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"You don't mean it! Well, then, what under the canopy did you do?"
"Why, we sat down in the wharfhouse, and waited from nine o'clock till half past two for the next boat."
"Well, I'm glad you did n't back out, at any rate. You did show pluck, you poor things! I hope you enjoyed the beach after you did get there."
"Why," says Frank, looking down, we never got there."
"Never got there!" gasps Mrs. Sallie. “Did n't you go down on the afternoon boat?"
"Never mind, never mind!" says Mrs. Sallie. "I don't wish to hear anything more. That's your idea of a day's pleasure, is it? I call it a day's disgrace, a day's miserable giving-up. There, go in, go in; I'm ashamed of you all. Don't let the neighbors see you, for pity's sake. - We keep him in the kitchen," she continues, recurring to Frank's long-unanswered question concerning the lost child, "because he prefers it as being the room nearest to the closet where the cookies are. He's taken advantage of our sympathies to refuse everything but cookies."
I suppose that's one of the rights of lost childhood," comments Frank, "there's no law that can languidly; compel him to touch even cracker." "Well, you'd better go down and see what you can make of him. He's driven us all wild."
cake, while now and then a tear steals down his cheeks and moistens the grimy traces of former tears. He and baby are in the mean time regarding each other with a steadfast glare, the cook and the nurse supporting baby in this rite of hospitality.
"Well, my little man," says his host, "how did you get here?”
The little man, perhaps because he is heartily sick of the question, is somewhat slow to answer that there was a fire; and that he ran after the steamer; and a girl found him, and brought him up here.
"And that's all the blessed thing you can get out of him," says cook; and the lost boy looks as if he felt cook to be perfectly right.
In spite of the well-meant endeavors of the household to wash him and brush him, he is still a dreadfully travelstained little boy, and he is powdered in every secret crease and wrinkle by that dust of Old Charlesbridge, of which we always speak with an air of affected disgust, and a feeling of illconcealed pride in an abomination so strikingly and peculiarly our own. He looks very much as if he had been following fire-engines about the streets of our learned and pulverous suburb ever since he could walk, and he certainly seems to feel himself in trouble to a certain degree; but there is easily imaginable in his bearing a conviction that after all the chief care is with others, and that though unhappy, he is not responsible. The principal victim of his sorrows is also penetrated by this opinion, and after gazing forlornly upon him for a while, asks mechanically, "What's your name?"
So Frank descends to the region now redolent of the preparing tea, and finds upon a chair, in the middle of the kitchen floor, a very forlorn little figure of a boy, mutely munching a sweet
ily for a moment, and then determines that he can grapple with the difficulty more successfully after he has had tea. Send up the supper, Bridget. I think, my dear," he says, after they have sat down, "we'd better all question our lost child when we've finished."
So, when they have finished, they have him up in the sitting-room, and the inquisition begins.
"Now, Freddy," his host says, with a cheerful air of lifelong friendship and confidence, "you know that everybody has got two names. Of course your first name is Freddy, and it's a very pretty name. Well, I want you to think real hard, and then tell me what your other name is, so I can take you back to your mamma.'
At this allusion the child looks round on the circle of eager and compassionate faces, and begins to shed tears and to wring all hearts.
"What's your name?" asks Frank, cheerfully," your other name, you know?"
"Freddy," sobbed the forlorn creature. "O good heaven! this 'll never do," groaned the chief inquisitor. "Now, Freddy, try not to cry. What is your papa's name, Mr....?" with the leading inflection as before.
Papa," says Freddy.
"I give it up," says Frank, who has been looking for his hat. "I'm afraid we can't make anything out of him; and I'll have to go and report the case to the police. But, put him to bed do, Sallie; he's dropping with sleep."
So he went out, of course supported morally by a sense of duty, but I am afraid also by a sense of adventure in some degree. It is not every day that, in so quiet a place as Charlesbridge, you can have a lost child cast upon your sympathies; and I believe that
"O, that'll never do! Not Mr. when an appeal is not really agonizPapa?"
ing, we like so well to have our sympathies touched, we favorites of the prosperous commonplace, that most of us would enter eagerly into a pathetic case of this kind, even after a day's pleasure. Such was certainly the mood of my friend, and he unconsciously prepared himself for an equal interest on the part of the police; but this was an error. The police heard his statement with all proper attention, and wrote it in full upon the station-slate, but they showed no feeling whatever, and behaved as if they valued a lost child no more than a child snug at home in his own crib. They said that no doubt his parents would be asking at the police-stations for him during the night, and, as if my friend would otherwise have thought of putting him
"Kindness has proved futile," observes Frank, "and I think we ought as a last resort, before yielding ourselves to despair, to use intimidation. Now, Fred," he says, with sudden and terrible severity, "what's your father's name?"
"Yes," persists Freddy.
"But, Freddy," interposes Mrs. Sallie, as her husband falls back baffled, "when ladies come to see your mamma, what do they call her? Mrs....?" adopting Frank's alluring inflection.
