Under the Lilacs
Every one was very kind to Ben when his loss was known. The Squire wrote to Mr.
Smithers that the boy had found friends and would stay where he was. Mrs. Moss
consoled him in her motherly way, and the little girls did their very best to "be good to
poor Benny." But Miss Celia was his truest comforter, and completely won his heart, not
only by the friendly words she said and the pleasant things she did, but by the unspoken
sympathy which showed itself just at the right minute, in a look, a touch, a smile, more
helpful than any amount of condolence. She called him "my man," and Ben tried to be
one, bearing his trouble so bravely that she respected him. although he was only a little
boy, because it promised well for the future.
Then she was so happy herself, it was impossible for those about her to be sad, and Ben
soon grew cheerful again in spite of the very tender memory of his father laid quietly
away in the safest corner of his heart. He would have been a very unboyish boy if he had
not been happy, for the new place was such a pleasant one, he soon felt as if, for the first
time, he really had a home. No more grubbing now, but daily tasks which never grew
tiresome, they were so varied and so light. No more cross Pats to try his temper, but the
sweetest mistress that ever was, since praise was oftener on her lips than blame, and
gratitude made willing service a delight.
At first, it seemed as if there was going to be trouble between the two boys; for Thorny
was naturally masterful, and illness had left him weak and nervous, so he was often both
domineering and petulant. Ben had been taught instant obedience to those older than him
self, and if Thorny had been a man Ben would have made no complaint; but it was hard
to be "ordered round" by a boy, and an unreasonable one into the bargain.
A word from Miss Celia blew away the threatening cloud, however; and for her sake her
brother promised to try to be patient; for her sake Ben declared he never would "get mad"
if Mr. Thorny did fidget; and both very soon forgot all about master and man and lived
together like two friendly lads, taking each other's ups and downs good-naturedly, and
finding mutual pleasure and profit in the new companionship.
The only point on which they never could agree was legs, and many a hearty laugh did
they give Miss Celia by their warm and serious discussion of this vexed question. Thorny
insisted that Ben was bowlegged; Ben resented the epithet, and declared that the legs of
all good horsemen must have a slight curve, and any one who knew any thing about the
matter would acknowledge both its necessity and its beauty. Then Thorny Would observe
that it might be all very well in the saddle, but it made a man waddle like a duck when
afoot; whereat Ben would retort that, for his part, he would rather waddle like a duck than
tumble about like a horse with the staggers. He had his opponent there, for poor Thorny
did look very like a weak-kneed colt when he tried to walk; but he would never own it,
and came down upon Ben with crushing allusions to centaurs, or the Greeks and Romans,
who were famous both for their horsemanship and fine limbs. Ben could not answer that,
except by proudly referring to the chariot-races copied from the ancients, in which he had