Part 1 out of 7
Produced by Suzanne Shell and PG Distributed Proofreaders
THE WRONG TWIN
BY HARRY LEON WILSON
TO HELEN AND LEON
[Illustration: "THE GIRL NOW GLOWERED AT EACH OF THEM IN TURN. 'I DON'T
CARE!' SHE MUTTERED. 'I WILL, TOO, RUN AWAY!'"]
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
"The girl now glowered at each of them in turn. 'I don't care!' she
muttered. 'I will, too, run away!'"
"'I can always find a little time for bankers. I never kept one waiting
yet and I won't begin now.'"
"The girl was already reading Wilbur's palm, disclosing to him that he
had a deep vein of cruelty in his nature."
"The malign eye was worn so proudly that the wearer bubbled
vaingloriously of how he had achieved the stigma."
An establishment in Newbern Center, trading under the name of the Foto
Art Shop, once displayed in its window a likeness of the twin sons of
Dave Cowan. Side by side, on a lavishly fringed plush couch, they
confronted the camera with differing aspects. One sat forward with a
decently, even blandly, composed visage, nor had he meddled with his
curls. His mate sat back, scowling, and fought the camera to the bitter
end. His curls, at the last moment, had been mussed by a raging hand.
This was in the days of an earlier Newbern, when the twins were four and
Winona Penniman began to be their troubled mentor--troubled lest they
should not grow up to be refined persons; a day when Dave Cowan, the
widely travelled printer, could rightly deride its citizenry as
small-towners; a day when the Whipples were Newbern's sole noblesse and
the Cowan twins not yet torn asunder.
The little town lay along a small but potent river that turned a few
factory wheels with its eager current, and it drew sustenance from the
hill farms that encircled it for miles about. You had to take a dingy
way train up to the main line if you were going the long day's journey
to New York, so that the Center of the name was often construed
facetiously by outlanders.
Now Newbern Center is modern, and grows callous. Only the other day a
wandering biplane circled the second nine of its new golf course, and of
the four players on the tenth green but one paid it the tribute of an
upward glance. Even this was a glance of resentment, for his partner at
that instant eyed the alignment for a three-foot putt and might be
distracted. The annoyed player flung up a hostile arm at the thing and
waved it from the course. Seemingly abashed, the machine slunk off into
a cloud bank.
Old Sharon Whipple, the player who putted, never knew that above him had
gone a thing he had very lately said could never be. Sharon has grown
modern with the town. Not so many years ago he scoffed at rumours of a
telephone. He called it a contraption, and said it would be against the
laws of God and common sense. Later he proscribed the horseless carriage
as an impracticable toy. Of flying he had affirmed that the fools who
tried it would deservedly break their necks, and he had gustily raged at
the waste of a hundred and seventy-five acres of good pasture land when
golf was talked.
Yet this very afternoon the inconsequent dotard had employed a telephone
to summon his car to transport him to the links, and had denied even a
glance of acknowledgment at the wonder floating above him. Much like
that is growing Newbern. There was gasping aplenty when Winona Penniman
abandoned the higher life and bought a flagrant pair of satin dancing
slippers, but now the town lets far more sensational doings go almost
The place tosses even with the modern fever of unrest. It has its
bourgeoisie, its proletariat, its radicals, but also a city-beautiful
association and a rather captious sanitary league. Lately a visiting
radical, on the occasion of a certain patriotic celebration, expressed a
conventional wish to spit upon the abundantly displayed flag. A knowing
friend was quick to dissuade him.
"Don't do it! Don't try it! Here, now, you got no freedom! Should you
spit only on their sidewalk, they fine the heart's blood out of you."
* * * * *
Midway between these periods of very early and very late Newbern there
was once a shining summer morning on which the Cowan twins, being then
nine years old, set out from the Penniman home to pick wild
blackberries along certain wooded lanes that environed the town. They
were bare-footed, wearing knee pants buttoned to calico waists, these
being patterned with small horseshoes which the twins had been told by
their father would bring them good luck. They wore cloth caps, and
carried tin pails for their berries. These would be sold to the
Pennimans at an agreed price of five cents a quart, and it was Winona's
hope that the money thus earned on a beautiful Saturday morning would on
Sunday be given to the visiting missionary lately returned from China.
Winona had her doubts, however, chiefly of Wilbur Cowan's keenness for
proselyting, on his own income, in foreign lands. Too often with money
in hand, he had yielded to the grosser tyranny of the senses.
The twins ran races in the soft dust of the highway until they reached
the first outlying berry patch. Here they became absorbed in their work.
They were finding well-laden bushes along the fence of what to-day is
known as the old graveyard.
Newbern now has a sophisticated new cemetery, with carved marble and
tall shafts of polished granite, trimmed shrubs, and garnished mounds,
contrasting--as the newer town to the old--with the dingy inclosure
where had very simply been inhumed the dead of that simpler day. In the
new cemetery blackberry bushes would not be permitted. Along the older
plot they flourished. The place itself is over-grown with rank grasses,
with ivy run wild, with untended shrubs, often hiding the memorials,
which are mostly of brown sandstone or gray slate. It lies in deep
shadow under cypress and willow. It is very still under the gloom of its
careless growths--a place not reassuring to the imaginative.
The bottoms of the tin pails had been covered with berries found outside
the board fence, and now a hunt for other laden bushes led the twins to
a trove of ripened fruit partly outside and partly inside that plot
where those of old Newbern had been chested and laid unto their fathers.
There was, of course, no question as to the ownership of that fruit out
here. It was any one's. There followed debate on a possible right to
that which grew abundantly beyond the fence. By some strange but not
unprecedented twisting of the mature mind of authority, might it not
belong to those inside, or to those who had put them there? Further,
would Mrs. Penniman care to make pies of blackberries--even the largest
and ripest yet found--that had grown in a graveyard?
"They taste just the same," announced the Wilbur twin, having, after a
cautious survey, furtively reached through two boards of the fence to
retrieve a choice cluster.
"I guess nobody would want 'em that owns 'em," conceded Wilbur.
"Well, you climb over first."
"We better both go together at the same time."
"No, one of us better try it first and see; then, if it's all right,
I'll climb over, too."
"Aw, I know a better patch up over West Hill in the Whipple woods."
"What you afraid of? Nobody would care about a few old blackberries."
"I ain't afraid."
"You act like it, I must say. If you wasn't afraid you'd climb that
fence pretty quick, wouldn't you? Looky, the big ones!"
The Wilbur twin reflected on this. It sounded plausible. If he wasn't
afraid, of course he would climb that fence pretty quick. It stood to
reason. It did not occur to him that any one else was afraid. He decided
that neither was he.
"Well, I'm afraid of things that ain't true that scare you in the dark,"
he admitted, "but I ain't afraid like that now. Not one bit!"
"Well, I dare you to go."
"Well, of course I'll go. I was just resting a minute. I got to rest a
little, haven't I?"
"Well, I guess you're rested. I guess you can climb a plain and simple
fence, can't you? You can rest over there, can't you--just as well as
what you can rest here?"
The resting one looked up and down the lane, then peered forward into
the shadowy tangle of green things with its rows of headstones. Then,
inhaling deeply, he clambered to the top of the fence and leaped to the
"Gee, gosh!" he cried, for he had landed on a trailing branch of
He sat down and extracted a thorn from the leathery sole of his bare
foot. The prick of the thorn had cleaned his mind of any merely fanciful
fears. A surpassing lot of berries was there for the bold to take. His
brother stared not too boldly through the fence at the pioneer.
"Go on and try picking some," he urged in the subdued tones of extreme
The other calmly set to work. The watcher awaited some mysterious
punishment for this desecration. Presently, nothing having happened, he
glowed with a boldness of his own and mounted to the top of the fence,
where he again waited. He whistled, affecting to be at ease, but with a
foot on the safe side of the fence. The busy worker inside paid him no
attention. Presently Merle yawned.
"Well, I guess I'll come in there myself and pick a few berries," he
said very loudly.
He was giving fair notice to any malign power that might be waiting to
blast him. After a fitting interval, he joined his brother and fell to
"Well, I must say!" he chattered. "Who's afraid to come into a graveyard
when they can get berries like this? We can fill the pails, and that's
thirty cents right here."
The fruit fell swiftly. The Wilbur twin worked in silence. But Merle
appeared rather to like the sound of a human voice. He was aimlessly
loquacious. His nerves were not entirely tranquil.
"They're growing right over this old one," announced Wilbur presently.
Merle glanced up to see him despoiling a bush that embowered one of the
brown headstones and an all but obliterated mound.
"You better be careful," he warned.
"I guess I'm careful enough for this old one," retorted the bolder
twin, and swept the trailing bush aside to scan the stone. It was
weather-worn and lichened, but the carving was still legible.
"It says, 'Here lies Jonas Whipple, aged eighty-seven,' and it says, 'he
passed to his reward April 23, 1828,' and here's his picture."
He pointed to the rounded top of the stone where was graven a circle
inclosing primitive eyes, a nose, and mouth. From the bottom of the
circle on either side protruded wings.
Merle drew near to scan the device. He was able to divine that the
intention of the artist had not been one of portraiture.
"That ain't either his picture," he said, heatedly. "That's a cupid!"
"Ho, gee, gosh! Ain't cupids got legs? Where's its legs?"
"Then it's an angel."
"Angels are longer. I know now--it's a goop. And here's some more
He ran his fingers along the worn lettering, then brought his eyes close
and read--glibly in the beginning:
Behold this place as you pass by.
As you are now, so once was I.
As I am now, so you must be.
Prepare for death, and follow me.
