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& Other Stories
MARY E. WILKINS FREEMAN
I. THE COPY-CAT . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
II. THE COCK OF THE WALK . . . . . . . . . 33
III. JOHNNY-IN-THE-WOODS . . . . . . . . . 55
IV. DANIEL AND LITTLE DAN’L . . . . . . . . 83
V. BIG SISTER SOLLY . . . . . . . . . . 107
VI. LITTLE LUCY ROSE . . . . . . . . . . 137
VII. NOBLESSE . . . . . . . . . . . . . 163
VIII. CORONATION . . . . . . . . . . . . 183
IX. THE AMETHYST COMB . . . . . . . . . . 211
X. THE UMBRELLA MAN . . . . . . . . . . 237
XI. THE BALKING OF CHRISTOPHER . . . . . . . 267
XII. DEAR ANNIE . . . . . . . . . . . . 293
THAT affair of Jim Simmons’s cats never became known. Two little boys and a little girl can keep a secret — that is, sometimes. The two little boys had the advantage of the little girl because they could talk over the affair together, and the little girl, Lily Jennings, had no intimate girl friend to tempt her to confidence. She had only little Amelia Wheeler, commonly called by the pupils of Madame’s school “The Copy-Cat.”
Amelia was an odd little girl — that is, everybody called her odd. She was that rather unusual crea- ture, a child with a definite ideal; and that ideal was Lily Jennings. However, nobody knew that. If Amelia’s mother, who was a woman of strong charac- ter, had suspected, she would have taken strenuous measures to prevent such a peculiar state of affairs; the more so because she herself did not in the least approve of Lily Jennings. Mrs. Diantha Wheeler (Amelia’s father had died when she was a baby) often remarked to her own mother, Mrs. Stark, and to her mother-in-law, Mrs. Samuel Wheeler, that she did not feel that Mrs. Jennings was bringing up Lily exactly as she should. “That child thinks entirely too much of her looks,” said Mrs. Diantha. “When she walks past here she switches those ridiculous frilled frocks of hers as if she were entering a ball- room, and she tosses her head and looks about to see if anybody is watching her. If I were to see Amelia doing such things I should be very firm with her.”
“Lily Jennings is a very pretty child,” said Mother-in-law Wheeler, with an under-meaning, and Mrs. Diantha flushed. Amelia did not in the least resemble the Wheelers, who were a handsome set. She looked remarkably like her mother, who was a plain woman, only little Amelia did not have a square chin. Her chin was pretty and round, with a little dimple in it. In fact, Amelia’s chin was the pretti- est feature she had. Her hair was phenomenally straight. It would not even yield to hot curling- irons, which her grandmother Wheeler had tried sur- reptitiously several times when there was a little girls’ party. “I never saw such hair as that poor child has in all my life,” she told the other grand- mother, Mrs. Stark. “Have the Starks always had such very straight hair?”
Mrs. Stark stiffened her chin. Her own hair was very straight. “I don’t know,” said she, “that the Starks have had any straighter hair than other people. If Amelia does not have anything worse to contend with than straight hair I rather think she will get along in the world as well as most people.”
“It’s thin, too,” said Grandmother Wheeler, with a sigh, “and it hasn’t a mite of color. Oh, well, Amelia is a good child, and beauty isn’t everything.” Grandmother Wheeler said that as if beauty were a great deal, and Grandmother Stark arose and shook out her black silk skirts. She had money, and loved to dress in rich black silks and laces.
“It is very little, very little indeed,” said she, and she eyed Grandmother Wheeler’s lovely old face, like a wrinkled old rose as to color, faultless as to feature, and swept about by the loveliest waves of shining silver hair.
Then she went out of the room, and Grandmother Wheeler, left alone, smiled. She knew the worth of beauty for those who possess it and those who do not. She had never been quite reconciled to her son’s marrying such a plain girl as Diantha Stark, although she had money. She considered beauty on the whole as a more valuable asset than mere gold. She regretted always that poor little Amelia, her only grandchild, was so very plain-looking. She always knew that Amelia was very plain, and yet sometimes the child puzzled her. She seemed to see reflections of beauty, if not beauty itself, in the little colorless face, in the figure, with its too-large joints and utter absence of curves. She sometimes even wondered privately if some subtle resemblance to the handsome Wheelers might not be in the child and yet appear. But she was mistaken. What she saw was pure mimicry of a beautiful ideal.
Little Amelia tried to stand like Lily Jennings; she tried to walk like her; she tried to smile like her; she made endeavors, very often futile, to dress like her. Mrs. Wheeler did not in the least approve of furbelows for children. Poor little Amelia went clad in severe simplicity; durable woolen frocks in winter, and washable, unfadable, and non-soil-show- ing frocks in summer. She, although her mother had perhaps more money wherewith to dress her than had any of the other mothers, was the plainest-clad little girl in school. Amelia, moreover, never tore a frock, and, as she did not grow rapidly, one lasted several seasons. Lily Jennings was destructive, although dainty. Her pretty clothes were renewed every year. Amelia was helpless before that problem. For a little girl burning with aspirations to be and look like another little girl who was beautiful and wore beautiful clothes, to be obliged to set forth for Madame’s on a lovely spring morning, when thin attire was in evidence, dressed in dark-blue-and- white-checked gingham, which she had worn for three summers, and with sleeves which, even to childish eyes, were anachronisms, was a trial. Then to see Lily flutter in a frock like a perfectly new white flower was torture; not because of jealousy — Amelia was not jealous; but she so admired the other little girl, and so loved her, and so wanted to be like her.
As for Lily, she hardly ever noticed Amelia. She was not aware that she herself was an object of adoration; for she was a little girl who searched for admiration in the eyes of little boys rather than little girls, although very innocently. She always glanced slyly at Johnny Trumbull when she wore a pretty new frock, to see if he noticed. He never did, and she was sharp enough to know it. She was also child enough not to care a bit, but to take a queer pleasure in the sensation of scorn which she felt in consequence. She would eye Johnny from head to foot, his boy’s clothing somewhat spotted, his bulging pockets, his always dusty shoes, and when he twisted uneasily, not understanding why, she had a thrill of purely feminine delight. It was on one such occa- sion that she first noticed Amelia Wheeler particularly.
It was a lovely warm morning in May, and Lily was a darling to behold — in a big hat with a wreath of blue flowers, her hair tied with enormous blue silk bows, her short skirts frilled with eyelet embroidery, her slender silk legs, her little white sandals. Ma- dame’s maid had not yet struck the Japanese gong, and all the pupils were out on the lawn, Amelia, in her clean, ugly gingham and her serviceable brown sailor hat, hovering near Lily, as usual, like a common, very plain butterfly near a particularly resplendent blossom. Lily really noticed her. She spoke to her confidentially; she recognized her fully as another of her own sex, and presumably of similar opinions.
“Ain’t boys ugly, anyway?” inquired Lily of Amelia, and a wonderful change came over Amelia. Her sallow cheeks bloomed; her eyes showed blue glitters; her little skinny figure became instinct with nervous life. She smiled charmingly, with such eagerness that it smote with pathos and bewitched.
“Oh yes, oh yes,” she agreed, in a voice like a quick flute obbligato. “Boys are ugly.”
“Such clothes!” said Lily.
“Yes, such clothes!” said Amelia.
“Always spotted,” said Lily.
“Always covered all over with spots,” said Amelia.
“And their pockets always full of horrid things,” said Lily.
“Yes,” said Amelia.
Amelia glanced openly at Johnny Trumbull; Lily with a sidewise effect.
Johnny had heard every word. Suddenly he arose to action and knocked down Lee Westminster, and sat on him.
“Lemme up!” said Lee.
Johnny had no quarrel whatever with Lee. He grinned, but he sat still. Lee, the sat-upon, was a sharp little boy. “Showing off before the gals!” he said, in a thin whisper.
“Hush up!” returned Johnny.
“Will you give me a writing-pad — I lost mine, and mother said I couldn’t have another for a week if I did — if I don’t holler?” inquired Lee.
“Yes. Hush up!”
Lee lay still, and Johnny continued to sit upon his prostrate form. Both were out of sight of Madame’s windows, behind a clump of the cedars which graced her lawn.
