Part 1 out of 5
JOHN, DONALD AND BOOTH JAMESON
FROM A GRATEFUL UNCLE
I. A Boy and His Dog
III. The Costume
V. The Pageant of the Table Round
VII. Evils of Drink
X. Uncle John
XI. Fidelity of a Little Dog
XII. Miss Rennsdale Accepts
XIII. The Smallpox Medicine
XIV. Maurice Levy's Constitution
XV. The Two Families
XVI. The New Star
XVII. Retiring from the Show-Business
XIX. The Inner Boy
XX. Brothers of Angels
XXI. Rupe Collins
XXII. The Imitator
XXIII. Coloured Troops in Action
XXIV. "Little Gentleman"
XXVI. The Quiet Afternoon
XXVII. Conclusion of the Quiet Afternoon
XXX. The Birthday Party
XXXI. Over the Fence
A BOY AND HIS DOG
Penrod sat morosely upon the back fence and gazed with envy at
Duke, his wistful dog.
A bitter soul dominated the various curved and angular
surfaces known by a careless world as the face of Penrod
Schofield. Except in solitude, that face was almost always
cryptic and emotionless; for Penrod had come into his twelfth
year wearing an expression carefully trained to be inscrutable.
Since the world was sure to misunderstand everything, mere
defensive instinct prompted him to give it as little as possible
to lay hold upon. Nothing is more impenetrable than the
face of a boy who has learned this, and Penrod's was habitually
as fathomless as the depth of his hatred this morning for the
literary activities of Mrs. Lora Rewbush--an almost universally
respected fellow citizen, a lady of charitable and poetic
inclinations, and one of his own mother's most intimate friends.
Mrs. Lora Rewbush had written something which she called "The
Children's Pageant of the Table Round," and it was to be
performed in public that very afternoon at the Women's Arts and
Guild Hall for the benefit of the Coloured Infants' Betterment
Society. And if any flavour of sweetness remained in the nature
of Penrod Schofield after the dismal trials of the school-week
just past, that problematic, infinitesimal remnant was made
pungent acid by the imminence of his destiny to form a prominent
feature of the spectacle, and to declaim the loathsome sentiments
of a character named upon the programme the Child Sir Lancelot.
After each rehearsal he had plotted escape, and only ten days
earlier there had been a glimmer of light: Mrs. Lora Rewbush
caught a very bad cold, and it was hoped it might develop into
pneumonia; but she recovered so quickly that not even a rehearsal
of the Children's Pageant was postponed. Darkness closed in.
Penrod had rather vaguely debated plans for a self-mutilation
such as would make his appearance as the Child Sir Lancelot
inexpedient on public grounds; it was a heroic and attractive
thought, but the results of some extremely sketchy preliminary
experiments caused him to abandon it.
There was no escape; and at last his hour was hard upon him.
Therefore he brooded on the fence and gazed with envy at his
The dog's name was undescriptive of his person, which was
obviously the result of a singular series of mesalliances. He
wore a grizzled moustache and indefinite whiskers; he was small
and shabby, and looked like an old postman. Penrod envied Duke
because he was sure Duke would never be compelled to be a Child
Sir Lancelot. He thought a dog free and unshackled to go or come
as the wind listeth. Penrod forgot the life he led Duke.
There was a long soliloquy upon the fence, a plaintive
monologue without words: the boy's thoughts were adjectives, but
they were expressed by a running film of pictures in his mind's
eye, morbidly prophetic of the hideosities before him. Finally
he spoke aloud, with such spleen that Duke rose from his haunches
and lifted one ear in keen anxiety.
"`I hight Sir Lancelot du Lake, the Child,
Gentul-hearted, meek, and mild.
What though I'm BUT a littul child,
Gentul-hearted, meek, and----' OOF!"
All of this except "oof" was a quotation from the Child Sir
Lancelot, as conceived by Mrs. Lora Rewbush. Choking upon it,
Penrod slid down from the fence, and with slow and thoughtful
steps entered a one-storied wing of the stable, consisting of a
single apartment, floored with cement and used as a storeroom for
broken bric-a-brac, old paint-buckets, decayed garden-hose, worn-
out carpets, dead furniture, and other condemned odds and ends
not yet considered hopeless enough to be given away.
In one corner stood a large box, a part of the building
itself: it was eight feet high and open at the top, and it had
been constructed as a sawdust magazine from which was drawn
material for the horse's bed in a stall on the other side of the
partition. The big box, so high and towerlike, so commodious, so
suggestive, had ceased to fulfil its legitimate function; though,
providentially, it had been at least half full of sawdust when
the horse died. Two years had gone by since that passing; an
interregnum in transportation during which Penrod's father was
"thinking" (he explained sometimes) of an automobile. Meanwhile,
the gifted and generous sawdust-box had served brilliantly in war
and peace: it was Penrod's stronghold.
There was a partially defaced sign upon the front wall of the
box; the donjon-keep had known mercantile impulses:
The O. K. RaBiT Co.
PENROD ScHoFiELD AND CO.
iNQuiRE FOR PRicEs
This was a venture of the preceding vacation, and had netted,
at one time, an accrued and owed profit of $1.38. Prospects had
been brightest on the very eve of cataclysm. The storeroom was
locked and guarded, but twenty-seven rabbits and Belgian hares,
old and young, had perished here on a single night--through no
human agency, but in a foray of cats, the besiegers treacherously
tunnelling up through the sawdust from the small aperture which
opened into the stall beyond the partition. Commerce has its
Penrod climbed upon a barrel, stood on tiptoe, grasped the
rim of the box; then, using a knot-hole as a stirrup, threw one
leg over the top, drew himself up, and dropped within. Standing
upon the packed sawdust, he was just tall enough to see over the
Duke had not followed him into the storeroom, but remained
near the open doorway in a concave and pessimistic attitude.
Penrod felt in a dark corner of the box and laid hands upon a
simple apparatus consisting of an old bushel-basket with a few
yards of clothes-line tied to each of its handles. He passed the
ends of the lines over a big spool, which revolved upon an axle
of wire suspended from a beam overhead, and, with the aid of this
improvised pulley, lowered the empty basket until it came to rest
in an upright position upon the floor of the storeroom at the
foot of the sawdust-box.
"Eleva-ter!" shouted Penrod. "Ting-ting!"
Duke, old and intelligently apprehensive, approached slowly,
in a semicircular manner, deprecatingly, but with courtesy. He
pawed the basket delicately; then, as if that were all his master
had expected of him, uttered one bright bark, sat down, and
looked up triumphantly. His hypocrisy was shallow: many a
horrible quarter of an hour had taught him his duty in this
"El-e-VAY-ter!" shouted Penrod sternly. "You want me to
come down there to you?"
Duke looked suddenly haggard. He pawed the basket feebly
again and, upon another outburst from on high, prostrated himself
flat. Again threatened, he gave a superb impersonation of a
"You get in that el-e-VAY-ter!"
Reckless with despair, Duke jumped into the basket, landing
in a dishevelled posture, which he did not alter until he had
been drawn up and poured out upon the floor of sawdust with the
box. There, shuddering, he lay in doughnut shape and presently
It was dark in the box, a condition that might have been
remedied by sliding back a small wooden panel on runners, which
would have let in ample light from the alley; but Penrod
Schofield had more interesting means of illumination. He knelt,
and from a former soap-box, in a corner, took a lantern,
without a chimney, and a large oil-can, the leak in the latter
being so nearly imperceptible that its banishment from household
use had seemed to Penrod as inexplicable as it was providential.
He shook the lantern near his ear: nothing splashed; there
was no sound but a dry clinking. But there was plenty of
kerosene in the can; and he filled the lantern, striking a match
to illumine the operation. Then he lit the lantern and hung it
upon a nail against the wall. The sawdust floor was slightly
impregnated with oil, and the open flame quivered in suggestive
proximity to the side of the box; however, some rather deep
charrings of the plank against which the lantern hung offered
evidence that the arrangement was by no means a new one, and
indicated at least a possibility of no fatality occurring this
Next, Penrod turned up the surface of the sawdust in another
corner of the floor, and drew forth a cigar-box in which were
half a dozen cigarettes, made of hayseed and thick brown wrapping
paper, a lead-pencil, an eraser, and a small note-book, the cover
of which was labelled in his own handwriting:
"English Grammar. Penrod Schofield. Room 6, Ward School
The first page of this book was purely academic; but the
study of English undefiled terminated with a slight jar at the
top of the second: "Nor must an adverb be used to modif----"
"HARoLD RAMoREZ THE RoADAGENT
OR WiLD LiFE AMoNG THE
And the subsequent entries in the book appeared to have little
concern with Room 6, Ward School Nomber Seventh.
The author of "Harold Ramorez," etc., lit one of the hayseed
cigarettes, seated himself comfortably, with his back against the
wall and his right shoulder just under the lantern, elevated his
knees to support the note-book, turned to a blank page, and
wrote, slowly and earnestly:
"CHAPITER THE SIXTH"
He took a knife from his pocket, and, broodingly, his eyes
upon the inward embryos of vision, sharpened his pencil. After
that, he extended a foot and meditatively rubbed Duke's
back with the side of his shoe. Creation, with Penrod, did not
leap, full-armed, from the brain; but finally he began to
produce. He wrote very slowly at first, and then with increasing
rapidity; faster and faster, gathering momentum and growing more
and more fevered as he sped, till at last the true fire came,
without which no lamp of real literature may be made to burn.
Mr. Wilson reched for his gun but our hero had him covred and
soon said Well I guess you don't come any of that on me my
Well what makes you so sure about it sneered the other
bitting his lip so savageley that the blood ran. You are nothing
but a common Roadagent any way and I do not propose to be bafled
by such, Ramorez laughed at this and kep Mr. Wilson covred by his
Soon the two men were struggling together in the death-roes
but soon Mr Wilson got him bound and gaged his mouth and went
away for awhile leavin our hero, it was dark and he writhd at his
bonds writhing on the floor wile the rats came out of their holes
and bit him and vernim got all over him from the floor of that
helish spot but soon he managed to push the gag out of his mouth
with the end of his toungeu and got all his bonds off
Soon Mr Wilson came back to tant him with his helpless
condition flowed by his gang of detectives and they said Oh look
at Ramorez sneering at his plight and tanted him with his
helpless condition because Ramorez had put the bonds back sos he
would look the same but could throw them off him when he wanted
to Just look at him now sneered they. To hear him talk you would
thought he was hot stuff and they said Look at him now, him that
was going to do so much, Oh I would not like to be in his fix
Soon Harold got mad at this and jumped up with blasing
eyes throwin off his bonds like they were air Ha Ha sneered
he I guess you better not talk so much next time. Soon there
flowed another awful struggle and siezin his ottomatick back from
Mr Wilson he shot two of the detectives through the heart Bing
Bing went the ottomatick and two more went to meet their Maker
only two detectives left now and so he stabbed one and the
scondrel went to meet his Maker for now our hero was fighting for
his very life. It was dark in there now for night had falen and
a terrible view met the eye Blood was just all over everything
and the rats were eatin the dead men.
Soon our hero manged to get his back to the wall for he was
fighting for his very life now and shot Mr Wilson through the
abodmen Oh said Mr Wilson you---- ---- ---- (The dashes are
Mr Wilson stagerd back vile oaths soilin his lips for he was
in pain Why you---- ----you sneered he I will get you yet----
----you Harold Ramorez
The remainin scondrel had an ax which he came near our heros
head with but missed him and ramand stuck in the wall Our heros
amunition was exhaused what was he to do, the remanin scondrel
would soon get his ax lose so our hero sprung forward and bit him
till his teeth met in the flech for now our hero was fighting for
his very life. At this the remanin scondrel also cursed and
swore vile oaths. Oh sneered he---- ---- ----you Harold Ramorez
what did you bite me for Yes sneered Mr Wilson also and he has
shot me in the abdomen too the----
Soon they were both cursin and reviln him together Why
you---- ---- ---- ---- ----sneered they what did you want to
injure us for----you Harold Ramorez you have not got any sence
and you think you are so much but you are no better than anybody
else and you are a---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----
Soon our hero could stand this no longer. If you could learn
to act like gentlmen said he I would not do any more to you
now and your low vile exppresions have not got any effect on me
only to injure your own self when you go to meet your Maker Oh I
guess you have had enogh for one day and I think you have learned
a lesson and will not soon atemp to beard Harold Ramorez again so
with a tantig laugh he cooly lit a cigarrete and takin the keys
of the cell from Mr Wilson poket went on out
Soon Mr Wilson and the wonded detective manged to bind up
their wonds and got up off the floor---- ----it I will have that
dasstads life now sneered they if we have to swing for it----
---- ---- ----him he shall not eccape us again the low down----
---- ---- ---- ----
A mule train of heavily laden burros laden with gold from the
mines was to be seen wondering among the highest clifts and gorgs
of the Rocky Mts and a tall man with a long silken mustash and a
cartigde belt could be heard cursin vile oaths because he well
knew this was the lair of Harold Ramorez Why---- ---- ----you
you---- ---- ---- ---- mules you sneered he because the poor
mules were not able to go any quicker ---- you I will show you
Why---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----it sneered he his oaths growing
viler and viler I will whip you---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----
----you sos you will not be able to walk for a week---- ----you
you mean old---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----mules you
Scarcly had the vile words left his lips when----
It was his mother's voice, calling from the back porch.
Simultaneously, the noon whistles began to blow, far and
near; and the romancer in the sawdust-box, summoned prosaically
from steep mountain passes above the clouds, paused with
stubby pencil halfway from lip to knee. His eyes were shining:
there was a rapt sweetness in his gaze. As he wrote, his burden
had grown lighter; thoughts of Mrs. Lora Rewbush had almost left
him; and in particular as he recounted (even by the chaste dash)
the annoyed expressions of Mr. Wilson, the wounded detective, and
the silken moustached mule-driver, he had felt mysteriously
relieved concerning the Child Sir Lancelot. Altogether he looked
a better and a brighter boy.
The rapt look faded slowly. He sighed, but moved not.
"Penrod! We're having lunch early just on your account, so
you'll have plenty of time to be dressed for the pageant.
There was silence in Penrod's aerie.
Mrs. Schofields voice sounded nearer, indicating a threatened
approach. Penrod bestirred himself: he blew out the lantern, and
"Well, ain't I coming fast's I can?"
"Do hurry," returned the voice, withdrawing; and the kitchen
door could be heard to close.
Languidly, Penrod proceeded to set his house in order.
Replacing his manuscript and pencil in the cigar-box, he
carefully buried the box in the sawdust, put the lantern and
oil-can back in the soap-box, adjusted the elevator for the
reception of Duke, and, in no uncertain tone, invited the devoted
animal to enter.
Duke stretched himself amiably, affecting not to hear; and
when this pretence became so obvious that even a dog could keep
it up no longer, sat down in a corner, facing it, his back to his
master, and his head perpendicular, nose upward, supported by the
convergence of the two walls. This, from a dog, is the last
word, the comble of the immutable. Penrod commanded,
stormed, tried gentleness; persuaded with honeyed words and
pictured rewards. Duke's eyes looked backward; otherwise he
moved not. Time elapsed. Penrod stooped to flattery, finally to
insincere caresses; then, losing patience spouted sudden threats.
Duke remained immovable, frozen fast to his great gesture of
A footstep sounded on the threshold of the store-room.
"Penrod, come down from that box this instant!"
"Are you up in that sawdust-box again?" As Mrs. Schofield
had just heard her son's voice issue from the box, and also, as
she knew he was there anyhow, her question must have been put for
oratorical purposes only. "Because if you are," she continued
promptly, "I'm going to ask your papa not to let you play there
Penrod's forehead, his eyes, the tops of his ears, and most
of his hair, became visible to her at the top of the box. "I
ain't `playing!'" he said indignantly.
"Well, what ARE you doing?"
"Just coming down," he replied, in a grieved but patient
"Then why don't you COME?"
"I got Duke here. I got to get him DOWN, haven't I? You
don't suppose I want to leave a poor dog in here to starve, do
"Well, hand him down over the side to me. Let me----"
"I'll get him down all right," said Penrod. "I got him up
here, and I guess I can get him down!"
"Well then, DO it!"
"I will if you'll let me alone. If you'll go on back to the
house I promise to be there inside of two minutes. Honest!"
He put extreme urgency into this, and his mother turned
toward the house. "If you're not there in two minutes----"
"I will be!"
After her departure, Penrod expended some finalities of
eloquence upon Duke, then disgustedly gathered him up in his
arms, dumped him into the basket and, shouting sternly, "All in
for the ground floor--step back there, madam--all ready, Jim!"
lowered dog and basket to the floor of the storeroom. Duke
sprang out in tumultuous relief, and bestowed frantic
affection upon his master as the latter slid down from the box.
Penrod dusted himself sketchily, experiencing a sense of
satisfaction, dulled by the overhanging afternoon, perhaps, but
perceptible: he had the feeling of one who has been true to a
cause. The operation of the elevator was unsinful and, save for
the shock to Duke's nervous system, it was harmless; but Penrod
could not possibly have brought himself to exhibit it in the
presence of his mother or any other grown person in the world.
The reasons for secrecy were undefined; at least, Penrod did not
After lunch his mother and his sister Margaret, a pretty girl of
nineteen, dressed him for the sacrifice. They stood him near his
mother's bedroom window and did what they would to him.
During the earlier anguishes of the process he was mute,
exceeding the pathos of the stricken calf in the shambles; but a
student of eyes might have perceived in his soul the premonitory
symptoms of a sinister uprising. At a rehearsal (in citizens'
clothes) attended by mothers and grown-up sisters, Mrs. Lora
Rewbush had announced that she wished the costuming to be
"as medieval and artistic as possible." Otherwise, and as to
details, she said, she would leave the costumes entirely to the
good taste of the children's parents. Mrs. Schofield and
Margaret were no archeologists, but they knew that their taste
was as good as that of other mothers and sisters concerned; so
with perfect confidence they had planned and executed a costume
for Penrod; and the only misgiving they felt was connected with
the tractability of the Child Sir Lancelot himself.
