A superb display of flags flapped
gayly in the breeze on the September morning when
Ben proudly entered his teens. An irruption of
bunting seemed to have broken out all over the old
house, for banners of every shape and size, color
and design, flew from chimney-top to gable, porch
and gate-way, making the quiet place look as lively
as a circus tent, which was just what Ben most desired
and delighted in.
The boys had been up very early to
prepare the show, and when it was ready enjoyed it
hugely, for the fresh wind made the pennons cut
strange capers. The winged lion of Venice looked
as if trying to fly away home; the Chinese dragon
appeared to brandish his forked tail as he clawed at
the Burmese peacock; the double-headed eagle of Russia
pecked at the Turkish crescent with one beak, while
the other seemed to be screaming to the English royal
beast, “Come on and lend a paw.” In
the hurry of hoisting the Siamese elephant got turned
upside down, and now danced gayly on his head, with
the stars and stripes waving proudly over him.
A green flag with a yellow harp and sprig of shamrock
hung in sight of the kitchen window, and Katy, the
cook, got breakfast to the tune of “St. Patrick’s
day in the morning.” Sancho’s kennel
was half hidden under a rustling paper imitation of
the gorgeous Spanish banner, and the scarlet sun-and-moon
flag of Arabia snapped and flaunted from the pole over
the coach-house, as a delicate compliment to Lita,
Arabian horses being considered the finest in the
The little girls came out to see,
and declared it was the loveliest sight they ever
beheld, while Thorny played “Hail Columbia”
on his fife, and Ben, mounting the gate-post, crowed
long and loud like a happy cockerel who had just reached
his majority. He had been surprised and delighted
with the gifts he found in his room on awaking and
guessed why Miss Celia and Thorny gave him such pretty
things, for among them was a match-box made like a
mouse-trap. The doggy buttons and the horsey whip
were treasures, indeed, for Miss Celia had not given
them when they first planned to do so, because Sancho’s
return seemed to be joy and reward enough for that
occasion. But he did not forget to thank Mrs.
Moss for the cake she sent him, nor the girls for the
red mittens which they had secretly and painfully
knit. Bab’s was long and thin, with a very
pointed thumb, Betty’s short and wide, with a
stubby thumb, and all their mother’s pulling
and pressing could not make them look alike, to the
great affliction of the little knitters. Ben,
however, assured them that he rather preferred odd
ones, as then he could always tell which was right
and which left. He put them on immediately and
went about cracking the new whip with an expression
of content which was droll to see, while the children
followed after, full of admiration for the hero of
They were very busy all the morning
preparing for the festivities to come, and as soon
as dinner was over every one scrambled into his or
her best clothes as fast as possible, because, although
invited to come at two, impatient boys and girls were
seen hovering about the avenue as early as one.
The first to arrive, however, was
an uninvited guest, for just as Bab and Betty sat
down on the porch steps, in their stiff pink calico
frocks and white ruffled aprons, to repose a moment
before the party came in, a rustling was heard among
the lilacs, and out stepped Alfred Tennyson Barlow,
looking like a small Robin Hood, in a green blouse
with a silver buckle on his broad belt, a feather
in his little cap and a bow in his hand.
“I have come to shoot.
I heard about it. My papa told me what arching
meant. Will there be any little cakes? I
With these opening remarks the poet
took a seat and calmly awaited a response. The
young ladies, I regret to say, giggled, then remembering
their manners, hastened to inform him that there would
be heaps of cakes, also that Miss Celia would not
mind his coming without an invitation, they were quite
“She asked me to come that day.
I have been very busy. I had measles. Do
you have them here?” asked the guest, as if anxious
to compare notes on the sad subject.
“We had ours ever so long ago.
What have you been doing besides having measles?”
said Betty, showing a polite interest.
“I had a fight with a bumble-bee.”
“Who beat?” demanded Bab.
“I did. I ran away and he couldn’t
“Can you shoot nicely?”
“I hit a cow. She did not
mind at all. I guess she thought it was a fly.”
