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Chapter 19 – Good Templars

Louisa May AlcottNov 04, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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"Hi there! Bell’s rung! Get up, lazy-bones!" called Frank from his
room as the clock struck six one bright morning, and a great
creaking and stamping proclaimed that he was astir.

"All right, I’m coming," responded a drowsy voice, and Jack turned
over as if to obey; but there the effort ended, and he was off again,
for growing lads are hard to rouse, as many a mother knows to her
sorrow.

Frank made a beginning on his own toilet, and then took a look at
his brother, for the stillness was suspicious.

"I thought so! He told me to wake him, and I guess this will do it;"
and, filling his great sponge with water, Frank stalked into the next
room and stood over the unconscious victim like a stern
executioner, glad to unite business with pleasure in this agreeable
manner.

A woman would have relented and tried some milder means, for
when his broad shoulders and stout limbs were hidden, Jack
looked very young and innocent in his sleep. Even Frank paused a
moment to look at the round, rosy face, the curly eyelashes,
half-open mouth, and the peaceful expression of a dreaming baby.
"I must do it, or he won’t be ready for breakfast," said the Spartan
brother, and down came the sponge, cold, wet, and choky, as it
was briskly rubbed to and fro regardless of every obstacle.

"Come, I say! That’s not fair! Leave me alone!" sputtered Jack,
hitting out so vigorously that the sponge flew across the room, and
Frank fell back to laugh at the indignant sufferer.

"I promised to wake you, and you believe in keeping promises, so
I’m doing my best to get you up."

"Well, you needn’t pour a quart of water down a fellow’s neck, and
rub his nose off, need you? I’m awake, so take your old sponge and
go along," growled Jack, with one eye open and a mighty gape.

"See that you keep so, then, or I’ll come and give you another sort
of a rouser," said Frank, retiring well-pleased with his success.

"I shall have one good stretch, if I like. It is strengthening to the
muscles, and I’m as stiff as a board with all that football
yesterday," murmured Jack, lying down for one delicious moment.
He shut the open eye to enjoy it thoroughly, and forgot the stretch
altogether, for the bed was warm, the pillow soft, and a
half-finished dream still hung about his drowsy brain. Who does
not know the fatal charm of that stolen moment – for once yield to
it, and one is lost.

Jack was miles away "in the twinkling of a bedpost," and the
pleasing dream seemed about to return, when a ruthless hand tore
off the clothes, swept him out of bed, and he really did awake to
find himself standing in the middle of his bath-pan with both
windows open, and Frank about to pour a pail of water over him.

"Hold on! Yah, how cold the water is! Why, I thought I was up;"
and, hopping out, Jack rubbed his eyes and looked about with such
a genuine surprise that Frank put down the pail, feeling that the
deluge would not be needed this time.

"You are now, and I’ll see that you keep so," he said, as he stripped
the bed and carried off the pillows.

"I don’t care. What a jolly day!" and Jack took a little promenade
to finish the rousing process.

"You’d better hurry up, or you won’t get your chores done before
breakfast. No time for a ‘go as you please’ now," said Frank; and
both boys laughed, for it was an old joke of theirs, and rather
funny.

Going up to bed one night expecting to find Jack asleep, Frank
discovered him tramping round and round the room airily attired in
a towel, and so dizzy with his brisk revolutions that as his brother
looked he tumbled over and lay panting like a fallen gladiator.

"What on earth are you about?"

"Playing Rowell. Walking for the belt, and I’ve got it too," laughed
Jack, pointing to an old gilt chandelier chain hanging on the
bedpost.

"You little noodle, you’d better revolve into bed before you lose
your head entirely. I never saw such a fellow for taking himself off
his legs."

"Well, if I didn’t exercise, do you suppose I should be able to do
that – or that?" cried Jack, turning a somersault and striking a fine
attitude as he came up, flattering himself that he was the model of
a youthful athlete.

"You look more like a clothes-pin than a Hercules," was the
crushing reply of this unsympathetic brother, and Jack meekly
retired with a bad headache.

"I don’t do such silly things now: I’m as broad across the shoulders
as you are, and twice as strong on my pins, thanks to my
gymnastics. Bet you a cent I’ll be dressed first, though you have got
the start," said Jack, knowing that Frank always had a protracted
wrestle with his collar-buttons, which gave his adversary a great
advantage over him.

"Done!" answered Frank, and at it they went. A wild scramble was
heard in Jack’s room, and a steady tramp in the other as Frank
worked away at the stiff collar and the unaccommodating button
till every finger ached. A clashing of boots followed, while Jack
whistled "Polly Hopkins," and Frank declaimed in his deepest
voice,

"Arma virumque cano, Trojae qui primus ab oris Italiam, fato
profugus, Laviniaque venit litora."