Stripped to his underwear, he had been made to wash himself
vehemently; then they began by shrouding his legs in a pair of
silk stockings, once blue but now mostly whitish. Upon Penrod
they visibly surpassed mere ampleness; but they were long, and it
required only a rather loose imagination to assume that they were
The upper part of his body was next concealed from view by a
garment so peculiar that its description becomes difficult. In
1886, Mrs. Schofield, then unmarried, had worn at her "coming-out
party" a dress of vivid salmon silk which had been remodelled
after her marriage to accord with various epochs of fashion until
a final, unskilful campaign at a dye-house had left it in a
condition certain to attract much attention to the wearer. Mrs.
Schofield had considered giving it to Della, the cook; but had
decided not to do so, because you never could tell how Della was
going to take things, and cooks were scarce.
It may have been the word "medieval" (in Mrs. Lora Rewbush's
rich phrase) which had inspired the idea for a last conspicuous
usefulness; at all events, the bodice of that once salmon dress,
somewhat modified and moderated, now took a position, for its
farewell appearance in society, upon the back, breast, and arms
of the Child Sir Lancelot.
The area thus costumed ceased at the waist, leaving a Jaeger-
like and unmedieval gap thence to the tops of the stockings. The
inventive genius of woman triumphantly bridged it, but in a
manner which imposes upon history almost insuperable delicacies
of narration. Penrod's father was an old-fashioned man: the
twentieth century had failed to shake his faith in red flannel
for cold weather; and it was while Mrs. Schofield was putting
away her husband's winter underwear that she perceived how
hopelessly one of the elder specimens had dwindled; and
simultaneously she received the inspiration which resulted in a
pair of trunks for the Child Sir Lancelot, and added an earnest
bit of colour, as well as a genuine touch of the Middle Ages, to
his costume. Reversed, fore to aft, with the greater part of the
legs cut off, and strips of silver braid covering the seams, this
garment, she felt, was not traceable to its original source.
When it had been placed upon Penrod, the stockings were
attached to it by a system of safety-pins, not very perceptible
at a distance. Next, after being severely warned against
stooping, Penrod got his feet into the slippers he wore to
dancing-school--"patent-leather pumps" now decorated with large
"If I can't stoop," he began, smolderingly, "I'd like to know
how'm I goin' to kneel in the pag----"
"You must MANAGE!" This, uttered through pins, was
evidently thought to be sufficient.
They fastened some ruching about his slender neck, pinned
ribbons at random all over him, and then Margaret thickly
powdered his hair.
"Oh, yes, that's all right," she said, replying to a question
put by her mother. "They always powdered their hair in Colonial
"It doesn't seem right to me--exactly," objected Mrs.
Schofield, gently. "Sir Lancelot must have been ever so long
before Colonial times."
"That doesn't matter," Margaret reassured her. "Nobody'll
know the difference--Mrs. Lora Rewbush least of all. I don't
think she knows a thing about it, though, of course, she does
write splendidly and the words of the pageant are just beautiful.
Stand still, Penrod!" (The author of "Harold Ramorez" had moved
convulsively.) "Besides, powdered hair's always becoming. Look
at him. You'd hardly know it was Penrod!"
The pride and admiration with which she pronounced this
undeniable truth might have been thought tactless, but Penrod,
not analytical, found his spirits somewhat elevated. No mirror
was in his range of vision and, though he had submitted to
cursory measurements of his person a week earlier, he had no
previous acquaintance with the costume. He began to form a not
unpleasing mental picture of his appearance, something somewhere
between the portraits of George Washington and a vivid memory of
Miss Julia Marlowe at a matinee of "Twelfth Night."
He was additionally cheered by a sword which had been
borrowed from a neighbor, who was a Knight of Pythias. Finally
there was a mantle, an old golf cape of Margaret's. Fluffy
polka-dots of white cotton had been sewed to it generously; also
it was ornamented with a large cross of red flannel, suggested by
the picture of a Crusader in a newspaper advertisement. The
mantle was fastened to Penrod's shoulder (that is, to the
shoulder of Mrs. Schofield's ex-bodice) by means of large safety-
pins, and arranged to hang down behind him, touching his heels,
but obscuring nowise the glory of his facade. Then, at last, he
was allowed to step before a mirror.
It was a full-length glass, and the worst immediately
happened. It might have been a little less violent, perhaps, if
Penrod's expectations had not been so richly and poetically
idealized; but as things were, the revolt was volcanic.
Victor Hugo's account of the fight with the devil-fish, in
"Toilers of the Sea," encourages a belief that, had Hugo
lived and increased in power, he might have been equal to a
proper recital of the half hour which followed Penrod's first
sight of himself as the Child Sir Lancelot. But Mr. Wilson
himself, dastard but eloquent foe of Harold Ramorez, could not
have expressed, with all the vile dashes at his command, the
sentiments which animated Penrod's bosom when the instantaneous
and unalterable conviction descended upon him that he was
intended by his loved ones to make a public spectacle of himself
in his sister's stockings and part of an old dress of his
To him these familiar things were not disguised at all; there
seemed no possibility that the whole world would not know them at
a glance. The stockings were worse than the bodice. He had been
assured that these could not be recognized, but, seeing them in
the mirror, he was sure that no human eye could fail at first
glance to detect the difference between himself and the former
purposes of these stockings. Fold, wrinkle, and void shrieked
their history with a hundred tongues, invoking earthquake,
eclipse, and blue ruin. The frantic youth's final submission was
obtained only after a painful telephonic conversation between
himself and his father, the latter having been called up and
upon, by the exhausted Mrs. Schofield, to subjugate his offspring
The two ladies made all possible haste, after this, to
deliver Penrod into the hands of Mrs. Lora Rewbush;
nevertheless, they found opportunity to exchange earnest
congratulations upon his not having recognized the humble but
serviceable paternal garment now brilliant about the Lancelotish
middle. Altogether, they felt that the costume was a success.
Penrod looked like nothing ever remotely imagined by Sir Thomas
Malory or Alfred Tennyson;--for that matter, he looked like
nothing ever before seen on earth; but as Mrs. Schofield and
Margaret took their places in the audience at the Women's Arts
and Guild Hall, the anxiety they felt concerning Penrod's
elocutionary and gesticular powers, so soon to be put to public
test, was pleasantly tempered by their satisfaction that, owing
to their efforts, his outward appearance would be a credit to the
The Child Sir Lancelot found himself in a large anteroom behind
the stage--a room crowded with excited children, all about
equally medieval and artistic. Penrod was less conspicuous than
he thought himself, but he was so preoccupied with his own shame,
steeling his nerves to meet the first inevitable taunting
reference to his sister's stockings, that he failed to perceive
there were others present in much of his own unmanned condition.
Retiring to a corner, immediately upon his entrance, he managed
to unfasten the mantle at the shoulders, and, drawing it round
him, pinned it again at his throat so that it concealed
the rest of his costume. This permitted a temporary relief, but
increased his horror of the moment when, in pursuance of the
action of the "pageant," the sheltering garment must be cast
Some of the other child knights were also keeping their
mantles close about them. A few of the envied opulent swung
brilliant fabrics from their shoulders, airily, showing off hired
splendours from a professional costumer's stock, while one or two
were insulting examples of parental indulgence, particularly
little Maurice Levy, the Child Sir Galahad. This shrinking
person went clamorously about, making it known everywhere that
the best tailor in town had been dazzled by a great sum into
constructing his costume. It consisted of blue velvet
knickerbockers, a white satin waistcoat, and a beautifully cut
little swallow-tailed coat with pearl buttons. The medieval and
artistic triumph was completed by a mantle of yellow velvet, and
little white boots, sporting gold tassels.
All this radiance paused in a brilliant career and addressed
the Child Sir Lancelot, gathering an immediately formed
semicircular audience of little girls. Woman was ever the
trailer of magnificence.
"What YOU got on?" inquired Mr. Levy, after dispensing
information. "What you got on under that ole golf cape?"
Penrod looked upon him coldly. At other times his
questioner would have approached him with deference, even with
apprehension. But to-day the Child Sir Galahad was somewhat
intoxicated with the power of his own beauty.
"What YOU got on?" he repeated.
"Oh, nothin'," said Penrod, with an indifference assumed at
great cost to his nervous system.
The elate Maurice was inspired to set up as a wit. "Then
you're nakid!" he shouted exultantly. "Penrod Schofield says he
hasn't got nothin' on under that ole golf cape! He's nakid!
The indelicate little girls giggled delightedly, and a
javelin pierced the inwards of Penrod when he saw that the Child
Elaine, amber-curled and beautiful Marjorie Jones, lifted golden
laughter to the horrid jest.
Other boys and girls came flocking to the uproar. "He's
nakid, he's nakid!" shrieked the Child Sir Galahad. "Penrod
Schofield's nakid! He's NA-A-A-KID!"
"Hush, hush!" said Mrs. Lora Rewbush, pushing her way into
the group. "Remember, we are all little knights and ladies to-
day. Little knights and ladies of the Table Round would not make
so much noise. Now children, we must begin to take our places on
the stage. Is everybody here?"
Penrod made his escape under cover of this diversion: he slid
behind Mrs. Lora Rewbush, and being near a door, opened it
unnoticed and went out quickly, closing it behind him. He
found himself in a narrow and vacant hallway which led to a door
marked "Janitor's Room."
Burning with outrage, heart-sick at the sweet, cold-blooded
laughter of Marjorie Jones, Penrod rested his elbows upon a
window-sill and speculated upon the effects of a leap from the
second story. One of the reasons he gave it up was his desire to
live on Maurice Levy's account: already he was forming
educational plans for the Child Sir Galahad.
