Open main menu

Lonely O'Malley/Chapter 3

 

CHAPTER III

In which false Gods are pursued


YOUNG man, why ain't you a-gittin' some schoolin'?"

The angular woman in the black bead bonnet shifted her basket of fish from her right arm to her left, and gazed at Lonely with unrelaxing severity. Lonely, in turn, hunched up a shoulder and continued to study the feats of the bareback riders in the new circus poster, whereon the paste had not yet had time to dry.

"Why ain't you gittin' some schoolin'?" repeated the woman with the glinting and dangling black beads.

"Don't need none, I guess!" said Lonely.

He worked his double-jointed fingers energetically: this often had the effect of driving women folks away.

"Don't need none! Would you listen to that grammar! Don't need any schoolin', and a-murderin' good language that way!"

"Schoolin' ain't everything!" maintained the boy, stoutly. Yet he had his sneaking doubts as to that dictum, though he had often enough heard it fall from the lips of his father. Even at that moment he was longing and aching to be able to cipher out to the uttermost the descriptive superlatives which bordered so mysteriously the circus bill before him. But the big words stuck him, every time.

 
Pg 060 - Lonely O'Malley.png

WHY AIN'T YOU A-GITTIN' SOME SCHOOLIN'?

 
"No, It ain't everything, Mister O'Malley. But what do you ever expect to amount to, without bein' able to talk decent?"

"I don't see 's talk 'll ever build a flyin'-machine!" cried the boy, in a sudden little rage. "And I 'm a-goin' to school, anyway, 's soon as summer holidays is over!"

"Be you!" mocked the pleader for higher education, wondering what flying-machines had to do with the question. The boy paused to pull Alaska Alice away from the bill-board, where she was contentedly making her dinner on a little pool of scattered paste.

"And when I get into that school," went on Lonely, as he faced the black beads again, and suddenly burned with the foolish passion of the conqueror for conquest, "when I do get in that school, I 'll show 'em a thing or two about book-learnin'!" And as the vaunting heat of his vain little fire left him, he added: "And maybe something about mindin' my own business, too!"

"And mebbe something about mindin' your manners, too!" snapped the angular woman with the basket, as she and her beaded bonnet went tartly on their way, leaving Lonely, who had been in the seventh heaven of the imagination dreaming of circus sounds and sights and smells and memories, vaguely yet sharply discomforted for the rest of the morning.

"I 'm sick o' this town," he said, moodily. "I 'm goin' to be a trapper, and hunt Indians!"

But being joined by Lionel Clarence later in the day, they fell to studying the circus posters once more, while Lonely considerately explained to the Preacher's son how the otherwise inexplicable suppleness of the real circus acrobat was due, of course, to the fact that in early infancy he had his backbone cut out. And still later, in the stable-loft, they delighted Annie Eliza and three of her little girl friends with a terrific sword combat, in which Lonely, arrayed in swimming-trunks, magnificently bled to death—by means of a cow's bladder filled with raspberry vinegar, purloined from the unsuspecting Mrs. Sampson's cellar.

Indeed, as Lonely more and more realized that he was foredoomed to the companionship of Lionel Clarence, he took the Preacher's son more and more in hand, doing his best to make a man of him.

With much secret exercise on a haymow trapeze, much surreptitious sucking of eggs, much punching and thumping of his tender and attenuated young body, and many copious applications of that marvel of boyhood lubrications. Angle-Worm Oil,—manufactured from a bottle of those fish-worms known as "night-crawlers," carefully corked up in water and hung in the sun until the resulting compound, reputed to make the body limber, is certainly odoriferous enough to make the stomach unsettled—with all these cogent agencies, I repeat. Lonely worked over Lionel Clarence, and wrought wonders in the once despised and anæmic Preacher's son.

