The Shoemaker’s Daughters by Timothy Shay Arthur, 1857
[Editor’s note: This story starts rather slowly, but soon gets very interesting. The later parts are filled with character-building lessons.]
“Sweet are the uses of adversity!” Contents Chapter 1 -------------- Chapter 2
Chapter 3 -------------- Chapter 4
Chapter 5 -------------- Chapter 6
Chapter 7 -------------- Chapter 8
Chapter 9 -------------- Chapter 10
Chapter 11 ------------ Chapter 12
Chapter 13 ------------ Chapter 14
Chapter 15 ------------ Chapter 16
Chapter 17 ------------ Chapter 18
“I’ll not stand this any longer!” said Bill Grimes.
“Neither will I!” said Ike Wilson.
“I wonder how you’ll help it?” responded Tom Peters, hammering a piece of leather to the tune of Yankee Doodle, and filling the shop with a din that drowned all voices for the space of the next five minutes.
“There are many ways to kill a dog, besides choking him,” broke in Ike, as the noise of Tom’s hammer and ringing lapstone subsided.
“That may be, but you’ll find old Hardamer hard to kill, or I’m mistaken in him. He’s a screamer when once raised; and I, for one, had as gladly meet a bear, as to cross his path when angry.”
“A hard bit and a steady hand, have cooled many a wild colt,” said Bill, “and I’ll do it to the end of the world.”
“There’s no use in your talking, Tom,” said Ike, a little tartly, “You always were a chicken-hearted sort of a fellow, afraid of your own shadow on a moonlight night. Nobody asked for your advice, nor your help. Hardamer’s an old tyrant, and his wife is a she-devil. We’ve stood their kicking and cuffing long enough, and will be fools to stand it any longer. But you can go on your hands and knees if you choose, and thank them for beating you; but for one, I set my foot down that old Hardamer shall not lay a feather on me, from this day, henceforth and forever.”
“Here’s my hand to that!” said Bill Grimes, dashing his hard fist into the open palm of his worthy associate.
“I don’t like the present state of things any better than you do,” remarked Tom, who began to feel himself in the minority — “but I can’t see the use of a fellow’s putting his head into the lion’s mouth. We can’t hold our own against old Hardamer, and it would be fool-hardiness to try.”
“There were many just such as you, Tom, in the glorious days of the Revolution; but all the prophesying of faint-hearted croakers, was nothing. The Yankee boys had right on their side.”
“But, right doesn’t always make might.”
“Poo! — Aren’t here three of us, and any one, a match for old Hardamer? Don’t talk of might against right, if you please. But you needn’t fatigue yourself, Tom, about the matter — if you are afraid, Ike and I can do the thing to a charm. We’re not afraid of the devil, tail and all.”
“I reckon you’d find the old boy a strange customer to deal with. But we’ll let his majesty rest, if you please,” responded Tom. “I, for one, have no particular friendship for him; nor any desire to provoke his ill-will, by too much familiarity. Let’s hear how you’re going to manage affairs, and then I’ll tell you whether I’m with you or not.”
“Comparisons are odious; but they are useful sometimes, you know, Tom, and, much as it may offend your ears, I must drag in your friend, his Satanic majesty, by way of illustration. It’s an easy matter to raise the devil, you know; but as there’s no telling how he’ll behave himself, there’s no telling how he will act in the case. Now, we have determined to raise the devil in old Hardamer — how we shall manage him afterwards, is yet to be told. No sailor knows exactly how he will act in a storm; but he would be a clod indeed, if he stayed on shore until he settled the matter to his satisfaction.”
“That may be all very true, Bill; but a good sailor will be very sure, before putting to sea, that all is right and tight below and aloft; and that there is ballast enough to keep all erect in the worst storm. You know that Hardamer has the law on his side, and that if he can’t manage us himself, he can turn us over to a constable. I’ve no wish to have a taste of the whipping-post.”
