Part 1 out of 2
THE COURT OF BOYVILLE
William Allen White
Author Of The Real Issue, etc.
Illustrated by ORSON LOWELL (with the exception of the first story,
the illustrations for which are by GUSTAV VERBEEK).
THE MARTYRDOM OF "MEALY" JONES
A RECENT CONFEDERATE VICTORY
"WHILE THE EVIL DAYS COME NOT"
JAMES SEARS: A NAUGHTY PERSON
MUCH POMP AND SEVERAL CIRCUMSTANCES
"THE HERB CALLED HEARTS-EASE"
Where is Boyville? By what track
May we trace our journey back;
Up what mountains, thro' what seas
By what meadow-lands and leas,
Must we travel to the bourne
Of the shady rows of corn
That lead down to the Willows
Where the day is always morn?
"Say, boys, where's its bottle?"
The three boys were scuffling for the possession of a piece of rope
He saw Abe catch Jimmy and hold his head under water
He felt his father's finger under his collar and his own feet shambling
Mrs. Jones stooped to the floor and took her child by an arm
His feet hanging out of the back of the wagon that had held the coffin
His luck was bad
He withdrew from the game and sat alone against the barn
As she turned to her turkey-slicing
The new preacher, for whom the party was made
The first long dress
"Dickey, Dickey, for gracious sake, keep still"
"Did you know my dad was a soldier?"
During the next two hours the boy wandered on the prairie
"Mary Pennington, aged two years, three months, and ten days"
Piggy went to get his flying hat
She stroked his hand and snuggled closer to him
Miss Morgan smiled happily at the clouds
Chased the little girls around the yard with it
She would not have invited Harold Jones to sit and sing with her
during the opening hour
To study his tastes
... The comradeship ... was beautiful to see
The red-headed Pratt girl
He could only snap chalk in a preoccupied way and listen to his
Piggy was piling up the primary urchins in wiggling, squealing piles
He watched the teacher's finger crook a signal for the note to be
... fought boys who were three classes above him ... whipped groups of
boys of assorted sizes
Over his mother's shoulders Piggy saw the hired girl giggle
Her son ate rapidly in silence
His cleanliness pleased his mother and she boasted of it to the
mothers of other boys
A little maid in a black-and-red check
Piggy sat on the front porch, and reviewed the entire affair
It began when his Heart's Desire had fluttered into his autograph
At this important bit of repartee
His heart was full of bitterness
Throwing sticks in the water to scare the fish
A crawler, a creeper, a toddler, a stumbler, and a sneaker
Mrs. Jones came out to take care of the butter
The sort of boy who would unsex himself by looking at a baby
Jimmy heard Mrs. Jones tell his little sister Annie that morning that
she was no longer the baby
His father strutting around town ... bragging of the occurrence that
filled the boy with shame
He jumped for the slanting boards with his bare feet, and his heart
He sat on a log and slowly lifted up his foot, twisting his face into
an agonized knot
"Spit, spit, spy, tell me whur my chicken is, er I'll hit ye in the
"I'll pay for your chicken, I say. Now you keep away from me"
An irregular circumference that touched his ears and his chin and his
"Got anything here fit to eat?"
"What'd you want to take Annie's doll away from her for?"
She drew him down and kissed his cheek while he pecked at her lips
Piggy Pennington ... galloped his father's fat delivery horse up and
down the alley
Mammoth Consolidated Shows
Oil made by hanging a bottle of angle-worms in the sun to fry
How many bags of carpet rags went to the ragman
Brother Baker--a tiptoeing Nemesis
Dressed-up children were flitting along the side streets, hurrying
The Balloon-Vender wormed his way through the buzzing crowd, leaving
his wares in a red and blue trail behind him
The Blue Sash about the country girl's waist and the flag in her
"One's a trick elephant. You'd die a-laughing if you saw him"
"It's an awful good one. Can't he go just this once?"
8 Funny Clowns--count them 8
"Well, son, you're a daisy. They generally drop the first kick"
The other wranglers ... dropped out for heavy repairs
When Mr. Pennington's eyes fell on Bud, he leaned on a show-case and
laughed till he shook all over
"Miss Morgan, I just want you to look at my boy"
"Now, Henry, don't ever have anything to do with that kind of trash
"Here's a dollar I got for ridin' the trick mule ... I thought it
would be nice for the missionary society"
"Gee, we're going to have pie, ain't we"
We who are passing "through the wilderness of this world" find it
difficult to realize what an impenetrable wall there is around
the town of Boyville. Storm it as we may with the simulation of
light-heartedness, bombard it with our heavy guns, loaded with
fishing-hooks and golf-sticks, and skates and base-balls, and
butterfly-nets, the walls remain. If once the clanging gates of the
town shut upon a youth, he is banished forever. From afar he may peer
over the walls at the games inside, but he may not be of them. Let him
try to join them, and lo, the games become a mockery, and he finds
that he is cavorting still outside the walls, while the good citizens
inside are making sly sport of him. Who, being recently banished from
Boyville, has not sought to return? In vain does he haunt the swimming
hole; the water elves will have none of him. He hushes their laughter,
muffles their calls, takes the essence from their fun, and leaves it
dust upon their lips.
But we of the race of grown-ups are a purblind people. Otherwise,
when we acknowledge what a stronghold this Boyville is, we the
banished would not seek to steal away the merry townsmen, and bruise
our hearts and theirs at our hopeless task. We have learned many
things in our schools, and of the making of books there has been no
end; so it is odd that we have not learned to let a boy be a boy. Why
not let him feel the thrill from the fresh spring grass under his
feet, as his father felt it before him, and his father's father, even
back to Adam, who walked thus with God! There is a tincture of iron
that seeps into a boys blood with the ozone of the earth, that can
come to him by no other way. Let him run if he will; Heavens air is a
better elixir than any that the alchemist can mix. What if he roams
the woods and lives for hours in the water? What if he prefers the
barn to the parlor? What if he fights? Does he not take the risk of
the scratched face and the bruises? Should he not be in some measure
the judge of the situation before him when the trouble begins? Boys
have an ugly name for one of their kind who discovers suddenly, in a
crisis of his own making, that he is not allowed to fight. And it were
better to see a boy with a dozen claw-marks down his face than to see
him eat that name in peace.
Now this conclusion may seem barbaric to elders who have to pay for
new clothes to replace the torn ones, And according to their light
perhaps the elders see clearly. But the grown-up people forget that
their wisdom has impaired their vision to see as boys see and to pass
judgment upon things in another sphere.
For Boyville is a Free Town in the monarchy of the world. Its
citizens mind their own business, and they desire travellers in this
waste to do likewise. The notion that spectacled gentry should come
nosing through the streets and alleys of Boyville, studying
the sanitation, which is not of the best, and objecting to the
constitution and by laws,--which were made when the rivers were dug
and the hills piled up,--the notion of an outsider interfering with
the Divine right of boys to eat what they please, to believe what they
please, and, under loyalty to the monarchy of the world, to do what
they please, is repugnant to this free people. Nor does it better
matters when the man behind the spectacles explains that to eat
sheep-sorrel is deleterious; to feed younkers Indian turnip is cruel;
to suck the sap of the young grapevine in spring produces malaria; to
smoke rattan is depraving, and to stuff one's stomach with paw-paws
and wild-grapes is dangerous in the extreme.
For does not the first article of the law of this Free Town expressly
state, that boys shall be absolved from obeying any and all laws
regulating the human stomach, and be free of the penalties thereto
attaching? And again when Wisdom says that the boy shall give up his
superstitions, the boy points to hoary tradition, which says that the
snakes tail does not in fact and in truth die till sundown; that if
a boy kills a lucky bug he shall find a nickel; that to cross one's
heart and lie, brings on swift and horrible retribution; that letting
the old cat die causes death in the family; that to kill a toad makes
the cow give bloody milk; that horsehairs in water turn to snakes in
nine days; that spitting on the bait pleases the fish, and that to
draw a circle in the dust around a marble charms it against being hit.
What tradition, ancient and honorable in Boyville, declares is true,
that is the Law everlasting, and no wise mans word shall change the
law one jot nor one tittle. For in the beginning it was written, to
get in the night wood, to eat with a fork at table, to wear shoes on
Sunday, to say "sir" to company, and "thank you" to the lady, to go to
bed at nine to remember that there are others who like gravy, to stay
out of the water in dog days, to come right straight home from school,
to shinny on your own side, and to clean those feet for Heaven's
sake,--that is the whole duty of boys. As it was in the beginning, so
it shall be ever after.
Now most of us grown-ups do not admit these things, and not being
able to speak the language of the people whose rights we are
seeking to destroy, we will never know how utterly futile are our
conspiracies. But that is immaterial.
The main point that the gentle reader should bear in mind is this:
The town of Boyville is free and independent; governed only by the
ancient laws, made by the boys of the elder days--by the boys who
found bottom in the rivers that flowed out of Eden; by little Seth,
little Enoch, little Methuselah, and little Noah; by the boys who
threw mud balls from willow withes broken from trees whereon David
hung his harp a thousand years thereafter. For Boyville was old when
Nineveh was a frontier post.
Boyville hears from afar the buzz about principalities and powers,
the clatter of javelins and the clash of arms, the hubbub of the
"Pride and pomp and circumstance of glorious war." The courtiers of
Boyville cheer for each new hero, and claim fellowship with all "like
gentlemen unafraid." But the Free Town has its own sovereign, makes
its own idols. And the clatter and clash and hubbub that attend the
triumphs of the kingdoms of the earth pass by unconquered Boyville as
the shadow of a dream.
THE MARTYRDOM OF "MEALY" JONES
A WAIL IN B MINOR
Oh, what has become of the ornery boy,
Who used to chew slip'ry elm, "rosum" and wheat:
And say "jest a coddin'" and "what d'ye soy;"
And wear rolled-up trousers all out at the seat?
And where is the boy who had shows in the barn,
And "skinned a cat backards" and turned "summersets;"
The boy who had faith in a snake-feeder yarn,
And always smoked grape vine and corn cigarettes?
Where now is the small boy who spat on his bait,
And proudly stood down near the foot of the class,
And always went "barefooted" early and late,
And washed his feet nights on the dew of the grass?
Where is the boy who could swim on his back,
And dive and tread water and lay his hair, too;
The boy who would jump off the spring-board ker-whack,
And light on his stomach as I used to do?
Oh where and oh where is the old-fashioned boy?
Has the old-fashioned boy with his old-fashioned ways,
Been crowded aside by the Lord Fauntleroy,--
The cheap tinselled make-believe, full of alloy
Without the pure gold of the rollicking joy
Of the old-fashioned boy in the old-fashioned days?
[Illustration: The Court of Boyville
The Martyrdom of Mealy Jones]
His mother named him Harold, and named him better than she knew. He
was just such a boy as one would expect to see bearing a heroic name.
