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When Mrs. Partington first moved from Beanville,
and the young scion of the Partington stock was
exposed to the temptations of city life and city associations,
it was thought advisable to appoint a “guardeen”
over him. Ike was not a bad boy, in the wicked
sense of the word bad; but he had a constant proclivity
for tormenting every one that he came in contact with;
a resistless tendency for having a hand in everything
that was going on; a mischievous bent, that led him into
continual trouble, that brought on him reproaches from
all sides, and secured for him a reputation that made
him answerable for everything of a wrong character
that was done in the neighborhood. A barber's pole
could not be removed from the barber's door and placed
beside the broker's, but it must be imputed to “that
plaguy Ike;” all clandestine pulls at door-bells in the
evenings were done by “that plaguy Ike;” if a ball or
an arrow made a mistake and dashed through a window,
the ball or the arrow belonged to “that plaguy Ike;” if
on April Fool's day a piece of paper were found pasted
on a door-step, putting grave housekeepers to the trouble
and mortification of trying to pick up an imagined
letter, the blame was laid to “that plaguy Ike;” and if a
voice was heard from round the corner crying “April
Fool!” or “sold,” those who heard it said, at once, it
was “that plaguy Ike's.” Many a thing he had thus to


Page 10
answer for that he did n't do, as well as many that he
did, until Mrs. Partington became convinced of the
necessity of securing some one to look after him besides

In her exigency she bethought her of an old friend
named Roger, who, because he was a single man, and
had got along beyond the meridian of life, was called
“Old Roger” by every one. He had lived in the city
for many years and knew all its ways, and was just the
one for the proposed station. He was “well off,” as
the world understands it, and was a very genial man,
though rather hasty in temper, at times. She sent for
him as she had proposed, and appointed a day for his
calling upon her. On the afternoon that she had named
for the visit, she and Ike were together in the little sitting-room,
with the antique buffet in one corner, and
the old chairs and tables arranged around, the walls
hung with pictures of Joseph and his Brethren, and the
Prodigal Son, and David and Goliath, — which last Ike
admired the most, because he always fancied himself to
be David, and Goliath a big butcher down street who
had once set a dog at him, on whom he wished to
avenge himself, and thought he could if there was n't a
a law against “slinging stones.” The profile of Paul
Partington, Corporal of the Bloody 'Leventh, was conspicuous
over the mantelpiece, while above it, supported
by two nails, rested and rusted the Corporal's
artillery sword, that had flashed so oft, in the olden time,
over the ensanguined muster-field. She was engaged
with her knitting, while the object of her solicitude was
busy in a corner engaged in painting a sky-blue horse
on the bottom of the old lady's best japanned waiter.
As she mused, in harmony with her clicking needles,
her thoughts took form in words.


Page 11

“How the world has turned about, to be sure!” said
she; “'t is nothing but change, change. Only yesterday,
as it were, I was in the country, smelling the
odious flowers; — to-day I am in Boston, my oil-factories
breathing the impure execrations of coal-smoke,
that are so dilatory to health. Instead of the singing
of birds, the blunderbusses almost deprive me of conscientiousness.
Dear me! Well, I hope I shall be restrained
through it all. They say that the moral turpentine of
this place is frightful, but it is n't any use to anticipate
trouble beforehand; he may escape all harmonious influences
that would have a tenderness to hurt him, and,
as the minister of our parish said, with judicial training
he may become a useful membrane of society;
though training is bad generally, and is apt to make the
young run to feathers, like cropple-crowned hens. But
he has genius,” — looking at him; — “it comes natural
to him, like the measles, and every day it is enveloping
itself more and more. What are you doing, dear?” she
said, rising and going towards him.

“I 'm drawing a horse,” replied he, turning it round
so that she could see it.

“Why, so it is! and what caricature and spirit there
is in it, to be sure! I should have known it was a horse,
if you had n't said a word about it. But have n't you
given him too thick a head of hair on his tail, and a leg
too many?”

“That 's his mane that you call his tail,” said Ike, with
some show of being offended; “and, suppose he has
got five legs! — anybody can paint one with four; five
shows what Miss Brush, my teacher, calls the creative
power of genius.”

“Well I must digest my spectacles,” replied she, smiling
upon him, “before I speak another time. But now


Page 12
I want you to go down to the door and watch for a
gentleman that I suspect, who may ask you to tell him
where we live. He is to be your guardeen, that I told
you about.”

“Yes 'm,” said Ike, dutifully, and passed out, whistling
Villikins and his Dinah.

