tended for the ear of the victim, "Diabolus,
fetch me the red-hot iron ! " The expedition
with which that tongue would disappear was
Our meetings were held in various barns, at
no stated periods, but as circumstances sug
gested. Any member had a right to call a
meeting. Each boy who failed to report him
self was fined one cent. Whenever a member
had reasons for thinking that another member
would be unable to attend, he called a meeting.
For instance, immediately on learning the
death of Harry Blake s great-grandfather, I
issued a call. By these simple and ingenious
measures we kept our treasury in a flourishing
condition, sometimes having on hand as much
as a dollar and a quarter.
I have said that the society had no especial
object. It is true, there was a tacit under-
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 105
standing among us that the Centipedes were
to stand by one another on all occasions, though
I don t remember that they did ; but further
than this we had no purpose, unless it was to
accomplish as a body the same amount of mis
chief which we were sure to do as individuals.
To mystify the staid and slow-going River-
mouthians was our frequent pleasure. Several
of our pranks won us such a reputation among
the townsfolk that we were credited with hav
ing a large finger in whatever went amiss in
One morning, about a week after my admis
sion into the secret order, the quiet citizens
awoke to find that the sign-boards of all the
principal streets had changed places during the
night. Persons who went trustfully to sleep in
Currant Square opened their eyes in Honey
suckle Terrace. Jones s Avenue at the north
end had suddenly become Walnut Street, and
Peanut Street was nowhere to be found. Con
fusion reigned. The town authorities took the
matter in hand without delay, and six of the
Temple Grammar School boys were summoned
to appear before Justice Clapham.
Having tearfully disclaimed to my grand
father all knowledge of the transaction, I dis
appeared from the family circle, and was not
apprehended until late in the afternoon, when
io6 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
the Captain dragged me ignominiously from
the haymow and conducted me, more dead than
alive, to the office of Justice Clapham. Here
I encountered five other pallid culprits, who
had been fished out of divers coal-bins, garrets,
and chicken-coops, to answer the demands of
the outraged laws. (Charley Harden had
hidden himself in a pile of gravel behind his
father s house, and looked like a recently ex
There was not the least evidence against us ;
and indeed we were wholly innocent of the
offence. The trick, as was afterwards proved,
had been played by a party of soldiers stationed
at the fort in the harbor. We were indebted
for our arrest to Master Conway, who had
slyly dropped a hint, within the hearing of
Selectman Mudge, to the effect that " young
Bailey and his five cronies could tell something
about them signs." When he was called upon
to make good his assertion, he was considerably
more terrified than the Centipedes, though
they were ready to sink into their shoes.
At our next meeting it was unanimously
resolved that Conway s animosity should not
be quietly submitted to. He had sought to
inform against us in the stage-coach business ;
he had volunteered to carry Pettingil s " little
bill * for twenty-four ice-creams to Charley
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 107
Marden s father; and now he had caused us
to be arraigned before Justice Clapham on a
charge equally groundless and painful. After
much noisy discussion a plan of retaliation was
There was a certain slim, mild apothecary in
the town, by the name of Meeks. It was gen
erally given out that Mr. Meeks had a vague
desire to get married, but, being a shy and
timorous youth, lacked the moral courage to do
so. It was also well known that the Widow
Conway had not buried her heart with the late
lamented. As to her shyness, that was not so
clear. Indeed, her attentions to Mr. Meeks,
whose mother she might have been, were of
a nature not to be misunderstood, and were
not misunderstood by any one but Mr. Meeks
The widow carried on a dressmaking estab
lishment at her residence on the corner oppo
site Meeks s drug-store, and kept a wary eye
on all the young ladies from Miss Dorothy
Gibbs s Female Institute who patronized the
shop for soda water, acid-drops, and slate-
pencils. In the afternoon the widow was
usually seen seated, smartly dressed, at her
window up-stairs, casting destructive glances
across the street the artificial roses in her
cap and her whole languishing manner saying
io8 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
as plainly as a label on a prescription, " To be
Taken Immediately ! " But Mr. Meeks did n t
The lady s fondness and the gentleman s
blindness were topics ably handled at every
sewing-circle in the town. It was through
these two luckless individuals that we proposed
to strike a blow at the common enemy. To
kill less than three birds with one stone did
not suit our sanguinary purpose. We disliked
the widow not so much for her sentimentality
as for being the mother of Bill Conway ; we
disliked Mr. Meeks, not because he was in
sipid, like his own syrups, but because the
widow loved him ; Bill Conway we hated for
Late one dark Saturday night in September
we carried our plan into effect. On the follow
ing morning, as the orderly citizens wended
their way to church past the widow s abode,
their sober faces relaxed at beholding over her
front door the well-known gilt Mortar and Pestle
which usually stood on the top of a pole on the
opposite corner ; while the passers on that side
of the street were equally amused and scandal
ized at seeing a placard bearing the following
announcement tacked to the druggist s window-
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 109
The naughty cleverness of the joke (which I
should be sorry to defend) was recognized at
once. It spread like wildfire over the town,
and, though the mortar and placard were
speedily removed, our triumph was complete.
