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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesTimothy's Quest - Scene 3
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Timothy's Quest - Scene 3 Post by :DerekGehl Category :Long Stories Author :Kate Douglas Wiggin Date :May 2012 Read :1445

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Timothy's Quest - Scene 3

SCENE III

The Railway Station.

TIMOTHY PLANS A CAMPAIGN, AND PROVIDENCE ASSISTS MATERIALLY IN CARRYING IT OUT, OR VICE VERSA.


By dint of skillful generalship, Timothy gathered his forces on a green bank just behind the railway depot, cleared away a sufficient number of tin cans and oyster-shells to make a flat space for the chariot of war, which had now become simply a cradle, and sat down, with Rags curled up at his feet, to plan the campaign.

He pushed back the ragged hat from his waving hair, and, clasping his knees with his hands, gazed thoughtfully at the towering chimneys in the foreground and the white-winged ships in the distant harbor. There was a glimpse of something like a man's purpose in the sober eyes; and as the morning sunlight fell upon his earnest face, the angel in him came to the surface, and crowded the "boy part" quite out of sight, as it has a way of doing sometimes with children.

How some father-heart would have throbbed with pride to own him, and how gladly lifted the too heavy burden from his childish shoulders!

Timothy Jessup, aged ten or eleven, or thereabouts (the records had not been kept with absolute exactness)--Timothy Jessup, somewhat ragged, all forlorn, and none too clean at the present moment, was a poet, philosopher, and lover of the beautiful. The dwellers in Minerva Court had never discovered the fact; for, although he had lived in that world, he had most emphatically never been of it. He was a boy of strange notions, and the vocabulary in which he expressed them was stranger still; further-more, he had gentle manners, which must have been indigenous, as they had certainly never been cultivated; and, although he had been in the way of handling pitch for many a day, it had been helpless to defile him, such was the essential purity of his nature.

To find a home and a mother for Lady Gay had been Timothy's secret longing ever since he had heard people say that Flossy might die. He had once enjoyed all the comforts of a Home with a capital H; but it was the cosy one with the little "h" that he so much desired for her.

Not that he had any ill treatment to remember in the excellent institution of which he was for several years an inmate. The matron was an amiable and hard-working woman, who wished to do her duty to all the children under her care; but it would be an inspired human being indeed who could give a hundred and fifty motherless or fatherless children all the education and care and training they needed, to say nothing of the love that they missed and craved. What wonder, then, that an occasional hungry little soul, starved for want of something not provided by the management; say, a morning cuddle in father's bed or a ride on father's knee,--in short, the sweet daily jumble of lap-trotting, gentle caressing, endearing words, twilight stories, motherly tucks-in-bed, good-night kisses,--all the dear, simple, every-day accompaniments of the home with the little "h."

Timothy Jessup, bred in such an atmosphere, would have gladdened every life that touched his at any point. Plenty of wistful men and women would have thanked God nightly on their knees for the gift of such a son; and here he was, sitting on a tin can, bowed down with family cares, while thousands of graceless little scalawags were slapping the faces of their French nurse-maids and bullying their parents, in that very city.--Ah me!

As for the tiny Lady Gay, she had all the winsome virtues to recommend her. No one ever feared that she would die young out of sheer goodness. You would not have loved her so much for what she was as because you couldn't help yourself. This feat once accomplished, she blossomed into a thousand graces, each one more bewitching than the last you noted.

Where, in the name of all the sacred laws of heredity, did the child get her sunshiny nature? Born in misery, and probably in sin, nurtured in wretchedness and poverty, she had brought her "radiant morning visions" with her into the world. Like Wordsworth's immortal babe, "with trailing clouds of glory" had she come, from God who was her home; and the heaven that lies about us all in our infancy,--that Garden of Eden into which we are all born, like the first man and the first woman,--that heaven lay about her still, stronger than the touch of earth.