Mrs. Partington being a stranger in the neighborhood,
it was not wonderful that the neighbors, of which there
are many in almost every place, should call upon her;
and among them Professor Wideswarth, who had long
been familiar with her name, presented his card at an
early period, as did Mr. Blifkins, and Mr. Slow, and
many others, who, by a strange coïncidence, lived in the
immediate vicinity. Mrs. Partington had deemed that
the visit of Old Roger to her domicile would be an excellent
occasion on which to invite her new acquaintances,
and had accordingly asked their presence at that
time. Among others with whom she had got acquainted
was Miss Dorothea Chatterton, a good-looking spinster
of some thirty summers, who had written for the
papers, and was accounted a prodigy of refinement by
the editors. As the dame sat at her work, after despatching
Ike upon his mission, her door-bell rang, and,
hastening to open it, Miss Chatterton burst upon her in
the full flower of fashion and smiles.

“Good-afternoon, Mrs. P.,” said she, shaking the dame
enthusiastically by the hand. “I feared you might be
lonesome, and so I have come to keep you company, if
you will let me.”

“Certainly,” was the pleasant response, “I will, with
the greatest reluctance.”

“For my part,” continued Miss Chatterton, “I love
to be sociable. I can't bear those people who stand so
much upon ceremony, and never get acquainted. I

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Ike upon the curbstone sat looking for his future adviser up and down the street,
amusing himself by occasionally throwing pebbles at a passing dog. P. 13

[Description: 676EAF. Illustration page. Image of a boy sitting on the curb with one arm around a dog, and a rock in his other hand. He is aiming to throw the rock at a dog who is running by in the street.]

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Page 13
don't know what I should do, if I could n't talk. If an
injunction was put upon my tongue, and my head depended
upon keeping that member still, I believe I
should forfeit it, and talk on to the last gasp. Some say
I have remained a spinster because I would n't stop
talking long enough to allow any one to pop the question.
A mistake, I assure you.”

“So you are a spinster, then?” said Mrs. Partington,
as her visitor paused for breath. “Do you use a large
or a small wheel?”

“I mean by spinster,” replied she, blushing, “that I
am a single woman, and, like many other young women,
am acquainted only with spinning street-yarn, the only
wheel used being that where I wheel round the

“I 'm rejoiced that you have come,” said Mrs. Partington,
“for, my dear Miss Chatterbox, I am going to have
a fine old unmarried bachelor here to tea, that I want
you to get acquainted with. You will be perfectly vaccinated
by him.”

“Indeed! but is he a very old bachelor?”

“O, dear, no; he is n't more than sixty — just in the
priming of life, so to speak. I never call a man old till
he gets to be an octagon or a centurion, and can't lift a
peck of wheat-bran.”

The ladies sat down to their talk, while Ike upon the
curbstone sat looking for his future adviser up and
down the street, amusing himself by occasionally throwing
pebbles at a passing dog, kicking his heels into the
gravel, or throwing his cap in the air that it might drop
upon his head.

“I wonder,” said he, “what sort of an old chap this
Roger is, that is going to look after me! I s'pose
folks 'll tell him what a bad fellow I am. He 'll find that


Page 14
out soon enough, for I guess they don't like me pretty
well round here. They don't want a fellow to have
any fun at all, and I should like to know what fun was
made for, anyhow. I don't believe I am half as bad as
they make it out. Hello! here he comes, I guess. Big
man — broad hat — red face — cane; — yes, this must
be him.”

“Can you tell me, my lad,” said Old Roger, — for it
was he, — “where a Mrs. Partington lives, somewhere
about here?”

“I know where Mrs. Partington lives,” replied Ike.
“I don't know of any other Mrs. Partington in the

“Right, my lad, and that is she; there is, indeed, but
one Mrs. Partington in the world. And her nephew Ike
— do you know him? I hear strange tales about him,
and little that 's good. What sort of a boy is he?”

“He 's a prime, tip-top fellow, sir; one of the tip-topest
fellows you ever see.”

“What sort of a looking boy is he?”

“O, he 's about my size, with blue hair and red eyes,
— I mean he has red eyes and blue hair, — no, red hair
and blue eyes. He is dark-complected, and has got a
pugnacious nose. He is n't a very good-looking boy;
but a boy should n't be despised because he is n't
handsome, should he? You 're not remarkably handsome
yourself, sir.”

“Be civil, my young friend. Is this Ike an intelligent

“He is n't anything else. He came pretty nigh getting
the medal once, for the master said he was the most
medalsome boy in school.”

“He must be a rare sprig of humanity, according to all
accounts, and might be benefited by a little trimming.”


