IT was a comfort to have that matter off his mind, and, whatever might come of it, he had done the right thing. Such were Flutters’s thoughts, as with hands plunged deep in his overcoat pockets, he started for home. To be sure, there was no knowing what might happen. What if his father should write to Captain Boniface and tell him that he (Flutters) was a naughty little runaway, and advise him to have nothing more to do with him? or suppose he should direct to have him sent right back to England, what would he do? Why, then, he thought he’d simply run away again, only that would not be an easy thing to do after having been treated so kindly by the Bonifaces. But, as he had himself told the Sergeant, it was not at all probable that this would happen; and so, like the logical little philosopher he was, he decided to think no more about it, and, if taking the advice of the old hymn, he “gave to the winds his fears,” it was no time at all before they were blown far behind him. During the half hour that he had spent with the Sergeant, a cold northwest blow had set in, making it far more comfortable for him to bend his head downward as he ran, and not take the wind full in his face. And this same northwest wind was playing all sorts of pranks with every pliable thing it could get hold of. The bare branches of the trees were swaying and crackling, withered leaves were swirling round in eddies and rustling loudly, gates were creaking on their rusty hinges, and, just as Flutters had reached a point in the road where an old hut stood, the blustering wind caught the only shutter remaining at one of its windows, and slammed it to with a bang that fairly made him jump. Looking toward the hut that had been deserted for years, Flutters saw a faint light shining out through the half of the window that was not screened by the closed shutter.
“That’s queer,” he thought; “who can be living there?” and then, instead of running on without giving the matter another thought—as some boys, I think, would have done—he walked softly in at the gateway that had long lacked a gate, straight up to the window and peeped in; nor was it mere curiosity that prompted him to do it either. Flutters knew that no one, under ordinary circumstances, would be there; nothing short of utter homelessness would make anybody seek shelter in that wretched place, and so he felt the matter ought to be investigated, and he was not afraid to be the one to do it. And what do you suppose he saw through the broken pane? Something that would have made the tears come into almost anybody’s eyes, but something that made Flutters’s heart fairly stand still.
The only furniture of the room was a three-legged stool on which a bit of candle was spluttering, fastened to the stool by the melting of its own tallow, and there beside it, on a bundle of straw, lay an old man; and it took but one glance from Flutters’s astonished eyes to see that the man was Bobbin, the old circus drudge. In another second he had pushed the door open and was kneeling at his friend’s side, and stroking his cold, wrinkled hand.
“Why, who is it?” asked Bobbin, in a cracked, weak voice; “I can’t rightly see, somehow, but it’s good to know some one has come.”
“Why, it’s me, Bobbin, don’t you know me?” said Flutters, scarcely able to speak with emotion.
A bright smile lighted up the old man’s face. “Ah! I thought He’d send somebody. He did send you, didn’t He?”
“No, nobody sent me, Bobbin. I was just going by, and I saw the light, and I peeped in and then I saw you.”
The old man shook his head, as much as to say that he believed that the good Father had sent him, nevertheless.
“I’m glad you were the one to come,” he said, presently; “there’s nobody I’d rather have had than you, Flutters. You were always a kind little chap to old Bobbin.”
Flutters did not say anything—he couldn’t. He just pressed the wrinkled hand a little harder as it lay in his.
“You see, Flutters,” said Bobbin, presently, “I think I am going home to-night, and it was kind of lonely not to have somebody to care for me. Not that I mind going. I’m not a bit afraid, Flutters. I have done the best I could with the poor chance I had, and God will forgive the rest; don’t you think so, Flutters?”
Flutters nodded his head, and then he said in a moment, when he thought he could control his voice: “But, Bobbin, I do not believe you are going to die. You need food and fire and clothes to warm you, and I am going right off to get them for you.”
“Oh, no, please don’t,” pleaded the old man, putting what little strength he had into his hold on Flutters’s hand. “I don’t want food nor anything. I just want to go, and it won’t be long. Promise me you’ll stay till morning, Flutters.”
