Christmas, gay and happy in Gadsby’s mansion, was soon far, far back. A robin or two was hopping about on His Honor’s lawn, looking for a squirming lunch; Lady was taking short walks with Nancy; Kathlyn having to go back to work in our big hospital. Lilac, syringa, narcissus, tulips, hyacinths burst out in a riot of bloom; and a bright warm Sun brought joy to all. And so this history found His Honor on his porch with his “Post” as a young lad, coming up, said;—“Good morning, sir. I’m soliciting funds for a big stadium for Branton Hills, which will furnish an opportunity for football, polo,——”
“Whoa!” said Gadsby, putting down his “Post” and looking critically at his young visitor. “You look a bit familiar, boy. Oho! If it isn’t kid Banks; oh, pardon!—Allan Banks; son of Councilman Banks! You young folks grow up so fast I don’t know half of you. Now what about this soliciting. Who is back of you?”
“Branton Hills’ Organization of Youth; Part Two, sir.”
“Branton Hills Org——Ha, ha! Upon my word! Who is starting this group?”
Mary, coming out from His Honor’s parlor, said:—
“Oh, I forgot to notify you of this. Norman has got about fifty kids from Grammar School boys and girls, anxious to follow in your Organization’s foot-prints.”
Was Gadsby happy? Did Gadsby thrill? Did that long-past, happy day float in glowing colors through his mind? It did. And now that old, hard-working bunch of kids, grown up, now, and with kids of its own; that loyal bunch of young sprouts was taking root; was born again!
Oh, how Youth crawls up on you! How a tiny girl “almost instantly” shoots up into a tall, charming young woman! How a top-spinning, ball-tossing, racing, shouting boy looms up into a manly young chap in Military School uniform! Gadsby was happy; for, wasn’t this a tonic for his spinal column? So His Honor said;—
“Allan, I think Branton Hills will officially aid this stadium plan. I’ll put it up to Council.”
But, Allan Banks, not Kid Banks now, was just so old as to know a thing or two about Council bills; and, out as a solicitor, naturally sought a good showing on donations won, so said;—
“A Council donation will fit in grand, sir; but how about grouchy old Bill Simpk——”
“Trot along, Allan.”
“But how about this stadium? I’m doubting Old B—”
“Trot along, Allan.”
What Mary had said was a fact. Norman Antor had not only fought a military war; Norman Antor had also fought an inward war. A war, which fought him with gallon jugs, small phials, spoons, mixing apparatus, and—a stumbling, mumbling stupor! Norman had fought with about two million lads in that military war; but now, with no aid but a strain of good blood, starting way back of his carousing Dad (but, as such traits may, skipping a notch or two, and implanting in this young lad just a grain of its old nobility of mind), was fighting again; and, just as any solitary young chap amongst that two million loyally did his part, just so was this tiny grain now doing its part; fighting valiantly in his brain. It was giving him torturing thoughts in army night-camps, of a darling, loving young girl, a part of his own family, growing up “in a pool of liquor;” thoughts in night-camps of Branton Hills’ patrol-wagon trips to jail; and Darn that thought of Virginia! Virginia drunk by his own hand! Ugh!! Why not chop that stinking hand off? And, on coming back to Branton Hills, watching that darling Mary in Salvation Army uniform, tramping, talking, praying for just such low-down “liquor hounds” as——.
Oh! It was an awful fight! A long, brain-racking onslaught against a villain shut in by walls of iron! But though Norman Antor’s night-camp fights with Norman Antor had “put a big kick” in his wish to “lay off that stuff,” just a final blow, just an awful brain-crashing blast was still missing, so that that big right hand might point skyward, to clinch that vow. And that blast was waiting for Norman! To anybody standing around, it wasn’t much of a blast; but it was! It was a mighty concussion of T.N.T., coming as Mary, young, loving, praying Mary, said, as his arms unwound from around that frail form;—
“Why, Norman! Not drunk?”
God!! What flashing, shooting, sizzling sparks shot through his brain!! Up, out, in; all kinds of ways!! What crashing bombs!!
And, that first calm night on Old Lady Flanagan’s porch; that moonlit night of bliss, with soft, cuddling, snuggling, laughing, crying darling Mary!
“I say,” Norman was shouting, inwardly; “that night of bliss was a night of bliss and don’t anybody try to say that it wasn’t!”
For it was a night on which a young man’s Soul was back; back in its own Mind, now full of God’s incomparably grand purity!
Lady Gadsby was visiting Nina, sitting in that big front parlor; Virginia sitting calmly rocking; (and, hmmm! That was about all Virginia ought to do, just now!) A young High School girl, coming in, said:—
“Good morning! I’m soliciting for funds for a stadium for——”
“Marian!” sang out Virginia, “What’s all this? You, soliciting?”
“Why not?” said Marian, brightly. “Norman Antor’s Organization of Youth; Part Two, is soli—”
“Norman Antor’s what?” and Virginia was all agog in an instant, as Marian Hopkins told all about it; and, with childish flippancy, forgot all about soliciting, saying:—
“I was told that Harold is giving flying instructions. Don’t you want to fly? My! I do!”
“I did,” said Virginia, softly; “but,—not now;” and Marian was a bit too young to know why Lady Gadsby was smiling at Nina!
As Nancy found out about this, on Lady Gadsby’s coming back to lunch, that “old Branton Hills matron,” as Gadsby found a lot of fun calling “his baby girl,” now-a-days, said, giggling:—
“No! Virginia! You’ll stay on solid ground!”