From the Children’s Friend, 1946-47 –
By Helen Hinckley Jones
Dear Boys and Girls: Do you remember the exciting experiences John and Prudy had in earning and saving the money to pay the way for their father and mother to come to America from England? GALLANT ADVENTURE is a sequel to BRIGHT TREASURE. In this story we’ll follow John and Prudy on other adventures. The setting for the story is in Utah and California in early days.
“My sakes,”Mother exclaimed, almost stumbling over John and Prudy. They sat on the front steps of their new home on West Twelfth Street in Ogden, their chins in their hands. “I never knew two young ones as full of life as you are, to look so glum. What’s ailing you?”
Prudy jumped up, dragging John up beside her. “Nothing, Mother. There’s nothing the matter with us, only –” She didn’t say that she and John had just been talking about how sad Mother often looked. They had just been wondering what “ailed” Mother!
Mother had looked happy enough when she and Father had first arrived from England. When she had heard that Prudy and John had earned enough money to pay their parents’ way from the old country, she had hugged each of the children; then she had turned to Father with a brilliant light in her eyes.”We aren’t starting our life in America up to our necks in debt, Henry!” she had exclaimed.”Now we can go right on to California for a while!”
“California!” Father, Uncle Simon, Aunt Aggie and Prudy and John had exclaimed together so it sounded like a chorus. Then Uncle Simon had said,”Listen, Ellen, have you any idea how far away California is? You speak as if it were right next door.”
“It can’t be very far,”Mother had answered. “Both California and Salt Lake City are in the West!”
Then they had all laughed and Mother had laughed with the rest but tears came trickling down her cheeks and she wiped them away, acting all the time as if she were just righting her hat.
After that Mother hadn’t mentioned California again. Father had found an excellent opportunity to open a tailoring shop in Ogden and the family had moved to a pleasant home on the edge of the bustling town. But something alive had gone out of Mother’s eyes. And when no one was looking her face dropped into lines of sorrow or worry.
Now Prudy looked at John for a moment, then she asked bluntly, “Mother, why don’t you coax Father to go to California like you want to?”
Mother spread out her hands, palms up. She tried to make her voice sound light. “I couldn’t do that. Father has his shop started, we have our home to keep up. School will be starting next week and you children must attend again this year. You’re already a long way behind.” Then she laughed, a little shaky laugh. “And besides, going to California takes money!”
When Mother had gone back into the house John asked, as if their conversation hadn’t been interrupted,”Do you know why Mother wants so much to go to California?”
Prudy shook her head. “No, I don’t. I wish I did, but we’ll just have to wait until she tells us.”
John pulled at the lock of light hair that fell over his eye, then irritably pushed it back with his left hand. “Well, anyway, I think she would go if she had the money.” He was silent for a moment, then his words almost exploded. “Prudy, why don’t we– you and I – make the money for Mother to go to California?”
“But how could we –?”
“We made more than that in Arizona.”
“Yes, but it took a longtime.”
“And it might take us a longtime again. But we can get started. I know something about animals. I might get a job at a livery stable, or maybe I could work in a store or something. I learned a good deal in the trading Post.”
“You’ve been thinking of this before,” Prudy accused.
“I’ve been thinking of making money,” John admitted. “I hadn’t been thinking about California. But come along!”
So the two of them walked the mile and a half to the center of town and John inquired about work at two livery stables while Prudy waited outside. “The trouble with everybody in Ogden,” he grumbled when he returned, “is that they have boys of their own to work for them – boys or nephews or cousins or second cousins! Both places suggested I try the riding academy.”
He dragged his feet as they walked down the sidewalk, until suddenly a window display caught him up short. “Look, Prudy! Come here a minute.”
Prudy went to the glass where John had pushed his nose against the pane.”Only old guns.”
“Guns!” John’s eyes were bright with interest. “Aren’t they beauties? I’m going in and see if they’ll let me take a closer look.”
“And not try for work at the riding academy?” Prudy taunted.
John was too engrossed to reply. He stood by the window getting up the courage to go inside. “Meet you at Father’s when you get through gun gazing,” Prudy said as she skipped off.
John opened the door to the large room a little diffidently. A counter ran down one side and on the other a flight of steps led to a second floor door. Again the doorway was a large gun case, and a gun rack stood at the end of the counter. A pleasant voice drew John’s attention from the displays. “Anything I can do for you today, son?”
The blood rushed to John’s face in an embarrassed blush. “I’m not buying a gun, sir. May I just look?” He reached his hand toward the rack, then withdrew it. “Last winter I was with my uncle and aunt at an Indian trading post in Arizona. In my spare time I studied the guns. I don’t know how it is, but guns–”
The man laughed. “I know how it is. Did you know that guns run in my family like blood does in most?”Then he told John of how, back in 1831, Jonathan Browning had designed and forged by hand his first repeating rifle; and about his son John who, before he was twenty, had designed the original gun from which Winchester Arms had made its famous single shot rifle. For a long time John studied the guns, then he turned away.”Do you mind if I come back sometime, just to look at them?”