He taught him how to do the cart-wheel, he taught him his Neeley upper-cut and his Cowansburg "trip," he schooled him in the science of wrestling, and in the arts of frog-spearing, initiated him into the mysteries and delights of the mullein leaf, the dried grapevine, and the throat-scalding Indian tobacco-plant. One memorable day he took him in secret to the upper river swimming hole, and although the water was still disagreeably chilly, he sternly held the Preacher's son's clothing in bond until that blue-skinned and shivering youth timidly essayed "dog-fashion," spluttering, moaning, shrieking, making weird faces, rolling his eyes, forlornly calling for his mother, and finally skimming naked up the bank and across two hay-fields, once the disgusted Lonely had released him.

His instructor tried to lure him back again by airily doing "the over-stroke," by showing him how luxurious it was to float, by treading water, by triumphantly "bringing up bottom" out in the middle of the river, and even diving backwards off the sycamore roots. Lionel began to cry with the cold, however, and at last Lonely relented. But only for that afternoon. For sternly and rigorously the lessons were repeated, until the Preacher's son proudly eschewed "dog-fashion" and caught the knack of the more honored "frog-motion," and even attempted a timid dive or two.

From that day on, Mrs. Sampson, without knowing it, was the mother of two sons: one, Lionel Clarence Sampson, sickly, frail, timorous, forever having headaches, and forever getting pains in the stomach just before school-time; the other, "Shag" Sampson (so called by Lonely because of his ample mane of yellowish-brown hair), short-windedly combative, but both audacious and predaceous.

In return for these favors Lonely demanded periodic tutorship in the elements of English grammar, and with cramped-up fingers and strangely contorted face filled out Lionel's unused copy-books, and, on the Sampsons' driving-shed roof pored over some many-thumbed "Rollo Dialogues," and, at last, flung the book into the rhubarb-bed, with the contemptuous verdict that Rollo was a "stiff," and that he was sick and tired of pottering round with fool books, anyway!

Whereupon the two restless spirits, full of their vernal disquiet, caught the Barrisons' cat and painted it a delicate pink with the remnants of the bottle of raspberry vinegar, left over from the sword combat. Then, picking on a suitably out-of-the-way and secret spot. Lonely and Lionel Clarence worked long and mysteriously at the river-bank with an old spade, well shadowed from the public view by a clump of dwarf-willow and wild grapevine. The result was a cave, with a smoke-vent through an old stovepipe above, the roof well shored up with purloined fence-boards, the entrance necessarily commanding a secret view of the river. In this cave Lionel Clarence took much delight, and countless colds in the head.

Even Annie Eliza was not made acquainted with the secret passage leading to this lonely refuge, meekly and faithfully as she followed Lionel and the New Boy in all less mysterious adventures. Although Annie Eliza had even sniffed knowingly at their clothes, and recognized the telltale odor of Indian tobacco, she had remained discreetly silent and loyal. Lonely would have tabooed her heartlessly but for her new-born devotion to Alaska Alice, whom she minded and wheeled and carried about crooningly, thus giving Lonely an unlooked for chance for wandering and adventure, in which, when possible, the Preacher's son joined him.

All might have gone well but for the fact that one warm afternoon Mrs. Sampson went to the back hall window, to open the sash, while she finished her upstairs sweeping. Her startled glance happened to fall on the sun-bathed shingles of the driving-shed, and there, lying luxuriously out in the warm sunshine, with their legs crossed and expressions of ineffable content on their young faces, were Lonely O'Malley and her son Lionel Clarence. The good woman leaned on the handle of her carpet-sweeper and gasped. For in the hand of each of the boys before her was a stout piece of dried grapevine, and from time to time, as each lay there, he drew in long inhalations of pungent smoke, and emitted it from between his pursed-up lips with slow and placid breaths.

 
Pg 067 - Lonely O'Malley.png

OUT IN THE WARM SUNSHINE

 
Mrs. Sampson leaned over the front banister and gently called her husband from the study. The Preacher followed the direction of her indignant index finger, adjusted his glasses, looked again, and yet again, gasped a little, and was scarcely able to believe his eyes.

The Preacher's son was just on the point of taking a fresh light, and Lonely was carelessly flecking the ash from the end of his weed, with a twitch of the little finger known only to the connoisseur.