"Mrs. Mamma," answers Freddy, confirmed in his error by this course; and a secret dismay possesses his questioners. They skirmish about him with all sorts of queries; they try to entrap him into some kind of revelation by apparently irrelevant remarks; they plan ambuscades and surprises; but Freddy looks vigilantly round upon them, and guards his personal history from every approach, and seems in every way so to have the best of it, that it is almost exasperating.
The hapless little soul is really moved to an effort of memory by this, and blubbers out something that proves in the end to resemble the family name, though for the present it is merely a puzzle of unintelligible sounds."
"Blackman?" cries Aunt Melissa, catching desperately at these sounds.
On this, all the man and brother is roused in Freddy's bosom, and he roars fiercely, "No! he ain't a black man! He's white!"
into the street, they suggested that he should just keep the lost child till he was sent for. Modestly enough Frank proposed that they should make some inquiry for his parents, and was answered by the question whether they could take a man off his beat for that purpose; and remembering that beats in Charlesbridge were of such vastness that during his whole residence there he had never yet seen a policeman on his street, he was obliged to own to himself that his proposal was absurd. He felt the need of reinstating himself by something more sensible, and so he said he thought he would go down to the Port and leave word at the station there; and the police tacitly assenting to this he went.
I who have sometimes hinted that the Square is not a centre of gayety, or a scene of the greatest activity by day, feel it right to say that it has some modest charms of its own on a summer's night, about the hour when Frank passed through it, and when the different groups that haunt the place in front of the closing shops have dwindled to the loungers fit though few who will keep it well into the night, and may there be found, by the passenger on the last horse-car out from Boston, wrapt in a kind of social silence, and honorably attended by the policeman whose favored beat is in that neighborhood. They seem a feature of the bygone village life of Charlesbridge, and accord pleasantly with the town-pump and the public horse-trough, and the noble elm that gives the Square a perpetual benediction of shade, and by night droops its boughs more pensively, and probably dreams of its happy younger days when there were no canker-worms in the world. Sometimes this choice company sits on the curbing that goes round the terrace at the elm-tree's foot, and then I envy every soul in it, - so tranquil it seems, so cool, so careless, so morrowless. I cannot see the faces of that luxurious society, but there I imagine is the local albino, and a certain blind man, who resorts thither much by day, and makes a strange kind of jest
of his own, with a flicker of humor upon his sightless face, and a faith that others less unkindly treated by nature will be able to see the point apparently not always discernible to himself. Late at night I have a fancy that the darkness puts him on an equality with other wits, and that he enjoys his own brilliancy as well as any one.
At the Port station Frank was pleased and soothed by the tranquil air of the policeman, who sat in his shirt sleeves outside the door, and seemed to announce, by his attitude of final disoccupation, that crimes and misdemeanors were no more. This officer at once showed a desirable interest in the case. He put on his blue coat that he might listen to the whole story in a proper figure, and then he took down the main points on the slate, and said that they would 'send word round to all the other stations in the city, and the boy's parents could hardly help hearing of him that night.
Returned home, Frank gave his news, and then he and Mrs. Sallie went up to look at the lost child as he slept. The sumptuous diet to which he had confined himself from the first seemed to agree with him perfectly, for he slept unbrokenly, and apparently without a consciousness of his woes. On a chair lay his clothes, in a dusty little pathetic heap; they were wellkept clothes, except for the wrong his wanderings had done them, and they showed a motherly care here and there, which it was not easy to look at with composure. The spectators of his sleep both thought of the curious chance that had thrown this little one into their charge, and considered that he was almost as complete a gift of the Unknown as if he had been following a steamer in another planet, and had thence dropped into their yard. His helplessness in accounting for himself was as affecting as that of the sublimest metaphysician; and no learned man, no superior intellect, no subtle inquirer among us lost children of the divine, forgotten home, could have been less
able to say how or whence he came to be just where he found himself. We wander away and away; the dust of the roadside gathers upon us; and when some strange shelter receives us, we lie down to our sleep, inarticulate, and haunted with dreams of memory, or the memories of dreams, knowing scarcely more of the past than of the future.
"What a strange world!" sighed Mrs. Sallie; and then, as this was a mood far too speculative for her, she recalled herself to practical life suddenly. "If we should have to adopt this child, Frank —”
"Why, bless my soul, we're not obliged to adopt him! Even a lost child can't demand that."
'We shall adopt him, if they don't come for him. And now, I want to know" (Mrs. Sallie spoke as if the adoption had been effected) "whether we shall give him our name, or some other?"
name or not.
"Well, I don't know. It's the first child I've ever adopted," said Frank; "and upon my word, I can't say whether you have to give him a new In fact, if I'd thought of this affair of a name, I'd never have adopted him. It's the greatest part of the burden, and if his father will only come for him, I give him up without a murmur."
