“I am not, neither.”
David filed his protest between the palings of the fence. But it was no use. He might protest, he might cross his heart and hope to die, but still the boy on the other side of the fence would not believe.
“Are, too,” Mitch would say.
Then a startled look, an appealing, hopeless fear suddenly abashed the little boy in the dainty white dress. As he shook the ringlets out of his eyes he asked, earnestly:
“Why, then, am I a girl?”
Here, you see, was another case like the bow ‘n’ arrow. Mitch did not have to tell all he knew. He only got proud and spat through his teeth and said, “Why?” right back at David.
Such a question, you must agree, may be illuminating, but is not satisfying. The meaning of it seems a bit indefinite and lonesome, but if you are a little boy with ringlets it has meaning enough. It hurts mightily. But Mitch was still not satisfied.
“Dear Little Curly Locks,” he said with contemptible sweetness, “oo mustn’t get oo dress dirty.”
Then did David’s fists clench defiantly, and he said an awful swear.
“Dresses!” he exclaimed derisively; “that’s all you know about it. They’re kilts!”
This defense was not convincing, for there is no good way, once you think of it, to prove that a dress is a dress and that a kilt is a kilt. The only way, I fear, to settle such a controversy is to hit the other boy with a brick. Only David did not have a brick. What he did have was a confused feeling that Mitch was right. For might it not be true, this horrible thing about being a girl? What if David was that, and couldn’t ever get over it?
Now, Mitch, since you are at last in trouvers, here is the time to prove to this ignominious comrade of yours that in you are the instincts of a gentleman. Why don’t you show David that there may be a chance for him after all? It would be proper for you to remind him that you yourself used to wear dresses, but of course you will make sure to speak of the disgrace as a thing of many years ago.
But there is no need, Mitch, in counseling David to go to extremes. It is quite unnecessary to inform him that the way to pants is a very simple matter. I dread to think that you are telling him to tear his kilts “all to splinters.” Of course that can be done. You hook the skirt over a paling in the fence; then you jump, and sometimes, David, it hurts when you hit the ground. But what matter? You are fighting in a noble cause. Mother will be so astonished! She will see how desperately you have outgrown your kilts.
Only she did not see it. She picked the splinters out of David’s hands—cruel splinters from the fence—and she was very sorry for her little boy. And as for the dresses, it was no great matter about them. She would make other dresses for her David.
And that is why Mitchell Horrigan’s recipe for pants is not a good recipe. Even at the end of a week David could not report much progress. Finally he had to acknowledge himself defeated. He then bore the dishonor of kilts with what manfulness he could and with a creed which was recited something like this: