Merely a Matter of Diet
An aspiring young gladiator discovers the uses of vitamines and calories
EAT your porridge, Arnold!" said Mrs. Rodden. "Oh, Mother! Do I have to?" "Certainly, you do."
“I don’t wanta.”
“I know—but you must."
“Can’t I have something else?”
“No nonsense, now,” Mr. Rodden cut in crisply. “You eat what’s put before you!”
“But I hate porridge, Daddy!”
“No, you don’t. See—I’m eating it, and so is Brother.” “That makes no difference to me—I hate it, I tell you!” His mother threw him a compassionate glance (she never ate porridge herself), the while she urged him on to his duty. “Now, Arnold, dear, there’s no use making such a fuss. You aren’t growing as you should—”
“Don’t want to grow,” sulkily.
“Of course you do. You don’t want to be a little baby all your life and let brother get ’way ahead of you—do you?”
“I am growing,” Arnold protested, but as one not expecting to be believed
“No you’re not—not as you should, and it’s all because you don’t get proper nourishment. You won’t eat the things that are best for you. What’s Mother to do with her son if he won’t try to do what she wishes—and it’s for your own good, too, darling.”
But her son was mutinous. He glared at Brother when that relative, hugely content with his fare, which he was throwing into his face in large spoonfuls, advised him to “Eat it, Brud; ’sawful good.”
But he did eat it. Needs must.
Then he raised the usual row when poached eggs on toast followed the cereal.
“Can’t I have some honey and toast and no egg, Mother? I did eat that porridge.”
“Eat the egg first, dear,” Mrs. Rodden admonished patiently.
“Oh, gee! I can’t—I’m full up.”
His mother sighed. The old battle between wills had begun to exhaust her. She was keeping up and trying to go on from day to day ‘twixt a balk and a breakdown’, and the constant necessity to do her duty by her children, against their inclination, was nerve-racking. “If only
one hadn’t a conscience,” she complained sometimes, “it would be so much easier.”
Arnold got off to school with toast and honey, but Brother ate his egg to the last smear and galloped off through the snow, the picture of health. Arnold, though his twin, was smaller, more delicately built, paler than Wilson, but their similarity, nevertheless, was such as to confuse their schoolmates who were constantly making mistakes, calling one boy when the other was meant, and getting tangled up generally in the twin’s personalities. Usually, after a few days’ acquaintance with the boys, their companions solved the difficulty by calling both Brud—a baby corruption of ‘Brother’ which they had used when they were learning to talk to each other.
At noon Arnold didn’t feel up to eating his baked potato and lamb chop. “I’m sick of meat,” he complained bitterly.
Mrs. Rodden, with firmness born of desperation and nerves, almost thundered at him, “You eat what’s put before you—and not another word, do you hear?” So he ate, but with many a grimace of distaste, with many an artistic shudder which his mother ignored.
Wilson frankly enjoying a toothsome bone inquired, “Mother, may we go sliding this afternoon, after school?”
“Over at Smith’s factory.”
His mother wavered a moment. “There are a lot of pretty rough boys there, sonny, and you’re very small to go so far away.”
“Oh,” was Wilson’s contemptuous retort, “I kin lick most of the kids on that slide. It’s perfectly safe—Please, Mother!”
“W-e-11,” she replied grudgingly. “Only, don’t get hurt; and come home before it gets dark.”
“We will, Mummy. Gee! We’re going to have loads of fun there. It’s the bestest slide around town. Oh, goody, goody!”
“Ain’t you glad Grampa gave us those sleds for Christmas?”
“Make good use of them, only—be careful,” Mrs. Rodden warned superfluously, as mothers will,
/^FF they trotted to school, turning every few yards to throw kisses to her as she stood by the window until their small figures were hidden around the corner. “Bless ’em, the darlings. What would I ever do without them? But I wish Arnold were stronger. What can I do to make him eat more? Oh, dear! It’s a problem bringing up boys! I wish—oh, well, I’ll just have to do my best,” she thought philosophically. Then she sighed, and went about her work of the morning.