He had big, faded blue eyes, a nubbin of a chin, wide, wondering ears,
and freckles--such brown blotches of freckles on his face and neck and
hands, such a milky way of them across the bridge of his snub nose,
that the boys called him "Mealy." And Mealy Jones it was to the end.
When his parents called him Harold in the hearing of his playmates,
the boy was ashamed, for he felt that a nickname gave him equal
standing among his fellows. There were times in his life--when he
was alone, recounting his valorous deeds--that Mealy more than half
persuaded himself that he was a real boy. But when he was with
Winfield Pennington, surnamed "Piggy" in the court of Boyville, and
Abraham Lincoln Carpenter, similarly knighted "Old Abe," Mealy saw
that he was only Harold, a weak and unsatisfactory imitation. He was
handicapped in his struggle to be a natural boy by a mother who had
been a "perfect little lady" in her girlhood and who was moulding her
son in the forms that fashioned her. If it were the purpose of this
tale to deal in philosophy, it would be easy to digress and show that
Mealy Jones was a study in heredity; that from his mother's side of
the house he inherited wide, white, starched collars, and from his
father's side, a burning desire to spit through his teeth. But this is
only a simple tale, with no great problem in it, save that of a boy
working out his salvation between a fiendish lust for suspenders
with trousers and a long-termed incarceration in ruffled waists with
despised white china buttons around his waist-band.
No one but Piggy ever knew how Mealy Jones learned to swim; and
Harold's mother doesn't consider Piggy Pennington any one, for the
Penningtons are Methodists and the Joneses are Baptists, and Very
hard-shelled ones, too. However, Mealy Jones did learn to swim
"dog-fashion" years and years after the others had become
post-graduates in aquatic lore and could "tread water," "swim
sailor-fashion," and "lay" their hair. Mrs. Jones permitted her son
to go swimming occasionally, but she always exacted from him a solemn
promise not to go into the deep water. And Harold, who was a good
little boy, made it a point not to "let down" when he was beyond the
"step-off." So of course he could not know how deep it was; although
the bad little boys who "brought up bottom" had told him that it was
twelve feet deep.
One hot June afternoon Mealy stood looking at a druggist's display
window, gazing idly at the pills, absently picking out the various
kinds which he had taken. He had just come from his mother with
the expressed injunction not to go near the river. His eyes roamed
listlessly from the pills to the pain-killer, and; turning wearily
away, he saw Piggy and Old Abe and Jimmy Sears. The three boys were
scuffling for, the possession of a piece of rope. Pausing a moment in
front of the grocery store, they beckoned for Mealy. The lad joined
the group. Some one said,--
"Come on, Mealy, and go swimmin'."
"Aw, Mealy can't go," put in Jimmy; "his ma won't let him."
"Yes, I kin, _too_, if I want to," replied Mealy, stoutly--but, alas!
"Then come on," said Piggy Pennington. "You don't dast. My ma don't
care how often I go in--only in dog days."
[Illustration: _The three boys were scuffling for the possession of a
piece of rope_.]
After some desultory debate they started--the four boys--pushing one
another off the sidewalk, "rooster-fighting," shouting, laughing,
racing through the streets. Mealy Jones longed to have the other boys
observe his savage behavior. He knew, however, that he was not of
them, that he was a sad make-believe. The guilt of the deed he was
doing, oppressed him. He wondered how he could go into crime so
stolidly. Inwardly he quaked as he recalled the stories he had read of
boys who had drowned while disobeying their parents. His uneasiness
was increased by the ever-present sense that he could not cope with
the other boys at their sports. He let them jostle him, and often
would run, after his self-respect would goad him to jostle back. Mealy
was glad when the group came to the deep shade of the woods and walked
It was three o'clock when the boys reached the swimming-hole. There
the great elm-tree, with its ladder of exposed roots, stretched over
the water. Piggy Pennington, stripped to the skin, ran whooping down
the sloping bank, splashed over the gravel at the water's edge, and
plunged into the deepest water. Old Abe followed cautiously, bathing
his temples and his wrists before sousing all over. Jimmy Sears threw
his shirt high up on the bank as he stood ankle-deep in the stream.
Piggy's exhilaration having worn off by this time, he picked up a
mussel-shell and threw it at Jimmy's feet. The water dashed wide of
its mark and sprinkled Mealy, who was sitting on a log, taking off his
"Here, Piggy, you quit that," said Mealy.
Jimmy said nothing. He sprang into the air head foremost toward Piggy,
who dived from sight. His pursuer saw the direction Piggy took and
followed him. The boys were a few feet apart when Jimmy came to the
surface, puffing and spouting and shaking the water from his eyes and
hair. He hesitated in his pursuit. Piggy observed the hesitation, and
with a quick overhand movement shot a stinging stream of water from
the ball of his hand into his antagonist's face. Then Piggy turned
on his side and swam swiftly to shallow water, where he stood and
splashed his victim, who was lumbering toward shore with his eyes
shut, panting loudly. With every splash Piggy said, "How's that, Jim?"
or "Take a bite o' this," or "Want a drink?" When Jimmy got where he
could walk on the creek bottom, he made a feint of fighting back,
but he soon ceased, and stood by, gasping for breath, before saying,
Then followed the fun of ducking, the scuffling and the capers of the
young human animals at play--at play even as gods in the elder days.
Mealy saw it all through envious eyes and with a pricking conscience,
as he doggedly fumbled the myriad buttons which his mother had
fastened upon his pretty clothes. He heard Piggy dare Abe across the
creek, and call him a cowardly calf, and say, "Any one't 'ull take a
dare'll steal sheep." Mealy saw Jimmy grin as he cracked rocks under
water while the other boys were diving, and watched Old Abe, as
he made the waves rise under his chin, swimming after the fleeing
culprit. He saw Abe catch Jimmy and hold his head under water until
Mealy's smile faded to a horrified grin. Then he saw the victim and
the victor come merrily to the shallows, laughing as though nothing
unusual had occurred. It was high revel in Boyville, and the satyrs
were in the midst of their joy.
[Illustration: _He saw Abe catch Jimmy and hold his head under
Then Mealy heard Piggy say, "Aw, come in, Mealy; it won't hurt you."
"Is it cold?" asked Mealy.
"Naw," replied Piggy.
"Naw, course it ain't," returned Jimmy.
"Warm as dish-water," cried Abe.
Mealy's ribs shone through his skin. His big milky eyes made him seem
uncanny, standing there shivering in the shade. He hobbled down the
pebbly bank on his tender feet, his bashful grin breaking into a dozen
contortions of pain as he went. The boys stood watching him like
tigers awaiting a Christian martyr. He paused at the water's edge, put
in a toe and jerked it out with a spasm of cold.
"Aw, that ain't cold," said Piggy.
"Naw, when you get in you won't mind it," insisted Abe.
Mealy replied, "Oo, oo! I think that's pretty cold."
"Wet your legs and you won't get the cramp," advised Jimmy Sears.
Mealy stooped over to scoop up some water in his hands. He heard the
boys laugh, and the next instant felt a shower of water on his back.
It made the tears come.
"Uhm-m-m--no fair splashin'," he whined.
Mealy put one foot in the water and drew it out quickly, gasping, "Oo!
I ain't goin' in. It's too cold for me. It'll bring my measles out."
He started--trembling--up the bank; then he heard a splashing behind
"Come back here," cried Piggy, whose hands were uplifted; "come back
here and git in this water or I'll muddy you." Piggy's hands were full
of mud. He was about to throw it when the Jones boy pretended to laugh
and giggled, "Oh, I was just a-foolin'."
But he paused again at the water's edge, and Piggy, who had come up
close enough to touch the rickety lad, reached out a muddy hand and
dabbed the quaking boy's breast. The other boys roared with glee.
Mealy extended a deprecatory hand, and took Piggy's wet, glistening
arm and stumbled nervously into the stream, with an "Oo-oo!" at every
uncertain step. When the water came to Mealy's waist Abe cried, "Duck!
duck, or I'll splash you!" The boy sank down, with his teeth biting
his tongue as he said, "Oo! I wouldn't do you that way."
When the shock of the tepid water had spent itself, Mealy's grin
returned, and he shivered happily, "Oo--it's good, ain't it?"
Ten minutes later the boys were diving from the roots of the elm-tree
into the deep water on the other side of the creek. Ten minutes after
that they were sliding down a muddy toboggan which they had revived by
splashing water upon the incline made and provided by the town boys
for scudding. Ten minutes afterward they were covering themselves
with coats of mud, adorned--one with stripes made with the point of a
stick, another with polka-dots, another with checks, and Mealy with
snake-like, curving stripes. Then the whole crew dashed down the path
to the railroad bridge to greet the afternoon passenger train. When it
came they jumped up and down and waved their striped and spotted arms
like the barbarian warriors which they fancied they were. They swam up
the stream leisurely, and, as they rounded the bend that brought their
landing-place into view, the quick eye of Piggy Pennington saw that
some one had been meddling with their clothes. He gave the alarm. The
boys quickened their strokes. When they came to the shallows of the
ford they saw the blue-and-white starched shirt of Mealy Jones lying
in a pool tied into half a dozen knots, with the water soaking them
tighter and tighter. The other boys' clothes were not disturbed.
"Mealy's got to chaw beef," cried Piggy Pennington. The other boys
echoed Piggy's merriment. Great sorrows come to grown-up people, but
there is never a moment in after-life more poignant with grief than,
that which stabs a boy when he learns that he must wrestle with a
series of water-soaked knots in a shirt. As Mealy sat in the broiling
sun, gripping the knots with his teeth and fingers, he asked himself
again and again how he could explain his soiled shirt to his mother.
Lump after lump rose in his throat, and dissolved into tears that
trickled down his nose. The other boys did not heed him. They were
following Piggy's dare, dropping into the water from the overhanging
limb of the elm-tree.
They did not see the figure of another boy, in a gingham shirt, blue
overalls, and a torn straw hat, sitting on a stone back of Mealy,
smiling complacently. Not until the stranger walked down to the
water's edge where Mealy sat did the other boys spy him.
"Who is it?" asked Abe.
"I never saw him before," replied Jimmy Sears.
"Oh, I'll tell you who it is," returned Abe, after looking the
stranger over. "It's the new boy. Him an' his old man come to town
yesterday. They say he's a fighter. He licked every boy in the
Mountain Jumpers this mornin'."
By this time the new boy was standing over Mealy, saying, "How you
Mealy looked up, and said with the petulance of a spoiled child, "Hush
your mouth, you old smartie! What good d't do you to go an' tie my
Piggy and Jimmy and Abe came hurrying to the landing. They heard the
new boy retort, "Who said I tied your clo'es?" Mealy made no reply.
