Jimmy’s Cruise In The Pinafore (Aunt Jo’s Scrap-Bag Vol. 5) – Louisa May Alcott
“Jimmy’s Cruise In The Pinafore” is number five in the ‘Aunt Jo’s Scrap-Bag series’ and includes the following stories by famous authoress Louisa May Alcott: ‘Jimmy’s Cruise in the Pinafore’, ‘Two Little Travellers’, ‘A Jolly Fourth’, ‘Seven Black Cats’, Rosa’s Tale’, ‘Lunch’, ‘A Bright Idea’, ‘How they Camped Out’, ‘My Little School-Girl’, ‘What a Shovel Did’, ‘Clams’ and many more.
Jimmy’s Cruise In The Pinafore (Aunt Jo’s Scrap-Bag Vol. 5).
Excerpt from the text:
A boy sat on a door-step in a despondent attitude, with his eyes fixed on a pair of very shabby shoes, and his elbows resting on his knees, as if to hide the big patches there. But it was not the fact that his toes were nearly out and his clothes dilapidated which brought the wrinkles to his forehead and the tears to his eyes, for he was used to that state of things, and bore it without complaint. The prospect was a dull one for a lively lad full of the spring longings which sunny April weather always brings. But it was not the narrow back-street where noisy children played and two or three dusty trees tried to bud without sunshine, that made him look so dismal. Nor was it the knowledge that a pile of vests was nearly ready for him to trudge away with before he could really rest after doing many errands to save mother’s weary feet.
No, it was a burden that lay very heavily on his heart, and made it impossible to even whistle as he waited. Above the sounds that filled the street he heard a patient moan from the room within; and no matter what object his eyes rested on, he saw with sorrowful distinctness a small white face turned wistfully toward the window, as if weary of the pillow where it had laid so long.
Merry little Kitty, who used to sing and dance from morning till night, was now so feeble and wasted that he could carry her about like a baby. All day she lay moaning softly, and her one comfort was when “brother” could come and sing to her. That night he could not sing; his heart was so full, because the doctor had said that the poor child must have country air as soon as possible, else she never would recover from the fever which left her such a sad little ghost of her former self. But, alas, there was no money for the trip, and mother was sewing day and night to earn enough for a week at least of blessed country air and quiet. Jimmy did his best to help, but could find very little to do, and the pennies came in so slowly he was almost in despair.
There was no father to lend a strong hand, and Mrs. Nelson was one of the “silent poor,” who cannot ask for charity, no matter how much they may need it. The twelve-year-old boy considered himself the man of the family, and manfully carried as many burdens as his young shoulders would bear; but this was a very heavy one, so it is no wonder that he looked sober. Holding his curly head in his hands, as if to keep it from flying asunder with the various plans working inside, he sat staring at the dusty bricks in a desperate frame of mind.
Warm days were coming, and every hour was precious, for poor Kitty pined in the close room, and all he could do was to bring her dandelions and bits of green grass from the Common when she begged to go in the fields and pick “pretties” for herself. He loved the little sister dearly, and, as he remembered her longing, his eyes filled, and he doubled up both fists with an air of determination, muttering to himself,—
“She shall go! I don’t see any other way, and I’ll do it!”
The plan which had been uppermost lately was this. His father had been a sailor, and Jimmy proposed to run away to sea as cabin boy. His wages were to be paid before he went, so mother and Kitty could be in the country while he was gone, and in a few months he would come sailing gayly home to find the child her rosy self again. A very boyish and impossible plan, but he meant it, and was in just the mood to carry it out,—for every other attempt to make money had failed.
“I’ll do it as sure as my name is Jim Nelson. I’ll take a look at the ships this very night, and go in the first one that will have me,” he said, with a resolute nod of the head, though his heart sank within him at the thought. “I wonder which kind of captains pay boys best? I guess I’ll try a steamer; they make short trips. I heard the cannon to-day, so one is in, and I’ll try for a place before I go to bed.”
Little did desperate Jimmy guess what ship he would really sail in, nor what a prosperous voyage he was about to make; for help was coming that very minute, as it generally does, sooner or later, to generous people who are very much in earnest.
First a shrill whistle was heard, at the sound of which he looked up quickly; then a rosy-faced girl of about his own age came skipping down the street, swinging her hat by one string; and, as Jimmy watched her approach, a smile began to soften the grim look he wore, for Willy Bryant was his best friend and neighbor, being full of courage, fun, and kindness. He nodded, and made room for her on the step,—the place she usually occupied at spare moments when they got lessons and recounted their scrapes to each other.
But to-night Willy seemed possessed of some unusually good piece of news which she chose to tell in her own lively fashion, for, instead of sitting down, she began to dance a sailor’s hornpipe, singing gayly, “I’m little Buttercup, sweet little Buttercup,” till her breath gave out.
“What makes you so jolly, Will?” asked Jimmy, as she dropped down beside him and fanned herself with the ill-used hat.
“Such fun—you’ll never guess—just what we wanted—if your mother only will! You’ll dance, too, when you know,” panted the girl, smiling like a substantial sort of fairy come to bring good luck.
