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Title: Catty Atkins
Author: Kelland, Clarence Budington
Language: English
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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.

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CATTY ATKINS

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                  Books by CLARENCE BUDINGTON KELLAND

                     CATTY ATKINS
                     THE HIDDEN SPRING
                     THE HIGHFLYERS
                     THE LITTLE MOMENT OF HAPPINESS
                     MARK TIDD
                     MARK TIDD IN BUSINESS
                     MARK TIDD’S CITADEL
                     MARK TIDD, EDITOR
                     MARK TIDD, MANUFACTURER
                     MARK TIDD IN THE BACKWOODS
                     THE SOURCE
                     SUDDEN JIM
                     THIRTY PIECES OF SILVER

                      HARPER & BROTHERS, NEW YORK

------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Illustration: All of a sudden he jumped at Skoodles and quicker than a
cat he hit him twice, once on the nose and once on the stummick, and
Skoodles sat down to think it over]

------------------------------------------------------------------------

CATTY ATKINS

by

CLARENCE BUDINGTON KELLAND

Author of “Mark Tidd”, “Mark Tidd, Manufacturer”

Illustrated



Harper & Brothers Publishers
New York and London

Catty Atkins
Copyright 1919 by Harper & Brothers
Printed in the United States of America
Published, January, 1920

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                              CATTY ATKINS


                               CHAPTER I


I put a bottle on a box against the side of the barn and aimed as
careful as all-git-out. My idea was to bust it right at the neck. Well,
I jerked on the trigger and the gun went off and I looked at the bottle.
It was still there, neck and all.

After the aim I took it didn’t seem possible, so I walked up close to
find out if maybe I hadn’t slammed a hole right through it that couldn’t
be seen—but there wasn’t any hole. I knew right off there must be
something wrong with that gun. It was the very first time I’d ever shot
it, and if a gun don’t shoot straight the first time, when it’s
spang-whang _new_, what kind of shooting will it do when it gets to be
old and worn? I was dog-gone disappointed.

Dad gave me that rifle for my birthday and I’d come hustling out right
after breakfast to give it a try—and it wasn’t any good! I put in
another cartridge and got some closer to the bottle and tried again. The
bottle never wiggled. I came some closer and shot again, and then I came
still closer and shot again. Six times I shot before I hit the danged
thing and then I was so close I could have knocked it over with the
rifle-barrel.

“Pretty middlin’ shootin’,” says somebody behind me, and I turned around
quick. There was a kid I’d never seen. He was kind of small, with bare
feet and clothes that looked as if he’d found them in an ash-barrel and
then slept in them. His hair was kind of bristly, and he didn’t have on
any hat. He wasn’t smiling or making fun of me as far as I could see,
for his face was as sober as a houseful of deacons. It was a kind of a
thin face with a sharp chin and a straight nose and funny crinkles
around the eyes. But the eyes were gray and kind of sparkly. I looked at
him a minute, wondering who he was, before I said anything. Then I says:

“Calc’late this gun ain’t much good.”

“Is it a reg’lar gun,” says he, “or jest a kind of a cap pistol?”

That made me mad, so I says, sarcastic: “Naw, this ain’t a gun. This is
a pan of mush and milk.”

“Maybe,” says he, kind of slow and solemn, like he was thinking it over
mighty careful—“maybe you could hit things better with it if it was mush
and milk. It would spatter more.”

“Say,” says I, “who are you, anyhow?”

“I wa’n’t brung up to give anythin’ away free,” says he, “but I’ll trade
you—my name for yourn.”

“It’s a trade,” says I. “Mine’s Moore. Mostly the kids call me Wee-wee.”

“Mine’s Atkins,” says he, “and folks call me Catty because I can climb
like one.”

“One what?” says I.

“Mud turtle,” says he; “that’s plain. C-a-t-t-y—mud turtle. Spells it
every time where I come from.”

“Where’d you come from?”

“Different places.”

“Goin’ to live here?”

“Maybe.”

“Don’t you know?”

“Hain’t thought about it much.”

“If you’re not goin’ to live here, what made you _come_ here?”

“A body’s got to go some place,” says he, very solemn. “Dad and me
wasn’t p’tic’lar. We didn’t start out to come here, we just _got_ here,
and here we be!”

“What’s your Dad do?”

“Dad don’t do much. He calc’lates to be shiftless.”

“Don’t he work?”

“I’ve seen him,” says Catty, “but it hain’t usual.”

“Are you rich?”

“Well—we got our health and these here clothes is mine, free and clear.
No mortgages on ’em nor nothin’. Dad’s clothes is his’n, too, but they
hain’t so gaudy as mine.”

“Kind of tramps?” says I, getting interested.

“Not tramps—j’st shiftless. Didn’t I tell you?”

“Where you sleepin’?”

“If you ain’t careful,” he says, as solemn as an owl, “you’ll ketch
yourself askin’ a question. We been livin’,” says he, “in a little house
down by the bayou.”

“That tumble-down shanty not far from the waterworks?”

“That’s the one.”

“There isn’t any furniture in it,” says I. “Movin’ about like Dad and
me, furniture would be a nuisance.”

“There’s no glass in the windows.”

“We’re partial to fresh air.”

“Huh!” says I. “You’re dog-gone easy suited. If your Dad doesn’t work,
how do you get to eat?”

“Well, there’s times when we have more mealtimes than we do meals, but
Dad he gits an odd job, and I git an odd job and mostly we do pretty
well, thank you kindly.” Just then Dad came out through the back gate,
and right here I want to say something about my Dad. I heard a couple of
women say one day that they guessed he was a little crazy, but I want to
let you know that he ain’t crazy a bit, and I can lick any feller that
says he is. Dad ain’t old, either. He ain’t forty yet. Only thing I got
to complain about is the way he cusses over my grammar. He always talks
as correct as Mother does, only more so, and he’s got manners. Not the
kind of manners folks put on at a party or in church, but the kind you
have always and use always and that look to people as if you didn’t
really _try_ to have ’em, but as if they came natural.

The reason those women said he was kind of crazy is because he don’t act
just like everybody else in town. He’s polite even to the man that comes
to get our garbage, and he treats boys as if they were just as old as he
is, and don’t call them “My boy” and “Bub” and such like names. And he
fusses around with me just like he was a kid. Why, he can do more things
than any kid I ever saw!

“How’s the gun?” says he.

“Somethin’ seems to be wrong with it,” I says. “It don’t hit things.”

“Let me see,” he says, and just then a big rat went running along the
alley. Well, _sir_, quick as a wink Dad snapped the gun to his shoulder,
and off it went, and the rat went end over end. I ran over and picked it
up by the tail. It was shot right plumb through the head.

“Huh!” says I.

“Maybe,” says Dad, “something was wrong with the way you aimed it.”

“Maybe,” says I.

Dad looked over at Catty and smiled. “Good morning,” says he.

“Good morning,” says Catty.

“Don’t believe I know you,” says Dad.

“He’s Catty Atkins,” says I. “He and his Dad just came to town. They’re
shiftless.” Dad looked quick at Catty to see if I’d said something that
hurt his feelings, but Catty only nodded that I was right.

“Do you find it hard work, being shiftless?” says Dad.

“We make out to enjoy it,” says Catty. “It must be pleasant,” says Dad.
“I’ve often wished I was fixed so I could be shiftless. But when you’ve
a family—”

Catty nodded. “There’s just Dad and me. He didn’t used to be shiftless
till Ma died, so he says.”

“Are you going to make a profession of it,” Dad says, “or do you plan to
do something else when you grow up?”

“Hain’t thought about it,” says Catty. “It must be fine,” says Dad, “to
start off in the morning and not know where you are going, and not to
care, and not to feel that you’ve ever got to come back. It must be
splendid to go fishing when you want to, or to lie on your back in the
sun when you want to, and to know that there’s no reason why you
shouldn’t. Somehow it seems to me that if I could be shiftless I’d
rather work at it in the country, in the woods or mountains, than around
towns.” He nodded his head and so did Catty. “I’d rather be shiftless
like a squirrel than like an alley cat,” Dad says.

“The bear’s the feller,” says Catty. “He pokes around and does what he
wants to all summer when it’s fine, and then he goes to sleep warm and
comfortable all winter, with no bother about grub or fuel. I wisht I was
a bear.”

“Do you like corners?” says Dad, and I didn’t know what he meant, but
Catty did.

“Dad and me talk a lot about corners,” says he. “Seems like corners is
the most int’restin’ things in the world. Country roads is full of ’em.
Heaps of times Dad and me will set down when we’re comin’ to a corner
and argue about it for half an hour—about what we’ll see when we come to
turn it. It’s a funny thing, but there’s a different thing around every
corner you turn. No two of ’em’s alike.”

“And brooks,” said Dad, “especially mountain brooks.”

“They’re jest like stories,” says Catty. “Like them intrestin’ stories
that you can’t git to sleep till you finish. I’d rather foller down a
brook than anything.”

“Shoot?” says Dad.

“Never shot a gun.”

“Try it.”

Catty aimed at my bottle and missed it as far as I did. He sort of
wrinkled his nose and says something to himself and waggled his head.
You could see he didn’t like missing. When I got to know him better I
found out that he was always like that. He didn’t like not being able to
do things, and if he found out he couldn’t do something, he wouldn’t
rest till he _could_ do it. He went over and snooped around the ground
till he had picked up six cartridges that had been shot, and sat them in
a row on top of the fence. Then he walked off a ways and took a piece of
rubber band out of his pocket. There was a leather pocket on it.

“What’s that?” says I.

“A beanie,” says he.

I’d never seen one. In our part of the country we used a sling-shot made
of two rubber bands and a crotch.

Catty fingered in his pocket and piffled out a round pebble and fixed it
in the leather. Then he drew back the rubber over the first finger of
his left hand and shot quick. The pebble knocked off the first
cartridge. And then, almost quicker than I can say it, he shot five more
times, and every pebble knocked off a cartridge. I never saw such
shooting.

“There!” says he.

“Fine shooting,” says Dad, and Dad’s eyes were shining like they always
do when he’s pleased. “I’m glad I saw that.”

Then Dad put in about half an hour showing Catty and me how to shoot a
gun, and we got so we could do a little better.

“The only way to get to be a marksman,” he says, “is to stick to it and
shoot and shoot. Isn’t that so, Catty?”

“Yes,” says Catty.

Then Dad went away after telling Catty to come around often. “Tell your
father I’ll drop in to see him—and talk about roads and brooks and the
pleasures of shiftlessness,” he said, as he went through the gate.

I heard somebody whistle, and knew it was either Banty Gage or Skoodles
Gordon. I whistled back.

“Here come the fellers,” says I. “Now we kin have a reg’lar
shootin’-match.”

“Guess I’ll be moggin’ along,” says Catty.

“Why?”

“Oh, I dunno. Just guess I’ll be goin’.”

“I wisht you’d show those kids how you can shoot that beanie.”

“I ain’t much for kids. Don’t have much to do with ’em.”

“Why not? You stopped and talked with me.”

“I was sort of int’rested in the way you was missin’ that bottle. Glad I
stopped, too. I got to see your Dad. He’s mighty near as good a Dad as
mine.”

“Aw, rats!” says I. “Banty and Skoodles is heaps of fun.”

“I don’t git along with kids,” he says, stubborn. “Got so’s I never have
anythin’ to do with ’em. Mostly I never have anythin’ to do with anybody
but Dad.”

“Why?”

“We jest don’t git along. It’s on account of our bein’ shiftless. I’ve
had to lick a sight of kids on account of callin’ me or Dad names. And
then their Mas see ’em playin’ with me and makes ’em stop—and I have to
lick ’em on that account.”

“Why don’t their Mas want them to play with you?”

“’Cause we’re shiftless.”

“My mother wouldn’t care.”

“Bet she would.”

“Anyhow, Dad wouldn’t. You seen him. He told you to come around, didn’t
he?”

“I hain’t never seen anybody jest like your Dad before,” says Catty.
“Mostly I get told to clear out.”

“Aw, shucks!” says I.

“Good-by,” says he. “Hope you git to shoot that gun like a champeen.
Maybe I’ll see you ag’in some day.”

“Come around any time,” says I; “and, if you hain’t got any objection,
I’ll drop around your place.”

“Come ahead,” says he. “Maybe we’ll still be there, and I guess I kin
stand it if you kin.” He started off, but he stopped and says: “Your
Dad—die’s all right. I like your Dad.”



                               CHAPTER II


It was a day or two afterward that I run across Catty Atkins poking
along the road on the edge of town, all alone. I hollered to him and he
stopped.

“How’s things?” says I.

“Sich as there is, they’re perty fair,” says he. “Hain’t moved on yet?”

He sort of grinned. “Oh yes. We left for Philadelphy two days ago.
Arrived there about ten this mornin’.”

“Huh!” says I. “Come on back to my house and let’s shoot with my rifle.”

“Don’t guess I better,” he said, kind of hesitating, but I could see he
wanted to come.

“Come on,” says I. “Dad was askin’ after you this mornin’.”

“Was he?” says Catty, and his eyes got bright as anything. “Was he
really?... I’ll come.”

When we got there Banty Gage, who lives next door, and Skoodles Gordon
were sitting on top of the shed, waiting for me to turn up. I had told
them about Catty Atkins, and they were interested to see him and to
watch him shoot with that beanie of his. When Catty saw them he came
close to turning around and going off, but I hung onto him, and Skoodles
and Banty came down off of the shed.

“This is Catty Atkins that I told you about,” says I, and then I told
him what their names were. He didn’t say much and acted sort of offish
and quiet, but that didn’t last. In a while we were shooting away and
having a bully time. Dad came out on the porch a minute and asked how we
were getting along, and spoke special to Catty, and then sat down to
read his paper.

About ten minutes after that Banty Gage’s mother came out and stood
looking at us. Then she called to Banty and he went over to the fence.
We could hear what she said.

“Who is that boy?” she asked, sort of cold and severe.

“Catty Atkins,” says Banty.

“_Who_ is he? Where did you get acquainted with him?”

“Wee-wee brought him home with him.”

“Is he that boy you were talking about the other evening? The one whose
father is a tramp and who is hanging around that old shanty down by the
waterworks?”

“Yes, ’m.”

“Then you come right straight home. If Mrs. Moore wants her boy to play
with that sort of people, all right, but my boy can’t. No telling what
he’ll lead you into.” She stopped and looked hard at Catty, who was
standing very still, with his lips set and his eyes kind of like they
was made out of pieces of polished steel. “He’s a tramp, and there’s no
telling what else. Such people aren’t fit to be let at large. I don’t
see what the town is thinking of not to shut them up or make them go
away. You come right home, and never let me see you with that boy again.
Now march.”

Catty looked at Mrs. Gage and looked at me and looked at Dad, and then
he says to himself, “I sort of knew folks _thought_ that about us, but I
didn’t ever hear one of ’em _say_ it before.” And he turned around and
started for the back gate.

“Where you goin’?” says I, and I was good and mad.

He didn’t answer, but kept right on. Then Dad spoke from the porch.

“Catty,” says he, and his voice had something in it that sounded good.

Catty stopped and looked at him, very sober, with his lips shut tight.

“Wait just a moment, Catty,” says Dad, and then he turned to Mrs. Gage.

“Mrs. Gage,” says Dad, “Catty is my guest, and as my guest he is
entitled to the courtesy of those who are my friends and neighbors. I
know Catty, and I am very glad to have him come to my home and play with
my son. I am going to give myself the pleasure of calling on Catty’s
father. I am sure you spoke hastily and had no wish to hurt this boy as
you have hurt him.”

“Mr. Moore,” said Mrs. Gage, as sharp as a needle, “you can have any
tramp or criminal or anybody you want to play with your family, but you
can’t force them on mine.... You heard me tell you to come home,
Thomas.” Banty’s right name was Thomas.

“I know, Mrs. Gage,” said father, in a gentle sort of way he has, “that
you will be sorry you have hurt this boy. If you knew him, when you know
him, I am sure you will want to apologize.”

“Know him!... Apologize to a young tramp!...” Mrs. Gage turned and went
into the house, slamming the screen after her, and Banty followed. Then
she gave Banty what for, and didn’t take a bit of trouble to lower her
voice. “You heard what I said,” she says. “You keep away from that
ragamuffin.”

“But Mr. Moore says—”

“I don’t care what Mr. Moore says. I sha’n’t put up with his crazy
ideas. The idea! Mr. Moore ought to know better, but he doesn’t seem to.
After this you keep away from the Moores.”

Dad looked down at me and smiled sort of humorous and at the same time
sort of sad, and then he came down off the porch and walked right up to
Catty.

“I can’t tell you how sorry I am that this thing happened,” he said, and
looked straight into Catty’s eyes. “I know Mrs. Gage didn’t intend to be
cruel. She doesn’t understand, that’s all. You mustn’t be hard on the
rest of us because some people don’t understand things. You won’t, will
you?... And remember that you are always welcome here and that I am glad
to have Wee-wee play with you. We’re going to have dinner in a few
minutes and I shall be very glad indeed if you will stay and eat with
us.”

“Eat with you!” says Catty, and looked down at his clothes.

“Of course.”

“I hain’t never been invited to dinner no-wheres. I wouldn’t know how to
act.”

“Catty, there’s folks in this world who always know how to act. The
finest manners I ever saw were shown by a French lumberjack who couldn’t
write his name. Being a gentleman doesn’t consist in knowing which fork
to use first, Catty. Those things are just trimmings, but a gentleman is
a gentleman because he’s got something inside—something that I know
you’ve got. Do you know what a gentleman is, Catty, and what it is that
makes any man good enough to dine with any other man, or to do anything
else in the world with any other man?”

“No, sir,” says Catty.

“It’s a feeling inside him that he wants to act toward everybody just as
he wants everybody to act toward him.”

“I thought,” said Catty, “that a gentleman was somebody with a white
shirt who thought most folks was beneath him.”

Dad laughed. “Come on in and wash for dinner—and meet Wee-wee’s mother.”

“Will _she_—will _she_ want me, sir?”

Dad laughed again, and I laughed this time, because that was really
funny. If Dad was to bring home a hippopotamus to dinner Mother would be
glad of it—just because Dad brought him. I’ve took notice that Mother
always thought that whatever Dad did was just right, and, now that I
come to think it over, she thought so because everything that Dad did
_was_ just right.

Mother shook hands with Catty just as if nothing out of the ordinary run
was happening at all, and acted just as she would act if Catty had been
the Presbyterian minister or president of the bank, or anybody else.
Then Catty and me washed up and came down to dinner, and Dad talked a
lot until pretty soon he got Catty to talking some, and what he said was
mighty interesting to me—all about walking around the country, and what
they saw, and how they lived. I kept my eye on him jest to find out what
kind of table manners he had, but I couldn’t find out, because he kept
_his_ eyes on my mother all the time, and never did a thing until he saw
her do it first, and then did it just like she did. I saw Dad grin to
himself a couple of times.

“Mr. Moore,” said Catty, serious as all-git-out, “I wonder kin I ask you
a piece of advice?”

“Fire ahead, Catty.”

“Well, I’m wonderin’ if I ought to lick that kid before Dad and me goes
away.”

“What kid?”

“Banty Gage.”

Dad kept his face very straight, but I knew by the looks of him that he
wanted to laugh. “What has Banty done to you?”

“_He_ didn’t do anythin’—but his Ma did. I can’t lick his Ma, because
fellers don’t pick fights with wimmin, but it seems as if I ought to
lick _somebody_, and, her bein’ his Ma, he comes closest to bein’ the
right person.”

“You feel like fighting, eh? Well, I don’t blame you.... You said before
you and your father went away. Are you going away?”

“When I git home I’m goin’ to tell Dad it’s time to move on.”

“And he’ll go?”

“’Course. Dad’s always willin’ to go.”

“And you’re going because of what Mrs. Gage said?”

Catty nodded.

“Um!...” said Dad. “Looks kind of like running away, doesn’t it? As if
you had been scared out?”

“Eh? Scared out?” Catty’s lips came together thin again and his eyes got
glittery. “I don’t allow nobody to say I’m scared, Mr. Moore.”

Dad nodded and says: “That’s right. But you can’t stop them from
thinking it. Not by fighting with your fists, anyhow. There’s only one
way to keep folks from _thinking_ you’re afraid of a thing, and that is
to show them you aren’t.”

Catty looked at Dad a long time and didn’t say a word, but you could see
he was trying to study out what Dad meant.

“Aren’t you ever kind of lonesome when you’re walking about the
country—and never settling down any place to get acquainted with folks?”
asked Dad.

“Not when I’m with my Dad,” said Catty, and the way he said it you
almost got the idea he was proud of his father.

“Good boy!... But don’t you ever want to have other boys to play with,
and go to school, maybe, and know folks, and have a chum like most boys
have?”

Catty didn’t answer, but sat looking out of the window.

“Do you know what would hurt Mrs. Gage’s feelings more than anything
else in the world?”

“No, sir.”

“To be shown that she was wrong about you, and to know that she ought to
beg your pardon for what she said. I don’t know that she ever _would_
beg your pardon, because lots of people are queer, but it would be about
as bad a thing for her as I can think of if she came to know that she
_ought to_ do it. Wouldn’t it?”

“I don’t know much about folks,” said Catty. “Maybe so.”

“If you were to run away now you never could make her feel that way,
could you?”

“No.”

“Catty, there is something you would like to have very much.”

Catty looked at Dad quicklike and then looked away.

“It’s the respect of people,” said Dad, quietlike and kind of gentle.

“Jest because we’re shiftless they think we’re bad,” said Catty. “We
ain’t. We mind our own business and never do no damage to anybody.”

“But things like this that happened to-day have happened before, haven’t
they? And you’re afraid they’ll happen again?”

“I’m not _afraid_ they’ll happen, but I _know_ they’ll happen.”

“If I were a boy,” says Dad, “and wanted something very much, I’ll bet
I’d _get_ it.”

“You can’t steal the respect of people that don’t know you off’n the
clothes-line,” says Catty, stubborn-like.

“Isn’t part of your trouble that you never let folks know you? You never
stay any place long enough to let them get acquainted.”

“Nobody wants to get acquainted.”

“How do you know? Didn’t _we_ want to get acquainted? And there are
thousands of other folks just like us.”

“I hain’t never seen anybody like you, Mr. Moore.”

“Well,” says Dad, “I won’t pester you about it, but think it over. If
you should decide to change your mind and not let Mrs. Gage have her way
and drive you out of town, why, you’ve got some friends here to start
with. Hasn’t he, Mother?”

“Yes,” said Mother. She didn’t say any more, but just that one word. You
knew she meant it, and that was enough.

We all got up from the table and I was dragging Catty away, when he
stopped and turned to Mother.

“I—I enjoyed the dinner a heap, Mrs. Moore,” said he, “but what done me
most good was jest a-lookin’ at you. I calc’late it must be awful nice
to have a mother—and her as dog-gone perty as you be.”

“Catty,” said Mother, “I think that’s the nicest thing I ever had said
to me,” and she leaned right over and give him a kiss. Then we went out,
but all the rest of the afternoon I noticed that every little while he
reached up and touched his cheek where the kiss had landed, kind of
stroked the spot and patted it like it had got to be the most valuable
part of his face.



                              CHAPTER III


Catty was pretty quiet all the afternoon. He seemed to be figuring
something out, and every little while he acted as if he had forgotten I
was around at all, and would sit down some place and look off at the
distance and squint, and bend his thumb back and forth like he expected
to pump water with it. When I got to know him better I found out he
always worked his thumb when he was het up over something or didn’t know
what to do. Once I told him I guessed his brains was in his wrist
instead of in his head, and that he had to pump them like they do the
pipe-organ in church, or they wouldn’t work.

Pretty soon he jumped up all of a sudden, and says to me, in a warlike
kind of a voice: “It would be runnin’ away. We’ve been runnin’ away
right along.”

“Do tell,” says I. “From what?”

“Folks,” says he, and then shut his mouth up like a steel trap and began
to walk away fast.

“Hey!” says I. “Where you goin’?”

“To see Dad,” says he.

I kept right up with him, but he didn’t speak again till we were right
by that little shanty near the waterworks where he and his father were
sleeping. It was no kind of a place to sleep at all. There wasn’t a
whole window in it; the front door was off the hinges and there was more
roof where the shingles was off than where they was on. Honest Injun, it
looked as if a good stiff shove would topple the whole shooting-match
over. Inside there wasn’t a stick of furniture and the floor was full of
holes. It smelled kind of musty and damp. The minute I saw it I knew I
wouldn’t enjoy tramping. No, sir. I wouldn’t mind sleeping in the woods
or in the hay, but to use a place like this was something I jest
naturally would be dead set against.

Catty called, but nobody answered.

“Dad’s fishin’,” says he, and off we went to the bayou, where, after a
few minutes, we came across a man a-sitting on a log with a long cane
pole in his hands. I couldn’t see him move so much as his eye-winkers.
He was kind of long and narrow, and whiskers that was a sort of red and
yellow, mixed, stuck out around his face like the spokes of a wheel.

[Illustration: “Who’s he?” said Mr. Atkins, pointing very sudden at me]

What he had on his head might have been a hat and it might have been
part of a horse-blanket, and it might have been a busted waste-basket.
It might have been almost anything, but the thing it looked like _least_
was a hat. He had a nose with a hook in it and a drooping end. Most of
his face was nose. That was about all I saw of him first off. Then Catty
spoke to him and he turned around slow.

“Howdy, Sonny!” says he, and smiled. I saw then that his eyes were
brown, with wrinkles all around them. Not laughing wrinkles, but the
kind you get from the sun shining in your eyes. I never saw a smile just
like his smile. It was kind of patient, and kind of glad, and kind of
thoughtful, and kind of sorry—all mixed in—and right off I liked him.

“Who’s _he_?” said Mr. Atkins, pointing very sudden at me.

“Wee-wee Moore,” says Catty. “Been to his house to dinner.”

“Eh?” says Mr. Atkins, opening his eyes wide.

“Right in the house, at the table, with him and his Pa and Ma.”

“No! I swan to man! Wa’n’t you nigh scairt to death?”

“Nobody’d be scairt with Mr. Moore and Wee-wee’s mother.”

“How’d it come about, Sonny?”

“It was after a woman called me a tramp and other names and ordered her
boy not to come near me. Mr. Moore he told her what he thought about
her, and that I was his guest, and then he made me come to dinner, and
we talked.”

“I’d like to git a squint at that Mr. Moore,” says Mr. Atkins,
reflective-like.

“He’s comin’ to call on you,” says Catty.

“I want to know! Um!... Calc’late I better wait for him right here in my
office. Men likes to talk in their places of business. He kin set on one
end of this log and I’ll set on the other. Mighty cozy. When you
calc’late he’s comin’?”

“Maybe to-day.”

“Um!... Don’t call to mind havin’ a caller these fifteen year. Guess
maybe I better comb out my whiskers.”

“Dad,” says Catty.

His father turned to look at him, and saw that Catty’s face was kind of
sober and set. “What is it, Sonny?”

“Did you ever figger any on settlin’ in one place, Dad?”

“Can’t say’s I have. There’s things ag’in’ it. When you’re settled you
hain’t on the move, be you? Nobody could claim you was, I guess. And,
take the opposite, when you’re always on the move you hain’t settled in
one place.” He sat back and eyed us like he was mighty proud of figuring
a thing out that way.

“Do you like movin’ so much, Dad, that you couldn’t be contented to
settle?”

“Movin’ about’s an occupation, Sonny—a reg’lar profession like law or
storekeepin’. There’s got to be folks in all trades, or business would
go _smash_! Every feller ought to do what he kin do best, and the best
thing I ever done was bein’ shiftless and moggin’ from place to place.
Seems like I’m fitted for it by nature. Yes, sir, I was cut out for it.
I hain’t never seen anybody that does it as thorough and conscientious
as me. Now, as to settlin’ down, I hain’t had the experience, and how’s
a man goin’ to succeed at a trade he hain’t had experience in?”

“If I was to ask you to settle here, and say that I wanted to do it
mighty bad, and that I didn’t want to move around any more, what would
you say?”

“I calc’late I’d ask you what the reason was.”

“I hain’t sure I want to, but if I did want to there would be reasons.”

“There gen’ally is reason for ’most everything a feller wants. I’ve
noticed it. I’ve noticed it most special and p’tic’lar. Take a dog, for
instance. He wants to chase his tail. Why does he want to chase his
tail? Because he’s got reasons for it, and them reasons is that he wants
to satisfy a curiosity in his mind whether he kin catch it. If you had
reasons for wantin’ to stop here permanent, what would them reasons be?”

“They’d be,” says Catty, slow and deliberate, “that Mrs. Gage up and
called me names, and that I wouldn’t want to run away without showin’
her that she didn’t have no business callin’ me names. And they’d be
that I’d want to learn myself table manners so’s I wouldn’t be scairt if
I ever et with Wee-wee’s mother ag’in. But mostly they’d be that folks
seems to think that shiftlessness hain’t respectable, and that it gits
under my skin to have folks sneerin’ at you and me.”

“Folks sneers, do they?”

“Stiddy and constant,” says Catty.

“Hain’t got no business to. It takes brains to be shiftless, Sonny, and
folks hain’t able to appreciate it. Anybody kin work and earn a livin’
and stay in one place and never have no fun. But you take one of them
stiddy men and turn him to live like we do, and what ’ll happen? He’ll
starve, and before he starves he’ll die from sleepin’ on the ground, and
before that he’ll have blisters onto his feet. _We_ don’t do none of
them things, and why? I ask you why. It’s because we’re smart and we’ve
learned our trade.”

“Is it awful hard to work all the time?”

“Easy as fallin’ off a log. Everybody can do it.”

“Could you run a store, Dad?”

“I could run a train if I owned one. Trouble is I don’t own no store.”

“How do folks git to own stores?”

“Mostly their folks leave stores to ’em when they die, or money to buy
’em with. Some saves up money and buys ’em.”

“We never have any money to save.”

“Never had much need for money.”

“Would you like to own a store, or have a stiddy job, and never have
anybody sneer at you any more and call you a tramp?”

“Sonny,” says Mr. Atkins, “you don’t never need to worry about what
folks thinks of you. What you want to worry about is what you think of
yourself.”

“I’ve been doin’ that, Dad.”

“And what do you think of yourself?”

“I hain’t sure, but it looks kind of like I was goin’ to think that the
way we live hain’t what you’d call _valuable_. Seems like everybody
ought to be _makin’_ somethin’ or _doin’_ somethin’. Seems like I’d like
to have folks respect me—and it seems like I’d like sort of to live the
same way other boys does and play with ’em without their folks tellin’
them to git away from me.”

“Sonny, you hain’t gone and got ambitious, have you?”

“What’s _ambitious_, Dad?”

“Ambitious means wantin’ to git to a place where you can look down on
other folks.”

“I don’t quite agree with you, Mr. Atkins,” says a voice, and we looked
around to see my Dad standing there. “I believe ambition means a desire
to improve yourself and to become something more valuable than you are.
It means that you’re not satisfied with yourself.”

Mr. Atkins got up and looked at Dad, and Dad looked back at Mr. Atkins.

“Be you Mr. Moore?” says Catty’s Dad.

“Yes, Mr. Atkins.”

“I’m much obleeged to meet you,” says he, and he shook hands with Dad
very polite.

“Glad you’ve moved to Athens, Mr. Atkins.” Athens was the name of our
town. “We’ve seen quite a little of Catty, and we hope you’re both going
to stay here.”

“Um!...” says Mr. Atkins. “Catty’s been mentionin’ it.”

“Haven’t reached a decision?”

“Catty hain’t sure he wants to stay.”

“If he were sure, and wanted to stay very much, what would you do?”

“Stay,” says Mr. Atkins, very short and prompt.

“Why?”

“Because I hain’t got nothin’ to do in this world but look after Catty
and kind of make him glad he’s alive. Folks ought to be glad they’re
alive. I be. I don’t want Catty to grow up and think that I ever denied
him anythin’ that I could give to him that wasn’t harmful. Yes, if Catty
says stay, why, we stay.”

“And what _do_ you say, Catty?”

“I don’t say nothin’ yet. I hain’t ready to say. I got to think about a
lot of things, and make up my mind what we’d do if we was to stay, and
if Dad could be happy stayin’ instead of movin’ around. If Dad wouldn’t
be happy I wouldn’t ever stay, even if I wanted to so bad I couldn’t
stand it.”

“I like to hear you say that,” says Dad.

“If you won’t figger it’s bad manners,” says Catty, “I want to go off
alone and kind of wander around and figger things out. I don’t want
nobody with me—not even Dad. As soon’s I know what’s best I’ll come and
let you know about it.”

“Go ahead,” says Dad. “That’s the way to go after things. Reason them
out. Don’t take anybody’s word for it, but make sure yourself.”

“I’m a-goin’ to,” says Catty, and off he went. Dad and I stayed there
and talked to Mr. Atkins. It was mighty interesting, for he had been so
many places and he had a funny kind of a way to tell about them, and
then he had some notions that was funny, too. We had a good time, and
when we started home Dad and Mr. Atkins shook hands again, and Dad said
that he hoped Mr. Atkins would live there, because he liked to talk to
him, and Mr. Atkins said that if he _did_ come to live there Dad would
make it a heap easier.

It was about nine o’clock that night when somebody rang our bell and Dad
went to the door. It was Catty, because I heard his voice. He didn’t say
good evening, or anything else but jest one sentence:

“We’re a-goin’ to stay.”

“Good for you,” says Dad, and held out his hand.

Catty shook it a minute, and then, without a word, he turned and ran
down the steps and disappeared into the dark.

I was glad he was going to stay, because I liked him and I liked his
Dad. My Dad was glad, too. Mother says:

“I hope it’s best. They’ll have some hard things to put up
with—especially the boy.”

“I’m not worrying about the boy,” says Dad, “now that his mind is made
up.”

Somehow I didn’t worry about Catty, either.



                               CHAPTER IV


Next morning bright and early I hustled down to the shanty where Catty
and his father were staying. Mr. Atkins was sitting on his log, fishing
for pickerel and looking pretty sober and dubious. Catty was sitting
alongside of him, looking into the bayou and never saying a word.

“Mornin’,” says I.

“Mornin’,” says Catty.

Mr. Atkins turned his head and waggled it at me. “He’s went and gone and
done it,” says he.

“What?”

“Made up his mind to hitch up to this town.”

“Good!” says I. “He told us last night.”

“Dad don’t like it much,” said Catty, “but it ’ll be good for him. I’ve
thought it out.”

Now wasn’t that a funny way for a boy to talk—about something being good
for his Dad? You would have thought Catty was the Dad and his father was
the boy.

“Yes,” says Catty, “it won’t be so much fun, maybe, and maybe it ’ll be
more. I think Dad ’ll grow to like it, and he might even grow to like
workin’ reg’lar. I hain’t expectin’ that, ’cause he’s been shiftless so
many years, but maybe.”

“Work,” says Mr. Atkins, sadlike.

“Lots of folks does it constant,” says Catty.

“They have to,” says his father.

“You’ll have to now—some. Mind, I don’t expect you to work every day and
all day long. You kin sort of git the habit by degrees. But if you don’t
work _some_ we’ll never git the respect of these here folks. I’ve been
studyin’ it over, and seems like a body’s _got_ to work to git folks’s
respect. Don’t matter how good you be nor how happy you be, nor that you
hain’t never done nobody any harm. You got to _work_. Seems kind of
funny to me. If you jest work you git some respect. If you work a lot
and make a little money you git more respect. But the feller that gits
most respect is the one that works at makin’ other folks work for him.
I’m goin’ to be that kind.”

“Meanin’ me?” says his father, as doleful as a tombstone.

“Have to start with you, I calc’late. Hain’t figgered out what to do
first, exceptin’ that it ’ll have to be somethin’ to git me some money.
’Course I could start out runnin’ errants or cuttin’ grass, or even
workin’ in a store, but there hain’t nothin’ in that. What I got to do
is to figger out a business that’s mine and that I kin run, and where I
can hire some other kid instead of somebody hirin’ me. That’s the way to
git ahead.”

“But you’ll have to work for somebody to make some money to start,” says
I.

“I dunno,” says he. “I’m huntin’ for a scheme—and then I’m studyin’ out
what kind of a business I want to git into.”

“Hain’t it miserable?” says Mr. Atkins. “Here we been goin’ along for
years with nothin’ to bother us. Didn’t have to work and didn’t have to
study about schemes. Now all of a sudden this here thing comes down on
top of us. Don’t know where Catty gits sich notions from. Not from me.
Must come off’n his mother’s side.”

“How much money you got to have?” I asked Catty.

“Dunno, ’cause I dunno what I want it for.”

“Maybe my Dad ’u’d lend it to you,” says I.

“He won’t,” says Catty, emphatic.

“Why?”

“’Cause I won’t let him,” says he. “I’m goin’ to make it. Got to. Be
more fun.”

“Fun!” says Mr. Atkins. “D’you call workin’ and makin’ money fun?
Strange idee of fun. Fun’s somethin’ you laugh at and enjoy. Who ever
heard of anybody laughin’ at work?”

“And we can’t live here,” says Catty.

“Why?” says Mr. Atkins.

“’Tain’t respectable. Houses without no winders into ’em hain’t
respectable, and folks looks up to furniture and carpets.”

“Ho!” says Mr. Atkins. “Hain’t slept in a bed in ten year. Don’t believe
I could do it.”

“It’s easy,” says I. “I do it every night.”

“All in bein’ used to it,” says he.

In spite of Mr. Atkins’s bein’ so lazy and shiftless, I took a liking to
him. Somehow it didn’t seem like laziness, but like something different
altogether. He was so simple and kind of gentle and his eyes was kind.
You almost got the idea that he didn’t know about things, especial’
about how to work, and that it wasn’t his fault at all.

“Didn’t you ever work?” says I, because I was curious about it.

“Once,” says he.

“What at?” says I.

“Painter,” says he.

“House or picture?” says I.

“Houses mostly.”

“Must be fun—paintin’ houses,” says I.

“Would be if it wasn’t work. I calc’late I could enjoy to paint a house
if I wasn’t paid for it—if I was jest doin’ it to show folks I could.
But when you’re doin’ it as a job it hain’t the same.”

Catty was thinking hard. “What d’you need to go into the paintin’
business, Dad?”

“Paints,” says Mr. Atkins.

“What else?”

“Ladders and planks and brushes and oils.”

“Um!... Cost much?”

“Heaps.”

For a minute Catty didn’t say a word, but just stared at the water. Then
he says to himself, “Where in tunket be I goin’ to git ladders and
brushes and them things?”

“Hain’t thinkin’ of makin’ me go to paintin’, be you?”

“Thinkin’ of it some,” says Catty, “but thinkin’ ’s as far’s I kin git
jest now.”

“Then I’ll keep on fishin’,” says Mr. Atkins. “No use gittin’ het up and
worried before it’s time.”