The new boy repeated the query. Mealy saw the boys in the water
looking on, and his courage rose; for Mealy was in the primary
department of life, and had not yet learned that one must fight alone.
He answered, "I did," with an emphasis on the "I," as he tugged at the
last knot. The new boy had been looking Mealy over, and he replied
quickly, "You're a liar!"
There was a pause, during which Mealy looked helplessly for some one
to defend him. He was sure that his companions would not stand there
and see him whipped. One of the boys in the water said diplomatically,
"Aw, Mealy, I wouldn't take that!"
"You're another," faltered Mealy, who looked supplication and surprise
at his friends, and wondered if they were really going to desert him.
The new boy waded around Mealy, and leaned over him, and said, shaking
his fist in the freckled face, "You're a coward, and you don't dast
take it up and fight it out."
Mealy's cheeks flushed. He felt anger mantling his frame. He was one
of those most pitiable of mortals whose anger brings tears with it.
The last knot in the shirt was all but conquered, when Mealy bawled in
a scream of passionate sobs,--
"When I git this shirt fixed I'll show you who's a coward."
The new boy sought a level place on the bank for a fight, and sneered,
"Oh, cry baby! cry baby! Say, boys, where's its bottle?"
[Illustration: "_Say, boys, where's its bottle_?"]
Mealy rose with a stone in each hand, and hobbled over the pebbles,
trying, "Touch me now! Touch me if you dare!"
"Aw, you coward! drop them rocks," snarled the new boy.
Mealy looked at his friends imploringly. He felt lonely, deserted, and
mistreated, but he saw in the faces of his comrades the reflection of
the injunction to put down the stones. He did so, and his anger began
to cool. But he whimpered again, "Well now, touch me if you dare!"
The new boy came over briskly, and made a feint to slap the naked lad,
who warded off the blow, sniffling, "You just leave me alone. I ain't
hurtin' you." The boys in the water laughed--it seemed to Mealy such
a cruel laugh. Anger enveloped him again, and he struck out blindly
through his tears, hand over hand, striking the new boy in the mouth
and making it bleed, before he realized that the fight had begun. The
new boy tried to clinch Mealy, but the naked body slipped away from
him; and just then the combatants saw the satisfied grin freeze on the
faces of the boys in the water. A step crunched the gravel near them,
and in a moment that flashed vividly with rejoicing that the fight was
ended, then with abject, chattering terror, Mealy Jones saw his
father approaching. Mealy did not run. The uplifted cane and the red,
perspiring face of his father transfixed the lad, yet he felt called
upon to say something. His voice came from a dry throat, and he spoke
through an idiotic grin as he said, "I didn't know you wanted me, pa."
After the burst of his father's anger ten awful minutes of shame
passed for Mealy while he was putting on his wet clothes. The boys
in the water swam noiselessly upstream to the roots of the elm-tree,
where he saw them looking at his disgrace. During those ten minutes
Mealy realized that his father's deepening silence portended evil; so
he tried to draw his father into a discussion of the merits of the
case by whimpering from time to time, "Well, I guess they ast me to
come," or "Piggy said it wouldn't hurt, 'cause 't ain't in dog days,"
or "I wasn't in where it was deep. I was only a-wadin'." The new boy,
who was seated upon a log near by with a stone in his hand, which he
had picked up fearing the elder Jones would join the fray, sniffed
audibly. He called to the other boys derisively, "Say, any of you boys
got the baby's blocks?" It did not lift the mantle of humiliation that
covered Mealy to hear his father reply to the new boy, "That will do
for you, sir." While Mealy wept he wiped away his tears first with one
hand and then with the other, employing the free hand in fastening
his clothes together. He did not fear the punishment that might be in
store for him. He was thinking of the agony of his next meeting with
Piggy Pennington. Mealy fancied that Abe Carpenter, who was a quiet,
philosophical boy, would not tease him, but horror seized him when he
thought of Piggy.
As Mealy fastened his last button, he felt his father's finger under
his collar, and his own feet shambling blindly over the pebbles, up
the path, into the bushes; he heard the boys in the water laugh with
the new boy, and then--stories differ. The boys say that he howled
lustily, "Oh, pa, I won't do it any more," over and over again. Mealy
Jones says that it didn't hurt a bit.
[Illustration: _He felt his father's finger under his collar and his
own feet shambling_.]
This much is certain: that Master Harold Jones walked through the town
that day a few feet ahead of his fathers who tapped the boy's legs
with a hooked cane whenever his steps lagged. At the door of the Jones
home Mrs. Jones stood to welcome the martial procession, which she
saw, and then heard, approaching some time before it arrived. To his
wife, whose face pictured anxious grief, Mr. Jones said, as he
turned the captive over to her: "I found this young gentleman in
swimming--swimming and fighting. I have attended to his immediate
wants, I believe. I leave him to you."
Harold Jones was but a lad--a good lad whose knowledge of the golden
text was his Sunday-school teacher's pride. Yet he had collected other
scraps of useful information as he journeyed through life. One of
these was a perfectly practical familiarity with the official road map
to his mother's heart. Therefore, when he crossed the threshold of the
Jones home Harold began at once to weep dolefully.
"Harold Jones, what do you mean by such conduct?" asked his mother.
The boy stood by the window long enough to see that his father had
turned the corner toward the town. Then he fell on the floor, and
began to bewail his lot, refusing to answer the first question his
mother asked, but telling instead how "all the other boys in this town
can go swimmin' when they want to," hinting that he wouldn't care, if
papa had only just come and brought him home, but that papa--and this
was followed by a vocal cataract of woe that made the dish-pans ring.
He noted that his mother bent over him and said, "My poor boy;" at
which sign little Harold punctured the levees of his grief again,
and said he "never was goin' to face any of the boys in this town
again"--he "just couldn't bear it." Mrs. Jones paused in her work at
this, put down a potato that she was peeling, and stood up stiffly,
saying in a freezing tone, "Harold Jones, you don't mean to tell me
that your father punished you in front of those other little boys?"
Her son only sobbed and nodded an affirmative, and gave lusty voice to
the tearful wish that he was dead. Mrs. Jones stooped to the floor and
took her child by an arm, lifting him to his feet. She smoothed his
hair and took him with her to the big chair in the dining-room, where
she raised his seventy pounds to her lap, saying as she did so,
"Mama's boy will soon be too big to hold." At that the spoiled child
only renewed his weeping and clutched her tightly. There, little by
little, he forgot the mishaps of the day. There the anguish lifted
from his heart, and when his mother asked, "Harold, why did you go
into the water when we told you not to?" the child only shook his
head, and, after repeated questioning, his answer came,--
"Well, they asked me, mom."
"Who asked you?" persisted Mrs. Jones.
"Piggy Pennington and Jimmy Sears," returned the lad.
[Illustration: _Mrs. Jones stooped to the floor and took her child by
To the query, "Well, do you have to do everything they ask you to,
Harold?" the lad's answer was a renewal of the heart-breaking sobs.
These softened the mother's heart, as many and many a woman's heart
has been melted through all the ages. She soothed the truant child and
petted him, until the cramping in his throat relaxed sufficiently to
admit of the passage of an astonishingly large slice of bread and
butter and sugar. After it was disposed of, Harold busied himself by
assorting his old iron scraps on the back porch, and his mother smiled
as she fancied she heard the boy trying to whistle a tune.
Harold had left the porch before his father came home with the
beefsteak for supper, and Mrs. Jones met her husband with: "Pa Jones,
what could you be thinking of--punishing that boy before the other
children? Do you want to break what little spirit he has? Why, that
child was nearly in hysterics for an hour after you left!"
Mr. Jones hung up his crooked cane, put a stick of wood in the stove,
scraped his pipe with his knife, and blew through the stem.
"I guess he wasn't hurt much," replied the father. Then he added, as
he put a live coal in the pipe: "I s'pose you went an' babied him an'
spoiled it all." There was a puffing pause, after which Mr. Jones
added, "If you'd let him go more, an' didn't worry your head off when
he was out of sight, he'd amount to more."
Mrs. Jones always gave her husband three moves before she spoke. "Yes!
yes! you'd make that boy a regular little rowdy if you had your way,
In the mean time Harold Jones had heard a long, shrill whistle in the
alley, and, answering it, he ran as rapidly as his spindling legs
would carry him. He knew it was the boys. They were grinning broadly
when he came to them. It was Piggy Pennington who first spoke, "Oh,
pa, I won't do it any more," repeating the phrase several times in a
suppressed voice, and leering impishly at Mealy.
"Aw, you're makin' that up," answered Mealy in embarrassment. But
Piggy continued his teasing until Abe Carpenter said: "Say, Mealy, we
want you to go to the cave with us to-morrow; can you?"
The "can you" was an imputation on his personal liberty that Mealy
resented. He replied "Uh-huh! you just bet your bottom dollar I can."
Piggy began teasing again, but Abe silenced him, and the boys sat in
the dirt behind the barn, chattering about the new boy, whose name,
according to the others, was "Bud" Perkins. Mealy entered the
conversation with much masculine pomp--too much, in fact; for when he
became particularly vain-glorious some one in the group was certain to
glance at his shoes--and shoes in June in Boyville are insignia of the
weaker sex, the badges of shame.
But Mealy did not feel his disgrace. He walked up the ash path to the
kitchen with an excellent imitation of manly pride in his gait. He
kicked at a passing cat, and shook his head bravely, talking to
himself about the way he would have whipped the new boy if his father
had not interrupted the fight.
As Mrs. Jones heard the boy's step on the porch, she said to his
father, "Now, pa, that boy has been punished enough to-day. Don't you
say a word to him." Harold walked by his father with averted face. At
supper the boy did not look at his father, and when the dishes were
put away, Mr. Jones, who sat in the kitchen smoking, heard his wife
and the child in a front room, chatting cheerily. The lonesome father
smoked his pipe and recalled his youth. The boy's voice brought back
his own shrill treble, and he coughed nervously. After Mrs. Jones had
put the lad to bed, and was in the pantry arranging for breakfast, the
father knocked the ashes from his briar into the stove, and, humming
an old tune, went to the boy's bedroom door. He paused awkwardly on
the threshold. The boy turned his face toward the wall. The action cut
the father to the quick. He walked to the bed and bent over the child,
touching a father's rough-bearded face to the soft cheek. He found the
soft hand--with a father's large hand--under the sheet, and he held
the little hand tightly as he said:
"Well, Harold"--there he paused for a second. But he continued, "Do
you think you'd a-licked that boy--if--if--I hadn't a-come?"
Then the two laughed, and a little throb of joyous pain tingled in
their throats--such as only boys may feel.
A RECENT CONFEDERATE VICTORY
A LITTLE DREAM-BOY
Little Boy Blue, come blow your horn,
And wake up a little man lying forlorn,
Asleep where his life wanders out of the morn.