“Fire away, then. It will have to be extra nice to set me off. I don’t feel a bit like jigs now,” answered Jimmy, as the gloom obscured his face again, like a cloud over the sun.
“You know ‘Pinafore’?” began Will, and getting a quick nod for an answer, she poured forth the following tale with great rapidity: “Well, some folks are going to get it up with children to do it, and they want any boys and girls that can sing to go and be looked at to-morrow, and the good ones will be picked out, and dressed up, and taught how to act, and have the nicest time that ever was. Some of our girls are going, and so am I, and you sing and must come, too, and have some fun. Won’t it be jolly?”
“I guess it would; but I can’t. Mother needs me every minute out of school,” began Jimmy, with a shake of the head, having made up his mind some time ago that he must learn to do without fun.
“But we shall be paid for it,” cried Will, clapping her hands with the double delight of telling the best part of her story, and seeing Jimmy’s sober face clear suddenly as if the sun had burst forth with great brilliancy.
“Really? How much? Can I sing well enough?” and he clutched her arm excitedly, for this unexpected ray of hope dazzled him.
“Some of them will have ten dollars a week, and some more,—the real nice ones, like Lee, the singing boy, who is a wonder,” answered Will, in the tone of one well informed on such points.
“Ten dollars!” gasped Jimmy, for the immensity of the sum took his breath away. “Could I get that? How long? Where do we go? Do they really want us fellows? Are you sure it’s all true?”
“It was all in the paper, and Miss Pym, the teacher who boards at our house, told Ma about it. The folks advertised for school-children, sixty of ’em, and will really pay; and Ma said I could go and try, and all the money I get I’m going to put in a bank and have for my own. Don’t you believe me now?”
Miss Pym and the newspapers settled the matter in Jimmy’s mind, and made him more anxious than before about the other point.
“Do you think I would have any chance?” he asked, still holding Will, who seemed inclined for another dance.
“I know you would. Don’t you do splendidly at school? And didn’t they want you for a choir boy, only your mother couldn’t spare you?” answered Will, decidedly; for Jimmy did love music, and had a sweet little pipe of his own, as she well knew.
“Mother will have to spare me now, if they pay like that. I can work all day and do without sleep to earn money this way. Oh, Will, I’m so glad you came, for I was just ready to run away to sea. There didn’t seem anything else to do,” whispered Jimmy in a choky sort of tone, as hopes and fears struggled together in his boyish mind.
“Run as fast as you like, and I’ll go too. We’ll sail in the ‘Pinafore,’ and come home with our pockets full of money.
“‘Sing, hey, the merry maiden and the tar!'”
burst out Will, who was so full of spirits she could not keep still another minute.
Jimmy joined in, and the fresh voices echoed through the street so pleasantly that Mrs. Peters stopped scolding her six squabbling children, while Kitty’s moaning changed to a feeble little sound of satisfaction, for “brother’s” lullabies were her chief comfort and delight.
“We shall lose school, you know, for we act in the afternoon, not the evening. I don’t care; but you will, you like to study so well. Miss Pym didn’t like it at first, but Ma said it would help the poor folks, and a little fun wouldn’t hurt the children. I thought of you right away, and if you don’t get as much money as I do, you shall have some of mine, so Kitty can go away soon.”
Will’s merry face grew very sweet and kind as she said that, and Jimmy was glad his mother called him just then, because he did not know how to thank this friend in need. When he came out with the parcel of vests he looked like a different boy, for Mrs. Nelson had told him to go and find out all about it, and had seemed as much dazzled by the prospect as he did, sewing was such weary work.
Their interview with Miss Pym was a most encouraging one, and it was soon settled that Jimmy should go with Will to try for a place on the morrow.
“And I’ll get it, too!” he said to himself, as he kissed Kitty’s thin cheek, full of the sweet hope that he might be the means of bringing back life and color to the little face he loved so well.
He was so excited he could not sleep, and beguiled the long hours by humming under his breath all the airs he knew belonging to the already popular opera. Next morning he flew about his work as if for a wager, and when Will came for him there was not a happier heart in all the city than the hopeful one that thumped under Jimmy’s threadbare best jacket.
Such a crowd of girls and boys as they found at the hall where they were told to apply for inspection; such a chirping and piping went on there, it sounded like a big cage full of larks and linnets; and by and by, when the trial was over, such a smiling troop of children as was left to be drilled by the energetic gentlemen who had the matter in hand. Among this happy band stood our Jimmy, chosen for his good voice, and Will, because of her bright face and lively, self-possessed manners. They could hardly wait to be dismissed, and it was a race home to see who should be first to tell the good news. Jimmy tried to be quiet on Kitty’s account, but failed entirely; and it was a pleasant sight to see the boy run into his mother’s arms, crying joyfully,—
“I’m in! I’m in! Ten dollars a week! Hurrah!”
“I can hardly believe it!” And weary Mrs. Nelson dropped her needle to indulge in a few moments of delightful repose.
“If it goes well they may want us for a month or six weeks,” the man said. “Just think, maybe I’ll get fifty or sixty dollars! and Baby will get well right off,” cried Jimmy, in an arithmetical sort of rapture, as he leaned above Kitty, who tried to clap her little hands without quite knowing what the joy was all about.