There was no gainsaying the entreaty in Bobbin’s voice, and so Flutters said: “I promise you, Bobbin;” and, with a gratified sigh the old man turned on his side and soon fell asleep. After a while, when Flutters dared to move a little, he piled the loose straw that lay about him as closely as possible over Bobbin, and finally decided to dispense with his own warm coat, for the sake of stuffing it in the hole of the little paneless window through which the wind was keenly blowing.
Then, after another hour of motionless watching, during which Bobbin still lay sleeping as quietly as a child, it occurred to Flutters to try and make a fire in the blackened fireplace. Some old bits of board were lying in one corner of the room, and, piling them on the hearth, he easily succeeded in kindling them with a bundle of straw lighted at the candle. At first he was afraid that the crackling of the wood would waken the old man; but, undisturbed, he slept quietly on as though his mind was perfectly at rest, now that Flutters had come to care for him.
“I do not believe he is going to die,” thought Flutters, after he had again sat motionless for a long time, and then he crept close on hands and knees to look into his face, and to listen if he was breathing quite regularly; and there, bending over him, what did he see but something that made his heart bound for joy, though it was nothing but the corner of a little book showing itself above the ragged edge of one of Bobbin’s pockets. And no wonder he was glad, for he knew in a moment that it was his own little Prayer-Book.
At first he thought he ought not to touch it for fear of waking
Bobbin, but how could he help it, and so, as gently as possible, he drew it out from its hiding-place, and crept back to the candle. I suppose we can hardly imagine what the finding of this old friend meant to Flutters. There was his own name on the fly-leaf, in his mother’s writing, together with the date of his birth. Here was the proof, if he ever cared to use it, that he had once known a mother’s love, and that was a deal more than some of the world’s waifs could lay claim to, and besides, he loved the book for its own sake, for the beautiful words and thoughts that were in it. And to think Bobbin had kept it safe for him all these weeks; Flutters began to think that perhaps the Lord had sent him to Bobbin after all. And so he fell to wondering, as many an older head full often wonders, as to how much mere chance has to do with the happenings of this world, and how much the careful guiding of a Heavenly Father; but that the Father above has a great deal to do therewith is no longer a question in the minds of many of us.
Meantime it was growing very late, for the clock on the town-hall was on the verge of striking twelve, and the moon was high over head. But Bobbin still slept on, and Flutters dared not leave him. What would Mrs. Boniface think, and how disappointed she would be to find that he was not to be trusted; but there was his promise to Bobbin, and he could not go, so he did the next best thing, he lay down by his side under the protection of the friendly straw and himself fell asleep, while the red-hot embers in the fireplace glowed and crackled as though anxious to make the place as comfortable as possible.
Bobbin did not die that night; he woke with the first ray of sunlight that reached the hovel, but he found his faithful little watcher awake before him. Flutters thought he looked surprised, and perhaps a little disappointed, to find his eyes opening again in this world; at any rate he sighed a little wearily as he seemed slowly to realize where he was, then he looked up to Flutters’s face and said, with a grateful smile, “I knew you would keep your promise. I knew you would not leave me.”
“But you will let me go now, Bobbin, won’t you?” said Flutters, with a world of entreaty in his voice, and wondering what he would do if Bobbin still proved obdurate; “you see I haven’t lived so very long with the Bonifaces, and they’ll think I’ve run away, and be sorry they ever trusted me. I’ll make up the fire before I go, and I’ll be back soon and bring you something to eat and something perhaps to make you more comfortable.”
“Yes,” said the old man, after what seemed to Flutters a long pause, “I’ll let you go, but not for long, mind that, Flutters; ‘cause now that I can’t do a thing for myself, I believe the Lord says, ‘Flutters, you’re to take care of old Bobbin till the time comes for me to take him away and care for him myself.’”
“I believe so, too,” answered Flutters, pushing the thin, gray hair back from the old man’s forehead, and trying to make him look a little less unkempt and neglected, “and never you fear but I’ll do it, Bobbin.”
