Gobaly found it hard to decide whether the bone was broken or only out of place, but he made a sort of a splint, such as he had seen the doctor use upon the puppy’s leg, and then wound soft cloths, wet with liniment, about it, and the dog certainly seemed relieved, and licked Gobaly’s hand, and looked at him with grateful eyes.
He ventured into the house after a while, and beckoned to Methuselah to come out to the woodshed.
Methuselah was convinced that Santa Claus had sent the dog to them as a Christmas present, and his delight was unbounded.
“Of course, Santa Claus must have sent him, or why would he have come down this lonely road all by himself? And you will cure him” (Methuselah thought there was little that Gobaly couldn’t do if he tried), “and perhaps she will let us keep him!”
But a sudden recollection had struck Gobaly. The dog had been carrying a basket in his mouth; there might be something in it that would tell where he came from.
Though the dog’s appearance was mysterious, Gobaly was not so ready as Methuselah to accept the Santa Claus theory.
He ran out and found the basket, half buried in the snow, where it had fallen from the dog’s mouth. There were several letters and papers in it addressed to “Dr. Carruthers, care of Richard Thorndike, Esq.”
Dr. Carruthers was the famous New York physician who was visiting Squire Thorndike! Gobaly had heard the people in the village talking about him. The dog probably belonged to him, and had been sent to the post-office for his letters.
Although he had not really believed that Santa Claus sent the dog, Gobaly did feel a pang of disappointment that they must part with him so soon. But then Mrs. Pynchum would probably not have allowed them to keep him, anyhow, and she might have had him shot because his leg was hurt. That
thought consoled Gobaly, and having obtained Mrs. Pynchum’s permission to carry him to his master,—which was readily given, since it was the easiest way to get rid of the dog,—he put a very large box, with a bed in it made of straw and soft cloth, upon his sled, and then lifted the dog gently into the box. The
dog whined with pain when he was moved, but still licked Gobaly’s hand, as if he understood that he was his friend and did not mean to hurt him.
Methuselah stood in the shed door, and looked after them, weeping, sadly making up his mind that Santa Claus was proud and would never come to the poor-house.
Gobaly had never been even inside Squire Thorndike’s gate before, and he went up to one of the back doors with fear and trembling; the servants at Squire Thorndike’s were said to be “stuck-up,” and they might not be very civil to “town’s poor.” But at the sight of the dog they raised a great cry, and at once
ushered Gobaly into the presence of Squire Thorndike and Dr. Carruthers, that he might tell them all he knew about the accident.
Dr. Carruthers was a big, jolly-looking man, with white hair and a long white beard, just like pictures of Santa Claus. Gobaly was sure that Methuselah would think he was Santa Claus if he could see him. He evidently felt very sorry about the dog’s accident, and pitied him and petted him as if he were a baby; Gobaly, who had never had so much petting in his whole life, thought the dog ought to forget all about his leg.
And then he suddenly turned to Gobaly and asked him who set the leg.
Gobaly answered, modestly, that he “fixed it as well as he could because there
wasn’t anybody else around.”
“How did you know how?” asked the doctor. And Gobaly related his experiences with the rooster and the kitten and the puppy. Dr. Carruthers looked at him steadily out of a pair of eyes that were very sharp, although very kind. Then he turned to Squire Thorndike and said “an uncommon boy.”
Squire Thorndike answered, and they talked together in a low tone, casting an occasional glance at Gobaly.
How Gobaly’s ears did burn! He wondered what Squire Thorndike knew about him, and he thought of every prank he ever had played in his life. Gobaly was an unusually good boy, but he had played a few pranks,—being a boy,— and he thought they were a great deal worse than they really were, because Mrs. Pynchum said so. And he imagined that Dr. Carruthers was hearing all about them, and would presently turn round and say that such a bad boy had no right to touch his dog, and that such conduct was just what he should expect of “town’s poor.” But instead of that, after several minutes’ conversation with Squire Thorndike, he turned to Gobaly, and said:
“I want an office-boy, and I think you are just the boy to suit me. How would you like to come and live with me, and perhaps, one of these days, be a doctor yourself.”
Gobaly caught his breath.
To go away from Mrs. Pynchum; not to be “town’s poor” any more; to learn to be a doctor! He had said once in Mrs. Pynchum’s hearing that he wanted to be a doctor when he grew up, and she had said, sneeringly, that “town’s poor weren’t very likely to get a chance to learn to be doctors.”
And now the chance had come to him!
Gobaly thought it seemed too much like heaven to be anything that could happen to a mortal boy!
“Well, would you like to go?” asked the doctor again, as Gobaly could find no words to answer.
“Would I, sir? Wouldn’t I!” said Gobaly, with a radiant face.
“Well, then, I will make an arrangement with the selectmen—which I have no doubt it will be easy to do—and will take you home with me to-morrow night,” said the good doctor.
