Puslapio vaizdai

"Ah!" Saunders drew his breath slowly, and rubbed his hand through his hair. A nub was wanted here, a jounce, a snap, an incident of strength to push the reader along the last lap. Evidently he had gone too fast. He thought and thought, walking the floor, until, with the first light of dawn filtering in the windows, he sneaked to bed, the red flush of failure speckling the whites of his eyes.

It was Bunk's piping voice that awoke him, and a little hand pulling his nose, always an effective way of waking somnolent daddies.

"Daddy, say, what day is this?" "Day? What day? Why, let's see. Why, it's Sunday!"

"Ye-ah," squealed Bunk, who knew it all the time. He clambered into the bed, gurgling with glee manufactured to arouse a man who should have known that the Sabbath was Bunk's day of days, wherein he had the accomplished, the superhuman daddy to himself all through the day.

But to-day the incident lacking in his novel weighed upon Saunders, and all the morning he sat before his desk, drawing an occasional engine in a perfunctory, listless way, and then relapsing to his manuscript, until Bunk, in injured despair, betook himself to a corner with a broken engine and a basket of blocks. Then it was the mother who came to the rescue, snatching Saunders's papers from under his pen, and ordering him out into the sunlight.

"Go on to the animals," she commanded, "while I get dinner. Seek your inspiration in the sunlight and air with Bunk.

It will never come here."

So Saunders smiled wearily and obeyed. They went to Central Park, where Bunk doubled his fists at the tigers because he had heard much evil concerning them, admonishing them to be better in a boastful tone. Then of course there was old "Daddy Elephant."

Bunk loved him because he had a stuffed elephant at home that was dignified and bulky as compared with his Teddy bear and cotton monkey.

And the bears! Bunk fairly dragged his father up the steep hill to the cages in the rocks, with the caves and the ledges. They stood in front of the grizzly's cage, and the bear came close to the bars, and viewed the two inquiringly. Bunk nodded gravely. What a big, lovable fellow that Teddy

bear was! Bunk began to ask questions concerning him, but the father's preoccupied answers told him that the strange mind was far from earth. He turned to the bear, whose nose was protruding between the bars.

"Hello, ol' Ted," said Bunk in soothing tones. "Hey, what 'd you say? No, course I won't hurt you. Don't be afraid. No, I won't let daddy hurt you either."

Bunk looked at his father. Saunders was gazing into the tree-tops, as oblivious to his surroundings as though he were miles from earth in the blind air.

Slowly Bunk slipped under the outer guard-rail and approached the cage. policeman in the park below saw the move and shouted. Then as Bunk proceeded, and Saunders continued oblivious, the officer started up the hill on a dead run. Bunk was now at the cage.


"Nice ol' Teddy," he purred. "I got a 'ittle bear home dust like you." great beast never moved, never took his eyes from the child's face. Bunk returned the gaze with calm, fearless, trustful eyes.

"No, I won't hurt you, ol' Ted." He put out his soft, chubby little hand and thrust it through the bars, laying it gently on the bear's nose below the eyes.

The policeman advanced on tiptoe, and then stood like a statue. A subconscious sense of danger quivered through Saunders; he looked quickly down at his side, and then as his eyes traveled to the cage, his jaw dropped, his knees sagged. Thus he stood, sick, dead-white, immobile.

The grizzly felt the atmosphere, and his hair rose. His little black eyes rolled to Bunk's; but the child was still smiling. A low growl, like rumbling thunder, rolled from the cage.

If Bunk had become frightened, his arm would have been torn off at the shoulder quick; but fear was far from him. His feelings were injured, though his brave baby eyes glowed.

"Ol' bear mad at me. Well, never mind." He patted the short, furry snout, and then ever so gently, while the hearts of the two men stood still, he withdrew his hand. In an instant the policeman had dived to the rail and seized the child by the coat, dragging him backward, while the bear reared, and with his great paws beat the bars until they rattled.

With a face like chalk, the big man in

blue caught Bunk into his arms and turned to the father.

"Ye ould fool, ye-ye-" Words failed him. He struggled to retain the profanity which never fails upon such occasions, and succeeded ungracefully. "Keep yer boy at home until ye know how to use yer head. I got wan like him meself."

He reeled,

Saunders's face was gray. and then throwing his arms about his son, he sobbed. All at once his eyes brightened. He straightened stiffly, and hastily placing Bunk on the ground stared at the policeman with a strange, absent smile. Then almost automatically, his hand drew a pencil out of a pocket. He dashed a note on his cuff, and with a great throaty laugh crashed his palms together.