Page 15


“What did you say?”

“I 'll show you the way, sir, to Mrs. Partington's.
You must go as far as you can see, yonder, then turn
round the corner to the right, then take the first right-hand
corner, then, after you turn the next corner to the
right, two doors further along is Mrs. Partington's.”

“Thank ye, my lad, and here 's a dime for you.”

The intended guardian hobbled on his course, while
Ike, with a mischievous twinkle in his eye and the dime
in his hand, stood looking after him until he turned the
first corner, when he darted into the house, telling Mrs.
Partington that the expected guest was on his way,
and would arrive in about a quarter of an hour, and
then dashed out again and down the street.

After making the circuit of an entire square, “Old
Roger” found himself on the precise spot from whence
he had started, and looked around for the young scamp
who had directed him. He recognized the trick at a
glance, and, with a half chagrin, said to himself,

“I 'll wager that Ike was the little villain that sent
me on this circuit. The young jackanapes! if he were
here, I 'd put more cane on him than would make a
fashionable lady's dress. Yet there 's method in him,
and it is far more satisfactory to manage a rogue than a

He stepped to the door, which he had come such a
roundabout way to reach, and rung the bell. In a moment
more he stood in the presence of the relict of
Paul Partington. Her face was radiant as the sun,
while her cap-border encircled it like a ray, presenting
no mean picture of that august luminary.

“I 'm sure I 'm glad to see you, sir,” said she, shaking


Page 16
him warmly by the hand. “Did you find any deficiency
in finding the place?”

Deficiency!” replied he, “not a bit of it; there
was rather too much of it, if anything. I should
have been here half an hour ago, if a young villain —
whom I strongly suspect to have been Ike himself —
had not sent me a mile out of my way to find you. He
told me to turn this way and that way, and by stupidly
following my nose I found myself just where I started
from. I could have thrashed him for sending me round
on so warm a day as this; but, madam, he is, after all,
merely a boy, true to the boyish instinct of fun. The
boy is not true to his nature who is not mischievous.
Why, I was a boy once, myself, incredible as that may
seem, and a wilder dog never wore satinet and a felt
hat, or got flogged for misdemeanors that he did n't do,
than myself; but here I am, — no matter how old,
though confessing to thirty-seven years, — and, as people
say, not one of the worst men in town, either.”

She had conducted her guest into the little sitting-room,
where the spinster was waiting very anxiously
for the promised presentation, Mrs. Partington having
previously begged her not to be “decomposed” at meeting
him, for he was very “congealing” in his manner,
and a “perfect Apollyon for politeness.”

“Allow me to present you with Miss Chatterbody,”
said she, as they gained the centre of the room.

“Chatterton, sir, at your service,” said that lady, coloring
slightly, as if it were a coloring matter.

“I assure you, Mrs. Partington,” said he, politely
bowing, “you could n't present me with anything more

The dame begged him to be seated, and he attempted
to do so, but the chair unfortunately possessed but


Page 17
three legs, and the honored guest rolled ingloriously
upon the floor. He rose to his feet, in great indignation.

“What does this mean?” said he. “It seems to me
that everything is conspiring to try my temper — naturally
very sweet. Here I am directed a mile out of my
way to find you, and then find myself sprawling upon
your floor, — which, though it is remarkably clean, is
not a very desirable place for one to sit, in a land
where recumbency is not the fashion, — through the
medium of an infernal three-legged stool. — Excuse me
for using so strong an adjective, but I never was so
completely floored in my life.”

“A thousand pardons, sir,” said Mrs. Partington,
“but Isaac must have taken that leg to make a bat of.”

“And were he here,” replied he, “I should be
tempted to give him a bat that would make him

“We should all be willing to be forgiven, sir,” expostulated
the dame.

“True, true,” replied he, recovering his good humor,
“and to forgive, likewise. What a world this would be
if we found nothing to do in it but to resent fancied
wrongs; and more than half that we call wrongs are
but fancies, and a large portion of the other half but
the mere effect of wounded self-esteem, that brooks
nothing which conflicts with it.”

Mrs. Partington gazed upon him admiringly; and, as
he sought another chair, she turned to Miss Chatterton,
and said,

“If he was the pasture for a parish, he could n't be
more fluid.”