“Always fighting,” said Lily, with a fine crescendo of scorn. She lifted her chin high, and also her nose.
“Always fighting,” said Amelia, and also lifted her chin and nose. Amelia was a born mimic. She actually looked like Lily, and she spoke like her.
Then Lily did a wonderful thing. She doubled her soft little arm into an inviting loop for Amelia’s little claw of a hand.
“Come along, Amelia Wheeler,” said she. “We don’t want to stay near horrid, fighting boys. We will go by ourselves.”
And they went. Madame had a headache that morning, and the Japanese gong did not ring for fifteen minutes longer. During that time Lily and Amelia sat together on a little rustic bench under a twinkling poplar, and they talked, and a sort of miniature sun-and-satellite relation was established between them, although neither was aware of it. Lily, being on the whole a very normal little girl, and not disposed to even a full estimate of herself as compared with others of her own sex, did not dream of Amelia’s adoration, and Amelia, being rarely destitute of self-consciousness, did not understand the whole scope of her own sentiments. It was quite sufficient that she was seated close to this wonderful Lily, and agreeing with her to the verge of immo- lation.
“Of course,” said Lily, “girls are pretty, and boys are just as ugly as they can be.”
“Oh yes,” said Amelia, fervently.
“But,” said Lily, thoughtfully, “it is queer how Johnny Trumbull always comes out ahead in a fight, and he is not so very large, either.”
“Yes,” said Amelia, but she realized a pang of jealousy. “Girls could fight, I suppose,” said she.
“Oh yes, and get their clothes all torn and messy,” said Lily.
“I shouldn’t care,” said Amelia. Then she added, with a little toss, “I almost know I could fight.” The thought even floated through her wicked little mind that fighting might be a method of wearing out obnoxious and durable clothes.
“You!” said Lily, and the scorn in her voice wilted Amelia.
“Maybe I couldn’t,” said she.
“Of course you couldn’t, and if you could, what a sight you’d be. Of course it wouldn’t hurt your clothes as much as some, because your mother dresses you in strong things, but you’d be sure to get black and blue, and what would be the use, anyway? You couldn’t be a boy, if you did fight.”
“No. I know I couldn’t.”
“Then what is the use? We are a good deal prettier than boys, and cleaner, and have nicer manners, and we must be satisfied.”
“You are prettier,” said Amelia, with a look of worshipful admiration at Lily’s sweet little face.
“You are prettier,” said Lily. Then she added, equivocally, “Even the very homeliest girl is prettier than a boy.”
Poor Amelia, it was a good deal for her to be called prettier than a very dusty boy in a fight. She fairly dimpled with delight, and again she smiled charm- ingly. Lily eyed her critically.
“You aren’t so very homely, after all, Amelia,” she said. “You needn’t think you are.”
Amelia smiled again.
“When you look like you do now you are real pretty,” said Lily, not knowing or even suspecting the truth, that she was regarding in the face of this little ardent soul her own, as in a mirror.
However, it was after that episode that Amelia Wheeler was called “Copy-Cat.” The two little girls entered Madame’s select school arm in arm, when the musical gong sounded, and behind them came Lee Westminster and Johnny Trumbull, sur- reptitiously dusting their garments, and ever after the fact of Amelia’s adoration and imitation of Lily Jennings was evident to all. Even Madame became aware of it, and held conferences with two of the under teachers.
“It is not at all healthy for one child to model herself so entirely upon the pattern of another,” said Miss Parmalee.
“Most certainly it is not,” agreed Miss Acton, the music-teacher.
“Why, that poor little Amelia Wheeler had the rudiments of a fairly good contralto. I had begun to wonder if the poor child might not be able at least to sing a little, and so make up for — other things; and now she tries to sing high like Lily Jen- nings, and I simply cannot prevent it. She has heard Lily play, too, and has lost her own touch, and now it is neither one thing nor the other.”
“I might speak to her mother,” said Madame, thoughtfully. Madame was American born, but she married a French gentleman, long since deceased, and his name sounded well on her circulars. She and her two under teachers were drinking tea in her library.
Miss Parmalee, who was a true lover of her pupils, gasped at Madame’s proposition. “Whatever you do, please do not tell that poor child’s mother,” said she.
“I do not think it would be quite wise, if I may venture to express an opinion,” said Miss Acton, who was a timid soul, and always inclined to shy at her own ideas.
“But why?” asked Madame.
“Her mother,” said Miss Parmalee, “is a quite remarkable woman, with great strength of character, but she would utterly fail to grasp the situation.”
“I must confess,” said Madame, sipping her tea, “that I fail to understand it. Why any child not an absolute idiot should so lose her own identity in an- other’s absolutely bewilders me. I never heard of such a case.”
Miss Parmalee, who had a sense of humor, laughed a little. “It is bewildering,” she admitted. “And now the other children see how it is, and call her ‘Copy-Cat’ to her face, but she does not mind. I doubt if she understands, and neither does Lily, for that matter. Lily Jennings is full of mischief, but she moves in straight lines; she is not conceited or self-conscious, and she really likes Amelia, without knowing why.”
“I fear Lily will lead Amelia into mischief,” said Madame, “and Amelia has always been such a good child.”
“Lily will never MEAN to lead Amelia into mis- chief,” said loyal Miss Parmalee.
“But she will,” said Madame.
“If Lily goes, I cannot answer for Amelia’s not following,” admitted Miss Parmalee.
“I regret it all very much indeed,” sighed Ma- dame, “but it does seem to me still that Amelia’s mother –“
“Amelia’s mother would not even believe it, in the first place,” said Miss Parmalee.
“Well, there is something in that,” admitted Ma- dame. “I myself could not even imagine such a situation. I would not know of it now, if you and Miss Acton had not told me.”
“There is not the slightest use in telling Amelia not to imitate Lily, because she does not know that she is imitating her,” said Miss Parmalee. “If she were to be punished for it, she could never compre- hend the reason.”
“That is true,” said Miss Acton. “I realize that when the poor child squeaks instead of singing. All I could think of this morning was a little mouse caught in a trap which she could not see. She does actually squeak! — and some of her low notes, al- though, of course, she is only a child, and has never attempted much, promised to be very good.”
“She will have to squeak, for all I can see,” said Miss Parmalee. “It looks to me like one of those situations that no human being can change for better or worse.”
“I suppose you are right,” said Madame, “but it is most unfortunate, and Mrs. Wheeler is such a superior woman, and Amelia is her only child, and this is such a very subtle and regrettable affair. Well, we have to leave a great deal to Providence.”
“If,” said Miss Parmalee, “she could only get angry when she is called ‘Copy-Cat.'” Miss Parma- lee laughed, and so did Miss Acton. Then all the ladies had their cups refilled, and left Providence to look out for poor little Amelia Wheeler, in her mad pursuit of her ideal in the shape of another little girl possessed of the exterior graces which she had not.
Meantime the little “Copy-Cat” had never been so happy. She began to improve in her looks also. Her grandmother Wheeler noticed it first, and spoke of it to Grandmother Stark. “That child may not be so plain, after all,” said she. “I looked at her this morning when she started for school, and I thought for the first time that there was a little re- semblance to the Wheelers.”
Grandmother Stark sniffed, but she looked grati- fied. “I have been noticing it for some time,” said she, “but as for looking like the Wheelers, I thought this morning for a minute that I actually saw my poor dear husband looking at me out of that blessed child’s eyes.”
Grandmother Wheeler smiled her little, aggra- vating, curved, pink smile.
But even Mrs. Diantha began to notice the change for the better in Amelia. She, however, attributed it to an increase of appetite and a system of deep breathing which she had herself taken up and en- joined Amelia to follow. Amelia was following Lily Jennings instead, but that her mother did not know. Still, she was gratified to see Amelia’s little sallow cheeks taking on pretty curves and a soft bloom, and she was more inclined to listen when Grand- mother Wheeler ventured to approach the subject of Amelia’s attire.
“Amelia would not be so bad-looking if she were better dressed, Diantha,” said she.
Diantha lifted her chin, but she paid heed. “Why, does not Amelia dress perfectly well, mother?” she inquired.
“She dresses well enough, but she needs more ribbons and ruffles.”
