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Title: Penrod
Author: Tarkington, Booth
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 "Penrod" ***

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PENROD


By Booth Tarkington



To

John, Donald And Booth Jameson

From A Grateful Uncle



CONTENTS

     I.      A Boy and His Dog
     II.     Romance
     III.    The Costume
     IV.     Desperation
     V.      The Pageant of the Table Round
     VI.     Evening
     VII.    Evils of Drink
     VIII.   School
     IX.     Soaring
     X.      Uncle John
     XI.     Fidelity of a Little Dog
     XII.    Miss Rennsdale Accepts
     XIII.   The Smallpox Medicine
     XIV.    Maurice Levy’s Constitution
     XV.     The Two Families
     XVI.    The New Star
     XVII.   Retiring from the Show-Business
     XVIII.  Music
     XIX.    The Inner Boy
     XX.     Brothers of Angels
     XXI.    Rupe Collins
     XXII.   The Imitator
     XXIII.  Coloured Troops in Action
     XXIV.   “Little Gentleman”
      XXV.    Tar
     XXVI.   The Quiet Afternoon
     XXVII.  Conclusion of the Quiet Afternoon
     XXVIII. Twelve
     XXIX.   Fanchon
     XXX.    The Birthday Party
     XXXI.   Over the Fence



CHAPTER I A BOY AND HIS DOG

Penrod sat morosely upon the back fence and gazed with envy at Duke, his
wistful dog.

A bitter soul dominated the various curved and angular surfaces known
by a careless world as the face of Penrod Schofield. Except in solitude,
that face was almost always cryptic and emotionless; for Penrod had
come into his twelfth year wearing an expression carefully trained to be
inscrutable. Since the world was sure to misunderstand everything, mere
defensive instinct prompted him to give it as little as possible to lay
hold upon. Nothing is more impenetrable than the face of a boy who has
learned this, and Penrod’s was habitually as fathomless as the depth
of his hatred this morning for the literary activities of Mrs. Lora
Rewbush--an almost universally respected fellow citizen, a lady of
charitable and poetic inclinations, and one of his own mother’s most
intimate friends.

Mrs. Lora Rewbush had written something which she called “The Children’s
Pageant of the Table Round,” and it was to be performed in public that
very afternoon at the Women’s Arts and Guild Hall for the benefit of the
Coloured Infants’ Betterment Society. And if any flavour of sweetness
remained in the nature of Penrod Schofield after the dismal trials of
the school-week just past, that problematic, infinitesimal remnant was
made pungent acid by the imminence of his destiny to form a prominent
feature of the spectacle, and to declaim the loathsome sentiments of a
character named upon the programme the Child Sir Lancelot.

After each rehearsal he had plotted escape, and only ten days earlier
there had been a glimmer of light: Mrs. Lora Rewbush caught a very
bad cold, and it was hoped it might develop into pneumonia; but she
recovered so quickly that not even a rehearsal of the Children’s Pageant
was postponed. Darkness closed in. Penrod had rather vaguely debated
plans for a self-mutilation such as would make his appearance as the
Child Sir Lancelot inexpedient on public grounds; it was a heroic
and attractive thought, but the results of some extremely sketchy
preliminary experiments caused him to abandon it.

There was no escape; and at last his hour was hard upon him. Therefore
he brooded on the fence and gazed with envy at his wistful Duke.

The dog’s name was undescriptive of his person, which was obviously
the result of a singular series of mesalliances. He wore a grizzled
moustache and indefinite whiskers; he was small and shabby, and looked
like an old postman. Penrod envied Duke because he was sure Duke would
never be compelled to be a Child Sir Lancelot. He thought a dog free and
unshackled to go or come as the wind listeth. Penrod forgot the life he
led Duke.

There was a long soliloquy upon the fence, a plaintive monologue without
words: the boy’s thoughts were adjectives, but they were expressed by
a running film of pictures in his mind’s eye, morbidly prophetic of the
hideosities before him. Finally he spoke aloud, with such spleen that
Duke rose from his haunches and lifted one ear in keen anxiety.

     “‘I hight Sir Lancelot du Lake, the Child,
     Gentul-hearted, meek, and mild.
     What though I’m BUT a littul child,
     Gentul-hearted, meek, and----’  OOF!”

All of this except “oof” was a quotation from the Child Sir Lancelot, as
conceived by Mrs. Lora Rewbush. Choking upon it, Penrod slid down from
the fence, and with slow and thoughtful steps entered a one-storied wing
of the stable, consisting of a single apartment, floored with cement and
used as a storeroom for broken bric-a-brac, old paint-buckets, decayed
garden-hose, worn-out carpets, dead furniture, and other condemned odds
and ends not yet considered hopeless enough to be given away.

In one corner stood a large box, a part of the building itself: it was
eight feet high and open at the top, and it had been constructed as a
sawdust magazine from which was drawn material for the horse’s bed in
a stall on the other side of the partition. The big box, so high and
towerlike, so commodious, so suggestive, had ceased to fulfil its
legitimate function; though, providentially, it had been at least half
full of sawdust when the horse died. Two years had gone by since that
passing; an interregnum in transportation during which Penrod’s father
was “thinking” (he explained sometimes) of an automobile. Meanwhile, the
gifted and generous sawdust-box had served brilliantly in war and peace:
it was Penrod’s stronghold.

There was a partially defaced sign upon the front wall of the box; the
donjon-keep had known mercantile impulses:

     The O. K. RaBiT Co.
     PENROD ScHoFiELD AND CO.
     iNQuiRE FOR PRicEs

This was a venture of the preceding vacation, and had netted, at one
time, an accrued and owed profit of $1.38. Prospects had been brightest
on the very eve of cataclysm. The storeroom was locked and guarded, but
twenty-seven rabbits and Belgian hares, old and young, had perished here
on a single night--through no human agency, but in a foray of cats, the
besiegers treacherously tunnelling up through the sawdust from the small
aperture which opened into the stall beyond the partition. Commerce has
its martyrs.

Penrod climbed upon a barrel, stood on tiptoe, grasped the rim of the
box; then, using a knot-hole as a stirrup, threw one leg over the top,
drew himself up, and dropped within. Standing upon the packed sawdust,
he was just tall enough to see over the top.

Duke had not followed him into the storeroom, but remained near the open
doorway in a concave and pessimistic attitude. Penrod felt in a dark
corner of the box and laid hands upon a simple apparatus consisting of
an old bushel-basket with a few yards of clothes-line tied to each of
its handles. He passed the ends of the lines over a big spool, which
revolved upon an axle of wire suspended from a beam overhead, and, with
the aid of this improvised pulley, lowered the empty basket until it
came to rest in an upright position upon the floor of the storeroom at
the foot of the sawdust-box.

“Eleva-ter!” shouted Penrod. “Ting-ting!”

Duke, old and intelligently apprehensive, approached slowly, in a
semicircular manner, deprecatingly, but with courtesy. He pawed the
basket delicately; then, as if that were all his master had expected of
him, uttered one bright bark, sat down, and looked up triumphantly. His
hypocrisy was shallow: many a horrible quarter of an hour had taught him
his duty in this matter.

“El-e-VAY-ter!” shouted Penrod sternly. “You want me to come down there
to you?”

Duke looked suddenly haggard. He pawed the basket feebly again and,
upon another outburst from on high, prostrated himself flat. Again
threatened, he gave a superb impersonation of a worm.

“You get in that el-e-VAY-ter!”

Reckless with despair, Duke jumped into the basket, landing in a
dishevelled posture, which he did not alter until he had been drawn
up and poured out upon the floor of sawdust with the box. There,
shuddering, he lay in doughnut shape and presently slumbered.

It was dark in the box, a condition that might have been remedied by
sliding back a small wooden panel on runners, which would have let in
ample light from the alley; but Penrod Schofield had more interesting
means of illumination. He knelt, and from a former soap-box, in a
corner, took a lantern, without a chimney, and a large oil-can, the leak
in the latter being so nearly imperceptible that its banishment
from household use had seemed to Penrod as inexplicable as it was
providential.

He shook the lantern near his ear: nothing splashed; there was no sound
but a dry clinking. But there was plenty of kerosene in the can; and he
filled the lantern, striking a match to illumine the operation. Then he
lit the lantern and hung it upon a nail against the wall. The sawdust
floor was slightly impregnated with oil, and the open flame quivered in
suggestive proximity to the side of the box; however, some rather deep
charrings of the plank against which the lantern hung offered evidence
that the arrangement was by no means a new one, and indicated at least a
possibility of no fatality occurring this time.

Next, Penrod turned up the surface of the sawdust in another corner
of the floor, and drew forth a cigar-box in which were half a
dozen cigarettes, made of hayseed and thick brown wrapping paper, a
lead-pencil, an eraser, and a small note-book, the cover of which was
labelled in his own handwriting:

“English Grammar. Penrod Schofield. Room 6, Ward School Nomber Seventh.”

The first page of this book was purely academic; but the study of
English undefiled terminated with a slight jar at the top of the second:
“Nor must an adverb be used to modif----”

Immediately followed:

     “HARoLD RAMoREZ THE RoADAGENT
     OR WiLD LiFE AMoNG THE
     ROCKY MTS.”

And the subsequent entries in the book appeared to have little concern
with Room 6, Ward School Nomber Seventh.



CHAPTER II ROMANCE

The author of “Harold Ramorez,” etc., lit one of the hayseed cigarettes,
seated himself comfortably, with his back against the wall and his
right shoulder just under the lantern, elevated his knees to support the
note-book, turned to a blank page, and wrote, slowly and earnestly:

“CHAPITER THE SIXTH”


He took a knife from his pocket, and, broodingly, his eyes upon the
inward embryos of vision, sharpened his pencil. After that, he extended
a foot and meditatively rubbed Duke’s back with the side of his shoe.
Creation, with Penrod, did not leap, full-armed, from the brain; but
finally he began to produce. He wrote very slowly at first, and then
with increasing rapidity; faster and faster, gathering momentum and
growing more and more fevered as he sped, till at last the true fire
came, without which no lamp of real literature may be made to burn.


Mr. Wilson reched for his gun but our hero had him covred and soon said
Well I guess you don’t come any of that on me my freind.

Well what makes you so sure about it sneered the other bitting his lip
so savageley that the blood ran. You are nothing but a common Roadagent
any way and I do not propose to be bafled by such, Ramorez laughed at
this and kep Mr. Wilson covred by his ottomatick.

Soon the two men were struggling together in the death-roes but soon Mr
Wilson got him bound and gaged his mouth and went away for awhile leavin
our hero, it was dark and he writhd at his bonds writhing on the floor
wile the rats came out of their holes and bit him and vernim got all
over him from the floor of that helish spot but soon he managed to push
the gag out of his mouth with the end of his toungeu and got all his
bonds off.

Soon Mr Wilson came back to tant him with his helpless condition flowed
by his gang of detectives and they said Oh look at Ramorez sneering at
his plight and tanted him with his helpless condition because Ramorez
had put the bonds back sos he would look the same but could throw them
off him when he wanted to Just look at him now sneered they. To hear him
talk you would thought he was hot stuff and they said Look at him now,
him that was going to do so much, Oh I would not like to be in his fix.

Soon Harold got mad at this and jumped up with blasing eyes throwin off
his bonds like they were air Ha Ha sneered he I guess you better not
talk so much next time. Soon there flowed another awful struggle and
siezin his ottomatick back from Mr Wilson he shot two of the detectives
through the heart Bing Bing went the ottomatick and two more went to
meet their Maker only two detectives left now and so he stabbed one and
the scondrel went to meet his Maker for now our hero was fighting
for his very life. It was dark in there now for night had falen and a
terrible view met the eye Blood was just all over everything and the
rats were eatin the dead men.

Soon our hero manged to get his back to the wall for he was fighting
for his very life now and shot Mr Wilson through the abodmen Oh said Mr
Wilson you---- ---- ---- (The dashes are Penrod’s.)

Mr Wilson stagerd back vile oaths soilin his lips for he was in pain Why
you---- ----you sneered he I will get you yet---- ----you Harold Ramorez

The remainin scondrel had an ax which he came near our heros head with
but missed him and ramand stuck in the wall Our heros amunition was
exhaused what was he to do, the remanin scondrel would soon get his ax
lose so our hero sprung forward and bit him till his teeth met in the
flech for now our hero was fighting for his very life. At this the
remanin scondrel also cursed and swore vile oaths. Oh sneered he----
---- ----you Harold Ramorez what did you bite me for Yes sneered Mr
Wilson also and he has shot me in the abdomen too the----

Soon they were both cursin and reviln him together Why you---- ---- ----
---- ----sneered they what did you want to injure us for----you Harold
Ramorez you have not got any sence and you think you are so much but you
are no better than anybody else and you are a---- ---- ---- ---- ----
----

Soon our hero could stand this no longer. If you could learn to act like
gentlmen said he I would not do any more to you now and your low vile
exppresions have not got any effect on me only to injure your own self
when you go to meet your Maker Oh I guess you have had enogh for one day
and I think you have learned a lesson and will not soon atemp to beard
Harold Ramorez again so with a tantig laugh he cooly lit a cigarrete and
takin the keys of the cell from Mr Wilson poket went on out.

Soon Mr Wilson and the wonded detective manged to bind up their wonds
and got up off the floor---- ----it I will have that dasstads life now
sneered they if we have to swing for it---- ---- ---- ----him he shall
not eccape us again the low down---- ---- ---- ---- ----

Chapiter seventh

A mule train of heavily laden burros laden with gold from the mines was
to be seen wondering among the highest clifts and gorgs of the Rocky Mts
and a tall man with a long silken mustash and a cartigde belt could be
heard cursin vile oaths because he well knew this was the lair of Harold
Ramorez Why---- ---- ----you you---- ---- ---- ---- mules you sneered he
because the poor mules were not able to go any quicker ---- you I will
show you Why---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----it sneered he his oaths growing
viler and viler I will whip you---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----you
sos you will not be able to walk for a week---- ----you you mean old----
---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----mules you

Scarcly had the vile words left his lips when----


“PENROD!”

It was his mother’s voice, calling from the back porch.

Simultaneously, the noon whistles began to blow, far and near; and the
romancer in the sawdust-box, summoned prosaically from steep mountain
passes above the clouds, paused with stubby pencil halfway from lip to
knee. His eyes were shining: there was a rapt sweetness in his gaze. As
he wrote, his burden had grown lighter; thoughts of Mrs. Lora Rewbush
had almost left him; and in particular as he recounted (even by
the chaste dash) the annoyed expressions of Mr. Wilson, the wounded
detective, and the silken moustached mule-driver, he had felt
mysteriously relieved concerning the Child Sir Lancelot. Altogether he
looked a better and a brighter boy.

“Pen-ROD!”

The rapt look faded slowly. He sighed, but moved not.

“Penrod! We’re having lunch early just on your account, so you’ll have
plenty of time to be dressed for the pageant. Hurry!”

There was silence in Penrod’s aerie.

“PEN-rod!”

Mrs. Schofields voice sounded nearer, indicating a threatened approach.
Penrod bestirred himself: he blew out the lantern, and shouted
plaintively:

“Well, ain’t I coming fast’s I can?”

“Do hurry,” returned the voice, withdrawing; and the kitchen door could
be heard to close.

Languidly, Penrod proceeded to set his house in order.

Replacing his manuscript and pencil in the cigar-box, he carefully
buried the box in the sawdust, put the lantern and oil-can back in the
soap-box, adjusted the elevator for the reception of Duke, and, in no
uncertain tone, invited the devoted animal to enter.

Duke stretched himself amiably, affecting not to hear; and when this
pretence became so obvious that even a dog could keep it up no longer,
sat down in a corner, facing it, his back to his master, and his head
perpendicular, nose upward, supported by the convergence of the two
walls. This, from a dog, is the last word, the comble of the immutable.
Penrod commanded, stormed, tried gentleness; persuaded with honeyed
words and pictured rewards. Duke’s eyes looked backward; otherwise
he moved not. Time elapsed. Penrod stooped to flattery, finally to
insincere caresses; then, losing patience spouted sudden threats.

Duke remained immovable, frozen fast to his great gesture of implacable
despair.

A footstep sounded on the threshold of the store-room.

“Penrod, come down from that box this instant!”

“Ma’am?”

“Are you up in that sawdust-box again?” As Mrs. Schofield had just heard
her son’s voice issue from the box, and also, as she knew he was there
anyhow, her question must have been put for oratorical purposes only.
“Because if you are,” she continued promptly, “I’m going to ask your
papa not to let you play there any----”

Penrod’s forehead, his eyes, the tops of his ears, and most of his hair,
became visible to her at the top of the box. “I ain’t ‘playing!’” he
said indignantly.

“Well, what ARE you doing?”

“Just coming down,” he replied, in a grieved but patient tone.

“Then why don’t you COME?”

“I got Duke here. I got to get him DOWN, haven’t I? You don’t suppose I
want to leave a poor dog in here to starve, do you?”

“Well, hand him down over the side to me. Let me----”

“I’ll get him down all right,” said Penrod. “I got him up here, and I
guess I can get him down!”

“Well then, DO it!”

“I will if you’ll let me alone. If you’ll go on back to the house I
promise to be there inside of two minutes. Honest!”

He put extreme urgency into this, and his mother turned toward the
house. “If you’re not there in two minutes----”

“I will be!”

After her departure, Penrod expended some finalities of eloquence upon
Duke, then disgustedly gathered him up in his arms, dumped him into the
basket and, shouting sternly, “All in for the ground floor--step back
there, madam--all ready, Jim!” lowered dog and basket to the floor
of the storeroom. Duke sprang out in tumultuous relief, and bestowed
frantic affection upon his master as the latter slid down from the box.

Penrod dusted himself sketchily, experiencing a sense of satisfaction,
dulled by the overhanging afternoon, perhaps, but perceptible: he had
the feeling of one who has been true to a cause. The operation of the
elevator was unsinful and, save for the shock to Duke’s nervous system,
it was harmless; but Penrod could not possibly have brought himself to
exhibit it in the presence of his mother or any other grown person in
the world. The reasons for secrecy were undefined; at least, Penrod did
not define them.



CHAPTER III THE COSTUME

After lunch his mother and his sister Margaret, a pretty girl of
nineteen, dressed him for the sacrifice. They stood him near his
mother’s bedroom window and did what they would to him.

During the earlier anguishes of the process he was mute, exceeding the
pathos of the stricken calf in the shambles; but a student of eyes
might have perceived in his soul the premonitory symptoms of a sinister
uprising. At a rehearsal (in citizens’ clothes) attended by mothers and
grown-up sisters, Mrs. Lora Rewbush had announced that she wished the
costuming to be “as medieval and artistic as possible.” Otherwise, and
as to details, she said, she would leave the costumes entirely to the
good taste of the children’s parents. Mrs. Schofield and Margaret were
no archeologists, but they knew that their taste was as good as that of
other mothers and sisters concerned; so with perfect confidence they had
planned and executed a costume for Penrod; and the only misgiving they
felt was connected with the tractability of the Child Sir Lancelot
himself.

Stripped to his underwear, he had been made to wash himself vehemently;
then they began by shrouding his legs in a pair of silk stockings, once
blue but now mostly whitish. Upon Penrod they visibly surpassed mere
ampleness; but they were long, and it required only a rather loose
imagination to assume that they were tights.

The upper part of his body was next concealed from view by a garment
so peculiar that its description becomes difficult. In 1886, Mrs.
Schofield, then unmarried, had worn at her “coming-out party” a dress of
vivid salmon silk which had been remodelled after her marriage to accord
with various epochs of fashion until a final, unskilful campaign at a
dye-house had left it in a condition certain to attract much attention
to the wearer. Mrs. Schofield had considered giving it to Della, the
cook; but had decided not to do so, because you never could tell how
Della was going to take things, and cooks were scarce.

It may have been the word “medieval” (in Mrs. Lora Rewbush’s rich
phrase) which had inspired the idea for a last conspicuous usefulness;
at all events, the bodice of that once salmon dress, somewhat modified
and moderated, now took a position, for its farewell appearance in
society, upon the back, breast, and arms of the Child Sir Lancelot.

The area thus costumed ceased at the waist, leaving a Jaeger-like and
unmedieval gap thence to the tops of the stockings. The inventive genius
of woman triumphantly bridged it, but in a manner which imposes upon
history almost insuperable delicacies of narration. Penrod’s father
was an old-fashioned man: the twentieth century had failed to shake his
faith in red flannel for cold weather; and it was while Mrs. Schofield
was putting away her husband’s winter underwear that she perceived how
hopelessly one of the elder specimens had dwindled; and simultaneously
she received the inspiration which resulted in a pair of trunks for the
Child Sir Lancelot, and added an earnest bit of colour, as well as a
genuine touch of the Middle Ages, to his costume. Reversed, fore to aft,
with the greater part of the legs cut off, and strips of silver braid
covering the seams, this garment, she felt, was not traceable to its
original source.

When it had been placed upon Penrod, the stockings were attached to it
by a system of safety-pins, not very perceptible at a distance. Next,
after being severely warned against stooping, Penrod got his feet into
the slippers he wore to dancing-school--“patent-leather pumps” now
decorated with large pink rosettes.

“If I can’t stoop,” he began, smolderingly, “I’d like to know how’m I
goin’ to kneel in the pag----”

“You must MANAGE!” This, uttered through pins, was evidently thought to
be sufficient.

They fastened some ruching about his slender neck, pinned ribbons at
random all over him, and then Margaret thickly powdered his hair.

“Oh, yes, that’s all right,” she said, replying to a question put by her
mother. “They always powdered their hair in Colonial times.”

“It doesn’t seem right to me--exactly,” objected Mrs. Schofield, gently.
“Sir Lancelot must have been ever so long before Colonial times.”

“That doesn’t matter,” Margaret reassured her. “Nobody’ll know the
difference--Mrs. Lora Rewbush least of all. I don’t think she knows a
thing about it, though, of course, she does write splendidly and the
words of the pageant are just beautiful. Stand still, Penrod!” (The
author of “Harold Ramorez” had moved convulsively.) “Besides, powdered
hair’s always becoming. Look at him. You’d hardly know it was Penrod!”

The pride and admiration with which she pronounced this undeniable truth
might have been thought tactless, but Penrod, not analytical, found his
spirits somewhat elevated. No mirror was in his range of vision and,
though he had submitted to cursory measurements of his person a week
earlier, he had no previous acquaintance with the costume. He began
to form a not unpleasing mental picture of his appearance, something
somewhere between the portraits of George Washington and a vivid memory
of Miss Julia Marlowe at a matinee of “Twelfth Night.”

He was additionally cheered by a sword which had been borrowed from a
neighbor, who was a Knight of Pythias. Finally there was a mantle, an
old golf cape of Margaret’s. Fluffy polka-dots of white cotton had been
sewed to it generously; also it was ornamented with a large cross of
red flannel, suggested by the picture of a Crusader in a newspaper
advertisement. The mantle was fastened to Penrod’s shoulder (that is,
to the shoulder of Mrs. Schofield’s ex-bodice) by means of large
safety-pins, and arranged to hang down behind him, touching his heels,
but obscuring nowise the glory of his facade. Then, at last, he was
allowed to step before a mirror.

It was a full-length glass, and the worst immediately happened. It might
have been a little less violent, perhaps, if Penrod’s expectations had
not been so richly and poetically idealized; but as things were, the
revolt was volcanic.

Victor Hugo’s account of the fight with the devil-fish, in “Toilers
of the Sea,” encourages a belief that, had Hugo lived and increased in
power, he might have been equal to a proper recital of the half
hour which followed Penrod’s first sight of himself as the Child Sir
Lancelot. But Mr. Wilson himself, dastard but eloquent foe of Harold
Ramorez, could not have expressed, with all the vile dashes at
his command, the sentiments which animated Penrod’s bosom when the
instantaneous and unalterable conviction descended upon him that he was
intended by his loved ones to make a public spectacle of himself in his
sister’s stockings and part of an old dress of his mother’s.

To him these familiar things were not disguised at all; there seemed no
possibility that the whole world would not know them at a glance. The
stockings were worse than the bodice. He had been assured that these
could not be recognized, but, seeing them in the mirror, he was sure
that no human eye could fail at first glance to detect the difference
between himself and the former purposes of these stockings. Fold,
wrinkle, and void shrieked their history with a hundred tongues,
invoking earthquake, eclipse, and blue ruin. The frantic youth’s final
submission was obtained only after a painful telephonic conversation
between himself and his father, the latter having been called up and
upon, by the exhausted Mrs. Schofield, to subjugate his offspring by
wire.

The two ladies made all possible haste, after this, to deliver
Penrod into the hands of Mrs. Lora Rewbush; nevertheless, they found
opportunity to exchange earnest congratulations upon his not having
recognized the humble but serviceable paternal garment now brilliant
about the Lancelotish middle. Altogether, they felt that the costume
was a success. Penrod looked like nothing ever remotely imagined by
Sir Thomas Malory or Alfred Tennyson;--for that matter, he looked like
nothing ever before seen on earth; but as Mrs. Schofield and Margaret
took their places in the audience at the Women’s Arts and Guild Hall,
the anxiety they felt concerning Penrod’s elocutionary and gesticular
powers, so soon to be put to public test, was pleasantly tempered by
their satisfaction that, owing to their efforts, his outward appearance
would be a credit to the family.



CHAPTER IV DESPERATION

The Child Sir Lancelot found himself in a large anteroom behind the
stage--a room crowded with excited children, all about equally medieval
and artistic. Penrod was less conspicuous than he thought himself, but
he was so preoccupied with his own shame, steeling his nerves to meet
the first inevitable taunting reference to his sister’s stockings,
that he failed to perceive there were others present in much of his own
unmanned condition. Retiring to a corner, immediately upon his entrance,
he managed to unfasten the mantle at the shoulders, and, drawing it
round him, pinned it again at his throat so that it concealed the rest
of his costume. This permitted a temporary relief, but increased his
horror of the moment when, in pursuance of the action of the “pageant,”
 the sheltering garment must be cast aside.

Some of the other child knights were also keeping their mantles close
about them. A few of the envied opulent swung brilliant fabrics
from their shoulders, airily, showing off hired splendours from a
professional costumer’s stock, while one or two were insulting examples
of parental indulgence, particularly little Maurice Levy, the Child Sir
Galahad. This shrinking person went clamorously about, making it known
everywhere that the best tailor in town had been dazzled by a great
sum into constructing his costume. It consisted of blue velvet
knickerbockers, a white satin waistcoat, and a beautifully cut little
swallow-tailed coat with pearl buttons. The medieval and artistic
triumph was completed by a mantle of yellow velvet, and little white
boots, sporting gold tassels.

All this radiance paused in a brilliant career and addressed the Child
Sir Lancelot, gathering an immediately formed semicircular audience of
little girls. Woman was ever the trailer of magnificence.

“What YOU got on?” inquired Mr. Levy, after dispensing information.
“What you got on under that ole golf cape?”

Penrod looked upon him coldly. At other times his questioner would have
approached him with deference, even with apprehension. But to-day the
Child Sir Galahad was somewhat intoxicated with the power of his own
beauty.

“What YOU got on?” he repeated.

“Oh, nothin’,” said Penrod, with an indifference assumed at great cost
to his nervous system.

The elate Maurice was inspired to set up as a wit. “Then you’re nakid!”
 he shouted exultantly. “Penrod Schofield says he hasn’t got nothin’ on
under that ole golf cape! He’s nakid! He’s nakid.”

The indelicate little girls giggled delightedly, and a javelin pierced
the inwards of Penrod when he saw that the Child Elaine, amber-curled
and beautiful Marjorie Jones, lifted golden laughter to the horrid jest.

Other boys and girls came flocking to the uproar. “He’s nakid, he’s
nakid!” shrieked the Child Sir Galahad. “Penrod Schofield’s nakid! He’s
NA-A-A-KID!”

“Hush, hush!” said Mrs. Lora Rewbush, pushing her way into the group.
“Remember, we are all little knights and ladies to-day. Little knights
and ladies of the Table Round would not make so much noise. Now
children, we must begin to take our places on the stage. Is everybody
here?”

Penrod made his escape under cover of this diversion: he slid behind
Mrs. Lora Rewbush, and being near a door, opened it unnoticed and went
out quickly, closing it behind him. He found himself in a narrow and
vacant hallway which led to a door marked “Janitor’s Room.”

Burning with outrage, heart-sick at the sweet, cold-blooded laughter
of Marjorie Jones, Penrod rested his elbows upon a window-sill and
speculated upon the effects of a leap from the second story. One of the
reasons he gave it up was his desire to live on Maurice Levy’s account:
already he was forming educational plans for the Child Sir Galahad.

A stout man in blue overalls passed through the hallway muttering to
himself petulantly. “I reckon they’ll find that hall hot enough NOW!” he
said, conveying to Penrod an impression that some too feminine women had
sent him upon an unreasonable errand to the furnace. He went into the
Janitor’s Room and, emerging a moment later, minus the overalls, passed
Penrod again with a bass rumble--“Dern ‘em!” it seemed he said--and
made a gloomy exit by the door at the upper end of the hallway.

The conglomerate and delicate rustle of a large, mannerly audience was
heard as the janitor opened and closed the door; and stage-fright
seized the boy. The orchestra began an overture, and, at that, Penrod,
trembling violently, tiptoed down the hall into the Janitor’s Room. It
was a cul-de-sac: There was no outlet save by the way he had come.

Despairingly he doffed his mantle and looked down upon himself for
a last sickening assurance that the stockings were as obviously and
disgracefully Margaret’s as they had seemed in the mirror at home. For a
moment he was encouraged: perhaps he was no worse than some of the
other boys. Then he noticed that a safety-pin had opened; one of those
connecting the stockings with his trunks. He sat down to fasten it
and his eye fell for the first time with particular attention upon the
trunks. Until this instant he had been preoccupied with the stockings.

Slowly recognition dawned in his eyes.

The Schofields’ house stood on a corner at the intersection of two
main-travelled streets; the fence was low, and the publicity obtained by
the washable portion of the family apparel, on Mondays, had often been
painful to Penrod; for boys have a peculiar sensitiveness in these
matters. A plain, matter-of-fact washerwoman’ employed by Mrs.
Schofield, never left anything to the imagination of the passer-by; and
of all her calm display the scarlet flaunting of his father’s winter
wear had most abashed Penrod. One day Marjorie Jones, all gold and
starch, had passed when the dreadful things were on the line: Penrod had
hidden himself, shuddering. The whole town, he was convinced, knew these
garments intimately and derisively.

And now, as he sat in the janitor’s chair, the horrible and paralyzing
recognition came. He had not an instant’s doubt that every fellow actor,
as well as every soul in the audience, would recognize what his mother
and sister had put upon him. For as the awful truth became plain to
himself it seemed blazoned to the world; and far, far louder than the
stockings, the trunks did fairly bellow the grisly secret: WHOSE they
were and WHAT they were!

Most people have suffered in a dream the experience of finding
themselves very inadequately clad in the midst of a crowd of
well-dressed people, and such dreamers’ sensations are comparable to
Penrod’s, though faintly, because Penrod was awake and in much too full
possession of the most active capacities for anguish.

A human male whose dress has been damaged, or reveals some vital lack,
suffers from a hideous and shameful loneliness which makes every
second absolutely unbearable until he is again as others of his sex and
species; and there is no act or sin whatever too desperate for him in
his struggle to attain that condition. Also, there is absolutely no
embarrassment possible to a woman which is comparable to that of a man
under corresponding circumstances and in this a boy is a man. Gazing
upon the ghastly trunks, the stricken Penrod felt that he was a degree
worse then nude; and a great horror of himself filled his soul.

“Penrod Schofield!”

The door into the hallway opened, and a voice demanded him. He could not
be seen from the hallway, but the hue and the cry was up; and he knew
he must be taken. It was only a question of seconds. He huddled in his
chair.

“Penrod Schofield!” cried Mrs. Lora Rewbush angrily.

The distracted boy rose and, as he did so, a long pin sank deep into his
back. He extracted it frenziedly, which brought to his ears a protracted
and sonorous ripping, too easily located by a final gesture of horror.

“Penrod Schofield!” Mrs. Lora Rewbush had come out into the hallway.

And now, in this extremity, when all seemed lost indeed, particularly
including honour, the dilating eye of the outlaw fell upon the blue
overalls which the janitor had left hanging upon a peg.

Inspiration and action were almost simultaneous.



CHAPTER V THE PAGEANT OF THE TABLE ROUND


“Penrod!” Mrs. Lora Rewbush stood in the doorway, indignantly gazing
upon a Child Sir Lancelot mantled to the heels. “Do you know that you
have kept an audience of five hundred people waiting for ten minutes?”
 She, also, detained the five hundred while she spake further.

“Well,” said Penrod contentedly, as he followed her toward the buzzing
stage, “I was just sitting there thinking.”

Two minutes later the curtain rose on a medieval castle hall richly done
in the new stage-craft made in Germany and consisting of pink and blue
cheesecloth. The Child King Arthur and the Child Queen Guinevere were
disclosed upon thrones, with the Child Elaine and many other celebrities
in attendance; while about fifteen Child Knights were seated at a
dining-room table round, which was covered with a large Oriental rug,
and displayed (for the knights’ refreshment) a banquet service of silver
loving-cups and trophies, borrowed from the Country Club and some local
automobile manufacturers.

In addition to this splendour, potted plants and palms have seldom been
more lavishly used in any castle on the stage or off.

The footlights were aided by a “spot-light” from the rear of the hall;
and the children were revealed in a blaze of glory.

A hushed, multitudinous “O-OH” of admiration came from the decorous and
delighted audience. Then the children sang feebly:

     “Chuldrun of the Tabul Round,
     Lit-tul knights and ladies we.
     Let our voy-siz all resound
     Faith and hope and charitee!”

The Child King Arthur rose, extended his sceptre with the decisive
gesture of a semaphore, and spake:

     “Each littul knight and lady born
     Has noble deeds TO perform
     In THEE child-world of shivullree,
     No matter how small his share may be.
     Let each advance and tell in turn
     What claim has each to knighthood earn.”

The Child Sir Mordred, the villain of this piece, rose in his place
at the table round, and piped the only lines ever written by Mrs. Lora
Rewbush which Penrod Schofield could have pronounced without loathing.
Georgie Bassett, a really angelic boy, had been selected for the role of
Mordred. His perfect conduct had earned for him the sardonic sobriquet,
“The Little Gentleman,” among his boy acquaintances. (Naturally he had
no friends.) Hence the other boys supposed that he had been selected for
the wicked Mordred as a reward of virtue. He declaimed serenely:

     “I hight Sir Mordred the Child, and I teach
     Lessons of selfishest evil, and reach
     Out into darkness.  Thoughtless, unkind,
     And ruthless is Mordred, and unrefined.”

The Child Mordred was properly rebuked and denied the accolade, though,
like the others, he seemed to have assumed the title already. He made
a plotter’s exit. Whereupon Maurice Levy rose, bowed, announced that he
highted the Child Sir Galahad, and continued with perfect sang-froid:

     “I am the purest of the pure.
     I have but kindest thoughts each day.
     I give my riches to the poor,
     And follow in the Master’s way.”

This elicited tokens of approval from the Child King Arthur, and he bade
Maurice “stand forth” and come near the throne, a command obeyed with
the easy grace of conscious merit.

It was Penrod’s turn. He stepped back from his chair, the table between
him and the audience, and began in a high, breathless monotone:

     “I hight Sir Lancelot du Lake, the Child,
     Gentul-hearted, meek, and mild.
     What though I’m BUT a littul child,
     Gentul-heartud, meek, and mild,
     I do my share though but--though but----”

Penrod paused and gulped. The voice of Mrs. Lora Rewbush was heard from
the wings, prompting irritably, and the Child. Sir Lancelot repeated:

     “I do my share though but--though but a tot,
     I pray you knight Sir Lancelot!”

This also met the royal favour, and Penrod was bidden to join Sir
Galahad at the throne. As he crossed the stage, Mrs. Schofield whispered
to Margaret:

“That boy! He’s unpinned his mantle and fixed it to cover his whole
costume. After we worked so hard to make it becoming!”

“Never mind; he’ll have to take the cape off in a minute,” returned
Margaret. She leaned forward suddenly, narrowing her eyes to see
better. “What IS that thing hanging about his left ankle?” she whispered
uneasily. “How queer! He must have got tangled in something.”

“Where?” asked Mrs. Schofield, in alarm.

“His left foot. It makes him stumble. Don’t you see? It looks--it looks
like an elephant’s foot!”

The Child Sir Lancelot and the Child Sir Galahad clasped hands before
their Child King. Penrod was conscious of a great uplift; in a moment he
would have to throw aside his mantle, but even so he was protected and
sheltered in the human garment of a man. His stage-fright had passed,
for the audience was but an indistinguishable blur of darkness beyond
the dazzling lights. His most repulsive speech (that in which he
proclaimed himself a “tot”) was over and done with; and now at last the
small, moist hand of the Child Sir Galahad lay within his own. Craftily
his brown fingers stole from Maurice’s palm to the wrist. The two boys
declaimed in concert:

     “We are two chuldrun of the Tabul Round
     Strewing kindness all a-round.
     With love and good deeds striving ever for the best,
     May our littul efforts e’er be blest.
     Two littul hearts we offer.  See
     United in love, faith, hope, and char--OW!”

The conclusion of the duet was marred. The Child Sir Galahad suddenly
stiffened, and, uttering an irrepressible shriek of anguish, gave a
brief exhibition of the contortionist’s art. (“HE’S TWISTIN’ MY WRIST!
DERN YOU, LEGGO!”)

The voice of Mrs. Lora Rewbush was again heard from the wings; it
sounded bloodthirsty. Penrod released his victim; and the Child King
Arthur, somewhat disconcerted, extended his sceptre and, with the
assistance of the enraged prompter, said:

     “Sweet child-friends of the Tabul Round,
     In brotherly love and kindness abound,
     Sir Lancelot, you have spoken well,
     Sir Galahad, too, as clear as bell.
     So now pray doff your mantles gay.
     You shall be knighted this very day.”

And Penrod doffed his mantle.

Simultaneously, a thick and vasty gasp came from the audience, as
from five hundred bathers in a wholly unexpected surf. This gasp was
punctuated irregularly, over the auditorium, by imperfectly subdued
screams both of dismay and incredulous joy, and by two dismal shrieks.
Altogether it was an extraordinary sound, a sound never to be forgotten
by any one who heard it. It was almost as unforgettable as the sight
which caused it; the word “sight” being here used in its vernacular
sense, for Penrod, standing unmantled and revealed in all the medieval
and artistic glory of the janitor’s blue overalls, falls within its
meaning.