"Lionel Clarence Sampson!" cried a sudden stentorian voice, out of the smoke-hung stillness.

At the first familiar cadence of that deep chest-tone, Lonely lifted his heel from the nail which held him on the sloping shingles, and with great neatness and dispatch disappeared in one quick slide down the east side of the shed. From there he made his prompt escape under a broken base-board on the back fence, and from the secure position of the Allison's chicken-coop roof waited proceedings.

Lionel, at the sound of that voice, dropped his telltale burning brand, as though stung by a sudden electric shock. Then, without moving from the spot where he lay, he began to weep, audibly and convulsively.

"Come down from that roof, Lionel Clarence!" said his father, with significant solemnity, as he strode wrathfully out into the back yard. Lionel Clarence, wailing more eloquently than ever, slowly and reluctantly made his descent.

"A son of mine, indulging in the pernicious and loathsome practice of smoking, of loitering with evil companions!" A moment after saying this a mysterious cabbage-root landed with a resounding whack against the driving-shed wall. The Preacher looked quickly about, but no one was in sight. Then he reached forth and grasped his son and heir, firmly and significantly.

"Remember, James, he is your son!" cried the half-relenting mother from the upper hall window, as she saw the two disappear into the secrecy of the driving-shed. A moment later vigorous and prolonged cries came forth into the still afternoon air. Lonely listened, with one shoulder hunched up, his eye glued to the back fence.

When the Preacher emerged, flushed and heated, he once more looked carefully about. But no one was to be seen.

"Now, I shall go to young Master O'Malley's parents, at once, and advise them of this depravity, this vicious and degrading habit!"

"You do an' I 'll sick my goat onto you!" said a challenging voice, from the rear of the back fence.

"What—what 's this?" demanded the Preacher. "Where are you, sir?"

"I 'm right here! An' I say if you go tattlin' round about me I 'll sick Gilead onto you until you wish you had wings!"

And Lonely turned wearily homeward, tired of the dispiriting drama. This was what he got, he told himself, for playing with preachers' sons, and mixing up with people who wear velvet and ruffles!

Forthwith, from that day of wrath, however, Lionel Clarence was rigidly and sternly enjoined from companionship with Lonely O'Malley. So the New Boy was thrown on his own devices. He even once more took up with Annie Eliza, and in his desolation of spirit mended her dolls for her, and made rope hair for their too rigorously sterilized heads, and helped her play at housekeeping, and assisted in the moulding of mud-pies, and sat and patiently looked on at many unsuccessful sewing efforts. He even forgave her passionate and ghoulish love for the graveyard, and retired there to eat green apples and salt with her, and gathered May-flowers for her, and carved her initials on the old beech-tree in the cow-pasture.

Not that Lonely's heart had either failed or betrayed him, or that he was deep in love with Annie Eliza. His passion had long since been ideally consecrated to a certain Little Eva, who had appeared two years before in The Holden Combination Uncle Tom's Cabin Company, and sold her photographs between the acts—a beautiful, golden-haired, azure-eyed creature, half angel and half girl, whose dress he had touched as she passed down the crowded aisle, whom he had never so much as spoken to, and yet of whom he still brooded and dreamed. It is true Annie Eliza had her charm. She lisped just a little, and what, thought Lonely at times, could be prettier than a lisp. She also toed-in a trifle when she walked, and it had never occurred to Lonely that toeing-in could be done so fascinatingly. And then she was so dog-faithful, and never tattled! She at least filled in the time, he magnanimously decided.

