Chapter 14 – And Jill Finds It Out

Louisa May Alcott2016年11月04日'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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Jill worried about it more than he did, for she was a faithful little
friend, and it was a great trial to have Jack even suspected of doing
anything wrong. School is a child’s world while he is there, and its
small affairs are very important to him, so Jill felt that the one
thing to be done was to clear away the cloud about her dear boy,
and restore him to public favor.

"Ed will be here Saturday night and may be he will find out, for
Jack tells him everything. I do hate to have him hectored so, for I
know he is, though he’s too proud to complain," she said, on
Thursday evening, when Frank told her some joke played upon his
brother that day.

"I let him alone, but I see that he isn’t badgered too much. That’s
all I can do. If Ed had only come home last Saturday it might have
done some good, but now it will be too late; for the reports are
given out to-morrow, you know," answered Frank, feeling a little
jealous of Ed’s influence over Jack, though his own would have
been as great if he had been as gentle.

"Has Jerry come back?" asked Jill, who kept all her questions for
Frank, because she seldom alluded to the tender subject when with

"No, he’s off for the summer. Got a place somewhere. Hope he’ll
stay there and let Bob alone."

"Where is Bob now? I don’t hear much about him lately," said Jill,
who was constantly on the lookout for "the other fellow," since it
was not Joe.

"Oh, he went to Captain Skinner’s the first of March, chores round,
and goes to school up there. Captain is strict, and won’t let Bob
come to town, except Sundays; but he don’t mind it much, for he
likes horses, has nice grub, and the Hill fellows are good chaps for
him to be with. So he’s all right, if he only behaves."

"How far is it to Captain Skinner’s?" asked Jill suddenly, having
listened, with her sharp eyes on Frank, as he tinkered away at his
model, since he was forbidden all other indulgence in his beloved

"It’s four miles to Hill District, but the Captain lives this side of the
school-house. About three from here, I should say."

"How long would it take a boy to walk up there?" went on the
questioner, with a new idea in her head.

"Depends on how much of a walkist he is."

"Suppose he was lame and it was sloshy, and he made a call and
came back. How long would that take?" asked Jill impatiently.

"Well, in that case, I should say two or three hours. But it’s
impossible to tell exactly, unless you know how lame the fellow
was, and how long a call he made," said Frank, who liked to be

"Jack couldn’t do it in less, could he?"

"He used to run up that hilly road for a breather, and think nothing
of it. It would be a long job for him now, poor little chap, for his
leg often troubles him, though he hates to own it."

Jill lay back and laughed, a happy little laugh, as if she was
pleased about something, and Frank looked over his shoulder to
ask questions in his turn.

"What are you laughing at?"

"Can’t tell."

"Why do you want to know about Hill District? Are you going

"Wish I could! I’d soon have it out of him."


"Never mind. Please push up my table. I must write a letter, and I
want you to post it for me to-night, and never say a word till I give
you leave."

"Oh, now you are going to have secrets and be mysterious, and get
into a mess, are you?" and Frank looked down at her with a
suspicious air, though he was intensely curious to know what she
was about.

"Go away till I’m done. You will have to see the outside, but you
can’t know the inside till the answer comes;" and propping herself
up, Jill wrote the following note, with some hesitation at the
beginning and end, for she did not know the gentleman she was
addressing, except by sight, and it was rather awkward: –

"Robert Walker.

"Dear Sir, I want to ask if Jack Minot came to see you last Friday
afternoon. He got into trouble being seen with Jerry Shannon. He
paid him some money. Jack won’t tell, and Mr. Acton talked to
him about it before all the school. We feel bad, because we think
Jack did not do wrong. I don’t know as you have anything to do
with it, but I thought I’d ask. Please answer quick. Respectfully

"Jane Pecq"

To make sure that her despatch was not tampered with, Jill put a
great splash of red sealing-wax on it, which gave it a very official
look, and much impressed Bob when he received it.

"There! Go and post it, and don’t let any one see or know about it,"
she said, handing it over to Frank, who left his work with unusual
alacrity to do her errand. When his eye fell on the address, he
laughed, and said in a teasing way, –

"Are you and Bob such good friends that you correspond? What
will Jack say?"

