Part 4 out of 5
the act of a cold-blooded ruffian. Suddenly it was as though a
strong light shone upon him: he decided that it was Mr. Blakely
who had told Margaret that her eyes were like blue stars in
heaven--THIS was the person who had caused the hateful letter to
be written! That decided Penrod; his inspiration, so long waited
for, had come.
"I--I feel that perhaps I am not plain," said Mr. Blakely, and
immediately became red, whereas he had been pale. He was at least
modest enough about his looks to fear that Margaret might think
he had referred to them. "I mean, not plain in another sense--
that is, I mean not that _I_ am not plain in saying what I mean
to you--I mean, what you mean to ME! I feel--"
This was the moment selected by Penrod. He walked carelessly into
the library, inquiring in a loud, bluff voice:
"Has anybody seen my dog around here anywheres?"
Mr. Blakely had inclined himself so far toward Margaret, and he
was sitting so near the edge of the chair, that only a really
wonderful bit of instinctive gymnastics landed him upon his feet
instead of upon his back. As for Margaret, she said, "Good
gracious!" and regarded Penrod blankly.
"Well," said Penrod breezily, "I guess it's no use lookin' for
him--he isn't anywheres around. I guess I'll sit down." Herewith,
he sank into an easy chair, and remarked, as in comfortable
explanation, "I'm kind of tired standin' up, anyway."
Even in this crisis, Margaret was a credit to her mother's
"Penrod, have you met Mr. Blakely?"
Margaret primly performed the rite.
"Mr. Blakely, this is my little brother Penrod."
Mr. Blakely was understood to murmur, "How d'ye do?"
"I'm well," said Penrod.
Margaret bent a perplexed gaze upon him, and he saw that she had
not divined his intentions, though the expression of Mr. Blakely
was already beginning to be a little compensation for the ammonia
outrage. Then, as the protracted silence which followed the
introduction began to be a severe strain upon all parties, Penrod
felt called upon to relieve it.
"I didn't have anything much to do this afternoon, anyway," he
said. And at that there leaped a spark in Margaret's eye; her
expression became severe.
"You should have gone to Sunday-school," she told him crisply.
"Well, I didn't!" said Penrod, with a bitterness so significant
of sufferings connected with religion, ammonia, and herself, that
Margaret, after giving him a thoughtful look, concluded not to
urge the point.
Mr. Blakely smiled pleasantly. "I was looking out of the window a
minute ago," he said, "and I saw a dog run across the street and
turn the corner."
"What kind of a lookin' dog was it?" Penrod inquired, with
"Well," said Mr. Blakely, "it was a--it was a nice-looking dog."
"What colour was he?"
"He was--ah--white. That is, I think--"
"It wasn't Duke," said Penrod. "Duke's kind of
Mr. Blakely brightened.
"Yes, that was it," he said. "This dog I saw first had another
dog with him--a brownish-gray dog."
"Little or big?" Penrod asked, without interest.
"Why, Duke's a little dog!" Margaret intervened. "Of COURSE, if
it was little, it must have been Duke."
"It WAS little," said Mr. Blakely too enthusiastically. "It was a
little bit of a dog. I noticed it because it was so little."
"Couldn't 'a' been Duke, then," said Penrod. "Duke's a kind of a
middle-sized dog." He yawned, and added: "I don't want him now. I
want to stay in the house this afternoon, anyway. And it's better
for Duke to be out in the fresh air."
Mr. Blakely coughed again and sat down, finding little to say. It
was evident, also, that Margaret shared his perplexity; and
another silence became so embarrassing that Penrod broke it.
"I was out in the sawdust-box," he said, "but it got kind of
chilly." Neither of his auditors felt called upon to offer any
comment, and presently he added, "I thought I better come in here
where it's warmer."
"It's too warm,"' said Margaret, at once. "Mr. Blakely, would you
mind opening a window?"
"By all means!" the young man responded earnestly, as he rose.
"Maybe I'd better open two?"
"Yes," said Margaret; "that would be much better."
But Penrod watched Mr. Blakely open two windows to their widest,
and betrayed no anxiety. His remarks upon the relative
temperatures of the sawdust-box and the library had been made
merely for the sake of creating sound in a silent place. When the
windows had been open for several minutes, Penrod's placidity,
though gloomy, denoted anything but discomfort from the draft,
which was powerful, the day being windy.
It was Mr. Blakely's turn to break a silence, and he did it so
unexpectedly that Margaret started. He sneezed.
"Perhaps--" Margaret began, but paused apprehensively.
"Perhaps-per-per--" Her apprehensions became more and more
poignant; her eyes seemed fixed upon some incredible disaster;
she appeared to inflate while the catastrophe she foresaw became
more and more imminent. All at once she collapsed, but the power
decorum had over her was attested by the mildness of her sneeze
after so threatening a prelude.
"Perhaps I'd better put one of the windows down," Mr. Blakely
"Both, I believe," said Margaret. "The room has cooled off, now,
Mr. Blakely closed the windows, and, returning to a chair near
Margaret, did his share in the production of another long period
of quiet. Penrod allowed this one to pass without any vocal
disturbance on his part. It may be, however, that his gaze was
disturbing to Mr. Blakely, upon whose person it was glassily
fixed with a self-forgetfulness that was almost morbid.
"Didn't you enjoy the last meeting of the Cotillion Club?"
Margaret said finally.
And upon Mr. Blakely's answering absently in the affirmative, she
suddenly began to be talkative. He seemed to catch a meaning in
her fluency, and followed her lead, a conversation ensuing which
at first had all the outward signs of eagerness. They talked with
warm interest of people and events unknown to Penrod; they
laughed enthusiastically about things beyond his ken; they
appeared to have arranged a perfect way to enjoy themselves, no
matter whether he was with them or elsewhere but presently their
briskness began to slacken; the appearance of interest became
perfunctory. Within ten minutes the few last scattering
semblances of gayety had passed, and they lapsed into the longest
and most profound of all their silences indoors that day. Its
effect upon Penrod was to make him yawn and settle himself in his
Then Mr. Blakely, coming to the surface out of deep inward
communings, snapped his finger against the palm of his hand
"By George!" he exclaimed, under his breath.
"What is it?" Margaret asked. "Did you remember something?"
"No, it's nothing," he said. "Nothing at all. But, by the way, it
seems a pity for you to be missing the fine weather. I wonder if
I could persuade you to take a little walk?"
Margaret, somewhat to the surprise of both the gentlemen present,
"I don't know," she said.
Mr. Blakely saw that she missed his point.
"One can talk better in the open, don't you think?" he urged,
with a significant glance toward Penrod.
Margaret also glanced keenly at Penrod. "Well, perhaps." And
then, "I'll get my hat," she said.
Penrod was on his feet before she left the room. He stretched
"I'll get mine, too," he said.
But he carefully went to find it in a direction different from
that taken by his sister, and he joined her and her escort not
till they were at the front door, whither Mr. Blakely--with a
last flickering of hope had urged a flight in haste.
"I been thinkin' of takin' a walk, all afternoon," said Penrod
pompously. "Don't matter to me which way we go."
The exquisite oval of Mr. Claude Blakely's face merged into
outlines more rugged than usual; the conformation of his jaw
became perceptible, and it could be seen that he had conceived an
idea which was crystallizing into a determination.
"I believe it happens that this is our first walk together," he
said to Margaret, as they reached the pavement, "but, from the
kind of tennis you play, I judge that you could go a pretty good
gait. Do you like walking fast?"
She nodded. "For exercise."
"Shall we try it then?"
"You set the pace," said Margaret. "I think I can keep up."
He took her at her word, and the amazing briskness of their start
seemed a little sinister to Penrod, though he was convinced that
he could do anything that Margaret could do, and also that
neither she nor her comely friend could sustain such a speed for
long. On the contrary, they actually increased it with each
fleeting block they covered.
"Here!" he panted, when they had thus put something more than a
half-mile behind them. "There isn't anybody has to have a doctor,
I guess! What's the use our walkin' so fast?"
In truth, Penrod was not walking, for his shorter legs permitted
no actual walking at such a speed; his gait was a half-trot.
"Oh, WE'RE out for a WALK!" Mr. Blakely returned, a note of
gayety beginning to sound in his voice. "Marg--ah--Miss
Schofield, keep your head up and breathe through your nose.
That's it! You'll find I was right in suggesting this. It's going
to turn out gloriously! Now, let's make it a little faster."
Margaret murmured inarticulately, for she would not waste her
breath in a more coherent reply. Her cheeks were flushed; her
eyes were brimming with the wind, but when she looked at Penrod,
they were brimming with something more. Gurgling sounds came from
Penrod's expression had become grim. He offered no second
protest, mainly because he, likewise, would not waste his breath,
and if he would, he could not. Of breath in the ordinary sense
breath, breathed automatically--he had none. He had only gasps to
feed his straining lungs, and his half-trot, which had long since
become a trot, was changed for a lope when Mr. Blakely reached
his own best burst of speed.
And now people stared at the flying three. The gait of Margaret
and Mr. Blakely could be called a walk only by courtesy, while
Penrod's was becoming a kind of blind scamper. At times he
zigzagged; other times, he fell behind, wabbling. Anon, with
elbows flopping and his face sculptured like an antique mask, he
would actually forge ahead, and then carom from one to the other
of his companions as he fell back again.