Then in a moment Flutters was gone, fairly flying home along the road, and when he reached the house not stopping so much as to say good-morning to old Dinah, who was opening the kitchen windows, and started back as though she had seen a ghost; but straight past her, and straight up to Captain Boniface’s room. Mrs. Boniface slept on a little cot in the corner of the room nearest the door, and Flutters thought, and, as it proved, thought rightly, that he could give a gentle knock, and waken her without disturbing the Captain.
“Who is there?” asked a sweet, low voice, a voice whose every intonation Flutters had grown to love.
“It’s only me—Flutters,” came the ungrammatical whisper, “but I wanted you to know that I’m home all right. Nothing happened to me, but I came across an old friend of mine, and I had to stop and take care of him.”
“Wait a moment, dear,” Mrs. Boniface answered, not caring in the least that it was by no means customary to address little mulatto servant-boys in that familiar fashion. Like dear old Janet, in McDonald’s beautiful story, Mrs. Boniface was “one of God’s mothers,” with a mother-love broad enough and deep enough to shelter every little creature who, like Flutters, needed and longed for the protection of a brooding wing.
Flutters sat down on the wood-box in the hall and waited, and in a moment Mrs. Boniface in her soft, blue wrapper, was seated beside him and he was outpouring with breathless eagerness the night’s experiences, winding up, when all was told, with, “and I promised to go back as soon as ever I could.”
And Flutters did go back as soon as he could, and Josephine and Hazel went with him; and food and clothing, and blankets and towels went too, and a dozen other things, such as any one would know would add greatly to the comfort of a sick old man who had lain down, as he thought, to die, in an empty and wretched dwelling. Later in the day, when some of the nearer neighbors had heard Bobbin’s sad story, they were anxious, too, to do something for him, and before nightfall you would hardly have known the poor little shanty. One of them had sent a cot, and Bobbin had been lifted on to it; another, two or three chairs, one of which was a comfortable old rocker, and a third a table and some necessary cooking utensils. Indeed, Bobbin’s story, as he narrated it to the little group gathered around him that morning after Flutters had found him, was sad enough to touch anybody’s heart.
“I kept on with the troupe,” he told them, “till we got almost to Albany, but I was getting weaker almost every day, and I missed Flutters dreadfully. I never knew till the boy was gone how much hard work he had saved me in one way and another. So at last, and just as I knowed it would be, the manager came to me one day and said, ‘We ain’t got no use for you any more, Bobbin. Ye can stay behind when we move on to-night.’ An’ I just looked him the eye an’ said: ‘All right, sir; but I’m wondering if you’ll not be left behind when the Lord’s own troupe moves on to the many mansions.’ I knowed I ought not to have spoke like that, but there isn’t a harder heart in the world than his, and that’s the truth.”
“And what did you do then, Bobbin?” Josephine asked, as she sat beside him with tears of indignation standing in her eyes.
“Why, right away I began to make my way back to Flutters; somehow I knew I should find him, only when I crawled into this hut last night after three weeks of being on the road, I thought it might not happen in this world.”
And so it came about that Bobbin was made perfectly comfortable in the old shanty, for in those days there were no well-ordered Homes and Hospitals, for sick and homeless people, and Flutters, greatly to his heart’s delight, was established as attendant-in-chief to his old friend.
CLEAR and cool dawned the twenty-fifth of November, and, joy to the heart of every Whig, before nightfall not a member of the King’s army would be left on American soil. Never, I ween, had the break of any day in New York found so large a number of its inhabitants awake to greet it. Too excited to sleep, with the thought of going home, were scores of English soldiers, and too excited to sleep, at the thought that they were soon to be rid of them, was well-nigh every loyal Whig throughout the length and breadth of the city. So, at a remarkably early hour there was an unwonted stir everywhere, and it seemed as though the very horses and cattle in their stalls must have divined that something remarkable was in the wind. But this great day of consummation had not arrived without weeks and months of active preparation.