“We got to have respectable clothes, too.” says Catty.

“Next thing I’ll be wearin’ a plug-hat,” says Mr. Atkins.

“Maybe on Sundays,” says Catty, serious as anything. I guess he was
thinking quite a ways ahead.

“Ho!” says Mr. Atkins.

“Come on,” says Catty to me.

“Where?”

“Look around and think. I wonder if there are any ladders in this town.”

“Fire company’s got some,” says I, and grinned.

We walked up past the waterworks and down to Main Street. Catty didn’t
say a word, but kept looking and looking, and sort of tucking away
information about our town in his head. We walked from one end of Main
Street to the other, and when we got to the town pump that stands at the
end of the bridge he stopped and says:

“There hain’t a painter and paperhanger shop in town.”

“No,” says I. “We got two painters that puts up wall-paper sometimes,
but they don’t keep any shop. Jest have their stuff in their barns.”

“Who sells paper?”

“Drug-stores.”

“And paint?”

“Hardware-stores.”

“What’s that?” he asked, pointing across the river.

“Kind of a furniture-factory. Make all sorts of things. That new
buildin’ that’s jest bein’ finished up is a warehouse. Never saw a
bigger buildin’. Two hunderd foot long and sixty wide.”

“’Tis kind of big,” says he, and began to squint at it. “Looks ’most
done. Shinglin’ ’most finished.”

“Uh-huh,” says I.

“Come on,” says he, and his eyes began to kind of shine and his lips
pressed together.

“Where?”

“Over there to the mill.”

“What for?”

“See the boss.”

“Mr. Manning?”

“If that’s his name.”

“He’ll kick us out. That’s the kind he is. Talks loud and bosses things,
and hain’t got a mite of patience with anybody.”

“We kin outrun him,” says Catty, and he grinned kind of mischievous.
“Any man kin kick me that kin catch me. Come on if you hain’t scairt.”

“Guess I dast go where you dast,” says I, and I mogged right along with
him.

The office was in a little square building off to the side, and while we
were going up to it I was looking around me careful to see what would be
the best way to run when Mr. Manning started after us. I’d picked out
just how I was going to dodge in among the lumber-piles by the time we
got to the door. We went right in.

First there was a kind of an outside office where there was a bookkeeper
and a typewriter working, and back of that was Mr. Manning’s office with
the door shut.

Catty walked right up to the railing and says to the bookkeeper, who was
Johnnie Hooper, and not very old and a lot dressy, with his hair
plastered onto his head, “Is Mr. Manning in?”

“Who wants to know?” says Johnnie, with the kind of a grin that makes
you mad.

“Somebody to see him on business,” says Catty.

“What kind of business?”

“Is he in?” says Catty.

“He is, but you don’t think a couple o’ kids like you can bother him, do
you? He’d throw you out by the seat of the pants.”

“Hired to tell folks what he’d do?” says Catty.

Johnnie kind of scowled and didn’t think of anything to say back.

“We’re here on business,” says Catty, “and if you know what’s good for
you you’ll tell Mr. Manning so. It’s for him to say whether he’ll see
us, and not you.”

“You skedaddle out of here,” says Johnnie, getting off his stool.

Catty grinned at him, but it wasn’t a friendly grin. I got to know it
after a while, and whenever he grinned like that I knew he was ready and
willing to fight, and that he would fight until he couldn’t see or hear
or stand.

“Maybe you kin kick me out,” says he, “and maybe you can’t. You don’t
look like much of a kicker. But I kin tell you that you’ll git mussed
tryin’ and there’ll be a rumpus in this office that Mr. Manning will
hear—and he’ll come bustin’ out to find out what’s the trouble. Then
where’ll you be? Kicked out yourself. Jest come right on and try it.”

“Git out!” says Johnnie, but he didn’t come any nearer.

“Are you going to tell Mr. Manning I want to see him?

“No. Git!”

Catty walked up to the rail and looked at Johnnie a second. Then what
did he do but open his mouth and holler, “Mr. Manning!” as loud as he
could. Johnnie looked half scared to death, and I made sure the door was
where I could use it prompt. “Mr. Manning!” yelled Catty again.

The door of the private office smashed open and there stood Mr. Manning,
scowling like all-git-out.

“What’s this racket? What’s this racket?” he says, sharp and angry.

“This boy—” Johnnie started to say, but Catty broke right in:

“Does this feller know everybody you want to see or don’t want to see?”
he asked, and he wasn’t frightened a bit. He spoke right up, like he was
a grown man—not impudent, but kind of severe.

Mr. Manning almost jumped. For a second he didn’t know what to say, and
then, because he was so surprised, I guess, he didn’t roar or chase us
out, but just answered. “No,” he says.

“I thought so,” says Catty, “so when he wouldn’t tell you I wanted to
see you I thought I’d tell you myself.”

“What’s this, Hooper?” says Mr. Manning.

“These boys came in here—and I didn’t want you disturbed. I tried to
chase them away.”

“Did this boy say he wanted to see me?”

“Yes.”

“Did you ask him why?”

“He said business.”

“Then what do you mean by not telling me? How do you know he isn’t
bringing an important message from somebody? After this when people come
here and ask for me you consult me before you send them away.
Understand?”

“Yes, sir,” says Johnnie.

“It isn’t a message,” says Catty. “It’s business, my own business, and I
want to talk to you a few minutes about it.”

“Come in here,” says Mr. Manning, “but if you’re wasting my time you’ll
wish you’d stayed out.”

We went in, and I was so surprised I couldn’t have spoken if I was paid
for it.

“Now what?” says Mr. Manning, sharplike.

“Have you let the job of painting your new warehouse?” says Catty.

I almost dropped in my tracks.

“No,” says Mr. Manning.

“I’ve come to apply for it,” says Catty. “I can guarantee a first-class
job with the right kind of bossing. It will be hustled through as fast
as anybody can hustle it, and we’ll use only the best materials.”

“I’ll say this for you, young man, you can speak up and not waste any
words. Are you going to do the painting yourself?”

“Of course not. The best painters that can be had.”

“Who are you speaking for?”

“Myself.”

“What?”

“Myself,” says Catty again, kind of stiff and formal. “I calc’late to
boss the job and see it is done right. I calc’late to hire both the
local painters, and you know _they_ are good men. My father is a
first-class painter. I’m willing to take this job cheap to get
established here, because we are going into business here and expect to
live here. I guarantee satisfaction.”

“Well, I swanny!” says Mr. Manning. He sat down and didn’t act mad nor
offer to throw us out. “Sit down,” says he. “I want to know more about
this.... You’re young Moore, aren’t you?” says he. “What have you got to
do with it?”

“Nothing,” says I, “except that Catty is a friend of mine and Dad’s, and
I come along.”

“Do you recommend this young man?” says he.

“Yes,” says I, “and so will Dad.” I knew Dad would.

“What’s your proposition?” says Mr. Manning to Catty.

“I’ll do this job for cost—exactly what it costs, and ten cents on each
dollar besides for my profit. If you want to you can buy the paints and
supplies and pay me the profit when it’s all done. Then you’ll know
you’re getting a fair deal.”

“Who are you, anyhow?”

“Catty Atkins,” says he.

“Where’s your shop?”

“Haven’t one _yet_.”

“Where do you live?”

“Nowheres—_yet_.”

“I can’t give you such a job as this until I know something about you,”
says Mr. Manning.

“Dad and me, we jest come to town,” says Catty. “We always been
shiftless, but I got to be respectable now and make folks respect me.
I’ve made Dad agree to live here, and he’s got to work. We hain’t never
done nothin’ but be shiftless and traipse around since Mother died.”

“Tramps, eh?”

“I calc’late you’d call us that.”

“Expect me to trust a couple of tramps with this job?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Because,” says Catty, “you know I mean business. You do know it, and
you know I’ll give you a good job or bust.”

“Huh!...” says Mr. Manning. “Where’s your equipment? Your ladders and
staging and brushes and paints?”

“Give me this job and I’ll have ’em. I’ll start work here Monday. This
is Thursday.”

“I’ll be _jiggered_!” says Mr. Manning. “How old are you?”

“Fifteen.”

Mr. Manning scowled at Catty, and I thought it was coming then, but in a
minute he spoke. “Young man,” says he, “if you can be here with proper
equipment and workmen at seven o’clock Monday morning, you can have the
job. If a kid like you has the crust to tackle a thing like this, and,
without a cent, can scrape together equipment and workmen, I’ll make a
bet you can do the job. Satisfy you?”

“Yes.”

“Git!” says Mr. Manning.

“Monday at seven,” says Catty, and we walked out.

“There,” says he, “that’s done. Now I hain’t got anything to do but git
together the ladders and brushes and paints and workmen to do the job.”

It looked to me like that was quite a chore, but Catty didn’t seem
discouraged any. “We got to git busy,” says he.



                               CHAPTER V


Catty had the rest of Thursday and Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to get
together the things he had to have to paint Mr. Manning’s warehouse—and
to convince his father he had to go to work. That last looked to me to
be about as difficult as the other was. Mr. Atkins didn’t look like
work. I never saw a man who looked less like it in my life. But then I
looked at Catty, and his jaw was all squared up and there was a kind of
a spark in his eye. Right then I made up my mind that Mr. Atkins was in
for a time of it.

All of a sudden Catty started to talk.

“There’s lots of things folks thinks is necessary that I don’t see any
use in. There’s being well off, for instance. What’s the use? Nobody
ever had a better time ’n Dad and me has had. There’s them tall silk
hats. Some day Dad’s got to wear one, though I’ll bet it ’ll be a job to
git it on his head. He’d shy off a hat like that jest the same way a
horse shies away from an elephant. Then there’s this thing of being
respectable.”

“But you got to be respectable,” says I.

“Why? All I can see to bein’ respectable is workin’ and gittin’ tired
out and bein’ tied down to one place instead of bein’ shiftless and
moseyin’ along wherever you want to, and enjoyin’ yourself. I can’t see
why folks set so much store by makin’ themselves miserable.”

“There’s more ’n that to bein’ respectable,” says I. “There’s bein’
honest and havin’ manners and—oh, a heap of things.”

“We always calc’lated to be honest,” says Catty. “As for manners, them
we had was plenty for us. Dad he never complained of mine and I never
complained of his’n. ’Twasn’t nobody else’s business that I kin see.”

“But you eat with your knife,” says I.

“’Twouldn’t cut nobody’s mouth but mine,” says he.

“Respectable folks don’t do it. Eatin’ with your knife is the worst
thing a feller kin do.”

“Worse’n stealin’?”

“I wouldn’t go so far’s to say that.”

“Bet Mrs. Gage would think it was,” says Catty. “She’s one of them kind
of folks that don’t see nothin’ but the trimmin’s. If Dad and me had
drove into town behind a team of milk-white horses, and each of us
wearin’ stovepipe hats, and a bushel of dollar bills scattered on the
floor of the buggy, she’d ’a’ invited us to dinner, and wouldn’t have
cared how much her boy played with me. Not even if we stole them dollar
bills.”

“I dunno,” says I.

“I do,” says he. “The way I see it there’s jest good folks and bad
folks. If you’re good you’re good, no matter if you’re respectable or
not, nor if you eat with a shingle instead of a fork; and you’re bad if
you’re bad, and no amount of eatin’ with the right kind of tools nor
wearin’ silk hats kin make you good.”

“That’s right,” says I.

“Well, then?”

“Why, clothes and manners is—well, maybe I can’t tell you, but my Dad
kin. He’d know, and he’d tell you so’s you wouldn’t have no arguin’ and
wranglin’ to do about it.”

“Let’s find him, then,” says he. “I got my mind made up to be
respectable and all, but I’d kinder like to know what I’m bein’ it for
and what good it’s doin’ _me_.”

“Come on,” says I.

We went up to my house, and Dad was fussing around in the garden.

“Hello!” says he, and straightened up, with a smile.

“Hello!” says I. “Here’s Catty and he wants you should explain to him
what good it is to be respectable.”

“Um!... What’s your idea of being respectable, Catty?”

“Why, to work and git all tired out, and to eat with somethin’ besides a
knife, and to wear good clothes. Then folks respects you. I dunno why.”

“I thought you could think, Catty,” says Dad.

“I calc’late to.”

“But you’re not thinking. When you think you have to dig down into
things and not just look at the skin. You’re looking at the skin.”

“If I be,” says Catty, “I hain’t enjoyin’ the looks of it.”

“You’re all wrong. Work and clothes and manners aren’t respectability.
They’re just signs of it. How do you know, in the wintertime, when a
rabbit has run across a field?”

“You see his tracks in the snow.”

“That’s the way it is with manners and work and clothes. They’re nothing
but the tracks of the rabbit of respectability. There might be
respectability without any tracks at all, but then folks wouldn’t know
it had been past.”

“But rabbit tracks is always rabbit tracks, and clothes and manners and
sich might be had by a feller that wasn’t respectable at all, but by
some feller that wanted to fool folks.”

“Now you’re thinking,” says Dad. “Manners and clothes aren’t
respectability, as I told you. They’re just an advertisement of it. Some
advertisements aren’t true, but most are. Now take a case like this. You
see a stranger. He’s dirty and slouchy and he doesn’t do any work. Right
off you’re prejudiced against him. He may be perfectly good and
respectable, but he doesn’t look it. Take another stranger. He is well
dressed. You see him working. He is polite and pleasant. Right away you
get the idea that he is respectable. Now, he might be a very bad man,
but he doesn’t look it. One man advertises that he isn’t respectable;
the other advertises that he is. Do you see?”

“Yes,” says Catty.

“Now about work. Work is always respectable. A man that doesn’t work may
get along and enjoy himself and be honest, but he isn’t doing anybody
any good. You can’t work without doing some good for somebody else.
You’re helping the world along every time you do a bit of work, no
matter how small it is. You’re contributing your share to the world.
Here’s your common laborer who is digging a cellar. He’s an Italian,
maybe, and doesn’t get much pay, but the world can’t get along without
him. Until he has dug his cellar the skilled mason or bricklayer can’t
lay a brick. They’ve got to have the hole dug for their foundation, and
so they’re dependent on him. The carpenter can’t drive a nail until the
bricklayer has the foundation dug. The plasterer can’t plaster till the
house is up; the plumber and the paperhanger and the painter are
dependent on the others. See all that? Every man that works is helping
some other man that works, and all of them are providing a house for
somebody to live in and be comfortable.”

“I see,” says Catty.

“And the man that hires the others to build him a house is helping his
town by increasing the amount of property in it. He helps the bank by
borrowing money, maybe. He pays taxes to help run the country. He has
provided labor for a lot of men—and he, in his turn has had to work
somewhere to get the money to build the house. So all of it comes back
to work. You can’t work a second without helping the whole world a
little.”

“I’ll be dog-goned!” says Catty.

“And that’s why work is respectable—because you can’t do a stroke of
work without benefiting everybody in the country and maybe in the whole
world. Just so, the fellow who never works is looked down on because he
isn’t helping anybody, but is really a detriment, because he is getting
food that somebody else has to work to produce, and doesn’t do his share
to pay for it. See?”

“Yes. But manners, how about manners?”

“Manners,” says Dad, “are just to make life more pleasant for
everybody—like music or pictures or scenery. When the world was made it
could have been fixed so it would have been just as useful without ever
being beautiful at all. The coal and iron could have been piled on top
and not hidden under the ground. There needn’t have been valleys and
hills, but just an ugly flat. The Lord could have made it that way if He
wanted to, most likely, but He didn’t want to. He wanted folks to love
the earth and He made it beautiful so they would enjoy living on it.
Now, manners are like that. You can get along without them. But the more
of the right kind of manners you have the more people enjoy being with
you. Manners, when you get right down to brass tacks, are nothing but
actions agreed upon by people with good sense to make it easier and more
pleasant to get along with one another.”

“Um!” says Catty, kind of thoughtful. “I git the idee. Never thought of
that. Guess I’ll git me a set of manners.”

“But you can work and have manners and clothes—good clothes are merely
the best way to be clean—and still not be respectable. Respectable means
worthy of being respected, and to be that you have to act in just one
way. It only takes a few words to tell you what that is; it is always to
give the other fellow a fair deal. Just be fair, that’s all. If you’re
always fair you can’t help being respected.”

“Uh-huh!” says Catty. “Much ’bleeged to you, Mr. Moore. Guess I’ll be
moseyin’ along. Got a lot of things to do.”

“Catty’s took a contract to paint Mr. Manning’s new warehouse,” says I,
“and all he’s got to do is convince his Dad to go to work and then get
the ladders and brushes and paints to do the job.”

Dad looked at Catty a second or so before he said anything, and then he
says, “Want any help?”

“No, thankee,” says Catty. “I got to do this myself—jest to show wimmin
like her”—and he pointed over at Gage’s house—“that they hain’t got no
business talkin’ about me like she did. I got to show ’em all, and I’m
a-goin’ to.”

“Good for you, Catty. Go at it.... Good-by.”

“G’-by,” says Catty, and we moved off toward the bayou where his Dad was
fishing.

We found Mr. Atkins sitting on an old log about nine-tenths asleep and
the other tenth drowsy. Catty tickled his ear with a straw, and after he
had batted at it a couple of times with his hand he woke up and turned
around.

“Pesterin’ your ol’ Dad, eh? Crept up jest to pester me when I was
a-sittin’ and thinkin’ and reasonin’ out how to ketch a big fish. One of
these here times, young feller, I’m a-goin’ to ketch you jest when you
start to pester me, and pieces of you ’ll come rainin’ down more ’n six
mile away.”

What he said was awful ferocious, but the way he said it wasn’t
ferocious a mite. “Go ’way,” says he, “and pester somebody else.”

“Dad,” says Catty, “you used to be a painter, didn’t you?”

“Who? Me?... Say, young feller, since I quit there hain’t been no _real_
painters ’cause there hain’t nobody to teach ’em. Paint! Now I come to
think back there never was sich a painter as me, not for speed nor for
skill nor for nothin’. One time I call to mind a man and his wife that
wanted their house painted. He wanted it red and she was sot on blue.
They called me in and give me the job of satisfyin’ both of ’em, and I
done it. Nobody else could ’a’ managed it.”

“How’d you do it?” I asked, because it looked like a puzzler to me.

“Painted it blue,” says he.

“But that only satisfied the woman. Didn’t her husband complain?”

“Nary. Come to find out he was colorblind. Jest let on to him that I was
paintin’ it bright red, and he never knowed the difference. Don’t to
this day. Figgers he’s got a red house when ’tain’t no more red than a
blue jay. That’s the kind of a painter I was.”

“Do you remember how, Dad? Could you paint now if you was of a mind to?”

“Could I paint now? Ho! Why, if folks was to see me paint once all the
other painters ’u’d be out of a job. I kin shut both my eyes and tie my
right hand and outpaint any other man in the U-nited States of America,
with Canady throwed in. I kin paint more in a day than any other feller
kin in four, and do it better and more artistic.”

“That’s fine,” says Catty, with a kind of a funny look around his eyes,
“because you’re goin’ to start in Monday.”

“Start in what?”

“Paintin’.”

“Paintin’ what?”

“Big warehouse.”

“You mean me—your own Dad that raised you?”

“Yes.”

“Now you look here. You hadn’t ought to of done that. Why, I hain’t used
to paintin’. It’s been nigh ten year since I touched a paint-brush! Why,
I plumb lost the habit! Dunno’s I could dip a brush in a paint-pail.
Never was much of a painter, nohow.”

“You _said_ you was the best.”

“So I was,” said Mr. Atkins, stubbornly.

“Said you could do it better now than anybody.”

“Kin.”

“Then what you mean by sayin’ you lost the habit and never was any
good?”

“Jest a way of speakin’. Didn’t want to scare you. I _kin_ paint and I
_could_ paint, but I been so long away from paint that it would be
mighty dangerous for me to git near it agin.

“Why?”

“Painters’ colic. I’d git doubled up with it in a minnit. Frightful
ailment. Nothin’ worse. If I was to be took with it when I was on top of
a ladder nothin’ ’u’d save me. Down I’d come, _ker-plop_, and most
likely bust my neck. Then what _’u’d_ you do?”

“That’s bad, Dad, but we got to risk it.”

“Besides, I hain’t got no paint-brush. Can’t paint without a brush.”

“I’ll git you a brush.”

Mr. Atkins stared at the water and waggled his head. “Looks to me like
you was goin’ to crowd me right into this paintin’ job. What’s the
idee?”

“You and me is goin’ to be respectable. You’re a-goin’ to have a store
and hire men, and maybe wear a silk hat, and we’re goin’ to have money
and a house, and go to church, and have folks invite us to dinner, and
all sich.”

“I snummy!... What’s that about hirin’ men? Like the sound of it. Why
can’t we start out like that? No need of my paintin’ if we kin hire men
to do it for me.”

“We’ve got to begin small. What we make on this job we’ll put into stock
and git a start. In a little while you won’t have to do anythin’ but
boss and look after the work, and maybe paint a little on jobs that’s
too good to trust to anybody else.”

“Hope we don’t git many of them kind of jobs,” said Mr. Atkins, mighty
sadlike.... “Wa-al, Sonny, if you’re sot on your ol’ Dad a-fallin’ off a
ladder with the colic, why, you go ahead, and I’ll tumble for you as
often as I kin till I wear out. Maybe we won’t git no job, though,” he
said, with what looked to me like a hopeful look.

“We got one—and a big one. Start in Monday. All I got to do is git
brushes and ladders and paints and sich.”

“That all you need to git?”

“Yes.”

“Um!... Guess I’ll go on fishin’, then. We kin eat fish, but a feller
that starts in to eat a paintin’ job when he hain’t got paint to spread
nor brushes to spread it, nor yet ladders to climb up onto, is goin’
hungry for a spell. When you git all them things you come back and tell
me, and I’ll go to work.”

“Promise that?”

“Yes indeedy.”

“G’-by, Dad. I got to hustle around spry.”

“Looks that way. I’ll have fish for supper, Sonny.”

We walked off, but Catty acted like he was perfectly satisfied.

“Dad he never made no promise he didn’t keep,” says he. “When once he’s
give out his word, that’s the end. Now let’s see about them ladders.”



                               CHAPTER VI


“Know of any ladders in town?” Catty asked, after a while.

“Fire company’s got some,” says I. “New hook-and-ladder was bought this
spring.” Catty thought it over awhile. “Don’t b’lieve we could borrow
them,” says he. “Them fire companies is p’tic’lar about lendin’ things.
Still, if we can’t git ’em anywheres else, we’ll try.”

When I got to know him better I saw that he was perfectly serious about
it, too. If he knew there was a thing he wanted, he figured there must
be some way to get it. He told me once that a fellow could get anything
if he just sat down and _thought_ long enough. “I’ll bet,” says he,
“that you could get _anything_ just by asking for it, if you could think
of exactly the right way to ask.”

Maybe that was so. I wish I could believe it and learn how to do it.
There’s a heap of things that I want bad and haven’t any chance ever to
get unless I do get ’em by asking right.

“Who are the painters here?” says he. “Sands Jones is one and Darkie
Patt is the other. Patt’s a darky,” says I, “and they don’t even speak.
Mad at each other. Always was and always will be, I guess.”

As we were going along we met Banty Gage and Skoodles Gordon. Skoodles
hollered to me to come on, that they were going up to the dam fishing.
He said there was a hole washed out behind the spiles where a fellow
could catch rookies as fast as he dropped in his line.

“How about it?” says I to Catty, and he looked like he was pretty
interested.

“Wait a minute,” I yelled to Banty, “till I see if Catty wants to come.”

“Needn’t wait on our account,” says Banty. “If he comes I can’t. Ma says
so, and I don’t want to, neither. I hain’t goin’ to have folks say I’m
always runnin’ around with tramps and sich.”

Catty didn’t say a word, but there was a line all the way around his
mouth that was white as white, and he looked kind of stiff like he was
frozen.

“Me, too,” says Skoodles. “Come on, Wee—wee. You hain’t goin’ to give us
the go-by for no tramp, be you?”

It made me mad.

“Come on,” says I to Catty. “Let’s knock some manners into ’em. A good
lickin’s goin’ to open up their eyes to who’s a tramp and who hain’t.”

“No,” says he, after a minute. “I’d like to. Gosh! how I’d like to, but
it wouldn’t do. I’m tryin’ to be respectable. If you was to fight,
nobody’d think anything about it; but if I was to fight, everybody ’d
say I was a rowdy and maybe I’d git arrested or somethin’. Wee-wee, I
jest _got_ to be respectable.”

“You hain’t afraid, be you?” says I, kind of looking at him edgeways.

“If you think I be,” says he, “come on off alone somewheres where nobody
’ll see us. I figger to show you mighty sudden.”

So that was all right. If he was the kind of a fellow that was afraid of
a bang in the nose I didn’t want to take any trouble for him, but he
wasn’t. So Banty and Skoodles got off without a licking that day. I just
yelled to them to mosey along because I was able to pick my company and
’most generally stuck to what I picked. So they hollered back something
disagreeable and went along.

I made up my mind right there that the first time I ketched either of
them alone I’d knock him into a peaked hat. Nobody could blame Catty for
what I did.

“We will go to see that painter—Mr. Jones,” said Catty.

So we went up to Sands Jones’s house, and there he was, standing just
outside the kitchen door with an ax in his hand, like he was going to
chop wood. He looked at the ax and then he looked at the wood and then
he breathed hard and rested the ax-head on the ground and looked over
the garden fence. Mrs. Jones poked her head out of the door.

“Sands Jones,” she said, “don’t you think I can’t see where you’re
lookin’—over the back fence toward the river. I’m watchin’ you, too. You
git to splittin’ if you expect to eat. Now chop, Sands, chop. I hain’t
goin’ to move off’n this spot till that ax-head hits a block of wood.”

“Now, Maw,” says Sands, “can’t a feller look around a bit?”

“He kin look after he splits,” she says. “Lift that there ax.”

He lifted it.

“Now chop.”

He chopped.

“Howdy, Mr. Jones?” says I.

He dropped his ax and looked at me kind of pleased.

“I come to talk business to you—paintin’ business,” says I.

“You chop,” says Mrs. Jones.

“How kin I chop and talk business, Maw? My perfession hain’t choppin’,
it’s paintin’. Now hain’t it, Maw? You can say no other ways if you was
to try.”

“This feller,” says I, pointing to Catty, “is named Atkins, and he’s got
paintin’ work.” Mr. Jones looked Catty over kind of hopeless, and then
says: “Paintin’ work? How much? Dog-kennel maybe. I hain’t no time to be
paintin’ dog-kennels.”

“It’s a big job, Mr. Jones,” says Catty, “and my father has to hire
several good men to help him.”

“Your father! Who’s your Paw, Sonny?”

“Mr. Atkins, the master painter,” says Catty, without wiggling an
eyebrow. “He calc’lates to hire several men, and sent me to see if you
wanted a job beginning Monday.”

“What’s the job?”

“Paintin’ Mr. Manning’s new warehouse.”

“All of it?”

“All of it.”

“Can’t do it. Too big. Before I got t’ other end of it painted the paint
on the first end ’u’d be wore out and I’d have to start in repaintin’
ag’in. Hain’t lookin’ for no permanent paintin’ job. I like variety.
Different jobs every day or so; that’s me.”

“You don’t have to do it alone,” says Catty. “There’ll be other men.
There’ll be my father to boss and to work, and this Mr. Patt—”

“Darkie Patt?”

“Yes.”

“Won’t work with him. Have nothin’ to do with him. Wouldn’t lean a
ladder ag’in’ the same buildin’ he was leanin’ a ladder agin.

“That’s what he says about you,” Catty says.

“Eh?”

“He says you can’t paint, nohow,” says Catty. “He says he was willin’ to
work, but that if you was on the same job he’d want twice the wages you
was gittin’ because he could paint twice as much and twice as well with
one hand.”

“Did, did he?”

“Yes, but I says I didn’t think so, and I says I’d like to have a chance
to prove it. It was a kind of a challenge to a paintin’-race. Yes, sir.
I says to Mr. Patt that I’d start him out paintin’ on one side and you
on the other. Even start. Then there’d be a race betwixt you two to see
who could do the most and the best. Yes, sir, and there was to be a
prize. Five dollars it was to the feller that got his side done first.”

“You mean Patt was willin’ to race _me_?”

“He’ll race you, all right.”

“Huh! Hear that, Maw?”

“I heard it,” says Mrs. Jones, “and if you paint like you split wood,
Patt kin sleep half a day and beat you with one hand tied.”

“Think so, do you? Think so? That’s your idee? Wa-al, I’ll show you.
That’s what I’ll do.... Maw, you jest walk down to that job and cock
your eyes up at me a-workin’ if you want to see paint fly. Paint hain’t
never flew as I’ll make it fly. You watch.”

“Then you agree?” says Catty.

“You kin bet your bottom dollar. When do we start?”

“Monday morning at seven. By the way, have you any ladders we can rent?”

“Jest rented my ladders to a feller in the next town. Wasn’t no paintin’
jobs in sight, so I figgered to realize on my investment.”

“All right.” says Catty, not showing a mite that he was disappointed.
“At seven sharp, on Monday.”

“I’ll be there,” says Mr. Jones.

After that we went over to Darkie Patt’s, and made about the same kind
of talk, and got the same results. Patt had two ladders, but both of
them was busted or something and couldn’t be used. Said he hadn’t
figured on painting much this summer, because, what with night lines and
one thing and another, he calc’lated to make a living a heap pleasanter
than by buttering the side of a house with yellow paint.

“Well,” says I, when we had gone off, leaving Mr. Patt hired for Monday
morning at seven, “you got your men hired to paint, but you hain’t
either ladders or brushes. How be you goin’ to make out?”

“Main thing is to find ladders, or scaffoldin’ or somethin’. When I git
them I calc’late to git the brushes and paints.”

I was trying hard to think of any ladders I’d ever seen, but I couldn’t
think of any. So we just walked along, down alleys and every place we
could think, looking to see if we couldn’t see some. After a while we
walked down Main Street, and just in front of the drug-store I saw Mrs.
Gage and Mrs. Gordon, Skoodles’s mother. Catty didn’t notice them, and I
thought maybe we would get past without being seen, but we didn’t. Just
as we were alongside Mrs. Gage looked up and saw us.

“There,” she says to Mrs. Gordon. “That’s the boy I mean—there, with the
Moore boy. Nice thing to have coming to town, isn’t it? I thought there
was a law or something about vagrants.... That Mr. Moore must be out of
his head to allow his son to play around with a young tramp like that.”

Mrs. Gordon looked and sniffed. “He’s got a hard face,” says she. “I
told my boy never to let me catch them together, and he promised.”

“When my husband comes home to-night I’m going to see if something can’t
be done about it,” says Mrs. Gage. “I wonder if that boy ’ll have the
cheek to go to school.”

“Oh, that isn’t likely,” says Mrs. Gordon. “That sort don’t take to
school much, I imagine.”

Catty let on like he didn’t hear, but I knew he heard, because in about
five minutes he spoke up and says: “When school starts this fall I be
a-goin’ and nobody hain’t goin’ to keep me away from it. I got a _right_
to go. When my Dad’s a business man in this town I’ll have as good a
right to go to school as anybody.”

“Sure,” says I.

“We got to have a place of business right on Main Street,” says he, kind
of to himself. “It won’t do jest to work, but we got to make a show of
it and look as big as we kin. I wonder if there’s a store we kin git?”

“One down to the end of the block,” says I. “Let’s look at it,” says he.

We walked along until we came to the building I meant. It was wood with
a false front—jest one story, but made to look like it had two, and
there was an iron hitching-rail in front of it. There was a good-sized
store and a small shop right next to it and opening into it. It was kind
of run down and needed painting and a window or so, but it was on Main
Street, and a good corner, too. Used to be a bakery there, but it went
out of business and nobody had rented it since.

“That ’ll do fine,” says Catty. “Dad kin use the big store for paints
and wall-papers and sich like, and I kin use the little shop.”

“What for?” says I.

“Oh,” says he, “so’s I kin sort of have a little business of my own and
maybe make a dollar or two. I kin tend it and Dad’s store, too, when
he’s out on a job.”

“Seems to me like you was cuttin’ out quite a spell of work for
yourself,” says I.

“I wonder if there’s rooms behind where we kin live?” says he.

So we took a look, and there were rooms there—four of them—a kitchen and
a dining-room and two bedrooms.

“Jest suits,” says Catty. “Who owns her?”

“Mr. Gage,” says I, with a chuckle.

Catty looked at me and then he grinned. “Guess maybe I better see him
’fore his wife gits a chance to talk to him to-night like she said she
was going to. Where’s he at?”

“Runs the grocery up the street.”

We walked right up there and found Mr. Gage shooing flies off the fruit
up in front.

“Howdy-do, Mr. Gage?” says I. “This is my friend, Catty Atkins.”

“Howdy?” says Mr. Gage. “What kin I do for you?”

“I’m sorter running errands for my Dad,” says Catty. “He’s goin’ into
business here, and wants to find out about that store buildin’ of you
down the street.”

“What business?” says Mr. Gage.

“Paintin’ and decoratin’,” says Catty.

“Jest come to town?”

“Yes. What rent do you ask?”

“Figger I ought to git twenty dollars a month for that buildin’.”

“Give you seventeen and a half,” says Catty, “and take it for not less
’n a year.”

“Rent payable in advance,” says Mr. Gage, cautious-like.

“We take it from the first of the month. Pay a month’s rent the mornin’
we move in. That all right?”

“Calc’late so.”

“Write it,” says Catty.

“Eh?”

“Set it down in pen and ink, so’s I kin show it to Dad and he’ll know
I’ve done what’s right,” says Catty.

So Mr. Gage went in and wrote it down like Catty said, and signed his
name to it. After that we went on hunting up ladders, but we didn’t find
any. It got supper-time and I left Catty and went home.

About nine o’clock that night our door-bell rang, and I went, and it was
Catty. He looked mad and he looked queer and he looked worried.

“Jest come over to tell you the town marshal just come to our house and
ordered us to git out of town within forty-eight hours. Says as how
he’ll put us in the calaboose for vagrants if we don’t move on.”

“What you goin’ to do?” says I, too surprised and hit all of a heap to
even say I was sorry.

“I dunno what I’m _goin’_ to do,” says Catty, with his jaw shoved out
and his eyes kind of hard and mad, “but I kin tell you what I hain’t
goin’ to do. I hain’t goin’ to move an inch.”

“Bully for you,” says I, and in another second he had turned around and
run off into the dark. I dunno to this day what made him come and tell
me about it, because he didn’t ask for any help or anything. But I got a
sneaking suspicion it was jest because he was sort of lonesome and kind
of wanted to make sure he really did have a friend in the world.



                              CHAPTER VII


I could hardly wait for breakfast to be over in the morning so that I
could hunt up Catty Atkins and find out just exactly what had happened.
I told Dad about it, but he didn’t say much.

“Catty said he wasn’t going to leave town, did he?” Dad asked.

“Yes,” I says.

“Well,” says Dad, with a kind of a hint of a grin, “I shouldn’t be
surprised if folks had to get used to Catty being here, then.”

“Can’t they make him go?” I asked.

“They could make some folks go. I guess it depends a lot on the folks.”

I found Catty arguing with his father, it seemed like his father was
willing to pull up stakes and go away, and Catty was insisting that they
were going to stay.

“But you can’t,” says Mr. Atkins, waggling his head kind of bewildered.
“They won’t let you. They’re a-goin’ to chase you off. This here town
don’t want no traffickin’ with us, no way. We might jest as well up and
leave friendly as to get chased by a bulldog.”

“There ain’t no bulldog,” says Catty.

“Can’t never tell. Bulldogs puts in appearances when least expected.”

“They hain’t got no right to chase us off. We hain’t vagrants like the
marshal said.”

“What be we, then?”

“Business men,” says Catty. “The marshal he says that a vagrant is a
feller with no visible means of support. Well, hain’t we got visible
means? Hain’t we in the paintin’ and decoratin’ business? Hain’t we got
a job? Hain’t we rented a place of business? I guess we have.”

“You’ll see,” says Mr. Atkins, solemn-like. “When town marshals wants to
run folks out of town, why, they jest up and runs ’em. Who’s a-goin’ to
stop ’em?”

“Me,” says Catty. He snapped it out like he was biting the word off a
chunk of the dictionary and it come hard.

“What you goin’ to do?” I says.

“Jest go ahead and mind my own business,” says Catty, “and let the
marshal do the doin’.”

“Um!” says I.

“Um nothin’!” says he. “You watch.... Now I got to git after them
ladders and that paint.”

“Hadn’t you better be seeing about this other thing first?” I says.

Catty looked at me a second, and he looked just like a fellow who had
made up his mind and wasn’t going to change it. He looked like he would
_fight_ and fight hard. “I’m goin’ to act jest like that marshal never
came here at all,” says he. “When does your newspaper come out?”

“To-night,” says I. “Most gen’ally it comes out Thursdays, when it don’t
come out Fridays or Saturdays or Mondays. It hain’t what you call
reg’lar. Editor has to go fishin’, or he loses his bottle of ink, or he
hain’t got money to git his paper out of the express-office, or
somethin’ else.”

“We’re goin’ to the printin’-office,” says Catty.

“What if that there town marshal comes back while you’re gone and starts
chasin’ me away?” says Mr. Atkins.

Catty laughed. “Don’t run no farther ’n you have to, Dad, and run slow.
I’ll catch up.”

“Dunno but what I’d rather be chased off than have to go paintin’ all
that buildin’ and git the colic,” Mr. Atkins says, under his breath, but
Catty jest grinned at him and patted him on the back, and we mogged
along.

“What kind of a feller is this editor?” says Catty.

“He’s all right, except that he hain’t got much gumption.”

We hiked along till we got to the printing-office and went in. I always
like to go into the printing-office on account of the smell. I don’t
know what there is about that smell that I like, but it sort of excites
a fellow and makes him think about things happening in far-off places,
and about adventures, and all sorts of interesting things. I suppose
that is because printer’s ink has been used to tell so many exciting and
bully things for years and years that, somehow or other, they have got
to be a part of the ink, and the smell of them has got into it. I’d like
to be a newspaper man some day and live in that smell all of the time.

Mr. Cuppy was sitting in front of a table, with his coat off and a shade
over his eyes and a corncob pipe in his mouth. He was all hunched over
like he was using the last drop of his brains to write an editorial
about something that was mighty important, and for a second I sort of
hesitated about interrupting him; but I took a look over his shoulder
and saw that what he was doing was painting up an artificial minnow with
streaks and polka-dots. There was another contraption that looked like a
mouse cut out of wood, and there were hooks and feathers and all sorts
of things scattered around.

“Mornin’, Mr. Cuppy,” says I.

“Mornin’, Wee-wee,” says he, just looking up and then looking back again
at his minnow.