The whole community was on the broad grin,
and our participation in the affair seemingly
It was those wicked soldiers at the fort !
I FIGHT CONWAY
THERE was one person, however, who cher
ished a strong suspicion that the Centipedes
had had a hand in the business ; and that person
was Conway. His red hair seemed to change
to a livelier red, and his sallow cheeks to a
deeper sallow, as we glanced at him stealthily
over the tops of our slates the next day in
school. He knew we were watching him, and
made sundry mouths and scowled in the most
threatening way over his sums.
Conway had an accomplishment peculiarly
his own that of throwing his thumbs out
of joint at will. Sometimes while absorbed in
study, or on becoming nervous at recitation, he
performed the feat unconsciously. Through
out this entire morning his thumbs were ob
served to be in a chronic state of dislocation,
indicating great mental agitation on the part
of the owner. We fully expected an outbreak
from him at recess ; but the intermission passed
off tranquilly, somewhat to our disappoint
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY in
At the close of the afternoon session it hap
pened that Binny Wallace and myself, having
got swamped in our Latin exercise, were de
tained in school for the purpose of refreshing
our memories with a page of Mr. Andrews s
perplexing irregular verbs. Binny Wallace, fin
ishing his task first, was dismissed. I followed
shortly after, and, on stepping into the play
ground, saw my little friend plastered, as it
were, up against the fence, and Conway stand
ing in front of him ready to deliver a blow on
the upturned, unprotected face, whose gentle
ness would have stayed any arm but a cow
Seth Rodgers, with both hands in his pockets,
was leaning against the pump lazily enjoying
the sport ; but on seeing me sweep across the
yard, whirling my strap of books in the air
like a sling, he called out lustily, " Lay low,
Conway ! here s young Bailey ! "
Conway turned just in time to catch on his
shoulder the blow intended for his head. He
reached forward one of his long arms he had
arms like a windmill, that boy and, grasping
me by the hair, tore out quite a respectable
handful. The tears flew to my eyes, but they
were not the tears of defeat ; they were merely
the involuntary tribute which nature paid to
the departed tresses.
ii2 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
In a second my little jacket lay on the
ground, and I stood on guard, resting lightly
on my right leg, and keeping my eye fixed
steadily on Conway s in all of which I was
faithfully following the instructions of Phil
Adams, whose father subscribed to a sporting
Conway also threw himself into a defensive
attitude, and there we were, glaring at each
other, motionless, neither of us disposed to risk
an attack, but both on the alert to resist one.
There is no telling how long we might have
remained in that absurd position had we not
It was a custom with the larger pupils to re
turn to the playground after school, and play
baseball until sundown. The town authorities
had prohibited ball-playing on the Square, and,
there being no other available place, the boys
fell back perforce on the school-yard. Just
at this crisis a dozen or so of the Templars
entered the gate, and, seeing at a glance the
belligerent status of Conway and myself,
dropped bat and ball and rushed to the spot
where we stood.
" Is it a fight ? " asked Phil Adams, who saw
by our freshness that we had not yet got to
"Yes, it s a fight," I answered, "unless
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 113
Conway will ask Wallace s pardon, promise
never to hector me in future and put back
my hair ! "
This last condition was rather a staggerer.
" I sha n t do nothing of the sort," said
" Then the thing must go on," said Adams,
with dignity. " Rodgers, as I understand it,
is your second, Conway ? Bailey, come here.
What s the row about ?"
