The Project Gutenberg EBook of Sube Cane, by Edward Bellamy Partridge

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Title: Sube Cane

Author: Edward Bellamy Partridge

Release Date: June 7, 2010 [EBook #32731]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


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1917 BY

"Sube Cane"


IBefore Using1
IIAstonishing Results16
IIIThe Last Sad Rites28
IVAn Interrupted Haircut40
VOut of Whole Cloth49
VIIA New Face75
VIIIIn the Lion's Cage86
IXIn the Good Old Summer Time100
XHis Day112
XIA Flyer in Cats124
XIIThe Fugitives135
XIIIThe Ever-Glorious Fourth149
XIVThe Ghosts160
XVBiscuit Learns To Swim174
XVIIAn Olfactory Retort200
XVIIIOf Holy Writ208
XIXSube the Showman218
XXTen Knights in a Barroom228
XXIThe Barnstormers242
XXIIA Second-Hand War Baby254
XXIIIRumors of Fraud264
XXIVThe Auctioneer275
XXVISube Goes To the Movies298
XXVIITrial Mershum309
XXVIIIThe Timber Cruiser322
XXIXThe Party334
XXXThe Truth347


Professional jealousyFrontispiece
A great light broke on him7
The sheriff flashed a light22
"I ain't done a thing!"40
"Look how he left me"57
"Want another haircut?"67
"Now what does he mean?"114
"I'll show you!"131
"See what I've got"146
He beheld two white figures171
"Plain and fancy swimming"178
He would have liked one for a pet210
The audience was spell-bound221
"Who's goin' to be the little girl?"237
"Perhaps I can save your life"251
"We want to sell all this"269
The auctioneer paused278
Piercing shrieks greeted their appearance319
"My father got it for me"327
"Put the tray on the table"344

[Pg 1]




Astride the ridgepole of his father's stable Sube Cane sat with the easy grace of a range-rider, gently rising in his stirrups in unison with the pounding of imaginary unshod hoofs on the soft turf of a dreamland prairie, as he conversed in low tones with a dark-haired maiden who rode in fancy beside him. And, as he rode, he gently rubbed his upper lip with an index finger.

Nor was this rubbing the aimless wandering of an idle forefinger; it was persistent and purposeful. For although Sube was only twelve years of age and still in knickerbockers, he was set upon the propagation of a mustache.

The desire and the opportunity of fulfillment had come to him at almost the same instant. Voices in the library had attracted his attention a few moments before, and pausing outside the door he had heard Dr. Richards jovially expounding to his father[Pg 2] the virtues of a large sample bottle of hair restorer which apparently possessed all the quickening agencies known to man, and was, with the trifling exception of an unendurable odor, all that the name implied—a Boon for Baldness.

The doctor's intimation that the stuff would grow hair on the side of a house aroused Sube's interest. And soon after the doctor's departure the boy purloined the bottle from his father's medicine cabinet, and strictly in the interest of scientific investigation rubbed a small quantity on the side of the house.

It was during this experiment that the big idea was born. If it would grow hair on the side of a house, why not—?

A pleasant vision floated before Sube's eyes. He saw himself beneath the kindly disguise of a flowing mustache, mingling unrecognized among his friends. Then suddenly the adoring eyes of Nancy Guilford penetrated his mask. And she began to seek his forgiveness for having called him a kid; and with a continuous crossing of her heart she promised over and over that she would never again refer to the fact that she was two years older than he.

"That's all right, Nance," he condescended to say; "we'll let that go. But if you want to have a man with a mustache for a fellow, you've got to[Pg 3] promise that you'll never speak to Biscuit Westfall again as long as you live—"

But before Nancy's promise could be recorded, cruel footsteps intruded upon the vision. And slipping the bottle under his coat Sube retired to the barn, where he made the first fragrant application to his upper lip, and then retired to the roof, where there would be plenty of ventilation while he rubbed it in.

And here Gizzard Tobin found him a short time afterwards, to Sube's intense discomfiture, for the young mustache-raiser was caught like a rat in a trap and with no adequate explanation for smelling to heaven. Sube did not overwhelm his caller with the warmth of his welcome.

Gizzard noted the lack of cordiality, and with all the directness of his twelve years started in to probe it to the bottom.

"Been gettin' a lickin'?" he inquired as he seated himself in front of his companion.

"No, I ain't," grunted Sube.

"Then what's the matter of you?"

"Who said an'thing was?"

At this moment Gizzard caught a whiff of the unspeakable aroma. His face lighted up at once. "Been hurt?" he asked eagerly.[Pg 4]

Sube shook his head.

Obviously disappointed, Gizzard pursued his inquiries. "Then what makes you smell so much like a horse doctor?" he asked.

Sube was in deep water. He couldn't tell Gizzard the truth about the mustache! But what could he tell? As nothing occurred to him, he made a bluff at mumbling that he didn't "smell nuthin'," thereby arousing Gizzard's compassionate derision.

At this tense moment there popped into Sube's mind an interesting bit of news that he had gleaned from his eaves-dropping outside the library door during the doctor's visit, and thinking that he might, by telling it, distract Gizzard's attention from his quest of the engaging odor, Sube dramatically glanced around as if to make sure that nobody was near, and whispered behind his hand:

"Hey, Giz, heard the news about ol' Whiting that lives nex' door to Doc Richards?"

Gizzard shook his head skeptically.

"Well, sir, when he went out on his porch to get his paper this morning, what do you s'pose he found there in a basket?"


"I should say not! He found a little girl baby, as red as a beet!"[Pg 5]

Gizzard was inclined to belittle this announcement. "That's nuthin'," he muttered; "the folks who live 'cross the street from us had twins last week—"

"But you don't understand!" cried Sube impatiently. "This was a founding!"

"A what?" asked Gizzard with a blank stare.

"A founding. It didn't have any mother or father, or an'thing 'xcept a 'nomynous letter."

"A what letter?" demanded Gizzard.

"A 'nomynous letter," Sube explained loftily. "A letter without any name signed to it but 'A Friend' or 'Taxpayer' or some'pm like that."

"What'd the letter say in it?"

"Oh, nuthin' 'xcept would ol' Whiting bring up the kid, and a verse from the Bible about sufferin' little children. And, Giz—" Sube lowered his voice to a strained whisper—"I know who the mother is!"

"What of it?" grunted Gizzard. "Don't I know who the mother of them twins is?"

"Huh!" snorted Sube. "I guess you don't know it's against the law to leave founding babies around like that! Why, every officer in this town is tryin' to find out who the mother is, and I'm the only one who knows!"[Pg 6]

That gave the matter an entirely different complexion. And Gizzard's eyes were bright as he asked in an eager whisper, "Who is it?"

"Figger it out for yourself," responded Sube gravely. "Who do you know that's got a face as red as a beet? That's the first thing. And don't girl babies always look like their mothers? That's the second thing. And who sat there in Sunday School a couple of Sundays ago and said that verse about sufferin' little children more'n a dozen times?"

Gizzard gasped. "Her!" he cried. "Aw, you're way off! She ain't got any children!"

Sube smiled tolerantly. "It was her, all right, and I can prove it," he asserted; and then, perceiving that Gizzard was again beginning to sniff questioningly at the atmosphere, Sube proceeded to introduce his proof. Of course, the greater part of this talk was mere subterfuge to gain time; he had already told Gizzard all he knew. And the situation was becoming desperate. With grownups any old explanation would have gone. But with Gizzard it was different; the explanation of that odor must sound true. So Sube vapored on hoping wildly that something would occur to him.

He kept on talking about the foundling and her putative mother simply because he couldn't think[Pg 7]

of anything else. And he had just reached the point where he was explaining that a little detective work would be required to bring the cruel mother to justice, when a great light broke over him. He saw a very simple way out of his predicament; he could tell Gizzard that he was raising the mustache for detective purposes, and Gizzard would never suspect that Nancy Guilford was at the bottom of it.[Pg 8]

For a moment he paused, his eyes squinted for serious effect, then said in a tone of the strictest confidence, "Giz, if a feller's goin' to do good detective work, he's got to have a good disguise. And I'm goin' to have a blinger!" He moved closer to Gizzard as he asked, "Don't you smell some'pm?"

Gizzard rather thought he did.

Sube nodded significantly. "Well, that's it! I'm raisin' a mustache!"

Gizzard was thrilled. And as Sube eloquently unfolded the tale of the magic bottle, his audience was aroused to a pitch of boisterous enthusiasm. Then followed complications that Sube had not anticipated; Gizzard, too, wanted to raise whiskers and become a detective.

And as there appeared to be no way to prevent it without risk of exposure, Sube reluctantly took him in as a sort of Dr. Watson, and duly anointed his cheeks in the interest of a pair of long, flowing side-whiskers. A bristling mustache rather appealed to Gizzard, but was denied him on the ground of priority. Sube had already started a mustache, and there must be no duplications.

Boon for Baldness promised nothing within a week; and for the first time in their life the boys found the spring vacation beginning to drag. They[Pg 9] pored over the pictures alleged to have been taken "Before Using" and "After Using," until the poor chromos were ragged and worn; they discussed the "astonishing results" that were guaranteed, until they had exhausted all the possibilities of surprise, and still the time dragged. Then, more as a diversion than anything else, they began to shadow the suspected mother; and this they found so absorbing that Sube almost lost sight of the original purpose for which he had started his mustache.

A careful log of the suspect's movements was kept in a pocket memorandum book that came in the carton with the Boon for Baldness. The entries were masterpieces of brevity.

Monday April 10


[Pg 10]

Tuesday April 11


Wednesday April 12


The next few pages in addition to various suggestions for the production and preservation of human hair, set forth the damning fact that the suspect visited the foundling every day. And the boys continued to watch; and as they watched, they attended to their hirsutoculture with infinite pains. In the public use of the tiny pocket phials they had[Pg 11] both taken to carrying they soon became as expert as a vain woman in the repairing of a damaged complexion. They could slip out the phial and anoint the face without fear of detection; but they encountered numerous obstacles and difficulties of another sort.

This was especially true in the case of Sube. For although the members of his family were wholly unaware of his secret ambitions they took a violent dislike to the scent he wore, and did everything in their power to discourage his indulgence in it. As he sought to seat himself at the table for his midday meal shortly after the first application, his father detained him, and without asking or permitting explanations, sent him back to wash his hands and face thoroughly with soap and hot water.

The boy went, muttering and rebellious; and by the time that he had returned to the table his father had finished eating, and had gone into the library, where he lighted a cigar and puffed furiously as he waited for his fragrant son to finish his meal and report to him for investigation.

Sube tarried at the table as long as was humanly possible in the hope that his father would forget his appointment and go back to the office. Mr. Cane was very far from doing any such thing. He had[Pg 12] finished the first cigar and begun on the second before Sube gave up, arose, folded his napkin without being reminded, and walked reluctantly into the library.

Mr. Cane was a lawyer of parts—none of them missing. He had been overworking for years, and the long strain on his nerves had affected him in a most peculiar way. It had made him super-sensitive to any strong or unpleasant odor. He would go blocks out of his way to avoid passing a livery stable. He had been known to get off from a trolley and take the next car because of the presence among the passengers of a man with his hand swathed with iodoform. He had refused even to consider the purchase of an automobile on account of the reputed odor of gasoline. And before such a tribunal came Sube, reeking of the unspeakable fumes of the Boon, and clutching in the hand thrust deep down in his coat pocket his emergency phial of the same, which he was determined to defend with the last drop of his blood.

Mr. Cane motioned to a chair and cleared his throat. "Seward," he began—

And at that moment the boy's memory performed a queer prank. It flashed back to the day in Sunday School when he and his little classmate had[Pg 13] heard for the first time of his nickname-sake Tubalcain, the ancient artificer in brass; to his anger when the name was combined with Seward and made into Subal Cane; to his relief when it was worn down by use into Sube Cane; and finally it got round to the apprehension that now seized him whenever he was called by his own baptismal name—and he squirmed in the chair as his father went on in a tone that was alarmingly gentle.

"—you are twelve years old. You are at the portal of manhood. You are old enough to take a little pride in your personal appearance, and your personal—ah—your personal—well, you should be careful never to permit yourself to become in any way offensive to others. You should take pride in keeping sweet and clean. Now, my son, you got into something this morning that has made you very distasteful company for man or beast. Have you any idea what it is?"

As Mr. Cane resumed the vigorous puffing of his cigar, Sube's heart gave a leap; his father hadn't recognized the smell! His mustache was safe!

"Why," the boy romanced easily, "if you mean the linimunt I put on my leg, I know what that is."

"Great heavens!" his father burst out. "Do you mean to say that you intentionally contaminated[Pg 14] yourself with any such evil-smelling stuff as that?"

Sube quailed before his father's accusing stare and his more accusing gestures. "I guess I hurt it, didn't I?" he mumbled defensively. "And didn't I have to put some'pm on it? And that was the only linimunt—"

"Liniment!" snorted Mr. Cane. "Where did you ever get any such 'liniment' as that?"

"Sir?— Why, out of a bottle," Sube managed to squirm out at last.

"Out of a bottle, eh? Well, bring me the bottle!"

Sube half started for the door, then halted. "I can't," he whimpered.

"Can't? Why not?" demanded his father.

"'Cause I dropped it and broke it," Sube faltered.

Mr. Cane was obviously relieved. "Oh, well," he said, "if that's the case, never mind. But just as soon as one hour has elapsed I want you to take a good hot bath. Now don't forget it!"

As Sube uttered a scowling but respectful "No, sir," and started to leave the room his father noticed for the first time that he was limping badly.

"Is your leg really hurt, my son?" he asked more kindly.[Pg 15]

Sube's face was a study of excruciating pain as he paused to reply that it was pretty bad and he was afraid a bath would make it a good deal worse.

Mr. Cane was not a hard man. He wished to inflict no unnecessary suffering on any one. Perhaps the application of hot water would be painful. And doubtless the odor of the liniment would evaporate in an hour or two.

"Never mind about the bath," he remitted as he began to gather up his papers in preparation for going back to his office.

As he went down the front steps a few moments later, Mr. Cane narrowly missed being run down by a youth who came bursting round the corner of the house in pursuit of a fleeing cat; and recognizing the fleet-footed pursuer as the erstwhile cripple, he scowled at the deception that had been practiced on him. Then he was struck with humor of the situation, and smiled in spite of himself.

"Miraculous liniment," he chuckled as he started down the street; "but I'm mighty glad the bottle's been broken."[Pg 16]



Contrary to Mr. Cane's expectations the odor of the liniment had not evaporated when he came home for the evening meal. It seemed to be stronger than ever, although Sube truthfully insisted that he had not put any more on his injured leg since the first application.

An immediate bath was prescribed, and duly administered, and Sube sat down at the table spotless and germless—but far from odorless. He smelled, it seemed to his family, even worse than before. And in spite of the various heroic processes of deodorization and fumigation through which he was put during the ensuing days, he invariably emerged smiling—and smelling.

The long strain began to tell on Mr. Cane. He became more nervous and irritable than ever, and seemed constantly to wear a look of nasal suspicion. Sube's treatment was in only its third day when his father began to eat his lunch down town. The next day he failed to come home to dinner; and there[Pg 17]after during the rest of the fateful week he ate no meals at home with the exception of breakfast, and that he managed to get before the other members of the family were out of bed.

As the week of germination drew towards a close the boys became restless. "We ought to begin to do some'pm," Sube suggested as he sat rubbing the Boon into the pores of his long-suffering upper lip. "My week will be up to-morrow morning at five minutes of ten, and yours will be up at about quarter after."

"I'll bet mine'll be up before quarter after," predicted Gizzard enthusiastically. "I'll bet I have my whiskers by ten minutes after. Gee, but I'll be glad when I don't have to use this ol' Boon any longer. It certainly is bad!"

"Oh, it ain't so bad," replied Sube; "anyway, not for those that use it. I'm glad we didn't have to go to school this week. Sunday School was bad enough. But as I tol' you, we got to be doin' some'pm. We want to pick up that party jus' about as quick as we can after we get our whiskers."

"Well," suggested Gizzard briskly, "let's go and get her 'bout ha' pas' ten to-morrow morning."[Pg 18]

Sube shook his head dubiously. "Not by daylight," he drawled professionally. "That's too easy. That's the way policemen do it. We'll have to trick her."

"Trick her?" muttered Gizzard. "What for? How we goin' to trick her?"

"Very sim-ple," drawled Sube. "We'll pin a note on her door to-night tellin' her to come to the Prespaterian Church steps to-morrow night at a certain time—and when she shows up, we'll pinch her."

And so it was arranged. The note was prepared and in due time affixed to the front door of the suspect's house in so conspicuous a place that she found it early the next morning.

But the hours that followed the finding of the note were tragic ones for Sube and Gizzard. They had repaired to the roof of the barn, there to await the accomplishment of the days when their whiskers should be delivered. And as the time drew near and no pin-feathers appeared, they began to have visions of a sudden bursting forth of hair not unlike the eruption of a small volcano. But the time came, and passed; and nothing happened to change the youthful character of their hopeful faces.[Pg 19]

They allowed fully an hour of grace during which time the word "Fake" passed Gizzard's lips with increasing frequency as Sube sought to bolster up their faith by reading and re-reading the guarantee on the bottle.

"Astonishin' results, hey?" sneered Gizzard. "I should say they are astonishin'."

"Don't be in so much of a hurry," growled Sube. "We might of made a mistake in the time. Ol' Doc Richards, he said—"

An immediate adjournment was taken for the purpose of inspecting the side of the house. But, alas! It was hairless. And more, it didn't even smell.

Then the boys gave up.

They threw their pocket phials as far as they could, and stoned the large bottle with a vengeance that would have startled a Christian martyr. Gizzard's disgust was evidenced by a great deal of careless language feelingly delivered. But Sube was silent. His disappointment was beyond the reach of mere words. The pleasant vision in which he had reveled for a week burst with a result similar to that of over-inflating a bubble. And during the brief period while Gizzard was relieving himself[Pg 20] with pleasing combinations of adjectives, Sube contemplated and rejected suicide, flight, old bachelorhood, and becoming an anarchist so that he might dynamite the Boon for Baldness factory. He was considering some sort of legal proceedings based on fraud and misrepresentation, when Gizzard nudged him to ascertain why they couldn't "catch her without whiskers."

After all, Sube had his life to live. There were other affairs besides those of the heart. And perhaps a brilliant piece of detective work might give him a standing that even a mustache would not have been able to effect.

"We gotta do some'pm," Gizzard rattled on. "She'll be at the church to-night, and here we ain't got any whiskers and can't do a thing."

Sube began to pull himself together. "We'll do some'pm all right," he muttered.

"Well, what?"

"Oh, some'pm; and don't you forget it." Sube did not yet know what it was to be himself; but an idea soon sprouted. He went into the house for a sheet of paper and an envelope. Then with the aid of Gizzard and the stump of a lead pencil he wrote the following letter to the sheriff:[Pg 21]

"What's he got to disguise himself like a ol' woman for?" asked Gizzard.

"If we make it too easy," Sube explained, "he wouldn't pay any 'ttention to it. And besides, a man there on the church steps might scare her away."

The boys had no way of knowing how much of an uproar the receipt of their letter precipitated in the sheriff's office. And they would have been decidedly uneasy if they had known with what celerity the sheriff exhibited their letter to Mr. Cane, who was acting as Mr. Whiting's counsel. But they remained in a state of beatific ignorance; and shortly after nine o'clock that evening, cramped and uncomfortable from their two hours' vigil among the branches of a large evergreen tree in front of the Presbyterian Church, they were silent witnesses of a[Pg 22] scene that for a time baffled everybody, not excepting themselves.

They saw a heavily veiled woman dressed all in black who came slowly down the street and seated herself on the church steps. Shortly afterwards they heard hurried footsteps and a second woman came into view. She turned in at the church and went directly up to the silent figure on the steps. For a moment all was still. Then a bass voice cried out:

"I got y'u!"

A woman screamed. Men seemed to rise out of the ground on all sides. The boys had a suspicion that the Resurrection was at hand, until the sheriff flashed a light in the face of the prisoner and exclaimed in chorus with several others:

"Good heavens! It's Miss Lester!"

The silence that followed was shattered by Miss Lester's voice. She had recognized Mr. Cane, and at once began to accuse him of being the author of a plot to compromise her. The boys were not clear as to the exact nature of her charges, but it was apparent to them that she was very angry at Sube's father.


When she stopped at last, all out of breath, Mr. Cane, the sheriff and several of the deputies took[Pg 23] advantage of the lull to explain the situation to her, each one telling the others to listen a minute while he told her all about it. The confusion finally became so great that the sheriff ordered them all to be taken to his office some three blocks away, where he hoped in a loud voice that he should be able to hear them one at a time.

The boys dropped excitedly from the tree and followed, forgetting for the moment that there was any such thing as a foundling.

Sube's heart went out to his father. "I know jus' how he felt," he declared. "She bawled me out like that once before the whole Sunday School."

"What do you s'pose he done to her?" asked Gizzard.

"Dern'd if I know," replied Sube. "But maybe if we hurry up we'll find out all about it."

And they did. They arrived as the sheriff was explaining that he and his deputies and Mr. Cane went to the church in answer to an anonymous letter, and he'd like very much to have Miss Lester tell just what she was doing there at that time of night.

Miss Lester's explanation was tense but straightforward. She had gone in answer to a note she had found pinned on her front door that morning.[Pg 24]

"You don't happen to have that note along with you, I suppose," suggested the ever-skeptical sheriff.

"Indeed I do!" retorted Miss Lester, fumbling in her bosom and producing a folded paper which she handed to the officer.

He read it aloud.

When he had finished reading it he passed to Mr. Cane. The lawyer compared it with the other letter. "Huh!" he snorted. "Identical! Same person wrote both of them! It's nothing but a dastardly hoax!"

The sheriff said nothing, and began to fumble in the drawers of his desk while Mr. Cane and Miss Lester were exchanging apologies and reëstablishing friendly relations. At length he turned around in his swivel-chair and announced:

"It may be a hoax, all right; but I've got other evidence against this here party."[Pg 25]

"Evidence against me!" gasped Miss Lester.

The sheriff nodded gravely and consulted several crumpled sheets of paper he held in his hand. They were the pages torn from the Boon for Baldness diary.

"Ain't you took a lot of int'rest in this here foundling?" he asked suspiciously.

"Indeed I have!" she responded with spirit.

"Went to see it las' Monday, didn't y'u?"

"I believe I did. I went there the moment I heard about it."

"Went again Tuesday, didn't y'u?"

"Why, I presume—"

"And y'u bought a bottle of something at Westfall's drug store Tuesday afternoon, didn't y'u?"

Miss Lester blushed uncomfortably. "I cannot see what possible connection my going to the drug store could have with this matter," she parried.

"Well, anyhow, y'u went to see this here child again on Wednesday, didn't y'u?" the sheriff persisted.

"Mr. Sheriff," Miss Lester burst forth at last, "you do not seem to understand my position at all. I want to adopt the little darling. I haven't a chick or child in the world that belongs to me. I have been trying to find her parents for days so as[Pg 26] to get their consent. That was why I went to the church this evening. When I found the note I had hopes that the mother had in some way learned of my interest in the baby and wanted to talk to me about her. Oh, I am so disappointed! Who could have been cruel enough to do such a thing for a joke?"

The sheriff succumbed as gracefully as possible and allowed that he had been "barkin' up the wrong tree." As he tossed the crumpled sheets on the table, Mr. Cane picked them up.

"You didn't tell me about these, Sheriff," he said. "Where did they come from?"

"They come by mail late this afternoon," the sheriff replied. "I thought I told you about it."

"Hum,— Same handwriting as the letters," observed the lawyer as he ran through the littered pages. "Our 'Two Friends' wanted to be sure that their hoax was going to work—"

He stopped abruptly and sniffed at the crumpled pages with an expression of mistrust—of something reminiscent. And suddenly, with an unintelligible exclamation, he caught up his hat and started for the door.

"Wait a minute, Judge," invited the sheriff affably. "I'll send you folks home in an auto."[Pg 27]

"Can't wait!" called Mr. Cane over his shoulder. "An automobile couldn't get me there fast enough!"

Mr. Cane lost no time in getting home. But Sube was there ahead of him, and already in bed and apparently asleep.[Pg 28]



When Sube accompanied his family to church on the morrow he was conspicuous by reason of his scentlessness. Nobody sniffed at him; nobody moved away from him; his brothers walked uncomplainingly at his side. Any one but Sube might have thought that the storm which descended on him the previous night shortly after he had slipped into bed with his clothes on, must have clarified the atmosphere completely. For Mr. Cane had done very thoroughly that which is claimed to hurt the parent more than the child.

But Sube was uneasy. And he had reason to be; for Miss Lester was his Sunday School teacher.

A dark pall hung over him all through the church service; and when at the conclusion he sought to bring up reinforcements before moving on Sunday School, he learned to his dismay that Gizzard was confined to his home with a slight attack of Sunday-sickness from which he was unlikely to recover until nearly dinner time. So he faced the dragon alone.[Pg 29]

But in common with other dragons Miss Lester's terrors waned on closer acquaintance. As he shuffled guiltily into his seat she wished him a pleasant good morning. But some little time elapsed before Sube could bring himself to believe that his sense of hearing was not playing him false. Then it occurred to him that she was going to arraign him before the entire Sunday School. And he lived over this volcano until the session was dismissed. The possibility that Miss Lester did not know the identity of her "Two Friends" never entered his mind.

Once or twice during the afternoon he wondered vaguely why she had refrained from "bawling him out," but by the next day he had forgotten all about Miss Lester and her troubles. They were completely blotted out of his mind by the relentless pressure of education; for school had begun again.

One day dragged along after another. At last a week had gone. Then a month. And spring was pretty well under way when Sube came home from school one noon, to all appearances quite bowed down with grief. Mag Macdougall, the family laundress, was dead.

The news was fittingly broken to those at the table, but seemed to occasion no great concern. His father remarked in what Sube considered a most[Pg 30] unfeeling way that he hoped she hadn't taken with her the two shirts that failed to come back with his linen that week; and his mother's only comment was that she had decided to send the things to the laundry anyway.

Sube was shocked; but he was not discouraged. He took the position that the community's great loss was not fully appreciated, and at once launched into a eulogy of Mag's imaginary virtues that gave to her a character quite unlike that which she had borne in the flesh. And in conclusion he announced that the funeral would take place that afternoon at the Baptist Church, to which he felt he must go on account of poor little Lizzie Macdougall's being in the same room with him at school.

And although Mr. Cane cultivated the attitude of always expecting the unexpected to happen, this came as something of a surprise to him. For a moment he was at a loss for words; then he had more than he knew what to do with, out of which Sube managed to grasp the sentiment that any old day when he was allowed to remain out of school to attend one of Mag Macdougall's funerals would of necessity be a very cold one. And this was a warm spring day.

Sube remonstrated. He whined. He argued un[Pg 31]til his father forbade another word on the subject. Then in a highly rebellious and dangerous state of mind he started for school, brooding anarchistically over the element of paternalism that still survives in the American family. He would have been an easy convert for any kind of soap-box heresy, but fortunately no apostles of new thought chanced to cross his path.

However, when he had gone a short distance on his way he discovered that he was being followed. A rather rangy dog with a white background heavily sprinkled with black spots, and wearing a thick, stumpy tail which a railroad train had thoughtlessly docked to half-length, was sauntering along at a safe distance behind, apparently making no effort to get any nearer.

Sube whirled angrily, and catching up an imaginary rock went through most elaborate motions of hurling it at the dog, as he cried in a stern voice:

"Go home, Sport! Go home!"

Sport halted and began to sniff calmly at a tuft of grass beside the walk as if that had been his sole errand. He affected to be unaware of his master's presence. After sniffing for a moment he deemed the place worthy of excavation and began to scratch at it with his front paw.[Pg 32]

Meanwhile Sube's orders had become more curt and angry. "Go home! I tell you!—Go home, sir!" he bellowed as he pretended to run at the dog, stamping his feet loudly on the walk.

But Sport calmly continued his investigations.

Then Sube caught sight of a real stone, and eagerly bent to pick it up; but before he could steady himself so as to throw it with any kind of aim, Sport beat a hasty retreat homeward, and the stone went clattering down the walk wide of its mark.

Having thus disposed of the dog Sube proceeded on his way with the thought that Sport must be losing his mind when he couldn't tell a school day from any other day. But Sport was far from losing his mind. A certain psychic agency called instinct by uncomprehending humans had told him that for Sube this was not to be a school day; but Sport realized that he could never hope to get this through the dull brain of an ordinary boy, so he made no attempt.

At the first corner Sube fell in with a company of his fellows bound for the cobble-stone church to pay their last sad respects to the mortal remains of Mag Macdougall, deceased. He would have avoided them if he could, but they were upon him before he was aware of their presence.[Pg 33]

"Hey, Sube!" shouted Gizzard as he caught sight of his chum. "Goin'?"

This was somewhat awkward, but Sube managed to assume a look of bold confidence as he replied, "What do you s'pose?"

"I s'pose you are," returned Gizzard. "Everybody is. All the girls are goin', and even Biscuit Westfall!"

Sube was lost. This was the limit of human endurance. He might have stood it even if all the girls did go; but he had counted on Biscuit Westfall as the one person absolutely certain to be in his seat at school. And besides, the groundless suspicion was never wholly absent from Sube's mind that as far as Nancy Guilford was concerned, Biscuit needed watching. Then a voice came to him from the crowd almost as if the speaker had read his mind. It was unnecessarily high and nasal in quality.

"Nancy Guilford's goin'!"

Sube turned and glared into the grinning face of Dick Bissell, a tattered youth of questionable pedigree, who stood head and shoulders above the other boys, and who was no respecter of size so long as it was smaller than his. But immediately upon identifying Dick Bissell as the author of the gibe, Sube's[Pg 34] glare melted into a sheepish grin, and he himself melted into the crowd and became as inconspicuous as possible.

He was distinctly relieved when a moment later a concerted movement towards the church began. At his side walked the faithful Gizzard, who, after they had gone a short distance, asked:

"What you so mum about?"

"Who? Me?" grunted Sube. "How you want a feller to act when he's goin' to a funeral?"

The truth was that in addition to the humiliation put upon him by Dick Bissell, Sube was feeling a little lonely in his outlawry. The other boys doing exactly what he was doing were guiltless. But he was a criminal. He alone must be on the watch for tattle-tales, must run the risk of punishment. On the whole he was in an excellent frame of mind to get the most out of a funeral.

As the company reached the church it deployed and spread itself over the spacious stone steps that reached across the front of the edifice. It was still occupying this position when Biscuit Westfall, at the side of his mother, approached and, raising his hat formally to the collective company, passed inside.

After a little interval the girls arrived and with a shy giggle or two hurried up the steps and disap[Pg 35]peared through the massive doorway. Whereupon Dick Bissell took occasion to stroll over to Sube and suggest that if he was going to sit with the girls he'd better be going inside.

Sube indulged in another of his sickly smiles, which for a boy of his spirit required no small amount of effort. But at that moment the cortége arrived and dissipated any insane notions of self-destruction that might have been forming in his outraged brain.

The boys followed the casket into the church in much the same manner as they would have followed the band in a street parade, but instead of going all the way to the altar they slipped into the rear seats, where they stayed just long enough to find out that a funeral was not at all unlike church. Then by twos and threes they began to desert.

When a sufficient number had assembled in front of the church a quiet game of tag was proposed, to while away the time until they should be permitted to view the remains. And they at once proceeded to the nearby church-sheds as a place marvelously adapted to the sport.

The game was less quiet than had been anticipated, and after a little actually threatened to put the funeral out of business. Whereupon ol' Joe,[Pg 36] the sexton, hastily forming an alliance with big Lew Wright, rushed out to disperse the noise-makers. Big Lew was an elder or deacon or something whenever anything of importance was taking place at the Baptist Church, and at other times he ran a sawmill. He enjoyed the reputation of handling logs and boys in much the same rough manner; and he scattered the participants in the game as he would have brushed away a handful of sawdust.

The gang was withdrawing silently, albeit sullenly, when without warning there came flying over the sheds a large chunk of sod to which a quantity of soil was clinging. This disrespectful offering struck big Lew in the place where his ready made necktie connected with his rubber collar, forcing from his mouth a noise that sounded very much like profanity.

Sube did not throw the sod, but he saw it strike; and he knew instantly that was no place for him. In a desperate attempt to make a quick getaway he fell down. And when he regained his feet the angry elder or deacon or something was upon him. But somehow he managed to wriggle through a hole in the fence inches smaller than his body and started for the lumber yard nearby with big Lew, who nimbly scaled the fence, close behind.[Pg 37]

Somewhere among the piles of lumber Sube shook off his pursuer. Then he crossed the railroad tracks by crawling under a slowly moving freight train and finally reached a place of safety in a clump of willows behind the sauerkraut factory, but not until he had left a fair impression of his body in a puddle of slippery brine that had been drawn from a vat of ancient kraut.

As he entered the refugee camp a moment later he was hailed with delight. But his popularity was short-lived. The boys were sorry about his accident, but had a peculiar way of showing it. They stopped bemoaning the fact that they had not been able to view the remains, and began to comfort Sube with bits of pithy humor, meanwhile keeping him at a distance. Sube took this in good part until Dick Bissell suggested that it might be interesting if Sube should go to the church in his present state and ask to see Nancy home.

Sube scowled; he blushed; he bit his lips, and clenched his fists; but once more Dick Bissell's size and reputation won a psychological victory, and Sube managed to produce the sheepish grin—and the crisis was over.

Excited hoofbeats on the floor of the nearby livery barn now attracted the boys' attention. These were[Pg 38] followed by such sounds as men utter when they wish to calm the ruffled spirits of a restive horse.

Dick leaped to his feet. "Hey!" he cried. "There's some'pm doin' in the liv'ry barn! I'm goin' up and see the fun!"

He started forthwith, the others trailing after him. Far in the rear came Sube, humiliated and indignant at what had happened, and apprehensive about what would happen when he reached home. The liniment episode was still strong in his memory; and to become involved in another affair of bad odor so soon afterwards seemed to him like trifling with Providence. Sube clambered slowly up the bank and walked into the livery barn. It was as Dick Bissell had suspected. Something was doing. An undersized bay mare was receiving her spring haircut.

Sube's brother Sim would have recognized at a glance that it was Fretful Mollie; for he knew every horse in town by its first name, and most of the horses knew Sim. But Sube was no horseman. He could tell the difference between a horse and an automobile; he could probably have picked a horse from a herd of cows ninety-nine times out of a hundred. But he was no lover of horseflesh.

As he stood watching Mollie tremble and plunge[Pg 39] whenever the clippers touched a ticklish spot, he became conscious of a movement at the door of the barn, and glancing around he beheld Sport. Sube was astonished, for he had supposed that the dog was safe at home. But Sport had been following him all the afternoon; never very far behind, and for obvious reasons never very conspicuous.

When Sport perceived that his presence had been detected he tried to make the best of a bad situation. He pretended that their meeting was the merest sort of coincidence; that he had come there strictly on business of his own, but was none the less glad to see his master. However, human like, Sube misunderstood all this; and pointing an automatic finger at the dog, muttered:

"Didn't I tell you to go home?"

Sport fled. And as he went scurrying down the alley he was kept busy dodging several sticks, a tin can, and one or two old shoes.[Pg 40]



While Sube was disposing of his insubordinate follower Fretful Mollie had obtained momentary control over her tingling nerves and become perfectly quiet. But as he returned to her side she gave a tremendous lunge and struck out savagely with both[Pg 41] hind feet, scattering the tonsorial artists right and left.

As the clipper-man leaped to a place of safety, his clippers still in his hand, he grabbed Sube roughly by the coat-collar.

"I caught y'u that time, y'u little rascal!" he cried angrily.

Sube squirmed uncomfortably. "What'd I do?" he muttered. "I ain't done a thing!"

The clipper-man snatched off Sube's cap and gave it a throw as he charged, "Y'u slung some'pm at that mare. I seen y'u do it myself."

Seeing that the crime was neatly fastened on Sube, Dick Bissell, who had been keeping discreetly close to the door, now drew nearer. If anybody was to be punished for his misdeeds he wanted to be in the front row. He anticipated that Sube would receive a sound cuffing and perhaps a kick or two; but he was as much surprised as Sube at the form his punishment took. For without the slightest warning the clipper-man mowed a clean swath from Sube's brow to his crown, and giving him a vigorous shove towards the open door, admonished him to get out and stay out under pain of having his eyebrows cut off.

As Sube recovered his balance he paused, and[Pg 42] passed a bewildered hand over his head. He resembled nothing quite so much as a youth grown prematurely bald. And at the risk of losing his eyebrows he turned and faced his assailant.

"Ain't you goin' to cut the rest of it?" he asked huskily.

"Didn't I tell y'u to get outa here?" growled the clipper-man with a menacing gesture.

But Sube stood his ground. "I didn't do a thing to your ol' horse!" he cried desperately.

"Well, one o' yer gang done it, and that's the same thing!" muttered the clipper-man, supplementing his questionable logic by unquestionable profanity.

At this point Dick Bissell undertook to interject some of his humor into the situation.

"Nancy'll never love 'im if he looks like—" he began; but he never finished the remark.

For Sube's fist struck him squarely in the mouth in a maniacal effort to drive the cruel words back down his throat. And that was the way the fight started.

For a time Sube appeared to be possessed of the strength of a young Samson. He pounded his antagonist all over the place with an insane fury, drawing blood from lip and nose, and planting sev[Pg 43]eral blows where they were destined to leave a dark crescent "shiner." But judged from a purely physical standpoint Sube was no match for Dick Bissell; and as his mental demands for blood began to be satisfied his wonderful offensive began to flag. He allowed himself to be drawn into the clinch that Dick had from the first been trying to work.

An instant later the back of Sube's head bumped the floor, and he began to stop Dick's blows with his face. Then it dawned on him for the first time that he was actually fighting Dick Bissell. He knew of course that he couldn't thrash Dick; he had known it for years; and he couldn't understand how he ever happened to undertake such a monumental task. The mere thought weakened him.

Dick must have felt Sube relax; for suddenly he seized both of Sube's wrists and pinioned his arms across his breast.

"You're—a fine—lookin' thing!" he panted. "Nancy oughta—see y'u NOW!"

Dick had unconsciously touched the magic spring that loosed the maniac, and Sube flung him aside as if he had been a new-born babe. The two boys gained their feet at almost the same instant. Then Sube launched an attack on the larger boy that far surpassed in fury his initial charge. He hit, he[Pg 44] scratched, he bit, and kicked; and again he exhausted his strength and went under in a clinch. And this time he couldn't come back. Dick hammered him roundly, and when he could spare the breath taunted him unfeelingly about Nancy, and threatened to lick him to a frazzle right before her loving eyes.

But Sube was too far gone to respond. He was very near that blissful country which prize-fighters call "Out."

The stablemen enjoyed the fight immensely. And the result was quite to their liking. Dick Bissell was their kind. They wanted him to win even if he was fighting a boy scarcely half his size. But they enjoyed the "little feller's bu'st o' speed" and taking their cue from Dick, interjected a few taunts from the sidelines about what Nancy would think of him if he got licked.

Sube had plenty of friends at the ringside, but they dared not interfere because of what might happen to them when Dick Bissell caught them alone. And doubtless if they had taken a hand the stablemen would have driven them off.

But there was one friend who did not falter. He was a little late in reaching the place of battle, but when he came, he came like a thunderbolt. He struck Dick amidships with the full force of his[Pg 45] seventy pounds, knocking the astonished boy halfway across the barn.

Then with a show of flashing teeth and a few great guttural oaths he cleared the barn of human incumbrances, and then—he went humbly to his master craving indulgence for having again been guilty of disobedience.

Sube struggled to his feet, groggily murmuring, "Good boy, Sport." And with a boy's first instinct on emerging from a fight began to hunt for his cap. Sport quickly found it and brought it. Then Sube noticed for the first time that he was alone, and that the big barn door was closed. But he had no idea that it had been barred in the interest of public policy to keep what the stablemen regarded as a mad dog from running at large.

