Timoteo by Mary
Two white jaw-bones of a whale stood upright in the sunshine, their
surfaces showing to a near observer numerous small indentations that
caught the dust. The jaw-bones were relics from a little whaling
station that had once been in business near the town. Even now whales
occasionally wander from the great Pacific into the blue bay on which
this old, partly Spanish, California town was situated.
The two white jaw-bones now served the purpose of gate-posts, and
stood some six feet high beside the front gate that opened into a
garden where red hollyhocks rose higher than the humbled jaw-bones.
Inside the gate, the front walk had long been paved with the
vertebrae of whales, each vertebra being laid separately.
No one who had not seen such a walk would realize how well whales'
vertebrae will answer for paving. Some of the old vertebrae had now
sunk below the original level of the walk, so that the path by which
a person went to the old adobe house beyond the red hollyhocks was
somewhat uneven as to surface.
The long, low house was partly roofed with tiles, and the adobe
walls of the dwelling were a yard thick, as any one might see who
looked at the windowsills.
On one of these broad sills Isabelita leaned, her black eyes fixed
on the bone gate-posts that she could see through the blossoming
hollyhocks. There was a displeased expression on the young girl's
face. She was watching for her brother Timoteo, who would soon come
"He must go for the cow tonight," resolved Isabelita aloud in
Spanish. "I will not go! I wish the Americans had never come to this
town! In the old days, my father says, there were no cattle notices
on the trees. My father did not have to go for cows every night!" And
Isabelita frowned as she remembered the notices about letting cattle
run loose upon the highway.
These Spanish--and--English notices were now nailed on pines here
and there along the roads, and proved a source of inquiry to
wandering Americans who saw the boards with their heading:
preceded by two inverted exclamation points and followed by two
others in the upright position--that some Americans have perhaps been
wont to think is the only attitude in which an exclamation point can
stand, Americans not being accustomed to the ease with which an
exclamation point can stand on its head, when used in Spanish
But it was not only with cattle notices and Americans that
Isabelita was offended this day. She was in a bad humor, and nothing
suited her. Hence it was in no pleasant voice that she called to
Timoteo, when he at last made his appearance between the bony
"Hombre bobo, thou must go for the cow tonight!"
Now, "hombre bobo" means much the same as our word "booby,"
therefore this was not a very soothing manner of beginning her
information. To Isabelita's surprise, however, Timoteo answered only
"Yes," and, coming in, put his one book carefully away, and then went
forth for the cow, as he had been bidden. Isabelita stared after him.
She had at least expected a quarrel.
Isabelita would have been more surprised still, if she could have
seen what Timoteo did after reaching the place in the woods where the
cow was tethered. He threw himself down; crushing the fragrant,
small-leaved vines of "yerba buena" as he fell, and, hiding his face,
Timoteo cried in a half-angry, half-hopeless tumult of feeling. The
pink blossoming thistles nodded, and the cow looked wonderingly at the
lad, but no one else saw or heard him. By and by he sat up.
"Teacher never like me any more," he told himself, his lips
quivering. "Americanos tell her my father lazy, my mother no clean.
And I try, I try!"
He choked down a sob. A new teacher had come to the public school,
a sweet-faced, pleasant-toned young lady, whom Timoteo was ready to
obey devotedly from the first time she smiled on the school. Timoteo
did want to learn to be somebody! He looked with admiration on the
Americans boys' clothes and on an especial blue necktie that Herbert
Page wore. Timoteo wondered how it would seem to have a father who
worked and who provided his family with plenty to wear. The lad
Timoteo meant to be like one of the Americans when he grew up. He
would work, instead of lounging about the streets all day, smoking
But alas! That day he had overheard some of the American boy
scholars talking to the teacher about the Spanish ones.
"There's Timoteo," he overheard Herbert Page say. "You don't want
to have him for your milk-man, Miss Montgomery! I don't believe they
keep the milk pails any too clean at his house. Laziness and dirt go
together in these Spanish houses!"
