"Here's no end of fun!" said Whiffles; "I never see such a sight, in my life."
This remark was made to Snippers, who was a great friend of Sandy's. Snippers was a boy whose clothes were always dirty, and whose complexion was always out of order; in spite of all his efforts, there was always an eruption on Snipper's face. Some dirt-colored hair, upon his upper lip, and on his cheeks, added to the general frowsiness of his appearance. He had a down look, and it was hard to catch his eye. You talked to him, and he seemed to be gazing at something, at an angle of forty-five degrees; yet Snippers was a boy greatly in request, with the other boys, and decidedly popular. Snippers was always engaged in trading. He was continually buying and selling, and speculating in knives, marbles, butter-scotch, candy, peanuts and boiled eggs. Wherever Snippers was, there was always an eager sound of voices, trying to beat him down, and Snippers' nasal voice, declaring it was a splendid bargain. At other times, Snippers was off by himself, counting up coppers, dimes and half-dimes. He had just sold, to Sandy, a boiled egg, six pea-nuts and an apple, for twenty-five cents, having made a profit of, at least, twenty cents, and he felt first-rate. "What is it?" said Snippers.
"Here's no end of fun!" repeated Whiffles, who was looking out of the window, "tell Gubbins to come, quick!"
"What is it?" said Snippers, "can't you tell a fellow?"
"Such a crew!" said Whiffles, "what a bonnet, I never did see! It's as good as a play!"
"Well!" said Snippers, in a cross sort of a way, "if you can't tell me, I'll come and look for myself!"
Snippers looked out of the window. There was a hack at the door, and just in front, protecting a monstrous basket, evidently laden with all sorts of provisions, stood Mrs. Dorothy, scolding the hackman; Mrs. Jones, with her mouth wide open, gazing at the building and revealing the toothless gums, and Miss Nancy Hogie, in the green calash, and little Bertha holding in her arms, with the greatest care, a doll, almost as large as herself.
Whiffles was fairly shaking with laughter.
"Did you ever see such a bonnet as that green one? And what gums that old lady has got!" That's a pretty little gal, though," said Whiffles, again, as his eye rested on Bertha. He immediately commenced fixing his cravat, running his hand through his hair, and looking at the ring on his finger. "I think I'll go down and speak to the folks. I guess they're from the country."
Presently, Whiffles was in front of the house, and going up to Mrs. Dorothy, said, "I am very glad, indeed, to see you. How are all your family?"
Mrs. Dorothy looked at him, a little cautiously, before she answered; the widow curtsied and smiled, and Miss Nancy stepped a little back, while Bertha seemed to pay no attention.
"I havn't any family," said Mrs. Dorothy.
"Indeed!" said Whiffles, "Is not this young lady your daughter?"
"No, indeed!" said Mrs. Dorothy, "not at all! Is Dr. Neverasole at home?"
"I suppose he is," said Whiffles, and then he said in a low, languishing voice, which he had found very effectual, in Hubville, to Bertha, "What a lovely girl you are!"
"Am I," said Bertha, "I feel very anxious now, indeed."
"Anxious!" said Sandy, "about what?"
"About my dear child."
"She is a pretty doll," said Sandy.
"He is not a she at all--he's a boy, and his name is Julius Washington; but he perspires, dreadfully, and I'm very much afraid of the croup. My family physician says, unless he is taken great care of, I shall never raise him. Please hold him!''
She laid him, carefully, in Sandy's arms, with many injunctions not to drop him, and Sandy was compelled to hold him.
He heard a stifled laugh, at the window, but he couldn't help it.
Just then, Guffins came up, with his hat in his hand, to Mrs. Dorothy.
"You are welcome, Madam, to the Dorchester Polytechnic Academy?" He said this, with as close an imitation of Dr. Neverasole's manner, as he could assume.
"The Principal of the Institution has sent me to you, to beg you to come at once to his room. He would come to you, but he is suffering, greatly, from a severe fit of inflammatory rheumatism, neuralgic gout and opodeldidums."