The back door was open. And towards it he staggered, bleeding and disheveled. He made his way into the clump of willows, where he lay for a time and rested while Sport licked affectionately at his hand whenever it came near enough for his rosy tongue to reach.

As he took a circuitous route homeward a little later he became conscious of a dull ache in his ear. Then he discovered that his lip was swollen. In another moment he became painfully aware that[Pg 46] something had happened to one of his cheeks. Next a skinned knuckle attracted his attention.

He considered these injuries too valuable to be wasted, and at once invented a new game to make use of them. He pretended that he was a wounded soldier returning from the wars, and gave himself up to such limps and groans as seemed to fit the fancy. He dragged himself up to the back door of his home, and after satisfying himself that the kitchen was empty, fell prostrate on the threshold, gasping:

"Water!—Water!—I must rinse these awful wounds!"

With an exaggerated effort he pulled himself to his feet and reeled across the kitchen, only to fall in an imaginary swoon at the foot of the back stairs. But hearing footsteps he revived sufficiently to crawl upstairs dragging a bullet-pierced leg lifelessly behind.

He had reached the room occupied jointly by himself and his brother Henry, where he had indulged in several additional swoons (in the performance of which he had now become quite an expert) when he was suddenly reminded of the accident to his clothes. He took them off and holding them at arm's length, sniffed at them judicially. Then he pronounced[Pg 47] them guilty, and dropped them on the floor pending sentence.

He at once began to put on his best suit, but before he had finished he heard Henry coming. He kicked the offending garments under the bed and stepped into the hallway, pulling on his jacket as he went. He intercepted his brother at the head of the stairs.

"Hey, Cathead!" he called affably, addressing Henry by his nickname. "Know some'pm?"

"What?" grunted Cathead, who was fourteen, studiously inclined, and suspicious of anything Sube knew and he didn't, because it was usually inaccurate and often led into mischief.

"There's a new batch of cookies down in the pantry!"

Cathead's interest was aroused, but he tried to conceal it. "What you all dressed up for?" he demanded.

Sube had hoped to preclude any such inquiry, and made something of a mess of his reply. "Why—now—now, I'm—I'm goin' somewheres," he stammered.


"Never you mind where!" cried Sube with af[Pg 48]fected gayety. "Don't you wish't you knew! But let's go and get a cookie."

Cathead had half turned to go when he stopped abruptly and began to look around him. "Whew!" he exclaimed. "What in the dickens smells so?"

"It does smell kind o' funny, don't it?" Sube agreed.

"Funny? I should say it is funny! What is it?"

"I guess the air must be a little bad," mumbled Sube.

"A little? Say! It's awful in here!"

"But you ought to smell it out in the back yard," suggested Sube. "It's a lot worse out there!"

With a disdainful grimace Cathead turned towards the stairs. "You said some'pm about cookies," he remembered. "Lead me to 'em."

"They're in the pantry," said Sube as he started to follow Cathead down the stairs. But when he was halfway down he turned back. "Dern the luck!" he exclaimed with affected disgust. "I forgot some'pm. Got to go back. Now don't eat 'em all up before I get there!"[Pg 49]



As Cathead reached the bottom of the stairs, Sube dived under the bed. And as Cathead entered the pantry, Sube darted up the attic stairs and threw the tainted clothes far into the darkness. From the splash that followed he feared they might have landed in the rain water tank, but that could not be helped now. As he rapidly slid down the attic stairs he was thoroughly in sympathy with those who shed their brothers' blood so far as disposing of the corpus delicti was concerned.

Sube had reached his room in safety when he heard Cathead angrily scuffing up the stairs; and, wishing to have the appearance of doing something, he stepped over to the bureau and picked up a hairbrush. But when he took off his cap the hairbrush dropped from his nerveless fingers. His mutilated scalp fairly screamed at him!

In the excitement of the fight he had forgotten all about it. But there was no time to lose. Cathead was at the door. Sube mechanically pulled his cap[Pg 50] far on his head, and sank limply down on the bed as Cathead came into the room peevishly charging him with being the biggest fibber out of captivity.

"There wasn't a cookie there, and you know it!" he cried.

"Annie must've hid 'em," returned Sube feebly.

Cathead's anger subsided as he caught sight of his brother's livid countenance. "What's the matter of you?" he asked.


"You're as white as paper," declared Cathead. Then catching sight of his brother's swollen lip which in the semi-darkness of the hallway had escaped his notice, he asked, "How'd you hurt your lip?"

The natural thing would have been to tell Cathead the truth, all the truth, and nothing but the truth. But Sube did not care to do this. Not that he was afraid Cathead would tell; he had no thought of that. In regard to their joint delinquencies Cathead had always been absolutely leak-proof. Sube simply did not wish to put himself in Cathead's power; so he took what he considered to be the easiest way.

"Huh? My lip?" he temporized as he tried to think of a plausible explanation. "Why,—why,[Pg 51] I—I bumped 'at against the door," he got out finally.

"Prob'ly that's what makes you so pale," suggested Cathead. "Lay down a minute and you'll be all right."

Sube was glad to follow this advice.

"You ain't told me what you're all dressed up for," Cathead reminded him presently.

"I can't find my other clo's, I tole you," growled Sube. "I'll bet mama's gone and given 'em to the Salvation Army or something."

"How long since you couldn't find 'em?"

"Took 'em off jus' soon as I got home, and I ain't seen 'em since."

"That's funny," muttered Cathead as he began a cursory search for the missing garments. A moment later he called from the bathroom, "Hey, Sube, I've found out what smells so bad!"

"What?" asked Sube with a note of alarm.

"It's the water! Something must of got into the cistern. I'll bet it's another cat."

Sube gave one long futile breath that put into words would have said, "What next!" It was a bad matter. But it was not so pressing as a certain other bad matter. Something had to be done about his incompleted haircut—and done quickly. No ex[Pg 52]planation could be made that was not likely to lead to very unpleasant disclosures. His only salvation was a real haircut. And that of necessity involved the expenditure of a sum of money he did not possess.

Sube knew Cathead had money—Cathead always had money—and he at once began a series of flattering offers to sell anything he possessed. But Cathead was thrifty. The commercial instinct was strong in him. He realized that the time to buy is when the other fellow wants to sell; but he did not become over anxious. He said he was not in the market. Neither was he conducting a loan office. Of course, if it was made worth his while, why,—he might think of it.

This bickering nearly drove Sube mad. Time for the evening meal was drawing near. He could hear his father's voice downstairs. In his desperation he made up a job lot containing everything of his in which Cathead had ever betrayed an interest, and struck it off for thirty pieces of copper.

Cathead grasped the psychology of the moment. "I'll take you up," he said promptly. "Come on down stairs while I get the money out of my bank."

Sube went only too willingly. In the library he encountered his father.[Pg 53]

"Where is your cap, Sube?" reminded Mr. Cane.

"Yes, I know it," Sube explained. "I didn't forget it; you see, I'm goin' right out again."

"But as long as you are in the house—"

"Yes, sir; I'll take it right off."

Sube made a feint at his cap with one hand as he snatched some coins from Cathead with the other, and darted for the door.

"Seward!" called Mr. Cane sternly. "Come here!"

Bang! The front door closed with sufficient violence to jar the entire house as Sube dashed up the street. Sube had heard his father's voice plainly in spite of the fact that he continued to assure himself that he had not.

He had proceeded only a short distance from home when Nancy Guilford and her mother loomed up before him. Sube rarely overlooked an opportunity to demonstrate to Mrs. Guilford his Chesterfieldian manners. But to-day he dodged past with nothing more than a bourgeois twitch at his cap; and railing under his breath at an unkind fate he sped on towards the barber shop.

But alas, he was too late. The door was locked, and the barber, in company with his wife, was just turning away as Sube came panting up.[Pg 54]

"Mr. McInness! Mr. McInness!" he called feverishly as he caught sight of the retreating tonsorial.

Mr. McInness glanced back, then paused expectantly.

"I got here just in time!" Sube puffed. "I want to get my hair cut."

The barber scowled and looked at his watch. "Too late, son," he said. "You'll have to wait till to-morrow. It's after six."

"But I can't wait till to-morrow," Sube returned in his most persuasive tone. "I got to get it cut now!"

The barber shook his head. "Nuthin' doin', son," he said. "I run a union shop. If I didn't close up at six, the union'd be on my neck inside of thirty seconds." He made a move to start on. "You come back in the mornin' and I'll fix you up fine!"

Sube clutched desperately at the barber's sleeve. "I can't wait!" he pleaded. "I got to get it done right now!"

"I can't take no chances!" declared the barber positively. "I've had the union after me twic't already. If you want to get it cut to-night, why, you'll have to go somewheres else."[Pg 55]

"Where can I go?" asked Sube quickly.

"Well,—I don't know as I could tell you no place," responded the barber dubiously. "Every shop in town belongs to the union."

The agonized expression on Sube's face was too much for the barber's wife. "What seems to be the trouble?" she asked kindly. "Tell me about it."

Here was a chance for aid from an unexpected quarter; but it was fraught with danger. Mrs. McInness's sister was a teacher in the school Sube attended. He must have a care what he told her.

"It's on account of my father," he finally managed to say, as he assumed a martyred expression.

"Your father?" she asked clearly puzzled.

"Yes, ma'am. He's pretty bad to-night!"

"Why, he isn't sick, is he? I saw him on the street this afternoon."

"Not sick, exactly," Sube improvised cautiously. "The doctor says it's his mind—"

"His mind!" gasped Mrs. McInness. "Is his mind affected?"

"What?—Well—it's more his—his nerves! You see, he can't bear to look at anybody who needs a haircut. It makes him nervous, you see. And he told me to get my hair cut this afternoon, but I[Pg 56] was so busy goin' to school and then goin' home and doin' all the work that I forgot it. And when he come home a few minutes ago and saw I hadn't got it cut, he ordered me out of the house and told me never to darken his door again till I'd got my hair cut!"

Mrs. McInnes was dumbfounded. "Your father told you that!" she cried at length. "Why, I always thought he was one of the kindest men I ever knew!"

"He's kind in—in his office—and—and on the street," stammered Sube; "but the minute he gets home his nerves fly up and he loses control of himself—"

"And your father told you never to darken his door again?" she asked incredulously.

"Yes, ma'am," Sube replied with emotion as he stared hard at the toe of his shoe. "Not till I'd got my hair cut."

Mrs. McInness drew her husband aside and conversed with him in a low tone.

"Pretty fishy—" Sube heard him mumble.

"But when a person's mind is affected ... there's no telling—" he heard Mrs. McInness saying.

After a moment came the barber's bass rumble[Pg 57] again: "That'd be rulable if he'd been in the chair, or even in the shop waitin', but—"


This gave Sube another idea. "When my father drove me out of the house," he said modestly, "I did my best to satisfy him. I ran as fast as I could to the nearest barber shop—that's Bill Grayson's. Maybe it ain't exactly the nearest, but it's the quickest because I don't have to turn any corners—you know I always come to your shop if I can. Well, I got to Bill Grayson's just before six o'clock. I got in the chair and Bill started on me with the clippers; but the minute the whistles blew, he fired me right out of the chair and wouldn't finish the job! Why! Jus' look here!" he cried dramatically, snatching off his cap. "Look how he left me! I don't dare go home like this!"

The barber and his wife were astounded.

"Bill Grayson done that to you!" exclaimed Mr. McInness.

"Yes, sir, he did," replied Sube virtuously.

Mrs. McInness turned quickly to her husband. "There!" she challenged. "He was in the chair at six o'clock and his hair was partly cut! You said that would be rulable yourself!"

"But he wasn't in my chair, or even in my shop! There's somethin' doggone' funny about this. Just[Pg 58] as like as not Bill Grayson has fixed a frame-up on me to get me in bad with the union. I ain't goin' to take no chances—"

"Joe McInness!" his wife bristled defiantly, "you may belong to the union, but I don't!—Give me the key to that shop! I'm going to finish clipping that boy's hair!"

Sube was a little late for supper, but he came in with a broad smile—broad though rather forced—and a neatly shingled head.

"Hey, everybody look at me!" he called cheerfully. "I've got the first shingle of the season, and I paid for it with my own money, too! And, mama, can I go to prayer meeting with Giz Tobin to-night? I'm all dressed for it."

Mrs. Cane had gladly given her consent when Cathead threw a bomb into the happy home circle.

"Sube wasn't at school this afternoon," he announced.

"What's that?" demanded Mr. Cane glaring at Sube. "Do you mean to say that after all I said to you—?"

Sube had begun to shrivel under his father's relentless gaze when Cathead interjected:

"But there wasn't any school in his room! So many of the kids went to Mag Macdougall's funeral[Pg 59] that Miss Wheeler had to dismiss the room, didn't she, Sube?"

Sube huskily admitted that she did, while Cathead bemoaned the misfortune of his being in another room, and Mr. Cane showed signs of being relieved, although he was at the same time annoyed at Cathead's forwardness[Pg 60]



There was something of a sensation at the breakfast table next morning when sube appeared with his best clothes on, and without waiting for interrogation modestly explained that his school suit had been incapacitated by his futile attempt to do the household a real service. He had arisen early and quietly taken the rake to the attic for the purpose of dragging the rainwater tank for the remains of an alleged dead cat.

He had not succeeded in locating the body, but had unfortunately lost his balance and fallen into the tank, from which he had escaped with his life only after a terrific struggle (although the tank was not over three feet deep), and he called Cathead to witness that he had carefully examined Exhibit A and found it to be a thoroughly saturated and badly polluted suit of school clothes.

"I declare!" complained Mr. Cane. "I never saw such a household as this. No sooner do we get rid of one scourge than another is upon us. Con[Pg 61]taminated water is about the worst thing that can happen to a place. There's no telling when we'll get this thing cleared up. I suppose the plumber will be round here for the next month. I might as well make him a present of the house!"

"Oh, well," soothed Mrs. Cane. "It might be worse. We'll miss the rain water, of course, but we still have the city water to fall back on."

"Yes, but who wants to use that city water?" demanded Mr. Cane. "It's as hard as a rock! It makes my hands feel chapped just to think of it." Then turning to Sube he asked, "Didn't you find anything at all that might have made this trouble?"

Sube appeared to be searching his memory. In reality he was searching his imagination. Finally he replied, "No, sir; unless maybe it could of been that little piece of fur I found in one corner."

"There!" cried Mr. Cane. "Why didn't you tell me that before? I might have spent a hundred dollars having the plumber tear things to pieces in search of that same little piece of fur!"

"I wasn't sure," muttered Sube. "I didn't know jus' what it was."

"Not sure, eh? Well what did it look like?"

"It looked like a rat," Sube fabricated.

"What did you do with it?"[Pg 62]

"Threw it on the ash pile."

"I can soon tell," declared Mr. Cane.

"But an ol' cat grabbed it and carried it away," romanced Sube.

The plumber came and scrubbed the tank, the clothes went to the cleaner, and Sube proceeded to school hardened and set for the cruel grinding of another day. And he was not disappointed. Miss Wheeler was very pressing in her demands for documentary excuses for his absence of the day before. But when Sube reached home at noon he found his father in no proper mood to frame diplomatic communications. To be exact, Mr. Cane was grouchy.

"I don't know what can be the matter with me," he complained as he took his place at the head of the table. "Do I look sick?"

Mrs. Cane made a very careful examination of his face, and noted the vigorous erectness of his body, while Sube's gaze was shifting uneasily back and forth from one parent to the other.

"You haven't looked so well in years," she declared at length. "What's the matter? Aren't you feeling well?"

"Never felt better in my life. Now I wonder what's getting into everybody."[Pg 63]

"Why, what do you mean?" asked Mrs. Cane nervously.

"Everybody seems to think I'm sick," grumbled Mr. Cane. "Why, the thing began before I had reached my office this morning. The first person who spoke of it was Joe McInness, the barber. He stopped me on the street and asked very particularly how I was feeling to-day. I told him in an off-hand way that I was never better, and he seemed to be quite surprised. 'Why, I understood you were—were not feeling well,' he sort of stammered out.

"I laughed at him. 'Do I look sick, Joe?' I asked.

"'No, you don't look bad,' he said; 'but sometimes folks look perfectly well physically when they ain't well at all in—in other ways. And sometimes the worse off they are, the better they think they are.'

"'Well, Joe,' I said as I started on, 'you can mark me down as sound mentally, morally and physically.'

"He looked at me and said, 'Judge, what day's to-day?'

"'Why, this is Thursday,' I said.

"'And what day of the month is it?' he asked in the strangest way. And, do you know, for the life[Pg 64] of me I couldn't think what day of the month it was. At that, the idiot shook his head and went into his barber shop."

"That's the queerest thing I ever heard of," said Mrs. Cane. "You don't suppose he had been drinking, do you?"

"Why, I did think so until other people began to drop into the office and ask after my health. At first I was rather amused, and then it began to annoy me. The consensus of opinion seemed to be that I was afflicted with some insidious ailment that made me think I was brimming over with good health when I was really on my last legs. And the most incomprehensible feature of the thing was that I couldn't seem to convince them of my soundness of limb and mind!"

"Have you been seen going into any doctor's office lately?" asked Mrs. Cane apprehensively.

"Why, yes; I've been going to Dr. Richards' office frequently."

Sube sighed and took up the disposal of his neglected food as his father continued.

"We've been preparing for the defense of that case of Munger against the railroad company. You know Munger is trying to prove that his injuries are of a permanent nature, and we are perfectly[Pg 65] certain that he is malingering. I'm in there once or twice every day to consult the doctor's books. We are preparing a long hypothetical question—"

"What a town this is for talk!" exclaimed Mrs. Cane. "That's undoubtedly where the report started."

"There or in the barber shop."

"Yes, that barber shop is a regular clearing house for news!" said Mrs. Cane.

"Yes, it's as good as an afternoon card party," agreed her husband. "And," he added after a moment, "I'm going to have the place investigated this afternoon."

At this point something went wrong with Sube's throat. He began to choke and snort most distressfully, and several severe thumps on the back from Cathead were required to restore him to normal condition.

"Yes," Mr. Cane resumed, "I'm going to smoke that barber out. Why, the good-for-nothing ignoramus as much as informed me that I was mentally unsound! Asking me the day of the week and month! That's what they always ask an alleged incompetent person who is being examined as to his sanity! The idea of that know-nothing presuming to ask me such questions as that!"[Pg 66]

"But how are you going to 'smoke him out' as you say?" asked Mrs. Cane.

"I've got that all fixed up with Dr. Richards. He's going to go in there and pump that barber dry!" replied Mr. Cane determinedly. "The doctor will drop in for a shave, and he'll find out where McInness heard this slanderous report—"

Sube was seized with another fit of coughing, and politely asked to be excused from the table. However, his epiglottic difficulties vanished as he caught up his cap and dashed out of the house. A few moments later he made his appearance in the McInness barber shop.

The barber grinned at him. "Want another haircut?" he asked maliciously.

Sube gazed searchingly at the lather-smeared occupant of the chair and, recognizing Dr. Richards' unmistakable features, realized he was too late, and turned towards the door with a worried look.

"Lookin' for your father?" asked the barber.

"Huh?—Yes," replied Sube. "Seen 'im?"

"Not sence this mornin'," returned the barber compassionately.

And before the door had closed Sube heard the barber saying:

"Too bad about the judge, ain't it?"[Pg 67]

Desperation was written on Sube's face as he turned from the barber shop and entered a nearby alley, where he sought to relieve his troubled spirit by kicking an old tin pail, smashing several bottles, and stoning a cat. But in spite of these pleasant diversions everything was going wrong, and everybody was against him.

"Even the weather's gone back on me," he muttered as a raindrop struck his face.

He was beginning to comprehend why some men[Pg 68] turn outlaw. He stepped into a shed to make up his mind whether to get wet or to be late for school, although he knew in advance that it would never do for him to get wet. On entering the shed he observed a threshing outfit that had been stored for the winter. At the sight an idea began to sprout.

He turned and looked across the alley into the rear windows of Morton & Company, General Insurance, where his eye fell on a telephone standing on a desk not far from the back door. Whereupon the idea stepped from his brain fully grown and ready for action.

Without a moment's hesitation he pulled his cap on securely and made a dash for Morton's back door. It was unlocked. He opened it cautiously and peered inside. The office was vacant. He caught up the telephone and called for McInness's barber shop with a sharp nasal inflection that sounded not at all like himself.

"Is Doc Richards there?" he asked nervously as soon as he heard the barber's voice.

The barber turned from the telephone. "Are you here, Doc," he asked.

"They told me at his office he was there!" cried Sube in the strange voice.[Pg 69]

"He wants to know what you want," returned the barber.

"Tell 'im he's wanted at Bert Shepperd's farm jus' fast as he can get there! There's been a awful accident! A man fell into a thrashin' machine and was all chewed up—"

"Who is this?" demanded the barber.

"Tell 'im to hurry up or he'll be too late!" shouted Sube as he slammed on the receiver and slipped quickly out of the door.

He proceeded to a point where he could command a view of the barber shop, and crouching behind an ash-barrel, watched for developments.

And as he watched he gave way to mutterings of a vengeful nature. "He'll pump Joe McInness dry, will he!—He will, hey!—An' then he'll tell my dad all about it, will he!—Well, I'll show 'im!—He can't come that on me—"

At this moment he saw Dr. Richards come hurrying out of the barber shop, struggling into his overcoat as he came; and as he stood, buttoning it, beside his runabout which stood at the curb, Sube heard him call to some one who had not yet come within his range of vision.

"Want to go for a little ride?"

An instant later the person thus addressed came[Pg 70] into view. It was Sube's father. Sube saw him cast an inquiring glance at the sky from which the rain was no longer falling, and then clamber into the runabout. He could distinctly hear them laughing as they lighted cigars and drove rapidly away.

Sube stood up and brushed the moist ashes from his clothes. It was no use; everything was against him. He was both late and wet when he reached school, and his brow was more clouded than the sky; but it cleared wonderfully when a terrific downpour began shortly after he took his seat. As the deluge continued his spirits rose in spite of the fact that Miss Wheeler had notified him of her intention to detain him after school in retaliation for his unexcused tardiness.

As is often the case his mental exaltation took literary form, and, a forward pass having been fumbled, he was required to pick up from the floor and read aloud a cryptic epistle intended for the private consideration of Mr. Gizzard Tobin.


I dont wish nobody harm but I hope the rain keeps stinging down for therty days and therty nights


As a result of this outburst Sube was compelled[Pg 71] to copy the word thirty two hundred times to impress on his memory the correct way to spell it.

Sube's father was late for supper. He was very late; and he came in drenched to the skin. With him came Dr. Richards, also drenched.

"Where have you been!" cried Mrs. Cane. "You've caught your death of cold, I'm sure—"

"Oh, I've taken care of that!" was the doctor's cheery reply. "We stopped in my office and took a little—preventive."

"But where have you been?" persisted she.

"Where haven't we been!" exclaimed the doctor with an irrepressible chuckle at the innocent face of Sube. "In the first place I was in the barber shop being shaved, when a telephone message came that a man had been terribly injured by falling into a threshing machine out at the Shepperd farm."

The doctor cast a sly glance at Sube, and noting the boy's complete immersion in his magazine, winked slyly at his father and went on.

"I took Sam along with me for the ride—and it was some ride! It began to pour just after we started and the trip was simply one big mudhole after another; and when we reached the Shepperd farm and asked about the accident they laughed us out of the house! They wanted to know what we ex[Pg 72]pected them to be threshing in the merry month of May!"

Shouts of laughter from Mr. Cane and the doctor stopped the recital for a time.

"Do tell the rest," urged Mrs. Cane, "so I can laugh too."

"Well," the doctor resumed, wiping his eyes, "I called up my office, and the girl said that just about the time I started, Bill Morton's stenographer called up and warned her to look out for a fake call she heard somebody send in from Morton's private office."

"Oh! Who could have done such a thing!" gasped Mrs. Cane.

"Bill's stenographer didn't know who it was," replied the doctor, watching Sube out of the corner of his eye. "He was too quick for her! She didn't see him!"

Sube straightened up at once and for the first time appeared to take an interest in the story.

"We had already started!" laughed the doctor uproariously. "And such a time as we had!"

The doctor's laughter was infectious. Mr. Cane had been chuckling throughout the account of their adventures and now Mrs. Cane was beginning.

"The mud was a foot deep!" cried Mr. Cane,[Pg 73] taking up the narrative, "and we had to get out and wade around in it twice while we changed a tire. And then to top off the adventure the engine got wet and went out of commission and we had to give up the ship and walk home!!"

"But what is so funny about it?" insisted Mrs. Cane. "If I didn't know you were both teetotalers I should certainly think you men had been drinking."

The doctor subdued his laughter with an effort as he said: "It's Sube I'm laughing at!"

Sube's magazine fell to the floor; he half stood up, then dropped back into his chair stiff as a poker.

"Isn't he immense!" howled the doctor. "Isn't he delicious! That boy will make his mark in the world!"

"But what has he to do with it?" asked Mrs. Cane, glancing at the boy's open mouth and popping eyes.

"Oh—oh, nothing to do with that," stammered the doctor. "I was just laughing at the way he was sitting there reading. I wanted to come in and get a look at him!"

"A look at him?" asked she, mystified.

"Why, yes!" roared the doctor. "He's had his head shingled and I hadn't seen him!"

As soon as the doctor had gone Mrs. Cane hur[Pg 74]ried her husband to his room for dry clothing. Sube heard with bitterness the sound of their suppressed laughter.

"That's right," he muttered. "Laugh at some joke of ol' Doc Richards and then come down and whale the daylights out of me—"

He listened. They were coming down the stairs. As his mother entered the room he noticed that there were tears in her eyes, and that the corners of her mouth were twitching. His breath came faster as he observed his father's determined walk.

With a visible effort Mr. Cane controlled his voice. "Sube," he said, extending his hand in which money could be seen, "I want to reimburse you for that haircut you got yesterday."

Sube mechanically took the money as he braced himself for the jolt that he felt sure would follow. But his reckonings went wrong. His father passed a friendly hand over the resistless stubble and remarked cheerfully:

"Well, bullet-head, let's eat our supper."[Pg 75]



Sube had invented a new face. This was not an infrequent occurrence, but it was usually a notable one. Within the week he had presented his family with the "squirrel-face," the "teakettle-spout," the "double-tongue," and one or two minor productions, so they were not entirely unprepared to have him announce that he could make a face like the king of beasts.

During the next few days Mrs. Cane found a lion-face staring at her from all sorts of unexpected places, generally accompanied by a low snarl and a bloodthirsty licking of chops. And on one occasion Mr. Cane had been surprised into boxing the beast's ears and threatening to skin it alive and make a rug of its pelt if it ever sprang out at him again.

Then, as suddenly as it had come, the lion-face disappeared and its haunts knew it no more, for Sube had turned to other matters. He was organizing a drum corps. The new enterprise was brought to the attention of his family by a demand for a bass drum.[Pg 76]

"A bass drum!" his father exploded with a sound not wholly unlike that vast instrument. "What next! I de-clare, that boy beats—"

He gave up in despair.

Sube's mother had stronger nerves and was much less explosive. "What could you possibly do with a bass drum?" she asked.

"I got to have one for my drum corpse," replied Sube with the air of a man of affairs.

His father gave way to another explosion. "Well, there will be another kind of corpse around here if you ever attempt to perform in this neighborhood!" he threatened.

"Where's the drum your uncle Ned gave you?" asked his mother.

Sube glanced apprehensively at his father. This drum had been heard from before. "It's put away," he mumbled; hastily adding, "That's a snare drum, anyway. What we need is a bass drum!"

The mere thought of a drum was annoying to his father, who declared in a menacing tone: "I hereby warn you that if I ever find a drum on the premises, snare, bass, kettle or any other kind, I'll kick a hole through it! Now don't forget that!"

"Kettle? Did you say kettle?" Sube asked eagerly. "What's a kettle drum?"[Pg 77]

"Never mind what it is," retorted his father. "The less you know about drums, the better off you'll be."

"It wouldn't bother you just to have me know about it, would it?" Sube persisted.

"That's right! Stick to it!" growled his father. "I suppose I may as well tell you. It's like a brass kettle with a drumhead over the top. Now run along and don't bother me any more."

"But how do you play it?"

"What a question! Why, with sticks, of course!"

But Sube was not to be put off. "How many? One? Or two?" he asked as he edged towards the door.

"Two, of course!" responded his father.

"Like a snare drum?" Sube called back as he tarried in the doorway.

Seeing that he was about to be relieved of his son's presence Mr. Cane amplified a little. "More like two small bass drumsticks," he explained. "Now run along and don't bother me again to-day, for I am very busy."

Sube followed his mother into the kitchen. "How'm I goin' to get a bass drum?" he teased. "Mompsie, how'm I goin' to get—"[Pg 78]

"Whatever put this drum business into your head?" she asked. "You know any kind of noise affects your father!"

"We won't make any noise round here," he assured her. "Honest we won't. But we want to march in the Decoration Day parade."

"Why don't you get up a nice little company of soldiers," suggested his mother. "I'll fix a uniform for you, and perhaps your father would let you carry his sword. But I will not help you to get any more drums or other noise-making things. A nice little company of soldiers would be just the thing; and I think your father would drill you once or twice to show you how—"

"Dad drill me! I guess not! I don't want any 'nice little comp'ny of soldiers,' anyway. I want a drum corpse!"

"You talk to the other boys about a nice little company of soldiers. That would be just the thing!"

But Sube was not interested in soldiery. The depths of his being had been sounded by the throb of the Henderson Martial Band. Creative instincts had been aroused that only expression could satisfy. He abandoned the quest of the drum and left the[Pg 79] house. At the barn he found Gizzard Tobin waiting for him.

"Well, what luck?" called Gizzard as Sube approached.

"Nuthin' doin'," muttered Sube. "Dad said he'd kick a hole through any drum he caught on the premises, and my mother wouldn't do a thing for a drum corpse. She wanted me to get up a pimply little company of soldiers."

"Rotten," voted Gizzard. "What we goin'—"

"Say! But I got onto one good thing!" Sube suddenly recalled. "It's another kind of a drum!"

And Gizzard learned with interest the details of the construction and operation of the kettle drum.

"Hey!" he cried suddenly. "I know where there's a brass kettle! It's a blinger, too!"


"In my gran'mother's parlor! There's a spinning-wheel and a bed-warmer and a lot of ol' fashioned junk!"

"But she won't let you take it."

"Who's goin' to ask 'er?" sneered Gizzard. "I'll jus' sneak in there and borrow it!"

"Aw, you don't dare!"

"I don't, don't I? Well, you jus' come on and[Pg 80] watch me. I'll show you whether I do or not!"

A little later a shiny brass kettle was handed out of one of Grandma Tobin's parlor windows and was slipped into a sack, which was carelessly slung over Sube's shoulder when Gizzard emerged from the kitchen door with two cookies in his hand. That same day Cathead's banjo disappeared, to be found a year later minus the head, which the mice had doubtless devoured. But the new drum corps was still without a bass drum.

Next day, however, Gizzard brought glad tidings. "Hey!" he shouted from afar. "I'm onto a bass drum!"

"Better get off," cautioned Sube; "you might bust it."

"I know where there is one, jus' the same!"

"Where?" Sube was in earnest now.

"My dad says Charley Burton used to have one, and it must be up in his mother's attic now!"

Sube's face lengthened. "Gee! That's hard luck! Ol' lady Burton wouldn't give me a crumb if I was starvin', nor you neither. She thinks we killed that ol' cat of hers."

"Couldn't we get somebody else to ask her for it? Biscuit or somebody?"

"Who'd he tell her it was for?"[Pg 81]

"Oh, a Sunday School entertainment or something."

"They don't use drums in Sunday School."

"Then he could tell her it was for a school doin's!"

The two boys looked at each other for a moment, then Sube turned and darted out of the barn. "Be back in a minute!" he shouted as he started for the house.

Presently he returned carrying under his coat an autograph album that was one of Cathead's most cherished possessions. He ran through the pages until he came to the signature of Professor Ingraham, the principal of the school. At the first glance the name startled them; it looked so much like its maker. But after a little it lost its terror and presented nothing but pleasant possibilities.

"I don't know jus' what you think you're goin' to do with that," Gizzard, remarked at length.

"You see, there's lots of room above it," Sube suggested tentatively.

"'Yes, but she'd know the writin' was diff'rent," Gizzard hastened to observe.

For a moment Sube was silent. Then he punched Gizzard jovially in the ribs. "Not if I wrote it on the typewriter!" he cried.[Pg 82]

Then he stuck out his stomach in imitation of a bass drum and marched around saying:

"Boom!—Boom!—Boom! Boom! Boom!—Boom!—Boom!—Boom! Boom! Boom!"

"But who'll typewrite it?" asked Gizzard.

"I will—Boom!—Boom!—Boom! Boom! Boom!" and he brought up before Gizzard with a flourish of his imaginary drumstick. "You watch me!"

"How can I watch you when you jus' 'boom' all the time?" asked Gizzard peevishly.

"My mother's goin' to a party," Sube divulged presently, "and the minute she's out of the house we'll sneak into my dad's den, and then I'll show you if I can't typewrite on the typewriter! I'll show you! You jus' wait!"

But as far as Gizzard was concerned Sube might as well have suggested sneaking into a lion's den. "You don't need to show me," he declared. "I'll wait right here!"

The cherished page was carefully removed from the album, and in due time Sube disappeared into the house with it. After a long absence he came out again bearing in his hand an envelope smeared with enough finger prints to convict the whole underworld, but neatly addressed in typewriting to:[Pg 83]

"There's capital letters on the dern thing," he explained, "but I couldn't find 'em."

"She'll never know the diff," ventured Gizzard. "It's a long time since she went to school, and I'll bet she's forgot all about 'em."

That afternoon Biscuit Westfall delivered the note; but not until he had received the strongest kind of assurance (including a five-cent piece) that it had been sent by Professor Ingraham, the principal of the school. And from an ambush of shrubbery on the opposite side of the street Sube and Gizzard watched him ascend Mrs. Burton's front porch and ring the bell. Mrs. Burton herself opened the door. She greeted Biscuit cordially, as she was very fond of him. His gentle, dutiful, sweetly pious nature appealed to her. She took the letter with effusive thanks, and learning that an answer was expected, adjusted her spectacles and read it.

[Pg 84]

She turned it over and glanced at the back. Then she read it a second time.

"Did Professor Ingraham write this?" she asked with a puzzled expression, tapping the missive with an index finger.

"Oh, yes, ma'am!" Biscuit assured her, thinking that he was speaking the truth.

"Strange," she mused. "What can he possibly want of that old drum?"

"He wants it for the school entertainment," Biscuit explained. "There's a rehearsal this afternoon, and he wanted me to take it to the schoolhouse just as quick as I could get it there."

Overwhelmed by Biscuit's unmistakable sincerity Mrs. Burton invited him to step inside and wait while she brought the drum down from the attic. But he could not think of such a thing. His innate thoughtfulness would not permit.

"I'm afraid my feet are too muddy," he said. "I'll wait right here."

Mrs. Burton withdrew. A few moments later the door opened and a huge bass drum rolled out on to the porch.

"I guess it'll have to be tightened a little," she said as she surrendered it to Biscuit. And as he staggered down the walk under his awkward burden,[Pg 85] she called after him, "Now you take real good care of it, won't you, Karl?"

Biscuit assured her that he would.

In further pursuance of the supposed instructions from Professor Ingraham, Biscuit delivered the drum at the vestibule of the schoolhouse which, fortunately, was not far away. It was, however, removed a short time afterwards by parties unknown, and was next found in the Canes' barn, where it remained until Decoration Day, silent and shrouded in mystery and horse-blankets.

The evening that it arrived there Sube besought his mother for a grenadier's tall fur cap.

"So you have decided to have a little company of soldiers, have you?" she asked.

"Sort of," he replied evasively.

But Mrs. Cane did not pursue the inquiry. She realized that boys love to be secretive about the most trivial matters, and turned her attention to the contriving of the grenadier's cap. This was finally accomplished to Sube's satisfaction by the coiling of a long fox boa round a form of milliner's wire. Epaulettes of gilt paper, and a pair of red flannel stripes on his intensely civilian knickerbockers completed his uniform.[Pg 86]



All things seemed to coöperate to furnish that truly funereal aspect without which no Decoration Day in a small town is complete.

In the first place Hon. E. Dalrymple Smythe of Rochester and Washington, D. C., had accepted an invitation to be the orator of the day. This was a distinct victory over Palmyra and Shortsville, which had to be content with a mere assemblyman and a more mere district attorney—persons of purely local reputation—while Tyre basked in the regal presence of a personage of national fame. Colonel Smythe's voice had occupied more newspaper space than any other east of the Mississippi River. Coughdrops and codliver oil had been named for him. Correspondence schools featured his method of making ANY man a convincing public speaker in thirty days without leaving his own fireside. He was the editor of the ten volume work, "The World's Most Flowery Orations," offered at the low introductory price for thirty days only.

At his first word women wept; at his second, men;[Pg 87] and at his third, even the little children burst into uncontrollable sobbing. And Tyre was to have the pleasure of shedding its Decoration Day tears before this master of the lachrymal glands.

A touch of realism was added to the day's program by the funeral of Captain Elias Roy, a past-Commander of the G. A. R. The captain had died the week before, but the body had been held over for burial on Memorial Day; and Colonel Smythe had kindly consented to say a few words at the grave.

The weather fitted the occasion admirably. Gray clouds hung low obscuring the sun and imparting a dreary chill to the atmosphere. Nature herself seemed to have put on mourning.

As usual, it fell to the lot of Mr. Cane to entertain the guest of honor, but as the colonel was to come in the morning and depart in the evening this was not regarded as an onerous duty.

When the colonel stepped from the morning train in the wake of a white-jacketed pullman porter, he was an impressive sight. His glossy silk hat was flawless; his Prince Albert, molded after the latest whim, showed the sought-after sweeping lines; taken altogether he resembled rather an advertisement for ready-to-wear clothes than a fence-mending congressman.[Pg 88]

A citizens' committee took him nervously to its official bosom and led him down the platform to two "hacks" the tops of which had been folded back for the dual purpose of affording the colonel a better view of the town, and giving the populace a better view of the colonel. Several persons had volunteered to transport the official party around town in their automobiles, but the committee had declined with thanks, considering that carriages were more dignified and also more deliberate. An automobile would have exhausted the sights of Tyre in about ten minutes, whereas the committee was planning to devote in the neighborhood of two hours of carriage-riding to that delightful task. But Colonel Smythe pleaded fatigue and the necessity of reposeful preparation for the exertions of the afternoon.

He was accordingly taken directly to the home of his host. A few moments later he was stretched at length on the uncompromising bed in the guest chamber, quite unmindful of Mrs. Cane's best lace bedspread, his eyes closed, his mind at rest, his body totally relaxed. How deliciously quiet it was! Even the birds had ceased their springtime chatter. Sleep seemed about to overcome him when he became dimly conscious of a distant throbbing sound.

At first it was rather soothing than otherwise, but[Pg 89] as it became louder it began to be annoying. It seemed to come at regular intervals. Throb—throb—throb-throb-throb! He could no longer escape the conviction that it was a distant drumbeat. After a little he could no longer escape the conviction that it was not so distant. Then the piping of fifes could be heard. No tune could be detected, but still it was not a sound that would have been regarded as sleep-inducing.

Mr. and Mrs. Cane were nowhere about. Having the carriage at their disposal for the day they had gone for a little drive in the country. When they drew up before the house an hour later they were very much surprised to see their guest striding up and down the long veranda, his hands clasped behind his back beneath the skirts of his coat, his tall hat on the back of his noble head, and a fat cigar in the corner of his mouth.

"Couldn't seem to rest ... mind too active, I suppose ... thinking up a little something to say this afternoon ... brain works best when my feet are in motion," were a few of the fragments they caught as he strode back and forth.

