Gadsby.

33

 

MOST OF GADSBY’S old Organization of Youth was still in town, though, as you know, grown up. So, on a Spring day, all of its forty boys and as many girls got most mystifying cards, saying:—

“Kindly go to Lilac Hill on May sixth, at four o’clock. IMPORTANT! IMPORTANT! IMPORTANT” That was all. Not a word to show its origin. No handwriting. Just a small, plain card in ordinary printing.

Not only that old Organization, but His Honor, Lady Gadsby, Old Tom Young, Tom Donaldson, Nina Adams, Lady Standish and Old Lady Flanagan got that odd card.

“Arrah ! Phwat’s this, anny way ?” sang out that good old lady. “Is it court summons, a picnic, or a land auction? By gorry, it looks phony!”

Old Tom Young, in his rocking chair, said:-

“A card to go to Lilac Hill. It says ‘important.’ Ah! This Youth of today! I’ll Put up a dollar that I can sniff a rat in this. But my girl is all right so I’ll go.”

And so it was, all around town. Nobody could fathom it.

Lilac Hill was as charming a spot as any that our big City Park could boast. Though known as a hill, it was but a slight knoll with surroundings of lilac shrubs, which, in May would always show a riot of bloom; this knoll sloping down to a pond, with islands, boats and aquatic plants. Lilac Hill had known many a picnic and similar outings; for Branton Hills folks, living for six days amidst bricks and asphalt, just had to go out on Sundays to this dainty knoll, living for an hour or so amongst its birds, blossoms and calm surroundings. City traffic was far away, only a faint rumbling coming to this natural sanctuary; and many a mind. and many a worn body had found a balm in its charms.

But that mystifying card! From whom was it? What was it? Why was it? “Oh, hum! Why rack brains by digging into it?” was Branton Hills’ popular thought. “But, - go and find out!” That, also, was our Organization’s thought as May sixth was approaching.

“My gracious!” said Nancy. “It sounds actually spooky!”

But calm, practical Kathlyn said:-

“Spooks don’t hop around in daylight.”

May sixth had just that warm and balmy air that allows girls to put on flimsy, dainty things, and youths to don sports outfits; and His Honor, as that mystifying day was not far off, said:—

“This, I think, is a trick by a kid or two, to show us old ducks that an ‘incog’ can hold out, right up to its actual consummation. I don’t know a thing about what’s going on; but, by golly! I’ll show up; and if any fun is afloat, I’ll join in, full blast.”

But!! As our Organization boys and girls, and Branton Hills folks got to Lilac Hill, not a thing was found giving any indication that anything out of ordinary was to occur! Just that calm, charming knoll, with its lilacs, oaks, and happy vista out across Branton Hills’ hill districts! What ’s this, anyway? A hoax? But all sat down, talking in a big group, until, at just four o’clock,— look! A stir, out back of that island boat landing! What? On that pond? This card said Lilac Hill! But I said that a stir was occurring in back of that boat landing, with its small shack for storing oars and such. If our big crowd was laughing and talking up to now, it quit! And quit mighty quickly, too! If you want to hold a crowd, just mystify it. Old Lady Flanagan was starting to shout about “this phony stuff,” but Old Man Flanagan said:-

“Shut up! You ain’t part of this show!”

Nancy was actually hopping up and down, but Kathlyn stood calmly watching; for this studious girl, way up in an “ology” or two, knows that, by slow, thoughtful watching, you can gain much, as against working up a wild, panicky condition.

Lady Gadsby said again and again: “What is going on ?” but Nina Adams said: “You ought to know that today, anything can—”

But look again!! From in back of that boat landing, a big fairy float is coming! Slowly,— slowly—slowly; a cabin amidships, just dripping with lilacs, as still and noncommittal as old Gibraltar. Slowly, on and on it is coming; finally stopping right at that spot upon which our group is standing; forty boys, forty girls, and a big mob, all as still as a church. What is it, anyway? Is anybody in it? Not a sign of it. But wait! Aha! It has an occupant, for, coming out of that lilac glory is - Parson Brown!! Parson Brown? What was Parson Brown in that cabin for? Aha!! A lilac spray is moving; and, as our groups stand stock still, look! Lucy Donaldson is coming out! Oh! What a vision of girlish joy and glory!! And—and—and, ah! That lilac spray is moving again! Hulloa! Bill Gadsby is coming out!!

A Spring sun was slowly approaching its horizonward droop, shooting rays of gold down onto our gasping crowd, as Parson Brown said:-

“William Gadsby, do you ...?”

William, but shortly back from abroad, you know, standing with grand, military rigidity, said:

“I do.”

“And Lucy Donaldson, do you ?”

It didn’t last long. Just a word or two; a burst of music of a famous march by John Smith, Branton Hills’ organist, in that cabin with a small piano; just a— But that crowd couldn’t wait for that! With a whoop His Honor sprang into that pond, wading swiftly to board that fairy craft; and in an instant Nancy was following him, splashing frantically along, and scrambling aboard to almost floor Bill with a gigantic hug as His Honor shook Bill’s hand, with a loving arm about Lucy. Old Lady Flanagan was shouting wildly:- “Whoops! Whoops! By gorra! This young gang of today is a smart boonch!” and His Honor said:-

“Ha, ha! I didn’t know a thing about this! Bill’s a smart chap!” And Old Tom Donaldson, grabbing happy, laughing, blushing, palpitating Lucy as soon as that young lady was on dry land, said:—

“Say! You sly young chick! Why didn’t you notify your old Dad?”

“Why, Daddy! That would spoil all my fun!!”

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Gadsby

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