To this remark the young lady nodded and smiled
assent; and the object of the encomium, with the


Page 18
wrinkles all ironed from his temper, sat in the best of
humor, imparting such a glow to the surroundings that
even the rigid profile upon the wall seemed to bend
from its rigidity, and become imbued with the infection
of the scene. The jar of a step upon the floor caused
a slight tintinnabulation of the old china in the buffet,
which appeared like a response to the flow of good
humor that pervaded the apartment. The circle was
soon increased by the addition of the expected guests.
There was an ominous manuscript protruding from
Wideswarth's pocket, while his eye denoted an abstractedness,
as though all the intelligence it ever wore
had been abstracted from it. Philanthropos was calm
and exalted, having on his way interrupted a street
fight, and suffered the martyrdom of profane abuse
from many juvenile tongues. The Brahmin Poo-Poo,
with his meerschaum colored to a delightful complexion,
and his red cap and black tassel, and satin petticoat
trousers, was an object of respectful curiosity. Mr.
Blifkins, having attended without the permission of his
wife, seemed uneasy and fidgety, as a man must who
gets goods under false pretences. The venerable Dr.
Spooner was conspicuous among the number, his bald
head rising like some tall cliff on which the eagles of
thought might well delight to rest. They were all
there, and the spinster was introduced to them by every
variety of name to which “Chatter” would hitch; and
all was moving very happily, when the door-bell rang
violently, and Mr. Increase Slow came in, with his face
very red and angry. He was the last of those who
had been invited. After greeting the company, he

“I am sorry to complain at such a time, mem, but I
should have been here a full hour ago, but for your Ike.


Page 19
He is a great trouble to me. He goes on my grass
with entire impurity; and, just now when I attempted to
rush out and drive him off, — gently like, you know, —
I found he had put a chip in the latch of my door, and
I was kept shut up there till a policeman let me out.
If you are to be his guardian, sir, as I understand, he
will require all your care.”

“Are you sure it was he, sir?” asked old Roger.

“Certainly, I am. There 's nothing done round here
that he is n't at the bottom of it.”

Mr. Slow dropped into a seat like a kedge-anchor,
and the party grew suddenly grave, as a meadow full
of strawberries and birds may, when a cloud comes
betwixt it and the sun.

“Mr. Roger,” said Prof. Wideswarth, nervously fingering
the manuscript in his pocket, “a kindred quality of
mirth appears to enter into the whole plan of the universe,
and this boy, though roguish, is a human exponent
of the quality; and, apropos of mirth, I have
here a short poem, that it would delight me to read
to you.”

“I should be equally delighted to hear it,” Roger
replied, winking to Mr. Slow, who settled back in his
chair, as though fixing himself in a position to sleep, in
case the circumstances might warrant.

Wideswarth cleared his throat, twitched out his manuscript,
and thus proceeded:

“I sing of mirth! — that boon of bounteous heaven,
Which stirs our bosoms with its generous leaven —
Given mankind to cheer their lot below,
To countervail the smart of pressing woe;
Given the heart the worth of life to prize,
Given to bless all objects to our eyes.
Without its aid the heavens were dark and drear,
The winds were full of naught but boding fear;


Page 20
The Bob-o'-Lincoln on the bending hay
Would tune his note to dirges all the day;
The grass and flowers, that glow in such sweet guise,
Would be but Quaker drab beneath our eyes;
And melody of bird, and bee, and brook,
Would be expunged from Nature's singing-book!
All Nature laughs through the repeating years —
Laughs when the first young flower of Spring appears,
Laughs in the Summer prime of beauteous bloom,
And sends to heaven its echoes of perfume;
Laughs when the Autumn binds its yellow sheaves,
And reddens in the face as Autumn leaves;
Laughs sturdily along November's sky,
And roars in boisterous mirth when storms are high,
Rattles our windows with a jubilant din,
Or, laughing with the sunshine, enters in.
What notes of mirth rise from the shady nooks,
From birds and insects, foliage and brooks!
What peals of laughter shake the concave high,
When thunder rattles through the summer sky!
The lambs run laughing o'er the vernal plain,
And glad sounds tinkle in the summer rain!
Mirth gives a charm to girlhood's fairest grace,
And limns the generous soul on boyhood's face.
Sweet girlhood! changing like the varying wind, —
Now wild for this, and now for that inclined, —
Teasing papa with never-ending needs,
That he 's “dead broke” if half the list he heeds;
Now a piano, now a fan, a ring,
Now a new dress from such a “charming thing!”
He frets — good man — his cash is not a pile,
Refuses — yields — he 's conquered by a smile.
And boyhood, rampant with its fun and noise,
Oft mingles bitter in our cup of joys,
And many an anxious sigh is made to start,
And many a throb to heave the parent's heart,
While watching 'mid the wilfulness of youth
To see the germs of honesty and truth!
O, Ike! thou elf, who dost with pranks abound,
In every home thy counterpart is found;
Thy mischief may at times becloud the soul,
But smile, and half the doubt away shall roll —


