Part 2 out of 2
an intruder. For all who extended sympathy to the pretender, the
insurgents developed a wholesome scorn. This scorn fell most heavily
upon kind Mrs. Jones. The Sears children regarded her familiar
jocularity with undisguised repugnance; and when Jimmy heard Mrs.
Jones tell his little sister Annie that morning that she was no longer
the baby, Jimmy's rage at what he considered a fiendish thrust at the
innocent and forsaken child passed the bounds of endurance. He hurled
a bit of that anger in the clod that hit Mealy Jones, then Jimmy
walked doggedly back to the house. He coaxed the little sister from
the kitchen, took the child's chubby hand and led her to the barn.
There Jimmy nursed his sorrow. He assured the younker as they sat
on the hay that he for one would not desert her, "even if mamma had
forgotten her." He hugged the wondering tot until her ribs hurt, and
in his lamentations referred to the new baby as "that old thing."
The evening before, when Mrs. Jones had marshalled the other Sears
children and had taken them into the bedroom to see their new sister,
Jimmy was not to be found. None of the older children had looked at
the baby. They had turned their heads away deliberately, and had
responded in gutteral affirmatives when they were asked if it were not
a pretty baby. But Jimmy had escaped that humiliation, and since then
he had avoided all snares set to lure him to his mother's bed-side. He
sat there in the barn, fuming as he recalled what he had heard while
Annie was in his mother's room early that morning.
[Illustration: _Jimmy heard Mrs. Jones tell his little sister Annie
that morning that she was no longer the baby_.]
"See little sister's hands. Oh, what pretty hands!" Jimmy had
reasoned, and probably correctly, that the pause was filled by the
child's big-eyed astonishment. Mrs. Jones continued,--
"Weenty teenty little feets! See little sister's toeses. What little
bitsey toeses. Baby touch little sister's toeses."
Jimmy had chafed while he listened; but now that the scene came to him
after reflection, he saw how inhuman a thing it was to dupe the child
into an affection for her inevitable enemy.
"Does baby love little sister?" continued the voice. "Love nice,
pretty little sister! Sweet little sister! Zhere! Zhere! Zhat's right;
love little sister!" As he toyed with a wisp of hay, Jimmy Sears's
blood froze in his veins at the recollection that his own mother had
lent her countenance to this baseness. He knew, and he knew that his
mother knew, that the baby would take all the care due to his toddling
sister. He saw, from the elevation of the hay-cock on which he and
the little one sat, that her throat had been cut in a cowardly manner
while she smiled. It seemed deliberately cruel. A lump of pity for the
child filled his throat. Still, in his heart, he forgave his mother
for her part in the duplicity. He did not feel for her the contempt he
felt for Henry Sears, his father; for the boy knew that Henry Sears
was actually proud of the family's ignominy. Jimmy blushed at the
picture in his mind of his father strutting around town, with his vest
pockets full of cigars, and his thumbs in the armpits, bragging of the
occurrence that filled the boy with shame. Jimmy felt that secretly
his mother did not consider the baby's arrival an occasion for
vainglory. He felt that his mother was merely putting a good face upon
the misfortune. These reflections kept Jimmy quiet for ten minutes.
[Illustration: _His father strutting around town ... bragging of the
occurrence that filled the boy with shame_.]
At the end thereof a calamitous fate took him up and made him its toy.
Tragedy is the everlasting piling up of little things. So Jimmy Sears
could not know that an evil destiny had come to guide his steps when
he started townward, for it came so gently. To meet Piggy Pennington
and Bud Perkins and Abe Carpenter coming out of the Pennington yard
was not such a dreadful thing. Jimmy had met them a score of times
before at that particular gate, with no serious consequences. It was
not in the least ominous that the four boys started for the Creek of
the Willows, for Jimmy had gone to the Creek times without number in
that very company. It did not augur evil for Jimmy Sears that the lot
fell to him to go forth and forage a chicken, for the great corn feast
of the Black Feet, a savage tribe of four warriors, among whom Jimmy
was known as the "Bald Eagle." Perhaps there were signs and warnings
in all these things; and then, on the other hand, perhaps Jimmy Sears
was so intent upon escaping from the shadow that lowered over his
family that he did not read the signs, and so rushed into his
misfortunes blindly. These, however, are idle speculations; they are
the materials from which sages spin their dry and ethereal webs. But
this narrative is concerned only with the facts in the case. Therefore
it is necessary to know only that when Jimmy Sears stooped to pick up
his nail-pointed arrow, lying beside a stunned pullet, he heard the
sharp nasal "sping" of a rock whirring near his head. Chicken and bow
and arrow in hand, he began to run, not looking back.
"Here, here, Jimmy Sears, hold on there!" cried a voice. Jimmy knew
the voice. It and the chicken belonged to the same person. So Jimmy
quickened his speed. He heard the clattering thump of pursuing feet.
It was two hundred yards to the end of the cob-strewn cow lot. The boy
fixed his course toward the lowest length of fence. Then he kept his
eyes upon the ground. He clenched his teeth and skimmed over the
earth. The feathers in his hat--stuck there to satisfy the verities of
his assumed Indian character--caught the breeze; so, rather than lose
his hat, he grabbed it in the hand that held the chicken. He cleared
the fence and plunged into the timber. Looking over his shoulder, he
saw a man's form on the top of the fence; the thud of boots on the sod
and the crash of branches behind him sent terror through the boy's
frame, and he turned towards the creek that flowed sluggishly near by.
He took great bounding strides, throwing his head from side to side
as he ran. The boy knew the path. It led to a rickety fence--a cattle
guard--across the river. Jimmy's heart beat wildly, and the trees
danced by him on the sloping path. But he was not "the champeen
fence-walker of Willow Creek," late of "Pennington & Carpenter's
Circus & Menagerie, price ten pins," without having won his proud
place by prowess. He came to the water's edge with sure feet. He knew
that he could cross. He had crossed the creek there a score of times.
He jumped for the slanting boards with his bare feet, and his heart
was glad. The boy was sure that no man would dare to follow him, even
if the fence would hold a man's weight. He had scurried up the bank
before his pursuer had reached the side Jimmy had leaped from so
lightly. He scooted through the underbrush. Again and again did the
"champeen fence-walker" smile to himself as he slackened his pace
to dodge a volley of rocks, and again and again did James Sears--an
exemplary youth for the most part, who knew his Ten Commandments by
heart--look exultingly at his pullet. He gloried in his iniquity.
Lentulus returning to Capua with victorious legions was not so
proud. But there the evil spirit swooped low upon him--the spirit
of destruction that always follows pride. Jimmy tripped, and lunged
forward; the chicken, the hat, the bow and arrow, and the boy
all parted company. Then Jimmy felt a pain--a sharp pain that he
recognized too well. He feared to make sure of the extent of his
injury. Instinctive knowledge told him he had "stumped" his toe. This
knowledge also brought the sense of certainty that his day's pleasure
was spoiled. He knew that he would go hobbling along, the last brave
in the Indian file. The pain in his foot began to throb as he gathered
up his weapons. He walked for a few moments without looking at the
wound. He felt the oozing blood, and he bent his body and went along,
grunting at every step. Finally coming into a flood of sunlight on the
path, he sat on a log and slowly lifted up his foot, twisting his face
into an agonized knot. He peeked at his toe at first stealthily; then
little by little uncovering it with his nursing hand, he gazed fixedly
at the wound. The flesh on the end of the toe was hanging loosely by
the skin. It was a full minute before the boy could find courage
to press the hanging flesh back to its place. In the mean time the
chicken, which lay behind him under the log, had regained its senses,
squawked hoarsely twice, and walked into the bushes. When Jimmy's mind
turned to his prize, the prize was gone. He had been in the depths as
he sat on the log. But the loss of the pullet brought with it a still
further depression, and Jimmy forgot all about his impersonation of
the "Bald Eagle." He lost his conceit in the red ochre stripes on his
face, and the iridescent feathers in his hat, and the blue-black mud
on his nimble feet. For a few moments he was just a sad-eyed boy who
saw the hand of the whole world raised against him. The cry of the new
baby rang in his ears. The thought of the other boys teasing him about
the number of babies at his house frenzied him; and as his bills of
wrongs grew longer and longer, Jimmy shook his head defiantly at all
the world. For a few hollow moments Jimmy tried to find the straying
chicken. He went through the empty form of spitting in his hand,
saying, before he came down with his index finger,--
[Illustration: _He jumped for the slanting boards with his bare feet,
and his heart was glad_.]
