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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThat Fortune - Chapter 3
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That Fortune - Chapter 3 Post by :Finner Category :Long Stories Author :Charles Dudley Warner Date :May 2012 Read :1948

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That Fortune - Chapter 3


"I'm not going to follow you about any more through the brush and brambles, Phil Burnett," and Celia, emerging from the thicket into a clearing, flung herself down on a knoll under a beech-tree.

Celia was cross. They were out for a Saturday holiday on the hillside, where Phil said there were oceans of raspberries and blueberries, beginning to get ripe, and where you could hear the partridges drumming in the woods, and see the squirrels.

"Why, I'm not a bit tired," said Phil; "a boy wouldn't be." And he threw himself down on the green moss, with his heels in the air, much more intent on the chatter of a gray squirrel in the tree above him than on the complaints of his comrade.

"Why don't you go with a boy, then?" asked Celia, in a tone intended to be severe and dignified.

"A boy isn't so nice," said Philip, with the air of stating a general proposition, but not looking at her.

"Oh," said Celia, only half appeased, "I quite agree with you." And she pulled down some beech leaves from a low, hanging limb and began to plait a wreath.

"Who are you making that for?" asked Philip, who began to be aware that a cloud had come over his holiday sky.

"Nobody in particular; it's just a wreath." And then there was silence, till Philip made another attempt.

"Celia, I don't mind staying here if you are tired. Tell me something about New York City. I wish we were there."

"Much you know about it," said Celia, but with some relaxation of her severity, for as she looked at the boy in his country clothes and glanced at her own old frock and abraded shoes, she thought what a funny appearance the pair would make on a fashionable city street.

"Would you rather be there?" asked Philip. "I thought you liked living here."

"Would I rather? What a question! Everybody would. The country is a good place to go to when you are tired, as mamma is. But the city! The big fine houses, and the people all going about in a hurry; the streets all lighted up at night, so that you can see miles and miles of lights; and the horses and carriages, and the lovely dresses, and the churches full of nice people, and such beautiful music! And once mamma took me to the theatre. Oh, Phil, you ought to see a play, and the actors, all be-a-u-ti-fully dressed, and talking just like a party in a house, and dancing, and being funny, and some of it so sad as to make you cry, and some of it so droll that you had to laugh--just such a world as you read of in books and in poetry. I was so excited that I saw the stage all night and could hardly sleep." The girl paused and looked away to the river as if she saw it all again, and then added in a burst of confidence:

"Do you know, I mean to be an actress some day, when mamma will let me."

"Play-actors are wicked," said Phil, in a tone of decision; "our minister says so, and my uncle says so."

"Fudge!" returned Celia. "Much they know about it. Did Alice say so?"

"I never asked her, but she said once that she supposed it was wrong, but she would like to see a play."

"There, everybody would. Mamma says the people from the country go to the theatre always, a good deal more than the people in the city go. I should like to see your aunt Patience in a theatre and hear what she said about it. She's an actress if ever there was one."

Philip opened his eyes in protest.

"Mamma says it is as good as a play to hear her go on about people, and what they are like, and what they are going to do, and then her little rooms are just like a scene on a stage. If they were in New York everybody would go to see them and to hear her talk."

This was such a new view of his home life to Philip that he could neither combat it nor assent to it, further than to say, that his aunt was just like everybody else, though she did have some peculiar ways.

"Well, she acts," Celia insisted, "and most people act. Our minister acts all the time, mamma says." Celia had plenty of opinions of her own, but when she ventured a startling statement she had the habit of going under the shelter of "little mother," whose casual and unconsidered remarks the girl turned to her own uses. Perhaps she would not have understood that her mother merely meant that the minister's sacerdotal character was not exactly his own character. Just as Philip noticed without being able to explain it that his uncle was one sort of a man in his religious exercises and observances and another sort of man in his dealings with him. Children often have recondite thoughts that do not get expression until their minds are more mature; they even accept contradictory facts in their experience. There was one of the deacons who was as kind as possible, and Philip believed was a good and pious man, who had the reputation of being sharp and even tricky in a horse-trade. And Philip used to think how lucky it was for him that he had been converted and was saved!

"Are you going to stay here always?" asked Philip, pursuing his own train of thought about the city.

