by Booth Tarkington
JOHN, DONALD AND BOOTH JAMESON
FROM A GRATEFUL UNCLE
CHAPTER I. A BOY AND HIS DOG
Penrod sat morosely upon the back fence and gazed with envy at
Duke, his wistful dog.
A bitter soul dominated the various curved and angular
surfaces known by a careless world as the face of Penrod
Schofield. Except in solitude, that face was almost always
cryptic and emotionless; for Penrod had come into his twelfth
year wearing an expression carefully trained to be inscrutable.
Since the world was sure to misunderstand everything, mere
defensive instinct prompted him to give it as little as possible
to lay hold upon. Nothing is more impenetrable than the
face of a boy who has learned this, and Penrod's was habitually
as fathomless as the depth of his hatred this morning for the
literary activities of Mrs. Lora Rewbush--an almost universally
respected fellow citizen, a lady of charitable and poetic
inclinations, and one of his own mother's most intimate friends.
Mrs. Lora Rewbush had written something which she called "The
Children's Pageant of the Table Round," and it was to be
performed in public that very afternoon at the Women's Arts and
Guild Hall for the benefit of the Coloured Infants' Betterment
Society. And if any flavour of sweetness remained in the nature
of Penrod Schofield after the dismal trials of the school-week
just past, that problematic, infinitesimal remnant was made
pungent acid by the imminence of his destiny to form a prominent
feature of the spectacle, and to declaim the loathsome sentiments
of a character named upon the programme the Child Sir Lancelot.
After each rehearsal he had plotted escape, and only ten days
earlier there had been a glimmer of light: Mrs. Lora Rewbush
caught a very bad cold, and it was hoped it might develop into
pneumonia; but she recovered so quickly that not even a rehearsal
of the Children's Pageant was postponed. Darkness closed in.
Penrod had rather vaguely debated plans for a self-mutilation
such as would make his appearance as the Child Sir Lancelot
inexpedient on public grounds; it was a heroic and attractive
thought, but the results of some extremely sketchy preliminary
experiments caused him to abandon it.
There was no escape; and at last his hour was hard upon him.
Therefore he brooded on the fence and gazed with envy at his
The dog's name was undescriptive of his person, which was
obviously the result of a singular series of mesalliances. He
wore a grizzled moustache and indefinite whiskers; he was small
and shabby, and looked like an old postman. Penrod envied Duke
because he was sure Duke would never be compelled to be a Child
Sir Lancelot. He thought a dog free and unshackled to go or come
as the wind listeth. Penrod forgot the life he led Duke.
There was a long soliloquy upon the fence, a plaintive
monologue without words: the boy's thoughts were adjectives, but
they were expressed by a running film of pictures in his mind's
eye, morbidly prophetic of the hideosities before him. Finally
he spoke aloud, with such spleen that Duke rose from his haunches
and lifted one ear in keen anxiety.
"`I hight Sir Lancelot du Lake, the Child,
Gentul-hearted, meek, and mild.
What though I'm BUT a littul child,
Gentul-hearted, meek, and----' OOF!"
All of this except "oof" was a quotation from the Child Sir
Lancelot, as conceived by Mrs. Lora Rewbush. Choking upon it,
Penrod slid down from the fence, and with slow and thoughtful
steps entered a one-storied wing of the stable, consisting of a
single apartment, floored with cement and used as a storeroom for
broken bric-a-brac, old paint-buckets, decayed garden-hose, worn-
out carpets, dead furniture, and other condemned odds and ends
not yet considered hopeless enough to be given away.
In one corner stood a large box, a part of the building
itself: it was eight feet high and open at the top, and it had
been constructed as a sawdust magazine from which was drawn
material for the horse's bed in a stall on the other side of the
partition. The big box, so high and towerlike, so commodious, so
suggestive, had ceased to fulfil its legitimate function; though,
providentially, it had been at least half full of sawdust when
the horse died. Two years had gone by since that passing; an
interregnum in transportation during which Penrod's father was
"thinking" (he explained sometimes) of an automobile. Meanwhile,
the gifted and generous sawdust-box had served brilliantly in war
and peace: it was Penrod's stronghold.
There was a partially defaced sign upon the front wall of the
box; the donjon-keep had known mercantile impulses:
The O. K. RaBiT Co.
PENROD ScHoFiELD AND CO.
iNQuiRE FOR PRicEs
This was a venture of the preceding vacation, and had netted,
at one time, an accrued and owed profit of $1.38. Prospects had
been brightest on the very eve of cataclysm. The storeroom was
locked and guarded, but twenty-seven rabbits and Belgian hares,
old and young, had perished here on a single night--through no
human agency, but in a foray of cats, the besiegers treacherously
tunnelling up through the sawdust from the small aperture which
opened into the stall beyond the partition. Commerce has its
Penrod climbed upon a barrel, stood on tiptoe, grasped the
rim of the box; then, using a knot-hole as a stirrup, threw one
leg over the top, drew himself up, and dropped within. Standing
upon the packed sawdust, he was just tall enough to see over the
Duke had not followed him into the storeroom, but remained
near the open doorway in a concave and pessimistic attitude.
Penrod felt in a dark corner of the box and laid hands upon a
simple apparatus consisting of an old bushel-basket with a few
yards of clothes-line tied to each of its handles. He passed the
ends of the lines over a big spool, which revolved upon an axle
of wire suspended from a beam overhead, and, with the aid of this
improvised pulley, lowered the empty basket until it came to rest
in an upright position upon the floor of the storeroom at the
foot of the sawdust-box.
"Eleva-ter!" shouted Penrod. "Ting-ting!"
Duke, old and intelligently apprehensive, approached slowly,
in a semicircular manner, deprecatingly, but with courtesy. He
pawed the basket delicately; then, as if that were all his master
had expected of him, uttered one bright bark, sat down, and
looked up triumphantly. His hypocrisy was shallow: many a
horrible quarter of an hour had taught him his duty in this
"El-e-VAY-ter!" shouted Penrod sternly. "You want me to
come down there to you?"
Duke looked suddenly haggard. He pawed the basket feebly
again and, upon another outburst from on high, prostrated himself
flat. Again threatened, he gave a superb impersonation of a
"You get in that el-e-VAY-ter!"
Reckless with despair, Duke jumped into the basket, landing
in a dishevelled posture, which he did not alter until he had
been drawn up and poured out upon the floor of sawdust with the
box. There, shuddering, he lay in doughnut shape and presently
It was dark in the box, a condition that might have been
remedied by sliding back a small wooden panel on runners, which
would have let in ample light from the alley; but Penrod
Schofield had more interesting means of illumination. He knelt,
and from a former soap-box, in a corner, took a lantern,
without a chimney, and a large oil-can, the leak in the latter
being so nearly imperceptible that its banishment from household
use had seemed to Penrod as inexplicable as it was providential.
He shook the lantern near his ear: nothing splashed; there
was no sound but a dry clinking. But there was plenty of
kerosene in the can; and he filled the lantern, striking a match
to illumine the operation. Then he lit the lantern and hung it
upon a nail against the wall. The sawdust floor was slightly
impregnated with oil, and the open flame quivered in suggestive
proximity to the side of the box; however, some rather deep
charrings of the plank against which the lantern hung offered
evidence that the arrangement was by no means a new one, and
indicated at least a possibility of no fatality occurring this
Next, Penrod turned up the surface of the sawdust in another
corner of the floor, and drew forth a cigar-box in which were
half a dozen cigarettes, made of hayseed and thick brown wrapping
paper, a lead-pencil, an eraser, and a small note-book, the cover
of which was labelled in his own handwriting:
"English Grammar. Penrod Schofield. Room 6, Ward School
The first page of this book was purely academic; but the
study of English undefiled terminated with a slight jar at the
top of the second: "Nor must an adverb be used to modif----"
"HARoLD RAMoREZ THE RoADAGENT
OR WiLD LiFE AMoNG THE
And the subsequent entries in the book appeared to have little
concern with Room 6, Ward School Nomber Seventh.
CHAPTER II. ROMANCE
The author of "Harold Ramorez," etc., lit one of the hayseed
cigarettes, seated himself comfortably, with his back against the
wall and his right shoulder just under the lantern, elevated his
knees to support the note-book, turned to a blank page, and
wrote, slowly and earnestly:
"CHAPITER THE SIXTH"
He took a knife from his pocket, and, broodingly, his eyes
upon the inward embryos of vision, sharpened his pencil. After
that, he extended a foot and meditatively rubbed Duke's
back with the side of his shoe. Creation, with Penrod, did not
leap, full-armed, from the brain; but finally he began to
produce. He wrote very slowly at first, and then with increasing
rapidity; faster and faster, gathering momentum and growing more
and more fevered as he sped, till at last the true fire came,
without which no lamp of real literature may be made to burn.
Mr. Wilson reched for his gun but our hero had him covred and
soon said Well I guess you don't come any of that on me my
Well what makes you so sure about it sneered the other
bitting his lip so savageley that the blood ran. You are nothing
but a common Roadagent any way and I do not propose to be bafled
by such, Ramorez laughed at this and kep Mr. Wilson covred by his
Soon the two men were struggling together in the death-roes
but soon Mr Wilson got him bound and gaged his mouth and went
away for awhile leavin our hero, it was dark and he writhd at his
bonds writhing on the floor wile the rats came out of their holes
and bit him and vernim got all over him from the floor of that
helish spot but soon he managed to push the gag out of his mouth
with the end of his toungeu and got all his bonds off
Soon Mr Wilson came back to tant him with his helpless
condition flowed by his gang of detectives and they said Oh look
at Ramorez sneering at his plight and tanted him with his
helpless condition because Ramorez had put the bonds back sos he
would look the same but could throw them off him when he wanted
to Just look at him now sneered they. To hear him talk you would
thought he was hot stuff and they said Look at him now, him that
was going to do so much, Oh I would not like to be in his fix
Soon Harold got mad at this and jumped up with blasing
eyes throwin off his bonds like they were air Ha Ha sneered
he I guess you better not talk so much next time. Soon there
flowed another awful struggle and siezin his ottomatick back from
Mr Wilson he shot two of the detectives through the heart Bing
Bing went the ottomatick and two more went to meet their Maker
only two detectives left now and so he stabbed one and the
scondrel went to meet his Maker for now our hero was fighting for
his very life. It was dark in there now for night had falen and
a terrible view met the eye Blood was just all over everything
and the rats were eatin the dead men.
Soon our hero manged to get his back to the wall for he was
fighting for his very life now and shot Mr Wilson through the
abodmen Oh said Mr Wilson you---- ---- ---- (The dashes are
Mr Wilson stagerd back vile oaths soilin his lips for he was
in pain Why you---- ----you sneered he I will get you yet----
----you Harold Ramorez
The remainin scondrel had an ax which he came near our heros
head with but missed him and ramand stuck in the wall Our heros
amunition was exhaused what was he to do, the remanin scondrel
would soon get his ax lose so our hero sprung forward and bit him
till his teeth met in the flech for now our hero was fighting for
his very life. At this the remanin scondrel also cursed and
swore vile oaths. Oh sneered he---- ---- ----you Harold Ramorez
what did you bite me for Yes sneered Mr Wilson also and he has
shot me in the abdomen too the----
Soon they were both cursin and reviln him together Why
you---- ---- ---- ---- ----sneered they what did you want to
injure us for----you Harold Ramorez you have not got any sence
and you think you are so much but you are no better than anybody
else and you are a---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----
Soon our hero could stand this no longer. If you could learn
to act like gentlmen said he I would not do any more to you
now and your low vile exppresions have not got any effect on me
only to injure your own self when you go to meet your Maker Oh I
guess you have had enogh for one day and I think you have learned
a lesson and will not soon atemp to beard Harold Ramorez again so
with a tantig laugh he cooly lit a cigarrete and takin the keys
of the cell from Mr Wilson poket went on out
Soon Mr Wilson and the wonded detective manged to bind up
their wonds and got up off the floor---- ----it I will have that
dasstads life now sneered they if we have to swing for it----
---- ---- ----him he shall not eccape us again the low down----
---- ---- ---- ----
A mule train of heavily laden burros laden with gold from the
mines was to be seen wondering among the highest clifts and gorgs
of the Rocky Mts and a tall man with a long silken mustash and a
cartigde belt could be heard cursin vile oaths because he well
knew this was the lair of Harold Ramorez Why---- ---- ----you
you---- ---- ---- ---- mules you sneered he because the poor
mules were not able to go any quicker ---- you I will show you
Why---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----it sneered he his oaths growing
viler and viler I will whip you---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----
----you sos you will not be able to walk for a week---- ----you
you mean old---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----mules you
Scarcly had the vile words left his lips when----
It was his mother's voice, calling from the back porch.
Simultaneously, the noon whistles began to blow, far and
near; and the romancer in the sawdust-box, summoned prosaically
from steep mountain passes above the clouds, paused with
stubby pencil halfway from lip to knee. His eyes were shining:
there was a rapt sweetness in his gaze. As he wrote, his burden
had grown lighter; thoughts of Mrs. Lora Rewbush had almost left
him; and in particular as he recounted (even by the chaste dash)
the annoyed expressions of Mr. Wilson, the wounded detective, and
the silken moustached mule-driver, he had felt mysteriously
relieved concerning the Child Sir Lancelot. Altogether he looked
a better and a brighter boy.
The rapt look faded slowly. He sighed, but moved not.
"Penrod! We're having lunch early just on your account, so
you'll have plenty of time to be dressed for the pageant.
There was silence in Penrod's aerie.
Mrs. Schofields voice sounded nearer, indicating a threatened
approach. Penrod bestirred himself: he blew out the lantern, and
"Well, ain't I coming fast's I can?"
"Do hurry," returned the voice, withdrawing; and the kitchen
door could be heard to close.
Languidly, Penrod proceeded to set his house in order.
Replacing his manuscript and pencil in the cigar-box, he
carefully buried the box in the sawdust, put the lantern and
oil-can back in the soap-box, adjusted the elevator for the
reception of Duke, and, in no uncertain tone, invited the devoted
animal to enter.
Duke stretched himself amiably, affecting not to hear; and
when this pretence became so obvious that even a dog could keep
it up no longer, sat down in a corner, facing it, his back to his
master, and his head perpendicular, nose upward, supported by the
convergence of the two walls. This, from a dog, is the last
word, the comble of the immutable. Penrod commanded,
stormed, tried gentleness; persuaded with honeyed words and
pictured rewards. Duke's eyes looked backward; otherwise he
moved not. Time elapsed. Penrod stooped to flattery, finally to
insincere caresses; then, losing patience spouted sudden threats.
Duke remained immovable, frozen fast to his great gesture of
A footstep sounded on the threshold of the store-room.
"Penrod, come down from that box this instant!"
"Are you up in that sawdust-box again?" As Mrs. Schofield
had just heard her son's voice issue from the box, and also, as
she knew he was there anyhow, her question must have been put for
oratorical purposes only. "Because if you are," she continued
promptly, "I'm going to ask your papa not to let you play there
Penrod's forehead, his eyes, the tops of his ears, and most
of his hair, became visible to her at the top of the box. "I
ain't `playing!'" he said indignantly.
"Well, what ARE you doing?"
"Just coming down," he replied, in a grieved but patient
"Then why don't you COME?"
"I got Duke here. I got to get him DOWN, haven't I? You
don't suppose I want to leave a poor dog in here to starve, do
"Well, hand him down over the side to me. Let me----"
"I'll get him down all right," said Penrod. "I got him up
here, and I guess I can get him down!"
"Well then, DO it!"
"I will if you'll let me alone. If you'll go on back to the
house I promise to be there inside of two minutes. Honest!"
He put extreme urgency into this, and his mother turned
toward the house. "If you're not there in two minutes----"
"I will be!"
After her departure, Penrod expended some finalities of
eloquence upon Duke, then disgustedly gathered him up in his
arms, dumped him into the basket and, shouting sternly, "All in
for the ground floor--step back there, madam--all ready, Jim!"
lowered dog and basket to the floor of the storeroom. Duke
sprang out in tumultuous relief, and bestowed frantic
affection upon his master as the latter slid down from the box.
Penrod dusted himself sketchily, experiencing a sense of
satisfaction, dulled by the overhanging afternoon, perhaps, but
perceptible: he had the feeling of one who has been true to a
cause. The operation of the elevator was unsinful and, save for
the shock to Duke's nervous system, it was harmless; but Penrod
could not possibly have brought himself to exhibit it in the
presence of his mother or any other grown person in the world.
The reasons for secrecy were undefined; at least, Penrod did not
CHAPTER III. THE COSTUME
After lunch his mother and his sister Margaret, a pretty girl of
nineteen, dressed him for the sacrifice. They stood him near his
mother's bedroom window and did what they would to him.
During the earlier anguishes of the process he was mute,
exceeding the pathos of the stricken calf in the shambles; but a
student of eyes might have perceived in his soul the premonitory
symptoms of a sinister uprising. At a rehearsal (in citizens'
clothes) attended by mothers and grown-up sisters, Mrs. Lora
Rewbush had announced that she wished the costuming to be
"as medieval and artistic as possible." Otherwise, and as to
details, she said, she would leave the costumes entirely to the
good taste of the children's parents. Mrs. Schofield and
Margaret were no archeologists, but they knew that their taste
was as good as that of other mothers and sisters concerned; so
with perfect confidence they had planned and executed a costume
for Penrod; and the only misgiving they felt was connected with
the tractability of the Child Sir Lancelot himself.
Stripped to his underwear, he had been made to wash himself
vehemently; then they began by shrouding his legs in a pair of
silk stockings, once blue but now mostly whitish. Upon Penrod
they visibly surpassed mere ampleness; but they were long, and it
required only a rather loose imagination to assume that they were
The upper part of his body was next concealed from view by a
garment so peculiar that its description becomes difficult. In
1886, Mrs. Schofield, then unmarried, had worn at her "coming-out
party" a dress of vivid salmon silk which had been remodelled
after her marriage to accord with various epochs of fashion until
a final, unskilful campaign at a dye-house had left it in a
condition certain to attract much attention to the wearer. Mrs.
Schofield had considered giving it to Della, the cook; but had
decided not to do so, because you never could tell how Della was
going to take things, and cooks were scarce.
It may have been the word "medieval" (in Mrs. Lora Rewbush's
rich phrase) which had inspired the idea for a last conspicuous
usefulness; at all events, the bodice of that once salmon dress,
somewhat modified and moderated, now took a position, for its
farewell appearance in society, upon the back, breast, and arms
of the Child Sir Lancelot.
The area thus costumed ceased at the waist, leaving a Jaeger-
like and unmedieval gap thence to the tops of the stockings. The
inventive genius of woman triumphantly bridged it, but in a
manner which imposes upon history almost insuperable delicacies
of narration. Penrod's father was an old-fashioned man: the
twentieth century had failed to shake his faith in red flannel
for cold weather; and it was while Mrs. Schofield was putting
away her husband's winter underwear that she perceived how
hopelessly one of the elder specimens had dwindled; and
simultaneously she received the inspiration which resulted in a
pair of trunks for the Child Sir Lancelot, and added an earnest
bit of colour, as well as a genuine touch of the Middle Ages, to
his costume. Reversed, fore to aft, with the greater part of the
legs cut off, and strips of silver braid covering the seams, this
garment, she felt, was not traceable to its original source.
When it had been placed upon Penrod, the stockings were
attached to it by a system of safety-pins, not very perceptible
at a distance. Next, after being severely warned against
stooping, Penrod got his feet into the slippers he wore to
dancing-school--"patent-leather pumps" now decorated with large
"If I can't stoop," he began, smolderingly, "I'd like to know
how'm I goin' to kneel in the pag----"
"You must MANAGE!" This, uttered through pins, was
evidently thought to be sufficient.
They fastened some ruching about his slender neck, pinned
ribbons at random all over him, and then Margaret thickly
powdered his hair.
"Oh, yes, that's all right," she said, replying to a question
put by her mother. "They always powdered their hair in Colonial
"It doesn't seem right to me--exactly," objected Mrs.
Schofield, gently. "Sir Lancelot must have been ever so long
before Colonial times."
"That doesn't matter," Margaret reassured her. "Nobody'll
know the difference--Mrs. Lora Rewbush least of all. I don't
think she knows a thing about it, though, of course, she does
write splendidly and the words of the pageant are just beautiful.
Stand still, Penrod!" (The author of "Harold Ramorez" had moved
convulsively.) "Besides, powdered hair's always becoming. Look
at him. You'd hardly know it was Penrod!"
The pride and admiration with which she pronounced this
undeniable truth might have been thought tactless, but Penrod,
not analytical, found his spirits somewhat elevated. No mirror
was in his range of vision and, though he had submitted to
cursory measurements of his person a week earlier, he had no
previous acquaintance with the costume. He began to form a not
unpleasing mental picture of his appearance, something somewhere
between the portraits of George Washington and a vivid memory of
Miss Julia Marlowe at a matinee of "Twelfth Night."
He was additionally cheered by a sword which had been
borrowed from a neighbor, who was a Knight of Pythias. Finally
there was a mantle, an old golf cape of Margaret's. Fluffy
polka-dots of white cotton had been sewed to it generously; also
it was ornamented with a large cross of red flannel, suggested by
the picture of a Crusader in a newspaper advertisement. The
mantle was fastened to Penrod's shoulder (that is, to the
shoulder of Mrs. Schofield's ex-bodice) by means of large safety-
pins, and arranged to hang down behind him, touching his heels,
but obscuring nowise the glory of his facade. Then, at last, he
was allowed to step before a mirror.
It was a full-length glass, and the worst immediately
happened. It might have been a little less violent, perhaps, if
Penrod's expectations had not been so richly and poetically
idealized; but as things were, the revolt was volcanic.
Victor Hugo's account of the fight with the devil-fish, in
"Toilers of the Sea," encourages a belief that, had Hugo
lived and increased in power, he might have been equal to a
proper recital of the half hour which followed Penrod's first
sight of himself as the Child Sir Lancelot. But Mr. Wilson
himself, dastard but eloquent foe of Harold Ramorez, could not
have expressed, with all the vile dashes at his command, the
sentiments which animated Penrod's bosom when the instantaneous
and unalterable conviction descended upon him that he was
intended by his loved ones to make a public spectacle of himself
in his sister's stockings and part of an old dress of his
To him these familiar things were not disguised at all; there
seemed no possibility that the whole world would not know them at
a glance. The stockings were worse than the bodice. He had been
assured that these could not be recognized, but, seeing them in
the mirror, he was sure that no human eye could fail at first
glance to detect the difference between himself and the former
purposes of these stockings. Fold, wrinkle, and void shrieked
their history with a hundred tongues, invoking earthquake,
eclipse, and blue ruin. The frantic youth's final submission was
obtained only after a painful telephonic conversation between
himself and his father, the latter having been called up and
upon, by the exhausted Mrs. Schofield, to subjugate his offspring
The two ladies made all possible haste, after this, to
deliver Penrod into the hands of Mrs. Lora Rewbush;
nevertheless, they found opportunity to exchange earnest
congratulations upon his not having recognized the humble but
serviceable paternal garment now brilliant about the Lancelotish
middle. Altogether, they felt that the costume was a success.
Penrod looked like nothing ever remotely imagined by Sir Thomas
Malory or Alfred Tennyson;--for that matter, he looked like
nothing ever before seen on earth; but as Mrs. Schofield and
Margaret took their places in the audience at the Women's Arts
and Guild Hall, the anxiety they felt concerning Penrod's
elocutionary and gesticular powers, so soon to be put to public
test, was pleasantly tempered by their satisfaction that, owing
to their efforts, his outward appearance would be a credit to the
CHAPTER IV. DESPERATION
The Child Sir Lancelot found himself in a large anteroom behind
the stage--a room crowded with excited children, all about
equally medieval and artistic. Penrod was less conspicuous than
he thought himself, but he was so preoccupied with his own shame,
steeling his nerves to meet the first inevitable taunting
reference to his sister's stockings, that he failed to perceive
there were others present in much of his own unmanned condition.
Retiring to a corner, immediately upon his entrance, he managed
to unfasten the mantle at the shoulders, and, drawing it round
him, pinned it again at his throat so that it concealed
the rest of his costume. This permitted a temporary relief, but
increased his horror of the moment when, in pursuance of the
action of the "pageant," the sheltering garment must be cast
Some of the other child knights were also keeping their
mantles close about them. A few of the envied opulent swung
brilliant fabrics from their shoulders, airily, showing off hired
splendours from a professional costumer's stock, while one or two
were insulting examples of parental indulgence, particularly
little Maurice Levy, the Child Sir Galahad. This shrinking
person went clamorously about, making it known everywhere that
the best tailor in town had been dazzled by a great sum into
constructing his costume. It consisted of blue velvet
knickerbockers, a white satin waistcoat, and a beautifully cut
little swallow-tailed coat with pearl buttons. The medieval and
artistic triumph was completed by a mantle of yellow velvet, and
little white boots, sporting gold tassels.
All this radiance paused in a brilliant career and addressed
the Child Sir Lancelot, gathering an immediately formed
semicircular audience of little girls. Woman was ever the
trailer of magnificence.
"What YOU got on?" inquired Mr. Levy, after dispensing
information. "What you got on under that ole golf cape?"
Penrod looked upon him coldly. At other times his
questioner would have approached him with deference, even with
apprehension. But to-day the Child Sir Galahad was somewhat
intoxicated with the power of his own beauty.
"What YOU got on?" he repeated.
"Oh, nothin'," said Penrod, with an indifference assumed at
great cost to his nervous system.
The elate Maurice was inspired to set up as a wit. "Then
you're nakid!" he shouted exultantly. "Penrod Schofield says he
hasn't got nothin' on under that ole golf cape! He's nakid!
The indelicate little girls giggled delightedly, and a
javelin pierced the inwards of Penrod when he saw that the Child
Elaine, amber-curled and beautiful Marjorie Jones, lifted golden
laughter to the horrid jest.
Other boys and girls came flocking to the uproar. "He's
nakid, he's nakid!" shrieked the Child Sir Galahad. "Penrod
Schofield's nakid! He's NA-A-A-KID!"
"Hush, hush!" said Mrs. Lora Rewbush, pushing her way into
the group. "Remember, we are all little knights and ladies to-
day. Little knights and ladies of the Table Round would not make
so much noise. Now children, we must begin to take our places on
the stage. Is everybody here?"
Penrod made his escape under cover of this diversion: he slid
behind Mrs. Lora Rewbush, and being near a door, opened it
unnoticed and went out quickly, closing it behind him. He
found himself in a narrow and vacant hallway which led to a door
marked "Janitor's Room."
Burning with outrage, heart-sick at the sweet, cold-blooded
laughter of Marjorie Jones, Penrod rested his elbows upon a
window-sill and speculated upon the effects of a leap from the
second story. One of the reasons he gave it up was his desire to
live on Maurice Levy's account: already he was forming
educational plans for the Child Sir Galahad.
A stout man in blue overalls passed through the hallway
muttering to himself petulantly. "I reckon they'll find that
hall hot enough NOW!" he said, conveying to Penrod an
impression that some too feminine women had sent him upon an
unreasonable errand to the furnace. He went into the Janitor's
Room and, emerging a moment later, minus the overalls, passed
Penrod again with a bass rumble--"Dern 'em!" it seemed he said--
and made a gloomy exit by the door at the upper end of the
The conglomerate and delicate rustle of a large, mannerly
audience was heard as the janitor opened and closed the door; and
stage-fright seized the boy. The orchestra began an overture,
and, at that, Penrod, trembling violently, tiptoed down the hall
into the Janitor's Room. It was a cul-de-sac: There was no
outlet save by the way he had come.
Despairingly he doffed his mantle and looked down upon
himself for a last sickening assurance that the stockings
were as obviously and disgracefully Margaret's as they had seemed
in the mirror at home. For a moment he was encouraged: perhaps
he was no worse than some of the other boys. Then he noticed
that a safety-pin had opened; one of those connecting the
stockings with his trunks. He sat down to fasten it and his eye
fell for the first time with particular attention upon the
trunks. Until this instant he had been preoccupied with the
Slowly recognition dawned in his eyes.
The Schofields' house stood on a corner at the intersection
of two main-travelled streets; the fence was low, and the
publicity obtained by the washable portion of the family apparel,
on Mondays, had often been painful to Penrod; for boys have a
peculiar sensitiveness in these matters. A plain, matter-of-fact
washerwoman' employed by Mrs. Schofield, never left anything to
the imagination of the passer-by; and of all her calm display the
scarlet flaunting of his father's winter wear had most abashed
Penrod. One day Marjorie Jones, all gold and starch, had passed
when the dreadful things were on the line: Penrod had hidden
himself, shuddering. The whole town, he was convinced, knew
these garments intimately and derisively.
And now, as he sat in the janitor's chair, the horrible and
paralyzing recognition came. He had not an instant's doubt that
every fellow actor, as well as every soul in the audience, would
recognize what his mother and sister had put upon him. For
as the awful truth became plain to himself it seemed blazoned to
the world; and far, far louder than the stockings, the trunks did
fairly bellow the grisly secret: WHOSE they were and WHAT
Most people have suffered in a dream the experience of
finding themselves very inadequately clad in the midst of a crowd
of well-dressed people, and such dreamers' sensations are
comparable to Penrod's, though faintly, because Penrod was awake
and in much too full possession of the most active capacities for
A human male whose dress has been damaged, or reveals some
vital lack, suffers from a hideous and shameful loneliness which
makes every second absolutely unbearable until he is again as
others of his sex and species; and there is no act or sin
whatever too desperate for him in his struggle to attain that
condition. Also, there is absolutely no embarrassment possible
to a woman which is comparable to that of a man under
corresponding circumstances and in this a boy is a man. Gazing
upon the ghastly trunks, the stricken Penrod felt that he was a
degree worse then nude; and a great horror of himself filled his
The door into the hallway opened, and a voice demanded him.
He could not be seen from the hallway, but the hue and the cry
was up; and he knew he must be taken. It was only a question
of seconds. He huddled in his chair.
"Penrod Schofield!" cried Mrs. Lora Rewbush angrily.
The distracted boy rose and, as he did so, a long pin sank
deep into his back. He extracted it frenziedly, which brought to
his ears a protracted and sonorous ripping, too easily located by
a final gesture of horror.
"Penrod Schofield!" Mrs. Lora Rewbush had come out into the
And now, in this extremity, when all seemed lost indeed,
particularly including honour, the dilating eye of the outlaw
fell upon the blue overalls which the janitor had left hanging
upon a peg.
Inspiration and action were almost simultaneous.
CHAPTER V. THE PAGEANT OF THE TABLE ROUND
"Penrod!" Mrs. Lora Rewbush stood in the doorway, indignantly
gazing upon a Child Sir Lancelot mantled to the heels. "Do you
know that you have kept an audience of five hundred people
waiting for ten minutes?" She, also, detained the five hundred
while she spake further.
"Well," said Penrod contentedly, as he followed her toward
the buzzing stage, "I was just sitting there thinking."
Two minutes later the curtain rose on a medieval castle hall
richly done in the new stage-craft made in Germany and consisting
of pink and blue cheesecloth. The Child King Arthur and
the Child Queen Guinevere were disclosed upon thrones, with the
Child Elaine and many other celebrities in attendance; while
about fifteen Child Knights were seated at a dining-room table
round, which was covered with a large Oriental rug, and displayed
(for the knights' refreshment) a banquet service of silver
loving-cups and trophies, borrowed from the Country Club and some
local automobile manufacturers.
In addition to this splendour, potted plants and palms have
seldom been more lavishly used in any castle on the stage or off.
The footlights were aided by a "spot-light" from the rear of the
hall; and the children were revealed in a blaze of glory.
A hushed, multitudinous "O-OH" of admiration came from
the decorous and delighted audience. Then the children sang
"Chuldrun of the Tabul Round,
Lit-tul knights and ladies we.
Let our voy-siz all resound
Faith and hope and charitee!"
The Child King Arthur rose, extended his sceptre with the
decisive gesture of a semaphore, and spake:
"Each littul knight and lady born
Has noble deeds TO perform
In THEE child-world of shivullree,
No matter how small his share may be.
Let each advance and tell in turn
What claim has each to knighthood earn."
The Child Sir Mordred, the villain of this piece, rose in his
place at the table round, and piped the only lines ever written
by Mrs. Lora Rewbush which Penrod Schofield could have pronounced
without loathing. Georgie Bassett, a really angelic boy, had
been selected for the role of Mordred. His perfect conduct had
earned for him the sardonic sobriquet, "The Little Gentleman,"
among his boy acquaintances. (Naturally he had no friends.)
Hence the other boys supposed that he had been selected for the
wicked Mordred as a reward of virtue. He declaimed serenely:
"I hight Sir Mordred the Child, and I teach
Lessons of selfishest evil, and reach
Out into darkness. Thoughtless, unkind,
And ruthless is Mordred, and unrefined."
The Child Mordred was properly rebuked and denied the
accolade, though, like the others, he seemed to have assumed the
title already. He made a plotter's exit. Whereupon Maurice Levy
rose, bowed, announced that he highted the Child Sir Galahad, and
continued with perfect sang-froid:
"I am the purest of the pure.
I have but kindest thoughts each day.
I give my riches to the poor,
And follow in the Master's way."
This elicited tokens of approval from the Child King Arthur,
and he bade Maurice "stand forth" and come near the throne, a
command obeyed with the easy grace of conscious merit.
It was Penrod's turn. He stepped back from his chair, the
table between him and the audience, and began in a high,
"I hight Sir Lancelot du Lake, the Child,
Gentul-hearted, meek, and mild.
What though I'm BUT a littul child,
Gentul-heartud, meek, and mild,
I do my share though but--though but----"
Penrod paused and gulped. The voice of Mrs. Lora Rewbush was
heard from the wings, prompting irritably, and the Child. Sir
"I do my share though but--though but a tot,
I pray you knight Sir Lancelot!"
This also met the royal favour, and Penrod was bidden to join
Sir Galahad at the throne. As he crossed the stage, Mrs.
Schofield whispered to Margaret:
"That boy! He's unpinned his mantle and fixed it to cover
his whole costume. After we worked so hard to make it becoming!"
"Never mind; he'll have to take the cape off in a minute,"
returned Margaret. She leaned forward suddenly, narrowing her
eyes to see better. "What IS that thing hanging about his
left ankle?" she whispered uneasily. "How queer! He must have
got tangled in something."
"Where?" asked Mrs. Schofield, in alarm.
"His left foot. It makes him stumble. Don't you see? It
looks--it looks like an elephant's foot!"
The Child Sir Lancelot and the Child Sir Galahad clasped
hands before their Child King. Penrod was conscious of a great
uplift; in a moment he would have to throw aside his mantle, but
even so he was protected and sheltered in the human garment of a
man. His stage-fright had passed, for the audience was but an
indistinguishable blur of darkness beyond the dazzling lights.
His most repulsive speech (that in which he proclaimed himself a
"tot") was over and done with; and now at last the small, moist
hand of the Child Sir Galahad lay within his own. Craftily his
brown fingers stole from Maurice's palm to the wrist. The two
boys declaimed in concert:
"We are two chuldrun of the Tabul Round
Strewing kindness all a-round.
With love and good deeds striving ever for the best,
May our littul efforts e'er be blest.
Two littul hearts we offer. See
United in love, faith, hope, and char--OW!"
The conclusion of the duet was marred. The Child Sir Galahad
suddenly stiffened, and, uttering an irrepressible shriek of
anguish, gave a brief exhibition of the contortionist's art.
("HE'S TWISTIN' MY WRIST! DERN YOU, LEGGO!")
The voice of Mrs. Lora Rewbush was again heard from the
wings; it sounded bloodthirsty. Penrod released his victim;
and the Child King Arthur, somewhat disconcerted, extended his
sceptre and, with the assistance of the enraged prompter, said:
"Sweet child-friends of the Tabul Round,
In brotherly love and kindness abound,
Sir Lancelot, you have spoken well,
Sir Galahad, too, as clear as bell.
So now pray doff your mantles gay.
You shall be knighted this very day."
And Penrod doffed his mantle.
Simultaneously, a thick and vasty gasp came from the
audience, as from five hundred bathers in a wholly unexpected
surf. This gasp was punctuated irregularly, over the auditorium,
by imperfectly subdued screams both of dismay and incredulous
joy, and by two dismal shrieks. Altogether it was an
extraordinary sound, a sound never to be forgotten by any one who
heard it. It was almost as unforgettable as the sight which
caused it; the word "sight" being here used in its vernacular
sense, for Penrod, standing unmantled and revealed in all the
medieval and artistic glory of the janitor's blue overalls, falls
within its meaning.
The janitor was a heavy man, and his overalls, upon Penrod,
were merely oceanic. The boy was at once swaddled and lost
within their blue gulfs and vast saggings; and the left leg, too
hastily rolled up, had descended with a distinctively elephantine
effect, as Margaret had observed. Certainly, the Child Sir
Lancelot was at least a sight.
It is probable that a great many in that hall must have had,
even then, a consciousness that they were looking on at History
in the Making. A supreme act is recognizable at sight: it bears
the birthmark of immortality. But Penrod, that marvellous boy,
had begun to declaim, even with the gesture of flinging off his
mantle for the accolade:
"I first, the Child Sir Lancelot du Lake,
Will volunteer to knighthood take,
And kneeling here before your throne
I vow to----"
He finished his speech unheard. The audience had recovered
breath, but had lost self-control, and there ensued something
later described by a participant as a sort of cultured riot.