[Illustration: _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 eye."
[Illustration: "_Spit, spit, spy, tell me whur my chicken is, er I'll
hit ye in the eye_."]
He threw a stick in the direction the chicken might have taken, but
he knew that luck--like all the world--was against him, and he had no
heart in the rites that on another day might have brought fortune to
him. His stubbed toe was hurting him, and the murmur of a ripple in
the stream a few rods below the cattle guard called to him enticingly.
As soon as the boy deemed it safe to venture out of the thicket, he
hobbled down to the water's edge, and sat for a long time in the
shade, with the cooling water laving his bruised feet. He knew that
the other boys would miss him, but he did not care. He was enjoying
the gloom that was settling down upon him. Slowly, and by almost
imperceptible degrees, there rose in his consciousness the conviction
of guilt. At the end of an hour, the feeling that he was a thief swept
over him, covering his sense of personal grievance like a mantle. For
another hour he wrestled with a persistent devil that was tempting him
to strangle his scruples; he won. Jimmy Sears had seventeen cents in
his cast-iron bank at home--the result of a year's careful saving. He
crossed the creek and trudged back to town, and fancied that he was
walking in a sanctified road; for he was full of the resolve to go
straight to the store of the grocer who owned the chicken, and to
offer all his available resources in payment for the wrong he had
done. Only the heel of his left foot touched the ground, and he
progressed slowly. So the afternoon was old when he turned the corner
and trudged into Baker's store. The speech he was going to make, Jimmy
had recited to himself over and over. He intended to walk up to the
counter and say,--
"I want to pay for that chicken I took, Mr. Baker."
To Jimmy that sounded sufficiently humble, and yet it did not seem
completely abject. He fancied the grocer would reply,--
"All right, Jimmy; it will be twenty cents."
To which the boy expected to answer, in a clear, strong voice,--
"Well, Mr. Baker, I have seventeen cents at home; you may have that,
and I will bring in the rest as soon as my mushmelons are ripe."
With that agreement reached, Jimmy saw himself limping out of the
store. He harbored a hope that maybe the grocer, pitying the poor,
lame boy, would call him back, cancel the debt, and perhaps give him
a stick of licorice. Jimmy knew his part by heart. He was sure there
would be no halt nor break in this dialogue. But the demon that was
torturing his destiny that day probably chuckled as Jimmy crossed the
threshold of the grocery store.
The boy that the grocer saw when he looked up from the pickle barrel
certainly had a badly freckled face; the grocer thought the boy had
bold, mean eyes. The youthful jaw set firmly, and the pain in his foot
engraved ugly lines in his face. The button was off one wristband. A
long tear down the lower part of his trousers' leg revealed a glimpse
of brown, tanned skin. He was not a boy that looked like a creature of
dreams and of high resolve. No boy that amounts to much ever does
look the part, as the actors say. So when Jimmy Sears--ragged and
brazen--stood before the wronged chicken owner, rage flooded the man's
bosom. He rushed around the counter end, mumbling at the boy. The
instinct of fear crowded all the fine speeches out of Jimmy's head.
He backed off, and exclaimed, as he saw the grocer grab a butter
"Dern you, don't you touch me; I'll pay for your old chicken. Watch
Two scale weights slipped involuntarily into Jimmy's hands, and he
backed from the counter to the sidewalk. His hands were uplifted as
if to throw the weights. The grocer had not come up to the boy who
shouted in a burst of fear and anger,--
"I'll pay for your chicken, I say. Now you keep away from me!"
[Illustration: "_I'll pay for your chicken, I say. Now you keep away
The grocer hesitated, dismayed for a second by the threatening weights
in the boy's hand. But pride urged the man on. He stepped up quickly,
and planted a smarting blow on Jimmy's leg. It was well for the grocer
that he ducked his head; for when the paddle struck, the boy did not
flinch, but let drive one weight after another, and cried before each
crash of glass that the flying irons made inside the store, "Yes, you
will!" and again, "Yes, you will!"
He forgot the ache in his cramped heel and the burning in his bruised
toe as he ran to the middle of the street.
"You old coward, why don't you pick on some one your size?"
The tears were rising to his eyes; he had to run to escape from the
tide. Just as he turned, he caught a glimpse of his father joining the
gathering crowd. After that his feet grew wings.
A freight train stood on the track in front of the boy, a quarter of a
mile away. A mad impulse came to him as he ran, and he yielded to it.
A boy with a grievance, or a boy with a sore toe, or a boy with fear
at his back, cannot fashion his conduct after the beautiful principles
laid down in Mr. Herbert Spencer's "Data of Ethics." So when Jimmy
Sears came to the freight train that blocked his flight, he darted
down the track until he was out of sight of any possible pursuers in
the street. He clambered breathlessly into a coal car, and snuggled
down into a corner inside a little strip of shade, and panted like a
hunted rabbit. A sickening pain throbbed up from his toe. The train
moved slowly at first, and Jimmy knew that he could not hide from the
train men in a coal car. On a banter from Piggy Pennington and Bud
Perkins Jimmy had ridden on the brake-beam while the switch engine was
pulling freight cars about the railroad yards. He had a vague idea
that midway of the train, between two box cars, would be a safe place.
When the train began to increase its speed, Jimmy climbed up the side
of a cattle car and ran along the roof. He had gone three car-lengths
and was about to make his third jump, when he saw the angry face of
his father, who appeared on the depot platform. Instinctively the boy
darted to the other side of the car-roof. His jump fell short. The
father saw his son's head go down, and for an awful minute Henry Sears
heard the lumbering train rumble by. In the first second of that
minute, the frantic man listened for a scream. He heard none. Then
slowly he sank upon a baggage truck. He was helpless. A paralysis of
horror was upon him. Car after car jolted along. At last the yellow
caboose flashed by him. Half of the longest second Henry Sears ever
knew passed before he dared turn his eyes toward the place on the
track where his son went down. Then he looked, and saw only the cinder
track and the shining rails. But an instant later he heard a familiar
whoop, and, staring around, saw Jimmy sitting on a load of wheat that
was standing between the railroad tracks. In this the boy had fallen
after his sidewise jump had thrown him from the moving train. When
Henry Sears saw his son, Jimmy was holding his foot, jiggling it
vigorously and roaring, moved half by the hysteria of fright and half
by the pain of a fresh laceration of his bruised toe. The boy's face
was black with coal-dust and wheat chaff, and tears were striping his
features grotesquely. The palsy of terror loosened its steel bands
from the father's limbs, and he ran to the wheat-wagon. Jimmy Sears,
for all he or his father know, may have floated to the ground from the
wagon bed. But a moment later, in a frenzy wherein anger furnished
only a sub-conscious motor, and joy pumped wildly at the expanding
valves of his blissful heart, Henry Sears took his thirteen-year-old
son across his knee, and spanked him in a delirium of ecstasy; spanked
him merrily, while a heavenly peace glorified his paternal soul;
spanked him, caring not how many times the little body wriggled, and
the little voice howled, and the dirty little fingers foiled his big,
bony hand as it fell. At the end of the felicitous occasion, the
father found his voice,--
"Haven't I told you enough, sir, to keep off the cars? Haven't I?