He was startled by a voice from above. Looking up, he saw another man standing on the stairs. His face was less kindly than the man’s at the counter, and his eyes were quicker and sharper.”Who is this boy?” he asked.
“I’m John Hatfield,” John answered, laughing self consciously. “I’m a boy that can’t pass up a gun.”
“He tells me that he spent a winter in an Indian trading post and spent his spare time studying the guns.”
“So you like to study guns?”John Browning put his hand on his chin and studied John Hatfield.
“Oh, yes, sir.”John was quiet for a minute. “They say you are the greatest gun maker that ever lived,” he said at last, a great deal of quiet admiration in his voice. Then he hurried on before Mr. Browning had time to reply, “I wish you would tell me something, sir. I’ve often wondered why guns couldn’t be made so they could be fired–” John stopped, at a loss for words – “well, like a mill is run by a water wheel,” he ended lamely.
A spark came into John Browning’s eyes.”You mean automatically, by an engine. I’m working on just that kind of a gun.” He looked keenly at John. “You understand that all my designs are secret. I’m sure you’ll say nothing of this until the idea is perfected.”Again his hand went to his chin.”I haven’t time to train a real apprentice. But if you’d like to come in now and then – Or better yet, maybe we could find some work for you to do.”
John’s face was a light.”Work here? Oh, Mr. Browning!”
“My brother here might use you to clean up and help behind the counter. In your spare time you might use some of the equipment and see if you have any ideas of your own.” Mr. Browning turned away. At the step she turned. “We wouldn’t have won the West without guns, lad. And I’m afraid the world is going to have use for guns for a long time to come.”
John scarcely heard what the man at the counter said about pay. To be really working with the world’s greatest inventor of guns!
Outside the gun shop John found himself skipping along as Prudy would have done. When he noticed it he slowed to a sedate walk, but still he couldn’t take the delight from his face. The look was still there when he called for Prudy at Father’s shop. It hadn’t worn off when the family sat down to supper.
Supper that night was something special: yellow cornbread that Mother had learned how to make from a neighbor, and bacon and eggs. John let the family get well started on the meal before he said shyly, “Something important happened to me today. “Then when Father and Mother looked up with interest, his words tumbled over each other as he forgot himself in talking about the guns, about John Browning, about the invitation to work in the Browning gun shop. John finished with, “So I’m not going to school this winter. I’m going to work in the store and clean up in the workshop and–I’m going to learn to be a gunsmith or maybe an inventor.” Prudy saw her parents’ eyes meet and Mother shake her head ever so slightly.
“You’d be making money, too, wouldn’t you, John?” Prudy asked.
“Not a great deal at first, but as I get more useful I’ll make more.”
“You’d better drop the idea,” Father said with finality in his voice.
Watching John’s face, Prudy saw all the life and happiness flowing out of it. She wanted to put her finger on Father’s lips, but Father went on, “I have no objection to your working part time if Brother Browning will let you, but you’re going to school. Your mother and I have set our hearts on that.”
The impatient tears came to Prudy’s eyes. “Why can’t John work full time instead of going to school? Me too, if I can get a job? We don’t want to go to an American school. We talk different and we’ll be behind the others of our age and – everything! Everybody’ll think we’re stupid.”
“My children are certainly not stupid,” Mother said firmly.” And if you talk differently it’s because you talk better!”
“But Mother,” Prudy protested, “John and I want to make some money awfully bad. You said this morning that you couldn’t go on to California like you want to because that would take money!”
Mother smiled, but tears came into her eyes. “That was just an idea, children. Going to California was. Perhaps what I wanted to go there to find isn’t there at all!” Her eyes went to Father’s face for a minute, and when his eyes answered hers she said, “Henry, will you please bring my red plush album from our room? It’s the left-hand lower corner of the tin trunk.”
When Father came back with the album, Mother pushed her chair back from the table. “I don’t really know why I’m so disappointed about not going on to California. I hadn’t planned on it at all, hadn’t even thought about it, until I learned that you two children had paid our fare from England. Then all of a sudden it came to me. I thought, now we don’t owe anything to anybody. Now’s the time for us to find Angus.”
“Angus?” Prudy asked.
“Yes. He is your uncle. My brother. You wouldn’t remember him. You were only three when he went away and he – he never came back.”
John pulled at hisear.”I think I remember him. Didn’t he make me some darts, and then you took them away from me because you thought I might hurt myself or somebody else?”
Mother smiled. “Yes, that was your Uncle Angus. He was your Aunt Aggie’s twin, you know.”
Prudy drew her brow into a thoughtful frown.”Why haven’t we heard of Uncle Angus before?”
“There’s a story there, Prudy. I’ll tell it to you. When you were three and John was five, Father did some mending for two young Mormon missionaries. They came into his shop as clean and neat as people out of a book, but when they turned around, both of them had worn through the seats of their trousers. Father mended the trousers while the young men waited. As he sewed he asked them where they were from and what had brought them to England. He knew they were strangers by the funny way they talked.”
