Chapter XIX. The Unbeautiful World - Just David by Eleanor Porter

In spite of the exaltation of renunciation, and in spite of the joy of being newly and especially "wanted," those early September days were sometimes hard for David. Not until he had relinquished all hope of his "start" did he fully realize what that hope had meant to him.

There were times, to be sure, when there was nothing but rejoicing within him that he was able thus to aid the Hollys. There were other times when there was nothing but the sore heartache because of the great work out in the beautiful world that could now never be done; and because of the unlovely work at hand that must be done. To tell the truth, indeed, David's entire conception of life had become suddenly a chaos of puzzling contradictions.

To Mr. Jack, one day, David went with his perplexities. Not that he told him of the gold-pieces and of the unexpected use to which they had been put--indeed, no. David had made up his mind never, if he could help himself, to mention those gold-pieces to any one who did not already know of them. They meant questions, and the questions, explanations. And he had had enough of both on that particular subject. But to Mr. Jack he said one day, when they were alone together:--

"Mr. Jack, how many folks have you got inside of your head?"

"Eh--what, David?"

David repeated his question and attached an explanation.

"I mean, the folks that--that make you do things."

Mr. Jack laughed.

"Well," he said, "I believe some people make claims to quite a number, and perhaps almost every one owns to a Dr. Jekyll and a Mr. Hyde."

"Who are they?"

"Never mind, David. I don't think you know the gentlemen, anyhow. They're only something like the little girl with a curl. One is very, very good, indeed, and the other is horrid."

"Oh, yes, I know them; they're the ones that come to me," returned David, with a sigh. "I've had them a lot, lately."

Mr. Jack stared.

"Oh, have you?"

"Yes; and that's what's the trouble. How can you drive them off--the one that is bad, I mean?"

"Well, really," confessed Mr. Jack, "I'm not sure I can tell. You see--the gentlemen visit me sometimes."

"Oh, do they?"


"I'm so glad--that is, I mean," amended David, in answer to Mr. Jack's uplifted eyebrows, "I'm glad that you understand what I'm talking about. You see, I tried Perry Larson last night on it, to get him to tell me what to do. But he only stared and laughed. He didn't know the names of 'em, anyhow, as you do, and at last he got really almost angry and said I made him feel so 'buggy' and 'creepy' that he wouldn't dare look at himself in the glass if I kept on, for fear some one he'd never known was there should jump out at him."

Mr. Jack chuckled.

"Well, I suspect, David, that Perry knew one of your gentlemen by the name of 'conscience,' perhaps; and I also suspect that maybe conscience does pretty nearly fill the bill, and that you've been having a bout with that. Eh? Now, what is the trouble? Tell me about it."

David stirred uneasily. Instead of answering, he asked another question.

"Mr. Jack, it is a beautiful world, isn't it?"

For a moment there was no, answer; then a low voice replied:--

"Your father said it was, David."

Again David moved restlessly.

"Yes; but father was on the mountain. And down here--well, down here there are lots of things that I don't believe he knew about."

"What, for instance?"

"Why, lots of things--too many to tell. Of course there are things like catching fish, and killing birds and squirrels and other things to eat, and plaguing cats and dogs. Father never would have called those beautiful. Then there are others like little Jimmy Clark who can't walk, and the man at the Marstons' who's sick, and Joe Glaspell who is blind. Then there are still different ones like Mr. Holly's little boy. Perry says he ran away years and years ago, and made his people very unhappy. Father wouldn't call that a beautiful world, would he? And how can people like that always play in tune? And there are the Princess and the Pauper that you told about."

"Oh, the story?"

"Yes; and people like them can't be happy and think the world is beautiful, of course."

"Why not?"

"Because they didn't end right. They didn't get married and live happy ever after, you know."

"Well, I don't think I'd worry about that, David,--at least, not about the Princess. I fancy the world was very beautiful to her, all right. The Pauper--well, perhaps he wasn't very happy. But, after all, David, you know happiness is something inside of yourself. Perhaps half of these people are happy, in their way."

"There! and that's another thing," sighed David. "You see, I found that out--that it was inside of yourself--quite a while ago, and I told the Lady of the Roses. But now I--can't make it work myself."

"What's the matter?"

"Well, you see then something was going to happen--something that I liked; and I found that just thinking of it made it so that I didn't mind raking or hoeing, or anything like that; and I told the Lady of the Roses. And I told her that even if it wasn't going to happen she could think it was going to, and that that would be just the same, because 't was the thinking that made my hours sunny ones. It wasn't the doing at all. I said I knew because I hadn't done it yet. See?"