Haven't I? Answer me, sir. Do you hear me? Haven't I?"
And Jimmy Sears knew by that turn of the conversation that the
episodes of the stolen chicken and of the broken showcases were
forgotten, so he nodded a contrite head, His father returned to earth
by giving his son a few casual cuffs, with, "Will you try that again,
sir?" and continued,--
"Now, sir, let me see you walk right straight home. And just you let
me catch you down here again!"
Jimmy was wise enough to hurry along as fast as his bleeding foot
would take him. He saw the advantage of a motion to adjourn without
further debate, and the motion prevailed.
An hour later, Jimmy Sears had washed the dirt from the interior of
an irregular circumference that touched his ears and his chin and his
hair. Until the twilight fell he stayed in the conning-tower in the
Penningtons' barn, and watched his home through a crack between two
boards. When he saw his father leave the house for town after supper,
Jimmy hurried down a lane in sight of his father, yet out of his
father's reach. At the close of twilight, Jimmy Sears came up the
hard-beaten path that led to his home, through burdock weeds and
sunflowers. There was a light in the kitchen, and through the window
he could see Mrs. Jones moving about. He observed that the supper
dishes were being put away. He saw his eldest sister, with the tea
towel in her hands, chatting happily with Mrs. Jones. The spectacle
filled him with rage. He felt that the other children had deserted
him, and that, in the war against the new baby, they had left him to
fight unaided. He met a little brother, who greeted him with,--
[Illustration: _An irregular circumference that touched his ears and
his chin and his hair_.]
"Uh-hu, Mr. Jimmy, you just wait till pa gets you!"
A prolonged and scornful "Aw!" was Jimmy's reply to this welcome. On
the step of the back porch, his favorite little sister sat playing
with the house-cat. She toddled to Jimmy; he let her take his finger,
and they went into the kitchen.
"Oh, Jimmy!--where--you--been?" demanded the eldest sister. "Mamma's
been asking for you all day. I'd be ashamed if I was you."
The boy did not deign to speak to Mrs. Jones, and kept his back to her
when he could. He did not answer his sister's question.
"Got anything here fit to eat?" he asked, as he threw open the
cupboard doors. The insult to Mrs. Jones was not accidental. Jimmy
supposed that she had cooked the supper. He put two or three plates of
food on the table, and drew up a chair, sneering bumptiously, "What's
this?" as he dived into each dish.
[Illustration: "_Got anything here fit to eat_?"]
His sister's "Why, Jimmy!" and her warning frowns did not change his
course. Mrs. Jones went to the front of the house, diplomatically
leaving all the doors open behind her, that Mrs. Sears might hear her
son's voice. In a moment the boy caught the faint sound of his mother
calling from the distant bedroom, "Jimmy, Jimmy, come here; I want
The boy pretended not to hear. She called his name again. "Yes 'm," he
answered. When she repeated her request, he filled his mouth with pie,
and replied, "I'm a-eatin' now." He slipped a piece of ice down the
back of his adoring little sister's dress, who sat near him. When she
wept noisily, he laughed under his breath, and spoke aloud to his
sister at the dish-pan,--
"What'd you want to take Annie's doll away from her for? Give it back,
why don't you?"
[Illustration: "_What'd you want to take Annie's doll away from her
"Why--Jimmy--Sears!" retorted the girl. Then lifting her voice,
"Mamma, Jimmy's put ice down--" But the lad pressed the ice against
the child's back, pretending to be removing the source of the trouble,
and the child's lusty howls drowned the girl's protest. When he heard
the bedroom door close to shield his mother from the turmoil, Jimmy
knew that he had outwitted Mrs. Jones, so he quelled the disturbance
he had caused. When Mrs. Jones returned to the kitchen, the boy was
sitting on the porch steps with his little sister, telling her about
"raw head and bloody bones," greatly to the child's horror and
Jimmy heard his elder sister inquire, "Did Mamma eat her supper?" He
heard Mrs. Jones respond, "Not very much of it; but she will after a
while, I guess. She said to leave it in there."
"Couldn't she eat any of that nice chicken Mrs. Pennington sent?"
"No, nor Mrs. Carpenter's lemon jelly."
"Poor mamma!" sighed the girl.
But Jimmy had other reflections. Two minutes later he walked past his
mother's open door, and fumbled around in the sitting-room.
"Is that you, Jimmy?" asked his mother.
"Yes 'm," rejoined the boy.
"What are you doing?"
"Lookin' for my other coat."
"Won't you come in and see me, Jimmy? I haven't seen you for two whole
"In a minute," returned Jimmy.
Standing awkwardly in the doorway, he asked, "What 'd you want?"
"Come over here, Jimmy," returned the mother. "My poor, neglected
boy!" He would not let his eyes find the new baby. He stood stiffly on
one foot, and gave his mother his hand. She drew him down and kissed
his cheek, while he pecked at her lips. As Jimmy rose, his mother
[Illustration: _She drew him down and kissed his cheek while he pecked
at her lips_.]
"Are you hungry, Jimmy?"
The boy nodded a vociferous affirmative. Being a boy, one of the
lowest orders of human creatures in point of intuitions, Jimmy could
not know that his mother understood the rankle in her son's heart. Nor
could he divine that she kept the supper dainties as peace offerings.
"Won't you have some of my supper?"
"Don't you want it?" returned the boy, to justify his greed.
"No, Jimmy; I'm not hungry. I kept it all for you."
While her son was sitting on the floor, eating off the tray on the
chair by the bed, his mother's hand was in his hair, stroking it
lovingly. His sister and the other children looked in and saw him.
Jimmy knew they were whispering "Hoggy!" but he did not heed them. His
mother avoided mentioning the new baby to him; she made him tell her
about his sore toe, and in return she told him how lonely she had been
As his stomach filled, his heart overflowed,--a common coincidence
even with older and better boys than Jimmy, and the tears came to his
eyes. At last, when the plate was cleared, he rose, and went to the
place where the new-comer lay. He bent over the little puff in the
bedclothes, and grinned sheepishly as he lifted the cover from
the sleeping baby's face. He looked at the red features a moment
curiously, and said in his loud, husky, boyish voice,--
"Hullo there, Miss Sears; how are you this evenin'?"
Then he pinched his mother's arm and walked out of the room, his soul
MUCH POMP AND SEVERAL CIRCUMSTANCES
Back of Pennington's barn, which was the royal castle of the Court of
Boyville, ran a hollow. In the hollow grew a gnarly box-elder tree.
This tree was the courtiers' hunting-lodge. In the crotches of the
rugged branches Piggy Pennington, Abe Carpenter, Jimmy Sears, Bud
Perkins, and Mealy Jones were wont to rest of a summer afternoon,
recounting the morning's adventures in the royal tourney of the
marble-ring, planning for the morrow's chase, meditating upon the
evil approach of the fall school term, and following such sedentary
pursuits as to any member of the court seemed right and proper.
