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Penrod by Booth Tarkington

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"We ought to liven them up a little!"

She approached the musicians.

"Don't you know," she asked the leader, "the Slingo Sligo
Slide?"

The leader giggled, nodded, rapped with his bow upon his
violin; and Penrod, following Fanchon back upon the dancing
floor, blindly brushed with his elbow a solitary little figure
standing aloof on the lawn at the edge of the platform.

It was Marjorie.

In no mood to approve of anything introduced by Fanchon, she
had scornfully refused, from the first, to dance the new "step,"
and, because of its bonfire popularity, found herself neglected
in a society where she had reigned as beauty and belle.
Faithless Penrod, dazed by the sweeping Fanchon, had utterly
forgotten the amber curls; he had not once asked Marjorie to
dance. All afternoon the light of indignation had been growing
brighter in her eyes, though Maurice Levy's defection to the lady
from New York had not fanned this flame. From the moment Fanchon
had whispered familiarly in Penrod's ear, and Penrod had blushed,
Marjorie had been occupied exclusively with resentment against
that guilty pair. It seemed to her that Penrod had no right to
allow a strange girl to whisper in his ear; that his blushing,
when the strange girl did it, was atrocious; and that the strange
girl, herself, ought to be arrested.

Forgotten by the merrymakers, Marjorie stood alone upon the
lawn, clenching her small fists, watching the new dance at its
high tide, and hating it with a hatred that made every inch of
her tremble. And, perhaps because jealousy is a great awakener
of the virtues, she had a perception of something in it worse
than lack of dignity--something vaguely but outrageously
reprehensible. Finally, when Penrod brushed by her, touched her
with his elbow, and, did not even see her, Marjorie's state
of mind (not unmingled with emotion!) became dangerous. In fact,
a trained nurse, chancing to observe her at this juncture, would
probably have advised that she be taken home and put to bed.
Marjorie was on the verge of hysterics.

She saw Fanchon and Penrod assume the double embrace required
by the dance; the "Slingo Sligo Slide" burst from the orchestra
like the lunatic shriek of a gin-maddened nigger; and all the
little couples began to bob and dip and sway.

Marjorie made a scene. She sprang upon the platform and
stamped her foot.

"Penrod Schofield!" she shouted. "You BEHAVE yourself!"

The remarkable girl took Penrod by the ear. By his ear she
swung him away from Fanchon and faced him toward the lawn.

"You march straight out of here!" she commanded.

Penrod marched.

He was stunned; obeyed automatically, without question, and
had very little realization of what was happening to him.
Altogether, and without reason, he was in precisely the condition
of an elderly spouse detected in flagrant misbehaviour.
Marjorie, similarly, was in precisely the condition of the party
who detects such misbehaviour. It may be added that she had
acted with a promptness, a decision and a disregard of
social consequences all to be commended to the attention of
ladies in like predicament.

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself!" she raged, when they
reached the lawn. "Aren't you ashamed of yourself?"

"What for?" he inquired, helplessly.

"You be quiet!"

"But what'd _I_ do, Marjorie? _I_ haven't done anything
to you," he pleaded. "I haven't even seen you, all aftern----"

"You be quiet!" she cried, tears filling her eyes. "Keep
still! You ugly boy! Shut up!"

She slapped him.

He should have understood from this how much she cared for
him. But he rubbed his cheek and declared ruefully:

"I'll never speak to you again!"

"You will, too!" she sobbed, passionately.

"I will not!"

He turned to leave her, but paused.

His mother, his sister Margaret, and their grownup friends
had finished their tea and were approaching from the house.
Other parents and guardians were with them, coming for their
children; and there were carriages and automobiles waiting in the
street. But the "Slingo Slide" went on, regardless.

The group of grown-up people hesitated and came to a halt,
gazing at the pavilion.

"What are they doing?" gasped Mrs. Williams,
blushing deeply. "What is it? What IS it?"

"WHAT IS IT?" Mrs. Gelbraith echoed in a frightened
whisper. "WHAT----"

"They're Tangoing!" cried Margaret Schofield. "Or Bunny
Hugging or Grizzly Bearing, or----"

"They're only Turkey Trotting," said Robert Williams.

With fearful outcries the mothers, aunts, and sisters rushed
upon the pavilion.

"Of course it was dreadful," said Mrs. Schofield, an hour
later, rendering her lord an account of the day, "but it was
every bit the fault of that one extraordinary child. And of all
the quiet, demur little things--that is, I mean, when she first
came. We all spoke of how exquisite she seemed--so well trained,
so finished! Eleven years old! I never saw anything like her in
my life!"

"I suppose it's the New Child," her husband grunted.

"And to think of her saying there ought to have been
champagne in the lemonade!"