Hair-brushes came next, and here Frank got ahead, for Jack’s thick
crop would stand straight up on the crown, and only a good
wetting and a steady brush would make it lie down.

"Play away, No. 2," called out Frank as he put on his vest, while
Jack was still at it with a pair of the stiffest brushes procurable for
money.

"Hold hard, No. 11, and don’t forget your teeth," answered Jack,
who had done his.

Frank took a hasty rub and whisked on his coat, while Jack was
picking up the various treasures which had flown out of his
pockets as he caught up his roundabout.

"Ready! I’ll trouble you for a cent, sonny;" and Frank held out his
hand as he appeared equipped for the day.

"You haven’t hung up your night-gown, nor aired the bed, nor
opened the windows. That’s part of the dressing; mother said so.
I’ve got you there, for you did all that for me, except this," and Jack
threw his gown over a chair with a triumphant flourish as Frank
turned back to leave his room in the order which they had been
taught was one of the signs of a good bringing-up in boys as well
as girls.

"Ready! I’ll trouble you for a cent, old man;" and Jack held out his
hand, with a chuckle.

He got the money and a good clap beside; then they retired to the
shed to black their boots, after which Frank filled the woodboxes
and Jack split kindlings, till the daily allowance was ready. Both
went at their lessons for half an hour, Jack scowling over his
algebra in the sofa corner, while Frank, with his elbows on and his
legs round the little stand which held his books, seemed to be
having a wrestling-match with Herodotus.

When the bell rang they were glad to drop the lessons and fall
upon their breakfast with the appetite of wolves, especially Jack,
who sequestered oatmeal and milk with such rapidity that one
would have thought he had a leathern bag hidden somewhere to
slip it into, like his famous namesake when he breakfasted with the
giant.

"I declare I don’t see what he does with it! He really ought not to
‘gobble’ so, mother," said Frank, who was eating with great
deliberation and propriety.

"Never you mind, old quiddle. I’m so hungry I could tuck away a
bushel," answered Jack, emptying a glass of milk and holding out
his plate for more mush, regardless of his white moustache.

"Temperance in all things is wise, in speech as well as eating and
drinking – remember that, boys," said Mamma from behind the urn.

"That reminds me! We promised to do the ‘Observer’ this week,
and here it is Tuesday and I haven’t done a thing: have you?" asked
Frank.

"Never thought of it. We must look up some bits at noon instead of
playing. Dare say Jill has got some: she always saves all she finds
for me."

"I have one or two good items, and can do any copying there may
be. But I think if you undertake the paper you should give some
time and labor to make it good," said Mamma, who was used to
this state of affairs, and often edited the little sheet read every
week at the Lodge. The boys seldom missed going, but the busy
lady was often unable to be there, so helped with the paper as her
share of the labor.

"Yes, we ought, but somehow we don’t seem to get up much steam
about it lately. If more people belonged, and we could have a
grand time now and then, it would be jolly;" and Jack sighed
at the lack of interest felt by outsiders in the loyal little Lodge
which went on year after year kept up by the faithful few.

"I remember when in this very town we used to have a Cold Water
Army, and in the summer turn out with processions, banners, and
bands of music to march about, and end with a picnic, songs, and
speeches in some grove or hall. Nearly all the children belonged to
it, and the parents also, and we had fine times here twenty-five or
thirty years ago."

"It didn’t do much good, seems to me, for people still drink, and
we haven’t a decent hotel in the place," said Frank, as his mother
sat looking out of the window as if she saw again the pleasant sight
of old and young working together against the great enemy of
home peace and safety.

"Oh yes, it did, my dear; for to this day many of those children are
true to their pledge. One little girl was, I am sure, and now has two
big boys to fight for the reform she has upheld all her life. The
town is better than it was in those days, and if we each do our part
faithfully, it will improve yet more. Every boy and girl who joins is
one gained, perhaps, and your example is the best temperance
lecture you can give. Hold fast, and don’t mind if it isn’t ‘jolly’:
it is right, and that should be enough for us."

Mamma spoke warmly, for she heartily believed in young people’s
guarding against this dangerous vice before it became a
temptation, and hoped her boys would never break the pledge they
had taken; for, young as they were, they were old enough to see its
worth, feel its wisdom, and pride themselves on the promise which
was fast growing into a principle. Jack’s face brightened as he
listened, and Frank said, with the steady look which made his face
manly, –

"It shall be. Now I’ll tell you what I was going to keep as a surprise
till to-night, for I wanted to have my secret as well as other folks.
Ed and I went up to see Bob, Sunday, and he said he’d join the
Lodge, if they’d have him. I’m going to propose him to-night."

