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Title: Whilomville Stories
Author: Crane, Stephen, 1871-1900
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Whilomville Stories" ***

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[Illustration: STEPHEN CRANE]


WHILOMVILLE STORIES

by

STEPHEN CRANE

Illustrated by Peter Newell



New York and London
Harper & Brothers
Publishers
1900

Copyright, 1900, by William Howe Crane.
All rights reserved.



CONTENTS


       I. THE ANGEL CHILD
      II. LYNX-HUNTING
     III. THE LOVER AND THE TELLTALE
      IV. "SHOWIN' OFF"
       V. MAKING AN ORATOR
      VI. SHAME
     VII. THE CARRIAGE-LAMPS
    VIII. THE KNIFE
      IX. THE STOVE
       X. THE TRIAL, EXECUTION, AND BURIAL OF HOMER PHELPS
      XI. THE FIGHT
     XII. THE CITY URCHIN AND THE CHASTE VILLAGERS
    XIII. A LITTLE PILGRIMAGE



    ILLUSTRATIONS


    STEPHEN CRANE
    "THE QUEEN HERSELF TOOK THE CHAIR"
    "'LOOK,' SHE DECLAIMED"
    "AROUND THE CORNER OF THE HOUSE CAME  THE TWINS"
    AT THE RAILWAY STATION
    "'MA--NOW--CAN I BORROW PA'S GUN?'"
    THE DALZEL BOY TAKING THE PART OF A BANDIT CHIEF
    "THERE WAS A FRIGHTFUL ROAR"
    "'I THOUGHT SHE WAS A LYNX'"
    "THEY GALLOPED ABOUT HIM SHRILLY CHANTING INSULTS"
    "'I--' HE BEGAN. THEN HE VANISHED FROM THE EDGE OF THE WALK"
    "AND THEN HE SUDDENLY SAID, 'HALF A  LEG--'
    "'JIMMIE TRESCOTT'S GOT HIS PICNIC IN A PAIL!'"
    "'YOU JIM! QUIT! QUIT, I TELL YER!'"
    "HE TURNED TO SAY: 'KEEP UP A STOUT HEART'"
    "THE BOY TURNED AGAIN TO HIS FRIEND"
    "THEY WHIRLED AND SCAMPERED AWAY LIKE DEER"
    "HE HEAVED ONE OF HIS EIGHT-OUNCE ROCKS"
    "MOLLIE LURKED IN A CORNER AND GIGGLED"
    "THE NEXT MOMENT HE WAS LOOKING INTO THE AMAZED AND AGONIZED FACE
      OF OLD ALEK"
    "THE OLD MAN DREW HIMSELF TO A STATELY POSE"
    "THE LAMB-EYED FATHER PRECEDED THE ANGEL CHILD TO HER CHAMBER"
    "THE SOLEMN ODOR OF BURNING TURNIPS ROLLED IN LIKE A SEA-FOG"
    "'HERE'S ANOTHER BATCH OF LOVELY PUDDINGS'"
    "FROM THIS BOOT HE EMPTIED ABOUT A QUART OF SNOW"
    THE EXECUTION
    THE FUNERAL ORATION
    "STAMPING BRAVELY AND NOISILY ON THE PORCH"
    "'THE FIRST TIME I CATCH YOU I'LL LAM THE HEAD OFF'N YOU!'"
    "NO TIME FOR ACADEMICS--HE RAN"
    "'WHO HURT HIM?' HE SAID, FEROCIOUSLY"
    "'NIG-GER-R-R! NIG-GER-R-R!'"
    "ONE APPROACHING FROM BEHIND LAID HOLD OF HIS EAR"
    "THE PROFESSIONAL BRIGHT BOY OF THE CLASS SUDDENLY AWOKE"



WHILOMVILLE STORIES



I

THE ANGEL CHILD

I


Although Whilomville was in no sense a summer resort, the advent of
the warm season meant much to it, for then came visitors from the
city--people of considerable confidence--alighting upon their country
cousins. Moreover, many citizens who could afford to do so escaped at
this time to the sea-side. The town, with the commercial life quite
taken out of it, drawled and drowsed through long months, during which
nothing was worse than the white dust which arose behind every vehicle
at blinding noon, and nothing was finer than the cool sheen of the
hose sprays over the cropped lawns under the many maples in the
twilight.

One summer the Trescotts had a visitation. Mrs. Trescott owned a
cousin who was a painter of high degree. I had almost said that he was
of national reputation, but, come to think of it, it is better to say
that almost everybody in the United States who knew about art and its
travail knew about him. He had picked out a wife, and naturally,
looking at him, one wondered how he had done it. She was quick,
beautiful, imperious, while he was quiet, slow, and misty. She was a
veritable queen of health, while he, apparently, was of a most brittle
constitution. When he played tennis, particularly, he looked every
minute as if he were going to break.

They lived in New York, in awesome apartments wherein Japan and
Persia, and indeed all the world, confounded the observer. At the end
was a cathedral-like studio. They had one child. Perhaps it would be
better to say that they had one CHILD. It was a girl. When she came to
Whilomville with her parents, it was patent that she had an
inexhaustible store of white frocks, and that her voice was high and
commanding. These things the town knew quickly. Other things it was
doomed to discover by a process.

Her effect upon the children of the Trescott neighborhood was
singular. They at first feared, then admired, then embraced. In two
days she was a Begum. All day long her voice could be heard directing,
drilling, and compelling those free-born children; and to say that
they felt oppression would be wrong, for they really fought for
records of loyal obedience.

All went well until one day was her birthday.

On the morning of this day she walked out into the Trescott garden and
said to her father, confidently, "Papa, give me some money, because
this is my birthday."

He looked dreamily up from his easel. "Your birthday?" he murmured.
Her envisioned father was never energetic enough to be irritable
unless some one broke through into that place where he lived with the
desires of his life. But neither wife nor child ever heeded or even
understood the temperamental values, and so some part of him had grown
hardened to their inroads. "Money?" he said. "Here." He handed her a
five-dollar bill. It was that he did not at all understand the nature
of a five-dollar bill. He was deaf to it. He had it; he gave it; that
was all.

She sallied forth to a waiting people--Jimmie Trescott, Dan Earl, Ella
Earl, the Margate twins, the three Phelps children, and others. "I've
got some pennies now," she cried, waving the bill, "and I am going to
buy some candy." They were deeply stirred by this announcement. Most
children are penniless three hundred days in the year, and to another
possessing five pennies they pay deference. To little Cora waving a
bright green note these children paid heathenish homage. In some
disorder they thronged after her to a small shop on Bridge Street
hill. First of all came ice-cream. Seated in the comic little back
parlor, they clamored shrilly over plates of various flavors, and the
shopkeeper marvelled that cream could vanish so quickly down throats
that seemed wide open, always, for the making of excited screams.

These children represented the families of most excellent people. They
were all born in whatever purple there was to be had in the vicinity
of Whilomville. The Margate twins, for example, were out-and-out
prize-winners. With their long golden curls and their countenances of
similar vacuity, they shone upon the front bench of all Sunday-school
functions, hand in hand, while their uplifted mother felt about her
the envy of a hundred other parents, and less heavenly children
scoffed from near the door.

Then there was little Dan Earl, probably the nicest boy in the world,
gentle, fine-grained, obedient to the point where he obeyed anybody.
Jimmie Trescott himself was, indeed, the only child who was at all
versed in villany, but in these particular days he was on his very
good behavior. As a matter of fact, he was in love. The beauty of his
regal little cousin had stolen his manly heart.

Yes, they were all most excellent children, but, loosened upon this
candy-shop with five dollars, they resembled, in a tiny way,
drunken revelling soldiers within the walls of a stormed city.
Upon the heels of ice-cream and cake came chocolate mice,
butter-scotch, "everlastings," chocolate cigars, taffy-on-a-stick,
taffy-on-a-slate-pencil, and many semi-transparent devices resembling
lions, tigers, elephants, horses, cats, dogs, cows, sheep, tables,
chairs, engines (both railway and for the fighting of fire), soldiers,
fine ladies, odd-looking men, clocks, watches, revolvers, rabbits, and
bedsteads. A cent was the price of a single wonder.

Some of the children, going quite daft, soon had thought to make fight
over the spoils, but their queen ruled with an iron grip. Her first
inspiration was to satisfy her own fancies, but as soon as that was
done she mingled prodigality with a fine justice, dividing,
balancing, bestowing, and sometimes taking away from somebody even
that which he had.

It was an orgy. In thirty-five minutes those respectable children
looked as if they had been dragged at the tail of a chariot. The
sacred Margate twins, blinking and grunting, wished to take seat upon
the floor, and even the most durable Jimmie Trescott found occasion to
lean against the counter, wearing at the time a solemn and abstracted
air, as if he expected something to happen to him shortly.

Of course their belief had been in an unlimited capacity, but they
found there was an end. The shopkeeper handed the queen her change.

"Two seventy-three from five leaves two twenty-seven, Miss Cora," he
said, looking upon her with admiration.

She turned swiftly to her clan. "O-oh!" she cried, in amazement. "Look
how much I have left!" They gazed at the coins in her palm. They knew
then that it was not their capacities which were endless; it was the
five dollars.

The queen led the way to the street. "We must think up some way of
spending more money," she said, frowning. They stood in silence,
awaiting her further speech.

Suddenly she clapped her hands and screamed with delight. "Come on!"
she cried. "I know what let's do." Now behold, she had discovered the
red and white pole in front of the shop of one William Neeltje, a
barber by trade.

It becomes necessary to say a few words concerning Neeltje. He was new
to the town. He had come and opened a dusty little shop on dusty
Bridge Street hill, and although the neighborhood knew from the
courier winds that his diet was mainly cabbage, they were satisfied
with that meagre data. Of course Riefsnyder came to investigate him
for the local Barbers' Union, but he found in him only sweetness and
light, with a willingness to charge any price at all for a shave or a
haircut. In fact, the advent of Neeltje would have made barely a
ripple upon the placid bosom of Whilomville if it were not that his
name was Neeltje.

At first the people looked at his sign-board out of the eye corner,
and wondered lazily why any one should bear the name of Neeltje; but
as time went on, men spoke to other men, saying, "How do you pronounce
the name of that barber up there on Bridge Street hill?" And then,
before any could prevent it, the best minds of the town were
splintering their lances against William Neeltje's sign-board. If a
man had a mental superior, he guided him seductively to this name, and
watched with glee his wrecking. The clergy of the town even entered
the lists. There was one among them who had taken a collegiate prize
in Syriac, as well as in several less opaque languages, and the other
clergymen--at one of their weekly meetings--sought to betray him into
this ambush. He pronounced the name correctly, but that mattered
little, since none of them knew whether he did or did not; and so they
took triumph according to their ignorance. Under these arduous
circumstances it was certain that the town should look for a nickname,
and at this time the nickname was in process of formation. So William
Neeltje lived on with his secret, smiling foolishly towards the world.

"Come on," cried little Cora. "Let's all get our hair cut. That's what
let's do. Let's all get our hair cut! Come on! Come on! Come on!" The
others were carried off their feet by the fury of this assault. To get
their hair cut! What joy! Little did they know if this were fun; they
only knew that their small leader said it was fun. Chocolate-stained
but confident, the band marched into William Neeltje's barber shop.

"We wish to get our hair cut," said little Cora, haughtily.

Neeltje, in his shirt-sleeves, stood looking at them with his
half-idiot smile.

"Hurry, now!" commanded the queen. A dray-horse toiled step by step,
step by step, up Bridge Street hill; a far woman's voice arose; there
could be heard the ceaseless hammers of shingling carpenters; all was
summer peace. "Come on, now. Who's goin' first? Come on, Ella; you go
first. Gettin' our hair cut! Oh what fun!"

Little Ella Earl would not, however, be first in the chair. She was
drawn towards it by a singular fascination, but at the same time she
was afraid of it, and so she hung back, saying: "No! You go first! No!
You go first!" The question was precipitated by the twins and one of
the Phelps children. They made simultaneous rush for the chair, and
screamed and kicked, each pair preventing the third child. The queen
entered this mêlée, and decided in favor of the Phelps boy. He
ascended the chair. Thereat an awed silence fell upon the band. And
always William Neeltje smiled fatuously.

He tucked a cloth in the neck of the Phelps boy, and taking scissors,
began to cut his hair. The group of children came closer and closer.
Even the queen was deeply moved. "Does it hurt any?" she asked, in a
wee voice.

"Naw," said the Phelps boy, with dignity. "Anyhow, I've had m' hair
cut afore."

When he appeared to them looking very soldierly with his cropped
little head, there was a tumult over the chair. The Margate twins
howled; Jimmie Trescott was kicking them on the shins. It was a fight.

But the twins could not prevail, being the smallest of all the
children. The queen herself took the chair, and ordered Neeltje as if
he were a lady's-maid. To the floor there fell proud ringlets, blazing
even there in their humiliation with a full fine bronze light. Then
Jimmie Trescott, then Ella Earl (two long ash-colored plaits), then a
Phelps girl, then another Phelps girl; and so on from head to head.
The ceremony received unexpected check when the turn came to Dan Earl.
This lad, usually docile to any rein, had suddenly grown mulishly
obstinate. No, he would not, he would not. He himself did not seem to
know why he refused to have his hair cut, but, despite the shrill
derision of the company, he remained obdurate. Anyhow, the twins, long
held in check, and now feverishly eager, were already struggling for
the chair.

[Illustration: "THE QUEEN HERSELF TOOK THE CHAIR"]

And so to the floor at last came the golden Margate curls, the heart
treasure and glory of a mother, three aunts, and some feminine
cousins.

All having been finished, the children, highly elate, thronged out
into the street. They crowed and cackled with pride and joy, anon
turning to scorn the cowardly Dan Earl.

Ella Earl was an exception. She had been pensive for some time, and
now the shorn little maiden began vaguely to weep. In the door of his
shop William Neeltje stood watching them, upon his face a grin of
almost inhuman idiocy.


II

It now becomes the duty of the unfortunate writer to exhibit these
children to their fond parents. "Come on, Jimmie," cried little Cora,
"let's go show mamma." And they hurried off, these happy children, to
show mamma.

The Trescotts and their guests were assembled indolently awaiting the
luncheon-bell. Jimmie and the angel child burst in upon them. "Oh,
mamma," shrieked little Cora, "see how fine I am! I've had my hair
cut! Isn't it splendid? And Jimmie too!"

The wretched mother took one sight, emitted one yell, and fell into a
chair. Mrs. Trescott dropped a large lady's journal and made a
nerveless mechanical clutch at it. The painter gripped the arms of his
chair and leaned forward, staring until his eyes were like two little
clock faces. Dr. Trescott did not move or speak.

To the children the next moments were chaotic. There was a loudly
wailing mother, and a pale-faced, aghast mother; a stammering father,
and a grim and terrible father. The angel child did not understand
anything of it save the voice of calamity, and in a moment all her
little imperialism went to the winds. She ran sobbing to her mother.
"Oh, mamma! mamma! mamma!"

The desolate Jimmie heard out of this inexplicable situation a voice
which he knew well, a sort of colonel's voice, and he obeyed like any
good soldier. "Jimmie!"

He stepped three paces to the front. "Yes, sir."

"How did this--how did this happen?" said Trescott.

Now Jimmie could have explained how had happened anything which had
happened, but he did not know what had happened, so he said,
"I--I--nothin'."

"And, oh, look at her frock!" said Mrs. Trescott, brokenly.

[Illustration: "'LOOK!' SHE DECLAIMED"]

The words turned the mind of the mother of the angel child. She looked
up, her eyes blazing. "Frock!" she repeated. "Frock! What do I care
for her frock? Frock!" she choked out again from the depths of her
bitterness. Then she arose suddenly, and whirled tragically upon her
husband. "Look!" she declaimed. "All--her lovely--hair--all her lovely
hair--gone--gone!" The painter was apparently in a fit; his jaw was
set, his eyes were glazed, his body was stiff and straight.
"All gone--all--her lovely hair--all gone--my poor little
darlin'--my--poor--little--darlin'!" And the angel child added her
heart-broken voice to her mother's wail as they fled into each other's
arms.

In the mean time Trescott was patiently unravelling some skeins of
Jimmie's tangled intellect. "And then you went to this barber's on the
hill. Yes. And where did you get the money? Yes. I see. And who
besides you and Cora had their hair cut? The Margate twi--Oh, lord!"

Over at the Margate place old Eldridge Margate, the grandfather of the
twins, was in the back garden picking pease and smoking ruminatively
to himself. Suddenly he heard from the house great noises. Doors
slammed, women rushed up-stairs and down-stairs calling to each other
in voices of agony. And then full and mellow upon the still air arose
the roar of the twins in pain.

Old Eldridge stepped out of the pea-patch and moved towards the house,
puzzled, staring, not yet having decided that it was his duty to rush
forward. Then around the corner of the house shot his daughter Mollie,
her face pale with horror.

"What's the matter?" he cried.

"Oh, father," she gasped, "the children! They--"

Then around the corner of the house came the twins, howling at the top
of their power, their faces flowing with tears. They were still hand
in hand, the ruling passion being strong even in this suffering. At
sight of them old Eldridge took his pipe hastily out of his mouth.
"Good God!" he said.

       *       *       *       *       *

And now what befell one William Neeltje, a barber by trade? And what
was said by angry parents of the mother of such an angel child? And
what was the fate of the angel child herself?

There was surely a tempest. With the exception of the Margate twins,
the boys could well be eliminated from the affair. Of course it
didn't matter if their hair was cut. Also the two little Phelps girls
had had very short hair, anyhow, and their parents were not too
greatly incensed. In the case of Ella Earl, it was mainly the pathos
of the little girl's own grieving; but her mother played a most
generous part, and called upon Mrs. Trescott, and condoled with the
mother of the angel child over their equivalent losses. But the
Margate contingent! They simply screeched.

[Illustration: "AROUND THE CORNER OF THE HOUSE CAME THE TWINS"]

Trescott, composed and cool-blooded, was in the middle of a giddy
whirl. He was not going to allow the mobbing of his wife's cousins,
nor was he going to pretend that the spoliation of the Margate twins
was a virtuous and beautiful act. He was elected, gratuitously, to the
position of a buffer.

But, curiously enough, the one who achieved the bulk of the misery was
old Eldridge Margate, who had been picking pease at the time. The
feminine Margates stormed his position as individuals, in pairs, in
teams, and _en masse_. In two days they may have aged him seven years.
He must destroy the utter Neeltje. He must midnightly massacre the
angel child and her mother. He must dip his arms in blood to the
elbows.

Trescott took the first opportunity to express to him his concern over
the affair, but when the subject of the disaster was mentioned, old
Eldridge, to the doctor's great surprise, actually chuckled long and
deeply. "Oh, well, look-a-here," he said. "I never was so much in love
with them there damn curls. The curls was purty--yes--but then I'd a
darn sight rather see boys look more like boys than like two little
wax figgers. An', ye know, the little cusses like it themselves.
_They_ never took no stock in all this washin' an' combin' an' fixin'
an' goin' to church an' paradin' an' showin' off. They stood it
because they were told to. That's all. Of course this here
Neel-te-gee, er whatever his name is, is a plumb dumb ijit, but I
don't see what's to be done, now that the kids is full well cropped. I
might go and burn his shop over his head, but that wouldn't bring no
hair back onto the kids. They're even kicking on sashes now, and
that's all right, 'cause what fer does a boy want a sash?"

Whereupon Trescott perceived that the old man wore his brains above
his shoulders, and Trescott departed from him rejoicing greatly that
it was only women who could not know that there was finality to most
disasters, and that when a thing was fully done, no amount of
door-slammings, rushing up-stairs and down-stairs, calls,
lamentations, tears, could bring back a single hair to the heads of
twins.

[Illustration: AT THE RAILWAY STATION]

But the rains came and the winds blew in the most biblical way when a
certain fact came to light in the Trescott household. Little Cora,
corroborated by Jimmie, innocently remarked that five dollars had been
given her by her father on her birthday, and with this money the evil
had been wrought. Trescott had known it, but he--thoughtful man--had
said nothing. For her part, the mother of the angel child had up to
that moment never reflected that the consummation of the wickedness
must have cost a small sum of money. But now it was all clear to her.
He was the guilty one--he! "My angel child!"

The scene which ensued was inspiriting. A few days later, loungers at
the railway station saw a lady leading a shorn and still undaunted
lamb. Attached to them was a husband and father, who was plainly
bewildered, but still more plainly vexed, as if he would be saying:
"Damn 'em! Why can't they leave me alone?"



II

LYNX-HUNTING


Jimmie lounged about the dining-room and watched his mother with
large, serious eyes. Suddenly he said, "Ma--now--can I borrow pa's
gun?"

She was overcome with the feminine horror which is able to mistake
preliminary words for the full accomplishment of the dread thing.
"Why, Jimmie!" she cried. "Of al-l wonders! Your father's gun! No
indeed you can't!"

He was fairly well crushed, but he managed to mutter, sullenly, "Well,
Willie Dalzel, he's got a gun." In reality his heart had previously
been beating with such tumult--he had himself been so impressed with
the daring and sin of his request--that he was glad that all was over
now, and his mother could do very little further harm to his
sensibilities. He had been influenced into the venture by the larger
boys.

[Illustration: "'MA--NOW--CAN I BORROW PA'S GUN?'"]

"Huh!" the Dalzel urchin had said; "your father's got a gun, hasn't
he? Well, why don't you bring that?"

Puffing himself, Jimmie had replied, "Well, I can, if I want to." It
was a black lie, but really the Dalzel boy was too outrageous with his
eternal bill-posting about the gun which a beaming uncle had intrusted
to him. Its possession made him superior in manfulness to most boys in
the neighborhood--or at least they enviously conceded him such
position--but he was so overbearing, and stuffed the fact of his
treasure so relentlessly down their throats, that on this occasion the
miserable Jimmie had lied as naturally as most animals swim.

Willie Dalzel had not been checkmated, for he had instantly retorted,
"Why don't you get it, then?"

"Well, I can, if I want to."

"Well, get it, then!"

"Well, I can, if I want to."

Thereupon Jimmie had paced away with great airs of surety as far as
the door of his home, where his manner changed to one of tremulous
misgiving as it came upon him to address his mother in the
dining-room. There had happened that which had happened.

When Jimmie returned to his two distinguished companions he was blown
out with a singular pomposity. He spoke these noble words: "Oh, well,
I guess I don't want to take the gun out to-day."

They had been watching him with gleaming ferret eyes, and they
detected his falsity at once. They challenged him with shouted gibes,
but it was not in the rules for the conduct of boys that one should
admit anything whatsoever, and so Jimmie, backed into an ethical
corner, lied as stupidly, as desperately, as hopelessly as ever lone
savage fights when surrounded at last in his jungle.

Such accusations were never known to come to any point, for the reason
that the number and kind of denials always equalled or exceeded the
number of accusations, and no boy was ever brought really to book for
these misdeeds.

In the end they went off together, Willie Dalzel with his gun being a
trifle in advance and discoursing upon his various works. They passed
along a maple-lined avenue, a highway common to boys bound for that
free land of hills and woods in which they lived in some part their
romance of the moment, whether it was of Indians, miners, smugglers,
soldiers, or outlaws. The paths were their paths, and much was known
to them of the secrets of the dark green hemlock thickets, the wastes
of sweet-fern and huckleberry, the cliffs of gaunt bluestone with the
sumach burning red at their feet. Each boy had, I am sure, a
conviction that some day the wilderness was to give forth to him a
marvellous secret. They felt that the hills and the forest knew much,
and they heard a voice of it in the silence. It was vague, thrilling,
fearful, and altogether fabulous. The grown folk seemed to regard
these wastes merely as so much distance between one place and another
place, or as a rabbit-cover, or as a district to be judged according
to the value of the timber; but to the boys it spoke some great
inspiring word, which they knew even as those who pace the shore know
the enigmatic speech of the surf. In the mean time they lived there,
in season, lives of ringing adventure--by dint of imagination.

The boys left the avenue, skirted hastily through some private
grounds, climbed a fence, and entered the thickets. It happened that
at school the previous day Willie Dalzel had been forced to read and
acquire in some part a solemn description of a lynx. The meagre
information thrust upon him had caused him grimaces of suffering, but
now he said, suddenly, "I'm goin' to shoot a lynx."

The other boys admired this statement, but they were silent for a
time. Finally Jimmie said, meekly, "What's a lynx?" He had endured his
ignorance as long as he was able.

The Dalzel boy mocked him. "Why, don't you know what a lynx is? A
lynx? Why, a lynx is a animal somethin' like a cat, an' it's got great
big green eyes, and it sits on the limb of a tree an' jus' glares at
you. It's a pretty bad animal, I tell you. Why, when I--"

"Huh!" said the third boy. "Where'd you ever see a lynx?"

