HALF-PAST SEVEN STORIES
ROBERT GORDON ANDERSON
ILLUSTRATIONS IN COLOR BY DOROTHY HOPE SMITH
SARAH DAVIS ANDERSON
Not that this dedication is in itself so great an honor, but because the youngsters' choice, "Aunt Sally!" is indeed a tribute to the loving heart which has made so many little ones happy.
INTRODUCTION—"THE TOP O' THE MORNING"
I. THE LITTLE LOST FOX II. THE BIG BOBSLED III. THE JOLLY ROGER IV. THE BLUE CROAKER, THE BRIGHT AGATE, AND THE LITTLE GRAY MIG V. THE OLD WOMAN WHO LIVED ON THE CANAL VI. TWO O' CAT VII. THE FAIRY LAMP VIII. THE ANIMALS' BIRTHDAY PARTY IX. DR. PHILEMON PIPP, THE PATENT MEDICINE MAN X. WHEN JEHOSOPHAT FORGOT HIS PIECE XI. OLE MAN PUMPKIN XII. THE NORWAY SPRUCE XIII. WHEN THE DOOR OPENED XIV. THE HOLE THAT RAN TO CHINA XV. THE PEPPERMINT PAGODA XVI. HE THAT TOOK THE CITY
"IT WASN'T LIKE ANY OTHER KIND OF TRAVEL IN THE WORLD"
"WHEN THEY AREN'T RIDING ON THE HAY, OR TO TOWN WITH THE TOYMAN AND OLE METHUSALEH"
"MARMADUKE STOOD ON THE FENCE AND SHOUTED:— 'HOORAY! GO IT, REDDY!'"
"'THEY'RE GRAPPLIN' IRONS AND MARLIN SPIKES,' EXPLAINED CAPTAIN JEHOSOPHAT, 'AND VERY TERRIBLE WEAPONS'"
"'BETTER THAN SLIPPING DUCKS' EGGS UNDER THE OLE HEN, ISN'T IT?' WHISPERED JEHOSOPHAT TO HIS BROTHER"
"THE BOAT WAS SHAPED LIKE A WOODEN SHOE, AND SHE SURELY HAD SO MANY CHILDREN SHE DIDN'T KNOW WHAT TO DO"
"HE FORMED HIS HANDS IN THE SHAPE OF A CUP AND WAITED"
"'WE MUST HURRY, FOR WAY OVER THERE, I SEE THE SUN. HE'S STIRRING IN HIS SLEEP'"
"'I'LL TAKE IT ALL BACK,' MARMADUKE YELLED, 'YOU'RE NO LADIES AN' GEN'LEMEN—AN' I WON'T EVER ASK YOU TO MY PARTY AGAIN'"
"OUT OF THAT HAT HE DREW A RABBIT, A LIVE WHITE RABBIT, AND HELD IT UP BY ITS EARS FOR ALL TO SEE"
"BUT THEN JEHOSOPHAT JUST HAD TO LOOK AT FATTY, AND FATTY HAD JUST PUT A PEANUT UP TO HIS MOUTH —AS A SORT OF SIGNAL, I GUESS—"
"'CUT A HOLE IN THE TOP OF HIS HEAD—JUST ENOUGH TO SCOOP OUT HIS INSIDES,' SAID OLE MAN PUMPKIN"
"'STAND BACK, FELLOWS,' THE TOYMAN SHOUTED, 'AND WATCH THE CHIPS FLY!'"
"LITTLE JOHNNY CRICKET TRIED TO REACH FOR HIS CRUTCHES, BUT SANTA JUST PICKED HIM UP IN HIS ARMS AND KISSED HIM"
"THEN THE QUEEN CLAPPED HER HANDS AND THE SERVANTS CAME RUNNING IN WITH TRAYS PILED HIGH WITH WONDERFUL FOODS"
"SO, FOR A LITTLE WHILE, THEY WATCHED THAT GREAT CLOUD CITY, WITH ALL ITS TOWERS AND FLAGS AND BANNERS WAVING IN THE WIND"
HALF-PAST SEVEN STORIES
"THE TOP OF THE MORNING"
"The top o' the morning!"
That's what the Toyman used to say. And I am sure if you ever go to the White House with the Green Blinds by the Side of the Road the Toyman will say it still, whatever the weather.
And when you hear him call that over the fence so cheerily, from his smile you will know at once what he means,—that he wishes for you the very top of the morning, not only the finest of weather, but the best of happiness and fun, in whatever you do and wherever you go.
If you have read all about him in the Seven O'Clock Stories you will remember his name. Of course, it won't matter whether you've read them or not—you can make his acquaintance at any time—but the sooner the better, for, as all who know him will tell you, he's worth knowing.
His name is Frank Clarke, but his real name isn't really as real as the one the children gave him,—"the Toyman." For he is forever making them things,—kites and tops, and sleds and boats, and jokes and happiness and laughter.
His face is as brown as saddle leather, with a touch of apple red in it from the sun. There are creases in it, too, because he laughs and jokes so much. Sometimes when he appears to be solemn you want to laugh most, for he's only pretending to be solemn. And, best of all, if you hurt yourself, or if your pet doggie hurts himself, the Toyman will know how to fix it, to "make it all well" again.
The Three Happy Children love him. That's what we always call them, though they, too, have other names—funny ones, you will think,—Jehosophat, Marmaduke, and Hepzebiah Green, but they are family names and came from some very old uncles and aunts.
They still live in the White House with the Green Blinds by the Side of the Road—that is, when they aren't sliding down hill, or fishing in the Pond, or riding on the hay, or to town with the Toyman and Ole Methusaleh. Mother and Father are still there. Home wouldn't be home without them. And they have many playmates and friends—of all sorts —two-legged and four-legged, in serge and corduroy, in feathers and fur.
What they all did, the fun they had, and the trouble they got in and out of, you'll find if you turn these pages.
One thing more—a secret—in absolute confidence, though.—After all, it isn't really so very necessary to read these stories at Half-Past Seven. You can read them, or be read to, "any ole time," as the Toyman used to say—Monday morning, Thursday noon, or Saturday night—as long as it doesn't interfere with those lessons.
Still, the very best time is at twilight in summer when the lights and the fireflies begin to twinkle through the dusk, or in the winter around the fire just before you go to bed—with Father or Mother—or the Toyman.
* * * * *
The Toyman says to send his love and "The Top o' the Morning."
THE LITTLE LOST FOX
Marmaduke was sitting on the fence. He wasn't thinking of anything in particular, just looking around. Jehosophat called to him from the barnyard,—
"Come'n an' play 'I spy.'"
But Marmaduke only grumbled,—
"Don't want to."
"Well, let's play 'Cross Tag' then," Jehosophat suggested.
"Don't want to," repeated his brother again, not very politely.
Jehosophat thought for a moment, then he suggested something worth-while:
"I'll tell you what, let's play 'Duck-on-the-Rock.'"
Now as every boy in the world—at least in America—knows, that is a wonderful game, but Marmaduke only said very crossly,—
"I don't want to play any of your ol' games." Now when Marmaduke acted that way there must have been something the matter. Perhaps he had gobbled down his oatmeal too fast—in great big gulps—when he should have let the Thirty White Horses "champ, champ, champ," all those oats. They were cooked oats, but then the Thirty White Horses, unlike Teddy and Hal and ole Methusaleh, prefer cooked oats to raw.
Perhaps he had eaten a green apple. Sometimes he did that, and the tart juice puckered his mouth all up, and—what was worse—puckered his stomach all up, too.
Any way, he felt tired and out-of-sorts; tired of his toys, tired of all the games, even such nice ones as "Duck-on-the-rock" and "Red Rover."
There was nothing to do but sit on the fence.
Still, the world looked pretty nice from up there. It always looked more interesting from a high place, and sometimes it gave you an excited feeling. Of course, the big elm was a better perch, or the roof of the barn, and Marmaduke often wondered what it would be like to see the world from a big balloon, but the fence was good enough. It curved up over a little hill, and he could see lots of the world from there.
He looked over towards the West, where the Sun marched into his barn every night. Fatty Hamm declared that the Sun kept a garage behind that hill, but Marmaduke insisted it was a barn, for he liked horses best, and the Sun must drive horses. There was a real hill there, not little like the one where he sat on the fence, but a big one, 'most as big as a mountain, Marmaduke thought. Sometimes it was green, and sometimes grey or blue, and once or twice he had seen it almost as purple as a pansy.
But it was Fall now, and the hill had turned brown. Over it he could see little figures moving. He looked at them very carefully, with one eye shut to see them the better. Then he decided that the bigger ones were men on horses, the little ones dogs. They all looked tiny because they were so far away.
As they came nearer and the sun shone on them, he was pretty sure the men had red coats. Could they be soldiers?
Just then the Toyman came by, with coils of wire and clippers in his hand. He was on his way to mend the fence in the North Pasture.
"'Llo Toyman!" said Marmaduke.
"Howdy, little fellow!" replied the Toyman, "what are you doing there? Settin' on the top of the world and enjoyin' yourself?"
"I was wondering what those men over there were doing." And the boy waved his hand towards the little black figures on the hill.
"Why, that's the hunt," explained the Toyman. "The rich folks, having nothing better to do, are killin' time."
Marmaduke was puzzled.
"Are they really hunting Time?" he asked. "I thought maybe they were hunting lions or tigers."
"No, not today," the Toyman responded, "I'm sorry to disappoint you, but they're only after Reddy."
"Reddy Toms?" the little boy exclaimed. "Why, whatever did he do?"
Now Reddy Toms was a boy in his own class, and you could always tell him a long way off because his head was covered with red hair as thick as a thatched roof, and his face was spotted all over, like a snake's, with freckles.
However, the Toyman said it was all a mistake.
"No, not that tad," he explained, "it's Reddy Fox they're after."
"What!" exclaimed Marmaduke. "Does it take all those big men to hunt one little fox?"
"It seems so, son," the Toyman returned, "but that's the way of the world."
"Well, I think it's mean," insisted Marmaduke. "Those men are nothing' but—but—dumbbells!"
The Toyman threw back his head and laughed. That was a new expression to him, but it was a perfectly good one. You see, the big boys in school used it when they thought anyone was particularly stupid or mean. But the Toyman must have understood it anyway, for he went on,—
"That's my sentiments exactly. I don't suppose they mean to be cruel, but they don't give little Reddy half a chance—and he's so small! Now if it was lions or tigers, as you suggest, why, that would be different."
"You bet it would!" Marmaduke replied. "I just wish it was." Now, of course, he should have said "were," as the teacher in the Red Schoolhouse was forever telling him, but a little boy can't always remember correct English when a hunt is coming so close.
