The two boys rose, upon command, descended the ladder after Mr. Schofield, bringing Duke with them, and stood before the authors of their being, who bent upon them sinister and threatening brows. With hanging heads and despondent countenances, each still ornamented with a moustache and an imperial, Penrod and Sam awaited sentence.
This is a boy’s lot: anything he does, anything whatever, may afterward turn out to have been a crime—he never knows.
And punishment and clemency are alike inexplicable.
Mr. Williams took his son by the ear.
“You march home!” he commanded.
Sam marched, not looking back, and his father followed the small figure implacably.
“You goin’ to whip me?” quavered Penrod, alone with Justice.
“Wash your face at that hydrant,” said his father sternly.
About fifteen minutes later, Penrod, hurriedly entering the corner drug store, two blocks distant, was astonished to perceive a familiar form at the soda counter.
“Yay, Penrod,” said Sam Williams. “Want some sody? Come on. He didn’t lick me. He didn’t do anything to me at all. He gave me a quarter.”
“So’d mine,” said Penrod.
Boyhood is the longest time in life for a boy. The last term of the school-year is made of decades, not of weeks, and living through them is like waiting for the millennium. But they do pass, somehow, and at last there came a day when Penrod was one of a group that capered out from the gravelled yard of “Ward School, Nomber Seventh,” carolling a leave-taking of the institution, of their instructress, and not even forgetting Mr. Capps, the janitor.
“Good-bye, teacher! Good-bye, school! Good-bye, Cappsie, dern ole fool!”
Penrod sang the loudest. For every boy, there is an age when he “finds his voice.” Penrod’s had not “changed,” but he had found it. Inevitably that thing had come upon his family and the neighbours; and his father, a somewhat dyspeptic man, quoted frequently the expressive words of the “Lady of Shalott,” but there were others whose sufferings were as poignant.
Vacation-time warmed the young of the world to pleasant languor; and a morning came that was like a brightly coloured picture in a child’s fairy story. Miss Margaret Schofield, reclining in a hammock upon the front porch, was beautiful in the eyes of a newly made senior, well favoured and in fair raiment, beside her. A guitar rested lightly upon his knee, and he was trying to play—a matter of some difficulty, as the floor of the porch also seemed inclined to be musical. From directly under his feet came a voice of song, shrill, loud, incredibly piercing and incredibly flat, dwelling upon each syllable with incomprehensible reluctance to leave it.
“I have lands
and earthly pow-wur.
I’d give all for a now-wur,
Whi-ilst setting at my-Y-Y dear old mother’s knee-ee,
So-o-o rem-mem-bur whilst you’re young——”