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CHAPTER XX—FLUTTERS COMES TO A DECISION
LUTTERS had something on his mind, and this in addition to all the cares and anxieties of the Bonifaces, which he took upon himself every whit as fully as though he actually belonged to the family. But the something in question was a little private affair of his own, an affair, however, that insisted upon filling most of his waking thoughts, and finally, after looking at it in every possible light, he arrived at a decision.

When a person has been thinking about a matter and turning it over and over in his mind, a decision is a glorious thing to come to. It is such a relief, after standing helpless in a perfect maze of doubt and hesitation, to find a straight path opening up before you. At any rate, Flutters’s sensations were quite of that order, as late one afternoon he went to Mrs. Boniface and asked if she could spare him to go into town for a few hours.

“Certainly, Flutters,” if it is necessary for it was the first time Flutters had made a request like that, and she wondered what the little fellow was up to.

Flutters seemed to read her thoughts and answered, “It is necessary, Mrs. Boniface, but I would rather not tell you what I want to go for, if you are willing to trust me.”

“Certainly, I’ll trust you, Flutters,” was the answer that made his heart glad; for it is such a fine thing to be thoroughly trusted, and the haste with which he donned his coat and hurried from the house showed that, at least in his estimation, the something to be done was as important as necessary.

Along the frosty road, in the November twilight, the little fellow trudged at a brisk pace, now and then breaking into a full run, as though in his eagerness he could not brook the delay of sober walking. White, fleecy clouds were scudding across the sky, as though making way for the moon which shone out whenever they would let her, and whose silvery beams were following so closely in the wake of the daylight as to create one earth night in which, as in Heaven above, there was to be no darkness at all.

But Flutters, like many another preoccupied fellow-mortal, saw naught of its beauty, only noting his surroundings sufficiently to take the straightest road to his destination.

Finally, he brought up at the barracks of Company F at Fort George, which company, as you remember, we learned from Mrs. Rainsford, was no longer quartered at the Avery homestead.

“Is Sergeant Bellows here?” Flutters asked, breathlessly, of one of the first men he met.

“He be,” answered the man, with provoking slowness, “but I doubt if he’ll see ye the night, he turned in early with a headache.” Flutters looked crestfallen. “You sail for England day after to-morrow, don’t you?” >

“We do that,” answered the man, “and it’s with pleasure we’ll be after shaking the dust of the place off us.”

“But I must see Sergeant Bellows before he goes,” said Flutters, pathetically. “Do you think he’d mind if I disturbed him just for a minute?”

“Maybe not,” said the man, “the Sergeant’s that good-natured. You’ll find him in bunk No. 6, in the front room above-stairs.”

So Flutters climbed the stairs and entered the great cheerless room, with its row of uncomfortable-looking bunks lining the wall. A candle was burning in a tin candlestick at one end of the room. Flutters went on tip-toe and brought it so as to inspect the numbers of the bunks, and make no mistake, for he could see that two or three other men had also “turned in.”

“‘Who’s there?’ asked Sergeant Bellows.”

No. 6 was half-way down the room. “Sergeant Bellows,” said Flutters, in a penetrating whisper, screening the candle flame with his hand, so that it should not shine in the Sergeant’s face.



0177

“Who’s there?” asked Sergeant Bellows, raising himself on one elbow and bewildered at the sight of his unexpected visitor.

“It’s only me, Flutters, and I hope your headache isn’t very bad, ‘cause I wouldn’t have disturbed you for the world, only I almost had to.”

“Oh, that’s all right,” said the Sergeant, kindly, “but it’ll take me a moment to get my wits to working, although I wasn’t rightly asleep either. Here, set the candle on the shelf, and run get that stool yonder for yourself.”

Flutters felt relieved thus to have the Sergeant take in the situation at a glance, and realize that he had come with a purpose.

“I was coming up to Kings Bridge to-morrow to say good-bye,” the Sergeant said, rather sadly, when Flutters had seated himself beside the bed. “How are they up there?”

“Why, they’re not well at all—that is, you know, don’t you, about the Captain’s being paralyzed all over?”

“No, by gracious! paralyzed! Do you mean he can’t move hand nor foot?”

Flutters sorrowfully shook his head yes, as though words failed him.

“You don’t mean it,” said the Sergeant, sorrowfully; “but tell me all about it,” and then Flutters told him everything about the Bonifaces that he thought could by any possibility be of any interest to him, till at last he felt justified in introducing his own little matter.

“But what I came to see about was this—”

“Oh, to be sure,” said the Sergeant. “I had almost forgotten to wonder what brought you here.”

“Well,” said Flutters, solemnly, “I have a great favor to ask of you, Sergeant.”