"Oh, I've seen 'em--plenty of 'em. I bet you'd be scared if you seen
one once."

Jimmie and the other boy each demanded, "How do you know I would?"

They penetrated deeper into the wood. They climbed a rocky zigzag path
which led them at times where with their hands they could almost touch
the tops of giant pines. The gray cliffs sprang sheer towards the sky.
Willie Dalzel babbled about his impossible lynx, and they stalked the
mountain-side like chamois-hunters, although no noise of bird or beast
broke the stillness of the hills. Below them Whilomville was spread
out somewhat like the cheap green and black lithograph of the time--"A
Bird's-eye View of Whilomville, N. Y."

[Illustration: THE DALZEL BOY TAKING THE PART OF A BANDIT CHIEF]

In the end the boys reached the top of the mountain and scouted off
among wild and desolate ridges. They were burning with the desire to
slay large animals. They thought continually of elephants, lions,
tigers, crocodiles. They discoursed upon their immaculate conduct in
case such monsters confronted them, and they all lied carefully about
their courage.

The breeze was heavy with the smell of sweet-fern. The pines and
hemlocks sighed as they waved their branches. In the hollows the
leaves of the laurels were lacquered where the sunlight found them. No
matter the weather, it would be impossible to long continue an
expedition of this kind without a fire, and presently they built one,
snapping down for fuel the brittle under-branches of the pines. About
this fire they were willed to conduct a sort of play, the Dalzel boy
taking the part of a bandit chief, and the other boys being his trusty
lieutenants. They stalked to and fro, long-strided, stern yet
devil-may-care, three terrible little figures.

Jimmie had an uncle who made game of him whenever he caught him in
this kind of play, and often this uncle quoted derisively the
following classic: "Once aboard the lugger, Bill, and the girl is
mine. Now to burn the château and destroy all evidence of our crime.
But, hark'e, Bill, no wiolence." Wheeling abruptly, he addressed these
dramatic words to his comrades. They were impressed; they decided at
once to be smugglers, and in the most ribald fashion they talked about
carrying off young women.

At last they continued their march through the woods. The smuggling
_motif_ was now grafted fantastically upon the original lynx idea,
which Willie Dalzel refused to abandon at any price.

Once they came upon an innocent bird who happened to be looking
another way at the time. After a great deal of manoevering and big
words, Willie Dalzel reared his fowling-piece and blew this poor thing
into a mere rag of wet feathers, of which he was proud.

Afterwards the other big boy had a turn at another bird. Then it was
plainly Jimmie's chance. The two others had, of course, some thought
of cheating him out of this chance, but of a truth he was timid to
explode such a thunderous weapon, and as soon as they detected this
fear they simply overbore him, and made it clearly understood that if
he refused to shoot he would lose his caste, his scalp-lock, his
girdle, his honor.

They had reached the old death-colored snake-fence which marked the
limits of the upper pasture of the Fleming farm. Under some
hickory-trees the path ran parallel to the fence. Behold! a small
priestly chipmonk came to a rail, and folding his hands on his
abdomen, addressed them in his own tongue. It was Jimmie's shot.
Adjured by the others, he took the gun. His face was stiff with
apprehension. The Dalzel boy was giving forth fine words. "Go ahead.
Aw, don't be afraid. It's nothin' to do. Why, I've done it a million
times. Don't shut both your eyes, now. Jus' keep one open and shut the
other one. He'll get away if you don't watch out. Now you're all
right. Why don't you let'er go? Go ahead."

[Illustration: "THERE WAS A FRIGHTFUL ROAR"]

Jimmie, with his legs braced apart, was in the centre of the path. His
back was greatly bent, owing to the mechanics of supporting the heavy
gun. His companions were screeching in the rear. There was a wait.

Then he pulled trigger. To him there was a frightful roar, his cheek
and his shoulder took a stunning blow, his face felt a hot flush of
fire, and opening his two eyes, he found that he was still alive. He
was not too dazed to instantly adopt a becoming egotism. It had been
the first shot of his life.

But directly after the well-mannered celebration of this victory a
certain cow, which had been grazing in the line of fire, was seen to
break wildly across the pasture, bellowing and bucking. The three
smugglers and lynx-hunters looked at each other out of blanched faces.
Jimmie had hit the cow. The first evidence of his comprehension of
this fact was in the celerity with which he returned the discharged
gun to Willie Dalzel.

They turned to flee. The land was black, as if it had been
overshadowed suddenly with thick storm-clouds, and even as they fled
in their horror a gigantic Swedish farm-hand came from the heavens and
fell upon them, shrieking in eerie triumph. In a twinkle they were
clouted prostrate. The Swede was elate and ferocious in a foreign and
fulsome way. He continued to beat them and yell.

From the ground they raised their dismal appeal. "Oh, please, mister,
we didn't do it! He did it! I didn't do it! We didn't do it! We didn't
mean to do it! Oh, please, mister!"

In these moments of childish terror little lads go half-blind, and it
is possible that few moments of their after-life made them suffer as
they did when the Swede flung them over the fence and marched them
towards the farm-house. They begged like cowards on the scaffold,
and each one was for himself. "Oh, please let me go, mister! I didn't
do it, mister! He did it! Oh, p-l-ease let me go, mister!"

[Illustration: "'I THOUGHT SHE WAS A LYNX'"]

The boyish view belongs to boys alone, and if this tall and knotted
laborer was needlessly without charity, none of the three lads
questioned it. Usually when they were punished they decided that they
deserved it, and the more they were punished the more they were
convinced that they were criminals of a most subterranean type. As to
the hitting of the cow being a pure accident, and therefore not of
necessity a criminal matter, such reading never entered their heads.
When things happened and they were caught, they commonly paid dire
consequences, and they were accustomed to measure the probabilities of
woe utterly by the damage done, and not in any way by the culpability.
The shooting of the cow was plainly heinous, and undoubtedly their
dungeons would be knee-deep in water.

"He did it, mister!" This was a general outcry. Jimmie used it as
often as did the others. As for them, it is certain that they had no
direct thought of betraying their comrade for their own salvation.
They thought themselves guilty because they were caught; when boys
were not caught they might possibly be innocent. But captured boys
were guilty. When they cried out that Jimmie was the culprit, it was
principally a simple expression of terror.

Old Henry Fleming, the owner of the farm, strode across the pasture
towards them. He had in his hand a most cruel whip. This whip he
flourished. At his approach the boys suffered the agonies of the fire
regions. And yet anybody with half an eye could see that the whip in
his hand was a mere accident, and that he was a kind old man--when he
cared.

When he had come near he spoke crisply. "What you boys ben doin' to my
cow?" The tone had deep threat in it. They all answered by saying that
none of them had shot the cow. Their denials were tearful and
clamorous, and they crawled knee by knee. The vision of it was like
three martyrs being dragged towards the stake. Old Fleming stood
there, grim, tight-lipped. After a time he said, "Which boy done it?"

There was some confusion, and then Jimmie spake. "I done it, mister."

Fleming looked at him. Then he asked, "Well, what did you shoot 'er
fer?"

Jimmie thought, hesitated, decided, faltered, and then formulated
this: "I thought she was a lynx."

Old Fleming and his Swede at once lay down in the grass and laughed
themselves helpless.



III

THE LOVER AND THE TELLTALE


When the angel child returned with her parents to New York, the fond
heart of Jimmie Trescott felt its bruise greatly. For two days he
simply moped, becoming a stranger to all former joys. When his old
comrades yelled invitation, as they swept off on some interesting
quest, he replied with mournful gestures of disillusion.

He thought often of writing to her, but of course the shame of it made
him pause. Write a letter to a girl? The mere enormity of the idea
caused him shudders. Persons of his quality never wrote letters to
girls. Such was the occupation of mollycoddles and snivellers. He knew
that if his acquaintances and friends found in him evidences of such
weakness and general milkiness, they would fling themselves upon him
like so many wolves, and bait him beyond the borders of sanity.

However, one day at school, in that time of the morning session when
children of his age were allowed fifteen minutes of play in the
school-grounds, he did not as usual rush forth ferociously to his
games. Commonly he was of the worst hoodlums, preying upon his weaker
brethren with all the cruel disregard of a grown man. On this
particular morning he stayed in the school-room, and with his tongue
stuck from the corner of his mouth, and his head twisting in a painful
way, he wrote to little Cora, pouring out to her all the poetry of his
hungry soul, as follows: "My dear Cora I love thee with all my hart oh
come bac again, bac, bac gain for I love thee best of all oh come bac
again When the spring come again we'l fly and we'l fly like a brid."

As for the last word, he knew under normal circumstances perfectly
well how to spell "bird," but in this case he had transposed two of
the letters through excitement, supreme agitation.

Nor had this letter been composed without fear and furtive glancing.
There was always a number of children who, for the time, cared more
for the quiet of the school-room than for the tempest of the
play-ground, and there was always that dismal company who were being
forcibly deprived of their recess--who were being "kept in." More than
one curious eye was turned upon the desperate and lawless Jimmie
Trescott suddenly taken to ways of peace, and as he felt these eyes he
flushed guiltily, with felonious glances from side to side.

It happened that a certain vigilant little girl had a seat directly
across the aisle from Jimmie's seat, and she had remained in the room
during the intermission, because of her interest in some absurd
domestic details concerning her desk. Parenthetically it might be
stated that she was in the habit of imagining this desk to be a house,
and at this time, with an important little frown, indicative of a
proper matron, she was engaged in dramatizing her ideas of a
household.

But this small Rose Goldege happened to be of a family which numbered
few males. It was, in fact, one of those curious middle-class families
that hold much of their ground, retain most of their position, after
all their visible means of support have been dropped in the grave. It
contained now only a collection of women who existed submissively,
defiantly, securely, mysteriously, in a pretentious and often
exasperating virtue. It was often too triumphantly clear that they
were free of bad habits. However, bad habits is a term here used in a
commoner meaning, because it is certainly true that the principal and
indeed solitary joy which entered their lonely lives was the joy of
talking wickedly and busily about their neighbors. It was all done
without dream of its being of the vulgarity of the alleys. Indeed it
was simply a constitutional but not incredible chastity and honesty
expressing itself in its ordinary superior way of the whirling circles
of life, and the vehemence of the criticism was not lessened by a
further infusion of an acid of worldly defeat, worldly suffering, and
worldly hopelessness.

Out of this family circle had sprung the typical little girl who
discovered Jimmie Trescott agonizingly writing a letter to his
sweetheart. Of course all the children were the most abandoned
gossips, but she was peculiarly adapted to the purpose of making
Jimmie miserable over this particular point. It was her life to sit of
evenings about the stove and hearken to her mother and a lot of
spinsters talk of many things. During these evenings she was never
licensed to utter an opinion either one way or the other way. She was
then simply a very little girl sitting open-eyed in the gloom, and
listening to many things which she often interpreted wrongly. They on
their part kept up a kind of a smug-faced pretence of concealing from
her information in detail of the widespread crime, which pretence may
have been more elaborately dangerous than no pretence at all. Thus all
her home-teaching fitted her to recognize at once in Jimmie Trescott's
manner that he was concealing something that would properly interest
the world. She set up a scream. "Oh! Oh! Oh! Jimmie Trescott's writing
to his girl! Oh! Oh!"

Jimmie cast a miserable glance upon her--a glance in which hatred
mingled with despair. Through the open window he could hear the
boisterous cries of his friends--his hoodlum friends--who would no
more understand the utter poetry of his position than they would
understand an ancient tribal sign-language. His face was set in a
truer expression of horror than any of the romances describe upon the
features of a man flung into a moat, a man shot in the breast with an
arrow, a man cleft in the neck with a battle-axe. He was suppedaneous
of the fullest power of childish pain. His one course was to rush upon
her and attempt, by an impossible means of strangulation, to keep her
important news from the public.

The teacher, a thoughtful young woman at her desk upon the platform,
saw a little scuffle which informed her that two of her scholars were
larking. She called out sharply. The command penetrated to the middle
of an early world struggle. In Jimmie's age there was no particular
scruple in the minds of the male sex against laying warrior hands upon
their weaker sisters. But, of course, this voice from the throne
hindered Jimmie in what might have been a berserk attack.

Even the little girl was retarded by the voice, but, without being
unlawful, she managed soon to shy through the door and out upon the
play-ground, yelling, "Oh, Jimmie Trescott's been writing to his
girl!"

The unhappy Jimmie was following as closely as he was allowed by his
knowledge of the decencies to be preserved under the eye of the
teacher.

Jimmie himself was mainly responsible for the scene which ensued on
the play-ground. It is possible that the little girl might have run,
shrieking his infamy, without exciting more than a general but
unmilitant interest. These barbarians were excited only by the actual
appearance of human woe; in that event they cheered and danced. Jimmie
made the strategic mistake of pursuing little Rose, and thus exposed
his thin skin to the whole school. He had in his cowering mind a
vision of a hundred children turning from their play under the
maple-trees and speeding towards him over the gravel with sudden wild
taunts. Upon him drove a yelping demoniac mob, to which his words were
futile. He saw in this mob boys that he dimly knew, and his deadly
enemies, and his retainers, and his most intimate friends. The
virulence of his deadly enemy was no greater than the virulence of his
intimate friend. From the outskirts the little informer could be heard
still screaming the news, like a toy parrot with clock-work inside of
it. It broke up all sorts of games, not so much because of the mere
fact of the letter-writing, as because the children knew that some
sufferer was at the last point, and, like little blood-fanged wolves,
they thronged to the scene of his destruction. They galloped about him
shrilly chanting insults. He turned from one to another, only to meet
with howls. He was baited.

Then, in one instant, he changed all this with a blow. Bang! The most
pitiless of the boys near him received a punch, fairly and skilfully,
which made him bellow out like a walrus, and then Jimmie laid
desperately into the whole world, striking out frenziedly in all
directions. Boys who could handily whip him, and knew it, backed away
from this onslaught. Here was intention--serious intention. They
themselves were not in frenzy, and their cooler judgment respected
Jimmie's efforts when he ran amuck. They saw that it really was none
of their affair. In the mean time the wretched little girl who had
caused the bloody riot was away, by the fence, weeping because boys
were fighting.

[Illustration: "THEY GALLOPED ABOUT HIM, SHRILLY CHANTING INSULTS."]

Jimmie several times hit the wrong boy--that is to say, he several
times hit a wrong boy hard enough to arouse also in him a spirit of
strife. Jimmie wore a little shirt-waist. It was passing now rapidly
into oblivion. He was sobbing, and there was one blood stain upon his
cheek. The school-ground sounded like a pinetree when a hundred crows
roost in it at night.

Then upon the situation there pealed a brazen bell. It was a bell that
these children obeyed, even as older nations obey the formal law which
is printed in calf-skin. It smote them into some sort of inaction;
even Jimmie was influenced by its potency, although, as a finale, he
kicked out lustily into the legs of an intimate friend who had been
one of the foremost in the torture.

When they came to form into line for the march into the school-room it
was curious that Jimmie had many admirers. It was not his prowess; it
was the soul he had infused into his gymnastics; and he, still
panting, looked about him with a stern and challenging glare.

And yet when the long tramping line had entered the school-room his
status had again changed. The other children then began to regard him
as a boy in disrepair, and boys in disrepair were always accosted
ominously from the throne. Jimmie's march towards his seat was a feat.
It was composed partly of a most slinking attempt to dodge the
perception of the teacher and partly of pure braggadocio erected for
the benefit of his observant fellow-men.

The teacher looked carefully down at him. "Jimmie Trescott," she said.

"Yes'm," he answered, with businesslike briskness, which really
spelled out falsity in all its letters.

"Come up to the desk."

He rose amid the awe of the entire school-room. When he arrived she
said,

"Jimmie, you've been fighting."

"Yes'm," he answered. This was not so much an admission of the fact as
it was a concessional answer to anything she might say.

"Who have you been fighting?" she asked.

"I dunno', 'm."

Whereupon the empress blazed out in wrath. "You don't know who you've
been fighting?"

Jimmie looked at her gloomily. "No, 'm."

She seemed about to disintegrate to mere flaming fagots of anger. "You
don't know who you've been fighting?" she demanded, blazing. "Well,
you stay in after school until you find out."

As he returned to his place all the children knew by his vanquished
air that sorrow had fallen upon the house of Trescott. When he took
his seat he saw gloating upon him the satanic black eyes of the little
Goldege girl.



IV

"SHOWIN' OFF"


Jimmie Trescott's new velocipede had the largest front wheel of any
velocipede in Whilomville. When it first arrived from New York he
wished to sacrifice school, food, and sleep to it. Evidently he wished
to become a sort of a perpetual velocipede-rider. But the powers of
the family laid a number of judicious embargoes upon him, and he was
prevented from becoming a fanatic. Of course this caused him to retain
a fondness for the three-wheeled thing much longer than if he had been
allowed to debauch himself for a span of days. But in the end it was
an immaterial machine to him. For long periods he left it idle in the
stable.

One day he loitered from school towards home by a very circuitous
route. He was accompanied by only one of his retainers. The object of
this détour was the wooing of a little girl in a red hood. He had
been in love with her for some three weeks. His desk was near her desk
in school, but he had never spoken to her. He had been afraid to take
such a radical step. It was not customary to speak to girls. Even boys
who had school-going sisters seldom addressed them during that part of
a day which was devoted to education.

The reasons for this conduct were very plain. First, the more robust
boys considered talking with girls an unmanly occupation; second, the
greater part of the boys were afraid; third, they had no idea of what
to say, because they esteemed the proper sentences should be
supernaturally incisive and eloquent. In consequence, a small
contingent of blue-eyed weaklings were the sole intimates of the frail
sex, and for it they were boisterously and disdainfully called
"girl-boys."

But this situation did not prevent serious and ardent wooing. For
instance, Jimmie and the little girl who wore the red hood must have
exchanged glances at least two hundred times in every school-hour, and
this exchange of glances accomplished everything. In them the two
children renewed their curious inarticulate vows.

Jimmie had developed a devotion to school which was the admiration of
his father and mother. In the mornings he was so impatient to have it
made known to him that no misfortune had befallen his romance during
the night that he was actually detected at times feverishly listening
for the "first bell." Dr. Trescott was exceedingly complacent of the
change, and as for Mrs. Trescott, she had ecstatic visions of a
white-haired Jimmie leading the nations in knowledge, comprehending
all from bugs to comets. It was merely the doing of the little girl in
the red hood.

When Jimmie made up his mind to follow his sweetheart home from
school, the project seemed such an arbitrary and shameless innovation
that he hastily lied to himself about it. No, he was not following
Abbie. He was merely making his way homeward through the new and
rather longer route of Bryant Street and Oakland Park. It had nothing
at all to do with a girl. It was a mere eccentric notion.

"Come on," said Jimmie, gruffly, to his retainer. "Let's go home this
way."

"What fer?" demanded the retainer.

"Oh, b'cause."

"Huh?"

"Oh, it's more fun--goin' this way."

The retainer was bored and loath, but that mattered very little. He
did not know how to disobey his chief. Together they followed the
trail of red-hooded Abbie and another small girl. These latter at once
understood the object of the chase, and looking back giggling, they
pretended to quicken their pace. But they were always looking back.
Jimmie now began his courtship in earnest. The first thing to do was
to prove his strength in battle. This was transacted by means of the
retainer. He took that devoted boy and flung him heavily to the
ground, meanwhile mouthing a preposterous ferocity.

The retainer accepted this behavior with a sort of bland resignation.
After his overthrow he raised himself, coolly brushed some dust and
dead leaves from his clothes, and then seemed to forget the incident.

"I can jump farther'n you can," said Jimmie, in a loud voice.

"I know it," responded the retainer, simply.

But this would not do. There must be a contest.

"Come on," shouted Jimmie, imperiously. "Let's see you jump."

The retainer selected a footing on the curb, balanced and calculated a
moment, and jumped without enthusiasm. Jimmie's leap of course was
longer.

"There!" he cried, blowing out his lips. "I beat you, didn't I? Easy.
I beat you." He made a great hubbub, as if the affair was
unprecedented.

"Yes," admitted the other, emotionless.

Later, Jimmie forced his retainer to run a race with him, held more
jumping matches, flung him twice to earth, and generally behaved as if
a retainer was indestructible. If the retainer had been in the plot,
it is conceivable that he would have endured this treatment with mere
whispered, half-laughing protests. But he was not in the plot at all,
and so he became enigmatic. One cannot often sound the profound well
in which lie the meanings of boyhood.

Following the two little girls, Jimmie eventually passed into that
suburb of Whilomville which is called Oakland Park. At his heels came
a badly battered retainer. Oakland Park was a somewhat strange country
to the boys. They were dubious of the manners and customs, and of
course they would have to meet the local chieftains, who might look
askance upon this invasion.

Jimmie's girl departed into her home with a last backward glance that
almost blinded the thrilling boy. On this pretext and that pretext, he
kept his retainer in play before the house. He had hopes that she
would emerge as soon as she had deposited her school-bag.

A boy came along the walk. Jimmie knew him at school. He was Tommie
Semple, one of the weaklings who made friends with the fair sex.
"Hello, Tom," said Jimmie. "You live round here?"

"Yeh," said Tom, with composed pride. At school he was afraid of
Jimmie, but he did not evince any of this fear as he strolled well
inside his own frontiers. Jimmie and his retainer had not expected
this boy to display the manners of a minor chief, and they
contemplated him attentively. There was a silence. Finally Jimmie
said:

"I can put you down." He moved forward briskly. "Can't I?" he
demanded.

The challenged boy backed away. "I know you can," he declared, frankly
and promptly.

The little girl in the red hood had come out with a hoop. She looked
at Jimmie with an air of insolent surprise in the fact that he still
existed, and began to trundle her hoop off towards some other little
girls who were shrilly playing near a nurse-maid and a perambulator.

Jimmie adroitly shifted his position until he too was playing near the
perambulator, pretentiously making mince-meat out of his retainer and
Tommie Semple.

Of course little Abbie had defined the meaning of Jimmie's appearance
in Oakland Park. Despite this nonchalance and grand air of accident,
nothing could have been more plain. Whereupon she of course became
insufferably vain in manner, and whenever Jimmie came near her she
tossed her head and turned away her face, and daintily swished her
skirts as if he were contagion itself. But Jimmie was happy. His soul
was satisfied with the mere presence of the beloved object so long as
he could feel that she furtively gazed upon him from time to time and
noted his extraordinary prowess, which he was proving upon the persons
of his retainer and Tommie Semple. And he was making an impression.
There could be no doubt of it. He had many times caught her eye fixed
admiringly upon him as he mauled the retainer. Indeed, all the little
girls gave attention to his deeds, and he was the hero of the hour.

Presently a boy on a velocipede was seen to be tooling down towards
them. "Who's this comin'?" said Jimmie, bluntly, to the Semple boy.

"That's Horace Glenn," said Tommie, "an' he's got a new velocipede,
an' he can ride it like anything."

"Can you lick him?" asked Jimmie.

"I don't--I never fought with 'im," answered the other. He bravely
tried to appear as a man of respectable achievement, but with Horace
coming towards them the risk was too great. However, he added,
"_Maybe_ I could."

The advent of Horace on his new velocipede created a sensation which
he haughtily accepted as a familiar thing. Only Jimmie and his
retainer remained silent and impassive. Horace eyed the two invaders.

"Hello, Jimmie!"

"Hello, Horace!"

After the typical silence Jimmie said, pompously, "I got a
velocipede."

"Have you?" asked Horace, anxiously. He did not wish anybody in the
world but himself to possess a velocipede.

"Yes," sang Jimmie. "An' it's a bigger one than that, too! A good deal
bigger! An' it's a better one, too!"

"Huh!" retorted Horace, sceptically.

"'Ain't I, Clarence? 'Ain't I? 'Ain't I got one bigger'n that?"

The retainer answered with alacrity:

"Yes, he has! A good deal bigger! An' it's a dindy, too!"

This corroboration rather disconcerted Horace, but he continued to
scoff at any statement that Jimmie also owned a velocipede. As for the
contention that this supposed velocipede could be larger than his own,
he simply wouldn't hear of it.

Jimmie had been a very gallant figure before the coming of Horace, but
the new velocipede had relegated him to a squalid secondary position.
So he affected to look with contempt upon it. Voluminously he bragged
of the velocipede in the stable at home. He painted its virtues and
beauty in loud and extravagant words, flaming words. And the retainer
stood by, glibly endorsing everything.

The little company heeded him, and he passed on vociferously from
extravagance to utter impossibility. Horace was very sick of it. His
defence was reduced to a mere mechanical grumbling: "Don't believe you
got one 'tall. Don't believe you got one 'tall."

Jimmie turned upon him suddenly. "How fast can you go? How fast can
you go?" he demanded. "Let's see. I bet you can't go fast."

Horace lifted his spirits and answered with proper defiance. "Can't
I?" he mocked. "Can't I?"

