The Hoosier School-boy
by Edward Eggleston
[Illustration: NOT THERE, NOT THERE, MY CHILD!]
THE HOOSIER SCHOOL-BOY
By EDWARD EGGLESTON
New York Charles Scribner's Sons 1919
CHAPTER I. THE
CHAPTER II. KING
CHAPTER VI. A
CHAPTER X. JACK
AND HIS MOTHER
COLUMBUS AND HIS
CHAPTER XV. AN
CHAPTER XVI. AN
CHAPTER XIX. THE
CHAPTER XX. A
CHAPTER XXI. THE
CHASING THE FOX
CHAPTER XXIV. AN
KING'S BASE AND
THE LAST DAY OF
SCHOOL, AND THE
LAST CHAPTER OF
THE HOOSIER SCHOOL-BOY
CHAPTER I. THE NEW SCHOLAR
While the larger boys in the village school of Greenbank were having
a game of three old cat before school-time, there appeared on the
playground a strange boy, carrying two books, a slate, and an atlas
under his arm.
He was evidently from the country, for he wore a suit of brown
jeans, or woollen homespun, made up in the natural color of the black
sheep, as we call it. He shyly sidled up to the school-house door, and
looked doubtfully at the boys who were playing, watching the familiar
game as though he had never seen it before.
The boys who had the paddles were standing on three bases, while
three others stood each behind a base and tossed the ball around the
triangle from one hole or base to another. The new-comer soon perceived
that, if one with a paddle, or bat, struck at the ball and missed it,
and the ball was caught directly, or at the first bounce, he gave up
his bat to the one who had caught him out. When the ball was struck,
it was called a tick, and when there was a tick, all the batters were
obliged to run one base to the left, and then the ball thrown between a
batter and the base to which he was running crossed him out, and
obliged him to give up his paddle to the one who threw the ball.
Four old cat, two old cat, and five old cat are, as everybody
knows, played in the same way, the number of bases or holes increasing
with the addition of each pair of players.
It is probable that the game was oncesome hundreds of years ago,
maybecalled three hole catch, and that the name was gradually
corrupted into three hole cat, as it is still called in the interior
States, and then became changed by mistake to three old cat. It is,
no doubt, an early form of our present game of base-ball.
It was this game which the new boy watched, trying to get an inkling
of how it was played. He stood by the school-house door, and the girls
who came in were obliged to pass near him. Each of them stopped to
scrape her shoes, or rather the girls remembered the foot-scraper
because they were curious to see the new-comer. They cast furtive
glances at him, noting his new suit of brown clothes, his geography and
atlas, his arithmetic, and, last of all, his face.
There's a new scholar, said Peter Rose, or, as he was called,
Pewee Rose, a stout and stocky boy of fourteen, who had just been
caught out by another.
I say, Greeny, how did you get so brown? called out Will Riley, a
rather large, loose-jointed fellow.
Of course, all the boys laughed at this. Boys will sometimes laugh
at any one suffering torture, whether the victim be a persecuted cat or
a persecuted boy. The new boy made no answer, but Joanna Merwin, who,
just at that moment, happened to be scraping her shoes, saw that he
grew red in the face with a quick flush of anger.
Don't stand there, Greeny, or the cows'll eat you up! called
Riley, as he came round again to the base nearest to the school-house.
Why the boys should have been amused at this speech, the new scholar
could not tellthe joke was neither new nor wittyonly impudent and
coarse. But the little boys about the door giggled.
It's a pity something wouldn't eat you, Will Rileyyou are good
for nothing but to be mean. This sharp speech came from a rather tall
and graceful girl of sixteen, who came up at the time, and who saw the
annoyance of the new boy at Riley's insulting words. Of course the boys
laughed again. It was rare sport to hear pretty Susan Lanham take
down the impudent Riley.
The bees will never eat you for honey, Susan, said Will.
Susan met the titter of the playground with a quick flush of temper
and a fine look of scorn.
Nothing would eat you, Will, unless, maybe, a turkey-buzzard, and a
very hungry one at that.
This sharp retort was uttered with a merry laugh of ridicule, and a
graceful toss of the head, as the mischievous girl passed into the
That settles you, Will, said Pewee Rose. And Bob Holliday began
singing, to a doleful tune:
Poor old Pidy,
She died last Friday.
Just then, the stern face of Mr. Ball, the master, appeared at the
door; he rapped sharply with his ferule, and called: Books, books,
books! The bats were dropped, and the boys and girls began streaming
into the school, but some of the boys managed to nudge Riley, saying:
Poor old creetur,
The turkey-buzzards eat her,
and such like soft and sweet speeches. Riley was vexed and angry,
but nobody was afraid of him, for a boy may be both big and mean and
yet lack courage.
The new boy did not go in at once, but stood silently and faced the
inquiring looks of the procession of boys as they filed into the
school-room with their faces flushed from the exercise and excitement
of the games.
I can thrash him easy, thought Pewee Rose.
He isn't a fellow to back down easily, said Harvey Collins to his
Only good-natured, rough Bob Holliday stopped and spoke to the
new-comer a friendly word. All that he said was Hello! But how much a
boy can put into that word Hello! Bob put his whole heart into it,
and there was no boy in the school that had a bigger heart, a bigger
hand, or half so big a foot as Bob Holliday.
The village school-house was a long one built of red brick. It had
taken the place of the old log institution in which one generation of
Greenbank children had learned reading, writing, and Webster's
spelling-book. There were long, continuous writing-tables down the
sides of the room, with backless benches, so arranged that when the
pupil was writing his face was turned toward the wallthere was a door
at each end, and a box stove stood in the middle of the room,
surrounded by a rectangle of four backless benches. These benches were
for the little fellows who did not write, and for others when the cold
should drive them nearer the stove.
The very worshipful master sat at the east end of the room, at one
side of the door; there was a blackboarda newfangled notion in
1850at the other side of the door. Some of the older scholars, who
could afford private desks with lids to them, suitable for concealing
smuggled apples and maple-sugar, had places at the other end of the
room from the master. This arrangement was convenient for quiet study,
for talking on the fingers by signs, for munching apples or
gingerbread, and for passing little notes between the boys and girls.
When the school had settled a little, the master struck a sharp blow
on his desk for silence, and looked fiercely around the room, eager to
find a culprit on whom to wreak his ill-humor. Mr. Ball was one of
those old-fashioned teachers who gave the impression that he would
rather beat a boy than not, and would even like to eat one, if he could
find a good excuse. His eye lit upon the new scholar.
Come here, he said, severely, and then he took his seat.
The new boy walked timidly up to a place in front of the master's
desk. He was not handsome, his face was thin, his eyebrows were
prominent, his mouth was rather large and good-humored, and there was
that shy twinkle about the corners of his eyes which always marks a
fun-loving spirit. But his was a serious, fine-grained face, with marks
of suffering in it, and he had the air of having been once a strong
fellow; of late, evidently, shaken to pieces by the ague.
Where do you live? demanded Mr. Ball.
On Ferry Street.
What do they call you? This was said with a contemptuous, rasping
inflection that irritated the new scholar. His eyes twinkled, partly
with annoyance and partly with mischief.
They call me Jack, for the most part,then catching the
titter that came from the girls' side of the room, and frightened by
the rising hurricane on the master's face, he added quickly: My name
is John Dudley, sir.
Don't you try to show your smartness on me, young man. You are a
new-comer, and I let you off this time. Answer me that way again, and
you will remember it as long as you live. And the master glared at him
like a savage bull about to toss somebody over a fence.
The new boy turned pale, and dropped his head.
How old are you? Thirteen.
Have you ever been to school?
Three months. Do you know how to read?
Yes, sir, with a smile.
Can you cipher? Yes, sir.
In multiplication? Yes, sir.
Yes, sir; I've been half through fractions.
You said you'd been to school but three months! My father taught
There was just a touch of pride in his voice as he said thisa
sense of something superior about his father. This bit of pride angered
the master, who liked to be thought to have a monopoly of all the
knowledge in the town.
Where have you been living?
In the Indian Reserve, of late; I was born in Cincinnati.
I didn't ask you where you were born. When I ask you a question,
answer that and no more.
Yes, sir. There was a touch of something in the tone of this reply
that amused the school, and that made the master look up quickly and
suspiciously at Jack Dudley, but the expression on Jack's face was as
innocent as that of a cat who has just lapped the cream off the milk.
CHAPTER II. KING MILKMAID
Pewee Rose, whose proper name was Peter Rose, had also the nickname
of King Pewee. He was about fourteen years old, square built and
active, of great strength for his size, and very proud of the fact that
no boy in town cared to attack him. He was not bad-tempered, but he
loved to be master, and there were a set of flatterers who followed
him, like jackals about a lion.
As often happens, Nature had built for King Pewee a very fine body,
but had forgotten to give him any mind to speak of. In any kind of
chaff or banter, at any sort of talk or play where a good head was
worth more than a strong arm and a broad back, King Pewee was sure to
have the worst of it. A very convenient partnership had therefore grown
up between him and Will Riley. Riley had muscle enough, but Nature had
made him mean-spirited. He hadnot exactly witbut a facility for
using his tongue, which he found some difficulty in displaying, through
fear of other boys' fists. By forming a friendship with Pewee Rose, the
two managed to keep in fear the greater part of the school. Will's
rough tongue, together with Pewee's rude fists, were enough to bully
almost any boy. They let Harvey Collins alone, because he was older,
and, keeping to himself, awed them by his dignity; good-natured Bob
Holliday, also, was big enough to take care of himself. But the rest
were all as much afraid of Pewee as they were of the master, and as
Riley managed Pewee, it behooved them to be afraid of the prime
minister, Riley, as well as of King Pewee.
From the first day that Jack Dudley entered the school, dressed in
brown jeans, Will Riley marked him for a victim. The air of refinement
about his face showed him to be a suitable person for teasing.
Riley called him milksop, and sap-head; words which seemed to
the dull intellect of King Pewee exceedingly witty. And as Pewee was
Riley's defender, he felt as proud of these rude nicknames as he would
had he invented them and taken out a patent.
But Riley's greatest stroke of wit came one morning when he caught
Jack Dudley milking the cow. In the village of Greenbank, milking a cow
was regarded as a woman's work; and foolish men and boys are like
savages,very much ashamed to be found doing a woman's work. Fools
always think something else more disgraceful than idleness. So, having
seen Jack milking, Riley came to school happy. He had an arrow to shoot
that would give great delight to the small boys.
Good-morning, milkmaid! he said to Jack Dudley, as he entered the
school-house before school. You milk the cow at your house, do you?
Where's your apron?
Oh-h! Milkmaid! milkmaid! That's a good one, chimed in Pewee Rose
and all his set.
Jack changed color.
Well, what if I do milk my mother's cow? I don't milk anybody's cow
but ours, do I? Do you think I'm ashamed of it? I'd be ashamed not to.
I canbut he stopped a minute and blushedI can wash dishes, and
make good pancakes, too. Now if you want to make fun, why, make fun. I
don't care. But he did care, else why should his voice choke in that
Oh, girl-boy; a pretty girl-boy you are but here Will Riley
stopped and stammered. There right in front of him was the smiling face
of Susan Lanham, with a look in it which made him suddenly remember
something. Susan had heard all the conversation, and now she came
around in front of Will, while all the other girls clustered about her
with a vague expectation of sport.
Come, Pewee, let's play ball, said Will.
Ah, you're running away, now; you're afraid of a girl, said Susan,
with a cutting little laugh, and a toss of her black curls over her
Will had already started for the ball-ground, but at this taunt he
turned back, thrust his hands into his pockets, put on a swagger, and
stammered: No, I'm not afraid of a girl, either.
That's about all that he isn't afraid of, said Bob Holliday.
Oh! you're not afraid of a girl? said Susan. What did you run
away for, when you saw me? You know that Pewee won't fight a girl.
You're afraid of anybody that Pewee can't whip.
You've got an awful tongue, Susan. We'll call you Sassy Susan,
said Will, laughing at his own joke.
Oh, it isn't my tongue you're afraid of now. You know I can tell on
you. I saw you drive your cow into the stable last week. You were
ashamed to milk outside, but you looked all around
I didn't do it. How could you see? It was dark, and Will giggled
foolishly, seeing all at once that he had betrayed himself.
It was nearly dark, but I happened to be where I could see. And as
I was coming back, a few minutes after, I saw you come out with a pail
of milk, and look around you like a sneak-thief. You saw me and hurried
away. You are such a coward that you are ashamed to do a little honest
work. Milkmaid! Girl-boy! Coward! And Pewee Rose lets you lead him
around by the nose!
You'd better be careful what you say, Susan, said Pewee,
You won't touch me. You go about bullying little boys, and calling
yourself King Pewee, but you can't do a sum in long division, nor in
short subtraction, for that matter, and you let fellows like Riley make
a fool of you. Your father's poor, and your mother can't keep a girl,
and you ought to be ashamed to let her milk the cows. Who milked your
cow this morning, Pewee?
I don't know, said the king, looking like the king's fool.
You did it, said Susan. Don't deny it. Then you come here and
call a strange boy a milkmaid!
Well, I didn't milk in the street, anyway, and he did. At this,
all laughed aloud, and Susan's victory was complete. She only said,
with a pretty toss of her head, as she turned away: King Milkmaid!
Pewee found the nickname likely to stick. He was obliged to declare
on the playground the next day, that he would thrash any boy that
said anything about milkmaids. After that, he heard no more of it. But
one morning he found King Milkmaid written on the door of his
father's cow-stable. Some boy who dared not attack Pewee, had vented
his irritation by writing the hateful words on the stable, and on the
fence-corners near the school-house, and even on the blackboard.
Pewee could not fight with Susan Lanham, but he made up his mind to
punish the new scholar when he should have a chance. He must give
somebody a beating.
CHAPTER III. ANSWERING BACK
It is hard for one boy to make a fight. Even your bully does not
like to pitch on an inoffensive school-mate. You remember Æsop's
fable of the wolf and the lamb, and what pains the wolf took to pick a
quarrel with the lamb. It was a little hard for Pewee to fight with a
boy who walked quietly to and from the school, without giving anybody
cause for offence.
But the chief reason why Pewee did not attack him with his fists was
that both he and Riley had found out that Jack Dudley could help them
over a hard place in their lessons better than anybody else. And
notwithstanding their continual persecution of Jack, they were mean
enough to ask his assistance, and he, hoping to bring about peace by
good-nature, helped them to get out their geography and arithmetic
almost every day. Unable to appreciate this, they were both convinced
that Jack only did it because he was afraid of them, and as they found
it rare sport to abuse him, they kept it up. By their influence Jack
was shut out of the plays. A greenhorn would spoil the game, they said.
What did a boy that had lived on Wildcat Creek, in the Indian Reserve,
know about playing bull-pen, or prisoner's base, or shinny? If he was
brought in, they would go out.
But the girls, and the small boys, and good-hearted Bob Holliday
liked Jack's company very much. Yet, Jack was a boy, and he often
longed to play games with the others. He felt very sure that he could
dodge and run in bull-pen as well as any of them. He was very tired
of Riley's continual ridicule, which grew worse as Riley saw in him a
rival in influence with the smaller boys.
Catch Will alone sometimes, said Bob Holliday, when Pewee isn't
with him, and then thrash him. He'll back right down if you bristle up
to him. If Pewee makes a fuss about it, I'll look after Pewee. I'm
bigger than he is, and he won't fight with me. What do you say?
I shan't fight unless I have to.
Afraid? asked Bob, laughing.
It isn't that. I don't think I'm much afraid, although I don't like
to be pounded or to pound anybody. I think I'd rather be whipped than
to be made fun of, though. But my father used to say that people who
fight generally do so because they are afraid of somebody else, more
than they are of the one they fight with.
I believe that's a fact, said Bob. But Riley aches for a good
I know that, and I feel like giving him one, or taking one myself,
and I think I shall fight him before I've done. But father used to say
that fists could never settle between right and wrong. They only show
which is the stronger, and it is generally the mean one that gets the
best of it.
That's as sure as shootin', said Bob. Pewee could use you up.
Pewee thinks he's the king, but laws! he's only Riley's bull-dog. Riley
is afraid of him, but he manages to keep the dog on his side all the
My father used to say, said Jack, that brutes could fight with
force, but men ought to use their wits.
You seem to think a good deal of what your father says,like it
was your Bible, you know.
My father's dead, replied Jack.
Oh, that's why. Boys don't always pay attention to what their
father says when he's alive.
Oh, but then my father was Here Jack checked himself, for fear
of seeming to boast. You see, he went on, my father knew a great
deal. He was so busy with his books that he lost 'most all his money,
and then we moved to the Indian Reserve, and there he took the fever
and died; and then we came down here, where we owned a house, so that I
could go to school.
Why don't you give Will Riley as good as he sends? said Bob,
wishing to get away from melancholy subjects. You have got as good a
tongue as his.
I haven't his stock of bad words, though.
You've got a power of fun in you, though,you keep everybody
laughing when you want to, and if you'd only turn the pumps on him
once, he'd howl like a yellow dog that's had a quart o' hot suds poured
over him out of a neighbor's window. Use your wits, like your father
said. You've lived in the woods till you're as shy as a
flying-squirrel. All you've got to do is to talk up and take it rough
and tumble, like the rest of the world. Riley can't bear to be laughed
at, and you can make him ridiculous as easy as not.
The next day, at the noon recess, about the time that Jack had
finished helping Bob Holliday to find some places on the map, there
came up a little shower, and the boys took refuge in the school-house.
They must have some amusement, so Riley began his old abuse.
Well, greenhorn from the Wildcat, where's the black sheep you stole
that suit of clothes from?
I hear him bleat now, said Jack,about the blackest sheep I have
You've heard the truth for once, Riley, said Bob Holliday.
Riley, who was as vain as a peacock, was very much mortified by the
shout of applause with which this little retort of Jack's was greeted.
It was not a case in which he could call in King Pewee. The king, for
his part, shut up his fists and looked silly, while Jack took courage
to keep up the battle.
But Riley tried again.
I say, Wildcat, you think you're smart, but you're a
double-distilled idiot, and haven't got brains enough to be sensible of
This kind of outburst on Riley's part always brought a laugh from
the school. But before the laugh had died down, Jack Dudley took the
word, saying, in a dry and quizzical way:
Don't you try to claim kin with me that way, Riley. No use; I won't
stand it. I don't belong to your family. I'm neither a fool nor a
Hurrah! shouted Bob Holliday, bringing down first one and then the
other of his big feet on the floor. It's your put-in now, Riley.
Don't be backward in coming forward, Will, as the Irish priest said
to his people, came from grave Harvey Collins, who here looked up from
his book, thoroughly enjoying the bully's discomfiture.
That's awfully good, said Joanna Merwin, clasping her hands and
giggling with delight.
King Pewee doubled up his fists and looked at Riley to see if he
ought to try his sort of wit on Jack. If a frog, being pelted to death
by cruel boys, should turn and pelt them again, they could not be more
surprised than were Riley and King Pewee at Jack's repartees.
You'd better be careful what you say to Will Riley, said Pewee. I
stand by him.
But Jack's blood was up now, and he was not to be scared.
All the more shame to him, said Jack. Look at me, shaken all to
pieces with the fever and ague on the Wildcat, and look at that great
big, bony coward of a Riley. I've done him no harm, but he wants to
abuse me, and he's afraid of me. He daren't touch me. He has to coax
you to stand by him, to protect him from poor little me. He's a great
Calf, broke in Bob Holliday, with a laugh.
You'd better be careful, said Pewee to Jack, rising to his feet.
I stand by Riley.
Will you defend him if I hit him?
Well, then, I won't hit him. But you don't mean that he is to abuse
me, while I am not allowed to answer back a word?
Well said Pewee hesitatingly.
Well, said Bob Holliday hotly, I say that Jack has just as good a
right to talk with his tongue as Riley. Stand by Riley if he's hit,
Pewee; he needs it. But don't you try to shut up Jack. And Bob got up
and put his broad hand on Jack's shoulder. Nobody had ever seen the big
fellow angry before, and the excitement was very great. The girls
clapped their hands.
Good for you, Bob, I say, came from Susan Lanham, and poor,
ungainly Bob blushed to his hair to find himself the hero of the girls.
I don't mean to shut up Jack, said Pewee, looking at Bob's size,
but I stand by Riley.
Well, do your standing sitting down, then, said Susan. I'll get a
milking-stool for you, if that'll keep you quiet.
It was well that the master came in just then, or Pewee would have
had to fight somebody or burst.
