Part 4 out of 5
gently, "what would it make you so mad fer, to have somebody call
you a little gentleman? It's a kind of compliment, as it were,
you might say. What would you want to hit anybody fer THAT
To the mind of Penrod, this question was without meaning or
reasonableness. It was within neither his power nor his desire
to analyze the process by which the phrase had become offensive
to him, and was now rapidly assuming the proportions of an
outrage. He knew only that his gorge rose at the thought of it.
"You just let 'em try it!" he said threateningly, as he
slid down from the chair. And as he went out of the door, after
further conversation on the same subject, he called back those
warning words once more: "Just let 'em try it! Just once--
that's all _I_ ask 'em to. They'll find out what they
The barber chuckled. Then a fly lit on the barber's nose and
he slapped at it, and the slap missed the fly but did not miss
the nose. The barber was irritated. At this moment his birdlike
eye gleamed a gleam as it fell upon customers approaching: the
prettiest little girl in the world, leading by the hand her baby
brother, Mitchy-Mitch, coming to have Mitchy-Mitch's hair
clipped, against the heat.
It was a hot day and idle, with little to feed the mind--and
the barber was a mischievous man with an irritated nose. He did
Meanwhile, the brooding Penrod pursued his homeward way; no
great distance, but long enough for several one-sided conflicts
with malign insulters made of thin air. "You better NOT call
me that!" he muttered. "You just try it, and you'll get what
other people got when THEY tried it. You better not ack
fresh with ME! Oh, you WILL, will you?" He delivered a
vicious kick full upon the shins of an iron fence-post, which
suffered little, though Penrod instantly regretted his
indiscretion. "Oof!" he grunted, hopping; and went on after
bestowing a look of awful hostility upon the fence-post. "I
guess you'll know better next time," he said, in parting, to
this antagonist. "You just let me catch you around here again
and I'll----" His voice sank to inarticulate but ominous
murmurings. He was in a dangerous mood.
Nearing home, however, his belligerent spirit was diverted to
happier interests by the discovery that some workmen had left a
caldron of tar in the cross-street, close by his father's stable.
He tested it, but found it inedible. Also, as a substitute for
professional chewing-gum it was unsatisfactory, being
insufficiently boiled down and too thin, though of a pleasant,
lukewarm temperature. But it had an excess of one quality--it
was sticky. It was the stickiest tar Penrod had ever used for
any purposes whatsoever, and nothing upon which he wiped his
hands served to rid them of it; neither his polka-dotted shirt
waist nor his knickerbockers; neither the fence, nor even Duke,
who came unthinkingly wagging out to greet him, and retired
Nevertheless, tar is tar. Much can be done with it, no
matter what its condition; so Penrod lingered by the caldron,
though from a neighbouring yard could be heard the voices of
comrades, including that of Sam Williams. On the ground about
the caldron were scattered chips and sticks and bits of wood to
the number of a great multitude. Penrod mixed quantities of this
refuse into the tar, and interested himself in seeing how much of
it he could keep moving in slow swirls upon the ebon surface.
Other surprises were arranged for the absent workmen. The
caldron was almost full, and the surface of the tar near the rim.
Penrod endeavoured to ascertain how many pebbles and brickbats,
dropped in, would cause an overflow. Labouring heartily to this
end, he had almost accomplished it, when he received the
suggestion for an experiment on a much larger scale. Embedded at
the corner of a grassplot across the street was a whitewashed
stone, the size of a small watermelon and serving no purpose
whatever save the questionable one of decoration. It was easily
pried up with a stick; though getting it to the caldron tested
the full strength of the ardent labourer. Instructed to perform
such a task, he would have sincerely maintained its impossibility
but now, as it was unbidden, and promised rather destructive
results, he set about it with unconquerable energy, feeling
certain that he would be rewarded with a mighty splash.
Perspiring, grunting vehemently, his back aching and all muscles
strained, he progressed in short stages until the big stone lay
at the base of the caldron. He rested a moment, panting, then
lifted the stone, and was bending his shoulders for the heave
that would lift it over the rim, when a sweet, taunting voice,
close behind him, startled him cruelly.
"How do you do, LITTLE GENTLEMAN!"
Penrod squawked, dropped the stone, and shouted, "Shut up,
you dern fool!" purely from instinct, even before his about-
face made him aware who had so spitefully addressed him.
It was Marjorie Jones. Always dainty, and prettily dressed,
she was in speckless and starchy white to-day, and a refreshing
picture she made, with the new-shorn and powerfully scented
Mitchy-Mitch clinging to her hand. They had stolen up behind the
toiler, and now stood laughing together in sweet merriment.
Since the passing of Penrod's Rupe Collins period he had
experienced some severe qualms at the recollection of his last
meeting with Marjorie and his Apache behaviour; in truth, his
heart instantly became as wax at sight of her, and he would have
offered her fair speech; but, alas! in Marjorie's wonderful eyes
there shone a consciousness of new powers for his undoing, and
she denied him opportunity.
"Oh, OH!" she cried, mocking his pained outcry. "What a
way for a LITTLE GENTLEMAN to talk! Little gentleman don't
"Marjorie!" Penrod, enraged and dismayed, felt himself stung
beyond all endurance. Insult from her was bitterer to endure
than from any other. "Don't you call me that again!"
"Why not, LITTLE GENTLEMAN?"
He stamped his foot. "You better stop!"
Marjorie sent into his furious face her lovely, spiteful
"Little gentleman, little gentleman, little gentleman!"
she said deliberately. "How's the little gentleman, this
afternoon? Hello, little gentleman!"
Penrod, quite beside himself, danced eccentrically. "Dry
up!" he howled. "Dry up, dry up, dry up, dry UP!"
Mitchy-Mitch shouted with delight and applied a finger to the
side of the caldron--a finger immediately snatched away and wiped
upon a handkerchief by his fastidious sister.
"'Ittle gellamun!" said Mitchy-Mitch.
"You better look out!" Penrod whirled upon this small
offender with grim satisfaction. Here was at least something
male that could without dishonour be held responsible. "You say
that again, and I'll give you the worst----"
"You will NOT!" snapped Marjorie, instantly vitriolic.
"He'll say just whatever he wants to, and he'll say it just as
MUCH as he wants to. Say it again, Mitchy-Mitch!"
"'Ittle gellamun!" said Mitchy-Mitch promptly.
"Ow-YAH!" Penrod's tone-production was becoming affected
by his mental condition. "You say that again, and I'll----"
"Go on, Mitchy-Mitch," cried Marjorie. "He can't do a thing.
He don't DARE! Say it some more, Mitchy-Mitch--say it a
Mitchy-Mitch, his small, fat face shining with confidence in
his immunity, complied.
"'Ittle gellamun!" he squeaked malevolently. "'Ittle
gellamun! 'Ittle gellamun! 'Ittle gellamun!"
The desperate Penrod bent over the whitewashed rock, lifted
it, and then--outdoing Porthos, John Ridd, and Ursus in one
miraculous burst of strength--heaved it into the air.
But it was too late. The big stone descended into the
precise midst of the caldron and Penrod got his mighty splash.
It was far, far beyond his expectations.
Spontaneously there were grand and awful effects--volcanic
spectacles of nightmare and eruption. A black sheet of eccentric
shape rose out of the caldron and descended upon the three
children, who had no time to evade it.
After it fell, Mitchy-Mitch, who stood nearest the caldron,
was the thickest, though there was enough for all. Br'er Rabbit
would have fled from any of them.
When Marjorie and Mitchy-Mitch got their breath, they used it
vocally; and seldom have more penetrating sounds issued from
human throats. Coincidentally, Marjorie, quite baresark, laid
hands upon the largest stick within reach and fell upon Penrod
with blind fury. He had the presence of mind to flee, and they
went round and round the caldron, while Mitchy-Mitch feebly
endeavoured to follow--his appearance, in this pursuit, being
pathetically like that of a bug fished out of an ink-well, alive
Attracted by the riot, Samuel Williams made his appearance,
vaulting a fence, and was immediately followed by Maurice Levy
and Georgie Bassett. They stared incredulously at the
extraordinary spectacle before them.
"Little GEN-TIL-MUN!" shrieked Marjorie, with a wild stroke
that landed full upon Penrod's tarry cap.
"OOOCH!" bleated Penrod.
"It's Penrod!" shouted Sam Williams, recognizing him by the
voice. For an instant he had been in some doubt.
"Penrod Schofield!" exclaimed Georgie Bassett. "WHAT
does this mean?" That was Georgie's style, and had helped to win
him his title.
Marjorie leaned, panting, upon her stick. "I cu-called--uh--
him--oh!" she sobbed--"I called him a lul-little--oh--gentleman!
And oh--lul-look!--oh! lul-look at my du-dress! Lul-look at Mu-
Unexpectedly, she smote again--with results--and then,
seizing the indistinguishable hand of Mitchy-Mitch, she ran
wailing homeward down the street.
"`Little gentleman'?" said Georgie Bassett, with some
evidences of disturbed complacency. "Why, that's what they call
"Yes, and you ARE one, too!" shouted the maddened Penrod.
"But you better not let anybody call ME that! I've stood
enough around here for one day, and you can't run over ME,
Georgie Bassett. Just you put that in your gizzard and smoke
"Anybody has a perfect right," said Georgie, with,
dignity, "to call a person a little gentleman. There's lots
of names nobody ought to call, but this one's a NICE----"
"You better look out!"
