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Chapter 5

The Fight For Timothy

Mary's poor pretentious babe screamed continually, with a note of
exultation in his din, as if he thought he was devoting himself
to a life of pleasure, and often the last sound I heard as I got
me out of the street was his haw-haw-haw, delivered triumphantly
as if it were some entirely new thing, though he must have
learned it like a parrot. I had not one tear for the woman, but
Poor father, thought I; to know that every time your son is happy
you are betrayed. Phew, a nauseous draught.

I have the acquaintance of a deliciously pretty girl, who is
always sulky, and the thoughtless beseech her to be bright, not
witting wherein lies her heroism. She was born the merriest of
maids, but, being a student of her face, learned anon that
sulkiness best becomes it, and so she has struggled and
prevailed. A woman's history. Brave Margaret, when night falls
and thy hair is down, dost thou return, I wonder, to thy natural
state, or, dreading the shadow of indulgence, sleepest thou even
sulkily?

But will a male child do as much for his father? This remains to
be seen, and so, after waiting several months, I decided to buy
David a rocking-horse. My St. Bernard dog accompanied me, though
I have always been diffident of taking him to toy-shops, which
over-excite him. Hitherto the toys I had bought had always been
for him, and as we durst not admit this to the saleswoman we were
both horribly self-conscious when in the shop. A score of times
I have told him that he had much better not come, I have
announced fiercely that he is not to come. He then lets go of
his legs, which is how a St. Bernard sits down, making the noise
of a sack of coals suddenly deposited, and, laying his head
between his front paws, stares at me through the red haws that
make his eyes so mournful. He will do this for an hour without
blinking, for he knows that in time it will unman me. My dog
knows very little, but what little he does know he knows
extraordinarily well. One can get out of my chambers by a back
way, and I sometimes steal softly--but I can't help looking back,
and there he is, and there are those haws asking sorrowfully, "Is
this worthy of you?"

"Curse you," I say, "get your hat," or words to that effect.

He has even been to the club, where he waddles up the stairs so
exactly like some respected member that he makes everybody most
uncomfortable. I forget how I became possessor of him. I think
I cut him out of an old number of Punch. He costs me as much as
an eight-roomed cottage in the country.

He was a full-grown dog when I first, most foolishly, introduced
him to toys. I had bought a toy in the street for my own
amusement. It represented a woman, a young mother, flinging her
little son over her head with one hand and catching him in the
other, and I was entertaining myself on the hearth-rug with this
pretty domestic scene when I heard an unwonted sound from
Porthos, and, looking up, I saw that noble and melancholic
countenance on the broad grin. I shuddered and was for putting
the toy away at once, but he sternly struck down my arm with his,
and signed that I was to continue. The unmanly chuckle always
came, I found, when the poor lady dropped her babe, but the whole
thing entranced him; he tried to keep his excitement down by
taking huge draughts of water; he forgot all his niceties of
conduct; he sat in holy rapture with the toy between his paws,
took it to bed with him, ate it in the night, and searched for it
so longingly next day that I had to go out and buy him the man
with the scythe. After that we had everything of note, the
bootblack boy, the toper with bottle, the woolly rabbit that
squeaks when you hold it in your mouth; they all vanished as
inexplicably as the lady, but I dared not tell him my suspicions,
for he suspected also and his gentle heart would have mourned had
I confirmed his fears.

The dame in the temple of toys which we frequent thinks I want
them for a little boy and calls him "the precious" and "the
lamb," the while Porthos is standing gravely by my side. She is
a motherly soul, but over-talkative.

"And how is the dear lamb to-day?" she begins, beaming.

"Well, ma'am, well," I say, keeping tight grip of his collar.

"This blighty weather is not affecting his darling appetite?"

"No, ma'am, not at all." (She would be considerably surprised if
informed that he dined to-day on a sheepshead, a loaf, and three
cabbages, and is suspected of a leg of mutton.)

"I hope he loves his toys?"