“This is Catty Atkins,” says I, “and he wants to talk business with
you.”

“Does, hey? In a hurry is he? Because I’m mighty busy just this minute.
I think I’ve got it at last. Been trying for months to paint up a minnow
so it can’t fail, and now I’m on the track. Bet I’ve painted this one
forty times, but I’ll get it yet, and when I do I’ll show you how to
catch bass.”

“What’s the idea?” I says.

“I’ve been figuring out what kind of a looking minnow I’d like to eat if
I was a bass,” says he, as solemn as a church. “I’ve been putting myself
in the place of the bass and thinking like he would think, and this
minnow is the result. Now, Wee-wee, if you were a bass, wouldn’t you
jump out of the water to grab that bait?”

“Dunno but what I would,” says I.

“Good!” says he. “What did you say his name was?” He jerked his thumb
toward Catty.

“Catty Atkins,” says I.

“New-comer?”

“Yes.”

“Give him a personal. Mr. Catty Atkins, of—where does he come from?—is
visiting friends in our midst. Something like that, eh?”

“I think,” says Catty, “that I’ve got better news than that for you.”

“Do, eh? What is it? Who’s been doin’ what?”

“It’s about Sands Jones and Darkie Patt,” says Catty.

“Only news about _them_,” says Editor Cuppy, “would be that they had
gone to work of their own accord.”

“They have,” says Catty, “and, what’s more, they’re goin’ to work on the
same job, and what’s more, it’s a race. Never had no paintin’-race in
this town, did you?”

“Not that I call to mind,” said Editor Cuppy, and he began to look
interested. “What’s the idee?”

Catty explained the whole thing to him, and Editor Cuppy began to laugh,
and then he grabbed a piece of paper and begun to write. “Best story in
a year,” says he. “We’ll run her down the front page.... So your Pa is
goin’ into business here, eh?”

“Yes. We’ve rented Mr. Gage’s store, and we’re goin’ to have the most
up-to-date paintin’ and decoratin’ shop in the state, and a
refreshment-stand in the little shop at the side.”

“Good! Glad to see enterprise comin’ to our midst. I’ll put in some
about it,” and he grabbed his pencil and wrote quite a lot about Catty
and his Dad being acquisitions to our town that the town ought to be
proud to welcome, and stuff like that. Then he said he was much obliged
and went out into the back room to set the story up in type.

Next we went to the hardware-store where they kept paints and brushes
and such-like things, and Catty walked right up to Mr. Moss, hardware,
and says: “Mr. Moss, my father, Mr. Atkins, who has the contract for
painting Mr. Manning’s new warehouse, sent me in to order this list of
supplies. He would like to have them delivered before noon at the
warehouse, so he can get to work mixing paints and one thing and
another. We start work Monday morning.” Catty had a list of things and
of quantities of oil and paint and everything. “We are new-comers here,”
says Catty, “and you don’t know us, but Mr. Manning will send you your
check in payment himself.”

“That’s all right. That’s all right,” says Mr. Moss. “Anything else I
kin do fur you?”

“Unless you have four or five ladders. We need some new ladders.”

“Nary a ladder, young man. But I’ll deliver these things before noon.
Much obleeged.”

“Don’t you find it a kind of a nuisance to handle paints with your
hardware business?” Catty says. “Must take up room you need for other
things, and use up a lot of time. Hain’t much profit into it, neither.”

“That’s right, young feller. But somebody’s got to handle ’em for
accommodation of the public.”

“Well, maybe Dad and you could make an arrangement,” says Catty. “We
might be willin’ to buy out your paint stock, if you was to put a
reasonable price onto it. Kind of calc’late to go into business
permanent here.”

“Do, hey? I want to know? Paints and sich?”

“Wall-papers and everythin’,” says Catty.

“Well, you jest come around and talk it over. Shouldn’t be a mite
s’prised if we could fix it up.”

And all this time, mind you, there was the town marshal going to run
Catty and his Dad out of the village! Catty went right ahead as if there
never had been any town marshal at all, and as if he and his Dad were
leading citizens instead of a couple of folks that hadn’t a pair of
pants to their name and was looked on by most as tramps.

“If I only had them ladders, now,” Catty says as he came out of the
store, “everythin’ would be all right.”

“Ladders it is,” says I. “Let’s go out and shoot us a couple. Might see
some flyin’ around in the woods.”

Catty could see a joke as far as anybody. “Let’s,” says he. “It’s open
season for ladders now.”

In a minute he stopped and says, “When does school start?”

“Five weeks,” says I.

“I’ll have to hustle,” says he. “What grade are you in?”

“Eighth,” says I.

“I got to go to school. Folks hain’t respectable if their children don’t
go to school,” says Catty. “But I hain’t got much education. I’d have to
start almost at the beginnin’ with the little kids. Don’t kind of like
the idee much.”

“You must know somethin’,” says I.

“I do,” says he, “but you can’t pass examinations in grammar with it. If
it was how birds live and about rabbits and about growin’ things, I
could git along, but I don’t know no rules to speak of.”

“But you know arithmetic.”

“Quite a sight of it. Dad he taught me some, because a feller has to
know some arithmetic. But I hain’t up on hist’ry nor language nor such.
Be they hard to learn?”

“Hist’ry,” says I, “is jest like readin’ a book that you like. We hain’t
had much but United States hist’ry yet.”

“Got the book?”

“Yes.”

“Wonder if you’d loan her to me so’s I could be readin’ it nights?”

“You bet,” says I.

“I wisht there was some way of learnin’ them other things, so I could
start in school where I ought to be. But ’tain’t much use wishin’. I
ought to learn things easier ’n a little kid six or seven year old, and
I ought to ketch up before long, but I’ll have to start in at the
beginnin’, I expect.”

“Say,” says I, “I got all the books. And my Dad knows everythin’. Why
don’t you borrow them books and ask Dad if he won’t kind of teach you at
odd times? Bet you’d learn quicker ’n greased lightnin’, with him to
show you.”

“Calc’late he’d be willin’?”

“Who? Dad? Ho! Be tickled to death. I’ll ask him this noon.”

“Much obleeged,” says Catty, “and while he’s teachin’ me he kin give me
an idee about manners.. I got to be as full of manners as anybody, and
fuller, ’cause folks won’t expect it of me, and I got to prove to ’em
that I’m jest as good as they be and know as much about how to eat and
them kind of things.... Now them ladders.”

We walked along a spell and then Catty stopped all of a sudden.

“I got to git Dad one of them painter’s suits made out of white stuff.
You know the kind. Got to have that to-day, too.”

“Why?” says I.

“You’ll see,” says he, which was a way of his. He didn’t always tell a
fellow everything that was in his mind, and he took a lot of pleasure in
surprising folks. “Ought to git one for along about three dollars,
hadn’t I?”

“Guess so,” says I. “Got the three dollars?”

“No, but three dollars hadn’t ought to be hard to git if you set your
mind to it.”

“Huh!” says I. “Might as well be a million.”

“You’ll see,” says he. “I hain’t earned much money, but it kin be done.
Everybody does it, and if everybody kin do it, why, I calc’late I kin,
too.”

“How?”

“Don’t know, but jest keep your ears open and your eyes open, and
somethin’s sure to turn up.”

“If you had a cow—” says I.

“What if I did?” says he.

“Why, you could sell her.”

“I could sell an elephant if I had one, I expect, but I hain’t got no
elephants, nor no zebras, nor no ornithorincuses. Know somebody wants to
buy a cow?”

“Mr. Gackins next door to Gage’s was sayin’ to Dad the other night that
he was lookin’ out for a Jersey.”

“Um!... Jersey, eh? S’pose he meant it?”

“Know he did,” says I. “His last cow took sick and died, and he needs
another.”

“Let’s go see him,” says Catty.

So we walked up toward Gackins’s, and Mr. Gackins was digging in the
garden.

“Mr. Gackins?” says Catty.

“What kin I do fur you, young man?” says Mr. Gackins.

“I hear tell you aim to buy a cow.”

“Calc’late to, if I kin git a good one.”

“Cash?”

“On the spot,” says Mr. Gackins. “Got a Jersey fer sale?”

“Expect to have. How high d’you aim to go fer sich a cow?”

“Depends on the cow,” says Mr. Gackins. “Pervidin’ she was a
good-dispositioned critter that wasn’t give to kickin’ over the
milk-pail and stickin’ her hoof in the milk, and pervidin’ she give a
generous pailful, why, I might go as high as thirty or maybe thirty-five
dollars.”

“Um!... Goin’ to be home all mornin’?”

“Yes.”

“Figger I kin fetch around jest the cow you want. Won’t be more ’n an
hour or two.”

“I’ll be waitin’ fer you, but mind she’s sweet-tempered. I got to milk
her myself, and I hain’t hankerin’ to git kicked over the fence, nor yet
hooked in the stummick. Always name my cows Jane. Git me one by the name
of Jane, if you kin.”

“Her name ’ll be Jane,” says Catty, as serious as a judge.

We hustled off, and then Catty says to me, “Who owns a good Jersey cow?”

“Hiram Winklereid, out a half a mile, keeps quite a herd.”

“That’s where we’re headin’,” says Catty. We mogged along the road till
we came to Winklereid’s and went back into the big barn. Mr. Winklereid
was walking around, looking at his cattle, and Catty went up to him as
big as life and more than three times as natural.

“Mr. Winklereid,” says he, “I got a man that wants to buy him a
good-natured Jersey cow by the name of Jane, that gives a pailful of
milk. Got sich a cow fer sale?”

“All but the name of Jane,” says Mr. Winklereid, with a grin. He was a
great big man, and about as pleasant as any farmer in that part of the
state. Everybody liked him on account of him always grinning and joking
with folks, and it was said of him that he treated the animals on his
place better than most men treated their families.

“If you got the cow,” says Catty, and he grinned, too, “I guess I kin
tend to christenin’ her Jane.”

“Shouldn’t be s’prised a mite,” says Mr. Winklereid. “Who be you,
anyhow?”

I introduced them and Mr. Winklereid looked at Catty kind of sharp and
says, “How come you in this deal?”

“To make money,” says Catty. “I needed some money for a purpose I got in
mind, and when I heard of a man that wanted a cow I figgered I’d buy him
one and turn it over at a profit.”

“Um!... You got gumption, young feller. Prepared to pay cash, be you?”

“The man I’m a-sellin’ to, he’ll pay cash.”

“How much?”

“Don’t seem like I ought to tell you that. What I aim to do is to buy
this cow off of you as cheap as I can and sell it to him as high as I
can. If you knew what he’d pay me, why, you’d charge me more.”

“Maybe so. Can’t tell. But you got business idees all right. Now here,
young feller, is a cow I’ll guarantee to be kind and gentle, and capable
of fillin’ the pail every evenin’ with the sweetest milk in this
section. She’s young and willin’, and I’ll sell her to you for
thirty-five dollars.”

“Too high,” says Catty. “Tell you what I’ll do. I’ll give you
thirty-two, even. I’ll drive her into town and sell her and fetch back
the money in no time.”

“How do I know you won’t run off with the money?” says Mr. Winklereid,
but his eyes was kind of twinkling.

Catty looked at him a minute like he was going to get mad, and then he
says, “You know by the looks of me,” says he. Just like that.

Mr. Winklereid laughed. “By Jing!” says he, “that was a mighty good
answer. You git the cow, Sonny. Wait a minute till I put a leadin’-rope
on her. Good luck to you. Any time you got business dealin’s of this
here kind jest drop in to see me.”

“Thankee,” says Catty, and in a couple of minutes more we were driving
the cow down the road toward Mr. Gackins’s house.

As we turned in his driveway Catty began talking to the cow. “Careful
now, Jane,” says he. “Watch where you’re steppin’. You’re comin’ to your
home now, and I hope you’re goin’ to enjoy it. There never was a better
or pleasanter-natured cow than you and the way you give milk is a
caution. I hate to part with you, but Mr. Gackins here needs a
first-class cow and I want to find a home for you....” Then he pretended
to notice Mr. Gackins, and says: “Here she is, sir.... Jane, here’s your
new owner, Mr. Gackins. Come over and leave him pat your head.”

Mr. Gackins came over and looked at Jane and talked to her and patted
her head.

“Guaranteed,” says Catty. He told how much milk she gave and all that as
he had learned it from Mr. Winklereid.

“I like her looks. How much?” says Mr. Gackins.

“Thirty-nine dollars,” says Catty. “She’s about the finest Jersey in
this neck of the woods.”

“Too high. Couldn’t pay a cent more ’n thirty-five.”

“Too bad.... Well, guess we’ll have to drive you home, Jane. G’-by, Mr.
Gackins. Hope you git as good a cow somewheres else, but I doubt it.”

[Illustration: As we came up the marshal said to Mr. Atkins: “You won’t
leave town, eh? Wa-al, we’ll see about that”]

“Hey, hold on there! What’s the hurry? I’ll go thirty-six.”

“Move along there, Jane,” says Catty. “Make it thirty-seven,” says Mr.
Gackins.

“Take you,” says Catty, passing over the leading-rope. “Cash.”

Mr. Gackins counted out thirty-seven dollars and Catty thanked him and
back we hiked to Winklereid’s and paid him his thirty-two.

“There,” says Catty to me, “I needed three dollars and I made five.
Wasn’t very hard, either, was it? Now we’ll go buy them painter’s
clothes.”

We bought the clothes and went to the bayou where Mr. Atkins was talking
to a man, and the man was the town marshal. As we came up the marshal
says: “You won’t leave town, eh? Wa-al, we’ll see about that. Here’s a
paper that says you got to come before the justice of the peace, and I
calc’late he kin tend to your case. You be there this evenin’ at
seven-thirty. And from there, Mister Man, you’ll take a trip to the
calaboose.”

The marshal hustled off as dignified as if he was the President of the
United States, and Catty went up to his Dad. “Here,” says he, “put on
these clothes. Painter’s clothes. Git right into ’em and hustle over to
Mr. Manning’s warehouse. I want you to git busy mixin’ paints and fixin’
things to start that job Monday mornin’.”

“Can’t do no paintin’ in the calaboose,” says Mr. Atkins.

“Never mind the calaboose,” says Catty. “You git on them clothes and go
ahead. I guess we kin tend to the calaboose when we git to it.”

I says to myself that maybe he could and maybe he couldn’t, but all the
same, when it comes to monkeying with the law and town marshals and
justices of the peace, I didn’t want any of it on my plate. But I was
interested to see how it was comin’ out and how Catty was calculating to
handle it.



                              CHAPTER VIII


That afternoon about four o’clock the paper came out, and right on the
front page of it was a big piece about Sands Jones and Darkie Patt and
the painting-race. Mr. Cuppy had done himself proud. Everything was
there that Catty had told him and a lot of things Catty never thought of
at all.

“This event,” said Editor Cuppy, “constitutes one of the most remarkable
examples of civic and business ingenuity ever manifested in our midst.
Our village will thrill at the prospect of such a contest between such
well-known citizens as Mr. Patt and Mr. Jones. There have been
horse-races and foot-races and balloon-races and dog-races, but never to
our knowledge has the earth seen a painting-race. It remained for our
town to set the lead in this new realm of sport, and it remained for our
new and valued citizens, Atkins & Son, painters and decorators and
contractors, to bring this honor to us. It represents true enterprise.
We should all extend the hand of welcome to these progressive citizens.
It is to be hoped that the town will take formal notice of this event
and that some sort of celebration will be arranged to mark the start of
the race. The least that could be done would be to organize a parade to
the place of the contest, and to hear some words of congratulation and
patriotism spoken before the gladiators lay on their brushes.” There was
a lot more of it and Catty was tickled to death.

“I guess I git my ladders now,” he said.

“How?”

“Wait and see,” says he.

We walked over to Mr. Manning’s warehouse where Mr. Atkins was mixing
paints. He was about done when we got there, and Catty grabbed onto him
and told him to come along.

“Where?” says Mr. Atkins. “I want a chance to git off and rest and look
at birds a-flyin’ and clouds a-scuddin’ by.”

“After this,” says Catty, “about the only time you git to do that is
Sundays. You’re goin’ to be too busy the rest of the week.”

“I be, be I? Wa-al, where we goin’ now?”

“Barber’s,” says Catty.

“Hair-cuttin’ barber’s?”

“That’s the feller, Dad.”

“I’m goin’ to git my hair cut?”

“Whiskers, too.”

“Not clean off?” says Mr. Atkins, and his eyes got kind of frightened.

“Naw,” says Catty, “not off. Them whiskers is valuable, pervidin’
they’re used right. I’ve been thinkin’ up what kind of whiskers looks
most respectable and dignified and sich-like, and I got it all planned
out. Let’s hustle, Dad.”

So we went to the barber’s, and Catty herded his Dad into the chair, and
then told the barber just what he wanted done and how he wanted it. He
had a picture he had cut out of an old magazine of some man that was
president of a railroad, and he was about the most dignified-looking man
I ever see. His whiskers come down to a sharp point and was that neat
and handsome you wouldn’t believe it. Catty held this picture up to the
barber and told him to make his Dad look as much like that as he could.

The barber he went to work slow and careful. Every little while he would
stand off and look at Mr. Atkins with his head on one side and whistle
through his teeth. Then he would sort of rush in and snip off a chunk of
hair and then stand off again and take another look. Mr. Atkins sat like
he was frozen solid and looked at the barber hard and then looked in the
glass, and then grunted down in his throat. It took the barber ’most an
hour to git through, but when he was done you wouldn’t have known Mr.
Atkins. He looked like he was ten years younger and a million dollars
richer. Why, if a man with whiskers like his were fixed should stop you
on the street and ask you to get him change for a million-dollar bill,
you would be surprised that he was bothering with such small change.

Mr. Atkins looked at himself and waggled his head; then he looked at
himself some more, sideways, hideways, and wideways, and mumbled and
looked discontented.

“’Tain’t me,” says he. “Now, when I git up in the mornin’ and wash my
face and look in the glass I’ll have to git interduced or I’ll think
there’s a stranger a-hangin’ around. I got used to my face and I kind of
liked it. Now I got to start in all over to git used to this one.”

“It hain’t only your face that’s changed,” says Catty. “It’s all of you.
You’re respectable now. How does it feel?”

“Can’t say as yet. Can’t say as yet.... Goodness gracious, Peter! Now,
honest, Catty, is that me?”

“It’s you, Dad.”

“But that feller in the glass looks as if he _liked_ to work, and all
that.”

“He does,” says Catty.

“Then, ’tain’t me. I knowed it.... I wisht I had back my whiskers.”

Well, we went out of there and walked down the street, and all at once I
noticed that folks were pointing at us and whispering. Everywhere you
looked there was men reading the paper and talking about it. It was
almost like the night before election. The town was stirred up, and when
our town gets stirred it gets stirred clean to the bottom. That
painting-race had hit us right between the eyes, and I could see that
something was going to happen sure.

Dad had told me I could eat with Catty and his Dad, which I did. We had
fish cooked in the coals and water and bread and cheese. It was a mighty
fine meal. After supper we sat around awhile helping Mr. Atkins get used
to his whiskers, and then Catty says it was time to go to court.

The court was in a room over the fire-engine hall, and when we got there
there was a crowd. It looked like all the town had been arrested for
something. There was women there, too, and one of them was Mrs. Gage,
the justice’s wife. I figured she was to blame for trying to get Mr.
Atkins chased out of town, and had come down to make sure her husband
did it. We went in and sat down inside the railing, and pretty soon
everybody else came in, and then Mr. Gage sat down in his chair behind
the desk and cleared his throat and scowled at everybody as important as
all-git-out.

“Case of the People against Atkins,” he says. “Is the defendant
present?”

“I be,” says Mr. Atkins.

“You’re charged with being a vagrant. Guilty or not guilty?”

“Wa-al,” says Mr. Atkins, looking like a banker that was thinking about
lending fifty thousand dollars, “there’s two ways of lookin’ at it.”

“What two ways?” says Mr. Gage.

“If you look at it from the point of view that what I’m doin’ makes me a
vagrant, then I be one; but if you look at it from the point of view
that what I’m doin’ _don’t_ make me a vagrant, then I hain’t.”

I looked back, and you could see heads nodding all over the room. Those
words of Mr. Atkins’s coming right out of that kind of whiskers sounded
as if they were a little wiser than Solomon.

“What do you think?” says the judge.

“I think I hain’t,” says Mr. Atkins.

“Defendant pleads not guilty,” says Mr. Gage. “Town-marshal Piddlecomb,
take the stand.”

The town marshal shuffled up and sat down and lifted up his hand and
swore he would tell the truth.

“Know this defendant?” asked the judge.

“Seen him some.”

“You made the charge ag’in’ him?”

“I done so.”

“Why?”

“Your wife told me to.”

“Um!... Charge him with bein’ a vagrant, don’t you? That’s your charge?”

“Ya-as.... Him and his boy is tramps. They footed it into town. No
visible means of support. Livin’ in that there old shanty down by the
bayou. Ordered him to git out of town, and he refused. Don’t work. Jest
a tramp.”

“That all?”

“Plenty, hain’t it?”

“Sounds that way. Step down. Defendant got anythin’ to say?”

Catty nudged his father and Mr. Atkins stood up and walked to the
witness’s chair. With his beard and hair-cut, and those brand-new
painter’s clothes, he looked fine. He didn’t look any more like a tramp
than the Methodist minister, and the folks in the courtroom sort of
grunted out loud. Mr. Gage looked at him and then looked at his wife and
goggled his eyes. He was considerable flabbergasted, I judged.

“You are Mr. Atkins, the defendant in this case?”

“Calc’late to be.”

“Hear what the town marshal jest said?”

“Every word of it, from beginnin’ to end.”

“Did he tell the truth?”

“Not more ’n he could help,” says Mr. Atkins, and everybody in the room
let out a laugh.

“Did you tramp into town?”

“Walked in. Any crime to walkin’? Never heard walkin’ was a crime.”

“Live in that old shanty by the bayou?”

“Don’t live there. Jest sort of campin there, fishin’ in the bayou.
Campin’-like. Any crime to campin’?”

“Town marshal says you got no visible means of support.”

“How’s he know?” says Mr. Atkins. “That feller don’t know but what I got
a million dollars in gov’ment bonds and go around clippin’ off a coupon
whenever I need one.”

“Have you a business?”

“Painter ’n’ decorator.”

“Where’s your place of business?”

Here Catty walked up to his father and handed him a piece of paper and
whispered in his ear. Mr. Atkins read over the paper and says: “Jest
rented a store. Calc’latin’ to move in right sudden. Goin’ to live
there, too. Rooms behind the store. Calc’late to do paintin’ and
decoratin’ and gen’al contractin’. Rented this store off a feller named
Gage. Here’s a paper that says it with his name hitched onto the
bottom.”

I guess Mr. Gage hadn’t figured that Mr. Atkins was the one that had
rented his store. He hadn’t ever seen him, of course, for Catty and me
had rented it. When he saw that paper it kind of knocked him off his
perch. “Be you the man that’s rented my store?”

“Calc’late to be.”

“The man that’s got the contract to paint Manning’s warehouse?”

“Calc’late to be.”

“The man that’s holdin’ this here paintin’-race Monday?”

“Calc’late to be.”

Mr. Gage scratched his head and looked worried. He shot a glance at his
wife and she was scowling to beat everything. But there wasn’t anything
for him to do. He swallowed once or twice and says: “Case dismissed. Man
that’s in business and rented a store and has got a big contract hain’t
no vagrant. Court’s adjourned.”

Mrs. Gage got up quick and hustled out of the room, but everybody else
stayed, and everybody seemed like he wanted to shake hands with Mr.
Atkins and talk to him, and before we knew it the court had turned into
a sort of meeting to make arrangements to celebrate the painting-race.

They began making plans. First off there was to be a parade with the
Silver Cornet Band, and a speech by Representative Capper, who was home
from the state capital. There was going to be committees, and the
G. A. R. was going to march and the Republican Club and the Knights of
Hannibal, and everything. Then the chief of the fire department says
they would march and pull their new hose-cart and hook-and-ladder that
had never been tried out yet. I saw Catty whispering to a man next to
him, and the man got up all of a sudden and says:

“Feller-citizens, this here is a great day for our town. There hain’t
never been no paintin’-race nowheres in the world before, and we ought
to make it a reg’lar town event. It ought to be did right. Now there’s
the matter of ladders. Painters’ ladders is mostly white and all daubed
with paint. How’s it goin’ to look to have this kind of a celebration
and nothin’ but mussy ladders? Folks’ll be disgusted. What I say is, do
it right or don’t do it at all. _Red_ ladders is what is needed. Ladders
that look like a celebration and that folks can see.... Yes, sir. Now to
do this here thing right, Mr. Atkins and Patt and Jones ought to be
drawed to the scene of the contest on the village’s hook-and-ladder
wagon, and the firemen, wearin’ their red shirts, ought to take there
own red ladders and hist them alongside the buildin’, and the race ought
to be raced by men paintin’ on them very identical ladders.... That’s my
idea. Give the whole thing a kind of a official sort of a look, that’s
what it ’ll do, and I move, Mr. Chairman, that it be did.”

Well, sir! Everybody let out a holler, and the motion was seconded and
voted on—and Catty Atkins had his ladders! He turned around to me and
grinned and says: “Figgered it would come out right.... Looks like we
was movin’ along toward bein’ respectable. What become of Mrs. Gage?”

“She left early,” says I.

“Calc’lated she would,” says Catty. The way he said it, kind of sober
and dry, made me laugh right out. “Figger Mr. Gage is goin’ to git
unpleasant things said to him ’fore mornin’.”

He sat down in a chair like he was all tired out.

“It’s dog-gone hard work to git respectable,” says he.



                               CHAPTER IX


“Now let’s see,” says Catty on Sunday afternoon while we were sitting
under a tree down by the bayou. “I guess everything’s ready for
to-morrow. We got our paints on credit; we got our brushes and them
things, we got our painters, and we got our ladders, and the only ready
money we had to have was for our painter’s clothes for Dad. Seems like
you can git a lot without money sometimes, don’t it?”

“But you got to have money some time,” says I.

“To be sure,” says Catty, “but the money’s comin’ after the job. We kin
finish it in a week, and then we’ll have quite a wad. But we ought to
have some in the mean time. Got to eat.... I’ll have to scurry around
and git some, I guess. That and keepin’ an eye on Dad so’s he won’t go
traipsin’ off to fish or set down alongside of a brook, or tramp off
through the country, will about keep me busy.”

“I never saw anybody look so different as your father does,” says I.

“It hain’t a patch on how different he’ll look when I git through with
him,” says Catty. “Say, Wee-wee, you know quite a lot about manners,
don’t you? Your Ma and Pa teaches you how to eat proper and all that?”

“Dad says sometimes that I hain’t got no more manners than an alley
cat,” says I.

“But he don’t mean it,” says Catty. “Now let’s pertend we’re settin’ at
table. We’ll git sticks and chips for plates and the tools to eat with,
and you sort of show me jest how each one is used respectable. I got to
learn so’s I kin teach Dad. He’s goin’ to need manners perty soon,
’cause I’m goin’ to see to it he goes places where manners comes in
handy. Now while it’s vacation, I got time to monkey with manners. When
school-time comes I’m a-goin’ to be perty busy with gittin’ educated and
runnin’ my shop.”

It sounded kind of funny to me, but we fiddled around and got chips and
sticks and made believe they was knives and forks and plates and cups
and things. We spread them on top of a flat stone and started in to make
believe we was eating.

We started with soup, and I explained to Catty that the way to eat soup
was off’n the _side_ of your spoon, and not to ram the whole thing into
your mouth, point first, like a fellow wants to and the way it is
handiest. I never could see any sense to eating soup that way. It sort
of takes the pleasure out of it. And I told him you mustn’t make any
noise. A fellow gets more enjoyment out of soup when he can sort of
_whoosh_ it into his mouth off of his spoon, but it hain’t anyways
polite to do it.

Well, Catty ate soup quite a spell, doing it over and over till he was
sure he had it down pat. I never saw anybody so thorough on the
soup-eating question. He practised and practised till I’ll bet he could
eat soup as good as Queen Victoria. Then we went on to other things, and
practised them over and over; and we monkeyed with napkins, and with
getting up from the table, and the whole business. I didn’t know I was
acquainted with so many table manners till I started to teach Catty, but
I knew quite a mess—most of which I didn’t use much as a common thing.
We put in a whole hour at it, and it was hard work.

“There,” says Catty, “I guess I got the hang of it. Dunno but what I’d
git scared if I was company some place, and mess things up, but I’ll
practise with Dad every day till I git it down fine.”

“You’re dog-gone anxious about manners and things,” says I.

“I got to be,” says he, “because folks won’t expect me to have any, and
when they see I got ’em they’ll be surprised, and it ’ll help ’em to git
the idee I’m respectable. Dad and me has got to be more p’tic’lar about
sich things than you folks have that has always been looked at as
respectable.”

Well, Catty and I fussed around the rest of that day and didn’t do much
but rest and listen to Mr. Atkins tell how hard work it was to work, and
that a body enjoyed tramping around the country more than he did
spreading paint on a board full of slivers, but Catty kept at him, and
held him down to it, and told him he’d get used to it in a little while
and enjoy it.

“I calc’late,” says Mr. Atkins, “that if a feller had a boil long enough
he might git sort of fond of it, but a boil hain’t my idee of a pet. You
kin get used to havin’ one leg, and you can git used to a corn, but I
dunno anybody that _wants_ to. Work is right in the class with them.
It’s painful, that’s what it is.”

“It’s got to be done,” says Catty. “You and me has got to make a lot of
money, and were a-goin’ to. The time’s a-comin’, Dad, when you and me is
goin’ to own a house and keep a hired girl and invite folks in to
dinner. You wait. I got it all figgered out jest what we’re a-goin’ to
do.... And we’re a-goin’ to do it, you can bet. Everything I got planned
out is goin’ to happen. Every single thing. And to make it happen you
got to work like blazes, and I got to figger like blazes.... I’m a-goin’
to teach you manners, Dad.”

“Manners! Who? Me?... Hoo! Wouldn’t I look nice with manners? What ’u’d
I do with ’em, Catty?”

“Never you mind, Dad, you’re a-goin’ to have plenty of ’em, so git ready
fer it.”

I went to bed sort of early because I wanted to be on hand before the
doings started in the morning, and I was there. It was a great morning,
and most of the town was on hand to see the parade start off and the
beginning of the painting-race. Mr. Manning came out to see what was
going on, and Catty says to him, “We’re on the job on time, Mr.
Manning.”

“I see you are,” says he. That was all, but he sort of grinned and
walked back into his office.

After a while folks sort of wandered off home and the real work began.
Mr. Atkins was supposed to be the boss, but Catty was the fellow that
did the bossing. He kept his eye on his father mostly, and every time
Mr. Atkins acted like he was going to come down off his ladder and rest,
Catty was right there to sick him on, and every once in a while he would
make his Dad come down and walk around to look at Patt and Jones and
sort of jack them up and make them believe he was right on the job.

“I wish Dad was kind of broke to work,” says Catty, “because there’s a
lot of things I’ve got to do. But I can’t go off and leave him yet.” All
that day those three men painted, and it was a surprise to me to see how
much they got done. At night Mr. Atkins grumbled and talked a lot about
pains in his back, and painter’s colic and such things, but Catty was
right on top of him all the time and led him to work next morning.

“Dad,” says he, “you always keep your word when you give it, don’t you?”

“Calc’late to,” says Mr. Atkins.

“I want you should promise me you won’t do nothin’ but work till I git
back. I’ve got to go and do some things. Will you promise?”

“Don’t see how I kin git out of it,” says Mr. Atkins, kind of sorrowful.

“All right,” says Catty. “Come on, Wee-wee.

“Where?” says I.

“Got to look around for another job to be done when we finish this,”
says he.

“Where?” says I.

“I dunno,” says he.

We went over to town and walked around sort of aimless, keeping our eyes
open for a place that looked like painting was needed, but Catty said
that wasn’t any way. We had to find out some way of discovering who
_wanted_ to have work done, and then go and see that person and land the
job.

There was a high hedge around the Baptist Church and we lay down in the
shade of it to think it over. While we were there we saw quite a lot of
women going into the side door that led to the room in the basement
where socials and suppers were held. One of the windows was right beside
us, and pretty soon somebody opened it, because it was a warm day. Catty
and I kept talking off and on and doing all the thinking we knew how.

All at once three or four ladies came over by the window and began to
talk, and one of them was Mrs. Gage. I could tell by her voice.

“Something’s got to be done,” she said, angry-like. “And it’s us women
that have to do it.”

“Men never seem to mind such things,” said somebody else.

“We’ll make them mind it,” says Mrs. Gage. “If we just get together and
agree, we can force the men to do something. I, for one, won’t stand it.
Do you think I want my boy going to school with that little tramp? Do
you think I want them being friends? Nobody can tell what that Atkins
boy will teach our children. And look at his father—a regular old
reprobate.... The worst of it is that both of them are schemers. See how
they did in court the other night. It was a shame.”

“It was,” says another woman. “We’ve got to stand together. Why, the
first we know the boy will be coming to Sunday-school!”

“They’ve got to be forced out of town,” says Mrs. Gage.

“How can we do it?”

“There’s just one way. We must make our husbands all promise not to have
anything to do with them. If they can’t earn a living they’ll have to go
away. My husband rented them a store before he knew what he was about,
and I suppose that can’t be helped. But if nobody gives the man work to
do, why, he’ll be worse off than ever, because he’ll have rent to pay
and nothing to pay it with.”

“You’ve got the right idea, Mrs. Gage. Of course we don’t want such
people here, and you’ve found the way to get rid of them. We’ll make our
husbands boycott them.” There was a lot more such talk, about how
dangerous Catty and his father were to a decent community, and such-like
things. It made me mad all the way through. I looked at Catty. He was
sort of pale, but his lips were pressed together and his whole body was
as stiff as if it had been frozen.

“Huh!” says I.

“They can do it,” says he.

“Fiddlesticks!” says I.

“They can,” says he, “if they stick together. And I guess they’ll stick.
They don’t want us here. It doesn’t make any difference to them whether
we’re honest or respectable or not. This Mrs. Gage is mad because she
got the worst of it, and she’ll go around talking, and maybe she won’t
always tell just exactly the truth, and she’ll stir folks up against us.
It’s rotten.”

“It’s mighty mean,” says I. “What you goin’ to do about it?”

“I’ll tell you what I’m goin’ to do,” says he. “I’m goin’ to stay right
here in this town, and _prove_ to folks that Dad and I are jest as good
as they be. I’m goin’ to git work in spite of them, and I’m goin’ to
beat them. You see. I’ll stay if I have to starve. Dad and me has got a
right to work and to be decent and respectable like anybody else.
There’s no reason why we shouldn’t. We never done anybody any wrong.
Bein’ shiftless hain’t a crime, and, anyhow, we’ve quit bein’
shiftless.”

“Well?” says I.

“I got to git at somethin’ mighty quick. These women ’ll go visitin’ and
talkin’ around, and ’fore I know it they’ll have the whole town ag’in’
us. Before they git that far I’ve got to find jobs to keep us busy while
we’re provin’ to ’em that we’re fit to live here amongst them.... I
won’t leave this town! You listen to me, Wee-wee, I won’t!”

“Bully for you!” says I. “All the women won’t follow Mrs. Gage, and
there’s some bachelors that hain’t married to anybody and that women
can’t run.”

We listened again. Maybe it wasn’t right to listen to folks talk when
they didn’t know you were listening, but I guess we didn’t do so very
wrong, especially when they were talking like those women did.

Another woman—Mrs. Bockers was her name—spoke up and says:

“I’ve got a cousin, a young fellow that is a painter and paperhanger.
I’ll try to get him to move over here and go into business. He’s just
working around. If we would all agree to give him our work, I’m sure he
would come, and then it would be a lot easier to get rid of these
tramps.”

“That’s a splendid idea,” says Mrs. Gage. “I’ll write to him to-night,”
says Mrs. Bockers. “I know he’ll come.”

“Competition,” says I to Catty, “is the life of trade.”

“Hain’t got no objection to competition, so long’s we both git a fair
start.... I wish Dad and me had some money to start right with. If we
was to furnish up a store so it looked _fine_, why, that would go a long
ways. It would make us _look_ as if we amounted to somethin’.... We got
to fix up our store somehow.” He stopped and thought a minute.

“Wonder where there’s a store this Bockers man could rent,” says he.

“Dunno,” says I. “Guess there’s one to rent, jest around the corner from
yours.”

“Let’s look at it,” says he.

We walked down there and found the store. It was on a side-street, but
it was all right. “Who owns it?” says Catty.

“Dunno,” says I. “But Mr. Wade ’ll know.”

“Who’s he?”

“Insurance and real estate and not’ry public,” says I.

“Let’s go and see him,” says Catty.

We went over. Mr. Wade’s office was above the bank, and we hiked up the
stairs and rapped on his door.

“Go ’way,” somebody says inside.

“Is that Mr. Wade?” says I.

“Yes. Go ’way. I’m busy.”

“It’s Wee-wee Moore and Catty Atkins,” says I. “Can’t we come in a
minute?”

“I’m busy,” says he.

“I know what he’s doin’,” says I to Catty. “He’ll let us in. Jest
watch.”

“I wanted to ask you somethin’ about Napoleon,” says I.

In a minute he come to the door and poked his head out. It was the
baldest head in the state, and his eyebrows was bald, and he didn’t have
a mustache or whiskers. The only hairs he had was a few eyelashes, and
they were kind of yellow so you couldn’t see them very good. Besides
that he was about seven feet tall and built like a jointed fish-pole. He
sagged some around the shoulders and stooped in the middle, but he could
straighten up, and when he did it made you think of one of these
extension ladders that city fire companies have.

“What about Napoleon?” says he.

“What made him always ride a white horse?” says I.

“Come in,” says he, “come in. I was just enjoyin’ an hour or two with
Napoleon myself. Mighty glad to learn somebody else in this town ’s
int’rested in him. Was jest pastin’ on paper a few new pictures I found
of the emperor.... Come in.”

We went in. You never saw such a looking office. Every inch of the walls
was covered with pictures of Napoleon. There was hundreds of them.
Napoleon was there afoot and ahorseback. He was there fighting battles
and sitting in chairs and talking to men and holding his hands behind
his back, and ’most every way you ever heard of except flying in an
airplane. He’d have been doing that, only airplanes weren’t invented
when Napoleon was doing his best fighting around Europe.

We sat down and Mr. Wade began talking about Napoleon and his horse. It
was mighty interesting, and Catty and I listened for an hour till Mr.
Wade had run down.

“Much obleeged,” says I. “I feel better now. Kin we come in again and
talk about the emperor?”

“Any time, any time,” says he.

“By the way,” says I, “who owns that little store around the corner?”

“Tom Barnes,” says he.