He did not, however, give over all his days and thoughts to the softer sex, during this interregnum of idleness. A good deal of the time he worked secretly on his flying-machine, up in the stable hay-loft, and many days he went off on lonely excursions, towards the upper river, out past the Commons, past Blue Hollow and the brick-yards, where, beyond the bald hills and clay slopes, dwelt a barbarian and outlandish people, and where, when a stranger appeared, he was apt to be hooted at and stoned. They were a watchful and a warlike lot, these far-off barbarians, and on more than one occasion they did their best to cut off Lonely's retreat, hunting in packs like wolves, mysteriously appearing and disappearing, yet never quite able to corner the alert young intruder with the sling-shot and the freckled nose. For they had caves and fires and dug-outs, these outlanders, and they obeyed no law but their own. It was darkly rumored, even, that there was blood on their hands,—the blood of an old gray farm-horse, abandoned to the road and corralled and captured in a time of famine, when portions of the prize, cooked over a cave fire, had been stoically and perseveringly chewed on by certain members of the ruthless band.

Yet, as the bake-shop window became refilled with chocolate mice in little cardboard boxes, and balls of pop-corn, and all-day suckers, and appetizing-looking bulls-eyes, and candies of various colors and kinds, Annie Eliza's devotion to Lonely became more and more demonstrative and more and more compelling. He even allowed himself to surrender to that soft invasion, forgetting the love he had consecrated to the mythical Little Eva of other days, forsaking his bluff manhood, and allowing certain new and quite pleasurable sensations to awaken in his languid breast. Roving and predatory bands of town boys passed up and down the streets before him, now almost unheeded. In far-off fields and lanes and alleys great deeds were being done, and strange adventures essayed; but he, he told himself, cared nothing for them. A soft rose-tint of unreality clothed all his world. He grew moody and morose. He even tried to put his feelings into song, on several occasions. One of these he actually indited, in his own blood, and left under the sidewalk crossing for Annie Eliza. He washed his face without being nagged to do so, behind the ears and all. He likewise purchased a fifteen-cent bottle of perfume, and in the mornings smugly wet and plastered down his thick mat of russet hair, and on one occasion tallowed it copiously, only disgustedly to wash it off with coal-oil on being asked by his father if he had been swimming near the slaughter-house again. He even grew sensitive as to deportment and apparel, and always took off his hat in the house, and passed things at table, and attempted many striking efforts toward personal adornment, from a hold-back strap off the harness for a belt, to a discarded necktie of his father's,—to say nothing of a huge glass buckle-head purloined from Plato's bridle, and now riveted jauntily on the lapel of his coat.

Even the impending advent of the circus scarcely shook the tranquil and enfeebled spirit of Lonely out of its Dorian sloth and content. He still read the bills dreamily, but found the old thrill to be wanting. When one particularly resplendent pageant appeared on the street side of the Barrisons' barn, however, it moved him to suggest pensively to Annie Eliza that they get up a circus of their own.

This performance was given in the big box-stall of the O'Malley stable, neatly draped with quilts, and the admission was ten pins. The procession was an imposing one, with Gilead leading, the Gubtills' tom-cat coming next, then a squirrel-cage containing two red squirrels, a canary in a bird-cage, two dogs, and a very indignant setting-hen, on a wheelbarrow.

Although Lonely, adorned for the occasion in a suspiciously feminine-looking woven shirt, turkey-red trunks made by Annie Eliza and himself, and a pair of long black stockings secretly borrowed from his mother's bedroom bureau-drawer, executed marvelous feats on the trapeze, did the muscle-grind, skinned the cat, made the bird's nest, turned back hand-springs, stood on his head, walked on his hands, and essayed a flip-flop which did not quite materialize,—although our bright star, I repeat, indulged in marvels of strength and resorted to great feats of agility, his glory was dimmed by the sad consciousness that his awe-struck and admiring audience was made up of only eleven small girls, three babies in arms, and five diminutive males, all so young that they still wore frocks and dresses.

What counted the sighs and shouts of delight from such an audience; where, indeed, it was so easy to impress, and so worthless to be a wonder!

The last act of the performance was to have been an aërial dive from the top of the stall partition to a pile of timothy hay. But Lonely, in the excitement of the moment, decided to give his admiring and open-mouthed audience a few gratuitous exhibitions of strength. His first test of muscular prowess was an attempt to dislodge a suspicious-looking pine upright, which supported the wavering old hay-loft flooring. This inspired feat of our modern young Samson was eminently successful, for with it he brought down both the house and the roof, and at the same time forced the day's
 
Pg 077 - Lonely O'Malley.png

MARVELOUS FEATS ON THE TRAPEZE

 
performance to come to a confused and ignominious end.