The reader's voice lost in fullness and certainty as he neared the end
of this strophe.
"Say, we better get right out of here," said Merle, stepping toward the
fence. Even Wilbur was daunted by the blunt warning from beyond.
"Here's another," called Merle, pausing on his way toward the fence. In
hushed, fearful tones he declaimed:
Dear companion in your bloom,
Behold me moldering in the tomb,
Death is a debt to Nature due,
Which I have paid, and so must you.
"There, now, I must say!" called Merle. "We better hurry out!"
But the Wilbur twin lingered. Ripe berries still glistened about the
stone of the departed Jonas Whipple.
"Aw, gee, gosh, they're just old ones!" he declared. "It says this one
passed to his reward in 1828, and we wasn't born then, so he couldn't be
meaning us, could he? We ain't passed to our reward yet, have we? I
simply ain't going to pay the least attention to it."
A bit nervously he fell again to picking the berries. The mere feel of
them emboldened him.
"Gee, gosh! We ain't followed him yet, have we?"
"'As I am now, so you must be!'" quoted the other in warning.
"Well, my sakes, don't everyone in town know that? But it don't mean
we're going to be--be it--right off."
"You better come just the samey!"
But the worker was stubborn.
"Ho, I guess I ain't afraid of any old Whipple as old as what this one
"Well, anyway," called Merle, still in hushed tones, "I guess I got
enough berries from this place."
"Aw, come on!" urged the worker.
In a rush of bravado he now extemporized a chant of defiance:
Old Jonas Whipple
Was an old cripple!
Old Jonas Whipple
Was an old cripple!
The Merle twin found this beyond endurance. He leaped for the fence and
gained its top, looking back with a blanched face to see the offender
smitten. He wanted to go at once, but this might be worth waiting for.
Wilbur continued to pick berries. Again he chanted loudly, mocking the
solemnities of eternity:
Old Jonas Whipple
Was an old cripple!
Was an old--
The mockery died in his throat, and he froze to a statue of fear. Beyond
the headstone of Jonas Whipple, and toward the centre of the plot, a
clump of syringa was plainly observed to sway with the movements of a
"I told you!" came the hoarse whisper of Merle, but he, too, was chained
by fright to the fence top.
They waited, breathless, in the presence of the king of terrors. Again
the bush swayed with a sinister motion. A deeper hush fell about them;
the breeze died and song birds stilled their notes. A calamity was
imminent. Neither watcher now doubted that a mocked Jonas Whipple would
terribly issue from the tangle of shrubbery.
The bushes were again agitated; then at the breaking, point of fear for
the Cowan twins the emergent figure proved to be not Jonas but a
trifling and immature female descendant of his, who now sped rapidly
toward them across the intervening glade, nor were the low mounds sacred
to her in her progress. Her short shirt of a plaid gingham flopped above
her thin, bony legs as she ran, and she grasped a wide-brimmed straw hat
in one hand.
* * * * *
It should be said that this girl appalled the twins hardly less than
would an avenging apparition of the outraged Jonas Whipple. Beings of a
baser extraction, they had looked upon Whipples only from afar and with
awe. Upon this particular Whipple they had looked with especial awe.
Other known members of the tribe were inhumanly old and gray and
withered, not creatures with whom the most daring fancy could picture
the Cowan twins sustaining any sane human relationship. But this one was
young and moderately understandable. Observed from across the room of
the Methodist Sunday-school, she was undoubtedly human like them; but
always so befurbished with rare and shining garments, with glistening
silks and costly velvets and laces, with bonnets of pink rosebuds and
gloves of kid, that the thought of any secular relationship had been
preposterous. Yet she was young, an animal of their own age, whose ways
could be comprehended.
She halted her mad flight when she discovered them, then turned to
survey the way she had come. She was panting. The twins regarded her
stonily, shaping defenses if she brought up anything regarding any one
who might have mocked Jonas Whipple.
When again she could breathe evenly, she said: "It was Cousin Juliana
driving by was why I dashed in here. I think I have foiled her."
She was not now the creature of troubled elegance that Sabbaths had
revealed her. The gingham dress was such as a daughter of the people
might have worn, and the straw hat, though beribboned, was not
impressive. She was a bony little girl, with quick, greenish eyes and a
meagre pigtail of hair of the hue that will often cause a girl to be
called Carrots. Her thin, eager face was lavishly freckled; her nose was
trivial to the last extreme. Besides her hat, she carried and now
nonchalantly drew refreshment from a stick of spirally striped candy
inserted for half its length through the end of a lemon. The candy was
evidently of a porous texture, so that the juice of the fruit would
reach the consumer's pursed lips charmingly modified by its passage
along the length of the sweet. One needed but to approximate a vacuum at
the upper end of the candy, and the mighty and mysterious laws of
atmospheric pressure completed the benign process.
It should be said for the twins that they were not social climbers. In
their instant infatuation for this novel device they quite lost the
thrill that should have been theirs from the higher aspects of the
encounter. They were not impressed at meeting a Whipple on terms of
seeming equality. They had eyes and desire solely for this delectable
refection. Again and again the owner enveloped the top of the candy with
prehensile lips; deep cavities appeared in her profusely spangled
cheeks. Her eyes would close in an ecstasy of concentration. The twins
stared, and at intervals were constrained to swallow.
"Gee, gosh!" muttered the Wilbur twin, helpless in the sight of so
fierce a joy. His brother descended briskly from the fence.
"I bet that's good," he said, genially, and taking the half-filled pail
from his brother's unresisting grasp he approached the newcomer. "Try
some of these nice ripe blackberries," he royally urged.
"Thanks a lot!" said the girl, and did so. But the hospitality remained
"I have to keep up my strength," she explained. "I have a long, hard
journey before me. I'm running away."
Blackberry juice now stained her chin, enriching a colour scheme already
made notable by dye from the candy.
"Running away!" echoed the twins. This, also, was sane.
"Where to?" demanded Wilbur.
"Far, far off to the great city with all its pitfalls."
"New York?" demanded Merle. "What's a pitfall?"
"The way Ben Blunt did when his cruel stepmother beat him because he
wouldn't steal and bring it home."
"Ben Blunt?" questioned both twins.
"That's whom I am going to be. That's whom I am now--or just as soon as
I change clothes with some unfortunate. It's in a book. 'Ben Blunt, the
Newsboy; or, From Rags to Riches.' He run off because his cruel
stepmother beat him black and blue, and he become a mere street urchin,
though his father, Mr. Blunt, was a gentleman in good circumstances; and
while he was a mere street urchin he sold papers and blacked boots, and
he was an honest, manly lad and become adopted by a kind, rich old
gentleman named Mr. Pettigrew, that he saved from a gang of rowdies that
boded him no good, and was taken to his palatial mansion and given a
kind home and a new suit of clothes and a good Christian education, and
that's how he got from rags to riches. And I'm going to be it; I'm going
to be a mere street urchin and do everything he did."
"Ho!" The Wilbur twin was brutal. "You're nothing but a girl!"
The runaway flashed him a hostile glance.
"Don't be silly! What difference does it make? Haven't I a cruel
stepmother that is constantly making scenes if I do the least little
thing, especially since Miss Murtree went home because her mother has
typhoid in Buffalo. You wait till I get the right clothes."
"Does she beat you something awful?" demanded the Merle twin unctuously.
The victim hesitated.
"Well, you might call it that."
"What kind of right clothes?" asked his brother.
"Boy's clothes; filthy rags of boy's clothes--like yours," she
concluded. Her appraising glance rested on the garments of the
questioning twin. Both became conscious of their mean attire, and
"These are just everyday clothes," muttered the Wilbur twin.
"We have fine new Sunday suits at home," boasted Merle. "Too fine to
wear every day. If you saw those clothes once I guess you'd talk
different. Shoes and stockings, too."
The girl effaced his grandeur with a shrug.
"That's nothing--everyone has mere Sunday clothes."
"Is Miss Murtree that old lady that brings you to the Sunday-school?"
"Yes; she's my governess, and had to go to her dying mother, and I hope
she gets a cruel stepmother that will be harsh to her childish sports,
like that Mrs. Blunt was. But she isn't old. It's her beard makes her
look so mature."
"Aw!" cried both twins, denoting incredulity.
"She has, too, a beard! A little moustache and some growing on her
chin. When I first got 'Ben Blunt, or from Rags to Riches,' out of the
Sunday-school library I asked her how she made it grow, because I wanted
one to grow on me, but she made a scene and never did tell me. I wish it
would come out on me that way." She ran questing fingers along her brief
upper lip and round her pointed chin. "But prob'ly I ain't old enough."
"You're only a girl," declared the Wilbur twin, "and you won't ever have
a beard, and you couldn't be Ben Blunt."
"Only a girl!" she flashed, momentarily stung into a defense of her sex.
"Huh! I guess I'd rather be a girl than a nasty little boy with his
hands simply covered with warts."
The shamed hands of Wilbur Cowan sought the depths of his pockets, but
he came up from the blow.
"Yes, you'd rather be a girl!" he retorted, with ponderous irony. "It's
a good thing you wasn't born in China. Do you know what? If you'd been
born in China, when they seen what it was they'd simply have chucked you
into the river to drown'd."
"The idea! They would not!"
"Ho! You're so smart! I guess you think you know more than that
missionary that told us so at the meeting. I guess you think he was
telling lies. They'd have drownded you as soon as they seen it was a
girl. But boys they keep."
"I don't listen to gossip," said the girl, loftily.
"And besides," continued the inquisitor, "if you think boys are such bad
ones, what you trying to be one for, and be Ben Blunt and all like
"You're too young to understand if I told you," she replied with a
The Merle twin was regretting these asperities. His eyes clung
constantly to the lemon and candy.