A stout man in blue overalls passed through the hallway
muttering to himself petulantly. "I reckon they'll find that
hall hot enough NOW!" he said, conveying to Penrod an
impression that some too feminine women had sent him upon an
unreasonable errand to the furnace. He went into the Janitor's
Room and, emerging a moment later, minus the overalls, passed
Penrod again with a bass rumble--"Dern 'em!" it seemed he said--
and made a gloomy exit by the door at the upper end of the
The conglomerate and delicate rustle of a large, mannerly
audience was heard as the janitor opened and closed the door; and
stage-fright seized the boy. The orchestra began an overture,
and, at that, Penrod, trembling violently, tiptoed down the hall
into the Janitor's Room. It was a cul-de-sac: There was no
outlet save by the way he had come.
Despairingly he doffed his mantle and looked down upon
himself for a last sickening assurance that the stockings
were as obviously and disgracefully Margaret's as they had seemed
in the mirror at home. For a moment he was encouraged: perhaps
he was no worse than some of the other boys. Then he noticed
that a safety-pin had opened; one of those connecting the
stockings with his trunks. He sat down to fasten it and his eye
fell for the first time with particular attention upon the
trunks. Until this instant he had been preoccupied with the
Slowly recognition dawned in his eyes.
The Schofields' house stood on a corner at the intersection
of two main-travelled streets; the fence was low, and the
publicity obtained by the washable portion of the family apparel,
on Mondays, had often been painful to Penrod; for boys have a
peculiar sensitiveness in these matters. A plain, matter-of-fact
washerwoman' employed by Mrs. Schofield, never left anything to
the imagination of the passer-by; and of all her calm display the
scarlet flaunting of his father's winter wear had most abashed
Penrod. One day Marjorie Jones, all gold and starch, had passed
when the dreadful things were on the line: Penrod had hidden
himself, shuddering. The whole town, he was convinced, knew
these garments intimately and derisively.
And now, as he sat in the janitor's chair, the horrible and
paralyzing recognition came. He had not an instant's doubt that
every fellow actor, as well as every soul in the audience, would
recognize what his mother and sister had put upon him. For
as the awful truth became plain to himself it seemed blazoned to
the world; and far, far louder than the stockings, the trunks did
fairly bellow the grisly secret: WHOSE they were and WHAT
Most people have suffered in a dream the experience of
finding themselves very inadequately clad in the midst of a crowd
of well-dressed people, and such dreamers' sensations are
comparable to Penrod's, though faintly, because Penrod was awake
and in much too full possession of the most active capacities for
A human male whose dress has been damaged, or reveals some
vital lack, suffers from a hideous and shameful loneliness which
makes every second absolutely unbearable until he is again as
others of his sex and species; and there is no act or sin
whatever too desperate for him in his struggle to attain that
condition. Also, there is absolutely no embarrassment possible
to a woman which is comparable to that of a man under
corresponding circumstances and in this a boy is a man. Gazing
upon the ghastly trunks, the stricken Penrod felt that he was a
degree worse then nude; and a great horror of himself filled his
The door into the hallway opened, and a voice demanded him.
He could not be seen from the hallway, but the hue and the cry
was up; and he knew he must be taken. It was only a question
of seconds. He huddled in his chair.
"Penrod Schofield!" cried Mrs. Lora Rewbush angrily.
The distracted boy rose and, as he did so, a long pin sank
deep into his back. He extracted it frenziedly, which brought to
his ears a protracted and sonorous ripping, too easily located by
a final gesture of horror.
"Penrod Schofield!" Mrs. Lora Rewbush had come out into the
And now, in this extremity, when all seemed lost indeed,
particularly including honour, the dilating eye of the outlaw
fell upon the blue overalls which the janitor had left hanging
upon a peg.
Inspiration and action were almost simultaneous.
THE PAGEANT OF THE TABLE ROUND
"Penrod!" Mrs. Lora Rewbush stood in the doorway, indignantly
gazing upon a Child Sir Lancelot mantled to the heels. "Do you
know that you have kept an audience of five hundred people
waiting for ten minutes?" She, also, detained the five hundred
while she spake further.
"Well," said Penrod contentedly, as he followed her toward
the buzzing stage, "I was just sitting there thinking."
Two minutes later the curtain rose on a medieval castle hall
richly done in the new stage-craft made in Germany and consisting
of pink and blue cheesecloth. The Child King Arthur and
the Child Queen Guinevere were disclosed upon thrones, with the
Child Elaine and many other celebrities in attendance; while
about fifteen Child Knights were seated at a dining-room table
round, which was covered with a large Oriental rug, and displayed
(for the knights' refreshment) a banquet service of silver
loving-cups and trophies, borrowed from the Country Club and some
local automobile manufacturers.
In addition to this splendour, potted plants and palms have
seldom been more lavishly used in any castle on the stage or off.
The footlights were aided by a "spot-light" from the rear of the
hall; and the children were revealed in a blaze of glory.
A hushed, multitudinous "O-OH" of admiration came from
the decorous and delighted audience. Then the children sang
"Chuldrun of the Tabul Round,
Lit-tul knights and ladies we.
Let our voy-siz all resound
Faith and hope and charitee!"
The Child King Arthur rose, extended his sceptre with the
decisive gesture of a semaphore, and spake:
"Each littul knight and lady born
Has noble deeds TO perform
In THEE child-world of shivullree,
No matter how small his share may be.
Let each advance and tell in turn
What claim has each to knighthood earn."
The Child Sir Mordred, the villain of this piece, rose in his
place at the table round, and piped the only lines ever written
by Mrs. Lora Rewbush which Penrod Schofield could have pronounced
without loathing. Georgie Bassett, a really angelic boy, had
been selected for the role of Mordred. His perfect conduct had
earned for him the sardonic sobriquet, "The Little Gentleman,"
among his boy acquaintances. (Naturally he had no friends.)
Hence the other boys supposed that he had been selected for the
wicked Mordred as a reward of virtue. He declaimed serenely:
"I hight Sir Mordred the Child, and I teach
Lessons of selfishest evil, and reach
Out into darkness. Thoughtless, unkind,
And ruthless is Mordred, and unrefined."
The Child Mordred was properly rebuked and denied the
accolade, though, like the others, he seemed to have assumed the
title already. He made a plotter's exit. Whereupon Maurice Levy
rose, bowed, announced that he highted the Child Sir Galahad, and
continued with perfect sang-froid:
"I am the purest of the pure.
I have but kindest thoughts each day.
I give my riches to the poor,
And follow in the Master's way."
This elicited tokens of approval from the Child King Arthur,
and he bade Maurice "stand forth" and come near the throne, a
command obeyed with the easy grace of conscious merit.
It was Penrod's turn. He stepped back from his chair, the
table between him and the audience, and began in a high,
"I hight Sir Lancelot du Lake, the Child,
Gentul-hearted, meek, and mild.
What though I'm BUT a littul child,
Gentul-heartud, meek, and mild,
I do my share though but--though but----"
Penrod paused and gulped. The voice of Mrs. Lora Rewbush was
heard from the wings, prompting irritably, and the Child. Sir
"I do my share though but--though but a tot,
I pray you knight Sir Lancelot!"
This also met the royal favour, and Penrod was bidden to join
Sir Galahad at the throne. As he crossed the stage, Mrs.
Schofield whispered to Margaret:
"That boy! He's unpinned his mantle and fixed it to cover
his whole costume. After we worked so hard to make it becoming!"
"Never mind; he'll have to take the cape off in a minute,"
returned Margaret. She leaned forward suddenly, narrowing her
eyes to see better. "What IS that thing hanging about his
left ankle?" she whispered uneasily. "How queer! He must have
got tangled in something."
"Where?" asked Mrs. Schofield, in alarm.
"His left foot. It makes him stumble. Don't you see? It
looks--it looks like an elephant's foot!"
The Child Sir Lancelot and the Child Sir Galahad clasped
hands before their Child King. Penrod was conscious of a great
uplift; in a moment he would have to throw aside his mantle, but
even so he was protected and sheltered in the human garment of a
man. His stage-fright had passed, for the audience was but an
indistinguishable blur of darkness beyond the dazzling lights.
His most repulsive speech (that in which he proclaimed himself a
"tot") was over and done with; and now at last the small, moist
hand of the Child Sir Galahad lay within his own. Craftily his
brown fingers stole from Maurice's palm to the wrist. The two
boys declaimed in concert:
"We are two chuldrun of the Tabul Round
Strewing kindness all a-round.
With love and good deeds striving ever for the best,
May our littul efforts e'er be blest.
Two littul hearts we offer. See
United in love, faith, hope, and char--OW!"
The conclusion of the duet was marred. The Child Sir Galahad
suddenly stiffened, and, uttering an irrepressible shriek of
anguish, gave a brief exhibition of the contortionist's art.
("HE'S TWISTIN' MY WRIST! DERN YOU, LEGGO!")
The voice of Mrs. Lora Rewbush was again heard from the
wings; it sounded bloodthirsty. Penrod released his victim;
and the Child King Arthur, somewhat disconcerted, extended his
sceptre and, with the assistance of the enraged prompter, said:
"Sweet child-friends of the Tabul Round,
In brotherly love and kindness abound,
Sir Lancelot, you have spoken well,
Sir Galahad, too, as clear as bell.
