Jack’s Side of It

Jill says I have to begin this story because it was me–I mean it was
I–who made all the trouble in the first place. That is so like Jill.
She is such a good hand at forgetting. Why, it was she who suggested
the plot to me. I should never have thought of it myself–not that
Jill is any smarter than I am, either, but girls are such creatures
for planning up mischief and leading other folks into it and then
laying the blame on them when things go wrong. How could I tell Dick
would act so like a mule? I thought grown-up folks had more sense.
Aunt Tommy was down on me for weeks, while she thought Jill a regular
heroine. But there! Girls don’t know anything about being fair, and I
am determined I will never have anything more to do with them and
their love affairs as long as I live. Jill says I will change my mind
when I grow up, but I won’t.

Still, Jill is a pretty good sort of girl. I have to scold her
sometimes, but if any other chap tried to I would punch his head for
him.

I suppose it _is_ time I explained who Dick and Aunt Tommy are. Dick
is our minister. He hasn’t been it very long. He only came a year ago.
I shall never forget how surprised Jill and I were that first Sunday
we went to church and saw him. We had always thought that ministers
had to be old. All the ministers we knew were. Mr. Grinnell, the one
before Dick came, must have been as old as Methuselah. But Dick was
young–and good-looking. Jill said she thought it a positive sin for a
minister to be so good-looking, it didn’t seem Christian; but that was
just because all the ministers we knew happened to be homely so that
it didn’t appear natural.

Dick was tall and pale and looked as if he had heaps of brains. He had
thick curly brown hair and big dark blue eyes–Jill said his eyes were
like an archangel’s, but how could she tell? She never saw an
archangel. I liked his nose. It was so straight and finished-looking.
Mr. Grinnell had the worst-looking nose you ever saw. Jill and I used
to make poetry about it in church to keep from falling asleep when he
preached such awful long sermons.

Dick preached great sermons. They were so nice and short. It was such
fun to hear him thump the pulpit when he got excited; and when he got
more excited still he would lean over the pulpit, his face all white,
and talk so low and solemn that it would just send the most gorgeous
thrills through you.

Dick came to Owlwood–that’s our place; I hate these
explanations–quite a lot, even before Aunt Tommy came. He and Father
were chums; they had been in college together and Father said Dick was
the best football player he ever knew. Jill and I soon got acquainted
with him and this was another uncanny thing. We had never thought it
possible to get acquainted with a minister. Jill said she didn’t think
it proper for a real live minister to be so chummy. But then Jill was
a little jealous because Dick and I, being both men; were better
friends than he and she could be. He taught me to skate that winter
and fence with canes and do long division. I could never understand
long division before Dick came, although I was away on in fractions.

Jill has just been in and says I ought to explain that Dick’s name
wasn’t Dick. I do wish Jill would mind her own business. Of course it
wasn’t. His real name was the Reverend Stephen Richmond, but Jill and
I always called him Dick behind his back; it seemed so jolly and
venturesome, somehow, to speak of a minister like that. Only we had to
be careful not to let Father and Mother hear us. Mother wouldn’t even
let Father call Dick “Stephen”; she said it would set a bad example of
familiarity to the children. Mother is an old darling. She won’t
believe we’re half as bad as we are.

Well, early in May comes Aunt Tommy. I must explain who Aunt Tommy is
or Jill will be at me again. She is Father’s youngest sister and her
real name is Bertha Gordon, but Father has always called her Tommy and
she likes it.

Jill and I had never seen Aunt Tommy before, but we took to her from
the start because she was so pretty and because she talked to us just
as if we were grown up. She called Jill Elizabeth, and Jill would
adore a Hottentot who called her Elizabeth.

Aunt Tommy is the prettiest girl I ever saw. If Jill is half as
good-looking when she gets to be twenty–she’s only ten now, same age
as I am, we’re twins–I shall be proud of her for a sister.

