"Then is little Benjamin their ruler."
"I think the kitty wants to come in," said Mother Golden. "I hear him crying somewhere. Won't you go and let him in, Adam?"
Adam laid down his book and went out; the whole family looked up cheerfully, expecting to see Aladdin, the great Maltese cat, enter with his stately port. There was a pause; then Adam came back with a white, scared face, and looked at his father without speaking.
"What is the matter, my son?" asked Father Golden.
"Is Kitty hurt?" asked Mother Golden, anxiously.
"Was it that dog of Jackson's?" cried Lemuel, Mary, Ruth, and Joseph.
"The cat isn't there!" said Adam. "It's--it's a basket, father."
"A basket? What does the boy mean?"
"A long basket, with something white inside; and--it's crying!"
The boy had left the door open, and at this moment a sound came through it, a long, low, plaintive cry.
"My heart!" said Mother Golden; and she was out of the door in a flash.
"See there now!" said Father Golden, reprovingly. "Your mother's smarter than any of you to-day. Go and help her, some of you!"
The children tumbled headlong toward the door, but were met by Mother Golden returning, bearing in her strong arms a long basket, in which was indeed something white and fluffy that cried.
"A baby!" exclaimed Father Golden.
"A baby!" echoed Mary, Lemuel, Ruth, and Joseph.
"Well, I knew it was a baby," protested Adam; "but I didn't like to say so."
Mother Golden lifted the child out and held it in a certain way; the cries ceased, and the little creature nestled close against her and looked up in her face.
"My heart!" said Mother Golden again. "Come here, girls!"
The girls pressed forward eagerly; the boys hung back, and glanced at their father; these were women's matters.
"It's got hair!" cried Ruth, in rapture. "Mother! real hair, and it curls; see it curl!"
"Look at its little hands!" murmured Mary. "They're like pink shells, only soft. Oh! see it move them, Ruth!" She caught her sister's arm in a sudden movement of delight.
"Oh, mother, mayn't we keep it?" cried both girls at once.
Mother Golden was examining the baby's clothes.
"Cambric slip, fine enough, but not so terrible fine. Flannel blanket, machine-embroidered--stop! here's a note."
She opened a folded paper, and read a few words, written in a carefully rough hand.
"His mother is dead, his father a waif. Ask the woman with the kind eyes to take care of him, for Christ's sake."
"My heart!" said Mother Golden, again.
"It's a boy, then!" said Father Golden, brightening perceptibly. He came forward, the boys edging forward too, encouraged by another masculine presence.
"It's a boy, and a beauty!" said Mother Golden, wiping her eyes. "I never see a prettier child. Poor mother, to have to go and leave him. Father, what do you say?"
"It's for you to say, mother;" said Father Golden. "It's to you the child was sent."
"Do you suppose 'twas me that was meant? They might have mistaken the house."
"Don't talk foolishness!" said Father Golden. "The question is, what shall we do with it? There's places, a plenty, where foundlings have the best of bringing up; and you've got care enough, as it is, mother, without taking on any more."
"Oh! we could help!" cried Mary. "I could wash and dress it, I know I could, and I'd just love to."
"So could I!" said twelve-year-old Ruth. "We'd take turns, Mary and I. Do let's keep it, mother!"
"It's a great responsibility!" said Father Golden.
"Great Jemima!" said Mother Golden, with a sniff. "If I couldn't take the responsibility of a baby, I'd give up."
Father Golden's mind moved slowly, and while he was meditating a reply, his wife issued various commands, and went through some intricate feminine manoeuvres, with the effect of increased fluffiness on the baby's part. In five minutes she was feeding the child with warm milk from a spoon, and proclaiming that he ate "like a Major!"
The boys, gaining more and more confidence, were now close at her knee, and watched the process with eager eyes.
"He's swallering like anything!" cried Lemuel. "I can see him do it with his throat, same as anybody."
"See him grab the spoon!" said Joseph. "My! ain't he strong? Can he talk, mother?"
"Joe, you chuckle-head!" said Adam, who was sixteen, and knew most things. "How can he talk, when he hasn't got any teeth?"
"Uncle 'Rastus hasn't got any teeth," retorted Joseph, "and he talks like a buzz-saw."
"Hush, Joseph!" said Mother Golden, reprovingly. "Your Uncle 'Rastus is a man of years."
"Yes, mother!" said Joseph, meekly.