Affairs in New York had been sadly mismanaged, and the arrival of Sir Guy Carleton, in the spring of 1782, had proved a precious boon, alike to Whig and Tory, and during the seventeen months intervening between his arrival and the evacuation, of the city, on this same twenty-fifth day of November, 1783, Sir Guy had had his hands full. One of the heaviest labors he had had to perform was the transporting of twelve thousand Loyalists from all parts of the colonies, to Nova Scotia, the Bahamas and Great Britain, for New York was not the only place where the offending Tories were made to feel, and very pointedly, too, that their room was considered vastly better than their company.
But finally all was ready, the “Royal Order” to evacuate had arrived some two months before, and as soon as possible Sir Guy had named the day for departure. Now at last the day itself had come, and there was scarce a man, woman or child who had not planned to enter in some way into its festivities. But up at the Boniface’s there was a strong conflict of feeling in one little Tory breast. Hazel was naturally in a “perfect state,” as girls say nowadays. It was most improper that she, an indignant little Loyalist, should be a witness to all that day’s jubilation, and yet Starlight and Flutters and the Marberrys were going over to Bowery Lane to see the American troops march in from Harlem, and then into the city to see the English troops embark from Fort George, and were going to make a fine long day of it, and, after all, what good would it do anybody if she stayed at home? So it happened that Hazel’s love of military bands and streamers and all sorts of public demonstration got the better even of her Tory principles, and after much urging on the part of the Marberrys (which she had felt from the first could be relied upon), she yielded, and Mrs. Boniface prepared a luncheon for five, instead of “just for four,” as Hazel had that morning directed. But none of the little party setting forth looked forward to the day’s pleasure with quite so keen a relish as Flutters. He still remained quite neutral, not finding it easy, owing to his peculiar circumstances, to side either with Whig or Tory. So it did not matter much to him who were going or who were coming, the one dominant thought in his boyish heart simply being, that he was off for a day’s fun, of which he had not had a great deal lately. For the last week he had been in constant attendance on old Bobbin, and before that there had been such very sad hearts in the Boniface household, owing to the Captain’s illness. But for to-day Josephine had volunteered to care for Bobbin, and Bobbin himself had consented to spare Flutters, and so, free in every sense to give himself up to whatever enjoyment offered, Flutters was ready for “a lark.” And in just this very sort of thing, you boys and girls, who are like Flutters, set us older hoys and girls an example, for boys and girls we are, all of us, in a way, so long as we keep a vestige of naturalness about us. Real sorrows may weigh down a child’s spirit, and real trials beset him, but, give him the chance, even for an hour, to forget the sorrow and the trial, and he forgets it; and when God puts just such opportunities into all our lives, is it not for this very purpose of helping us to forget for a while?
Mrs. Boniface watched the five little friends file down the pathway, Flutters bringing up the rear with the capacious lunch-basket, and was thankful that there were pleasures, even in such unfavorable times, which children might enter into; and then, perhaps with thoughts akin to those we have been writing, about forgetting trouble, she turned with a bright smile to the Captain, and proposed that they should try and have a happy day too, unmindful of what was going on down in the city, and thankful for the serenity of their home, still left unmolested. And so Dinah was directed to prepare a favorite dish of the Captain’s, and the Captain’s favorite books were brought out, and Mrs. Boniface, resolutely putting aside every household claim, read aloud for two hours at a sitting, and then little Kate came in for a romp and had it, and at one o’clock Dinah brought in luncheon for all three on a great japanned tray, and they had a very cosey time eating it together. Who would have thought, to have looked in upon them, that Evacuation Day was, in point of fact, a very sorry day for the Boniface’s?
Meantime the children gained the Bowery Road, mounted a rail fence in a row, like a flock of sparrows, and, with full as much chatter, waited for the coming of the troops.