Aunt Tommy is all white and dimpled. She has curly red hair and big
jolly brown eyes and scrumptious freckles. I do like freckles in a
girl, although Jill goes wild if she thinks she has one on her nose.
When we talked of writing this story Jill said I wasn’t to say that
Aunt Tommy had freckles because it wouldn’t sound romantic. But I
don’t care. She has freckles and I think they are all right.

We went to church with Aunt Tommy the first Sunday after she came, one
on each side of her. Aunt Tommy is the only girl in the world I’d walk
hand in hand with before people. She looked fine that day. She had on
a gorgeous dress, all frills and ruffles, and a big white floppy hat.
I was proud of her for an aunt, I can tell you, and I was anxious for
Dick to see her. When he came up to speak to me and Jill after church
came out I said, “Aunt Tommy, this is Mr. Richmond,” just like the
grown-up people say. Aunt Tommy and Dick shook hands and Dick got as
red as anything. It was funny to see him.

The very next evening he came down to Owlwood. We hadn’t expected him
until Tuesday, for he never came Monday night before. That is Father’s
night for going to a lodge meeting. Mother was away this time too. I
met Dick on the porch and took him into the parlour, thinking what a
bully talk we could have all alone together, without Jill bothering
around. But in a minute Aunt Tommy came in and she and Dick began to
talk, and I just couldn’t get a word in edgewise. I got so disgusted I
started out, but I don’t believe they ever noticed I was gone. I liked
Aunt Tommy very well, but I didn’t think she had any business to
monopolize Dick like that when he and I were such old chums.

Outside I came across Jill. She was sitting all alone in the dark,
curled up on the edge of the verandah just where she could see into
the parlour through the big glass door. I sat down beside her, for I
wanted sympathy.

“Dick’s in there talking to Aunt Tommy,” I said. “I don’t see what
makes him want to talk to her.”

“What a goose you are!” said Jill in that aggravatingly patronizing
way of hers. “Why, Dick has fallen in love with Aunt Tommy!”

Honest, I jumped. I never was so surprised.

“How do you know?” I asked.

“Because I do,” said Jill. “I knew it yesterday at church and I think
it is so romantic.”

“I don’t see how you can tell,” I said–and I didn’t.

“You’ll understand better when you get older,” said Jill. Sometimes
Jill talks as if she were a hundred years older than I am, instead of
being a twin. And really, sometimes I think she _is_ older.

“I didn’t think ministers ever fell in love,” I protested.

“Some do,” said Jill sagely. “Mr. Grinnell wouldn’t ever, I suppose.
But Dick is different. I’d like him for a husband myself. But he’d be
too old for me by the time I grew up, so I suppose I’ll have to let
Aunt Tommy have him. It will be all in the family anyhow–that is one
comfort. I think Aunt Tommy ought to have me for a flower girl and
I’ll wear pink silk clouded over with white chiffon and carry a big
bouquet of roses.”

“Jill, you take my breath away,” I said, and she did. My imagination
couldn’t travel as fast as that. But after I had thought the idea
over a bit I liked it. It was a good deal like a book; and, besides, a
minister is a respectable thing to have in a family.

“We must help them all we can,” said Jill.

“What can we do?” I asked.

“We must praise Dick to Aunt Tommy and Aunt Tommy to Dick and we must
keep out of the way–we mustn’t ever hang around when they want to be
alone,” said Jill.

“I don’t want to give up being chums with Dick,” I grumbled.

“We must be self-sacrificing,” said Jill. And that sounded so fine it
reconciled me to the attempt.

We sat there and watched Dick and Aunt Tommy for an hour. I thought
they were awfully prim and stiff. If I’d been Dick I’d have gone over
and hugged her. I said so to Jill and Jill was shocked. She said it
wouldn’t be proper when they weren’t even engaged.

When Dick went away Aunt Tommy came out to the verandah and discovered
us. She sat down between us and put her arms about us. Aunt Tommy has
such cute ways.

“I like your minister very much,” she said.

“He’s bully,” I said.

“He’s as handsome as a prince,” Jill said.

“He preaches splendid sermons–he makes people sit up in church, I can
tell you,” I said.