"Just set tight, boy, and you'll see their red coats soon."
And, waving his clippers, the Toyman went on his way to the North Pasture.
But Marmaduke didn't need any advice. He had spotted those red coats already. They were much nearer now, for they rode very fast. Already the horses were leaping the fence of the Miller Farm, and the dogs were crisscrossing over the field, making lots of letter W's as they ran—hundreds of them, Marmaduke was sure. And they followed something—something so small he could hardly see what it was. But he guessed it must be Reddy.
So many fences they leaped, and so many stone walls! Now they were near the Brook, and yes, he could see the red coats, very bright and plain now.
And then he spied Reddy. His coat wasn't as gay as those the men wore. Theirs were bright like cherries, and his was the color of chestnuts. It seemed such a shame to want his poor little coat when the men had such nice ones themselves.
"Cracky!" he exclaimed. One of the "ole hunters" had fallen in the Brook. And Marmaduke hoped that red coat would get soaked and soaked and run like the stockings Mother had bought from the pedlar. And he hoped that "ole hunter" would get wet to the skin, and shiver and shiver, and have to call in the doctor who'd prescribe the very worst medicine there was in the world. It would serve that "ole hunter" right if he'd almost die. But Marmaduke hoped the poor horse wouldn't break his leg. It wasn't the horses' fault they were chasing Reddy.
Now the hunters were lost in Jake Miller's Woods. All he could see were patches of red, here and there, in the bushes, but he heard the deep voices of the dogs, all the time, calling and calling.
Then all-of-a-sudden something happened. And Marmaduke liked all-of-a-sudden things to happen—they were so exciting.
A little streak of fur, with tail flying behind like a long pretty hat brush, galloped across the Apgar field, then the very field where Marmaduke sat, perched on the fence.
The dogs were right after Reddy, running hard, too, but they were two fields farther back. Reddy, you see, had fooled them in that wood, and he had gotten a good headstart.
My, how Reddy was running!
Marmaduke stood up on the fence and shouted:
"Hooray, go it Reddy!"
He shouted so hard, and waved his hands so excitedly that he tumbled off his perch, and lay still for a second. He was frightened, too, but he forgot all about the bump on his forehead, and picked himself up, and ran after Reddy across the field towards the barnyard, which, fortunately, was just on the other side.
"Ooooooohhhhh!"—a very deep "Oooooohhhh!" came from behind him from the throats of the dogs. They were only one field away now, and it sounded as if they were pretty mad.
But Reddy had reached the corner of the field where the blackberry bushes lined the fence. Now usually Reddy would have looked all around those bushes until he found an opening; then he would have stepped daintily through it. But he didn't do that today, oh no! You see his family has a great reputation for wisdom, and Reddy must have been just as wise as the man in Mother Goose, for he neither stopped nor stayed, but jumped right in those brambles and managed somehow to get through the rails of the fence to the other side. He left part of his pretty red coat in the briars. However, that was better than leaving it all to those dogs who were howling not far behind.
And now the Little Fox found himself near the barn and flew towards it so fast that his legs fairly twinkled as he ran.
The Foolish White Geese were taking their morning waddle, and Reddy ran plump into them. Now there was nothing that he liked better to eat than nice fat goose. Still, he didn't wait, but left them beating their wings and stretching their long necks to hiss, hiss, hiss, as they scattered in all directions. I guess Reddy wished his legs were as long as their necks.
Now in the old days when rich folks lived in castles and robber knights quarreled and fought every day of the week, there were always places of sanctuary, where any man could be safe from harm. That is just what Reddy saw in front of him, a place of sanctuary for himself.
It was funny, but it had been prepared by little Wienerwurst. And Wienerwurst was really Reddy's enemy, for all dogs like to chase foxes whenever they get the chance. It was a little hole, just the right size for Wienerwurst, just the right size for Reddy. The little yellow doggie wasn't there now. He had dug it that morning to catch the big rat hiding somewhere below the floor of the barn. He had started to build a tunnel under the wall, and had been a long time working at it when Mother Green came from the house. She carried a fine large bone, with lots of meat left on it, too. And, of course, when the little dog smelled that bone and meat, much as he liked rats, he just had to leave his work at the tunnel and run straight for the bone, leaving the hole waiting for Reddy.
Straight into it Reddy ran, just as Marmaduke and the big dogs reached the fence and the blackberry bushes, all at the same time. Now Marmaduke could have cried because the hunter dogs would reach the hole before he could get there and cover it up, and they would reach down into that hole and drag Reddy out by his pretty red coat and eat him all up.
But when he stuck his head through the rail he saw help coming. Jehosophat was there and he had heard those bad dogs and seen them, too, coming on with their big mouths open and their tongues hanging out as if they wanted to swallow Reddy down in one gulp. And Jehosophat could see the redcoats on the horses not far away. They had reached the big oak in the field and were coming on very fast.
He looked around. There was the very thing. A nice, broad cover of an egg-crate. It would fit exactly. So, quick as a wink, Jehosophat picked it up and clapped it over the hole. Then he looked around again. It wasn't quite safe yet. But there was the big rock which they used for "Duck-on-the-rock." The very thing! It was almost more than he could manage, that rock, but he pulled and he tugged, and he tugged and he pulled, 'til he had it safe on the crate-cover over the hole—and Reddy was saved!
It was just in time, too, for the dogs had come barking and yelping and bellowing, and now all they could do was to sniff, sniff, sniff around that hole.
Then over the fence into the barnyard jumped the horses; and Marmaduke came running up; and the Toyman rushed over from the field; and Father came out of the barn; and Mother flew out of the house; and Rover and Brownie and Wienerwurst raced from the pond, each one to see what all the hullabaloo was about.
What they did see was the two boys standing guard in front of the hole to protect little Reddy, and the big hunter dogs jumping up on them with their paws and growling most terribly. It was a wonder that the boys weren't frightened enough to run away, but they didn't. They just stood their ground. Still, they were glad enough to see Father and the Toyman close by.
And now one of the men in redcoats had dismounted from his horse, and Marmaduke called to him,—
"You shan't touch Reddy, you shan't!"
He was half crying, too, not for himself, but for Reddy.
The man was taking off his cap. He was very polite, and he bowed to Mother.
"We'll pay for all damages, Madam, but let us have the brush."
The boys thought that was funny, calling their mother "madam," when everybody in the neighborhood called her "Mis' Green." And what did he want a brush for? To brush his fine cap and red coat or his shiny boots? Or to wipe up Reddy out of his hole? However, the Toyman was whispering:
"He means Reddy's tail. That's what hunters call the brush."
When Marmaduke heard that, he grabbed tight hold of the Toyman's hand on one side and of his father's on the other, and shouted:
"Don't let them get Reddy!"
But Father was talking to the man. He called him "Mr. Seymour-Frelinghuysen," and both the boys wondered if all people with fine horses and shiny boots and red coats had to have long, funny-sounding names like that.
"It's all right about the damages, Mr. Seymour-Frelinghuysen," Father was saying, "but I guess we won't give up the fox today."
And Father smiled down at Marmaduke, and oh, wasn't that little boy relieved and happy, and his brother, too! As for the Toyman, he had a funny twinkle in his eyes.
Of course, there was a lot of grumbling on the part of the redcoats, and a lot of barking and growling from the big hunter dogs, but the men had to get on their horses and call off their dogs and ride away.
"I guess they knew they were in the wrong," said Jehosophat, after they had tied up Rover and Brownie and Wienerwurst, and taken the stone and board away from Reddy's hole.
Then they looked in the hole-but no Reddy!
Meanwhile the Toyman had gone into the barn.
"Come here!" he shouted.
So they ran in, and there, in the corner, hidden under the hay was Reddy, all muddy from the brook and torn from the briars. His eyes looked very bright, but they looked pitiful too.
The Toyman put out his hand and stroked his fur. At first Reddy showed his teeth and snapped at the Toyman just like a baby wolf. But that hand came towards him so quietly, and the voice sounded so gentle, that Reddy lay still. You see, the Toyman somehow understood how to treat foxes and all kinds of animals just as well as he did boys, little or big.
"What doesn't that man know?" Mother had said once, and right she was, too.
It took some time to train Reddy, for, although he was very small, he was very wild. However, the Toyman managed to tame him. Perhaps it was because the Little Lost Fox was wounded and sore and hurt all over. Anyway, he seemed to appreciate what the Toyman did for him, for all he was a little wild child of the fields and the forests.
They built him a house, all for himself, and a fence of wire. It was great fun to see him poking his sharp nose through the holes and stepping around so daintily on his pretty little feet.
He always had such a wise look. In fact, he was too wise altogether, for one day he was gone, through some little hole he had dug under his fence.—And they never saw him again—at least, they haven't to this day.
At first the three children felt very sad about this, but when the Toyman explained it, they saw how everything was all right.
"You see," the Toyman said, "he's happier in the woods and fields than being cooped up here."
Marmaduke thought about that for a moment.
"Anyway," he began, "anyway,——"
"Yes?" said Mother, trying to help him out.
"Anyway, I'm glad we saved him from the ole redcoats," he finished.
And maybe Reddy will visit them again some day. Stranger things than that have happened. So, who knows!
THE BIG BOBSLED
Teddy the Buckskin Horse and Hal the Red Roan had just come in the yard. They were drawing a big load of lumber from the mill which stood in the woods on the north branch of the River.
Just before he unloaded the boards and planks back by the barn, the Toyman picked out a few of the finest and carried them into his shop. That did look mysterious and suspicious—very pleasantly suspicious.
"I'll bet that's for us," declared Marmaduke.
"You just bet it is!" said his brother.
So each day for almost a week, they lingered around the shop, after school was out. But the Toyman never appeared until long after five. He had his cornhusking to do, and he wanted to get all the fall jobs finished before cold weather.
One week went by, then another. It was very provoking, thought the boys, to have to wait so long for that secret.
Jehosophat did try once to find out about it. He stopped the Toyman as he was coming from the barn with a pail full of bubbly milk.
"Say, Toyman, what are those boards for?"
"What boards?" asked the Toyman—just as if he didn't know.
"Those boards you put in your workshop," both the boys answered together. It sounded like some chorus they had learned for Commencement.
"Ho ho!" laughed the Toyman, "ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies."
He was hopeless. He was forever making queer answers and queerer rhymes which Miss Prue Parsons the school teacher didn't at all approve. But Father said it didn't hurt the children as far as he could see—it just entertained them.
So the Toyman was answering:
"Ask me no questions an' I'll tell you no lies; Gooseberries are sour but make very sweet pies."