"Wheee!" he cried. "I have it-the very thing the book needed! The very thing!"

"BUNK AND HIS DAD" reached the popular heart from the outset, and, paradoxically, it gratified the critical element as well. The modest volume, they said, struck the true note of childhood, with all the pathos of the joyous assurance of faith and confidence and innocence and purity. and roguishness and love which make every home on this earth where little children are a separate heaven wherein, whatever the circumstance, the gall of life is less bitter, the sunlight more golden, and hope never quite dead.

All the nation went with "Bunk and His Dad" to Bronx Park for wild flowers on May-day; a world of readers attended the child as he talked up the chimney to Santa Claus on Christmas eve, and turned pages ahead to see if the bear incident ended happily. There were four reprints, a fifth impression, an edition de luxe, with marginal illustrations by a well-known illustrator.

The Saunders moved to a pretty little cottage in the Bronx, all covered with roses and honeysuckle, their own, and in addition there were many dollars safely invested in good securities through the kindness of a classmate, a Wall Street banker. Saunders wrote signed articles about children for Sunday editions of yellow or pale-chrome newspapers and for the "home" periodicals.

He left his stool in the insurance office, whereupon they gave him a farewell din

ner which the president of the company attended. He was principal speaker at the fifteenth annual dinner of his class, the first he had ever attended.

From this function he returned when the stars were whitening. His wife was waiting for him, eager for all he had to tell, and he told all. There was much to say, for at last the class had a real lion, and they had made the most of him.

"Ah, Nancy," he said when he had finished, "it is good to be successful."

She looked at him with kindling eyes, and then, placing her hands upon his shoulders, laid bare what was in her heart.

"Yes, John," she said, "it is good. Success is always sweet. But do you know, somehow, I wish-no, not that, but sometimes I-you seem so far away, so much further away than when we were in the little flat. You speak of meeting, of dining with, Carson and Devereaux and all the men we hear of, but they never come here. I never meet them. Ah, John, don't protest! It is all right. I would not have it otherwise for worlds. I know it is only that there is an important side of you now that is not mine, not all mine, or Bunk's, but the public's-Devereaux's, every one's but mine. Then there will be another book, and-and-"

With a cry Saunders drew her to him. "Yes, there will be more books; but it will be all for you and Bunk.”

She lifted her head proudly.
"Yes, there will be more."

"I feel it," rejoined Saunders. "It is in me. I gave not half in the first."

"But even if you gave all, we 've done so well with the one. There are the royalties and the magazines." There was an ill-concealed thrill in her voice.

"Yes," he said, "but there will be more."

As for Bunk, his admiration of his father was not increased by the book. This in truth would have been impossible. The volume, had not other qualities predominated in his father, must necessarily, indeed, have lessened his regard, since he far preferred "Mother Goose" and "Snow White" and Grimm's fairy-tales and a host of other magnificent stories to the transcriptions from his own life which his father occasionally read to him.

"But some day you will know," suggested Saunders, wistfully.

[graphic][merged small]


"Sure," asserted Bunk, "when I get a great big man.”

But would he? Saunders wondered and feared. He was n't big, and he knew it now, neither physically nor mentally big. In the midst of all the illusion concerning his book he knew it had been worthy not because of him, not because of his mind, but because the little story had involved solely an unimaginative transcription of his love, which fortunately had needed no coloring or adornment other than the rich ness of quality of the bare facts. There came to him one night, out of the limbo of vague dread, the time in his own boyhood experience when it had dawned upon him crushingly that his own father was only one of a million, one of that vast army of mediocrity who marched in the world's ranks evenly abreast. Somehow his father had never been the same after that, and soon, in a year or two, his book would be gathering dust on obscure shelves, a musty factor even in his own life.

He had said there would be more books;

but would there be? There were times when he answered this doubt with a swelling affirmative, times when he dared make no answer. Yet always it was the wife, with her brave, deep eyes and her sad smile, who said, "You will!" Said it, believing implicitly, because in those whom she loved it was in her to believe. And as she spoke, Saunders, taking courage from her, but looking beyond her, said, "I will!" And so he came and went, and lived his little measure of fame.

BUNK's fifth birthday came. Early in the morning Saunders went to him, bearing the edition de luxe of his book.

"Bunk," -and his mouth twitched a bit as he gazed down at his son over the bow spectacles,-"Bunk, here is the book that made me known all over the country. I have written in here that it is for your birthday present, and I have signed it. Mother will put it away for you, and sometime, long years off, when I'm not with you any more, perhaps, and you have

[graphic][ocr errors][merged small]


a little boy of your own, you 'll be glad Why, Bunk, are n't you listening!"