“I do not approve of so many ribbons and ruffles,” said Mrs. Diantha. “Amelia has perfectly neat, fresh black or brown ribbons for her hair, and ruffles are not sanitary.”
“Ruffles are pretty,” said Grandmother Wheeler, “and blue and pink are pretty colors. Now, that Jennings girl looks like a little picture.”
But that last speech of Grandmother Wheeler’s undid all the previous good. Mrs. Diantha had an unacknowledged — even to herself — disapproval of Mrs. Jennings which dated far back in the past, for a reason which was quite unworthy of her and of her strong mind. When she and Lily’s mother had been girls, she had seen Mrs. Jennings look like a picture, and had been perfectly well aware that she herself fell far short of an artist’s ideal. Perhaps if Mrs. Stark had believed in ruffles and ribbons, her daugh- ter might have had a different mind when Grand- mother Wheeler had finished her little speech.
As it was, Mrs. Diantha surveyed her small, pretty mother-in-law with dignified serenity, which savored only delicately of a snub. “I do not myself approve of the way in which Mrs. Jennings dresses her daugh- ter,” said she, “and I do not consider that the child presents to a practical observer as good an appear- ance as my Amelia.”
Grandmother Wheeler had a temper. It was a childish temper and soon over — still, a temper. “Lord,” said she, “if you mean to say that you think your poor little snipe of a daughter, dressed like a little maid-of-all-work, can compare with that lovely little Lily Jennings, who is dressed like a doll! –“
“I do not wish that my daughter should be dressed like a doll,” said Mrs. Diantha, coolly.
“Well, she certainly isn’t,” said Grandmother Wheeler. “Nobody would ever take her for a doll as far as looks or dress are concerned. She may be GOOD enough. I don’t deny that Amelia is a good little girl, but her looks could be improved on.”
“Looks matter very little,” said Mrs. Diantha.
“They matter very much,” said Grandmother Wheeler, pugnaciously, her blue eyes taking on a peculiar opaque glint, as always when she lost her temper, “very much indeed. But looks can’t be helped. If poor little Amelia wasn’t born with pretty looks, she wasn’t. But she wasn’t born with such ugly clothes. She might be better dressed.”
“I dress my daughter as I consider best,” said Mrs. Diantha. Then she left the room.
Grandmother Wheeler sat for a few minutes, her blue eyes opaque, her little pink lips a straight line; then suddenly her eyes lit, and she smiled. “Poor Diantha,” said she, “I remember how Henry used to like Lily Jennings’s mother before he married Diantha. Sour grapes hang high.” But Grand- mother Wheeler’s beautiful old face was quite soft and gentle. From her heart she pitied the reacher after those high-hanging sour grapes, for Mrs. Dian- tha had been very good to her.
Then Grandmother Wheeler, who had a mild persistency not evident to a casual observer, began to make plans and lay plots. She was resolved, Diantha or not, that her granddaughter, her son’s child, should have some fine feathers. The little conference had taken place in her own room, a large, sunny one, with a little storeroom opening from it. Presently Grandmother Wheeler rose, entered the storeroom, and began rummaging in some old trunks. Then followed days of secret work. Grandmother Wheeler had been noted as a fine needlewoman, and her hand had not yet lost its cunning. She had one of Amelia’s ugly little ginghams, purloined from a closet, for size, and she worked two or three dainty wonders. She took Grandmother Stark into her confidence. Sometimes the two ladies, by reason of their age, found it possible to combine with good results.
“Your daughter Diantha is one woman in a thou- sand,” said Grandmother Wheeler, diplomatically, one day, “but she never did care much for clothes.”
“Diantha,” returned Grandmother Stark, with a suspicious glance, “always realized that clothes were not the things that mattered.”
“And, of course, she is right,” said Grandmother Wheeler, piously. “Your Diantha is one woman in a thousand. If she cared as much for fine clothes as some women, I don’t know where we should all be. It would spoil poor little Amelia.”
“Yes, it would,” assented Grandmother Stark. “Nothing spoils a little girl more than always to be thinking about her clothes.”
“Yes, I was looking at Amelia the other day, and thinking how much more sensible she appeared in her plain gingham than Lily Jennings in all her ruffles and ribbons. Even if people were all notic- ing Lily, and praising her, thinks I to myself, ‘How little difference such things really make. Even if our dear Amelia does stand to one side, and nobody notices her, what real matter is it?'” Grandmother Wheeler was inwardly chuckling as she spoke.
Grandmother Stark was at once alert. “Do you mean to say that Amelia is really not taken so much notice of because she dresses plainly?” said she.
“You don’t mean that you don’t know it, as ob- servant as you are?” replied Grandmother Wheeler.
“Diantha ought not to let it go as far as that,” said Grandmother Stark. Grandmother Wheeler looked at her queerly. “Why do you look at me like that?”
“Well, I did something I feared I ought not to have done. And I didn’t know what to do, but your speaking so makes me wonder –“
Then Grandmother Wheeler went to her little storeroom and emerged bearing a box. She dis- played the contents — three charming little white frocks fluffy with lace and embroidery.
“Did you make them?”
“Yes, I did. I couldn’t help it. I thought if the dear child never wore them, it would be some com- fort to know they were in the house.”
“That one needs a broad blue sash,” said Grand- mother Stark.
Grandmother Wheeler laughed. She took her impe- cuniosity easily. “I had to use what I had,” said she.
“I will get a blue sash for that one,” said Grand- mother Stark, “and a pink sash for that, and a flow- ered one for that.”
“Of course they will make all the difference,” said Grandmother Wheeler. “Those beautiful sashes will really make the dresses.”
“I will get them,” said Grandmother Stark, with decision. “I will go right down to Mann Brothers’ store now and get them.”
“Then I will make the bows, and sew them on,” replied Grandmother Wheeler, happily.
It thus happened that little Amelia Wheeler was possessed of three beautiful dresses, although she did not know it.
For a long time neither of the two conspiring grandmothers dared divulge the secret. Mrs. Dian- tha was a very determined woman, and even her own mother stood somewhat in awe of her. There- fore, little Amelia went to school during the spring term soberly clad as ever, and even on the festive last day wore nothing better than a new blue ging- ham, made too long, to allow for shrinkage, and new blue hair-ribbons. The two grandmothers almost wept in secret conclave over the lovely frocks which were not worn.
“I respect Diantha,” said Grandmother Wheeler. “You know that. She is one woman in a thousand, but I do hate to have that poor child go to school to-day with so many to look at her, and she dressed so unlike all the other little girls.”
“Diantha has got so much sense, it makes her blind and deaf,” declared Grandmother Stark. “I call it a shame, if she is my daughter.”
“Then you don’t venture –“
Grandmother Stark reddened. She did not like to own to awe of her daughter. “I VENTURE, if that is all,” said she, tartly. “You don’t suppose I am afraid of Diantha? — but she would not let Amelia wear one of the dresses, anyway, and I don’t want the child made any unhappier than she is.”
“Well, I will admit,” replied Grandmother Wheel- er, “if poor Amelia knew she had these beautiful dresses and could not wear them she might feel worse about wearing that homely gingham.”
“Gingham!” fairly snorted Grandmother Stark. “I cannot see why Diantha thinks so much of ging- ham. It shrinks, anyway.”
Poor little Amelia did undoubtedly suffer on that last day, when she sat among the others gaily clad, and looked down at her own common little skirts. She was very glad, however, that she had not been chosen to do any of the special things which would have necessitated her appearance upon the little flower-decorated platform. She did not know of the conversation between Madame and her two as- sistants.
“I would have Amelia recite a little verse or two,” said Madame, “but how can I?” Madame adored dress, and had a lovely new one of sheer dull-blue stuff, with touches of silver, for the last day.
“Yes,” agreed Miss Parmalee, “that poor child is sensitive, and for her to stand on the platform in one of those plain ginghams would be too cruel.”
“Then, too,” said Miss Acton, “she would re- cite her verses exactly like Lily Jennings. She can make her voice exactly like Lily’s now. Then every- body would laugh, and Amelia would not know why. She would think they were laughing at her dress, and that would be dreadful.”
If Amelia’s mother could have heard that conver- sation everything would have been different, al- though it is puzzling to decide in what way.
