Jack and Jill HTML version

5. Secrets
There were a great many clubs in Harmony Village, but as we intend to interest
ourselves with the affairs of the young folks only, we need not dwell upon the intellectual
amusements of the elders. In summer, the boys devoted themselves to baseball, the
girls to boating, and all got rosy, stout, and strong, in these healthful exercises. In
winter, the lads had their debating club, the lasses a dramatic ditto. At the former,
astonishing bursts of oratory were heard; at the latter, everything was boldly attempted,
from Romeo and Juliet to Mother Goose's immortal melodies. The two clubs frequently
met and mingled their attractions in a really entertaining manner, for the speakers made
good actors, and the young actresses were most appreciative listeners to the eloquence
of each budding Demosthenes.
Great plans had been afoot for Christmas or New Year, but when the grand catastrophe
put an end to the career of one of the best "spouters," and caused the retirement of the
favorite "singing chambermaid," the affair was postponed till February, when
Washington's birthday was always celebrated by the patriotic town, where the father of
his country once put on his nightcap, or took off his boots, as that ubiquitous hero
appears to have done in every part of the United States.
Meantime the boys were studying Revolutionary characters, and the girls rehearsing
such dramatic scenes as they thought most appropriate and effective for the 22d. In
both of these attempts they were much helped by the sense and spirit of Ralph Evans, a
youth of nineteen, who was a great favorite with the young folks, not only because he
was a good, industrious fellow, who supported his grandmother, but also full of talent,
fun, and ingenuity. It was no wonder everyone who really knew him liked him, for he
could turn his hand to anything, and loved to do it. If the girls were in despair about a
fire-place when acting "The Cricket on the Hearth," he painted one, and put a gas-log in
it that made the kettle really boil, to their great delight. If the boys found the interest of
their club flagging, Ralph would convulse them by imitations of the "Member from
Cranberry Centre," or fire them with speeches of famous statesmen. Charity fairs could
not get on without him, and in the store where he worked he did many an ingenious job,
which made him valued for his mechanical skill, as well as for his energy and integrity.
Mrs. Minot liked to have him with her sons, because they also were to paddle their own
canoes by and by, and she believed that, rich or poor, boys make better men for
learning to use the talents they possess, not merely as ornaments, but tools with which
to carve their own fortunes; and the best help toward this end is an example of faithful
work, high aims, and honest living. So Ralph came often, and in times of trouble was a
real rainy-day friend. Jack grew very fond of him during his imprisonment, for the good
youth ran in every evening to get commissions, amuse the boy with droll accounts of the
day's adventures, or invent lifts, bed-tables, and foot-rests for the impatient invalid.
Frank found him a sure guide through the mechanical mysteries which he loved, and
spent many a useful half-hour discussing cylinders, pistons, valves, and balance-