Left to Themselves_ Being the Ordeal of Philip and Gerald
LEFT TO THEMSELVES
THE ORDEAL OF PHILIP AND GERALD
Author of “The Golden Moon,” “White Cockades,” “Janus,” etc.
NEW YORK: HUNT & EATON
CINCINNATI: CRANSTON & STOWE
Copyright, 1891, by
HUNT & EATON,
THIS VIGNETTE OF THE BEGINNING OF AN EARLYAND LASTING FRIENDSHIP
ΑΘ. τοιγὰρ κατὰ χθόν’ οὖσ’ ἐπικτήσει φίλους.—Æschylus.
A preface to a little book of this sort is an anomaly.Consequently it should be understood the sooner thatthese fore-words are not intended for any boys or girls thattake up Left to Themselves. It is solely for the benefit ofthe adult reader led by curiosity or carefulness to open thebook. The young reader will use his old privilege and skip it.
It was lately observed, with a good deal of truth, that childhoodand youth in their relations to literature are moderndiscoveries. To compare reading for the boys or girls of to-daywith that purveyed even twenty-five years ago, in quantityand quality, is a trite superfluity.
But it has begun to look as if catering to this discoveryof what young minds relish and of what they absorb has goneincautiously far. There exists a good measure of forgetfulnessthat children, after all is said, are little men and littlewomen, with hearts and heads, as well as merely imaginationsto be tickled. Undoubtedly these last must be stirred in thestory. But there is always a large element of the youngreading public to whom character in fiction, and a definite ideaof human nature through fiction, and the impression of downrightpersonality through fiction, are the main interests—perhapsunconsciously—and work a charm and influence good orbad in a very high degree. A child does not always live in andcare for the eternal story, story, story, incident, incident, incident,of literature written for him. There are plenty of philosophersnot yet arrived at tail-coats or long frocks. They sit inthe corners of the library or school-room. They think out andfeel the personality in narrative deeply. This element, apartfrom incident, in a story means far more to impress and holdand mold than what happens. Indeed, in the model storyfor young readers—one often says it, but often does not succeedin illustrating it—the clear embodiment of characteris of the first importance, however stirring or however artisticallytreated or beneficial the incidental side. Jack feelsmore than he says from the personal contact, feels more, maybe, than he knows; and Jill is surely apt to be as sensitiveas Jack.
Has there not little by little come to be a little too muchof kindly writing down to childhood and to youth? of writingdown to it until we are in danger of losing its level and gettingbelow it? Is not thoughtless youth more thoughtful thanour credit extends to it? Certainly a nice sense of the balancebetween sugar and pill seems needed just now—admittingthe need of any actual pill. Children, after the earliestperiod, are more serious and finer and more perceptivenatures than we may have come to allowing, or for which wemay have come to working. We forget the dignity of eventhe young heart and mind. Light-hearted youth does notnecessarily mean light-headed youth.
This story—with apology for such a preamble—is writtenin the aim at deferring to the above ideas; and, furthermore,at including in the process one or two literary principlesclosely united to them. It will be found its writer hopes toembody study, as well as story, for the thoughtful momentsin young lives, on whose intelligences daily clearly break thebeauty and earnestness of human life, of resolute character, ofunselfish friendship and affection, and of high aim. Tothem, and of course to all adult readers, who do not feelthemselves out of sympathy with the idealizings and fairinclusions of one’s early time in this world, what follows isoffered.
New York City, February, 1891.
|Mr. Sip’s Appearance andDisappearance—Philip and Gerald Break Ice in Summer||9|
|Mutual Confidences; and Philip TurnsRed in the Face||25|
|All About a Row||41|
|Under Sailing Orders||58|
|“The Unguessed Beginnings of Trouble”||67|
|A Riddle Not Easily Answered—The“Old Province”||90|
|In Night and Mist||120|
|Two out of Twelve||132|
|From an Old Scrap-book||143|
|A Nameless Haven||149|
|Invading the Unknown||163|
|At Home in My Neighbor’s House||179|
|In the Arbor||270|
|Explanations; and Mr. Jennison sends a Request||293|
|After Many Days||305|
|Present and Future||317|
LEFT TO THEMSELVES:
MR. SIP’S APPEARANCE AND DISAPPEARANCE—PHILIPAND GERALD BREAK ICE IN SUMMER.
