Part 3 out of 5
Muscular activity and a liberal imitation of the jeremiads once
more subjugated the rebel--and the same rebellion and its
suppression in a like manner took place the following morning
before breakfast. But this was Saturday, and, without warning or
apparent reason, a remarkable change came about at noon. However,
Mr. and Mrs. Schofield were used to inexplicable changes in
Penrod, and they missed its significance.
When Mrs. Schofield, with dread in her heart, called Penrod into
the house "to take his medicine" before lunch, he came briskly,
and took it like a lamb!
"Why, Penrod, that's splendid!" she cried "You see it isn't bad,
"No'm," he said meekly. "Not when you get used to it."
"And aren't you ashamed, making all that fuss?" she went on
"Yes'm, I guess so."
"And don't you feel better? Don't you see how much good it's
doing you already?"
"Yes'm, I guess so."
Upon a holiday morning, several weeks later, Penrod and Sam
Williams revived a pastime that they called "drug store", setting
up display counters, selling chemical, cosmetic and other
compounds to imaginary customers, filling prescriptions and
variously conducting themselves in a pharmaceutical manner. They
were in the midst of affairs when Penrod interrupted his partner
and himself with a cry of recollection.
"_I_ know!" he shouted. "I got some mighty good ole stuff we
want. You wait!" And, dashing to the house, he disappeared.
Returning immediately, Penrod placed upon the principal counter
of the "drug store" a large bottle. It was a quart bottle, in
fact; and it contained what appeared to be a section of grassy
swamp immersed in a cloudy brown liquor.
"There!" Penrod exclaimed. "How's that for some good ole
"It's good ole stuff," Sam said approvingly. "Where'd you get it?
Whose is it, Penrod?"
"It WAS mine," said Penrod. "Up to about serreval days ago, it
was. They quit givin' it to me. I had to take two bottles and a
half of it."
"What did you haf to take it for?"
"I got nervous, or sumpthing," said Penrod.
"You all well again now?"
"I guess so. Uncle Passloe and cousin Ronald came to visit, and I
expect she got too busy to think about it, or sumpthing. Anyway,
she quit makin' me take it, and said I was lots better. She's
forgot all about it by this time."
Sam was looking at the bottle with great interest.
"What's all that stuff in there, Penrod?" he asked. "What's all
that stuff in there looks like grass?"
"It IS grass," said Penrod.
"How'd it get there?"
"I stuck it in there," the candid boy replied. "First they had
some horrable ole stuff in there like to killed me. But after
they got three doses down me, I took the bottle out in the yard
and cleaned her all out and pulled a lot o' good ole grass and
stuffed her pretty full and poured in a lot o' good ole hydrant
water on top of it. Then, when they got the next bottle, I did
the same way, and--"
"It don't look like water," Sam objected.
Penrod laughed a superior laugh.
"Oh, that's nothin'," he said, with the slight swagger of young
and conscious genius. "Of course, I had to slip in and shake her
up sometimes, so's they wouldn't notice."
"But what did you put in it to make it look like that?"
Penrod, upon the point of replying, happened to glance toward the
house. His gaze, lifting, rested for a moment upon a window. The
head of Mrs. Schofield was framed in that window. She nodded
gayly to her son. She could see him plainly, and she thought that
he seemed perfectly healthy, and as happy as a boy could be. She
"What DID you put in it?" Sam insisted.
And probably it was just as well that, though Mrs. Schofield
could see her son, the distance was too great for her to hear
"Oh, nothin'," Penrod replied. "Nothin' but a little good ole
CHAPTER XII. GIPSY
On a fair Saturday afternoon in November Penrod's little old dog
Duke returned to the ways of his youth and had trouble with a
strange cat on the back porch. This indiscretion, so
uncharacteristic, was due to the agitation of a surprised moment,
for Duke's experience had inclined him to a peaceful pessimism,
and he had no ambition for hazardous undertakings of any sort. He
was given to musing but not to avoidable action, and he seemed
habitually to hope for something that he was pretty sure would
not happen. Even in his sleep, this gave him an air of
Thus, being asleep in a nook behind the metal refuse-can, when
the strange cat ventured to ascend the steps of the porch, his
appearance was so unwarlike that the cat felt encouraged to
extend its field of reconnaissance for the cook had been
careless, and the backbone of a three-pound whitefish lay at the
foot of the refuse-can.
This cat was, for a cat, needlessly tall, powerful, independent
and masculine. Once, long ago, he had been a roly-poly
pepper-and-salt kitten; he had a home in those days, and a name,
"Gipsy," which he abundantly justified. He was precocious in
dissipation. Long before his adolescence, his lack of domesticity
was ominous, and he had formed bad companionships. Meanwhile, he
grew so rangy, and developed such length and power of leg and
such traits of character, that the father of the little girl who
owned him was almost convincing when he declared that the young
cat was half broncho and half Malay pirate--though, in the light
of Gipsy's later career, this seems bitterly unfair to even the
lowest orders of bronchos and Malay pirates.
No; Gipsy was not the pet for a little girl. The rosy hearthstone
and sheltered rug were too circumspect for him. Surrounded by the
comforts of middle-class respectability, and profoundly
oppressed, even in his youth, by the Puritan ideals of the
household, he sometimes experienced a sense of suffocation. He
wanted free air and he wanted free life; he wanted the lights,
the lights and the music. He abandoned the bourgeoise
irrevocably. He went forth in a May twilight, carrying the
evening beefsteak with him, and joined the underworld.
His extraordinary size, his daring and his utter lack of sympathy
soon made him the leader--and, at the same time, the terror--of
all the loose-lived cats in a wide neighbourhood. He contracted
no friendships and had no confidants. He seldom slept in the same
place twice in succession, and though he was wanted by the
police, he was not found. In appearance he did not lack
distinction of an ominous sort; the slow, rhythmic, perfectly
controlled mechanism of his tail, as he impressively walked
abroad, was incomparably sinister. This stately and dangerous
walk of his, his long, vibrant whiskers, his scars, his yellow
eye, so ice-cold, so fire-hot, haughty as the eye of Satan, gave
him the deadly air of a mousquetaire duellist. His soul was in
that walk and in that eye; it could be read--the soul of a bravo
of fortune, living on his wits and his velour, asking no favours
and granting no quarter. Intolerant, proud, sullen, yet watchful
and constantly planning--purely a militarist, believing in
slaughter as in a religion, and confident that art, science,
poetry and the good of the world were happily advanced
thereby--Gipsy had become, though technically not a wildcat,
undoubtedly the most untamed cat at large in the civilized world.
Such, in brief, was the terrifying creature that now elongated
its neck, and, over the top step of the porch, bent a calculating
scrutiny upon the wistful and slumberous Duke.
The scrutiny was searching but not prolonged. Gipsy muttered
contemptuously to himself, "Oh, sheol; I'm not afraid o' THAT!"
And he approached the fishbone, his padded feet making no noise
upon the boards. It was a desirable fishbone, large, with a
considerable portion of the fish's tail still attached to it.
It was about a foot from Duke's nose, and the little dog's dreams
began to be troubled by his olfactory nerve. This faithful
sentinel, on guard even while Duke slept, signalled that alarums
and excursions by parties unknown were taking place, and
suggested that attention might well be paid. Duke opened one
drowsy eye. What that eye beheld was monstrous.
Here was a strange experience--the horrific vision in the midst
of things so accustomed. Sunshine fell sweetly upon porch and
backyard; yonder was the familiar stable, and from its interior
came the busy hum of a carpenter shop, established that morning
by Duke's young master, in association with Samuel Williams and
Herman. Here, close by, were the quiet refuse-can and the wonted
brooms and mops leaning against the latticed wall at the end of
the porch, and there, by the foot of the steps, was the stone
slab of the cistern, with the iron cover displaced and lying
beside the round opening, where the carpenters had left it, not
half an hour ago, after lowering a stick of wood into the water,
"to season it". All about Duke were these usual and reassuring
environs of his daily life, and yet it was his fate to behold,
right in the midst of them, and in ghastly juxtaposition to his
face, a thing of nightmare and lunacy.
Gipsy had seized the fishbone by the middle. Out from one side of
his head, and mingling with his whiskers, projected the long,
spiked spine of the big fish; down from the other side of that
ferocious head dangled the fish's tail, and from above the
remarkable effect thus produced shot the intolerable glare of two
yellow eyes. To the gaze of Duke, still blurred by slumber, this
monstrosity was all of one piece the bone seemed a living part of
it. What he saw was like those interesting insect-faces that the
magnifying glass reveals to great M. Fabre. It was impossible for
Duke to maintain the philosophic calm of M. Fabre, however; there
was no magnifying glass between him and this spined and spiky
face. Indeed, Duke was not in a position to think the matter over
quietly. If he had been able to do that, he would have said to
himself: "We have here an animal of most peculiar and
unattractive appearance, though, upon examination, it seems to be
only a cat stealing a fishbone. Nevertheless, as the thief is
large beyond all my recollection of cats and has an unpleasant
stare, I will leave this spot at once."
On the contrary, Duke was so electrified by his horrid awakening
that he completely lost his presence of mind. In the very instant
of his first eye's opening, the other eye and his mouth behaved
similarly, the latter loosing upon the quiet air one shriek of
mental agony before the little dog scrambled to his feet and gave
further employment to his voice in a frenzy of profanity. At the
same time the subterranean diapason of a demoniac bass viol was
heard; it rose to a wail, and rose and rose again till it
screamed like a small siren. It was Gipsy's war-cry, and, at the
sound of it, Duke became a frothing maniac. He made a convulsive
frontal attack upon the hobgoblin--and the massacre began.