Unavenged bruises were distributed all over Penrod, both upon
his body and upon his spirit. Driven by subtle forces, he had
dipped his hands in catastrophe and disaster: it was not for a
Georgie Bassett to beard him. Penrod was about to run amuck.
"I haven't called you a little gentleman, yet," said Georgie.
"I only said it. Anybody's got a right to SAY it."
"Not around ME! You just try it again and----"
"I shall say it," returned Georgie, "all I please. Anybody
in this town has a right to SAY `little gentleman'----"
Bellowing insanely, Penrod plunged his right hand into the
caldron, rushed upon Georgie and made awful work of his hair and
Alas, it was but the beginning! Sam Williams and Maurice
Levy screamed with delight, and, simultaneously infected, danced
about the struggling pair, shouting frantically:
"Little gentleman! Little gentleman! Sick him, Georgie!
Sick him, little gentleman! Little gentleman! Little
The infuriated outlaw turned upon them with blows and more
tar, which gave Georgie Bassett his opportunity and later
seriously impaired the purity of his fame. Feeling himself
hopelessly tarred, he dipped both hands repeatedly into the
caldron and applied his gatherings to Penrod. It was bringing
coals to Newcastle, but it helped to assuage the just wrath of
The four boys gave a fine imitation of the Laocoon group
complicated by an extra figure frantic splutterings and chokings,
strange cries and stranger words issued from this tangle; hands
dipped lavishly into the inexhaustible reservoir of tar, with
more and more picturesque results. The caldron had been elevated
upon bricks and was not perfectly balanced; and under a heavy
impact of the struggling group it lurched and went partly over,
pouring forth a Stygian tide which formed a deep pool in the
It was the fate of Master Roderick Bitts, that exclusive and
immaculate person, to make his appearance upon the chaotic scene
at this juncture. All in the cool of a white "sailor suit," he
turned aside from the path of duty--which led straight to the
house of a maiden aunt--and paused to hop with joy upon the
sidewalk. A repeated epithet continuously half panted, half
squawked, somewhere in the nest of gladiators, caught his ear,
and he took it up excitedly, not knowing why.
"Little gentleman!" shouted Roderick, jumping up and down in
childish glee. "Little gentleman! Little gentleman! Lit----"
A frightful figure tore itself free from the group,
encircled this innocent bystander with a black arm, and
hurled him headlong. Full length and flat on his face went
Roderick into the Stygian pool. The frightful figure was Penrod.
Instantly, the pack flung themselves upon him again, and,
carrying them with him, he went over upon Roderick, who from that
instant was as active a belligerent as any there.
Thus began the Great Tar Fight, the origin of which proved,
afterward, so difficult for parents to trace, owing to the
opposing accounts of the combatants. Marjorie said Penrod began
it; Penrod said Mitchy-Mitch began it; Sam Williams said Georgie
Bassett began it; Georgie and Maurice Levy said Penrod began it;
Roderick Bitts, who had not recognized his first assailant, said
Sam Williams began it.
Nobody thought of accusing the barber. But the barber did
not begin it; it was the fly on the barber's nose that began it--
though, of course, something else began the fly. Somehow, we
never manage to hang the real offender.
The end came only with the arrival of Penrod's mother, who
had been having a painful conversation by telephone with Mrs.
Jones, the mother of Marjorie, and came forth to seek an errant
son. It is a mystery how she was able to pick out her own, for
by the time she got there his voice was too hoarse to be
recognizable. Mr. Schofield's version of things was that Penrod
was insane. "He's a stark, raving lunatic!" declared the
father, descending to the library from a before-dinner interview
with the outlaw, that evening. "I'd send him to military school,
but I don't believe they'd take him. Do you know WHY he says
all that awfulness happened?"
"When Margaret and I were trying to scrub him," responded
Mrs. Schofield wearily, "he said `everybody' had been calling him
"`Names!'" snorted her husband. "`Little gentleman!'
THAT'S the vile epithet they called him! And because of it
he wrecks the peace of six homes!"
"SH! Yes; he told us about it," said Mrs. Schofield,
moaning. "He told us several hundred times, I should guess,
though I didn't count. He's got it fixed in his head, and we
couldn't get it out. All we could do was to put him in the
closet. He'd have gone out again after those boys if we hadn't.
I don't know WHAT to make of him!"
"He's a mystery to ME!" said her husband. "And he
refuses to explain why he objects to being called `little
gentleman.' Says he'd do the same thing--and worse--if anybody
dared to call him that again. He said if the President of the
United States called him that he'd try to whip him. How long did
you have him locked up in the closet?"
"SH!" said Mrs. Schofield warningly. "About two hours;
but I don't think it softened his spirit at all, because when I
took him to the barber's to get his hair clipped again, on
account of the tar in it, Sammy Williams and Maurice Levy were
there for the same reason, and they just WHISPERED `little
gentleman,' so low you could hardly hear them--and Penrod began
fighting with them right before me, and it was really all the
barber and I could do to drag him away from them. The barber was
very kind about it, but Penrod----"
"I tell you he's a lunatic!" Mr. Schofield would have said
the same thing of a Frenchman infuriated by the epithet "camel."
The philosophy of insult needs expounding.
"SH!" said Mrs. Schofield. "It does seem a kind of
"Why on earth should any sane person mind being called----"
"SH!" said Mrs. Schofield. "It's beyond ME!"
"What are you SH-ing me for?" demanded Mr. Schofield
"SH!" said Mrs. Schofield. "It's Mr. Kinosling, the new
rector of Saint Joseph's."
"SH! On the front porch with Margaret; he's going to
stay for dinner. I do hope----"
"Bachelor, isn't he?"
"OUR old minister was speaking of him the other day,"
said Mr. Schofield, "and he didn't seem so terribly impressed."
"SH! Yes; about thirty, and of course so superior to
most of Margaret's friends--boys home from college. She thinks
she likes young Robert Williams, I know--but he laughs so much!
Of course there isn't any comparison. Mr. Kinosling talks so
intellectually; it's a good thing for Margaret to hear that kind
of thing, for a change and, of course, he's very spiritual. He
seems very much interested in her." She paused to muse. "I
think Margaret likes him; he's so different, too. It's the third
time he's dropped in this week, and I----"
"Well," said Mr. Schofield grimly, "if you and Margaret want
him to come again, you'd better not let him see Penrod."
"But he's asked to see him; he seems interested in meeting
all the family. And Penrod nearly always behaves fairly well at
table." She paused, and then put to her husband a question
referring to his interview with Penrod upstairs. "Did you--did
"No," he answered gloomily. "No, I didn't, but----" He was
interrupted by a violent crash of china and metal in the kitchen,
a shriek from Della, and the outrageous voice of Penrod. The
well-informed Della, ill-inspired to set up for a wit, had
ventured to address the scion of the house roguishly as "little
gentleman," and Penrod, by means of the rapid elevation of his
right foot, had removed from her supporting hands a laden tray.
Both parents, started for the kitchen, Mr. Schofield
completing his interrupted sentence on the way.
"But I will, now!"
The rite thus promised was hastily but accurately performed
in that apartment most distant from the front porch; and, twenty
minutes later, Penrod descended to dinner. The Rev. Mr.
Kinosling had asked for the pleasure of meeting him, and it had
been decided that the only course possible was to cover up the
scandal for the present, and to offer an undisturbed and smiling
family surface to the gaze of the visitor.
Scorched but not bowed, the smouldering Penrod was led
forward for the social formulae simultaneously with the somewhat
bleak departure of Robert Williams, who took his guitar with him,
this time, and went in forlorn unconsciousness of the powerful
forces already set in secret motion to be his allies.
The punishment just undergone had but made the haughty and
unyielding soul of Penrod more stalwart in revolt; he was
unconquered. Every time the one intolerable insult had been
offered him, his resentment had become the hotter, his vengeance
the more instant and furious. And, still burning with outrage,
but upheld by the conviction of right, he was determined to
continue to the last drop of his blood the defense of his honour,
whenever it should be assailed, no matter how mighty or august
the powers that attacked it. In all ways, he was a very
During the brief ceremony of presentation, his usually
inscrutable countenance wore an expression interpreted by his
father as one of insane obstinacy, while Mrs. Schofield found it
an incentive to inward prayer. The fine graciousness of Mr.
Kinosling, however, was unimpaired by the glare of virulent
suspicion given him by this little brother: Mr. Kinosling mistook
it for a natural curiosity concerning one who might possibly
become, in time, a member of the family. He patted Penrod upon
the head, which was, for many reasons, in no condition to be
patted with any pleasure to the patter. Penrod felt himself in
the presence of a new enemy.
"How do you do, my little lad," said Mr. Kinosling. "I trust
we shall become fast friends."
To the ear of his little lad, it seemed he said, "A trost we
shall bick-home fawst frainds." Mr. Kinosling's pronunciation
was, in fact, slightly precious; and, the little lad, simply
mistaking it for some cryptic form of mockery of himself, assumed
a manner and expression which argued so ill for the proposed
friendship that Mrs. Schofield hastily interposed the suggestion
of dinner, and the small procession went in to the dining-room.
"It has been a delicious day," said Mr. Kinosling, presently;
"warm but balmy." With a benevolent smile he addressed
Penrod, who sat opposite him. "I suppose, little gentleman, you
have been indulging in the usual outdoor sports of vacation?"
Penrod laid down his fork and glared, open-mouthed at Mr.