The janitor was a heavy man, and his overalls, upon Penrod, were merely
oceanic. The boy was at once swaddled and lost within their blue
gulfs and vast saggings; and the left leg, too hastily rolled up, had
descended with a distinctively elephantine effect, as Margaret had
observed. Certainly, the Child Sir Lancelot was at least a sight.

It is probable that a great many in that hall must have had, even then,
a consciousness that they were looking on at History in the Making.
A supreme act is recognizable at sight: it bears the birthmark of
immortality. But Penrod, that marvellous boy, had begun to declaim, even
with the gesture of flinging off his mantle for the accolade:

     “I first, the Child Sir Lancelot du Lake,
     Will volunteer to knighthood take,
     And kneeling here before your throne
     I vow to----”

He finished his speech unheard. The audience had recovered breath, but
had lost self-control, and there ensued something later described by a
participant as a sort of cultured riot.

The actors in the “pageant” were not so dumfounded by Penrod’s costume
as might have been expected. A few precocious geniuses perceived
that the overalls were the Child Lancelot’s own comment on maternal
intentions; and these were profoundly impressed: they regarded him with
the grisly admiration of young and ambitious criminals for a jail-mate
about to be distinguished by hanging. But most of the children simply
took it to be the case (a little strange, but not startling) that
Penrod’s mother had dressed him like that--which is pathetic. They tried
to go on with the “pageant.”

They made a brief, manful effort. But the irrepressible outbursts from
the audience bewildered them; every time Sir Lancelot du Lake the Child
opened his mouth, the great, shadowy house fell into an uproar, and the
children into confusion. Strong women and brave girls in the audience
went out into the lobby, shrieking and clinging to one another. Others
remained, rocking in their seats, helpless and spent. The neighbourhood
of Mrs. Schofield and Margaret became, tactfully, a desert. Friends of
the author went behind the scenes and encountered a hitherto unknown
phase of Mrs. Lora Rewbush; they said, afterward, that she hardly seemed
to know what she was doing. She begged to be left alone somewhere with
Penrod Schofield, for just a little while.

They led her away.



CHAPTER VI EVENING

The sun was setting behind the back fence (though at a considerable
distance) as Penrod Schofield approached that fence and looked
thoughtfully up at the top of it, apparently having in mind some purpose
to climb up and sit there. Debating this, he passed his fingers gently
up and down the backs of his legs; and then something seemed to decide
him not to sit anywhere. He leaned against the fence, sighed profoundly,
and gazed at Duke, his wistful dog.

The sigh was reminiscent: episodes of simple pathos were passing before
his inward eye. About the most painful was the vision of lovely
Marjorie Jones, weeping with rage as the Child Sir Lancelot was dragged,
insatiate, from the prostrate and howling Child Sir Galahad, after an
onslaught delivered the precise instant the curtain began to fall upon
the demoralized “pageant.” And then--oh, pangs! oh, woman!--she slapped
at the ruffian’s cheek, as he was led past her by a resentful janitor;
and turning, flung her arms round the Child Sir Galahad’s neck.

“PENROD SCHOFIELD, DON’T YOU DARE EVER SPEAK TO ME AGAIN AS LONG AS
YOU LIVE!” Maurice’s little white boots and gold tassels had done their
work.

At home the late Child Sir Lancelot was consigned to a locked
clothes-closet pending the arrival of his father. Mr. Schofield came
and, shortly after, there was put into practice an old patriarchal
custom. It is a custom of inconceivable antiquity: probably primordial,
certainly prehistoric, but still in vogue in some remaining citadels of
the ancient simplicities of the Republic.

And now, therefore, in the dusk, Penrod leaned against the fence and
sighed.

His case is comparable to that of an adult who could have survived a
similar experience. Looking back to the sawdust-box, fancy pictures this
comparable adult a serious and inventive writer engaged in congenial
literary activities in a private retreat. We see this period marked
by the creation of some of the most virile passages of a Work dealing
exclusively in red corpuscles and huge primal impulses. We see
this thoughtful man dragged from his calm seclusion to a horrifying
publicity; forced to adopt the stage and, himself a writer, compelled
to exploit the repulsive sentiments of an author not only personally
distasteful to him but whose whole method and school in belles lettres
he despises.

We see him reduced by desperation and modesty to stealing a pair of
overalls. We conceive him to have ruined, then, his own reputation,
and to have utterly disgraced his family; next, to have engaged in
the duello and to have been spurned by his lady-love, thus lost to him
(according to her own declaration) forever. Finally, we must behold:
imprisonment by the authorities; the third degree and flagellation.

We conceive our man decided that his career had been perhaps too
eventful. Yet Penrod had condensed all of it into eight hours.

It appears that he had at least some shadowy perception of a recent
fulness of life, for, as he leaned against the fence, gazing upon his
wistful Duke, he sighed again and murmured aloud:

“WELL, HASN’T THIS BEEN A DAY!”

But in a little while a star came out, freshly lighted, from the highest
part of the sky, and Penrod, looking up, noticed it casually and
a little drowsily. He yawned. Then he sighed once more, but not
reminiscently: evening had come; the day was over. It was a sigh of pure
ennui.



CHAPTER VII EVILS OF DRINK

Next day, Penrod acquired a dime by a simple and antique process which
was without doubt sometimes practised by the boys of Babylon. When the
teacher of his class in Sunday-school requested the weekly contribution,
Penrod, fumbling honestly (at first) in the wrong pockets, managed to
look so embarrassed that the gentle lady told him not to mind, and said
she was often forgetful herself. She was so sweet about it that, looking
into the future, Penrod began to feel confident of a small but regular
income.

At the close of the afternoon services he did not go home, but proceeded
to squander the funds just withheld from China upon an orgy of the most
pungently forbidden description. In a Drug Emporium, near the church, he
purchased a five-cent sack of candy consisting for the most part of the
heavily flavoured hoofs of horned cattle, but undeniably substantial,
and so generously capable of resisting solution that the purchaser must
needs be avaricious beyond reason who did not realize his money’s worth.

Equipped with this collation, Penrod contributed his remaining nickel to
a picture show, countenanced upon the seventh day by the legal but not
the moral authorities. Here, in cozy darkness, he placidly insulted his
liver with jaw-breaker upon jaw-breaker from the paper sack, and in a
surfeit of content watched the silent actors on the screen.

One film made a lasting impression upon him. It depicted with relentless
pathos the drunkard’s progress; beginning with his conversion to beer
in the company of loose travelling men; pursuing him through an
inexplicable lapse into evening clothes and the society of some
remarkably painful ladies, next, exhibiting the effects of alcohol on
the victim’s domestic disposition, the unfortunate man was seen in the
act of striking his wife and, subsequently, his pleading baby daughter
with an abnormally heavy walking-stick. Their flight--through the
snow--to seek the protection of a relative was shown, and finally, the
drunkard’s picturesque behaviour at the portals of a madhouse.

So fascinated was Penrod that he postponed his departure until this film
came round again, by which time he had finished his unnatural repast
and almost, but not quite, decided against following the profession of a
drunkard when he grew up.

Emerging, satiated, from the theatre, a public timepiece before a
jeweller’s shop confronted him with an unexpected dial and imminent
perplexities. How was he to explain at home these hours of dalliance?
There was a steadfast rule that he return direct from Sunday-school; and
Sunday rules were important, because on that day there was his father,
always at home and at hand, perilously ready for action. One of the
hardest conditions of boyhood is the almost continuous strain put upon
the powers of invention by the constant and harassing necessity for
explanations of every natural act.

Proceeding homeward through the deepening twilight as rapidly as
possible, at a gait half skip and half canter, Penrod made up his mind
in what manner he would account for his long delay, and, as he drew
nearer, rehearsed in words the opening passage of his defence.

“Now see here,” he determined to begin; “I do not wished to be blamed
for things I couldn’t help, nor any other boy. I was going along the
street by a cottage and a lady put her head out of the window and said
her husband was drunk and whipping her and her little girl, and she
asked me wouldn’t I come in and help hold him. So I went in and tried to
get hold of this drunken lady’s husband where he was whipping their baby
daughter, but he wouldn’t pay any attention, and I TOLD her I ought to
be getting home, but she kep’ on askin’ me to stay----”

At this point he reached the corner of his own yard, where a coincidence
not only checked the rehearsal of his eloquence but happily obviated all
occasion for it. A cab from the station drew up in front of the gate,
and there descended a troubled lady in black and a fragile little girl
about three. Mrs. Schofield rushed from the house and enfolded both in
hospitable arms.

They were Penrod’s Aunt Clara and cousin, also Clara, from Dayton,
Illinois, and in the flurry of their arrival everybody forgot to put
Penrod to the question. It is doubtful, however, if he felt any relief;
there may have been even a slight, unconscious disappointment not
altogether dissimilar to that of an actor deprived of a good part.

In the course of some really necessary preparations for dinner he
stepped from the bathroom into the pink-and-white bedchamber of his
sister, and addressed her rather thickly through a towel.

“When’d mamma find out Aunt Clara and Cousin Clara were coming?”

“Not till she saw them from the window. She just happened to look out
as they drove up. Aunt Clara telegraphed this morning, but it wasn’t
delivered.”

“How long they goin’ to stay?”

“I don’t know.”

Penrod ceased to rub his shining face, and thoughtfully tossed the towel
through the bathroom door. “Uncle John won’t try to make ‘em come
back home, I guess, will he?” (Uncle John was Aunt Clara’s husband, a
successful manufacturer of stoves, and his lifelong regret was that he
had not entered the Baptist ministry.) “He’ll let ‘em stay here quietly,
won’t he?”

“What ARE you talking about?” demanded Margaret, turning from her
mirror. “Uncle John sent them here. Why shouldn’t he let them stay?”

Penrod looked crestfallen. “Then he hasn’t taken to drink?”

“Certainly not!” She emphasized the denial with a pretty peal of soprano
laughter.

“Then why,” asked her brother gloomily, “why did Aunt Clara look so
worried when she got here?”

“Good gracious! Don’t people worry about anything except somebody’s
drinking? Where did you get such an idea?”

“Well,” he persisted, “you don’t KNOW it ain’t that.”

She laughed again, wholeheartedly. “Poor Uncle John! He won’t even allow
grape juice or ginger ale in his house. They came because they were
afraid little Clara might catch the measles. She’s very delicate, and
there’s such an epidemic of measles among the children over in Dayton
the schools had to be closed. Uncle John got so worried that last night
he dreamed about it; and this morning he couldn’t stand it any longer
and packed them off over here, though he thinks its wicked to travel
on Sunday. And Aunt Clara was worried when she got here because they’d
forgotten to check her trunk and it will have to be sent by express. Now
what in the name of the common sense put it into your head that Uncle
John had taken to----”

“Oh, nothing.” He turned lifelessly away and went downstairs, a new-born
hope dying in his bosom. Life seems so needlessly dull sometimes.



CHAPTER VIII SCHOOL

Next morning, when he had once more resumed the dreadful burden of
education, it seemed infinitely duller. And yet what pleasanter sight
is there than a schoolroom well filled with children of those sprouting
years just before the ‘teens? The casual visitor, gazing from the
teacher’s platform upon these busy little heads, needs only a blunted
memory to experience the most agreeable and exhilarating sensations.
Still, for the greater part, the children are unconscious of the
happiness of their condition; for nothing is more pathetically true than
that we “never know when we are well off.” The boys in a public school
are less aware of their happy state than are the girls; and of all the
boys in his room, probably Penrod himself had the least appreciation of
his felicity.

He sat staring at an open page of a textbook, but not studying; not even
reading; not even thinking. Nor was he lost in a reverie: his mind’s eye
was shut, as his physical eye might well have been, for the optic nerve,
flaccid with ennui, conveyed nothing whatever of the printed page
upon which the orb of vision was partially focused. Penrod was doing
something very unusual and rare, something almost never accomplished
except by coloured people or by a boy in school on a spring day: he was
doing really nothing at all. He was merely a state of being.

From the street a sound stole in through the open window, and abhorring
Nature began to fill the vacuum called Penrod Schofield; for the sound
was the spring song of a mouth-organ, coming down the sidewalk. The
windows were intentionally above the level of the eyes of the seated
pupils; but the picture of the musician was plain to Penrod, painted for
him by a quality in the runs and trills, partaking of the oboe, of the
calliope, and of cats in anguish; an excruciating sweetness obtained
only by the wallowing, walloping yellow-pink palm of a hand whose back
was Congo black and shiny. The music came down the street and passed
beneath the window, accompanied by the care-free shuffling of a pair of
old shoes scuffing syncopations on the cement sidewalk. It passed into
the distance; became faint and blurred; was gone. Emotion stirred in
Penrod a great and poignant desire, but (perhaps fortunately) no fairy
godmother made her appearance.

Otherwise Penrod would have gone down the street in a black skin,
playing the mouth-organ, and an unprepared coloured youth would have
found himself enjoying educational advantages for which he had no
ambition whatever.

Roused from perfect apathy, the boy cast about the schoolroom an eye
wearied to nausea by the perpetual vision of the neat teacher upon the
platform, the backs of the heads of the pupils in front of him, and the
monotonous stretches of blackboard threateningly defaced by arithmetical
formulae and other insignia of torture. Above the blackboard, the
walls of the high room were of white plaster--white with the qualified
whiteness of old snow in a soft coal town. This dismal expanse was
broken by four lithographic portraits, votive offerings of a thoughtful
publisher. The portraits were of good and great men, kind men; men
who loved children. Their faces were noble and benevolent. But the
lithographs offered the only rest for the eyes of children fatigued by
the everlasting sameness of the schoolroom. Long day after long day,
interminable week in and interminable week out, vast month on vast
month, the pupils sat with those four portraits beaming kindness down
upon them. The faces became permanent in the consciousness of the
children; they became an obsession--in and out of school the children
were never free of them. The four faces haunted the minds of children
falling asleep; they hung upon the minds of children waking at night;
they rose forebodingly in the minds of children waking in the morning;
they became monstrously alive in the minds of children lying sick of
fever. Never, while the children of that schoolroom lived, would they
be able to forget one detail of the four lithographs: the hand of
Longfellow was fixed, for them, forever, in his beard. And by a simple
and unconscious association of ideas, Penrod Schofield was accumulating
an antipathy for the gentle Longfellow and for James Russell Lowell and
for Oliver Wendell Holmes and for John Greenleaf Whittier, which would
never permit him to peruse a work of one of those great New Englanders
without a feeling of personal resentment.

His eyes fell slowly and inimically from the brow of Whittier to
the braid of reddish hair belonging to Victorine Riordan, the little
octoroon girl who sat directly in front of him. Victorine’s back was as
familiar to Penrod as the necktie of Oliver Wendell Holmes. So was her
gayly coloured plaid waist. He hated the waist as he hated Victorine
herself, without knowing why. Enforced companionship in large quantities
and on an equal basis between the sexes appears to sterilize the
affections, and schoolroom romances are few.

Victorine’s hair was thick, and the brickish glints in it were
beautiful, but Penrod was very tired of it. A tiny knot of green ribbon
finished off the braid and kept it from unravelling; and beneath the
ribbon there was a final wisp of hair which was just long enough to
repose upon Penrod’s desk when Victorine leaned back in her seat. It was
there now. Thoughtfully, he took the braid between thumb and forefinger,
and, without disturbing Victorine, dipped the end of it and the green
ribbon into the inkwell of his desk. He brought hair and ribbon forth
dripping purple ink, and partially dried them on a blotter, though, a
moment later when Victorine leaned forward, they were still able to add
a few picturesque touches to the plaid waist.

Rudolph Krauss, across the aisle from Penrod, watched the operation with
protuberant eyes, fascinated. Inspired to imitation, he took a piece of
chalk from his pocket and wrote “RATS” across the shoulder-blades of the
boy in front of him, then looked across appealingly to Penrod for tokens
of congratulation. Penrod yawned. It may not be denied that at times he
appeared to be a very self-centred boy.



CHAPTER IX SOARING

Half the members of the class passed out to a recitation-room, the
empurpled Victorine among them, and Miss Spence started the remaining
half through the ordeal of trial by mathematics. Several boys and girls
were sent to the blackboard, and Penrod, spared for the moment, followed
their operations a little while with his eyes, but not with his mind;
then, sinking deeper in his seat, limply abandoned the effort. His eyes
remained open, but saw nothing; the routine of the arithmetic lesson
reached his ears in familiar, meaningless sounds, but he heard nothing;
and yet, this time, he was profoundly occupied. He had drifted away from
the painful land of facts, and floated now in a new sea of fancy which
he had just discovered.

Maturity forgets the marvellous realness of a boy’s day-dreams, how
colourful they glow, rosy and living, and how opaque the curtain closing
down between the dreamer and the actual world. That curtain is almost
sound-proof, too, and causes more throat-trouble among parents than is
suspected.

The nervous monotony of the schoolroom inspires a sometimes unbearable
longing for something astonishing to happen, and as every boy’s
fundamental desire is to do something astonishing himself, so as to be
the centre of all human interest and awe, it was natural that Penrod
should discover in fancy the delightful secret of self-levitation.
He found, in this curious series of imaginings, during the lesson in
arithmetic, that the atmosphere may be navigated as by a swimmer under
water, but with infinitely greater ease and with perfect comfort in
breathing. In his mind he extended his arms gracefully, at a level with
his shoulders, and delicately paddled the air with his hands, which at
once caused him to be drawn up out of his seat and elevated gently to a
position about midway between the floor and the ceiling, where he
came to an equilibrium and floated; a sensation not the less exquisite
because of the screams of his fellow pupils, appalled by the miracle.
Miss Spence herself was amazed and frightened, but he only smiled down
carelessly upon her when she commanded him to return to earth; and
then, when she climbed upon a desk to pull him down, he quietly paddled
himself a little higher, leaving his toes just out of her reach. Next,
he swam through a few slow somersaults to show his mastery of the new
art, and, with the shouting of the dumfounded scholars ringing in
his ears, turned on his side and floated swiftly out of the window,
immediately rising above the housetops, while people in the street below
him shrieked, and a trolley car stopped dead in wonder.

With almost no exertion he paddled himself, many yards at a stroke, to
the girls’ private school where Marjorie Jones was a pupil--Marjorie
Jones of the amber curls and the golden voice! Long before the “Pageant
of the Table Round,” she had offered Penrod a hundred proofs that
she considered him wholly undesirable and ineligible. At the Friday
Afternoon Dancing Class she consistently incited and led the laughter at
him whenever Professor Bartet singled him out for admonition in matters
of feet and decorum. And but yesterday she had chid him for his
slavish lack of memory in daring to offer her a greeting on the way to
Sunday-school. “Well! I expect you must forgot I told you never to speak
to me again! If I was a boy, I’d be too proud to come hanging around
people that don’t speak to me, even if I WAS the Worst Boy in Town!”
 So she flouted him. But now, as he floated in through the window of her
classroom and swam gently along the ceiling like an escaped toy balloon,
she fell upon her knees beside her little desk, and, lifting up her arms
toward him, cried with love and admiration:

“Oh, PENrod!”

He negligently kicked a globe from the high chandelier, and, smiling
coldly, floated out through the hall to the front steps of the school,
while Marjorie followed, imploring him to grant her one kind look.

In the street an enormous crowd had gathered, headed by Miss Spence and
a brass band; and a cheer from a hundred thousand throats shook the
very ground as Penrod swam overhead. Marjorie knelt upon the steps
and watched adoringly while Penrod took the drum-major’s baton and,
performing sinuous evolutions above the crowd, led the band. Then he
threw the baton so high that it disappeared from sight; but he went
swiftly after it, a double delight, for he had not only the delicious
sensation of rocketing safely up and up into the blue sky, but also
that of standing in the crowd below, watching and admiring himself as he
dwindled to a speck, disappeared and then, emerging from a cloud, came
speeding down, with the baton in his hand, to the level of the treetops,
where he beat time for the band and the vast throng and Marjorie Jones,
who all united in the “Star-spangled Banner” in honour of his aerial
achievements. It was a great moment.

It was a great moment, but something seemed to threaten it. The face
of Miss Spence looking up from the crowd grew too vivid--unpleasantly
vivid. She was beckoning him and shouting, “Come down, Penrod Schofield!
Penrod Schofield, come down here!”

He could hear her above the band and the singing of the multitude; she
seemed intent on spoiling everything. Marjorie Jones was weeping to
show how sorry she was that she had formerly slighted him, and throwing
kisses to prove that she loved him; but Miss Spence kept jumping between
him and Marjorie, incessantly calling his name.

He grew more and more irritated with her; he was the most important
person in the world and was engaged in proving it to Marjorie Jones and
the whole city, and yet Miss Spence seemed to feel she still had the
right to order him about as she did in the old days when he was an
ordinary schoolboy. He was furious; he was sure she wanted him to do
something disagreeable. It seemed to him that she had screamed “Penrod
Schofield!” thousands of times.

From the beginning of his aerial experiments in his own schoolroom, he
had not opened his lips, knowing somehow that one of the requirements
for air floating is perfect silence on the part of the floater; but,
finally, irritated beyond measure by Miss Spence’s clamorous insistence,
he was unable to restrain an indignant rebuke and immediately came to
earth with a frightful bump.

Miss Spence--in the flesh--had directed toward the physical body of the
absent Penrod an inquiry as to the fractional consequences of dividing
seventeen apples, fairly, among three boys, and she was surprised and
displeased to receive no answer although to the best of her knowledge
and belief, he was looking fixedly at her. She repeated her question
crisply, without visible effect; then summoned him by name with
increasing asperity. Twice she called him, while all his fellow
pupils turned to stare at the gazing boy. She advanced a step from the
platform.

“Penrod Schofield!”

“Oh, my goodness!” he shouted suddenly. “Can’t you keep still a MINUTE?”



CHAPTER X UNCLE JOHN

Miss Spence gasped. So did the pupils.

The whole room filled with a swelling conglomerate “O-O-O-O-H!”

As for Penrod himself, the walls reeled with the shock. He sat with his
mouth open, a mere lump of stupefaction. For the appalling words that
he had hurled at the teacher were as inexplicable to him as to any other
who heard them.

Nothing is more treacherous than the human mind; nothing else so loves
to play the Iscariot. Even when patiently bullied into a semblance of
order and training, it may prove but a base and shifty servant. And
Penrod’s mind was not his servant; it was a master, with the April
wind’s whims; and it had just played him a diabolical trick. The very
jolt with which he came back to the schoolroom in the midst of his
fancied flight jarred his day-dream utterly out of him; and he sat,
open-mouthed in horror at what he had said.

The unanimous gasp of awe was protracted. Miss Spence, however, finally
recovered her breath, and, returning deliberately to the platform, faced
the school. “And then for a little while,” as pathetic stories sometimes
recount, “everything was very still.” It was so still, in fact, that
Penrod’s newborn notoriety could almost be heard growing. This grisly
silence was at last broken by the teacher.

“Penrod Schofield, stand up!”

The miserable child obeyed.

“What did you mean by speaking to me in that way?”

He hung his head, raked the floor with the side of his shoe, swayed,
swallowed, looked suddenly at his hands with the air of never having
seen them before, then clasped them behind him. The school shivered in
ecstatic horror, every fascinated eye upon him; yet there was not a
soul in the room but was profoundly grateful to him for the
sensation--including the offended teacher herself. Unhappily, all this
gratitude was unconscious and altogether different from the kind which,
results in testimonials and loving-cups. On the contrary!

“Penrod Schofield!”

He gulped.

“Answer me at once! Why did you speak to me like that?”

“I was----” He choked, unable to continue.

“Speak out!”

“I was just--thinking,” he managed to stammer.

“That will not do,” she returned sharply. “I wish to know immediately
why you spoke as you did.”

The stricken Penrod answered helplessly:

“Because I was just thinking.”

Upon the very rack he could have offered no ampler truthful explanation.
It was all he knew about it.

“Thinking what?”

“Just thinking.”

Miss Spence’s expression gave evidence that her power of self-restraint
was undergoing a remarkable test. However, after taking counsel with
herself, she commanded:

“Come here!”

He shuffled forward, and she placed a chair upon the platform near her
own.

“Sit there!”

Then (but not at all as if nothing had happened), she continued the
lesson in arithmetic. Spiritually the children may have learned a lesson
in very small fractions indeed as they gazed at the fragment of
sin before them on the stool of penitence. They all stared at him
attentively with hard and passionately interested eyes, in which there
was never one trace of pity. It cannot be said with precision that he
writhed; his movement was more a slow, continuous squirm, effected with
a ghastly assumption of languid indifference; while his gaze, in the
effort to escape the marble-hearted glare of his schoolmates, affixed
itself with apparent permanence to the waistcoat button of James Russell
Lowell just above the “U” in “Russell.”

Classes came and classes went, grilling him with eyes. Newcomers
received the story of the crime in darkling whispers; and the outcast
sat and sat and sat, and squirmed and squirmed and squirmed. (He did one
or two things with his spine which a professional contortionist would
have observed with real interest.) And all this while of freezing
suspense was but the criminal’s detention awaiting trial. A known
punishment may be anticipated with some measure of equanimity; at least,
the prisoner may prepare himself to undergo it; but the unknown looms
more monstrous for every attempt to guess it. Penrod’s crime was unique;
there were no rules to aid him in estimating the vengeance to fall upon
him for it. What seemed most probable was that he would be expelled from
the schools in the presence of his family, the mayor, and council, and
afterward whipped by his father upon the State House steps, with the
entire city as audience by invitation of the authorities.

Noon came. The rows of children filed out, every head turning for a last
unpleasingly speculative look at the outlaw. Then Miss Spence closed the
door into the cloakroom and that into the big hall, and came and sat at
her desk, near Penrod. The tramping of feet outside, the shrill calls
and shouting and the changing voices of the older boys ceased to be
heard--and there was silence. Penrod, still affecting to be occupied
with Lowell, was conscious that Miss Spence looked at him intently.

“Penrod,” she said gravely, “what excuse have you to offer before I
report your case to the principal?”

The word “principal” struck him to the vitals. Grand Inquisitor, Grand
Khan, Sultan, Emperor, Tsar, Caesar Augustus--these are comparable. He
stopped squirming instantly, and sat rigid.

“I want an answer. Why did you shout those words at me?”

“Well,” he murmured, “I was just--thinking.”

“Thinking what?” she asked sharply.

“I don’t know.”

“That won’t do!”

He took his left ankle in his right hand and regarded it helplessly.

“That won’t do, Penrod Schofield,” she repeated severely. “If that is
all the excuse you have to offer I shall report your case this instant!”

And she rose with fatal intent.

But Penrod was one of those whom the precipice inspires. “Well, I HAVE
got an excuse.”

“Well”--she paused impatiently--“what is it?”

He had not an idea, but he felt one coming, and replied automatically,
in a plaintive tone:

“I guess anybody that had been through what I had to go through, last
night, would think they had an excuse.”

Miss Spence resumed her seat, though with the air of being ready to leap
from it instantly.

“What has last night to do with your insolence to me this morning?”

“Well, I guess you’d see,” he returned, emphasizing the plaintive note,
“if you knew what I know.”

“Now, Penrod,” she said, in a kinder voice, “I have a high regard for
your mother and father, and it would hurt me to distress them, but you
must either tell me what was the matter with you or I’ll have to take
you to Mrs. Houston.”

“Well, ain’t I going to?” he cried, spurred by the dread name. “It’s
because I didn’t sleep last night.”

“Were you ill?” The question was put with some dryness.

He felt the dryness. “No’m; _I_ wasn’t.”

“Then if someone in your family was so ill that even you were kept up
all night, how does it happen they let you come to school this morning?”

“It wasn’t illness,” he returned, shaking his head mournfully. “It was
lots worse’n anybody’s being sick. It was--it was--well, it was jest
awful.”

“WHAT was?” He remarked with anxiety the incredulity in her tone.

“It was about Aunt Clara,” he said.

“Your Aunt Clara!” she repeated. “Do you mean your mother’s sister who
married Mr. Farry of Dayton, Illinois?”

“Yes--Uncle John,” returned Penrod sorrowfully. “The trouble was about
him.”

Miss Spence frowned a frown which he rightly interpreted as one of
continued suspicion. “She and I were in school together,” she said. “I
used to know her very well, and I’ve always heard her married life was
entirely happy. I don’t----”

“Yes, it was,” he interrupted, “until last year when Uncle John took to
running with travelling men----”

“What?”

“Yes’m.” He nodded solemnly. “That was what started it. At first he was
a good, kind husband, but these travelling men would coax him into a
saloon on his way home from work, and they got him to drinking beer and
then ales, wines, liquors, and cigars----”

“Penrod!”

“Ma’am?”

“I’m not inquiring into your Aunt Clara’s private affairs; I’m asking
you if you have anything to say which would palliate----”

“That’s what I’m tryin’ to TELL you about, Miss Spence,” he
pleaded,--“if you’d jest only let me. When Aunt Clara and her little
baby daughter got to our house last night----”

“You say Mrs. Farry is visiting your mother?”

“Yes’m--not just visiting--you see, she HAD to come. Well of course,
little baby Clara, she was so bruised up and mauled, where he’d been
hittin’ her with his cane----”

“You mean that your uncle had done such a thing as THAT!” exclaimed Miss
Spence, suddenly disarmed by this scandal.

“Yes’m, and mamma and Margaret had to sit up all night nursin’ little
Clara--and AUNT Clara was in such a state SOMEBODY had to keep talkin’
to HER, and there wasn’t anybody but me to do it, so I----”

“But where was your father?” she cried.

“Ma’am?”

“Where was your father while----”

“Oh--papa?” Penrod paused, reflected; then brightened. “Why, he was down
at the train, waitin’ to see if Uncle John would try to follow ‘em and
make ‘em come home so’s he could persecute ‘em some more. I wanted to do
that, but they said if he did come I mightn’t be strong enough to
hold him and----” The brave lad paused again, modestly. Miss Spence’s
expression was encouraging. Her eyes were wide with astonishment, and
there may have been in them, also, the mingled beginnings of admiration
and self-reproach. Penrod, warming to his work, felt safer every moment.

“And so,” he continued, “I had to sit up with Aunt Clara. She had some
pretty big bruises, too, and I had to----”

“But why didn’t they send for a doctor?” However, this question was only
a flicker of dying incredulity.

“Oh, they didn’t want any DOCTOR,” exclaimed the inspired realist
promptly. “They don’t want anybody to HEAR about it because Uncle John
might reform--and then where’d he be if everybody knew he’d been a
drunkard and whipped his wife and baby daughter?”

“Oh!” said Miss Spence.

“You see, he used to be upright as anybody,” he went on explanatively.
“It all begun----”

“Began, Penrod.”

“Yes’m. It all commenced from the first day he let those travelling men
coax him into the saloon.” Penrod narrated the downfall of his Uncle
John at length. In detail he was nothing short of plethoric; and
incident followed incident, sketched with such vividness, such abundance
of colour, and such verisimilitude to a drunkard’s life as a drunkard’s
life should be, that had Miss Spence possessed the rather chilling
attributes of William J. Burns himself, the last trace of skepticism
must have vanished from her mind. Besides, there are two things that
will be believed of any man whatsoever, and one of them is that he has
taken to drink. And in every sense it was a moving picture which, with
simple but eloquent words, the virtuous Penrod set before his teacher.

His eloquence increased with what it fed on; and as with the eloquence
so with self-reproach in the gentle bosom of the teacher. She cleared
her throat with difficulty once or twice, during his description of his
ministering night with Aunt Clara. “And I said to her, ‘Why, Aunt Clara,
what’s the use of takin’ on so about it?’ And I said, ‘Now, Aunt Clara,
all the crying in the world can’t make things any better.’ And then
she’d just keep catchin’ hold of me, and sob and kind of holler, and I’d
say, ‘DON’T cry, Aunt Clara--PLEASE don’t cry.”’

Then, under the influence of some fragmentary survivals of the
respectable portion of his Sunday adventures, his theme became more
exalted; and, only partially misquoting a phrase from a psalm, he
related how he had made it of comfort to Aunt Clara, and how he had
besought her to seek Higher guidance in her trouble.

The surprising thing about a structure such as Penrod was erecting is
that the taller it becomes the more ornamentation it will stand. Gifted
boys have this faculty of building magnificence upon cobwebs--and Penrod
was gifted. Under the spell of his really great performance, Miss Spence
gazed more and more sweetly upon the prodigy of spiritual beauty and
goodness before her, until at last, when Penrod came to the explanation
of his “just thinking,” she was forced to turn her head away.

“You mean, dear,” she said gently, “that you were all worn out and
hardly knew what you were saying?”

“Yes’m.”

“And you were thinking about all those dreadful things so hard that you
forgot where you were?”

“I was thinking,” he said simply, “how to save Uncle John.”

And the end of it for this mighty boy was that the teacher kissed him!



CHAPTER XI FIDELITY OF A LITTLE DOG

The returning students, that afternoon, observed that Penrod’s desk was
vacant--and nothing could have been more impressive than that sinister
mere emptiness. The accepted theory was that Penrod had been arrested.
How breathtaking, then, the sensation when, at the beginning of the
second hour, he strolled--in with inimitable carelessness and, rubbing
his eyes, somewhat noticeably in the manner of one who has snatched an
hour of much needed sleep, took his place as if nothing in particular
had happened. This, at first supposed to be a superhuman exhibition
of sheer audacity, became but the more dumfounding when Miss
Spence--looking up from her desk--greeted him with a pleasant little
nod. Even after school, Penrod gave numerous maddened investigators no
relief. All he would consent to say was:

“Oh, I just TALKED to her.”

A mystification not entirely unconnected with the one thus produced was
manifested at his own family dinner-table the following evening. Aunt
Clara had been out rather late, and came to the table after the rest
were seated. She wore a puzzled expression.

“Do you ever see Mary Spence nowadays?” she inquired, as she unfolded
her napkin, addressing Mrs. Schofield. Penrod abruptly set down his
soup-spoon and gazed at his aunt with flattering attention.

“Yes; sometimes,” said Mrs. Schofield. “She’s Penrod’s teacher.”

“Is she?” said Mrs. Farry. “Do you--” She paused. “Do people think her a
little--queer, these days?”

“Why, no,” returned her sister. “What makes you say that?”

“She has acquired a very odd manner,” said Mrs. Farry decidedly. “At
least, she seemed odd to ME. I met her at the corner just before I got
to the house, a few minutes ago, and after we’d said howdy-do to each
other, she kept hold of my hand and looked as though she was going to
cry. She seemed to be trying to say something, and choking----”

“But I don’t think that’s so very queer, Clara. She knew you in school,
didn’t she?”

“Yes, but----”

“And she hadn’t seen you for so many years, I think it’s perfectly
natural she----”

“Wait! She stood there squeezing my hand, and struggling to get her
voice--and I got really embarrassed--and then finally she said, in a
kind of tearful whisper, ‘Be of good cheer--this trial will pass!’”

“How queer!” exclaimed Margaret.

Penrod sighed, and returned somewhat absently to his soup.

“Well, I don’t know,” said Mrs. Schofield thoughtfully. “Of course she’s
heard about the outbreak of measles in Dayton, since they had to close
the schools, and she knows you live there----”

“But doesn’t it seem a VERY exaggerated way,” suggested Margaret, “to
talk about measles?”

“Wait!” begged Aunt Clara. “After she said that, she said something even
queerer, and then put her handkerchief to her eyes and hurried away.”

Penrod laid down his spoon again and moved his chair slightly back from
the table. A spirit of prophecy was upon him: he knew that someone was
going to ask a question which he felt might better remain unspoken.

“What WAS the other thing she said?” Mr. Schofield inquired, thus
immediately fulfilling his son’s premonition.

“She said,” returned Mrs. Farry slowly, looking about the table, “she
said, ‘I know that Penrod is a great, great comfort to you!’”

There was a general exclamation of surprise. It was a singular thing,
and in no manner may it be considered complimentary to Penrod, that this
speech of Miss Spence’s should have immediately confirmed Mrs. Farry’s
doubts about her in the minds of all his family.

Mr. Schofield shook his head pityingly.

“I’m afraid she’s a goner,” he went so far as to say.

“Of all the weird ideas!” cried Margaret.

“I never heard anything like it in my life!” Mrs. Schofield exclaimed.
“Was that ALL she said?”

“Every word!”

Penrod again resumed attention to his soup. His mother looked at him
curiously, and then, struck by a sudden thought, gathered the glances of
the adults of the table by a significant movement of the head, and, by
another, conveyed an admonition to drop the subject until later. Miss
Spence was Penrod’s teacher: it was better, for many reasons, not
to discuss the subject of her queerness before him. This was Mrs.
Schofield’s thought at the time. Later she had another, and it kept her
awake.

The next afternoon, Mr. Schofield, returning at five o’clock from the
cares of the day, found the house deserted, and sat down to read his
evening paper in what appeared to be an uninhabited apartment known to
its own world as the “drawing-room.” A sneeze, unexpected both to him
and the owner, informed him of the presence of another person.

“Where are you, Penrod?” the parent asked, looking about.

“Here,” said Penrod meekly.

Stooping, Mr. Schofield discovered his son squatting under the piano,
near an open window--his wistful Duke lying beside him.

“What are you doing there?”

“Me?”

“Why under the piano?”

“Well,” the boy returned, with grave sweetness, “I was just kind of
sitting here--thinking.”

“All right.” Mr. Schofield, rather touched, returned to the digestion of
a murder, his back once more to the piano; and Penrod silently drew
from beneath his jacket (where he had slipped it simultaneously with
the sneeze) a paper-backed volume entitled: “Slimsy, the Sioux City
Squealer, or, ‘Not Guilty, Your Honor.’”

In this manner the reading-club continued in peace, absorbed, contented,
the world well forgot--until a sudden, violently irritated slam-bang of
the front door startled the members; and Mrs. Schofield burst into the
room and threw herself into a chair, moaning.

“What’s the matter, mamma?” asked her husband laying aside his paper.

“Henry Passloe Schofield,” returned the lady, “I don’t know what IS to
be done with that boy; I do NOT!”

“You mean Penrod?”

“Who else could I mean?” She sat up, exasperated, to stare at him.
“Henry Passloe Schofield, you’ve got to take this matter in your
hands--it’s beyond me!”

“Well, what has he----”

“Last night I got to thinking,” she began rapidly, “about what Clara
told us--thank Heaven she and Margaret and little Clara have gone to tea
at Cousin Charlotte’s!--but they’ll be home soon--about what she said
about Miss Spence----”

“You mean about Penrod’s being a comfort?”

“Yes, and I kept thinking and thinking and thinking about it till I
couldn’t stand it any----”

“By GEORGE!” shouted Mr. Schofield startlingly, stooping to look
under the piano. A statement that he had suddenly remembered his son’s
presence would be lacking in accuracy, for the highly sensitized Penrod
was, in fact, no longer present. No more was Duke, his faithful dog.

“What’s the matter?”

“Nothing,” he returned, striding to the open window and looking out. “Go
on.”

