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Smart Little Paul

From Ailenroc鈥檚 Book, by Cornelia Alexander

Note: This story puzzles me somewhat, so I am going to make another post in a day or two to discuss it and ask for other readers’ comments.

It was evening of the Lord鈥檚 day.聽 We were sitting鈥攎y mother鈥檚 old friend and I鈥攂efore the glowing grate in her quiet room, when visitors were announced, and Dr. F鈥斺, his wife, and two children, came in.

The Doctor was a very talkative little man; and to make up, I suppose, for his short stature, he wore a very tall hat.聽 The lady was very talkative, also, and the children seemed to take after both.

As soon as the little confusion attendant on their entrance had subsided and they were seated, the gentleman drew the smaller child toward him, and said: 鈥淣ow, dear, you must say your little speech for Aunt Mary.鈥

Thereupon the small man lifted up a weak voice and recited a verse which ran thus:

鈥淗e I tan au wag an dew ee,
Don tum tiss wun I tue ee.鈥

鈥淭hat鈥檚 a man,鈥 said the proud mother, snatching him to her breast in a rapturous embrace.聽 鈥淣ow run and kiss Aunt Mary; but maybe Aunt Mary does not want you to kiss her, your face is too dirty.鈥

鈥淥, never mind!鈥 said Aunt Mary, good-naturedly.聽 鈥淐hildren will get dirty.鈥

So the little one came over and gave the kiss, while his mother explained that some one had given him a stick of licorice and he had smeared his face with it.

鈥淚 don鈥檛 expect Aunt Mary understood your little speech, son,鈥 said the Doctor, when his wife paused for want of breath.聽 鈥淚t is this:

鈥淗ere I stand, all ragged and dirty;
If you don鈥檛 come and kiss me, I鈥檒l run like a turkey.鈥

鈥淲ell, I鈥檓 sure,鈥 said Aunt Mary, 鈥渉e did very well.鈥

鈥淥, he can speak it much plainer at times!鈥 said the mother.聽 鈥淗e is bashful before strangers.鈥

Just then the elder boy, a bright-looking lad of nine or ten years, spoke up: 鈥淎unt Mary, let me tell you about my bank.鈥

鈥淵es, do,鈥 said his mother, giving him a push.聽 鈥淕o over and tell her about your bank.鈥

He came over, smiling and showing a handful of nickels, and stood by my friend鈥檚 side.

鈥淚t鈥檚 a nigger, Aunt Mary, riding a mule; and when you put a nickel in the nigger鈥檚 mouth, the mule kicks up and throws the nigger, and the nickel falls into my bank.聽 I鈥檝e made forty cents to-day,鈥 he added, showing the money.

I looked at the parents; they seemed pleased, as though it was all right.聽 I looked at my friend; her sweet old face had grown grave.聽 I felt like saying, 鈥淭his is the Lord鈥檚 day;鈥 but the people were strangers to me, and I did not interfere.

鈥淚t is the cutest trick you ever saw,鈥 said the Doctor.聽 鈥淧aul saw it in a store, and he just worried me until I was compelled to buy it.聽 It cost one dollar and a half, and he has already made his money back, though he has only had it two days.聽 Yesterday he made a dollar and fifteen cents; this evening he has made forty cents.鈥

鈥淚t works by a spring, Aunt Mary,鈥 the lady explained.聽 鈥淵ou put a nickel in the negro鈥檚 mouth, and the mule kicks up and throws his clear over his head.聽 When the negro鈥檚 head strikes, it loosens the spring in his mouth that holds the nickel, and the money falls into a slit and goes into a box that he calls his bank.聽 It is real funny.聽 A great many people will give a nickel, you know, just to see the mule throw the negro.鈥

My friend remarked that she supposed it was right funny.

The lady rattled on: 鈥淗is pa told him he must pay back the dollar and a half, and then he might have all he made.聽 He made forty cents in a little time this evening.聽 That was eight throws at a nickel apiece.鈥

That was the third time I had heard the forty cents mentioned, and I set to cudgeling my brains to see if I had lost my reckoning and it was Monday instead of Sunday; but no, Sunday it was.

鈥淧aul would not have made so much this evening,鈥 said the smiling mother, 鈥渋f it had not been for Mr. Tyler.聽 Mr. Tyler is very fond of Paul, and he helped him.鈥

My friend said mildly that Paul seemed to have a talent for money-making.

鈥淥, he loves money!鈥 said the proud father.聽 鈥淗e will do anything for money.聽 I鈥檒l tell you how he does me, Aunt Mary.聽 I always buy my pine in the summer, when it is not so high, and Paul will pick out the rich pieces and split them up into kindlings.聽 He sells them to the neighbors by the bunch and keeps himself in pocket money鈥攄on鈥檛 you see?鈥攂ut he never thinks to pay me for my pine.鈥

Of course this smart little boy鈥攖his money-making little Paul鈥攚as the 鈥渙bserved of all observers,鈥 and truth compels me to state that he bore his honors well.聽 He stood balancing himself, first on one foot, then on the other, while a simpering, conceited smile overspread his childish features, and with one hand he rattled the loose change in his pocket.

His parents watched him with admiring eyes, and directly his mother began again: 鈥淧aul has to have pay for all he does.聽 He washes my dishes for me鈥攁nd don鈥檛 you think, Aunt Mary, I have to pay him a nickel a week for it?聽 He says he knows it is worth that much, and indeed it is.聽 Paul is a very smart child, but I can tell you he knows the value of money.鈥

鈥淣o wonder he does,鈥 I said to myself.

鈥淚 like to see children have a turn for money-making,鈥 said Dr. F鈥斺. 聽鈥淭hey are nearly sure to get on in the world.鈥

To my great relief, and that of my friend also, they all took their leave, and my friend remarked as the door closed behind them: 鈥淣ow you see what makes bad children; and that is just the reason there are so many bad men in the world.聽 Children are brought up with no regard for the Lord鈥檚 day, and parents are to blame for it.鈥

鈥淚 don鈥檛 think that boy will make a good man,鈥 I answered.聽 鈥淗is parents brag on him so much, he will be all conceit by the time he is grown, and a swindler and gambler, most likely, as his father says 鈥榟e will do anything for money.鈥欌

If he does, who will be to blame for it?聽 This is no fancy sketch; it is the truth.聽 I hope there are no more such parents.

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