CHAPTER IV. LITTLE CHRISTOPHER
Jack's life in school was much more endurable now that he had a
friend in Bob Holliday. Bob had spent his time in hard work and in
rough surroundings, but he had a gentleman's soul, although his manners
and speech were rude. More and more Jack found himself drawn to him.
Harvey Collins asked Jack to walk down to the river-bank with him at
recess. Both Harvey and Bob soon liked Jack, who found himself no
longer lonely. The girls also sought his advice about their lessons,
and the younger boys were inclined to come over to his side.
As winter came on, country boys, anxious to learn something about
reading, writing, and ciphering, came into the school. Each of these
new-comers had to go through a certain amount of teasing from Riley and
of bullying from Pewee.
One frosty morning in December there appeared among the new scholars
a strange little fellow, with a large head, long straight hair, an
emaciated body, and legs that looked like reeds, they were so slender.
His clothes were worn and patched, and he had the look of having been
frost-bitten. He could not have been more than ten years old, to judge
by his size, but there was a look of premature oldness in his face.
Come here! said the master, when he caught sight of him. What is
your name? And Mr. Ball took out his book to register the new-comer,
with much the same relish that the Giant Despair showed when he had
bagged a fresh pilgrim.
Columbus Risdale. The new-comer spoke in a shrill, piping voice,
as strange as his weird face and withered body.
Is that your full name? asked the master.
No, sir, piped the strange little creature.
Give your full name, said Mr. Ball, sternly.
My name is Christopher Columbus George Washington Marquis de
Lafayette Risdale. The poor lad was the victim of that mania which
some people have for naming after great men. His little shrunken body
and high, piping voice made his name seem so incongruous that all the
school tittered, and many laughed outright. But the dignified and
eccentric little fellow did not observe it.
Can you read?
Yes, sir, squeaked the lad, more shrilly than ever.
Umph, said the master, with a look of doubt on his face. In the
No, sir; in the fourth reader.
Even the master could not conceal his look of astonishment at this
claim. At that day, the fourth reader class was the highest in the
school, and contained only the largest scholars. The school laughed at
the bare notion of little Christopher Columbus reading in the fourth
reader, and the little fellow looked around the room, puzzled to guess
the cause of the merriment.
We'll try you, said the master, with suspicion. When the
fourth-reader class was called, and Harvey Collins and Susie Lanham and
some others of the nearly grown-up pupils came forward, with Jack
Dudley as quite the youngest of the class, the great-eyed, emaciated
little Columbus Risdale picked himself up on his pipe-stems and took
his place at the end of this row.
It was too funny for anything!
Will Riley and Pewee and other large scholars, who were yet reading
in that old McGuffey's Third Reader, which had a solitary picture of
Bonaparte crossing the Alps, looked with no kindly eyes on this
preposterous infant in the class ahead of them.
The piece to be read was the poem of Mrs. Hemans's called The
Better Land. Poems like this one are rather out of fashion nowadays,
and people are inclined to laugh a little at Mrs. Hemans. But thirty
years ago her religious and sentimental poetry was greatly esteemed.
This one presented no difficulty to the readers. In that day, little or
no attention was paid to inflectionthe main endeavor being to
pronounce the words without hesitation or slip, and to mind the
stops. Each one of the class read a stanza ending with a line:
Not there, not there, my child!
The poem was exhausted before all had read, so that it was necessary
to begin over again in order to give each one his turn. All waited to
hear the little Columbus read. When it came his turn, the school was as
still as death. The master, wishing to test him, told him, with
something like a sneer, that he could read three stanzas, or verses,
as Mr. Ball called them.
The little chap squared his toes, threw his head back, and more
fluently even than the rest, he read, in his shrill, eager voice, the
remaining lines, winding up each stanza in a condescending tone, as he
Not there, not there, my child!
The effect of this from the hundred-year-old baby was so striking
and so ludicrous that everybody was amused, while all were surprised at
the excellence of his reading. The master proceeded, however, to whip
one or two of the boys for laughing.
When recess-time arrived, Susan Lanham came to Jack with a request.
I wish you'd look after little Lummy Risdale. He's a sort of cousin
of my mother's. He is as innocent and helpless as the babes in the
I'll take care of him, said Jack.
So he took the little fellow walking away from the school-house;
Will Riley and some of the others calling after them: Not there, not
there, my child!
But Columbus did not lay their taunts to heart. He was soon busy
talking to Jack about things in the country, and things in town. On
their return, Riley, crying out: Not there, my child! threw a
snow-ball from a distance of ten feet and struck the poor little
Christopher Columbus George Washington Lafayette so severe a blow as to
throw him off his feet. Quick as a flash, Jack charged on Riley, and
sent a snow-ball into his face. An instant later he tripped him with
his foot and rolled the big, scared fellow into the snow and washed his
face well, leaving half a snow-bank down his back.
What makes you so savage? whined Riley. I didn't snow-ball you.
And Riley looked around for Pewee, who was on the other side of the
school-house, and out of sight of the scuffle.
No, you daren't snow-ball me, said Jack, squeezing another ball
and throwing it into Riley's shirt-front with a certainty of aim that
showed that he knew how to play ball. Take that one, too, and if you
bother Lum Risdale again, I'll make you pay for it. Take a boy of your
size. And with that he moulded yet another ball, but Riley retreated
to the other side of the school-house.
CHAPTER V. WHILING AWAY TIME
Excluded from the plays of the older fellows, Jack drew around him a
circle of small boys, who were always glad to be amused with the
stories of hunting, fishing, and frontier adventure that he had heard
from old pioneers on Wildcat Creek. Sometimes he played tee-tah-toe,
three in a row, with the girls, using a slate and pencil in a way well
known to all school-children. And he also showed them a better kind of
tee-tah-toe, learned on the Wildcat, and which may have been in the
first place an Indian game, as it is played with grains of Indian corn.
A piece of board is grooved with a jack-knife in the manner shown in
[Illustration: DIAGRAM OF TEE-TAH-TOE BOARD.]
One player has three red or yellow grains of corn, and the other an
equal number of white ones. The player who won the last game has the
gothat is, he first puts down a grain of corn at any place where
the lines intersect, but usually in the middle, as that is the best
point. Then the other player puts down one, and so on until all are
down. After this, the players move alternately along any of the lines,
in any direction, to the next intersection, provided it is not already
occupied. The one who first succeeds in getting his three grains in a
row wins the point, and the board is cleared for a new start. As there
are always three vacant points, and as the rows may be formed in any
direction along any of the lines, the game gives a chance for more
variety of combinations than one would expect from its appearance.
[Illustration: JACK AMUSING THE SMALL BOYS WITH STORIES OF HUNTING,
FISHING, AND FRONTIER ADVENTURE.]
Jack had also an arithmetical puzzle which he had learned from his
father, and which many of the readers of this story will know, perhaps.
Set down any number, without letting me know what it is, said he
to Joanna Merwin.
She set down a number.
Now add twelve and multiply by two.
Well, that is done, said Joanna.
Divide by four, subtract half of the number first set down, and
your answer will be six.
Oh, but how did you know that I put down sixty-four? said Joanna.
I didn't, said Jack.
How could you tell the answer, then?
That's for you to find out.
This puzzle excited a great deal of curiosity. To add to the wonder
of the scholars, Jack gave each time a different number to be added in,
and sometimes he varied the multiplying and dividing. Harvey Collins,
who was of a studious turn, puzzled over it a long time, and at last he
found it out; but he did not tell the secret. He contented himself with
giving out a number to Jack and telling his result. To the rest it was
quite miraculous, and Riley turned green with jealousy when he found
the girls and boys refusing to listen to his jokes, but gathering about
Jack to test his ability to guess the answer, as they phrased it.
Riley said he knew how it was done, and he was even foolish enough to
try to do it, by watching the slate-pencil, or by sheer guessing, but
this only brought him into ridicule.
Try me once, said the little C. C. G. W. M. de L. Risdale, and
Jack let Columbus set down a figure and carry it through the various
processes until he told him the result. Lummy grew excited, pushed his
thin hands up into his hair, looked at his slate a minute, and then
Ohlet me seeyesnoyesOh, I see! Your answer is just half
the amount added in, because you have
But here Jack placed his hand over Columbus's mouth.
You can see through a pine door, Lummy, but you mustn't let out my
secret, he said.
But Jack had a boy's heart in him, and he longed for some more
CHAPTER VI. A BATTLE
One morning, when Jack proposed to play a game of ball with the
boys, Riley and Pewee came up and entered the game, and objected.
It isn't interesting to play with greenhorns, said Will. If Jack
plays, little Christopher Columbus Andsoforth will want to play, too;
and then there'll be two babies to teach. I can't be always helping
babies. Let Jack play two-hole cat or Anthony-over with the little
fellows. To which answer Pewee assented, of course.
That day at noon Riley came to Jack, with a most gentle tone and
winning manner, and whiningly begged Jack to show him how to divide 770
It isn't interesting to show greenhorns, said Jack, mimicking
Riley's tone on the playground that morning. If I show you, Pewee Rose
will want me to show him; then there'll be two babies to teach. I can't
be always helping babies. Go and play two-hole cat with the
That afternoon, Mr. Ball had the satisfaction of using his new beech
switches on both Riley and Pewee, though indeed Pewee did not deserve
to be punished for not getting his lesson. It was Nature's doing that
his head, like a goat's, was made for butting and not for thinking.
But if he had to take whippings from the master and his father, he
made it a rule to get satisfaction out of somebody else. If Jack had
helped him he wouldn't have missed. If he had not missed his lesson
badly, Mr. Ball would not have whipped him. It would be inconvenient to
whip Mr. Ball in return, but Jack would be easy to manage, and as
somebody must be whipped, it fell to Jack's lot to take it.
King Pewee did not fall upon his victim at the school-house door;
this would have insured him another beating from the master. Nor did he
attack Jack while Bob Holliday was with him. Bob was big and stronga
great fellow of sixteen. But after Jack had passed the gate of Bob's
house, and was walking on toward home alone, Pewee came out from behind
an alley fence, accompanied by Ben Berry and Will Riley.
I'm going to settle with you now, said King Pewee, sidling up to
Jack like an angry bull-dog.
It was not a bright prospect for Jack, and he cast about him for a
chance to escape a brutal encounter with such a bully, and yet avoid
actually running away.
Well, said Jack, if I must fight, I must. But I suppose you won't
let Riley and Berry help you.
No, I'll fight fair. And Pewee threw off his coat, while Jack did
You'll quit when I say 'enough,' won't you? said Jack.
Yes, I'll fight fair, and hold up when you've got enough.
Well, then, for that matter, I've got enough now. I'll take the
will for the deed and just say 'enough' before you begin, and he
turned to pick up his coat.
No, you don't get off that way, said Pewee. You've got to stand
up and see who is the best man, or I'll kick you all the way home.
Didn't you ever hear about Davy Crockett's 'coon? said Jack. When
the 'coon saw him taking aim, it said: 'Is that you, Crockett? Well,
don't fireI'll come down anyway. I know you'll hit anything you shoot
at.' Now, I'm that 'coon. If it was anybody but you, I'd fight. But as
it's you, Pewee, I might just as well come down before you begin.
Pewee was flattered by this way of putting the question. Had he been
alone, Jack would have escaped. But Will Riley, remembering all he had
endured from Jack's retorts, said:
Oh, give it to him, Pewee; he's always making trouble.
At which Pewee squared himself off, doubled up his fists, and came
at the slenderer Jack. The latter prepared to meet him, but, after all,
it was hard for Pewee to beat so good-humored a fellow as Jack. The
king's heart failed him, and suddenly he backed off, saying:
If you'll agree to help Riley and me out with our lessons
hereafter, I'll let you off. If you don't, I'll thrash you within an
inch of your life. And Pewee stood ready to begin.
Jack wanted to escape the merciless beating that Pewee had in store
for him. But it was quite impossible for him to submit under a threat.
So he answered:
If you and Riley will treat me as you ought to, I'll help you when
you ask me, as I always have. But even if you pound me into jelly I
won't agree to help you, unless you treat me right. I won't be bullied
into helping you.
Give it to him, Pewee, said Ben Berry; he's too sassy.
Pewee was a rather good-natured doghe had to be set on. He now
began to strike at Jack. Whether he was to be killed or not, Jack did
not know, but he was resolved not to submit to the bully. Yet he could
not do much at defence against Pewee's hard fists. However, Jack was
active and had long limbs; he soon saw that he must do something more
than stand up to be beaten. So, when King Pewee, fighting in the
irregular Western fashion, and hoping to get a decided advantage at
once, rushed upon Jack and pulled his head forward, Jack stooped lower
than his enemy expected, and, thrusting his head between Pewee's knees,
shoved his legs from under him, and by using all his strength threw
Pewee over his own back, so that the king's nose and eyes fell into the
dust of the village street.
I'll pay you for that, growled Pewee, as he recovered himself, now
thoroughly infuriated; and with a single blow he sent Jack flat on his
back, and then proceeded to pound him. Jack could do nothing now but
shelter his eyes from Pewee's blows.
Joanna Merwin had seen the beginning of the battle from her father's
house, and feeling sure that Jack would be killed, she had run swiftly
down the garden walk to the back gate, through which she slipped into
the alley; and then she hurried on, as fast as her feet would carry
her, to the blacksmith-shop of Pewee Rose's father.
Oh, please, Mr. Rose, come quick! Pewee's just killing a boy in the
Vitin' ag'in, said Mr. Rose, who was a Pennsylvanian from the
limestone country, and spoke English with difficulty. He ees a leetle
ruffen, dat poy. I'll see apout him right avay a'ready, may be.
And without waiting to put off his leathern apron, he walked briskly
in the direction indicated by Joanna. Pewee was hammering Jack without
pity, when suddenly he was caught by the collar and lifted sharply to
Wot you doin' down dare in de dirt wunst a'ready? Hey? said Mr.
Rose, as he shook his son with the full force of his right arm, and
cuffed him with his left hand. Didn't I dells you I'd gill you some
day if you didn't gwit vitin' mit oder poys, a'ready?
He commenced it, whimpered Pewee.
You dells a pig lie a'ready, I beleefs, Peter, and I'll whip you
fur lyin' besides wunst more. Fellers like him, pointing to
Jack, who was brushing the dust off his clothes,fellers like him
don't gommence on such a poy as you. You're such anoder viter I never
seed. And he shook Pewee savagely.
I won't do it no more, begged Pewee'pon my word and honor I
Oh, you don't gits off dat away no more, a'ready. You know what
I'll giff you when I git you home, you leedle ruffen. I shows you how
to vite, a'ready.
And the king disappeared down the street, begging like a spaniel,
and vowing that he wouldn't do it no more. But he got a severe
whipping, I fear;it is doubtful if such beatings ever do any good.
The next morning Jack appeared at school with a black eye, and Pewee
had some scratches, so the master whipped them both for fighting.
CHAPTER VII. HAT-BALL AND BULL-PEN
Pewee did not renew the quarrel with Jackperhaps from fear of the
rawhide that hung in the blacksmith's shop, or of the master's ox-goad,
or of Bob Holliday's fists, or perhaps from a hope of conciliating Jack
and getting occasional help in his lessons. Jack was still excluded
from the favorite game of bull-pen. I am not sure that he would have
been rejected had he asked for admission, but he did not want to risk
another refusal. He planned a less direct way of getting into the game.
Asking his mother for a worn-out stocking, and procuring an old
boot-top, he ravelled the stocking, winding the yarn into a ball of
medium hardness. Then he cut from the boot-top a square of leather
large enough for his purpose. This he laid on the kitchen-table, and
proceeded to mark off and cut it into the shape of an orange-peel that
has been quartered off the orange, leaving the four quarters joined
together at the middle. This leather he put to soak over night. The
next morning, bright and early, with a big needle and some strong
thread he sewed it around his yarn-ball, stretching the wet leather to
its utmost, so that when it should contract the ball should be firm and
hard, and the leather well moulded to it. Such a ball is far better for
all play in which the player is to be hit than those sold in the stores
nowadays. I have described the manufacture of the old-fashioned
home-made ball, because there are some boys, especially in the towns,
who have lost the art of making yarn balls.
When Jack had finished his ball, he let it dry, while he ate his
breakfast and did his chores. Then he sallied out and found Bob
Holliday, and showed him the result of his work. Bob squeezed it, felt
its weight, bounced it against a wall, tossed it high in the air,
caught it, and then bounced it on the ground. Having thus put it
through its paces, he pronounced it an excellent ball,a good deal
better than Ben Berry's ball. But what are you going to do with it? he
asked. Play Anthony-over? The little boys can play that.
I suppose there are boys in these days who do not know what
Anthony-over is. How, indeed, can anybody play Anthony-over in a
The old one-story village school-houses stood generally in an open
green. The boys divided into two parties, the one going on one side,
and the other on the opposite side of the school-house. The party that
had the ball would shout Anthony! The others responded, Over! To
this, answer was made from the first party, Over she comes! and the
ball was immediately thrown over the school-house. If any of the second
party caught it, they rushed, pell-mell, around both ends of the
school-house to the other side, and that one of them who held the ball
essayed to hit some one of the opposite party before they could
exchange sides. If a boy was hit by the ball thus thrown he was counted
as captured to the opposite party, and he gave all his efforts to beat
his old allies. So the game went on, until all the players of one side
were captured by the others. I don't know what Anthony means in this
game, but no doubt the game is hundreds of years old, and was played in
English villages before the first colony came to Jamestown.
I'm not going to play Anthony-over, said Jack. I'm going to show
King Pewee a new trick.
You can't get up a game of bull-pen on your own hook, and play the
four corners and the ring all by yourself.
No, I don't mean that. I'm going to show the boys how to play
hat-balla game they used to play on the Wildcat.
I see your point. You are going to make Pewee ask you to let him
in, said Bob, and the two boys set out for school together, Jack
explaining the game to Bob. They found one or two boys already there,
and when Jack showed his new ball and proposed a new game, they fell in
The boys stood their hats in a row on the grass. The one with the
ball stood over the row of hats, and swung his hand to and fro above
them, while the boys stood by him, prepared to run as soon as the ball
should drop into a hat. The boy who held the ball, after one or two
false motions,now toward this hat, and now toward that one,would
drop the ball into Somebody's hat. Somebody would rush to his hat,
seize the ball, and throw it at one of the other boys, who were fleeing
in all directions. If he hit Somebody-Else, Somebody-Else might throw
from where the ball lay, or from the hats, at the rest, and so on,
until some one missed. The one who missed took up his hat and left the
play, and the boy who picked up the ball proceeded to drop it into a
hat, and the game went on until all but one were put out.
Hat-ball is so simple that any number can play at it, and Jack's
friends found it so full of boisterous fun, that every new-comer wished
to set down his hat. And thus, by the time Pewee and Riley arrived,
half the larger boys in the school were in the game, and there were not
enough left to make a good game of bull-pen.
At noon, the new game drew the attention of the boys again, and
Riley and Pewee tried in vain to coax them away.
Oh, I say, come on, fellows! Riley would say. Comelet's play
something worth playing.
But the boys stayed by the new game and the new ball. Neither Riley,
nor Pewee, nor Ben Berry liked to ask to be let into the game, after
what had passed. Not one of them had spoken to Jack since the battle
between him and Pewee, and they didn't care to play with Jack's ball in
a game of his starting.
Once the other boys had broken away from Pewee's domination, they
were pleased to feel themselves free. As for Pewee and his friends,
they climbed up on a fence, and sat like three crows, watching the play
of the others. After a while they got down in disgust, and went off,
not knowing just what to do. When once they were out of sight, Jack
winked at Bob, who said:
I say, boys, we can play hat-ball at recess when there isn't time
for bull-pen. Let's have a game of bull-pen now, before school takes
It was done in a minute. Bob Holliday and Tom Taylor chose up
sides, the bases were all ready, and by the time Pewee and his
aides-de-camp had walked disconsolately to the pond and back, the boys
were engaged in a good game of bull-pen.
Perhaps I ought to say something about the principles of a game so
little known over the country at large. I have never seen it played
anywhere but in a narrow bit of country on the Ohio River, and yet
there is no merrier game played with a ball.
The ball must not be too hard. There should be four or more corners.