Page 21
But give the music of an honest laugh,
And then will vanish all the other half.
But levity should ne'er its guile obtrude
To mar the cheerful heart's beatitude;
It has no place where genial humor dwells —
Its home is where the voice of passion swells;
Where the red wine glows in the ruddy light,
And turns to day the watches of the night;
Where the hoarse voice, in Bachanalian strain,
Echoes in chorus with some coarse refrain!
Let us be gay, and let our mirth arise
Before the great All-Good as sacrifice.
The source of joy no sombre tribute claims,
Nor priestly rite, nor sacrificial flames;
The heart's outpouring in its happiness
The smile of kindly heaven will ever bless;
So may our purest strains of joy ascend,
And with unwritten harmonies of heaven blend.”

The reading was followed by many remarks approbatory.
Mr. Slow ventured the observation that, though
it was tip-top, it seemed to him strange that so much
should have been said about fun with so little fun in it;
but Dr. Spooner came to the rescue of the poet, by
saying that in this respect, if it were so, it was like
many sermons that we hear, all about religion, but
which did not contain one spark of it! Philanthropos
agreed with the sentiment of the poem, and said he had
thought of recommending to the Provident Association
the application of laughing gas in neighborhoods where
poverty prevailed, in order that privation might be
lessened by the infusion of jocularity.

At this point there was a loud ringing at the bell,
and presently a tall, spare, seedy-looking individual
was introduced, whom Miss Chatterton recognized as
Signor Lignumvitæ, who taught music in the neighborhood.
Turning to Mrs. Partington, he said, in English
a trifle muddy,


Page 22

“Madam, zat vat you sall call him, ze plaggy Hike,
be one ver bad garçon. He no ear for ze music, but
ven I blow ze horn, and play ze grand opera, he toot
he's hands, so,” — making a trumpet of his hands and
tooting, — “and mak all ze music no worth nossing. I
can no stand it. Eferybody laugh at me. Zey touch
zar nose, so,” — putting his thumb to his nose, — “so
mosh as to say, `Ah, ha! you be von humboog!' You
sall leek zat plaggy Hike!”

“This is a fine opening for a guardian,” thought
Roger, as Mrs. Partington turned her eyes towards
him. She went out with the Signor, and Roger remarked
to Miss Chatterton that there were times when
he did not regret that he had never been a parent.

She replied that she deemed none could properly
direct children, as teachers or guardians, who had not
children of their own. He thought a moment seriously,
and then admitted the general correctness of the

“I don't know what I should have been,” said he,
“surrounded by a family, — perhaps a pater-familias of
rare virtues, — but my heart is whole. I never saw
occasion to leave the charmed circle of single blessedness.”

“Were you never in love?” she questioned.

“Once,” said he, affecting to sigh; “everybody, they
say, is in love once. When I boarded at 101, a young
and gallant fellow, there was one fair creature to whom
I paid many attentions, and some money for certain
buttons that she attached at sundry times to needy
garments; and she gave me, as I thought, indications of
regard beyond that of a mere landlady's daughter, as
she was, — a regard usually included in the weekly
board-bill. I determined not to be cruel, and leave her


Page 23
to suffer on account of my indifference. Fortune fixed
the flint of my affection. 'T was on a night in summer,
and the gentle air swept across the back-sheds, and
through the parlor windows of 101, over three consumptive
geraniums that attempted to bloom there. As I
entered, I saw a female figure, clothed in white, by the
open window, that my heart told me was Seraphima's!
I stepped noiselessly towards her, over the tufted
second-hand carpet, that Seraphima's mamma had bought
at auction. A moment, and my arm encircled her neck,
and — I kissed her! In another moment I was rolling
on the floor, with one of Seraphima's flower-pots broken
upon my head. My heart had deceived me, and I had
unfortunately kissed another man's wife, which, in those
days of innocence, was deemed a sacrilege! An impression
was made by that blow which will never be
effaced. It is here to this day,” — pointing to his
head. “From that moment Seraphima became obnoxious
to me, — all my love for her was knocked out of
me, — and she died, some fifteen years afterwards, of a
broken heart and tight lacing.”

“It is a wonder,” said Mrs. Partington, who had
returned in time to hear the close of the story; “it is a
wonder that it did not give you a suggestion of the

“It did, ma'am,” replied he; “and that suggestion
was, to leave the women alone.”