"He was thrashing Binny Wallace."
" No, I was n t," interrupted Conway ; " but
I was going to, because he knows who put
Meeks s mortar over our door. And I know
well enough who did it ; it was that sneaking
little mulatter ! " pointing at me.
" Oh, by George ! " I cried, reddening at the
"Cool is the word," said Adams, as he bound
a handkerchief round my head and carefully
tucked away the long straggling locks that of
fered a tempting advantage to the enemy.
" Who ever heard of a fellow with such a head
of hair going into action ! " muttered Phil,
twitching the handkerchief to ascertain if it
were securely tied. He then loosened my gal
lowses (braces), and buckled them tightly
above my hips. " Now, then, bantam, never
say die ! "
H4 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
Conway regarded these business-like prepa
rations with evident misgiving, for he called
Rodgers to his side, and had himself arrayed
in a similar manner, though his hair was cropped
so close that you could not have taken hold of
it with a pair of tweezers.
" Is your man ready ? " asked Phil Adams,
" Ready ! "
" Keep your back to the gate, Tom," whis
pered Phil in my ear, "and you ll have the
sun in his eyes."
Behold us once more face to face, like David
and the Philistine. Look at us as long as you
may ; for this is all you shall see of the combat.
According to my thinking, the hospital teaches
a better lesson than the battlefield. I will tell
you about my black eye, and my swollen lip, if
you will ; but not a word of the fight.
You will get no description of it from me,
simply because I think it would prove very poor
reading, and not because I consider my revolt
against Conway s tyranny unjustifiable.
I had borne Conway s persecutions for many
months with lamb-like patience. I might have
shielded myself by appealing to Mr. Grimshaw ;
but no boy in the Temple Grammar School
could do that without losing caste. Whether
this was just or not does not matter a pin, since
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 115
it was so a traditionary law of the place.
The personal inconvenience I suffered from my
tormentor was nothing to the pain he inflicted
on me indirectly by his persistent cruelty to
little Binny Wallace. I should have lacked the
spirit of a hen if I had not resented it finally.
I am glad that I faced Conway, and asked no
favors, and got rid of him forever. I am glad
that Phil Adams taught me to box, and I say
to all youngsters : Learn to box, to ride, to
pull an oar, and to swim. The occasion may
come round when a decent proficiency in one
or the rest of these accomplishments will be of
service to you.
In one of the best books 1 ever written for
boys are these words
" Learn to box, then, as you learn to play
cricket and football. Not one of you will be
the worse, but very much the better, for learn
ing to box well. Should you never have to use
it in earnest, there s no exercise in the world
so good for the temper, and for the muscles of
the back and legs.
" As for fighting, keep out of it, if you can,
by all means. When the time comes, if ever it
should, that you have to say Yes or No to
a challenge to fight, say * No * if you can only
take care you make it plain to yourself why you
1 Tom Brown s School Days at Rugby.
ii6 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
say No. It s a proof of the highest courage,
if done from true Christian motives. It s quite
right and justifiable if done from a simple aver
sion to physical pain and danger. But don t
say No because you fear a licking and say or
think it s because you fear God, for that s
neither Christian nor honest. And if you do
fight, fight it out ; and don t give in while you
can stand and see."
And don t give in while you can t ! say I.
For I could stand very little, and see not at all
(having pommelled the school-pump for the last
twenty seconds), when Conway retired from
the field. As Phil Adams stepped up to shake
hands with me, he received a telling blow in
the stomach ; for all the fight was not out of
me yet, and I mistook him for a new adversary.
Convinced of my error, I accepted his con
gratulations, with those of the other boys,
blandly and blindly. I remember that Binny
Wallace wanted to give me his silver pencil-
case. The gentle soul had stood throughout
the contest with his face turned to the fence,
suffering untold agony.
A good wash at the pump, and a cold key
applied to my eye, refreshed me amazingly.
Escorted by two or three of the schoolfellows,
I walked home through the pleasant autumn
twilight, battered but triumphant. As I went
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 117
along, my cap cocked on one side to keep the
chilly air from my eye, I felt that I was not
only following my nose, but following it so
closely, that I was in some danger of treading
on it. I seemed to have nose enough for the
whole party. My left cheek, also, was puffed
out like a dumpling. I could not help saying
to myself, " If this is victory, how about that
other fellow ? "
" Tom," said Harry Blake, hesitating.