Mrs. Cane expressed mild surprise. "Couldn't sleep!" she said. "It's so lovely and quiet—I don't see how you could fail to catch a few winks.[Pg 90] Our other advantages sometimes fail us, but we can always rely on peace and quietude here in the country."

The colonel made no reply as he continued his beat. After a few rounds he brought up before Mrs. Cane and asked irrelevantly, "Is there a band or a drum corps in this town?"

"Oh, yes!" she assured him. "We have an excellent cornet band and a drum corps as well."

"You'll hear them both this afternoon," Mr. Cane volunteered. "They're sure to be in the parade."

"Where do they do their practicing?" pursued the colonel.

"Sube can tell you more about that than I can," replied the host, turning to Sube who had just put in an appearance. "Where does the band practice, Sube?"

"They used to practice in the barber shop, but now they're practicin' in the town hall," Sube told him.

"Now?" asked the colonel with an unexpected show of interest.

"Oh, no. Not right now," replied Sube. "They only practice nights."

"Hum," said the colonel. "Where does this drum corps practice?"[Pg 91]

"At the Henderson farm," replied Sube promptly; "that's three miles out in the country."

"Any other musical organizations around here?" the colonel persisted.

"Sir?—No, sir," answered Sube. "But—"

"But what, my lad?" asked the colonel, noting Sube's apparent modesty.

"Nuthin'; but I was jus' wonderin'," mumbled Sube, "if you played in the Rochester band."

As the colonel rather frigidly replied that he most distinctly did not, Sube was nervously forced into the background by his parents, and a moment later was as unostentatiously as possible elbowed into the house.

Two o'clock saw the whole town in the opera house. Three-thirty saw them emerging red-eyed and melting. Three-forty saw the parade in process of formation and nearly ready to move.

The First Division was led by the hearse containing the mortal remains of Captain Roy, flanked on either side by an escort of G. A. R. veterans. Immediately behind the hearse was the Silver Cornet Band; and following close on the heels of the band were two carriages of chief mourners. Then came in order, the G. A. R. veterans bearing their tattered regimental colors; a carriage with Colonel Smythe,[Pg 92] Mr. and Mrs. Cane, and the Village President; carriages filled with Village Trustees, Street and Sewer Commissioners, and the Committee on Arrangements wearing fluttering decorations on their breasts; and other prominent citizens in carriages.

The Second Division was made up of the local fire companies led by the Henderson Drum Corps.

Every man, woman and child in the township who was able to walk was eligible for the Third Division, and most of them were there.

While the parade was forming, Grand Marshal Richards from the back of his trusty charger discovered far back in the crowd a martial band to which no place had been assigned, and promptly dispatched one of his aides to conduct them to the head of the Third Division. As the strange band fell in line bystanders noted with interest the name on the head of the bass drum:

Then suddenly it dawned on them that the grena[Pg 93]dier in charge was none other than Sube Cane, and that the jaunty kettle-drummer was a gentleman commonly called Gizzard Tobin. Little attention was paid to the assistant bass-drummer, Biscuit Westfall. But he was important. He wielded no stick, yet carried most of the weight of the drum; and he was there from a sense of duty rather than desire. Orders alleged by Sube to have come directly from Professor Ingraham were quite explicit. And as the several fifers and snare-drummers had little to do with the subsequent events of the day they shall remain nameless.

The costumes of Cane's Marital Band were military, but they were far from uniform.

At last the procession moved. The Silver Cornet Band blared out a funeral march several blocks long, at the termination of which the Henderson Drum Corps gave a muffled selection that ended only when the cemetery had been reached. As the vast multitude assembled around the grave the Silver Cornet Band rendered Nearer My God to Thee with telling effect. And as the last sad notes died away Colonel E. Dalrymple Smythe removed his hat and began to clear his throat.

"My friends,—" he extended his arms and looked about helplessly, as if to create the impression that[Pg 94] before the open grave even his words were powerless. However, it was his intention to remove that impression a little later. As he stood thus transfixed, a hubbub started somewhere back in the crowd. At first fitful and chaotic, it became more steady as it gathered force, and soon settled into a regular beat.


It was the refrain of slack drums and tin whistles. There was plenty of noise, and plenty of rhythm, but no suspicion of a tune. For some moments Colonel Smythe waited for order to be restored, hands still poised in mid-air. Then he recognized the sound as the one he had previously heard, and feeling certain that no power on earth could stop it, he proceeded with his remarks as best he could.

Several persons motioned frantically for Grand Marshal Richards to quell the disturbance. He nodded his head and dashed off; but he went in the wrong direction—and the band played on.

Then Willum Edson, the leader of the Silver Cornet Band, took the law into his own hands and rushed over to put a stop to the din. But before[Pg 95] he could get there Sube had brought his selection to a close, and was conversing in a suppressed though audible tone, accompanied by violent gesticulations, with a group of boys who had gathered round his musicians.

"We can't play, hey!—I showed you, didn't I?—It's a fake drum corpse, is it!—Fooled you, didn't I?"

"Yaa-a-a-ah! But they shut you up!" taunted somebody. "You dassen't play again!"

"We dassen't, hey!"

And before the colonel was fully aware that he had the floor to himself Cane's Marital Band had begun its second number.

Again Willum Edson made a rush for Sube's band. But Sube refused to be cowed. No doubt he suspected the rival musician of professional jealousy, for he swung his drumstick with a flourish that surpassed any of his previous performances. And, pressing too close, Willum Edson received a vigorous thump in the pit of the stomach, whereupon he straightway lost his temper and gave the drum corps leader an angry shove.

Sube promptly fell over a headstone, marking the resting place of Experience, Third Wife of Carso Norton, pulling Biscuit and the bass drum on top of[Pg 96] him. When he had regained his feet he discovered to his dismay a large triangular hole through the drumhead that took the MARIT entirely out of MARITAL.

He had time for the utterance of just one angry bleat in the direction of Willum Edson, when Nature took a hand in the conflict and let fall one of her torrential spring downpours. A mad scramble for cover followed.

The few who had brought umbrellas raised them, and then had to fight for the privilege of remaining under them. Those who had come in carriages hastened to get under the protection of the tops. The members of the Silver Cornet Band trailed their instruments to keep them from filling with water as they beat a hurried but organized retreat. The fire companies in their spotless parade uniforms broke ranks and scattered. Cane's Marital Band took refuge under a piece of canvas that had been spread over the pile of soil thrown from the open grave, with the exception of Sube and Biscuit, who were too much encumbered by the bass drum to secure a place and were compelled to look for other quarters.

At the first splash of rain the colonel rescued his silk hat from a bystander (who had attempted to[Pg 97] protect it by putting it under his coat) and casting dignity to the winds made a rush for his carriage. He clambered in beside Mrs. Cane and sat helplessly in the downpour while Mr. Cane and the Village President struggled with the ungainly top.

The driver was too much engaged with his plunging steeds to lend a hand, but he superintended the job with superb profanity. When finally the top had yielded to their efforts Mr. Cane, drenched and disgusted, pulled himself into the carriage as the colonel explained:

"That was the noise! The identical noise! The noise that passed under my window and disturbed my rest! What in—What was it?"

As Mrs. Cane murmured that she hadn't the slightest idea, something in the crowd caught her eye. It was a tall grenadier cap that had become partly unwound and gave the appearance of having a tail. And nearby was a large bass drum with a hole through one head. A fleeting glance and it was gone. But a look at her husband told her that he too had seen it.

At this point the carriage became hopelessly involved in a jam of vehicles and stopped. As it stood there the downpour moderated, and finally settled into a gentle shower. And just before it[Pg 98] started on again shouts and laughter could be distinctly heard. A most unseemly proceeding for the return from a funeral, and on Decoration Day of all days!

Mrs. Cane leaned out and looked forward, but she could distinguish nothing but a hooting, howling mob that seemed to be crowding round the hearse.

At length the carriage moved; and as it caught up with the hearse she beheld to her horror the cause of the shocking levity. Inside the hearse was an imitation lion pacing restlessly back and forth, as it lashed its bass drumstick tail in evident anger. There was something strangely familiar about the beast, and especially about the tawny mane of foxlike fur that was wrapped around its neck.

Suddenly the creature whirled about—and Mrs. Cane found herself looking directly into one of Sube's best lion-faces. She fell back into the cushions with a gasp. Then, perceiving that her guest was looking the other way and had not yet seen the horrible sight, she clutched her husband's arm.

"Drive on!" she pleaded desperately. "Drive on quickly!"

"But how can I?" he returned with a gesture of futility.

At that instant the colonel caught sight of the[Pg 99] lion. His mouth fell open. He drew back in surprise. Then he did something that he had not done in years. He put aside all the care and sadness of the world; he surrendered what little dignity the downpour had left him, and throwing back his head, he bellowed with laughter.

A sudden shift in the jam of vehicles let the hearse move out of their sight, but the colonel followed it with his eyes as far as he could see it, leaning out of the carriage for one last look, and roaring and chortling until he was weak.

By the time the carriage had reached the Cane homestead Mr. Cane was beaming, in spite of his disheveled appearance.

"Yes, sir," he boasted, "that boy of mine is certainly a skeezix! Great sense of humor; he can get fun out of anything—even a funeral! What do you think of that boy of mine anyway, Colonel?"

"Ours!" Mrs. Cane corrected. "Our boy!"[Pg 100]



Cane's Marital Band never formally disbanded. Except as it was dissolved by the rain it is still legally extant. But it never assembled again after its initial appearance in public. However, its short term of activity furnished the town with a topic of conversation for some time to come; and although the subject was studiously avoided in the Cane household, it was freely discussed in the barn.

Sube was unable to explain just how he happened to get into the hearse. He didn't know, himself. And when pressed for particulars he instantly took the defensive.

"I guess I didn't want to get wet, did I?" he demanded.

"Wet! Say, you was soaked before you ever went near that hearse!" cried Gizzard, who was still suffering from a slight twinge of envy.

"Well, Hi Wilbur, who was drivin' it, hollered to me to shut the doors, and when I was shuttin' 'em I saw how nice and dry it was inside, so I told[Pg 101] Biscuit to bring the drum down here to the barn, and I climbed in and slammed the doors and had a bully ride! And say! I didn't tell you about the drum, did I?"

"No, you didn't," muttered Gizzard, as there materialized before his eyes a sadly ruptured drumhead. "What you goin' to do about it, anyway?"

"Goin' to do?—I've done it!"

"Done it! What'd you do?"

"Why, Biscuit brought the drum back here to the barn. I had all I could do to keep him from takin' it back to ol' lady Burton jus' it was. But I tol' 'im Mr. Ingraham wasn't through with it yet, so he left it." The boys grinned knowingly at each other as Sube continued: "Well, I washed the printin' off and jus' soon as it got dark I sneaked the drum up on Burton's front porch and turned the good side up, and then I rung the bell and ducked. I hid behind a tree and watched and pretty soon ol' lady Burton opened the door. When she got her eye on the drum she looked all around for somebody, and when she couldn't find anybody she took it inside.

"The next day she come to call on my mother, and I thought she'd come to squeal on me, and I listened at the door so's to know what to say; but she never said a word about the drum at all!"[Pg 102]

"She didn't!" cried Gizzard delightedly.

"Never peeped about it!" Sube assured him. "But you'd ought to heard her rip ol' Prof Ingraham up the back!"

"What's he been doin'?" asked Gizzard.

"I don't know. I couldn't understand; but she called him all kinds of names! She said he was underbred and ign'rant and ill-mannered and illiterate and a lot of stuff like that, and I most b'lieve we'll have a new principal next year!"

"Say! She'd ought to gone to school to him for a while! He's the worst principal to chew about manners I ever saw."

"Gee! Do you s'pose vacation'll ever get here?" sighed Sube.

"It don't ack like it," replied Gizzard dubiously. "Last week was about six months long, and there was one day of vacation at that."

"Seems to me as if time was goin' backwards," complained Sube.

But it was not. It was going forward at its regular speed. The difficulty was that the boys' minds were outstripping it. In due time vacation arrived, and a long happy summer stretched itself out before them.

Mr. Cane believed in vacations. He also be[Pg 103]lieved in teaching boys to be industrious. He still harbored the old-fashioned idea that every boy should be required to do some useful work every day of his life, Sundays excepted. And while Sube and his brothers with their more up-to-date point of view could see the fallacy of his position, they were unable to reform him with any amount of argument.

As Sube seated himself at the breakfast table one morning and glanced over his working orders for the day, a scowl came over his usually sunny countenance.

"What's the good of callin' it a vacation if a feller has to labor all the time?" he muttered.

Mr. Cane glanced at Sube over the top of his newspaper as he replied: "Now we are not going to open up that old discussion again. The way you boys take on over an hour's work around the place makes me sick! Why, when I was your age, Sube, I was glad to work from daylight until dark for just my board; and it wasn't any such board as you boys get, either."

"Yes, I'll bet you were glad," growled Sube.

"Certainly I was glad," his father assured him. "In those days boys expected to work. They weren't brought up with the idea of lolling at ease that you boys seem to have."[Pg 104]

"Did you work every day?" asked Cathead.

"Every day."

"Every single day?"


"Didn't you ever take a day off?"

"Oh, occasionally I'd take a day off to go fishing or do a little studying—"

"I don't s'pose they had circuses in those days," interjected Sube.

"Oh, perhaps once during the summer my father would take me to see a good dog and animal show," explained Mr. Cane as he folded his napkin and left the table.

"They didn't use to go in swimmin' in those days, did they?" Sube muttered, taking care that his father did not hear.

"Or play ball?" supplemented Cathead cautiously.

"Ain't that jus' like a man?" growled Sube as the door closed behind their father. "Give a feller a lot of work to do and not even let him kick about it!"

"What you gotta do, anyway?" asked Cathead.

"Plenty," grunted Sube; "plenty."

"Well—I cut it the last time," ventured Cathead. "It's your turn."[Pg 105]

"Yes, but it takes about half a day to cut the ol' lawn," grumbled Sube. "I'll bet your job won't take you half an hour. What you got to do, anyway?"

"Me? Oh, I got to thin the beets."

"Huh!—A snap!" sneered Sube, as he turned to his brother Sim, and asked: "What'd he give you?"

"Sproutin' p'tatoes," answered Sim.

"How many you got to do?"

"Two bushels."

"Nuthin' but a picnic," declared Sube. "I'm the only one that's got a real job!"

After breakfast Sube repaired to the barn, where he found the lawn-mower waiting for him.

"Ha! There you are, you ol' grass-chewer, you!" he exclaimed malevolently. "Thought you'd catch me off my guard, didn't you?—Well this is the way I treat vill'uns like you!" He seized an oil can, and thrusting it between the blades of the lawn-mower as he would have plunged a dagger between the ribs of an enemy, he gave several vicious squirts. "There!" he cried. "Take that!—And that!"

He drew back a pace and contemplated his enemy witheringly. "'Nuff?—Oh! Ain't you? Ain't[Pg 106] you, now?—Well take that, then!—And that!" He gave another cruel thrust into the very vitals of the defenseless machine, and then withdrew his dripping blade. "You will waylay me just inside the door of this cave, will you!—You will, will you!—I guess you won't do that again—"

"Who you talkin' to?" came a voice at the door.

Sube jumped back, ready for another antagonist, as Cathead entered.

"Oh! It's you, is it?" asked Sube, about equally divided between relief and confusion. "I thought it was—that it might be—that—Why, I was jus' oilin' the machine!"

But Cathead did not press the point. He had other things in view. "Say, Sube," he began at once, "If you think thinnin' the beets is such a snap job, what'll you take to do 'em?"

Sube turned on his brother with a glare as he replied: "What d'you think I am! Don't you s'pose I got enough to do for one day?"

"Oh, you got enough to do without pay; but I was goin' to pay you," replied Cathead evenly.

"What do you want to do to-day?" demanded Sube.

"Nuthin' much. Do you want the job, or don't you?"[Pg 107]

"I don't know yet. What'll you gimme?"

"I'll give you a dime. And it's an awful easy way to earn a dime, too," asserted Cathead suavely.

"I don't care so much about the money," vapored Sube; "but I'm goin' to be awful tired when I get through cuttin' the lawn."

"Well, if you don't care about the money, what do you care about?" demanded Cathead.

And suddenly Sube remembered all the valuable property he had parted with in order to get a much-needed haircut, and that Cathead had steadfastly refused to be treated like an "uncle," but had insisted that he had bought everything outright.

"Let's see," muttered Sube; "you still got my automatic?"

This high-sounding weapon was an antique revolver with the cylinder missing, but it was the apple of his eye.

"Why, yes," agreed Cathead. "I'll give you that."

"And my billiard ball?" added Sube.

Cathead had very little use for this misshapen trophy of the fire in the People's Pool Parlor, and readily included it. And one by one Sube enumerated all the things of which he had previously been mulcted, and they all came back to him. Then Cat[Pg 108]head took his fish-pole and hurried off to join Cottontop Sigsbee for a day's sport with the finny family.

A few moments later, as Sube was trundling the lawn-mower out of the barn door he was hailed by Sim.

"What you want?" asked Sube a little bit peevishly.

"I wanta talk to you a minute," replied Sim with a nervous laugh. "You see, I was jus' down lookin' at those p'tatoes, and, now—you know—now—you know I had to sprout a couple of bushels—"

Sim was at a loss for the words to express the desired meaning most effectively.

"What of it?" grunted Sube. "Are you through?"

"I should say I ain't!" cried Sim. "Why, I ain't started yet!"

"You better get busy, then," advised Sube as he started on with the mower.

"Wait a min-ute! Can't you?" cried Sim.

"I got work to do," asserted Sube as he brought the mower to a standstill. "If you got an'thing to say to me, make it snappy."

"That's what I'm tryin' to do," whined Sim, "if you'll only hold your horses long enough. Now—now I got a sore hand, and now—I can't sprout[Pg 109] p'tatoes very good; and now—what'll you take to sprout 'em?"

Sube glanced at his brother sharply. "Where you wanta go to-day?" he demanded.

Sim squirmed uneasily as he scrutinized the palm of his injured hand, looking in vain for something that even remotely resembled a sore spot, and digging diligently with his thumbnail in the hope of unearthing one. "Nowheres much," he replied finally.

"All right then! What you yappin' about? Go on back and do your work," advised Sube as he made a move to proceed with the lawn-mower.

"Aw, wait a min-ute! Can't you? Give a feller a chance to say some'pm! Can't you?"

"Well?" Sube rested on his lawn-mower expectantly.

"Now—now Ted Horner's comin' for me at ha'past nine to see—now—to see if I can—now—can go out to their farm to spend the day."


"Why, now—now—I thought maybe I could get you—"

Sube opened negotiations without waiting for Sim to conclude his statements. "What'll you gimme?" he asked.[Pg 110]

"What'll you take?"

"Well, what'll you gimme?"

"Well, what'll you take?"

"Look here!" cried Sube with exasperation. "Ain't I got to know what you pay before I can go to work for you?"

"Yes, and ain't I got to know what you charge 'fore I can hire you?" returned Sim feebly.

"Huh!" snorted Sube as he made a feint to go on with the lawn-mower.

Sim came to time. "Give you a dime," he offered magnanimously.

Without deigning to reply Sube started on with the mower. He had cut twice across the lawn before Sim appeared at the corner of the house.

"Hey, Sube! Give you fifteen!" he called.

"Nuthin' doin'," returned Sube as he went about his work with renewed vigor.

He had two more strips to his credit when Sim stayed his progress with an offer of twenty cents.

"I don't work for less'n a quarter," Sube announced loftily as he resumed his work.

"Hold on a minute! Can't you!" yelled Sim with unconcealed exasperation. And as Sube halted in a position from which he could begin activities again with very little effort, Sim continued more affably:[Pg 111] "I only got twenty cents! I can't give you any more than I got, can I?"

"You had a quarter a couple of days ago," charged Sube with an air of suspicion. "What'd you do with the other nickel?"

"Spent it."

"What for?"

"Some new rubbers for my slingshot."

"Oh, that'll be all right!"

"What will?"

"I'll take the twenty cents and the slingshot. Bring 'em to me before you start."

And the lawn-mower moved on with just a little more noise and a little more speed than before.[Pg 112]



The handle of a slingshot protruded from Sube's hip-pocket, and money jingled as he walked a few minutes later when Gizzard Tobin, Biscuit Westfall and Stucky Richards swooped down on him as he humbly toiled. The new-comers had their tennis racquets, and Biscuit was resplendent in a new pair of white knickerbockers.

Sube fixed a disdainful glance on the snowy trousers, instantly recalling Nancy Guilford's partiality for such raiment, as he inquired, "What you all dolled up for?"

"Comp'ny," responded Biscuit cheerfully. "We got a missionary visitin' to our house. But say, see what I got!"

Sube raised his eyes to the speaker's hand and beheld a tennis ball with the unaccustomed advantage of a cover. "Where'd you get it?" he asked listlessly.

"Miss Carruthers give it to me. It's only 'bout a year or two old! Ain't it a peach! Hurry up[Pg 113] and get the lawn done and then we'll have some doubles."

Sube pointed to Biscuit's shoes. "You can't play with those heels on, you know."

"Well, I can go barefoot, can't I?"

"Not if 'mama' knows it," twitted Sube with an offensive nasal accent on the mama, as he grasped the handle of the lawn-mower and resumed his task while his callers disappeared in the direction of the tennis court.

After a few moments Biscuit reappeared on a run, minus his shoes and stockings. "Hey, Sube!" he yelled. "The net ain't up! Where'll I find it?"

"I'll tend to that," growled Sube. "You go on back to the court."

And he abandoned the lawn-mower and went into the house. After a long wait he emerged from the back door and started towards the court. He did not turn back when Biscuit reminded him that he had forgotten the net, but proceeded silently to the nearest net post, to which he pinned a sheet of paper. Then he returned to his work on the lawn.

Three mystified boys scrambled to their feet and hurried over to examine the paper. It read.

GrOunD RuLeS
ALL tHe WOrK On tHe pLACe MuSt
Be FiniSHied BeFOre tHe teNiS
Nett iS Put uP.

[Pg 114]

"Now what does he mean by that?" asked Biscuit.

"He means they can't nobody play on this here court till his work is done," interpreted Gizzard.[Pg 115]

"Well, you don't catch me doin' any of his work!" cried Stucky. "I got enough of my own!"

"Me neither—" began Biscuit, when Gizzard interrupted.

"Listen here!" he shouted. "Quit your beefin' and listen here a minute! I got a scheme!"

"If it's a scheme for us to do his work you needn't tell it!" returned Biscuit. "I've done more work this mornin' than he does in a week—"

But Gizzard brushed him ungently aside. "Dry up! Dry up! Cut out the noise and listen a minute! Three people can't play any decent tennis! We gotta have four if we want to play the game! It wouldn't take us five minutes to clean up his work—and it's his court, anyway!"

Biscuit yielded ungraciously. He grumbled all the way to the front lawn, and then suddenly became embued with enthusiasm, and took upon himself the honor of informing Sube that they were at his service.

Sube was apparently not expecting anything of the sort. "Do you fellows mean that you're go'n' to help me with my work?" he asked incredulously.

"Sure thing!" cried Biscuit cheerfully. "You don't s'pose we want to be playin' tennis out there[Pg 116] while you're workin', do you? And besides, the court belongs to you!"

"Say!—You're good scouts, all right!" Sube exclaimed with unguarded admiration.

"What-all you got t'do?" inquired Gizzard.

"Well, you give this ol' mower a few shoves, Giz, and I'll show the other fellers what to do," responded Sube genially.

Gizzard seized the handles of the lawn-mower and assiduously applied himself to the task of depilating the lawn, while Stucky retired to the garden and began on hands and knees to thin the blushing beets to five inches, putting the thinnings into a basket for greens.

Biscuit followed Sube about whining repeatedly:

"What am I go'n'ta do? Sube, what am I go'n'ta do?"

"I don't know as you can do the only job that's left," Sube taunted with a triumphant gleam at the immaculate knickerbockers. "It's pretty pa'tic'lar work."

"I'll bet y'u I can do it! What is it?" cried the unsuspecting Biscuit. "Show it to me! I'll eat it alive!"

"Did you ever sprout any potatoes?" inquired Sube as he led the way to the cellar.[Pg 117]

"No; but I'll bet y'u I can do it!"

"Well, we'll see about that," was Sube's dubious-sounding answer as he guided Biscuit towards the potato bin.

"Gee, but it's dark in here," whined Biscuit.

Sube stopped short. "Look here!" he warned. "If it's too dark for you down here in this cool cellar, you go on outdoors, and I'll do these p'tates myself—or let one of the other fellers do 'em."

"Oh, no!" Biscuit hastened to assure him. "It ain't dark at all any more. It jus' seemed so at first. I can see fine now."

"Well, all right then," muttered Sube. "But if you're goin' to back out, I want to know it 'fore you begin."

"No, sir! I ain't go'n'ta back out," Biscuit asserted resolutely.

Sube picked up a potato from which several long white sprouts were dangling. "You jus' give 'em a simple twist of the wrist," he explained coördinating the action with the words, "and there you are!" He held up the beardless tuber for Biscuit's inspection. "Now, do you s'pose you can do that?" he asked.

"Of course I can," Biscuit replied disdainfully. "It's jus' like wipin' dishes; and I've wiped my[Pg 118] mother's dishes ever since I was big enough to walk!"

This burst of confidence was destined to come back to plague Biscuit, although at the time of its utterance Sube appeared not to have heard it.

"Let's see you do a few," was all he said.

Biscuit was a little awkward, but he managed to denude a large potato of its foliage and handed it to Sube for approval. Sube examined it very carefully.

"That's pretty fair," he admitted; "but you must clean 'em off good. Chuck 'em in there," he added as he tossed the potato into a bushel basket.

"How many you got to do?" inquired Biscuit, plunging briskly into his task.

"Six bushels," replied Sube, with anticipation of the day when he would be called upon to sprout potatoes on his own account. "And when the basket's full dump it over there in the corner. As soon as you get the six bushels done you come out and help Stucky with the beets. It's awful hot out there in the sun." And Sube withdrew, leaving Biscuit in sole possession of the musty cellar.

On returning to the lawn Sube found Gizzard busy with the clippers. "What! Got her all cut!" he cried delightedly.[Pg 119]

"You bet y'u!" replied Gizzard. "And I'm pretty near through with the clippin', too."

"Well, I'll put the ol' mower away and stick up the net. Chuck the clippers in the barn as you go by. Dad always gets sore if we don't put the tools away."

He had just finished stretching the net when Stucky walked out on the court.

"You're not done already!" beamed Sube.

"You know it!" was Stucky's self-important reply.

"What did you do with the greens?"

"Give 'em to Annie."

"Stucky, you're a brick church!"

"Where's Biscuit?" asked Gizzard who at that moment came panting up.

"Down cellar sproutin' p'tates," replied Sube. "But I had him leave the new ball outside. I was afraid he'd get it dirty."

"Wisht he'd hurry up," said Stucky. "We wanta get to playin'. Don't you s'pose he's done?"

"Oh, I wouldn't want to bother him right in the middle of a bushel," Sube remonstrated. "Let's have a little three-hander while we're waitin'. I'll stand the two of you."

The little three-hander had become almost a set, and, strange to say, Biscuit had been entirely for[Pg 120]gotten when his mother, accompanied by a slight, sallow gentleman in a black suit, drew up by the side of the street in a surrey from the livery.

"Boys!" she called.

The game stopped. There was momentary confusion among the players. Sube slipped the new ball into his pocket and carelessly kicked his sweater over a pair of shoes and stockings lying beside the court, before he appeared to be able to locate the speaker. When at last his eyes encountered Mrs. Westfall's, he snatched off his cap with elaborate gusto and sang out politely:

"Good morning, M's Westfall! Did you call us?"

"Yes," she replied sharply. "Where's Karl?"


"Is Karl here?"

"Oh! No, ma'am."

"I gave him permission to come here and play tennis!" she cried with visible irritation. "Hasn't he been here?"

"No, ma'am. We ain't seen him this mornin'."

Mrs. Westfall was annoyed. "He's going driving with us!" she informed them. "Do you know where he is?"

"No, ma'am! He hasn't been around here!"[Pg 121]

At that moment a movement at the rear of the house and in the immediate neighborhood of the cellar door caught Mrs. Westfall's eye. An animated mass of dirt and potato sprouts that might by some stretch of the imagination have been taken for a human being, emerged and paused to regard itself. For a moment it brushed desperately at the place where trousers might have been expected to hang had it been a male member of the human family. A cloud of stifling dust arose; and out of the midst of the cloud came a wail of distress that Mrs. Westfall recognized as the voice of her missing son.

Her astonishment gave way to annoyance, quickly followed by a surge of red anger. She handed the reins to her escort and leaped from the surrey with the agility of a tigress.

Sube involuntarily fell back a few steps muttering: "Why! That must be him! I wonder where he's been!"

But he need have no fear, for this was his day. He was immune from disaster of any kind. The enraged woman rushed past him, and seizing Biscuit by the nape of the neck, hauled him over her knee and repeatedly applied to his person a large red hand, utterly regardless of the nebulous masses of dust that arose at each stroke.[Pg 122]

At first Biscuit put up a terrified resistance, attempting desperately to get a hearing for his plea of justification; but when the blows began to rain down on him he gave himself up to such solace as the human voice affords.

He cried; then he bawled; and as the chastisement proceeded he bellowed lustily. It was not so much the physical pain, nor the anguish of outraged innocence, although he felt both keenly, as it was the burning disgrace of being chastised in the presence of his fellows.

But his lamentations had little effect on his mother. She ceased her ministrations only when her strength was spent.

"There!" she gasped with her final blow. "You—dirty—boy!!—Look at your bare feet!"

Biscuit looked at them. They were indeed bare, and very, very dirty.

"You know you are forbidden to go barefooted!" she charged with a gesture that seemed to indicate that she contemplated a renewal of the assault. "And look at your beautiful new trousers! They're ruined!!"

Biscuit glanced down at them, at the same time keeping up a defensive blubbering.

"You deceived me!" she continued the arraign[Pg 123]ment. "You told me you wanted to come here and play tennis!—And you never came near here!—When I stop for you I find the other boys playing like little gentlemen, while you are off by yourself getting into—Goodness knows what!—Go home, you dirty boy, as fast as ever you can get there! I'll finish with you in private!"

The thing was beyond Biscuit; it was too much for him. The harm was done. It was too late for explanations. He made no attempt to reply, but limped, still blubbering, in the direction of his shoes, the coarse turf torturing his tender feet.

Mrs. Westfall followed menacingly at a little distance with further animadversions, when suddenly she remembered her guest, whose presence she had entirely overlooked in the stress of her emotions. She did not doubt that he was looking on with mortification and horror; and, accordingly, with such moderation of her angry voice as she could command, she added:

"Go home, you wicked boy, and pray to God to forgive you."

As the Westfall family withdrew, practical Sube whispered to his companions, "If Biscuit's on to his job he'll put on an extra pair of pants before he does any prayin'."[Pg 124]



Fate gave indications of having designed Sube for a business career, and although he tried to keep out of the clutches of trade during vacation he was not entirely successful.

When, one morning, Mr. Gizzard Tobin, always Sube's friend and often his well-wisher, found Sube seated on the bottom of an upturned pail in his father's barn laboriously endeavoring to cut in two with a pair of lawn clippers a perfectly good tennis net, his modest inquiry as to Sube's purpose in so doing was met with the response that it was for "luc'ative bus'ness."

Regarding this explanation as somewhat indefinite he asked, "What bus'ness?"

"I told you it's for bus'ness," Sube informed him rather stiffly, and then recalling a phrase with which Annie had crushed the iceman a few moments before, he added, "But that is neither here nor there."

Gizzard was susceptible to high-sounding phrases,[Pg 125] and he was accordingly impressed; but having nothing equally lofty in his own vocabulary he attempted no reply.

Sube snipped on in silence until the net dropped on the floor in two pieces. Then he tossed aside the clippers, and catching up the smaller piece of net spread it out before him very much as a tailor displays a handsome panting, and announced:

"Now we're ready for bus'ness."

"Bus'ness!" sneered Gizzard. "Bus'ness! I'd like to know what bus'ness uses a ol' piece of tennis net."

"Lots of bus'nesses uses nets," replied Sube with an air of superiority; "but that is neither here nor there."

At this second flight Gizzard began to feel that he was seriously handicapped by his lack of education. But he struggled as best he could against the overwhelming odds by asking rather peevishly:

"What bus'nesses uses nets? Name one!"

"Fishermen use nets; but that is neither here nor there. I'll tell you another—"

"I'm goin' home," muttered Gizzard, beginning to feel that he was entirely outclassed.

"Don't you want to be in the new bus'ness?" asked Sube in astonishment.[Pg 126]

"Not unless I know what it is," murmured Gizzard as he tarried in the doorway.

"Why, it's catchin' wild animals!" shouted Sube in his enthusiasm. "We'll tangle 'em up in the net so's they can't get away and then we'll shut 'em up in cages and sell 'em!"

"That ain't a bus'ness," growled Gizzard sullenly; "it's nuthin' but a game."

"No, it ain't a game!" Sube insisted. "I tell you it's a reg'lar bus'ness, and there's money in it!"

But Gizzard had been the victim of bitter experience. "If you mean the trappin' bus'ness," he said, "there's nuthin' in it! I've trapped, and I know!"

"Trappin' bus'ness? Now who said an'thing about the trappin' bus'ness? I don't mean the trappin' bus'ness at all! I mean the bus'ness of catchin' stray cats!"

"But you said there was money in it," returned Gizzard with a trace of disappointment. "Who'd be fool enough to pay for stray cats?"

"P'fessor Silver would!" declared Sube jubilantly.

"Who's P'fessor Silver?"

"He's the ol' guy that's stayin' at M's Rude's. Wears those big round goggles—you know! Al[Pg 127]ways sneakin' up on bugs and lookin' at 'em through a magnifyin'-glass."

"What's he p'fessor of?"

"Hobart College!"

"And he'll pay for ol' cats?"

"You're right he will! Fif-ty cents apiece!"

"Fif-ty cents apiece? Aw, what'd he want of ol' cats enough to pay fif-ty cents for 'em?"

"That is neither here nor there," declared Sube, "so long as he does pay for 'em."

"S'pose that ol' net'd hold a cat?" questioned Gizzard.

"Would it hold a cat? Would it? Say, boy, that net'd hold a elephant! But that is neither here nor there, 'cause all we—"

But Sube did not finish what he started to say because of a peculiar interruption. For Gizzard, feeling that drastic action was necessary to offset Sube's continued use of his lofty new phrase, walked over and dealt the net a vicious kick. His foot caught in its tricky meshes and a quick jerk on Sube's part did the rest. In another instant Gizzard found himself prostrate on the floor with Sube standing over him yelling:

"You're a tiger or an elephant or some'pm and I'm a native tryin' to capture you!"[Pg 128]

The proposition did not appeal to Gizzard, and he made an attempt to rise, but Sube easily tripped him again. Several subsequent attempts met the same fate. Then Gizzard, bellowing with rage, started in to kick the net to pieces. This he found to be a difficult task. The more he kicked, the more tangled he became, and the more angry he got. But he did not give up the struggle until he was wound up into a very fair semblance of a mummy.

Meanwhile Sube had been hopping about his victim, shouting orders to a couple of imaginary helpers called Sambo and Rastus, and pulling or throwing the net where it would do the most good. He thoroughly enjoyed the contest and warmly congratulated his catch at its termination.

"You certainly put up an elegant fight, Giz!" he exclaimed. "You'd make a bully tiger! And now I'll know what to do when I get a fierce ol' tomcat in there!"

But Gizzard was in no mood for compliments. "Let me up now," was all that he replied.

When the smoke of battle had cleared away a co-partnership was formed. The terms were quickly arranged on a fifty-fifty basis; but the more important matter of selecting a name required some little time and a great deal of discussion.[Pg 129]

"Why not call it Tobin & Cane Cat Company?" suggested Gizzard with his customary modesty.

Sube shook his head. "That wouldn't do, 'cause we might want to catch other wild animals besides cats," he explained.

"What other wild animals? I'd like to know."

"Oh, any wild animals that happened to come prowlin' around."

"Name some of 'em," Gizzard persisted.

"Woodchucks, foxes,—skunks—"

"Say," interrupted Gizzard, "you can have my share of all the skunks you catch in that net! But I won't help you. You couldn't fool the p'fessor on a skunk, anyway! He'd jus' get out his little magnifyin'-glass and hold it over a skunk for about a minute— And besides—"

"All right," Sube agreed; "we won't catch any skunks if you don't want to. But we could! And hey! I got a name!"


"Let's call it Cane & Tobin—Big Game!"

And although Gizzard felt that the euphonic effect of Tobin & Cane would have been an improvement, he acquiesced.

The new concern opened for business at once, and within half an hour had made its first capture. The[Pg 130] hunters were stealing cautiously past a neighbor's garden, carrying the net between them, when Sport, Sube's dog, chased a large tiger cat out from between the rows of corn and directly into the net. The boys did little except to drop the net and keep out of reach of the snarling, spitting, clawing beast until it had become involved beyond possibility of escape.

Carefully carrying the net on two sticks, they bore their prey to their place of business, where they made ready for his accommodation a cage that had once housed a thriving family of rabbits. Before attempting to incarcerate him, however, they formally christened him Gyp the Blood.

Gyp had not occupied the net for any great length of time, but he had become very much attached to it, and vigorously resisted all efforts to deprive him of its clinging comfort. Force and strategy were tried in vain. Then Sube suggested the use of hypnotism.

"You see," he explained, "if I could charm 'im like they do snakes, he'd be as gentle as a little rabbit, and I could untangle 'im from that net as easy as unrollin' a piece of paper."

"Snake charmin' is all right if it works; but if it don't work, you get killed! Go to it, if you can do it! Say, how do you charm a thing, anyway?"

"That's easy. You jus' look 'em in the eye and[Pg 131] kinda whistle a little tune, and keep on lookin' 'em in the eye and gettin' closer and closer, and pretty soon without their knowin' what you're doin' at all—why, they're all charmed! But if they get on that you're charmin' 'em! Wow!—Then look out!"

Gizzard was greatly interested in the occult art. "How can you tell when you're done?" he asked eagerly.

"I'll show you!" Sube bent over Gyp the Blood and gazed steadily into the brightly gleaming eyes. Meanwhile he had begun to whistle a little tune strangely reminiscent of the Streets of Cairo. But Gyp the Blood did not easily succumb to hypnotic suggestion. He continued to growl peevishly and lashed the floor with the loose end of his tail.[Pg 132] Closer and closer bent Sube. The growling diminished. Then it ceased altogether. The distance between the eyes of the boy and the eyes of the cat became a matter of inches. Then there was a terrific snarl!

Sube fell over on his back howling with pain and holding both hands to his nose.

"It's jus' like charmin' snakes," remarked Gizzard as he struggled to control his laughter. "It's all right if it works!" Then, catching sight of Sube's nose, he exclaimed, "Gee! He handed you a good one on the nose! Hurt much?"

"No, not much," Sube prevaricated, for he considered the admission of pain unethical for all save girls and cry-babies. "But I know how to do it now!"

"How to hypnotize 'im?"

"Don't get cute, now! No; how to get him out of that net. We'll put 'im in the cage net and all, and then while you hammer on the box and poke 'im with a stick I'll hook the net with a piece of wire and yank like Holy Moses!"

And it was done. And in less than two hours from the time of his capture, Gyp the Blood was safe behind the bars. But his fiery spirit was far from subdued. His eyes glowed as fiercely as before,[Pg 133] and his blasphemous growling was none the less continual.

During the afternoon two more victims were brought in, and the Big Game establishment of Cane & Tobin began to sound like something. The necessity of a commissary department was also discovered. Plates and saucers were easy enough to purloin, but very hard to fill three times a day.