Poor Timoteo! He had hoped the teacher and her mother would take
milk of him. Miss Montgomery had almost promised to, before this, and
one customer for milk made such a difference in Timoteo's home
"But now she never like me any more," Timoteo hopelessly forewarned
himself, as he sat among the trees, his eyes yet red with crying.
"And I try, I try! I have learned wash my hands clean, when I go
school. And I try so hard learn read and write!"
Timoteo sighed heavily. He did not hate those American boys who
looked so much nicer than he. He only had a sorrowful, hopeless
feeling as he unfastened the cow and started homeward with her.
But when the cow lumbered in through the two white, strange gate-
posts at home, she swerved aside a little, and Timoteo saw, standing
under the tall red hollyhocks, his teacher, Miss Montgomery. She had
a bright tin pail in her hand, and she wanted some milk.
Timoteo's eyes brightened.
"I go wash my hands clean, clean!" he cried, and, disappearing,
came back a few minutes after, holding out his palms for Miss
She smiled, and gave him the pail.
"Poor little fellow!" she thought, as she watched him milking. "I'm
afraid some of our American boys don't have charity enough for him."
Timoteo beamed with happiness as he returned the pail brimming with
milk. He was Miss Montgomery's milkman regularly after that, and
when, on Sundays, Miss Montgomery taught a Sunday-school class of
boys, Timoteo always slipped in and listened, though the teacher
wondered sometimes if the boy could understand.
There were fair-haired American boys who looked down on Timoteo at
school and who made him feel that a Spanish boy was an inferior.
Sometimes Timoteo almost felt as if some of the Chinese boys, in the
small fishing-village outside the town, were happier than he, for
they did not seem to care to know anything but how to dry nets and
dry fish. Herbert Page was one of the school boys who always felt
superior to Timoteo. Timoteo did not wonder at it. He had a very
humble opinion of himself, yet sometimes he wished Herbert would only
look at him as he passed by. Herbert would not have spoken rudely to
Timoteo. That, Herbert would have considered degrading. He simply
ignored the Spanish boys of the school.
One Saturday morning, when Timoteo stood on the edge of the cliffs
outside the town, he saw Herbert picking his way out over the long
stretches of rocks to seaward; a basket on his arm and a stick in his
"He go to get abalones, and think he can knock them off with a
stick!" laughed Timoteo.
Herbert had not long lived in this vicinity, and he did not know
the tenacity with which the large, oval-shaped shell, called abalone,
or ear-shell, which is so well known and valued for its beautifully
colored, irridescent lining, clings to the rock when the shell's
inmate is living. At school, the day before, Timoteo had heard
Herbert say that he intended going after abalones on Saturday.
"He no get any," prophesied Timoteo, gazing after Herbert's
Timoteo himself was out abalone-hunting. This was one of the ways
by which he occasionally earned a few cents, visitors to the town
buying the large shells for curiosities. But Timoteo had with him a
long iron spike with which he intended to urge the abalone-shells
from the rocks.
The abalone has a large, very strong, white "foot" inside its long
shell, and there is a row of holes in the shell itself. It is
conjectured that the abalone perhaps exhausts the air under the
shell, and so causes the shell to cling more tightly to the rock than
ever, through atmospheric pressure. It is very difficult to take an
abalone from its rocky home, unless the creature is surprised.
Timoteo, however, was acquainted with abalones, and made good use
of his weapon. He clambered far out over the wet rocks for hours,
finding abalones now and then, and waging war on these thick, rough
ovals that clung so tightly to the rock, the beautiful colors of the
abalone-shells entirely concealed. Timoteo saw nothing more of
Herbert, during these hours of work.
Timoteo succeeded in getting three abalones, the last an especially
large shell. He sat down on the rocks to rest, after the long
struggle with this big abalone. The tide was rising. He would go home
While he sat there, it seemed to him that he heard the sound of
outcries. At first he thought it was the gulls. Half in fun he
shouted in reply. The distant cries seemed redoubled. Timoteo caught
up his basket and long spike. He sprang to his feet.
"Where is it?" he thought, confused with the splash of waves and
the toss of spray.