The twins returned from the slide that afternoon very enthusiastic and with enormous appetites. Arnold took what he was given without cavil, and, while he and his brother ate voraciously, recounted the doings of the afternoon.
“Lots of fun, mother—Ever so many boys there— Girls too— Perfectly safe—More bread, please—Two boys got into a fight and the biggest boy got knocked down—”
“Now, Brud,'you let me tell it—”
“Aw, I started first—”
“You both may tell me—only, one at a time! Children! you’ll deafen me. Now, Wilson first.” So the meal progressed with content and much conversation. When bed time came, the boys set up a howl as usual to stay up ‘just ten minutes longer’. A pointblank refusal was met by the suggestion of a compromise. “Only five minutes, then!”
Compromise being the basis upon which most modern families are brought up, five minutes it was. Followed a dawdling undressing; forgotten toothbrushing; assertions of perfectly clean neck and ears; inspection and rejection of same; more washing, more inspection; grudging admission of ‘almost clean’; a pillow-fight; bedtime story, and numerous kisses and hugs— and a very tired mother —all in the night’s work.
As the twin’s father travelled, he saw little of his boys
Continued on page 59
Merely a Matter of Diet
Continued from page 11
except during the weekly visit home Saturday and Sunday, so their mother had the bringing up to do. It was a strenuous business for one woman, but she tried to be equal to her job, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing, but ever striving. There usually is a good deal of striving while raising even one boy. “And she had to go and have two!” the twins’ grandmother would say at times, as though this had been an occasion on which Mrs. Rodden had shown very little discretion.
On Wednesday morning, Arnold fought again over his cereal, his too-fat bacon, his too-milky cocoa.
“Brud, you ought to be glad to get bacon like that,” his brother remarked sanctimoniously, as he chewed some rind. “Lots of little boys never get any.”
Arnold, exasperated beyond politeness, snarled: “Aw, shut up!” and was properly squelched.
Wilson grinned wickedly.
Instantly came the command: “And you, Wilson—stop teasing your brother. I won’t have it.”
“No, Mother. I’ll be good . . . Mother, may we go to the slide to-day?” A bright thought: “You want to go, too, Arnold?”
“Oh, yes; it’s packs of fun.”
“Very well,” came a kindly voice of doom. “Eat your bacon and drink all your cocoa up, and when you come home from school this afternoon at three to get your sleds, you must take an egg-nog— and then you may go.”
“Aw—Mot-t—her—I’ll stay home, then!”
“Very well. You may go, Wilson.”
Arnold had a vision of his brother enjoying the delights of that hillside without him, so, in a long-suffering, resigned tone he said,
“All right! Give me some toast to finish this bacon—gee! But—”
“But me no buts, son. Eat what I tell you or stay home from the slide.” Her tone exuded firmness.
Arnold very much wanted to go; he very much did not want egg-nogs. The iniquity of bargaining when a feller is in his parent’s power! He brooded silently on his wrongs and an occasional ‘Gee!’ escaped his lips.
At four o’clock that afternoon their mother heard a noise. It sounded afar off like a keening; it grew and added unto itself the sound of trampling feet. Doors opened, shut; the noise grew louder, mixed with snuffles and choking sobs. Standing in front of her mirror, with hand upraised to jab a final pin in her hair, she stood transfixed, for a face appeared at the doorway and mirrored itself in front of her—an awful face! It unmistakably belonged to her son Wilson, but it was bloody and one eye was puffed. There was apprehension and triumph, mixed, in its expression.
“Good heavens! boy—what’s happened?” Her voice rose to a half shriek. Above her son’s face, as she turned from the glass, appeared another, crowned with a shock of fiery-hued hair, that of his friend, Frank. The sobs and sounds of misery continued off-stage, as it were.
“Oh, he ain’t bad, Missus. You should just oughta seen his brother—he’s some sight—” There was pride in Frank’s tone and he jerked a grimy thumb toward the stairway whence the sound of weary mounting came. And then ‘his brother’ hove into view. His two lips were cut and bleeding; his nose had already grown three sizes too large for his face, while at the same time, one eye had disappeared under a fold of pink flesh and the other was coyly retiring. A gap in the line of teeth showed where one was missing. Gore bubbled and ran from his nose and he feebly wiped, first with one hand, then the other, until his sleeves and tie,
hands and face, all shared the gsneral color scheme. Arnold was a grim and ghastly sight.