“Know any other store in town that kin be rented?” says Catty.

“There hain’t another place,” says Mr. Wade.

“What’s the rent of that one?”

“Fifteen dollars a month,” says he.

“Have you got the rentin’ of it?”

“Yes.”

“Will you gimme—that is my father—a year’s lease of it for twelve and a
half a month?”

I sort of swallowed hard, because I couldn’t see what in the world Catty
wanted with another store. He had about all the stores he could use
handy.

Mr. Wade thought a minute and then said he thought it would be all
right.

“If I leased it, could I rent it out again to somebody else?”

“No reason you couldn’t,” says Mr. Wade.

“I’ll take it,” says Catty. “Git the lease drawn, and I’ll have the
money for the first month’s rent. Is the deal all closed up now?”

“Yes, Sonny. Why?”

“Because, if it is, I want you to do some business for me—for father,”
says Catty.

“What is it?”

“Be you married?” says Catty.

“Never was. Never will be.”

“Then you’ll do,” says Catty. “I want you to take this lease in your
name, not ours.”

“Why?”

Catty started in and told him the whole business about how him and his
father came to town, and about Mrs. Gage, and about how he wanted to be
respectable, and about what we heard at the church awhile ago, and about
Jim Bockers coming to town to be a competitor.

“That’s the only store he kin rent,” says Catty, “so he’ll have to rent
it. When he comes I want you should rent it to him, but the rent ’ll be
twenty dollars a month, leavin’ me a profit of seven-fifty. Make him
take a year’s lease. Git the idee?”

Mr. Wade looked at Catty. “Napoleon couldn’t ’a’ thought up a better
strategy,” says he. “Young feller, you come to the right place. I’ll do
what you want, and glad to. There won’t be no charge, neither. And any
time I kin do anything to help you, why, you come a-hustlin’ right up
here. Never can tell. Some day I might do you some good.”

“Much obleeged,” says Catty. “We won’t bother you any more.”

“Come in any time. Always welcome,” says Mr. Wade.

We went out and down-stairs. Catty was sort of smiling to himself.
“There,” says he. “I guess Mr. Bockers ’ll help us some, even if he does
hurt us some.”

“I never ’u’d ’a’ thought of that scheme in the world,” says I.

“’Twasn’t much to think of,” says Catty. And that was just like him. He
never was stuck up about the things he did, and it never tickled him to
do something especial clever. He was all for business and manners and
being respectable. If he could get what he wanted easy, why, he took it
easy. If he had to use a lot of brains, why, he just went to work and
used them. It didn’t seem to make a mite of difference to him. He was
satisfied either way.



                               CHAPTER X


On the first of the month Catty and his father moved into the little
store; all the profits they made out of the warehouse-painting job went
into furniture and stock for the store, and there wasn’t much stock. Mr.
Atkins didn’t seem like he was very interested, and sighed a lot and
held his head, and Catty had to watch him sharp to keep him from just
hiking off into the country and lying down somewheres for a day at a
time. But every time Catty saw his father make a move he was right at
his heels.

“You can be shiftless evenin’s, Dad,” he said, “but daytimes you got to
be a business man. It’s jest startin’ in that’s hard. First you know
you’ll get int’rested, and then nobody could drive you off.”

“Don’t want to git int’rested,” said Mr. Atkins, sorry-like. “What I
want is what we always done—jest nothin’ in special.”

“You ought to like it,” says Catty, “and so you _got_ to like it. Take
you and me as we be, and we hain’t worth a basket of shucks. We don’t
amount to nothin’. Nor we wouldn’t never amount to nothin’ if we went on
like we was goin’.... That reminds me—I got to begin makin’ you take
lessons in table manners. I’m takin’ ’em off of Wee-wee. Not that
Wee-wee has got any manners to spare,” says he, “but he’s got more ’n
me. As soon as I’ve learned all he knows, I’m goin’ to somebody
else—maybe his mother.”

I told Dad about that and he laughed fit to split. “You tell Catty to
come right along any time he needs a dose of manners you can’t give
him,” says he.

You could see a difference in Catty already—the way he acted and the way
he walked, and sometimes the way he talked, but you couldn’t see any
difference in his father outside of having his whiskers trimmed and that
painter’s suit. He _looked_ pretty respectable, but down inside he was
just as shiftless as ever. He must have thought a lot of Catty to let
him do the way he did. If I was a man and wanted to be shiftless, you
bet I wouldn’t let any kid make me work the way Catty made him work. You
bet I wouldn’t.

Somehow, in spite of the women-folks, Catty managed to get a few little
jobs of painting and paperhanging—enough to keep his father busy. There
was lots of jobs he could have had if it hadn’t been for the women
talking against him, but he just went along and paid no attention. The
work he got was mostly from bachelors and widowers.

“Dunno what I’m a-goin’ to do when the single men is all painted up,”
says he.

“And when Jim Bockers opens his shop,” says I.

“He’s openin’ to-morrow,” says Catty. “Wisht I had money enough to start
my ice-cream stand. Wisht I had money enough to git a better stock of
wall-paper than Bockers ’ll have.”

“Wishin’ won’t git ’em,” says I.

“Wishin’ ’ll start to git ’em,” says he. “First you wish, and then you
dig out and git.... I’m goin’ to figger to git Dad a black suit and one
of them hard-boiled hats,” says he, “so’s he kin go to church Sundays.
Goin’ to church is respectable.”

“Be hard to make him take the only day he has to be shiftless with and
use it up goin’ to church,” says I.

“First he knows,” says Catty, “he won’t want to be shiftless any more.
I’ll bet if Dad ever started in to like business he’d be a good one.”

I think it was that very day that we first saw the Man Who Looked As If
He Was the Proprietor of the Earth.

Catty and I had gone down to the express-office to fetch some stock he
and his father had ordered from the city, and we happened to be there
just as the noon train came in. We planned it so we would be there just
when it came in. I don’t know why it is a fellow likes to see trains
pull in, but he does. It doesn’t matter a bit whether he’s expecting
somebody or not. Just to stand there and hear the train whistle around
the bend, and then to see the cowcatcher nose around the corner, and to
hear the noise of it coming, and then the rush and swish and grinding of
the brakes—is all great. It gets you excited and makes you feel _good_.

Catty and I stood watching her come in, and then we stayed to see who
got off. There was the usual supply of folks coming from the next town,
and old Mrs. Wiggins that had been to visit her daughter in the East,
and three drummers—and then The Proprietor. Catty was the one who said
he looked as if he was the Proprietor of the Earth, and after a while we
cut it down and just called him The Proprietor.

He came out of the smoking-car and stood on the platform, looking at the
station and the town like a man looks at something he has just bought
and isn’t sure he likes. He stood there a minute, and then he came down
the steps slow and dignified. I was the first person he spoke to in
town.

“My young friend,” says he, as polite as pie, “how does one get himself
and his luggage to your best hotel?”

“We-ell,” says I, kind of embarrassed, “most gits to the best hotel same
way they git to the worst. Hain’t but one,” says I.

“Indeed,” says he.

“Yes,” says I. “There’s two ways of gittin’ there. One is to walk and
carry your bag. T’other is to climb onto that there bus of Pazzy Bills’s
and ride for a quarter, hand-bags included, trunks a quarter extry.”

“Good,” says he. “I shall ride with Mr. Bills. You have a beautiful
town, young man. Already I am beginning to admire it.”

“It’s kind of hard to admire,” says I. “’Course there’s the standpipe up
on the hill. Highest in the country. And there’s Captain Winton’s house.
Outside of that, it’s jest a town full of folks.”

“Rich farming country,” says he. “Beautiful.”

“More beautiful-lookin’ out of a train window,” says I, “than it is from
behind a plow.” He laughed a little and tossed me a dime. I don’t know
why, ’cause I hadn’t done anything to earn it. I looked at it and then
at him and says, “What’s this for?”

“Candy,” says he, and right there I started in not to like him very
well. I don’t know just why, but there was something about him and the
way he tossed it to me that r’iled me up.

He turned and walked off to the bus. For half a minute I was going to
throw his dime after him, but I didn’t. A dime is a dime, and, no matter
how you dislike the fellow it comes from, it ’ll buy just as much, so I
stuck it in my pocket and looked after him. He certainly was gaudy.

He wore one of them long coats that flaps around your legs, and his
pants was a different color, with stripes into them, and his vest was
white, with a pound of watch-chain strung across the front of it—and he
had on a stovepipe hat. He wore shiny shoes with cloth things covering
the tops of them. At first I thought his socks were coming down, but I
found out they were things folks call spats. There was a sparkly stone
in his tie that I guessed was a diamond.

I turned to Catty. “There,” says I. “You want your Dad to look
respectable. I’ll bet you can’t beat that critter.”

“He’s consid’able dressed up,” says Catty, without a smile.

“Bet he’s rich,” says I.

“Bet he wants folks to _think_ he is, anyhow,” says Catty.

“What d’you mean?” says I.

“I dunno,” says Catty, “but that feller hain’t my idee of the way a
reg’lar rich business man looks.... Ever go fishin’ and fix a worm on a
hook so’s it looks all-fired splendid—fat and twisty and better ’n any
worm ever looked if it was left to itself?”

“Yes,” says I.

“To fool the fish,” says Catty. “Bait.... That’s the way The Proprietor
of the Earth there looks to me.”

“You’re talkin’ through your hat,” says I. “He looks jest like pictures
of bankers in story-books.”

“Hain’t read many story-books,” says he. “Let’s be moggin’ back,”

We walked back, though we could have rode on the seat with Pazzy Bills
if we had wanted to. Pazzy always lets the kids ride with him. On our
way we stopped at the hotel, being kind of curious about The Proprietor.
There was quite a few men on the hotel porch and in the office, talking
about the man that jest came, and looking at the register to find out
his name. His name was Arthur Peabody Kinderhook, of New York City.

The hotel clerk was looking kind of flabbergasted.

“Yes, sir,” he was saying. “That there man he walked right up to the
desk and he says, says he ‘Gimme your best suite with a bath.’

“‘Sweet’? says I.

“‘Suite,’ says he. ‘Bedroom, parlor, dressin’-room, bath.’

“‘You want the whole kaboodle of them rooms?’ says I. ‘All for
yourself?’

“‘I do,’ says he.

“‘I kin give ’em to you,’ says I, ‘but I hain’t never give nobody a bath
yet. You’ll have to take your own bath.’

“He kind of laughed at that and said he calc’lated to if I would supply
the bath-room.

“‘Bath-room,’ says I. ‘D’you mean one of them new-fangled affairs with a
tub a body kin lay down in, and with water squirtin’ hot and cold out of
nozzles?’

“‘Precisely,’ says he.

“‘Hain’t got none,’ says I. ‘But if you need a bath bad we kin set in a
washtub f’r you and one of the boys ’ll fetch you a kittle of hot
water.’

“He laughed again. ‘Wait, my friend,’ says he. ‘You’ll have bathtubs
before I’m through with you, and many other comforts and luxuries you
never dreamed of.’

“‘Do tell,’ says I. ‘Goin’ to stay long in our midst?’

“‘I am thinking,’ said he, ‘of establishing a large branch of my
principal industry here. I shall be with you for some time.’

“‘Livin’ in this hotel?’

“‘Yes,’ says he.

“‘In all them rooms?’ says I.

“‘Yes,’ says he.

“‘Cost you a dollar a day apiece,’ says I. ‘makin’ a daily total of
three dollars,’ says I.

“‘You undercharge, my friend,’ says he. ‘Never get rich that way. I
shall have to take you in hand,’ says he, just like that, ‘and teach you
how to set proper prices on your accommodations.’

“With that he moggs up-stairs—as cool as a cucumber. Bet he’s one of
them millionaires.”

We all stood and listened to the clerk while he was getting off this
talk, and then Catty and I went back to the store. We got there just in
time, for Mr. Atkins was sneakin’ out of the back door with his
fish-pole wrapped up in a newspaper—aiming to go and be shiftless for
the rest of the day.

“Where you goin’, Dad?” says Catty, sober as a judge.

“Jest out,” says Mr. Atkins.

“You won’t need that fish-pole,” says Catty, “and you got to kalsomine
Johnson’s kitchen this afternoon.”

Mr. Atkins let out a groan and came back as meek as Moses. The way Catty
watched him and bossed him was a caution to cats.

That afternoon Catty and I walked around by Jim Bockers’ shop to take a
look. He was getting ready to open up to-morrow. He had a big stock of
everything in his line, and a new sign, and just as we were getting
there he was tacking up a big piece of white cloth with something
painted on it. We waited to read it. It says:

                         The Best and Cheapest
              Get your painting and paperhanging done here
                    We Guarantee To Do Work Cheaper

     Get prices elsewhere, and then come to us. We will do any job
     for five per cent. less than any competitor. We positively
     guarantee this

I looked at Catty and Catty looked at me. “If he guarantees to take any
job for less than you’ll take it for, how do you calc’late ever to get a
job?” says I.

“Maybe folks won’t b’lieve him,” says Catty.

“They’ll try, anyhow,” says I, “and if he’s tellin’ the truth, he’ll git
the business.”

“Maybe so,” says Catty, but he didn’t seem as worried as I was. “Dad and
me is doing business as cheap as it can be done. If this feller knocks
off five per cent, off’n our prices, he’ll lose money every time he
takes a job. He won’t last long at that.”

“Maybe he kin work cheaper ’n you.”

“He can’t.”

“Wa-al,” says I, “you ought to do something or other, hadn’t you?”

“Calc’latin’ to,” says he.

“What?” says I.

“Dunno—yet,” says he, “but I’m goin’ to figger it out. There is some way
to beat Bockers at this here game, and if there is it kin be found, and
if it kin be found, why, I kin find it if I figger hard enough.”

That was the way Catty always went at things. He started by believing it
was possible to do anything. Then he said to himself that if it was
possible for _somebody_ to do it, why, it was possible for _him_ to do
it, and if it was possible for him then there wasn’t anything left to do
but just go ahead and _do_ it. He was the determinedest kid I ever saw.
Never seemed to git discouraged, and with all his working and figuring
he always had time to learn something new about being respectable.

There wasn’t a day he didn’t pick up something brand-new about manners,
or about how to wear your necktie, or about what folks that was thought
well of by everybody did. He was always watching, and he made his
father’s meal-times miserable by teaching _him_ what he had learned and
making him quit eating pie with his knife and wiping his mouth on his
sleeve, and such. Poor Mr. Atkins got so he was afraid to move at the
table till Catty explained to him how it ought to be done. Once in a
while he complained.

“Catty,” says he, as doleful as a funeral, “you’re a-goin’ to starve
your Dad to death. With all these manners I’m plumb losin’ my appetite.
I’m scared. Every time I take a bite I’m all excited for fear I hain’t
bit it according to the way the first families do their bitin’.”

“Stick to it, Dad,” says Catty. “I’m learnin’, too. After a while it ’ll
git to be a habit to eat right, and you won’t notice it. It ’ll come
natural.”

“Won’t never come natural not to eat pie with a knife. There’s two ways
to eat pie. One is to pick a hunk up in your hand and chaw it down.
T’other is to slice it with your knife and feed it in with the blade.
That’s how pie was intended to be ate.”

“Shucks!” says Catty, and then he stopped and waggled his finger. “There
you go layin’ your tools down onto the table. Hain’t I told you always
to put your knife and fork onto your _plate_ when you hain’t usin’ ’em?
Onto your _plate_.... And look at your spoon! Stickin’ up out of your
coffee-cup. Jerk it out _quick_ and lay it in the sasser.”

Mr. Atkins was like to cry, I thought, but he did like he was told.
“Bein’ respectable,” says he, “is about the uncomfortablest way of
livin’ on earth. I’d rather I was a wild Injun eatin’ raw meat,” says
he.

“You hain’t no Injun, Dad. You’re a business man, and livin’
respectable. And more ’n that, you’re goin’ to keep on that way till
every man and woman and baby in this town will point to you and say,
‘There goes Mr. Atkins, the respectablest man that ever lived.’”

“It’s an awful prospect,” says Mr. Atkins, that gloomy you would have
thought he was just going to be taken out and drownded. “I don’t
calc’late ever to be happy again.”

“Wait,” says Catty, “till we kin afford to git you them dress-up
clothes....”

“Sufferin’ mugwumps!” Mr. Atkins says from the bottom of his heart.

“Here,” Catty says, “what you a-doin’, Dad? Look at your napkin. Stuck
in your collar like you was goin’ to shave....”

“Doggone!” says Mr. Atkins, and after that he didn’t say a word during
the meal.



                               CHAPTER XI


“Dad,” said Catty, after Jim Bockers had been in business a week or so,
and had got about all the business there was going just by waiting till
Catty and his father made a price for the job and then doing the work
cheaper than they would, “I got a idea for fixin’ Bockers.”

Mr. Atkins had been showing a little more interest in his business since
Bockers started. It wasn’t that he wanted to work any more, but it sort
of made him mad to have another man prevent him from working, like
Bockers was trying to do. He had been in town a month now, and it seemed
to me like I could see some change in him already. It wasn’t just that
Catty made him keep shaved and his beard trimmed, but it was sort of in
the way he talked and how he looked at things. Most of the time he was
just the same Mr. Atkins that wanted to tramp the roads and be
shiftless, but there were times when he got interested in something, and
for as much as a half an hour at a time didn’t appear to object even to
working. Catty said it was encouraging.

“What’s the idee?” says Mr. Atkins.

“Our sign says builder, don’t it?”

“Calc’late it does.”

“Know anythin’ about buildin’, Dad?”

“Not a doggone thing.”

“Don’t make no difference. Somebody knows about it, and we kin make
arrangements to make use of what _they_ know.”

“Uh-huh. S’pose so.”

“Well, I hear Mr. Witherspoon is goin’ to build him a house. Thing for
us to do is to git the job. Git it sudden ’fore folks know we’re after
it. It ’ll keep us busy, and keep our men busy so’s nobody kin hire ’em
off of us. We’ll make more money, maybe, than just by paintin’ and
paperhangin’, and if we git the job, we’ll have the paintin’ and
paperhangin’ to do, anyhow.”

“How ’ll that bother Bockers?” says Mr. Atkins.

“Why, we kin bid on every job that comes along, and accordin’ to his
agreement he’s got to bid lower ’n what we do. We’ll figure what a job
will cost, and then we’ll be able to bid quite a lot lower ’n it ’ll
cost to do it. Bockers ’ll have to bid lower ’n that, so that every time
he takes a job we’ll be compellin’ him to lose a heap of money. Don’t
figger he’ll be able to keep it up very long.”

“Sounds reasonable,” says Mr. Atkins. “But I dunno nothin’ about
buildin’.”

“Don’t tell anybody,” says Catty, with a grin. “Let’s hike and see Mr.
Witherspoon.” The three of us went over to Mr. Witherspoon’s office and
was shown in.

“We hear you’re figgerin’ on buildin’ a house,” says Catty.

“Yes,” says Mr. Witherspoon.

“Bein’ in the contractin’ business, father and me come over to see about
takin’ the contract to build it—complete, includin’ paintin’ and
paperhangin’ and all.”

“I was thinking of letting separate contracts for each part of the
work.”

Mr. Atkins cleared his throat and up and spoke. I was so surprised I
didn’t know what to do. He was actually helpin’ Catty to land a job!

“My experience,” says he, and he sounded like he had had lots of it, “is
that it hain’t ever satisfactory to let separate contracts. Makes for
delay and scamped work. Your masons has to wait on the cellar-digger,
and the carpenters has to wait on the masons, and the lathers and
plasterers has to wait on the carpenters, and they git to bickerin’ and
quarrelin’, and fust you know somebody’s scamped the work some place....
It’s always best, Mr. Witherspoon, to have one man a-supervisin’ of the
whole job and responsible for everything. Then you kin look to him.”

Mr. Witherspoon nodded. “That sounds very reasonable, Mr. Atkins....
Here are my plans and specifications. I think I shall give you a chance
to bid on the job. Want to take them to figure over?”

“Yes,” says Catty.

He took the papers and we said good-by to Mr. Witherspoon, and out we
went.

“How in tunket,” says Catty, “do you figger out how much it’s goin’ to
cost to build a house?”

“Hain’t got no idee,” says I.

“Nor me,” says Mr. Atkins.

“The name of the feller that drew these plans is printed on ’em,” says
Catty. “Seems like he ought to know.”

“Where’s he at?” says Mr. Atkins. “Canton,” says Catty. “Five miles
east, hain’t it, Wee-wee?”

“Yes,” says I.

“I’ll walk over with ’em,” says Mr. Atkins, eager-like. You see, he was
jest achin’ to get his feet on a sandy road and ramble.

“Fine,” says Catty, and he winked at me. “You and us fellers ’ll walk
over, and maybe ketch the train back. Start in the mornin’.”

So in the morning we started over to Canton to see this man Phillips,
the architect. I was wondering what kind of a man he was and how he
would act, but that didn’t seem to bother Catty much. When we got there
we found him in a little room up-stairs over the express-office, and he
looked like he was just fresh from college. He was nice-lookin’ and I
liked him right off.

“Good morning, gentlemen,” says he. “What can I do for you?”

“Be you the archytect?” says Mr. Atkins.

“I am,” says Mr. Phillips.

“When you make plans for a house kin you figger how much it’s goin’ to
cost to build it?”

“I can.”

“I got some plans you drawed, and I want to git the costs, for diggin’,
masonry, carpenter-work, and all—each sep’rate.... I’m a contractor, Mr.
Phillips, and I calc’late to have quite some work for a handy archytect.
Figger I’ll need a man with idees and brains.”

I was so surprised I almost bit myself. I’d never heard Mr. Atkins talk
like that. He sounded almost like a business man.

Well, sir, we sat down and talked, and pretty soon it seemed like we was
well acquainted, and we began telling each other about ourselves. Seemed
that Mr. Phillips was new at his job and just out of college and hadn’t
any money, and didn’t get much to do. He was interested a lot in Catty
and Mr. Atkins.

“Pity you settled in Canton,” says Mr. Atkins. “Our town’s bigger and
liver and got more business. I look to see it grow.”

“Mr. Phillips,” says Catty, all of a sudden, “why don’t you move over
there? Nothin’ to hold you here. If you’ll come we kin work together. We
got a room you kin use, rent free, as an office, or we can make a kind
of partnership out of it. I figgered on makin’ an ice-cream parlor out
of that room, but I guess there’s more money in architects. Then you’d
be handy to us, and we’d be handy to you.... I tell you, Mr. Phillips,
we kin git the work to do if we kin find somebody to tell us how to do
it.”

“I’m hanged,” says Mr. Phillips, “if I don’t believe you can.”

And that’s how it came about that Jack Phillips moved to our town and
went into business with the Atkinses. It seemed like he was some folks,
too. Had family and all that, but his father had lost his money. Our
town was kind of excited about him comin’, and it was an awful shock to
’em when they seen our sign go up. I say our sign because I was so
interested in the business. The new sign was plain and Catty said it was
dignified. It said:

                           ATKINS & PHILLIPS
             Architects, Contractors, Consulting Engineers
                          Interior Decorators

The first day after Jack joined in with Catty and his father I heard Mr.
Gage stop him on the street.

“Mr. Phillips, hain’t it?” says Mr. Gage.

“I’m sure you’re right,” says Jack, with the kind of a grin he usually
wears.

“Took up with them Atkinses, have you?” says Mr. Gage.

“The Atkinses have taken me into partnership, if that’s what you mean,”
says Jack, still smiling.

“They’ll do you,” says Mr. Gage. “Nothin’ but tramps off’n the road.
Maybe wuss, for all I know. Folks don’t want ’em in town, and if you git
mixed up with ’em, folks won’t want you.”

“Has Mr. Atkins or his son done anything dishonest to anybody in this
town?”

“Not as I know of.”

“Have they acted in any way other than as decent folks?”

“Wa-al, course they been puttin’ on a good face. Waitin’ their chance,”
says Mr. Gage.

Jack wasn’t smiling any more. “Your name’s Gage, isn’t it? Well, let me
tell you something. Mr. Atkins and Catty have given me a chance when
nobody else had any use for me. Maybe I’m going to be a help to them. I
hope so. I knew all about them before I came. I’m going to stay. I’m Mr.
Atkins’s partner and I’m going to remain Mr. Atkins’s partner.... Maybe
he’s a bit shiftless. But he’s a man of his word, Mr. Gage, and that’s a
lot. He may have been a tramp, but he doesn’t sneak around trying to
injure people who never did him any harm. Mr. Atkins is as good as I am,
Mr. Gage, and I have a notion that both of us are a sight better than a
heap of you backbiters in this town. Am I clear? We’re in business here,
and we’ll _stay_ in business here. Good afternoon.”

With that Jack just turned around and walked off, leaving Mr. Gage
googling after him like he had bumped his head and was seeing stars.

“Bully for you, Jack!” says I.

“D’you know what Catty said to me this morning?” Jack asked me, and he
was grinning again like he was tickled to death.

“No,” says I.

“He asked if I’d ever taken lessons in manners.”

“Huh!” says I.

“He said I acted like I had manners, and he wanted to know where I got
’em. I told him I guess they grew on me like my nose, and he wanted to
know if I wouldn’t sort of take charge of his father and him in the
manners line. I’m going to live with them, of course. He says he’s gone
as far as he’s able teaching his father table manners, and he wants I
should go on from where he left off—teaching both of them.”

“Better do it,” says I, “if Catty wants you to.”

“Guess I will,” says Jack.

“Get that house contract?” says I.

“Landed it this morning. Our price was fifty-four hundred dollars.”

“Much profit into it?”

“We ought to make six or seven hundred.”

“Bully!” says I. “And Catty done it, didn’t he? He was the one that
thought it up.”

“Catty’s the best man of the three of us,” says Jack.

Just then Mr. Arthur Peabody Kinderhook drove past in a buggy, all
dressed up like he was going to a party. He always looked like he was
going to a party, that man did. And he didn’t do any work that I could
notice. Just lived in the hotel and drove around and made believe he was
looking at the town. It kind of leaked out that he was planning on
building a big factory and was choosing the best place to put it. He
didn’t say much. Nobody knew what he was going to manufacture, and when
they asked him he edged away kind of skittish. It got folks all het up
over it. Our town was growing as curious as if he was a circus they
couldn’t get into and there was a lot of death-defying trapeze
performers doing tricks inside all the time.

“Arthur Peabody Kinderhook,” says I, and I told Jack all about him.

We walked back to the store. Catty was reading a letter, and when we
came in he looked up with a kind of scowl.

“Letter from the lumber company. They won’t trust us. Say they’ll ship
that lumber for Witherspoon’s house, C. O. D., whatever that means.”

“It means we’ll have to pay for it before we can get it,” said Jack.

“But we’ve got to use it before we can get the money to pay for it,”
says Catty.

We was all pretty gloomy. It looked right there as if the partnership of
Atkins & Phillips was busted, and I guess Phillips thought so for sure.
But Catty turned to his Dad.

“Hain’t the banks run so’s they kin lend money to folks?” he says.

“Not that I know about personal,” says Mr. Atkins. “None of ’em ever
offered to lend to me.”

“This here is an honest business,” says Catty, “and we kin pay for that
lumber as soon as we git it built into the house. Seems like we deserve
to have folks trust us on a deal like this. Maybe it’s because the
lumber company don’t know about it. Captain Winton, at the bank, will
know all about it. I’m going to see him.”

“No use,” says Jack.

“All right. I’m goin’ just the same. Come on, Wee-wee.”

I started out with him, leaving Jack and Mr. Atkins behind. Jack was
gloomy, but Mr. Atkins was kind of cheerful, because it was one of his
days when he wanted to wander, and I guess he figured if this contract
didn’t go through, why, he could go back to being shiftless again. Catty
and me we walked up the street and turned into the bank. He rapped on
Captain Winton’s door and the captain called to come in. We went.

“Well?” says the captain, looking at us kind of impatient.

“We come to borrow some money, if you want to lend it to us.”

“How much?” says the captain, and he put his hand in his pocket like he
was going after a dime.

“Right off we need eleven hundred dollars,” says Catty.

“What?” says Captain Winton, like he couldn’t believe his ears.

“Eleven hundred dollars,” says Catty, and then before the captain could
get up and throw us out he went on and told why he wanted it, and what
he was going to do with it, and how he could pay it back.

“Why didn’t your father come?” the captain said.

“He didn’t think you’ld lend it.”

“Um!... Contract with Witherspoon, eh? Got it signed and all?”

“Yes.”

“Where is it?”

“I fetched it for you to see.”

“Um!...” The captain looked it over. “Willing to put up this contract as
security?” he says.

“’Course,” says Catty.

“I’m going to lend it to you, and I’ll tell you why,” says the captain.
“In the first place, it is good business for me and the bank. A bank
makes its money by lending to folks at interest. The more it lends where
it knows it will be paid back the more it makes. Then, a bank has to
help a community to grow and develop. Nothing like a good bank to make a
town. We furnish the capital, and men build houses with it, and start
stores and factories. Then they come and deposit the money _they_ make
in the bank. Then the bank has more to lend to somebody else, and it
makes more money. Kind of an endless chain. Really, our business is
helping other folks to build up their businesses. See?”

“Yes,” says Catty.

“I’ve had my eye on you and your father. I know about this young
Phillips that’s gone in with you. It was a good move. I know what the
women of this town are trying to do to you, and how you’ve acted. _I_
think you are honest. You are going at things right. Somehow, tramps or
no tramps, I’ve got confidence in you folks. Is it true,” he says, “that
you are teaching your father manners so he’ll be equipped to meet folks
when he’s a successful business man?”

“Yes,” says Catty.

“Learning them yourself, too?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good!” says the captain. “It’s the kind of thing banks take into
consideration. Didn’t know that, did you?... Um!... It shows you mean to
succeed. The will to succeed is a fine asset, my boy, and I’m proving it
to you. Because it is one of the reasons I’m loaning you this money. Get
your father and Phillips to come and sign a note and the money will be
here for them.... Good luck to you.”

“Thank you, sir,” says Catty.

“Thank _you_,” says the captain, just like he was talking to another
business man.

We hustled back, you can bet.

“Git over to the bank quick and sign a note ’fore he changes his mind,”
says Catty, calm as a puddle of rain-water. “The money’s there waitin’
fur you.”

“You’re joking,” says Jack.

“You’ll find the money hain’t no joke,” says Catty. “You and Dad—git!”

Mr. Atkins shook his head sadlike. “’Tain’t no use,” says he. “I’m fated
to be a business man. There hain’t no hope, nohow.”

“Not a mite,” says Catty. “And, Jack, think up all the manners you kin
to teach us. Captain Winton says they’re an asset, whatever an asset is.
Anyhow, it’s somethin’ that helps you borrow money.”

“Catty,” says Jack, “I’ll cram the pair of you so full of manners that
you’ll look like a busy day in a crowded dancing-school.”

“Guess we kin manage to use all you got to spare,” says Catty, as sober
as a judge.



                              CHAPTER XII


Just on the edge of town was a big stock-farm where a company raised
Holstein cattle. There were half a dozen big barns—bigger than any barns
in our county, all painted white. Everything inside the barns was white,
too. The way those folks kept their cattle you would have thought they
were made out of diamonds instead of beef just like any other cow. There
was a bull there that we heard had cost more than fifty thousand
dollars. Catty and I were talking about that bull and we figured that a
steak off of him would cost about a hundred dollars a bite. Eating that
bull would be sort of like as if cannibals was to capture Mr.
Rockefeller and eat him.

All at once Catty says, “They must be paintin’ on them barns all the
time to keep ’em so white.”

“Dunno,” says I.

“Bet they do,” says he. “I’m goin’ out to find out about it. Comin’?”

We set out to walk. It took us ’most an hour to get there, and when we
did get there those barns looked even bigger than I had remembered them.
We went right through the gate and up to a little house marked “Office.”
There were two men in there, one in overalls and another slim man, not
exactly dressed up, but not looking as if he spent much time washing out
stalls. Catty rapped on the door, and the man in overalls looked up and
said to come in.

“I’m looking for the boss,” says Catty. “I’m him,” says the man in
overalls. “What is it?”

“You got fine, white, clean-lookin’ barns,” says Catty.

The man that didn’t have overalls sort of grinned, and the boss he kind
of grinned, too. “Much ’bleeged,” says he. “Is that what you come to
say?”

“No,” says Catty. “What I come to say was that that biggest barn with
Number Three painted on it don’t look as good as the rest. Seems like it
needed paintin’.”

Both men laughed. “Now I call that neighborly,” says the boss. “Wasn’t
figgerin’ on offerin’ to paint it for us, was you?”

“I was,” says Catty, and both the men laughed again.

“Fetch your brush?” says the boss.

Catty looked at him kind of solemn. “I come to talk _business_,” says
he, firm but polite. “If you’re figgerin’ on havin’ that barn painted,
I’d like to git the chance to bid on the job.”

The men laughed again, but this time the man that was in his regular
clothes says: “Let me have a word with this kid. He’s got something on
his mind, I guess.” The other man nodded.

“What makes you think you could paint that barn?” says the man.

“Well,” says Catty, “we painted Mr. Manning’s big warehouse, and we done
a good, satisfactory job. Mr. Manning said so. I kin refer you to him.”

“Who is _we?_,” says the man.

“Dad and me—and Jack Phillips. Jack’s a partner now. We calc’late to be
engineers, architects, contractors, painters, and interior decorators,”
says he.

“Is that all?” says the overall man. “Don’t you do plain and fancy
cookin’ and crochet lace?”

Catty looked at him full in the eye for a minute and then he says,
without a smile, “If you kin show me where there’s any money in it for
the firm, well tackle it,” says he.

“By Jing!” says the man in the clothes, and he leaned forward a little.
“Tell me some more. Are you the outside man for the firm? Do you bring
in the business?”

“I’ve got most of it so far. We started in to do paintin’ and
paperhangin’ alone, but the folks in town took a dislike to us and the
wimmin got in another painter and paper-hanger that’s underbiddin’ us.
We hain’t gettin’ much in that line. There wa’n’t nothin’ for us to do
but branch out. So we went into buildin’ and architecture and sich.”

“Why didn’t the folks like you?”

Catty told him, and the man listened like he was interested.

“And you’re going to stick?” he asked. “You figure you can beat public
opinion?” Catty’s mouth shut tight a minute and his eyes got bright.

“We’ll stick or bust,” says he. “We’re respectable. We hain’t shiftless
any more, leastways most of the time we hain’t. Dad has his shiftless
days, but they’re gettin’ fewer and fewer, and I keep my eye on him
sharp. Pretty soon he’ll be respectable all the way through. We
calc’late to give everybody a square deal, and if we kin jest keep on
gittin’ work until everybody sees we hain’t tramps, but respectable
folks, I don’t see but what we’ll git where I want to git.”

“Where’s that?” says the man.

“I want Dad should be the most respectable business man in this county,”
says Catty.

“Did you ever hear the like!” says the man to the boss.

“Never did,” says the boss. “That barn’s been needin’ paintin’ for
months. Can’t spare the men to do it off the regular work, and couldn’t
git anybody in town to tackle it. Just had to let it slide.”

“Can you get men to do this job?” asked the boss.

“Yes.”

“How many?”

“As many as Dad thinks is necessary to do it right. Dad he knows his
business well.”

“Give us a figger, then,” says the boss. Catty thought a minute.
“Mister,” says he, “don’t all these buildin’s have to be painted about
once a year—inside and out?”

“Mostly whitewash inside,” says the boss. “Then,” says Catty, “why
hain’t it good business for both of us if I was to give you a figger on
doin’ all the work by the year? Doin’ all the paintin’ and whitewashin’
necessary, and takin’ all that worry off of your hands.”

“Young man,” says the man with the clothes, “you have ideas. You see
where you’re going, and I’m going to make a bet that you get there. That
is a business-like proposition. You make a proposition along that line.”

“Thankee, sir. Good mornin’. I’ll have that bid in so quick you’ll be
s’prised.”

We hustled back, and Catty got his father to hire a rig and drive right
out to the stock-farm. Mr. Atkins spent all the rest of the day there,
and Catty spent the rest of the day there sort of moving his father
along from one thing to another and seeing to it he didn’t lie down in
any shady spots or take any strolls back into the woods. Mr. Atkins made
heaps of measurements, and talked a lot to the boss, and when he got to
talking business and got really interested he acted like he was another
man. He spoke kind of sharp and brisk, and he give you the idea that he
knew what he was about. It was funny the way he was changing. You
couldn’t notice it much every day, but if you looked at him as he was
now and like he was when he first came to town, you wouldn’t believe
what you saw.

[Illustration: That night he and Jack Phillips sat up late going over
figures, and early the next morning they had things ready to show to the
stock-farm company]

That night he and Jack Phillips sat up late going over figures, and
early the next morning they had things ready to show to the stock-farm
company.

“Catty ought to take the figures out,” says Jack. “He landed the job.”

Mr. Atkins looked at Catty and heaved a big breath.

“He done so,” says he, and his eyes sort of twinkled. “Catty’s a terror.
He’s a-ruinin’ my life. Fust I know he’ll make a rich man out of me, and
I’ll have to buy me one of them silk hats like he was talking about, and
nobody knows but what I’ll have to git me a cane to wear Sundays.”

“Catty,” says Jack, “is the best man in this firm.”

Well, we walked out to the farm and showed those men the figures, and
Catty had listened so he was able to explain anything they didn’t
understand. The upshot of it was that the boss signed the contract Jack
had written, and Atkins & Phillips had landed the job of doing all the
painting for the Greenfields Holstein Farms for a year. It was a whaling
big contract, too. Catty figured they would make a fair living out of
it, even if they didn’t get another stroke of work to do.

“We’re growin’,” says he. “Now we got to save out money so as to git a
lot ahead to branch out with. What we need most right now is money.”

“It’s what most folks needs,” says I. “I need a little myself. ’Most
always do.”

“Now,” says Catty, “we got to give a little time to Jim Bockers. We got
all the work we need this minute, so I kind of figger to git some for
Jim. The more he gits the more money he loses. I don’t calc’late runnin’
us out of town ’s goin’ to be very profitable for some folks.” We walked
up the street to take a look at the cellar of Mr. Witherspoon’s house,
and just in front of the bank we saw Mr. Arthur Peabody Kinderhook
talking to Captain Winton. I heard Captain Winton say:

“Don’t you think it would be advisable, Mr. Kinderhook, to interest a
certain amount of local capital in your enterprises? I’m sure a number
of our citizens would be willing to invest.”

“No.... No....” says Mr. Kinderhook. “I’m in business to make money for
myself. The profits from this manufacturing operation will be handsome.
I have the money to swing it without outside help. Why should I let in
anybody else?”

