Read CHAPTER XXI - SCIPIO MAKES PREPARATIONS of The Twins of Suffering Creek , free online book, by Ridgwell Cullum, on

Scipio’s impulses were, from his own point of view, entirely practical.  Whatever he did, he did with his whole heart.  And if his results somehow missed coming out as he intended them, it was scarcely his fault.  Rather was it the misfortune of being burdened with a superfluous energy, supported by inadequate thought.

And he felt something of this as he sat in his living-room and glanced round him at the unaccountable disorder that maintained.  It was Sunday morning, and all his spare time in his home on Saturday had been spent in cleaning and scrubbing and putting straight, and yet and yet He passed a stubby hand across his forehead, as though to brush aside the vision of the confusion he beheld.

He knew everything was wrong, and a subconscious feeling told him that he had no power to put things right.  It was curious, too.  Every utensil, every stick of furniture, the floor, the stove, everything had been scrubbed and garnished at a great expense of labor.  Everything had been carefully bestowed in the place which, to his mind, seemed most suited for its disposal.  Yet now, as he gazed about him at the result, he knew that only a cleanly untidiness prevailed, and he felt disheartened.

Look at the children’s clean clothes, carefully folded with almost painful exactness; yet they were like a pile of rags just thrown together.  And their unironed condition added to the illusion.  Every cooking-pot and pan had been cleaned and polished, yet, to his eyes, the litter of them suggested one of the heaps of iron scraps out on the dumps.  How was it every piece of china looked forlornly suggestive of a wanderer without a home?  No, he did not know.  He had done his very best, and yet everything seemed to need just that magic touch to give his home the requisite well-cared-for air.

He was disappointed, and his feelings were plainly to be perceived in the regretful glance of his pale eyes.  For some moments his optimistic energy rose and prompted him to begin all over again, but he denied himself this satisfaction as he glanced through the window at the morning sun.  It was too high up in the sky.  There was other work yet before him, with none too much time for its performance before the midday meal.

Instead, he turned to the “regulations” which Sunny Oak had furnished him with, and, with an index finger following out the words, he read down the details of the work for Sunday in so far as his twins were concerned.

“Ah,” he murmured, “I got the wash done yesterday.  It says here Monday.  That’s kind of a pity.”  Then he brightened into hopefulness.  “Guess I kin do those things again Monday.  I sort o’ fancy they could do with another wash ’fore the kiddies wear them.  I never could wash clothes right, first time.  Now, Sunday.”  His finger passed slowly from one detail to another.  “Breakfast yes.  Bath.  Ah, guess that comes next.  Now, ’bout that bath.”  He glanced anxiously round him.  Then he turned back to the regulations.  “It don’t say whether hot or cold,” he muttered disappointedly.

For a moment he stood perplexed.  Then he began to reason the matter out with himself.  It was summer.  For grown-ups it would naturally be a cold bath, but he was not so sure about children.  They were very young, and it would be so easy for them to take cold, he thought.  No, it had best be hot.  He would cook some water.  This thought prompting him, he set the saucepan on the stove and stirred the fire.

He was turning back to his regulations, when it occurred to him that he must now find something to bathe the children in.  Glancing about amongst the few pots he possessed, he realized that the largest saucepan, or “billy,” in the house would not hold more than a gallon of water.  No, these were no use, for though he exercised all his ingenuity he could see no way of bathing the children in any of them.  Once during his cogitations he was very nearly inspired.  It flashed through his mind that he might stand each child outside of a couple of pots and wash them all over that way.  But he quickly negatived the thought.  That wasn’t his idea of a bath.  They must sit in the water.

He was about to give the matter up in despair, when, in a moment of inspiration, he remembered the washing-tub.  Of course, that was the very thing.  They could both sit in that together.  It was down at the river, but he could easily fetch it up.

So he turned again in relief to the regulations.  What next?  He found his place, and read the directions out slowly.

“‘After their bath kids needs an hour’s Bible talk.’”

He read it again.  And then a third time, so as to make quite sure.  Then he turned thoughtfully to the door, staring out at the bright sunlight beyond.  He could hear the children’s voices as they played outside, but he was not heeding them.  He was delving around in a hazy recollection of Bible subjects, which he vaguely remembered having studied when a child.

It was difficult very difficult.  But he was not beaten.  There were several subjects that occurred to him in scraps.  There was Noah.  Then there was Moses.  He recalled something of Solomon, and he knew that David slew a giant.

But none of these subjects amounted to more than a dim recollection.  Of details he knew none.  Worked into a thorough muddle with his worry, he was almost despairing again when suddenly he remembered that Jessie possessed a Bible.  Perhaps it was still in the bedroom.  He would go and see.  It would surely help him.  So he promptly went in search of it, and, in a few moments, was sitting down beside the table poring over it and studiously preparing himself for his forthcoming tutelary duties.