"No, you can't," said Jimmie. "You can't go fast."

Horace cried: "Well, you see me now! I'll show you! I'll show you if I
can't go fast!" Taking a firm seat on his vermilion machine, he
pedalled furiously up the walk, turned, and pedalled back again.
"There, now!" he shouted, triumphantly. "Ain't that fast? There, now!"
There was a low murmur of appreciation from the little girls. Jimmie
saw with pain that even his divinity was smiling upon his rival.
"There! Ain't that fast? Ain't that fast?" He strove to pin Jimmie
down to an admission. He was exuberant with victory.

Notwithstanding a feeling of discomfiture, Jimmie did not lose a
moment of time. "Why," he yelled, "that ain't goin' fast 'tall! That
ain't goin' fast 'tall! Why, I can go almost _twice_ as fast as that!
Almost _twice_ as fast! Can't I, Clarence?"

The royal retainer nodded solemnly at the wide-eyed group. "Course you
can!"

"Why," spouted Jimmie, "you just ought to see me ride once! You just
ought to see me! Why, I can go like the wind! Can't I, Clarence? And
I can ride far, too--oh, awful far! Can't I, Clarence? Why, I wouldn't
have that one! 'Tain't any good! You just ought to see mine once!"

The overwhelmed Horace attempted to reconstruct his battered glories.
"I can ride right over the curb-stone--at some of the crossin's," he
announced, brightly.

Jimmie's derision was a splendid sight. "_'Right over the
curb-stone!_' Why, that wouldn't be _nothin'_ for me to do! I've rode
mine down Bridge Street hill. Yessir! 'Ain't I, Clarence? Why, it
ain't nothin' to ride over a curb-stone--not for _me_! Is it,
Clarence?"

"Down Bridge Street hill? You never!" said Horace, hopelessly.

"Well, didn't I, Clarence? Didn't I, now?"

The faithful retainer again nodded solemnly at the assemblage.

At last Horace, having fallen as low as was possible, began to display
a spirit for climbing up again. "Oh, you can do wonders!" he said,
laughing. "You can do wonders! I s'pose you could ride down that bank
there?" he asked, with art. He had indicated a grassy terrace some six
feet in height which bounded one side of the walk. At the bottom was a
small ravine in which the reckless had flung ashes and tins. "I
s'pose you could ride down that bank?"

[Illustration: "'I--' HE BEGAN. THEN HE VANISHED FROM THE EDGE OF THE
WALK."]

All eyes now turned upon Jimmie to detect a sign of his weakening, but
he instantly and sublimely arose to the occasion. "That bank?" he
asked, scornfully. "Why, I've ridden down banks like that many a time.
'Ain't I, Clarence?"

This was too much for the company. A sound like the wind in the leaves
arose; it was the song of incredulity and ridicule. "O--o--o--o--o!"
And on the outskirts a little girl suddenly shrieked out,
"Story-teller!"

Horace had certainly won a skirmish. He was gleeful. "Oh, you can do
wonders!" he gurgled. "You can do wonders!" The neighborhood's
superficial hostility to foreigners arose like magic under the
influence of his sudden success, and Horace had the delight of seeing
Jimmie persecuted in that manner known only to children and insects.

Jimmie called angrily to the boy on the velocipede, "If you'll lend me
yours, I'll show you whether I can or not."

Horace turned his superior nose in the air. "Oh no! I don't ever lend
it." Then he thought of a blow which would make Jimmie's humiliation
complete. "Besides," he said, airily, "'tain't really anything hard
to do. I could do it--easy--if I wanted to."

But his supposed adherents, instead of receiving this boast with
cheers, looked upon him in a sudden blank silence. Jimmie and his
retainer pounced like cats upon their advantage.

"Oh," they yelled, "you _could_, eh? Well, let's see you do it, then!
Let's see you do it! Let's see you do it! Now!" In a moment the crew
of little spectators were gibing at Horace.

The blow that would make Jimmie's humiliation complete! Instead, it
had boomeranged Horace into the mud. He kept up a sullen muttering:

"'Tain't really anything! I could if I wanted to!"

"Dare you to!" screeched Jimmie and his partisans. "Dare you to! Dare
you to! Dare you to!"

There were two things to be done--to make gallant effort or to
retreat. Somewhat to their amazement, the children at last found
Horace moving through their clamor to the edge of the bank. Sitting on
the velocipede, he looked at the ravine, and then, with gloomy pride,
at the other children. A hush came upon them, for it was seen that he
was intending to make some kind of an ante-mortem statement.

"I--" he began. Then he vanished from the edge of the walk. The start
had been unintentional--an accident.

The stupefied Jimmie saw the calamity through a haze. His first clear
vision was when Horace, with a face as red as a red flag, arose
bawling from his tangled velocipede. He and his retainer exchanged a
glance of horror and fled the neighborhood. They did not look back
until they had reached the top of the hill near the lake. They could
see Horace walking slowly under the maples towards his home, pushing
his shattered velocipede before him. His chin was thrown high, and the
breeze bore them the sound of his howls.



V

MAKING AN ORATOR


In the school at Whilomville it was the habit, when children had
progressed to a certain class, to have them devote Friday afternoon to
what was called elocution. This was in the piteously ignorant belief
that orators were thus made. By process of school law, unfortunate
boys and girls were dragged up to address their fellow-scholars in the
literature of the mid-century. Probably the children who were most
capable of expressing themselves, the children who were most sensitive
to the power of speech, suffered the most wrong. Little blockheads who
could learn eight lines of conventional poetry, and could get up and
spin it rapidly at their classmates, did not undergo a single pang.
The plan operated mainly to agonize many children permanently against
arising to speak their thought to fellow-creatures.

Jimmie Trescott had an idea that by exhibition of undue ignorance he
could escape from being promoted into the first class room which
exacted such penalty from its inmates. He preferred to dwell in a less
classic shade rather than venture into a domain where he was obliged
to perform a certain duty which struck him as being worse than death.
However, willy-nilly, he was somehow sent ahead into the place of
torture.

Every Friday at least ten of the little children had to mount the
stage beside the teacher's desk and babble something which none of
them understood. This was to make them orators. If it had been ordered
that they should croak like frogs, it would have advanced most of them
just as far towards oratory.

Alphabetically Jimmie Trescott was near the end of the list of
victims, but his time was none the less inevitable. "Tanner, Timmens,
Trass, Trescott--" He saw his downfall approaching.

He was passive to the teacher while she drove into his mind the
incomprehensible lines of "The Charge of the Light Brigade":

    Half a league, half a league,
    Half a league onward--

He had no conception of a league. If in the ordinary course of life
somebody had told him that he was half a league from home, he might
have been frightened that half a league was fifty miles; but he
struggled manfully with the valley of death and a mystic six hundred,
who were performing something there which was very fine, he had been
told. He learned all the verses.

But as his own Friday afternoon approached he was moved to make known
to his family that a dreadful disease was upon him, and was likely at
any time to prevent him from going to his beloved school.

On the great Friday when the children of his initials were to speak
their pieces Dr. Trescott was away from home, and the mother of the
boy was alarmed beyond measure at Jimmie's curious illness, which
caused him to lie on the rug in front of the fire and groan
cavernously.

She bathed his feet in hot mustard water until they were lobster-red.
She also placed a mustard plaster on his chest.

He announced that these remedies did him no good at all--no good at
all. With an air of martyrdom he endured a perfect downpour of
motherly attention all that day. Thus the first Friday was passed in
safety.

With singular patience he sat before the fire in the dining-room and
looked at picture-books, only complaining of pain when he suspected
his mother of thinking that he was getting better.

The next day being Saturday and a holiday, he was miraculously
delivered from the arms of disease, and went forth to play, a
blatantly healthy boy.

He had no further attack until Thursday night of the next week, when
he announced that he felt very, very poorly. The mother was already
chronically alarmed over the condition of her son, but Dr. Trescott
asked him questions which denoted some incredulity. On the third
Friday Jimmie was dropped at the door of the school from the doctor's
buggy. The other children, notably those who had already passed over
the mountain of distress, looked at him with glee, seeing in him
another lamb brought to butchery. Seated at his desk in the
school-room, Jimmie sometimes remembered with dreadful distinctness
every line of "The Charge of the Light Brigade," and at other times
his mind was utterly empty of it. Geography, arithmetic, and
spelling--usually great tasks--quite rolled off him. His mind was
dwelling with terror upon the time when his name should be called and
he was obliged to go up to the platform, turn, bow, and recite his
message to his fellow-men.

Desperate expedients for delay came to him. If he could have engaged
the services of a real pain, he would have been glad. But steadily,
inexorably, the minutes marched on towards his great crisis, and all
his plans for escape blended into a mere panic fear.

The maples outside were defeating the weakening rays of the afternoon
sun, and in the shadowed school-room had come a stillness, in which,
nevertheless, one could feel the complacence of the little pupils who
had already passed through the flames. They were calmly prepared to
recognize as a spectacle the torture of others.

Little Johnnie Tanner opened the ceremony. He stamped heavily up to
the platform, and bowed in such a manner that he almost fell down. He
blurted out that it would ill befit him to sit silent while the name
of his fair Ireland was being reproached, and he appealed to the
gallant soldier before him if every British battle-field was not sown
with the bones of sons of the Emerald Isle. He was also heard to say
that he had listened with deepening surprise and scorn to the
insinuation of the honorable member from North Glenmorganshire that
the loyalty of the Irish regiments in her Majesty's service could be
questioned. To what purpose, then, he asked, had the blood of Irishmen
flowed on a hundred fields? To what purpose had Irishmen gone to their
death with bravery and devotion in every part of the world where the
victorious flag of England had been carried? If the honorable member
for North Glenmorganshire insisted upon construing a mere pothouse row
between soldiers in Dublin into a grand treachery to the colors and to
her Majesty's uniform, then it was time for Ireland to think bitterly
of her dead sons, whose graves now marked every step of England's
progress, and yet who could have their honors stripped from them so
easily by the honorable member for North Glenmorganshire. Furthermore,
the honorable member for North Glenmorganshire--

It is needless to say that little Johnnie Tanner's language made it
exceedingly hot for the honorable member for North Glenmorganshire.
But Johnnie was not angry. He was only in haste. He finished the
honorable member for North Glenmorganshire in what might be called a
gallop.

Susie Timmens then went to the platform, and with a face as pale as
death whisperingly reiterated that she would be Queen of the May. The
child represented there a perfect picture of unnecessary suffering.
Her small lips were quite blue, and her eyes, opened wide, stared with
a look of horror at nothing.

The phlegmatic Trass boy, with his moon face only expressing peasant
parentage, calmly spoke some undeniably true words concerning destiny.

In his seat Jimmie Trescott was going half blind with fear of his
approaching doom. He wished that the Trass boy would talk forever
about destiny. If the school-house had taken fire he thought that he
would have felt simply relief. Anything was better. Death amid the
flames was preferable to a recital of "The Charge of the Light
Brigade."

But the Trass boy finished his remarks about destiny in a very short
time. Jimmie heard the teacher call his name, and he felt the whole
world look at him. He did not know how he made his way to the stage.
Parts of him seemed to be of lead, and at the same time parts of him
seemed to be light as air, detached. His face had gone as pale as had
been the face of Susie Timmens. He was simply a child in torment; that
is all there is to be said specifically about it; and to intelligent
people the exhibition would have been not more edifying than a
dog-fight.

[Illustation: "AND THEN HE SUDDENLY SAID, 'HALF A LEG--'"]

He bowed precariously, choked, made an inarticulate sound, and then he
suddenly said,

    "Half a leg--"

"_League_," said the teacher, coolly.

    "Half a leg--"

"_League_," said the teacher.

"_League_," repeated Jimmie, wildly.

    "Half a league, half a league, half a league onward."

He paused here and looked wretchedly at the teacher.

"Half a league," he muttered--"half a league--"

He seemed likely to keep continuing this phrase indefinitely, so after
a time the teacher said, "Well, go on."

"Half a league," responded Jimmie.

The teacher had the opened book before her, and she read from it:

    "'All in the valley of Death
    Rode the--'

Go on," she concluded.

Jimmie said,

    "All in the valley of Death
    Rode the--the--the--"

He cast a glance of supreme appeal upon the teacher, and breathlessly
whispered, "Rode the what?"

The young woman flushed with indignation to the roots of her hair.

    "Rode the six hundred,"

she snapped at him.

The class was arustle with delight at this cruel display. They were no
better than a Roman populace in Nero's time.

Jimmie started off again:

    "Half a leg--league, half a league, half a league onward.
    All in the valley of death rode the six hundred.
    Forward--forward--forward--"

"The Light Brigade," suggested the teacher, sharply.

"The Light Brigade," said Jimmie. He was about to die of the ignoble
pain of his position.

As for Tennyson's lines, they had all gone grandly out of his mind,
leaving it a whited wall.

The teacher's indignation was still rampant. She looked at the
miserable wretch before her with an angry stare.

"You stay in after school and learn that all over again," she
commanded. "And be prepared to speak it next Friday. I am astonished
at you, Jimmie. Go to your seat."

If she had suddenly and magically made a spirit of him and left him
free to soar high above all the travail of our earthly lives she could
not have overjoyed him more. He fled back to his seat without hearing
the low-toned gibes of his schoolmates. He gave no thought to the
terrors of the next Friday. The evils of the day had been sufficient,
and to a childish mind a week is a great space of time.

With the delightful inconsistency of his age he sat in blissful calm,
and watched the sufferings of an unfortunate boy named Zimmerman, who
was the next victim of education. Jimmie, of course, did not know that
on this day there had been laid for him the foundation of a finished
incapacity for public speaking which would be his until he died.



VI

SHAME


"Don't come in here botherin' me," said the cook, intolerantly. "What
with your mother bein' away on a visit, an' your father comin' home
soon to lunch, I have enough on my mind--and that without bein'
bothered with _you_. The kitchen is no place for little boys, anyhow.
Run away, and don't be interferin' with my work." She frowned and made
a grand pretence of being deep in herculean labors; but Jimmie did not
run away.

"Now--they're goin' to have a picnic," he said, half audibly.

"What?"

"Now--they're goin' to have a picnic."

"Who's goin' to have a picnic?" demanded the cook, loudly. Her accent
could have led one to suppose that if the projectors did not turn out
to be the proper parties, she immediately would forbid this picnic.

Jimmie looked at her with more hopefulness. After twenty minutes of
futile skirmishing, he had at least succeeded in introducing the
subject. To her question he answered, eagerly:

"Oh, everybody! Lots and lots of boys and girls. Everybody."

"Who's everybody?"

According to custom, Jimmie began to singsong through his nose in a
quite indescribable fashion an enumeration of the prospective
picnickers: "Willie Dalzel an' Dan Earl an' Ella Earl an' Wolcott
Margate an' Reeves Margate an' Walter Phelps an' Homer Phelps an'
Minnie Phelps an'--oh--lots more girls an'--everybody. An' their
mothers an' big sisters too." Then he announced a new bit of
information: "They're goin' to have a picnic."

"Well, let them," said the cook, blandly.

Jimmie fidgeted for a time in silence. At last he murmured, "I--now--I
thought maybe you'd let me go."

The cook turned from her work with an air of irritation and amazement
that Jimmie should still be in the kitchen. "Who's stoppin' you?" she
asked, sharply. "I ain't stoppin' you, am I?"

"No," admitted Jimmie, in a low voice.

"Well, why don't you go, then? Nobody's stoppin' you."

"But," said Jimmie, "I--you--now--each fellow has got to take
somethin' to eat with 'm."

"Oh ho!" cried the cook, triumphantly. "So that's it, is it? So that's
what you've been shyin' round here fer, eh? Well, you may as well take
yourself off without more words. What with your mother bein' away on a
visit, an' your father comin' home soon to his lunch, I have enough on
my mind--an' that without being bothered with _you_!"

Jimmie made no reply, but moved in grief towards the door. The cook
continued: "Some people in this house seem to think there's 'bout a
thousand cooks in this kitchen. Where I used to work b'fore, there was
some reason in 'em. I ain't a horse. A picnic!"

Jimmie said nothing, but he loitered.

"Seems as if I had enough to do, without havin' _you_ come round
talkin' about picnics. Nobody ever seems to think of the work I have
to do. Nobody ever seems to think of it. Then they come and talk to me
about picnics! What do I care about picnics?"

Jimmie loitered.

"Where I used to work b'fore, there was some reason in 'em. I never
heard tell of no picnics right on top of your mother bein' away on a
visit an' your father comin' home soon to his lunch. It's all
foolishness."

Little Jimmie leaned his head flat against the wall and began to weep.
She stared at him scornfully. "Cryin', eh? Cryin'? What are you cryin'
fer?"

"N-n-nothin'," sobbed Jimmie.

There was a silence, save for Jimmie's convulsive breathing. At length
the cook said: "Stop that blubberin', now. Stop it! This kitchen ain't
no place fer it. Stop it!... Very well! If you don't stop, I won't
give you nothin' to go to the picnic with--there!"

For the moment he could not end his tears. "You never said," he
sputtered--"you never said you'd give me anything."

"An' why would I?" she cried, angrily. "Why would I--with you in here
a-cryin' an' a-blubberin' an' a-bleatin' round? Enough to drive a
woman crazy! I don't see how you could expect me to! The idea!"

Suddenly Jimmie announced: "I've stopped cryin'. I ain't goin' to cry
no more 'tall."

"Well, then," grumbled the cook--"well, then, stop it. I've got enough
on my mind." It chanced that she was making for luncheon some salmon
croquettes. A tin still half full of pinky prepared fish was beside
her on the table. Still grumbling, she seized a loaf of bread and,
wielding a knife, she cut from this loaf four slices, each of which
was as big as a six-shilling novel. She profligately spread them with
butter, and jabbing the point of her knife into the salmon-tin, she
brought up bits of salmon, which she flung and flattened upon the
bread. Then she crashed the pieces of bread together in pairs, much as
one would clash cymbals. There was no doubt in her own mind but that
she had created two sandwiches.

"There," she cried. "That'll do you all right. Lemme see. What 'll I
put 'em in? There--I've got it." She thrust the sandwiches into a
small pail and jammed on the lid. Jimmie was ready for the picnic.
"Oh, thank you, Mary!" he cried, joyfully, and in a moment he was off,
running swiftly.

The picnickers had started nearly half an hour earlier, owing to his
inability to quickly attack and subdue the cook, but he knew that the
rendezvous was in the grove of tall, pillarlike hemlocks and pines
that grew on a rocky knoll at the lake shore. His heart was very light
as he sped, swinging his pail. But a few minutes previously his soul
had been gloomed in despair; now he was happy. He was going to the
picnic, where privilege of participation was to be bought by the
contents of the little tin pail.

When he arrived in the outskirts of the grove he heard a merry clamor,
and when he reached the top of the knoll he looked down the slope upon
a scene which almost made his little breast burst with joy. They
actually had two camp-fires! Two camp-fires! At one of them Mrs. Earl
was making something--chocolate, no doubt--and at the other a young
lady in white duck and a sailor hat was dropping eggs into boiling
water. Other grown-up people had spread a white cloth and were laying
upon it things from baskets. In the deep cool shadow of the trees the
children scurried, laughing. Jimmie hastened forward to join his
friends.

Homer Phelps caught first sight of him. "Ho!" he shouted; "here comes
Jimmie Trescott! Come on, Jimmie; you be on our side!" The children
had divided themselves into two bands for some purpose of play. The
others of Homer Phelps's party loudly endorsed his plan. "Yes, Jimmie,
you be on _our_ side." Then arose the usual dispute. "Well, we got the
weakest side."

"'Tain't any weaker'n ours."

Homer Phelps suddenly started, and looking hard, said, "What you got
in the pail, Jim?"

Jimmie answered, somewhat uneasily, "Got m' lunch in it."

Instantly that brat of a Minnie Phelps simply tore down the sky with
her shrieks of derision. "Got his _lunch_ in it! In a _pail_!" She ran
screaming to her mother. "Oh, mamma! Oh, mamma! Jimmie Trescott's got
his picnic in a pail!"

Now there was nothing in the nature of this fact to particularly move
the others--notably the boys, who were not competent to care if he had
brought his luncheon in a coal-bin; but such is the instinct of
childish society that they all immediately moved away from him. In a
moment he had been made a social leper. All old intimacies were flung
into the lake, so to speak. They dared not compromise themselves. At
safe distances the boys shouted, scornfully: "Huh! Got his picnic in a
pail!" Never again during that picnic did the little girls speak of
him as Jimmie Trescott. His name now was Him.

His mind was dark with pain as he stood, the hangdog, kicking the
gravel, and muttering as defiantly as he was able, "Well, I can have
it in a pail if I want to." This statement of freedom was of no
importance, and he knew it, but it was the only idea in his head.

[Illustration: "'JIMMY TRESCOTT'S GOT HIS PICNIC IN A PAIL!'"]

He had been baited at school for being detected in writing a letter to
little Cora, the angel child, and he had known how to defend himself,
but this situation was in no way similar. This was a social affair,
with grown people on all sides. It would be sweet to catch the Margate
twins, for instance, and hammer them into a state of bleating respect
for his pail; but that was a matter for the jungles of childhood,
where grown folk seldom penetrated. He could only glower.

The amiable voice of Mrs. Earl suddenly called: "Come, children!
Everything's ready!" They scampered away, glancing back for one last
gloat at Jimmie standing there with his pail.

He did not know what to do. He knew that the grown folk expected him
at the spread, but if he approached he would be greeted by a shameful
chorus from the children--more especially from some of those damnable
little girls. Still, luxuries beyond all dreaming were heaped on that
cloth. One could not forget them. Perhaps if he crept up modestly, and
was very gentle and very nice to the little girls, they would allow
him peace. Of course it had been dreadful to come with a pail to such
a grand picnic, but they might forgive him.

Oh no, they would not! He knew them better. And then suddenly he
remembered with what delightful expectations he had raced to this
grove, and self-pity overwhelmed him, and he thought he wanted to die
and make every one feel sorry.

The young lady in white duck and a sailor hat looked at him, and then
spoke to her sister, Mrs. Earl. "Who's that hovering in the distance,
Emily?"

Mrs. Earl peered. "Why, it's Jimmie Trescott! Jimmie, come to the
picnic! Why don't you come to the picnic, Jimmie?" He began to sidle
towards the cloth.

But at Mrs. Earl's call there was another outburst from many of the
children. "He's got his picnic in a pail! In a _pail_! Got it in a
pail!"

Minnie Phelps was a shrill fiend. "Oh, mamma, he's got it in that
pail! See! Isn't it funny? Isn't it dreadful funny?"

"What ghastly prigs children are, Emily!" said the young lady. "They
are spoiling that boy's whole day, breaking his heart, the little
cats! I think I'll go over and talk to him."

"Maybe you had better not," answered Mrs. Earl, dubiously. "Somehow
these things arrange themselves. If you interfere, you are likely to
prolong everything."

"Well, I'll try, at least," said the young lady.

At the second outburst against him Jimmie had crouched down by a tree,
half hiding behind it, half pretending that he was not hiding behind
it. He turned his sad gaze towards the lake. The bit of water seen
through the shadows seemed perpendicular, a slate-colored wall. He
heard a noise near him, and turning, he perceived the young lady
looking down at him. In her hand she held plates. "May I sit near
you?" she asked, coolly.

Jimmie could hardly believe his ears. After disposing herself and the
plates upon the pine needles, she made brief explanation. "They're
rather crowded, you see, over there. I don't like to be crowded at a
picnic, so I thought I'd come here. I hope you don't mind."

Jimmie made haste to find his tongue. "Oh, I don't mind! I _like_ to
have you here." The ingenuous emphasis made it appear that the fact of
his liking to have her there was in the nature of a law-dispelling
phenomenon, but she did not smile.

"How large is that lake?" she asked.

Jimmie, falling into the snare, at once began to talk in the manner of
a proprietor of the lake. "Oh, it's almost twenty miles long, an' in
one place it's almost four miles wide! an' it's _deep_ too--awful
deep--an' it's got real steamboats on it, an'--oh--lots of other
boats, an'--an'--an'--"

"Do you go out on it sometimes?"

"Oh, lots of times! My father's got a boat," he said, eying her to
note the effect of his words.

She was correctly pleased and struck with wonder. "Oh, has he?" she
cried, as if she never before had heard of a man owning a boat.

Jimmie continued: "Yes, an' it's a grea' big boat, too, with sails,
real sails; an' sometimes he takes me out in her, too; an' once he
took me fishin', an' we had sandwiches, plenty of 'em, an' my father
he drank beer right out of the bottle--_right out of the bottle_!"

The young lady was properly overwhelmed by this amazing intelligence.
Jimmie saw the impression he had created, and he enthusiastically
resumed his narrative: "An' after, he let me throw the bottles in the
water, and I throwed 'em 'way, 'way, 'way out. An' they sank,
an'--never comed up," he concluded, dramatically.

