Short Stories » Jimmy
Jimmy - Page 2 of 3
These expeditions were made with great zeal, and intense enthusiasm prevailed when the search resulted in such discoveries as swept-out sticks of gum, "charm buttons," cracked pocket-mirrors, old lead-pencils, etc, the spoils being always honorably divided, though often into painfully small portions.
Sometimes the boxes (always acknowledged to be Jimmy's property) would be pronounced too good for kindling-wood. An exchange for rougher material would ensue, with liberal "boot" thrown in, such as "flipper 'lastic," " pearl -handled knife with only three blades gone," the incomplete works of a nickel-cased watch, or a pocket-pistol no longer dangerous. How I have listened and laughed at their bartering under the fence, and how they took satisfaction !
When Jimmy's mother came home tired enough, and smiled to see the fire he had ready, and the little girls getting the table set, didn't he feel that he had done his share? Perhaps he had worked part of the day, and invested in a bologna sausage; or, yielding to temptation, made a reckless expenditure in small cakes and caramels enough for a taste all around; or, if he had been completely unfortunate all day, and came home with a heavy heart, whichever way it was, be sure his mother gave him her fondest smile, and had most to say to Jimmy.
Their rooms were small and uncomfortably warm in summer, and very muddy about the door in winter. But the mother had a knack of making such pretty tidies for stands and shelves, and the cheap white muslin curtains, trimmed with her own crochet lace, draped the windows so prettily, and the cook-stove shone so brightly, that the plain rooms looked quite cheerful.
In the evenings, as the mother sewed or crocheted, she told them stories of the farm their father once owned, of the cow she milked, the plenty of sweet milk, good butter, and green corn, "roasting ears." Jimmy listened, and a longing grew in his heart to go into the country and live just such a life. He made many resolves to go and work with his father as soon as his mother would consent, and by his help they would all the sooner own a piece of land, a cow and calf he would train the calf himself and a horse. How his heart swelled at the very hope! Then, thought he, how happy he would be to have all the boys come out to their place and see his pets and eat melons! And how he would show them where to find bird'snests, squirrels, and rabbits ! And what rambles they would all take under his leadership!
This all seemed only a matter of time to Jimmy, and he forgot many of his present troubles in happy day-dreams. If Jimmy sometimes said, "May be our folks will move out onto a farm some time," the boys had no doubt of it, and cheerfully hoped it might happen soon, so they would all have somewhere to go and visit. The discussion of the matter seldom went further; for wasn't Jimmy's father a miner? And how was anybody to know but that he was economically and steadily putting aside enough to sometime very soon buy a modest little farm, with complete outfit ?
The hard winter had gone, spring-time and sore throats were disappearing, and on sunny days shoes and stockings could be dispensed with; the sidewalks were in good condition for marble playing, and the wind on the hill was not too rough for kite flying altogether, life was easing a little for Jimmy. He was having less anxiety about kindling-wood, and could devote some time to gathering water-cress and dandelions, which "brought in the nickels if boys would just go around to folks' houses with their baskets." A rather novel feature of this kind of traffic was that several boys went together to each house, and by the abundance thus exhibited seemed to depress trade rather than the reverse; and sometimes the house- keeper was in perplexity which party to patronize, out of delicate regard for individual feelings. When I once ventured to suggest a different arrangement to the boys, I learned that this combination of interests was necessary to engender sufficient confidence to carry on the business, and that they "divided turns" in selling, or receiving money, by an arrangement equally profitable all around.