Thus the trio sped through the coming of autumn dusk, outflying
the fallen leaves that tumbled upon the wind. And still Penrod
held to the task that he had set himself. The street lamps
flickered into life, but on and on Claude Blakely led the lady,
and on and on reeled the grim Penrod. Never once was he so far
from them that they could have exchanged a word unchaperoned by
his throbbing ear.
"OH!" Margaret cried, and, halting suddenly, she draped herself
about a lamp-post like a strip of bunting. "Guh-uh-guh-GOODNESS!"
Penrod immediately drooped to the curb-stone, which he reached,
by pure fortune, in a sitting position. Mr. Blakely leaned
against a fence, and said nothing, though his breathing was
eloquent. "We--we must go--go home," Margaret gasped. "We must,
if--if we can drag ourselves!"
Then Penrod showed them what mettle they he'd tried to crack. A
paroxysm of coughing shook him; he spoke through it sobbingly:
"'Drag!' 'S jus' lul-like a girl! Ha-why I walk--OOF!--faster'n
that every day--on my--way to school." He managed to subjugate a
tendency to nausea. "What you--want to go--home for?" he said.
"Le's go on!"
In the darkness Mr. Claude Blakely's expression could not be
seen, nor was his voice heard. For these and other reasons, his
opinions and sentiments may not be stated.
. . . Mrs. Schofield was looking rather anxiously forth from her
front door when the two adult figures and the faithful smaller
one came up the walk.
"I was getting uneasy," she said. "Papa and I came in and found
the house empty. It's after seven. Oh, Mr. Blakely, is that you?"
"Good-evening," he said. "I fear I must be keeping an engagement.
Good-night. Good-night, Miss Schofield."
"Well, good-night," Penrod called, staring after him. But Mr.
Blakely was already too far away to hear him, and a moment later
Penrod followed his mother and sister into the house.
"I let Della go to church," Mrs. Schofield said to Margaret. "You
and I might help Katie get supper."
"Not for a few minutes," Margaret returned gravely, looking at
Penrod. "Come upstairs, mamma; I want to tell you something."
Penrod cackled hoarse triumph and defiance.
"Go on! Tell! What _'I_ care? You try to poison a person in
church again, and then laugh in his face, you'll see what you
But after his mother had retired with Margaret to the latter's
room, he began to feel disturbed in spite of his firm belief that
his cause was wholly that of justice victorious. Margaret had
insidious ways of stating a case; and her point of view, no
matter how absurd or unjust, was almost always adopted by Mr. and
Mrs. Schofield in cases of controversy.
Penrod became uneasy. Perceiving himself to be in danger, he
decided that certain measures were warranted. Unquestionably, it
would be well to know beforehand in what terms Margaret would
couch the charges which he supposed he must face in open court--
that is to say, at the supper-table. He stole softly up the
stairs, and, flattening himself against the wall, approached
Margaret's door, which was about an inch ajar.
He heard his mother making sounds which appalled him--he took
them for sobs. And then Margaret's voice rang out in a peal of
insane laughter. Trembling, he crept nearer the door. Within the
room Margaret was clinging to her mother, and both were trying to
control their hilarity.
"He did it all to get even!" Margaret exclaimed, wiping her eyes.
"He came in at just the right time. That GOOSE was beginning to
talk his silly, soft talk--the way he does with every girl in
town--and he was almost proposing, and I didn't know how to stop
him. And then Penrod came in and did it for me. I could have
hugged Penrod, mamma, I actually could! And I saw he meant to
stay to get even for that ammonia--and, oh, I worked so hard to
make him think I wanted him to GO! Mamma, mamma, if you could
have SEEN that walk! That GOOSE kept thinking he could wear
Penrod out or drop him behind, but I knew he couldn't so long as
Penrod believed he was worrying us and getting even. And that
GOOSE thought I WANTED to get rid of Penrod, too; and the
conceited thing said it would turn out 'gloriously,' meaning we'd
be alone together pretty soon--I'd like to shake him! You see, I
pretended so well, in order to make Penrod stick to us, that
GOOSE believed I meant it! And if he hadn't tried to walk Penrod
off his legs, he wouldn't have wilted his own collar and worn
himself out, and I think he'd have hung on until you'd have had
to invite him to stay to supper, and he'd have stayed on all
evening, and I wouldn't have had a chance to write to Robert
Williams. Mamma, there have been lots of times when I haven't
been thankful for Penrod, but to-day I could have got down on my
knees to you and papa for giving me such a brother!"
In the darkness of the hall, as a small but crushed and broken
form stole away from the crack in the door, a gigantic Eye seemed
to form--seemed to glare down upon Penrod--warning him that the
way of vengeance is the way of bafflement, and that genius may
not prevail against the trickeries of women.
"This has been a NICE day!" Penrod muttered hoarsely.
CHAPTER XVIII. ON ACCOUNT OF THE WEATHER
There is no boredom (not even an invalid's) comparable to that of
a boy who has nothing to do. When a man says he has nothing to
do, he speaks idly; there is always more than he can do. Grown
women never say they have nothing to do, and when girls or little
girls say they have nothing to do, they are merely airing an
affectation. But when a boy has nothing to do, he has actually
nothing at all to do; his state is pathetic, and when he
complains of it his voice is haunting.
Mrs. Schofield was troubled by this uncomfortable quality in the
voice of her son, who came to her thrice, in his search for
entertainment or even employment, one Saturday afternoon during
the February thaw. Few facts are better established than that the
February thaw is the poorest time of year for everybody. But for
a boy it is worse than poorest; it is bankrupt. The remnant
streaks of old soot-speckled snow left against the north walls of
houses have no power to inspire; rather, they are dreary
reminders of sports long since carried to satiety. One cares
little even to eat such snow, and the eating of icicles, also,
has come to be a flaccid and stale diversion. There is no ice to
bear a skate, there is only a vast sufficiency of cold mud,
practically useless. Sunshine flickers shiftily, coming and going
without any honest purpose; snow-squalls blow for five minutes,
the flakes disappearing as they touch the earth; half an hour
later rain sputters, turns to snow and then turns back to
rain--and the sun disingenuously beams out again, only to be shut
off like a rogue's lantern. And all the wretched while, if a boy
sets foot out of doors, he must be harassed about his overcoat
and rubbers; he is warned against tracking up the plastic lawn
and sharply advised to stay inside the house. Saturday might as
well be Sunday.
Thus the season. Penrod had sought all possible means to pass the
time. A full half-hour of vehement yodelling in the Williams'
yard had failed to bring forth comrade Sam; and at last a
coloured woman had opened a window to inform Penrod that her
intellect was being unseated by his vocalizations, which
surpassed in unpleasantness, she claimed, every sound in her
previous experience and, for the sake of definiteness, she stated
her age to be fifty-three years and four months. She added that
all members of the Williams family had gone out of town to attend
the funeral of a relative, but she wished that they might have
remained to attend Penrod's, which she confidently predicted as
imminent if the neighbourhood followed its natural impulse.
Penrod listened for a time, but departed before the conclusion of
the oration. He sought other comrades, with no success; he even
went to the length of yodelling in the yard of that best of boys,
Georgie Bassett. Here was failure again, for Georgie signalled to
him, through a closed window, that a closeting with dramatic
literature was preferable to the society of a playmate; and the
book that Georgie exhibited was openly labelled, "300 Choice
Declamations." Georgie also managed to convey another reason for
his refusal of Penrod's companionship, the visitor being
conversant with lip-reading through his studies at the "movies."
Penrod went home.
"Well," Mrs. Schofield said, having almost exhausted a mother's
powers of suggestion, "well, why don't you give Duke a bath?" She
was that far depleted when Penrod came to her the third time.
Mothers' suggestions are wonderful for little children but
sometimes lack lustre when a boy approaches twelve an age to
which the ideas of a Swede farm-hand would usually prove more
congenial. However, the dim and melancholy eye of Penrod showed a
pale gleam, and he departed. He gave Duke a bath.
The entertainment proved damp and discouraging for both parties.
Duke began to tremble even before he was lifted into the water,
and after his first immersion he was revealed to be a dog
weighing about one-fourth of what an observer of Duke, when Duke
was dry, must have guessed his weight to be. His wetness and the
disclosure of his extreme fleshly insignificance appeared to
mortify him profoundly. He wept. But, presently, under Penrod's
thorough ministrations--for the young master was inclined to make
this bath last as long as possible--Duke plucked up a heart and
began a series of passionate attempts to close the interview. As
this was his first bath since September, the effects were lavish
and impressionistic, both upon Penrod and upon the bathroom.
However, the imperious boy's loud remonstrances contributed to
bring about the result desired by Duke.
Mrs. Schofield came running, and eloquently put an end to Duke's
winter bath. When she had suggested this cleansing as a pleasant
means of passing the time, she assumed that it would take place
in a washtub in the cellar; and Penrod's location of the
performance in her own bathroom was far from her intention.
Penrod found her language oppressive, and, having been denied the
right to rub Duke dry with a bath-towel--or even with the cover
of a table in the next room--the dismal boy, accompanied by his
dismal dog, set forth, by way of the kitchen door, into the
dismal weather. With no purpose in mind, they mechanically went
out to the alley, where Penrod leaned morosely against the fence,
and Duke stood shivering close by, his figure still emaciated and
his tail absolutely withdrawn from view.
There was a cold, wet wind, however; and before long Duke found
his condition unendurable. He was past middle age and cared
little for exercise; but he saw that something must be done.