His face was glorified; he had forgotten all about the pail; he was
absorbed in this communion with a beautiful lady who was so interested
in what he had to say.

She indicated one of the plates, and said, indifferently: "Perhaps you
would like some of those sandwiches. I made them. Do you like olives?
And there's a deviled egg. I made that also."

"Did you really?" said Jimmie, politely. His face gloomed for a moment
because the pail was recalled to his mind, but he timidly possessed
himself of a sandwich.

"Hope you are not going to scorn my deviled egg," said his goddess. "I
am very proud of it." He did not; he scorned little that was on the
plate.

Their gentle intimacy was ineffable to the boy. He thought he had a
friend, a beautiful lady, who liked him more than she did anybody at
the picnic, to say the least. This was proved by the fact that she had
flung aside the luxuries of the spread cloth to sit with him, the
exile. Thus early did he fall a victim to woman's wiles.

"Where do you live?" he asked, suddenly.

"Oh, a long way from here! In New York."

His next question was put very bluntly. "Are you married?"

"Oh no!" she answered, gravely.

Jimmie was silent for a time, during which he glanced shyly and
furtively up at her face. It was evident that he was somewhat
embarrassed. Finally he said, "When I grow up to be a man--"

"Oh, that is some time yet!" said the beautiful lady.

"But when I _do_, I--I should like to marry you."

"Well, I will remember it," she answered; "but don't talk of it now,
because it's such a long time; and--I wouldn't wish you to consider
yourself bound." She smiled at him.

He began to brag. "When I grow up to be a man, I'm goin' to have lots
an' lots of money, an' I'm goin' to have a grea' big house, an' a
horse an' a shot-gun, an' lots an' lots of books 'bout elephants an'
tigers, an' lots an' lots of ice-cream an' pie an'--caramels." As
before, she was impressed; he could see it. "An' I'm goin' to have
lots an' lots of children--'bout three hundred, I guess--an' there
won't none of 'em be girls. They'll all be boys--like me."

"Oh, my!" she said.

His garment of shame was gone from him. The pail was dead and well
buried. It seemed to him that months elapsed as he dwelt in happiness
near the beautiful lady and trumpeted his vanity.

At last there was a shout. "Come on! we're going home." The picnickers
trooped out of the grove. The children wished to resume their jeering,
for Jimmie still gripped his pail, but they were restrained by the
circumstances. He was walking at the side of the beautiful lady.

During this journey he abandoned many of his habits. For instance, he
never travelled without skipping gracefully from crack to crack
between the stones, or without pretending that he was a train of cars,
or without some mumming device of childhood. But now he behaved with
dignity. He made no more noise than a little mouse. He escorted the
beautiful lady to the gate of the Earl home, where he awkwardly,
solemnly, and wistfully shook hands in good-by. He watched her go up
the walk; the door clanged.

On his way home he dreamed. One of these dreams was fascinating.
Supposing the beautiful lady was his teacher in school! Oh, my!
wouldn't he be a good boy, sitting like a statuette all day long, and
knowing every lesson to perfection, and--everything. And then
supposing that a boy should sass her. Jimmie painted himself
waylaying that boy on the homeward road, and the fate of the boy was a
thing to make strong men cover their eyes with their hands. And she
would like him more and more--more and more. And he--he would be a
little god.

But as he was entering his father's grounds an appalling recollection
came to him. He was returning with the bread-and-butter and the salmon
untouched in the pail! He could imagine the cook, nine feet tall,
waving her fist. "An' so that's what I took trouble for, is it? So's
you could bring it back? So's you could bring it back?" He skulked
towards the house like a marauding bushranger. When he neared the
kitchen door he made a desperate rush past it, aiming to gain the
stables and there secrete his guilt. He was nearing them, when a
thunderous voice hailed him from the rear:

"Jimmie Trescott, where you goin' with that pail?"

It was the cook. He made no reply, but plunged into the shelter of the
stables. He whirled the lid from the pail and dashed its contents
beneath a heap of blankets. Then he stood panting, his eyes on the
door. The cook did not pursue, but she was bawling:

"Jimmie Trescott, what you doin' with that pail?"

He came forth, swinging it. "Nothin'," he said, in virtuous protest.

"I know better," she said, sharply, as she relieved him of his curse.

In the morning Jimmie was playing near the stable, when he heard a
shout from Peter Washington, who attended Dr. Trescott's horse:

"Jim! Oh, Jim!"

"What?"

"Come yah."

Jimmie went reluctantly to the door of the stable, and Peter
Washington asked:

"Wut's dish yere fish an' brade doin' unner dese yer blankups?"

"I don't know. I didn't have nothin' to do with it," answered Jimmie,
indignantly.

"Don' tell _me_!" cried Peter Washington, as he flung it all
away--"don' tell _me_! When I fin' fish an' brade unner dese yer
blankups, I don' go an' think dese yer ho'ses er yer pop's put 'em. I
_know_. An' if I caitch enny more dish yer fish an' brade in dish yer
stable, _I'll_ tell yer pop."



VII

THE CARRIAGE-LAMPS


It was the fault of a small nickel-plated revolver, a most incompetent
weapon, which, wherever one aimed, would fling the bullet as the devil
willed, and no man, when about to use it, could tell exactly what was
in store for the surrounding country. This treasure had been acquired
by Jimmie Trescott after arduous bargaining with another small boy.
Jimmie wended homeward, patting his hip pocket at every three paces.

Peter Washington, working in the carriage-house, looked out upon him
with a shrewd eye. "Oh, Jim," he called, "wut you got in yer hind
pocket?"

"Nothin'," said Jimmie, feeling carefully under his jacket to make
sure that the revolver wouldn't fall out.

Peter chuckled. "S'more foolishness, I raikon. You gwine be hung one
day, Jim, you keep up all dish yer nonsense."

Jimmie made no reply, but went into the back garden, where he hid the
revolver in a box under a lilac-bush. Then he returned to the vicinity
of Peter, and began to cruise to and fro in the offing, showing all
the signals of one wishing to open treaty. "Pete," he said, "how much
does a box of cartridges cost?"

Peter raised himself violently, holding in one hand a piece of
harness, and in the other an old rag. "Ca'tridgers! _Ca'tridgers!_
Lan'sake! wut the kid want with ca'tridgers? Knew it! Knew it! Come
home er-holdin' on to his hind pocket like he got money in it. An' now
he want ca'tridgers."

Jimmie, after viewing with dismay the excitement caused by his
question, began to move warily out of the reach of a possible hostile
movement.

"Ca'tridgers!" continued Peter, in scorn and horror. "Kid like you! No
bigger'n er minute! Look yah, Jim, you done been swappin' round, an'
you done got hol' of er pistol!" The charge was dramatic.

The wind was almost knocked out of Jimmie by this display of Peter's
terrible miraculous power, and as he backed away his feeble denials
were more convincing than a confession.

"I'll tell yer pop!" cried Peter, in virtuous grandeur. "I'll tell yer
pop!"

In the distance Jimmie stood appalled. He knew not what to do. The
dread adult wisdom of Peter Washington had laid bare the sin, and
disgrace stared at Jimmie.

There was a whirl of wheels, and a high, lean trotting-mare spun
Doctor Trescott's buggy towards Peter, who ran forward busily. As the
doctor climbed out, Peter, holding the mare's head, began his
denunciation:

"Docteh, I gwine tell on Jim. He come home er-holdin' on to his hind
pocket, an' proud like he won a tuhkey-raffle, an' I sure know what he
been up to, an' I done challenge him, an' he nev' say he didn't."

"Why, what do you mean?" said the doctor. "What's this, Jimmie?"

The boy came forward, glaring wrathfully at Peter. In fact, he
suddenly was so filled with rage at Peter that he forgot all
precautions. "It's about a pistol," he said, bluntly. "I've got a
pistol. I swapped for it."

"I done tol' 'im his pop wouldn' stand no fiah-awms, an' him a kid
like he is. I done tol' 'im. Lan' sake! he strut like he was a
soldier! Come in yere proud, an' er-holdin' on to his hind pocket. He
think he was Jesse James, I raikon. But I done tol' 'im his pop stan'
no sech foolishness. First thing--_blam_--he shoot his haid off. No,
seh, he too tinety t' come in yere er-struttin' like he jest bought
Main Street. I tol' 'im. I done tol' 'im--shawp. I don' wanter be
loafin' round dis yer stable if Jim he gwine go shootin' round an'
shootin' round--_blim--blam--blim--blam_! No, seh. I retiahs. I
retiahs. It's all right if er grown man got er gun, but ain't no kids
come foolishin' round _me_ with fiah-awms. No, seh. I retiahs."

"Oh, be quiet, Peter!" said the doctor. "Where is this thing, Jimmie?"

The boy went sulkily to the box under the lilac-bush and returned with
the revolver. "Here 'tis," he said, with a glare over his shoulder at
Peter. The doctor looked at the silly weapon in critical contempt.

"It's not much of a thing, Jimmie, but I don't think you are quite old
enough for it yet. I'll keep it for you in one of the drawers of my
desk."

Peter Washington burst out proudly: "I done tol' 'im th' docteh
wouldn' stan' no traffickin' round yere with fiah-awms. I done tol'
'im."

Jimmie and his father went together into the house, and as Peter
unharnessed the mare he continued his comments on the boy and the
revolver. He was not cast down by the absence of hearers. In fact, he
usually talked better when there was no one to listen save the horses.
But now his observations bore small resemblance to his earlier and
public statements. Admiration and the keen family pride of a Southern
negro who has been long in one place were now in his tone.

"That boy! He's er devil! When he get to be er man--wow! He'll jes
take an' make things whirl round yere. Raikon we'll all take er back
seat when he come erlong er-raisin' Cain."

He had unharnessed the mare, and with his back bent was pushing the
buggy into the carriage-house.

"Er pistol! An' him no bigger than er minute!"

A small stone whizzed past Peter's head and clattered on the stable.
He hastily dropped all occupation and struck a curious attitude. His
right knee was almost up to his chin, and his arms were wreathed
protectingly about his head. He had not looked in the direction from
which the stone had come, but he had begun immediately to yell:

[Illustration: "'YOU JIM! QUIT! QUIT, I TELL YER!'"]

"You Jim! Quit! Quit, I tell yer, Jim! Watch out! You gwine break
somethin', Jim!"

"Yah!" taunted the boy, as with the speed and ease of a
light-cavalryman he manoeuvred in the distance. "Yah! Told on me,
did you! Told on me, hey! There! How do you like that?" The missiles
resounded against the stable.

"Watch out, Jim! You gwine break something, Jim, I tell yer! Quit yer
foolishness, Jim! Ow! Watch out, boy! I--"

There was a crash. With diabolic ingenuity, one of Jimmie's pebbles
had entered the carriage-house and had landed among a row of
carriage-lamps on a shelf, creating havoc which was apparently beyond
all reason of physical law. It seemed to Jimmie that the racket of
falling glass could have been heard in an adjacent county.

Peter was a prophet who after persecution was suffered to recall
everything to the mind of the persecutor. "_There!_ Knew it! Knew it!
_Now_ I raikon you'll quit. Hi! jes look ut dese yer lamps! Fer lan'
sake! Oh, now yer pop jes break ev'ry bone in yer body!"

In the doorway of the kitchen the cook appeared with a startled face.
Jimmie's father and mother came suddenly out on the front veranda.
"What was that noise?" called the the doctor.

Peter went forward to explain. "Jim he was er-heavin' rocks at me,
docteh, an' erlong come one rock an' go _blam_ inter all th' lamps an'
jes skitter 'em t' bits. I declayah--"

Jimmie, half blinded with emotion, was nevertheless aware of a
lightning glance from his father, a glance which cowed and frightened
him to the ends of his toes. He heard the steady but deadly tones of
his father in a fury: "Go into the house and wait until I come."

Bowed in anguish, the boy moved across the lawn and up the steps. His
mother was standing on the veranda still gazing towards the stable. He
loitered in the faint hope that she might take some small pity on his
state. But she could have heeded him no less if he had been invisible.
He entered the house.

When the doctor returned from his investigation of the harm done by
Jimmie's hand, Mrs. Trescott looked at him anxiously, for she knew
that he was concealing some volcanic impulses. "Well?" she asked.

"It isn't the lamps," he said at first. He seated himself on the rail.
"I don't know what we are going to do with that boy. It isn't so much
the lamps as it is the other thing. He was throwing stones at Peter
because Peter told me about the revolver. What are we going to do with
him?"

"I'm sure I don't know," replied the mother. "We've tried almost
everything. Of course much of it is pure animal spirits. Jimmie is not
naturally vicious--"

"Oh, I know," interrupted the doctor, impatiently. "Do you suppose,
when the stones were singing about Peter's ears, he cared whether they
were flung by a boy who was naturally vicious or a boy who was not?
The question might interest him afterward, but at the time he was
mainly occupied in dodging these effects of pure animal spirits."

"Don't be too hard on the boy, Ned. There's lots of time yet. He's so
young yet, and--I believe he gets most of his naughtiness from that
wretched Dalzel boy. That Dalzel boy--well, he's simply awful!" Then,
with true motherly instinct to shift blame from her own boy's
shoulders, she proceeded to sketch the character of the Dalzel boy in
lines that would have made that talented young vagabond stare. It was
not admittedly her feeling that the doctor's attention should be
diverted from the main issue and his indignation divided among the
camps, but presently the doctor felt himself burn with wrath for the
Dalzel boy.

"Why don't you keep Jimmie away from him?" he demanded. "Jimmie has no
business consorting with abandoned little predestined jail-birds like
him. If I catch him on the place I'll box his ears."

"It is simply impossible, unless we kept Jimmie shut up all the time,"
said Mrs. Trescott. "I can't watch him every minute of the day, and
the moment my back is turned, he's off."

"I should think those Dalzel people would hire somebody to bring up
their child for them," said the doctor. "They don't seem to know how
to do it themselves."

Presently you would have thought from the talk that one Willie Dalzel
had been throwing stones at Peter Washington because Peter Washington
had told Doctor Trescott that Willie Dalzel had come into possession
of a revolver.

In the mean time Jimmie had gone into the house to await the coming of
his father. He was in a rebellious mood. He had not intended to
destroy the carriage-lamps. He had been merely hurling stones at a
creature whose perfidy deserved such action, and the hitting of the
lamps had been merely another move of the great conspirator Fate to
force one Jimmie Trescott into dark and troublous ways. The boy was
beginning to find the world a bitter place. He couldn't win
appreciation for a single virtue; he could only achieve quick,
rigorous punishment for his misdemeanors. Everything was an enemy. Now
there were those silly old lamps--what were they doing up on that
shelf, anyhow? It would have been just as easy for them at the time to
have been in some other place. But no; there they had been, like the
crowd that is passing under the wall when the mason for the first time
in twenty years lets fall a brick. Furthermore, the flight of that
stone had been perfectly unreasonable. It had been a sort of freak in
physical law. Jimmie understood that he might have thrown stones from
the same fatal spot for an hour without hurting a single lamp. He was
a victim--that was it. Fate had conspired with the detail of his
environment to simply hound him into a grave or into a cell.

But who would understand? Who would understand? And here the boy
turned his mental glance in every direction, and found nothing but
what was to him the black of cruel ignorance. Very well; some day they
would--

From somewhere out in the street he heard a peculiar whistle of two
notes. It was the common signal of the boys in the neighborhood, and
judging from the direction of the sound, it was apparently intended to
summon him. He moved immediately to one of the windows of the
sitting-room. It opened upon a part of the grounds remote from the
stables and cut off from the veranda by a wing. He perceived Willie
Dalzel loitering in the street. Jimmie whistled the signal after
having pushed up the window-sash some inches. He saw the Dalzel boy
turn and regard him, and then call several other boys. They stood in a
group and gestured. These gestures plainly said: "Come out. We've got
something on hand." Jimmie sadly shook his head.

But they did not go away. They held a long consultation. Presently
Jimmie saw the intrepid Dalzel boy climb the fence and begin to creep
among the shrubbery, in elaborate imitation of an Indian scout. In
time he arrived under Jimmie's window, and raised his face to whisper:
"Come on out! We're going on a bear-hunt."

A bear-hunt! Of course Jimmie knew that it would not be a real
bear-hunt, but would be a sort of carouse of pretension and big
talking and preposterous lying and valor, wherein each boy would
strive to have himself called Kit Carson by the others. He was
profoundly affected. However, the parental word was upon him, and he
could not move. "No," he answered, "I can't. I've got to stay in."

"Are you a prisoner?" demanded the Dalzel boy, eagerly.

"No-o--yes--I s'pose I am."

The other lad became much excited, but he did not lose his wariness.
"Don't you want to be rescued?"

"Why--no--I dun'no'," replied Jimmie, dubiously.

Willie Dalzel was indignant. "Why, of course you want to be rescued!
We'll rescue you. I'll go and get my men." And thinking this a good
sentence, he repeated, pompously, "I'll go and get my men." He began
to crawl away, but when he was distant some ten paces he turned to
say: "Keep up a stout heart. Remember that you have friends who will
be faithful unto death. The time is not now far off when you will
again view the blessed sunlight."

The poetry of these remarks filled Jimmie with ecstasy, and he watched
eagerly for the coming of the friends who would be faithful unto
death. They delayed some time, for the reason that Willie Dalzel was
making a speech.

"Now, men," he said, "our comrade is a prisoner in yon--in yond--in
that there fortress. We must to the rescue. Who volunteers to go with
me?" He fixed them with a stern eye.

There was a silence, and then one of the smaller boys remarked,

"If Doc Trescott ketches us trackin' over his lawn--"

Willie Dalzel pounced upon the speaker and took him by the throat. The
two presented a sort of a burlesque of the wood-cut on the cover of a
dime novel which Willie had just been reading--_The Red Captain: A
Tale of the Pirates of the Spanish Main_.

"You are a coward!" said Willie, through his clinched teeth.

"No, I ain't, Willie," piped the other, as best he could.

"I say you are," cried the great chieftain, indignantly. "Don't tell
_me_ I'm a liar." He relinquished his hold upon the coward and resumed
his speech. "You know me, men. Many of you have been my followers for
long years. You saw me slay Six-handed Dick with my own hand. You know
I never falter. Our comrade is a prisoner in the cruel hands of our
enemies. Aw, Pete Washington? He dassent. My pa says if Pete ever
troubles me he'll brain 'im. Come on! To the rescue! Who will go with
me to the rescue? Aw, come on! What are you afraid of?"

[Illustration: "HE TURNED TO SAY: 'KEEP UP A STOUT HEART'"]

It was another instance of the power of eloquence upon the human mind.
There was only one boy who was not thrilled by this oration, and he
was a boy whose favorite reading had been of the road-agents and
gun-fighters of the great West, and he thought the whole thing should
be conducted in the Deadwood Dick manner. This talk of a "comrade"
was silly; "pard" was the proper word. He resolved that he would make
a show of being a pirate, and keep secret the fact that he really was
Hold-up Harry, the Terror of the Sierras.

But the others were knit close in piratical bonds. One by one they
climbed the fence at a point hidden from the house by tall shrubs.
With many a low-breathed caution they went upon their perilous
adventure.

Jimmie was grown tired of waiting for his friends who would be
faithful unto death. Finally he decided that he would rescue himself.
It would be a gross breach of rule, but he couldn't sit there all the
rest of the day waiting for his faithful-unto-death friends. The
window was only five feet from the ground. He softly raised the sash
and threw one leg over the sill. But at the same time he perceived his
friends snaking among the bushes. He withdrew his leg and waited,
seeing that he was now to be rescued in an orthodox way. The brave
pirates came nearer and nearer.

Jimmie heard a noise of a closing door, and turning, he saw his father
in the room looking at him and the open window in angry surprise. Boys
never faint, but Jimmie probably came as near to it as may the average
boy.

"What's all this?" asked the doctor, staring. Involuntarily Jimmie
glanced over his shoulder through the window. His father saw the
creeping figures. "What are those boys doing?" he said, sharply, and
he knit his brows.

"Nothin'."

"Nothing! Don't tell me that. Are they coming here to the window?"

"Y-e-s, sir."

"What for?"

"To--to see me."

"What about?"

"About--about nothin'."

"What about?"

Jimmie knew that he could conceal nothing.

[Illustration: "THE BOY TURNED AGAIN TO HIS FRIEND"]

He said, "They're comin' to--to--to rescue me." He began to whimper.

The doctor sat down heavily.

"What? To rescue you?" he gasped.

"Y-yes, sir."

The doctor's eyes began to twinkle. "Very well," he said presently. "I
will sit here and observe this rescue. And on no account do you warn
them that I am here. Understand?"

Of course Jimmie understood. He had been mad to warn his friends, but
his father's mere presence had frightened him from doing it. He stood
trembling at the window, while the doctor stretched in an easy-chair
near at hand. They waited. The doctor could tell by his son's
increasing agitation that the great moment was near. Suddenly he heard
Willie Dalzel's voice hiss out a word: "S-s-silence!" Then the same
voice addressed Jimmie at the window: "Good cheer, my comrade. The
time is now at hand. I have come. Never did the Red Captain turn his
back on a friend. One minute more and you will be free. Once aboard my
gallant craft and you can bid defiance to your haughty enemies. Why
don't you hurry up? What are you standin' there lookin' like a cow
for?"

"I--er--now--you--" stammered Jimmie.

Here Hold-up Harry, the Terror of the Sierras, evidently concluded
that Willie Dalzel had had enough of the premier part, so he said:

"Brace up, pard. Don't ye turn white-livered now, fer ye know that
Hold-up Harry, the Terrar of the Sarahs, ain't the man ter--"

"Oh, stop it!" said Willie Dalzel. "He won't understand that, you
know. He's a pirate. Now, Jimmie, come on. Be of light heart, my
comrade. Soon you--"

"I 'low arter all this here long time in jail ye thought ye had no
friends mebbe, but I tell ye Hold-up Harry, the Terrar of the
Sarahs--"

"A boat is waitin'--"

"I have ready a trusty horse--"

Willie Dalzel could endure his rival no longer.

"Look here, Henry, you're spoilin' the whole thing. We're all pirates,
don't you see, and you're a pirate too."

"I ain't a pirate. I'm Hold-up Harry, the Terrar of the Sarahs."

"You ain't, I say," said Willie, in despair. "You're spoilin'
everything, you are. All right, now. You wait. I'll fix you for this,
see if I don't! Oh, come on, Jimmie. A boat awaits us at the foot of
the rocks. In one short hour you'll be free forever from your
ex--exewable enemies, and their vile plots. Hasten, for the dawn
approaches."

[Illustration: "THEY WHIRLED AND SCAMPERED AWAY LIKE DEER"]

The suffering Jimmie looked at his father, and was surprised at what
he saw. The doctor was doubled up like a man with the colic. He was
breathing heavily. The boy turned again to his friends. "I--now--look
here," he began, stumbling among the words. "You--I--I don't think
I'll be rescued to-day."

The pirates were scandalized. "What?" they whispered, angrily. "Ain't
you goin' to be rescued? Well, all right for you, Jimmie Trescott.
That's a nice way to act, that is!" Their upturned eyes glowered at
Jimmie.

Suddenly Doctor Trescott appeared at the window with Jimmie. "Oh, go
home, boys!" he gasped, but they did not hear him. Upon the instant
they had whirled and scampered away like deer. The first lad to reach
the fence was the Red Captain, but Hold-up Harry, the Terror of the
Sierras, was so close that there was little to choose between them.

Doctor Trescott lowered the window, and then spoke to his son in his
usual quiet way. "Jimmie, I wish you would go and tell Peter to have
the buggy ready at seven o'clock."

"Yes, sir," said Jimmie, and he swaggered out to the stables. "Pete,
father wants the buggy ready at seven o'clock."

Peter paid no heed to this order, but with the tender sympathy of a
true friend he inquired, "Hu't?"

"Hurt? Did what hurt?"

"Yer trouncin'."

"Trouncin'!" said Jimmie, contemptuously. "I didn't get any
trouncin'."

"No?" said Peter. He gave Jimmie a quick shrewd glance, and saw that
he was telling the truth. He began to mutter and mumble over his work.
"Ump! Ump! Dese yer white folks act like they think er boy's made er
glass. No trouncin'! Ump!" He was consumed with curiosity to learn why
Jimmie had not felt a heavy parental hand, but he did not care to
lower his dignity by asking questions about it. At last, however, he
reached the limits of his endurance, and in a voice pretentiously
careless he asked, "Didn' yer pop take on like mad er-bout dese yer
cay'ge-lamps?"

"Carriage-lamps?" inquired Jimmie.

"Ump."

"No, he didn't say anything about carriage-lamps--not that I remember.
Maybe he did, though. Lemme see.... No, he never mentioned 'em."