“Oh,” she moaned, “it must be kept from Clara--and I’ll never hold up my
head again if John Farry ever hears of it!”

“Hears of WHAT?”

“Well, I just couldn’t stand it, I got so curious; and I thought of
course if Miss Spence HAD become a little unbalanced it was my duty to
know it, as Penrod’s mother and she his teacher; so I thought I would
just call on her at her apartment after school and have a chat and see
and I did and--oh----”

“Well?”

“I’ve just come from there, and she told me--she told me! Oh, I’ve NEVER
known anything like this!”

“WHAT did she tell you?”

Mrs. Schofield, making a great effort, managed to assume a temporary
appearance of calm. “Henry,” she said solemnly, “bear this in mind:
whatever you do to Penrod, it must be done in some place when Clara
won’t hear it. But the first thing to do is to find him.”

Within view of the window from which Mr. Schofield was gazing was the
closed door of the storeroom in the stable, and just outside this door
Duke was performing a most engaging trick.

His young master had taught Duke to “sit up and beg” when he wanted
anything, and if that didn’t get it, to “speak.” Duke was facing the
closed door and sitting up and begging, and now he also spoke--in a
loud, clear bark.

There was an open transom over the door, and from this descended--hurled
by an unseen agency--a can half filled with old paint.

It caught the small besieger of the door on his thoroughly surprised
right ear, encouraged him to some remarkable acrobatics, and turned
large portions of him a dull blue. Allowing only a moment to perplexity,
and deciding, after a single and evidently unappetizing experiment,
not to cleanse himself of paint, the loyal animal resumed his quaint,
upright posture.

Mr. Schofield seated himself on the window-sill, whence he could keep in
view that pathetic picture of unrequited love.

“Go on with your story, mamma,” he said. “I think I can find Penrod when
we want him.”

And a few minutes later he added, “And I think I know the place to do it
in.”

Again the faithful voice of Duke was heard, pleading outside the bolted
door.



CHAPTER XII MISS RENNSDALE ACCEPTS

“One-two-three; one-two-three--glide!” said Professor Bartet,
emphasizing his instructions by a brisk collision of his palms at
“glide.” “One-two-three; one-two-three--glide!”

The school week was over, at last, but Penrod’s troubles were not.

Round and round the ballroom went the seventeen struggling little
couples of the Friday Afternoon Dancing Class. Round and round went
their reflections with them, swimming rhythmically in the polished, dark
floor--white and blue and pink for the girls; black, with dabs of white,
for the white-collared, white-gloved boys; and sparks and slivers
of high light everywhere as the glistening pumps flickered along the
surface like a school of flying fish. Every small pink face--with one
exception--was painstaking and set for duty. It was a conscientious
little merry-go-round.

“One-two-three; one-two-three--glide! One-two-three;
one-two-three--glide! One-two-th--Ha! Mister Penrod Schofield, you lose
the step. Your left foot! No, no! This is the left! See--like me! Now
again! One-two-three; one-two-three--glide! Better! Much better! Again!
One-two-three; one-two-three--gl--Stop! Mr. Penrod Schofield, this
dancing class is provided by the kind parents of the pupilses as much
to learn the mannerss of good societies as to dance. You think you shall
ever see a gentleman in good societies to tickle his partner in the
dance till she say Ouch? Never! I assure you it is not done. Again! Now
then! Piano, please! One-two-three; one-two-three--glide! Mr. Penrod
Schofield, your right foot--your right foot! No, no! Stop!”

The merry-go-round came to a standstill.

“Mr. Penrod Schofield and partner”--Professor Bartet wiped his
brow--“will you kindly observe me? One-two-three--glide! So! Now
then--no; you will please keep your places, ladies and gentlemen. Mr.
Penrod Schofield, I would puttickly like your attention, this is for
you!”

“Pickin’ on me again!” murmured the smouldering Penrod to his small,
unsympathetic partner. “Can’t let me alone a minute!”

“Mister Georgie Bassett, please step to the centre,” said the professor.

Mr. Bassett complied with modest alacrity.

“Teacher’s pet!” whispered Penrod hoarsely. He had nothing but contempt
for Georgie Bassett. The parents, guardians, aunts, uncles, cousins,
governesses, housemaids, cooks, chauffeurs and coachmen, appertaining to
the members of the dancing class, all dwelt in the same part of town and
shared certain communal theories; and among the most firmly established
was that which maintained Georgie Bassett to be the Best Boy in Town.
Contrariwise, the unfortunate Penrod, largely because of his recent
dazzling but disastrous attempts to control forces far beyond him,
had been given a clear title as the Worst Boy in Town. (Population,
135,000.) To precisely what degree his reputation was the product of
his own energies cannot be calculated. It was Marjorie Jones who first
applied the description, in its definite simplicity, the day after the
“pageant,” and, possibly, her frequent and effusive repetitions of it,
even upon wholly irrelevant occasions, had something to do with its
prompt and quite perfect acceptance by the community.

“Miss Rennsdale will please do me the fafer to be Mr. Georgie Bassett’s
partner for one moment,” said Professor Bartet. “Mr. Penrod Schofield
will please give his attention. Miss Rennsdale and Mister Bassett,
obliche me, if you please. Others please watch. Piano, please! Now
then!”

Miss Rennsdale, aged eight--the youngest lady in the class--and Mr.
Georgie Bassett one-two-three--glided with consummate technique for the
better education of Penrod Schofield. It is possible that amber-curled,
beautiful Marjorie felt that she, rather than Miss Rennsdale, might have
been selected as the example of perfection--or perhaps her remark was
only woman.

“Stopping everybody for that boy!” said Marjorie.

Penrod, across the circle from her, heard distinctly--nay, he was
obviously intended to hear; but over a scorched heart he preserved a
stoic front. Whereupon Marjorie whispered derisively in the ear of her
partner, Maurice Levy, who wore a pearl pin in his tie.

“Again, please, everybody--ladies and gentlemen!” cried Professor
Bartet. “Mister Penrod Schofield, if you please, pay puttickly
attention! Piano, please! Now then!”

The lesson proceeded. At the close of the hour Professor Bartet stepped
to the centre of the room and clapped his hands for attention.

“Ladies and gentlemen, if you please to seat yourselves quietly,” he
said; “I speak to you now about to-morrow. As you all know--Mister
Penrod Schofield, I am not sticking up in a tree outside that window! If
you do me the fafer to examine I am here, insides of the room. Now then!
Piano, pl--no, I do not wish the piano! As you all know, this is the
last lesson of the season until next October. Tomorrow is our special
afternoon; beginning three o’clock, we dance the cotillon. But this
afternoon comes the test of mannerss. You must see if each know how to
make a little formal call like a grown-up people in good societies. You
have had good, perfect instruction; let us see if we know how to perform
like societies ladies and gentlemen twenty-six years of age.

“Now, when you’re dismissed each lady will go to her home and prepare to
receive a call. The gentlemen will allow the ladies time to reach their
houses and to prepare to receive callers; then each gentleman will call
upon a lady and beg the pleasure to engage her for a partner in the
cotillon to-morrow. You all know the correct, proper form for these
calls, because didn’t I work teaching you last lesson till I thought
I would drop dead? Yes! Now each gentleman, if he reach a lady’s house
behind some-other gentleman, then he must go somewhere else to a lady’s
house, and keep calling until he secures a partner; so, as there are the
same number of both, everybody shall have a partner.

“Now please all remember that if in case--Mister Penrod Schofield, when
you make your call on a lady I beg you to please remember that gentlemen
in good societies do not scratch the back in societies as you appear to
attempt; so please allow the hands to rest carelessly in the lap. Now
please all remember that if in case--Mister Penrod Schofield, if you
please! Gentlemen in societies do not scratch the back by causing
frictions between it and the back of your chair, either! Nobody else is
itching here! _I_ do not itch! I cannot talk if you must itch! In the
name of Heaven, why must you always itch? What was I saying? Where ah!
the cotillon--yes! For the cotillon it is important nobody shall fail
to be here tomorrow; but if any one should be so very ill he cannot
possible come he must write a very polite note of regrets in the form
of good societies to his engaged partner to excuse himself--and he must
give the reason.

“I do not think anybody is going to be that sick to-morrow--no; and I
will find out and report to parents if anybody would try it and not be.
But it is important for the cotillon that we have an even number of so
many couples, and if it should happen that someone comes and her partner
has sent her a polite note that he has genuine reasons why he cannot
come, the note must be handed at once to me, so that I arrange some
other partner. Is all understood? Yes. The gentlemen will remember now
to allow the ladies plenty of time to reach their houses and prepare
to receive calls. Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for your polite
attention.”

It was nine blocks to the house of Marjorie Jones; but Penrod did it in
less than seven minutes from a flying start--such was his haste to lay
himself and his hand for the cotillon at the feet of one who had so
recently spoken unamiably of him in public. He had not yet learned that
the only safe male rebuke to a scornful female is to stay away from
her--especially if that is what she desires. However, he did not wish
to rebuke her; simply and ardently he wished to dance the cotillon with
her. Resentment was swallowed up in hope.

The fact that Miss Jones’ feeling for him bore a striking resemblance to
that of Simon Legree for Uncle Tom, deterred him not at all. Naturally,
he was not wholly unconscious that when he should lay his hand for the
cotillon at her feet it would be her inward desire to step on it; but
he believed that if he were first in the field Marjorie would have to
accept. These things are governed by law.

It was his fond intention to reach her house even in advance of herself,
and with grave misgiving he beheld a large automobile at rest before the
sainted gate. Forthwith, a sinking feeling became a portent inside him
as little Maurice Levy emerged from the front door of the house.

“‘Lo, Penrod!” said Maurice airily.

“What you doin’ in there?” inquired Penrod.

“In where?”

“In Marjorie’s.”

“Well, what shouldn’t I be doin’ in Marjorie’s?” Mr. Levy returned
indignantly. “I was inviting her for my partner in the cotillon--what
you s’pose?”

“You haven’t got any right to!” Penrod protested hotly. “You can’t do it
yet.”

“I did do it yet!” said Maurice.

“You can’t!” insisted Penrod. “You got to allow them time first. He said
the ladies had to be allowed time to prepare.”

“Well, ain’t she had time to prepare?”

“When?” Penrod demanded, stepping close to his rival threateningly. “I’d
like to know when----”

“When?” echoed the other with shrill triumph. “When? Why, in mamma’s
sixty-horse powder limousine automobile, what Marjorie came home with me
in! I guess that’s when!”

An impulse in the direction of violence became visible upon the
countenance of Penrod.

“I expect you need some wiping down,” he began dangerously. “I’ll give
you sumpthing to remem----”

“Oh, you will!” Maurice cried with astonishing truculence, contorting
himself into what he may have considered a posture of defense. “Let’s
see you try it, you--you itcher!”

For the moment, defiance from such a source was dumfounding. Then,
luckily, Penrod recollected something and glanced at the automobile.

Perceiving therein not only the alert chauffeur but the magnificent
outlines of Mrs. Levy, his enemy’s mother, he manoeuvred his lifted hand
so that it seemed he had but meant to scratch his ear.

“Well, I guess I better be goin’,” he said casually. “See you tomorrow!”

Maurice mounted to the lap of luxury, and Penrod strolled away with an
assumption of careless ease which was put to a severe strain when, from
the rear window of the car, a sudden protuberance in the nature of a
small, dark, curly head shrieked scornfully:

“Go on--you big stiff!”

The cotillon loomed dismally before Penrod now; but it was his duty
to secure a partner and he set about it with a dreary heart. The delay
occasioned by his fruitless attempt on Marjorie and the altercation with
his enemy at her gate had allowed other ladies ample time to prepare for
callers--and to receive them. Sadly he went from house to house, finding
that he had been preceded in one after the other. Altogether his
hand for the cotillon was declined eleven times that afternoon on the
legitimate ground of previous engagement. This, with Marjorie, scored
off all except five of the seventeen possible partners; and four of the
five were also sealed away from him, as he learned in chance encounters
with other boys upon the street.

One lady alone remained; he bowed to the inevitable and entered this
lorn damsel’s gate at twilight with an air of great discouragement. The
lorn damsel was Miss Rennsdale, aged eight.

We are apt to forget that there are actually times of life when too much
youth is a handicap. Miss Rennsdale was beautiful; she danced like a
premiere; she had every charm but age. On that account alone had she
been allowed so much time to prepare to receive callers that it was only
by the most manful efforts she could keep her lip from trembling.

A decorous maid conducted the long-belated applicant to her where she
sat upon a sofa beside a nursery governess. The decorous maid announced
him composedly as he made his entrance.

“Mr. Penrod Schofield!”

Miss Rennsdale suddenly burst into loud sobs.

“Oh!” she wailed. “I just knew it would be him!”

The decorous maid’s composure vanished at once--likewise her decorum.
She clapped her hand over her mouth and fled, uttering sounds. The
governess, however, set herself to comfort her heartbroken charge, and
presently succeeded in restoring Miss Rennsdale to a semblance of that
poise with which a lady receives callers and accepts invitations to
dance cotillons. But she continued to sob at intervals.

Feeling himself at perhaps a disadvantage, Penrod made offer of his
hand for the morrow with a little embarrassment. Following the form
prescribed by Professor Bartet, he advanced several paces toward the
stricken lady and bowed formally.

“I hope,” he said by rote, “you’re well, and your parents also in good
health. May I have the pleasure of dancing the cotillon as your partner
t’-morrow afternoon?”

The wet eyes of Miss Rennsdale searched his countenance without
pleasure, and a shudder wrung her small shoulders; but the governess
whispered to her instructively, and she made a great effort.

“I thu-thank you fu-for your polite invu-invu-invutation; and I ac----”
 Thus far she progressed when emotion overcame her again. She beat
frantically upon the sofa with fists and heels. “Oh, I DID want it to be
Georgie Bassett!”

“No, no, no!” said the governess, and whispered urgently, whereupon Miss
Rennsdale was able to complete her acceptance.

“And I ac-accept wu-with pu-pleasure!” she moaned, and immediately,
uttering a loud yell, flung herself face downward upon the sofa,
clutching her governess convulsively.

Somewhat disconcerted, Penrod bowed again.

“I thank you for your polite acceptance,” he murmured hurriedly; “and
I trust--I trust--I forget. Oh, yes--I trust we shall have a most
enjoyable occasion. Pray present my compliments to your parents; and I
must now wish you a very good afternoon.”

Concluding these courtly demonstrations with another bow he withdrew in
fair order, though thrown into partial confusion in the hall by a final
wail from his crushed hostess:

“Oh! Why couldn’t it be anybody but HIM!”



CHAPTER XIII THE SMALLPOX MEDICINE

Next morning Penrod woke in profound depression of spirit, the cotillon
ominous before him. He pictured Marjorie Jones and Maurice, graceful and
light-hearted, flitting by him fairylike, loosing silvery laughter upon
him as he engaged in the struggle to keep step with a partner about four
years and two feet his junior. It was hard enough for Penrod to keep
step with a girl of his size.

The foreboding vision remained with him, increasing in vividness,
throughout the forenoon. He found himself unable to fix his mind
upon anything else, and, having bent his gloomy footsteps toward the
sawdust-box, after breakfast, presently descended therefrom, abandoning
Harold Ramorez where he had left him the preceding Saturday. Then, as he
sat communing silently with wistful Duke, in the storeroom, coquettish
fortune looked his way.

It was the habit of Penrod’s mother not to throw away anything
whatsoever until years of storage conclusively proved there would never
be a use for it; but a recent house-cleaning had ejected upon the back
porch a great quantity of bottles and other paraphernalia of medicine,
left over from illnesses in the family during a period of several years.
This debris Della, the cook, had collected in a large market basket,
adding to it some bottles of flavouring extracts that had proved
unpopular in the household; also, old catsup bottles; a jar or two of
preserves gone bad; various rejected dental liquids--and other things.
And she carried the basket out to the storeroom in the stable.

Penrod was at first unaware of what lay before him. Chin on palms, he
sat upon the iron rim of a former aquarium and stared morbidly through
the open door at the checkered departing back of Della. It was another
who saw treasure in the basket she had left.

Mr. Samuel Williams, aged eleven, and congenial to Penrod in years,
sex, and disposition, appeared in the doorway, shaking into foam a black
liquid within a pint bottle, stoppered by a thumb.

“Yay, Penrod!” the visitor gave greeting.

“Yay,” said Penrod with slight enthusiasm. “What you got?”

“Lickrish water.”

“Drinkin’s!” demanded Penrod promptly. This is equivalent to the cry of
“Biters” when an apple is shown, and establishes unquestionable title.

“Down to there!” stipulated Sam, removing his thumb to affix it firmly
as a mark upon the side of the bottle a check upon gormandizing that
remained carefully in place while Penrod drank.

This rite concluded, the visitor’s eye fell upon the basket deposited by
Della. He emitted tokens of pleasure.

“Looky! Looky! Looky there! That ain’t any good pile o’ stuff--oh, no!”

“What for?”

“Drug store!” shouted Sam. “We’ll be partners----”

“Or else,” Penrod suggested, “I’ll run the drug store and you be a
customer----”

“No! Partners!” insisted Sam with such conviction that his host yielded;
and within ten minutes the drug store was doing a heavy business with
imaginary patrons. Improvising counters with boards and boxes, and
setting forth a very druggish-looking stock from the basket, each of the
partners found occupation to his taste--Penrod as salesman and Sam as
prescription clerk.

“Here you are, madam!” said Penrod briskly, offering a vial of Sam’s
mixing to an invisible matron. “This will cure your husband in a few
minutes. Here’s the camphor, mister. Call again! Fifty cents’ worth of
pills? Yes, madam. There you are! Hurry up with that dose for the nigger
lady, Bill!”

“I’ll ‘tend to it soon’s I get time, Jim,” replied the prescription
clerk. “I’m busy fixin’ the smallpox medicine for the sick policeman
downtown.”

Penrod stopped sales to watch this operation. Sam had found an empty
pint bottle and, with the pursed lips and measuring eye of a great
chemist, was engaged in filling it from other bottles.

First, he poured into it some of the syrup from the condemned preserves;
and a quantity of extinct hair oil; next the remaining contents of a
dozen small vials cryptically labelled with physicians’ prescriptions;
then some remnants of catsup and essence of beef and what was left
in several bottles of mouthwash; after that a quantity of rejected
flavouring extract--topping off by shaking into the mouth of the
bottle various powders from small pink papers, relics of Mr. Schofield’s
influenza of the preceding winter.

Sam examined the combination with concern, appearing unsatisfied. “We
got to make that smallpox medicine good and strong!” he remarked; and,
his artistic sense growing more powerful than his appetite, he poured
about a quarter of the licorice water into the smallpox medicine.

“What you doin’?” protested Penrod. “What you want to waste that
lickrish water for? We ought to keep it to drink when we’re tired.”

“I guess I got a right to use my own lickrish water any way I want to,”
 replied the prescription clerk. “I tell you, you can’t get smallpox
medicine too strong. Look at her now!” He held the bottle up admiringly.
“She’s as black as lickrish. I bet you she’s strong all right!”

“I wonder how she tastes?” said Penrod thoughtfully.

“Don’t smell so awful much,” observed Sam, sniffing the bottle--“a good
deal, though!”

“I wonder if it’d make us sick to drink it?” said Penrod.

Sam looked at the bottle thoughtfully; then his eye, wandering, fell
upon Duke, placidly curled up near the door, and lighted with the advent
of an idea new to him, but old, old in the world--older than Egypt!

“Let’s give Duke some!” he cried.

That was the spark. They acted immediately; and a minute later Duke,
released from custody with a competent potion of the smallpox medicine
inside him, settled conclusively their doubts concerning its effect. The
patient animal, accustomed to expect the worst at all times, walked out
of the door, shaking his head with an air of considerable annoyance,
opening and closing his mouth with singular energy--and so repeatedly
that they began to count the number of times he did it. Sam thought it
was thirty-nine times, but Penrod had counted forty-one before other and
more striking symptoms appeared.

All things come from Mother Earth and must return--Duke restored much
at this time. Afterward, he ate heartily of grass; and then, over his
shoulder, he bent upon his master one inscrutable look and departed
feebly to the front yard.

The two boys had watched the process with warm interest. “I told you she
was strong!” said Mr. Williams proudly.

“Yes, sir--she is!” Penrod was generous enough to admit. “I expect she’s
strong enough----” He paused in thought, and added:

“We haven’t got a horse any more.”

“I bet you she’d fix him if you had!” said Sam. And it may be that this
was no idle boast.

The pharmaceutical game was not resumed; the experiment upon Duke had
made the drug store commonplace and stimulated the appetite for stronger
meat. Lounging in the doorway, the near-vivisectionists sipped licorice
water alternately and conversed.

“I bet some of our smallpox medicine would fix ole P’fessor Bartet all
right!” quoth Penrod. “I wish he’d come along and ask us for some.”

“We could tell him it was lickrish water,” added Sam, liking the idea.
“The two bottles look almost the same.”

“Then we wouldn’t have to go to his ole cotillon this afternoon,” Penrod
sighed. “There wouldn’t be any!”

“Who’s your partner, Pen?”

“Who’s yours?”

“Who’s yours? I just ast you.”

“Oh, she’s all right!” And Penrod smiled boastfully.

“I bet you wanted to dance with Marjorie!” said his friend.

“Me? I wouldn’t dance with that girl if she begged me to! I wouldn’t
dance with her to save her from drowning! I wouldn’t da----”

“Oh, no--you wouldn’t!” interrupted Mr. Williams skeptically.

Penrod changed his tone and became persuasive.

“Looky here, Sam,” he said confidentially. “I’ve got ‘a mighty nice
partner, but my mother don’t like her mother; and so I’ve been thinking
I better not dance with her. I’ll tell you what I’ll do; I’ve got a
mighty good sling in the house, and I’ll give it to you if you’ll change
partners.”

“You want to change and you don’t even know who mine is!” said Sam, and
he made the simple though precocious deduction: “Yours must be a lala!
Well, I invited Mabel Rorebeck, and she wouldn’t let me change if
I wanted to. Mabel Rorebeck’d rather dance with me,” he continued
serenely, “than anybody; and she said she was awful afraid you’d ast
her. But I ain’t goin’ to dance with Mabel after all, because this
morning she sent me a note about her uncle died last night--and P’fessor
Bartet’ll have to find me a partner after I get there. Anyway I bet you
haven’t got any sling--and I bet your partner’s Baby Rennsdale!”

“What if she is?” said Penrod. “She’s good enough for ME!” This speech
held not so much modesty in solution as intended praise of the lady.
Taken literally, however, it was an understatement of the facts and
wholly insincere.

“Yay!” jeered Mr. Williams, upon whom his friend’s hypocrisy was quite
wasted. “How can your mother not like her mother? Baby Rennsdale hasn’t
got any mother! You and her’ll be a sight!”

That was Penrod’s own conviction; and with this corroboration of it
he grew so spiritless that he could offer no retort. He slid to a
despondent sitting posture upon the door sill and gazed wretchedly upon
the ground, while his companion went to replenish the licorice water at
the hydrant--enfeebling the potency of the liquor no doubt, but making
up for that in quantity.

“Your mother goin’ with you to the cotillon?” asked Sam when he
returned.

“No. She’s goin’ to meet me there. She’s goin’ somewhere first.”

“So’s mine,” said Sam. “I’ll come by for you.”

“All right.”

“I better go before long. Noon whistles been blowin’.”

“All right,” Penrod repeated dully.

Sam turned to go, but paused. A new straw hat was peregrinating along
the fence near the two boys. This hat belonged to someone passing upon
the sidewalk of the cross-street; and the someone was Maurice Levy.
Even as they stared, he halted and regarded them over the fence with two
small, dark eyes.

Fate had brought about this moment and this confrontation.



CHAPTER XIV MAURICE LEVY’S CONSTITUTION

“Lo, Sam!” said Maurice cautiously. “What you doin’?”

Penrod at that instant had a singular experience--an intellectual shock
like a flash of fire in the brain. Sitting in darkness, a great light
flooded him with wild brilliance. He gasped!

“What you doin’?” repeated Mr. Levy.

Penrod sprang to his feet, seized the licorice bottle, shook it with
stoppering thumb, and took a long drink with histrionic unction.

“What you doin’?” asked Maurice for the third time, Sam Williams not
having decided upon a reply.

It was Penrod who answered.

“Drinkin’ lickrish water,” he said simply, and wiped his mouth with such
delicious enjoyment that Sam’s jaded thirst was instantly stimulated. He
took the bottle eagerly from Penrod.

“A-a-h!” exclaimed Penrod, smacking his lips. “That was a good un!”

The eyes above the fence glistened.

“Ask him if he don’t want some,” Penrod whispered urgently. “Quit
drinkin’ it! It’s no good any more. Ask him!”

“What for?” demanded the practical Sam.

“Go on and ask him!” whispered Penrod fiercely.

“Say, M’rice!” Sam called, waving the bottle. “Want some?”

“Bring it here!” Mr. Levy requested.

“Come on over and get some,” returned Sam, being prompted.

“I can’t. Penrod Schofield’s after me.”

“No, I’m not,” said Penrod reassuringly. “I won’t touch you, M’rice.
I made up with you yesterday afternoon--don’t you remember? You’re all
right with me, M’rice.”

Maurice looked undecided. But Penrod had the delectable bottle again,
and tilting it above his lips, affected to let the cool liquid purl
enrichingly into him, while with his right hand he stroked his middle
facade ineffably. Maurice’s mouth watered.

“Here!” cried Sam, stirred again by the superb manifestations of his
friend. “Gimme that!”

Penrod brought the bottle down, surprisingly full after so much gusto,
but withheld it from Sam; and the two scuffled for its possession.
Nothing in the world could have so worked upon the desire of the
yearning observer beyond the fence.

“Honest, Penrod--you ain’t goin’ to touch me if I come in your yard?” he
called. “Honest?”

“Cross my heart!” answered Penrod, holding the bottle away from Sam.
“And we’ll let you drink all you want.”

Maurice hastily climbed the fence, and while he was thus occupied Mr.
Samuel Williams received a great enlightenment. With startling rapidity
Penrod, standing just outside the storeroom door, extended his arm
within the room, deposited the licorice water upon the counter of the
drug store, seized in its stead the bottle of smallpox medicine, and
extended it cordially toward the advancing Maurice.

Genius is like that--great, simple, broad strokes!

Dazzled, Mr. Samuel Williams leaned against the wall. He had
the sensations of one who comes suddenly into the presence of a
chef-d’oeuvre. Perhaps his first coherent thought was that almost
universal one on such huge occasions: “Why couldn’t _I_ have done that!”

Sam might have been even more dazzled had he guessed that he figured not
altogether as a spectator in the sweeping and magnificent conception of
the new Talleyrand. Sam had no partner for the cotillon. If Maurice
was to be absent from that festivity--as it began to seem he might
be--Penrod needed a male friend to take care of Miss Rennsdale and he
believed he saw his way to compel Mr. Williams to be that male friend.
For this he relied largely upon the prospective conduct of Miss
Rennsdale when he should get the matter before her--he was inclined to
believe she would favour the exchange. As for Talleyrand Penrod himself,
he was going to dance that cotillon with Marjorie Jones!

“You can have all you can drink at one pull, M’rice,” said Penrod
kindly.

“You said I could have all I want!” protested Maurice, reaching for the
bottle.

“No, I didn’t,” returned Penrod quickly, holding it away from the eager
hand.

“He did, too! Didn’t he, Sam?”

Sam could not reply; his eyes, fixed upon the bottle, protruded
strangely.

“You heard him--didn’t you, Sam?”

“Well, if I did say it I didn’t mean it!” said Penrod hastily, quoting
from one of the authorities. “Looky here, M’rice,” he continued,
assuming a more placative and reasoning tone, “that wouldn’t be fair to
us. I guess we want some of our own lickrish water, don’t we? The bottle
ain’t much over two-thirds full anyway. What I meant was, you can have
all you can drink at one pull.”

“How do you mean?”

“Why, this way: you can gulp all you want, so long as you keep
swallering; but you can’t take the bottle out of your mouth and commence
again. Soon’s you quit swallering it’s Sam’s turn.”

“No; you can have next, Penrod,” said Sam.

“Well, anyway, I mean M’rice has to give the bottle up the minute he
stops swallering.”

Craft appeared upon the face of Maurice, like a poster pasted on a wall.

“I can drink so long I don’t stop swallering?”

“Yes; that’s it.”

“All right!” he cried. “Gimme the bottle!”

And Penrod placed it in his hand.

“You promise to let me drink until I quit swallering?” Maurice insisted.

“Yes!” said both boys together.

With that, Maurice placed the bottle to his lips and began to drink.
Penrod and Sam leaned forward in breathless excitement. They had feared
Maurice might smell the contents of the bottle; but that danger was
past--this was the crucial moment. Their fondest hope was that he would
make his first swallow a voracious one--it was impossible to imagine a
second. They expected one big, gulping swallow and then an explosion,
with fountain effects.

Little they knew the mettle of their man! Maurice swallowed once; he
swallowed twice--and thrice--and he continued to swallow! No Adam’s
apple was sculptured on that juvenile throat, but the internal progress
of the liquid was not a whit the less visible. His eyes gleamed with
cunning and malicious triumph, sidewise, at the stunned conspirators;
he was fulfilling the conditions of the draught, not once breaking the
thread of that marvelous swallering.

His audience stood petrified. Already Maurice had swallowed more than
they had given Duke and still the liquor receded in the uplifted bottle!
And now the clear glass gleamed above the dark contents full half the
vessel’s length--and Maurice went on drinking! Slowly the clear glass
increased in its dimensions--slowly the dark diminished.

Sam Williams made a horrified movement to check him--but Maurice
protested passionately with his disengaged arm, and made vehement vocal
noises remindful of the contract; whereupon Sam desisted and watched the
continuing performance in a state of grisly fascination.

Maurice drank it all! He drained the last drop and threw the bottle in
the air, uttering loud ejaculations of triumph and satisfaction.

“Hah!” he cried, blowing out his cheeks, inflating his chest, squaring
his shoulders, patting his stomach, and wiping his mouth contentedly.
“Hah! Aha! Waha! Wafwah! But that was good!”

The two boys stood looking at him in stupor.

“Well, I gotta say this,” said Maurice graciously: “You stuck to your
bargain all right and treated me fair.”

Stricken with a sudden horrible suspicion, Penrod entered the storeroom
in one stride and lifted the bottle of licorice water to his nose--then
to his lips. It was weak, but good; he had made no mistake. And Maurice
had really drained--to the dregs--the bottle of old hair tonics, dead
catsups, syrups of undesirable preserves, condemned extracts of
vanilla and lemon, decayed chocolate, ex-essence of beef, mixed dental
preparations, aromatic spirits of ammonia, spirits of nitre, alcohol,
arnica, quinine, ipecac, sal volatile, nux vomica and licorice water--
with traces of arsenic, belladonna and strychnine.

Penrod put the licorice water out of sight and turned to face the
others. Maurice was seating himself on a box just outside the door and
had taken a package of cigarettes from his pocket.

“Nobody can see me from here, can they?” he said, striking a match. “You
fellers smoke?”

“No,” said Sam, staring at him haggardly.

“No,” said Penrod in a whisper.

Maurice lit his cigarette and puffed showily.

“Well, sir,” he remarked, “you fellers are certainly square--I gotta
say that much. Honest, Penrod, I thought you was after me! I did
think so,” he added sunnily; “but now I guess you like me, or else
you wouldn’t of stuck to it about lettin’ me drink it all if I kept on
swallering.”

He chatted on with complete geniality, smoking his cigarette in content.
And as he ran from one topic to another his hearers stared at him in a
kind of torpor. Never once did they exchange a glance with each other;
their eyes were frozen to Maurice. The cheerful conversationalist made
it evident that he was not without gratitude.

“Well,” he said as he finished his cigarette and rose to go, “you
fellers have treated me nice and some day you come over to my yard; I’d
like to run with you fellers. You’re the kind of fellers I like.”

Penrod’s jaw fell; Sam’s mouth had been open all the time. Neither
spoke.

“I gotta go,” observed Maurice, consulting a handsome watch. “Gotta get
dressed for the cotillon right after lunch. Come on, Sam. Don’t you have
to go, too?”

Sam nodded dazedly.

“Well, good-bye, Penrod,” said Maurice cordially. “I’m glad you like me
all right. Come on, Sam.”

Penrod leaned against the doorpost and with fixed and glazing eyes
watched the departure of his two visitors. Maurice was talking volubly,
with much gesticulation, as they went; but Sam walked mechanically
and in silence, staring at his brisk companion and keeping at a little
distance from him.

They passed from sight, Maurice still conversing gayly--and Penrod
slowly betook himself into the house, his head bowed upon his chest.


Some three hours later, Mr. Samuel Williams, waxen clean and in sweet
raiment, made his reappearance in Penrod’s yard, yodelling a code-signal
to summon forth his friend. He yodelled loud, long, and frequently,
finally securing a faint response from the upper air.

“Where are you?” shouted Mr. Williams, his roving glance searching
ambient heights. Another low-spirited yodel reaching his ear, he
perceived the head and shoulders of his friend projecting above the
roofridge of the stable. The rest of Penrod’s body was concealed from
view, reposing upon the opposite slant of the gable and precariously
secured by the crooking of his elbows over the ridge.

“Yay! What you doin’ up there?”

“Nothin’.”

“You better be careful!” Sam called. “You’ll slide off and fall down in
the alley if you don’t look out. I come pert’ near it last time we was
up there. Come on down! Ain’t you goin’ to the cotillon?”

Penrod made no reply. Sam came nearer.

“Say,” he called up in a guarded voice, “I went to our telephone a while
ago and ast him how he was feelin’, and he said he felt fine!”

“So did I,” said Penrod. “He told me he felt bully!”

Sam thrust his hands in his pockets and brooded. The opening of the
kitchen door caused a diversion. It was Della.

“Mister Penrod,” she bellowed forthwith, “come ahn down fr’m up there!
Y’r mamma’s at the dancin’ class waitin’ fer ye, an’ she’s telephoned
me they’re goin’ to begin--an’ what’s the matter with ye? Come ahn down
fr’m up there!”

“Come on!” urged Sam. “We’ll be late. There go Maurice and Marjorie
now.”

A glittering car spun by, disclosing briefly a genre picture of Marjorie
Jones in pink, supporting a monstrous sheaf of American Beauty roses.
Maurice, sitting shining and joyous beside her, saw both boys and waved
them a hearty greeting as the car turned the corner.

Penrod uttered some muffled words and then waved both arms--either in
response or as an expression of his condition of mind; it may have
been a gesture of despair. How much intention there was in this
act--obviously so rash, considering the position he occupied--it
is impossible to say. Undeniably there must remain a suspicion of
deliberate purpose.

Della screamed and Sam shouted. Penrod had disappeared from view.

The delayed dance was about to begin a most uneven cotillon when Samuel
Williams arrived.

Mrs. Schofield hurriedly left the ballroom; while Miss Rennsdale,
flushing with sudden happiness, curtsied profoundly to Professor Bartet
and obtained his attention.

“I have telled you fifty times,” he informed her passionately ere she
spoke, “I cannot make no such changes. If your partner comes you have to
dance with him. You are going to drive me crazy, sure! What is it? What
now? What you want?”

The damsel curtsied again and handed him the following communication,
addressed to herself:


“Dear madam Please excuse me from dancing the cotilon with you
this afternoon as I have fell off the barn

“Sincerly yours

“PENROD SCHOFIELD.”



CHAPTER XV THE TWO FAMILIES

Penrod entered the schoolroom, Monday picturesquely leaning upon a man’s
cane shortened to support a cripple approaching the age of twelve. He
arrived about twenty minutes late, limping deeply, his brave young mouth
drawn with pain, and the sensation he created must have been a solace to
him; the only possible criticism of this entrance being that it was just
a shade too heroic. Perhaps for that reason it failed to stagger Miss
Spence, a woman so saturated with suspicion that she penalized Penrod
for tardiness as promptly and as coldly as if he had been a mere,
ordinary, unmutilated boy. Nor would she entertain any discussion of the
justice of her ruling. It seemed, almost, that she feared to argue with
him.

However, the distinction of cane and limp remained to him, consolations
which he protracted far into the week--until Thursday evening, in fact,
when Mr. Schofield, observing from a window his son’s pursuit of Duke
round and round the backyard, confiscated the cane, with the promise
that it should not remain idle if he saw Penrod limping again. Thus,
succeeding a depressing Friday, another Saturday brought the necessity
for new inventions.

It was a scented morning in apple-blossom time. At about ten of the
clock Penrod emerged hastily from the kitchen door. His pockets bulged
abnormally; so did his checks, and he swallowed with difficulty. A
threatening mop, wielded by a cooklike arm in a checkered sleeve,
followed him through the doorway, and he was preceded by a small,
hurried, wistful dog with a warm doughnut in his mouth. The kitchen door
slammed petulantly, enclosing the sore voice of Della, whereupon Penrod
and Duke seated themselves upon the pleasant sward and immediately
consumed the spoils of their raid.

From the cross-street which formed the side boundary of the Schofields’
ample yard came a jingle of harness and the cadenced clatter of a pair
of trotting horses, and Penrod, looking up, beheld the passing of a
fat acquaintance, torpid amid the conservative splendours of a rather
old-fashioned victoria. This was Roderick Magsworth Bitts, Junior, a
fellow sufferer at the Friday Afternoon Dancing Class, but otherwise not
often a companion: a home-sheltered lad, tutored privately and preserved
against the coarsening influences of rude comradeship and miscellaneous
information. Heavily overgrown in all physical dimensions, virtuous,
and placid, this cloistered mutton was wholly uninteresting to Penrod
Schofield. Nevertheless, Roderick Magsworth Bitts, Junior, was a
personage on account of the importance of the Magsworth Bitts family;
and it was Penrod’s destiny to increase Roderick’s celebrity far, far
beyond its present aristocratic limitations.

The Magsworth Bittses were important because they were impressive; there
was no other reason. And they were impressive because they believed
themselves important. The adults of the family were impregnably formal;
they dressed with reticent elegance, and wore the same nose and the
same expression--an expression which indicated that they knew something
exquisite and sacred which other people could never know. Other people,
in their presence, were apt to feel mysteriously ignoble and to
become secretly uneasy about ancestors, gloves, and pronunciation. The
Magsworth Bitts manner was withholding and reserved, though sometimes
gracious, granting small smiles as great favours and giving off a
chilling kind of preciousness. Naturally, when any citizen of the
community did anything unconventional or improper, or made a mistake, or
had a relative who went wrong, that citizen’s first and worst fear
was that the Magsworth Bittses would hear of it. In fact, this painful
family had for years terrorized the community, though the community
had never realized that it was terrorized, and invariably spoke of the
family as the “most charming circle in town.” By common consent, Mrs.
Roderick Magsworth Bitts officiated as the supreme model as well as
critic-in-chief of morals and deportment for all the unlucky people
prosperous enough to be elevated to her acquaintance.