"She can be Ben Blunt if she wants to," he now declared in a voice of
authority. "I bet she'll have a better moustache than that old Miss
"Murtree," she corrected him, and spoke her thanks with a brightening
glance. "Here," she added, proffering her treasure, "take a good long
suck if you want to."
He did want to. His brother beheld him with anguished eyes. As Merle
demonstrated the problem in hydraulics the girl studied him more
attentively, then gleamed with a sudden new radiance.
"Oh, I'll tell you what let's do!" she exclaimed. "We'll change clothes
with each other, and then I'll be Ben Blunt without waiting till I get
to the great city. Cousin Juliana could pass me right by on the street
and never know me." She clapped her small brown hands. "Goody!" she
But the twins stiffened. The problem was not so simple.
"How do you mean--change clothes?" demanded Merle.
"Why, just change! I'll put on your clothes and look like a mere street
urchin right away."
"But what am I going to--"
"Put on my clothes, of course. I explained that."
"Be dressed like a girl?"
"Only till you get home; then you can put on your Sunday clothes."
"But they wouldn't be Sunday clothes if I had to wear 'em every day, and
then I wouldn't have any Sunday clothes."
"Stupid! You can buy new ones, can't you?"
"Well, I don't know."
"I'd give you a lot of money to buy some."
"Let's see it."
Surprisingly the girl stuck out a foot. Her ankle seemed badly swollen;
she seemed even to reveal incipient elephantiasis.
"Money!" she announced. "Busted my bank and took it all. And I put it in
my stocking the way Miss Murtree did when she went to Buffalo to visit
her dying mother. But hers was bills, and mine is nickels and dimes and
quarters and all like that--thousands of dollars' worth of 'em, and
they're kind of disagreeable. They make me limp--kind of. I'll give you
a lot of it to buy some new clothes. Let's change quick." She turned
and backed up to the Merle twin. "Unbutton my waist," she commanded.
The Merle twin backed swiftly away. This was too summary a treatment of
a situation that still needed thought.
"Let's see your money," he demanded.
"Very well!" She sat on the grassy low mound above her forebear,
released the top of the long black stocking from the bite of a hidden
garter and lowered it to the bulky burden. "Give me your cap," she said,
and into Merle's cap spurted a torrent of coins. When this had become
reduced to a trickle, and then to odd pieces that had worked down about
the heel, the cap held a splendid treasure. Both twins bent excitedly
above it. Never had either beheld so vast a sum. It was beyond
comprehension. The Wilbur twin plunged a hand thrillingly into the heap.
"Gee, gosh!" he murmured from the sheer loveliness of it. Shining
silver--thousands of dollars of it, the owner had declared.
"Now I guess you'll change," said the girl, observing the sensation she
The twins regarded each other eloquently. It seemed to be acknowledged
between them that anything namable would be done to obtain a share of
this hoard. Still it was a monstrous infamy, this thing she wanted.
Merle filtered coins through his fingers for the wondrous feel of them.
"Well, mebbe we better," he said at last.
"How much do we get?" demanded Wilbur, exalted but still sane.
"Oh, a lot!" said the girl, carelessly. Plainly she was not one to
haggle. "Here, I'll give you two double handfuls--see, like that," and
she measured the price into the other cap, not skimping. They were
generous, heaping handfuls, and they reduced her horde by half. "Now!"
she urged. "And hurry! I must be far by nightfall. I'll keep my shoes
and stockings and not go barefoot till I reach the great city. But I'll
take your clothes and your cap. Unbutton my waist."
Again she backed up to Merle. He turned to Wilbur.
"I guess we better change with her for all that money. Get your pants
and waist off and I'll help button this thing on you."
It was characteristic of their relations that there was no thought of
Merle being the victim of this barter. The Wilbur twin did not suggest
it, but he protested miserably.
"I don't want to wear a girl's clothes."
"Silly!" said the girl. "It's for your own good."
"You only put it on for a minute, and sneak home quick," reminded his
brother, "and look at all the money we'll have! Here, show him again all
that money we'll have!"
And the girl did even so, holding up to him riches beyond the dreams of
avarice. There was bitterness in the eyes of the Wilbur twin even as
they gloated on the bribe. The ordeal would be fearful. He was to become
a thing--not a girl and still not a boy--a thing somehow shameful. At
last the alternative came to him.
"You change with her," he said, brightening. "My pants got a tear here
on the side, and my waist ain't so clean as yours."
"Now don't begin that!" said his brother, firmly. "We don't want a lot
of silly arguments about it, do we? Look at all the money we'll have!"
"Your clothes are the best," said the girl. "I must be filthy and
ragged. Oh, please hurry!" Then to Merle: "Do unbutton my waist. Start
it at the top and I can finish."
Gingerly he undid the earliest buttons on that narrow back of checked
gingham, and swiftly the girl completed the process to her waist. Then
the waist was off her meagre shoulders and she stepped from the hated
garment. The Wilbur twin was aghast at her downright methods. He had a
feeling that she should have retired for this change. How was he to know
that an emergency had lifted her above prejudices sacred to the meaner
souled? But now he raised a new objection, for beneath her gown the girl
had been still abundantly and intricately clad, girded, harnessed.
"I can't ever put on all those other things," he declared, indicating
the elaborate underdressing.
"Very well, I'll keep 'em on under the pants and waist till I get to the
great city," said the girl, obligingly. "But why don't you hurry?"
She tossed him the discarded dress. He was seized with fresh panic as he
took the thing.
"I don't like to," he said, sullenly.
"Look at all the money we'll have!" urged the brother.
"Here," said the girl, beguilingly, "when you've done it I'll give you
two long sucks of my lemon candy."
She took the enticing combination from Merle and held it fair before his
yearning eyes; the last rite of a monstrous seduction was achieved. The
victim wavered and was lost. He took the dress.
"Whistle if any one comes," he said, and withdrew behind the headstone
of the late Jonas Whipple. He--of the modest sex--would not disrobe in
public. At least it was part modesty; in part the circumstance that his
visible garments were precisely all he wore. He would not reveal to this
child of wealth that the Cowans had not the habit of multifarious
underwear. Over the headstone presently came the knee pants, the faded
calico waist with bone buttons. The avid buyer seized and apparelled
herself in them with a deft facility. The Merle twin was amazed that she
should so soon look so much like a boy. From behind the headstone came
the now ambiguous and epicene figure of the Wilbur twin, contorted to
hold together the back of his waist.
"I can't button it," he said in deepest gloom.
"Here!" said the girl.
It seemed to him that this would somehow further degrade him. At least
another male should fasten this infamous thing about him. When the
buttoning was done he demanded the promised candy and lemon. He glutted
himself with the stimulant. He had sold his soul and was taking the
price. His wrists projected far from the gingham sleeves, and in truth
he looked little enough like a girl. The girl looked much more like a
boy. The further price of his shame was paid in full.
"I'd better take charge of it," said Merle, and did so with an air of
large benevolence. "I just don't know what all we'll spend it for," he
The Wilbur twin's look of anguish deepened.
"I got a pocket in this dress to hold my money," he suggested.
"You might lose it," objected Merle. "I better keep it for us."
The girl had transferred her remaining money to the pockets which, as a
boy, she now possessed. Then she tried on the cap. But it proved to be
the cap of Merle.
"No; you must take Wilbur's cap," he said, "because you got his
"And he can wear my hat," said the girl.
The Wilbur twin viciously affirmed that he would wear no girl's hat, yet
was presently persuaded that he would, at least when he sneaked home. It
was agreed by all finally that this would render him fairly a girl in
the eyes of the world. But he would not yet wear it. He was beginning to
hate this girl. He shot hostile glances at her as--with his cap on her
head, her hands deep in the money-laden pockets--she swaggered and
swanked before them.
"I'm Ben Blunt--I'm Ben Blunt," she muttered, hoarsely, and swung her
shoulders and brandished her thin legs to prove it.
He laughed with scorn.
"Yes, you are!" he gibed. "Look at your hair! I guess Ben Blunt didn't
have long girl's hair, did he--stringy old red hair?"
Her hands flew to her pigtail.
"My hair is not red," she told him. "It's just a decided blonde." Then
she faltered, knowing full well that Ben Blunt's hair was not worn in a
braid. "Of course I'm going to cut it off," she said. "Haven't you boys
got a knife?"
They had a knife. It was Wilbur's, but Merle quite naturally took it
from him and assumed charge of the ensuing operation. Wilbur Cowan had
to stand by with no place to put his hands--a mere onlooker. Yet it was
his practical mind that devised the method at last adopted, for the
early efforts of his brother to sever the braid evoked squeals of pain
from the patient. At Wilbur's suggestion she was backed up to the fence
and the braid brought against a board, where it could be severed strand
by strand. It was not neatly done, but it seemed to suffice. When the
cap was once more adjusted, rather far back on the shorn head, even the
cynical Wilbur had to concede that the effect was not bad. The severed
braid, a bow of yellow ribbon at the end, now engaged the notice of its
"The officers of the law might trace me by it," she said, "so we must
"Tie a stone to it and sink it in the river," urged Wilbur.
"Hide it in those bushes," suggested Merle.
But the girl was inspired by her surroundings.
"Bury it!" she ordered.
The simple interment was performed. With the knife a shallow grave was
opened close to the stone whereon old Jonas Whipple taunted the living
that they were but mortal, and in it they laid the pigtail to its last
rest, patting the earth above it and replacing the turf against possible
Again the girl swaggered broadly before them, swinging her shoulders,
flaunting her emancipated legs in a stride she considered masculine.
