Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
NUISANCES, NECESSARY AND OTHERWISE
 FOR some time after dinner, that first day, David watched Mrs.
Holly in silence while she cleared the table and began to wash
"Do you want me to—help?" he asked at last, a little wistfully.
Mrs. Holly, with a dubious glance at the boy's brown little
hands, shook her head.
"No, I don't. No, thank you," she amended her answer.
For another sixty seconds David was silent; then, still more
wistfully, he asked:—
"Are all these things you've been doing all day 'useful labor'?"
Mrs. Holly lifted dripping hands from the dishpan and held them
suspended for an amazed instant.
"Are they—Why, of course they are! What a silly question! What
put that idea into your head, child?"
"Mr. Holly; and you see it's so different from what father used
to call them."
"Yes. He said they were a necessary nuisance,—dishes, and
getting meals, and clearing up,—and he did n't do half as many
of them as you do, either."
"Nuisance, indeed!" Mrs. Holly resumed her dishwashing with some
asperity. "Well, I should think that might have been just about
"Yes, it was. He was always that way," nodded David pleasantly.
Then, after a moment, he queried: "But are n't you going to walk
at all to-day?"
"To walk? Where?"
"Why, through the woods and fields—anywhere."
"Walking in the woods, now—just walking? Land's sake, boy, I've
got something else to do!"
"Oh, that's too bad, is n't it?" David's face expressed
sympathetic regret. "And it's such a nice day! Maybe it'll rain
"Maybe it will," retorted Mrs. Holly, with slightly uplifted
eyebrows and an expressive glance. "But whether it does or does
 make any difference in my going to walk, I guess."
"Oh, won't it?" beamed David, his face changing. "I'm so glad! I
don't mind the rain, either. Father and I used to go in the rain
lots of times, only, of course, we could n't take our violins
then, so we used to like the pleasant days better. But there are
some things you find on rainy days that you could n't find any
other time, are n't there? The dance of the drops on the leaves,
and the rush of the rain when the wind gets behind it. Don't you
love to feel it, out in the open spaces, where the wind just gets
a good chance to push?"
Mrs. Holly stared. Then she shivered and threw up her hands with
a gesture of hopeless abandonment.
"Land's sake, boy!" she ejaculated feebly, as she turned back to
From dishes to sweeping, and from sweeping to dusting, hurried
Mrs. Holly, going at last into the somber parlor, always
carefully guarded from sun and air. Watching her, mutely, David
trailed behind, his eyes staring a little as they fell upon the
multitude of objects that parlor contained: the haircloth chairs,
the long sofa, the marble-topped table, the curtains,
cushions, spreads, and "throws," the innumerable mats and tidies,
the hair-wreath, the wax flowers under their glass dome, the
dried grasses, the marvelous bouquets of scarlet, green, and
purple everlastings, the stones and shells and many-sized,
many-shaped vases arranged as if in line of battle along the
"Y—yes, you may come in," called Mrs. Holly, glancing back at
the hesitating boy in the doorway. "But you must n't touch
anything. I'm going to dust."
"But I have n't seen this room before," ruminated David.
"Well, no," deigned Mrs. Holly, with just a touch of superiority.
"We don't use this room common, little boy, nor the bedroom
there, either. This is the company room, for ministers and
funerals, and—" She stopped hastily, with a quick look at David;
but the boy did not seem to have heard.
"And does n't anybody live here in this house, but just you and
Mr. Holly, and Mr. Perry Larson?" he asked, still looking
wonderingly about him.
 "No, not—now." Mrs. Holly drew in her breath with a little
catch, and glanced at the framed portrait of a little boy on the
"But you've got such a lot of rooms and—and things," remarked
David. "Why, daddy and I only had two rooms, and not hardly any
things. It was so—different, you know, in my home."
"I should say it might have been!" Mrs. Holly began to dust
hurriedly, but carefully. Her voice still carried its hint of
"Oh, yes," smiled David. "But you say you don't use this room
much, so that helps."
"Helps!" In her stupefaction Mrs. Holly stopped her work and
"Why, yes. I mean, you've got so many other rooms you can live in
those. You don't have to live in here."
" 'Have to live in here'!" ejaculated the woman, still too
uncomprehending to be anything but amazed.
"Yes. But do you have to keep all these things, and clean them
and clean them, like this, every day? Could n't you give them to
somebody, or throw them away?"
 a wild sweep of her arms, the
horrified woman seemed to be trying to encompass in a protective
embrace each last endangered treasure of mat and tidy. "Boy, are
you crazy? These things are—are valuable. They cost money, and
time and—and labor. Don't you know beautiful things when you see
"Oh, yes, I love beautiful things," smiled David, with
unconsciously rude emphasis. "And up on the mountain I had them
always. There was the sunrise, and the sunset, and the moon and
the stars, and my Silver Lake, and the cloud-boats that sailed—"
But Mrs. Holly, with a vexed gesture, stopped him.