The boys had to be content with that information, but it was very hard waiting.
There came a day when it rained, and the Toyman couldn't work in the fields, or paint the house, or mend the leaks in the roof of the barn. Of course, he might have fixed Old Methusaleh's harness, which badly needed repairs, but he looked at the sky and said,—
"It looks like snow. I ought to get at that—"
Then he bit his lip and the secret was still safe.
Very mysteriously he unlocked the door of his workshop. And the boys peeked in.
"Where's your ticket, Sonny?" he asked, seeing their two heads in the doorway. That was his way, you see, making a game out of everything.
"We haven't any, but oh, Toyman, let us in, plee-a-sse."
"All right, but don't talk more than forty words to the minute, or I can't plane this straight," he said, working away at the boards.
They couldn't yet guess what IT was. And it took a good many hours from his work and chores for the Toyman to finish IT, whatever IT was. But after about a week they saw standing against the wall four boards about two feet long, curved like this:
And four more cross-pieces of a very ordinary shape:
And one cross-piece with handles:
Then one very long one like this:
The thing to do was to guess what they would make when put together.
Just then the Toyman arrived with three barrel hoops. And he worked away with his tools until the hoops were almost straight. Then he made little holes in them and nailed them with little nails, very neatly, on the four long curved pieces of wood. Then he fastened these curved pieces together by nailing the cross-pieces between. He fastened the other pair in the same way, and the affair began to look something like catamarans, those funny boats the geographies say folks use in Australasia.
But when he nailed the big board on and attached the steering gear, it was easy to see what all the time the Toyman had been planning to make. And when he painted the runners yellow with a little blue edge running around them, and the seat bright red, with a white star on it, they decided it was the finest bobsled in the world.
And, oh yes, he had to paint the word "Scud" in blue letters, right near the star.
Yes sir, there was no doubt about it, it was the finest bobsled in the world—the whole world, we mean.
And again the boys shouted, "Hooray!," together as in a chorus, not forgetting to add,—"And thank you, Toyman, heaps!"
Then they happened to think the bobsled was ready, but something else was missing—something very necessary, too.
"Now for the snow!" Jehosophat said.
"I can knock together a bobsled, sonny," the Toyman replied, "But I haven't any tools to make that."
So every night, when he said his prayers, Marmaduke added another sentence to "God bless Mamma an' Papa an' the Toyman an' Wienie an'" all the rest of his friends. Perhaps you can guess what it was. No? Well it sounded something like this:
"An' please, God, send us some snow,—a whole lot of it!"
Well, it came in about a week. On the twenty-third of November, to be exact.
It took only an hour to make the fields white, and only about three for the snow to pile deep enough to carry the new bobsled.
The Toyman looked at the sky, then at the ground, and then at his shop.
"Guess I'll knock off," he said. He was always knocking off work or something for the children.
But he had to stop their quarreling now. Each one wanted the honor of pulling the big bobsled first. For it was a thing to be proud of, with its yellow runners and the blue edge around them, and the red seat with the white star in the middle.
"You're as bad as the pigs in the corner pen," said the Toyman, "where are your manners?"
That settled it, of course. Turns! That was the proper way, and off they went.
But after all, "taking turns" wasn't as fine as the next thing the Toyman suggested.
"All jump on," he called, "and I'll be the cayuse."
That was a funny word he had learned out West, but by this time the children knew he meant horse. So the three, Jehosophat, Marmaduke, and Hepzebiah, sat on the red seat and were pulled through the snow, oh, ever so swiftly!
It was like riding through fairyland, for the branches above them were furred with white feathery snow, and the woods looked like some great lace design made by the Winter Queen who, they say, knits when the nights are cold and the Winter King is out at the club.
Soon they reached the hill. It was pretty steep and Jehosophat and Marmaduke wanted to get off and walk up so as to make it easier for the Toyman. He wouldn't hear of that, but just set his shoulders like Teddy in the shafts and puffed and pulled up hill.
On the fields the snow was light and feathery like powdered sugar, but on the hill it had been packed down hard by the coasters. There were so many of them, boys and girls from the neighborhood all around! Some were at the top, and some at the bottom, and some in the middle, sliding merrily down.
When the Three Happy Children reached the top of the hill the Toyman cried:
"I'll sit in front to steer and hold little Hepzebiah. You boys sit in back, Jehosophat at the end, and hold on to the grips."
Yes there were grips, too, for the Toyman hadn't forgotten anything that goes with a perfect sled.
"All aboard! Toot, toot!" he shouted, and Jehosophat yelled,—
"Clear the way!"
And down the hill they shot. It wasn't like any other kind of travel in the world. Perhaps it was more like flying than anything else, but that was funny, too, when you come to think of it, for when you fly you usually go up, and they were going down.
They reached the bottom all too soon, but the trip was worth the trouble of trudging back, especially as all the hard work was done by the Toyman.
When they reached the top again, once more he shouted, "All aboard, toot, toot!"
Some folks thought he was silly, and Mrs. Hamm, riding by in a buggy, on the road below, said to Mr. Hamm,—
"There's that good-for-nothing Frank Clark again, hollerin' like a wild Injun with all those children."
"Yes, Maria," agreed her husband. "I'd send him to the work'us if I was on the Township Committee."
But the Hamms, like many other people, were very stupid. Was the Toyman worth while? You just ask Jehosophat and Marmaduke and Hepzebiah and Wienerwurst, and hear what they have to say.
Once during that long and glorious afternoon they had trouble. Fatty Hamm started it. It was the only thing he was good at—trouble and eating. And, of course, Reddy Toms and Dicky Means had to help him. Anyway, Fatty pushed Hepzebiah into a deep snowdrift—when he thought the Toyman wasn't looking. And Hepzebiah fell into the snowdrift head first so that only her legs could be seen, and they were kicking wildly in the air. Now the Toyman was busy untangling the rope, which had gotten mixed with the steering-gear, and he hadn't noticed Fatty and Reddy at their old tricks. But her two brothers pulled her out of the drift by her little kicking legs, and brushed her off and dried her tears. Then they went for Reddy and Fatty. Reddy ran away, but Fatty stood his ground, for he was much bigger than they. They had their fists clenched, and were going to punch him, very hard, I guess, when the Toyman looked up from his work and called,—
"What's the trouble, son?"
The boys explained it, but they kept their fists clenched just the same. They were rather excited, you see, and as soon as they were through telling the Toyman all about it, they wanted to pitch into "that ole Fatty."
But Fatty tried to lie out of it.
"She just fell herself," he said, half scared.
"She didn't, either," Jehosophat yelled, "he pushed her in." And he started to rush for the fat boy when the Toyman called,—
"Hold on there, let me settle it."
He came over, and squinted his eyes thoughtfully like a judge, while Fatty twisted and squirmed and squirmed and twisted.
"I wouldn't hit him," said the Toyman, "Fatty's so fat it wouldn't do any good anyway. Your fists would only sink into him like dough. So I guess you'd better wash his face in the snow—hard now."
So they did—very hard, as the Toyman had told them.
"Why, he's actually blubbering, the great big booby," said Jehosophat, "shame!"
Now there's no word in the language in which boys and girls join more readily than this same word "Shame." So they all took up the chorus, everybody on that hill. You know that chorus, and your parents know it, and your grandparents, and great grandparents, too, sang it, long, long before you were born.
"Shame, shame, puddin' an' tame. Everybody knows your name."
What pudding has to do with it probably none in the whole world knows. But it is a very effective song, and they one and all shouted it, dancing around Fatty and Reddy, and laughing at them; and the fat boy started to run away, yelling at the top of his lungs. But he stumbled over the bobsled, and the tangled ropes caught his feet and started him rolling down the hill. He didn't exactly roll, either, for he was so fat that he seemed to bounce like a rubber ball; and little Wienerwurst, who thought it all very fine sport, ran after him, nosing and snapping at him all the way down that hill. Then, when he reached the bottom, coward Fatty picked himself up and "made tracks" for home.
It was to—be sure, an odd sort of punishment that the Toyman ordered for Fatty. It was just such things that made Mr. and Mrs. Hamm and all the neighbors shake their heads over the Toyman and say he was crazy. But Jehosophat, who had heard it said that Solomon was a wonderful judge, knew one that could beat Solomon—and he was the Toyman.
Perhaps he was right. At all events, the children were ever so happy, as they coasted down, down the hill on that big bobsled, which they did till the stars came out, and, far over the fields, the supper bell sounded.
THE JOLLY ROGER
Marmaduke thought he knew now what it meant to be in jail. For three whole days he had had to stay in the house. For three whole days and nights, too, it had rained—"rained pitchforks." That is what Father said, but Marmaduke could see nothing but prongs. There were thousands of them, coming down through the air. Where were the handles? He looked a long time, thinking that perhaps they had gotten loose from the prongs and would come down afterwards, but never a handle came.
They must be having haying time, the folks in the sky, to use so many forks, he decided, and the sun must be shining for them, way up above the clouds, or they wouldn't have haying weather. But maybe, after all, it was wet there, too, and they had just grown disgusted, and were throwing their forks away, every last one of them.
Yes, it was pretty lonesome and dull, staying in the house like this. To be sure, once in a while, when the rain slackened a little and the pitchforks didn't come down so fast, he could put on his rubber boots and go out to the barn. But for most of the time he had been a prisoner—in jail.
He looked out at the Pond. So much water had fallen in it that it was swelling up like a pouter pigeon, or like the bowl that held the Chinese Lily, when he dropped pebbles in it.
My, how Duckie the Stepchild must like this weather! There he was now, and his father and his mother and all his relatives. All just letting the water run off their backs and having a grand time. But Father Wyandotte and all his family were sticking pretty close to the coops. Funny how ducks liked water and chickens didn't, all but the Gold Rooster on the top of the barn. He never seemed to mind it a bit. Marmaduke looked for him up in the sky, but he was almost hidden by the rain and the gray mist, and stood there on his high perch, swinging from East to North, and back again.
But he grew tired of watching the Gold Rooster, and looked up the pasture for his friend, the Brook. It wasn't hard to find, for it had grown so big and stretched almost to the fence-rails now, and was racing along towards the Pond, growing wider and wider every minute—just like Marmaduke's eyes.
"Crackey! Sposin' there should be a flood!" exclaimed Jehosophat.
"Wouldn't that be fine!" said Marmaduke.
"Fine!" Jehosophat cried. "What would you do? It might rise an' rise till the barnyard'd be covered, an' the road an' all the country an' the whole world."
"Like Noah's flood, you mean?"