Little Boy Blue, blow a merry, sweet note,
Over the pool where the white lilies float,--
Fill out the sails of a little toy boat.
Blow on my dream of a little boy there,--
Blow thro' his little bark-whistle, and snare
Your breath in a tangle of curly brown hair.
Blow and O blow from your fairy land far,
Blow while my little boy wears a tin star,
And rides a stick-horse to a little boy's war.
Blow for the brave man my dream-boy would be,
Blow back his tears when he wakes up to see
His knight errant gone and instead--only me.
Little Boy Blue, come blow your horn,
Blow for a little boy lying forlorn,
Asleep where his life wanders out of the morn.
A RECENT CONFEDERATE VICTORY
In a small town, every man who has been in the community long enough
to become thoroughly known to the townsmen has a place in the human
mosaic; that place seldom changes. Occasionally a man is a year in
finding his place. The town of Willow Creek located Calhoun Perkins in
two days. Wednesday he arrived in town with his son, whom he called
"Bud;" Thursday night it was reported that he had been fishing the
second time. That settled it. After that the boasting of Perkins about
his family in Tennessee and his assertion that he expected to go into
business only made the men laugh when Perkins left a group of them.
They were not interested in Perkins by the following Saturday; and
Monday every man in the town felt that his judgment of a man who would
go fishing every day had been handsomely vindicated, when it was
learned that Perkins had served in the Confederate army. When Perkins
had been in the town three years, the anecdotes illustrating his
shiftlessness multiplied, and his name was a synonym for that trait of
character known in the vernacular as "no-'count." In the third spring,
after a winter's tussle with rheumatism, Perkins died. His funeral was
of so little importance that none of the corpulent old ladies in black
alpaca, holding their handkerchiefs carefully folded in their hands,
came panting across the town to attend it. No women came at all. And
the Perkins boy stood by stolidly while the dry clods were rumbling
upon the pine box in the grave. The boy wished to be alone, and he
would not sit on the seat with the driver. He wiped a little moisture
from his eyes, and rode to town with his feet hanging out of the back
of the wagon that had held the coffin.
[Illustration: _His feet hanging out of the back of the wagon that had
held the coffin_.]
When the wagon came to the thick of the town, Bud Perkins quietly slid
to the ground, and joined a group of afternoon idlers who were playing
marbles on the south side of a livery barn. Here and there in the
group a boy said: "H'lo, Bud," when the Perkins boy joined the
coterie, but many of the youngsters, being unfamiliar with the
etiquette of mourning, were silent, and played on at their game. When
the opportunity came the Perkins boy put a marble in the ring without
saying a word. He went back to "taws," and "lagged for goes," with
the others. He spoke only when he was addressed. A black sense of
desolation lowered over him, and he could not join in the ejaculations
and responses of the game. His luck was bad, and he lost marble after
marble. In an hour, when the sun was still in the south, he withdrew
from the game and sat alone against the barn, drawing figures on the
earth with a broken piece of hoop-iron. The boy could not fight off
the thought of the empty home waiting for him down by the river. He
saw, as he sat there, all the furniture, his father's clothes hanging
at the foot of the bed, the stove in disorder; and then he realized
that in the whole town not one hand was held out to him. He was a
child, yet the heartlessness of it all cut him to the quick. This
thought overwhelmed him, again and again, each time with more
agonizing force, like an increasing wave, and as one flood washed over
him with fiercer passion than the others, the boy rose hurriedly, ran
around the barn, and flung himself upon a pile of hay. There he gave
way to a storm of sobs. One of the group, who had been watching him
more closely than the others, soon withdrew from the game, and going
in the opposite direction from that taken by Bud Perkins, came
tiptoeing around the haystack.
[Illustration: _His luck was bad_.]
[Illustration: _He withdrew from the game and sat alone against the
The paroxysm of sobs had ceased, and Bud was lying face downward as if
asleep. He heard the step, but pretended not to hear it. He felt some
one pressing the hay beside him. He knew who it was, and the two boys
lay upon the hay without speaking. The Perkins boy turned his head
away from the new-comer; but try as he would, Bud could not keep from
sniffling. In a few moments the other boy tried to roll the Perkins
boy over. It was a vain attempt. Then the sobbing began anew. But it
was a short attack, and, at length, the other boy said: "Bu-ud?" Again
he said, "Bu-ud?" There came no response. "O, Bud--I got somethin'
to tell you!" The sniffling continued, and the other boy kept on
pleading. "Ah, Bud, come on; I got somethin' real good," he said.
Silence answered. The teasing went on: "Say, Bud, I won back all your
marbles." That was repeated twice. Then a hand went over toward the
other boy. He filled it with marbles, and it went back. Another
silence was followed by a rustle of hay, and a dirty face turned over,
and a voice said through a pathetic, apologetic smile: "This old
nicked glassey ain't mine." The two heads nestled together, and four
eyes gazed at the blue sky and the white clouds for a long time. It
was the Perkins boy who spoke: "Say, Piggy, I bet you'd cry, too, if
you was me."
Piggy wormed his arm under the hay around the Perkins boy's neck, as
he asked, "What you goin' to do to-night, Bud?"
"I dunno. Why?" replied Bud.
"Well, I'm comin' out to stay all night. They're goin' to have a party
at our house, and ma said I could."
Bud drew himself up slowly; then threw himself with a quick spring on
top of Piggy, and the two began to wrestle like kittens in the hay.
Even while Piggy Pennington and Bud Perkins were sitting at dusk on
the back-porch steps of the Pennington house, eating turkey-wings
which Mrs. Pennington had given to them, and devouring ham sandwiches
which Piggy had taken from the big platterful in the pantry, looking
the hired girl boldly in the face as he did it, even then the
preparations for the Pennington entertainment were progressing
indoors. The parlor, the sitting-room, and the dining-room, which had
been decorated during the warm afternoon with borrowed palms and with
roses from the neighbor's vines, were being ventilated. Windows were
rising, and doors opening. The velvety air of May was fluttering
everywhere. And there was so much life in it, that when Mrs.
Pennington saw the two boys pass out of the alley gate, she saw the
Perkins boy grab her son's hat and run away whooping, while Piggy
followed, throwing clods at his companion's legs and feet. She
thought, as she turned to her turkey-slicing, that the Perkins child
was not taking his father's death "very hard." But she did not know
that the boyish whoop was the only thing that saved him from sobbing,
as he left the home where he saw such a contrast to his own. How could
a woman carrying the responsibilities of the social honor of the
Methodist church in Willow Creek have time to use her second sight?
[Illustration: _As she turned to her turkey-slicing_.]
The guests at the Pennington house that evening divided the honors
equally between the new preacher, for whom the party was made, and
Miss Morgan, whose last niece had married and left her but two days
before. Most of the guests had met the new preacher; but none of
them--save one or two of her intimate friends--could know how the
lonely little old woman was faring in the cottage whence one by one
her adopted birds had flown. They called her "little Miss Morgan" in
the town, and the story of her life of devotion to her brothers' and
sisters' children was familiar to every one about her. For ten years
she had lived in Willow Creek caring for her brothers' orphans.
She came to the community from the East, and found what she
brought--culture, friends, and kindness at every turn. The children
whom she had cared for had grown up, filed through the town's real
estate college, and then mating had left the little spinster alone.
[Illustration: _The new preacher, for whom the party was made_.]
At the Penningtons' that evening she was cheerful enough--so cheerful,
indeed, in her little bird-like way, that many of those who talked
with her fancied that the resourceful little body was beyond the reach
of petty grief. The modest, almost girlish smile beamed through the
wrinkles of fifty autumns as brightly that evening at the Penningtons'
as the town had ever seen it. From her place in a high-backed chair in
the corner, Miss Morgan, in her shy, self-deprecatory way, shed her
faint benediction about her as she had done for a decade. There was a
sweetness in Miss Morgan's manner that made the old men gallant to her
in a boyish way; and the wives, who loved her, were proud of their
husbands' chivalry. During the evening at the Penningtons' the
conversation found much of its inspiration in the Memorial Day
services on the morrow and in anecdotes about the thriftlessness of
Calhoun Perkins. Memorial Day was one of the holidays which Miss
Morgan kept in her heart. Then she decorated each year a lover's
grave--a grave she had never seen. The day had been sacred in her
heart to the memory of a spring night, and the moon and the lilacs and
the blue uniform of a soldier. Upon other days she waved this memory
away with a gay little sigh, and would have none of it. But on
Memorial Day she bade the vision come into her heart and bide a while.
But she did not open the door there at the party. They said to one
another, going home that night: "Well, I don't see's she minds it a
bit. Isn't that pluck for you--not lonesome, not grumpy--just the same
little body she was when we first saw her. Well--I know one thing--I
couldn't do it."
As for Miss Morgan, while she was walking home that night, she was
thinking of the women of her age whom she had just left; the romance
seemed to be gone completely from their lives, their faces seemed a
trifle hard to her, and she was wondering if life would have gone so
with her if there had been no Shiloh.
The town clock in the schoolhouse was tolling eleven, as Miss Morgan
turned the key in the front door. The night was starry and inviting,
and as her house stood among the trees, somewhat back from the street,
Miss Morgan did not feel afraid to sit in a porch chair, refreshing
herself, before going indoors. The wind brought the odor of the lilacs
from the bush at the house corner, and the woman sat drinking in the
fragrance. She saw a pair of lovers strolling by, who did not observe
her. She could hear the murmur of their voices; she did not try to
catch their words. She sat silently dreaming and wondering. Again and
again her eyes went to the stars in a vain questioning, and her lips
moved. Maybe she was asking "where," maybe she was asking "why." As
the moments slipped by, the years fell away from her. She had carried
her little romance in her heart unsullied by reality. To-night the
talk of Memorial Day had brought it all back, and the thrill of other
days returned with the odor of the lilacs. She yielded to a vague,
crazy notion, and in an impulsive, girlish run she went to the corner
of the porch and broke a sprig from the lilac-tree.
Then with a short sigh, that had just the hint of a smile in it, she
took the lilac sprig into the house. Perhaps she fancied that no one
would see the flowers but she. Maybe the oppressive stillness of the
empty house burdened her. Certainly something was heavy upon her, for
there was no smile in the sigh that came deeply from her heart, as she
locked the door. It must have seemed lonely for Miss Morgan, coming
from the crowded parlor, and the questions that her friends asked
about her plans may have followed her. Perhaps it was the answer to
these questions that kept her awake. She sat by her window and went
over and over again the question, what should she do. The wedding that
had so recently livened the cottage kept coming to the little old
woman's mind, and with it came the bride. When the other children had
gone away, Miss Morgan let them go with her blessing, and was glad of
their good fortunes. But this last child to go had been Miss Morgan's
pet. As the lonely spinster sat there she recalled how the child had
been moulded by her; how she had fancied the child's heart was hers,
cherishing in it the ideals, the sentiment, the tendernesses that the
older heart had held sacred for a lifetime. Miss Morgan recalled how
she and the girl had mingled their tears over the first long dress
that their hands made, knowing, each of them, that it meant the coming
of the parting. As she looked into the awful vistas of the stars, the
woman knew that she was one of God's creatures, all alone--without one
soul that she might even signal to.