Then she halted, hands in pockets, rocked easily upon heel and toe, and
spat expertly between her teeth. For the first time she impressed the
Wilbur twin, extorting his reluctant admiration. He had never been able
to spit between his teeth. Still, there must be things she couldn't do.
"You got to smoke and chew and curse," he warned her.
"I won't, either! It says Ben Blunt was a sturdy lad of good habits.
Besides, I could smoke if I wanted to. I already have. I smoked Harvey
"Who's Harvey D.?"
"My father. I smoked his pipe repeatedly."
"Well, I smoked it twice. That's repeatedly, ain't it? I'd have done it
more repeatedly, but Miss Murtree sneaked in and made a scene."
"Did you swallow the smoke through your nose?"
"I--I guess so. It tasted way down on my insides."
Plainly there was something to the girl after all. The Wilbur twin here
extracted from the dress pocket, to which he had transferred his few
belongings, the half of something known to Newbern as a pennygrab. It
was a slender roll of quite inferior dark tobacco, and the original
purchaser had probably discarded it gladly. The present owner displayed
it to the girl.
"I'll give you a part of this, and we'll light up."
"Well, I don't know. It says Ben Blunt was a sturdy lad of good----"
"I bet you never did smoke repeatedly!"
Her manhood was challenged.
"I'll show you!" she retorted, grim about the lips.
With his knife he cut the evil thing in fair halves. The girl received
her portion with calmness, if not with gratitude, and lighted it from
the match he gallantly held for her. And so they smoked. The Merle twin
never smoked for two famous Puritan reasons--it was wrong for boys to
smoke and it made him sick. He eyed the present saturnalia with strong
disapproval. The admiration of the Wilbur twin--now forgetting his
ignominy--was frankly worded. Plainly she was no common girl.
"I bet you'll be all right in the big city," he said.
"Of course I will," said the girl.
She spat between her teeth with a fine artistry. In truth she was
spitting rather often, and had more than once seemed to strangle, but
she held her weed jauntily between the first and second fingers and
contrived an air of relish for it.
"Anyway," she went on, "it'll be better than here where I suffered so
terribly with everybody making the vilest scenes about any little thing
that happened. After they find it's too late they'll begin to wish
they'd acted kinder. But I won't ever come back, not if they beg me to
with tears streaming down their faces, after the vile way they acted;
saying maybe I could have a baby brother after Harvey D. got that
stepmother, but nothing was ever done about it, and just because I tried
to hide Mrs. Wadley's baby that comes to wash, and then because I tried
to get that gypsy woman's baby, because everyone knows they're always
stealing other people's babies, and she made a vile scene, too, and
everyone tortured me beyond endurance."
This was interesting. It left the twins wishing to ask questions.
"Did that stepmother beat you good?" again demanded Merle.
"Well, not the way Ben Blunt's stepmother did, but she wanted to know
what I meant by it and all like that. Of course she's cruel. Don't you
know that all stepmothers are cruel? Did you ever read a story about one
that wasn't vile and cruel and often tried to leave the helpless
children in the woods to be devoured by wolves? I should say not!"
"Where did you hide that Wadley baby?"
"Up in the storeroom in a nice big trunk, where I fixed a bed and
everything for it, while its mother was working down in the laundry, and
I thought they'd look a while and give it up, but this Mrs. Wadley is
kind of simple-minded or something. She took on so I had to say maybe
somebody had put it in this trunk where it could have a nice time. And
this stepmother taking on almost as bad."
"Did you nearly get a gypsy woman's baby?"
"Nearly. They're camped in the woods up back of our place, and I went
round to see their wagons, and the man had some fighting roosters that
would fight anybody else's roosters, and they had horses to race, and
the gypsy woman would tell the future lives of anybody and what was
going to happen to them, and so I saw this lovely, lovely baby asleep
on a blanket under some bushes, and probably they had stole it from some
good family, so while they was busy I picked it up and run."
"Did they chase you?"
Wilbur Cowan was by now almost abject in his admiration of this fearless
"Not at first; but when I got up to our fence I heard some of 'em
yelling like very fiends, and they came after me through the woods, but
I got inside our yard, and the baby woke up and yelled like a very
fiend, and Nathan Marwick came running out of our barn and says: 'What
in time is all this?' And someone told folks in the house and out comes
Harvey D.'s stepmother that he got married to, and Grandpa Gideon and
Cousin Juliana that happened to be there, and all the gypsies rushed up
the hill and everyone made the vilest scene and I had to give back this
lovely baby to the gypsy woman that claimed it. You'd think it was the
only baby in the wide world, the way she made a scene, and not a single
one would listen to reason when I tried to explain. They acted simply
crazy, that's all."
"Gee, gosh!" muttered the Wilbur twin. This was indeed a splendid and
desperate character, and he paid her the tribute of honest envy. He
wished he might have a cruel stepmother of his own, and so perhaps be
raised to this eminence of infamy. "I bet they did something with you!"
The girl waved it aside with a gesture of repugnance, as if some things
were too loathsome for telling. He perceived that she had, like so many
raconteurs, allowed her cigar to go out.
"Here's a match," he said, and courteously cupped his hands about its
flame. The pennygrab seemed to have become incombustible, and the match
died futilely. "That's my last match," he said.
"Maybe I better keep this till I get to the great city."
But he would not have it so.
"You can light it from mine," and he brought the ends of the two penny
"First thing you know you'll be dizzy," warned the moralist, Merle.
"Ho, I will not!"
She laughed in scorn, and valiantly puffed on the noisome thing. Thus
stood Ben Blunt and the Wilbur twin, their faces together about this
business of lighting up; and thus stood the absorbed Merle, the moral
perfectionist, earnestly hoping his words of warning would presently
become justified. It did not seem right to him that others should smoke
when it made him sick.
At last smoke issued from the contorted face of Ben Blunt, and some of
this being swallowed, strangulation ensued. When the paroxysm of
coughing was past the hero revealed running eyes, but the tears were of
triumph, as was the stoic smile that accompanied them.
And then, while the reformer Merle awaited the calamity he had
predicted, while Wilbur surrendered anew to infatuation for this
intrepid soul that would dare any crime, while Ben Blunt rocked on
spread feet, the glowing pennygrab cocked at a rakish angle, while, in
short, vice was crowned and virtue abased, there rang upon the still air
the other name of Ben Blunt in cold and fateful emphasis. The group
stiffened with terror. Again the name sounded along those quiet aisles
of the happy dead. The voice was one of authority--cool, relentless,
"Patricia Whipple!" said the voice.
The twins knew it for the voice of Miss Juliana Whipple, who had
remotely been a figure of terror to them even when voiceless. Juliana
was thirty, tall, straight, with capable shoulders, above which rose her
capable face on a straight neck. She wore a gray skirt and a waist of
white, with a severely starched collar about her throat, and a black bow
tie. Her straw hat was narrow of brim, banded with a black ribbon. Her
steely eyes flashed from beneath the hat. Once before the twins had
encountered her and her voice, and the results were blasting, though
the occasion was happier. Indeed, the intention of Juliana had been
wholly amiable, for it was at the picnic of the Methodist Sunday-school.
She came upon the twins in a fair dell, where they watched other
children at a game, and she took very civil notice of them, saying, "How
do you do, young gentlemen?" in deep, thrilling tones, and though they
had been doing very well until that moment, neither of the twins had
recovered strength to say so. To them she had been more formidable than
a schoolteacher. Their throats had closed upon all utterance. Now as she
faced them, a dozen feet away, even though the words "Patricia Whipple"
applied to but one of their number, the twins took the challenge to
themselves and quailed. They knew that deep and terrible voice menaced
themselves as well as the late Ben Blunt--for that mere street urchin,
blown upon by the winds of desolation, had shrivelled and passed. In his
place drooped a girl in absurd boy's clothes, her hair messily cut off,
smoking something she plainly did not wish to smoke. The stricken lily
of vice drooped upon its stem.
One by one the three heads turned to regard the orator. How had she
contrived that noiseless approach? How had she found them at all in this
seclusion? The heads having turned to regard her, turned back and bowed
in stony glares at the rich Whipple-nourished turf. They felt her come
toward them; her shadow from the high sun blended with theirs. And again
the voice, that fearsome organ on which she managed such dread effects:
"Patricia Whipple, what does this mean?"
She confronted them, a spare, grim figure, tall, authoritative, seeming
to be old as Time itself. How were they to know that Juliana was still
youthful, even attired youthfully, though by no means frivolously, or
that her heart was gentle? She might, indeed, have danced to them as
Columbine, and her voice would still have struck them with terror. She
brought her deepest tones to those simple words, "What does this mean?"
All at once it seemed to them that something had been meant, something
absurd, monstrous, lawless, deserving a ghastly punishment.
The late Ben Blunt squirmed and bored a heel desperately into the turf
above a Whipple whose troubles had ceased in 1828. She made a rough
noise in her throat, but it was not informing. The Wilbur twin,
forgetting his own plight, glanced warm encouragement to her.
"I guess she's got aright to run away," he declared, brazenly.
But in this burst of bravado he had taken too little account of his
attire. He recalled it now, for the frosty gray eyes of Juliana ran
about him and came to rest upon his own eyes. For the taut moment that
he braved her glance it unaccountably seemed to him that the forbidding
mouth of the woman twitched nervously into the beginning of a smile. It
was a fleeting effect, but it did seem as if she had almost laughed,
then caught herself. And there was a tremolo defect in the organ tone
with which she now again demanded in blistering politeness, "May I ask
what this means?"