" Well ? "
" Did you see Mr. Grimshaw looking out of
the recitation-room window just as we left the
yard ? "
" No ; was he, though ? "
" I am sure of it."
" Then he must have seen all the row."
" Should n t wonder."
" No, he did n t," broke in Adams, " or he
would have stopped it short metre ; but I
guess he saw you pitching into the pump
which you did uncommonly strong and of
course he smelt mischief directly."
" Well, it can t be helped now," I reflected.
" As the monkey said when he fell out of
the cocoanut-tree," added Charley Marden, try
ing to make me laugh.
It was early candle-light when we reached
the house. Miss Abigail, opening the front
n8 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
door, started back at my hilarious appearance.
I tried to smile upon her sweetly, but the smile
rippling over my swollen cheek, and dying
away like a spent wave on my nose, produced
an expression of which Miss Abigail declared
she had never seen the like excepting on the
face of a Chinese idol.
She hustled me unceremoniously into the
presence of my grandfather in the sitting-
room. Captain Nutter, as the recognized pro
fessional warrior of our family, could not con
sistently take me to task for fighting Conway ;
nor was he disposed to do so ; for the Captain
was well aware of the long-continued provoca
tion I had endured.
" Ah, you rascal ! " cried the old gentleman,
after hearing my story, "just like me when I
was young always in one kind of trouble or
another. I believe it runs in the family."
" I think," said Miss Abigail, without the
faintest expression on her countenance, " that
a tablespoonful of hot-dro "
The Captain interrupted Miss Abigail per
emptorily, directing her to make a shade out of
cardboard and black silk, to tie over my eye.
Miss Abigail must have been possessed with
the idea that I had taken up pugilism as a pro
fession, for she turned out no fewer than six
of these blinders.
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 119
"They ll be handy to have in the house,"
said Miss Abigail grimly.
Of course, so great a breach of discipline
was not to be passed over by Mr. Grimshaw.
He had, as we suspected, witnessed the closing
scene of the fight from the schoolroom win
dow, and the next morning, after prayers, I
was not wholly unprepared when Master Con-
way and myself were called up to the desk for
examination. Conway, with a piece of court-
plaster in the shape of a Maltese cross on his
right cheek, and I with the silk patch over my
left eye, caused a general titter through the
" Silence ! " said Mr. Grimshaw sharply.
As the reader is already familiar with the
leading points in the case of Bailey versus
Conway, I shall not report the trial further
than to say that Adams, Marden, and several
other pupils testified to the fact that Conway
had imposed on me ever since my first day at
the Temple Grammar School. Their evidence
also went to show that Conway was a quarrel
some character generally. Bad for Conway.
Seth Rodgers, on the part of his friend, proved
that I had struck the first blow. That was
bad for me.
" If you please, sir," said Binny Wallace,
holding up his hand for permission to speak,
120 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
" Bailey did n t fight on his own account ; he
fought on my account, and, if you please, sir, I
am the boy to be blamed, for I was the cause
of the trouble."
This drew out the story of Conway s harsh
treatment of the smaller boys. As Binny re
lated the wrongs of his playfellows, saying very
little of his own grievances, I noticed that Mr.
Grimshaw s hand, unknown to himself perhaps,
rested lightly from time to time on Wallace s
sunny hair. The examination finished, Mr.
Grimshaw leaned on the desk thoughtfully for
a moment, and then said
" Every boy in this school knows that it is
against the rules to fight. If one boy maltreats
another, within school-bounds, or within school-
hours, that is a matter for me to settle. The
case should be laid before me. I disapprove of
tale-bearing, I never encourage it in the slight
est degree ; but when one pupil systematically
persecutes a schoolmate, it is the duty of some
head-boy to inform me. No pupil has a right
to take the law into his own hands. If there
is any fighting to be done, I am the person to
be consulted. I disapprove of boys fighting ;
it is unnecessary and unchristian. In the pre
sent instance, I consider every large boy in
this school at fault ; but as the offence is one
of omission rather than commission, my pun-
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 121
ishment must rest only on the two boys con
victed of misdemeanor. Conway loses his re
cess for a month, and Bailey has a page added
to his Latin lessons for the next four recita
tions. I now request Bailey and Conway to
shake hands in the presence of the school,
and acknowledge their regret at what has oc
Conway and I approached each other slowly
and cautiously, as if we were bent upon another
hostile collision. We clasped hands in the
tamest manner imaginable, and Conway mum
bled, " I m sorry I fought with you."