VIII

THE KNIFE


I

Si Bryant's place was on the shore of the lake, and his garden-patch,
shielded from the north by a bold little promontory and a higher ridge
inland, was accounted the most successful and surprising in all
Whilomville township. One afternoon Si was working in the
garden-patch, when Doctor Trescott's man, Peter Washington, came
trudging slowly along the road, observing nature. He scanned the white
man's fine agricultural results. "Take your eye off them there
mellons, you rascal," said Si, placidly.

The negro's face widened in a grin of delight. "Well, Mist' Bryant, I
raikon I ain't on'y make m'se'f covertous er-lookin' at dem yere
mellums, sure 'nough. Dey suhtainly is grand."

"That's all right," responded Si, with affected bitterness of spirit.
"That's all right. Just don't you admire 'em too much, that's all."
Peter chuckled and chuckled. "Ma Lode! Mist' Bryant, y-y-you don'
think I'm gwine come prowlin' in dish yer gawden?"

"No, I know you hain't," said Si, with solemnity. "B'cause, if you
did, I'd shoot you so full of holes you couldn't tell yourself from a
sponge."

"Um--no, seh! No, seh! I don' raikon you'll get chance at Pete, Mist'
Bryant. No, seh. I'll take an' run 'long an' rob er bank 'fore I'll
come foolishin' 'round _your_ gawden, Mist' Bryant."

Bryant, gnarled and strong as an old tree, leaned on his hoe, and
laughed a Yankee laugh. His mouth remained tightly closed, but the
sinister lines which ran from the sides of his nose to the meetings of
his lips developed to form a comic oval, and he emitted a series of
grunts, while his eyes gleamed merrily and his shoulders shook. Pete,
on the contrary, threw back his head and guffawed thunderously. The
effete joke in regard to an American negro's fondness for watermelons
was still an admirable pleasantry to them, and this was not the first
time they had engaged in badinage over it. In fact, this venerable
survival had formed between them a friendship of casual roadside
quality.

Afterwards Peter went on up the road. He continued to chuckle until he
was far away. He was going to pay a visit to old Alek Williams, a
negro who lived with a large family in a hut clinging to the side of a
mountain. The scattered colony of negroes which hovered near
Whilomville was of interesting origin, being the result of some
contrabands who had drifted as far north as Whilomville during the
great civil war. The descendants of these adventurers were mainly
conspicuous for their bewildering number, and the facility which they
possessed for adding even to this number. Speaking, for example, of
the Jacksons--one couldn't hurl a stone into the hills about
Whilomville without having it land on the roof of a hut full of
Jacksons. The town reaped little in labor from these curious suburbs.
There were a few men who came in regularly to work in gardens, to
drive teams, to care for horses, and there were a few women who came
in to cook or to wash. These latter had usually drunken husbands. In
the main the colony loafed in high spirits, and the industrious
minority gained no direct honor from their fellows, unless they spent
their earnings on raiment, in which case they were naturally treated
with distinction. On the whole, the hardships of these people were the
wind, the rain, the snow, and any other physical difficulties which
they could cultivate. About twice a year the lady philanthropists of
Whilomville went up against them, and came away poorer in goods but
rich in complacence. After one of these attacks the colony would
preserve a comic air of rectitude for two days, and then relapse again
to the genial irresponsibility of a crew of monkeys.

Peter Washington was one of the industrious class who occupied a
position of distinction, for he surely spent his money on personal
decoration. On occasion he could dress better than the Mayor of
Whilomville himself, or at least in more colors, which was the main
thing to the minds of his admirers. His ideal had been the late
gallant Henry Johnson, whose conquests in Watermelon Alley, as well as
in the hill shanties, had proved him the equal if not the superior of
any Pullman-car porter in the country. Perhaps Peter had too much
Virginia laziness and humor in him to be a wholly adequate successor
to the fastidious Henry Johnson, but, at any rate, he admired his
memory so attentively as to be openly termed a dude by envious
people.

[Illustration: "HE HEAVED ONE OF HIS EIGHT-OUNCE ROCKS"]

On this afternoon he was going to call on old Alek Williams because
Alek's eldest girl was just turned seventeen, and, to Peter's mind,
was a triumph of beauty. He was not wearing his best clothes, because
on his last visit Alek's half-breed hound Susie had taken occasion to
forcefully extract a quite large and valuable part of the visitor's
trousers. When Peter arrived at the end of the rocky field which
contained old Alek's shanty he stooped and provided himself with
several large stones, weighing them carefully in his hand, and finally
continuing his journey with three stones of about eight ounces each.
When he was near the house, three gaunt hounds, Rover and Carlo and
Susie, came sweeping down upon him. His impression was that they were
going to climb him as if he were a tree, but at the critical moment
they swerved and went growling and snapping around him, their heads
low, their eyes malignant. The afternoon caller waited until Susie
presented her side to him, then he heaved one of his eight-ounce
rocks. When it landed, her hollow ribs gave forth a drumlike sound,
and she was knocked sprawling, her legs in the air. The other hounds
at once fled in horror, and she followed as soon as she was able,
yelping at the top of her lungs. The afternoon caller resumed his
march.

At the wild expressions of Susie's anguish old Alek had flung open the
door and come hastily into the sunshine. "Yah, you Suse, come erlong
outa dat now. What fer you--Oh, how do, how do, Mist' Wash'ton--how
do?"

"How do, Mist' Willums? I done foun' it necessa'y fer ter damnearkill
dish yer dawg a yourn, Mist' Willums."

"Come in, come in, Mist' Wash'ton. Dawg no 'count, Mist' Wash'ton."
Then he turned to address the unfortunate animal. "Hu't, did it? Hu't?
'Pears like you gwine dun some saince by time somebody brek yer back.
'Pears like I gwine club yer inter er frazzle 'fore you fin' out some
saince. Gw'on 'way f'm yah!"

As the old man and his guest entered the shanty a body of black
children spread out in crescent-shape formation and observed Peter
with awe. Fat old Mrs. Williams greeted him turbulently, while the
eldest girl, Mollie, lurked in a corner and giggled with finished
imbecility, gazing at the visitor with eyes that were shy and bold by
turns. She seemed at times absurdly over-confident, at times foolishly
afraid; but her giggle consistently endured. It was a giggle on which
an irascible but right-minded judge would have ordered her forthwith
to be buried alive.

[Illustration: "MOLLIE LURKED IN A CORNER AND GIGGLED"]

Amid a great deal of hospitable gabbling, Peter was conducted to the
best chair out of the three that the house contained. Enthroned
therein, he made himself charming in talk to the old people, who
beamed upon him joyously. As for Mollie, he affected to be unaware of
her existence. This may have been a method for entrapping the
sentimental interest of that young gazelle, or it may be that the
giggle had worked upon him.

He was absolutely fascinating to the old people. They could talk like
rotary snow-ploughs, and he gave them every chance, while his face was
illumined with appreciation. They pressed him to stay for supper, and
he consented, after a glance at the pot on the stove which was too
furtive to be noted.

During the meal old Alek recounted the high state of Judge
Oglethorpe's kitchen-garden, which Alek said was due to his
unremitting industry and fine intelligence. Alek was a gardener,
whenever impending starvation forced him to cease temporarily from
being a lily of the field.

"Mist' Bryant he suhtainly got er grand gawden," observed Peter.

"Dat so, dat so, Mist' Wash'ton," assented Alek. "He got fine gawden."

"Seems like I nev' _did_ see sech mellums, big as er bar'l, layin'
dere. I don't raikon an'body in dish yer county kin hol' it with Mist'
Bryant when comes ter mellums."

"Dat so, Mist' Wash'ton."

They did not talk of watermelons until their heads held nothing else,
as the phrase goes. But they talked of watermelons until, when Peter
started for home that night over a lonely road, they held a certain
dominant position in his mind. Alek had come with him as far as the
fence, in order to protect him from a possible attack by the mongrels.
There they had cheerfully parted, two honest men.

The night was dark, and heavy with moisture. Peter found it
uncomfortable to walk rapidly. He merely loitered on the road. When
opposite Si Bryant's place he paused and looked over the fence into
the garden. He imagined he could see the form of a huge melon lying in
dim stateliness not ten yards away. He looked at the Bryant house. Two
windows, down-stairs, were lighted. The Bryants kept no dog, old Si's
favorite child having once been bitten by a dog, and having since
died, within that year, of pneumonia.

Peering over the fence, Peter fancied that if any low-minded
night-prowler should happen to note the melon, he would not find it
difficult to possess himself of it. This person would merely wait
until the lights were out in the house, and the people presumably
asleep. Then he would climb the fence, reach the melon in a few
strides, sever the stem with his ready knife, and in a trice be back
in the road with his prize. There need be no noise, and, after all,
the house was some distance.

Selecting a smooth bit of turf, Peter took a seat by the road-side.
From time to time he glanced at the lighted window.


II

When Peter and Alek had said good-bye, the old man turned back in the
rocky field and shaped a slow course towards that high dim light which
marked the little window of his shanty. It would be incorrect to say
that Alek could think of nothing but watermelons. But it was true that
Si Bryant's watermelon-patch occupied a certain conspicuous position
in his thoughts.

He sighed; he almost wished that he was again a conscienceless
pickaninny, instead of being one of the most ornate, solemn, and
look-at-me-sinner deacons that ever graced the handle of a
collection-basket. At this time it made him quite sad to reflect upon
his granite integrity. A weaker man might perhaps bow his moral head
to the temptation, but for him such a fall was impossible. He was a
prince of the church, and if he had been nine princes of the church he
could not have been more proud. In fact, religion was to the old man a
sort of personal dignity. And he was on Sundays so obtrusively good
that you could see his sanctity through a door. He forced it on you
until you would have felt its influence even in a forecastle.

It was clear in his mind that he must put watermelon thoughts from
him, and after a moment he told himself, with much ostentation, that
he had done so. But it was cooler under the sky than in the shanty,
and as he was not sleepy, he decided to take a stroll down to Si
Bryant's place and look at the melons from a pinnacle of spotless
innocence. Reaching the road, he paused to listen. It would not do to
let Peter hear him, because that graceless rapscallion would probably
misunderstand him. But, assuring himself that Peter was well on his
way, he set out, walking briskly until he was within four hundred
yards of Bryant's place. Here he went to the side of the road, and
walked thereafter on the damp, yielding turf. He made no sound.

He did not go on to that point in the main road which was directly
opposite the water-melon-patch. He did not wish to have his ascetic
contemplation disturbed by some chance wayfarer. He turned off along a
short lane which led to Si Bryant's barn. Here he reached a place
where he could see, over the fence, the faint shapes of the melons.

Alek was affected. The house was some distance away, there was no dog,
and doubtless the Bryants would soon extinguish their lights and go to
bed. Then some poor lost lamb of sin might come and scale the fence,
reach a melon in a moment, sever the stem with his ready knife, and in
a trice be back in the road with his prize. And this poor lost lamb of
sin might even be a bishop, but no one would ever know it. Alek
singled out with his eye a very large melon, and thought that the lamb
would prove his judgment if he took that one.

He found a soft place in the grass, and arranged himself comfortably.
He watched the lights in the windows.


III

It seemed to Peter Washington that the Bryants absolutely consulted
their own wishes in regard to the time for retiring; but at last he
saw the lighted windows fade briskly from left to right, and after a
moment a window on the second floor blazed out against the darkness.
Si was going to bed. In five minutes this window abruptly vanished,
and all the world was night.

Peter spent the ensuing quarter-hour in no mental debate. His mind was
fixed. He was here, and the melon was there. He would have it. But an
idea of being caught appalled him. He thought of his position. He was
the beau of his community, honored right and left. He pictured the
consternation of his friends and the cheers of his enemies if the
hands of the redoubtable Si Bryant should grip him in his shame.

He arose, and going to the fence, listened. No sound broke the
stillness, save the rhythmical incessant clicking of myriad insects,
and the guttural chanting of the frogs in the reeds at the lake-side.
Moved by sudden decision, he climbed the fence and crept silently and
swiftly down upon the melon. His open knife was in his hand. There
was the melon, cool, fair to see, as pompous in its fatness as the
cook in a monastery.

Peter put out a hand to steady it while he cut the stem. But at the
instant he was aware that a black form had dropped over the fence
lining the lane in front of him and was coming stealthily towards him.
In a palsy of terror he dropped flat upon the ground, not having
strength enough to run away. The next moment he was looking into the
amazed and agonized face of old Alek Williams.

There was a moment of loaded silence, and then Peter was overcome by a
mad inspiration. He suddenly dropped his knife and leaped upon Alek.
"I got che!" he hissed. "I got che! I got che!" The old man sank down
as limp as rags. "I got che! I got che! Steal Mist' Bryant's mellums,
hey?"

Alek, in a low voice, began to beg. "Oh, Mist' Peter Wash'ton, don' go
fer ter be too ha'd on er ole man! I nev' come yere fer ter steal 'em.
'Deed I didn't, Mist' Wash'ton! I come yere jes fer ter _feel_ 'em.
Oh, please, Mist' Wash'ton--"

"Come erlong outa yere, you ol' rip," said Peter, "an' don' trumple on
dese yer baids. I gwine put you wah you won' ketch col'."

Without difficulty he tumbled the whining Alek over the fence to the
roadway, and followed him with sheriff-like expedition! He took him by
the scruff. "Come erlong, deacon. I raikon I gwine put you wah you kin
pray, deacon. Come erlong, deacon."

The emphasis and reiteration of his layman's title in the church
produced a deadly effect upon Alek. He felt to his marrow the heinous
crime into which this treacherous night had betrayed him. As Peter
marched his prisoner up the road towards the mouth of the lane, he
continued his remarks: "Come erlong, deacon. Nev' see er man so
anxious like erbout er mellum-paitch, deacon. Seem like you jes must
see'em er-growin' an' _feel_ 'em, deacon. Mist' Bryant he'll be
s'prised, deacon, findin' out you come fer ter _feel_ his mellums.
Come erlong, deacon. Mist' Bryant he expectin' some ole rip like you
come soon."

They had almost reached the lane when Alek's cur Susie, who had
followed her master, approached in the silence which attends dangerous
dogs; and seeing indications of what she took to be war, she appended
herself swiftly but firmly to the calf of Peter's left leg. The mêlée
was short, but spirited. Alek had no wish to have his dog complicate
his already serious misfortunes, and went manfully to the defence
of his captor. He procured a large stone, and by beating this with
both hands down upon the resounding skull of the animal, he induced
her to quit her grip. Breathing heavily, Peter dropped into the long
grass at the road-side. He said nothing.

[Illustration: "THE NEXT MOMENT HE WAS LOOKING INTO THE AMAZED AND
AGONIZED FACE OF OLD ALEK"]

"Mist' Wash'ton," said Alek at last, in a quavering voice, "I raikon I
gwine wait yere see what you gwine do ter me."

Whereupon Peter passed into a spasmodic state, in which he rolled to
and fro and shook.

"Mist' Wash'ton, I hope dish yer dog 'ain't gone an' give you fitses?"

Peter sat up suddenly. "No, she 'ain't," he answered; "but she gin me
er big skeer; an' fer yer 'sistance with er cobblestone, Mist'
Willums, I tell you what I gwine do--I tell you what I gwine do." He
waited an impressive moment. "I gwine 'lease you!"

Old Alek trembled like a little bush in a wind. "Mist' Wash'ton?"

Quoth Peter, deliberately, "I gwine 'lease you."

The old man was filled with a desire to negotiate this statement at
once, but he felt the necessity of carrying off the event without an
appearance of haste. "Yes, seh; thank 'e, seh; thank 'e, Mist'
Wash'ton. I raikon I ramble home pressenly." He waited an interval,
and then dubiously said, "Good-evenin', Mist' Wash'ton."

"Good-evenin', deacon. Don' come foolin' roun' _feelin'_ no mellums,
and I say troof. Good-evenin', deacon."

Alek took off his hat and made three profound bows. "Thank 'e, seh.
Thank 'e, seh. Thank 'e, seh."

Peter underwent another severe spasm, but the old man walked off
towards his home with a humble and contrite heart.


IV

The next morning Alek proceeded from his shanty under the complete but
customary illusion that he was going to work. He trudged manfully
along until he reached the vicinity of Si Bryant's place. Then, by
stages, he relapsed into a slink. He was passing the garden-patch
under full steam, when, at some distance ahead of him, he saw Si
Bryant leaning casually on the garden fence.

"Good-mornin', Alek."

"Good-mawnin', Mist' Bryant," answered Alek, with a new deference. He
was marching on, when he was halted by a word--"Alek!"

He stopped. "Yes, seh."

"I found a knife this mornin' in th' road," drawled Si, "an' I thought
maybe it was yourn."

Improved in mind by this divergence from the direct line of attack,
Alek stepped up easily to look at the knife. "No, seh," he said,
scanning it as it lay in Si's palm, while the cold steel-blue eyes of
the white man looked down into his stomach, "'tain't no knife er
mine." But he knew the knife. He knew it as if it had been his mother.
And at the same moment a spark flashed through his head and made wise
his understanding. He knew everything. "'Tain't much of er knife,
Mist' Bryant," he said, deprecatingly.

"'Tain't much of a knife, I know that," cried Si, in sudden heat, "but
I found it this mornin' in my watermelon-patch--hear?"

"Watahmellum-paitch?" yelled Alek, not astounded.

"Yes, in my watermelon-patch," sneered Si, "an' I think you know
something about it, too!"

"Me?" cried Alek. "Me?"

"Yes--you!" said Si, with icy ferocity. "Yes--you!" He had become
convinced that Alek was not in any way guilty, but he was certain that
the old man knew the owner of the knife, and so he pressed him at
first on criminal lines. "Alek, you might as well own up now. You've
been meddlin' with my watermelons!"

"Me?" cried Alek again. "Yah's _ma_ knife. I done cah'e it foh yeahs."

Bryant changed his ways. "Look here, Alek," he said, confidentially:
"I know you and you know me, and there ain't no use in any more
skirmishin'. _I_ know that _you_ know whose knife that is. Now whose
is it?"

This challenge was so formidable in character that Alek temporarily
quailed and began to stammer. "Er--now--Mist' Bryant--you--you--frien'
er mine--"

"I know I'm a friend of yours, but," said Bryant, inexorably, "who
owns this knife?"

Alek gathered unto himself some remnants of dignity and spoke with
reproach: "Mist' Bryant, dish yer knife ain' mine."

"No," said Bryant, "it ain't. But you know who it belongs to, an' I
want you to tell me--quick."

"Well, Mist' Bryant," answered Alek, scratching his wool, "I won't say
's I _do_ know who b'longs ter dish yer knife, an' I won't say 's I
_don't_."

Bryant again laughed his Yankee laugh, but this time there was little
humor in it. It was dangerous.

Alek, seeing that he had gotten himself into hot water by the fine
diplomacy of his last sentence, immediately began to flounder and
totally submerge himself. "No, Mist' Bryant," he repeated, "I won't
say 's I _do_ know who b'longs ter dish yer knife, an' I won't say 's
I _don't_." And he began to parrot this fatal sentence again and
again. It seemed wound about his tongue. He could not rid himself of
it. Its very power to make trouble for him seemed to originate the
mysterious Afric reason for its repetition.

"Is he a very close friend of yourn?" said Bryant, softly.

"F-frien'?" stuttered Alek. He appeared to weigh this question with
much care. "Well, seems like he _was_ er frien', an' then agin, it
seems like he--"

"It seems like he _wasn't_?" asked Bryant.

"Yes, seh, jest so, jest so," cried Alek. "Sometimes it seems like he
_wasn't_. Then agin--" He stopped for profound meditation.

The patience of the white man seemed inexhaustible. At length his low
and oily voice broke the stillness. "Oh, well, of course if he's a
friend of yourn, Alek! You know I wouldn't want to make no trouble for
a friend of yourn."

"Yes, seh," cried the negro at once. "He's er frien' er mine. He is
dat."

"Well, then, it seems as if about the only thing to do is for you to
tell me his name so's I can send him his knife, and that's all there
is to it."

Alek took off his hat, and in perplexity ran his hand over his wool.
He studied the ground. But several times he raised his eyes to take a
sly peep at the imperturbable visage of the white man. "Y--y--yes,
Mist' Bryant. ...I raikon dat's erbout all what kin be done. I gwine
tell you who b'longs ter dish yer knife."

"Of course," said the smooth Bryant, "it ain't a very nice thing to
have to do, but--"

"No, seh," cried Alek, brightly; "I'm gwine tell you, Mist' Bryant. I
gwine tell you erbout dat knife. Mist' Bryant," he asked, solemnly,
"does you know who b'longs ter dat knife?"

"No, I--"

"Well, I gwine tell. I gwine tell who, Mr Bryant--" The old man drew
himself to a stately pose and held forth his arm. "I gwine tell
who. Mist' Bryant, _dish yer knife b'longs ter Sam Jackson_!"

[Illustration: "THE OLD MAN DREW HIMSELF TO A STATELY POSE"]

Bryant was startled into indignation. "Who in hell is Sam Jackson?" he
growled.

"He's a nigger," said Alek, impressively, "and he wuks in er
lumber-yawd up yere in Hoswego."



IX

THE STOVE

I


"They'll bring her," said Mrs. Trescott, dubiously. Her cousin, the
painter, the bewildered father of the angel child, had written to say
that if they were asked, he and his wife would come to the Trescotts
for the Christmas holidays. But he had not officially stated that the
angel child would form part of the expedition. "But of course they'll
bring her," said Mrs. Trescott to her husband.

The doctor assented. "Yes, they'll have to bring her. They wouldn't
dare leave New York at her mercy."

"Well," sighed Mrs. Trescott, after a pause, "the neighbors will be
pleased. When they see her they'll immediately lock up their children
for safety."

"Anyhow," said Trescott, "the devastation of the Margate twins was
complete. She can't do that particular thing again. I shall be
interested to note what form her energy will take this time."

"Oh yes! that's it!" cried the wife. "You'll be _interested_. You've
hit it exactly. You'll be interested to note what form her energy will
take this time. And then, when the real crisis comes, you'll put on
your hat and walk out of the house and leave _me_ to straighten things
out. This is not a scientific question; this is a practical matter."

"Well, as a practical man, I advocate chaining her out in the stable,"
answered the doctor.

When Jimmie Trescott was told that his old flame was again to appear,
he remained calm. In fact, time had so mended his youthful heart that
it was a regular apple of oblivion and peace. Her image in his thought
was as the track of a bird on deep snow--it was an impression, but it
did not concern the depths. However, he did what befitted his state.
He went out and bragged in the street: "My cousin is comin' next week
f'om New York." ..."My cousin is comin' to-morrow f'om New York."

"Girl or boy?" said the populace, bluntly; but, when enlightened, they
speedily cried, "Oh, we remember _her_!" They were charmed, for they
thought of her as an outlaw, and they surmised that she could lead
them into a very ecstasy of sin. They thought of her as a brave
bandit, because they had been whipped for various pranks into which
she had led them. When Jimmie made his declaration, they fell into a
state of pleased and shuddering expectancy.

Mrs. Trescott pronounced her point of view: "The child is a nice
child, if only Caroline had some sense. But she hasn't. And Willis is
like a wax figure. I don't see what can be done, unless--unless you
simply go to Willis and put the whole thing right at him." Then, for
purposes of indication, she improvised a speech: "Look here, Willis,
you've got a little daughter, haven't you? But, confound it, man, she
is not the only girl child ever brought into the sunlight. There are a
lot of children. Children are an ordinary phenomenon. In China they
drown girl babies. If you wish to submit to this frightful impostor
and tyrant, that is all very well, but why in the name of humanity do
you make us submit to it?"

Doctor Trescott laughed. "I wouldn't dare say it to him."

"Anyhow," said Mrs. Trescott, determinedly, "that is what you _should_
say to him."

"It wouldn't do the slightest good. It would only make him very angry,
and I would lay myself perfectly open to a suggestion that I had
better attend to my own affairs with more rigor."

"Well, I suppose you are right," Mrs. Trescott again said.

"Why don't you speak to Caroline?" asked the doctor, humorously.

"Speak to Caroline! Why, I wouldn't for the _world_! She'd fly through
the roof. She'd snap my head off! Speak to Caroline! You must be mad!"

One afternoon the doctor went to await his visitors on the platform of
the railway station. He was thoughtfully smiling. For some quaint
reason he was convinced that he was to be treated to a quick
manifestation of little Cora's peculiar and interesting powers. And
yet, when the train paused at the station, there appeared to him only
a pretty little girl in a fur-lined hood, and with her nose reddening
from the sudden cold, and--attended respectfully by her parents. He
smiled again, reflecting that he had comically exaggerated the dangers
of dear little Cora. It amused his philosophy to note that he had
really been perturbed.

As the big sleigh sped homeward there was a sudden shrill outcry from
the angel child: "Oh, mamma! mamma! They've forgotten my stove!"

"Hush, dear; hush!" said the mother. "It's all right."