The actors in the "pageant" were not so dumfounded by
Penrod's costume as might have been expected. A few precocious
geniuses perceived that the overalls were the Child Lancelot's
own comment on maternal intentions; and these were profoundly
impressed: they regarded him with the grisly admiration of young
and ambitious criminals for a jail-mate about to be distinguished
by hanging. But most of the children simply took it to be the
case (a little strange, but not startling) that Penrod's mother
had dressed him like that--which is pathetic. They tried to go
on with the "pageant."
They made a brief, manful effort. But the irrepressible
outbursts from the audience bewildered them; every time Sir
Lancelot du Lake the Child opened his mouth, the great, shadowy
house fell into an uproar, and the children into confusion.
Strong women and brave girls in the audience went out into the
lobby, shrieking and clinging to one another. Others remained,
rocking in their seats, helpless and spent. The neighbourhood of
Mrs. Schofield and Margaret became, tactfully, a desert. Friends
of the author went behind the scenes and encountered a hitherto
unknown phase of Mrs. Lora Rewbush; they said, afterward, that
she hardly seemed to know what she was doing. She begged to be
left alone somewhere with Penrod Schofield, for just a little
They led her away.
CHAPTER VI. EVENING
The sun was setting behind the back fence (though at a
considerable distance) as Penrod Schofield approached that fence
and looked thoughtfully up at the top of it, apparently having in
mind some purpose to climb up and sit there. Debating this, he
passed his fingers gently up and down the backs of his legs; and
then something seemed to decide him not to sit anywhere. He
leaned against the fence, sighed profoundly, and gazed at Duke,
his wistful dog.
The sigh was reminiscent: episodes of simple pathos were
passing before his inward eye. About the most painful was the
vision of lovely Marjorie Jones, weeping with rage as the
Child Sir Lancelot was dragged, insatiate, from the prostrate and
howling Child Sir Galahad, after an onslaught delivered the
precise instant the curtain began to fall upon the demoralized
"pageant." And then--oh, pangs! oh, woman!--she slapped at the
ruffian's cheek, as he was led past her by a resentful janitor;
and turning, flung her arms round the Child Sir Galahad's neck.
"PENROD SCHOFIELD, DON'T YOU DARE EVER SPEAK TO ME AGAIN
AS LONG AS YOU LIVE!" Maurice's little white boots and gold
tassels had done their work.
At home the late Child Sir Lancelot was consigned to a locked
clothes-closet pending the arrival of his father. Mr. Schofield
came and, shortly after, there was put into practice an old
patriarchal custom. It is a custom of inconceivable antiquity:
probably primordial, certainly prehistoric, but still in vogue in
some remaining citadels of the ancient simplicities of the
And now, therefore, in the dusk, Penrod leaned against the
fence and sighed.
His case is comparable to that of an adult who could have
survived a similar experience. Looking back to the sawdust-box,
fancy pictures this comparable adult a serious and inventive
writer engaged in congenial literary activities in a private
retreat. We see this period marked by the creation of some of
the most virile passages of a Work dealing exclusively in red
corpuscles and huge primal impulses. We see this thoughtful man
dragged from his calm seclusion to a horrifying publicity; forced
to adopt the stage and, himself a writer, compelled to exploit
the repulsive sentiments of an author not only personally
distasteful to him but whose whole method and school in belles
lettres he despises.
We see him reduced by desperation and modesty to stealing a
pair of overalls. We conceive him to have ruined, then, his own
reputation, and to have utterly disgraced his family; next, to
have engaged in the duello and to have been spurned by his
lady-love, thus lost to him (according to her own declaration)
forever. Finally, we must behold: imprisonment by the
authorities; the third degree and flagellation.
We conceive our man decided that his career had been perhaps
too eventful. Yet Penrod had condensed all of it into eight
It appears that he had at least some shadowy perception of a
recent fulness of life, for, as he leaned against the fence,
gazing upon his wistful Duke, he sighed again and murmured aloud:
"WELL, HASN'T THIS BEEN A DAY!"
But in a little while a star came out, freshly lighted, from
the highest part of the sky, and Penrod, looking up, noticed it
casually and a little drowsily. He yawned. Then he sighed once
more, but not reminiscently: evening had come; the day was over.
It was a sigh of pure ennui.
CHAPTER VII. EVILS OF DRINK
Next day, Penrod acquired a dime by a simple and antique process
which was without doubt sometimes practised by the boys of
Babylon. When the teacher of his class in Sunday-school
requested the weekly contribution, Penrod, fumbling honestly (at
first) in the wrong pockets, managed to look so embarrassed that
the gentle lady told him not to mind, and said she was often
forgetful herself. She was so sweet about it that, looking into
the future, Penrod began to feel confident of a small but regular
At the close of the afternoon services he did not go
home, but proceeded to squander the funds just withheld from
China upon an orgy of the most pungently forbidden description.
In a Drug Emporium, near the church, he purchased a five-cent
sack of candy consisting for the most part of the heavily
flavoured hoofs of horned cattle, but undeniably substantial, and
so generously capable of resisting solution that the purchaser
must needs be avaricious beyond reason who did not realize his
Equipped with this collation, Penrod contributed his
remaining nickel to a picture show, countenanced upon the seventh
day by the legal but not the moral authorities. Here, in cozy
darkness, he placidly insulted his liver with jaw-breaker upon
jaw-breaker from the paper sack, and in a surfeit of content
watched the silent actors on the screen.
One film made a lasting impression upon him. It depicted
with relentless pathos the drunkard's progress; beginning with
his conversion to beer in the company of loose travelling men;
pursuing him through an inexplicable lapse into evening clothes
and the society of some remarkably painful ladies, next,
exhibiting the effects of alcohol on the victim's domestic
disposition, the unfortunate man was seen in the act of striking
his wife and, subsequently, his pleading baby daughter with an
abnormally heavy walking-stick. Their flight--through the snow--
to seek the protection of a relative was shown, and finally,
the drunkard's picturesque behaviour at the portals of a
So fascinated was Penrod that he postponed his departure
until this film came round again, by which time he had finished
his unnatural repast and almost, but not quite, decided against
following the profession of a drunkard when he grew up.
Emerging, satiated, from the theatre, a public timepiece
before a jeweller's shop confronted him with an unexpected dial
and imminent perplexities. How was he to explain at home these
hours of dalliance? There was a steadfast rule that he return
direct from Sunday-school; and Sunday rules were important,
because on that day there was his father, always at home and at
hand, perilously ready for action. One of the hardest conditions
of boyhood is the almost continuous strain put upon the powers of
invention by the constant and harassing necessity for
explanations of every natural act.
Proceeding homeward through the deepening twilight as rapidly
as possible, at a gait half skip and half canter, Penrod made up
his mind in what manner he would account for his long delay, and,
as he drew nearer, rehearsed in words the opening passage of his
"Now see here," he determined to begin; "I do not wished to
be blamed for things I couldn't help, nor any other boy. I was
going along the street by a cottage and a lady put her head out
of the window and said her husband was drunk and whipping her
and her little girl, and she asked me wouldn't I come in and help
hold him. So I went in and tried to get hold of this drunken
lady's husband where he was whipping their baby daughter, but he
wouldn't pay any attention, and I TOLD her I ought to be
getting home, but she kep' on askin' me to stay----"
At this point he reached the corner of his own yard, where a
coincidence not only checked the rehearsal of his eloquence but
happily obviated all occasion for it. A cab from the station
drew up in front of the gate, and there descended a troubled lady
in black and a fragile little girl about three. Mrs. Schofield
rushed from the house and enfolded both in hospitable arms.
They were Penrod's Aunt Clara and cousin, also Clara, from
Dayton, Illinois, and in the flurry of their arrival everybody
forgot to put Penrod to the question. It is doubtful, however,
if he felt any relief; there may have been even a slight,
unconscious disappointment not altogether dissimilar to that of
an actor deprived of a good part.
In the course of some really necessary preparations for
dinner he stepped from the bathroom into the pink-and-white
bedchamber of his sister, and addressed her rather thickly
through a towel.
"When'd mamma find out Aunt Clara and Cousin Clara were
"Not till she saw them from the window. She just happened to
look out as they drove up. Aunt Clara telegraphed this morning,
but it wasn't delivered."
"How long they goin' to stay?"
"I don't know."
Penrod ceased to rub his shining face, and thoughtfully
tossed the towel through the bathroom door. "Uncle John won't
try to make 'em come back home, I guess, will he?" (Uncle John
was Aunt Clara's husband, a successful manufacturer of stoves,
and his lifelong regret was that he had not entered the Baptist
ministry.) "He'll let 'em stay here quietly, won't he?"
"What ARE you talking about?" demanded Margaret, turning
from her mirror. "Uncle John sent them here. Why shouldn't he
let them stay?"
Penrod looked crestfallen. "Then he hasn't taken to drink?"
"Certainly not!" She emphasized the denial with a pretty peal
of soprano laughter.
"Then why," asked her brother gloomily, "why did Aunt Clara
look so worried when she got here?"
"Good gracious! Don't people worry about anything except
somebody's drinking? Where did you get such an idea?"
"Well," he persisted, "you don't KNOW it ain't that."
She laughed again, wholeheartedly. "Poor Uncle John! He
won't even allow grape juice or ginger ale in his house.
They came because they were afraid little Clara might catch the
measles. She's very delicate, and there's such an epidemic of
measles among the children over in Dayton the schools had to be
closed. Uncle John got so worried that last night he dreamed
about it; and this morning he couldn't stand it any longer and
packed them off over here, though he thinks its wicked to travel
on Sunday. And Aunt Clara was worried when she got here because
they'd forgotten to check her trunk and it will have to be sent
by express. Now what in the name of the common sense put it into
your head that Uncle John had taken to----"
"Oh, nothing." He turned lifelessly away and went downstairs,
a new-born hope dying in his bosom. Life seems so needlessly
CHAPTER VIII. SCHOOL
Next morning, when he had once more resumed the dreadful burden
of education, it seemed infinitely duller. And yet what
pleasanter sight is there than a schoolroom well filled with
children of those sprouting years just before the 'teens? The
casual visitor, gazing from the teacher's platform upon these
busy little heads, needs only a blunted memory to experience the
most agreeable and exhilarating sensations. Still, for the
greater part, the children are unconscious of the happiness of
their condition; for nothing is more pathetically true than that
we "never know when we are well off." The boys in a
public school are less aware of their happy state than are the
girls; and of all the boys in his room, probably Penrod himself
had the least appreciation of his felicity.
He sat staring at an open page of a textbook, but not
studying; not even reading; not even thinking. Nor was he lost
in a reverie: his mind's eye was shut, as his physical eye might
well have been, for the optic nerve, flaccid with ennui,
conveyed nothing whatever of the printed page upon which the orb
of vision was partially focused. Penrod was doing something very
unusual and rare, something almost never accomplished except by
coloured people or by a boy in school on a spring day: he was
doing really nothing at all. He was merely a state of being.
From the street a sound stole in through the open window, and
abhorring Nature began to fill the vacuum called Penrod
Schofield; for the sound was the spring song of a mouth-organ,
coming down the sidewalk. The windows were intentionally above
the level of the eyes of the seated pupils; but the picture of
the musician was plain to Penrod, painted for him by a quality in
the runs and trills, partaking of the oboe, of the calliope, and
of cats in anguish; an excruciating sweetness obtained only by
the wallowing, walloping yellow-pink palm of a hand whose back
was Congo black and shiny. The music came down the street and
passed beneath the window, accompanied by the care-free shuffling
of a pair of old shoes scuffing syncopations on the cement
sidewalk. It passed into the distance; became faint and blurred;
was gone. Emotion stirred in Penrod a great and poignant desire,
but (perhaps fortunately) no fairy godmother made her appearance.
Otherwise Penrod would have gone down the street in a black skin,
playing the mouth-organ, and an unprepared coloured youth would
have found himself enjoying educational advantages for which he
had no ambition whatever.
Roused from perfect apathy, the boy cast about the schoolroom
an eye wearied to nausea by the perpetual vision of the neat
teacher upon the platform, the backs of the heads of the pupils
in front of him, and the monotonous stretches of blackboard
threateningly defaced by arithmetical formulae and other insignia
of torture. Above the blackboard, the walls of the high room
were of white plaster--white with the qualified whiteness of old
snow in a soft coal town. This dismal expanse was broken by four
lithographic portraits, votive offerings of a thoughtful
publisher. The portraits were of good and great men, kind men;
men who loved children. Their faces were noble and benevolent.
But the lithographs offered the only rest for the eyes of
children fatigued by the everlasting sameness of the schoolroom.
Long day after long day, interminable week in and interminable
week out, vast month on vast month, the pupils sat with those
four portraits beaming kindness down upon them. The faces
became permanent in the consciousness of the children; they
became an obsession--in and out of school the children were never
free of them. The four faces haunted the minds of children
falling asleep; they hung upon the minds of children waking at
night; they rose forebodingly in the minds of children waking in
the morning; they became monstrously alive in the minds of
children lying sick of fever. Never, while the children of that
schoolroom lived, would they be able to forget one detail of the
four lithographs: the hand of Longfellow was fixed, for them,
forever, in his beard. And by a simple and unconscious
association of ideas, Penrod Schofield was accumulating an
antipathy for the gentle Longfellow and for James Russell Lowell
and for Oliver Wendell Holmes and for John Greenleaf Whittier,
which would never permit him to peruse a work of one of those
great New Englanders without a feeling of personal resentment.
His eyes fell slowly and inimically from the brow of Whittier
to the braid of reddish hair belonging to Victorine Riordan, the
little octoroon girl who sat directly in front of him.
Victorine's back was as familiar to Penrod as the necktie of
Oliver Wendell Holmes. So was her gayly coloured plaid waist.
He hated the waist as he hated Victorine herself, without knowing
why. Enforced companionship in large quantities and on an equal
basis between the sexes appears to sterilize the affections,
and schoolroom romances are few.
Victorine's hair was thick, and the brickish glints in it
were beautiful, but Penrod was very tired of it. A tiny knot of
green ribbon finished off the braid and kept it from unravelling;
and beneath the ribbon there was a final wisp of hair which was
just long enough to repose upon Penrod's desk when Victorine
leaned back in her seat. It was there now. Thoughtfully, he
took the braid between thumb and forefinger, and, without
disturbing Victorine, dipped the end of it and the green ribbon
into the inkwell of his desk. He brought hair and ribbon forth
dripping purple ink, and partially dried them on a blotter,
though, a moment later when Victorine leaned forward, they were
still able to add a few picturesque touches to the plaid waist.
Rudolph Krauss, across the aisle from Penrod, watched the
operation with protuberant eyes, fascinated. Inspired to
imitation, he took a piece of chalk from his pocket and wrote
"RATS" across the shoulder-blades of the boy in front of him,
then looked across appealingly to Penrod for tokens of
congratulation. Penrod yawned. It may not be denied that at
times he appeared to be a very self-centred boy.
CHAPTER IX. SOARING
Half the members of the class passed out to a recitation-room,
the empurpled Victorine among them, and Miss Spence started the
remaining half through the ordeal of trial by mathematics.
Several boys and girls were sent to the blackboard, and Penrod,
spared for the moment, followed their operations a little while
with his eyes, but not with his mind; then, sinking deeper in his
seat, limply abandoned the effort. His eyes remained open, but
saw nothing; the routine of the arithmetic lesson reached his
ears in familiar, meaningless sounds, but he heard nothing; and
yet, this time, he was profoundly occupied. He had
drifted away from the painful land of facts, and floated now in a
new sea of fancy which he had just discovered.
Maturity forgets the marvellous realness of a boy's day-
dreams, how colourful they glow, rosy and living, and how opaque
the curtain closing down between the dreamer and the actual
world. That curtain is almost sound-proof, too, and causes more
throat-trouble among parents than is suspected.
The nervous monotony of the schoolroom inspires a sometimes
unbearable longing for something astonishing to happen, and as
every boy's fundamental desire is to do something astonishing
himself, so as to be the centre of all human interest and awe, it
was natural that Penrod should discover in fancy the delightful
secret of self-levitation. He found, in this curious series of
imaginings, during the lesson in arithmetic, that the atmosphere
may be navigated as by a swimmer under water, but with infinitely
greater ease and with perfect comfort in breathing. In his mind
he extended his arms gracefully, at a level with his shoulders,
and delicately paddled the air with his hands, which at once
caused him to be drawn up out of his seat and elevated gently to
a position about midway between the floor and the ceiling, where
he came to an equilibrium and floated; a sensation not the less
exquisite because of the screams of his fellow pupils, appalled
by the miracle. Miss Spence herself was amazed and
frightened, but he only smiled down carelessly upon her when
she commanded him to return to earth; and then, when she climbed
upon a desk to pull him down, he quietly paddled himself a little
higher, leaving his toes just out of her reach. Next, he swam
through a few slow somersaults to show his mastery of the new
art, and, with the shouting of the dumfounded scholars ringing in
his ears, turned on his side and floated swiftly out of the
window, immediately rising above the housetops, while people in
the street below him shrieked, and a trolley car stopped dead in
With almost no exertion he paddled himself, many yards at a
stroke, to the girls' private school where Marjorie Jones was a
pupil--Marjorie Jones of the amber curls and the golden voice!
Long before the "Pageant of the Table Round," she had offered
Penrod a hundred proofs that she considered him wholly
undesirable and ineligible. At the Friday Afternoon Dancing
Class she consistently incited and led the laughter at him
whenever Professor Bartet singled him out for admonition in
matters of feet and decorum. And but yesterday she had chid him
for his slavish lack of memory in daring to offer her a greeting
on the way to Sunday-school. "Well! I expect you must forgot I
told you never to speak to me again! If I was a boy, I'd be too
proud to come hanging around people that don't speak to me, even
if I WAS the Worst Boy in Town!" So she flouted him.
But now, as he floated in through the window of her classroom and
swam gently along the ceiling like an escaped toy balloon, she
fell upon her knees beside her little desk, and, lifting up her
arms toward him, cried with love and admiration:
He negligently kicked a globe from the high chandelier, and,
smiling coldly, floated out through the hall to the front steps
of the school, while Marjorie followed, imploring him to grant
her one kind look.
In the street an enormous crowd had gathered, headed by Miss
Spence and a brass band; and a cheer from a hundred thousand
throats shook the very ground as Penrod swam overhead. Marjorie
knelt upon the steps and watched adoringly while Penrod took the
drum-major's baton and, performing sinuous evolutions above the
crowd, led the band. Then he threw the baton so high that it
disappeared from sight; but he went swiftly after it, a double
delight, for he had not only the delicious sensation of rocketing
safely up and up into the blue sky, but also that of standing in
the crowd below, watching and admiring himself as he dwindled to
a speck, disappeared and then, emerging from a cloud, came
speeding down, with the baton in his hand, to the level of the
treetops, where he beat time for the band and the vast throng and
Marjorie Jones, who all united in the "Star-spangled Banner" in
honour of his aerial achievements. It was a great moment.
It was a great moment, but something seemed to threaten it.
The face of Miss Spence looking up from the crowd grew too
vivid--unpleasantly vivid. She was beckoning him and shouting,
"Come down, Penrod Schofield! Penrod Schofield, come down here!"
He could hear her above the band and the singing of the
multitude; she seemed intent on spoiling everything. Marjorie
Jones was weeping to show how sorry she was that she had formerly
slighted him, and throwing kisses to prove that she loved him;
but Miss Spence kept jumping between him and Marjorie,
incessantly calling his name.
He grew more and more irritated with her; he was the most
important person in the world and was engaged in proving it to
Marjorie Jones and the whole city, and yet Miss Spence seemed to
feel she still had the right to order him about as she did in the
old days when he was an ordinary schoolboy. He was furious; he
was sure she wanted him to do something disagreeable. It seemed
to him that she had screamed "Penrod Schofield!" thousands of
From the beginning of his aerial experiments in his own
schoolroom, he had not opened his lips, knowing somehow that one
of the requirements for air floating is perfect silence on the
part of the floater; but, finally, irritated beyond measure by
Miss Spence's clamorous insistence, he was unable to restrain an
indignant rebuke and immediately came to earth with a frightful
Miss Spence--in the flesh--had directed toward the physical
body of the absent Penrod an inquiry as to the fractional
consequences of dividing seventeen apples, fairly, among three
boys, and she was surprised and displeased to receive no answer
although to the best of her knowledge and belief, he was looking
fixedly at her. She repeated her question crisply, without
visible effect; then summoned him by name with increasing
asperity. Twice she called him, while all his fellow pupils
turned to stare at the gazing boy. She advanced a step from the
"Oh, my goodness!" he shouted suddenly. "Can't you keep
still a MINUTE?"
CHAPTER X. UNCLE JOHN
Miss Spence gasped. So did the pupils.
The whole room filled with a swelling conglomerate "O-O-O-
As for Penrod himself, the walls reeled with the shock. He
sat with his mouth open, a mere lump of stupefaction. For the
appalling words that he had hurled at the teacher were as
inexplicable to him as to any other who heard them.
Nothing is more treacherous than the human mind; nothing else
so loves to play the Iscariot. Even when patiently bullied into
a semblance of order and training, it may prove but a base and
shifty servant. And Penrod's mind was not his servant;
it was a master, with the April wind's whims; and it had just
played him a diabolical trick. The very jolt with which he came
back to the schoolroom in the midst of his fancied flight jarred
his day-dream utterly out of him; and he sat, open-mouthed in
horror at what he had said.
The unanimous gasp of awe was protracted. Miss Spence,
however, finally recovered her breath, and, returning
deliberately to the platform, faced the school. "And then for a
little while," as pathetic stories sometimes recount, "everything
was very still." It was so still, in fact, that Penrod's newborn
notoriety could almost be heard growing. This grisly silence was
at last broken by the teacher.
"Penrod Schofield, stand up!"
The miserable child obeyed.
"What did you mean by speaking to me in that way?"
He hung his head, raked the floor with the side of his shoe,
swayed, swallowed, looked suddenly at his hands with the air of
never having seen them before, then clasped them behind him. The
school shivered in ecstatic horror, every fascinated eye upon
him; yet there was not a soul in the room but was profoundly
grateful to him for the sensation--including the offended teacher
herself. Unhappily, all this gratitude was unconscious and
altogether different from the kind which, results in
testimonials and loving-cups. On the contrary!
"Answer me at once! Why did you speak to me like that?"
"I was----" He choked, unable to continue.
"I was just--thinking," he managed to stammer.
"That will not do," she returned sharply. "I wish to know
immediately why you spoke as you did."
The stricken Penrod answered helplessly:
"Because I was just thinking."
Upon the very rack he could have offered no ampler truthful
explanation. It was all he knew about it.
Miss Spence's expression gave evidence that her power of
self-restraint was undergoing a remarkable test. However, after
taking counsel with herself, she commanded:
He shuffled forward, and she placed a chair upon the platform
near her own.
Then (but not at all as if nothing had happened), she
continued the lesson in arithmetic. Spiritually the children may
have learned a lesson in very small fractions indeed as they
gazed at the fragment of sin before them on the stool of
penitence. They all stared at him attentively with hard and
passionately interested eyes, in which there was never one trace
of pity. It cannot be said with precision that he writhed; his
movement was more a slow, continuous squirm, effected with a
ghastly assumption of languid indifference; while his gaze, in
the effort to escape the marble-hearted glare of his schoolmates,
affixed itself with apparent permanence to the waistcoat button
of James Russell Lowell just above the "U" in "Russell."
Classes came and classes went, grilling him with eyes.
Newcomers received the story of the crime in darkling whispers;
and the outcast sat and sat and sat, and squirmed and squirmed
and squirmed. (He did one or two things with his spine which a
professional contortionist would have observed with real
interest.) And all this while of freezing suspense was but the
criminal's detention awaiting trial. A known punishment may be
anticipated with some measure of equanimity; at least, the
prisoner may prepare himself to undergo it; but the unknown looms
more monstrous for every attempt to guess it. Penrod's crime was
unique; there were no rules to aid him in estimating the
vengeance to fall upon him for it. What seemed most probable was
that he would be expelled from the schools in the presence of his
family, the mayor, and council, and afterward whipped by his
father upon the State House steps, with the entire city as
audience by invitation of the authorities.
Noon came. The rows of children filed out, every head
turning for a last unpleasingly speculative look at the outlaw.
Then Miss Spence closed the door into the cloakroom and that into
the big hall, and came and sat at her desk, near Penrod. The
tramping of feet outside, the shrill calls and shouting and the
changing voices of the older boys ceased to be heard--and there
was silence. Penrod, still affecting to be occupied with Lowell,
was conscious that Miss Spence looked at him intently.
"Penrod," she said gravely, "what excuse have you to offer
before I report your case to the principal?"
The word "principal" struck him to the vitals. Grand
Inquisitor, Grand Khan, Sultan, Emperor, Tsar, Caesar Augustus--
these are comparable. He stopped squirming instantly, and sat
"I want an answer. Why did you shout those words at me?"
"Well," he murmured, "I was just--thinking."
"Thinking what?" she asked sharply.
"I don't know."
"That won't do!"
He took his left ankle in his right hand and regarded it
"That won't do, Penrod Schofield," she repeated
severely. "If that is all the excuse you have to offer I shall
report your case this instant!"
And she rose with fatal intent.
But Penrod was one of those whom the precipice inspires.
"Well, I HAVE got an excuse."
"Well"--she paused impatiently--"what is it?"
He had not an idea, but he felt one coming, and replied
automatically, in a plaintive tone:
"I guess anybody that had been through what I had to go
through, last night, would think they had an excuse."
Miss Spence resumed her seat, though with the air of being
ready to leap from it instantly.
"What has last night to do with your insolence to me this
"Well, I guess you'd see," he returned, emphasizing the
plaintive note, "if you knew what I know."
"Now, Penrod," she said, in a kinder voice, "I have a high
regard for your mother and father, and it would hurt me to
distress them, but you must either tell me what was the matter
with you or I'll have to take you to Mrs. Houston."
"Well, ain't I going to?" he cried, spurred by the dread
name. "It's because I didn't sleep last night."
"Were you ill?" The question was put with some dryness.
He felt the dryness. "No'm; _I_ wasn't."
"Then if someone in your family was so ill that even you
were kept up all night, how does it happen they let you come to
school this morning?"
"It wasn't illness," he returned, shaking his head
mournfully. "It was lots worse'n anybody's being sick. It was--
it was--well, it was jest awful."
"WHAT was?" He remarked with anxiety the incredulity in
"It was about Aunt Clara," he said.
"Your Aunt Clara!" she repeated. "Do you mean your mother's
sister who married Mr. Farry of Dayton, Illinois?"
"Yes--Uncle John," returned Penrod sorrowfully. "The trouble
was about him."
Miss Spence frowned a frown which he rightly interpreted as
one of continued suspicion. "She and I were in school together,"
she said. "I used to know her very well, and I've always heard
her married life was entirely happy. I don't----"
"Yes, it was," he interrupted, "until last year when Uncle
John took to running with travelling men----"
"Yes'm." He nodded solemnly. "That was what started it. At
first he was a good, kind husband, but these travelling men would
coax him into a saloon on his way home from work, and they got
him to drinking beer and then ales, wines, liquors, and
"I'm not inquiring into your Aunt Clara's private affairs;
I'm asking you if you have anything to say which would
"That's what I'm tryin' to TELL you about, Miss Spence,"
he pleaded,--"if you'd jest only let me. When Aunt Clara and her
little baby daughter got to our house last night----"
"You say Mrs. Farry is visiting your mother?"
"Yes'm--not just visiting--you see, she HAD to come.
Well of course, little baby Clara, she was so bruised up and
mauled, where he'd been hittin' her with his cane----"
"You mean that your uncle had done such a thing as THAT!"
exclaimed Miss Spence, suddenly disarmed by this scandal.
"Yes'm, and mamma and Margaret had to sit up all night
nursin' little Clara--and AUNT Clara was in such a state
SOMEBODY had to keep talkin' to HER, and there wasn't
anybody but me to do it, so I----"
"But where was your father?" she cried.
"Where was your father while----"
"Oh--papa?" Penrod paused, reflected; then brightened.
"Why, he was down at the train, waitin' to see if Uncle John
would try to follow 'em and make 'em come home so's he could
persecute 'em some more. I wanted to do that, but they said if
he did come I mightn't be strong enough to hold him and----"
The brave lad paused again, modestly. Miss Spence's expression
was encouraging. Her eyes were wide with astonishment, and there
may have been in them, also, the mingled beginnings of admiration
and self-reproach. Penrod, warming to his work, felt safer every
"And so," he continued, "I had to sit up with Aunt Clara.
She had some pretty big bruises, too, and I had to----"
"But why didn't they send for a doctor?" However, this
question was only a flicker of dying incredulity.
"Oh, they didn't want any DOCTOR," exclaimed the inspired
realist promptly. "They don't want anybody to HEAR about it
because Uncle John might reform--and then where'd he be if
everybody knew he'd been a drunkard and whipped his wife and baby
"Oh!" said Miss Spence.
"You see, he used to be upright as anybody," he went on
explanatively. "It all begun----"
"Yes'm. It all commenced from the first day he let those
travelling men coax him into the saloon." Penrod narrated the
downfall of his Uncle John at length. In detail he was nothing
short of plethoric; and incident followed incident, sketched with
such vividness, such abundance of colour, and such verisimilitude
to a drunkard's life as a drunkard's life should be, that had
Miss Spence possessed the rather chilling attributes of William
J. Burns himself, the last trace of skepticism must have vanished
from her mind. Besides, there are two things that will be
believed of any man whatsoever, and one of them is that he has
taken to drink. And in every sense it was a moving picture
which, with simple but eloquent words, the virtuous Penrod set
before his teacher.
His eloquence increased with what it fed on; and as with the
eloquence so with self-reproach in the gentle bosom of the
teacher. She cleared her throat with difficulty once or twice,
during his description of his ministering night with Aunt Clara.
"And I said to her, `Why, Aunt Clara, what's the use of takin' on
so about it?' And I said, `Now, Aunt Clara, all the crying in
the world can't make things any better.' And then she'd just
keep catchin' hold of me, and sob and kind of holler, and I'd
say, `DON'T cry, Aunt Clara--PLEASE don't cry."'
Then, under the influence of some fragmentary survivals of
the respectable portion of his Sunday adventures, his theme
became more exalted; and, only partially misquoting a phrase from
a psalm, he related how he had made it of comfort to Aunt Clara,
and how he had besought her to seek Higher guidance in her
The surprising thing about a structure such as Penrod was
erecting is that the taller it becomes the more ornamentation it
will stand. Gifted boys have this faculty of building
magnificence upon cobwebs--and Penrod was gifted. Under the
spell of his really great performance, Miss Spence gazed more and
more sweetly upon the prodigy of spiritual beauty and goodness
before her, until at last, when Penrod came to the explanation of
his "just thinking," she was forced to turn her head away.
"You mean, dear," she said gently, "that you were all worn
out and hardly knew what you were saying?"
"And you were thinking about all those dreadful things so
hard that you forgot where you were?"
"I was thinking," he said simply, "how to save Uncle John."
And the end of it for this mighty boy was that the teacher
CHAPTER XI. FIDELITY OF A LITTLE DOG
The returning students, that afternoon, observed that Penrod's
desk was vacant--and nothing could have been more impressive than
that sinister mere emptiness. The accepted theory was that
Penrod had been arrested. How breathtaking, then, the sensation
when, at the beginning of the second hour, he strolled--in with
inimitable carelessness and, rubbing his eyes, somewhat
noticeably in the manner of one who has snatched an hour of much
needed sleep, took his place as if nothing in particular had
happened. This, at first supposed to be a superhuman exhibition
of sheer audacity, became but the more dumfounding when
Miss Spence--looking up from her desk--greeted him with a
pleasant little nod. Even after school, Penrod gave numerous
maddened investigators no relief. All he would consent to say
"Oh, I just TALKED to her."
A mystification not entirely unconnected with the one thus
produced was manifested at his own family. dinner-table the
following evening. Aunt Clara had been out rather late, and came
to the table after the rest were seated. She wore a puzzled
"Do you ever see Mary Spence nowadays?" she inquired, as she
unfolded her napkin, addressing Mrs. Schofield. Penrod abruptly
set down his soup-spoon and gazed at his aunt with flattering
"Yes; sometimes," said Mrs. Schofield. "She's Penrod's
"Is she?" said Mrs. Farry. "Do you--" She paused. "Do
people think her a little--queer, these days?"
"Why, no," returned her sister. "What makes you say that?"
"She has acquired a very odd manner," said Mrs. Farry
decidedly. "At least, she seemed odd to ME. I met her at
the corner just before I got to the house, a few minutes ago, and
after we'd said howdy-do to each other, she kept hold of my hand
and looked as though she was going to cry. She seemed to be
trying to say something, and choking----"
"But I don't think that's so very queer, Clara. She knew you
in school, didn't she?"
"And she hadn't seen you for so many years, I think it's
perfectly natural she----"
"Wait! She stood there squeezing my hand, and struggling to
get her voice--and I got really embarrassed--and then finally she
said, in a kind of tearful whisper, `Be of good cheer--this trial
"How queer!" exclaimed Margaret.
Penrod sighed, and returned somewhat absently to his soup.
"Well, I don't know," said Mrs. Schofield thoughtfully. "Of
course she's heard about the outbreak of measles in Dayton, since
they had to close the schools, and she knows you live there----"
"But doesn't it seem a VERY exaggerated way," suggested
Margaret, "to talk about measles?"
"Wait!" begged Aunt Clara. "After she said that, she said
something even queerer, and then put her handkerchief to her eyes
and hurried away."
Penrod laid down his spoon again and moved his chair slightly
back from the table. A spirit of prophecy was upon him: he knew
that someone was going to ask a question which he felt might
better remain unspoken.
"What WAS the other thing she said?" Mr. Schofield
inquired, thus immediately fulfilling his son's premonition.
"She said," returned Mrs. Farry slowly, looking about the
table, "she said, `I know that Penrod is a great, great comfort
There was a general exclamation of surprise. It was a
singular thing, and in no manner may it be considered
complimentary to Penrod, that this speech of Miss Spence's should
have immediately confirmed Mrs. Farry's doubts about her in the
minds of all his family.
Mr. Schofield shook his head pityingly.
"I'm afraid she's a goner," he went so far as to say.
"Of all the weird ideas!" cried Margaret.
"I never heard anything like it in my life!" Mrs. Schofield
exclaimed. "Was that ALL she said?"
Penrod again resumed attention to his soup. His mother
looked at him curiously, and then, struck by a sudden thought,
gathered the glances of the adults of the table by a significant
movement of the head, and, by another, conveyed an admonition to
drop the subject until later. Miss Spence was Penrod's teacher:
it was better, for many reasons, not to discuss the subject of
her queerness before him. This was Mrs. Schofield's thought at
the time. Later she had another, and it kept her awake.
The next afternoon, Mr. Schofield, returning at five o'clock
from the cares of the day, found the house deserted, and sat down
to read his evening paper in what appeared to be an uninhabited
apartment known to its own world as the "drawing-room." A
sneeze, unexpected both to him and the owner, informed him of the
presence of another person.
"Where are you, Penrod?" the parent asked, looking about.
"Here," said Penrod meekly.
Stooping, Mr. Schofield discovered his son squatting under
the piano, near an open window--his wistful Duke lying beside
"What are you doing there?"
"Why under the piano?"
"Well," the boy returned, with grave sweetness, "I was just
kind of sitting here--thinking."
"All right." Mr. Schofield, rather touched, returned to the
digestion of a murder, his back once more to the piano; and
Penrod silently drew from beneath his jacket (where he had
slipped it simultaneously with the sneeze) a paper-backed volume
entitled: "Slimsy, the Sioux City Squealer, or, `Not Guilty,
In this manner the reading-club continued in peace, absorbed,
contented, the world well forgot--until a sudden, violently
irritated slam-bang of the front door startled the members;
and Mrs. Schofield burst into the room and threw herself into a
"What's the matter, mamma?" asked her husband laying aside
"Henry Passloe Schofield," returned the lady, "I don't know
what IS to be done with that boy; I do NOT!"
"You mean Penrod?"
"Who else could I mean?" She sat up, exasperated, to stare
at him. "Henry Passloe Schofield, you've got to take this matter
in your hands--it's beyond me!"
"Well, what has he----"
"Last night I got to thinking," she began rapidly, "about
what Clara told us--thank Heaven she and Margaret and little
Clara have gone to tea at Cousin Charlotte's!--but they'll be
home soon--about what she said about Miss Spence----"
"You mean about Penrod's being a comfort?"
"Yes, and I kept thinking and thinking and thinking about it
till I couldn't stand it any----"
"By GEORGE!" shouted Mr. Schofield startlingly, stooping
to look under the piano. A statement that he had suddenly
remembered his son's presence would be lacking in accuracy, for
the highly sensitized Penrod was, in fact, no longer present. No
more was Duke, his faithful dog.
"What's the matter?"
"Nothing," he returned, striding to the open window and
looking out. "Go on."
"Oh," she moaned, "it must be kept from Clara--and I'll never
hold up my head again if John Farry ever hears of it!"
"Hears of WHAT?"
"Well, I just couldn't stand it, I got so curious; and I
thought of course if Miss Spence HAD become a little
unbalanced it was my duty to know it, as Penrod's mother and she
his teacher; so I thought I would just call on her at her
apartment after school and have a chat and see and I did and--
"I've just come from there, and she told me--she told me!