"Indeed!" said Mrs. Dorothy, "I am very sorry, indeed. I have a splendid receipt for inflammatory rheumatism--if wear a potatoe in your pocket, you won't have it. I and so does Mrs. Jones. What is your name, sir," she said.
Guffins hesitated, but presently said--"Jeremiah Guffins,
"Very glad to make your acquaintance, Mr. Peagedee." "Guffins, ma'am, Guffins!"
"Mr. Guffins.. then, let me introduce you to Mrs. Jones--Miss Hogie." Mrs. Jones curtsied three times and smiled; Miss Nancy bowed.
"Come this way, ladies, come this way."
He led them through the main hall, passed by Professor Poggers, with a bow, and up the two flights of stairs, to Bolmer's room. He gave a loud knock at the door, then saying to Mrs. Dorothy, "I will see if the Doctor is ready to see you," slipped into the room, leaving the party at the door.
There was a sound of preparation inside, and the door was thrown open. In a large arm chair, apparently suffering dreadfully, sat Bolmer, so disguised that his most intimate friends would not have recognized him.
His legs were wrapped in flannels, and put upon a chair; he had a night-cap, which concealed his hair; a huge pair of whiskers hid the greater part of his face, and a pair of green goggles, covered his eyes. At his side sat Ned Stebbins, dressed in a frock, which the boys had for private theatricals; a frisette, gave him the requisite hair, and a cap, adorned with the gayest artificial flowers, completed his toilet. He represented Mrs. Neverasole, and busied himself arranging the flannels, while every now and then, he administered a spoonful of a hideous mixture, had been hastily concocted from a bottle of porter, in Bolmer's possession.
Mrs. Dorothy came in, on tip-toe, followed by Mrs. Tones, Miss Hogie and Bertha. Whiffles, who, at once detected the trick, could not contain himself, and was obliged to pretend to be deeply affected, at the sight of the Doctor's condition. Behind the Doctor's chair, at the end of the room, sat Popkins and Snippers, studying a spelling-book, together; they represented the two supposed children of the Doctor.
"Walk in, ladies!" said Guffins, "the Doctor is very poorly, this morning, indeed, we are expecting the physician, every moment, to prescribe for him. "I fear," said Guffins, wiping his eyes with a huge pocket-handkerchief, "the Doctor is not long for this world; he will soon be translated to a higher sphere."
At this, Mrs. Neverasole administered two spoonfuls of the porter, and kissed the Doctor on the brow, whereat the Doctor murmured, in a feeble voice, "Angelic creature!"
Mrs. Dorothy was greatly affected, and so was Mrs. Jones; a tear trembled in the eye of each, and Mrs. Dorothy said, "I am sorry to see you ill, Dr. Neverasole. I am afraid we are disturbing you."
"Oh no!" said the Doctor, "I am always glad to see the fathers and mothers, aunts and uncles of my dear boys. I, sometimes, object to Grandmothers," he said; "they are too indulgent; but what is your name? I think I have not met you before."
"Mrs. Bersimore," said Aunt Dorothy, "and this is Mrs. Jones and this is Miss Hogie."
The Doctor smiled, feebly, and Mrs. Neverasole administered another dose. "Failing rapidly," said Mrs. Neverasole.
"I have come," said Mrs. Dorothy, "to see Robert Graham, in whom I take a great interest, and we brought a little picnic along with us, and we had hopes that you and Mrs. Neverasole, would have joined us."
At the word "pic-nic" a sweet smile overspread the Doctor's face, and Mrs. Neverasole turned to Popkins and Snippers, both of whom were listening, eagerly.
"Adolphus and Clarence, come here."
"Mrs. Bersimore," said Ned, "these are my two sons Adolphus and Clarence. You wouldn't think I could have two such old boys."
"No, indeed!" said Mrs. Dorothy. "No, indeed! They are very tall for their ages. They take after their dear, sainted father."
Popkins, who was five feet and eight inches in height, and Snippers, who was a little taller, and who had borrowed round jackets for the occasion, came forward.
