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JACK PLAYNE’S STORY., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 196, 19 November 1880
JACK PLAYNE’S STORY.
This story.is'nofcabouf myself at all, though it is written as if it was going to be. I am a man that knows the boy the story is abou£., I am only Jack Playne. He was a very different sort of a fellow from me. His mother was the widow Hennings. His father-had been dead six or seven years.wheri this history begins. They came to Greenbush a good many summers before he died, and after that the widder made up her mind to stay there. You see, Hennings didn’t leave much —just a couple of thousand on a life insurance and a cottage and an acre in Greenbush. All the rest was used up in settling the estate. But you’d.never guess, nOt from her talk, that he didn’t own a private bank. She talked about the convenience of a fixed income. “ One could calculate, so exactly! hpw far it would go and never be disappointed.” And she would groan over the income tax, when, poor thing, it never came nigh her. You see, she came of an excellent family. In early times, one of her ancestors was Governor, and a great uncle had been a Senator, before it was “ low ” to be a; Senator, That is, she used to say so."' I don’t know about it. I have always had to work hard and live plain, and there was always the taxes hot and heavy, whatever else happened, . and “Senator ” always looked high=.enough. for me -And in most all the families of her connection the boys went to college, and the girls to boarding school and spoke French and played the piano., Npt, that-1 have heard of there -being much money in the family, but they paid their way and studied hard and got to be lawyers, or doctors, or preachers. Never none of ’em downright workers with their hands for a living.- - ‘ ! ; One reason thewidow stuck to Greenbush was the school. The teacher was excellent, and, as it cost nothing, nothing could be better for her son, Horatio—“ Rash ” for short—“ until,” as she’d say, “ he’s ready to prepare for college.” Seems to me I can see her now. The same black satin dress winter ,and summer..- , In winter, a threadbare black cloak; in summer a net shawl; darned in some places very nicely, and black rails, and the same black satin bonnet,' made over and over, once a year through it all. She had some lace she put on when she went to tea at. the doctor’s or the squire’s and a set of jet and gold ornaments, which were very old, to fasten the lace and swing in the ears. And the Widow Hennings was a splendid woman ! tall, straight as an Indian, and head well set back on the shoulders. I often watched her go up the broad aisle, and thpught I’d like to have tested her with a plumb line, she was so straight. But Eliza says that I’m forever carrying the shop with me. Then she’d a wonderful high, hooked nose, and eyebrows that arched over her black eyes like the front door of an old mansion house, and hardly a gray hair in her head. Must have been an awful cross for such a fine-looking woman to give up dress, and all the pomps and vanities of this world to live in such a plain way in Greenbush. Dear heart! she never kept • no help, only once a fortnight' Bettie Doolittle did out the heaviest of her washing. The little things, such as handkerchiefs and collars, she did herself, and called it her “ fine wash." It looked like a doll baby’s washing day. The cottage ; itself was a cheaply built, plain--furnished affair with common woodwork; but often I found time to do little jobs for her in slack times; and what with the garden and the interest on the life insurance, and the water color and wax flower lessons she gave to the Squire’s wife and the Doctor’s daughters she got along. She often made presents of embroidery to brides and babies, and presents were made to her. Once she got a barrel of winter apples, and often a bushel of pears or something like that. On the whole she got along. If any body came in while she was making her crocheting or her tatting or her embroidery—not an inch of which ■ she ever used at home—she would talk about how much more ladylike it was to have nice underclothing; and; plain dresses, than “ outside show and rags.” Eliza used to say that the things on her clothes line were mended till they were real curiosities. However, they were better than debts, and didn’t tangle her steps like mortgages, for the place was clear and ; her own; ’ For my part, I never could see the sense of such common sort of a person as Queen Victoria living in such style and such a natural born queen as Widow Hennings working so hard and faring so plain. But as for Rash. Not but that he was the bqsflpfjsons,; Jo, help, ini everything 1 'she wanted done. And didn’t he put into his lessons when he found how his mother’s heart was sot on his learning. And good and patient he’d listen while she’d tell of the old Governor, and the Senator and the teachers, and the professor, and how anxious,she.was to have ■ him study hard. She’d been well educated herself, and taught him some Latin and French, and he wasn’t a bad scholar. But whatever he got from it didn’t seem to be what he’d choose. He’d study hard and keep up in his classes, and every spare minute he’d got he’d be fussing round in my shop. He’d pick up bits of half and quarter inch stuff and notch and whittle and carve and fit and turn out the neatest little toys, chairs, tables, and such like, that you *yer saw. He gave one to my little