When the last child had emerged from the hay and dust, and the tumult had subsided, the entire audience repaired sorrowfully to the bake-shop window, where they drew up in a hungry circle and lingered wistfully, to feast in spirit on the array of good things within. For with the arrival and display of a wonderful new stock of licorice-sticks, pepper-drops, butter-scotch, and caramels, this window had become the centre of attraction for all the neighborhood. Little girls licked the iron guard-rail in silent and pensive ecstasy. Babies were held up to flatten their little noses against the pane, to drum and paw ineffectually at the highly colored confections within. Small boys tarried to smack their lips over the box of chocolate mice. And as half a dozen times a day Lonely sauntered airily in and out of the magic door behind which lay all this wealth, it is no wonder that sly advances were made to him, and that Bettie Doyle gave him her agate alley, and that Lulu Barrison extended to him a generous and significant invitation to come and witness the poisoning of their cat. Even Annie Eliza herself was not altogether disinterested in her attachment, and, with, perhaps, quite unconscious venality, admired Lonely's muscles in public, and ran errands for him, and herded Gilead and Plato when necessary, and showed to the envious denizens of the street that she was the lady of Lonely's favor.

All of these flattering advances the idle Cæsar received with a reserve that was both dignified and non-committal.

He was even artfully questioned, at last, as to the quantity of candy and maple-sugar allowed to him day by day. Whereat he laughed scoffingly, and curled his lips with contempt.

"Don't talk to me 'bout candy an' maple-sugar!" he commanded.

"Why?" demanded Annie Eliza, plaintively.

"'Cause I 'm sick an' tired o' candy!"

A look of mingled incredulity and longing was directed toward the window by his circle of listeners. Never in all time had such a thing been heard of before.

"Do you mean you can eat maple-sugar, an' car'mels, an' things, just whenever you like?" asked Betty Doyle.

"'Course I can!" said Lonely, importantly.

A little chorus of wondering "Ohs!" went up from the astonished circle.

"Why," proceeded Lonely, seeing red, and once more proceeding to murder Truth,—"why, all I got to do is to take a box and sit down an' eat w'at I want. But choc'late mice are w'at take me! They 're great, are n't they? So soft an' mushy inside, an' then the taste of the choc'late kind o' mixed in with it!" He felt in his pocket with a sudden remembering hand. "Gee! I had six or seven in here a few minutes ago! Must have forgot an' eaten 'em up, I guess!"

He paced up and down in front of the bake-shop with a swelling sense of his own importance, puffing up like a pouter pigeon.

"Who 'd 'a' thunk it!" said the impressed but illiterate Jennie Biffins, wiping her mouth with her dress-sleeve.

"I guess I 'll have a car'mel or two now!" said Lonely, casually. He opened the little bell-hung door and disappeared. A minute
 
Pg 081 - Lonely O'Malley.png

DON'T TALK TO ME ABOUT CANDY

 
later he reappeared before the circle, swallowing hard and licking his lips.

"Ain't so good as the last lot!" he said, critically. The circle of wide-eyed listeners nudged one another knowingly, and shook their heads in solemn wonder. To Lonely there was something almost intoxicating in the sunlight of this open admiration. The potential glories of his inheritance had never before dawned upon him. The circle was waiting for further information.

"Why," the New Boy went on, off-hand, "Pop comes up out o' the bake-oven an' says to me, kind o' cross, too, 'Lonely, why ain't you eaten that maple-sugar up, so as your maw can wash the pans out!'"

A sigh went up from the circle.

"'You finish up them choc'late mice,' he says, 'before you go out an' play this morning!' An' of course I 've got to eat 'em,—got to, whether I want to or not. He gits purty mad if he sees me tryin' to sneak out without doin' what he says."

This time his auditors gasped, openly.