"You'll have another slice of breast of the chicken?" Mr.
Schofield inquired, loudly and quickly.
"A lovely day!" exclaimed Margaret, with equal promptitude
and emphasis. "Lovely, oh, lovely! Lovely!"
"Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!" said Mrs. Schofield, and
after a glance at Penrod which confirmed her impression that he
intended to say something, she continued, "Yes, beautiful,
beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful beautiful!"
Penrod closed his mouth and sank back in his chair--and his
relatives took breath.
Mr. Kinosling looked pleased. This responsive family, with
its ready enthusiasm, made the kind of audience he liked. He
passed a delicate white hand gracefully over his tall, pale
forehead, and smiled indulgently.
"Youth relaxes in summer," he said. "Boyhood is the age of
relaxation; one is playful, light, free, unfettered. One runs
and leaps and enjoys one's self with one's companions. It is
good for the little lads to play with their friends; they jostle,
push, and wrestle, and simulate little, happy struggles with one
another in harmless conflict. The young muscles are
toughening. It is good. Boyish chivalry develops, enlarges,
expands. The young learn quickly, intuitively, spontaneously.
They perceive the obligations of noblesse oblige. They begin
to comprehend the necessity of caste and its requirements. They
learn what birth means--ah,--that is, they learn what it means to
be well born. They learn courtesy in their games; they learn
politeness, consideration for one another in their pastimes,
amusements, lighter occupations. I make it my pleasure to join
them often, for I sympathize with them in all their wholesome
joys as well as in their little bothers and perplexities. I
understand them, you see; and let me tell you it is no easy
matter to understand the little lads and lassies." He sent to
each listener his beaming glance, and, permitting it to come to
rest upon Penrod, inquired:
"And what do you say to that, little gentleman?"
Mr. Schofield uttered a stentorian cough. "More? You'd
better have some more chicken! More! Do!"
"More chicken!" urged Margaret simultaneously. "Do please!
Please! More! Do! More!"
"Beautiful, beautiful," began Mrs. Schofield. "Beautiful,
beautiful, beautiful, beautiful----"
It is not known in what light Mr. Kinosling viewed the
expression of Penrod's face. Perhaps he mistook it for awe;
perhaps he received no impression at all of its extraordinary
quality. He was a rather self-engrossed young man, just then
engaged in a double occupation, for he not only talked, but
supplied from his own consciousness a critical though favourable
auditor as well, which of course kept him quite busy. Besides,
it is oftener than is expected the case that extremely peculiar
expressions upon the countenances of boys are entirely
overlooked, and suggest nothing to the minds of people staring
straight at them. Certainly Penrod's expression--which, to the
perception of his family, was perfectly horrible--caused not the
faintest perturbation in the breast of Mr. Kinosling.
Mr. Kinosling waived the chicken, and continued to talk.
"Yes, I think I may claim to understand boys," he said, smiling
thoughtfully. "One has been a boy one's self. Ah, it is not all
playtime! I hope our young scholar here does not overwork
himself at his Latin, at his classics, as I did, so that at the
age of eight years I was compelled to wear glasses. He must be
careful not to strain the little eyes at his scholar's tasks, not
to let the little shoulders grow round over his scholar's desk.
Youth is golden; we should keep it golden, bright, glistening.
Youth should frolic, should be sprightly; it should play its
cricket, its tennis, its hand-ball. It should run and leap; it
should laugh, should sing madrigals and glees, carol with the
lark, ring out in chanties, folk-songs, ballads, roundelays----"
He talked on. At any instant Mr. Schofield held himself
ready to cough vehemently and shout, "More chicken," to
drown out Penrod in case the fatal words again fell from those
eloquent lips; and Mrs. Schofield and Margaret kept themselves
prepared at all times to assist him. So passed a threatening
meal, which Mrs. Schofield hurried, by every means with decency,
to its conclusion. She felt that somehow they would all be safer
out in the dark of the front porch, and led the way thither as
soon as possible.
"No cigar, I thank you." Mr. Kinosling, establishing himself
in a wicker chair beside Margaret, waved away her father's
proffer. "I do not smoke. I have never tasted tobacco in any
form." Mrs. Schofield was confirmed in her opinion that this
would be an ideal son-in-law. Mr. Schofield was not so sure.
"No," said Mr. Kinosling. "No tobacco for me. No cigar, no
pipe, no cigarette, no cheroot. For me, a book--a volume of
poems, perhaps. Verses, rhymes, lines metrical and cadenced--
those are my dissipation. Tennyson by preference: `Maud,' or
`Idylls of the King'--poetry of the sound Victorian days; there
is none later. Or Longfellow will rest me in a tired hour. Yes;
for me, a book, a volume in the hand, held lightly between the
Mr. Kinosling looked pleasantly at his fingers as he spoke,
waving his hand in a curving gesture which brought it into the
light of a window faintly illumined from the interior of the
house. Then he passed those graceful fingers over his hair,
and turned toward Penrod, who was perched upon the railing in a
"The evening is touched with a slight coolness," said Mr.
Kinosling. "Perhaps I may request the little gentleman----"
"B'gr-r-RUFF!" coughed Mr. Schofield. "You'd better
change your mind about a cigar."
"No, I thank you. I was about to request the lit----"
"DO try one," Margaret urged. "I'm sure papa's are nice
ones. Do try----"
"No, I thank you. I remarked a slight coolness in the air,
and my hat is in the hallway. I was about to request----"
"I'll get it for you," said Penrod suddenly.
"If you will be so good," said Mr. Kinosling. "It is a black
bowler hat, little gentleman, and placed upon a table in the
"I know where it is." Penrod entered the door, and a feeling
of relief, mutually experienced, carried from one to another of
his three relatives their interchanged congratulations that he
had recovered his sanity.
"`The day is done, and the darkness,'" began Mr. Kinosling--
and recited that poem entire. He followed it with "The
Children's Hour," and after a pause, at the close, to allow his
listeners time for a little reflection upon his rendition, he
passed his handagain over his head, and called, in the
direction of the doorway:
"I believe I will take my hat now, little gentleman."
"Here it is," said Penrod, unexpectedly climbing over the
porch railing, in the other direction. His mother and father and
Margaret had supposed him to be standing in the hallway out of
deference, and because he thought it tactful not to interrupt the
recitations. All of them remembered, later, that this supposed
thoughtfulness on his part struck them as unnatural.
"Very good, little gentleman!" said Mr. Kinosling, and being
somewhat chilled, placed the hat firmly upon his head, pulling it
down as far as it would go. It had a pleasant warmth, which he
noticed at once. The next instant, he noticed something else, a
peculiar sensation of the scalp--a sensation which he was quite
unable to define. He lifted his hand to take the hat off, and
entered upon a strange experience: his hat seemed to have decided
to remain where it was.
"Do you like Tennyson as much as Longfellow, Mr. Kinosling?"
"I--ah--I cannot say," he returned absently. "I--ah--each
has his own--ugh! flavour and savour, each his--ah--ah----"
Struck by a strangeness in his tone, she peered at him
curiously through the dusk. His outlines were indistinct, but
she made out that his arms were, uplifted in a singular
gesture. He seemed to be wrenching at his head.
"Is--is anything the matter?" she asked anxiously. "Mr.
Kinosling, are you ill?"
"Not at--ugh!--all," he replied, in the same odd tone. "I--
He dropped his hands from his hat, and rose. His manner was
slightly agitated. "I fear I may have taken a trifling--ah--
cold. I should--ah--perhaps be--ah--better at home. I will--
At the steps, he instinctively lifted his hand to remove his
hat, but did not do so, and, saying "Goodnight," again in a
frigid voice, departed with visible stiffness from that house, to
return no more.
"Well, of all----!" cried Mrs. Schofield, astounded. "What
was the matter? He just went--like that!" She made a flurried
gesture. "In heaven's name, Margaret, what DID you say to
"_I_!" exclaimed Margaret indignantly. "Nothing! He just
"Why, he didn't even take off his hat when he said good-
night!" said Mrs. Schofield.
Margaret, who had crossed to the doorway, caught the ghost of
a whisper behind her, where stood Penrod.
"YOU BET HE DIDN'T!"
He knew not that he was overheard.
A frightful suspicion flashed through Margaret's mind--a
suspicion that Mr. Kinosling's hat would have to be either boiled
off or shaved off. With growing horror she recalled Penrod's
long absence when he went to bring the hat.
"Penrod," she cried, "let me see your hands!"
She had toiled at those hands herself late that afternoon,
nearly scalding her own, but at last achieving a lily purity.
"Let me see your hands!"
She seized them.
Again they were tarred!
THE QUIET AFTERNOON
Perhaps middle-aged people might discern Nature's real intentions
in the matter of pain if they would examine a boy's punishments
and sorrows, for he prolongs neither beyond their actual
duration. With a boy, trouble must be of Homeric dimensions to
last overnight. To him, every next day is really a new day.
Thus, Penrod woke, next morning, with neither the unspared rod,
nor Mr. Kinosling in his mind. Tar, itself, so far as his
consideration of it went, might have been an undiscovered
substance. His mood was cheerful and mercantile; some process
having worked mysteriously within him, during the
night, to the result that his first waking thought was of profits
connected with the sale of old iron--or perhaps a ragman had
passed the house, just before he woke.