“There really doesn’t seem to be any reason,” said Captain Winton,
disappointed-like. “But I wish you would think it over.” Somehow it had
got out that what Mr. Kinderhook was going to manufacture was a patent
churn that got more butter out of cream than any other, and did it so
easy that it wasn’t any work at all. It was a patent dingus that Mr.
Kinderhook had the secret of, and folks was talking it about that he
would make millions of dollars out of it. About a dozen times that week
I heard one man or another sayin’ that he wished Kinderhook would let
_him_ stick in a little of his savings.

The rumor was around town that day that Kinderhook had bought a big
piece of land along the railroad and was going to start in pretty soon
to build a factory. Folks said there would be maybe three or four
hundred people hired to work there, and everybody was getting excited. I
heard one man say it would double the population of our town and make
everybody’s property worth double what it had been, and that if every
one there didn’t get rich out of it, why, it would be their own fault.

Catty told me that all sounded good to him. If lots of folks moved
there, then there would be houses to build and paint and paper, and so
Atkins & Phillips would make a lot more money. He was always thinking
about Atkins & Phillips and making money and getting so respectable
folks would be afraid to set down to the table with him. It seemed like
he didn’t have anything else in his mind. Why, he even got to worrying
about the way he talked and his father talked, and said it wasn’t the
way respectable folks used words. He said they didn’t speak correct.

“Neither do I,” says I.

“But you’re goin’ to school to learn,” says he. “They teach you how to
talk in school, don’t they?”

“Yes,” says I.

“Why?” says he.

“Because,” says I, “they have to have school from half past eight in the
morning till half past three in the afternoon, and if they didn’t think
up a lot of different things to teach, why, they wouldn’t know what to
do with all their time.”

“Rats!” says he. “They teach you everything on purpose. They got a
reason for it. You learn figgerin’ so’s to be able to count money and do
business. That’s that. They teach you geography so’s you’ll know where
to find places in the world if you want to git to ’em or sell things to
’em. They teach you writin’ and readin’ so’s you’ll be able to write
letters about business and read letters and printed things about buyin’
and sellin’ goods. That’s why. All business. They run schools just so’s
you can learn how to make a livin’—with the exception of teachin’ you
how to talk. There hain’t but one reason for that. Bein’ able to talk
_right_ is a mark of bein’ respectable. There’s a certain way the best
kind of folks talk, and if you kin talk that way, why, right off
everybody believes you’re one of them.... And that’s good business, too.
Bein’ respectable is useful in business, as Dad and me has found out. If
we’d been respectable we wouldn’t ’a’ had all this trouble here.... So
I’m goin’ to git after Dad to make him talk right.”

You see every word he said had something to do with business or being
respectable. He had ’em on the brain. Table manners and clothes and
talking right—nothing but the idea of being respectable, and so being
able to do business the way it ought to be done, and the more business
you done, why, the more respectable you was. That was Catty’s idea.
Maybe he was right. I dunno.

Well, sir, a couple of weeks after that Mr. Kinderhook came into the
store and says, “Can I have a sign printed here?”

“You kin,” says Catty, and he called his father. “This gentleman,” says
he, “wants to have a sign painted.”

“I want a very large sign, sir,” says Mr. Kinderhook, beaming at Mr.
Atkins like he wanted to kiss him. “I want it erected on a piece of
property I have arranged to purchase as the site of my factory. The sign
is to be ten feet high and thirty feet long, and I wish to have it white
with enormous black letters—do you get the idea?”

“Want the letters to spell anythin’?” says Mr. Atkins, interested-like,
“or was you jest figgerin’ on any letters at all put on helter-skelter?”

Mr. Kinderhook looked at him kind of funny a minute, and then he says:
“I want the following words lettered: ‘This Is the Site of the
Kinderhook Farm Utilities Corporation. Our Enormous Factory Will Be
Completed January First.’ Can you manage it, my good man?”

“I kin,” said Mr. Atkins. “I calc’late I could put ’most anything onto
sich a sign. I kin put _that_ on easy. If you want, I kin put on
somethin’ real hard.”

“That will do very well,” says Mr. Kinderhook, and he turned to walk
toward the door.

“Was you calc’latin’ on payin’ for it?” says Mr. Atkins.

“Certainly—certainly.”

“Um!... Int’rested to know how much it ’ll cost you?”

“To be sure.”

“Then why didn’t you ask?” says Mr. Atkins. “When folks gives an order,
and don’t worry none about how much they got to pay for it, I always git
a sneakin’ idea it’s because they don’t calc’late they’ll ever have to
pay. Funny notion, hain’t it?”

“Very,” says Mr. Kinderhook, with a funny kind of a grin. “But you must
know me, sir. My name is Kinderhook.”

“Seen you ’round town,” says Mr. Atkins. “Been sort of lookin’ you over
once or twice. Int’restin’ feller, you be, I sh’u’d say. Got int’restin’
and everythin’. Always wear that high hat?”

“I have done so for years.”

“Thought so. Habit, hain’t it? Wa’n’t born with it on, was you?”

Mr. Kinderhook laughed like he saw a mighty good joke. “No,” he said,
“but my mother gave it to me soon after.”

“Price of that sign ’ll be a even hunderd dollars,” says Mr. Atkins.

“Perfectly satisfactory,” says Mr. Kinderhook, and he started for the
door again.

“If it’s so doggone satisfactory,” says Mr. Atkins, “jest suppose you
plunk down the money—now?”

“Before the sign’s completed? Why, that isn’t my way of doing business,
sir.”

“It’s mine—in some cases,” says Mr. Atkins. “One hunderd dollars—in
advance. No hunderd—no sign.”

“Don’t you trust me—me? I tell you I am Arthur Peabody Kinderhook.”

“Heard you say so. Tell you how it is: ’Tain’t that I mistrust you
exact—and ’tain’t that I trust you. I dunno nothin’ about you. If I was
to build that sign and spend money for lumber and paint, and put a lot
of work onto it, I might worry about whether I was a-goin’ to git
paid—if I hadn’t got paid in advance. Worryin’ upsets my stummick and
puts me off’n my meals. That’s the idee, mister.”

Mr. Kinderhook laughed again, and with a pompous kind of gesture took
out his pocket-book and threw five twenty-dollar bills onto the counter.
“There you are,” he says, in a grand kind of way. “That shows you I’ve
got the money.”

“What it shows,” says Mr. Atkins, “is that _I_ got the money. That’s
what int’rests me.... Afternoon, mister.”

Catty was staring at his father and so was I. The whole business wasn’t
like Mr. Atkins at all. There was something _shrewd_ about it that
didn’t seem like Catty’s father. And he seemed like he was interested in
getting money—which gen’ally he wasn’t. It sort of showed what he
_could_ be like if he wanted to—the kind of a man folks wouldn’t smouge
very often.

“What ails you, Dad?” says Catty. “I never seen you act so before.”

“Um!... Keep your eye peeled, Catty, and maybe you’ll see me act like it
ag’in. Somethin’ about that feller that don’t set right, somehow.
There’s somethin’ about that feller—somethin’ about that feller—” He
scratched his head and bit his thumb and rapped his knuckles on the
counter. “Now did I ever see that feller before, or didn’t I?... And if
I did, where did I?... And if I didn’t, what makes me think I did?...
Um!... If ever I seen him it was some place and doin’ somethin’ that
kind of set me ag’in’ him.... Kind of funny. Set my teeth on edge, that
feller did.”

“But he’s a millionaire, Dad. Maybe we kin make lots of money out of
him.”

“Millionaire, hey? Don’t say. Wa-al, I swan to man!... I’m a-goin’ to
set down and think about that man, and remember if I kin remember him.
I’ll call him to mind if I have to set and remember every man I ever
seen since I was knee-high to a milkin’-stool. I’ll check ’em off one by
one, I will.... It’s made me itch, I’m that curious.... Catty, I hain’t
goin’ to do another tap of work till I remember who that feller is—if
he’s anybody.”

And, just as he always did, Mr. Atkins kept his word to the letter.



                              CHAPTER XIII


It seemed like the town got more and more excited every day about Arthur
Peabody Kinderhook and his factory. Nobody talked about much of anything
else, and every afternoon you could see a dozen men out walking around
the field where the factory was to be, pacing off distances and fooling
themselves into thinking they knew just where the buildings were to be,
and how big they would look and everything. And Mr. Atkins was on
strike.

Yes, sir, since the day he sold the sign to Mr. Kinderhook he hadn’t
done a tap of work, but had just sat around thinking and thinking and
thinking, laying to remember when he had seen the man before and where
he had seen him.

Then the news got around that Kinderhook had agreed to sell Captain
Winton some stock in his factory, and folks were almost crazy. They
thought it meant that maybe _they_ could get some, and if they did get
some they would get rich and never have to work any more, but just sit
around and draw dividends and travel and smoke five-cent cigars. But
Kinderhook wouldn’t sell to anybody else.

And then, one morning, I went down to the store and Mr. Atkins was at
work again. I knew right off he had thought where he had seen Mr.
Kinderhook, because he was the kind of man who kept his word, and he had
said he wouldn’t work till he remembered.

“Mornin’!” says I. “I see you’ve found out about the Kinderhook feller.”

“Uh!...” says Mr. Atkins, and Catty grinned.

“Dad’s remembered,” says he, “but he’s a-thinkin’ it over. He won’t tell
us till he’s got it figgered out to suit himself. I don’t care so long
as he sticks at work and keeps on tryin’ to be respectable. I got him
now so he kin eat pie with a fork. It was a chore to teach him, but it’s
done. Next he’ll be eatin’ soup without makin’ a noise like a horse
runnin’ through a mud-puddle.”

Catty said all this as sober as a judge. He wasn’t poking fun at his
father nor being impudent. He was just saying what was so in the best
way he knew how.

All of a sudden Mr. Atkins spoke up.

“Wee-wee,” says he, “what’s your notions about medicine-shows?”

“Medicine-shows?” says I. “What about ’em?”

“Regard ’em as proper and respectable?” says he.

“They’re lots of fun,” says I, “especially when they pull folks’s teeth
free and have real Injuns doin’ war-dances and things.”

“You like ’em, then?”

“Sure,” says I.

“But s’posin’ the feller sells medicine for a dollar a bottle that he
guarantees to cure up rheumatics and cramps in the stummick and chills
and warts and corns and freckles and backache and earache—and supposin’
that medicine hain’t worth the speck on a toad’s ear to cure _anythin’_?
How about that?”

“Did the doctor know it?” says I.

“Yes,” says he.

“Then he was a cheat,” says I.

“To be sure,” says he. “A cheat. I calc’late that’s what he was—and
maybe worse. How’d you look at sich a feller—as bein’ what Catty calls
respectable, or not?”

“Not,” says I.

“Um!... My way of thinkin’, too. If you seen sich a feller runnin’ some
other business and aimin’ to get aholt of folks’s money, what would your
notions be about how he was goin’ to treat ’em?”

“I’d guess,” says I, “that he was goin’ to cheat ’em, too.”

“My idee,” says Mr. Atkins, and he went into the back room and stirred
around for half an hour without saying another word. Catty and I talked
about lots of things and told what we was going to do when we got rich
and grown up and all that. Catty was going to own some kind of a
business that was the most respectable business there was in the world.
He hadn’t picked out what the business would be yet, because he couldn’t
figure what was the most respectable. I told him being a minister looked
awful respectable to me, but he says that wasn’t a business, but only
marrying folks on week-days and talking on Sundays, and that there
wasn’t any money in it, anyhow, so far as he could see. He thought some
about being a judge or a Senator. I didn’t care for either of those ways
of earning a living, myself. My leaning was toward something better than
either of _them_. I aimed to be a clown in a circus or else a cowboy and
discover a gold-mine and all that. I’d changed my mind some. Once I was
going to be a circus performer—one of the trapeze kind—and I set some
angleworms to stewing on top of the barn. Everybody knows circus fellers
git so supple by rubbing angleworm oil onto themselves. But when my
worms was stewed out and I went anywheres near them I made up my mind I
didn’t care about trapeze-performing if I had to butter myself with that
kind of perfume.

Just when we were arguing hardest Mr. Atkins came back and says, sudden
as a thunderclap:

“This here Kinderhook man used to run one of them snide medicine-shows.
Wore a silk hat and pulled teeth and had tame Injuns and all.”

You could have knocked me down with a puff-ball. Why, this Kinderhook
man looked as if he’d never owned anything less than a national bank,
and he was the kind of a fellow that you would pick to be the boss
deacon of a church and all that. And him pulling teeth and selling snide
medicine!

Catty slid down off the counter. “Then,” says he, “he aims to cheat the
folks of this town out of their money.”

“And serve ’em right,” says Mr. Atkins.

“That hain’t no way to talk, Dad, and you’d know it if you was
respectable. But you’re gettin’ respectabler every day. It ’ll come if
you jest have patience.”

“Don’t want it to come too hard,” says Mr. Atkins.

“We got to stop it,” says Catty.

“Codfish!” says Mr. Atkins. “Wouldn’t lift my hand for folks that’s
acted like these.”

“Dunno’s I care so much about the folks,” says Catty, “but the idea of
_anybody_ gettin’ cheated sort of riles me. I’m goin’ to tell folks who
Kinderhook is.”

“Think they’ll b’lieve you?” says Mr. Atkins. “Not much. Who be you?
You’re a young tramp that folks wants to run out of town, and I’m an old
tramp that they’re tryin’ to put out of business. If we was to step in
and interfere, what you s’pose would happen? They’d put us in jail, most
like. They wouldn’t b’lieve our word ag’in’ Kinderhook’s. Better keep
your mouth shut, Catty.”

Catty stood and thought a few minutes, and then he shook his head and
said he guessed his father was right. “But we know what’s true,” he
says, “and it’s our duty as respectable folks to put a stop to it....
And I’m a-goin’ to.”

“How?” says I.

“Hadn’t but one way,” says he, “and that is to git proof that folks ’ll
have to believe. We kin do that, Wee-wee, and we’ll go to work and watch
Kinderhook, and foller him and nose out jest what he’s up to. It’s our
job. We kin do it between-times while I’m helpin’ to run our own
business and make Dad respectable. Want to help, Wee-wee?”

“Be reg’lar detectives?” says I.

“Sure,” says he.

“You bet,” says I. “But why not tell folks right out?”

Catty looked at me like he was sorry for anybody that didn’t have any
more brains than to ask that.

“Because,” says he, “folks is all het up over this here man Kinderhook.
They think he’s the greatest man in the world, and _anybody_ would git
in trouble that said a word ag’in’ him. _Anybody_ would, but what would
folks do to _us_? Lemme ask you that. They want to run us out anyhow,
but if we was to spread a story about Kinderhook they’d ride us out on a
rail.”

“Guess you’re right,” says I, “but how’ll we go about provin’ it? And
when we’ve got it proved, what ’ll we do?”

“I dunno,” says Catty. “That ’ll have to come when it comes. Main thing
is for us to tend to our business and watch our chance. We kin ketch
Kinderhook at it if he’s meanin’ some snide game. He’ll be showin’ it
somehow.”

“Whatever you say,” says I.

From that minute I was a heap more interested in Kinderhook than I had
been before. As soon as you find out something like that about a man you
begin to notice things, and to watch, and to figure out what he means
when he says anything. It’s a lot of fun, and I didn’t want to do
anything else but just trail ’round after him, but Catty wouldn’t have
that. He wouldn’t neglect his regular business, and he wouldn’t let down
on learning manners and then teaching his father what he had learned. At
the rate Catty was going I figured out he would be the most respectable
and the politest man in the world by the time he was old enough to vote.
Most folks get manners sort of by accident. They just _sop_ manners up,
anyhow, as they go along, and never notice it, but Catty made a
_business_of it same as he’d make a business of learning to pull teeth
or cut off legs like a doctor.

There was quite a lot of talk around town about Jack Phillips coming
into business with the Atkinses and about how they managed to find
something to do in spite of what the women thought about it. It made the
folks that didn’t like Catty and his father more determined than ever to
get rid of them, and you could hear women and men talking it over almost
any time if you were to listen. More than one woman came to my mother to
complain about my going around with Catty so much, and a couple of men
spoke to Dad, but they never did it more than once. I heard Dad say to
one man:

“Look here, Mr. Withers, my son plays with the Atkins boy because I want
him to. I’ve studied that boy, and if he isn’t worth half a dozen of the
ordinary kids in this town then I’m willing to pick up and move away.
Catty’s got brains and ambition and he’s aboveboard, with nothing
sneaking about him. You say you won’t let your boy play with mine if the
Atkins boy is around. Well, I’m satisfied. If anything is wrong with
Catty Atkins, then I hope Wee-wee catches it.”

I guess Jim Bockers was beginning to get sick of his bargain about this
time. I know of a dozen painting or paperhanging jobs that Catty worked
up and made a bid on. His bid every time was just a little less than it
would actually cost to do the work—and then the folks would go to Jim
and Jim would have to live up to his advertisement and do the work for
even less. It was rotten business, and Catty said he couldn’t last long.

One day Catty says to me: “I wisht you’d drop in to Jim Bockers’s when
you get a chance and sort of find out how he’s gettin’ along. We’re
making some money off his rent, but he’s ruined the paperhangin’
business. If it wasn’t for that stock-farm and a few outside jobs that
part of our business would be dead. We ought to be makin’ twice what we
are, and if anything comes of this Kinderhook boom we ought to almost
git rich. Jest kind of sound Jim out.”

So I dropped in that afternoon. Jim had a nice shop with lots of
wall-paper in rolls all put away in little square pigeonholes, and
shelves of paint and brushes, and a shop full of ladders and things. It
was a high-toned place, all right, but Jim didn’t look very happy.

“Howdy, Mr. Bockers?” says I. “How’s business?”

“Lots of _business_,” says Jim, as gloomy as an undertaker.

“You ought to be grinnin’, then,” says I.

“Hain’t no money into it,” says Jim.

“How’s that?” says I.

“Them Atkins fellers,” says he.

“But you’re gittin’ all the work,” says I.

“The more I git the more I lose,” says he.

“How’s that?”

“Why, my sister-in-law, she got me to open this shop to run them folks
out. She says they didn’t have no capital and that I could underbid ’em
and bust ’em in a couple of weeks. That looked all right to me, ’cause
she lent me some money to put with what I’d saved, and I started in.”

“Sounds good,” says I.

“Sounded too good,” says he. “I figgered they’d bid so as to make money,
and that I could underbid ’em down to cost and break even. I could ’a’
stood that—just to break even for a while till they was got rid of, and
then I’d have all the business to myself.”

“Didn’t it work?”

“Work nothin’! Them Atkinses done me. They’re sharpers. They cheated
me.”

“How?” says I, gettin’ interested.

“They bid too low. They bid below cost themselves, and then I had to
take the business for less ’n that. It cost me money every time I done a
job. Calc’late I’ve lost a couple hundred dollars since I come, and no
outlook for doin’ better.”

“Why don’t you git out?” says I.

“Can’t afford it. Hain’t got the money to move. Got all this stock;
besides, my sister-in-law’s so dead set on runnin’ them fellers out of
town that I dassen’t quit.”

“Run away,” says I.

“I’d lose my stock,” says he, “and I’ve lost more ’n enough already.”

“Um!...” I says, thinking it over. “What if you could sell your stock?”

“Got a lease on this store, or rather that sister-in-law of mine has. It
runs for a year. The rent’s got to be paid.”

“That’s _her_ lookout, hain’t it? She got you into this mess, didn’t
she?”

“Calc’late she did.”

“Well?” says I.

“Wee-wee,” says he, after a few minutes, “I wisht I could find somebody
that would pay me somethin’ for this stock. I kin lose money on it and
still be ahead. I’d sell and scoot if I could git cash money.”

“You stay where you be,” says I, and off I ran to find Catty.

I found him in the store, lecturing his father about clothes and telling
him how he ought to buy a good suit, with a dress-up hat for Sundays,
and how he had to do it with the first money they could spare. “It means
a lot. You go around lookin’ swell, and folks won’t remember how you
used to look. First you know you’ll be as respectable as anybody. You’ll
be gettin’ elected a director in the bank.”

“Catty,” said I, busting right in on him, “Jim Bookers is ready to quit.
He’ll sell out for cash, and scoot.”

“Honest?” says he.

“Honest Injun,” says I. “Come on.”

I looked around Catty’s shop. They didn’t commence to have the stock Jim
did. It would be fine if they could get Jim’s and move it in.

Catty and I hustled over to Jim’s.

“Hear you’re willin’ to sell,” says Catty. “For cash,” says Jim.

“And sign an agreement sayin’ you won’t go into business in this town
again for ten years?” says Catty.

“You bet. I got all the business here that I want for a hundred years.”

“How much you want for everything?”

“Dunno till I take inventory.”

“Let’s take it,” says Catty, and in a minute we went at it hammer and
tongs. It took us till late that night, but when we were through we knew
exactly what that stock and stuff of Jim’s had cost.

“Set a price,” says Catty.

Jim did, and Catty just laughed. Right off he told Jim what he would
pay, and it was a lot less. “I’m lookin’ for a bargain,” Catty says.
“That’s my price, cash. You kin take it or leave it. I’ll give you ten
minutes to think it over, and if you don’t take it then the offer is all
off and we don’t make a deal.”

“You’re robbin’ me,” says Jim.

“You tried to rob Dad and me,” says Catty. “You’re gittin’ what’s comin’
to you.”

Jim he argued and fussed and hollered and haggled. But Catty just kept
looking at the clock. “Time’s up,” he says. “What’s your answer?”

Jim he goggled and strangled, but there wasn’t anything for it. He had
to take his medicine.

“All right,” says he. “Cash.”

“Cash,” says Catty, “as soon as the bank opens.”.

Early in the morning Catty and I went to Mr. Wade in his office full of
Napoleons, and had him draw up what papers we ought to have, and then we
took Mr. Atkins and Jack Phillips to the bank and got the money. Jim
Bockers signed the paper that Mr. Wade said was a bill of sale, and
hustled for the train. He wanted to get away before his sister-in-law
found out.

Catty was tickled. “Now we’re all right,” says he. “I figger we made
close to two hunderd dollars on this deal, and we got the paintin’ and
paperhangin’ business of this town right by the ear. Anybody that wants
some done has got to come to us. I guess maybe this hain’t a move toward
gettin’ respectable.”

They set to work and moved Jim’s stock over to their own store and put
the ladders and scaffolds and things in the shed. It was the first time
they had really been in shape to do business. Even Mr. Atkins acted kind
of tickled. He hated to show it, but every once in a while you could see
he was really getting interested in the business and that work wasn’t as
disagreeable for him as it used to be.

Catty was moving along toward where he wanted to be.



                              CHAPTER XIV


A day or two after that Catty and I were sitting on the platform of the
station, waiting for the train to come in with some things Jack Phillips
had ordered. Along came Captain Winton, the president of the bank, and
Mr. Moss, the hardware-man. They sat down a little ways from us and
began to talk.

“We’ve got to get ready for it,” says Captain Winton. “It won’t be long
before mill-hands will be moving in here with their families, and we
haven’t any places for them to live. I’ve been thinking it over, and it
looks to me like some of us could get together and build a dozen houses
or so and pick up a nice profit—or make a good income from rents.”

“I’ve been thinking about that, too. You own a piece of land down the
new factory way, don’t you?”

“Ten acres,” says Captain Winton. “We could run streets through and
start in by building a dozen cottages. Then, if the thing went as I
expect, we could put up more.”

“How much would we have to put into it?”

“Well, my guess is that we could put up the houses for a couple of
thousand apiece—maybe twenty-five hundred. The bank would loan on each
house and lot fifteen hundred. A dozen, including land and everything,
would stand us in thirty-six thousand, and we would have to raise half
of that.”

“I’ve got a few thousand lying loose,” says Mr. Moss. “I wouldn’t want
to put everything into this building thing, because I’m still hoping to
persuade Mr. Kinderhook to sell me a block of stock—say five thousand
dollars. He’s pretty friendly with me.”

“I don’t know. He seems to want to hang onto it.”

“_You_ got some,” says Mr. Moss.

“That was on account of the bank, I guess. He wanted to have us
interested.... But I think we can get four or five men here to go into
this building thing. We could form a company. I’ll put in my land at
five thousand and take another five thousand besides.”

“You can count on me for two or three thousand, and Gage ’ll come in for
some, and so will Gordon and Piddlecomb and Bockers.”

“Tell any of them you see to meet at the bank this afternoon. We want to
go at it as quickly as we can.”

Then the train came in. We didn’t hear any more, but there didn’t seem
to be any more to hear. On the way back to the store Catty was pretty
quiet. As soon as we got there he hollered for Jack Phillips.

“Jack,” he says, “there’s goin’ to be a dozen houses built here all in a
bunch, and we got to land the job.”

“Tell me about it,” says Jack.

Catty told him all we had heard, and Jack got quite excited. “I wonder
how they’ll let the contract. On bids, probably.”

“With Mr. Gage and Mr. Bockers mixed up in it we won’t have much of a
chance,” says Catty.

“That’s right,” says Jack, and he looked discouraged, but Catty spoke
right up and says: “We got to have a chance. We got to land that job.
There’s big money in it.”

“Pretty big. We ought to make five thousand dollars, anyhow, and maybe
more.”

“If they know we’re biddin’ we’ll never land it,” says Catty, “so we got
to fool ’em. It’s fair. We’ll do ’em as good a job as anybody if we get
a chance, and it hain’t right for them to act like they will toward
us.... I guess I got an idee. You’ll have to do it, Jack. We’ll git up a
company and call it by a fancy name. It ’ll be a company over to
Harleyville. You’ll have to go over there and have letter-heads printed
and kind of make believe have an office, and we kin do all the business
by mail. Then, when the contracts are all signed up, we’ll be the folks
that do the work. How’s that?”

“Bully,” says Jack.

I guess Catty was right about the chance the Atkinses would have had to
land the contract, because I heard Mr. Gage and Mr. Bockers talking in
Gage’s back yard, and they both said that it didn’t matter what kind of
a bid the Atkinses made they wouldn’t let them do the work.

“My wife’s dead set on getting those people out of town,” says Mr. Gage.

“So’s mine. If they have the nerve to make a bid, why, we’ll just throw
it out.”

I told this to Catty and he grinned a little and then squared up his
jaw. In a day or two there was an advertisement for plans and bids in
the paper, and Jack went over to Harleyville. He had been working on
plans and specifications, and he had had letter-paper printed with
“North American Construction Company” on it. He signed his letters that
way, with only an initial “P” under it in pen and ink. They were fine
letters, too, and guaranteed the kind of work that would be done—and it
_would_ be the best work, Jack said. He said he wanted Atkins & Phillips
to get to be known everywhere as a firm that did better work than
anybody else and always did what it guaranteed to do.

Atkins & Phillips didn’t make any bid at all. Mr. Wade was appointed by
the North American Construction Company to be its agent in town, and it
gave him quite a reputation, because the name sounded as if it was a
whopping big company. Mr. Wade knew all about it, and the way he laughed
was enough to make your sides ache. He said it was regular Napoleon
tactics, fooling the enemy and hitting them hard where they weren’t
looking for it. He got right on the job and kept after Captain Winton,
who wouldn’t care himself who got the job, and he kept after Mr. Gage
and Mr. Bockers, until they thought the North American Construction
Company was about right. He said the company would put up a bond to do
the work right.

There were three other bids from out-of-town companies, but between
Jack’s letters and Mr. Wade the North American landed the job and the
contracts were signed by Captain Winton, president of the building
company, and by Mr. Wade as agent for the North American, and the bond
was made and everything. Nobody said a word, and then the lumber began
to come and carpenters from out of town—and the work started.

Well, maybe you think there wasn’t a row then when folks found out Jack
Phillips was in charge of the job and Mr. Atkins was a kind of foreman,
and that the whole work was actually being done by Atkins & Phillips.
Mr. Gage got a lawyer and Bockers got one and they tried every which way
to break the contract, but it was no go. Captain Winton sort of grinned
and wouldn’t have anything to do with it. He said if the Atkins folks
were smart enough to get the contract he guessed they were smart enough
to carry it out, and he told them to come to the bank if they needed any
money—which they did.

It was right after this that Catty made his father go to the
clothing-store and buy two suits of clothes, one for business and one
for Sundays, and the right kind of hats to go with them. Well, sir, when
Mr. Atkins got dressed up in those duds you wouldn’t have known him, and
I guess he hardly knew himself. He kept his hair cut now, and his beard
trimmed down into a point, and if he wasn’t as good-looking a man as we
had in town, I’ll _eat_ him. He didn’t look any more like a tramp than
Mr. Rockefeller did.

Those clothes seemed to make quite a difference in him, too. He _acted_
different. He didn’t act so much like Mr. Atkins any more, but like
another man that wasn’t shiftless at all and really liked to work. That
is, he acted that way part of the time, and when he was feeling
shiftless he sort of kept out of sight so folks wouldn’t see it. Catty
said his father was really getting interested in the work, and he was
hoping he would get interested in being respectable.

From that day nobody ever saw Mr. Atkins in any clothes but good ones.
He didn’t wear his painter’s suit, though he wanted to. Catty wouldn’t
let him. Every morning before Mr. Atkins could get out of his room Catty
looked him all over to see he was dressed right. It was funny. It was
almost as if Catty had taken a jack-knife and whittled out a man, his
father was getting to be so different to what he used to be.

Catty and I began trailing around after Mr. Kinderhook whenever we got a
chance, but we hadn’t even seen anything that looked suspicious. He just
looked rich and important, and he acted rich and important and puffed
up. To see him sitting on the hotel porch like he owned the whole state,
and being kind to folks and behaving toward them just like he thought
they were as good as he was, was a sight. He never talked about his
factory and what he was going to manufacture unless somebody started it
first and then urged him on, and then he acted sort of like the subject
tired him and he didn’t want to be bothered with it. We listened to him
a dozen times, and couldn’t see how he was planning to gouge anybody.

“Maybe he’s reformed,” says I.

“Bet he hain’t. He don’t look reformed,” says Catty. “If he was the kind
of man that was willin’ to make money sellin’ cheat medicine to old
women with the rheumatiz that wouldn’t help ’em a bit and maybe made ’em
worse, why, he’s bad yet. But I can’t see how he’s plannin’ to _be_
bad.”

“It’s sure he hain’t tryin’ to sell any shares in his factory.”

“Looks that way,” says Catty. “’Course he sold some to Captain Winton.”

“But not to anybody else, and everybody is crazy to buy.”

“I heard him say this mornin’ that his company was all incorporated,
whatever that is, and he expected to start in buildin’ soon,” says
Catty. “I wonder what ‘incorporated’ is?”

“Haven’t any idee,” says I. “Maybe it means somethin’ like planned out.”

“Maybe. I heard him tell Mr. Gage that he didn’t have any patent on this
churn of his, because if he was to patent it he would have to give away
the secret and somebody would sell it. He says there’s a secret part,
and nobody kin find out how to make it, so he hain’t goin’ to git a
patent at all, but just go to work and manufacture and prevent anybody
from findin’ out how it’s done.”

“Sounds kind of fishy,” says I. “Everybody swallers it down,” says
Catty, “but if there’s any cheatin’ in this I’ll bet it’s got somethin’
to do with that secret.” That very afternoon we didn’t have anything
else to do, so we fussed around close to Mr. Kinderhook, keeping watch
of him and listening to what he had to say. After a while he got up and
walked down the street, and we trailed after him until he got to the
station. He went into the telegraph-office and wrote out a message. We
waited till he was gone and then we went right in where Tom Purvis was
clicking the keys. We could do that because I knew Tom mighty well and
he didn’t mind. We stood right back of Tom’s chair, making believe we
were interested in what he was doing and how he sent messages, but
really we wanted to get a sight of what Mr. Kinderhook had written.
Pretty soon Tom came to it and began clacking away. I could read it over
his shoulders. It was addressed to a man by the name of Matthew Binger
in New York, and it said:

                        Come at once. Crop ripe.

Now that was a funny message, it seemed to me, because there weren’t any
crops ripe just then, and Mr. Kinderhook wasn’t interested in crops if
they had been. Catty and I went off after that, but we couldn’t make any
head nor tail of it. It just looked silly, but anyhow we made up our
minds we would keep meeting trains till this man Binger came, and we
would see what he was up to and what crop Mr. Kinderhook had in mind.

Two days later a stranger got off of the train. He was short and fat,
and he looked almost as rich as Kinderhook did.

“Bet that’s Binger,” says Catty.

“Bet it is, too,” says I.

So we rode with Pazzy Bills back to the hotel and saw the man register.
Sure enough, his name was Matthew Binger and he asked if a man named
Kinderhook was stopping there. The clerk allowed there was, and Mr.
Binger asked the clerk if he would take up his card. The clerk done so,
and pretty soon down comes Mr. Kinderhook, peering around like he was
looking for somebody. He didn’t recognize Mr. Binger any more than as if
he had never heard of him till the clerk says, “That’s the gentleman
that wanted to see you, Mr. Kinderhook,” and Kinderhook walked over,
holding the card in his hand and reading it.

“Mr. Binger?” says he, looking at the card again, as if he was making
sure he had the name right.

“Matthew Binger—yes. And is this Mr. Arthur Peabody Kinderhook?”

“It is. What can I do for you?”

“I have come down from New York to talk business with you. Where can we
go and be quiet?”

“Is your business secret, Mr. Binger? Because if it is, we can’t talk. I
don’t do secret business. There’s nothing about my business that any of
my good friends in this town can’t hear. Whatever you’ve got to say to
me can be said right out on the porch—or it can’t be said at all.”

Mr. Binger he acted sulky, but it looked like there wasn’t anything he
could do about it, so they went out and sat in red rocking-chairs, and
Catty and I sat on the steps close by.

“I represent a syndicate in New York, Mr. Kinderhook, and we have heard
that you are about to start the manufacture of a remarkable churn.”

“You are correct, sir. It is a churn that will revolutionize the
business. A year after I start to manufacture there will be no other
churns on the market.”

“So I understand, sir. My associates and myself, sir, wish to make you a
proposition. You have not started to manufacture this churn as yet. It
will require a large outlay of money to do so.”

“No trouble about that, Mr. Binger,” says Kinderhook, with a wave of his
hand.

“Um!... So we understand. We know you are rated well above a million,
but we have an idea that you will not object to making a considerable
sum without the necessity of building a factory.”

“It is not merely the making of money that interests me,” says Mr.
Kinderhook, “but I have grown to like this little town and to want to do
something for its prosperity. I want to see the town grow, sir. It has a
wonderful future.”

“Possibly, but my associates and myself believe we can make a
proposition that will interest you.... As you say, this churn of yours
will put all other churns out of business.”

“Do you, Mr. Binger, represent the Amalgamated Churn Company—the trust?”

“Hush!” says Mr. Binger.

“If you do, sir,” says Kinderhook, “this interview is at an end. You are
afraid of my churn, sir. You do not want my churn to be manufactured
because it will destroy your business. You want to buy me off. Am I
right?”

“Er—well—” Mr. Binger hesitated and hemmed and hawed and acted
embarrassed.

“You go back and tell the churn trust,” says Mr. Kinderhook, in a voice
you could have heard clean to the post-office, “that my churn is not for
sale and I am not for sale.”

“I am empowered to offer you fifty thousand dollars for your secret, Mr.
Kinderhook.”

“Nonsense! Fiddlesticks! I shall make ten times that out of the
manufacture. Good afternoon, Mr. Binger. There is nothing further to
say.”

Right then and there Mr. Kinderhook got up as grand as an emperor and
walked off, leaving Mr. Binger looking like he had bit into an
April-fool sandwich filled with soap.

Catty and I sat a spell and then went off to talk it over.

“That was funny,” says I.

“It was,” says he. “Pretended not to know each other.”

“And Kinderhook telegraphed for him to come,” says I.

“It’s some kind of a snide trick. That’s sure. Those two fellers are in
it together, and they’re tryin’ to fool folks some way. Whatever their
scheme is, it’s pretty slick.”

“You bet,” says I.

“We’ll have to watch both of ’em,” says Catty.

Well, by night it was all over town that the churn trust had offered Mr.
Kinderhook fifty thousand dollars just for his secret because they were
afraid of his churn. Folks were saying that if the churn trust thought
it was worth fifty thousand dollars just to stop it from being
manufactured, why, it would be worth millions to go ahead and sell such
churns. Everybody was talking about it and everybody was crazier than
ever to get a chance to buy some of the stock.



                               CHAPTER XV


I don’t know whether I told what a great whittler Mr. Atkins was, and
how, every spare minute, he was making some kind of a contraption with
his jack-knife and maybe a piece of wire or something. He didn’t just
whittle out chains, or balls in cages, and things like that, but he
always made _something_. I mean something that was like something folks
could use. He kind of invented things that way. If he saw something
somewhere that didn’t just work to suit him, he would go home and
whittle one out and fix it up so it _would_ work. I remember one thing
was a folding-table—like a card-table or a sewing-table. He bought one
for the shop, and pinched his fingers in it. It made him mad.

“By Jing!” he said. “I’m a-goin’ to whittle me out one that ’ll be a
heap sight better ’n that. I’ll do it jest to show it kin be done.” That
was his notion. He’d whittle out things just to prove to himself that he
could improve ’em, or make ’em work, and that was all there was to it.
When he had them done he would mostly throw them away or give them to
Catty and me. He fixed up a game for us one rainy day. Made it out of
wood and some old fish-net, and sawed round disks out of a broom-handle
to play it with. I never saw anything like it, but it was a dandy game.

He was just amusing himself and not trying to invent anything at all,
and none of us thought much about it, except that we knew he certainly
could whittle. That little folding-table he made was a dandy. The legs
folded under, and when you set it up it stood as solid as a rock. I said
right off that I bet a lot of folks would like to have tables like that,
and Mr. Atkins he said he didn’t know how they was to git ’em, because
that was the only one there was and nobody but him knew how to make it.
He wasn’t a bit interested, and I didn’t see any special reason why he
should be—then.

It was the day he whittled the little table that Jack Phillips fell off
a load of brick and sprained his ankle bad and had to stay in bed with
it. It was a bad time, because the houses were just getting started, and
laborers were on the job—and right on top of that a big lumber firm
wrote that they couldn’t get a shipment of lumber through for three
weeks, on account of a strike or something.

Jack was ’most crazy. He said those houses ought to be pretty nearly
finished in three weeks, and if that lumber didn’t come it would mean a
big loss. “It ’ll pretty nearly bust us,” he said, and groaned like his
ankle hurt him. “I ought to go right down to the city to see about it,
but here I am laid up so I can’t wiggle.”

“I hain’t laid up to speak of,” says Catty, as sober as a judge.
“Calc’late I’d go if I was asked.”

“Somebody’s got to,” says Jack.

“Dad can’t. He’s got to stay on the work. It ’ll have to be me.”

“Think you can manage it?” Jack said, pretty anxious and doubtful.

“Looks like I _got_ to,” says Catty, “and when you got to do a thing you
’most gen’ally do it.”