Never releasing the fishbone for an instant, Gipsy laid back his
ears in a chilling way, beginning to shrink into himself like a
concertina, but rising amidships so high that he appeared to be
giving an imitation of that peaceful beast, the dromedary. Such
was not his purpose, however, for, having attained his greatest
possible altitude, he partially sat down and elevated his right
arm after the manner of a semaphore. This semaphore arm remained
rigid for a second, threatening; then it vibrated with
inconceivable rapidity, feinting. But it was the treacherous left
that did the work. Seemingly this left gave Duke three lightning
little pats upon the right ear; but the change in his voice
indicated that these were no love-taps. He yelled "help!" and
Never had such a shattering uproar, all vocal, broken out upon a
peaceful afternoon. Gipsy possessed a vocabulary for cat-swearing
certainly second to none out of Italy, and probably equal to the
best there, while Duke remembered and uttered things he had not
thought of for years.
The hum of the carpenter shop ceased, and Sam Williams appeared
in the stable doorway. He stared insanely.
"My gorry!" he shouted. "Duke's havin' a fight with the biggest
cat you ever saw in your life! C'mon!"
His feet were already in motion toward the battlefield, with
Penrod and Herman hurrying in his wake. Onward they sped, and
Duke was encouraged by the sight and sound of these
reenforcements to increase his own outrageous clamours and to
press home his attack. But he was ill-advised. This time it was
the right arm of the semaphore that dipped--and Duke's honest
nose was but too conscious of what happened in consequence.
A lump of dirt struck the refuse-can with violence, and Gipsy
beheld the advance of overwhelming forces. They rushed upon him
from two directions, cutting off the steps of the porch.
Undaunted, the formidable cat raked Duke's nose again, somewhat
more lingeringly, and prepared to depart with his fishbone. He
had little fear for himself, because he was inclined to think
that, unhampered, he could whip anything on earth; still, things
seemed to be growing rather warm and he saw nothing to prevent
And though he could laugh in the face of so unequal an antagonist
as Duke, Gipsy felt that he was never at his best or able to do
himself full justice unless he could perform that feline
operation inaccurately known as "spitting". To his notion, this
was an absolute essential to combat; but, as all cats of the
slightest pretensions to technique perfectly understand, it can
neither be well done nor produce the best effects unless the
mouth be opened to its utmost capacity so as to expose the
beginnings of the alimentary canal, down which--at least that is
the intention of the threat--the opposing party will soon be
passing. And Gipsy could not open his mouth without relinquishing
Therefore, on small accounts he decided to leave the field to his
enemies and to carry the fishbone elsewhere. He took two giant
leaps. The first landed him upon the edge of the porch. There,
without an instant's pause, he gathered his fur-sheathed muscles,
concentrated himself into one big steel spring, and launched
himself superbly into space. He made a stirring picture, however
brief, as he left the solid porch behind him and sailed upward on
an ascending curve into the sunlit air. His head was proudly up;
he was the incarnation of menacing power and of self-confidence.
It is possible that the whitefish's spinal column and flopping
tail had interfered with his vision, and in launching himself he
may have mistaken the dark, round opening of the cistern for its
dark, round cover. In that case, it was a leap calculated and
executed with precision, for as the boys clamoured their pleased
astonishment, Gipsy descended accurately into the orifice and
passed majestically from public view, with the fishbone still in
his mouth and his haughty head still high.
There was a grand splash!
CHAPTER XIII. CONCERNING TROUSERS
Duke, hastening to place himself upon the stone slab, raged at
his enemy in safety; and presently the indomitable Gipsy could be
heard from the darkness below, turning on the bass of his siren,
threatening the water that enveloped him, returning Duke's
profanity with interest, and cursing the general universe.
"You hush!" Penrod stormed, rushing at Duke. "You go 'way from
here! You DUKE!"
And Duke, after prostrating himself, decided that it would be a
relief to obey and to consider his responsibilities in this
matter at an end. He withdrew beyond a corner of the house,
"Why'n't you let him bark at the ole cat?" Sam Williams inquired,
sympathizing with the oppressed. "I guess you'd want to bark if a
cat had been treatin' you the way this one did Duke."
"Well, we got to get this cat out o' here, haven't we?" Penrod
"What fer?" Herman asked. "Mighty mean cat! If it was me, I let
'at ole cat drownd."
"My goodness," Penrod cried. "What you want to let it drown for?
Anyways, we got to use this water in our house, haven't we? You
don't s'pose people like to use water that's got a cat drowned in
it, do you? It gets pumped up into the tank in the attic and goes
all over the house, and I bet you wouldn't want to see your
father and mother usin' water a cat was drowned in. I guess I
don't want my father and moth--"
"Well, how CAN we get it out?" Sam asked, cutting short this
virtuous oration. "It's swimmin' around down there," he
continued, peering into the cistern, "and kind of roaring, and it
must of dropped its fishbone, 'cause it's spittin' just awful. I
guess maybe it's mad 'cause it fell in there."
"I don't know how it's goin' to be got out," said Penrod; "but I
know it's GOT to be got out, and that's all there is to it! I'm
not goin' to have my father and mother--"
"Well, once," said Sam, "once when a kitten fell down OUR
cistern, Papa took a pair of his trousers, and he held 'em by the
end of one leg, and let 'em hang down through the hole till the
end of the other leg was in the water, and the kitten went and
clawed hold of it, and he pulled it right up, easy as anything.
Well, that's the way to do now, 'cause if a kitten could keep
hold of a pair of trousers, I guess this ole cat could. It's the
biggest cat _I_ ever saw! All you got to do is to go and ast your
mother for a pair of your father's trousers, and we'll have this
ole cat out o' there in no time."
Penrod glanced toward the house perplexedly.
"She ain't home, and I'd be afraid to--"
"Well, take your own, then," Sam suggested briskly.
"You take 'em off in the stable, and wait in there, and I and
Herman'll get the cat out."
Penrod had no enthusiasm for this plan; but he affected to
"Well, I don't know 'bout that," he said, and then, after gazing
attentively into the cistern and making some eye measurements of
his knickerbockers, he shook his head. "They'd be too short. They
wouldn't be NEAR long enough!"
"Then neither would mine," said Sam promptly.
"Herman's would," said Penrod.
"No, suh!" Herman had recently been promoted to long trousers,
and he expressed a strong disinclination to fall in with Penrod's
idea. "My Mammy sit up late nights sewin' on 'ese britches fer
me, makin' 'em outen of a pair o' pappy's, an' they mighty good
britches. Ain' goin' have no wet cat climbin' up 'em! No, suh!"
Both boys began to walk toward him argumentatively, while he
moved slowly backward, shaking his head and denying them.
"I don't keer how much you talk!" he said. "Mammy gave my OLE
britches to Verman, an' 'ese here ones on'y britches I got now,
an' I'm go' to keep 'em on me--not take 'em off an' let ole wet
cat splosh all over 'em. My Mammy, she sewed 'em fer ME, I
reckon--d'in' sew 'em fer no cat!"
"Oh, PLEASE, come on, Herman!" Penrod begged pathetically. "You
don't want to see the poor cat drown, do you?"
"Mighty mean cat!" Herman said. "Bet' let 'at ole pussy-cat 'lone
whur it is."
"Why, it'll only take a minute," Sam urged. "You just wait inside
the stable and you'll have 'em back on again before you could say
"I ain' got no use to say no Jack Robason," said Herman. "An' I
ain' go' to han' over my britches fer NO cat!"
"Listen here, Herman," Penrod began pleadingly. "You can watch us
every minute through the crack in the stable door, can't you? We
ain't goin' to HURT 'em any, are we? You can see everything we
do, can't you? Look at here, Herman: you know that little saw you
said you wished it was yours, in the carpenter shop? Well,
honest, if you'll just let us take your trousers till we get this
poor ole cat out the cistern, I'll give you that little saw."
Herman was shaken; he yearned for the little saw.
"You gimme her to keep?" he asked cautiously. "You gimme her
befo' I han' over my britches?"
"You'll see!" Penrod ran into the stable, came back with the
little saw, and placed it in Herman's hand. Herman could resist
no longer, and two minutes later he stood in the necessary
negligee within the shelter of the stable door, and watched,
through the crack, the lowering of the surrendered garment into
the cistern. His gaze was anxious, and surely nothing could have
been more natural, since the removal had exposed Herman's brown
legs, and, although the weather was far from inclement, November
is never quite the month for people to be out of doors entirely
without leg-covering. Therefore, he marked with impatience that
Sam and Penrod, after lowering the trousers partway to the water,
had withdrawn them and fallen into an argument.
"Name o' goo'ness!" Herman shouted. "I ain' got no time fer you
all do so much talkin'. If you go' git 'at cat out, why'n't you
"Wait just a minute," Penrod called, and he came running to the
stable, seized upon a large wooden box, which the carpenters had
fitted with a lid and leather hinges, and returned with it
cumbersomely to the cistern. "There!" he said. "That'll do to put
it in. It won't get out o' that, I bet you."
"Well, I'd like to know what you want to keep it for," Sam said
peevishly, and, with the suggestion of a sneer, he added, "I
s'pose you think somebody'll pay about a hunderd dollars reward
or something, on account of a cat!"
"I don't, either!" Penrod protested hotly. "I know what I'm
doin', I tell you."
"Well, what on earth--"
"I'll tell you some day, won't I?" Penrod cried. "I got my
reasons for wantin' to keep this cat, and I'm goin' to keep it.
YOU don't haf to ke--"
"Well, all right," Sam said shortly. "Anyways, it'll be dead if
you don't hurry."
"It won't, either," Penrod returned, kneeling and peering down
upon the dark water. "Listen to him! He's growlin' and spittin'
away like anything! It takes a mighty fine-blooded cat to be as
fierce as that. I bet you most cats would 'a' given up and
drowned long ago. The water's awful cold, and I expect he was
perty supprised when he lit in it."
"Herman's makin' a fuss again," Sam said. "We better get the ole
cat out o' there if we're goin' to."
"Well, this is the way we'll do," Penrod said authoritatively:
"I'll let you hold the trousers, Sam. You lay down and keep hold
of one leg, and let the other one hang down till its end is in
the water. Then you kind of swish it around till it's somewheres
where the cat can get hold of it, and soon as he does, you pull
it up, and be mighty careful so's it don't fall off. Then I'll
grab it and stick it in the box and slam the lid down."