So now pray doff your mantles gay.
You shall be knighted this very day."
And Penrod doffed his mantle.
Simultaneously, a thick and vasty gasp came from the
audience, as from five hundred bathers in a wholly unexpected
surf. This gasp was punctuated irregularly, over the auditorium,
by imperfectly subdued screams both of dismay and incredulous
joy, and by two dismal shrieks. Altogether it was an
extraordinary sound, a sound never to be forgotten by any one who
heard it. It was almost as unforgettable as the sight which
caused it; the word "sight" being here used in its vernacular
sense, for Penrod, standing unmantled and revealed in all the
medieval and artistic glory of the janitor's blue overalls, falls
within its meaning.
The janitor was a heavy man, and his overalls, upon Penrod,
were merely oceanic. The boy was at once swaddled and lost
within their blue gulfs and vast saggings; and the left leg, too
hastily rolled up, had descended with a distinctively elephantine
effect, as Margaret had observed. Certainly, the Child Sir
Lancelot was at least a sight.
It is probable that a great many in that hall must have had,
even then, a consciousness that they were looking on at History
in the Making. A supreme act is recognizable at sight: it bears
the birthmark of immortality. But Penrod, that marvellous boy,
had begun to declaim, even with the gesture of flinging off his
mantle for the accolade:
"I first, the Child Sir Lancelot du Lake,
Will volunteer to knighthood take,
And kneeling here before your throne
I vow to----"
He finished his speech unheard. The audience had recovered
breath, but had lost self-control, and there ensued something
later described by a participant as a sort of cultured riot.
The actors in the "pageant" were not so dumfounded by
Penrod's costume as might have been expected. A few precocious
geniuses perceived that the overalls were the Child Lancelot's
own comment on maternal intentions; and these were profoundly
impressed: they regarded him with the grisly admiration of young
and ambitious criminals for a jail-mate about to be distinguished
by hanging. But most of the children simply took it to be the
case (a little strange, but not startling) that Penrod's mother
had dressed him like that--which is pathetic. They tried to go
on with the "pageant."
They made a brief, manful effort. But the irrepressible
outbursts from the audience bewildered them; every time Sir
Lancelot du Lake the Child opened his mouth, the great, shadowy
house fell into an uproar, and the children into confusion.
Strong women and brave girls in the audience went out into the
lobby, shrieking and clinging to one another. Others remained,
rocking in their seats, helpless and spent. The neighbourhood of
Mrs. Schofield and Margaret became, tactfully, a desert. Friends
of the author went behind the scenes and encountered a hitherto
unknown phase of Mrs. Lora Rewbush; they said, afterward, that
she hardly seemed to know what she was doing. She begged to be
left alone somewhere with Penrod Schofield, for just a little
They led her away.
The sun was setting behind the back fence (though at a
considerable distance) as Penrod Schofield approached that fence
and looked thoughtfully up at the top of it, apparently having in
mind some purpose to climb up and sit there. Debating this, he
passed his fingers gently up and down the backs of his legs; and
then something seemed to decide him not to sit anywhere. He
leaned against the fence, sighed profoundly, and gazed at Duke,
his wistful dog.
The sigh was reminiscent: episodes of simple pathos were
passing before his inward eye. About the most painful was the
vision of lovely Marjorie Jones, weeping with rage as the
Child Sir Lancelot was dragged, insatiate, from the prostrate and
howling Child Sir Galahad, after an onslaught delivered the
precise instant the curtain began to fall upon the demoralized
"pageant." And then--oh, pangs! oh, woman!--she slapped at the
ruffian's cheek, as he was led past her by a resentful janitor;
and turning, flung her arms round the Child Sir Galahad's neck.
"PENROD SCHOFIELD, DON'T YOU DARE EVER SPEAK TO ME AGAIN
AS LONG AS YOU LIVE!" Maurice's little white boots and gold
tassels had done their work.
At home the late Child Sir Lancelot was consigned to a locked
clothes-closet pending the arrival of his father. Mr. Schofield
came and, shortly after, there was put into practice an old
patriarchal custom. It is a custom of inconceivable antiquity:
probably primordial, certainly prehistoric, but still in vogue in
some remaining citadels of the ancient simplicities of the
And now, therefore, in the dusk, Penrod leaned against the
fence and sighed.
His case is comparable to that of an adult who could have
survived a similar experience. Looking back to the sawdust-box,
fancy pictures this comparable adult a serious and inventive
writer engaged in congenial literary activities in a private
retreat. We see this period marked by the creation of some of
the most virile passages of a Work dealing exclusively in red
corpuscles and huge primal impulses. We see this thoughtful man
dragged from his calm seclusion to a horrifying publicity; forced
to adopt the stage and, himself a writer, compelled to exploit
the repulsive sentiments of an author not only personally
distasteful to him but whose whole method and school in belles
lettres he despises.
We see him reduced by desperation and modesty to stealing a
pair of overalls. We conceive him to have ruined, then, his own
reputation, and to have utterly disgraced his family; next, to
have engaged in the duello and to have been spurned by his
lady-love, thus lost to him (according to her own declaration)
forever. Finally, we must behold: imprisonment by the
authorities; the third degree and flagellation.
We conceive our man decided that his career had been perhaps
too eventful. Yet Penrod had condensed all of it into eight
It appears that he had at least some shadowy perception of a
recent fulness of life, for, as he leaned against the fence,
gazing upon his wistful Duke, he sighed again and murmured aloud:
"WELL, HASN'T THIS BEEN A DAY!"
But in a little while a star came out, freshly lighted, from
the highest part of the sky, and Penrod, looking up, noticed it
casually and a little drowsily. He yawned. Then he sighed once
more, but not reminiscently: evening had come; the day was over.
It was a sigh of pure ennui.
EVILS OF DRINK
Next day, Penrod acquired a dime by a simple and antique process
which was without doubt sometimes practised by the boys of
Babylon. When the teacher of his class in Sunday-school
requested the weekly contribution, Penrod, fumbling honestly (at
first) in the wrong pockets, managed to look so embarrassed that
the gentle lady told him not to mind, and said she was often
forgetful herself. She was so sweet about it that, looking into
the future, Penrod began to feel confident of a small but regular
At the close of the afternoon services he did not go
home, but proceeded to squander the funds just withheld from
China upon an orgy of the most pungently forbidden description.
In a Drug Emporium, near the church, he purchased a five-cent
sack of candy consisting for the most part of the heavily
flavoured hoofs of horned cattle, but undeniably substantial, and
so generously capable of resisting solution that the purchaser
must needs be avaricious beyond reason who did not realize his
Equipped with this collation, Penrod contributed his
remaining nickel to a picture show, countenanced upon the seventh
day by the legal but not the moral authorities. Here, in cozy
darkness, he placidly insulted his liver with jaw-breaker upon
jaw-breaker from the paper sack, and in a surfeit of content
watched the silent actors on the screen.
One film made a lasting impression upon him. It depicted
with relentless pathos the drunkard's progress; beginning with
his conversion to beer in the company of loose travelling men;
pursuing him through an inexplicable lapse into evening clothes
and the society of some remarkably painful ladies, next,
exhibiting the effects of alcohol on the victim's domestic
disposition, the unfortunate man was seen in the act of striking
his wife and, subsequently, his pleading baby daughter with an
abnormally heavy walking-stick. Their flight--through the snow--
to seek the protection of a relative was shown, and finally,
the drunkard's picturesque behaviour at the portals of a
So fascinated was Penrod that he postponed his departure
until this film came round again, by which time he had finished
his unnatural repast and almost, but not quite, decided against
following the profession of a drunkard when he grew up.
Emerging, satiated, from the theatre, a public timepiece
before a jeweller's shop confronted him with an unexpected dial
and imminent perplexities. How was he to explain at home these
hours of dalliance? There was a steadfast rule that he return
direct from Sunday-school; and Sunday rules were important,
because on that day there was his father, always at home and at
hand, perilously ready for action. One of the hardest conditions
of boyhood is the almost continuous strain put upon the powers of
invention by the constant and harassing necessity for
explanations of every natural act.
Proceeding homeward through the deepening twilight as rapidly
as possible, at a gait half skip and half canter, Penrod made up
his mind in what manner he would account for his long delay, and,
as he drew nearer, rehearsed in words the opening passage of his
"Now see here," he determined to begin; "I do not wished to
be blamed for things I couldn't help, nor any other boy. I was
going along the street by a cottage and a lady put her head out
of the window and said her husband was drunk and whipping her
and her little girl, and she asked me wouldn't I come in and help
hold him. So I went in and tried to get hold of this drunken
lady's husband where he was whipping their baby daughter, but he
wouldn't pay any attention, and I TOLD her I ought to be
getting home, but she kep' on askin' me to stay----"
At this point he reached the corner of his own yard, where a
coincidence not only checked the rehearsal of his eloquence but
happily obviated all occasion for it. A cab from the station
drew up in front of the gate, and there descended a troubled lady
in black and a fragile little girl about three. Mrs. Schofield
rushed from the house and enfolded both in hospitable arms.
They were Penrod's Aunt Clara and cousin, also Clara, from
Dayton, Illinois, and in the flurry of their arrival everybody
forgot to put Penrod to the question. It is doubtful, however,
if he felt any relief; there may have been even a slight,
unconscious disappointment not altogether dissimilar to that of
an actor deprived of a good part.