One afternoon late in August the tree was alive with its arboreal
aristocracy. Abe Carpenter sat on the lowest branch, plaiting a
four-strand, square-braided "quirt"; Jimmy Sears was holding the ends.
Piggy was casually skinning cats, hanging by his legs, or chinning on
an almost horizontal limb, as he took his part in the lagging talk.
Hidden by the foliage in the thick of the tree, in a three-pronged
seat, Bud Perkins reclined, his features drawn into a painful grimace,
as his right hand passed to and fro before his mouth, rhythmically
twanging the tongue of a Jew's-harp, upon which he was playing "To My
Sweet Sunny South Take Me Home." He breathed heavily and irregularly.
His eyes were on the big white clouds in the blue sky, and his heart
was filled with the poetry of lonesomeness that sometimes comes to
boys in pensive moods. For the days when he had lived with his father,
a nomad of the creeks that flowed by half a score of waterways into
the Mississippi, were upon the far horizon of his consciousness, and
the memory of those days made him as sad as any memory ever can make a
healthy, care-free boy. He played "Dixie," partly because it was his
dead father's favorite tune, and partly because, being sprightly, it
kept down his melancholy. Later he took out a new mouth-organ, which
his foster mother had given to him, and to satisfy his boyish idea of
justice played "We shall Meet, but We shall Miss Him," because it
was Miss Morgan's favorite. While he played the Jew's-harp his tree
friends flung ribald remarks at him. But when Bud began to waver his
hand for a tremulo upon the mouth-organ as he played "Marsa's in
de Col', Col' Groun'," a peace fell upon the company, and they sat
quietly and heard his repertoire,--"Ol' Shadey," "May, Dearest May,"
"Lilly Dale," "Dey Stole My Chile Away," "Ol' Nicodemus," "Sleeping, I
Dream, Love," and "Her Bright Smile." He was a Southern boy--a bird of
passage caught in the North--and his music had that sweet, soothing
note that cheered the men who fought under the Stars and Bars.
Into this scene rushed Mealy Jones, pell mell, hat in hand,
breathless, bringing war's alarms. "Fellers, fellers," screamed Mealy,
half a block away, "it's a-comin' here! It's goin' to be here in two
weeks. The man's puttin' up the boards now, and you can get a job
An instant later the tree was deserted, and five boys were running as
fast as their legs would carry them toward the thick of the town. They
stopped at the new pine bill-board, and did not leave the man with the
paste bucket until they had seen "Zazell" flying out of the cannon's
mouth, the iron-jawed woman performing her marvels, the red-mouthed
rhinoceros with the bleeding native impaled upon its horn and the
fleeing hunters near by, "the largest elephant in captivity," carrying
the ten-thousand dollar beauty, the acrobats whirling through space,
James Robinson turning handsprings on his dapple-gray steed, and, last
and most ravishing of all, little Willie Sells in pink tights on his
three charging Shetland ponies, whose breakneck course in the picture
followed one whichever way he turned. When these glories had been
pasted upon the wall and had been discussed to the point of cynicism,
the Court of Boyville reluctantly adjourned to get in the night wood
and dream of a wilderness of monkeys.
During the two weeks after the appearance of the glad tidings on the
bill-boards, the boys of Willow Creek spent many hours in strange
habiliments, making grotesque imitations of the spectacles upon the
boards. Piggy Pennington rolled his trousers far above his knees for
tights, and galloped his father's fat delivery horse up and down the
alley, riding sideways, standing, and backwards, with much vainglory.
To simulate the motley of the tight-rope-walking clown, Jimmy Sears
wore the calico lining of his clothes outside, when he was in the
royal castle beyond his mother's ken. Mealy donned carpet slippers in
Pennington's barn, and wore long pink-and-white striped stockings of
a suspiciously feminine appearance, fastened to his abbreviated shirt
waist with stocking-suspenders, hated of all boys. Abe Carpenter, in a
bathing-trunk, did shudder-breeding trapeze tricks, and Bud Perkins,
who nightly rubbed himself limber in oil made by hanging a bottle of
angle-worms in the sun to fry, wore his red calico base-ball clothes,
and went through keg-hoops in a dozen different ways. In the streets
of the town the youngsters appeared disguised as ordinary boys. They
revelled in the pictured visions of the circus, but were sceptical
about the literal fulfilment of some of the promises made on the
bills. Certain things advertised were eliminated from reasonable
expectation: for instance, the boys all knew that the giraffe would
not be discovered eating off the top of a cocoanut-tree; nor would the
monkeys play a brass band; and they knew that they would not see the
"Human Fly" walk on the ceiling at the "concert." For no boy has ever
saved enough money to buy a ticket to the "concert." Nevertheless,
they gloated over the pictures of the herd of giraffes and the
monkey-band and the graceful "Human Fly" walking upside down "defying
the laws of gravitation;" and they considered no future, however
pleasant, after the day and date on the bills. Thus the golden day
approached, looming larger and larger upon the horizon as it came. In
the interim, how many a druggist bought his own bottles the third and
fourth time, how many a junk-dealer paid for his own iron, how many
bags of carpet rags went to the ragman, the world will never know.
[Illustration: _Piggy Pennington ... galloped his father's fat
delivery horse up and down the alley_.]
[Illustration: _Oil made by hanging a bottle of angle-worms in the sun
[Illustration: _How many bags of carpet rags went to the ragman_.]
Now, among children of a larger growth, in festive times hostile
demonstrations cease; animosities are buried; but in Boyville a
North-ender is a North-ender, a South-ender is a South-ender, and a
meeting of the two is a fight. Boyville knows no times of truce. It
asks nor offers quarter. When warring clans come together, be it
workday, holiday, or even circus day, there is a clatter of clods,
a patter of feet, and retreating hoots of defiance. And because the
circus bill-boards were frequented by boys of all kiths and clans,
clashes occurred frequently, and Bud Perkins, who was the fighter of
the South End, had many a call to arms. Indeed, the approaching circus
unloosed the dogs of war rather than nestled the dove of peace. For
Bud Perkins, in a moment of pride, issued an ukase which forbade all
North End boys to look at a certain bill-board near his home. This
ukase and his strict enforcement of it made him the target of North
End wrath. Little Miss Morgan, his foster-mother, who had adopted him
at the death of his father the summer before the circus bills were
posted, could not understand how the lad managed to lose so many
buttons, nor how he kept tearing his clothes. She ascribed these
things to his antecedents and to his deficient training. She did
not know that Bud, whom she called Henry, and whose music on the
mouth-organ seemed to come from a shy and gentle soul, was the Terror
of the South End. Her guileless mind held no place for the important
fact that North End boys generally travelled by her door in pairs
for safety. Such is the blindness of women. Cupid probably got his
defective vision from his mother's side of the house.
The last half of the last week before circus day seemed a century to
Bud and his friends. Friday and Saturday crept by, and Mealy Jones
was the only boy at Sunday-school who knew the Golden Text, for an
inflammatory rumor that the circus was unloading from the side-track
at the depot swept over the boys' side of the Sunday-school room, and
consumed all knowledge of the fifth chapter of Acts, the day's lesson.
After Sunday-school the boys broke for the circus grounds. There they
feasted their gluttonous eyes upon the canvas-covered chariots, and
the elephants, and the camels, and the spotted ponies, passing from
the cars to the tents. The unfamiliar noises, the sight of the rising
"sea of canvas," the touch of mysterious wagons containing so many
wonders, and the intoxicating smell that comes only with much canvas,
many animals, and the unpacking of Pandora's box, stuffed the boys'
senses until they viewed with utter stoicism the passing dinner hour
and the prospect of finding only cold mashed potatoes and the
necks and backs of chickens in the cupboards. They even affected
indifference to parental scoldings, and lingered about the enchanting
spot until the shadows fell eastward and the day was old.