"I--think so, David."

"Well, I've found out that it isn't the same at all; for now that I know that this beautiful thing isn't ever going to happen to me, I can think and think all day, and it doesn't do a mite of good. The sun is just as hot, and my back aches just as hard, and the field is just as big and endless as it used to be when I had to call it that those hours didn't count. Now, what is the matter?"

Mr. Jack laughed, but he shook his head a little sadly.

"You're getting into too deep waters for me, David. I suspect you're floundering in a sea that has upset the boats of sages since the world began. But what is it that was so nice, and that isn't going to happen? Perhaps I might help on that."

"No, you couldn't," frowned David; "and there couldn't anybody, either, you see, because I wouldn't go back now and let it happen, anyhow, as long as I know what I do. Why, if I did, there wouldn't be any hours that were sunny then--not even the ones after four o'clock; I--I'd feel so mean! But what I don't see is just how I can fix it up with the Lady of the Roses."

"What has she to do with it?"

"Why, at the very first, when she said she didn't have any sunshiny hours, I told her--"

"When she said what?" interposed Mr. Jack, coming suddenly erect in his chair.

"That she didn't have any hours to count, you know."


"Yes; it was the sundial. Didn't I tell you? Yes, I know I did--about the words on it--not counting any hours that weren't sunny, you know. And she said she wouldn't have any hours to count; that the sun never shone for her."

"Why, David," demurred Mr. Jack in a voice that shook a little, "are you sure? Did she say just that? You--you must be mistaken--when she has--has everything to make her happy."

"I wasn't, because I said that same thing to her myself--afterwards. And then I told her--when I found out myself, you know--about its being what was inside of you, after all, that counted; and then is when I asked her if she couldn't think of something nice that was going to happen to her sometime."

"Well, what did she say?"

"She shook her head, and said 'No.' Then she looked away, and her eyes got soft and dark like little pools in the brook where the water stops to rest. And she said she had hoped once that this something would happen; but that it hadn't, and that it would take something more than thinking to bring it. And I know now what she meant, because thinking isn't all that counts, is it?"

Mr. Jack did not answer. He had risen to his feet, and was pacing restlessly up and down the veranda. Once or twice he turned his eyes toward the towers of Sunnycrest, and David noticed that there was a new look on his face.

Very soon, however, the old tiredness came back to his eyes, and he dropped into his seat again, muttering "Fool! of course it couldn't be--that!"

"Be what?" asked David.

Mr. Jack started.

"Er--nothing; nothing that you would understand, David. Go on--with what you were saying."

"There isn't any more. It's all done. It's only that I'm wondering how I'm going to learn here that it's a beautiful world, so that I can--tell father."

Mr. Jack roused himself. He had the air of a man who determinedly throws to one side a heavy burden.

"Well, David," he smiled, "as I said before, you are still out on that sea where there are so many little upturned boats. There might be a good many ways of answering that question."

"Mr. Holly says," mused the boy, aloud, a little gloomily, "that it doesn't make any difference whether we find things beautiful or not; that we're here to do something serious in the world."

"That is about what I should have expected of Mr. Holly" retorted Mr. Jack grimly. "He acts it--and looks it. But--I don't believe you are going to tell your father just that."

"No, sir, I don't believe I am," accorded David soberly.

"I have an idea that you're going to find that answer just where your father said you would--in your violin. See if you don't. Things that aren't beautiful you'll make beautiful--because we find what we are looking for, and you're looking for beautiful things. After all, boy, if we march straight ahead, chin up, and sing our own little song with all our might and main, we shan't come so far amiss from the goal, I'm thinking. There! that's preaching, and I didn't mean to preach; but--well, to tell the truth, that was meant for myself, for--I'm hunting for the beautiful world, too."

"Yes, sir, I know," returned David fervently. And again Mr. Jack, looking into the sympathetic, glowing dark eyes, wondered if, after all, David really could--know.

Even yet Mr. Jack was not used to David; there were "so many of him," he told himself. There were the boy, the artist, and a third personality so evanescent that it defied being named. The boy was jolly, impetuous, confidential, and delightful--plainly reveling in all manner of fun and frolic. The artist was nothing but a bunch of nervous alertness, ready to find melody and rhythm in every passing thought or flying cloud. The third--that baffling third that defied the naming--was a dreamy, visionary, untouchable creature who floated so far above one's head that one's hand could never pull him down to get a good square chance to see what he did look like. All this thought Mr. Jack as he gazed into David's luminous eyes.