"Oh, but, mamma, they've forgotten my stove!"

The doctor thrust his chin suddenly out of his top-coat collar.
"Stove?" he said. "Stove? What stove?"

"Oh, just a toy of the child's," explained the mother. "She's grown so
fond of it, she loves it so, that if we didn't take it everywhere with
her she'd suffer dreadfully. So we always bring it."

"Oh!" said the doctor. He pictured a little tin trinket. But when the
stove was really unmasked, it turned out to be an affair of cast iron,
as big as a portmanteau, and, as the stage people say, practicable.
There was some trouble that evening when came the hour of children's
bedtime. Little Cora burst into a wild declaration that she could not
retire for the night unless the stove was carried up-stairs and
placed, at her bedside. While the mother was trying to dissuade the
child, the Trescott's held their peace and gazed with awe. The
incident closed when the lamb-eyed father gathered the stove in his
arms and preceded the angel child to her chamber.

[Illustration: "THE LAMB-EYED FATHER PRECEDED THE ANGEL CHILD TO HER
CHAMBER"]

In the morning, Trescott was standing with his back to the dining room
fire, awaiting breakfast, when he heard a noise of descending guests.
Presently the door opened, and the party entered in regular order.
First came the angel child, then the cooing mother, and last the great
painter with his arm full of the stove. He deposited it gently in a
corner, and sighed. Trescott wore a wide grin.

"What are you carting that thing all over the house for?" he said,
brutally. "Why don't you put it some place where she can play with it,
and leave it there?"

The mother rebuked him with a look. "Well, if it gives her pleasure,
Ned?" she expostulated, softly. "If it makes the child happy to have
the stove with her, why shouldn't she have it?"

"Just so," said the doctor, with calmness.

Jimmie's idea was the roaring fireplace in the cabin of the lone
mountaineer. At first he was not able to admire a girl's stove built
on well-known domestic lines. He eyed it and thought it was very
pretty, but it did not move him immediately. But a certain respect
grew to an interest, and he became the angel child's accomplice. And
even if he had not had an interest grow upon him, he was certain to
have been implicated sooner or later, because of the imperious way of
little Cora, who made a serf of him in a few swift sentences. Together
they carried the stove out into the desolate garden and squatted it in
the snow. Jimmie's snug little muscles had been pitted against the
sheer nervous vigor of this little golden-haired girl, and he had not
won great honors. When the mind blazed inside the small body, the
angel child was pure force. She began to speak: "Now, Jim, get some
paper. Get some wood-little sticks at first. Now we want a match. You
got a match? Well, go get a match. Get some more wood. Hurry up, now!
No. _No!_ I'll light it my own self. You get some more wood. There!
Isn't that splendid? You get a whole lot of wood an' pile it up here
by the stove. An' now what'll we cook? We must have somethin' to cook,
you know, else it ain't like the real."

"Potatoes," said Jimmie, at once.

The day was clear, cold, bright. An icy wind sped from over the waters
of the lake. A grown person would hardly have been abroad save on
compulsion of a kind, and yet, when they were called to luncheon, the
two little simpletons protested with great cries.


II

The ladies of Whilomville were somewhat given to the pagan habit of
tea parties. When a tea party was to befall a certain house one could
read it in the manner of the prospective hostess, who for some
previous days would go about twitching this and twisting that, and
dusting here and polishing there; the ordinary habits of the household
began then to disagree with her, and her unfortunate husband and
children fled to the lengths of their tethers. Then there was a hush.
Then there was a tea party. On the fatal afternoon a small picked
company of latent enemies would meet. There would be a fanfare of
affectionate greetings, during which everybody would measure to an
inch the importance of what everybody else was wearing. Those who wore
old dresses would wish then that they had not come; and those who saw
that, in the company, they were well clad, would be pleased or
exalted, or filled with the joys of cruelty. Then they had tea, which
was a habit and a delight with none of them, their usual beverage
being coffee with milk.

Usually the party jerked horribly in the beginning, while the hostess
strove and pulled and pushed to make its progress smooth. Then
suddenly it would be off like the wind, eight, fifteen, or twenty-five
tongues clattering, with a noise like a cotton-mill combined with the
noise of a few penny whistles. Then the hostess had nothing to do but
to look glad, and see that everybody had enough tea and cake. When the
door was closed behind the last guest, the hostess would usually drop
into a chair and say: "Thank Heaven! They're gone!" There would be no
malice in this expression. It simply would be that, womanlike, she had
flung herself headlong at the accomplishment of a pleasure which she
could not even define, and at the end she felt only weariness.

The value and beauty, or oddity, of the tea-cups was another element
which entered largely into the spirit of these terrible enterprises.
The quality of the tea was an element which did not enter at all.
Uniformly it was rather bad. But the cups! Some of the more ambitious
people aspired to have cups each of a different pattern, possessing,
in fact, the sole similarity that with their odd curves and dips of
form they each resembled anything but a teacup. Others of the more
ambitious aspired to a quite severe and godly "set," which, when
viewed, appalled one with its austere and rigid family resemblances,
and made one desire to ask the hostess if the teapot was not the
father of all the little cups, and at the same time protesting
gallantly that such a young and charming cream-jug surely could not be
their mother.

But of course the serious part is that these collections so differed
in style and the obvious amount paid for them that nobody could be
happy. The poorer ones envied; the richer ones feared; the poorer ones
continually striving to overtake the leaders; the leaders always with
their heads turned back to hear overtaking footsteps. And none of
these things here written did they know. Instead of seeing that they
were very stupid, they thought they were very fine. And they gave and
took heart-bruises--fierce, deep heart-bruises--under the clear
impression that of such kind of rubbish was the kingdom of nice
people. The characteristics of outsiders of course emerged in shreds
from these tea parties, and it is doubtful if the characteristics of
insiders escaped entirely. In fact, these tea parties were in the
large way the result of a conspiracy of certain unenlightened people
to make life still more uncomfortable.

Mrs. Trescott was in the circle of tea-fighters largely through a sort
of artificial necessity--a necessity, in short, which she had herself
created in a spirit of femininity.

When the painter and his family came for the holidays, Mrs. Trescott
had for some time been feeling that it was her turn to give a tea
party, and she was resolved upon it now that she was reinforced by the
beautiful wife of the painter, whose charms would make all the other
women feel badly. And Mrs. Trescott further resolved that the affair
should be notable in more than one way. The painter's wife suggested
that, as an innovation, they give the people good tea; but Mrs.
Trescott shook her head; she was quite sure they would not like it.

It was an impressive gathering. A few came to see if they could not
find out the faults of the painter's wife, and these, added to those
who would have attended even without that attractive prospect, swelled
the company to a number quite large for Whilomville. There were the
usual preliminary jolts, and then suddenly the tea party was in full
swing, and looked like an unprecedented success.

Mrs. Trescott exchanged a glance with the painter's wife. They felt
proud and superior. This tea party was almost perfection.


III

Jimmie and the angel child, after being oppressed by innumerable
admonitions to behave correctly during the afternoon, succeeded in
reaching the garden, where the stove awaited them. They were enjoying
themselves grandly, when snow began to fall so heavily that it
gradually dampened their ardor as well as extinguished the fire in the
stove. They stood ruefully until the angel child devised the plan of
carrying the stove into the stable, and there, safe from the storm, to
continue the festivities. But they were met at the door of the stable
by Peter Washington.

"What you 'bout, Jim?"

"Now--it's snowin' so hard, we thought we'd take the stove into the
stable."

"An' have er fiah in it? No, seh! G'w'on 'way f'm heh!--g'w'on! Don'
'low no sech foolishin' round yer. No, seh!"

"Well, we ain't goin' to hurt your old stable, are we?" asked Jimmie,
ironically.

"Dat you ain't, Jim! Not so long's I keep my two eyes right plumb
squaah pinted at ol' Jim. No, seh!" Peter began to chuckle in
derision.

The two vagabonds stood before him while he informed them of their
iniquities as well as their absurdities, and further made clear his
own masterly grasp of the spirit of their devices. Nothing affects
children so much as rhetoric. It may not involve any definite
presentation of common-sense, but if it is picturesque they surrender
decently to its influence. Peter was by all means a rhetorician, and
it was not long before the two children had dismally succumbed to him.
They went away.

Depositing the stove in the snow, they straightened to look at each
other. It did not enter either head to relinquish the idea of
continuing the game. But the situation seemed invulnerable.

The angel child went on a scouting tour. Presently she returned,
flying. "I know! Let's have it in the cellar! In the cellar! Oh, it'll
be lovely!"

The outer door of the cellar was open, and they proceeded down some
steps with their treasure. There was plenty of light; the cellar was
high-walled, warm, and dry. They named it an ideal place. Two huge
cylindrical furnaces were humming away, one at either end. Overhead
the beams detonated with the different emotions which agitated the tea
party.

Jimmie worked like a stoker, and soon there was a fine bright fire in
the stove. The fuel was of small brittle sticks which did not make a
great deal of smoke.

"Now what'll we cook?" cried little Cora. "What'll we cook, Jim? We
must have something to cook, you know."

"Potatoes?" said Jimmie.

But the angel child made a scornful gesture. "No. I've cooked 'bout a
million potatoes, I guess. Potatoes aren't nice any more."

Jimmie's mind was all said and done when the question of potatoes had
been passed, and he looked weakly at his companion.

"Haven't you got any turnips in your house?" she inquired,
contemptuously. "In _my_ house we have _turnips_."

"Oh, turnips!" exclaimed Jimmie, immensely relieved to find that the
honor of his family was safe. "Turnips? Oh, bushels an' bushels an'
bushels! Out in the shed."

"Well, go an' get a whole lot," commanded the angel child. "Go an' get
a whole lot. Grea' big ones. _We_ always have grea' big ones."

Jimmie went to the shed and kicked gently at a company of turnips
which the frost had amalgamated. He made three journeys to and from
the cellar, carrying always the very largest types from his father's
store. Four of them filled the oven of little Cora's stove. This fact
did not please her, so they placed three rows of turnips on the hot
top. Then the angel child, profoundly moved by an inspiration,
suddenly cried out,

"Oh, Jimmie, let's play we're keepin' a hotel, an' have got to cook
for 'bout a thousand people, an' those two furnaces will be the ovens,
an' I'll be the chief cook--"

"No; I want to be chief cook some of the time," interrupted Jimmie.

"No; I'll be chief cook my own self. You must be my 'sistant. Now I'll
prepare 'em--see? An' then you put 'em in the ovens. Get the shovel.
We'll play that's the pan. I'll fix 'em, an' then you put 'em in the
oven. Hold it still now."

Jim held the coal-shovel while little Cora, with a frown of
importance, arranged turnips in rows upon it. She patted each one
daintily, and then backed away to view it, with her head critically
sideways.

"There!" she shouted at last. "That'll do, I guess. Put 'em in the
oven."

Jimmie marched with his shovelful of turnips to one of the furnaces.
The door was already open, and he slid the shovel in upon the red
coals.

"Come on," cried little Cora. "I've got another batch nearly ready."

"But what am I goin' to do with these?" asked Jimmie. "There ain't
only one shovel."

"Leave 'm in there," retorted the girl, passionately. "Leave 'm in
there, an' then play you're comin' with another pan. 'Tain't right to
stand there an' _hold_ the pan, you goose."

So Jimmie expelled all his turnips from his shovel out upon the
furnace fire, and returned obediently for another batch.

"These are puddings," yelled the angel child, gleefully. "Dozens an'
dozens of puddings for the thousand people at our grea' big hotel."


IV

At the first alarm the painter had fled to the doctor's office, where
he hid his face behind a book and pretended that he did not hear the
noise of feminine revelling. When the doctor came from a round of
calls, he too retreated upon the office, and the men consoled each
other as well as they were able. Once Mrs. Trescott dashed in to say
delightedly that her tea party was not only the success of the
season, but it was probably the very nicest tea party that had ever
been held in Whilomville. After vainly beseeching them to return with
her, she dashed away again, her face bright with happiness.

The doctor and the painter remained for a long time in silence,
Trescott tapping reflectively upon the window-pane. Finally he turned
to the painter, and sniffing, said: "What is that, Willis? Don't you
smell something?"

The painter also sniffed. "Why, yes! It's like--it's like turnips."

"Turnips? No; it can't be.

"Well, it's very much like it."

The puzzled doctor opened the door into the hall, and at first it
appeared that he was going to give back two paces. A result of
frizzling turnips, which was almost as tangible as mist, had blown in
upon his face and made him gasp. "Good God! Willis, what can this be?"
he cried.

"Whee!" said the painter. "It's awful, isn't it?"

The doctor made his way hurriedly to his wife, but before he could
speak with her he had to endure the business of greeting a score of
women. Then he whispered, "Out in the hall there's an awful--"

[Illustration: "THE SOLEMN ODOR OF BURNING TURNIPS ROLLED IN LIKE A
SEA-FOG"]

But at that moment it came to them on the wings of a sudden draught.
The solemn odor of burning turnips rolled in like a sea-fog, and fell
upon that dainty, perfumed tea party. It was almost a personality; if
some unbidden and extremely odious guest had entered the room, the
effect would have been much the same. The sprightly talk stopped with
a jolt, and people looked at each other. Then a few brave and
considerate persons made the usual attempt to talk away as if nothing
had happened. They all looked at their hostess, who wore an air of
stupefaction.

The odor of burning turnips grew and grew. To Trescott it seemed to
make a noise. He thought he could hear the dull roar of this outrage.
Under some circumstances he might have been able to take the situation
from a point of view of comedy, but the agony of his wife was too
acute, and, for him, too visible. She was saying: "Yes, we saw the
play the last time we were in New York. I liked it very much. That
scene in the second act--the gloomy church, you know, and all
that--and the organ playing--and then when the four singing little
girls came in--" But Trescott comprehended that she did not know if
she was talking of a play or a parachute.

He had not been in the room twenty seconds before his brow suddenly
flushed with an angry inspiration. He left the room hastily, leaving
behind him an incoherent phrase of apology, and charged upon his
office, where he found the painter somnolent.

"Willis!" he cried, sternly, "come with me. It's that damn kid of
yours!"

The painter was immediately agitated. He always seemed to feel more
than any one else in the world the peculiar ability of his child to
create resounding excitement, but he seemed always to exhibit his
feelings very late. He arose hastily, and hurried after Trescott to
the top of the inside cellar stairway. Trescott motioned him to pause,
and for an instant they listened.

"Hurry up, Jim," cried the busy little Cora. "Here's another whole
batch of lovely puddings. Hurry up now, an' put 'em in the oven."

Trescott looked at the painter; the painter groaned. Then they
appeared violently in the middle of the great kitchen of the hotel
with a thousand people in it. "Jimmie, go up-stairs!" said Trescott,
and then he turned to watch the painter deal with the angel child.

With some imitation of wrath, the painter stalked to his daughter's
side and grasped her by the arm.

[Illustration: "'HERE'S ANOTHER BATCH OF LOVELY PUDDINGS'"]

"Oh, papa! papa!" she screamed. "You're pinching me! You're pinching
me! You're pinching me, papa!"

At first the painter had seemed resolved to keep his grip, but
suddenly he let go her arm in a panic. "I've hurt her," he said,
turning to Trescott.

Trescott had swiftly done much towards the obliteration of the hotel
kitchen, but he looked up now and spoke, after a short period of
reflection. "You've hurt her, have you? Well, hurt her again. Spank
her!" he cried, enthusiastically. "Spank her, confound you, man! She
needs it. Here's your chance. Spank her, and spank her good. Spank
her!"

The painter naturally wavered over this incendiary proposition, but at
last, in one supreme burst of daring, he shut his eyes and again
grabbed his precious offspring.

The spanking was lamentably the work of a perfect bungler. It couldn't
have hurt at all; but the angel child raised to heaven a loud, clear
soprano howl that expressed the last word in even mediæval anguish.
Soon the painter was aghast. "Stop it, darling! I didn't mean--I
didn't mean to--to hurt you so much, you know." He danced nervously.
Trescott sat on a box, and devilishly smiled.

But the pasture call of suffering motherhood came down to them, and a
moment later a splendid apparition appeared on the cellar stairs. She
understood the scene at a glance. "Willis! What have you been doing?"

Trescott sat on his box, the painter guiltily moved from foot to foot,
and the angel child advanced to her mother with arms outstretched,
making a piteous wail of amazed and pained pride that would have moved
Peter the Great. Regardless of her frock, the panting mother knelt on
the stone floor and took her child to her bosom, and looked, then,
bitterly, scornfully, at the cowering father and husband.

The painter, for his part, at once looked reproachfully at Trescott,
as if to say: "There! You see?"

Trescott arose and extended his hands in a quiet but magnificent
gesture of despair and weariness. He seemed about to say something
classic, and, quite instinctively, they waited. The stillness was
deep, and the wait was longer than a moment. "Well," he said, "we
can't live in the cellar. Let's go up-stairs."



X

THE TRIAL, EXECUTION, AND BURIAL OF HOMER PHELPS


From time to time an enwearied pine bough let fall to the earth its
load of melting snow, and the branch swung back glistening in the
faint wintry sunlight. Down the gulch a brook clattered amid its ice
with the sound of a perpetual breaking of glass. All the forest looked
drenched and forlorn.

The sky-line was a ragged enclosure of gray cliffs and hemlocks and
pines. If one had been miraculously set down in this gulch one could
have imagined easily that the nearest human habitation was hundreds of
miles away, if it were not for an old half-discernible wood-road that
led towards the brook.

"Halt! Who's there?"

This low and gruff cry suddenly dispelled the stillness which lay upon
the lonely gulch, but the hush which followed it seemed even more
profound. The hush endured for some seconds, and then the voice of the
challenger was again raised, this time with a distinctly querulous
note in it.

"Halt! Who's there? Why don't you answer when I holler? Don't you know
you're likely to get shot?"

A second voice answered, "Oh, you knew who I was easy enough."

"That don't make no diff'rence." One of the Margate twins stepped from
a thicket and confronted Homer Phelps on the old wood-road. The
majestic scowl of official wrath was upon the brow of Reeves Margate,
a long stick was held in the hollow of his arm as one would hold a
rifle, and he strode grimly to the other boy. "That don't make no
diff'rence. You've got to answer when I holler, anyhow. Willie says
so."

At the mention of the dread chieftain's name the Phelps boy daunted a
trifle, but he still sulkily murmured, "Well, you knew it was me."

He started on his way through the snow, but the twin sturdily blocked
the path. "You can't pass less'n you give the countersign."

"Huh?" said the Phelps boy. "Countersign?"

"Yes--countersign," sneered the twin, strong in his sense of virtue.

But the Phelps boy became very angry. "Can't I, hey? Can't I, hey?
I'll show you whether I can or not! I'll show you, Reeves Margate!"

There was a short scuffle, and then arose the anguished clamor of the
sentry: "Hey, fellers! Here's a man tryin' to run a-past the guard.
Hey, fellers! Hey!"

There was a great noise in the adjacent underbrush. The voice of
Willie could be heard exhorting his followers to charge swiftly and
bravely. Then they appeared--Willie Dalzel, Jimmie Trescott, the other
Margate twin, and Dan Earl. The chieftain's face was dark with wrath.
"What's the matter? Can't you play it right? 'Ain't you got any
sense?" he asked the Phelps boy.

The sentry was yelling out his grievance. "Now--he came along an' I
hollered at 'im, an' he didn't pay no 'tention, an' when I ast 'im for
the countersign, he wouldn't say nothin'. That ain't no way."

"Can't you play it right?" asked the chief again, with gloomy scorn.

"He knew it was me easy enough," said the Phelps boy.

"That 'ain't got nothin' to do with it," cried the chief, furiously.
"That 'ain't got nothin' to do with it. If you're goin' to play,
you've got to play it right. It ain't no fun if you go spoilin' the
whole thing this way. Can't you play it right?"

"I forgot the countersign," lied the culprit, weakly.

Whereupon the remainder of the band yelled out, with one triumphant
voice: "War to the knife! War to the knife! I remember it, Willie.
Don't I, Willie?"

The leader was puzzled. Evidently he was trying to develop in his mind
a plan for dealing correctly with this unusual incident. He felt, no
doubt, that he must proceed according to the books, but unfortunately
the books did not cover the point precisely. However, he finally said
to Homer Phelps, "You are under arrest." Then with a stentorian voice
he shouted, "Seize him!"

His loyal followers looked startled for a brief moment, but directly
they began to move upon the Phelps boy. The latter clearly did not
intend to be seized. He backed away, expostulating wildly. He even
seemed somewhat frightened. "No, no; don't you touch me, I tell you;
don't you dare touch me."

The others did not seem anxious to engage. They moved slowly, watching
the desperate light in his eyes. The chieftain stood with folded arms,
his face growing darker and darker with impatience. At length he burst
out: "Oh, seize him, I tell you! Why don't you seize him? Grab him by
the leg, Dannie! Hurry up, all of you! Seize him, I keep a-say-in'!"

Thus adjured, the Margate twins and Dan Earl made another pained
effort, while Jimmie Trescott manoeuvred to cut off a retreat. But,
to tell the truth, there was a boyish law which held them back from
laying hands of violence upon little Phelps under these conditions.
Perhaps it was because they were only playing, whereas he was now
undeniably serious. At any rate, they looked very sick of their
occupation.

"Don't you dare!" snarled the Phelps boy, facing first one and then
the other; he was almost in tears--"don't you dare touch me!"

The chieftain was now hopping with exasperation. "Oh, seize him, can't
you? You're no good at all!" Then he loosed his wrath upon the Phelps
boy: "Stand still, Homer, can't you? You've got to be seized, you
know. That ain't the way. It ain't any fun if you keep a-dodgin' that
way. Stand still, can't you! You've got to be seized."

"I don't _want_ to be seized," retorted the Phelps boy, obstinate and
bitter.

"But you've _got_ to be seized!" yelled the maddened chief. "Don't you
see? That's the way to play it."

The Phelps boy answered, promptly, "But I don't want to play that
way."

"But that's the _right_ way to play it. Don't you see? You've got to
play it the right way. You've got to be seized, an' then we'll hold a
trial on you, an'--an' all sorts of things."

But this prospect held no illusions for the Phelps boy. He continued
doggedly to repeat, "I don't want to play that way!"

Of course in the end the chief stooped to beg and beseech this
unreasonable lad. "Oh, come on, Homer! Don't be so mean. You're
a-spoilin' everything. We won't hurt you any. Not the tintiest bit.
It's all just playin'. What's the matter with you?"

The different tone of the leader made an immediate impression upon the
other. He showed some signs of the beginning of weakness. "Well," he
asked, "what you goin' to do?"

"Why, first we're goin' to put you in a dungeon, or tie you to a
stake, or something like that--just pertend, you know," added the
chief, hurriedly, "an' then we'll hold a trial, awful solemn, but
there won't be anything what'll hurt you. Not a thing."

[Illustration: "FROM THIS BOOT HE EMPTIED ABOUT A QUART OF SNOW"]

And so the game was readjusted. The Phelps boy was marched off between
Dan Earl and a Margate twin. The party proceeded to their camp, which
was hidden some hundred feet back in the thickets. There was a
miserable little hut with a pine-bark roof, which so frankly and
constantly leaked that existence in the open air was always
preferable. At present it was noisily dripping melted snow into the
black mouldy interior. In front of this hut a feeble fire was
flickering through its unhappy career. Underfoot, the watery snow was
of the color of lead.

The party having arrived at the camp, the chief leaned against a tree,
and balancing on one foot, drew off a rubber boot. From this boot he
emptied about a quart of snow. He squeezed his stocking, which had a
hole from which protruded a lobster-red toe. He resumed his boot.
"Bring up the prisoner," said he. They did it. "Guilty or not guilty?"
he asked.

"Huh?" said the Phelps boy.

"Guilty or not guilty?" demanded the chief, peremptorily. "Guilty or
not guilty? Don't you understand?"

Homer Phelps looked profoundly puzzled. "Guilty or not guilty?" he
asked, slowly and weakly.

The chief made a swift gesture, and turned in despair to the others.
"Oh, he don't do it right! He does it all wrong!" He again faced the
prisoner with an air of making a last attempt, "Now look-a-here,
Homer, when I say, 'Guilty or not guilty?' you want to up an' say,
'Not Guilty.' Don't you see?"

"Not guilty," said Homer, at once.

"No, no, no. Wait till I ask you. Now wait." He called out, pompously,
"Pards, if this prisoner before us is guilty, what shall be his fate?"

All those well-trained little infants with one voice sung out,
"_Death!_"

"Prisoner," continued the chief, "are you guilty or not guilty?"

"But look-a-here," argued Homer, "you said it wouldn't be nothin' that
would hurt. I--"

"Thunder an' lightnin'!" roared the wretched chief. "Keep your mouth
shut, can't ye? What in the mischief--"

But there was an interruption from Jimmie Trescott, who shouldered a
twin aside and stepped to the front. "Here," he said, very
contemptuously, "let me be the prisoner. I'll show 'im how to do it."