It was the last of the summer vacation in early September, just before school began, that a climax came to Amelia’s idolatry and imitation of Lily. The Jenningses had not gone away that sum- mer, so the two little girls had been thrown together a good deal. Mrs. Diantha never went away during a summer. She considered it her duty to remain at home, and she was quite pitiless to herself when it came to a matter of duty.
However, as a result she was quite ill during the last of August and the first of September. The sea- son had been unusually hot, and Mrs. Diantha had not spared herself from her duty on account of the heat. She would have scorned herself if she had done so. But she could not, strong-minded as she was, avert something like a heat prostration after a long walk under a burning sun, nor weeks of confinement and idleness in her room afterward.
When September came, and a night or two of com- parative coolness, she felt stronger; still she was compelled by most unusual weakness to refrain from her energetic trot in her duty-path; and then it was that something happened.
One afternoon Lily fluttered over to Amelia’s, and Amelia, ever on the watch, spied her.
“May I go out and see Lily?” she asked Grand- mother Stark.
“Yes, but don’t talk under the windows; your mother is asleep.”
Amelia ran out.
“I declare,” said Grandmother Stark to Grand- mother Wheeler, “I was half a mind to tell that child to wait a minute and slip on one of those pretty dresses. I hate to have her go on the street in that old gingham, with that Jennings girl dressed up like a wax doll.”
“I know it.”
“And now poor Diantha is so weak — and asleep — it would not have annoyed her.”
“I know it.”
Grandmother Stark looked at Grandmother Wheeler. Of the two she possessed a greater share of original sin compared with the size of her soul. Moreover, she felt herself at liberty to circumvent her own daughter. Whispering, she unfolded a dar- ing scheme to the other grandmother, who stared at her aghast a second out of her lovely blue eyes, then laughed softly.
“Very well,” said she, “if you dare.”
“I rather think I dare!” said Grandmother Stark. “Isn’t Diantha Wheeler my own daughter?” Grand- mother Stark had grown much bolder since Mrs. Diantha had been ill.
Meantime Lily and Amelia walked down the street until they came to a certain vacant lot inter- sected by a foot-path between tall, feathery grasses and goldenrod and asters and milkweed. They en- tered the foot-path, and swarms of little butterflies rose around them, and once in a while a protesting bumblebee.
“I am afraid we will be stung by the bees,” said Amelia.
“Bumblebees never sting,” said Lily; and Amelia believed her.
When the foot-path ended, there was the river- bank. The two little girls sat down under a clump of brook willows and talked, while the river, full of green and blue and golden lights, slipped past them and never stopped.
Then Lily proceeded to unfold a plan, which was not philosophical, but naughtily ingenious. By this time Lily knew very well that Amelia admired her, and imitated her as successfully as possible, consid- ering the drawback of dress and looks.
When she had finished Amelia was quite pale. “I am afraid, I am afraid, Lily,” said she.
“My mother will find out; besides, I am afraid it isn’t right.”
“Who ever told you it was wrong?”
“Nobody ever did,” admitted Amelia.
“Well, then you haven’t any reason to think it is,” said Lily, triumphantly. “And how is your mother ever going to find it out?”
“I don’t know.”
“Isn’t she ill in her room? And does she ever come to kiss you good night, the way my mother does, when she is well?”
“No,” admitted Amelia.
“And neither of your grandmothers?”
“Grandmother Stark would think it was silly, like mother, and Grandmother Wheeler can’t go up and down stairs very well.”
“I can’t see but you are perfectly safe. I am the only one that runs any risk at all. I run a great deal of risk, but I am willing to take it,” said Lily with a virtuous air. Lily had a small but rather involved scheme simply for her own ends, which did not seem to call for much virtue, but rather the contrary.
Lily had overheard Arnold Carruth and Johnny Trumbull and Lee Westminster and another boy, Jim Patterson, planning a most delightful affair, which even in the cases of the boys was fraught with danger, secrecy, and doubtful rectitude. Not one of the four boys had had a vacation from the village that summer, and their young minds had become charged, as it were, with the seeds of revolution and rebellion. Jim Patterson, the son of the rector, and of them all the most venturesome, had planned to take — he called it “take”; he meant to pay for it, anyway, he said, as soon as he could shake enough money out of his nickel savings-bank — one of his father’s Plymouth Rock chickens and have a chicken- roast in the woods back of Dr. Trumbull’s. He had planned for Johnny to take some ears of corn suitable for roasting from his father’s garden; for Lee to take some cookies out of a stone jar in his mother’s pantry; and for Arnold to take some pota- toes. Then they four would steal forth under cover of night, build a camp-fire, roast their spoils, and feast.
Lily had resolved to be of the party. She resorted to no open methods; the stones of the fighting suf- fragettes were not for her, little honey-sweet, curled, and ruffled darling; rather the time-worn, if not time-sanctified, weapons of her sex, little instruments of wiles, and tiny dodges, and tiny subterfuges, which would serve her best.
“You know,” she said to Amelia, “you don’t look like me. Of course you know that, and that can’t be helped; but you do walk like me, and talk like me, you know that, because they call you ‘Copy- Cat.'”
“Yes, I know,” said poor Amelia.
“I don’t mind if they do call you ‘Copy-Cat,'” said Lily, magnanimously. “I don’t mind a bit. But, you see, my mother always comes up-stairs to kiss me good night after I have gone to bed, and to- morrow night she has a dinner-party, and she will surely be a little late, and I can’t manage unless you help me. I will get one of my white dresses for you, and all you have to do is to climb out of your window into that cedar-tree — you know you can climb down that, because you are so afraid of burglars climbing up — and you can slip on my dress; you had better throw it out of the window and not try to climb in it, because my dresses tear awful easy, and we might get caught that way. Then you just sneak down to our house, and I shall be outdoors; and when you go up-stairs, if the doors should be open, and any- body should call, you can answer just like me; and I have found that light curly wig Aunt Laura wore when she had her head shaved after she had a fever, and you just put that on and go to bed, and mother will never know when she kisses you good night. Then after the roast I will go to your house, and climb up that tree, and go to bed in your room. And I will have one of your gingham dresses to wear, and very early in the morning I will get up, and you get up, and we both of us can get down the back stairs without being seen, and run home.”
Amelia was almost weeping. It was her worshiped Lily’s plan, but she was horribly scared. “I don’t know,” she faltered.
“Don’t know! You’ve got to! You don’t love me one single bit or you wouldn’t stop to think about whether you didn’t know.” It was the world-old argument which floors love. Amelia succumbed.
The next evening a frightened little girl clad in one of Lily Jennings’s white embroidered frocks was racing to the Jenningses’ house, and another little girl, not at all frightened, but enjoying the stimulus of mischief and unwontedness, was racing to the wood behind Dr. Trumbull’s house, and that little girl was clad in one of Amelia Wheeler’s ginghams. But the plan went all awry.
Lily waited, snuggled up behind an alder-bush, and the boys came, one by one, and she heard this whispered, although there was no necessity for whis- pering, “Jim Patterson, where’s that hen?”
“Couldn’t get her. Grabbed her, and all her tail- feathers came out in a bunch right in my hand, and she squawked so, father heard. He was in his study writing his sermon, and he came out, and if I hadn’t hid behind the chicken-coop and then run I couldn’t have got here. But I can’t see as you’ve got any corn, Johnny Trumbull.”
“Couldn’t. Every single ear was cooked for din- ner.”
“I couldn’t bring any cookies, either,” said Lee Westminster; “there weren’t any cookies in the jar.”
“And I couldn’t bring the potatoes, because the outside cellar door was locked,” said Arnold Car- ruth. “I had to go down the back stairs and out the south door, and the inside cellar door opens out of our dining-room, and I daren’t go in there.”
“Then we might as well go home,” said Johnny Trumbull. “If I had been you, Jim Patterson, I would have brought that old hen if her tail-feathers had come out. Seems to me you scare awful easy.”
“Guess if you had heard her squawk!” said Jim, resentfully. “If you want to try to lick me, come on, Johnny Trumbull. Guess you don’t darse call me scared again.”
Johnny eyed him standing there in the gloom. Jim was not large, but very wiry, and the ground was not suited for combat. Johnny, although a victor, would probably go home considerably the worse in appearance; and he could anticipate the conse- quences were his father to encounter him.