Bess the winter she broke her leg—she’s got it yet ! It’s like a chair I once saw in a church - carved Gothic back and arms, and a table to match. Sometimes it has been all I could do to get him to give enough attention to his book, he’d be so busy with his work. I kept a strict lookout for that. I’ve got such little learning myself that I know its value ; and he never missed a lesson on my account. I’d seen too many make a love of whittling and talk a mere excuse for idling away precious time; and, after all, there wasn’t no genius of any account. Horatio was getting to be a very large boy, when some connection died and left him a matter o’ SSOO. It was to be used at his mother’s discretion, either kept till he was twenty-one, or spent, on his education. Mrs. Hennings decided at once that it should help him through college. She could help out the balance somehow, and it seemed like as if the good old days of the Governor had come again, when she could talk about colleges and so forth. So one evening as he was sitting by her, reciting his Latin to her, she just began the subject, and Rash told me all about it next day. Rash said he never saw no one so beat as his mother was, when he told her she shouldn’t touch that money, but just as soon as I thought him old enough he was going to learn a trade. “ A trade ! What trade ? ” “ Why, a'carpenter and joiner, to be aure v , ,l love'that : sort of work, and Jack Playne says I’li do well at it.” “ But, my dear son, what ever made you think of learning that trade.?. There never was a carpenter in bur family, and, in fact I don’t know that they ever amount to much.” “ What, ray dear mother,” said Rash, “ you forget; wasn’t our Saviour one ; and don’t that make the craft honorable for ever?” “ True, my dear child. Yours is a just reproof; and yet our Saviour did not choose his humble calling. It was a lesson of obedience which he was taught by submitting to his parents’ necessities. His work had been fixed and fitted for him before the foundation of the world. But for you, my dear boy, I had hoped to see you in the chair of the professor.” “ I’m afraid, dear mother,” said Rash, quite humbly, “ that I’d rather make the chair than sit in it. I know that it is not so great a work, but it is my work, which, after all, is the important thing. And if I make the chair strong and well, and handsome, and easy, I don’t see why I’m not just as respectable as he is. It’s my work to build the pulpit for another man to preach in ; and we may as well accept the fact. But, mother, don’t you want to see some of my work ? things I’ve done odd spells.” For his mother had bowed her head on her hand, and her face was growing set, and her lips showed a white thread. She wasn’t one of the crying sort. I hate a weeper; but they don’t begin to be as unmanageable as the stony-eyed sort, that neither speak nor cry. In .a. minute or two, Rash came down out of the woodshed loft with his arms full. There was a set of toy bedroom furniture, and a ship, full rigged. And, best of all, was a work box for his mother, inlaid with different kinds of wood with a raised oval of apple tree wood on the lid, carved out into a wreath of the finest fern leaves inclosing her initials. It was just as neat work as if one of the New York or Boston men had done it, and Rash was just a boy, and altogether self-taught in the way of carving. “It’s most a pity to show this tonight. 1 was going to keep this for your birthday, day after to-morrow, but it seemed only right and natural to show it now, when we were talking the thing over.” Now, set as Mrs. Hennings was against Rash’s learning a trade, she could not help admiring his work, for it was so neat, not a blotch any where. For one day when he was making it, says I to him : “ Now, Rash, whatever you’ve got in hand don’t you stop to think if you can afford to do it just as well lor the money you’re to get for it. There’s one thing you can’t afford, and that is to bungle. It hurts you more than those you work for. Don’t ever do anything that you can’t warrant ’pon honor.” And I’ll never forget how his eyes sparkled ; and he told me how the cathedrals of the middle ages were built by men who made religion of their work, and built as if they were worshipping, and dared not cheat the Lord, and that in them the back of an ornament or statue is finished, though nobody can see it without the greatest pains, with just as much neatness as if it was to show in the public square, and that was the way he meant to work and to live. As I said, the widow was pleased in spite of herself. “ And where did you get this pretty design ?” said she, pointing to the fern wreath.” “ Why, I wanted a pattern of some sort, and just then Jessie Playne came along and she’s got such a wreath as this twisted around her hat. I thought it was none the worse for being so near at hand ; and so I just draughted it off and whittled it out. See —here is the draught.” And with that he took it out of the box. Now, the widow, though she is as proud as Lucifer, is nobody’s fool; and she sees, plain enough that there was more than a common jack of a carpenter in her boy; for. she could draw and paint in water colors herself, and was called a good hand at it. So the long and short of it was she gave her consent to Rash going into ray shop to learn my trade at the end of the school term. And then she. sent Rash upstairs with his treasures, and went to bed. (To he concluded to-morrow.)
JACK PLAYNE’S STORY., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 196, 19 November 1880
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