For Love of Danny
ERIC A. DARLING
MRS. HOBSON set the plate of hot biscuits on the supper table and turned briskly toward the pantry. She’d get the Bologna and cheese now, she thought happily. Silas was so fond of both, and it had been months since they had had either. She’d—her planning ended in a gasp of amazement.
The pantry shelf beneath the window, upon which her husband had dropped his purchases only the hour before, was bare. The prunes were gone, the crackers; everything but a package of soap that had fallen to the floor, a torn corner of the wrapper showing that it had been examined and rejected by the thief.
The thief? Her gentle face hardened and an angry sparkle leaped into her eyes.
“Lemuel!” she demanded sternly, going straight to the boy who was arranging some small objects on the window sill. “Lemuel, what did you take them groceries for?”
“Groceries, Mary?” Mr. Hobson questioned, the towel arrested halfway to his dripping face.
“All gone!” she explained shortly. “That is, all but the soap; he couldn’t eat that! And it was the cookies last night,
and the pie last week, and-”
“Lemuel, what did you take ’em for?” Mr. Hobson interrupted. “Don’t we give you enough to eat, lad?”
The boy nodded but did not raise his eyes from the floor.
“Oh, my land, Silas, he does exasperate me so!” Mrs. Hobson broke in. “He must be a natural born thief to do such things, after all we’ve done for him and was going to do. You noticed I said ivas going to do, don’t you, Lemuel?” she demanded hotly. “For I’m blest if I bother with you any longer !”
The boy gave her a quick, startled glance, and Silas shifted uneasily to the other foot.
“The idea of us thinking we could get a boy out of the Home that would take Danny’s place!” she hurried on, wrathfully. “I’m mighty glad now that I didn’t give him Danny’s room, as I was tempted to, the idle — trifling — good-for-nothing — thief!”
'T'HE boy shrank pitifully at each epi-*• thet, but at the word thief he dropped weakly into a chair, his hands falling inertly at his sides.
“Now, now, Mary!” Mr. Hobson expostulated, laying his hand on her arm.
“Don’t you, ‘Now, now!’ me, Silas Hobson!” she warned, shaking him off. “You haven’t had to put up with his slopping around and tracking in mud and fussing eternally with them silly clay figgers of his, instead of doing the work we set him at! Look at that window sill! He made
those little dogs this afternoon, instead of weeding the onions as I told him to!”
“I did-” the
boy began chokingly ; but, with one sweep of her hand, she sent the crude little figures into the grass outside, and his protest ended in a groan.
“And me washing and mending for him!” Her voice was beginning to break, and she was trembling from her unaccustomed anger. “And making those pants, and that pink gingham shirt he’s so proud of, and hoping I could give him Danny’s room in time— and th-then”— Silas slipped his arm about her—“and ththen—he steals from us!” She finished, sobbing on his shoulder.
'T'HE next morning, after listening at the foot of the attic stairs, Silas remarked “The little feller must be sleeping mighty sound.”
“And I expect he’ll be awfully hungry, running off to bed that way without his supper,” his wife supplemented. “I—I
kinder wish, Silas-” but her husband
was heavily ascending the narrow stairs.
“Mary!” he called, an instant later, and some quality in his voice sent her hurrying after him.
“Mary!” he said again; and she detected sorrow and reproach in his tone. The bare little attic room was empty—and very orderly. The shell box, the red pincushion and the cheap brush and comb were arranged with tasteful precision on the little bureau; and the bed had not been slept in. In a chair at its head lay a neatly folded pink gingham shirt and a couple of handkerchiefs. On top of these was a note, which read :
“Dear frends, I had to wear the pants, but as soon as I get a job I will pay you back. I wed the onions before you was
up so I could make the clay pups. I dident take the vittels. Your truly. Lemuel Jones.”
“He must a took ’em,” Mrs. Hobson said after a long silence, trying to speak calmly. “And my penknife that I left on that same 9helf, and the quarter Emmaline paid for the eggs.”
“Mebbe, mebbe,” Silas returned gloomily. HÍ9 face was grave and she noticed with alarm that he avoided her eyes.