In the interval that followed the proposal of this alarming difficulty, and while he sat and waited vaguely for whatever should be going to happen next, Frank was not able to repress a sense of personal resentment towards the little vagrant sleeping so carelessly there, though at the bottom of his heart there was all imaginable tenderness for him. In the fantastic character which, to his weariness, the day's pleasure took on, it seemed an extraordinary unkindness of fate that this lost child should have been kept in reserve for him after all the rest; and he had so small consciousness of bestowing shelter and charity, and so profound a feeling of having himself been turned out of house and home by some sur
prising and potent agency, that if the lost child had been a regiment of Fenians billeted upon him, it could not have been any worse. While he remained perplexed in this perverse sentiment of invasion and dispossession, "Hark! " said Mrs. Sallie, "what's that?"
It was a noise of dragging and shuffling on the walk in front of the house, and a low, hoarse whispering.
"I don't know," said Frank, "but from the kind of pleasure I've got out of it so far, I should say that this holiday was capable of an earthquake before midnight." "Listen!"
They listened, as they must, and heard the outer darkness rehearse a raucous dialogue between an unseen Bill and Jim, who were all the more terrible to the imagination from being so realistically named, and who seemed to have in charge some nameless third person, a mute actor in the invisible scene. There was doubt, which he uttered, in the mind of Jim, whether they could get this silent comrade along much farther without carrying him; and there was a growling assent from Bill that he was pretty far gone, that was a fact, and that maybe Jim had better go for the wagon; then there were quick, retreating steps; and then there was a profound silence, in which the audience of this strange drama sat thrilled and speechless. The effect was not
less dreadful when there rose a dull sound, as of a helpless body rubbing against the fence, and at last lowered heavily to the ground.
"Oh!" cried Mrs. Sallie. "Do go out and help. He's dying!"
But even as she spoke the noise of wheels was heard. A wagon stopped before the door; there came a tugging and lifting, with a sound as of crunching gravel, and then a "There!" of great relief.
"Frank!" said Mrs. Sallie very solemnly, "if you don't go out and help those men, I'll never forgive you."
Really, the drama had grown very impressive; it was a mystery, to say the least, and so it must remain for
ever, for when Frank, infected at last by Mrs. Sallie's faith in tragedy, opened the door and offered his tardy services, the wagon was driven rapidly away without reply. They never learned what it had all been; and I think that if one actually respects mysteries, it is best not to look into them. How much finer, after all, if you have such a thing as this happen before your door at midnight, not to throw any light upon it! Then your probable tipsy man cannot be proved other than a tragical presence, which you can match with any inscrutable creation of fiction; and if you should ever come to write a romance, as one is very liable to do in this age, there is your unknown, a figure of strange and fearful interest, made to your hand, and capable of being used, in or out of the body, with a very gloomy effect.
While our friends yet trembled with this sensation, quick steps ascended to their door, and then followed a sharp, anxious tug at the bell.
"Ah!" cried Frank, prophetically, "here's the father of our adopted son"; and he opened the door.
The gentleman who appeared there could scarcely frame the question to which Frank replied so cheerfully: "O yes; he's here, and snug in bed, and fast asleep. Come up stairs and look at him. Better let him be till morning, and then come after him," he added, as they looked down a moment on the little sleeper.
"O no, I could n't," said the father, con espressione; and then he told how he had heard of the child's whereabouts at the Port station, and had hurried to get him, and how his mother did not know he was found yet, and was almost wild about him. They had no idea how he had got lost, and his own blind story was the only tale of his adventure that ever became known.
arms fell about his neck. child slept again.
"How has he behaved?" asked the father.
"Like a little hero," said Frank, "but he's been a cormorant for cookies. L think it right to tell you, in case he should n't be very brilliant to-morrow, that he would n't eat a bite of anything else."
By this time his father had got the child partly awake, and the two men were dressing him in men's clumsy fashion; and finally they gave it up, and rolled him in a shawl. The father lifted the slight burden, and two small
The father said he was the life of their house; and Frank said he knew how that was, that he had a life of the house of his own; and then the father thanked him very simply and touchingly, and with the decent New England self-restraint, which is doubtless so much better than any sort of effusion. "Say good night to the gentleman, Freddy," he said at the door; and Freddy with closed eyes murmured a good-night from far within the land of dreams, and then was borne away to the house out of which the life had wandered with his little feet.
"I don't know, Sallie," said Frank, when he had given all the eagerly demanded particulars about the child's father, "I don't know whether I should want many such holidays as this, in the course of the summer. On the whole, I think I'd better overwork myself and not take any relaxation, if I mean to live long. And yet, I'm not sure that the day's been altogether a failure, though all our purposes of enjoyment have miscarried. I did n't plan to find a lost child here, when I got home, and I'm afraid I have n't had always the most Christian feeling towards him; but he's really the saving grace of the affair; and if this were a little comedy I had been playing, I should turn him to account with the jaded audience, and advancing to the foot-lights, should say, with my hand on my waistcoat, and a neat bow, that although every hope of the day had been disappointed, and nothing I had meant to do had been done, yet the man who had ended at midnight by restoring a lost child to the arms of its father, must own that, in spite of adverse fortune, he had enjoyed A Day's Pleasure." W. D. Howells.