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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesGentle Julia - Chapter 14
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Gentle Julia - Chapter 14 Post by :SamplesResidual Category :Long Stories Author :Booth Tarkington Date :May 2012 Read :1102

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Gentle Julia - Chapter 14

CHAPTER FOURTEEN


She ran into the house, and found Julia seated at a slim-legged desk, writing a note.

"Aunt Julia, it's about Gammire."

"Gamin."

"What?"

"His name is Gamin."

"Kitty Silver says his name's Gammire."

"Yes," said Julia. "She would. His name is Gamin, though. He's a little Parisian rascal, and his name is Gamin."

"Well, Aunt Julia, I'd rather call him Gammire. How much did he cost?"

"I don't know; he was brought to me only this morning, and I haven't asked yet."

"But I thought somebody gave him to you."

"Yes; somebody did."

"Well, I mean," said Florence, "how much did the person that gave him to you pay for him?"

Julia sighed. "I just explained, I haven't had a chance to ask."

Florence looked hurt. "I don't mean you _would ask 'em right out. I just meant: Wouldn't you be liable to kind of hint around an' give 'em a chance to tell you how much it was? You know perfeckly well it's the way most the fam'ly do when they give each other somep'n pretty expensive, Christmas or birthdays, and I thought proba'ly you'd----"

"No. I shouldn't be surprised, Florence, if nobody _ever got to know how much Gamin cost."

"Well----" Florence said, and decided to approach her purpose on a new tack. "Who was it trained him?"

"I understand that the person who gave him to me has played with him at times during the few days he's been keeping him, but hasn't 'trained' him particularly. French Poodles almost learn their own tricks if you give them a chance. It's natural to them; they love to be little clowns if you let them."

"But who was this person that gave him to you?"

Julia laughed. "It's a secret, Florence--like Gamin's price."

At this Florence looked piqued. "Well, I guess I got _some manners!" she exclaimed. "I know as well as you do, Aunt Julia, there's no etiquette in coming right square out and asking how much it was when somebody goes and makes you a present. I'm certainly enough of a lady to keep my mouth shut when it's more polite to! But I don't see what harm there is in telling who it is that gives anybody a present."

"No harm at all," Julia murmured as she sealed the note she had written. Then she turned smilingly to face her niece. "Only I'm not going to."

"Well, then, Aunt Julia"--and now Florence came to her point--"what I wanted to know is just simply the plain and simple question: Will you give this dog Gammire to me?"

Julia leaned forward, laughing, and suddenly clapped her hands together, close to Florence's face. "No, I won't!" she cried. "There!"

The niece frowned, lines of anxiety appearing upon her forehead. "Well, why won't you?"

"I won't do it!"

"But, Aunt Julia, I think you ought to!"

"Why ought I to?"

"Because----" said Florence. "Well, it's necessary."

"Why?"

"Because you know as well as I do what's bound to happen to him!"

"What is?"

"Grandpa'll chase him off," said Florence. "He'll take after him the minute he lays eyes on him, and scare him to death--and then he'll get lost, and he won't be _anybody's dog! I should think you'd just as lief he'd be my dog as have him chased all over town till a street car hits him or somep'n."

But Julia shook her head. "That hasn't happened yet."

"It _did happen with every other one you ever had," Florence urged plaintively. "He chased 'em every last one off the place, and they never came back. You know perfectly well, Aunt Julia, grandpa's just bound to hate this dog, and you know just exactly how he'll act about him."

"No, I don't," said Julia. "Not just _exactly_."

"Well, anyway, you know he'll behave awful."

"It's probable," the aunt admitted.

"He always does," Florence continued. "He behaves awful about everything I ever heard about. He----"

"I'll go pretty far with you, Florence," Julia interposed, "but we'd better leave him a loophole. You know he's a constant attendant at church and contributes liberally to many good causes."

"Oh, you know what I mean! I mean he always acts horrable about anything pleasant. Of course I know he's a _good man, and everything; I just mean the way he behaves is perfeckly disgusting. So what's the use your not givin' me this dog? You won't have him yourself as soon as grandpa comes home to lunch in an hour or so."

"Oh, yes, I will!"