“And I guess it’s just as well he’s gone,” she continued hurriedly. “We couldn’t ever have made anything out of him if he wasn’t honest, Silas.”
“No,” the man sighed, -beginning to descend the stairs.
“And he was forever fooling away his time on them silly little clay figgers, instead of doing the work we set him.” “I’d thought mebbe it was a gift, Mary,” Mr. Hobson returned slowly. “That head he made of Bud Perkins looked just exactly like him. That is,” he corrected, “barring an expression he give him about the mouth.”
“Well, I should say!” retorted his wife. “You never saw a sly, shifty look like that on Bud’s face!”
“And I’d thought, mebbe,” Mr. Hobson continued, “that we might see our way to usin’ the money we’d put by for Danny’s education-”
“No! No!” she broke in decisively. “I couldn’t endure having that money spent on such foolishness! But we might as
well eat our breakfast, Silas; it’s getting
“Lord, we thank Thee for this food,” Mr. Hobson said with unusual solemnity. “Bless it to our use” should have followed ; it had for twenty years; but he supplemented instead: “Bless the sorrowful and homeless, Lord, and watch over them wherever they may be. Amen.” Then he arose and, taking the knife, the fork and the plate from the opposite side of the table carried them into the pantry.
“There!” he said as he sat down again, and there was a note of finality in his voice. “That chapter’s closed.”
“Oh, Silas!’ his wife objected pitifully. “You—you said that when we came back from Danny’s funeral. You speak as though this was just as bad.”
“We left Danny in good hands, Mary,” he reminded her simply.
X/fRS. HOBSON laid down her magazine with a little sigh of despair. For an hour she had tried to read a contribution on rug-making, a subject in which she was particularly interested, but the chance sight of an article, entitled “Clay Modeling,” had set her thoughts far afield. Could it be possible that Lemuel was not so much to blame, after all; that he could no more help being interested in a lump of clay than she could in rugs and crocheting?
She sighed again as she recalled his dreamy eyes and thoughtful face and his quiet ways about the house; all so unlike her rosy-cheeked, romping Danny. She was afraid—she was more than that, she was certain that she had been unjust in what she had said about his work. He did do it in a fashion, and at most unheard of times, just as he had weeded the onions. But had he weeded the onions?
Impelled by a sudden curiosity, she slipped out to the garden, keeping out of sight of Silas, who was pretending to read the Sunday paper on the front porch. They were “wed,” she found, with the weeds spread neatly along the paths. She found something else—a small clay bust set out on a board to dry. She had seen a hundred such littering up her clean window sills; but this was different, she thought sadly; this was the last.
She picked it up carefully, and gave a cry of astonishment when, on turning it around, the minister’s face confronted her. It was crude and rough, even she saw that; but she saw, too, that in some inexplicable way the soul of the man had been revealed in the lump of dirt; the tender benignity of the face, the sweetness of the drooping old mouth; it was there, all caught and held within insensate clay. And she had driven away the boy who could do this thing! She should have been more patient with his faults, even with that abhorred one, dishonesty. Still, how could one be patient with nothing safe in the pantry, and him only stubbornly shaking his head when taxed with taking things? She was ashamed now of getting so mad at him, though didn’t the Bible itself say there was such a thing as righteous anger? Oh, surely she’d had enough to exasperate a saint, which she wasn’t in the least, she reminded herself miserably; she was just a weak, sinful
woman, grown exacting and finicky during long, lonely years since she had lost her boy—their Danny.
CHE walked thoughtfully to the house; ^ and, following some sudden impulse, mounted the front stairs and set the little bust on a shelf in Danny’s room; then dropped wearily into the little Morris chair, their last gift to their boy.
It hád been a dreadful week. She had not dreamed that Silas would take it so to heart, or she would have been more patient with Lemuel, and would have kept him at any cost. She had passed the interval quite easily; indeed, had scarcely missed him at all. The house had been very quiet and orderly; but the sight of her husband, his head bent and his hands locked behind him, wandering disconsolately about the place, just as he had that other time, had made her miserable. He had loved Lemuel; she never had. She wondered why.