“Did your mother know you were
coming?” asked Bab, feeling an interest in runaways.
“No; she is gone to drive, so I could not ask
“It is very wrong to disobey.
My Sunday-school book says that children who are naughty
that way never go to heaven,” observed virtuous
Betty, in a warning tone.
“I do not wish to go,” was the startling
“Why not?” asked Betty, severely.
“They don’t have any dirt
there. My mamma says so. I am fond of dirt.
I shall stay here where there is plenty of it,”
and the candid youth began to grub in the mould with
the satisfaction of a genuine boy.
“I am afraid you’re a very bad child.”
“Oh yes, I am. My papa
often says so and he knows all about it,” replied
Alfred with an involuntary wriggle suggestive of painful
memories. Then, as if anxious to change the conversation
from its somewhat personal channel, he asked, pointing
to a row of grinning heads above the wall, “Do
you shoot at those?”
Bab and Betty looked up quickly and
recognized the familiar faces of their friends peering
down at them, like a choice collection of trophies
“I should think you’d
be ashamed to peek before the party was ready!”
cried Bab, frowning darkly upon the merry young ladies.
“Miss Celia told us to come
before two, and be ready to receive folks, if she
wasn’t down,” added Betty, importantly.
“It is striking two now.
Come along, girls;” and over scrambled Sally
Folsom, followed by three or four kindred spirits,
just as their hostess appeared.
“You look like Amazons storming
a fort,” she said, as the girls cattle up, each
carrying her bow and arrows, while green ribbons flew
in every direction.
“How do you do, sir? I
have been hoping you would call again,” added
Miss Celia, shaking hands with the pretty boy, who
regarded with benign interest the giver of little
Here a rush of boys took place, and
further remarks were cut short, for every one was
in a hurry to begin. So the procession was formed
at once, Miss Celia taking the lead, escorted by Ben
in the post of honor, while the boys and girls paired
off behind, arm in arm, bow on Shoulder, in martial
array. Thorny and Billy were the band, and marched
before, fifing and drumming “Yankee Doodle”
with a vigor which kept feet moving briskly, made
eyes sparkle, and young hearts dance under the gay
gowns and summer jackets. The interesting stranger
was elected to bear the prize, laid out on a red pin-cushion;
and did so with great dignity, as he went beside the
standard bearer, Cy Fay, who bore Ben’s choicest
flag, snow-white, with a green wreath surrounding a
painted bow and arrow, and with the letters W. T.
C. done in red below.
Such a merry march all about the place,
out at the Lodge gate, up and down the avenue, along
the winding paths, till they halted in the orchard,
where the target stood, and seats were placed for the
archers while they waited for their turns. Various
rules and regulations were discussed, and then the
fun began. Miss Celia had insisted that the girls
should be invited to shoot with the boys; and the lads
consented without much concern, whispering to one
another with condescending shrugs, “Let ’em
try, if they like; they can’t do any thing.”
There were various trials of skill
before the great match came off, and in these trials
the young gentlemen discovered that two at least of
the girls could do something; for Bab and Sally shot
better than many of the boys, and were well rewarded
for their exertions by, the change which took place
in the faces and conversation of their mates.
“Why, Bab, you do as well as
if I’d taught you myself,” said Thorny,
much surprised and not altogether pleased at the little
“A lady taught me; and I mean
to beat every one of you,” answered Bab, saucily,
while her sparkling eyes turned to Miss Celia with
a mischievous twinkle in them.
“Not a bit of it,” declared
Thorny, stoutly; but he went to Ben and whispered,
“Do your best, old fellow, for sister has taught
Bab all the scientific points, and the little rascal
is ahead of Billy.”
“She won’t get ahead of
me,” said Ben, picking out his best arrow, and
trying the string of his bow with a confident air which
re-assured Thorny, who found it impossible to believe
that a girl ever could, would, or should excel a boy
in any thing he cared to try.
