There are many surprising complications from war, even war between two school-boys. One night, after school, Jerome went to Cyrus Robinson’s for a lot of shoes which had been promised him two days before, and was told there were none to spare. Cyrus Robinson leaned over the counter and glanced around cautiously. It was not a busy time of day. Two old farmers were standing by the stove, talking to each other in a drone of extreme dialect, almost as unintelligible, except to one who understood its subject-matter, as the notes of their own cattle. The clerk, Samson Loud, was at the other end of the store, cleaning a molasses-barrel from its accumulated sugar. “Look-a-here,” said Cyrus Robinson, beckoning Jerome with a hard crook of a seamed forefinger. The boy stood close to the counter, and uplifted to him his small, undaunted, yet piteously wistful face.
“Look-a-here,” said Cyrus Robinson, in a whisper of furtive malice, leaning nearer, the point of his shelving beard almost touching Jerome’s forehead; “I’ve got something to say to you. I ’ain’t got any shoes to spare to-night; an’, what’s more, I ain’t going to have any to spare in future. Boys that fight ’ain’t got time enough to close shoes.”
Jerome looked at him a moment, as if scarcely comprehending; then a sudden quiver as of light came over him, and Cyrus Robinson shrank back before his eyes as if his counter were a bulwark.
“I s’pose if your big boy had licked me ’cause he made fun of my father’s coat, instead of me lickin’ him, you’d have given me some more shoes!” cried the boy, with the dauntlessness of utter scorn, and turned and walked out of the store.
“You’d better take care, young man!” called Cyrus Robinson, in open rage, for the boy’s clear note of wrath had been heard over the whole store. The two old farmers looked up in dull astonishment as the door slammed after Jerome, stared questioningly at the storekeeper and each other, then the thick stream of their ideas returned to its course of their own affairs, and their husky gabble recommenced.
Samson Laud raised his head, covered with close curls of light red hair, and his rasped red face out of the molasses-barrel, gave one quick glance full of acutest sarcasm of humor at Cyrus Robinson, then disappeared again into sugary depths, and resumed his scraping.
Jerome, on his homeward road, did not feel his spirit of defiance abate. “Wonder how we’re going to pay that interest money now? Wonder how mother ’ll take it?” he said; yet he would have fought ’Lisha Robinson over again, knowing the same result. He had not yet grown servile to his daily needs.