On account of the lack of confidence usually displayed by parents in the mercantile ventures of their sons, most of the youthful business of our country is run on the basis of a shady enterprise. The catching of cats for the market proved to be no exception to this rule. The strictest possible secrecy was maintained. It is therefore not unreasonable to assume that the commissariat obtained its supplies elsewhere than from the homes of the partners. It was at this particular time that Elder Woodruff's Jersey cow was guilty of an unaccountable shrinkage in milk; and as foraging in the enemy's country is held to be permissible in time of extremity, perhaps— But there was no proof.

Business was good; and by closing time on Wednesday the firm had in stock ten high-grade, hand-picked stray cats. But Thursday passed without a haul. Likewise Friday morning. The conclusion[Pg 134] that the stray cat had become extinct was more than once hinted at. And, while no formal campaign against the pet cat was inaugurated, Sube returned from lunch bearing in his arms a hirsute beauty that might easily have claimed descent from the Shah of Persia. A short time afterwards Gizzard carelessly sauntered in with an Angora kitten.

Sube's offering, which was large and portly, instantly reminded Gizzard of Mrs. Rude's Snowdrop; but he reflected that all white cats look more or less alike and refrained from making any mention of the likeness. He also neglected to say that he had found his contribution on the walk in front of Nancy Guilford's house. He reasoned that cats do not ordinarily play around in the street in front of their owner's homes. He had heard that somebody had given Nancy a kitten, but reports are likely to be exaggerated. And while Gizzard had always suspected that there was something between Sube and Nancy, it came to him now with compelling force that he had never been told anything about it; and perhaps he understood that mere inferences are not regarded as the best evidence by the authorities.

And when partners begin to keep things from each other the breakers are usually not far away.[Pg 135]



Saturday passed quietly. No captures were made, no prospects sighted. But on Sunday Gizzard began to hear things. Certain inquisitive boys in his Sunday School class interrogated him as to the progress of the new business, and were especially curious to know what disposition was to be made of the captives. Gizzard dismissed them as prying ninnies, and more than thrice denied the existence of the enterprise.

After Sunday School Sube proceeded homeward a few laggard steps, when his attention was arrested by a most unusual anthill in a crack near the center of the sidewalk. He paused to investigate it, for he was greatly interested in ants, especially on Sunday. On several prior occasions he had pointed out to other naturalists, notably Nancy Guilford, certain peculiarities he had observed in the industrious insects. Pleasant discussions had been almost sure to follow. But to-day something was amiss. Nancy swept by without so much as a glance at the young[Pg 136] naturalist. His first impulse was to call out to her, but the peculiar way she had brushed aside her skirts as she passed him counseled silence. So he pretended that he had not noticed her, and for several minutes confined his attention to the anthill. Then he crossed the street and passed along the other side utterly oblivious of all the world.

These things had not escaped Gizzard's observation, but he said in his heart, "It means nothing. It is the way of woman." However, on the morrow when he heard Nancy shout across the street to a companion that Sube Cane had stolen her new kitten and that her father was going to have him arrested, they took on a new and horrible significance.

He was irresistibly drawn to Cane's barn, where he found Sube peacefully seated among his yowling charges.

"Oh! You're still here, are you?" Gizzard asked nervously.

"Sure. Where'd you think I'd be?"

"Well, I didn't know. You can never tell! A feller never knows what's goin' to happen to 'im!" was the cryptic response.

Sube looked at Gizzard with a new found interest. "Say, what's the matter of you? You're as white as a sheet!"[Pg 137]

"I ain't feelin' very good," Gizzard admitted. "I feel kind o' weak right here." He placed a hand over his stomach as he added, "Guess I'd better be goin' home."

"Better not!" cautioned Sube. "Your mother'll give you a dose of castor oil!"

"No she won't," muttered Gizzard weakly. "I'm goin' anyhow."

"Seen any strays to-day?" Sube called after him as he went out of the door.

"Nope. S'long!"


Twice that afternoon Gizzard returned, and each time went away complaining of weakness in his middle. Why he did not tell Sube what he had heard can never be explained, for Gizzard did not know himself. Perhaps he did not wish to have his partner unduly alarmed by rumors that might turn out to be false. But when he came rushing into the barn after supper, he told what had been on his mind, without further delay.

"Hey, Sube!" he cried in a tremulous voice. "You gotta get out of here! He jus' went in your house lookin' for you!"

He caught Sube by the arm and dragged him towards the door.[Pg 138]

"What I got to get out for?" asked the amazed cat-catcher.

"Dan Lan-non!" enunciated the terrified informant. "He's goin'ta 'rest you!"

At the name of this grim officer of the law all felons trembled. Sube was no exception to the rule. He grew deathly pale. He had that empty feeling in his interior that Gizzard had complained of. He vaguely wondered what crime he had committed, but did not stop to inquire, as Gizzard dragged him feverishly towards the back door of the barn. Once outside he seemed to recover possession of his senses and assumed the lead. He conducted Gizzard to the midst of a clump of blackberry bushes in the rear of a deserted house not far away, and there Gizzard unburdened his soul.

Sube was scared. He was petrified. But he was faithful to the last. He could not believe that Nancy had betrayed him.

"It must of been that ol' M's Rude," he kept repeating. "It must of been! It couldn't of been—anybody else! Now I wonder if that big cat with the long hair belonged to her."

"Wonder? Ain't you sure?"

"Why, it looked like hers, but—"

"It wasn't M's Rude," declared Gizzard. "It[Pg 139] was Nancy Guilford! Why, didn't she say she was goin' to have you—!"

"Girls say lots of things they don't mean."

"Yes, but she said it, and then it happened!"

"I don't care what she said! I tell you it was that ol' M's Rude!" Sube burst out angrily. Then modifying his tone he continued: "But that don't cut any ice anyway! What I want to know is, what we goin' to do?"

Then followed a long discussion of the possibilities, and, as neither of the fugitives was willing to be taken alive, there seemed to be only one alternative: flight. Alaska was discarded as too cold, and South America as too hot. That portion of Texas nearest to the Mexican line seemed to offer the most tempting prospects for a "career," and Sube had begun to take a bit of grim comfort in the pangs that he felt sure Nancy Guilford must endure as she came to realize that she had made a desperado of him, when an idea flashed into his brain with the brilliancy of a searchlight.

"Say!" he gasped. "Why couldn't we sneak back there and let the derned ol' cats out! Then we'd lay low till they had time to get back to their homes—!"

"You're on!" cried Gizzard.[Pg 140]

They made their way out of their retreat, unmindful of the scratching thorns, and cautiously retraced their steps to the barn.

"I never heard 'em so quiet before," whispered Sube. "S'pose they're all asleep?"

"Prob'ly," replied Gizzard. "It must be awful late."

They lighted a stump of a candle that had been hidden away for just such emergencies, and ascended the dusty stairs. Horror seized them as they found their place of business in wildest disorder, with the cages upset and broken open and every cat gone. Through the flickering gloom they stared at each other dumbfounded, bewildered; their last faint glimmer of hope gone.

"Where do you s'pose—" faltered Gizzard, but he was unable to say more.

"Dan must've got 'em for proof!" groaned Sube.

"What'll we ever do!" snivelled Gizzard.

"Now I s'pose we got to beat it!" replied Sube in a voice husky with emotion.

A long hoarse whistle startled them.

"A freight train!" cried Sube. "If it stops, we'll jump it!"

They tumbled down the stairs, blew out the can[Pg 141]dle, and restoring it to its hiding place, started on a run for the railroad station some three blocks away. As they passed under an electric light on the corner they heard a shout behind them; but instead of stopping to investigate they put on more speed. After a little Gizzard looked back and caught a glimpse of their pursuer.

"It's Dan Lannon all right!" he panted. "And he's after us!"

The fugitives pressed forward to the very limit of their speed. Suddenly with a roar and a rumble the freight train pulled into the station and came to a stop, effectively blocking the street along which they were going. To clamber aboard at that point was not to be thought of, for an electric light at the crossing made the entire neighborhood as light as day. A flank movement was inevitable.

Sube dashed to the right, calling to Gizzard to follow. But Gizzard had already started towards the left. By the time the boys discovered their mistake the enemy was already threatening their lines of communication; and so they were separated.

Gizzard skirted the rear end of the freight train and went directly home, where he was sent to bed and no questions asked. But Sube cut in between two houses, fell over a flower bed, caught his chin on a[Pg 142] clothesline, tore his pants on a barbed-wire fence, and skinned his knee against a woodpile. Then he found himself in his own back yard with no place to go. He tarried in the dark shadows recovering his wind and feeling, no doubt, quite like the prodigal son. But he did not tarry long. There were too many mysterious sounds on all sides to suit him. He must go somewhere. Only one place presented itself; so he clambered up a post of the back porch, and slipping through the window was soon cuddled up spoon-fashion to his sleeping brother, Cathead.

And there his mother found him an hour later, sound asleep. She called his father. "Look in the bed," she said. "Here we've been worrying about Sube and all the time he was right where he belonged. He must have come in while you were talking to Mr. Lannon."

"That's very likely," his father agreed; "but I wonder what he's been up to. I'm always suspicious of Sube when he does anything he ought to."

"Don't you think you'd better call up Mr. Lannon and tell him that Sube has come home? He might go all around looking for him."

"Don't you worry about Dan Lannon! He won't bother himself to look for anybody unless he has received his mileage in advance. I didn't ask[Pg 143] him to look for Sube, anyway; I simply told him to send the boy home if he happened to see him."

When Sube woke up the bright sunlight was streaming in the window. He was inclined to believe that the whole affair had been a nightmare. But a lump on his knee and a ragged rent in his trousers seemed to indicate that parts of it, at least, were real. It was soon apparent that Cathead knew nothing of his brother's criminal offense, for immediately on waking up he asked:

"Where were you so late last night?"

"Nowheres much. Just round here everyplace."

"Who was with you?"


"Jus' the two of you?"

"Yes, the two of us! Say, what you think this is? A game of truth?"

"You better go to bed earlier," replied Cathead, "if it makes you so dern' cross to stay up late."

"Boys!" called their mother from the foot of the stairs. "Breakfast is ready! Come right down!"

When Sube reached the breakfast table and observed that his father had already gone he breathed a sigh of relief. Then it struck him that it might be an unfavorable sign. To his guilty conscience everything seemed suspicious. He glanced furtively[Pg 144] at his mother and was not reassured. Something about her reminded him of the way she looked the day she took him to the dentist to have a tooth pulled.

"I didn't hear you come in last night, Sube," she remarked at length.

Sube started. "Ma'am?" he said defensively; then it occurred to him that he did not care to have the question repeated, and he added quickly, "No, ma'am."

"You must have come in while Mr. Lannon was here."

Sube swallowed hard. "Yes, ma'am," he almost whispered.

"Nobody heard you come in. When you slip in so quietly you ought to let me know. There's no telling how long Mr. Lannon may have hunted for you—"

The telephone rang. Mrs. Cane answered. It was Mr. Cane inquiring whether the carpenter had come to do some work on the barn. Sube heard his mother say:

"Yes, he's here now."

A moment later he heard her say in a low tone: "No, I won't let him get away before you come—"

Sube did not wait to hear more. He quietly[Pg 145] rose from his chair and slipped out of the front door. The back door would have been better, but it was directly in line with his mother's vision. As he leaped down the front steps he found himself face to face with Mrs. Rude, and before he could begin the retreat he instantly planned she opened fire on him.

"Good morning, Sube!" she called pleasantly. "I've found my kittie! She came back last night!"

Out of a whirling brain Sube tried to direct a suitable reply. The best he could do was:


For a moment his burden seemed to slip from him. Mrs. Rude wasn't after him at all! But when it began to dawn on him that it must have been Nancy after all who had put the police on his trail, his last state was worse than his first. His senses were paralyzed. He became deaf, dumb and blind. A young lady passing along the street found it necessary to speak to him twice before she was able to attract his attention.

At the second "Hello, Sube!" he turned, outrage written on every feature. But Nancy seemed to concede to him the right to be peevish, for she spoke again even more sweetly than before.

"See what I've got!"[Pg 146]

And for the first time Sube saw in her arms a fluffy mass of white fur adorned by a huge pink bow.

It was her kitten![Pg 147]

Again Sube had the empty feeling; but this time it was, no doubt, because he had slighted his breakfast. Nancy passed on. And as he stood gazing after her he was dimly conscious of the stopping of an automobile; but he did not turn his eyes. He was too much engrossed in loving or hating; he didn't know which.

"Good morning, young man!"

Sube reluctantly turned his gaze to the speaker. It was Professor Silver—the one person in all the world (next to Dan Lannon) that Sube did not care to see. As the desperate boy battled with the temptation to turn and run, the professor began aggressively:

"Now, young man, I had an opportunity to motor to Geneva last evening with a friend of mine; and when I found there was plenty of room, I thought it an excellent opportunity to deliver the cats you had on hand. I was unable to find you about, so I took the liberty of appropriating some gunnysacks that were hanging in the barn."

Sube tried to speak, but before he was able to produce an intelligible sound, the professor began again.

"Now, young man, there were two of those cats that I could not use on account of their long fur. Persian cats are of absolutely no use to our biological[Pg 148] department. So I let the two go. That leaves ten merchantable cats to be accounted for at fifty cents a head." He held out to Sube a five dollar bill as he added: "I trust this will be satisfactory, young man. I want to be perfectly fair; but I do not feel that I should be required to pay for something that I could not use."

Sube gazed at the banknote in his hand and wondered if he was in the midst of another dream as he gulped out something that the professor took to be an acceptance of his offer, and retired. Sube was still gazing at the banknote when Cathead came out of the house.

"Oh, where'd you get that!" cried Cathead as he spied the greenback.

The sound of Cathead's voice brought Sube back to his senses. He folded up the bill with a pleasant crackling sound and thrust it into his pocket, and turning to Cathead said loftily:

"I owe a feller two dollars and a half; but that is neither here nor there. Want to go 'long and see me pay it to him?"[Pg 149]



Probably the longest period of time that a boy is capable of comprehending is that which drags itself out between one Fourth of July and the next. From Christmas to Christmas is not nearly so long. This is a question that modern calendar makers should investigate, as Julius Cæsar seems to have overlooked it.

But in spite of everything the Fourth of July was actually approaching. It was only days away. Sube viewed the advent of the festival with more than ordinary equanimity. He still had two dollars left from the flyer in cats, and the authorities had apparently relaxed their efforts to get him. His continued passing of Dan Lannon on the other side of the street was simply the survival of an inborn prejudice against the conservators of law and order. It couldn't have been timidity.

As far as Sube and Gizzard were concerned, the customary pre-holiday rush for remunerative employment was a thing of the past. They lolled lux[Pg 150]uriantly in the shade while the other boys were picking neighborhood cherries, manicuring the lawns and doing what they were pleased to call "odd jobs."

"What's the use killin' ourselves workin'?" Sube asked Gizzard one day as they lazily passed a ball back and forth in a listless game of catch. "Of course," he added in the bored tone of the idle rich, "if I didn't have money, I s'pose I'd get busy, too. I always like to give the ever-glorious Fourth a good send-off."

At the term "ever-glorious" Gizzard's hand was poised in air. He was tempted to put Sube out of his misery on the spot; but a natural repugnance to the destruction of human life stayed the stroke, and he returned the ball without intent to kill, albeit a little faster than Sube regarded as entirely necessary.

"Ouch!" cried Sube as the ball stung his bare hand. "Say! What you think you're playin'? Stinger? I'll show you that two can play at that game!"

He returned the ball with a vengeance.

Gizzard stepped aside and let it pass. "If you're goin' to sling that hot stuff you can chase it yourself," he muttered sullenly as he threw himself down on the grass.[Pg 151]

"Me chase it!" howled Sube angrily. "Well, I won't! You didn't try to stop it at all!"

"I'm glad it ain't my ball," remarked Gizzard with an affected lack of interest.

"It don't make any diff whose ball it is!" Sube glowered over his reclining chum. "You'll go and get that ball or I'll—"

"Hi, fellers! I've earned twenty cents already this morning!" came a voice from behind them.

This was from Biscuit Westfall, who had just emerged from the parsonage tugging a long set of quilting-frames.

"Throw in that ball, will you, Biscuit?" called Gizzard pleasantly. "It's right by the big elm tree."

Biscuit laid down his burden and complied with the request. Cordial relations were instantly restored.

"Gee! But there's go'n'ta be an ever-glorious bonfire to-night," Sube observed. "The kids have got two sheds back of the Gibson Block jus' cram-full of boxes and barrels—"

"Yes, but there ain't go'n'ta be no bells rung!" was Gizzard's discouraging interjection.

"Why not, ain't there?" demanded Sube.

"'Cause there ain't!"[Pg 152]

"Why not? I'd like to know!"

"'Cause the board of trustees won't let us ring the firebell, and all the churches have put their solid-ivories together and agreed not to let their bells be rung! That's why not!"

"Aw, come off!" sneered Sube.

"I guess I know what's in the paper! Don't you read the Citizen?"

"Now what do you know about that!" exclaimed Sube disgustedly. "Ain't that a nice way to celebrate the ever-glorious Fourth!"

"I call it rotten!" replied Gizzard feelingly; but it is safe to say that his feelings were aroused more by Sube's continued repetition of his new phrase, than disappointment over the modified form of welcome to the festal day prescribed by certain unpatriotic grown-ups who seemed to have forgotten that they once were young.

The neither-here-nor-there expression still rankled in Gizzard's memory, and now Sube was adding vinegar to the wound. But Gizzard realized the importance of keeping his feelings to himself. He knew that greater misery would be his lot if Sube ever found out how he felt about it.

"Rotten's no name for it," agreed Sube, scowling. "I guess those ol' guys have forgot how we signed[Pg 153] that Declaration of Independence from Germany—"

"Germany!" howled Gizzard derisively. "You said Germany! Why, it wasn't Germany at all! It was France!"

"France nothin'! I tell you it was Germany!"

"Look here! They was red-coats, now wasn't they?"

"Yes, but the France soldiers wear red pants! Don't you know the diff between pants and coats! Ha-ha! Can't tell the diff between pants and coats!"

"Can, too! Can, too! Can, too! C-a-n,—t-o-o!" bawled Gizzard. "And, anyhow, I knew more'n you did about ringin' the bells! You didn't know nuthin' about it till I told you!"

"Yes, but I know a pair of pants from a—" Sube stopped short as an idea came to him. "Say!" he began eagerly, "what's to hinder our sneakin' up in the Prespaterian steeple and ringin' their ol' bell for em!"

Gizzard shook his head. "Nothin' doin'," he replied promptly. "The paper says there's goin' to be a watchman at every church in town."

Sube's face relapsed into a scowl. "Did it say who?" he asked half-heartedly.

"Jus' the sextant."[Pg 154]

A look of great joy broke over Sube's countenance. "Ol' Hank Morley!" he cried. "Why, he's blind in one eye and can't hardly see out of the other! And he's so feeble he couldn't catch a louse!"

"But how could we get in?" asked Gizzard dubiously.

Sube glanced about for eavesdroppers as he whispered softly, "Cellar window! They been puttin' in coal for next winter and they've left the window out."

"Yes, but how could we—"

"Sneak in this afternoon after the last load of coal goes in, and climb up in the ol' steeple and wait there till they touch off the bonfire, and then we'll give that ol' bell the most ever-glorious ringin' it ever got!"

The details were soon arranged. Sube would invite Gizzard to his house for supper and to spend the night, and Gizzard would, in turn, invite Sube to his house for supper and lodging, and then! Nothing could be simpler.

A few moments later Sube was fingering his cap in the presence of Mrs. Tobin and bashfully requesting that Gizzard be permitted to accept the hospitality of the Cane household until the following morning.[Pg 155]

"Why, it will be all right for Charley to take supper with you, Sube, but what about the bonfire to-night? I never allow Charley to be out so late alone, and his uncle Bert was going to take him to see it. He stopped in here a few minutes ago and said he'd come for Charley at about eleven."

Sube swallowed once or twice, and then managed to say, "Oh, that's all right! My mother won't let me go alone, either—"

"But who will go with you?" Mrs. Tobin persisted.

"Why,—why, my father's going with us!"

Mrs. Tobin was mildly astonished. "Your father?" she asked.

"Oh, yes'm! My father's crazy about fires! He's stuck on bonfires! But he likes every kind of fires. He always goes to fires, even in the middle of the night! He wouldn't miss one for anything! He says a big bonfire is the noblest way to celebrate the ever-glorious Fourth, and he's never missed a single one since we signed the Declaration of Independence from the Germans!"

Sube glanced triumphantly at Gizzard while Mrs. Tobin was busy with her thoughts. She was a little uncertain whether Sube had misquoted his father or recent discoveries had upset some more of our tra[Pg 156]ditional history. What the boy had said, sounded like his father, certainly; and she decided to read up her history a bit before attempting to correct him. But while thinking the matter over she busied herself by wrapping up a package containing a toothbrush and certain other nocturnal necessities for her son, and reminding him to wash behind his ears and put on a clean collar before he went.

"It was that there hist'ry that put it acrost," Gizzard admitted as he and Sube passed out of the house. "It must of been the Germans."

"Why I knew all the time it was the Germans! Don't you s'pose I know the hist'ry of the country I live in? Now you be sure you call it the Germans when you go in and spout before my mother."

"Me?—Me spout before your mother?"

"Yes, you! Didn't I spout 'fore your mother?"

"Yes, Sube, but I ain't a very good spouter. I get too dumb scairt!"

"Now don't back out on me, Giz!" pleaded Sube, "I got you off, didn't I? Well, then, you gotta get me off! Now I'll tell you what to do. You tell her about your uncle Bert first pop, and then she won't have any excuse to say no!"

"I will if I can remember it," mumbled Gizzard. "I get so scairt I can't remember nothin'."[Pg 157]

Not long afterwards The People ex rel Cane and Tobin against The Society for the Prevention of Unnecessary Noises, came on for hearing before Mrs. Justice Cane sitting at Special Term. The argument was opened on behalf of the relators by Mr. Gizzard Tobin. The speaker's voice which at first was very low and uncertain, gathered speed and volume as it proceeded, and finally ended in perfect fury of words.

"My—my mother—she wants to—to know can Sube come over to my house—for supper to-night—and she wants to know can he stay all night with me to-night till eleven o'clock—and then she'll call us and wake us up so's my uncle Bert he can come and get us and take us to see the bonfire—he likes bonfires, he likes every kind of fires, he always goes to fires in the night, he's gone to fires ever since the Germans set fire to the Declaration-ofinna-pen'ance—"

Gizzard's finish was not unlike the explosion of a cannon-cracker after the proper amount of sizzling at the fuse.

"What is it you are saying, Charley?" gasped Mrs. Cane.

Gizzard turned hopelessly to his co-petitioner. "You tell 'er, Sube."[Pg 158]

"I'm invited to his house for supper and to stay all night," Sube interpreted calmly.

"But what about the Germans setting fire to the Declaration of Independence?"

"You didn't understand him, he talked so fast. His uncle Bert's dead stuck on bonfires—"

"Dead stuck?"

"He likes 'em," Sube corrected, "and he wants us to go to bed early, and then he'll call us a little before midnight, and take us up to see the bonfire for a little while, and then take us back home again."

"That isn't a good place for boys," ruled Mrs. Cane dubiously. "There's a very rough element at those bonfires. What does your mother think about it, Charley? Is she going to—"

"Sure she is! Isn't she, Giz?" interrupted Sube with great enthusiasm.

"Yes, ma'am," mumbled Gizzard unconvincingly.

"That's what he was tryin' to tell you," Sube enlarged. "She likes to celebrate the ever-glorious Fourth, and she says she's never missed a bonfire since we signed the Declaration of Independence from the Germans!"

"If that's the case," said Mrs. Cane with a visible effort to retain control of herself, "I'll have to let you go—"[Pg 159]

"Whoo-oo-pee-ee! Hoo-oo-ray!" and Sube bounded out of the house with Gizzard at his heels. "Three rousing cheers for the ever-glorious Fourth!"

And they were gone.[Pg 160]



The boys experienced little difficulty in gaining entrance to the church through the cellar window, and noiselessly made their way to the gallery, from which they ascended a frail ladder leading to a hatchway in the ceiling. On raising the scuttle, Sube, who up to this time had maintained a somewhat aggressive lead, suddenly remembered his manners.

"Why, here, Giz," he said in a self-deprecatory tone, "here I been crowdin' ahead all the time. I'll bet you'd like to go first part of the way." And he nimbly descended the ladder and stepped to one side.

But Gizzard, too, had observed the pitchy darkness ahead. He, also, had felt the draft of hot stuffy air that rushed out at the opening of the hatchway. "I'm follerin' all right, ain't I?" he demanded with equal courtesy.

"Yes, but I don't want—"

"Well, go on, then!"

He caught Sube by the shoulder and gave him a[Pg 161] forceful but friendly shove towards the ladder. Sube placed a tentative foot on the bottom rung and then turned back most considerately.

"But I don't want to hog the lead all the time," he explained courteously.

However, Gizzard was not to be outdone in politeness. He urged Sube forward with the most elegant sort of gruffness. "Get up that there ladder!" he ordered. "I'm right on your heels!"

Sube submitted to the inevitable and took the lead. Once in the loft he was able to discern another ladder. At the top of this was a third. Then followed several more. At last came another hatchway that opened into the blessed daylight, and the bell chamber itself. The boys were amazed at the size of the bell.

"It's bigger'n all outdoors with the lawn around it!" exclaimed Gizzard with an expression akin to awe. "S'pose we can ever ring it? If we can't we might as well be gettin' out of here."

"'Course we can ring it," was Sube's withering response; but at the same time he made a mental reservation.

"I s'pose we could swing that dinger back and forth if we couldn't do nothin' else," Gizzard admitted resignedly.[Pg 162]

On concluding their examination of the bell they discovered that they were very high up in the air. The location of various points of interest occupied them for perhaps half an hour, and then time began to drag. It seemed a lifetime before darkness came, and meanwhile, the shouts of boys playing ball in a vacant lot not far away floated up to them with peculiar distinctness; and an outraged feeling in the place where the stomach was supposed to be, reminded them that supper-time had passed and they had failed to perform the customary epicurean exercises.

Gizzard was inclined to complain. He could think of lots of other things that would have been more fun. But Sube realized that it was too late to back out, and he bolstered up his ebbing courage by talking of the glory of achievement.

"Won't the other kids open their eyes, though, when they hear this ol' bell go boom—boo-oo-oo-oom! And won't they sit up and beg when they find out we're the ones who pulled it off!"

But Gizzard would not be comforted. "That's all right," he admitted, "only I wisht I was home in the pantry with a big bowl of bread and milk in front of me, and a piece of—"

"Yes, and how'd you like to have all the kids[Pg 163] callin' you 'Quitter' and tellin' you to go play with Biscuit Westfall?"

"You don't think I'm goin' to quit now, do you?" muttered Gizzard peevishly. "Can't I talk about some'pm to eat without goin' home to get it? Cer'nly I can!"

"Well, don't let's talk about it, anyway," was Sube's conciliatory reply. "I'm hungry enough as it is—"

At this point a family of bats that lived far up in the steeple decided to go out in search of their evening meal. For a few moments the air was literally filled with flapping wings. The youthful bellringers nearly died of fright before they discovered the cause of the mysterious noises.

By the time that they had recovered from this shock, the floor had begun to feel very much harder, and after a little they decided to lie down and rest their heads on the mysterious bundles they had brought with them. Suddenly Gizzard sat up with a jerk.

"Say!" he gasped. "Now we are up against it!"

"Up against what?" asked Sube languidly.

"We dassent ring that bell!" Gizzard exclaimed in a tone of subdued alarm.[Pg 164]

"Why not! I'd like to know!" demanded Sube, rising quickly to a sitting posture.

"With ol' Hank Morley waitin' right at the bottom of the ladder when we come down!"

Sube collapsed. "Gosh! I didn't think about that."

"The minute we begun to ring that bell," Gizzard enlarged, "he'd duck right to the bottom of the ladder, and he'd wait there for us if we stayed up here a week!" After a moment he added hoarsely, "Prob'ly they'd starve us out!—Or else send Dan Lannon up after us!"

"Well," Sube responded weakly, "we can't get out now! We got to wait till ol' Hank goes home—"

"Yes, and we'll miss the bonfire!" whined Gizzard. "You got me into a nice pickle this time!"

"Well, why didn't you think of it before?" was Sube's feeble defense.

"Why didn't you think of it when you was thinkin' of the rest?" returned Gizzard. Then contriving a particularly cruel thrust he added maliciously: "This'll be a nice way to celebrate the ever-glorious Fourth!"

If Gizzard could have seen Sube's face he would have felt repaid for his efforts; but darkness pre[Pg 165]vented, and the depths of Sube's chagrin were never known.

"I'm layin' down now," was all he said.

Then Gizzard stabbed again. "This'll be a ever-glorious place to see that ever-glorious bonfire," he taunted.

"I wonder if those bats'll be comin' back pretty quick," Sube ventured by way of a chastened response.

"Well, if one of the ever-glorious little cusses ever comes flappin' round me, I'll knock his ever-glorious brains out!" threatened Gizzard as he settled back on his comfortless pillow.

Sube made no reply. But as long as Gizzard was able to keep his eyes open he babbled of things ever-glorious. It was not long, however, before they both slept. And below them, stretched at full length on a pew in the church, Hank Morley also slept.

Midnight approached. A mammoth bonfire was laid in the street at the bank corner. Butch Bosworth and Dick Bissell took a turn past the Baptist Church and, observing the sexton on guard before the door, passed on. At the Presbyterian Church they found the coast apparently clear. The porch was vacant, and there was no light to be seen inside.[Pg 166] They were not long in locating the open cellar-window, through which they crawled and stealthily made their way to the gallery. And as the town clock began the stroke of twelve the Presbyterian church-bell set up such a pealing and clanging as it had never before been heard to utter.

In the nave of the church Hank Morley awoke with a start. He leaped to his feet and rushed to a small closet near the foot of the single stairway leading to the gallery, and, opening the door, caught up a lighted lantern. As he went clumping up the gallery stairs, the tumult in the steeple suddenly ceased. Two dark figures slunk from the vicinity of the bellrope and took refuge beneath the pews.

"Hands up!" ordered Hank, taking his stand at the head of the stairs and leveling a shining object at the marauders.

Two pairs of dirty hands went up instantly.

"Come out of there or I'll shoot!" cried Hank.

Butch and Dick rose up and stood cowering before him. Hank raised his lantern and scrutinized their guilty faces with his one good eye.

"I know ye both!" he announced at length. "Now march down that pair o' stairs and wait for me at the bottom. No boltin', or I'll shoot!"

On reaching the foot of the stairs Hank stepped[Pg 167] over to the front door, and lowering his shining weapon, stuck it into the keyhole and unlocked the door.

"Breakin' into a place what's locked, is burglary!" he told them crabbedly. "Did ye know that?"

The boys' answer, if indeed they made any, was swallowed up by the tumultuous booming of the church bell, which began at that moment with the unexpectedness of a thunderclap.

"What! Didn't I get all of ye?" cried Hank, starting for the stairs.

But there was no answer, for before Hank had taken two steps Butch and Dick were gone.

The same stroke of the bell that had brought Henry Morley out of his slumbers, had startled the two boys in the bell chamber almost out of their wits. For some moments they clung to each other in terror, not comprehending where they were or what was happening. That they were on the brink of destruction, neither one doubted. In such close quarters the vibration and reverberation were terrific. The sound was much more like the roar of a cannon than the joyful pealing of a church bell.

Gradually the situation dawned on them, but they dared not move for fear of being struck by the[Pg 168] swinging bell. However, the moment the clamor ceased—which it soon did—Sube scrambled to his feet, and giving Gizzard a healthy prod with his foot, he cried:

"It was a fake! An ever-glorious fake, what you read in the paper!"

"I guess it was, all right," muttered Gizzard as he got up and began to investigate the condition of his eardrums by poking a finger into each ear. "It must of been!"

By the light of the bonfire which now was shining through the window-slats they could see that the bell was still swinging back and forth, but in too small an arc to cause the clapper to strike.

"They must of got tired!" cried Sube. "See! They're tryin' to ring it and can't. Let's jump onto the wheel and help 'em!"

"All right!" was Gizzard's prompt response.

"Now I'll jump on this side, and you jump on that side!" shouted Sube. "We'll work it like a see-saw!"

As they rocked, the bell gathered momentum, and presently began to peal with the regularity of a clock. This was kept up for fully five minutes before they dropped off thoroughly exhausted.

"Woof!—Poof!—Woofoo-oo-oo!" puffed[Pg 169] Sube. "Wonder who it was down below. Some of the kids prob'ly, or they wouldn't of got tired so quick."

"Whee-ee-ee-ew!" blew Gizzard. "Hot work!"

"Hey! I got a scheme!" Sube announced gleefully. "Let's put on our pajamas and scare those kids when we come down!"

Gizzard was not averse to this form of amusement, but he still clung to the old-fashioned nightgown.

"Better yet!" cried Sube. "That'll look more like a spook than my pajamas will! Pile into it!"

So, clad in their night-clothes they began to feel their way down the series of ladders in the inky-black steeple. Somehow they managed to reach the hatchway leading down into the gallery, and Sube, who was in the lead, was groping for the top of the ladder when Gizzard felt him suddenly recoil.

"What's the matter?" he asked.

"Oh, Lordy!" gasped Sube as he drew back into the loft.

Gizzard was alarmed. "What's the matter?" he repeated. "What is it?"

"Ol' Hank Morley—" was all Sube could say.

"Maybe it's all right," said Gizzard reassuringly.[Pg 170] "He rung it himself, didn't he! Try it! Go on down!"

"I can't! He took the ladder away!"

As Gizzard sank back weakly, voices were heard in the gallery below.

"How many is there?" asked a hoarse grating voice that they both recognized as Elder Jones's.

"They's a number of 'em all right," replied the sexton. "Look at how they ringed that bell! I can't ring it like that myself, and I been practicin' on it for nigh thirty year! They must be half a dozen of 'em, at least!"

"Well, they can't get down till we put the ladder back; but you better wait here and watch for 'em while I step over to my house and 'phone for an officer. I won't be gone long."

And Elder Jones tramped out with a very determined tread emphasized at each alternate step by an equally determined rap from his cane.

Hank Morley sat down on the top step of the gallery stairs, his trusty lantern beside him. From his coat pocket he produced a fragrant Missouri meerschaum, and although smoking was strictly forbidden in the church, he felt that he was entitled to certain indulgences, and accordingly filled and lighted it. He had taken only a few puffs when he heard a[Pg 171] noise behind him and glanced casually back over his shoulder. Instantly the glance became a stare that was far from casual, for, floating in mid-air between the floor and the ceiling he beheld two white figures that sailed back and forth gracefully and seemed to have no difficulty in navigating the thin air.


Hank did not wait to take a second look. He had seen enough. Why tarry? With one frantic bound he cleared the stairs. With another he crossed the vestibule, and with a third he reached the middle of the street. A few moments later he was in Hennessey & O'Brien's saloon calling hoarsely for alcoholic aid.

"Say, ol' Hank's got a fine start for the Fourth," the barkeep murmured confidentially to his employer a few moments later. "When a feller begins to see ghosts, it's time to cut it out."

True to his word Elder Jones returned to the church only a short time after he had left it, and although he found the lighted lantern at the head of the gallery stairs the sexton had gone. The elder was still awaiting his return when the two officers arrived.

And, as Gizzard had expected, Dan Lannon was one of them.

The ladder was replaced and a thorough search[Pg 172] of the steeple was made, but they were unable to find any traces of the culprits save a small size toothbrush that was found in the bell chamber.

"Why don't you cut a hole for this bellrope?" asked Dan Lannon as he attempted to replace the scuttle and found the rope hanging through the hatchway.

"There is a hole over to your left, there, about six feet," replied the elder. "Those little rascals must have pulled it out when they was up above there. But what I'd like to know is, how'd they ever git out of that there steeple!"

"They might have slid down the rope," suggested Dan.

"Never!" cried the elder. "Never! Not with Henry Morley watchin' right here in plain sight! But I reckon that somethin' happened here while I was gone! Must have or Henry wouldn't have quit his post! Probably he's out chasin' 'em now! Wait till we hear from Henry—wait till we hear from Henry."

The elder went home with menacing mutterings and noisy cane-rappings on the sidewalk; but the officers were more fortunate. They met Henry Morley on the street within fifteen minutes after they left the elder. Henry was in a very communicative[Pg 173] mood, but the officers considered that he was more illuminated than illuminating.

"I most believe ol' Hank rung that there bell himself," allowed Dan Lannon. "I don't know as I ever saw him so lit up before."

"Likely he did," replied his brother sleuth. "More'n likely he did. When a feller gets so that he's seein' sperits floatin' round in the air, he's likely to ring anything."

Next morning when Henry Morley tendered his resignation and went to live with his daughter on a farm in the country, the officers felt that their deductions of the evening before had been amply verified.

But among those whose opinion really amounted to anything Sube and Gizzard were heroes.[Pg 174]



Biscuit Westfall's mother was a prudent woman; she had laid down the law that Biscuit could not go in swimming until after he had learned to swim. But when Biscuit tried to explain this to his friends, he succeeded only in raising a shout of tantalizing laughter. And although Biscuit knew that it was wicked to allow his angry passions to arise, he seemed to be unable to control them. To stoop to the inelegant, the ridicule "got his goat."

"You ack like a lot of boneheads!" he burst out finally. "What's the matter of you, anyway?"

No words were said in reply, but the tantalizing laughter increased in volume.

"Go on, laugh!" he cried angrily. "And when you get through, laugh some more. What do I care?"

Another outburst was the only response.

"What do I care how much you fools laugh?" he sneered, when once more he could make himself heard.[Pg 175]

At this his tormenters began to roll about on the grass apparently quite helpless, and Biscuit, thoroughly disgusted, started for home.

"Hey, Biscuit!" Sube called after him teasingly. "Don't go home mad! Come on down 'in'; and we'll teach you how to swim on the way down!"

But Biscuit did not so much as glance back.

"Learnin' to swim 'fore he could go in the water!" howled Gizzard derisively.

"That'd be like learnin' to eat without grub," suggested Sube as the party moved off in the direction of the swimming-hole.

When Biscuit walked into the house a few minutes afterwards, he came upon his mother in conversation with a tall young man, who, had he lived up to his teeth, would have been prominent.

"Yes, madam," the caller was saying, "we have added a number of new courses to our curriculum and are now in a position to offer to the world, I might say, universal knowledge. We now cover, I might say, the entire field of human endeavor.

"Take for example the ordinary day of life. It begins the instant one is out of bed in the morning. First, take our morning exercises. They come in our excellent course in Physical Culture and Muscle-building, with full directions how to increase your[Pg 176] weight a pound a day"—he glanced at Mrs. Westfall and observing her ample figure, added—"also, I might say, how to reduce your weight to any desired figure.

"Next in order would come our course in The Bath; How to Give or Take One. After that would come our fashionable course, Dress; What to Wear and When. Follow this with our complete course in Domestic Science and Home Economy, which, I might say, contains a menu for three meals a day for three hundred and sixty-five days, or a full year. When the breakfast is prepared and on the table, our course in Etiquette and Table Manners, the Science of Good Form. This teaches one what to do when at the table; how to eat rare and unusual food; which fork to use; disposing of the discard; what to say, and many other difficult questions that are wont to arise at the table.

"Then comes the broad field of the day's work. Our courses cover, I might say, every known profession or employment from A to et cetera; from Accounting to Zebra Raising. For the evening a large number of courses will be found available. Billiards, How to Become a Cue Expert; Bowling, Boxing; How to Train for the Ring; Dancing, Tango Taught in Ten Lessons—"[Pg 177]

Mrs. Westfall began to show signs of distress, and the young man instantly changed his method of attack.

"Madam," he said suddenly, "what is your hobby? What are you most interested in?"

"Why—why missionary work, I think," she stammered.