"Baby has got a tooth, too, Adam!" Mother Golden continued, triumphantly. "I feel it pricking through the gum this minute. And he so good, and laughing like a sunflower! Did it hurt him, then, a little precious man? he shall have a nice ring to-morrow day, to bitey on, so he shall!"
"I suppose, then, he must be as much as a week old," hazarded Adam, in an offhand tone. "They are never born with teeth, are they, unless they are going to be Richard the Thirds, or something wonderful?"
"Perhaps he is!" said Ruth. "He looks wonderful enough for Richard the Twentieth, or anything."
But--"A week old!" said Mother Golden. "It's time there was a baby in this house, if you don't know better than that, Adam. About six months old I call him, and as pretty a child as ever I saw, even my own."
She looked half-defiantly at Father Golden, who returned the look with one of mild deprecation.
"I was only thinking of the care 'twould be to you, mother," he said. "We're bound to make inquiries, and report the case, and so forth; but if nothing comes of that, we might keep the child for a spell, and see how things turn out."
"That's what I was thinking!" said Mother Golden, eagerly. "I was thinking anyway, Joel, 'twould be best to keep him through his teething and stomach troubles, and give him a good start in the way of proper food and nursing. At them homes and nurseries, they mean well, but the most of them's young, and they don't understand a child's stomach. It's experience they need, not good-will, I'm well aware. Of course, when Baby begun to be a boy, things might be different. You work hard enough as it is, father, and there's places, no doubt, could do better for him, maybe, than what we could. But--well, seeing whose name he come in, I do feel to see him through his teething."
"Children, what do you say?" asked Father Golden. "You're old enough to have your opinion, even the youngest of you."
"Oh, keep him! keep him!" clamored the three younger children.
Adam and Lemuel exchanged a glance of grave inquiry.
"I guess he'd better stay, father!" said Adam.
"I think so, too!" said Lemuel; and both gave something like a sigh of relief.
"Then that's settled," said Father Golden, "saying and supposing that no objection turns up. Next thing is, what shall we call this child?"
All eyes were fixed on the baby, who, now full of warm milk, sat throned on Mother Golden's knee, blinking content.
It was a pretty picture: the rosy, dimpled creature, the yellow floss ruffled all over his head, his absurd little mouth open in a beaming smile; beaming above him, Mother Golden's placid face in its frame of silver hair; fronting them, Father Golden in his big leather chair, solid, comfortable, benevolent; and the five children, their honest, sober faces lighted up with unusual excitement. A pleasant, homelike picture. Nothing remarkable in the way of setting; the room, with its stuffed chairs, its tidies, and cabinet organ, was only unlike other such rooms from the fact that Mother Golden habitually sat in it; she could keep even haircloth from being commonplace. But now, all the light in the room seemed to centre on the yellow flossy curls against her breast.
"A-goo!" said the baby, in a winning gurgle.
"He says his name's Goo!" announced Joseph.
"Don't be a chuckle-head, Joe!" said Adam. "What was the name on the paper, mother?"
"It said 'his father is a Waif;' but I don't take that to be a Christian name. Surname, more likely, shouldn't you say, father?"
"Not a Christian name, certainly," said Father Golden. "Not much of a name anyhow, 'pears to me. We'd better give the child a suitable name, mother, saying and supposing no objection turns up. Coming into a Christian family, let him have Christian baptism, I say."
"Oh, call him Arthur!"
"Reginald!" cried the children in chorus.
"I do love a Bible name!" said Mother Golden, pensively. "It gives a child a good start, so to say, and makes him think when he hears himself named, or ought so to do. All our own children has Bible names, father; don't let us cut the little stranger off from his privilege."
"But Bible names are so ugly!" objected Lemuel, who was sensitive, and suffered under his own cognomen.
"Son," said Father Golden, "your mother chooses the names in this family."
"Yes, father!" said Lemuel.
"Lemuel, dear, you was named for a king!" said Mother Golden. "He was a good boy to his mother, and so are you. Bring the Bible, and let us see what it opens at. Joseph, you are the youngest, you shall open it."
Joseph opened the great brown leather Bible, and closing his eyes, laid his hand on the page; then looking down, he read:
"'There is little Benjamin their ruler, and the princes of Judah their council: the princes of Zebulun and the princes of Nephtali.'"
"Zebulun and Nephtali are outlandish-sounding names," said Mother Golden.
"I never knew but one Nephtali, and he squinted. Benjamin shall be this child's name. Little Benjamin: the Lord bless and keep him!"
"Amen!" said Father Golden.May 25, 2015, 2:28 p.m. 0 Report Embed 0
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