By ten o'clock he had formed a partnership with the indeed
amiable Sam, and the firm of Schofield and Williams plunged
headlong into commerce. Heavy dealings in rags, paper, old iron
and lead gave the firm a balance of twenty-two cents on the
evening of the third day; but a venture in glassware, following,
proved disappointing on account of the scepticism of all the
druggists in that part of town, even after seven laborious hours
had been spent in cleansing a wheelbarrow-load of old medicine
bottles with hydrant water and ashes. Likewise, the partners
were disheartened by their failure to dispose of a crop of
"greens," although they had uprooted specimens of that decorative
and unappreciated flower, the dandelion, with such persistence
and energy that the Schofields' and Williams' lawns looked
curiously haggard for the rest of that summer.
The fit passed: business languished; became extinct. The
dog-days had set in.
One August afternoon was so hot that even boys sought indoor
shade. In the dimness of the vacant carriage-house of the
stable, lounged Masters Penrod Schofield, Samuel Williams,
Maurice Levy, Georgie Bassett, and Herman. They sat still and
talked. It is a hot day, in rare truth, when boys devote
themselves principally to conversation, and this day was
Their elders should beware such days. Peril hovers near when
the fierceness of weather forces inaction and boys in groups are
quiet. The more closely volcanoes, Western rivers,
nitroglycerin, and boys are pent, the deadlier is their action at
the point of outbreak. Thus, parents and guardians should look
for outrages of the most singular violence and of the most
peculiar nature during the confining weather of February and
The thing which befell upon this broiling afternoon began to
brew and stew peacefully enough. All was innocence and languor;
no one could have foretold the eruption.
They were upon their great theme: "When I get to be a man!"
Being human, though boys, they considered their present estate
too commonplace to be dwelt upon. So, when the old men gather,
they say: "When I was a boy!" It really is the land of nowadays
that we never discover.
"When I'm a man," said Sam Williams, "I'm goin' to hire me a
couple of coloured waiters to swing me in a hammock and keep
pourin' ice-water on me all day out o' those waterin'-cans they
sprinkle flowers from. I'll hire you for one of 'em, Herman."
"No; you ain' goin' to," said Herman promptly. "You ain' no
flowuh. But nev' min' nat, anyway. Ain' nobody goin' haih
me whens _I_'m a man. Goin' be my own boss. _I_'m go' be a
"You mean like a superintendent, or sumpthing like that, and
sell tickets?" asked Penrod.
"Sup'in--nev' min' nat! Sell ticket? NO suh! Go' be a
PO'tuh! My uncle a po'tuh right now. Solid gole buttons--
"Generals get a lot more buttons than porters," said Penrod.
"Po'tuhs make the bes' l'vin'," Herman interrupted. "My
uncle spen' mo' money 'n any white man n'is town."
"Well, I rather be a general," said Penrod, "or a senator, or
sumpthing like that."
"Senators live in Warshington," Maurice Levy contributed the
information. "I been there. Warshington ain't so much; Niag'ra
Falls is a hundred times as good as Warshington. So's 'Tlantic
City, I was there, too. I been everywhere there is. I----"
"Well, anyway," said Sam Williams, raising his voice in order
to obtain the floor, "anyway, I'm goin' to lay in a hammock all
day, and have ice-water sprinkled on top o' me, and I'm goin' to
lay there all night, too, and the next day. I'm goin' to lay
there a couple o' years, maybe."
"I bet you don't!" exclaimed Maurice. "What'd you do in
"What you goin' to do when it's winter, out in a hammock
with water sprinkled on top o' you all day? I bet you----"
"I'd stay right there," Sam declared, with strong conviction,
blinking as he looked out through the open doors at the dazzling
lawn and trees, trembling in the heat. "They couldn't sprinkle
too much for ME!"
"It'd make icicles all over you, and----"
"I wish it would," said Sam. "I'd eat 'em up."
"And it'd snow on you----"
"Yay! I'd swaller it as fast as it'd come down. I wish I
had a BARREL o' snow right now. I wish this whole barn was
full of it. I wish they wasn't anything in the whole world
except just good ole snow."
Penrod and Herman rose and went out to the hydrant, where
they drank long and ardently. Sam was still talking about snow
when they returned.
"No, I wouldn't just roll in it. I'd stick it all round
inside my clo'es, and fill my hat. No, I'd freeze a big pile of
it all hard, and I'd roll her out flat and then I'd carry her
down to some ole tailor's and have him make me a SUIT out of
"Can't you keep still about your ole snow?" demanded Penrod
petulantly. "Makes me so thirsty I can't keep still, and I've
drunk so much now I bet I bust. That ole hydrant water's mighty
near hot anyway."
"I'm goin' to have a big store, when I grow up," volunteered
"Candy store?" asked Penrod.
"NO, sir! I'll have candy in it, but not to eat, so much.
It's goin' to be a deportment store: ladies' clothes,
gentlemen's clothes, neckties, china goods, leather goods, nice
lines in woollings and lace goods----"
"Yay! I wouldn't give a five-for-a-cent marble for your
whole store," said Sam. "Would you, Penrod?"
"Not for ten of 'em; not for a million of 'em! _I_'m goin'
"Wait!" clamoured Maurice. "You'd be foolish, because they'd
be a toy deportment in my store where they'd be a hunderd
marbles! So, how much would you think your five-for-a-cent
marble counts for? And when I'm keepin' my store I'm goin' to
"Yay!" shrieked Sam derisively. "MARRIED! Listen!"
Penrod and Herman joined in the howl of contempt.
"Certumly I'll get married," asserted Maurice stoutly. "I'll
get married to Marjorie Jones. She likes me awful good, and I'm
"What makes you think so?" inquired Penrod in a cryptic
"Because she's my beau, too," came the prompt answer. "I'm
her beau because she's my beau; I guess that's plenty reason!
I'll get married to her as soon as I get my store running nice."
Penrod looked upon him darkly, but, for the moment, held his
"Married!" jeered Sam Williams. "Married to Marjorie Jones!
You're the only boy I ever heard say he was going to get married.
I wouldn't get married for--why, I wouldn't for--for----" Unable
to think of any inducement the mere mention of which would not be
ridiculously incommensurate, he proceeded: "I wouldn't do it!
What you want to get married for? What do married people do,
except just come home tired, and worry around and kind of scold?
You better not do it, M'rice; you'll be mighty sorry."
"Everybody gets married," stated Maurice, holding his ground.
"I'll bet _I_ don't!" Sam returned hotly. "They better
catch me before they tell ME I have to. Anyway, I bet nobody
has to get married unless they want to."
"They do, too," insisted Maurice. "They GOTTA!"
"Who told you?"
"Look at what my own papa told me!" cried Maurice, heated
with argument. "Didn't he tell me your papa had to marry your
mamma, or else he never'd got to handle a cent of her money?
Certumly, people gotta marry. Everybody. You don't know anybody
over twenty years old that isn't married--except maybe teachers."
"Look at policemen!" shouted Sam triumphantly. `You
don't s'pose anybody can make policemen get married, I reckon, do
"Well, policemen, maybe," Maurice was forced to admit.
"Policemen and teachers don't, but everybody else gotta."
"Well, I'll be a policeman," said Sam. "THEN I guess
they won't come around tellin' me I have to get married. What
you goin' to be, Penrod?"
"Chief police," said the laconic Penrod.
"What you?" Sam inquired of quiet Georgie Bassett.
"I am going to be," said Georgie, consciously, "a minister."
This announcement created a sensation so profound that it was
followed by silence. Herman was the first to speak.
"You mean preachuh?" he asked incredulously. "You go'
"Yes," answered Georgie, looking like Saint Cecilia at the
Herman was impressed. "You know all 'at preachuh talk?"
"I'm going to learn it," said Georgie simply.
"How loud kin you holler?" asked Herman doubtfully.
"He can't holler at all," Penrod interposed with scorn. "He
hollers like a girl. He's the poorest hollerer in town!"
Herman shook his head. Evidently he thought Georgie's
chance of being ordained very slender. Nevertheless, a final
question put to the candidate by the coloured expert seemed to
admit one ray of hope.
"How good kin you clim a pole?"
"He can't climb one at all," Penrod answered for Georgie.
"Over at Sam's turning-pole you ought to see him try to----"
"Preachers don't have to climb poles," Georgie said with
"GOOD ones do," declared Herman. "Bes' one ev' _I_
hear, he clim up an' down same as a circus man. One n'em big
'vivals outen whens we livin' on a fahm, preachuh clim big pole
right in a middle o' the church, what was to hol' roof up. He
clim way high up, an' holler: `Goin' to heavum, goin' to heavum,
goin' to heavum NOW. Hallelujah, praise my Lawd!' An' he
slide down little, an' holler: `Devil's got a hol' o' my coat-
tails; devil tryin' to drag me down! Sinnuhs, take wawnun!
Devil got a hol' o' my coat-tails; I'm a-goin' to hell, oh Lawd!'
Nex', he clim up little mo', an' yell an' holler: `Done shuck
ole devil loose; goin' straight to heavum agin! Goin' to heavum,
goin' to heavum, my Lawd!' Nex', he slide down some mo' an'
holler, `Leggo my coat-tails, ole devil! Goin' to hell agin,
sinnuhs! Goin' straight to hell, my Lawd!' An' he clim an' he
slide, an' he slide, an' he clim, an' all time holler: `Now 'm
a-goin' to heavum; now 'm a-goin' to hell! Goin'to heavum,
heavum, heavum, my Lawd!' Las' he slide all a-way down,
jes' a-squallin' an' a-kickin' an' a-rarin' up an' squealin',
`Goin' to hell. Goin' to hell! Ole Satum got my soul! Goin' to
hell! Goin' to hell! Goin' to hell, hell, hell!"