In the course of some really necessary preparations for
dinner he stepped from the bathroom into the pink-and-white
bedchamber of his sister, and addressed her rather thickly
through a towel.
"When'd mamma find out Aunt Clara and Cousin Clara were
"Not till she saw them from the window. She just happened to
look out as they drove up. Aunt Clara telegraphed this morning,
but it wasn't delivered."
"How long they goin' to stay?"
"I don't know."
Penrod ceased to rub his shining face, and thoughtfully
tossed the towel through the bathroom door. "Uncle John won't
try to make 'em come back home, I guess, will he?" (Uncle John
was Aunt Clara's husband, a successful manufacturer of stoves,
and his lifelong regret was that he had not entered the Baptist
ministry.) "He'll let 'em stay here quietly, won't he?"
"What ARE you talking about?" demanded Margaret, turning
from her mirror. "Uncle John sent them here. Why shouldn't he
let them stay?"
Penrod looked crestfallen. "Then he hasn't taken to drink?"
"Certainly not!" She emphasized the denial with a pretty peal
of soprano laughter.
"Then why," asked her brother gloomily, "why did Aunt Clara
look so worried when she got here?"
"Good gracious! Don't people worry about anything except
somebody's drinking? Where did you get such an idea?"
"Well," he persisted, "you don't KNOW it ain't that."
She laughed again, wholeheartedly. "Poor Uncle John! He
won't even allow grape juice or ginger ale in his house.
They came because they were afraid little Clara might catch the
measles. She's very delicate, and there's such an epidemic of
measles among the children over in Dayton the schools had to be
closed. Uncle John got so worried that last night he dreamed
about it; and this morning he couldn't stand it any longer and
packed them off over here, though he thinks its wicked to travel
on Sunday. And Aunt Clara was worried when she got here because
they'd forgotten to check her trunk and it will have to be sent
by express. Now what in the name of the common sense put it into
your head that Uncle John had taken to----"
"Oh, nothing." He turned lifelessly away and went downstairs,
a new-born hope dying in his bosom. Life seems so needlessly
Next morning, when he had once more resumed the dreadful burden
of education, it seemed infinitely duller. And yet what
pleasanter sight is there than a schoolroom well filled with
children of those sprouting years just before the 'teens? The
casual visitor, gazing from the teacher's platform upon these
busy little heads, needs only a blunted memory to experience the
most agreeable and exhilarating sensations. Still, for the
greater part, the children are unconscious of the happiness of
their condition; for nothing is more pathetically true than that
we "never know when we are well off." The boys in a
public school are less aware of their happy state than are the
girls; and of all the boys in his room, probably Penrod himself
had the least appreciation of his felicity.
He sat staring at an open page of a textbook, but not
studying; not even reading; not even thinking. Nor was he lost
in a reverie: his mind's eye was shut, as his physical eye might
well have been, for the optic nerve, flaccid with ennui,
conveyed nothing whatever of the printed page upon which the orb
of vision was partially focused. Penrod was doing something very
unusual and rare, something almost never accomplished except by
coloured people or by a boy in school on a spring day: he was
doing really nothing at all. He was merely a state of being.
From the street a sound stole in through the open window, and
abhorring Nature began to fill the vacuum called Penrod
Schofield; for the sound was the spring song of a mouth-organ,
coming down the sidewalk. The windows were intentionally above
the level of the eyes of the seated pupils; but the picture of
the musician was plain to Penrod, painted for him by a quality in
the runs and trills, partaking of the oboe, of the calliope, and
of cats in anguish; an excruciating sweetness obtained only by
the wallowing, walloping yellow-pink palm of a hand whose back
was Congo black and shiny. The music came down the street and
passed beneath the window, accompanied by the care-free shuffling
of a pair of old shoes scuffing syncopations on the cement
sidewalk. It passed into the distance; became faint and blurred;
was gone. Emotion stirred in Penrod a great and poignant desire,
but (perhaps fortunately) no fairy godmother made her appearance.
Otherwise Penrod would have gone down the street in a black skin,
playing the mouth-organ, and an unprepared coloured youth would
have found himself enjoying educational advantages for which he
had no ambition whatever.
Roused from perfect apathy, the boy cast about the schoolroom
an eye wearied to nausea by the perpetual vision of the neat
teacher upon the platform, the backs of the heads of the pupils
in front of him, and the monotonous stretches of blackboard
threateningly defaced by arithmetical formulae and other insignia
of torture. Above the blackboard, the walls of the high room
were of white plaster--white with the qualified whiteness of old
snow in a soft coal town. This dismal expanse was broken by four
lithographic portraits, votive offerings of a thoughtful
publisher. The portraits were of good and great men, kind men;
men who loved children. Their faces were noble and benevolent.
But the lithographs offered the only rest for the eyes of
children fatigued by the everlasting sameness of the schoolroom.
Long day after long day, interminable week in and interminable
week out, vast month on vast month, the pupils sat with those
four portraits beaming kindness down upon them. The faces
became permanent in the consciousness of the children; they
became an obsession--in and out of school the children were never
free of them. The four faces haunted the minds of children
falling asleep; they hung upon the minds of children waking at
night; they rose forebodingly in the minds of children waking in
the morning; they became monstrously alive in the minds of
children lying sick of fever. Never, while the children of that
schoolroom lived, would they be able to forget one detail of the
four lithographs: the hand of Longfellow was fixed, for them,
forever, in his beard. And by a simple and unconscious
association of ideas, Penrod Schofield was accumulating an
antipathy for the gentle Longfellow and for James Russell Lowell
and for Oliver Wendell Holmes and for John Greenleaf Whittier,
which would never permit him to peruse a work of one of those
great New Englanders without a feeling of personal resentment.
His eyes fell slowly and inimically from the brow of Whittier
to the braid of reddish hair belonging to Victorine Riordan, the
little octoroon girl who sat directly in front of him.
Victorine's back was as familiar to Penrod as the necktie of
Oliver Wendell Holmes. So was her gayly coloured plaid waist.
He hated the waist as he hated Victorine herself, without knowing
why. Enforced companionship in large quantities and on an equal
basis between the sexes appears to sterilize the affections,
and schoolroom romances are few.
Victorine's hair was thick, and the brickish glints in it
were beautiful, but Penrod was very tired of it. A tiny knot of
green ribbon finished off the braid and kept it from unravelling;
and beneath the ribbon there was a final wisp of hair which was
just long enough to repose upon Penrod's desk when Victorine
leaned back in her seat. It was there now. Thoughtfully, he
took the braid between thumb and forefinger, and, without
disturbing Victorine, dipped the end of it and the green ribbon
into the inkwell of his desk. He brought hair and ribbon forth
dripping purple ink, and partially dried them on a blotter,
though, a moment later when Victorine leaned forward, they were
still able to add a few picturesque touches to the plaid waist.
Rudolph Krauss, across the aisle from Penrod, watched the
operation with protuberant eyes, fascinated. Inspired to
imitation, he took a piece of chalk from his pocket and wrote
"RATS" across the shoulder-blades of the boy in front of him,
then looked across appealingly to Penrod for tokens of
congratulation. Penrod yawned. It may not be denied that at
times he appeared to be a very self-centred boy.
Half the members of the class passed out to a recitation-room,
the empurpled Victorine among them, and Miss Spence started the
remaining half through the ordeal of trial by mathematics.
Several boys and girls were sent to the blackboard, and Penrod,
spared for the moment, followed their operations a little while
with his eyes, but not with his mind; then, sinking deeper in his
seat, limply abandoned the effort. His eyes remained open, but
saw nothing; the routine of the arithmetic lesson reached his
ears in familiar, meaningless sounds, but he heard nothing; and
yet, this time, he was profoundly occupied. He had
drifted away from the painful land of facts, and floated now in a
new sea of fancy which he had just discovered.
Maturity forgets the marvellous realness of a boy's day-
dreams, how colourful they glow, rosy and living, and how opaque
the curtain closing down between the dreamer and the actual
world. That curtain is almost sound-proof, too, and causes more
throat-trouble among parents than is suspected.
The nervous monotony of the schoolroom inspires a sometimes
unbearable longing for something astonishing to happen, and as
every boy's fundamental desire is to do something astonishing
himself, so as to be the centre of all human interest and awe, it
was natural that Penrod should discover in fancy the delightful
secret of self-levitation. He found, in this curious series of
imaginings, during the lesson in arithmetic, that the atmosphere
may be navigated as by a swimmer under water, but with infinitely
greater ease and with perfect comfort in breathing. In his mind
he extended his arms gracefully, at a level with his shoulders,
and delicately paddled the air with his hands, which at once
caused him to be drawn up out of his seat and elevated gently to
a position about midway between the floor and the ceiling, where
he came to an equilibrium and floated; a sensation not the less
exquisite because of the screams of his fellow pupils, appalled
by the miracle. Miss Spence herself was amazed and
frightened, but he only smiled down carelessly upon her when
she commanded him to return to earth; and then, when she climbed
upon a desk to pull him down, he quietly paddled himself a little
higher, leaving his toes just out of her reach. Next, he swam
through a few slow somersaults to show his mastery of the new
art, and, with the shouting of the dumfounded scholars ringing in
his ears, turned on his side and floated swiftly out of the
window, immediately rising above the housetops, while people in
the street below him shrieked, and a trolley car stopped dead in
With almost no exertion he paddled himself, many yards at a
stroke, to the girls' private school where Marjorie Jones was a
pupil--Marjorie Jones of the amber curls and the golden voice!
