The Bell-Ringer of Angel's and Other Stories HTML version

The vast dining-room of the Crustacean Hotel at Greyport, U. S., was empty and
desolate. It was so early in the morning that there was a bedroom deshabille in the
tucked-up skirts and bare legs of the little oval breakfast-tables as they had just been left
by the dusting servants. The most stirring of travelers was yet abed, the most enterprising
of first-train catchers had not yet come down; there was a breath of midsummer sleep still
in the air; through the half-opened windows that seemed to be yawning, the pinkish blue
Atlantic beyond heaved gently and slumberously, and drowsy early bathers crept into it
as to bed. Yet as I entered the room I saw that one of the little tables in the corner was in
reality occupied by a very small and very extraordinary child. Seated in a high chair,
attended by a dreamily abstracted nurse on one side, an utterly perfunctory negro waiter
on the other, and an incongruous assortment of disregarded viands before him, he was
taking—or, rather, declining—his solitary breakfast. He appeared to be a pale, frail, but
rather pretty boy, with a singularly pathetic combination of infant delicacy of outline and
maturity of expression. His heavily fringed eyes expressed an already weary and
discontented intelligence, and his willful, resolute little mouth was, I fancied, marked
with lines of pain at either corner. He struck me as not only being physically dyspeptic,
but as morally loathing his attendants and surroundings.
My entrance did not disturb the waiter, with whom I had no financial relations; he simply
concealed an exaggerated yawn professionally behind his napkin until my own servitor
should appear. The nurse slightly awoke from her abstraction, shoved the child
mechanically,—as if starting up some clogged machinery,—said, "Eat your breakfast,
Johnnyboy," and subsided into her dream. I think the child had at first some faint hope of
me, and when my waiter appeared with my breakfast he betrayed some interest in my
selection, with a view of possible later appropriation, but, as my repast was simple, that
hope died out of his infant mind. Then there was a silence, broken at last by the languid
voice of the nurse:—
"Try some milk then—nice milk."
"No! No mik! Mik makes me sick—mik does!"
In spite of the hurried infantine accent the protest was so emphatic, and, above all,
fraught with such pent-up reproach and disgust, that I turned about sympathetically. But
Johnnyboy had already thrown down his spoon, slipped from his high chair, and was
marching out of the room as fast as his little sandals would carry him, with indignation
bristling in every line of the crisp bows of his sash.
I, however, gathered from Mr. Johnson, my waiter, that the unfortunate child owned a
fashionable father and mother, one or two blocks of houses in New York, and a villa at
Greyport, which he consistently and intelligently despised. That he had imperiously
brought his parents here on account of his health, and had demanded that he should
breakfast alone in the big dining-room. That, however, he was not happy. "Nuffin peahs