Herman possessed that extraordinary facility for vivid acting
which is the great native gift of his race, and he enchained his
listeners. They sat fascinated and spellbound.
"Herman, tell that again!" said Penrod, breathlessly.
Herman, nothing loath, accepted the encore and repeated the
Miltonic episode, expanding it somewhat, and dwelling with a fine
art upon those portions of the narrative which he perceived to be
most exciting to his audience. Plainly, they thrilled less to
Paradise gained than to its losing, and the dreadful climax of
the descent into the Pit was the greatest treat of all.
The effect was immense and instant. Penrod sprang to his
"Georgie Bassett couldn't do that to save his life," he
declared. "_I_'m goin' to be a preacher! I'D be all right
for one, wouldn't I, Herman?"
"So am I!" Sam Williams echoed loudly. "I guess I can do it
if YOU can. I'd be better'n Penrod, wouldn't I, Herman?"
"I am, too!" Maurice shouted. "I got a stronger voice than
anybody here, and I'd like to know what----"
The three clamoured together indistinguishably, each
asserting his qualifications for the ministry according to
Herman's theory, which had been accepted by these sudden converts
"Listen to ME!" Maurice bellowed, proving his claim to at
least the voice by drowning the others. "Maybe I can't climb a
pole so good, but who can holler louder'n this? Listen to
"Shut up!" cried Penrod, irritated. "Go to heaven; go to
"Oo-o-oh!" exclaimed Georgie Bassett, profoundly shocked.
Sam and Maurice, awed by Penrod's daring, ceased from
turmoil, staring wide-eyed.
"You cursed and swore!" said Georgie.
"I did not!" cried Penrod, hotly. "That isn't swearing."
"You said, `Go to a big H'!" said Georgie.
"I did not! I said, `Go to heaven,' before I said a big H.
That isn't swearing, is it, Herman? It's almost what the
preacher said, ain't it, Herman? It ain't swearing now, any
more--not if you put `go to heaven' with it, is it, Herman? You
can say it all you want to, long as you say `go to heaven' first,
CAN'T you, Herman? Anybody can say it if the preacher says
it, can't they, Herman? I guess I know when I ain't swearing,
don't I, Herman?"
Judge Herman ruled for the defendant, and Penrod was
considered to have carried his point. With fine
consistency, the conclave established that it was proper for the
general public to "say it," provided "go to heaven" should in all
cases precede it. This prefix was pronounced a perfect
disinfectant, removing all odour of impiety or insult; and, with
the exception of Georgie Bassett (who maintained that the
minister's words were "going" and "gone," not "go"), all the boys
proceeded to exercise their new privilege so lavishly that they
tired of it.
But there was no diminution of evangelical ardour; again were
heard the clamours of dispute as to which was the best qualified
for the ministry, each of the claimants appealing passionately to
Herman, who, pleased but confused, appeared to be incapable of
arriving at a decision.
During a pause, Georgie Bassett asserted his prior rights.
"Who said it first, I'd like to know?" he demanded. "I was going
to be a minister from long back of to-day, I guess. And I guess
I said I was going to be a minister right to-day before any of
you said anything at all. DIDN'T I, Herman? YOU heard
me, didn't you, Herman? That's the very thing started you
talking about it, wasn't it, Herman?"
"You' right," said Herman. "You the firs' one to say it."
Penrod, Sam, and Maurice immediately lost faith in Herman.
"What if you did say it first?" Penrod shouted. "You
couldn't BE a minister if you were a hunderd years old!"
"I bet his mother wouldn't let him be one," said Sam. "She
never lets him do anything."
"She would, too," retorted Georgie. "Ever since I was
"He's too sissy to be a preacher!" cried Maurice. "Listen at
his squeaky voice!"
"I'm going to be a better minister," shouted Georgie, "than
all three of you put together. I could do it with my left hand!"
The three laughed bitingly in chorus. They jeered, derided,
scoffed, and raised an uproar which would have had its effect
upon much stronger nerves than Georgie's. For a time he
contained his rising choler and chanted monotonously, over and
over: "I COULD! I COULD, TOO! I COULD! I COULD, TOO!"
But their tumult wore upon him, and he decided to avail himself
of the recent decision whereby a big H was rendered innocuous and
unprofane. Having used the expression once, he found it
comforting, and substituted it for: "I could! I could, too!"
But it relieved him only temporarily. His tormentors were
unaffected by it and increased their howlings, until at last
Georgie lost his head altogether. Badgered beyond bearing, his
eyes shining with a wild light, he broke through the besieging
trio, hurling little Maurice from his path with a frantic
"I'll show you!" he cried, in this sudden frenzy. "You give
me a chance, and I'll prove it right NOW!"
"That's talkin' business!" shouted Penrod. "Everybody keep
still a minute. Everybody!"
He took command of the situation at once, displaying a fine
capacity for organization and system. It needed only a few
minutes to set order in the place of confusion and to determine,
with the full concurrence of all parties, the conditions under
which Georgie Bassett was to defend his claim by undergoing what
may be perhaps intelligibly defined as the Herman test. Georgie
declared he could do it easily. He was in a state of great
excitement and in no condition to think calmly or, probably, he
would not have made the attempt at all. Certainly he was
CONCLUSION OF THE QUIET AFTERNOON
It was during the discussion of the details of this enterprise
that Georgie's mother, a short distance down the street, received
a few female callers, who came by appointment to drink a glass of
iced tea with her, and to meet the Rev. Mr. Kinosling. Mr.
Kinosling was proving almost formidably interesting to the women
and girls of his own and other flocks. What favour of his fellow
clergymen a slight precociousness of manner and pronunciation
cost him was more than balanced by the visible ecstasies of
ladies. They blossomed at his touch.
He had just entered Mrs. Bassett's front door, when the son
of the house, followed by an intent and earnest company of four,
opened the alley gate and came into the yard. The unconscious
Mrs. Bassett was about to have her first experience of a fatal
coincidence. It was her first, because she was the mother of a
boy so well behaved that he had become a proverb of
transcendency. Fatal coincidences were plentiful in the
Schofield and Williams families, and would have been familiar to
Mrs. Bassett had Georgie been permitted greater intimacy with
Penrod and Sam.
Mr. Kinosling sipped his iced tea and looked about, him
approvingly. Seven ladies leaned forward, for it was to be seen
that he meant to speak.
"This cool room is a relief," he said, waving a graceful hand
in a neatly limited gesture, which everybody's eyes followed, his
own included. "It is a relief and a retreat. The windows open,
the blinds closed--that is as it should be. It is a retreat, a
fastness, a bastion against the heat's assault. For me, a quiet
room--a quiet room and a book, a volume in the hand, held lightly
between the fingers. A volume of poems, lines metrical and
cadenced; something by a sound Victorian. We have no later
"Swinburne?" suggested Miss Beam, an eager spinster.
"Swinburne, Mr. Kinosling? Ah, SWINBURNE!"
"Not Swinburne," said Mr. Kinosling chastely. "No."
That concluded all the remarks about Swinburne.
Miss Beam retired in confusion behind another lady; and
somehow there became diffused an impression that Miss Beam was
"I do not observe your manly little son, "Mr. Kinosling
addressed his hostess.
"He's out playing in the yard," Mrs. Bassett returned. "I
heard his voice just now, I think."
"Everywhere I hear wonderful report of him," said Mr.
Kinosling. "I may say that I understand boys, and I feel that he
is a rare, a fine, a pure, a lofty spirit. I say spirit, for
spirit is the word I hear spoken of him."
A chorus of enthusiastic approbation affirmed the accuracy of
this proclamation, and Mrs. Bassett flushed with pleasure.
Georgie's spiritual perfection was demonstrated by instances of
it, related by the visitors; his piety was cited, and wonderful
things he had said were quoted.
"Not all boys are pure, of fine spirit, of high mind," said
Mr. Kinosling, and continued with true feeling: "You have a
neighbour, dear Mrs. Bassett, whose household I indeed really
feel it quite impossible to visit until such time when better,
firmer, stronger handed, more determined discipline shall
prevail. I find Mr. and Mrs. Schofield and their daughter
Three or four ladies said "Oh!" and spoke a name
simultaneously. It was as if they had said, "Oh, the bubonic
"Oh! Penrod Schofield!"
"Georgie does not play with him," said Mrs. Bassett quickly--
"that is, he avoids him as much as he can without hurting
Penrod's feelings. Georgie is very sensitive to giving pain. I
suppose a mother should not tell these things, and I know people
who talk about their own children are dreadful bores, but it was
only last Thursday night that Georgie looked up in my face so
sweetly, after he had said his prayers and his little cheeks
flushed, as he said: "Mamma, I think it would be right for me to
go more with Penrod. I think it would make him a better boy."
A sibilance went about the room. "Sweet! How sweet! The
sweet little soul! Ah, SWEET!"
"And that very afternoon," continued Mrs. Bassett, "he had
come home in a dreadful state. Penrod had thrown tar all over
"Your son has a forgiving spirit!" said Mr. Kinosling with
vehemence. "A too forgiving spirit, perhaps." He set down his
glass. "No more, I thank you. No more cake, I thank you. Was
it not Cardinal Newman who said----"
He was interrupted by the sounds of an altercation just
outside the closed blinds of the window nearest him.
