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Mr. Martin's Game by Jimmy Brown


What if he is a great deal older than I am! that doesn't giv him any right to rumple my hair, does it? I'm willing to respect old age, of course, but I want my hair respected too.

But rumpling hair isn't enough for Mr. Martin; he must call me "Bub," and "Sonny." I might stand "Sonny," but I won't stand being called "Bub" by any living man—not if I can help it. I've told him three or four times, "My name isn't 'Bub,' Mr. Martin. My name's Jim, or Jimmy," but he would just grin in an exhausperating kind of way, and keep on calling me "Bub."

My sister Sue doesn't like him any better than I do. He comes to see her about twice a week, and I've heard her say, "Goodness me, there's that tiresome old bachelor again." But she treats him just as polite as she does anybody; and when he brings her candy, she says, "Oh, Mr. Martin, you are too good." There's a great deal of make-believe about girls, I think.

Now that I've mentioned candy, I will say that he might pass it around, but he never thinks of such a thing. Mr. Travers, who is the best of all Sue's beaux, always brings candy with him, and gives me a lot. Then he generally gives me a quarter to go to the post-office for him, because he forgot to go, and expects something very important. It takes an hour to go to the post-office and back, but I'd do anything for such a nice man.

One night—it was Mr. Travers's regular night—Mr. Martin came, and wasn't Sue mad! She knew Mr. Travers would come in about half an hour, and she always made it a rule to keep her young men separate.

She sent down word that she was busy, and would be down stairs after a while. Would Mr. Martin please sit down and wait. So he sat down on the front piazza and waited.

I was sitting on the grass, practicing mumble-te-peg a little, and by-and-by Mr. Martin says, "Well, Bub, what are you doing?"

"Playing a game," says I. "Want to learn it?"

"Well, I don't care if I do," says he. So he came out, and sat in the grass, and I showed him how to play.

Just then Mr. Travers arrived, and Sue came down, and was awfully glad to see both her friends. "But what in the world are you doing," she says to Mr. Martin. When she heard that he was learning the game, she said, "How interesting, do play one game."

Mr. Martin finally said he would. So we played a game, and I let him beat me very easy. He laughed fit to kill himself when I drew the peg, and said it was the best game he ever played.

"Is there any game you play any better than this, Sonny?" said he, in his most irragravating style.

"Let's have another game," said I. "Only you must promise to draw the peg fair, if I beat you."

"All right," said he. "I'll draw the peg if you beat me, Bub."

Oh, he felt so sure he was a first-class player! I don't like a conceited man, no matter if he is only a boy.

You can just imagine how quick I beat him. Why, I went right through to "both ears" without stopping, and the first time I threw the knife over my head it stuck in the ground.

I cut a beautiful peg out of hard wood—one of those sharp, slender pegs that will go through anything but a stone. I drove it in clear out of sight, and Mr. Martin, says he, "Why, Sonny, nobody couldn't possibly draw that peg."

"I've drawn worse pegs than that," said I. "You've got to clear away the earth with your chin and front teeth, and then you can draw it."

"That is nonsense," says Mr. Martin, growing red in the face.

"This is a fair and square game," says I, "and you gave your word to draw the peg if I beat you."

"I do hope Mr. Martin will play fair," said Sue. "It would be too bad to cheat a little boy."

So Mr. Martin laid down and tried it, but he didn't like it one bit. "See here, Jimmy," said he, "I'll give you half a dollar, and we'll consider the peg drawn."

"That is bribery and corruption," said I. "Mr. Martin, I can't be bribed, and didn't think you'd try to hire me to let you break your promise."

When he saw I wouldn't let up on him, he laid down again and went to work.

It was the best fun I ever knew. I just rolled on the ground and laughed till I cried. Sue and Mr. Travers didn't roll, but they laughed till Sue got up and ran into the house, where I could hear her screaming on the front-parlor sofa, and mother crying out, "My darling child, where does it hurt you, won't you have the doctor, Jane do bring the camphor."

Mr. Martin gnawed away at the earth, and used swear-words to himself, and was perfectly raging. After a while he got the peg, and then he got up with his face about the color of a flower-pot, and put on his hat, and went out of the front gate rubbing his face with his handkerchief, and never so much as saying good-night. He didn't come near the house again for two weeks.

Mr. Travers gave me a half-dollar to go to the post-office to make up for the one I had refused, and told me that I had displayed roaming virtue, though I don't know exactly what he meant.

He looked over this story, and corrected the spelling for me, and told me to send it to the Young People. Only it is to be a secret that he helped me. I'd do almost anything for him, and I'm going to ask Sue to marry him just to please me.