At the steps, he instinctively lifted his hand to remove his hat, but did not do so, and, saying “Goodnight,” again in a frigid voice, departed with visible stiffness from that house, to return no more.
“Well, of all——!” cried Mrs. Schofield, astounded. “What was the matter? He just went—like that!” She made a flurried gesture. “In heaven’s name, Margaret, what did you say to him?”
“I!” exclaimed Margaret indignantly. “Nothing! He just went!”
“Why, he didn’t even take off his hat when he said good-night!” said Mrs. Schofield.
Margaret, who had crossed to the doorway, caught the ghost of a whisper behind her, where stood Penrod.
“You bet he didn’t!”
He knew not that he was overheard.
A frightful suspicion flashed through Margaret’s mind—a suspicion that Mr. Kinosling’s hat would have to be either boiled off or shaved off. With growing horror she recalled Penrod’s long absence when he went to bring the hat.
“Penrod,” she cried, “let me see your hands!”
She had toiled at those hands herself late that afternoon, nearly scalding her own, but at last achieving a lily purity.
“Let me see your hands!”
She seized them.
Again they were tarred!
CHAPTER XXVI THE QUIET AFTERNOON
Perhaps middle-aged people might discern Nature’s real intentions in the matter of pain if they would examine a boy’s punishments and sorrows, for he prolongs neither beyond their actual duration. With a boy, trouble must be of Homeric dimensions to last overnight. To him, every next day is really a new day. Thus, Penrod woke, next morning, with neither the unspared rod, nor Mr. Kinosling in his mind. Tar, itself, so far as his consideration of it went, might have been an undiscovered substance. His mood was cheerful and mercantile; some process having worked mysteriously within him, during the night, to the result that his first waking thought was of profits connected with the sale of old iron—or perhaps a ragman had passed the house, just before he woke.
By ten o’clock he had formed a partnership with the indeed amiable Sam, and the firm of Schofield and Williams plunged headlong into commerce. Heavy dealings in rags, paper, old iron and lead gave the firm a balance of twenty-two cents on the evening of the third day; but a venture in glassware, following, proved disappointing on account of the scepticism of all the druggists in that part of town, even after seven laborious hours had been spent in cleansing a wheelbarrow-load of old medicine bottles with hydrant water and ashes. Likewise, the partners were disheartened by their failure to dispose of a crop of “greens,” although they had uprooted specimens of that decorative and unappreciated flower, the dandelion, with such persistence and energy that the Schofields’ and Williams’ lawns looked curiously haggard for the rest of that summer.