order to live
up to it," added Jack.

"Oh, you must not think he is ugly or vicious!" continued Leo. "He
never tried to run away, and most of his antics are nothing but sport.
He is not really bad, only a bit contrary occasionally, as Michael
says. Mother declares that he reminds her sometimes of a boy who has
forgotten to say his prayers in the morning, 'cause then he (the boy,
you know) is apt to be fractious, and keeps getting into trouble all
day."

"Ha, Leo, what a dead give away!" exclaimed Jack, in a badgering
manner. "That's the way it is with you, is it?"

"That's the way with most fellows, I'll wager!" mumbled Leo, growing
red, and wishing he had not been quite so communicative.

Neither of the others replied to this, but each secretly admitted that
there was a good deal of truth in what he said.

They all assisted in harnessing Kittelywink, who appeared to think this
great fun. However, when it became evident that he was expected to
draw the little wagon laden with the lumber, he protested decidedly.

"He doesn't want to be used as a dray-horse," observed Leo,
sympathetically.

Whether Winkie's pride was indeed hurt at being put to menial
employment, or whether he simply felt it an imposition to require him
to carry a pile of boards and three sturdy lads in addition, it is
impossible to say. At all events, he refused to budge.

"Pshaw!" said Jack. "You fellows had better get off. I'll drive."

There was nothing to be done but for Rob and Leo to scramble down.

"Geet a-a-p!" cried Jack, giving the pony a sharp lash with the whip.

Winkle bounded forward, and darted up the road at what may be called
literally a rattling speed; for the boards clattered away at every
revolution of the wheels, and the driver found some difficulty in
keeping his seat. Jack became excited. He sawed at the pony's mouth
and drew him up so suddenly as to pull him back on his haunches.
Winkie resolutely objected to these proceedings, and forthwith
absolutely declined to go a step farther.

Rob and Leo came running up.

"Jingo, but he's a beauty!", exclaimed Rob, with admiring sincerity.

Winkie, in truth, looked very handsome and roguish as he stood there,
with his head bent doggedly, his shaggy mane blown about by the wind,
and his bright eyes mischievously asking as plainly as they could:
"Well, what are you going to do about it?"

"Huh! Handsome is that handsome does!" grumbled Jack. "But I'll teach
him to behave himself."

He raised the whip once more, but Leo caught his arm, crying,

"No, you must not whip him. Father says a horse can be managed by
kindness better than in any other way."

"Oh, I _must_ not!" repeated Jack, ironically; but, glancing at Leo's
face, he saw that his cousin looked flushed and determined. It would
not do to quarrel with such a little fellow as Leo, so he checked the
sharp words that rose to his lips, and answered with an effort to be
good-natured: "Try it yourself, then. I'll just sit here and hold the
reins, and you can reason with him all you have a mind to."

Leo went up to the pony's head, patted and spoke gently to him. Winkie
arched his neck, then put down his nose and coolly rubbed it all over
his young master's face, as if deprecating his misconduct, while making
his complaint, as it were, that he had not been fairly treated.

"If he isn't the cutest chap!" ejaculated Rob, delighted at his
sagacity.

Jack could not help being amused also.

"Come now, Kittelywink, go 'long!" said he. "You shall have some sugar
when I get home."

Most horses are very fond of sugar, and Winkie was no exception. He
turned his ears back, with what Rob called "a pleased expression," at
this propitiatory tone. But, although he enjoyed the petting now
lavished upon him from all quarters, his sensibilities had apparently
been too deeply wounded to admit of his being at once conciliated.

"I know!" suggested Jack, unwilling to relinquish the reins. "Suppose
I ride on his back?"

Leo demurred till he saw that the pony did not oppose Jack's endeavor
to mount. Winkie appeared to be under the impression that they were
now to leave the wagon and the despised load behind. To the surprise
of the boys he started ahead willingly, and Jack's spirits rose.

"Ha-ha! that's a good fellow!" he began.

Winkie went on a few rods. Presently he discovered that his
expectations were not to be realized. The wagon was unusually heavy
still; the clattering boards set up a racket every time he moved. He
could not get away from them. It might be a good plan to try again,
though. He capered and danced, then plunged onward. Jack did not look
like a model horseman at this juncture. The boys screamed at him,
giving contrary advice; though this made no difference, for his utmost
exertions were directed to clinging to his refractory steed.

The pony was only annoyed, not frightened. He seemed to find Jack's
efforts to keep from falling off quite entertaining. Suddenly a new
idea occurred to him. What a wonder that he did not think of it
before! He veered toward the side of the way, stopped abruptly, and,
bending his head, sent Jack flying over it into the ditch. A grand
success! With a satisfied air Winkie followed up his victory,
approached his prostrate antagonist, regarded him for a moment,
and - for he wore no check-line - putting down that clever nose of his,
by a playful push with it he rolled the boy fairly over, and then set
off in a steady trot along the highway.



II.

Winkie had just reached the gate of Jack's home, when our young friends
caught up with him. Leo was now allowed to assume control, and, by
dint of much coaxing and encouragement, at length succeeded in leading
him to Mr. Gordon's barn. The wagon was here unloaded, after which Leo
leaped into it, crying, "Come on, old fellow; that's all!" And Winkie,
shaking his mane, as if felicitating himself that the disagreeable task
was over, started off with much satisfaction.

"I'll be back again this afternoon," his little master shouted to the
others as he drove away; "but - I think I'll walk!"

