" Hang your grandmother ! " returned
Adams impatiently; "what I m afraid of is
that they 11 keep us locked up until the Fourth
" You ain t smart ef they do ! " cried a voice
from one of the cells. It was a deep bass voice
that sent a chill through me.
" Who are you ? " said Jack Harris, address
ing the cells in general ; for the echoing quali
ties of the room made it difficult to locate the
"That don t matter," replied the speaker,
putting his face close up to the gratings of
No. 3, " but ef I was a youngster like you, free
an easy outside there, this spot would n t hold
" That s so ! " chimed several of the prison-
birds, wagging their heads behind the iron
^ " Hush ! " whispered Jack Harris, rising from
his seat and walking on tip-toe to the door of
cell No. 3. " What would you do ? "
84 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
" Do ? Why, I d pile them ere benches up
agin that ere door, an* crawl out of that ere
winder in no time. That s my adwice."
" And werry good adwice it is, Jim," said
the occupant of No. 5 approvingly.
Jack Harris seemed to be of the same opin
ion, for he hastily placed the benches one on
the top of another under the ventilator, and,
climbing up on the highest bench, peeped out
into the passageway.
" If any gent happens to have a ninepence
about him," said the man in cell No. 3, " there s
a sufferin family here as could make use of
it. Smallest favors gratefully received, an no
This appeal touched a new silver quarter of
a dollar in my trousers-pocket ; I fished out
the coin from a mass of fireworks, and gave it
to the prisoner. He appeared to be so good-
natured a fellow that I ventured to ask what
he had done to get into jail.
" Intirely innocent. I was clapped in here
by a rascally nevew as wishes to enjoy my
wealth afore I m dead."
" Your name, sir ? " I inquired, with a view
of reporting the outrage to my grandfather and
having the injured person reinstated in society.
" Git out, you insolent young reptyle ! "
shouted the man, in a passion.
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 85
I retreated precipitately, amid a roar of
laughter from the other cells.
" Can t you keep still ? " exclaimed Harris,
withdrawing his head from the window.
A portly watchman usually sat on a stool
outside the door day and night ; but on this
particular occasion, his services being required
elsewhere, the bridewell had been left to guard
"All clear," whispered Jack Harris, as he
vanished through the aperture and dropped
softly on the ground outside. We all followed
him expeditiously Pepper Whitcomb and
myself getting stuck in the window for a mo
ment in our frantic efforts not to be last.
" Now, boys, everybody for himself ! "
THE ADVENTURES OF A FOURTH
THE sun cast a broad column of quivering
gold across the river at the foot of our street,
just as I reached the doorstep of the Nutter
House. Kitty Collins, with her dress tucked
about her so that she looked as if she had on
a pair of calico trousers, was washing off the
" Arrah, you bad boy ! " cried Kitty, leaning
on the mop-handle, "the Capen has jist been
askin for you. He s gone up town, now. It s
a nate thing you done with my clothes-line,
and it s me you may thank for gettin it out of
the way before the Capen come down."
The kind creature had hauled in the rope,
and my escapade had not been discovered by
the family ; but I knew very well that the
burning of the stage-coach and the arrest of
the boys concerned in the mischief were sure
to reach my grandfather s ears sooner or later.
"Well, Thomas," said the old gentleman, an
hour or so afterwards, beaming upon me bene-
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 87
volently across the breakfast-table, "you did n t
wait to be called this morning."
" No, sir," I replied, growing very warm, " I
took a little run up town to see what was going
I did not say anything about the little run I
took home again !
" They had quite a time on the Square last
night," remarked Captain Nutter, looking up
from the Rivermouth Barnacle, which was al
ways placed beside his coffee-cup at breakfast.
I felt that my hair was preparing to stand
" Quite a time," continued my grandfather.
" Some boys broke into Ezra Wingate s barn
and carried off the old stage-coach. The young
rascals ! I do believe they d burn up the
whole town if they had their way."
With this he resumed the paper. After a
long silence he exclaimed, " Hullo ! " upon
which I nearly fell off the chair.