“Shucks!” said Johnny Trumbull, of the fine old Trumbull family and Madame’s exclusive school. “Shucks! who wants your old hen? We had chicken for dinner, anyway.”
“So did we,” said Arnold Carruth.
“We did, and corn,” said Lee.
“We did,” said Jim.
Lily stepped forth from the alder-bush. “If,” said she, “I were a boy, and had started to have a chicken-roast, I would have HAD a chicken-roast.”
But every boy, even the valiant Johnny Trum- bull, was gone in a mad scutter. This sudden appari- tion of a girl was too much for their nerves. They never even knew who the girl was, although little Arnold Carruth said she had looked to him like “Copy-Cat,” but the others scouted the idea.
Lily Jennings made the best of her way out of the wood across lots to the road. She was not in a par- ticularly enviable case. Amelia Wheeler was pre- sumably in her bed, and she saw nothing for it but to take the difficult way to Amelia’s.
Lily tore a great rent in the gingham going up the cedar-tree, but that was nothing to what followed. She entered through Amelia’s window, her prim little room, to find herself confronted by Amelia’s mother in a wrapper, and her two grandmothers. Grandmother Stark had over her arm a beautiful white embroidered dress. The two old ladies had entered the room in order to lay the white dress on a chair and take away Amelia’s gingham, and there was no Amelia. Mrs. Diantha had heard the com- motion, and had risen, thrown on her wrapper, and come. Her mother had turned upon her.
“It is all your fault, Diantha,” she had declared.
“My fault?” echoed Mrs. Diantha, bewildered. “Where is Amelia?”
“We don’t know,” said Grandmother Stark, “but you have probably driven her away from home by your cruelty.”
“Yes, cruelty. What right had you to make that poor child look like a fright, so people laughed at her? We have made her some dresses that look decent, and had come here to leave them, and to take away those old gingham things that look as if she lived in the almshouse, and leave these, so she would either have to wear them or go without, when we found she had gone.”
It was at that crucial moment that Lily entered by way of the window.
“Here she is now,” shrieked Grandmother Stark. “Amelia, where –” Then she stopped short.
Everybody stared at Lily’s beautiful face suddenly gone white. For once Lily was frightened. She lost all self-control. She began to sob. She could scarce- ly tell the absurd story for sobs, but she told, every word.
Then, with a sudden boldness, she too turned on Mrs. Diantha. “They call poor Amelia ‘Copy- Cat,'” said she, “and I don’t believe she would ever have tried so hard to look like me only my mother dresses me so I look nice, and you send Amelia to school looking awfully.” Then Lily sobbed again.
“My Amelia is at your house, as I understand?” said Mrs. Diantha, in an awful voice.
“Let me go,” said Mrs. Diantha, violently, to Grandmother Stark, who tried to restrain her. Mrs. Diantha dressed herself and marched down the street, dragging Lily after her. The little girl had to trot to keep up with the tall woman’s strides, and all the way she wept.
It was to Lily’s mother’s everlasting discredit, in Mrs. Diantha’s opinion, but to Lily’s wonderful re- lief, that when she heard the story, standing in the hall in her lovely dinner dress, with the strains of music floating from the drawing-room, and cigar smoke floating from the dining-room, she laughed. When Lily said, “And there wasn’t even any chicken- roast, mother,” she nearly had hysterics.
“If you think this is a laughing matter, Mrs. Jen- nings, I do not,” said Mrs. Diantha, and again her dislike and sorrow at the sight of that sweet, mirth- ful face was over her. It was a face to be loved, and hers was not.
“Why, I went up-stairs and kissed the child good night, and never suspected,” laughed Lily’s mother.
“I got Aunt Laura’s curly, light wig for her,” ex- plained Lily, and Mrs. Jennings laughed again.
It was not long before Amelia, in her gingham, went home, led by her mother — her mother, who was trembling with weakness now. Mrs. Diantha did not scold. She did not speak, but Amelia felt with wonder her little hand held very tenderly by her mother’s long fingers.
When at last she was undressed and in bed, Mrs. Diantha, looking very pale, kissed her, and so did both grandmothers.
Amelia, being very young and very tired, went to sleep. She did not know that that night was to mark a sharp turn in her whole life. Thereafter she went to school “dressed like the best,” and her mother petted her as nobody had ever known her mother could pet.
It was not so very long afterward that Amelia, out of her own improvement in appearance, devel- oped a little stamp of individuality.
One day Lily wore a white frock with blue rib- bons, and Amelia wore one with coral pink. It was a particular day in school; there was company, and tea was served.
“I told you I was going to wear blue ribbons,” Lily whispered to Amelia. Amelia smiled lovingly back at her.
“Yes, I know, but I thought I would wear pink.”
THE COCK OF THE WALK
THE COCK OF THE WALK
DOWN the road, kicking up the dust until he marched, soldier-wise, in a cloud of it, that rose and grimed his moist face and added to the heavy, brown powder upon the wayside weeds and flowers, whistling a queer, tuneless thing, which yet contained definite sequences — the whistle of a bird rather than a boy — approached Johnny Trumbull, aged ten, small of his age, but accounted by his mates mighty.
Johnny came of the best and oldest family in the village, but it was in some respects an undesirable family for a boy. In it survived, as fossils survive in ancient nooks and crannies of the earth, old traits of race, unchanged by time and environment. Liv- ing in a house lighted by electricity, the mental con- ception of it was to the Trumbulls as the conception of candles; with telephones at hand, they uncon- sciously still conceived of messages delivered with the old saying, “Ride, ride,” etc., and relays of post-horses. They locked their doors, but still had latch-strings in mind. Johnny’s father was a phy- sician, adopting modern methods of surgery and pre- scription, yet his mind harked back to cupping and calomel, and now and then he swerved aside from his path across the field of the present into the future and plunged headlong, as if for fresh air, into the traditional past, and often with brilliant results.
Johnny’s mother was a college graduate. She was the president of the woman’s club. She read papers savoring of such feminine leaps ahead that they were like gymnastics, but she walked homeward with the gait of her great-grandmother, and inwardly regarded her husband as her lord and master. She minced genteelly, lifting her quite fashionable skirts high above very slender ankles, which were heredi- tary. Not a woman of her race had ever gone home on thick ankles, and they had all gone home. They had all been at home, even if abroad — at home in the truest sense. At the club, reading her inflam- matory paper, Cora Trumbull’s real self remained at home intent upon her mending, her dusting, her house economics. It was something remarkably like her astral body which presided at the club.
As for her unmarried sister Janet, who was older and had graduated from a young ladies’ seminary instead of a college, whose early fancy had been guided into the lady-like ways of antimacassars and pincushions and wax flowers under glass shades, she was a straighter proposition. No astral pre- tensions had Janet. She stayed, body and soul to- gether, in the old ways, and did not even project her shadow out of them. There is seldom room enough for one’s shadow in one’s earliest way of life, but there was plenty for Janet’s. There had been a Janet unmarried in every Trumbull family for generations. That in some subtle fashion ac- counted for her remaining single. There had also been an unmarried Jonathan Trumbull, and that accounted for Johnny’s old bachelor uncle Jonathan. Jonathan was a retired clergyman. He had retired before he had preached long, because of doctrinal doubts, which were hereditary. He had a little, dark study in Johnny’s father’s house, which was the old Trumbull homestead, and he passed much of his time there, debating within himself that mat- ter of doctrines.
Presently Johnny, assiduously kicking up dust, met his uncle Jonathan, who passed without the slightest notice. Johnny did not mind at all. He was used to it. Presently his own father appeared, driving along in his buggy the bay mare at a steady jog, with the next professional call quite clearly upon her equine mind. And Johnny’s father did not see him. Johnny did not mind that, either. He expected nothing different.
Then Johnny saw his mother approaching. She was coming from the club meeting. She held up her silk skirts high, as usual, and carried a nice little parcel of papers tied with ribbon. She also did not notice Johnny, who, however, out of sweet respect for his mother’s nice silk dress, stopped kicking up dust. Mrs. Trumbull on the village street was really at home preparing a shortcake for supper.