"Ha! I have just the thing! How to Become a Missionary, Home or Foreign. This is a most illuminating course, madam. Listen to some of the chapter headings: How to Approach a Heathen, Outwitting the Cannibals, Three Methods of Destroying Idols, How to Prove to a Savage That he is Naked, Junk from Missionary Societies—What to Do With it, 101 Ways to Raise Missionary Funds, etc., etc."

"Or, we have a very fine course in Philanthropy—the Science of Giving. This course contains a lecture by Carnegie, one by Hettie Green, one by William Jennings Bryan, one by Jess Willard—no, that's another course—"

"That's interesting; very interesting, but—"

"Then perhaps I could interest this manly little fellow in something. The Inter-State Correspondence Schools make a specialty of the interests of boys, I might say. Are you interested in athletics, my[Pg 178] lad? Baseball? Boxing? Broad-jumping? Football? Sailing? Swimming?—"

Biscuit's interest was at once apparent.

"Plain and fancy swimming and diving, surf[Pg 179]boarding, how to dodge the breakers, how to cheat the undertow, rescue and resuscitation—can you swim, my lad?"

"No, sir, but I wisht I could."

"We have a very fine course in swimming, madam. We positively guarantee to teach swimming in ten lessons or money refunded. All the latest strokes: overhand, trudgeon, crawl, shoulder-stroke—"

"No, not to-day," interrupted Mrs. Westfall. "It's too dangerous. I don't want my boy going into the water."

"Aw, mama, let me learn to swim!" whined Biscuit. "I'm the only boy in town that can't swim!"

"Karl! Be still! It's too dangerous!"

"Pardon me, madam, but it is no more dangerous than playing the piano! By our up-to-date system the student is taught to swim without so much as touching the tip of his finger to the water!"

"A lot of expensive apparatus, I suppose."

"No apparatus whatever! We teach it in the home! Only the smooth top of a kitchen table is required. Individual instruction by mail. And bear in mind that our iron-bound guarantee goes with every course. Money back if not satisfactory."

"How much does it cost?" she asked weakly.

"A mere trifle, madam, when we consider that it[Pg 180] may be the means of saving this little fellow's life!"

He laid a blank on the table and produced a fountain pen.

"But the expense?" insisted Mrs. Westfall as she saw him filling out the blank.

"Not enough for a person in your circumstances to consider— Sign there."

She took the pen and poised it uncertainly over the dotted line. "Before I sign this I ought to know—"

"A mere trifle—sign there—an inconsequential nothing—on the dotted line, please—two dollars—"

She signed her name.

"Two dollars a lesson, with our iron-bound guarantee. Thank you, madam! Many thanks! Keep the duplicate for your own reference. And I am leaving you a complete catalogue of our courses. You may be interested in something else later on. And now I will wish you—"

And thus it happened that Biscuit Westfall learned to swim.

Undoubtedly the proudest moment of his whole life was the one when he received his diploma from the Inter-State Correspondence School. To the unprejudiced eye this diploma looked more like the[Pg 181] document that is drawn forth from the spy's boot in the war melodrama, than the sheepskin of a scholastic institution. It was decorated with stars and garters, wafers and lozenges; but to Biscuit's unsophisticated gaze it was quite the most important document since the Declaration of Independence.

If Biscuit had worked hard, so had his mother. She had taken a peculiar interest in demonstrating the truth of her oft-repeated assertion that one may learn to swim before going into the water.

She replaced without complaint the oilcloth on the kitchen table which had gone to pieces under Biscuit's efforts to master the scissors-kick. She sewed on in silence the numerous buttons that came off. She darned without comment the knees of many stockings that gave way before the edge of the table. And she paid with unaccustomed cheerfulness the cost of each lesson as it arrived. Whether Biscuit or his mother was prouder of the diploma when it came, would have been hard to tell.

The swimming lessons remained a dead secret until the course was completed and the diploma actually in the hands of the graduate. On one or two occasions Biscuit had been unable to suppress the intelligence that he knew something he wasn't going to tell, but as nobody had pressed him for particulars,[Pg 182] the news came as a distinct surprise. And it was divulged on the same day that the diploma was received.

When the usual swim was proposed, instead of starting dolefully for home as had been his wont, Biscuit slapped the proponent on the back and cried:

"All right! I'm with you!"

"Huh?" asked Sube with a blank stare.

"Uh-huh, me! Why not?"

"Your mother gone away?"

"No, course she ain't!"

"Maybe you've learned to swim on dry land!" taunted Sube.

"I sure have!" replied Biscuit with a lofty swagger. "I can swim better'n any you fellers. I can do the trudgeon and the crawl and the scissors and—"

A howl of derision went up.

"Shut up a minute, you fellers!" shouted Sube. "I want to ask 'im some'pm."

Sube was not familiar with the terms Biscuit had so carelessly torn off, but he was none the less impressed. He had a strong suspicion that there was something back of it all.

"Who showed you how?" he asked, concealing with an effort the real extent of his interest.[Pg 183]

"I took lessons!"

"Who of?"

"Oh, a perfessional."

"Yes, you did!"

"Well, I did, and I can prove it!"

"Yes, you can! How can you prove it?"

"I'll show you!" cried Biscuit as he started for home. "You wait right here till I get back!"

"He won't be back," predicted Cottontop; "let's get a move on us."

"Aw, we might as well wait around a few minutes," said Sube. "There's some'pm funny about this. He never acted like that before."

They had not long to wait before Biscuit was seen coming towards them on a run. In his hand he carried what looked like a small club, but proved on closer examination to be a mailing-tube. By means of a moistened finger that left Bertillon imprints wherever it touched, Biscuit extracted and unfurled before his skeptical companions the cherished roll of vegetable sheepskin.

"There!" he declared proudly. "I guess that'll prove it!"

"Di-plo-mer—" pronounced Sube.

"Diplomer's right!" boasted the graduate. "This here's my diplomer in plain and fancy swim[Pg 184]min' and divin'! It was rewarded to me by the Inter-State Cor'spon'ence School of Chicago, Ill'noise."

Sube was impressed, deeply impressed; but he was not convinced. "It's a diplomer all right," he admitted; "but can you swim?"

"Can I swim? Can I? Say, you jus' watch me! Watch me!"

Biscuit gaily began to make swimming motions with his hands, as he capered about.

"But I mean in the water!" insisted Sube.

"So do I!" shouted Biscuit jubilantly.

"You don't mean to say that you took lessons in the water!"

"Oh, no-o-o-o! Course not!"

"Then where'd you learn?"

"Right on top of the kitchen table! You see—"

"Never mind about that," interrupted Sube with obvious relief. "We'll go right down to the swimmin'-hole and you can show us all your little tricks."

"Wait till I take my diplomer home!"

"Better not," cautioned Sube. "You might need it when you get in the water!"

"Is that so! Well, you jus' watch me!" shouted Biscuit as he started for home with his precious possession. "Watch me!"[Pg 185]

As the boys passed the mill on the way to the swimming-hole, Gizzard, the painter's son, doubtless with inherited instinct, spied on a window sill by the loading platform a can of black paint and a brush, of which Sube, the lawyer's son, likewise with inherited instinct, took immediate possession so they wouldn't get knocked off on the ground, as he explained to Gizzard.

Sube tarried on the bridge long enough to leave Biscuit's misshapen initials on the white hand-rail, and then passed on to the pool, where he found most of the boys ready for the plunge, having stripped off their clothing as they walked.

Biscuit was in the throes of peeling off his undershirt, which had come so far as to envelop his head, but refused to come farther. As he struggled his bare white back arched invitingly before Sube's yearning eyes. The temptation was too strong for Sube. He yielded. And with one bold stroke of the brush he transformed the skin along Biscuit's spine from the purest Caucasian to the shiniest Senegambian.

With an angry bleat Biscuit tore off the shirt and turned on his complacent decorator. "You wipe that off'n me or I'll—!"

"Oh! Will you?—Well, all right. Turn[Pg 186] around and I'll wipe it off." And Sube calmly dipped his brush into the paint. "Turn around, Biscuit. Turn your back to Uncle Sube!"

"Don't you put any more of that nasty stuff on me!" bellowed Biscuit.

"But, Biscuit," pleaded Sube in the soft voice of a painless dentist about to extract a molar, "we've got to 'nitiate you, ain't we? Now ain't we, Biscuit?"

This conversation was designed to draw Biscuit's attention so that Gizzard might deliver a rear attack, which he did with complete success. For, an instant later Biscuit was extended face downward on the ground and securely held by his little friends while Sube stood over him, brush in hand, ready to complete his work of art.

"Watch me closely, ladies and gent'mun," Sube declaimed with solemnity, "for I am about to confer on this can'idate the Order of the Golden Fish. This name, ladies and gent'mun, is given to this can'idate on account of his bein' a trick swimmer. He claims he can do the creep, and the bludgeon, and the shears. In our future consuls he will be called 'The Pike,' ladies and gent'mun, note the name, 'The Pike!' I will now give him the stripes that belong to him!"[Pg 187]

He at once proceeded to do so.

Biscuit howled lustily, but quite ineffectually. The stripes were given with extreme delicacy of handling, the body scheme following the pattern of his Patron Fish, and the legs being finished with a neat corkscrew design. When the rear exposure had been completed, the candidate was flopped over and finished in front according to the same general idea. After some discussion his face was done in a chaste checkerboard design that was really quite effective.

The great master had just reached the ears when Cathead who was holding one of the candidate's arms, relaxed his grip somewhat in order to make a survey of the nearly finished masterpiece. In a flash Biscuit wrenched loose the arm and struck the can of paint from Sube's hand, splashing the contents over his captors as well as himself. In another flash he was free and on his feet, and making good his escape.

Sube gave chase, wiping the paint from his face as he ran. The others followed for a short distance, but were soon turned back by their modesty.

At first Sube was actuated by motives of revenge. He was going to show Biscuit that nobody could throw a can of paint in his face with impunity. But as Biscuit reached the highway and started for home[Pg 188] the episode assumed a different aspect. If Sube had put his thoughts in words they would have sounded something like this:

"Why, he's startin' for home!—The crazy nut!—Hear 'im holler!—He's scairt!—He's scairt to death!—He's scairt crazy!—He don't know what he is doin'!—I got to catch 'im!—What if we'd meet somebody!—What if I couldn't catch 'im!—If he should ever get to his mother!—"

The mere thought quickened Sube's pace. But at the same moment something quickened Biscuit's pace and turned on a little more noise. An automobile occupied by four young ladies came in sight. As it approached it drew out to the side of the road and stopped to watch the progress of the chase. Then it turned around and followed along like an observation train.

Pedestrians stepped aside and looked on in amazement at the strange sight, but fortunately not many were abroad.

As Biscuit came abreast of the Presbyterian Church he hesitated; and hearing his pursuer thundering along behind him, turned in, rushed up the steps, threw open the door and disappeared within, slamming the door behind him.[Pg 189]

Sube noted this maneuver with a gasp of relief. "Now I've got 'im cornered!" he muttered approvingly as he leaped up the steps and burst into the church.[Pg 190]



While these events had been taking place the members of the Coral Strand Missionary Circle were gathered at the church in solemn conclave. Mrs. Westfall, the president, had called a special meeting to deal with events of unusual importance that had brought out the entire membership.

The circle had lately been the object of a cowardly attack from the pen of one Bill Busby, who devoted nearly a column of the valued editorial space of the Citizen to a whimsical commentary on foreign missions. Of course he had mentioned no names, but his poison-tipped innuendoes were too pointed to be overlooked.

On behalf of the Coral Strand Missionary Circle Mrs. Westfall had demanded a retraction of the alleged libelous statements, and an apology that should be given the same publicity as the defamatory matter.

Bill Busby had received her with extreme politeness. He had transferred his feet from the top of[Pg 191] the desk to the seat of a chair; he had advanced his hat to the forward portion of his head; he had even gone so far as to remove his cigar from his mouth and lay it on the edge of the desk which already bore charred evidence of previous courtesies; but he refused to retract his statements. On the contrary he insisted that they were true. However, he had agreed to apologize, which he did in the next week's issue.

But Bill's apology was somewhat awkward. It appeared under the caption, Well-meaning but Mis-informed and Misguided Philanthropists, and sounded very much like betting the Coral Strand Missionary Circle a new hat that the $160 they had raised during the preceding year would have shriveled by the time it reached its destination until it would buy no more than $1.60 worth of shoes for the naked heathen babies.

The special meeting followed; for, regardless of the truth or falsity of Bill's charges, the cause of foreign missions had received a body-blow. The community—never over-enthusiastic on the subject—was now equipped with a full-fledged excuse for refusing to make any further contributions. A flimsy excuse, to be sure, but the flimsier an excuse is, the better it serves its purpose.[Pg 192]

It soon proved to be the sense of the meeting that something of a public nature must be done to recover the lost prestige of the Coral Strand Missionary Circle, and to counteract the insidious effects of "that Busby man's dastardly attack on the fair name and fame of the circle."

Several plans were suggested and discussed and discarded before Mrs. Westfall considered that the psychological moment had arrived to spring on the meeting an idea that had come to her in the night, undoubtedly in answer to her earnest prayer for guidance, but at last she stood before her dear sisters, faintly flushed with enthusiasm and holding in her hand a pink folder with which she gesticulated from time to time as she made a few introductory remarks. Finally she opened the folder and read from beginning to end the descriptive matter concerning the Inter-State Correspondence School course in Philanthropy—the Science of Giving. She read selected quotations from the world's most cheerful givers: from Andrew Carnegie's essay on Gainful Giving, from Hettie Green's monograph on Making Every Cent Count and from other of the authorities.

"My idea," she went on to explain as she laid aside the pink folder, "is to have the Coral Strand Missionary Circle as a body, take this course, so that[Pg 193] hereafter we shall be known as a society of Graduate Philanthropists!"

A storm of discussion followed, but above its raging the nasal tones of Mrs. Electa Mandeville could be heard distinctly.

"They're fakes! They're all alike! They're fakes! They're fakes!" she repeated over and over.

Gradually the others subsided and at last Mrs. Mandeville had the floor all to herself, whereupon she shook a long bony index-finger at the president and cried shrilly:

"I tell you they're fakes! All fakes! I've had experience with 'em and I know! Look at my son-in-law! He answered an ad in a magazine that said 'Be a Civil Engineer,' and he took a course that cost me sixty dollars! And look at him! Why, he ain't even civil, to say nothing of being an engineer!"

"I will personally vouch for the reliability of the Inter-State Correspondence School," replied Mrs. Westfall tartly. "And besides, they give an iron-bound guarantee of satisfaction or all money refunded."

"I wouldn't trust any of 'em!" cried Mrs. Mandeville excitedly. "They take your money and then all they do is send you a lot of rubbish through the[Pg 194] mail and try to sell you text books and equipment or get you to take some other course—!"

"Some of the inferior schools might do such things," interrupted Mrs. Westfall icily; "but not the Inter-State! As I said, I will personally vouch for—"

"Personally? Did you say?" snapped Mrs. Mandeville. "Personally? How could you vouch for them personally unless you have had dealings with them?"

"I said 'personally,' Sister Mandeville," returned the president, "and I meant personally! I have had dealings with them."

The Coral Strand Missionary Circle was on tip-toe. It was confidently expected that Mrs. Westfall was about to divulge the details of some of her secret efforts at self-improvement, and it was something of a disappointment when she told merely of Karl's triumphant conquest of the art of swimming without going outside of her own kitchen.

As she paused for rhetorical effect the irrepressible Mrs. Mandeville inquired,

"But how do you know he can swim?"

There was a suspicion of a titter from the rear seats; but Mrs. Westfall froze this levity with a glare as she retorted:[Pg 195]

"He is, at this very moment, down in swimming with his little playmates!"

"But if he's never tried it in the water, how do you know he can—" began Mrs. Mandeville, but before she could finish her question there was a tremendous slam from the front door, and Biscuit appeared in their midst.

For a moment he was taken for an apparition of the Evil One; and when he fled bawling into his mother's arms he brought his worthy parent under momentary suspicion of intimacy with striped devils.

But when she began to pat his naked back and murmur: "There, ther-r-r-e! Mother's boy is all safe!" and other similar expressions of assurance, the horrified spectators began to grasp the situation, and restored her good character.

It was some time before Biscuit could utter intelligible words, although his mother fancied she heard among his tearful babblings the names of several fish. But when he managed to convey the idea that there was some kind of an initiation, she began to understand his highly decorated exterior. Then suddenly it dawned on her that the painted decorations were the only ones that he had on. In that panicky moment she wrapped him in her best white shawl and started to conduct him towards a[Pg 196] small door that led into the session-room, when Mrs. Mandeville again entered the arena.

"This," she exclaimed sarcastically, "might be a good time to get at the truth about those wonderful swimming lessons!"

Mrs. Westfall stopped in her tracks. "Perhaps it would," she said with a murderous look at Mrs. Mandeville; and, turning Biscuit around so that he faced the meeting she asked in a wheedling tone: "You could swim all right, couldn't you, dearie?"

"I du-du-don't know!" he blubbered.

"Don't know!" she demanded giving his shoulder an angry shake. "Don't know! Why don't you know?"

"I—uh—uh—ain't been in the wu-wu-water yet!"

A crimson flush spread over Mrs. Westfall's scowling visage as she cried, "Oh! You haven't, eh! You haven't!"

She seized him by one of his unornamented ears and marched him down the aisle towards the front door, where she relieved him of the shawl and pointing a trembling finger at the door almost screamed: "Get out of that door!... Go down to that swimming-hole just as fast as your legs will carry[Pg 197] you, and don't you come back till you've found out whether you can swim or not!"

And while the question of taking a correspondence course in Philanthropy—the Science of Giving was being gently but everlastingly laid on the table, Biscuit was retracing his steps to the swimming-hole with less precipitation and much more modesty than he had left it. More than once he longed for the cartoonist's favorite barrel as he dodged from tree to tree to escape the prying gaze of an inconsiderate public.

Fate dealt him a cruel blow when he sought to avoid meeting two old ladies by slipping behind a clump of lilac bushes in Rude's front yard; for from underneath the very bushes themselves came the shocked observation of the voice he loved best in all the world:

"I don't know what game you think you're playin', Karl Westfall, but it's not a very nice game! I think you're horrid anyway—!"

But Biscuit did not tarry to hear more. He fled. Nor did he stop again until he had reached the swimming-hole, which he did shortly after Sube's return from his unsuccessful pursuit. Sube had just finished telling how he had burst into the church—and[Pg 198] burst out again without being observed, when the sound of footsteps was heard on the path.

"Hark! There's somebody after us already! We'll get—"

Then Biscuit came into view.

As one they flew to welcome him.

"Good for you, old kid! How'd you get away from all those old hens? Come 'ere, let's see if I can't wipe off some of that ol' paint with my undershirt—"

It took the underwear of the entire party to make Biscuit presentable, and meanwhile he had given an account of the proceedings at the church.

"She never noticed the paint at all!" he declared. "She jus' asked me if I could swim, and when I said I didn't know, she sent me back to find out."

"You'll find out all right!" came a gruff voice from behind him.

Turning around, Biscuit beheld Seth Bissett, the terror of the town, who had received his preliminary training in a reform school and had afterwards finished in the penitentiary. The other boys dived into the pool and swam to safety on the farther side of the creek; but Biscuit, forgetting for the moment his theoretical mastery of the deep, attempted to effect his escape by land, and ran into the arms[Pg 199] of Warren Sours, the ally and familiar friend of Seth Bissett.

"How many times I gotta tell you little rats to keep away from this swimmin'-hole?" cried Seth with the assistance of several ever-ready strong words, as he roughly grasped Biscuit by the shoulder and faced him around. "Can you swim, bo?"

"Yes, sir," replied Biscuit proudly, little suspecting what was to follow.

"That's blankety-blank lucky!" the big fellow went on, suddenly catching Biscuit by an ankle and a wrist, "because now you're goin' to have a chanct."

Warren seized him by the other ankle and wrist. And as they swung him back and forth as in the game called "beetle and wedge" Seth counted:

"One!... Two!... Thr-e-e!"

Biscuit went sailing through the air and struck far out in the pool with a tremendous splash; then disappeared from view. Without waiting for him to come up, Seth and Warren hastily snatched up the clothes that were lying about on the grass, and flinging them into the pool, made off into the bushes without so much as a glance at the place where Biscuit had gone down.[Pg 200]



Up to the time that Biscuit struck the water he had uttered no outcry. He had perfect confidence in his ability to swim and accordingly took the affair in the light of a rough joke. But when he came to the surface after his initial ducking he uttered a piercing shriek and went down again.

"He can't swim a stroke!" cried Sube as he hurriedly swam towards the spot where Biscuit had disappeared.

When Biscuit came up the second time Sube grabbed him by the hair, and with the assistance of Gizzard towed him to shore. He was soon stretched out on the grassy slope, head downwards to insure better drainage. And even before the water was all out of him he gulped out spasmodically:

"I can swim all right, only they threw me in upside down! I ain't learned to swim that way yet!"

"You're all right, Biscuit!" Sube assured him. "You can swim like a fish!"

"Sure I can!... Didn't I swim to shore?"[Pg 201]

"Well, you're here, ain't you? How could you get here if you didn't swim? When you go home you tell your mother you can swim like a fish, or she'll never let you come down here again."

"Well, I can, can't I?"

"Sure you can; just exactly."

"Then that's what I'll tell her."

"And you better not say an'thing about those big fellers helpin' you into the water, either," Sube advised.

"Oh, I have to tell her everybody I play with!" exclaimed Biscuit piously, "if she asks me."

"All right," muttered Sube, "if you call that playin'."

"But what'll I tell her 'bout my clo's bein' all wet?" asked Biscuit.

"Tell her you left 'em too near the bank, and they got pushed in—"

"Oh! I wouldn't tell my mother a lie for anything!"

"Lie? That's no lie! If you'd left 'em back there in the bushes they wouldn't of got in the water, now would they?"

"Oh, no! Not if I'd left 'em way back there."

"So you did leave 'em too near the water, jus' as I said!"[Pg 202]

Biscuit blinked in wordless approval.

That evening while Seth Bissett and Warren Sours with a number of their associates were enjoying their evening dip, a hooked stick slowly reached out from the nearby shrubbery, and having become attached to one of the many articles of wearing apparel lying on the grass, drew it gently into the bushes. After a moment it was restored in the same way and another article taken. After this had gone on for some time the stick disappeared and was seen no more.

When the swimmers came out of the water at the approach of darkness it was apparent that something had gone wrong. An aroma that could not be wholly disregarded made known its undesirable presence. At first it seemed to be located somewhere about the grass plot, but as they finished dressing and started for home they discovered that it was apparently everywhere.

On the way Seth Bissett tarried for a friendly chat at the gate of a certain young lady, but found her unusually distant. So much so that in spite of his innocence of the cause, he deemed it prudent not to prolong his visit. Warren Sours went home; and as he entered the house with a jocular remark about the contaminated state of the atmosphere he[Pg 203] was informed that until his arrival it had been quite satisfactory. Retirement to the stable followed; and with the aid of a lantern he finally found in each of his hip pockets a pasty smear, that from the presence of a small piece of tinfoil in addition to certain other deductions, he took to be the remnants of a piece of superannuated limburger cheese. Further evidences were found inside his hatband, and under the innersole of each of his shoes, but not until several days later.

Subsequent inquiry developed that none of the persons at the pool that night had been spared, although no two were attacked in the same place. Two days elapsed before Seth Bissett found a thin layer of the "dreadful" inside the lining of his favorite necktie, and in the meantime he had nearly hated himself to death. It was a week before Chuck Smith located a smear in the back of his watchcase, and during all that time he was haunted by a suspicion that he was no longer good company for man or beast. After changing his entire wardrobe several times in an effort to forget that fatal swim, Bob Beach found when he had occasion to use his purse a few days later that all his money, though honestly earned, had become badly tainted.

Nobody seemed to be able to account for the mys[Pg 204]terious attack. Some of the swimmers accused each other, only to arouse vigorous denial, and there was no proof. But Seth Bissett had his suspicions, and they were well founded.

If Mrs. Cane had known of the pollution that swept over the swimming-hole that night, she would doubtless have supposed that Sube was attacked in common with the others; for he came home reeking of a loathsome odor that he was unable to account for. But, of course, Mrs. Cane heard little of the swimming-hole gossip.

"What have you been doing!" she exclaimed as Sube came into the room.

"Never mind about that," growled his father. "Where are you going just about as fast as you can get there!"

Sube looked from one of his parents to the other in utter surprise. "What have I done now?" he asked.

"Heaven only knows!" Mr. Cane exploded. "But do get out of this room with it!"

"With what?" asked the amazed boy, holding out his empty hands. "I ain't got an'thing."

Mr. Cane mangled the air with gestures of futility while his wife laid aside her embroidery and stood up.[Pg 205]

"You've got something on you that doesn't smell very good. Come with—"

"Doesn't smell very good!" repeated Mr. Cane sarcastically. "Of all the feeble language! I can describe it for you in one short word!"

"Sam-u-el! Don't be vulgar! You run along to the bathroom, Sube. We'll try a little ammonia."

"Ammonia!" jeered Mr. Cane. "Am-mo-nia! You'd better boil him in muriatic acid and bury him for three weeks! A little ammonia," he repeated as he stood up and opened another window. Then his curiosity got the better of him. "Sube," he called, "I want to ask you a few questions—but you needn't come back here! Stop right there where you are."

A scowl of suspicion came over Sube's face as he halted and turned towards the author of his existence.

"Where have you been this evening?" his father began.

"Nowheres—jus' playin' round."

"Round where? Round what?"

"Jus' round here everyplace. I couldn't tell—"

"Well, tell me one place."

"Sir?—Why out in the back yard."

"Where else?"

"Why,—we went over in Bowers' back yard."[Pg 206]

A ray of light came over Mr. Cane's stern visage as he asked, "You weren't playing garbage-man, were you?"

"No! sir!" exclaimed Sube with a look of outraged innocence.

"Where else did you play?" asked his father.

"Where else?—Why—out in the street."

"Well, where else?"

"Over on the back street."

"Well," Mr. Cane was glowering now, "where else?"

"Over on the other street by the coalyard."

"And what game were you playing in all these different streets?" demanded the inquisitor who was now showing signs of irritation.

"Oh, different games. First we'd play one game awhile, and then another—"

"You weren't playing sewer inspector, were you?"

"No, sir," muttered the boy as he made a mental note of two games he had never tried, but would at the first opportunity.

"Haven't you any idea where you got into this unspeakable effluvium?" demanded his father with ill-restrained petulance.

"No, sir; not unless I might of got it up by the[Pg 207] church. I was playin' round up there part of the time, and I noticed some'pm smelled kind o' funny, but I couldn't find out—"

"All right. Go on. Get the stuff off from you if you can—but don't come in here again to-night!"

Sube moved on to the bathroom, where he found that his mother had drawn a bowl of hot water into which she had put a generous quantity of ammonia and a scrubbing-brush. But after superintending the operation for a short time from a point over near the window, she retired, leaving Sube to his own devices. As soon as she was gone he let out the ammonia water on the ground that it interfered with his breathing, and hurriedly rinsing his hands in plain cold water wiped them on the bath mat (as his father afterward discovered) and slipped down the back stairs to rejoin his companions in the yard for a good ol' game of rat tail.[Pg 208]



The following day Sube Cane made a pleasing discovery. He was strolling along the back street that bordered his father's garden when he was confronted by a vision of gorgeous beauty. He halted in amazement.

"Well, I'll be jiggled!" he gasped ecstatically. "I'd like to know when they put that up! It wasn't there this morning. There was nuthin' but a lot of patent med'cine ads."

And he gazed in rapture at the colorful announcement of the coming of Baylum & Barney's Greatest Show on Earth. At first a lady in fleshings doing a toe-dance on the back of a pinto percheron held his attention, but he was soon won from her by the Human Fly, who was depicted as in the act of walking on the ceiling. And it was not long before the Human Fly gave way to the Only Genuine Blood-Sweating Behemoth of Holy Writ Now in Captivity. Then Sube truly lost his heart.

The longer he gazed at the behemoth the more[Pg 209] he admired it. It was, indeed, a case of love at first sight. Under his fascinated scrutiny the shifty eyes became kind; the broad ugly nose and cavernous mouth seemed to smile at him; the wrinkled hide looked as soft as a baby's skin. How he would have liked one for a pet!

In his mind as he stood there a definite idea assumed form; he would never be a lawyer when he grew up. Nothing short of a showman could satisfy him now. The thought of attending his own show every day was enticing. The informality of the circus life appealed to him. There would be no dining table to keep his elbows off from; no napkin to fold up. When he got hungry he would simply help himself to a few glasses of red lemonade and all the hot dogs he wanted, and no time would be wasted waiting for other people to be served. And when he led the parade, no common milk-white horses for him; he would train and drive a pair of good ol' blood-sweaters!

Then another idea struck him; a big one. Why not begin the business at once! He realized that for a time, at least, he would have to be hampered by living in a house and eating at a table; but there was nothing to prevent his starting his show in a small way. A third inspiration showed him how he[Pg 210] could obtain a behemoth for immediate use. And by the time he had reached home his plans were well under way.

[Pg 211]

"Dad," he asked as he sauntered into the library a little later, "where is Holy Writ?"

"Where is what?" asked his astonished parent.

"Holy Writ."

"Why, if you mean the Bible," said Mr. Cane, "it is in on the parlor table." And he resumed the reading of his paper.

For a moment Sube was immovable. Then it dawned on him. The Holy Writ was just another name for the Bible. And those figures underneath the portrait of his favorite were a reference to the Book of Job. He would go back and see what they were.

Half an hour later as Mr. Cane stepped behind the davenport in the parlor to adjust a screen, he nearly fell over the boy.

"What in thunder are you doing there?" he demanded irritably.


"I said, 'What are you doing there?'"

"Reading." Sube tried to cover up the object of his perusal by lying on top of it; but this move only excited further curiosity on the part of his father.

"What are you reading?"

"A book."[Pg 212]

Evasion was always aggravating to Mr. Cane. "What book?" he cried as he struggled to keep down his rising temper.

"This one right here." Sube indicated it with a motion of his body.

"What is the name of it?" thundered the exasperated parent.


"You heard what I said!"

"The name of this book?"

Mr. Cane did not deign to answer. He simply glowered, opening and closing his hands as if they itched to take hold of something.

Sube understood the look and the convulsive movement of the hands, and made haste to answer: "Why, the name of it's the—" he was compelled to turn the book over and examine the title—"the Bible," he mumbled.

"What's that?" asked Mr. Cane petulantly. "Speak so a person can understand you! Don't mumble."

Sube hung his head as he murmured, "I said, 'the Bible.'"

Mr. Cane softened instantly. He thought he had discovered an undreamed-of spark of reverence[Pg 213] in his son. "That's a very good book for you to read," he said kindly. "I hope you'll read it every day."

If Mr. Cane had looked into the parlor two minutes later, he would have realized his mistake. For Sube carefully tore from the Holy Writ a single page which he folded up compactly and thrust deep into his hip-pocket. At that moment he heard his mother's voice calling him; and hurriedly thrusting aside the screen his father had so carefully adjusted, he leaped from the window and was gone.

As Sube's showmanship developed, his manners dwindled. Sometimes it seemed to his family that his reason was tottering. One evening at dinner he humiliated his parents and irritated beyond words a dyspeptic jurist who was his father's guest, by interjecting into the conversation observations regarding the peculiarities of the blood-sweathing behemoth. And this in spite of the fact that his mother had previously warned him that any attempt on his part to participate in the talk at the table would be considered as an unfriendly act. Finally his enthusiasm ran away with him to such an extent that he forced upon the diners over the sotto voce protests of his mother, an off-hand description of the creature of[Pg 214] Job's fancy, so detailed and so unexpurgated that his instant dismissal from the table became imperative.

He left the room more outraged than chastened, muttering something about being able to "prove it" and fumbling sulkily in his hip pocket apparently for evidence. A few moments later he was standing before his beloved poster regarding his heart's desire with a sense of peculiar proprietorship. After a little he sat down on the grass; and while Sport, his old spotted dog, lay at his feet lazily digging at one ear with a rheumatic hind-foot, Sube drew from his pocket and read aloud in a halting monotone certain portions of the fortieth chapter of the Book of Job, often pausing between verses to verify the observations of the Patient Prophet by comparison with the portrait taken from life.

When the gathering dusk made further reading impossible, and began to blur the features of the behemoth into less pleasing form Sube stood up.

"Sport," he said, "you'll prob'ly make a bum job of it, but you're goin' to be a blood-sweatin' behemoth of Holy Writ."

The dog received this announcement with equanimity, little realizing the inconvenience it was to cause him.[Pg 215]

The next day at Sunday School Sube declined to give the Golden Text, and recited in its stead a few verses from the Book of Job to which his teacher, Miss Lester, took choleric exception. He was immediately sent home; but when Miss Lester stopped in to explain matters to his mother he had not yet arrived. As he sauntered in half an hour later he met with a very warm reception and was placed on jail-limits for the remainder of the day, being forbidden to leave the premises. But this entailed no great hardship, for he spent the afternoon in the barn printing posters and making preparations for the circus which he was planning to launch on the morrow.

Monday was a red-letter day for the youth living in that part of the town known as the East Village. The lucky few who were associated with the management were engaged in building the "ampatheater" and fashioning the drop curtain from a quantity of ex-fertilizer sacks that were Gizzard Tobin's contribution to the enterprise; the others were kept busy knocking the show, and at the same time getting together the price of admission.

At about two o'clock in the afternoon a great hubbub was heard in the streets. It sounded at first as if a newspaper extra had arrived; but a[Pg 216] careful listener would have been able to make out that the cry was, "Cir-cus!" instead of, "Ux-try!" Then came the additional announcement that the big show would start at two-thirty sharp in the main tent upstairs in Canes' barn.

The barkers darted from place to place with such amazing rapidity and shouted so lustily that it seemed as if there must be nearer forty of them than four. Indeed their cries appeared to come from all sides at once. Nor was the rapidity of their movements accelerated by their circus costumes, for they were all in full dress; and their upturned trousers would insist on coming down over their feet and tripping them up from time to time.

It is possible that this may account for the disreputable condition in which two or three fathers in the neighborhood found their evening clothes the next time they had occasion to wear them. Although, without exception, the boys in the affected families denied any knowledge of the matter.

When the time-piece on the shelf in Canes' kitchen reached two-thirty o'clock the "ampatheater" was crowded to capacity, and although several late comers were assured by the man at the door that there were plenty of "reserved seats for every man, woman and child, one and all, admitted to the big[Pg 217] tent," they found on going inside that there was standing room only.

"Plen-ty of room! Plen-ty of room!" drawled the loud nasal voice at the door. "Do not loi-ter about the entrance, please! Either step in, or step aside! Gangway, please! Gang-way! Do not interfere with our pa-trons—"

These and many other remarks of a distinctly professional nature came from Ringmaster Cane, who seemed to be everywhere at once. Now he was at the entrance keeping it free from loiterers; now his nasal drawl could be heard issuing orders behind the scenes; now he was assisting a couple of ladies to find seats in the "ampatheater"; and at last, with three shrill blasts on a police whistle, he stood before the curtain and cracked his whip for order.[Pg 218]



A battered silk hat that had seen his father through a campaign for district attorney a number of years before rested on his ears, causing them to protrude unnaturally, while a full-dress coat with pointed tails that just cleared the floor gave him a quadrupedal appearance. This coat was the wearer's conception of sartorial perfection, having been cut out by his own hands from an old raincoat of his father's. A pair of painter's overalls with a hectic past completed his costume.

And while the audience gazed with interest at the ringmaster, the ringmaster was gazing with equal interest at the audience. He was trying to make himself think that the circus was solely responsible for the gala dress that confronted him, although his better judgment should have told him that most of those present were thus gayly clad for Cottontop Sigsbee's party that was to take place at the conclusion of the performance.

After cracking the whip a few times to show how skillfully it could be done, the ringmaster proceeded[Pg 219] to deliver a highly entertaining lecture prepared by himself in collaboration with one Job, and to assure his hearers that his show possessed the only "genuine blood-sweatin' behemoth of Holy Writ now in captivity, regardluss of the claims of jealous compet'ors exackly as advertised."

As he gave a preliminary shake of the drop-curtain the anticipations of the audience ran high, for they distinctly smelled something suggestive of the odor of wild animals; but alas, it was only a faint reminiscence from the curtain. After one or two false starts the ringmaster drew back the curtain.

"Behold now behemoth, ladies and gent'mun!" he cried with a sweeping gesture of the hand toward the center of the stage.

With a craning of necks and a straining of eyes the audience beheld a quadruped about the size of Sport and the color of stove-blacking, manacled by a huge log-chain to a Nubian animal trainer who bore a striking resemblance to Gizzard Tobin, although bereft of all clothing save a pair of swimming trunks and a sparse coating of black.

The murmur of disapproval that greeted this tableau was quickly quelled by the ringmaster, as he brought the curtains together and began to declaim in a loud voice:[Pg 220]

"Not so pre-vious, ladies and gent'mun! Not so pre-vious, I beg of you! The best is yet to come! You have not seen this wonderful Biblic animal p'form!... Why, ladies and gent'mun, he sweats blood! Bl-l-l-l-ud!... Real,—rich,—red,—human bl-l-l-ud!... Each and every person present is untitled to see him sweat bl-l-l-ud, or money refunded, exackly as advertised!"

Then the ringmaster poked his head between the curtains and said in a desperate whisper quite as audible on one side of the curtain as the other: "Hurry up, Giz! I can't keep this up all night!" and turning to the audience resumed, "Yes, ladies and gent'mun, he sweats bl-l-lud; and Job, this wond'ful blood-sweatin' creature's trainer, is now gettin' his blood ready for him. For, ladies and gent'mun, he does act'ally sweat bl-l-lud! Real,—rich,—red,—human,—bl-l-l-lud! The same as you one and all have got in your insides, exackly as advertised—"

Three distinct raps were heard. Again Sube drew back the redolent curtain and to all appearances the dog-like behemoth was sweating blood profusely. He was completely inundated with a bright red liquid which dripped and trickled down on the floor in numerous gory puddles.

[Pg 221]


For an instant the audience was spellbound. Sube was enough of a showman to realize this; but he was not enough of a showman to draw the curtain before the spell could be broken. Intoxicated with success, he attempted to prolong the supreme moment to the uttermost. And thus came disaster. For this particular behemoth was new at the blood-sweating business. In fact, he had no idea that he was sweating blood. He knew only that he was saturated with a chilling liquid, and he did the customary thing: he shook himself thoroughly.

For an instant there was an ominous silence, during which fresh white dresses with socks to match suddenly acquired numberless polka dots, while multitudes of crimson freckles appeared on hitherto unblemished cheeks and arms and legs; and Biscuit Westfall's new white sailor suit, purchased especially for the party, broke out with more red pimples than a bad case of chicken-pox. Nobody was spared. But those in the rear were only sprinkled, while those in the front row were deluged.

Expectorations, expostulations and lamentations followed in order. Then came the most dreaded of all showman's disasters, the ghastly rush for the exits.

Fortunately the stairway was large and the audi[Pg 222]ence was small. There was no choking of the aisles. Nobody was trampled underfoot. Not a single casualty occurred, although Sport had a narrow escape. For, as the howling mob was rushing out of the big barn-door, he came flying down the stairs astride his long tail, followed by numerous missiles and epithets forcefully hurled after him by unseen persons in the loft.

Sube came to a hasty conclusion that Cottontop's party was no place for him, and went into hiding for the rest of the afternoon. Annie called him until she was hoarse, but there was no response. And when she tried to enlist Sport's aid in finding his master the long-suffering creature refused to be lured from his kennel, but spent the remainder of the day licking at the unpalatable mixture of stove-blacking and raspberry juice with a sullen expression that seemed to indicate that even among dogs patience sometimes ceases to be a virtue.