The door-bell here rang again, and Mrs. Partington
came in with a queer little, bald-headed man, whose appearance
denoted an acquaintance with fluids of an
inflammatory character. He was somewhat confused on
finding himself in so large a company, and turned to go
out, when the motion revealed a human face drawn
roughly in black on the bald scalp behind, like that


Page 24
funny picture of Johnston's. He turned again, with his
nose blushing very red, and addressed Mrs. Partington:

“Madam,” said he, “I 've brought myself here to complain
of your Ike. I looked bad enough before, but he
has made me look a great deal worse, behind. I am a
double-header, — a man beside myself. A pretty object,
are n't I? I 'm only fit now for a politician who wishes
to be on both sides of the fence at the same time. You
see, I was a little overcome by the heat of the day, and,
sitting down a moment in the shade, fell asleep, when
along comes Ike, and, as you see, he made a marked
man of me. Everybody says it must be he who did it.
Could I see with the eyes he has given me behind, I
might, like some other people, laugh at my own fun,
which privilege is now denied me.”

Mrs. Partington cast a look full of despair upon
Roger, as she escorted the man to the door.

“This is certainly a very pleasant young man,” said
he, “with an excellent chance for improvement, and
considerable of it. I am delighted with my prospect.”

“Should you have to resort to corporal punishment,”
said Philanthropos, “I should suggest the brierrose
twig, as it will bring the rebel sooner to penitence,
as Colt's pistols and steam guns tend sooner to bring
about peace.”

“I hope you will administer chloroform before you
apply it,” suggested Dr. Spooner; “and, as in the
new materia medica the efficacy of medicine is tested
by the doctor's taking it himself, allow me to recommend,
Mr. Philanthropos, that you have it tried upon
yourself. I would be delighted to do it gratuitously.”

“A capital idea!” said Wideswarth; “it is worthy
of a sonnet.”

“Perhaps he could bear the flogging better than he


Page 25
could the sonnet,” said Roger, in an under tone, punching
the Brahmin in the ribs, who sat smoking his meerschaum.
The Brahmin responded by a grave bow.
Mrs. Partington returned, holding in her hand an open
note, which she handed to Roger, in much confusion.
He read:

Miss Parkinson: Your boy has been and tied a culinary utensile to
the caudle appendidge of a canine favorite of ourn, an indignity that wee
shall never submit to. He is a reproach to the neighborhood, and you
must punish him severally.

The Miss Timminses.

He crushed the paper in his hand, and said, “This is
a precious little rascal, to be sure; and, according to
present appearances, the chances of finding any good
in him are about as limited as would be those of finding
strawberries growing on the top of Mount Washington.”

At this moment the door opened, and the subject of
their animadversion entered, throwing his hat into a
corner, and tumbling down along side of it.

“Isaac,” said the dame, tenderly, “you are causing
me a great deal of unhappiness. Do you do all the
mischief there is done in the neighborhood?”

“No, I don't, neither,” replied Ike; “I don't do half
so bad as they make out.”

“Did n't you fasten me in?” said Mr. Slow, coming

“Yes, sir; but I should n't have done it, if you
had n't been so ugly. No boy would ever trouble you,
if you 'd be kind to him.”

“True,” said Dr. Spooner, “there 's a good deal of
human nature in a boy.”

“Kindness is better than spring guns as a defence,”
said old Roger, “but the lad seems incorrigible. Here
comes another complaint, I dare say,” as the door-bell
rang again.


Page 26

Mrs. Partington held up her hands, as she went to
see who was at the door, and returned with a poor-looking
woman, who wore a widow's dress.

“I 've dropped in, ma'am, though I 'm a stranger,”
said she, “to thank your manly little boy for taking
the part of my lame son, when he was imposed upon by
the bad boys in the street, just now. He drove them
away like a hero, and punished them for their cowardly
conduct. And he was not content with this, but he
gave him a bright silver dime to buy some oranges
with. A boy with such a heart as his must be a
treasure to you, and he will prove a comfort to you in
your old age.”

“There,” said Roger, gleefully, rubbing his hands,
“that one act compensates for all the rest. Had I a
son like that, I should prize him more than mines of
gold. Such a boy would make ten years of hard matrimony
endurable. Madam, here is a ten-dollar gold
piece for your information.”

She received it very thankfully, and passed out,
invoking on him and the house the widow's blessing.

“And do you forgive him?” said Mrs. Partington,
smiling with gratification.