Rather pleased to be assigned to the trousers, Sam accordingly
extended himself at full length upon the slab and proceeded to
carry out Penrod's instructions. Meanwhile, Penrod, peering from
above, inquired anxiously for information concerning this work of
"Can you see it, Sam? Why don't it grab hold? What's it doin'
"It's spittin' at Herman's trousers," said Sam. "My gracious, but
it's a fierce cat! If it's mad all the time like this, you better
not ever try to pet it much. Now it's kind o' sniffin' at the
trousers. It acks to me as if it was goin' to ketch hold. Yes,
it's stuck one claw in 'em--OW!"
Sam uttered a blood-curdling shriek and jerked convulsively. The
next instant, streaming and inconceivably gaunt, the ravening
Gipsy appeared with a final bound upon Sam's shoulder. It was not
in Gipsy's character to be drawn up peaceably; he had ascended
the trousers and Sam's arm without assistance and in his own way.
Simultaneously--for this was a notable case of everything
happening at once--there was a muffled, soggy splash, and the
unfortunate Herman, smit with prophecy in his seclusion, uttered
a dismal yell. Penrod laid hands upon Gipsy, and, after a
struggle suggestive of sailors landing a man-eating shark,
succeeded in getting him into the box, and sat upon the lid
Sam had leaped to his feet, empty handed and vociferous.
"Ow ow, OUCH!" he shouted, as he rubbed his suffering arm and
shoulder. Then, exasperated by Herman's lamentations, he called
angrily: "Oh, what _I_ care for your ole britches? I guess if
you'd 'a' had a cat climb up YOU, you'd 'a' dropped 'em a hunderd
However, upon excruciating entreaty, he consented to explore the
surface of the water with a clothes-prop, but reported that the
luckless trousers had disappeared in the depths, Herman having
forgotten to remove some "fishin' sinkers" from his pockets
before making the fated loan.
Penrod was soothing a lacerated wrist in his mouth.
"That's a mighty fine-blooded cat," he remarked. "I expect it'd
got away from pretty near anybody, 'specially if they didn't know
much about cats. Listen at him, in the box, Sam. I bet you never
heard a cat growl as loud as that in your life. I shouldn't
wonder it was part panther or sumpthing."
Sam began to feel more interest and less resentment.
"I tell you what we can do, Penrod," he said: "Let's take it in
the stable and make the box into a cage. We can take off the
hinges and slide back the lid a little at a time, and nail some
o' those laths over the front for bars."
"That's just exackly what I was goin' to say!" Penrod exclaimed.
"I already thought o' that, Sam. Yessir, we'll make it just like
a reg'lar circus-cage, and our good ole cat can look out from
between the bars and growl. It'll come in pretty handy if we ever
decide to have another show. Anyways, we'll have her in there,
good and tight, where we can watch she don't get away. I got a
mighty good reason to keep this cat, Sam. You'll see."
"Well, why don't you--" Sam was interrupted by n vehement appeal
from the stable. "Oh, we're comin'!" he shouted. "We got to bring
our cat in its cage, haven't we?"
"Listen, Herman," Penrod called absent-mindedly. "Bring us some
bricks, or something awful heavy to put on the lid of our cage,
so we can carry it without our good ole cat pushin' the lid
Herman explained with vehemence that it would not be right for
him to leave the stable upon any errand until just restorations
had been made. He spoke inimically of the cat that had been the
occasion of his loss, and he earnestly requested that operations
with the clothes-prop be resumed in the cistern. Sam and Penrod
declined, on the ground that this was absolutely proven to be of
no avail, and Sam went to look for bricks.
These two boys were not unfeeling. They sympathized with Herman;
but they regarded the trousers as a loss about which there was no
use in making so much outcry. To them, it was part of an episode
that ought to be closed. They had done their best, and Sam had
not intended to drop the trousers; that was something no one
could have helped, and therefore no one was to be blamed. What
they were now interested in was the construction of a circus-cage
for their good ole cat.
"It's goin' to be a cage just exactly like circus-cages, Herman,"
Penrod said, as he and Sam set the box down on the stable floor.
"You can help us nail the bars and--"
"I ain' studyin' 'bout no bars!" Herman interrupted fiercely.
"What good you reckon nailin' bars go' do me if Mammy holler fer
me? You white boys sutn'y show me bad day! I try treat people
nice, 'n'en they go th'ow my britches down cistern!
"I did not!" Sam protested. "That ole cat just kicked 'em out o'
my hand with its hind feet while its front ones were stickin' in
my arm. I bet YOU'D of--"
"Blame it on cat!" Herman sneered. "'At's nice! Jes' looky here
minute: Who'd I len' 'em britches to? D' I len' 'em britches to
thishere cat? No, suh; you know I didn'! You know well's any man
I len' 'em britches to you--an' you tuck an' th'owed 'em down
"Oh, PLEASE hush up about your old britches!" Penrod said
plaintively. "I got to think how we're goin' to fix our cage up
right, and you make so much noise I can't get my mind on it.
Anyways, didn't I give you that little saw?"
"Li'l saw!" Herman cried, unmollified. "Yes; an' thishere li'l
saw go' do me lot o' good when I got to go home!"
"Why, it's only across the alley to your house, Herman!" said
Sam. "That ain't anything at all to step over there, and you've
got your little saw."
"Aw right! You jes' take off you' closes an' step 'cross the
alley," said Herman bitterly. "I give you li'l saw to carry!"
Penrod had begun to work upon the cage.
"Now listen here, Herman," he said: "if you'll quit talkin' so
much, and kind of get settled down or sumpthing, and help us fix
a good cage for our panther, well, when mamma comes home about
five o'clock, I'll go and tell her there's a poor boy got his
britches burned up in a fire, and how he's waitin' out in the
stable for some, and I'll tell her I promised him. Well, she'll
give me a pair I wore for summer; honest she will, and you can
put 'em on as quick as anything."
"There, Herman," said Sam; "now you're all right again!"
"WHO all right?" Herman complained. "I like feel sump'm' roun' my
laigs befo' no five o'clock!"
"Well, you're sure to get 'em by then," Penrod promised. "It
ain't winter yet, Herman. Come on and help saw these laths for
the bars, Herman, and Sam and I'll nail 'em on. It ain't long
till five o'clock, Herman, and then you'll just feel fine!"
Herman was not convinced; but he found himself at a disadvantage
in the argument. The question at issue seemed a vital one to
him--and yet his two opponents evidently considered it of minor
importance. Obviously, they felt that the promise for five
o'clock had settled the whole matter conclusively; but to Herman
this did not appear to be the fact. However, he helplessly
suffered himself to be cajoled back into carpentry, though he was
extremely ill at ease and talked a great deal of his misfortune.
He shivered and grumbled, and, by his passionate urgings,
compelled Penrod to go into the house so many times to see what
time it was by the kitchen clock that both his companions almost
lost patience with him.
"There!" said Penrod, returning from performing this errand for
the fourth time. "It's twenty minutes after three, and I'm not
goin' in to look at that ole clock again if I haf to die for it!
I never heard anybody make such a fuss in my life, and I'm
gettin' tired of it. Must think we want to be all night fixin'
this cage for our panther! If you ask me to go and see what time
it is again, Herman, I'm a-goin' to take back about askin' mamma
at five o'clock, and THEN where'll you be?"
"Well, it seem like mighty long aft'noon to me," Herman sighed.
"I jes' like to know what time it is gettin' to be now!"
"Look out!" Penrod warned him. "You heard what I was just tellin'
you about how I'd take back--"
"Nemmine," Herman said hurriedly. "I wasn' astin' you. I jes'
sayin' sump'm' kind o' to myse'f like."
CHAPTER XIV. CAMERA WORK IN THE JUNGLE
The completed cage, with Gipsy behind the bars, framed a
spectacle sufficiently thrilling and panther-like. Gipsy raved,
"spat", struck virulently at taunting fingers, turned on his
wailing siren for minutes at a time, and he gave his imitation of
a dromedary almost continuously. These phenomena could be
intensified in picturesqueness, the boys discovered, by rocking
the cage a little, tapping it with a hammer, or raking the bars
with a stick. Altogether, Gipsy was having a lively afternoon.
There came a vigorous rapping on the alley door of the stable,
and Verman was admitted.
"Yay, Verman!" cried Sam Williams. "Come and look at our good ole
Another curiosity, however, claimed Verman's attention. His eyes
opened wide, and he pointed at Herman's legs.
"Wha' ma' oo? Mammy hay oo hip ap hoe-woob."
"Mammy tell ME git 'at stove-wood?" Herman interpreted
resentfully. "How'm I go' git 'at stove-wood when my britches
down bottom 'at cistern, I like you answer ME please? You shet
'at do' behime you!"
Verman complied, and again pointing to his brother's legs,
requested to be enlightened.
"Sin' I tole you once they down bottom 'at cistern," Herman
shouted, much exasperated. "You wan' know how come so, you ast
Sam Williams. He say thishere cat tuck an' th'owed 'em down
Sam, who was busy rocking the cage, remained cheerfully absorbed
in that occupation.
"Come look at our good ole panther, Verman," he called. "I'll get
this circus-cage rockin' right good, an' then--"
"Wait a minute," said Penrod; "I got sumpthing I got to think
about. Quit rockin' it! I guess I got a right to think about
sumpthing without havin' to go deaf, haven't I?"
Having obtained the quiet so plaintively requested, he knit his
brow and gazed intently upon Verman, then upon Herman, then upon
Gipsy. Evidently his idea was fermenting. He broke the silence
with a shout.
"_I_ know, Sam! I know what we'll do NOW! I just thought of it,
and it's goin' to be sumpthing I bet there aren't any other boys
in this town could do, because where would they get any good ole
panther like we got, and Herman and Verman? And they'd haf to
have a dog, too--and we got our good ole Dukie, I guess. I bet we
have the greatest ole time this afternoon we ever had in our
His enthusiasm roused the warm interest of Sam--and Verman,
though Herman, remaining cold and suspicious, asked for details.