On the whole it was an ignominious ending for Sube's moment of triumph. It threatened to crush his three-ring ambitions; but two weeks later when the special train of Baylum and Barney's Greatest Show on Earth came thundering into town an hour before daybreak, the first person on hand to welcome and assist was none other than Sube Cane.[Pg 223]

In spite of the interference of several officious roustabouts Sube succeeded in superintending the unloading of the blood-sweating behemoth's cage, and personally conducted it to the Fair Grounds. When the tarpaulin was removed it was discovered that the cage had been so badly damaged in transit that immediate repairs were necessary.

Arrangements were accordingly made to transfer the behemoth to another cage; and while the roustabouts were still something of a hindrance to the youthful superintendent, matters progressed smoothly until Sport appeared on the scene, fawning humbly and wagging his tail with obsequious joy at the sight of his master.

Sube had placed the dog in solitary confinement before leaving home for the express purpose of preventing his attendance at the circus, and he was greatly annoyed at this display of presumption. He intimated as much in a gruff undertone followed by the vicious throwing of several imaginary rocks. Sport retired with a deeply injured air, and was soon lost to sight in the crowd.

But just as the huge hulk of the blood-sweating behemoth was passing from one cage to the other the faithful animal came back and made a heroic effort to save his master's life by attempting to[Pg 224] attack the hideous beast through the bars of the temporary fence by which it was confined.

The unexpectedness of the onslaught caused the behemoth to shy so violently from its assailant that it knocked down the fence on the farther side of the lane through which it was being urged, and suddenly found itself free and unfettered. Meanwhile Sport was pressing his attack with great vocal enthusiasm, and was showing signs of closing in on his quarry. He abandoned this idea, however, when the behemoth turned and made a counter-charge. It was then that a parade not on the program took place.

It was led by Sport, at a pace totally at variance with the ordinary formal circus-wagon parade, for Sport was capable of much more speed than his years and his rheumatism would have induced one to believe. In fact, the only thing that prevented him from making a world's record was his tail, which kept getting tangled up with his front legs.

A short distance behind Sport came the behemoth, lumbering, careening and snorting, but making very rapid progress. Then after a long blank space came Sube the Showman, on a bicycle he had commandeered for the occasion, pressed to the utmost to maintain the pace set by the leaders. Not far behind Sube came a motley crowd of blasphemous[Pg 225] circus-hands and howling urchins. The rear guard was made up of the more mature onlookers whose curiosity was mightier than their caution.

The parade proceeded by the most direct route to Canes' barn, the First Section arriving only a few feet in advance of the Second. Nor did the First Section tarry long in the barn; but hurled itself through a small hole in the rear wall that led into its kennel—and there it fell exhausted. The Second Section brought up with a loud snort in an abandoned horse stall, and stood puffing and wheezing and wondering what to do next, when the Third Section arrived and by almost superhuman efforts managed to close the big barn-door all but a few inches.

The Third Section was peering so intently through the crack of the door in an effort to see whether the Second Section was sweating blood exackly as advertised, that it failed to note the coming of a rubber-tired runabout drawn by a team of milk-white Arabians, until the red-faced individual in charge of the conveyance exploded:


Sube quickly turned around, and recognizing at a glance that the man belonged with the circus, cried exultantly:[Pg 226]

"I've got 'im!"

"So I should judge," replied the man, smiling broadly.

At this moment the broken ranks of the Fourth Section began to arrive, badly winded but still swearing magnificently.

"What do you know about that, boys!" shouted the red-faced individual, pointing with his milk-white whip at a poster on the barn-door.

It was a relic of Sube's circus.

BoHemuTH oF HoLy WRiT iN
cAPiTiVity ADmiSion 5sTc
1o MArbLeS oR 20 PiNs

"Did you capture him yourself?" asked the red-faced individual as he clambered heavily from the runabout.

"Yes, sir."

"May I see him?"

Sube's assurance fled. His bashful reply was almost inaudible. "Yes, sir," he mumbled.

"Five cents, I suppose," said the showman loudly as he pressed an unexpected nickel into Sube's hand and peered into the barn.

Sube backed away a few steps and stood picking at the nickel with his thumbnail when the showman[Pg 227] turned from the door and said to the circus hands:

"He's in there all right. Go after him!" Then placing a large red hand on Sube's shoulder he added, "Young man, my name's Barney. I've been in the show business a good many years. But when you get ready to take your show on the road, I'll get ready to retire. You've got me skinned a mile!"

Supposing that this was some sort of a doubtful compliment Sube hung his head. He rubbed his lips with the back of his hand. He bored his heel into the earth. A sudden feeling of aversion for the loud-mouthed showman and his cursing assistants swept over him. He decided to abandon his career as a showman. And without raising his eyes he said:

"I ain't goin' int' the show business. I'm goin' to be a lawyer."[Pg 228]



Sube Cane had often seen his father wrapped in contemplation, so he knew how the thing ought to be done. He accordingly clasped his hands behind his back beneath the place where coat-tails should have been, drew his eyebrows into a scowl, pursed his lips, and fixed his gaze on the object to be considered.

This proved to be a hole; a small hole in the side of ol' Uncle George Bond's barn, close to the ground. It was perfectly rounded at the top and equipped with a neat sliding-door; and it did look interesting. But then, any hole that there is even the slightest possibility of crawling through looks interesting to a boy. Sube was so engrossed in his contemplations that he started perceptibly on hearing a gruff voice inquire what he thought he was doing there.

He quickly withdrew his hands from underneath the imaginary coat-tails and released the scowl. Then he glanced around to find himself looking into[Pg 229] the grinning face of his friend, Hon. Gizzard Tobin.

"Thought you'd scare me, didn't you?" Sube growled.

"Thought so!" cried Gizzard. "Say! You jumped a mile!"

"Well, I guess I didn't jump! I knew it was you all the time."

"Yes, you didn't! What'd you jump for, then?"

"Didn't jump. Jus' moved a little."

"I should say you did move! You thought ol' Uncle George was right after you!"

"That shows how much you know about it," Sube sneered as he bent over to examine the hole at closer range.

Gizzard vaulted the fence and came up beside him. "What you lookin' at that ol' chicken-hole for?" he asked disdainfully.

Sube cocked his head over on one side as if to view the problem from another angle and replied: "I was jus' wonderin'."

"What about?"

"Jus' wonderin' if a feller could crawl through there," said Sube pointing a stubby finger at the hole.

"You couldn't, and I wouldn't want to," replied Gizzard with unaccustomed promptness.[Pg 230]

"Why couldn't I?" asked Sube deliberately.

"'Cause that there slide's hooked on the inside!"

Sube muttered something unintelligible as he bent over and inserted his finger under the sliding-door. He raised it far enough to demonstrate that it was not fastened, and dropped it as he asked:

"Now why wouldn't you want to?"

"S'pose I want ol' Uncle George to kick the liver out of me! Why, I jus' looked in the door one day when he was in there, and he swore at me till I was out of sight; and he said if he ever caught me on his premises again, he'd kick the liver out of me! And I bet he would, too!"

Relatively speaking, ol' Uncle George Bond was nobody's uncle; but as a matter of nomenclature he was everybody's. He was death on boys, to be sure. However, his unfriendly attitude was of very little importance at this particular time because he was out of town.

"Gone to Sodus for a month," was the information Sube presently imparted.

"What makes you think so?" asked the skeptical Gizzard, still intent on the preservation of his liver.

"Saw him buy his ticket and get on the train this mornin'. That's what makes me think so! And I[Pg 231] heard him tell the agent he was goin' for a month's vacation!"

"All right," said Gizzard. "I'll go in there if you will—if we can get in."

Sube squeezed through without a great deal of difficulty; but Gizzard stuck fast somewhere about amidships. He kicked and wriggled while Sube pulled, but it was all in vain. It was necessary for Gizzard to back out and shift his cargo before he could come into port. He presently handed in to Sube one baseball, one broken padlock, one bicycle-wrench, one slingshot, and other articles too numerous to mention; and having been thus lightened, he came through without difficulty.

The wonders of the forbidden country unfolded with such bewildering rapidity that the youthful explorers had difficulty in deciding what to try first. However, they soon concluded to redecorate the interior of the barn with remnants left over from the recent painting of ol' Uncle George's house.

When they had tired of being painters they opened a carpenter shop and started to build a boat out of some old boards with the aid of ol' Uncle George's razor-edged tools. This went very well until Sube hammered his thumb, when he retired from the con[Pg 232]cern and left Gizzard to complete the vessel alone; but after Gizzard had planed a thin layer from the end of his finger he too retired, and the carpenter business went to the wall.

They next engaged in the manufacture of cider, opening a mill in a corner of the barn, where they found a small hand-press. Sube turned the crank while Gizzard poured in bushels of imaginary apples. Then they "put on the brakes" to squeeze out the imaginary juice, which was drawn from a spigot at the bottom in real glasses and bottles with which the place seemed to abound. After a little the strain on their imagination became so great that something had to be done to relieve it.

"If we jus' had a few apples we could make a little real cider," Sube suggested tentatively.

"Well, I know where we can get some," said Gizzard. "There's a tree jus' loaded with harvest apples right out behind the barn!"

Without another word both boys started for the opening by which they had entered, but Gizzard, being a little nearer, reached it first. While he was wriggling his way to the outside Sube tried the back door and found it fastened only by a hook. So it happened that when Gizzard reached the apple tree he found Sube already there with his cap half full of[Pg 233] apples. Then the cider business began in earnest.

The apples were small and not very juicy, and the boys soon found that there was quite a little work connected with the manufacture of cider in commercial quantities. But they did manage to make a glassful apiece before they were compelled to knock off for the noon hour.

The partners went out by the back door, which they fastened shut with a piece of board; and as they walked home they made plans for the future conduct of their business.

"We got to put on a few hands to pick up the apples while we run the mill, if we want to increase our produck," Sube informed his partner gravely. "There's too much overhead for us to handle alone."

"I'd say there was too much underfoot," returned Gizzard with equal gravity. "What we want is apples—"

"I guess you don't understand much about bus'ness," was Sube's lofty comment. "Overhead's a reg'lar bus'ness word that means—means somethin' special."

Gizzard defended his position heatedly. "I guess I know jus' much about it as you do!" he retorted. "Underfoot's a reg'lar word, too! And it[Pg 234] means some'pm special! I've heard my dad use it a hundred times."

For a moment Sube maintained a discreet silence. He wanted to avoid having trouble with his partner at the very beginning of their business career if it could be done with honor; especially as the title to the business was somewhat clouded. Then he said diplomatically:

"Well, anyway, we got to put on a few more hands to pick up apples."

"Right you are," agreed Gizzard. "Who we goin' to get?"

"Oh, we might hire Stucky Richards, and Cathead, and Cottontop Sigsbee. S'pose that'll be enough?"

"We don't want to get too many! The more we have, the more cider they'll drink up."

"That's right. I guess they'll do."

The cider mill commenced business in earnest that afternoon with a full roster of hands. And they soon demonstrated their sufficiency, for apples were delivered at the press faster than the proprietors could dispose of them. When they had picked up all the apples on the ground they threshed the tree until hardly an apple was left on it; and they even[Pg 235] went so far as to pick a bushel of crabapples for their employers.

The result of the afternoon's work (which was well up in the gallons) was placed in a convenient cask equipped with a spigot. Then the enterprise was reorganized as a saloon. Ol' Uncle George's workbench made an ideal bar, at which thirsty customers clamored for beer, liquor, and other ugly-sounding beverages, that Sube and Gizzard as bartenders served with a flourish an expert sodawater clerk might well have envied.

Then the histrionic muse, never far beneath the surface of youth, came forth and transformed the scene into an extemporaneous drama that was a howling success in spite of its leanings towards the morality play. This production, called by its authors, "Ten Knights in a Barroom"—was, in fact, so successful that the players promised themselves the pleasure of repeating it daily during the ensuing month.

But this proved to be impossible; for that night ol' Uncle George was called home by a fire in his shoe store.

The management declined to make use of ol' Uncle George's properties while he remained in town for[Pg 236] fear that he might have occasion to use them himself, and thus bring about some slight unpleasantness in their hitherto delightful relations. Meanwhile the members of the company fidgeted and chafed under the delay.

A rehearsal attempted in Canes' barn was, for some unknown reason, a decided frost. Then they tried Stucky Richards' barn, which was right next door to ol' Uncle George's; and although things went somewhat better there, they lacked the zest of the initial performance.

Stucky's properties, as far as they went, were above criticism; his workbench made an excellent bar; his broken chairs were deliciously hopeless; his cuspidor was admitted by all to be much better than ol' Uncle George's; his bottles and glassware were vastly superior; but there he stopped.

He had no cider press, and no means of getting one. He had no cider; and worst of all he had no spigot-equipped cask without which no disreputable saloon can exist.

But this was not all that troubled the Ten Knights in a Barroom company. Professional jealousy crept in to plague their once placid ranks. By secretly consulting the faded poster in Severn's blacksmith shop (from which he had adapted the name for his[Pg 237] production) Sube learned that he had overlooked a character. The next time the company assembled he attempted to rectify his error.

"Say, you kids," he began; "we made a mistake about one thing. You can't all be Old Soaks. Somebody's got to be a little ragged girl that pleads with her drunken father to come home with her. Now who's goin' to be the little girl?"[Pg 238]

Cathead thought he scented a conspiracy, and wishing to be on the safe side, volunteered to take the part of the drunken father.

"Not on your life!" cried Sube. "Somebody's got to be a little girl, and you'd make the best one of anybody here. Wouldn't he, kids?"

Stucky and Cottontop were positive that Cathead would make an ideal girl, and they so expressed themselves. But Cathead thought otherwise.

"I won't be a girl! I ain't goin' to be a girl! I never been one and I ain't ever goin' to be one!" he insisted.

"Now looka here, Cathead—" Gizzard began pleadingly.

"I won't look there! And I won't be a girl! I'll be a drunken father, but I'll never be a girl!"

"But somebody's got to be a girl!" Sube urged desperately. "Now who's it goin' to be?"

He looked from Cottontop to Stucky and then back to Cottontop again, but there were no volunteers.

"I couldn't be it if I wanted to," Cottontop explained. "I'm too big to be a girl, and besides, there'd be nobody to take my part."

Then Stucky felt that he must have himself excused. "My voice is changin'," he said, purposely[Pg 239] causing his voice to crack and waver. "Hear how it acks! I couldn't be a girl with a voice like that. Everybody'd be onto me in a second."

It seemed to be up to Cathead, but without waiting to be so informed Cathead began to bawl excitedly: "I won't be a girl! I won't be a girl! And if you don't shut up I won't be in your ol' show at all!"

It was at this point that Biscuit Westfall appeared in the doorway, where he paused, a little uncertain as to his welcome; for the attitude of the other boys towards him was subject to change without notice. Sometimes he was tolerated; often he was told to go home; and more often he was tormented until he was glad to retire. Biscuit's life was too sheltered, his character too beautiful to make good company of him. Had he butted into the theater on the day previous he would have been unceremoniously kicked out; but to-day he was hailed with delight.

"We was jus' talkin' about you, Biscuit," Sube began cautiously. "We was wonderin' if you could take a part in our show."

Biscuit was overjoyed. His confidence was restored, and he entered without misgivings as he cried:

"Can I? CAN I? Say! Watch me! Watch me!"[Pg 240]

Sube scratched his ear dubiously. "You've said a mouthful, Biscuit: can you! It's a pretty hard part. Cathead, there, has been teasin' us to let him take it, but we don't think he can do it."

Cathead considered that this was placing him in a false position and tried to protest; but Biscuit drowned him out.

"Say! I've took part in everything they've had in Sunday School ever since I was a littie-bittie baby! I can take any ol' part!"

"Can you plead?" asked Sube.

"Can I plead? Can I! Say! You jus' oughta hear me when I get started—"

"Did you ever take a girl part?"

Biscuit frowned. "I could, but I don't want to. If it's a girl part, let Cathead have it, and I'll take some other part."

A long argument followed, but Biscuit was stubborn. He would not be a girl under any circumstances. So rather than abandon the part Sube reluctantly permitted the child character to be changed from female to male. Cathead gladly assumed the cares and burdens of a drunken parent, and the rehearsal proceeded.

It had not gone very far, however, when Biscuit discovered that he was not to participate in the[Pg 241] bacchanalian revel, but was to linger about the doorway pleading with his father to come home with him. Then there was trouble again. Biscuit refused to go on with the part unless he was allowed to drink and have fun in the saloon like the other boys.

Sube was disinclined to sacrifice the historical accuracy of his production, but the part was a hard one to fill and juvenile actors were scarce. So he finally yielded, and suggested a slight alteration of the lines by which the drunken father invites the ragged child to come in and "have some'pm" and the child accepts.

This change being satisfactory to Biscuit the rehearsal went on.[Pg 242]



The day after Biscuit joined the Ten Knights in a Barroom Company ol' Uncle George Bond succeeded in adjusting his loss with the insurance company and went back to Sodus. But he had wasted two weeks of his cherished vacation hanging around Morton's insurance office trying to make Bill Morton understand that smoke could damage a stock of shoes as well as fire or water. But ol' Uncle George was too much engrossed in explaining to the insurance adjuster how prejudiced the average person is against having his feet smell like smoke, to go near his barn; so he finished his vacation in total ignorance of the momentous events that had been transpiring there.

When it became known that he had gone back to Sodus the Ten Knights in a Barroom Company resumed work with feverish industry. With no other means of transportation at their disposal than a wheelbarrow with a wobbly wheel they moved to[Pg 243] Stucky's barn the cider press and the precious cask with its more precious contents; they were going to take no more chances with fire. The entire morning was spent in preparing the stage for the first real dress rehearsal since their initial attempt.

The rehearsal was to begin immediately after lunch; and when Biscuit failed to report on time some anxiety was felt for the juvenile part, as his mother was unreasonably strict with him. It would have been just like her to lug him off to some ol' missionary business or other. However, it was not long before he came flying around the corner of the house, shouting as he ran:

"I've got a audience!—I've got a audience!—And it's some audience!"

A thrill swept the company. An audience had been the one thing lacking to make the production perfect, although nobody had thought of it before, so much "the thing" had the play been.

"Who is it? Who is it?" came the chorus.

"Mamma wasn't goin'ta let me come back," panted Biscuit, "'cause there's a meetin' of the Temp'rance Union at our house this aft, and when I tole her it would break up our show, she wanted to know what show and I tole her Ten Knights in a Barroom, and she said that was a temp'rance play[Pg 244] and it was sweet of us to give it, and could they all come and see it and I tole her you bet they could!"

A spontaneous cheer went up, after which Sube asked:

"What time they comin'?"

"'Bout three o'clock, I tole her. Is that all right?"

"You bet it's all right; only we want to have a rehearsal, and have it dern' quick!"

Sube hastily donned his white apron and began to roll up his sleeves while the other players put on their various costumes. The rehearsal was soon in full blast. There were no preliminaries about this production: the action commenced at once. The bartender and his assistant began to pass out the foaming beakers to Cathead, and to Cottontop and Stucky (who took the parts of First Old Soak and Second Old Soak respectively), while Biscuit peered in at the door, pleading piteously with his drunken father (Cathead) to come home with him. All except Biscuit feigned drunkenness, not even excluding the bartender and his assistant.

In due time Cathead gruffly bade the child to come in and have a little liquor. A second invitation was unnecessary. After his first drink the child, too, feigned intoxication.[Pg 245]

As the rehearsal proceeded it was apparent to everybody that the play was a hit. Each actor was overwhelmed by the tremendous success of his own part. And contrary to all expectation Biscuit made a prominent feature of what had been regarded as a minor part. After a little the barefoot lad in ragged garb not only urged his parent to accompany him home, but became so insistent about it that he actually ejected the old gentleman several times, triumphantly returning between the bouts for more liquor.

Then Biscuit became confused about the identity of his father and pleaded with Stucky instead. When Stucky remonstrated, Biscuit not only waxed urgent but simply would not take no for an answer, and for the first time in his life he put Stucky on his back, and then dragged him off the stage howling. This act was repeated at will.

At about that time Cathead, who was usually very shy and retiring, became so fascinated by Biscuit's portrayal of the child character that he decided to try it for himself. He addressed his first pleadings to Cottontop, who rather resented them; and Cathead deemed it advisable to take his intended father down and sit on him. Flushed with success, he did likewise to Gizzard. This was something of a[Pg 246] novelty to Cathead. In affairs of this kind he had seldom done the sitting.

The popularity of the child character grew. Every member of the company took a hand in it. And when the putative parent remonstrated, as he invariably did, being at the moment engaged in pleading with some one else, a struggle would ensue.

Sube was attempting to plead with Gizzard, who was at the moment pleading with Cathead; Cathead had just finished pleading with Cottontop and was engaged in taking him down to sit on him; Cottontop did not care to be sat on just then as he was in the act of pleading with Stucky; and as Stucky was pleading with Biscuit and did not want to be pleaded with, he resented Cottontop's advances. And they had fallen in a confused heap on the floor, pleading, yelling, struggling and straining, with Biscuit standing over them asserting in stentorian tones his identity as the only genuine ragpicking pleader in the lot—when the ladies of the Temperance Union, led by Biscuit's mother, entered the theater.

The actors were so engrossed in what they were doing that they did not hear the startled cries of the audience. In fact, they had no idea that their audience had arrived until they felt themselves being pulled apart and separated into individuals.[Pg 247]

Biscuit was the first one to be separated from the mass, but he gave his mother no sign of recognition until she had obtained a firm grip on his ear and informed him in biting tones that she had never expected to see the day when she would find him fighting like a drunken rowdy.

Then he cried joyously, with partly feigned intoxication:

"Hello, ma, ol' girl! I sure didn't know you! I'm glad you got here in time to shee me plead! The rest of these kids think they can plead azh good azh I can, but they can't! They can't plead worth a darn!"

Mrs. Westfall relinquished her hold on the ear as if it had been a hot coal. Her jaw fell. Her breath came with difficulty. The leering face, the disrespect, the profanity! It was more than she could bear. She was shocked. She was humiliated! She was dumfounded!

Quite unmindful of his mother's presence Biscuit lurched towards the gasping members of her temperance flock and called out invitingly:

"Have a little liquor, ladies! Then I'll plead for you! Hey, bartender!"—he stalked over and prodded Sube with his foot—"Wake up there, and 'tend to your customers!"[Pg 248]

"Don't touch me," growled Sube. "I'm an awful sick boy!"

"Shick! Who's shick? You?—Aw, come off! You're only playin' up!" bawled Biscuit. "You wazh laughin' louder'n anybody a minute ago!"

But the truth of Sube's assertion was soon apparent to all. He was undeniably sick. And the mere sight of his distress seemed to have an unfavorable effect on the other thespians, for one by one they were seized with similar spasms. Biscuit, who was the last to succumb, was the sickest of all. His moans were the loudest, his convulsions the most violent, his cramps the most griping.

Somebody had the presence of mind to run for Dr. Richards, but he was not in his office. Efforts to get in touch with any of the other physicians in town failed. They were all at the hospital watching the performance of a rare operation by an eminent surgeon from a nearby city. So the women of the Temperance Union helped the stricken boys to their respective homes as best they could, that being considered the proper place to die.

That it was a case of wholesale poisoning was readily apparent to all but the victims. And each mother upon receiving her writhing son, put into[Pg 249] practise her idea of first aid to the poisoned. Stucky Richards' mother tried the stomach pump without fatal results. Mrs. Sigsbee used a mustard plaster on Cottontop's abdomen and camphor on his temples with about equal success. Biscuit's mother prayed; but rather for her son's forgiveness than his recovery.

The Cane boys were put to bed and compelled to drink several quarts of tepid soapsuds while their father was rushing home from the office.

"What have you been eating?" he demanded breathlessly when, at last, he reached Sube's bedside.

"Nu—nu—nuthin'," Sube managed to gulp out.

"Now think hard," urged Mr. Cane sternly. "You must have eaten something or you wouldn't be so sick. Think hard! What did you eat this afternoon, all you boys together?"

"Nu—nu—nuthin'," was Sube's hopeless response.

"Now take your time," said Mr. Cane more soothingly. "Think over everything you did this afternoon—everywhere you went—and I'm sure you'll be able to remember eating something! Doesn't that remind you of something?"[Pg 250]

"Nu—nu—no, I told you!" sobbed Sube hoarsely, taking advantage of his sickness to indulge in a little impertinence.

But his father overlooked it and tried another method of interrogation. "Where did you go right after lunch?" he asked.

"Uh—uh—over to Stu—Stucky Richards'."

"All right. You went over to Stucky's after lunch. Then what did you do?" Mr. Cane was going about it as he usually approached an unwilling witness.


"You played! All right. What did you play?"

"Tu—Tu—Ten Knights in a Bu—Bu—Bar-room."

"What's that!" gasped Mr. Cane.

"I tu—tu—told you once!"

"All right—all right—how did you play it?" asked the frantic parent.

"It tu—takes too lu—lu—long to tell—"

A serious spasm prevented any further questioning for some moments. Then Mr. Cane tried again.

"What part did you take in this game?"

"It wu—wu—wasn't a game!"

"Well, what was it?"

"It was a mu—mu—mellerdrammer!"[Pg 251]

Sube's father was becoming desperate. He had tried kindness without effect. Something must be done before it was too late. Perhaps intimidation would get something out of the boy.

"Sube," he began sternly, "I may as well tell you that you have been poisoned by something you have put into your stomach! If you will only tell me what it is perhaps I can save your life! If not, there's no telling what may happen! Now, what have you been eating this afternoon?"

But Sube was in the state where he would not thank anybody for saving his life. His response was listless.

"Nu—nu—nuthin'."[Pg 252]

At this moment Mrs. Cane, who with Annie had been in constant attendance at the bedside of Cathead, whose malady seemed to be much more active than Sube's, came into the room.

"What did you do with the ten-pound sack of sugar Annie says you carried off?" she asked desperately.

It was necessary to repeat the question several times before she succeeded in obtaining a reply.

"Pu—pu—put it in the su—su—cider," Sube finally confessed.

"Cider!" cried Mr. Cane exultantly. "Have you been drinking cider?"

"A lu—lu—little."

"Where did you boys get cider?"

"Mu—mu—made it."

"Made it!" Mr. Cane could not believe his ears. "Made it? How could you boys make cider?"

The process was soon explained. But Mr. Cane was still in doubt. It seemed incredible that a little sweet cider could bring about such disastrous results.

"How much did you drink?" he asked at length.

"Just a lu—lu—little."[Pg 253]

"But what was the sugar for?" Mrs. Cane persisted.

"Why, whu—when we made the cider it was swu—swu—sweet; but when we went to du—du—drink it, it was su—su—sour! So we put the shu—shu—sugar in it!"

"When did you make it?" asked his father.

"About tu—tu—two weeks ago—"

"T-w-o w-e-e-k-s!" gasped Mr. Cane as he fell across the bed in a state of total collapse. "Two weeks!—And hot weather at that!"

The telephone rang. Mr. Cane answered.

"Hello!" he called. "That you, doctor?"


"Stomach pump? No, I guess not. They're about half-full of tepid soapsuds just now, and they seem to be doing very well without any pump at all."

Then Mr. Cane listened for a long time chuckling softly. At last he said:

"Well, don't operate, doctor! I've found your poison!"


"Hard cider!"[Pg 254]



Sube Cane had never heard life defined as just one certain kind of thing after another, but he knew that it was so; for so he had found it. And, when, a few days after the final performance of Ten Knights in a Barroom, he had turned the house upside down hunting for his Wild West hat only to learn that his mother had given it away a few days before, he felt the tragedy of existence as never before.

"Gave it away!" he gasped in stricken tones. "What'd you do that for?"

"Why, I had no idea that you wanted it," she replied; "it was always lying around in the way. You never wore it, and besides, it had a great hole through it."

Sube scowled. "Who'd you give it to?" he asked peevishly, with an insane idea of getting it back.

"To some women who were soliciting for the destitute Belgians," she answered. "You ought to be very glad to help such a worthy cause."[Pg 255]

"What were their names?"

"I'm sure I don't know. They were representatives of the Red Cross Society who had come all the way down from Rochester."

And Sube went out of the house wronged and brooding, and threw himself down on the grass near the kitchen door, where Gizzard joined him a short time later.

"Now, what do you know about that, Giz?" growled Sube, as Gizzard jumped up and caught a limb of the apple tree and started to skin the cat. "They went and gave away my Wild West hat."

Although the cat was only partially skinned, Gizzard delayed the operation long enough to remark that it was no great loss anyway.

"I guess you don't know the hat I mean," returned Sube warmly. "I mean the hat that Buffalo Bill wore in the Indian fight, and got a bullet-hole through!"

Gizzard dropped to the ground. "If you mean that ol' felt hat you found on the Fair Grounds the day after the circus," he said without mercy, "I know that one."

The authenticity of this hat had long been disputed; and even now, after it was gone, Gizzard was unwilling to concede to it any of the virtues with[Pg 256] which Sube's imagination had clothed it. And in addition to this, Gizzard had grievances of his own. The solicitors had by no means passed him by.

"You needn't think you're the only one," he complained. "My mother went and give away the best pair of ol' pants I had. She gave 'em to the sufferin' Belgiums."

"Huh!" snorted Sube disdainfully. "Nothin' but an ol' pair of pants! What's an ol' pair of pants, anyway? Everybody's got an ol' pair of pants to give away; but let me tell you they won't get another genuwine hat that Buffalo Bill wore with a hole shot through!"

But the former occupant of the pants refused to have them lightly treated. "Let me tell you that them pants wasn't to be sneezed at!" he retorted. "They was the best ol' pants I ever had. You never seen such pockets in your life—great big, deep fellers, and a little secret money-pocket—"

Reference to this secret pocket reminded Sube of something. "You mean those gray pants with the buckle on the back and all the suspender buttons on 'em?" he interrupted.

"Yep, the very ones," replied Gizzard, pleased that his apparel should have made such an impression on his friends. "'Member 'em?"[Pg 257]

"You bet I remember 'em!" cried Sube enthusiastically. "That's the pair we used to sing the song about—'Papa's Pants Will Soon Fit Gizzie!'"

"Well," returned Gizzard defiantly, "they wasn't an ol' felt hat that a horse had stepped on, anyway."

The allusion was somewhat pointed, but Sube did not follow the matter up. Instead, he asked amicably, "Who did the beggin' over to your house?"

"A couple of ladies from Rochester," answered Gizzard. "I didn't see 'em, but that's what Ma said."

"That's jus' what I thought," muttered Sube as he practiced "jumping the fence" with his jackknife, and at the same time turned an idea over in his mind. Presently it came out. "Look 'ere, Giz," he said, "if a couple of ladies can come down here from Rochester and get away with a lot of stuff, what's the reason we can't go around and get hold of some good things?"

"They wouldn't give 'em to us."

"Not if we said they was for the sufferin' Belgiums?" demanded Sube. "I'll betcha they would!"

"But what do we want of a lot of ol' women's[Pg 258] clo's and hats and things, and ol' men's shoes?" asked Gizzard.

"Sell 'em to the second-hand man!" howled Sube jubilantly. "He'll buy anything, and pay us good cash money for it, too! But," he added after a moment, "we won't sell 'em any of the ol' men's shoes, 'cause I can wear 'em. I got good big feet on me; I can wear any man's shoe!"

Gizzard glanced quickly down at Sube's feet, and then at his own; then he gave a disdainful grunt. "Bet my feet are as big as yours," he declared, "if not bigger."

"Aw, come off," retorted Sube. "You got reg'lar little baby-feet."

"Is that so!" demanded Gizzard belligerently. "I'll measure up with you any ol' time." And he planted one of his feet alongside of Sube's in such a way that the toe of his own shoe extended slightly beyond that of his competitor. "There!" he howled exultantly. "What'd I tell you?"

Sube shoved him away forcefully, at the same time muttering, "Cheater! There was room enough for your other foot back there by my heel."

"Beater!" shouted Gizzard lustily.

"Cheater!" responded Sube as lustily.

"Beater!"[Pg 259]


This shouting was continued for some time with the regularity of a couple of canvasmen driving a tent stake, each of the contestants firmly believing that the first one to give up would be the loser. But Annie declared the argument a draw by suddenly opening the screen door and throwing cold water—a pail of it—on the contestants.

As soon as they had retired to a safe distance Gizzard started to renew the argument, but Sube refused to go on with it. "Listen here, Giz," he said, "we could keep on chewin' about it all night, and wouldn't prove an'thing. The only way to do is wait till we get a pair of good ol' man-size shoes, and then we'll try 'em on, and the one they fit the best has got the biggest feet. What's the matter of that?"

"I'll go you!" replied Gizzard with enough spirit to show that he had no fear of the outcome. "But how do we know they'll give us any men's shoes?"

"We'll ask for 'em," replied Sube with a great show of assurance.

"What'll we say?"

"We'll say we're collectin' for the sufferin' Belgiums, and that they need ol' men's shoes awful bad. And if they've got any, they'll give 'em to us."[Pg 260]

"And what if they ast us where we're takin' the things to?" asked Gizzard.

"We'll tell 'em our mothers are the committee, and that we're takin' the things to our house; and that we are jus' runnin' errands for 'em."

And so the thing was done. Their first call netted them two gingham aprons and a faded morning dress of a type the boys called "wrappers" and a woman's hat, untrimmed. Their next brought them several pairs of women's shoes in an advanced state of dilapidation. This offering had really been made ready for the rubbish-man, but the donor thought that if the Belgians could use it, they were welcome to it.

"We better sling all this junk away," suggested Gizzard as they reached the street.

"Sling it away!" cried Sube. "Well, I guess not! This is as good as money to us; the second-hand man will buy every bit of it!"

"What'll you gimme for my share?" asked Gizzard skeptically.

"Oh, you wait," was Sube's evasive reply; "you jus' wait till that little ol' second-hand man comes round, and then you'll be glad we didn't sling it away. We'll have more money than we know what to do with!"[Pg 261]

Of course, at the moment, neither of the boys knew how literally true this prediction was to turn out. In fact, Gizzard's reply was little more than a dubious muttering to the effect that they'd better "dump the dern' stuff at the barn" before stopping anywhere else.

Sube refused to do this. "'Tain't the best way," he argued. "The best way is to have our arms all full of stuff when we go to a house, and then they'll think we're genuwine, and give us more."

And Sube was right. The mere sight of the "wrapper" reminded the next lady of the house they called on, that she had one she could spare. And before long the stock of "wrappers" was quite complete, with sizes full, and a wide range of patterns to select from.

Then suddenly there came from the clear sky, so to speak, the most splendid offering of the day: a silken slumber-robe of stunning checkerboard design, and trimmed with a shimmering band of panne velvet.

True, there were coffee stains on the front and paint stains on the back, but it was a gorgeous garment. And the suggestive effect of it was wonderful; for the first door at which Sube knocked after he had hung the slumber-robe over his arm, re[Pg 262]sponded with a man's suit of gambler's-plaids that could have been suggested by nothing else.

And with the plaid suit came a crimson vest with a set of brass buttons that was nearly complete. The combined effect of the slumber-robe and the suit and the vest drew from the next place a pair of men's lemon-colored shoes with moth-eaten cloth tops—and before the members of the Belgian relief committee had reached the sidewalk they were in a turmoil.

The shoes had been handed to Gizzard; but the moment Sube got his eyes on them he politely offered to relieve Gizzard of the burden.

"You got your hands full, there, Giz," he said; "I'll take those shoes."

"Never mind," replied Gizzard, brushing hurriedly by. "I can handle 'em all right."

But Sube insisted. "I ain't got much of a load," he prevaricated, reaching towards the shoes and dropping one or two of the things he was carrying. "I'll take 'em."

"I don't think you will," growled Gizzard. "I'll keep 'em myself. She give 'em to me! And besides, they're too big for you."

"I ain't afraid of that," returned Sube angrily. "All I'm 'fraid of is that they ain't big enough."[Pg 263]

As he said this he suddenly dropped his burden on the ground and made a grab for the shoes.

"No, you don't!" howled Gizzard, dropping his own burden and jumping back. But he was too late; Sube had already snatched one of the shoes and was reaching for the other. A struggle ensued, each boy holding fast to the shoe he already had and trying to get possession of the other; but it was of short duration. For each boy realized that he could not overpower the other without the unrestricted use of both hands.

As suddenly as it had started, the struggling stopped, and each boy dropped on the grass and began to remove a shoe preparatory to putting his half of the bone of contention in the only safe place he could think of. And at practically the same instant both were back on their feet again ready to resume the struggle. But the hopelessness of holding one end of an evenly matched opponent while removing a shoe from the other end became apparent to both; and muttering things about "showing" each other they took up their burdens, and still muttering, made their way back to "headquarters."[Pg 264]



Sube was the first to enter the barn and deposit his load of cast-offs on the floor, and as Gizzard came shuffling along a short distance behind looking down at his mismated feet, Sube grunted:

"Umgh, I'm glad that shoe didn't fall off'm you 'fore you got here; it fits you like a cup on a pump."

Gizzard snorted with rage. "I'll show you how it fits," he threatened, "if you don't give me my other shoe! She give them shoes to me! She put 'em right in my hands, and they're mine!"

If Sube had been entertaining any ideas of taking the shoe from Gizzard by force, he did not show it, for when he spoke again his voice was calm and peaceful. "Listen here, Giz," he pleaded; "look at this bully gambler's suit. Jus' think of wearin' a suit like a feller that keeps a good tough pool hall! You gimme that other shoe, and I'll give you my share of this suit, and the red vest besides."

But Gizzard was not to be sidetracked. "What[Pg 265] do I want of an ol' suit of clo's?" he demanded angrily. "I wouldn't give that shoe for a dozen of 'em! Now you gimme my shoe 'fore it falls off! She give that shoe to me, and it's mine!"

For a moment Sube hesitated; then he bent over and unbuttoned the lemon-colored shoe, and kicked it across the barn. "Take your ol' shoe!" he blurted out. "It's too small for me, anyway!"

"Ya-a-ah!" jeered Gizzard as he leaped after it. "Too small, nuthin'! Y'could of kicked it off without unbuttonin' it at all!"

"It pinched my foot, or you wouldn't have got it so easy," muttered Sube; "but let me tell you one thing, Mr. Gizzard—I get my pick of all the rest of the men's shoes we take in."

Gizzard felt that he could afford to be generous. "Sure you do," he assented readily. "But I can tell you that there won't be nuthin' to compare with these good ol' cloth-tops," he added as he finished buttoning the shoe which he had just put on, and began strutting up and down before Sube in a most tantalizing way.

This was too much for Sube, who stood up and pretended to yawn as he said, "Well, you better be gettin' 'em off so's we can go on collectin' things."

"Gettin' 'em off?" demanded Gizzard with an of[Pg 266]fended air. "I don't think I'll be gettin' 'em off. I'm goin' to wear 'em!"

"Wear those lookin' things in public?" sneered Sube. "Well, if you do, you'll go collectin' alone. I won't go with you."

"You bet I'll go alone," said Gizzard. "And we'll soon see who it is that gets all the best things." And he shuffled out of the barn and went his way.

"Remember, now," Sube called after him, "I get my first pick of all the men's shoes no matter who brings 'em in."

Gizzard nodded his head several times and started in an easterly direction. As soon as Sube saw which way Gizzard had gone, he picked up the slumber-robe and started in the opposite direction. He went by the most direct route to the home of one Achilles Whitney, a gentleman constructed on the lines of a white hope. But here he met with complete failure and withdrew empty handed.

Next he tried the residence of Mr. Silas Peck, an ex-sheriff and a man of some weight; but here he acquired nothing but an old derby hat and a quantity of feminine apparel, which he had now come to regard somewhat lightly.

His next stopping place was the door of Oliver Lyman, Esquire, another gentleman of Goliathic[Pg 267] size. Here, as in other places visited by him alone, he made a special plea for men's shoes for the "sufferin' barefooted Belgiums" and he nearly died of joy when he saw the size of the pair the generous Mrs. Lyman handed out to him. He hurried back to headquarters at once, and there Gizzard found him a few minutes later, most fetchingly attired.