"He carries them about with him everywhere, ma'am." (Has the one
we bought yesterday with him now, though you might not think it
to look at him.)

"What do you say to a box of tools this time?"

"I think not, ma'am."

"Is the deary fond of digging?"

"Very partial to digging." (We shall find the leg of mutton some
day.)

"Then perhaps a weeny spade and a pail?"

She got me to buy a model of Canterbury Cathedral once, she was
so insistent, and Porthos gave me his mind about it when we got
home. He detests the kindergarten system, and as she is absurdly
prejudiced in its favour we have had to try other shops. We went
to the Lowther Arcade for the rocking-horse. Dear Lowther
Arcade! Ofttimes have we wandered agape among thy enchanted
palaces, Porthos and I, David and I, David and Porthos and I. I
have heard that thou art vulgar, but I cannot see how, unless it
be that tattered children haunt thy portals, those awful yet
smiling entrances to so much joy. To the Arcade there are two
entrances, and with much to be sung in laudation of that which
opens from the Strand I yet on the whole prefer the other as the
more truly romantic, because it is there the tattered ones
congregate, waiting to see the Davids emerge with the magic lamp.
We have always a penny for them, and I have known them, before
entering the Arcade with it, retire (but whither?) to wash;
surely the prettiest of all the compliments that are paid to the
home of toys.

And now, O Arcade, so much fairer than thy West End brother, we
are told that thou art doomed, anon to be turned into an
eatinghouse or a hive for usurers, something rankly useful. All
thy delights are under notice to quit. The Noah's arks are
packed one within another, with clockwork horses harnessed to
them; the soldiers, knapsack on back, are kissing their hands to
the dear foolish girls, who, however, will not be left behind
them; all the four-footed things gather around the elephant, who
is overful of drawing-room furniture; the birds flutter their
wings; the man with the scythe mows his way through the crowd;
the balloons tug at their strings; the ships rock under a swell
of sail, everything is getting ready for the mighty exodus into
the Strand. Tears will be shed.

So we bought the horse in the Lowther Arcade, Porthos, who
thought it was for him, looking proud but uneasy, and it was sent
to the bandbox house anonymously. About a week afterward I had
the ill- luck to meet Mary's a husband in Kensington, so I asked
him what he had called his little girl.

"It is a boy," he replied, with intolerable good-humour, "we call
him David."

And then with a singular lack of taste he wanted the name of my
boy.

I flicked my glove. "Timothy," said I.

I saw a suppressed smile on his face, and said hotly that Timothy
was as good a name as David. "I like it," he assured me, and
expressed a hope that they would become friends. I boiled to say
that I really could not allow Timothy to mix with boys of the
David class, but I refrained, and listened coldly while he told
me what David did when you said his toes were pigs going to
market or returning from it, I forget which. He also boasted of
David's weight (a subject about which we are uncommonly touchy at
the club), as if children were for throwing forth for a wager.

But no more about Timothy. Gradually this vexed me. I felt what
a forlorn little chap Timothy was, with no one to say a word for
him, and I became his champion and hinted something about
teething, but withdrew it when it seemed too surprising, and
tried to get on to safer ground, such as bibs and general
intelligence, but the painter fellow was so willing to let me
have my say, and knew so much more about babies than is fitting
for men to know, that I paled before him and wondered why the
deuce he was listening to me so attentively.

You may remember a story he had told me about some anonymous
friend. "His latest," said he now, "is to send David a rocking-
horse!"

I must say I could see no reason for his mirth. "Picture it,"
said he, "a rocking-horse for a child not three months old!"

I was about to say fiercely: "The stirrups are adjustable," but
thought it best to laugh with him. But I was pained to hear that
Mary had laughed, though heaven knows I have often laughed at
her.

"But women are odd," he said unexpectedly, and explained. It
appears that in the middle of her merriment Mary had become grave
and said to him quite haughtily, "I see nothing to laugh at."
Then she had kissed the horse solemnly on the nose and said, "I
wish he was here to see me do it." There are moments when one
cannot help feeling a drawing to Mary.