“Yes, madam,” he replied; “and boys should be forgiven
far more than they are. A boy that does n't love
fun is n't always to be trusted; and the one who has his
wits about him, and does not take to fun, will, depend
upon it, take to something worse. Parents mistake
when they put an unyielding check upon a boy's conduct;
when he gets his way, he will, nine times in ten, go
differently from his direction, and covert sin will work
insidiously, maugre all interdiction. I can't bear to see
a parchment-faced boy, with a ledger in his glance at
ten. Give me the lad with his soul speaking in his


Page 27
laughing eye, and thrilling in every nerve of his animated
body. That is your true boyhood. Where
there is no malice, mischief is not sin. The boys
commit it as the kids eat fruit-buds, or the birds pick
Mr. Hovey's strawberries, — it is their nature.”

The speech was received with applause by Ike, who
had donned his guardian's hat and gloves, and was
standing leaning on his gold-headed cane. Mrs. Partington
was astonished; Roger was disposed to be
indignant, but he fortunately remembered what he had
just said, and contented himself with seeing Ike take
them off.

Mrs. Partington bustled about, and in a short time
announced that tea was awaiting the company in the
room “contagious” to the sitting-room, where the
company sat down to the table. Roger was seated directly
opposite Miss Chatterton, at Mrs. Partington's
right hand, while by her side Ike had taken his accustomed
position. The rest of the company took their
places agreeably to their hostess' invitation to “derange”
themselves as they could make it convenient.

There was pleasant music around the board, and
happy faces beaming amid the steam of the fragrant
souchong. There was much agreeable conversation
among all the parties. It was general and discursive
for the most part, though one particular incident
gave it, to some parties, a tender interest. Ike had
observed a disposition on the part of his guardian to
speak low and confidential things to his opposite
neighbor, Miss Chatterton, and his foot, as he sat by
her side, just reached that of the old gentleman. He
thought to himself what a prime thing it would be if he
could touch his toe and make him believe that Miss
Chatterton did it, and resolved to try it. When the


Page 28
doughnuts were handed round, Roger selected one that
was heart-shaped and handed it over to his vis-a-vis, with
the remark,

“This, my dear Miss Chatterton, is the `heart that
never loved.'”

The lady received it with the reply, “Indeed! and
yet, you see, it is broken;” breaking a piece of it off as
she spoke.

“A melancholy fate,” said he, “for that which was
wholly yours.”

He was surprised, as he uttered this, to feel a gentle
pressure upon his foot beneath the table. It was a
light and careful touch, and bore no semblance to

“As much so as it was the young lady's at 101,”
said she, archly.

He felt another touch as she spoke, which assured
him of its origin, and gave him a thrill of pleasure. He
beamed upon her like the sun upon a planet.

“And how would you have acted,” said he, “had you
been in her place? Would you have died in fifteen
years of a broken heart?”

“Can't say that I might not have died before that, of
some other disease,” she replied.

He felt the touch under the table again, which operated
upon him like a jar full of electric eels.

“Were you ever in love, Miss Chatterton?” said he,
in a tremendously deep whisper, as low as G.

“Never with any one but myself,” replied she, smilingly.

The touch followed the remark, as the sound follows
the flash.

“How would you like to be?”

“I can't say.”


Page 29

The touch succeeded, to his infinite delight.

“Miss Chatterton,” said he, reaching over, so that his
remark might not be heard by any one else but her,
“you have made a deep impression upon me. Indeed,
I may say that your foot has touched my heart, — given
it, so to speak, a finishing touch.”

“My foot touched your heart, sir! I don't understand

“Not perhaps literally,” he continued; “but the little
touches of your foot beneath the table have touched me
very sensibly.”

“I have not touched you,” replied she, very much

“I see how it is,” said he, in some confusion; “it is
another instance of the trickery of that plaguy Ike.
But, be that as it may, you have much interested me,
and I shall place this evening among the happiest of
my life.”

Ike, as he saw the dénouement of his plot approaching,
had made his escape just in time. During this
scene the other members of the party had been busily

“Yes,” Wideswarth at this point was heard to say,
“in petty trials are summed up most of the sorrows
that beset us here. We brace up against large trials,
and support ourselves by props of resolution; but the
little worriments, like the dropping that wears the stone,
undermine our temper, and down it comes with a
crash, and a confusion of oaths and tears. Please listen
to a sonnet I have to-day written regarding minor

Bigger vexations, like a `fresh' in spring,
Assail the soul in their impetuous wrath;
The fierce tornado on its course doth wing,
Dashing obstructions from its chosen path!


Page 30
But little troubles, like a nibbling mouse,
Gnaw slowly from our comfort, as 't were cheese; —
Take you a smoky chimney to a house,
Or scolding wife, perpetual bane to ease,
Or grain within the eye, or gouty feet,
Or debts unpaid, — exchequer running low, —
Or hurdy-gurdy grinding in the street,
Or six-cent Cubas that you can't make go.”

