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CHAPTER I: Which Introduces Her
YPSY BREYNTON. Hon. Gypsy Breynton, Esq., M. A., D. D., LL. D., &c., &c. Gypsy Breynton, R. R."
Tom was very proud of his handwriting. It was black and business-like, round and rolling and readable, and drowned in a deluge of hair-line flourishes, with little black curves in the middle of them.. It had been acquired in the book-keeping class of Yorkbury high school, and had taken a prize at the end of the summer term. And therefore did Tom lean back in his chair, and survey, with intense satisfaction, the great sheet of sermon-paper which was. covered with his scrawlings. .
Tom was a handsome fellow, if he did look very well pleased with himself at that particular moment. His curly hair "was black and bright, and brushed off from a full forehead, and what with that faint, dark line of moustache just visible above his lips, and that irresistible twinkle to his great merry eyes, it was no wonder Gypsy was proud of him, as indeed she certainly was, nor did she hesitate to tell him so twenty times a day. This was a treatment of which Tom decidedly approved. Exactly how beneficial it was to the growth within him of modesty, self-forgetfulness, and the passive virtues generally, is another question.
' The room in which Tom was sitting . might have been exhibited with profit by Mr. Barnum, as a legitimate relic of that chaos and Old Night, which the poets tell us was dispelled by the light of this order-loving creation.
It had a bed in it, as well as several chairs and a carpet, but it required considerable search to discover them, for the billows of feminine drapery that were piled upon them. Three dresses,-Tom counted, to make sure,- one on the bedpost, one rolled up in a heap on the floor where it had fallen, and one spread out on the counterpane, with benzine on it. What with kerosene oil, candle drippings, and mugs of milk, Gypsy managed to keep one dress under the benzine treatment all the time; it was an established institution, and had long ago ceased to arouse remark, even from Tom. There was also a cloak upon one chair, and a crocheted cape tied by the tassels on another. There was a white tippet hanging on the stove-pipe. There was a bandbox up in one corner with a pretty hat lying on the outside, its long, light feather catching the dust; it was-three days now since Sunday. There were also two pairs of shoes, one pair of rubbers, and one slipper under the bed; the other slipper lay directly in the middle of the room. Then the wardrobe door was wide open,-it was too full to stay shut,-upon a sight which, I think, even Gypsy would hardly want put into print. White skirts and dressing-sacks; winter hoods that ought to have been put up in camphor long ago; aprons hung up by the trimming; a calico dress that yawned mournfully out of a twelve-inch tear in the skirt; a pile of stockings that had waited long, and were likely to wait longer, for darning; some rubber-boots and a hatchet. .
The bureau drawers, Tom observed, were tightly shut,-probably for very good reasons. The table, at which he sat, was a curiosity to the speculative mind. The cloth was two-thirds off, and slipping, by a very gradual process, to the floor. On the remaining third stood an inkstand and a bottle of mucilage, as well as a huge pile of books, a glass tumbler, a Parian vase, a jack-knife, a pair of scissors, a thimble, two spools of thread, a small kite, and a riding-whip. The rest of the table had been left free to draw a map on, and was covered with pencils and rubber, compasses, paper, and torn geography leaves.
There were several pretty pictures on the walls, but they were all hung crookedly; the curtain at the window was unlooped, and you could write your name anywhere in the dust that covered mantel, stove, and furniture.
And this was Gypsy's room.
Tom had spent a longer time in looking at it than I have taken to tell about it, and when he was through looking he did one of those things that big brothers of sixteen long years' experience in this life, who are always teasing you and making fun of you and "preaching" at you, are afflicted with a chronic and incurable tendency to do. It is very fortunate that Gypsy deserved it, for it was really a horrible thing, girls, and if I were you I wouldn't let my brothers read about it, as you value your peace of mind, lace collars, clean clothes, good tempers, and private property generally. I'd put a pin through these leaves, or fasten them together with sealing-wax, or cut them out, before I'd run the risk.
And what did he do? Why, he put a chair in the middle of the room, tied a broom to it (he found it in the corner with a little heap of dust behind it, as Gypsy had left it when her mother sent her up to sweep the room that morning), and dressed it up in the three dresses, the cloaks and the cape, one above another, the chair serving as crinoline. Upon the top of the broom-handle he tied the torn apron, stuffed out with the rubber-boots, and pinned on slips of the geography leaves for , features; Massachusetts and Vermont giving the graceful effect of one pink eye and one yellow eye, Australia making a very blue nose, and Japan a small green mouth. The hatchet and the riding-whip served as arms, and the whole figure was surmounted by the Sunday hat that had the dust on its feather. From under the hem of the lowest dress, peeped the toes of all the pairs of shoes and rubbers, and the entire contents of the sliding table-cloth, down to every solitary' pencil, needle, and crumb of cake, were ranged in a line on the carpet. To crown the whole, he pinned upon the image that paper placard upon which he had been scribbling.
When his laudable work was completed, this ingenious and remorseless boy had to stand and laugh at it for five minutes. If Gypsy had only seen him then! And Gypsy was nearer than. he thought-in the front door, and coming up the stairs with a great banging and singing and laughing, as nobody but Gypsy could come up stairs. Tom just put his hand on the window-sill, and gave one leap out on the kitchen roof, and Gypsy burst in, and stopped short.