"Yes, just like Noah's, only he isn't here to build any ole ark for you to get on."
"I don't care," said Marmaduke stoutly.
"You don't care!" cried his brother. "Why, you'd drown, that's what you'd do!"
"No, I wouldn't either—" Marmaduke seemed very sure about this—"'cause," he started to explain.
"'Cause the Toyman is as good as ole Noah any day," replied the little boy. "He could build an ark as big as a house, as big as the Church, an' the ducks'd get on an' the cows an' the horses an'—"
"Yes," interrupted his brother, "but don't you remember—there were only two of each kind. Now Hal an' Teddy could get on, but White Boots an' Ole Methusaleh'd have to stay off, an' Rover an' Brownie could go, but Wienerwurst couldn't—see?"
Marmaduke looked frightened at this—at the very thought of Wienerwurst, his little doggie, trying to swim around in a terrible flood.
"I'd hide him under my coat," he declared.
"You couldn't get on yourself," Jehosophat insisted, "I tell you an ark only takes two of each sort of people an' animals an' chickens and things. Now Mother and Father could go—that's two grown-ups, an' Hepzebiah an' me, but you an' Wienie would have to swim around in the water just as long as you could, then go under—way under, too," he added.
Perhaps he was only teasing, but Marmaduke didn't take it quite that way. It seemed very serious. Then suddenly he had a bright idea.
"You forgot the Toyman," he shouted, "and that makes another two, for the Toyman an' I are just alike. Didn't Mother say,—'He's nothing but a boy.' So I'd sneak Wienie under my coat—if it was ol' Noah's ark—an' if it was the Toyman's, why he'd let me in anyway."
Jehosophat had no answer at all for this, and all they could do now was to watch the rain and the Pond and the Brook, but Marmaduke was very happy picturing to himself the big Ark which the Toyman would build, and how he would help, and the fine time, too, he and all the animals would have, living together under the very same roof.
Of course, the rain had to stop some time. It always does in the end. And on the sixth day the Sun came out jolly and warm again, and the boys put on their rubber boots and went out to the Pond. They couldn't get quite as near it as usual, for the edge was almost at the Ducks' house now, and not so very far from the house of the White Wyandottes, who seemed to think the end of the world had come, and looked very sad with their draggled feathers.
For a little while the boys threw sticks in the water. When the dogs had fetched the sticks they would shake the water from their coats and over the boys, just like shower baths. It was all very jolly, and I don't know which the children enjoyed more, throwing the sticks or the nice cool showers.
But after a while they tired of this, too, and walked up the pasture to see the Brook.
There it was, racing and romping and tearing along for dear life. It wasn't clear and silvery now, but muddy and brown as if a thousand cups of coffee had been spilled in it. And on it floated many strange things,—branches of trees and a fence-rail, the roof of a pig-pen, an old shoe, and one poor drowned sheep.
"Maybe," said Jehosophat, "maybe, if we watch long enough, some pirates'll come sailin' along with big hats an' swords an'—"
"An' knives in their mouths," Marmaduke suggested.
"But that's not the best thing," Jehosophat went on, "they'll have a flag with a skull an' dead men's bones painted on it."
"Crackey!" exclaimed his brother, just like the big boys. It was a fine word, too, but only to be used on special occasions. And pirates and skulls and dead men's bones certainly made a "special occasion."
Jehosophat seemed to think so, too, for he was singing in high glee,
"Yo, ho, ho, And a bottle of bay rum."
As these last dread words died on the air, they thought they heard a sound behind them. It was something like a laugh—more, perhaps, like a chuckle. They turned and saw nothing but the high board fence of the cowyard, and, over by the barn, the Toyman, walking very swiftly towards his workshop. Now usually they would have wondered about that; tried to guess what he "would make," but this morning there were other, very grave, things taking their attention.
"Guess it was pirates—ssshhh!" whispered Jehosophat, "they may have disbarked an' be hidin' in the bushes."
But a way of escape was open. It was coming down the stream.
Jehosophat spied it.
"The very thing!" he cried.
It was a big gate which had been carried off by the flood; and it was tossed first to this side and then to the other by the brown water.
"I hope it catches on something an' stops," cried Marmaduke. And they hurried down the Brook towards the Pond. They had to walk pretty fast, too, almost run, to keep up with the gate.
Jehosophat looked ahead.
"Those big roots of the walnut tree might stop it," he said.
And sure enough the gate was caught by the roots and swung in under the branches. The water was more quiet here than out in the stream and it made a fine harbor for the ship. For, you see, after all, it was not a gate but a ship!
But they must make sure of their prize. So Jehosophat ran to the barn and fetched some rope. With this he made the ship fast to the trunk of the tree, that is, to the wharf in Walnut Harbour.
But there was more work to be done, for the ship had been damaged by the storm.
"You stand watch an' keep off all pirates," ordered Jehosophat. "I'll be back in three shakes of a lamb's tail."
It was rather a scary thing to stand guard all alone with pirates around, but Marmaduke stuck by the ship and Jehosophat went on his errand.
As he entered the door, the Toyman hid something, quite hurriedly, under a sack. Now that was very mysterious, but the messenger only said to himself, "Guess he's making something for my birthday," then asked aloud,—
"Please, may I have some boards and some nails?"
"To be sure, Mr. Ship's Carpenter."
It was fine to be called that, though Jehosophat wondered how the Toyman knew what he was, when they hadn't told a soul. But then the Toyman knew most everything, all their plans as soon as made.
It didn't take long to mend that ship. Soon the boards were nailed across and the deck was ready for the crew.
"All aboard!" shouted Jehosophat, and then even more loudly,—
"All ashore that's goin' ashore!"
Having said this very splendidly, he turned to his brother.
"I'm Captain Kidd," he told him.
"And what's me?" shouted back Marmaduke excitedly, and excitement is always bad for grammar.
"Oh, you! You're my slave," his brother informed him—in a very grand manner.
This didn't seem to suit Marmaduke, and he tried hard to remember a name Reddy Toms had told him, out of a book of Reddy's, all about pirates and things. But he couldn't think of it at all.
Just then a voice shouted,—
"What ho, Dick Deadeye!"
It was the Toyman, who had been standing in the doorway watching them.
"Dick Deadeye—whew!" Marmaduke rolled the name under his tongue like something that tasted very nice. He was completely satisfied now.
Then something still nicer happened, for, when their backs were turned, something whistled through the air and fell at their feet. Real swords! One for each of them! Now we said they were real swords, and they were, though they were made of wood. They could do a lot of damage. The pirates would find that out soon enough. And there was a flag, too, with bones and a skull on it, just as Jehosophat had said.
"Why, it's the Jolly Roger," he told his brother, "that's what they call this flag."
But where did they come from? Marmaduke sort of suspected the Toyman, but he had disappeared, and Jehosophat said,—
"They must have dropped from Heaven an' were sent us to 'venge the people the pirates have killed. It's a sign. Guess we're not pirates after all, but just good sailors an' we'll scrunch those pirates."
Then he thought for a moment.
"But I guess we'll keep this flag anyway, even if it is the pirates'."
And they kept their names as well. They were far too fine to give up.
But just as they were about to go aboard, the Toyman came to the shore.
"What ho!" he said, then again, "what ho!"
That sounded exciting—not like a game at all, but like real life! And he was "saying some more,"—
"Avast, me hearties, what's in the wind?"
This last was a very odd question, for whatever could be in the wind, when you can see right through it and it can't hold anything at all. Strange talk it was, to be sure, and the neighbors would never have understood it. Still, folks never understood the Toyman and his language anyway, but they did, and Marmaduke called,—"Come 'n, Toyman," when Captain Kidd corrected him.
"Pshaw! That's not the way to say it. You just listen to me."
Then he raised his hands to his mouth like a trumpet and called,—
"Ho, there, you landlubber, will you ship with us?"
The Toyman touched his hat.
"Thankee kindly, Cap'n, but I've killed many a pirate in my time. Now it's your chance. But it's blowin' great guns an' ye'd better cruise near shore."
"Ay, ay, sir," shouted the captain as a last farewell, then they set sail. They made quite a voyage of it and had some trouble, for the waves were rough and the seas were high, but they reached port safely at last.
They hadn't seen anything of the pirates yet, and they decided to make another try for it when Hepzebiah came to the wharf. She wanted to sail too, but the Captain only said, very thoughtfully,—
"It's not safe for the women an' children."
However, she cried so hard that they just had to let her on board.
"But if you come, you'll have to be my slave," the Captain told her.
Perhaps that is the reason why he let her sail at all. He wanted a slave very much and since Marmaduke wouldn't be one and was Dick Deadeye anyway, why, the little girl would have to do. Still she didn't care what she was called as long as she could sail on that fine ship.
So they sailed and they sailed, the white flag with the skull and the dead men's bones floating merrily in the breeze. And at last Dick Deadeye called,—
"Cracky! Look where we are! You'd better go back. Remember what the Toyman told us."
But Captain Jehosophat Kidd knew better.
"Pshaw! It isn't deep at all. It wouldn't drown a rat—not even a little mouse."
Then there was trouble.
They heard shouts along the shore, and, looking back, saw Fatty Hamm, Reddy Toms, and Sammy Soapstone, jumping around like wild Indians. They looked again—sharply this time—and saw that it wasn't boys after all, but pirates, wicked, cruel, bloodthirsty pirates! And that was bad enough!
"They're trying to capture us," shouted brave Captain Kidd, then, forgetting that his ship was a full-rigged ship and went by sail, he called,
"Row, brothers, row, The stream runs fast."
You see, he remembered that from a poetry book he had read once and thought it would just suit.
And all the time the crew of the "Jolly Roger" looked angrily back at shore.
A big stone fell near them. No, it wasn't a stone. It was a—cannon ball! The pirates on shore were trying to knock holes in their ship!
"You're awful shots," the Captain jeered fearlessly. "We're coming ashore to capture your cannon." He was very brave through all these trying times—and so were the crew. And they just turned their ship around and headed straight for the shore, though the cannon balls fell all around them.
But now a more terrible danger threatened. For the rascals on shore had seized long poles and were reaching out over the water, trying to smash holes in the ship, to stove in its hull.
"They're grapplin' irons and marlin spikes," explained the Captain, "and very terrible weapons." He must have been right, for he knew the ways of the sea.
Meantime the ship was beginning to rock. The crew looked around for rescue, but none was in sight.
"We'll sink your ole ship," shouted Pirate Fatty. "You're awful sailors."