“They were Americans,” Father said, “and they told me that they were missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
“They talked with Father until way past time to close the shop and when he came home he told me that he had heard the things he had wanted to hear all his life.”
For a moment Father’s face lost the puzzled look it had worn ever since he had arrived in Salt Lake City. “Those two young men were inspired to answer the questions about God, why we are on this earth, where we are going when we complete our work here – everything that had troubled me.”
Mother went on with the story.”Sometime later they called again at the shop and Uncle Simon happened to be there. They talked with him, too, and he believed their teachings.” Mother shook her head regretfully. “We could have saved a year or more if Aggie and I had listened to your Father and Uncle Simon, but we were too proud. We thought that we didn’t need any young men from America to do our thinking for us.”
Prudy propped her pointed chin on her hand, her elbow on the table. “But finally you did?”
“Finally we did. And when we did we learned to understand the Gospel and we accepted it.”
John’s eyes went to the red plush album on the table. “I thought this story was going to be about Uncle Angus.”
Sudden tears came into Mother’s eyes. “It is. Uncle Angus was staying with us at the time. He was such a jolly, happy boy. I couldn’t believe it was really Angus who grew white and tight-lipped whenever the Elders were mentioned. He said that if Aggie and I persisted in being baptized he would go away and we’d never see him again.”
“And you were baptized?” Prudy asked.
“Of course. We believed the elders’ message was true; we had to be baptized,” Mother answered.
Prudy prompted again, “And Uncle Angus?”
“He came to Sunday supper the day we all were baptized. Aunt Aggie and Uncle Simon were eating with us that night. Angus came breezing in, laughing and talking. He said that nothing was as gay as a family party. Then Uncle Simon’s brother Marcus, who didn’t know how Angus felt about the Church, said, ‘Yes, it’s a party. We’re celebrating our baptism into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.’”
Mother’s voice stopped and no one said anything. There was a long silence before Mother went on. “Angus’s face turned red, then white. His eyes, which are like yours, Prudy – light gray but fringed with black lashes – seemed to turn all black. ‘And I thought my sisters loved me,’ he said. His lips drew into a thin line. He went to the door, then turned and said, ‘You’ll never see me again. Please be good enough to forget me. Don’t speak my name again, and I’ll never speak yours!”
Taking out her handkerchief Mother wiped her eyes. Her face showed how much she had loved her brother. “I thought he’d come back. Every time I heard someone at the door I’d think, That’s Angus. Aggie expected him, too. Time after time we ran together down the street to catch up with someone whose back reminded us of Angus.”
Prudy pulled at a curl and let it spring back to place. “And you’ve never seen him since?”
“We’ve never seen him since,”Mother repeated.”After a while we gave up hope. We didn’t know whether he was still alive or not. Once we heard that he had crossed the channel into Belgium to study gunsmithing. Again we heard he had gone up into Scotland. And just before we left –”
“Just before you left?” John prompted.
“A neighbor of ours received a letter from his brother in California. The brother said that he had met Angus and had had dinner with him. Angus, he said, was working somewhere on the Sacramento River. He didn’t know just what he was doing, but gathered that his work was connected with bridge building.”
“That sounded reasonable,” Father said, “since he was a fine ironworker even when he was a boy.”
Prudy’s and John’s eyes met over the table. Prudy spoke for them both. “Never mind, Mother. I’m sure if Uncle Angus is in California you’ll hear from him again. I’m sure you will.”
Mother opened the red plush album. It was locked with a fancy brass lock and the tiny key was hung from the lock with a blue ribbon. She turned the pages carefully. At last she lay the opened book on the table. “There he is. There’s your Uncle Angus. That picture was taken just a month or so before we joined the Church.”
John and Prudy went to their mother’s side to study the picture. “He looks something like you, Mother.”
Father said, “He’s really a great deal like your Aunt Aggie. Anybody’d know they were twins.”
Mother’s hand tipped Prudy’s face to the light. “He looked a great deal like you, Prudy. And acted like you, too. Only –” Now Mother smiled. “Only there’s one thing John has always done that brings Angus to my mind. Maybe he learned it from Angus. Angus always had a shock of hair hanging down over his eyes.”
Prudy watched John. Without thinking, John swept the lock of hair from his eyes with the back of his left hand. She laughed. “And Uncle Angus swept it out of his eyes with the back of his left hand.”
Mother nodded. Her lips still smiled brightly but the tears flooded her eyes again. She closed the album and handed it to Father. “It was just a foolish idea– going to California, I mean.”
After Father had put the plush album away, Prudy and John went out on the front step and sat quietly side by side. Finally John said, “We’ve got to do something, Prudy. Mother telling us that story – Now we know that she can’t be happy until –”
He didn’t finish his sentences but Prudy understood. “I don’t know what we can do since the folks are so set on our going to school.”
“School!”John pulled a wry face.
Prudy laughed at the face but she put her hand in John’s. “John, I’m a little scared about school. I wish – I wish that tomorrow you and I were going to California to look for Uncle Angus!”
John laughed a little too, then his face sobered. “Shake,” he said.