Magsworth was the important part of the name. Mrs. Roderick Magsworth
Bitts was a Magsworth born, herself, and the Magsworth crest decorated
not only Mrs. Magsworth Bitts’ note-paper but was on the china, on the
table linen, on the chimney-pieces, on the opaque glass of the front
door, on the victoria, and on the harness, though omitted from the
garden-hose and the lawn-mower.

Naturally, no sensible person dreamed of connecting that illustrious
crest with the unfortunate and notorious Rena Magsworth whose name had
grown week by week into larger and larger type upon the front pages of
newspapers, owing to the gradually increasing public and official belief
that she had poisoned a family of eight. However, the statement that no
sensible person could have connected the Magsworth Bitts family with the
arsenical Rena takes no account of Penrod Schofield.

Penrod never missed a murder, a hanging or an electrocution in the
newspapers; he knew almost as much about Rena Magsworth as her jurymen
did, though they sat in a court-room two hundred miles away, and he had
it in mind--so frank he was--to ask Roderick Magsworth Bitts, Junior, if
the murderess happened to be a relative.

The present encounter, being merely one of apathetic greeting, did not
afford the opportunity. Penrod took off his cap, and Roderick, seated
between his mother and one of his grown-up sisters, nodded sluggishly,
but neither Mrs. Magsworth Bitts nor her daughter acknowledged the
salutation of the boy in the yard. They disapproved of him as a
person of little consequence, and that little, bad. Snubbed, Penrod
thoughtfully restored his cap to his head. A boy can be cut as
effectually as a man, and this one was chilled to a low temperature. He
wondered if they despised him because they had seen a last fragment of
doughnut in his hand; then he thought that perhaps it was Duke who had
disgraced him. Duke was certainly no fashionable looking dog.

The resilient spirits of youth, however, presently revived, and
discovering a spider upon one knee and a beetle simultaneously upon the
other, Penrod forgot Mrs. Roderick Magsworth Bitts in the course of
some experiments infringing upon the domain of Doctor Carrel. Penrod’s
efforts--with the aid of a pin--to effect a transference of living
organism were unsuccessful; but he convinced himself forever that a
spider cannot walk with a beetle’s legs. Della then enhanced zoological
interest by depositing upon the back porch a large rat-trap from the
cellar, the prison of four live rats awaiting execution.

Penrod at once took possession, retiring to the empty stable, where
he installed the rats in a small wooden box with a sheet of broken
window-glass--held down by a brickbat--over the top. Thus the symptoms
of their agitation, when the box was shaken or hammered upon, could be
studied at leisure. Altogether this Saturday was starting splendidly.

After a time, the student’s attention was withdrawn from his specimens
by a peculiar smell, which, being followed up by a system of selective
sniffing, proved to be an emanation leaking into the stable from the
alley. He opened the back door.

Across the alley was a cottage which a thrifty neighbour had built on
the rear line of his lot and rented to negroes; and the fact that a
negro family was now in process of “moving in” was manifested by the
presence of a thin mule and a ramshackle wagon, the latter laden
with the semblance of a stove and a few other unpretentious household
articles.

A very small darky boy stood near the mule. In his hand was a rusty
chain, and at the end of the chain the delighted Penrod perceived the
source of the special smell he was tracing--a large raccoon. Duke,
who had shown not the slightest interest in the rats, set up a frantic
barking and simulated a ravening assault upon the strange animal. It
was only a bit of acting, however, for Duke was an old dog, had suffered
much, and desired no unnecessary sorrow, wherefore he confined his
demonstrations to alarums and excursions, and presently sat down at
a distance and expressed himself by intermittent threatenings in a
quavering falsetto.

“What’s that ‘coon’s name?” asked Penrod, intending no discourtesy.

“Aim gommo mame,” said the small darky.

“What?”

“Aim gommo mame.”

“WHAT?”

The small darky looked annoyed.

“Aim GOMMO mame, I hell you,” he said impatiently.

Penrod conceived that insult was intended.

“What’s the matter of you?” he demanded advancing. “You get fresh with
ME, and I’ll----”

“Hyuh, white boy!” A coloured youth of Penrod’s own age appeared in
the doorway of the cottage. “You let ‘at brothuh mine alone. He ain’ do
nothin’ to you.”

“Well, why can’t he answer?”

“He can’t. He can’t talk no better’n what he WAS talkin’. He
tongue-tie’.”

“Oh,” said Penrod, mollified. Then, obeying an impulse so universally
aroused in the human breast under like circumstances that it has become
a quip, he turned to the afflicted one.

“Talk some more,” he begged eagerly.

“I hoe you ackoom aim gommo mame,” was the prompt response, in which
a slight ostentation was manifest. Unmistakable tokens of vanity had
appeared upon the small, swart countenance.

“What’s he mean?” asked Penrod, enchanted.

“He say he tole you ‘at ‘coon ain’ got no name.”

“What’s YOUR name?”

“I’m name Herman.”

“What’s his name?” Penrod pointed to the tongue-tied boy.

“Verman.”

“What!”

“Verman. Was three us boys in ow fam’ly. Ol’est one name Sherman. ‘N’en
come me; I’m Herman. ‘N’en come him; he Verman. Sherman dead. Verman, he
de littles’ one.”

“You goin’ to live here?”

“Umhuh. Done move in f’m way outen on a fahm.”

He pointed to the north with his right hand, and Penrod’s eyes opened
wide as they followed the gesture. Herman had no forefinger on that
hand.

“Look there!” exclaimed Penrod. “You haven’t got any finger!”

“_I_ mum map,” said Verman, with egregious pride.

“HE done ‘at,” interpreted Herman, chuckling. “Yessuh; done chop ‘er
spang off, long ‘go. He’s a playin’ wif a ax an’ I lay my finguh on de
do’-sill an’ I say, ‘Verman, chop ‘er off!’ So Verman he chop ‘er right
spang off up to de roots! Yessuh.”

“What FOR?”

“Jes’ fo’ nothin’.”

“He hoe me hoo,” remarked Verman.

“Yessuh, I tole him to,” said Herman, “an’ he chop ‘er off, an’ ey ain’t
airy oth’ one evuh grown on wheres de ole one use to grow. Nosuh!”

“But what’d you tell him to do it for?”

“Nothin’. I ‘es’ said it ‘at way--an’ he jes’ chop er off!”

Both brothers looked pleased and proud. Penrod’s profound interest was
flatteringly visible, a tribute to their unusualness.

“Hem bow goy,” suggested Verman eagerly.

“Aw ri’,” said Herman. “Ow sistuh Queenie, she a growed-up woman; she
got a goituh.”

“Got a what?”

“Goituh. Swellin’ on her neck--grea’ big swellin’. She heppin’ mammy
move in now. You look in de front-room winduh wheres she sweepin’; you
kin see it on her.”

Penrod looked in the window and was rewarded by a fine view of Queenie’s
goitre. He had never before seen one, and only the lure of further
conversation on the part of Verman brought him from the window.

“Verman say tell you ‘bout pappy,” explained Herman. “Mammy an’ Queenie
move in town an’ go git de house all fix up befo’ pappy git out.”

“Out of where?”

“Jail. Pappy cut a man, an’ de police done kep’ him in jail evuh sense
Chris’mus-time; but dey goin’ tuhn him loose ag’in nex’ week.”

“What’d he cut the other man with?”

“Wif a pitchfawk.”

Penrod began to feel that a lifetime spent with this fascinating family
were all too short. The brothers, glowing with amiability, were as
enraptured as he. For the first time in their lives they moved in the
rich glamour of sensationalism. Herman was prodigal of gesture with his
right hand; and Verman, chuckling with delight, talked fluently,
though somewhat consciously. They cheerfully agreed to keep the
raccoon--already beginning to be mentioned as “our ‘coon” by Penrod--in
Mr. Schofield’s empty stable, and, when the animal had been chained to
the wall near the box of rats and supplied with a pan of fair water,
they assented to their new friend’s suggestion (inspired by a fine
sense of the artistic harmonies) that the heretofore nameless pet be
christened Sherman, in honour of their deceased relative.

At this juncture was heard from the front yard the sound of that
yodelling which is the peculiar accomplishment of those whose voices
have not “changed.” Penrod yodelled a response; and Mr. Samuel Williams
appeared, a large bundle under his arm.

“Yay, Penrod!” was his greeting, casual enough from without; but, having
entered, he stopped short and emitted a prodigious whistle. “YA-A-AY!”
 he then shouted. “Look at the ‘coon!”

“I guess you better say, ‘Look at the ‘coon!’” Penrod returned proudly.
“They’s a good deal more’n him to look at, too. Talk some, Verman.”
 Verman complied.

Sam was warmly interested. “What’d you say his name was?” he asked.

“Verman.”

“How d’you spell it?”

“V-e-r-m-a-n,” replied Penrod, having previously received this
information from Herman.

“Oh!” said Sam.

“Point to sumpthing, Herman,” Penrod commanded, and Sam’s excitement,
when Herman pointed was sufficient to the occasion.

Penrod, the discoverer, continued his exploitation of the manifold
wonders of the Sherman, Herman, and Verman collection. With the air of
a proprietor he escorted Sam into the alley for a good look at Queenie
(who seemed not to care for her increasing celebrity) and proceeded to
a dramatic climax--the recital of the episode of the pitchfork and its
consequences.

The cumulative effect was enormous, and could have but one possible
result. The normal boy is always at least one half Barnum.

“Let’s get up a SHOW!”

Penrod and Sam both claimed to have said it first, a question left
unsettled in the ecstasies of hurried preparation. The bundle under
Sam’s arm, brought with no definite purpose, proved to have been
an inspiration. It consisted of broad sheets of light yellow
wrapping-paper, discarded by Sam’s mother in her spring house-cleaning.
There were half-filled cans and buckets of paint in the storeroom
adjoining the carriage-house, and presently the side wall of the stable
flamed information upon the passer-by from a great and spreading poster.

“Publicity,” primal requisite of all theatrical and amphitheatrical
enterprise thus provided, subsequent arrangements proceeded with a fury
of energy which transformed the empty hayloft. True, it is impossible to
say just what the hay-loft was transformed into, but history warrantably
clings to the statement that it was transformed. Duke and Sherman were
secured to the rear wall at a considerable distance from each other,
after an exhibition of reluctance on the part of Duke, during which he
displayed a nervous energy and agility almost miraculous in so small and
middle-aged a dog. Benches were improvised for spectators; the rats
were brought up; finally the rafters, corn-crib, and hay-chute were
ornamented with flags and strips of bunting from Sam Williams’
attic, Sam returning from the excursion wearing an old silk hat, and
accompanied (on account of a rope) by a fine dachshund encountered on
the highway. In the matter of personal decoration paint was generously
used: an interpretation of the spiral, inclining to whites and greens,
becoming brilliantly effective upon the dark facial backgrounds of
Herman and Verman; while the countenances of Sam and Penrod were each
supplied with the black moustache and imperial, lacking which, no
professional showman can be esteemed conscientious.

It was regretfully decided, in council, that no attempt be made to add
Queenie to the list of exhibits, her brothers warmly declining to act as
ambassadors in that cause. They were certain Queenie would not like
the idea, they said, and Herman picturesquely described her activity
on occasions when she had been annoyed by too much attention to her
appearance. However, Penrod’s disappointment was alleviated by an
inspiration which came to him in a moment of pondering upon the
dachshund, and the entire party went forth to add an enriching line to
the poster.

They found a group of seven, including two adults, already gathered in
the street to read and admire this work.

     SCHoFiELD & WiLLiAMS
     BiG SHOW
     ADMiSSioN 1 CENT oR 20 PiNS
     MUSUEM oF CURioSiTES
     Now GoiNG oN
     SHERMAN HERMAN & VERMAN
     THiER FATHERS iN JAiL STABED A
     MAN WiTH A
     PiTCHFORK
     SHERMAN THE WiLD ANIMAL
     CAPTURED iN AFRiCA
     HERMAN THE ONE FiNGERED TATOOD
     WILD MAN VERMAN THE SAVAGE TATOOD
     WILD BoY TALKS ONLY iN HiS NAiTiVE
     LANGUAGS.  Do NoT FAIL TO SEE DUKE
     THE INDiAN DOG ALSO THE MiCHiGAN
     TRAiNED RATS

A heated argument took place between Sam and Penrod, the point at issue
being settled, finally, by the drawing of straws; whereupon Penrod, with
pardonable self-importance--in the presence of an audience now increased
to nine--slowly painted the words inspired by the dachshund:

     IMPoRTENT Do NoT MISS THE SoUTH
     AMERiCAN DoG PART ALLIGATOR.



CHAPTER XVI THE NEW STAR

Sam, Penrod, Herman, and Verman withdrew in considerable state from
non-paying view, and, repairing to the hay-loft, declared the exhibition
open to the public. Oral proclamation was made by Sam, and then the
loitering multitude was enticed by the seductive strains of a band; the
two partners performing upon combs and paper, Herman and Verman upon tin
pans with sticks.

The effect was immediate. Visitors appeared upon the stairway and sought
admission. Herman and Verman took position among the exhibits, near
the wall; Sam stood at the entrance, officiating as barker and
ticket-seller; while Penrod, with debonair suavity, acted as curator,
master of ceremonies, and lecturer. He greeted the first to enter with a
courtly bow. They consisted of Miss Rennsdale and her nursery governess,
and they paid spot cash for their admission.

“Walk in, lay-deeze, walk right in--pray do not obstruck the
passageway,” said Penrod, in a remarkable voice. “Pray be seated; there
is room for each and all.”

Miss Rennsdale and governess were followed by Mr. Georgie Bassett and
baby sister (which proves the perfection of Georgie’s character) and
six or seven other neighbourhood children--a most satisfactory audience,
although, subsequent to Miss Rennsdale and governess, admission was
wholly by pin.

“GEN-til-mun and LAY-deeze,” shouted Penrod, “I will first call your
at-tain-shon to our genuine South American dog, part alligator!” He
pointed to the dachshund, and added, in his ordinary tone, “That’s him.”
 Straightway reassuming the character of showman, he bellowed: “NEXT,
you see Duke, the genuine, full-blooded Indian dog from the far Western
Plains and Rocky Mountains. NEXT, the trained Michigan rats, captured
way up there, and trained to jump and run all around the box at the--at
the--at the slightest PRE-text!” He paused, partly to take breath and
partly to enjoy his own surprised discovery that this phrase was in his
vocabulary.

“At the slightest PRE-text!” he repeated, and continued, suiting the
action to the word: “I will now hammer upon the box and each and all may
see these genuine full-blooded Michigan rats perform at the slightest
PRE-text! There! (That’s all they do now, but I and Sam are goin’ to
train ‘em lots more before this afternoon.) GEN-til-mun and LAY-deeze I
will kindly now call your at-tain-shon to Sherman, the wild animal
from Africa, costing the lives of the wild trapper and many of his
companions. NEXT, let me kindly interodoos Herman and Verman. Their
father got mad and stuck his pitchfork right inside of another man,
exactly as promised upon the advertisements outside the big tent, and
got put in jail. Look at them well, gen-til-mun and lay-deeze, there is
no extra charge, and RE-MEM-BUR you are each and all now looking at two
wild, tattooed men which the father of is in jail. Point, Herman. Each
and all will have a chance to see. Point to sumpthing else, Herman.
This is the only genuine one-fingered tattooed wild man. Last on
the programme, gen-til-mun and lay-deeze, we have Verman, the savage
tattooed wild boy, that can’t speak only his native foreign languages.
Talk some, Verman.”

Verman obliged and made an instantaneous hit. He was encored
rapturously, again and again; and, thrilling with the unique pleasure of
being appreciated and misunderstood at the same time, would have talked
all day but too gladly. Sam Williams, however, with a true showman’s
foresight, whispered to Penrod, who rang down on the monologue.

“GEN-til-mun and LAY-deeze, this closes our pufformance. Pray pass out
quietly and with as little jostling as possible. As soon as you are all
out there’s goin’ to be a new pufformance, and each and all are welcome
at the same and simple price of admission. Pray pass out quietly and
with as little jostling as possible. RE-MEM-BUR the price is only one
cent, the tenth part of a dime, or twenty pins, no bent ones taken. Pray
pass out quietly and with as little jostling as possible. The Schofield
and Williams Military Band will play before each pufformance, and each
and all are welcome for the same and simple price of admission. Pray
pass out quietly and with as little jostling as possible.”

Forthwith, the Schofield and Williams Military Band began a second
overture, in which something vaguely like a tune was at times
distinguishable; and all of the first audience returned, most of them
having occupied the interval in hasty excursions for more pins; Miss
Rennsdale and governess, however, again paying coin of the Republic and
receiving deference and the best seats accordingly. And when a third
performance found all of the same inveterate patrons once more crowding
the auditorium, and seven recruits added, the pleasurable excitement of
the partners in their venture will be understood by any one who has seen
a metropolitan manager strolling about the foyer of his theatre some
evening during the earlier stages of an assured “phenomenal run.”

From the first, there was no question which feature of the entertainment
was the attraction extraordinary: Verman--Verman, the savage tattooed
wild boy, speaking only his native foreign languages--Verman was a
triumph! Beaming, wreathed in smiles, melodious, incredibly fluent,
he had but to open his lips and a dead hush fell upon the audience.
Breathless, they leaned forward, hanging upon his every semi-syllable,
and, when Penrod checked the flow, burst into thunders of applause,
which Verman received with happy laughter.

Alas! he delayed not o’er long to display all the egregiousness of a
new star; but for a time there was no caprice of his too eccentric to
be forgiven. During Penrod’s lecture upon the other curios, the tattooed
wild boy continually stamped his foot, grinned, and gesticulated,
tapping his tiny chest, and pointing to himself as it were to say: “Wait
for Me! I am the Big Show.” So soon they learn; so soon they learn! And
(again alas!) this spoiled darling of public favour, like many another,
was fated to know, in good time, the fickleness of that favour.

But during all the morning performances he was the idol of his audience
and looked it! The climax of his popularity came during the fifth
overture of the Schofield and Williams Military Band, when the music
was quite drowned in the agitated clamours of Miss Rennsdale, who was
endeavouring to ascend the stairs in spite of the physical dissuasion of
her governess.

“I WON’T go home to lunch!” screamed Miss Rennsdale, her voice
accompanied by a sound of ripping. “I WILL hear the tattooed wild boy
talk some more! It’s lovely--I WILL hear him talk! I WILL! I WILL! I
want to listen to Verman--I WANT to--I WANT to----”

Wailing, she was borne away--of her sex not the first to be fascinated
by obscurity, nor the last to champion its eloquence.

Verman was almost unendurable after this, but, like many, many other
managers, Schofield and Williams restrained their choler, and even
laughed fulsomely when their principal attraction essayed the role of a
comedian in private, and capered and squawked in sheer, fatuous vanity.

The first performance of the afternoon rivalled the successes of the
morning, and although Miss Rennsdale was detained at home, thus drying
up the single source of cash income developed before lunch, Maurice Levy
appeared, escorting Marjorie Jones, and paid coin for two admissions,
dropping the money into Sam’s hand with a careless--nay, a
contemptuous--gesture. At sight of Marjorie, Penrod Schofield flushed
under his new moustache (repainted since noon) and lectured as he had
never lectured before. A new grace invested his every gesture; a new
sonorousness rang in his voice; a simple and manly pomposity marked
his very walk as he passed from curio to curio. And when he fearlessly
handled the box of rats and hammered upon it with cool insouciance, he
beheld--for the first time in his life--a purl of admiration eddying in
Marjorie’s lovely eye, a certain softening of that eye. And then Verman
spake and Penrod was forgotten. Marjorie’s eye rested upon him no more.

A heavily equipped chauffeur ascended the stairway, bearing the message
that Mrs. Levy awaited her son and his lady. Thereupon, having devoured
the last sound permitted (by the managers) to issue from Verman, Mr.
Levy and Miss Jones departed to a real matinee at a real theatre, the
limpid eyes of Marjorie looking back softly over her shoulder--but only
at the tattooed wild boy. Nearly always it is woman who puts the irony
into life.

After this, perhaps because of sated curiosity, perhaps on account of a
pin famine, the attendance began to languish. Only four responded to
the next call of the band; the four dwindled to three; finally the
entertainment was given for one blase auditor, and Schofield and
Williams looked depressed. Then followed an interval when the band
played in vain.

About three o’clock Schofield and Williams were gloomily discussing
various unpromising devices for startling the public into a renewal of
interest, when another patron unexpectedly appeared and paid a cent for
his admission. News of the Big Show and Museum of Curiosities had at
last penetrated the far, cold spaces of interstellar niceness, for this
new patron consisted of no less than Roderick Magsworth Bitts, Junior,
escaped in a white “sailor suit” from the Manor during a period of
severe maternal and tutorial preoccupation.

He seated himself without parley, and the pufformance was offered for
his entertainment with admirable conscientiousness. True to the Lady
Clara caste and training, Roderick’s pale, fat face expressed nothing
except an impervious superiority and, as he sat, cold and unimpressed
upon the front bench, like a large, white lump, it must be said that
he made a discouraging audience “to play to.” He was not, however,
unresponsive--far from it. He offered comment very chilling to the warm
grandiloquence of the orator.

“That’s my uncle Ethelbert’s dachshund,” he remarked, at the beginning
of the lecture. “You better take him back if you don’t want to get
arrested.” And when Penrod, rather uneasily ignoring the interruption,
proceeded to the exploitation of the genuine, full-blooded Indian dog,
Duke, “Why don’t you try to give that old dog away?” asked Roderick.
“You couldn’t sell him.”

“My papa would buy me a lots better ‘coon than that,” was the
information volunteered a little later, “only I wouldn’t want the nasty
old thing.”

Herman of the missing finger obtained no greater indulgence. “Pooh!”
 said Roderick. “We have two fox-terriers in our stables that took prizes
at the kennel show, and their tails were BIT off. There’s a man that
always bites fox-terriers’ tails off.”

“Oh, my gosh, what a lie!” exclaimed Sam Williams ignorantly.

“Go on with the show whether he likes it or not, Penrod. He’s paid his
money.”

Verman, confident in his own singular powers, chuckled openly at the
failure of the other attractions to charm the frosty visitor, and,
when his turn came, poured forth a torrent of conversation which was
straightway damned.

“Rotten,” said Mr. Bitts languidly. “Anybody could talk like that. _I_
could do it if I wanted to.”

Verman paused suddenly.

“YES, you could!” exclaimed Penrod, stung. “Let’s hear you do it, then.”

“Yessir!” the other partner shouted. “Let’s just hear you DO it!”

“I said I could if I wanted to,” responded Roderick. “I didn’t say I
WOULD.”

“Yay! Knows he can’t!” sneered Sam.

“I can, too, if I try.”

“Well, let’s hear you try!”

So challenged, the visitor did try, but, in the absence of an impartial
jury, his effort was considered so pronounced a failure that he was
howled down, derided, and mocked with great clamours.

“Anyway,” said Roderick, when things had quieted down, “if I couldn’t
get up a better show than this I’d sell out and leave town.”

Not having enough presence of mind to inquire what he would sell out,
his adversaries replied with mere formless yells of scorn.

“I could get up a better show than this with my left hand,” Roderick
asserted.

“Well, what would you have in your ole show?” asked Penrod,
condescending to language.

“That’s all right, what I’d HAVE. I’d have enough!”

“You couldn’t get Herman and Verman in your ole show.”

“No, and I wouldn’t want ‘em, either!”

“Well, what WOULD you have?” insisted Penrod derisively. “You’d have to
have SUMPTHING--you couldn’t be a show yourself!”

“How do YOU know?” This was but meandering while waiting for ideas, and
evoked another yell.

“You think you could be a show all by yourself?” demanded Penrod.

“How do YOU know I couldn’t?”

Two white boys and two black boys shrieked their scorn of the boaster.

“I could, too!” Roderick raised his voice to a sudden howl, obtaining a
hearing.

“Well, why don’t you tell us how?”

“Well, _I_ know HOW, all right,” said Roderick. “If anybody asks you,
you can just tell him I know HOW, all right.”

“Why, you can’t DO anything,” Sam began argumentatively. “You talk
about being a show all by yourself; what could you try to do? Show us
sumpthing you can do.”

“I didn’t say I was going to DO anything,” returned the badgered one,
still evading.

“Well, then, how’d you BE a show?” Penrod demanded. “WE got a show here,
even if Herman didn’t point or Verman didn’t talk. Their father stabbed
a man with a pitchfork, I guess, didn’t he?”

“How do _I_ know?”

“Well, I guess he’s in jail, ain’t he?”

“Well, what if their father is in jail? I didn’t say he wasn’t, did I?”

“Well, YOUR father ain’t in jail, is he?”

“Well, I never said he was, did I?”

“Well, then,” continued Penrod, “how could you be a----” He stopped
abruptly, staring at Roderick, the birth of an idea plainly visible in
his altered expression. He had suddenly remembered his intention to
ask Roderick Magsworth Bitts, Junior, about Rena Magsworth, and this
recollection collided in his mind with the irritation produced by
Roderick’s claiming some mysterious attainment which would warrant his
setting up as a show in his single person. Penrod’s whole manner changed
instantly.

“Roddy,” he asked, almost overwhelmed by a prescience of something vast
and magnificent, “Roddy, are you any relation of Rena Magsworth?”

Roderick had never heard of Rena Magsworth, although a concentration
of the sentence yesterday pronounced upon her had burned, black and
horrific, upon the face of every newspaper in the country. He was not
allowed to read the journals of the day and his family’s indignation
over the sacrilegious coincidence of the name had not been expressed in
his presence. But he saw that it was an awesome name to Penrod Schofield
and Samuel Williams. Even Herman and Verman, though lacking many
educational advantages on account of a long residence in the country,
were informed on the subject of Rena Magsworth through hearsay, and they
joined in the portentous silence.

“Roddy,” repeated Penrod, “honest, is Rena Magsworth some relation of
yours?”

There is no obsession more dangerous to its victims than a conviction
especially an inherited one--of superiority: this world is so full
of Missourians. And from his earliest years Roderick Magsworth Bitts,
Junior, had been trained to believe in the importance of the Magsworth
family. At every meal he absorbed a sense of Magsworth greatness, and
yet, in his infrequent meetings with persons of his own age and sex,
he was treated as negligible. Now, dimly, he perceived that there was
a Magsworth claim of some sort which was impressive, even to boys.
Magsworth blood was the essential of all true distinction in the world,
he knew. Consequently, having been driven into a cul-de-sac, as a result
of flagrant and unfounded boasting, he was ready to take advantage of
what appeared to be a triumphal way out.

“Roddy,” said Penrod again, with solemnity, “is Rena Magsworth some
relation of yours?”

“IS she, Roddy?” asked Sam, almost hoarsely.

“She’s my aunt!” shouted Roddy.

Silence followed. Sam and Penrod, spellbound, gazed upon Roderick
Magsworth Bitts, Junior. So did Herman and Verman. Roddy’s staggering
lie had changed the face of things utterly. No one questioned it; no one
realized that it was much too good to be true.

“Roddy,” said Penrod, in a voice tremulous with hope, “Roddy, will you
join our show?”

Roddy joined.

Even he could see that the offer implied his being starred as the
paramount attraction of a new order of things. It was obvious that he
had swelled out suddenly, in the estimation of the other boys, to that
importance which he had been taught to believe his native gift and
natural right. The sensation was pleasant. He had often been treated
with effusion by grown-up callers and by acquaintances of his mothers
and sisters; he had heard ladies speak of him as “charming” and “that
delightful child,” and little girls had sometimes shown him deference,
but until this moment no boy had ever allowed him, for one moment, to
presume even to equality. Now, in a trice, he was not only admitted
to comradeship, but patently valued as something rare and sacred to be
acclaimed and pedestalled. In fact, the very first thing that Schofield
and Williams did was to find a box for him to stand upon.

The misgivings roused in Roderick’s bosom by the subsequent activities
of the firm were not bothersome enough to make him forego his prominence
as Exhibit A. He was not a “quick-minded” boy, and it was long (and
much happened) before he thoroughly comprehended the causes of his new
celebrity. He had a shadowy feeling that if the affair came to be heard
of at home it might not be liked, but, intoxicated by the glamour and
bustle which surround a public character, he made no protest. On the
contrary, he entered whole-heartedly into the preparations for the
new show. Assuming, with Sam’s assistance, a blue moustache and
“side-burns,” he helped in the painting of a new poster, which,
supplanting the old one on the wall of the stable facing the
cross-street, screamed bloody murder at the passers in that rather
populous thoroughfare.

     SCHoFiELD & WiLLiAMS
     NEW BIG SHoW
     RoDERiCK MAGSWoRTH BiTTS JR
     ONLY LiViNG NEPHEW
     oF
     RENA MAGSWORTH
     THE FAMOS
     MUDERESS GoiNG To BE HUNG
     NEXT JULY KiLED EiGHT PEOPLE
     PUT ARSiNECK iN THiER MiLK ALSO
     SHERMAN HERMAN AND VERMAN
     THE MiCHiGAN RATS DOG PART
     ALLiGATOR DUKE THE GENUiNE
     InDiAN DoG ADMISSioN 1 CENT oR
     20 PINS SAME AS BEFORE Do NoT
     MISS THIS CHANSE TO SEE RoDERICK
     ONLY LiViNG NEPHEW oF RENA
     MAGSWORTH THE GREAT FAMOS
     MUDERESS
     GoiNG To BE
     HUNG



CHAPTER XVII RETIRING FROM THE SHOW-BUSINESS

Megaphones were constructed out of heavy wrapping-paper, and Penrod,
Sam, and Herman set out in different directions, delivering vocally
the inflammatory proclamation of the poster to a large section of the
residential quarter, and leaving Roderick Magsworth Bitts, Junior, with
Verman in the loft, shielded from all deadhead eyes. Upon the return
of the heralds, the Schofield and Williams Military Band played
deafeningly, and an awakened public once more thronged to fill the
coffers of the firm.

Prosperity smiled again. The very first audience after the acquisition
of Roderick was larger than the largest of the morning. Master
Bitts--the only exhibit placed upon a box--was a supercurio. All eyes
fastened upon him and remained, hungrily feasting, throughout Penrod’s
luminous oration.

But the glory of one light must ever be the dimming of another. We dwell
in a vale of seesaws--and cobwebs spin fastest upon laurel. Verman, the
tattooed wild boy, speaking only in his native foreign languages, Verman
the gay, Verman the caperer, capered no more; he chuckled no more, he
beckoned no more, nor tapped his chest, nor wreathed his idolatrous face
in smiles. Gone, all gone, were his little artifices for attracting the
general attention to himself; gone was every engaging mannerism which
had endeared him to the mercurial public. He squatted against the wall
and glowered at the new sensation. It was the old story--the old,
old story of too much temperament: Verman was suffering from artistic
jealousy.

The second audience contained a cash-paying adult, a spectacled young
man whose poignant attention was very flattering. He remained after the
lecture, and put a few questions to Roddy, which were answered rather
confusedly upon promptings from Penrod. The young man went away without
having stated the object of his interrogations, but it became quite
plain, later in the day. This same object caused the spectacled young
man to make several brief but stimulating calls directly after leaving
the Schofield and Williams Big Show, and the consequences thereof
loitered not by the wayside.

The Big Show was at high tide. Not only was the auditorium filled
and throbbing; there was an indubitable line--by no means wholly
juvenile--waiting for admission to the next pufformance. A group stood
in the street examining the poster earnestly as it glowed in the long,
slanting rays of the westward sun, and people in automobiles and other
vehicles had halted wheel in the street to read the message so piquantly
given to the world. These were the conditions when a crested victoria
arrived at a gallop, and a large, chastely magnificent and highly
flushed woman descended, and progressed across the yard with an air of
violence.

At sight of her, the adults of the waiting line hastily disappeared,
and most of the pausing vehicles moved instantly on their way. She was
followed by a stricken man in livery.

The stairs to the auditorium were narrow and steep; Mrs. Roderick
Magsworth Bitts was of a stout favour; and the voice of Penrod was
audible during the ascent.

“RE-MEM-BUR, gentilmun and lay-deeze, each and all are now gazing upon
Roderick Magsworth Bitts, Junior, the only living nephew of the great
Rena Magsworth. She stuck ars’nic in the milk of eight separate and
distinck people to put in their coffee and each and all of ‘em died. The
great ars’nic murderess, Rena Magsworth, gentilmun and lay-deeze,
and Roddy’s her only living nephew. She’s a relation of all the Bitts
family, but he’s her one and only living nephew. RE-MEM-BUR! Next July
she’s goin’ to be hung, and, each and all, you now see before you----”

Penrod paused abruptly, seeing something before himself--the august and
awful presence which filled the entryway. And his words (it should be
related) froze upon his lips.

Before HERSELF, Mrs. Roderick Magsworth Bitts saw her son--her
scion--wearing a moustache and sideburns of blue, and perched upon a box
flanked by Sherman and Verman, the Michigan rats, the Indian dog Duke,
Herman, and the dog part alligator.

Roddy, also, saw something before himself. It needed no prophet to
read the countenance of the dread apparition in the entryway. His mouth
opened--remained open--then filled to capacity with a calamitous sound
of grief not unmingled with apprehension.

Penrod’s reason staggered under the crisis. For a horrible moment he saw
Mrs. Roderick Magsworth Bitts approaching like some fatal mountain in
avalanche. She seemed to grow larger and redder; lightnings played about
her head; he had a vague consciousness of the audience spraying out
in flight, of the squealings, tramplings and dispersals of a stricken
field. The mountain was close upon him----

He stood by the open mouth of the hay-chute which went through the floor
to the manger below. Penrod also went through the floor. He propelled
himself into the chute and shot down, but not quite to the manger, for
Mr. Samuel Williams had thoughtfully stepped into the chute a moment in
advance of his partner. Penrod lit upon Sam.

Catastrophic noises resounded in the loft; volcanoes seemed to romp upon
the stairway.

There ensued a period when only a shrill keening marked the passing of
Roderick as he was borne to the tumbril. Then all was silence.


. . . Sunset, striking through a western window, rouged the walls of
the Schofields’ library, where gathered a joint family council and
court martial of four--Mrs. Schofield, Mr. Schofield, and Mr. and Mrs.
Williams, parents of Samuel of that ilk. Mr. Williams read aloud a
conspicuous passage from the last edition of the evening paper:

“Prominent people here believed close relations of woman sentenced to
hang. Angry denial by Mrs. R. Magsworth Bitts. Relationship admitted by
younger member of family. His statement confirmed by boy-friends----”

“Don’t!” said Mrs. Williams, addressing her husband vehemently. “We’ve
all read it a dozen times. We’ve got plenty of trouble on our hands
without hearing THAT again!”

Singularly enough, Mrs. Williams did not look troubled; she looked as
if she were trying to look troubled. Mrs. Schofield wore a similar
expression. So did Mr. Schofield. So did Mr. Williams.

“What did she say when she called YOU up?” Mrs. Schofield inquired
breathlessly of Mrs. Williams.

“She could hardly speak at first, and then when she did talk, she talked
so fast I couldn’t understand most of it, and----”

“It was just the same when she tried to talk to me,” said Mrs.
Schofield, nodding.

“I never did hear any one in such a state before,” continued Mrs.
Williams. “So furious----”

“Quite justly, of course,” said Mrs. Schofield.

“Of course. And she said Penrod and Sam had enticed Roderick away from
home--usually he’s not allowed to go outside the yard except with his
tutor or a servant--and had told him to say that horrible creature was
his aunt----”

“How in the world do you suppose Sam and Penrod ever thought of such
a thing as THAT!” exclaimed Mrs. Schofield. “It must have been made up
just for their ‘show.’ Della says there were just STREAMS going in and
out all day. Of course it wouldn’t have happened, but this was the day
Margaret and I spend every month in the country with Aunt Sarah, and I
didn’t DREAM----”

“She said one thing I thought rather tactless,” interrupted Mrs.
Williams. “Of course we must allow for her being dreadfully excited and
wrought up, but I do think it wasn’t quite delicate in her, and she’s
usually the very soul of delicacy. She said that Roderick had NEVER been
allowed to associate with--common boys----”

“Meaning Sam and Penrod,” said Mrs. Schofield. “Yes, she said that to
me, too.”

“She said that the most awful thing about it,” Mrs. Williams went on,
“was that, though she’s going to prosecute the newspapers, many people
would always believe the story, and----”

“Yes, I imagine they will,” said Mrs. Schofield musingly. “Of course you
and I and everybody who really knows the Bitts and Magsworth families
understand the perfect absurdity of it; but I suppose there are ever so
many who’ll believe it, no matter what the Bittses and Magsworths say.”

“Hundreds and hundreds!” said Mrs. Williams. “I’m afraid it will be a
great come-down for them.”

“I’m afraid so,” said Mrs. Schofield gently. “A very great one--yes, a
very, very great one.”

“Well,” observed Mrs. Williams, after a thoughtful pause, “there’s only
one thing to be done, and I suppose it had better be done right away.”

She glanced toward the two gentlemen.

“Certainly,” Mr. Schofield agreed. “But where ARE they?”

“Have you looked in the stable?” asked his wife.

“I searched it. They’ve probably started for the far West.”

“Did you look in the sawdust-box?”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Then that’s where they are.”

Thus, in the early twilight, the now historic stable was approached by
two fathers charged to do the only thing to be done. They entered the
storeroom.

“Penrod!” said Mr. Schofield.

“Sam!” said Mr. Williams.

Nothing disturbed the twilight hush.

But by means of a ladder, brought from the carriage-house, Mr. Schofield
mounted to the top of the sawdust-box. He looked within, and discerned
the dim outlines of three quiet figures, the third being that of a small
dog.

The two boys rose, upon command, descended the ladder after Mr.
Schofield, bringing Duke with them, and stood before the authors of
their being, who bent upon them sinister and threatening brows. With
hanging heads and despondent countenances, each still ornamented with a
moustache and an imperial, Penrod and Sam awaited sentence.

This is a boy’s lot: anything he does, anything whatever, may afterward
turn out to have been a crime--he never knows.

And punishment and clemency are alike inexplicable.

Mr. Williams took his son by the ear.

“You march home!” he commanded.

Sam marched, not looking back, and his father followed the small figure
implacably.

“You goin’ to whip me?” quavered Penrod, alone with Justice.

“Wash your face at that hydrant,” said his father sternly.

About fifteen minutes later, Penrod, hurriedly entering the corner drug
store, two blocks distant, was astonished to perceive a familiar form at
the soda counter.

“Yay, Penrod,” said Sam Williams. “Want some sody? Come on. He didn’t
lick me. He didn’t do anything to me at all. He gave me a quarter.”