"Of course he 's listening," said the mother, who entered at the moment with a basket of gifts. "Of course he is, and he 's proud of his father. But he wants his new railroad blocks, too, and the friction-engine, and the hook-and-ladder. Of course you are proud, are n't you, Bunk?"

"Sure," said the boy, and with a squeal of delight he dived for the toys. Saunders,

standing dazedly in the middle of the floor with the book in his hand, was impressed into service as a demonstrator of the volitionary qualities of an engine which did not have to be pushed, and when the mother reëntered the room a bit later, she found the two seated on the floor, gloating over an immense block station. The edition de luxe served as a corner-stone.

There was a walk in the afternoon, in this case a ride across the river and down

town to a great museum, where there were works of a great sculptor which Saunders desired to see. As an inducement for Bunk to bear with him through this monotonous proceeding, they were later to walk down to the animals.

The immense room, with its pale plaster copies of the great man's achievements, with here and there an original marble or bronze, was filled with a reverent throng. There was an heroic group, a soldier on horseback, with flying cape and eagle-like poise of head, a woman, in flowing garments and outstretched hands, striding before. A soldier! Bunk was greatly interested. He had begun to play soldiers. "Say, Daddy, who is that?"

"That is General Sherman, Bunk, one of our bravest soldiers. He fought the rebels-you remember them in pictures." "Did he kill a whole lot of 'em?" "Oh, yes, I suppose so."

"Was he a very big man? Is that why they have his picture here?"

"Yes, Bunky; that 's why. They only have the pictures of men who have been terribly big."

"But ain't they got a picture of you? I should think they 'd have you, Daddy." Saunders frowned.

"Well, Bunk, you see, I was n't a soldier." He led the way hastily to another group; but Bunk wanted another look at the sword, and so they returned. He knew a great deal about Sherman before he permitted his father to take him elsewhere. They stood before another figure, a great, loose-jointed, benign, powerful man. "That man was n't a soldier," said Bunk, frowning. "He was once," returned the father. "He fought Indians. And then he was President, just like a king, you know. He was Abraham Lincoln, bigger than Sherman, bigger than every one."

For a long time Bunk gazed, and then suddenly he turned to his father.


'Daddy, will you ever be a soldier or a President?"

"No, no, my son; certainly not." "Why won't you be like those men? 'Cause you can't? Say, why can't you?" Something caught in Saunders's throat, and a flash of the old fear which had been with him since Bunk first walked shot across his mind; but he attempted no lie. "Bunk," he said, "we can't all be Pres

idents or big soldiers. Some men must be big, and others-well-not so big."

[ocr errors]

'And who says the men that shall be big and who shall be little?"

The father was silent a moment.

"Bunk, that 's what we all want to know. Sometime when you are older and have grown to be one of the big, biggest of men, maybe you will find out."

"Well," replied Bunk, doubtfully, "I'm going to be the biggest soldier-no, the biggest fireman-in the world."

"Oh," laughed Saunders, "when you are, you must tell me why some men have to ride on old hook and ladders while others can ride on bright fire-engines."

But Bunk did not fall into the lighter mood of his father.

The animals were viewed in a perfunctory way; even the elephant failed to interest him. His chubby little face seemed tense as with the weight of a problem, and so it was as they rode homeward.

As the car neared their house, Bunk turned to his father with big, serious eyes. "Daddy, did Lincoln have a mother?" "Why, certainly."

"Well, what did his mother do?" The father started and gazed at the little fellow, and he smiled.

"Bunk, she did the biggest thing in the world-she was Lincoln's mother." "Was she bigger than my mother?" "No, Bunk, all mothers are the sameall good mothers. Nothing in the world is bigger or better than mother, your mother, my mother, or Lincoln's mother -all the same." Tears gathered in Saunders's eyes as he continued: "Never forget what I tell you, Bunky. You will see all sorts of women in your life, and there are many sorts, but know when you kiss your mother that you have kissed the greatest woman in the world."

At supper Saunders was strangely quiet, and Bunk, too, failed of his meal-time chatter. After he had said his prayers and clambered into bed, and Saunders had begun on the evening story, the boy shivered, and buried his head in his mother's breast.

"No, no,”—and there was a little catch in his voice,-"I want mother to tell me to-night. You to-morrow night, Daddy."

The wife turned to her husband with great fear in her eyes, but Saunders smiled. "Yes, you, Nancy," he said; "the decrees of the young are truth."

« AnkstesnisTęsti »