It really did look as if Bab would
beat when the match for the prize came off; and the
children got more and more excited as the six who were
to try for it took turns at the bull’s-eye.
Thorny was umpire, and kept account of each shot,
for the arrow which went nearest the middle would
win. Each had three shots; and very soon the lookers-on
saw that Ben and Bab were the best marksmen, and one
of them would surely get the silver arrow.
Sam, who was too lazy to practise,
soon gave up the contest, saying, as Thorny did, “It
wouldn’t be fair for such a big fellow to try
with the little chaps,” which made a laugh,
as his want of skill was painfully evident. But
Mose went at it gallantly; and, if his eye had been
as true as his arms were strong, the “little
chaps” would have trembled. But his shots
were none of them as near as Billy’s; and he
retired after the third failure, declaring that it
was impossible to shoot against the wind, though scarcely
a breath was stirring.
Sally Folsom was bound to beat Bab,
and twanged away in great style; all in vain, however,
as with tall Maria Newcomb, the third girl who attempted
the trial. Being a little near-sighted, she had
borrowed her sister’s eye-glasses, and thereby
lessened her chance of success; for the pinch on her
nose distracted her attention, and not one of her
arrows went beyond the second ring to her great disappointment.
Billy did very well, but got nervous when his last
shot came, and just missed the bull’s-eye by
being in a hurry.
Bab and Ben each had one turn more; and, as they were about even, that last
arrow would decide the victory. Both had sent a shot into the bulls-eye,
but neither was exactly in the middle; so there was room to do better, even, and
the children crowded round, crying eagerly, Now, Ben! Now, Bab! Hit her up,
Ben! Beat him, Bab! while Thorny looked as anxious as if the fate of the
country depended on the success of his man. Babs turn came first; and, as
Miss Celia examined her bow to see that all was right, the little girl said,
With her eyes on her rivals excited face,
“I want to beat, but Ben will
feel so bad, I ’most hope I sha’n’t.”
“Losing a prize sometimes makes
one happier than gaining it. You have proved
that you could do better than most of them; so, if
you do not beat, you may still feet proud,”
answered Miss Celia, giving back the bow with a smile
that said more than her words.
It seemed to give Bab a new idea,
for in a minute all sorts of recollections, wishes,
and plans rushed through her lively little mind, and
she followed a sudden generous impulse as blindly as
she often did a wilful one.
“I guess he’ll beat,”
she said, softly, with a quick sparkle of the eyes,
as she stepped to her place and fired without taking
her usual careful aim.
Her shot struck almost as near the centre on the right as her last one had
hit on the left; and there was a shout of delight from the girls as Thorny
announced it before he hurried back to Ben, whispering anxiously,
“Steady, old Man, steady; you
must beat that, or we shall never hear the last of
Ben did not say, “She won’t
get ahead of me,” as he had said at the first;
he set his teeth, threw off his hat, and, knitting
his brows with a resolute expression, prepared to
take steady aim, though his heart beat fast and his
thumb trembled as he pressed it on the bowstring.
“I hope you’ll beat, I
truly do,” said Bab, at his elbow; and, as if
the breath that framed the generous wish helped it
on its way, the arrow flew straight to the bull’s-eye,
hitting, apparently, the very spot where Bab’s
best shot had left a hole.
“A tie! a tie!” cried
the girls, as a general rush took place toward the
“No, Ben’s is nearest.
Ben’s beat!” Hooray shouted the boys,
throwing up their hats. There was only a hair’s-breadth
difference, and Bab could honestly have disputed the
decision; but she did not, though for an instant she
could not help wishing that the cry had been “Bab’s
beat! Hurrah!” it sounded so pleasant.
Then she saw Ben’s beaming face, Thorny’s
intense relief, and caught the look Miss Celia sent
her over the heads of the boys, and decided, with
a sudden warm glow all over her little face, that
losing a prize did sometimes make one happier than
winning it. Up went her best hat, and she burst
out in a shrill, “Rah, rah, rah!” that
sounded very funny coming all alone after the general
clamor had subsided.