Therefore, he made a vigorous attempt to dry himself in a dog's
way. Throwing himself, shoulders first, upon the alley mud, he
slid upon it, back downward; he rolled and rolled and rolled. He
began to feel lively and rolled the more; in every way he
convinced Penrod that dogs have no regard for appearances. Also,
having discovered an ex-fish near the Herman and Verman cottage,
Duke confirmed an impression of Penrod's that dogs have a
peculiar fancy in the matter of odours that they like to wear.
Growing livelier and livelier, Duke now wished to play with his
master. Penrod was anything but fastidious; nevertheless, under
the circumstances, he withdrew to the kitchen, leaving Duke to
play by himself, outside.
Della, the cook, was comfortably making rolls and entertaining a
caller with a cup of tea. Penrod lingered a few moments, but
found even his attention to the conversation ill received, while
his attempts to take part in it met outright rebuff. His feelings
were hurt; he passed broodingly to the front part of the house,
and flung himself wearily into an armchair in the library. With
glazed eyes he stared at shelves of books that meant to him just
what the wallpaper meant, and he sighed from the abyss. His legs
tossed and his arms flopped; he got up, scratched himself
exhaustively, and shuffled to a window. Ten desolate minutes he
stood there, gazing out sluggishly upon a soggy world. During
this time two wet delivery-wagons and four elderly women under
umbrellas were all that crossed his field of vision. Somewhere in
the world, he thought, there was probably a boy who lived across
the street from a jail or a fire-engine house, and had windows
worth looking out of. Penrod rubbed his nose up and down the pane
slowly, continuously, and without the slightest pleasure; and he
again scratched himself wherever it was possible to do so, though
he did not even itch. There was nothing in his life.
Such boredom as he was suffering can become agony, and an
imaginative creature may do wild things to escape it; many a
grown person has taken to drink on account of less pressure than
was upon Penrod during that intolerable Saturday.
A faint sound in his ear informed him that Della, in the kitchen,
had uttered a loud exclamation, and he decided to go back there.
However, since his former visit had resulted in a rebuff that
still rankled, he paused outside the kitchen door, which was
slightly ajar, and listened. He did this idly, and with no hope
of hearing anything interesting or helpful.
"Snakes!" Della exclaimed. "Didja say the poor man was seein'
snakes, Mrs. Cullen?"
"No, Della," Mrs. Cullen returned dolorously; "jist one. Flora
says he niver see more th'n one--jist one big, long, ugly-faced
horrible black one; the same one comin' back an' makin' a fizzin'
n'ise at um iv'ry time he had the fit on um. 'Twas alw'ys the
same snake; an' he'd holler at Flora. 'Here it comes ag'in, oh,
me soul!' he'd holler. 'The big, black, ugly-faced thing; it's as
long as the front fence!' he'd holler, 'an' it's makin' a fizzin'
n'ise at me, an' breathin' in me face!' he'd holler. 'Fer th'
love o' hivin', Flora,' he'd holler, 'it's got a little black man
wit' a gassly white forehead a-pokin' of it along wit' a
broom-handle, an' a-sickin' it on me, the same as a boy sicks a
dog on a poor cat. Fer the love o' hivin', Flora,' he'd holler,
'cantcha fright it away from me before I go out o' me head?'"
"Poor Tom!" said Della with deep compassion. "An' the poor man
out of his head all the time, an' not knowin' it! 'Twas awful fer
Flora to sit there an' hear such things in the night like that!"
"You may believe yerself whin ye say it!" Mrs. Cullen agreed.
"Right the very night the poor soul died, he was hollerin' how
the big black snake and the little black man wit' the gassly
white forehead a-pokin' it wit' a broomstick had come fer um.
'Fright 'em away, Flora!' he was croakin', in a v'ice that hoarse
an' husky 'twas hard to make out what he says. 'Fright 'em away,
Flora!' he says. ''Tis the big, black, ugly-faced snake, as black
as a black stockin' an' thicker round than me leg at the thigh
before I was wasted away!' he says, poor man. 'It's makin' the
fizzin' n'ise awful to-night,' he says. 'An' the little black man
wit' the gassly white forehead is a-laughin',' he says. 'He's
a-laughin' an' a-pokin' the big, black, fizzin', ugly-faced snake
wit' his broomstick--"
Della was unable to endure the description.
"Don't tell me no more, Mrs. Cullen!" she protested. "Poor Tom! I
thought Flora was wrong last week whin she hid the whisky. 'Twas
takin' it away from him that killed him--an' him already so
"Well," said Mrs. Cullen, "he hardly had the strengt' to drink
much, she tells me, after he see the big snake an' the little
black divil the first time. Poor woman, she says he talked so
plain she sees 'em both herself, iv'ry time she looks at the poor
body where it's laid out. She says--"
"Don't tell me!" cried the impressionable Della. "Don't tell me,
Mrs. Cullen! I can most see 'em meself, right here in me own
kitchen! Poor Tom! To think whin I bought me new hat, only last
week, the first time I'd be wearin' it'd be to his funeral.
To-morrow afternoon, it is?"
"At two o'clock," said Mrs. Cullen. "Ye'll be comin' to th' house
to-night, o' course, Della?"
"I will," said Della. "After what I've been hearin' from ye, I'm
'most afraid to come, but I'll do it. Poor Tom! I remember the
day him an' Flora was married--"
But the eavesdropper heard no more; he was on his way up the back
stairs. Life and light--and purpose had come to his face once
Margaret was out for the afternoon. Unostentatiously, he went to
her room, and for the next few minutes occupied himself busily
therein. He was so quiet that his mother, sewing in her own room,
would not have heard him except for the obstinacy of one of the
drawers in Margaret's bureau. Mrs. Schofield went to the door of
her daughter's room.
"What are you doing, Penrod?"
"You're not disturbing any of Margaret's things, are you?"
"No, ma'am," said the meek lad.
"What did you jerk that drawer open for?"
"You heard me, Penrod."
"Yes, ma'am. I was just lookin' for sumpthing."
"For what?" Mrs. Schofield asked. "You know that nothing of yours
would be in Margaret's room, Penrod, don't you?"
"What was it you wanted?" she asked, rather impatiently.
"I was just lookin' for some pins."
"Very well," she said, and handed him two from the shoulder of
"I ought to have more," he said. "I want about forty."
"I just want to MAKE sumpthing, Mamma," he said plaintively. "My
goodness! Can't I even want to have a few pins without everybody
makin' such a fuss about it you'd think I was doin' a srime!"
"Doing a what, Penrod?"
"A SRIME!" he repeated, with emphasis; and a moment's reflection
enlightened his mother.
"Oh, a crime!" she exclaimed. "You MUST quit reading the murder
trials in the newspapers, Penrod. And when you read words you
don't know how to pronounce you ought to ask either your papa or
"Well, I am askin' you about sumpthing now," Penrod said. "Can't
I even have a few PINS without stoppin' to talk about everything
in the newspapers, Mamma?"
"Yes," she said, laughing at his seriousness; and she took him to
her room, and bestowed upon him five or six rows torn from a
paper of pins. "That ought to be plenty," she said, "for whatever
you want to make."
And she smiled after his retreating figure, not noting that he
looked softly bulky around the body, and held his elbows
unnaturally tight to his sides. She was assured of the innocence
of anything to be made with pins, and forbore to press
investigation. For Penrod to be playing with pins seemed almost
girlish. Unhappy woman, it pleased her to have her son seem
Penrod went out to the stable, tossed his pins into the
wheelbarrow, then took from his pocket and unfolded six pairs of
long black stockings, indubitably the property of his sister.
(Evidently Mrs. Schofield had been a little late in making her
appearance at the door of Margaret's room.)
Penrod worked systematically; he hung the twelve stockings over
the sides of the wheelbarrow, and placed the wheelbarrow beside a
large packing-box that was half full of excelsior. One after
another, he stuffed the stockings with excelsior, till they
looked like twelve long black sausages. Then he pinned the top of
one stocking securely over the stuffed foot of another, pinning
the top of a third to the foot of the second, the top of a fourth
to the foot of the third--and continued operations in this
fashion until the twelve stockings were the semblance of one long
and sinuous black body, sufficiently suggestive to any normal
He tied a string to one end of this unpleasant-looking thing, led
it around the stable, and, by vigorous manipulations, succeeded
in making it wriggle realistically; but he was not satisfied,
and, dropping the string listlessly, sat down in the wheelbarrow
to ponder. Penrod sometimes proved that there were within him the
makings of an artist; he had become fascinated by an idea, and
could not be content until that idea was beautifully realized. He
had meant to create a big, long, ugly-faced horrible black snake
with which to interest Della and her friend, Mrs. Cullen; but he
felt that results, so far, were too crude for exploitation.
Merely to lead the pinned stockings by a string was little to
fulfill his ambitious vision.
Finally, he rose from the wheelbarrow.
"If I only had a cat!" he said dreamily.
CHAPTER XIX. CREATIVE ART
He went forth, seeking.
The Schofield household was catless this winter but there was a
nice white cat at the Williams'. Penrod strolled thoughtfully
over to the Williams's yard.
He was entirely successful, not even having been seen by the
sensitive coloured woman, aged fifty-three years and four months.