The space inside is called the pen, and the party winning the last game
always has the corners. The ball is tossed from one corner to another,
and when it has gone around once, any boy on a corner may, immediately
after catching the ball thrown to him from any of the four corners,
throw it at any one in the pen. He must throw while the ball is
hot,that is, instantly on catching it. If he fails to hit anybody on
the other side, he goes out. If he hits, his side leave the corners and
run as they please, for the boy who has been hit may throw from where
the ball fell, or from any corner, at any one of the side holding the
corners. If one of them is hit, he has the same privilege; but now the
men in the pen are allowed to scatter, also. Whoever misses is out,
and the play is resumed from the corners until all of one side is out.
When but two are left on the corners the ball is smuggled,that is,
one hides the ball in his bosom, and the other pretends that he has it
also. The boys in the ring do not know which has it, and the two run
the corners, throwing from any corner. If but one is left on the
corners, he is allowed, also, to run from corner to corner.
It happened that Jack's side lost on the toss-up for corners, and he
got into the ring, where his play showed better than it would have done
on the corners. As Jack was the greenhorn and the last chosen on his
side, the players on the corners expected to make light work of him;
but he was an adroit dodger, and he put out three of the boys on the
corners by his unexpected way of evading a ball. Everybody who has ever
played this fine old game knows that expertness in dodging is worth
quite as much as skill in throwing. Pewee was a famous hand with a
ball, Riley could dodge well, Ben Berry had a happy knack of dropping
flat upon the ground and letting a ball pass over him, Bob Holliday
could run well in a counter charge; but nothing could be more effective
than Jack Dudley's quiet way of stepping forward or backward, bending
his lithe body or spreading his legs to let the ball pass, according to
the course which it took from the player's hand.
King Pewee and company came back in time to see Jack dodge three
balls thrown point-blank at him from a distance of fifteen feet. It was
like witchcrafthe seemed to be charmed. Every dodge was greeted with
a shout, and when once he luckily caught the ball thrown at him, and
thus put out the thrower, there was no end of admiration of his
playing. It was now evident to all that Jack could no longer be
excluded from the game, and that, next to Pewee himself, he was already
the best player on the ground.
At recess that afternoon Pewee set his hat down in the hat-ball row,
and as Jack did not object, Riley and Ben Berry did the same. The next
day Pewee chose Jack first in bull-pen, and the game was well played.
CHAPTER VIII. THE DEFENDER
If Jack had not about this time undertaken the defence of the little
boy in the Fourth Reader, whose name was large enough to cover the
principal points in the history of the New World, he might have had
peace, for Jack was no longer one of the newest scholars, his courage
was respected by Pewee, and he kept poor Riley in continual fear of his
ridiculemaking him smart every day. But, just when he might have had
a little peace and happiness, he became the defender of Christopher
Columbus George Washington Marquis de la Fayette Risdalelittle
Andsoforth, as Riley and the other boys had nicknamed him.
The strange, pinched little body of the boy, his eccentric ways, his
quickness in learning, and his infantile simplicity had all conspired
to win the affection of Jack, so that he would have protected him even
without the solicitation of Susan Lanham. But since Susan had been
Jack's own first and fast friend, he felt in honor bound to run all
risks in the care of her strange little cousin.
I think that Columbus's child-like ways might have protected him
even from Riley and his set, if it had not been that he was related to
Susan Lanham, and under her protection. It was the only chance for
Riley to revenge himself on Susan. She was more than a match for him in
wit, and she was not a proper subject for Pewee's fists. So with that
heartlessness which belongs to the school-boy bully, he resolved to
torment the helpless fellow in revenge for Susan's sarcasms.
One morning, smarting under some recent taunt of Susan's, Riley
caught little Columbus almost alone in the school-room. Here was a boy
who certainly would not be likely to strike back again. His bamboo
legs, his spindling arms, his pale face, his contracted chest, all gave
the coward a perfect assurance of safety. So, with a rude pretence at
play, laughing all the time, he caught the lad by the throat, and in
spite of his weird dignity and pleading gentleness, shoved him back
against the wall behind the master's empty chair. Holding him here a
minute in suspense, he began slapping him, first on this side of the
face and then on that. The pale cheeks burned red with pain and fright,
but Columbus did not cry out, though the constantly increasing
sharpness of the blows, and the sense of weakness, degradation, and
terror, stung him severely. Riley thought it funny. Like a cat playing
with a condemned mouse, the cruel fellow actually enjoyed finding one
person weak enough to be afraid of him.
Columbus twisted about in a vain endeavor to escape from Riley's
clutches, getting only a sharper cuff for his pains. Ben Berry,
arriving presently, enjoyed the sport, while some of the smaller boys
and girls, coming in, looked on the scene of torture in helpless pity.
And ever, as more and more of the scholars gathered, Columbus felt more
and more mortified; the tears were in his great sad eyes, but he made
no sound of crying or complaint.
Jack Dudley came in at last, and marched straight up to Riley, who
let go his hold and backed off. You mean, cowardly, pitiful villain!
broke out Jack, advancing on him.
I didn't do anything to you, whined Riley, backing into a corner.
No, but I mean to do something to you. If there's an inch of man in
you, come right on and fight with me. You daren't do it.
I don't want any quarrel with you.
No, you quarrel with babies.
Here all the boys and girls jeered.
You're too hard on a fellow, Jack, whined the scared Riley,
slipping out of the corner and continuing to back down the school-room,
while Jack kept slowly following him.
You're a great deal bigger than I am, said Jack. Why don't you
try to corner me? Oh, I could just beat the breath out of you, you
great, big, good-for-nothing
Here Riley pulled the west door open, and Jack, at the same moment,
struck him. Riley half dropped, half fell, through the door-way, scared
so badly that he went sprawling on the ground.
The boys shouted coward and baby after him as he sneaked off,
but Jack went back to comfort Columbus and to get control of his
temper. For it is not wise, as Jack soon reflected, even in a good
cause to lose your self-control.
It was good of you to interfere, said Susan, when she had come in
and learned all about it.
I should have been a brute if I hadn't, said Jack, pleased none
the less with her praise. But it doesn't take any courage to back
Riley out of a school-house. One could get more fight out of a yearling
calf. I suppose I've got to take a beating from Pewee, though.
Go and see him about it, before Riley talks to him, suggested
Susan. And Jack saw the prudence of this course. As he left the
school-house at a rapid pace, Ben Berry told Riley, who was skulking
behind a fence, that Jack was afraid of Pewee.
Pewee, said Jack, when he met him starting to school, after having
done his chores, including the milking of his cow,Pewee, I want to
say something to you.
Jack's tone and manner flattered Pewee. One thing that keeps a rowdy
a rowdy is the thought that better people despise him. Pewee felt in
his heart that Jack had a contempt for him, and this it was that made
him hate Jack in turn. But now that the latter sought him in a friendly
way, he felt himself lifted up into a dignity hitherto unknown to him.
What is it?
You are a kind of king among the boys, said Jack. Pewee grew an
They are all afraid of you. Now, why don't you make us fellows
behave? You ought to protect the little boys from fellows that impose
on them. Then you'd be a king worth the having. All the boys and girls
would like you.
I s'pose may be that's so, said the king.
There's poor little Columbus Risdale
I don't like him, said Pewee.
You mean you don't like Susan. She is a little sharp with
her tongue. But you wouldn't fight with a babyit isn't like you.
No, sir-ee, said Pewee.
You'd rather take a big boy than a little one. Now, you ought to
make Riley let Lummy alone.
I'll do that, said Pewee. Riley's about a million times bigger
I went to the school-house this morning, continued Jack, and I
found Riley choking and beating him. And I thought I'd just speak to
you, and see if you can't make him stop it.
I'll do that, said Pewee, walking along with great dignity.
When Ben Berry and Riley saw Pewee coming in company with Jack, they
were amazed and hung their heads, afraid to say anything even to each
other. Jack and Pewee walked straight up to the fence-corner in which
I thought I'd see what King Pewee would say about your fighting
with babies, Riley, said Jack.
I want you fellows to understand, said Pewee, that I'm not going
to have that little Lum Risdale hurt. If you want to fight, why don't
you fight somebody your own size? I don't fight babies myself, and
here Pewee drew his head up, and I don't stand by any boy that does.
Poor Riley felt the last support drop from under him. Pewee had
deserted him, and he was now an orphan, unprotected in an unfriendly
Jack knew that the truce with so vain a fellow as Pewee could not
last long, but it served its purpose for the time. And when, after
school, Susan Lanham took pains to go and thank Pewee for standing up
for Columbus, Pewee felt himself every inch a king, and for the time he
wasif not a reformed prize-fighter, such as one hears of sometimes,
at least an improved boy. The trouble with vain people like Pewee is,
that they have no stability. They bend the way the wind blows, and for
the most part the wind blows from the wrong quarter.
CHAPTER IX. PIGEON POT-PIE
Happy boys and girls that go to school nowadays! You have to study
harder than the generations before you, it is true; you miss the jolly
spelling-schools, and the good old games that were not half so
scientific as base-ball, lawn tennis, or lacrosse, but that had ten
times more fun and frolic in them; but all this is made up to you by
the fact that you escape the tyrannical old master. Whatever the faults
the teachers of this day may have, they do not generally lacerate the
backs of their pupils, as did some of their fore-runners.
At the time of which I write, thirty years ago, a better race of
school-masters was crowding out the old, but many of the latter class,
with their terrible switches and cruel beatings, kept their ground
until they died off one by one, and relieved the world of their odious
Mr. Ball wouldn't die to please anybody. He was a bachelor, and had
no liking for children, but taught school five or six months in winter
to avoid having to work on a farm in the summer. He had taught in
Greenbank every winter for a quarter of a century, and having never
learned to win anybody's affection, had been obliged to teach those who
disliked him. This atmosphere of mutual dislike will sour the sweetest
temper, and Mr. Ball's temper had not been strained honey to begin
with. Year by year he grew more and more severehe whipped for poor
lessons, he whipped for speaking in school, he took down his switch for
not speaking loud enough in class, he whipped for coming late to
school, he whipped because a scholar made a noise with his feet, and he
whipped because he himself had eaten something unwholesome for his
breakfast. The brutality of a master produces like qualities in
scholars. The boys drew caricatures on the blackboard, put living cats
or dead ones into Mr. Ball's desk, and tried to drive him wild by their
He would walk up and down the school-room seeking a victim, and he
had as much pleasure in beating a girl or a little boy as in punishing
an overgrown fellow.
And yet I cannot say that Mr. Ball was impartial. There were some
pupils that escaped. Susan Lanham was not punished, because her father,
Dr. Lanham, was a very influential man in the town; and the faults of
Henry Weathervane and his sister were always overlooked after their
father became a school trustee.
Many efforts had been made to put a new master into the school. But
Mr. Ball's brother-in-law was one of the principal merchants in the
place, and the old man had had the school so long that it seemed like
robbery to deprive him of it. It had come, in some sort, to belong to
him. People hated to see him moved. He would die some day, they said,
and nobody could deny that, though it often seemed to the boys and
girls that he would never die; he was more likely to dry up and blow
away. And it was a long time to wait for that.
And yet I think Greenbank might have had to wait for something like
that if there hadn't come a great flight of pigeons just at this time.
For whenever Susan Lanham suggested to her father that he should try to
get Mr. Ball removed and a new teacher appointed, Dr. Lanham smiled and
said he hated to move against the old man; he's been there so long,
you know, and he probably wouldn't live long, anyhow. Something ought
to be done, perhaps, but he couldn't meddle with him. For older people
forgot the beatings they had endured, and remembered the old man only
as one of the venerable landmarks of their childhood.
And so, by favor of Henry Weathervane's father, whose children he
did not punish, and by favor of other people's neglect and
forgetfulness, the Greenbank children might have had to face and fear
the old ogre down to this day, or until he dried up and blew away, if
it hadn't been, as I said, that there came a great flight of pigeons.
A flight of pigeons is not uncommon in the Ohio River country.
Audubon, the great naturalist, saw them in his day, and in old colonial
times such flights took place in the settlements on the sea-board, and
sometimes the starving colonists were able to knock down pigeons with
sticks. The mathematician is not yet born who can count the number of
pigeons in one of these sky-darkening flocks, which are often many
miles in length, and which follow one another for a whole day. The
birds, for the most part, fly at a considerable height from the earth,
but when they are crossing a wide valley, like that of the Ohio River,
they drop down to a lower level, and so reach the hills quite close to
the ground, and within easy gunshot.
When the pigeon flight comes on Saturday, it is very convenient for
those boys that have guns. If these pigeons had only come on Saturday
instead of on Monday, Mr. Ball might have taught the Greenbank school
until to-day,that is to say, if he hadn't died or quite dried up and
blown off meanwhile.
For when Riley and Ben Berry saw this flight of pigeons begin on
Monday morning, they remembered that the geography lesson was a hard
one, and so they played hooky, and, taking their guns with them, hid
in the bushes at the top of the hill. Then, as the birds struck the
hill, and beat their way up over the brow of it, the boys, lying in
ambush, had only to fire into the flock without taking aim, and the
birds would drop all around them. The discharge of the guns made Bob
Holliday so hungry for pigeon pot-pie, that he, too, ran away from
school, at recess, and took his place among the pigeon-slayers in the
paw-paw patch on the hill top.
Tuesday morning, Mr. Ball came in with darkened brows, and three
extra switches. Riley, Berry, and Holliday were called up as soon as
school began. They had pigeon pot-pie for dinner, but they also had
sore backs for three days, and Bob laughingly said that he knew just
how a pigeon felt when it was basted.
The day after the whipping and the pigeon pot-pie, when the sun
shone warm at noon, the fire was allowed to go down in the stove. All
were at play in the sunshine, excepting Columbus Risdale, who sat
solitary, like a disconsolate screech-owl, in one corner of the room.
Riley and Ben Berry, still smarting from yesterday, entered, and
without observing Lummy's presence, proceeded to put some gunpowder in
the stove, taking pains to surround it with cool ashes, so that it
should not explode until the stirring of the fire, as the chill of the
afternoon should come on. When they had finished this dangerous
transaction, they discovered the presence of Columbus in his corner,
looking at them with large-eyed wonder and alarm.
If you ever tell a living soul about that, we'll kill you, said
Riley also threatened the scared little rabbit, and both felt safe
An hour after school had resumed its session. Columbus, who had sat
shivering with terror all the time, wrote on his slate:
Will Riley and Ben B. put something in the stove. Said they would
kill me if I told on them.
This he passed to Jack, who sat next to him. Jack rubbed it out as
soon as he had read it, and wrote:
Don't tell anybody.
Jack could not guess what they had put in. It might be coffee-nuts,
which would explode harmlessly; it might be something that would give a
bad smell in burning, such as chicken-feathers. If he had thought that
it was gunpowder, he would have plucked up courage enough to give the
master some warning, though he might have got only a whipping for his
pains. While Jack was debating what he should do, the master called the
Fourth-Reader class. At the close of the lesson he noticed that
Columbus was shivering, though indeed it was more from terror than from
Go to the stove and stir up the fire, and get warm, he said,
I'dI'd rather not, said Lum, shaking with fright at the idea.
Umph! said Mr. Ball, looking hard at the lad, with half a mind to
make him go. Then he changed his purpose and went to the stove himself,
raked forward the coals, and made up the fire. Just as he was shutting
the stove-door, the explosion camethe ashes flew out all over the
master, the stove was thrown down from the bricks on which its four
legs rested, the long pipe fell in many pieces on the floor, and the
children set up a general howl in all parts of the room.
As soon as Mr. Ball had shaken off the ashes from his coat, he said:
Be quietthere's no more danger. Columbus Risdale, come here.
He did not do it, spoke up Susan Lanham.
Be quiet, Susan. You know all about this, continued the master to
poor little Columbus, who was so frightened as hardly to be able to
stand. After looking at Columbus a moment, the master took down a great
beech switch. Now, I shall whip you until you tell me who did it. You
were afraid to go to the stove. You knew there was powder there. Who
put it there? That's the question. Answer, quick, or I shall make you.
The little skin-and-bones trembled between two terrors, and Jack,
seeing his perplexity, got up and stood by him.
He didn't do it, Mr. Ball. I know who did it. If Columbus should
tell you, he would be beaten for telling. The boy who did it is just
mean enough to let Lummy get the whipping. Please let him off.
You know, do you? I shall whip you both. You knew there was
gunpowder in the fire, and you gave no warning. I shall whip you
boththe severest whipping you ever had, too.
And the master put up the switch he had taken down, as not effective
enough, and proceeded to take another.
If we had known it was gunpowder, said Jack, beginning to tremble,
you would have been warned. But we didn't. We only knew that something
had been put in.
If you'll tell all about it, I'll let you off easier; if you don't,
I shall give you all the whipping I know how to give. And by way of
giving impressiveness to his threat he took a turn about the room,
while there was an awful stillness among the terrified scholars.
I do not know what was in Bob Holliday's head, but about this time
he managed to open the western door while the master's back was turned.
Bob's desk was near the door.
Poor little Columbus was ready to die, and Jack was afraid that, if
the master should beat him as he threatened to do, the child would die
outright. Luckily, at the second cruel blow, the master broke his
switch and turned to get another. Seeing the door open, Jack whispered
Run home as fast as you can go.
The little fellow needed no second bidding. He tottered on his
trembling legs to the door, and was out before Mr. Ball had detected
the motion. When the master saw his prey disappearing out of the door,
he ran after him, but it happened curiously enough, in the excitement,
that Bob Holliday, who sat behind the door, rose up, as if to look out,
and stumbled against the door, thus pushing it shut, so that by the
time Mr. Ball got his stiff legs outside the door, the frightened child
was under such headway that, fearing to have the whole school in
rebellion, the teacher gave over the pursuit, and came back prepared to
wreak his vengeance on Jack.
While Mr. Ball was outside the door, Bob Holliday called to Jack, in
a loud whisper, that he had better run, too, or the old master would
skin him alive. But Jack had been trained to submit to authority, and
to run away now would lose him his winter's schooling, on which he had
set great store. He made up his mind to face the punishment as best he
could, fleeing only as a last resort if the beating should be
Now, said the master to Jack, will you tell me who put that
gunpowder in the stove? If you don't, I'll take it out of your skin.
Jack could not bear to tell, especially under a threat. I think that
boys are not wholly right in their notion that it is dishonorable to
inform on a school-mate, especially in the case of so bad an offence as
that of which Will and Ben were guilty. But, on the other hand, the
last thing a master ought to seek is to turn boys into habitual spies
and informers on one another. In the present instance, Jack ought,
perhaps, to have told, for the offence was criminal; but it is hard for
a high-spirited lad to yield to a brutal threat.
Jack caught sight of Susan Lanham telegraphing from behind the
master, by spelling with her fingers:
Tell or run.
But he could not make up his mind to do either, though Bob Holliday
had again mysteriously opened the western door.
The master summoned all his strength and struck him half a dozen
blows, that made poor Jack writhe. Then he walked up and down the room
awhile, to give the victim time to consider whether he would tell or
Run, spelled out Susan on her fingers.
The school-house is on fire! called out Bob Holliday. Some of the
coals that had spilled from the capsized stove were burning the
floornot dangerously, but Bob wished to make a diversion. He rushed
for a pail of water in the corner, and all the rest, aching with
suppressed excitement, crowded around the fallen stove, so that it was
hard for the master to tell whether there was any fire or not. Bob
whispered to Jack to cut sticks, but Jack only went to his seat.
Lay hold, boys, and let's put up the stove, said Bob, taking the
matter quite out of the master's hands. Of course, the stove-pipe would
not fit without a great deal of trouble. Did ever stove-pipe go
together without trouble? Somehow, all the joints that Bob joined
together flew asunder over and over again, though he seemed to work
most zealously to get the stove set up. After half an hour of this
confusion, the pipe was fixed, and the master, having had time, like
the stove, to cool off, and seeing Jack bent over his book, concluded
to let the matter drop. But there are some matters that, once taken up,
are hard to drop.
CHAPTER X. JACK AND HIS MOTHER
Jack went home that night very sore on his back and in his feelings.
He felt humiliated to be beaten like a dog, and even a dog feels
degraded in being beaten. He told his mother about itthe tall,
dignified, sweet-faced mother, patient in trouble and full of a
goodness that did not talk much about goodness. She always took it for
granted that her boy would not do anything mean, and thus made a
healthy atmosphere for a brave boy to grow in. Jack told her of his
whipping, with some heat, while he sat at supper. She did not say much
then, but after Jack's evening chores were all finished, she sat down
by the candle where he was trying to get out some sums, and questioned
Why didn't you tell who did it? she asked.
Because it makes a boy mean to tell, and all the boys would have
thought me a sneak.
It is a little hard to face a general opinion like that, she said.