" Miscreants unknown/ " read my grand
father, following the paragraph with his fore
finger ; " < escaped from the bridewell, leaving
no clue to their identity, except the letter H,
cut on one of the benches. Five dollars re
ward offered for the apprehension of the per
petrators. Sho ! I hope Wingate will catch
88 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
I do not see how I continued to live, for on
hearing this the breath went entirely out of
my body. I beat a retreat from the room as
soon as I could, and flew to the stable with
a misty intention of mounting Gypsy and es
caping from the place. I was pondering what
steps to take, when Jack Harris and Charley
Harden entered the yard.
" I say," said Harris as blithe as a lark, " has
old Wingate been here ? "
"Been here?" I cried, "I should hope
not ! "
"The whole thing s out, you know," said
Harris, pulling Gypsy s forelock over her eyes
and blowing playfully into her nostrils.
" You don t mean it ! " I gasped.
"Yes, I do, and we are to pay Wingate
three dollars apiece. He 11 make rather a good
spec out of it."
" But how did he discover that we were the
the miscreants ? " I asked, quoting mechan
ically from the Rivermouth Barnacle.
" Why, he saw us take the old ark, confound
him! He s been trying to sell it any time
these ten years. Now he has sold it to us.
When he found that we had slipped out of the
Meat Market, he went right off and wrote the
advertisement offering five dollars reward;
though he knew well enough who had taken
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 89
the coach, for he came round to my father s
house before the paper was printed to talk
the matter over. Was n t the governor mad,
though ! But it s all settled, I tell you. We re
to pay Wingate fifteen dollars for the old go-
cart, which he wanted to sell the other day for
seventy-five cents, and could n t. It s a down
right swindle. But the funny part of it is to
" Oh, there s a funny part to it, is there ? "
I remarked bitterly.
" Yes. The moment Bill Conway saw the
advertisement, he knew it was Harry Blake
who cut that letter H on the bench ; so off he
rushes up to Wingate kind of him, was n t
it ? and claims the reward. Too late, young
man, says old Wingate, the culprits has been
discovered. You see Slyboots hadn t any
intention of paying that five dollars."
Jack Harris s statement lifted a weight from
my bosom. The article in the Rivermouth
Barnacle had placed the affair before me in a
new light. I had thoughtlessly committed a
grave offence. Though the property in ques
tion was valueless, we were clearly wrong in
destroying it. At the same time, Mr. Win-
gate had tacitly sanctioned the act by not
preventing it when he might easily have done
so. He had allowed his property to be de-
90 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
stroyed in order that he might realize a large
Without waiting to hear more, I went straight
to Captain Nutter, and, laying my remaining
three dollars on his knee, confessed my share
in the previous night s transaction.
The Captain heard me through in profound
silence, pocketed the bank-notes, and walked
off without speaking a word. He had pun
ished me in his own whimsical fashion at the
breakfast-table, for, at the very moment he was
harrowing up my soul by reading the extracts
from the Rivermouth Barnacle, he not only
knew all about the bonfire, but had paid Ezra
Wingate his three dollars. Such was the du
plicity of that aged impostor !
I think Captain Nutter was justified in retain
ing my pocket-money, as additional punish
ment, though the possession of it later in the
day would have got me out of a difficult posi
tion, as the reader will see farther on.
I returned with a light heart and a large
piece of punk to my friends in the stable-yard,
where we celebrated the termination of our
trouble by setting off two packs of fire-crackers
in an empty wine-cask. They made a prodi
gious racket, but failed somehow to fully ex
press my feelings. The little brass pistol in
my bedroom suddenly occurred to me. It had
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 91
been loaded I do not know how many months,
long before I left New Orleans, and now was
the time, if ever, to fire it off. Muskets,
blunderbusses, and pistols were banging away
lively all over town, and the smell of gun
powder, floating on the air, set me wild to add
something respectable to the universal din.
When the pistol was produced, Jack Harris
examined the rusty cap and prophesied that it
would not explode.
" Never mind," said I, "let s try it."
I had fired the pistol once, secretly, in New
Orleans, and, remembering the noise it gave
birth to on that occasion, I shut both eyes
tight as I pulled the trigger. The hammer
clicked on the cap with a dull, dead sound.
Then Harris tried it ; then Charley Marden ;
then I took it again, and after three or four
trials was on the point of giving it up as a bad
job, when the obstinate thing went off with a
tremendous explosion, nearly jerking my arm
from the socket. The smoke cleared away,
and there I stood with the stock of the pistol
clutched convulsively in my hand the barrel,
lock, trigger, and ramrod having vanished into
" Are you hurt ? " cried the boys in one
"N no," I replied dubiously, for the con
cussion had bewildered me a little.