"Don’t know, and don’t care! Be good, now, and let’s have a little
secret as well as other folks. I’ll tell you all about it when he
answers," said Jill in her most coaxing tone.

"Suppose he doesn’t?"

"Then I shall send you up to see him. I must know something, and
I want to do it myself, if I can."

"Look here; what are you after? I do believe you think – – " Frank
got no farther, for Jill gave a little scream, and stopped him by
crying eagerly, "Don’t say it out loud! I really do believe it may be,
and I’m going to find out."

"What made you think of him?" and Frank looked thoughtfully at
the letter, as if turning carefully over in his mind the idea that Jill’s
quick wits had jumped at.

"Come here and I’ll tell you."

Holding him by one button, she whispered something in his ear
that made him exclaim, with a look at the rug, –

"No! did he? I declare I shouldn’t wonder! It would be just like the
dear old blunder-head."

"I never thought of it till you told me where Bob was, and then it
all sort of burst upon me in one minute!" cried Jill, waving her
arms about to express the intellectual explosion which had thrown
light upon the mystery, like sky-rockets in a dark night.

"You are as bright as a button. No time to lose; I’m off;" and off he
was, splashing through the mud to post the letter, on the back of
which he added, to make the thing sure, "Hurry up. F.M."

Both felt rather guilty next day, but enjoyed themselves very much
nevertheless, and kept chuckling over the mine they were making
under Jack’s unconscious feet. They hardly expected an answer at
noon, as the Hill people were not very eager for their mail, but at
night Jill was sure of a letter, and to her great delight it came. Jack
brought it himself, which added to the fun, and while she eagerly
read it he sat calmly poring over the latest number of his own
private and particular "Youth’s Companion."

Bob was not a "complete letter-writer" by any means, and with
great labor and much ink had produced the following brief but
highly satisfactory epistle. Not knowing how to address his fair
correspondent he let it alone, and went at once to the point in the
frankest possible way: –

"Jack did come up Friday. Sorry he got into a mess. It was real
kind of him, and I shall pay him back soon. Jack paid Jerry for me
and I made him promise not to tell. Jerry said he’d come here and
make a row if I didn’t cash up. I was afraid I’d lose the place if he
did, for the Capt. is awful strict. If Jack don’t tell now, I will. I ain’t
mean. Glad you wrote.


"Hurrah!" cried Jill, waving the letter over her head in great
triumph. "Call everybody and read it out," she added, as Frank
snatched it, and ran for his mother, seeing at a glance that the news
was good. Jill was so afraid she should tell before the others came
that she burst out singing "Pretty Bobby Shafto" at the top of her
voice, to Jack’s great disgust, for he considered the song very
personal, as he was rather fond of "combing down his yellow
hair," and Jill often plagued him by singing it when he came in
with the golden quirls very smooth and nice to hide the scar on his

In about five minutes the door flew open and in came Mamma,
making straight for bewildered Jack, who thought the family had
gone crazy when his parent caught him in her arms, saying
tenderly, –

"My good, generous boy! I knew he was right all the time!" while
Frank worked his hand up and down like a pump-handle, exclaiming
heartily, –

"You’re a trump, sir, and I’m proud of you!" Jill meantime calling
out, in wild delight, –

"I told you so! I told you so! I did find out; ha, ha, I did!"

"Come, I say! What’s the matter? I’m all right. Don’t squeeze the
breath out of me, please," expostulated Jack, looking so startled
and innocent, as he struggled feebly, that they all laughed, and this
plaintive protest caused him to be released. But the next
proceeding did not enlighten him much, for Frank kept waving a
very inky paper before him and ordering him to read it, while
Mamma made a charge at Jill, as if it was absolutely necessary to
hug somebody.

"Hullo!" said Jack, when he got the letter into his own hand and
read it. "Now who put Bob up to this? Nobody had any business to
interfere – but it’s mighty good of him, anyway," he added, as the
anxious lines in his round face smoothed themselves away, while a
smile of relief told how hard it had been for him to keep his word.