And all the time, up and down, and down and up, went the poor little ship. Would they drown? Far off, Dick Deadeye saw the Toyman running, running as fast as he could towards shore. And Rover, too. He was barking for all he was worth, seeming to think it fun. But Rover was only a dog, and couldn't realize the danger at all.
At last the big fat pirate's pole hit the ship a terrible crack, and overboard Slave Hepzebiah fell.
Dick Deadeye reached for her, but his hand only touched her uniform, and over he fell, too, down in the coffee-colored waves.
It was way over his head. Down, down, he sank. He was terribly frightened, with water all around him and in his eyes and his nose and mouth. He was choking, but all he thought of, even then, was his little sister, the poor slave.
The first thing he knew, he felt a strong hand on his shoulder and heard the Toyman's voice saying,—
"Hold on, Sonny, you're all right—just grab on to me."
He had always liked to be held close in the Toyman's arms, especially at night before the fire when he told them stories, but never had those arms felt as safe as now.
Then, all-of-a-sudden he thought—!
"Stop!" he tried to shout, but his mouth was almost too full of water to say anything, "get—blllllloooo—Hep-ze-bbbllllooo"—and then he had to stop.
But the Toyman laughed as he pulled him safe on the shore.
"Look there," he said.
And Marmaduke did look, and there was Rover dragging his little sister out of the sea by the back of her dress.
The Toyman patted the brave dog on the head.
"He's the hero," he said, "good old Rover!"
Then something fine happened. At least Marmaduke and Jehosophat thought so. And we'll leave it to you to decide whether it was fine or not.
Now the pirates had started to run, but their chief, the big fat one, just before he reached the road, slipped in the mud. And down over the banks into the sea he fell, and the Toyman didn't trouble to fish him out, either. Of course, it wasn't very deep, but Fatty tumbled flat on his back, and the water covered him—all but his stomach, which stuck out above the water like the fat rump of a whale. He got up at last. And a pretty sight he was, not like a bold pirate, but a great big "booby," Mother said, with the mud all over his clothes, and the water going slippity slop in his shoes, and he shouting, "Bbbbbbllllllllloooooooooo—splutter—gerchoo!" worse even than Marmaduke.
Quick as a wink the Toyman lifted Marmaduke on one shoulder, the little girl on the other, as he always carried them, and took them into the house.
And soon their clothes were off, and dry ones on, and—best of all—some nice warm lemonade was trickling down just where the muddy water had been—down the Red Lane.
He felt greatly contented, did Marmaduke, for hadn't they beaten the "ol' pirates," and driven them away? And after that they had heaped coals of fire on their heads, as the minister used to say. Yes sir, they invited the big, fat chief of the pirates into their kitchen, though he didn't deserve it, and gave him some dry clothes, too, though he didn't deserve that, either, and some lemonade into the bargain.
Altogether, it was a very successful day.
THE BLUE CROAKER, THE BRIGHT AGATE, AND THE LITTLE GRAY MIG
It is odd about Grownups—how mistaken they can be, how sadly mistaken. Now for instance, they will insist there are only four seasons when, as every one who has lived in Boyland knows, there are scores more than that.
Sled-time; Ball-time; Marble-time; Top-time; Kite-time; Garden-time; Hay-time; Harvest-time; Grape-time; Nut-time; Pumpkin-Pie-time; and a time for
Hunting strawberries, elderberries, or red rasps; for orioles to move, for shad to run, and to go bobbin' for eels; and a whole lot of other famous seasons as well, all happy ones, and too many to count, at least on one set of fingers and toes.
Any American boy will tell you this and—what is more to the point—prove it, too. And so can the Toyman, for, though he is six feet tall, and wears suspenders and long pants, and shaves and all that, he can get down on his knees in the good old brown earth and cry, "Knuckles down!," with the youngest.
Well, then, it was—not Spring, as the grownups would say—but Marble-time—midway between Kite-time and the Time for Red Strawberries, which comes in June.
One day, at the very beginning of this sunny season, the Toyman came back from town. And as usual the children gathered around him. There was no delay, no dilly-dallying, as there was when kindlings were called for. It was funny to see how quickly they could gather when they heard the wheels come up the drive. Somehow their particular creak was different from that of any other wheels—and the children could tell it long before ever the wagon came in sight.
When they were younger, the children used to ask a question just as the reins fell over the dashboard and the Toyman jumped to the ground.
"What have you got for me, Toyman?" it always was.
But not now, for Mother had explained it was very bad manners. And Jehosophat and Marmaduke were trying hard to be "Little Gentlemen," and to show Hepzebiah a "Good Example."
Of course, just as Mother had expected, when she suggested all this, Marmaduke asked,—
"But how can a girl be a Little Gentleman?"
Mother made it clear.
"Well hardly," she said, "we wouldn't want her to be just that, but by being a Little Gentleman you can teach her to be a Little Lady."
It was hard sometimes, and once in a while the boys didn't think the Little Gentleman game quite so attractive. However, they remembered it pretty well, considering. And today they didn't ask any rude questions, but just waited, though they danced on their toes.
This time he led them all into the kitchen without saying a word.
And then!!!—one after another he took from his pockets little round things—marbles, of course, of all sorts and sizes and colors.
"My!" exclaimed Marmaduke, "there's most a hundred."
And there was, sixty, to be exact. Twenty-seven little ones, colored like clay; six big ones of brown, with spots on them like the dapplings on horses; and six of blue dappled the same way; nine big glass ones with pink and blue streaks like the colorings in Mother's marble cake; nine made of china; and three—one for each—of the beautiful agates—one of dark red and cream, one dark blue and cream, and one that was mostly pink.
"Now," said Mother, when he had tumbled all the beautiful marbles out on the table, "you've got me in trouble, Frank."
But she didn't mean that. No, indeed. It was all said in fun. They said so many things in fun in the White House with the Green Blinds by the Side of the Road. So she got out her needle and thread, some pieces of flannel, and began.
She made three little bags, each with draw strings. On one she sewed a red J; on the second a blue M; on the third a pink H. You can probably guess for whom each was meant.
By this time it was too dark to see. Mother lit the lamp and started supper. And of course they ate it—they seldom skipped that of their own free will—but after it was over, the Toyman kneeled down on the floor, and Father got down on the floor, too, and they played marbles on the rag rug.
That was pretty nice and interesting, but they looked forward to the real game in the morning, for the real game must be played, not on a rug, but on the good brown earth.
Again the Toyman took a little, oh, just a little time from his work—that is, he meant to, but it turned out a longer "spell" than he had intended.
First they sorted the marbles. And when the sorting was over, each had nine of the little gray ones, which the Toyman told them were called "Migs"; two of the dappled brown ones which he said were "Croakers"; and two of the blue; three "Chineys"; three "Glasseys" with the pink and blue streaks; and one each of the most beautiful of all,—the agates. The blue and cream-colored agate Marmaduke took to match the blue M on his bag; Jehosophat the reddest one to match his letter J; and Hepzebiah the agate that looked most like a strawberry—almost pink it was, like her letter H.
These last beautiful ones, their old friend informed them, were agates, but had other names.
"They called them 'Pures' when I was a boy," he remarked, "but in some places they called 'em 'Reals,' just as in some cities they say pink is for boys and blue for girls, and in some the other way round."
And don't let any one tell you this question of "Reals" and "Pures" isn't important, for it is, surely as much so as "hazards" and "simple honors" which the grownups are forever discussing. In fact this matter of "Reals" and "Pures" was one that had to be settled at once. And Jehosophat settled it.
"I guess," he said, after grave deliberation, "if you called them 'Pures' when you were a boy, we'll call 'em that too."
Now this suggested a question to Marmaduke.
"Say, Toyman, when did you stop being a boy?"
And the Toyman just laughed his hearty laugh and slapped his knees with his rough brown hand. His answer was strange yet very true.
"Tomorrow," he replied.
It was true, you see, for, as they say in school, "Tomorrow never comes," and that is just when the Toyman will stop being a boy.
Meanwhile he was making a ring in the ground, two feet across. In the middle he scooped out a little hole with his heel.
Each put some marbles in the centre, the same number from each bag, and they began. Of course, as you know, they had to stand on the outside of the ring and shoot at the marbles in the hole, that is, they did in that year, in that particular part of the country, though wise men who have travelled much say the rules differ in other states and are changing from day to day.
When anyone put his foot over the line the Toyman would stop him sternly.
"No matter what's the game," he told them, "always play fair."
He showed them the best way to shoot, not by placing the marble in the hollow of the first finger and shooting it out with the thumb, but on the tip of the first finger and letting it fly with the thumb.
Now this is of the greatest importance, so always remember it.
However, Hepzebiah couldn't follow that style, so they let her roll her marbles. But the boys were patient and tried again and again until they had learned the right way. They did finely, too—though naturally not as well as the Toyman. They had lent him some of their marbles, and my! wasn't he a fine shot! He would send those marbles flying from their hole like little smithereens in all directions. However, he said the boys were learning fast and would soon catch up with him.
And in a few minutes, strange to say, the Toyman wasn't doing so well—though, maybe—between you and me—he was just giving the boys a chance.
Anyway, before long, the Toyman's pile was growing less and less, while Marmaduke had nine gray marbles—we should say "migs"—one "chiney," two brown "croakers," one blue "croaker," and one "glassey," and his shooter, the "pure," of course. And Jehosophat had ten "migs," two "chimneys," one "glassey," two brown "croakers," and one blue one, and his shooter. But poor little Hepzebiah had only three, counting all kinds. She began to cry, and rubbed her eyes with her two fists. But when, after a little, she stopped and looked down, why she had more marbles than any of the players.
I'll tell you a secret, if you won't tell it to a soul—for that wouldn't be fair to Marmaduke and Jehosophat, who were trying their best not to let their right hands know what their left ones were doing.
Well then, if you won't tell,—when Hepzebiah put her two fists to her eyes, quick as a wink the Toyman placed three of his marbles in her pile, and when Marmaduke saw him do that, why he put in four, and Jehosophat, not to be outdone, slipped in five.
"Better than slipping duck's eggs under the old hen, isn't it?" whispered Jehosophat to his brother, who agreed with a nod.
And that is the way the little girl came to win the game.
And so all through marble time they played many games, some of them very close, too, and a few even ties.
However, on one occasion the game didn't turn out so well. That was the time when Fatty Hamm strolled into the yard.
"Hello!" he said, and something chinked in his pockets. It sounded like marbles.
"Hello!" called the boys, not very cordially, for they were always a little suspicious when Fatty happened around.
"Playin' marbles?" he asked.
"Yes," said the two brothers.
"I can beat you," he declared.
"You can't, either," Marmaduke started to yell, but Jehosophat, who was having one of his good days, said,—
"Let's treat him politely. He's mean, but he's company."