"Probably she'd forgotten to bring her pocket flask," he
suggested musingly.

"But aren't you proud of Penrod?" cried Penrod's mother. "It
was just as I told you: he was standing clear outside the
pavilion----"

"I never thought to see the day! And Penrod was the only boy
not doing it, the only one to refuse? ALL the others
were----"

"Every one!" she returned triumphantly. "Even Georgie
Bassett!"

"Well," said Mr. Schofield, patting her on the shoulder. "I
guess we can hold up our heads at last."

CHAPTER XXXI
OVER THE FENCE

Penrod was out in the yard, staring at the empty marquee. The
sun was on the horizon line, so far behind the back fence, and a
western window of the house blazed in gold unbearable to the eye:
his day was nearly over. He sighed, and took from the inside
pocket of his new jacket the "sling-shot" aunt Sarah Crim had
given him that morning.

He snapped the rubbers absently. They held fast; and his
next impulse was entirely irresistible. He found a shapely
stone, fitted it to the leather, and drew back the ancient
catapult for a shot. A sparrow hopped upon a
branch between him and the house, and he aimed at the sparrow,
but the reflection from the dazzling window struck in his eyes as
he loosed the leather.

He missed the sparrow, but not the window. There was a loud
crash, and to his horror he caught a glimpse of his father,
stricken in mid-shaving, ducking a shower of broken glass,
glittering razor flourishing wildly. Words crashed with the
glass, stentorian words, fragmentary but collossal.

Penrod stood petrified, a broken sling in his hand. He could
hear his parent's booming descent of the back stairs, instant and
furious; and then, red-hot above white lather, Mr. Schofield
burst out of the kitchen door and hurtled forth upon his son.

"What do you mean?" he demanded, shaking Penrod by the
shoulder. "Ten minutes ago, for the very first time in our
lives, your mother and I were saying we were proud of you, and
here you go and throw a rock at me through the window when I'm
shaving for dinner!"

"I didn't!" Penrod quavered. "I was shooting at a sparrow,
and the sun got in his eyes, and the sling broke----"

"What sling?"

"This'n."

"Where'd you get that devilish thing? Don't you know I've
forbidden you a thousand times----"

"It ain't mine," said Penrod. "It's yours."

"What?"

"Yes, sir," said the boy meekly. "Aunt Sarah Crim gave it to
me this morning and told me to give it back to you. She said she
took it away from you thirty-five years ago. You killed her hen,
she said. She told me some more to tell you, but I've
forgotten."

"Oh!" said Mr. Schofield.

He took the broken sling in his hand, looked at it long and
thoughtfully--and he looked longer, and quite as thoughtfully, at
Penrod. Then he turned away, and walked toward the house.

"I'm sorry, papa," said Penrod.

Mr. Schofield coughed, and, as he reached the door, called
back, but without turning his head.

"Never mind, little boy. A broken window isn't much harm."

When he had gone in, Penrod wandered down the yard to the
back fence, climbed upon it, and sat in reverie there.

A slight figure appeared, likewise upon a fence, beyond two
neighbouring yards.

"Yay, Penrod!" called comrade Sam Williams.

"Yay!" returned Penrod, mechanically.

"I caught Billy Blue Hill!" shouted Sam, describing
retribution in a manner perfectly clear to his friend. "You were
mighty lucky to get out of it."

"I know that!"

"You wouldn't of, if it hadn't been for Marjorie."

"Well, don't I know that?" Penrod shouted, with heat.

"Well, so long!" called Sam, dropping from his fence; and the
friendly voice came then, more faintly, "Many happy returns of
the day, Penrod!"

And now, a plaintive little whine sounded from below Penrod's
feet, and, looking down, he saw that Duke, his wistful, old,
scraggly dog sat in the grass, gazing seekingly up at him.

The last shaft of sunshine of that day fell graciously and
like a blessing upon the boy sitting on the fence. Years
afterward, a quiet sunset would recall to him sometimes the
gentle evening of his twelfth birthday, and bring him the picture
of his boy self, sitting in rosy light upon the fence, gazing
pensively down upon his wistful, scraggly, little old dog, Duke.
But something else, surpassing, he would remember of that hour,
for, in the side street, close by, a pink skirt flickered from
behind a shade tree to the shelter of the fence, there was a
gleam of amber curls, and Penrod started, as something like a
tiny white wing fluttered by his head, and there came to his ears
the sound of a light laugh and of light footsteps departing, the
laughter tremulous, the footsteps fleet.

In the grass, between Duke's forepaws, there lay a white
note, folded in the shape of a cocked hat, and the sun sent forth
a final amazing glory as Penrod opened it and read:

"Your my bow."


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