But still Penrod was thoughtful. The artist within him was
unsatisfied with his materials: and upon his return to the stable
he placed the cat beneath an overturned box, and once more sat
down in the inspiring wheelbarrow, pondering. His expression,
concentrated and yet a little anxious, was like that of a painter
at work upon a portrait that may or may not turn out to be a
masterpiece. The cat did not disturb him by her purring, though
she was, indeed, already purring. She was one of those cozy,
youngish cats--plump, even a little full-bodied, perhaps, and
rather conscious of the figure--that are entirely conventional
and domestic by nature, and will set up a ladylike housekeeping
anywhere without making a fuss about it. If there be a fault in
these cats, overcomplacency might be the name for it; they err a
shade too sure of themselves, and their assumption that the world
means to treat them respectfully has just a little taint of the
grande dame. Consequently, they are liable to great outbreaks of
nervous energy from within, engendered by the extreme surprises
that life sometimes holds in store for them. They lack the
Mrs. Williams's cat was content upon a strange floor and in the
confining enclosure of a strange box. She purred for a time, then
trustfully fell asleep. 'Twas well she slumbered; she would need
all her powers presently.
She slumbered, and dreamed not that she would wake to mingle with
events that were to alter her serene disposition radically and
cause her to become hasty-tempered and abnormally suspicious for
the rest of her life.
Meanwhile, Penrod appeared to reach a doubtful solution of his
problem. His expression was still somewhat clouded as he brought
from the storeroom of the stable a small fragment of a broken
mirror, two paint brushes and two old cans, one containing black
paint and the other white. He regarded himself earnestly in the
mirror; then, with some reluctance, he dipped a brush into one of
the cans, and slowly painted his nose a midnight black. He was on
the point of spreading this decoration to cover the lower part of
his face, when he paused, brush halfway between can and chin.
What arrested him was a sound from the alley--a sound of drumming
upon tin. The eyes of Penrod became significant of rushing
thoughts; his expression cleared and brightened. He ran to the
alley doors and flung them open.
"Oh, Verman!" he shouted.
Marching up and down before the cottage across the alley, Verman
plainly considered himself to be an army. Hanging from his
shoulders by a string was an old tin wash-basin, whereon he beat
cheerily with two dry bones, once the chief support of a chicken.
Thus he assuaged his ennui.
"Verman, come on in here," Penrod called. "I got sumpthing for
you to do you'll like awful well."
Verman halted, ceased to drum, and stared. His gaze was not fixed
particularly upon Penrod's nose, however, and neither now nor
later did he make any remark or gesture referring to this casual
eccentricity. He expected things like that upon Penrod or Sam
Williams. And as for Penrod himself, he had already forgotten
that his nose was painted.
"Come on, Verman!"
Verman continued to stare, not moving. He had received such
invitations before, and they had not always resulted to his
advantage. Within that stable things had happened to him the like
of which he was anxious to avoid in the future.
"Oh, come ahead, Verman!" Penrod urged, and, divining logic in
the reluctance confronting him, he added, "This ain't goin' to be
anything like last time, Verman. I got sumpthing just SPLENDUD
for you to do!"
Verman's expression hardened; he shook his head decisively.
"Mo," he said.
"Oh, COME on, Verman?" Penrod pleaded. "It isn't anything goin'
to HURT you, is it? I tell you it's sumpthing you'd give a good
deal to GET to do, if you knew what it is."
"Mo!" said Verman firmly. "I mome maw woo!"
Penrod offered arguments.
"Look, Verman!" he said. "Listen here a minute, can't you? How
d'you know you don't want to until you know what it is? A person
CAN'T know they don't want to do a thing even before the other
person tells 'em what they're goin' to get 'em to do, can they?
For all you know, this thing I'm goin' to get you to do might be
sumpthing you wouldn't miss doin' for anything there is! For all
you know, Verman, it might be sumpthing like this: well,
f'rinstance, s'pose I was standin' here, and you were over there,
sort of like the way you are now, and I says, 'Hello, Verman!'
and then I'd go on and tell you there was sumpthing I was goin'
to get you to do; and you'd say you wouldn't do it, even before
you heard what it was, why where'd be any sense to THAT? For all
you know, I might of been goin' to get you to eat a five-cent bag
Verman had listened obdurately until he heard the last few words;
but as they fell upon his ear, he relaxed, and advanced to the
stable doors, smiling and extending his open right hand.
"Aw wi," he said. "Gi'm here."
"Well," Penrod returned, a trifle embarrassed, "I didn't say it
WAS peanuts, did I? Honest, Verman, it's sumpthing you'll like
better'n a few old peanuts that most of 'em'd prob'ly have worms
in 'em, anyway. All I want you to do is--"
But Verman was not favourably impressed; his face hardened again.
"Mo!" he said, and prepared to depart.
"Look here, Verman," Penrod urged. "It isn't goin' to hurt you
just to come in here and see what I got for you, is it? You can
do that much, can't you?"
Surely such an appeal must have appeared reasonable, even to
Verman, especially since its effect was aided by the promising
words, "See what I got for you." Certainly Verman yielded to it,
though perhaps a little suspiciously. He advanced a few cautious
steps into the stable.
"Look!" Penrod cried, and he ran to the stuffed and linked
stockings, seized the leading-string, and vigorously illustrated
his further remarks. "How's that for a big, long, ugly-faced
horr'ble black ole snake, Verman? Look at her follow me all round
anywhere I feel like goin'! Look at her wiggle, will you, though?
Look how I make her do anything I tell her to. Lay down, you ole
snake, you-- See her lay down when I tell her to, Verman? Wiggle,
you ole snake, you! See her wiggle, Verman?"
"Hi!" Undoubtedly Verman felt some pleasure.
"Now, listen, Verman!" Penrod continued, hastening to make the
most of the opportunity. "Listen! I fixed up this good ole snake
just for you. I'm goin' to give her to you."
On account of a previous experience not unconnected with cats,
and likely to prejudice Verman, Penrod decided to postpone
mentioning Mrs. Williams's pet until he should have secured
Verman's cooperation in the enterprise irretrievably.
"All you got to do," he went on, "is to chase this good ole snake
around, and sort o' laugh and keep pokin' it with the handle o'
that rake yonder. I'm goin' to saw it off just so's you can poke
your good ole snake with it, Verman."
"Aw wi," said Verman, and, extending his open hand again, he
uttered a hopeful request. "Peamup?"
His host perceived that Verman had misunderstood him. "Peanuts!"
he exclaimed. "My goodness! I didn't say I HAD any peanuts, did
I? I only said s'pose f'rinstance I DID have some. My goodness!
You don't expeck me to go round here all day workin' like a dog
to make a good ole snake for you and then give you a bag o'
peanuts to hire you to play with it, do you, Verman? My
Verman's hand fell, with a little disappointment.
"Aw wi," he said, consenting to accept the snake without the
"That's the boy! NOW we're all right, Verman; and pretty soon I'm
goin' to saw that rake-handle off for you, too; so's you can
kind o' guide your good ole snake around with it; but
first--well, first there's just one more thing's got to be done.
I'll show you--it won't take but a minute." Then, while Verman
watched him wonderingly, he went to the can of white paint and
dipped a brush therein. "It won't get on your clo'es much, or
anything, Verman," he explained. "I only just got to--"
But as he approached, dripping brush in hand, the wondering look
was all gone from Verman; determination took its place.
"Mo!" he said, turned his back, and started for outdoors.
"Look here, Verman," Penrod cried. "I haven't done anything to
you yet, have I? It isn't goin' to hurt you, is it? You act like
a little teeny bit o' paint was goin' to kill you. What's the
matter of you? I only just got to paint the top part of your
face; I'm not goin' to TOUCH the other part of it--nor your hands
or anything. All _I_ want--"
"MO!" said Verman from the doorway.
"Oh, my goodness!" moaned Penrod; and in desperation he drew
forth from his pocket his entire fortune. "All right, Verman," he
said resignedly. "If you won't do it any other way, here's a
nickel, and you can go and buy you some peanuts when we get
through. But if I give you this money, you got to promise to wait
till we ARE through, and you got to promise to do anything I tell
you to. You goin' to promise?"
The eyes of Verman glistened; he returned, gave bond, and,
grasping the coin, burst into the rich laughter of a gourmand.
Penrod immediately painted him dead white above the eyes, all
round his head and including his hair. It took all the paint in
Then the artist mentioned the presence of Mrs. Williams's cat,
explained in full his ideas concerning the docile animal, and the
long black snake, and Della and her friend, Mrs. Cullen, while
Verman listened with anxiety, but remained true to his oath.
They removed the stocking at the end of the long black snake, and
cut four holes in the foot and ankle of it. They removed the
excelsior, placed Mrs. Williams's cat in the stocking, shook her
down into the lower section of it; drew her feet through the four
holes there, leaving her head in the toe of the stocking; then
packed the excelsior down on top of her, and once more attached
the stocking to the rest of the long, black snake.
How shameful is the ease of the historian! He sits in his
dressing-gown to write: "The enemy attacked in force--" The
tranquil pen, moving in a cloud of tobacco smoke, leaves upon the
page its little hieroglyphics, serenely summing up the monstrous
deeds and sufferings of men of action. How cold, how niggardly,
to state merely that Penrod and the painted Verman succeeded in
giving the long, black snake a motive power, or tractor,
apparently its own but consisting of Mrs. Williams's cat!
She was drowsy when they lifted her from the box; she was still
drowsy when they introduced part of her into the orifice of the
stocking; but she woke to full, vigorous young life when she
perceived that their purpose was for her to descend into the
black depths of that stocking head first.