But moments only, for the next thing he said put her in a
particularly odious light. He informed me that she had sworn to
hunt Mr. Anon down.

"She won't succeed," I said, sneering but nervous.

"Then it will be her first failure," said he.

"But she knows nothing about the man."

"You would not say that if you heard her talking of him. She
says he is a gentle, whimsical, lonely old bachelor."

"Old?" I cried.

"Well, what she says is that he will soon be old if he doesn't
take care. He is a bachelor at all events, and is very fond of
children, but has never had one to play with."

"Could not play with a child though there was one," I said
brusquely; "has forgotten the way; could stand and stare only."

"Yes, if the parents were present. But he thinks that if he were
alone with the child he could come out strong."

"How the deuce--" I began

"That is what she says," he explained, apologetically. "I think
she will prove to be too clever for him."

"Pooh," I said, but undoubtedly I felt a dizziness, and the next
time I met him he quite frightened me. "Do you happen to know
any one," he said, "who has a St. Bernard dog?"

"No," said I, picking up my stick.

"He has a St. Bernard dog."

"How have you found that out?"

"She has found it out."

"But how?"

"I don't know."

I left him at once, for Porthos was but a little way behind me.
The mystery of it scared me, but I armed promptly for battle. I
engaged a boy to walk Porthos in Kensington Gardens, and gave him
these instructions: "Should you find yourself followed by a young
woman wheeling a second-hand perambulator, instantly hand her
over to the police on the charge of attempting to steal the dog."

Now then, Mary.

"By the way," her husband said at our next meeting, "that
rocking- horse I told you of cost three guineas."

"She has gone to the shop to ask?"

"No, not to ask that, but for a description of the purchaser's
appearance."

Oh, Mary, Mary.

Here is the appearance of purchaser as supplied at the Arcade:--
looked like a military gentleman; tall, dark, and rather dressy;
fine Roman nose (quite so), carefully trimmed moustache going
grey (not at all); hair thin and thoughtfully distributed over
the head like fiddlestrings, as if to make the most of it (pah!);
dusted chair with handkerchief before sitting down on it, and had
other oldmaidish ways (I should like to know what they are);
tediously polite, but no talker; bored face; age forty-five if a
day (a lie); was accompanied by an enormous yellow dog with sore
eyes. (They always think the haws are sore eyes.)

"Do you know anyone who is like that?" Mary's husband asked me
innocently.

"My dear man," I said, "I know almost no one who is not like
that," and it was true, so like each other do we grow at the
club. I was pleased, on the whole, with this talk, for it at
least showed me how she had come to know of the St. Bernard, but
anxiety returned when one day from behind my curtains I saw Mary
in my street with an inquiring eye on the windows. She stopped a
nurse who was carrying a baby and went into pretended ecstasies
over it. I was sure she also asked whether by any chance it was
called Timothy. And if not, whether that nurse knew any other
nurse who had charge of a Timothy.

Obviously Mary suspicioned me, but nevertheless, I clung to
Timothy, though I wished fervently that I knew more about him;
for I still met that other father occasionally, and he always
stopped to compare notes about the boys. And the questions he
asked were so intimate, how Timothy slept, how he woke up, how he
fell off again, what we put in his bath. It is well that dogs
and little boys have so much in common, for it was really of
Porthos I told him; how he slept (peacefully), how he woke up
(supposed to be subject to dreams), how he fell off again (with
one little hand on his nose), but I glided past what we put in
his bath (carbolic and a mop).

The man had not the least suspicion of me, and I thought it
reasonable to hope that Mary would prove as generous. Yet was I
straitened in my mind. For it might be that she was only biding
her time to strike suddenly, and this attached me the more to
Timothy, as if I feared she might soon snatch him from me. As
was indeed to be the case.

James M. Barrie

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