Oh, I've NEVER known anything like this!"
"WHAT did she tell you?"
Mrs. Schofield, making a great effort, managed to assume a
temporary appearance of calm. "Henry," she said solemnly, "bear
this in mind: whatever you do to Penrod, it must be done in some
place when Clara won't hear it. But the first thing to do is to
Within view of the window from which Mr. Schofield was gazing
was the closed door of the storeroom in the stable, and just
outside this door Duke was performing a most engaging trick.
His young master had taught Duke to "sit up and beg" when
he wanted anything, and if that didn't get it, to "speak." Duke
was facing the closed door and sitting up and begging, and now he
also spoke--in a loud, clear bark.
There was an open transom over the door, and from this
descended--hurled by an unseen agency--a can half filled with old
It caught the small besieger of the door on his thoroughly
surprised right ear, encouraged him to some remarkable
acrobatics, and turned large portions of him a dull blue.
Allowing only a moment to perplexity, and deciding, after a
single and evidently unappetizing experiment, not to cleanse
himself of paint, the loyal animal resumed his quaint, upright
Mr. Schofield seated himself on the window-sill, whence he
could keep in view that pathetic picture of unrequited love.
"Go on with your story, mamma," he said. "I think I can find
Penrod when we want him."
And a few minutes later he added, "And I think I know the
place to do it in."
Again the faithful voice of Duke was heard, pleading outside
the bolted door.
CHAPTER XII. MISS RENNSDALE ACCEPTS
"One-two-three; one-two-three--glide!" said Professor Bartet,
emphasizing his instructions by a brisk collision of his palms at
"glide." "One-two-three; one-two-three--glide!"
The school week was over, at last, but Penrod's troubles were
Round and round the ballroom went the seventeen struggling
little couples of the Friday Afternoon Dancing Class. Round and
round went their reflections with them, swimming rhythmically in
the polished, dark floor--white and blue and pink for the girls;
black, with dabs of white, for the white-collared, white-
gloved boys; and sparks and slivers of high light everywhere as
the glistening pumps flickered along the surface like a school of
flying fish. Every small pink face--with one exception--was
painstaking and set for duty. It was a conscientious little
"One-two-three; one-two-three--glide! One-two-three; one-
two-three--glide! One-two-th--Ha! Mister Penrod Schofield, you
lose the step. Your left foot! No, no! This is the left!
See--like me! Now again! One-two-three; one-two-three--glide!
Better! Much better! Again! One-two-three; one-two-three--gl--
Stop! Mr. Penrod Schofield, this dancing class is provided by
the kind parents of the pupilses as much to learn the mannerss of
good societies as to dance. You think you shall ever see a
gentleman in good societies to tickle his partner in the dance
till she say Ouch? Never! I assure you it is not done. Again!
Now then! Piano, please! One-two-three; one-two-three--glide!
Mr. Penrod Schofield, your right foot--your right foot! No, no!
The merry-go-round came to a standstill.
"Mr. Penrod Schofield and partner"--Professor Bartet wiped
his brow--"will you kindly observe me? One-two-three--glide!
So! Now then--no; you will please keep your places, ladies and
gentlemen. Mr. Penrod Schofield, I would puttickly like your
attention, this is for you!"
"Pickin' on me again!" murmured the smouldering Penrod to his
small, unsympathetic partner. "Can't let me alone a minute!"
"Mister Georgie Bassett, please step to the centre," said the
Mr. Bassett complied with modest alacrity.
"Teacher's pet!" whispered Penrod hoarsely. He had nothing
but contempt for Georgie Bassett. The parents, guardians, aunts,
uncles, cousins, governesses, housemaids, cooks, chauffeurs and
coachmen, appertaining to the members of the dancing class, all
dwelt in the same part of town and shared certain communal
theories; and among the most firmly established was that which
maintained Georgie Bassett to be the Best Boy in Town.
Contrariwise, the unfortunate Penrod, largely because of his
recent dazzling but disastrous attempts to control forces far
beyond him, had been given a clear title as the Worst Boy in
Town. (Population, 135,000.) To precisely what degree his
reputation was the product of his own energies cannot be
calculated. It was Marjorie Jones who first applied the
description, in its definite simplicity, the day after the
"pageant," and, possibly, her frequent and effusive repetitions
of it, even upon wholly irrelevant occasions, had something to do
with its prompt and quite perfect acceptance by the community.
"Miss Rennsdale will please do me the fafer to be Mr. Georgie
Bassett's partner for one moment," said Professor Bartet.
"Mr. Penrod Schofield will please give his attention. Miss
Rennsdale and Mister Bassett, obliche me, if you please. Others
please watch. Piano, please! Now then!"
Miss Rennsdale, aged eight--the youngest lady in the class--
and Mr. Georgie Bassett one-two-three--glided with consummate
technique for the better education of Penrod Schofield. It is
possible that amber-curled, beautiful Marjorie felt that she,
rather than Miss Rennsdale, might have been selected as the
example of perfection--or perhaps her remark was only woman.
"Stopping everybody for that boy!" said Marjorie.
Penrod, across the circle from her, heard distinctly--nay, he
was obviously intended to hear; but over a scorched heart he
preserved a stoic front. Whereupon Marjorie whispered derisively
in the ear of her partner, Maurice Levy, who wore a pearl pin in
"Again, please, everybody--ladies and gentlemen!" cried
Professor Bartet. "Mister Penrod Schofield, if you please, pay
puttickly attention! Piano, please! Now then!"
The lesson proceeded. At the close of the hour Professor
Bartet stepped to the centre of the room and clapped his hands
"Ladies and gentlemen, if you please to seat yourselves
quietly," he said; "I speak to you now about to-morrow. As
you all know--Mister Penrod Schofield, I am not sticking up in a
tree outside that window! If you do me the fafer to examine I am
here, insides of the room. Now then! Piano, pl--no, I do not
wish the piano! As you all know, this is the last lesson of the
season until next October. Tomorrow is our special afternoon;
beginning three o'clock, we dance the cotillon. But this
afternoon comes the test of mannerss. You must see if each know
how to make a little formal call like a grown-up people in good
societies. You have had good, perfect instruction; let us see if
we know how to perform like societies ladies and gentlemen
twenty-six years of age.
"Now, when you're dismissed each lady will go to her home and
prepare to receive a call. The gentlemen will allow the ladies
time to reach their houses and to prepare to receive callers;
then each gentleman will call upon a lady and beg the pleasure to
engage her for a partner in the cotillon to-morrow. You all know
the correct, proper form for these calls, because didn't I work
teaching you last lesson till I thought I would drop dead? Yes!
Now each gentleman, if he reach a lady's house behind some-other
gentleman, then he must go somewhere else to a lady's house, and
keep calling until he secures a partner; so, as there are the
same number of both, everybody shall have a partner.
"Now please all remember that if in case--Mister Penrod
Schofield, when you make your call on a lady I beg you to please
remember that gentlemen in good societies do not scratch the back
in societies as you appear to attempt; so please allow the hands
to rest carelessly in the lap. Now please all remember that if
in case--Mister Penrod Schofield, if you please! Gentlemen in
societies do not scratch the back by causing frictions between it
and the back of your chair, either! Nobody else is itching here!
_I_ do not itch! I cannot talk if you must itch! In the name
of Heaven, why must you always itch? What was I saying? Where
ah! the cotillon--yes! For the cotillon it is important nobody
shall fail to be here tomorrow; but if any one should be so very
ill he cannot possible come he must write a very polite note of
regrets in the form of good societies to his engaged partner to
excuse himself--and he must give the reason.
"I do not think anybody is going to be that sick to-morrow--
no; and I will find out and report to parents if anybody would
try it and not be. But it is important for the cotillon that we
have an even number of so many couples, and if it should happen
that someone comes and her partner has sent her a polite note
that he has genuine reasons why he cannot come, the note must be
handed at once to me, so that I arrange some other partner. Is
all understood? Yes. The gentlemen will remember now to allow
the ladies plenty of time to reach their houses and prepare
to receive calls. Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for your
It was nine blocks to the house of Marjorie Jones; but Penrod
did it in less than seven minutes from a flying start--such was
his haste to lay himself and his hand for the cotillon at the
feet of one who had so recently spoken unamiably of him in
public. He had not yet learned that the only safe male rebuke to
a scornful female is to stay away from her--especially if that is
what she desires. However, he did not wish to rebuke her; simply
and ardently he wished to dance the cotillon with her.
Resentment was swallowed up in hope.
The fact that Miss Jones' feeling for him bore a striking
resemblance to that of Simon Legree for Uncle Tom, deterred him
not at all. Naturally, he was not wholly unconscious that when
he should lay his hand for the cotillon at her feet it would be
her inward desire to step on it; but he believed that if he were
first in the field Marjorie would have to accept. These things
are governed by law.
It was his fond intention to reach her house even in advance
of herself, and with grave misgiving he beheld a large automobile
at rest before the sainted gate. Forthwith, a sinking feeling
became a portent inside him as little Maurice Levy emerged from
the front door of the house.
"'Lo, Penrod!" said Maurice airily.
"What you doin' in there?" inquired Penrod.
"Well, what shouldn't I be doin' in Marjorie's?" Mr. Levy
returned indignantly. "I was inviting her for my partner in the
cotillon--what you s'pose?"
"You haven't got any right to!" Penrod protested hotly. "You
can't do it yet."
"I did do it yet!" said Maurice.
"You can't!" insisted Penrod. "You got to allow them time
first. He said the ladies had to be allowed time to prepare."
"Well, ain't she had time to prepare?"
"When?" Penrod demanded, stepping close to his rival
threateningly. "I'd like to know when----"
"When?" echoed the other with shrill triumph. "When? Why,
in mamma's sixty-horse powder limousine automobile, what Marjorie
came home with me in! I guess that's when!"
An impulse in the direction of violence became visible upon
the countenance of Penrod.
"I expect you need some wiping down," he began dangerously.
"I'll give you sumpthing to remem----"
"Oh, you will!" Maurice cried with astonishing truculence,
contorting himself into what he may have considered a posture of
defense. "Let's see you try it, you--you itcher!"
For the moment, defiance from such a source was
dumfounding. Then, luckily, Penrod recollected something and
glanced at the automobile.
Perceiving therein not only the alert chauffeur but the
magnificent outlines of Mrs. Levy, his enemy's mother, he
manoeuvred his lifted hand so that it seemed he had but meant to
scratch his ear.
"Well, I guess I better be goin'," he said casually. "See
Maurice mounted to the lap of luxury, and Penrod strolled
away with an assumption of careless ease which was put to a
severe strain when, from the rear window of the car, a sudden
protuberance in the nature of a small, dark, curly head shrieked
"Go on--you big stiff!"
The cotillon loomed dismally before Penrod now; but it was
his duty to secure a partner and he set about it with a dreary
heart. The delay occasioned by his fruitless attempt on Marjorie
and the altercation with his enemy at her gate had allowed other
ladies ample time to prepare for callers--and to receive them.
Sadly he went from house to house, finding that he had been
preceded in one after the other. Altogether his hand for the
cotillon was declined eleven times that afternoon on the
legitimate ground of previous engagement. This, with Marjorie,
scored off all except five of the seventeen possible partners;
and four of the five were also sealed away from him, as he
learned in chance encounters with other boys upon the street.
One lady alone remained; he bowed to the inevitable and
entered this lorn damsel's gate at twilight with an air of great
discouragement. The lorn damsel was Miss Rennsdale, aged eight.
We are apt to forget that there are actually times of life
when too much youth is a handicap. Miss Rennsdale was beautiful;
she danced like a premiere; she had every charm but age. On that
account alone had she been allowed so much time to prepare to
receive callers that it was only by the most manful efforts she
could keep her lip from trembling.
A decorous maid conducted the long-belated applicant to her
where she sat upon a sofa beside a nursery governess. The
decorous maid announced him composedly as he made his entrance.
"Mr. Penrod Schofield!"
Miss Rennsdale suddenly burst into loud sobs.
"Oh!" she wailed. "I just knew it would be him!"
The decorous maid's composure vanished at once--likewise her
decorum. She clapped her hand over her mouth and fled, uttering
sounds. The governess, however, set herself to comfort her
heartbroken charge, and presently succeeded in restoring Miss
Rennsdale to a semblance of that poise with which a lady receives
callers and accepts invitations to dance cotillons. But she
continued to sob at intervals.
Feeling himself at perhaps a disadvantage, Penrod made offer
of his hand for the morrow with a little embarrassment.
Following the form prescribed by Professor Bartet, he
advanced several paces toward the stricken lady and bowed
"I hope," he said by rote, "you're well, and your parents
also in good health. May I have the pleasure of dancing the
cotillon as your partner t'-morrow afternoon?"
The wet eyes of Miss Rennsdale searched his countenance
without pleasure, and a shudder wrung her small shoulders; but
the governess whispered to her instructively, and she made a
"I thu-thank you fu-for your polite invu-invu-invutation; and
I ac----" Thus far she progressed when emotion overcame her
again. She beat frantically upon the sofa with fists and heels.
"Oh, I DID want it to be Georgie Bassett!"
"No, no, no!" said the governess, and whispered urgently,
whereupon Miss Rennsdale was able to complete her acceptance.
"And I ac-accept wu-with pu-pleasure!" she moaned, and
immediately, uttering a loud yell, flung herself face downward
upon the sofa, clutching her governess convulsively.
Somewhat disconcerted, Penrod bowed again.
"I thank you for your polite acceptance," he murmured
hurriedly; "and I trust--I trust--I forget. Oh, yes--I trust we
shall have a most enjoyable occasion. Pray present my
compliments to your parents; and I must now wish you a very good
Concluding these courtly demonstrations with another bow he
withdrew in fair order, though thrown into partial confusion in
the hall by a final wail from his crushed hostess:
"Oh! Why couldn't it be anybody but HIM!"
CHAPTER XIII. THE SMALLPOX MEDICINE
Next morning Penrod woke in profound depression of spirit, the
cotillon ominous before him. He pictured Marjorie Jones and
Maurice, graceful and light-hearted, flitting by him fairylike,
loosing silvery laughter upon him as he engaged in the struggle
to keep step with a partner about four years and two feet his
junior. It was hard enough for Penrod to keep step with a girl
of his size.
The foreboding vision remained with him, increasing in
vividness, throughout the forenoon. He found himself unable to
fix his mind upon anything else, and, having bent his gloomy
footsteps toward the sawdust-box, after breakfast,
presently descended therefrom, abandoning Harold Ramorez where he
had left him the preceding Saturday. Then, as he sat communing
silently with wistful Duke, in the storeroom, coquettish fortune
looked his way.
It was the habit of Penrod's mother not to throw away
anything whatsoever until years of storage conclusively proved
there would never be a use for it; but a recent house-cleaning
had ejected upon the back porch a great quantity of bottles and
other paraphernalia of medicine, left over from illnesses in the
family during a period of several years. This debris Della, the
cook, had collected in a large market basket, adding to it some
bottles of flavouring extracts that had proved unpopular in the
household; also, old catsup bottles; a jar or two of preserves
gone bad; various rejected dental liquids--and other things. And
she carried the basket out to the storeroom in the stable.
Penrod was at first unaware of what lay before him. Chin on
palms, he sat upon the iron rim of a former aquarium and stared
morbidly through the open door at the checkered departing back of
Della. It was another who saw treasure in the basket she had
Mr. Samuel Williams, aged eleven, and congenial to Penrod in
years, sex, and disposition, appeared in the doorway, shaking
into foam a black liquid within a pint bottle, stoppered by a
"Yay, Penrod!" the visitor gave greeting.
"Yay," said Penrod with slight enthusiasm. "What you got?"
"Drinkin's!" demanded Penrod promptly. This is equivalent to
the cry of "Biters" when an apple is shown, and establishes
"Down to there!" stipulated Sam, removing his thumb to affix
it firmly as a mark upon the side of the bottle a check upon
gormandizing that remained carefully in place while Penrod drank.
This rite concluded, the visitor's eye fell upon the basket
deposited by Della. He emitted tokens of pleasure.
"Looky! Looky! Looky there! That ain't any good pile o'
"Drug store!" shouted Sam. "We'll be partners----"
"Or else," Penrod suggested, "I'll run the drug store and you
be a customer----"
"No! Partners!" insisted Sam with such conviction that his
host yielded; and within ten minutes the drug store was doing a
heavy business with imaginary patrons. Improvising counters with
boards and boxes, and setting forth a very druggish-looking stock
from the basket, each of the partners found occupation to his
taste--Penrod as salesman and Sam as prescription clerk.
"Here you are, madam!" said Penrod briskly, offering a
vial of Sam's mixing to an invisible matron. "This will cure
your husband in a few minutes. Here's the camphor, mister. Call
again! Fifty cents' worth of pills? Yes, madam. There you are!
Hurry up with that dose for the nigger lady, Bill!"
"I'll 'tend to it soon's I get time, Jim," replied the
prescription clerk. "I'm busy fixin' the smallpox medicine for
the sick policeman downtown."
Penrod stopped sales to watch this operation. Sam had found
an empty pint bottle and, with the pursed lips and measuring eye
of a great chemist, was engaged in filling it from other bottles.
First, he poured into it some of the syrup from the condemned
preserves; and a quantity of extinct hair oil; next the remaining
contents of a dozen small vials cryptically labelled with
physicians' prescriptions; then some remnants of catsup and
essence of beef and what was left in several bottles of
mouthwash; after that a quantity of rejected flavouring extract--
topping off by shaking into the mouth of the bottle various
powders from small pink papers, relics of Mr. Schofield's
influenza of the preceding winter.
Sam examined the combination with concern, appearing
unsatisfied. "We got to make that smallpox medicine good and
strong!" he remarked; and, his artistic sense growing more
powerful than his appetite, he poured about a quarter of the
licorice water into the smallpox medicine.
"What you doin'?" protested Penrod. "What you
want to waste that lickrish water for? We ought to keep it to
drink when we're tired."
"I guess I got a right to use my own lickrish water any way I
want to," replied the prescription clerk. "I tell you, you can't
get smallpox medicine too strong. Look at her now!" He held the
bottle up admiringly. "She's as black as lickrish. I bet you
she's strong all right!"
"I wonder how she tastes?" said Penrod thoughtfully.
"Don't smell so awful much," observed Sam, sniffing the
bottle--"a good deal, though!"
"I wonder if it'd make us sick to drink it?" said Penrod.
Sam looked at the bottle thoughtfully; then his eye,
wandering, fell upon Duke, placidly curled up near the door, and
lighted with the advent of an idea new to him, but old, old in
the world--older than Egypt!
"Let's give Duke some!" he cried.
That was the spark. They acted immediately; and a minute
later Duke, released from custody with a competent potion of the
smallpox medicine inside him, settled conclusively their doubts
concerning its effect. The patient animal, accustomed to expect
the worst at all times, walked out of the door, shaking his head
with an air of considerable annoyance, opening and closing his
mouth with singular energy--and so repeatedly that they began to
count the number of times he did it. Sam thought it was
thirty-nine times, but Penrod had counted forty-one before other
and more striking symptoms appeared.
All things come from Mother Earth and must return--Duke
restored much at this time. Afterward, he ate heartily of grass;
and then, over his shoulder, he bent upon his master one
inscrutable look and departed feebly to the front yard.
The two boys had watched the process with warm interest. "I
told you she was strong!" said Mr. Williams proudly.
"Yes, sir--she is!" Penrod was generous enough to admit. "I
expect she's strong enough----" He paused in thought, and added:
"We haven't got a horse any more."
"I bet you she'd fix him if you had!" said Sam. And it may
be that this was no idle boast.
The pharmaceutical game was not resumed; the experiment upon
Duke had made the drug store commonplace and stimulated the
appetite for stronger meat. Lounging in the doorway, the near-
vivisectionists sipped licorice water alternately and conversed.
"I bet some of our smallpox medicine would fix ole P'fessor
Bartet all right!" quoth Penrod. "I wish he'd come along and ask
us for some."
"We could tell him it was lickrish water," added Sam, liking
the idea. "The two bottles look almost the same."
"Then we wouldn't have to go to his ole cotillon this
afternoon," Penrod sighed. "There wouldn't be any!"
"Who's your partner, Pen?"
"Who's yours? I just ast you."
"Oh, she's all right!" And Penrod smiled boastfully.
"I bet you wanted to dance with Marjorie!" said his friend.
"Me? I wouldn't dance with that girl if she begged me to! I
wouldn't dance with her to save her from drowning! I wouldn't
"Oh, no--you wouldn't!" interrupted Mr. Williams skeptically.
Penrod changed his tone and became persuasive.
"Looky here, Sam," he said confidentially. "I've got 'a
mighty nice partner, but my mother don't like her mother; and so
I've been thinking I better not dance with her. I'll tell you
what I'll do; I've got a mighty good sling in the house, and I'll
give it to you if you'll change partners."
"You want to change and you don't even know who mine is!"
said Sam, and he made the simple though precocious deduction:
"Yours must be a lala! Well, I invited Mabel Rorebeck, and she
wouldn't let me change if I wanted to. Mabel Rorebeck'd rather
dance with me," he continued serenely, "than anybody; and she
said she was awful afraid you'd ast her. But I ain't goin'
to dance with Mabel after all, because this morning she sent me a
note about her uncle died last night--and P'fessor Bartet'll have
to find me a partner after I get there. Anyway I bet you haven't
got any sling--and I bet your partner's Baby Rennsdale!"
"What if she is?" said Penrod. "She's good enough for
ME!" This speech held not so much modesty in solution as
intended praise of the lady. Taken literally, however, it was an
understatement of the facts and wholly insincere.
"Yay!" jeered Mr. Williams, upon whom his friend's hypocrisy
was quite wasted. "How can your mother not like her mother?
Baby Rennsdale hasn't got any mother! You and her'll be a
That was Penrod's own conviction; and with this corroboration
of it he grew so spiritless that he could offer no retort. He
slid to a despondent sitting posture upon the door sill and gazed
wretchedly upon the ground, while his companion went to replenish
the licorice water at the hydrant--enfeebling the potency of the
liquor no doubt, but making up for that in quantity.
"Your mother goin' with you to the cotillon?" asked Sam when
"No. She's goin' to meet me there. She's goin' somewhere
"So's mine," said Sam. "I'll come by for you."
"I better go before long. Noon whistles been blowin'."
"All right," Penrod repeated dully.
Sam turned to go, but paused. A new straw hat was
peregrinating along the fence near the two boys. This hat
belonged to someone passing upon the sidewalk of the cross-
street; and the someone was Maurice Levy. Even as they stared,
he halted and regarded them over the fence with two small, dark
Fate had brought about this moment and this confrontation.
CHAPTER XIV. MAURICE LEVY'S CONSTITUTION
"Lo, Sam!" said Maurice cautiously. "What you doin'?"
Penrod at that instant had a singular experience--an
intellectual shock like a flash of fire in the brain. Sitting in
darkness, a great light flooded him with wild brilliance. He
"What you doin'?" repeated Mr. Levy.
Penrod sprang to his feet, seized the licorice bottle, shook
it with stoppering thumb, and took a long drink with histrionic
"What you doin'?" asked Maurice for the third time, Sam
Williams not having decided upon a reply.
It was Penrod who answered.
"Drinkin' lickrish water," he said simply, and wiped his
mouth with such delicious enjoyment that Sam's jaded thirst was
instantly stimulated. He took the bottle eagerly from Penrod.
"A-a-h!" exclaimed Penrod, smacking his lips. "That was a
The eyes above the fence glistened.
"Ask him if he don't want some," Penrod whispered urgently.
"Quit drinkin' it! It's no good any more. Ask him!"
"What for?" demanded the practical Sam.
"Go on and ask him!" whispered Penrod fiercely.
"Say, M'rice!" Sam called, waving the bottle. "Want some?"
"Bring it here!" Mr. Levy requested.
"Come on over and get some," returned Sam, being prompted.
"I can't. Penrod Schofield's after me."
"No, I'm not," said Penrod reassuringly. "I won't touch you,
M'rice. I made up with you yesterday afternoon--don't you
remember? You're all right with me, M'rice."
Maurice looked undecided. But Penrod had the delectable
bottle again, and tilting it above his lips, affected to let the
cool liquid purl enrichingly into him, while with his right hand
he stroked his middle facade ineffably. Maurice's mouth watered.
"Here!" cried Sam, stirred again by the superb manifestations
of his friend. "Gimme that!"
Penrod brought the bottle down, surprisingly full after so
much gusto, but withheld it from Sam; and the two scuffled for
its possession. Nothing in the world could have so worked upon
the desire of the yearning observer beyond the fence.
"Honest, Penrod--you ain't goin' to touch me if I come in
your yard?" he called. "Honest?"
"Cross my heart!" answered Penrod, holding the bottle away
from Sam. "And we'll let you drink all you want."
Maurice hastily climbed the fence, and while he was thus
occupied Mr. Samuel Williams received a great enlightenment.
With startling rapidity Penrod, standing just outside the
storeroom door, extended his arm within the room, deposited the
licorice water upon the counter of the drug store, seized in its
stead the bottle of smallpox medicine, and extended it cordially
toward the advancing Maurice.
Genius is like that--great, simple, broad strokes!
Dazzled, Mr. Samuel Williams leaned against the wall. He had
the sensations of one who comes suddenly into the presence of a
chef-d'oeuvre. Perhaps his first coherent thought was that
almost universal one on such huge occasions: "Why couldn't _I_
have done that!"
Sam might have been even more dazzled had he guessed
that he figured not altogether as a spectator in the sweeping and
magnificent conception of the new Talleyrand. Sam had no partner
for the cotillon. If Maurice was to be absent from that
festivity--as it began to seem he might be--Penrod needed a male
friend to take care of Miss Rennsdale and he believed he saw his
way to compel Mr. Williams to be that male friend. For this he
relied largely upon the prospective conduct of Miss Rennsdale
when he should get the matter before her--he was inclined to
believe she would favour the exchange. As for Talleyrand Penrod
himself, he was going to dance that cotillon with Marjorie Jones!
"You can have all you can drink at one pull, M'rice," said
"You said I could have all I want!" protested Maurice,
reaching for the bottle.
"No, I didn't," returned Penrod quickly, holding it away from
the eager hand.
"He did, too! Didn't he, Sam?"
Sam could not reply; his eyes, fixed upon the bottle,
"You heard him--didn't you, Sam?"
"Well, if I did say it I didn't mean it!" said Penrod
hastily, quoting from one of the authorities. "Looky here,
M'rice," he continued, assuming a more placative and reasoning
tone, "that wouldn't be fair to us. I guess we want some of our
own lickrish water, don't we? The bottle ain't much over two-
thirds full anyway. What I meant was, you can have all you
can drink at one pull."
"How do you mean?"
"Why, this way: you can gulp all you want, so long as you
keep swallering; but you can't take the bottle out of your mouth
and commence again. Soon's you quit swallering it's Sam's turn."
"No; you can have next, Penrod," said Sam.
"Well, anyway, I mean M'rice has to give the bottle up the
minute he stops swallering."
Craft appeared upon the face of Maurice, like a poster pasted
on a wall.
"I can drink so long I don't stop swallering?"
"Yes; that's it."
"All right!" he cried. "Gimme the bottle!"
And Penrod placed it in his hand.
"You promise to let me drink until I quit swallering?"
"Yes!" said both boys together.
With that, Maurice placed the bottle to his lips and began to
drink. Penrod and Sam leaned forward in breathless excitement.
They had feared Maurice might smell the contents of the bottle;
but that danger was past--this was the crucial moment. Their
fondest hope was that he would make his first swallow a voracious
one--it was impossible to imagine a second. They expected one
big, gulping swallow and then an explosion, with fountain
Little they knew the mettle of their man! Maurice
swallowed once; he swallowed twice--and thrice--and he continued
to swallow! No Adam's apple was sculptured on that juvenile
throat, but the internal progress of the liquid was not a whit
the less visible. His eyes gleamed with cunning and malicious
triumph, sidewise, at the stunned conspirators; he was fulfilling
the conditions of the draught, not once breaking the thread of
that marvelous swallering.
His audience stood petrified. Already Maurice had swallowed
more than they had given Duke and still the liquor receded in the
uplifted bottle! And now the clear glass gleamed above the dark
contents full half the vessel's length--and Maurice went on
drinking! Slowly the clear glass increased in its dimensions--
slowly the dark diminished.
Sam Williams made a horrified movement to check him--but
Maurice protested passionately with his disengaged arm, and made
vehement vocal noises remindful of the contract; whereupon Sam
desisted and watched the continuing performance in a state of
Maurice drank it all! He drained the last drop and threw the
bottle in the air, uttering loud ejaculations of triumph and
"Hah!" he cried, blowing out his cheeks, inflating his chest,
squaring his shoulders, patting his stomach, and wiping his mouth
contentedly. "Hah! Aha! Waha! Wafwah! But that was good!"
The two boys stood looking at him in stupor.
"Well, I gotta say this," said Maurice graciously: "You
stuck to your bargain all right and treated me fair."
Stricken with a sudden horrible suspicion, Penrod entered the
storeroom in one stride and lifted the bottle of licorice water
to his nose--then to his lips. It was weak, but good; he had
made no mistake. And Maurice had really drained--to the dregs--
the bottle of old hair tonics, dead catsups, syrups of
undesirable preserves, condemned extracts of vanilla and lemon,
decayed chocolate, ex-essence of beef, mixed dental preparations,
aromatic spirits of ammonia, spirits of nitre, alcohol, arnica,
quinine, ipecac, sal volatile, nux vomica and licorice water--
with traces of arsenic, belladonna and strychnine.
Penrod put the licorice water out of sight and turned to face
the others. Maurice was seating himself on a box just outside
the door and had taken a package of cigarettes from his pocket.
"Nobody can see me from here, can they?" he said, striking a
match. "You fellers smoke?"
"No," said Sam, staring at him haggardly.
"No," said Penrod in a whisper.
Maurice lit his cigarette and puffed showily.
"Well, sir," he remarked, "you fellers are certainly square--
I gotta say that much. Honest, Penrod, I thought you was after
me! I did think so," he added sunnily; "but now I guess you like
me, or else you wouldn't of stuck to it about lettin' me
drink it all if I kept on swallering."
He chatted on with complete geniality, smoking his cigarette
in content. And as he ran from one topic to another his hearers
stared at him in a kind of torpor. Never once did they exchange
a glance with each other; their eyes were frozen to Maurice. The
cheerful conversationalist made it evident that he was not
"Well," he said as he finished his cigarette and rose to go,
"you fellers have treated me nice and some day you come over to
my yard; I'd like to run with you fellers. You're the kind of
fellers I like."
Penrod's jaw fell; Sam's mouth had been open all the time.
"I gotta go," observed Maurice, consulting a handsome watch.
"Gotta get dressed for the cotillon right after lunch. Come on,
Sam. Don't you have to go, too?"
Sam nodded dazedly.
"Well, good-bye, Penrod," said Maurice cordially. "I'm glad
you like me all right. Come on, Sam."
Penrod leaned against the doorpost and with fixed and glazing
eyes watched the departure of his two visitors. Maurice was
talking volubly, with much gesticulation, as they went; but Sam
walked mechanically and in silence, staring at his brisk
companion and keeping at a little distance from him.
They passed from sight, Maurice still conversing gayly--
and Penrod slowly betook himself into the house, his head bowed
upon his chest.
Some three hours later, Mr. Samuel Williams, waxen clean and
in sweet raiment, made his reappearance in Penrod's yard,
yodelling a code-signal to summon forth his friend. He yodelled
loud, long, and frequently, finally securing a faint response
from the upper air.
"Where are you?" shouted Mr. Williams, his roving glance
searching ambient heights. Another low-spirited yodel reaching
his ear, he perceived the head and shoulders of his friend
projecting above the roofridge of the stable. The rest of
Penrod's body was concealed from view, reposing upon the opposite
slant of the gable and precariously secured by the crooking of
his elbows over the ridge.
"Yay! What you doin' up there?"
"You better be careful!" Sam called. "You'll slide off and
fall down in the alley if you don't look out. I come pert' near
it last time we was up there. Come on down! Ain't you goin' to
Penrod made no reply. Sam came nearer.
"Say," he called up in a guarded voice, "I went to our
telephone a while ago and ast him how he was feelin', and he said
he felt fine!"
"So did I," said Penrod. "He told me he felt bully!"
Sam thrust his hands in his pockets and brooded. The opening
of the kitchen door caused a diversion. It was Della.
"Mister Penrod," she bellowed forthwith, "come ahn down fr'm
up there! Y'r mamma's at the dancin' class waitin' fer ye, an'
she's telephoned me they're goin' to begin--an' what's the matter
with ye? Come ahn down fr'm up there!"
"Come on!" urged Sam. "We'll be late. There go Maurice and
A glittering car spun by, disclosing briefly a genre picture
of Marjorie Jones in pink, supporting a monstrous sheaf of
American Beauty roses. Maurice, sitting shining and joyous
beside her, saw both boys and waved them a hearty greeting as the
car turned the corner.
Penrod uttered some muffled words and then waved both arms--
either in response or as an expression of his condition of mind;
it may have been a gesture of despair. How much intention there
was in this act--obviously so rash, considering the position he
occupied--it is impossible to say. Undeniably there must remain
a suspicion of deliberate purpose.
Della screamed and Sam shouted. Penrod had disappeared from
The delayed dance was about to begin a most uneven cotillon
when Samuel Williams arrived.
Mrs. Schofield hurriedly left the ballroom; while Miss
Rennsdale, flushing with sudden happiness, curtsied profoundly to
Professor Bartet and obtained his attention.
"I have telled you fifty times," he informed her passionately
ere she spoke, "I cannot make no such changes. If your partner
comes you have to dance with him. You are going to drive me
crazy, sure! What is it? What now? What you want?"
The damsel curtsied again and handed him the following
communication, addressed to herself:
"Dear madam Please excuse me from dancing the cotilon with
you this afternoon as I have fell off the barn
CHAPTER XV. THE TWO FAMILIES
Penrod entered the schoolroom, Monday picturesquely leaning upon
a man's cane shortened to support a cripple approaching the age
of twelve. He arrived about twenty minutes late, limping deeply,
his brave young mouth drawn with pain, and the sensation he
created must have been a solace to him; the only possible
criticism of this entrance being that it was just a shade too
heroic. Perhaps for that reason it failed to stagger Miss
Spence, a woman so saturated with suspicion that she penalized
Penrod for tardiness as promptly and as coldly as if he had been
a mere, ordinary, unmutilated boy. Nor would she
entertain any discussion of the justice of her ruling. It
seemed, almost, that she feared to argue with him.
However, the distinction of cane and limp remained to him,
consolations which he protracted far into the week--until
Thursday evening, in fact, when Mr. Schofield, observing from a
window his son's pursuit of Duke round and round the backyard,
confiscated the cane, with the promise that it should not remain
idle if he saw Penrod limping again. Thus, succeeding a
depressing Friday, another Saturday brought the necessity for new
It was a scented morning in apple-blossom time. At about ten
of the clock Penrod emerged hastily from the kitchen door. His
pockets bulged abnormally; so did his checks, and he swallowed
with difficulty. A threatening mop, wielded by a cooklike arm in
a checkered sleeve, followed him through the doorway, and he was
preceded by a small, hurried, wistful dog with a warm doughnut in
his mouth. The kitchen door slammed petulantly, enclosing the
sore voice of Della, whereupon Penrod and Duke seated themselves
upon the pleasant sward and immediately consumed the spoils of
From the cross-street which formed the side boundary of the
Schofields' ample yard came a jingle of harness and the cadenced
clatter of a pair of trotting horses, and Penrod, looking up,
beheld the passing of a fat acquaintance, torpid amid the
conservative splendours of a rather old-fashioned victoria.
This was Roderick Magsworth Bitts, Junior, a fellow sufferer at
the Friday Afternoon Dancing Class, but otherwise not often a
companion: a home-sheltered lad, tutored privately and preserved
against the coarsening influences of rude comradeship and
miscellaneous information. Heavily overgrown in all physical
dimensions, virtuous, and placid, this cloistered mutton was
wholly uninteresting to Penrod Schofield. Nevertheless, Roderick
Magsworth Bitts, Junior, was a personage on account of the
importance of the Magsworth Bitts family; and it was Penrod's
destiny to increase Roderick's celebrity far, far beyond its
present aristocratic limitations.
The Magsworth Bittses were important because they were
impressive; there was no other reason. And they were impressive
because they believed themselves important. The adults of the
family were impregnably formal; they dressed with reticent
elegance, and wore the same nose and the same expression--an
expression which indicated that they knew something exquisite and
sacred which other people could never know. Other people, in
their presence, were apt to feel mysteriously ignoble and to
become secretly uneasy about ancestors, gloves, and
pronunciation. The Magsworth Bitts manner was withholding and
reserved, though sometimes gracious, granting small smiles as
great favours and giving off a chilling kind of preciousness.