"All right, Jim," cried the chief, delighted; "you be the prisoner,
then. Now all you fellers with guns stand there in a row! Get out of
the way, Homer!" He cleared his throat, and addressed Jimmie.
"Prisoner, are you guilty or not guilty?"

"Not guilty," answered Jimmie, firmly. Standing there before his
judge--unarmed, slim, quiet, modest--he was ideal.

The chief beamed upon him, and looked aside to cast a triumphant and
withering glance upon Homer Phelps. He said: "There! That's the way to
do it."

The twins and Dan Earl also much admired Jimmie.

"That's all right so far, anyhow," said the satisfied chief. "An' now
we'll--now we'll--we'll perceed with the execution."

"That ain't right," said the new prisoner, suddenly. "That ain't the
next thing. You've got to have a trial first. You've got to fetch up a
lot of people first who'll say I done it."

"That's so," said the chief. "I didn't think. Here, Reeves, you be
first witness. Did the prisoner do it?"

The twin gulped for a moment in his anxiety to make the proper reply.
He was at the point where the roads forked. Finally he hazarded,
"Yes."

"There," said the chief, "that's one of 'em. Now, Dan, you be a
witness. Did he do it?"

Dan Earl, having before him the twin's example, did not hesitate.
"Yes," he said.

"Well, then, pards, what shall be his fate?"

Again came the ringing answer, "_Death_!"

With Jimmie in the principal rôle, this drama, hidden deep in the
hemlock thicket neared a kind of perfection. "You must blind-fold me,"
cried the condemned lad, briskly, "an' then I'll go off an' stand, an'
you must all get in a row an' shoot me."

The chief gave this plan his urbane countenance, and the twins and Dan
Earl were greatly pleased. They blindfolded Jimmie under his careful
directions. He waded a few paces into snow, and then turned and stood
with quiet dignity, awaiting his fate. The chief marshalled the twins
and Dan Earl in line with their sticks. He gave the necessary
commands: "Load! Ready! Aim! Fire!" At the last command the firing
party all together yelled, "Bang!"

Jimmie threw his hands high, tottered in agony for a moment, and
then crashed full length into the snow--into, one would think, a
serious case of pneumonia. It was beautiful.

[Illustration: THE EXECUTION]

He arose almost immediately and came back to them, wondrously pleased
with himself. They acclaimed him joyously.

The chief was particularly grateful. He was always trying to bring off
these little romantic affairs, and it seemed, after all, that the only
boy who could ever really help him was Jimmie Trescott. "There," he
said to the others, "that's the way it ought to be done."

They were touched to the heart by the whole thing, and they looked at
Jimmie with big, smiling eyes. Jimmie, blown out like a balloon-fish
with pride of his performance, swaggered to the fire and took seat on
some wet hemlock boughs. "Fetch some more wood, one of you kids," he
murmured, negligently. One of the twins came fortunately upon a small
cedar-tree the lower branches of which were dead and dry. An armful of
these branches flung upon the sick fire soon made a high, ruddy, warm
blaze, which was like an illumination in honor of Jimmie's success.

The boys sprawled about the fire and talked the regular language of
the game. "Waal, pards," remarked the chief, "it's many a night we've
had together here in the Rockies among the b'ars an' the Indyuns,
hey?"

"Yes, pard," replied Jimmie Trescott, "I reckon you're right. Our
wild, free life is--there ain't nothin' to compare with our wild, free
life."

Whereupon the two lads arose and magnificently shook hands, while the
others watched them in an ecstasy. "I'll allus stick by ye, pard,"
said Jimmie, earnestly. "When yer in trouble, don't forgit that
Lightnin' Lou is at yer back."

"Thanky, pard," quoth Willie Dalzel, deeply affected. "I'll not forgit
it, pard. An' don't you forgit, either, that Dead-shot Demon, the
leader of the Red Raiders, never forgits a friend."

But Homer Phelps was having none of this great fun. Since his
disgraceful refusal to be seized and executed he had been hovering
unheeded on the outskirts of the band. He seemed very sorry; he cast a
wistful eye at the romantic scene. He knew too well that if he went
near at that particular time he would be certain to encounter a
pitiless snubbing. So he vacillated modestly in the background.

At last the moment came when he dared venture near enough to the fire
to gain some warmth, for he was now bitterly suffering with the cold.
He sidled close to Willie Dalzel. No one heeded him. Eventually he
looked at his chief, and with a bright face said,

"Now--if I was seized now to be executed, I could do it as well as
Jimmie Trescott, I could."

The chief gave a crow of scorn, in which he was followed by the
other'boys. "Ho!" he cried, "why didn't you do it, then? Why didn't
you do it?" Homer Phelps felt upon him many pairs of disdainful eyes.
He wagged his shoulders in misery.

"You're dead," said the chief, frankly. "That's what you are. We
executed you, we did."

"When?" demanded the Phelps boy, with some spirit.

"Just a little while ago. Didn't we, fellers? Hey, fellers, didn't
we?"

The trained chorus cried: "Yes, of course we did. You're dead, Homer.
You can't play any more. You're dead."

"That wasn't me. It was Jimmie Trescott," he said, in a low and bitter
voice, his eyes on the ground. He would have given the world if he
could have retracted his mad refusals of the early part of the drama.

"No," said the chief, "it was you. We're playin' it was you, an' it
_was_ you. You're dead, you are." And seeing the cruel effect of his
words, he did not refrain from administering some advice: "The next
time, don't be such a chuckle-head."

Presently the camp imagined that it was attacked by Indians, and the
boys dodged behind trees with their stick-rifles, shouting out,
"Bang!" and encouraging each other to resist until the last. In the
mean time the dead lad hovered near the fire, looking moodily at the
gay and exciting scene. After the fight the gallant defenders returned
one by one to the fire, where they grandly clasped hands, calling each
other "old pard," and boasting of their deeds.

Parenthetically, one of the twins had an unfortunate inspiration. "I
killed the Indy-un chief, fellers. Did you see me kill the Indy-un
chief?"

But Willie Dalzel, his own chief, turned upon him wrathfully: "_You_
didn't kill no chief. _I_ killed 'im with me own hand."

"Oh!" said the twin, apologetically, at once. "It must have been some
other Indy-un."

"Who's wounded?" cried Willie Dalzel. "Ain't anybody wounded?" The
party professed themselves well and sound. The roving and inventive
eye of the chief chanced upon Homer Phelps. "Ho! Here's a dead man!
Come on, fellers, here's a dead man! We've got to bury him, you know."
And at his bidding they pounced upon the dead Phelps lad. The unhappy
boy saw clearly his road to rehabilitation, but mind and body revolted
at the idea of burial, even as they had revolted at the thought of
execution. "No!" he said, stubbornly. "No! I don't want to be buried!
I don't want to be buried!"

[Illustration: THE FUNERAL ORATION]

"You've _got_ to be buried!" yelled the chief, passionately. "'Tain't
goin' to hurt ye, is it? Think you're made of glass? Come on, fellers,
get the grave ready!"

They scattered hemlock boughs upon the snow in the form of a
rectangle, and piled other boughs near at hand. The victim surveyed
these preparations with a glassy eye. When all was ready, the chief
turned determinedly to him: "Come on now, Homer. We've got to carry
you to the grave. Get him by the legs, Jim!"

Little Phelps had now passed into that state which may be described as
a curious and temporary childish fatalism. He still objected, but it
was only feeble muttering, as if he did not know what he spoke. In
some confusion they carried him to the rectangle of hemlock boughs
and dropped him. Then they piled other boughs upon him until he was
not to be seen. The chief stepped forward to make a short address, but
before proceeding with it he thought it expedient, from certain
indications, to speak to the grave itself. "Lie still, can't ye? Lie
still until I get through." There was a faint movement of the boughs,
and then a perfect silence.

The chief took off his hat. Those who watched him could see that his
face was harrowed with emotion. "Pards," he began, brokenly--"pards,
we've got one more debt to pay them murderin' red-skins. Bowie-knife
Joe was a brave man an' a good pard, but--he's gone now--gone." He
paused for a moment, overcome, and the stillness was only broken by
the deep manly grief of Jimmie Trescott.



XI

THE FIGHT


I

The child life of the neighborhood was sometimes moved in its deeps at
the sight of wagon-loads of furniture arriving in front of some house
which, with closed blinds and barred doors, had been for a time a
mystery, or even a fear. The boys often expressed this fear by
stamping bravely and noisily on the porch of the house, and then
suddenly darting away with screams of nervous laughter, as if they
expected to be pursued by something uncanny. There was a group who
held that the cellar of a vacant house was certainly the abode of
robbers, smugglers, assassins, mysterious masked men in council about
the dim rays of a candle, and possessing skulls, emblematic bloody
daggers, and owls. Then, near the first of April, would come along a
wagon-load of furniture, and children would assemble on the walk by
the gate and make serious examination of everything that passed into
the house, and taking no thought whatever of masked men.

One day it was announced in the neighborhood that a family was
actually moving into the Hannigan house, next door to Dr. Trescott's.
Jimmie was one of the first to be informed, and by the time some of
his friends came dashing up he was versed in much.

"Any boys?" they demanded, eagerly.

"Yes," answered Jimmie, proudly. "One's a little feller, and one's
most as big as me. I saw 'em, I did."

"Where are they?" asked Willie Dalzel, as if under the circumstances
he could not take Jimmie's word, but must have the evidence of his
senses.

"Oh, they're in there," said Jimmie, carelessly. It was evident he
owned these new boys.

Willie Dalzel resented Jimmie's proprietary way.

"Ho!" he cried, scornfully. "Why don't they come out, then? Why don't
they come out?"

"How d' I know?" said Jimmie.

[Illustration: "STAMPING BRAVELY AND NOISILY ON THE PORCH"]

"Well," retorted Willie Dalzel, "you seemed to know so thundering much
about 'em."

At the moment a boy came strolling down the gravel walk which led from
the front door to the gate. He was about the height and age of Jimmie
Trescott, but he was thick through the chest and had fat legs. His
face was round and rosy and plump, but his hair was curly black, and
his brows were naturally darkling, so that he resembled both a pudding
and a young bull.

He approached slowly the group of older inhabitants, and they had
grown profoundly silent. They looked him over; he looked them over.
They might have been savages observing the first white man, or white
men observing the first savage. The silence held steady.

As he neared the gate the strange boy wandered off to the left in a
definite way, which proved his instinct to make a circular voyage when
in doubt. The motionless group stared at him. In time this unsmiling
scrutiny worked upon him somewhat, and he leaned against the fence and
fastidiously examined one shoe.

In the end Willie Dalzel authoritatively broke the stillness. "What's
your name?" said he, gruffly.

"Johnnie Hedge 'tis," answered the new boy. Then came another great
silence while Whilomville pondered this intelligence.

Again came the voice of authority--"Where'd you live b'fore?"

"Jersey City."

These two sentences completed the first section of the formal code.
The second section concerned itself with the establishment of the
new-comer's exact position in the neighborhood.

"I kin lick you," announced Willie Dalzel, and awaited the answer.

The Hedge boy had stared at Willie Dalzel, but he stared at him again.
After a pause he said, "I know you kin."

"Well," demanded Willie, "kin _he_ lick you?" And he indicated Jimmie
Trescott with a sweep which announced plainly that Jimmie was the next
in prowess.

Whereupon the new boy looked at Jimmie respectfully but carefully, and
at length said, "I dun'no'."

This was the signal for an outburst of shrill screaming, and everybody
pushed Jimmie forward. He knew what he had to say, and, as befitted
the occasion, he said it fiercely: "Kin you lick me?"

The new boy also understood what he had to say, and, despite his
unhappy and lonely state, he said it bravely: "Yes."

"Well," retorted Jimmie, bluntly, "come out and do it, then! Jest come
out and do it!" And these words were greeted with cheers. These little
rascals yelled that there should be a fight at once. They were in
bliss over the prospect. "Go on, Jim! Make 'im come out. He said he
could lick you. Aw-aw-aw! He said he could lick you!" There probably
never was a fight among this class in Whilomville which was not the
result of the goading and guying of two proud lads by a populace of
urchins who simply wished to see a show.

Willie Dalzel was very busy. He turned first to the one and then to
the other. "You said you could lick him. Well, why don't you come out
and do it, then? You said you could lick him, didn't you?"

"Yes," answered the new boy, dogged and dubious.

Willie tried to drag Jimmie by the arm. "Aw, go on, Jimmie! You ain't
afraid, are you?"

"No," said Jimmie.

The two victims opened wide eyes at each other. The fence separated
them, and so it was impossible for them to immediately engage; but
they seemed to understand that they were ultimately to be sacrificed
to the ferocious aspirations of the other boys, and each scanned the
other to learn something of his spirit. They were not angry at all.
They were merely two little gladiators who were being clamorously told
to hurt each other. Each displayed hesitation and doubt without
displaying fear. They did not exactly understand what were their
feelings, and they moodily kicked the ground and made low and sullen
answers to Willie Dalzel, who worked like a circus-manager.

"Aw, go on, Jim! What's the matter with you? You ain't afraid, are
you? Well, then, say something." This sentiment received more cheering
from the abandoned little wretches who wished to be entertained, and
in this cheering there could be heard notes of derision of Jimmie
Trescott. The latter had a position to sustain; he was well known; he
often bragged of his willingness and ability to thrash other boys;
well, then, here was a boy of his size who said that he could not
thrash him. What was he going to do about it? The crowd made these
arguments very clear, and repeated them again and again.

Finally Jimmie, driven to aggression, walked close to the fence and
said to the new boy, "The first time I catch you out of your own yard
I'll lam the head off'n you!" This was received with wild plaudits by
the Whilomville urchins.

But the new boy stepped back from the fence. He was awed by Jimmie's
formidable mien. But he managed to get out a semi-defiant sentence.
"Maybe you will, and maybe you won't," said he.

However, his short retreat was taken as a practical victory for
Jimmie, and the boys hooted him bitterly. He remained inside the
fence, swinging one foot and scowling, while Jimmie was escorted off
down the street amid acclamations. The new boy turned and walked back
towards the house, his face gloomy, lined deep with discouragement, as
if he felt that the new environment's antagonism and palpable cruelty
were sure to prove too much for him.


II

The mother of Johnnie Hedge was a widow, and the chief theory of her
life was that her boy should be in school on the greatest possible
number of days. He himself had no sympathy with this ambition, but she
detected the truth of his diseases with an unerring eye, and he was
required to be really ill before he could win the right to disregard
the first bell, morning and noon. The chicken-pox and the mumps had
given him vacations--vacations of misery, wherein he nearly died
between pain and nursing. But bad colds in the head did nothing for
him, and he was not able to invent a satisfactory hacking cough. His
mother was not consistently a tartar. In most things he swayed her to
his will. He was allowed to have more jam, pickles, and pie than most
boys; she respected his profound loathing of Sunday-school; on summer
evenings he could remain out-of-doors until 8.30; but in this matter
of school she was inexorable. This single point in her character was
of steel.

The Hedges arrived in Whilomville on a Saturday, and on the following
Monday Johnnie wended his way to school with a note to the principal
and his Jersey City school-books. He knew perfectly well that he would
be told to buy new and different books, but in those days mothers
always had an idea that old books would "do," and they invariably sent
boys off to a new school with books which would not meet the selected
and unchangeable views of the new administration. The old books
never would "do." Then the boys brought them home to annoyed mothers
and asked for ninety cents or sixty cents or eighty-five cents or some
number of cents for another outfit. In the garret of every house
holding a large family there was a collection of effete school-books,
with mother rebellious because James could not inherit his books from
Paul, who should properly be Peter's heir, while Peter should be a
beneficiary under Henry's will.

[Illustration: "'THE FIRST TIME I CATCH YOU I'LL LAM THE HEAD OFF'N
YOU'"]

But the matter of the books was not the measure of Johnnie Hedge's
unhappiness. This whole business of changing schools was a complete
torture. Alone he had to go among a new people, a new tribe, and he
apprehended his serious time. There were only two fates for him. One
meant victory. One meant a kind of serfdom in which he would subscribe
to every word of some superior boy and support his every word. It was
not anything like an English system of fagging, because boys
invariably drifted into the figurative service of other boys whom they
devotedly admired, and if they were obliged to subscribe to
everything, it is true that they would have done so freely in any
case. One means to suggest that Johnnie Hedge had to find his place.
Willie Dalzel was a type of the little chieftain, and Willie was a
master, but he was not a bully in a special physical sense. He did not
drag little boys by the ears until they cried, nor make them tearfully
fetch and carry for him. They fetched and carried, but it was because
of their worship of his prowess and genius. And so all through the
strata of boy life were chieftains and subchieftains and assistant
subchieftains. There was no question of little Hedge being towed about
by the nose; it was, as one has said, that he had to find his place in
a new school. And this in itself was a problem which awed his boyish
heart. He was a stranger cast away upon the moon. None knew him,
understood him, felt for him. He would be surrounded for this
initiative time by a horde of jackal creatures who might turn out in
the end to be little boys like himself, but this last point his
philosophy could not understand in its fulness.

He came to a white meeting-house sort of a place, in the squat tower
of which a great bell was clanging impressively. He passed through an
iron gate into a play-ground worn bare as the bed of a mountain brook
by the endless runnings and scufflings of little children. There was
still a half-hour before the final clangor in the squat tower, but the
play-ground held a number of frolicsome imps. A loitering boy espied
Johnnie Hedge, and he howled: "Oh! oh! Here's a new feller! Here's a
new feller!" He advanced upon the strange arrival. "What's your name?"
he demanded, belligerently, like a particularly offensive custom-house
officer.

"Johnnie Hedge," responded the new-comer, shyly.

This name struck the other boy as being very comic. All new names
strike boys as being comic. He laughed noisily.

"Oh, fellers, he says his name is Johnnie Hedge! Haw! haw! haw!"

The new boy felt that his name was the most disgraceful thing which
had ever been attached to a human being.

"Johnnie Hedge! Haw! haw! What room you in?" said the other lad.

"I dun'no'," said Johnnie. In the mean time a small flock of
interested vultures had gathered about him. The main thing was his
absolute strangeness. He even would have welcomed the sight of his
tormentors of Saturday; he had seen them before at least. These
creatures were only so many incomprehensible problems. He diffidently
began to make his way towards the main door of the school, and the
other boys followed him. They demanded information.

"Are you through subtraction yet? We study jogerfre--did you, ever? You
live here now? You goin' to school here now?"

To many questions he made answer as well as the clamor would permit,
and at length he reached the main door and went quaking unto his new
kings. As befitted them, the rabble stopped at the door. A teacher
strolling along a corridor found a small boy holding in his hand a
note. The boy palpably did not know what to do with the note, but the
teacher knew, and took it. Thereafter this little boy was in harness.

A splendid lady in gorgeous robes gave him a seat at a double desk, at
the end of which sat a hoodlum with grimy finger-nails, who eyed the
inauguration with an extreme and personal curiosity. The other desks
were gradually occupied by children, who first were told of the new
boy, and then turned upon him a speculative and somewhat derisive eye.
The school opened; little classes went forward to a position in front
of the teacher's platform and tried to explain that they knew
something. The new boy was not requisitioned a great deal; he was
allowed to lie dormant until he became used to the scenes and until
the teacher found, approximately, his mental position. In the mean
time he suffered a shower of stares and whispers and giggles, as if he
were a man-ape, whereas he was precisely like other children. From
time to time he made funny and pathetic little overtures to other
boys, but these overtures could not yet be received; he was not known;
he was a foreigner. The village school was like a nation. It was
tight. Its amiability or friendship must be won in certain ways.

At recess he hovered in the school-room around the weak lights of
society and around the teacher, in the hope that somebody might be
good to him, but none considered him save as some sort of a specimen.
The teacher of course had a secondary interest in the fact that he was
an additional one to a class of sixty-three.

At twelve o'clock, when the ordered files of boys and girls marched
towards the door, he exhibited--to no eye--the tremblings of a coward
in a charge. He exaggerated the lawlessness of the play-ground and the
street.

But the reality was hard enough. A shout greeted him:

"Oh, here's the new feller! Here's the new feller!"

Small and utterly obscure boys teased him. He had a hard time of it to
get to the gate. There never was any actual hurt, but everything was
competent to smite the lad with shame. It was a curious, groundless
shame, but nevertheless it was shame. He was a new-comer, and he
definitely felt the disgrace of the fact. In the street he was seen
and recognized by some lads who had formed part of the group of
Saturday. They shouted:

"Oh, Jimmie! Jimmie! Here he is! Here's that new feller!"

Jimmie Trescott was going virtuously towards his luncheon when he
heard these cries behind him. He pretended not to hear, and in this
deception he was assisted by the fact that he was engaged at the time
in a furious argument with a friend over the relative merits of two
"Uncle Tom's Cabin" companies. It appeared that one company had only
two bloodhounds, while the other had ten. On the other hand, the first
company had two Topsys and two Uncle Toms, while the second had only
one Topsy and one Uncle Tom.

But the shouting little boys were hard after him. Finally they were
even pulling at his arms.

"Jimmie--"

"What?" he demanded, turning with a snarl. "What d'you want? Leggo my
arm!"

"Here he is! Here's the new feller! Here's the new feller! Now!"

"I don't care if he is," said Jimmie, with grand impatience. He tilted
his chin. "I don't care if he is."

Then they reviled him. "Thought you was goin' to lick him first time
you caught him! Yah! You're a 'fraid-cat!" They began to sing
"'Fraid-cat! 'Fraidcat! 'Fraid-cat!" He expostulated hotly, turning
from one to the other, but they would not listen. In the mean time the
Hedge boy slunk on his way, looking with deep anxiety upon this
attempt to send Jimmie against him. But Jimmie would have none of the
plan.


III

When the children met again on the play-ground, Jimmie was openly
challenged with cowardice. He had made a big threat in the hearing of
comrades, and when invited by them to take advantage of an
opportunity, he had refused. They had been fairly sure of their
amusement, and they were indignant. Jimmie was finally driven to
declare that as soon as school was out for the day, he would thrash
the Hedge boy.

When finally the children came rushing out of the iron gate, filled
with the delights of freedom, a hundred boys surrounded Jimmie in high
spirits, for he had said that he was determined. They waited for the
lone lad from Jersey City. When he appeared, Jimmie wasted no time. He
walked straight to him and said, "Did you say you kin lick me?"

Johnnie Hedge was cowed, shrinking, affrighted, and the roars of a
hundred boys thundered in his ears, but again he knew what he had to
say. "Yes," he gasped, in anguish.

"Then," said Jimmie, resolutely, "you've got to fight." There was a
joyous clamor by the mob. The beleaguered lad looked this way and that
way for succor, as Willie Dalzel and other officious youngsters
policed an irregular circle in the crowd. He saw Jimmie facing him;
there was no help for it; he dropped his books--the old books which
would not "do."

Now it was the fashion among tiny Whilomville belligerents to fight
much in the manner of little bear cubs. Two boys would rush upon each
other, immediately grapple, and--the best boy having probably
succeeded in getting the coveted "under hold"--there would presently
be a crash to the earth of the inferior boy, and he would probably be
mopped around in the dust, or the mud, or the snow, or whatever the
material happened to be, until the engagement was over. Whatever havoc
was dealt out to him was ordinarily the result of his wild endeavors
to throw off his opponent and arise. Both infants wept during the
fight, as a common thing, and if they wept very hard, the fight was a
harder fight. The result was never very bloody, but the complete
dishevelment of both victor and vanquished was extraordinary. As for
the spectacle, it more resembled a collision of boys in a fog than it
did the manly art of hammering another human being into speechless
inability.

The fight began when Jimmie made a mad, bear-cub rush at the new boy,
amid savage cries of encouragement. Willie Dalzel, for instance,
almost howled his head off. Very timid boys on the outskirts of the
throng felt their hearts leap to their throats. It was a time when
certain natures were impressed that only man is vile.

But it appeared that bear-cub rushing was no part of the instruction
received by boys in Jersey City. Boys in Jersey City were apparently
schooled curiously. Upon the onslaught of Jimmie, the stranger
had gone wild with rage--boylike. Some spark had touched his
fighting-blood, and in a moment he was a cornered, desperate,
fire-eyed little man. He began to swing his arms, to revolve them so
swiftly that one might have considered him a small, working model of
an extra-fine patented windmill which was caught in a gale. For a
moment this defence surprised Jimmie more than it damaged him, but two
moments later a small, knotty fist caught him squarely in the eye, and
with a shriek he went down in defeat. He lay on the ground so stunned
that he could not even cry; but if he had been able to cry, he would
have cried over his prestige--or something--not over his eye.