"An' I like to hear if it's sump'm'," he concluded, "what's go'
git me my britches back outen 'at cistern!"
"Well, it ain't exackly that," said Penrod. "It's different from
that. What I'm thinkin' about, well, for us to have it the way it
ought to be, so's you and Verman would look like natives--well,
Verman ought to take off his britches, too."
"Mo!" said Verman, shaking his head violently. "Mo!"
"Well, wait a minute, can't you?" Sam Williams said. "Give Penrod
a chance to say what he wants to, first, can't you? Go on,
"Well, you know, Sam," said Penrod, turning to this sympathetic
auditor; "you remember that movin'-pitcher show we went to,
'Fortygraphing Wild Animals in the Jungle'. Well, Herman wouldn't
have to do a thing more to look like those natives we saw that
the man called the 'beaters'. They were dressed just about like
the way he is now, and if Verman--"
"MO!" said Verman.
"Oh, WAIT a minute, Verman!" Sam entreated. "Go on, Penrod."
"Well, we can make a mighty good jungle up in the loft," Penrod
continued eagerly. "We can take that ole dead tree that's out in
the alley and some branches, and I bet we could have the best
jungle you ever saw. And then we'd fix up a kind of place in
there for our panther, only, of course, we'd haf to keep him in
the cage so's he wouldn't run away; but we'd pretend he was
loose. And then you remember how they did with that calf? Well,
we'd have Duke for the tied-up calf for the panther to come out
and jump on, so they could fortygraph him. Herman can be the
chief beater, and we'll let Verman be the other beaters, and
"Yay!" shouted Sam Williams. "I'll be the fortygraph man!"
"No," said Penrod; "you be the one with the gun that guards the
fortygraph man, because I'm the fortygraph man already. You can
fix up a mighty good gun with this carpenter shop, Sam. We'll
make spears for our good ole beaters, too, and I'm goin' to make
me a camera out o' that little starch-box and a bakin'-powder can
that's goin' to be a mighty good ole camera. We can do lots more
"Yay!" Sam cried. "Let's get started!" He paused. "Wait a minute,
Penrod. Verman says he won't--"
"Well, he's got to!" said Penrod.
"I momp!" Verman insisted, almost distinctly.
They began to argue with him; but, for a time, Verman remained
firm. They upheld the value of dramatic consistency, declaring
that a beater dressed as completely as he was "wouldn't look like
anything at all". He would "spoil the whole biznuss", they said,
and they praised Herman for the faithful accuracy of his costume.
They also insisted that the garment in question was much too
large for Verman, anyway, having been so recently worn by Herman
and turned over to Verman with insufficient alteration, and they
expressed surprise that "anybody with any sense" should make such
a point of clinging to a misfit.
Herman sided against his brother in this controversy, perhaps
because a certain loneliness, of which he was censcious, might be
assuaged by the company of another trouserless person--or it may
be that his motive was more sombre. Possibly he remembered that
Verman's trousers were his own former property and might fit him
in case the promise for five o'clock turned out badly. At all
events, Verman finally yielded under great pressure, and
consented to appear in the proper costume of the multitude of
beaters it now became his duty to personify.
Shouting, the boys dispersed to begin the preparation of their
jungle scene. Sam and Penrod went for branches and the dead tree,
while Herman and Verman carried the panther in his cage to the
loft, where the first thing that Verman did was to hang his
trousers on a nail in a conspicuous and accessible spot near the
doorway. And with the arrival of Penrod and Sam, panting and
dragging no inconsiderable thicket after them, the coloured
brethren began to take a livelier interest in things. Indeed,
when Penrod, a little later, placed in their hands two spears,
pointed with tin, their good spirits were entirely restored, and
they even began to take a pride in being properly uncostumed
Sam's gun and Penrod's camera were entirely satisfactory,
especially the latter. The camera was so attractive, in fact,
that the hunter and the chief beater and all the other beaters
immediately resigned and insisted upon being photographers. Each
had to be given a "turn" before the jungle project could be
"Now, for goodnesses' sakes," said Penrod, taking the camera from
Verman, "I hope you're done, so's we can get started doin
something like we ought to! We got to have Duke for a tied-up
calf. We'll have to bring him and tie him out here in front the
jungle, and then the panther'll come out and jump on him. Wait,
and I'll go bring him."
Departing upon this errand, Penrod found Duke enjoying the
declining rays of the sun in the front yard.
"Hyuh, Duke!" called his master, in an indulgent tone. "Come on,
good ole Dukie! Come along!"
Duke rose conscientiously and followed him.
"I got him, men!" Penrod called from the stairway. "I got our
good ole calf all ready to be tied up. Here he is!" And he
appeared in the doorway with the unsuspecting little dog beside
Gipsy, who had been silent for some moments, instantly raised his
banshee battlecry, and Duke yelped in horror. Penrod made a wild
effort to hold him; but Duke was not to be detained. Unnatural
strength and activity came to him in his delirium, and, for the
second or two that the struggle lasted, his movements were too
rapid for the eyes of the spectators to follow--merely a whirl
and blur in the air could be seen. Then followed a sound of
violent scrambling and Penrod sprawled alone at the top of the
"Well, why'n't you come and help me?" he demanded indignantly. "I
couldn't get him back now if I was to try a million years!"
"What we goin' to do about it?" Sam asked.
Penrod rose and dusted his knees. "We got to get along without
any tied-up calf--that's certain! But I got to take those
fortygraphs SOME way or other!"
"Me an' Verman aw ready begin 'at beatin'," Herman suggested.
"You tole us we the beaters."
"Well, wait a minute," said Penrod, whose feeling for realism in
drama was always alert. "I want to get a mighty good pitcher o'
that ole panther this time." As he spoke, he threw open the wide
door intended for the delivery of hay into the loft from the
alley below. "Now, bring the cage over here by this door so's I
can get a better light; it's gettin' kind of dark over where the
jungle is. We'll pretend there isn't any cage there, and soon as
I get him fortygraphed, I'll holler, 'Shoot, men!' Then you must
shoot, Sam--and Herman, you and Verman must hammer on the cage
with your spears, and holler: 'Hoo! Hoo!' and pretend you're
"Well, we aw ready!" said Herman. "Hoo! Hoo!"
"Wait a minute," Penrod interposed, frowningly surveying the
cage. "I got to squat too much to get my camera fixed right." He
assumed various solemn poses, to be interpreted as those of a
photographer studying his subject. "No," he said finally; "it
won't take good that way."
"My gootness!" Herman exclaimed. "When we goin' begin 'at
"Here!" Apparently Penrod had solved a weighty problem. "Bring
that busted ole kitchen chair, and set the panther up on it.
There! THAT'S the ticket! This way, it'll make a mighty good
pitcher!" He turned to Sam importantly. "Well, Jim, is the chief
and all his beaters here?"
"Yes, Bill; all here," Sam responded, with an air of loyalty.
"Well, then, I guess we're ready," said Penrod, in his deepest
voice. "Beat, men."
Herman and Verman were anxious to beat. They set up the loudest
uproar of which they were capable. "Hoo! Hoo! Hoo!" they
bellowed, flailing the branches with their spears and stamping
heavily upon the floor. Sam, carried away by the elan of the
performance, was unable to resist joining them. "Hoo! Hoo! Hoo!"
he shouted. "Hoo! Hoo! Hoo!" And as the dust rose from the floor
to their stamping, the three of them produced such a din and
hoo-hooing as could be made by nothing on earth except boys.
"Back, men!" Penrod called, raising his voice to the utmost.
"Back for your lives. The PA-A-ANTHER! Now I'm takin' his
pitcher. Click, click! Shoot, men; shoot!"
"Bing! Bing!" shouted Sam, levelling his gun at the cage, while
Herman and Verman hammered upon it, and Gipsy cursed boys, the
world and the day he was born. "Bing! Bing! Bing!"
"You missed him!" screamed Penrod. "Give me that gun!" And
snatching it from Sam's unwilling hand, he levelled it at the
"BING!" he roared.
Simultaneously there was the sound of another report; but this
was an actual one and may best be symbolized by the statement
that it was a whack. The recipient was Herman, and, outrageously
surprised and pained, he turned to find himself face to face with
a heavily built coloured woman who had recently ascended the
stairs and approached the preoccupied hunters from the rear. In
her hand was a lath, and, even as Herman turned, it was again
wielded, this time upon Verman.
"Yes; you bettuh holler, 'Mammy!"' she panted. "My goo'ness, if
yo' pappy don' lam you to-night! Ain' you got no mo' sense 'an to
let white boys 'suede you play you Affikin heathums? Whah you
"Yonnuh Verman's," quavered Herman.
Choking, Herman answered bravely:
"'At ole cat tuck an' th'owed 'em down cistern!"
Exasperated almost beyond endurance, she lifted the lath again.
But unfortunately, in order to obtain a better field of action,
she moved backward a little, coming in contact with the bars of
the cage, a circumstance that she overlooked. More unfortunately
still, the longing of the captive to express his feelings was
such that he would have welcomed the opportunity to attack an
elephant. He had been striking and scratching at inanimate things
and at boys out of reach for the past hour; but here at last was
his opportunity. He made the most of it.
"I learn you tell me cat th'owed--OOOOH!"
The coloured woman leaped into the air like an athlete, and,
turning with a swiftness astounding in one of her weight, beheld
the semaphoric arm of Gipsy again extended between the bars and
hopefully reaching for her. Beside herself, she lifted her right
foot briskly from the ground, and allowed the sole of her shoe to
come in contact with Gipsy's cage.
The cage moved from the tottering chair beneath it. It passed
through the yawning hay-door and fell resoundingly to the alley
below, where--as Penrod and Sam, with cries of dismay, rushed to
the door and looked down--it burst asunder and disgorged a large,
bruised and chastened cat. Gipsy paused and bent one strange look
upon the broken box. Then he shook his head and departed up the
alley, the two boys watching him till he was out of sight.