Long before the "Pageant of the Table Round," she had offered
Penrod a hundred proofs that she considered him wholly
undesirable and ineligible. At the Friday Afternoon Dancing
Class she consistently incited and led the laughter at him
whenever Professor Bartet singled him out for admonition in
matters of feet and decorum. And but yesterday she had chid him
for his slavish lack of memory in daring to offer her a greeting
on the way to Sunday-school. "Well! I expect you must forgot I
told you never to speak to me again! If I was a boy, I'd be too
proud to come hanging around people that don't speak to me, even
if I WAS the Worst Boy in Town!" So she flouted him.
But now, as he floated in through the window of her classroom and
swam gently along the ceiling like an escaped toy balloon, she
fell upon her knees beside her little desk, and, lifting up her
arms toward him, cried with love and admiration:
He negligently kicked a globe from the high chandelier, and,
smiling coldly, floated out through the hall to the front steps
of the school, while Marjorie followed, imploring him to grant
her one kind look.
In the street an enormous crowd had gathered, headed by Miss
Spence and a brass band; and a cheer from a hundred thousand
throats shook the very ground as Penrod swam overhead. Marjorie
knelt upon the steps and watched adoringly while Penrod took the
drum-major's baton and, performing sinuous evolutions above the
crowd, led the band. Then he threw the baton so high that it
disappeared from sight; but he went swiftly after it, a double
delight, for he had not only the delicious sensation of rocketing
safely up and up into the blue sky, but also that of standing in
the crowd below, watching and admiring himself as he dwindled to
a speck, disappeared and then, emerging from a cloud, came
speeding down, with the baton in his hand, to the level of the
treetops, where he beat time for the band and the vast throng and
Marjorie Jones, who all united in the "Star-spangled Banner" in
honour of his aerial achievements. It was a great moment.
It was a great moment, but something seemed to threaten it.
The face of Miss Spence looking up from the crowd grew too
vivid--unpleasantly vivid. She was beckoning him and shouting,
"Come down, Penrod Schofield! Penrod Schofield, come down here!"
He could hear her above the band and the singing of the
multitude; she seemed intent on spoiling everything. Marjorie
Jones was weeping to show how sorry she was that she had formerly
slighted him, and throwing kisses to prove that she loved him;
but Miss Spence kept jumping between him and Marjorie,
incessantly calling his name.
He grew more and more irritated with her; he was the most
important person in the world and was engaged in proving it to
Marjorie Jones and the whole city, and yet Miss Spence seemed to
feel she still had the right to order him about as she did in the
old days when he was an ordinary schoolboy. He was furious; he
was sure she wanted him to do something disagreeable. It seemed
to him that she had screamed "Penrod Schofield!" thousands of
From the beginning of his aerial experiments in his own
schoolroom, he had not opened his lips, knowing somehow that one
of the requirements for air floating is perfect silence on the
part of the floater; but, finally, irritated beyond measure by
Miss Spence's clamorous insistence, he was unable to restrain an
indignant rebuke and immediately came to earth with a frightful
Miss Spence--in the flesh--had directed toward the physical
body of the absent Penrod an inquiry as to the fractional
consequences of dividing seventeen apples, fairly, among three
boys, and she was surprised and displeased to receive no answer
although to the best of her knowledge and belief, he was looking
fixedly at her. She repeated her question crisply, without
visible effect; then summoned him by name with increasing
asperity. Twice she called him, while all his fellow pupils
turned to stare at the gazing boy. She advanced a step from the
"Oh, my goodness!" he shouted suddenly. "Can't you keep
still a MINUTE?"
Miss Spence gasped. So did the pupils.
The whole room filled with a swelling conglomerate "O-O-O-
As for Penrod himself, the walls reeled with the shock. He
sat with his mouth open, a mere lump of stupefaction. For the
appalling words that he had hurled at the teacher were as
inexplicable to him as to any other who heard them.
Nothing is more treacherous than the human mind; nothing else
so loves to play the Iscariot. Even when patiently bullied into
a semblance of order and training, it may prove but a base and
shifty servant. And Penrod's mind was not his servant;
it was a master, with the April wind's whims; and it had just
played him a diabolical trick. The very jolt with which he came
back to the schoolroom in the midst of his fancied flight jarred
his day-dream utterly out of him; and he sat, open-mouthed in
horror at what he had said.
The unanimous gasp of awe was protracted. Miss Spence,
however, finally recovered her breath, and, returning
deliberately to the platform, faced the school. "And then for a
little while," as pathetic stories sometimes recount, "everything
was very still." It was so still, in fact, that Penrod's newborn
notoriety could almost be heard growing. This grisly silence was
at last broken by the teacher.
"Penrod Schofield, stand up!"
The miserable child obeyed.
"What did you mean by speaking to me in that way?"
He hung his head, raked the floor with the side of his shoe,
swayed, swallowed, looked suddenly at his hands with the air of
never having seen them before, then clasped them behind him. The
school shivered in ecstatic horror, every fascinated eye upon
him; yet there was not a soul in the room but was profoundly
grateful to him for the sensation--including the offended teacher
herself. Unhappily, all this gratitude was unconscious and
altogether different from the kind which, results in
testimonials and loving-cups. On the contrary!
"Answer me at once! Why did you speak to me like that?"
"I was----" He choked, unable to continue.
"I was just--thinking," he managed to stammer.
"That will not do," she returned sharply. "I wish to know
immediately why you spoke as you did."
The stricken Penrod answered helplessly:
"Because I was just thinking."
Upon the very rack he could have offered no ampler truthful
explanation. It was all he knew about it.
Miss Spence's expression gave evidence that her power of
self-restraint was undergoing a remarkable test. However, after
taking counsel with herself, she commanded:
He shuffled forward, and she placed a chair upon the platform
near her own.
Then (but not at all as if nothing had happened), she
continued the lesson in arithmetic. Spiritually the children may
have learned a lesson in very small fractions indeed as they
gazed at the fragment of sin before them on the stool of
penitence. They all stared at him attentively with hard and
passionately interested eyes, in which there was never one trace
of pity. It cannot be said with precision that he writhed; his
movement was more a slow, continuous squirm, effected with a
ghastly assumption of languid indifference; while his gaze, in
the effort to escape the marble-hearted glare of his schoolmates,
affixed itself with apparent permanence to the waistcoat button
of James Russell Lowell just above the "U" in "Russell."
Classes came and classes went, grilling him with eyes.
Newcomers received the story of the crime in darkling whispers;
and the outcast sat and sat and sat, and squirmed and squirmed
and squirmed. (He did one or two things with his spine which a
professional contortionist would have observed with real
interest.) And all this while of freezing suspense was but the
criminal's detention awaiting trial. A known punishment may be
anticipated with some measure of equanimity; at least, the
prisoner may prepare himself to undergo it; but the unknown looms
more monstrous for every attempt to guess it. Penrod's crime was
unique; there were no rules to aid him in estimating the
vengeance to fall upon him for it. What seemed most probable was
that he would be expelled from the schools in the presence of his
family, the mayor, and council, and afterward whipped by his
father upon the State House steps, with the entire city as
audience by invitation of the authorities.
Noon came. The rows of children filed out, every head
turning for a last unpleasingly speculative look at the outlaw.
Then Miss Spence closed the door into the cloakroom and that into
the big hall, and came and sat at her desk, near Penrod. The
tramping of feet outside, the shrill calls and shouting and the
changing voices of the older boys ceased to be heard--and there
was silence. Penrod, still affecting to be occupied with Lowell,
was conscious that Miss Spence looked at him intently.
"Penrod," she said gravely, "what excuse have you to offer
before I report your case to the principal?"
The word "principal" struck him to the vitals. Grand
Inquisitor, Grand Khan, Sultan, Emperor, Tsar, Caesar Augustus--
these are comparable. He stopped squirming instantly, and sat
"I want an answer. Why did you shout those words at me?"
"Well," he murmured, "I was just--thinking."
"Thinking what?" she asked sharply.
"I don't know."
"That won't do!"
He took his left ankle in his right hand and regarded it
"That won't do, Penrod Schofield," she repeated
severely. "If that is all the excuse you have to offer I shall
report your case this instant!"
And she rose with fatal intent.
But Penrod was one of those whom the precipice inspires.
"Well, I HAVE got an excuse."
"Well"--she paused impatiently--"what is it?"
He had not an idea, but he felt one coming, and replied
automatically, in a plaintive tone:
"I guess anybody that had been through what I had to go
through, last night, would think they had an excuse."
Miss Spence resumed her seat, though with the air of being
ready to leap from it instantly.
"What has last night to do with your insolence to me this
"Well, I guess you'd see," he returned, emphasizing the
plaintive note, "if you knew what I know."
"Now, Penrod," she said, in a kinder voice, "I have a high
regard for your mother and father, and it would hurt me to
distress them, but you must either tell me what was the matter
with you or I'll have to take you to Mrs. Houston."
"Well, ain't I going to?" he cried, spurred by the dread
name. "It's because I didn't sleep last night."