When a boy gets on his good behavior he tempts Providence. And the
Providence of boys is frail and prone to yield. So when Bud Perkins,
who was burning with a desire to please Miss Morgan the day before the
circus, went to church that Sunday night, any one can see that he was
provoking Providence in an unusual and cruel manner. Bud did not sit
with Miss Morgan, but lounged into the church, and took a back seat.
Three North End boys came in and sat on the same bench. Then Jimmy
Sears shuffled past the North Enders, and sat beside Bud. After which
the inevitable happened. It kept happening. They "passed it on," and
passed it back again; first a pinch, then a chug, then a cuff, then a
kick under the bench. Heads craned toward the boys occasionally, and
there came an awful moment when Bud Perkins found himself looking
brazenly into the eyes of the preacher, who had paused to glare at the
boys in the midst of his sermon. The faces of the entire congregation
seemed to turn upon Bud automatically. A cherub-like expression of
conscious innocence and impenetrable unconcern beamed through Bud
Perkins's features. The same expression rested upon the countenances
of the four other malefactors. At the end of the third second Jimmy
Sears put his hand to his mouth and snorted between his fingers. And
four young men looked down their noses. In the hush, Brother Baker--a
tiptoeing Nemesis--stalked the full length of the church toward the
culprits. When he took his seat beside the boys the preacher continued
his discourse. Brother Baker's unctuousness angered Bud Perkins. He
felt the implication that his conduct was bad, and his sense of guilt
spurred his temper. Satan put a pin in Bud's hand. Slowly, almost
imperceptibly, Satan moved the boy's arm on the back of the pew,
around Jimmy Sears. Then an imp pushed Bud's hand as he jabbed the pin
into the back of a North Ender. The boy from the North End let out a
yowl of pain. Bud was not quick enough. Brother Baker saw the pin; two
hundred devout Methodists saw him clamp his fingers on Bud Perkins's
ear, and march him down the length of the church and set him beside
Miss Morgan. It was a sickening moment. The North End grinned as one
boy under its skin, and was exceeding glad. So agonizing was it for
Bud that he forgot to imagine what a triumph it was for the North
End--and further anguish is impossible for a boy.
[Illustration: _Brother Baker--a tiptoeing Nemesis_.]
Miss Morgan and Bud Perkins left the church with the congregation. Bud
dreaded the moment when they would leave the crowd and turn into their
side street. When they did turn, Bud was lagging a step or two behind.
A boy's troubles are always the fault of the other boy. The North End
boy's responsibility in the matter was so clear--to Bud--that, when he
went to justify himself to Miss Morgan, he was surprised and hurt at
what he considered her feminine blindness to the fact. After she had
passed her sentence she asked: "Do you really think you deserve to go,
The blow stunned the boy. He saw the visions of two weeks burst like
bubbles, and he whimpered: "I dunno." But in his heart he did know
that to deny a boy the joy of seeing Willie Sells on his three
Shetland ponies, for nothing in the world but showing a North-ender
his place, was a piece of injustice of the kind for which men and
nations go to war. At breakfast Bud kept his eyes on his plate. His
face wore the resigned look of a martyr. Miss Morgan was studiously
gracious. He dropped leaden monosyllables into the cheery flow of her
conversation, and after breakfast put in his time at the woodshed.
At eight o'clock that morning the town of Willow Creek was in the
thrall of the circus. Country wagons were passing on every side
street. Delivery carts were rattling about with unusual alacrity.
By half-past nine dressed-up children were flitting along the side
streets hurrying their seniors. On the main thoroughfare flags were
flying, and the streams of strangers that had been flowing into town
were eddying at the street corners. The balloon-vender wormed his way
through the buzzing crowd, leaving his wares in a red and blue trail
behind him. The bark of the fakir rasped the tightening nerves of the
town. Everywhere was hubbub; everywhere was the dusty, heated air of
the festival; everywhere were men and women ready for the marvel that
had come out of the great world, bringing pomp and circumstance in its
gilded train; everywhere in Willow Creek the spirit which put the blue
sash about the country girl's waist and the flag in her beau's hat ran
riot, save at the home of Miss Morgan. There the bees hummed lazily
over the old-fashioned flower garden; there the cantankerous jays
jabbered in the cottonwoods; there the muffled noises of the town
festival came as from afar; there Miss Morgan puttered about her
morning's work, trying vainly to croon a gospel hymn; and there Bud
Perkins, prone upon the sitting-room sofa, made parallelograms and
squares and diamonds with the dots and lines on the ceiling paper.
When the throb of the drum and the blare of the brass had set the
heart of the town to dancing, some wave of the ecstasy seeped through
the lilac bushes and into the quiet house. The boy on the sofa started
up suddenly, checked himself ostentatiously, walked to the bird
cage, and began to play with the canary. The wave carried the little
spinster to the window. The circus had a homestead in human hearts
before John Wesley staked his claim, and even so good a Methodist as
Miss Morgan could not be deaf to the scream of the calliope nor the
tinkle of cymbals.
[Illustration: _Dressed-up children were flitting along the side
streets, hurrying their seniors_.]
[Illustration: _The Balloon-Vender wormed his way through the buzzing
crowd, leaving his wares in a red and blue trail behind him_.]
[Illustration: _The Blue Sash about the country girl's waist and the
flag in her Beau's hat_.]
To emphasize his desolation, Bud left the room, and sat down by a tree
in the yard, with his back to the kitchen door and window. There Miss
Morgan saw him playing mumble-peg in a desultory fashion. When the
courtiers of Boyville came home from the parade they found him; and
because he sat playing a silent, sullen, solitary game, and responded
to their banter only with melancholy grunts, they knew that the worst
had befallen him. Much confab followed, in which the pronoun "she" and
"her" were spoken. Otherwise Miss Morgan was unidentified. For the
conversation ran thus, over and over:--
"You ask her."
"Naw, I've done ast 'er."
"'T won't do no good for me to ast 'er. She don't like me."
"I ain't 'fraid to ast 'er."
"Well, then, why don't you?"
"Why don't _you_?"
"Let's all ast 'er."
"S'pose she will, Bud?"
Then Piggy and Abe and Jimmy and Mealy came trapesing up to Miss
Morgan's kitchen door. Bud sat by the tree twirling his knife at his
game. Piggy, being the spokesman, stood in the doorway. "Miss Morgan,"
he said, as he slapped his leg with his hat.
"Well, Winfield?" replied the little woman, divining his mission, and
hardening her heart against his purpose.
"Miss Morgan," he repeated, and then coaxed sheepishly, "can't Bud go
to the show with us, Miss Morgan?"
"I'm afraid not to-day," smiled back Miss Morgan, as she went about
her work. A whisper from the doorstep prompted Piggy to "ask her why;"
whereat Piggy echoed: "Why can't he, Miss Morgan?"
"Henry misbehaved in church last night, and we've agreed that he shall
stay home from the circus."
Piggy advanced a step or two inside the door, laughing diplomatically:
"O--no, Miss Morgan; don't you think he's agreed. He's just dyin' to
Miss Morgan smiled, but did not join in Piggy's hilarity--a bad
sign. Piggy tried again: "They got six elephants, and one's a trick
elephant. You'd die a-laughin' if you saw him." And Piggy went into a
spasm of laughter.