For the next fortnight the lads spent the greater part of the time in
the Gordon barn. Such a hammering and sawing as went on there! At
first the proceedings were enveloped in an air of mystery. Jack's
father suspected that they were preparing for an amateur circus
performance. His mother wondered at the interest manifested in the
repair of the chicken-coops. Some experiment was in progress, she was
sure; but what? At last the secret came out. They were building a
boat!

Jack and Rob did it all. "The little boys" - as they were accustomed to
call Jim and Leo, much to the chagrin of the latter - were not permitted
to have anything to say. They were to keep their eyes open and learn
by observation. This they did, though not with exactly the result that
had been intended. Before long they understood very well what not to
do in building a boat. But we are all liable to make mistakes; and are
we not continually teaching others, at least by our experience?

In season and out of season the work went on. Little Barbara Stuart
was constantly coming over to ask: "Is Rob here? Mother wants him; he
hasn't half finished what he had to do at home." Leo kept getting into
trouble because he would stop at his cousin's, instead of going
directly home from school as his father wished him to do. Jim, who had
a decided, but, alas! entirely uncultivated, taste for drawing, spoiled
his new writing-book with extraordinary sketches meant to represent
every kind of boat, from a punt or dory to an ocean steamer; and in
consequence was not on good terms with the schoolmaster, who did not
appreciate such evidences of genius.

Jack - well, everything seemed to go wrong with him. "Where is
Jack?" - "Oh, bother, over at the barn!" The answer soon became a
byword. The barn was at some distance from the house, and what a time
there was in summoning the boy! The method was sufficiently telling,
one would think, since it informed the whole neighborhood when he was
wanted. It consisted in blowing the horn for him. Now, this was no
common horn, but the voice of a giant imprisoned in a cylinder. Jack
could have explained it upon the principle of compressed air, for he
was studying natural philosophy; but Mr. Sheridan's Michael once
described it in this way:

"Sure, it's the queerest thing that ever ye saw! Ye just jam one piece
of tin pipe into another piece of tin pipe, as hard as ye can; an' it
lets a wail out of it that ye'd think would strike terror to the heart
of a stone and wake the dead!"

Whatever effect it might have upon granite or ghosts, however, Jack was
usually so engrossed with the boat as to be deaf to its call. If Mrs.
Gordon wanted him to harness a horse for her in a hurry, there was no
use in sounding a bugle blast; she might try again and again, but in
the end she would have to send some one over to him with the message.
If he was sent up to the village on an errand, or told to do anything
which took him away from his work, he either objected, or complied with
a very bad grace.

"I'll tell ye one thing," said Mary Ann the cook, one day when neither
Jack nor Jim would go to the store for her, though it would only have
taken a few minutes to make the trip on the bicycle, - "I'll tell ye one
thing, young sirs. Ye can't expect to have a bit of luck with that
boat ye're buildin'."

"No luck! Why not, I'd like to know?" inquired Jack.

"Because all four of ye boys are neglectin' what ye ought to do, and
takin' for this the time which by right should be spent on other
things; because ye've given yer fathers and mothers more cause to find
fault with ye durin' the last two or three weeks than for long before,
all on account of it; because ye're none of ye so good-natured as ye
used to be. I've heard that havin' a bee in the bonnet spoils a body;
but faith I think a boat on the brain is worse. There's one thing,
though, that my mind's made up to. I'll make no more cookies for young
gentlemen that are not polite and obligin'."

Here was a threat! But, though the boys were secretly somewhat
disconcerted, they would not give Mary Ann the satisfaction of seeing
that either her prophecy or warning had any effect upon them.

"Pshaw, Mary Ann, you're so cross to-day!" declared Jim.

"It isn't always the good people who seem to have the best luck,"
continued Jack, braving it out. "And how can you tell whether we'll
succeed or not? You are not a fortune-teller."

"Heaven forbid!" ejaculated Mary Ann, devoutly. "And, to be sure,
there's plenty of people that gets on very successfully in the world,
that don't seem to deserve to prosper half as much as others we know
of. But God sees what we don't, and this much we may be certain of:
wrong-doin' is always punished sooner or later; while we know that, in
the end, those that tries to do right gets their full share of
blessin's and a good bit over and above. I'm not sayin' indeed that ye
won't build yer boat, only that if ye neglect yer duty ye'll have
reason to regret it."

"Well, don't cast an 'evil eye' on the boat, anyway," said Jim; "for if
we don't finish it, how can we ever give you a row on the creek?"

"Is it _I_ ride in yer boat!" exclaimed Mary Ann, who was stout and
short-breathed. The idea of trusting herself to the tender mercies of
the lads, and venturing into any craft of their construction, was so
ludicrous that she forgot her vexation and laughed heartily. "Faith,
it's fine ballast I'd be for ye!" she said. "And is it in the middle
of the river ye'd be landin' me? Thank ye kindly, but I'll not go a
pleasurin' with ye. And as for an 'evil eye,' troth ye're but makin'
game of my want of book-larnin'. But well I know there's no such
thing; and if there was, it could never harm ye or yer work if ye were
doin' right. So now be off with ye to the store, and bring me five
pounds of sugar, quick as ye can. And if ye take the molasses jug
along and get it filled - well, this once I'll beat up a batch of
cookies, so ye can have some for yer lunch at school to-morrow."



III.

At last the wonderful boat was pronounced finished. It had obviously


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Online LibraryMary Catherine CrowleyApples, Ripe and Rosy, Sir → online text (page 3 of 13)