“This is a free country, Tom; and a pretty big one too. I’d find my way to the Rocky Mountains, before I’d wax another cord for the old rascal, if he attempted to play a game of that kind; and I’d tell him so, too. The fact is, the law wouldn’t justify him in the way he bullies and beats us all the while. There are two sides to a question, always — and, of course, there are two sides to this. If he’ll treat us well — we’ll treat him well. But ‘tit-for-tat’ if he doesn’t.”
“Well, I don’t care if I join you,” said Tom, who was not quite so head-strong as his fellow-apprentices, but who, when he once determined upon doing a thing, would show no hanging back.
“I thought there was something of the man in you, Tom,” said Ike, seizing his hand and shaking it violently, “If we don’t have a tea-party, now, with old Hardamer, I’m a fool.”
“Don’t let’s be in too much of a hurry about it, Ike,” suggested Tom, who liked to do things slow but sure.
“Strike when the iron’s hot, is my motto,” said Ike.
“You’re both right, and mean the same thing,” said Bill. “Let’s lie low until old Hardamer gets into one of his high tantrums, and then walk into him like a wall of bricks.”
“Suppose we make this rule,” proposed Tom, “that he shall not flog us, and that we will rough him up the first time he tries that trick.”
“Agreed,” returned Bill.
“Agreed,” said Ike.
And the three worthies shook hands in confirmation of the contract.
This little scene of incipient insubordination occurred some twenty years ago in Baltimore, in the back shop of a neat boot-making establishment, in Market Street, the owner of which carried one face, all smiles and welcome, to his customers — and another, all frowns and harshness, to his boys. His name, we will call Hardamer. As an apprentice, he had been hardly used; and having been taken while a very little boy from the workhouse, he had received no schooling previous to the time of his apprenticeship to the rope-making business. By virtue of his indentures, he was to have been sent to school a certain number of months during his minority. But, in his case, the indenture was nearly a dead letter, for all the schooling he obtained was at night, during the last year of his service. In this time, he learned to read a little, and to write a cramped, almost unintelligible hand. Soon after he became free, having the love of money pretty deeply implanted in his mind, he opened a small shop, in a poor part of the town, and took one boy. By dint of hard work, and close economy, he was enabled to live upon one-half of his earnings, and thus gradually to accumulate a small capital.
His progress, however, was very slow, and it was fully twenty years before he was able to open in Market Street. In the meantime, he had married a girl about as ignorant as himself, who felt her own importance growing as gradually as did her husband’s property. They had been ten years in Market Street at the time of the opening of our story, and were blessed with a brood of six daughters, aged from seven to twenty years. These daughters, as they grew up, had been accomplished in the arts of dancing, playing on the piano, doing nothing, etc. etc., and in consequence of these superior attainments, had a commendable degree of contempt for all young mechanics, and an exalted idea of anyone who could write “merchant,” after his name.
The three eldest, Genevieve, Genevra, and Gertrude, were of the respective ages of sixteen, eighteen, and twenty; and were looked upon by their mother as perfectly accomplished, and ready to make charming wives for doctors, lawyers, or merchants, which ever might come forward and claim their willing hands.
We cannot say whether the reader will find them very interesting girls, but it is necessary that he should be introduced, and he must be as patient and polite as possible.
“I wonder, Ma,” says Genevieve, the eldest, one day after dinner, while lounging at the piano, “why Pa don’t quit business? It’s so vulgar! I don’t believe we’ll ever get married, while our parlor is within hearing of the shop, and the ears of our company stunned with the constant sound of the lapstone. How can Pa be so inconsiderate!”
“That’s a fact,” said Miss Gertrude, just turning the corner of sixteen. “Doctor Watson has never been to see me since that night when it was hammer, hammer, hammer, in the back shop all the while. I tried to apologize to him on account of it, and said it was so disagreeable; and that I should persuade Pa to move away or quit business; that he was rich enough to do without work. I wish, Ma, you would move up into Charles Street, so that we could live like other people. I’m mortified every day of my life, at the poverty-struck way in which we live.”