Before they turned, a harrowing procession issued from the
carriage-house doors beneath them. Herman came first, hurriedly
completing a temporary security in Verman's trousers. Verman
followed, after a little reluctance that departed coincidentally
with some inspiriting words from the rear. He crossed the alley
hastily, and his Mammy stalked behind, using constant eloquence
and a frequent lath. They went into the small house across the
way and closed the door.
Then Sam turned to Penrod.
"Penrod," he said thoughtfully, "was it on account of
fortygraphing in the jungle you wanted to keep that cat?"
"No; that was a mighty fine-blooded cat. We'd of made some
"You mean when we'd sell tickets to look at it in its cage?"
Penrod shook his head, and if Gipsy could have overheard and
understood his reply, that atrabilious spirit, almost broken by
the events of the day, might have considered this last blow the
most overwhelming of all.
"No," said Penrod; "when she had kittens."
CHAPTER XV. A MODEL LETTER TO A FRIEND
On Monday morning Penrod's faith in the coming of another
Saturday was flaccid and lustreless. Those Japanese lovers who
were promised a reunion after ten thousand years in separate
hells were brighter with hope than he was. On Monday Penrod was
virtually an agnostic.
Nowhere upon his shining morning face could have been read any
eager anticipation of useful knowledge. Of course he had been
told that school was for his own good; in fact, he had been told
and told and told, but the words conveying this information,
meaningless at first, assumed, with each repetition, more and
more the character of dull and unsolicited insult.
He was wholly unable to imagine circumstances, present or future,
under which any of the instruction and training he was now
receiving could be of the slightest possible use or benefit to
himself; and when he was informed that such circumstances would
frequently arise in his later life, he but felt the slur upon his
coming manhood and its power to prevent any such unpleasantness.
If it were possible to place a romantic young Broadway actor and
athlete under hushing supervision for six hours a day, compelling
him to bend his unremittent attention upon the city directory of
Sheboygan, Wisconsin, he could scarce be expected to respond
genially to frequent statements that the compulsion was all for
his own good. On the contrary, it might be reasonable to conceive
his response as taking the form of action, which is precisely the
form that Penrod's smouldering impulse yearned to take.
To Penrod school was merely a state of confinement, envenomed by
mathematics. For interminable periods he was forced to listen to
information concerning matters about which he had no curiosity
whatever; and he had to read over and over the dullest passages
in books that bored him into stupors, while always there overhung
the preposterous task of improvising plausible evasions to
conceal the fact that he did not know what he had no wish to
know. Likewise, he must always be prepared to avoid incriminating
replies to questions that he felt nobody had a real and natural
right to ask him. And when his gorge rose and his inwards
revolted, the hours became a series of ignoble misadventures and
petty disgraces strikingly lacking in privacy.
It was usually upon Wednesday that his sufferings culminated; the
nervous strength accumulated during the holiday hours at the end
of the week would carry him through Monday and Tuesday; but by
Wednesday it seemed ultimately proven that the next Saturday
actually never was coming, "this time", and the strained spirit
gave way. Wednesday was the day averaging highest in Penrod's
list of absences; but the time came when he felt that the
advantages attendant upon his Wednesday "sick headache" did not
compensate for its inconveniences.
For one thing, this illness had become so symmetrically recurrent
that even the cook felt that he was pushing it too far, and the
liveliness of her expression, when he was able to leave his couch
and take the air in the backyard at about ten o'clock, became
more disagreeable to him with each convalescence. There visibly
increased, too, about the whole household, an atmosphere of
uncongeniality and suspicion so pronounced that every successive
illness was necessarily more severe, and at last the patient felt
obliged to remain bedded until almost eleven, from time to time
giving forth pathetic little sounds eloquent of anguish
triumphing over Stoic endurance, yet lacking a certain conviction
Finally, his father enacted, and his mother applied, a new and
distinctly special bit of legislation, explaining it with simple
candour to the prospective beneficiary.
"Whenever you really ARE sick," they said, "you can go out and
play as soon as you're well--that is, if it happens on Saturday.
But when you're sick on a school-day, you'll stay in bed till the
next morning. This is going to do you good, Penrod."
Physically, their opinion appeared to be affirmed, for Wednesday
after Wednesday passed without any recurrence of the attack; but
the spiritual strain may have been damaging. And it should be
added that if Penrod's higher nature did suffer from the strain,
he was not unique. For, confirming the effect of Wednesday upon
boys in general, it is probable that, if full statistics
concerning cats were available, they would show that cats dread
Wednesdays, and that their fear is shared by other animals, and
would be shared, to an extent by windows, if windows possessed
nervous systems. Nor must this probable apprehension on the part
of cats and the like be thought mere superstition. Cats have
superstitions, it is true; but certain actions inspired by the
sight of a boy with a missile in his hand are better evidence of
the workings of logic upon a practical nature than of faith in
Moreover, the attention of family physicians and specialists
should be drawn to these significant though obscure phenomena;
for the suffering of cats is a barometer of the nerve-pressure of
boys, and it may be accepted as sufficiently established that
Wednesday--after school-hours--is the worst time for cats.
After the promulgation of that parental edict, "You'll stay in
bed till the next morning", four weeks went by unflawed by a
single absence from the field of duty; but, when the fifth
Wednesday came, Penrod held sore debate within himself before he
finally rose. In fact, after rising, and while actually engaged
with his toilet, he tentatively emitted the series of little
moans that was his wonted preliminary to a quiet holiday at home;
and the sound was heard (as intended) by Mr. Schofield, who was
passing Penrod's door on his way to breakfast.
"ALL right!" the father said, making use of peculiar and
unnecessary emphasis. "Stay in bed till to-morrow morning.
Castor-oil, this time, too."
Penrod had not hoped much for his experiment; nevertheless his
rebellious blood was sensibly inflamed by the failure, and he
accompanied his dressing with a low murmuring--apparently a
bitter dialogue between himself and some unknown but powerful
Thus he muttered:
"Well, they better NOT!" "Well, what can I DO about it?" "Well,
I'D show 'em!" "Well, I WILL show 'em!" "Well, you OUGHT to show
'em; that's the way _I_ do! I just shake 'em around, and say,
'Here! I guess you don't know who you're talkin' to like that!
You better look out!'" "Well, that's the way _I_'m goin' to do!"
"Well, go on and DO it, then!" "Well, I AM goin'--"
The door of the next room was slightly ajar; now it swung wide,
and Margaret appeared.
"Penrod, what on earth are you talking about?"
"Nothin'. None o' your--"
"Well, hurry to breakfast, then; it's getting late."
Lightly she went, humming a tune, leaving the door of her room
open, and the eyes of Penrod, as he donned his jacket, chanced to
fall upon her desk, where she had thoughtlessly left a letter--a
private missive just begun, and intended solely for the eyes of
Mr. Robert Williams, a senior at a far university.
In such a fashion is coincidence the architect of misfortune.
Penrod's class in English composition had been instructed, the
previous day, to concoct at home and bring to class on Wednesday
morning, "a model letter to a friend on some subject of general
interest." Penalty for omission to perform this simple task was
definite; whosoever brought no letter would inevitably be "kept
in" after school, that afternoon, until the letter was written,
and it was precisely a premonition of this misfortune that had
prompted Penrod to attempt his experimental moaning upon his
father, for, alas! he had equipped himself with no model letter,
nor any letter whatever.
In stress of this kind, a boy's creed is that anything is worth a
try; but his eye for details is poor. He sees the future too
sweepingly and too much as he would have it seldom providing
against inconsistencies of evidence that may damage him. For
instance, there is a well-known case of two brothers who
exhibited to their parents, with pathetic confidence, several
imported dried herring on a string, as a proof that the afternoon
had been spent, not at a forbidden circus, but with hook and line
upon the banks of a neighbouring brook.
So with Penrod. He had vital need of a letter, and there before
his eyes, upon Margaret's desk, was apparently the precise thing
From below rose the voice of his mother urging him to the
breakfast-table, warning him that he stood in danger of tardiness
at school; he was pressed for time, and acted upon an inspiration
that failed to prompt him even to read the letter.
Hurriedly he wrote "Dear freind" at the top of the page Margaret
had partially filled. Then he signed himself "Yours respectfuly,
Penrod Schofield" at the bottom, and enclosed the missive within
a battered volume entitled, "Principles of English Composition."
With that and other books compacted by a strap, he descended to a
breakfast somewhat oppressive but undarkened by any misgivings
concerning a "letter to a friend on some subject of general
interest." He felt that a difficulty had been encountered and
satisfactorily disposed of; the matter could now be dismissed
from his mind. He had plenty of other difficulties to take its
No; he had no misgivings, nor was he assailed by anything
unpleasant in that line, even when the hour struck for the class
in English composition. If he had been two or three years older,
experience might have warned him to take at least the precaution
of copying his offering, so that it would appear in his own
handwriting when he "handed it in"; but Penrod had not even
glanced at it.
"I think," Miss Spence said, "I will ask several of you to read
your letters aloud before you hand them in. Clara Raypole, you
may read yours."
Penrod was bored but otherwise comfortable; he had no
apprehension that he might be included in the "several,"
especially as Miss Spence's beginning with Clara Raypole, a star
performer, indicated that her selection of readers would be made
from the conscientious and proficient division at the head of the
class. He listened stoically to the beginning of the first
letter, though he was conscious of a dull resentment, inspired
mainly by the perfect complacency of Miss Raypole's voice.
"'Dear Cousin Sadie,'" she began smoothly, "'I thought I would
write you to-day on some subject of general interest, and so I
thought I would tell you about the subject of our court-house. It
is a very fine building situated in the centre of the city, and a
visit to the building after school hours well repays for the
visit. Upon entrance we find upon our left the office of the
county clerk and upon our right a number of windows affording a
view of the street. And so we proceed, finding on both sides much
of general interest. The building was begun in 1886 A.D. and it
was through in 1887 A.D. It is four stories high and made of
stone, pressed brick, wood, and tiles, with a tower, or cupola,
one hundred and twenty-seven feet seven inches from the ground.