[Illustration: _The first long dress_.]
The word "alone" came to her so strangely that she repeated it in a
whisper. Its sound touched some string within her bosom, and she put
her head upon the open window sill and wept, sobbing the word "alone"
until sleep soothed her.
The morning sunlight helped Miss Morgan to put aside the problems of
the night; she hummed an old war tune as she went about her work, but
it did not lift the silence from the house. The rooms that a few days
before had been vocal with life, were so dead that the clock ticking
in the parlor might be heard in the kitchen. The canary's cheerful
song echoed shrilly through the silent place. Miss Morgan said to him,
"Dickey, Dickey, for gracious sake, keep still--you'll drive me wild."
But her voice only increased the bird's vehemence, and the throbbing
in her ears brought on a headache. When she put a paper over the cage,
the clock annoyed her. She was irritated by a passing boy whistling
"The Girl I Left Behind Me" with all his might, but sadly off the key.
She went to the window and saw Bud Perkins.
[Illustration: "_Dickey, Dickey, for gracious sake, keep still_."]
She did not know that the child had just arisen from a cheering
breakfast at the Penningtons'--even if she knew how much a hearty
breakfast cheers up any boy. But the spectacle of the orphan facing
the world so bravely moved Miss Morgan. She felt a sudden wave of
pity, and with it came the conviction of guilt--that she had been
selfish while the boy was suffering. She had heard at the Penningtons'
that the county would probably take charge of him; but she recalled
what she had heard in its full meaning to the child only when she saw
him turn the corner, going toward the centre of the town. There was
a feeling of keen joy in her heart as she realized that she was not
useless in the world, and she went about her morning's work with the
lightest heart in all Willow Creek beating in her breast.
Bud Perkins had seen but two Memorial Days in Kansas--and upon each of
these days he and his father had gone fishing. The boy knew it was a
soldiers' holiday, and from Piggy Pennington Bud had found out what
were the purposes of the day. He knew that his father had been a
soldier--a soldier on the wrong side. But he did not know that graves
of Confederate soldiers were not included in the day's sacrament.
"Mornin', Captain," said Bud to a slight, gray-haired old man,
stooping over a basket of flowers in a vacant store-room in the main
street of the town.
When the man replied kindly the boy took heart to say: "You must be
kind o' runnin' things here, I guess."
"I'm in charge of the flowers, Bud, just for to-day," replied Captain
Meyers, who did not wish to seem as vain-glorious as he was.
"Goin' to put flowers on all the soldiers' graves--are you?" queried
Bud. The elder replied that the Post aimed to do so.
"Did you know my dad was a soldier?" was the boy's next question.
[Illustration: "_Did you know my dad was a soldier_?"]
The captain's heart was pricked when he saw what was in Bud's mind.
The captain knew what the next query would be. He was a gentle man and
kind. So, looking about to see if any comrades of a sterner sect than
he were in hearing before replying, he said: "You mustn't feel bad
now, Buddie, but it's only them on the Union side--whose graves we
decorate to-day. I wouldn't mind, if I was you." Captain Meyers was
not a diplomat, and he said the words poorly.
In an instant the boy's eyes filled with tears. They dried in anger
before they reached his flushed cheek. He clinched his hands, turned,
and walked hotly out of the room. In the door he paused, whirled
around, and cried,--
"Yank! Yank! Rick-stick-stank!
High ball, low ball, dirty-faced Yank!"
[Illustration: _During the next two hours the boy wandered on the
Then he ran wildly down the street to escape the infuriated mob which
he believed would pursue him. The knowledge that he was cut off from
the day's festivities made him wince with pain as he ran. Not until
he came out upon the road across the prairie did he stop--breathless,
worn out, crying. During the next two hours the boy wandered on the
prairie and in the woods gathering wild flowers. By the time the
exercises in the Willow Creek opera house were finished and the
procession was formed, Bud Perkins had a heaping armful of field
blossoms. He was coming over the hill to the cemetery when he heard
the band strike up the "Dead March" down in the village. His impulse
was to run away. He checked himself and walked across the place, past
the shafts and monuments, toward his father's grave under the hill
furthest from the town. In the middle of the cemetery the boy stopped.
His eyes were caught by a marble lamb over a child's grave. The
inscription he read was "Mary Pennington, aged two years, three
months, and ten days." The date line upon the stone, told of a year
that had passed before the Perkins boy was born. He gazed at it a
moment, and put there a handful of his choicest flowers. Looking up
he saw some early visitor to the silent place stepping from behind
a monument. Bud had scattered his flowers before he saw that he
was being watched; so he pretended to hunt for stones to throw. He
gathered several, and peppered them at shafts and at birds.
[Illustration: "_Mary Pennington, aged two years, three months, and
Bud Perkins walked to the freshly-made mound where his father lay, and
scattered his posies over it. The village "cornet band" was coming
nearer and nearer to the hill. The boy curbed a temptation to leave.
He walked lazily about the grave until the Memorial Day procession
had entered the big iron gate a hundred yards away. Calhoun Perkins's
grave could not be seen from the plot where the townspeople had
gathered. The boy sat down with his back to the crowd. He did not know
how near the people were to him. He felt that they were staring down,
perhaps laughing, at him. So he tried to assume a careless air. He
picked up clods and tossed them at adjacent objects. Tiring of this,
he chewed the grass stems, and sucked the nectar from the corolla of
wild honeysuckles. But this did not keep the lump out of his throat,
and it did not subdue the turmoil of sorrow in his heart at the
thought that his father was scorned in the town. Once his small frame
shook with a strangled sob, but immediately afterward he threw an
unusually big clod at a post near by. He had been hearing voices and
footsteps on the brow of the hill for several minutes. Occasionally he
picked out a familiar voice, and once he heard Mealy Jones call his
name. He did not answer, but a woman standing a little further up the
hill asked Mealy, "Who is it, Harold?" "Bud," said the youngster.
"Bud who?" asked the woman's voice.
The Perkins boy heard the dialogue. He was sitting down, throwing
clods into the air, and catching them as they fell, and this appeared
to be an engrossing task.
"Bud Perkins. He's settin' down by his pa's grave," replied the boy on
the hill. The child by the fresh mound pictured himself as the other
boy saw him, and his eyes brimmed over with tears. He seemed so
"Why don't you go to him?" insisted the woman, coming nearer.
"Oh, Miss Morgan," said the boy whom she addressed, lowering his
voice, but not lowering it sufficiently, "Miss Morgan, _you_ don't
Just then Bud was startled by a footstep at his side. He looked up and
saw Piggy Pennington, who had a big bunch of roses in his hands,
and who, seeing the stained face of his friend, said in embarrassed
confusion: "Ma sent 'em." Piggy put the roses by the new pine
head-board, and lay down--lying across his companion's feet.
"Get off me," said Bud, when he had treated himself to a long,
trembling sniff, after a painful silence. "I ain't no sidewalk."
When Piggy went to get his flying hat, he said under his breath
to Bud, "Wipe your face, quick; some one's comin'." Then he stood
awkwardly at Bud's back and shielded him. Piggy spoke first to the
little woman, now only a few paces away.
[Illustration: _Piggy went to get his flying hat_.]
"H'lo, Miss Morgan; lookin' for old Tom? He's buried off to the right
"No, my dear. I want to speak to Henry Perkins," replied the woman,
beaming the kindest of smiles into the guardsman's face. He stepped
from the line between Miss Morgan and the Perkins boy, not sure that
the intruder would find a welcome. Bud was glaring steadfastly at the
earth, between his hands and knees. Piggy said, "Bu-ud?"
"Whut," was the response.
"Miss Morgan wants to talk with you," replied Piggy.
"What's she want?" inquired the Perkins boy, with his head still
between his knees.
Miss Morgan had been coming nearer and nearer to him as the dialogue
had progressed. She was standing in front of Bud when he added, "I
ain't done nothin'."
Miss Morgan bent down and touched his head with her hands. Piggy was
shaking his head warningly at her with much earnestness. He feared
that such a feminine proceeding would anger his comrade. When Miss
Morgan sat upon the ground beside Bud and took one of his hands,
stroking it without the boy's resisting, Piggy Pennington was dumb
with wonder. He could not hear the gentle breaking of the agonizing
lump in the child's throat. Even little Miss Morgan could not see the
tears that had burst over the brims of the orphan's eyes. His face was
averted. She stroked his hand, and snuggled closer to him. Then she
heard a faint whimper, and her heart could stand the strain no longer;
she leaned upon the child's shoulder, and mourned with him. The
Pennington boy did not comprehend it all; but as he looked politely
away from his friends, he felt the moisture in his eyes. He wiped it
away quickly, glancing to see if his weakness had been detected.
The woman recovered in a few moments, and arose with the boy's hand
gripping hers warmly. He had felt her tears through his thin clothing,
and was conquered.
[Illustration: _She stroked his hand and snuggled closer to him_.]
"Come on, Henry; we're going now," said Miss Morgan, and drew the lad
up with her hand.
"Whur to?" asked Bud, who knew the answer instinctively.
"Home," replied the little woman, who knew that the boy knew, and who
was sure that he had consented. "Our home--yours and mine."
The boy arose, still holding her hand, and looked toward the grave
with the flowers strewn over it. He gripped her hand tightly--so
tightly that it pained her--and sobbed, as he faced away from her: "O
Then they walked on in silence, till they came up with Piggy, who had
gone a few steps ahead. It was Bud who spoke first. He said: "You
don't live far from Piggy's, do you, Miss Morgan?"
And Piggy Pennington pointed his finger at Bud's dripping eyes and
grinned, while Miss Morgan smiled happily at the clouds.
[Illustration: _Miss Morgan smiled happily at the clouds_.]
"WHILE THE EVIL DAYS COME NOT"
THE RHYME OF MIGNONETTE
When dandelions fleck the green,
And plum-blooms scent the evening breeze,
And robin's songs throb through the trees;
And when the year is raw thirteen,
And Spring's a gawky hoyden yet,
The season mirrors in its mien
And in its tom-boy etiquette,
Maid Mignonette, my Mignonette.
When bare-feet lisp along the path,
And boys and jays go whistling by,
And girls and thrushes coyly cry
Their fine joys through the aftermath--
Then laid ghosts know their amulet
Which fickle siren mem'ry hath;
So laughing comes that sad coquette,
Comes Mignonette,--my Mignonette.