“So’d mine,” said Penrod.



CHAPTER XVIII MUSIC

Boyhood is the longest time in life for a boy. The last term of the
school-year is made of decades, not of weeks, and living through them is
like waiting for the millennium. But they do pass, somehow, and at last
there came a day when Penrod was one of a group that capered out
from the gravelled yard of “Ward School, Nomber Seventh,” carolling a
leave-taking of the institution, of their instructress, and not even
forgetting Mr. Capps, the janitor.

“Good-bye, teacher! Good-bye, school! Good-bye, Cappsie, dern ole fool!”

Penrod sang the loudest. For every boy, there is an age when he “finds
his voice.” Penrod’s had not “changed,” but he had found it. Inevitably
that thing had come upon his family and the neighbours; and his father,
a somewhat dyspeptic man, quoted frequently the expressive words of
the “Lady of Shalott,” but there were others whose sufferings were as
poignant.

Vacation-time warmed the young of the world to pleasant languor; and
a morning came that was like a brightly coloured picture in a child’s
fairy story. Miss Margaret Schofield, reclining in a hammock upon the
front porch, was beautiful in the eyes of a newly made senior, well
favoured and in fair raiment, beside her. A guitar rested lightly upon
his knee, and he was trying to play--a matter of some difficulty, as
the floor of the porch also seemed inclined to be musical. From directly
under his feet came a voice of song, shrill, loud, incredibly piercing
and incredibly flat, dwelling upon each syllable with incomprehensible
reluctance to leave it.

     “I have lands and earthly pow-wur.
     I’d give all for a now-wur,
     Whi-ilst setting at MY-Y-Y dear old mother’s knee-ee,
     So-o-o rem-mem-bur whilst you’re young----”

Miss Schofield stamped heartily upon the musical floor.

“It’s Penrod,” she explained. “The lattice at the end of the porch is
loose, and he crawls under and comes out all bugs. He’s been having
a dreadful singing fit lately--running away to picture shows and
vaudeville, I suppose.”

Mr. Robert Williams looked upon her yearningly. He touched a thrilling
chord on his guitar and leaned nearer. “But you said you have missed
me,” he began. “I----”

The voice of Penrod drowned all other sounds.

     “So-o-o rem-mem-bur, whi-i-ilst you’re young,
     That the day-a-ys to you will come,
     When you’re o-o-old and only in the way,
     Do not scoff at them BEE-cause----”

“PENROD!” Miss Schofield stamped again.

“You DID say you’d missed me,” said Mr. Robert Williams, seizing
hurriedly upon the silence. “Didn’t you say----”

A livelier tune rose upward.

     “Oh, you talk about your fascinating beauties,
     Of your dem-O-zells, your belles,
     But the littil dame I met, while in the city,
     She’s par excellaws the queen of all the swells.
     She’s sweeter far----”

Margaret rose and jumped up and down repeatedly in a well-calculated
area, whereupon the voice of Penrod cried chokedly, “QUIT that!” and
there were subterranean coughings and sneezings.

“You want to choke a person to death?” he inquired severely, appearing
at the end of the porch, a cobweb upon his brow. And, continuing, he
put into practice a newly acquired phrase, “You better learn to be more
considerick of other people’s comfort.”

Slowly and grievedly he withdrew, passed to the sunny side of the house,
reclined in the warm grass beside his wistful Duke, and presently sang
again.

     “She’s sweeter far than the flower I named her after,
     And the memery of her smile it haunts me YET!
     When in after years the moon is soffly beamun’
     And at eve I smell the smell of mignonette
     I will re-CALL that----”

“Pen-ROD!”

Mr. Schofield appeared at an open window upstairs, a book in his hand.

“Stop it!” he commanded. “Can’t I stay home with a headache ONE morning
from the office without having to listen to--I never DID hear such
squawking!” He retired from the window, having too impulsively called
upon his Maker. Penrod, shocked and injured, entered the house, but
presently his voice was again audible as far as the front porch. He was
holding converse with his mother, somewhere in the interior.

“Well, what of it? Sam Williams told me his mother said if Bob ever did
think of getting married to Margaret, his mother said she’d like to know
what in the name o’ goodness they expect to----”

Bang! Margaret thought it better to close the front door.

The next minute Penrod opened it. “I suppose you want the whole family
to get a sunstroke,” he said reprovingly. “Keepin’ every breath of air
out o’ the house on a day like this!”

And he sat down implacably in the doorway.

The serious poetry of all languages has omitted the little brother;
and yet he is one of the great trials of love--the immemorial burden of
courtship. Tragedy should have found place for him, but he has been left
to the haphazard vignettist of Grub Street. He is the grave and
real menace of lovers; his head is sacred and terrible, his power
illimitable. There is one way--only one--to deal with him; but Robert
Williams, having a brother of Penrod’s age, understood that way.

Robert had one dollar in the world. He gave it to Penrod immediately.

Enslaved forever, the new Rockefeller rose and went forth upon the
highway, an overflowing heart bursting the floodgates of song.

     “In her eyes the light of love was soffly gleamun’,
     So sweetlay,
     So neatlay.
     On the banks the moon’s soff light was brightly streamun’,
     Words of love I then spoke TO her.
     She was purest of the PEW-er:
     ‘Littil sweetheart, do not sigh,
     Do not weep and do not cry.
     I will build a littil cottige just for yew-EW-EW and I.’”

In fairness, it must be called to mind that boys older than Penrod have
these wellings of pent melody; a wife can never tell when she is to
undergo a musical morning, and even the golden wedding brings her no
security, a man of ninety is liable to bust-loose in song, any time.

Invalids murmured pitifully as Penrod came within hearing; and people
trying to think cursed the day that they were born, when he went
shrilling by. His hands in his pockets, his shining face uplifted to the
sky of June, he passed down the street, singing his way into the heart’s
deepest hatred of all who heard him.

     “One evuning I was sturow-ling
     Midst the city of the DEAD,
     I viewed where all a-round me
     Their PEACE-full graves was SPREAD.
     But that which touched me mostlay----”

He had reached his journey’s end, a junk-dealer’s shop wherein lay
the long-desired treasure of his soul--an accordion which might
have possessed a high quality of interest for an antiquarian, being
unquestionably a ruin, beautiful in decay, and quite beyond the
sacrilegious reach of the restorer. But it was still able to disgorge
sounds--loud, strange, compelling sounds, which could be heard for a
remarkable distance in all directions; and it had one rich calf-like
tone that had gone to Penrod’s heart. He obtained the instrument for
twenty-two cents, a price long since agreed upon with the junk-dealer,
who falsely claimed a loss of profit, Shylock that he was! He had found
the wreck in an alley.

With this purchase suspended from his shoulder by a faded green cord,
Penrod set out in a somewhat homeward direction, but not by the route
he had just travelled, though his motive for the change was not
humanitarian. It was his desire to display himself thus troubadouring
to the gaze of Marjorie Jones. Heralding his advance by continuous
experiments in the music of the future, he pranced upon his blithesome
way, the faithful Duke at his heels. (It was easier for Duke than it
would have been for a younger dog, because, with advancing age, he had
begun to grow a little deaf.)

Turning the corner nearest to the glamoured mansion of the Joneses,
the boy jongleur came suddenly face to face with Marjorie, and, in
the delicious surprise of the encounter, ceased to play, his hands, in
agitation, falling from the instrument.

Bareheaded, the sunshine glorious upon her amber curls, Marjorie was
strolling hand-in-hand with her baby brother, Mitchell, four years
old. She wore pink that day--unforgettable pink, with a broad, black
patent-leather belt, shimmering reflections dancing upon its surface.
How beautiful she was! How sacred the sweet little baby brother, whose
privilege it was to cling to that small hand, delicately powdered with
freckles.

“Hello, Marjorie,” said Penrod, affecting carelessness.

“Hello!” said Marjorie, with unexpected cordiality. She bent over her
baby brother with motherly affectations. “Say ‘howdy’ to the gentymuns,
Mitchy-Mitch,” she urged sweetly, turning him to face Penrod.

“WON’T!” said Mitchy-Mitch, and, to emphasize his refusal, kicked the
gentymuns upon the shin.

Penrod’s feelings underwent instant change, and in the sole occupation
of disliking Mitchy-Mitch, he wasted precious seconds which might have
been better employed in philosophic consideration of the startling
example, just afforded, of how a given law operates throughout the
universe in precisely the same manner perpetually. Mr. Robert Williams
would have understood this, easily.

“Oh, oh!” Marjorie cried, and put Mitchy-Mitch behind her with too much
sweetness. “Maurice Levy’s gone to Atlantic City with his mamma,” she
remarked conversationally, as if the kicking incident were quite closed.

“That’s nothin’,” returned Penrod, keeping his eye uneasily
upon Mitchy-Mitch. “I know plenty people been better places than
that--Chicago and everywhere.”

There was unconscious ingratitude in his low rating of Atlantic City,
for it was largely to the attractions of that resort he owed Miss Jones’
present attitude of friendliness.

Of course, too, she was curious about the accordion. It would be
dastardly to hint that she had noticed a paper bag which bulged
the pocket of Penrod’s coat, and yet this bag was undeniably
conspicuous--“and children are very like grown people sometimes!”

Penrod brought forth the bag, purchased on the way at a drug store, and
till this moment UNOPENED, which expresses in a word the depth of his
sentiment for Marjorie. It contained an abundant fifteen-cents’ worth of
lemon drops, jaw-breakers, licorice sticks, cinnamon drops, and shopworn
choclate creams.

“Take all you want,” he said, with off-hand generosity.

“Why, Penrod Schofield,” exclaimed the wholly thawed damsel, “you nice
boy!”

“Oh, that’s nothin’,” he returned airily. “I got a good deal of money,
nowadays.”

“Where from?”

“Oh--just around.” With a cautious gesture he offered a jaw-breaker to
Mitchy-Mitch, who snatched it indignantly and set about its absorption
without delay.

“Can you play on that?” asked Marjorie, with some difficulty, her cheeks
being rather too hilly for conversation.

“Want to hear me?”

She nodded, her eyes sweet with anticipation.

This was what he had come for. He threw back his head, lifted his eyes
dreamily, as he had seen real musicians lift theirs, and distended the
accordion preparing to produce the wonderful calf-like noise which was
the instrument’s great charm.

But the distention evoked a long wail which was at once drowned in
another one.

“Ow! Owowaoh! Wowohah! WaowWOW!” shrieked Mitchy-Mitch and the accordion
together.

Mitchy-Mitch, to emphasize his disapproval of the accordion, opening his
mouth still wider, lost therefrom the jaw-breaker, which rolled in the
dust. Weeping, he stooped to retrieve it, and Marjorie, to prevent him,
hastily set her foot upon it. Penrod offered another jaw-breaker; but
Mitchy-Mitch struck it from his hand, desiring the former, which had
convinced him of its sweetness.

Marjorie moved inadvertently; whereupon Mitchy-Mitch pounced upon the
remains of his jaw-breaker and restored them, with accretions, to his
mouth. His sister, uttering a cry of horror, sprang to the rescue,
assisted by Penrod, whom she prevailed upon to hold Mitchy-Mitch’s mouth
open while she excavated. This operation being completed, and Penrod’s
right thumb severely bitten, Mitchy-Mitch closed his eyes tightly,
stamped, squealed, bellowed, wrung his hands, and then, unexpectedly,
kicked Penrod again.

Penrod put a hand in his pocket and drew forth a copper two-cent piece,
large, round, and fairly bright.

He gave it to Mitchy-Mitch.

Mitchy-Mitch immediately stopped crying and gazed upon his benefactor
with the eyes of a dog.

This world!

Thereafter did Penrod--with complete approval from Mitchy-Mitch--play
the accordion for his lady to his heart’s content, and hers. Never had
he so won upon her; never had she let him feel so close to her before.
They strolled up and down upon the sidewalk, eating, one thought between
them, and soon she had learned to play the accordion almost as well as
he. So passed a happy hour, which the Good King Rene of Anjou would have
envied them, while Mitchy-Mitch made friends with Duke, romped about his
sister and her swain, and clung to the hand of the latter, at intervals,
with fondest affection and trust.

The noon whistles failed to disturb this little Arcady; only the
sound of Mrs. Jones’ voice for the third time summoning Marjorie and
Mitchy-Mitch to lunch--sent Penrod on his way.

“I could come back this afternoon, I guess,” he said, in parting.

“I’m not goin’ to be here. I’m goin’ to Baby Rennsdale’s party.”

Penrod looked blank, as she intended he should. Having thus satisfied
herself, she added:

“There aren’t goin’ to be any boys there.”

He was instantly radiant again.

“Marjorie----”

“Hum?”

“Do you wish I was goin’ to be there?”

She looked shy, and turned away her head.

“MARJORIE JONES!” (This was a voice from home.) “HOW MANY MORE TIMES
SHALL I HAVE TO CALL YOU?”

Marjorie moved away, her face still hidden from Penrod.

“Do you?” he urged.

At the gate, she turned quickly toward him, and said over her shoulder,
all in a breath: “Yes! Come again to-morrow morning and I’ll be on the
corner. Bring your ‘cordion!”

And she ran into the house, Mitchy-Mitch waving a loving hand to the boy
on the sidewalk until the front door closed.



CHAPTER XIX THE INNER BOY

Penrod went home in splendour, pretending that he and Duke were a long
procession; and he made enough noise to render the auricular part of the
illusion perfect. His own family were already at the lunch-table when he
arrived, and the parade halted only at the door of the dining-room.

“Oh SOMETHING!” shouted Mr. Schofield, clasping his bilious brow with
both hands. “Stop that noise! Isn’t it awful enough for you to SING? Sit
DOWN! Not with that thing on! Take that green rope off your shoulder!
Now take that thing out of the dining-room and throw it in the ash-can!
Where did you get it?”

“Where did I get what, papa?” asked Penrod meekly, depositing the
accordion in the hall just outside the dining-room door.

“That da--that third-hand concertina.”

“It’s a ‘cordian,” said Penrod, taking his place at the table, and
noticing that both Margaret and Mr. Robert Williams (who happened to be
a guest) were growing red.

“I don’t care what you call it,” said Mr. Schofield irritably. “I want
to know where you got it.”

Penrod’s eyes met Margaret’s: hers had a strained expression.

She very slightly shook her head. Penrod sent Mr. Williams a grateful
look, and might have been startled if he could have seen himself in a
mirror at that moment; for he regarded Mitchy-Mitch with concealed but
vigorous aversion and the resemblance would have horrified him.

“A man gave it to me,” he answered gently, and was rewarded by the
visibly regained ease of his patron’s manner, while Margaret leaned back
in her chair and looked at her brother with real devotion.

“I should think he’d have been glad to,” said Mr. Schofield. “Who was
he?”

“Sir?” In spite of the candy which he had consumed in company with
Marjorie and Mitchy-Mitch, Penrod had begun to eat lobster croquettes
earnestly.

“Who WAS he?”

“Who do you mean, papa?”

“The man that gave you that ghastly Thing!”

“Yessir. A man gave it to me.”

“I say, Who WAS he?” shouted Mr. Schofield.

“Well, I was just walking along, and the man came up to me--it was right
down in front of Colgate’s, where most of the paint’s rubbed off the
fence----”

“Penrod!” The father used his most dangerous tone.

“Sir?”

“Who was the man that gave you the concertina?”

“I don’t know. I was walking along----”

“You never saw him before?”

“No, sir. I was just walk----”

“That will do,” said Mr. Schofield, rising. “I suppose every family has
its secret enemies and this was one of ours. I must ask to be excused!”

With that, he went out crossly, stopping in the hall a moment before
passing beyond hearing. And, after lunch, Penrod sought in vain for his
accordion; he even searched the library where his father sat reading,
though, upon inquiry, Penrod explained that he was looking for a
misplaced schoolbook. He thought he ought to study a little every day,
he said, even during vacation-time. Much pleased, Mr. Schofield rose and
joined the search, finding the missing work on mathematics with singular
ease--which cost him precisely the price of the book the following
September.

Penrod departed to study in the backyard. There, after a cautious survey
of the neighbourhood, he managed to dislodge the iron cover of the
cistern, and dropped the arithmetic within. A fine splash rewarded his
listening ear. Thus assured that when he looked for that book again no
one would find it for him, he replaced the cover, and betook himself
pensively to the highway, discouraging Duke from following by repeated
volleys of stones, some imaginary and others all too real.

Distant strains of brazen horns and the throbbing of drums were borne to
him upon the kind breeze, reminding him that the world was made for joy,
and that the Barzee and Potter Dog and Pony Show was exhibiting in a
banlieue not far away. So, thither he bent his steps--the plentiful
funds in his pocket burning hot holes all the way. He had paid
twenty-two cents for the accordion, and fifteen for candy; he had bought
the mercenary heart of Mitchy-Mitch for two: it certainly follows that
there remained to him of his dollar, sixty-one cents--a fair fortune,
and most unusual.

Arrived upon the populous and festive scene of the Dog and Pony Show,
he first turned his attention to the brightly decorated booths which
surrounded the tent. The cries of the peanut vendors, of the popcorn
men, of the toy-balloon sellers, the stirring music of the band, playing
before the performance to attract a crowd, the shouting of excited
children and the barking of the dogs within the tent, all sounded
exhilaratingly in Penrod’s ears and set his blood a-tingle.
Nevertheless, he did not squander his money or fling it to the winds in
one grand splurge. Instead, he began cautiously with the purchase of an
extraordinarily large pickle, which he obtained from an aged negress for
his odd cent, too obvious a bargain to be missed. At an adjacent stand
he bought a glass of raspberry lemonade (so alleged) and sipped it as he
ate the pickle. He left nothing of either.

Next, he entered a small restaurant-tent and for a modest nickel was
supplied with a fork and a box of sardines, previously opened, it is
true, but more than half full. He consumed the sardines utterly, but
left the tin box and the fork, after which he indulged in an inexpensive
half-pint of lukewarm cider, at one of the open booths. Mug in hand,
a gentle glow radiating toward his surface from various centres of
activity deep inside him, he paused for breath--and the cool, sweet
cadences of the watermelon man fell delectably upon his ear:

“Ice-cole WATER-melon; ice-cole water-MELON; the biggest slice of
ICE-cole, ripe, red, ICE-cole, rich an’ rare; the biggest slice of
ice-cole watermelon ever cut by the hand of man! BUY our ICE-cole
water-melon?”

Penrod, having drained the last drop of cider, complied with the
watermelon man’s luscious entreaty, and received a round slice of
the fruit, magnificent in circumference and something over an inch in
thickness. Leaving only the really dangerous part of the rind behind
him, he wandered away from the vicinity of the watermelon man and
supplied himself with a bag of peanuts, which, with the expenditure of a
dime for admission, left a quarter still warm in his pocket. However, he
managed to “break” the coin at a stand inside the tent, where a large,
oblong paper box of popcorn was handed him, with twenty cents change.
The box was too large to go into his pocket, but, having seated himself
among some wistful Polack children, he placed it in his lap and devoured
the contents at leisure during the performance. The popcorn was heavily
larded with partially boiled molasses, and Penrod sandwiched mouthfuls
of peanuts with gobs of this mass until the peanuts were all gone. After
that, he ate with less avidity; a sense almost of satiety beginning
to manifest itself to him, and it was not until the close of the
performance that he disposed of the last morsel.

He descended a little heavily to the outflowing crowd in the arena, and
bought a caterwauling toy balloon, but showed no great enthusiasm in
manipulating it. Near the exit, as he came out, was a hot-waffle stand
which he had overlooked, and a sense of duty obliged him to consume the
three waffles, thickly powdered with sugar, which the waffle man cooked
for him upon command.

They left a hottish taste in his mouth; they had not been quite up to
his anticipation, indeed, and it was with a sense of relief that he
turned to the “hokey-pokey” cart which stood close at hand, laden with
square slabs of “Neapolitan ice-cream” wrapped in paper. He thought the
ice-cream would be cooling, but somehow it fell short of the desired
effect, and left a peculiar savour in his throat.

He walked away, too languid to blow his balloon, and passed a
fresh-taffy booth with strange indifference. A bare-armed man was
manipulating the taffy over a hook, pulling a great white mass to the
desired stage of “candying,” but Penrod did not pause to watch the
operation; in fact, he averted his eyes (which were slightly glazed) in
passing. He did not analyze his motives: simply, he was conscious that
he preferred not to look at the mass of taffy.

For some reason, he put a considerable distance between himself and the
taffy-stand, but before long halted in the presence of a red-faced man
who flourished a long fork over a small cooking apparatus and shouted
jovially: “Winnies! HERE’S your hot winnies! Hot winny-WURST! Food for
the over-worked brain, nourishing for the weak stummick, entertaining
for the tired business man! HERE’S your hot winnies, three for a nickel,
a half-a-dime, the twentieth-pot-of-a-dollah!”

This, above all nectar and ambrosia, was the favourite dish of Penrod
Schofield. Nothing inside him now craved it--on the contrary! But
memory is the great hypnotist; his mind argued against his inwards that
opportunity knocked at his door: “winny-wurst” was rigidly forbidden by
the home authorities. Besides, there was a last nickel in his pocket;
and nature protested against its survival. Also, the redfaced man had
himself proclaimed his wares nourishing for the weak stummick.

Penrod placed the nickel in the red hand of the red-faced man.

He ate two of the three greasy, cigarlike shapes cordially pressed upon
him in return. The first bite convinced him that he had made a mistake;
these winnies seemed of a very inferior flavour, almost unpleasant, in
fact. But he felt obliged to conceal his poor opinion of them, for fear
of offending the red-faced man. He ate without haste or eagerness--so
slowly, indeed, that he began to think the redfaced man might dislike
him, as a deterrent of trade. Perhaps Penrod’s mind was not working
well, for he failed to remember that no law compelled him to remain
under the eye of the red-faced man, but the virulent repulsion excited
by his attempt to take a bite of the third sausage inspired him with at
least an excuse for postponement.

“Mighty good,” he murmured feebly, placing the sausage in the pocket
of his jacket with a shaking hand. “Guess I’ll save this one to eat at
home, after--after dinner.”

He moved sluggishly away, wishing he had not thought of dinner. A
side-show, undiscovered until now, failed to arouse his interest, not
even exciting a wish that he had known of its existence when he had
money. For a time he stared without attraction; the weather-worn colours
conveying no meaning to comprehension at a huge canvas poster depicting
the chief his torpid eye. Then, little by little, the poster became more
vivid to his consciousness. There was a greenish-tinted person in the
tent, it seemed, who thrived upon a reptilian diet.

Suddenly, Penrod decided that it was time to go home.



CHAPTER XX BROTHERS OF ANGELS

“Indeed, doctor,” said Mrs. Schofield, with agitation and profound
conviction, just after eight o’clock that evening, “I shall ALWAYS
believe in mustard plasters--mustard plasters and hot--water bags. If
it hadn’t been for them I don’t believed he’d have LIVED till you got
here--I do NOT!”

“Margaret,” called Mr. Schofield from the open door of a bedroom,
“Margaret, where did you put that aromatic ammonia? Where’s Margaret?”

But he had to find the aromatic spirits of ammonia himself, for Margaret
was not in the house. She stood in the shadow beneath a maple tree
near the street corner, a guitar-case in her hand; and she scanned with
anxiety a briskly approaching figure. The arc light, swinging above,
revealed this figure as that of him she awaited. He was passing toward
the gate without seeing her, when she arrested him with a fateful
whisper.

“BOB!”

Mr. Robert Williams swung about hastily. “Why, Margaret!”

“Here, take your guitar,” she whispered hurriedly. “I was afraid if
father happened to find it he’d break it all to pieces!”

“What for?” asked the startled Robert.

“Because I’m sure he knows it’s yours.” “But what----”

“Oh, Bob,” she moaned, “I was waiting here to tell you. I was so afraid
you’d try to come in----”

“TRY!” exclaimed the unfortunate young man, quite dumfounded. “TRY to
come----”

“Yes, before I warned you. I’ve been waiting here to tell you, Bob, you
mustn’t come near the house if I were you I’d stay away from even this
neighbourhood--far away! For a while I don’t think it would be actually
SAFE for----”

“Margaret, will you please----”

“It’s all on account of that dollar you gave Penrod this morning,” she
walled. “First, he bought that horrible concertina that made papa so
furious--”

“But Penrod didn’t tell that I----”

“Oh, wait!” she cried lamentably. “Listen! He didn’t tell at lunch, but
he got home about dinner-time in the most--well! I’ve seen pale people
before, but nothing like Penrod. Nobody could IMAGINE it--not unless
they’d seen him! And he looked, so STRANGE, and kept making such
unnatural faces, and at first all he would say was that he’d eaten a
little piece of apple and thought it must have some microbes on it. But
he got sicker and sicker, and we put him to bed--and then we all thought
he was going to die--and, of COURSE, no little piece of apple would
have--well, and he kept getting worse and then he said he’d had a
dollar. He said he’d spent it for the concertina, and watermelon, and
chocolate-creams, and licorice sticks, and lemon-drops, and peanuts,
and jaw-breakers, and sardines, and raspberry lemonade, and pickles, and
popcorn, and ice-cream, and cider, and sausage--there was sausage in
his pocket, and mamma says his jacket is ruined--and cinnamon drops--and
waffles--and he ate four or five lobster croquettes at lunch--and papa
said, ‘Who gave you that dollar?’ Only he didn’t say ‘WHO’--he said
something horrible, Bob! And Penrod thought he was going to die, and he
said you gave it to him, and oh! it was just pitiful to hear the poor
child, Bob, because he thought he was dying, you see, and he blamed you
for the whole thing. He said if you’d only let him alone and not given
it to him, he’d have grown up to be a good man--and now he couldn’t! I
never heard anything so heart-rending--he was so weak he could hardly
whisper, but he kept trying to talk, telling us over and over it was all
your fault.”

In the darkness Mr. Williams’ facial expression could not be seen, but
his voice sounded hopeful.

“Is he--is he still in a great deal of pain?”

“They say the crisis is past,” said Margaret, “but the doctor’s still
up there. He said it was the acutest case of indigestion he had ever
treated in the whole course of his professional practice.”

“Of course _I_ didn’t know what he’d do with the dollar,” said Robert.

She did not reply.

He began plaintively, “Margaret, you don’t----”

“I’ve never seen papa and mamma so upset about anything,” she said,
rather primly.

“You mean they’re upset about ME?”

“We ARE all very much upset,” returned Margaret, more starch in her tone
as she remembered not only Penrod’s sufferings but a duty she had vowed
herself to perform.

“Margaret! YOU don’t----”

“Robert,” she said firmly and, also, with a rhetorical complexity which
breeds a suspicion of pre-rehearsal--“Robert, for the present I can only
look at it in one way: when you gave that money to Penrod you put into
the hands of an unthinking little child a weapon which might be, and,
indeed was, the means of his undoing. Boys are not respon----”

“But you saw me give him the dollar, and you didn’t----”

“Robert!” she checked him with increasing severity. “I am only a woman
and not accustomed to thinking everything out on the spur of the moment;
but I cannot change my mind. Not now, at least.”

“And you think I’d better not come in to-night?”

“To-night!” she gasped. “Not for WEEKS! Papa would----”

“But Margaret,” he urged plaintively, “how can you blame me for----”

“I have not used the word ‘blame,’” she interrupted. “But I must insist
that for your carelessness to--to wreak such havoc--cannot fail to--to
lessen my confidence in your powers of judgment. I cannot change my
convictions in this matter--not to-night--and I cannot remain here
another instant. The poor child may need me. Robert, good-night.”

With chill dignity she withdrew, entered the house, and returned to the
sick-room, leaving the young man in outer darkness to brood upon his
crime--and upon Penrod.


That sincere invalid became convalescent upon the third day; and a
week elapsed, then, before he found an opportunity to leave the house
unaccompanied--save by Duke. But at last he set forth and approached the
Jones neighbourhood in high spirits, pleasantly conscious of his pallor,
hollow cheeks, and other perquisites of illness provocative of interest.

One thought troubled him a little because it gave him a sense of
inferiority to a rival. He believed, against his will, that Maurice
Levy could have successfully eaten chocolate-creams, licorice sticks,
lemon-drops, jaw-breakers, peanuts, waffles, lobster croquettes,
sardines, cinnamon-drops, watermelon, pickles, popcorn, ice-cream
and sausage with raspberry lemonade and cider. Penrod had admitted to
himself that Maurice could do it and afterward attend to business, or
pleasure, without the slightest discomfort; and this was probably no
more than a fair estimate of one of the great constitutions of all time.
As a digester, Maurice Levy would have disappointed a Borgia.

Fortunately, Maurice was still at Atlantic City--and now the
convalescent’s heart leaped. In the distance he saw Marjorie coming--in
pink again, with a ravishing little parasol over her head. And alone! No
Mitchy-Mitch was to mar this meeting.

Penrod increased the feebleness of his steps, now and then leaning upon
the fence as if for support.

“How do you do, Marjorie?” he said, in his best sick-room voice, as she
came near.

To his pained amazement, she proceeded on her way, her nose at a
celebrated elevation--an icy nose.

She cut him dead.

He threw his invalid’s airs to the winds, and hastened after her.

“Marjorie,” he pleaded, “what’s the matter? Are you mad? Honest, that
day you said to come back next morning, and you’d be on the corner,
I was sick. Honest, I was AWFUL sick, Marjorie! I had to have the
doctor----”

“DOCTOR!” She whirled upon him, her lovely eyes blazing.

“I guess WE’VE had to have the doctor enough at OUR house, thanks to
you, Mister Penrod Schofield. Papa says you haven’t got NEAR sense
enough to come in out of the rain, after what you did to poor little
Mitchy-Mitch----”

“What?”

“Yes, and he’s sick in bed YET!” Marjorie went on, with unabated fury.
“And papa says if he ever catches you in this part of town----”

“WHAT’D I do to Mitchy-Mitch?” gasped Penrod.

“You know well enough what you did to Mitchy-Mitch!” she cried. “You
gave him that great, big, nasty two-cent piece!”

“Well, what of it?”

“Mitchy-Mitch swallowed it!”

“What!”

“And papa says if he ever just lays eyes on you, once, in this
neighbourhood----”

But Penrod had started for home.

In his embittered heart there was increasing a critical disapproval of
the Creator’s methods. When He made pretty girls, thought Penrod, why
couldn’t He have left out their little brothers!



CHAPTER XXI RUPE COLLINS

For several days after this, Penrod thought of growing up to be a
monk, and engaged in good works so far as to carry some kittens (that
otherwise would have been drowned) and a pair of Margaret’s outworn
dancing-slippers to a poor, ungrateful old man sojourning in a shed
up the alley. And although Mr. Robert Williams, after a very short
interval, began to leave his guitar on the front porch again, exactly as
if he thought nothing had happened, Penrod, with his younger vision of
a father’s mood, remained coldly distant from the Jones neighbourhood.
With his own family his manner was gentle, proud and sad, but not for
long enough to frighten them. The change came with mystifying abruptness
at the end of the week.

It was Duke who brought it about.

Duke could chase a much bigger dog out of the Schofields’ yard and far
down the street. This might be thought to indicate unusual valour on
the part of Duke and cowardice on that of the bigger dogs whom he
undoubtedly put to rout. On the contrary, all such flights were founded
in mere superstition, for dogs are even more superstitious than boys
and coloured people; and the most firmly established of all dog
superstitions is that any dog--be he the smallest and feeblest in the
world--can whip any trespasser whatsoever.

A rat-terrier believes that on his home grounds he can whip an elephant.
It follows, of course, that a big dog, away from his own home, will run
from a little dog in the little dog’s neighbourhood. Otherwise, the big
dog must face a charge of inconsistency, and dogs are as consistent as
they are superstitious. A dog believes in war, but he is convinced
that there are times when it is moral to run; and the thoughtful
physiognomist, seeing a big dog fleeing out of a little dog’s yard, must
observe that the expression of the big dog’s face is more conscientious
than alarmed: it is the expression of a person performing a duty to
himself.

Penrod understood these matters perfectly; he knew that the gaunt brown
hound Duke chased up the alley had fled only out of deference to a
custom, yet Penrod could not refrain from bragging of Duke to the
hound’s owner, a fat-faced stranger of twelve or thirteen, who had
wandered into the neighbourhood.

“You better keep that ole yellow dog o’ yours back,” said Penrod
ominously, as he climbed the fence. “You better catch him and hold him
till I get mine inside the yard again. Duke’s chewed up some pretty bad
bulldogs around here.”

The fat-faced boy gave Penrod a fishy stare. “You’d oughta learn him not
to do that,” he said. “It’ll make him sick.”

“What will?”

The stranger laughed raspingly and gazed up the alley, where the hound,
having come to a halt, now coolly sat down, and, with an expression of
roguish benevolence, patronizingly watched the tempered fury of Duke,
whose assaults and barkings were becoming perfunctory.

“What’ll make Duke sick?” Penrod demanded.

“Eatin’ dead bulldogs people leave around here.”

This was not improvisation but formula, adapted from other occasions to
the present encounter; nevertheless, it was new to Penrod, and he was
so taken with it that resentment lost itself in admiration. Hastily
committing the gem to memory for use upon a dog-owning friend, he
inquired in a sociable tone:

“What’s your dog’s name?”

“Dan. You better call your ole pup, ‘cause Dan eats LIVE dogs.”

Dan’s actions poorly supported his master’s assertion, for, upon Duke’s
ceasing to bark, Dan rose and showed the most courteous interest in
making the little, old dog’s acquaintance. Dan had a great deal of
manner, and it became plain that Duke was impressed favourably in spite
of former prejudice, so that presently the two trotted amicably back to
their masters and sat down with the harmonious but indifferent air of
having known each other intimately for years.

They were received without comment, though both boys looked at them
reflectively for a time. It was Penrod who spoke first.

“What number you go to?” (In an “oral lesson in English,” Penrod had
been instructed to put this question in another form: “May I ask which
of our public schools you attend?”)

“Me? What number do I go to?” said the stranger, contemptuously. “I
don’t go to NO number in vacation!”

“I mean when it ain’t.”

“Third,” returned the fat-faced boy. “I got ‘em ALL scared in THAT
school.”

“What of?” innocently asked Penrod, to whom “the Third”--in a distant
part of town--was undiscovered country.

“What of? I guess you’d soon see what of, if you ever was in that school
about one day. You’d be lucky if you got out alive!”

“Are the teachers mean?”

The other boy frowned with bitter scorn. “Teachers! Teachers don’t order
ME around, I can tell you! They’re mighty careful how they try to run
over Rupe Collins.”

“Who’s Rupe Collins?”

“Who is he?” echoed the fat-faced boy incredulously. “Say, ain’t you got
ANY sense?”

“What?”

“Say, wouldn’t you be just as happy if you had SOME sense?”

“Ye-es.” Penrod’s answer, like the look he lifted to the impressive
stranger, was meek and placative. “Rupe Collins is the principal at your
school, guess.”

The other yelled with jeering laughter, and mocked Penrod’s manner and
voice. “‘Rupe Collins is the principal at your school, I guess!’” He
laughed harshly again, then suddenly showed truculence. “Say, ‘bo,
whyn’t you learn enough to go in the house when it rains? What’s the
matter of you, anyhow?”

“Well,” urged Penrod timidly, “nobody ever TOLD me who Rupe Collins is:
I got a RIGHT to think he’s the principal, haven’t I?”

The fat-faced boy shook his head disgustedly. “Honest, you make me
sick!”

Penrod’s expression became one of despair. “Well, who IS he?” he cried.

“‘Who IS he?’” mocked the other, with a scorn that withered. “‘Who IS
he?’ ME!”

“Oh!” Penrod was humiliated but relieved: he felt that he had proved
himself criminally ignorant, yet a peril seemed to have passed. “Rupe
Collins is your name, then, I guess. I kind of thought it was, all the
time.”

The fat-faced boy still appeared embittered, burlesquing this speech in
a hateful falsetto. “‘Rupe Collins is YOUR name, then, I guess!’ Oh, you
‘kind of thought it was, all the time,’ did you?” Suddenly concentrating
his brow into a histrionic scowl he thrust his face within an inch of
Penrod’s. “Yes, sonny, Rupe Collins is my name, and you better look
out what you say when he’s around or you’ll get in big trouble! YOU
UNDERSTAND THAT, ‘BO?”

Penrod was cowed but fascinated: he felt that there was something
dangerous and dashing about this newcomer.

“Yes,” he said, feebly, drawing back. “My name’s Penrod Schofield.”

“Then I reckon your father and mother ain’t got good sense,” said Mr.
Collins promptly, this also being formula.

“Why?”

“‘Cause if they had they’d of give you a good name!” And the agreeable
youth instantly rewarded himself for the wit with another yell of
rasping laughter, after which he pointed suddenly at Penrod’s right
hand.

“Where’d you get that wart on your finger?” he demanded severely.

“Which finger?” asked the mystified Penrod, extending his hand.

“The middle one.”

“Where?”

“There!” exclaimed Rupe Collins, seizing and vigorously twisting the
wartless finger naively offered for his inspection.

“Quit!” shouted Penrod in agony. “QUEE-yut!”

“Say your prayers!” commanded Rupe, and continued to twist the luckless
finger until Penrod writhed to his knees.

“OW!” The victim, released, looked grievously upon the still painful
finger.

At this Rupe’s scornful expression altered to one of contrition. “Well,
I declare!” he exclaimed remorsefully. “I didn’t s’pose it would hurt.
Turn about’s fair play; so now you do that to me.”

He extended the middle finger of his left hand and Penrod promptly
seized it, but did not twist it, for he was instantly swung round with
his back to his amiable new acquaintance: Rupe’s right hand operated
upon the back of Penrod’s slender neck; Rupe’s knee tortured the small
of Penrod’s back.

“OW!” Penrod bent far forward involuntarily and went to his knees again.

“Lick dirt,” commanded Rupe, forcing the captive’s face to the sidewalk;
and the suffering Penrod completed this ceremony.

Mr. Collins evinced satisfaction by means of his horse laugh.

“You’d last jest about one day up at the Third!” he said. “You’d come
runnin’ home, yellin’ ‘MOM-MUH, MOM-muh,’ before recess was over!”

“No, I wouldn’t,” Penrod protested rather weakly, dusting his knees.

“You would, too!”

“No, I w----

“Looky here,” said the fat-faced boy, darkly, “what you mean,
counterdicking me?”

He advanced a step and Penrod hastily qualified his contradiction.

“I mean, I don’t THINK I would. I----”

“You better look out!” Rupe moved closer, and unexpectedly grasped the
back of Penrod’s neck again. “Say, ‘I WOULD run home yellin’ “MOM-muh!”’”

“Ow! I WOULD run home yellin’ ‘Mom-muh.’”

