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Jim

Jim image
Parent Issue
Day
20
Month
October
Year
1876
Copyright
Public Domain
OCR Text

We belonged to the surplus population, Jim and I, but we did not know it. The big world into whieh we eame was fllled to overflowing with juStSuch puny, unwashed, ill-fed little wretches as we were, but we didn't know it, and ao we carne unconsoious into tkesimïesi, teeming alley, wbere couutlcss others like ourselves herded. We didn't know we were a problem, Jim and I; we didn't i know tbat we and our kind were bftfting the wisdom of etatesmen, ?inland I; bnt if we had known aU bout it, I doubt if we could nare occupied the situation more philosophically. We slept ae quietly in the under-ground cellir d'ówn whoso oozy steps the Valtt and ruin of years made slippery passage orbestowed ourselves a naturally, if need be, under some stranded wayside cart, as if it were preoisely the thing Heaven had adapted us for f rom the beginning. Jim was older and bigger thau I; a tal!, likely lad, fifteen of theeo hardening and toughening years had made him i keen and sharp as a terrier, and just the lad to look af ter a f orlorn little waif of a girl like myself. And Jim, after he had blaoked boots all day or sold newspapers all af ternoon, was sure to look after me, and we took Supper togëther out of the same bowl of porridge. Jim wasn't my brother, oh no ! I used to wish he was my brother, though, sometimes, just because I was so proud of him. The old man that kept the cellar, you see, had picked Jim up from somewhere when his f olks died, and picked me up from somewhere when my folks died, and so we had somfhow fallen together all alone. Just down beyond the jog of our alley, where it turned a sort of gray corner, and was darker and dirtier than ever - jnst there stood an old gray church with a clock in the tower; an old, old mossy church, with an old, old clock that passed its withered hands over its wizened face, and looked sleepily through them down into our alley on one side, and into a noisy, busy thoroughfare on the other. This old clock had dozed there until its head was all on one sidè, and you couldn't be sure whether it told theright time or not; but of a summer afternoon, when it was getting quite dusk down in our alley, a red ray from the setting sun used to settle for a minute right down on the face of the sleepy old clock; then it would seem to rouse up out of a pleasant dream, and strike the hour as sharp as need be, and then I knew it was time to look out for Jim. l'd see him turn the corner with his old straw hat on, and his old patched shoes, or barefoot maybe, for that matter, and we'd set off for a stroll together - astroll to the wharves. We generally haunted the wharves, Jim and I, when we went a pleasuring. They were so grand, the wharves, so busy, the wharves, so full of light and fresh air, the wharvee, so altogether different from our alley, with the ships crowding around them, and the fluttering flags here and there on the masts, and the busy saitors getting in freights. Sometimos Jim would get a job for half an honr, and leave me lurking among the cotton bales, or sitting solitary in some safe corner till he carne back. He always came back. And then sometimes we would linger about there till nightfall. Then the wharf was solemn and silent, and you could liear the water rushing up against the great beams underneath, and see here and there a light gleaming from some lone lantern among the shrouds, and the gray water stretching beyond, we knew not whither; and if Jim and I had owned it all we couldn't have loved it better. But one day Jim got a job that lasfced longer than usual, and I grew scared and uneasy as night eame on and he didn't come back. Wanderingfrom the place where he had set me, shy and fearsome as a water rat, but as determined, I looked for him everywhere, but in vain; then I went back to my post, for hadn't he said, au he al ways said. ' ' Don't be af raid, Jenny; for I'Ü come back for sure, you know." And then I waited and waited, till finally I feil asleep among thè bales and barrels, and forgot my troubles. In the morning, a forlorn and desolate little creature enough, I learned from some compassionate 'longshoremen that the great snip where Jim had been at work had sailed away with him abroad. A wild and passionate burst of weeping greeted this news, and a pitiful throng of people gathered about me, freight men and sailors mostly, but among them suddenly appeared the quiet face of a Quaker lady, who was distributinp books among the sailors. They told her my tale, and seeing me utterly friendless, she wiped my tearstained face with her white handkerchief and took me away. I was no better than a masterles3 dog, and worth far less. But &he took me to a great, clean, quiet place - an institution they called it - where there were many others as homeless and wretched as I. And there they washed me and made me so clean and íresU tbat I thought the real me, the ragged, red-eyed, unkempt surplus atom of humanity that had been me, was gone away over seas with Jim, and this rosy-cheeked child was another me, newly come into the world. Then onc ilay thero carne a grand anJ Htately latly who took me away to livt witli tmr and bo ber own little girl, Tliif lady wore shining aükS and lived in a i splendid house, and had a lad in a velvet jacket, who was about as big as Jim. It 1 was all like a strange, bright dream, if I i could have only forgotten Jitn. But 1 1 could hot. ■ Jim was surplus population no longer; i perhaps he was drowned,his!rftgged jacket i and erownless hat might be buried now ; away down ünder the sea. Nobody i aboút me now wore patohed shoes or 1 trowsers