She had hoped much from their venture, and had been ready to take the little stranger to her heart, as Silas had done; but, somehow, the sight of him sitting in Danny’s place at table, or following Silas about the farm, was more than she could bear; and she had suddenly decided that she would keep this one spot in the house, this pretty room, hallowed to the memory of her loved and lost. She had ‘ealously guarded it—jealously? Jealous! That was it!
'T' HE word stung her into sudden understanding. She drew herself slowly erect in the little chair, a growing enlightment in her face. Jealous! Yes— that was it; that was what the matter was with her; she was jealous of Lemuel! Not for herself, of course, but for Danny, for love of him, for sacredness of memory: Possibly if Silas had not loved the strange boy so readily; if he had not given him Danny’s books and tools so quickly, and if his delight in Lemuel had not been so obvious, she would not have acted so shamefully, so unwomanly.
She recalled the shy wistfulness she had sometimes surprised on the boy’s face; his pitiful little attempts to please her; all of which her jaundiced eye had ignored. Oh, she was a wicked, heartless woman ! How could she ever hope for forgiveness for what she had done? Burying her face in her hands, she sobbed aloud.
She, too, had been lonesome, cruelly lonesome, this past week. In the new light of her wisdom that showed clearly. She knew it now; and her orderly house —how she would welcome a regiment of clay figures sitting about and the tracks of slender barefeet on her spotless floors. Of course, the boy was a natural born thief, nothing could alter that; but, maybe, with patience, with care-
“Mary!” Mr. Hobson called tremulously from the foot of the stairs; “Mary! Come here!”
"\XfÓNDERING greatly, she did not ’ ' even stop to dry her eyes, but hurried down to him, where he sat on the bottom step with Lemuel’s bird book open on his knees.
“Read that!” There were tears in his eyes and voice, and he was trembling. She dropped down beside him and read :
“New Year’s resolutions of Lemuel
1. I swear off lying. Never do, anyway, only in self-defense; then I cross my fingers in my pants pockets.
2. I--laying after I am
called. Don’t dast swear that till I try it a spell. Will fill in later if I can.
3. I swear off tobacco. Ain’t addicted.
4. I swear off stealing. Never did, anyway, and never will.”
The two read no further. Mr. Hobson rose and straightened to his full height, as though a great load had been taken from body as well as from mind. “Thank God!” he said reverently.
“But, Silas, it’s only writin’,” his wife objected faintly. It was her last stand with herself, as well as with him.
“Do you think he would lie to himself?” he asked her sternly; and started for the door.
“What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to find him!” he called over his shoulder as he hurried to the barn.
“ T GUESS Lemuel’s gone clean out of
the country, Mary,” Mr. Hobson remarked gloomily as they sat on the porch one evening.
“I’m afraid he has. Anyhow, you’ve got to rest,,up a bit, Silas, or you’re going to be sick,” his wife warned.
“I’m plumb beat out,” he admitted. “I —what was that?”
“Just that pesky cat in the pantry again,” she replied, rising hastily and entering^ the house.
“I’ll get the broom and lam her when she.jFuns out,” he volunteered, following %•-
*Bj#t they found no marauding feline in thfejpantry, though the cake and preserves left there only a short while before were gone. Instead, they found a hand, a lean, clawing hand of bronzed and grimy hue— Bud’s hand, caught neatly, securely beneath the window sash—and when they had tiptoed where they could glimpse the countenance of the writhing boy Mrs. Hobson caught her husband by the arm.
“See!” she whispered excitedly. “The look Lemuel gave him!”
Mr. Hobson nodded triumphantly.
“ "VjOW, what in tarnation are we go-L ’ ing to do, Mary?” Mr. Hobson demanded weakly the next morning, after a futile effort to rise.
“I know what I’m going to do,” she retorted with an assumed cheerfulness.
“After you’ve had some breakfast, I’m going to make you a bowl of boneset tea that’ll hold up an egg; that’ll fetch you ’round in short order.”
