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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesTimothy's Quest - Scene 2
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Timothy's Quest - Scene 2 Post by :DerekGehl Category :Long Stories Author :Kate Douglas Wiggin Date :May 2012 Read :3409

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Timothy's Quest - Scene 2

SCENE II

Number Three, Minerva Court, First floor back.

LITTLE TIMOTHY JESSUP ASSUMES PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITIES.


When the snores of the two watchers fell on the stillness of the death-chamber, with that cheerful regularity that betokens the sleep of the truly good, a little figure crept out of the bed in the adjoining room and closed the door noiselessly, but with trembling fingers; stealing then to the window to look out at the dirty street and the gray sky over which the first faint streaks of dawn were beginning to creep.

It was little Timothy Jessup (God alone knows whether he had any right to that special patronymic), but not the very same Tim Jessup who had kissed the baby Gay in her little crib, and gone to sleep on his own hard bed in that room, a few hours before. As he stood shivering at the window, one thin hand hard pressed upon his heart to still its beating, there was a light of sudden resolve in his eyes, a new-born look of anxiety on his unchildlike face.

"I will not have Gay protectioned and reliefed, and I will not be taken away from her and sent to a 'sylum, where I can never find her again!" and with these defiant words trembling, half spoken, on his lips, he glanced from the unconscious form in the crib to the terrible door, which might open at any moment and divide him from his heart's delight, his darling, his treasure, his only joy, his own, own baby Gay.

But what should he do? Run away: that was the only solution of the matter, and no very difficult one either. The cruel women were asleep; the awful Thing that had been Flossy would never speak again; and no one else in Minerva Court cared enough for them to pursue them very far or very long.

"And so," thought Timothy swiftly, "I will get things ready, take Gay, and steal softly out of the back door, and run away to the 'truly' country, where none of these bad people ever can find us, and where I can get a mother for Gay; somebody to 'dopt her and love her till I grow up a man and take her to live with me."

The moment this thought darted into Timothy's mind, it began to shape itself in definite action.

Gabrielle, or Lady Gay, as Flossy called her, in honor of her favorite stage heroine, had been tumbled into her crib half dressed the night before. The only vehicle kept for her use in the family stables was a clothes-basket, mounted on four wooden wheels and cushioned with a dingy shawl. A yard of clothes-line was tied on to one end, and in this humble conveyance the Princess would have to be transported from the Ogre's castle; for she was scarcely old enough to accompany the Prince on foot, even if he had dared to risk detection by waking her: so the clothes-basket must be her chariot, and Timothy her charioteer, as on many a less fateful expedition.

After he had changed his ragged night-gown for a shabby suit of clothes, he took Gay's one clean apron out of a rickety bureau drawer ("for I can never find a mother for her if she's too dirty," he thought), her Sunday hat from the same receptacle, and last of all a comb, and a faded Japanese parasol that stood in a corner. These he deposited under the old shawl that decorated the floor of the chariot. He next groped his way in the dim light toward a mantelshelf, and took down a savings-bank,--a florid little structure with "Bank of England" stamped over the miniature door, into which the jovial gentleman who frequented the house often slipped pieces of silver for the children, and into which Flossy dipped only when she was in a state of temporary financial embarrassment. Timothy did not dare to jingle it; he could only hope that as Flossy had not been in her usual health of late (though in more than her usual "spirits"), she had not felt obliged to break the bank.

Now for provisions. There were plenty of "funeral baked meats" in the kitchen; and he hastily gathered a dozen cookies into a towel, and stowed them in the coach with the other sinews of war.

So far, well and good; but the worst was to come. With his heart beating in his bosom like a trip-hammer, and his eyes dilated with fear, he stepped to the door between the two rooms, and opened it softly. Two thundering snores, pitched in such different keys that they must have proceeded from two separate sets of nasal organs, reassured the boy. He looked out into the alley. "Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse." The Minerva Courtiers couldn't be owls and hawks too, and there was not even the ghost of a sound to be heard. Satisfied that all was well, Timothy went back to the bedroom, and lifted the battered clothes-basket, trucks and all, in his slender arms, carried it up the alley and down the street a little distance, and deposited it on the pavement beside a vacant lot. This done, he sped back to the house. "How beautifully they snore!" he thought, as he stood again on the threshold. "Shall I leave 'em a letter?... P'raps I better ... and then they won't follow us and bring us back." So he scribbled a line on a bit of torn paper bag, and pinned it on the enemies' door.