Verman held the mouth of the stocking stretched, and Penrod
manipulated the cat; but she left her hearty mark on both of them
before, in a moment of unfortunate inspiration, she humped her
back while she was upside down, and Penrod took advantage of the
concavity to increase it even more than she desired. The next
instant she was assisted downward into the gloomy interior, with
excelsior already beginning to block the means of egress.
Gymnastic moments followed; there were times when both boys
hurled themselves full-length upon the floor, seizing the
animated stocking with far-extended hands; and even when the
snake was a complete thing, with legs growing from its
unquestionably ugly face, either Penrod or Verman must keep a
grasp upon it, for it would not be soothed, and refused, over and
over, to calm itself, even when addressed as, "Poor pussy!" and
"Nice 'ittle kitty!"
Finally, they thought they had their good ole snake "about
quieted down", as Penrod said, because the animated head had
remained in one place for an unusual length of time, though
the legs produced a rather sinister effect of crouching, and a
noise like a distant planing-mill came from the interior--and
then Duke appeared in the doorway. He was still feeling lively.
CHAPTER XX. THE DEPARTING GUEST
By the time Penrod returned from chasing Duke to the next
corner, Verman had the long, black snake down from the rafter
where its active head had taken refuge, with the rest of it
dangling; and both boys agreed that Mrs. Williams's cat must
certainly be able to "see SOME, anyway", through the meshes of
"Well," said Penrod, "it's gettin' pretty near dark, what with
all this bother and mess we been havin' around here, and I expeck
as soon as I get this good ole broom-handle fixed out of the rake
for you, Verman, it'll be about time to begin what we had to go
and take all this trouble FOR."
. . . . Mr. Schofield had brought an old friend home to dinner
with him: "Dear old Joe Gilling," he called this friend when
introducing him to Mrs. Schofield. Mr. Gilling, as Mrs. Schofield
was already informed by telephone, had just happened to turn up
in town that day, and had called on his classmate at the latter's
office. The two had not seen each other in eighteen years.
Mr. Gilling was a tall man, clad highly in the mode, and brought
to a polished and powdered finish by barber and manicurist; but
his colour was peculiar, being almost unhumanly florid, and, as
Mrs. Schofield afterward claimed to have noticed, his eyes "wore
a nervous, apprehensive look", his hands were tremulous, and his
manner was "queer and jerky"--at least, that is how she defined
She was not surprised to hear him state that he was travelling
for his health and not upon business. He had not been really well
for several years, he said.
At that, Mr. Schofield laughed and slapped him heartily on the
"Oh, mercy!" Mr. Gilling cried, leaping in his chair. "What IS
"Nothing!" Mr. Schofield laughed. "I just slapped you the way we
used to slap each other on the campus. What I was going to say
was that you have no business being a bachelor. With all your
money, and nothing to do but travel and sit around hotels and
clubs, no wonder you've grown bilious."
"Oh, no; I'm not bilious," Mr. Gilling said uncomfortably. "I'm
not bilious at all."
"You ought to get married," Mr. Schofield returned. "You ought--"
He paused, for Mr. Gilling had jumped again. "What's the trouble,
"Nothing. I thought perhaps--perhaps you were going to slap me on
the back again."
"Not this time," Mr. Schofield said, renewing his laughter.
"Well, is dinner about ready?" he asked, turning to his wife.
"Where are Margaret and Penrod?"
"Margaret's just come in," Mrs. Schofield answered. "She'll be
down in a minute, and Penrod's around somewhere."
"Penrod?" Mr. Gilling repeated curiously, in his nervous, serious
way. "What is Penrod?"
And at this, Mrs. Schofield joined in her husband's laughter. Mr.
"Penrod's our young son," he said. "He's not much for looks,
maybe; but he's been pretty good lately, and sometimes we're
almost inclined to be proud of him. You'll see him in a minute,
Old Joe saw him even sooner. Instantly, as Mr. Schofield finished
his little prediction, the most shocking uproar ever heard in
that house burst forth in the kitchen. Distinctly Irish shrieks
unlimited came from that quarter--together with the clashing of
hurled metal and tin, the appealing sound of breaking china, and
the hysterical barking of a dog.
The library door flew open, and Mrs. Cullen appeared as a mingled
streak crossing the room from one door to the other. She was
followed by a boy with a coal-black nose and between his feet,
as he entered, there appeared a big long, black, horrible snake,
with frantic legs springing from what appeared to be its head;
and it further fulfilled Mrs. Cullen's description by making a
fizzin' noise. Accompanying the snake, and still faithfully
endeavouring to guide it with the detached handle of a rake, was
a small black demon with a gassly white forehead and gasslier
white hair. Duke evidently still feeling his bath, was doing all
in his power to aid the demon in making the snake step lively. A
few kitchen implements followed this fugitive procession through
the library doorway.
The long, black snake became involved with a leg of the heavy
table in the centre of the room. The head developed spasms of
agility; there were clangings and rippings, then the foremost
section of the long, black snake detached itself, bounded into
the air, and, after turning a number of somersaults, became,
severally, a torn stocking, excelsior, and a lunatic cat. The
ears of this cat were laid back flat upon its head and its speed
was excessive upon a fairly circular track it laid out for itself
in the library. Flying round this orbit, it perceived the open
doorway; passed through it, thence to the kitchen, and outward
and onward--Della having left the kitchen door open in her haste
as she retired to the backyard.
The black demon with the gassly white forehead and hair, finding
himself in the presence of grown people who were white all over,
turned in his tracks and followed Mrs. Williams's cat to the
great outdoors. Duke preceded Verman. Mrs. Cullen vanished. Of
the apparition, only wreckage and a rightfully apprehensive
Penrod were left.
"But where," Mrs. Schofield began, a few minutes later, looking
"Where what?" Mr. Schofield asked testily. "What are you talking
about?" His nerves were jarred, and he was rather hoarse after
what he had been saying to Penrod. (That regretful necromancer
was now upstairs doing unhelpful things to his nose over a
washstand.) "What do you mean by, 'Where, where, where?'" Mr.
Schofield demanded. "I don't see any sense to it."
"But where is your old classmate?" she cried. "Where's Mr.
She was the first to notice this striking absence.
"By George!" Mr. Schofield exclaimed. "Where IS old Joe?"
Margaret intervened. "You mean that tall, pale man who was
calling?" she asked.
"Pale, no!" said her father. "He's as flushed as--"
"He was pale when _I_ saw him," Margaret said. "He had his hat
and coat, and he was trying to get out of the front door when I
came running downstairs. He couldn't work the catch for a minute;
but before I got to the foot of the steps he managed to turn it
and open the door. He went out before I could think what to say
to him, he was in such a hurry. I guess everything was so
confused you didn't notice--but he's certainly gone."
Mrs. Schofield turned to her husband.
"But I thought he was going to stay to dinner!" she cried.
Mr. Schofield shook his head, admitting himself floored. Later,
having mentally gone over everything that might shed light on the
curious behaviour of old Joe, he said, without preface:
"He wasn't at all dissipated when we were in college."
Mrs. Schofield nodded severely. "Maybe this was just the best
thing could have happened to him, after all," she said.
"It may be," her husband returned. "I don't say it isn't. BUT
that isn't going to make any difference in what I'm going to do
CHAPTER XXI. YEARNINGS
The next day a new ambition entered into Penrod Schofield; it was
heralded by a flourish of trumpets and set up a great noise
within his being.
On his way home from Sunday-school he had paused at a corner to
listen to a brass band, which was returning from a funeral,
playing a medley of airs from "The Merry Widow," and as the
musicians came down the street, walking so gracefully, the sun
picked out the gold braid upon their uniforms and splashed fire
from their polished instruments. Penrod marked the shapes of the
great bass horns, the suave sculpture of their brazen coils, and
the grand, sensational flare of their mouths. And he saw plainly
that these noble things, to be mastered, needed no more than some
breath blown into them during the fingering of a few simple keys.
Then obediently they gave forth those vast but dulcet sounds
which stirred his spirit as no other sounds could stir it quite.
The leader of the band, walking ahead, was a pleasing figure,
nothing more. Penrod supposed him to be a mere decoration, and
had never sympathized with Sam Williams' deep feeling about
drum-majors. The cornets, the trombones, the smaller horns were
rather interesting, of course; and the drums had charm,
especially the bass drum, which must be partially supported by a
youth in front; but, immeasurably above all these, what
fascinated Penrod was the little man with the monster horn. There
Penrod's widening eyes remained transfixed--upon the horn, so
dazzling, with its broad spaces of brassy highlights, and so
overwhelming, with its mouth as wide as a tub; that there was
something almost threatening about it.
The little, elderly band-musician walked manfully as he blew his
great horn; and in that pompous engine of sound, the boy beheld a
spectacle of huge forces under human control. To Penrod, the horn
meant power, and the musician meant mastery over power, though,
of course, Penrod did not know that this was how he really felt
about the matter.
Grandiloquent sketches were passing and interchanging before his
mind's eye--Penrod, in noble raiment, marching down the staring
street, his shoulders swaying professionally, the roar of the
horn he bore submerging all other sounds; Penrod on horseback,
blowing the enormous horn and leading wild hordes to battle,
while Marjorie Jones looked on from the sidewalk; Penrod
astounding his mother and father and sister by suddenly
serenading them in the library. "Why, Penrod, where DID you learn
to play like this?"