But, said Jack, if I had told, the master would have whipped
Columbus all the same, and the boys would probably have pounded him,
too. I ought to have told beforehand, said Jack, after a pause. But I
thought it was only some coffee-nuts that they had put in. The mean
fellows, to let Columbus take a whipping for them! But the way Mr. Ball
beats us is enough to make a boy mean and cowardly.
After a long silence, the mother said: I think we shall have to
give it up, Jack.
The schooling for this winter. I don't want you to go where boys
are beaten in that way. In the morning, go and get your books and see
what you can do at home.
Then, after a long pause, in which neither liked to speak, Mrs.
I want you to be an educated man. You learn quickly; you have a
taste for books, and you will be happier if you get knowledge. If I
could collect the money that Gray owes your father's estate, or even a
part of it, I should be able to keep you in school one winter after
this. But there seems to be no hope for that.
But Gray is a rich man, isn't he?
Yes, he has a good deal of property, but not in his own name. He
persuaded your father, who was a kind-hearted and easy-natured man, to
release a mortgage, promising to give him some other security the next
week. But, meantime, he put his property in such a shape as to cheat
all his creditors. I don't think we shall ever get anything.
I am going to be an educated man, anyhow.
But you will have to go to work at something next fall, said the
That will make it harder, but I mean to study a little every day. I
wish I could get a chance to spend next winter in school.
We'll see what can be done.
And long after Jack went to bed that night the mother sat still by
the candle with her sewing, trying to think what she could do to help
her boy to get on with his studies.
Jack woke up after eleven o'clock, and saw her light still burning
in the sitting-room.
I say, mother, he called out, don't you sit there worrying about
me. We shall come through this all right.
Some of Jack's hopefulness got into the mother's heart, and she took
her light and went to bed.
Weary, and sore, and disappointed, Jack did not easily get to sleep
himself after his cheerful speech to his mother. He lay awake long,
making boy's plans for his future. He would go and collect money by
some hook or crook from the rascally Gray; he would make a great
invention; he would discover a gold mine; he would find some rich
cousin who would send him through college; he would, but just then
he grew more wakeful and realized that all his plans had no foundation
CHAPTER XI. COLUMBUS AND HIS FRIENDS
When he waked up in the morning, Jack remembered that he had not
seen Columbus Risdale go past the door after his cow the evening
before, and he was afraid that he might be ill. Why had he not thought
to go down and drive up the cow himself? It was yet early, and he arose
and went down to the little rusty, brown, unpainted house in which the
Risdales, who were poor people, had their home. Just as he pushed open
the gate, Bob Holliday came out of the door, looking tired and sleepy.
Hello, Bob! said Jack. How's Columbus? Is he sick?
Awful sick, said Bob. Clean out of his head all night.
Have you been here all night?
Yes, I heerd he was sick last night, and I come over and sot up
You good, big-hearted Bob! said Jack. You're the best fellow in
the world, I believe.
What a quare feller you air to talk, Jack, said Bob, choking up.
Air you goin' to school to-day?
No. Mother'd rather have me not go any more.
I'm not going any more. I hate old Ball. Neither's Susan Lanham
going. She's in there, and Bob made a motion toward the house with his
thumb, and passed out of the gate, while Jack knocked at the door. He
was admitted by Susan.
Oh, Jack! I'm so glad to see you, she whispered. Columbus has
asked for you a good many times during the night. You've stood by him
Jack blushed, but asked how Lummy was now.
Out of his head most of the time. Bob Holliday stayed with him all
night. What a good fellow Bob Holliday is!
I almost hugged him, just now, said Jack, and Susan couldn't help
smiling at this frank confession.
Jack passed into the next room as stealthily as possible, that he
might not disturb his friend, and paused by the door. Mrs. Risdale sat
by the bedside of Columbus, who was sleeping uneasily, his curious big
head and long, thin hair making a strange picture against the pillow.
His face looked more meagre and his eyes more sunken than ever before,
but there was a feverish flush on his wan cheeks, and the slender hands
moved uneasily on the outside of the blue coverlet, the puny arms were
bare to the elbows.
Mrs. Risdale beckoned Jack to come forward, and he came and stood at
the bed-foot. Then Columbus opened his large eyes and fixed them on
Jack for a few seconds.
Come, Jack, dear old fellow, he whispered.
Jack came and bent over him with tearful eyes, and the poor little
reed-like arms were twined about his neck.
Jack, he sobbed, the master's right over there in the corner all
the time, straightening out his long switches. He says he's going to
whip me again. But you won't let him, will you, Jack, you good old
No, he shan't touch you.
Let's run away, Jack, he said, presently. And so the poor little
fellow went on, his great, disordered brain producing feverish images
of terror from which he continually besought dear good old Jack to
When at last he dropped again into a troubled sleep, Jack slipped
away and drove up the Risdale cow, and then went back to his breakfast.
He was a boy whose anger kindled slowly; but the more he thought about
it, the more angry he became at the master who had given Columbus such
a fright as to throw him into a brain fever, and at the mean, sneaking
contemptible villains, as he hotly called them, who wouldn't come
forward and confess their trick, rather than to have the poor little
I suppose we ought to make some allowances, his mother said,
That's what you always say, mother. You're always making
After breakfast and chores, Jack thought to go again to see his
little friend. On issuing from the gate, he saw Will Riley and Ben
Berry waiting for him at the corner. Whether they meant to attack him
or not he could not tell, but he felt too angry to care.
I say, Jack, said Riley, how did you know who put the powder in
the stove? Did Columbus tell you?
Mind your own business, said Jack, in a tone not so polite as it
might be. The less you say about gunpowder, hereafter, the better for
you both. Why didn't you walk up and tell, and save that little fellow
Look here, Jack, said Berry, don't you tell what you know about
it. There's going to be a row. They say that Doctor Lanham's taken
Susan, and all the other children, out of school, because the master
thrashed Lummy, and they say Bob Holliday's quit, and that you're going
to quit, and Doctor Lanham's gone to work this morning to get the
master put out at the end of the term. Mr. Ball didn't know that
Columbus was kin to the Lanhams, or he'd have let him alone, like he
does the Lanhams and the Weathervanes. There is going to be a big row,
and everybody'll want to know who put the powder in the stove. We want
you to be quiet about it.
You do? said Jack, with a sneer. You do?
Yes, we do, said Riley, coaxingly.
You do? You come to me and ask me to keep it secret,
after letting me and that poor little baby take your whipping! You want
me to hide what you did, when that poor little Columbus lies over there
sick abed and like to die, all because you sneaking scoundrels let him
be whipped for what you did!
Is he sick? said Riley, in terror.
Going to die, I expect, said Jack, bitterly.
Well, said Ben Berry, you be careful what you say about us, or
we'll get Pewee to get even with you.
Oh, that's your game! You think you can scare me, do you?
Jack grew more and more angry. Seeing a group of school-boys on the
other side of the street, he called them over.
Look here, boys, said Jack, I took a whipping yesterday to keep
from telling on these fellows, and now they have the face to ask me not
to tell that they put the powder in the stove, and they promise me a
beating from Pewee if I do. These are the two boys that let a poor
sickly baby take the whipping they ought to have had. They have just as
good as killed him, I suppose, and now they come sneaking around here
and trying to scare me in keeping still about it. I didn't back down
from the master, and I won't from Pewee. Oh, no! I won't tell anybody.
But if any of you boys should happen to guess that Will Riley and Ben
Berry were the cowards who did that mean trick, I am not going to say
they weren't. It wouldn't be of any use to deny it. There are only two
boys in school mean enough to play such a contemptible trick as that.
Riley and Berry stood sheepishly silent, but just here Pewee came in
sight, and seeing the squad of boys gathered around Jack, strode over
quickly and pushed his sturdy form into the midst.
Pewee, said Riley, I think you ought to pound Jack. He says you
can't back him down.
I didn't, said Jack. I said you couldn't scare me out of
telling who tried to blow up the school-house stove, and let other boys
take the whipping, by promising me a drubbing from Pewee Rose. If Pewee
wants to put himself in as mean a crowd as yours, and be your puppy-dog
to fight for you, let him come on. He's a fool if he does, that's all I
have to say. The whole town will want to ship you two fellows off
before night, and Pewee isn't going to fight your battles. What do you
think, Pewee, of fellows that put powder in a stove where they might
blow up a lot of little children? What do you think of two fellows that
want me to keep quiet after they let little Lum Risdale take a whipping
for them, and that talk about setting you on to me if I tell?
Thus brought face to face with both parties, King Pewee only looked
foolish and said nothing.
Jack had worked himself into such a passion that he could not go to
Risdale's, but returned to his own home, declaring that he was going to
tell everybody in town. But when he entered the house and looked into
the quiet, self-controlled face of his mother, he began to feel cooler.
Let us remember that some allowances are to be made for such boys,
was all that she said.
That's what you always say, Mother, said Jack, impatiently. I
believe you'd make allowances for the Old Boy himself.
That would depend on his bringing up, smiled Mrs. Dudley. Some
people have bad streaks naturally, and some have been cowed and
brutalized by ill-treatment, and some have been spoiled by indulgence.
Jack felt more calm after a while. He went back to the bedside of
Columbus, but he couldn't bring himself to make allowances.
CHAPTER XII. GREENBANK WAKES UP
If the pigeons had not crossed the valley on Monday, nobody would
have played truant, and if nobody had played truant on Monday, there
would not have been occasion to whip three boys on Tuesday morning, and
if Ben Berry and Riley had escaped a beating on Tuesday morning, they
would not have thought of putting gunpowder into the stove on Wednesday
at noon, and if they had omitted that bad joke, Columbus would not have
got into trouble and run away from school, and if he had escaped the
fright and the flight, he might not have had the fever, and the town
would not have been waked up, and other things would not have happened.
So then, you see, this world of ours is just like the House that
Jack Built: one thing is tied to another and another to that, and that
to this, and this to something, and something to something else, and so
on to the very end of all things.
So it was that the village was thrown into a great excitement as the
result of a flock of innocent pigeons going over the heads of some lazy
boys. In the first place, Susan Lanham talked about things. She talked
to her aunts, and she talked to her uncles, and, above all, she talked
to her father. Now Susan was the brightest girl in the town, and she
had a tongue, as all the world knew, and when she set out to tell
people what a brute the old master was, how he had beaten two innocent
boys, how bravely Jack had carried himself, how frightened little
Columbus was, and how sick it had made him, and how mean the boys were
to put the powder there, and then to let the others take the
whipping,I say, when Susan set out to tell all these things, in her
eloquent way, to everybody she knew, you might expect a waking up in
the sleepy old town. Some of the people took Susan's side and removed
their children from the school, lest they, too, should get a whipping
and run home and have brain fever. But many stood up for the old
master, mostly because they were people of the sort that never can bear
to see anything changed. The boys ought to have told who put the
powder in the stove, they said. It served them right.
How could the master know that Jack and Columbus did not do it
themselves? said others. Maybe they did!
Don't tell me! cried old Mrs. Horne. Don't tell me! Boys can't be
managed without whipping, and plenty of it. 'Bring up a child and away
he goes,' as the Bible says. When you hire a master, you want a
master, says I.
What a tongue that Sue Lanham has got! said Mr. Higbie, Mr. Ball's
The excitement spread over the whole village. Doctor Lanham talked
about it, and the ministers, and the lawyers, and the loafers in the
stores, and the people who came to the post-office for their letters.
Of course, it broke out furiously in the Maternal Association, a
meeting of mothers held at the house of one of the ministers.
Mr. Ball can do every sum in the arithmetic, urged Mrs.
He's a master hand at figures, they do say, said Mother Brownson.
Yes, said Mrs. Dudley, I don't doubt it. Jack's back is covered
with figures of Mr. Ball's making. For my part, I should rather have a
master that did his figuring on a slate.
Susan Lanham got hold of this retort, and took pains that it should
be known all over the village.
When Greenbank once gets waked up on any question, it never goes to
sleep until that particular question is settled. But it doesn't wake up
more than once or twice in twenty years. Most of the time it is only
talking in its sleep. Now that Greenbank had its eyes open for a little
time, it was surprised to see that while the cities along the river had
all adopted graded schools,de-graded schools, as they were
called by the people opposed to them,and while even the little
villages in the hill country had younger and more enlightened teachers,
the county-town of Greenbank had made no advance. It employed yet,
under the rule of President Fillmore, the same hard old stick of a
master that had beaten the boys in the log school-house in the days of
John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. But, now it was awake, Greenbank
kept its eyes open on the school question. The boys wrote on the
fences, in chalk:
DOWN WITH OLD BAWL!
and thought the bad spelling of the name a good joke, while men and
women began to talk about getting a new master.
Will Riley and Ben Berry had the hardest time. For the most part
they stayed at home during the excitement, only slinking out in the
evening. The boys nicknamed them Gunpowder cowards, and wrote the
words on the fences. Even the loafers about the street asked them
whether Old Ball had given them that whipping yet, and how they liked
powder and Ball.
CHAPTER XIII. PROFESSOR SUSAN
Mr. Ball did not let go easily. He had been engaged for the term,
and he declared that he would go on to the end of the term, if there
should be nothing but empty benches. In truth, he and his partisans
hoped that the storm would blow over and the old man be allowed to go
on teaching and thrashing as heretofore. He had a great advantage in
that he had been trained in all the common branches better than most
masters, and was regarded as a miracle of skill in arithmetical
calculations. He even knew how to survey land.
Jack was much disappointed to miss his winter's schooling, and there
was no probability that he would be able to attend school again. He
went on as best he could at home, but he stuck fast on some difficult
problems in the middle of the arithmetic. Columbus had by this time
begun to recover his slender health, and he was even able to walk over
to Jack's house occasionally. Finding Jack in despair over some of his
sums, he said:
Why don't you ask Susan Lanham to show you? I believe she would;
and she has been clean through the arithmetic, and she is 'most as good
as the master himself.
I don't like to, said Jack. She wouldn't want to take the
But the next morning Christopher Columbus managed to creep over to
Cousin Sukey, he said, coaxingly, I wish you'd do something for
me. I want to ask a favor of you.
[Illustration: COUSIN SUKEY, SAID LITTLE COLUMBUS, I WANT TO ASK
A FAVOR OF YOU.]
What is it, Columbus? said Sue. Anything you ask shall be given,
to the half of my kingdom! and she struck an attitude, as Isabella of
Castile, addressing the great Columbus, with the dust-brush for a
sceptre, and the towel, which she had pinned about her head, for a
You are so funny, he said, with a faint smile. But I wish you'd
be sober a minute.
Haven't had but one cup of coffee this morning. But what do you
Oh, yes, it's always Jack with you. But that's rightJack deserves
Jack can't do his sums, and he won't ask you to help him.
And so he got you to ask?
No, he didn't. He wouldn't let me, if he knew. He thinks a young
lady like you wouldn't want to take the trouble to help him.
Do you tell that stupid Jack, that if he doesn't want to offend me
so that I'll never, never forgive him, he is to bring his slate and
pencil over here after supper this evening. And you'll come, too, with
your geography. Yours truly, Susan Lanham, Professor of Mathematics and
Natural Science in the Greenbank Independent and Miscellaneous Academy.
Do you hear?
All right. And Columbus, smiling faintly, went off to tell Jack
the good news. That evening Susan had, besides her own brother and two
sisters, two pupils who learned more arithmetic than they would have
gotten in the same time from Mr. Ball, though she did keep them
laughing at her drollery. The next evening, little Joanna Merwin joined
the party, and Professor Susan felt quite proud of her academy, as
she called it.
Bob Holliday caught the infection, and went to studying at home. As
he was not so far advanced as Jack, he contented himself with asking
Jack's help when he was in trouble. At length, he had a difficulty that
Jack could not solve.
Why don't you take that to the professor? asked Jack. I'll ask
her to show you.
I dursn't, said Bob, with a frightened look.
Nonsense! said Jack.
That evening, when the lessons were ended, Jack said:
Professor Susan, there was a story in the old First Reader we had
in the first school that I went to, about a dog who had a lame foot. A
doctor cured his foot, and some time after, the patient brought another
lame dog to the doctor, and showed by signs that he wanted this other
dog cured, too.
That's rather a good dog-story, said Susan. But what made you
think of it?
Because I'm that first dog.
Yes. You've helped me, but there's Bob Holliday. I've been helping
him, but he's got to a place where I don't quite understand the thing
myself. Now Bob wouldn't dare ask you to help him
Bring him along. How the Greenbank Academy grows! laughed Susan,
turning to her father.
Bob was afraid of Susan at firsthis large fingers trembled so much
that he had trouble to use his slate-pencil. But by the third evening
his shyness had worn off, so that he got on well.
One evening, after a week of attendance, he was missing. The next
morning he came to Jack's house with his face scratched and his eye
What's the matter? asked Jack.
Well, you see, yesterday I was at the school-house at noon, and
Pewee, egged on by Riley, said something he oughtn't to, about Susan,
and I couldn't stand there and hear that girl made fun of, and so I up
and downed him, and made him take it back. I can't go till my face
looks better, you know, for I wouldn't want her to know anything about
But the professor heard all about it from Joanna, who had it from
one of the school-boys. Susan sent Columbus to tell Bob that she knew
all about it, and that he must come back to school.
So you've been fighting, have you? she said, severely, when Bob
appeared. The poor fellow was glad she took that toneif she had
thanked him he wouldn't have been able to reply.
Well, don't you do it any more. It's very wrong to fight. It makes
boys brutal. A girl with ability enough to teach the Greenbank Academy
can take care of herself, and she doesn't want her scholars to fight.
All right, said Bob. But, he muttered, I'll thrash him all the
same, and more than ever, if he ever says anything like that again.
CHAPTER XIV. CROWING AFTER VICTORY
Greenbank was awake, and the old master had to go. Mr. Weathervane
stood up for him as long as he thought that the excitement was
temporary. But when he found that Greenbank really was awake, and not
just talking in its sleep, as it did for the most part, he changed
sides,not all at once, but by degrees. At first he softened down a
little, hemmed and hawed, as folks say. He said he did not know but
that Mr. Ball had been hasty, but he meant well. The next day he took
another step, and said that the old master meant well, but he was
often too hasty in his temper. The next week he let himself down
another peg in saying that maybe the old man meant well, but he was
altogether too hot in his temper for a school-master. A little while
later, he found out that Mr. Ball's way of teaching was quite out of
date. Before a month had elapsed, he was sure that the old curmudgeon
ought to be put out, and thus at last Mr. Weathervane found himself
where he liked to be, in the popular party.
And so the old master came to his last day in the brick
school-house. Whatever feelings he may have had in leaving behind him
the scenes of his twenty-five years of labor, he said nothing. He only
compressed his lips a little more tightly, scowled as severely as ever,
removed his books and pens from his desk, gave a last look at his long
beech switches on the wall, turned the key in the door of the
school-house, carried it to Mr. Weathervane, received his pay, and
walked slowly home to the house of his brother-in-law, Mr. Higbie.
The boys had resolved to have a demonstration. All their pent-up
wrath against the master now found vent, since there was no longer any
danger that the old man would have a chance to retaliate. They would
serenade him. Bob Holliday was full of it. Harry Weathervane was very
active. He was going to pound on his mother's bread-pan. Every sort of
instrument for making a noise was brought into requisition.
Dinner-bells, tin-pails, conch-shell dinner-horns, tin-horns, and even
the village bass-drum, were to be used.
Would Jack go? Bob came over to inquire. All the boys were going to
celebrate the downfall of a harsh master. He deserved it for beating
Columbus. So Jack resolved to go.
But after the boys had departed, Jack began to doubt whether he
ought to go or not. It did not seem quite right; yet his feelings had
become so enlisted in the conflict for the old man's removal, that he
had grown to be a bitter partisan, and the recollection of all he had
suffered, and of all Columbus had endured during his sickness,
reconciled Jack to the appearance of crowing over a fallen foe, which
this burlesque serenade would have. Nevertheless, his conscience was
not clear on the point, and he concluded to submit the matter to his
mother, when she should come home to supper.
Unfortunately for Jack, his mother stayed away to tea, sending Jack
word that he would have to get his own supper, and that she would come
home early in the evening. Jack ate his bowl of bread and milk in
solitude, trying to make himself believe that his mother would approve
of his taking part in the shiveree of the old master. But when he had
finished his supper, he concluded that if his mother did not come home
in time for him to consult her, he would remain at home. He drew up by
the light and tried to study, but he longed to be out with the boys.