It seemed strange enough to everybody to think that the entire British Army, which had been scattered broadcast throughout the vicinity for so many years, was now congregated down in the city, and that before many hours there would not be a trace of it left. Hazel had certain apprehensions that it was going to seem very lonely without them, and when a small detachment of English soldiers marched past (the last of a company that had been quartered at Kings Bridge) and cheerily called out, “Good-bye, Whiggies,” to the children, as they sat on the fence, her heart entirely misgave her. Was it really loyal for her to be abroad on a day of such rejoicing, and how insulting to be called a “Whiggie,” when she was every whit as strong a Tory as the soldiers themselves. But just then the inspiring strains of an approaching band reached her, and the misgivings took to themselves wings. Nearer and nearer came the music, and soon Starlight recognized General Knox in command of two companies of American soldiers. They were marching into the city in compliance with a request of Sir Guy Carleton’s, so as to be on hand in case of any disorder among the Whigs while the English were embarking. Now as soon as these American troops should have gotten out of the way, the Marberrys had planned a little surprise for the rest of the party, which they knew would prove a great addition to the day’s pleasure. So, just as the children had begun to scramble down from the fence, with the intention of getting into the city as best they could, up drove old Jake, the Marberrys’ coachman, with a farm wagon piled high with straw. “Whoa! whoa, da!” called Jake to the Rector’s old black horse, and then, bowing and smiling, he said, importantly, “At your sarvice for Evacuation Day, chilluns.”
Of course Hazel and Starlight and Flutters were delighted at this undreamed-of luxury, of being driven about all day, from one point of interest to another, and before they climbed into the wagon Hazel gave vent to her appreciation by giving both Milly and Tilly such a hug as sent the color flushing gratefully into the cheeks of those amiable little sisters.
For once in his life old Jake was in a thoroughly good humor, but it is extremely doubtful if anything short of all the pleasurable sensations of Evacuation Day could have brought about that delightful state of affairs. As for the children they were quite ready to do anything in the world for Jake, out of sheer gratitude for his kindly mood, a state of affairs, by the way, which should have made that old party feel very much ashamed of himself. To think that it should be such an unusual thing for a man to be kind, as to make even children open their eyes for wonder.
It is impossible fully to describe all the varied enjoyment that that day held for the little party, although from the nature of things it was hardly to be expected that Hazel was able to get as much pleasure out of it as the others. Down into the city they went in the wake of General Knox’s men, who came to a halt at the Collect, and then passing them, Jake took his stand at a point near Fort George, from which the children could watch the English soldiers file down into the barges and push off for the vessels lying at anchor in the Bay.
“There comes Company F,” Starlight at last exclaimed, and in a moment the children tumbled out of the wagon, much to old Jake’s astonishment, and in another moment were crowding round Sergeant Bellows, as he stood waiting his turn to step into the boat.
The Sergeant had been up to the Boniface’s for a more formal leave-taking the day before, but the children had promised to be on hand at the moment of departure, if they could in any wise manage it, and the Sergeant’s face showed his delight, when he spied them come bounding toward him.
There were tears in Hazel’s eyes as the boat veered off from the dock, and tears in the Marberrys’ eyes out of sympathy for Hazel, but of course the boys pretended they saw nothing whatever to feel sorry about. In the excitement, however, Flutters called out in a very significant tone, “Don’t you forget, Sergeant,” and the Sergeant replied in rather a husky voice, “Never you fear, my boy!”
“Forget what?” questioned Hazel, feeling somehow that a little body-servant ought scarcely to have any private matters on hand. And then Flutters, realizing how foolish he had been to make public his affairs in that fashion, felt constrained to answer, “Oh, nothing,” to Hazel’s question, which disrespect on his part offended the dignity of his little mistress, and caused her to treat him with much coolness for the space of the next two minutes, at the end of which, however, she resumed her wonted manner, having forgotten by that time any reason for acting otherwise.