Among other subjects of general interest told by the janitor, we
learn that the architect of the building was a man named Flanner,
and the foundations extend fifteen feet five inches under the
Penrod was unable to fix his attention upon these statistics; he
began moodily to twist a button of his jacket and to concentrate
a new-born and obscure but lasting hatred upon the court-house.
Miss Raypole's glib voice continued to press upon his ears; but,
by keeping his eyes fixed upon the twisting button he had
accomplished a kind of self-hypnosis, or mental anaesthesia, and
was but dimly aware of what went on about him.
The court-house was finally exhausted by its visitor, who resumed
her seat and submitted with beamish grace to praise. Then Miss
Spence said, in a favourable manner:
"Georgie Bassett, you may read your letter next."
The neat Georgie rose, nothing loath, and began: "'Dear
There was a slight titter, which Miss Spence suppressed. Georgie
was not at all discomfited.
"'My mother says,'" he continued, reading his manuscript, "'we
should treat our teacher as a friend, and so _I_ will write YOU a
This penetrated Penrod's trance, and he lifted his eyes to fix
them upon the back of Georgie Bassett's head in a long and
inscrutable stare. It was inscrutable, and yet if Georgie had
been sensitive to thought waves, it is probable that he would
have uttered a loud shriek; but he remained placidly unaware,
"'I thought I would write you about a subject of general
interest, and so I will write you about the flowers. There are
many kinds of flowers, spring flowers, and summer flowers, and
autumn flowers, but no winter flowers. Wild flowers grow in the
woods, and it is nice to hunt them in springtime, and we must
remember to give some to the poor and hospitals, also. Flowers
can be made to grow in flower-beds and placed in vases in houses.
There are many names for flowers, but _I_ call them "nature's
Penrod's gaze had relaxed, drooped to his button again, and his
lethargy was renewed. The outer world grew vaguer; voices seemed
to drone at a distance; sluggish time passed heavily--but some of
it did pass.
Miss Spence's searching eye had taken note of the bent head and
the twisting button. She found it necessary to speak again.
He came languidly to life.
"You may read your letter."
And he began to paw clumsily among his books, whereupon Miss
Spence's glance fired with suspicion.
"Have you prepared one?" she demanded.
"Yes'm," said Penrod dreamily.
"But you're going to find you forgot to bring it, aren't you?"
"I got it," said Penrod, discovering the paper in his "Principles
of English Composition."
"Well, we'll listen to what you've found time to prepare," she
said, adding coldly, "for once!"
The frankest pessimism concerning Penrod permeated the whole
room; even the eyes of those whose letters had not met with
favour turned upon him with obvious assurance that here was every
prospect of a performance that would, by comparison, lend a
measure of credit to the worst preceding it. But Penrod was
unaffected by the general gaze; he rose, still blinking from his
lethargy, and in no true sense wholly alive.
He had one idea: to read as rapidly as possible, so as to be done
with the task, and he began in a high-pitched monotone, reading
with a blind mind and no sense of the significance of the words.
"'Dear friend,"' he declaimed. "'You call me beautiful, but I am
not really beautiful, and there are times when I doubt if I am
even pretty, though perhaps my hair is beautiful, and if it is
true that my eyes are like blue stars in heaven--'"
Simultaneously he lost his breath and there burst upon him a
perception of the results to which he was being committed by this
calamitous reading. And also simultaneous the outbreak of the
class into cachinnations of delight, severely repressed by the
perplexed but indignant Miss Spence.
"Go on!" she commanded grimly, when she had restored order.
"Ma'am?" he gulped, looking wretchedly upon the rosy faces all
"Go on with the description of yourself," she said. "We'd like to
hear some more about your eyes being like blue stars in heaven."
Here many of Penrod's little comrades were forced to clasp their
faces tightly in both hands; and his dismayed gaze, in refuge,
sought the treacherous paper in his hand.
What it beheld there was horrible.
"Proceed!" Miss Spence said.
"'I--often think,'" he faltered, "'and a-a tree-more th-thrills
my bein' when I REcall your last words to me--that last--that
"'That last evening in the moonlight when you--you--you--'"
"Penrod," Miss Spence said dangerously, "you go on, and stop that
"'You--you said you would wait for--for years to--to--to--to--"
"'To win me!'" the miserable Penrod managed to gasp. "'I should
not have pre--premitted--permitted you to speak so until we have
our--our parents' con-consent; but oh, how sweet it--'" He
exhaled a sigh of agony, and then concluded briskly, "'Yours
respectfully, Penrod Schofield.'"
But Miss Spence had at last divined something, for she knew the
"Bring me that letter!" she said.
And the scarlet boy passed forward between rows of mystified but
immoderately uplifted children.
Miss Spence herself grew rather pink as she examined the missive,
and the intensity with which she afterward extended her
examination to cover the complete field of Penrod Schofield
caused him to find a remote centre of interest whereon to rest
his embarrassed gaze. She let him stand before her throughout a
silence, equalled, perhaps, by the tenser pauses during trials
for murder, and then, containing herself, she sweepingly gestured
him to the pillory--a chair upon the platform, facing the school.
Here he suffered for the unusual term of an hour, with many
jocular and cunning eyes constantly upon him; and, when he was
released at noon, horrid shouts and shrieks pursued him every
step of his homeward way. For his laughter-loving little
schoolmates spared him not--neither boy nor girl.
"Yay, Penrod!" they shouted. "How's your beautiful hair?" And,
"Hi, Penrod! When you goin' to get your parents' consent?" And,
"Say, blue stars in heaven, how's your beautiful eyes?" And,
"Say, Penrod, how's your tree-mores?" "Does your tree-mores
thrill your bein', Penrod?" And many other facetious inquiries,
hard to bear in public.
And when he reached the temporary shelter of his home, he
experienced no relief upon finding that Margaret was out for
lunch. He was as deeply embittered toward her as toward any
other, and, considering her largely responsible for his
misfortune, he would have welcomed an opportunity to show her
what he thought of her.
CHAPTER XVI. WEDNESDAY MADNESS
How long he was "kept in" after school that afternoon is not a
matter of record; but it was long. Before he finally appeared
upon the street, he had composed an ample letter on a subject of
general interest, namely "School Life", under the supervision of
Miss Spencer. He had also received some scorching admonitions in
respect to honourable behaviour regarding other people's letters;
and Margaret's had been returned to him with severe instructions
to bear it straight to the original owner accompanied by full
confession and apology. As a measure of insurance that these
things be done, Miss Spence stated definitely her intention to
hold a conversation by telephone with Margaret that evening.
Altogether, the day had been unusually awful, even for Wednesday,
and Penrod left the school-house with the heart of an anarchist
throbbing in his hot bosom. It were more accurate, indeed, to
liken him to the anarchist's characteristic weapon; for as Penrod
came out to the street he was, in all inward respects, a bomb,
loaded and ticking.
He walked moodily, with a visible aspect of soreness. A murmurous
sound was thick about his head, wherefore it is to be surmised
that he communed with his familiar, and one vehement,
oft-repeated phrase beat like a tocsin of revolt upon the air:
He meant everybody--the universe.
Particularly included, evidently, was a sparrow, offensively
cheerful upon a lamp-post. This self-centred little bird allowed
a pebble to pass overhead and remained unconcerned, but, a moment
later, feeling a jar beneath his feet, and hearing the tinkle of
falling glass, he decided to leave. Similarly, and at the same
instant, Penrod made the same decision, and the sparrow in flight
took note of a boy likewise in flight.
The boy disappeared into the nearest alley and emerged therefrom,
breathless, in the peaceful vicinity of his own home. He entered
the house, clumped upstairs and down, discovered Margaret reading
a book in the library, and flung the accursed letter toward her
"You can take the old thing," he said bitterly. "_I_ don't want
And before she was able to reply, he was out of the room. The
next moment he was out of the house.
"Daw-GONE 'em!" he said.
And then, across the street, his soured eye fell upon his true
comrade and best friend leaning against a picket fence and
holding desultory converse with Mabel Rorebeck, an attractive
member of the Friday Afternoon Dancing Class, that hated
organization of which Sam and Penrod were both members. Mabel was
a shy little girl; but Penrod had a vague understanding that Sam
considered her two brown pig-tails beautiful.
Howbeit, Sam had never told his love; he was, in fact, sensitive
about it. This meeting with the lady was by chance, and, although
it afforded exquisite moments, his heart was beating in an
unaccustomed manner, and he was suffering from embarrassment,
being at a loss, also, for subjects of conversation. It is,
indeed, no easy matter to chat easily with a person, however
lovely and beloved, who keeps her face turned the other way,
maintains one foot in rapid and continuous motion through an arc
seemingly perilous to her equilibrium, and confines her
responses, both affirmative and negative, to "Uh-huh."
Altogether, Sam was sufficiently nervous without any help from
Penrod, and it was with pure horror that he heard his own name
and Mabel's shrieked upon the ambient air with viperish
"Sam-my and May-bul! OH, oh!"
Sam started violently. Mabel ceased to swing her foot, and both,
encarnadined, looked up and down and everywhere for the invisible
but well-known owner of that voice. It came again, in taunting
"Sammy's mad, and I am glad,
And I know what will please him:
A bottle o' wine to make him shine,
And Mabel Rorebeck to squeeze him!"
"Fresh ole thing!" said Miss Rorebeck, becoming articulate. And
unreasonably including Sam in her indignation, she tossed her
head at him with an unmistakable effect of scorn. She began to
"Well, Mabel," Sam said plaintively, following, "it ain't MY
fault. _I_ didn't do anything. It's Penrod."
"I don't care," she began pettishly, when the viperish voice was
"Oh, oh, oh!
Who's your beau?
Guess _I_ know:
Mabel and Sammy, oh, oh, oh!
_I_ caught you!"
Then Mabel did one of those things that eternally perplex the
slower sex. She deliberately made a face, not at the tree behind
which Penrod was lurking, but at the innocent and heart-wrung
Sam. "You needn't come limpin' after me, Sam Williams!" she said,
though Sam was approaching upon two perfectly sound legs. And
then she ran away at the top of her speed.
