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A Brace Of Boys by Fitz Hugh Ludlow

Produced by David Widger

A BRACE OF BOYS

By Fitz Hugh Ludlow

From "Little Brother,"

Copyright, 1867, by Lee & Shepard

I am a bachelor uncle. That, as a mere fact, might happen to anybody; but I am a bachelor uncle by internal fitness. I am one essentially, just as I am an individual of the Caucasian division of the human race; and if, through untoward circumstances--which Heaven forbid--I should lose my present position, I shouldn't be surprised if you saw me out in the "Herald" under "Situations Wanted--Males." Thanks to a marrying tendency in the rest of my family, I have now little need to advertise, all the business being thrown into my way which a single member of my profession can attend to. I suppose you won't agree with me; but, do you know, sometimes I think it's better than having children of one's own? People tell me that I'd feel very differently if I did have any. Perhaps so, but then, too, I might be unwise with them; I might bother them into mischief by trying to keep them out. I might be avaricious of them--might be tempted to lock them up in my own stingy old nursery-chest instead of paying them out to meet the bills of humanity and keep the Lord's business moving. I might forget, when I had spent my life in fining their gold and polishing their graven-work, that they were still vessels for the Master's use--I only the Butler--the sweetness and the spirit with which they brimmed all belonging to His lips who tasted bitterness for me. Then, if seeking to drain another's wine, I raised the chalice to my lips and found it gall, or felt it steal into my old veins to poison the heart and paralyze the hand which had kept it from the Master, what further good would there be for me in the world? Who doesn't know, in some friend's house, a closet containing that worst of skeletons--the skeleton which, in becoming naked, grim and ghastly, tears its way through our own flesh and blood? To be an uncle is a different kind of thing. There you have nothing of the excitement of responsibility to shake your judgment That's what makes us bachelor uncles so much better judges of what's good for children and their fathers and mothers. We know that nobody will blame us if our nephews unjoint their knuckles or cut their fingers off; so we give them five-bladed knives and boxing gloves. This involves getting thanked at the time, which is pleasant; and if no catastrophe occurs, when they have grown stout and ingenious, with what calm satisfaction we hear people say, "See what a pretty windmill the child's whittled out with Uncle Ned's birthday present!" or, "That boy's grown an inch round the chest since you set him sparring!" Uncles never get stale. They don't come every day like parents and plain pudding; they're a sort of holiday relative with a plummy, Christmas flavor about them. Everybody hasn't got them; they are not so rare as the meteoric showers, but as occasional as a particularly fine day, and whenever they come to a house they're in the nature of a pleasant surprise.

I meander, like a desultory, placid river of an old bachelor as I am, through the flowery mead of several nurseries. I am detained by all the little roots that run down into me to drink happiness, but I linger longest among the children of my sister Lu.

Lu married Mr. Lovegrove. He is a merchant, retired, with a fortune amassed by the old-fashioned slow process of trade, and regards the mercantile life of the present day only as so much greed and gambling Christianly baptized. For the ten years elapsing since he sold out of Lovegrove, Cashdown & Co., he has devoted himself to his family and a revival of letters, taking up again the Latin and Greek which he had not looked at since his college days, until he dismissed teas and silks to adorn a suburban villa with a spectacle of a prime Christian parent and Pagan scholar. Lu is my favorite sister; Lovegrove an unusually good article of brother-in-law; and I can not say that any of my nieces and nephews interest me more than their two children, Daniel and Billy, who are more unlike than words can paint them. They are far apart in point of years; Daniel is twenty-two, Billy eleven. I was reminded of this fact the other day by Billy, as he stood between my legs, scowling at his book of sums.


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