After a while Bob Holliday and Harry Weathervane came to the door and
importuned Jack to come with them. It was lonesome at home; it would be
good fun to celebrate the downfall of the old master's cruel rule, so,
taking down an old dinner-bell, Jack went off to join the rest. He was
a little disgusted when he found Riley, Pewee, and Ben Berry in the
company, but once in the crowd, there was little chance to back out
with credit. The boys crept through the back alleys until they came in
front of Mr. Higbie's house, at half past eight o'clock. There was but
one light visible, and that was in Mr. Ball's room. Jack dropped
behind, a little faint of heart about the expedition. He felt sure in
himself that his mother would shake her head if she knew of it. At
length, at a signal from Bob, the tin pans, big and little, the
skillet-lids grinding together, the horns, both conch-shell and tin,
and the big bass-drum, set up a hideous clattering, banging, booming,
roaring, and racketing. Jack rang his dinner-bell rather faintly, and
stood back behind all the rest
Jack's afraid, said Pewee. Why don't you come up to the front,
like a man?
Jack could not stand a taunt like this, but came forward into the
cluster of half-frightened peace-breakers. Just then, the door of Mr.
Higbie's house was opened, and some one came out.
It's Mr. Higbie, said Ben Berry. He's going to shoot.
It's Bugbee, the watchman, going to arrest us, said Pewee.
It's Mr. Ball himself, said Riley, and he'll whip us all. And he
fled, followed pell-mell by the whole crowd, excepting Jack, who had a
constitutional aversion to running away. He only slunk up close to the
fence and so stood still.
Hello! Who are you? The voice was not that of Mr. Higbie, nor that
of the old master, nor of the watchman, Bugbee. With some difficulty,
Jack recognized the figure of Doctor Lanham. Oh, it's Jack Dudley, is
it? said the doctor, after examining him in the feeble moonlight.
Yes, said Jack, sheepishly.
You're the one that got that whipping from the old master. I don't
wonder you came out to-night.
I do, said Jack, and I would rather now that I had taken another
such whipping than to find myself here.
Well, well, said the doctor, boys will be boys.
And fools will be fools, I suppose, said Jack.
Mr. Ball is very ill, continued the doctor. Find the others and
tell them they mustn't come here again to-night, or they'll kill him. I
wouldn't have had this happen for anything. The old man's just broken
down by the strain he has been under. He has deserved it all, but I
think you might let him have a little peace now.
So do I, said Jack, more ashamed of himself than ever.
The doctor went back into the house, and Jack Dudley and his
dinner-bell started off down the street in search of Harry Weathervane
and his tin pan, and Bob Holliday and his skillet-lids, and Ben Berry
and the bass-drum.
Hello, Jack! called out Bob from an alley. You stood your ground
the best of all, didn't you?
I wish I'd stood my ground in the first place against you and
Harry, and stayed at home.
Why, what's the matter? Who was it?
By this time the other boys were creeping out of their hiding-places
and gathering about Jack.
Well, it was the doctor, said Jack. Mr. Ball's very sick and
we've 'most killed him; that's all. We're a pack of cowards to go
tooting at a poor old man when he's already down, and we ought to be
kicked, every one of us. That's the way I feel about it, and Jack set
out for home, not waiting for any leave-taking with the rest, who, for
their part, slunk away in various directions, anxious to get their
instruments of noise and torment hidden away out of sight.
Jack stuck the dinner-bell under the hay in the stable-loft, whence
he could smuggle it into the house before his mother should get
down-stairs in the morning. Then he went into the house.
Where have you been? asked Mrs. Dudley. I came home early so that
you needn't be lonesome.
Bob Holliday and Harry Weathervane came for me, and I found it so
lonesome here that I went out with them.
Have you got your lessons?
No, ma'am, said Jack, sheepishly.
He was evidently not at ease, but his mother said no more. He went
off to bed early, and lay awake a good part of the night. The next
morning he brought the old dinner-bell and set it down in the very
middle of the breakfast-table. Then he told his mother all about it.
And she agreed with him that he had done a very mean thing.
CHAPTER XV. AN ATTEMPT TO COLLECT
Three times a week the scholars of the Greenbank Academy met at
the house of Dr. Lanham to receive instruction from Professor Susan,
for the school trustees could not agree on a new teacher. Some of the
people wanted one thing, and some another; a lady teacher was advocated
and opposed; a young man, an old man, a new-fashioned man, an
old-fashioned man, and no teacher at all for the rest of the present
year, so as to save money, were projects that found advocates. The
division of opinion was so great that the plan of no school at all was
carried because no other could be. So Susan's class went on for a
month, and grew to be quite a little society, and then it came to an
One evening, when the lessons were finished, Professor Susan said:
I am sorry to tell you that this is the last lesson I can give.
And then they all said Aw-w-w-w-w! in a melancholy way.
I am going away to school myself, Susan went on. My father thinks
I ought to go to Mr. Niles's school at Port William.
I shouldn't think you'd need to go any more, said Joanna Merwin.
I thought you knew everything.
Oh, bless me! cried Susan.
In former days the people of the interiorthe Mississippi
Valleywhich used then to be called the West, were very desirous of
education for their children. But good teachers were scarce. Ignorant
and pretentious men, incompetent wanderers from New England, who had
grown tired of clock-peddling, or tin-peddling, and whose whole stock
was assurance, besides impostors of other sorts, would get places as
teachers because teachers were scarce and there were no tests of
fitness. Now and then a retired Presbyterian minister from Scotland or
Pennsylvania, or a college graduate from New England, would open a
school in some country town. Then people who could afford it would send
their children from long distances to board near the school, and learn
English grammar, arithmetic, and, in some cases, a little Latin, or,
perhaps, to fit themselves for entrance to some of the sturdy little
country colleges already growing up in that region. At Port William, in
Kentucky, there was at this time an old minister, Mr. Niles, who really
knew what he professed to teach, and it was to his school that Dr.
Lanham was now about to send Susan; Harvey Collins and Henry
Weathervane had already entered the school. But for poor boys like
Jack, and Bob Holliday, and Columbus, who had no money with which to
pay board, there seemed no chance.
The evening on which Susan's class broke up, there was a long and
anxious discussion between Jack Dudley and his mother.
You see, Mother, if I could get even two months in Mr. Niles's
school, I could learn some Latin, and if I once get my fingers into
Latin, it is like picking bricks out of a pavement; if I once get a
start, I can dig it out myself. I am going to try to find some way to
attend that school.
But the mother only shook her head.
Couldn't we move to Port William? said Jack.
How could we? Here we have a house of our own, which couldn't
easily be rented. There we should have to pay rent, and where is the
money to come from?
Can't we collect something from Gray?
Again Mrs. Dudley shook her head.
But Jack resolved to try the hardhearted debtor, himself. It was now
four years since Jack's father had been persuaded to release a mortgage
in order to relieve Francis Gray from financial distress. Gray had
promised to give other security, but his promise had proved worthless.
Since that time he had made lucky speculations and was now a man rather
well off, but he kept all his property in his wife's name, as
scoundrels and fraudulent debtors usually do. All that Jack and his
mother had to show for the one thousand dollars with four years'
interest due them, was a judgment against Francis Gray, with the
sheriff's return of no effects on the back of the writ of execution
against the property of the aforesaid Francis Gray. For how could you
get money out of a man who was nothing in law but an agent for his
But Jack believed in his powers of persuasion, and in the softness
of the human heart. He had never had to do with a man in whom the greed
for money had turned the heart to granite.
Two or three days later Jack heard that Francis Gray, who lived in
Louisville, had come to Greenbank. Without consulting his mother, lest
she should discourage him, Jack went in pursuit of the slippery debtor.
He had left town, however, to see his fine farm, three miles away, a
farm which belonged in law to Mrs. Gray, but which belonged of right to
Francis Gray's creditors.
Jack found Mr. Gray well-dressed and of plausible manners. It was
hard to speak to so fine a gentleman on the subject of money. For a
minute, Jack felt like backing out. But then he contrasted his mother's
pinched circumstances with Francis Gray's abundance, and a little
wholesome anger came to his assistance. He remembered, too, that his
cherished projects for getting an education were involved, and he
mustered courage to speak.
Mr. Gray, my name is John Dudley.
Jack thought that there was a sign of annoyance on Gray's face at
You borrowed a thousand dollars of my father once, I believe.
Yes, that is true. Your father was a good friend of mine.
He released a mortgage so that you could sell a piece of property
when you were in trouble.
Yes, your father was a good friend to me. I acknowledge that. I
wish I had money enough to pay that debt. It shall be the very first
debt paid when I get on my feet again, and I expect to get on my feet,
as sure as I live.
But, you see, Mr. Gray, while my mother is pinched for money, you
It's all Mrs. Gray's money. She has plenty. I haven't anything.
But I want to go to school to Port William. My mother is too poor
to help me. If you could let me have twenty-five dollars
But, you see, I can't. I haven't got twenty-five dollars to my
name, that I can control. But by next New Year's I mean to pay your
mother the whole thousand that I owe her.
This speech impressed Jack a little, but remembering how often Gray
had broken such promises, he said:
Don't you think it a little hard that you and Mrs. Gray are well
off, while my mother is so poor, all because you won't keep your word
given to my father?
But, you see, I haven't any money, excepting what Mrs. Gray lets me
have, said Mr. Gray.
She seems to let you have what you want. Don't you think, if you
coaxed her, she would lend you twenty-five dollars till New Year's, to
help me go to school one more term?
Francis Gray was a little stunned by this way of asking it. For a
moment, looking at the entreating face of the boy, he began to feel a
disposition to relent a little. This was new and strange for him. To
pay twenty-five dollars that he was not obliged by any self-interest to
pay, would have been an act contrary to all his habits and to all the
business maxims in which he had schooled himself. Nevertheless, he
fingered his papers a minute in an undecided way, and then he said that
he couldn't do it. If he began to pay creditors in that way it would
derange his business.
But, urged Jack, think how much my father deranged his business
to oblige you, and now you rob me of my own money, and of my chance to
get an education.
Mr. Gray was a little ruffled, but he got up and went out of the
room. When Jack looked out of the window a minute later, Gray was
riding away down the road without so much as bidding the troublesome
There was nothing for Jack to do but to return to town and make the
best of it. But all the way back, the tired and discouraged boy felt
that his last chance of becoming an educated man had vanished. He told
his mother about his attempt on Mr. Gray's feelings and of his failure.
They discussed the matter the whole evening, and could see no chance
for Jack to get the education he wanted.
I mean to die a-trying, said Jack, doggedly, as he went off to
CHAPTER XVI. AN EXPLORING EXPEDITION
The next day but one, there came a letter to Mrs. Dudley that
increased her perplexity.
Your Aunt Hannah is sick, she said to Jack, and I must go to take
care of her. I don't know what to do with you.
I'll go to Port William to school, said Jack. See if I don't.
How? asked his mother. We don't know a soul on that side of the
river. You couldn't make any arrangement.
Maybe I can, said Jack. Bob Holliday used to live on the Indiana
side, opposite Port William. I mean to talk with him.
Bob was setting onions in one of the onion-patches which abounded
about Greenbank, and which were, from March to July, the principal
sources of pocket-money to the boys. Jack thought best to wait until
the day's work was finished. Then he sat, where Greenbank boys were
fond of sitting, on the sloping top-board of a broad fence, and told
his friend Bob of his eager desire to go to Port William.
I'd like to go, too, said Bob. This is the last year's schooling
I'm to have.
Don't you know any house, or any place, where we could keep 'bach'
W'y, yes, said Bob; if you didn't mind rowing across the river
every day, I've got a skiff, and there's the old hewed-log house on the
Indianny side where we used to live. A body might stay as long as he
pleased in that house, I guess. Judge Kane owns it, and he's one of the
best-hearted men in the country.
It's eight miles down there, said Jack.
Only seven if you go by water, said Bob. Let's put out to-morry
morning early. Let's go in the skiff; we can row and cordelle it up the
river again, though it is a job.
Bright and early, the boys started down the river, rowing easily
with the strong, steady current of the Ohio, holding their way to Judge
Kane's, whose house was over against Port William. This Judge Kane was
an intelligent and wealthy farmer, liked by everybody. He was not a
lawyer, but had once held the office of associate judge, and hence
the title, which suited his grave demeanor. He looked at the two boys
out of his small, gray, kindly eyes, hardly ever speaking a word. He
did not immediately answer when they asked permission to occupy the
old, unused log-house, but got them to talk about their plans, and
watched them closely. Then he took them out to see his bees. He showed
them his ingenious hives and a bee-house which he had built to keep out
the moths by drawing chalk-lines about it, for over these lines the
wingless grub of the moth could not crawl. Then he showed them a glass
hive, in which all the processes of the bees' housekeeping could be
observed. After that, he took the boys to the old log-house, and
pointed out some holes in the roof that would have to be fixed. And
even then he did not give them any answer to their request, but told
them to stay to dinner and he would see about it, all of which was
rather hard on boyish impatience. They had a good dinner of fried
chicken and biscuits and honey, served in the neatest manner by the
motherly Mrs. Kane. Then the Judge suggested that they ought to see Mr.
Niles about taking them into the school. So his skiff was launched, and
he rowed with them across the river, which is here about a mile wide,
to Port William. Here he introduced them to Mr. Niles, an elderly man,
a little bent and a little positive in his tone, as is the habit of
teachers, but with true kindness in his manner. The boys had much
pleasure at recess time in greeting their old school-mates, Harvey
Collins, Henry Weathervane, and, above all, Susan Lanham, whom they
called Professor. These three took a sincere interest in the plans of
Bob and Jack, and Susan spoke a good word for them to Mr. Niles, who,
on his part, offered to give Jack Latin without charging him anything
more than the rates for scholars in the English branches. Then they
rowed back to Judge Kane's landing, where he told them they could have
the house without rent, and that they could get slabs and other waste
at his little sawmill to fix up the cracks. Then he made kindly
suggestions as to the furniture they should bringmentioning a
lantern, an ax, and various other articles necessary for a camp life.
They bade him good-bye at last, and started home, now rowing against
the current and now cordelling along the river shore, when they grew
tired of rowing. In cordelling, one sits in the skiff and steers, while
the other walks on the shore, drawing the boat by a rope over the
shoulders. The work of rowing and cordelling was hard, but they carried
light and hopeful hearts. Jack was sure now that he should overcome all
obstacles and get a good education. As for Bob, he had no hope higher
than that of worrying through vulgar fractions before settling down to
CHAPTER XVII. HOUSEKEEPING
Mrs. Dudley having gone to Cincinnati the next day to attend her
sister, who was ill, Jack was left to make his arrangements for
housekeeping with Bob. Each of the boys took two cups, two saucers, two
plates, and two knives and forks. Things were likely to get lost or
broken, and therefore they provided duplicates. Besides, they might
have company to dinner some day, and, moreover, they would need the
extra dishes to hold things, as Jack expressed it. They took no
tumblers, but each was provided with a tin cup. Bob remembered the
lantern, and Jack put in an ax. They did not take much food; they could
buy that of farmers or in Port William. They got a gang, or, as they
called it, a trot-line, to lay down in the river for catfish, perch,
and shovel-nose sturgeon, for there was no game-law then. Bob provided
an iron pot to cook the fish in, and Jack a frying-pan and tea-kettle.
Their bedding consisted of an empty tick, to be filled with straw in
Judge Kane's barn, some equally empty pillow-ticks, and a pair of brown
sheets and two blankets. But, with one thing and another, the skiff was
A good many boys stood on the bank as they embarked, and among them
was Columbus, who had a feeling that his best friends were about to
desert him, and who would gladly have been one of the party if he could
have afforded the expense.
In the little crowd which watched the embarkation was Hank Rathbone,
an old hunter and pioneer, who made several good suggestions about
their method of loading the boat.
But where's your stove? he asked.
Stove? said Bob. We can't take a stove in this thing. There's a
big old fire-place in the house that'll do to cook by.
But hot weather's comin' soon, said old Hank, and then you'll
want to cook out in the air, I reckon. Besides, it takes a power of
wood for a fire-place. If one of you will come along with me to the
tin-shop, I'll have a stove made for you, of the best paytent-right
sort, that'll go into a skiff, and that won't weigh more'n three or
four pounds and won't cost but about two bits.
Jack readily agreed to buy as good a thing as a stove for
twenty-five cents, and so he went with Hank Rathbone to the tin-shop,
stopping to get some iron on the way. Two half-inch round rods of iron
five feet long were cut and sharpened at each end. Then the ends were
turned down so as to make on each rod two pointed legs of eighteen
inches in length, and thus leave two feet of the rod for a horizontal
Now, said the old hunter, you drive about six inches of each leg
into the ground, and stand them about a foot apart. Now for a top.
[Illustration: OLD HANK'S PLAN FOR A STOVE]
For this he had a piece of sheet-iron cut out two feet long and
fourteen inches wide, with a round kettle-hole near one end. The edges
of the long sides of the sheet-iron were bent down to fit over the
Lay that over your rods, said Hank, and you've got a stove two
foot long, one foot high, and more than one foot wide, and you can
build your fire of chips, instid of logs. You can put your tea-kittle,
pot, pipkin, griddle, skillet, or gridiron on to the holethe
old man eyed it admiringly. It's good for bilin', fryin', or
brilin', and all fer two bits. They ain't many young couples gits set
up as cheap as that!
An hour and a half of rowing downstream brought the boys to the old
cabin. The life there involved more hard work than they had expected.
Notwithstanding Jack's experience in helping his mother, the baking of
corn-bread, and the frying of bacon or fish were difficult tasks, and
both the boys had red faces when supper was on the table. But, as time
wore on, they became skilful, and though the work was hard, it was done
patiently and pretty well. Between cooking, and cleaning, and fixing,
and getting wood, and rowing to school and back, there was not a great
deal of time left for study out of school, but Jack made a beginning in
Latin, and Bob perspired quite as freely over the addition of fractions
as over the frying-pan.
They rarely had recreation, excepting that of taking the fish off
their trot-line in the morning, when there were any on it. Once or
twice they allowed themselves to visit an Indian mound or burial-place
on the summit of a neighboring hill, where idle boys and other loungers
had dug up many bones and thrown them down the declivity. Jack, who had
thoughts of being a doctor, made an effort to gather a complete Indian
skeleton, but the dry bones had become too much mixed up. He could not
get any three bones to fit together, and his man, as he tried to put
him together, was the most miscellaneous creature imaginable,neither
man, woman, nor child. Bob was a little afraid to have these human
ruins stored under the house, lest he might some night see a ghost with
war-paint and tomahawk; but Jack, as became a boy of scientific tastes,
pooh-poohed all superstitions or sentimental considerations in the
matter. He told Bob that, if he should ever see the ghost which that
framework belonged to, it would be the ghost of the whole Shawnee
tribe, for there were nearly as many individuals represented as there
were bones in the skeleton.
The one thing that troubled Jack was that he couldn't get rid of the
image of Columbus as they had seen him when they left Greenbank,
standing sorrowfully on the river bank. The boys often debated between
themselves how they could manage to have him one of their party, but
they were both too poor to pay the small tuition fees, though his board
would not cost much. They could not see any way of getting over the
difficulty, but they talked with Susan about it, and Susan took hold of
the matter in her fashion by writing to her father on the subject.
The result of her energetic effort was that one afternoon, as they
came out of school, when the little packet-steamer was landing at the
wharf, who should come ashore but Christopher Columbus, in his best but
thread-bare clothes, tugging away at an old-fashioned carpet-bag, which
was too much for him to carry. Bob seized the carpet-bag and almost
lifted the dignified little lad himself off his feet in his joyful
welcome, while Jack, finding nothing else to do, stood still and
hurrahed. They soon had the dear little spindle-shanks and his great
carpet-bag stowed away in the skiff. As they rowed to the north bank of
the river, Columbus explained how Dr. Lanham had undertaken to pay his
expenses, if the boys would take him into partnership, but he said he
was 'most afraid to come, because he couldn't chop wood, and he wasn't
good for much in doing the work.
Never mind, honey, said Bob. Jack and I don't care whether you
work or not. You are worth your keep, any time.
Yes, said Jack, we even tried hard yesterday to catch a young owl
to make a pet of, but we couldn't get it. You see, we're so lonesome.
I suppose I'll do for a pet owl, won't I? said little Columbus,
with a strange and quizzical smile on his meagre face. And as he sat
there in the boat, with his big head and large eyes, the name seemed so
appropriate that Bob and Jack both laughed outright.