"A kind Lady is goin to Adopt us it is
a Grate ways off so do not Hunt good by. TIM."


Now all was ready. No; one thing more. Timothy had been met in the street by a pretty young girl a few weeks before. The love of God was smiling in her heart, the love of children shining in her eyes; and she led him, a willing captive, into a mission Sunday-school near by. And so much in earnest was the sweet little teacher, and so hungry for any sort of good tidings was the starved little pupil, that Timothy "got religion" then and there, as simply and naturally as a child takes its mother's milk. He was probably in a state of crass ignorance regarding the Thirty-nine Articles; but it was the "engrafted word," of which the Bible speaks, that had blossomed in Timothy's heart; the living seed had always been there, waiting for some beneficent fostering influence; for he was what dear Charles Lamb would have called a natural "kingdom-of-heavenite." Thinking, therefore, of Miss Dora's injunction to pray over all the extra-ordinary affairs of life and as many of the ordinary ones as possible, he hung his tattered straw hat on the bedpost, and knelt beside Gay's crib with this whispered prayer:--

"_Our Father who art in heaven, please help me to find a mother for Gay, one that she can call Mamma, and another one for me, if there's enough, but not unless. Please excuse me for taking away the clothes-basket, which does not exactly belong to us; but if I do not take it, dear heavenly Father, how will I get Gay to the railroad? And if I don't take the Japanese umbrella she will get freckled, and nobody will adopt her. No more at present, as I am in a great hurry. Amen._"

He put on his hat, stooped over the sleeping baby, and took her in his faithful arms,--arms that had never failed her yet. She half opened her eyes, and seeing that she was safe on her beloved Timothy's shoulder, clasped her dimpled arms tight about his neck, and with a long sigh drifted off again into the land of dreams. Bending beneath her weight, he stepped for the last time across the threshold, not even daring to close the door behind him.

Up the alley and round the corner he sped, as fast as his trembling legs could carry him. Just as he was within sight of the goal of his ambition, that is, the chariot aforesaid, he fancied he heard the sound of hurrying feet behind him. To his fevered imagination the tread was like that of an avenging army on the track of the foe. He did not dare to look behind. On! for the clothes-basket and liberty! He would relinquish the Japanese umbrella, the cookies, the comb, and the apron,--all the booty, in fact,--as an inducement for the enemy to retreat, but he would never give up the prisoner.

On the feet hurried, faster and faster. He stooped to put Gay in the basket, and turned in despair to meet his pursuers, when a little, grimy, rough-coated, lop-eared, split-tailed thing, like an animated rag-bag, leaped upon his knees; whimpering with joy, and imploring, with every grace that his simple doggish heart could suggest, to be one of the eloping party.

Rags had followed them!

Timothy was so glad to find it no worse that he wasted a moment in embracing the dog, whose delirious joy at the prospect of this probably dinnerless and supperless expedition was ludicrously exaggerated. Then he took up the rope and trundled the chariot gently down a side street leading to the station.

Everything worked to a charm. They met only an occasional milk (and water) man, starting on his matutinal rounds, for it was now after four o'clock, and one or two cavaliers of uncertain gait, just returning to their homes, several hours too late for their own good; but these gentlemen were in no condition of mind to be over-interested, and the little fugitives were troubled with no questions as to their intentions.

And so they went out into the world together, these three: Timothy Jessup (if it was Jessup), brave little knight, nameless nobleman, tracing his descent back to God, the Father of us all, and bearing the Divine likeness more than most of us; the little Lady Gay,--somebody--nobody--anybody,--from nobody knows where,--destination equally uncertain; and Rags, of pedigree most doubtful, scutcheon quite obscured by blots, but a perfect gentleman, true-hearted and loyal to the core,--in fact, an angel in fur. These three, with the clothes-basket as personal property and the Bank of England as security, went out to seek their fortune; and, unlike Lot's wife, without daring to look behind, shook the dust of Minerva Court from off their feet forever and forever.

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