Soon I lost the blue-eyed baby, and there came in his place a sturdy little freckle-faced chap, with a distinct dislike for water as a cleansing agent, who stoutly declared that washing his hands was a great waste of time, for they were sure to get dirty again; which seems to be reasonable, and it is a wonder that people have not taken this fact into account more when dealing with the griminess of youth. Who objected to going to church twice a day on the ground that he “might get too fond of it.” Who, having once received five cents as recompense for finding his wayward sister, who had a certain proclivity for getting lost, afterwards deliberately mislaid the same sister and claimed the usual rates for finding her, and in this manner did a thriving “Lost and Found” business for days, until his unsuspecting parent overheard him giving his sister full directions for losing herself—he had grown tired of having to go with her each time, and claimed that as she always got half of the treat she should do her share of the work. Who once thrashed a boy who said that his sister had a dirty face,—which was quite true, but people do not need to say everything they know, do they? Who went swimming in the gravel pit long before the 24th of May, which marks the beginning of swimming and barefoot time in all proper families, and would have got away with it, too, only, in his haste to get a ride home, he and his friend changed shirts by mistake, and it all came to light at bedtime.
Then I lost him, too. There came in his place a tall youth with a distinct fondness for fine clothes, stiff collars, tan boots, and bright ties; a dignified young man who was pained and shocked at the disreputable appearance of a younger brother who was at that time passing through the wash-never period of his life and who insisted upon claiming relationship even in public places. Who hung his room with flags and pennants and photographs. Who had for his friends many young fellows with high pompadours, whom he called by their surnames and disputed with noisily and abusively, but, unlike the famous quarrel of Fox and Burke, “with no loss of friendship.” Who went in his holidays as “mule-skinner” on a construction gang in the North Country, and helped to build the railway into “The Crossing,” and came home all brown and tanned, with muscles as hard as iron and a luscious growth of whiskers. Who then went back to college and really began to work, for he had learned a few things about the value of an education as he drove the mules over the dump, which can be learned only when the muscles ache and the hands have blisters.
Then came the call! And again I lost him! But there is a private in the “Princess Pats” who carries my picture in his cap and who reads my letter over again just before “going in.”
SAVING OUR SOULS
O work—thrice blessed of the
Abundant may you be!
To hold us steady, when our hearts
Grow cold and panicky!