So that’s how it came that Catty and I went to the city. It was only a
couple of hours’ ride and my father let me go when Catty asked him if I
couldn’t. We took an early-morning train and got to the city before nine
o’clock. We went right to the office of the lumber company, but the man
that was at the head of it wasn’t there yet. He came in in a few
minutes, and went right to his office. Catty asked to see him, and told
the clerk he was from Atkins & Phillips. We were let in, and Mr.
Heminway looked us over and says, “What d’ you want?” Short and
sharplike he was.

“Lumber,” says Catty, as sober as he always is when he gets down to
business.

“Lots of folks do. What do you want it for? To build a dog-house?”

“I want to build a dozen cottages,” says Catty, “and, Mr. Heminway, I
got to have it. I jest _got_ to.”

“Oh, you’re from Atkins & Phillips? Of course. I remember. We wrote that
we couldn’t make delivery for three weeks.”

“In three weeks we won’t need it,” says Catty.

“Why?”

“We’ll be busted.”

“That’s too bad, young man, but we’re doing the best we can. We’ll fix
you up as soon as we can, but you’ll have to wait your turn, just like
the rest.”

“But we can’t wait. I jest can’t go back and tell Dad and Jack that I
couldn’t git that lumber.... It hain’t so much on account of losin’ the
money, but it ’ll be sich a setback to our becomin’ respectable.”

“Eh? What’s that? Respectable? What d’you mean?”

“Catty’s dead set on his father and him bein’ respectable,” says I.
“Seems like he’s almost crazy on the subject.”

“What’s the idea, young man?” says Mr. Heminway, turning to Catty, and
Catty set in to tell how he and his father came to our town just tramps,
and how Mrs. Gage had said he was a vagabond and how he had made up his
mind to settle there and show folks he was as good as anybody and make
them admit it; and how he was leaning manners and teaching them to his
father; and how folks tried to chase them out of town; and all about the
business and Jim Bockers and the contract and everything except Mr.
Kinderhook. Catty never mentioned Kinderhook once.

“I never heard the like,” says Mr. Heminway, looking kind of queer at
Catty; “and do you think you can do what you’ve set out to do?”

“I figger it’s ’most done,” says Catty. “All we got to do is to make
money now to _look_ respectable. Dad’s learnin’ to work ag’in, and his
manners is improvin’. You ought to ketch sight of him in his Sunday
clothes. Why, I got him lookin’ respectabler ’n a judge or a deacon.”

“You seem to have a pretty good head for business, Atkins,” says Mr.
Heminway. “There’s always a way to get what you want in business, and
you want this lumber bad. I can’t give it to you, but maybe you can find
a way to get it—to make me give it to you. I wish I could help you, but
I try to do business the same way you are trying to do it—by giving
everybody a square deal. It wouldn’t be right for me to show you favors,
nor to put you ahead of somebody whose order came in first, would it?”

“No, sir,” says Catty.

“Well, then?”

“Lemme think.” Catty went over by the window and thought and thought. As
far as I was concerned I figured he might as well be thinking about what
a nice day it was, for all the good it would do, but I didn’t say
anything. I just waited and watched him. His thin face looked a lot
thinner, and you could see the corners of his jaws and his lips were as
straight as if you had drawn them with a ruler. Every once in a while he
bit his under-lip and sort of scowled.

“It wouldn’t be right to offer you more money, ’cause that would be jest
like bribin’,” says he.

“That’s right,” says Mr. Heminway. “Would it be all right for you to
tell me the names of some of the folks that come ahead of us?” Catty
says.

“Not in the least,” says Mr. Heminway, and he gave Catty four or five
names and addresses.

“Any of these orderin’ the same kind of lumber we be? Dimension stuff
and spruce and floorin’ and sich?”

“Brown & Bolger have an order very like yours, but larger. Two or three
car-loads larger.”

“Uh-huh. In town here, hain’t they?”

“Yes.”

“When be you goin’ to deliver to them?”

“We’re starting deliveries to-day.”

“Look here, Mr. Heminway. Will you order in cars to put that lumber on
for me? I’m goin’ to have it. Will you git ready to load it right off?
I’ll pay whatever extry expense there is, or, if I can’t git this
lumber, I’ll pay whatever your trouble costs.”

“I’ll do it,” says Mr. Heminway, and his eyes kind of got bright, like
he was interested.

“Come on,” says Catty to me. “We’re goin’ to Brown & Bolger’s.”

We got on a street-car and got to the place we were headed for in about
twenty minutes. Brown & Bolger’s office was in a little square wooden
house built on the corner of a subdivision, and we walked in. Mr. Bolger
was there. He was a red man. His hair was red and his face was red and
his hands was red, and he had a voice that sounded like he wanted to
scare anybody to death even when he was whispering.

He was talking to a couple of men and all three of them were mad.

“We won’t do it, and that’s flat,” says he. “You can all take your tools
and go home. We’re paying as high wages to our carpenters as anybody in
the country, and we can’t raise another cent. That’s final. We can live
without building these houses, and if I didn’t have all that lumber
coming to-day, to be paid for within thirty days, I wouldn’t even talk
to you. But you think you got us by the short hairs.... I’ll show you.
With the costs of building now, there ain’t any money in it, anyhow.
That lumber will keep. It won’t spoil.”

The two men turned around and walked out, and Mr. Bolger says to a young
man at another desk: “Pretty kettle of fish. I wouldn’t give a hang if
it wasn’t for that lumber. But it’s got to be paid for in thirty days,
and we can’t borrow on buildings until they’re pretty well along. It’s
going to pinch us like the mischief.”

Catty got up and walked over to Mr. Bolger and Mr. Bolger bawled at him,
“Well, what do you want around here?”

“I come to take that lumber off of your hands,” says Catty. “Not that we
want all of it, but jest to help you out we’ll take the whole mess—at a
price.”

“What lumber? What you talkin’ about?”

“The lumber from Mr. Heminway. We kin use some of it, and the rest ’ll
keep. Cash. Or we’ll settle with Heminway, jest as you say.”

“Who are you?” bawled Mr. Bolger.

“I’m representin’ Atkins & Phillips, and I got authority to make a
deal,” says Catty. “I jest happened to hear what you said about that
lumber, and I figgered it wa’n’t nothin’ more ’n decent to offer to help
you out—as long as we could use the stuff.”

“You did, did you? I’d like to know how a kid like you can use lumber
enough to build twenty houses.”

“Oh, we’re building houses right along, and we can store what we don’t
use right off ... if the price is right. You’ll have to borrow money to
pay for that stuff, and it ’ll cost you six per cent, to do that. Won’t
it?”

“Yes.”

“Well, we’ll take it off your hands at five per cent, less ’n you paid
or promised to pay. You’ll be savin’ one per cent, that way.”

“Huh!”

“When did you order this here lumber?”

“March.”

“Um!...” Catty’s eyes kind of twinkled. “If you don’t believe I’m
responsible, telephone Mr. Heminway.”

“I’ll just do that thing,” yelled Mr. Bolger. And he did.

“Say,” he bellowed into the telephone when he got his connection,
“there’s a kid out here wants lumber. Says you know him. What’s it all
about? Some kind of a joke?”

Mr. Heminway said something we couldn’t hear.

“He’s all right, eh? His firm’s good?”

Mr. Heminway said yes, I guess, for Mr. Bolger hung up the receiver and
turned around to us. “It’s a deal,” says he. “You take the invoices and
pay ’em to Heminway less five per cent., and I’ll give you a check for
that. Suit you?”

“Yes. Glad to have a chance to help you out, Mr. Bolger. Will you write
a letter to Mr. Heminway, telling him about the deal and puttin’ in the
price you agreed to pay him, and all about it?”

Mr. Bolger turned around and dictated a letter, reading off the
specifications of the lumber and his March contract price, and when it
was done he wrote a check for five per cent, of the amount and gave it
to Catty. “Much obliged, young man,” says he. “You sure helped me out of
a hole, and any time Brown & Bolger can do anything for you just chirp.
Thankee again.”

“You’re welcome,” says Catty, with a kind of a ghost of a grin, and we
went out and got on the street-car again to go back to Mr. Heminway’s
office. Catty was wiggling, he was so tickled, and I says, “You act like
you was goin’ to bust.”

“I be,” said he. “I calc’late I’ll bust before I git there. We’ve made
some money.”

“How?” says I.

Catty grinned. “Why,” says he, “Brown & Bolger bought this lumber on
contract last March when the prices was about three dollars a thousand
lower ’n they be now. Three dollars a thousand lower ’n we agreed to pay
for our stuff when we ordered it. We git all we need for them houses of
ours, and enough to build a lot more. We’ll make nice money out of it.”

We hustled up to Mr. Heminway, who was waiting for us, and showed him
the letter. He grinned at Catty. “Good stroke of business, eh? Saved
some money.”

“I figger so,” says Catty.

“How’d you work it? Brown & Bolger have been pestering me for that
lumber for thirty days. How did you get it away from them?”

“Luck,” says Catty, and he told the story. “Maybe it was luck,” says Mr.
Heminway, “but there was business sense added to it—and all the time you
made Bolger think you were doing him a favor! It’s too good to keep. And
gouged him for an extra five per cent., too.... Young man, if ever you
want a job, come to me.”

“I calc’late to own my own business,” says Catty. “It’s more
respectable.”

“You’ll own it, all right. And you go back and tell Atkins & Phillips
that as long as you’re connected with their firm they can get whatever
they want from this concern. You’re a business man and you’ve got luck.
I like to tie to people with luck.”

“Much obliged, Mr. Heminway. Have you ordered those cars in?”

“The first is being loaded now. All of them will go out before to-morrow
night.”

“I’m sure a heap obliged to you,” says Catty. “Now I got some more
business, and I got to be gettin’ along. G’-by, sir.”

“Good-by, young man, and come to see me whenever you come to the city.
Good luck.... I hope you get as respectable as you want to be.”

“I figger to,” says Catty, as we went out of the door.

“Now what?” says I.

“Oh, we’ll git us some dinner and then I want to see about somethin’
else. I got an idee. Hain’t sure it amounts to anythin’, but you can’t
tell. I got to make sure.”

“What is it?” says I.

“You’ll see,” says he, which was the way he always did. He kept things
to himself till he was ready to tell, and sometimes he didn’t tell them.
It seemed like he hated to give up any information.

We went to a restaurant and ate till we ’most busted, and afterward we
had two ice-creams apiece and a bag of peanuts and went to a
picture-show. By that time it was two o’clock, and Catty walked me down
the street quite a ways, looking in windows and planning what we would
buy if we had lots of money. He was interested in clothes, and stopped
quite a while in front of a big clothing-store where boys’ suits was
fixed up on wax figures.

“I got to dress up some,” says he, “as well as Dad. I been puttin’ away
a little money to git me some clothes—real respectable clothes, and as
soon as we’re through our business I’m a-goin’ in and git me a suit and
some shirts and shoes that ’ll knock the eyes right out of the folks
back home. Wait till you see me.”



                              CHAPTER XVI


We kept going till we got to one of the biggest stores in town. It was a
furniture-store, and it looked big enough to hold furniture enough to
fill every house in the state. Catty turned in.

“What’s the idee?” says I. “Goin’ to buy some respectable furniture,
too?”

“Some day, but not yet. Got to have a house first.”

“You’re goin’ to have a house?”

“Jest wait and see. One of these days Dad an’ me is goin’ to have a
house that ’ll make Captain Winton’s look like a cow-shed. There’s
nothin’ like a fine house to make folks b’lieve you’re respectable. I
dunno why it is, but as soon as a body moves into a big house he gets to
be somebody right off. Jest you get a fine house, and folks takes off
their hats to you.”

“Maybe,” says I; “but what are we comin’ in here for?”

“To see the man that owns it.”

“Why?”

“You’ll see in a minute,” says he.

We took the elevator and asked to be let off at the office, and when we
got there we asked for the man that owned the store. A young man behind
a window with gratings over it sort of grinned and asked what we wanted
to see him for.

“That’s betwixt him and me,” says Catty, squinting at the young man kind
of close.

“He’s busy. He can’t see kids.”

“Better tell him I’m here,” says Catty.

“Run along now, and don’t waste my time,” says the young man.

Catty he sort of squinted at the young man again, and then at the
grating over the window.

“Poor feller,” says he, as sympathetic as a mourner.

“What’s that?” says the young man.

“I was jest feelin’ sorry for you,” says Catty. “First off I didn’t
understand. It is a kind of funny place to keep you, though.”

“What you talking about, kid?”

“Why, at first I didn’t understand you was weak-minded and that’s why
they shut you behind them bars. I didn’t realize you was weak-minded
till you showed it so plain.”

We heard somebody kind of chuckle over to the left, and there was a
fine-looking man with whiskers parted in the middle.

“He kind of had you there, Jones,” says he. “What made you think he was
weak-minded, Son?”

“Why, instead of findin’ out what we wanted, or if it was something the
boss would want to know about, he jest tried to send us off. That hain’t
brains. When you’re in business you don’t want to let no chances slip.
Nobody ever knows what minute there’s goin’ to be a chance to make
money. I always find out what everybody wants that comes in, and if they
don’t want anything, why, I try to make them want something.”

“Hear that, Jones?” says the man with the whiskers. “You might remember
it, too. It’s a good rule.... Now, young man, I’m Mr. Sommers—the boss,
as you call it. What can I do for you?”

“I want to show you something,” says Catty, “and ask you if you don’t
think there’s money in it.”

“Come in,” says Mr. Sommers, and in we marched.

I had noticed that Catty was carrying around a parcel all day, but I
thought it was lunch or something, and hadn’t asked any questions about
it. He put the parcel on a table now and began to open it. In a minute
he took out that little folding-table of his father’s—the one Mr. Atkins
had whittled out just for fun.

“Here it is,” says he, “a new-fangled, patent, foldin’-table. I got it
into my head that it was a rip-snortin’ good table, and that maybe other
folks would think so. Looky here.... It opens like this, and it’s stiddy
on its feet, and you can’t pinch your fingers. I don’t call to mind ever
seein’ a table quite as good as this one.... And so I come to git your
opinion about it.”

Mr. Sommers picked up the little table and examined it close. He opened
and shut it, and looked under it, and then sat back in his chair and
thought.

“Are you manufacturing tables like this?”

“Not yet. I figgered it would be safer to find out if folks would buy
them.”

“They would,” says Mr. Sommers. “There isn’t a table on the market that
can touch this. If you can manufacture it at a decent price you can make
money. Is it patented?”

“Patented? What’s that?”

Mr. Sommers explained about patents and why folks ought to have them.

“I see,” says Catty. “It hain’t patented yet, but you kin bet it’s goin’
to be, right off. How do I go about it?”

“I can send you to a good patent lawyer, if you like.”

“Thankee,” says Catty. “If this table was being made, would you order
some to sell in your store?”

“I would give you an order right now for ten gross.”

“A gross is twelve dozen, hain’t it?”

“Yes.”

“Ten gross would be a thousand and four hundred and forty. Jingoes!
That’s a lot of tables, mister.”

“Did you make this model?”

“No, sir. Dad he jest whittled it out because he pinched his fingers on
a foldin’-table he bought. Done it just to show that there could be a
better table. He’s always doin’ that. He’s whittled out lots of things.
Made a game for us that’s a dandy, and he’s fixed up a step-ladder that
folds into a kitchen chair, and a dingus for hangin’ up brooms, and
about forty other things. He’s always whittlin’.”

“That’s interesting. I’d like to see some of those other things. Patent
any of them?”

“Not a one.”

“Well, you bundle up what you can find and send them to me by express. I
guess you can trust me, can’t you?”

“Yes, sir,” says Catty.

“Thank you. It’s a good thing in business to be willing to trust men,
but it is better to know which ones to trust.”

“I figgered so,” said Catty. “Now if you’ll send me to that patent
lawyer.”

“You’ve got me interested, my boy. I don’t know but I’ll have to run
down to see your father myself. Maybe we can work out some kind of an
arrangement that will suit both of us. That table, for instance, I feel
sure there is money in it.”

“I hope so,” says Catty. “Dad and me needs a lot of money to prove to
folks that we’re respectable.”

“What do you mean by that, Son?”

Then Catty told the whole story, and I never saw anybody act more
interested.

“Young man,” says Mr. Sommers, when Catty was through, “that’s one of
the most remarkable things I ever heard. You just set out to make over
your father—to turn him into a respected citizen instead of a tramp,
eh?”

“That’s it?”

“And you’ve done all you say in just a few months?”

“Yes, sir. You ought to see Dad now.”

“I’m going to,” says Mr. Sommers. “You needn’t send those models to me,
for I’m coming down to see them. Let me see, I can get down in two
weeks. In the mean time, you start the proceedings to get a patent on
this table. Got enough money?”

“I don’t know. Does it cost much?”

“Nevermind. I’ll give you a letter to the lawyer, and he will charge it
to me. You can pay me later.”

“Thankee,” says Catty.

“I’ll be down to see you two weeks from to-day,” says Mr. Sommers.
“Don’t forget.”

“No danger,” says Catty, and we went out to hunt up that lawyer.

We found him in his office, about twenty stories up in the air. It was
the highest up I had ever been. Going up in that elevator was just like
going up in a balloon. It seemed sort of silly to make buildings so high
and to work ’way up there a couple of hundred feet above the street.
There’s so much earth that everybody could have his office or store
right down on it if he wanted to. Catty said it was because that would
take up too much room, and that folks wanted to be near one another so
it would be easier to do business. That was all right, but it did cost a
lot of money. Cities are awful expensive to build, I guess.

When we got to the lawyer’s office we sent Mr. Sommers’s letter in and
the lawyer sent out for us. We told him what we wanted, and he asked for
the little table. He said there would have to be drawings made and lots
of things, but we could just leave it with him and he would tend to the
whole thing. There would be some papers to sign, he said, but he would
mail them to Catty and Catty could mail them back again.

“This is an ingenious thing,” he says, “and you ought to make money out
of it.”

“Maybe,” says Catty, “but it takes money to make money. Factories cost a
lot, don’t they?”

“Different-sized factories cost different prices,” says the lawyer, with
a smile. “You might start with a small one.”

“I want to start with a big one. You make money quicker.” He stopped a
minute and then he says, “You’re a reg’lar lawyer besides getting
patents, hain’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Lawyers are pretty slick, hain’t they? They know all about schemes and
sich things.”

“They’re slick, all right,” says the man, and he smiled broader than
ever. “And if I do say it as shouldn’t, I’m about the slickest of the
whole lot.”

Catty saw that he was joking and sort of grinned himself, but ’most
generally Catty didn’t do a great deal of joking or grinning. He was too
busy and had his mind set too much on being respectable. “I was
wonderin’ if you could see through a scheme Wee-wee and me has been
watching. We can’t make head nor tail to it, but we got it fixed in our
minds that somebody’s goin’ to git cheated. Want to hear about it?”

“Sure. How did you get interested in it? What’s it got to do with you?”

“Nothin’ to do with us, only we don’t want to see folks git smouged.
’Course the folks don’t like Dad and me, but if we was to save ’em a lot
of money, why, they couldn’t help feelin’ much obleeged, could they. You
can’t keep on tryin’ to chase a man out of town if he’s saved you a lot
of money.”

“It wouldn’t seem so. Are they trying to chase you out of town?”

“Yes. But we hain’t a-goin’ to go. We’re goin’ to stick there if we
starve, and before long them folks is goin’ to take off their hats to
us. You watch. I’m a-goin’ to make my Dad the biggest man in that town,
and when folks sees him they’re a-goin’ to point to him and brag about
his livin’ there. They call us tramps now, but you wait. We’ll be so
respectable before I git through that it ’ll make folks dizzy.”

“Good idea.... But what’s this scheme you’ve been watching, and how did
you happen to watch it?”

“Well, a man came to our town that looked like he owned the earth. He
was all dressed up, and had scads of money. He let on he was goin’ to
build a factory and manufacture things.”

“Try to sell stock.”

“No. He wouldn’t let anybody buy. He said it was all for him and he
wanted all the profits.”

“That don’t sound like a cheating scheme, Son.”

“You wait. This man used to run one of them medicine-shows with a
gasolene-torch and Injuns and teeth pulled free, and cheat old wimmin by
sellin’ ’em medicine that wa’n’t no good. That’s how we come to
suspicion him.”

“How do you know that?”

“We know it all right. We _know_!”

“All right. Do the rest of the folks know?”

“Nobody knows but us—And we dassent tell. If we did we’d git into
trouble, because folks is crazy about this man. They jest foller him
around tryin’ to buy stock in his factory.”

“But he won’t sell?”

“Not a smidgin. Well, one day at the depot Wee-wee and me seen this man
send a telegram to another feller, tailin’ him to come right off because
the crop was ripe.... Pretty soon the other man come, but they pretended
they didn’t know each other, and the last feller to come tried to buy
the secret off of the first man.”

“What secret?”

“The secret way of makin’ the churn. It hain’t patented. I didn’t
understand about that before, but I do now. The man says he wouldn’t
patent, but would jest manufacture secret. The second man says the new
churn would put every other churn out of business, and he offered fifty
thousand dollars to the first man if he wouldn’t build any factory at
all. He offered it where folks could hear, and before night everybody in
town was sayin’ jest the secret was worth fifty thousand dollars.”

“Then did the first man sell any stock?”

“Nope.”

“Huh!... Looks queer. He will sell stock, though. You see, young man.
He’s got folks crazy to buy, and pretty soon he’ll sell, and scoot.
That’s the way it looks to me.... No patent, eh? He’s probably got this
secret of his valued high, and when he sells stock the secret’s
included.... Part of the money will have to go to build a factory.” The
lawyer was sort of talking to himself now. “Where the fraud will happen
will be the secret. Most likely you’ll find out he’s sold every bit of
stock in the concern. The folks will be left with a factory and a secret
that isn’t worth a cent. Has anybody seen this churn?”

“Not a soul. It’s awful secret.”

“Um!... He isn’t guaranteeing anything. It doesn’t matter whether his
churn is worth a cent. Folks that are crazy about a thing don’t ask
questions. They just swallow the bait, hook, line, and sinker.”

“But where will this feller make any money?”

“Out of what he calls his secret. Of course, the cost of the mill will
have to be paid. He’s incorporated for enough to cover that, and put in
his secret for a big wad. Let’s say he has stock altogether for a
hundred and fifty thousand dollars. It will cost maybe seventy-five to
build the mill. The rest will be to pay for the secret. See?”

“Guess I do,” says Catty. “When he sells all the stock and pays for the
mill, he’ll have left over the seventy-five thousand that he charges for
the secret. Hain’t that it?”

“That’s it.”

“And if the secret hain’t any good, why, the folks have a mill that
hain’t worth anything because the thing they was plannin’ to make in it
hain’t worth makin’?”

“That’s the idea.”

“Hum!... Much obleeged. Kind of hard to prove, hain’t it?”

“Nothing harder—ahead of time. You’d have to find out what his secret
was, and prove to folks that it was no good, and that he intended to
cheat them with it. I don’t see how it can be worked.”

“It’s goin’ to be hard, all right, but, mister, we’re a-goin’ to do it.
We’ll git this feller somehow, and we’ll prove it on him. We’ll do it or
bust.”

“Good for you.... And now, about this patent—I’ll mail you the papers in
a day or two, and you have your father sign them and hurry them right
back.”

“You bet,” says Catty.

We went out and took the train for home. On the way we tried to figure
out about Kinderhook, but it didn’t come. We said we would just have to
watch and grab whatever chance came along.

“And say,” says Catty, “don’t talk to anybody about this patent table
... not even your Dad or mine. I don’t want Dad to know yet. This here
is my secret.”

“What’s the idee?” says I.

“You wait and see,” says he. “So long as nobody but me knows, there
hain’t any danger of anybody else findin’ out.”



                              CHAPTER XVII


It was the day after we got back from the city that Catty and I were
walking along the street toward the hotel on a sort of a still hunt for
Arthur Peabody Kinderhook, when Banty Gage and Skoodles Gordon came
along from the direction of the Methodist church. Catty and I weren’t
thinking about kids at all, but about Kinderhook and how we were going
to catch him at whatever it was he was doing. We didn’t have any time to
monkey with kids just then, but it looked like Banty and Skoodles
calculated to do some monkeying with us.

As soon as they saw us they set up a holler and began making luny
motions with their hands. I expect they had an idea they were cutting up
a smart caper, but I didn’t see it that way, and I guess Catty didn’t,
either. I know he didn’t as soon as Banty started to yell names at him
and call him a tramp and a jail-bird. At that Catty turned kind of white
and his lips got thin and straight, and his eyes got so they were kind
of unpleasant to look at. He walked a little bit faster, but otherwise
he didn’t make any sign. Banty and Skoodles came right on, still
bellowing at Catty. I guess they felt safe because they were right on
Main Street and a lot of people were around. But they didn’t know Catty.
When Catty had a job of work to do he never bothered about how many
folks were around to see him do it. All he thought of was that it had to
be done, and that the time to do it was _then_. He waited till Banty and
Skoodles were right in front of us, and then he stopped.

“Wait a minute,” says he.

“Tramp,” says Banty.

“Ragamuffin,” says Skoodles.

Catty turned to me. “You keep out of this,” says he. “It’s my job,
private. I got to tend to it alone. No matter what happens, you keep
out.”

“I won’t,” says I.

“You will,” says he, “or I’ll try to lick you when I’m done with these.”

That was like him, too. He didn’t say he _would_ lick me, but that he
would _try_ to lick me. It was that kind of a polite way he had that was
natural. Dad says Catty was a gentleman by instinct. It wouldn’t have
been friendly if he had said he would lick me, but there was a kind of a
sort of courtesy about his doubting whether he could. Anyhow, he walked
straight up to Banty and Skoodles.

“You’ve got a lickin’ comin’,” says he, “and I’m a-goin’ to deliver the
goods. I’ve warned you. I won’t be called a tramp or a jail-bird and
I’ll soak any feller that called them to me.”

“You dassent start any fight here,” says Banty, and he believed it, too.
“Tramp!” he says as a sort of dare.

“I’m goin’ to give both of you a lickin’,” says Catty. “Either one at a
time or both of you together. I calc’late you’re the kind that ’ll want
to fight two to one.”

“We won’t fight here—not on Main Street.”

“You bet you _will_,” says Catty.

“Don’t you dast,” says Skoodles. “We’ll have you arrested.”

Catty didn’t wait for anything more. He took a step ahead and he slapped
Banty with one hand and Skoodles with the other. “Now fight,” says he,
and they fought. In a second the whole street looked like it was full of
fists and feet and kids mauling each other. I expected Catty would get a
thundering walloping—two to one—but I didn’t mix in. It wasn’t because I
didn’t want to, or because I was afraid to, and I made up my mind that
if they did thrash Catty I’d catch each of them alone and lamm him good.
But Catty wanted to fight his own fight, so I stood back and watched.

Folks began to come from all directions to see the rumpus. Banty was
coming at Catty from one side and Skoodles from the other, and it looked
like he had bit off more than he could chaw. If he went for one the
other hit him a lick, and if he went for the other the first one got in
a punch. But Catty sort of worked around till he got his back to a store
window, and then it wasn’t so bad. He acted like he was just fighting to
keep them off, and I thought he knew he couldn’t do any more than that;
but all of a sudden he jumped at Skoodles and quicker than a cat he hit
him twice, once on the nose and once on the stummick, and Skoodles sat
down to think it over. Then Catty went for Banty in earnest, and in
about two minutes Banty was running up the street, hollering, with his
lips swollen and one eye that wouldn’t take a prize in a beauty show for
a week.

Catty looked after Banty and he looked down at Skoodles, and then he
grinned. “Guess they won’t call names for a day or so,” he says, and
just then Mrs. Gage came through the crowd that had gathered. She was so
mad she was white.

“That’s what we get for having tramps in this town. I said right along
he was a young tough. He’ll be killing somebody or something. It hain’t
civilized,” says she. “Where’s the constable or the town marshal?” she
says. “I guess he’ll go to jail for this.”

“I’ll go to jail if I have to,” says Catty, “but nobody ’ll call me a
tramp or a jail-bird. I’m respectable, ma’am, and I’m entitled to be
treated respectable.”

“You’ll be treated respectable,” says she. “I’m going to——”

“Wouldn’t if I was you, Mrs. Gage,” says Mr. Wade, who must have been
watching the fight. “If I ever saw anybody get a licking he deserved, it
was your son. It was two to one, too. If I were you, ma’am, I’d go home
and keep kind of still about this. I’ll be a witness for this boy, and I
guess most of this crowd will. You will, won’t you, Captain Winton?”

“I shall be glad to,” says the captain. “This boy stood up for himself
the way a gentleman should. He showed the proper spirit. Your son got
what he deserved.”

Mrs. Gage turned around without another word and marched off, and
Captain Winton shook hands with Catty. “Young man,” said he, “I want to
congratulate you. A boy with less courage would never have resented an
insult when he had to fight two to one.”

“I didn’t have to,” said Catty. “Wee-wee would have helped, but I
wouldn’t let him. It was _my_ fight.”

“If the Gages make any trouble, come to me,” says Captain Winton, and
then we went along toward the hotel to look after our business with Mr.
Kinderhook.

It wasn’t the last we heard of that scrap, by a long sight, but on the
whole I guess it did Catty more good than it did harm. It made him some
friends, and if it made his enemies madder than ever, why, what of it?
They were about as mean to him as they could be before, and a little
more trouble stirred up couldn’t hardly be noticed. I will say that a
good many folks in town took sides with Mrs. Gage, and there was lots of
talk, and some of them really tried to get together enough influence to
have Catty sent to the Reform School because he was a dangerous
character. But my father got together with Captain Winton and Mr. Wade,
and they backed Catty up like good ones, so that nothing came of it. But
one thing did come and that was that Banty and Skoodles didn’t call any
more names to Catty when he could hear them. But somebody did sneak
around at night and tack a sign on their store with “Tramp” printed on
it in big letters, and every day, almost, Catty or his father would get
a post-card with nothing on it but just “Tramp—git out of town.”

We made up our minds that it was Skoodles and Banty doing this, and I
says to Catty that we’d better get our heads together to make them quit.
At first Catty wasn’t going to pay any attention, but after a day or so
he got pretty mad.

“Guess we better do somethin’,” says he. “I don’t care so much, but it
hain’t right I should stand it. I got to stand up for myself and make
folks respect me and Dad. If I don’t make them, why, they’ll jest go on
_not_ respectin’ us. The way to git folks respectful is to _make_ them
that way—fix it so they know if that hain’t respectful somethin’
onpleasant ’ll happen quick.”

“What ’ll we do?” says I.

“I dunno,” says he. “It ’ll take some thinkin’, but, whatever it is,
it’s got to make ’em look ridic’lous. It’s got to make everybody give
’em the laugh.”

“That’s the idee,” says I, but I hadn’t any more notion than a rabbit
what it was we could do to make folks laugh at them. Catty he set to
work thinking it over between-times when we weren’t busy following
around after Mr. Kinderhook. Of course, he came first and we had to look
after him before we took up any other kind of work, but there was times
when we were waiting or something, and then Catty figured on a scheme to
upset Banty’s apple-cart.

Another thing we did when we were waiting was to study—at least Catty
studied. It wasn’t spelling or arithmetic, either, but a book that was
called _Decorum_, and it was all about how to act. It told you how to
act if you met a lady on the street, and how to act if you called on the
minister, and what to do if somebody spilled soup on your pants, and
which hand to take off your hat with, and all about how to eat, and that
sort of thing. It was a most particular kind of a book, and it knew just
exactly how a fellow ought to act no matter where he was or what he was
doing. I never read it all through, but I’ll bet it told you the polite
thing to say to a man with long whiskers driving a runaway sorrel horse
in a northerly direction on a Thursday afternoon if you had a cold in
your nose. I didn’t care about those things much, but Catty was so bent
on being respectable that he didn’t miss a word of it, and most of it he
learned by heart and then recited to his father, evenings.

Yes, sir, by the time Catty got through with that book you couldn’t have
fooled him _any place_. He knew how to act if the President of the
United States stepped on his sore toe, and what to say if a middle-aged
schoolteacher with a wig was to have it blow off in his face. He knew
just how a man ought to act if a lady he didn’t know offered him a piece
of pie, and what he ought to say if a perfect stranger had a conniption
fit in front of the band-stand on the Fourth of July. The amount of
information in that book was enough to surprise an owl, but what anybody
was going to do with all of it I couldn’t see. But Catty could, and he
practised it. I had to make believe I was all sorts of folks in all
sorts of places so he could tip his hat to me, or ask how my pulse was
beating, or how come I didn’t paint out the freckles on my nose. I got
so I could be _anybody_ in a second. Catty would tell me I was a young
woman that just lost her rubber in the mud—and I would _be_ it. I have
been his grandmother and his aunt and the minister’s wife and a pair of
twins and a senator and the coachman. I’ve been two men or a crowd, and
I’ve been a sewing society and the actors in a play. I’ll bet I could be
a wall-eyed moon calf with his head where his tail ought to be if he
would give me half a second to get in the right frame of mind. It was a
great book, I’ll tell you, and we had lots of fun with it; at least I
did, but Catty took it serious. I’ll bet there was never anybody so
chock full of decorum as he was. It oozed out of his ears.

It took all that trouble to be respectable. I began to feel as if I
wasn’t so very dog-gone respectable myself, but it didn’t hurt near so
bad as the earache. If it took all that study and practice to be
respectable, I made up my mind I would as soon be something
else—red-headed, say, or tongue-tied, or a clown in a circus, or an
acrobat. You could be a clown or an acrobat without half so much
study—and make money with it, to say nothing about the fun you’d have.
I’d rather be a first-class bareback rider than as respectable as the
fellow that wrote the book. But Catty wouldn’t—and everybody to his
taste, as the boy said when he saw his uncle kiss a pig.

It got so poor Mr. Atkins almost starved to death because he was afraid
to eat. Every time he grabbed a spoon or a knife or a fork Catty was
right after him, reciting out of the book and making him do it all over
in just the exact way the book said. I felt pretty sorry for him, but
Catty said it was for his good and he had to be ready to mingle in good
society as soon as he got to be as respectable as he could and had the
money to buy a silk hat.

But that hasn’t anything to do with Mr. Kinderhook and his friend
Binger, has it?

Well, we thought we knew what Kinderhook had in mind, but we had to
prove it. We had to get what lawyers call evidence so that everybody
would believe us when we told them that instead of making them rich
Kinderhook figured to smouge away every dollar that was put into his
churn-factory. But it is a heap different to know a thing and to be able
to prove it. You bet it is.

After the fight we went to the hotel, and there was Mr. Kinderhook, as
usual, sitting on the front porch with about a dozen folks around,
admiring him and taffying him and acting like they thought he was the
man that invented the sun and moon. He just sat there and took it, and
once in a while he let out a remark that sounded awful wise. When he let
off one of those remarks folks would waggle their heads and sit and try
to remember just what he said and how he said it, so that they could
repeat it afterward and make believe they had thought it up themselves.
But I noticed that the conversation always got around to churns pretty
quickly and to stock and to such-like things. Catty whispered to me that
those folks were just ripe to pick and all Kinderhook had to do was
shake the tree.

He was letting go of more and more stock, or promising to. We kept
hearing of somebody else he had promised to sell to, and it began to
look like we would have to get a hustle on if we were going to save the
bacon. But we weren’t getting any place at all.

It was that night that Catty says to me: “Wee-wee, what we need is a
plan of campaign. We’re jest nosin’ around, as it is, without any idee
what we’re tryin’ to do. Now let’s git up a reg’lar scheme and stick to
it.”

“Go ahead,” says I. “You do the scheme and I’ll do the stickin’. I’m
better at it.”

“I’ll do it,” says he. “In the mornin’ I’ll have a scheme, if I have to
set up all night to git it.”

“Does that decorum book say anythin’ about the good manners of sittin’
up all night?” says I.

“It says a lot about askin’ fool questions,” says Catty, with a grin.
“Meet me as early as you kin to-morrer. We’ll have a busy day.”



                             CHAPTER XVIII


Next morning I hustled over to Catty’s.

He was up, and when I got there he was talking business to his father,
who had a streak to want to go fishing that morning. Mr. Atkins said he
was worked out and so respectable it hurt, and he wanted to get off
somewheres so he could remember he was just a plain human being again
that folks would set a dog on if he came around at night. He said there
was something _fine_ about having a dog set on you. He said he _liked_
it. He said he liked to have his toes coming out of his shoes and a hole
in his pants. He acted real put-out and rebellious, but Catty wouldn’t
have any of it at all. He just stood his father up and lectured him, and
when he got through Mr. Atkins was so wilted he couldn’t have pulled in
a fish if he’d caught him.

Catty looked at his father kind of sorry-like. “I hate to do it,” says
he, “but it’s for your good, Dad.”

I laughed right out, for _my_ Dad had said the same thing to me once or
twice when we were on our way to the woodshed after I’d done something
he thought I hadn’t ought to. It _was_ funny. Catty and his father had
changed places, and it was Mr. Atkins that was the boy and Catty that
was the Dad.

“Look where we’ve got to,” says Catty. “We’re doing real well. We’re
making a little money, and if we can figger to git the job of buildin’
this factory for Kinderhook, we’ll make quite a lot. You got to be ready
for it. We’re goin’ to build us a house and keep a cook and wear
dressed-up clothes every day in the week. I’ll bet you’ll be runnin’ for
constable or town clerk or somethin’ ’fore you know it.”

“Might git to be town clerk,” says Mr. Atkins, as sorrowful as a man
that’s jest swallowed his collar-button when he was putting on his shirt
to go to church and didn’t have another one, “but I hain’t hankerin’ to
be no constable. I’d be scairt of myself all the time. I wouldn’t be
able to sleep. I’d be all the time orderin’ myself out of town or
shuttin’ myself up in the calaboose or somethin’. No, sirree! No
constable for me!”

“All right, then,” says Catty, “you don’t have to be—if you work hard
and learn table manners. But jest so sure as you don’t keep up to snuff
I’ll make a constable out of you if I have to bust doin’ it.”

Just then Jack Phillips came in and before he knew it Mr. Atkins was
interested in something about the houses they were building, and I saw
he wouldn’t get to go fishing _that_ day.

“Catty,” says I, “if you hain’t easier with your Pa he’ll up and run
away from home.”

“He better not let me ketch him at it,” says Catty, “not when I’ve got
him all improved like he is. I believe he likes it, too, but he jest
makes b’lieve he don’t. He hates to let on.”

“Got that campaign figgered out?” says I. “Got a start,” says he.

“Let’s have her,” says I.

“Wa-al,” says he, “what’s the gist and center of Kinderhook’s whole
scheme?”

“Money,” says I.

“That’s the _object_,” says he.