“Good for you, Bab! you are
an honor to the club, and I’m proud of you”,
said Prince Thorny, with a hearty handshake; for, as
his man had won, he could afford to praise the rival
who had put him on his mettle, though she was a girl.
Bab was much uplifted by the royal
commendation, but a few minutes later felt pleased
as well as proud when Ben, having received the prize,
came to her, as she stood behind a tree sucking her
blistered thumb, while Betty braided up her dishevelled
“I think it would be fairer
to call it a tie, Bab, for it really was, and I want
you to wear this. I wanted the fun of beating,
but I don’t care a bit for this girl’s
thing and I’d rather see it on you.”
As he spoke, Ben offered the rosette
of green ribbon which held the silver arrow, and Bab’s
eyes brightened as they fell upon the pretty ornament,
for to her “the girl’s thing” was
almost as good as the victory.
“Oh no; you must wear it to
show who won. Miss Celia wouldn’t like it.
I don’t mind not getting it; I did better than
all the rest, and I guess I shouldn’t like to
beat you,” answered Bab, unconsciously putting
into childish words the sweet generosity which makes
so many sisters glad to see their brothers carry off
the prizes of life, while they are content to know
that they have earned them and can do without the praise.
But if Bab was generous, Ben was just;
and though he could not explain the feeling, would
not consent to take all the glory without giving his
little friend a share.
“You must wear it; I shall feel
real mean if you don’t. You worked harder
than I did, and it was only luck my getting this.
Do, Bab, to please me,” he persisted, awkwardly
trying to fasten the ornament in the middle of Bab’s’
Then I will. Now do you forgive me for losing Sancho? asked Bab, with
a wistful look which made Ben say, heartily,
“I did that when he came home.”
“And you don’t think I’m horrid?”
“Not a bit of it; you are first-rate,
and I’ll stand by you like a man, for you are
’most as good as a boy!” cried Ben, anxious
to deal handsomely with his feminine rival, whose
skill had raised her immensely in his opinion.
Feeling that he could not improve
that last compliment, Bab was fully satisfied, and
let him leave the prize upon her breast, conscious
that she had some claim to it.
“That is where it should be,
and Ben is a true knight, winning the prize that he
may give it to his lady, while he is content with the
victory,” said Miss Celia, laughingly, to Teacher,
as the children ran off to join in the riotous games
which soon made the orchard ring.
“He learned that at the circus
‘tunnyments,’ as he calls them. He
is a nice boy, and I am much interested in him; for
he has the two things that do most toward making a
man, patience and courage,” answered Teacher,
also as she watched the young knight play and the honored
lady tearing about in a game of tag.
“Bab is a nice child, too,”
said Miss Celia; “she is as quick as a flash
to catch an idea and carry it out, though very often
the ideas are wild ones. She could have won just
now, I fancy, if she had tried, but took the notion
into her head that it was nobler to let Ben win, and
so atone for the trouble she gave him in losing the
dog. I saw a very sweet look on her face just
now, and am sure that Ben will never know why he beat.”
“She does such things at school
sometimes, and I can’t bear to spoil her little
atonements, though they are not always needed or very
wise,” answered Teacher. “Not long
ago I found that she had been giving her lunch day
after day to a poor child who seldom had any, and when
I asked her why, she said, with tears, ’I used
to laugh at Abby, because she had only crusty, dry
bread, and so she wouldn’t bring any. I
ought to give her mine and be hungry, it was so mean
to make fun of her poorness.”
“Did you stop the sacrifice?”
“No; I let Bab ‘go halves,’
and added an extra bit to my own lunch, so I could
make my contribution likewise.”
“Come and tell me about Abby.
I want to make friends with our poor people, for
soon I shall have a right to help them;” and,
putting her arm in Teacher’s, Miss Celia led
her away for a quiet chat in the porch, making her
guest’s visit a happy holiday by confiding several
plans and asking advice in the friendliest way.