"I think you are," I replied dryly, "and I m
sorry I had to thrash you."
"You can go to your seats," said Mr. Grim-
shaw, turning his face aside to hide a smile. I
am sure my apology was a very good one.
I never had any more trouble with Conway.
He and his shadow, Seth Rodgers, gave me a
wide berth for many months. Nor was Binny
Wallace subjected to further molestation. Miss
Abigail s sanitary stores, including a bottle of
opodeldoc, were never called into requisition.
The six black silk patches, with their elastic
strings, are still dangling from a beam in the
garret of the Nutter House, waiting for me to
get into fresh difficulties.
ALL ABOUT GYPSY
THIS record of my life at Rivermouth would
be strangely incomplete did I not devote an
entire chapter to Gypsy. I had other pets, of
course ; for what healthy boy could long exist
without numerous friends in the animal king
dom ? I had two white mice that were for
ever gnawing their way out of a pasteboard
chateau, and crawling over my face when I lay
asleep. I used to keep the pink-eyed little beg
gars in my bedroom, greatly to the annoyance
of Miss Abigail, who was constantly fancying
that one of the mice had secreted itself some
where about her person.
I also owned a dog, a terrier, who managed
in some inscrutable way to pick a quarrel with
the moon, and on bright nights kept up such
a ki-yi-ing in our back garden that we were
finally forced to dispose of him at private sale.
He was purchased by Mr. Oxford, the butcher.
I protested against the arrangement, and ever
afterwards, when we had sausages from Mr.
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 123
Oxford s shop, I made believe I detected in
them certain evidences that Cato had been
foully dealt with.
Of birds I had no end robins, purple-mar
tins, wrens, bulfmches, bobolinks, ring-doves,
and pigeons. At one time I took solid comfort
in the iniquitous society of a dissipated old par
rot, who talked so terribly that the Rev. Wibird
Hawkins, happening to get a sample of Poll s
vituperative powers, pronounced him " a be
nighted heathen," and advised the Captain to
get rid of him. A brace of turtles supplanted
the parrot in my affections ; the turtles gave
way to rabbits ; and the rabbits in turn yielded
to the superior charms of a small monkey,
which the Captain bought of a sailor lately from
the coast of Africa.
But Gypsy was the prime favorite, in spite of
many rivals. I never grew weary of her. She
was the most knowing little thing in the world.
Her proper sphere in life and the one to
which she ultimately attained was the saw
dust arena of a travelling circus. There was
nothing short of the three R s, reading, riting,
and rithmetic, that Gypsy could not be taught.
The gift of speech was not hers, but the faculty
of thought was.
My little friend, to be sure, was not exempt
from certain graceful weaknesses, inseparable,
124 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
perhaps, from the female character. She was
very pretty, and she knew it. She was also
passionately fond of dress by which I mean
her best harness. When she had this on, her
curvettings and prancings were laughable,
though in ordinary tackle she went along de
murely enough. There was something in the
enamelled leather and the silver-washed mount
ings that chimed with her artistic sense. To
have her mane braided, and a rose or a pansy
stuck into her forelock, was to make her too
conceited for anything.
She had another trait not rare among her
sex. She liked the attentions of young gentle
men, while the society of girls bored her. She
would drag them, sulkily, in the cart ; but as
for permitting one of them in the saddle, the
idea was preposterous. Once when Pepper
Whitcomb s sister, in spite of our remon
strances, ventured to mount her, Gypsy gave
a little indignant neigh, and tossed the gentle
Emma heels over head in no time. But with
any of the boys the mare was as docile as a
Her treatment of the several members of the
family was comical. For the Captain she en
tertained a wholesome respect, and was always
on her good behavior when he was around. As
to Miss Abigail, Gypsy simply laughed at her
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 125
literally laughed, contracting her upper lip
and displaying all her snow-white teeth, as if
something about Miss Abigail struck her,
Gypsy, as being extremely ridiculous.
Kitty Collins, for one reason or another,