"But, Lonely," interposed Annie Eliza, quite impersonally and innocently, "don't you ever feel like gettin' somebody to help you?"

"How d' you mean?"

"Why, when he 's mad about you not doing them kind o' things fast enough!"

"Nope," said Lonely. "Pop don't like folks round the shop!"

"Then when yer goin' to bring us out some?" piped up a very young and indiscreet little boy in a checked petticoat.

Lonely looked at him scornfully, hunched up his shoulder, and turned away to the window.

At last, driven beyond endurance, Annie Eliza herself repeated that audacious question.

"Why, any old time, I guess," answered the baker's son, carelessly. "An' some choc'late mice, too, eh?" he added, making an indescribable clucking noise with his tongue, against the roof of his mouth, as he wagged his head and pointed out the pasteboard box filled with rodent delicacies, to the end of each one of which was attached an elastic tail, making them all the more wonderful and lifelike.

A dozen mouths watered at the thought, involuntarily. They crowded round him, and eyed him reverentially, and brought him little gifts and remembrances, and emulating Annie Eliza, audibly enlarged on the size and strength of his muscles, and the wonder of his circus tricks, and even allowed that Plato was the handsomest horse in Chamboro, and conceded Gilead to be the gentlest and most innocent animal that ever browsed on a flower-bed.

And as for Lonely, he became quite drunk with the dizzy consciousness of his power, and although deep down in his heart he knew it was an illicit and perverted sense of mastery, an unworthy field of conquest, he made it suffice him, for the time being. He passed back and forth among them with a sort of lordly independence, making no return for the hungry and melting eyes which tiny girls made after him, and offering no reward for the patience with which the smaller children waited for him to come out and play, and the celerity with which they gathered chips for him, and cleaned out the stable, and even delivered an occasional special order for bread, without so much as eating one pinch from the soft and temptingly odorous middle of the loaf.

So after that. Lonely went in and out of the house by way of the bake-shop, and whenever he beheld an audience awaiting his egress, he appeared before them smacking his lips with great relish and protesting he could still taste that last chocolate mouse. But never a chocolate mouse, or a licorice-stick, or an all-day sucker did he deign to pass on to his band of hungering and still hoping worshipers and followers. Six new glass jars of sweets added to the poignancy of their misery, standing on a shelf in alluring regularity, marked "Peppermint," "Wintergreen," "Lemon Drops," "Horehound," "Extra Mixed," and last, but not least, "Brandy Drops."

This latest spectacular addition to the bake-shop's stock was too much even for the Preacher's son, then strictly enjoined to shun and eschew the society of Lonely O'Malley. Lionel Clarence, after feasting his eyes on the wonderful window, crowded in among the little baby-carriages and go-carts and urchins and damsels of the street, and once more met his old friend Lonely in secret. Then, flaunting all parental mandates, he stole a saucepan from the home kitchen and with the New Boy repaired to Watterson's Creek, where they caught, stewed, and ate a goodly meal of crayfish.

It was the arrival and display of a fine lot of maple-sugar that eventually overcame Annie Eliza, and prompted her ruthlessly and decisively to smash her savings-bank with a hammer. Then gathering up her seven scattered pennies, she took destiny in her own hand, and went straight to the bake-shop. Discovering Betty Doyle with her nose flattened hungrily against the window, she told her of her venturous plan.

Together they invaded the little shop, as the tiny bell above the door rang with a shrill and awe-inspiring clatter. Once across that sacred portal, they gazed about them bewildered, almost overcome by the wealth of the treasure before them.

Lonely's father, the far-famed hero of the Klondike, was busy at the bake-ovens,[1] and to their chagrin, they caught not even a fleeting glimpse of that illustrious but self-effacing man. His wife, however, was busily engaged in wiping down the shelves, putting a newspaper over a large pan of cooling maple-sugar, which had just gone through a frugal course of dilution with wholesome brown sugar.

Annie Eliza could n't decide whether to take all chocolate mice, or half in some of the fresh maple-sugar. She finally compromised on a chocolate mouse and a pennyworth of candy from each and every one of the six new jars.

