Fortunately, Maurice was still at Atlantic City—and now the convalescent’s heart leaped. In the distance he saw Marjorie coming—in pink again, with a ravishing little parasol over her head. And alone! No Mitchy-Mitch was to mar this meeting.
Penrod increased the feebleness of his steps, now and then leaning upon the fence as if for support.
“How do you do, Marjorie?” he said, in his best sick-room voice, as she came near.
To his pained amazement, she proceeded on her way, her nose at a celebrated elevation—an icy nose.
She cut him dead.
He threw his invalid’s airs to the winds, and hastened after her.
“Marjorie,” he pleaded, “what’s the matter? Are you mad? Honest, that day you said to come back next morning, and you’d be on the corner, I was sick. Honest, I was awful sick, Marjorie! I had to have the doctor——”
“Doctor!” She whirled upon him, her lovely eyes blazing.
“I guess we’ve had to have the doctor enough at our house, thanks to you, Mister Penrod Schofield. Papa says you haven’t got near sense enough to come in out of the rain, after what you did to poor little Mitchy-Mitch——”
“Yes, and he’s sick in bed yet!” Marjorie went on, with unabated fury. “And papa says if he ever catches you in this part of town——”
“What’d I do to Mitchy-Mitch?” gasped Penrod.
“You know well enough what you did to Mitchy-Mitch!” she cried. “You gave him that great, big, nasty two-cent piece!”
“Well, what of it?”
“Mitchy-Mitch swallowed it!”
“And papa says if he ever just lays eyes on you, once, in this neighbourhood——”
But Penrod had started for home.
In his embittered heart there was increasing a critical disapproval of the Creator’s methods. When He made pretty girls, thought Penrod, why couldn’t He have left out their little brothers!
For several days after this, Penrod thought of growing up to be a monk, and engaged in good works so far as to carry some kittens (that otherwise would have been drowned) and a pair of Margaret’s outworn dancing-slippers to a poor, ungrateful old man sojourning in a shed up the alley. And although Mr. Robert Williams, after a very short interval, began to leave his guitar on the front porch again, exactly as if he thought nothing had happened, Penrod, with his younger vision of a father’s mood, remained coldly distant from the Jones neighbourhood. With his own family his manner was gentle, proud and sad, but not for long enough to frighten them. The change came with mystifying abruptness at the end of the week.
It was Duke who brought it about.
Duke could chase a much bigger dog out of the Schofields’ yard and far down the street. This might be thought to indicate unusual valour on the part of Duke and cowardice on that of the bigger dogs whom he undoubtedly put to rout. On the contrary, all such flights were founded in mere superstition, for dogs are even more superstitious than boys and coloured people; and the most firmly established of all dog superstitions is that any dog—be he the smallest and feeblest in the world—can whip any trespasser whatsoever.