HELIOGABALUS was shoveling snow. The snow was very deep,
and the path from the front door to the road was a long one, and the
shovel was almost as big as Heliogabalus.
But Gobaly--as everybody called
him, for short--did n't give up easily. You might have known that he would
n't give up easily by one glance at his sturdy little figure, at his
bright, wide-open eyes, his firm mouth, and his square, prominent chin;
even the little, turned-up end of his nose looked resolute.
Pynchum had told him to shovel out the path; and she had a switch behind
the wood-shed door, to say nothing of her slipper.
Mrs. Pynchum kept the
poor-farm, and Gobaly was "town's poor." The boys sometimes called him
that, when he went to coast on Three-Pine Hill or to see the skating on
the mill-pond; and sometimes, too, they made fun of his clothes. But it
was only the boys who were a great deal bigger than he who dared to make
fun of Gobaly, and some of them even ran when he doubled up his fists. But
Methuselah! I don't know what would have become of Methuselah if he had
not had Gobaly to defend him. For he was a delicate little fellow;
"spindlin' and good for nothin'," Mrs. Pynchum called him; and he had come
to her in a basket--in other words, Methuselah was a foundling. Mrs. Pynchum "did n't think much of children
from nobody knew where. It did n't seem to belong to Poplarville to support him, since he did n't
belong to anybody that ever lived there, and his keep and his medicine
cost more than he would ever be worth, to anybody." 90
Gobaly's mother died
in the poor-house,; and left him there, a baby; she had always lived in
the town, and so had his father, so of course Gobaly had a perfect right
there; and old Dr. Barnacle, who was very learned, had said of him that he
was an uncommonly fine baby, and had named him Heliogabalus.
was strong and willing, and did a great deal of work. Mrs. Pynchum "could
put up with Gobaly." But Methuselah, she said, was "a thorn in her
side." And now, after being a trial all his life, he had a hip disease,
which the doctor feared was incurable, and which made him more troublesome
But, after all, Mrs. Pynchum was n't quite so bad as one would
have thought, from her talk. She must have had a soft spot somewhere in
her heart, for she put" plums in Methuselah's porridge, now that he was
ill, and once she had let Gobaly leave his wood-chopping to draw him out on his sled.
I suppose there is a soft spot in everybody's heart, only
sometimes it is n't very; easy to find it; and Mrs. Pynchum might not
have been so cross if she had led an