' I 'HE twins had been born under an accident star, but, used as she was to sudden appearances demanding first aid, Mrs. Rodden was struck dumb for a second while she took in the details of his horrific condition. Later, while she laved his features and removed bloodstained garments, she talked, and so did he—a very little.
“Where were you when this happened?” “At” (gulp) “the slide”(gulp).
“Were you fighting?”
“He—ugh—did—but he’s” (gulp) — “ten years old—ugh—and I’m only—ugh —eight.”
“Is he bigger than you?”
From the top step of the stairs, where sat the other boys comparing notes on the battle, came a voice in corroboration: “Yes, mam\ That feller had oughter be throwed off’n the slide. His name’s Munger, an’ he’s a real bully, he is.” “Were you there, Frank, when this happened?”
“No, mam; I come in after it was all over, and brought Arnold, here, home.” “Does this boy go to your school, children?”
“No, mam; he belongs to the Clinton School Gang. They’re a tough lot, they are.”
“How did it all happen, anyway?” she demanded. They all commenced to talk at once, while Arnold lay against his mother’s breast, her arms protectingly around him, and she gently rocked, sitting in a low chair.
“When we—ugh—got there—” began Arnold.
“Everything was all right; and then the gang from Clinton Street came an’—” Frank clipped Wilson’s recital neatly with: “They was goin’ to chase all the other kids off’n the slide—”
“And I told them we had just as much right on it as they did,” asserted Wilson.
“And—Brud—kicked—Munger’ssled,” came in a weary tone from the prone Arnold.
“And he wanted to fight me. So, we fought—an’ I licked him,” explained Wilson not without zest. “And when he was on the ground, I says: ‘Are you licked?’ an’ he says: ‘Yes, but I kin lick yer brother!”
“Then he came to Brud and he wanted to fight him. Only Brud said: T_don’t want to fight you’.”
Arnold spoke again, with more energy. “That’s the worst of being a twin. There wouldn’t have been any fight if only Munger hadn’t thought I was Brud.” “Yes, that’s so, mother. I licked him once before and he thought I was Brud all right. I gave him all he was looking for —that makes two times now.”
“What happened after he said he could beat Arnold?”
“Then the other boys made a ring around them and pushed Brud in—and he had to fight.” The battered head on her shoulder moved in wordless assent, and her mother heart throbbed with pity for her small son and grew furious against the brutality of the Clinton Street Gang. “And then?” she demanded.
“Brud got licked,” said Wilson simply. “Yes, mam, an’ that wasn’t the worst of it,” said Frank. “After he licked him, Munger pounded him when Arnold lay on the ground.”
“What did you do to help your brother, Wilson? Did you let them pound him like that, and never try to save him?”
“I did try, Mother, but the other kids held me so I couldn’t get at him.”
“Well, this ends the slide for this winter and until you are big enough to take care of yourselves Of all the disgraceful—!! You slide near home after this—do you hear? And don’t go near Smith’s factory again. The young scoundrels—” And because Smith’s factory held painful memories for both, the boys gave their promise without demur.
A BOUT this time, the newspapers were full of the exploits of one Jack Dempsey, prize fighter. For Arnold his name had a fascination that was almost uncanny. He tormented his mother with questions relating to that gentleman’s disposition, abilities, habits and physical condition which his mother was manifestly in no position to answer. For instance: “Mother, is Jack Dempsey very big?”
“H’n, h’n; good-sized man, I suppose.” “Was he always big?”
“Foolish question number one thousand! Of course not; he had to grow just as you are doing now; only, Brud is beating you out of your boots. Soon you won’t be twins any more.”
“But, Mother, does Jack Dempsey ever get hurt when he fights?” “Is’poseso.”
“Badly—like I was?”