"Let him pick his tree!" It was the voice of Samuel
Williams. "Didn't we come over here to give him one of his own
trees? Give him a fair show, can't you?"
"The little lads!" Mr. Kinosling smiled. "They have their
games, their outdoor sports, their pastimes. The young muscles
are toughening. The sun will not harm them. They grow; they
expand; they learn. They learn fair play, honour, courtesy, from
one another, as pebbles grow round in the brook. They learn more
from themselves than from us. They take shape, form, outline.
"Mr. Kinosling!" Another spinster--undeterred by what had
happened to Miss Beam--leaned fair forward, her face shining and
ardent. "Mr. Kinosling, there's a question I DO wish to ask
"My dear Miss Cosslit," Mr. Kinosling responded, again waving
his hand and watching it, "I am entirely at your disposal."
"WAS Joan of Arc," she asked fervently, "inspired by
He smiled indulgently. "Yes--and no," he said. "One must
give both answers. One must give the answer, yes; one must give
the answer, no."
"Oh, THANK you!" said Miss Cosslit, blushing.
"She's one of my great enthusiasms, you know."
"And I have a question, too," urged Mrs. Lora Rewbush,
after a moment's hasty concentration. "'I've never been able to
settle it for myself, but NOW----"
"Yes?" said Mr. Kinosling encouragingly.
"Is--ah--is--oh, yes: Is Sanskrit a more difficult language
than Spanish, Mr. Kinosling?"
"It depends upon the student," replied the oracle smiling.
"One must not look for linguists everywhere. In my own especial
case--if one may cite one's self as an example--I found no great,
no insurmountable difficulty in mastering, in conquering either."
"And may _I_ ask one?" ventured Mrs. Bassett. "Do you
think it is right to wear egrets?"
"There are marks of quality, of caste, of social
distinction," Mr. Kinosling began, "which must be permitted,
allowed, though perhaps regulated. Social distinction, one
observes, almost invariably implies spiritual distinction as
well. Distinction of circumstances is accompanied by mental
distinction. Distinction is hereditary; it descends from father
to son, and if there is one thing more true than `Like father,
like son,' it is--" he bowed gallantly to Mrs. Bassett--"it is,
`Like mother, like son.' What these good ladies have said this
afternoon of YOUR----"
This was the fatal instant. There smote upon all ears the
voice of Georgie, painfully shrill and penetrating--fraught with
protest and protracted, strain. His plain words consisted
of the newly sanctioned and disinfected curse with a big H.
With an ejaculation of horror, Mrs. Bassett sprang to the
window and threw open the blinds.
Georgie's back was disclosed to the view of the tea-party.
He was endeavouring to ascend a maple tree about twelve feet from
the window. Embracing the trunk with arms and legs, he had
managed to squirm to a point above the heads of Penrod and
Herman, who stood close by, watching him earnestly--Penrod being
obviously in charge of the performance. Across the yard were Sam
Williams and Maurice Levy, acting as a jury on the question of
voice-power, and it was to a complaint of theirs that Georgie had
"That's right, Georgie," said Penrod encouragingly. "They
can, too, hear you. Let her go!"
"Going to heaven!" shrieked Georgie, squirming up another
inch. "Going to heaven, heaven, heaven!"
His mother's frenzied attempts to attract his attention
failed utterly. Georgie was using the full power of his lungs,
deafening his own ears to all other sounds. Mrs. Bassett called
in vain; while the tea-party stood petrified in a cluster about
"Going to heaven!" Georgie bellowed. "Going to heaven!
Going to heaven, my Lord! Going to heaven, heaven, heaven!"
He tried to climb higher, but began to slip downward,
his exertions causing damage to his apparel. A button flew into
the air, and his knickerbockers and his waistband severed
"Devil's got my coat-tails, sinners! Old devil's got my
coat-tails!" he announced appropriately. Then he began to slide.
He relaxed his clasp of the tree and slid to the ground.
"Going to hell!" shrieked Georgie, reaching a high pitch of
enthusiasm in this great climax. "Going to hell! Going to hell!
I'm gone to hell, hell, hell!"
With a loud scream, Mrs. Bassett threw herself out of the
window, alighting by some miracle upon her feet with ankles
Mr. Kinosling, feeling that his presence as spiritual adviser
was demanded in the yard, followed with greater dignity through
the front door. At the corner of the house a small departing
figure collided with him violently. It was Penrod, tactfully
withdrawing from what promised to be a family scene of unusual
Mr. Kinosling seized him by the shoulders and, giving way to
emotion, shook him viciously.
"You horrible boy!" exclaimed Mr. Kinosling. "You ruffianly
creature! Do you know what's going to happen to you when you
grow up? Do you realize what you're going to BE!"
With flashing eyes, the indignant boy made know his unshaken
purpose. He shouted the reply:
This busy globe which spawns us is as incapable of flattery and
as intent upon its own affair, whatever that is, as a gyroscope;
it keeps steadily whirling along its lawful track, and, thus far
seeming to hold a right of way, spins doggedly on, with no
perceptible diminution of speed to mark the most gigantic human
events--it did not pause to pant and recuperate even when what
seemed to Penrod its principal purpose was accomplished, and an
enormous shadow, vanishing westward over its surface, marked the
dawn of his twelfth birthday.
To be twelve is an attainment worth the struggle. A boy,
just twelve, is like a Frenchman just elected to the Academy.
Distinction and honour wait upon him. Younger boys show
deference to a person of twelve: his experience is guaranteed,
his judgment, therefore, mellow; consequently, his influence is
profound. Eleven is not quite satisfactory: it is only an
approach. Eleven has the disadvantage of six, of nineteen, of
forty-four, and of sixty-nine. But, like twelve, seven is an
honourable age, and the ambition to attain it is laudable.
People look forward to being seven. Similarly, twenty is worthy,
and so, arbitrarily, is twenty-one; forty-five has great
solidity; seventy is most commendable and each year thereafter an
increasing honour. Thirteen is embarrassed by the beginnings of
a new colthood; the child becomes a youth. But twelve is the
very top of boyhood.
Dressing, that morning, Penrod felt that the world was
changed from the world of yesterday. For one thing, he seemed to
own more of it; this day was HIS day. And it was a day worth
owning; the midsummer sunshine, pouring gold through his window,
came from a cool sky, and a breeze moved pleasantly in his hair
as he leaned from the sill to watch the tribe of clattering
blackbirds take wing, following their leader from the trees in
the yard to the day's work in the open country. The blackbirds
were his, as the sunshine and the breeze were his, for they
all belonged to the day which was his birthday and therefore most
surely his. Pride suffused him: he was twelve!
His father and his mother and Margaret seemed to understand
the difference between to-day and yesterday. They were at the
table when he descended, and they gave him a greeting which of
itself marked the milestone. Habitually, his entrance into a
room where his elders sat brought a cloud of apprehension: they
were prone to look up in pathetic expectancy, as if their thought
was, "What new awfulness is he going to start NOW?" But this
morning they laughed; his mother rose and kissed him twelve
times, so did Margaret; and his father shouted, "Well, well!
How's the MAN?"
Then his mother gave him a Bible and "The Vicar of
Wakefield"; Margaret gave him a pair of silver-mounted hair
brushes; and his father gave him a "Pocket Atlas" and a small
"And now, Penrod," said his mother, after breakfast, "I'm
going to take you out in the country to pay your birthday
respects to Aunt Sarah Crim."
Aunt Sarah Crim, Penrod's great-aunt, was his oldest living
relative. She was ninety, and when Mrs. Schofield and Penrod
alighted from a carriage at her gate they found her digging with
a spade in the garden.
"I'm glad you brought him," she said, desisting from
labour. "Jinny's baking a cake I'm going to send for his
birthday party. Bring him in the house. I've got something for
She led the way to her "sitting-room," which had a pleasant
smell, unlike any other smell, and, opening the drawer of a
shining old what-not, took therefrom a boy's "sling-shot," made
of a forked stick, two strips of rubber and a bit of leather.
"This isn't for you," she said, placing it in Penrod's eager
hand. "No. It would break all to pieces the first time you
tried to shoot it, because it is thirty-five years old. I want
to send it back to your father. I think it's time. You give it
to him from me, and tell him I say I believe I can trust him with
it now. I took it away from him thirty-five years ago, one day
after he'd killed my best hen with it, accidentally, and broken a
glass pitcher on the back porch with it--accidentally. He
doesn't look like a person who's ever done things of that sort,
and I suppose he's forgotten it so well that he believes he never
DID, but if you give it to him from me I think he'll
remember. You look like him, Penrod. He was anything but a
After this final bit of reminiscence--probably designed to be
repeated to Mr. Schofield--she disappeared in the direction of
the kitchen, and returned with a pitcher of lemonade and a blue
china dish sweetly freighted with flat ginger cookies of a
composition that was her own secret. Then, having set this
collation before her guests, she presented Penrod with a superb,
intricate, and very modern machine of destructive capacities
almost limitless. She called it a pocket-knife.
"I suppose you'll do something horrible with it," she said,
composedly. "I hear you do that with everything, anyhow, so you
might as well do it with this, and have more fun out of it. They
tell me you're the Worst Boy in Town."
"Oh, Aunt Sarah!" Mrs. Schofield lifted a protesting hand.