Company F had come about mid-way in the order of embarking, and as it neared one o’clock, the extreme rear guard began to file into the barges, while the American troops moved silently forward and took possession of the Fort, and then it was that General Knox, with a chosen few, galloped back to meet and escort General Washington and Governor Clinton into the city. For old Jake’s party this in-between time seemed to offer the most favorable opportunity for luncheon, and with appetites keenly whetted by their long morning in the open air, the children “fell to,” and as soon as Jake had tied a bag of oats over black Jennie’s head, he took his seat at the back of the wagon, and was himself regaled with a much larger portion of the Boniface luncheon than he in any wise deserved. If a body chances to be very hungry, and at the same time so fortunate as to have the wherewithal to satisfy that hunger, it is astonishing how absorbing the process of eating may become, and so I doubt if, for a while, the thoughts of the little company in the Rector’s wagon, rose above the level of the biscuits they were enjoying or were otherwise occupied than with the great acceptableness of cookies, apple jelly, and some other inviting edibles; and yet, only think! this was the 25th of November, 1783. Out there beyond them on the broad sunshine of the Bay, the last of the English Army were turning their backs upon America, and above them toward Harlem, a large company of loyal Americans were joyfully forming into rank and file to take public possession of the city so dearly loved, and that had been for years under English rule. Yes, American history was making very fast during that eventful November noontide, and yet so imperative are the demands of poor human nature, that even such a thorough-going little Whig as Starlight became for the time being so deeply absorbed in bread and cheese as to grow unmindful of exultant Whigs and departing Tories.
But after the luncheon was all disposed of, save a few crumbs thrown over the wagon side to a stray dog, who had long been beseechingly eying the children, their minds at once reverted to matters of general importance, and it was decided to drive back to some point on Broadway from which they could watch the procession, and Jennie was urged into a clumsy canter by way of making up for lost time. As it was they had some difficulty in gaining even a fair position on the line of march, and secured that none too soon, for the sound of music in the distance was growing more and more distinct, and in another second the head of the procession came into view. And what a procession it proved! although there was no show of military pomp or glory. That was quite impossible, since the greater part of the American Army had already been disbanded, and those that were left to participate in the day’s jubilation owned nothing better than shabby uniforms which had seen hard service, and in many cases even these poor remnants had need to be supplemented with coats or trousers of most unmilitary aspect.
But, notwithstanding all this, it was a grand procession. General Washington and Governor Clinton on horseback, followed by their suites, were at its head; then came the Lieutenant Governor and the members of the Legislature; following them, the officers of the army, and a large body of prominent citizens, and lastly the military, whose very shabbiness, because of its significance, served but to add to the interest they excited.
The sun was setting behind the New Jersey hills before the procession was truly over, and then, as there was nothing more to be seen, and they were thoroughly weary besides, the children assented to Jake’s proposition to turn Jennie’s head homeward. When they neared the vicinity of old Bobbin’s shanty, Flutters crept to the back of the wagon prepared to drop at the right moment.
“Where’s Flutters going?” asked the Marberrys.
“Oh, he has to take care of old Bobbin, now,” Hazel explained with a sigh; “but you ‘can’t imagine how inconvenient it is for me,” for her ladyship had taken very kindly to this having a willing little servant at her beck and call. Rather too kindly, Mrs. Boniface thought, and she was not sorry to have Flutters’s time so fully-occupied as to leave none of it at Hazel’s disposal. Soon after Flutters’s departure the little party relaxed into silence, talked out and tired out, and as Jake showed some signs, now that the excitement of the day was over, of resuming his wonted surliness, Starlight and Hazel were not the least sorry when old Jennie, in the perfect stillness of the early November twilight, came to a standstill at the Boniface gate.
JOSEPPIINE had stood in the doorway of the little cottage half a dozen times within the last hour peering anxiously down the road in search of Flutters, and now that she discovered him coming cross-cut through the meadow near which he had left the wagon, no one could have told how relieved she felt.
“Oh, Flutters, I’m so glad you’ve come!” she called softly, as soon as he came within speaking distance, and then immediately turned back into the room. Flutters followed her on tip-toe, for she had motioned him to come in quietly. “What is the matter?” he asked, going close to Bobbin’s cot.