“Allow me,” said Roger, “to propose, as the two concluding
lines, the following:

Or one sweet foot of an illusive joy,
Made less than nothing by a roguish boy.”

“I have no objection to the lines,” replied Wideswarth,
“excepting that of irrelevancy. I cannot exactly
understand —”

“My dear sir,” said Roger, “that should be no objection;
for who ever thinks of asking what a sonnet
means? I appeal to yourself. We take it for granted
that a poet sees his own meaning, and out of compliment
ask no questions.”

“I could have suggested a minor difficulty to have
added to the number,” said Philanthropos; “the ingratitude
one is liable to meet with who tries to do a good
act. A few days since I saw a dog going along with a
heavy basket in his mouth, and, thinking of relieving
him, I attempted to take it from him, meaning to carry
it myself, when the canineite snapped at me as though
he suspected my motives.”

“I was much annoyed, a few days since,” said Dr.
Spooner, “by a trifle which very much disturbed my
equanimity. I was passing a lady whose dress spread
over an area about equal to that of a load of hay, when
I accidentally stepped upon her flounce. An unmistakable
tear followed, at which I looked round to apologize.


Page 31
But my contrition and shame all vanished before
the look she gave me. It was the concentration of
spitefulness, and, instead of apologizing, I asked myself
the question if she were not the aggressor in protruding
herself upon my path, and so I passed on; but it disturbed

“A nervous wife,” said Blifkins, “is a consideration
in this direction.” He said it timidly.

“All fade away before rheumatism in the ankle,” said
old Roger.

“Are you subject to romantic affections?” inquired
Mrs. Partington, with anxiety in her tone and a spoon
in her hand. “My poor Paul was terribly infected by
them one winter, when we lived contagious to the

The door-bell rang violently, and the old lady went
out to see who caused the alarm. She came back

“There was nobody there,” said she. “Well, as I
was saying, he had an affectation in his back, and an
embargo in his head, and a vertebra all over him. He
could n't move without resistance.”

The door-bell rang again, which she attended to with
the same result.

“I 'm shore,” said she, “I don't see who it can be.
Well, as I was pretending to say, our minister sent for
him, right in the midst of his trouble, to come and cut
up a pig for him. Nothing would do but he must go.
So he crawled out, and just as he was going up over a
little hill, holding on to the fence —”

The door-bell rang the third time.

“Well,” said Mrs. Partington, as she rose to go,
`bells can't ring without hands, unless they 're rung by
the spirits. Perhaps it 's them.”


Page 32

“Well, by all means ask them in,” responded Roger;
“it will give new spirits to our party.”

“I can't see, for the life of me, what it means,” said
she, coming back from the door; “but, as I was telling
you, as he was going over the hill his feet slipped, and
he was prostituted from the top to the bottom. He got
up, strange to say, as well as he ever was in his life.
The remedy is very simple.”

“So it is,” said he, “and I think I 'll try it, some

The fact that Ike came in just then, coupled with the
recent ringing, gave evidence of the cause of the latter,
and Roger looked at him with an expression denoting
a guardian's feelings.

“Ike,” said he, “come here; I am to have a hand in
your bringing up. Now, I have to tell you that you
must toe the mark; be obedient, dutiful, and respectful,
or — you villain! that is my toe you are kicking.”

“Is the touch as tender as the one you just now
received?” said Miss Chatterton, with a sly manner.

“No more of that,” said he, smiling amid his pain,
“if thou lovest me. That illusion was a pleasant one,
which may yet, I hope, through propitious fates, become
a reality.”

The party had by this time arisen, and, as he uttered
the significant expression, he took her hand, which she
did not withdraw, and whispered in her ear,

“It is a strange thing, — but there are many strange
things happening all the time, — that an obdurate old
bachelor should have been thus subjugated, and by such
means; but I am confident that it is a good fate which
has brought us together, for which I must thank that
plaguy Ike.”


Page 33

She touched his foot, — not the gouty one, — and
smiled, and the conquest was complete.

The party now rose to depart, but before they went
expressed their undivided delight, Dr. Spooner averring
that he had, for a long time, been seeking for the delectable,
but had never come so near its attainment before;
proposing Mrs. Partington's health, which was drunk,
“paregorically,” as she afterwards expressed it.

She returned thanks, stating that she was very fulsome
with her emotions, and ready to make any sacrament
for their happiness. And this was the way the
guardianship for Ike began.