Naturally, when any citizen of the community did anything
unconventional or improper, or made a mistake, or had a relative
who went wrong, that citizen's first and worst fear was that the
Magsworth Bittses would hear of it. In fact, this painful family
had for years terrorized the community, though the community had
never realized that it was terrorized, and invariably spoke of
the family as the "most charming circle in town." By common
consent, Mrs. Roderick Magsworth Bitts officiated as the supreme
model as well as critic-in-chief of morals and deportment for all
the unlucky people prosperous enough to be elevated to her
Magsworth was the important part of the name. Mrs. Roderick
Magsworth Bitts was a Magsworth born, herself, and the Magsworth
crest decorated not only Mrs. Magsworth Bitts' note-paper but was
on the china, on the table linen, on the chimney-pieces, on the
opaque glass of the front door, on the victoria, and on the
harness, though omitted from the garden-hose and the lawn-mower.
Naturally, no sensible person dreamed of connecting that
illustrious crest with the unfortunate and notorious Rena
Magsworth whose name had grown week by week into larger and
larger type upon the front pages of newspapers, owing to the
gradually increasing public and official belief that she had
poisoned a family of eight. However, the statement that no
sensible person could have connected the Magsworth Bitts
family with the arsenical Rena takes no account of Penrod
Penrod never missed a murder, a hanging or an electrocution
in the newspapers; he knew almost as much about Rena Magsworth as
her jurymen did, though they sat in a court-room two hundred
miles away, and he had it in mind--so frank he was--to ask
Roderick Magsworth Bitts, Junior, if the murderess happened to be
The present encounter, being merely one of apathetic
greeting, did not afford the opportunity. Penrod took off his
cap, and Roderick, seated between his mother and one of his
grown-up sisters, nodded sluggishly, but neither Mrs. Magsworth
Bitts nor her daughter acknowledged the salutation of the boy in
the yard. They disapproved of him as a person of little
consequence, and that little, bad. Snubbed, Penrod thoughtfully
restored his cap to his head. A boy can be cut as effectually as
a man, and this one was chilled to a low temperature. He
wondered if they despised him because they had seen a last
fragment of doughnut in his hand; then he thought that perhaps it
was Duke who had disgraced him. Duke was certainly no
fashionable looking dog.
The resilient spirits of youth, however, presently revived,
and discovering a spider upon one knee and a beetle
simultaneously upon the other, Penrod forgot Mrs. Roderick
Magsworth Bitts in the course of some experiments infringing upon
the domain of Doctor Carrel. Penrod's efforts--with the aid
of a pin--to effect a transference of living organism were
unsuccessful; but he convinced himself forever that a spider
cannot walk with a beetle's legs. Della then enhanced zoological
interest by depositing upon the back porch a large rat-trap from
the cellar, the prison of four live rats awaiting execution.
Penrod at once took possession, retiring to the empty stable,
where he installed the rats in a small wooden box with a sheet of
broken window-glass--held down by a brickbat--over the top. Thus
the symptoms of their agitation, when the box was shaken or
hammered upon, could be studied at leisure. Altogether this
Saturday was starting splendidly.
After a time, the student's attention was withdrawn from his
specimens by a peculiar smell, which, being followed up by a
system of selective sniffing, proved to be an emanation leaking
into the stable from the alley. He opened the back door.
Across the alley was a cottage which a thrifty neighbour had
built on the rear line of his lot and rented to negroes; and the
fact that a negro family was now in process of "moving in" was
manifested by the presence of a thin mule and a ramshackle wagon,
the latter laden with the semblance of a stove and a few other
unpretentious household articles.
A very small darky boy stood near the mule. In his hand
was a rusty chain, and at the end of the chain the delighted
Penrod perceived the source of the special smell he was tracing--
a large raccoon. Duke, who had shown not the slightest interest
in the rats, set up a frantic barking and simulated a ravening
assault upon the strange animal. It was only a bit of acting,
however, for Duke was an old dog, had suffered much, and desired
no unnecessary sorrow, wherefore he confined his demonstrations
to alarums and excursions, and presently sat down at a distance
and expressed himself by intermittent threatenings in a quavering
"What's that 'coon's name?" asked Penrod, intending no
"Aim gommo mame," said the small darky.
"Aim gommo mame."
The small darky looked annoyed.
"Aim GOMMO mame, I hell you," he said impatiently.
Penrod conceived that insult was intended.
"What's the matter of you?" he demanded advancing. "You get
fresh with ME, and I'll----"
"Hyuh, white boy!" A coloured youth of Penrod's own age
appeared in the doorway of the cottage. "You let 'at brothuh
mine alone. He ain' do nothin' to you."
"Well, why can't he answer?"
"He can't. He can't talk no better'n what he WAS
talkin'. He tongue-tie'."
"Oh," said Penrod, mollified. Then, obeying an impulse so
universally aroused in the human breast under like circumstances
that it has become a quip, he turned to the afflicted one.
"Talk some more," he begged eagerly.
"I hoe you ackoom aim gommo mame," was the prompt response,
in which a slight ostentation was manifest. Unmistakable tokens
of vanity had appeared upon the small, swart countenance.
"What's he mean?" asked Penrod, enchanted.
"He say he tole you 'at 'coon ain' got no name."
"What's YOUR name?"
"I'm name Herman."
"What's his name?" Penrod pointed to the tongue-tied boy.
"Verman. Was three us boys in ow fam'ly. Ol'est one name
Sherman. 'N'en come me; I'm Herman. 'N'en come him; he Verman.
Sherman dead. Verman, he de littles' one."
"You goin' to live here?"
"Umhuh. Done move in f'm way outen on a fahm."
He pointed to the north with his right hand, and Penrod's
eyes opened wide as they followed the gesture. Herman had
no forefinger on that hand.
"Look there!" exclaimed Penrod. "You haven't got any
"_I_ mum map," said Verman, with egregious pride.
"HE done 'at," interpreted Herman, chuckling. "Yessuh;
done chop 'er spang off, long 'go. He's a playin' wif a ax an' I
lay my finguh on de do'-sill an' I say, `Verman, chop 'er off!'
So Verman he chop 'er right spang off up to de roots! Yessuh."
"Jes' fo' nothin'."
"He hoe me hoo," remarked Verman.
"Yessuh, I tole him to," said Herman, "an' he chop 'er off,
an' ey ain't airy oth' one evuh grown on wheres de ole one use to
"But what'd you tell him to do it for?"
"Nothin'. I 'es' said it 'at way--an' he jes' chop er off!"
Both brothers looked pleased and proud. Penrod's profound
interest was flatteringly visible, a tribute to their
"Hem bow goy," suggested Verman eagerly.
"Aw ri'," said Herman. "Ow sistuh Queenie, she a growed-up
woman; she got a goituh."
"Got a what?"
"Goituh. Swellin' on her neck--grea' big swellin'. She
heppin' mammy move in now. You look in de front-room winduh
wheres she sweepin'; you kin see it on her."
Penrod looked in the window and was rewarded by a fine view
of Queenie's goitre. He had never before seen one, and only the
lure of further conversation on the part of Verman brought him
from the window.
"Verman say tell you 'bout pappy," explained Herman. "Mammy
an' Queenie move in town an' go git de house all fix up befo'
pappy git out."
"Out of where?"
"Jail. Pappy cut a man, an' de police done kep' him in jail
evuh sense Chris'mus-time; but dey goin' tuhn him loose ag'in
"What'd he cut the other man with?"
"Wif a pitchfawk."
Penrod began to feel that a lifetime spent with this
fascinating family were all too short. The brothers, glowing
with amiability, were as enraptured as he. For the first time in
their lives they moved in the rich glamour of sensationalism.
Herman was prodigal of gesture with his right hand; and Verman,
chuckling with delight, talked fluently, though somewhat
consciously. They cheerfully agreed to keep the raccoon--already
beginning to be mentioned as "our 'coon" by Penrod--in Mr.
Schofield's empty stable, and, when the animal had been chained
to the wall near the box of rats and supplied with a pan of fair
water, they assented to their new friend's suggestion (inspired
by a fine sense of the artistic harmonies) that the
heretofore nameless pet be christened Sherman, in honour of their
At this juncture was heard from the front yard the sound of
that yodelling which is the peculiar accomplishment of those
whose voices have not "changed." Penrod yodelled a response; and
Mr. Samuel Williams appeared, a large bundle under his arm.
"Yay, Penrod!" was his greeting, casual enough from without;
but, having entered, he stopped short and emitted a prodigious
whistle. "YA-A-AY!" he then shouted. "Look at the 'coon!"
"I guess you better say, `Look at the 'coon!'" Penrod
returned proudly. "They's a good deal more'n him to look at,
too. Talk some, Verman." Verman complied.
Sam was warmly interested. "What'd you say his name was?" he
"How d'you spell it?"
"V-e-r-m-a-n," replied Penrod, having previously received
this information from Herman.
"Oh!" said Sam.
"Point to sumpthing, Herman," Penrod commanded, and Sam's
excitement, when Herman pointed was sufficient to the occasion.
Penrod, the discoverer, continued his exploitation of the
manifold wonders of the Sherman, Herman, and Verman
collection. With the air of a proprietor he escorted Sam into
the alley for a good look at Queenie (who seemed not to care for
her increasing celebrity) and proceeded to a dramatic climax--the
recital of the episode of the pitchfork and its consequences.
The cumulative effect was enormous, and could have but one
possible result. The normal boy is always at least one half
"Let's get up a SHOW!"
Penrod and Sam both claimed to have said it first, a question
left unsettled in the ecstasies of hurried preparation. The
bundle under Sam's arm, brought with no definite purpose, proved
to have been an inspiration. It consisted of broad sheets of
light yellow wrapping-paper, discarded by Sam's mother in her
spring house-cleaning. There were half-filled cans and buckets
of paint in the storeroom adjoining the carriage-house, and
presently the side wall of the stable flamed information upon the
passer-by from a great and spreading poster.
"Publicity," primal requisite of all theatrical and
amphitheatrical enterprise thus provided, subsequent arrangements
proceeded with a fury of energy which transformed the empty hay-
loft. True, it is impossible to say just what the hay-loft was
transformed into, but history warrantably clings to the statement
that it was transformed. Duke and Sherman were secured to the
rear wall at a considerable distance from each other, after
an exhibition of reluctance on the part of Duke, during which he
displayed a nervous energy and agility almost miraculous in so
small and middle-aged a dog. Benches were improvised for
spectators; the rats were brought up; finally the rafters, corn-
crib, and hay-chute were ornamented with flags and strips of
bunting from Sam Williams' attic, Sam returning from the
excursion wearing an old silk hat, and accompanied (on account of
a rope) by a fine dachshund encountered on the highway. In the
matter of personal decoration paint was generously used: an
interpretation of the spiral, inclining to whites and greens,
becoming brilliantly effective upon the dark facial backgrounds
of Herman and Verman; while the countenances of Sam and Penrod
were each supplied with the black moustache and imperial, lacking
which, no professional showman can be esteemed conscientious.
It was regretfully decided, in council, that no attempt be
made to add Queenie to the list of exhibits, her brothers warmly
declining to act as ambassadors in that cause. They were certain
Queenie would not like the idea, they said, and Herman
picturesquely described her activity on occasions when she had
been annoyed by too much attention to her appearance. However,
Penrod's disappointment was alleviated by an inspiration which
came to him in a moment of pondering upon the dachshund, and the
entire party went forth to add an enriching line to the
They found a group of seven, including two adults, already
gathered in the street to read and admire this work.
SCHoFiELD & WiLLiAMS
ADMiSSioN 1 CENT oR 20 PiNS
MUSUEM oF CURioSiTES
Now GoiNG oN
SHERMAN HERMAN & VERMAN
THiER FATHERS iN JAiL STABED A
MAN WiTH A
SHERMAN THE WiLD ANIMAL
CAPTURED iN AFRiCA
HERMAN THE ONE FiNGERED TATOOD
WILD MAN VERMAN THE SAVAGE TATOOD
WILD BoY TALKS ONLY iN HiS NAiTiVE
LANGUAGS. Do NoT FAIL TO SEE DUKE
THE INDiAN DOG ALSO THE MiCHiGAN
A heated argument took place between Sam and Penrod, the
point at issue being settled, finally, by the drawing of straws;
whereupon Penrod, with pardonable self-importance--in the
presence of an audience now increased to nine--slowly painted the
words inspired by the dachshund:
IMPoRTENT Do NoT MISS THE SoUTH
AMERiCAN DoG PART ALLIGATOR.
CHAPTER XVI. THE NEW STAR
Sam, Penrod, Herman, and Verman withdrew in considerable state
from non-paying view, and, repairing to the hay-loft, declared
the exhibition open to the public. Oral proclamation was made by
Sam, and then the loitering multitude was enticed by the
seductive strains of a band; the two partners performing upon
combs and paper, Herman and Verman upon tin pans with sticks.
The effect was immediate. Visitors appeared upon the
stairway and sought admission. Herman and Verman took position
among the exhibits, near the wall; Sam stood at the entrance,
officiating as barker and ticket-seller; while Penrod,
with debonair suavity, acted as curator, master of ceremonies,
and lecturer. He greeted the first to enter with a courtly bow.
They consisted of Miss Rennsdale and her nursery governess, and
they paid spot cash for their admission.
"Walk in, lay-deeze, walk right in--pray do not obstruck the
passageway," said Penrod, in a remarkable voice. "Pray be
seated; there is room for each and all."
Miss Rennsdale and governess were followed by Mr. Georgie
Bassett and baby sister (which proves the perfection of Georgie's
character) and six or seven other neighbourhood children--a most
satisfactory audience, although, subsequent to Miss Rennsdale and
governess, admission was wholly by pin.
"GEN-til-mun and LAY-deeze," shouted Penrod, "I will
first call your at-tain-shon to our genuine South American dog,
part alligator!" He pointed to the dachshund, and added, in his
ordinary tone, "That's him." Straightway reassuming the
character of showman, he bellowed: "NEXT, you see Duke, the
genuine, full-blooded Indian dog from the far Western Plains and
Rocky Mountains. NEXT, the trained Michigan rats, captured
way up there, and trained to jump and run all around the box at
the--at the--at the slightest PRE-text!" He paused, partly
to take breath and partly to enjoy his own surprised
discovery that this phrase was in his vocabulary.
"At the slightest PRE-text!" he repeated, and continued,
suiting the action to the word: "I will now hammer upon the box
and each and all may see these genuine full-blooded Michigan rats
perform at the slightest PRE-text! There! (That's all they
do now, but I and Sam are goin' to train 'em lots more before
this afternoon.) GEN-til-mun and LAY-deeze I will kindly
now call your at-tain-shon to Sherman, the wild animal from
Africa, costing the lives of the wild trapper and many of his
companions. NEXT, let me kindly interodoos Herman and
Verman. Their father got mad and stuck his pitchfork right
inside of another man, exactly as promised upon the
advertisements outside the big tent, and got put in jail. Look
at them well, gen-til-mun and lay-deeze, there is no extra
charge, and RE-MEM-BUR you are each and all now looking at
two wild, tattooed men which the father of is in jail. Point,
Herman. Each and all will have a chance to see. Point to
sumpthing else, Herman. This is the only genuine one-fingered
tattooed wild man. Last on the programme, gen-til-mun and lay-
deeze, we have Verman, the savage tattooed wild boy, that can't
speak only his native foreign languages. Talk some, Verman."
Verman obliged and made an instantaneous hit. He was encored
rapturously, again and again; and, thrilling with the unique
pleasure of being appreciated and misunderstood at the same time,
would have talked all day but too gladly. Sam Williams,
however, with a true showman's foresight, whispered to Penrod,
who rang down on the monologue.
"GEN-til-mun and LAY-deeze, this closes our
pufformance. Pray pass out quietly and with as little jostling
as possible. As soon as you are all out there's goin' to be a
new pufformance, and each and all are welcome at the same and
simple price of admission. Pray pass out quietly and with as
little jostling as possible. RE-MEM-BUR the price is only
one cent, the tenth part of a dime, or twenty pins, no bent ones
taken. Pray pass out quietly and with as little jostling as
possible. The Schofield and Williams Military Band will play
before each pufformance, and each and all are welcome for the
same and simple price of admission. Pray pass out quietly and
with as little jostling as possible."
Forthwith, the Schofield and Williams Military Band began a
second overture, in which something vaguely like a tune was at
times distinguishable; and all of the first audience returned,
most of them having occupied the interval in hasty excursions for
more pins; Miss Rennsdale and governess, however, again paying
coin of the Republic and receiving deference and the best seats
accordingly. And when a third performance found all of the same
inveterate patrons once more crowding the auditorium, and seven
recruits added, the pleasurable excitement of the partners in
their venture will be understood by any one who has seen a
metropolitan manager strolling about the foyer of his theatre
some evening during the earlier stages of an assured "phenomenal
From the first, there was no question which feature of the
entertainment was the attraction extraordinary: Verman--Verman,
the savage tattooed wild boy, speaking only his native foreign
languages--Verman was a triumph! Beaming, wreathed in smiles,
melodious, incredibly fluent, he had but to open his lips and a
dead hush fell upon the audience. Breathless, they leaned
forward, hanging upon his every semi-syllable, and, when Penrod
checked the flow, burst into thunders of applause, which Verman
received with happy laughter.
Alas! he delayed not o'er long to display all the
egregiousness of a new star; but for a time there was no caprice
of his too eccentric to be forgiven. During Penrod's lecture
upon the other curios, the tattooed wild boy continually stamped
his foot, grinned, and gesticulated, tapping his tiny chest, and
pointing to himself as it were to say: "Wait for Me! I am the
Big Show." So soon they learn; so soon they learn! And (again
alas!) this spoiled darling of public favour, like many another,
was fated to know, in good time, the fickleness of that favour.
But during all the morning performances he was the idol of
his audience and looked it! The climax of his popularity came
during the fifth overture of the Schofield and Williams
Military Band, when the music was quite drowned in the agitated
clamours of Miss Rennsdale, who was endeavouring to ascend the
stairs in spite of the physical dissuasion of her governess.
"I WON'T go home to lunch!" screamed Miss Rennsdale, her
voice accompanied by a sound of ripping. "I WILL hear the
tattooed wild boy talk some more! It's lovely--I WILL hear
him talk! I WILL! I WILL! I want to listen to Verman--
I WANT to--I WANT to----"
Wailing, she was borne away--of her sex not the first to be
fascinated by obscurity, nor the last to champion its eloquence.
Verman was almost unendurable after this, but, like many,
many other managers, Schofield and Williams restrained their
choler, and even laughed fulsomely when their principal
attraction essayed the role of a comedian in private, and capered
and squawked in sheer, fatuous vanity.
The first performance of the afternoon rivalled the successes
of the morning, and although Miss Rennsdale was detained at home,
thus drying up the single source of cash income developed before
lunch, Maurice Levy appeared, escorting Marjorie Jones, and paid
coin for two admissions, dropping the money into Sam's hand with
a careless--nay, a contemptuous--gesture. At sight of Marjorie,
Penrod Schofield flushed under his new moustache (repainted
since noon) and lectured as he had never lectured before. A
new grace invested his every gesture; a new sonorousness rang in
his voice; a simple and manly pomposity marked his very walk as
he passed from curio to curio. And when he fearlessly handled
the box of rats and hammered upon it with cool insouciance,
he beheld--for the first time in his life--a purl of admiration
eddying in Marjorie's lovely eye, a certain softening of that
eye. And then Verman spake and Penrod was forgotten. Marjorie's
eye rested upon him no more.
A heavily equipped chauffeur ascended the stairway, bearing
the message that Mrs. Levy awaited her son and his lady.
Thereupon, having devoured the last sound permitted (by the
managers) to issue from Verman, Mr. Levy and Miss Jones departed
to a real matinee at a real theatre, the limpid eyes of Marjorie
looking back softly over her shoulder--but only at the tattooed
wild boy. Nearly always it is woman who puts the irony into
After this, perhaps because of sated curiosity, perhaps on
account of a pin famine, the attendance began to languish. Only
four responded to the next call of the band; the four dwindled to
three; finally the entertainment was given for one blase
auditor, and Schofield and Williams looked depressed. Then
followed an interval when the band played in vain.
About three o'clock Schofield and Williams were gloomily
discussing various unpromising devices for
startling the public into a renewal of interest, when another
patron unexpectedly appeared and paid a cent for his admission.
News of the Big Show and Museum of Curiosities had at last
penetrated the far, cold spaces of interstellar niceness, for
this new patron consisted of no less than Roderick Magsworth
Bitts, Junior, escaped in a white "sailor suit" from the Manor
during a period of severe maternal and tutorial preoccupation.
He seated himself without parley, and the pufformance was
offered for his entertainment with admirable conscientiousness.
True to the Lady Clara caste and training, Roderick's pale, fat
face expressed nothing except an impervious superiority and, as
he sat, cold and unimpressed upon the front bench, like a large,
white lump, it must be said that he made a discouraging audience
"to play to." He was not, however, unresponsive--far from it.
He offered comment very chilling to the warm grandiloquence of
"That's my uncle Ethelbert's dachshund," he remarked, at the
beginning of the lecture. "You better take him back if you don't
want to get arrested." And when Penrod, rather uneasily ignoring
the interruption, proceeded to the exploitation of the genuine,
full-blooded Indian dog, Duke, "Why don't you try to give that
old dog away?" asked Roderick. "You couldn't sell him."
"My papa would buy me a lots better 'coon than that,"
was the information volunteered a little later, "only I wouldn't
want the nasty old thing."
Herman of the missing finger obtained no greater indulgence.
"Pooh!" said Roderick. "We have two fox-terriers in our stables
that took prizes at the kennel show, and their tails were BIT
off. There's a man that always bites fox-terriers' tails off."
"Oh, my gosh, what a lie!" exclaimed Sam Williams ignorantly.
"Go on with the show whether he likes it or not, Penrod. He's
paid his money."
Verman, confident in his own singular powers, chuckled openly
at the failure of the other attractions to charm the frosty
visitor, and, when his turn came, poured forth a torrent of
conversation which was straightway damned.
"Rotten," said Mr. Bitts languidly. "Anybody could talk like
that. _I_ could do it if I wanted to."
Verman paused suddenly.
"YES, you could!" exclaimed Penrod, stung. "Let's hear
you do it, then."
"Yessir!" the other partner shouted. "Let's just hear you
"I said I could if I wanted to," responded Roderick. "I
didn't say I WOULD."
"Yay! Knows he can't!" sneered Sam.
"I can, too, if I try."
"Well, let's hear you try!"
So challenged, the visitor did try, but, in the absence of an
impartial jury, his effort was considered so pronounced a
failure that he was howled down, derided, and mocked with great
"Anyway," said Roderick, when things had quieted down, "if I
couldn't get up a better show than this I'd sell out and leave
Not having enough presence of mind to inquire what he would
sell out, his adversaries replied with mere formless yells of
"I could get up a better show than this with my left hand,"
"Well, what would you have in your ole show?" asked Penrod,
condescending to language.
"That's all right, what I'd HAVE. I'd have enough!"
"You couldn't get Herman and Verman in your ole show."
"No, and I wouldn't want 'em, either!"
"Well, what WOULD you have?" insisted Penrod derisively.
"You'd have to have SUMPTHING--you couldn't be a show
"How do YOU know?" This was but meandering while waiting
for ideas, and evoked another yell.
"You think you could be a show all by yourself?" demanded
"How do YOU know I couldn't?"
Two white boys and two black boys shrieked their scorn of the
"I could, too!" Roderick raised his voice to a sudden howl,
obtaining a hearing.
"Well, why don't you tell us how?"
"Well, _I_ know HOW, all right," said Roderick. "If
anybody asks you, you can just tell him I know HOW, all
"Why, you can't DO anything," Sam began argumentatively.
"You talk about being a show all by yourself; what could you try
to do? Show us sumpthing you can do."
"I didn't say I was going to DO anything," returned the
badgered one, still evading.
"Well, then, how'd you BE a show?" Penrod demanded.
"WE got a show here, even if Herman didn't point or Verman
didn't talk. Their father stabbed a man with a pitchfork, I
guess, didn't he?"
"How do _I_ know?"
"Well, I guess he's in jail, ain't he?"
"Well, what if their father is in jail? I didn't say he
wasn't, did I?"
"Well, YOUR father ain't in jail, is he?"
"Well, I never said he was, did I?"
"Well, then," continued Penrod, "how could you be a----" He
stopped abruptly, staring at Roderick, the birth of an idea
plainly visible in his altered expression. He had suddenly
remembered his intention to ask Roderick Magsworth Bitts, Junior,
about Rena Magsworth, and this recollection collided in his mind
with the irritation produced by Roderick's claiming some
mysterious attainment which would warrant his setting up as a
show in his single person. Penrod's whole manner changed
"Roddy," he asked, almost overwhelmed by a prescience of
something vast and magnificent, "Roddy, are you any relation of
Roderick had never heard of Rena Magsworth, although a
concentration of the sentence yesterday pronounced upon her had
burned, black and horrific, upon the face of every newspaper in
the country. He was not allowed to read the journals of the day
and his family's indignation over the sacrilegious coincidence of
the name had not been expressed in his presence. But he saw that
it was an awesome name to Penrod Schofield and Samuel Williams.
Even Herman and Verman, though lacking many educational
advantages on account of a long residence in the country, were
informed on the subject of Rena Magsworth through hearsay, and
they joined in the portentous silence.
"Roddy," repeated Penrod, "honest, is Rena Magsworth some
relation of yours?"
There is no obsession more dangerous to its victims than a
conviction especially an inherited one--of superiority: this
world is so full of Missourians. And from his earliest years
Roderick Magsworth Bitts, Junior, had been trained to believe in
the importance of the Magsworth family. At every meal he
absorbed a sense of Magsworth greatness, and yet, in his
infrequent meetings with persons of his own age and sex, he
was treated as negligible. Now, dimly, he perceived that there
was a Magsworth claim of some sort which was impressive, even to
boys. Magsworth blood was the essential of all true distinction
in the world, he knew. Consequently, having been driven into a
cul-de-sac, as a result of flagrant and unfounded boasting,
he was ready to take advantage of what appeared to be a triumphal
"Roddy," said Penrod again, with solemnity, "is Rena
Magsworth some relation of yours?"
"IS she, Roddy?" asked Sam, almost hoarsely.
"She's my aunt!" shouted Roddy.
Silence followed. Sam and Penrod, spellbound, gazed upon
Roderick Magsworth Bitts, Junior. So did Herman and Verman.
Roddy's staggering lie had changed the face of things utterly.
No one questioned it; no one realized that it was much too good
to be true.
"Roddy," said Penrod, in a voice tremulous with hope, "Roddy,
will you join our show?"
Even he could see that the offer implied his being starred as
the paramount attraction of a new order of things. It was
obvious that he had swelled out suddenly, in the estimation of
the other boys, to that importance which he had been taught to
believe his native gift and natural right. The sensation was
pleasant. He had often been treated with effusion by grown-
up callers and by acquaintances of his mothers and sisters; he
had heard ladies speak of him as "charming" and "that delightful
child," and little girls had sometimes shown him deference, but
until this moment no boy had ever allowed him, for one moment, to
presume even to equality. Now, in a trice, he was not only
admitted to comradeship, but patently valued as something rare
and sacred to be acclaimed and pedestalled. In fact, the very
first thing that Schofield and Williams did was to find a box for
him to stand upon.
The misgivings roused in Roderick's bosom by the subsequent
activities of the firm were not bothersome enough to make him
forego his prominence as Exhibit A. He was not a "quick-minded"
boy, and it was long (and much happened) before he thoroughly
comprehended the causes of his new celebrity. He had a shadowy
feeling that if the affair came to be heard of at home it might
not be liked, but, intoxicated by the glamour and bustle which
surround a public character, he made no protest. On the
contrary, he entered whole-heartedly into the preparations for
the new show. Assuming, with Sam's assistance, a blue moustache
and "side-burns," he helped in the painting of a new poster,
which, supplanting the old one on the wall of the stable facing
the cross-street, screamed bloody murder at the passers in that
rather populous thoroughfare.
SCHoFiELD & WiLLiAMS
NEW BIG SHoW
RoDERiCK MAGSWoRTH BiTTS JR
ONLY LiViNG NEPHEW
MUDERESS GoiNG To BE HUNG
NEXT JULY KiLED EiGHT PEOPLE
PUT ARSiNECK iN THiER MiLK ALSO
SHERMAN HERMAN AND VERMAN
THE MiCHiGAN RATS DOG PART
ALLiGATOR DUKE THE GENUiNE
InDiAN DoG ADMISSioN 1 CENT oR
20 PINS SAME AS BEFORE Do NoT
MISS THIS CHANSE TO SEE RoDERICK
ONLY LiViNG NEPHEW oF RENA
MAGSWORTH THE GREAT FAMOS
GoiNG To BE
CHAPTER XVII. RETIRING FROM THE SHOW BUSINESS
Megaphones were constructed out of heavy wrapping-paper, and
Penrod, Sam, and Herman set out in different directions,
delivering vocally the inflammatory proclamation of the poster to
a large section of the residential quarter, and leaving Roderick
Magsworth Bitts, Junior, with Verman in the loft, shielded from
all deadhead eyes. Upon the return of the heralds, the Schofield
and Williams Military Band played deafeningly, and an awakened
public once more thronged to fill the coffers of the firm.
Prosperity smiled again. The very first audience
after the acquisition of Roderick was larger than the
largest of the morning. Master Bitts--the only exhibit placed
upon a box--was a supercurio. All eyes fastened upon him and
remained, hungrily feasting, throughout Penrod's luminous
But the glory of one light must ever be the dimming of
another. We dwell in a vale of seesaws--and cobwebs spin fastest
upon laurel. Verman, the tattooed wild boy, speaking only in his
native foreign languages, Verman the gay, Verman the caperer,
capered no more; he chuckled no more, he beckoned no more, nor
tapped his chest, nor wreathed his idolatrous face in smiles.
Gone, all gone, were his little artifices for attracting the
general attention to himself; gone was every engaging mannerism
which had endeared him to the mercurial public. He squatted
against the wall and glowered at the new sensation. It was the
old story--the old, old story of too much temperament: Verman
was suffering from artistic jealousy.
The second audience contained a cash-paying adult, a
spectacled young man whose poignant attention was very
flattering. He remained after the lecture, and put a few
questions to Roddy, which were answered rather confusedly upon
promptings from Penrod. The young man went away without having
stated the object of his interrogations, but it became quite
plain, later in the day. This same object caused the spectacled
young man to make several brief but stimulating calls
directly after leaving the Schofield and Williams Big Show, and
the consequences thereof loitered not by the wayside.
The Big Show was at high tide. Not only was the auditorium
filled and throbbing; there was an indubitable line--by no means
wholly juvenile--waiting for admission to the next pufformance.
A group stood in the street examining the poster earnestly as it
glowed in the long, slanting rays of the westward sun, and people
in automobiles and other vehicles had halted wheel in the street
to read the message so piquantly given to the world. These were
the conditions when a crested victoria arrived at a gallop, and a
large, chastely magnificent and highly flushed woman descended,
and progressed across the yard with an air of violence.
At sight of her, the adults of the waiting line hastily
disappeared, and most of the pausing vehicles moved instantly on
their way. She was followed by a stricken man in livery.
The stairs to the auditorium were narrow and steep; Mrs.
Roderick Magsworth Bitts was of a stout favour; and the voice of
Penrod was audible during the ascent.
"RE-MEM-BUR, gentilmun and lay-deeze, each and all are
now gazing upon Roderick Magsworth Bitts, Junior, the only living
nephew of the great Rena Magsworth. She stuck ars'nic in the
milk of eight separate and distinck people to put in their coffee
and each and all of 'em died. The great ars'nic murderess,
Rena Magsworth, gentilmun and lay-deeze, and Roddy's her only
living nephew. She's a relation of all the Bitts family, but
he's her one and only living nephew. RE-MEM-BUR! Next July
she's goin' to be hung, and, each and all, you now see before
Penrod paused abruptly, seeing something before himself--the
august and awful presence which filled the entryway. And his
words (it should be related) froze upon his lips.
Before HERSELF, Mrs. Roderick Magsworth Bitts saw her
son--her scion--wearing a moustache and sideburns of blue, and
perched upon a box flanked by Sherman and Verman, the Michigan
rats, the Indian dog Duke, Herman, and the dog part alligator.
Roddy, also, saw something before himself. It needed no
prophet to read the countenance of the dread apparition in the
entryway. His mouth opened--remained open--then filled to
capacity with a calamitous sound of grief not unmingled with
Penrod's reason staggered under the crisis. For a horrible
moment he saw Mrs. Roderick Magsworth Bitts approaching like some
fatal mountain in avalanche. She seemed to grow larger and
redder; lightnings played about her head; he had a vague
consciousness of the audience spraying out in flight, of the
squealings, tramplings and dispersals of a stricken
field. The mountain was close upon him----
He stood by the open mouth of the hay-chute which went
through the floor to the manger below. Penrod also went through
the floor. He propelled himself into the chute and shot down,
but not quite to the manger, for Mr. Samuel Williams had
thoughtfully stepped into the chute a moment in advance of his
partner. Penrod lit upon Sam.
Catastrophic noises resounded in the loft; volcanoes seemed
to romp upon the stairway.
There ensued a period when only a shrill keening marked the
passing of Roderick as he was borne to the tumbril. Then all was
. . . Sunset, striking through a western window, rouged the
walls of the Schofields' library, where gathered a joint family
council and court martial of four--Mrs. Schofield, Mr. Schofield,
and Mr. and Mrs. Williams, parents of Samuel of that ilk. Mr.
Williams read aloud a conspicuous passage from the last edition
of the evening paper:
"Prominent people here believed close relations of woman
sentenced to hang. Angry denial by Mrs. R. Magsworth Bitts.
Relationship admitted by younger member of family. His statement
confirmed by boy-friends----"
"Don't!" said Mrs. Williams, addressing her husband
vehemently. "We've all read it a dozen times. We've got
plenty of trouble on our hands without hearing THAT again!"
Singularly enough, Mrs. Williams did not look troubled; she
looked as if she were trying to look troubled. Mrs. Schofield
wore a similar expression. So did Mr. Schofield. So did Mr.
"What did she say when she called YOU up?" Mrs. Schofield
inquired breathlessly of Mrs. Williams.
"She could hardly speak at first, and then when she did talk,
she talked so fast I couldn't understand most of it, and----"
"It was just the same when she tried to talk to me," said
Mrs. Schofield, nodding.
"I never did hear any one in such a state before," continued
Mrs. Williams. "So furious----"
"Quite justly, of course," said Mrs. Schofield.
"Of course. And she said Penrod and Sam had enticed Roderick
away from home--usually he's not allowed to go outside the yard
except with his tutor or a servant--and had told him to say that
horrible creature was his aunt----"
"How in the world do you suppose Sam and Penrod ever thought
of such a thing as THAT!" exclaimed Mrs. Schofield. "It must
have been made up just for their `show.' Della says there were
just STREAMS going in and out all day. Of course it wouldn't
have happened, but this was the day Margaret and I spend every
month in the country with Aunt Sarah, and I didn't DREAM----"
"She said one thing I thought rather tactless," interrupted
Mrs. Williams. "Of course we must allow for her being dreadfully
excited and wrought up, but I do think it wasn't quite delicate
in her, and she's usually the very soul of delicacy. She said
that Roderick had NEVER been allowed to associate with--
"Meaning Sam and Penrod," said Mrs. Schofield. "Yes, she
said that to me, too."
"She said that the most awful thing about it," Mrs. Williams
went on, "was that, though she's going to prosecute the
newspapers, many people would always believe the story, and----"
"Yes, I imagine they will," said Mrs. Schofield musingly.
"Of course you and I and everybody who really knows the Bitts and
Magsworth families understand the perfect absurdity of it; but I
suppose there are ever so many who'll believe it, no matter what
the Bittses and Magsworths say."
"Hundreds and hundreds!" said Mrs. Williams. "I'm afraid it
will be a great come-down for them."
"I'm afraid so," said Mrs. Schofield gently. "A very great
one--yes, a very, very great one."
"Well," observed Mrs. Williams, after a thoughtful pause,
"there's only one thing to be done, and I suppose it had better
be done right away."
She glanced toward the two gentlemen.
"Certainly," Mr. Schofield agreed. "But where ARE they?"
"Have you looked in the stable?" asked his wife.
"I searched it. They've probably started for the far West."
"Did you look in the sawdust-box?"
"No, I didn't."
"Then that's where they are."
Thus, in the early twilight, the now historic stable was
approached by two fathers charged to do the only thing to be
done. They entered the storeroom.
"Penrod!" said Mr. Schofield.
"Sam!" said Mr. Williams.
Nothing disturbed the twilight hush.
But by means of a ladder, brought from the carriage-house,
Mr. Schofield mounted to the top of the sawdust-box. He looked
within, and discerned the dim outlines of three quiet figures,
the third being that of a small dog.
The two boys rose, upon command, descended the ladder after
Mr. Schofield, bringing Duke with them, and stood before the
authors of their being, who bent upon them sinister and
threatening brows. With hanging heads and despondent
countenances, each still ornamented with a moustache and an
imperial, Penrod and Sam awaited sentence.
This is a boy's lot: anything he does, anything whatever, may
afterward turn out to have been a crime--he never knows.
And punishment and clemency are alike inexplicable.
Mr. Williams took his son by the ear.
"You march home!" he commanded.
Sam marched, not looking back, and his father followed the
small figure implacably.
"You goin' to whip me?" quavered Penrod, alone with Justice.
"Wash your face at that hydrant," said his father sternly.
About fifteen minutes later, Penrod, hurriedly entering the
corner drug store, two blocks distant, was astonished to perceive
a familiar form at the soda counter.
"Yay, Penrod," said Sam Williams. "Want some sody? Come on.
