“Two Ways of Being Manly,” by F. W. A. P. (from Robert Merry’s Museum, January 1868; pp. 6-9)
“Will you let that boy alone, Ned Parker? It’s shameful, and he smaller, younger, and weaker than you, and a stranger too! How can you be so mean?
These words were uttered in a rapid and indignant tone, by George Grey, a slight lad of thirteen, to a boy older and larger than himself, who was tormenting, as boys only know how to torment a delicate-looking child of twelve, while other boys stood looking on,—some enjoying the sport (?), others sharing in George Grey’s indignation.
“Oh,” answered Ned, in a contemptuous manner, “it’s Miss Georgiana, is it? Couldn’t bear to see her little pet seasoned could she? not even when told it’s for the darling’s good to use him to our ways, and make a man of him.”
Then changing his tone to an angry one, he said,—
“I’ll let him alone now, because I’m tired of badgering him, but not for your interference, or that of any other Miss Georgiana of you all. I’ll teach the little snivelling, frog-eating Frencher to come here and shew off his airs upon us.”
Even Ned Parker was startled by the effect these words produced. It was recess, and all the boys of Mr. Barry’s school had been playing in the yard until their attention was arrested by Ned Parker and Louis Dubois. Loud cries of “Shame on you Ned!” “How mean!” “George is right!” “[S]tand up for George!” “he’s no more Miss than you are,” were heard, while Louis, for the first time in the knowledge of the boys, gave way to a perfect tempest of rage. Jumping up and down, and throwing his arms about in a frantic way, he cried out,—
“I’m not that you call me. I no more grenoulle,—what you call frog-eating than yourself, you bad, tres merchant boy. Vous etes un—Oh, what am I doing? I promised ma chere maman I would always keep the temper,—mais,—” and here the child’s anger burst forth again,—“it is all your fault every bit you tres,—not kind boy,” shaking his little fists at Ned, who stood by trying to whistle off his surprise and mortification, while some of the boys shouted,—
“Bravo! That’s a little man! Pitch into him, Louis!”
“No, no, Louis,” said George to the boy, who looked as if he would very much like to follow the advice given him, “don’t mind Ned; he doesn’t mean half he says; and don’t mind the other boys, either. Come with me to the pump and wash your face and curl your little head before the bell rings for us to go in.”
“I—could—bear—any—any—thing but that—about the green—the frogs. I know just what the boys think, and it’s not so,—me don’t eat frogs,” sobbed out Louis,—suffering George to lead him off, however, to the pump, where, with cold water and kind words, he succeeded in quieting the fiery little fellow. After school was dismissed, George walked home with Louis, in order to prevent any further annoyance from Ned. There was no danger of that, however, for not only did Ned perceive that he was on the unpopular side, but he was also requested by Mr. Barry to remain a few moments after the other boys had gone home.
“Parker,” said Mr. Barry, “I saw from one of the school-room windows what passed to-day at recess. I did not interfere, because I wished to see to what extent you would carry your cruel sport, and also to ascertain the feeling of your companions; you are the oldest and strongest boy in your class, you are also the boy from whom I have heard in one way and another a great deal of talk about being manly. My idea of a manly boy is this: one who is obedient and respectful to his superiors, and kind to his equals and inferiors; for these are qualities indispensable to a true man. Do you agree with me?”
Ned did not dare to say how very different were his ideas of manliness. To imitate, as far as was admissible for his years, the dress of his elders, to learn to smoke, to be rebellious and surly to his father, to snort and grunt in a very canine fashion at his mother, to domineer over and torment his younger brothers and sisters, and those whom he considered his inferiors had been hitherto his practice of manliness. His answer was characteristic; for, with all Ned’s faults, he was as truthful as a boy could be who was so very untrue to his own better nature.
“I don’t see how it can be manly to be obedient. Men don’t have to mind; do they? That’s one reason I want to be a man, so that I can do as I like.”
“Always, if they are true men. After the rule of parents, teachers, and employers is over, there is the rigid rule of conscience and
the irreversible rule of God’s law; and he who is most obedient under this rule is the noblest, truest man.”
Mr. Barry spoke a few more words kindly to Ned, and then added, in a more severe tone,—
“Let this be the last occasion—you know it is not the first—which I shall have to speak to you upon this matter of tyranny over younger boys.”
Half sullenly, half repentant, Ned left the school-room. A new idea had been given him,—the idea of the universal law of obedience, from which no one is exempt. His father and mother were of that class who believe all boys and men must go through a certain amount of wrong-doing, and then they will come out “all right.” How often the “all right” proved to be “all wrong” they did not trouble themselves to ask. Ned went home with a little less of the usual swagger in his gait, and a little less defiant swing to his cane than usual; for, do what he would, the words “a manly boy is one who is obedient and respectful to his superiors, and kind to his equals and inferiors” kept ringing in his ears. It made an impression upon him, too, to the extent that he did not object to doing the next errand his father required of him, answered his mother’s questions at the table in a half-civil way, and let the younger children alone, which, perhaps, was quite as much as could be expected from him.