"I did!" cried Jill, clapping her hands, and looking so happy that he
could not have scolded her if he had wanted to.

"Who told you he was in the scrape?" demanded Jack, in a hurry to
know all about it now the seal was taken off his own lips.

"You did;" and Jill’s face twinkled with naughty satisfaction, for
this was the best fun of all.

"I didn’t! When? Where? It’s a joke!"

"You did," cried Jill, pointing to the rug. "You went to sleep there
after the long walk, and talked in your sleep about ‘Bob’ and ‘All
right, old boy,’ and ever so much gibberish. I didn’t think about it
then, but when I heard that Bob was up there I thought may be he
knew something about it, and last night I wrote and asked him, and
that’s the answer, and now it is all right, and you are the best boy
that ever was, and I’m so glad!"

Here Jill paused, all out of breath, and Frank said, with an
approving pat on the head, –

"It won’t do to have such a sharp young person round if we are
going to have secrets. You’d make a good detective, miss."

"Catch me taking naps before people again;" and Jack looked
rather crestfallen that his own words had set "Fine Ear" on the
track. "Never mind, I didn’t mean to tell, though I just ached to do
it all the time, so I haven’t broken my word. I’m glad you all know,
but you needn’t let it get out, for Bob is a good fellow, and it might
make trouble for him," added Jack, anxious lest his gain should be
the other’s loss.

"I shall tell Mr. Acton myself, and the Captain, also, for I’m not
going to have my son suspected of wrong-doing when he has only
tried to help a friend, and borne enough for his sake," said
Mamma, much excited by this discovery of generous fidelity in her
boy; though when one came to look at it calmly, one saw that it
might have been done in a wiser way.

"Now, please, don’t make a fuss about it; that would be most as
bad as having every one down on me. I can stand your praising me,
but I won’t be patted on the head by anybody else;" and Jack
assumed a manly air, though his face was full of genuine boyish
pleasure at being set right in the eyes of those he loved.

"I’ll be discreet, dear, but you owe it to yourself, as well as Bob, to
have the truth known. Both have behaved well, and no harm will
come to him, I am sure. I’ll see to that myself," said Mrs. Minot, in
a tone that set Jack’s mind at rest on that point.

"Now do tell all about it," cried Jill, who was pining to know the
whole story, and felt as if she had earned the right to hear it.

"Oh, it wasn’t much. We promised Ed to stand by Bob, so I did as
well as I knew how;" and Jack seemed to think that was about all
there was to say.

"I never saw such a fellow for keeping a promise! You stick to it
through thick and thin, no matter how silly or hard it is. You
remember, mother, last summer, how you told him not to go in a
boat and he promised, the day we went on the picnic. We rode up,
but the horse ran off home, so we had to come back by way of the
river, all but Jack, and he walked every step of five miles because
he wouldn’t go near a boat, though Mr. Burton was there to take
care of him. I call that rather overdoing the matter;" and Frank
looked as if he thought moderation even in virtue a good thing.

"And I call it a fine sample of entire obedience. He obeyed orders,
and that is what we all must do, without always seeing why, or
daring to use our own judgment. It is a great safeguard to Jack, and
a very great comfort to me; for I know that if he promises he will
keep his word, no matter what it costs him," said Mamma warmly,
as she tumbled up the quirls with an irrepressible caress,
remembering how the boy came wearily in after all the others,
without seeming for a moment to think that he could have done
anything else.

"Like Casabianca!" cried Jill, much impressed, for obedience was
her hardest trial.

"I think he was a fool to burn up," said Frank, bound not to give in.

"I don’t. It’s a splendid piece, and every one likes to speak it, and it
was true, and it wouldn’t be in all the books if he was a fool.
Grown people know what is good," declared Jill, who liked heroic
actions, and was always hoping for a chance to distinguish herself
in that way.