"Play 'for fair'?" Fatty next asked.
"Course," replied Jehosophat, "what did you think?"
This friendly state of affairs didn't last very long.
"You're cheating," called Jehosophat a little later.
"I'm not, neither," Fatty shouted very angrily and ungrammatically.
"You are, too," insisted Jehosophat. "The Toyman says you mustn't get over the marbles that way or put your foot in the ring. You've got to 'knuckles down.' Beside you call' slippseys' every time you make a bad shot."
When that strange game was over Fatty had forty-two marbles and they had only nine apiece. Altogether it was very unsatisfactory.
Then something very surprising happened.
Fatty counted the forty-two very carefully, then put them in his bag.
"Here," said Jehosophat, "what are you doing?"
"I won 'em, they're mine," and still Fatty kept putting them in his bag. Marmaduke could hear them dropping in. "Chink, chink," they went, but their "chink, chink" didn't sound so pretty or so much like music as when they were dropping in his own bag.
"That's not the way the Toyman plays," Jehosophat insisted, "when we're through we divide 'em up again so's to be even."
"Your ole Toyman doesn't know everything," Fatty said with a sneer.
And, angry at this, both the brothers shouted,—
"He does, too—he knows most everything there is to know."
But Fatty decided things once and for all.
"Anyway," he declared, "this game's not 'in fun.' You said you'd play 'for fair' and that means 'for keeps.'"
Jehosophat was silent. He hadn't understood what 'for fair' had meant at all. Still, he had agreed to play that way, and so, though he wanted to punch Fatty's head for him, he supposed he'd have to take his losses like a gentleman.
But now Fatty was taking something out of his pocket, something made of wood and shaped like a bridge or a saw with teeth in it. He placed it on the ground.
"Your turn, Joshy," he said.
"What'll I do?" asked Jehosophat.
"Just roll your marbles under this bridge, and if they go through the little holes, you can keep 'em. If they don't, they're mine."
The two boys didn't see through the trick, and very foolishly they thought they might win some of their beautiful marbles back.
So they rolled marble after marble against that little wooden bridge. But it was much harder to aim straight than they had expected. More marbles would hit against the wood and bounce back than ever went through the little holes. And when this strange new game was ended Fatty had fifty-two marbles and they each had four!
Then Fatty walked off.
"Nice game," he said, "I'll come tomorrow."
But the boys didn't second that or give him any warm invitation like saying, "yes, and stay a week." They spoke never a word—just looked and listened—looked at the few marbles left in their own hands, and listened to the "chink, chink, chink" of Fatty's pockets as he walked down the drive.
They were very solemn around the table that night, and though Mother knew there must be something the matter, she didn't ask any questions yet. However, Marmaduke kept reaching down into his pockets so often, to feel the lonely little marbles he had left,—the one agate, and the croaker, and the little gray mig, and the clink of them sounded so weak and thin and lonesome that Father said,—
"Well, how did the game go today?"
"F-f-f-fine," said Marmaduke, but his lip quivered.
Then they knew there surely must be something the matter, and Marmaduke couldn't help saying,—
"That ole Fatty Hamm said he was playing 'for keeps,' and he took away almost all our marbles."
"Humph!" exclaimed Father, and Mother looked at him with an odd look.
"I'm sorry it happened," she said, "but I'm glad, too."
"Glad we lost our marbles?"
"Not exactly, dear, but I knew it would happen. You see, as the Toyman said, it's always kinder and more fun, too, to play games 'in fun.' If you play anything 'for keeps,' the one who loses is always hurt and feels badly. Supposing you had played with Johnny Cricket, now, and had won all his marbles—how would you feel?"
She didn't need to say any more. They understood.
But after supper the Toyman called the boys into the woodshed. They sneaked out quietly and he whispered to them,—
"Just wait till tomorrow."
"What's going to happen tomorrow?"
And the Toyman gave that old answer of his which was so like him,—
"Wait an' see."
Well, the Toyman had to go to town "tomorrow," which was much sooner than he had expected earlier in the week. And when he came back his pockets chinked right merrily. They were as full of marbles as on his first trip back from town.
They were very beautiful, too, but somehow Marmaduke loved the first blue croaker and the bright agate and the little gray mig best of all.
THE OLD WOMAN WHO LIVED ON THE CANAL
In front of the White House with the Green Blinds by the Side of the Road was the Canal; and beyond the Canal the River. They always flowed along side by side, and Marmaduke thought they were like two brothers. The Canal was the older brother, it was always so sure and steady and ready for work. It flowed steadily and evenly and carried the big canal-boats down to the Sea. The River also flowed towards the Sea, but it wasn't at all steady, and never quiet. It was indeed like the younger brother, ever ready for play, although, as a matter of fact, it had been there long before the Canal had been even thought of by the men who built it. But thousands of years couldn't make that River grow old. It was full of frolicsome ripples that gleamed in the sun, and of rapids and waterfalls. Here it would flow swiftly, and there almost stop as if it wanted to fall asleep. And every once in a while it would dart swiftly like small boys or dogs chasing butterflies. Sometimes it would leap over the stones or, at the dam, tumble headlong in sheets of silver.
Little fish and big loved to play in its waters. Of course they swam in the Canal too, but life was lazier there and the fish, like Marmaduke, seemed to prefer the River. There were pickerel and trout and catfish and eels, and in the Spring the great shad would come in from the Sea and journey up to the still cool pools to hatch out their millions of children.
They looked very inviting this morning, the River and the Canal, and Marmaduke decided he would take a stroll. He whistled to Wienerwurst, who was always the best company in the world, and the little dog came leaping and barking and wagging his tail, glad to be alive and about in such lovely weather, and on they went by the side of the Canal.
They went along very slowly, for it is a mistake to walk too fast on a Spring morning—one misses so many things.
Now and then a big fish would leap out of the River, it felt so gay, and in the little harbours under the banks of the Canal the scuttle-bugs went skimming, skimming, like swift little tugboats at play. In the fields on the other side of the road a meadowlark sang; swallows twittered overhead; and in the grass at his feet the dandelions glowed like the round gold shields of a million soldiers. Yes, altogether it was a wonderful day.
Marmaduke picked a great bouquet of the dandelions—for Mother—then he looked up the towpath. He could see the Red Schoolhouse, and, not so far away, the Lock of the Canal. He was very glad it was Saturday. It was far too nice to stay indoors.
Just then he had a great piece of good luck, for a big boat came by, a canal-boat, shaped like a long wooden shoe. It had no sails and no smokestacks, either, so it had no engine to make it go. It was drawn by two mules who walked on shore quite a distance ahead of it. A long thick rope stretched from the collars of the mules to the bow of the boat. A little boy walked behind the mules, yelling to them and now and then poking them with a long pole to make them go faster. My! how they pulled and tugged on that rope! They had to, for it was a pretty big load, that boat. And it had a big hole in it laden with black shiny coal—tons and tons of it!
Just behind the coal was a clothes-line with scores of little skirts and pairs of pants on it, and behind that, a little house with many children running in and out of the door. A round fat rosy woman with great big arms was calling to the children to "take care," and a man stood at the stern with his hand on the tiller. He had a red shirt on and in his mouth a pipe which Marmaduke could smell a long way off.
The little boy waited until the stern came by so he could see the name of the boat. There it was now, painted in big letters, right under the tiller. He spelled it out, first "Mary," then "Ellen"—"Mary Ellen—" a pretty name, he thought.
The Man With the Red Shirt and the Pipe, and the Round Fat Rosy Woman With the Big Arms, and all the children waved their hands to Marmaduke and he waved back, then hurried ahead, Wienerwurst trotting alongside, to catch up with the boy who was driving the mules.
"'Llo!" said he to the boy, but the boy paid no attention at all, just "licked up" his mules. But Marmaduke didn't mind this rudeness. He thought that probably the boy was too busy to be sociable, and he trotted along with the mules and watched their long funny ears go wiggle-waggle when a fly buzzed near them. But they never paused or stopped, no matter what annoyed them, but just tugged and strained in their collars, pulling the long rope that pulled the boat that carried the coal that would make somebody's fire to cook somebody's supper some day down by the Sea.
For a long time Marmaduke trotted alongside the boy and the mules, not realizing at all how far he had come. Once or twice he looked back at the "Mary Ellen" and the Man With the Red Shirt and the Pipe, and the little house on the deck. He wished he could go on board and steer the "Mary Ellen," and play in that little house, it looked so cute. The Round Fat Rosy Woman was coming out of it now with a pan of water which she threw in the Canal; and the little children were running all over the deck, almost tumbling in the water.
After quite a journey they drew near the Lock, a great place in the Canal like a harbour, with two pairs of gates, as high as a house, at each end, to keep the water in the Lock.
Outside one pair of gates the water was low; outside the others, which were near him, the water was high; and Marmaduke knew well what those great gates would do. The pair at the end where the water was high would open and the canalboat would float in the Lock and rest there for a while like a ship in harbour. Then those gates would shut tight, and the man who tended the Lock would open the gates at the end where the water was low. And the water would rush out and go down, down in the Lock, carrying the boat with it until it was on a level with the low part of the Canal. And the boat at last would float out of the harbour of the Lock and away on its journey to the Sea.
But all this hadn't happened yet. There was much work to be done before all was ready.
Now the boat had stopped in front of the high pair of gates. The Man With the Red Shirt and the Pipe shouted to the boy who drove the mules, without taking the pipe out of his mouth. The great towrope was untied and the mules rested while the man who tended the Lock swung the high gates open with some machinery that creaked in a funny way, and the "Mary Ellen" glided in the harbour of the Lock.
Then the man who tended the Lock went to the gates at the lower end. There were more shouts and those gates opened too. The water rushed out of the Lock into the lower part of the Canal, and down, down, went the boat. And down, down, went the deck and the little house on it, and down, down, went the Man With the Red Shirt and the Pipe, and the Round Fat Rosy Woman With the Great Arms, and all the children. Marmaduke started to count them. He couldn't have done that before, they ran around too fast. But now they stood still, watching the water fall and their boat as it sank. Yes, there were thirteen—he counted twice to make sure.
Now the boat had sunk so low that Marmaduke was afraid it would disappear forever, with all the children on it. But there was no danger, for when the water in the Lock was even with the water on the lower side of the Canal it stopped falling, and the "Mary Ellen" stopped, too. At least, there was no danger for the children, but there was for Master Marmaduke, he had leaned over so far, watching that boat go down, down, down.
All-of-a-sudden there was a splash. It was certainly to be expected that one of the thirteen children had fallen in, but no!— It—was—Marmaduke!
