“The boys were fishing for eels over the bridge,” said Carl. “Link Drew had caught a whopper—I mean an awful big one—the biggest eel I ever saw. He caught it right at the start and it had been lying in his basket a long time, still as still. I thought it was dead, honest I did. Then old Mrs. Carr drove over the bridge and she called us all young varmints and told us to go home. And we hadn’t said a word to her, father, truly. So when she drove back again, after going to the store, the boys dared me to put Link’s eel in her buggy. I thought it was so dead it couldn’t hurt her and I threw it in. Then the eel came to life on the hill and we heard her scream and saw her jump out. I was awful sorry. That’s all, father.”
It was not quite as bad as Mr. Meredith had feared, but it was quite bad enough. “I must punish you, Carl,” he said sorrowfully.
“Yes, I know, father.”
“I—I must whip you.”
Carl winced. He had never been whipped. Then, seeing how badly his father felt, he said cheerfully,
“All right, father.”
Mr. Meredith misunderstood his cheerfulness and thought him insensible. He told Carl to come to the study after supper, and when the boy had gone out he flung himself into his chair and groaned again. He dreaded the evening sevenfold more than Carl did. The poor minister did not even know what he should whip his boy with. What was used to whip boys? Rods? Canes? No, that would be too brutal. A timber switch, then? And he, John Meredith, must hie him to the woods and cut one. It was an abominable thought. Then a picture presented itself unbidden to his mind. He saw Mrs. Carr’s wizened, nut-cracker little face at the appearance of that reviving eel—he saw her sailing witch-like over the buggy wheels. Before he could prevent himself the minister laughed. Then he was angry with himself and angrier still with Carl. He would get that switch at once—and it must not be too limber, after all.
Carl was talking the matter over in the graveyard with Faith and Una, who had just come home. They were horrified at the idea of his being whipped—and by father, who had never done such a thing! But they agreed soberly that it was just.
“You know it was a dreadful thing to do,” sighed Faith. “And you never owned up in the club.”
“I forgot,” said Carl. “Besides, I didn’t think any harm came of it. I didn’t know she jarred her legs. But I’m to be whipped and that will make things square.”
“Will it hurt—very much?” said Una, slipping her hand into Carl’s.
“Oh, not so much, I guess,” said Carl gamely. “Anyhow, I’m not going to cry, no matter how much it hurts. It would make father feel so bad, if I did. He’s all cut up now. I wish I could whip myself hard enough and save him doing it.”