"Nonsense!" said Mrs. Crim.
"But on his birthday!"
"That's the time to say it. Penrod, aren't you the Worst Boy
Penrod, gazing fondly upon his knife and eating cookies
rapidly, answered as a matter of course, and absently, "Yes'm."
"Certainly!" said Mrs. Crim. "Once you accept a thing about
yourself as established and settled, it's all right. Nobody
minds. Boys are just people, really."
"No, no!" Mrs. Schofield cried, involuntarily.
"Yes, they are," returned Aunt Sarah. "Only they're not
quite so awful, because they haven't learned to cover themselves
all over with little pretences. When Penrod grows up he'll be
just the same as he is now, except that whenever he does
what he wants to do he'll tell himself and other people a
little story about it to make his reason for doing it seem nice
and pretty and noble."
"No, I won't!" said Penrod suddenly.
"There's one cookie left," observed Aunt Sarah. "Are you
going to eat it?"
"Well," said her great-nephew, thoughtfully, "I guess I
"Why?" asked the old lady. "Why do you guess you'd
"Well," said Penrod, with a full mouth, "it might get all
dried up if nobody took it, and get thrown out and wasted."
"You're beginning finely," Mrs. Crim remarked. "A year ago
you'd have taken the cookie without the same sense of thrift."
"Nothing. I see that you're twelve years old, that's all.
There are more cookies, Penrod." She went away, returning with a
fresh supply and the observation, "Of course, you'll be sick
before the day's over; you might as well get a good start."
Mrs. Schofield looked thoughtful. "Aunt Sarah," she
ventured, "don't you really think we improve as we get older?"
"Meaning," said the old lady, "that Penrod hasn't much chance
to escape the penitentiary if he doesn't? Well, we do learn to
restrain ourselves in some things; and there are people who
really want someone else to take the last cookie, though
they aren't very common. But it's all right, the world seems to
be getting on." She gazed whimsically upon her great-nephew and
added, "Of course, when you watch a boy and think about him, it
doesn't seem to be getting on very fast."
Penrod moved uneasily in his chair; he was conscious that he
was her topic but unable to make out whether or not her
observations were complimentary; he inclined to think they were
not. Mrs. Crim settled the question for him.
"I suppose Penrod is regarded as the neighbourhood curse?"
"Oh, no," cried Mrs. Schofield. "He----"
"I dare say the neighbours are right," continued the old lady
placidly. "He's had to repeat the history of the race and go
through all the stages from the primordial to barbarism. You
don't expect boys to be civilized, do you?"
"You might as well expect eggs to crow. No; you've got to
take boys as they are, and learn to know them as they are."
"Naturally, Aunt Sarah," said Mrs. Schofield, "I KNOW
Aunt Sarah laughed heartily. "Do you think his father knows
"Of course, men are different," Mrs. Schofield returned,
apologetically. "But a mother knows----"
"Penrod," said Aunt Sarah, solemnly, "does your father
"About as much as he'd understand Sitting Bull!" she laughed.
"And I'll tell you what your mother thinks you are, Penrod. Her
real belief is that you're a novice in a convent."
"I know she thinks that, because whenever you don't behave
like a novice she's disappointed in you. And your father really
believes that you're a decorous, well-trained young business man,
and whenever you don't live up to that standard you get on his
nerves and he thinks you need a walloping. I'm sure a day very
seldom passes without their both saying they don't know what on
earth to do with you. Does whipping do you any good, Penrod?"
"Go on and finish the lemonade; there's about glassful left.
Oh, take it, take it; and don't say why! Of COURSE you're a
Penrod laughed gratefully, his eyes fixed upon her over the
rim of his uptilted glass.
"Fill yourself up uncomfortably," said the old lady. "You're
twelve years old, and you ought to be happy--if you aren't
anything else. It's taken over nineteen hundred years of
Christianity and some hundreds of thousands of years of other
things to produce you, and there you sit!"
"It'll be your turn to struggle and muss things up, for the
betterment of posterity, soon enough," said Aunt Sarah Crim.
"Drink your lemonade!"
"Aunt Sarah's a funny old lady," Penrod observed, on the way back
to the town. "What's she want me to give papa this old sling
for? Last thing she said was to be sure not to forget to give it
to him. HE don't want it; and she said, herself, it ain't
any good. She's older than you or papa, isn't she?"
"About fifty years older," answered Mrs. Schofield, turning
upon him a stare of perplexity. "Don't cut into the leather with
your new knife, dear; the livery man might ask us to pay if----
No. I wouldn't scrape the paint off, either--nor whittle
your shoe with it. COULDN'T you put it up until we get
"We goin' straight home?"
"No. We're going to stop at Mrs. Gelbraith's and ask a
strange little girl to come to your party, this afternoon."
"Her name is Fanchon. She's Mrs. Gelbraith's little niece."
"What makes her so queer?"
"I didn't say she's queer."
"No; I mean that she is a stranger. She lives in New York
and has come to visit here."
"What's she live in New York for?"
"Because her parents live there. You must be very nice to
her, Penrod; she has been very carefully brought up. Besides,
she doesn't know the children here, and you must help to keep her
from feeling lonely at your party."
When they reached Mrs. Gelbraith's, Penrod sat patiently
humped upon a gilt chair during the lengthy exchange of greetings
between his mother. and Mrs. Gelbraith. That is one of the
things a boy must learn to bear: when his mother meets a compeer
there is always a long and dreary wait for him, while the two
appear to be using strange symbols of speech, talking for the
greater part, it seems to him, simultaneously, and employing
a wholly incomprehensible system of emphasis at other times not
in vogue. Penrod twisted his legs, his cap and his nose.
"Here she is!" Mrs. Gelbraith cried, unexpectedly, and a
dark-haired, demure person entered the room wearing a look of
gracious social expectancy. In years she was eleven, in manner
about sixty-five, and evidently had lived much at court. She
performed a curtsey in acknowledgment of Mrs. Schofield's
greeting, and bestowed her hand upon Penrod, who had entertained
no hope of such an honour, showed his surprise that it should
come to him, and was plainly unable to decide what to do about
"Fanchon, dear," said Mrs. Gelbraith, "take Penrod out in the
yard for a while, and play."
"Let go the little girl's hand, Penrod," Mrs. Schofield
laughed, as the children turned toward the door.
Penrod hastily dropped the small hand, and exclaiming, with
simple honesty, "Why, _I_ don't want it!" followed Fanchon out
into the sunshiny yard, where they came to a halt and surveyed
Penrod stared awkwardly at Fanchon, no other occupation
suggesting itself to him, while Fanchon, with the utmost
coolness, made a very thorough visual examination of Penrod,
favouring him with an estimating scrutiny which lasted until he
literally wiggled. Finally, she spoke.
"Where do you buy your ties?" she asked.
"Where do you buy your neckties? Papa gets his at Skoone's.
You ought to get yours there. I'm sure the one you're wearing
isn't from Skoone's."
"Skoone's?" Penrod repeated. "Skoone's?"
"On Fifth Avenue," said Fanchon. "It's a very smart shop,
the men say."
"Men?" echoed Penrod, in a hazy whisper. "Men?"
"Where do your people go in summer?" inquired the lady.
"WE go to Long Shore, but so many middle-class people have
begun coming there, mamma thinks of leaving. The middle classes
are simply awful, don't you think?"
"They're so boorjaw. You speak French, of course?"
"We ran over to Paris last year. It's lovely, don't you
think? Don't you LOVE the Rue de la Paix?"
Penrod wandered in a labyrinth. This girl seemed to be
talking, but her words were dumfounding, and of course there was
no way for him to know that he was really listening to her
mother. It was his first meeting with one of those grown-up
little girls, wonderful product of the winter apartment and
summer hotel; and Fanchon, an only child, was a star of the
brand. He began to feel resentful.
"I suppose," she went on, "I'll find everything here
fearfully Western. Some nice people called yesterday,
though. Do you know the Magsworth Bittses? Auntie says they're
charming. Will Roddy be at your party?"
"I guess he will," returned Penrod, finding this
intelligible. "The mutt!"
"Really!" Fanchon exclaimed airily. "Aren't you great pals
"Good heavens! Don't you know what it means to say you're
`great pals' with any one? You ARE an odd child!"
It was too much.
"Oh, Bugs!" said Penrod.
This bit of ruffianism had a curious effect. Fanchon looked
upon him with sudden favour.
"I like you, Penrod!" she said, in an odd way, and, whatever
else there may have been in her manner, there certainly was no
"Oh, Bugs!" This repetition may have lacked gallantry, but
it was uttered in no very decided tone. Penrod was shaken.
"Yes, I do!" She stepped closer to him, smiling. "Your hair
is ever so pretty."
Sailors' parrots swear like mariners, they say; and gay
mothers ought to realize that all children are imitative, for, as
the precocious Fanchon leaned toward Penrod, the manner in which
she looked into his eyes might have made a thoughtful observer
wonder where she had learned her pretty ways.
Penrod was even more confused than he had been by her
previous mysteries: but his confusion was of a distinctly
pleasant and alluring nature: he wanted more of it. Looking
intentionally into another person's eyes is an act unknown to
childhood; and Penrod's discovery that it could be done was
sensational. He had never thought of looking into the eyes of
Despite all anguish, contumely, tar, and Maurice Levy, he
still secretly thought of Marjorie, with pathetic constancy, as
his "beau"--though that is not how he would have spelled it.