"Grandpa hasn't already seen him, has he?"

"No."

"Then what makes you say----"

"He isn't coming home to lunch. He won't be home till five o'clock this afternoon."

"Well, then, about six you won't have any dog, and poor little Gammire'll get run over by an automobile some time this very evening!" Florence's voice became anguished in the stress of her appeal. "Aunt Julia, _won't you give me this dog?"

Julia shook her head.

"Won't you, _please_?"

"No, dear."

"Aunt Julia, if it was Noble Dill gave you this dog----"

"Florence!" her aunt exclaimed. "What in the world makes you imagine such absurd things? Poor Mr. Dill!"

"Well, if it was, I think you ought to give Gammire to me because I _like Noble Dill, and I----"

But here her aunt laughed again and looked at her with some curiosity. "You still do?" she asked. "What for?"

"Well," said Florence, swallowing, "he may be rather smallish for a man, but he's very uncouth and distingrished-looking, and I think he doesn't get to enjoy himself much. Grandpa talks about him so torrably and--and----" Here, such was the unexpected depth of her feeling that she choked, whereupon her aunt, overcome with laughter, but nevertheless somewhat touched, sprang up and threw two pretty arms about her charmingly.

"You _funny Florence!" she cried.

"Then will you give me Gammire?" Florence asked instantly.

"No. We'll bring him in the house now, and you can stay for lunch."

Florence was imperfectly consoled, but she had a thought that brightened her a little.

"Well, there'll be an awful time when grandpa comes home this afternoon--but it certainly will be inter'sting!"

She proved a true prophet, at least to the extent that when Mr. Atwater opened his front gate that afternoon he was already in the presence of a deeply interested audience whose observation was unknown to him. Through the interstices of the lace curtains at an open window, the gaze of Julia and Florence was concentrated upon him in a manner that might have disquieted even so opinionated and peculiar a man as Mr. Atwater, had he been aware of it; and Herbert likewise watched him fixedly from an unseen outpost. Herbert had shown some recklessness, declaring loudly that he intended to lounge in full view; but when the well-known form of the ancestor was actually identified, coming up the street out of the distance, the descendant changed his mind. The good green earth ceased to seem secure; and Herbert climbed a tree. He surrounded himself with the deepest foliage; and beneath him some outlying foothills of Kitty Silver were visible, where she endeavoured to lurk in the concealment of a lilac bush.

Gammire was the only person in view. He sat just in the middle of the top step of the veranda, and his air was that of an endowed and settled institution. What passing traffic there was interested him but vaguely, not affecting the world to which he belonged--that world being this house and yard, of which he felt himself now, beyond all question, the official dog.

It had been a rather hard-working afternoon, for he had done everything suggested to him as well as a great many other things that he thought of himself. He had also made it clear that he had taken a fancy to everybody, but recognized Julia to be the head of the house and of his own universe; and though he was at the disposal of all her family and friends, he was at her disposal first. Whithersoever she went, there would he go also, unless she otherwise commanded. Just now she had withdrawn, closing the door, but he understood that she intended no permanent exclusion. Who was this newcomer at the gate?

The newcomer came to a halt, staring intolerantly. Then he advanced, slamming the gate behind him. "Get out o' here!" he said. "You get off the place!"

Gammire regarded him seriously, not moving, while Mr. Atwater cast an eye about the lawn, seeming to search for something, and his gaze, thus roving, was arrested by a slight movement of great areas behind a lilac bush. It appeared that the dome of some public building had covered itself with antique textiles and was endeavouring to hide there--a failure.

"Kitty Silver!" he said. "What are you doing?"

"Suh?"

Debouching sidewise she came into fuller view, but retired a few steps. "Whut I doin' whur, Mista Atwater?"

"How'd that dog get on my front steps?"

Her face became noncommittal entirely. "Thishere dog? He just settin' there, suh."

"How'd he get in the yard?"

"Mus' somebody up an' brung him in."

"Who did it?"

"You mean: Who up an' brung him in, suh?"

"I mean: Who does he belong to?"

"Mus' be Miss Julia's. I reckon he is, so fur."

"What! She knows I don't allow dogs on the place."