"Here? I should think not. If I were a boy I wouldn't stay here, I can tell you. What are you going to do, Phil, what are you going to be?"

"Oh, I don't know," said Philip, turning over on his back and looking up into the blue world through the leaves; "go to college, I suppose." Children are even more reticent than adults about revealing their inner lives, and Philip would not, even to Celia, have confessed the splendid dreams about his career that came to him that day in the hickory-tree, and that occupied him a great deal.

"Of course," said this wise child, "but that's nothing. I mean, what are you going to do? My cousin Jim has been all through college, and he doesn't do a thing except wear nice clothes and hang around and talk. He says I'm a little chatter-box. I hate the sight of him."

"If he doesn't like you, then I don't like him," said Philip, as if he were making a general and not a personal assertion. "Oh, I should like to travel."

"So should I, and see things and find things. Jim says he's going to be an explorer. He never will. He wouldn't find anything. He twits me, and wants to know what is the good of my reading about Africa and such things. Phil, don't you love to read about Africa, and the desert, and the lions and the snakes, and bananas growing, and palm-trees, and the queerest black men and women, real dwarfs some of them? I just love it."

"So do I," said Philip, "as far as I have read. Alice says it's awful dangerous--fevers and wild beasts and savages and all that. But I shouldn't mind."

"Of course you wouldn't. But it costs like everything to go to Africa, or anywhere."

"I'd make a book about it, and give lectures, and make lots of money."

"I guess," said Celia, reflecting upon this proposition, "I'd be an engineer or a railroad man, or something like that, and make a heap of money, and then I could go anywhere I liked. I just hate to be poor. There!"

"Is Jim poor?"

"No; he can do what he pleases. I asked him, then, why he didn't go to Africa, and he wanted to know what was the good of finding Livingstone, anyway. I'll bet Murad Ault would go to Africa."

"I wish he would," said Philip; and then, having moved so that he could see Celia's face, "Do you like Murad Ault?"

"No," replied Celia, promptly; "he's horrid, but he isn't afraid of anything."

"Well, I don't care," said Philip, who was nettled by this implication. And Celia, who had shown her power of irritating, took another tack.

"You don't think I'd be seen going around with him? Aren't we having a good time up here?"

"Bully!" replied Philip. And not seeing the way to expand this topic any further, he suddenly said:

"Celia, the next time I go on our hill I'll get you lots of sassafras."

"Oh, I love sassafras, and sweet-flag!"

"We can get that on the way home. I know a place." And then there was a pause. "Celia, you didn't tell me what you are going to do when you grow up."

"Go to college."

"You? Why, girls do, don't they? I never thought of that."

"Of course they do. I don't know whether I'll write or be a doctor. I know one thing--I won't teach school. It's the hatefulest thing there is! It's nice to be a doctor and have your own horse, and go round like a man. If it wasn't for seeing so many sick people! I guess I'll write stories and things."

"So would I," Philip confessed, "if I knew any."

"Why, you make 'em up. Mamma says they are all made up. I can make 'em in my head any time when I'm alone."

"I don't know," Philip said, reflectively, "but I could make up a story about Murad Ault, and how he got to be a pirate and got in jail and was hanged."

"Oh, that wouldn't be a real story. You have got to have different people in it, and have 'em talk, just as they do in books; and somebody is in love and somebody dies, and the like of that."

"Well, there are such stories in The Pirate's Own Book, and it's awful interesting."

"I'd be ashamed, Philip Burnett, to read such a cruel thing, all about robbers and murders."

"I didn't read it through; Alice said she was going to burn it up. I shouldn't wonder if she did."

"Boys make me tired!" exclaimed this little piece of presumption; and this attitude of superiority exasperated Philip more than anything else his mentor had said or done, and he asserted his years of seniority by jumping up and saying, decidedly, "It's time to go home. Shall I carry your wreath?"

"No, I thank you!" replied Celia, with frigid politeness.

"Down in the meadow," said Philip, making one more effort at conciliation, "we can get some tigerlilies, and weave them in and make a beautiful wreath for your mother."

"She doesn't like things fussed up," was the gracious reply. And then the children trudged along homeward, each with a distinct sense of injury.

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