The wild rose is a conjurer,
It charms the heavy years away,
Unshoes my feet and bids them stray
O'er playgrounds where our temples were.
To some pale star I owe a debt
For harboring the soul of her
With whom I learned love's alphabet--
With Mignonette, my Mignonette.
"While the Evil Days come not"
We duck through the court, reminded a
bit by our feelings of our first love, who hadn't
the cleanest of faces, or the nicest of manners;
but she takes her station in our memory because
we were boys then, and the golden halo
of youth is upon her.--_George Meredith_.
What little things turn great events! Tragedies swing on such
inconsequential hinges. It is so exasperating to look back over the
path of a calamity and see how easily it might have been averted! If
one man in the little town of Lawrence a generation ago had eaten two
pieces of pie-plant pie instead of three for supper, the night of a
certain party caucus, he would have attended that caucus and another
set of delegates would have gone to the County convention, another
would have been sent to the State Convention, another Governor of
Kansas would have been nominated and elected, and he would have chosen
another United States Senator, who would have voted for, instead of
against, the impeachment of a President of the United States, and the
history of the civilized world would have been an entirely different
affair from the one now in use. Similarly, if Winfield Hancock
Pennington, of the town of Boyville, had slipped his shoes off in the
second block from his home, instead of slipping them off in the first
block, on his way to school, a great shadow that settled over his life
might have been lifted. For if he had not been sitting exactly where
he sat on the curbing of the street, on that bright, beautiful Monday
morning in September, removing his shoes and stockings, he would have
found no garter snake to kill; and not having killed the snake, he
could not have brought it to school on a stick; and not having brought
it to school on a stick, he could not have chased the little girls
around the yard with it before the teacher came. And if he had not
been doing that, he would not have conceived the chivalrous notion
that he might gain the esteem of his Heart's Desire by frightening
her with a snake. And if Winfield Hancock Pennington had not made his
Heart's Desire angry--without giving her a chance to cool off--she
would not have invited Harold Jones to sit and sing with her during
the opening hour. But probably all that happened had to happen in the
course of things; so speculation is idle. But when it did happen, it
seemed to be a hopeless case. Young Mr. Pennington had lived through
the day, a week before, when the teacher changed his seat so that he
could not see his Heart's Desire smile; but he knew that she was sorry
with him, and that helped a little. But when he saw Harold Jones
singing from the same book with his Heart's Desire, he tried in vain
to catch the fragment of a smile from her. Instead of a smile, he
found her threatening to make a face if he persisted. Piggy seemed to
be buried in an avalanche of woe. Then it was that he saw what a small
thing had started the avalanche of calamity thundering down upon him,
and he smarted with remorse. In his anguish he tried to sing alto,
and made a peculiar rasping sound that tore a reproof for him off the
[Illustration: _Chased the little girls around the yard with it_.]
[Illustration: _She would not have invited Harold Jones to sit and
sing with her during the opening hour_.]
From the hour of the Jones boy's triumph, he and Winfield Hancock
Pennington--familiarly known as "Piggy"--became boon companions. A
grown-up outsider might have wondered at such a friendship, for Harold
Jones was a pale, thin youth, with a squeaky voice. His skimmed-milk
eyes popped out over a waste of freckles which blurred his features
and literally weighted down a weak, loosely-wired jaw and kept an
astonished mouth opened for hours at a time. Piggy, on the other hand,
was a sturdy, chunky, blue-eyed boy, who had fought his way up to
glory in the school, and who had run and jumped, and tumbled and
dived, and bantered himself into the right to be King of Boyville.
Chummery between the two boys seemed impossible, yet it was one of the
things which every school expects in a certain crisis. When the affair
is reversed, the two little girls go about breathing undying
hatred for one another. But a boy begins to consume his rival with
politeness, to seek him out from all other beings on earth, to study
his tastes and cater to his humors. And so, while the comradeship
between Piggy Pennington and Mealy Jones was built on ashes, its
growth was beautiful to see.
[Illustration: _Harold Jones_]
[Illustration: _To study his tastes_.]
[Illustration: ... _the comradeship ... was beautiful to see_]
In all their hours of close communion neither boy mentioned to the
other the name of the little girl in the red shawl and the paint-brush
pig-tails whose fitful fancy had brought on all his trouble. In some
mysterious way each managed to shower her with picture cards, to
compass her about with oranges, to embower her desk with flowers;
but it was all done in stealth, and she who was the object of
this devotion rewarded it openly and--alas for the vanity of her
sex--impartially. All the school watched the battle of the hearts
eagerly. The big boys, who usually know as little about the social
transactions beneath them as the teacher knows, felt an inkling of the
situation. The red-headed Pratt girl became deeply interested in
the affair, though she was never invited to a party in the school's
aristocracy. She did not even get an invitation to Bud Perkins's
surprise party, where every one who had any social standing was
expected. Yet she saw all that went on in the school, and once she all
but smiled sympathetically at Piggy, when she met him slipping away
from his Heart's Desire's desk, in which he had left a flock of Cupids
nestling on a perfumed blotter, and a candy sheep. Mealy Jones would
have snubbed the Pratt girl if she had caught him thus, but Piggy gave
her a wink that made her his partner. After that hour the Pratt girl
became his scout. The next day she blundered. That Friday was burned
into Piggy Pennington's memory with a glowing brand.
[Illustration: _The red-headed Pratt girl_.]
The trouble occurred in this way: On the Friday following Piggy's
black Monday, the King of Boyville, decided to resort to an heroic
measure. In his meditative moments Piggy had made up speeches
addressed to his Heart's Desire wherein he had proposed reconciliation
at any sacrifice save that of honor. Twice during those four days he
had stood by his Heart's Desire during recess, while they had looked
out at the play-ground. But the words next to his heart had sputtered
and bubbled into nothing on his lips. He could only snap chalk at
the young gentlemen in the yard below him, in a preoccupied way,
and listen to his Heart's Desire rattle on about the whims of her
fractions and the caprices of her spelling-lesson. Friday noon,
Winfield Hancock Pennington took a header into the Rubicon. In the
deserted school-room, just after the other youngsters had gone to
dinner or to play, Piggy, with much wiggling of his toes, with much
hard breathing, and with many facial contortions, wrote a note. He
gave it to the Pratt girl to deliver. When the first bell was ringing
that noon, Piggy was piling up the primary urchins in wiggling,
squealing piles at "crack the whip." During the fifteen minutes
that followed, he was charging up and down the yard, howling like a
Comanche, at "pull-away." But run as he would, yell as he would, and
wrestle as he would, Piggy could not escape the picture that rose in
his mind of a boy wearing his features and using his body, writing the
note that he had written. When dismembered words and phrases from that
note came to his mind on the play-ground, the quaver of terror that
rose in Piggy's whoop was not dissembled. Sometimes fear froze his
vitals, then a flush of self-abasement burned him with its flames. And
all the time he knew that the Pratt girl had that note. He almost
hoped that an earthquake would swallow her with it before she could
deliver it. When Piggy came straggling in, hot, sweaty, and puffing,
just as the teacher was tapping the tardy-bell, a wave of peace swept
over him. His Heart's Desire was not at her desk. He knew that he
had still a few moments' reprieve.
[Illustration: _He could only snap chalk in a preoccupied way and
listen to his Heart's Desire_.]
[Illustration: _Piggy was piling up the primary urchins in wiggling,
They were singing when his Heart's Desire came in. Piggy's head was
tilted back to give his voice full volume as he shouted, "All his
jewels, precious jewels, His loved and His own." His eyes were
half closed in an ecstasy, and he did not turn his face toward the
paint-brush pig-tails, nor give any sign that he knew of their owner's
presence. Yet when she passed his desk, his voice did not quaver, nor
his eyes blink, nor his countenance redden, as his foot darted out for
her to trip over. She tripped purposely, thereby accepting affection's
tribute, and he was glad.
To elaborate the tale of how the Pratt girl blundered with Piggy
Pennington's note would be depressing. For it holds in its barbed
meshes a record of one agonizing second in which Piggy saw the folded
paper begin to slip and slide down the incline of his Heart's Desire's
desk, whereon the Pratt girl had dropped it; saw the two girls grab
for it; heard it crash from the seat to the floor with what seemed to
him a deafening roar. Nor is this all that the harrowing tale might
disclose. It might dilate upon the horror that wrenched Piggy's spine
as he watched the teacher's finger crook a signal for the note to be
brought forward. It would be manifestly cruel and clearly unnecessary
to describe the forces which impelled the psychic wave of suggestion
that inundated the school--even to the youth of the "B" class, with
his head under the desk, looking for a pencil--and gave every demon
there gleeful knowledge that the teacher had nabbed a note and would
probably read it aloud. It is enough to submit the plain, but painful,
statement that, when the teacher tapped her pencil for attention, a
red ear, a throbbing red ear, flared out from either side of Piggy
Pennington's Fourth Reader, while not far away a pair of pig-tails
bristled up with rage and humiliation from a desk where a little
girl's head lay buried in her arms. Then the teacher unfolded the
crackling paper and read this note:--
FRIEND MARY.--Did you mean anything
by letting Him sing with you. I
dont care if you did but I never don
anything to deserve it, but if you dident
I am very sorry, will tell you bout it at
the partey. Well that is all I can think
of today, from
P.S. If you still meen what you sed
about roses red and vilets blue all right
and so do I. W H P.
[Illustration: _He watched the teacher's finger crook a signal for the
note to be brought forward_.]
Piggy waded home through blood that night. The boys could not resist
calling out "Friend Mary" or "Hello, Roses Red," though each boy knew
that his taunt would bring on a fight. Piggy fought boys who were
three classes above him. He whipped groups of boys of assorted sizes
from the lower grades; but the fighting took him away from his
trouble, and in most cases he honored his combatants. He was little
the worse for wear when he chased the last swarm of primary urchins
into his father's cow lot, fastened them in, and went at them one by
one with a shingle. A child living next door to the Penningtons had
brought the news of Piggy's disgrace to the neighborhood, and by
supper-time Mrs. Pennington knew the worst. While the son and heir
of the house was bringing in his wood and doing his chores about the
barn, he felt something in the air about the kitchen which warned him
that new tortures awaited him.
[Illustration: ... _fought boys who were three classes above him ...
whipped groups of boys of assorted sizes_.]
A boy would rather take a dozen whippings at school than have the
story of one of them come home; and Piggy thought with inward
trembling that he would rather report even a whipping at home than
face his mother in the dishonor which covered him. At supper Mrs.