Johnny eyed his mother’s faded but rather beau- tiful face under the rose-trimmed bonnet with ad- miration and entire absence of resentment. Then he walked on and kicked up the dust again. He loved to kick up the dust in summer, the fallen leaves in autumn, and the snow in winter. Johnny was not a typical Trumbull. None of them had ever cared for simple amusements like that. Looking back for generations on his father’s and mother’s side (both had been Trumbulls, but very distantly related), none could be discovered who in the least resembled Johnny. No dim blue eye of retrospection and re- flection had Johnny; no tendency to tall slender- ness which would later bow beneath the greater weight of the soul. Johnny was small, but wiry of build, and looked able to bear any amount of men- tal development without a lasting bend of his physi- cal shoulders. Johnny had, at the early age of ten, whopped nearly every boy in school, but that was a secret of honor. It was well known in the school that, once the Trumbulls heard of it, Johnny could never whop again. “You fellows know,” Johnny had declared once, standing over his prostrate and whimpering foe, “that I don’t mind getting whopped at home, but they might send me away to another school, and then I could never whop any of you fellows.”
Johnny Trumbull kicking up the dust, himself dust-covered, his shoes, his little queerly fitting dun suit, his cropped head, all thickly powdered, loved it. He sniffed in that dust like a grateful incense. He did not stop dust-kicking when he saw his aunt Janet coming, for, as he considered, her old black gown was not worth the sacrifice. It was true that she might see him. She sometimes did, if she were not reading a book as she walked. It had always been a habit with the Janet Trumbulls to read im- proving books when they walked abroad. To-day Johnny saw, with a quick glance of those sharp, black eyes, so unlike the Trumbulls’, that his aunt Janet was reading. He therefore expected her to pass him without recognition, and marched on kick- ing up the dust. But suddenly, as he grew nearer the spry little figure, he was aware of a pair of gray eyes, before which waved protectingly a hand clad in a black silk glove with dangling finger-tips, be- cause it was too long, and it dawned swiftly upon him that Aunt Janet was trying to shield her face from the moving column of brown motes. He stopped kicking, but it was too late. Aunt Janet had him by the collar and was vigorously shaking him with nervous strength.
“You are a very naughty little boy,” declared Aunt Janet. “You should know better than to walk along the street raising so much dust. No well- brought-up child ever does such things. Who are your parents, little boy?”
Johnny perceived that Aunt Janet did not recog- nize him, which was easily explained. She wore her reading-spectacles and not her far-seeing ones; besides, her reading spectacles were obscured by dust and her nephew’s face was nearly obliterated. Also as she shook him his face was not much in evi- dence. Johnny disliked, naturally, to tell his aunt Janet that her own sister and brother-in-law were the parents of such a wicked little boy. He there- fore kept quiet and submitted to the shaking, mak- ing himself as limp as a rag. This, however, exas- perated Aunt Janet, who found herself encumbered by a dead weight of a little boy to be shaken, and suddenly Johnny Trumbull, the fighting champion of the town, the cock of the walk of the school, found himself being ignominiously spanked. That was too much. Johnny’s fighting blood was up. He lost all consideration for circumstances, he for- got that Aunt Janet was not a boy, that she was quite near being an old lady. She had overstepped the bounds of privilege of age and sex, and an alarming state of equality ensued. Quickly the tables were turned. The boy became far from limp. He stiff- ened, then bounded and rebounded like wire. He butted, he parried, he observed all his famous tac- tics of battle, and poor Aunt Janet sat down in the dust, black dress, bonnet, glasses (but the glasses were off and lost), little improving book, black silk gloves, and all; and Johnny, hopeless, awful, irrev- erent, sat upon his Aunt Janet’s plunging knees, which seemed the most lively part of her. He kept his face twisted away from her, but it was not from cowardice. Johnny was afraid lest Aunt Janet should be too much overcome by the discovery of his identity. He felt that it was his duty to spare her that. So he sat still, triumphant but inwardly aghast.
It was fast dawning upon him that his aunt was not a little boy. He was not afraid of any punish- ment which might be meted out to him, but he was simply horrified. He himself had violated all the honorable conditions of warfare. He felt a little dizzy and ill, and he felt worse when he ventured a hurried glance at Aunt Janet’s face. She was very pale through the dust, and her eyes were closed. Johnny thought then that he had killed her.
He got up — the nervous knees were no longer plunging; then he heard a voice, a little-girl voice, always shrill, but now high pitched to a squeak with terror. It was the voice of Lily Jennings. She stood near and yet aloof, a lovely little flower of a girl, all white-scalloped frills and ribbons, with a big white-frilled hat shading a pale little face and. covering the top of a head decorated with wonder- ful yellow curls. She stood behind a big baby-car- riage with a pink-lined muslin canopy and con- taining a nest of pink and white, but an empty nest. Lily’s little brother’s carriage had a spring broken, and she had been to borrow her aunt’s baby-carriage, so that nurse could wheel little brother up and down the veranda. Nurse had a headache, and the maids were busy, and Lily, who was a kind little soul and, moreover, imaginative, and who liked the idea of pushing an empty baby-carriage, had volunteered to go for it. All the way she had been dreaming of what was not in the carriage. She had come directly out of a dream of doll twins when she chanced upon the tragedy in the road.
“What have you been doing now, Johnny Trum- bull?” said she. She was tremulous, white with horror, but she stood her ground. It was curious, but Johnny Trumbull, with all his bravery, was always cowed before Lily. Once she had turned and stared at him when he had emerged triumphant but with bleeding nose from a fight; then she had sniffed delicately and gone her way. It had only taken a second, but in that second the victor had met moral defeat.
He looked now at her pale, really scared face, and his own was as pale. He stood and kicked the dust until the swirling column of it reached his head.
“That’s right,” said Lily; “stand and kick up dust all over me. WHAT have you been doing?”
Johnny was trembling so he could hardly stand. He stopped kicking dust.
“Have you killed your aunt?” demanded Lily. It was monstrous, but she had a very dramatic im- agination, and there was a faint hint of enjoyment in her tragic voice.
“Guess she’s just choked by dust,” volunteered Johnny, hoarsely. He kicked the dust again.
“That’s right,” said Lily. “If she’s choked to death by dust, stand there and choke her some more. You are a murderer, Johnny Trumbull, and my mamma will never allow me to speak to you again, and Madame will not allow you to come to school. AND — I see your papa driving up the street, and there is the chief policeman’s buggy just behind.” Lily acquiesced entirely in the extraordinary coincidence of the father and the chief of police appearing upon the scene. The unlikely seemed to her the likely. “NOW,” said she, cheerfully, “you will be put in state prison and locked up, and then you will be put to death by a very strong telephone.”
Johnny’s father was leaning out of his buggy, look- ing back at the chief of police in his, and the mare was jogging very slowly in a perfect reek of dust. Lily, who was, in spite of her terrific imagination, human and a girl, rose suddenly to heights of pity and succor. “They shall never take you, Johnny Trumbull,” said she. “I will save you.”
Johnny by this time was utterly forgetful of his high status as champion (behind her back) of Ma- dame’s very select school for select children of a somewhat select village. He was forgetful of the fact that a champion never cries. He cried; he blubbered; tears rolled over his dusty cheeks, mak- ing furrows like plowshares of grief. He feared lest he might have killed his aunt Janet. Women, and not very young women, might presumably be un- able to survive such rough usage as very tough and at the same time very limber little boys, and he loved his poor aunt Janet. He grieved because of his aunt, his parents, his uncle, and rather more particularly because of himself. He was quite sure that the policeman was coming for him. Logic had no place in his frenzied conclusions. He did not consider how the tragedy had taken place entirely out of sight of a house, that Lily Jennings was the only person who had any knowledge of it. He looked at the masterful, fair-haired little girl like a baby. “How?” sniffed he.
For answer, Lily pointed to the empty baby-car- riage. “Get right in,” she ordered.
Even in this dire extremity Johnny hesitated. “Can’t.”
“Yes, you can. It is extra large. Aunt Laura’s baby was a twin when he first came; now he’s just an ordinary baby, but his carriage is big enough for two. There’s plenty of room. Besides, you’re a very small boy, very small of your age, even if you do knock all the other boys down and have mur- dered your aunt. Get in. In a minute they will see you.”
There was in reality no time to lose. Johnny did get in. In spite of the provisions for twins, there was none too much room.