He listened. He sped, shouting, over the rocks in the direction
from which the cries seemed to come. He stopped now and then to
listen. Yes, it was a human voice that cried for help. It was not the
"Adonde?" (Where?) "Adonde?" shouted Timoteo, forgetting his
English in his excitement.
The answering shouts grew more distinct. Timoteo climbed over the
wet rocks till he found himself near a place where the sounds seemed
to come from between two rocks. Timoteo saw a boy reach up part way
between the two rocks. The boy could not crawl out. The hole between
the rocks was not big enough.
"Timoteo!" screamed a voice, and Timoteo recognized Herbert.
"Say!" Herbert called, "run for help, won't you? I was out here
abalone-hunting, and I guess one of these big rocks must have been
poised just right to topple over. Anyhow, in climbing down here I
managed to topple it. It didn't fall on me, but it fell against the
other rocks so that there isn't room for me to crawl out of here! I
can't make the rock budge, now. And the tide's coming! I thought I'd
drown, away out here, alone. You can't do anything with that spike.
It needs three or four men with levers. Run! The tide's up to my
waist, now! There isn't room between these rocks to crawl out."
For one moment Timoteo stood still and looked at Herbert. Then the
Spanish boy turned and flew over the rocks. Leaping from one slippery
foothold to another, he rushed toward the cliffs, up the cliff road,
on to the clusters of Chinese huts that made a little fishing-village
by itself on the edge of the bay. Whatever Spanish or English
vocabulary Timoteo used, he aroused two or three Chinamen to forsake
their frames of drying fish and cease tossing over the other small
fish that lay drying on the ground.
Seizing the long, heavy iron rods with which the Chinese were wont
to go abalone-hunting, the three Celestials followed in Timoteo's
wake toward the place where Herbert anxiously awaited rescue. There
was much prying with the iron rods before the stone was finally
tilted enough so that the drenched prisoner was released.
"My father pay you," gratefully promised Herbert to the Chinamen,
who nodded and plodded cheerfully back toward their tiny fishing-
Herbert looked at Timoteo.
"I'm much obliged to you," said Herbert. "You were good to run for
But now that Timoteo had seen the success of his helpers, an
abashed silence seemed to have overtaken him. He did not answer. The
silence lasted till the two boys reached the cliffs. Herbert grew
uneasy. His conscience accused him somewhat.
"Come to my house, Timoteo, and my father will give you something
for helping me," promised Herbert uneasily, as the boys climbed the
Timoteo shook his head, but he did not look up.
"See here, Timoteo," burst out Herbert, stopping on top of the
cliffs, "what's the matter? Do you hate me?"
Timoteo glanced up slowly. His dark eyes were full of appeal.
"You no talk to teacher any more about me?" he besought. "You no
tell her my father lazy, we no-'count folks?"
Timoteo's voice shook. He hurried on: "I like teacher. I try be
clean. I wash my hands, my face, all time. I do ver' good to the
teacher. But my mother differ from your mother. Your mother give you
nice clean shirt and clothes. My mother too poor. I try learn, read,
spell. I grow like American boy."
It was the appeal of a soul that looked from Timoteo's eyes.
"Why, you poor fellow, of course you try!" he answered heartily.
"I- -I'm sorry if I've ever said anything to the teacher that made you
feel badly, Timoteo. I won't do it again, and the other boys sha'n't,
either! The teacher knows how hard you try. She said the other day
that you were a good boy. Come on up to our house. Won't you?"
But Timoteo smiled, and shook his head, and went away on the long
road that led toward home. The heart of the Spanish boy was very
happy. He had done good to his enemy, and that enemy was turned into
a friend. And the teacher had said that Timoteo was a good boy! She
knew how hard he tried!
Timoteo sang for joy as he ran.
"I will learn! I will learn! I shall be like los Americanos!" he
sang, and then he remembered how he had been tempted for one instant
not to help Herbert. Timoteo shivered at the remembered temptation.
He sang again for very joy at having been helped to forgive his
In the pines Timoteo stopped, and looked upward through the swaying
"A Dios sea gloria por Jesu-Christo," he murmured reverently. ("To
God be glory through Jesus Christ.")