These were vague and shimmering glories of vision rather than
definite plans for his life work, yet he did with all his will
determine to own and play upon some roaring instrument of brass.
And, after all, this was no new desire of his; it was only an old
one inflamed to take a new form. Nor was music the root of it,
for the identical desire is often uproarious among them that hate
music. What stirred in Penrod was new neither in him nor in the
world, but old--old as old Adam, old as the childishness of man.
All children have it, of course: they are all anxious to Make a
Noise in the World.
While the band approached, Penrod marked the time with his feet;
then he fell into step and accompanied the musicians down the
street, keeping as near as possible to the little man with the
big horn. There were four or five other boys, strangers, also
marching with the band, but these were light spirits, their
flushed faces and prancing legs proving that they were merely in
a state of emotional reaction to music. Penrod, on the contrary,
was grave. He kept his eyes upon the big horn, and, now and then,
he gave an imitation of it. His fingers moved upon invisible
keys, his cheeks puffed out, and, from far down in his throat, he
produced strange sounds: "Taw, p'taw-p'taw! Taw, p'taw-p'taw!
The other boys turned back when the musicians ceased to play, but
Penrod marched on, still keeping close to what so inspired him.
He stayed with the band till the last member of it disappeared up
a staircase in an office-building, down at the business end of
the street; and even after that he lingered a while, looking at
Finally, however, he set his face toward home, whither he marched
in a procession, the visible part of which consisted of himself
alone. All the way the rhythmic movements of his head kept time
with his marching feet and, also, with a slight rise and fall of
his fingers at about the median line of his abdomen. And
pedestrians who encountered him in this preoccupation were not
surprised to hear, as he passed, a few explosive little
vocalizations: "Taw, p'taw-p'taw! TAW! Taw-aw-HAW!"
These were the outward symptoms of no fleeting impulse, but of
steadfast desire; therefore they were persistent. The likeness of
the great bass horn remained upon the retina of his mind's eye,
losing nothing of its brazen enormity with the passing of hours,
nor abating, in his mind's ear, one whit of its fascinating
blatancy. Penrod might have forgotten almost anything else more
readily; for such a horn has this double compulsion: people
cannot possibly keep themselves from looking at its
possessor--and they certainly have GOT to listen to him!
Penrod was preoccupied at dinner and during the evening, now and
then causing his father some irritation by croaking, "Taw,
p'taw-p'taw!" while the latter was talking. And when bedtime came
for the son of the house, he mounted the stairs in a rhythmic
manner, and p'tawed himself through the upper hall as far as his
Even after he had gone to bed, there came a revival of these
manifestations. His mother had put out his light for him and had
returned to the library downstairs; three-quarters of an hour had
elapsed since then, and Margaret was in her room, next to his,
when a continuous low croaking (which she was just able to hear)
suddenly broke out into loud, triumphal blattings:
"TAW, p'taw-p'taw-aw-HAW! P'taw-WAW-aw! Aw-PAW!"
"Penrod," Margaret called, "stop that! I'm trying to write
letters. If you don't quit and go to sleep, I'll call papa up,
and you'll SEE!"
The noise ceased, or, rather, it tapered down to a desultory
faint croaking which finally died out; but there can be little
doubt that Penrod's last waking thoughts were of instrumental
music. And in the morning, when he woke to face the gloomy day's
scholastic tasks, something unusual and eager fawned in his face
with the return of memory. "Taw-p'taw!" he began. "PAW!"
All day, in school and out, his mind was busy with
computations--not such as are prescribed by mathematical pedants,
but estimates of how much old rags and old iron would sell for
enough money to buy a horn. Happily, the next day, at lunch, he
was able to dismiss this problem from his mind: he learned that
his Uncle Joe would be passing through town, on his way from
Nevada, the following afternoon, and all the Schofield family
were to go to the station to see him. Penrod would be excused
At this news his cheeks became pink, and for a moment he was
breathless. Uncle Joe and Penrod did not meet often, but when
they did, Uncle Joe invariably gave Penrod money. Moreover, he
always managed to do it privately so that later there was no
bothersome supervision. Last time he had given Penrod a silver
At thirty-five minutes after two, Wednesday afternoon, Uncle
Joe's train came into the station, and Uncle Joe got out and
shouted among his relatives. At eighteen minutes before three he
was waving to them from the platform of the last car, having just
slipped a two-dollar bill into Penrod's breast-pocket. And, at
seven minutes after three, Penrod opened the door of the largest
"music store" in town.
A tall, exquisite, fair man, evidently a musical earl, stood
before him, leaning whimsically upon a piano of the highest
polish. The sight abashed Penrod not a bit--his remarkable
financial condition even made him rather peremptory.
"See here," he said brusquely: "I want to look at that big horn
in the window."
"Very well," said the earl; "look at it." And leaned more
luxuriously upon the polished piano.
"I meant--" Penrod began, but paused, something daunted, while an
unnamed fear brought greater mildness into his voice, as he
continued, "I meant--I--How much IS that big horn?"
"How much?" the earl repeated.
"I mean," said Penrod, "how much is it worth?"
"I don't know," the earl returned. "Its price is eighty-five
"Eighty-fi--" Penrod began mechanically, but was forced to pause
and swallow a little air that obstructed his throat, as the
difference between eighty-five and two became more and more
startling. He had entered the store, rich; in the last ten
seconds he had become poverty-stricken. Eighty-five dollars was
the same as eighty-five millions.
"Shall I put it aside for you," asked the salesman-earl, "while
you look around the other stores to see if there's anything you
"I guess--I guess not," said Penrod, whose face had grown red. He
swallowed again, scraped the floor with the side of his right
shoe, scratched the back of his neck, and then, trying to make
his manner casual and easy, "Well I can't stand around here all
day," he said. "I got to be gettin' on up the street."
"Business, I suppose?"
Penrod, turning to the door, suspected jocularity, but he found
himself without recourse; he was nonplussed.
"Sure you won't let me have that horn tied up in nice
wrapping-paper in case you decide to take it?"
Penrod was almost positive that the spirit of this question was
satirical; but he was unable to reply, except by a feeble shake
of the head--though ten minutes later, as he plodded forlornly
his homeward way, he looked over his shoulder and sent backward a
few words of morose repartee:
"Oh, I am, am I?" he muttered, evidently concluding a
conversation which he had continued mentally with the salesman.
"Well, you're double anything you call me, so that makes you a
smart Aleck twice! Ole double smart Aleck!"
After that, he walked with the least bit more briskness, but not
much. No wonder he felt discouraged: there are times when
eighty-five dollars can be a blow to anybody! Penrod was so
stunned that he actually forgot what was in his pocket. He
passed two drug stores, and they had absolutely no meaning to
him. He walked all the way without spending a cent.
At home he spent a moment in the kitchen pantry while the cook
was in the cellar; then he went out to the stable and began some
really pathetic experiments. His materials were the small tin
funnel which he had obtained in the pantry, and a short section
of old garden hose. He inserted the funnel into one end of the
garden hose, and made it fast by wrappings of cord. Then he
arranged the hose in a double, circular coil, tied it so that it
would remain coiled, and blew into the other end.
He blew and blew and blew; he set his lips tight together, as he
had observed the little musician with the big horn set his, and
blew and sputtered, and sputtered and blew, but nothing of the
slightest importance happened in the orifice of the funnel. Still
he blew. He began to be dizzy; his eyes watered; his expression
became as horrible as a strangled person's. He but blew the more.
He stamped his feet and blew. He staggered to the wheelbarrow,
sat, and blew--and yet the funnel uttered nothing; it seemed
merely to breathe hard.
It would not sound like a horn, and, when Penrod finally gave up,
he had to admit piteously that it did not look like a horn. No
boy over nine could have pretended that it was a horn.
He tossed the thing upon the floor, and leaned back in the
Sam Williams appeared in the doorway, and, behind Sam, Master
Roderick Magsworth Bitts, Junior.
Penrod made no response.
The two came in, and Sam picked up the poor contrivance Penrod
had tossed upon the floor.
"What's this ole dingus?" Sam asked.
"Well, what's it for?"
"Nothin'," said Penrod. "It's a kind of a horn."
"For music," said Penrod simply.
Master Bitts laughed loud and long; he was derisive. "Music!" he
yipped. "I thought you meant a cow's horn! He says it's a
music-horn, Sam? What you think o' that?"
Sam blew into the thing industriously.
"It won't work," he announced.
"Course it won't!" Roddy Bitts shouted. "You can't make it go
without you got a REAL horn. I'm goin' to get me a real horn some
day before long, and then you'll see me goin' up and down here
playin' it like sixty! I'll--"
"'Some day before long!'" Sam mocked. "Yes, we will! Why'n't you
get it to-day, if you're goin' to?"
"I would," said Roddy. "I'd go get the money from my father right
now, only he wouldn't give it to me."
Sam whooped, and Penrod, in spite of his great depression,
uttered a few jibing sounds.
"I'd get MY father to buy me a fire-engine and team o' HORSES,"
Sam bellowed, "only he wouldn't!"
"Listen, can't you?" cried Roddy. "I mean he would most any time,
but not this month. I can't have any money for a month beginning
last Saturday, because I got paint on one of our dogs, and he
came in the house with it on him, and got some on pretty near
everything. If it hadn't 'a' been for that--"
"Oh, yes!" said Sam. "If it hadn't 'a' been for that! It's always
"It is not!"