Mrs. Hardamer was silent, for she did not know exactly what to say. She thought pretty much as her daughters did about matters and things, but she did not exactly like to bring her thoughts out into words before them.
“The fact is,” again spoke up Genevieve, “I’m almost discouraged. I’m twenty, and have not had a single direct offer yet. And I never expect to have one, while things remain as they are. Pa don’t appear to have a bit of consideration! If he’d only move into a bigger house, away from this dirty shop, or quit business, as he ought to do, and then give large parties — we might get our pick. But we’ll get nobody that is anybody at this rate,” and Genevieve heaved a long melancholy sigh, as she laid her head down upon the piano, at which she was sitting, in abandonment of feeling.
“Never mind, girls,” said Mrs. Hardamer, soothingly. “It will come right. We can’t always have things our own way.”
“It’s a shame, Ma! it is so!” broke is Genevieve, lifting up her head, and exhibiting a face now covered with tears, “and I don’t care what becomes of me, so I don’t! It can’t be expected that I should do well without any chance, and I don’t care who I marry, there! Just listen now! — Rap, rap, rap! — bang, bang, bang! — hammer, hammer, hammer! Oh! it makes me sick! this eternal ringing of lapstone and hammer. I sometimes wish that the shop would burn down, so I do!”
“Indeed, and I’m in earnest, Ma! If you will drive your children to desperation, you’ll have nobody to blame but yourselves. I’m determined that if Mr. Dimety don’t offer himself before two weeks, I’ll accept the first tailor or shoemaker that comes along. I’ll marry, if I have to marry a coachman, so there now!”
“You mustn’t give way so, Genevieve, my dear. Marrying comes natural enough; and when it’s the right time, things will go off as easy as can be. Have patience, my dear!”
“Patience!” responded the interesting Genevieve, jumping up from the music stool and stamping with one foot upon the floor, while her face glowed like a coal of fire. “Haven’t I had patience, I wonder? It’s all well enough to talk of patience — but it’s another kind of a thing, I reckon, to see the commonest drabs of girls making the best matches — and we sitting at home with hardly a decent beau, and all because we live in such a way. I’ll leave home, I will, if there isn’t some change. I’m not going to be sacrificed in this way.”
“And so will I!” chimed in Gertrude.
“And I will too!” responded Genevra.
“I wonder where my young ladies will go?” said the mother, in a quiet sneering tone; for she was used to such exhibitions, and understood precisely how much they were worth.
“Go?” asked Miss Gertrude, with emphasis, “Go? why, go any where!”
“Well, suppose you go now,” continued Mrs. Hardamer, who had grown a little irritated, “I don’t see as you’ll find things very different if you stay here.”
“I will go, so I will!” said Genevieve, passionately, sweeping off to her chamber.
“Suppose you pack off with her,” continued the mother, to the other two paragons, and they likewise swept off in high displeasure.
At tea time, the three young rebels were sent for, and found asleep in their chamber. On putting their heads together, they concluded that an elopement, where there were no nice young man in question, would be rather a poor business, and fell to crying, and finally slept the matter pretty well off, in the usual afternoon nap, which was prolonged an hour or two beyond the ordinary period.
When the young ladies appeared at the tea-table, their eyes, from which a long sleep had not stolen the redness, attracted their father’s attention.
“Why, what’s the matter with you; you’ve not all been crying I hope?” he said, looking from one to the other of the three demure faces.
But none of them felt disposed to reply to their father’s question.
“What’s the trouble, Genevieve?” he continued, addressing the elder of the three.
“Nothing,” she replied in a low moody voice.
“Nothing? Then I would think it was a poor business to cry for nothing. Come, speak up, and let me hear what’s the matter. Can’t you find your tongue, Genevieve?”