The quick-thinking Merle twin had by now devised an exit from any
complicity in whatever was meant. He saw his way out. He spoke up
brightly and with no shadow of guilt upon his fair young face.
"I told her it was wrong for the young to smoke; it stunts their growth
and leads to evil companions. But she wouldn't listen to me."
There was a nice regret in his tone.
Miss Juliana ignored him.
"Patricia!" she said, terribly.
But the late Ben Blunt, after the first devastating shock, had been
recovering vitality for this ordeal.
"I don't care!" she announced. "I'll run away if I want to!" And again,
bitterly, "I don't care!"
Juliana fairly bayed the words. She made running away seem to be
something nice people never, never did.
"I don't care!" repeated the fugitive, dully.
There was a finality about it that gave Juliana pause. She had expected
a crumpling, but the offender did not crumple. It seemed another tack
must be taken.
"Indeed?" she inquired, almost cooingly. "And may I ask if this absurd
young creature was to accompany you on your--your travels?" She
indicated the gowned Wilbur, who would then have gone joyously to his
reward, even as had Jonas Whipple. His look of dumb suffering would have
stayed a judge less conscientious. "I presume this is some young lady of
your acquaintance--one of your little girl friends," she continued,
though it was plain to all that she presumed nothing of the sort.
"He is not!" The look of dumb suffering had stoutened one heart to new
courage. "He's a very nice little boy, and he gave me these ragged
clothes to run away in, and now he'll have to wear his Sunday clothes.
And you know he's a boy as well as I do!"
"She made him take a lot of money for it," broke in the Merle twin. "I
was afraid she wasn't doing right, but she wouldn't listen to me, so she
gave him the money and I took charge of it for him."
He beamed virtuously at Miss Juliana, who now rewarded him with a
hurried glance of approval. It seemed to Miss Juliana and to him that he
had been on the side of law and order, condemning and seeking to
dissuade the offenders from their vicious proceedings. He felt that he
was a very good little boy, indeed, and that the tall lady was
understanding it. He had been an innocent bystander.
Miss Juliana again eyed the skirted Wilbur, and the viewless wind of a
smile's beginning blew across the lower half of her accusing face. Then
she favoured the mere street urchin with a glance of extreme repugnance.
"I shall have to ask all of you to come with me," she said, terribly.
"Where to?" demanded the chief culprit.
"You know well enough."
This was all too true.
"Me?" demanded the upright Merle, as if there must have been some
mistake. Surely no right-thinking person could implicate him in this
"You, if you please," said Miss Juliana, but she smiled beautifully upon
him. He felt himself definitely aligned with the forces of justice. He
all at once wanted to go. He would go as an assistant prosecuting
"Not--not me?" stammered the stricken Wilbur.
"By all means--you!" Miss Juliana sharpened her tone She added,
mysteriously: "It would be good without you--good, but not perfect."
"Now I guess you'll learn how to behave yourself in future!" admonished
Merle, the preacher, and edged toward Miss Juliana as one withdrawing
"Oh, not me!" pleaded the voice of Wilbur.
"I think you heard me," said Miss Juliana. "Come!"
She uttered "come" so that not mountains would have dared stay, much
less a frightened little boy in a girl's dress. In his proper garb there
had been instant and contemptuous flight. But the dress debased all his
manly instincts. He came crawling, as the worm. The recent Ben Blunt
pulled a cap over a shorn head and advanced stoically before the group.
"One moment," said Miss Juliana. "We seem to be forgetting something."
She indicated the hat of Patricia Whipple lying on the ground near where
smouldered the two ends of the abandoned pennygrab. "I think you might
resume this, my dear, and restore the cap to its rightful owner." It was
but a further play of her debased fancy. The mere street urchin was now
decked in a girl's hat and a presumable girl wore an incongruous cap. "I
will ask you two rare specimens to precede me," she said when the change
was made. They preceded her.
"I don't care!" This was more bravado from the urchin.
"Well, don't you care!" Juliana said it, soothingly.
"I will, too, care!" retorted the urchin, betraying her sex.
"Will she take us to the jail?" whispered the trembling Wilbur.
"Worse!" said the girl. "She'll take us home!" Side by side they
threaded an aisle between rows of the carefree dead, whom no malignant
Miss Juliana could torture. Behind them marched their captor, Merle
stepping blithely beside her.
"It's lovely weather for this time of year," they heard him say.
They came all too soon to a gate giving upon the public road and the
world of the living who make remarks about strange sights they witness.
Still it was a quiet street, and they were accorded no immediate
reception. There stood the pony cart of Miss Juliana, and this, she made
known, they were to enter. It was a lovely vehicle, drawn by a lovely
fat pony, and the Wilbur twin had often envied those privileged to ride
in it. Never had he dreamed so rich a treat could be his. Now it was to
be his, but the thing was no longer a lovely pony cart; it was a
tumbril--worse than a tumbril, for he was going to a fate worse than
The shameful skirt flopped about his bare legs as he awkwardly clambered
into the rear seat beside the sex-muddled creature in a boy's suit and a
girl's hat. Miss Juliana and the godly Merle in the front seat had very
definitely drawn aloof from the outcasts. They chatted on matters at
large in the most polite and social manner. They quite appeared to have
forgotten that their equipage might attract the notice of the vulgar.
When from time to time it actually did this the girl held her head
brazenly erect and shot back stare for stare, but the Wilbur twin bowed
low and suffered.
Sometimes it would merely be astounded adults who paused to regard them,
to point canes or fingers at them. But again it would be the young who
had never been disciplined to restrain their emotions in public. Some of
these ran for a time beside the cart, with glad cries, their clear,
ringing voices raised in comments of a professedly humorous character.
Under Juliana's direction the cart did not progress too rapidly. At one
crossing she actually stopped the thing until Ellis Bristow, who was
blind, had with his knowing cane tapped a safe way across the street.
The Wilbur twin at this moment frankly rejoiced in the infirmity of poor
Ellis Bristow. It was sweet relief not to have him stop and stare and
point. If given the power at this juncture he would have summarily
blinded all the eyes of Newbern Center.
Up shaded streets they progressed, leaving a wake of purest joy astern.
But at last they began the ascent of West Hill, that led to the Whipple
New Place, leaving behind those streets that came alive at their
approach. For the remainder of their dread progress they would elicit
only the startled regard of an occasional adult farmer.
"What'll she do to us?" The Wilbur twin mumbled this under cover of
sprightly talk from the front seat. His brother at the moment was
boasting of his scholastic attainments. He had, it appeared, come on
amazingly in long division.
"She won't do a thing!" replied his companion in shame. "Don't you be
"I am afraid. But I wouldn't be afraid if I had my pants on again,"
explained the Wilbur twin, going accurately to the soul of his panic.
"I'll do it next time," said the girl. "I'll hurry. I won't stop at any
"Graveyard!" uttered the other, feelingly. "I should say not!" Never
again was he to think of such places with any real pleasure.
"All she wants," explained the girl--"she wants to talk up in her nose
like she was giving a lecture. She loves to. She'll make a vile scene."
Now they were through an imposing gate of masonry, and the pony
languidly drew them along a wide driveway toward the Whipple mansion, an
experience which neither of the twins had ever hoped to brave; but only
one of them was deriving any pleasure from the social elevation. The
Merle twin looked blandly over the wide expanse of lawn and flower beds
and tenderly nursed shrubs, and then at the pile of red brick with its
many windows under gay-striped awnings, and its surmounting white
cupola, which he had often admired from afar. He glowed with rectitude.
True, he suffered a brother lost to all sense of decent human values,
but this could not dim the lustre of his own virtue or his pleasant
suspicion that it was somehow going to be suitably rewarded. Was he not
being driven by a grand-mannered lady up a beautiful roadway past
millions of flowers and toward a wonderful house? It paid to be good.
The Wilbur twin had ceased to regard his surroundings. He gazed stolidly
before him, nor made the least note of what his eyes rested upon. He was
there, helpless. They had him!
The cart drew up beside steps leading to a wide porch shaded by a
"Home at last," cooed Miss Juliana with false welcome.
A loutish person promptly abandoned a lawn mower in the near distance
and came to stand by the head of the languid pony. He grinned horribly,
and winked as the two figures descended from the rear of the cart. For a
moment, halting on the first of the steps, the Wilbur twin became aware
that just beyond him, almost to be grasped, was a veritable rainbow
curved above a whirling lawn sprinkler. And he had learned that a
rainbow is a thing of gracious promise. But probably they have to be
natural rainbows; probably you don't get anything out of one you make
yourself. Even as he looked, the shining omen vanished, somewhere shut
off by an unseen power.
"This way, please," called Miss Juliana, cordially, and he followed her
guiltily up the steps to the shaded porch.
The girl had preceded her. The Merle twin lingered back of them,
shocked, austere, deprecating, and yet somehow bland withal, as if these
little affairs were not without their compensating features.
The bowed Wilbur twin was startled by a gusty torrent of laughter. With
torturing effort, he raised his eyes to a couple of elderly male
Whipples. One sat erect on a cushioned bench, and one had lain at ease
in a long, low thing of wicker. It was this one who made the ill-timed
and tasteless demonstration that was still continuing. Ultimately the
creature lost all tone from his laughter. It went on, soundless but
uncannily poignant. Such was the effect that the Wilbur twin wondered if
his own ears had been suddenly deafened. This Whipple continued to shake
silently. The other, who had not laughed, whose face seemed ill-modelled
for laughing, nevertheless turned sparkling eyes from under shelving
brows upon Juliana and said in words stressed with emotion: "My dear,
you have brightened my whole day."