“There!” said Rupe, giving the helpless nape a final squeeze. “That’s
the way we do up at the Third.”

Penrod rubbed his neck and asked meekly:

“Can you do that to any boy up at the Third?”

“See here now,” said Rupe, in the tone of one goaded beyond all
endurance, “YOU say if I can! You better say it quick, or----”

“I knew you could,” Penrod interposed hastily, with the pathetic
semblance of a laugh. “I only said that in fun.”

“In ‘fun’!” repeated Rupe stormily. “You better look out how you----”

“Well, I SAID I wasn’t in earnest!” Penrod retreated a few steps. “_I_
knew you could, all the time. I expect _I_ could do it to some of the
boys up at the Third, myself. Couldn’t I?”

“No, you couldn’t.”

“Well, there must be SOME boy up there that I could----”

“No, they ain’t! You better----”

“I expect not, then,” said Penrod, quickly.

“You BETTER ‘expect not.’ Didn’t I tell you once you’d never get back
alive if you ever tried to come up around the Third? You want me to SHOW
you how we do up there, ‘bo?”

He began a slow and deadly advance, whereupon Penrod timidly offered a
diversion:

“Say, Rupe, I got a box of rats in our stable under a glass cover, so
you can watch ‘em jump around when you hammer on the box. Come on and
look at ‘em.”

“All right,” said the fat-faced boy, slightly mollified. “We’ll let Dan
kill ‘em.”

“No, SIR! I’m goin’ to keep ‘em. They’re kind of pets; I’ve had ‘em all
summer--I got names for em, and----”

“Looky here, ‘bo. Did you hear me say we’ll let ‘Dan kill ‘em?”

“Yes, but I won’t----”

“WHAT won’t you?” Rupe became sinister immediately. “It seems to me
you’re gettin’ pretty fresh around here.”

“Well, I don’t want----”

Mr. Collins once more brought into play the dreadful eye-to-eye scowl as
practised “up at the Third,” and, sometimes, also by young leading
men upon the stage. Frowning appallingly, and thrusting forward his
underlip, he placed his nose almost in contact with the nose of Penrod,
whose eyes naturally became crossed.

“Dan kills the rats. See?” hissed the fat-faced boy, maintaining the
horrible juxtaposition.

“Well, all right,” said Penrod, swallowing. “I don’t want ‘em much.”
 And when the pose had been relaxed, he stared at his new friend for a
moment, almost with reverence. Then he brightened.

“Come on, Rupe!” he cried enthusiastically, as he climbed the fence.
“We’ll give our dogs a little live meat--‘bo!”



CHAPTER XXII THE IMITATOR

At the dinner-table, that evening, Penrod Surprised his family by
remarking, in a voice they had never heard him attempt--a law-giving
voice of intentional gruffness:

“Any man that’s makin’ a hunderd dollars a month is makin’ good money.”

“What?” asked Mr. Schofield, staring, for the previous conversation had
concerned the illness of an infant relative in Council Bluffs.

“Any man that’s makin’ a hunderd dollars a month is makin’ good money.”

“What IS he talking about!” Margaret appealed to the invisible.

“Well,” said Penrod, frowning, “that’s what foremen at the ladder works
get.”

“How in the world do you know?” asked his mother.

“Well, I KNOW it! A hunderd dollars a month is good money, I tell you!”

“Well, what of it?” said the father, impatiently.

“Nothin’. I only said it was good money.”

Mr. Schofield shook his head, dismissing the subject; and here he made
a mistake: he should have followed up his son’s singular contribution
to the conversation. That would have revealed the fact that there was a
certain Rupe Collins whose father was a foreman at the ladder works. All
clues are important when a boy makes his first remark in a new key.

“‘Good money’?” repeated Margaret, curiously. “What is ‘good’ money?”

Penrod turned upon her a stern glance. “Say, wouldn’t you be just as
happy if you had SOME sense?”

“Penrod!” shouted his father. But Penrod’s mother gazed with dismay at
her son: he had never before spoken like that to his sister.

Mrs. Schofield might have been more dismayed than she was, if she had
realized that it was the beginning of an epoch. After dinner, Penrod was
slightly scalded in the back as the result of telling Della, the cook,
that there was a wart on the middle finger of her right hand. Della thus
proving poor material for his new manner to work upon, he approached
Duke, in the backyard, and, bending double, seized the lowly animal by
the forepaws.

“I let you know my name’s Penrod Schofield,” hissed the boy. He
protruded his underlip ferociously, scowled, and thrust forward his head
until his nose touched the dog’s. “And you better look out when Penrod
Schofield’s around, or you’ll get in big trouble! YOU UNDERSTAN’ THAT,
‘BO?”

The next day, and the next, the increasing change in Penrod puzzled and
distressed his family, who had no idea of its source.

How might they guess that hero-worship takes such forms? They were
vaguely conscious that a rather shabby boy, not of the neighbourhood,
came to “play” with Penrod several times; but they failed to connect
this circumstance with the peculiar behaviour of the son of the house,
whose ideals (his father remarked) seemed to have suddenly become
identical with those of Gyp the Blood.

Meanwhile, for Penrod himself, “life had taken on new meaning, new
richness.” He had become a fighting man--in conversation at least. “Do
you want to know how I do when they try to slip up on me from behind?”
 he asked Della. And he enacted for her unappreciative eye a scene of
fistic manoeuvres wherein he held an imaginary antagonist helpless in a
net of stratagems.

Frequently, when he was alone, he would outwit, and pummel this same
enemy, and, after a cunning feint, land a dolorous stroke full upon a
face of air. “There! I guess you’ll know better next time. That’s the
way we do up at the Third!”

Sometimes, in solitary pantomime, he encountered more than one opponent
at a time, for numbers were apt to come upon him treacherously,
especially at a little after his rising hour, when he might be caught at
a disadvantage--perhaps standing on one leg to encase the other in his
knickerbockers. Like lightning, he would hurl the trapping garment from
him, and, ducking and pivoting, deal great sweeping blows among the
circle of sneaking devils. (That was how he broke the clock in his
bedroom.) And while these battles were occupying his attention, it was
a waste of voice to call him to breakfast, though if his mother, losing
patience, came to his room, she would find him seated on the bed pulling
at a stocking. “Well, ain’t I coming fast as I CAN?”

At the table and about the house generally he was bumptious, loud with
fatuous misinformation, and assumed a domineering tone, which neither
satire nor reproof seemed able to reduce: but it was among his own
intimates that his new superiority was most outrageous. He twisted the
fingers and squeezed the necks of all the boys of the neighbourhood,
meeting their indignation with a hoarse and rasping laugh he had
acquired after short practice in the stable, where he jeered and taunted
the lawn-mower, the garden-scythe and the wheelbarrow quite out of
countenance.

Likewise he bragged to the other boys by the hour, Rupe Collins being
the chief subject of encomium--next to Penrod himself. “That’s the
way we do up at the Third,” became staple explanation of violence, for
Penrod, like Tartarin, was plastic in the hands of his own imagination,
and at times convinced himself that he really was one of those dark
and murderous spirits exclusively of whom “the Third” was
composed--according to Rupe Collins.

Then, when Penrod had exhausted himself repeating to nausea accounts of
the prowess of himself and his great friend, he would turn to two other
subjects for vainglory. These were his father and Duke.

Mothers must accept the fact that between babyhood and manhood their
sons do not boast of them. The boy, with boys, is a Choctaw; and either
the influence or the protection of women is shameful. “Your mother won’t
let you,” is an insult. But, “My father won’t let me,” is a dignified
explanation and cannot be hooted. A boy is ruined among his fellows if
he talks much of his mother or sisters; and he must recognize it as
his duty to offer at least the appearance of persecution to all things
ranked as female, such as cats and every species of fowl. But he must
champion his father and his dog, and, ever, ready to pit either against
any challenger, must picture both as ravening for battle and absolutely
unconquerable.

Penrod, of course, had always talked by the code, but, under the new
stimulus, Duke was represented virtually as a cross between Bob, Son of
Battle, and a South American vampire; and this in spite of the fact that
Duke himself often sat close by, a living lie, with the hope of peace
in his heart. As for Penrod’s father, that gladiator was painted as of
sentiments and dimensions suitable to a super-demon composed of equal
parts of Goliath, Jack Johnson and the Emperor Nero.

Even Penrod’s walk was affected; he adopted a gait which was a kind of
taunting swagger; and, when he passed other children on the street, he
practised the habit of feinting a blow; then, as the victim dodged,
he rasped the triumphant horse laugh which he gradually mastered to
horrible perfection. He did this to Marjorie Jones--ay! this was
their next meeting, and such is Eros, young! What was even worse, in
Marjorie’s opinion, he went on his way without explanation, and left
her standing on the corner talking about it, long after he was out of
hearing.

Within five days from his first encounter with Rupe Collins, Penrod had
become unbearable. He even almost alienated Sam Williams, who for a time
submitted to finger twisting and neck squeezing and the new style of
conversation, but finally declared that Penrod made him “sick.” He made
the statement with fervour, one sultry afternoon, in Mr. Schofield’s
stable, in the presence of Herman and Verman.

“You better look out, ‘bo,” said Penrod, threateningly. “I’ll show you a
little how we do up at the Third.”

“Up at the Third!” Sam repeated with scorn. “You haven’t ever been up
there.”

“I haven’t?” cried Penrod. “I HAVEN’T?”

“No, you haven’t!”

“Looky here!” Penrod, darkly argumentative, prepared to perform the
eye-to-eye business. “When haven’t I been up there?”

“You haven’t NEVER been up there!” In spite of Penrod’s closely
approaching nose Sam maintained his ground, and appealed for
confirmation. “Has he, Herman?”

“I don’ reckon so,” said Herman, laughing.

“WHAT!” Penrod transferred his nose to the immediate vicinity of
Herman’s nose. “You don’t reckon so, ‘bo, don’t you? You better look out
how you reckon around here! YOU UNDERSTAN’ THAT, ‘BO?”

Herman bore the eye-to-eye very well; indeed, it seemed to please
him, for he continued to laugh while Verman chuckled delightedly. The
brothers had been in the country picking berries for a week, and it
happened that this was their first experience of the new manifestation
of Penrod.

“HAVEN’T I been up at the Third?” the sinister Penrod demanded.

“I don’ reckon so. How come you ast ME?”

“Didn’t you just hear me SAY I been up there?”

“Well,” said Herman mischievously, “hearin’ ain’t believin’!”

Penrod clutched him by the back of the neck, but Herman, laughing
loudly, ducked and released himself at once, retreating to the wall.

“You take that back!” Penrod shouted, striking out wildly.

“Don’ git mad,” begged the small darky, while a number of blows falling
upon his warding arms failed to abate his amusement, and a sound one
upon the cheek only made him laugh the more unrestrainedly. He behaved
exactly as if Penrod were tickling him, and his brother, Verman, rolled
with joy in a wheelbarrow. Penrod pummelled till he was tired, and
produced no greater effect.

“There!” he panted, desisting finally. “NOW I reckon you know whether I
been up there or not!”

Herman rubbed his smitten cheek. “Pow!” he exclaimed. “Pow-ee! You
cert’ny did lan’ me good one NAT time! Oo-ee! she HURT!”

“You’ll get hurt worse’n that,” Penrod assured him, “if you stay around
here much. Rupe Collins is comin’ this afternoon, he said. We’re goin’
to make some policemen’s billies out of the rake handle.”

“You go’ spoil new rake you’ pa bought?”

“What do WE care? I and Rupe got to have billies, haven’t we?”

“How you make ‘em?”

“Melt lead and pour in a hole we’re goin’ to make in the end of ‘em.
Then we’re goin’ to carry ‘em in our pockets, and if anybody says
anything to us--OH, oh! look out! They won’t get a crack on the
head--OH, no!”

“When’s Rupe Collins coming?” Sam Williams inquired rather uneasily.
He had heard a great deal too much of this personage, but as yet the
pleasure of actual acquaintance had been denied him.

“He’s liable to be here any time,” answered Penrod. “You better look
out. You’ll be lucky if you get home alive, if you stay till HE comes.”

“I ain’t afraid of him,” Sam returned, conventionally.

“You are, too!” (There was some truth in the retort.) “There ain’t any
boy in this part of town but me that wouldn’t be afraid of him. You’d be
afraid to talk to him. You wouldn’t get a word out of your mouth before
old Rupie’d have you where you’d wished you never come around HIM,
lettin’ on like you was so much! YOU wouldn’t run home yellin’ ‘Mom-muh’
or nothin’! OH, no!”

“Who Rupe Collins?” asked Herman.

“‘Who Rupe Collins?’” Penrod mocked, and used his rasping laugh, but,
instead of showing fright, Herman appeared to think he was meant to
laugh, too; and so he did, echoed by Verman. “You just hang around here
a little while longer,” Penrod added, grimly, “and you’ll find out who
Rupe Collins is, and I pity YOU when you do!”

“What he go’ do?”

“You’ll see; that’s all! You just wait and----”

At this moment a brown hound ran into the stable through the alley door,
wagged a greeting to Penrod, and fraternized with Duke. The fat-faced
boy appeared upon the threshold and gazed coldly about the little
company in the carriage-house, whereupon the coloured brethren, ceasing
from merriment, were instantly impassive, and Sam Williams moved a
little nearer the door leading into the yard.

Obviously, Sam regarded the newcomer as a redoubtable if not ominous
figure. He was a head taller than either Sam or Penrod; head and
shoulders taller than Herman, who was short for his age; and Verman
could hardly be used for purposes of comparison at all, being a mere
squat brown spot, not yet quite nine years on this planet. And to
Sam’s mind, the aspect of Mr. Collins realized Penrod’s portentous
foreshadowings. Upon the fat face there was an expression of truculent
intolerance which had been cultivated by careful habit to such
perfection that Sam’s heart sank at sight of it. A somewhat enfeebled
twin to this expression had of late often decorated the visage of
Penrod, and appeared upon that ingenuous surface now, as he advanced to
welcome the eminent visitor.

The host swaggered toward the door with a great deal of shoulder
movement, carelessly feinting a slap at Verman in passing, and creating
by various means the atmosphere of a man who has contemptuously amused
himself with underlings while awaiting an equal.

“Hello, ‘bo!” Penrod said in the deepest voice possible to him.

“Who you callin’ ‘bo?” was the ungracious response, accompanied by
immediate action of a similar nature. Rupe held Penrod’s head in the
crook of an elbow and massaged his temples with a hard-pressing knuckle.

“I was only in fun, Rupie,” pleaded the sufferer, and then, being set
free, “Come here, Sam,” he said.

“What for?”

Penrod laughed pityingly. “Pshaw, I ain’t goin’ to hurt you. Come on.”
 Sam, maintaining his position near the other door, Penrod went to him
and caught him round the neck.

“Watch me, Rupie!” Penrod called, and performed upon Sam the knuckle
operation which he had himself just undergone, Sam submitting
mechanically, his eyes fixed with increasing uneasiness upon Rupe
Collins. Sam had a premonition that something even more painful than
Penrod’s knuckle was going to be inflicted upon him.

“THAT don’ hurt,” said Penrod, pushing him away.

“Yes, it does, too!” Sam rubbed his temple.

“Puh! It didn’t hurt me, did it, Rupie? Come on in, Rupe: show this baby
where he’s got a wart on his finger.”

“You showed me that trick,” Sam objected. “You already did that to
me. You tried it twice this afternoon and I don’t know how many times
before, only you weren’t strong enough after the first time. Anyway, I
know what it is, and I don’t----”

“Come on, Rupe,” said Penrod. “Make the baby lick dirt.”

At this bidding, Rupe approached, while Sam, still protesting, moved to
the threshold of the outer door; but Penrod seized him by the shoulders
and swung him indoors with a shout.

“Little baby wants to run home to its Mom-muh! Here he is, Rupie.”

Thereupon was Penrod’s treachery to an old comrade properly rewarded,
for as the two struggled, Rupe caught each by the back of the neck,
simultaneously, and, with creditable impartiality, forced both boys to
their knees.

“Lick dirt!” he commanded, forcing them still forward, until their faces
were close to the stable floor.

At this moment he received a real surprise. With a loud whack something
struck the back of his head, and, turning, he beheld Verman in the act
of lifting a piece of lath to strike again.

“Em moys ome!” said Verman, the Giant Killer.

“He tongue-tie’,” Herman explained. “He say, let ‘em boys alone.”

Rupe addressed his host briefly:

“Chase them nigs out o’ here!”

“Don’ call me nig,” said Herman. “I mine my own biznuss. You let ‘em
boys alone.”

Rupe strode across the still prostrate Sam, stepped upon Penrod, and,
equipping his countenance with the terrifying scowl and protruded jaw,
lowered his head to the level of Herman’s.

“Nig, you’ll be lucky if you leave here alive!” And he leaned forward
till his nose was within less than an inch of Herman’s nose.

It could be felt that something awful was about to happen, and Penrod,
as he rose from the floor, suffered an unexpected twinge of apprehension
and remorse: he hoped that Rupe wouldn’t REALLY hurt Herman. A sudden
dislike of Rupe and Rupe’s ways rose within him, as he looked at the big
boy overwhelming the little darky with that ferocious scowl. Penrod,
all at once, felt sorry about something indefinable; and, with equal
vagueness, he felt foolish. “Come on, Rupe,” he suggested, feebly, “let
Herman go, and let’s us make our billies out of the rake handle.”

The rake handle, however, was not available, if Rupe had inclined to
favour the suggestion. Verman had discarded his lath for the rake, which
he was at this moment lifting in the air.

“You ole black nigger,” the fat-faced boy said venomously to Herman,
“I’m agoin’ to----”

But he had allowed his nose to remain too long near Herman’s.

Penrod’s familiar nose had been as close with only a ticklish spinal
effect upon the not very remote descendant of Congo man-eaters. The
result produced by the glare of Rupe’s unfamiliar eyes, and by
the dreadfully suggestive proximity of Rupe’s unfamiliar nose, was
altogether different. Herman’s and Verman’s Bangala great-grandfathers
never considered people of their own jungle neighbourhood proper
material for a meal, but they looked upon strangers especially truculent
strangers--as distinctly edible.

Penrod and Sam heard Rupe suddenly squawk and bellow; saw him writhe and
twist and fling out his arms like flails, though without removing his
face from its juxtaposition; indeed, for a moment, the two heads seemed
even closer.

Then they separated--and battle was on!



CHAPTER XXIII COLOURED TROOPS IN ACTION

How neat and pure is the task of the chronicler who has the tale to tell
of a “good rousing fight” between boys or men who fight in the “good old
English way,” according to a model set for fights in books long before
Tom Brown went to Rugby. There are seconds and rounds and rules of
fair-play, and always there is great good feeling in the end--though
sometimes, to vary the model, “the Butcher” defeats the hero--and the
chronicler who stencils this fine old pattern on his page is certain of
applause as the stirrer of “red blood.” There is no surer recipe.

But when Herman and Verman set to ‘t the record must be no more than a
few fragments left by the expurgator. It has been perhaps sufficiently
suggested that the altercation in Mr. Schofield’s stable opened with
mayhem in respect to the aggressor’s nose. Expressing vocally his
indignation and the extremity of his pained surprise, Mr. Collins
stepped backward, holding his left hand over his nose, and striking at
Herman with his right. Then Verman hit him with the rake.

Verman struck from behind. He struck as hard as he could. And he struck
with the tines down--For, in his simple, direct African way he wished to
kill his enemy, and he wished to kill him as soon as possible. That was
his single, earnest purpose.

On this account, Rupe Collins was peculiarly unfortunate. He was plucky
and he enjoyed conflict, but neither his ambitions nor his anticipations
had ever included murder. He had not learned that an habitually
aggressive person runs the danger of colliding with beings in one of
those lower stages of evolution wherein theories about “hitting below
the belt” have not yet made their appearance.

The rake glanced from the back of Rupe’s head to his shoulder, but it
felled him. Both darkies jumped full upon him instantly, and the three
rolled and twisted upon the stable-floor, unloosing upon the air sincere
maledictions closely connected with complaints of cruel and unusual
treatment; while certain expressions of feeling presently emanating from
Herman and Verman indicated that Rupe Collins, in this extremity, was
proving himself not too slavishly addicted to fighting by rule. Dan and
Duke, mistaking all for mirth, barked gayly.

From the panting, pounding, yelling heap issued words and phrases
hitherto quite unknown to Penrod and Sam; also, a hoarse repetition
in the voice of Rupe concerning his ear left it not to be doubted
that additional mayhem was taking place. Appalled, the two spectators
retreated to the doorway nearest the yard, where they stood dumbly
watching the cataclysm.

The struggle increased in primitive simplicity: time and again the
howling Rupe got to his knees only to go down again as the earnest
brothers, in their own way, assisted him to a more reclining position.
Primal forces operated here, and the two blanched, slightly higher
products of evolution, Sam and Penrod, no more thought of interfering
than they would have thought of interfering with an earthquake.

At last, out of the ruck rose Verman, disfigured and maniacal. With a
wild eye he looked about him for his trusty rake; but Penrod, in horror,
had long since thrown the rake out into the yard. Naturally, it had not
seemed necessary to remove the lawn-mower.

The frantic eye of Verman fell upon the lawn-mower, and instantly
he leaped to its handle. Shrilling a wordless war-cry, he charged,
propelling the whirling, deafening knives straight upon the prone
legs of Rupe Collins. The lawn-mower was sincerely intended to pass
longitudinally over the body of Mr. Collins from heel to head; and it
was the time for a death-song. Black Valkyrie hovered in the shrieking
air.

“Cut his gizzud out!” shrieked Herman, urging on the whirling knives.

They touched and lacerated the shin of Rupe, as, with the supreme agony
of effort a creature in mortal peril puts forth before succumbing, he
tore himself free of Herman and got upon his feet.

Herman was up as quickly. He leaped to the wall and seized the
garden-scythe that hung there.

“I’m go to cut you’ gizzud out,” he announced definitely, “an’ eat it!”

Rupe Collins had never run from anybody (except his father) in his life;
he was not a coward; but the present situation was very, very unusual.
He was already in a badly dismantled condition, and yet Herman and
Verman seemed discontented with their work: Verman was swinging the
grass-cutter about for a new charge, apparently still wishing to mow
him, and Herman had made a quite plausible statement about what he
intended to do with the scythe.

Rupe paused but for an extremely condensed survey of the horrible
advance of the brothers, and then, uttering a blood-curdled scream of
fear, ran out of the stable and up the alley at a speed he had never
before attained, so that even Dan had hard work to keep within barking
distance. And a ‘cross-shoulder glance, at the corner, revealing Verman
and Herman in pursuit, the latter waving his scythe overhead, Mr.
Collins slackened not his gait, but, rather, out of great anguish,
increased it; the while a rapidly developing purpose became firm in his
mind--and ever after so remained--not only to refrain from visiting that
neighbourhood again, but never by any chance to come within a mile of
it.

From the alley door, Penrod and Sam watched the flight, and were without
words. When the pursuit rounded the corner, the two looked wanly at
each other, but neither spoke until the return of the brothers from the
chase.

Herman and Verman came back, laughing and chuckling.

“Hiyi!” cackled Herman to Verman, as they came, “See ‘at ole boy run!”

“Who-ee!” Verman shouted in ecstasy.

“Nev’ did see boy run so fas’!” Herman continued, tossing the scythe
into the wheelbarrow. “I bet he home in bed by viss time!”

Verman roared with delight, appearing to be wholly unconscious that the
lids of his right eye were swollen shut and that his attire, not too
finical before the struggle, now entitled him to unquestioned rank as a
sansculotte. Herman was a similar ruin, and gave as little heed to his
condition.

Penrod looked dazedly from Herman to Verman and back again. So did Sam
Williams.

“Herman,” said Penrod, in a weak voice, “you wouldn’t HONEST of cut his
gizzard out, would you?”

“Who? Me? I don’ know. He mighty mean ole boy!” Herman shook his head
gravely, and then, observing that Verman was again convulsed with
unctuous merriment, joined laughter with his brother. “Sho’! I guess I
uz dess TALKIN’ whens I said ‘at! Reckon he thought I meant it, f’m de
way he tuck an’ run. Hiyi! Reckon he thought ole Herman bad man! No,
suh! I uz dess talkin’, ‘cause I nev’ would cut NObody! I ain’ tryin’
git in no jail--NO, suh!”

Penrod looked at the scythe: he looked at Herman. He looked at the
lawn-mower, and he looked at Verman. Then he looked out in the yard at
the rake. So did Sam Williams.

“Come on, Verman,” said Herman. “We ain’ go’ ‘at stove-wood f’ supper
yit.”

Giggling reminiscently, the brothers disappeared leaving silence behind
them in the carriage-house. Penrod and Sam retired slowly into the
shadowy interior, each glancing, now and then, with a preoccupied air,
at the open, empty doorway where the late afternoon sunshine was growing
ruddy. At intervals one or the other scraped the floor reflectively
with the side of his shoe. Finally, still without either having made
any effort at conversation, they went out into the yard and stood,
continuing their silence.

“Well,” said Sam, at last, “I guess it’s time I better be gettin’ home.
So long, Penrod!”

“So long, Sam,” said Penrod, feebly.

With a solemn gaze he watched his friend out of sight. Then he went
slowly into the house, and after an interval occupied in a unique
manner, appeared in the library, holding a pair of brilliantly gleaming
shoes in his hand.

Mr. Schofield, reading the evening paper, glanced frowningly over it at
his offspring.

“Look, papa,” said Penrod. “I found your shoes where you’d taken ‘em
off in your room, to put on your slippers, and they were all dusty. So I
took ‘em out on the back porch and gave ‘em a good blacking. They shine
up fine, don’t they?”

“Well, I’ll be d-dud-dummed!” said the startled Mr. Schofield.

Penrod was zigzagging back to normal.



CHAPTER XXIV “LITTLE GENTLEMAN”

The midsummer sun was stinging hot outside the little barber-shop next
to the corner drug store and Penrod, undergoing a toilette preliminary
to his very slowly approaching twelfth birthday, was adhesive enough to
retain upon his face much hair as it fell from the shears. There is a
mystery here: the tonsorial processes are not unagreeable to manhood; in
truth, they are soothing; but the hairs detached from a boy’s head get
into his eyes, his ears, his nose, his mouth, and down his neck, and he
does everywhere itch excruciatingly. Wherefore he blinks, winks, weeps,
twitches, condenses his countenance, and squirms; and perchance the
barber’s scissors clip more than intended--belike an outlying flange of
ear.

“Um--muh--OW!” said Penrod, this thing having happened.

“D’ I touch y’ up a little?” inquired the barber, smiling falsely.

“Ooh--UH!” The boy in the chair offered inarticulate protest, as the
wound was rubbed with alum.

“THAT don’t hurt!” said the barber. “You WILL get it, though, if you
don’t sit stiller,” he continued, nipping in the bud any attempt on the
part of his patient to think that he already had “it.”

“Pfuff!” said Penrod, meaning no disrespect, but endeavoring to dislodge
a temporary moustache from his lip.

“You ought to see how still that little Georgie Bassett sits,” the
barber went on, reprovingly. “I hear everybody says he’s the best boy in
town.”

“Pfuff! PHIRR!” There was a touch of intentional contempt in this.

“I haven’t heard nobody around the neighbourhood makin’ no such
remarks,” added the barber, “about nobody of the name of Penrod
Schofield.”

“Well,” said Penrod, clearing his mouth after a struggle, “who wants ‘em
to? Ouch!”

“I hear they call Georgie Bassett the ‘little gentleman,’” ventured the
barber, provocatively, meeting with instant success.

“They better not call ME that,” returned Penrod truculently. “I’d like
to hear anybody try. Just once, that’s all! I bet they’d never try it
ag----OUCH!”

“Why? What’d you do to ‘em?”

“It’s all right what I’d DO! I bet they wouldn’t want to call me that
again long as they lived!”

“What’d you do if it was a little girl? You wouldn’t hit her, would
you?”

“Well, I’d----Ouch!”

“You wouldn’t hit a little girl, would you?” the barber persisted,
gathering into his powerful fingers a mop of hair from the top of
Penrod’s head and pulling that suffering head into an unnatural
position. “Doesn’t the Bible say it ain’t never right to hit the weak
sex?”

“Ow! SAY, look OUT!”

“So you’d go and punch a pore, weak, little girl, would you?” said the
barber, reprovingly.

“Well, who said I’d hit her?” demanded the chivalrous Penrod. “I bet I’d
FIX her though, all right. She’d see!”

“You wouldn’t call her names, would you?”

“No, I wouldn’t! What hurt is it to call anybody names?”

“Is that SO!” exclaimed the barber. “Then you was intending what I heard
you hollering at Fisher’s grocery delivery wagon driver fer a favour,
the other day when I was goin’ by your house, was you? I reckon I better
tell him, because he says to me after-WERDS if he ever lays eyes on you
when you ain’t in your own yard, he’s goin’ to do a whole lot o’ things
you ain’t goin’ to like! Yessir, that’s what he says to ME!”

“He better catch me first, I guess, before he talks so much.”

“Well,” resumed the barber, “that ain’t sayin’ what you’d do if a young
lady ever walked up and called you a little gentleman. _I_ want to hear
what you’d do to her. I guess I know, though--come to think of it.”

“What?” demanded Penrod.

“You’d sick that pore ole dog of yours on her cat, if she had one, I
expect,” guessed the barber derisively.

“No, I would not!”

“Well, what WOULD you do?”

“I’d do enough. Don’t worry about that!”

“Well, suppose it was a boy, then: what’d you do if a boy come up to you
and says, ‘Hello, little gentleman’?”

“He’d be lucky,” said Penrod, with a sinister frown, “if he got home
alive.”

“Suppose it was a boy twice your size?”

“Just let him try,” said Penrod ominously. “You just let him try. He’d
never see daylight again; that’s all!”

The barber dug ten active fingers into the helpless scalp before him
and did his best to displace it, while the anguished Penrod, becoming
instantly a seething crucible of emotion, misdirected his natural
resentment into maddened brooding upon what he would do to a boy “twice
his size” who should dare to call him “little gentleman.” The barber
shook him as his father had never shaken him; the barber buffeted him,
rocked him frantically to and fro; the barber seemed to be trying to
wring his neck; and Penrod saw himself in staggering zigzag pictures,
destroying large, screaming, fragmentary boys who had insulted him.

The torture stopped suddenly; and clenched, weeping eyes began to see
again, while the barber applied cooling lotions which made Penrod smell
like a coloured housemaid’s ideal.

“Now what,” asked the barber, combing the reeking locks gently, “what
would it make you so mad fer, to have somebody call you a little
gentleman? It’s a kind of compliment, as it were, you might say. What
would you want to hit anybody fer THAT fer?”

To the mind of Penrod, this question was without meaning or
reasonableness. It was within neither his power nor his desire to
analyze the process by which the phrase had become offensive to him,
and was now rapidly assuming the proportions of an outrage. He knew only
that his gorge rose at the thought of it.

“You just let ‘em try it!” he said threateningly, as he slid down from
the chair. And as he went out of the door, after further conversation
on the same subject, he called back those warning words once more: “Just
let ‘em try it! Just once--that’s all _I_ ask ‘em to. They’ll find out
what they GET!”

The barber chuckled. Then a fly lit on the barber’s nose and he slapped
at it, and the slap missed the fly but did not miss the nose. The barber
was irritated. At this moment his birdlike eye gleamed a gleam as it
fell upon customers approaching: the prettiest little girl in the world,
leading by the hand her baby brother, Mitchy-Mitch, coming to have
Mitchy-Mitch’s hair clipped, against the heat.

It was a hot day and idle, with little to feed the mind--and the barber
was a mischievous man with an irritated nose. He did his worst.

Meanwhile, the brooding Penrod pursued his homeward way; no great
distance, but long enough for several one-sided conflicts with malign
insulters made of thin air. “You better NOT call me that!” he muttered.
“You just try it, and you’ll get what other people got when THEY tried
it. You better not ack fresh with ME! Oh, you WILL, will you?” He
delivered a vicious kick full upon the shins of an iron fence-post,
which suffered little, though Penrod instantly regretted his
indiscretion. “Oof!” he grunted, hopping; and went on after bestowing a
look of awful hostility upon the fence-post. “I guess you’ll know better
next time,” he said, in parting, to this antagonist. “You just let me
catch you around here again and I’ll----” His voice sank to inarticulate
but ominous murmurings. He was in a dangerous mood.

Nearing home, however, his belligerent spirit was diverted to happier
interests by the discovery that some workmen had left a caldron of tar
in the cross-street, close by his father’s stable. He tested it, but
found it inedible. Also, as a substitute for professional chewing-gum
it was unsatisfactory, being insufficiently boiled down and too thin,
though of a pleasant, lukewarm temperature. But it had an excess of one
quality--it was sticky. It was the stickiest tar Penrod had ever used
for any purposes whatsoever, and nothing upon which he wiped his hands
served to rid them of it; neither his polka-dotted shirt waist nor his
knickerbockers; neither the fence, nor even Duke, who came unthinkingly
wagging out to greet him, and retired wiser.

Nevertheless, tar is tar. Much can be done with it, no matter what its
condition; so Penrod lingered by the caldron, though from a neighbouring
yard could be heard the voices of comrades, including that of Sam
Williams. On the ground about the caldron were scattered chips and
sticks and bits of wood to the number of a great multitude. Penrod mixed
quantities of this refuse into the tar, and interested himself in
seeing how much of it he could keep moving in slow swirls upon the ebon
surface.

Other surprises were arranged for the absent workmen. The caldron was
almost full, and the surface of the tar near the rim.

Penrod endeavoured to ascertain how many pebbles and brickbats, dropped
in, would cause an overflow. Labouring heartily to this end, he
had almost accomplished it, when he received the suggestion for an
experiment on a much larger scale. Embedded at the corner of a
grassplot across the street was a whitewashed stone, the size of a small
watermelon and serving no purpose whatever save the questionable one of
decoration. It was easily pried up with a stick; though getting it to
the caldron tested the full strength of the ardent labourer. Instructed
to perform such a task, he would have sincerely maintained its
impossibility but now, as it was unbidden, and promised rather
destructive results, he set about it with unconquerable energy, feeling
certain that he would be rewarded with a mighty splash. Perspiring,
grunting vehemently, his back aching and all muscles strained, he
progressed in short stages until the big stone lay at the base of the
caldron. He rested a moment, panting, then lifted the stone, and was
bending his shoulders for the heave that would lift it over the rim,
when a sweet, taunting voice, close behind him, startled him cruelly.

“How do you do, LITTLE GENTLEMAN!”

Penrod squawked, dropped the stone, and shouted, “Shut up, you dern
fool!” purely from instinct, even before his about-face made him aware
who had so spitefully addressed him.

It was Marjorie Jones. Always dainty, and prettily dressed, she was in
speckless and starchy white to-day, and a refreshing picture she made,
with the new-shorn and powerfully scented Mitchy-Mitch clinging to
her hand. They had stolen up behind the toiler, and now stood laughing
together in sweet merriment. Since the passing of Penrod’s Rupe Collins
period he had experienced some severe qualms at the recollection of his
last meeting with Marjorie and his Apache behaviour; in truth, his heart
instantly became as wax at sight of her, and he would have offered
her fair speech; but, alas! in Marjorie’s wonderful eyes there shone
a consciousness of new powers for his undoing, and she denied him
opportunity.

“Oh, OH!” she cried, mocking his pained outcry. “What a way for a LITTLE
GENTLEMAN to talk! Little gentleman don’t say wicked----”

“Marjorie!” Penrod, enraged and dismayed, felt himself stung beyond all
endurance. Insult from her was bitterer to endure than from any other.
“Don’t you call me that again!”

“Why not, LITTLE GENTLEMAN?”

He stamped his foot. “You better stop!”

Marjorie sent into his furious face her lovely, spiteful laughter.

“Little gentleman, little gentleman, little gentleman!” she said
deliberately. “How’s the little gentleman, this afternoon? Hello, little
gentleman!”

Penrod, quite beside himself, danced eccentrically. “Dry up!” he howled.
“Dry up, dry up, dry up, dry UP!”

Mitchy-Mitch shouted with delight and applied a finger to the side
of the caldron--a finger immediately snatched away and wiped upon a
handkerchief by his fastidious sister.

“‘Ittle gellamun!” said Mitchy-Mitch.

“You better look out!” Penrod whirled upon this small offender with
grim satisfaction. Here was at least something male that could without
dishonour be held responsible. “You say that again, and I’ll give you
the worst----”

“You will NOT!” snapped Marjorie, instantly vitriolic. “He’ll say just
whatever he wants to, and he’ll say it just as MUCH as he wants to. Say
it again, Mitchy-Mitch!”

“‘Ittle gellamun!” said Mitchy-Mitch promptly.

“Ow-YAH!” Penrod’s tone-production was becoming affected by his mental
condition. “You say that again, and I’ll----”

“Go on, Mitchy-Mitch,” cried Marjorie. “He can’t do a thing. He don’t
DARE! Say it some more, Mitchy-Mitch--say it a whole lot!”

Mitchy-Mitch, his small, fat face shining with confidence in his
immunity, complied.

“‘Ittle gellamun!” he squeaked malevolently. “‘Ittle gellamun! ‘Ittle
gellamun! ‘Ittle gellamun!”

The desperate Penrod bent over the whitewashed rock, lifted it, and
then--outdoing Porthos, John Ridd, and Ursus in one miraculous burst of
strength--heaved it into the air.

Marjorie screamed.

But it was too late. The big stone descended into the precise midst of
the caldron and Penrod got his mighty splash. It was far, far beyond his
expectations.

Spontaneously there were grand and awful effects--volcanic spectacles of
nightmare and eruption. A black sheet of eccentric shape rose out of the
caldron and descended upon the three children, who had no time to evade
it.

After it fell, Mitchy-Mitch, who stood nearest the caldron, was the
thickest, though there was enough for all. Br’er Rabbit would have fled
from any of them.



CHAPTER XXV TAR

When Marjorie and Mitchy-Mitch got their breath, they used it vocally;
and seldom have more penetrating sounds issued from human throats.
Coincidentally, Marjorie, quite baresark, laid hands upon the largest
stick within reach and fell upon Penrod with blind fury. He had the
presence of mind to flee, and they went round and round the caldron,
while Mitchy-Mitch feebly endeavoured to follow--his appearance, in
this pursuit, being pathetically like that of a bug fished out of an
ink-well, alive but discouraged.

Attracted by the riot, Samuel Williams made his appearance, vaulting a
fence, and was immediately followed by Maurice Levy and Georgie Bassett.
They stared incredulously at the extraordinary spectacle before them.

“Little GEN-TIL-MUN!” shrieked Marjorie, with a wild stroke that landed
full upon Penrod’s tarry cap.

“OOOCH!” bleated Penrod.

