“Some—somebody dropped it there for me.”
“Who?” demanded the chorus. “Say, that’s a good one!”
Tears suddenly blinded me. Overcome by chagrin, I turned and flew into the house and upstairs into my room, locking the door behind me. An interval ensued, during which I nursed my sense of wrong, and it pleased me to think that the money would bring a curse on the Peters family. At length there came a knock on the door, and a voice calling my name.
It was Tom.
“Hughie, won’t you let me in? I want to give you the nickel.”
“Keep it!” I shouted back. “You found it.”
Another interval, and then more knocking.
“Open up,” he said coaxingly. “I—I want to talk to you.”
I relented, and let him in. He pressed the coin into my hand. I refused; he pleaded.
“You found it,” I said, “it’s yours.”
“But—but you were looking for it.”
“That makes no difference,” I declared magnanimously.
Curiosity overcame him.
“Say, Hughie, if you didn’t drop it, who on earth did?”
“Nobody on earth,” I replied cryptically....
Naturally, I declined to reveal the secret. Nor was this by any means the only secret I held over the Peters family, who never quite knew what to make of me. They were not troubled with imaginations. Julia was a little older than Tom and had a sharp tongue, but over him I exercised a distinct fascination, and I knew it. Literal himself, good-natured and warm-hearted, the gift I had of tingeing life with romance (to put the thing optimistically), of creating kingdoms out of back yards—at which Julia and Russell sniffed—held his allegiance firm.
I must have been about twelve years of age when I realized that I was possessed of the bard’s inheritance. A momentous journey I made with my parents to Boston about this time not only stimulated this gift, but gave me the advantage of which other travellers before me have likewise availed themselves—of being able to take certain poetic liberties with a distant land that my friends at home had never seen. Often during the heat of summer noons when we were assembled under the big maple beside the lattice fence in the Peters’ yard, the spirit would move me to relate the most amazing of adventures. Our train, for instance, had been held up in the night by a band of robbers in black masks, and rescued by a traveller who bore a striking resemblance to my Cousin Robert Breck. He had shot two of the robbers. These fabrications, once started, flowed from me with ridiculous ease. I experienced an unwonted exhilaration, exaltation; I began to believe that they had actually occurred. In vain the astute Julia asserted that there were no train robbers in the east. What had my father done? Well, he had been very brave, but he had had no pistol. Had I been frightened? No, not at all; I, too, had wished for a pistol. Why hadn’t I spoken of this before? Well, so many things had happened to me I couldn’t tell them all at once. It was plain that Julia, though often fascinated against her will, deemed this sort of thing distinctly immoral.