There was one, however, whom he somehow couldn’t manage to hate, even though this one officially seemed to be as intimately associated with Dora Yocum and superiority as the others were. Ramsey couldn’t hate Abraham Lincoln, even when Dora was chosen to deliver the “Gettysburg Address” on the twelfth of February. Vaguely, yet reassuringly, Ramsey felt that Lincoln had resisted adoption by the intellectuals. Lincoln had said “Government of the people, by the people, for the people,” and that didn’t mean government by the teacher and the Teacher’s Pet and Paul Revere and Shakespeare and suchlike; it meant government by everybody, and therefore Ramsey had as much to do with it as anybody else had. This was friendly; and he believed that if Abraham Lincoln could have walked into the schoolroom, Lincoln would have been as friendly with him as with Dora and the teacher herself. Beyond a doubt, Dora and the teacher thought Lincoln belonged to them and their crowd of exclusives; they seemed to think they owned the whole United States; but Ramsey was sure they were mistaken about Abraham Lincoln.
He felt that it was just like this little Yocum snippet to assume such a thing, and it made him sicker than ever to look at her.
Then, one day, he noticed that her eye-winkers were stickin’ out farther and farther.
His discovery irritated him the more. Next thing, this ole Teacher’s Pet would do she’d get to thinkin’ she was pretty! If that happened, well, nobody could stand her! The long lashes made her eyes shadowy, and it was a fact that her shoulder blades ceased to insist upon notoriety; you couldn’t tell where they were at all, any more. Her back seemed to be just a regular back, not made up of a lot of implements like shoulder blades and things.
A contemptible thing happened. Wesley Bender was well known to be the most untidy boy in the class and had never shown any remorse for his reputation or made the slightest effort either to improve or to dispute it. He was content: it failed to lower his standing with his fellows or to impress them unfavourably. In fact, he was treated as one who has attained a slight distinction. At least, he owned one superlative, no matter what its quality, and it lifted him out of the commonplace. It helped him to become better known, and boys liked to be seen with him. But one day, there was a rearrangement of the seating in the schoolroom: Wesley Bender was given a desk next in front of Dora Yocum’s; and within a week the whole room knew that Wesley had begun voluntarily to wash his neck—the back of it, anyhow.
This was at the bottom of the fight between Ramsey Milholland and Wesley Bender, and the diplomatic exchanges immediately preceding hostilities were charmingly frank and unhyprocitical, although quite as mixed-up and off-the-issue as if they had been prepared by professional foreign office men. Ramsey and Fred Mitchell and four other boys waylaid young Bender on the street after school, intending jocosities rather than violence, but the victim proved sensitive. “You take your ole hands off o’ me!” he said fiercely, as they began to push him about among them.