Pennington repeated the legend of the note with great solemnity. When
her husband showed signs of laughing, she glared at him. Her son ate
rapidly in silence. Over his mother's shoulders Piggy saw the hired
girl giggle. The only reply that Mrs. Pennington could get to her
questions was, "Aw, that ain't nothin'," or "Aw, gee whiz, ma, you
must think that's somethin'." But she proclaimed, in the presence of
the father, the son, and the hired girl, that if she ever caught a
boy of hers getting "girl-struck" she would "show him," which, being
translated, means much that no dignified young gentleman likes to
contemplate. But when the son was out of hearing, Mrs. Pennington told
her husband, in the repressed tone which she used when expressing her
diplomatic communications, that he would have "to take that boy in
hand." Whereupon the father leaned back in his chair and laughed,
laughed until he grew red in the face, laughed till the pans in the
kitchen rattled, laughed--to use the words of his wife in closing the
incident--"like a natural born simpleton."
[Illustration: _Her son ate rapidly in silence_.]
[Illustration: _Over his mother's shoulders Piggy saw the hired girl
Alas for Piggy Pennington--he might affect great pride in his amours
when the hired girl teased him; he might put on a brave face and even
lure himself into the belief that this arch tormentor saw him only as
a gay deceiver; but when the lights were out, Piggy covered his head
with the bedclothes, and grew hot and cold by turns, till sleep came
and bore him away from his humiliation.
All day Saturday, before the Bud Perkins' surprise party, Piggy
Pennington and Mealy Jones were inseparable. And Piggy, who was King
of Boyville, came down from his throne and walked humbly beside Mealy,
the least of all his courtiers. In fact, since the reading of his
note Piggy had become needlessly deferential and considerate of the
feelings of his rival.
If the two entered a crowd and played "foot and a half" or "slap and
a kick" or "leap-frog," and if Mealy was "it"--and poor Mealy was
generally "it" in any game--Piggy did not jump viciously on Mealy's
wobbly back, nor did he slap hard, nor kick hard, as he would have
slapped and kicked on other days, before he descended from his throne
to dwell with the beasts of the field on that fatal Friday. Pride kept
Mealy on the rack.
Time and again his little, freckled, milky face hit the moist springy
ground as Bud or Abe or Jim bumped into him at their play. He was glad
when the day ended and he could go home. For Mealy Jones abhorred the
dirt that begrimed his face and soiled his white starched collar. He
liked to play in lukewarm water, to slosh in the suds, and to rub
his soft little hands whiter and whiter in the foam. His cleanliness
pleased his mother, and she boasted of it to the mothers of other
boys--mothers of boys with high-water marks just above their shirt
collars; of boys who had to be yanked back to the roller-towel after
washing to have their ears rubbed; of bad, bad, bad boys who washed
their feet in the dew of the grass at night and told their mothers
that they had washed them in the tub at the pump; of wicked and sinful
boys who killed toads and cried noisily when their warts bled in the
hot water; in fact, to the mothers of nearly all the boys in Boyville.
And thus it came about that Boyville having Mealy Jones set before it
as a model child, contracted a cordial hate for him, and rose against
him when he presumed to contest with Piggy for his Heart's Desire. Yet
all Boyville loved a fight, and all Boyville goaded the King to wrath,
teased him, bantered him, and even pretended to doubt his worth.
Therefore, when Piggy Pennington, the King of Boyville, dressed for
the party that night in his Sunday clothes and his Sunday shoes and
limped down the sidewalk to the Jones's, where the boys and girls were
to meet before descending upon Bud Perkins, there was rancor in the
royal heart and maternal hair-oil on the royal head. But a strange
throb of glad pain in the pit of the royal stomach came at the thought
of the two bright eyes that would soon meet his own. The eyes made him
forget his blistering shoes, and a smile at the door divested his mind
of the serrated collar upon which his head had been pivoting for five
distracted minutes. The last thing of all to go was his pride in the
hair-oil, but it fell before a voice that said: "Well, you got here,
[Illustration: _His cleanliness pleased his mother and she boasted of
it to the mothers of other boys_.]
That was all. But it was enough to make Piggy Pennington feel the core
of a music-box turning inside him, while outside the company saw the
King of Boyville transformed into a very red and very sweaty youth
holding madly to the back of his cuffs and chuckling deliriously. In a
daze he took off his hat, and put a sack of oranges, his part in the
evening's refreshment, on a table in the next room. When he regained
consciousness, Piggy noticed that Mealy Jones, who had pranced into
the room with much unction, was sitting next to his Heart's Desire.
The children were making merry chatter. Piggy took his place on the
end of a lounge, and turning his back to the guilty pair, gave an
"injin" pinch to Jimmy Sears, with orders to "pass it on."
Indeed, so unconcerned was Piggy in the progress of the affair behind
him that he began to shove the line of the boys on the lounge; the
shoving grew into a scuffle, and the scuffle into a wrestle, which
ended on the front porch. At length Piggy stalked through the room
where the girls were sitting, saying, when he returned with his
oranges and his hat: "Come on, fellers, everybody's here."
The boys on the porch followed Piggy's example, and in a minute or two
they stood huddled at the gate calling at the girls in the house to
hurry. When the girls were on the porch, the boys struck out, and the
two groups, a respectful distance apart, walked through the town.
Mealy Jones was enjoying the triumph of his life, walking proudly
between the noisy boys and giggling girls, beside--but why linger over
the details of this instance of man's duplicity and woman's worse than
The young blades of the Court of Boyville waited politely at the gate
before the house where Bud Perkins lived with Miss Morgan, his foster
mother. When the maidens arrived, all the company went trooping up
Miss Morgan's steps. After Piggy had chased Bud from the front door
into a closet, from which the host fought his way gallantly into
the middle of the parlor floor, the essential preliminaries of the
evening's entertainment were over. A little later the games began.
First, there was "forfeits." Then came "tin-tin." "Clap in and clap
out" followed, and finally, after much protestation from the girls,
but at the earnest solicitation of Mealy Jones, "post-office" started.
Piggy did not urge, nor protest. He had gone through the games
listlessly, occasionally breaking into a spasm of gayety that was
clearly hollow, and afterwards sinking into profound indifference. For
how could a well-conditioned boy be gay with a heartache under his
Sunday shirt and the spectacle before his eyes of a freckled human
cock-sparrow darting round and round the bower of his Heart's Desire?
Under such circumstances it was clearly impossible for him to see the
eyes that sought his in vain across the turmoil of the room. Indeed, a
voice pitched a trifle high to carry well spoke for him to hear, but
met deaf ears. A little maid in a black-and-red check which the King
of Boyville once preferred to royal purple, even made her way across
the throng--undesignedly, he thought, but Piggy basked in the joy of
her presence and made no sign to show his pleasure. A little later, in
the shuffle of the game, Piggy and his Heart's Desire were far apart.
Half an hour passed, but still he did not revive. Mealy Jones called
her out in "post-office," and Piggy thought he saw her smile. That was
too much. When the dining-room door closed behind the black-and-red
checked dress, the pitcher that enclosed his woe broke and the wheel
at the cistern of his endurance stopped. Mealy Jones came into the
room, and the boy who kept the "post-office" called out, "Piggy
Pennington." But the slam of the front door was his answer.
[Illustration: _A little maid in a black-and-red check_.]
Piggy sat on the front porch, and reviewed the entire affair. It began
when his Heart's Desire had fluttered into his autograph album with a
"When this you see
[Illustration: _Piggy sat on the front porch, and reviewed the entire
[Illustration: _It began when his Heart's Desire had fluttered into
his autograph album_.]
He followed the corrugated course of true love, step by step up to its
climax, where, a week before, she had given him his choice of her new
pack of assorted visiting-cards. He rose at the end of five minutes'
sombre meditation, holding the curling gelatine card of his choice
in his warm hand. After venting a heavy sigh, he checked a motion to
throw away the token of his undoing and put it back into his pocket.
While he was plotting dark things against the life and happiness of
Mealy Jones, Piggy heard the sound of the merriment within, and a
mischievous smile spread over his angry countenance. He tiptoed to the
window, and peeped in. He saw his Heart's Desire sitting alone. He
cheered up a little, not much--but sufficiently to reach in his pocket
for his tick-tack.
Now, it may be clearly proved, if necessary, that the tick-tack was
invented by the devil. Any wise man's son knows that every boy between
the ages of ten and fourteen carries with him at all times a complete
outfit of the mechanical devices on which the devil holds the patent
and demands a royalty. So there is nothing really strange in the
statement that Piggy Pennington took from his Sunday clothes,
beneath a pocketful of Rewards of Merit for regular attendance at
Sunday-school--all dated before the Christmas-tree--a spool with
notched wheels, a lead pencil, and a bit of fishline. The line wound
round the spool. Piggy put the pencil through the hole in the
spool, and held the notched rims of the spool against the window
pane by pressing on the pencil axle. He gave the cord a quick jerk; a
rattle, a wail, and a shriek were successively produced by the notches
whirring on the glass. The company within doors screamed. Everyone
knew it was Piggy, but no one ever lived with nerves strong enough to
withstand the shock of a tick-tack. At the first shock those in-doors
decided to ignore the disturbance. But it occurred twice afterwards,
and a third tick-tack at a party is a dare. So the boys took it up. As
Piggy ran he forgot his hot, heavy shoes; he felt the night wind on
his face and in his hair. He cared nothing for his pursuers; he ran
for the gladness that came with running. Now he slackened his pace
and let the boys catch up with him, and again he spread the mocking
distance between them. He turned down an alley, and eluded the pack.
All the youngsters at the party, even the girls, had scampered out of
the house to watch the race. When Piggy vaulted the back-yard fence
into Miss Morgan's garden, he heard the pursuers half a block away. He
saw, a hundred feet distant, a bevy of girls standing on the sidewalk.
And he saw, too, as he came skipping down the lot, something that made
him fairly skim over the earth; his Heart's Desire, standing alone,
near the porch, in his path, under an apple-tree. The exhilaration of
the chase had made him forget his trouble. He was so surefooted in the
race that he forgot to be abashed for the moment and came bounding
down by the apple-tree. He was full of pride. When he stopped he
was the King of Boyville and every inch a king. The king--not
Piggy--should be blamed. It was all over in a second--almost before he
had stopped. He aimed at her cheek, but he got her ear. That was the
first that he knew of it. Piggy seemed to return to life then. In
his confusion he felt himself shrivelling up to his normal
size--shrivelling and frying. In an instant he was gone, and Piggy
Pennington ran into the group of girls on the sidewalk and let them
catch him and hold him. The breathless youths went into the house
telling their adventures in the race between gasps. But Piggy did not
dare to look at his Heart's Desire for as much as five minutes--a
long, long time. No one had seen him beneath the apple-tree. He was
not afraid of the teasing, but he was afraid of a withering look from
his Heart's Desire,--a look that he felt with a parching fear in his
throat would throw the universe into an eclipse for him. He observed
that she got up and changed her seat to be rid of Mealy Jones. At
first Piggy thought that was a good sign, but a moment later he
reasoned that the avoidance of Mealy was inspired probably by a
loathing for all boys. He dared not seek her eyes, but he mingled
noisily in the crowd for a while, and then, on a desperate venture,
carelessly snapped a peanut shell and hit his Heart's Desire on
the chin. He seemed to be looking a thousand miles away in another
direction than that which the missile took. He waited nearly a
minute--a long, uncertain minute--for a response.