"Yessuh."

Mr. Atwater's expression became more outraged and determined. "You mean to say that somebody's trying to give her another dog after all I've been through with----"

"It look that way, suh."

"Who did it?"

"Miss Julia ain't sayin'; an' me, I don' know who done it no mo'n the lilies of the valley whut toil not neither do they spins."

In response, Mr. Atwater was guilty of exclamations lacking in courtesy; and turning again toward Gammire, he waved his arm. "Didn't you hear me tell you to get out of here?"

Gammire observed the gesture, and at once "sat up," placing his forepaws over his nose in prayer, but Mr. Atwater was the more incensed.

"Get out of here, you woolly black scoundrel!"

Mrs. Silver uttered a cry of injury before she perceived that she had mistaken her employer's intention. Gammire also appeared to mistake it, for he came down upon the lawn, rose to his full height, on his "hind legs," and in that humanlike posture "walked" in a wide circle. He did this with an affectation of conscientiousness thoroughly hypocritical; for he really meant to be humorous.

"My heavens!" Mr. Atwater cried, lamenting. "Somebody's given her one of those things at last! I don't like _any kind of dog, but if there's one dam thing on earth I _won't stand, it's a trick poodle!"

And while the tactless Gammire went on, "walking" a circle round him, Mr. Atwater's eye furiously searched the borders of the path, the lawn, and otherwheres, for anything that might serve as missile. He had never kicked a dog, or struck one with his hand, in his life; he had a theory that it was always better to throw something. "Idiot poodle!" he said.

But Gammire's tricks were not idiocy in the eyes of Mr. Atwater's daughter, as she watched them. They had brought to her mind the tricks of the Jongleur of Notre Dame, who had nothing to offer heaven itself, to mollify heaven's rulers, except his entertainment of juggling and nonsense; so that he sang his thin jocosities and played his poor tricks before the sacred figure of the Madonna; but when the pious would have struck him down for it, she miraculously came to life just long enough to smile on him and show that he was right to offer his absurd best. And thus, as Julia watched the little Jongleur upon the lawn, she saw this was what he was doing: offering all he knew, hoping that someone might laugh at him, and like him. And, not curiously, after all, if everything were known, she found herself thinking of another foolish creature, who had nothing in the world to offer anybody, except what came out of the wistfulness of a foolish, loving heart. Then, though her lips smiled faintly as she thought of Noble Dill, all at once a brightness trembled along the eyelids of the Prettiest Girl in Town, and glimmered over, a moment later, to shine upon her cheek.

"You get out!" Mr. Atwater shouted, "D'ye hear me, you poodle?"

He found the missile, a stone of fair diameter. He hurled it violently.

"_There_, darn you!"

The stone missed, and Gammire fled desperately after it.

"You get over that fence!" Mr. Atwater cried. "You wait till I find another rock and I'll----"

He began to search for another stone, but, before he could find one, Gammire returned with the first. He deposited it upon the ground at Mr. Atwater's feet.

"There's your rock," he said.

Mr. Atwater looked down at him fiercely, and through the black chrysanthemum two garnet sparks glinted waggishly.

"Didn't you hear me tell you what I'd do if you didn't get out o' here, you darn poodle?"

Gammire "sat up," placed his forepaws together over his nose and prayed. "There's your rock," he said. And he added, as clearly as if he used a spoken language, "Let's get on with the game!"

Mr. Atwater turned to Kitty Silver. "Does he--does he know how to speak, or shake hands, or anything like that?" he asked.

* * * * *

The next morning, as the peculiar old man sat at breakfast, he said to the lady across the table: "Look here. Who did give Gamin to us?"

Julia bit her lip; she even cast down her eyes.

"Well, who was it?"

Her demureness still increased. "It was--Noble Dill."

Mr. Atwater was silent; he looked down and caught a clownish garnet gleam out of a blackness neighbouring his knee. "Well, see here," he said. "Why can't you--why can't you----"

"Why can't I what?"

"Why can't you sit out in the yard the next time he calls here, instead of on the porch where it blows all through the house? It's just as pleasant to sit under the trees, isn't it?"

"Pleasanter," said Julia.

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