“What did he do to you?”
“Yes, tell us, William. We’ll stand by you, never fear.”
“He needs a good lesson, the old skinflint. Tell us what happened!”
William grinned, for he saw that he had already captured the hearts of his comrades, and had small need to fear they would let him seek satisfaction alone.
Jack Stormways was as deeply interested in the outcome as his chum Paul.
He remembered all his father had said at the breakfast table on the preceding day, in connection with this same man Growdy.
William was proceeding to thrill his hearers some more. To hear him talk one might imagine his father was a celebrated lawyer instead of the town blacksmith, for William had a smooth tongue.
“I guess all of you know by this time what some fellers did to Growdy’s pigs last Saturday night, painting ’em to beat the band? It’s the talk of the town, and lots of folks says that it serves the old crusty just right. But I was tucked away in my little bed alongside t’other twin that night, as snug as two bugs in a rug; and consequently had my little alibi ready to prove I wasn’t in the bunch that paid him that sly visit.”
“Oh! we all know who did it, never fear!” cried Joe Clausin.
“He spells his name T-e-d!” echoed Bobolink.
“All right. Because some bad boys played that joke on old Growdy he seems to have it in for every mother’s son in Stanhope. I met him on the road this afternoon when I was out with a light wagon after some feed. He was on the way to town to deliver a big load of truck. Everybody’s entitled to half the road; ain’t that the law, fellers?”
“Sure it is, William; but that mean man wouldn’t budge for you, hey?” said Jud.
“Not for an inch. Just hauled up there taking two-thirds of the road, and started to light his pipe. I was in a hurry to get along, and thought I could just squeeze by; but I made a mistake, and my wagon got upset in the ditch. He went on, grinning at my trouble, and never offering to raise a hand to help me out.”
Exclamations of indignation arose on all sides.
“He needs another lesson, boys!”
“Say the word, William, and we’re with you. Guess I might think up a few ways for you to get even with the old skinflint!”
Paul saw that they were rapidly being swayed by their feelings of natural resentment. He had no particular reason for liking Peleg Growdy any more than the balance of the group; but the lesson of returning good for evil had taken full possession of his soul.
Once he would have been only too ready to join in with his chums in redressing what seemed to be a positive wrong; but somehow it was different now.
Before he could speak, however, Jack had elbowed his way into the midst of the excited lads, his face full of determination.
“Wait a bit, you fellows, before you decide what you’re going to do. I want to tell you something that ought to interest you.”