"Go out into the hall, and bring in good Mrs. Bersimore's pic-nic."
Popkins said in a gruff voice, "Ma, may I go to the pic-nic?"
"Oh, yes," said Mrs. Dorothy, "let the dear children come. We wanted to have some of the boys, and, especially, Edward Stebbins, who is a cousin of Robert Graham's.''
At this Mrs. Neverasole gave a little, uneasy start, which caused the Doctor to administer a slight pinch. It was with difficulty, that Ned restrained himself from giving Bolmer a cuff, and was only prevented by Gulfins, who saw, the danger.
The boys, presently, returned with the basket, and as they did so, in came Perkins, another of the boys of the first class, with a saddle-bag in his hand. He laid it on the floor, and immediately felt the Doctor's pulse.
Mrs. Neverasole looked at him with the deepest anxiety. Guffins wiped his eyes, while Popkins took the opportunity of peeping into the pic-nic basket, and of abstracting a couple of sandwiches which he secretly nibbled, behind the spelling-book, to the intense aggravation of Snippers, who did not dare to do the like himself.
Perkins looked at the Doctor's tongue, sounded his lungs, poked his ribs, and, generally, maltreated him. After he had done so, Mrs. Neverasole drew him aside, and gently whispered something in his ear.
"Madam," said Perkins, aloud, taking her by the hand, and leading her over to the Doctor, '''embrace your husband; his symptoms are better; he will surely recover."
At this, Mrs. Neverasole threw her arms around his neck, and wept.
The Doctor was greatly overcome, and Guffins and Whiffles sobbed, quite audibly.
Mrs. Dorothy burst into tears, and Mrs. Jones, also, while Popkins and Snippers helped themselves, with great vigor, in the general confusion, to the contents of the basket.
"Mrs. Neverasole," said Perkins, in a loud tone of voice, "what the Doctor needs is tonic; his system must now be built up--we must cease repletion (Perkins meant depletion, but nobody noticed the blunder). What I would advise, for the Doctor," said Perkins, "is a hearty meal, of good food--not exactly dinner, but a sort of lunch--in short, the kind of meal," and Perkins waved his hand blandly, "which is, ordinarily, termed a pic-nic."
"Oh, dear!" said Mrs. Dorothy, "how fortunate it is--"
"Oh, lawk!" said Mrs. Jones.
Miss Nancy, all the while, stood pulling her cap strings and said nothing.
"I am afraid," said Mrs. Neverasole, "that the Doctor will have to wait, two or three hours, as the cook is sick, and the fire in the kitchen has gone out."
"Never!" said Perkins, "it might prove fatal."
"What shall we do?" said Mrs. Neverasole.
"Oh, my dear," said Mrs. Dorothy, "we have a nice lunch in our basket; let us spread it out on the table; we shall be glad to have it here, and, perhaps, you will let Robert Graham join us. I do want to see the dear boy, so."
"I'll go and find him, myself," said Mrs. Neverasole.
No sooner had she left the room, than Aunt Dorothy drew the table up, near the Doctor, and spread over it the clean, white table-cloth, and emptied the basket. Popkms looked on, with greedy eyes. Perkins made believe that he was going, but yielded to an invitation, from Mrs. Dorothy, to stay.
Presently, Mrs. Neverasole returned, and said, "That dear boy of yours, Mrs. Bersimore, has gone on an errand, to Hubville."
"When will he be back?" said Mrs. Dorothy.
"I am afraid, not for several hours."
"Oh, dear," said all the three ladies.
The table was soon laden with all sorts of nice things. It was marvelous to see with what alacrity, a man so ill as the Doctor, could move over to the table. Just as all were seated, there was a little awkward pause, not even Popkins liking to be the first to help himself, when Mrs. Dorothy turned to Bolmer, and said, in a solemn tone of voice, "Doctor, will you please to ask a blessing?"
Bolmer was puzzled--he did not know what to say. It was quite a long time since he heard one. A bright thought Struck him, and he turned to Perkins, "Deacon," he said, "please to say a few words."
Perkins contrived to mutter something, which passed for a grace, and the meal began. The Doctor's appetite was astonishing. How Mrs. Neverasole laid in! Popkins and Snippers vied with one another. Hardly a word was spoken, and it was in vain, that Mrs. Dorothy tried to put aside a little for Robert Graham. Just as they were in the midst of the good things, and Bolmer had got his third piece of mince pie, suddenly, the door opened, and in rushed Rob himself.
He did not notice the boys, but, in a moment, was hugging and kissing Mrs. Dorothy and little Bertha, and shaking hands with Mrs. Jones and Miss Hogie.
"Where is Grandmama?"
"She could not come; she was too poorly."
But, in a moment, Mrs. Dorothy remarked Robert's want of good manners, and said, "Don't forget, Rob; speak to the Doctor and Mrs. Neverasole. The Doctor is better; I am sure you will be glad to hear it."
There was a dead silence all around the table; the boys looked at one another. Dr. and Mrs. Neverasole tried to wink, in the most confidential way, at Rob; but Rob stepped forward, and to the horror of Mrs. Dorothy, who fairly shrieked, pulled the frisette off Mrs. Neverasole, and the goggles off Bolmer. Popkins and Snippers slipped out of the room, Snippers carrying off a mince pie, as he did so.
"Aunt Dorothy," said Rob, "the fellows have been playing a trick on you. I was afraid so, when I heard yott were up here. It is not Dr. Neverasole or Mrs. Neverasole, but nobody but Ned Stebbins and Bolmer."
"Then you havn't been to Hubville."
"Not I," said Rob.
Mrs. Dorothy looked at Bolmer and Stebbins, and was about to speak, when little Bertha stepped before her and shook Julius Washington, fiercely, at the boys, and said "come, Aunt Dorothy, let's go away; they are naughty boys--they tell lies!"
"Hush," said Mrs. Dorothy. She did not know what to say; she felt forlorn and lonely, and almost like crying, and provoked, too, that Rob should have missed the lunch! She stood, hesitating, when lo, Miss Nancy stepped forward, her lips compressed, and stood before the boys.
"It is a long time," she said, since I have seen much of young men; but I had a brother once"--and her lips trembled a little--"and he would sooner have cut off ha right hand, than played such a trick, on three women, like ourselves. It used to be the fashion," and there was a strange earnestness in her voice, "to help women rather than play tricks on them, even if they chanced to be old and ugly. We bid you a good afternoon, young gentlemen;" she emphasized the word, "and wish you better manners." "Stop, stop!" said Bolmer. "It's too bad; we didn't mean wrong. I beg your pardon, a thousand times, and I promise you, I won't do so again."
Miss Nancy looked at him, severely. She was not to be so easily propitiated; when Mrs. Dorothy, who was melted by Bolmer's apologies, said, "Oh, yes, we forgive you, only," she added, "it was very wicked to tell all those stories, and I hope you will ask God to forgive you, when you say your prayers, to-night.
They turned to leave--all except old Mrs. Jones, who could not comprehend, and did not, clearly, see how it was; so she shook hands with Bolmer, and said, "Good-bye Doctor; I hope you will soon be quite restored." When they got out into the hall, Robert did not know where to take them. There was a little, dreary parlor, below stairs, and he was about leading them to it, when he came full upon Mrs. Jollipop.
"Oh, Mrs. Jollipop, here's my Aunt Dorothy, and Widow Jones, and Miss Hogie!"
"Glad to see them--let 'em come to my room!"
Nothing could be better. So, soon, they were all safely in Mrs. Jollipop's apartment.