"Never mind, little boy. I might have known—brought up as you
have been. Of course you could not appreciate such things as
these. Throw them away, indeed!" And she fell to work again; but
this time her fingers carried a something in their touch that was
almost like the caress a mother might bestow upon an aggrieved
David, vaguely disturbed and uncomfortable, watched her with
troubled eyes; then, apologetically, he explained:—
 "It was only that I thought if you didn't have to clean so many
of these things, you could maybe go to walk more—to-day, and
other days, you know. You said—you did n't have time," he
But Mrs. Holly only shook her head and sighed:—
"Well, well, never mind, little boy. I dare say you meant all
right. You could n't understand, of course."
And David, after another moment's wistful eyeing of the caressing
fingers, turned about and wandered out onto the side porch. A
minute later, having seated himself on the porch steps, he had
taken from his pocket two small pieces of folded paper. And then,
through tear-dimmed eyes, he read once more his father's letter.
"He said I must n't grieve, for that would grieve him," murmured
the boy, after a time, his eyes on the far-away hills. "And he
said if I'd play, my mountains would come to me here, and I'd
really be at home up there. He said in my violin were all those
things I'm wanting—so bad!"
With a little choking breath, David tucked
 the note back into his
pocket and reached for his violin.
Some time later, Mrs. Holly, dusting the chairs in the parlor,
stopped her work, tiptoed to the door, and listened breathlessly.
When she turned back, still later, to her work, her eyes were
"I wonder why, when he plays, I always get to thinking of—John,"
she sighed to herself, as she picked up her dusting-cloth.
After supper that night, Simeon Holly and his wife again sat on
the kitchen porch, resting from the labor of the day. Simeon's
eyes were closed. His wife's were on the dim outlines of the
shed, the barn, the road, or a passing horse and wagon. David,
sitting on the steps, was watching the moon climb higher and
higher above the tree-tops. After a time he slipped into the
house and came out with his violin.
At the first long-drawn note of sweetness, Simeon Holly opened
his eyes and sat up, stern-lipped. But his wife laid a timid hand
on his arm.
"Don't say anything, please," she entreated softly. "Let him
play, just for to-night. He's lonesome—poor little fellow." And
 Holly, with a frowning shrug of his shoulders, sat back in
Later, it was Mrs. Holly herself who stopped the music by saying:
"Come, David, it's bedtime for little boys. I'll go upstairs with
you." And she led the way into the house and lighted the candle
Upstairs, in the little room over the kitchen, David found
himself once more alone. As before, the little yellow-white
nightshirt lay over the chair-back; and as before, Mrs. Holly had
brushed away a tear as she had placed it there. As before, too,
the big four-posted bed loomed tall and formidable in the corner.
But this time the coverlet and sheet were turned back
invitingly—Mrs. Holly had been much disturbed to find that David
had slept on the floor the night before.
Once more, with his back carefully turned toward the impaled bugs
and moths on the wall, David undressed himself. Then, before
blowing out the candle, he went to the window, kneeled down, and
looked up at the moon through the trees.
David was sorely puzzled. He was beginning to wonder just what
was to become of himself.
 His father had said that out in the world there was a beautiful
work for him to do; but what was it? How was he to find it? Or
how was he to do it if he did find it? And another thing; where
was he to live? Could he stay where he was? It was not home, to
be sure; but there was the little room over the kitchen where he
might sleep, and there was the kind woman who smiled at him
sometimes with the sad, far-away look in her eyes that somehow
hurt. He would not like, now, to leave her—with daddy gone.
There were the gold-pieces, too; and concerning these David was
equally puzzled. What should he do with them? He did not need
them—the kind woman was giving him plenty of food, so that he
did not have to go to the store and buy; and there was nothing
else, apparently, that he could use them for. They were heavy,
and disagreeable to carry; yet he did not like to throw them
away, nor to let anybody know that he had them: he had been
called a thief just for one little piece, and what would they say
if they knew he had all those others?
David remembered now, suddenly, that his father had said to hide
them—to hide them until he needed them. David was relieved at
 Why had he not thought of it before? He knew just the
place, too,—the little cupboard behind the chimney there in this
very room! And with a satisfied sigh, David got to his feet,
gathered all the little yellow disks from his pockets, and tucked
them well out of sight behind the piles of books on the cupboard
shelves. There, too, he hid the watch; but the little miniature
of the angel-mother he slipped back into one of his pockets.
David's second morning at the farmhouse was not unlike the first,
except that this time, when Simeon Holly asked him to fill the
woodbox, David resolutely ignored every enticing bug and
butterfly, and kept rigorously to the task before him until it
He was in the kitchen when, just before dinner, Perry Larson came
into the room with a worried frown on his face.
"Mis' Holly, would ye mind just steppin' to the side door?
There's a woman an' a little boy there, an' somethin' ails 'em.
She can't talk English, an' I'm blest if I can make head nor tail
out of the lingo she does talk. But maybe you can."