He didn't lick me. He didn't do anything to me at all. He gave
me a quarter."
"So'd mine," said Penrod.
CHAPTER XVIII. MUSIC
Boyhood is the longest time in life for a boy. The last term of
the school-year is made of decades, not of weeks, and living
through them is like waiting for the millennium. But they do
pass, somehow, and at last there came a day when Penrod was one
of a group that capered out from the gravelled yard of "Ward
School, Nomber Seventh," carolling a leave-taking of the
institution, of their instructress, and not even forgetting Mr.
Capps, the janitor.
"Good-bye, teacher! Good-bye, school!
Good-bye, Cappsie, dern ole fool!"
Penrod sang the loudest. For every boy, there is an age when
he "finds his voice." Penrod's had not "changed," but he had
found it. Inevitably that thing had come upon his family and the
neighbours; and his father, a somewhat dyspeptic man, quoted
frequently the expressive words of the "Lady of Shalott," but
there were others whose sufferings were as poignant.
Vacation-time warmed the young of the world to pleasant
languor; and a morning came that was like a brightly coloured
picture in a child's fairy story. Miss Margaret Schofield,
reclining in a hammock upon the front porch, was beautiful in the
eyes of a newly made senior, well favoured and in fair raiment,
beside her. A guitar rested lightly upon his knee, and he was
trying to play--a matter of some difficulty, as the floor of the
porch also seemed inclined to be musical. From directly under
his feet came a voice of song, shrill, loud, incredibly piercing
and incredibly flat, dwelling upon each syllable with
incomprehensible reluctance to leave it.
"I have lands and earthly pow-wur.
I'd give all for a now-wur,
Whi-ilst setting at MY-Y-Y dear old mother's knee-ee,
So-o-o rem-mem-bur whilst you're young----"
Miss Schofield stamped heartily upon the musical floor.
"It's Penrod," she explained. "The lattice at the end of the
porch is loose, and he crawls under and comes out all bugs.
He's been having a dreadful singing fit lately--running away to
picture shows and vaudeville, I suppose."
Mr. Robert Williams looked upon her yearningly. He touched a
thrilling chord on his guitar and leaned nearer. "But you said
you have missed me," he began. I----"
The voice of Penrod drowned all other sounds.
"So-o-o rem-mem-bur, whi-i-ilst you're young,
That the day-a-ys to you will come,
When you're o-o-old and only in the way,
Do not scoff at them BEE-cause----"
"PENROD!" Miss Schofield stamped again.
"You DID say you'd missed me," said Mr. Robert Williams,
seizing hurriedly upon the silence. "Didn't you say----"
A livelier tune rose upward.
"Oh, you talk about your fascinating beauties,
Of your dem-O-zells, your belles,
But the littil dame I met, while in the city,
She's par excellaws the queen of all the swells.
She's sweeter far----"
Margaret rose and jumped up and down repeatedly in a well-
calculated area, whereupon the voice of Penrod cried chokedly,
"QUIT that!" and there were subterranean coughings and
"You want to choke a person to death?" he inquired severely,
appearing at the end of the porch, a cobweb upon his brow. And,
continuing, he put into practice a newly acquired phrase,
"You better learn to be more considerick of other people's
Slowly and grievedly he withdrew, passed to the sunny side of
the house, reclined in the warm grass beside his wistful Duke,
and presently sang again.
"She's sweeter far than the flower I named her after,
And the memery of her smile it haunts me YET!
When in after years the moon is soffly beamun'
And at eve I smell the smell of mignonette
I will re-CALL that----"
Mr. Schofield appeared at an open window upstairs, a book in
"Stop it!" he commanded. "Can't I stay home with a headache
ONE morning from the office without having to listen to--I
never DID hear such squawking!" He retired from the window,
having too impulsively called upon his Maker. Penrod, shocked
and injured, entered the house, but presently his voice was again
audible as far as the front porch. He was holding converse with
his mother, somewhere in the interior.
"Well, what of it? Sam Williams told me his mother said if
Bob ever did think of getting married to Margaret, his mother
said she'd like to know what in the name o' goodness they expect
Bang! Margaret thought it better to close the front door.
The next minute Penrod opened it. "I suppose you want the
whole family to get a sunstroke," he said reprovingly. "Keepin'
every breath of air out o' the house on a day like this!"
And he sat down implacably in the doorway.
The serious poetry of all languages has omitted the little
brother; and yet he is one of the great trials of love--the
immemorial burden of courtship. Tragedy should have found place
for him, but he has been left to the haphazard vignettist of Grub
Street. He is the grave and real menace of lovers; his head is
sacred and terrible, his power illimitable. There is one way--
only one--to deal with him; but Robert Williams, having a brother
of Penrod's age, understood that way.
Robert had one dollar in the world. He gave it to Penrod
Enslaved forever, the new Rockefeller rose and went forth
upon the highway, an overflowing heart bursting the floodgates of
"In her eyes the light of love was soffly gleamun',
On the banks the moon's soff light was brightly streamun',
Words of love I then spoke TO her.
She was purest of the PEW-er:
`Littil sweetheart, do not sigh,
Do not weep and do not cry.
I will build a littil cottige just for yew-EW-EW and I.'"
In fairness, it must be called to mind that boys older than
Penrod have these wellings of pent melody; a wife can never tell
when she is to undergo a musical morning, and even the golden
wedding brings her no security, a man of ninety is liable to
bust-loose in song, any time.
Invalids murmured pitifully as Penrod came within hearing;
and people trying to think cursed the day that they were born,
when he went shrilling by. His hands in his pockets, his shining
face uplifted to the sky of June, he passed down the street,
singing his way into the heart's deepest hatred of all who heard
"One evuning I was sturow-ling
Midst the city of the DEAD,
I viewed where all a-round me
Their PEACE-full graves was SPREAD.
But that which touched me mostlay----"
He had reached his journey's end, a junk-dealer's shop
wherein lay the long-desired treasure of his soul--an accordion
which might have possessed a high quality of interest for an
antiquarian, being unquestionably a ruin, beautiful in decay, and
quite beyond the sacrilegious reach of the restorer. But it was
still able to disgorge sounds--loud, strange, compelling sounds,
which could be heard for a remarkable distance in all directions;
and it had one rich calf-like tone that had gone to Penrod's
heart. He obtained the instrument for twenty-two cents, a
price long since agreed upon with the junk-dealer, who
falsely claimed a loss of profit, Shylock that he was! He had
found the wreck in an alley.
With this purchase suspended from his shoulder by a faded
green cord, Penrod set out in a somewhat homeward direction, but
not by the route he had just travelled, though his motive for the
change was not humanitarian. It was his desire to display
himself thus troubadouring to the gaze of Marjorie Jones.
Heralding his advance by continuous experiments in the music of
the future, he pranced upon his blithesome way, the faithful Duke
at his heels. (It was easier for Duke than it would have been
for a younger dog, because, with advancing age, he had begun to
grow a little deaf.)
Turning the corner nearest to the glamoured mansion of the
Joneses, the boy jongleur came suddenly face to face with
Marjorie, and, in the delicious surprise of the encounter, ceased
to play, his hands, in agitation, falling from the instrument.
Bareheaded, the sunshine glorious upon her amber curls,
Marjorie was strolling hand-in-hand with her baby brother,
Mitchell, four years old. She wore pink that day--unforgettable
pink, with a broad, black patent-leather belt, shimmering
reflections dancing upon its surface. How beautiful she was!
How sacred the sweet little baby brother, whose privilege it was
to cling to that small hand, delicately powdered with freckles.
"Hello, Marjorie," said Penrod, affecting carelessness.
"Hello!" said Marjorie, with unexpected cordiality. She
bent over her baby brother with motherly affectations. "Say
`howdy' to the gentymuns, Mitchy-Mitch," she urged sweetly,
turning him to face Penrod.
"WON'T!" said Mitchy-Mitch, and, to emphasize his
refusal, kicked the gentymuns upon the shin.
Penrod's feelings underwent instant change, and in the sole
occupation of disliking Mitchy-Mitch, he wasted precious seconds
which might have been better employed in philosophic
consideration of the startling example, just afforded, of how a
given law operates throughout the universe in precisely the same
manner perpetually. Mr. Robert Williams would have understood
"Oh, oh!" Marjorie cried, and put Mitchy-Mitch behind her
with too much sweetness. "Maurice Levy's gone to Atlantic City
with his mamma," she remarked conversationally, as if the kicking
incident were quite closed.
"That's nothin'," returned Penrod, keeping his eye uneasily
upon Mitchy-Mitch. "I know plenty people been better places than
that--Chicago and everywhere."
There was unconscious ingratitude in his low rating of
Atlantic City, for it was largely to the attractions of that
resort he owed Miss Jones' present attitude of friendliness.
Of course, too, she was curious about the accordion. It would be
dastardly to hint that she had noticed a paper bag which bulged
the pocket of Penrod's coat, and yet this bag was undeniably
conspicuous--"and children are very like grown people sometimes!"
Penrod brought forth the bag, purchased on the way at a drug
store, and till this moment UNOPENED, which expresses in a
word the depth of his sentiment for Marjorie. It contained an
abundant fifteen-cents' worth of lemon drops, jaw-breakers,
licorice sticks, cinnamon drops, and shopworn choclate creams.
"Take all you want," he said, with off-hand generosity.
"Why, Penrod Schofield," exclaimed the wholly thawed damsel,
"you nice boy!"
"Oh, that's nothin'," he returned airily. "I got a good deal
of money, nowadays."
"Oh--just around." With a cautious gesture he offered a jaw-
breaker to Mitchy-Mitch, who snatched it indignantly and set
about its absorption without delay.
"Can you play on that?" asked Marjorie, with some difficulty,
her cheeks being rather too hilly for conversation.
"Want to hear me?"
She nodded, her eyes sweet with anticipation.
This was what he had come for. He threw back his head,
lifted his eyes dreamily, as he had seen real musicians lift
theirs, and distended the accordion preparing to produce the
wonderful calf-like noise which was the instrument's great charm.
But the distention evoked a long wail which was at once drowned
in another one.
"Ow! Owowaoh! Wowohah! WaowWOW!" shrieked Mitchy-Mitch
and the accordion together.
Mitchy-Mitch, to emphasize his disapproval of the accordion,
opening his mouth still wider, lost therefrom the jaw-breaker,
which rolled in the dust. Weeping, he stooped to retrieve it,
and Marjorie, to prevent him, hastily set her foot upon it.
Penrod offered another jaw-breaker; but Mitchy-Mitch struck it
from his hand, desiring the former, which had convinced him of
Marjorie moved inadvertently; whereupon Mitchy-Mitch pounced
upon the remains of his jaw-breaker and restored them, with
accretions, to his mouth. His sister, uttering a cry of horror,
sprang to the rescue, assisted by Penrod, whom she prevailed upon
to hold Mitchy-Mitch's mouth open while she excavated. This
operation being completed, and Penrod's right thumb severely
bitten, Mitchy-Mitch closed his eyes tightly, stamped, squealed,
bellowed, wrung his hands, and then, unexpectedly, kicked Penrod
Penrod put a hand in his pocket and drew forth a copper
two-cent piece, large, round, and fairly bright.
He gave it to Mitchy-Mitch.
Mitchy-Mitch immediately stopped crying and gazed upon his
benefactor with the eyes of a dog.
Thereafter did Penrod--with complete approval from Mitchy-
Mitch--play the accordion for his lady to his heart's content,
and hers. Never had he so won upon her; never had she let him
feel so close to her before. They strolled up and down upon the
sidewalk, eating, one thought between them, and soon she had
learned to play the accordion almost as well as he. So passed a
happy hour, which the Good King Rene of Anjou would have envied
them, while Mitchy-Mitch made friends with Duke, romped about his
sister and her swain, and clung to the hand of the latter, at
intervals, with fondest affection and trust.
The noon whistles failed to disturb this little Arcady; only
the sound of Mrs. Jones' voice for the third time summoning
Marjorie and Mitchy-Mitch to lunch--sent Penrod on his way.
"I could come back this afternoon, I guess," he said, in
"I'm not goin' to be here. I'm goin' to Baby Rennsdale's
Penrod looked blank, as she intended he should. Having thus
satisfied herself, she added:
"There aren't goin' to be any boys there."
He was instantly radiant again.
"Do you wish I was goin' to be there?"
She looked shy, and turned away her head.
"MARJORIE JONES!" (This was a voice from home.) "HOW
MANY MORE TIMES SHALL I HAVE TO CALL YOU?"
Marjorie moved away, her face still hidden from Penrod.
"Do you?" he urged.
At the gate, she turned quickly toward him, and said over her
shoulder, all in a breath: "Yes! Come again to-morrow morning
and I'll be on the corner. Bring your 'cordion!"
And she ran into the house, Mitchy-Mitch waving a loving hand
to the boy on the sidewalk until the front door closed.
CHAPTER XIX. THE INNER BOY
Penrod went home in splendour, pretending that he and Duke were a
long procession; and he made enough noise to render the auricular
part of the illusion perfect. His own family were already at the
lunch-table when he arrived, and the parade halted only at the
door of the dining-room.
"Oh SOMETHING!" shouted Mr. Schofield, clasping his
bilious brow with both hands. "Stop that noise! Isn't it awful
enough for you to SING? Sit DOWN! Not with that thing
on! Take that green rope off your shoulder! Now take that thing
out of the dining-room and throw it in the ash-can!
Where did you get it?"
"Where did I get what, papa?" asked Penrod meekly, depositing
the accordion in the hall just outside the dining-room door.
"That da--that third-hand concertina."
"It's a 'cordian," said Penrod, taking his place at the
table, and noticing that both Margaret and Mr. Robert Williams
(who happened to be a guest) were growing red.
"I don't care what you call it," said Mr. Schofield
irritably. "I want to know where you got it."
Penrod's eyes met Margaret's: hers had a strained expression.
She very slightly shook her head. Penrod sent Mr. Williams a
grateful look, and might have been startled if he could have seen
himself in a mirror at that moment; for he regarded Mitchy-Mitch
with concealed but vigorous aversion and the resemblance would
have horrified him.
"A man gave it to me," he answered gently, and was rewarded
by the visibly regained ease of his patron's manner, while
Margaret leaned back in her chair and looked at her brother with
"I should think he'd have been glad to," said Mr. Schofield.
"Who was he?"
"Sir?" In spite of the candy which he had consumed in
company with Marjorie and Mitchy-Mitch, Penrod had begun to
eat lobster croquettes earnestly.
"Who WAS he?"
"Who do you mean, papa?"
"The man that gave you that ghastly Thing!"
"Yessir. A man gave it to me."
"I say, Who WAS he?" shouted Mr. Schofield.
"Well, I was just walking along, and the man came up to me--it
was right down in front of Colgate's, where most of the paint's
rubbed off the fence----"
"Penrod!" The father used his most dangerous tone.
"Who was the man that gave you the concertina?"
"I don't know. I was walking along----"
"You never saw him before?"
"No, sir. I was just walk----"
"That will do," said Mr. Schofield, rising. "I suppose every
family has its secret enemies and this was one of ours. I must
ask to be excused!"
With that, he went out crossly, stopping in the hall a moment
before passing beyond hearing. And, after lunch, Penrod sought
in vain for his accordion; he even searched the library where his
father sat reading, though, upon inquiry, Penrod explained that
he was looking for a misplaced schoolbook. He thought he ought
to study a little every day, he said, even during vacation-time.
Much pleased, Mr. Schofield rose and joined the search,
finding the missing work on mathematics with singular ease--which
cost him precisely the price of the book the following September.
Penrod departed to study in the backyard. There, after a
cautious survey of the neighbourhood, he managed to dislodge the
iron cover of the cistern, and dropped the arithmetic within. A
fine splash rewarded his listening ear. Thus assured that when
he looked for that book again no one would find it for him, he
replaced the cover, and betook himself pensively to the highway,
discouraging Duke from following by repeated volleys of stones,
some imaginary and others all too real.
Distant strains of brazen horns and the throbbing of drums
were borne to him upon the kind breeze, reminding him that the
world was made for joy, and that the Barzee and Potter Dog and
Pony Show was exhibiting in a banlieue not far away. So, thither
he bent his steps--the plentiful funds in his pocket burning hot
holes all the way. He had paid twenty-two cents for the
accordion, and fifteen for candy; he had bought the mercenary
heart of Mitchy-Mitch for two: it certainly follows that there
remained to him of his dollar, sixty-one cents--a fair fortune,
and most unusual.
Arrived upon the populous and festive scene of the Dog and
Pony Show, he first turned his attention to the brightly
decorated booths which surrounded the tent. The cries of
the peanut vendors, of the popcorn men, of the toy-balloon
sellers, the stirring music of the band, playing before the
performance to attract a crowd, the shouting of excited children
and the barking of the dogs within the tent, all sounded
exhilaratingly in Penrod's ears and set his blood a-tingle.
Nevertheless, he did not squander his money or fling it to the
winds in one grand splurge. Instead, he began cautiously with
the purchase of an extraordinarily large pickle, which he
obtained from an aged negress for his odd cent, too obvious a
bargain to be missed. At an adjacent stand he bought a glass of
raspberry lemonade (so alleged) and sipped it as he ate the
pickle. He left nothing of either.
Next, he entered a small restaurant-tent and for a modest
nickel was supplied with a fork and a box of sardines, previously
opened, it is true, but more than half full. He consumed the
sardines utterly, but left the tin box and the fork, after which
he indulged in an inexpensive half-pint of lukewarm cider, at one
of the open booths. Mug in hand, a gentle glow radiating toward
his surface from various centres of activity deep inside him, he
paused for breath--and the cool, sweet cadences of the watermelon
man fell delectably upon his ear:
"Ice-cole WATER-melon; ice-cole water-MELON; the
biggest slice of ICE-cole, ripe, red, ICE-cole, rich an'
rare; the biggest slice of ice-cole watermelon ever cut by
the hand of man! BUY our ICE-cole water-melon?"
Penrod, having drained the last drop of cider, complied with
the watermelon man's luscious entreaty, and received a round
slice of the fruit, magnificent in circumference and something
over an inch in thickness. Leaving only the really dangerous
part of the rind behind him, he wandered away from the vicinity
of the watermelon man and supplied himself with a bag of peanuts,
which, with the expenditure of a dime for admission, left a
quarter still warm in his pocket. However, he managed to "break"
the coin at a stand inside the tent, where a large, oblong paper
box of popcorn was handed him, with twenty cents change. The box
was too large to go into his pocket, but, having seated himself
among some wistful Polack children, he placed it in his lap and
devoured the contents at leisure during the performance. The
popcorn was heavily larded with partially boiled molasses, and
Penrod sandwiched mouthfuls of peanuts with gobs of this mass
until the peanuts were all gone. After that, he ate with less
avidity; a sense almost of satiety beginning to manifest itself
to him, and it was not until the close of the performance that he
disposed of the last morsel.
He descended a little heavily to the outflowing crowd in the
arena, and bought a caterwauling toy balloon, but showed no great
enthusiasm in manipulating it. Near the exit, as he came
out, was a hot-waffle stand which he had overlooked, and a sense
of duty obliged him to consume the three waffles, thickly
powdered with sugar, which the waffle man cooked for him upon
They left a hottish taste in his mouth; they had not been
quite up to his anticipation, indeed, and it was with a sense of
relief that he turned to the "hokey-pokey" cart which stood close
at hand, laden with square slabs of "Neapolitan ice-cream"
wrapped in paper. He thought the ice-cream would be cooling, but
somehow it fell short of the desired effect, and left a peculiar
savour in his throat.
He walked away, too languid to blow his balloon, and passed a
fresh-taffy booth with strange indifference. A bare-armed man
was manipulating the taffy over a hook, pulling a great white
mass to the desired stage of "candying," but Penrod did not pause
to watch the operation; in fact, he averted his eyes (which were
slightly glazed) in passing. He did not analyze his motives:
simply, he was conscious that he preferred not to look at the
mass of taffy.
For some reason, he put a considerable distance between
himself and the taffy-stand, but before long halted in the
presence of a red-faced man who flourished a long fork over a
small cooking apparatus and shouted jovially: "Winnies!
HERE'S your hot winnies! Hot winny-WURST! Food for the
over-worked brain, nourishing for the weak stummick,
entertaining for the tired business man! HERE'S your hot
winnies, three for a nickel, a half-a-dime, the twentieth-pot-of-
This, above all nectar and ambrosia, was the favourite dish
of Penrod Schofield. Nothing inside him now craved it--on the
contrary! But memory is the great hypnotist; his mind argued
against his inwards that opportunity knocked at his door: "winny-
wurst" was rigidly forbidden by the home authorities. Besides,
there was a last nickel in his pocket; and nature protested
against its survival. Also, the redfaced man had himself
proclaimed his wares nourishing for the weak stummick.
Penrod placed the nickel in the red hand of the red-faced
He ate two of the three greasy, cigarlike shapes cordially
pressed upon him in return. The first bite convinced him that he
had made a mistake; these winnies seemed of a very inferior
flavour, almost unpleasant, in fact. But he felt obliged to
conceal his poor opinion of them, for fear of offending the red-
faced man. He ate without haste or eagerness--so slowly, indeed,
that he began to think the redfaced man might dislike him, as a
deterrent of trade. Perhaps Penrod's mind was not working well,
for he failed to remember that no law compelled him to remain
under the eye of the red-faced man, but the virulent repulsion
excited by his attempt to take a bite of the third sausage
inspired him with at least an excuse for postponement.
"Mighty good," he murmured feebly, placing the sausage in the
pocket of his jacket with a shaking hand. "Guess I'll save this
one to eat at home, after--after dinner."
He moved sluggishly away, wishing he had not thought of
dinner. A side-show, undiscovered until now, failed to arouse
his interest, not even exciting a wish that he had known of its
existence when he had money. For a time he stared without
attraction; the weather-worn colours conveying no meaning to
comprehension at a huge canvas poster depicting the chief his
torpid eye. Then, little by little, the poster became more vivid
to his consciousness. There was a greenish-tinted person in the
tent, it seemed, who thrived upon a reptilian diet.
Suddenly, Penrod decided that it was time to go home.
CHAPTER XX. BROTHERS OF ANGELS
"Indeed, doctor," said Mrs. Schofield, with agitation and
profound conviction, just after eight o'clock that evening, "I
shall ALWAYS believe in mustard plasters--mustard plasters and
hot--water bags. If it hadn't been for them I don't believed
he'd have LIVED till you got here--I do NOT!"
"Margaret," called Mr. Schofield from the open door of a
bedroom, "Margaret, where did you put that aromatic ammonia?
But he had to find the aromatic spirits of ammonia himself,
for Margaret was not in the house. She stood in the shadow
beneath a maple tree near the street corner, a guitar-
case in her hand; and she scanned with anxiety a briskly
approaching figure. The arc light, swinging above, revealed this
figure as that of him she awaited. He was passing toward the
gate without seeing her, when she arrested him with a fateful
Mr. Robert Williams swung about hastily. "Why, Margaret!"
"Here, take your guitar," she whispered hurriedly. "I was
afraid if father happened to find it he'd break it all to
"What for?" asked the startled Robert.
"Because I'm sure he knows it's yours." "But what----"
"Oh, Bob," she moaned, "I was waiting here to tell you. I
was so afraid you'd try to come in----"
"TRY!" exclaimed the unfortunate young man, quite
dumfounded. "TRY to come----"
"Yes, before I warned you. I've been waiting here to tell
you, Bob, you mustn't come near the house if I were you I'd stay
away from even this neighbourhood--far away! For a while I don't
think it would be actually SAFE for----"
"Margaret, will you please----"
"It's all on account of that dollar you gave Penrod this
morning," she walled. "First, he bought that horrible concertina
that made papa so furious "But Penrod didn't tell that
"Oh, wait!" she cried lamentably. "Listen! He didn't tell
at lunch, but he got home about dinner-time in the most--well!
I've seen pale people before, but nothing like Penrod. Nobody
could IMAGINE it--not unless they'd seen him! And he looked,
so STRANGE, and kept making such unnatural faces, and at
first all he would say was that he'd eaten a little piece of
apple and thought it must have some microbes on it. But he got
sicker and sicker, and we put him to bed--and then we all thought
he was going to die--and, of COURSE, no little piece of apple
would have--well, and he kept getting worse and then he said he'd
had a dollar. He said he'd spent it for the concertina, and
watermelon, and chocolate-creams, and licorice sticks, and lemon-
drops, and peanuts, and jaw-breakers, and sardines, and raspberry
lemonade, and pickles, and popcorn, and ice-cream, and cider, and
sausage--there was sausage in his pocket, and mamma says his
jacket is ruined--and cinnamon drops--and waffles--and he ate
four or five lobster croquettes at lunch--and papa said, `Who
gave you that dollar?' Only he didn't say `WHO'--he said
something horrible, Bob! And Penrod thought he was going to die,
and he said you gave it to him, and oh! it was just pitiful to
hear the poor child, Bob, because he thought he was dying, you
see, and he blamed you for the whole thing. He said if you'd
only let him alone and not given it to him, he'd have grown
up to be a good man--and now he couldn't! I never heard anything
so heart-rending--he was so weak he could hardly whisper, but he
kept trying to talk, telling us over and over it was all your
In the darkness Mr. Williams' facial expression could not be
seen, but his voice sounded hopeful.
"Is he--is he still in a great deal of pain?"
"They say the crisis is past," said Margaret, "but the
doctor's still up there. He said it was the acutest case of
indigestion he had ever treated in the whole course of his
"Of course _I_ didn't know what he'd do with the dollar,"
She did not reply.
He began plaintively, "Margaret, you don't----"
"I've never seen papa and mamma so upset about anything," she
said, rather primly.
"You mean they're upset about ME?"
"We ARE all very much upset," returned Margaret, more
starch in her tone as she remembered not only Penrod's sufferings
but a duty she had vowed herself to perform.
"Margaret! YOU don't----"
"Robert," she said firmly and, also, with a rhetorical
complexity which breeds a suspicion of pre-rehearsal--"Robert,
for the present I can only look at it in one way: when you gave
that money to Penrod you put into the hands of an unthinking
little child a weapon which might be, and, indeed was, the means
of his undoing. Boys are not respon----"
"But you saw me give him the dollar, and you didn't----"
"Robert!" she checked him with increasing severity. "I am
only a woman and not accustomed to thinking everything out on the
spur of the moment; but I cannot change my mind. Not now, at
"And you think I'd better not come in to-night?"
"To-night!" she gasped. "Not for WEEKS! Papa would----"
"But Margaret," he urged plaintively, "how can you blame me
"I have not used the word `blame,'" she interrupted. "But I
must insist that for your carelessness to--to wreak such havoc--
cannot fail to--to lessen my confidence in your powers of
judgment. I cannot change my convictions in this matter--not to-
night--and I cannot remain here another instant. The poor child
may need me. Robert, good-night."
With chill dignity she withdrew, entered the house, and
returned to the sick-room, leaving the young man in outer
darkness to brood upon his crime--and upon Penrod.
That sincere invalid became convalescent upon the third day;
and a week elapsed, then, before he found an opportunity to
leave the house unaccompanied--save by Duke. But at last he set
forth and approached the Jones neighbourhood in high spirits,
pleasantly conscious of his pallor, hollow cheeks, and other
perquisites of illness provocative of interest.
One thought troubled him a little because it gave him a sense
of inferiority to a rival. He believed, against his will, that
Maurice Levy could have successfully eaten chocolate-creams,
licorice sticks, lemon-drops, jaw-breakers, peanuts, waffles,
lobster croquettes, sardines, cinnamon-drops, watermelon,
pickles, popcorn, ice-cream and sausage with raspberry lemonade
and cider. Penrod had admitted to himself that Maurice could do
it and afterward attend to business, or pleasure, without the
slightest discomfort; and this was probably no more than a fair
estimate of one of the great constitutions of all time. As a
digester, Maurice Levy would have disappointed a Borgia.
Fortunately, Maurice was still at Atlantic City--and now the
convalescent's heart leaped. In the distance he saw Marjorie
coming--in pink again, with a ravishing little parasol over her
head. And alone! No Mitchy-Mitch was to mar this meeting.
Penrod increased the feebleness of his steps, now and then
leaning upon the fence as if for support.
"How do you do, Marjorie?" he said, in his best sick-room
voice, as she came near.
To his pained amazement, she proceeded on her way, her nose
at a celebrated elevation--an icy nose.
She cut him dead.
He threw his invalid's airs to the winds, and hastened after
"Marjorie," he pleaded, "what's the matter? Are you mad?
Honest, that day you said to come back next morning, and you'd be
on the corner, I was sick. Honest, I was AWFUL sick,
Marjorie! I had to have the doctor----"
"DOCTOR!" She whirled upon him, her lovely eyes blazing.
"I guess WE'VE had to have the doctor enough at OUR
house, thanks to you, Mister Penrod Schofield. Papa says you
haven't got NEAR sense enough to come in out of the rain,
after what you did to poor little Mitchy-Mitch----"
"Yes, and he's sick in bed YET!" Marjorie went on, with
unabated fury. "And papa says if he ever catches you in this
part of town----"
"WHAT'D I do to Mitchy-Mitch?" gasped Penrod.
"You know well enough what you did to Mitchy-Mitch!" she
cried. "You gave him that great, big, nasty two-cent piece!"
"Well, what of it?"
"Mitchy-Mitch swallowed it!"
"And papa says if he ever just lays eyes on you, once, in
But Penrod had started for home.
In his embittered heart there was increasing a critical
disapproval of the Creator's methods. When He made pretty girls,
thought Penrod, why couldn't He have left out their little
CHAPTER XXI. RUPE COLLINS
For several days after this, Penrod thought of growing up to be a
monk, and engaged in good works so far as to carry some kittens
(that otherwise would have been drowned) and a pair of Margaret's
outworn dancing-slippers to a poor, ungrateful old man sojourning
in a shed up the alley. And although Mr. Robert Williams, after
a very short interval, began to leave his guitar on the front
porch again, exactly as if he thought nothing had happened,
Penrod, with his younger vision of a father's mood, remained
coldly distant from the Jones neighbourhood. With his own family
his manner was gentle, proud and sad, but not for long
enough to frighten them. The change came with mystifying
abruptness at the end of the week.
It was Duke who brought it about.
Duke could chase a much bigger dog out of the Schofields'
yard and far down the street. This might be thought to indicate
unusual valour on the part of Duke and cowardice on that of the
bigger dogs whom he undoubtedly put to rout. On the contrary,
all such flights were founded in mere superstition, for dogs are
even more superstitious than boys and coloured people; and the
most firmly established of all dog superstitions is that any
dog--be he the smallest and feeblest in the world--can whip any
A rat-terrier believes that on his home grounds he can whip
an elephant. It follows, of course, that a big dog, away from
his own home, will run from a little dog in the little dog's
neighbourhood. Otherwise, the big dog must face a charge of
inconsistency, and dogs are as consistent as they are
superstitious. A dog believes in war, but he is convinced that
there are times when it is moral to run; and the thoughtful
physiognomist, seeing a big dog fleeing out of a little dog's
yard, must observe that the expression of the big dog's face is
more conscientious than alarmed: it is the expression of a person
performing a duty to himself.
Penrod understood these matters perfectly; he knew that
the gaunt brown hound Duke chased up the alley had fled only out
of deference to a custom, yet Penrod could not refrain from
bragging of Duke to the hound's owner, a fat-faced stranger of
twelve or thirteen, who had wandered into the neighbourhood.
"You better keep that ole yellow dog o' yours back," said
Penrod ominously, as he climbed the fence. "You better catch him
and hold him till I get mine inside the yard again. Duke's
chewed up some pretty bad bulldogs around here."
The fat-faced boy gave Penrod a fishy stare. "You'd oughta
learn him not to do that," he said. "It'll make him sick."
The stranger laughed raspingly and gazed up the alley, where
the hound, having come to a halt, now coolly sat down, and, with
an expression of roguish benevolence, patronizingly watched the
tempered fury of Duke, whose assaults and barkings were becoming
"What'll make Duke sick?" Penrod demanded.
"Eatin' dead bulldogs people leave around here."
This was not improvisation but formula, adapted from other
occasions to the present encounter; nevertheless, it was new to
Penrod, and he was so taken with it that resentment lost itself
in admiration. Hastily committing the gem to memory for use upon
a dog-owning friend, he inquired in a sociable tone:
"What's your dog's name?"
"Dan. You better call your ole pup, 'cause Dan eats LIVE
Dan's actions poorly supported his master's assertion, for,
upon Duke's ceasing to bark, Dan rose and showed the most
courteous interest in making the little, old dog's acquaintance.
Dan had a great deal of manner, and it became plain that Duke was
impressed favourably in spite of former prejudice, so that
presently the two trotted amicably back to their masters and sat
down with the harmonious but indifferent air of having known each
other intimately for years.
They were received without comment, though both boys looked
at them reflectively for a time. It was Penrod who spoke first.
"What number you go to?" (In an "oral lesson in English,"
Penrod had been instructed to put this question in another form:
"May I ask which of our public schools you attend?")
"Me? What number do I go to?" said the stranger,
contemptuously. "I don't go to NO number in vacation!"
"I mean when it ain't."
"Third," returned the fat-faced boy. "I got 'em ALL
scared in THAT school."
"What of?" innocently asked Penrod, to whom "the Third"--in a
distant part of town--was undiscovered country.
"What of? I guess you'd soon see what of, if you ever
was in that school about one day. You'd be lucky if you got out
"Are the teachers mean?"
The other boy frowned with bitter scorn. "Teachers!
Teachers don't order ME around, I can tell you! They're
mighty careful how they try to run over Rupe Collins."
"Who's Rupe Collins?"
"Who is he?" echoed the fat-faced boy incredulously. "Say,
ain't you got ANY sense?"
"Say, wouldn't you be just as happy if you had SOME
"Ye-es." Penrod's answer, like the look he lifted to the
impressive stranger, was meek and placative. "Rupe Collins is
the principal at your school, guess."
The other yelled with jeering laughter, and mocked Penrod's
manner and voice. "`Rupe Collins is the principal at your
school, I guess!'" He laughed harshly again, then suddenly
showed truculence. "Say, 'bo, whyn't you learn enough to go in
the house when it rains? What's the matter of you, anyhow?"
"Well," urged Penrod timidly, "nobody ever TOLD me who
Rupe Collins is: I got a RIGHT to think he's the principal,
The fat-faced boy shook his head disgustedly. "Honest, you
make me sick!"
Penrod's expression became one of despair. Well, who IS
he?" he cried.
"`Who IS he?'" mocked the other, with a scorn that
withered. "`Who IS he?' ME!"
"Oh!" Penrod was humiliated but relieved: he felt that he had
proved himself criminally ignorant, yet a peril seemed to have
passed. "Rupe Collins is your name, then, I guess. I kind of
thought it was, all the time."
The fat-faced boy still appeared embittered, burlesquing this
speech in a hateful falsetto. "`Rupe Collins is YOUR name,
then, I guess!' Oh, you `kind of thought it was, all the time,'
did you?" Suddenly concentrating his brow into a histrionic
scowl he thrust his face within an inch of Penrod's. "Yes,
sonny, Rupe Collins is my name, and you better look out what you
say when he's around or you'll get in big trouble! YOU
UNDERSTAND THAT, 'BO?"
Penrod was cowed but fascinated: he felt that there was
something dangerous and dashing about this newcomer.
"Yes," he said, feebly, drawing back. "My name's Penrod
"Then I reckon your father and mother ain't got good sense,"
said Mr. Collins promptly, this also being formula.
"'Cause if they had they'd of give you a good name!" And the
agreeable youth instantly rewarded himself for the wit with
another yell of rasping laughter, after which he pointed suddenly
at Penrod's right hand.
"Where'd you get that wart on your finger?" he demanded
"Which finger?" asked the mystified Penrod, extending his
"The middle one."
"There!" exclaimed Rupe Collins, seizing and vigorously
twisting the wartless finger naively offered for his inspection.
"Quit!" shouted Penrod in agony. "QUEE-yut!"
"Say your prayers!" commanded Rupe, and continued to twist
the luckless finger until Penrod writhed to his knees.
"OW!" The victim, released, looked grievously upon the
still painful finger.
At this Rupe's scornful expression altered to one of
contrition. "Well, I declare!" he exclaimed remorsefully. "I
didn't s'pose it would hurt. Turn about's fair play; so now you
do that to me."
He extended the middle finger of his left hand and Penrod
promptly seized it, but did not twist it, for he was instantly
swung round with his back to his amiable new acquaintance: Rupe's
right hand operated upon the back of Penrod's slender neck;
Rupe's knee tortured the small of Penrod's back.
"OW!" Penrod bent far forward involuntarily and went to
his knees again.
"Lick dirt," commanded Rupe, forcing the captive's face to
the sidewalk; and the suffering Penrod completed this ceremony.
Mr. Collins evinced satisfaction by means of his horse laugh.
"You'd last jest about one day up at the Third!" he said. "You'd
come runnin' home, yellin' `MOM-MUH, MOM-muh,' before recess
"No, I wouldn't," Penrod protested rather weakly, dusting his
"You would, too!"
"No, I w----
"Looky here," said the fat-faced boy, darkly, "what you mean,
He advanced a step and Penrod hastily qualified his
"I mean, I don't THINK I would. I----"
"You better look out!" Rupe moved closer, and unexpectedly
grasped the back of Penrod's neck again. "Say, `I WOULD run
home yellin' "MOM-muh!"
