Booth Tarkington

Part 2 out of 5

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,
Your Honor.'"

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
chair, moaning.

"What's the matter, mamma?" asked her husband laying aside
his paper.

"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
find him."

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.


"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
his tie.

"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
for attention.

"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
polite attention."

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.

"In where?"

"In Marjorie's."

"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
you tomorrow!"

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
great effort.

"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!"


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?"

"Lickrish water."

"Drinkin's!" demanded Penrod promptly. This is equivalent to
the cry of "Biters" when an apple is shown, and establishes
unquestionable title.

"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'
stuff--oh, no!"

"What for?"

"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?"

"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
he returned.

"No. She's goin' to meet me there. She's goin' somewhere

"So's mine," said Sam. "I'll come by for you."

"All right."

"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.


"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
good un!"

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
Penrod kindly.

"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,
protruded strangely.

"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?"
Maurice insisted.

"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
grisly fascination.

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
without gratitude.

"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.
Neither spoke.

"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
the cotillon?"

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
Marjorie now."

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
"Sincerly yours


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
their raid.

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
a relative.

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."

"What FOR?"

"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
grow. Nosuh!"

"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
nex' week."

"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
deceased relative.

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.

Now GoiNG oN

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:



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
the orator.

"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
DO it!"

"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,"
Roderick asserted.

"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
Rena Magsworth?"

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
way out.

"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?"

Roddy joined.

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.



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


Back to Full Books