The first Whipple, now recovered from his unseemly paroxysm, sat erect
to study the newcomers in detail. He was a short, round-chested man with
a round moon face marked by heavy brows like those of the other. He had
fat wrists and stout, blunt fingers. With a stubby thumb he now pushed
up the outer ends of the heavy brows as if to heighten the power of his
vision for this cherished spectacle.
"I seem to recognize the lad," he murmured as if in privacy to his own
hairy ears. "Surely I've seen the rascal about the place, perhaps
helping Nathan at the stable; but that lovely little girl--I've not had
the pleasure of meeting her before. Come, sissy"--he held out
blandishing arms--"come here, Totte, and give the old man a kiss."
Could hate destroy, these had been the dying words of Sharon Whipple.
But the Wilbur twin could manage only a sidelong glare insufficient to
slay. His brother giggled until he saw that he made merry alone.
"What? Bless my soul, the minx is sulky!" roared the wit.
The other Whipple intervened.
"What was our pride and our joy bent upon this time?" he suavely
demanded. "I take it you've thwarted her in some new plot against the
"The young person you indicate," said Juliana, "was about to leave her
home forever--going out to live her own life away from these distasteful
"So soon? We should be proud of her! At that tender age, going out to
make a name for herself!"
"I gather from this very intelligent young gentleman here that she had
made the name for herself before even starting."
"It was Ben Blunt," remarked the young gentleman, helpfully.
"Hey!" Sharon Whipple affected dismay. "Then what about this young girl
at his side? Don't tell me she was luring him from his home here?"
"It will surprise you to know," said Juliana in her best style, "that
this young girl before you is not a girl."
Both Whipples ably professed amazement.
"Not a girl?" repeated the suave Whipple incredulously. "You do amaze
me, Juliana! Not a girl, with those flower-like features, those starry
eyes, that feminine allure? Preposterous! And yet, if he is not a girl
he is, I take it, a boy."
"A boy who incited the light of our house to wayward courses by changing
clothes with her."
The harsher Whipple spoke here in a new tone.
"Then she browbeat him into it. Scissors and white aprons--yes, I know
"He didn't seem browbeaten. They were smoking quite companionably when I
chanced upon them."
"Smoking! Our angel child smoking!"
This from Sharon Whipple in tones that every child present knew as a
mere pretense of horror. Juliana shrugged cynically.
"They always go to the bad after they leave their nice homes," she said.
"Children should never smoke till they are twenty-one, and then they get
a gold watch for it," interjected the orator, Merle. He had felt that he
was not being made enough of. "It's bad for their growing systems," he
"And this?" asked Gideon Whipple, indicating the moralist.
"The brother of that"--Juliana pointed. "He did his best in the way of
advice, I gather, but neither of the pair would listen to him. He seems
to be safely conservative, but not to have much influence over his
"Willing to talk about it, though," said Sharon Whipple, pointedly.
The girl now glowered at each of them in turn.
"I don't care!" she muttered. "I will, too, run away! You see!"
"It's what they call a fixed idea," explained Juliana. "She doesn't care
and she will, too, run away. But where is Mrs. Harvey?"
"Poor soul!" murmured Sharon. "Think what a lot she's missed already! Do
call her, my dear!"
Juliana stepped to the doorway and called musically into the dusky hall:
"Mrs. Harvey! Mrs. Harvey! Come quickly, please! We have something
lovely to show you!"
The offenders were still to be butchered to make a Whipple holiday.
"Coming!" called a high voice from far within.
The Wilbur twin sickeningly guessed this would be the cruel stepmother.
Real cruelty would now begin. Beating, most likely. But when, a moment
later, she stood puzzling in the doorway, he felt an instant relief. She
did not look cruel. She was not even bearded. She was a plump, meekly
prettyish woman with a quick, flustered manner and a soft voice. She
brought something the culprits had not found in their other judges.
"Why, you poor, dear, motherless thing!" she cried when she had assured
herself of the girl's identity, and with this she enfolded her. "I'd
like to know what they've been doing to my pet!" she declared,
"The pet did it all to herself," explained Gideon Whipple.
"I will, too, run away!" affirmed the girl, though some deeper
conviction had faded from the threat.
"Still talking huge high," said Sharon. "But at your age, my young
friend, running away is overchancy." Mrs. Harvey Whipple ignored this.
"Of course you will--run away all you like," she soothed. "It's good
for people to run away." Then she turned amazingly to the Wilbur twin
and spoke him fair as a fellow human. "And who is this dear little boy?
I just know he was kind enough to change clothes with you so you could
run away better! And here you're keeping him in that dress when you
ought to know it makes him uncomfortable--doesn't it, little boy?"
The little boy movingly ogled her with a sidelong glance of gratitude
for what at the moment seemed to be the first kind words he had ever
"You have her give me back my pants!" said he. Then for the first time
he faced his inquisitors eye to eye. "I want my own pants!" he declared,
stoutly. Man spoke to man there, and both the male Whipples stirred
guiltily; feeling base, perhaps, that mere sex loyalty had not earlier
"Indeed, you blessed thing, you shall have them this moment!" said the
cruel stepmother. "You two march along with me."
"And not keep them till Harvey D. comes home?" It was the implacable
"Well"--Mrs. Harvey considered--"I'm sure he would adore to see the
little imps, but really they can't stand it any longer, can you, dears?
It would be bad for their nerves. We'll have to be satisfied with
telling him. Come along quickly!"
"I will, too, run away!"
The girl flung it over her shoulder as she swaggered into the hall. The
Wilbur twin trod incessantly on her heels.
"Wants his pants!" murmured Sharon Whipple. "Prunes and apricots! Wants
"Mistake ever to part with 'em," observed Gideon. "Of course she
"My young friend here tells me she bribed him," explained Juliana.
"She gave him a lot of money and I'm keeping it for him," said her
self-possessed young friend, and he indicated bulging pockets.
"Looted her bank," said Juliana.
"Forehanded little tike," said Sharon, admiringly. "And smart! She can
outsmart us all any day in the week!"
* * * * *
In a dim upper bedroom in the big house Wilbur Cowan divested himself of
woman's raiment for probably the last time in his life. He hurried more
than he might have, because the room was full of large, strange,
terrifying furniture. It was a place to get out of as soon as he could.
Two buttons at the back of the dress he was unable to reach, but this
trifling circumstance did not for more than a scant second delay his
release. Then his own clothes were thrust in to him by the stepmother,
who embarrassingly lingered to help him button his own waist with the
faded horseshoes to the happily restored pants.
"There, there!" she soothed when he was again clad as a man child, and
amazingly she kissed him.
Still tingling from this novel assault, he was led by the woman along a
dim corridor to a rear stairway. Down this they went, along another
corridor to a far door. She brought him to rest in a small, meagrely
furnished but delightfully scented room. It was scented with a general
aroma of cooked food, and there were many shelves behind glass doors on
which dishes were piled. A drawer was opened, and almost instantly in
his ready hands was the largest segment of yellow cake he had ever
beheld. He had not dreamed that pieces of cake for human consumption
could be cut so large. And it was lavishly gemmed with fat raisins. He
held it doubtfully.
"Let's look again," said the preposterous woman. She looked again,
pushing by a loose-swinging door to do it, and returned with a vast area
of apple pie, its outer curve a full ninety degrees of the circle. "Now
eat!" said the woman.
She was, indeed, a remarkable woman. She had not first asked him if he
"I'm much obliged for my pants and this cake and pie," said the boy, so
the woman said, "Yes, yes," and hugged him briefly as he ate.
Not until he had consumed the last morsel of these provisions and eke a
bumper of milk did the woman lead him back to that shaded porch where he
had lately been put to the torture. But now he was another being, clad
not only as became a man among men but inwardly fortified by food. If
stepmothers were like this he wished his own father would find one. The
girl with her talk about cruelty--he still admired her, but she must be
an awful liar. He faced the tormenting group on the porch with almost
faultless self-possession. He knew they could not hurt him.
"Well, well, well!" roared Sharon Whipple, meaning again to be humorous.
But the restored Wilbur eyed him coldly, with just a faint curiosity
that withered the humorist in him. "Well, well!" he repeated, but in
dry, businesslike tones, as if he had not meant to be funny in the first
"I guess we'll have to be going now," said the Wilbur twin. "And we must
leave all that money. It wouldn't be honest to take it now."
The Merle twin at this looked across at him with marked disfavour.
"Nonsense!" said Miss Juliana.
"Nonsense!" said Sharon Whipple.
"Take it, of course!" said Gideon Whipple.
"He's earned it fairly," said Juliana. She turned to Merle. "Give it to
him," she directed.
This was not as Merle would have wished. If the money had been earned he
was still willing to take care of it, wasn't he?
"A beggarly pittance for what he did," said Gideon Whipple, warmly.
"Wouldn't do it myself for twice the amount, whatever it is," said
Very slowly, under the Whipple regard, the Merle twin poured the price
of his brother's shame into his brother's cupped hands. The brother felt
religious at this moment. He remembered seriously those things they
told you in Sunday-school--about a power above that watches over us and
makes all come right. There must be something in that talk.
The fiscal transaction was completed. The twins looked up to become
aware that their late confederate surveyed them from the doorway. Her
eyes hinted of a recent stormy past, but once more she was decorously
"Your little guests are leaving," said the stepmother. "You must bid
Her little guests became statues as the girl approached them.
"So glad you could come," she said, and ceremoniously shook the hand of
each. The twins wielded arms rigid from the shoulder, shaking twice down
and twice up. "It has been so pleasant to have you," said the girl.
"We've had a delightful time," said the Merle twin.