But the Pet Owl made himself useful in some ways. I am sorry to say
that the housekeeping of Bob and Jack had not always been of the
tidiest kind. They were boys, and they were in a hurry. But Columbus
had the tastes of a girl about a house. He did not do any cooking or
chopping to speak of, but he fixed up. He kept the house neat, cleaned
the candlestick every morning, and washed the windows now and then, and
as spring advanced he brought in handfuls of wild flowers. The boys
declared that they had never felt at home in the old house until the
Pet Owl came to be its mistress. He wouldn't let anything be left
around out of place, but all the pots, pans, dishes, coats, hats,
books, slates, the lantern, the boot-jack, and other slender furniture,
were put in order before school time, so that when they got back in the
afternoon the place was inviting and home-like. When Judge Kane and his
wife stopped during their Sunday-afternoon stroll, to see how the lads
got on, Mrs. Kane praised their housekeeping.
That is all the doings of the Pet Owl, said Bob.
Pet Owl? Have you one? asked Mrs. Kane.
The boys laughed, and Bob explained that Columbus was the pet.
That evening, the boys had a box of white honey for supper, sent
over by Mrs. Kane, and the next Saturday afternoon Jack and Bob helped
Judge Kane finish planting his corn-field.
One unlucky day, Columbus discovered Jack's box of Indian bones
under the house, and he turned pale and had a fit of shivering for a
long time afterward. It was necessary to move the box into an old
stable to quiet his shuddering horror. The next Sunday afternoon, the
Pet Owl came in with another fit of terror, shivering as before.
What's the matter now, Lummy? said Jack. Have you seen any more
Pewee and his crowd have gone up to the Indian Mound, said
Well, let 'em go, said Bob. I suppose they know the way, don't
they? I should like to see them. I've been so long away from Greenbank
that even a yellow dog from there would be welcome.
CHAPTER XVIII. GHOSTS
Jack and Bob had to amuse Columbus with stories, to divert his mind
from the notion that Pewee and his party meant them some harm. The
Indian burying-ground was not an uncommon place of resort on Sundays
for loafers and idlers, and now and then parties came from as far as
Greenbank, to have the pleasure of a ride and the amusement of digging
up Indian relics from the cemetery on the hill. This hill-top commanded
a view of the Ohio River for many miles in both directions, and of the
Kentucky River, which emptied into the Ohio just opposite. I do not
know whether the people who can find amusement in digging up bones and
throwing them down-hill enjoy scenery or not, but I have heard it urged
that even some dumb animals, as horses, enjoy a landscape; and I once
knew a large dog, in Switzerland, who would sit enchanted for a long
time on the brink of a mountain cliff, gazing off at the lake below. It
is only fair to suppose, therefore, that even these idle diggers in
Indian mounds had some pleasure in looking from a hill-top; at any
rate, they were fond of frequenting this one. Pewee, and Riley, and Ben
Berry, and two or three others of the same feather, had come down on
this Sunday to see the Indian Mound and to find any other sport that
might lie in their reach. When they had dug up and thrown away down the
steep hill-side enough bones to satisfy their jackal proclivities, they
began to cast about them for some more exciting diversion. As there
were no water-melon patches nor orchards to be robbed at this season of
the year, they decided to have an egg-supper, and then to wait for the
moon to rise after midnight before starting to row and cordelle their
two boats up the river again to Greenbank. The fun of an egg-supper to
Pewee's party consisted not so much in the eggs as in the manner of
getting them. Every nest in Judge Kane's chicken-house was rummaged
that night, and Mrs. Kane found next day that all the nest-eggs were
gone, and that one of her young hens was missing also.
About dark, little Allen Mackay, a round-bodied, plump-faced, jolly
fellow who lived near the place where the skiffs were landed, and who
had spent the afternoon at the Indian Mound, came to the door of the
I wanted to say that you fellows have always done the right thing
by me. You've set me acrost oncet or twicet, and you've always been
'clever' to me, and I don't want to see no harm done you. You'd better
look out to-night. They's some chaps from Greenbank down here, and
they're in for a frolic, and somebody's hen-roost'll suffer, I guess;
and they don't like you boys, and they talked about routing you out
Thank you, said Jack.
Let 'em rout, said Bob.
But the poor little Pet Owl was all in a cold shudder again.
About eleven o'clock, King Pewee's party had picked the last bone of
Mrs. Kane's chicken. It was yet an hour and a half before the moon
would be up, and there was time for some fun. Two boys from the
neighborhood, who had joined the party, agreed to furnish dough-faces
for them all. Nothing more ghastly than masks of dough can well be
imagined, and when the boys all put them on, and had turned their coats
wrong-side out, they were almost afraid of one another.
Now, said Riley, Pewee will knock at the door, and when they come
with their lantern or candle, we'll all rush in and howl like Indians.
How do Indians howl? asked Ben Berry.
Oh, any waylike a dog or a wolf, you know. And then they'll be
scared to death, and we'll just pitch their beds, and dishes, and
everything else out of the door, and show them how to clean house.
Riley didn't know that Allen Mackay and Jack Dudley, hidden in the
bushes, heard this speech, nor that Jack, as soon as he had heard the
plan, crept away to tell Bob at the house what the enemy proposed to
As the crowd neared the log-house, Riley prudently fell to the rear,
and pushed Pewee to the front. There was just the faintest whitening of
the sky from the coming moon, but the large apple-trees in front of the
log-house made it very dark, and the dough-face crowd were obliged
almost to feel their way as they came into the shadow of these trees.
Just as Riley was exhorting Pewee to knock at the door, and the whole
party was tittering at the prospect of turning Bob, Jack, and Columbus
out of bed and out of doors, they all stopped short and held their
Good gracious! Julius Caesar! sakes alive! whispered Riley.
Whatwhwhat is that?
Nobody ran. All stood as though frozen in their places. For out from
behind the corner of the house came slowly a skeleton head. It was
ablaze inside, and the light shone out of all the openings. The thing
had no feet, no hands, and no body. It actually floated through the
air, and now and then joggled and danced a little. It rose and fell,
but still came nearer and nearer to the attacking party of dough-faces,
who for their part could not guess that Bob Holliday had put a lighted
candle into an Indian's skull, and then tied this ghost's lantern to a
wire attached to the end of a fishing-rod, which he operated from
behind the house.
Pewee's party drew close together, and Riley whispered hoarsely:
The house is ha'nted.
Just then the hideous and fiery death's-head made a circuit, and
swung, grinning, into Riley's face, who could stand no more, but broke
into a full run toward the river. At the same instant Jack tooted a
dinner-horn, Judge Kane's big dog ran barking out of the log-house, and
the enemy were routed like the Midianites before Gideon. Their
consternation was greatly increased at finding their boats gone, for
Allen Mackay had towed them into a little creek out of sight, and
hidden the oars in an elder thicket. Riley and one of the others were
so much afraid of the ghosts that ha'nted the old house, that they
set out straightway for Greenbank, on foot. Pewee and the others
searched everywhere for the boats, and at last sat down and waited for
daylight. Just as day was breaking, Bob Holliday came down to the river
with a towel, as though for a morning bath. Very accidentally, of
course, he came upon Pewee and his party, all tired out, sitting on the
bank in hope that day might throw some light on the fate of their
Hello, Pewee! You here? What's the matter? said Bob, with feigned
Some thief took our skiffs. We've been looking for them all night,
and can't find them.
That's curious, said Bob, sitting down and leaning his head on his
hand. Where did you get supper last night?
Oh! we brought some with us.
Look here, Pewee, I'll bet I can find your boats.
You give me money enough among you to pay for the eggs and the
chicken you had for supper, and I'll find out who hid your boats and
where the oars are, and it'll all be square.
Pewee was now sure that the boat had been taken as indemnity for the
chicken and the eggs. He made every one of the party contribute
something until he had collected what Bob thought sufficient to pay for
the stolen things, and Bob took it and went up and found Judge Kane,
who had just risen, and left the money with him. Then he made a circuit
to Allen Mackay's, waked him up, and got the oars, which they put into
the boats; and pushing these out of their hiding-place, they rowed them
into the river, delivering them to Pewee and company, who took them
gratefully. Jack and Columbus had now made their appearance, and as
Pewee got into his boat, he thought to repay Bob's kindness with a
I say, if I was you fellers, you know, I wouldn't stay in that old
cabin a single night.
Why? asked Jack.
Because, said Pewee, I've heerd tell that it is ha'nted.
Ghosts aren't anything when you get used to them, said Jack. We
don't mind them at all.
Don't you? said Pewee, who was now rowing against the current.
No, said Bob, nor dough-faces, neither.
CHAPTER XIX. THE RETURN HOME
As Mr. Niles's school-term drew to a close, the two boys began to
think of their future.
I expect to work with my hands, Jack, said Bob; I haven't got a
head for books, as you have. But I'd like to know a leetle more
before I settle down. I wish I could make enough at something to be
able to go to school next winter.
If I only had your strength and size, Bob, I'd go to work for
somebody as a farmer. But I have more than myself to look after. I must
help mother after this term is out. I must get something to do, and
then learning will be slow business. They talk about Ben Franklin
studying at night and all that, but it's a little hard on a fellow who
hasn't the constitution of a Franklin. Still, I'm going to have an
education, by hook or crook.
At this point in the conversation, Judge Kane came in. As usual, he
said little, but he got the boys to talk about their own affairs.
When do you go home? he asked.
Next Friday evening, when school is out, said Jack.
And what are you going to do? he asked of Bob.
Get some work this summer, and then try to get another winter of
schooling next year, was the answer.
What kind of work?
Oh, I can farm better than I can do anything else, said Bob. And
I like it, too.
And then Judge Kane drew from Jack a full account of his affairs,
and particularly of the debt due from Gray, and of his interview with
If you could get a few hundred dollars, so as to make your mother
feel easy for a while, living as she does in her own house, you could
go to school next winter.
Yes, and then I could get on after that, somehow, by myself, I
suppose, said Jack. But the few hundred dollars is as much out of my
reach as a million would be, and my father used to say that it was a
bad thing to get into the way of figuring on things that we could never
The Judge sat still, and looked at Jack out of his half-closed gray
eyes for a minute in silence.
Come up to the house with me, he said, rising.
Jack followed him to the house, where the Judge opened his desk and
took out a red-backed memorandum-book, and dictated while Jack copied
in his own handwriting the description of a piece of land on a slip of
If you go over to school, to-morrow, an hour earlier than usual,
he said, call at the county clerk's office, show him your memorandum,
and find out in whose name that land stands. It is timber-land five
miles back, and worth five hundred dollars. When you get the name of
the owner, you will know what to do; if not, you can ask me, but you'd
better not mention my name to anybody in this matter.
Jack thanked Mr. Kane, but left him feeling puzzled. In fact, the
farmer-judge seemed to like to puzzle people, or at least he never told
anything more than was necessary.
The next morning, the boys were off early to Port William. Jack
wondered if the land might belong to his father, but then he was sure
his father never had any land in Kentucky. Or, was it the property of
some dead uncle or cousin, and was he to find a fortune, like the hero
of a cheap story? But when the county clerk, whose office it is to
register deeds in that county, took the little piece of paper, and
after scanning it, took down some great deed-books and mortgage-books,
and turned the pages awhile, and then wrote Francis Gray, owner, no
incumbrance, on the same slip with the description, Jack had the key
to Mr. Kane's puzzle.
It was now Thursday forenoon, and Jack was eager on all accounts to
get home, especially to see the lawyer in charge of his father's claim
against Mr. Gray. So the next day at noon, as there was nothing left
but the closing exercises, the three boys were excused, and bade
good-bye to their teacher and school-mates, and rowed back to their own
side of the river. They soon had the skiff loaded, for all three were
eager to see the folks at Greenbank. Jack's mother had been at home
more than a week, and he was the most impatient of the three. But they
could not leave without a good-bye to Judge Kane and his wife, to which
good-bye they added a profusion of bashful boyish thanks for kindness
received. The Judge walked to the boat-landing with them. Jack began to
tell him about the land.
Don't say anything about it to me, nor to anybody else but your
lawyer, said Mr. Kane; and do not mention my name. You may say to
your lawyer that the land has just changed hands, and the matter must
be attended to soon. It won't stand exposed in that way long.
When the boys were in the boat ready to start, Mr. Kane said to Bob:
You wouldn't mind working for me this summer at the regular price?
I'd like to, said Bob.
How soon can you come?
Next Wednesday evening.
I'll expect you, said the Judge, and he turned away up the bank,
with a slight nod and a curt Good-bye, while Bob said: What a
curious man he is!
Yes, and as good as he's curious, added Jack.
It was a warm day for rowing, but the boys were both a little
homesick. Under the shelter of a point where the current was not too
strong the two rowed and made fair headway, sometimes encountering an
eddy which gave them a lift. But whenever the current set strongly
toward their side of the river, and whenever they found it necessary to
round a point, one of them would leap out on the pebbly beach and,
throwing the boat-rope over his shoulder, set his strength against the
stream. The rope, or cordelle,a word that has come down from
the first French travellers and traders in the great valley,was tied
to the row-locks. It was necessary for one to steer in the stern while
the other played tow-horse, so that each had his turn at rest and at
work. After three hours' toil the wharf-boat of the village was in
sight, and all sorts of familiar objects gladdened their hearts. They
reached the landing, and then, laden with things, they hurriedly cut
across the commons to their homes.
As soon as Jack's first greeting with his mother was over, she told
him that she thought she might afford him one more quarter of school.
No, said Jack, you've pinched yourself long enough for me; now
it's time I should go to work. If you try to squeeze out another
quarter of school for me you'll have to suffer for it. Besides, I don't
see how you can do it, unless Gray comes down, and I think I have now
in my pocket something that will make him come down. And Jack's face
brightened at the thought of the slip of paper in the pocket of his
Without observing the last remark, nor the evident elation of Jack's
feelings, Mrs. Dudley proceeded to tell him that she had been offered a
hundred and twenty dollars for her claim against Gray.
Who offered it? asked Jack.
Mr. Tinkham, Gray's agent. Maybe Gray is buying up his own debts,
feeling tired of holding property in somebody else's name.
A hundred and twenty dollars for a thousand! The rascal! I wouldn't
take it, broke out Jack, impetuously.
That's just the way I feel, Jack. I'd rather wait forever, if it
wasn't for your education. I can't afford to have you lose that. I'm to
give an answer this evening.
We won't do it, said Jack. I've got a memorandum here, and he
took the slip of paper from his pocket and unfolded it, that'll bring
more money out of him than that. I'm going to see Mr. Beal at once.
Mrs. Dudley looked at the paper without understanding just what it
was, and, without giving her any further explanation, but only a
warning to secrecy, Jack made off to the lawyer's office.
Where did you get this? asked Mr. Beal.
I promised not to mention his nameI mean the name of the one who
gave me that. I went to the clerk's office with the description, and
the clerk wrote the words: 'Francis Gray, owner, no incumbrance.'
I wish I had had it sooner, said the lawyer. It will be best to
have our judgment recorded in that county to-morrow, he continued.
Could you go down to Port William?
Yes, sir, said Jack, a little reluctant to go back. I could if I
I don't think the mail will do, added Mr. Beal. This thing came
just in time. We should have sold the claim to-night. This land ought
to fetch five hundred dollars.
Mr. Tinkham, agent for Francis Gray, was much disappointed that
night when Mrs. Dudley refused to sell her claim against Gray.
You'll never get anything any other way, he said.
Perhaps not, but we've concluded to wait, said Mrs. Dudley. We
can't do much worse if we get nothing at all.
After a moment's reflection, Mr. Tinkham said:
I'll do a little better by you, Mrs. Dudley. I'll give you a
hundred and fifty. That's the very best I can do.
I will not sell the claim at present, said Mrs. Dudley. It is of
no use to offer.
It would have been better if Mrs. Dudley had not spoken so
positively. Mr. Tinkham was set a-thinking. Why wouldn't the widow
sell? Why had she changed her mind since yesterday? Why did Mr. Beal,
the lawyer, not appear at the consultation? All these questions the
shrewd little Tinkham asked himself, and all these questions he asked
of Francis Gray that evening.
CHAPTER XX. A FOOT-RACE FOR MONEY
They've got wind of something, said Mr. Tinkham to Mr. Gray, or
else they are waiting for you to resume payment,or else the widow's
got money from somewhere for her present necessities.
I don't know what hope they can have of getting money out of me,
said Gray, with a laugh. I've tangled everything up, so that Beal
can't find a thing to levy on. I have but one piece of property
exposed, and that's not in this State.
Where is it? asked Tinkham.
It's in Kentucky, five miles back of Port William. I took it last
week in a trade, and I haven't yet made up my mind what to do with it.
That's the very thing, said Tinkham, with his little face drawn to
a point,the very thing. Mrs. Dudley's son came home from Port
William yesterday, where he has been at school. They've heard of that
land, I'm afraid; for Mrs. Dudley is very positive that she will not
sell the claim at any price.
I'll make a mortgage to my brother on that land, and send it off
from the mail-boat as I go down to-morrow, said Gray.
That'll be too late, said Tinkham. Beal will have his judgment
recorded as soon as the packet gets there. You'd better go by the
packet, get off, and see the mortgage recorded yourself, and then take
To this Gray agreed, and the next day, when Jack went on board the
packet Swiftsure, he found Mr. Francis Gray going aboard also. Mr.
Beal had warned Jack that he must not let anybody from the packet get
to the clerk's office ahead of him,that the first paper deposited for
record would take the land. Jack wondered why Mr. Francis Gray was
aboard the packet, which went no farther than Madison, while Mr. Gray's
home was in Louisville. He soon guessed, however, that Gray meant to
land at Port William, and so to head him off. Jack looked at Mr. Gray's
form, made plump by good feeding, and felt safe. He couldn't be very
dangerous in a foot-race. Jack reflected with much hopefulness that no
boy in school could catch him in a straight-away run when he was fox.
He would certainly leave the somewhat puffy Mr. Francis Gray behind.
But in the hour's run down the river, including two landings at
Minuit's and Craig's, Jack had time to remember that Francis Gray was a
cunning man and might head him off by some trick or other. A vague fear
took possession of him, and he resolved to be first off the boat before
any pretext could be invented to stop him.
Meantime, Francis Gray had looked at Jack's lithe legs with
apprehension. I can never beat that boy, he had reflected. My
running days are over. Finding among the deck passengers a young
fellow who looked as though he needed money, Gray approached him with
Do you belong in Port William, young man?
I don't belong nowhere else, I reckon, answered the seedy fellow,
with shuffling impudence.
Do you know where the county clerk's office is? asked Mr. Gray.
Yes, and the market-house. I can show you the way to the jail, too,
if you want to know; but I s'pose you've been there many a time,
laughed the wharf rat.
Gray was irritated at this rudeness, but he swallowed his anger.
Would you like to make five dollars?
Now you're talkin' interestin'. Why didn't you begin at that eend
of the subjick? I'd like to make five dollars as well as the next
feller, provided it isn't to be made by too much awful hard work.
Can you run well?
If they's money at t'other eend of the race I can run like sixty
fer a spell. 'Tain't my common gait, howsumever.
If you'll take this paper, said Gray, and get it to the county
clerk's office before anybody else gets there from this boat, I'll give
you five dollars.
Honor bright? asked the chap, taking the paper, drawing a long
breath, and looking as though he had discovered a gold mine.
Honor bright, answered Gray. You must jump off first of all, for
there's a boy aboard that will beat you if he can. No pay if you don't
Which is the one that'll run ag'in' me? asked the long-legged
Gray described Jack, and told the young man to go out forward and he
would see him. Gray was not willing to be seen with the wharf-rat,
lest suspicions should be awakened in Jack Dudley's mind. But after the
shabby young man had gone forward and looked at Jack, he came back with
a doubtful air.
That's Hoosier Jack, as we used to call him, said the shabby young
man. He an' two more used to row a boat acrost the river every day to
go to ole Niles's school. He's a hard one to beat,they say he used to
lay the whole school out on prisoners' base, and that he could leave
'em all behind on fox.
You think you can't do it, then? asked Gray.
Gimme a little start and I reckon I'll fetch it. It's up-hill part
of the way and he may lose his wind, for it's a good half-mile. You
must make a row with him at the gang-plank, er do somethin' to kinder
hold him back. The wind's down stream to-day and the boat's shore to
swing in a little aft. I'll jump for it and you keep him back.
To this Gray assented.
