Never was quiet of a summer morning broken more suddenly and startlingly. A yell so loud, so wild, so blood-curdling, ascended from within the farm-house, that even nature seemed to shiver for a moment. Then came the rush of feet and the clamor of many voices. Out of doors ran all the household, the father included, so appalling had been Alf’s cry of apparently mortal agony, to learn the source of all the trouble. There was nothing to be seen. Not a living being was in sight. It dawned upon the elders gradually that nothing very serious had occurred, and the father and the females of the household went in to breakfast, the exercises of the morning not being now renewed, while Alf and his brother scoured the wood. Upon one leg of Alf’s jeans trousers appeared an artistic dab of red. He had been wounded, and for days the sitting down and the uprising of him would be acts of care.
And where was the South Sea islander? Almost as he lunged he had leaped backward around the corner of the house and run for the covered ditch. Once in that covert, he did not “lurk” to any great extent. He crawled away as rapidly as his hands and knees would carry him, reasoning that the boys would, upon finding no one near the house, run naturally to the wood in search of the enemy. They never thought of the old ditch, though, later in the day, the thing occurred to them, and an examination of the sandy bottom told the story. The edge of the field was reached, the islander lying very low until he could climb the fence in safety. Then he examined his fatal spear-point. It appeared incarnadined. There was certainly blood on the spear of Mudara!
A week later Alf caught Grant, and, despite another valiant struggle, licked him mercilessly. A year later the fortunes of war had turned the other way. As they grew, these boys, like race-horses well-matched, passed each other, physically, time and again, one now surging to the front and then another, with no great difference at any time between them.
How fiction made fact.
What may become a streak of proper modern chivalry in the man is but a fantastic imagining in the boy. Some one has said that but for the reading of “Ivanhoe” in the South, there would have been no war of the rebellion, that the sentiment of knightliness and desire to uphold opinions in material encounter was so fostered by the presence of the book in thousands of households that, when the issue came, a majority was for war which might have been otherwise inclined under more practical teaching. This may or may not have been the case. There would be nothing strange in it were the theory correct; the influence of great novels is always underrated; but certain it is that the reading of the age influences much the youth, and that many a bent of mind is made by the books that lie about the house when some strong young intellect