The other tried to echo this, but again his teeth were tightly locked,
and he made but a meaningless squeak far back in his throat. He used
this for the beginning of a cough, which he finished with a decent
"You must come again," said the girl, mechanically.
"We shall be so glad to," replied the Merle twin, glancing a bright
farewell to the group.
The other twin was unable to glance intelligently at any one. His eyes
were now glazed. He stumbled against his well-mannered brother and
heavily descended the steps.
"You earned your money!" called Sharon Whipple.
The Wilbur twin was in advance, and stayed so as they trudged down the
roadway to the big gate. With his first free breath he had felt his
importance as the lawful possessor of limitless wealth.
"Bright little skeesicks," said Sharon Whipple.
"But the brother is really remarkable," said Gideon--"so well-mannered,
so sure of himself. He has quite a personality."
"Other has the gumption," declared Sharon.
"I've decided to have one of them for my brother," announced the girl.
"Indeed?" said Gideon.
"Well, everybody said I might have a brother, but nobody does anything
about it. I will have one of those. I think the nice one that doesn't
"Poor motherless pet!" murmured the stepmother, helplessly.
"A brother is not what you need most at this time," broke in Juliana.
"It's a barber."
* * * * *
Down the dusty road over West Hill went the twins, Wilbur still
forcefully leading. His brother was becoming uneasy. There was a strange
light in the other's eyes, an unwonted look of power. When they were off
the hill and come to the upper end of shaded Fair Street, Merle advanced
to keep pace beside his brother. The latter's rate of speed had
increased as they neared the town.
"Hadn't I better take care of our money for us?" he at last asked in a
voice oily with solicitude.
The "sir" was weighted with so heavy an emphasis that the tactful Merle
merely said "Oh!" in a hurt tone.
"I can take care of my own money for me," added the speeding capitalist,
seeming to wish that any possible misconception as to the ownership of
the hoard might be definitely removed.
"Oh," said Merle again, this being all that with any dignity he could
think of to say. They were now passing the quiet acre that had been the
scene of the morning's unpleasantness. Their pails, half filled with
berries, were still there, but the strangely behaving Wilbur refused to
go for them. He eyed the place with disrelish. He would not again
willingly approach that spot where he had gone down into the valley of
shame. Reminded that the pails were not theirs, he brutally asked what
did he care, adding that he could buy a million pails if he took a
notion to. But presently he listened to reason, and made reasonable
proposals. The Merle twin was to go back to the evil place, salvage the
pails, leave them at the Penniman house, and hasten to a certain
confectioner's at the heart of the town, where a lavish reward would be
at once his. After troubled reflection he consented, and they went their
ways. The Merle twin sped to the quiet nook where Jonas Whipple had been
put away in 1828, and sped away from there as soon as he had the pails.
Not even did he bend a moment above the little new-made grave where lay
a part of all that was mortal of Patricia Whipple. He disliked
graveyards on principle, and he wished his reward.
Wilbur Cowan kept his quick way down Fair Street. He had been lifted to
pecuniary eminence, and incessantly the new wealth pressed upon his
consciousness. The markets of the world were at his mercy. There were
shop windows outside which he had long been compelled to linger in
sterile choosing. Now he could enter and buy, and he was in a hurry to
be at it. Something warned him to seize his golden moment on the wing.
The day was Saturday, and he was pleasantly thrilled by the unwonted
crowds on River Street, which he now entered. Farm horses were tethered
thickly along hitching racks and shoppers thronged the marts of trade.
He threaded a way among them till he stood before the establishment of
Solly Gumble, confectioner. It brought him another thrill that the
people all about should be unaware of his wealth--he, laden with
unsuspected treasure that sagged cool and heavy on either thigh, while
they could but suppose him to be a conventionally impoverished small
He tried to be cool--to calculate sanely his first expenditure. But he
contrived an air of careless indecision as he sauntered through the
portals of the Gumble place and lingered before the counter of choicest
sweets, those so desirable that they must be guarded under glass from a
loftily sampling public.
"Two of those and two of those and one of them!"
It was his first order, and brought him, for five cents, two cocoanut
creams, two candied plums, and a chocolate mouse. He stood eating these
while he leisurely surveyed the neighbouring delicacies. Vaguely in his
mind was the thought that he might buy the place and thereafter keep
store. His cheeks distended by the chocolate mouse and the last of the
cocoanut creams, he now bartered for a candy cigar. It was of brown
material, at the blunt end a circle of white for the ash and at its
centre a brilliant square of scarlet paper for the glow, altogether a
charming feat of simulation, perhaps the most delightful humoresque in
all confectionery. It was priced at two cents, but what was money now?
Then, his eye roving to the loftier shelves, he spied remotely above him
a stuffed blue jay mounted on a varnished branch of oak. This was not
properly a part of the Gumble stock; it was a fixture, technically,
giving an air to the place from its niche between two mounting rows of
"How much for that beautiful bird for my father?" demanded the nouveau
His words were blurred by the still-resistant chocolate mouse, and he
was compelled to point before Solly Gumble divined his wish. The
merchant debated, removing his skullcap, smoothing his grizzled fringe
of curls, fitting the cap on again deliberately. Then he turned to
survey the bird, seemingly with an interest newly wakened. It was indeed
a beautiful bird, brilliantly blue, with sparkling eyes; a bit dusty,
but rarely desirable. The owner had not meant to part with it; still,
trade was trade. He meditated, tapping his cheek with a pencil.
"How much for that beautiful bird for my father?"
He had swallowed strenuously and this time got out the words cleanly.
"Well, now, I don't hardly know. My Bertha had her cousin give her that
bird. It's a costly bird. I guess you couldn't pay such a price. I guess
it would cost a full half dollar, mebbe."
He had meant the price to be prohibitive, and it did shock the
questioner, opulent though he was.
"Well, mebbe I will and mebbe I won't," he said, importantly. "Say, you
keep him for me till I make my mind up. If anybody else comes along,
don't you sell him to anybody else till I tell you, because prob'ly I'll
simply buy him. My father, he loves animals."
Solly Gumble was impressed.
"Well, he's a first-class animal. He's been in that one place goin' on
five years now."
"Give me two of those and two of those and one of them," said the Wilbur
twin, pointing to new heart's desires.
"Say, now, you got a lot of money for a little boy," said Solly Gumble,
not altogether at ease. This might be a case of embezzlement such as he
had before known among his younger patrons. "You sure it's yours--yes?"
"Ho!" The Wilbur twin scorned the imputation. He was not going to tell
how he had earned this wealth, but the ease of his simple retort was
enough for the practical psychologist before him. "I could buy all the
things in this store if I wanted to," he continued, and waved a
patronizing hand to the shelves. "Give me two of those and two of those
and one of them."
Solly Gumble put the latest purchase in a paper bag. Here was a patron
worth conciliating. The patron sauntered to the open door to eat of his
provender with lordly ease in the sight of an envious world. Calmly
elate, on the cushion of advantage, he scanned the going and coming of
lesser folk who could not buy at will of Solly Gumble. His fortune had
gone to his head, as often it has overthrown the reason of the more
mature indigent. It was thus his brother found him, and became instantly
troubled at what seemed to be the insane glitter of his eyes.
He engulfed an entire chocolate mouse from his sticky left hand and with
his right proffered the bag containing two of those and two of those and
one of them. Merle accepted the boon silently. He was thrilled, yet
distrustful. Until now his had been the leading mind, but his power was
gone. He resented this, yet was sensible that no resentment must be
shown. His talent as a tactician was to be sorely tested. He gently
tried out this talent.
"Winona says you ought to come home to dinner."
The magnate replied as from another world.
"I couldn't eat a mouthful," he said, and crowded a cocoanut cream into
an oral cavity already distended by a chocolate mouse.
"She says, now, you should save your money and buy some useful thing
with it," again ventured the parasite. It was the sign of a nicely
sensed acumen that he no longer called it "our" money.
"Ho! Gee, gosh!" spluttered the rich one, and that was all.
"What we going to have next?" demanded the wise one.
"I'll have to think up something." He did not invite suggestions and
none were offered. Merle nicely sensed the arrogance of the newly rich.
"I know," said the capitalist at length--"candy in a lemon."
"One for each?"
"Of course!" It was no time for petty economies.
Solly Gumble parted with two lemons and two sticks of spirally striped
candy of porous fabric. Then the moneyed gourmet dared a new flight.
"Two more sticks," he commanded. "You suck one stick down, then you put
another in the same old lemon," he explained.
"I must say!" exclaimed Merle. It was a high moment, but he never used
When the candy had been imbedded in the lemons they sauntered out to the
street, Merle meekly in the rear, the master mind still coerced by brute
wealth. They paused before other shop windows, cheeks hollowed above the
savory mechanism invented by Patricia Whipple. Down one side of River
Street to its last shop, and up the other, they progressed haltingly. At
many of the windows the capitalist displayed interest only of the most
academic character. At others he made sportive threats. Thus before the
jewellery shop of Rapp Brothers he quite unnerved Merle by announcing
that he could buy everything in that window if he wanted to--necklaces
and rings and pins and gold watches--and he might do this. If, say, he
did buy that black marble clock with the prancing gold horse on it,
would Merle take it home for him? He had no intention of buying this
object--he had never found clocks anything but a source of
annoyance--but he toyed with the suggestion when he saw that it agitated
his brother. Thereafter at other windows he wilfully dismayed his
brother by pretending to consider the purchase of objects in no sense
desirable to any one, such as boots, parasols, manicure sets, groceries,
hardware. He played with the feel of his wealth, relishing the power it
gave him over the moneyless.