 "Why, Perry, I don't know—" began Mrs. Holly. But she turned at
once toward the door.
On the porch steps stood a very pretty, but frightened-looking
young woman with a boy perhaps ten years old at her side. Upon
catching sight of Mrs. Holly she burst into a torrent of
unintelligible words, supplemented by numerous and vehement
Mrs. Holly shrank back, and cast appealing eyes toward her
husband who at that moment had come across the yard from the
"Simeon, can you tell what she wants?"
At sight of the newcomer on the scene, the strange woman began
again, with even more volubility.
"No," said Simeon Holly, after a moment's scowling scrutiny of
the gesticulating woman. "She's talking French, I think. And she
"Gosh! I should say she did," muttered Perry Larson. "An'
whatever 't is, she wants it powerful bad."
"Are you hungry?" questioned Mrs. Holly timidly.
"Can't you speak English at all?" demanded Simeon Holly.
 The woman looked from one to the other with the piteous, pleading
eyes of the stranger in the strange land who cannot understand or
make others understand. She had turned away with a despairing
shake of her head, when suddenly she gave a wild cry of joy and
wheeled about, her whole face alight.
The Hollys and Perry Larson saw then that David had come out onto
the porch and was speaking to the woman—and his words were just
as unintelligible as the woman's had been.
Mrs. Holly and Perry Larson stared. Simeon Holly interrupted
David with a sharp—
"Do you, then, understand this woman, boy?"
"Why, yes! Did n't you? She's lost her way, and—" But the woman
had hurried forward and was pouring her story into David's ears.
At its conclusion David turned to find the look of stupefaction
still on the others' faces.
"Well, what does she want?" asked Simeon Holly crisply.
"She wants to find the way to François Lavelle's house. He's her
husband's brother. She came in on the train this morning. Her
husband stopped off a minute somewhere, she says,
 and got left
behind. He could talk English, but she can't. She's
only been in this country a week. She came from France."
"Gorry! Won't ye listen ter that, now?" cried Perry Larson
admiringly. "Reads her just like a book, don't he? There's a
French family over in West Hinsdale—two of 'em, I think. What'll
ye bet 't ain't one o' them?"
"Very likely," acceded Simeon Holly, his eyes bent disapprovingly
on David's face. It was plain to be seen that Simeon Holly's
attention was occupied by David, not the woman.
"An', say, Mr. Holly," resumed Perry Larson, a little excitedly,
"you know I was goin' over ter West Hinsdale in a day or two ter
see Harlow about them steers. Why can't I go this afternoon an'
tote her an' the kid along?"
"Very well," nodded Simeon Holly curtly, his eyes still on
Perry Larson turned to the woman, and by a flourish of his arms
and a jumble of broken English attempted to make her understand
that he was to take her where she undoubtedly wished to go. The
woman still looked uncomprehending, however, and David promptly
came to the rescue, saying a few rapid words
 that quickly brought
a flood of delighted understanding to the woman's face.
"Can't you ask her if she's hungry?" ventured Mrs. Holly, then.
"She says no, thank you," translated David, with a smile, when he
had received his answer. "But the boy says he is, if you please."
"Then, tell them to come into the kitchen," directed Mrs. Holly,
hurrying into the house.
"So you're French, are you?" said Simeon Holly to David.
"French? Oh, no, sir," smiled David, proudly. "I'm an American.
Father said I was. He said I was born in this country."
"But how comes it you can speak French like that?"
"Why, I learned it." Then, divining that his words were still
unconvincing, he added: "Same as I learned German and other
things with father, out of books, you know. Did n't you learn
French when you were a little boy?"
"Humph!" vouchsafed Simeon Holly, stalking away without answering
Immediately after dinner Perry Larson drove away with the woman
and the little boy. The woman's face was wreathed with
and her last adoring glance was for David, waving his hand to her
from the porch steps.
In the afternoon David took his violin and went off toward the
hill behind the house for a walk. He had asked Mrs. Holly to
accompany him, but she had refused, though she was not sweeping
or dusting at the time. She was doing nothing more important,
apparently, than making holes in a piece of white cloth, and
sewing them up again with a needle and thread.
David had then asked Mr. Holly to go; but his refusal was even
more strangely impatient than his wife's had been.
"And why, pray, should I go for a useless walk now—or any time,
for that matter?" he demanded sharply.
David had shrunk back unconsciously, though he had still smiled.
"Oh, but it would n't be a useless walk, sir. Father said nothing
was useless that helped to keep us in tune, you know."
"I mean, you looked as father used to look sometimes, when he
felt out of tune. And he always said there was nothing like a
 put him back again. I—I was feeling a little out of tune
myself to-day, and I thought, by the way you looked, that you
were, too. So I asked you to go to walk."
"Humph! Well, I—That will do, boy. No impertinence, you
understand!" And he had turned away in very obvious anger.
David, with a puzzled sorrow in his heart, had started alone then,
on his walk.