"You admire ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade,’ and glow all over
as you thunder it out. Yet they went gallantly to their death rather
than disobey orders. A mistake, perhaps, but it makes us thrill to
hear of it; and the same spirit keeps my Jack true as steel when
once his word is passed, or he thinks it is his duty. Don’t be
laughed out of it, my son, for faithfulness in little things fits one
for heroism when the great trials come. One’s conscience can
hardly be too tender when honor and honesty are concerned."

"You are right, mother, and I am wrong. I beg your pardon, Jack,
and you sha’n’t get ahead of me next time."

Frank made his mother a little bow, gave his brother a shake of the
hand, and nodded to Jill, as if anxious to show that he was not too
proud to own up when he made a mistake.

"Please tell on, Jack. This is very nice, but I do want to know all
about the other," said Jill, after a short pause.

"Let me see. Oh, I saw Bob at church, and he looked rather blue;
so, after Sunday School, I asked what the matter was. He said Jerry
bothered him for some money he lent him at different times when
they were loafing round together, before we took him up. He
wouldn’t get any wages for some time. The Captain keeps him
short on purpose, I guess, and won’t let him come down town
except on Sundays. He didn’t want any one to know about it, for
fear he’d lose his place. So I promised I wouldn’t tell. Then I was
afraid Jerry would go and make a fuss, and Bob would run off, or
do something desperate, being worried, and I said I’d pay it for
him, if I could. So he went home pretty jolly, and I scratched
’round for the money. Got it, too, and wasn’t I glad?"

Jack paused to rub his hands, and Frank said, with more than usual

"Couldn’t you get hold of Jerry in any other place, and out of
school time? That did the mischief, thanks to Joe. I thrashed him,
Jill – did I mention it?"

"I couldn’t get all my money till Friday morning, and I knew Jerry
was off at night. I looked for him before school, and at noon, but
couldn’t find him, so afternoon recess was my last chance. I was
bound to do it and I didn’t mean to break the rule, but Jerry was
just going into the shop, so I pelted after him, and as it was private
business we went to the billiard-room. I declare I never was so
relieved as when I handed over that money, and made him say it
was all right, and he wouldn’t go near Bob. He’s off, so my mind is
easy, and Bob will be so grateful I can keep him steady, perhaps.
That will be worth two seventy-five, I think," said Jack heartily.

"You should have come to me," began Frank.

"And got laughed at – no, thank you," interrupted Jack, recollecting
several philanthropic little enterprises which were nipped in the
bud for want of co-operation.

"To me, then," said his mother. "It would have saved so much

"I thought of it, but Bob didn’t want the big fellows to know for
fear they’d be down on him, so I thought he might not like me to
tell grown people. I don’t mind the fuss now, and Bob is as kind as
he can be. Wanted to give me his big knife, but I wouldn’t take it.
I’d rather have this," and Jack put the letter in his pocket with a
slap outside, as if it warmed the cockles of his heart to have it

"Well, it seems rather like a tempest in a teapot, now it is all over,
but I do admire your pluck, little boy, in holding out so well when
every one was scolding at you, and you in the right all the time,"
said Frank, glad to praise, now that he honestly could, after his
wholesale condemnation.

"That is what pulled me through, I suppose. I used to think if I had
done anything wrong, that I couldn’t stand the snubbing a day. I
should have told right off, and had it over. Now, I guess I’ll have a
good report if you do tell Mr. Acton," said Jack, looking at his
mother so wistfully, that she resolved to slip away that very
evening, and make sure that the thing was done.

"That will make you happier than anything else, won’t it?" asked
Jill, eager to have him rewarded after his trials.

"There’s one thing I like better, though I’d be very sorry to lose my
report. It’s the fun of telling Ed I tried to do as he wanted us to, and
seeing how pleased he’ll be," added Jack, rather bashfully, for the
boys laughed at him sometimes for his love of this friend.

"I know he won’t be any happier about it than someone else, who
stood by you all through, and set her bright wits to work till the
trouble was all cleared away," said Mrs. Minot, looking at Jill’s
contented face, as she lay smiling on them all.

Jack understood, and, hopping across the room, gave both the thin
hands a hearty shake; then, not finding any words quite cordial
enough in which to thank this faithful little sister, he stooped down
and kissed her gratefully.


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