Lily covered him up with the fluffy pink-and-lace things, and scowled. “You hump up awfully,” she muttered. Then she reached beneath him and snatched out the pillow on which he lay, the baby’s little bed. She gave it a swift toss over the fringe of wayside bushes into a field. “Aunt Laura’s nice embroidered pillow,” said she. “Make yourself just as flat as you can, Johnny Trumbull.”
Johnny obeyed, but he was obliged to double him- self up like a jack-knife. However, there was no sign of him visible when the two buggies drew up. There stood a pale and frightened little girl, with a baby-carriage canopied with rose and lace and heaped up with rosy and lacy coverlets, presumably sheltering a sleeping infant. Lily was a very keen little girl. She had sense enough not to run. The two men, at the sight of Aunt Janet prostrate in the road, leaped out of their buggies. The doctor’s horse stood still; the policeman’s trotted away, to Lily’s great relief. She could not imagine Johnny’s own father haling him away to state prison and the stern Arm of Justice. She stood the fire of bewildered questions in the best and safest fashion. She wept bitterly, and her tears were not assumed. Poor little Lily was all of a sudden crushed under the weight of facts. There was Aunt Janet, she had no doubt, killed by her own nephew, and she was hiding the guilty murderer. She had visions of state prison for herself. She watched fearfully while the two men bent over the prostrate woman, who very soon began to sputter and gasp and try to sit up.
“What on earth is the matter, Janet?” inquired Dr. Trumbull, who was paler than his sister-in- law. In fact, she was unable to look very pale on account of dust.
“Ow!” sputtered Aunt Janet, coughing violently, “get me up out of this dust, John. Ow!”
“What was the matter?”
“Yes, what has happened, madam?” demanded the chief of police, sternly.
“Nothing,” replied Aunt Janet, to Lily’s and Johnny’s amazement. “What do you think has happened? I fell down in all this nasty dust. Ow!”
“What did you eat for luncheon, Janet?” in- quired Dr. Trumbull, as he assisted his sister-in- law to her feet.
“What I was a fool to eat,” replied Janet Trum- bull, promptly. “Cucumber salad and lemon jelly with whipped cream.”
“Enough to make anybody have indigestion,” said Dr. Trumbull. “You have had one of these attacks before, too, Janet. You remember the time you ate strawberry shortcake and ice-cream?”
Janet nodded meekly. Then she coughed again. “Ow, this dust!” gasped she. “For goodness’ sake, John, get me home where I can get some water and take off these dusty clothes or I shall choke to death.”
“How does your stomach feel?” inquired Dr. Trumbull.
“Stomach is all right now, but I am just choking to death with the dust.” Janet turned sharply tow- ard the policeman. “You have sense enough to keep still, I hope,” said she. “I don’t want the whole town ringing with my being such an idiot as to eat cucumbers and cream together and being found this way.” Janet looked like an animated creation of dust as she faced the chief of police.
“Yes, ma’am,” he replied, bowing and scraping one foot and raising more dust.
He and Dr. Trumbull assisted Aunt Janet into the buggy, and they drove off. Then the chief of police discovered that his own horse had gone. “Did you see which way he went, sis?” he inquired of Lily, and she pointed down the road, and sobbed as she did so.
The policeman said something bad under his breath, then advised Lily to run home to her rna, and started down the road.
When he was out of sight, Lily drew back the pink-and-white things from Johnny’s face. “Well, you didn’t kill her this time,” said she.
“Why do you s’pose she didn’t tell all about it?” said Johnny, gaping at her.
“How do I know? I suppose she was ashamed to tell how she had been fighting, maybe.”
“No, that was not why,” said Johnny in a deep voice.
“Why was it, then?”
Johnny began to climb out of the baby-carriage.
“What will she do next, then?” asked Lily.
“I don’t know,” Johnny replied, gloomily.
He was out of the carriage then, and Lily was readjusting the pillows and things. “Get that nice embroidered pillow I threw over the bushes,” she ordered, crossly. Johnny obeyed. When she had finished putting the baby-carriage to rights she turned upon poor little Johnny Trumbull, and her face wore the expression of a queen of tragedy. “Well,” said Lily Jennings, “I suppose I shall have to marry you when I am grown up, after all this.”
Johnny gasped. He thought Lily the most beau- tiful girl he knew, but to be confronted with murder and marriage within a few minutes was almost too much. He flushed a burning red. He laughed fool- ishly. He said nothing.
“It will be very hard on me,” stated Lily, “to marry a boy who tried to murder his nice aunt.”
Johnny revived a bit under this feminine disdain. “I didn’t try to murder her,” he said in a weak voice.
“You might have, throwing her down in all that awful dust, a nice, clean lady. Ladies are not like boys. It might kill them very quickly to be knocked down on a dusty road.”
“I didn’t mean to kill her.”
“You might have.”
“Well, I didn’t, and — she –“
“She spanked me.”
“Pooh! That doesn’t amount to anything,” sniffed Lily.
“It does if you are a boy.”
“I don’t see why.”
“Well, I can’t help it if you don’t. It does.”
“Why shouldn’t a boy be spanked when he’s naughty, just as well as a girl, I would like to know?”
“Because he’s a boy.”
Lily looked at Johnny Trumbull. The great fact did remain. He had been spanked, he had thrown his own aunt down in the dust. He had taken ad- vantage of her little-girl protection, but he was a boy. Lily did not understand his why at all, but she bowed before it. However, that she would not admit. She made a rapid change of base. “What,” said she, “are you going to do next?”
Johnny stared at her. It was a puzzle.
“If,” said Lily, distinctly, “you are afraid to go home, if you think your aunt will tell, I will let you get into Aunt Laura’s baby-carriage again, and I will wheel you a little way.”
Johnny would have liked at that moment to knock Lily down, as he had his aunt Janet. Lily looked at him shrewdly. “Oh yes,” said she, “you can knock me down in the dust there if you want to, and spoil my nice clean dress. You will be a boy, just the same.”
“I will never marry you, anyway,” declared Johnny.
“Aren’t you afraid I’ll tell on you and get you another spanking if you don’t?”
“Tell if you want to. I’d enough sight rather be spanked than marry you.”
A gleam of respect came into the little girl’s wisely regarding blue eyes. She, with the swiftness of her sex, recognized in forlorn little Johnny the making of a man. “Oh, well,” said she, loftily, “I never was a telltale, and, anyway, we are not grown up, and there will be my trousseau to get, and a lot of other things to do first. I shall go to Europe before I am married, too, and I might meet a boy much nicer than you on the steamer.”
“Meet him if you want to.”
Lily looked at Johnny Trumbull with more than respect — with admiration — but she kept guard over her little tongue. “Well, you can leave that for the future,” said she with a grown-up air.
“I ain’t going to leave it. It’s settled for good and all now,” growled Johnny.
To his immense surprise, Lily curved her white embroidered sleeve over her face and began to weep.
“What’s the matter now?” asked Johnny, sulkily, after a minute.
“I think you are a real horrid boy,” sobbed Lily.
Lily looked like nothing but a very frilly, sweet, white flower. Johnny could not see her face. There was nothing to be seen except that delicate fluff of white, supported on dainty white-socked, white- slippered limbs.
“Say,” said Johnny.
“You are real cruel, when I — I saved your — li-fe,” wailed Lily.
“Say,” said Johnny, “maybe if I don’t see any other girl I like better I will marry you when I am grown up, but I won’t if you don’t stop that howl- ing.”
Lily stopped immediately. She peeped at him, a blue peep from under the flopping, embroidered brim of her hat. “Are you in earnest?” She smiled faintly. Her blue eyes, wet with tears, were lovely; so was her hesitating smile.
“Yes, if you don’t act silly,” said Johnny. “Now you had better run home, or your mother will won- der where that baby-carriage is.”
Lily walked away, smiling over her shoulder, the smile of the happily subjugated. “I won’t tell any- body, Johnny,” she called back in her flute-like voice.
“Don’t care if you do,” returned Johnny, looking at her with chin in the air and shoulders square, and Lily wondered at his bravery.