"Well, then, why'n't you go GET a real horn?"
Roddy's face had flushed with irritation.
"Well, didn't I just TELL you--" he began, but paused, while the
renewal of some interesting recollection became visible in his
expression. "Why, I COULD, if I wanted to," he said more calmly.
"It wouldn't be a new one, maybe. I guess it would be kind of an
old one, but--"
"Oh, a toy horn!" said Sam. "I expect one you had when you were
three years old, and your mother stuck it up in the attic to keep
till you're dead, or sumpthing!"
"It's not either any toy horn," Roddy insisted. "It's a reg'lar
horn for a band, and I could have it as easy as anything."
The tone of this declaration was so sincere that it roused the
"Roddy, is that true?" he sat up to inquire piercingly.
"Of course it is!" Master Bitts returned. "What you take me for?
I could go get that horn this minute if I wanted to."
"A real one--honest?"
"Well, didn't I say it was a real one?"
"Like in the BAND?"
"I said so, didn't I?"
"I guess you mean one of those little ones," said Penrod.
"No, sir!" Roddy insisted stoutly; "it's a big one! It winds
around in a big circle that would go all the way around a pretty
"What store is it in?"
"It's not in any store," said Roddy. "It's at my Uncle
Ethelbert's. He's got this horn and three or four pianos and a
couple o' harps and--"
"Does he keep a music store?"
"No. These harps and pianos and all such are old ones--awful
"Oh," said Sam, "he runs a second-hand store!"
"He does not!" Master Bitts returned angrily. "He doesn't do
anything. He's just got 'em. He's got forty-one guitars."
"Yay!" Sam whooped, and jumped up and down. "Listen to Roddy
Bitts makin' up lies!"
"You look out, Sam Williams!" said Roddy threateningly. "You look
out how you call me names!"
"What name'd I call you?"
"You just the same as said I told lies. That's just as good as
callin' me a liar, isn't it?"
"No," said Sam; "but I got a right to, if I want to. Haven't I,
"How?" Roddy demanded hotly. "How you got a right to?"
"Because you can't prove what you said."
"Well," said Roddy, "you'd be just as much of one if you can't
prove what I said WASN'T true."
"No, sir! You either got to prove it or be a liar. Isn't that so,
"Yes, sir," Penrod ruled, with a little importance, "that's the
way it is, Roddy."
"Well, then," said Roddy, "come on over to my Uncle Ethelbert's,
and I'll show you!"
"No," said Sam. "I wouldn't walk over there just to find out
sumpthing I already know isn't so. Outside of a music store there
isn't anybody in the world got forty-one guitars! I've heard lots
o' people TALK, but I never heard such a big l--"
"You shut up!" shouted Roddy. "You ole--"
"Why'n't you show us the horn, Roddy?" he asked. "You said you
could get it. You show us the horn and we'll believe you. If you
show us the horn, Sam'll haf to take what he said back; won't
"Yes," said Sam, and added. "He hasn't got any. He went and told
Roddy's eyes were bright with rage; he breathed noisily.
"I haven't?" he cried. "You just wait here, and I'll show you!"
And he ran furiously from the stable.
CHAPTER XXII. THE HORN OF FAME
"Bet he won't come back!" said Sam.
"Well, he might."
"Well, if he does and he hasn't got any horn, I got a right to
call him anything I want to, and he's got to stand it. And if he
doesn't come back," Sam continued, as by the code, "then I got a
right to call him whatever I like next time I ketch him out."
"I expect he'll have SOME kind of ole horn, maybe," said Penrod.
"No," the skeptical Sam insisted, "he won't."
But Roddy did. Twenty minutes elapsed, and both the waiting boys
had decided that they were legally entitled to call him whatever
they thought fitting, when he burst in, puffing; and in his hands
he bore a horn. It was a "real" one, and of a kind that neither
Penrod nor Sam had ever seen before, though they failed to
realize this, because its shape was instantly familiar to them.
No horn could have been simpler: it consisted merely of one
circular coil of brass with a mouthpiece at one end for the
musician, and a wide-flaring mouth of its own, for the noise, at
the other. But it was obviously a second-hand horn; dents
slightly marred it, here and there, and its surface was dull,
rather greenish. There were no keys; and a badly faded green cord
and tassel hung from the coil.
Even so shabby a horn as this electrified Penrod. It was not a
stupendous horn, but it was a horn, and when a boy has been
sighing for the moon, a piece of green cheese will satisfy him,
for he can play that it is the moon.
"Gimme that HORN!" Penrod shouted, as he dashed for it.
"YAY!" Sam cried, and sought to wrest it from him. Roddy joined
the scuffle, trying to retain the horn; but Penrod managed to
secure it. With one free hand he fended the others off while he
blew into the mouthpiece.
"Let me have it," Sam urged. "You can't do anything with it.
Lemme take it, Penrod."
"No!" said Roddy. "Let ME! My goodness! Ain't I got any right to
blow my own horn?"
They pressed upon Penrod, who frantically fended and frantically
blew. At last he remembered to compress his lips, and force the
air through the compression.
A magnificent snort from the horn was his reward. He removed his
lips from the mouthpiece, and capered in pride.
"Hah!" he cried. "Hear that? I guess _I_ can't play this good ole
horn! Oh, no!"
During his capers, Sam captured the horn. But Sam had not made
the best of his opportunities as an observer of bands; he thrust
the mouthpiece deep into his mouth, and blew until his expression
became one of agony.
"No, no!" Penrod exclaimed. "You haven't got the secret of
blowin' a horn, Sam. What's the use your keepin' hold of it, when
you don't know any more about it 'n that? It ain't makin' a
sound! You lemme have that good ole horn back, Sam. Haven't you
got sense enough to see I know how to PLAY?"
Laying hands upon it, he jerked it away from Sam, who was a
little piqued over the failure of his own efforts, especially as
Penrod now produced a sonarous blat--quite a long one. Sam became
"My goodness!" Roddy Bitts said peevishly. "Ain't I ever goin' to
get a turn at my own horn? Here you've had two turns, Penrod, and
even Sam Williams--"
Sam's petulance at once directed itself toward Roddy partly
because of the latter's tactless use of the word "even," and the
two engaged in controversy, while Penrod was left free to
continue the experiments which so enraptured him.
"Your own horn!" Sam sneered. "I bet it isn't yours! Anyway, you
can't prove it's yours, and that gives me a right to call you
"You better not! It is, too, mine. It's just the same as mine!"
"No, sir," said Sam; "I bet you got to take it back where you got
it, and that's not anything like the same as yours; so I got a
perfect right to call you whatev--"
"I do NOT haf to take it back where I got it, either!" Roddy
cried, more and more irritated by his opponent's persistence in
stating his rights in this matter.
"I BET they told you to bring it back," said Sam tauntingly.
"They didn't, either! There wasn't anybody there."
"Yay! Then you got to get it back before they know it's gone."
"I don't either any such a thing! I heard my Uncle Ethelbert say
Sunday he didn't want it. He said he wished somebody'd take that
horn off his hands so's he could buy sumpthing else. That's just
exactly what he said. I heard him tell my mother. He said, 'I
guess I prackly got to give it away if I'm ever goin' to get rid
of it.' Well, when my own uncle says he wants to give a horn
away, and he wishes he could get rid of it, I guess it's just the
same as mine, soon as I go and take it, isn't it? I'm goin' to
Sam was shaken, but he had set out to demonstrate those rights of
his and did not mean to yield them.
"Yes; you'll have a NICE time," he said, "next time your uncle
goes to play on that horn and can't find it. No, sir; I got a
"My uncle don't PLAY on it!" Roddy shrieked. "It's an ole wore-
out horn nobody wants, and it's mine, I tell you! I can blow on
it, or bust it, or kick it out in the alley and leave it there,
if I want to!"
"No, you can't!"
"I can, too!"
"No, you can't. You can't PROVE you can, and unless you prove it,
I got a perf--"
Roddy stamped his foot. "I can, too!" he shrieked. "You ole durn
jackass, I can, too! I can, can, can, can--"
Penrod suddenly stopped his intermittent production of blats, and
intervened. "_I_ know how you can prove it, Roddy," he said
briskly. "There's one way anybody can always prove sumpthing
belongs to them, so that nobody'd have a right to call them what
they wanted to. You can prove it's yours, EASY!"
"Well," said Penrod, "if you give it away."
"What you mean?" asked Roddy, frowning.
"Well, look here," Penrod began brightly. "You can't give
anything away that doesn't belong to you, can you?"
"So, then," the resourceful boy continued, "f'r instance, if you
give this ole horn to me, that'd prove it was yours, and Sam'd
haf to say it was, and he wouldn't have any right to--"
"I won't do it!" said Roddy sourly. "I don't want to give you
that horn. What I want to give you anything at all for?"
Penrod sighed, as if the task of reaching Roddy's mind with
reason were too heavy for him. "Well, if you don't want to prove
it, and rather let us have the right to call you anything we want
to--well, all right, then," he said.
"You look out what you call me!" Roddy cried, only the more
incensed, in spite of the pains Penrod was taking with him. "I
don't haf to prove it. It's MINE!"
"What kind o' proof is that?" Sam Williams demanded severely.
"You GOT to prove it and you can't do it!"