What if the room were desolate and bare? The yellow sunbeams stole through the narrow window, and in the shaft of light they threw across the dirty floor Gay played,--oblivious of everything save the flickering golden rays that surrounded her.

The raindrops chasing each other down the dingy pane, the snowflakes melting softly on the casement, the brown leaf that the wind blew into her lap as she sat on the sidewalk, the chirp of the little beggar-sparrows over the cobblestones, all these brought as eager a light into her baby eyes as the costliest toy. With no earthly father or mother to care for her, she seemed to be God's very own baby, and He amused her in his own good way; first by locking her happiness within her own soul (the only place where it is ever safe for a single moment), and then by putting her under Timothy's paternal ministrations.

Timothy's mind traveled back over the past, as he sat among the tin cans and looked at Rags and Gay. It was a very small story, if he ever found any one who would care to hear it. There was a long journey in a great ship, a wearisome illness of many weeks,--or was it months?--when his curls had been cut off, and all his memories with them; then there was the Home; then there was Flossy, who came to take him away; then--oh, bright, bright spot! oh, blessed time!--there was baby Gay; then, worse than all, there was Minerva Court. But he did not give many minutes to reminiscence. He first broke open the Bank of England, and threw it away, after finding to his joy that their fortune amounted to one dollar and eighty-five cents. This was so much in advance of his expectations that he laughed aloud; and Rags, wagging his tail with such vigor that he nearly broke it in two, jumped into the cradle and woke the baby.

Then there was a happy family circle, you may believe me, and with good reason, too! A trip to the country (meals and lodging uncertain, but that was a trifle), a sight of green meadows, where Tim would hear real birds sing in the trees, and Gay would gather wild flowers, and Rags would chase, and perhaps--who knows?--catch toothsome squirrels and fat little field-mice, of which the country dogs visiting Minerva Court had told the most mouth-watering tales. Gay's transport knew no bounds. Her child-heart felt no regret for the past, no care for the present, no anxiety for the future. The only world she cared for was in her sight; and she had never, in her brief experience, gazed upon it with more radiant anticipation than on this sunny June morning, when she had opened her bright eyes on a pleasant, odorous bank of oyster-shells, instead of on the accustomed surroundings of Minerva Court.

Breakfast was first in order.

There was a pump conveniently near, and the oyster-shells made capital cups. Gay had three cookies, Timothy two, and Rags one; but there was no statute of limitations placed on the water; every one had as much as he could drink.

The little matter of toilets came next. Timothy took the dingy rag which did duty for a handkerchief, and, calling the pump again into requisition, scrubbed Gay's face and hands tenderly, but firmly. Her clothes were then all smoothed down tidily, but the clean apron was kept for the eventful moment when her future mother should first be allowed to behold the form of her adopted child.

The comb was then brought out, and her mop of red-gold hair was assisted to fall in wet spirals all over her lovely head, which always "wiggled" too much for any more formal style of hair-dressing. Her Sunday hat being tied on, as the crowning glory, this lucky little princess, this child of Fortune, so inestimably rich in her own opinion, this daughter of the gods, I say, was returned to the basket, where she endeavored to keep quiet until the next piece of delightful unexpectedness should rise from fairy-land upon her excited gaze.

Timothy and Rags now went to the pump, and Rags was held under the spout. This was a new and bitter experience, and he wished for a few brief moments that he had never joined the noble army of deserters, but had stayed where dirt was fashionable. Being released, the sense of abnormal cleanliness mounted to his brain, and he tore breathlessly round in a circle seventy-seven times without stopping. But this only dried his hair and amused Gay, who was beginning to find the basket confining, and who clamored for "Timfy" to take her to "yide."