“Oh, no—you see, he’s trained. He has to take a certain diet and exercise and sleep; and these build up hard muscles and a strong body so he can stand punishment.”
“Oh! . . . What does he eat?” Mothers are wily creatures. She answered offhandedly: “Oh, the musclebuilding foods—eggs, meat, lots of vegetables, fish, plenty of milk and fat bacon —and porridge, lots of porridge.”
“Does he like those things?” Arnold inquired anxiously.
“I don’t suppose so, but, of course, he eats them because they make him strong —but no candies or gum or trash; and then, he never would think of going to the movies and missing his sleep or anything like that. He just lives for his job, and his job is to beat the other fellow.”
Followed some fanciful embellishments which would have made the gentleman under discussion open his eyes; but eightyears-old receives such information seriously, digests what may be useful and conveniently forgets the rest.
“Do you think I could ever be as big as Jack Dempsey?”
“No. dear; you aren’t his build.”
“Well, nearly as big?”
“Perhaps. But you’d have to change your way of living. Dear knows you’re not trying very hard to grow—always wanting to stay up late, and never wanting to eat the very food that is best to make you grow.” ®
“Uve got lots of muscle—feel,” and he flexed a small bunch on his arm. It was hard, but very under-sized, and she pretended to need glasses to see it.
“Aw, Mother—don’t!” Arnold protested. “May I tidy your button box, Mother?”
“Yes, only don’t spill the buttons about.”
As he worked over the box of varicolored buttons, Arnold ruminated. Presently—“Mother-—”
“Do you think I’ll ever get over being a twin?”
“Sounds as if you had something catching. Why?”
“I’m awf’lly tired of being a twin. There’s a girl at school, Mildred, and she thinks Brud is just perfect; and it’s all right in school hours, ’cause I sit on the other side of the room from Brud. But when we go out in the yard at recess she’s always coming around me and wanting me to talk to her.” Utter disgust was in his tone. Wilson was the gay Lothario of the twain. Mrs. Rodden made a little choking sound in her throat.
“What’s the matter, mother?” “Nothing, dear. Got a little cold, perhaps.”
“Did you ever fight when you were a little girl?”
“Yes, but did you ever, eh?”
“W-e-11, once I remember pulling another girl’s hair in a game of tag when I was angry with her; but when I got older I was ashamed of doing it.”
“I’m never ashamed when I fight.” “Except when you get the worst of it, h’n?” she answered slyly.
Arnold was silent for a moment. Then he changed the subject, hastily getting back to his muttons. “Does Jack Dempsey ever cry, do you think?”
“Why—no, I don’t suppose. Why do you want to know?”
“I just wondered.” Then in a moment: “Has he a mother?”
“I suppose so.”
“Does he love her? Very much?”
“Yes, I daresay. I suppose he’s good to her.”
“Does she love him?”
“Of course. Don’t all mothers love their children?”
“Is’poseso. Only, he’s grown up.” “Well, what of it? Isn’t he her little boy just the same?”
“But he fights.”
“Yes, he gets his money that way. Oh, Arnold, for the love of goodness do drop Jack Dempsey and give me a rest. I’m fed up on Jack Dempsey. Do talk of something else—it’s time for your egg-nog, anyway. Come along and we’ll get it ready.”
“Oh, Mother—I don’t want it,” he whined, following her to the kitchen. “Can’t I have some cake instead?”
tpOR two days thereafter, Mr. Dempsey was discussed at intervals until Mrs. Rodden was so sick of the name that she felt a hatred for that muscular Irishman rising, which bade fair to overflow in violence. Meanwhile, the matutinal tussle was a part of breakfast; the afternoon egg-nog was sometimes taken, but oftener not , if a substitute for the hated eggs and milk could be wheedled instead. Then, one morning while the marks of late conflict still adorned his otherwise sweet and engaging countenance, Arnold electrified his parents by eating his porridge without contest, and asking— a-s-k-i-n-g—for bacon! A look of mystification and gratitude came over the parents’ faces and they said to each other later: “The little chap sees how it worries us to have him act as he has been doing. He’s trying to make it easier for us, the darling.”