Louis’s mother lived a little out of Montville in a tumble-down cottage, which she had taken for its cheap rent and its nearness to the river. It was, in fact, on the very brink of the river on a rising ground, from which a winding path led down to the water’s edge, a favorite play-place of Louis and his little sister. As the boys walked through the thickly-settled part of the town, they were silent, but as they drew nearer Louis’s home, he said,—
“Very much I thank you, George for your goodness to me, a poor garcon who knows so little of your ways. At home I used not to go to school, but studied with my mother, and played with Jaques, and mine own petite soeur Louis. Ah, you shall see Louise some day. She is si charmant! We lived in a chateau by the sea in our belle France; and it was not cold like this country; and the ladies who came to see ma chere and belle maman were not cold and proud, like the ladies—some of them, I mean, who come to here now with their laces to mend and do up. Ah! she had servants then to work for her; and I had un chere papa, who would never, never let any one be not kind to me or Louise. But he died, and
we came to this cold country to find my uncle, and we never found him, and—but perhaps you do not care to hear all this.”
“Yes, Louis, I do care very much. Are you quite sure all is just as you say?”
“Come and see maman, then you will know it is as I say,” replied the boy, vehemently.
“I will some day soon, Louis, if my mother is willing, but not now, for she does not know where I am.”
“Wait! wait! there is Louise,” cried Louis, as a little light figure with dancing eyes and waving curls, darted out from a little clump of trees before them.
[“]Oh, she’s afraid of you, George, and is running away to hide by the river-side. Let’s follow her,” cried out Louis.
There had been heavy rains, and the little inlet before the cottage was full of logs which had floated down the river, for Montville was in a lumber district. Upon these logs the little girl sprang, looking back defiantly at the boys, half in sport, half in fear.
“Oh, Louise, you mustn’t. I told you never to do that without me,” called out Louis. But on she went, aiming to reach a little point from which another rough path led up to the house, till growing excited and careless, she missed her footing, and fell into the water. George was familiar with river perils, and he knew the child’s present danger was, of rising and striking her head upon a log, in which case she might sink before he could reach her. Seizing a pile from the bank, he dashed upon the logs where Louise had fallen, and pushed them apart with all his force. She rose to the surface beyond his reach, and, leaping into the water, he caught her by her dress just as she was sinking again. Then, burdened as he was with her weight, he got her safely to the shore, and laid her, white and cold at her mother’s feet; for Mrs. Dubois had heard her boy’s cry of terror, and had come out to see the peril and the rescue of her darling. George was pale, dripping, and shivering, but his face was lighted up with the earnest purpose which had moved him, and he looked not the Miss Georgiana Ned had derisively called him, but the brave, manly boy he was.
“Two Ways of Manly,” by F. W. A. P. (from Robert Merry’s Museum, February 1868; pp. 45-48)
Mrs. Dubois was a lady; George saw that at a glance, notwithstanding her plain, almost mean clothing, and the poverty-stricken aspect of her home. She had no sooner ascertained that her darling was safe than she turned to George and said,—
“You have saved her life. I cannot thank you as I ought, as I would; but let me at least provide for you a change of garments, that you may not suffer in consequence of your noble, manly act.”
“Oh, maman!” cried Louis, “see, she opens her eyes. She knows us, la petite does. That is George, Louis, the good, good George; who was kind to me, and saved you. How shy she is; that’s because some bad boys do tease her sometimes.”
In a few moments George had exchanged his dripping clothes for a suit belonging to Louis, which, as might be expected, left a large margin of legs and arms uncovered. A cap, just perched upon the top of his head, and a coarse shawl completed his equipment; and in this array he must walk through one of the principal streets of Montville before he could get home.
“Never mind,” he thought, “it’s all in a good cause; and it’s a good thing for me that laughs and queer looks don’t hurt a chap really, if they do sting a little inside; so start home quick, George Grey.”
He could hardly free himself, however, from Louis, who clung to him, pouring out a torrent of excited thanks in a confused medley of French and English, till Mrs. Dubois interfered to release him.
For a little distance he walked homeward without meeting any one but a small boy, who greeted him with a broad stare, ending in a broader grin. Presently, however, he heard the sound of wheels behind him. He did not look up, but the boy who was driving past him in a wagon did look down, and quickly reining in his pony, said,—
“Hallo knight errant! What’s up now? Have you been in quest of more adventures, and have you been metamorphosed or enchanted by some evil fairy or witch?”
In a few words George told his story, and Clarence Carlton said,—
“Bravo, George, you are a good fellow: first, to encounter the strongest and worst boy in the school; second, to risk your life to save a child, and bravest and best of all, to be willing to walk home in a rig that would scare all the crows in the country. Jump in; I’ll take you home, and more than that, I’ll see that Ned Parker doesn’t impose upon little Frenchy any more. Comical little peppercorn, isn’t he, though, with his pirouettes, his gestures, and his jumble of French adjectives and English adverbs? But I liked him all the better for defying Ned. His reign in our school is over. See if I don’t take the wind out of his sails!”
When George reached home, he thanked Clarence most heartily for bringing him thither, and said good-by to him.