“Sounds like grammar,” says I. “What’s the subject and the predicate?”

“The subject and the predicate and the adjectives and the whole kit and
b’ilin’,” says he, “is _churn_.”

“Churn?” says I.

“Churn,” says he.

“What churn?” says I.

“The churn he lets on he’s goin’ to manufacture,” says Catty. “He’s got
to let on to manufacture somethin’, and he’s let on it’s a churn. Now,
then, who’s _seen_ that churn? Nobody but Kinderhook. Why? Because it’s
a secret churn, that’s why, to bamboozle folks with. If the churn’s any
good, why, he would go ahead and manufacture it himself and make money.
He wouldn’t want to cheat anybody. So we can figger that the churn
hain’t no good, or if it is some good, why, there’s somethin’ else
crooked about it. He hain’t got no patent. Likely the reason for that is
that he can’t git no patent. See? Well, if we can prove to folks that
the churn ain’t any good, why then we save the bacon, don’t we?”

“Not if Kinderhook’s got their money and disappeared with it,” says I.

“He hain’t took any money yet. He’s just been schemin’ to sell stock. We
got to prove he’s cheatin’ before he begins to take money—or—” He quit
talking, all of a sudden, and I could see some new idea had hit him.
“Maybe we can do better than that,” says he, “but the main plan to work
on is the churn. I’m goin’ to start by findin’ out all I kin about
churns.”

“Good idee,” says I. “Then you can start a shop to repair ’em.”

“Wee-wee,” says he, “I’m goin’ to see Mr. Wade. He’s sharp. I’m a-goin’
to talk it over with him.”

“All right,” says I. “Come on.”

So we went to Mr. Wade’s office, and, as usual, Mr. Wade was reading
about Napoleon Bonaparte. He told us to come in, and we went in.

“We want to talk to you private,” says Catty. “We want to tell you
somethin’ that we don’t want to go no farther—and maybe we’ll want some
help.”

“Let her fly,” says Mr. Wade, with a grin. “It’s about Arthur Peabody
Kinderhook,” says Catty.

“The man that’s going to make us all rich?” says Mr. Wade.

“The man that’s goin’ to cheat you all out of your money,” says Catty.

“Eh?”

“That’s what we come to say. He aims to get away with a heap of money,
and the way he’s goin’ to do it is like this: He lets on he don’t want
to sell any stock in his factory, but he come here to do that and
nothin’ else. That’s what me and Wee-wee have figgered out. He’ll go on
and build a factory and everything, and part of your money will go into
that. It’s part of his bait. But he’ll get what he wants because _he_
isn’t paying any money in at all, is he? No, sir, he’s just puttin’ in
his patent churn, and when the thing is all over you’ll find he’s sold
every dollar of stock to you folks, and got about fifty thousand dollars
out of you for that secret churn he dassent patent—and when you come to
manufacture it you’ll find out it hain’t no good or somethin’.... That’s
the whole idee.”

Mr. Wade he just stared at us and says, “My goodness!” about seventeen
times, and then he wants to know how we know what we’re talkin’ about,
and Catty has to tell him he doesn’t really know, but just suspects it,
and then Mr. Wade looks some happier. But then Catty says, “Did you ever
see that churn?”

“No,” says Mr. Wade.

“Who ever saw it?”

“Nobody,” says Mr. Wade. “But you boys are wrong. Why, a representative
of the churn trust came and offered Mr. Kinderhook thousands and
thousands of dollars if he wouldn’t manufacture it. They said it would
put all the other churns off the market if he did.”

“Why don’t he patent it?” says Catty. “Because he is afraid the churn
trust or somebody would steal his patent and make churns like his.”

“The churn trust hasn’t seen the churn, has it?”

“No, of course not. That’s the thing Mr. Kinderhook is most afraid of.”

“Churn trust don’t know how it works, nor how to make it, nor what it
looks like, nor anything, does it?”

“Certainly not. Didn’t I tell you—”

“If the churn trust don’t know anything about it, how do they know it’s
such a good churn that it will put them out of business?” says Catty,
and Mr. Wade almost fell out of his chair.

“I swan to man!” he says, and swallowed three or four times, and rubbed
his neck in the back and almost nickered like a horse. “I swan to man!
How does it know? I never thought of that. That _is_ funny. That
certainly is funny.”

“It would be funnier if you knew this Mr. Matthew Binger didn’t have
anything to do with a churn trust at all, but was a personal friend of
Kinderhook’s that he had telegraphed to come, wouldn’t it?”

“It would be so funny that somebody would laugh out of the wrong side of
his mouth,” says Mr. Wade.

Then Catty told him about the telegram Mr. Kinderhook had sent to Mr.
Binger to come, and all about that, and then all about how Mr. Atkins
remembered how Kinderhook had another name once and used to run one of
those cheat medicine shows. But by that time Mr. Wade was beginning to
steady down and think. He began to look mad and then he began to laugh.

“So it took a couple of boys to figure out that scheme!” says he. “If
that don’t beat anything! It’s equal to Napoleon at his best. Yes, sir,
it’s better than Napoleon at his best. Napoleon would have been proud to
see through a scheme like you’ve done.... And now we’ve got to warn
everybody.”

“No,” says Catty, “remember, you promised not to tell.”

“But—”

“We haven’t any _proof_,” says Catty. “We _know_ the folks are going to
be cheated, but we can’t prove it, and if we were to make any talk about
Mr. Kinderhook, the way everybody feels right now, and then couldn’t
prove every word we said, they would tar and feather us and ride us on
rails.”

“I guess that’s right,” says Mr. Wade. “But what are we to do?”

“I want you to fix things so that folks won’t pay in their money to Mr.
Kinderhook. Fix it so they pay it to Captain Winton at the bank, and so
that he’ll hang on to it till Mr. Kinderhook proves his churn will make
butter.”

“You mean until Kinderhook gives a public demonstration of his churn?”

“That’s it, in nice long words,” says Catty. “That will make it sure he
doesn’t get the money and sneak away, and he can’t very well refuse
to—to demonstrate, can he? Don’t ask to see the insides of his churn,
but just to have him set it up some place and pour cream into it and
make butter. He can hide his churn in a box, or do anything with it,
just so he proves to folks that it is his churn and that it is making
butter. See?”

“He can’t refuse to do that, and I guess I can talk folks into insisting
on it. But what then?”

“That’s up to Wee-wee and me,” says Catty. “We’ll ’tend to the rest. You
do your part and we’ll do ours.”

We left, and Mr. Wade started over to see Captain Winton and some of the
other business men of the town to suggest about the public demonstration
of the churn. Our idea was to go down to the hotel to see what we could
find out about the model of the churn that Mr. Kinderhook had. We
figured he must have it with him, and our job was to find out where.

“I’m goin’ to write for all the churn catalogues I kin git,” says Catty.
“I want to see what all the churns look like and how they work. It ’ll
come in mighty handy.”

So I sat on the hotel porch and watched to see what Kinderhook would do
while Catty went back and wrote for catalogues. He got back in an hour
and we sat there, waiting and watching, but it was ’most noon before
Kinderhook came down. I guess he was a late sleeper and we heard that he
had his breakfast served up in his room. It was the first time anybody
in our town had ever done such a thing as that, except when they were
sick, and there was a lot of talk about it. Most of us had read how
dukes and earls and suchlike had their breakfasts brought to them in
bed, and how they ate it while some kind of a servant in knee-pants put
on their clothes for them. A good many folks said it marked Kinderhook
as being real aristocratic, but Catty and I wouldn’t agree any with
that; at least, not till we knew he had a servant with tight pants to
dress him while he ate his porridge. And how a man was going to eat
while another fellow was pulling his shirt over his head I couldn’t make
out. Catty couldn’t, either. He said a man was as apt to get a mouthful
of shirt in such circumstances as he was a mouthful of porridge.
Probably they learn how to do it. It must be funny to watch, though, and
I’d pay money to see it.

Mr. Kinderhook came down about half past eleven and sat down to smoke a
cigar about a foot long with a gold bellyband around it that was so
shiny it glittered when the sun shone on it. He spoke to us like he
always spoke to everybody he met—kind of oily-like and polite.

“Good morning, my little men,” says he. “Why aren’t you playing marbles
this fine morning?”

That’s what he said! Just like that! Little men, says he, and marbles.
Anybody knows boys don’t play marbles at that time of the year, and if I
was big enough I’d lick anybody that called me “little man.” We had a
Sunday-school superintendent once that always said that, and he was so
unpopular that he quit being superintendent after a couple of weeks, on
account of sitting down on a hornet that was tied in his chair with a
piece of thread. It irritates a hornet to be tied with thread, and this
one was about the maddest hornet you ever saw. He figured the
superintendent was the one that tied him, I guess, but he wasn’t. I know
who was, but I ain’t going to tell.

But we didn’t say anything to Kinderhook about what we thought. Catty
says good morning as polite as could be, and then he says: “We come to
talk to you about buyin’ some churn stock, mister. You’re goin’ to make
everybody rich, and we sort of figgered we’d like to be rich, too. Kin
we buy some?”

“If you’ve got the money,” says Mr. Kinderhook, and he winked at a man
next to him.

“We got it,” says Catty, talking as foolish as one of the Ramsay twins
that haven’t been just right since they fell off the roof of the barn
together. “We got ’most a dollar—but we hain’t goin’ to risk it till
we’re sure of gittin’ rich. No, sirree! We hain’t buyin’ nothin’ without
seein’ it. We want to make money, but we don’t want to lose all we’ve
worked for and saved up.... I’m scairt of churns, because once I knew
some folks that bought a new-fangled one and it wouldn’t churn nothin’.”

“You needn’t worry, my young friend. My churn will churn,” says
Kinderhook.

“Kin I see it?” says Catty.

“Young man,” says Kinderhook, real impressive, “nobody’s allowed to see
that churn. It is a secret, and if the secret of it was stolen the trust
would make churns like it and we wouldn’t make any money. Do you
understand that?”

“I calc’late to,” says Catty, “but if I was investin’ my money I
wouldn’t be apt to tell nobody what I seen so that I’ll lose all I put
in, would I?”

“I wouldn’t think so,” says Kinderhook, with another wink, “and some day
I’ll show it to you.”

“Have you got it here?” says Catty.

“You bet I have,” says Kinderhook.

“Right in the hotel?” says Catty.

“Right where I can keep my eye on it day and night,” says Kinderhook.

“When kin I see it, then?”

“Oh, some day pretty soon, when the brooks flow uphill, you come around,
and I’ll take you up to my room and let you look it over.”

“I won’t put in a cent till I see it,” says Catty, and Kinderhook
laughed and slapped his knee. “I’m not asking anybody to invest,” says
he, “but folks around here seem to be mighty anxious to buy some stock,
just the same.”

“Come on,” says Catty to me. “We’ll be back,” says he to Kinderhook,
“but mind, we won’t put in a cent till we see the churn.” As we went
down the street Catty says: “There, that’s somethin’. We know he keeps
it in his room, and we’ve got to figger to git a look at it.”

“How?” says I.

“That’s what we got to figger out,” says he.



                              CHAPTER XIX


The folks in our town were going to have an Old Home Day, when everybody
that used to live there and had moved away were coming home. There was
going to be a celebration, with speeches and a band and decorations, but
the only part of it I saw any sense to was that there was going to be
lots to eat, and most of it free. That was something like. I don’t mind
a band playing. I sort of like it if there’s a good snare-drum, but I
can’t abide speeches. Speeches always get a fellow into trouble and the
police hadn’t ought to allow them, on that account. Speeches have got me
into more trouble than ’most anything else. You see, you set and a man
talks and talks and talks about something nobody cares a rap about, and
pretty soon you get to itching and your shoes hurt and something crawls
down your back—and you jest naturally have to _do_ something. Then you
up and do it, and your father takes you out to the woodshed and _he_
does something. I remember the last speech I was at I went with a garter
snake. He was a pet I was raising to go into the circus business with
and he had got real tame and friendly. Well, after about half an hour of
listening to that man tell about something I don’t believe he understood
very clear himself, I got to itching like I said, and before I knew it I
jest took little Joseph—Joseph was my snake’s name—and tossed him ahead
a couple of rows into Mrs. Whidden’s lap—what there was of her lap.
Joseph was as quiet and well behaved a little snake as I ever owned, but
I don’t suppose Mrs. Whidden knew that, for she let out a squawk and
passed Joseph on awful quick to old maid Martin, and _she_ squawked and
passed Joseph on to Jim Splint that has the St. Vitus dance, and he like
to have flew apart, and passed Joe on to a woman I didn’t know, and she
stood up and clawed the air and passed Joseph on four or five rows to
the minister’s wife, and _she_ give him a scream and a toss, and so on,
till almost everybody in the audience had took a turn at having Joseph.
Yes, sir, almost everybody, and they all would, every one, if Mrs.
Snow’s aim hadn’t been bad and she tossed him right into the speaker’s
ice-water pitcher. After that there wasn’t much speaking. I heard Pazzy
Bills say the snake got to the wrong kind of a speech, that he ought to
have showed up at a temperance lecture.

Anyhow, that’s what I think of speeches. Dad licked me that time, but it
wasn’t near as hard as he could, and I heard him sort of snickering to
himself even while he was laying it on. I pretended to holler so as to
satisfy him, because it hain’t right for your father to have to take the
trouble to lick you if he don’t git results. They like to hear a holler
and I expect they’re entitled to it. So I give Dad a good one.... But
that hain’t got anything to do with the Old Home celebration.

It was on this day that Catty and me fixed things up for Banty and
Skoodles. Banty and Skoodles was going to play a duet on the piano, as
part of the celebration, so you kin see what kind of a celebration it
was. Banty and Skoodles took lessons on the piano and had to practise an
hour every day. They pertended to like it. I wouldn’t mind taking
lessons on a snare-drum or a bugle, but a feller needs more fingers than
a centipede’s got legs to play on a piano, and when you got it learned
you hain’t got nothin’ to speak of when it comes to _noise_. No, sir,
when I pick out an instrument to play jest gimme one that folks kin
_hear_.

Well, Banty and Skoodles were to play that duet at half past four in the
afternoon, and they was plumb scairt about it, so to sort of git
themselves into the humor to make a exhibition of themselves, they took
and sneaked off to the swimming-hole down at the bend. As soon as Catty
and me saw them head that way we knew where they was going, and I says
to Catty: “They got all their best clothes on. Let’s sneak down and
chaw-beef ’em.”

Catty thought a minute and then he says he’s got a better idea than
that. So we sneaked down to my house and went up in the attic and
rummidged around till we found two of the dog-gonedest outfits of
women’s clothes you ever seen. They was sich clothes as a respectable
person wouldn’t have wore to put out a fire in a slaughter-house. One
was a red-flannel underskirt that used to belong to a cook we had, and
another was some pantalets like girls used to wear about a hunderd years
ago, and the other things was to match.

So we put off to the swimming-hole and there was Banty and Skoodles in
all alone, a-splashing and enjoying themselves to beat the band.

Catty says in a whisper, “Enjoy yourselves, fellers, for there’s a hour
of trouble approachin’.” And we swiped every last pair of pants and coat
and shirt and shoe they had and made off with them, leaving right on the
spot them ridiculous clothes we got out of the attic. When Banty and
Skoodles come out they would have their choice between wearing what they
found and not wearing any at all.... And we knew they’d stay in till the
last minute and then set on a log to let their hair dry before they
bothered about their clothes. That would mean it would be time for them
to play their duet when they come out.

Banty and Skoodles didn’t _want_ to play that duet. I’ll give them
credit for that. But they had to. I heard Mrs. Gage tell Banty she would
’most skin him alive if anything happened so he didn’t show up to play,
and she was the kind to keep her word. So Catty and me figured that
Banty and Skoodles would go and play no matter what clothes they had,
because they wouldn’t dast do anything else—and they wouldn’t have time
to change.

We hid their clothes good and safe and then sneaked back and hid where
we could watch and hear. After quite a while they came out of the water
and sat down to dry off, and they talked some about the duet and how
they hated to play it, and how they had to do it or get the worst
licking in the world, and we ’most laughed out loud. Then they were
pretty well dried and went for their clothes. Skoodles got there first
and he looks at the pile and says, “Where’d we leave our clothes,
Banty?”

“Right on that log,” says Banty.

“But they ain’t here.”

“They got to be.”

“They ain’t. You kin look. There ain’t nothin here but a lot of old
women’s rags.”

“We left ’em somewheres.”

“I know that,” says Skoodles, “but I thought it was right here.”

So they looked all around, getting worrieder and worrieder all the time,
and at last it sort of come to them that somebody had swiped their duds
and left what was there in their place. Then you could have heard them
holler to Jericho.

“What ’ll we do?” says Banty.

“What kin we do?” says Skoodles.

“We got to get to the celebration tent.”

“You sneak home and git us some clothes.”

“You do it.”

But neither of them would and time was passing, and then they sat down
and didn’t say anything for a spell, until Banty says there wasn’t
anything to do but put on the rags, because they’d get arrested for
going through town if they didn’t. So they picked up the clothes we’d
fixed for them, and that started a rumpus because both of them would
rather wear the red-flannel skirt than the pantalets. They ’most had a
fight over it, but they decided to draw straws, and Skoodles lost. Then
they got to dressing, and I had to hold my hand over Catty’s face and he
had to stuff his fist into my mouth to keep ourselves from laughing out
loud. You never saw sich looking critters in all your born life. They
looked like as if they had escaped from a lunatic asylum while the
keeper was having delirium tremens, or something like that, and when
they saw each other I thought they was going to set down and cry.

“We can’t go through town lookin’ like this,” says Banty.

“We got to,” says Skoodles.

“Oh, my goodness!” says Banty, “the duet! We got to play the duet!”

“Like this?”

“We’ll be late now. We got to. I dassent _not_ play it. Ma would fix me,
and your Ma would fix you. It ’ll be worse not to show up than it will
be to go like this.”

“I won’t.”

“We got to.”

So they argued about it some more, and both of them was sniveling some,
but the upshot of it was that they started out pretty slow and taking
back streets when they could. But the town was crowded with folks and
strangers, and before they was half-way to the tent in the square they
had about forty kids tagging after them, hollering and yelling, and when
they went into the tent the whole audience turned to look, and then let
out a holler of laughing. They started right up the center aisle. I
guess they was so flabbergasted by that time that they didn’t know what
they was doing.... And then Mrs. Gage and Mrs. Gordon caught on to who
it was that was making the disturbance, and both of them women busted
out of their seats with fire in their eyes and swooped down on Banty and
Skoodles like a couple of excited cyclones, and each of them grabbed a
kid by the ear and jest naturally lifted him up in the air and _carried_
him out. I took particular notice of their ears after that—Banty’s and
Skoodles’s—and the ones their mothers grabbed that day was all of half
an inch longer than the others forever after....

Catty and me was suspicioned about that, I guess, but nobody had any
regular evidence, and my father didn’t ask any questions. That was like
Dad. He didn’t want to have to lick me for that, because he knew what
Banty and Skoodles had been doing to Catty, but if he _knew_ we did it,
why, he’d have to. Fathers are like that. They _have_ to lick you
whether they want to or not—if you really get caught at something, but
they can know you did it, and sort of approve and hope you won’t get
caught. We didn’t, and we wouldn’t have cared a lot, anyhow. I’d have
been willing to take a licking any day to do it again.

Skoodles and Banty knew who did it, all right, but they didn’t have
anything to say, either, and they didn’t show up much in public for a
long time, because every time they did every kid in town would tag after
them and ask them questions about those clothes and say things they
thought was funny. It taught them a good lesson, that it wasn’t safe to
monkey with Catty—and the rest of the kids in town got the same idea. I
never heard a kid say “Tramp” to Catty after that, and some of the kids,
whose folks weren’t too particular, even offered to play with us. But we
wouldn’t have anything to do with any of them.

“Jest wait,” says Catty. “The time’s comin’ when Dad and me ’ll be as
good as any of ’em. Then we’ll see. I’ll pick who I want to go around
with, you can bet.”

“You hain’t goin’ to be one of them ’risto-crats, be you?”

“No,” says he, “I sha’n’t be stuck up, but I’ll be self-respectin’. You
wait till Dad goes to church in a silk hat.”

“He won’t—never,” says I. “He’ll run away first.”

“You jest watch,” says he. “Dad’s improvin’ every day.”

And that was true. Honest, you wouldn’t have known Mr. Atkins was the
same man I saw first sitting on a log down by the bayou. He was neat
looking and kept his hair and beard trimmed, and there was a different
look in his face, and even his walk was different. He used to sort of
slouch along, but now he had a sort of a snap to his step, and if you
didn’t know him you would think he was a regular, respectable man of
business instead of a tramp that wasn’t more than half reformed.

He talked different, too, and sometimes when he was talking business to
somebody he talked in a way that made you sit right up and take notice.
Dad said the man he used to be was coming to life, and that that
original man must have been a pretty good one. Mr. Atkins and Dad got to
be real good friends, and Mr. Atkins even came to dinner to our house
once. It was hard to persuade him at first, but Dad managed it, and
Mother said afterward that she didn’t see why folks objected to Mr.
Atkins, because his table manners was as good as almost anybody’s in
town.

I told her if she could hear Catty always nagging at the poor old feller
about how to eat, and such things, she wouldn’t be surprised a bit.

Once, too, I heard Captain Winton say to Mr. Gage that that man Atkins
was a good, sound, sensible business man, and that meant considerable in
our town, I can tell you.

But, for all that, most of the folks felt just like they did at first,
and there was lots of talk, and it was said that if Catty tried to go to
school in the fall with the rest of the children that there was going to
be genuine trouble. I told Catty this, but he just set his mouth like a
pair of pinchers, and his eyes got like steel, and he says: “Dad and me
are here to stay. They can’t drive us out. Maybe we hain’t as good as
the rest of them yet, but we’re studyin’ and a-learnin’—and we’re makin’
money, too. I’ll bet Jack Phillips and Dad and me is makin’ ’most as
much money as any firm in town. One of these days we’re a-goin’ to have
a lot—and then we’ll see.”

“I’m afraid folks won’t forget you come in as tramps,” says I.

“I don’t want ’em to,” says he. “It’s more to be proud of. When we git
up in the world I want everybody to know that we started as tramps and
worked up ourselves with nobody to help us—that is, nobody but you,
Wee-wee.”

“Me?” says I, for I didn’t know what he was talking about.

“Yes, you. You helped more ’n anybody can ever tell,” says he, “just by
stickin’ by me and bein’ my friend. That’s about the biggest help
anybody kin give to anybody else.”

“Huh!” says I. “You’re crazy. I stuck with you jest because I liked
you.”

“Yes,” says he, “but it wasn’t everybody that had the backbone to like a
couple of tramps that everybody else was against.”

“Fiddlesticks!” says I, for it didn’t look to me like there was any
sense to what he was saying. I liked him at first and I kept on liking
him, that was all, and I didn’t give a tinker’s hoot who else liked him
or hated him.

“Wee-wee,” says he, “I wisht I could go to dancin’-school.”

“Why?” says I.

“I read in a book that you can learn how to carry yourself, and how to
be mannerly and not clumsy better in a dancin’-school than anywhere
else.”

“If that’s so,” says I, “I calc’late on goin’ clumsy most of my life.
Kin you see me dancin’?” says I. “I’d look perty, wouldn’t I?
Dancin’!... Whoo!”

“I’d do anythin’,” says he, in that set voice of his, “to make me and
Dad more presentable.”

And I guess he would, too.



                               CHAPTER XX


During the next week Catty got more than twenty churn catalogues, and
the way we studied them you would have thought we were trying to pass
some kind of an examination. Every spare minute we got we read about
churns and looked at pictures of the insides of churns and compared
churns to see how they were alike and how they were different. It’s
funny how easy it is to study something you don’t have to. We could have
learned a grammar by heart with the work we put on churns—but that would
have been _work_. It’s too bad the school can’t make a fellow enjoy
studying like we did. If the school would only give a fellow a definite
_object_ for studying everything I’d learn twice as much three times as
easy.

But I guess we got to be about the greatest experts in the world on
churns. We knew them inside and out and up and down and sideways and
wideways. We got so we could take a section of a churn and cover up the
name of it, and we could tell just what it was and what churn it came
out of—as easy as pie. Catty was better at it than I was. I’ll bet you
could blindfold him and stick the plunger or the handle of a churn under
his nose, and he could tell what it was just by the smell. It came in
mighty handy, too, you can bet.

“Now,” says Catty, “we got to see that churn of Kinderhook’s.”

“Yes,” says I, “we have. Sounds easy. Let’s jest walk up and look at it.
He’ll be tickled to death to have us.”

Catty grinned sort of drylike. “We’re a-goin’ to see that churn,” says
he, “if we have to eat a hole through the wall.”

“S’pose he really keeps it in his room?”

“Bet he sleeps with it under his pillow.”

“Then we better not go to look at it at night,” says I.

“Let’s kind of sort of snoop around the hotel,” says he, “and get the
lay of the land.”

So we went down to the hotel and walked all around it and looked at it
outside as careful as we could, but that was about as good as looking at
the outside of an egg to see what colored chicken would hatch out of it.
We didn’t know what floor Mr. Kinderhook’s room was on, nor what side of
the hotel.

“We kin ask,” says I.

“And have folks wonderin’ why we want to know,” says Catty. “The best
part of this whole mess is that Kinderhook don’t suspect _we_ suspect.
He hain’t got no idee anybody’s thinkin’ he hain’t a good and great man.
That makes it easier. If he don’t know somebody’s watchin’ him he won’t
take so much pains to hide up what he’s doin’.”

“Sounds reasonable,” says I.

“But I guess maybe we kin edge around and find out without askin’
straight out,” says he.

“I hain’t much good at edgin’,” says I. “You do it.”

“Come on, then,” says he, and we went into the hotel office and stood
around like we just come in for nothing in particular, and sort of
gradual we got over to the desk. “Nice mornin’,” says Catty to the
clerk. “Fine,” says the clerk, sort of grinnin’. “Was you lookin’ for a
room with a bath?”

“Us!” says Catty, surprised-like. “Jest a room with a bath? That the
best you got? Huh!... When we stay in a hotel it hain’t no measly room
with a bath we take. No, sirree! We git a whole mess of rooms and baths,
maybe three or four bedrooms, so’s when we git tired of sleepin’ in one
we kin take to another; and we have settin’-rooms and standin’-rooms
and, in hotels where we don’t like the cookin’, we have our own kitchen.
That’s us, mister. Now what you got that might suit us?”

“We’re just out of kitchens,” says the clerk. “Usually we keep eighteen
or twenty extry kitchens up-stairs for p’tic’lar guests, so’s they kin
boil their own eggs soft. But they’re occupied now. Best we kin let you
have is a parlor with two bedrooms off’n it—and a piece of the hall if
that hain’t enough. All our regular palatial suites is rented.”

“Who to?” says Catty.

“There’s a large party of folks by the name of Mr. Kinderhook that’s
taken ’em,” says the clerk. “He’s usin’ more room to sleep in than a
whole minstrel troupe.”

“I heard he took a lot of rooms,” says Catty. “Must cost him a sight of
money.”

“Guess he’s got it to spend.”

“Um!... Wonder he didn’t buy him a hotel,” says Catty, “and fix it up to
suit him.”

“Say,” said the clerk, “I calc’late he’s goin’ to. I heard him talkin’
it up last night. Says, says he, that this town, with its new
manufacturin’ industries, ought to have a fine hotel. Yes, sir, and says
he, he guessed maybe he’d build one as soon as the factory was done and
runnin’. I’ve struck him for the job of clerkin’.”

“Hope you git it. When’s he goin’ to git out of them rooms?”

“Dunno.”

“Soon’s he does we’ll take ’em,” says Catty, “if you’ll fix ’em up a
bit. Maybe we won’t like the furniture.”

“We aim to please. All you got to do is tell us what you want.”

“First,” says Catty, “you’ll have to fetch ’em a flight down-stairs. I’m
gittin’ so’s I hate to climb stairs. Fetch ’em down to the second
floor.”

“That’s where they be now,” says the clerk.

“And we like our rooms lookin’ right over Main Street, and not to the
side over nobody’s meat-market.”

“What give you the idee Kinderhook’s rooms was on the side? Not them;
they’re front corner rooms. Parlor in the corner, big one, and other
rooms along the front.”

“That’s all right, then,” says Catty. “Don’t s’pose we kin take a look
at the furniture, so’s if we don’t like it you kin be orderin’ in what
we want?”

“No chance,” says the clerk. “Kinderhook don’t let nobody into those
rooms, and he sets by and keeps his eye on the chambermaid when she’s
makin’ the beds.”

“Well,” says Catty, “if we can’t we can’t. Much obleeged. Let us know
the minute we kin move in.”

“I sure will,” says the clerk, and we went out, slow, but tickled. Catty
had found out just what we wanted to know and nobody in the world could
have told he had been trying to find out. We knew now just where
Kinderhook’s rooms were, and that was something. But, after all, when
you come to think of it, it wasn’t such a lot, after all. There’s a heap
of difference between knowing bees has a hive in a certain tree and
gittin’ the honey out of it without gittin’ stung.

When we got out on the porch there was Captain Winton and Mr. Wade
talking to Kinderhook, and we stood where we could sort of hear what
they was saying.

“Apparently,” says Captain Winton, “you have been persuaded to part with
quite a little of your stock, Mr. Kinderhook.”

“Why, yes,” says he. “I’ve got about all the money a man can reasonably
use, and it looked as if I ought to give the people here a chance to
make some, too. I didn’t intend to sell a share, but I’ve got to like
this town and the people and I’d like to help them and have them for
partners, as it were.”

“Does you credit,” says Captain Winton, “and I’m sure the town is much
obliged. It will mean quite a little money.”

“Quite a little,” says Kinderhook.

“Some of us have been talking it over,” says Captain Winton, “and we’ve
dropped in to make a sort of proposition to you. You understand we mean
no reflection upon you, no criticism whatever, but inasmuch as this town
is going to invest a great deal of money on your bare word, as it were,
we feel, before we hand over the cash, that we ought to be assured of
the efficiency of your churn.” Kinderhook looked at him a minute and
then smiled as pleased as could be. “Why, certainly you should be,” says
he.

“What we think you should do is to give a public demonstration of your
churn.”

“By all means,” says Mr. Kinderhook.

“And the folks rather think that no money should be paid over to you
until they know the churn will work.”

“They’re perfectly right,” says Mr. Kinderhook.

“So here’s what our proposition is. The folks will pay the money into
the bank, and you will deposit the stock with the bank. Then you give a
demonstration of the churn, and the minute a committee says the churn
will do what you say it will the bank will deliver the stock to the
purchasers and the money to you.”

“I should have proposed exactly that if you hadn’t. I should have done
so before, but I didn’t come here to sell stock, you understand. The
people were so eager to buy—”

“Of course,” says Captain Winton. “When will you be ready to give your
demonstration?”

“Whenever you gentlemen notify me you are ready. You must give me a day
or so to make preparations, because when I demonstrate this churn I want
to do it to a turn.”

“Very well,” says Captain Winton, “and thank you.”

They all shook hands and that ended it. Catty and I walked off, and
Catty says: “We got to act pretty quick. No tellin’ what day they’ll
have that demonstration, and we got to be ready.”

“Looks so,” says I.

“We got to see that churn.”

“You bet,” says I.

“Second floor, on the corner,” says Catty.

We went over to the livery-stable because we liked to talk to Pazzy
Bills, the bus-driver, when we didn’t have anything else special to do.
Pazzy was a mighty nice man and about the best quoit-pitcher in the
county. He said that quoit-pitching was really his business and that he
just drove the bus for exercise. Said hanging on to the lines was just
the thing that kept his arm in condition to throw horseshoes right.

Pazzy was pitching against the blacksmith when we got there, and we
watched them a spell. While the blacksmith was throwing Pazzy talked to
us.

“Glad to see you takin’ a interest into the greatest game in the world,”
says he. “There hain’t no game like quaites.” (Pazzy and ’most everybody
called it “quaites” instead of “quoits” in our town, but when I’m
writing it down I have to spell it right, don’t I? or folks would get
the idee I didn’t know nothing much about right grammar and spelling. I
do. You can tell it by the way I’ve wrote about this story.)

“Yes, sirree, Bob!” says Pazzy, “a feller that kin pitch quaites first
class is as good as anybody. There hain’t nothin’ he couldn’t do if he
was to set his hands to it. You gimme a quaite-player every time.
Whenever I vote for a President of the U-nited States I says to myself,
says I, ‘Does he look like he could pitch a horseshoe?’ If he does I
vote for him, and if he don’t _I_ don’t. There’s been elections when I
wouldn’t vote for either man ’cause they didn’t have the build for
it.... One thing I don’t take to about this here Kinderhook that folks
is so crazy about. He won’t even look at a game. No, sir. He’ll walk
right by without so much as turnin’ his head. ‘’Tain’t right,’ says I,
‘and I don’t care who hears me. Any man that don’t like to watch this
here game hain’t to be trusted.’”

“Catty and me has a set of shoes,” says I. “We’re practisin’ up, and one
of these days we’re a-goin’ to come down and challenge _you_.

“Now that’s the way to talk. Seems like boys nowadays is more int’rested
into foolish games like baseball and football and that kind of a thing
where you smack a little ball over a fish-net with a whang-dingus.
Hain’t the int’rest in quaites there was once. Glad you’re bein’ brought
up right.”

Just then one of the men that worked around the hotel came over and says
to Pazzy: “Hitch up a team right off for Mr. Kinderhook. He aims to
drive over to Litchfield. Wants to git started at once.”

“You tell Kinderhook not to bust off no buttons,” says Pazzy. “I’ll
hitch when this game’s over and not before—not for Gen’ral Jackson nor
the Siamese Twins.”

So Pazzy finished the game and then he hitched up pretty slow, and says
to Catty and me that he couldn’t bear the sight of a man that didn’t
pitch quaites, and would we just as soon drive the rig to the hotel. “If
that man was to say a word derog’tory to quaites in my hearin’,” says
Pazzy, “I dunno what I might up and do. I don’t trust myself,” says he,
“not when a man takes liberties with sich a sacred institution as
quaites.... And more ’n that,” says he, “he didn’t git my best team, not
by a long shot. He wants to git to Litchfield fast, does he. Ho!...
These hosses ’ll get him there, but I’m dog-goned if it ’ll be fast
enough to blow off his hair.”

We climbed in and drove to the hotel, and there was Mr. Kinderhook, with
a big package, waiting on the steps. As he got in he says: “In this box,
gentlemen, is the model 379 of my churn. I am taking it to Litchfield to
give it a final examination in the machine-shop there. I wish it to be
in perfect condition for the demonstration.”

Catty looked at me and I looked at him, and without a word we set off on
a run for Pazzy Bills’s.

“Pazzy,” says Catty, “if I was to tell you that I had to have somethin’
and that it was important and that there was good reasons why I couldn’t
tell you why I had to have it, would you lemme take it?”

“Sounds puzzlin’,” says Pazzy, “but I calc’late I git your meanin’.
Yes,” he said, after thinking a minute. “I calc’late I’d trust you and
Wee-wee more ’n a leetle—bein’ quaite-players like you be.”

“We’ve got to have a horse that kin beat Kinderhook’s to Litchfield,”
says Catty, “and we got to git started ahead of him—and he’s jest
drivin’ away from the hotel now.”

“Kinderhook! If you got any scheme ag’in’ Kinderhook you kin have my
whole stable!”

In about two seconds he had a horse into a light buggy and we was
driving out of town across the upper bridge and going pretty fast, so we
could get to the fork of the road ahead of Kinderhook. We got there,
too, for we could just see him coming behind us.

“Well,” says I, “now we’re here, and _he’s_ here, and what be we goin’
to do about it?”

“We’re goin’ to look over that churn before he gits it to Litchfield,”
says Catty.



                              CHAPTER XXI


We drove along at a pretty good clip for two or three miles and no ideas
occurred to us. We knew we had to do something before we got to
Litchfield, but when it came to doing it we didn’t seem to be any good.
It seemed to us to be just as hard to get a look at Kinderhook’s churn
in his buggy as it was to get a look at it in his room at the hotel.

“We’ll just have to wait for somethin’ to turn up,” says I.

“Things don’t never turn up unless you _make_ ’em,” says Catty.

“Then our beans is spilled,” says I.

“It’s four miles to Litchfield yet,” says Catty. “With a nice smooth
road,” says I. “Kinderhook ain’t goin’ to git out of that buggy to pick
flowers just so’s we can look at his old churn.”

“But he’s got to git out, just the same.”

“If he did he’d carry his churn along with him in his pants pocket,”
says I.

Just then we came to a bridge across a sort of boy’s size river, about
fifteen or twenty feet wide. Somebody had been working around it,
because you could see new braces in the foundation, or whatever they
call it, and some new planks. Over in the bushes at the side was some
boards, and onto one of the boards was some kind of a sign. Catty took a
look and then he pulled up our horse and jumped out. In a second he came
back, looking as tickled as if he had eaten the cook’s best pumpkin pie,
and he says: “I guess we kin manage. Git out quick and take a look,”
says he. So I did, and there was a sign: “Bridge closed. Under repair.”

“Well,” says I, “what about it?”

“You drive the hoss up beyond and hustle back while I fix this up,” says
he.

“Fix what up?” says I.

“You hustle along and you’ll see when you git back,” says he. And I
hustled. I drove the horse along a piece, past the first farmhouse, and
pulled him over to the side of the road in a clump of bushes. Then I ran
back as tight as I could go. While I had been gone Catty had got out
those boards and fixed them up across the bridge so as to block the way,
and the sign was sticking right out in anybody’s face that came along.

“There,” says he.

“That ’ll stop him,” says I, “but it won’t show us the churn.”

“Huh!” says he. “Wait and see.”

“Goin’ to stay here?”

“Got to meet Kinderhook,” says he. “Won’t he know us?”

“Not him. He hain’t the kind of man that takes notice of kids, and he
won’t be expectin’ anybody he ever see ’way out here. No, he won’t know
us for a cent.”

“All right,” says I. “If you kin take a chance, why, so kin I.”

And just then Kinderhook came a-driving around a bend in the road. He
drove right up to the bridge and stopped and scowled. “What’s this?”
says he, sharplike. “Bridge,” says Catty, like he didn’t have much
sense.

“I see it’s a bridge. What’s it blocked off for?”

“You kin read what the sign says if you want to,” says Catty. “It was
put there for folks to read. Don’t cost nothin’ extry, neither. No, sir,
you can read that there sign without spendin’ a cent.”

“Knock that barrier down. I’m going across,” says Kinderhook.

“You hain’t,” says Catty.

“Who’ll stop me, I’d like to know? That bridge looks safe, and I’m in a
hurry. Knock down those boards.”

“Can’t be did,” says Catty.

“I’ll get out and knock them down myself.”