Tom crouched down against the side of the house, and held his breath. For about half a minute it was perfectly still. Then a soft, merry laugh broke out all at once on the air, something as a little brook would splash down in a sudden cascade on the rocks.
"0-oh! Did you ever ? I never saw anything so funny! Oh, dear me ! "
Then it was still again, and then the merry laugh began to spell out the placard.
"Gypsy Breynton. Hon.-Hon. Gypsy Breynton,-what? Oh, Esq. M.A. D.D. LL. D. - what a creature he is! Gypsy Breynton, R. R. R. R.? I'm sure I don't know what that means-Tom! Thom-as!"
Just then she caught sight of him out on the ridge-pole, whittling away as coolly as if he had sat there all his life.
" Good afternoon," said Gypsy, politely.
"Good afternoon, " said Tom.
"Been whittling out there ever since dinner, I suppose?"
" I thought so. Come here a minute."
" Come out here," said Tom. Gypsy climbed out of the window without the slightest hesitation, and walked along the ridge-pole with the ease and fearlessness of a boy. She had on a pretty blue delaine dress, which was wet and torn, and all stuck together with burs; her boots were covered with mud to the ankle; her white stockings spattered and brown; her turban was hanging round her neck by its elastic; her net had come off, and the wind was blowing her hair all over her eyes; she had her sack thrown over one arm, and a basket filled to overflowing, with flowers and green moss, upon the other.
"Well, you're a pretty sight!" said Tom, leisurely regarding her. Indeed, he was not far from right. In spite of the mud and the burs and the tears, and the general dropping-to-pieces look about her, Gypsy managed, somehow or other, to look as pretty as a picture, with her cheeks as red as a coral, and the soft brown hair that was tossing about her eyes. Gypsy's eyes were the best part of her. They were very large and brown, and had that same irresistible twinkle that was in Tom's eyes, only a great deal more of it; and then it was always there. They twinkled when she was happy and when she was cross; they twinkled over her school-books; they twinkled, in spite of themselves, at church and Sabbath school; and, when she was at play, they shone like a whole galaxy of stars. If ever Gypsy's ' eyes ceased twinkling, people knew she was going to be sick. Her hair, I am sorry to say, was not curly.
This was Gypsy's one unalleviated affliction in life. That a girl could possibly be pretty with straight hair, had never once entered her mind. All the little girls in story-books had curls. Who ever heard of the straight-haired , maiden that made wreaths of the rosebuds, or saw the fairies, or married the Prince ? And Gypsy's hair was not only straight, it was absolutely uncurlable. A week's penance "done up in paper " made no more impression than if you were to pinch it.
However, that did not interfere with her making a bit of a picture, perched up there on the roof beside Tom, among her burs and her flowers and her moss, her face all dimples from forehead to chin.
"Where have you been?" said Tom, trying to look severe, and making a most remarkable failure.
"Oh, only over to the three-mile swamp after white violets. Sarah Rowe, she got her two hands full, and then she just fell splash into the water, full length, and lost 'em-Oh, dear me, how I laughed! She did look so funny."
"Your boots are all mud," said Tom.
"Who cares?" said Gypsy, with a merry laugh, tipping all the wet, earthy moss out on her lap, as she spoke. "See! isn't there a quantity? I like moss 'cause it fills up.
Violets are pretty enough, only you do have to pick 'em one at a time. Innocence comes up by the handful,-only mine's most all roots."
" I don't know what's going to become of you," said Tom, drawing down the corner of his mouth.
"Neither do I," said Gypsy, demurely; "I wish I did."
"You won't learn to apply yourself to anything, " persisted Tom. ' ' Work or play, there's no system to you. You're like a-" Tom paused for a simile-"Well, like a toad that's always on the jump."
"Ow!" said Gypsy, with a little scream, " there's a horrid old snail crawled out my moss!" and over went moss, flowers, basket, and all, down the roof and upon the stone steps below. "There! Good enough for it!"
Tom coughed and whittled. Gypsy pulled her net out of her basket, and put up her hair.
There was a little silence. Nothing had yet been said about the image in Gypsy's room, and both were determined not to be the first to speak of it. Gypsy could have patience enough where a joke was in question, and as is very apt to be the case, the boy found himself outwitted. For not a word said Gypsy of the matter, and half an hour passed and the supper-bell rang.
"There!" said Gypsy, jumping up, "I do declare if it isn't supper, and I've got these burs to get off and my dress to mend and my shoes and stockings to change, and-Oh, dear,! I wish people didn't ever have to do things, anyway! "
With this very wise .remark, she .walked back across the ridge-pole and climbed in the window. There was nothing for Tom to do but follow; which he did slowly and reluctantly. Something would have to be said now, at any rate. But not a syllable said Gypsy. She went to the looking-glass, and began to brush her hair as unconcernedly as if everything were just as she left it and precisely as she wanted it.
Tom passed through the room and out of the door; then he stopped. Gypsy's eyes began to twinkle as if somebody had dropped two little diamonds in them.
" I say," said Tom.
"What do you say? " replied Gypsy. "What do you suppose mother would have to say to you about this looking room?"
" I don't know what she'd say to you, I'm sure," said Gypsy, gravely.
"And you, a great girl, twelve years old!"
" I should like to know why I'm a railroad, anyway," said Gypsy.
" Who said you were a railroad? "
"Whoever wrote Gypsy Breynton, R. R., with my red ink."
" That doesn't stand for railroad."
"Doesn't? Well, what?"
On to Chapter 2
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