As the shabby young fellow had predicted, the boat did swing around
in the wind, and have some trouble in bringing her bow to the
wharf-boat. The captain stood on the hurricane-deck calling to the
pilot to back her, stop her, go ahead on her, go ahead on yer
labberd, and back on yer stabberd. Now, just as the captain was
backing the starboard wheel and going ahead on his larboard, so as to
bring the boat around right, Mr. Gray turned on Jack.
What are you treading on my toes for, you impudent young rascal?
he broke out.
Jack colored and was about to reply sharply, when he caught sight of
the shabby young fellow, who just then leaped from the gunwale of the
boat amidships and barely reached the wharf. Jack guessed why Gray had
tried to irritate him,he saw that the well-known wharf-rat was to
be his competitor. But what could he do? The wind held the bow of the
boat out, the gang-plank which had been pushed out ready to reach the
wharf-boat was still firmly grasped by the deck-hands, and the farther
end of it was six feet from the wharf, and much above it. It would be
some minutes before any one could leave the boat in the regular way.
There was only one chance to defeat the rascally Gray. Jack concluded
to take it.
He ran out upon the plank amidst the harsh cries of the deck-hands,
who tried to stop him, and the oaths of the mate, who thundered at him,
with the stern order of the captain from the upper deck, who called out
to him to go back.
But, luckily, the steady pulling ahead of the larboard engine, and
the backing of the starboard, began just then to bring the boat around,
the plank sank down a little under Jack's weight, and Jack made the
leap to the wharf, hearing the confused cries, orders, oaths, and
shouts from behind him, as he pushed through the crowd.
Stop that thief! cried Francis Gray to the people on the
wharf-boat, but in vain. Jack glided swiftly through the people, and
got on shore before anybody could check him. He charged up the hill
after the shabby young fellow, who had a decided lead, while some of
the men on the wharf-boat pursued them both, uncertain which was the
thief. Such another pell-mell race Port William had never seen. Windows
flew up and heads went out. Small boys joined the pursuing crowd, and
dogs barked indiscriminately and uncertainly at the heels of everybody.
There were cries of Hurrah for long Ben! and Hurrah for Hoosier
Jack! Some of Jack's old school-mates essayed to stop him to find out
what it was all about, but he would not relax a muscle, and he had no
time to answer any questions. He saw the faces of the people dimly; he
heard the crowd crying after him, Stop, thief! he caught a glimpse of
his old teacher, Mr. Niles, regarding him with curiosity as he darted
by; he saw an anxious look in Judge Kane's face as he passed him on a
street corner. But Jack held his eyes on Long Ben, whom he pursued as a
dog does a fox. He had steadily gained on the fellow, but Ben had too
much the start, and, unless he should give out, there would be little
chance for Jack to overtake him. One thinks quickly in such moments.
Jack remembered that there were two ways of reaching the county clerk's
office. To keep the street around the block was the natural way,to
take an alley through the square was neither longer nor shorter. But by
running down the alley he would deprive Long Ben of the spur of seeing
his pursuer, and he might even make him think that Jack had given out.
Jack had played this trick when playing hound and fox, and at any rate
he would by this turn shake off the crowd. So into the alley he darted,
and the bewildered pursuers kept on crying Stop, thief! after Long
Ben, whose reputation was none of the best. Somebody ahead tried to
catch the shabby young fellow, and this forced Ben to make a slight
curve, which gave Jack the advantage, so that just as Ben neared the
office, Jack rounded a corner out of an alley, and entered ahead of
him, dashed up to the clerk's desk and deposited the judgment.
For record, he gasped.
The next instant the shabby young fellow pushed forward the
Mine first! cried Long Ben.
I'll take yours when I get this entered, said the clerk quietly,
as became a public officer.
I got here first, said Long Ben.
But the clerk looked at the clock and entered the date on the back
of Jack's paper, putting one o'clock and eighteen minutes after the
date. Then he wrote one o'clock and nineteen minutes on the paper
which Long Ben handed him. The office was soon crowded with people
discussing the result of the race, and a part of them were even now in
favor of seizing one or the other of the runners for a theft, which
some said had been committed on the packet, and others declared was
committed on the wharf-boat. Francis Gray came in, and could not
conceal his chagrin.
I meant to do the fair thing by you, he said to Jack, severely,
but now you'll never get a cent out of me.
I'd rather have the law on men like you, than have a thousand of
your sort of fair promises, said Jack.
I've a mind to strike you, said Gray.
The Kentucky law is hard on a man who strikes a minor, said Judge
Kane, who had entered at that moment.
Mr. Niles came in to learn what was the matter, and Judge Kane,
after listening quietly to the talk of the people, until the excitement
subsided, took Jack over to his house, whence the boy trudged home in
the late afternoon full of hopefulness.
Gray's land realized as much as Mr. Beal expected, and Jack studied
hard all summer, so as to get as far ahead as possible by the time
school should begin in the autumn.
CHAPTER XXI. THE NEW TEACHER
The new teacher who was employed to take the Greenbank school in the
autumn was a young man from college. Standing behind the desk hitherto
occupied by the grim-faced Mr. Ball, young Williams looked very mild by
contrast. He was evidently a gentle-spirited man as compared with the
old master, and King Pewee and his crowd were gratified in noting this
fact. They could have their own way with such a master as that! When he
called the school to order, there remained a bustle of curiosity and
mutual recognition among the children. Riley and Pewee kept up a little
noise by way of defiance. They had heard that the new master did not
intend to whip. Now he stood quietly behind his desk, and waited a few
moments in silence for the whispering group to be still. Then he slowly
raised and levelled his finger at Riley and Pewee, but still said
nothing. There was something so firm and quiet about his
motionsomething that said, I will wait all day, but you must be
stillthat the boys could not resist it.
By the time they were quiet, two of the girls had got into a titter
over something, and the forefinger was aimed at them. The silent man
made the pupils understand that he was not to be trifled with.
When at length there was quiet, he made every one lay down book or
slate and face around toward him. Then with his pointing finger, or
with a little slap of his hands together, or with a word or two at
most, he got the school still again.
I hope we shall be friends, he said, in a voice full of
kindliness. All I want is to
But at this point Riley picked up his slate and book, and turned
away. The master snapped his fingers, but Riley affected not to hear
That young man will put down his slate. The master spoke in a low
tone, as one who expected to be obeyed, and the slate was reluctantly
put upon the desk.
When I am talking to you, I want you to hear, he went on, very
quietly. I am paid to teach you. One of the things I have to teach you
is good manners. You, pointing to Riley, are old enough to know
better than to take your slate when your teacher is speaking, but
perhaps you have never been taught what are good manners. I'll excuse
you this time. Now, you all see those switches hanging here behind me.
I did not put them there. I do not say that I shall not use them. Some
boys have to be whipped, I suppose,like mules,and when I have
tried, I may find that I cannot get on without the switches, but I hope
not to have to use them.
Here Riley, encouraged by the master's mildness and irritated by the
rebuke he had received, began to make figures on his slate.
Bring me that slate, said the teacher.
Riley was happy that he had succeeded in starting a row. He took his
slate and his arithmetic, and shuffled up to the master in a
half-indolent, half-insolent way.
Why do you take up your work when I tell you not to? asked the new
Because I didn't want to waste all my morning. I wanted to do my
You are a remarkably industrious youth, I take it. The young
master looked Riley over, as he said this, from head to foot. The whole
school smiled, for there was no lazier boy than this same Riley. I
suppose, the teacher continued, that you are the best scholar in
schoolthe bright and shining light of Greenbank.
Here there was a general titter at Riley.
I cannot have you sit away down at the other end of the school-room
and hide your excellent example from the rest. Stand right up here by
me and cipher, that all the school may see how industrious you are.
Riley grew very red in the face and pretended to cipher, holding
his book in his hand.
Now, said the new teacher, I have but just one rule for this
school, and I will write it on the blackboard that all may see it.
He took chalk and wrote:
That is all. Let us go to our lessons.
For the first two hours that Riley stood on the floor he pretended
to enjoy it. But when recess came and went and Mr. Williams did not
send him to his seat, he began to shift from one foot to the other and
from his heels to his toes, and to change his slate from the right hand
to the left. His class was called, and after recitation he was sent
back to his place. He stood it as best he could until the noon recess,
but when, at the beginning of the afternoon session, Mr. Williams again
called his excellent scholar and set him up, Riley broke down and
I think you might let me go now.
Are you tired? asked the cruel Mr. Williams.
Yes, I am, and Riley hung his head, while the rest smiled.
And are you ready to do what the good order of the school
Very well; you can go.
The chopfallen Riley went back to his seat, convinced that it would
not do to rebel against the new teacher, even if he did not use the
But Mr. Williams was also quick to detect the willing scholar. He
gave Jack extra help on his Latin after school was out, and Jack grew
very proud of the teacher's affection for him.
CHAPTER XXII. CHASING THE FOX
All the boys in the river towns thirty years agoand therefore the
boys in Greenbank, alsotook a great interest in the steam-boats which
plied up and down the Ohio. Each had his favorite boat, and boasted of
her speed and excellence. Every one of them envied those happy fellows
whose lot it was to run on the river as cabin-boys. Boats were a
common topic of conversationtheir build, their engines, their speed,
their officers, their mishaps, and all the incidents of their history.
So it was that from the love of steam-boats, which burned so
brightly in the bosom of the boy who lived on the banks of that great
and lovely river, there grew up the peculiar game of boats' names. I
think the game was started at Louisville or New Albany, where the falls
interrupt navigation, and where many boats of the upper and lower
rivers are assembled.
One day, as the warm air of Indian summer in this mild climate made
itself felt, the boys assembled, on the evergreen bluegrass, after
the snack at the noon recess, to play boats' names.
Through Jack's influence, Columbus, who did not like to play with
the A B C boys, was allowed to take the handkerchief and give out the
first name. All the rest stood up in a row like a spelling-class, while
little Columbus, standing in front of them, held a knotted handkerchief
with which to scourge them when the name should be guessed. The arm
which held the handkerchief was so puny that the boys laughed to see
the feeble lad stand there in a threatening attitude.
I say, Lum, don't hit too hard, now; my back is tender, said Bob
Give us an easy one to guess, said Riley, coaxingly.
Columbus, having come from the back country, did not know the names
of half a dozen boats, and what he knew about were those which touched
daily at the wharf of Greenbank.
Fn, he said.
Fashion, cried all the boys at once, breaking into unrestrained
mirth at the simplicity that gave them the name of Captain Glenn's
little Cincinnati and Port William packet, which landed daily at the
village wharf. Columbus now made a dash at the boys, who were obliged
to run to the school-house and back whenever a name was guessed,
suffering a beating all the way from the handkerchief of the one who
had given out the name, though, indeed, the punishment Lum was able to
give was very slight. It was doubtful who had guessed first, since the
whole party had cried Fashion almost together, but it was settled at
last in favor of Harry Weathervane, who was sure to give out hard
names, since he had been to Cincinnati recently, and had gone along the
levee reading the names of those boats that did business above that
city, and so were quite unknown, unless by report, to the boys of
AAs, were the three letters which Harry gave, and Ben
Berry guessed Archibald Ananias, and Tom Holcroft said it was Amanda
Amos, and at last all gave it up; whereupon Harry told them it was
Alvin Adams, and proceeded to give out another.
CAPx, he said next time.
Caps, said Riley, mistaking the x for an s; and then Bob Holliday
suggested Hats and Caps, and Jack wanted to have it Boots and
Shoes. But Johnny Meline remembered that he had read of such a name
for a ship in his Sunday-school lesson of the previous Sunday, and he
guessed that a steam-boat might bear that same.
I know, said Johnny, it's Castor
Oil, suggested Jack.
NoCastor and P, x,PolluxCastor and Polluxit's a Bible
You're not giving us the name of Noah's ark, are you? asked Bob.
I say, boys, that isn't fair a bit, growled Pewee, in all
earnestness. I don't hardly believe that Bible ship's a-going now.
Things were mixed in Pewee's mind, but he had a vague notion that Bible
times were as much as fifty years ago. While he stood doubting, Harry
began to whip him with the handkerchief, saying, I saw her at
Cincinnati, last week. She runs to Maysville and Parkersburg, you
After many names had been guessed, and each guesser had taken his
turn, Ben Berry had to give out. He had just heard the name of a lower
country boat, and was sure that it would not be guessed.
Cpr, he said.
Oh, I know, said Jack, who had been studying the steam-boat column
of an old Louisville paper that very morning, it's thethe and he
put his hands over his ears, closed his eyes, and danced around, trying
to remember, while all the rest stood and laughed at his antics. Now
I've got it,the 'Cornplanter'!
And Ben Berry whipped the boys across the road and back, after which
Jack took the handkerchief.
Oh, say, boys, this is a poor game; let's play fox, Bob suggested.
Jack's got the handkerchief, let him be the first fox.
So Jack took a hundred yards' start, and all the boys set out after
him. The fox led the hounds across the commons, over the bars, past the
brick pond, as it was called, up the lane into Moro's pasture, along
the hill-side to the west across Dater's fence into Betts's pasture;
thence over into the large woods pasture of the Glade farm. In every
successive field some of the hounds had run off to the flank, and by
this means every attempt of Jack's to turn toward the river, and thus
fetch a circuit for home, had been foiled. They had cut him off from
turning through Moro's orchard or Betts's vineyard, and so there was
nothing for the fleet-footed fox but to keep steadily to the west and
give his pursuers no chance to make a cut-off on him. But every now and
then he made a feint of turning, which threw the others out of a
straight track. Once in the woods pasture, Jack found himself out of
breath, having run steadily for a rough mile and a half, part of it
up-hill. He was yet forty yards ahead of Bob Holliday and Riley, who
led the hounds. Dashing into a narrow path through the underbrush, Jack
ran into a little clump of bushes and hid behind a large black-walnut
Riley and Holliday came within six feet of him, some of the others
passed to the south of him and some to the north, but all failed to
discover his lurking-place. Soon Jack could hear them beating about the
bushes beyond him.
This was his time. Having recovered his wind, he crept out southward
until he came to the foot of the hill, and entered Glade's lane,
heading straight for the river across the wide plain. Pewee, who had
perched himself on a fence to rest, caught sight of Jack first, and
soon the whole pack were in full cry after him, down the long, narrow,
elder-bordered lane. Bob Holliday and Riley, the fleetest of foot,
climbed over the high stake-and-rider fence into Betts's corn-field,
and cut off a diagonal to prevent Jack's getting back toward the
school-house. Seeing this movement, Jack, who already had made an
extraordinary run, crossed the fence himself, and tried to make a
cut-off in spite of them; but Riley already had got in ahead of him,
and Jack, seeing the boys close behind and before him, turned north
again toward the hill, got back into the lane, which was now deserted,
and climbed into Glade's meadow on the west side of the lane. He now
had a chance to fetch a sweep around toward the river again, though the
whole troop of boys were between him and the school-house. Fairly
headed off on the east, he made a straight run south for the river
shore, striking into a deep gully, from which he came out panting upon
the beach, where he had just time to hide himself in a hollow sycamore,
hoping that the boys would get to the westward and give him a chance to
run up the river shore for the school-house.
But one cannot play the same trick twice. Some of the boys stationed
themselves so as to intercept Jack's retreat toward the school-house,
while the rest searched for him, beating up and down the gully, and up
and down the beach, until they neared the hollow sycamore. Jack made a
sharp dash to get through them, but was headed off and caught by Pewee.
Just as Jack was caught, and Pewee was about to start homeward as fox,
the boys caught sight of two steam-boats racing down the river. The
whole party was soon perched on a fallen sycamore, watching first the
Swiftsure and then the Ben Franklin, while the black smoke poured
from their chimneys. So fascinated were they with this exciting contest
that they stayed half an hour waiting to see which should beat. At
length, as the boats passed out of sight, with the Swiftsure leading
her competitor, it suddenly occurred to Jack that it must be later than
the school-hour. The boys looked aghast at one another a moment on
hearing him mention this; then they glanced at the sun, already
declining in the sky, and set out for school, trotting swiftly in spite
of their fatigue.
What would the master say? Pewee said he didn't care,it wasn't Old
Ball, and they wouldn't get a whipping, anyway. But Jack thought that
it was too bad to lose the confidence of Mr. Williams.
CHAPTER XXIII. CALLED TO ACCOUNT
Successful hounds, having caught their fox, ought to have come home
in triumph; but, instead of that, they came home like dogs that had
been killing sheep, their heads hanging down in a guilty and
Jack walked into the school-house first. It was an hour and a half
past the time for the beginning of school. He tried to look unconcerned
as he went to his seat. There stood the teacher, with his face very
calm but very pale, and Jack felt his heart sink.
One by one the laggards filed into the school-room, while the
awe-stricken girls on the opposite benches, and the little A B C boys,
watched the guilty sinners take their places, prepared to meet their
Riley came in with a half-insolent smile on his face, as if to say:
I don't care. Pewee was sullen and bull-doggish. Ben Berry looked the
sneaking fellow he was, and Harry Weathervane tried to remember that
his father was a school-trustee. Bob Holliday couldn't help laughing in
a foolish way. Columbus had fallen out of the race before he got to the
brick-pond, and so had returned in time to be punctual when school
resumed its session.
During all the time that the boys, heated with their exercise and
blushing with shame, were filing in, Mr. Williams stood with set face
and regarded them. He was very much excited, and so I suppose did not
dare to reprove them just then. He called the classes and heard them in
rapid succession, until it was time for the spelling-class, which
comprised all but the very youngest pupils. On this day, instead of
calling the spelling-class, he said, evidently with great effort to
control himself: The girls will keep their seats. The boys will take
their places in the spelling-class.
Riley's lower jaw fellhe was sure that the master meant to flog
them all. He was glad he was not at the head of the class. Ben Berry
could hardly drag his feet to his place, and poor Jack was filled with
confusion. When the boys were all in place, the master walked up and
down the line and scrutinized them, while Riley cast furtive glances at
the dusty old beech switches on the wall, wondering which one the
master would use, and Pewee was trying to guess whether Mr. Williams's
arm was strong, and whether he would make a fellow take off his coat
Columbus, said the teacher, you can take your seat.
Riley shook in his shoes, thinking that this certainly meant a
whipping. He began to frame excuses in his mind, by which to try to
lighten his punishment.
But the master did not take down his switches. He only talked. But
such a talk! He told the boys how worthless a man was who could not be
trusted, and how he had hoped for a school full of boys that could be
relied on. He thought there were some boys, at leastand this remark
struck Jack to the heartthat there were some boys in the school who
would rather be treated as gentlemen than beaten with ox-goads. But he
was now disappointed. All of them seemed equally willing to take
advantage of his desire to avoid whipping them; and all of them had
shown themselves unfit to be trusted.
Here he paused long enough to let the full weight of his censure
enter their minds. Then he began on a new tack. He had hoped that he
might have their friendship. He had thought that they cared a little
for his good opinion. But now they had betrayed him. All the town was
looking to see whether he would succeed in conducting his school
without whipping. A good many would be glad to see him fail. Today they
would be saying all over Greenbank that the new teacher couldn't manage
his school. Then he told the boys that while they were sitting on the
trunk of the fallen sycamore looking at the steam-boat race, one of the
trustees, Mr. Weathervane, had driven past and had seen them there. He
had stopped to complain to the master. Now, said the master, I have
found how little you care for me.
This was very sharp talk, and it made the boys angry. Particularly
did Jack resent any intimation that he was not to be trusted. But the
new master was excited and naturally spoke severely. Nor did he give
the boys a chance to explain at that time.
You have been out of school, he said, one hour and thirty-one
minutes. That is about equal to six fifteen-minute recessesto the
morning and afternoon recesses for three days. I shall have to keep you
in at those six recesses to make up the time, and in addition, as a
punishment, I shall keep you in school half an hour after the usual
time of dismission, for three days.
Here Jack made a motion to speak.
No, said the master, I will not hear a word, now. Go home and
think it over. To-morrow I mean to ask each one of you to explain his
With this, he dismissed the school, and the boys went out as angry
as a hive of bees that have been disturbed. Each one made his speech.
Jack thought it mean that the master should say they were not fit to
be trusted. He wouldn't have stayed out if he'd known it was
Bob Holliday said the young master was a blisterer, and then he
Harry Weathervane was angry, and so were all the rest. At length it
was agreed that they didn't want to be cross-questioned about it, and
that it was better that somebody should write something that should
give Mr. Williams a piece of their mind, and show him how hard he was
on boys that didn't mean any harm, but only forgot themselves. And Jack
was selected to do the writing.