But Johnny was not so brave and he did care. He knew that his best course was an immediate return home, but he did not know what he might have to face. He could not in the least understand why his aunt Janet had not told at once. He was sure that she knew. Then he thought of a possible reason for her silence; she might have feared his arrest at the hands of the chief of police. Johnny quailed. He knew his aunt Janet to be rather a brave sort of woman. If she had fears, she must have had reason for them. He might even now be arrested. Suppose Lily did tell. He had a theory that girls usually told. He began to speculate concerning the horrors of prison. Of course he would not be executed, since his aunt was obviously very far from being killed, but he might be imprisoned for a long term.
Johnny went home. He did not kick the dust any more. He walked very steadily and staidly. When he came in sight of the old Colonial mansion, with its massive veranda pillars, he felt chilly. How- ever, he went on. He passed around to the south door and entered and smelled shortcake. It would have smelled delicious had he not had so much on his mind. He looked through the hall, and had a glimpse of his uncle Jonathan in the study, writing. At the right of the door was his father’s office. The door of that was open, and Johnny saw his father pouring things from bottles. He did not look at Johnny. His mother crossed the hall. She had on a long white apron, which she wore when making her famous cream shortcakes. She saw Johnny, but merely observed, “Go and wash your face and hands, Johnny; it is nearly supper-time.”
Johnny went up-stairs. At the upper landing he found his aunt Janet waiting for him. “Come here,” she whispered, and Johnny followed her, trembling, into her own room. It was a large room, rather crowded with heavy, old-fashioned furni- ture. Aunt Janet had freed herself from dust and was arrayed in a purple silk gown. Her hair was looped loosely on either side of her long face. She was a handsome woman, after a certain type.
“Stand here, Johnny,” said she. She had closed the door, and Johnny was stationed before her. She did not seem in the least injured nor the worse for her experience. On the contrary, there was a bright-red flush on her cheeks, and her eyes shone as Johnny had never seen them. She looked eagerly at Johnny.
“Why did you do that?” she said, but there was no anger in her voice.
“I forgot,” began Johnny.
“Forgot what?” Her voice was strained with eagerness.
“That you were not another boy,” said Johnny.
“Tell me,” said Aunt Janet. “No, you need not tell me, because if you did it might be my duty to inform your parents. I know there is no need of your telling. You MUST be in the habit of fighting with the other boys.”
“Except the little ones,” admitted Johnny.
To Johnny’s wild astonishment, Aunt Janet seized him by the shoulders and looked him in the eyes with a look of adoration and immense approval. “Thank goodness,” said she, “at last there is going to be a fighter in the Trumbull family. Your uncle would never fight, and your father would not. Your grandfather would. Your uncle and your father are good men, though; you must try to be like them, Johnny.”
“Yes, ma’am,” replied Johnny, bewildered.
“I think they would be called better men than your grandfather and my father,” said Aunt Janet.
“I think it is time for you to have your grand- father’s watch,” said Aunt Janet. “I think you are man enough to take care of it.” Aunt Janet had all the time been holding a black leather case. Now she opened it, and Johnny saw the great gold watch which he had seen many times before and had always understood was to be his some day, when he was a man. “Here,” said Aunt Janet. “Take good care of it. You must try to be as good as your uncle and father, but you must remember one thing — you will wear a watch which belonged to a man who never allowed other men to crowd him out of the way he elected to go.”
“Yes, ma’am,” said Johnny. He took the watch.
“What do you say?” inquired his aunt, sharply.
“That’s right. I thought you had forgotten your manners. Your grandfather never did.”
“I am sorry. Aunt Janet,” muttered Johnny, “that I –“
“You need never say anything about that,” his aunt returned, quickly. “I did not see who you were at first. You are too old to be spanked by a woman, but you ought to be whipped by a man, and I wish your grandfather were alive to do it.”
“Yes, ma’am,” said Johnny. He looked at her bravely. “He could if he wanted to,” said he.
Aunt Janet smiled at him proudly. “Of course,” said she, “a boy like you never gets the worst of it fighting with other boys.”
“No, ma’am,” said Johnny.
Aunt Janet smiled again. “Now run and wash your face and hands,” said she; “you must not keep supper waiting. Your mother has a paper to write for her club, and I have promised to help her.”
“Yes, ma’am,” said Johnny. He walked out, carrying the great gold timepiece, bewildered, em- barrassed, modest beneath his honors, but little cock of the walk, whether he would or no, for reasons entirely and forever beyond his ken.
JOHNNY TRUMBULL, he who had demon-
strated his claim to be Cock of the Walk by a most impious hand-to-hand fight with his own aunt, Miss Janet Trumbull, in which he had been deci- sively victorious, and won his spurs, consisting of his late grandfather’s immense, solemnly ticking watch, was to take a new path of action. Johnny suddenly developed the prominent Trumbull trait, but in his case it was inverted. Johnny, as became a boy of his race, took an excursion into the past, but instead of applying the present to the past, as was the tendency of the other Trumbulls, he forcibly applied the past to the present. He fairly plastered the past over the exigencies of his day and generation like a penetrating poultice of mustard, and the results were peculiar.
Johnny, being bidden of a rainy day during the midsummer vacation to remain in the house, to keep quiet, read a book, and be a good boy, obeyed, but his obedience was of a doubtful measure of wisdom.
Johnny got a book out of his uncle Jonathan Trum- bull’s dark little library while Jonathan was walking sedately to the post-office, holding his dripping umbrella at a wonderful slant of exactness, without regard to the wind, thereby getting the soft drive of the rain full in his face, which became, as it were, bedewed with tears, entirely outside any cause of his own emotions.
Johnny probably got the only book of an anti- orthodox trend in his uncle’s library. He found tucked away in a snug corner an ancient collection of Border Ballads, and he read therein of many unmoral romances and pretty fancies, which, since he was a small boy, held little meaning for him, or charm, beyond a delight in the swing of the rhythm, for Johnny had a feeling for music. It was when he read of Robin Hood, the bold Robin Hood, with his dubious ethics but his certain and unquenchable interest, that Johnny Trumbull became intent. He had the volume in his own room, being somewhat doubtful as to whether it might be of the sort included in the good-boy role. He sat beside a rain- washed window, which commanded a view of the wide field between the Trumbull mansion and Jim Simmons’s house, and he read about Robin Hood and his Greenwood adventures, his forcible setting the wrong right; and for the first time his imagina- tion awoke, and his ambition. Johnny Trumbull, hitherto hero of nothing except little material fist- fights, wished now to become a hero of true romance.
In fact, Johnny considered seriously the possi- bility of reincarnating, in his own person, Robin Hood. He eyed the wide green field dreamily through his rain-blurred window. It was a pretty field, waving with feathery grasses and starred with daisies and buttercups, and it was very fortunate that it happened to be so wide. Jim Simmons’s house was not a desirable feature of the landscape, and looked much better several acres away. It was a neglected, squalid structure, and considered a dis- grace to the whole village. Jim was also a disgrace, and an unsolved problem. He owned that house, and somehow contrived to pay the taxes thereon. He also lived and throve in bodily health in spite of evil ways, and his children were many. There seemed no way to dispose finally of Jim Simmons and his house except by murder and arson, and the village was a peaceful one, and such measures were entirely too strenuous.
Presently Johnny, staring dreamily out of his window, saw approaching a rusty-black umbrella held at precisely the wrong angle in respect of the storm, but held with the unvarying stiffness with which a soldier might hold a bayonet, and knew it for his uncle Jonathan’s umbrella. Soon he beheld also his uncle’s serious, rain-drenched face and his long ambling body and legs. Jonathan was coming home from the post-office, whither he repaired every morning. He never got a letter, never anything except religious newspapers, but the visit to the post-office was part of his daily routine. Rain or shine, Jonathan Trumbull went for the morning mail, and gained thereby a queer negative enjoy- ment of a perfectly useless duty performed. Johnny watched his uncle draw near to the house, and cruelly reflected how unlike Robin Hood he must be. He even wondered if his uncle could possibly have read Robin Hood and still show absolutely no result in his own personal appearance. He knew that he, Johnny, could not walk to the post-office and back, even with the drawback of a dripping old umbrella instead of a bow and arrow, without looking a bit like Robin Hood, especially when fresh from reading about him.
Then suddenly something distracted his thoughts from Uncle Jonathan. The long, feathery grass in the field moved with a motion distinct from that caused by the wind and rain. Johnny saw a tiger-