Sube had put on the pool-room suit and red vest, and in order to display the vest to the greatest advantage he had thrust his hands deep in the pants pockets. Gizzard was beginning to think that perhaps he had overlooked a bet on the suit, when he suddenly caught sight of the shoes. He stopped in his tracks and stood as if transfixed, motionless and speechless, while Sube was bustling around arranging some of the merchandise. And in spite of the mammoth size of the shoes he had on, Sube walked gracefully—almost naturally. But there was a reason for this; he had been foresighted enough to put Mr. Lyman's shoes on over his own. Yet how was Gizzard expected to know that?

For only a moment was the wearer of the lemon-colored shoes speechless; then he managed to stommer out, "S-S-Some s-s-shoes there, Sube. Where'd you ever dig 'em up?"

"These shoes?" Sube gave his partner a patron[Pg 268]izing look. "Why, I was goin' past Lyman's, and I guess M's Lyman must of looked out of the window and seen how big my feet was, 'cause she come right to the door and called me. 'Seward,' she says, 'here's a pair of shoes I bought for Mr. Lyman in Rochester, and they're too big for him. He can't wear 'em; but I thought you might be able to wear 'em,' she says. So I tried 'em on, and they fit like the paper on the wall. How do you like 'em?"

Gizzard gazed enviously at the great flat, liver-shaped shoes his companion was wearing, and replied, "They're all right, only they're black. They don't match your suit as good as these here shoes of mine would."

"They match plenty good enough to suit me," Sube assured him; "and besides, those shoes of yours are too small for me."

"Too small!" howled Gizzard. "Why, you had 'em on jus' a little while ago!"

"Not both of 'em," replied Sube; "only one of 'em. And that's why I give it back. Didn't I tell you right then it was too small for me—?"

"Vell, you say coom dree o'clock," said a harsh voice behind them. "I coom; vat y'vanta sell?"

It was the buyer for Mose Smolenski, Everything New and Second-Hand Cheap for Cash.[Pg 269]

Sube was the first to recover from his astonishment. "Why," he managed to get out after a struggle, "why, we want to sell all this prope'ty." He made a sweeping gesture that included not only the clothing contributed in the name of the "sufferin' Belgiums" but his father's new lawn-mower, piano-box, garden tools, and a pile of kindling wood.

The magnitude of the offer aroused the suspicions of the second-hand man at once. "Dot's a good[Pg 270] deal," he muttered; "it's too mooch, altogedder too mooch."

"Too much?" cried Sube. "How do you know it's too much? We haven't told you what we wanted yet?"

The second-hand man shook his head many times as he repeated slowly, "Altogedder too mooch."

"We'll sell it awful cheap," said Sube anxiously.

The buyer continued to shake his head.

"We'll sell it for about half what it's worth."

Still the buyer shook his head.

"We'll sell it for less than that!" cried Sube in desperation. "We'll sell it for anything! Make us an offer!"

That was enough for the representative of Mose Smolenski; now he knew that something was wrong. "I make you no offers," he said, moving towards the door; "y't'ink I vanta get ar-r-rested?"

Sube drew back in astonishment. "Arrested?" he gasped. "What for?"

The second-hand man shrugged his shoulders. "Vell, I donno. Mebbe you buy it. Mebbe you steal it. I donno. I make no offers for dis t'ings"—he waved a knotted hand towards the interior of the barn—"but mebbe I buy dem shoes y'got on; how mooch y'vant for dem?"[Pg 271]

With conscious pride Sube glanced down at his feet and replied, "They're not for sale. It's the only pair I got that fits me."

The second-hand man turned away with another shrug of his rounded shoulders. "Vell, if your popper or your mommer he say all right, vy, den ve talk pizness."

Sube was very much put out. "My popper and my mommer ain't got a dern thing to do with this prope'ty," he growled. "It's mine, I tell you!"

"Vell, goo'-bye. Mebbe I come see you some odder day," said the second-hand man smiling pleasantly through his sparse beard as he started down the driveway.

The boys were still looking helplessly at each other when he climbed into his ramshackle wagon and drove away. At last Sube burst out angrily, "He thought we stole it! What do you know about that?"

"I know we got all this stuff on our hands," muttered Gizzard, "and I wisht it was in Halifax!"

"But he thought we stole it!" Sube persisted. "As if we'd steal an'thing."

"We didn't steal it," Gizzard agreed; "but here it is, and what are we goin' to do with it? That's what I wanta know."[Pg 272]

"We'll do something with it all right," Sube declared sullenly. "That ol' second-hand man ain't the only one who can buy things."

"Well, what'll we do with it then?" asked Gizzard.

Sube made no immediate answer. He didn't know himself. But he felt an idea coming, and he struggled hard to reach into the infinite and grasp it.

And in the meantime, at an afternoon bridge given by Mrs. Prentice Y. Prentice, Sube's mother had heard for the first time of the Belgian relief work being carried on in her name.

"Oh, it can't be possible," she said; "somebody must have made a mistake. Of course, I am thoroughly in sympathy with the Belgians, you know; every one is. But, really, I haven't been able to find a moment to devote to any such work."

"You haven't!" called Mrs. Potter from an adjoining table. "Why, my dear! Your name was distinctly mentioned at our house. Celeste came straight from the door and said that the messengers from Mrs. Cane had come to see what I could give to the suffering Belgians. And I sent you the most gorgeous silk slumber-robe, one that I picked up in Paris. Do you mean to say that you never got it?"

Mrs. Cane was quite overcome. "Why, I never[Pg 273] heard of such a thing!" she exclaimed. "Who could have done such an underhanded trick?"

"Some swindlers, without a doubt," Mrs. Rice put in. "Just to think of making those poor Belgians the excuse for a lot of fraud. Why, I gave them a beautiful pair of Mr. Rice's shoes, broadcloth tops, you know. I don't know what he'll say when he finds they're gone; and if he should ever discover that the Belgians didn't get them after all—well, I'd never hear the last of it! And you know that Mrs. Van Auken who lives next door—of course you don't know her; I don't myself; but you know who she is—well, I saw her handing out one of her husband's race-track plaid suits. That ought to be easy to trace!"

At every table Mrs. Cane found one or more victims of the fraud, and little else was talked of wherever she was. When the party finally broke up she was in a high state of agitation.

"You're all upset, dear," said Mrs. Potter who had come up to her in the dressing room. "You must let me take you home in my new motor. The ride will brace you up wonderfully."

"Oh, but that would take you out of your way," remonstrated Mrs. Cane as unconvincingly as possible.[Pg 274]

"But, my dear! What is a block or two to an imported motor?" Mrs. Potter waved her fat hand deprecatingly. "Nothing; abs'lutely nothing! And François controls that sixty horsepower motor as if it were a Shetland pony. He's wonderful!"

And thus it happened that Mrs. Cane and Mrs. Rice, and one or two others who lived in the same neighborhood were handed into Mrs. Potter's purring limousine by the much-liveried François, and rolled off majestically amid the ten-inch upholstery.[Pg 275]



"I can't understand how any one would DARE to use my name in such an unwarranted way," murmured Mrs. Cane as the limousine got under way.

"Oh, my dear!" exclaimed Mrs. Potter. "They dare do anything these days. If they have stopped at merely using your name, you are to be congratulated. They have probably forged your signature and exhibited your photograph all over town."

The idea was very distasteful to Mrs. Cane. "I should hate to think of those awful men—they were men, weren't they?"

"I didn't see them myself," replied Mrs. Potter, "but it seems to me that Celeste said they were boys."

Mrs. Cane started perceptibly. "Boys?" she gasped.

"Why, yes; I'm sure that's what she said," returned Mrs. Potter. "But if you want to trace them, that silk slumber-robe ought to be a great help.[Pg 276] There isn't another like it in this country. Picked it up in Paris, you know; soft, clingy silk crêpe in large checks of black and white, and the most gorgeous panne velvet border!"

This opportunity was too good for Mrs. Rice to overlook. She had personally handed out the lemon-colored shoes, and had recognized the solicitors beyond peradventure. "If you should inquire around among the victims, dearie," she drawled out with carefully stimulated lack of interest, "you might find somebody who could identify them."

At that moment the car drew up at the curb and came to a stop. Mrs. Cane glanced out and exclaimed, "What! Home already!— But what is the crowd? Oh, I hope our house isn't on fire!"

As she struggled hurriedly out of the limousine without waiting for the assistance of François, the other passengers craned their necks to see what the excitement was. And as they looked, a startling checkered device that was instantly recognized as Mrs. Potter's slumber-robe fluttered out over the heads of the jostling multitude, where it waved proudly for a moment, and was then gathered back into the hands of an individual standing on the top of a rudely constructed counter about which the crowd was clustered.[Pg 277]

And as he spread the silken folds over his arm so that all might see it to better advantage, he began to cry out in the loud voice of an auctioneer:

"One dollar, one dollar, one dollar—one dollar, one dollar, one dollar—I am offered only one dollar for this be-e-eautiful garment that a certain rich lady—you all know her—bought in the large city of Rochester; I am offered only one dollar, one dollar, one dollar—she told me herself only this morning that it cost FIVE!—and yet I am offered only one dollar, one dollar, one dollar, ONE DOLLAR!—I will put it back in stock before I will sell it for such a ridic'lous figger. You don't know what you're missin'."

He slung it on a line stretched above his head, and turning to a corps of assistants who were waiting on a clamoring public (composed of neighborhood domestics and Italians from across the railroad tracks), sang out:

"Hand up something else, men! We must slaughter this stock to aid the sufferin' Belgiums! We must aid the dessolute Belgiums!"—and he held up a pink "wrapper."—"Now, what am I offered to start this to aid the dessolute—"

The crowd parted, and fell back on either side, opening up a passage for a woman in white who went[Pg 278] rapidly towards the counter, in front of which she came to a stop.


At the sight of her, patrons of the sale tucked their purchases under their coats and departed in haste, and the auctioneer paused with his mouth open as if a word had stuck halfway out. The pink "wrapper" fell from his nerveless hand, and the gambler's-plaids in which he was clad became as slack and empty-looking as a fallen tent. Everything about him seemed to wilt except his remarkable shoes; and they were as long, and as large, and as liver-shaped after her coming as before.

For one long minute she gazed at the auctioneer; and as she gazed the clerks vanished, the multitude melted away, the auctioneer slid down from his perch and shuffled towards the house, and the limousine gnashed its gears, cleared its throat, and swept down the street. And all that was left was the unspeakable litter incident to a successful rummage-sale, the boxes and boards of the improvised counter, a few odds and ends of stock, and above all, fluttering in the breeze, the gorgeous slumber-robe that Mrs. Potter had picked up in Paris.

A riot-call over the telephone summoned Mr. Cane and a couple of huskies to the scene. And while the huskies demolished the second-hand store[Pg 279] and tucked it somewhere out of sight, Mr. Cane did likewise with Sube.

The next day Gizzard made his appearance at the Cane home at an early hour. But he did not yodel in the yard or whistle under the window. Instead, he walked decorously up to the front door and rang the bell.

When Annie opened the door and saw who the caller was, she was somewhat put out. "How many times have I got to tell you boys—" she began crossly.

But Gizzard did not quail. He had hardened himself for an ordeal, and the encounter with Annie was as nothing to him. "I wanta see M's Cane," he said with quiet dignity.

Annie was so impressed by his demeanor that she stopped her tirade and ushered him into the library. Then she went to call her mistress. In due time Mrs. Cane came.

Gizzard stood up and strained at his cap as if he expected to find his voice in the lining, for it was strangely missing. For a moment Mrs. Cane watched him with amusement. Then she took pity on him.

"You came over to apologize, didn't you, Charley?" she said kindly. "Well, it's all right; I[Pg 280] accept your apology. I am sure you boys didn't realize what you were doing, or you never would have done what you did yesterday. But, of course you understand that you and Seward must return to the rightful owners everything that is left; and I think that perhaps you will want to be doing it right away. Seward is waiting for you in the barn."

Gizzard's eyes spoke eloquently of his gratitude; but his voice went back on him. For all he could say as he moved circuitously towards the door was, "Goo'-by."

When Gizzard went into the barn a moment later he found Sube standing in an attitude of dejection before a heap of cast-off shoes and clothing on the floor.

"Hello, Sube," he said humbly.

"Hello, Giz."

"What'd she do to you yest'day?"

"She only locked me in the closet."

"What'd your dad do?"

"Plenty much. What'd you catch?"

Gizzard twitched uncomfortably at the recollection. "First, Ma licked me and sent me to bed without any supper, and when Pa come home he said it wasn't enough; so he licked me again and tol' me I'd haf to come over and 'pologize to your mother."[Pg 281]

Sube brightened up at once. "Let's go do it now," he suggested.

"Ya-a-ah! I've done it!"

"Gee, I'd like to been there to heard you. What'd she say?"

"Oh,—she didn't say so much," replied Gizzard importantly. "She took it all right."

"There wasn't much left to say," muttered Sube. "She'd said it all to me."

"Well," Gizzard sighed, "she did say we'd got to take this stuff back. But"—he added in a lower tone—"she didn't say nuthin' 'bout the dough. How much was they, anyway?"

Sube glanced cautiously about before he answered, "Twenty dollars and seventeen cents!"

Gizzard's jaw fell. "Gosh all hemlock!" he gasped. "What'll we ever do with it?"

Sube shook his head hopelessly. "Dern'd if I know," he muttered.

"Where'd you put it?"

"Up there." Sube pointed to the place over the door where he had hidden the candle the night they started for the Mexican border. "Want to see it?"

"Not on your life I don't. I don't want nuthin' to do with it!"[Pg 282]

Sube sighed. It seemed as if his troubles would never end. "Well," he said finally, "we might as well be takin' this stuff back."

"You know where it all goes?" asked Gizzard.

Sube poked the pile of clothing with his foot. "That pink one's Miss Mandeville's, and that blue and white thing b'longs to Hubbell's. Where'd that green sweater come from? You brought that in."

And so they went on for some time. They sorted out and put in one pile all articles that they were able to identify. The others were left in a heterogeneous mass that was a good deal of a problem to them until they happened to think of some rubbish-barrels a short distance up the alley. And there the second-hand man found them a few days later.

The boys had not been specifically instructed as to what explanation was to be made to the property owners at the time of making restitution, so they took that matter into their own hands. The formula adopted was something like this:

"There was a mistake made about some of these things, and the committee asked us to bring them back and say thank you very much." And the messenger dashed away without waiting long enough for any complications to arise.

But throughout the period of restoration, the[Pg 283] lemon-colored shoes had been conspicuously absent. Sube did not overlook this fact, but he was a little sensitive about speaking of the matter for fear of causing Gizzard undue embarrassment. And, doubtless for the same reason, Gizzard forebore making any comment about the absence of the shoes last seen on Sube at the time of the auction. Perhaps each partner assumed that the other had gone by himself and made restoration. But in any event, neither the one pair nor the other was ever seen in public again.

But in a little cubby-hole above the barn-door was something not so easily disposed of. It made no sound; it had no perceptible odor; and yet, every time the boys went into the barn they were reminded of it. Twenty dollars and seventeen cents has more ways than one to make its presence known.

Sube treated it with supreme indifference; he would not so much as glance up at the hiding-place. But Gizzard was more impressionable, for suddenly he cried out:

"I wisht the dern stuff was in Halifax!"

"I wisht it was," muttered Sube; "but it ain't. And it's a lot of money."

"It's more'n I ever want to see again!" exclaimed Gizzard warmly. After a moment of silence he[Pg 284] cried, "Hey, Sube, why not give it to the Sunday School?"

Sube shook his head. The impropriety of giving tainted money to the church occurred to him at once, but Gizzard's suggestion to give it away had put an idea into his mind. "What's the reason we can't send it back to the gover'ment?" he asked. "We could put it in an envelope and mail it to the President."

"What's the President got to do with it?" demanded Gizzard.

"Well, the gover'ment made it, didn't it? And the President's the same as the gover'ment, ain't he?"

In common with a number of other people, Gizzard was not sure about this. He said he would have to ask his father. And at this point the bell rang to summon Sube to his midday meal. As the boy seated himself at the table his father asked:

"Have you returned all those things that were out in the barn?"

"Yes, Papa," answered the boy quietly. "We took them all back."

"Well, what did you do with the money?" Mr. Cane inquired. "You must have taken in some money."[Pg 285]

"We haven't done an'thing with it—yet."

"What are you going to do with it?" asked the merciless inquisitor.

"Why,—why, we were thinking about sending it to the President, so he could put it back in the treasury."

"Conscience money, eh?" demanded Mr. Cane. "Well, it's a great relief to discover that you have a conscience. But why don't you satisfy your conscience by devoting it to the purpose for which you raised it?"

Sube looked up at his father with an expression of ineffable relief. "Could we do that?" he asked breathlessly.

"Why not?" replied Mr. Cane. "By the way, how much was there?"

"Twenty dollars and seventeen cents."

Mr. Cane uttered a low, long whistle. "And the auction was only half over when it was raided!" he murmured. "Mother, you ought to let this boy handle the next charity bazaar for the church."[Pg 286]



"I ain't hardly had a decent swim all summer," Sube complained to Gizzard one day late in August. "It's all right to go in on the sly once in a while, but when you got to do it all the time it gets to be a chestnut."

"Well, why don't we fix up some other swimmin'-hole?" suggested Gizzard.

"The Unionville hole is the only decent one there is!" returned Sube bitterly. "And I'm goin'ta fix that Bigmouth Bissett so's he won't come botherin' when I'm in swimmin'! That's what I'm goin'ta do!"

Gizzard's interest was aroused at once. "What you goin' to do to 'em?" he asked.

"Never you mind! I'll fix 'em! He'll be sorry he ever monkeyed around me!"

"But how'll you fix 'em?" Gizzard insisted.

"You jus' wait! I'll show you!"

To tell the truth Sube did not then know what he was going to do to his arch enemy. But he had su[Pg 287]preme faith that there is always something to be done if one can only think of it. Relations had been strained ever since the limburger episode. Seth Bissett had sworn that he would avenge himself, and he was everywhere regarded as a gentleman of his word in matters of vengeance.

Accordingly, whenever Sube and his companions had desired to take a swim, they had deemed it advisable to post a sentry in a place where he could command a view of the approach to the swimming-hole. And as picket duty usually fell to Biscuit's lot no matter who counted out or how, Biscuit made slow progress in mastering the art of swimming in the water with the same degree of skill he exhibited on top of the kitchen table. He was still inclined to swim like a fish—under water.

But he was a past-master at the art of "chawin' beef." He could untie knotted clothes faster than any other member of the gang—perhaps because he had had more practice—and he was familiar with every known penalty meted out to "the last man with his clo's off." He could tell with clairvoyant certainty who was "cracking stones"; and as a sentry he stood in a class by himself. He never slept, he never loafed; he never slipped back to take a peek at the game of tag. But when the enemy[Pg 288] approached he quickly spread the alarm so that the swimmers could snatch up their clothes and retire into the bushes.

At first the element of danger was exhilarating; then it became bothersome; and finally, intolerable. It was at this stage that Sube made known his intention to fix Seth Bissett. Not long afterwards he went into the silence and emerged with an idea. Then his actions became suspicious, and his face assumed a look of inscrutable determination. The subsequent acts of Sube and Gizzard were baffling in the extreme. They repaired to the upper story of the barn for a conference; but when Annie innocently entered the barn a few moments afterwards in quest of kindling wood, Sube's suspicions were aroused, for suspicions are one of the most precious possessions of boyhood.

"Bet she's follerin' us!" he whispered.

Gizzard glanced cautiously about before he replied, "Prob'ly."

"Let's get out of here and go to some place that's safe."

An adjournment was thereupon taken to the midst of the berry patch in the rear of the deserted house, to which they had fled the night Dan Lannon was after them. From there they returned to the barn[Pg 289] and obtained the ball of strong twine that Sube had used on his box kite, after which they took a roundabout course that brought them at dusk to the Unionville Mill.

They slipped across the bridge and plunged into the jungle back of the swimming-hole; and there they lay in hiding until the last laggard swimmer had left. Then they stepped boldly into the clearing.

After assuring himself that the coast was clear Sube drew back his sleeves in imitation of a prestidigitator. "Watch me closely, ladies and gent'mun!" he began in an undertone. "The hand is quicker than the eye."

He made a few baffling passes with his hands and produced the ball of string. This he held aloft between his thumb and forefinger that each and all might see.

"I have here a simple little ball of twine, ladies and gent'mun! A simple little—"

"Aw, shut up!" cried Gizzard good naturedly. "And go on up that tree 'fore it gets so dark you can't see nuthin'!"

Sube immediately began to climb the huge leaning willow that overhung the pool, protesting meanwhile that the hand was quicker than the eye. But[Pg 290] after he had ascended a few feet he became singularly silent. Between the darkness and the foliage Gizzard lost sight of him completely, but he did not appear to be alarmed, for he lay down on his back and gazed up at the stars that were just beginning to become visible. It was some time before Sube re-appeared laboriously lowering himself to the ground. As soon as his feet touched the sod he snatched the ball of string from his teeth and spat vigorously.

"Rottenes' string I ever tasted!" he sputtered.

"Well," returned Gizzard, "if it's any worse'n chawin' a knot out of a porpoise-hide shoestring, I don't want any."

"But I got it fixed all right," said Sube.

Then Gizzard led the way into the shrubbery, followed by Sube, who carefully paid out the string as he went. An observer might have thought that the pair were intent upon outwitting a labyrinth; but assuredly such was not their purpose. For after retiring a few paces into the underbrush, Sube tied the string securely to a sapling, and detaching the ball with his knife, put it into his pocket; then, taking hold of hands in order to keep together they made a wide detour to avoid coming in contact with the string, and started for home.[Pg 291]

The next night was a memorable one in the annals of the Unionville swimming-hole. None of the bathers present that night could think of anything else for several hours afterwards; and the pangs of some of them lasted well into the next day, and even the day after that. The thing began just as Seth Bissett was poised on the bank for a dive.

He heard a vicious hum, and at almost the same instant felt something strike him a stinging blow on the ear. Before he could so much as raise his hand to investigate, another pierced his shoulder. Then a broadside swept his entire body.

The other members of the party were at a loss to account for his strange actions, other than by the hypothesis that he had been seized with sudden insanity; for, with an unearthly yell, he leaped into the air swinging his arms and legs like the wings of an ungainly windmill, and landed, after a short but successful flight, far out in the water.

As he came to the surface he took up the yell where he had left off and again began the windmill motions to the accompaniment of incoherent profanity. Then he went down again. By this time his strange conduct was perfectly understood by his companions, for they had themselves been attacked by the same insidious foe. A swarm of yellow-[Pg 292]jacket hornets, proverbially mad, had descended upon them without apparent provocation, and wholly without warning.

As soon as the wily yellowjackets discovered that their prey was in the water, they hovered about over the surface, striking at everything that came up. And while mankind is, in a limited way, amphibious, surely he makes no claim of extensive submarine ability. This fact the murderous hordes seemed to have taken into consideration in carrying out their attack.

By painful stages the victims worked their way downstream until they were out of range. Then they dragged themselves up on the bank and started what looked like a cartoon of a mud-slinging campaign. To an idle passerby a group of full grown human beings with their heads and often their bodies completely poulticed in black mud would have been an amusing sight. But on this occasion not so much as a suspicion of a smile crossed the face of any person present. An incipient laugh would doubtless have been punished by immediate execution.

The only observers who were not among the suffering participants were in no mood for smiles. They lay absolutely motionless back in the bushes and devoutly hoped that their labored breathing[Pg 293] and pounding heartbeats would not be overheard. The affair had got away from them entirely. There was no telling what would happen if their part in it should be discovered.

Not until it was quite dark did the badly stung bathers dare to return for their clothes. The hornets were gone. And the languid stillness of the summer night was broken only by their grim tokens of exclamation.

Some time after the last suffering victim had dragged his weary feet down the path leading from the pool, two dark shadows cautiously emerged from the shrubbery.

"Let's beat it for home!" urged a husky voice. "If any one saw us around here they'd prob'ly kill us!"

"All right," breathed the other. "The quicker the better!"

"Do you s'pose any one ever did die from bee-sting?"

"I'm afraid so. One feller said if he didn't die before mornin' he might have one chance in a hundred—"

Next day Sube's face blanched with fear as he saw the undertaker's wagon pass the house in the direction of the Unionville Mill. When the fear[Pg 294]some news was broken to Gizzard he presented a ray of hope.

"I ast my dad last night if anybody ever died of bee-sting and he said he never heard of any; but he said if a person got enough of 'em he couldn't see why they wouldn't kill just like a charge of birdshot."

"Does he know about everybody that dies in the whole world?" asked Sube incredulously.

"Maybe not all of 'em; but he knows about a good many."

At this point in the discussion Biscuit arrived, and with him came a brilliant idea to Sube.

"How good do you know Hi Wilbur, Biscuit?" he asked.

"How good! Say! He used to work for us!"

"Bet you don't know 'im good enough to nail 'im for a ride when he comes along!" challenged Sube.

"Oh! Don't I! Don't I, now! Well, you just watch me! Watch me! I'll show you if I do or not!" howled Biscuit.

"Well," said Sube, "he jus' went down the street, and when he comes back pretty quick we'll watch you all right!"

"Huh! You watch me! Watch me!"

"Well," taunted Sube, "when you're ridin' with[Pg 295] 'im and we're watchin' you, I'll bet you dassent ask him who's dead down the street—Here he comes now! Get on the job, Biscuit! We're watchin'!"

As the undertaker's service wagon approached with Hi on the lofty seat, Biscuit ran out in the road and hailed him. The team was instantly brought to a standstill and Biscuit clambered aboard.

"Fooled you, didn't he?" jeered Gizzard.

"Not on your life he didn't!" retorted Sube. "When he comes back and tells us who's dead you'll see that I fooled—Look!—He's gettin' down!"

Biscuit came running back to them triumphantly. "Ha-ha! What'd I tell you—!"

"Who's dead?" interrupted Sube.

"Nobody but ol' Miss Stebbins," replied Biscuit. "But I got some'pm better'n that to tell you!"

Sube and Gizzard waited in breathless suspense until Biscuit should speak. There was no telling what it might be.

"They've took Seth Bissett back to prison—!"

"What's that!" cried Sube and Gizzard in a chorus.

"Yessir! The payroll officer came this mornin' and found Seth's face all blotchy 'cause he'd been on two or three drunks lately, and the officer said there[Pg 296] was a lot of complaints against 'im, so he took 'im back to prison!"

"Did they take 'im jus' cause his face was all broke out?" asked Sube weakly.

"Oh, my no!" replied Biscuit. "Hi says he's been drunk every night for a month, hollerin' round and bustin' windows and all like that!"

"Hear that, Gizzard, ol' sock!" cried Sube, lustily thumping Gizzard on the chest. "Hear what he said!"

For an answer Gizzard returned a jovial body-blow, after which the two boys clinched and went down rolling over and over in the exuberance of their spirits.

The gang was hastily assembled for a swim, and soon with unrestrained shouts of joy they were tearing along the narrow path, undressing as they went. Sube was the first one in the water. As he came to the surface his companions thought they detected a peculiar expression on his face, but they threw themselves into the pool without stopping to investigate. Then they were sorry. For the pool was unspeakably polluted.

They hurriedly dragged themselves out on the bank, making faces expressive of disgust and disappointment. Sube was the first to speak.[Pg 297]

"It's all off for this year!" he growled. "We might jus' well go up to the spring and wash this smelly ol' water off'm us. That rotten ol' pickle factory's opened up—"

"Pickle factory?" asked Biscuit. "What's the pickle factory got to do with it?"

"Why, they'll be dumpin' their ol' smelly brine in the creek from now until next winter!... And jus' when we'd got the hole to ourselves, too!"[Pg 298]



Vacation vanished. School opened. Another year of education loomed up before Sube like an impassable mountain. The weather began to give hints of an approaching winter. Except on rare occasions the evenings were spent indoors. These occasions were usually devoted to attendance at the opera where the Kings and Queens of Filmdom could be seen for the trifling sum of five cents or the one-half part of a dime.

And always—with one exception—these evenings at the movies were the result of earnest solicitation on the part of the boys. The exception was noted on a certain Friday evening when Mrs. Cane had planned to open her parlors for a lecture of the Mothers' Club.

As the Cane family was about to rise from the supper table on that memorable evening, Mrs. Cane announced that she had arranged a pleasant surprise for the boys. Whereupon she distributed[Pg 299] largess to the extent of a nickel apiece and told them that as an experiment she had decided to permit them to go just this once unattended to the Theatorium.

If she had let them remain at home they would have paid scant attention to the Mothers' Club; but the moment she showed a desire to be rid of their presence she aroused Sube's suspicions.

"What don't you want us round home for?" he asked as he pocketed his nickel.

"Oh, it isn't that I don't want you here, dears," she replied; "but I knew this dry old lecture wouldn't interest you at all."

But Sube was not so easily disposed of. "What's it about?" he asked casually.

"Nothing that you would care to hear—the proper discipline of children or something of that sort," returned his mother hurriedly. "Run along now, boys; mother's very busy. You may stay to see the pictures through twice if you'll be very quiet and behave like gentlemen. And Henry, you take good care of Sim. Remember he's a little boy—"

Before starting for the Theatorium, Sube slipped out in the back yard and made a thorough though futile search for evidences of ice-cream. But for some reason this did not satisfy him; when once his suspicions were aroused it was very difficult to allay[Pg 300] them. All through the first show he was pondering over his mother's unprecedented conduct. He felt sure there was some ulterior motive.

During the intermission Sube announced that he was going to try the seats further back.

"I know I can't see so good," he explained, "but my neck kinda hurts from bending it up so far."

"My neck don't hurt," declared Cathead. "I'll stay here."

"My neck don't hurt," echoed Sim. "I'll stay here too."

None of the other youthful occupants of the bald-headed row was willing to exchange front seats for rear, so Sube was forced to try the experiment alone. This was as he had anticipated and desired, for he had deep-laid plans which could best be carried out by himself. As soon as the second show was under way he slipped out of the theater and started for home, gliding silently from tree to tree with a skill that had been acquired by long continued study of the methods of Old Sleuth.

He reached the parlor window just too late to hear the last of a group of Spanish chansonettes rendered in the original tongue by Miss Netta Podger, who had spent the summer abroad. This was un[Pg 301]fortunate for Sube, as foreign languages always interested him.

When the applause evoked by Miss Podger's artistry had died away into random coughings and throat-clearings, Sube heard the president of the Mothers' Club struggling to give expression to the pleasure she took in introducing the exceedingly reverend J. Mills Mossman, D.D., who, she said, would deliver this evening his famous lecture entitled, "Moral Suasion; or Spare the Rod and Save the Child." Under cover of the burst of applause which greeted this announcement Sube scrambled up and seated himself precariously on the window sill. Of course he wanted to see as well as hear.

He understood that Dr. Mossman was the new Baptist minister. He had seen the much-discussed gentleman on the street once or twice, but rumors of football prowess and heavyweight championships during college days had aroused in Sube a curiosity to look him over at closer range.

As Dr. Mossman began to speak Sube pressed his face against the shutters and peered in. He found himself perilously near the doctor's large left ear. Then he noted the enormous size of the white but muscular hands, little dreaming that he[Pg 302] would ever fall into them. But his attention was not long held by the speaker's personal appearance, for Sube was electrified by what he was saying.

He began to comprehend at once why his mother had not wanted him to hear the lecture. He felt outraged at the thought that she should thus seek to restrict his education, and stunt his mental and spiritual growth. He was converted to "Moral Persuasion" on first sight, and made up his mind to affiliate himself with their organization at the earliest opportunity.

When Dr. Mossman waggishly declared that the hairbrush should be used solely for arranging one's locks, and that the good old slipper should be devoted exclusively to the humble task of comforting tired feet, Sube joined heartily in the laugh that followed. And when the good doctor concluded his lecture with the impassioned statement that "willfully inflicted pain never improved anything!" Sube participated so enthusiastically in the applause that he lost his balance and fell to the ground, taking with him the greater part of his father's cherished ivy.

For an instant he was dazed. He could not seem to comprehend where he was. Then he recovered his bearings and hurried back to the Theatorium. As he reached the lobby the doors swung open and[Pg 303] the crowd began to emerge. Cathead and Sim were among the last to come out.

"How's your neck?" asked Cathead as he approached Sube, who stood looking at a poster of the next day's bill.

"My neck?" asked Sube, momentarily off his guard. "Who said an'thing—Oh! my neck! Oh, yes; my neck is fine! It was all right jus' as soon as I sat in the back seat a little while." He gave his head a few experimental twists, and then added in confirmation: "Yup, it's all right."

The hour was late when the theatergoers reached home. The last guest had departed, and their father was unamiably engaged in carrying out the folding chairs, which had been donated for the occasion by the local undertakers, and piling them on the front porch.

The boys, preferring almost anything to going to bed, offered their assistance, which their father rather reluctantly declined. Cathead dallied, asking numerous questions about the lecture, but Sube trudged off to bed without a word.

The following day a cold rain kept the boys indoors. Throughout the morning frequent observations were made, but no cheering patch of blue large enough to make the mythical Dutchman's breeches[Pg 304] could be seen. Although the rain began before seven it failed to stop before 'leven. In fact, it was three o'clock before it let up at all.

By lunch time the boys had resigned themselves to the weather, and with the aid of the telephone had succeeded in interesting Gizzard and Cottontop in the "gym" that had sprung into being in the upper story of the barn.

The earlier part of the afternoon was spent by the four boys in improving the equipment of the gym and in demonstrating their abilities as death-defying athletes. It was the performance by Sube of a feat called the "muscle-grinder or Hindu punishment" that really started the trouble, for it threw him into a state of perspiration which caused him to remark that he would enjoy taking a swim.

"I guess you wouldn't find the water pretty cold!" suggested the practical Gizzard. "Oh, no!"

"But s'posin' we had it fixed so's it would be warm! S'posin' we had a little shack built right over the swimmin'-hole!"

"Water'd be cold jus' samee!"

"But I can s'pose it would be warm, can't I? I can s'pose anything, can't I? I can s'pose boilin' ice-water if I want to, can't I?"[Pg 305]

"You can s'pose it," admitted Gizzard grudgingly, "but that won't make it so. Who'd want boilin' ice-water, anyway?"

"But jus' s'posin' we had a place fixed like that," continued Sube quite unperturbed. "I'd take a swim every day in the year. And when I'm a man I'm goin' to have a swimmin'-hole made right in my own house, and then I can go in whenever I want to!"

"You'd oughta be a Baptis'," suggested Gizzard.

"What's bein' a Baptis' got to do with goin' in swimmin'?" asked Sube cautiously.

"Why, they've got a swimmin'-hole right inside their church!" declared Gizzard with an air of omniscient loftiness.

"A swimmin'-hole in the Baptis' Church!" howled Sube derisively. "You make me laugh! Say, Giz, who's been stringin' you?"

"Nobody ain't been stringin' me," defended Gizzard stoutly. "Jus' shows you don't know much! There's one there, 'cause my dad painted it jus' last week with two coats of white 'namel and—"

"What in the dickens would they have a swimmin'-hole in a church for? Jus' tell me that!" demanded Sube conclusively.

"To bap-tize people!" replied Gizzard, appar[Pg 306]ently greatly bored at this display of ignorance. "Didn't you know the Baptis'es don't jus' squirt a little water on a baby's bean? They let 'em grow up and then duck 'em all over."

Sube had a vague recollection of something of the sort, but his interest in the matter was material rather than doctrinal. "How big is this wonderful swimmin'-hole?" he asked guardedly.

"Big enough to swim in, all right," Gizzard assured him.

"Where do they keep it?" Sube was feeling his way carefully, fearing a hoax of some sort.

"It's down under the minister's desk," Gizzard told him with an air of vast importance. "You can't see it when you go in the church, but all you got to do is press a little button, and Bingo!—There's your swimmin'-hole!" A sort of "Behold!—" movement of the hand accompanied this exposition.

Sube was torn between belief and skepticism. He hoped that what Gizzard was telling him was the truth. But the appearance of secret places at the pressing of buttons was associated in his mind with hip-pocket literature, rather than with the House of God. However, Gizzard's responses to his persistent questioning were so earnest and so convincing[Pg 307] that Sube had just about concluded to become a Baptist, when Gizzard chanced to remark that he knew what the mysterious indoor pool was called.

"What?" asked the others in a chorus.

"My dad says they call it 'mershum,'" was the lofty response.

Sube's Baptist leanings collapsed like a house of cards. "Now I know you're lyin'," he growled disgustedly, "'cause that's a kind of a pipe you smoke. My father's got one."

For a few moments conflict seemed inevitable. Then the discussion took a new angle and developed into an argument as to the knowledge of their respective fathers of the correct meaning of the word "mershum." After this had waged for a few minutes with honors about equally divided, Gizzard had a brilliant idea.

"Look here, Sube!" he cried. "We could keep chewin' about this all day long and not get nowhere. But if I could show it to you, then you'd have to b'lieve it!"

"I'll b'lieve it jus' soon as I see it," Sube admitted; "and not before."

"All right!" shouted Gizzard, starting for the stairs. "Come on! I'll show it to you!"

Sube stirred uneasily. "Yeah, and then when we[Pg 308] got there you'd say we couldn't get in the church 'cause it was locked. You can't bluff me—"

"You think so, do you? Well, we ain't goin' in the door at all! We're goin' in a window with a busted catch! Hope to die and cross my heart if we ain't! And if you don't come along now we'll know who's the bluffer, by jingo!"

"All right, kid," grunted Sube as he arose languidly and began to hunt for his cap. "But if I find out you been lyin' to me,—I'll fix you good and plenty."[Pg 309]



A short time afterwards the four boys clambered through a narrow opening in the lower section of a window that was sacred to the memory of Zenas Wheelock, deceased, and his three wives, equally deceased, and huddled timorously just inside in readiness to retreat at the first unfavorable symptom. The interior of the church was pretty scary at first, it was so dark and empty and smelled so religious.

But after listening cautiously until he was satisfied that nobody was about but his own company, Sube made bold to speak.

"Well, Giz," he said, "why don't you trot out your wonderful mershum swimmin'-hole?"

All of them started at the hollow echoing sound of Sube's voice, and Cathead made a movement towards the window. But Gizzard pointed a stubby finger at the pulpit.

"It's down under there," he said. "Maybe I can't open it the first thing, but I know it's there, all right."[Pg 310]

He walked over and began to run his hand along the edge of the platform on which the pulpit stood. At first he succeeded in finding nothing but a great deal of dust and an occasional sliver, while Sube goaded him on with unkind remarks, and Cathead tried to persuade him to abandon the investigation so that they might "get out while the gettin' was good."

Suddenly there was a click, followed by a seismic rumble. The pulpit and the platform on which it stood moved perceptibly. There were simultaneous exclamations from three members of the party. Gizzard's denoted triumph; Sube's delighted astonishment; and Cathead's nervous apprehension. Cottontop was beyond words. He could only gasp.

Flushed with success, Gizzard began to dance around the front of the altar, making unmistakable signs of derision, and shouting excitedly:

"Ya-da! Ya-da! What'd I tell you! What'd I tell you!"

Sube recovered his indifferent attitude at once.

"Well, we ain't seen it yet, have we?" he said.

"You fellers help me push this here thing back and you'll see it in a hurry!" cried Gizzard confidently.

All lent a hand except Cathead, who discreetly re[Pg 311]mained in the background. And suddenly he gave a cry of warning.

"Look out there! You're movin' the whole blame' bus'ness!"

And indeed they were. Pulpit and platform rolled majestically back several feet, disclosing to their popping eyes just such a pool as Gizzard had described. When Gizzard had sufficiently recovered from his surprise to find his voice, he demanded of Sube with the gruffness which he was now entitled to employ:

"Ain't that there a swimmin'-hole?"

"Looks like one," Sube was forced to admit.

"Get onto them little steps goin' down into the water, jus' like I tole you," Gizzard pointed out.

Sube did get on to them, first with his eyes, and then with his feet. He squatted down and dipped his hand into the water. "Why, it's warm!" he exclaimed.