But Genevieve’s tongue had not the slightest inclination to fill its usual office.
“I don’t understand this,” said Hardamer, warming a little, and looking from face to face of the three girls, “Can you explain, mother?”
“O, there’s nothing particular the matter,” said Mrs. Hardamer, “only these young ladies are getting discouraged about their beaux. They think the sound of the lapstone has frightened them all off.”
“The devil they do!” said Hardamer, a good deal excited on the instant. “That is, they are ashamed of their father’s business, and of course of their father. I wish in my heart, that they were all married to good, honest, industrious shoemakers.”
“I’d die first!” broke in Genevieve, passionately.
“Then you’ll not be likely to starve afterwards, as you will if you marry one of these milk-faced, counter-jumping dandies, about whom your foolish heads have all been turned. Please remember, my ladies, that you are shoemaker’s daughters — and that’s the most you can make of yourselves. If your mother had put you into the kitchen, as I wanted her to do, instead of sticking you up in the parlor, you’d have been more credit to us and to yourselves, than you now are. Remember! I’ll have no more of this kind of complaining stuff.”
There was a sternness about the father’s manner, which showed him to be in earnest; but his daughters had been taught manners in a higher school than that in which he had been educated; and they not only felt equal to their parents, but superior to them.
“I wouldn’t be seen in the street with a shoemaker!” responded Genevieve, pertly, to her father’s positive expression of disapproval.
“Do you know to whom you are talking?” said Hardamer in a loud, stem voice.
“Yes, sir.” replied Genevieve, in a quiet steady tone, looking her father in the face, and drawing in her lips with an air of self-possession and defiance.
“Leave the table this instant!” he said, rising and motioning her away.
“No! no! no! father!” said Mrs. Hardamer, also springing to her feet, and putting her hand upon her husband’s arm — “don’t do that! don’t! don’t!”
“Why, do you suppose, madam, that I’m going to let a child of mine talk to me in that way!”
“Sit down, sit down! She won’t say so again. Aren’t you ashamed of yourself, to speak so to your father!” she continued, addressing Genevieve, who still sat in her chair, apparently unmoved by the storm she had raised.
Hardamer resumed his seat, checked by his wife’s interference, but by no means soothed in his feelings.
“It’s a pretty pass indeed,” he went on — “when a child becomes ashamed of her father. Here I’ve been toiling these thirty years at an honest trade — and now my children must be ashamed of the very means by which they were raised to a comfortable condition in life. I wish I’d had my way with them — there would have been other kinds of notions in their heads.”
“Well its no use for you to talk, pa. Your business isn’t very reputable, and you know it!” said Gertrude, unmoved by the excited state in which she saw her father.
“Aren’t reputable, you little hussey! what do mean, ha?”
“Why don’t you sell out, pa, and quit business; or open some kind of a store?” said Genevra, following up her sister’s bold attack pretty closely.
The father was for a moment utterly confounded. His business had always been his pleasure, and it was yielding him a good income. He had never much liked the accomplishments displayed by his daughters, nor been especially pleased with the foppish, frivolous young fellows who dangled around them. Now they had left their own domain — and had invaded his; and he was chafed to a degree that made it impossible for him to command himself. Springing from the table, he resisted all attempts made by his wife to check him, and, in a loud, angry voice, ordered the three girls to leave the room instantly. For a moment, they looked him in the face hesitatingly, but they saw something there that they did not wish to trifle with, and slowly obeyed the order.
“Not reputable! — quit business! — ha! — indeed! — not reputable!” ejaculated Hardamer, pacing the room rapidly backwards and forwards. “This comes of making ladies out of shoemaker’s daughters. Not reputable! — I’ll have them all binding shoes before a week! I’ll show them what’s reputable!”
“H-u-s-h, husband, hush!” said Mrs. Hardamer, in a soothing voice.