92 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
When I realized the nature of the calamity,
my grief was excessive. I cannot imagine
what led me to do so ridiculous a thing, but I
gravely buried the remains of my beloved pistol
in our back garden, and erected over the mound
a slate tablet to the effect that " Mr. Barker,
formerly of New Orleans, was Killed accidently
on the Fourth of July, 18 in the 2d year of
his Age." : Binny Wallace, arriving on the
spot just after the disaster, and Charley Harden
(who enjoyed the obsequies immensely), acted
with me as chief mourners. I, for my part,
was a very sincere one.
As I turned away in a disconsolate mood
from the garden, Charley Marden remarked
that he should not be surprised if the pistol-
but took root and grew into a mahogany-tree
or something. He said he once planted an old
musket-stock, and shortly afterwards a lot of
shoots sprung up ! Jack Harris laughed ; but
neither I nor Binny Wallace saw Charley s
^ We were now joined by Pepper Whitcomb,
Fred Langdon, and several other desperate
characters, on their way to the Square, which
1 This inscription is copied from a triangular-shaped piece
of slate, still preserved in the garret of the Nutter House, to-
gether with the pistol-but itself, which was subsequently dug
up for a post-mortem examination.
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 93
was always a busy place when public festivities
were going on. Feeling that I was still in
disgrace with the Captain, I thought it politic
to ask his consent before accompanying the
He gave it with some hesitation, advising me
to be careful not to get in front of the firearms.
Once he put his fingers mechanically into his
vest-pocket and half drew forth some dollar-
bills, then slowly thrust them back again as his
sense of justice overcame his genial disposition.
I guess it cut the old gentleman to the heart
to be obliged to keep me out of my pocket-
money. I know it did me. However, as I was
passing through the hall, Miss Abigail, with
a very severe cast of countenance, slipped a
brand-new quarter into my hand. We had
silver currency in those days, thank Heaven !
Great were the bustle and confusion on the
Square. By the way, I don t know why they
called this large open space a square, unless
because it was an oval an oval formed by
the confluence of half a dozen streets, now
thronged by crowds of smartly dressed towns
folk and country folk ; for Rivermouth on the
Fourth was the centre of attraction to the in
habitants of the neighboring villages.
On one side of the Square were twenty or
thirty booths arranged in a semicircle, gay
94 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
with little flags and seductive with lemonade,
ginger-beer, and seed-cakes. Here and there
were tables at which could be purchased the
smaller sort of fireworks, such as pin-wheels,
serpents, double-headers, and punk warranted
not to go out. Many of the adjacent houses
made a pretty display of bunting, and across
each of the streets opening on the Square was
an arch of spruce and evergreen, blossoming
all over with patriotic mottoes and paper roses.
It was a noisy, merry, bewildering scene as
we came upon the ground. The incessant rat
tle of small arms, the booming of the twelve-
pounder firing on the Mill Dam, and the silvery
clangor of the church-bells ringing simultane
ously not to mention an ambitious brass
band that was blowing itself to pieces on a
balcony were enough to drive one distracted.
We amused ourselves for an hour or two, dart
ing in and out among the crowd and setting
off our crackers. At one o clock the Hon.
Hezekiah Elkins mounted a platform in the
middle of the Square and delivered an oration,
to which his "feller-citizens " did not pay much
attention, having all they could do to dodge
the squibs that were set loose upon them by
mischievous boys stationed on the surrounding
Our little party, which had picked up re-
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 95
cruits here and there, not being swayed by
eloquence, withdrew to a booth on the outskirts
of the crowd, where we regaled ourselves with
root beer at two cents a glass. I recollect
being much struck by the placard surmounting
It seemed to me the perfection of pith and
poetry. What could be more terse? Not a
word to spare, and yet everything fully ex
pressed. Rhyme and rhythm faultless. It
was a delightful poet who made those verses.
As for the beer itself that, I think, must have
been made from the root of all evil ! A single
glass of it insured an uninterrupted pain for
The influence of my liberality working on
Charley Harden for it was I who paid for
the beer he presently invited us all to take
an ice-cream with him at Pettingil s saloon.