Jack made up his mind that the paper he would write should be a
CHAPTER XXIV. AN APOLOGY
Of course, there was a great deal of talk in the village. The
I-told-you-so people were quite delighted. Old Mother Horn always knew
that boys couldn't be managed without switching. Didn't the Bible or
somebody say: 'Just as the twig is bent the boy's inclined?' And if you
don't bend your twig, what'll become of your boy?
The loafers and loungers and gad-abouts and gossips talked a great
deal about the failure of the new plan. They were sure that Mr. Ball
would be back in that school-house before the term was out, unless
Williams should whip a good deal more than he promised to. The boys
would just drive him out.
Jack told his mother, with a grieved face, how harsh the new master
had been, and how he had even said they were not fit to be trusted.
That's a very harsh word, said Mrs. Dudley, but let us make some
allowances. Mr. Williams is on trial before the town, and he finds
himself nearly ruined by the thoughtlessness of the boys. He had to
wait an hour and a half, with half of the school gone. Think how much
he must have suffered in that time. And then, to have to take a rebuke
from Mr. Weathervane besides, must have stung him to the quick.
Yes, that's so, said Jack, but then he had no business to take it
for granted that we did it on purpose.
And Jack went about his chores, trying to think of some way of
writing to the master an address which should be severe, but not too
severe. He planned many things but gave them up. He lay awake in the
night thinking about it, and, at last, when he had cooled off, he came
to the conclusion that, as the boys had been the first offenders, they
should take the first step toward a reconciliation. But whether he
could persuade the angry boys to see it in that light, he did not know.
When morning came, he wrote a very short paper, somewhat in this
Dear Sir: We are very sorry for what we did yesterday, and for
the trouble we have given you. We are willing to take the
punishment, for we think we deserve it; but we hope you will
think that we did it on purpose, for we did not, and we don't
to have you think so.
Jack carried this in the first place to his faithful friend, Bob
Holliday, who read it.
Oh, you've come down, have you? said Bob.
I thought we ought to, said Jack. We did give him a great
deal of trouble, and if it had been Mr. Ball, he would have whipped us
half to death.
We shouldn't have forgot and gone away at that time if Old Ball had
been the master, said Bob.
That's just it, said Jack; that's the very reason why we ought to
All right, said Bob, I'll sign her, and he wrote Robert M.
Holliday in big letters at the top of the column intended for the
names. Jack put his name under Bob's.
But when they got to the school-house it was not so easy to persuade
the rest. At length, however, Johnny Meline signed it, and then Harry
Weathervane, and then the rest, one after another, with some grumbling,
wrote their names. All subscribed to it excepting Pewee and Ben Berry
and Riley. They declared they never would sign it. They didn't want to
be kept in at recess and after school like convicts. They didn't
Jack is a soft-headed fool, Riley said, to draw up such a thing
as that. I'm not afraid of the master. I'm not going to knuckle down to
Of course, Pewee, as a faithful echo, said just what Riley said, and
Ben Berry said what Riley and Pewee said; so that the three were quite
Well, said Jack, then we'll have to hand in our petition without
the signatures of the triplets.
Don't you call me a triplet, said Pewee; I've got as much sense
as any of you. You're a soft-headed triplet yourself!
Even Riley had to join in the laugh that followed this blundering
sally of Pewee.
When the master came in, he seemed very much troubled. He had heard
what had been said about the affair in the town. The address which Jack
had written was lying on his desk. He took it up and read it, and
immediately a look of pleasure and relief took the place of the worried
look he had brought to school with him.
Boys, he said, I have received your petition, and I shall answer
it by and by.
The hour for recess came and passed. The girls and the very little
boys were allowed their recess, but nothing was said to the larger boys
about their going out. Pewee and Riley were defiant.
At length, when the school was about to break up for noon, the
master put his pen, ink, and other little articles in the desk, and the
school grew hushed with expectancy.
This apology, said Mr. Williams, which I see is in John Dudley's
handwriting, and which bears the signature of all but three of those
who were guilty of the offence yesterday, is a very manly apology, and
quite increases my respect for those who have signed it. I have
suffered much from your carelessness of yesterday, but this apology,
showing, as it does, the manliness of my boys, has given me more
pleasure than the offence gave me pain. I ought to make an apology to
you. I blamed you too severely yesterday in accusing you of running
away intentionally. I take all that back.
Here he paused a moment, and looked over the petition carefully.
William Riley, I don't see your name here. Why is that?
Because I didn't put it there.
Pewee and Ben Berry both laughed at this wit.
Why didn't you put it there?
Because I didn't want to.
Have you any explanation to give of your conduct yesterday?
No, sir; only that I think it's mean to keep us in because we
Peter Rose, have you anything to say?
Just the same as Will Riley said.
And you, Benjamin?
Oh, I don't care much, said Ben Berry. Jack was fox, and I ran
after him, and if he hadn't run all over creation and part of Columbia,
I shouldn't have been late. It isn't any fault of mine. I think Jack
ought to do the staying in.
You are about as old a boy as Jack, said the master. I suppose
Jack might say that if you and the others hadn't chased him, he
wouldn't have run 'all over creation,' as you put it. You and the rest
were all guilty of a piece of gross thoughtlessness. All excepting you
three have apologized in the most manly way. I therefore remove the
punishment from all the others entirely hereafter, deeming that the
loss of this morning's recess is punishment enough for boys who can be
so manly in their acknowledgments. Peter Rose, William Riley, and
Benjamin Berry will remain in school at both recesses and for a
half-hour after school every day for three daysnot only for having
forgotten their duty, but for having refused to make acknowledgment or
Going home that evening, half an hour after all the others had been
dismissed, the triplets put all their griefs together, and resolved to
be avenged on Mr. Williams at the first convenient opportunity.
CHAPTER XXV. KING'S BASE AND A
As the three who usually gave the most trouble on the playground, as
well as in school, were now in detention at every recess, the boys
enjoyed greatly their play during these three days.
It was at this time that they began to play that favorite game of
Greenbank, which seems to be unknown almost everywhere else. It is
called king's base, and is full of all manner of complex happenings,
sudden surprises, and amusing results.
Each of the boys selected a base or goal. A row of sidewalk trees
were favorite bases. There were just as many bases as boys. Some boy
would venture out from his base. Then another would pursue him; a third
would chase the two, and so it would go, the one who left his base
latest having the right to catch.
Just as Johnny Meline was about to lay hold on Jack, Sam Crashaw,
having just left his base, gave chase to Johnny, and just as Sam
thought he had a good chance to catch Johnny, up came Jack, fresh from
having touched his base, and nabbed Sam. When one has caught another,
he has a right to return to his base with his prisoner, unmolested. The
prisoner now becomes an active champion of the new base, and so the
game goes on until all the bases are broken up but one. Very often the
last boy on a base succeeds in breaking up a strong one, and, indeed,
there is no end to the curious results attained in the play.
Jack had never got on in his studies as at this time. Mr. Williams
took every opportunity to show his liking for his young friend, and
Jack's quickened ambition soon put him at the head of his classes. It
was a rule that the one who stood at the head of the great
spelling-class on Friday evenings should go to the foot on Monday, and
so work his way up again. There was a great strife between Sarah
Weathervane and Jack to see which should go to the foot the oftenest
during the term, and so win a little prize that Mr. Williams had
offered to the best speller in the school. As neither of them ever
missed a word in the lesson, they held the head each alternate Friday
evening. In this way the contest bade fair to be a tie. But Sarah meant
to win the prize by fair means or foul.
One Friday morning before school-time, the boys and girls were
talking about the relative merits of the two spellers, Joanna
maintaining that Sarah was the better, and others that Jack could spell
better than Sarah.
Oh! said Sarah Weathervane, Jack is the best speller in school. I
study till my head aches to get my lesson, but it is all the same to
Jack whether he studies or not. He has a natural gift for spelling, and
he spends nearly all his time on arithmetic and Latin.
This speech pleased Jack very much. He had stood at the head of the
class all the week, and spelling did seem to him the easiest thing in
the world. That afternoon he hardly looked at his lesson. It was so
nice to think he could beat Sarah Weathervane with his left hand, so to
When the great spelling-class was called, he spelled the words given
to him, as usual, and Sarah saw no chance to get the coveted
opportunity to stand at the head, go down, and spell her way up again.
But the very last word given to Jack was sacrilege, and, not
having studied the lesson, he spelled it with e in the second
syllable and i in the last. Sarah gave the letters correctly,
and when Jack saw the smile of triumph on her face, he guessed why she
had flattered him that morning. Hereafter he would not depend on his
natural genius for spelling. A natural genius for working is the best
CHAPTER XXVI. UNCLAIMED TOP-STRINGS
With a sinking heart, Jack often called to mind that this was his
last term at school. The little money that his father had left was not
enough to warrant his continuing; he must now do something for his own
support. He resolved, therefore, to make the most of his time under Mr.
When Pewee, Riley, and Ben Berry got through with their punishment,
they sought some way of revenging themselves on the master for
punishing them, and on Jack for doing better than they had done, and
thus escaping punishment. It was a sore thing with them that Jack had
led all the school his way, so that, instead of the whole herd
following King Pewee and Prime Minister Riley into rebellion, they now
knuckled down to the master, as Riley called it, under the lead of
Jack, and they even dared to laugh slyly at the inseparable triplets.
The first aim of Pewee and company was to get the better of the
master. They boasted to Jack and Bob that they would fix Mr. Williams
some time, and gave out to the other boys that they knew where the
master spent his evenings, and they knew how to fix him.
When Jack heard of this, he understood it. The teacher had a habit
of spending an evening, now and then, at Dr. Lanham's, and the boys no
doubt intended to play a prank on him in going or coming. There being
now no moonlight, the village streets were very dark, and there was
every opportunity for a trick. Riley's father's house stood next on the
street to Dr. Lanham's; the lots were divided by an alley. This gave
the triplets a good chance to carry out their designs.
But Bob Holliday and Jack, good friends to the teacher, thought that
it would be fun to watch the conspirators and defeat them. So, when
they saw Mr. Williams going to Dr. Lanham's, they stationed themselves
in the dark alley on the side of the street opposite to Riley's and
took observations. Mr. Williams had a habit of leaving Dr. Lanham's at
exactly nine o'clock, and so, just before nine, the three came out of
Riley's yard, and proceeded in the darkness to the fence of Lanham's
Getting the trunk of one of the large shade-trees between him and
the plotters, Jack crept up close enough to guess what they were doing
and to overhear their conversation. Then he came back to Bob.
They are tying a string across the sidewalk on Lanham's side of the
alley, I believe, whispered Jack, so as to throw Mr. Williams head
foremost into that mud-hole at the mouth of the alley.
By this time, the three boys had finished their arrangements and
retreated through the gate into the porch of the Riley house, whence
they might keep a lookout for the catastrophe.
I'm going to cut that string where it goes around the tree, said
Bob, and he crouched low on the ground, got the trunk of the tree
between him and the Riley house, and crept slowly across the street.
I'll capture the string, said Jack, walking off to the next
cross-street, then running around the block until he came to the back
gate of Lanham's yard, which he entered, running up the walk to the
back door. His knock was answered by Mrs. Lanham.
Why, Jack, what's the matter? she asked, seeing him at the kitchen
I want to see Susan, please, he said, and tell Mr. Williams not
to go yet a minute.
Here's a mystery, said Mrs. Lanham, returning to the sitting-room,
where the teacher was just rising to say good-night. Here's Jack
Dudley, at the back door, out of breath, asking for Susan, and wishing
Mr. Williams not to leave the house yet.
Susan ran to the back door.
Susan, said Jack, the triplets have tied a string from the corner
of your fence to the locust-tree, and they're watching from Riley's
porch to see Mr. Williams fall into the mud-hole. Bob is cutting the
string at the tree, and I want you to go down along the fence and untie
it and bring it in. They will not suspect you if they see you.
I don't care if they do, said Susan, and she glided out to the
cross-fence which ran along the alley, followed it to the front and
untied the string, fetching it back with her. When she got back to the
kitchen door she heard Jack closing the alley gate. He had run off to
join Bob, leaving the string in Susan's hands.
Dr. Lanham and the master had a good laugh over the captured string,
which was made of Pewee's and Riley's top-strings, tied together.
The triplets did not see Susan go to the fence. They were too intent
on what was to happen to Mr. Williams. When, at length, he came along
safely through the darkness, they were bewildered.
You didn't tie that string well in the middle, growled Pewee at
Yes, I did, said Riley. He must have stepped over.
Step over a string a foot high, when he didn't know it was there?
Let's go and get the string, said Ben Berry.
So out of the gate they sallied, and quickly reached the place where
the string ought to have been.
I can't find this end, whispered Pewee by the fence.
The string's gone! broke out Riley, after feeling up and down the
tree for some half a minute.
What could have become of it? They had been so near the sidewalk all
the time that no one could have passed without their seeing him.
The next day, at noon-time, when Susan Lanham brought out her lunch,
it was tied with Pewee's new top-string,the best one in the school.
That's a very nice string, said Susan.
It's just like Pewee's top-string, cried Harry Weathervane.
Is it yours, Pewee? said Susan, in her sweetest tones.
No, said the king, with his head down; mine's at home.
I found this one, last night, said Susan.
And all the school knew that she was tormenting Pewee, although they
could not guess how she had got his top-string. After a while, she made
a dive into her pocket, and brought out another string.
Oh, cried Johnny Meline, where did you get that?
I found it.
That's Will Riley's top-string, said Johnny. It was mine. He
cheated me out of it by trading an old top that wouldn't spin.
That's the way you get your top-strings, is it, Will? Is this
yours? asked the tormenting Susan.
No, it isn't.
Of course it isn't yours. You don't tie top-strings across the
sidewalk at night. You're a gentleman, you are! Come, Johnny, this
string doesn't belong to anybody; I'll trade with you for that old top
that Will gave you for a good string. I want something to remember
honest Will Riley by.
Johnny gladly pocketed the string, and Susan carried off the shabby
top, to the great amusement of the school, who now began to understand
how she had come by the two top-strings.
CHAPTER XXVII. THE LAST DAY OF
SCHOOL, AND THE LAST CHAPTER OF THE STORY
It was the last day of the spring term of school. With Jack this
meant the end of his opportunity for going to school. What he should
learn hereafter he must learn by himself. The money was nearly out, and
he must go to work.
The last day of school meant also the expiration of the master's
authority. Whatever evil was done after school-hours on the last day
was none of his business. All who had grudges carried them forward to
that day, for thus they could revenge themselves without being called
to account by the master the next day. The last day of school had no
to-morrow to be afraid of. Hence, Pewee and his friends proposed to
square accounts on the last day of school with Jack Dudley, whom they
hated for being the best scholar, and for having outwitted them more
It was on the first day of June that the school ended, and Mr.
Williams bade his pupils good-bye. The warm sun had by this time
brought the waters of the Ohio to a temperature that made bathing
pleasant, and when the school closed, all the boys, delighted with
liberty, rushed to the river for a good swim together. In that genial
climate one can remain in the water for hours at a time, and boys
become swimmers at an early age.
Just below the village a raft was moored, and from this the youthful
swimmers were soon diving into the deep water like frogs. Every boy who
could perform any feat of agility displayed it. One would turn a
somersault in the water, and then dive from one side of the raft to
another, one could float, and another swim on his back, while a third
was learning to tread water. Some were fond of diving toes downward,
others took headers. The little fellows who could not swim kept on
the inside of the great raft and paddled about with the aid of slabs
used for floats. Jack, who had lived for years on the banks of the
Wildcat, could swim and dive like a musquash.
Mr. Williams, the teacher, felt lonesome at saying good-bye to his
school; and to keep the boys company as long as possible, he strolled
down to the bank and sat on the grass watching the bathers below him,
plunging and paddling in all the spontaneous happiness of young life.
Riley and Peweeconspirators to the lasthad their plans arranged.
When Jack should get his clothes on, they intended to pitch him off the
raft for a good wetting, and thus gratify their long-hoarded jealousy,
and get an offset to the standing joke about dough-faces and ghosts
which the town had at their expense. Ben Berry, who was their
confidant, thought this a capital plan.
When at length Jack had enjoyed the water enough, he came out and
was about to begin dressing. Pewee and Riley were close at hand,
already dressed, and prepared to give Jack a farewell ducking.
But just at that moment there came from the other end of the raft,
and from the spectators on the bank, a wild, confused cry, and all
turned to hearken. Harry Weathervane's younger brother, whose name was
Andrew Jackson, and who could not swim, in dressing, had stepped too
far backward and gone off the raft. He uttered a despairing and
terrified scream, struck out wildly and blindly, and went down.
All up and down the raft and up and down the bank there went up a
cry: Andy is drowning! while everybody looked for somebody else to
The school-master was sitting on the bank, and saw the accident. He
quickly slipped off his boots, but then he stopped, for Jack had
already started on a splendid run down that long raft. The confused and
terrified boys made a path for him quickly, as he came on at more than
the tremendous speed he had always shown in games. He did not stop to
leap, but ran full tilt off the raft, falling upon the drowning boy and
carrying him completely under water with him. Nobody breathed during
the two seconds that Jack, under water, struggled to get a good hold on
Andy and to keep Andy from disabling him by his blind grappling of
When at length Jack's head came above water, there was an audible
sigh of relief from all the on-lookers. But the danger was not over.
Let go of my arms, Andy! cried Jack. You'll drown us both if you
hold on that way. If you don't let go I'll strike you.
Jack knew that it was sometimes necessary to stun a drowning person
before you could save him, where he persisted in clutching his
deliverer. But poor frightened Andy let go of Jack's arms at last. Jack
was already exhausted with swimming, and he had great difficulty in
dragging the little fellow to the raft, where Will Riley and Pewee Rose
pulled him out of the water.
But now, while all were giving attention to the rescued Andy, there
occurred with Jack one of those events which people call a cramp. I do
not know what to call it, but it is not a cramp. It is a kind of
collapsea sudden exhaustion that may come to the best of swimmers.
The heart insists on resting, the consciousness grows dim, the
will-power flags, and the strong swimmer sinks.
Nobody was regarding Jack, who first found himself unable to make
even an effort to climb on the raft; then his hold on its edge relaxed,
and he slowly sank out of sight. Pewee saw his sinking condition first,
and cried out, as did Riley and all the rest, doing nothing to save
Jack, but running up and down the raft in a vain search for a rope or a
The school-master, having seen that Andy was brought out little
worse for his fright and the water he had swallowed, was about to put
on his boots when this new alarm attracted his attention to Jack
Dudley. Instantly he threw off his coat and was bounding down the steep
bank, along the plank to the raft, and then along the raft to where
Jack had sunk entirely out of sight. Mr. Williams leaped head first
into the water and made what the boys afterward called a splendid dive.
Once under water he opened his eyes and looked about for Jack.
At last he came up, drawing after him the unconscious and apparently
lifeless form of Jack, who was taken from the water by the boys. The
teacher despatched two boys to bring Dr. Lanham, while he set himself
to restore consciousness by producing artificial breathing. It was some
time after Dr. Lanham's arrival that Jack fully regained his
consciousness, when he was carried home by the strong arms of Bob
Holliday, Will Riley, and Pewee, in turn.
[Illustration: BOB HOLLIDAY CARRIES HOME HIS FRIEND.]
And here I must do the last two boys the justice to say that they
called to inquire after Jack every day during the illness that
followed, and the old animosity to Jack was never afterward revived by
Pewee and his friends.
On the evening after this accident and these rescues, Dr. Lanham
said to Mrs. Lanham and Susan and Mr. Williams, who happened to be
there again, that a boy was wanted in the new drug-store in the
village, to learn the business, and to sleep in the back room, so as to
attend night-calls. Dr. Lanham did not know why this Jack Dudley
wouldn't be just the boy.
Susan, for her part, was very sure he would be; and Mr. Williams
agreed with Susan, as, indeed, he generally did.
Dr. Lanham thought that Jack might be allowed to attend school in
the daytime in the winter season, and if the boy had as good stuff in
him as he seemed to have, there was no reason why he shouldn't come to
something some day.
Come to something! said Susan. Come to something! Why, he'll make
one of the best doctors in the country yet.
And again Mr. Williams entirely agreed with Susan, Jack Dudley was
sure to go up to the head of the class.
Jack got the place, and I doubt not fulfilled the hope of his
friends. I know this, at least, that when a year or so later his good
friend and teacher, Mr. Williams, was married to his good and stanch
friend, Susan Lanham, Jack's was one of the happiest faces at the