[Illustration: "_One's a trick elephant. You'd die a-laughing if you
But it left Miss Morgan high and dry upon the island of her
Piggy prepared for an heroic measure, and stepped over to the kitchen
table, leaning upon it as he pleaded: "This is the last circus this
year, Miss Morgan, and it's an awful good one. Can't he go just this
[Illustration: "_It's an awful good one. Can't he go just this
The debate lasted ten minutes, and at the end four boys walked slowly,
with much manifestation of feeling, back to the tree where the fifth
sat. There was woe and lamentation after the manner of boy-kind. When
the boys left the yard it seemed to Miss Morgan that she could not
look from her work without seeing the lonesome figure of Bud. In
the afternoon the patter of feet by her house grew slower, and then
ceased. Occasionally a belated wayfarer sped by. The music of the
circus band outside of the tent came to Miss Morgan's ears on gusts
of wind, and died away as the wind ebbed. She dropped the dish-cloth
three times in five minutes, and washed her cup and saucer twice. She
struggled bravely in the Slough of Despond for awhile, and then turned
back with Pliable.
"Henry," she said, as the boy walked past her carrying peppergrass to
the bird, "Henry, what made you act so last night?"
The boy dropped his head and answered: "I dunno."
"But, Henry, didn't you know it was wrong?"
"Why did you stick that little boy with the pin?"
"Well--well--" he gasped, preparing for a defence. "Well--he pinched
"Yes, Henry, but don't you know that it's wrong to do those things in
church? Don't you see how bad it was?"
"I was just a-playin', Miss Morgan; I didn't mean to."
Bud did not dare to trust his instinctive reading of the signs. He
went on impulsively: "I wanted him to quit, but he just kept right on,
and Brother Baker didn't touch him."
The wind brought the staccato music of the circus band to the
foster-mother's ears. The music completed her moral decay, for she was
thinking, if Brother Baker would only look after his own children as
carefully as he looked after those of other people, the world would
be better. Then she said: "Now, Henry, if I let you go, just this
once--now just this once, mind you--will you promise never to do
anything like that again?"
Blackness dropped from the boy's spirit, and by main strength he
strangled a desire to yell. The desire revived when he reached the
alley, and he ran whooping to the circus grounds.
There is a law of crystallization among boys which enables molecules
of the same gang to meet in whatever agglomeration they may be thrown.
So ten minutes after Bud Perkins left home he found Piggy and Jimmy
and old Abe and Mealy in the menagerie tent. Whereupon the South End
was able to present a bristling front to the North End--a front which
even the pleasings of the lute in the circus band could not break. But
the boys knew that the band playing in the circus tent meant that
the performance in the ring was about to begin. So they cut short
an interesting dialogue with a keeper, concerning the elephant that
remembered the man who gave her tobacco ten years ago, and tried to
kill him the week before the show came to Willow Creek. But when the
pageant in the ring unfolded its tinselled splendor in the Grand
Entry, Bud Perkins left earth and walked upon clouds of glory. His
high-strung nerves quivered with delight as the ring disclosed its
treasures--Willie Sells on his spotted ponies, James Robinson on his
dapple gray, the "8 funny clowns--count them 8," the Japanese jugglers
and tumblers, the bespangled women on the rings, the dancing ponies,
and the performing dogs. The climax of his joy came when Zazell, "the
queen of the air," was shot from her cannon to the trapeze. Bud had
decided, days before the circus, that this feature would please
him most. Zazell's performance was somewhat tame, but immediately
thereafter a really startling thing happened. A clown holding the
trick mule called to the boys near Bud, who nudged him into the
clown's attention. The clown, drawing from the wide pantaloons a
dollar, pantomimed to Bud. He held it up for the boy and all the
spectators to see. Alternately he pointed to the trick mule and to the
coin, coaxing and questioning by signs, as he did so. It took perhaps
a minute for Bud's embarrassment to wear off. Then two motives
impelled him to act. He didn't propose to let the North-enders see
his embarrassment, and he saw that he might earn the dollar for Miss
Morgan's missionary box, thus mitigating the disgrace he had brought
upon her in church. This inspiration literally flashed over Bud, and
before he knew it, he was standing in the ring, with his head cocked
upon one side to indicate his utter indifference to everything in the
world. Of course it was a stupendous pretence. For under his pretty
starched shirt, which Miss Morgan had forced on him in the hurry of
departure, his heart was beating like a little windmill in a gale. As
Bud bestrode the donkey the cheers of the throng rose, but above the
tumult he could hear the North End jeering him. He could hear the
words the North-enders spoke, even their "ho-o-oho-os," and their
"nyayh-nyayh-nyayahs," and their "look--at--old--pretty--boy's," and
their "watch-him-hit-the-roof's," and their "get-a-basket's," and
similar remarks less desirable for publication. As the donkey cantered
off, Bud felt sure he could keep his seat. Once the animal bucked. Bud
did not fall. The donkey ran, and stopped quickly. Bud held on. Then
the donkey's feet twinkled--it seemed to Bud in the very top of the
tent--and Bud slid off the animal's neck to the ring. The clown
brought the boy his hat, and stood over him as he rose. Bud laughed
stupidly into the chalked face of the clown, who handed Bud a dollar,
remarking in a low voice, "Well, son, you're a daisy. They generally
drop the first kick."
[Illustration: "_Well, son, you're a daisy. They generally drop the
What passed in the ring as Bud left it, bedraggled and dusty, did not
interest him. He brushed himself as he went. The band was playing
madly, and the young woman in the stiff skirts was standing by her
horse ready to mount. The crowd did not stop laughing; Bud inclined
his head to dust his knickerbockers, and then in a tragic instant he
saw what was convulsing the multitude with laughter. The outer seam of
the right leg of his velveteen breeches was gone, and a brown leg was
winking in and out from the flapping garment as he walked. Wildly he
gathered the parted garment, and it seemed to him that he never would
cover the ground between the ring and the benches. In the course of
several aeons--which the other boys measured by fleeting minutes--the
wave of shame that covered Bud subsided. Pins bound up the wounds in
his clothes. He drew a natural breath, and was able to join the mob
which howled down the man who announced the concert.
After that the inexorable minutes flew by until the performance ended.
In the menagerie tent Bud and his friends looked thirstily upon the
cool, pink "schooners" of lemonade, and finally, when they had spent
a few blissful moments with the monkeys and had enjoyed a last, long,
lingering look at the elephants, they dragged themselves unwillingly
away into the commonplace of sunshine and trees and blue sky. Only the
romantic touch of the side-show banners and the wonder of the gilded
wagons assured them that their memories of the passing hour were not
The boys were standing enraptured before the picture of the fat woman
upon the swaying canvas. Bud had drifted away from them to glut his
eyes upon the picture of the snakes writhing around the charmer. The
North-enders had been following Bud at a respectful distance, waiting
for the opportunity which his separation from his clan gave to them.
They were enforced by a country boy of great reputed prowess in
battle. Bud did not know his danger until they pounced upon him. In an
instant the fight was raging. Over the guy ropes it went, under the
ticket wagon, into the thick of the lemonade stands. And when Piggy
and Abe and Jimmy had joined it, they trailed the track of the storm
by torn hats, bruised, battle-scarred boys, and the wreckage incident
to an enlivening occasion. When his comrades found Bud, the argument
had narrowed down to Bud and the boy from the country, the other
wranglers having dropped out for heavy repairs. The fight, which had
been started to avenge ancient wrongs, particularly the wrongs of the
bill-board, only added new wrongs to the list. The country boy was
striking wildly, and trying to clinch his antagonist, when the town
marshal--the bogie-man of all boys--stopped the fight. But of course
no town marshal can come into the thick of a discussion in Boyville
and know much of the merits of the question. So when the marshal of
Willow Creek saw Bud Perkins putting the finishing touches of a good
trouncing on a strange boy, and also saw Bill Pennington's boy, and
Henry Sears's boy, and Mrs. Carpenter's boy, and old man Jones's boy
dancing around in high glee at the performance, he quietly gathered in
the boys he knew, and let the stranger go.