"Run, rigger, run!" Penrod began inexcusably. But Sam cut the
persecutions short at this point. Stung to fury, he charged upon
the sheltering tree in the Schofields' yard.
Ordinarily, at such a juncture, Penrod would have fled, keeping
his own temper and increasing the heat of his pursuer's by
back-flung jeers. But this was Wednesday, and he was in no mood
to run from Sam. He stepped away from the tree, awaiting the
"Well, what you goin' to do so much?" he said.
Sam did not pause to proffer the desired information. "'Tcha
got'ny SENSE!" was the total extent of his vocal preliminaries
before flinging himself headlong upon the taunter; and the two
boys went to the ground together. Embracing, they rolled, they
pommelled, they hammered, they kicked. Alas, this was a fight.
They rose, flailing a while, then renewed their embrace, and,
grunting, bestowed themselves anew upon our ever too receptive
Mother Earth. Once more upon their feet, they beset each other
sorely, dealing many great blows, ofttimes upon the air, but with
sufficient frequency upon resentful flesh. Tears were jolted to
the rims of eyes, but technically they did not weep. "Got'ny
sense," was repeated chokingly many, many times; also, "Dern ole
fool!" and, "I'll SHOW you!"
The peacemaker who appeared upon the animated scene was Penrod's
great-uncle Slocum. This elderly relative had come to call upon
Mrs. Schofield, and he was well upon his way to the front door
when the mutterings of war among some shrubberies near the fence
caused him to deflect his course in benevolent agitation.
"Boys! Boys! Shame, boys!" he said; but, as the originality of
these expressions did not prove striking enough to attract any
great attention from the combatants, he felt obliged to assume a
share in the proceedings. It was a share entailing greater
activity than he had anticipated, and, before he managed to
separate the former friends, he intercepted bodily an amount of
violence to which he was wholly unaccustomed. Additionally, his
attire was disarranged; his hat was no longer upon his head, and
his temper was in a bad way. In fact, as his hat flew off, he
made use of words that under less extreme circumstances would
have caused both boys to feel a much profounder interest than
they did in great-uncle Slocum.
"I'll GET you!" Sam babbled. "Don't you ever dare to speak to me
again, Penrod Schofield, long as you live, or I'll whip you
worse'n I have this time!"
Penrod squawked. For the moment he was incapable of coherent
speech, and then, failing in a convulsive attempt to reach his
enemy, his fury culminated upon an innocent object that had never
done him the slightest harm. Great-uncle Slocum's hat lay upon
the ground close by, and Penrod was in the state of irritation
that seeks an outlet too blindly--as people say, he "HAD to do
SOMETHING!" He kicked great-uncle Slocum's hat with such sweep
and precision that it rose swiftly, and, breasting the autumn
breeze, passed over the fence and out into the street.
Great-uncle Slocum uttered a scream of anguish, and, immediately
ceasing to peacemake, ran forth to a more important rescue; but
the conflict was not renewed. Sanity had returned to Sam
Williams; he was awed by this colossal deed of Penrod's and
filled with horror at the thaught that he might be held as
accessory to it. Fleetly he fled, pursued as far as the gate by
the whole body of Penrod, and thereafter by Penrod's voice alone.
"You BETTER run! You wait till I catch you! You'll see what you
get next time! Don't you ever speak to me again as long as you--"
Here he paused abruptly, for great-uncle Slocum had recovered his
hat and was returning toward the gate. After one glance at
great-uncle Slocum, Penrod did not linger to attempt any
explanation--there are times when even a boy can see that
apologies would seem out of place. Penrod ran round the house to
Here he was enthusiastically greeted by Duke. "You get away from
me!" Penrod said hoarsely, and with terrible gestures he repulsed
the faithful animal, who retired philosophically to the stable,
while his master let himself out of the back gate. Penrod had
decided to absent himself from home for the time being.
The sky was gray, and there were hints of coming dusk in the air;
it was an hour suited to his turbulent soul, and he walked with a
sombre swagger. "Ran like a c'ardy-calf!" he sniffed, half aloud,
alluding to the haste of Sam Williams in departure. "All he is,
Then, as he proceeded up the alley, a hated cry smote his ears:
"Hi, Penrod! How's your tree-mores?" And two jovial schoolboy
faces appeared above a high board fence. "How's your beautiful
hair, Penrod?" they vociferated. "When you goin' to git your
parents' consent? What makes you think you're only pretty, ole
Penrod looked about feverishly for a missile, and could find none
to his hand, but the surface of the alley sufficed; he made mud
balls and fiercely bombarded the vociferous fence. Naturally,
hostile mud balls presently issued from behind this barricade;
and thus a campaign developed that offered a picture not unlike a
cartoonist's sketch of a political campaign, wherein this same
material is used for the decoration of opponents. But Penrod had
been unwise; he was outnumbered, and the hostile forces held the
advantageous side of the fence.
Mud balls can be hard as well as soggy; some of those that
reached Penrod were of no inconsiderable weight and substance,
and they made him grunt despite himself. Finally, one, at close
range, struck him in the pit of the stomach, whereupon he clasped
himself about the middle silently, and executed some steps in
seeming imitation of a quaint Indian dance.
His plight being observed through a knothole, his enemies climbed
upon the fence and regarded him seriously.
"Aw, YOU'RE all right, ain't you, old tree-mores?" inquired one.
"I'll SHOW you!" bellowed Penrod, recovering his breath; and he
hurled a fat ball--thoughtfully retained in hand throughout his
agony--to such effect that his interrogator disappeared backward
from the fence without having taken any initiative of his own in
the matter. His comrade impulsively joined him upon the ground,
and the battle continued.
Through the gathering dusk it went on. It waged but the hotter as
darkness made aim more difficult--and still Penrod would not be
driven from the field. Panting, grunting, hoarse from returning
insults, fighting on and on, an indistinguishable figure in the
gloom, he held the back alley against all comers.
For such a combat darkness has one great advantage; but it has an
equally important disadvantage--the combatant cannot see to aim;
on the other hand, he cannot see to dodge. And all the while
Penrod was receiving two for one. He became heavy with mud.
Plastered, impressionistic and sculpturesque, there was about him
a quality of the tragic, of the magnificent. He resembled a
sombre masterpiece by Rodin. No one could have been quite sure
what he was meant for.
Dinner bells tinkled in houses. Then they were rung from kitchen
doors. Calling voices came urging from the distance, calling
boys' names into the darkness. They called and a note of
irritation seemed to mar their beauty.
Then bells were rung again--and the voices renewed appeals more
urgent, much more irritated. They called and called and called.
THUD! went the mud balls.
Thud! Thud! Blunk!
"OOF!" said Penrod.
. . . Sam Williams, having dined with his family at their usual
hour, seven, slipped unostentatiously out of the kitchen door, as
soon as he could, after the conclusion of the meal, and quietly
betook himself to the Schofields' corner.
Here he stationed himself where he could see all avenues of
approach to the house, and waited. Twenty minutes went by, and
then Sam became suddenly alert and attentive, for the arc-light
revealed a small, grotesque figure slowly approaching along the
sidewalk. It was brown in colour, shaggy and indefinite in form;
it limped excessively, and paused to rub itself, and to meditate.
Peculiar as the thing was, Sam had no doubt as to its identity.
"'Lo, Penrod," he said cautiously, and with a shade of formality.
Penrod leaned against the fence, and, lifting one leg, tested the
knee-joint by swinging his foot back and forth, a process
evidently provocative of a little pain. Then he rubbed the left
side of his encrusted face, and, opening his mouth to its whole
capacity as an aperture, moved his lower jaw slightly from side
to side, thus triumphantly settling a question in his own mind as
to whether or no a suspected dislocation had taken place.
Having satisfied himself on these points, he examined both shins
delicately by the sense of touch, and carefully tested the
capacities of his neck-muscles to move his head in a wonted
manner. Then he responded somewhat gruffly: "'Lo!" "Where you
been?" Sam said eagerly, his formality vanishing.
"Havin' a mud-fight."
"I guess you did!" Sam exclaimed, in a low voice. "What you goin'
to tell your--"
"Your sister telephoned to our house to see if I knew where you
were," said Sam. "She told me if I saw you before you got home to
tell you sumpthing; but not to say anything about it. She said
Miss Spence had telephoned to her, but she said for me to tell
you it was all right about that letter, and she wasn't goin' to
tell your mother and father on you, so you needn't say anything
about it to 'em."
"All right," said Penrod indifferently.
"She says you're goin' to be in enough trouble without that," Sam
went on. "You're goin' to catch fits about your Uncle Slocum's
"Well, I guess I know it."
"And about not comin' home to dinner, too. Your mother telephoned
twice to Mamma while we were eatin' to see if you'd come in our
house. And when they SEE you--MY, but you're goin' to get the
Penrod seemed unimpressed, though he was well aware that Sam's
prophecy was no unreasonable one.
"Well, I guess I know it," he repeated casually. And he moved
slowly toward his own gate.
His friend looked after him curiously--then, as the limping
figure fumbled clumsily with bruised fingers at the latch of the
gate, there sounded a little solicitude in Sam's voice.
"Say, Penrod, how--how do you feel?"
"Do you feel pretty bad?"
"No," said Penrod, and, in spite of what awaited him beyond the
lighted portals just ahead, he spoke the truth. His nerves were
rested, and his soul was at peace. His Wednesday madness was
"No," said Penrod; "I feel bully!"
CHAPTER XVII. PENROD'S BUSY DAY
Although the pressure had thus been relieved and Penrod found
peace with himself, nevertheless there were times during the rest
of that week when he felt a strong distaste for Margaret. His
schoolmates frequently reminded him of such phrases in her letter
as they seemed least able to forget, and for hours after each of
these experiences he was unable to comport himself with human
courtesy when constrained (as at dinner) to remain for any length
of time in the same room with her. But by Sunday these moods had
seemed to pass; he attended church in her close company, and had
no thought of the troubles brought upon him by her correspondence
with a person who throughout remained unknown to him.