While this purchase was being counted out, Lonely's voice sounded wistfully from without the back door of the little shop.

"Say, maw, ain't you a-goin' to let me scrape out that maple-sugar pot?"

Annie Eliza and Betty looked at each other, electrified.

"Lonely, you stop nagging!" answered his mother, as she dropped the seven pennies in a cigar-box behind the counter.

"But I ain't had a taste of any of this good stuff since we moved in!" continued the doleful and reproving voice of Lonely.

The two shoppers exchanged glances.

"You know what your father said about that, Lonely!" warned his mother, as she took up her brush once more.

"Well, I think it's—it's rotten, I can't have a taste o' candy now and then!" he almost howled, in irate indignation.

The two visitors withdrew, breathlessly. The revelation had come. Lonely O'Malley was a cheat, an impostor, a make-believe! The little bell over the door had scarcely grown still, once more, before the news spread up and down the street like wild-fire.

Two hours later a youthful Cæsar stepped pompously forth from the Forum, unconscious of the awaiting assassin's blow. He was rubbing his stomach gleefully, and smacking his lips with unspeakable gusto.

"Gee, that new maple-sugar is good!" he declared, with a wag of the head.

A shrill and hostile jeer went up from the once loyal and fawning circle.

Lonely turned to Annie Eliza, puzzled. That young lady, with a face very much besmeared and gummy, thrust forward her chin, distorted her sugar-coated pink cheeks, and stuck out a defiant, contemptuous, and snake-like tongue at him.

"Goin' to let me scrape out the maple-sugar pot?" mocked and taunted Betty Doyle, with bitter laughter. A dozen young voices were quick to take up the cry, and together his once faithful adherents danced off down the

Pg 089 - Lonely O'Malley.png
STUCK OUT A SNAKE-LIKE
TONGUE AT HIM

street, flinging back at him that Parthian taunt. He leaned disconsolately against the bake-shop door, and knew that the day of his tyranny was over, that even his mock rule, his pretendership, had come to an ignominious close. Then he made his escape to the haymow, where he worked feverishly and soothingly on his flying-machine. After all, it was just as well; this was not the kingdom, this little land of braids and petticoats, in which a Cæsar should feel at home. It was all over, and for all time, between him and Annie Eliza.

His awakening may have been a rude and chastening one, but through it he learned, as other warriors had learned, that women cannot make up all a man's world, that Calypso cannot always hold out her softer charms to a Ulysses, old or new, that the tawniest-haired Cleopatra cannot always bind a Cæsar in slavish bonds. He hungered once more for a world of arms and men, for the turbulence of his own kind, for the dust and battle of real boyhood!

Then, finding that even work on his ever-troublesome flying-machine palled, he descended from the hay-loft, and making his escape over the back fence, sat in the sun and moodily yet raptly contemplated the circus poster covering one whole side of the Barrisons' barn. Then, with a sudden tingle of delight, he saw, as he looked at the foot-bill, that the following day was the date for its arrival. That such an event could slip his memory showed eloquently enough how enslaved and unmanned he had been. The circus was coming, and he had forgotten it!

Then he fell to studying the poster once more, wondering if there would be more than eleven elephants—that colossal number having actually made up the last Cowansburg parade. Then he turned to marveling at the strange climate of the pictured landscape before him, where side by side with the polar bear striding back and forth on his icy berg, the giraffe nibbled nonchalantly at the top of a luxuriant palm-tree, and the trained seal smoked his pipe in the very midst of a stately caravan of Arabian camels wending circuitously about an arid Sahara of sand.

 

Made young with the April hills, once more
With you as a child I went;
And the dusk was filled with a calmer joy,
And the twilight with content.

And under the stars I drew you close,
And you lay on my very heart;
Yet we, O Child, as world from world,
Were a million leagues apart!

 


  1. Fortunately for his business, Timothy O'Malley had taken unto himself a partner, a one-legged German bearing the illustrious name of Bismarck, whose duty it was to deliver bread and collect accounts.