“He has a heavenly tenor voice,” Jill said.

“He’s got a magnificent muscle,” I said.

“He has the most poetical eyes,” Jill said.

“He swims like a duck,” I said.

“He looks just like a Greek god,” Jill said.

I’m sure Jill couldn’t have known what a Greek god looked like, but I
suppose she got the comparison out of some novel. Jill is always
reading novels. She borrows them from the cook.

Aunt Tommy laughed and said, “You darlings.”

For the next three months Jill and I were wild. It was just like
reading a serial story to watch Dick and Aunt Tommy. One day when Dick
came Aunt Tommy wasn’t quite ready to come down, so Jill and I went in
to the parlour to help things along. We knew we hadn’t much time, so
we began right off.

“Aunt Tommy is the jolliest girl I know,” I said.

“She is as beautiful as a dream,” Jill said.

“She can play games as good as a boy,” I said.

“She does the most elegant fancy work,” Jill said.

“She never gets mad,” I said.

“She plays and sings divinely,” Jill said.

“She can cook awfully good things,” I said, for I was beginning to run
short of compliments. Jill was horrified; she said afterwards that it
wasn’t a bit romantic. But I don’t care–I believe Dick liked it, for
he smiled with his eyes I just as he always does when he’s pleased.
Girls don’t understand everything.

* * * * *

But at the end of three months we began to get anxious. Things were
going so slow. Dick and Aunt Tommy didn’t seem a bit further ahead
than at first. Jill said it was because Aunt Tommy didn’t encourage
Dick enough.

“I do wish we could hurry them up a little,” she said. “At this rate
they will never be married this year and by next I’ll be too big to be
a flower girl. I’m stretching out horribly as it is. Mother has had to
let down my frocks again.”

“I wish they would get engaged and have done with it,” I said. “My
mind would be at rest then. It’s all Dick’s fault. Why doesn’t he ask
Aunt Tommy to marry him? What’s making him so slow about it? If I
wanted a girl to marry me–but I wouldn’t ever–I’d tell her so right
spang off.”

“I suppose ministers have to be more dignified,” said Jill, “but three
months ought to be enough time for anyone. And Aunt Tommy is only
going to be here another month. If Dick could be made a little
jealous it would hurry him up. And he could be made jealous if you had
any spunk about you.”

“I guess I’ve got more spunk than you have,” I said.

“The trouble with Dick is this,” said Jill. “There is nobody else
coming to see Aunt Tommy and he thinks he is sure of her. If you could
tell him something different it would stir him up.”

“Are you sure it would?” I asked.

“It always does in novels,” said Jill. And that settled it, of course.

Jill and I fixed up what I was to say and Jill made me say it over and
over again to be sure I had it right. I told her–sarcastically–that
she’d better say it herself and then it would be done properly. Jill
said she would if it were Aunt Tommy, but when it was Dick it was
better for a man to do it. So of course I agreed.

I didn’t know when I would have a chance to stir Dick up, but
Providence–so Jill said–favoured us. Aunt Tommy didn’t expect Dick
down the next night, so she and Father and Mother all went away
somewhere. Dick came after all, and Jill sent me into the parlour to
tell him. He was standing before the mantel looking at Aunt Tommy’s
picture. There was such an adoring look in his eyes. I could see it
quite plain in the mirror before him. I practised that look a lot
before my own glass after that–because I thought it might come in
handy some time, you know–but I guess I couldn’t have got it just
right because when I tried it on Jill she asked me if I had a pain.

“Well, Jack, old man,” said Dick, sitting down on the sofa. I sat down
before him.

“Aunt Tommy is out,” I said, to get the worst over. “I guess you like
Aunt Tommy pretty well, don’t you, Mr. Richmond?”




“Yes,” said Dick softly.

“So do other men,” I said–mysterious, as Jill had ordered me.

Dick thumped one of the sofa pillows.

“Yes, I suppose so,” he said.