Pettingil was the Delmonico of Rivermouth.
He furnished ices and confectionery for aris
tocratic balls and parties, and did not disdain
to officiate as leader of the orchestra at the
same ; for Pettingil played on the violin,
as Pepper Whitcomb described it, "like Old
Pettingil s confectionery store was on the
96 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
corner of Willow and High streets. The
saloon, separated from the shop by a flight of
three steps leading to a door hung with faded
red drapery, had about it an air of mystery and
seclusion quite delightful. Four windows, also
draped, faced the side street, affording an un
obstructed view of Marm Hatch s back yard,
where a number of inexplicable garments on a
clothes-line were always to be seen careering
in the wind.
There was a lull just then in the ice-cream
business, it being dinner-time, and we found
the saloon unoccupied. When we had seated
ourselves around the largest marble-topped
table, Charley Harden in a manly voice or
dered twelve sixpenny ice-creams, " strawberry
and verneller mixed."
It was a magnificent sight, those twelve
chilly glasses entering the room on a waiter,
the red and white custard rising from each
glass like a church steeple, and the spoon-
handle shooting up from the apex like a spire.
I doubt if a person of the nicest palate could
have distinguished, with his eyes shut, which
was the vanilla and which the strawberry : but
if I could at this moment obtain a cream tast
ing as that did, I would give five dollars for a
very small quantity.
We fell to with a will, and so evenly bal-
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 97
anced were our capabilities that we finished
our creams together, the spoons clinking in
the glasses like one spoon.
" Let s have some more ! " cried Charley
Harden, with the air of Aladdin ordering up a
fresh hogshead of pearls and rubies. " Tom
Bailey, tell Pettingil to send in another round."
Could I credit my ears ? I looked at him to
see if he were in earnest. He meant it. In a
moment more I was leaning over the counter
giving directions for a second supply. Think
ing it would make no difference to such a gor
geous young Sybarite as Harden, I took the
liberty of ordering ninepenny creams this time.
On returning to the saloon, what was my
horror at finding it empty !
There were the twelve cloudy glasses, stand
ing in a circle on the sticky marble slab, and
not a boy to be seen. A pair of hands letting
go their hold on the window-sill outside ex
plained matters. I had been made a victim.
I couldn t stay and face Pettingil, whose
peppery temper was well known among the
boys. I had not a cent in the world to appease
him. What should I do ? I heard the clink
of approaching glasses the ninepenny creams.
I rushed to the nearest window. It was only
five feet to the ground. I threw myself out as
if I had been an old hat.
98 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
Landing on my feet, I fled breathlessly
down High Street, through Willow, and was
turning into Brierwood Place when the sound
of several voices, calling to me in distress,
stopped my progress.
" Look out, you fool ! the mine ! the mine ! "
yelled the warning voices.
Several men and boys were standing at the
head of the street, making insane gestures to
me to avoid something. But I saw no mine,
only in the middle of the road in front of me
was a common flour-barrel, which, as I gazed
at it, suddenly rose into the air with a terrific
explosion. I felt myself thrown violently off
my feet. I remember nothing else, excepting
that, as I went up, I caught a momentary
glimpse of Ezra Wingate leering through his
shop window like an avenging spirit.
The mine that had wrought me woe was not
properly a mine at all, but merely a few ounces
of powder placed under an empty keg or barrel
and fired with a slow-match. Boys who did
not happen to have pistols or cannon generally
burnt their powder in this fashion.
For an account of what followed I am in
debted to hearsay, for I was insensible when
the bystanders picked me up and carried me
home on a shutter borrowed from the proprie
tor of Pettingil s saloon. I was supposed to
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 99
be killed, but happily (happily for me at least)
I was merely stunned. I lay in a semi-uncon
scious state until eight o clock that night, when
I attempted to speak. Miss Abigail, who
watched by the bedside, put her ear down to
my lips and was saluted with these remarkable
" Strawberry and verneller mixed ! "
" Mercy on us ! what is the boy saying ? "
cried Miss Abigail.
" ROOTBEERSOLDHERE ! "
I BECOME AN R. M. C.
IN the course of ten days I recovered suffi
ciently from my injuries to attend school, where,
for a little while, I was looked upon as a hero,
on account of having been blown up. What
do we not make a hero of ? The distraction
which prevailed in the classes the week pre
ceding the Fourth had subsided, and nothing
remained to indicate the recent festivities, ex
cepting a noticeable want of eyebrows on the
part of Pepper Whitcomb and myself.