“Not so fact, old chap; I’m coming in too. Can’t trust you, you see, to tell the whole truth.”
So saying, he followed George into the house, and gave to his astonished parents and absurd account of the whole affair, and then bowed and laughed himself out of doors, leaving George to tell his story and exchange his grotesque rig for his own clothes.
“I was sure,” said Mrs. Grey, “that you had some good reason for being late.”
“And I am glad,” said his father, “that you are ready to defend and help the weak. It is far more manly to defend than to oppress.”
“I will go to-morrow and see your new friends, George, and find out how your golden-haired princess, as Clarence calls her, is, after her impromptu bath.”
“Oh, thank you, mother,—the very thing I wanted to ask you to do, and I know Louis willnot say that you are ‘old and proud.’ ”
Meantime, in the little cottage by the riverside, Mrs. Dubois was rejoicing over her darling, who, though pale and languid from the shock and fright she had received, was more loving and winning than ever before, and clung to her mother, as though she could not part from her a moment. As for Louis, his excitement seemed rather to increase, and he mingled his account of George’s interference in his behalf with so many angry exclamations against Ned Parker, that his mother said to him,—
“If you would be like George Grey, you must be more forgiving.”
“I will be what you call for-giv-en,—everything but frog-eaten,—he mean laugh-fun-they call it.”
The next day Mrs. Grey called, excusing and introducing herself at the same time, by saying that she was George Grey’s mother, and had come to inquire after the little girl. Her manner was so kind and cordial, so entirely free from all attempt at patronage, that Mrs. Dubois was won at once, and told her more fully the same story Louis had told George.
At the dinner-table that day Mrs. Grey said,—
“I’ve seen your little princess, George, and she quite won my heart with her soft, shy way of saying George, and her pretty, broken prattle. As for Mrs. Dubois, she reminds me of some one, who it is, I cannot recall. Her story is sad. American born and bred, she went abroad at the age of twenty-two as governess, met, and soon after married with the full approbation of her friends, a rich manufacturer; lived a few happy and prosperous years with her husband, when he died insolvent, leaving her penniless with two children. She returned to New York, hoping to find her only brother, whom she represents as a bachelor, eccentric, but kind-hearted, with whom she had not kept up much intercourse since her marriage. She has not been able to find any trace of him. She came to Montville because her fellow-passenger, Mrs. Lee, advised her to do so, in preference to remaining in any large city; also knowing she could have the cottage she lives in at a small rent.”
“What is her brother’s name?” asked Mr. Grey.
“Drayton! Why, Emily, surely that is the name of-stop-let me see-how strange, if it should be so!” and with these incoherent remarks, Mr. Grey rose hastily from the table, and took out from his desk a package of letters, labelled, “Brother Henry, New Orleans,” from one of which he read the following passage,—
“We are most pleasantly situated here in Mr. Drayton’s house. He is a friend of my partner’s; and as Amy has won his interest by her resemblance to a lost friend of his, he kindly took us in, in our dilemma about finding a winter home. He is a bachelor; hence, I think he gains by the arrangement, as well as ourselves.”
“Oh, father,” cried George, “he must be her brother! Please telegraph at once to Uncle Henry.”
“Certainly, my boy, with no more delay than is needful for me
to reach the office. Thank you; never mind dessert for me to-day, Emily.”
“Let me go, too, father?”
“Certainly, if you can resist the detaining force of apple dumplings.”
“Oh, father, as if I cared! O, it will be too good.”
The result of the telegraphic communications was that Mr. Drayton proved to be Mrs. Dubois’ brother, and that he came north as fast as steam could bring him, and that there was a joyful meeting between them. Mr. Drayton soon established his sister and her family near the Greys.. In constant companionship with George, it is to be hoped that the fiery little Louis will not only learn to forgive Ned Parker for calling him a frog-eating Frencher, but also many other lessons of true manliness.
In talking over Mrs. Dubois’ good fortune, George said to his mother,—
“Wasn’t it a great piece of good luck that, of all the boys in Mr. Barry’s school, I was the one to take Louis’ part; for I don’t believe anybody in Montville but father had a clew to Mr. Drayton.”
“It was not luck, George; I call it providential.”
Ned Parker must be dismissed from this story in a few words. Mr. Barry’s advice made but a transient impression upon his mind, because it was not strengthened by home influence. After Clarence Carlton took a decided stand against Ned’s tyranny in school, his influence declined rapidly. A few boys of kindred tastes adhered to him, and they soon became noted for their evil habits. One day Ned took three of his companions out to drive. The drive was followed by a hot supper, the hot supper by smoking and drinking, not because any of the boys, except Ned, liked to smoke or drink, but because they thought it manly to do so. The end of it all was, Ned was carried home in a state of insensibility. His father was grieved and distressed at the sight; but he said to his wife,—
“Boys will be boys. Ned is sowing his wild oats early, but soon he will turn over a new leaf, and come out all right.”
Don’t believe such doctrine, boys. Boys will be boys, but they can be noble and manly ones, copying the virtues of their elders, not aping their vices; and all the wild oats they ever need to sow, are the very harmless ones springing from exuberant and buoyant spirits.