Roddy began a reply, but his agitation was so great that what he
said had not attained coherency when Penrod again intervened. He
had just remembered something important.
"Oh, _I_ know, Roddy!" he exclaimed. "If you sell it, that'd
prove it was yours almost as good as givin' it away. What'll you
take for it?"
"I don't want to sell it," said Roddy sulkily.
"Yay! Yay! YAY!" shouted the taunting Sam Williams, whose every
word and sound had now become almost unbearable to Master Bitts.
Sam was usually so good-natured that the only explanation of his
conduct must lie in the fact that Roddy constitutionally got on
his nerves. "He KNOWS he can't prove it! He's a goner, and now we
can begin callin' him anything we can think of! I choose to call
him one first, Penrod. Roddy, you're a--"
"Wait!" shouted Penrod, for he really believed Roddy's claims to
be both moral and legal. When an uncle who does not even play
upon an old second-hand horn wishes to get rid of that horn, and
even complains of having it on his hands, it seems reasonable to
consider that the horn becomes the property of a nephew who has
gone to the trouble of carrying the undesired thing out of the
Penrod determined to deal fairly. The difference between this
horn and the one in the "music-store" window seemed to him just
about the difference between two and eighty-five. He drew forth
the green bill from his pocket.
"Roddy," he said, "I'll give you two dollars for that horn."
Sam Williams's mouth fell open; he was silenced indeed. But for a
moment, the confused and badgered Roddy was incredulous; he had
not dreamed that Penrod possessed such a sum.
"Lemme take a look at that money!" he said.
If at first there had been in Roddy's mind a little doubt about
his present rights of ownership, he had talked himself out of it.
Also, his financial supplies for the month were cut off, on
account of the careless dog. Finally, he thought that the horn
was worth about fifty cents.
"I'll do it, Penrod!" he said with decision.
Thereupon Penrod shouted aloud, prancing up and down the
carriage-house with the horn. Roddy was happy, too, land mingled
his voice with Penrod's.
"Hi! Hi! Hi!" shouted Roddy Bitts. "I'm goin' to buy me an
air-gun down at Fox's hardware store!"
And he departed, galloping.
. . . He returned the following afternoon. School was over, and
Penrod and Sam were again in the stable; Penrod "was practising"
upon the horn, with Sam for an unenthusiastic spectator and
auditor. Master Bitts' brow was heavy; he looked uneasy.
"Penrod," he began, "I got to--"
Penrod removed the horn briefly from his lips.
"Don't come bangin' around here and interrup' me all the time,"
he said severely. "I got to practice."
And he again pressed the mouthpiece to his lips. He was not of
those whom importance makes gracious.
"Look here, Penrod," said Roddy, "I got to have that horn back."
Penrod lowered the horn quickly enough at this.
"What you talkin' about?" he demanded. "What you want to come
bangin' around here for and--"
"I came around here for that horn," Master Bitts returned, and
his manner was both dogged and apprehensive, the apprehension
being more prevalent when he looked at Sam. "I got to have that
horn," he said.
Sam, who had been sitting in the wheelbarrow, jumped up and began
to dance triumphantly.
"Yay! It WASN'T his, after all! Roddy Bitts told a big l--"
"I never, either!" Roddy almost wailed.
"Well, what you want the horn back for?" the terrible Sam
"Well, 'cause I want it. I got a right to want it if I want to,
Penrod's face had flushed with indignation.
"You look here, Sam," he began hotly. "Didn't you hear Roddy say
this was his horn?"
"He said it!" Sam declared. "He said it a million times!"
"Well, and didn't he sell this horn to me?"
"Didn't I pay him money cash down for it?"
"Well, and ain't it my horn now, Sam?"
"You bet you!"
"YES, sir!" Penrod went on with vigour. "It's my horn now whether
it belonged to you or not, Roddy, because you SOLD it to me and I
paid my good ole money for it. I guess a thing belongs to th`,
person that paid their own money for it, doesn't it? _I_ don't
haf to give up my own propaty, even if you did come on over here
and told us a big l--"
"_I_ NEVER!" shouted Roddy. "It was my horn, too, and I didn't
tell any such a thing!" He paused; then, reverting to his former
manner, said stubbornly, "I got to have that horn back. I GOT
"Why'n't you tell us what FOR, then?" Sam insisted.
Roddy's glance at this persecutor was one of anguish.
"I know my own biz'nuss!" he muttered.
And while Sam jeered, Roddy turned to Penrod desperately.
"You gimme that horn back! I got to have it."
But Penrod followed Sam's lead.
"Well, why can't you tell us what FOR?" he asked.
Perhaps if Sam had not been there, Roddy could have unbosomed
himself. He had no doubt of his own virtue in this affair, and he
was conscious that he had acted in good faith throughout--though,
perhaps, a little impulsively. But he was in a predicament, and
he knew that if he became more explicit, Sam could establish with
undeniable logic those rights about which he had been so odious
the day before. Such triumph for Sam was not within Roddy's power
to contemplate; he felt that he would rather die, or sumpthing.
"I got to have that horn!" he reiterated woodenly.
Penrod had no intention to humour this preposterous boy, and it
was only out of curiosity that he asked, "Well, if you want the
horn back, where's the two dollars?"
"I spent it. I bought an air-gun for a dollar and sixty-five
cents, and three sodies and some candy with the rest. I'll owe
you the two dollars, Penrod. I'm willing to do that much."
"Well, why don't you give him the air-gun," asked the satirical
Sam, "and owe him the rest?"
"I can't. Papa took the air-gun away from me because he didn't
like sumpthing I did with it. I got to owe you the whole two
"Look here, Roddy," said Penrod. "Don't you s'pose I'd rather
keep this horn and blow on it than have you owe me two dollars?"
There was something about this simple question which convinced
Roddy that his cause was lost. His hopes had been but faint from
the beginning of the interview.
"Well--" said Roddy. For a time he scuffed the floor with his
shoe. "Daw-gone it!" he said, at last; and he departed morosely.
Penrod had already begun to "practice" again, and Mr. Williams,
after vain appeals to be permitted to practice in turn, sank into
the wheelbarrow in a state of boredom, not remarkable under the
circumstances. Then Penrod contrived--it may have been
accidental--to produce at one blast two tones which varied in
His pride and excitement were extreme though not contagious.
"Listen, Sam!" he shouted. "How's THAT for high?"
The bored Sam made no response other than to rise languidly to
his feet, stretch, and start for home.
Left alone, Penrod's practice became less ardent; he needed the
stimulus of an auditor. With the horn upon his lap he began to
rub the greenish brass surface with a rag. He meant to make this
good ole two-dollar horn of his LOOK like sumpthing!
Presently, moved by a better idea, he left the horn in the stable
and went into the house, soon afterward appearing before his
mother in the library.
"Mamma," he said, complainingly, "Della won't--"
But Mrs. Schofield checked him.
"Sh, Penrod; your father's reading the paper."
Penrod glanced at Mr. Schofield, who sat near the window, reading
by the last light of the early sunset.
"Well, I know it," said Penrod, lowering his voice. "But I wish
you'd tell Della to let me have the silver polish. She says she
won't, and I want to--"
"Be quiet, Penrod, you can't have the silver polish."
"Not another word. Can't you see you're interrupting your father.
Go on, papa."
Mr. Schofield read aloud several despatches from abroad, and
after each one of them Penrod began in a low but pleading tone:
"Mamma, I want--"
Mr. Schofield continued to read, and Penrod remained in the room,
for he was determined to have the silver polish.
"Here's something curious," said Mr. Schofield, as his eye fell
upon a paragraph among the "locals."
"Valuable relic missing," Mr. Schofield read. "It was reported at
police headquarters to-day that a 'valuable object had been
stolen from the collection of antique musical instruments owned
by E. Magsworth Bitts, 724 Central Avenue. The police insist that
it must have been an inside job, but Mr. Magsworth Bitts inclines
to think it was the work of a negro, as only one article was
removed and nothing else found to be disturbed. The object stolen
was an ancient hunting-horn dating from the eighteenth century
and claimed to have belonged to Louis XV, King of France. It was
valued at about twelve hundred and fifty dollars."
Mrs. Schofield opened her mouth wide. "Why, that IS curious!" she
She jumped up. "Penrod!"
But Penrod was no longer in the room.
"What's the matter?" Mr. Schofield inquired.
"Penrod!" said Mrs. Schofield breathlessly. "HE bought an old
horn--like one in old hunting-pictures--yesterday! He bought it
with some money Uncle Joe gave him! He bought it from Roddy
"Where'd he go?"
Together they rushed to the back porch.
Penrod had removed the lid of the cistern; he was kneeling beside
it, and the fact that the diameter of the opening into the
cistern was one inch less than the diameter of the coil of Louis
the Fifteenth's hunting-horn was all that had just saved Louis
the Fifteenth's hunting-horn from joining the drowned trousers of
Such was Penrod's instinct, and thus loyally he had followed it.
. . . He was dragged into the library, expecting anything
whatever. The dreadful phrases of the newspaper item rang through
his head like the gongs of delirium: "Police headquarters!" "Work
of a negro!" "King of France!" "Valued at about twelve hundred
and fifty dollars!"
Eighty-five dollars had dismayed him; twelve hundred and fifty
was unthinkable. Nightmares were coming to life before his eyes.
But a light broke slowly; it came first to Mr. and Mrs.
Schofield, and it was they who illuminated Penrod. Slowly,