“You’re not giving me much time to do it, then,” said the Sergeant, “seeing as every British soldier quits the city day after to-morrow.”

“That’s the reason I came,” answered Flutters, excitedly, “it’s in England that I want the favor done.”

“Why, what have you to do with England, I’d like to know?” with evident astonishment.

“Why, England was my home,” Flutters answered, rather proudly; “don’t you know I belonged to an English circus?”

“Why, so you did; I’d forgotten about that.” And then there was a little pause, while the Sergeant waited for further developments, and while Flutters was meditating how he had best put his case.

“I once heard you say, Sergeant, that your old home was somewhere in Cheshire, and that’s where my father lives. His name is Wainright.”

“Then your name is Wainright, too,” said the Sergeant; “Flutters Wainright, eh?”

“No, Arthur Wainright’s my name. Flutters is a name they gave me in the circus, because I used to be so scared when I first began to have a hand in the tumbling.”

“But look here,” said the Sergeant, in rather gruff, soldier-like fashion, “if you’ve a father and he’s living, why aren’t you living with him ‘stead of being away over here among strangers? Ye’re not a runaway, are ye, Flutters?”

“Yes, I am,” said Flutters, scanning the Sergeant’s face closely to watch the effect of his confession. “I had to do it, Sergeant. I was in the way at home. My mother was a colored lady, but she died in India, and then my father took me to England and married a white lady, and there were some white children and I wasn’t wanted. They used to say I was such a queer, dark little thing.”

“Blest if I blame you, then!” said the Sergeant, whose heart was touched; “but does your father know you’re in good, kind hands. I suppose he cared more for you than the rest of ‘em did?”

“Yes,” said Flutters, “and so I felt I ought to let him know, and I thought perhaps if you didn’t mind, you’d hunt him up when you get over there, and tell him ‘bout me, and how happy I am, and that I send my love.”

“But then he might be sending for you to come back. Have you thought of that, Flutters?”

“Yes, I’ve thought of it, but it isn’t likely, Sergeant. He knows I’m not wanted there; but anyhow, it seems to me I ought to let him know now that I’m so well cared for.”

“That’s so,” said the Sergeant, pausing a moment to give the matter due consideration. “I think you’re right about it, and I’ll hunt your father up just as soon as I can get my furlough and run down to see my relatives in Cheshire.”

“Here’s my father’s name and address,” said Flutters, taking a slip of paper from his pocket, “and when you write to me just direct ‘Flutters,’ care of Captain Boniface. I don’t want them to know about me up there. I just want them to think of me as an ordinary little darkey, and not above any sort of work.”

“That’s very good of you,” replied Sergeant Bellows, tucking the precious little paper under his blue gingham-covered pillow; “not every boy would be so considerate as to think of that, but then it’s a mighty nice berth for you, too. I’d give a good deal myself to live with the Bonifaces.”

“But you are glad to go home, aren’t you?” Flutters asked, with some surprise.

“No doubt I shall be glad to see old England again, but once I’ve seen it that’s all I care for. It’s different with most of the men. Some of them can hardly speak for joy at the thought, and that makes some of the rest of us who haven’t any homes to go to very wretched with—well I guess you’ll have to call it not-any-home-sickness. It’s half what is the matter with me to-day; and Andy there in the next bunk, who lost a wife and baby years ago in England, he’d a sight rather keep his back turned on everything that belongs to it. But there’s no help for it. A soldier had best not have any will of his own, nor any preferences either, if he knows what’s good for him.”

Flutters did not know what reply to make to all this, though feeling very sorry for the old Sergeant, and so he began to button his coat together, and said: “I guess I’d better go now. I hope I haven’t made your headache any worse, Sergeant?”

“Never you fear. It’s done me good to talk with you, Flutters. It was more of a heartache than a headache, you know. I had one of those blue streaks, when a fellow feels he isn’t of any use in the world; but if I can carry a message from you to your father ‘way across the great ocean, I must be of a little use still, so I’ll turn over and go to sleep as a sensible old codger should,” and, suiting the action to the word, Sergeant Bellows rather unceremoniously “turned over” and pulled the gray army blanket half over his head.

“Good-night, then,” said Flutters, rising and taking the candle from the shelf.

“Good-night,” yawned the Sergeant, as though already half asleep. “I’ll be up to the Captain’s in the morning.”

Flutters set the lighted candle back where he had found it, and then made his way out as quietly as possible, and the moonbeams and the quiet once more had the room to themselves; and, unless thoughts were too active or hearts too heavy, there was no reason why Andy and the Sergeant should not have dropped off into the soundest of naps, at any rate, until the rest of the men should turn in an hour or two later, when there would, no doubt, be noise enough to wake the best of sleepers.


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