“Indeed, I’ll not hush! And it’s all your fault, I can tell you, my lady! You would make fools of them — and now they’re ashamed of us. Quit business! Keep a store! Not reputable! Indeed! Quite a new discovery!” and old Hardamer hurried off into his shop, in a state of disturbance such as he had not experienced for years.
“How could you talk so to your father?” said Mrs. Hardamer, joining the three eldest girls in the parlor, and leaving the younger misses to take care of themselves.
“How could he talk to us about marrying shoemakers?” replied Genevieve, tartly, giving to her face at the same time, an expression of strong disgust.
“If he’s got no higher ideas, I can assure him his daughters have!” said Gertrude. “Marry a shoemaker, indeed!”
Now this was almost too much for Mrs. Hardamer herself, for hadn’t she married a shoemaker? And wasn’t the father of these high-minded damsels a shoemaker? Still, she cared as little to have shoemakers for sons-in-law, as did her daughters to have them for husbands. This latter consideration modified her feelings, and she replied,
“Nonsense, girls! your father was only jesting. But you should remember, that in speaking as you do, you reflect badly upon him!”
“That’s not our fault, you know, ma,” said the incorrigible Genevieve. “If he will continue to follow a business that necessity compelled him to adopt many years ago; now that there is no occasion for it — he must not wonder if his children are mortified. And then to talk of putting us back to the point where you and he started from, was too much for human nature to bear!”
“Genevieve, you mustn’t talk so!”
“It’s the truth, ma! and I must speak it out!”
“It is not always necessary to speak even the truth.”
“In this case it is. To talk of marrying me to a shoemaker! Give me patience to bear the thought!”
“I won’t put up with this any longer. So just let me hear no more of it.”
“I tell you to hush!”
“Don’t you hear me?”
“Ma, is this the way to — “
“Genevieve, I command you to be silent!”
“I can’t be silent, ma — and I won’t be silent!” now screamed Genevieve, in the hysterical feminine octave. “Talk of marrying me to a shoemaker! Oh, I shall go crazy!”
“A good, honest, industrious shoemaker, would be a fool to have you, let me tell you — you proud, lazy, good for nothing hussey,” exclaimed Mrs. Hardamer, in a voice pitched to the same key with her daughter’s. “Your father is right! I’ve made fools of you all. But I’ll bring you down, see if I don’t!”
“It would be hard to get any lower, I’m thinking,” remarked Genevra, with provoking calmness, “I feel disgraced all the while, for isn’t the hammer ringing in my ears eternally?”
“Yes, and the whole house is scented with leather and varnish,” said Gertrude. “Who wonders that young gentlemen soon run off.
What’s the use of attracting attention abroad — if receiving company at home, spoils it all?”
“Hush, I say!”
“No, ma, I can’t hush! Haven’t we borne this, and met with disappointment after disappointment, until we are driven to desperation. There’s that elegant young Williams, who was just on the point of declaring himself, when, as luck would have it, he must call upon me here — and then the cake was all dough, for he never came again. And last week I saw him at Mr. Lawton’s party, all attention to Grace Jameson, a pert minx; and he only gave me a cold nod. Don’t I know the reason of all this? Give me patience!” — and the disappointed lady of sixteen stamped upon the floor with her little foot, in a towering passion.
“I can’t stand this,” said Mrs. Hardamer, completely subdued by the tempest she had gathered about her ears; and beat a hasty retreat, leaving the wounded dignity of the young ladies to heal as it best might.
Upon returning to the breakfast-room, she found that the young children had finished their meal, and she set about preparing supper for the apprentices. Upon the table were two plates, each containing what had been once the half pound of butter, but now somewhat diminished in size. One of these plates she took off; and cut the butter in the other plate into two pieces, and removed one of them. A plate of chipped beef was also taken off, and a bread basket containing a few slices of wheat bread. Nothing except the plates and the tea things were left. From the closet, she now brought out the half of a large loaf of cold Indian bread, and placed it on the table.