Down, down, down, he sank in the gurgly brown water. Then he came up, spluttering and choking.
"Help, help!" he cried.
Then under he went again.
But the Round Fat Rosy Woman had seen him.
"Quick, Hiram!" she shouted to her husband in a voice that sounded like a man's, "there's a boy fallen overboard!"
"Where?" asked the man at the tiller, still keeping the pipe in his mouth.
She pointed into the brown water.
"Right there—there's where he went down."
Perhaps the Man With the Red Shirt and the Pipe was so used to having his children fall into the coal, or the Canal, or something, that he didn't think it was a serious matter, for he came to the side of the "Mary Ellen" very slowly, just as Marmaduke was coming up for the third time.
And that is a very important time, for, they say, if you go down after that you won't come up 'til you're dead. Whether it was true or not, Marmaduke didn't know, for he had never been drowned before, and no one who had, had ever come back to tell him about it. Anyway, he wasn't thinking much, only throwing his arms around in the water, trying vainly to keep afloat.
The Round Fat Rosy Woman grew quite excited, as well she might, and she shouted again to the Man With the Red Shirt and the Pipe:
"Don't stand there like a wooden Injun in front of a cigar-store. Hustle or the boy'll drown!"
Then he seemed to wake up, for he ran to the gunwale of the boat, and he jumped over with his shoes and all his clothes on. And, strange to say, he still kept that pipe in his mouth. However, that didn't matter so very much, for he grabbed Marmaduke by the collar with one hand and swam towards the "Mary Ellen" with the other. The woman threw a rope over the side; he grasped it with his free hand, and the woman drew them up—she certainly was strong—and in the shake of a little jiffy they were standing on board, safe but dripping a thousand little rivers from their clothes on the deck. The man didn't seem to mind that a bit, but was quite disturbed to find that his pipe had gone out.
"Come, Mother," said he to the Round Fat Rosy Woman, "get us some dry duds and a match."
And quick as a wink she hustled them into the little house which they called a cabin, and gave Marmaduke a pair of blue overalls and a little blue jumper which belonged to one of the thirteen children. Of course, she found the right size, with so many to choose from. His own clothes, she hung on the line, with all the little pairs of pants and the skirts, to dry in the breeze.
Then she put the kettle on the cook stove and in another jiffy she was pouring out the tea.
"M—m—m—m," said Marmaduke. He meant to say,—"Make mine 'cambric,' please," for he knew his mother wouldn't have wanted him to take regular tea, but his Forty White Horses galloped so he couldn't make himself heard.
"There, little boy," said the Round Fat Rosy Woman, "don't talk. Just wrap yourself in this blanket and drink this down, and you'll feel better."
It did taste good even if it was strong, and it warmed him all the way down under the blue jumper, and the Forty White Horses stopped their galloping, and while the men were hitching the mules up again, and the "Mary Ellen" was drifting through the lower pair of gates out of the Lock, he fell fast asleep.
He must have slept for a whole lot of jiffies. When he woke up at last, he looked around, wondering where he could be, the place looked so strange and so different from his room at home. Then he remembered,—he was far from home, in the little cabin of the "Mary Ellen." It was a cosy place, with all the little beds for the children around the cabin. And these beds were not like the ones he usually slept in. They were little shelves on the wall, two rows of them, one row above the other. It was funny, he thought, to sleep on a shelf, but that was what the thirteen children had to do. He was lying on a shelf himself just then, wrapped in a blanket.
The Round Fat Rosy Woman was bending over the stove. It was a jolly little stove, round and fat and rosy like herself, and it poked its pipe through the house just above his head. In the pot upon it, the potatoes were boiling, boiling away, and the little chips of bacon were curling up in the pan.
Outside, he could see all the little skirts and the little pairs of pants, dancing gaily in the wind. He could hear the children who owned those skirts and pairs of pants running all over the boat. The patter of their feet sounded like raindrops on the deck above him.
They seemed to be forever getting into trouble, those thirteen children, and the Round Fat Rosy Woman was forever running to the door of the little house and shouting to one or the other.
"Take care, Maintop!" she would call to one boy as she pulled him back from falling into the Canal.
"Ho there, Bowsprit!" she would yell to another, as she fished him out of the coal.
They were certainly a great care, those children, and all at once Marmaduke decided he knew who their mother must be. The boat was shaped just like a huge shoe and she surely had so many children she didn't know what to do. Yes, she must be the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, only the shoe must have grown into a canalboat.
He wondered about the funny names she called them.
"Are those their real names?" he asked, as he lay on his little shelf.
"Yes," she said, "my husband out there with the pipe was a sailor once, on the deep blue sea. But he had to give it up after he was married, 'cause he couldn't take his family on a ship. We had a lot of trouble finding names for the children started to call 'em Mary and Daniel and such, but the names ran out. So, seeing my husband was so fond of the sea, we decided to call 'em after the parts of a ship, not a canalboat, but the sailing ships that go out to sea—that is, all but Squall.
"Now that's Jib there, driving the mules, and that's Bowsprit—the one all black from the coal. Cutwater's the girl leaning over the stern; Maintop, the one with the three pigtails; and Mizzen, the towhead playing with your dog."
"And what are the names of the rest?" Marmaduke asked, thinking all this very interesting.
"Oh!" she replied. "I'll have to stop and think, there's so many of them. Now there's Bul'ark and Gunnel—they're pretty stout; the twins, Anchor and Chain; Squall, the crybaby; Block, the fattest of all; Topmast, the tallest and thinnest; and Stern, the littlest. He came last, so we named him that, seeing it's the last part of a ship.
"Now, let me think—have I got 'em all?" and she counted on her fingers,—"Jib, Bowsprit, Cutwater, Maintop, Mizzen, Bul'ark, Gunnel, Anchor, Chain, Block, Squall, Topmast, and Stern. Yes, that surely makes thirteen, doesn't it? I'm always proud when I can remember 'em."
By this time the potatoes and the bacon and coffee seemed about ready, so she went out on deck, and Marmaduke slid off his little shelf bed and followed her to see where she was going. On deck was a great bar of iron with another beside it. She took up one bar of iron and with it struck the other—twelve times. The blows sounded way out over the Canal and over the fields and far away, like a mighty fire-alarm, and all the children, that is all but Jib, who was driving the mules and would get his dinner later, came running into the cabin.
A great clatter of tin plates and knives and forks there was, and very nice did those potatoes and that bacon taste.
And it didn't take long for them to finish that meal, either. Then they went out on deck.
The mules were pulling and pulling, and the boat was sailing on and on towards the Sea. They passed by so many places—lots of houses and lots of farms, the Red Schoolhouse and Reddy Toms' house, and Sammy Soapstone's, and the funny place where Fatty lived, and the pigs, fat like himself, ran all over the yard.
Fatty and Sammy were playing on the shore at that very moment. He waved to them and they waved back, but they didn't know they were waving to their old playmate Marmaduke, he was so mixed up with all the children of the woman who lived on the canalboat that looked just like a shoe. How Sammy and Sophy and Fatty would have envied him if they had only known it was he sailing away to the Sea!
But he never arrived there, after all—at least he didn't on that voyage. For, you see, after he had had a wonderful time, running all over the deck with the thirteen children, and looking down into the big hole where they kept the shiny coal, and exploring the little house on the deck, the Round Fat Rosy Woman and her Husband With the Red Shirt and the Pipe had a talk together.
"We must send him back home," said she, "or his folks'll be scared out of their wits."
The man took a few puffs on his pipe, which always seemed to help him in thinking, then replied,
"We might let him off at the Landing it's up the towpath a piece. We kin find someone to give him a lift."
"That's the best plan," she agreed, "there's the Ruralfree'livery now."
And she pointed to the shore where the horse and wagon of the postman were coming up the road.
"What ho, Hi! Heave to!" she called, raising her hands to her mouth and shouting through them just like a man, "here's a passenger for you, first class."
"Mr. Ruralfree'liv'ry" shook his whip at them, then hollered "Whoa!" and stopped the old horse; and Jib hollered "Whoa!" and stopped his mules, right at the Landing.
Then Marmaduke said "Goodbye." It took him some time, for there was the Man With the Red Shirt and the Pipe; and the Round Fat Rosy Woman; and Jib, Bowsprit, Cutwater, Mizzen, Maintop, Bul'ark, Gunnel, Anchor, Chain, Block, Squall, Topmast, and Stern; the "Mary Ellen"; and the mules, to say "Goodbye" to. Just before he went ashore the Round Fat Rosy Woman gave him his clothes back, for they were all dry by that time, and she stuffed something in his pocket besides. And what do you think it was? A toy anchor and chain that would just fit the "White Swan," the ship the Toyman had made him.
So he rode home with Mr. Ruralfree'liv'ry and all his sacks of mail. But he kept turning his head for a long while to watch the Man With the Red Shirt and the Pipe, and the Round Fat Rosy Woman, and the Thirteen Children, and all the little pairs of pants that seemed to be waving farewell to him. But soon the "Mary Ellen" drifted out of sight. She was a good boat, the "Mary Ellen."
He almost felt like crying, for he would have liked to have gone on that voyage to see the rest of the world. But, after all, he had seen a great deal of it, and he had that anchor and chain.
TWO O' CAT
It was hard to be called a "kid"—harder still to be left out of the game. And, besides, it wasn't fair. Marmaduke knew he could catch that ball as well, and hit it as often as any of them.
This is the way it began:—
That morning Jehosophat had gone with the Toyman to Sawyer's Mill over on Wally's Creek. Marmaduke felt lonely, for there was nobody but Hepzebiah to play with, and she wouldn't leave her dolls, and he had long ago gotten past playing with them. As he was wandering forlornly around the barnyard, wondering what he could do, he heard a shout over by the Miller farm.
It was a very fascinating cry, an inviting one as well. Looking over the field he saw boys—at least six of them—playing baseball. So he hurried over to get in the game, too.
But his old enemy "Fatty" told him that they didn't "want any kids hangin' around."
And Dicky Means agreed with that.
"Naw, we don't want any kids!"
"I can catch an' I can pitch—curves, too," Marmaduke protested, but they wouldn't believe him.
"You can't, either," Fatty yelled back, "you'd muff it every time. Wouldn't he, Means?"
He was talking to Dicky Means, but he called him by his last name just because he had heard grown-up men do that sometimes and he thought it was very smart.
Again Dicky Means agreed with Fatty.
"Sure he'd muff it every time."