"Good! good!" cried Jack, joyfully, and Mrs. Minot clapped her
hands, for every new member was rejoiced over by the good
people, who were not discouraged by ridicule, indifference, or
opposition.

"We’ve got him now, for no one will object, and it is just the thing
for him. He wants to belong somewhere, he says, and he’ll enjoy
the fun, and the good things will help him, and we will look after
him. The Captain was so pleased, and you ought to have seen Ed’s
face when Bob said, ‘I’m ready, if you’ll have me.’"

Frank’s own face was beaming, and Jack forgot to "gobble," he was
so interested in the new convert, while Mamma said, as she threw
down her napkin and took up the newspaper, –

"We must not forget our ‘Observer,’ but have a good one tonight in
honor of the occasion. There may be something here. Come home
early at noon, and I’ll help you get your paper ready."

"I’ll be here, but if you want Frank, you’d better tell him not to
dawdle over Annette’s gate half an hour," began Jack, who could
not resist teasing his dignified brother about one of the few foolish
things he was fond of doing.

"Do you want your nose pulled?" demanded Frank, who never
would stand joking on that tender point from his brother.

"No, I don’t; and if I did, you couldn’t do it;" with which taunt he
was off and Frank after him, having made a futile dive at the
impertinent little nose which was turned up at him and his
sweetheart.

"Boys, boys, not through the parlor!" implored Mamma, resigned
to skirmishes, but trembling for her piano legs as the four stout
boots pranced about the table and then went thundering down the
hall, through the kitchen where the fat cook cheered them on, and
Mary, the maid, tried to head off Frank as Jack rushed out into the
garden. But the pursuer ducked under her arm and gave chase with
all speed. Then there was a glorious race all over the place; for
both were good runners, and, being as full of spring vigor as frisky
calves, they did astonishing things in the way of leaping fences,
dodging round corners, and making good time down the wide
walks.

But Jack’s leg was not quite strong yet, and he felt that his round
nose was in danger of a vengeful tweak as his breath began to give
out and Frank’s long arms drew nearer and nearer to the threatened
feature. Just when he was about to give up and meet his fate like a
man, old Bunny, who had been much excited by the race, came
scampering across the path with such a droll skip into the air and
shake of the hind legs that Frank had to dodge to avoid stepping on
him, and to laugh in spite of himself. This momentary check gave
Jack a chance to bolt up the back stairs and take refuge in the Bird
Room, from the window of which Jill had been watching the race
with great interest.

No romping was allowed there, so a truce was made by locking
little fingers, and both sat down to get their breath.

"I am to go on the piazza, for an hour, by and by, Doctor said.
Would you mind carrying me down before you go to school, you
do it so nicely, I’m not a bit afraid," said Jill, as eager for the little
change as if it had been a long and varied journey.

"Yes, indeed! Come on, Princess," answered Jack, glad to see her
so well and happy.

The boys made an arm-chair, and away she went, for a pleasant
day downstairs. She thanked Frank with a posy for his buttonhole,
well knowing that it would soon pass into other hands, and he
departed to join Annette. Having told Jill about Bob, and set her to
work on the "Observer," Jack kissed his mother, and went
whistling down the street, a gay little bachelor, with a nod and
smile for all he met, and no turned-up hat or jaunty turban bobbing
along beside him to delay his steps or trouble his peace of mind.

At noon they worked on their paper, which was a collection of
items, cut from other papers, concerning temperance, a few
anecdotes, a bit of poetry, a story, and, if possible, an original
article by the editor. Many hands make light work, and nothing
remained but a little copying, which Jill promised to do before
night. So the boys had time for a game of football after school in
the afternoon, which they much enjoyed. As they sat resting on the
posts, Gus said, –

"Uncle Fred says he will give us a hay-cart ride to-night, as it is
moony, and after it you are all to come to our house and have
games.

"Can’t do it," answered Frank, sadly.

"Lodge," groaned Jack, for both considered a drive in the cart,
where they all sat in a merry bunch among the hay, one of the joys
of life, and much regretted that a prior engagement would prevent
their sharing in it.

"That’s a pity! I forgot it was Tuesday, and can’t put it off, as I’ve
asked all the rest. Give up your old Lodge and come along," said
Gus, who had not joined yet.

"We might for once, perhaps, but I don’t like to" – began Jack,
hesitating.

"I won’t. Who’s to propose Bob if we don’t? I want to go awfully;
but I wouldn’t disappoint Bob for a good deal, now he is willing to
come." And Frank sprang off his post as if anxious to flee
temptation, for it was very pleasant to go singing, up hill and down
dale, in the spring moonlight, with – well, the fellows of his set.