Penrod slumped far down in the pew with his knees against the
back of that in front, and he also languished to one side, so
that the people sitting behind were afforded a view of him
consisting of a little hair and one bored ear. The sermon--a
noble one, searching and eloquent--was but a persistent sound in
that ear, though, now and then, Penrod's attention would be
caught by some detached portion of a sentence, when his mind
would dwell dully upon the phrases for a little while and lapse
into a torpor. At intervals his mother, without turning her head,
would whisper, "Sit up, Penrod," causing him to sigh profoundly
and move his shoulders about an inch, this mere gesture of
compliance exhausting all the energy that remained to him.
The black backs and gray heads of the elderly men in the
congregation oppressed him; they made him lethargic with a sense
of long lives of repellent dullness. But he should have been
grateful to the lady with the artificial cherries upon her hat.
His gaze lingered there, wandered away, and hopelessly returned
again and again, to be a little refreshed by the glossy scarlet
of the cluster of tiny globes. He was not so fortunate as to be
drowsy; that would have brought him some relief--and yet, after a
while, his eyes became slightly glazed; he saw dimly, and what he
saw was distorted.
The church had been built in the early 'Seventies, and it
contained some naive stained glass of that period. The arch at
the top of a window facing Penrod was filled with a gigantic Eye.
Of oyster-white and raw blues and reds, inflamed by the pouring
sun, it had held an awful place in the infantile life of Penrod
Schofield, for in his tenderer years he accepted it without
question as the literal Eye of Deity. He had been informed that
the church was the divine dwelling--and there was the Eye!
Nowadays, being no longer a little child, he had somehow come to
know better without being told, and, though the great flaming Eye
was no longer the terrifying thing it had been to him during his
childhood, it nevertheless retained something of its ominous
character. It made him feel spied upon, and its awful glare still
pursued him, sometimes, as he was falling asleep at night. When
he faced the window his feeling was one of dull resentment.
His own glazed eyes, becoming slightly crossed with an ennui that
was peculiarly intense this morning, rendered the Eye more
monstrous than it was. It expanded to horrible size, growing
mountainous; it turned into a volcano in the tropics, and yet it
stared at him, indubitably an Eye implacably hostile to all
rights of privacy forever. Penrod blinked and clinched his
eyelids to be rid of this dual image, and he managed to shake off
the volcano. Then, lowering the angle of his glance, he saw
something most remarkable--and curiously out of place.
An inverted white soup-plate was lying miraculously balanced upon
the back of a pew a little distance in front of him, and upon the
upturned bottom of the soup-plate was a brown cocoanut. Mildly
surprised, Penrod yawned, and, in the effort to straighten his
eyes, came to life temporarily. The cocoanut was revealed as
Georgie Bassett's head, and the soup-plate as Georgie's white
collar. Georgie was sitting up straight, as he always did in
church, and Penrod found this vertical rectitude unpleasant. He
knew that he had more to fear from the Eye than Georgie had, and
he was under the impression (a correct one) that Georgie felt on
intimate terms with it and was actually fond of it.
Penrod himself would have maintained that he was fond of it, if
he had been asked. He would have said so because he feared to say
otherwise; and the truth is that he never consciously looked at
the Eye disrespectfully. He would have been alarmed if he thought
the Eye had any way of finding out how he really felt about it.
When not off his guard, he always looked at it placatively.
By and by, he sagged so far to the left that he had symptoms of a
"stitch in the side", and, rousing himself, sat partially
straight for several moments. Then he rubbed his shoulders slowly
from side to side against the back of the seat, until his mother
whispered, "Don't do that, Penrod."
Upon this, he allowed himself to slump inwardly till the curve in
the back of his neck rested against the curved top of the back of
the seat. It was a congenial fit, and Penrod again began to move
slowly from side to side, finding the friction soothing. Even so
slight a pleasure was denied him by a husky, "Stop that!" from
Penrod sighed, and slid farther down. He scratched his head, his
left knee, his right biceps and his left ankle, after which he
scratched his right knee, his right ankle and his left biceps.
Then he said, "Oh, hum!" unconsciously, but so loudly that there
was a reproving stir in the neighbourhood of the Schofield pew,
and his father looked at him angrily.
Finally, his nose began to trouble him. It itched, and after
scratching it, he rubbed it harshly. Another "Stop that!" from
his father proved of no avail, being greeted by a
desperate-sounding whisper, "I GOT to!"
And, continuing to rub his nose with his right hand, Penrod began
to search his pockets with his left. The quest proving fruitless,
he rubbed his nose with his left hand and searched with his
right. Then he abandoned his nose and searched feverishly with
both hands, going through all of his pockets several times.
"What DO you want?" whispered his mother.
But Margaret had divined his need, and she passed him her own
handkerchief. This was both thoughtful and thoughtless--the
latter because Margaret was in the habit of thinking that she
became faint in crowds, especially at the theatre or in church,
and she had just soaked her handkerchief with spirits of ammonia
from a small phial she carried in her muff.
Penrod hastily applied the handkerchief to his nose and even more
hastily exploded. He sneezed stupendously; he choked, sneezed
again, wept, passed into a light convulsion of coughing and
sneezing together--a mergence of sound that attracted much
attention--and, after a few recurrent spasms, convalesced into a
condition marked by silent tears and only sporadic instances of
By this time his family were unanimously scarlet--his father and
mother with mortification, and Margaret with the effort to
control the almost irresistible mirth that the struggles and
vociferations of Penrod had inspired within her. And yet her
heart misgave her, for his bloodshot and tearful eyes were fixed
upon her from the first and remained upon her, even when
half-blinded with his agony; and their expression--as terrible as
that of the windowed Eye confronting her--was not for an instant
to be misunderstood. Absolutely, he believed that she had handed
him the ammonia-soaked handkerchief deliberately and with malice,
and well she knew that no power on earth could now or at any time
henceforth persuade him otherwise.
"Of course I didn't mean it, Penrod," she said, at the first
opportunity upon their homeward way. "I didn't notice--that is, I
didn't think--" Unfortunately for the effect of sincerity she
hoped to produce, her voice became tremulous and her shoulders
"Just you wait! You'll see!" he prophesied, in a voice now
choking, not with ammonia, but with emotion. "Poison a person,
and then laugh in his face!"
He spake no more until they had reached their own house, though
she made some further futile efforts at explanation and apology.
And after brooding abysmally throughout the meal that followed,
he disappeared from the sight of his family, having answered with
one frightful look his mother's timid suggestion that it was
almost time for Sunday-school. He retired to his eyry--the
sawdust box in the empty stable--and there gave rein to his
embittered imaginings, incidentally forming many plans for
Most of these were much too elaborate; but one was so alluring
that he dwelt upon it, working out the details with gloomy
pleasure, even after he had perceived its defects. It involved
some postponement--in fact, until Margaret should have become the
mother of a boy about Penrod's present age. This boy would be
precisely like Georgie Bassett--Penrod conceived that as
inevitable--and, like Georgie, he would be his mother's idol.
Penrod meant to take him to church and force him to blow his nose
with an ammonia-soaked handkerchief in the presence of the Eye
and all the congregation.
Then Penrod intended to say to this boy, after church, "Well,
that's exackly what your mother did to me, and if you don't like
it, you better look out!"
And the real Penrod in the sawdust box clenched his fists. "Come
ahead, then!" he muttered. "You talk too much!" Whereupon, the
Penrod of his dream gave Margaret's puny son a contemptuous
thrashing under the eyes of his mother, who besought in vain for
mercy. This plan was finally dropped, not because of any
lingering nepotism within Penrod, but because his injury called
for action less belated.
One after another, he thought of impossible things; one after
another, he thought of things merely inane and futile, for he was
trying to do something beyond his power. Penrod was never
brilliant, or even successful, save by inspiration.
At four o'clock he came into the house, still nebulous, and as he
passed the open door of the library he heard a man's voice, not
"To me," said this voice, "the finest lines in all literature are
those in Tennyson's 'Maud'--
"'Had it lain for a century dead,
My dust would hear her and beat,
And blossom in purple and red,
There somewhere around near her feet.'
"I think I have quoted correctly," continued the voice nervously,
"but, at any rate, what I wished to--ah--say was that I often
think of those ah--words; but I never think of them without
thinking of--of--of YOU. I--ah--"
The nervous voice paused, and Penrod took an oblique survey of
the room, himself unobserved. Margaret was seated in an easy
chair and her face was turned away from Penrod, so that her
expression of the moment remained unknown to him. Facing her, and
leaning toward her with perceptible emotion, was Mr. Claude
Blakely--a young man with whom Penrod had no acquaintance, though
he had seen him, was aware of his identity, and had heard speech
between Mrs. Schofield and Margaret which indicated that Mr.
Blakely had formed the habit of calling frequently at the house.
This was a brilliantly handsome young man; indeed, his face was
so beautiful that even Penrod was able to perceive something
about it which might be explicably pleasing--at least to women.
And Penrod remembered that, on the last evening before Mr. Robert
Williams's departure for college, Margaret had been peevish
because Penrod had genially spent the greater portion of the
evening with Robert and herself upon the porch. Margaret made it
clear, later, that she strongly preferred to conduct her
conversations with friends unassisted--and as Penrod listened to
the faltering words of Mr. Claude Blakely, he felt instinctively
that, in a certain contingency, Margaret's indignation would be
even more severe to-day than on the former occasion.
Mr. Blakely coughed faintly and was able to continue.
"I mean to say that when I say that what Tennyson says--ah--seems
to--to apply to--to a feeling about you--"
At this point, finding too little breath in himself to proceed,
in spite of the fact that he had spoken in an almost inaudible
tone, Mr. Blakely stopped again.
Something about this little scene was making a deep impression
upon Penrod. What that impression was, he could not possibly have
stated; but he had a sense of the imminence of a tender crisis,
and he perceived that the piquancy of affairs in the library had
reached a point which would brand an intentional interruption as