But the brightness had suddenly faded from Gobaly’s face. He stood with his hands thrust into his trousers pockets, gazing irresolutely at the carpet. But it was not the carpet that Gobaly saw; it might as well have been the yellow paint of the poor-house floors for all that he noticed of its luxurious pile
and beautiful colors. It was ‘Thusely’s pale, pinched little face that he saw! It had risen before him even while the doctor was speaking. If he went away, who would take care of ‘Thusely? And ‘Thusely’s heart would be broken.
“I can’t go, sir; I forgot. No—no—I can’t go!” said Gobaly.
Oh, what a lump there was in his throat!
He had swallowed many a lump for ‘Thusely’s sake, but that was the very biggest one!
And then he turned and ran out of the house, without any ceremony. He knew it was rude, but that lump wouldn’t stay down, and though he might be called “town’s poor,” he wasn’t going to be called a cry-baby!
And home he ran, as fast as his legs would carry him.
That night something very unusual happened. Mrs. Pynchum went to the village to a Christmas festival. She went before dark, and the spirits of everybody in the poor-house rose as soon as she was out of sight. Mr. Pynchum piled great logs upon the fire-place, till there was such a roaring fire
as had not been seen there for many a long day; and he told Joe Golightly and Gobaly to go down cellar and bring up as many apples as they wanted to, and he found the key of the closet where the bag of nuts was kept! And Sandy Gooding brought out some fine pop-corn that he had saved up; and Joe
Golightly brought out his violin, which, though some of its strings were broken and its voice was a little cracked and wheezy, could yet cheer one up wonderfully with “Bonnie Dundee” and “The Campbells are Coming.” Everybody was merry,—although there was no Christmas-tree, and nobody had a present except ‘Thusely, who had a big red peppermint-drop that Gobaly bought him with a penny hoarded for six weeks—and it would have been a very pleasant evening if there had not been one great drawback. Mrs. Pynchum had a way of pouncing upon people when they least expected her. If a window rattled or a mouse stirred in the wall, a hush fell upon the mirth, and everybody shrank with dread. It would be so like Mrs. Pynchum to suspect that they were having a good time, and turn back to put a stop to it before she had fairly reached the festival!
Just as they had poured out a popperful of corn,—popped out so big and white that it would do you good to see it,—and Uncle Sim was clearing his throat to begin a story, there came a loud knock at the door. Everybody jumped. Mr. Pynchum and Sandy began to cram the apples into their pockets, and thrust the corn popper into the closet, and Joe hid his violin under his coat-tails. It took them all fully two minutes to remember that Mrs. Pynchum never knocked.
Mr. Pynchum sat down again, and said, in a tone of surprise, as if he had not been in the least agitated:
“What is the matter with you all? Gobaly, open the door.”
Gobaly opened the door, and who should be there but Squire Thorndike and the city doctor!
The moment ‘Thusely saw Dr. Carruthers he called out “Santa Claus!” And the big doctor laughed, and took a great package of candy out of his pocket and gave it to ‘Thusely.
After that it was of no use for Gobaly to whisper, “The dog gentleman!” in ‘Thusely’s ear; he couldn’t think it was anybody but Santa Claus.
“I’m so glad you’ve come!” he said, confidentially. “And you look’ just like your picture. And I don’t see why you never came before, for you don’t seem proud. And we aren’t such very bad boys; anyway, Gobaly isn’t. Don’t you believe what Mrs. Pynchum tells you!—Will you?”
The doctor laughed, and said he was getting to be an old fellow, and the snow was deep, and it was hard for him to get about; but he was sorry he hadn’t come before, for he thought they did look like good boys. Then he asked Methuselah about his lameness and the pain in his side, and said he
ought to be sent to a certain hospital in New York, where he might be cured. And then he asked if he had no relatives or friends.
“I’ve got Gobaly,” said ‘Thusely.
The doctor turned and looked sharply at Gobaly.
“Is he the reason why you wouldn’t go with me?” he asked.
“He’s such a little chap, and I ‘m all he’s got,” said Gobaly.
The doctor took out his handkerchief and said it was bad weather for colds.
“Suppose I take him, too?” said he.
This time the lump in his throat fairly got the better of Gobaly!
But ‘Thusely clapped his hands for joy. He didn’t understand what was to happen, only that Santa Claus was to take him somewhere with Gobaly; and one thing that ‘Thusely was sure of was that he wanted to go wherever Gobaly went. And he kept saying:
“I told you that Santa Claus sent the dog,—now, didn’t I, Gobaly?”
Methuselah went to the hospital and was cured, and Gobaly—well, if I should tell you his name, you might say that you had heard of him as a famous surgeon-doctor. I think it is probable that he could now make a lame rooster or a kitten with a sprained ankle just as good as new, and I am sure he wouldn’t be
above trying; for he has a heart big enough to sympathize with any creature that suffers.
There is at least one person in the world who will agree with me, and that is a gentleman who was once a miserable little cripple in a poor-house, and was called Methuselah.