“It’s Penrod!” shouted Sam Williams, recognizing him by the voice. For
an instant he had been in some doubt.

“Penrod Schofield!” exclaimed Georgie Bassett. “WHAT does this mean?”
 That was Georgie’s style, and had helped to win him his title.

Marjorie leaned, panting, upon her stick. “I cu-called--uh--
him--oh!” she sobbed--“I called him a lul-little--oh--gentleman!
And oh--lul-look!--oh! lul-look at my du-dress! Lul-look at
Mumitchy--oh--Mitch--oh!”

Unexpectedly, she smote again--with results--and then, seizing the
indistinguishable hand of Mitchy-Mitch, she ran wailing homeward down
the street.

“‘Little gentleman’?” said Georgie Bassett, with some evidences of
disturbed complacency. “Why, that’s what they call ME!”

“Yes, and you ARE one, too!” shouted the maddened Penrod. “But you
better not let anybody call ME that! I’ve stood enough around here for
one day, and you can’t run over ME, Georgie Bassett. Just you put that
in your gizzard and smoke it!”

“Anybody has a perfect right,” said Georgie, with, dignity, “to call a
person a little gentleman. There’s lots of names nobody ought to call,
but this one’s a NICE----”

“You better look out!”

Unavenged bruises were distributed all over Penrod, both upon his body
and upon his spirit. Driven by subtle forces, he had dipped his hands in
catastrophe and disaster: it was not for a Georgie Bassett to beard him.
Penrod was about to run amuck.

“I haven’t called you a little gentleman, yet,” said Georgie. “I only
said it. Anybody’s got a right to SAY it.”

“Not around ME! You just try it again and----”

“I shall say it,” returned Georgie, “all I please. Anybody in this town
has a right to SAY ‘little gentleman’----”

Bellowing insanely, Penrod plunged his right hand into the caldron,
rushed upon Georgie and made awful work of his hair and features.

Alas, it was but the beginning! Sam Williams and Maurice Levy screamed
with delight, and, simultaneously infected, danced about the struggling
pair, shouting frantically:

“Little gentleman! Little gentleman! Sick him, Georgie! Sick him, little
gentleman! Little gentleman! Little gentleman!”

The infuriated outlaw turned upon them with blows and more tar, which
gave Georgie Bassett his opportunity and later seriously impaired the
purity of his fame. Feeling himself hopelessly tarred, he dipped both
hands repeatedly into the caldron and applied his gatherings to Penrod.
It was bringing coals to Newcastle, but it helped to assuage the just
wrath of Georgie.

The four boys gave a fine imitation of the Laocoon group complicated
by an extra figure frantic splutterings and chokings, strange cries and
stranger words issued from this tangle; hands dipped lavishly into the
inexhaustible reservoir of tar, with more and more picturesque results.
The caldron had been elevated upon bricks and was not perfectly
balanced; and under a heavy impact of the struggling group it lurched
and went partly over, pouring forth a Stygian tide which formed a deep
pool in the gutter.

It was the fate of Master Roderick Bitts, that exclusive and immaculate
person, to make his appearance upon the chaotic scene at this juncture.
All in the cool of a white “sailor suit,” he turned aside from the path
of duty--which led straight to the house of a maiden aunt--and paused
to hop with joy upon the sidewalk. A repeated epithet continuously half
panted, half squawked, somewhere in the nest of gladiators, caught his
ear, and he took it up excitedly, not knowing why.

“Little gentleman!” shouted Roderick, jumping up and down in childish
glee. “Little gentleman! Little gentleman! Lit----”

A frightful figure tore itself free from the group, encircled this
innocent bystander with a black arm, and hurled him headlong. Full
length and flat on his face went Roderick into the Stygian pool. The
frightful figure was Penrod.

Instantly, the pack flung themselves upon him again, and, carrying
them with him, he went over upon Roderick, who from that instant was as
active a belligerent as any there.

Thus began the Great Tar Fight, the origin of which proved, afterward,
so difficult for parents to trace, owing to the opposing accounts of
the combatants. Marjorie said Penrod began it; Penrod said Mitchy-Mitch
began it; Sam Williams said Georgie Bassett began it; Georgie and
Maurice Levy said Penrod began it; Roderick Bitts, who had not
recognized his first assailant, said Sam Williams began it.

Nobody thought of accusing the barber. But the barber did not begin it;
it was the fly on the barber’s nose that began it--though, of course,
something else began the fly. Somehow, we never manage to hang the real
offender.

The end came only with the arrival of Penrod’s mother, who had been
having a painful conversation by telephone with Mrs. Jones, the mother
of Marjorie, and came forth to seek an errant son. It is a mystery how
she was able to pick out her own, for by the time she got there his
voice was too hoarse to be recognizable. Mr. Schofield’s version of
things was that Penrod was insane. “He’s a stark, raving lunatic!”
 declared the father, descending to the library from a before-dinner
interview with the outlaw, that evening. “I’d send him to military
school, but I don’t believe they’d take him. Do you know WHY he says all
that awfulness happened?”

“When Margaret and I were trying to scrub him,” responded Mrs. Schofield
wearily, “he said ‘everybody’ had been calling him names.”

“‘Names!’” snorted her husband. “‘Little gentleman!’ THAT’S the vile
epithet they called him! And because of it he wrecks the peace of six
homes!”

“SH! Yes; he told us about it,” said Mrs. Schofield, moaning. “He told
us several hundred times, I should guess, though I didn’t count. He’s
got it fixed in his head, and we couldn’t get it out. All we could do
was to put him in the closet. He’d have gone out again after those boys
if we hadn’t. I don’t know WHAT to make of him!”

“He’s a mystery to ME!” said her husband. “And he refuses to explain
why he objects to being called ‘little gentleman.’ Says he’d do the same
thing--and worse--if anybody dared to call him that again. He said if
the President of the United States called him that he’d try to whip him.
How long did you have him locked up in the closet?”

“SH!” said Mrs. Schofield warningly. “About two hours; but I don’t think
it softened his spirit at all, because when I took him to the barber’s
to get his hair clipped again, on account of the tar in it, Sammy
Williams and Maurice Levy were there for the same reason, and they just
WHISPERED ‘little gentleman,’ so low you could hardly hear them--and
Penrod began fighting with them right before me, and it was really all
the barber and I could do to drag him away from them. The barber was
very kind about it, but Penrod----”

“I tell you he’s a lunatic!” Mr. Schofield would have said the same
thing of a Frenchman infuriated by the epithet “camel.” The philosophy
of insult needs expounding.

“SH!” said Mrs. Schofield. “It does seem a kind of frenzy.”

“Why on earth should any sane person mind being called----”

“SH!” said Mrs. Schofield. “It’s beyond ME!”

“What are you SH-ing me for?” demanded Mr. Schofield explosively.

“SH!” said Mrs. Schofield. “It’s Mr. Kinosling, the new rector of Saint
Joseph’s.”

“Where?”

“SH! On the front porch with Margaret; he’s going to stay for dinner. I
do hope----”

“Bachelor, isn’t he?”

“Yes.”

“OUR old minister was speaking of him the other day,” said Mr.
Schofield, “and he didn’t seem so terribly impressed.”

“SH! Yes; about thirty, and of course so superior to most of Margaret’s
friends--boys home from college. She thinks she likes young Robert
Williams, I know--but he laughs so much! Of course there isn’t any
comparison. Mr. Kinosling talks so intellectually; it’s a good thing for
Margaret to hear that kind of thing, for a change and, of course, he’s
very spiritual. He seems very much interested in her.” She paused to
muse. “I think Margaret likes him; he’s so different, too. It’s the
third time he’s dropped in this week, and I----”

“Well,” said Mr. Schofield grimly, “if you and Margaret want him to come
again, you’d better not let him see Penrod.”

“But he’s asked to see him; he seems interested in meeting all the
family. And Penrod nearly always behaves fairly well at table.”
 She paused, and then put to her husband a question referring to his
interview with Penrod upstairs. “Did you--did you--do it?”

“No,” he answered gloomily. “No, I didn’t, but----” He was interrupted
by a violent crash of china and metal in the kitchen, a shriek from
Della, and the outrageous voice of Penrod. The well-informed Della,
ill-inspired to set up for a wit, had ventured to address the scion of
the house roguishly as “little gentleman,” and Penrod, by means of the
rapid elevation of his right foot, had removed from her supporting
hands a laden tray. Both parents, started for the kitchen, Mr. Schofield
completing his interrupted sentence on the way.

“But I will, now!”

The rite thus promised was hastily but accurately performed in that
apartment most distant from the front porch; and, twenty minutes later,
Penrod descended to dinner. The Rev. Mr. Kinosling had asked for the
pleasure of meeting him, and it had been decided that the only course
possible was to cover up the scandal for the present, and to offer an
undisturbed and smiling family surface to the gaze of the visitor.

Scorched but not bowed, the smouldering Penrod was led forward for the
social formulae simultaneously with the somewhat bleak departure of
Robert Williams, who took his guitar with him, this time, and went in
forlorn unconsciousness of the powerful forces already set in secret
motion to be his allies.

The punishment just undergone had but made the haughty and unyielding
soul of Penrod more stalwart in revolt; he was unconquered. Every time
the one intolerable insult had been offered him, his resentment had
become the hotter, his vengeance the more instant and furious. And,
still burning with outrage, but upheld by the conviction of right, he
was determined to continue to the last drop of his blood the defense
of his honour, whenever it should be assailed, no matter how mighty or
august the powers that attacked it. In all ways, he was a very sore boy.

During the brief ceremony of presentation, his usually inscrutable
countenance wore an expression interpreted by his father as one of
insane obstinacy, while Mrs. Schofield found it an incentive to inward
prayer. The fine graciousness of Mr. Kinosling, however, was unimpaired
by the glare of virulent suspicion given him by this little brother: Mr.
Kinosling mistook it for a natural curiosity concerning one who might
possibly become, in time, a member of the family. He patted Penrod upon
the head, which was, for many reasons, in no condition to be patted with
any pleasure to the patter. Penrod felt himself in the presence of a new
enemy.

“How do you do, my little lad,” said Mr. Kinosling. “I trust we shall
become fast friends.”

To the ear of his little lad, it seemed he said, “A trost we shall
bick-home fawst frainds.” Mr. Kinosling’s pronunciation was, in fact,
slightly precious; and, the little lad, simply mistaking it for some
cryptic form of mockery of himself, assumed a manner and expression
which argued so ill for the proposed friendship that Mrs. Schofield
hastily interposed the suggestion of dinner, and the small procession
went in to the dining-room.

“It has been a delicious day,” said Mr. Kinosling, presently; “warm but
balmy.” With a benevolent smile he addressed Penrod, who sat opposite
him. “I suppose, little gentleman, you have been indulging in the usual
outdoor sports of vacation?”

Penrod laid down his fork and glared, open-mouthed at Mr. Kinosling.

“You’ll have another slice of breast of the chicken?” Mr. Schofield
inquired, loudly and quickly.

“A lovely day!” exclaimed Margaret, with equal promptitude and emphasis.
“Lovely, oh, lovely! Lovely!”

“Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!” said Mrs. Schofield, and after a
glance at Penrod which confirmed her impression that he intended to
say something, she continued, “Yes, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful,
beautiful, beautiful beautiful!”

Penrod closed his mouth and sank back in his chair--and his relatives
took breath.

Mr. Kinosling looked pleased. This responsive family, with its ready
enthusiasm, made the kind of audience he liked. He passed a delicate
white hand gracefully over his tall, pale forehead, and smiled
indulgently.

“Youth relaxes in summer,” he said. “Boyhood is the age of relaxation;
one is playful, light, free, unfettered. One runs and leaps and enjoys
one’s self with one’s companions. It is good for the little lads to play
with their friends; they jostle, push, and wrestle, and simulate little,
happy struggles with one another in harmless conflict. The young muscles
are toughening. It is good. Boyish chivalry develops, enlarges, expands.
The young learn quickly, intuitively, spontaneously. They perceive the
obligations of noblesse oblige. They begin to comprehend the necessity
of caste and its requirements. They learn what birth means--ah,--that
is, they learn what it means to be well born. They learn courtesy in
their games; they learn politeness, consideration for one another in
their pastimes, amusements, lighter occupations. I make it my pleasure
to join them often, for I sympathize with them in all their wholesome
joys as well as in their little bothers and perplexities. I understand
them, you see; and let me tell you it is no easy matter to understand
the little lads and lassies.” He sent to each listener his beaming
glance, and, permitting it to come to rest upon Penrod, inquired:

“And what do you say to that, little gentleman?”

Mr. Schofield uttered a stentorian cough. “More? You’d better have some
more chicken! More! Do!”

“More chicken!” urged Margaret simultaneously. “Do please! Please! More!
Do! More!”

“Beautiful, beautiful,” began Mrs. Schofield. “Beautiful, beautiful,
beautiful, beautiful----”

It is not known in what light Mr. Kinosling viewed the expression of
Penrod’s face. Perhaps he mistook it for awe; perhaps he received
no impression at all of its extraordinary quality. He was a rather
self-engrossed young man, just then engaged in a double occupation, for
he not only talked, but supplied from his own consciousness a critical
though favourable auditor as well, which of course kept him quite busy.
Besides, it is oftener than is expected the case that extremely peculiar
expressions upon the countenances of boys are entirely overlooked,
and suggest nothing to the minds of people staring straight at them.
Certainly Penrod’s expression--which, to the perception of his family,
was perfectly horrible--caused not the faintest perturbation in the
breast of Mr. Kinosling.

Mr. Kinosling waived the chicken, and continued to talk. “Yes, I think
I may claim to understand boys,” he said, smiling thoughtfully. “One
has been a boy one’s self. Ah, it is not all playtime! I hope our young
scholar here does not overwork himself at his Latin, at his classics,
as I did, so that at the age of eight years I was compelled to wear
glasses. He must be careful not to strain the little eyes at his
scholar’s tasks, not to let the little shoulders grow round over his
scholar’s desk. Youth is golden; we should keep it golden, bright,
glistening. Youth should frolic, should be sprightly; it should play its
cricket, its tennis, its hand-ball. It should run and leap; it should
laugh, should sing madrigals and glees, carol with the lark, ring out in
chanties, folk-songs, ballads, roundelays----”

He talked on. At any instant Mr. Schofield held himself ready to cough
vehemently and shout, “More chicken,” to drown out Penrod in case the
fatal words again fell from those eloquent lips; and Mrs. Schofield and
Margaret kept themselves prepared at all times to assist him. So passed
a threatening meal, which Mrs. Schofield hurried, by every means with
decency, to its conclusion. She felt that somehow they would all be
safer out in the dark of the front porch, and led the way thither as
soon as possible.

“No cigar, I thank you.” Mr. Kinosling, establishing himself in a wicker
chair beside Margaret, waved away her father’s proffer. “I do not smoke.
I have never tasted tobacco in any form.” Mrs. Schofield was confirmed
in her opinion that this would be an ideal son-in-law. Mr. Schofield was
not so sure.

“No,” said Mr. Kinosling. “No tobacco for me. No cigar, no pipe, no
cigarette, no cheroot. For me, a book--a volume of poems, perhaps.
Verses, rhymes, lines metrical and cadenced--those are my dissipation.
Tennyson by preference: ‘Maud,’ or ‘Idylls of the King’--poetry of the
sound Victorian days; there is none later. Or Longfellow will rest me
in a tired hour. Yes; for me, a book, a volume in the hand, held lightly
between the fingers.”

Mr. Kinosling looked pleasantly at his fingers as he spoke, waving his
hand in a curving gesture which brought it into the light of a window
faintly illumined from the interior of the house. Then he passed those
graceful fingers over his hair, and turned toward Penrod, who was
perched upon the railing in a dark corner.

“The evening is touched with a slight coolness,” said Mr. Kinosling.
“Perhaps I may request the little gentleman----”

“B’gr-r-RUFF!” coughed Mr. Schofield. “You’d better change your mind
about a cigar.”

“No, I thank you. I was about to request the lit----”

“DO try one,” Margaret urged. “I’m sure papa’s are nice ones. Do
try----”

“No, I thank you. I remarked a slight coolness in the air, and my hat is
in the hallway. I was about to request----”

“I’ll get it for you,” said Penrod suddenly.

“If you will be so good,” said Mr. Kinosling. “It is a black bowler hat,
little gentleman, and placed upon a table in the hall.”

“I know where it is.” Penrod entered the door, and a feeling of relief,
mutually experienced, carried from one to another of his three relatives
their interchanged congratulations that he had recovered his sanity.

“‘The day is done, and the darkness,’” began Mr. Kinosling--and recited
that poem entire. He followed it with “The Children’s Hour,” and after a
pause, at the close, to allow his listeners time for a little reflection
upon his rendition, he passed his handagain over his head, and called,
in the direction of the doorway:

“I believe I will take my hat now, little gentleman.”

“Here it is,” said Penrod, unexpectedly climbing over the porch railing,
in the other direction. His mother and father and Margaret had supposed
him to be standing in the hallway out of deference, and because he
thought it tactful not to interrupt the recitations. All of them
remembered, later, that this supposed thoughtfulness on his part struck
them as unnatural.

“Very good, little gentleman!” said Mr. Kinosling, and being somewhat
chilled, placed the hat firmly upon his head, pulling it down as far
as it would go. It had a pleasant warmth, which he noticed at once. The
next instant, he noticed something else, a peculiar sensation of the
scalp--a sensation which he was quite unable to define. He lifted his
hand to take the hat off, and entered upon a strange experience: his hat
seemed to have decided to remain where it was.

“Do you like Tennyson as much as Longfellow, Mr. Kinosling?” inquired
Margaret.

“I--ah--I cannot say,” he returned absently. “I--ah--each has his
own--ugh! flavour and savour, each his--ah--ah----”

Struck by a strangeness in his tone, she peered at him curiously through
the dusk. His outlines were indistinct, but she made out that his arms
were, uplifted in a singular gesture. He seemed to be wrenching at his
head.

“Is--is anything the matter?” she asked anxiously. “Mr. Kinosling, are
you ill?”

“Not at--ugh!--all,” he replied, in the same odd tone. “I--ah--I
believe--UGH!”

He dropped his hands from his hat, and rose. His manner was
slightly agitated. “I fear I may have taken a trifling--ah--cold.
I should--ah--perhaps be--ah--better at home. I will--ah--say
good-night.”

At the steps, he instinctively lifted his hand to remove his hat,
but did not do so, and, saying “Goodnight,” again in a frigid voice,
departed with visible stiffness from that house, to return no more.

“Well, of all----!” cried Mrs. Schofield, astounded. “What was the
matter? He just went--like that!” She made a flurried gesture. “In
heaven’s name, Margaret, what DID you say to him?”

“_I_!” exclaimed Margaret indignantly. “Nothing! He just WENT!”

“Why, he didn’t even take off his hat when he said good-night!” said
Mrs. Schofield.

Margaret, who had crossed to the doorway, caught the ghost of a whisper
behind her, where stood Penrod.

“YOU BET HE DIDN’T!”

He knew not that he was overheard.

A frightful suspicion flashed through Margaret’s mind--a suspicion that
Mr. Kinosling’s hat would have to be either boiled off or shaved off.
With growing horror she recalled Penrod’s long absence when he went to
bring the hat.

“Penrod,” she cried, “let me see your hands!”

She had toiled at those hands herself late that afternoon, nearly
scalding her own, but at last achieving a lily purity.

“Let me see your hands!”

She seized them.

Again they were tarred!



CHAPTER XXVI THE QUIET AFTERNOON

Perhaps middle-aged people might discern Nature’s real intentions in the
matter of pain if they would examine a boy’s punishments and sorrows,
for he prolongs neither beyond their actual duration. With a boy,
trouble must be of Homeric dimensions to last overnight. To him, every
next day is really a new day. Thus, Penrod woke, next morning, with
neither the unspared rod, nor Mr. Kinosling in his mind. Tar, itself,
so far as his consideration of it went, might have been an undiscovered
substance. His mood was cheerful and mercantile; some process having
worked mysteriously within him, during the night, to the result that
his first waking thought was of profits connected with the sale of old
iron--or perhaps a ragman had passed the house, just before he woke.

By ten o’clock he had formed a partnership with the indeed amiable Sam,
and the firm of Schofield and Williams plunged headlong into commerce.
Heavy dealings in rags, paper, old iron and lead gave the firm a balance
of twenty-two cents on the evening of the third day; but a venture in
glassware, following, proved disappointing on account of the scepticism
of all the druggists in that part of town, even after seven laborious
hours had been spent in cleansing a wheelbarrow-load of old medicine
bottles with hydrant water and ashes. Likewise, the partners were
disheartened by their failure to dispose of a crop of “greens,” although
they had uprooted specimens of that decorative and unappreciated flower,
the dandelion, with such persistence and energy that the Schofields’ and
Williams’ lawns looked curiously haggard for the rest of that summer.

The fit passed: business languished; became extinct. The dog-days had
set in.

One August afternoon was so hot that even boys sought indoor shade. In
the dimness of the vacant carriage-house of the stable, lounged Masters
Penrod Schofield, Samuel Williams, Maurice Levy, Georgie Bassett, and
Herman. They sat still and talked. It is a hot day, in rare truth, when
boys devote themselves principally to conversation, and this day was
that hot.

Their elders should beware such days. Peril hovers near when the
fierceness of weather forces inaction and boys in groups are quiet.
The more closely volcanoes, Western rivers, nitroglycerin, and boys
are pent, the deadlier is their action at the point of outbreak. Thus,
parents and guardians should look for outrages of the most singular
violence and of the most peculiar nature during the confining weather of
February and August.

The thing which befell upon this broiling afternoon began to brew and
stew peacefully enough. All was innocence and languor; no one could have
foretold the eruption.

They were upon their great theme: “When I get to be a man!” Being human,
though boys, they considered their present estate too commonplace to be
dwelt upon. So, when the old men gather, they say: “When I was a boy!”
 It really is the land of nowadays that we never discover.

“When I’m a man,” said Sam Williams, “I’m goin’ to hire me a couple of
coloured waiters to swing me in a hammock and keep pourin’ ice-water on
me all day out o’ those waterin’-cans they sprinkle flowers from. I’ll
hire you for one of ‘em, Herman.”

“No; you ain’ goin’ to,” said Herman promptly. “You ain’ no flowuh.
But nev’ min’ nat, anyway. Ain’ nobody goin’ haih me whens _I_‘m a man.
Goin’ be my own boss. _I_‘m go’ be a rai’road man!”

“You mean like a superintendent, or sumpthing like that, and sell
tickets?” asked Penrod.

“Sup’in--nev’ min’ nat! Sell ticket? NO suh! Go’ be a PO’tuh! My uncle a
po’tuh right now. Solid gole buttons--oh, oh!”

“Generals get a lot more buttons than porters,” said Penrod.
“Generals----”

“Po’tuhs make the bes’ l’vin’,” Herman interrupted. “My uncle spen’ mo’
money ‘n any white man n’is town.”

“Well, I rather be a general,” said Penrod, “or a senator, or sumpthing
like that.”

“Senators live in Warshington,” Maurice Levy contributed the
information. “I been there. Warshington ain’t so much; Niag’ra Falls is
a hundred times as good as Warshington. So’s ‘Tlantic City, I was there,
too. I been everywhere there is. I----”

“Well, anyway,” said Sam Williams, raising his voice in order to obtain
the floor, “anyway, I’m goin’ to lay in a hammock all day, and have
ice-water sprinkled on top o’ me, and I’m goin’ to lay there all night,
too, and the next day. I’m goin’ to lay there a couple o’ years, maybe.”

“I bet you don’t!” exclaimed Maurice. “What’d you do in winter?”

“What?”

“What you goin’ to do when it’s winter, out in a hammock with water
sprinkled on top o’ you all day? I bet you----”

“I’d stay right there,” Sam declared, with strong conviction, blinking
as he looked out through the open doors at the dazzling lawn and trees,
trembling in the heat. “They couldn’t sprinkle too much for ME!”

“It’d make icicles all over you, and----”

“I wish it would,” said Sam. “I’d eat ‘em up.”

“And it’d snow on you----”

“Yay! I’d swaller it as fast as it’d come down. I wish I had a BARREL
o’ snow right now. I wish this whole barn was full of it. I wish they
wasn’t anything in the whole world except just good ole snow.”

Penrod and Herman rose and went out to the hydrant, where they drank
long and ardently. Sam was still talking about snow when they returned.

“No, I wouldn’t just roll in it. I’d stick it all round inside my
clo’es, and fill my hat. No, I’d freeze a big pile of it all hard, and
I’d roll her out flat and then I’d carry her down to some ole tailor’s
and have him make me a SUIT out of her, and----”

“Can’t you keep still about your ole snow?” demanded Penrod petulantly.
“Makes me so thirsty I can’t keep still, and I’ve drunk so much now I
bet I bust. That ole hydrant water’s mighty near hot anyway.”

“I’m goin’ to have a big store, when I grow up,” volunteered Maurice.

“Candy store?” asked Penrod.

“NO, sir! I’ll have candy in it, but not to eat, so much. It’s goin’ to
be a deportment store: ladies’ clothes, gentlemen’s clothes, neckties,
china goods, leather goods, nice lines in woollings and lace goods----”

“Yay! I wouldn’t give a five-for-a-cent marble for your whole store,”
 said Sam. “Would you, Penrod?”

“Not for ten of ‘em; not for a million of ‘em! _I_‘m goin’ to have----”

“Wait!” clamoured Maurice. “You’d be foolish, because they’d be a toy
deportment in my store where they’d be a hunderd marbles! So, how much
would you think your five-for-a-cent marble counts for? And when I’m
keepin’ my store I’m goin’ to get married.”

“Yay!” shrieked Sam derisively. “MARRIED! Listen!” Penrod and Herman
joined in the howl of contempt.

“Certumly I’ll get married,” asserted Maurice stoutly. “I’ll get married
to Marjorie Jones. She likes me awful good, and I’m her beau.”

“What makes you think so?” inquired Penrod in a cryptic voice.

“Because she’s my beau, too,” came the prompt answer. “I’m her beau
because she’s my beau; I guess that’s plenty reason! I’ll get married to
her as soon as I get my store running nice.”

Penrod looked upon him darkly, but, for the moment, held his peace.

“Married!” jeered Sam Williams. “Married to Marjorie Jones! You’re the
only boy I ever heard say he was going to get married. I wouldn’t
get married for--why, I wouldn’t for--for----” Unable to think of
any inducement the mere mention of which would not be ridiculously
incommensurate, he proceeded: “I wouldn’t do it! What you want to get
married for? What do married people do, except just come home tired, and
worry around and kind of scold? You better not do it, M’rice; you’ll be
mighty sorry.”

“Everybody gets married,” stated Maurice, holding his ground.

“They gotta.”

“I’ll bet _I_ don’t!” Sam returned hotly. “They better catch me before
they tell ME I have to. Anyway, I bet nobody has to get married unless
they want to.”

“They do, too,” insisted Maurice. “They GOTTA!”

“Who told you?”

“Look at what my own papa told me!” cried Maurice, heated with argument.
“Didn’t he tell me your papa had to marry your mamma, or else he
never’d got to handle a cent of her money? Certumly, people gotta marry.
Everybody. You don’t know anybody over twenty years old that isn’t
married--except maybe teachers.”

“Look at policemen!” shouted Sam triumphantly. “You don’t s’pose anybody
can make policemen get married, I reckon, do you?”

“Well, policemen, maybe,” Maurice was forced to admit. “Policemen and
teachers don’t, but everybody else gotta.”

“Well, I’ll be a policeman,” said Sam. “THEN I guess they won’t come
around tellin’ me I have to get married. What you goin’ to be, Penrod?”

“Chief police,” said the laconic Penrod.

“What you?” Sam inquired of quiet Georgie Bassett.

“I am going to be,” said Georgie, consciously, “a minister.”

This announcement created a sensation so profound that it was followed
by silence. Herman was the first to speak.

“You mean preachuh?” he asked incredulously. “You go’ PREACH?”

“Yes,” answered Georgie, looking like Saint Cecilia at the organ.

Herman was impressed. “You know all ‘at preachuh talk?”

“I’m going to learn it,” said Georgie simply.

“How loud kin you holler?” asked Herman doubtfully.

“He can’t holler at all,” Penrod interposed with scorn. “He hollers like
a girl. He’s the poorest hollerer in town!”

Herman shook his head. Evidently he thought Georgie’s chance of being
ordained very slender. Nevertheless, a final question put to the
candidate by the coloured expert seemed to admit one ray of hope.

“How good kin you clim a pole?”

“He can’t climb one at all,” Penrod answered for Georgie. “Over at Sam’s
turning-pole you ought to see him try to----”

“Preachers don’t have to climb poles,” Georgie said with dignity.

“GOOD ones do,” declared Herman. “Bes’ one ev’ _I_ hear, he clim up an’
down same as a circus man. One n’em big ‘vivals outen whens we livin’ on
a fahm, preachuh clim big pole right in a middle o’ the church, what
was to hol’ roof up. He clim way high up, an’ holler: ‘Goin’ to heavum,
goin’ to heavum, goin’ to heavum NOW. Hallelujah, praise my Lawd!’ An’
he slide down little, an’ holler: ‘Devil’s got a hol’ o’ my coat-tails;
devil tryin’ to drag me down! Sinnuhs, take wawnun! Devil got a hol’ o’
my coat-tails; I’m a-goin’ to hell, oh Lawd!’ Nex’, he clim up little
mo’, an’ yell an’ holler: ‘Done shuck ole devil loose; goin’ straight to
heavum agin! Goin’ to heavum, goin’ to heavum, my Lawd!’ Nex’, he slide
down some mo’ an’ holler, ‘Leggo my coat-tails, ole devil! Goin’ to
hell agin, sinnuhs! Goin’ straight to hell, my Lawd!’ An’ he clim an’ he
slide, an’ he slide, an’ he clim, an’ all time holler: ‘Now ‘m a-goin’
to heavum; now ‘m a-goin’ to hell! Goin’to heavum, heavum, heavum, my
Lawd!’ Las’ he slide all a-way down, jes’ a-squallin’ an’ a-kickin’ an’
a-rarin’ up an’ squealin’, ‘Goin’ to hell. Goin’ to hell! Ole Satum got
my soul! Goin’ to hell! Goin’ to hell! Goin’ to hell, hell, hell!”

Herman possessed that extraordinary facility for vivid acting which is
the great native gift of his race, and he enchained his listeners. They
sat fascinated and spellbound.

“Herman, tell that again!” said Penrod, breathlessly.

Herman, nothing loath, accepted the encore and repeated the Miltonic
episode, expanding it somewhat, and dwelling with a fine art upon those
portions of the narrative which he perceived to be most exciting to his
audience. Plainly, they thrilled less to Paradise gained than to its
losing, and the dreadful climax of the descent into the Pit was the
greatest treat of all.

The effect was immense and instant. Penrod sprang to his feet.

“Georgie Bassett couldn’t do that to save his life,” he declared. “_I_‘m
goin’ to be a preacher! I’D be all right for one, wouldn’t I, Herman?”

“So am I!” Sam Williams echoed loudly. “I guess I can do it if YOU can.
I’d be better’n Penrod, wouldn’t I, Herman?”

“I am, too!” Maurice shouted. “I got a stronger voice than anybody here,
and I’d like to know what----”

The three clamoured together indistinguishably, each asserting his
qualifications for the ministry according to Herman’s theory, which had
been accepted by these sudden converts without question.

“Listen to ME!” Maurice bellowed, proving his claim to at least the
voice by drowning the others. “Maybe I can’t climb a pole so good, but
who can holler louder’n this? Listen to ME-E-E!”

“Shut up!” cried Penrod, irritated. “Go to heaven; go to hell!”

“Oo-o-oh!” exclaimed Georgie Bassett, profoundly shocked.

Sam and Maurice, awed by Penrod’s daring, ceased from turmoil, staring
wide-eyed.

“You cursed and swore!” said Georgie.

“I did not!” cried Penrod, hotly. “That isn’t swearing.”

“You said, ‘Go to a big H’!” said Georgie.

“I did not! I said, ‘Go to heaven,’ before I said a big H. That isn’t
swearing, is it, Herman? It’s almost what the preacher said, ain’t it,
Herman? It ain’t swearing now, any more--not if you put ‘go to heaven’
with it, is it, Herman? You can say it all you want to, long as you
say ‘go to heaven’ first, CAN’T you, Herman? Anybody can say it if
the preacher says it, can’t they, Herman? I guess I know when I ain’t
swearing, don’t I, Herman?”

Judge Herman ruled for the defendant, and Penrod was considered to have
carried his point. With fine consistency, the conclave established
that it was proper for the general public to “say it,” provided “go to
heaven” should in all cases precede it. This prefix was pronounced a
perfect disinfectant, removing all odour of impiety or insult; and, with
the exception of Georgie Bassett (who maintained that the minister’s
words were “going” and “gone,” not “go”), all the boys proceeded to
exercise their new privilege so lavishly that they tired of it.

But there was no diminution of evangelical ardour; again were heard the
clamours of dispute as to which was the best qualified for the ministry,
each of the claimants appealing passionately to Herman, who, pleased but
confused, appeared to be incapable of arriving at a decision.

During a pause, Georgie Bassett asserted his prior rights. “Who said
it first, I’d like to know?” he demanded. “I was going to be a minister
from long back of to-day, I guess. And I guess I said I was going to be
a minister right to-day before any of you said anything at all. DIDN’T
I, Herman? YOU heard me, didn’t you, Herman? That’s the very thing
started you talking about it, wasn’t it, Herman?”

“You’ right,” said Herman. “You the firs’ one to say it.”

Penrod, Sam, and Maurice immediately lost faith in Herman.

“What if you did say it first?” Penrod shouted. “You couldn’t BE a
minister if you were a hunderd years old!”

“I bet his mother wouldn’t let him be one,” said Sam. “She never lets
him do anything.”

“She would, too,” retorted Georgie. “Ever since I was little, she----”

“He’s too sissy to be a preacher!” cried Maurice. “Listen at his squeaky
voice!”

“I’m going to be a better minister,” shouted Georgie, “than all three of
you put together. I could do it with my left hand!”

The three laughed bitingly in chorus. They jeered, derided, scoffed,
and raised an uproar which would have had its effect upon much stronger
nerves than Georgie’s. For a time he contained his rising choler and
chanted monotonously, over and over: “I COULD! I COULD, TOO! I COULD!
I COULD, TOO!” But their tumult wore upon him, and he decided to avail
himself of the recent decision whereby a big H was rendered innocuous
and unprofane. Having used the expression once, he found it comforting,
and substituted it for: “I could! I could, too!”

But it relieved him only temporarily. His tormentors were unaffected
by it and increased their howlings, until at last Georgie lost his head
altogether. Badgered beyond bearing, his eyes shining with a wild light,
he broke through the besieging trio, hurling little Maurice from his
path with a frantic hand.

“I’ll show you!” he cried, in this sudden frenzy. “You give me a chance,
and I’ll prove it right NOW!”

“That’s talkin’ business!” shouted Penrod. “Everybody keep still a
minute. Everybody!”

He took command of the situation at once, displaying a fine capacity for
organization and system. It needed only a few minutes to set order in
the place of confusion and to determine, with the full concurrence of
all parties, the conditions under which Georgie Bassett was to defend
his claim by undergoing what may be perhaps intelligibly defined as the
Herman test. Georgie declared he could do it easily. He was in a state
of great excitement and in no condition to think calmly or, probably, he
would not have made the attempt at all. Certainly he was overconfident.



CHAPTER XXVII CONCLUSION OF THE QUIET AFTERNOON

It was during the discussion of the details of this enterprise that
Georgie’s mother, a short distance down the street, received a few
female callers, who came by appointment to drink a glass of iced tea
with her, and to meet the Rev. Mr. Kinosling. Mr. Kinosling was proving
almost formidably interesting to the women and girls of his own
and other flocks. What favour of his fellow clergymen a slight
precociousness of manner and pronunciation cost him was more than
balanced by the visible ecstasies of ladies. They blossomed at his
touch.

He had just entered Mrs. Bassett’s front door, when the son of the
house, followed by an intent and earnest company of four, opened the
alley gate and came into the yard. The unconscious Mrs. Bassett was
about to have her first experience of a fatal coincidence. It was her
first, because she was the mother of a boy so well behaved that he had
become a proverb of transcendency. Fatal coincidences were plentiful
in the Schofield and Williams families, and would have been familiar to
Mrs. Bassett had Georgie been permitted greater intimacy with Penrod and
Sam.

Mr. Kinosling sipped his iced tea and looked about, him approvingly.
Seven ladies leaned forward, for it was to be seen that he meant to
speak.

“This cool room is a relief,” he said, waving a graceful hand in
a neatly limited gesture, which everybody’s eyes followed, his own
included. “It is a relief and a retreat. The windows open, the blinds
closed--that is as it should be. It is a retreat, a fastness, a bastion
against the heat’s assault. For me, a quiet room--a quiet room and a
book, a volume in the hand, held lightly between the fingers. A volume
of poems, lines metrical and cadenced; something by a sound Victorian.
We have no later poets.”

“Swinburne?” suggested Miss Beam, an eager spinster. “Swinburne, Mr.
Kinosling? Ah, SWINBURNE!”

“Not Swinburne,” said Mr. Kinosling chastely. “No.”

That concluded all the remarks about Swinburne.


Miss Beam retired in confusion behind another lady; and somehow there
became diffused an impression that Miss Beam was erotic.

“I do not observe your manly little son,” Mr. Kinosling addressed his
hostess.

“He’s out playing in the yard,” Mrs. Bassett returned. “I heard his
voice just now, I think.”

“Everywhere I hear wonderful report of him,” said Mr. Kinosling. “I
may say that I understand boys, and I feel that he is a rare, a fine, a
pure, a lofty spirit. I say spirit, for spirit is the word I hear spoken
of him.”

A chorus of enthusiastic approbation affirmed the accuracy of this
proclamation, and Mrs. Bassett flushed with pleasure. Georgie’s
spiritual perfection was demonstrated by instances of it, related by
the visitors; his piety was cited, and wonderful things he had said were
quoted.

“Not all boys are pure, of fine spirit, of high mind,” said Mr.
Kinosling, and continued with true feeling: “You have a neighbour, dear
Mrs. Bassett, whose household I indeed really feel it quite impossible
to visit until such time when better, firmer, stronger handed, more
determined discipline shall prevail. I find Mr. and Mrs. Schofield and
their daughter charming----”

Three or four ladies said “Oh!” and spoke a name simultaneously. It was
as if they had said, “Oh, the bubonic plague!”

“Oh! Penrod Schofield!”

