Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

The Uses Of Adversity
by [?]

“I guess I don’t need I should go on the school,” announced Algernon Yonowsky.

“I guess you do,” said his sister.

“I guess I don’t need I should go on the school, neither,” remarked Percival.

“You got to go,” Leah informed her mutinous brothers. “I got a permit for you from off the Principal; he’s friends mit me the while I goes on that school when I was little. You got to go on the school, und you got to stay on the school. It’s awful nice how you learn things there.”

But the prospect did not appeal to the Yonowsky twins. It seemed to forbode restraint and, during their six tempestuous years, they had followed their own stubborn ways and had accepted neither advice nor rebuke from any man. The evening of the day which had seen their birth had left Leah motherless, and her father broken of heart and of ambition. Since then Mr. Yonowsky had grown daily more silent and morose, and Leah had been less and less able to cope with “them devil boys.”

A room high up in a swarming tenement had been the grave of her youth and pleasure. She was as solitary there as she could have been in a desert, for the neighbours who had known and assisted her in the first years of her bereavement had died or moved to that Mecca of the New World, Harlem. And their successors were not kindly disposed towards a family comprising a silent man, a half-grown girl, and two twin demons who made the block a terror to the nervous and the stairs a menace to the unwary. No one came to gossip with Leah. She was too young to listen understandingly to older women’s adventures in sickness or domestic infelicity, and too dispirited to make any show of interest in the toilettes or “affaires” of the younger. For what were incompetent doctors, habit-backed dresses, wavering husbands, or impetuous lovers to Leah Yonowsky, who had assumed all the responsibilities of a woman’s life with none of its consolations?

Of course she had, to some extent, failed in the upbringing of her brothers, but she had always looked forward hopefully to the time when they should be old enough to be sent to school. There they should learn, among much other lore, to live up to the names she had selected for them out of the book of love and of adventure which she had been reading at the time of their baptism. During all the years of her enslavement she had been a patron of the nearest public library, and it had been a source of great disappointment to her that Algernon and Percival had made no least attempt to acquire the grace of speech and manner which she had learned to associate with those lordly titles.

And now they were refusing even to approach the Pierian Spring! “I guess I don’t go,” Algernon was persisting. “I guess I plays on the street.”

“Me, too,” added Percival. “Patrick Brennan he goes on that school und he gives me over yesterday, a bloody nose. I don’ need I should go on no school mit somebody what makes like that mit me.”

But with the assistance of the neighbours, the policeman on the beat and the truant officer, they were finally dragged to the halls of learning and delivered into the hands of Miss Bailey, who installed them in widely separated seats and seemed blandly unimpressed by their evident determination to make things unpleasant in Room 18. She met Leah’s anticipatory apologies with:

“Of course they’ll be good. I shall see that they behave. Yes, I shall see, too, that Patrick Brennan does not fight with Percival. You musn’t worry about them any more, but I fear they have made worrying a habit with you. If you will send them to school at a quarter to nine every morning, and at ten minutes to one in the afternoon, I shall do the rest.”