out at the knees, and nobody, it seemed to me, not even Louis, who ] wag so küid and good to me, not even 1 he, had an eye as bright and soft as i Jim's, or a hand as warm. And so I ; never forgot Jim, but always . ill my ( heart of bearrs seemed iistehlng akld i waiting for liim. ! Sometimes I used to hire Louis down i to the wharYeB, and always when I i walked by mySelf my steps tnrned thitherward, and thils it was that I never . lost sight óf the hips, abd dimly, ' ly, unreasonably, looked for the return of Jún. But it began to be years since dear oíd Jim went away, and Louis was a tall ' youth home frorn college, and I was - well, folks oallod tne a young lady, and sft'd tfiat I would marry Louis sorne day. And perhaps they might have been right; but how could I be a lady - a real lady, you know - with au oíd straw hat and a ragged jacket stowed away in my heart? Even after I grew up I had fits of silent j fretting for Jim tho-t eeejed an if they would eftt öiy liïb üwáy. Mrs. Belden S&id it was because I was growing, and took me away to the seasbore. Olí ! the seashore ! I cannot teil you 'Vhat ï feit when I flrst saw tile sea - the real sea - stretohing away from the white line of shöïe, throbbing and sounding as it brimmed to the horizon's edge. This was the sea, the gloüñed sea, no longer grimy twcl Sliioky and gray with getting itS living, but the sea translated, j fied, made holy as if after death. The ■ days went and came shimihg and bcautiful; and erery day I walked on the shore with Louis, ran races with tbe breeze, picked up shells, or gatheied seaweecl, or watched the sun gilding tho sails of some far-flitting ship. Louis' face was sweet in .thoêe uays, and kind as sunliyh.t; and his voice was soft and low when he spoke to me, for he said we were old friends now, and had known each other eo many years that we ought to love each other always. One afternoon we strayed farther than usual, and the twilight deepening as we walked, I think e both forgot every thing except ttiat we were young and happy, and lif e was gloïioüs. Love ! The word Ulrópped warm from his lips, and seemed 0 color all my future with rose tints. All my past seemed sinking out of sight. the gates of paradise were open, and I was f ree to walk therein if I would. Not for me the barrenness, the disappointment, that blighted other lives. I might make mine what I would, with wealth and love for my servants, and luxury and joy at my command. Ah, well I recaember that a'ternoon by the sea I - the long line of white beach, the i ing clifts, the twilight touching the water with a golden glow, and glittering on ! the tall mists, and the ship lying at i anchor beyond. Oh, life was so beautif ui ! - oh, love wasao beautif ui 1 A lightness of heart, a capricious intangible, elf -like mood feil upon me, born perhaps of the very overflow of bliss. I remember clapping my hands as I skipped i along, challenging Louis to a race. I Perhaps he had urged me too persistently to respond to his affection, to say when 1 would be his wif e. Wife ! I wanted to be no one's wife just then, but only to love and to live. Would I answer him ? sighed Louis. " When you catch me," I responded, mockingly, flitting along the sand. Away I went, with Louis following, breathless. We rounded the curve of the shore, and I was just sinking down upon the sand to wait for him, when an old bo&t with a broken oar caught my eye ; it lay swinging in the shadow just T7nere a great rock overhung the beach. Lightly, thoughtlessly, I stepped into the tiny craft, and waving my handkerchief laughrngly to Louis, caught up I my oar and set myself afloat. I scarcely thought what I was doing ; it was a mere caprice born of the lightness of heart and youthful thoughtlessness. But a single glance at Louis' countenance roused me to the foíly I was committing. " Oome back ! come back I" he cried ; "the current will carry you out of reach in a moment !" Still laughing, I endeavored to obey. Dextrousïy I worked the brokeu oar, diligently 1 steadied the frail little vessol ; but all my efforts seemed to bear me further and furthor from the anxious face that was watching me. Perhaps if Louis then had plunged into the water, a few strong strokes of his arm might have rea,cbed and saved me. I do not know. Louis was no swimmer; and, beaides, that was not his way of doing things. His was a delibérate and thoughtful rather than a rash and venturesome nature. Ho called to me eagerly that he was going for help; I should wait; I should drop the oar; in a few moments he would get a boat. I saw him hastening along the ehore at the top of his speed; I saw the solitary shore, the deserted fisher hute, the far stretches of sand he would have to travel bef ore reaching the little fishing village; I saw it all, but dimly now, for I was floating further and further away. Wearily I dropped the oar and sank back in the boat. Surely I need do nothing more. Oh, surely Louis would save me ! he would not let me die alone in reach of his loving arms ! Night was creeping on with twilight on its garment's hem. I could see that lone and shadowy ship lying at anchor beyond the bar. If only I could reach that ship ! But the current would drift me past her in an instant. Wildly and longinglynow I called for help, stretching my arms out yearningly toward that silent vessel; but nothing answered me. The shore had grown far and dim, and dimly, strangely the stars coming out with their unfamiliar beauty made me afraid. Sad, solitary, and deserted, was I going to my death out of all that bright afternoon, that overflowing love, that fullness of Ufe and pleasure proffered me ? Afraid ? Well, yes, I was afraid ; for one brief moment, as I cowered back into