"Ow! I WOULD run home yellin' `Mom-muh.'"
"There!" said Rupe, giving the helpless nape a final squeeze.
"That's the way we do up at the Third."
Penrod rubbed his neck and asked meekly:
"Can you do that to any boy up at the Third?"
"See here now," said Rupe, in the tone of one goaded beyond
all endurance, "YOU say if I can! You better say it quick,
"I knew you could," Penrod interposed hastily, with the
pathetic semblance of a laugh. "I only said that in fun."
"In `fun'!" repeated Rupe stormily. "You better look out how
"Well, I SAID I wasn't in earnest!" Penrod retreated a
few steps. "_I_ knew you could, all the time. I expect _I_
could do it to some of the boys up at the Third, myself.
"No, you couldn't."
"Well, there must be SOME boy up there that I could----"
"No, they ain't! You better----"
"I expect not, then," said Penrod, quickly.
"You BETTER `expect not.' Didn't I tell you once you'd
never get back alive if you ever tried to come up around the
Third? You want me to SHOW you how we do up there, 'bo?"
He began a slow and deadly advance, whereupon Penrod timidly
offered a diversion:
"Say, Rupe, I got a box of rats in our stable under a glass
cover, so you can watch 'em jump around when you hammer on the
box. Come on and look at 'em."
"All right," said the fat-faced boy, slightly mollified.
"We'll let Dan kill 'em."
"No, SIR! I'm goin' to keep 'em. They're kind of pets;
I've had 'em all summer--I got names for em, and----"
"Looky here, 'bo. Did you hear me say we'll let `Dan kill
"Yes, but I won't----"
"WHAT won't you?" Rupe became sinister immediately. "It
seems to me you're gettin' pretty fresh around here."
"Well, I don't want----"
Mr. Collins once more brought into play the dreadful eye-to-
eye scowl as practised "up at the Third," and, sometimes, also by
young leading men upon the stage. Frowning appallingly, and
thrusting forward his underlip, he placed his nose almost in
contact with the nose of Penrod, whose eyes naturally became
"Dan kills the rats. See?" hissed the fat-faced boy,
maintaining the horrible juxtaposition.
"Well, all right," said Penrod, swallowing. "I don't want
'em much." And when the pose had been relaxed, he stared at his
new friend for a moment, almost with reverence. Then he
"Come on, Rupe!" he cried enthusiastically, as he climbed the
fence. "We'll give our dogs a little live meat--'bo!"
CHAPTER XXII. THE IMITATOR
At the dinner-table, that evening, Penrod Surprised his family by
remarking, in a voice they had never heard him attempt--a law-
giving voice of intentional gruffness:
"Any man that's makin' a hunderd dollars a month is makin'
"What?" asked Mr. Schofield, staring, for the previous
conversation had concerned the illness of an infant relative in
"Any man that's makin' a hunderd dollars a month is makin'
"What IS he talking about!" Margaret appealed to the
"Well," said Penrod, frowning, "that's what foremen at the
ladder works get."
"How in the world do you know?" asked his mother.
"Well, I KNOW it! A hunderd dollars a month is good
money, I tell you!"
"Well, what of it?" said the father, impatiently.
"Nothin'. I only said it was good money."
Mr. Schofield shook his head, dismissing the subject; and
here he made a mistake: he should have followed up his son's
singular contribution to the conversation. That would have
revealed the fact that there was a certain Rupe Collins whose
father was a foreman at the ladder works. All clues are
important when a boy makes his first remark in a new key.
"`Good money'?" repeated Margaret, curiously. "What is
Penrod turned upon her a stern glance. "Say, wouldn't you be
just as happy if you had SOME sense?"
"Penrod!" shouted his father. But Penrod's mother gazed with
dismay at her son: he had never before spoken like that to his
Mrs. Schofield might have been more dismayed than she was, if
she had realized that it was the beginning of an epoch. After
dinner, Penrod was slightly scalded in the back as the result of
telling Della, the cook, that there was a wart on the middle
finger of her right hand. Della thus proving poor material for
his new manner to work upon, he approached Duke, in the backyard,
and, bending double, seized the lowly animal by the forepaws.
"I let you know my name's Penrod Schofield," hissed the boy.
He protruded his underlip ferociously, scowled, and thrust
forward his head until his nose touched the dog's. "And you
better look out when Penrod Schofield's around, or you'll get in
big trouble! YOU UNDERSTAN' THAT, 'BO?"
The next day, and the next, the increasing change in Penrod
puzzled and distressed his family, who had no idea of its source.
How might they guess that hero-worship takes such forms? They
were vaguely conscious that a rather shabby boy, not of the
neighbourhood, came to "play" with Penrod several times; but they
failed to connect this circumstance with the peculiar behaviour
of the son of the house, whose ideals (his father remarked)
seemed to have suddenly become identical with those of Gyp the
Meanwhile, for Penrod himself, "life had taken on new
meaning, new richness." He had become a fighting man--in
conversation at least. "Do you want to know how I do when they
try to slip up on me from behind?" he asked Della. And he
enacted for her unappreciative eye a scene of fistic manoeuvres
wherein he held an imaginary antagonist helpless in a net of
Frequently, when he was alone, he would outwit, and pummel
this same enemy, and, after a cunning feint, land a dolorous
stroke full upon a face of air. "There! I guess you'll know
better next time. That's the way we do up at the Third!"
Sometimes, in solitary pantomime, he encountered more than
one opponent at a time, for numbers were apt to come upon him
treacherously, especially at a little after his rising hour, when
he might be caught at a disadvantage--perhaps standing on one leg
to encase the other in his knickerbockers. Like lightning, he
would hurl the trapping garment from him, and, ducking and
pivoting, deal great sweeping blows among the circle of sneaking
devils. (That was how he broke the clock in his bedroom.) And
while these battles were occupying his attention, it was a waste
of voice to call him to breakfast, though if his mother, losing
patience, came to his room, she would find him seated on the bed
pulling at a stocking. "Well, ain't I coming fast as I CAN?"
At the table and about the house generally he was bumptious,
loud with fatuous misinformation, and assumed a domineering tone,
which neither satire nor reproof seemed able to reduce: but it
was among his own intimates that his new superiority was most
outrageous. He twisted the fingers and squeezed the necks of all
the boys of the neighbourhood, meeting their indignation with a
hoarse and rasping laugh he had acquired after short practice in
the stable, where he jeered and taunted the lawn-mower, the
garden-scythe and the wheelbarrow quite out of countenance.
Likewise he bragged to the other boys by the hour, Rupe
Collins being the chief subject of encomium--next to Penrod
himself. "That's the way we do up at the Third," became staple
explanation of violence, for Penrod, like Tartarin, was plastic
in the hands of his own imagination, and at times convinced
himself that he really was one of those dark and murderous
spirits exclusively of whom "the Third" was composed--according
to Rupe Collins.
Then, when Penrod had exhausted himself repeating to nausea
accounts of the prowess of himself and his great friend, he would
turn to two other subjects for vainglory. These were his father
Mothers must accept the fact that between babyhood and
manhood their sons do not boast of them. The boy, with boys, is
a Choctaw; and either the influence or the protection of women is
shameful. "Your mother won't let you," is an insult. But, "My
father won't let me," is a dignified explanation and cannot be
hooted. A boy is ruined among his fellows if he talks much of
his mother or sisters; and he must recognize it as his duty to
offer at least the appearance of persecution to all things ranked
as female, such as cats and every species of fowl. But he must
champion his father and his dog, and, ever, ready to pit
either against any challenger, must picture both as ravening for
battle and absolutely unconquerable.
Penrod, of course, had always talked by the code, but, under
the new stimulus, Duke was represented virtually as a cross
between Bob, Son of Battle, and a South American vampire; and
this in spite of the fact that Duke himself often sat close by, a
living lie, with the hope of peace in his heart. As for Penrod's
father, that gladiator was painted as of sentiments and
dimensions suitable to a super-demon composed of equal parts of
Goliath, Jack Johnson and the Emperor Nero.
Even Penrod's walk was affected; he adopted a gait which was
a kind of taunting swagger; and, when he passed other children on
the street, he practised the habit of feinting a blow; then, as
the victim dodged, he rasped the triumphant horse laugh which he
gradually mastered to horrible perfection. He did this to
Marjorie Jones--ay! this was their next meeting, and such is
Eros, young! What was even worse, in Marjorie's opinion, he went
on his way without explanation, and left her standing on the
corner talking about it, long after he was out of hearing.
Within five days from his first encounter with Rupe Collins,
Penrod had become unbearable. He even almost alienated Sam
Williams, who for a time submitted to finger twisting and neck
squeezing and the new style of conversation, but finally
declared that Penrod made him "sick." He made the statement with
fervour, one sultry afternoon, in Mr. Schofield's stable, in the
presence of Herman and Verman.
"You better look out, 'bo," said Penrod, threateningly.
"I'll show you a little how we do up at the Third."
"Up at the Third!" Sam repeated with scorn. "You haven't
ever been up there."
"I haven't?" cried Penrod. "I HAVEN'T?"
"No, you haven't!"
"Looky here!" Penrod, darkly argumentative, prepared to
perform the eye-to-eye business. "When haven't I been up there?"
"You haven't NEVER been up there!" In spite of Penrod's
closely approaching nose Sam maintained his ground, and appealed
for confirmation. "Has he, Herman?"
"I don' reckon so," said Herman, laughing.
"WHAT!" Penrod transferred his nose to the immediate
vicinity of Herman's nose. "You don't reckon so, 'bo, don't you?
You better look out how you reckon around here! YOU
UNDERSTAN' THAT, 'BO?"
Herman bore the eye-to-eye very well; indeed, it seemed to
please him, for he continued to laugh while Verman chuckled
delightedly. The brothers had been in the country picking
berries for a week, and it happened that this was their
first experience of the new manifestation of Penrod.
"HAVEN'T I been up at the Third?" the sinister Penrod
"I don' reckon so. How come you ast ME?"
"Didn't you just hear me SAY I been up there?"
"Well," said Herman mischievously, "hearin' ain't believin'!"
Penrod clutched him by the back of the neck, but Herman,
laughing loudly, ducked and released himself at once, retreating
to the wall.
"You take that back!" Penrod shouted, striking out wildly.
"Don' git mad," begged the small darky, while a number of
blows falling upon his warding arms failed to abate his
amusement, and a sound one upon the cheek only made him laugh the
more unrestrainedly. He behaved exactly as if Penrod were
tickling him, and his brother, Verman, rolled with joy in a
wheelbarrow. Penrod pummelled till he was tired, and produced no
"There!" he panted, desisting finally. "NOW I reckon you
know whether I been up there or not!"
Herman rubbed his smitten cheek. "Pow!" he exclaimed. "Pow-
ee! You cert'ny did lan' me good one NAT time! Oo-ee! she
"You'll get hurt worse'n that," Penrod assured him, "if you
stay around here much. Rupe Collins is comin' this afternoon, he
said. We're goin' to make some policemen's billies out of
the rake handle."
"You go' spoil new rake you' pa bought?"
"What do WE care? I and Rupe got to have billies,
"How you make 'em?"
"Melt lead and pour in a hole we're goin' to make in the end
of 'em. Then we're goin' to carry 'em in our pockets, and if
anybody says anything to us--OH, oh! look out! They won't
get a crack on the head--OH, no!"
"When's Rupe Collins coming?" Sam Williams inquired rather
uneasily. He had heard a great deal too much of this personage,
but as yet the pleasure of actual acquaintance had been denied
"He's liable to be here any time," answered Penrod. "You
better look out. You'll be lucky if you get home alive, if you
stay till HE comes."
"I ain't afraid of him," Sam returned, conventionally.
"You are, too!" (There was some truth in the retort.)
"There ain't any boy in this part of town but me that wouldn't be
afraid of him. You'd be afraid to talk to him. You wouldn't get
a word out of your mouth before old Rupie'd have you where you'd
wished you never come around HIM, lettin' on like you was so
much! YOU wouldn't run home yellin' `Mom-muh' or nothin'!
"Who Rupe Collins?" asked Herman.
"`Who Rupe Collins?'" Penrod mocked, and used his rasping
laugh, but, instead of showing fright, Herman appeared to think
he was meant to laugh, too; and so he did, echoed by Verman.
"You just hang around here a little while longer," Penrod added,
grimly, "and you'll find out who Rupe Collins is, and I pity
YOU when you do!"
"What he go' do?"
"You'll see; that's all! You just wait and----"
At this moment a brown hound ran into the stable through the
alley door, wagged a greeting to Penrod, and fraternized with
Duke. The fat-faced boy appeared upon the threshold and gazed
coldly about the little company in the carriage-house, whereupon
the coloured brethren, ceasing from merriment, were instantly
impassive, and Sam Williams moved a little nearer the door
leading into the yard.
Obviously, Sam regarded the newcomer as a redoubtable if not
ominous figure. He was a head taller than either Sam or Penrod;
head and shoulders taller than Herman, who was short for his age;
and Verman could hardly be used for purposes of comparison at
all, being a mere squat brown spot, not yet quite nine years on
this planet. And to Sam's mind, the aspect of Mr. Collins
realized Penrod's portentous foreshadowings. Upon the fat face
there was an expression of truculent intolerance which had been
cultivated by careful habit to such perfection that Sam's heart
sank at sight of it. A somewhat enfeebled twin to this
expression had of late often decorated the visage of Penrod, and
appeared upon that ingenuous surface now, as he advanced to
welcome the eminent visitor.
The host swaggered toward the door with a great deal of
shoulder movement, carelessly feinting a slap at Verman in
passing, and creating by various means the atmosphere of a man
who has contemptuously amused himself with underlings while
awaiting an equal.
"Hello, 'bo!" Penrod said in the deepest voice possible to
"Who you callin' 'bo?" was the ungracious response,
accompanied by immediate action of a similar nature. Rupe held
Penrod's head in the crook of an elbow and massaged his temples
with a hard-pressing knuckle.
"I was only in fun, Rupie," pleaded the sufferer, and then,
being set free, "Come here, Sam," he said.
Penrod laughed pityingly. "Pshaw, I ain't goin' to hurt you.
Come on." Sam, maintaining his position near the other door,
Penrod went to him and caught him round the neck.
"Watch me, Rupie!" Penrod called, and performed upon Sam the
knuckle operation which he had himself just undergone, Sam
submitting mechanically, his eyes fixed with increasing
uneasiness upon Rupe Collins. Sam had a premonition that
something even more painful than Penrod's knuckle was going
to be inflicted upon him.
"THAT don' hurt," said Penrod, pushing him away.
"Yes, it does, too!" Sam rubbed his temple.
"Puh! It didn't hurt me, did it, Rupie? Come on in, Rupe:
show this baby where he's got a wart on his finger."
"You showed me that trick," Sam objected. "You already did
that to me. You tried it twice this afternoon and I don't know
how many times before, only you weren't strong enough after the
first time. Anyway, I know what it is, and I don't----"
"Come on, Rupe," said Penrod. "Make the baby lick dirt."
At this bidding, Rupe approached, while Sam, still
protesting, moved to the threshold of the outer door; but Penrod
seized him by the shoulders and swung him indoors with a shout.
"Little baby wants to run home to its Mom-muh! Here he is,
Thereupon was Penrod's treachery to an old comrade properly
rewarded, for as the two struggled, Rupe caught each by the back
of the neck, simultaneously, and, with creditable impartiality,
forced both boys to their knees.
"Lick dirt!" he commanded, forcing them still forward, until
their faces were close to the stable floor.
At this moment he received a real surprise. With a loud
whack something struck the back of his head, and, turning, he
beheld Verman in the act of lifting a piece of lath to strike
"Em moys ome!" said Verman, the Giant Killer.
"He tongue-tie'," Herman explained. "He say, let 'em boys
Rupe addressed his host briefly:
"Chase them nigs out o' here!"
"Don' call me nig," said Herman. "I mine my own biznuss.
You let 'em boys alone."
Rupe strode across the still prostrate Sam, stepped upon
Penrod, and, equipping his countenance with the terrifying scowl
and protruded jaw, lowered his head to the level of Herman's.
"Nig, you'll be lucky if you leave here alive!" And he
leaned forward till his nose was within less than an inch of
It could be felt that something awful was about to happen,
and Penrod, as he rose from the floor, suffered an unexpected
twinge of apprehension and remorse: he hoped that Rupe wouldn't
REALLY hurt Herman. A sudden dislike of Rupe and Rupe's ways
rose within him, as he looked at the big boy overwhelming the
little darky with that ferocious scowl. Penrod, all at once,
felt sorry about something indefinable; and, with equal
vagueness, he felt foolish. "Come on, Rupe," he suggested,
feebly, "let Herman go, and let's us make our billies out of the
The rake handle, however, was not available, if Rupe had
inclined to favour the suggestion. Verman had discarded his lath
for the rake, which he was at this moment lifting in the air.
"You ole black nigger," the fat-faced boy said venomously to
Herman, "I'm agoin' to----"
But he had allowed his nose to remain too long near Herman's.
Penrod's familiar nose had been as close with only a ticklish
spinal effect upon the not very remote descendant of Congo man-
eaters. The result produced by the glare of Rupe's unfamiliar
eyes, and by the dreadfully suggestive proximity of Rupe's
unfamiliar nose, was altogether different. Herman's and Verman's
Bangala great-grandfathers never considered people of their own
jungle neighbourhood proper material for a meal, but they looked
upon strangers especially truculent strangers--as distinctly
Penrod and Sam heard Rupe suddenly squawk and bellow; saw him
writhe and twist and fling out his arms like flails, though
without removing his face from its juxtaposition; indeed, for a
moment, the two heads seemed even closer.
Then they separated--and battle was on!
CHAPTER XXIII. COLOURED TROOPS IN ACTION
How neat and pure is the task of the chronicler who has the tale
to tell of a "good rousing fight" between boys or men who fight
in the "good old English way," according to a model set for
fights in books long before Tom Brown went to Rugby. There are
seconds and rounds and rules of fair-play, and always there is
great good feeling in the end--though sometimes, to vary the
model, "the Butcher" defeats the hero--and the chronicler who
stencils this fine old pattern on his page is certain of applause
as the stirrer of "red blood." There is no surer recipe.
But when Herman and Verman set to 't the record must be no
more than a few fragments left by the expurgator. It has been
perhaps sufficiently suggested that the altercation in Mr.
Schofield's stable opened with mayhem in respect to the
aggressor's nose. Expressing vocally his indignation and the
extremity of his pained surprise, Mr. Collins stepped backward,
holding his left hand over his nose, and striking at Herman with
his right. Then Verman hit him with the rake.
Verman struck from behind. He struck as hard as he could.
And he struck with the tines down--For, in his simple, direct
African way he wished to kill his enemy, and he wished to kill
him as soon as possible. That was his single, earnest purpose.
On this account, Rupe Collins was peculiarly unfortunate. He
was plucky and he enjoyed conflict, but neither his ambitions nor
his anticipations had ever included murder. He had not learned
that an habitually aggressive person runs the danger of colliding
with beings in one of those lower stages of evolution wherein
theories about "hitting below the belt" have not yet made their
The rake glanced from the back of Rupe's head to his
shoulder, but it felled him. Both darkies jumped full upon him
instantly, and the three rolled and twisted upon the stable-
floor, unloosing upon the air sincere maledictions closely
connected with complaints of cruel and unusual treatment; while
certain expressions of feeling presently emanating from
Herman and Verman indicated that Rupe Collins, in this extremity,
was proving himself not too slavishly addicted to fighting by
rule. Dan and Duke, mistaking all for mirth, barked gayly.
From the panting, pounding, yelling heap issued words and
phrases hitherto quite unknown to Penrod and Sam; also, a hoarse
repetition in the voice of Rupe concerning his ear left it not to
be doubted that additional mayhem was taking place. Appalled,
the two spectators retreated to the doorway nearest the yard,
where they stood dumbly watching the cataclysm.
The struggle increased in primitive simplicity: time and
again the howling Rupe got to his knees only to go down again as
the earnest brothers, in their own way, assisted him to a more
reclining position. Primal forces operated here, and the two
blanched, slightly higher products of evolution, Sam and Penrod,
no more thought of interfering than they would have thought of
interfering with an earthquake.
At last, out of the ruck rose Verman, disfigured and
maniacal. With a wild eye he looked about him for his trusty
rake; but Penrod, in horror, had long since thrown the rake out
into the yard. Naturally, it had not seemed necessary to remove
The frantic eye of Verman fell upon the lawn-mower, and
instantly he leaped to its handle. Shrilling a wordless war-cry,
he charged, propelling the whirling, deafening knives straight
upon the prone legs of Rupe Collins. The lawn-mower was
sincerely intended to pass longitudinally over the body of Mr.
Collins from heel to head; and it was the time for a death-song.
Black Valkyrie hovered in the shrieking air.
"Cut his gizzud out!" shrieked Herman, urging on the whirling
They touched and lacerated the shin of Rupe, as, with the
supreme agony of effort a creature in mortal peril puts forth
before succumbing, he tore himself free of Herman and got upon
Herman was up as quickly. He leaped to the wall and seized
the garden-scythe that hung there.
"I'm go to cut you' gizzud out," he announced definitely,
"an' eat it!"
Rupe Collins had never run from anybody (except his father)
in his life; he was not a coward; but the present situation was
very, very unusual. He was already in a badly dismantled
condition, and yet Herman and Verman seemed discontented with
their work: Verman was swinging the grass-cutter about for a new
charge, apparently still wishing to mow him, and Herman had made
a quite plausible statement about what he intended to do with the
Rupe paused but for an extremely condensed survey of the
horrible advance of the brothers, and then, uttering a
blood-curdled scream of fear, ran out of the stable and up the
alley at a speed he had never before attained, so that even Dan
had hard work to keep within barking distance. And a
'cross-shoulder glance, at the corner, revealing Verman and
Herman in pursuit, the latter waving his scythe overhead, Mr.
Collins slackened not his gait, but, rather, out of great
anguish, increased it; the while a rapidly developing purpose
became firm in his mind--and ever after so remained--not only to
refrain from visiting that neighbourhood again, but never by any
chance to come within a mile of it.
From the alley door, Penrod and Sam watched the flight, and
were without words. When the pursuit rounded the corner, the two
looked wanly at each other, but neither spoke until the return of
the brothers from the chase.
Herman and Verman came back, laughing and chuckling.
"Hiyi!" cackled Herman to Verman, as they came, "See 'at ole
"Who-ee!" Verman shouted in ecstasy.
"Nev' did see boy run so fas'!" Herman continued, tossing the
scythe into the wheelbarrow. "I bet he home in bed by viss
Verman roared with delight, appearing to be wholly
unconscious that the lids of his right eye were swollen shut and
that his attire, not too finical before the struggle, now
entitled him to unquestioned rank as a sansculotte.
Herman was a similar ruin, and gave as little heed to his
Penrod looked dazedly from Herman to Verman and back again.
So did Sam Williams.
"Herman," said Penrod, in a weak voice, "you wouldn't
HONEST of cut his gizzard out, would you?"
"Who? Me? I don' know. He mighty mean ole boy!" Herman
shook his head gravely, and then, observing that Verman was again
convulsed with unctuous merriment, joined laughter with his
brother. "Sho'! I guess I uz dess TALKIN' whens I said 'at!
Reckon he thought I meant it, f'm de way he tuck an' run. Hiyi!
Reckon he thought ole Herman bad man! No, suh! I uz dess
talkin', 'cause I nev' would cut NObody! I ain' tryin' git
in no jail--NO, suh!"
Penrod looked at the scythe: he looked at Herman. He looked
at the lawn-mower, and he looked at Verman. Then he looked out
in the yard at the rake. So did Sam Williams.
"Come on, Verman," said Herman. "We ain' go' 'at stove-wood
f' supper yit."
Giggling reminiscently, the brothers disappeared leaving
silence behind them in the carriage-house. Penrod and Sam
retired slowly into the shadowy interior, each glancing, now and
then, with a preoccupied air, at the open, empty doorway where
the late afternoon sunshine was growing ruddy. At intervals one
or the other scraped the floor reflectively with the side of
his shoe. Finally, still without either having made any effort
at conversation, they went out into the yard and stood,
continuing their silence.
"Well," said Sam, at last, "I guess it's time I better be
gettin' home. So long, Penrod!"
"So long, Sam," said Penrod, feebly.
With a solemn gaze he watched his friend out of sight. Then
he went slowly into the house, and after an interval occupied in
a unique manner, appeared in the library, holding a pair of
brilliantly gleaming shoes in his hand.
Mr. Schofield, reading the evening paper, glanced frowningly
over it at his offspring.
"Look, papa," said Penrod. "I found your shoes where you'd
taken 'em off in your room, to put on your slippers, and they
were all dusty. So I took 'em out on the back porch and gave 'em
a good blacking. They shine up fine, don't they?"
"Well, I'll be d-dud-dummed!" said the startled Mr.
Penrod was zigzagging back to normal.
CHAPTER XXIV. "LITTLE GENTLEMAN"
The midsummer sun was stinging hot outside the little barber-shop
next to the corner drug store and Penrod, undergoing a toilette
preliminary to his very slowly approaching twelfth birthday, was
adhesive enough to retain upon his face much hair as it fell from
the shears. There is a mystery here: the tonsorial processes are
not unagreeable to manhood; in truth, they are soothing; but the
hairs detached from a boy's head get into his eyes, his ears, his
nose, his mouth, and down his neck, and he does everywhere itch
excruciatingly. Wherefore he blinks, winks, weeps, twitches,
condenses his countenance, and squirms; and perchance
the barber's scissors clip more than intended--belike an outlying
flange of ear.
"Um--muh--OW!" said Penrod, this thing having happened.
"D' I touch y' up a little?" inquired the barber, smiling
"Ooh--UH!" The boy in the chair offered inarticulate
protest, as the wound was rubbed with alum.
"THAT don't hurt!" said the barber. "You WILL get
it, though, if you don't sit stiller," he continued, nipping in
the bud any attempt on the part of his patient to think that he
already had "it."
"Pfuff!" said Penrod, meaning no disrespect, but endeavoring
to dislodge a temporary moustache from his lip.
"You ought to see how still that little Georgie Bassett
sits," the barber went on, reprovingly. "I hear everybody says
he's the best boy in town."
"Pfuff! PHIRR!" There was a touch of intentional
contempt in this.
"I haven't heard nobody around the neighbourhood makin' no
such remarks," added the barber, "about nobody of the name of
"Well," said Penrod, clearing his mouth after a struggle,
"who wants 'em to? Ouch!"
"I hear they call Georgie Bassett the `little gentleman,'"
ventured the barber, provocatively, meeting with instant success.
"They better not call ME that," returned Penrod
truculently. "I'd like to hear anybody try. Just once, that's
all! I bet they'd never try it ag---- OUCH!"
"Why? What'd you do to 'em?"
"It's all right what I'd DO! I bet they wouldn't want to
call me that again long as they lived!"
"What'd you do if it was a little girl? You wouldn't hit
her, would you?"
"Well, I'd---- Ouch!"
"You wouldn't hit a little girl, would you?" the barber
persisted, gathering into his powerful fingers a mop of hair from
the top of Penrod's head and pulling that suffering head into an
unnatural position. "Doesn't the Bible say it ain't never right
to hit the weak sex?"
"Ow! SAY, look OUT!"
"So you'd go and punch a pore, weak, little girl, would you?"
said the barber, reprovingly.
"Well, who said I'd hit her?" demanded the chivalrous Penrod. "I
bet I'd FIX her though, all right. She'd see!"
"You wouldn't call her names, would you?"
"No, I wouldn't! What hurt is it to call anybody names?"
"Is that SO!" exclaimed the barber. "Then you was
intending what I heard you hollering at Fisher's grocery delivery
wagon driver fer a favour, the other day when I was goin' by your
house, was you? I reckon I better tell him, because he says
to me after-WERDS if he ever lays eyes on you when you ain't
in your own yard, he's goin' to do a whole lot o' things you
ain't goin' to like! Yessir, that's what he says to ME!"
"He better catch me first, I guess, before he talks so much."
"Well," resumed the barber, "that ain't sayin' what you'd do
if a young lady ever walked up and called you a little gentleman.
_I_ want to hear what you'd do to her. I guess I know,
though--come to think of it."
"What?" demanded Penrod.
"You'd sick that pore ole dog of yours on her cat, if she had
one, I expect," guessed the barber derisively.
"No, I would not!"
"Well, what WOULD you do?"
"I'd do enough. Don't worry about that!"
"Well, suppose it was a boy, then: what'd you do if a boy
come up to you and says, `Hello, little gentleman'?"
"He'd be lucky," said Penrod, with a sinister frown, "if he
got home alive."
"Suppose it was a boy twice your size?"
"Just let him try," said Penrod ominously. "You just let him
try. He'd never see daylight again; that's all!"
The barber dug ten active fingers into the helpless
scalp before him and did his best to displace it, while the
anguished Penrod, becoming instantly a seething crucible of
emotion, misdirected his natural resentment into maddened
brooding upon what he would do to a boy "twice his size" who
should dare to call him "little gentleman." The barber shook him
as his father had never shaken him; the barber buffeted him,
rocked him frantically to and fro; the barber seemed to be trying
to wring his neck; and Penrod saw himself in staggering zigzag
pictures, destroying large, screaming, fragmentary boys who had
The torture stopped suddenly; and clenched, weeping eyes
began to see again, while the barber applied cooling lotions
which made Penrod smell like a coloured housemaid's ideal.
"Now what," asked the barber, combing the reeking locks
gently, "what would it make you so mad fer, to have somebody call
you a little gentleman? It's a kind of compliment, as it were,
you might say. What would you want to hit anybody fer THAT
To the mind of Penrod, this question was without meaning or
reasonableness. It was within neither his power nor his desire
to analyze the process by which the phrase had become offensive
to him, and was now rapidly assuming the proportions of an
outrage. He knew only that his gorge rose at the thought of it.
"You just let 'em try it!" he said threateningly, as he
slid down from the chair. And as he went out of the door, after
further conversation on the same subject, he called back those
warning words once more: "Just let 'em try it! Just once--
that's all _I_ ask 'em to. They'll find out what they
The barber chuckled. Then a fly lit on the barber's nose and
he slapped at it, and the slap missed the fly but did not miss
the nose. The barber was irritated. At this moment his birdlike
eye gleamed a gleam as it fell upon customers approaching: the
prettiest little girl in the world, leading by the hand her baby
brother, Mitchy-Mitch, coming to have Mitchy-Mitch's hair
clipped, against the heat.
It was a hot day and idle, with little to feed the mind--and
the barber was a mischievous man with an irritated nose. He did
Meanwhile, the brooding Penrod pursued his homeward way; no
great distance, but long enough for several one-sided conflicts
with malign insulters made of thin air. "You better NOT call
me that!" he muttered. "You just try it, and you'll get what
other people got when THEY tried it. You better not ack
fresh with ME! Oh, you WILL, will you?" He delivered a
vicious kick full upon the shins of an iron fence-post, which
suffered little, though Penrod instantly regretted his
indiscretion. "Oof!" he grunted, hopping; and went on after
bestowing a look of awful hostility upon the fence-post. "I
guess you'll know better next time," he said, in parting, to
this antagonist. "You just let me catch you around here again
and I'll----" His voice sank to inarticulate but ominous
murmurings. He was in a dangerous mood.
Nearing home, however, his belligerent spirit was diverted to
happier interests by the discovery that some workmen had left a
caldron of tar in the cross-street, close by his father's stable.
He tested it, but found it inedible. Also, as a substitute for
professional chewing-gum it was unsatisfactory, being
insufficiently boiled down and too thin, though of a pleasant,
lukewarm temperature. But it had an excess of one quality--it
was sticky. It was the stickiest tar Penrod had ever used for
any purposes whatsoever, and nothing upon which he wiped his
hands served to rid them of it; neither his polka-dotted shirt
waist nor his knickerbockers; neither the fence, nor even Duke,
who came unthinkingly wagging out to greet him, and retired
Nevertheless, tar is tar. Much can be done with it, no
matter what its condition; so Penrod lingered by the caldron,
though from a neighbouring yard could be heard the voices of
comrades, including that of Sam Williams. On the ground about
the caldron were scattered chips and sticks and bits of wood to
the number of a great multitude. Penrod mixed quantities of this
refuse into the tar, and interested himself in seeing how much of
it he could keep moving in slow swirls upon the ebon surface.
Other surprises were arranged for the absent workmen. The
caldron was almost full, and the surface of the tar near the rim.
Penrod endeavoured to ascertain how many pebbles and brickbats,
dropped in, would cause an overflow. Labouring heartily to this
end, he had almost accomplished it, when he received the
suggestion for an experiment on a much larger scale. Embedded at
the corner of a grassplot across the street was a whitewashed
stone, the size of a small watermelon and serving no purpose
whatever save the questionable one of decoration. It was easily
pried up with a stick; though getting it to the caldron tested
the full strength of the ardent labourer. Instructed to perform
such a task, he would have sincerely maintained its impossibility
but now, as it was unbidden, and promised rather destructive
results, he set about it with unconquerable energy, feeling
certain that he would be rewarded with a mighty splash.
Perspiring, grunting vehemently, his back aching and all muscles
strained, he progressed in short stages until the big stone lay
at the base of the caldron. He rested a moment, panting, then
lifted the stone, and was bending his shoulders for the heave
that would lift it over the rim, when a sweet, taunting voice,
close behind him, startled him cruelly.
"How do you do, LITTLE GENTLEMAN!"
Penrod squawked, dropped the stone, and shouted, "Shut up,
you dern fool!" purely from instinct, even before his about-
face made him aware who had so spitefully addressed him.
It was Marjorie Jones. Always dainty, and prettily dressed,
she was in speckless and starchy white to-day, and a refreshing
picture she made, with the new-shorn and powerfully scented
Mitchy-Mitch clinging to her hand. They had stolen up behind the
toiler, and now stood laughing together in sweet merriment.
Since the passing of Penrod's Rupe Collins period he had
experienced some severe qualms at the recollection of his last
meeting with Marjorie and his Apache behaviour; in truth, his
heart instantly became as wax at sight of her, and he would have
offered her fair speech; but, alas! in Marjorie's wonderful eyes
there shone a consciousness of new powers for his undoing, and
she denied him opportunity.
"Oh, OH!" she cried, mocking his pained outcry. "What a
way for a LITTLE GENTLEMAN to talk! Little gentleman don't
"Marjorie!" Penrod, enraged and dismayed, felt himself stung
beyond all endurance. Insult from her was bitterer to endure
than from any other. "Don't you call me that again!"
"Why not, LITTLE GENTLEMAN?"
He stamped his foot. "You better stop!"
Marjorie sent into his furious face her lovely, spiteful
"Little gentleman, little gentleman, little gentleman!"
she said deliberately. "How's the little gentleman, this
afternoon? Hello, little gentleman!"
Penrod, quite beside himself, danced eccentrically. "Dry
up!" he howled. "Dry up, dry up, dry up, dry UP!"
Mitchy-Mitch shouted with delight and applied a finger to the
side of the caldron--a finger immediately snatched away and wiped
upon a handkerchief by his fastidious sister.
"'Ittle gellamun!" said Mitchy-Mitch.
"You better look out!" Penrod whirled upon this small
offender with grim satisfaction. Here was at least something
male that could without dishonour be held responsible. "You say
that again, and I'll give you the worst----"
"You will NOT!" snapped Marjorie, instantly vitriolic.
"He'll say just whatever he wants to, and he'll say it just as
MUCH as he wants to. Say it again, Mitchy-Mitch!"
"'Ittle gellamun!" said Mitchy-Mitch promptly.
"Ow-YAH!" Penrod's tone-production was becoming affected
by his mental condition. "You say that again, and I'll----"
"Go on, Mitchy-Mitch," cried Marjorie. "He can't do a thing.
He don't DARE! Say it some more, Mitchy-Mitch--say it a
Mitchy-Mitch, his small, fat face shining with confidence in
his immunity, complied.
"'Ittle gellamun!" he squeaked malevolently. "'Ittle
gellamun! 'Ittle gellamun! 'Ittle gellamun!"
The desperate Penrod bent over the whitewashed rock, lifted
it, and then--outdoing Porthos, John Ridd, and Ursus in one
miraculous burst of strength--heaved it into the air.
But it was too late. The big stone descended into the
precise midst of the caldron and Penrod got his mighty splash.
It was far, far beyond his expectations.
Spontaneously there were grand and awful effects--volcanic
spectacles of nightmare and eruption. A black sheet of eccentric
shape rose out of the caldron and descended upon the three
children, who had no time to evade it.
After it fell, Mitchy-Mitch, who stood nearest the caldron,
was the thickest, though there was enough for all. Br'er Rabbit
would have fled from any of them.
CHAPTER XXV. TAR
When Marjorie and Mitchy-Mitch got their breath, they used it
vocally; and seldom have more penetrating sounds issued from
human throats. Coincidentally, Marjorie, quite baresark, laid
hands upon the largest stick within reach and fell upon Penrod
with blind fury. He had the presence of mind to flee, and they
went round and round the caldron, while Mitchy-Mitch feebly
endeavoured to follow--his appearance, in this pursuit, being
pathetically like that of a bug fished out of an ink-well, alive
Attracted by the riot, Samuel Williams made his appearance,
vaulting a fence, and was immediately followed by Maurice Levy
and Georgie Bassett. They stared incredulously at the
extraordinary spectacle before them.