"Sure it's warm," said Gizzard patronizingly. "Didn't I tell you it's right on top the furnace, so's they can use it all winter?"

"Hadn't we better be gettin' that thing back?" asked Cathead, glancing nervously towards the door.

"What for?" blurted Sube brazenly. "We jus' got her opened up!"[Pg 312]

Cathead squirmed uneasily. "Somebody might come in and catch us. Ol' Joe might come to take care of the furnace."

"Huh!" snorted Sube defiantly. "Who's afraid of ol' Joe? I ain't any more afraid of him than I am of—" Sube looked about for a suitable means of comparison—"of you!" he cried, pointing his finger at Cathead. "And I guess you know how much that is."

"Well, then," argued Cathead, "somebody else might come in. Doc Mossman might—!"

At the mere mention of the minister's name Gizzard quailed; Cottontop showed signs of nervousness; and Cathead furtively glanced at the window by means of which they had entered, as if to be sure that it was still there. But Sube was no craven. He let out a howl of derision.

"That big boob! Ha—a—a ha! He's a big bag of wind! Why, he wouldn't hurt a fly! Say, I ain't any more afraid of him than I am of ol' Joe! You know what I'd do to him if he should come buttin' in here? I'd take 'im down into that little ol' mershum swimmin'-hole, and I'd duck 'im and duck 'im till he went home bellerin'! Gee! I wisht he would come in here. Wouldn't we have fun with him, though!"[Pg 313]

Gizzard was not naturally timid. Rather was he inclined to be venturesome; and in addition to that he had carefully schooled himself to fear nothing that Sube was not afraid of. It was accordingly not long before he was able to force his unwilling tongue to say slighting things about Dr. Mossman. And, encouraged by Sube's contemptuous animadversions, he finally found himself saying that if the "Big Noise" should come botherin' around him, he'd lick him with one hand.

"Well, if that's the way you feel about it," remarked Sube, "what's to hinder our havin' a little swim in this mershum swimmin'-hole?"

Gizzard was taken completely by surprise. He had supposed that the episode would end with the villification of the minister. For a moment he was silent.

"What's the matter? Afraid?" taunted Sube.

"No, I ain't," replied Gizzard weakly.

"Will you go in if I will?"

"If you do, I will; but what'd we do if anybody should come in and catch us?" Gizzard equivocated.

"That's easy," blustered Sube. "We'd stay right in the water, and these two fellers would shut the thing up and duck under the seats with our duds, and wait till they went out again!"[Pg 314]

It sounded so reasonable and so safe that Gizzard resisted no longer. And soon the two boys were floating about in the delightful depths of the baptistry. There was not a great deal of room for swimming, but they repeatedly expressed their unqualified approval of mershum as a pastime.

Cathead had done his best to keep the boys from going into the water, and he now began to urge them to come out.

"I tell you it ain't safe," he was saying. "Somebody is liable to come in here—"

As if in response to the suggestion, there was a metallic sound from the front door which indicated the introduction of a key into the lock. This was followed by an ominous rattling of the knob. Then came the hum of voices. A supreme effort brought the pulpit back to place. Cottontop snatched Gizzard's clothes and dived under the seats; but Cathead, who was thoroughly rattled, caught up Sube's clothes, and throwing them out of the window, hastily scrambled out after them.

In the impenetrable darkness of the baptistry the two boys clung to each other for company and listened intently. Suddenly Sube felt Gizzard's muscles stiffen; then heard him gasp, "Good Gosh!"

"What's the matter of you?" whispered Sube.[Pg 315]

"It's ol' Mossy, and a whole lot of women's with him!"

"Well, what of it? They ain't comin' in here, are they?"

"That's jus' what I'm scairt of!" sniffed Gizzard, on the verge of tears.

"Don't be a baby!" said Sube disgustedly. "They ain't comin' in here! You don't s'pose ol' Mossy'd bring a lot of women with him if he was goin' to take a swim in this here mershum swimmin'-hole, do you?"

This thought was so comforting to Sube that he chuckled perceptibly. Gizzard, too, was reassured; for he sought out Sube's ear and said:

"I thought maybe you was goin' to get a chanct to show me what you promised to do to him."

Sube sniffed disdainfully, and ignoring Gizzard's little pleasantry, suggested that they move up to the front end of the tank and see if they could make out what the intruders were doing. There was room at the crack for only one ear, and this was occupied by Sube's right one. From time to time he issued bulletins based partly on what he heard or thought he heard, and partly on what he imagined was taking place.

"They're all tellin' 'im what a whale of a speech[Pg 316] he made down to my house last night ... they all b'lieve in it, too!"

"B'lieve in what?" asked Gizzard.

"If it's who I think it is, it don't matter much, 'cause they're mostly ol' maids that ain't got any children—"

"B'lieve in what?" persisted Gizzard. "What is it they b'lieve in?"

"Sh—h—hut up!" breathed Sube. "Want to get us caught?"

"Well, what is it—?"

"Shut up till I hear, can't you?"

"Well, you might tell a feller—"

Sube turned exasperated from the crack, and feeling about till he found Gizzard's ear, drew it towards him with what Gizzard considered unnecessary emphasis, and whispered crossly:

"Moral Persuasion, if you must know!"

Then he turned his attention once more to matters outside the baptistry. Gizzard was still wondering what Moral Persuasion was like, when he felt Sube groping for his ear again. He fortified it with his hand before yielding it.

"They're beggin' him to make another speech so's those who didn't go to the meetin' last night can hear about Moral Persuasion, too. I guess he's[Pg 317] goin' to do it, 'cause he jus' tole 'em that it's his hobby—"

"What's that?" asked Gizzard.

But Sube nudged him to silence with his elbow.

"What's a hobby?" Gizzard insisted.

"Shut up! Will you?—Jus' listen and you'll find out all about it! He's tellin' 'em now—"

Gizzard listened. Dr. Mossman's remarks were informal but none the less forceful. He briefly repeated his arguments of the evening before, and added in conclusion that many of the foremost minds of the day regard corporal punishment as a sin. When the resulting applause had faded away he cried out with irrepressible enthusiasm:

"And I may say that I am one of them!"

Within the dark baptistry the two boys embraced each other effusively, and Gizzard whispered:

"Now I know why you wa'n't more afraid of him! I ain't any more afraid'n you are, now!... I wisht my folks was Baptis'es—"

"Hark!" gasped Sube. "What's that he's sayin'?"

He pressed his ear to the crack and listened intently.

"What is it?" breathed Gizzard as Sube drew back, trembling in every fiber.[Pg 318]

"He's goin' to open this thing up so's to show it to those women!—They're goin' to be ducked to-morrow—he's sayin' he's sorry it's so dark, but he thinks they can see enough without lightin' the lamps."

A wave of terror swept over Gizzard. He sank his nails into Sube's arm as he panted desperately: "What you goin' to do? You got me into this! Now you can get me out again!"

Sube shook him off. "I got you in, did I? I did, did I? Well, I guess I didn't! I didn't even know it was here till you tole me! I guess you better be gettin' me out of—"

There was a click and a jar. A streak of light became visible at the front end of the pool. The boys, who had unconsciously retreated to the rear end, with one accord took a long breath and disappeared beneath the surface, clinging to each other for support and encouragement.

They felt the rumble as the pulpit was shoved back, and waited in vain for it to be replaced. Finally the pounding in their ears became so loud that they thought it must have been accomplished without their hearing it. Then, having remained under water for a period of time afterwards estimated by Gizzard as fifteen minutes, and by Sube as[Pg 319] half an hour at the very least, they came up. And their coming was no graceful bobbing to the surface. It was more like a volcanic upheaval, followed by the terrific spouting of a horrid two-headed marine monster.

Piercing shrieks greeted their appearance, followed quickly by the din and confusion of a panic. The terrified boys brushed the water from their eyes[Pg 320] and gazed in trembling awe at the havoc of which they had been the innocent cause.

They saw Dr. Mossman pulled down by a pack of frenzied women who trampled him underfoot as if he had been a doormat, and then fought, tore, scratched and screamed their way to the door.

Gizzard was the first to speak.

"What is it?" he asked in a voice husky with terror. "S'pose the church is on fire?"

Sube's teeth chattered violently as he shook his head and managed to say, "I don't know; but I guess we better be gettin' out of here!"

They had ascended the little steps before they realized that they were naked. Looking about in brainless bewilderment Gizzard asked,

"Where's our clo's?"

And although Sube knew, he was never able to tell, for at that instant he saw rising before him like a Phœnix from its ashes the battered remains of Dr. Mossman. It then became apparent that Sube had lost some of his contempt for the minister, for he tried to avoid him and jump hastily back into the water.

But alas, he was too late.

Dr. Mossman seized him with an iron grip and drew his shivering body across a large pious knee[Pg 321]—and for the next few moments forgot all about his hobby.

When Sube appeared at Sunday School the following day he was nursing a bad cold.

"Did you catch an'thing 'sides a cold?" asked Gizzard under his breath.

"Not buch I didn't!" returned Sube. "Bud we godt a bystery over to our house."

"A mystery? What is it?"

"By bother found the Baptis' bidister's overcoat hangin' in our frondt hall last dight, and dobody in the house could tell her how it godt there!" Sube punched the grinning Gizzard jovially in the stomach as he continued, "She hadt me take it to him, but he didn't know how it godt there either!"

"We got a mystery over to my house, too!" howled Gizzard. "My mother's been tryin' to figger out how I could lose off my undershirt and one stockin' without knowin' it!"

When they had sufficiently calmed down the boys passed into Sunday School, winking knowingly whenever their eyes chanced to meet.[Pg 322]



Jealousy is about as reasonable as lightning; it is fully as deadly, and often much more unexpected. And because Biscuit Westfall's mother's brother-in-law (who was a farmer with a fine woodlot) when bringing in the annual Christmas tree for Biscuit, had also brought one for Nancy Guilford's Christmas party, he had aroused Sube's groundless jealousy of Biscuit to the striking point.

Biscuit cared nothing for Nancy; he had a lady love of his own. Of course he was polite to Nancy, but he was polite to every lady. And Nancy cared nothing for Biscuit. She had found him useful in her scheme of life, and had accordingly made use of him. But she loved him not. However, as far as the Christmas tree was concerned she was innocent of using him even as an exciter. He had offered the tree, and she had taken it.

Somewhere Sube had learned the history of the tree, and when he saw it he shook his head dubiously.[Pg 323] "Pretty punk, isn't it?" he asked. "Is that the best you could get?"

"Uh huh, the very best," Nancy emphatically assured him.

"Why didn't you let me get you a tree?" he demanded. "I'd 'ave got you one a hundred times better'n that."

"Oo—oo! Could you, honest?"

"Could I!"

"Will you do it?"

"Will I? Half a dozen if you want 'em."

Nancy assured him that one was all she could possibly use, and thereupon he obtained his ax and set out to conquer the forest. But he soon found that Biscuit's uncle Peter had spoken the truth when he said that good Christmas trees were scarce. They were; decidedly scarce. The few that had come through the dry fall without unwithered limbs had already been hewn by the early tree-hunters. And Sube was hard to please.

He had in his mind the picture of an ideal Christmas tree, and as he rejected one prospect after another, the picture became more vivid.

"You're a rusty runt," he informed an anæmic-looking pine that appeared in his path. "And you're too much like a beanpole," he told another.[Pg 324] "Yes, and you're lop-sided," he explained to a third; "you look like you'd had an arm cut off."

The afternoon waned. Dusk came on. To be in the woods after dark would be quite useless, so he might as well be starting for home. And still the picture of the perfect tree possessed his mind. If he could only think where it was.

Then suddenly it came to him. Why, of course! That was just where he had seen it! It wasn't exactly growing wild, but the people who inhabited the place wouldn't care. He felt quite sure about that. And anyway, it would be dark by the time he reached there.

An hour later when Nancy Guilford opened the door in response to his ring (for which she had been listening for some time) a perfect specimen of cypress greeted her delighted gaze. It was bright green, symmetrical and bushy-limbed. It was as perfect as the picture on a Christmas card. Nancy's exclamations and gurglings of delight brought her mother to the door, with the result that Sube was invited over that evening to help trim the tree.

When he arrived some two hours later he found the gift tree mounted in a disguised soap box, and standing at one end of the parlor from which the furniture had been removed to facilitate the laying[Pg 325] of the crash, with the entire household gathered round about offering on-lookers' advice as to the most effective way of decorating it.

This was not exactly as he had anticipated. He had planned to arrange those details according to his own ideas and Nancy's. But somehow he managed to live through it. If, however, he had known that the Guilfords were entertaining company he would not have come. He hated to meet strangers, especially tall women dressed all in black who think they have got to talk to a fellow all the time.

When Sube was presented to Mrs. Hotchkiss-Harger he fastened his gaze on a little red spot on the crash and moved his lips deferentially, although no sound came. Observing his embarrassment, Mrs. Hotchkiss-Harger attempted to put him at his ease by the questionable method of interrogation.

"So this is the young man," she remarked in her deep voice, "to whom we are indebted for this beautiful tree?"

Sube nodded microscopically.

"It's a cypress, isn't it?" she persisted.

Again Sube's head moved slightly, although it would have taken a mind reader to translate the movement.

"Why, I had no idea that cypresses were in[Pg 326]digenous to this part of the country. Where did you get that tree, young man?"

Sube started visibly. This was a question he was hardly prepared to answer. "Th—that tree, th—there?" he stammered in confusion. "That tree?—Why—"

Once more the success of well-handled dilatory tactics was evident; for Mrs. Hotchkiss-Harger suddenly burst into tears.

"Oh, it all comes back so clearly," she sobbed. "I went to the nursery myself—broken and crushed as I was—and selected the four dainty cypresses that were planted at the four corners of the lot where my poor dear Clarence was laid to rest. They must be just about the size of this one! I must go and see them to-morrow. Why, I haven't seen those darling little trees since the day they were set out!—Oh, dear—!"

"There, there, sister," comforted Mrs. Guilford. "How could you have seen them when you have been abroad all the time? They've had the best of care, and they were looking be-autiful the last time I saw them—"

"Ah, yes, I stayed away that I might learn to forget!" moaned Mrs. Hotchkiss-Harger between huge convulsive sobs. "But how the old grief[Pg 327] closes in on me the moment I return. Oh, I must go to the cemetery to-morrow!"


"Oh, I don't believe I'd go on the day before Christmas," Mrs. Guilford advised gently.

"I must!—I must!—I can't wait a moment longer!"

Then with a supreme effort Mrs. Hotchkiss-Harger mastered her grief, and removing her black-bordered handkerchief from her reddened eyes, turned to Sube who had been watching her with keen interest, and said:

"You haven't yet told me where you got that tree, young man."

Sube had to swallow once or twice before he managed to mumble, "Don't know exackly."

"Don't know?" she demanded. "How can it be possible that you don't know? You cut this tree yourself, did you not?"

"No, ma'am. I—"

"You didn't! Well, who did, then?"

"Ma'am? Oh,—who cut this tree?—Why,—why, my father got it for me!" he finally stammered out. "I don't know jus' where he did get it. Out in the woods somewheres, I should—"

"Ah! Then he cut it himself, did he?"

"Yes, ma'am. He cut it all right! He likes to[Pg 328] cut Chris'mus trees. He says most people don't know a good Chris'mus tree when they see one."

"One could scarce say that about him."

This delicate compliment brought forth no response from Sube except a dark scowl, but it terminated Mrs. Hotchkiss-Harger's part of the conversation, and she yielded to her sister's earnest solicitation that she lie down for a while.

Left alone with Nancy for a moment Sube began to look around for his cap. "I gotta be goin' home," he whispered huskily.

"Going home!" cried Nancy. "Why, you just got here! And besides, we haven't put a thing on the tree yet!"

"I know it," muttered Sube, "but my mother tole me I could only stay a couple of minutes—"

"Why, it isn't late at all! What time do you have to go?"

"What time is it now?"

Nancy stepped to the door and looked at the big clock in the hall. "Why, it's only twenty-five minutes after seven!" she announced joyfully.

"I gotta go at ha'-past," said Sube, as he struggled to extricate his cap from his coat-pocket where he had finally located it.

"That's mean!" cried Nancy petulantly. "It's[Pg 329] just as mean as it can be! Why didn't you come earlier?"

"Well, I did come right after supper—"

"Then what you got to go so soon for?"

"Why—why, my mother's got to go to see a sick lady."

"A sick lady? Who's sick that your mother's got to go and see, I'd like to know?"

"I guess you don't know everybody that's sick!"

"I guess I know everybody that's sick that your mother's got to go and see! Now, who is it?"

"It's Auntie Emma! Yah, you didn't know she was sick at all! Did you?"

"Well, it must have been awful sudden, because I saw her go by just yesterday."

"Sudden! I guess it was sudden. She was sittin' at the supper table jus' well as you are, and Bingo! she fell right out of her chair onto the floor sick abed!"

Nancy was deeply moved. "Oh, isn't that awful! What made it?"

"Huh?—What made it?—Why, I can't think what they call it. It's an awful funny name."

"Was it heart disease?" ventured Nancy.

"Aw, it was a million times worse'n that!"

Nancy gasped. "She isn't going to die, is she?"[Pg 330]

"Well, I dunno," he replied dubiously. "She was still alive when I come away, but—"

"I'm sorry," murmured Nancy. "Awful sorry. I hope—"

"Well, I gotto be goin'. They might need me any minute!"

"I'm so sorry about it. Do you s'pose you'll be able to—to come to my party?"

This was a new phase of the matter that Sube had not considered. "Well, you can't tell," he replied. "It's a funny disease. Doc Richards says she may be dead one minute, or may be well the next."

"Oh, I do hope she'll be well," said Nancy earnestly; and as Sube passed out of the door she called after him, "I'm going right in and tell mamma about it."

Sube stopped in his tracks. But the heavy front door had slammed behind him. Oh, well, he'd tell them to-morrow that she was sick one minute, and well the next. That would be easy to fix up. But he was not going to stay round there all the evening and have that big tall woman in black keep asking him questions. Probably she'd forget all about the Christmas tree by to-morrow anyway. And besides, nobody would ever suspect his father of hooking a Christmas tree from a cemetery lot. Evergreen[Pg 331] trees were so much alike that nobody could tell one from another, for that matter. And dismissing these trivial matters from his mind he paid an unexpected call on his friend Gizzard. He reached home shortly after nine o'clock.

"You oughta see that Chris'mus tree!" he cried as he entered the house. "It's a pippin! We got it all covered with glass balls and nickel-plated shavings and red and green candles, about a million of 'em!"

"When did you do all this?" asked his mother.

"Jus' got through!"

"You did?" she asked incredulously. "Why, I understood Mrs. Guilford to say that you had already left there when she telephoned me over an hour ago."

"Well,—you see—you see, I did leave there, but I jus' went outdoors, and then came right back again."

"But what did you mean by telling her that Auntie Emma was desperately ill and that you had to come home—"

"Did she 'phone you that?" cried Sube eagerly. "Did she honest?"

"Of course she did; and I want to know—"

"Oh, I guess I didn't fool her all right!" he[Pg 332] laughed boisterously. "Oh, no! Guess not!"

"But I want to know what you meant—"

"Why, she said she bet I couldn't fool her, so in a little while, I tole her Auntie Emma was sick and I had to go home, and jus' to fool her I went outdoors and stayed a while; but I didn't know I fooled her so much that she 'phoned—"

"Then what did Nancy mean when she called up and asked for you about half an hour later?"

"Oh, ho!" cried Sube gleefully. "Then I fooled her, too! Did she call me up, honest? You see I was outdoors again and I didn't know it!"

"You must not fool so much, my boy. You'll get the reputation of being very untruthful—"

"Get it!" interjected Mr. Cane. "Get it! If he could get any more of a repu—"

"Samuel!" cried Mrs. Cane in a voice she seldom found it necessary to use. And as her husband subsided she turned again to Sube. "Nancy wanted you to call her up as soon as you came in," she said.

"Oh, that's all right," Sube explained. "She's seen me since then."

"They why do you suppose she called again about five minutes before you came?" asked his mother.

"Prob'ly I was on the way home," he suggested.[Pg 333] "I stopped to talk to some kids. I'll call her up anyway."

Sube went to the telephone, and removing the receiver with one hand he carefully pressed down the hook with the other to avoid arousing the operator, and called loudly for Guilfords' number. Then he held an illuminating though strictly imaginary conversation with Nancy, in the course of which he twitted her playfully about being so easily fooled.

"Put an'thing more on the tree?" he asked finally. "That's right! I guess we put on everything there was. Well, g'by! See you to-morrow!" And he hung up the receiver.

He had just resumed his chair after this master-stroke when the telephone rang. This time it was the real Nancy.[Pg 334]



Sube's glib flow of language of the moment before seemed to have deserted him entirely. He stuttered and stammered and stalled. He tried to put matters off till the morrow, but Nancy would not hear of such a thing. She wanted to be reassured as to Auntie Emma's condition. She must know at once whether her party was likely to be cheated out of his presence.

"Mamma called up your mother," she informed him, "and she said she hadn't heard a word about it. She thought there must be some mistake."

"Yes, there was," Sube considered it safe to reply.

"You hadn't told her yet! You were keeping it from her to spare her, weren't you, Sube?"

"Yes, I was."

"That's just what I told mamma. And when we both called up and you weren't home yet, I just knew you'd gone down there to help. You had, hadn't you?"[Pg 335]

"Why, yes, course I had."

"And now tell me all about how she is."

"I can't!"

"Why, yes, you can! I want to know all about it! Now tell me!"

"But I tell you I can't!"

"But you must!"

"Why, you know—you know—now, what I tole you about one minute, and the next?"

"No! What did you tell me?"

"Why, you know!"

"No, I don't! Tell me again!"

"I can't now!"

"Why not?"

"'Cause I can't!"

"Oh!—I know why!—She's dead!—Mamma!" Sube heard her call. "She's dead!"

"She is not!" screamed Sube. "She's—she's just the opposite!"

"She's what?"

"The opposite to what you said!"

"What's that?"

"Alive and kickin'! All well! All over it the next minute! See you to-morrow! G'-by!"

And again slammed on the receiver.

Mrs. Cane had just finished a little dissertation on[Pg 336] the elements of courtesy and its necessary place in the lexicon of youth, when Sube looked up absently and asked:

"Who's pooah deah Clar-r-rence?"

"I didn't understand, dear. What's the name?" she asked.

"He's dead, I guess. Nancy's aunt was bawlin' about him to-night."

"He means Clarence Harger," guessed Mr. Cane. "She still sheds tears every time his name is mentioned; and strange to relate, I don't believe her lachrymal glands ever yielded up one drop of moisture until she found that the old tight-wad had left her a quarter of a million that she never dreamed he possessed."

"Was Clarence a tight-wad?" asked Sube with interest. "Where'd he live, anyway? When'd he die?"

"He was a very nice man," Mrs. Cane hastened to explain. "He lived and died in Rochester. And you must be very courteous to Mrs. Hotchkiss-Harger, as she is one of your father's very best clients. Her husband was a splendid man—"

"Where was he buried?" asked Sube.

"He was buried here in the family lot beside his father and mother."[Pg 337]

"But Clarence was a tight-wad, was he?" Sube repeated.

Mr. Cane squirmed. "Oh, that was just a joking way of speaking," he explained seriously. "He was a fine fellow; a very successful business man; he realized that it was the pennies that made the dollars, and ran his business on the lines of strictest efficiency and economy; and although he was well off, he lived very simply—"

"I see," Sube assured him. "He was a tight-wad!"

"Please, Sube!" Mrs. Cane was very gentle, but very much in earnest. "Please don't ever say that again. It might get back to Mrs. Hotchkiss-Harger's ears, and if it did it would offend her terribly. She isn't in a very humorous state just now, and she couldn't possibly see the joke. It would be a very serious matter if she should be offended by any member of our family as she is about the most important client I have just now. You won't ever mention this matter again, will you, my boy?"

"Oh, no! Not if you don't want me to. But we all know he was a tight-wad, don't we?"

If Sube had desired to mention the matter to Mrs. Hotchkiss-Harger, which no doubt he would have done at the first propitious opportunity, he would[Pg 338] have had no chance until the next evening; for he did not see her until then. But when he saw her he did not go out of his way to converse with her. He made himself as small as possible and started for the farther end of the room.

He was one of nineteen of Nancy's little friends who were assembled in the library chattering like magpies, while, beyond the closely drawn parlor curtains, her father and mother were lighting the candles on the Christmas tree. One moment the young people were fairly on tip-toe with pleasant anticipations—and the next they were silent and shocked.

For the front door of the house had suddenly burst open, and in rushed a tall woman heavily veiled, and generously cloaked in broadtail. As she entered, she had involuntarily called on her Maker for help; and as if the response were not sufficiently prompt, she sought to enlist the additional aid of her sister, whose name she moaned rather than called.

At her entrance the buzzing library became as silent as the third strike; but when she began to repeat her sister's name with increasing anguish, there were quick movements to points of vantage near the door, and several of the more venturesome boys poked their heads out and stared.

The confusion in the hall did not last long, how[Pg 339]ever, for Mrs. Guilford came flying from the parlor, and taking her sister into her capable arms led her gently down the hall and into a side room, the door of which she quickly closed behind them.

"What are 'vandals'?" asked Biscuit Westfall of Sube as the company began to breathe again.


"Yes, vandals. She said vandals had desecrated the resting place of her poor dear Clarence."

"Did she say that?"

"She sure did! What are they, anyway? Are they an'thing like woodchucks?"

At this point Mr. Guilford threw back the curtains, and the assemblage trooped into the parlor with exclamations of great joy. The servants slipped in from the kitchen to see the tree and watch the children; and Mrs. Guilford found them clustered about the parlor door as she came softly out of her sister's room a few moments later.

Mr. Guilford had already assumed the rôle of an uncostumed Santa Claus, and the sounds of merriment were increasing with each package he clipped from the tree and delivered, and when Mrs. Guilford picked up a pair of shears and began to assist him, the uproar became deafening.

Suddenly all was hushed by an anguished moan.[Pg 340]

As Mrs. Guilford dropped her shears and started for the door her worst suspicions were confirmed; for she caught sight of the towering form of her widowed sister with her hands pressed closely together in an attitude of supplication, and her eyes turned heavenwards.

"God help me! It's the very one!" she mumbled over and over. "God help me! It's the very one!"

In an instant Mrs. Guilford was at her sister's side; but her efforts to lead her from the room were futile.

"No! I must examine it! I have proof!... I can tell!... I can identify it!... When I saw that it had been cut down I scrutinized the stump, and God had been good to me! He had put a little black ring around the heart! It is a sign! ... I must turn over that tree and examine—!"

"Not now, dear; you're all upset—"

"Yes, now—this instant!"

"But it's all lighted—the children are all here! We must wait until they have finished and gone into the dining-room, and then you can do anything you want to. But not just now—"

And again Mrs. Guilford led her distraught sister down the hall and into the side room.[Pg 341]

It was the firm conviction of all the children save two, that the tall lady in black was crazy (a conviction of which some of them were never able to rid themselves in after years), and they did not hesitate to whisper about it among themselves.

The two who entertained no doubt as to the soundness of her mind were Sube and Nancy. To them her verbal wanderings about the little black ring had been perfectly lucid. But no look of understanding passed between them. In fact, their eyes did not squarely meet again during the entire evening, although neither one was for an instant unaware of the other's exact location.

Observing that Sube was standing by the tree, Nancy made her way thither by devious wanderings; but when she reached the tree she found that Sube had moved over by the doorway leading into the hall. She started in that direction, but before she had come up to him, the first call to supper was sounded; and by the time that she had reached the dining-room she found him securely seated between Cottontop Sigsbee and Stucky Richards.

In some mysterious way an exchange of seats was effected between Nancy and Cottontop; but no sooner had Cottontop yielded his seat to the hostess than Sube had slipped quickly across the room and hauled[Pg 342] Biscuit Westfall from his seat, of which he at once took possession with the announcement that he and Biscuit had also swapped.

This was an act of plain insanity; for of course nothing remained for Biscuit to do except to go over and seat himself beside Nancy. It would have been difficult to decide which Sube would have kicked the harder, himself or Biscuit, had he been given a "free kick" at that moment. But he had no such good fortune.

Instead, he was compelled to sit idly by and look helplessly on at Biscuit and Nancy in close and apparently very intimate conversation. Of course Sube had no way of knowing that Nancy was simply assuring Biscuit that she would at once effect an exchange of seats with the lady at Sube's side, and thus restore Biscuit to the damsel of his choice.

The situation quickly became intolerable to Sube, and under cover of the confusion caused by the entry of a corps of waitresses bearing napkins and plates, he contrived to escape into the hall. This was his first false step; but others quickly followed.

For, finding nobody in the hall to observe him, he slipped into the deserted parlor. This was done with no definite purpose other than a desire to remove himself from a painful sight; the boy was[Pg 343] simply wandering in the midst of a haze of bewildered jealousy—until his eyes fell on the Christmas tree. And then he came to his senses with a perceptible bump.

If the tree was really a witness against him, he ought to know it. If there was a little black ring around the trunk surely it had escaped his attention. The candles had all been extinguished; there could be no possible harm in examining the trunk, and then he would be sure. He was drawn to the spot with all the fascination of a murderer for the scene of his crime.

He tipped the tree and attempted to peer under the box in which it stood, when in some way it got away from him and fell to the floor with a tremendous crash, the tinkling ornaments flying in all directions.

But alas! There was no opening through the bottom of the box!

As he stood glowering over the prostrate tree, he heard his name called. At almost the same instant he heard Mr. Guilford asking what the crash was. Hurried footsteps in the hall became audible. He was caught red-handed!

He glanced around desperately for a window through which he might essay a dive, when he spied[Pg 344]

a door that he had not previously noticed; and quickly opening it he peered into what seemed to be a deserted bedroom. He stepped inside, softly closing the door after him. As he stood listening he heard the sound of excited voices in the parlor. Then he heard a rustling from the vicinity of the bed,[Pg 345] and the deep voice of Mrs. Hotchkiss-Harger saying languidly:

"I'm not asleep, Bridget.... Put the tray on the table.... I don't feel as if I should ever be able to taste another morsel of food ... but I suppose you may as well leave it.... And, Bridget, I seem to feel a draft from that window; would you mind closing it."

Sube glanced gratefully at the partly opened French window, and closed it, but not until he was on the outside. Then he threw himself over the railing of the veranda and jumped to the ground, and he was nearly a block away before he so much as paused for breath.

Then it suddenly came to him that it was bitterly cold, that there was snow on the ground, and that his overcoat and cap were peacefully reposing on the bed in the Guilfords' chilly guest chamber.

If the weather had been a little more favorable he might have held out; he might even have started for parts unknown. But the combination of mental anguish and physical discomfort was too much for him. He simply could not go back to Guilfords'. He had burned his bridges behind him too effectually to permit that. The frosty night air seemed to have numbed his hitherto ready imagination, for he could[Pg 346] think of only one other place to go; and that was home.

But what could he tell his father and mother? They surely would demand an explanation. And for once he found himself utterly unable to think of a suitable lie. Then suddenly like a flash from the sky came an inspiration.

Why not try the truth!

George Washington had tried it once on a tree-cutting scrape, and had made it work. And why couldn't he?[Pg 347]



"What! Home so soon!" exclaimed Sube's mother as he came into her presence. Then noting that he was hatless and coatless she became apprehensive. "Why, what has happened?" she asked. "What is the matter?"

Sube swallowed hard. Not without an effort, and a colossal one, could he speak the truth. But at last he managed to get out, "I came home."

"So it would appear," contributed his father, while at the same time his mother was asking apprehensively:

"But why? Tell me what has happened!"

Sube continued the desperate swallowing movements, but no sound came.

Then Mrs. Cane adopted the inductive method, and asked, "Is the party over already?"

Sube shook his head.

"Something terrible has happened!" she cried. "Did the tree catch on fire?"

Then Mr. Cane took a hand in the proceedings.[Pg 348]

"Stop that sniveling, and speak up!" he ordered. "What—has—happened?"

Sube drew a deep breath, and said in a husky voice, "I ran away from it."

"Ran away from a party!" cried his father. "You!—What in thunder did you do that for? What had you been doing that you wanted to run away from?"

"I stole the Chris'mus tree—!"

"Stole the Christmas tree!" cried Mr. Cane. "What are you talking about?"

"Yessir; that's what I did—"

"Well, that's a new one on me!" thundered Mr. Cane. "I've heard of stealing a red-hot stove, but as for an illuminated Christmas tree with all the presents on it— That—gets—me!"

"There wasn't any candles or presents on it when I took it," Sube explained weakly.

Mr. Cane stood up. Here was a subject that required very careful investigation, and he was always at his best when on his feet.

"Sit down there." He pointed to a chair directly in front of his wife. "Now, let's get to the bottom of this thing. When did you pull off this—robbery?"

"Yesterday."[Pg 349]

Mr. Cane thought he had the witness trapped. "Yesterday, eh?" he demanded. "Why, only last night you were over there decorating this selfsame tree! When did they take the decorations off from it?"

"Didn't take 'em off! I s—s—swiped it before there was any decorations put on it."

The prosecutor was baffled. "How on earth could you decorate a tree when you had stolen it, and there wasn't any tree there to decorate?" he asked irritably.

"You don't understand," Sube explained desperately. "I s—swiped the tree for Nancy. The one that—that somebody else got for her wasn't any good, and she asked me to get her a decent one; and I hunted all over the woods and there wasn't a single one left that was any good, and on the way home I saw this one, and—I didn't think any one would care, so—I took it."

"Well? Where did you take it from?" pursued his relentless father.

Sube's voice died almost to a whisper as he replied, "From the cemetery."

"What's that!" cried the amazed Mr. Cane. "The cemetery?"

Sube nodded guiltily.[Pg 350]

"Good heavens, boy!" exclaimed his father. "Don't you know that it's a crime to desecrate a cemetery lot?"

But before Sube could answer, his mother interceded.

"There; that'll do, Father! You seem to have lost sight of one thing."

Mr. Cane turned expectantly towards his wife.

"The boy has told the truth!" she declared, a little tremulously.

"Well, that's so— So he has—that's commendable. That's the only redeeming feature of this lamentable affair—"

"Never mind, Father; we can talk about that later. I want Sube to understand how much we appreciate the fact that he has come to us and told us the truth. Of course it was wrong for you to take the tree, Sube, but since you have been so truthful about it, we shall help you to make amends. Your father and I will do all in our power to set matters right. I promise that for both of us."

"You don't have to make any promises for me," Mr. Cane hastened to say. "Nobody has any greater regard for the truth than I have. I deplore this act of vandalism more than I can say; but since you have told the truth, I give you my word that I[Pg 351] will help you clear the thing up. Now let's have the rest of it."

All Sube's doubts had fled. He felt that he was now protected by the panoply of truth, and he came out with the whole story with brutal directness.

"When I took the tree to Guilfords' they was all tickled with it. They thought it was a 'beaut'! But the minute she saw it, she spotted it. And she went up there to the cemetery this afternoon, and when she saw one of her trees was gone, she came back there to the house and took on awful—!"

"Just a minute," his father interrupted. "Who is this 'she' you keep referring to?"

"Why, Nancy's aunt! M's Hotchkiss-Harger!"

"But what had she to do with the case?" his father persisted.

"Why, I cut the tree on her cemetery lot!"

Speechless with horror, Mr. and Mrs. Cane stared helplessly at each other, while Sube, with a feeling of unaccustomed security, laid bare the entire situation.

"Yes," he rattled on, "she spotted it right off. And when she asked me where I got it, I told her you cut it for me." He indicated his father by a movement of the head.

"You told her I cut it for you!" shrieked the stricken parent. "G-o-o-d Heavens!!"[Pg 352]

It was with difficulty that Mr. Cane kept from laying violent hands on his son as he paced up and down the room excitedly exclaiming:

"What next!—What next!"

"But we must not lose sight of the fact that Sube has told the truth," Mrs. Cane reminded him from time to time.

"Don't keep harping on that all the while," growled her irate husband. "He's told the truth all right; but it's a pity he couldn't have begun to tell it a little sooner."

After a few more turns up and down the room Mr. Cane came to a stop before his son.

"Are you perfectly certain there hasn't been some mistake about this?" he asked desperately. "Are you perfectly certain that the tree came from the Harger lot?"

Sube hesitated. "Well, I ain't sure," he admitted finally. "It was pretty dark."

"Let's be thankful for that!" exclaimed his father fervently.

"But she is," Sube added after a moment.

"What do you mean by that?" asked his father suspiciously.

"Why, I mean that I didn't know whose lot it[Pg 353] was; but she went up there this afternoon and found one of her trees gone—"

"Yes, but somebody else might have taken it! You say you are not certain which lot you took it from."

"But I could tell in a holy minute if I should go up there—"

"Sube!" his father glared at him dangerously. "You are positively forbidden to go anywhere near that cemetery for the next six months! If you do,—I will turn you over to the authorities, and let the law take its course. Don't forget that! I mean it!—And now, you may go to bed just as fast as you can get there."

"But I want to tell you some'pm—"

"I don't care to hear another word. I've heard quite enough for one night. Go—to—bed!"

As Sube dragged himself unwillingly up the stairs, Mrs. Cane said to her husband:

"Well, at last the tide has turned. Sube has discovered the truth."

"Huh! I must say he picked out a fine time to discover it," was her husband's grim rejoinder. "Why, if Mrs. Hotchkiss-Harger should believe I ever did such a thing as rob a cemetery of its shrub[Pg 354]bery, she'd never trust me again—and besides, I'd die of shame and mortification."

"Well," comforted Mrs. Cane, "in the first place, she'd never believe such a thing. And in the next place, what does an old evergreen tree amount to compared with the truth? I must admit that I was somewhat surprised to see you trying to lead your own son into evasion when he was doing his best to tell the truth."

Next day, with an armful of packages Nancy Guilford ascended the Canes' front porch and rang the doorbell. And as Annie was stuffing the turkey Mrs. Cane herself opened the door.

"How is Sube feeling to-day?" asked Nancy in her most winning tone.

Mrs. Cane had not heard that he was ill, but she guessed at once that his early retirement of the evening before must have been based on an imaginary indisposition. "Come right in, and see for yourself," she invited cordially.

Sube was cornered in the library; there was no escape. And it was with the face of a desperado at bay that he confronted Nancy as she entered.

"Hello!" she called cheerfully. "Feeling bet[Pg 355]ter to-day? I was so sorry you couldn't stay last night."

Sube glared at her in silence as she went on placidly.

"I brought over your presents for you. Most of 'em are jokes. You mustn't open 'em until after I go."

But as Mrs. Cane stepped out of the room Nancy changed her mind, and decided to open one present, a longish package which she tore open and from which she produced the butt of a cypress sapling.

"I tried to tell you about this last night," she whispered hurriedly, "but you wouldn't let me get anywhere near you. There! See where the carpenter sawed it off! There's no little black ring on that end at all!"

Sube took the stick into his hands mumbling dazedly, "Well, what do you know about that!"

Instinctively his gaze went to the other end, which he had hacked off with the ax, and on which he saw something that he hastened to cover with his hand. At this moment Mrs. Cane reëntered the room; but she saw nothing of the stick, nor did she notice the deformity of Sube's left side, which was plainly visible through his jacket.[Pg 356]

Nancy at once stood up, and after a fitting exchange of holiday sentiment, announced that she was on her way to slide down hill, and took her departure. But she could not by any possibility have more than reached the gate when Sube threw into the furnace the only existing evidence of his guilt; and as he watched it turn into uncommunicative ashes he muttered to himself, "Nance is all right! But if they ever catch me tellin' the truth again—they'll know it! Here I got to stay in the house all day when I might jus' well be slidin' down hill."

He stood and gazed at the glowing coals long after the piece of wood had been consumed, and as he gazed, he wondered.

"Would Nance 'ave done as much for Biscuit Westfall?" he asked himself.

He didn't believe she would. And he was right.


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