In August we had two weeks vacation. It
was about this time that I became a member
of the Rivermouth Centipedes, a secret society
composed of twelve of the Temple Grammar
School boys. This was an honor to which I
had long aspired, but, being a new boy, I was
not admitted to the fraternity until my charac
ter had fully developed itself.
It was a very select society, the object of
which I never fathomed, though I was an active
member of the body during the remainder of
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 101
my residence at Rivermouth, and at one time
held the onerous position of F. C. First
Centipede. Each of the elect wore a copper
cent (some occult association being established
between a cent apiece and a centipede !) sus
pended by a string round his neck. The
medals were worn next the skin, and it was
while bathing one day at Grave Point, with
Jack Harris and Fred Langdon, that I had my
curiosity roused to the highest pitch by a sight
of these singular emblems. As soon as I
ascertained the existence of a boys club, of
course I was ready to die to join it. And
eventually I was allowed to join.
The initiation ceremony took place in Fred
Langdon s barn, where I was submitted to a
series of trials not calculated to soothe the
nerves of a timorous boy. Before being led to
the Grotto of Enchantment such was the
modest title given to the loft over my friend s
wood-house my hands were securely pinioned,
and my eyes covered with a thick silk handker
chief. At the head of the stairs I was told in
an unrecognizable, husky voice, that it was not
yet too late to retreat if I felt myself physically
too weak to undergo the necessary tortures. I
replied that I was not too weak, in a tone which
I intended to be resolute, but which, in spite of
me, seemed to come from the pit of my stomach.
102 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
" It is well ! " said the husky voice.
I did not feel so sure about that ; but, having
made up my mind to be a Centipede, a Cen
tipede I was bound to be. Other boys had
passed through the ordeal and lived, why
should not I ?
A prolonged silence followed this preliminary
examination, and I was wondering what would
come next, when a pistol fired off close by my
ear deafened me for a moment. The unknown
voice then directed me to take ten steps for
ward and stop at the word halt. I took ten
steps, and halted.
" Stricken mortal," said a second husky
voice, more husky, if possible, than the first,
" if you had advanced another inch, you would
have disappeared down an abyss three thousand
feet deep ! "
I naturally shrunk back at this friendly piece
of information. A prick from some two-
pronged instrument, evidently a pitchfork,
gently checked my retreat. I was then con
ducted to the brink of several other precipices,
and ordered to step over many dangerous
chasms, where the result would have been
instant death if I had committed the least mis
take. I have neglected to say that my move
ments were accompanied by dismal groans
from different parts of the grotto.
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 103
Finally, I was led up a steep plank to what
appeared to me an incalculable height. Here
I stood breathless while the by-laws were read
aloud. A more extraordinary code of laws
never came from the brain of man. The pen
alties attached to the abject being who should
reveal any of the secrets of the society were
enough to make the blood run cold. A second
pistol-shot was heard, the something I stood
on sunk with a crash beneath my feet, and
I fell two miles, as nearly as I could compute
it. At the same instant the handkerchief was
whisked from my eyes, and I found myself
standing in an empty hogshead surrounded
by twelve masked figures fantastically dressed.
One of the conspirators was really appalling
with a tin sauce-pan on his head, and a tiger-
skin sleigh-robe thrown over his shoulders. I
scarcely need say that there were no vestiges
to be seen of the fearful gulfs over which I had
passed so cautiously. My ascent had been to
the top of the hogshead, and my descent to
the bottom thereof. Holding one another by
the hand, and chanting a low dirge, the Mystic
Twelve revolved about me. This concluded
the ceremony. With a merry shout the boys
threw off their masks, and I was declared a
regularly installed member of the R. M. C.
I afterwards had a good deal of sport out of
104 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
the club, for these initiations, as you may im
agine, were sometimes very comical spectacles,
especially when the aspirant for centipedal
honors happened to be of a timid disposition.
If he showed the slightest terror, he was certain
to be tricked unmercifully. One of our subse
quent devices a humble invention of my own
was to request the blindfolded candidate to
put out his tongue, whereupon the First Cen
tipede would say, in a low tone, as if not in