Marjorie was beautiful; her curls were long and the colour of
amber; her nose was straight and her freckles were honest; she
was much prettier than this accomplished visitor. But beauty is
"I do!" breathed Fanchon, softly.
She seemed to him a fairy creature from some rosier world
than this. So humble is the human heart, it glorifies and makes
glamorous almost any poor thing that says to it: "I like you!"
Penrod was enslaved. He swallowed, coughed, scratched the
back of his neck, and said, disjointedly:
"Well--I don't care if you want to. I just as soon."
"We'll dance together," said Fanchon, "at your party."
"I guess so. I just as soon."
"Don't you want to, Penrod?"
"Well, I'm willing to."
"No. Say you WANT to!"
He used his toe as a gimlet, boring into the ground, his wide
open eyes staring with intense vacancy at a button on his sleeve.
His mother appeared upon the porch in departure, calling
farewells over her shoulder to Mrs. Gelbraith, who stood in the
"Say it!" whispered Fanchon.
"Well, I just as SOON."
She seemed satisfied.
THE BIRTHDAY PARTY
A dancing floor had been laid upon a platform in the yard, when
Mrs. Schofield and her son arrived at their own abode; and a
white and scarlet striped canopy was in process of erection
overhead, to shelter the dancers from the sun. Workmen were busy
everywhere under the direction of Margaret, and the smitten heart
of Penrod began to beat rapidly. All this was for him; he was
After lunch, he underwent an elaborate toilette and murmured
not. For the first time in his life he knew the wish to be sand-
papered, waxed, and polished to the highest possible
degree. And when the operation was over, he stood before the
mirror in new bloom, feeling encouraged to hope that his
resemblance to his father was not so strong as Aunt Sarah seemed
The white gloves upon his hands had a pleasant smell, he
found; and, as he came down the stairs, he had great content in
the twinkling of his new dancing slippers. He stepped twice on
each step, the better to enjoy their effect and at the same time
he deeply inhaled the odour of the gloves. In spite of
everything, Penrod had his social capacities. Already it is to
be perceived that there were in him the makings of a cotillon
Then came from the yard a sound of tuning instruments, squeak
of fiddle, croon of 'cello, a falling triangle ringing and
tinkling to the floor; and he turned pale.
Chosen guests began to arrive, while Penrod, suffering from
stage-fright and perspiration, stood beside his mother, in the
"drawing-room," to receive them. He greeted unfamiliar
acquaintances and intimate fellow-criminals with the same
frigidity, murmuring: "'M glad to see y'," to all alike, largely
increasing the embarrassment which always prevails at the
beginning of children's festivities. His unnatural pomp and
circumstance had so thoroughly upset him, in truth, that Marjorie
Jones received a distinct shock, now to be related. Doctor
Thrope, the kind old clergyman who had baptized Penrod, came
in for a moment to congratulate the boy, and had just moved away
when it was Marjorie's turn, in the line of children, to speak to
Penrod. She gave him what she considered a forgiving look, and,
because of the occasion, addressed him in a perfectly courteous
"I wish you many happy returns of the day, Penrod."
"Thank you, sir!" he returned, following Dr. Thrope with a
glassy stare in which there was absolutely no recognition of
Marjorie. Then he greeted Maurice Levy, who was next to
Marjorie: "'M glad to see y'!"
Dumfounded, Marjorie turned aside, and stood near, observing
Penrod with gravity. It was the first great surprise of her
life. Customarily, she had seemed to place his character
somewhere between that of the professional rioter and that of the
orang-outang; nevertheless, her manner at times just hinted a
consciousness that this Caliban was her property. Wherefore, she
stared at him incredulously as his head bobbed up and down, in
the dancing-school bow, greeting his guests. Then she heard an
adult voice, near her, exclaim:
"What an exquisite child!"
Mariorie galanced up--a little consciously, though she was
used to it--naturally curious to ascertain who was speaking of
her. It was Sam Williams' mother addressing Mrs. Bassett,
both being present to help Mrs. Schofield make the festivities
Here was a second heavy surprise for Marjorie: they were not
looking at her. They were looking with beaming approval at a
girl she had never seen; a dark and modish stranger of singularly
composed and yet modest aspect. Her downcast eyes, becoming in
one thus entering a crowded room, were all that produced the
effect of modesty, counteracting something about her which might
have seemed too assured. She was very slender, very dainty, and
her apparel was disheartening to the other girls; it was of a
knowing picturesqueness wholly unfamiliar to them. There was a
delicate trace of powder upon the lobe of Fanchon's left ear, and
the outlines of her eyelids, if very closely scrutinized, would
have revealed successful experimentation with a burnt match.
Marjorie's lovely eyes dilated: she learned the meaning of
hatred at first sight. Observing the stranger with instinctive
suspicion, all at once she seemed, to herself, awkward. Poor
Marjorie underwent that experience which hearty, healthy, little
girls and big girls undergo at one time or another--from heels to
head she felt herself, somehow, too THICK.
Fanchon leaned close to Penrod and whispered in his ear:
"Don't you forget!"
Marjorie saw the blush. Her lovely eyes opened even wider,
and in them there began to grow a light. It was the light of
indignation;--at least, people whose eyes glow with that light
always call it indignation.
Roderick Magsworth Bitts, Junior, approached Fanchon, when
she had made her courtesy to Mrs. Schofield. Fanchon whispered
in Roderick's ear also.
"Your hair is pretty, Roddy! Don't forget what you said
Roderick likewise blushed.
Maurice Levy, captivated by the newcomer's appearance,
pressed close to Roderick.
"Give us an intaduction, Roddy?"
Roddy being either reluctant or unable to perform the rite,
Fanchon took matters into her own hands, and was presently
favourably impressed with Maurice, receiving the information that
his tie had been brought to him by his papa from Skoone's,
whereupon she privately informed him that she liked wavy hair,
and arranged to dance with him. Fanchon also thought sandy hair
attractive, Sam Williams discovered, a few minutes later, and so
catholic was her taste that a ring of boys quite encircled her
before the musicians in the yard struck up their thrilling march,
and Mrs. Schofield brought Penrod to escort the lady from
out-of-town to the dancing pavilion.
Headed by this pair, the children sought partners and paraded
solemnly out of the front door and round a corner of the house.
There they found the gay marquee; the small orchestra seated on
the lawn at one side of it, and a punch bowl of lemonade inviting
attention, under a tree. Decorously the small couples stepped
upon the platform, one after another, and began to dance.
"It's not much like a children's party in our day," Mrs.
Williams said to Penrod's mother. "We'd have been playing
`Quaker-meeting,' `Clap-in, Clap-out,' or `Going to Jerusalem,' I
"Yes, or `Post-office' and `Drop-the-handkerchief,'" said
Mrs. Schofield. "Things change so quickly. Imagine asking
little Fanchon Gelbraith to play `London Bridge'! Penrod seems
to be having a difficult time with her, poor boy; he wasn't a
shining light in the dancing class."
However, Penrod's difficulty was not precisely of the kind
his mother supposed. Fanchon was showing him a new step, which
she taught her next partner in turn, continuing instructions
during the dancing. The children crowded the floor, and in the
kaleidoscopic jumble of bobbing heads and intermingling figures
her extremely different style of motion was unobserved by the
older people, who looked on, nodding time benevolently.
Fanchon fascinated girls as well as boys. Many of the
former eagerly sought her acquaintance and thronged about her
between the dances, when, accepting the deference due a
cosmopolitan and an oracle of the mode, she gave demonstrations
of the new step to succeeding groups, professing astonishment to
find it unknown: it had been "all the go," she explained, at the
Long Shore Casino for fully two seasons. She pronounced "slow" a
"Fancy Dance" executed during an intermission by Baby Rennsdale
and Georgie Bassett, giving it as her opinion that Miss Rennsdale
and Mr. Bassett were "dead ones"; and she expressed surprise that
the punch bowl contained lemonade and not champagne.
The dancing continued, the new step gaining instantly in
popularity, fresh couples adventuring with every number. The
word "step" is somewhat misleading, nothing done with the feet
being vital to the evolutions introduced by Fanchon. Fanchon's
dance came from the Orient by a roundabout way; pausing in Spain,
taking on a Gallic frankness in gallantry at the Bal Bullier in
Paris, combining with a relative from the South Seas encountered
in San Francisco, flavouring itself with a carefree negroid
abandon in New Orleans, and, accumulating, too, something
inexpressible from Mexico and South America, it kept, throughout
its travels, to the underworld, or to circles where nature is
extremely frank and rank, until at last it reached the dives of
New York, when it immediately broke out in what is called
civilized society. Thereafter it spread, in variously modified
forms--some of them disinfected--to watering-places, and thence,
carried by hundreds of older male and female Fanchons, over the
country, being eagerly adopted everywhere and made wholly pure
and respectable by the supreme moral axiom that anything is all
right if enough people do it. Everybody was doing it.
Not quite everybody. It was perhaps some test of this dance
that earth could furnish no more grotesque sight than that of
children doing it.
Earth, assisted by Fanchon, was furnishing this sight at
Penrod's party. By the time ice-cream and cake arrived, about
half the guests had either been initiated into the mysteries by
Fanchon or were learning by imitation, and the education of the
other half was resumed with the dancing, when the attendant
ladies, unconscious of what was happening, withdrew into the
house for tea.
"That orchestra's a dead one," Fanchon remarked to Penrod.