“Call the boys!” she said, in a sharp, quick voice, to a black girl, who soon passed the word into the back shop, and four boys, with three of whom the reader is already acquainted, made their appearance. The other was a small lad, not over eleven years of age; a puny child with fair complexion, and large bright blue eyes. He was an orphan boy, and the drudge of the whole house and shop — one whose young heart had known enough of affectionate regard, to create in it a yearning desire for kind looks and kind words — but few of these warmed it.
Placing herself at the head of the table, Mrs. Hardamer poured out the lukewarm, wishy-washy stuff, she called tea, and then sat in moody silence, while the boys stowed away, with a kind of nervous rapidity, the cold heavy slices of corn bread, just touched with the butter, which they had to use sparingly to make it last; and washed the mouthfuls down, with the not very palatable fluid.
It so happened that the warm weather had awakened into remarkable activity, certain troublesome little insects in the boys’ beds; and Ike had been deputed by the others to inform Mrs. Hardamer of the fact, in the hope that some speedy remedy, made and provided for the like necessities, would relieve them from their annoying visitors. This information, Ike had determined to convey at supper time, but the lowering aspect of Mrs. Hardamer’s countenance, for a time made him feel disinclined to perform his allotted duty. Gradually, however, he brought his resolution up to the right point, and Mrs. Hardamer was startled from her unpleasant reverie, with the announcement, “The bedbugs are as thick as grass in our beds, ma’am!”
“Catch them and kill them, then,” was the brief and crabbed answer.
Ike was silent, but his blood rose to fever-heat.
“Short and sweet, wasn’t it, Ike?” said Tom, as the boys met in the shop after supper.
“Catch them and kill them, ha! I’ll catch them, but somebody else may kill them if they choose,” said Ike, giving his head a knowing toss.
That night at bed-time, Ike appeared with a little paper box, in the top of which was cut a small hole.
“What are you going to do with that, Ike?” said Bill.
“Going to catch bedbugs. Didn’t the old woman say we must catch them?”
“Quite obedient, Ike. You’re improving!”
“People ought to grow better as they grow older,” responded Ike, turning up the hard straw bed with one hand, and routing the young colonies that had settled around the pegs of the bedstead. With a very small pair of pincers, he caught the nimble insects, and thrust them into his box. For nearly an hour, he worked away with all diligence, assisted by the rest, until he had caught and caged some two hundred!
“What are you going to do with these, Ike?”
“No telling just now. Let me alone for a day or two, and then I’ll show you a neat trick.”
“But, what is it, Ike?” urged Bill.
“Never mind, now, Bill. You shall know soon enough.”
Sealing up the small aperture in the top with a piece of shoemaker’s wax, softened in the candle, Ike deposited the box in his trunk for safe keeping.
Three days after, he came into the shop with his prisoners.
“There’ll be some fun tonight, boys, or I’m mistaken,” he said. “Let’s examine our captives.”
Slowly removing the lid, the little animals were found lying upon the bottom of the box, to all appearance dead. Their deep red color had changed to a light brown shade, and they looked more like thin, dry flakes of bran, than anything else.
“They’re all dead, Ike.”
“Don’t believe the half of it. Just look here, and I’ll show you if they’re dead.
Picking up one of the seemingly inanimate, thin flakes, he placed it on the back of his hand, where it could hardly be distinguished, by its color, from the skin. For a moment it lay there motionless, and then its fine legs began to quiver, and its head to move and bend down upon the skin of the hand. In a little while its head was perfectly distinguished by a small brown spot, and from this spot, a thin dark line began to run down its back. Gradually this line widened, and the whole back assumed a darker hue.
“Does he bite, Ike?”
“Don’t he! See how he is sucking up the blood. He’s about the keenest chap to bite which I ever felt.”
Ike still allowed the little animal to draw away, until he was swelled up with the dark fluid, and almost ready to burst; then brushing him off, he remarked in a low, chuckling voice,
“Somebody will know more about bedbugs tonight, than they’ve ever known before.”
