Penrod moved uneasily in his chair; he was conscious that he was her topic but unable to make out whether or not her observations were complimentary; he inclined to think they were not. Mrs. Crim settled the question for him.
“I suppose Penrod is regarded as the neighbourhood curse?”
“Oh, no,” cried Mrs. Schofield. “He——”
“I dare say the neighbours are right,” continued the old lady placidly. “He’s had to repeat the history of the race and go through all the stages from the primordial to barbarism. You don’t expect boys to be civilized, do you?”
“You might as well expect eggs to crow. No; you’ve got to take boys as they are, and learn to know them as they are.”
“Naturally, Aunt Sarah,” said Mrs. Schofield, “I know Penrod.”
Aunt Sarah laughed heartily. “Do you think his father knows him, too?”
“Of course, men are different,” Mrs. Schofield returned, apologetically. “But a mother knows——”
“Penrod,” said Aunt Sarah, solemnly, “does your father understand you?”
“About as much as he’d understand Sitting Bull!” she laughed.
“And I’ll tell you what your mother thinks you are, Penrod. Her real belief is that you’re a novice in a convent.”
“I know she thinks that, because whenever you don’t behave like a novice she’s disappointed in you. And your father really believes that you’re a decorous, well-trained young business man, and whenever you don’t live up to that standard you get on his nerves and he thinks you need a walloping. I’m sure a day very seldom passes without their both saying they don’t know what on earth to do with you. Does whipping do you any good, Penrod?”
“Go on and finish the lemonade; there’s about glassful left. Oh, take it, take it; and don’t say why! Of course you’re a little pig.”
Penrod laughed gratefully, his eyes fixed upon her over the rim of his uptilted glass.
“Fill yourself up uncomfortably,” said the old lady. “You’re twelve years old, and you ought to be happy—if you aren’t anything else. It’s taken over nineteen hundred years of Christianity and some hundreds of thousands of years of other things to produce you, and there you sit!”
“It’ll be your turn to struggle and muss things up, for the betterment of posterity, soon enough,” said Aunt Sarah Crim. “Drink your lemonade!”
CHAPTER XXIX FANCHON
“Aunt Sarah’s a funny old lady,” Penrod observed, on the way back to the town. “What’s she want me to give papa this old sling for? Last thing she said was to be sure not to forget to give it to him. He don’t want it; and she said, herself, it ain’t any good. She’s older than you or papa, isn’t she?”