Stories Worth Rereading: Harold’s Footman

“Bob,” called Harold to his little brother, who was playing on the back door-step, “trot out to the barn and bring me my saw, will you?”

Bobby left his two pet cats, Topsy and Tiger, on the steps, and ran obediently for the tool. Harold was very busy constructing a hen-coop, and he needed a great deal of assistance.

“Thanks,” he said, shortly, as the little boy returned. “Now, where did I put those nails? O, they’re on the kitchen table! Hand them out.” Bobby produced the nails, and sat down again to watch the work.

“Are you going to finish it today, Hal?” he asked.

“No; haven’t time. I am going to the commons in about ten minutes. There is a lacrosse match on; but I want to drive these nails first. O, say, Bob, my lacrosse stick is up in my room! You go and bring it down, I am so awfully busy.”

Bobby ran eagerly up the stairs. He always went on errands for his big brother very willingly, but this time he made special haste; for a hope was entering his heart that perhaps Hal would take him to see the match.

“Mother!” he cried, poking his head out to the shady front veranda where his mother and aunt sat sewing, “Hal’s going to the commons; may I go too?”

His mother looked up from her sewing rather doubtfully.

“O, I really don’t know, dearie!” she began.

“O, let the poor wee man go!” pleaded Aunt Kate, when she saw the look of disappointment on Bobby’s round face. “Hal will take care of him.”

“Well, keep near Hal, Bobby. I don’t like your crossing the railroad track.”

Bobby bounded out to the back yard in high glee, waving the lacrosse stick.

“Mother says I can go, too,” he shouted, jumping down the steps in a manner that made Tiger and Topsy rise up indignantly and move to one side.

“O pshaw!” cried his brother, hammering a nail rather viciously. “What do you always want to follow me round for?”

“O, can’t I go?” cried the little fellow, in distress. “Aw, Hal, do let me!”

“I can’t have a kid like you forever tagging after me. Why can’t you play with boys of your own age? You can’t come today, that’s all about it.”

“O Hal! you—you might let me! I won’t be a bother!” Bobby’s eyes were beginning to brim over with tears. His face wore a look of despair.

“O, cry-baby; of course you must howl! You can stay at home and play with the cats.”

And the big brother, whom Bobby had served so willingly all day, shouldered his lacrosse stick and went off whistling.

Harold met his Aunt Kate in the hall.

“Where’s your little footman?” she asked gaily. “Isn’t he going?”

“Who? Bob? O Aunt Kate, he’s too small to go everyvhere with me!”

“Ah!” Aunt Kate looked surprised. “I thought he was quite big enough to be with you when there was work to be done, but I see, a footman is wanted to run errands and do such things.”

Harold was not very well acquainted with his aunt, and he was never quite sure whether she was in fun or not. The idea of her saying Bob was his footman! He felt quite indignant.

He had just reached the street when he remembered that he had left his ball where he had been working. He half wished Bobby were with him, so he could send him back for it. And then he felt ashamed when he remembered his aunt’s words. Was she right, after all, and did he make use of his little brother, and then thrust him aside when he did not need him?

He did not like the idea of facing Aunt Kate again, so he slipped in through the back gate, and walked quietly around the house. As he approached the house, he heard a voice, and paused a moment, hidden by a lilac bush. Poor, lonely Bobby was sitting on the steps, one hand on Tiger’s neck, while the other stroked Topsy. He was pouring out to his two friends all his troubles.

“He doesn’t like me, Tops, not one little bit. He never wants me round, only to run and get things for him. You don’t be bad to Tops just ’cause she’s littler than you, do you, Tiger? But I guess you like Topsy, and Hal don’t like me. He don’t like me one little teenty bit.” Here a sob choked him, and through the green branches Harold could see a big tear-drop upon Topsy’s velvet coat.

“I wish I had a brother that liked me.” went on the pitiful little voice. “Tom Benson likes Charlie. He likes him an awful lot. And Charlie doesn’t do nearly so many things as I do. I guess I oughtn’t to tell, Tiger, but you and Tops wouldn’t tell tales, so ’tisn’t the same as tellin’ father, or mother, or Auntie Kate, is it, Tige? But I think he might like me a little wee bit, don’t you, Tiger?” And Harold could see the blue blouse sleeve raised to brush away the hot tears.

Harold drew back quietly, and tiptoed down the walk to the street. He had forgotten all about the ball. His eyes were so misty that he did not notice Charlie Benson, waiting for him at the gate, until Tom called:—

“Hello there! I thought you were never coming, What kept you?”

“Say, is Charlie going?” asked Harold, suddenly.

“Of course I am!” cried the little fellow, cutting a caper on the sidewalk. “Tom said I could. Didn’t you, Tom?”

Tom laughed good-naturedly. “He was bound to come,” he said. “He won’t bother us.”

“Well—I—think Bob wants to come, too,” said Harold, hesitatingly, “and if Charlie is going—”

“O, goody!” cried Charlie, who was Bobby’s special chum. “Where is he?”

Harold put his fingers to his lips, and uttered two sharp whistles. Bobby understood the signal, and came around the side of the house. He had carefully wiped away his tears, but his voice was rather shaky.

“What d’ye want?” he called. He felt sure Hal had an errand for him.

“Charlie’s going to the commons with us,” shouted his brother, “so I guess you can come, if you want to.”

Bobby came down the path in leaps and bounds.

“I’m going, mother!” he shouted, waving his cap. And away he and Charlie tore down the street ahead of their brothers.

“Hold on, there!” cried Harold, with a laugh. “Don’t get crazy! And mind you two keep near us at the track!”

It was about a week later that Aunt Kate laid her hand on Harold’s shoulder, and said: “I am afraid I made a mistake the other day, Hal. I believe Bobby’s been promoted from the rank of footman to be a brother.”

Martha Graham, in the King’s Own.