“But what are you going to do with them, Ike? You haven’t told us yet.”
“Oh, haven’t I? Well, I’m going to let them have a taste of the old woman after their long fast.”
“Humph! The old lady won’t think so tonight.”
“But the old man will come in for a share.”
“Who cares? If he will go into bad company, he must take the consequences. But he’s as bad as she is, any day.”
After dinner, Ike watched his opportunity, and slipped into the royal bed-chamber, while all were downstairs. Carefully turning up the bed-clothes from the foot, he scattered the two hundred half-starved animals between the sheets, so low down, that in turning the clothes over from the top to get into the bed, they would not be perceived.
“Did you do it, Ike?” said Bill and Tom eagerly.
“Of course I did.”
“They’ll never find out who did it.”
“No. They’ll not even suspect anybody.”
The garret in which the boys slept was directly over the chamber of Mr. and Mrs. Hardamer, and when they went to bed they left their door open, to hear as much as possible of what would happen below.
About ten o’clock, the old folks retired, and were just about losing themselves in sleep, when they were each awakened by a burning sensation about their feet and ankles. They bore it for a while in silence, and tried to go to sleep again; neither being aware that the other felt the same annoyance. But the burning increased to a smarting and stinging, and soon covered nearly their whole bodies.
“I feel just like I was in the fire!” said Mrs. Hardamer, who was first to complain.
“So do I,” said her husband. “There must be bugs in the bed!”
“Indeed there can’t be, for I looked the bed all over today.”
“There must be, by jingo!” exclaimed Hardamer, in reply, reaching suddenly down and scratching his leg with all his might.
“Something’s the matter!” said the old lady, rubbing with a like earnestness, and then creeping out of bed.
A light revealed about twenty lively fellows, which had, in the short time allowed them, filled themselves pretty well, and now stood out in full relief from the snow-white sheets. These were caught and dealt with according to law. The bed was examined, and in the belief that there was not another live bedbug on the premises, the worthy couple again betook themselves to rest.
But they were soon forced to turn out again, smarting, burning, and itching all over. Thirty or forty more of the ravenous little creatures were discovered and killed, and the bed and bedstead again thoroughly hunted over.
Again did they seek to find rest; and again were they forced to leave their snug retreat. This time they abdicated their chamber and sought for repose in another room and in another bed. Here they were more fortunate, and after a few efforts to drive from their imagination the idea that the little creatures were all the while creeping over them, finally succeeded in falling into a sound slumber, from which they did not awake until day-light.
At breakfast time, while the boys were disposing of their cold corn bread, and weak, warm, rye coffee, Mrs. Hardamer asked if they were troubled much with bugs during the night.
“Not at all, ma’am,” said Ike, with a grave countenance.
“I never was so troubled with them in my life,” said Mrs. Hardamer.
“I didn’t feel any, did you, Bill?” said Ike.
“I wasn’t at all troubled,” responded Bill, in a voice that trembled with suppressed mirth.
“Well, I had to go into another room. I never saw so many in a bed in all my life! They must have all come down in an army from the garret.”
“There’s a pretty large army of them up in the garret, that I know,” said Ike; “but they kept pretty quiet last night.”
“Well, I’d thank them to keep on their own side of the house,” responded Mrs. Hardamer, with an expression of disgust; for the idea of having bedbugs from the boys’ dirty beds creeping over her, was by no means a very pleasant one.
That day the garret had a thorough overhauling. The bedsteads were taken down and scalded, and some thousands of the creatures were slain. Upon a close inspection of the sheets of her bed, the old lady discovered a number of what she thought the skins of bugs. These she gathered up carefully and, threw them into boiling water. She was a little surprised to see many of them stir, which created some vague suspicions in her mind; but there the matter ended. After this, the beds in the garret were regularly examined every week during warm weather.