Reddy Toms and Harold Skinner didn't take Marmaduke's part, nor did Sammy Soapstone, though he had borrowed Marmaduke's mouth-organ and lost it, and had Marmaduke's appendix all pickled in alcohol in a big bottle and wouldn't give it back, either. But they were all bigger than Marmaduke, so what could he do but sit on the fence and watch them, while his fingers fairly itched to catch one of those "flies." And the crack of the bat against the ball did sound so fine across the field.
At last he couldn't stand it, so he got down from the fence, and shouted at them,
"I wouldn't play in your ole game—not for a million dollars!"
And off he walked towards his own barn, swinging his arms all the way, as if he were holding a bat and showing them just how well he could play. My! what long "flies" he would knock, if he only had the chance—over the dead chestnut tree, over the Gold Rooster on the top of the barn, and even above the Long White Finger of the Church Pointing at the Sky. Maybe, sometime, if he hit it hard enough and just right, the ball would sail on and on, and up and up, to the Moon: and the Ole Man there would catch it and throw it down to him again.
But he would have to practice a lot first, so, when he reached the house, he went in and found a ball of his own. He turned it over and over in his fingers, admiring it. It was a fine one, with leather as white as buckskin but very hard, and thick seams sewed in the cover with heavy thread, winding in and out in horseshoe curves.
It had a dandy name, too,—"Rocket," that was it. And he threw it up high up, up, up, until it reached the eaves of the barn and startled the swallows, who flew out and swept the sky with their pretty wings, chattering angrily at him.
He watched to see where the ball would fall, and ran under it, holding his hands like a little cup. It fell into them, but it fell out even quicker than it had fallen in. Jiminy! but that ball was hard! Marmaduke thought the man who made it should have left the "et" from its name and called it plain "Rock" instead. It was just like a rock covered with hard leather.
He tried it again, but he didn't throw it up quite so high.
"Crack!" it went against the side of the barn, and little clouds of hay-dust from the loft danced in the air, and the swallows chattered still more angrily:
"He persists—sists—sists—sists—sists," they called to one another.
This time the ball fell on his cheekbone and raised a lump as round and as hard as a marble.
He didn't cry. Oh, no! for he was trying hard these days to be a regular boy and never to cry even one little whimper. So he just went in the house and Mother put a kiss and some arnica on it—it is always more effective if mixed that way—and out he came and tried it all over again. For regular boys never give up. Of course, at first he threw the ball a little lower than before, but that was only wise. And this time it did fall into his hands and he held it tight. Over and over he practised until his hands were pretty red from catching the hard "Rocket" ball, but he felt very happy inside—which is what counts, for one doesn't mind being sore outside if one is all right within.
However, all the time he could hear the sound of that bat over on the Miller lot. Then—all of a sudden—he heard an altogether different sort of noise—more like a crash and a smash than a crack.
"Glass!" that was it!
"Hooray!" he shouted in delight, "now that Fatty's going to get it."
But he was wrong. Fatty was too plump to hit a ball so hard. It was Dicky Means that had done it. And, like Fatty, he was always up to tricks, only usually Fatty planned them and Dicky did them.
Yes, it was Dicky Means who had hit that ball right through Mis' Miller's window, the big parlor window, too, and she expected the Methodist ladies of the Laborforlovesociety that very afternoon. There was Mis' Miller now, running out of the house and shrieking,—
"You younglimbosatan, you'll pay for that!"
"Pleeze, Mis' Miller, I haven't any money," Dicky was saying, very politely, with his eye on the broom she held in her hand, "I'll pay you tomorrow."
"No, you'll settle it now," she told him—very cross she was, too, "or I'll tell your mother, and your father'll paddle you in the woodshed." Then she added,—"an' you won't get your ball."
Dicky seemed to be more worried about the ball than about the woodshed, for he whined.
"Aw, pleeze, Mis' Miller, have a heart!"
You see, "Have a heart!" was an expression he had heard down in the city, and for the last week the boys had been using it every chance they got.
Still it didn't work on Mis' Miller, for she only shook her head angrily and took her broom and shouted,—
"Scat, get out!"—just as if they were so many cats—"an' don't come back for the ball till you come with the money in your hand."
And as everybody in the neighborhood used to say, "Gracious, but Mis' Miller has a turrible temper!" or "Whew, but can't she get mad?" and because she was flourishing that broom right in their faces, why, they did scat like so many cats, just as she had told them.
Across the field they all came running, straight towards Marmaduke, who pretended not to see them at all, but just kept passing his Rocket ball from one hand to the other, trying to juggle it like the trick men in the circus.
When they saw that ball, all the boys suddenly grew very polite to Marmaduke.
"Lend us your ball, Marmy!" they said.
"Wouldn't you like to have it!" he replied, still juggling the ball, but he watched them out of the corner of his eye. They had been pretty mean to him, but he supposed he ought to be decent even if they weren't, and besides it would be fine to play a real game with "sides" instead of one just by himself.
"All right," he said, after making them wait long enough to want that ball very much, "if you'll play 'sides' 'stead of' two o' cat,' and let me be captain."
"Aw!" said Dicky, "you're not big enough."
"All right," replied Marmaduke, still juggling that fine Rocket ball, "you'll have to play with some ole rock then."
"Aw, come 'n, have a heart!"
Marmaduke thought it over for a little while. To "have a heart" was like "heaping coals of fire" on people's heads, in minister's language, he supposed. And he wasn't so fond of that. But anyway he gave in.
"All right," he agreed, "come 'n, where'll we play?"
"Here," said Fatty, "this big rock'll be home-plate, and that one over there by the chestnut tree 'first.' An' we'll choose up sides—first choosin'!"
Then Dicky, who insisted on being the other captain, picked up the bat and threw it with the handle uppermost to Fatty, who caught it around the middle. Then Dicky clasped his fingers around the bat just above Fatty's hand; then Fatty put his left hand above Dicky's right; and Dicky his left hand next; and so on until their fingers almost reached the handle of the bat. There was just a little space left. If Fatty could squeeze his plump fingers in between Dicky's and the top he would win, and he could have first choice of the best players for his side. But his fingers were much too fat.
"Your pinky's over," said Dicky, and Reddy Toms picked up a flat stone and scraped it over the top of the bat, and Fatty howled and let go.
So it was Dicky's turn to choose, and Marmaduke waited breathlessly. He hoped that he would be chosen first, second anyway. He ought to be, for wasn't it his ball they were going to play with!
"I'll take Reddy," said Dicky;
"Sammy," said Fatty;
"Skinny," chose Dicky next;
"Froggy Waters," chose Fatty—and poor little Marmaduke was left to the last, as if he were the worst player in the whole world.
"Well," said Dicky, "I spouse I've got to take him. But he'll lose the game for us."
He turned to Marmaduke.
"I'll tell you what, Marmy," he said, "you can be the spectators—a whole pile of them—in the grand stand. Wouldn't you like to be a grand stand? That's great. Isn't it, fellows?"
"Sure," they all said, grinning, but Marmaduke didn't want to be any spectator, not even a grand stand. He wanted to be doing things, not watching. Lose that game, would he? No, he'd show them, he'd win it instead. He'd hit that ball clean over the fence—so far they'd never find it. But whew! That wouldn't do. He'd better not hit it quite so far or he'd lose his dandy Rocket ball.
But they had to give in and let him play before he would give them that ball. Then the two captains told their men to take their positions.
"I'll pitch," declared Dicky, "'n Reddy'll catch. Skinny you play 'first,' and Marmaduke out in the field. You kin go to sleep, too, for all I care—for you can't catch anything even if you had a peach basket to hold it in."
"Play ball!" shouted Fatty, and they all took their places, Dicky's team in the field, and Fatty's at the bat.
Marmaduke had to stand way out, and he didn't have much to do for a while, for the other team either struck out, or hit the ball towards Dicky, the pitcher, or Skinny at 'first.' Once a ball did come his way "Hold it!" shouted Dicky, but Marmaduke was so excited that he threw himself right at it, and the ball rolled between his legs.
"Aw! didn't I tell you?" said Dicky in disgust, and all on the other team shouted:
And, as every boy in the world knows, it is a great disgrace to be called "Butterfingers."
When the first inning was over the score stood six to five, and Fatty's team was ahead.
In the next inning the ball never once came towards Marmaduke, way out there in the field. All he could do was to watch the other boys catch the "pop-flies," stop the grounders, or run back and forth between first base and home. It was hard, too, when Marmaduke wanted so much to be in the thick of it.
Before long the score stood seventeen to fifteen, still in favor of Fatty's team. At last they were put out, and it was Marmaduke's turn to bat. If he could only knock a home run it would bring Skinny in and tie the score.
"Strike one!" called Sammy, who was catching.
Marmaduke swung at the next one too wildly.
And then, sad to tell,—
He was out—no doubt about it!
"Aw!" exclaimed Dicky, "what'd I tell you—you ought to be fired."
Marmaduke felt very much ashamed as he took his place out in the field again, with the score thirty-six to thirty against them.
Just then the Toyman and Jehosophat came up the road on their way back from Sawyer's Mill, and the Toyman stopped his horses to watch the game for a minute. Marmaduke gritted his teeth and clenched his hands. He would have to do well now when they were looking on.
Before he knew it, two of the other team were out. Then, all of a sudden, he heard a loud crack. Looking up, he saw the ball sailing through the air. It wasn't sailing towards Dicky or Skinny. It was coming straight in his direction!
He formed his hands in the shape of a cup and waited. He was going to hold that ball—if it ever got there. And, sure enough, it fell in his outstretched hands. My! how that Rocket ball stung and burned! But he hung on for dear life.
"Butterfingers!" he heard Fatty call to "rattle" him. And that settled the matter, for, if he hadn't heard that word, he might have dropped the ball after all, but he was so determined to make Fatty take it all back that he made his fingers tight as a vise around the ball—and it stayed—it stayed there!
When he came in to take his turn at bat, Dicky patted him on the shoulder.
"Good boy, Mary!" he said, and Outfielder Green felt as pleased and proud as before he had been ashamed. But he felt even happier a little later.
It was the last half of the last inning. Reddy and Skinny each made one run and Dicky made two, and now the score stood thirty-six to thirty-five. Fatty's team was only one run ahead, and Dicky was on first with Marmaduke at the bat.
Now was Marmaduke's chance to win the game—the chance of a lifetime!
Fatty twirled the ball in his hand. Though he was fat, he could pitch like a regular pitcher. At least his motions were just as funny. He would curl up his fingers in a strange way to make what he called a curve. Then he would hold the ball up to his chin and look wisely over at first base, watching Dicky. Then he would curl his arms around his head several times, and at last he would let the ball fly.