"Were you ill?" The question was put with some dryness.
He felt the dryness. "No'm; _I_ wasn't."
"Then if someone in your family was so ill that even you
were kept up all night, how does it happen they let you come to
school this morning?"
"It wasn't illness," he returned, shaking his head
mournfully. "It was lots worse'n anybody's being sick. It was--
it was--well, it was jest awful."
"WHAT was?" He remarked with anxiety the incredulity in
"It was about Aunt Clara," he said.
"Your Aunt Clara!" she repeated. "Do you mean your mother's
sister who married Mr. Farry of Dayton, Illinois?"
"Yes--Uncle John," returned Penrod sorrowfully. "The trouble
was about him."
Miss Spence frowned a frown which he rightly interpreted as
one of continued suspicion. "She and I were in school together,"
she said. "I used to know her very well, and I've always heard
her married life was entirely happy. I don't----"
"Yes, it was," he interrupted, "until last year when Uncle
John took to running with travelling men----"
"Yes'm." He nodded solemnly. "That was what started it. At
first he was a good, kind husband, but these travelling men would
coax him into a saloon on his way home from work, and they got
him to drinking beer and then ales, wines, liquors, and
"I'm not inquiring into your Aunt Clara's private affairs;
I'm asking you if you have anything to say which would
"That's what I'm tryin' to TELL you about, Miss Spence,"
he pleaded,--"if you'd jest only let me. When Aunt Clara and her
little baby daughter got to our house last night----"
"You say Mrs. Farry is visiting your mother?"
"Yes'm--not just visiting--you see, she HAD to come.
Well of course, little baby Clara, she was so bruised up and
mauled, where he'd been hittin' her with his cane----"
"You mean that your uncle had done such a thing as THAT!"
exclaimed Miss Spence, suddenly disarmed by this scandal.
"Yes'm, and mamma and Margaret had to sit up all night
nursin' little Clara--and AUNT Clara was in such a state
SOMEBODY had to keep talkin' to HER, and there wasn't
anybody but me to do it, so I----"
"But where was your father?" she cried.
"Where was your father while----"
"Oh--papa?" Penrod paused, reflected; then brightened.
"Why, he was down at the train, waitin' to see if Uncle John
would try to follow 'em and make 'em come home so's he could
persecute 'em some more. I wanted to do that, but they said if
he did come I mightn't be strong enough to hold him and----"
The brave lad paused again, modestly. Miss Spence's expression
was encouraging. Her eyes were wide with astonishment, and there
may have been in them, also, the mingled beginnings of admiration
and self-reproach. Penrod, warming to his work, felt safer every
"And so," he continued, "I had to sit up with Aunt Clara.
She had some pretty big bruises, too, and I had to----"
"But why didn't they send for a doctor?" However, this
question was only a flicker of dying incredulity.
"Oh, they didn't want any DOCTOR," exclaimed the inspired
realist promptly. "They don't want anybody to HEAR about it
because Uncle John might reform--and then where'd he be if
everybody knew he'd been a drunkard and whipped his wife and baby
"Oh!" said Miss Spence.
"You see, he used to be upright as anybody," he went on
explanatively. "It all begun----"
"Yes'm. It all commenced from the first day he let those
travelling men coax him into the saloon." Penrod narrated the
downfall of his Uncle John at length. In detail he was nothing
short of plethoric; and incident followed incident, sketched with
such vividness, such abundance of colour, and such verisimilitude
to a drunkard's life as a drunkard's life should be, that had
Miss Spence possessed the rather chilling attributes of William
J. Burns himself, the last trace of skepticism must have vanished
from her mind. Besides, there are two things that will be
believed of any man whatsoever, and one of them is that he has
taken to drink. And in every sense it was a moving picture
which, with simple but eloquent words, the virtuous Penrod set
before his teacher.
His eloquence increased with what it fed on; and as with the
eloquence so with self-reproach in the gentle bosom of the
teacher. She cleared her throat with difficulty once or twice,
during his description of his ministering night with Aunt Clara.
"And I said to her, `Why, Aunt Clara, what's the use of takin' on
so about it?' And I said, `Now, Aunt Clara, all the crying in
the world can't make things any better.' And then she'd just
keep catchin' hold of me, and sob and kind of holler, and I'd
say, `DON'T cry, Aunt Clara--PLEASE don't cry."'
Then, under the influence of some fragmentary survivals of
the respectable portion of his Sunday adventures, his theme
became more exalted; and, only partially misquoting a phrase from
a psalm, he related how he had made it of comfort to Aunt Clara,
and how he had besought her to seek Higher guidance in her
The surprising thing about a structure such as Penrod was
erecting is that the taller it becomes the more ornamentation it
will stand. Gifted boys have this faculty of building
magnificence upon cobwebs--and Penrod was gifted. Under the
spell of his really great performance, Miss Spence gazed more and
more sweetly upon the prodigy of spiritual beauty and goodness
before her, until at last, when Penrod came to the explanation of
his "just thinking," she was forced to turn her head away.
"You mean, dear," she said gently, "that you were all worn
out and hardly knew what you were saying?"
"And you were thinking about all those dreadful things so
hard that you forgot where you were?"
"I was thinking," he said simply, "how to save Uncle John."
And the end of it for this mighty boy was that the teacher
FIDELITY OF A LITTLE DOG
The returning students, that afternoon, observed that Penrod's
desk was vacant--and nothing could have been more impressive than
that sinister mere emptiness. The accepted theory was that
Penrod had been arrested. How breathtaking, then, the sensation
when, at the beginning of the second hour, he strolled--in with
inimitable carelessness and, rubbing his eyes, somewhat
noticeably in the manner of one who has snatched an hour of much
needed sleep, took his place as if nothing in particular had
happened. This, at first supposed to be a superhuman exhibition
of sheer audacity, became but the more dumfounding when
Miss Spence--looking up from her desk--greeted him with a
pleasant little nod. Even after school, Penrod gave numerous
maddened investigators no relief. All he would consent to say
"Oh, I just TALKED to her."
A mystification not entirely unconnected with the one thus
produced was manifested at his own family. dinner-table the
following evening. Aunt Clara had been out rather late, and came
to the table after the rest were seated. She wore a puzzled
"Do you ever see Mary Spence nowadays?" she inquired, as she
unfolded her napkin, addressing Mrs. Schofield. Penrod abruptly
set down his soup-spoon and gazed at his aunt with flattering
"Yes; sometimes," said Mrs. Schofield. "She's Penrod's
"Is she?" said Mrs. Farry. "Do you--" She paused. "Do
people think her a little--queer, these days?"
"Why, no," returned her sister. "What makes you say that?"
"She has acquired a very odd manner," said Mrs. Farry
decidedly. "At least, she seemed odd to ME. I met her at
the corner just before I got to the house, a few minutes ago, and
after we'd said howdy-do to each other, she kept hold of my hand
and looked as though she was going to cry. She seemed to be
trying to say something, and choking----"
"But I don't think that's so very queer, Clara. She knew you
in school, didn't she?"
"And she hadn't seen you for so many years, I think it's
perfectly natural she----"
"Wait! She stood there squeezing my hand, and struggling to
get her voice--and I got really embarrassed--and then finally she
said, in a kind of tearful whisper, `Be of good cheer--this trial
"How queer!" exclaimed Margaret.
Penrod sighed, and returned somewhat absently to his soup.
"Well, I don't know," said Mrs. Schofield thoughtfully. "Of
course she's heard about the outbreak of measles in Dayton, since
they had to close the schools, and she knows you live there----"
"But doesn't it seem a VERY exaggerated way," suggested
Margaret, "to talk about measles?"
"Wait!" begged Aunt Clara. "After she said that, she said
something even queerer, and then put her handkerchief to her eyes
and hurried away."
Penrod laid down his spoon again and moved his chair slightly
back from the table. A spirit of prophecy was upon him: he knew
that someone was going to ask a question which he felt might
better remain unspoken.
"What WAS the other thing she said?" Mr. Schofield
inquired, thus immediately fulfilling his son's premonition.
"She said," returned Mrs. Farry slowly, looking about the
table, "she said, `I know that Penrod is a great, great comfort
There was a general exclamation of surprise. It was a
singular thing, and in no manner may it be considered
complimentary to Penrod, that this speech of Miss Spence's should
have immediately confirmed Mrs. Farry's doubts about her in the
minds of all his family.
Mr. Schofield shook his head pityingly.
"I'm afraid she's a goner," he went so far as to say.
"Of all the weird ideas!" cried Margaret.
"I never heard anything like it in my life!" Mrs. Schofield
exclaimed. "Was that ALL she said?"
Penrod again resumed attention to his soup. His mother
looked at him curiously, and then, struck by a sudden thought,
gathered the glances of the adults of the table by a significant
movement of the head, and, by another, conveyed an admonition to
drop the subject until later. Miss Spence was Penrod's teacher:
it was better, for many reasons, not to discuss the subject of
her queerness before him. This was Mrs. Schofield's thought at
the time. Later she had another, and it kept her awake.
The next afternoon, Mr. Schofield, returning at five o'clock
from the cares of the day, found the house deserted, and sat down
to read his evening paper in what appeared to be an uninhabited
apartment known to its own world as the "drawing-room." A
sneeze, unexpected both to him and the owner, informed him of the