[Illustration: _The other 'wranglers ... dropped out for heavy
Now no boy likes to be marched down the main street of his town with
the callous finger of the marshal under his shirt-band. The spectacle
operates distinctly against the peace and dignity of Boyville for
months thereafter. For passing youths who forget there is a morrow
jibe at the culprits and thus plant the seeds of dissensions which
bloom in fights. It was a sweaty, red-faced crew that the marshal
dumped into Pennington's grocery with, "Here, Bill, I found your boy
and these young demons fightin' down 't the circus ground, and I took
'em in charge. You 'tend to 'em, will you?"
Mr. Pennington's glance at his son showed that Piggy was unharmed. A
swift survey of the others gave each, save Bud, a bill of health. But
when Mr. Pennington's eyes fell on Bud, he leaned on a show-case and
laughed till he shook all over; for Bud, with a rimless hat upon a
towselled head, with a face scratched till it looked like a railroad
map, with a torn shirt that exposed a dirty shoulder and a freckled
back, with trousers so badly shattered that two hands could hardly
hold them together,--as Mr. Pennington expressed it, Bud looked like a
second-hand boy. The simile pleased Pennington so that he renewed his
laughter, and paid no heed to the chatter of the pack clamoring to
tell all in one breath, the history of the incident that had led to
Bud's dilapidation. Also they were drawing gloomy pictures of the
appearance of his assailants, after the custom of boys in such cases.
Because his son was not involved in the calamity, Piggy's father was
not moved deeply by the story of the raid of the North-enders and
their downfall. So he put the young gentlemen of the Court of Boyville
into the back room of his grocery store, where coal-oil and molasses
barrels and hams and bacon and black shadows of many mysterious
things were gathered. He gave the royal party a cheese knife and a
watermelon, and bade them be merry, a bidding which set the hearts of
Piggy and Abe and Jimmy and Mealy to dancing, while Bud's heart, which
had been sinking lower and lower into a quagmire of dread, beat
on numbly and did not join the joy. As the time for going home
approached, Bud shivered in his soul at the thought of meeting Miss
Morgan. Not even the watermelon revived him, and when a watermelon
will not help a boy his extremity is dire. Still he laughed and
chatted with apparent merriment, but he knew how hollow was his
laughter and what mockery was in his cheer. When the melon was eaten
business took its regular order.
[Illustration: _When Mr. Pennington's eyes fell on Bud, he leaned on a
show-case and laughed till he shook all over_.]
"Say, Bud, how you goin' to get home?" asked Abe.
Bud grinned as he looked at his rags.
"Gee," said Mealy, "I'm glad it ain't me."
"Aw, shucks," returned Bud, and he thought of the stricken Ananias in
the Sunday-school lesson leaf as he spoke; "run right through like I
always do. What I got to be 'fraid of?"
"Yes, Mr. Bud, you can laugh, but you know you'll catch it when you
This shaft from Jimmy Sears put in words the terror in Bud's heart.
But he replied: "I'll bet you I don't."
Bud's instinct piloted him by a circuitous route up the alley to the
kitchen door. Miss Morgan sat on the front porch, waiting for the boy
to return before serving supper. He stood helplessly in the kitchen
for a minute, with a weight of indecision upon him. He feared to go
to the front porch, where Miss Morgan was. He feared to stay in the
kitchen. But when he saw the empty wood-box a light seemed to dawn.
Instinct guided him to the woodpile, and the law of self-preservation
filled his arms with wood, and instinct carried him to the kitchen
wood-box time and again, and laid the wood in the box as gently as if
it had been glass and as softly as if it had been velvet. Not until
the pile had grown far above the wainscoting on the kitchen wall, did
a stick crashing to the floor tell Miss Morgan that Bud was in the
But there is a destiny that shapes our ends, and just as the falling
wood attracted Miss Morgan's attention, it was diverted by a
belligerent party at her front gate. This belligerent party was
composed of two persons, to wit: one mother from the north end of
Willow Creek, irate to the spluttering point, and one boy lagging as
far behind the mother as his short arm would allow him to lag. The
mother held the short arm, and was literally dragging her son to Miss
Morgan's gate to offer him in evidence as "Exhibit A" in a possible
cause of the State of Kansas vs. Henry Perkins. Exhibit A was black
and blue as to the eyes, torn as to the shirt, bloody as to the nose,
tumbled and dusty as to the hair, and as to the countenance, clearly
and unquestionably sheep-faced. The mother opened the bombardment
with: "Miss Morgan, I just want you to look at my boy."
[Illustration: "_Miss Morgan, I just want you to look at my boy_."]
Miss Morgan looked in horror, and exclaimed: "Well, for mercy sakes!
Where on earth's he been?"
And the leader of the war party returned: "Where's he been? Well, I'll
tell you where he's been. And I just want you to know who done this."
Here Exhibit A got behind a post. The recital of the details of his
catastrophe was humiliating. But the mother continued: "Henry Perkins
done this. I don't believe in stirring up neighborhood quarrels and
all that, but I've just stood this long enough. My boy can't stick his
nose out of the door without that Perkins boy jumpin' on him. If you
can't do anything with that Perkins boy, I'll show him there's a law
in this land."
Miss Morgan wilted as the speech proceeded. She had voice only to say,
"I'm sure there's some mistake;" and then remembering the crash of the
wood on the kitchen floor, she called: "Henry, come here!"
As Bud shambled through the house, the spokesman of the belligerents
replied: "No, there isn't no mistake either. My boy is a good little
boy, and just as peaceable a boy as there is in this town. And because
I don't allow him to fight, that Perkins boy picks on him all the
time. I've told him to keep out of his way and not to play with Henry
Perkins, but he can't be runnin' all over this town to keep--"
And then Exhibit B, with scratched face, tattered raiment, and grimy
features, stood in the doorway. The witness for the State looked in
dumb amazement at the wreck. Miss Morgan saw Bud, and her temper
rose--not at him, but at his adversary. Exhibit A sulkily turned his
face from Exhibit B, and Exhibit B seemed to be oblivious of the
presence of Exhibit A; for the boys it was a scene too shameful for
mutual recognition. Miss Morgan broke the heavy silence with: "Henry,
where on earth have you been?"
"Been t' the circus," replied the boy.
"Henry, did you blacken that little boy's eyes, and tear his clothes
that way?" inquired Miss Morgan when her wits returned.
"Why--no'm--I didn't. But he was one of four fellers that picked on me
comin' home from the circus, and tried to lick me."
"Willie," demanded the head of the attacking posse, "did you pick a
fight with that Perkins boy?"
"Oh, no 'm, no 'm! I was just playin' round the tent, me and
another boy, and Bud he come up and jumped on us." And then to add
verisimilitude to his narrative, he appended: "Him and four other
"Henry," asked Miss Morgan, as she surveyed the debris of Henry's
Sunday clothes, and her womanly wrath for the destroyer of them began
to boil, "Henry, now tell me honestly, is this little boy telling the
truth? Now, don't you story to me, Henry."