Mr. Patrick Sip had seated himself bythe side of the brook that purled throughthe deep green ravine lying about three milesback of the Ossokosee House. Mr. Sip was nota guest at that new and flourishing summer resort.Mr. Sip, indeed, had hardly found himselfa welcome guest anywhere within five or sixyears. He possessed a big, burly figure, a veryunshaven and sunburnt face, and a suit ofclothes once black, when upon the back of anearlier wearer, but long since faded to a dirtybrown. Mr. Sip never used an umbrella nowadays,although he exercised much in the openair. Upon his unkempt hair slanted a tatteredstraw hat. Beside him lay a thickish walking-stickwithout any varnish. There was onething which Mr. Sip had not about him, as anybody would have inferred at a glance, althoughit is often difficult to detect by sight—a goodcharacter. In short, Mr. Sip looked the completeexample of just what he was—a sturdy,veteran tramp of some thirty summers and winters,who had not found through honest labora roof over his head or a morsel between hisbristly lips since his last release from some oneof the dozen work-houses that his presence hadgraced.
“Humph!” said Mr. Sip, half aloud, as hechanged his position so as to let his bare feetsink deeper in the rippling creek (Mr. Sip waslaving them), “I see plenty o’ water aroundhere, but there aint nothin’ in sight looks likebread. Plague them turnips! Raw turnipsaint no sort o’ a breakfast for a gentleman’sstomach. Is they, now?”
He splashed his feet about in the pure coldwater, by no means to cleanse them from thedust of the highway, but simply because it waseasier to drop them into the stream than to holdthem out as he sat on the abrupt bank. Hewhistled a part of a tune and seemed to forgethaving put his question to the wrens and wagtailsin the sassafras.
“If, now, I could jist stick out my hand andpull a ham sangwich off o’ that there uselesslittle tree,” pursued Mr. Sip, complainingly;“or if you could sort o’ lay here an’ meditatean’ presen’ly find a good-sized pan o’ cold victualsa-comin’ a-floatin’ up.”
Neither of these attractive phenomena seeminglikely to occur immediately, Mr. Sip sighedas if injured, shook his head, and said with decidedtemper, “Ugh, natur’! They talk so muchabout natur’ in them books an’—an’ churches,an’ p’lice courts, an’ sich. What’s there niceabout natur’, I’d like to know, when a man cankeep company with natur’ as stiddy as I do an’never git so much as his reg’lar meals out o’her one day in the week? Natur’, as fur as I’vefound out, don’t mean nothing ’cept wild blackberriesin season. I don’t want no more to dowith natur’!” Mr. Sip concluded with an angryslap at a huge horsefly that had lighted uponhis ankle, and uttered his favorite exclamation,“My name aint Sip!”—which, although hemeant the phrase merely as an expletive whenhe was particularly put out over any matter,happened to be the case.
Just at that moment Mr. Sip looked acrossto the opposite bank of the creek and discoveredthat he and the horsefly were not alone. A boywas standing rather further up the stream witha fishing-rod in his hand observing the odd figurethis wandering philosopher upon naturecut. The boy appeared to be in the neighborhoodof twelve years of age. He had a trimfigure and fair hair, and the sunlight on it andthrough a green branch of a young maple behindhim made the brightest spots of color in thesomber little chasm. On his young face weremingled expressions of amusement and disgustas to Mr. Sip. Across his arm was a basket.A napkin dangled out of this suggestively.
“Come here, sonny,” invited Mr. Sip in anamiable tone, and with a leer of sudden goodfeeling—for the luncheon basket.
“What did you say?” the boy called backrather timidly, without moving toward his newacquaintance.
“I said, ‘Come here,’” repeated Mr. Sip,sharply, drawing his feet out of the water andbeckoning. He took a hasty glance up anddown the stream. “How many nice little fisheshas you and that pa o’ yourn caught sincemorning? Ten?”
“I haven’t caught any fish so far,” replied thelad, “and my father isn’t here. He’s up in NovaScotia, thank you.”
“O,” Mr. Sip responded, “Nova Scotia? Iremember I heard o’ his goin’ there. Say,sonny,” he went on, wading out to the middleof the creek with an ugly expression deepeningover his red face as he realized that the bearerof the basket was alone, “What time is it?”
The boy retreated a few steps, pulling out aneat little silver watch, too polite to refuse theinformation. “Half past eleven,” he said, inhis pleasant accent.
“O, but is that there watch correck?” inquiredthe evil-faced gentleman, taking severalsteps in the water toward that margin fromwhich the lad had drawn back prudently.“Let me come up and see it for myself, wontyou? That looks like a new watch.”
“I say, keep off!” cried the owner of thewatch, all at once suspecting the designs of Mr.Sip and turning slightly pale. “Keep off,there, I say!” The intrepid little fellowdropped his rod and caught up a stone that laynear. “I—I don’t like your looks! I’ll throwthis at you if you come any closer.”
The boy’s face was whiter at each word, althoughhis spirit gave a ring to his threat. ButMr. Sip had invaded too many kitchens andterrified far too many helpless servant-maids toallow himself to be daunted by a boy welldressed and carrying a watch and a basket ofgood things. He uttered an angry oath andsplashed violently toward the lad, stumblingamong the sharp flints of the creek. It wasopen war begun by hot pursuit.
The path by which Gerald