Then the shell came back; it did not hit him--but it might have done
so--that was all he could ask. He snapped shells slyly for a quarter
of an hour, and was happy. Once he looked--not exactly looked; perhaps
peeked is the better word; took just the tiniest lightning peek out of
the tail of his eye, and found a smile waiting for him. At supper, if
any one save Piggy had tried to take a chair by his Heart's Desire
when the plates came around, there would have been a fight. Mealy
Jones knew this, and he knew what Piggy did not know, that it would
have been a fight of two against one. So Piggy sat bolt upright in his
chair beside the black-and-red checked dress, and talked to the room
at large; but he spoke no word to the maiden at his side. She noticed
that Piggy kept dropping his knife, and the solicitude of her sex
prompted her to ask: "Are your hands cold, Winfield?"
And the instinct of his sex to hide a fault with a falsehood made
Piggy nod his head.
Then she answered: "Cold hands, a warm heart!"
At this important bit of repartee, the King of Boyville so forgot his
royal dignity that he let an orange-peel drive at Jimmy Sears, and
pretended not to hear her. His only reply was to joggle her arm when
she reached for the cake. Piggy was so exuberant and in such high
spirits that he put his plate on his chair and made Bud Perkins walk
turkey fashion three times around the room. He forgot the disgrace
which his note had brought to him in the school; he forgot the
pretensions of Mealy Jones; he did not wish to forget the episode of
the apple-tree, and for the time Piggy Pennington lived in a most
peculiar world, made of hazel eyes and red-ribboned pig-tails, all
circling around on a background of black-and-red checked flannel.
[Illustration: _At this important bit of repartee_.]
After that nothing mattered very much. It didn't matter that Piggy's
bruised feet began to sting like fire. It didn't matter much if Mealy
Jones's mother did come for him with a lantern and break up the party.
It didn't matter if Jimmy Sears did call out, "Hello, Roses Red," when
the boys reached the bed-room where their hats were; for a voice that
Piggy knew cried back from the adjoining room, "You think you're cute,
don't you, old smarty?" Nothing in the world could matter then, for
had not Piggy Pennington five minutes before handed a card to his
Heart's Desire which read:
_If I may not C U home
may I not sit on the fence
and C U go by_?
And had not she taken it, and said merrily, "I'm going to keep this"?
What could matter after that open avowal?
And so it came to pass in a little while that the courtly company,
headed by the King of Boyville, filed gayly down the path. They walked
two by two, and they started on a long, uneven way. But the King of
Boyville was full of joy--a kind of joy so strange that wise men may
not measure it; a joy so rare that even kings are proud of it.
JAMES SEARS: A NAUGHTY PERSON
LITTLE SISTER'S LULLABY
Zhere, zhere, 'ittul b'o', sistuh 'll wock you to s'eep
Hush-a-bye O, darlene, wock-a-bye, b'o',
An' tell you the stowy about the b'ack sheep--
Wock-a-bye, my 'ittul b'over.
A boy onct said "b'ack sheep, you dot any wool?"
"Uh-huhm," said the lambie, "I dot free bags full."
An' where Murry went w'y the lamb's sure to doe,
They's mowe of zis stowy--I dess I don' know;
But hush-a-bye O, darlene, wock-a-bye b'o',
Wock-a-bye, my 'ittul b'over.
O, mama says buddy tomed stwaight down from Dod;
Hush-a-bye O, uh-huhm, wock-a-bye b'o',
At doctuh mans bwunged him, now is n't zhat odd--
Wock-a-bye, my 'ittul b'over.
For papa says, "doctuhs is thiefs so zhey be."
An' thiefs tain't det up into Heaven you see:
I dess w'en one comes up an' dets sent below,
He's dot to bwing wif him a baby or so;
Hush-a-bye O, uh-huhm, wock-a-bye b'o',
Wock-a-bye, my 'ittul b'over.
But sistuh loves b'o' anyhow if he's dood,
Hush-a-bye O, sweetie, wock-a-bye b'o',
Better 'n tandy er infalid's food--
Wock-a-bye, sistuh's own b'over.
An' some day when buddy drows up to a man,
W'y sistuh an' him 'ull 'ist harness ol' Fan,
An dwive off to Heaven the fuist zhing you know,
An' bwing ever' baby back what wants to doe.
Zhen hush-a-bye O, sweetie, wock-a-bye b'o',
Wock-a-bye, sistuh's own b'over.
James Sears: A Naughty Person
A naughty person ... walketh with a forward mouth.
He winketh with his eyes, he speaketh with his feet, he teacheth with
his fingers;... he deviseth mischief continually;...
Therefore shall his calamity come suddenly; suddenly shall he be
broken without remedy.--_Proverbs_, vi. 12-15.
It was morning--the cool of the morning. The pigeons were gossiping
under the barn eaves. In the apple-tree a robin's song thrilled
at intervals, and the jays were chattering incessantly in the
cherry-trees by the fence. The dew was still on the grass that lay in
the parallelogram of shade made by the Sears' dwelling, and in
the twilight of grass-land all the elf-people were whispering and
tittering and scampering about in surreptitious revel. The breeze
of dawn, tired and worn out, was sinking to a fitful doze in the
cottonwood foliage near by. In the lattice of the kitchen porch two
butterflies were chasing the sun flecks in and out among the branches
of the climbing rose. Even the humble burdock weeds and sunflowers
lining the path that led to the gate seemed to be exalted by the
breath of the morning air, and not out of harmony with the fine, high
chord of ecstasy that was stirring the soul of things. And yet in that
hour, James Sears, with a green-checked gingham apron tied about his
neck, stood near a rain-barrel, bobbing up and down on a churn-handle.
His back ached, and his heart was full of bitterness at the scheme of
creation. For it was Saturday morning--his by every law, precedent, or
tradition known or reported in the Court of Boyville. But instead
of inhaling the joys of the new day, James, whose Courtly name was
"Jimmie," looked for yellow granules on the dasher, and promised God
if He would let him grow up that his little boy should never have to
[Illustration: _His heart was full of bitterness_.]
Any boy knows that it is a degrading thing to churn, and he further
knows that to wear a green-checked gingham apron is odious beyond
description; however, if the disgusting thing is tied under a boy's
arms, from whence it may be slipped down over the hips and the knees
to the ground, by a certain familiar twist of the body, the case is
not absolutely hopeless. But Jimmy Sears's apron strings were tied
about his neck; so his despair was black and abysmal. Once in a while
Jimmy's bosom became too heavily freighted, and he paused to sigh.
He cheered himself up on these occasions by slyly licking the
churn-dasher; but the good cheer on the dasher was a stimulant that
left him more miserable than it found him. Ever and anon from some
remote chamber in the house behind him came the faint, gasping cry of
a day-old baby. That cry drowned the cooing of the doves, the song of
the robin, and the chirping of the dwellers in the grass; to Jimmy the
bleat of the little human lamb sounded like the roar of a lion. He
could endure penal servitude on his Saturday, with a patience born of
something approaching a philosophy; he could wear a checked gingham
apron, even as a saint wears an unbecoming halo; but the arrival of
the new baby--the fifth addition to the family in the short period of
years covered by Jimmy Sears's memory--brought a bitter pill of wrath
and dropped it in the youth's brimful cup of woe. As the minutes
dragged wearily along, Jimmy Sears reviewed the story of his thraldom.
He thought of how, in his short-dress days, he had been put to rocking
a cradle; how in his kilted days, there had been ever a baby's calico
dress to consider; how, from his earliest fishing-days, there had been
always a tot tagging after him, throwing sticks and stones in
the water to scare the fish; and how, now in his swimming and
cave-dwelling days, there was a swarm of tow-headed Searses, a
crawler, a creeper, a toddler, a stumbler, and a sneaker to run away
[Illustration: _Throwing sticks in the water to scare the fish_.]
As the churn-dasher grew heavier, the wrath in Jimmy's cup began to
sputter, dissolving into that which in his older sister's heart would
have been tears; in Jimmy's heart, it took the form of convulsive
sniffling. The boy could hear his sister clattering the breakfast
dishes in the kitchen. The thing that ground upon his heart was the
firm footfall of Mrs. Jones, a neighbor woman, who was overseeing
the affairs of the household. Jimmy could not remember hearing that
footstep except in times of what seemed to him to be the family's
disgrace. He hated Mrs. Jones because she tried to cool his ire by
describing the superior points of the particular new baby that had
arrived each time she came upon her errands of neighborly mercy. Just
as the yellow granules began to appear in the buttermilk pool on the
churn-top, Jimmy heard a step on the gravel walk behind him. The step
came nearer; when Jimmy lifted his eyes, they glared into the face of
Harold Jones. Choler cooled into surprise, and surprise exploded into
a vapid, grinning "Huh!" which was followed by another "Huh!" that
gurgled out into a real laugh as Jimmy greeted the visitor. The Jones
boy giggled, and Jimmy found his tongue and asked: "Did you ever
churn?" When Harold admitted that he, too, was a slave of the
churn, the freemasonry of Boyville was established. A moment later
Mealy--Harold's title in the Court--was exemplifying the work. When
Mrs. Jones came out of the house to take care of the butter, she saw
her son and Jimmy lying on the grass. Half an hour later the boys in
the barn heard Mrs. Jones's voice calling,--
[Illustration: _Mrs. Jones came out to take care of the butter_.]
"Harold, O Harold, don't you want to come and look at the baby?" Now
James Sears in the twenty-four hours of his new sister's life had not
let the fact of her existence form expression on his lips. Much
less had he lowered his hostile flag to salute her; but he knew
instinctively that Harold Jones was the sort of a boy who would unsex
himself by looking at a baby. When Mealy answered, "Yes'm," and
trotted down the back-yard path to the kitchen, Jimmy Sears scorned
him heartily enough to fancy Mealy in the act of holding the loathsome
thing in his arms. Further contumely was beyond Jimmy's imagination.
[Illustration: _The sort of boy who would unsex himself by looking at
When Mealy Jones came back, the barn wherein he had left Jimmy was
empty; and only when Mealy had started homeward, and a clod came
whizzing down the alley, hitting him under the ear, did Mealy know how
Jimmy Sears resented an insult. Mealy looked around; no one was in
Right here the reader should know that Jimmy Sears was not alone in
his displeasure. There was mutiny in the Sears household. When the
baby came, the four elder of the seven Sears children joined Jimmy
in informal, silent sedition. They looked upon the newcomer as