Slowly the extent of the harm dawned upon Miss Angelina.
“It was Mrs. A. Lincoln Wilbram wanted the dog bone,” said Mrs. Downey tearfully. “Everybody will recognize her; and what Mr. Wilbram will do to us we don’t need to be told. Poor Jake is so upset he has gone out to roam in the dark. He couldn’t stay in the house.”
New jobs were scarce for men at his time of life, and with his feet. Dora and Jennie might have to leave high school.
“I’m sure you meant us no wrong, Miss Lance; I’m sure there was a mistake. But think how dreadful it is, after twenty-two years of having Mr. Wilbram’s pay, then to turn around and backbite his wife like that, right out in print!”
Doubly troubled now, Miss Lance departed. Attracted by a quick gathering of loiterers in the avenue, she witnessed a controversy that might easily have become a police matter.
“You’re a liar if you say you said all that to me!” shouted the burly Butcher Myers. “You never opened your head, you shrimp! Bawling me out in the papers and losing me my best customers! Whaddye mean?”
Back came the retort from Jacob Downey with the snarl of a little creature at bay.
“If I didn’t say it to you then, you big lobster, I say it to you now. All that the paper says I said I say. What’ll you do about it?”
“Hah! You!” Myers snapped his fingers in Downey’s fiery face and turned away.
Miss Lance’s path to the Hilldale School next morning took her past three post-boxes. Into the third she dropped a note that she had carried from home. Mr. Sloan would find her message exceedingly brief, although (or, perhaps, because) she had spent hours in composing it.
I regret to discover that you lack moral principles.
Just before the last bell the janitor brought in a prisoner for her custody. Willie Downey’s head was bloody but unbowed; three seventh-graders he had vanquished in one round. “They guyed me,” said he. “They called me a Nawthour.”
Morning prayer and song waited while teacher and pupil spoke earnestly of many things; while the teacher’s eyes filled with tears, and the pupil’s heart filled with high resolve to bring home the baseball championship of the Ashland Public School League and lay it at Miss Angelina’s feet, or perish in the attempt.
The A. Lincoln Wilbram prize went to a small boy named Aaron Levinsky whose English was 99 per cent. pure. Little Aaron’s essay was printed as the centre-piece in Wilbram, Prescott & Co.’s page in the Bee; little Aaron invested his gold in thrift-stamps, and the tumult and the shouting died.
Miss Angelina Lance sat alone every evening of the week. True, Mr. Sloan had tried to right the wrong; he had called Miss Angelina on the telephone, which he should have known was an inadequate thing to do; he had also sent a ten-dollar bank-note to Willie, in care of Miss Lance at the Hilldale School, together with his warm felicitations upon Willie’s success as a litterateur. Did Willie know that his fine first effort had been reprinted, with proper credit, in the great New York Planet?