“Oh, I don t know,” Josephine whispered, with tears of anxious sympathy filling her gray eyes; “we had had a lovely talk together, and then he asked me to read out of a book, your Prayer-Book, he said it was, and so I read ever so many psalms from the Psalter, till suddenly looking up I saw that he was in great pain, and when I spoke to him he seemed neither to see nor hear me. In a little while the pain passed over, and ever since he has lain there so still that I have had to put my ear down very close to make sure that he was breathing.”
“Dear old Bobbin,” said Flutters, stroking the thin gray hair. The well-known voice, or perhaps the gentle touch, seemed to rouse him, for he slowly opened his eyes and seeing Flutters, smiled.
“You’ll not try to keep me this time,” he said slowly, looking up at Flutters beseechingly, but in a voice too low and weak for even Josephine to hear.
“He said not to try to keep him this time,” Flutters explained, “but don’t you think I ought to go right away for a doctor?”
Bobbin moved his head entreatingly from side to side, so Josephine said: “Well, perhaps not yet, Flutters, he seems so much more comfortable now,” whereupon Bobbin looked the thanks he felt. After a while, when he had once again mustered strength, he said: “Flutters, the little book.”
Flutters, knowing well enough what he meant, took the Prayer-Book which had been soon restored to Bobbin after that night when he had first joyfully discovered it, and turning to the selections for the twenty-fifth day of the month began to read. Josephine drew a chair to the fireplace and sat listening, with her hands folded in her lap, while Bobbin never took his eyes from Flutters’s face, as he sat close beside him so that he might hear distinctly.
The little hut looked very cheery and cosey, converted as it had been into such a comfortable shelter, more comfortable indeed than Bobbin had ever known, and at a time, too, when a warm room and a quiet one meant more to him than it could have meant at anytime in all his life before. But the light in the room was momentarily growing more and more dim, and Flutters had to hold the book high in his hand toward the little window in order to see at all. Gradually Bobbin’s tired eyes closed, and the last words that fell on his ears were these: “My soul has longed for Thy salvation and I have a good hope because of Thy Word. Mine eyes long sore for Thy Word, saying, Oh, when wilt Thou comfort me?” Flutters finished the selection and looked up. “Miss Josephine!” was all he found words to say, but both of them knew in a moment that in very truth “Evacuation Day” had come for Bobbin too, evacuation from all the sorrows of a long, hard life.
“I am not sorry,” said Josephine, looking down on the calm face from which all the care seemed at once to have vanished.
“Nor I,” said Flutters, “but he was such a good friend to me when no one else cared,” and then, unable to keep the tears back, he laid his arm on Bobbin’s bed, and burying his face upon it, cried bitterly.
There was something sacred about this deep sense of personal loss that was finding vent in Flutters’s hot tears, and for a while Josephine hesitated to intrude upon it. She moved quietly about the room setting its few little articles to rights, and then when there was nothing else to be done, and Flutters had gotten himself somewhat in hand, she sat down by his side.
“What do you know about Bobbin’s history, Flutters?” she asked.
“Not much,” trying to master the emotion that made it difficult to speak; “he never liked to talk about himself, but he told me once he had always been sort of alone ever since he could remember, and that he hadn’t a relative in the world.”
Two days afterward, Bobbin was laid away in a corner of the little cemetery surrounding St. George’s Church, Mr. Marberry having gained the consent of the Vestry to have him buried there. Mr. Marberry read the service from Flutters’s own Prayer-Book, and about the grave of the old man whose life had been so lonely, gathered at the last a little company of loving friends. It seemed to Flutters as if, with Bobbin’s death, the chapter of his life that had to do with the wretched circus had been forever closed, but, oh, how thankful he was to have been able to make so calm and peaceful the last days of the only friend it had ever given him. Once again the road-side cottage was dismantled of everything that made it homelike, and as the bleak wintry winds whistled round and through it, who would have thought that such a little while ago an old man had been comfortably housed there, and that it was only now left tenantless, because its occupant no longer had need of any earthly shelter.