But neither the boneset tea, nor other trusted remedies on which she had long relied, “fetched” Silas “’round” in short order. For days he stayed in bed, seemingly too weak and despondent to rise; though, having little fever and no pain. Mrs. Hobson hovered remorsefully about
him; though, at first, with the added burden of the chores, she scarcely found a moment to spare. But the third morning, when she started out in the chilly dawn for wood, she stumbled over a pile of kindling heaped against the door, and when, wonderingly, she went to the barn, she found everything fed and watered.
Lemuel had done it, of course. She was wild to tell Silas that he had come back, but, after careful consideration, decided to wait. Knowing that the boy was near would help the sick man, but the sight of his face would be much better.
Again, the next morning, everything had been done, although it seemed to the baffled woman that she had listened for the faintest sound since midnight. He had even entered the house, for, lying on the table was a silver dollar, a tiny clay bust and a note:
“Dear frends. I am sorry he is sick. I will do the chores till he is well, and then I am going West. This money is for the pants. The head is for your birthday. I know you don’t like them, but I thought as how you might like this one. Yours truly, Lemuel Jones.”
She cried hysterically over the cunningly molded little head, kissing the plump cheeks, the dimpled chin, even the ruffled collar ; all of which had been faithfully copied from the enlarged portrait of Danny in the parlor.
BEFORE dawn of the next morning she slipped out to watch for Lemuel.
She was none too soon for, scarcely had she hidden in the spring house, when She saw him coming along the path, his slender body pulled far to one side by the weight of the heavy pail of milk.
“Here, Lemuel,” she said in a most matter-of-fact way, taking the pail from the startled boy,
“you take him this dipper of spring water — you knowhow he hates it out of the well — and then, if you’ll kindle a fire, we’ll have batter cakes and maple syrup for breakfast.”
As they entered the room where Silas, aw-akened by their approach, was sitting up in bed, his haggard face radiant, his wife said gently:
“We—he has brought you a drink from the spring, Silas.”
“Why, Lemuel Jone Hobson remarked with severity, when Silas hac the boy and had fallen we on the pillow again: “Why, Lem-
uel Jones, your shirt is wringing wet, you’ll catch your death of cold!”
“There ain’t much roof left on the old
sugar house, and the dew-”
“You been sleeping there?” Mr. Hobson interrupted.
The boy nodded. “And picking berries over to Smither’s days,” he explained.
“Well, you go right upstairs, Lemuel, and put on your pink gingham shirt!” she ordered peremptorily. “It’s laying there in your room—across the Morris chair.” The man on the bed covered his face with his gaunt hands. “And then, son, you might get me another dipper of water,” he said huskily. “Between the two of us, we’ve spilt most all this one.”
TT was some years later. About a single A statute raised on a central dais a little group is clustered. The place is the famous Academy of Art of Paris, and the group represents names that stand for highest attainment in artistic circles; those beings to whom Art is at once creed and country; men whose fame is destined to be handed down to posterity.
Breathless, spellbound with admiration, they gaze at the lines of gleaming marble silhouetted dead white against the dead black of the curtain’s velvet background. Eyes shining, they drink its beauty in greedily, drawing long sighs of ecstasy with eyelids slowly closing, then opening to fix again its rapt attention. The
statue, “Venus Aphroditè,” has achieved that goal of all sculptors—has won the Grand Prix, the unbiased judgment of the Paris Salon.
To expert eyes the figure is art supreme. Genius is traced in every faultless line and swelling curve. But even the layman, strolling casually by, pauses hesitant, to gasp and gaze and marvel, nonunderstanding, yet in some way appreciating the wonder of the thing; the face, the Hellenic forehead of the daughter of Jupiter, the gleaming, golden hair, the double arch of the eyebrows, the pearly, blue-veined temples, the delicate ears, the mouth, panting eternally for the kiss of the sea and the embrace of the rising tides. It is a sensate creation. It is “Aphroditè,” born of the sea-foam and the spirit of the waters; “Aphroditè” incarnated, endowed and glowing, throbbing with the pulse of life.