"Little GEN-TIL-MUN!" shrieked Marjorie, with a wild stroke
that landed full upon Penrod's tarry cap.
"OOOCH!" bleated Penrod.
"It's Penrod!" shouted Sam Williams, recognizing him by the
voice. For an instant he had been in some doubt.
"Penrod Schofield!" exclaimed Georgie Bassett. "WHAT
does this mean?" That was Georgie's style, and had helped to win
him his title.
Marjorie leaned, panting, upon her stick. "I cu-called--uh--
him--oh!" she sobbed--"I called him a lul-little--oh--gentleman!
And oh--lul-look!--oh! lul-look at my du-dress! Lul-look at Mu-
Unexpectedly, she smote again--with results--and then,
seizing the indistinguishable hand of Mitchy-Mitch, she ran
wailing homeward down the street.
"`Little gentleman'?" said Georgie Bassett, with some
evidences of disturbed complacency. "Why, that's what they call
"Yes, and you ARE one, too!" shouted the maddened Penrod.
"But you better not let anybody call ME that! I've stood
enough around here for one day, and you can't run over ME,
Georgie Bassett. Just you put that in your gizzard and smoke
"Anybody has a perfect right," said Georgie, with,
dignity, "to call a person a little gentleman. There's lots
of names nobody ought to call, but this one's a NICE----"
"You better look out!"
Unavenged bruises were distributed all over Penrod, both upon
his body and upon his spirit. Driven by subtle forces, he had
dipped his hands in catastrophe and disaster: it was not for a
Georgie Bassett to beard him. Penrod was about to run amuck.
"I haven't called you a little gentleman, yet," said Georgie.
"I only said it. Anybody's got a right to SAY it."
"Not around ME! You just try it again and----"
"I shall say it," returned Georgie, "all I please. Anybody
in this town has a right to SAY `little gentleman'----"
Bellowing insanely, Penrod plunged his right hand into the
caldron, rushed upon Georgie and made awful work of his hair and
Alas, it was but the beginning! Sam Williams and Maurice
Levy screamed with delight, and, simultaneously infected, danced
about the struggling pair, shouting frantically:
"Little gentleman! Little gentleman! Sick him, Georgie!
Sick him, little gentleman! Little gentleman! Little
The infuriated outlaw turned upon them with blows and more
tar, which gave Georgie Bassett his opportunity and later
seriously impaired the purity of his fame. Feeling himself
hopelessly tarred, he dipped both hands repeatedly into the
caldron and applied his gatherings to Penrod. It was bringing
coals to Newcastle, but it helped to assuage the just wrath of
The four boys gave a fine imitation of the Laocoon group
complicated by an extra figure frantic splutterings and chokings,
strange cries and stranger words issued from this tangle; hands
dipped lavishly into the inexhaustible reservoir of tar, with
more and more picturesque results. The caldron had been elevated
upon bricks and was not perfectly balanced; and under a heavy
impact of the struggling group it lurched and went partly over,
pouring forth a Stygian tide which formed a deep pool in the
It was the fate of Master Roderick Bitts, that exclusive and
immaculate person, to make his appearance upon the chaotic scene
at this juncture. All in the cool of a white "sailor suit," he
turned aside from the path of duty--which led straight to the
house of a maiden aunt--and paused to hop with joy upon the
sidewalk. A repeated epithet continuously half panted, half
squawked, somewhere in the nest of gladiators, caught his ear,
and he took it up excitedly, not knowing why.
"Little gentleman!" shouted Roderick, jumping up and down in
childish glee. "Little gentleman! Little gentleman! Lit----"
A frightful figure tore itself free from the group,
encircled this innocent bystander with a black arm, and
hurled him headlong. Full length and flat on his face went
Roderick into the Stygian pool. The frightful figure was Penrod.
Instantly, the pack flung themselves upon him again, and,
carrying them with him, he went over upon Roderick, who from that
instant was as active a belligerent as any there.
Thus began the Great Tar Fight, the origin of which proved,
afterward, so difficult for parents to trace, owing to the
opposing accounts of the combatants. Marjorie said Penrod began
it; Penrod said Mitchy-Mitch began it; Sam Williams said Georgie
Bassett began it; Georgie and Maurice Levy said Penrod began it;
Roderick Bitts, who had not recognized his first assailant, said
Sam Williams began it.
Nobody thought of accusing the barber. But the barber did
not begin it; it was the fly on the barber's nose that began it--
though, of course, something else began the fly. Somehow, we
never manage to hang the real offender.
The end came only with the arrival of Penrod's mother, who
had been having a painful conversation by telephone with Mrs.
Jones, the mother of Marjorie, and came forth to seek an errant
son. It is a mystery how she was able to pick out her own, for
by the time she got there his voice was too hoarse to be
recognizable. Mr. Schofield's version of things was that Penrod
was insane. "He's a stark, raving lunatic!" declared the
father, descending to the library from a before-dinner interview
with the outlaw, that evening. "I'd send him to military school,
but I don't believe they'd take him. Do you know WHY he says
all that awfulness happened?"
"When Margaret and I were trying to scrub him," responded
Mrs. Schofield wearily, "he said `everybody' had been calling him
"`Names!'" snorted her husband. "`Little gentleman!'
THAT'S the vile epithet they called him! And because of it
he wrecks the peace of six homes!"
"SH! Yes; he told us about it," said Mrs. Schofield,
moaning. "He told us several hundred times, I should guess,
though I didn't count. He's got it fixed in his head, and we
couldn't get it out. All we could do was to put him in the
closet. He'd have gone out again after those boys if we hadn't.
I don't know WHAT to make of him!"
"He's a mystery to ME!" said her husband. "And he
refuses to explain why he objects to being called `little
gentleman.' Says he'd do the same thing--and worse--if anybody
dared to call him that again. He said if the President of the
United States called him that he'd try to whip him. How long did
you have him locked up in the closet?"
"SH!" said Mrs. Schofield warningly. "About two hours;
but I don't think it softened his spirit at all, because when I
took him to the barber's to get his hair clipped again, on
account of the tar in it, Sammy Williams and Maurice Levy were
there for the same reason, and they just WHISPERED `little
gentleman,' so low you could hardly hear them--and Penrod began
fighting with them right before me, and it was really all the
barber and I could do to drag him away from them. The barber was
very kind about it, but Penrod----"
"I tell you he's a lunatic!" Mr. Schofield would have said
the same thing of a Frenchman infuriated by the epithet "camel."
The philosophy of insult needs expounding.
"SH!" said Mrs. Schofield. "It does seem a kind of
"Why on earth should any sane person mind being called----"
"SH!" said Mrs. Schofield. "It's beyond ME!"
"What are you SH-ing me for?" demanded Mr. Schofield
"SH!" said Mrs. Schofield. "It's Mr. Kinosling, the new
rector of Saint Joseph's."
"SH! On the front porch with Margaret; he's going to
stay for dinner. I do hope----"
"Bachelor, isn't he?"
"OUR old minister was speaking of him the other day,"
said Mr. Schofield, "and he didn't seem so terribly impressed."
"SH! Yes; about thirty, and of course so superior to
most of Margaret's friends--boys home from college. She thinks
she likes young Robert Williams, I know--but he laughs so much!
Of course there isn't any comparison. Mr. Kinosling talks so
intellectually; it's a good thing for Margaret to hear that kind
of thing, for a change and, of course, he's very spiritual. He
seems very much interested in her." She paused to muse. "I
think Margaret likes him; he's so different, too. It's the third
time he's dropped in this week, and I----"
"Well," said Mr. Schofield grimly, "if you and Margaret want
him to come again, you'd better not let him see Penrod."
"But he's asked to see him; he seems interested in meeting
all the family. And Penrod nearly always behaves fairly well at
table." She paused, and then put to her husband a question
referring to his interview with Penrod upstairs. "Did you--did
"No," he answered gloomily. "No, I didn't, but----" He was
interrupted by a violent crash of china and metal in the kitchen,
a shriek from Della, and the outrageous voice of Penrod. The
well-informed Della, ill-inspired to set up for a wit, had
ventured to address the scion of the house roguishly as "little
gentleman," and Penrod, by means of the rapid elevation of his
right foot, had removed from her supporting hands a laden tray.
Both parents, started for the kitchen, Mr. Schofield
completing his interrupted sentence on the way.
"But I will, now!"
The rite thus promised was hastily but accurately performed
in that apartment most distant from the front porch; and, twenty
minutes later, Penrod descended to dinner. The Rev. Mr.
Kinosling had asked for the pleasure of meeting him, and it had
been decided that the only course possible was to cover up the
scandal for the present, and to offer an undisturbed and smiling
family surface to the gaze of the visitor.
Scorched but not bowed, the smouldering Penrod was led
forward for the social formulae simultaneously with the somewhat
bleak departure of Robert Williams, who took his guitar with him,
this time, and went in forlorn unconsciousness of the powerful
forces already set in secret motion to be his allies.
The punishment just undergone had but made the haughty and
unyielding soul of Penrod more stalwart in revolt; he was
unconquered. Every time the one intolerable insult had been
offered him, his resentment had become the hotter, his vengeance
the more instant and furious. And, still burning with outrage,
but upheld by the conviction of right, he was determined to
continue to the last drop of his blood the defense of his honour,
whenever it should be assailed, no matter how mighty or august
the powers that attacked it. In all ways, he was a very
During the brief ceremony of presentation, his usually
inscrutable countenance wore an expression interpreted by his
father as one of insane obstinacy, while Mrs. Schofield found it
an incentive to inward prayer. The fine graciousness of Mr.
Kinosling, however, was unimpaired by the glare of virulent
suspicion given him by this little brother: Mr. Kinosling mistook
it for a natural curiosity concerning one who might possibly
become, in time, a member of the family. He patted Penrod upon
the head, which was, for many reasons, in no condition to be
patted with any pleasure to the patter. Penrod felt himself in
the presence of a new enemy.
"How do you do, my little lad," said Mr. Kinosling. "I trust
we shall become fast friends."
To the ear of his little lad, it seemed he said, "A trost we
shall bick-home fawst frainds." Mr. Kinosling's pronunciation
was, in fact, slightly precious; and, the little lad, simply
mistaking it for some cryptic form of mockery of himself, assumed
a manner and expression which argued so ill for the proposed
friendship that Mrs. Schofield hastily interposed the suggestion
of dinner, and the small procession went in to the dining-room.
"It has been a delicious day," said Mr. Kinosling, presently;
"warm but balmy." With a benevolent smile he addressed
Penrod, who sat opposite him. "I suppose, little gentleman, you
have been indulging in the usual outdoor sports of vacation?"
Penrod laid down his fork and glared, open-mouthed at Mr.
"You'll have another slice of breast of the chicken?" Mr.
Schofield inquired, loudly and quickly.
"A lovely day!" exclaimed Margaret, with equal promptitude
and emphasis. "Lovely, oh, lovely! Lovely!"
"Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!" said Mrs. Schofield, and
after a glance at Penrod which confirmed her impression that he
intended to say something, she continued, "Yes, beautiful,
beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful beautiful!"
Penrod closed his mouth and sank back in his chair--and his
relatives took breath.
Mr. Kinosling looked pleased. This responsive family, with
its ready enthusiasm, made the kind of audience he liked. He
passed a delicate white hand gracefully over his tall, pale
forehead, and smiled indulgently.
"Youth relaxes in summer," he said. "Boyhood is the age of
relaxation; one is playful, light, free, unfettered. One runs
and leaps and enjoys one's self with one's companions. It is
good for the little lads to play with their friends; they jostle,
push, and wrestle, and simulate little, happy struggles with one
another in harmless conflict. The young muscles are
toughening. It is good. Boyish chivalry develops, enlarges,
expands. The young learn quickly, intuitively, spontaneously.
They perceive the obligations of noblesse oblige. They begin
to comprehend the necessity of caste and its requirements. They
learn what birth means--ah,--that is, they learn what it means to
be well born. They learn courtesy in their games; they learn
politeness, consideration for one another in their pastimes,
amusements, lighter occupations. I make it my pleasure to join
them often, for I sympathize with them in all their wholesome
joys as well as in their little bothers and perplexities. I
understand them, you see; and let me tell you it is no easy
matter to understand the little lads and lassies." He sent to
each listener his beaming glance, and, permitting it to come to
rest upon Penrod, inquired:
"And what do you say to that, little gentleman?"
Mr. Schofield uttered a stentorian cough. "More? You'd
better have some more chicken! More! Do!"
"More chicken!" urged Margaret simultaneously. "Do please!
Please! More! Do! More!"
"Beautiful, beautiful," began Mrs. Schofield. "Beautiful,
beautiful, beautiful, beautiful----"
It is not known in what light Mr. Kinosling viewed the
expression of Penrod's face. Perhaps he mistook it for awe;
perhaps he received no impression at all of its extraordinary
quality. He was a rather self-engrossed young man, just then
engaged in a double occupation, for he not only talked, but
supplied from his own consciousness a critical though favourable
auditor as well, which of course kept him quite busy. Besides,
it is oftener than is expected the case that extremely peculiar
expressions upon the countenances of boys are entirely
overlooked, and suggest nothing to the minds of people staring
straight at them. Certainly Penrod's expression--which, to the
perception of his family, was perfectly horrible--caused not the
faintest perturbation in the breast of Mr. Kinosling.
Mr. Kinosling waived the chicken, and continued to talk.
"Yes, I think I may claim to understand boys," he said, smiling
thoughtfully. "One has been a boy one's self. Ah, it is not all
playtime! I hope our young scholar here does not overwork
himself at his Latin, at his classics, as I did, so that at the
age of eight years I was compelled to wear glasses. He must be
careful not to strain the little eyes at his scholar's tasks, not
to let the little shoulders grow round over his scholar's desk.
Youth is golden; we should keep it golden, bright, glistening.
Youth should frolic, should be sprightly; it should play its
cricket, its tennis, its hand-ball. It should run and leap; it
should laugh, should sing madrigals and glees, carol with the
lark, ring out in chanties, folk-songs, ballads, roundelays----"
He talked on. At any instant Mr. Schofield held himself
ready to cough vehemently and shout, "More chicken," to
drown out Penrod in case the fatal words again fell from those
eloquent lips; and Mrs. Schofield and Margaret kept themselves
prepared at all times to assist him. So passed a threatening
meal, which Mrs. Schofield hurried, by every means with decency,
to its conclusion. She felt that somehow they would all be safer
out in the dark of the front porch, and led the way thither as
soon as possible.
"No cigar, I thank you." Mr. Kinosling, establishing himself
in a wicker chair beside Margaret, waved away her father's
proffer. "I do not smoke. I have never tasted tobacco in any
form." Mrs. Schofield was confirmed in her opinion that this
would be an ideal son-in-law. Mr. Schofield was not so sure.
"No," said Mr. Kinosling. "No tobacco for me. No cigar, no
pipe, no cigarette, no cheroot. For me, a book--a volume of
poems, perhaps. Verses, rhymes, lines metrical and cadenced--
those are my dissipation. Tennyson by preference: `Maud,' or
`Idylls of the King'--poetry of the sound Victorian days; there
is none later. Or Longfellow will rest me in a tired hour. Yes;
for me, a book, a volume in the hand, held lightly between the
Mr. Kinosling looked pleasantly at his fingers as he spoke,
waving his hand in a curving gesture which brought it into the
light of a window faintly illumined from the interior of the
house. Then he passed those graceful fingers over his hair,
and turned toward Penrod, who was perched upon the railing in a
"The evening is touched with a slight coolness," said Mr.
Kinosling. "Perhaps I may request the little gentleman----"
"B'gr-r-RUFF!" coughed Mr. Schofield. "You'd better
change your mind about a cigar."
"No, I thank you. I was about to request the lit----"
"DO try one," Margaret urged. "I'm sure papa's are nice
ones. Do try----"
"No, I thank you. I remarked a slight coolness in the air,
and my hat is in the hallway. I was about to request----"
"I'll get it for you," said Penrod suddenly.
"If you will be so good," said Mr. Kinosling. "It is a black
bowler hat, little gentleman, and placed upon a table in the
"I know where it is." Penrod entered the door, and a feeling
of relief, mutually experienced, carried from one to another of
his three relatives their interchanged congratulations that he
had recovered his sanity.
"`The day is done, and the darkness,'" began Mr. Kinosling--
and recited that poem entire. He followed it with "The
Children's Hour," and after a pause, at the close, to allow his
listeners time for a little reflection upon his rendition, he
passed his handagain over his head, and called, in the
direction of the doorway:
"I believe I will take my hat now, little gentleman."
"Here it is," said Penrod, unexpectedly climbing over the
porch railing, in the other direction. His mother and father and
Margaret had supposed him to be standing in the hallway out of
deference, and because he thought it tactful not to interrupt the
recitations. All of them remembered, later, that this supposed
thoughtfulness on his part struck them as unnatural.
"Very good, little gentleman!" said Mr. Kinosling, and being
somewhat chilled, placed the hat firmly upon his head, pulling it
down as far as it would go. It had a pleasant warmth, which he
noticed at once. The next instant, he noticed something else, a
peculiar sensation of the scalp--a sensation which he was quite
unable to define. He lifted his hand to take the hat off, and
entered upon a strange experience: his hat seemed to have decided
to remain where it was.
"Do you like Tennyson as much as Longfellow, Mr. Kinosling?"
"I--ah--I cannot say," he returned absently. "I--ah--each
has his own--ugh! flavour and savour, each his--ah--ah----"
Struck by a strangeness in his tone, she peered at him
curiously through the dusk. His outlines were indistinct, but
she made out that his arms were, uplifted in a singular
gesture. He seemed to be wrenching at his head.
"Is--is anything the matter?" she asked anxiously. "Mr.
Kinosling, are you ill?"
"Not at--ugh!--all," he replied, in the same odd tone. "I--
He dropped his hands from his hat, and rose. His manner was
slightly agitated. "I fear I may have taken a trifling--ah--
cold. I should--ah--perhaps be--ah--better at home. I will--
At the steps, he instinctively lifted his hand to remove his
hat, but did not do so, and, saying "Goodnight," again in a
frigid voice, departed with visible stiffness from that house, to
return no more.
"Well, of all----!" cried Mrs. Schofield, astounded. "What
was the matter? He just went--like that!" She made a flurried
gesture. "In heaven's name, Margaret, what DID you say to
"_I_!" exclaimed Margaret indignantly. "Nothing! He just
"Why, he didn't even take off his hat when he said good-
night!" said Mrs. Schofield.
Margaret, who had crossed to the doorway, caught the ghost of
a whisper behind her, where stood Penrod.
"YOU BET HE DIDN'T!"
He knew not that he was overheard.
A frightful suspicion flashed through Margaret's mind--a
suspicion that Mr. Kinosling's hat would have to be either boiled
off or shaved off. With growing horror she recalled Penrod's
long absence when he went to bring the hat.
"Penrod," she cried, "let me see your hands!"
She had toiled at those hands herself late that afternoon,
nearly scalding her own, but at last achieving a lily purity.
"Let me see your hands!"
She seized them.
Again they were tarred!
CHAPTER XXVI. THE QUIET AFTERNOON
Perhaps middle-aged people might discern Nature's real intentions
in the matter of pain if they would examine a boy's punishments
and sorrows, for he prolongs neither beyond their actual
duration. With a boy, trouble must be of Homeric dimensions to
last overnight. To him, every next day is really a new day.
Thus, Penrod woke, next morning, with neither the unspared rod,
nor Mr. Kinosling in his mind. Tar, itself, so far as his
consideration of it went, might have been an undiscovered
substance. His mood was cheerful and mercantile; some process
having worked mysteriously within him, during the
night, to the result that his first waking thought was of profits
connected with the sale of old iron--or perhaps a ragman had
passed the house, just before he woke.
By ten o'clock he had formed a partnership with the indeed
amiable Sam, and the firm of Schofield and Williams plunged
headlong into commerce. Heavy dealings in rags, paper, old iron
and lead gave the firm a balance of twenty-two cents on the
evening of the third day; but a venture in glassware, following,
proved disappointing on account of the scepticism of all the
druggists in that part of town, even after seven laborious hours
had been spent in cleansing a wheelbarrow-load of old medicine
bottles with hydrant water and ashes. Likewise, the partners
were disheartened by their failure to dispose of a crop of
"greens," although they had uprooted specimens of that decorative
and unappreciated flower, the dandelion, with such persistence
and energy that the Schofields' and Williams' lawns looked
curiously haggard for the rest of that summer.
The fit passed: business languished; became extinct. The
dog-days had set in.
One August afternoon was so hot that even boys sought indoor
shade. In the dimness of the vacant carriage-house of the
stable, lounged Masters Penrod Schofield, Samuel Williams,
Maurice Levy, Georgie Bassett, and Herman. They sat still and
talked. It is a hot day, in rare truth, when boys devote
themselves principally to conversation, and this day was
Their elders should beware such days. Peril hovers near when
the fierceness of weather forces inaction and boys in groups are
quiet. The more closely volcanoes, Western rivers,
nitroglycerin, and boys are pent, the deadlier is their action at
the point of outbreak. Thus, parents and guardians should look
for outrages of the most singular violence and of the most
peculiar nature during the confining weather of February and
The thing which befell upon this broiling afternoon began to
brew and stew peacefully enough. All was innocence and languor;
no one could have foretold the eruption.
They were upon their great theme: "When I get to be a man!"
Being human, though boys, they considered their present estate
too commonplace to be dwelt upon. So, when the old men gather,
they say: "When I was a boy!" It really is the land of nowadays
that we never discover.
"When I'm a man," said Sam Williams, "I'm goin' to hire me a
couple of coloured waiters to swing me in a hammock and keep
pourin' ice-water on me all day out o' those waterin'-cans they
sprinkle flowers from. I'll hire you for one of 'em, Herman."
"No; you ain' goin' to," said Herman promptly. "You ain' no
flowuh. But nev' min' nat, anyway. Ain' nobody goin' haih
me whens _I_'m a man. Goin' be my own boss. _I_'m go' be a
"You mean like a superintendent, or sumpthing like that, and
sell tickets?" asked Penrod.
"Sup'in--nev' min' nat! Sell ticket? NO suh! Go' be a
PO'tuh! My uncle a po'tuh right now. Solid gole buttons--
"Generals get a lot more buttons than porters," said Penrod.
"Po'tuhs make the bes' l'vin'," Herman interrupted. "My
uncle spen' mo' money 'n any white man n'is town."
"Well, I rather be a general," said Penrod, "or a senator, or
sumpthing like that."
"Senators live in Warshington," Maurice Levy contributed the
information. "I been there. Warshington ain't so much; Niag'ra
Falls is a hundred times as good as Warshington. So's 'Tlantic
City, I was there, too. I been everywhere there is. I----"
"Well, anyway," said Sam Williams, raising his voice in order
to obtain the floor, "anyway, I'm goin' to lay in a hammock all
day, and have ice-water sprinkled on top o' me, and I'm goin' to
lay there all night, too, and the next day. I'm goin' to lay
there a couple o' years, maybe."
"I bet you don't!" exclaimed Maurice. "What'd you do in
"What you goin' to do when it's winter, out in a hammock
with water sprinkled on top o' you all day? I bet you----"
"I'd stay right there," Sam declared, with strong conviction,
blinking as he looked out through the open doors at the dazzling
lawn and trees, trembling in the heat. "They couldn't sprinkle
too much for ME!"
"It'd make icicles all over you, and----"
"I wish it would," said Sam. "I'd eat 'em up."
"And it'd snow on you----"
"Yay! I'd swaller it as fast as it'd come down. I wish I
had a BARREL o' snow right now. I wish this whole barn was
full of it. I wish they wasn't anything in the whole world
except just good ole snow."
Penrod and Herman rose and went out to the hydrant, where
they drank long and ardently. Sam was still talking about snow
when they returned.
"No, I wouldn't just roll in it. I'd stick it all round
inside my clo'es, and fill my hat. No, I'd freeze a big pile of
it all hard, and I'd roll her out flat and then I'd carry her
down to some ole tailor's and have him make me a SUIT out of
"Can't you keep still about your ole snow?" demanded Penrod
petulantly. "Makes me so thirsty I can't keep still, and I've
drunk so much now I bet I bust. That ole hydrant water's mighty
near hot anyway."
"I'm goin' to have a big store, when I grow up," volunteered
"Candy store?" asked Penrod.
"NO, sir! I'll have candy in it, but not to eat, so much.
It's goin' to be a deportment store: ladies' clothes,
gentlemen's clothes, neckties, china goods, leather goods, nice
lines in woollings and lace goods----"
"Yay! I wouldn't give a five-for-a-cent marble for your
whole store," said Sam. "Would you, Penrod?"
"Not for ten of 'em; not for a million of 'em! _I_'m goin'
"Wait!" clamoured Maurice. "You'd be foolish, because they'd
be a toy deportment in my store where they'd be a hunderd
marbles! So, how much would you think your five-for-a-cent
marble counts for? And when I'm keepin' my store I'm goin' to
"Yay!" shrieked Sam derisively. "MARRIED! Listen!"
Penrod and Herman joined in the howl of contempt.
"Certumly I'll get married," asserted Maurice stoutly. "I'll
get married to Marjorie Jones. She likes me awful good, and I'm
"What makes you think so?" inquired Penrod in a cryptic
"Because she's my beau, too," came the prompt answer. "I'm
her beau because she's my beau; I guess that's plenty reason!
I'll get married to her as soon as I get my store running nice."
Penrod looked upon him darkly, but, for the moment, held his
"Married!" jeered Sam Williams. "Married to Marjorie Jones!
You're the only boy I ever heard say he was going to get married.
I wouldn't get married for--why, I wouldn't for--for----" Unable
to think of any inducement the mere mention of which would not be
ridiculously incommensurate, he proceeded: "I wouldn't do it!
What you want to get married for? What do married people do,
except just come home tired, and worry around and kind of scold?
You better not do it, M'rice; you'll be mighty sorry."
"Everybody gets married," stated Maurice, holding his ground.
"I'll bet _I_ don't!" Sam returned hotly. "They better
catch me before they tell ME I have to. Anyway, I bet nobody
has to get married unless they want to."
"They do, too," insisted Maurice. "They GOTTA!"
"Who told you?"
"Look at what my own papa told me!" cried Maurice, heated
with argument. "Didn't he tell me your papa had to marry your
mamma, or else he never'd got to handle a cent of her money?
Certumly, people gotta marry. Everybody. You don't know anybody
over twenty years old that isn't married--except maybe teachers."
"Look at policemen!" shouted Sam triumphantly. `You
don't s'pose anybody can make policemen get married, I reckon, do
"Well, policemen, maybe," Maurice was forced to admit.
"Policemen and teachers don't, but everybody else gotta."
"Well, I'll be a policeman," said Sam. "THEN I guess
they won't come around tellin' me I have to get married. What
you goin' to be, Penrod?"
"Chief police," said the laconic Penrod.
"What you?" Sam inquired of quiet Georgie Bassett.
"I am going to be," said Georgie, consciously, "a minister."
This announcement created a sensation so profound that it was
followed by silence. Herman was the first to speak.
"You mean preachuh?" he asked incredulously. "You go'
"Yes," answered Georgie, looking like Saint Cecilia at the
Herman was impressed. "You know all 'at preachuh talk?"
"I'm going to learn it," said Georgie simply.
"How loud kin you holler?" asked Herman doubtfully.
"He can't holler at all," Penrod interposed with scorn. "He
hollers like a girl. He's the poorest hollerer in town!"
Herman shook his head. Evidently he thought Georgie's
chance of being ordained very slender. Nevertheless, a final
question put to the candidate by the coloured expert seemed to
admit one ray of hope.
"How good kin you clim a pole?"
"He can't climb one at all," Penrod answered for Georgie.
"Over at Sam's turning-pole you ought to see him try to----"
"Preachers don't have to climb poles," Georgie said with
"GOOD ones do," declared Herman. "Bes' one ev' _I_
hear, he clim up an' down same as a circus man. One n'em big
'vivals outen whens we livin' on a fahm, preachuh clim big pole
right in a middle o' the church, what was to hol' roof up. He
clim way high up, an' holler: `Goin' to heavum, goin' to heavum,
goin' to heavum NOW. Hallelujah, praise my Lawd!' An' he
slide down little, an' holler: `Devil's got a hol' o' my coat-
tails; devil tryin' to drag me down! Sinnuhs, take wawnun!
Devil got a hol' o' my coat-tails; I'm a-goin' to hell, oh Lawd!'
Nex', he clim up little mo', an' yell an' holler: `Done shuck
ole devil loose; goin' straight to heavum agin! Goin' to heavum,
goin' to heavum, my Lawd!' Nex', he slide down some mo' an'
holler, `Leggo my coat-tails, ole devil! Goin' to hell agin,
sinnuhs! Goin' straight to hell, my Lawd!' An' he clim an' he
slide, an' he slide, an' he clim, an' all time holler: `Now 'm
a-goin' to heavum; now 'm a-goin' to hell! Goin'to heavum,
heavum, heavum, my Lawd!' Las' he slide all a-way down,
jes' a-squallin' an' a-kickin' an' a-rarin' up an' squealin',
`Goin' to hell. Goin' to hell! Ole Satum got my soul! Goin' to
hell! Goin' to hell! Goin' to hell, hell, hell!"
Herman possessed that extraordinary facility for vivid acting
which is the great native gift of his race, and he enchained his
listeners. They sat fascinated and spellbound.
"Herman, tell that again!" said Penrod, breathlessly.
Herman, nothing loath, accepted the encore and repeated the
Miltonic episode, expanding it somewhat, and dwelling with a fine
art upon those portions of the narrative which he perceived to be
most exciting to his audience. Plainly, they thrilled less to
Paradise gained than to its losing, and the dreadful climax of
the descent into the Pit was the greatest treat of all.
The effect was immense and instant. Penrod sprang to his
"Georgie Bassett couldn't do that to save his life," he
declared. "_I_'m goin' to be a preacher! I'D be all right
for one, wouldn't I, Herman?"
"So am I!" Sam Williams echoed loudly. "I guess I can do it
if YOU can. I'd be better'n Penrod, wouldn't I, Herman?"
"I am, too!" Maurice shouted. "I got a stronger voice than
anybody here, and I'd like to know what----"
The three clamoured together indistinguishably, each
asserting his qualifications for the ministry according to
Herman's theory, which had been accepted by these sudden converts
"Listen to ME!" Maurice bellowed, proving his claim to at
least the voice by drowning the others. "Maybe I can't climb a
pole so good, but who can holler louder'n this? Listen to
"Shut up!" cried Penrod, irritated. "Go to heaven; go to
"Oo-o-oh!" exclaimed Georgie Bassett, profoundly shocked.
Sam and Maurice, awed by Penrod's daring, ceased from
turmoil, staring wide-eyed.
"You cursed and swore!" said Georgie.
"I did not!" cried Penrod, hotly. "That isn't swearing."
"You said, `Go to a big H'!" said Georgie.
"I did not! I said, `Go to heaven,' before I said a big H.
That isn't swearing, is it, Herman? It's almost what the
preacher said, ain't it, Herman? It ain't swearing now, any
more--not if you put `go to heaven' with it, is it, Herman? You
can say it all you want to, long as you say `go to heaven' first,
CAN'T you, Herman? Anybody can say it if the preacher says
it, can't they, Herman? I guess I know when I ain't swearing,
don't I, Herman?"
Judge Herman ruled for the defendant, and Penrod was
considered to have carried his point. With fine
consistency, the conclave established that it was proper for the
general public to "say it," provided "go to heaven" should in all
cases precede it. This prefix was pronounced a perfect
disinfectant, removing all odour of impiety or insult; and, with
the exception of Georgie Bassett (who maintained that the
minister's words were "going" and "gone," not "go"), all the boys
proceeded to exercise their new privilege so lavishly that they
tired of it.
But there was no diminution of evangelical ardour; again were
heard the clamours of dispute as to which was the best qualified
for the ministry, each of the claimants appealing passionately to
Herman, who, pleased but confused, appeared to be incapable of
arriving at a decision.
During a pause, Georgie Bassett asserted his prior rights.
"Who said it first, I'd like to know?" he demanded. "I was going
to be a minister from long back of to-day, I guess. And I guess
I said I was going to be a minister right to-day before any of
you said anything at all. DIDN'T I, Herman? YOU heard
me, didn't you, Herman? That's the very thing started you
talking about it, wasn't it, Herman?"
"You' right," said Herman. "You the firs' one to say it."
Penrod, Sam, and Maurice immediately lost faith in Herman.
"What if you did say it first?" Penrod shouted. "You
couldn't BE a minister if you were a hunderd years old!"
"I bet his mother wouldn't let him be one," said Sam. "She
never lets him do anything."
"She would, too," retorted Georgie. "Ever since I was
"He's too sissy to be a preacher!" cried Maurice. "Listen at
his squeaky voice!"
"I'm going to be a better minister," shouted Georgie, "than
all three of you put together. I could do it with my left hand!"
The three laughed bitingly in chorus. They jeered, derided,
scoffed, and raised an uproar which would have had its effect
upon much stronger nerves than Georgie's. For a time he
contained his rising choler and chanted monotonously, over and
over: "I COULD! I COULD, TOO! I COULD! I COULD, TOO!"
But their tumult wore upon him, and he decided to avail himself
of the recent decision whereby a big H was rendered innocuous and
unprofane. Having used the expression once, he found it
comforting, and substituted it for: "I could! I could, too!"
But it relieved him only temporarily. His tormentors were
unaffected by it and increased their howlings, until at last
Georgie lost his head altogether. Badgered beyond bearing, his
eyes shining with a wild light, he broke through the besieging
trio, hurling little Maurice from his path with a frantic
"I'll show you!" he cried, in this sudden frenzy. "You give
me a chance, and I'll prove it right NOW!"
"That's talkin' business!" shouted Penrod. "Everybody keep
still a minute. Everybody!"
He took command of the situation at once, displaying a fine
capacity for organization and system. It needed only a few
minutes to set order in the place of confusion and to determine,
with the full concurrence of all parties, the conditions under
which Georgie Bassett was to defend his claim by undergoing what
may be perhaps intelligibly defined as the Herman test. Georgie
declared he could do it easily. He was in a state of great
excitement and in no condition to think calmly or, probably, he
would not have made the attempt at all. Certainly he was
CHAPTER XXVII. CONCLUSION OF THE QUIET AFTERNOON
It was during the discussion of the details of this enterprise
that Georgie's mother, a short distance down the street, received
a few female callers, who came by appointment to drink a glass of
iced tea with her, and to meet the Rev. Mr. Kinosling. Mr.
Kinosling was proving almost formidably interesting to the women
and girls of his own and other flocks. What favour of his fellow
clergymen a slight precociousness of manner and pronunciation
cost him was more than balanced by the visible ecstasies of
ladies. They blossomed at his touch.
He had just entered Mrs. Bassett's front door, when the son
of the house, followed by an intent and earnest company of four,
opened the alley gate and came into the yard. The unconscious
Mrs. Bassett was about to have her first experience of a fatal
coincidence. It was her first, because she was the mother of a
boy so well behaved that he had become a proverb of
transcendency. Fatal coincidences were plentiful in the
Schofield and Williams families, and would have been familiar to
Mrs. Bassett had Georgie been permitted greater intimacy with
Penrod and Sam.
Mr. Kinosling sipped his iced tea and looked about, him
approvingly. Seven ladies leaned forward, for it was to be seen
that he meant to speak.
"This cool room is a relief," he said, waving a graceful hand
in a neatly limited gesture, which everybody's eyes followed, his
own included. "It is a relief and a retreat. The windows open,
the blinds closed--that is as it should be. It is a retreat, a
fastness, a bastion against the heat's assault. For me, a quiet
room--a quiet room and a book, a volume in the hand, held lightly
between the fingers. A volume of poems, lines metrical and
cadenced; something by a sound Victorian. We have no later
"Swinburne?" suggested Miss Beam, an eager spinster.
"Swinburne, Mr. Kinosling? Ah, SWINBURNE!"
"Not Swinburne," said Mr. Kinosling chastely. "No."
That concluded all the remarks about Swinburne.
Miss Beam retired in confusion behind another lady; and
somehow there became diffused an impression that Miss Beam was
"I do not observe your manly little son, "Mr. Kinosling
addressed his hostess.
"He's out playing in the yard," Mrs. Bassett returned. "I
heard his voice just now, I think."
"Everywhere I hear wonderful report of him," said Mr.
Kinosling. "I may say that I understand boys, and I feel that he
is a rare, a fine, a pure, a lofty spirit. I say spirit, for
spirit is the word I hear spoken of him."
A chorus of enthusiastic approbation affirmed the accuracy of
this proclamation, and Mrs. Bassett flushed with pleasure.
Georgie's spiritual perfection was demonstrated by instances of
it, related by the visitors; his piety was cited, and wonderful
things he had said were quoted.
"Not all boys are pure, of fine spirit, of high mind," said
Mr. Kinosling, and continued with true feeling: "You have a
neighbour, dear Mrs. Bassett, whose household I indeed really
feel it quite impossible to visit until such time when better,
firmer, stronger handed, more determined discipline shall
prevail. I find Mr. and Mrs. Schofield and their daughter
Three or four ladies said "Oh!" and spoke a name
simultaneously. It was as if they had said, "Oh, the bubonic
"Oh! Penrod Schofield!"
