'WHAT A LOT OF BOYS!'
It was before the days of sailor suits and knickerbockers. Nowadays boys would make great fun of the quaint little men in tight-fitting jackets, and trousers buttoning on above them, that many people still living can remember well, for it is not so very long ago after all.
And whatever the difference in their clothes, the boys of then were in themselves very like the boys of now—queer, merry, thoughtless fellows for the most part, living in the pleasant present, caring much less for the past or the future than their girl-companions, seldom taking trouble of any kind to heart, or if they did, up again like a cork at the first chance. But yet how dull the world, now as then, would be without them and their bats and balls, and pockets full of rubbish, and everlasting scrapes and mischief, and honest old hearts!
I always like to hear any one, young or old, man or woman or girl, say, as one often does hear said, 'I do love boys.'
There were five of them—of the Hervey boys. They began at thirteen and ended at three, or began at three and ended at thirteen, if you like to put it that way. But when they were all together in the nursery, or playroom as they called it more often—to see them, still more to hear them, you would certainly have said there were at least ten—above all if a scrimmage of any kind was going on, for then the number of legs and arms all belonging to everybody apparently, seemed to be multiplied in an astonishing manner.
You would, I think, have sympathised with a small person, almost as small as three-years-old Ger, whose first word's when the door was opened were, in an awe-struck whisper,
'Oh, what a lot of boys.'
She was dressed in pale grey, grey all over, made rather long in the skirt, and she had a little drawn bonnet of the same colour—a quaint little figure; but we are used to quaint little figures of her kind now—fashions repeat themselves, wise people say; and so they do in some cases, though not in all. I cannot believe that boys will ever again be buttoned up and choked as they used to be, above all in summer, when their hot, red faces seemed on the point of bursting out of their 'nankeen' suits, held together by brass buttons.
But the little grey figure standing at the doorway of the Herveys' playroom was pretty as well as quaint, though the small face was pale, and the eyes just a quiet grey like the colour of her clothes, and her dark-brown hair cropped quite short.
She was holding on tightly to the hand of a young lady, and as one of the scrimmagers caught sight of this same young lady, and immediately broke into a shout of welcome—'Aunt Mattie—boys, don't you see Aunt Mattie?' and the noise became really deafening, our little girl squeezed the fingers she held still more firmly, and an almost frightened look crept into her eyes.
'Boys, boys,' exclaimed Aunt Mattie in turn, 'don't you see that—somebody you have never seen before is here? Do disentangle yourselves if you can—Archie, Hector—I can't tell which is which of you—and Ger, dear old Ger, as plump as ever, and—yes, that's right, Justin—you and Pat really should keep the pickles in order.'
Justin got red—redder even than he was already—as he pushed his way out of the scramble....