the boat, shrinking in the solitude of the awful waste of waters, a fear of that unknown world into which 1 seemed sniling oppressed me. But I bethought myself if I must die, it were better to die bravely. Perhaps I was going to meet Jim. If he was in that other world, that ought to be a cheery thought. No doubt he died bravely. But was he dead ? Jim,my old, staunch friend, whose glad, good face had brightened my wretched childhood, oh, whero was he ? It is said in tho hours of death the memory of past events is prenatu rally vivid. And as my mind reverted t those old days, forgetting my latter lift), forgetfcing my later friends, and forget ting Louis, I ielt sure that I was going to die. A trance of peace feil upon me, n which I seemed to clasp Tim's warm hand again as in days of oíd. Jim ! Jim t I oalled aloud, rousing mvself as froni n. dmim, yet dreamiag stiü. But uothing answored me. The darkness was growing deeper, the current more rapid, and Louis, with his soft taper iingers would never reach me now. Uneonscious, half delirious, I must have been, perhaps, f or it seemed to me that Jim, on whose name I called, was a spirit, and that his preeenee, eomewhere near me, was rtpholding nl8 in tliis höur of ileed a!3 Í drifted , ftirther and f urther away fróm all earthly help. How long, I know not; how f ar, I know not; it seemed to me 1 had been on the way to eternity, and - . Had I had not lieard through that death-dream an answering cry ? Did I or did I not see mistily, as through a vail, the spars and shrouds of that silent vessel that had stood afar off, watohing my struggle with death ? And, great God ! was it Jim's face - dear old Jim's face - bending over me, and was tliis heaven ? " My dear," said Mrs. BeldeD, coming into my room one morning, "you are getting quite strong again; the sea air has done you a world of good - in fact, you loot better, I think, than before your accident. I am . thinking we may as well return to the city ds soon as you like.' I was lying on a cöuch by th'o window looking out upon tho sea. "WeU," Eaid I, absently, in a half rêverie." "You feel very strong, do you not, deart" " Öh yes, ina'rn," said I, rousing myself; " qnite strong - strongeï than ever." I was stronger than ever; since that night when Jim saved my life, swimming out to my sinking boat against the ccrrent, and risking his life to save an unknown waif , unwitting that it was his nursling of old who was in deadly peril. Since that night a world of newthoughts had come crowding in upon me, scaring me with their streDgth and making me ashamed of the silken life I was leading. I know not what premonition of change, of banishment, was tugging at my heart I that morning as I looked out over the gleaming waters, and fllled my eyes with tears. "You are sorry to leave the seashoref" said Mrs. Belden. " I was thinking of Jim," said I, honestly. " How can I leave Jim?" Mrs. Beldeu's face flushed. "Jenny," said she, severely, "of course we all think a deal of your sailor friend for saving your life ; but you must be aware that he is no fit companion for you, and that his constant attendance upon you since that accident has been a matter of much annoyance both to myself and Louis." At that moment Louis' tall figure appeared at the door, a queer smile was on nis pale thin face, as holding out his long white hand to me, he said, "Jenny your sailor's below." "I have just been telling Jenny," said Mrs. Beldon, " that we must get away f rom the sea shore to f ree her f rom these low associates." Low associates !- Jim, my prince of men, my savior ! I see but one course, and yet these two had been so kind to me all these years, they had made my life so luxurious and pleasureable ; should I go away from them into the obscurity and poverty of my early life again ? At tïiat moment Jim's sunburned face appeared at the door. He stood with his cap in his hand, eager yet modest, his face alight, his eyes gleaming behind Louis' thin, calm eountenance. " I sail the day after to-morrow, Jenny," he said, "and I couldn't risk the chance of not seeing you." Mrs. Beldon made a haughty gesture with her hand, as if she would have ordered off the intruder. " Wait.mother," said Loiús, calmly. " Of course Jenny's good sense will teil' her what is right, and she belongs to me, you know." I saw Jim give a great start. The blood flushed up hotly in his brown cheeks. There was a pause for a moment ; then Jim said, passiDg his hand over his forehead, as if he were not quite olear as to what he heard : " Is it so with thee, my little Jenny ? Will my little girl be happy always away from her poor old Jim?" "Poorold Jim." That was what I used to cali Mm in my childish days, stroking his hand and cojií'orting him I when he was in trouble. She ald I desert j him now ? For an answer I took from my finger a glittering ring which Louis had made me wear. I unclasped a costly bracelet he had given me, and drew a gold chain from my neck. I put the shining heap in his liMads. "Jjouis, saia 1,1 nave ioveu you wifch these, and perhaps for these; bnt I loved Jim without them long ago, and I will love him without them the rest of my life. Forgive me, Louis; I am not fit, as y ou see, for wealth and splendor; it is natural for me to return to my kind. Come, let us part in peace." Mrs. Belden rose; her eyes were like the flamicg sword that drove out Adam and E ve i'roni Paradise. She would have spumed us from her presence. But Louis laid his hand calmly upon her shouldei. " Mother," said he, " Jenny is right." I have of ten said to Jim since, as we two are chatting in the cabin of Jim's good ship, "Oapt. Jim, Louis was a gentleman, after all, though he wasa't

Article

Subjects
Old News
Michigan Argus