"Georgie does not play with him," said Mrs. Bassett quickly--
"that is, he avoids him as much as he can without hurting
Penrod's feelings. Georgie is very sensitive to giving pain. I
suppose a mother should not tell these things, and I know people
who talk about their own children are dreadful bores, but it was
only last Thursday night that Georgie looked up in my face so
sweetly, after he had said his prayers and his little cheeks
flushed, as he said: "Mamma, I think it would be right for me to
go more with Penrod. I think it would make him a better boy."
A sibilance went about the room. "Sweet! How sweet! The
sweet little soul! Ah, SWEET!"
"And that very afternoon," continued Mrs. Bassett, "he had
come home in a dreadful state. Penrod had thrown tar all over
"Your son has a forgiving spirit!" said Mr. Kinosling with
vehemence. "A too forgiving spirit, perhaps." He set down his
glass. "No more, I thank you. No more cake, I thank you. Was
it not Cardinal Newman who said----"
He was interrupted by the sounds of an altercation just
outside the closed blinds of the window nearest him.
"Let him pick his tree!" It was the voice of Samuel
Williams. "Didn't we come over here to give him one of his own
trees? Give him a fair show, can't you?"
"The little lads!" Mr. Kinosling smiled. "They have their
games, their outdoor sports, their pastimes. The young muscles
are toughening. The sun will not harm them. They grow; they
expand; they learn. They learn fair play, honour, courtesy, from
one another, as pebbles grow round in the brook. They learn more
from themselves than from us. They take shape, form, outline.
"Mr. Kinosling!" Another spinster--undeterred by what had
happened to Miss Beam--leaned fair forward, her face shining and
ardent. "Mr. Kinosling, there's a question I DO wish to ask
"My dear Miss Cosslit," Mr. Kinosling responded, again waving
his hand and watching it, "I am entirely at your disposal."
"WAS Joan of Arc," she asked fervently, "inspired by
He smiled indulgently. "Yes--and no," he said. "One must
give both answers. One must give the answer, yes; one must give
the answer, no."
"Oh, THANK you!" said Miss Cosslit, blushing.
"She's one of my great enthusiasms, you know."
"And I have a question, too," urged Mrs. Lora Rewbush,
after a moment's hasty concentration. "'I've never been able to
settle it for myself, but NOW----"
"Yes?" said Mr. Kinosling encouragingly.
"Is--ah--is--oh, yes: Is Sanskrit a more difficult language
than Spanish, Mr. Kinosling?"
"It depends upon the student," replied the oracle smiling.
"One must not look for linguists everywhere. In my own especial
case--if one may cite one's self as an example--I found no great,
no insurmountable difficulty in mastering, in conquering either."
"And may _I_ ask one?" ventured Mrs. Bassett. "Do you
think it is right to wear egrets?"
"There are marks of quality, of caste, of social
distinction," Mr. Kinosling began, "which must be permitted,
allowed, though perhaps regulated. Social distinction, one
observes, almost invariably implies spiritual distinction as
well. Distinction of circumstances is accompanied by mental
distinction. Distinction is hereditary; it descends from father
to son, and if there is one thing more true than `Like father,
like son,' it is--" he bowed gallantly to Mrs. Bassett--"it is,
`Like mother, like son.' What these good ladies have said this
afternoon of YOUR----"
This was the fatal instant. There smote upon all ears the
voice of Georgie, painfully shrill and penetrating--fraught with
protest and protracted, strain. His plain words consisted
of the newly sanctioned and disinfected curse with a big H.
With an ejaculation of horror, Mrs. Bassett sprang to the
window and threw open the blinds.
Georgie's back was disclosed to the view of the tea-party.
He was endeavouring to ascend a maple tree about twelve feet from
the window. Embracing the trunk with arms and legs, he had
managed to squirm to a point above the heads of Penrod and
Herman, who stood close by, watching him earnestly--Penrod being
obviously in charge of the performance. Across the yard were Sam
Williams and Maurice Levy, acting as a jury on the question of
voice-power, and it was to a complaint of theirs that Georgie had
"That's right, Georgie," said Penrod encouragingly. "They
can, too, hear you. Let her go!"
"Going to heaven!" shrieked Georgie, squirming up another
inch. "Going to heaven, heaven, heaven!"
His mother's frenzied attempts to attract his attention
failed utterly. Georgie was using the full power of his lungs,
deafening his own ears to all other sounds. Mrs. Bassett called
in vain; while the tea-party stood petrified in a cluster about
"Going to heaven!" Georgie bellowed. "Going to heaven!
Going to heaven, my Lord! Going to heaven, heaven, heaven!"
He tried to climb higher, but began to slip downward,
his exertions causing damage to his apparel. A button flew into
the air, and his knickerbockers and his waistband severed
"Devil's got my coat-tails, sinners! Old devil's got my
coat-tails!" he announced appropriately. Then he began to slide.
He relaxed his clasp of the tree and slid to the ground.
"Going to hell!" shrieked Georgie, reaching a high pitch of
enthusiasm in this great climax. "Going to hell! Going to hell!
I'm gone to hell, hell, hell!"
With a loud scream, Mrs. Bassett threw herself out of the
window, alighting by some miracle upon her feet with ankles
Mr. Kinosling, feeling that his presence as spiritual adviser
was demanded in the yard, followed with greater dignity through
the front door. At the corner of the house a small departing
figure collided with him violently. It was Penrod, tactfully
withdrawing from what promised to be a family scene of unusual
Mr. Kinosling seized him by the shoulders and, giving way to
emotion, shook him viciously.
"You horrible boy!" exclaimed Mr. Kinosling. "You ruffianly
creature! Do you know what's going to happen to you when you
grow up? Do you realize what you're going to BE!"
With flashing eyes, the indignant boy made know his unshaken
purpose. He shouted the reply:
CHAPTER XXVIII. TWELVE
This busy globe which spawns us is as incapable of flattery and
as intent upon its own affair, whatever that is, as a gyroscope;
it keeps steadily whirling along its lawful track, and, thus far
seeming to hold a right of way, spins doggedly on, with no
perceptible diminution of speed to mark the most gigantic human
events--it did not pause to pant and recuperate even when what
seemed to Penrod its principal purpose was accomplished, and an
enormous shadow, vanishing westward over its surface, marked the
dawn of his twelfth birthday.
To be twelve is an attainment worth the struggle. A boy,
just twelve, is like a Frenchman just elected to the Academy.
Distinction and honour wait upon him. Younger boys show
deference to a person of twelve: his experience is guaranteed,
his judgment, therefore, mellow; consequently, his influence is
profound. Eleven is not quite satisfactory: it is only an
approach. Eleven has the disadvantage of six, of nineteen, of
forty-four, and of sixty-nine. But, like twelve, seven is an
honourable age, and the ambition to attain it is laudable.
People look forward to being seven. Similarly, twenty is worthy,
and so, arbitrarily, is twenty-one; forty-five has great
solidity; seventy is most commendable and each year thereafter an
increasing honour. Thirteen is embarrassed by the beginnings of
a new colthood; the child becomes a youth. But twelve is the
very top of boyhood.
Dressing, that morning, Penrod felt that the world was
changed from the world of yesterday. For one thing, he seemed to
own more of it; this day was HIS day. And it was a day worth
owning; the midsummer sunshine, pouring gold through his window,
came from a cool sky, and a breeze moved pleasantly in his hair
as he leaned from the sill to watch the tribe of clattering
blackbirds take wing, following their leader from the trees in
the yard to the day's work in the open country. The blackbirds
were his, as the sunshine and the breeze were his, for they
all belonged to the day which was his birthday and therefore most
surely his. Pride suffused him: he was twelve!
His father and his mother and Margaret seemed to understand
the difference between to-day and yesterday. They were at the
table when he descended, and they gave him a greeting which of
itself marked the milestone. Habitually, his entrance into a
room where his elders sat brought a cloud of apprehension: they
were prone to look up in pathetic expectancy, as if their thought
was, "What new awfulness is he going to start NOW?" But this
morning they laughed; his mother rose and kissed him twelve
times, so did Margaret; and his father shouted, "Well, well!
How's the MAN?"
Then his mother gave him a Bible and "The Vicar of
Wakefield"; Margaret gave him a pair of silver-mounted hair
brushes; and his father gave him a "Pocket Atlas" and a small
"And now, Penrod," said his mother, after breakfast, "I'm
going to take you out in the country to pay your birthday
respects to Aunt Sarah Crim."
Aunt Sarah Crim, Penrod's great-aunt, was his oldest living
relative. She was ninety, and when Mrs. Schofield and Penrod
alighted from a carriage at her gate they found her digging with
a spade in the garden.
"I'm glad you brought him," she said, desisting from
labour. "Jinny's baking a cake I'm going to send for his
birthday party. Bring him in the house. I've got something for
She led the way to her "sitting-room," which had a pleasant
smell, unlike any other smell, and, opening the drawer of a
shining old what-not, took therefrom a boy's "sling-shot," made
of a forked stick, two strips of rubber and a bit of leather.
"This isn't for you," she said, placing it in Penrod's eager
hand. "No. It would break all to pieces the first time you
tried to shoot it, because it is thirty-five years old. I want
to send it back to your father. I think it's time. You give it
to him from me, and tell him I say I believe I can trust him with
it now. I took it away from him thirty-five years ago, one day
after he'd killed my best hen with it, accidentally, and broken a
glass pitcher on the back porch with it--accidentally. He
doesn't look like a person who's ever done things of that sort,
and I suppose he's forgotten it so well that he believes he never
DID, but if you give it to him from me I think he'll
remember. You look like him, Penrod. He was anything but a
After this final bit of reminiscence--probably designed to be
repeated to Mr. Schofield--she disappeared in the direction of
the kitchen, and returned with a pitcher of lemonade and a blue
china dish sweetly freighted with flat ginger cookies of a
composition that was her own secret. Then, having set this
collation before her guests, she presented Penrod with a superb,
intricate, and very modern machine of destructive capacities
almost limitless. She called it a pocket-knife.
"I suppose you'll do something horrible with it," she said,
composedly. "I hear you do that with everything, anyhow, so you
might as well do it with this, and have more fun out of it. They
tell me you're the Worst Boy in Town."
"Oh, Aunt Sarah!" Mrs. Schofield lifted a protesting hand.
"Nonsense!" said Mrs. Crim.
"But on his birthday!"
"That's the time to say it. Penrod, aren't you the Worst Boy
Penrod, gazing fondly upon his knife and eating cookies
rapidly, answered as a matter of course, and absently, "Yes'm."
"Certainly!" said Mrs. Crim. "Once you accept a thing about
yourself as established and settled, it's all right. Nobody
minds. Boys are just people, really."
"No, no!" Mrs. Schofield cried, involuntarily.
"Yes, they are," returned Aunt Sarah. "Only they're not
quite so awful, because they haven't learned to cover themselves
all over with little pretences. When Penrod grows up he'll be
just the same as he is now, except that whenever he does
what he wants to do he'll tell himself and other people a
little story about it to make his reason for doing it seem nice
and pretty and noble."
"No, I won't!" said Penrod suddenly.
"There's one cookie left," observed Aunt Sarah. "Are you
going to eat it?"
"Well," said her great-nephew, thoughtfully, "I guess I
"Why?" asked the old lady. "Why do you guess you'd
"Well," said Penrod, with a full mouth, "it might get all
dried up if nobody took it, and get thrown out and wasted."
"You're beginning finely," Mrs. Crim remarked. "A year ago
you'd have taken the cookie without the same sense of thrift."
"Nothing. I see that you're twelve years old, that's all.
There are more cookies, Penrod." She went away, returning with a
fresh supply and the observation, "Of course, you'll be sick
before the day's over; you might as well get a good start."
Mrs. Schofield looked thoughtful. "Aunt Sarah," she
ventured, "don't you really think we improve as we get older?"
"Meaning," said the old lady, "that Penrod hasn't much chance
to escape the penitentiary if he doesn't? Well, we do learn to
restrain ourselves in some things; and there are people who
really want someone else to take the last cookie, though
they aren't very common. But it's all right, the world seems to
be getting on." She gazed whimsically upon her great-nephew and
added, "Of course, when you watch a boy and think about him, it
doesn't seem to be getting on very fast."
Penrod moved uneasily in his chair; he was conscious that he
was her topic but unable to make out whether or not her
observations were complimentary; he inclined to think they were
not. Mrs. Crim settled the question for him.
"I suppose Penrod is regarded as the neighbourhood curse?"
"Oh, no," cried Mrs. Schofield. "He----"
"I dare say the neighbours are right," continued the old lady
placidly. "He's had to repeat the history of the race and go
through all the stages from the primordial to barbarism. You
don't expect boys to be civilized, do you?"
"You might as well expect eggs to crow. No; you've got to
take boys as they are, and learn to know them as they are."
"Naturally, Aunt Sarah," said Mrs. Schofield, "I KNOW
Aunt Sarah laughed heartily. "Do you think his father knows
"Of course, men are different," Mrs. Schofield returned,
apologetically. "But a mother knows----"
"Penrod," said Aunt Sarah, solemnly, "does your father
"About as much as he'd understand Sitting Bull!" she laughed.
"And I'll tell you what your mother thinks you are, Penrod. Her
real belief is that you're a novice in a convent."
"I know she thinks that, because whenever you don't behave
like a novice she's disappointed in you. And your father really
believes that you're a decorous, well-trained young business man,
and whenever you don't live up to that standard you get on his
nerves and he thinks you need a walloping. I'm sure a day very
seldom passes without their both saying they don't know what on
earth to do with you. Does whipping do you any good, Penrod?"
"Go on and finish the lemonade; there's about glassful left.
Oh, take it, take it; and don't say why! Of COURSE you're a
Penrod laughed gratefully, his eyes fixed upon her over the
rim of his uptilted glass.
"Fill yourself up uncomfortably," said the old lady. "You're
twelve years old, and you ought to be happy--if you aren't
anything else. It's taken over nineteen hundred years of
Christianity and some hundreds of thousands of years of other
things to produce you, and there you sit!"
"It'll be your turn to struggle and muss things up, for the
betterment of posterity, soon enough," said Aunt Sarah Crim.
"Drink your lemonade!"
CHAPTER XXIX. FANCHON
"Aunt Sarah's a funny old lady," Penrod observed, on the way back
to the town. "What's she want me to give papa this old sling
for? Last thing she said was to be sure not to forget to give it
to him. HE don't want it; and she said, herself, it ain't
any good. She's older than you or papa, isn't she?"
"About fifty years older," answered Mrs. Schofield, turning
upon him a stare of perplexity. "Don't cut into the leather with
your new knife, dear; the livery man might ask us to pay if----
No. I wouldn't scrape the paint off, either--nor whittle
your shoe with it. COULDN'T you put it up until we get
"We goin' straight home?"
"No. We're going to stop at Mrs. Gelbraith's and ask a
strange little girl to come to your party, this afternoon."
"Her name is Fanchon. She's Mrs. Gelbraith's little niece."
"What makes her so queer?"
"I didn't say she's queer."
"No; I mean that she is a stranger. She lives in New York
and has come to visit here."
"What's she live in New York for?"
"Because her parents live there. You must be very nice to
her, Penrod; she has been very carefully brought up. Besides,
she doesn't know the children here, and you must help to keep her
from feeling lonely at your party."
When they reached Mrs. Gelbraith's, Penrod sat patiently
humped upon a gilt chair during the lengthy exchange of greetings
between his mother. and Mrs. Gelbraith. That is one of the
things a boy must learn to bear: when his mother meets a compeer
there is always a long and dreary wait for him, while the two
appear to be using strange symbols of speech, talking for the
greater part, it seems to him, simultaneously, and employing
a wholly incomprehensible system of emphasis at other times not
in vogue. Penrod twisted his legs, his cap and his nose.
"Here she is!" Mrs. Gelbraith cried, unexpectedly, and a
dark-haired, demure person entered the room wearing a look of
gracious social expectancy. In years she was eleven, in manner
about sixty-five, and evidently had lived much at court. She
performed a curtsey in acknowledgment of Mrs. Schofield's
greeting, and bestowed her hand upon Penrod, who had entertained
no hope of such an honour, showed his surprise that it should
come to him, and was plainly unable to decide what to do about
"Fanchon, dear," said Mrs. Gelbraith, "take Penrod out in the
yard for a while, and play."
"Let go the little girl's hand, Penrod," Mrs. Schofield
laughed, as the children turned toward the door.
Penrod hastily dropped the small hand, and exclaiming, with
simple honesty, "Why, _I_ don't want it!" followed Fanchon out
into the sunshiny yard, where they came to a halt and surveyed
Penrod stared awkwardly at Fanchon, no other occupation
suggesting itself to him, while Fanchon, with the utmost
coolness, made a very thorough visual examination of Penrod,
favouring him with an estimating scrutiny which lasted until he
literally wiggled. Finally, she spoke.
"Where do you buy your ties?" she asked.
"Where do you buy your neckties? Papa gets his at Skoone's.
You ought to get yours there. I'm sure the one you're wearing
isn't from Skoone's."
"Skoone's?" Penrod repeated. "Skoone's?"
"On Fifth Avenue," said Fanchon. "It's a very smart shop,
the men say."
"Men?" echoed Penrod, in a hazy whisper. "Men?"
"Where do your people go in summer?" inquired the lady.
"WE go to Long Shore, but so many middle-class people have
begun coming there, mamma thinks of leaving. The middle classes
are simply awful, don't you think?"
"They're so boorjaw. You speak French, of course?"
"We ran over to Paris last year. It's lovely, don't you
think? Don't you LOVE the Rue de la Paix?"
Penrod wandered in a labyrinth. This girl seemed to be
talking, but her words were dumfounding, and of course there was
no way for him to know that he was really listening to her
mother. It was his first meeting with one of those grown-up
little girls, wonderful product of the winter apartment and
summer hotel; and Fanchon, an only child, was a star of the
brand. He began to feel resentful.
"I suppose," she went on, "I'll find everything here
fearfully Western. Some nice people called yesterday,
though. Do you know the Magsworth Bittses? Auntie says they're
charming. Will Roddy be at your party?"
"I guess he will," returned Penrod, finding this
intelligible. "The mutt!"
"Really!" Fanchon exclaimed airily. "Aren't you great pals
"Good heavens! Don't you know what it means to say you're
`great pals' with any one? You ARE an odd child!"
It was too much.
"Oh, Bugs!" said Penrod.
This bit of ruffianism had a curious effect. Fanchon looked
upon him with sudden favour.
"I like you, Penrod!" she said, in an odd way, and, whatever
else there may have been in her manner, there certainly was no
"Oh, Bugs!" This repetition may have lacked gallantry, but
it was uttered in no very decided tone. Penrod was shaken.
"Yes, I do!" She stepped closer to him, smiling. "Your hair
is ever so pretty."
Sailors' parrots swear like mariners, they say; and gay
mothers ought to realize that all children are imitative, for, as
the precocious Fanchon leaned toward Penrod, the manner in which
she looked into his eyes might have made a thoughtful observer
wonder where she had learned her pretty ways.
Penrod was even more confused than he had been by her
previous mysteries: but his confusion was of a distinctly
pleasant and alluring nature: he wanted more of it. Looking
intentionally into another person's eyes is an act unknown to
childhood; and Penrod's discovery that it could be done was
sensational. He had never thought of looking into the eyes of
Despite all anguish, contumely, tar, and Maurice Levy, he
still secretly thought of Marjorie, with pathetic constancy, as
his "beau"--though that is not how he would have spelled it.
Marjorie was beautiful; her curls were long and the colour of
amber; her nose was straight and her freckles were honest; she
was much prettier than this accomplished visitor. But beauty is
"I do!" breathed Fanchon, softly.
She seemed to him a fairy creature from some rosier world
than this. So humble is the human heart, it glorifies and makes
glamorous almost any poor thing that says to it: "I like you!"
Penrod was enslaved. He swallowed, coughed, scratched the
back of his neck, and said, disjointedly:
"Well--I don't care if you want to. I just as soon."
"We'll dance together," said Fanchon, "at your party."
"I guess so. I just as soon."
"Don't you want to, Penrod?"
"Well, I'm willing to."
"No. Say you WANT to!"
He used his toe as a gimlet, boring into the ground, his wide
open eyes staring with intense vacancy at a button on his sleeve.
His mother appeared upon the porch in departure, calling
farewells over her shoulder to Mrs. Gelbraith, who stood in the
"Say it!" whispered Fanchon.
"Well, I just as SOON."
She seemed satisfied.
CHAPTER XXX. THE BIRTHDAY PARTY
A dancing floor had been laid upon a platform in the yard, when
Mrs. Schofield and her son arrived at their own abode; and a
white and scarlet striped canopy was in process of erection
overhead, to shelter the dancers from the sun. Workmen were busy
everywhere under the direction of Margaret, and the smitten heart
of Penrod began to beat rapidly. All this was for him; he was
After lunch, he underwent an elaborate toilette and murmured
not. For the first time in his life he knew the wish to be sand-
papered, waxed, and polished to the highest possible
degree. And when the operation was over, he stood before the
mirror in new bloom, feeling encouraged to hope that his
resemblance to his father was not so strong as Aunt Sarah seemed
The white gloves upon his hands had a pleasant smell, he
found; and, as he came down the stairs, he had great content in
the twinkling of his new dancing slippers. He stepped twice on
each step, the better to enjoy their effect and at the same time
he deeply inhaled the odour of the gloves. In spite of
everything, Penrod had his social capacities. Already it is to
be perceived that there were in him the makings of a cotillon
Then came from the yard a sound of tuning instruments, squeak
of fiddle, croon of 'cello, a falling triangle ringing and
tinkling to the floor; and he turned pale.
Chosen guests began to arrive, while Penrod, suffering from
stage-fright and perspiration, stood beside his mother, in the
"drawing-room," to receive them. He greeted unfamiliar
acquaintances and intimate fellow-criminals with the same
frigidity, murmuring: "'M glad to see y'," to all alike, largely
increasing the embarrassment which always prevails at the
beginning of children's festivities. His unnatural pomp and
circumstance had so thoroughly upset him, in truth, that Marjorie
Jones received a distinct shock, now to be related. Doctor
Thrope, the kind old clergyman who had baptized Penrod, came
in for a moment to congratulate the boy, and had just moved away
when it was Marjorie's turn, in the line of children, to speak to
Penrod. She gave him what she considered a forgiving look, and,
because of the occasion, addressed him in a perfectly courteous
"I wish you many happy returns of the day, Penrod."
"Thank you, sir!" he returned, following Dr. Thrope with a
glassy stare in which there was absolutely no recognition of
Marjorie. Then he greeted Maurice Levy, who was next to
Marjorie: "'M glad to see y'!"
Dumfounded, Marjorie turned aside, and stood near, observing
Penrod with gravity. It was the first great surprise of her
life. Customarily, she had seemed to place his character
somewhere between that of the professional rioter and that of the
orang-outang; nevertheless, her manner at times just hinted a
consciousness that this Caliban was her property. Wherefore, she
stared at him incredulously as his head bobbed up and down, in
the dancing-school bow, greeting his guests. Then she heard an
adult voice, near her, exclaim:
"What an exquisite child!"
Mariorie galanced up--a little consciously, though she was
used to it--naturally curious to ascertain who was speaking of
her. It was Sam Williams' mother addressing Mrs. Bassett,
both being present to help Mrs. Schofield make the festivities
Here was a second heavy surprise for Marjorie: they were not
looking at her. They were looking with beaming approval at a
girl she had never seen; a dark and modish stranger of singularly
composed and yet modest aspect. Her downcast eyes, becoming in
one thus entering a crowded room, were all that produced the
effect of modesty, counteracting something about her which might
have seemed too assured. She was very slender, very dainty, and
her apparel was disheartening to the other girls; it was of a
knowing picturesqueness wholly unfamiliar to them. There was a
delicate trace of powder upon the lobe of Fanchon's left ear, and
the outlines of her eyelids, if very closely scrutinized, would
have revealed successful experimentation with a burnt match.
Marjorie's lovely eyes dilated: she learned the meaning of
hatred at first sight. Observing the stranger with instinctive
suspicion, all at once she seemed, to herself, awkward. Poor
Marjorie underwent that experience which hearty, healthy, little
girls and big girls undergo at one time or another--from heels to
head she felt herself, somehow, too THICK.
Fanchon leaned close to Penrod and whispered in his ear:
"Don't you forget!"
Marjorie saw the blush. Her lovely eyes opened even wider,
and in them there began to grow a light. It was the light of
indignation;--at least, people whose eyes glow with that light
always call it indignation.
Roderick Magsworth Bitts, Junior, approached Fanchon, when
she had made her courtesy to Mrs. Schofield. Fanchon whispered
in Roderick's ear also.
"Your hair is pretty, Roddy! Don't forget what you said
Roderick likewise blushed.
Maurice Levy, captivated by the newcomer's appearance,
pressed close to Roderick.
"Give us an intaduction, Roddy?"
Roddy being either reluctant or unable to perform the rite,
Fanchon took matters into her own hands, and was presently
favourably impressed with Maurice, receiving the information that
his tie had been brought to him by his papa from Skoone's,
whereupon she privately informed him that she liked wavy hair,
and arranged to dance with him. Fanchon also thought sandy hair
attractive, Sam Williams discovered, a few minutes later, and so
catholic was her taste that a ring of boys quite encircled her
before the musicians in the yard struck up their thrilling march,
and Mrs. Schofield brought Penrod to escort the lady from
out-of-town to the dancing pavilion.
Headed by this pair, the children sought partners and paraded
solemnly out of the front door and round a corner of the house.
There they found the gay marquee; the small orchestra seated on
the lawn at one side of it, and a punch bowl of lemonade inviting
attention, under a tree. Decorously the small couples stepped
upon the platform, one after another, and began to dance.
"It's not much like a children's party in our day," Mrs.
Williams said to Penrod's mother. "We'd have been playing
`Quaker-meeting,' `Clap-in, Clap-out,' or `Going to Jerusalem,' I
"Yes, or `Post-office' and `Drop-the-handkerchief,'" said
Mrs. Schofield. "Things change so quickly. Imagine asking
little Fanchon Gelbraith to play `London Bridge'! Penrod seems
to be having a difficult time with her, poor boy; he wasn't a
shining light in the dancing class."
However, Penrod's difficulty was not precisely of the kind
his mother supposed. Fanchon was showing him a new step, which
she taught her next partner in turn, continuing instructions
during the dancing. The children crowded the floor, and in the
kaleidoscopic jumble of bobbing heads and intermingling figures
her extremely different style of motion was unobserved by the
older people, who looked on, nodding time benevolently.
Fanchon fascinated girls as well as boys. Many of the
former eagerly sought her acquaintance and thronged about her
between the dances, when, accepting the deference due a
cosmopolitan and an oracle of the mode, she gave demonstrations
of the new step to succeeding groups, professing astonishment to
find it unknown: it had been "all the go," she explained, at the
Long Shore Casino for fully two seasons. She pronounced "slow" a
"Fancy Dance" executed during an intermission by Baby Rennsdale
and Georgie Bassett, giving it as her opinion that Miss Rennsdale
and Mr. Bassett were "dead ones"; and she expressed surprise that
the punch bowl contained lemonade and not champagne.
The dancing continued, the new step gaining instantly in
popularity, fresh couples adventuring with every number. The
word "step" is somewhat misleading, nothing done with the feet
being vital to the evolutions introduced by Fanchon. Fanchon's
dance came from the Orient by a roundabout way; pausing in Spain,
taking on a Gallic frankness in gallantry at the Bal Bullier in
Paris, combining with a relative from the South Seas encountered
in San Francisco, flavouring itself with a carefree negroid
abandon in New Orleans, and, accumulating, too, something
inexpressible from Mexico and South America, it kept, throughout
its travels, to the underworld, or to circles where nature is
extremely frank and rank, until at last it reached the dives of
New York, when it immediately broke out in what is called
civilized society. Thereafter it spread, in variously modified
forms--some of them disinfected--to watering-places, and thence,
carried by hundreds of older male and female Fanchons, over the
country, being eagerly adopted everywhere and made wholly pure
and respectable by the supreme moral axiom that anything is all
right if enough people do it. Everybody was doing it.
Not quite everybody. It was perhaps some test of this dance
that earth could furnish no more grotesque sight than that of
children doing it.
Earth, assisted by Fanchon, was furnishing this sight at
Penrod's party. By the time ice-cream and cake arrived, about
half the guests had either been initiated into the mysteries by
Fanchon or were learning by imitation, and the education of the
other half was resumed with the dancing, when the attendant
ladies, unconscious of what was happening, withdrew into the
house for tea.
"That orchestra's a dead one," Fanchon remarked to Penrod.
"We ought to liven them up a little!"
She approached the musicians.
"Don't you know," she asked the leader, "the Slingo Sligo
The leader giggled, nodded, rapped with his bow upon his
violin; and Penrod, following Fanchon back upon the dancing
floor, blindly brushed with his elbow a solitary little figure
standing aloof on the lawn at the edge of the platform.
It was Marjorie.
In no mood to approve of anything introduced by Fanchon, she
had scornfully refused, from the first, to dance the new "step,"
and, because of its bonfire popularity, found herself neglected
in a society where she had reigned as beauty and belle.
Faithless Penrod, dazed by the sweeping Fanchon, had utterly
forgotten the amber curls; he had not once asked Marjorie to
dance. All afternoon the light of indignation had been growing
brighter in her eyes, though Maurice Levy's defection to the lady
from New York had not fanned this flame. From the moment Fanchon
had whispered familiarly in Penrod's ear, and Penrod had blushed,
Marjorie had been occupied exclusively with resentment against
that guilty pair. It seemed to her that Penrod had no right to
allow a strange girl to whisper in his ear; that his blushing,
when the strange girl did it, was atrocious; and that the strange
girl, herself, ought to be arrested.
Forgotten by the merrymakers, Marjorie stood alone upon the
lawn, clenching her small fists, watching the new dance at its
high tide, and hating it with a hatred that made every inch of
her tremble. And, perhaps because jealousy is a great awakener
of the virtues, she had a perception of something in it worse
than lack of dignity--something vaguely but outrageously
reprehensible. Finally, when Penrod brushed by her, touched her
with his elbow, and, did not even see her, Marjorie's state
of mind (not unmingled with emotion!) became dangerous. In fact,
a trained nurse, chancing to observe her at this juncture, would
probably have advised that she be taken home and put to bed.
Marjorie was on the verge of hysterics.
She saw Fanchon and Penrod assume the double embrace required
by the dance; the "Slingo Sligo Slide" burst from the orchestra
like the lunatic shriek of a gin-maddened nigger; and all the
little couples began to bob and dip and sway.
Marjorie made a scene. She sprang upon the platform and
stamped her foot.
"Penrod Schofield!" she shouted. "You BEHAVE yourself!"
The remarkable girl took Penrod by the ear. By his ear she
swung him away from Fanchon and faced him toward the lawn.
"You march straight out of here!" she commanded.
He was stunned; obeyed automatically, without question, and
had very little realization of what was happening to him.
Altogether, and without reason, he was in precisely the condition
of an elderly spouse detected in flagrant misbehaviour.
Marjorie, similarly, was in precisely the condition of the party
who detects such misbehaviour. It may be added that she had
acted with a promptness, a decision and a disregard of
social consequences all to be commended to the attention of
ladies in like predicament.
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself!" she raged, when they
reached the lawn. "Aren't you ashamed of yourself?"
"What for?" he inquired, helplessly.
"You be quiet!"
"But what'd _I_ do, Marjorie? _I_ haven't done anything
to you," he pleaded. "I haven't even seen you, all aftern----"
"You be quiet!" she cried, tears filling her eyes. "Keep
still! You ugly boy! Shut up!"
She slapped him.
He should have understood from this how much she cared for
him. But he rubbed his cheek and declared ruefully:
"I'll never speak to you again!"
"You will, too!" she sobbed, passionately.
"I will not!"
He turned to leave her, but paused.
His mother, his sister Margaret, and their grownup friends
had finished their tea and were approaching from the house.
Other parents and guardians were with them, coming for their
children; and there were carriages and automobiles waiting in the
street. But the "Slingo Slide" went on, regardless.
The group of grown-up people hesitated and came to a halt,
gazing at the pavilion.
"What are they doing?" gasped Mrs. Williams,
blushing deeply. "What is it? What IS it?"
"WHAT IS IT?" Mrs. Gelbraith echoed in a frightened
"They're Tangoing!" cried Margaret Schofield. "Or Bunny
Hugging or Grizzly Bearing, or----"
"They're only Turkey Trotting," said Robert Williams.
With fearful outcries the mothers, aunts, and sisters rushed
upon the pavilion.
"Of course it was dreadful," said Mrs. Schofield, an hour
later, rendering her lord an account of the day, "but it was
every bit the fault of that one extraordinary child. And of all
the quiet, demur little things--that is, I mean, when she first
came. We all spoke of how exquisite she seemed--so well trained,
so finished! Eleven years old! I never saw anything like her in
"I suppose it's the New Child," her husband grunted.
"And to think of her saying there ought to have been
champagne in the lemonade!"
"Probably she'd forgotten to bring her pocket flask," he
"But aren't you proud of Penrod?" cried Penrod's mother. "It
was just as I told you: he was standing clear outside the
"I never thought to see the day! And Penrod was the only boy
not doing it, the only one to refuse? ALL the others
"Every one!" she returned triumphantly. "Even Georgie
"Well," said Mr. Schofield, patting her on the shoulder. "I
guess we can hold up our heads at last."
CHAPTER XXXI. OVER THE FENCE
Penrod was out in the yard, staring at the empty marquee. The
sun was on the horizon line, so far behind the back fence, and a
western window of the house blazed in gold unbearable to the eye:
his day was nearly over. He sighed, and took from the inside
pocket of his new jacket the "sling-shot" aunt Sarah Crim had
given him that morning.
He snapped the rubbers absently. They held fast; and his
next impulse was entirely irresistible. He found a shapely
stone, fitted it to the leather, and drew back the ancient
catapult for a shot. A sparrow hopped upon a
branch between him and the house, and he aimed at the sparrow,
but the reflection from the dazzling window struck in his eyes as
he loosed the leather.
He missed the sparrow, but not the window. There was a loud
crash, and to his horror he caught a glimpse of his father,
stricken in mid-shaving, ducking a shower of broken glass,
glittering razor flourishing wildly. Words crashed with the
glass, stentorian words, fragmentary but collossal.
Penrod stood petrified, a broken sling in his hand. He could
hear his parent's booming descent of the back stairs, instant and
furious; and then, red-hot above white lather, Mr. Schofield
burst out of the kitchen door and hurtled forth upon his son.
"What do you mean?" he demanded, shaking Penrod by the
shoulder. "Ten minutes ago, for the very first time in our
lives, your mother and I were saying we were proud of you, and
here you go and throw a rock at me through the window when I'm
shaving for dinner!"
"I didn't!" Penrod quavered. "I was shooting at a sparrow,
and the sun got in his eyes, and the sling broke----"
"Where'd you get that devilish thing? Don't you know I've
forbidden you a thousand times----"
"It ain't mine," said Penrod. "It's yours."
"Yes, sir," said the boy meekly. "Aunt Sarah Crim gave it to
me this morning and told me to give it back to you. She said she
took it away from you thirty-five years ago. You killed her hen,
she said. She told me some more to tell you, but I've
"Oh!" said Mr. Schofield.
He took the broken sling in his hand, looked at it long and
thoughtfully--and he looked longer, and quite as thoughtfully, at
Penrod. Then he turned away, and walked toward the house.
"I'm sorry, papa," said Penrod.
Mr. Schofield coughed, and, as he reached the door, called
back, but without turning his head.
"Never mind, little boy. A broken window isn't much harm."
When he had gone in, Penrod wandered down the yard to the
back fence, climbed upon it, and sat in reverie there.
A slight figure appeared, likewise upon a fence, beyond two
"Yay, Penrod!" called comrade Sam Williams.
"Yay!" returned Penrod, mechanically.
"I caught Billy Blue Hill!" shouted Sam, describing
retribution in a manner perfectly clear to his friend. "You were
mighty lucky to get out of it."
"I know that!"
"You wouldn't of, if it hadn't been for Marjorie."
"Well, don't I know that?" Penrod shouted, with heat.
"Well, so long!" called Sam, dropping from his fence; and the
friendly voice came then, more faintly, "Many happy returns of
the day, Penrod!"
And now, a plaintive little whine sounded from below Penrod's
feet, and, looking down, he saw that Duke, his wistful, old,
scraggly dog sat in the grass, gazing seekingly up at him.
The last shaft of sunshine of that day fell graciously and
like a blessing upon the boy sitting on the fence. Years
afterward, a quiet sunset would recall to him sometimes the
gentle evening of his twelfth birthday, and bring him the picture
of his boy self, sitting in rosy light upon the fence, gazing
pensively down upon his wistful, scraggly, little old dog, Duke.
But something else, surpassing, he would remember of that hour,
for, in the side street, close by, a pink skirt flickered from
behind a shade tree to the shelter of the fence, there was a
gleam of amber curls, and Penrod started, as something like a
tiny white wing fluttered by his head, and there came to his ears
the sound of a light laugh and of light footsteps departing, the
laughter tremulous, the footsteps fleet.
In the grass, between Duke's forepaws, there lay a white
note, folded in the shape of a cocked hat, and the sun sent forth
a final amazing glory as Penrod opened it and read:
"Your my bow."