What a time Robert had! There was the Dormitory, and the school-room, and the gymnasium, and the chapel, to be seen, and such lots of things to be heard about Danville. The carriage was to come for them, after tea, to go back to Dorchester, that night, and to return the next day, home. It was a time of unmixed enjoyment. After a while, Ned Stebbins was brought in, and two or three of the other boys, and Miss Nancy seemed to take quite a fancy to Ned. There was only one thing, which the widow and Miss Nancy noticed, that Rob never would have seen. There was not perfect harmony between Mrs. Dorothy and Mrs. Jollipop; indeed, there was from the first, an unspoken quarrel between them. They did not agree on pickles, they did not get along about preserves. They said the nicest things in the world to one another, but you felt somehow, as if, provided they were long enough together it wouldn't end pleasantly. It was at the tea-table, that the matter culminated. There was a peculiar kind of jelly on the table, well known to the boys as "Mrs. Jollipop's first double class, A, No. 1, Superfine Jelly." No sooner had Mrs. Dorothy tasted it, than she grew absolutely white in the face, and deliberately refused to taste another morsel of any thing. It was in vain that all sorts of things were passed her; she refused bread and cake, and would only taste her tea.
When tea was nearly over, Mrs. Dorothy said to Mrs. Jollipop, "What is your recipe for making that Jelly?"
"Excuse me, Mrs. Dorothy," said Mrs. Jollipop, "that's a thing I cannot tell. I never mentioned it to anybody--not even to Mr. Jollipop, though he often asked me, and said, 'Betsey, if you love me, tell me how it's made?'"
There was a silence at the table. The boys knew that Mrs. Jollipop regarded the matter as a very important thing, as she never referred to Mr. Jollipop, except in cases of great interest.
"Never mind," said Mrs. Dorothy, "I think I know it."
"Indeed," said Mrs. Jollipop, "I think not. That recipe is only known to one other person, and she's dead."
Mrs. Dorothy pursed up her mouth, shook her head, and took oft" her spectacles.
"Anyhow, I know it."
"Mrs. Dorothy," said Mrs. Jollipop, with great solemnity, "only one person knows it beside me. Her name was Dorothy McCall, and she's been dead these fifteen years." Here Mrs. Jollipop wiped her eyes. At the name Dorothy McCall, the Widow Jones laid down her cake, and said, "Oh, lawk, did you ever!" Miss Nancy looked up astonished.
Mrs. Dorothy grew very red in the face, and her eyes sparkled, and she said, "Dead or not, I know how to make that jelly, and there's nobody besides me that knows how to make it, except Elizabeth Sniddles, and her I havn't seen these fifteen years.
It was now Mrs. Jollipop's turn to look astonished. She got up from her seat--so did Mrs. Dorothy--up rose the widow--up rose Miss Nancy--up rose the boys.
"Have you got a mole behind your ear," said Mrs. Jollipop.
"Have-you lost the first joint of the little finger of your left hand?" said Mrs. Dorothy.
"It's her!" said Mrs. Jollipop.
"It's her!" said Mrs. Doiothy.
In a moment, they were kissing one another.
That Mrs. Dorothy and Mrs. Jollipop should have turned out to be old friends, was very romantic and astonishing, to the boys and the widow, who kept saying, "Oh, lawk!" and, finally, told the whole story of Mr. Jones, from his birth to his death, which occupied all the rest of the visit.
Before they started, it was deemed a matter of propriety to call and see Dr. and Mrs. Neverasole, and, so, Mrs. Jollipop showed the way down stairs. They were received, very graciously, by the Doctor, who had just had his tea, and was in a high, good humor.
"He talked so well about the boys, that the widow said, afterwards, "If ever there was a saint upon earth, it was Doctor Neverasole," and Mrs. Dorothy, as the hack was a little delayed, asked the Doctor if, as they were to stay at an inn that night, he would not have his family prayers a little earlier than usual, and let them join in the service. This, a little, disconcerted the Doctor, who was not in the habit of having family prayers, and greatly amused Mrs. Jollipop, who knew it. The Doctor, however, excused himself, in some way or another, and with many kisses Mrs. Dorothy bade Robert good-bye.
Her last words were, "You shall hear from me soon, and I will send you a present."
She said this in the hall, in a loud voice--Durkey happened to pass by, on the walk, and heard her.