“Well, what are you doing?”
“Just coming down,” he replied, in a grieved but patient tone.
“Then why don’t you come?”
“I got Duke here. I got to get him down, haven’t I? You don’t suppose I want to leave a poor dog in here to starve, do you?”
“Well, hand him down over the side to me. Let me——”
“I’ll get him down all right,” said Penrod. “I got him up here, and I guess I can get him down!”
“Well then, do it!”
“I will if you’ll let me alone. If you’ll go on back to the house I promise to be there inside of two minutes. Honest!”
He put extreme urgency into this, and his mother turned toward the house. “If you’re not there in two minutes——”
“I will be!”
After her departure, Penrod expended some finalities of eloquence upon Duke, then disgustedly gathered him up in his arms, dumped him into the basket and, shouting sternly, “All in for the ground floor—step back there, madam—all ready, Jim!” lowered dog and basket to the floor of the storeroom. Duke sprang out in tumultuous relief, and bestowed frantic affection upon his master as the latter slid down from the box.
Penrod dusted himself sketchily, experiencing a sense of satisfaction, dulled by the overhanging afternoon, perhaps, but perceptible: he had the feeling of one who has been true to a cause. The operation of the elevator was unsinful and, save for the shock to Duke’s nervous system, it was harmless; but Penrod could not possibly have brought himself to exhibit it in the presence of his mother or any other grown person in the world. The reasons for secrecy were undefined; at least, Penrod did not define them.
CHAPTER III THE COSTUME
After lunch his mother and his sister Margaret, a pretty girl of nineteen, dressed him for the sacrifice. They stood him near his mother’s bedroom window and did what they would to him.
During the earlier anguishes of the process he was mute, exceeding the pathos of the stricken calf in the shambles; but a student of eyes might have perceived in his soul the premonitory symptoms of a sinister uprising. At a rehearsal (in citizens’ clothes) attended by mothers and grown-up sisters, Mrs. Lora Rewbush had announced that she wished the costuming to be “as medieval and artistic as possible.” Otherwise, and as to details, she said, she would leave the costumes entirely to the good taste of the children’s parents. Mrs. Schofield and Margaret were no archeologists, but they knew that their taste was as good as that of other mothers and sisters concerned; so with perfect confidence they had planned and executed a costume for Penrod; and the only misgiving they felt was connected with the tractability of the Child Sir Lancelot himself.
Stripped to his underwear, he had been made to wash himself vehemently; then they began by shrouding his legs in a pair of silk stockings, once blue but now mostly whitish. Upon Penrod they visibly surpassed mere ampleness; but they were long, and it required only a rather loose imagination to assume that they were tights.