AMONG the little group stands the young sculptor whose hand has traced the masterpiece to being. With smiling eyes and lips he hears the praise bestowed, feels the conscious glow of a good work well-wrought; thrills inwardly at the certain knowledge that such honor comes only to him who takes his God-given gift and strives unceasingly with all his heart and soul. About and all around stand marble figures, singly and in groups,
Continued on page 78
For Love of Danny
Continued from page 12
work of the world’s master craftsmen. Along the walls stretch paintings, confusing in their varied numbers, yet each a thing of beauty or of power. A constantly-changing, ever-moving crowd ebbs and flows throughout the long room, pausing here and there to admire, to criticize and to pass on.
The eyes of the young sculptor linger about the archway of the distant entrance. He answers questions put him politely, but with an air of odd abstruction. He has an expectant, watchful attitude.
A figure which has been stahding close beside the statue, scrutinizing it through narrowed lids, turns suddenly and pushing through the group comes toward the young sculptor with outstretched hands. Enthusiasm gleams in his eye, his cheeks are flushed with a keen appreciation.
“It is wondaireful !” he exclaims, grasping the other’s hands. Then turning to the group: “You will see. He will surpass Petrove, Dubois, Marin, all of us !”
The young man’s eyes gleam with sudden light. Praise from Falguierre is praise indeed. Falguierre, the master hand, the caustic critic, the voicer of the judgment of all Paris.
THEN, as he turns, the younger man glimpses distant figures standing hesitant in the far-off archway. They loom incongruously there, obviously be-
wildered by their surroundings. A faded little woman in a black gown of a longforgotten day and style, clinging timidly to the arm of a stoop-shouldered, silverhaired man.
“Don’t you worry now, Mary,” be is saying, as he pets the hand that clings so timidly. “Don’t you worry. These folks is just people the same as you and me be. And I reckon Lemuel is somewhere ’round this show, and he’ll be mighty glad to see
“Pardon, monsieur!” The great craftsman stares aghast after the figure rapidly making its way through the eddying crowd. The consternation on his face is reflected on the faces of those immediately around him. Such abrupt leavetaking is nothing less than an affront. And an affront to Falguierre ! Their eyes follow the moving figure.
It reaches the side of the couple still hesitating in the archway. In an instant the little woman is enveloped in a smothering embrace, and kissed with a genuineness of feeling that brings a glow to her careworn cheek. THe hands of the men meet in that clasp with which their sex express deep emotion.
“Ah!” Falguierre expresses a world of understanding in the syllable: “Le
bon fils! C’est bien!” The others take it up and pass it from lip to lip. “Le bon fils!” Falguierre has said it. “C’est
“Yep, started right after we got your letter sayin’ you’d won the big prize, and enclosing them tickets. Mother wanted me to cable we were cornin’, but I figgered we’d surprise you.” The old man paused and looked proudly over the heads of the throng about him. “I reckon Canaada’s right proud of Lemuel Jones just now, a-takin’ the big prize clean from under the nose of all them furriners.”
The little old lady is silent, her eyes are far away. She sees before memory’s vision a slender, pale-faced lad with quiet ways and dreamy, wistful eyes. “The head is for your birthday. I know you don’t like them, but I thought you might like this one.” Yes—she liked that one, and has it yet, carefully treasured through the years. Often, so often she takes it from its resting place to gaze upon Danny —her Danny. Under Time’s relentless hand it has crumbled slightly, but the cunningly molded little head is still intact: her tears still bedew the plump cheeks, the dimpled chin, the ruffled collar.
“Well, Mary, might as well go up and see that statue.” Silas’ voice breaks on her reverie. She smiles softly at him and takes his arm. She looks up into the face of the tall figure bending oyer her other shoulder. Her smile is strangely sweet as her other hand strays on to his arm, trustingly. They move slowly forward together.
Alisa Craig, June 1st, 1910.
I am very much pleased with .the magazine, and wish you every success.
22 Bland St., Halifax, June 1st, 1916. I think MacLean’s Magazine is the best magazine in Canada.
Ella G. Shields.