Being tactful as parents go, they forebore to say much about it before the twins remarking only that Arnold was a good boy. Hearing which, Arnold grinned and wriggled uneasily in his seat. At lunch he ate without fussing, and drank a glass of milk! At supper he took rice pudding, a dessert of which he was not particularly fond unless it went fifty-fifty on raisins, which this one did not. And ,to cap the climax, he went to bed before he had to be told to go.
“That child’s sick,” opined Mr. Rodden.
“Looks to me as if he’d got a touch of religion,” rejoined his wife.
“He’s a sneak. He went early because he knew I’d have to go, too,” snorted Wilson.
The wonderful reformation in Arnold’s character and mode of living was permanent—except in spots. For a whole year his mother knew a peace which passed her understanding. Arnold grew in height and breadth. A friend, learning that the boys were anxious to take up boxing, gave them a couple of pairs of gloves and a few lessons thrown in; and the chandeliers shook in the ceilings as the boys strove mightily in the attic. When the racket grew too nerve-destroying to be borne, the twins and their
boxing partners were invited to adjourn to the cellar where greater freedom of movement was permissible.
Time slid along; the twins passed from grade to grade at school, fell into and out of friendships, squabbled, made up; got into mischief and out again, and kept pace as well in their physical condition as they always had done in classes. Their mother rarely interfered with their activities, and though they brought bumped heads and bruised bodies to her occasionally for treatment, she refrained from much comment, merely warning Wilson to be a little gentle with his less husky brother. As the months passed, however, it was observable that whereas Arnold before had been the patient, it was Wilson now who required more frequent ministration. ^ t r
“I really think boxing is too strenuous for them,” Mrs. Rodden suggested to her husband one day. te»»-1»
“Aw—let them work off their superfluous energy, my dear. Don’t make sissies of them. What does a tap on the nose mean to a small boy? He gets over
it in a minute.” _
% “All very well to say it quickly like that, but it makes a lot of work.”
• “It’s just a phase. They’ll take to something else by and by,” Mr. Rodden predicted. Wherein he showed himself a prophet. The boxing lasted just a week longer. During the last few days there was a good deal of coming and going of the boys’ male friends, Frank being particularly in evidence. At mealtimes Arnold would fall into reveries alternating with bursts of talkativeness, and at night there was considerable whispering from one twin’s bed to the other. Mrs. Rodden, from long experience, scented mice but maintained her own counsel. Then one Saturday afternoon the two boys disappeared without confiding their destination—oozed quietly away, and were gone some time. When they returned for supper, Arnold’s face was a bit puffy and his nose was bleeding slightly, but he wore the smile that won’t come off.
Straight to his mother he went, and in the tone of a victor spake he:
“Say, Mother—you know that fellow Munger that fought me on the slide that time— and beat me up?”
“I certainly do.”
“Well—” and he swelled with righteous pride. “I licked him to-day. I made up my mind to do it—and I did.”
“H’m,” said his mother. “You did, did you? Well, I don’t want you going about fighting other boys, remember. Let this be your last for a while, understand?” “Yes, mother,” Arnold answered obediently.
From accounts of eye-witnesses there is no doubt whatever that to his original debt Arnold had added compound interest; and when young Munger got home, though he was a head taller than his game little antagonist, his fond parents breathed threats of vengeance on -the ‘big bully’ who had battered their little boy into a jelly.
“And he deliberately got up the quarrel, too!” which was the crowning brutality of the episode in their eyes. And they stated the truth. For, as Arnold described it later to his mother: “I was aw’ffly nervous though, before I went to Smith’s slide. First time he wasn’t there, and next Saturday he was. My teeth wouldn’t stay still and my knees wiggled. And when I saw him I felt good and mad and I told him he had to fight me. And he said: T don’t wanta fight you’. And I said ‘You gotta’ and I hit him a swat and then we went at it.”
At breakfast next morning Arnold struck.
“Mother, you needn’t give me any more oatmeal porridge. I’m through with it. And with egg-nogs, too,” he said, quietly, but in a tone of finality, and his mother realized that he was a man-child and it was to be just as he said.