There was a dreadful tumult. The boys cast glances of amazement and
terror upon the victor, and thronged upon the beaten Jimmie Trescott.
It was a moment of excitement so intense that one cannot say what
happened. Never before had Whilomville seen such a thing--not the
little tots. They were aghast, dumfounded, and they glanced often over
their shoulders at the new boy, who stood alone, his clinched fists at
his side, his face crimson, his lips still working with the fury of
battle.

But there was another surprise for Whilomville. It might have been
seen that the little victor was silently debating against an impulse.

[Illustration: "NO TIME FOR ACADEMICS--HE RAN"]

But the impulse won, for the lone lad from Jersey City suddenly
wheeled, sprang like a demon, and struck another boy.

A curtain should be drawn before this deed. A knowledge of it is
really too much for the heart to bear. The other boy was Willie
Dalzel. The lone lad from Jersey City had smitten him full sore.

There is little to say of it. It must have been that a feeling worked
gradually to the top of the little stranger's wrath that Jimmie
Trescott had been a mere tool, that the front and centre of his
persecutors had been Willie Dalzel, and being rendered temporarily
lawless by his fighting-blood, he raised his hand and smote for
revenge.

Willie Dalzel had been in the middle of a vandal's cry, which
screeched out over the voices of everybody. The new boy's fist cut it
in half, so to say. And then arose the howl of an amazed and
terrorized walrus.

One wishes to draw a second curtain. Without discussion or inquiry or
brief retort, Willie Dalzel ran away. He ran like a hare straight for
home, this redoubtable chieftain. Following him at a heavy and slow
pace ran the impassioned new boy. The scene was long remembered.

Willie Dalzel was no coward; he had been panic-stricken into running
away from a new thing. He ran as a man might run from the sudden
appearance of a vampire or a ghoul or a gorilla. This was no time for
academics--he ran.

Jimmie slowly gathered himself and came to his feet. "Where's Willie?"
said he, first of all. The crowd sniggered. "Where's Willie?" said
Jimmie again.

"Why, he licked him _too_!" answered a boy suddenly.

"He did?" said Jimmie. He sat weakly down on the roadway. "He did?"
After allowing a moment for the fact to sink into him, he looked up at
the crowd with his one good eye and his one bunged eye, and smiled
cheerfully.



XII

THE CITY URCHIN AND THE CHASTE VILLAGERS


After the brief encounters between the Hedge boy and Jimmie Trescott
and the Hedge boy and Willie Dalzel, the neighborhood which contained
the homes of the boys was, as far as child life is concerned, in a
state resembling anarchy. This was owing to the signal overthrow and
shameful retreat of the boy who had for several years led a certain
little clan by the nose. The adherence of the little community did not
go necessarily to the boy who could whip all the others, but it
certainly could not go to a boy who had run away in a manner that made
his shame patent to the whole world. Willie Dalzel found himself in a
painful position. This tiny tribe which had followed him with such
unwavering faith was now largely engaged in whistling and catcalling
and hooting. He chased a number of them into the sanctity of their
own yards, but from these coigns they continued to ridicule him.

But it must not be supposed that the fickle tribe went over in a body
to the new light. They did nothing of the sort. They occupied
themselves with avenging all which they had endured--gladly enough,
too--for many months. As for the Hedge boy, he maintained a curious
timid reserve, minding his own business with extreme care, and going
to school with that deadly punctuality of which his mother was the
genius. Jimmie Trescott suffered no adverse criticism from his
fellows. He was entitled to be beaten by a boy who had made Willie
Dalzel bellow like a bull-calf and run away. Indeed, he received some
honors. He had confronted a very superior boy and received a bang in
the eye which for a time was the wonder of the children, and he had
not bellowed like a bull-calf. As a matter of fact, he was often
invited to tell how it had felt, and this he did with some pride,
claiming arrogantly that he had been superior to any particular pain.

Early in the episode he and the Hedge boy had patched up a treaty.
Living next door to each other, they could not fail to have each
other often in sight. One afternoon they wandered together in the
strange indefinite diplomacy of boyhood. As they drew close the new
boy suddenly said, "Napple?"

"Yes," said Jimmie, and the new boy bestowed upon him an apple. It was
one of those green-coated winter-apples which lie for many months in
safe and dry places, and can at any time be brought forth for the
persecution of the unwary and inexperienced. An older age would have
fled from this apple, but to the unguided youth of Jimmie Trescott it
was a thing to be possessed and cherished. Wherefore this apple was
the emblem of something more than a truce, despite the fact that it
tasted like wet Indian meal; and Jimmie looked at the Hedge boy out of
one good eye and one bunged eye. The long-drawn animosities of men
have no place in the life of a boy. The boy's mind is flexible; he
readjusts his position with an ease which is derived from the
fact--simply--that he is not yet a man.

But there were other and more important matters. Johnnie Hedge's
exploits had brought him into such prominence among the school-boys
that it was necessary to settle a number of points once and for all.
There was the usual number of boys in the school who were popularly
known to be champions in their various classes. Among these Johnnie
Hedge now had to thread his way, every boy taking it upon himself to
feel anxious that Johnnie's exact position should be soon established.
His fame as a fighter had gone forth to the world, but there were
other boys who had fame as fighters, and the world was extremely
anxious to know where to place the new-comer. Various heroes were
urged to attempt this classification. Usually it was not accounted a
matter of supreme importance, but in this boy life it was essential.

In all cases the heroes were backward enough. It was their followings
who agitated the question. And so Johnnie Hedge was more or less
beset.

He maintained his bashfulness. He backed away from altercation. It was
plain that to bring matters to a point he must be forced into a
quarrel. It was also plain that the proper person for the business was
some boy who could whip Willie Dalzel, and these formidable warriors
were distinctly averse to undertaking the new contract. It is a kind
of a law in boy life that a quiet, decent, peace-loving lad is able to
thrash a wide-mouthed talker. And so it had transpired that by a
peculiar system of elimination most of the real chiefs were quiet,
decent, peace-loving boys, and they had no desire to engage in a fight
with a boy on the sole grounds that it was not known who could whip.
Johnnie Hedge attended his affairs, they attended their affairs, and
around them waged this discussion of relative merit. Jimmie Trescott
took a prominent part in these arguments. He contended that Johnnie
Hedge could thrash any boy in the world. He was certain of it, and to
any one who opposed him he said, "You just get one of those smashes in
the eye, and then you'll see." In the mean time there was a grand and
impressive silence in the direction of Willie Dalzel. He had gathered
remnants of his clan, but the main parts of his sovereignty were
scattered to the winds. He was an enemy.

Owing to the circumspect behavior of the new boy, the commotions on
the school grounds came to nothing. He was often asked, "Kin you lick
him?" And he invariably replied, "I dun'no'." This idea of waging
battle with the entire world appalled him.

A war for complete supremacy of the tribe which had been headed by
Willie Dalzel was fought out in the country of the tribe. It came to
pass that a certain half-dime blood-and-thunder pamphlet had a great
vogue in the tribe at this particular time. This story relates the
experience of a lad who began his career as cabin-boy on a pirate
ship. Throughout the first fifteen chapters he was rope's-ended from
one end of the ship to the other end, and very often he was felled to
the deck by a heavy fist. He lived through enough hardships to have
killed a battalion of Turkish soldiers, but in the end he rose upon
them. Yes, he rose upon them. Hordes of pirates fell before his
intrepid arm, and in the last chapters of the book he is seen jauntily
careering on his own hook as one of the most gallous pirate captains
that ever sailed the seas.

Naturally, when this tale was thoroughly understood by the tribe, they
had to dramatize it, although it was a dramatization that would gain
no royalties for the author. Now it was plain that the urchin who was
cast for the cabin-boy's part would lead a life throughout the first
fifteen chapters which would attract few actors. Willie Dalzel
developed a scheme by which some small lad would play cabin-boy during
this period of misfortune and abuse, and then, when the cabin-boy came
to the part where he slew all his enemies and reached his zenith,
that he, Willie Dalzel, should take the part.

This fugitive and disconnected rendering of a great play opened in
Jimmie Trescott's back garden. The path between the two lines of
gooseberry-bushes was elected unanimously to be the ship. Then Willie
Dalzel insisted that Homer Phelps should be the cabin-boy. Homer tried
the position for a time, and then elected that he would resign in
favor of some other victim. There was no other applicant to succeed
him, whereupon it became necessary to press some boy. Jimmie Trescott
was a great actor, as is well known, but he steadfastly refused to
engage for the part. Ultimately they seized upon little Dan Earl,
whose disposition was so milky and docile that he would do whatever
anybody asked of him. But Dan Earl made the one firm revolt of his
life after trying existence as cabin-boy for some ten minutes. Willie
Dalzel was in despair. Then he suddenly sighted the little
brother of Johnnie Hedge, who had come into the garden, and in a
poor-little-stranger sort of fashion was looking wistfully at the
play. When he was invited to become the cabin-boy he accepted
joyfully, thinking that it was his initiation into the tribe. Then
they proceeded to give him the rope's end and to punch him with a
realism which was not altogether painless. Directly he began to cry
out. They exhorted him not to cry out, not to mind it, but still they
continued to hurt him.

There was a commotion among the gooseberry-bushes, two branches were
swept aside, and Johnnie Hedge walked down upon them. Every boy
stopped in his tracks. Johnnie was boiling with rage.

"Who hurt him?" he said, ferociously. "Did _you_?" He had looked at
Willie Dalzel.

Willie Dalzel began to mumble: "We was on'y playin'. Wasn't nothin'
fer him to cry fer."

The new boy had at his command some big phrases, and he used them. "I
am goin' to whip you within an inch of your life. I am goin' to tan
the hide off'n you." And immediately there was a mixture--an infusion
of two boys which looked as if it had been done by a chemist. The
other children stood back, stricken with horror. But out of this whirl
they presently perceived the figure of Willie Dalzel seated upon the
chest of the Hedge boy.

"Got enough?" asked Willie, hoarsely.

"No," choked out the Hedge boy. Then there was another flapping and
floundering, and finally another calm.

[Illustration: "'WHO HURT HIM?' HE SAID FEROCIOUSLY"]

"Got enough?" asked Willie.

"No," said the Hedge boy. A sort of war-cloud again puzzled the sight
of the observers. Both combatants were breathless, bloodless in their
faces, and very weak.

"Got enough?" said Willie.

"No," said the Hedge boy. The carnage was again renewed. All the
spectators were silent but Johnnie Hedge's little brother, who shrilly
exhorted him to continue the struggle. But it was not plain that the
Hedge boy needed any encouragement, for he was crying bitterly, and it
has been explained that when a boy cried it was a bad time to hope for
peace. He had managed to wriggle over upon his hands and knees. But
Willie Dalzel was tenaciously gripping him from the back, and it
seemed that his strength would spend itself in futility. The bear cub
seemed to have the advantage of the working model of the windmill.
They heaved, uttered strange words, wept, and the sun looked down upon
them with steady, unwinking eye.

Peter Washington came out of the stable and observed this tragedy of
the back garden. He stood transfixed for a moment, and then ran
towards it, shouting: "Hi! What's all dish yere? Hi! Stopper dat,
stopper dat, you two! For lan' sake, what's all dish yere?" He grabbed
the struggling boys and pulled them apart. He was stormy and fine in
his indignation. "For lan' sake! You two kids act like you gwine mad
dogs. Stopper dat!" The whitened, tearful, soiled combatants, their
clothing all awry, glared fiercely at each other as Peter stood
between them, lecturing. They made several futile attempts to
circumvent him and again come to battle. As he fended them off with
his open hands he delivered his reproaches at Jimmie. "I's s'prised at
_you_! I suhtainly is!"

"Why?" said Jimmie. "I 'ain't done nothin'. What have I done?"

"Y-y-you done 'courage dese yere kids ter scrap," said Peter,
virtuously.

"Me?" cried Jimmie. "I 'ain't had nothin' to do with it."

"I raikon you 'ain't," retorted Peter, with heavy sarcasm. "I raikon
you been er-prayin', 'ain't you?" Turning to Willie Dalzel, he said,
"You jest take an' run erlong outer dish yere or I'll jest nachually
take an' damnearkill you." Willie Dalzel went. To the new boy Peter
said: "You look like you had some saince, but I raikon you don't
know no more'n er rabbit. You jest take an' trot erlong off home, an'
don' lemme caitch you round yere er-fightin' or I'll break yer back."
The Hedge boy moved away with dignity, followed by his little brother.
The latter, when he had placed a sufficient distance between himself
and Peter, played his fingers at his nose and called out:

[Illustration: "'NIG-GER-R-R! NIG-GER-R-R!'"]

"Nig-ger-r-r! Nig-ger-r-r!"

Peter Washington's resentment poured out upon Jimmie.

"'Pears like you never would understan' you ain't reg'lar common
trash. You take an' 'sociate with an'body what done come erlong."

"Aw, go on," retorted Jimmie, profanely. "Go soak your head, Pete."

The remaining boys retired to the street, whereupon they perceived
Willie Dalzel in the distance. He ran to them.

"I licked him!" he shouted, exultantly. "I licked him! Didn't I, now?"

From the Whilomville point of view he was entitled to a favorable
answer. They made it. "Yes," they said, "you did."

"I run in," cried Willie, "an' I grabbed 'im, an' afore he knew what
it was I throwed 'im. An' then it was easy." He puffed out his chest
and smiled like an English recruiting-sergeant. "An' now," said he,
suddenly facing Jimmie Trescott, "whose side were you on?"

The question was direct and startling. Jimmie gave back two paces. "He
licked you once," he explained, haltingly.

"He never saw the day when he could lick one side of me. I could lick
him with my left hand tied behind me. Why, I could lick him when I was
asleep." Willie Dalzel was magnificent.

A gate clicked, and Johnnie Hedge was seen to be strolling towards
them.

"You said," he remarked, coldly, "you licked me, didn't you?"

Willie Dalzel stood his ground. "Yes," he said, stoutly.

"Well, you're a liar," said the Hedge boy.

"You're another," retorted Willie.

"No, I ain't, either, but _you're_ a liar."

"You're another," retorted Willie.

"Don't you dare tell _me_ I'm a liar, or I'll smack your mouth for
you," said the Hedge boy.

"Well, I did, didn't I?" barked Willie. "An' whatche goin' to do about
it?"

"I'm goin' to lam you," said the Hedge boy.

He approached to attack warily, and the other boys held their breaths.
Willie Dalzel winced back a pace. "Hol' on a minute," he cried,
raising his palm. "I'm not--"

[Illustration: "ONE APPROACHING FROM BEHIND LAID HOLD OF HIS EAR"]

But the comic windmill was again in motion, and between gasps from his
exertions Johnnie Hedge remarked, "I'll show--you--whether--you
kin--lick me--or not."

The first blows did not reach home on Willie, for he backed away with
expedition, keeping up his futile cry, "Hol' on a minute." Soon enough
a swinging fist landed on his cheek. It did not knock him down, but it
hurt him a little and frightened him a great deal. He suddenly opened
his mouth to an amazing and startling extent, tilted back his head,
and howled, while his eyes, glittering with tears, were fixed upon
this scowling butcher of a Johnnie Hedge. The latter was making slow
and vicious circles, evidently intending to renew the massacre.

But the spectators really had been desolated and shocked by the
terrible thing which had happened to Willie Dalzel. They now cried
out: "No, no; don't hit 'im any more! Don't hit 'im any more!"

Jimmie Trescott, in a panic of bravery, yelled, "We'll all jump on you
if you do."

The Hedge boy paused, at bay. He breathed angrily, and flashed his
glance from lad to lad. They still protested: "No, no; don't hit 'im
any more. Don't hit 'im no more."

"I'll hammer him until he can't stand up," said Johnnie, observing
that they all feared him. "I'll fix him so he won't know hisself, an'
if any of you kids bother with _me_--"

Suddenly he ceased, he trembled, he collapsed. The hand of one
approaching from behind had laid hold upon his ear, and it was the
hand of one whom he knew.

The other lads heard a loud, iron-filing voice say, "Caught ye at it
again, ye brat, ye." They saw a dreadful woman with gray hair, with a
sharp red nose, with bare arms, with spectacles of such magnifying
quality that her eyes shone through them like two fierce white moons.
She was Johnnie Hedge's mother. Still holding Johnnie by the ear, she
swung out swiftly and dexterously, and succeeded in boxing the ears of
two boys before the crowd regained its presence of mind and stampeded.
Yes, the war for supremacy was over, and the question was never again
disputed. The supreme power was Mrs. Hedge.



XIII

A LITTLE PILGRIMAGE


One November it became clear to childish minds in certain parts of
Whilomville that the Sunday-school of the Presbyterian church would
not have for the children the usual tree on Christmas eve. The funds
free for that ancient festival would be used for the relief of
suffering among the victims of the Charleston earthquake.

The plan had been born in the generous head of the superintendent of
the Sunday-school, and during one session he had made a strong plea
that the children should forego the vain pleasures of a tree and, in
glorious application of the Golden Rule, refuse a local use of the
fund, and will that it be sent where dire pain might be alleviated. At
the end of a tearfully eloquent speech the question was put fairly to
a vote, and the children in a burst of virtuous abandon carried the
question for Charleston. Many of the teachers had been careful to
preserve a finely neutral attitude, but even if they had cautioned the
children against being too impetuous they could not have checked the
wild impulses.

But this was a long time before Christmas.

Very early, boys held important speech together. "Huh! you ain't goin'
to have no Christmas tree at the Presbyterian Sunday-school."

Sullenly the victim answered, "No, we ain't."

"Huh!" scoffed the other denomination, "we are goin' to have the
all-firedest biggest tree that you ever saw in the world."

The little Presbyterians were greatly downcast.

It happened that Jimmie Trescott had regularly attended the
Presbyterian Sunday-school. The Trescotts were consistently
undenominational, but they had sent their lad on Sundays to one of the
places where they thought he would receive benefits. However, on one
day in December, Jimmie appeared before his father and made a strong
spiritual appeal to be forthwith attached to the Sunday-school of the
Big Progressive church. Doctor Trescott mused this question
considerably. "Well, Jim," he said, "why do you conclude that the Big
Progressive Sunday-school is better for you than the Presbyterian
Sunday-school?"

"Now--it's nicer," answered Jimmie, looking at his father with an
anxious eye.

"How do you mean?"

"Why--now--some of the boys what go to the Presbyterian place, they
ain't very nice," explained the flagrant Jimmie.

Trescott mused the question considerably once more. In the end he
said: "Well, you may change if you wish, this one time, but you must
not be changing to and fro. You decide now, and then you must abide by
your decision."

"Yessir," said Jimmie, brightly. "Big Progressive."

"All right," said the father. "But remember what I've told you."

On the following Sunday morning Jimmie presented himself at the door
of the basement of the Big Progressive church. He was conspicuously
washed, notably raimented, prominently polished. And, incidentally, he
was very uncomfortable because of all these virtues.

A number of acquaintances greeted him contemptuously. "Hello, Jimmie!
What you doin' here? Thought you was a Presbyterian?"

Jimmie cast down his eyes and made no reply. He was too cowed by the
change. However, Homer Phelps, who was a regular patron of the Big
Progressive Sunday-school, suddenly appeared and said, "Hello, Jim!"
Jimmie seized upon him. Homer Phelps was amenable to Trescott laws,
tribal if you like, but iron-bound, almost compulsory.

"Hello, Homer!" said Jimmie, and his manner was so good that Homer
felt a great thrill in being able to show his superior a new condition
of life.

"You 'ain't never come here afore, have you?" he demanded, with a new
arrogance.

"No, I 'ain't," said Jimmie. Then they stared at each other and
manoeuvred.

"You don't know _my_ teacher," said Homer.

"No, I don't know _her_" admitted Jimmie, but in a way which
contended, modestly, that he knew countless other Sunday-school
teachers.

"Better join our class," said Homer, sagely. "She wears spectacles;
don't see very well. Sometimes we do almost what we like."

"All right," said Jimmie, glad to place himself in the hands of his
friends. In due time they entered the Sunday-school room, where a man
with benevolent whiskers stood on a platform and said, "We will now
sing No. 33--'Pull for the Shore, Sailor, Pull for the Shore.'" And
as the obedient throng burst into melody the man on the platform
indicated the time with a fat, white, and graceful hand. He was an
ideal Sunday-school superintendent--one who had never felt hunger or
thirst or the wound of the challenge of dishonor; a man, indeed, with
beautiful flat hands who waved them in greasy victorious beneficence
over a crowd of children.

Jimmie, walking carefully on his toes, followed Homer Phelps. He felt
that the kingly superintendent might cry out and blast him to ashes
before he could reach a chair. It was a desperate journey. But at last
he heard Homer muttering to a young lady, who looked at him through
glasses which greatly magnified her eyes. "A new boy," she said, in an
oily and deeply religious voice.

"Yes'm," said Jimmie, trembling. The five other boys of the class
scanned him keenly and derided his condition.

"We will proceed to the lesson," said the young lady. Then she cried
sternly, like a sergeant, "The seventh chapter of Jeremiah!"

There was a swift fluttering of leaflets. Then the name of Jeremiah, a
wise man, towered over the feelings of these boys. Homer Phelps was
doomed to read the fourth verse. He took a deep breath, he puffed out
his lips, he gathered his strength for a great effort. His beginning
was childishly explosive. He hurriedly said:

"_Trust ye not in lying words, saying The temple of the Lord, the
temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, are these._"

"Now," said the teacher, "Johnnie Scanlan, tell us what these words
mean." The Scanlan boy shamefacedly muttered that he did not know. The
teacher's countenance saddened. Her heart was in her work; she wanted
to make a success of this Sunday-school class. "Perhaps Homer Phelps
can tell us," she remarked.

Homer gulped; he looked at Jimmie. Through the great room hummed a
steady hum. A little circle, very near, was being told about Daniel in
the lion's den. They were deeply moved. At the moment they liked
Sunday-school.

"Why--now--it means," said Homer, with a grand pomposity born of a
sense of hopeless ignorance--"it means--why it means that they were in
the wrong place."

"No," said the teacher, profoundly; "it means that we should be good,
very good indeed. That is what it means. It means that we should
love the Lord and be good. Love the Lord and be good. That is what it
means."

[Illustration: "THE PROFESSIONAL BRIGHT BOY OF THE CLASS SUDDENLY
AWOKE"]

The little boys suddenly had a sense of black wickedness as their
teacher looked austerely upon them. They gazed at her with the
wide-open eyes of simplicity. They were stirred again. This thing of
being good--this great business of life--apparently it was always
successful. They knew from the fairy tales. But it was difficult,
wasn't it? It was said to be the most heart-breaking task to be
generous, wasn't it? One had to pay the price of one's eyes in order
to be pacific, didn't one? As for patience, it was tortured martyrdom
to be patient, wasn't it? Sin was simple, wasn't it? But virtue was so
difficult that it could only be practised by heavenly beings, wasn't
it?

And the angels, the Sunday-school superintendent, and the teacher swam
in the high visions of the little boys as beings so good that if a boy
scratched his shin in the same room he was a profane and sentenced
devil.

"And," said the teacher, "'The temple of the Lord'--what does that
mean? I'll ask the new boy. What does that mean?"

"I dun'no'," said Jimmie, blankly.

But here the professional bright boy of the class suddenly awoke to
his obligations. "Teacher," he cried, "it means church, same as
this."

"Exactly," said the teacher, deeply satisfied with this reply. "You
know your lesson well, Clarence. I am much pleased."

The other boys, instead of being envious, looked with admiration upon
Clarence, while he adopted an air of being habituated to perform such
feats every day of his life. Still, he was not much of a boy. He had
the virtue of being able to walk on very high stilts, but when the
season of stilts had passed he possessed no rank save this
Sunday-school rank, this clever-little-Clarence business of knowing
the Bible and the lesson better than the other boys. The other boys,
sometimes looking at him meditatively, did not actually decide to
thrash him as soon as he cleared the portals of the church, but they
certainly decided to molest him in such ways as would re-establish
their self-respect. Back of the superintendent's chair hung a
lithograph of the martyrdom of St. Stephen.

Jimmie, feeling stiff and encased in his best clothes, waited for the
ordeal to end. A bell pealed: the fat hand of the superintendent had
tapped a bell. Slowly the rustling and murmuring dwindled to silence.
The benevolent man faced the school. "I have to announce," he began,
waving his body from side to side in the conventional bows of his
kind, "that--" Bang went the bell. "Give me your attention, please,
children. I have to announce that the Board has decided that this year
there will be no Christmas tree, but the--"

Instantly the room buzzed with the subdued clamor of the children.
Jimmie was speechless. He stood morosely during the singing of the
closing hymn. He passed out into the street with the others, pushing
no more than was required.

Speedily the whole idea left him. If he remembered Sunday-school at
all, it was to remember that he did not like it.



       *       *       *       *       *



Transcriber's note:

Archaic and inconsistent punctuation, spelling, and syntax have been
retained.





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