“There’s a man in New York who just worships Aunt Tommy,” I said. “He
writes her most every day and sends her books and music and elegant
presents. I guess she’s pretty fond of him too. She keeps his
photograph on her bedroom table and I’ve seen her kissing it.”

I stopped there, not because I had said all I had to say, but because
Dick’s face scared me–honest, it did. It had all gone white, like it
does in the pulpit sometimes when he is tremendously in earnest, only
ten times worse. But all he said was,

“Is your Aunt Bertha engaged to this–this man?”

“Not exactly engaged,” I said, “but I guess anybody else who wants to
marry her will have to reckon with him.”

Dick got up.

“I think I won’t wait this evening,” he said.

“I wish you’d stay and have a talk with me,” I said. “I haven’t had a
talk with you for ages and I have a million things to tell you.”

Dick smiled as if it hurt him to smile.

“I can’t tonight, Jacky. Some other time we’ll have a good powwow, old
chap.”

He took his hat and went out. Then Jill came flying in to hear all
about it. I told her as well as I could, but she wasn’t satisfied. If
Dick took it so quietly, she declared, I couldn’t have made it strong
enough.

“If you had seen Dick’s face,” I said, “you would have thought I made
it plenty strong. And I’d like to know what Aunt Tommy will say to all
this when she finds out.”

“Well, you didn’t tell a thing but what was true,” said Jill.

The next evening was Dick’s regular night for coming, but he didn’t
come, although Jill and I went down the lane a dozen times to watch
for him. The night after that was prayer-meeting night. Dick had
always walked home with Aunt Tommy and us, but that night he didn’t.
He only just bowed and smiled as he passed us in the porch. Aunt Tommy
hardly spoke all the way home, only just held tight to Jill’s and my
hands. But after we got home she seemed in great spirits and laughed
and chatted with Father and Mother.

“What does this mean?” asked Jill, grabbing me in the hall on our way
to bed.

“You’d better get another novel from the cook and find out,” I said
grouchily. I was disgusted with things in general and Dick in
particular.

The three weeks that followed were awful. Dick never came near
Owlwood. Jill and I fought every day, we were so cross and
disappointed. Nothing had come out right, and Jill blamed it all on
me. She said I must have made it too strong. There was no fun in
anything, not even in going to church. Dick hardly thumped the pulpit
at all and when he did it was only a measly little thump. But Aunt
Tommy didn’t seem to worry any. She sang and laughed and joked from
morning to night.

“She doesn’t mind Dick’s making an ass of himself, anyway, that’s one
consolation,” I said to Jill.

“She is breaking her heart about it,” said Jill, “and that’s your
consolation!”

“I don’t believe it,” I said. “What makes you think so?”

“She cries every night,” said Jill. “I can tell by the look of her
eyes in the morning.”

“She doesn’t look half as woebegone over it as you do,” I said.

“If I had her reason for looking woebegone I wouldn’t look it either,”
said Jill.

I asked her to explain her meaning, but she only said that little boys
couldn’t understand those things.

Things went on like this for another week. Then they reached–so Jill
says–a climax. If Jill knows what that means I don’t. But Pinky
Carewe was the climax. Pinky’s name is James, but Jill and I always
called him Pinky because we couldn’t bear him. He took to calling at
Owlwood and one evening he took Aunt Tommy out driving. Then Jill came
to me.

“Something has got to be done,” she said resolutely. “I am not going
to have Pinky Carewe for an Uncle Tommy and that is all there is about
it. You must go straight to Dick and tell him the truth about the New
York man.”

I looked at Jill to see if she were in earnest. When I saw that she
was I said, “I wouldn’t take all the gems of Golconda and go and tell
Dick that I’d been hoaxing him. You can do it yourself, Jill Gordon.”

“You didn’t tell him anything that wasn’t true,” said Jill.

“I don’t know how a minister might look upon it,” I said. “Anyway, I
won’t go.”

“Then I suppose I’ve got to,” said Jill very dolefully.

“Yes, you’ll have to,” I said.

And this finishes my part of the story, and Jill is going to tell the
rest. But you needn’t believe everything she says about me in it.