Timothy attended to himself last, as usual. He put his own head under the pump, and scrubbed his face and hands heartily; wiping them on his--well, he wiped them, and that is the main thing; besides, his handkerchief had been reduced to a pulp in Gay's service. He combed his hair, pulled up his stockings and tied his shoes neatly, buttoned his jacket closely over his shirt, and was just pinning up the rent in his hat, when Rags considerately brought another suggestion in the shape of an old chicken-wing, with which he brushed every speck of dust from his clothes. This done, and being no respecter of persons, he took the family comb to Rags, who woke the echoes during the operation, and hoped to the Lord that the squirrels would run slowly and that the field-mice would be very tender, to pay him for this.

It was now nearly eight o'clock, and the party descended the hillside and entered the side door of the station.

The day's work had long since begun, and there was the usual din and uproar of railroad traffic. Trucks, laden high with boxes and barrels, were being driven to the wide doors, and porters were thundering and thumping and lurching the freight from one set of cars into another; their primary objects being to make a racket and demolish raw material, thereby increasing manufacture and export, but incidentally to load or unload as much freight as possible in a given time.

Timothy entered, trundling his carriage, where Lady Gay sat enthroned like a Murray Hill belle on a dog-cart, conscious pride of Sunday hat on week-day morning exuding from every feature; and Rags followed close behind, clean, but with a crushed spirit, which he could stimulate only by the most seductive imaginations. No one molested them, for Timothy was very careful not to get in any one's way. Finally, he drew up in front of a high blackboard, on which the names of various way-stations were printed in gold letters:--


CHESTERTOWN.
SANDFORD.
REEDVILLE.
BINGHAM.
SKAGGSTOWN.
ESBURY.
SCRATCH CORNER.
HILLSIDE.
MOUNTAIN VIEW.
EDGEWOOD.
PLEASANT RIVER.


"The names get nicer and nicer as you read down the line, and the furtherest one of all is the very prettiest, so I guess we'll go there," thought Timothy, not realizing that his choice was based on most insecure foundations; and that, for aught he knew, the milk of human kindness might have more cream on it at Scratch Corner than at Pleasant River, though the latter name was certainly more attractive.

Gay approved of Pleasant River, and so did Rags; and Timothy moved off down the station to a place on the open platform where a train of cars stood ready for starting, the engine at the head gasping and puffing and breathing as hard as if it had an acute attack of asthma.

"How much does it cost to go to Pleasant River, please?" asked Tim, bravely, of a kind-looking man in a blue coat and brass buttons, who stood by the cars.

"This is a freight train, sonny," replied the man; "takes four hours to get there. Better wait till 10.45; buy your ticket up in the station."

"10.45!" Tim saw visions of Mrs. Simmons speeding down upon him in hot pursuit, kindled by Gay's disappearance into an appreciation of her charms.

The tears stood in his eyes as Gay clambered out of the basket, and danced with impatience, exclaiming, "Gay wants to yide now! yide now! yide now!"

"Did you want to go sooner?" asked the man, who seemed to be entirely too much interested in humanity to succeed in the railroad business. "Well, as you seem to have consid'rable of a family on your hands, I guess we'll take you along. Jim, unlock that car and let these children in, and then lock it up again. It's a car we're taking up to the end of the road for repairs, bubby, so the comp'ny 'll give you and your folks a free ride!"

Timothy thanked the man in his politest manner, and Gay pressed a piece of moist cooky in his hand, and offered him one of her swan's-down kisses, a favor of which she was usually as chary as if it had possessed a market value.

"Are you going to take the dog?" asked the man, as Rags darted up the steps with sniffs and barks of ecstatic delight. "He ain't so handsome but you can get another easy enough!" (Rags held his breath in suspense, and wondered if he had been put under a roaring cataract, and then ploughed in deep furrows with a sharp-toothed instrument of torture, only to be left behind at last!)

"That's just why I take him," said Timothy; "because he isn't handsome and has nobody else to love him."

("Not a very polite reason," thought Rags; "but anything to go!")

"Well, jump in, dog and all, and they'll give you the best free ride to the country you ever had in your life! Tell 'em it's all right, Jim;" and the train steamed out of the depot, while the kind man waved his bandana handkerchief until the children were out of sight.

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