“If you do I’ll holler,” says Catty, “and I kin holler so’s to be heard.
They’ll hear me at the house, too.”

“What house?”

“That house,” says Catty, pointing.

“What of it?” says Kinderhook, kind of undecided.

“You’d find out quick,” says Catty.

Then Kinderhook changed his manner a lot and got real friendly. “I’m in
a big hurry to get to Litchfield,” says he. “Is there a way around?”

“By goin’ back to town and drivin’ five miles north.”

“But I can’t do that. Now you look here, Sonny, I’ll give you a quarter
if you’ll let down that barrier and let me cross.”

“Can’t be done,” says Catty.

“I’ll make it a half.”

“Nothin’ doin’.”

“I’ll make it a dollar.”

“You couldn’t git to cross this bridge for _ten_ dollars,” says Catty,
“not unless the man in that house says you kin.”

“What’s he got to do with it?”

“If he was to say you could cross, then I wouldn’t stop you,” says
Catty.

“Run down and ask him, then.”

“My job’s to stay right here.”

“You go,” says Kinderhook to me.

“My job’s stayin’ here, too,” says I. “There hain’t but one way to do,”
says Catty, “and that’s for you to go yourself. ’Tain’t a quarter of a
mile.”

Well, Kinderhook he grumbled and said a lot of words and sentences and
things, but he got down off the seat and went across the bridge and
started down the road—and he never paid any attention at all to the
package that had the churn in it. He just left that standing in the back
of the buggy. He hadn’t got more than a hundred yards before Catty was
back there.

“You keep your eye on him,” says he, “while I stick my nose into the
churn.”

“Be careful,” says I, “that you don’t git it churned into butter. You
wouldn’t look handsome with a pad of butter in the middle of your face.”

“You’d be improved if you had a pad of butter inside of your head
instead of what you got,” says be, with a grin, and began trying to find
a way to look at the churn without disturbing the package so it would be
noticed. The package was a kind of a big box made out of some sort of
cardboard—one of those things they ship packages of breakfast food or
something in, and it was just tied up with a rope. In about two seconds
Catty turned up a corner of the top and looked inside, and then he said
something under his breath that sounded like he didn’t have enough
breath left to speak louder.

“Wee-wee,” says he, “come here and look.” I went and looked, and I ’most
lost my breath, too, because there wasn’t a dog-gone thing in that
package but the big water-pitcher out of the hotel.

“What kind of a churn is that?” says I. “That,” says Catty, “is a kind
of a churn I never seen in any catalogue.”

“What’s the idee?” says I.

“Hanged if I know,” says he, “unless he jest stuck that in to make the
package feel like it had somethin’ in it if anybody lifted it.” He stood
there a second, thinking, and then he banged the buggy with his fist. “I
got it,” says he. “Kinderhook didn’t have no churn a-tall. Not no kind
of a churn whatever. And he’s got to have one. He’s got to give his
demonstration. See? And so now he’s got to git him a model to do the
demonstratin’ with. I guess we got Mr. Kinderhook’s goose close to
cooked.”

“Maybe,” says I. “You can’t never tell. This looks like some kind of a
scheme to me.”

“Here he comes,” says Catty. “I calc’late it would be healthier if we
wasn’t here when he come, too.”

“B’lieve you’re right,” says I, and we slid off into the bushes and hid.

In a couple of minutes along come Kinderhook, looking like he was mad
enough to bite himself in the back of the neck if he could reach it, and
he began kicking down our barricade and using a lot of language and
mentioning us. If I remember right he was going to do a number of things
to us if ever he laid hands on us, which we hoped he wouldn’t. But he
didn’t wait to look around—jest jumped in his buggy and off he went.

We didn’t wait long, but put off after him and got into our own rig and
followed along just far enough behind so he wouldn’t notice. In a half
an hour we got into Litchfield, which is a pretty big town—almost a
city—with lots of stores. We followed after Kinderhook till he came to a
big hardware-store, and there he stopped and hitched. We stopped and
hitched, too, and saw him go inside.

“Guess we’ll have to separate,” says Catty. “He’s goin’ in after a
churn, I’ll bet. Soon’s he comes out you go in and git a churn jest like
his’n. I’ll follow him and make chalk-marks on the sidewalk so you kin
follow me.”

“All right,” says I, “but what ’ll I buy the churn with?”

“Money,” says he, and he give me a ten-dollar bill. “I got this a couple
of days ago jest in case somethin’ happened that we’d need it.”

In twenty minutes Kinderhook came out, lugging a big bundle, and I went
into the store pretty quick. There was a man there, and I asked for the
churn department. It was up-stairs, and I walked. When I got there I
says to the clerk, “There was a big, rich-lookin’ feller in here and he
bought a churn.”

“Yes,” says he; “anything the matter with it?”

“No,” says I. “I calc’late it was a good churn. I calc’late it was so
good I want one jest like it. Got one?”

“You bet,” says he, and he set one out. “This jest like his?” says I.

“I-dentical,” says he.

“How much?” says I.

“Nine seventy-five,” says he, and I paid for it and had it wrapped up
and lugged it out.

Right in front of the store chalk-marks with an arrow-head at one end
pointed down the street, and I followed where they pointed. They went
around a few corners, but I didn’t have any trouble to follow them, and
after a while I saw Catty kind of hanging around the front of a
paint-shop.

“Hello!” says he. “Got the churn?”

“No,” says I. “This package is full of song-sparrers and I’m goin’ to
make a pie of them.”

“What kind of a churn is it?” says he.

“It’s a Criterion,” says I, calling it by its catalogue name.

“He got the best there was, didn’t he?”

“The best hain’t none too good for Kinderhook. Where is he?”

“In that paint-shop.”

“What for?”

“Havin’ a white stripe painted down the side of his pants so’s he kin
join the band,” says Catty. “How do I know what for? That’s what I’m
here to find out.”

Well, we hung around till Kinderhook came out, and he didn’t have his
churn. He’d left it inside. We didn’t have any interest in him after
that, but we did in the churn, so in about five minutes we went into the
shop, and Catty says, “How long will it be before Mr. Kinderhook’s churn
is done?”

“I told _him_ it would be an hour, anyhow, if Kinderhook’s his name.
Say, who is he, anyhow? Hain’t crazy, is he?”

“Not special. Why?”

“Havin’ a churn painted all red, white, and blue stripes runnin’ round
and round like a barber-pole. Does he think it ’ll churn better that
way?”

“Shouldn’t be s’prised,” says Catty.

“Yes, and he had all the markin’s took off it, too. The name and
everythin’.”

“Of course,” says Catty, and then he said much obliged and we went out.

“Well,” says Catty, “he’s got his model churn now.”

“Havin’ it fixed up so there won’t be anythin’ to identify it by,” says
I.

“That’s the idee. With red, white, and blue stripes around it it won’t
look like any other churn that was ever made—and it ’ll work fine at the
demonstration. It ’ll make butter quick, because the Criterion is a
dandy churn.”

“Now what?” says I.

“Now we git home and sit down to wait for him to demonstrate,” says
Catty.



                              CHAPTER XXII


We drove home as fast as we could and hustled the churn into Atkins &
Phillips’s store. Jack was in the other room working on some drawings,
and he came in to see what the racket was.

“What you got there?” says he.

“Churn,” says Catty.

“What you going to do with it?”

“Goin’ to churn the Atkins family respectable with it,” says Catty, and
neither of us had the least idea what he was talking about, then, but we
knew later. “Where’s Dad?” says Catty.

“He heard there was a big painting job out at Briggsville, and he
hustled right over to land it.”

“What!” says Catty, and his eyes got all shiny. “What was that there
word?”

“Hustled,” says Jack.

“He never hustled before,” says Catty, “never. Jack, do you calc’late
he’s really takin’ a interest in this business?”

“I know he is,” says Jack. “He’s been taking a real interest in it for a
long time, too. He hates to let on, but you just think back for weeks
and see how hard he’s worked. Why, Catty, you wouldn’t think your father
was the same man! He’s got a head, too.”

“Dad always had a head when he wasn’t too shiftless to use it,” says
Catty.

“I’d tell you something else, too, but I sha’n’t,” says Jack. “I’ll let
him show you himself. But what about this churn? Going into the butter
business?”

“Jack,” says Catty, “I hain’t got no business in the world but gettin’
Dad and me respectable. After we git _that_ then I’m really a-goin’ to
git to hustlin’ in a business way. But so far I hain’t done a thing but
work on the respectable end.”

“You’ve done a lot, I should say. But that doesn’t explain the churn.”

“Wait till Dad comes and we’ll tell you about it,” says Catty, and just
then Mr. Atkins came in and he was looking pleased.

“Landed the job,” says he. “Five-hundred-dollar contract. We kin work it
in with what we got to do, easy.”

“Fine,” says Jack, but Catty he didn’t say a word. He just looked at his
Dad in a way that made me feel kind of messy in the throat, because it
was a glad kind of a look, and a proud kind of a look, and a hopeful
kind of a look all rolled into one. Then, in a minute, he says, “Dad, it
looks like we were goin’ to make a go of it, don’t it?”

“Sonny, I’m kind of ashamed to own it up, but dummed if I hain’t kind of
gittin’ attached to work. Don’t seem right nor possible, but you kin
sell me for a cent if I hain’t kind of enjoyin’ myself—all but the
decorum book. Looks like that was a sort of a pest.”

“It won’t be when you git it learned by heart,” says Catty.

“I contend,” says Mr. Atkins, “that pie wasn’t never made to eat with a
fork. No, sir; it’s shaped and built on purpose to slide a knife under.
There’s things, and I admit it, that can be speared with a fork, but
when it comes to pie and mashed pertaters, why, book or no book, the
best and easiest way to eat ’em is with a knife.”

“But ’tain’t manners, Dad.”

“How if some feller come along and made it up that it wasn’t manners to
use a putty-knife when you’re handlin’ putty, but that it was polite to
put it on with a feather. How much work d’you calc’late a feller’d git
done? No, sirree! it’s the tool that works best a feller ought to use,
and no one that somebody says is the pertiest.”

“But you _got_ to use a fork, Dad.”

“I’ll use her, all right, seein’ as you’re set on it, but I warn you,
Catty, if ever you try to git your Dad to give up usin’ a putty-kjnife
for puttyin’ then you and me is goin’ to have an argument.”

All at once he caught sight of the churn and went over to it and turned
the crank and fussed around with it. “This here,” says he, “is a
ree-markable handy contraption. Got up right,” he says. “Churn, hain’t
it?”

“Yes.”

“What’s it a-doin’ here?”

“If you and Jack will come back into the back room, Wee-wee and me ’ll
tell you about it.”

So we went into the back room and Catty told them all about the thing
from beginning to end, not as if he had done it all alone, like he
really did, but givin’ me a full halfshare in it. He wasn’t the kind of
a fellow to hog the glory if there was any, and I felt called on to tell
them that I didn’t have much to do with it except to watch and do what I
was told. Jack Phillips was so surprised he couldn’t hardly wiggle, and
he says:

“D’you mean you kids figured out this thing and worked it all the way
through by yourselves—without help?”

“It was jest exactly like I told it,” says Catty.

“Well,” says Jack, “I guess I tied up to the right firm. The day’s
coming when Atkins & Phillips is going to amount to something in this
neck of the woods. Catty, my hat’s off to you.”

“Jack,” says Catty, “Dad’s got a heap more brains and ability than what
I got. I was jest patternin’ after him, and doin’ like I figgered he’d
do if he was in my place.” Jack didn’t say anything for a second, and
then he says, kind of slow and still, “Atkins,” says he, “if I had a son
that thought as much of me as yours does of you, I’d figure I was the
richest man in the world.”

Mr. Atkins scratched his head. “Me and Catty gits along splendid,” says
he, “but there’s times when he’s hard to live up to, what with his
spoons and forks and liftin’ your hat, and sich. But I guess he’s got me
tamed. Seems like there hain’t much shiftlessness left into me.”

“And when we git through with that churn,” says Catty, “this whole town
is goin’ to stand on its hind legs and cheer for you. Dad, we’re
totterin’ right on the edge of bein’ awful respectable here.”

“It ’ll be painful,” says Mr. Atkins, “but I guess I kin put up with it
if you’re so set on it.”

“Now,” says Catty, “let’s talk about the job I got figgered out for
you—the churn job.”

“Eh? Got any manners in it? Nothin’ where I got to wear a plug-hat, is
it?”

“You’ll have to look the best you kin,” says Catty, “and talk the best
you kin.”

Mr. Atkins groaned, but I guess he was sort of joking about it. “Let’s
have the worst,” says he.

“You got to upset Kinderhook’s applecart,” says Catty.

“Me? How? Why?”

“First reason,” says Catty, “is that I want you should git all the
credit for savin’ the folks’ money. There hain’t nothin’ will make folks
think so much of a feller as to have him save some money for them.
You’ll be helpin’ the folks here to hang on to a awful lot of it, and
the more there is the more they’re bound to be obliged to you. After
you’ve done it they jest _can’t_ say you hain’t respectable, nor refuse
to give you jobs, nor look down on you. That’s the big reason. The next
reason is that a man’s got to do it because nobody would pay any
attention to us kids.”

“He’s right, Atkins,” says Jack. “The first reason is enough, but I’m
here to say that it took a pretty big kid to give up the glory of doing
it himself. Catty, I’m right proud to know you.”

“Well,” says Mr. Atkins, kind of resigned, like a man that’s just been
told he’s going to be operated on for his appendix, “if I got to, why, I
got to. What ’ll I do and how ’ll I do it?”

So Catty went to work and told us about what he thought ought to be done
and how to go about it. He had it all thought out and anybody could see
right off that it was a corking good scheme. We talked it over and over
and over, and there was suggestions and improvements made, too, but the
main scheme was Catty’s.

When we were done there wasn’t anything to do but to wait for the
demonstration.

Next day—a Thursday—we heard the demonstration was to be held on
Saturday afternoon, and the place was to be the band-stand in the
square. Kinderhook was having it all decorated up with flags and
bunting, and he was going to have the band play and make a regular
celebration of it. That made Catty and me laugh some, because he was
going to get a different kind of a celebration from what he planned.

We could hardly wait for the day to come around, but after a while it
got there. Folks are always interested in any kind of a celebration,
especial if the band’s going to play, and the farmers began driving in
from miles around and hitching their automobiles to all the
hitching-posts in town. It was ’most like a Fourth of July. The real
show was set for two o’clock in the afternoon, but there was quite a lot
going on all the morning, and we didn’t miss any of it, you can bet.
Catty and I had a lunch fixed up and we ate it together under the trees,
but right after lunch we went to Atkins & Phillips’s to see Catty’s Dad.
Jack was sort of standing around in the store, but Mr. Atkins wasn’t in
sight.

“Where’s Dad?” says Catty.

“Back in the bedroom,” says Jack. “Combing his hair, I guess.”

“I’m goin’ to look him over,” says Catty.

“I wouldn’t go in there, if I were you,” says Jack.

“Why?”

“Well, I just wouldn’t. I sort of guess your father would rather you
waited till he came out.”

Catty looked worried, because he figured maybe his father had got
frightened or something, and, anyhow, Catty was the kind that had to
oversee things. If he was in anything he had to see to it personal that
it went off all right, and if he didn’t have his fingers on everything
that was mixed up with it he sort of worried for fear it would go wrong.

But he wouldn’t have hurt his father’s feelings for a lot, and if he
thought his father didn’t want him to go into the bedroom, he wouldn’t
have gone if there never was any celebration, and if Mr. Atkins never
did what it was planned for him to do.

We didn’t have more than ten minutes to wait, though, and then the door
opened and we turned around. I thought I’d swaller my tongue. There was
a man standing in the door that looked kind of familiar in a few spots,
like his nose, but that didn’t look like anybody I ever seen before in
any other spot. He was smooth-faced, without a whisker or a mustache or
anything, and he was kind of handsome, too. Yes, sir, he was a mighty
fine-looking man, with one of those kind of slender faces that look like
the man that has them has got brains, too, and maybe is _somebody_. You
know what I mean. You wouldn’t be surprised to hear he was anything. And
he looked young. Why, this man looked younger than my Dad, and my Dad
don’t look hardly old enough to be out of college. Come to find out,
this man wasn’t forty yet. That’s the truth, and I always sort of
thought he was maybe fifty.

But that wasn’t all. He had on clothes. Not just cloth that sort of
covered him up, but clothes like you see on men that come from New York
or Boston or some place. You could tell in a minute they was made on
purpose for him and nobody else, and he had on a hat that was _swell_,
and shoes, and his cuffs was just showing below his sleeves and there
was a necktie tied like you see them in pictures, with a pin sticking in
it. Say, I wouldn’t have been a bit surprised to hear this man was
president of a college or a senator or ’most any kind of a man—but he
wasn’t. He was Mr. Atkins, Catty’s father!

I looked at Catty, and Catty was looking at his father, and there were
tears running down his cheeks. Honest, there was. I kind of blinked
myself. Then Catty says kind of quiet, “Dad, honest Injun, is it you?”

“I calc’late it is, Catty,” says his father. “Dad,” says Catty, “I’m
awful proud—awful proud. I always knowed I had the _best_ Dad there was,
but I never knowed till this minute that I had the best lookin’.”

“I hid my beauty under them whiskers,” says Mr. Atkins.

“And we was tramps,” says Catty to himself. “_He_ was a tramp. Honest,
he was a tramp.... But look at him now!” I don’t wonder Catty was
flabbergasted, because I was kind of keeled over myself. There hain’t a
bigger change between a cocoon and a butterfly than there was between
the old Mr. Atkins and this new one—not that he was a butterfly, you
understand, but the change was like that.

“Think I’ll look all right, eh?” says Mr. Atkins.

“Dad,” says Catty, “nobody ever looked as good as you do since King
Solomon.”

“Well, then, we better git started,” says Mr. Atkins. “I kind of wish I
had more good language to talk with, but what I got will have to do.”

“Right after this demonstration,” says Catty, “I’m a-goin’ to see that
your language gits looked after. I’m a-goin’ to sick Jack Phillips onto
you, and he’s got to teach you to talk like they do in college.”

Mr. Atkins made a face. “Life’s awful, hain’t it?... Well, Catty, so
long’s you’ve started out to tinker with me, you might as well make a
full job of it.”

“You kin bet I’m a-goin’ to,” says Catty, with that kind of a determined
look around his mouth. “I’m goin’ to make you so respectable that the
man that wrote the book ’ll be comin’ around to you for pointers.”

“I calc’late,” says Mr. Atkins to Jack, “that he means it. I hain’t
never goin’ to have another peaceful, shiftless hour.”

_“You bet you hain’t!_” says Catty.



                             CHAPTER XXIII


The band was playing when we got there, and the crowds were packed about
the grand-stand, and Kinderhook was sitting up there with his silk hat
on and the red, white, and blue churn on a table draped with bunting.

“Looks just like he used to sellin’ patent medicine,” says Mr. Atkins.

Well, the band played quite a lot and then Kinderhook got up and made a
speech about how much he liked our town and all of us, and how he aimed
to live there always and wanted to see everybody comfortable and
prosperous. He mentioned how he had intended to keep all the stock in
his company, but how he had got to like us so well he was going to let
go of a lot of it, and then the company would really be a town affair,
owned by the citizens. He told us how prosperous it was going to make
the town, and how the town was going to grow and all that sort of thing,
and you could fairly see folks’ mouths water. Why, Kinderhook was that
kind and convincing that I was almost ready to go home and bust open my
iron savings-bank and go into the thing myself.

Then he stopped and says: “Fellow townsmen, it has been suggested that I
give a demonstration of my churn, not to convince you of its merits,
because you believe in them, but to show you how your own churn will
make butter. Mr. Wade and Captain Winton will occupy the platform as a
committee. They will put the cream in the churn, and one of them will
operate it. Then he will describe to you the ease of the operation. A
child can churn with my device. It will almost churn by itself.” Here he
laughed a little, and everybody else laughed, too.

Captain Winton and Mr. Wade got on to the band-stand then and Mr. Wade
poured cream into the churn—cream they brought with them. Captain Winton
turned the handle, and Kinderhook stood by, talking all the while and
being mighty good-natured and enjoying himself like sixty. In almost no
time at all the butter was done and they ladled it out on the table
where everybody could see it. You should have heard that crowd cheer. It
was like they were at a ball game and the home team had knocked a home
run with the bases full.

Kinderhook held up his hand and they got quiet. “There,” says he, “your
churn works, doesn’t it? _Your_ churn; not mine.”

Captain Winton shook hands with him and the folks hollered some more,
and then Kinderhook says: “Is there anybody here that would like to come
up and examine this model? Now that it is yours there can be no harm in
it.”

Catty nudged his father, and Mr. Atkins pushed up to the stand, carrying
the Criterion churn, all wrapped up, in his arms. He went up the steps
and stood there waiting.

Kinderhook looked at him and didn’t recognize him, and nobody else
recognized him, either. I guess folks was kind of surprised to see a man
that looked like a stranger, and such a fine-looking stranger, too, so
nobody else went up. They waited to see what was going to happen.

Mr. Kinderhook says: “Do you live here, sir? I don’t recall your face.”

“I live here,” says Mr. Atkins, “and I aim to live here always.”

“Your name.”

“Atkins,” says he. “I calc’late to know consid’able about churns, so I
come up to look this one over.”

“Go ahead, and welcome,” says Kinderhook. Mr. Atkins went over to the
table, and then he unwrapped our churn and stood it up beside the red,
white, and blue one.

“What’s that?” says Kinderhook.

“This,” says Mr. Atkins, “is about as good a churn as I know about, and
I sort of wanted to compare it with yours before I done any investin’.”

“You’re wasting our time,” says Kinderhook, sharplike.

“Don’t calc’late to waste any time,” says Mr. Atkins, “so if Captain
Winton and Mr. Wade will step over here we’ll sort of set these churns
side by side and compare ’em.”

“I don’t care to have my churn compared—”

“Thought you let on jest now it was _our_ churn,” says Mr. Atkins, “and
that bein’ the case, why, we’ll do some comparin’, anyhow.... Will you
come over here, Captain, and Mr. Wade?”

They came over, not getting next to what was happening at all, and then
Wade says all of a sudden: “Why, it’s Atkins! What you been doing to
yourself?”

Mr. Atkins sort of grinned, and then he turned toward Kinderhook.

“You say you never patented your churn, don’t you?”

“Yes.”

“On account of the trust?”

“Yes.”

“When did you invent it? When did you git this model done so it would
work?”

“Five months ago,” says Kinderhook. “Don’t call to mind the date, do
you?”

“Some day the middle of April.”

“It wasn’t done two years ago?”

“Certainly _not_.”

“Um!... Now, gentlemen, let’s kind of compare these churns. This here
one of mine is a Criterion, and she’s a good one. If Kinderhook’s is
better ’n this it ’ll pay us mighty well to invest. His’s got more color
to it, anyhow.”

Then the three of them began looking the churns over. As soon as Mr.
Wade recognized Mr. Atkins he knew something was going to happen, so he
wasn’t so surprised as Captain Winton, but he was surprised some when he
came to do the comparing, and Captain Winton kept getting exciteder and
exciteder. At last he bust right out and says, “Why, Mr. Kinderhook,
these churns are identical—identical!”

“Nonsense!” says Kinderhook. “I know that churn well. They are wholly
dissimilar.”

“Then my eyesight is gone,” says Captain Winton, sort of short and
stern.

“Supposin’ we take out the dasher of Kinderhook’s churn,” says Mr.
Atkins, and, while Kinderhook kicked about it and began to look pretty
worried, they took it out, and then Mr. Atkins pointed to a place on the
metal shaft and handed it to Captain Winton. The captain took one look
and then he turned to Kinderhook.

“How do you account for this,” says he, “on a churn you invented,
yourself, last April?”

“What?” says Kinderhook.

“It says—and on your own churn-dasher, too—‘Patented June 23, 1916. The
Criterion Churn Company, Albany, New York.’”

“I kin tell you how he accounts for it,” says Mr. Atkins. “It’s
carelessness on his part, that’s what it is. When he bought this
Criterion churn he’s claimin’ for his invention—over in Litchfield a few
days ago—he painted it up red, white, and blue, so as to cover up the
printing on the churn, but he didn’t figger far enough to see if there
was anythin’ stamped on the metal parts inside. Jest carelessness, I’d
say, and very reprehensible sich carelessness is, especial in a feller
that calc’lates to swindle a whole town!”

“Swindle!” yelled Mr. Kinderhook.

“That there is the i-dentical word,” says Mr. Atkins.

Then Kinderhook rushed at Mr. Atkins, but Mr. Atkins just give a shove
that near upset him, and the crowd, who hadn’t heard what was going on,
began to growl and make noises, and Kinderhook rushed again to the front
of the platform and began to talk; but Mr. Atkins went and reached for
his collar and jerked him back till he sat down kerplunk on the seat of
his pants.

“Kind of hang on to him so’s he don’t git away,” says he, and Mr. Wade
and Captain Winton stood over Kinderhook, and Kinderhook jest got pale
and shaky and didn’t dast to move.

Then Mr. Atkins went to the railing and commenced to talk to the folks.
At first they was mad, but he kept at it till they got quiet and then
told them the whole story from beginning to end, and explained to them,
simple and careful, how Kinderhook was a man that had always made a
living by swindling folks, and how this was about the biggest swindle he
had ever aimed to bring off.

Well, it was funny to watch the folks. First off they was mad at Mr.
Atkins—that they hadn’t recognized yet—for interfering with Kinderhook,
and then they were mad at him because he was keeping them from getting
rich, and then they got mad at Kinderhook not because he tried to cheat
them out of what they had, but because his scheme was a swindle and they
were cheated out of all the money they expected to get. It was mostly
disappointment they showed. Then they got right down mad and were all
for doing something mighty severe to Kinderhook, but Mr. Atkins and the
captain prevented that. It was a regular uproar and I wouldn’t have
missed it for a dollar.

In the middle of it Captain Winton shook hands with Mr. Atkins and says,
“You have performed a great service to this town to-day,” says he, “and
our people will appreciate it—when they get over their disappointment.”

“Maybe,” says Mr. Atkins.

Then, while Mr. Wade kept watch of Kinderhook, Captain Winton made a
speech, and he told those folks plenty. He told them how the town had
treated the Atkinses and boycotted them and called them names, and he
told them they ought to be ashamed of themselves, and he asked them if
Mr. Atkins looked like a tramp, and he said they ought to be grateful to
him all the rest of their lives for saving all their hard-earned money
from a swindler. And he said a lot about Mr. Atkins and how smart he had
been and what a good business man he was, but it didn’t seem to have a
lot of effect, though there was a little kind of mild cheering. They
were too disappointed about finding out they weren’t going to be rich
quick and easy.

“I should like to have you and your son take dinner with Mrs. Winton and
myself to-night,” says the captain. “I want to hear all about this thing
quietly.”

Catty heard that, and he ’most jumped out of his skin, because it wasn’t
everybody that got invited to dinner at the Wintons’, and in our town if
the Wintons had you to dinner, why, everybody else in town was more than
willing to do the same. What the Wintons said about who was real select
people was like a law.

“There,” says Catty, in a whisper, “we’re respectable at last!”

“Don’t see it changed your looks much.” says I.

“It’s changed my _feelin’s_ a heap,” says he.

Mr. Wade started to take Kinderhook down off of the band-stand, but just
as he got to the bottom Kinderhook busted away and started to scoot. He
was big and fat and dignified, but he run that time if he never run
before, and about a thousand boys and folks chasing him. He didn’t know
which way he was running—all he had in his mind was to get away from
there quick.

Well, he made toward the railroad station and there was a freight going
through pretty fast. Kinderhook made for it regardless, with the whole
dog-gone town right on his heels, and he got there just in time to make
a whale of a jump for the tail-end of the last car. He caught the handle
and hung on, and it was as funny a sight as I ever saw. The train jerked
him off his feet and he waved out behind like a flag. It looked like
he’d have to keep on waving or drop, but somehow he managed to get his
legs down and slipped and floundered around, but after a while he got a
holt on the ladder and climbed up and sprawled on the roof. Then the
freight went around a curve and that was the last we ever saw of _him_.
He didn’t look half so rich and dignified a-fluttering off of the end of
that train as he did when he was sitting on the porch of the hotel.

That was about the most exciting thing that ever happened in our time
and it was enjoyed by all.

Catty and I walked back, and we felt pretty pleased with everything. The
only worry Catty had was about his father forgetting what fork to use
when he got to Captain Winton’s, and he wanted to find his Dad to give
him a kind of final examination before they sat down at the table, but
by that time there was about a hundred folks gathered around him,
shaking hands with him and making a lot of fuss. They had begun to
realize what he had done for them, and he’d got to be a regular hero.
But he just grinned at them and didn’t say anything special, only once
in a while he’d drop a remark about his being just the same feller he
was the day before, and that he guessed he wouldn’t ever do such a thing
as save folks’ money again, because it made such a lot of trouble and
got him invited to a place where they had forks and spoons that maybe he
hadn’t read about in the decorum book. He said he didn’t know what would
happen if they set a newfangled fork down in front of him that he didn’t
know how to manage, and that, anyhow, he would rather have a ham
sandwich, because you could eat that without any forks at all.

There was a time when folks wouldn’t have thought he was funny at
all—only ignorant and shiftless, but now he was funny. He was awful
funny, and every time he opened his mouth folks would get ready to
laugh. That’s the way folks are, I guess. Just let somebody get to be a
great man all in a minute, or become prominent or rich or something, and
the very things they’ve been objecting to in him before are the things
they make a fuss over now. Folks is funny.

Catty and his father went up to Captain Winton’s to dinner, and I wished
I was invited, too, but I wasn’t, so I just hung around town, waiting
for Catty to come out. And it was then that I saw a man get off the
evening train, and the man was Mr. Sommers, of the big furniture-store
in the city. The one that had been all het up over Mr. Atkins’s
folding-table. I went right up to him and told him what had happened,
and he said he would go to the hotel and wait till morning to see Catty
and Mr. Atkins.

“I’ve got a proposition to make them,” says he, “and I bet they accept
it.”

“Will it make ’em respectable?” says I. “It ’ll make them so
respectable,” says he, “that they won’t know themselves.”

“That,” says I, “is what Catty wants more ’n anything else.”



                              CHAPTER XXIV


That evening the town was all upset.

Folks had bought lots to build houses on, and there had been some houses
built besides those Atkins & Phillips were working on, and it looked as
if there would be bad times. The new factory wouldn’t ever be built and
all the new people wouldn’t move in, and whatever would become of those
houses? Nobody would live in them, and they would be pretty close to a
dead loss. Everybody felt pretty blue, I can tell you, in spite of their
saving the money, they would have paid to Kinderhook.... And that’s how
things stood the next day when Mr. Sommers went up to Atkins &
Phillips’s shop.

Catty was there alone when Mr. Sommers and I stepped in, and they shook
hands.

“The patents are fixed up all right,” says Mr. Sommers. “Where’s your
father? Does he know anything about it yet?”

“He doesn’t know a thing, and I don’t know much,” says Catty, with a
grin. “You know I haven’t any idee at all what you got in mind.”

“Well, call in your father, and we’ll have a little talk,” says Mr.
Sommers.

Mr. Atkins came in and was introduced. He looked kind of surprised, and
a lot more so when Mr. Sommers unwrapped the little toy-table Catty’s
father had whittled out.

“I understand you made this,” says he. “Whittled her out,” says Mr.
Atkins.

“Consider it worth anything?”

“Never figgered it so. Made it for fun.”

“Sell it to me for five dollars?”

Mr. Atkins opened up his eyes. “Sure!” says he.

“With all your rights in it?”

“Sure! Why not? Nothin’ but a kind of a sort of a toy. Whittled it out,
I tell you.”

“I’m in the furniture business,” says Mr. Sommers.

“Pleased to hear it,” says Mr. Atkins, as polite as pie.

“So you’d sell this for five dollars, eh?”

“Didn’t cost me five cents to make.”

“How about you, Catty? Would you sell it for five dollars?”

“No, sir.”

“How much would you sell it for?”

“I hain’t got no idee. I calculate I’d ask you what it was really worth,
and then I’d sell it for that.”

“You’d take my word for it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Why?”

“I dunno, Mr. Sommers, but I would. You kin tell. You kin always tell.”

“If you can,” says Mr. Sommers, “you have a gift that is worth a great
deal of money.... But you’re right about one thing; you shouldn’t sell
for five dollars.”

“I’ll be blowed!” says Mr. Atkins.

“And you’d be right if you said you wouldn’t sell at all.”

“I’ll be blowed ag’in!” says Mr. Atkins.

“Would you like to listen to a proposition from me, Mr. Atkins?”

“I’d enjoy it. I kind of like to hear you talk.”

“This table is very ingenious. There isn’t a folding-table half as good
in the country. That game you invented for the boys is a daisy. Four or
five of those other things you whittled out are practical and would
appeal to the public. If they were to be made of a regular size, instead
of as toys, there should be a great deal of money in them.”

“I’d be willin’ to git some of it out, says Mr. Atkins.

“Which is exactly what we’re going to do. Your son and I have patented a
few of these things in your name. You seem to have a most ingenious
mind, Mr. Atkins. If you had nothing else to bother you, there is no
doubt you could whittle out a number of very useful and salable things.”

“What d’you think of _that_?” says Mr. Atkins.

“In short, you are a very valuable man to a business such as I have in
mind, and I want to make you a proposition.”

“Make her,” says Mr. Atkins.

“I have had one of my best salesmen show this table and game to the
trade. This seems somewhat incredible, but in ten days’ time he had
taken enough definite orders for them from wholesale houses to keep a
fair-sized factory busy. When we really work the trade we can keep busy
a mighty large-sized factory.”

“I swan to man!” says Mr. Atkins.

“I have called in novelty experts and woodenware manufacturers and I
have found what these tables can be made for. They will cost about a
dollar twenty to make. They sell at retail for three and a half. A
factory could make a profit of at least a dollar on each table—and, Mr.
Atkins, we have signed orders for more than five hundred dozens right
now.”

“For six thousand of them tables!”

“Yes, sir. And more orders for hundreds of those games. At the rate of
business, I believe we can sell five or six thousand dozen tables and
possibly five thousand games a year, to speak never a word of the other
devices. It will be a very considerable business, and I want to propose
that we go into it together.”

“I’m willin’,” says Mr. Atkins.

“I will build the factory, and have been looking around for a site.
There seems to be a good one here—with some houses already built to
accommodate the hands. There is timber handy.... Now, then, I guess we
can locate here without difficulty. Do you approve of that?”

“We wouldn’t move anywheres else,” says Catty.

“Very well, then. I will arrange for the money to build and equip the
mill, and to do business on. I will give you one quarter of the stock
for the right to use all the devices you invent while our agreement
lasts, and, besides, I will, or our company will, pay you a royalty on
each article sold. For instance, we will pay you, say, fifteen cents for
each table, which, in case we sell fifty thousand of them, would be
seventy-five hundred dollars a year. How is that? We would want you to
have a workshop in the plant and do nothing but invent novelties all
day—”

“I think up things while I’m fishin’,” says Mr. Atkins.

“Then we’ll furnish you with the best fishing outfit in the country, and
you can fish all you like.... Of course, you’ll want some salary for a
while till the thing gets to going and your royalties come in ... so we
can offer you five thousand dollars for the first year—after that your
royalties.”

“Sufferin’ mackerel!” says Mr. Atkins. “You mean it? Honest Injun—no
jokin’?”

“We mean it. We will call the concern the Atkins Novelty Mills, and if
things go as they ought to, you ought to be a very comfortably wealthy
man in a few years. We shall incorporate for two hundred thousand
dollars, so your stock alone, if we have any sort of luck, will be worth
forty thousand.”

“Don’t seem possible,” says Mr. Atkins, so flabbergasted he could hardly
speak.

“And, using your name in the company, you will be its vice-president.
How’s that, Catty? Sound all right?”

“Sounds good and respectable,” says Catty, who was so tickled and
excited he could hardly wiggle. “My goodness! Dad ’ll be makin’ more
money than any man in town, won’t he?”

“A lot more.”

“More than Captain Winton?”

“I should say so.”

Catty waggled his head. “Respectable at last,” says he.

It would surprise you how quick that factory was built and in running
order, and I guess it surprised even Mr. Sommers how quick it got to
making money. Why, they couldn’t commence to manufacture things as quick
as folks ordered them all over the United States, and before the first
factory was finished they were building additions on to it and starting
to make new things. It was a go. Mr. Sommers said it was a gold-mine—and
a fifth of it all belonged to Mr. Atkins, besides his royalties and
salary. Why, he was rich right off ... and respectable!

The way folks changed toward him and Catty was funny. Everybody but Mrs.
Gage. She kept right on hating him like everything, but I guess she was
sorry she had to. Other folks thought Mr. Atkins was the greatest man in
the world, even bigger than Captain Winton. In a little while they built
them a dandy house and kept a cook and another girl to clean up, and
they was as swell as anybody in the country. And Catty made his father
buy a silk hat and a swallow-tail coat for Sundays.

Mr. Atkins didn’t care a cent about the money or the style, but Catty
set an awful store about their being so respectable. But Mr. Atkins was
as happy as could be. He had a fine workshop at the mill with all kinds
of tools, and he jest whittled and tinkered all day long, and when he
didn’t want to tinker there, why, he went off fishing and whittled on
the bank of the river. But he wasn’t a man anybody tried to fool more
than once. Some tried it that many times, and then quit prompt. He said
he had found just what he wanted to do in life and the thing he could do
best, and anybody that knew a thing agreed with him.

“But,” says he, “I’d still be a tramp without anythin’ in the world if
it wasn’t for Catty. He grabbed me and made me over from the soles of my
feet to the tiptop hair of my head. He’s the real man in our family.”

They didn’t give up Atkins & Phillips’s, but kept it up as a contracting
concern, with Jack Phillips as boss, and _that_ made a lot of money.
Seemed like everything made money for the Atkinses.... And there you
are. Catty started in to school, and it was funny to see how few
objected to their children going to the same school with him.

He never changed a bit, and we chum around together just like we always
did, and we’re always a-going to. The other day he says to me: “Wee-wee,
it’s a whale of a job to git to be respectable in the first place, but I
got an idee it’s consid’rable of a task to _keep_ that way. You got to
plug at it all the time.” ... And so he was always at his Dad just like
before, until he got poor Mr. Atkins so he talked like a college
perfessor and looked like a senator, and even then he wasn’t satisfied.

“I aim to make Dad the biggest man in the United States,” says he, and
I’m hanged if I don’t believe he’ll do it. I wouldn’t be a mite
surprised if that kid didn’t make his Dad President.

Well, I hope he does, and then I kin go and visit in the White House.
I’ll bet Catty and me could have a lot of fun playing tricks on all the
senators.





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