"Nor Ed, I forgot that. No, we can’t go. We want to be Good
Templars, and we mustn’t shirk," added Jack, following his
brother.

"Better come. Can’t put it off. Lots of fun," called Gus,
disappointed at losing two of his favorite mates.

But the boys did not turn back, and as they went steadily away they
felt that they were doing their little part in the good work, and
making their small sacrifices, like faithful members.

They got their reward, however, for at home they found Mr.
Chauncey, a good and great man, from England, who had known
their grandfather, and was an honored friend of the family. The
boys loved to hear him talk, and all tea-time listened with interest
to the conversation, for Mr. Chauncey was a reformer as well as a
famous clergyman, and it was like inspiring music to hear him tell
about the world’s work, and the brave men and women who were
carrying it on. Eager to show that they had, at least, begun, the
boys told him about their Lodge, and were immensely pleased
when their guest took from his pocket-book a worn paper, proving
that he too was a Good Templar, and belonged to the same army as
they did. Nor was that all, for when they reluctantly excused
themselves, Mr. Chauncey gave each a hearty "grip," and said,
holding their hands in his, as he smiled at the young faces looking
up at him with so much love and honor in them, –

"Tell the brothers and sisters that if I can serve them in any way
while here, to command me. I will give them a lecture at their
Lodge or in public, whichever they like; and I wish you God-speed,
dear boys."

Two prouder lads never walked the streets than Frank and Jack as
they hurried away, nearly forgetting the poor little paper in their
haste to tell the good news; for it was seldom that such an offer
was made the Lodge, and they felt the honor done them as bearers
of it.

As the secrets of the association cannot be divulged to the
uninitiated, we can only say that there was great rejoicing over the
new member, for Bob was unanimously welcomed, and much gratitude
both felt and expressed for Mr. Chauncey’s interest in this
small division of the grand army; for these good folk met with
little sympathy from the great people of the town, and it was very
cheering to have a well-known and much-beloved man say a word
for them. All agreed that the lecture should be public, that others
might share the pleasure with them, and perhaps be converted by a
higher eloquence than any they possessed.

So the services that night were unusually full of spirit and good
cheer; for all felt the influence of a friendly word, the beauty of a
fine example. The paper was much applauded, the songs were very
hearty, and when Frank, whose turn it was to be chaplain, read the
closing prayer, every one felt that they had much to give thanks for,
since one more had joined them, and the work was slowly getting
on with unexpected helpers sent to lend a hand. The lights shone
out from the little hall across the street, the music reached the ears
of passers-by, and the busy hum of voices up there told how
faithfully some, at least, of the villagers tried to make the town a
safer place for their boys to grow up in, though the tavern still had
its private bar and the saloon-door stood open to invite them in.

There are many such quiet lodges, and in them many young people
learning as these lads were learning something of the duty they
owed their neighbors as well as themselves, and being fitted to
become good men and sober citizens by practising and preaching
the law and gospel of temperance.

The next night Mr. Chauncey lectured, and the town turned out to
hear the distinguished man, who not only told them of the crime
and misery produced by this terrible vice which afflicted both
England and America, but of the great crusade against it going on
everywhere, and the need of courage, patience, hard work, and
much faith, that in time it might be overcome. Strong and cheerful
words that all liked to hear and many heartily believed, especially
the young Templars, whose boyish fancies were won by the idea of
fighting as knights of old did in the famous crusades they read
about in their splendid new young folks’ edition of Froissart.

"We can’t pitch into people as the Red Cross fellows did, but we
can smash rum-jugs when we get the chance, and stand by our flag
as our men did in the war," said Frank, with sparkling eyes, as they
went home in the moonlight arm in arm, keeping step behind Mr.
Chauncey, who led the way with their mother on his arm, a martial
figure though a minister, and a good captain to follow, as the boys
felt after hearing his stirring words.

"Let’s try and get up a company of boys like those mother told us
about, and show people that we mean what we say. I’ll be
color-bearer, and you may drill us as much as you like. A real Cold
Water Army, with flags flying, and drums, and all sorts of larks,"
said Jack, much excited, and taking a dramatic view of the matter.

"We’ll see about it. Something ought to be done, and perhaps we
shall be the men to do it when the time comes," answered Frank,
feeling ready to shoulder a musket or be a minute-man in good
earnest.

Boyish talk and enthusiasm, but it was of the right sort; and when
time and training had fitted them to bear arms, these young knights
would be worthy to put on the red cross and ride away to help right
the wrongs and slay the dragons that afflict the world.

 

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