And then purely to intensify this thrill of power he actually purchased
at the hardware shop and carelessly bestowed upon the mendicant brother
an elaborate knife with five blades and a thing which the vender said
was to use in digging stones out of horses' feet. Merle was quite
overcome by this gift, and neither of them suspected it to be the first
step in the downfall of the capitalist. The latter, be it remembered,
had bought and bestowed the knife that he might feel more acutely his
power over this penniless brother, and this mean reward was abundantly
his. Never before had he felt superior to the Merle twin.
But the penalties of giving are manifold, and he now felt a novel glow
of sheer beneficence. He was a victim to the craze for philanthropy. Too
young to realize its insidious character, he was to embark upon a
ruinous career. Ever it is the first step that costs. That carelessly
given knife--with something to dig stones out of a horse's foot--was to
wipe out, ere night again shrouded Newbern Center, a fortune supposed to
be as lasting as the eternal hills that encircled it.
They again crossed River Street, and stopped in front of the Cut-Rate
Pharmacy. The windows of this establishment offered little to entice
save the two mammoth chalices of green and crimson liquor. But these
were believed to be of fabulous value. Even the Cut-Rate Pharmacy itself
could afford but one of each. Inside the door a soda fountain hissed
provocatively. They took lemon and vanilla respectively, and the lordly
purchaser did not take up his change from the wet marble until he had
drained his glass. He had become preoccupied. He was mapping out a
career of benevolence, splendid, glittering, ostentatious--ruinous.
In a show case near the soda fountain his eye rested upon an object of
striking beauty, a photograph album of scarlet plush with a silver
clasp, and lest its purpose be misconstrued the word "Album" writ in
purest silver across its front. Negotiations resulting in its sale were
brief. The Merle twin was aghast, for the cost of this thing was a
dollar and forty-nine cents. Even the buyer trembled when he counted out
the price in small silver and coppers. But the result was a further
uplift raising him beyond the loudest call of caution. The album was
placed in the ornate box--itself no mean bibelot--and wrapped in paper.
"It's for Winona," the purchaser loftily explained to his white-faced
"I must say!" exclaimed the latter, strongly moved.
"I'm going to buy a beautiful present for every one," added the now
"Every one!" It was all Merle could manage, and even it caused him to
"Every one," repeated the hopeless addict.
And even as he said it he was snared again, this time by an immense
advertising placard propped on the counter. It hymned the virtues of the
Ajax Invigorator. To the left sagged a tormented male victim of many
ailments meticulously catalogued below, but in too fine print for
offhand reading by one in a hurry. The frame of the sufferer was bent,
upheld by a cane, one hand poignantly resting on his back. The face was
drawn with pain and despair. "For twenty years I suffered untold
agonies," this person was made to confess in large print. It was
heartrending. But opposite the moribund wretch was a figure of rich
health, erect, smartly dressed, with a full, smiling face and happy
eyes. Surprisingly this was none other than the sufferer. One could
hardly have believed them the same, but so it was. "The Ajax Invigorator
made a new man of me," continued the legend. There were further details
which seemed negligible to the philanthropist, because the pictured hero
of the invigorator already suggested Judge Penniman, the ever-ailing
father of Winona. The likeness was not wholly fanciful. True, the judge
was not so abject as the first figure, but then he was not so
obtrusively vigorous as the second.
"A bottle of that," said Wilbur, and pointed to the card.
The druggist thrust out a bottle already wrapped in a printed cover, and
the price, as became a cut-rate pharmacy, proved to be ninety-eight
A wish was now expressed that the advertising placard might also be
taken in order that Judge Penniman might see just what sort of new man
the invigorator would make of him. But this proved impracticable; the
placard must remain where it stood for the behoof of other invalids. But
there were smaller portraits of the same sufferer, it seemed, in the
literature inclosing the bottle. It was the Merle twin who carried the
purchases as they issued from the pharmacy. This was fitting,
inevitable. The sodden philanthropist must have his hands free to spend
They rested again at the Gumble counter--and now they were not alone.
The acoustics of the small town are faultless, and the activities of
this spendthrift had been noised abroad. To the twins, as two of those
and two of those and one of them were being ordered, came four other
boys to linger cordially by and assist in the selections. Hospitality
was not gracefully avoidable. The four received candy cigars and became
mere hangers-on of the rich, lost to all self-respect, fawning, falsely
solicitous, brightly expectant. Chocolate mice were next distributed.
The four guests were now so much of the party as to manifest quick
hostility to a fifth boy who had beamingly essayed to be numbered among
them. They officiously snubbed and even covertly threatened this fifth
boy, who none the less lingered very determinedly by the host, and was
presently rewarded with sticky largesse; whereupon he was accepted by
the four, and himself became hostile to another aspirant.
But mere candy began to cloy--Solly Gumble had opened the second box of
chocolate mice--and the host even abandoned his reenforced lemon, which
was promptly communized by the group. He tried to think of something to
eat that wouldn't be candy, whereupon mounted in his mind the pyramid of
watermelons a block down the street before the Bon Ton Grocery.
"We'll have a watermelon," he announced in tones of quiet authority, and
his cohorts gurgled applause.
They pressed noisily about him as he went to the Bon Ton. They
remembered a whale of a melon they had seen there, and said they would
bet he never had enough money to buy that one. Maybe he could buy a
medium-sized one, but not that. All of them kept a repellent manner for
any passing boy who might be selfishly moved to join them. The
spendthrift let them babble, preserving a rather grim silence. The whale
of a melon was indeed a noble growth, and its price was thirty-five
cents. The announcement of this caused a solemn hush to fall upon the
sycophants; a hush broken by the cool, masterful tones of their host.
"I'll take her," he said, and paid the fearful price from a still
weighty pocket. To the stoutest of the group went the honour of bearing
off the lordly burden. They turned into a cool alley that led to the
rear of the shops. Here in comparative solitude the whale of a melon
could be consumed and the function be unmarred by the presence of
"Open her," ordered the host, and the new knife was used to open her.
She proved to be but half ripe, but her size was held to atone for this
defect. A small, unripe melon would have been returned to the dealer
with loud complaining, but it seemed to be held that you couldn't expect
everything from one of this magnitude. It was devoured to the rind,
after which the convives reclined luxuriously upon a mound of excelsior
beside an empty crate.
"Penny grabs!" cried the host with a fresh inspiration, and they cheered
One of the five volunteered to go for them and the money-drunken host
confided the price of three of them to him. The messenger honorably
returned, the pennygrabs were bisected with the new knife, and all of
them but Merle smoked enjoyably. He, going back to his candy and lemon,
admonished each and all that smoking would stunt their growth. It seemed
not greatly to concern any of them. They believed Merle implicitly, but
what cared they?
Now the messenger in buying the pennygrabs had gabbled wildly to another
boy of the sensational expenditures under way, and this boy, though
incredulous, now came to a point in the alley from which he could survey
the fed group. The remains of the whale of a melon were there to
convince him. They were trifling remains, but they sufficed, and the six
fuming halves of pennygrabs were confirmatory. The scout departed
rapidly, to return a moment later with two other boys. One of the latter
led a dog.
The three newcomers, with a nice observance of etiquette, surveyed the
revellers from a distance. Lacking decent provocation, they might not
approach a group so plainly engaged upon affairs of its own--unless they
went aggressively, and this it did not yet seem wise to do. The
revellers became self-conscious under this scrutiny. They were moved to
new displays of wealth.
"I smelled 'em cookin' bologna in the back room of Hire's butcher shop,"
remarked the bringer of the pennygrabs. "It smelt grand."
The pliant host needed no more. He was tinder to such a spark.
"Get a quarter's worth, Howard," and the slave bounded off, to return
with a splendid rosy garland of the stuff, still warm and odorous.
Again the new knife of Merle was used. The now widely diffused scent of
bologna reached the three watchers, and appeared to madden one of them
beyond any restraint of good manners. He sauntered toward them,
pretending not to notice the banquet until he was upon it. He was a
desperate-appearing fellow--dark, saturnine, with a face of sullen
"Give us a hunk," he demanded.
He should have put it more gently. He should have condescended a little
to the amenities, for his imperious tone at once dried a generous spring
of philanthropy. He was to regret this lack of a mere superficial polish
that would have cost him nothing.
"Ho! Go buy it like we did!" retorted the host, crisply.
"Is that so?" queried the newcomer with rising warmth.
"Yes, sat's so!"
"Who says it's so?"
"I say it's so!"
This was seemingly futile; seemingly it got them nowhere, for the
newcomer again demanded: "Is that so?"
They seemed to have followed a vicious circle. But in reality they were
much farther along, for the mendicant had carelessly worked himself to a
point where he could reach for the half circle of bologna still
undivided, and the treasure was now snatched from this fate by the
watchful legal owner.
"Hold that!" he commanded one of his creatures, and rose quickly to his
"Is that so?" repeated the unimaginative newcomer.
"Yes, that's so!" affirmed the Wilbur twin once again.
"I guess I got as much right here as you got!"
This was a shifty attempt to cloud the issue. No one had faintly
questioned his right to be there.
"Ho! Gee, gosh!" snapped the Wilbur twin, feeling vaguely that this was
"Think you own this whole town, don't you?" demanded the aggressor.
"Ho! I guess I own it as much as what you do!"
The Wilbur twin knew perfectly that this was not the true issue, yet he
felt compelled to accept it.
"For two beans I'd punch you in the eye."
"Oh, you would, would you?" Each of the disputants here took a step
"Yes, I would, would you!" This was a try at mockery.
"Yes, you would not!"
"Yes, I would!"
"You're a big liar!"
The newcomer at this betrayed excessive rage.
"What's that? You just say that again!" He seemed unable to believe his