The Story of a Bad Boy by Thomas Bailey Aldrich
Chapter Twenty-Two. Exeunt Omnes
With the close of my school-days at Rivermouth this modest chronicle ends.
The new life upon which I entered, the new friends and foes I encountered on the road, and what I did and what I did not, are matters that do not come within the scope of these pages. But before I write Finis to the record as it stands, before I leave it-feeling as if I were once more going away from my boyhood-I have a word or two to say concerning a few of the personages who have figured in the story, if you will allow me to call Gypsy a personage.
I am sure that the reader who has followed me thus far will be willing to hear what became of her, and Sailor Ben and Miss Abigail and the Captain.
First about Gypsy. A month after my departure from Rivemouth the Captain informed me by letter that he had parted with the little mare, according to agreement. She had been sold to the ring-master of a travelling circus (I had stipulated on this disposal of her), and was about to set out on her travels. She did not disappoint my glowing anticipations, but became quite a celebrity in her way-by dancing the polka to slow music on a pine-board ball-room constructed for the purpose.
I chanced once, a long while afterwards, to be in a country town where her troupe was giving exhibitions; I even read the gaudily illumined show-bill, setting forth the accomplishments of Zuleika, the famed Arabian Trick Pony-but I failed to recognize my dear little Mustang girl behind those high-sounding titles, and so, alas, did not attend the performance! I hope all the praises she received and all the spangled trappings she wore did not spoil her; but I am afraid they did, for she was always over much given to the vanities of this world!
Miss Abigail regulated the domestic destinies of my grandfather's household until the day of her death, which Dr. Theophilus Tredick solemnly averred was hastened by the inveterate habit she had contracted of swallowing unknown quantities of hot-drops whenever she fancied herself out of sorts. Eighty-seven empty phials were found in a bonnet-box on a shelf in her bedroom closet.
The old house became very lonely when the family got reduced to Captain Nutter and Kitty; and when Kitty passed away, my grandfather divided his time between Rivermouth and New York.
Sailor Ben did not long survive his little Irish lass, as he always fondly called her. At his demise, which took place about six years since, he left his property in trust to the managers of a "Home for Aged Mariners." In his will, which was a very whimsical document-written by himself, and worded with much shrewdness, too-he warned the Trustees that when he got "aloft" he intended to keep his "weather eye" on them, and should send "a speritual shot across their bows" and bring them to, if they didn't treat the Aged Mariners handsomely.
He also expressed a wish to have his body stitched up in a shotted hammock and dropped into the harbor; but as he did not strenuously insist on this, and as it was not in accordance with my grandfather's preconceived notions of Christian burial, the Admiral was laid to rest beside Kitty, in the Old South Burying Ground, with an anchor that would have delighted him neatly carved on his headstone.
I am sorry the fire has gone out in the old ship's stove in that sky-blue cottage at the head of the wharf; I am sorry they have taken down the flag-staff and painted over the funny port-holes; for I loved the old cabin as it was. They might have let it alone!
For several months after leaving Rivermouth I carried on a voluminous correspondence with Pepper Whitcomb; but it gradually dwindled down to a single letter a month, and then to none at all. But while he remained at the Temple Grammar School he kept me advised of the current gossip of the town and the doings of the Centipedes.
As one by one the boys left the academy-Adams, Harris, Marden, Blake, and Langdon-to seek their fortunes elsewhere, there was less to interest me in the old seaport; and when Pepper himself went to Philadelphia to read law, I had no one to give me an inkling of what was going on.
There wasn't much to go on, to be sure. Great events no longer considered it worth their while to honor so quiet a place.
One Fourth of July the Temple Grammar School burnt down-set on fire, it was supposed, by an eccentric squib that was seen to bolt into an upper window-and Mr. Grimshaw retired from public life, married, "and lived happily ever after," as the story-books say.
The Widow Conway, I am able to state, did not succeed in enslaving Mr. Meeks, the apothecary, who united himself clandestinely to one of Miss Dorothy Gibbs's young ladies, and lost the patronage of Primrose Hall in consequence.
Young Conway went into the grocery business with his ancient chum, Rodgers-RODGERS & CONWAY! I read the sign only last summer when I was down in Rivermouth, and had half a mind to pop into the shop and shake hands with him, and ask him if he wanted to fight. I contented myself, however, with flattening my nose against his dingy shop-window, and beheld Conway, in red whiskers and blue overalls, weighing out sugar for a customer-giving him short weight, I'll bet anything!
I have reserved my pleasantest word for the last. It is touching the Captain. The Captain is still hale and rosy, and if he doesn't relate his exploit in the War of 1812 as spiritedly as he used to, he makes up by relating it more frequently and telling it differently every time! He passes his winters in New York and his summers in the Nutter House, which threatens to prove a hard nut for the destructive gentleman with the scythe and the hour-glass, for the seaward gable has not yielded a clapboard to the eastwind these twenty years. The Captain has now become the Oldest Inhabitant in Rivermouth, and so I don't laugh at the Oldest Inhabitant any more, but pray in my heart that he may occupy the post of honor for half a century to come!
So ends the Story of a Bad Boy-but not such a very bad boy, as I told you to begin with.