“Georgie does not play with him,” said Mrs. Bassett quickly--“that
is, he avoids him as much as he can without hurting Penrod’s feelings.
Georgie is very sensitive to giving pain. I suppose a mother should not
tell these things, and I know people who talk about their own children
are dreadful bores, but it was only last Thursday night that Georgie
looked up in my face so sweetly, after he had said his prayers and his
little cheeks flushed, as he said: ‘Mamma, I think it would be right for
me to go more with Penrod. I think it would make him a better boy.’”

A sibilance went about the room. “Sweet! How sweet! The sweet little
soul! Ah, SWEET!”

“And that very afternoon,” continued Mrs. Bassett, “he had come home in
a dreadful state. Penrod had thrown tar all over him.”

“Your son has a forgiving spirit!” said Mr. Kinosling with vehemence. “A
too forgiving spirit, perhaps.” He set down his glass. “No more, I thank
you. No more cake, I thank you. Was it not Cardinal Newman who said----”

He was interrupted by the sounds of an altercation just outside the
closed blinds of the window nearest him.

“Let him pick his tree!” It was the voice of Samuel Williams. “Didn’t we
come over here to give him one of his own trees? Give him a fair show,
can’t you?”

“The little lads!” Mr. Kinosling smiled. “They have their games, their
outdoor sports, their pastimes. The young muscles are toughening. The
sun will not harm them. They grow; they expand; they learn. They learn
fair play, honour, courtesy, from one another, as pebbles grow round
in the brook. They learn more from themselves than from us. They take
shape, form, outline. Let them.”

“Mr. Kinosling!” Another spinster--undeterred by what had happened
to Miss Beam--leaned fair forward, her face shining and ardent. “Mr.
Kinosling, there’s a question I DO wish to ask you.”

“My dear Miss Cosslit,” Mr. Kinosling responded, again waving his hand
and watching it, “I am entirely at your disposal.”

“WAS Joan of Arc,” she asked fervently, “inspired by spirits?”

He smiled indulgently. “Yes--and no,” he said. “One must give both
answers. One must give the answer, yes; one must give the answer, no.”

“Oh, THANK you!” said Miss Cosslit, blushing.

“She’s one of my great enthusiasms, you know.”

“And I have a question, too,” urged Mrs. Lora Rewbush, after a moment’s
hasty concentration. “‘I’ve never been able to settle it for myself, but
NOW----”

“Yes?” said Mr. Kinosling encouragingly.

“Is--ah--is--oh, yes: Is Sanskrit a more difficult language than
Spanish, Mr. Kinosling?”

“It depends upon the student,” replied the oracle smiling. “One must not
look for linguists everywhere. In my own especial case--if one may cite
one’s self as an example--I found no great, no insurmountable difficulty
in mastering, in conquering either.”

“And may _I_ ask one?” ventured Mrs. Bassett. “Do you think it is right
to wear egrets?”

“There are marks of quality, of caste, of social distinction,” Mr.
Kinosling began, “which must be permitted, allowed, though perhaps
regulated. Social distinction, one observes, almost invariably
implies spiritual distinction as well. Distinction of circumstances
is accompanied by mental distinction. Distinction is hereditary; it
descends from father to son, and if there is one thing more true
than ‘Like father, like son,’ it is--” he bowed gallantly to Mrs.
Bassett--“it is, ‘Like mother, like son.’ What these good ladies have
said this afternoon of YOUR----”

This was the fatal instant. There smote upon all ears the voice of
Georgie, painfully shrill and penetrating--fraught with protest and
protracted, strain. His plain words consisted of the newly sanctioned
and disinfected curse with a big H.

With an ejaculation of horror, Mrs. Bassett sprang to the window and
threw open the blinds.

Georgie’s back was disclosed to the view of the tea-party. He was
endeavouring to ascend a maple tree about twelve feet from the window.
Embracing the trunk with arms and legs, he had managed to squirm to a
point above the heads of Penrod and Herman, who stood close by, watching
him earnestly--Penrod being obviously in charge of the performance.
Across the yard were Sam Williams and Maurice Levy, acting as a jury on
the question of voice-power, and it was to a complaint of theirs that
Georgie had just replied.

“That’s right, Georgie,” said Penrod encouragingly. “They can, too, hear
you. Let her go!”

“Going to heaven!” shrieked Georgie, squirming up another inch. “Going
to heaven, heaven, heaven!”

His mother’s frenzied attempts to attract his attention failed utterly.
Georgie was using the full power of his lungs, deafening his own ears to
all other sounds. Mrs. Bassett called in vain; while the tea-party stood
petrified in a cluster about the window.

“Going to heaven!” Georgie bellowed. “Going to heaven! Going to heaven,
my Lord! Going to heaven, heaven, heaven!”

He tried to climb higher, but began to slip downward, his exertions
causing damage to his apparel. A button flew into the air, and his
knickerbockers and his waistband severed relations.

“Devil’s got my coat-tails, sinners! Old devil’s got my coat-tails!” he
announced appropriately. Then he began to slide.

He relaxed his clasp of the tree and slid to the ground.

“Going to hell!” shrieked Georgie, reaching a high pitch of enthusiasm
in this great climax. “Going to hell! Going to hell! I’m gone to hell,
hell, hell!”

With a loud scream, Mrs. Bassett threw herself out of the window,
alighting by some miracle upon her feet with ankles unsprained.

Mr. Kinosling, feeling that his presence as spiritual adviser was
demanded in the yard, followed with greater dignity through the front
door. At the corner of the house a small departing figure collided with
him violently. It was Penrod, tactfully withdrawing from what promised
to be a family scene of unusual painfulness.

Mr. Kinosling seized him by the shoulders and, giving way to emotion,
shook him viciously.

“You horrible boy!” exclaimed Mr. Kinosling. “You ruffianly creature! Do
you know what’s going to happen to you when you grow up? Do you realize
what you’re going to BE!”

With flashing eyes, the indignant boy made know his unshaken purpose. He
shouted the reply:

“A minister!”



CHAPTER XXVIII TWELVE

This busy globe which spawns us is as incapable of flattery and as
intent upon its own affair, whatever that is, as a gyroscope; it keeps
steadily whirling along its lawful track, and, thus far seeming to hold
a right of way, spins doggedly on, with no perceptible diminution of
speed to mark the most gigantic human events--it did not pause to pant
and recuperate even when what seemed to Penrod its principal purpose
was accomplished, and an enormous shadow, vanishing westward over its
surface, marked the dawn of his twelfth birthday.

To be twelve is an attainment worth the struggle. A boy, just twelve, is
like a Frenchman just elected to the Academy.

Distinction and honour wait upon him. Younger boys show deference to a
person of twelve: his experience is guaranteed, his judgment, therefore,
mellow; consequently, his influence is profound. Eleven is not quite
satisfactory: it is only an approach. Eleven has the disadvantage of
six, of nineteen, of forty-four, and of sixty-nine. But, like twelve,
seven is an honourable age, and the ambition to attain it is laudable.
People look forward to being seven. Similarly, twenty is worthy, and so,
arbitrarily, is twenty-one; forty-five has great solidity; seventy is
most commendable and each year thereafter an increasing honour. Thirteen
is embarrassed by the beginnings of a new colthood; the child becomes a
youth. But twelve is the very top of boyhood.

Dressing, that morning, Penrod felt that the world was changed from the
world of yesterday. For one thing, he seemed to own more of it; this
day was HIS day. And it was a day worth owning; the midsummer sunshine,
pouring gold through his window, came from a cool sky, and a breeze
moved pleasantly in his hair as he leaned from the sill to watch the
tribe of clattering blackbirds take wing, following their leader
from the trees in the yard to the day’s work in the open country. The
blackbirds were his, as the sunshine and the breeze were his, for they
all belonged to the day which was his birthday and therefore most surely
his. Pride suffused him: he was twelve!

His father and his mother and Margaret seemed to understand the
difference between to-day and yesterday. They were at the table when
he descended, and they gave him a greeting which of itself marked the
milestone. Habitually, his entrance into a room where his elders sat
brought a cloud of apprehension: they were prone to look up in pathetic
expectancy, as if their thought was, “What new awfulness is he going to
start NOW?” But this morning they laughed; his mother rose and kissed
him twelve times, so did Margaret; and his father shouted, “Well, well!
How’s the MAN?”

Then his mother gave him a Bible and “The Vicar of Wakefield”; Margaret
gave him a pair of silver-mounted hair brushes; and his father gave him
a “Pocket Atlas” and a small compass.

“And now, Penrod,” said his mother, after breakfast, “I’m going to
take you out in the country to pay your birthday respects to Aunt Sarah
Crim.”

Aunt Sarah Crim, Penrod’s great-aunt, was his oldest living relative.
She was ninety, and when Mrs. Schofield and Penrod alighted from a
carriage at her gate they found her digging with a spade in the garden.

“I’m glad you brought him,” she said, desisting from labour. “Jinny’s
baking a cake I’m going to send for his birthday party. Bring him in the
house. I’ve got something for him.”

She led the way to her “sitting-room,” which had a pleasant smell,
unlike any other smell, and, opening the drawer of a shining old
what-not, took therefrom a boy’s “sling-shot,” made of a forked stick,
two strips of rubber and a bit of leather.

“This isn’t for you,” she said, placing it in Penrod’s eager hand.
“No. It would break all to pieces the first time you tried to shoot
it, because it is thirty-five years old. I want to send it back to your
father. I think it’s time. You give it to him from me, and tell him
I say I believe I can trust him with it now. I took it away from him
thirty-five years ago, one day after he’d killed my best hen with
it, accidentally, and broken a glass pitcher on the back porch with
it--accidentally. He doesn’t look like a person who’s ever done things
of that sort, and I suppose he’s forgotten it so well that he believes
he never DID, but if you give it to him from me I think he’ll remember.
You look like him, Penrod. He was anything but a handsome boy.”

After this final bit of reminiscence--probably designed to be repeated
to Mr. Schofield--she disappeared in the direction of the kitchen,
and returned with a pitcher of lemonade and a blue china dish sweetly
freighted with flat ginger cookies of a composition that was her own
secret. Then, having set this collation before her guests, she presented
Penrod with a superb, intricate, and very modern machine of destructive
capacities almost limitless. She called it a pocket-knife.

“I suppose you’ll do something horrible with it,” she said, composedly.
“I hear you do that with everything, anyhow, so you might as well do it
with this, and have more fun out of it. They tell me you’re the Worst
Boy in Town.”

“Oh, Aunt Sarah!” Mrs. Schofield lifted a protesting hand.

“Nonsense!” said Mrs. Crim.

“But on his birthday!”

“That’s the time to say it. Penrod, aren’t you the Worst Boy in Town?”

Penrod, gazing fondly upon his knife and eating cookies rapidly,
answered as a matter of course, and absently, “Yes’m.”

“Certainly!” said Mrs. Crim. “Once you accept a thing about yourself
as established and settled, it’s all right. Nobody minds. Boys are just
people, really.”

“No, no!” Mrs. Schofield cried, involuntarily.

“Yes, they are,” returned Aunt Sarah. “Only they’re not quite so awful,
because they haven’t learned to cover themselves all over with little
pretences. When Penrod grows up he’ll be just the same as he is now,
except that whenever he does what he wants to do he’ll tell himself and
other people a little story about it to make his reason for doing it
seem nice and pretty and noble.”

“No, I won’t!” said Penrod suddenly.

“There’s one cookie left,” observed Aunt Sarah. “Are you going to eat
it?”

“Well,” said her great-nephew, thoughtfully, “I guess I better.”

“Why?” asked the old lady. “Why do you guess you’d ‘better’?”

“Well,” said Penrod, with a full mouth, “it might get all dried up if
nobody took it, and get thrown out and wasted.”

“You’re beginning finely,” Mrs. Crim remarked. “A year ago you’d have
taken the cookie without the same sense of thrift.”

“Ma’am?”

“Nothing. I see that you’re twelve years old, that’s all. There are more
cookies, Penrod.” She went away, returning with a fresh supply and the
observation, “Of course, you’ll be sick before the day’s over; you might
as well get a good start.”

Mrs. Schofield looked thoughtful. “Aunt Sarah,” she ventured, “don’t you
really think we improve as we get older?”

“Meaning,” said the old lady, “that Penrod hasn’t much chance to escape
the penitentiary if he doesn’t? Well, we do learn to restrain ourselves
in some things; and there are people who really want someone else to
take the last cookie, though they aren’t very common. But it’s all
right, the world seems to be getting on.” She gazed whimsically upon her
great-nephew and added, “Of course, when you watch a boy and think about
him, it doesn’t seem to be getting on very fast.”

Penrod moved uneasily in his chair; he was conscious that he was her
topic but unable to make out whether or not her observations were
complimentary; he inclined to think they were not. Mrs. Crim settled the
question for him.

“I suppose Penrod is regarded as the neighbourhood curse?”

“Oh, no,” cried Mrs. Schofield. “He----”

“I dare say the neighbours are right,” continued the old lady placidly.
“He’s had to repeat the history of the race and go through all the
stages from the primordial to barbarism. You don’t expect boys to be
civilized, do you?”

“Well, I----”

“You might as well expect eggs to crow. No; you’ve got to take boys as
they are, and learn to know them as they are.”

“Naturally, Aunt Sarah,” said Mrs. Schofield, “I KNOW Penrod.”

Aunt Sarah laughed heartily. “Do you think his father knows him, too?”

“Of course, men are different,” Mrs. Schofield returned, apologetically.
“But a mother knows----”

“Penrod,” said Aunt Sarah, solemnly, “does your father understand you?”

“Ma’am?”

“About as much as he’d understand Sitting Bull!” she laughed.

“And I’ll tell you what your mother thinks you are, Penrod. Her real
belief is that you’re a novice in a convent.”

“Ma’am?”

“Aunt Sarah!”

“I know she thinks that, because whenever you don’t behave like a novice
she’s disappointed in you. And your father really believes that you’re
a decorous, well-trained young business man, and whenever you don’t
live up to that standard you get on his nerves and he thinks you need a
walloping. I’m sure a day very seldom passes without their both saying
they don’t know what on earth to do with you. Does whipping do you any
good, Penrod?”

“Ma’am?”

“Go on and finish the lemonade; there’s about glassful left. Oh, take
it, take it; and don’t say why! Of COURSE you’re a little pig.”

Penrod laughed gratefully, his eyes fixed upon her over the rim of his
uptilted glass.

“Fill yourself up uncomfortably,” said the old lady. “You’re twelve
years old, and you ought to be happy--if you aren’t anything else. It’s
taken over nineteen hundred years of Christianity and some hundreds of
thousands of years of other things to produce you, and there you sit!”

“Ma’am?”

“It’ll be your turn to struggle and muss things up, for the betterment
of posterity, soon enough,” said Aunt Sarah Crim. “Drink your lemonade!”


CHAPTER XXIX FANCHON

“Aunt Sarah’s a funny old lady,” Penrod observed, on the way back to the
town. “What’s she want me to give papa this old sling for? Last thing
she said was to be sure not to forget to give it to him. HE don’t want
it; and she said, herself, it ain’t any good. She’s older than you or
papa, isn’t she?”

“About fifty years older,” answered Mrs. Schofield, turning upon him a
stare of perplexity. “Don’t cut into the leather with your new knife,
dear; the livery man might ask us to pay if----No. I wouldn’t scrape
the paint off, either--nor whittle your shoe with it. COULDN’T you put
it up until we get home?”

“We goin’ straight home?”

“No. We’re going to stop at Mrs. Gelbraith’s and ask a strange little
girl to come to your party, this afternoon.”

“Who?”

“Her name is Fanchon. She’s Mrs. Gelbraith’s little niece.”

“What makes her so queer?”

“I didn’t say she’s queer.”

“You said----”

“No; I mean that she is a stranger. She lives in New York and has come
to visit here.”

“What’s she live in New York for?”

“Because her parents live there. You must be very nice to her, Penrod;
she has been very carefully brought up. Besides, she doesn’t know the
children here, and you must help to keep her from feeling lonely at your
party.”

“Yes’m.”

When they reached Mrs. Gelbraith’s, Penrod sat patiently humped upon a
gilt chair during the lengthy exchange of greetings between his mother.
and Mrs. Gelbraith. That is one of the things a boy must learn to bear:
when his mother meets a compeer there is always a long and dreary wait
for him, while the two appear to be using strange symbols of speech,
talking for the greater part, it seems to him, simultaneously, and
employing a wholly incomprehensible system of emphasis at other times
not in vogue. Penrod twisted his legs, his cap and his nose.

“Here she is!” Mrs. Gelbraith cried, unexpectedly, and a dark-haired,
demure person entered the room wearing a look of gracious social
expectancy. In years she was eleven, in manner about sixty-five,
and evidently had lived much at court. She performed a curtsey in
acknowledgment of Mrs. Schofield’s greeting, and bestowed her hand
upon Penrod, who had entertained no hope of such an honour, showed his
surprise that it should come to him, and was plainly unable to decide
what to do about it.

“Fanchon, dear,” said Mrs. Gelbraith, “take Penrod out in the yard for a
while, and play.”

“Let go the little girl’s hand, Penrod,” Mrs. Schofield laughed, as the
children turned toward the door.

Penrod hastily dropped the small hand, and exclaiming, with simple
honesty, “Why, _I_ don’t want it!” followed Fanchon out into the
sunshiny yard, where they came to a halt and surveyed each other.

Penrod stared awkwardly at Fanchon, no other occupation suggesting
itself to him, while Fanchon, with the utmost coolness, made a very
thorough visual examination of Penrod, favouring him with an estimating
scrutiny which lasted until he literally wiggled. Finally, she spoke.

“Where do you buy your ties?” she asked.

“What?”

“Where do you buy your neckties? Papa gets his at Skoone’s. You ought to
get yours there. I’m sure the one you’re wearing isn’t from Skoone’s.”

“Skoone’s?” Penrod repeated. “Skoone’s?”

“On Fifth Avenue,” said Fanchon. “It’s a very smart shop, the men say.”

“Men?” echoed Penrod, in a hazy whisper. “Men?”

“Where do your people go in summer?” inquired the lady. “WE go to Long
Shore, but so many middle-class people have begun coming there, mamma
thinks of leaving. The middle classes are simply awful, don’t you
think?”

“What?”

“They’re so boorjaw. You speak French, of course?”

“Me?”

“We ran over to Paris last year. It’s lovely, don’t you think? Don’t you
LOVE the Rue de la Paix?”

Penrod wandered in a labyrinth. This girl seemed to be talking, but her
words were dumfounding, and of course there was no way for him to know
that he was really listening to her mother. It was his first meeting
with one of those grown-up little girls, wonderful product of the winter
apartment and summer hotel; and Fanchon, an only child, was a star of
the brand. He began to feel resentful.

“I suppose,” she went on, “I’ll find everything here fearfully Western.
Some nice people called yesterday, though. Do you know the Magsworth
Bittses? Auntie says they’re charming. Will Roddy be at your party?”

“I guess he will,” returned Penrod, finding this intelligible. “The
mutt!”

“Really!” Fanchon exclaimed airily. “Aren’t you great pals with him?”

“What’s ‘pals’?”

“Good heavens! Don’t you know what it means to say you’re ‘great pals’
with any one? You ARE an odd child!”

It was too much.

“Oh, Bugs!” said Penrod.

This bit of ruffianism had a curious effect. Fanchon looked upon him
with sudden favour.

“I like you, Penrod!” she said, in an odd way, and, whatever else there
may have been in her manner, there certainly was no shyness.

“Oh, Bugs!” This repetition may have lacked gallantry, but it was
uttered in no very decided tone. Penrod was shaken.

“Yes, I do!” She stepped closer to him, smiling. “Your hair is ever so
pretty.”

Sailors’ parrots swear like mariners, they say; and gay mothers ought to
realize that all children are imitative, for, as the precocious Fanchon
leaned toward Penrod, the manner in which she looked into his eyes might
have made a thoughtful observer wonder where she had learned her pretty
ways.

Penrod was even more confused than he had been by her previous
mysteries: but his confusion was of a distinctly pleasant and alluring
nature: he wanted more of it. Looking intentionally into another
person’s eyes is an act unknown to childhood; and Penrod’s discovery
that it could be done was sensational. He had never thought of looking
into the eyes of Marjorie Jones.

Despite all anguish, contumely, tar, and Maurice Levy, he still secretly
thought of Marjorie, with pathetic constancy, as his “beau”--though that
is not how he would have spelled it. Marjorie was beautiful; her
curls were long and the colour of amber; her nose was straight and
her freckles were honest; she was much prettier than this accomplished
visitor. But beauty is not all.

“I do!” breathed Fanchon, softly.

She seemed to him a fairy creature from some rosier world than this. So
humble is the human heart, it glorifies and makes glamorous almost any
poor thing that says to it: “I like you!”

Penrod was enslaved. He swallowed, coughed, scratched the back of his
neck, and said, disjointedly:

“Well--I don’t care if you want to. I just as soon.”

“We’ll dance together,” said Fanchon, “at your party.”

“I guess so. I just as soon.”

“Don’t you want to, Penrod?”

“Well, I’m willing to.”

“No. Say you WANT to!”

“Well----”

He used his toe as a gimlet, boring into the ground, his wide open eyes
staring with intense vacancy at a button on his sleeve.

His mother appeared upon the porch in departure, calling farewells over
her shoulder to Mrs. Gelbraith, who stood in the doorway.

“Say it!” whispered Fanchon.

“Well, I just as SOON.”

She seemed satisfied.



CHAPTER XXX THE BIRTHDAY PARTY

A dancing floor had been laid upon a platform in the yard, when Mrs.
Schofield and her son arrived at their own abode; and a white and
scarlet striped canopy was in process of erection overhead, to shelter
the dancers from the sun. Workmen were busy everywhere under the
direction of Margaret, and the smitten heart of Penrod began to beat
rapidly. All this was for him; he was Twelve!

After lunch, he underwent an elaborate toilette and murmured not. For
the first time in his life he knew the wish to be sand-papered, waxed,
and polished to the highest possible degree. And when the operation was
over, he stood before the mirror in new bloom, feeling encouraged to
hope that his resemblance to his father was not so strong as Aunt Sarah
seemed to think.

The white gloves upon his hands had a pleasant smell, he found; and, as
he came down the stairs, he had great content in the twinkling of his
new dancing slippers. He stepped twice on each step, the better to enjoy
their effect and at the same time he deeply inhaled the odour of the
gloves. In spite of everything, Penrod had his social capacities.
Already it is to be perceived that there were in him the makings of a
cotillon leader.

Then came from the yard a sound of tuning instruments, squeak of fiddle,
croon of ‘cello, a falling triangle ringing and tinkling to the floor;
and he turned pale.

Chosen guests began to arrive, while Penrod, suffering from stage-fright
and perspiration, stood beside his mother, in the “drawing-room,”
 to receive them. He greeted unfamiliar acquaintances and intimate
fellow-criminals with the same frigidity, murmuring: “‘M glad to see
y’,” to all alike, largely increasing the embarrassment which always
prevails at the beginning of children’s festivities. His unnatural pomp
and circumstance had so thoroughly upset him, in truth, that Marjorie
Jones received a distinct shock, now to be related. Doctor Thrope, the
kind old clergyman who had baptized Penrod, came in for a moment to
congratulate the boy, and had just moved away when it was Marjorie’s
turn, in the line of children, to speak to Penrod. She gave him what she
considered a forgiving look, and, because of the occasion, addressed him
in a perfectly courteous manner.

“I wish you many happy returns of the day, Penrod.”

“Thank you, sir!” he returned, following Dr. Thrope with a glassy
stare in which there was absolutely no recognition of Marjorie. Then he
greeted Maurice Levy, who was next to Marjorie: “‘M glad to see y’!”

Dumfounded, Marjorie turned aside, and stood near, observing Penrod with
gravity. It was the first great surprise of her life. Customarily,
she had seemed to place his character somewhere between that of the
professional rioter and that of the orang-outang; nevertheless, her
manner at times just hinted a consciousness that this Caliban was her
property. Wherefore, she stared at him incredulously as his head bobbed
up and down, in the dancing-school bow, greeting his guests. Then she
heard an adult voice, near her, exclaim:

“What an exquisite child!”

Mariorie galanced up--a little consciously, though she was used to
it--naturally curious to ascertain who was speaking of her. It was Sam
Williams’ mother addressing Mrs. Bassett, both being present to help
Mrs. Schofield make the festivities festive.

“Exquisite!”

Here was a second heavy surprise for Marjorie: they were not looking
at her. They were looking with beaming approval at a girl she had never
seen; a dark and modish stranger of singularly composed and yet modest
aspect. Her downcast eyes, becoming in one thus entering a crowded room,
were all that produced the effect of modesty, counteracting something
about her which might have seemed too assured. She was very slender,
very dainty, and her apparel was disheartening to the other girls; it
was of a knowing picturesqueness wholly unfamiliar to them. There was
a delicate trace of powder upon the lobe of Fanchon’s left ear, and
the outlines of her eyelids, if very closely scrutinized, would have
revealed successful experimentation with a burnt match.

Marjorie’s lovely eyes dilated: she learned the meaning of hatred at
first sight. Observing the stranger with instinctive suspicion, all
at once she seemed, to herself, awkward. Poor Marjorie underwent that
experience which hearty, healthy, little girls and big girls undergo at
one time or another--from heels to head she felt herself, somehow, too
THICK.

Fanchon leaned close to Penrod and whispered in his ear:

“Don’t you forget!”

Penrod blushed.

Marjorie saw the blush. Her lovely eyes opened even wider, and in them
there began to grow a light. It was the light of indignation;--at least,
people whose eyes glow with that light always call it indignation.

Roderick Magsworth Bitts, Junior, approached Fanchon, when she had made
her courtesy to Mrs. Schofield. Fanchon whispered in Roderick’s ear
also.

“Your hair is pretty, Roddy! Don’t forget what you said yesterday!”

Roderick likewise blushed.

Maurice Levy, captivated by the newcomer’s appearance, pressed close to
Roderick.

“Give us an intaduction, Roddy?”

Roddy being either reluctant or unable to perform the rite, Fanchon took
matters into her own hands, and was presently favourably impressed with
Maurice, receiving the information that his tie had been brought to him
by his papa from Skoone’s, whereupon she privately informed him that she
liked wavy hair, and arranged to dance with him. Fanchon also thought
sandy hair attractive, Sam Williams discovered, a few minutes later, and
so catholic was her taste that a ring of boys quite encircled her before
the musicians in the yard struck up their thrilling march, and Mrs.
Schofield brought Penrod to escort the lady from out-of-town to the
dancing pavilion.

Headed by this pair, the children sought partners and paraded solemnly
out of the front door and round a corner of the house. There they found
the gay marquee; the small orchestra seated on the lawn at one side
of it, and a punch bowl of lemonade inviting attention, under a tree.
Decorously the small couples stepped upon the platform, one after
another, and began to dance.

“It’s not much like a children’s party in our day,” Mrs. Williams said
to Penrod’s mother. “We’d have been playing ‘Quaker-meeting,’ ‘Clap-in,
Clap-out,’ or ‘Going to Jerusalem,’ I suppose.”

“Yes, or ‘Post-office’ and ‘Drop-the-handkerchief,’” said Mrs.
Schofield. “Things change so quickly. Imagine asking little Fanchon
Gelbraith to play ‘London Bridge’! Penrod seems to be having a difficult
time with her, poor boy; he wasn’t a shining light in the dancing
class.”

However, Penrod’s difficulty was not precisely of the kind his mother
supposed. Fanchon was showing him a new step, which she taught her
next partner in turn, continuing instructions during the dancing. The
children crowded the floor, and in the kaleidoscopic jumble of bobbing
heads and intermingling figures her extremely different style of
motion was unobserved by the older people, who looked on, nodding time
benevolently.

Fanchon fascinated girls as well as boys. Many of the former eagerly
sought her acquaintance and thronged about her between the dances, when,
accepting the deference due a cosmopolitan and an oracle of the mode,
she gave demonstrations of the new step to succeeding groups, professing
astonishment to find it unknown: it had been “all the go,” she
explained, at the Long Shore Casino for fully two seasons. She
pronounced “slow” a “Fancy Dance” executed during an intermission by
Baby Rennsdale and Georgie Bassett, giving it as her opinion that Miss
Rennsdale and Mr. Bassett were “dead ones”; and she expressed surprise
that the punch bowl contained lemonade and not champagne.

The dancing continued, the new step gaining instantly in popularity,
fresh couples adventuring with every number. The word “step” is somewhat
misleading, nothing done with the feet being vital to the evolutions
introduced by Fanchon. Fanchon’s dance came from the Orient by a
roundabout way; pausing in Spain, taking on a Gallic frankness in
gallantry at the Bal Bullier in Paris, combining with a relative from
the South Seas encountered in San Francisco, flavouring itself with
a carefree negroid abandon in New Orleans, and, accumulating, too,
something inexpressible from Mexico and South America, it kept,
throughout its travels, to the underworld, or to circles where nature
is extremely frank and rank, until at last it reached the dives of New
York, when it immediately broke out in what is called civilized
society. Thereafter it spread, in variously modified forms--some of
them disinfected--to watering-places, and thence, carried by hundreds of
older male and female Fanchons, over the country, being eagerly adopted
everywhere and made wholly pure and respectable by the supreme moral
axiom that anything is all right if enough people do it. Everybody was
doing it.

Not quite everybody. It was perhaps some test of this dance that earth
could furnish no more grotesque sight than that of children doing it.

Earth, assisted by Fanchon, was furnishing this sight at Penrod’s party.
By the time ice-cream and cake arrived, about half the guests had
either been initiated into the mysteries by Fanchon or were learning
by imitation, and the education of the other half was resumed with the
dancing, when the attendant ladies, unconscious of what was happening,
withdrew into the house for tea.

“That orchestra’s a dead one,” Fanchon remarked to Penrod. “We ought to
liven them up a little!”

She approached the musicians.

“Don’t you know,” she asked the leader, “the Slingo Sligo Slide?”

The leader giggled, nodded, rapped with his bow upon his violin; and
Penrod, following Fanchon back upon the dancing floor, blindly brushed
with his elbow a solitary little figure standing aloof on the lawn at
the edge of the platform.

It was Marjorie.

In no mood to approve of anything introduced by Fanchon, she had
scornfully refused, from the first, to dance the new “step,” and,
because of its bonfire popularity, found herself neglected in a society
where she had reigned as beauty and belle. Faithless Penrod, dazed by
the sweeping Fanchon, had utterly forgotten the amber curls; he had not
once asked Marjorie to dance. All afternoon the light of indignation had
been growing brighter in her eyes, though Maurice Levy’s defection
to the lady from New York had not fanned this flame. From the moment
Fanchon had whispered familiarly in Penrod’s ear, and Penrod had
blushed, Marjorie had been occupied exclusively with resentment against
that guilty pair. It seemed to her that Penrod had no right to allow a
strange girl to whisper in his ear; that his blushing, when the strange
girl did it, was atrocious; and that the strange girl, herself, ought to
be arrested.

Forgotten by the merrymakers, Marjorie stood alone upon the lawn,
clenching her small fists, watching the new dance at its high tide,
and hating it with a hatred that made every inch of her tremble. And,
perhaps because jealousy is a great awakener of the virtues, she had
a perception of something in it worse than lack of dignity--something
vaguely but outrageously reprehensible. Finally, when Penrod brushed by
her, touched her with his elbow, and, did not even see her, Marjorie’s
state of mind (not unmingled with emotion!) became dangerous. In fact, a
trained nurse, chancing to observe her at this juncture, would probably
have advised that she be taken home and put to bed. Marjorie was on the
verge of hysterics.

She saw Fanchon and Penrod assume the double embrace required by the
dance; the “Slingo Sligo Slide” burst from the orchestra like the
lunatic shriek of a gin-maddened nigger; and all the little couples
began to bob and dip and sway.

Marjorie made a scene. She sprang upon the platform and stamped her
foot.

“Penrod Schofield!” she shouted. “You BEHAVE yourself!”

The remarkable girl took Penrod by the ear. By his ear she swung him
away from Fanchon and faced him toward the lawn.

“You march straight out of here!” she commanded.

Penrod marched.

He was stunned; obeyed automatically, without question, and had very
little realization of what was happening to him. Altogether, and without
reason, he was in precisely the condition of an elderly spouse detected
in flagrant misbehaviour. Marjorie, similarly, was in precisely the
condition of the party who detects such misbehaviour. It may be added
that she had acted with a promptness, a decision and a disregard of
social consequences all to be commended to the attention of ladies in
like predicament.

“You ought to be ashamed of yourself!” she raged, when they reached the
lawn. “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?”

“What for?” he inquired, helplessly.

“You be quiet!”

“But what’d _I_ do, Marjorie? _I_ haven’t done anything to you,” he
pleaded. “I haven’t even seen you, all aftern----”

“You be quiet!” she cried, tears filling her eyes. “Keep still! You ugly
boy! Shut up!”

She slapped him.

He should have understood from this how much she cared for him. But he
rubbed his cheek and declared ruefully:

“I’ll never speak to you again!”

“You will, too!” she sobbed, passionately.

“I will not!”

He turned to leave her, but paused.

His mother, his sister Margaret, and their grownup friends had finished
their tea and were approaching from the house. Other parents and
guardians were with them, coming for their children; and there were
carriages and automobiles waiting in the street. But the “Slingo Slide”
 went on, regardless.

The group of grown-up people hesitated and came to a halt, gazing at the
pavilion.

“What are they doing?” gasped Mrs. Williams, blushing deeply. “What is
it? What IS it?”

“WHAT IS IT?” Mrs. Gelbraith echoed in a frightened whisper. “WHAT----”

“They’re Tangoing!” cried Margaret Schofield. “Or Bunny Hugging or
Grizzly Bearing, or----”

“They’re only Turkey Trotting,” said Robert Williams.

With fearful outcries the mothers, aunts, and sisters rushed upon the
pavilion.

“Of course it was dreadful,” said Mrs. Schofield, an hour later,
rendering her lord an account of the day, “but it was every bit the
fault of that one extraordinary child. And of all the quiet, demur
little things--that is, I mean, when she first came. We all spoke of how
exquisite she seemed--so well trained, so finished! Eleven years old! I
never saw anything like her in my life!”

“I suppose it’s the New Child,” her husband grunted.

“And to think of her saying there ought to have been champagne in the
lemonade!”

“Probably she’d forgotten to bring her pocket flask,” he suggested
musingly.

“But aren’t you proud of Penrod?” cried Penrod’s mother. “It was just as
I told you: he was standing clear outside the pavilion----”

“I never thought to see the day! And Penrod was the only boy not doing
it, the only one to refuse? ALL the others were----”

“Every one!” she returned triumphantly. “Even Georgie Bassett!”

“Well,” said Mr. Schofield, patting her on the shoulder. “I guess we can
hold up our heads at last.”



CHAPTER XXXI OVER THE FENCE

Penrod was out in the yard, staring at the empty marquee. The sun was on
the horizon line, so far behind the back fence, and a western window of
the house blazed in gold unbearable to the eye: his day was nearly
over. He sighed, and took from the inside pocket of his new jacket the
“sling-shot” aunt Sarah Crim had given him that morning.

He snapped the rubbers absently. They held fast; and his next impulse
was entirely irresistible. He found a shapely stone, fitted it to the
leather, and drew back the ancient catapult for a shot. A sparrow hopped
upon a branch between him and the house, and he aimed at the sparrow,
but the reflection from the dazzling window struck in his eyes as he
loosed the leather.

He missed the sparrow, but not the window. There was a loud crash,
and to his horror he caught a glimpse of his father, stricken in
mid-shaving, ducking a shower of broken glass, glittering razor
flourishing wildly. Words crashed with the glass, stentorian words,
fragmentary but collossal.

Penrod stood petrified, a broken sling in his hand. He could hear his
parent’s booming descent of the back stairs, instant and furious; and
then, red-hot above white lather, Mr. Schofield burst out of the kitchen
door and hurtled forth upon his son.

“What do you mean?” he demanded, shaking Penrod by the shoulder. “Ten
minutes ago, for the very first time in our lives, your mother and I
were saying we were proud of you, and here you go and throw a rock at me
through the window when I’m shaving for dinner!”

“I didn’t!” Penrod quavered. “I was shooting at a sparrow, and the sun
got in his eyes, and the sling broke----”

“What sling?”

“This’n.”

“Where’d you get that devilish thing? Don’t you know I’ve forbidden you
a thousand times----”

“It ain’t mine,” said Penrod. “It’s yours.”

“What?”

“Yes, sir,” said the boy meekly. “Aunt Sarah Crim gave it to me this
morning and told me to give it back to you. She said she took it away
from you thirty-five years ago. You killed her hen, she said. She told
me some more to tell you, but I’ve forgotten.”

“Oh!” said Mr. Schofield.

He took the broken sling in his hand, looked at it long and
thoughtfully--and he looked longer, and quite as thoughtfully, at
Penrod. Then he turned away, and walked toward the house.

“I’m sorry, papa,” said Penrod.

Mr. Schofield coughed, and, as he reached the door, called back, but
without turning his head.

“Never mind, little boy. A broken window isn’t much harm.”

When he had gone in, Penrod wandered down the yard to the back fence,
climbed upon it, and sat in reverie there.

A slight figure appeared, likewise upon a fence, beyond two neighbouring
yards.

“Yay, Penrod!” called comrade Sam Williams.

“Yay!” returned Penrod, mechanically.

“I caught Billy Blue Hill!” shouted Sam, describing retribution in a
manner perfectly clear to his friend. “You were mighty lucky to get out
of it.”

“I know that!”

“You wouldn’t of, if it hadn’t been for Marjorie.”

“Well, don’t I know that?” Penrod shouted, with heat.

“Well, so long!” called Sam, dropping from his fence; and the friendly
voice came then, more faintly, “Many happy returns of the day, Penrod!”

And now, a plaintive little whine sounded from below Penrod’s feet, and,
looking down, he saw that Duke, his wistful, old, scraggly dog sat in
the grass, gazing seekingly up at him.

The last shaft of sunshine of that day fell graciously and like a
blessing upon the boy sitting on the fence. Years afterward, a quiet
sunset would recall to him sometimes the gentle evening of his twelfth
birthday, and bring him the picture of his boy self, sitting in rosy
light upon the fence, gazing pensively down upon his wistful, scraggly,
little old dog, Duke. But something else, surpassing, he would remember
of that hour, for, in the side street, close by, a pink skirt flickered
from behind a shade tree to the shelter of the fence, there was a gleam
of amber curls, and Penrod started, as something like a tiny white wing
fluttered by his head, and there came to his ears the sound of a light
laugh and of light footsteps departing, the laughter tremulous, the
footsteps fleet.

In the grass, between Duke’s forepaws, there lay a white note, folded in
the shape of a cocked hat, and the sun sent forth a final amazing glory
as Penrod opened it and read:

“Your my bow.”





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