"Honest injun, Miss Morgan, I cross my heart and hope to drop dead
this minute if I ain't tellin' you the way it was. Him and them
North-enders, why they come along and called me names, and he tried to
hit me, and I just shoved him away like this," and Henry executed a
polite pantomime. "And I was swingin' my arms out to keep 'em all from
hittin' me, and he got in the way, and I couldn't help it. And they
was all a pickin' on me, and I told 'em all the time I didn't want to
But Exhibit A kept looking at his mother and shaking his head in
violent contradiction of Bud, as the story was told.
Miss Morgan asked: "Who scratched your face so, Henry?"
"Him; he's all the time fightin' me."
"No, ma, I didn't. You know I didn't."
Exhibit A and Exhibit B were still back to back. Then Exhibit B
responded: "Miss Morgan, you ast him if he didn't cuss and damn me,
and say he was goin' to pound me to death if I ever come north of
To which the leader of the raiders returned in great scorn: "The very
idea! Just listen at that! Why, Miss Morgan, that Perkins boy is the
bully of this town. Come on, Willie, your pa will see if there is no
law to protect you from such boys as him." Whereupon the war party
faced about, and walked down the sidewalk and away.
Miss Morgan and Bud watched the North End woman and her son depart.
Miss Morgan turned to Bud, and spoke spiritedly: "Now, Henry, don't
ever have anything to do with that kind of trash again. Now, you won't
forget, will you, Henry?"
[Illustration: "_Now, Henry, don't ever have anything to do with that
kind of trash again_."]
Bud examined his toes carefully, and replied, "No 'm."
In the threshold she put her hand on the boy's shoulder, and
continued: "Now, don't you mind about it, Henry. They sha'n't touch
you. You come and wash, and we'll have supper."
When a boy has a woman for a champion, if he is wise, he trusts her to
any length. So Bud went to the kitchen, picked up the water-bucket,
and went to the well, partly to keep from displaying a gathering wave
of affection for his foster-mother, and partly to let the magnificence
of the wood-box burst upon her in his absence. When he returned, he
found Miss Morgan pointing toward the wood-box and beaming upon him.
Bud grinned, and fished in his pocket for the coin.
[Illustration: "_Here's a dollar I got for ridin' the trick mule.... I
thought it would be nice for the missionary society_."]
"Here's a dollar I got for ridin' the trick mule," he faltered. "I
thought it would be nice for the missionary society." That he might
check any weak feminine emotions, he turned his attention to the
supper-table, and blurted: "Gee, we're goin' to have pie, ain't we? I
tell you, I'm mighty pie hungry."
[Illustration: "_Gee, we're going to have pie, ain't we_."]
The glow of Miss Morgan's melted heart shone upon her face. Through a
seraphic smile she spoke: "It's apple pie, too, Henry--your kind." As
she put the supper upon the table, she asked: "Did you have a good
time at the circus, Henry?"
The boy nodded vehemently, and said: "You bet!" and then went on,
after a pause, "I guess I tore my pants a little gettin' off of that
mule; but I thought you'd like the dollar."
It was the finest speech he could make. "I guess I can mend them,
Henry," she answered; and then she asked, with her face in the
cupboard, "Sha'n't we try some of the new strawberry preserves,
As she was opening the jar she concluded that Henry Perkins was an
angel--a conclusion which, in view of the well-known facts, was
"THE HERB CALLED HEARTS-EASE"
Did you hear him? I dare say that boy lives a merrier life and wears
more of the herb called hearts-ease in his bosom than he that is clad
in silk and velvet.--_From the Observations of "Mr. Great Heart_."
It was dusk in Boyville. The boys at a game of hide-and-seek filled
the air with their calls:
"Bushel of wheat, and a
Bushel of rye--
All t' ain't ready
All in ten feet of my base is caught: All eyes open."
"One--two--three for me."
"All's out's in free."
Among the trees they scampered; into hay-stacks they wormed; over
barrels and boxes they wiggled; they huddled under the sunflowers and
the horse-weeds. It was a royal game, but as the moon rose it merged
into pull-away. That game flourished for a while and transformed
itself by an almost imperceptible evolution into a series of races
down the dusty road. But when the moon's silver had marked itself upon
the grass, the boys were lying prone on a hay-cock behind the royal
castle. They chattered idly, and the murmur of their talk rose on
the just-felt breeze that greets the rising moon, like the ripple of
waters. But the chatter was only a seeming. For in truth the boys were
absorbing the glory of the moonlight. And the undertones of their
being were sounding in unison with the gentle music of the hour. Their
souls--fresher from God than are the souls of men--were a-quiver with
joy, and their lips babbled to hide their ecstasies. In Boyville it
is a shameful thing to flaunt the secrets of the heart. As the night
deepened, and the shy stars peeped at the bold moon, the boys let
their prattle ebb into silence. Long they lay looking upward--with the
impulse in their souls that prompted the eternal question that Adam
left unanswered, that David cried in passion across his harp, that the
wise men of the world have left locked in mystery--the question of the
Whence, the Why, and the Whither.
As the moon climbed high into the arc of the Heavens, the company upon
the hay-cock dispersed, one by one, till a solitary boy remained.
After he had gazed at the moon awhile a thrill of sheer madness set
him to tumbling, head over heels, upon the fresh hay. Life was full of
gladness for him, and his throat cramped with a delicious longing for
he knew not what. He wondered vaguely if it were not something new
and unimaginably good to eat. It was the nearest he could come to a
defining of the longing. Of course no one can define it. It is that
which quickens the blood of all young creatures--the rosebud, the
meadow-lark, the dragon-fly, the colt, the boy and the maiden, bidding
them glorify God with the show and the example of their comeliness.
The boy rose from the hay and skipped under the trees, over the
fantastic figures of the moon-spun carpet. He waved his arms, and
there came to his throat a simple song, which he chanted croakingly,
lest some one should hear him and laugh. He stopped, and sitting on a
fence looked at a great white cloud that was mounting the western sky.
His soul was listening to the faraway music from the breakers of the
restless rising sea of ambition, and the rush of life and action, that
were flooding into the distant rim of his consciousness. The music
charmed him. Tears came to his eyes, he knew not why. But we, whom
this mighty tide has carried away from that bourne whereon the boy's
feet strayed so happily--we know why the far-seeing angels gave him
A dog in some distant farm-yard was baying at the moon. A whining
screech owl sent a faint shudder of superstitious fear over the boy.
For a long time he sat on the fence absorbing the night sounds--the
claque of the frogs, the burring of the crickets, the hum of the water
on the mill-dam far down the valley, and the occasional call of some
human voice, ringing like a golden bell in the hush of the night. It
was after nine and the boy was deep in his trackless revery. A woman
"Win-nee, Win-nee, oh, Winnie."
The spell upon him was almost too delicious to break; but he roused
himself to reply,--
"Yessum. All right."
Then the mother's voice continued: "Now wash your feet, Winnie, and
wipe 'em dry; don't come to bed with dirty feet."
Slowly the boy climbed to the earth. He shuffled through dew, but his
feet were still too dirty. He stood in the tub of water by the pump,
rubbing one foot with the other, and his eyes turned moonward. The
thrall of the night caught him again. In a hazy stupor he sat on the
kitchen step drying his feet. When he got up, Piggy Pennington gazed
for a moment at a star--a pale star which hovered timidly over the
chimney of the home which sheltered his Heart's Desire. With the
lunacy upon him, he flung to the star a bashful kiss. Then he grinned
foolishly and came to himself with a grunt, as he ran up stairs to his
room. He was ashamed to face the south breeze that fanned his bed.