Albert Bigelow Paine.

Peanut; the story of a boy online

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perhaps more
easily to identify the
clearing about
grave. From
ravine below,
the stage

, ^y were

visible, But>the
uTT^-^nch headboard,
weather-beaten by a
year of^un and rain,



was getting lost in a growth of bushes.
When pointed out by the driver as
marking the "last hangout of Blazer
Sam," who had "died with his boots
on, and had two cuss-words in his epi-
taph," it could be discerned now with
difficulty and there were travelers,
men mostly, who prevailed upon the
somewhat garrulous official to "let
the horses blow a little while they
scaled the mountain for a closer view.
The epitaph itself was worth the

A few of those who had made the
steep ascent for that literary treat,
and to pay their respects to the grave
of the notorious desperado, highway-
man, and general outlaw, had seen
something dart away into the bushes
at their approach. As a rule, they
had been too far off to tell whether



it was a coyote, a jack-rabbit, or a
boy. Those who had obtained the
closer view usually agreed that it was
a boy a very thin boy of about ten,
with pale hair and no head-covering.
The stage-driver in due time ac-
quired information. Those who had
said it was a boy were correct.
When Blazer Sam had made his final
exit in the abrupt manner noted,
and so taken his boots with him, he
had left behind the Rose of Texas,
acquired long before in a poker game,
and a little waif known as Peanut,
picked up like a stray kitten during
one of the Blazer's devious wander-
ings. The name Peanut might have
come from the color of his hair, or
from his small size and value. The
driver did not know. He had heard
that the boy had been kindly treated


by both the Blazer and the Rose,
and with the latter still occupied
Sam's little hut in the woods above
the clearing. The waif probably came
out into the opening to see the stage
pass. Then again he might be "kind-
er lonesome for Sam."

The driver was right in at least one
of these conjectures. Peanut was in-
deed "lonesome for Sam." He could
remember very little preceding the
day six years before when Sam had
brought him home to be company for
the Rose, during absences that had
grown ever more prolonged as the
years passed and the outlaw's field of
labor had been found farther and yet
farther away from his cabin on the
hillside. What Peanut did remember
was that he never had been hungry
since that day. Also, the times when


Sam had come home. For whatever
had been the source of Sam's gains,
he had provided well for the Rose;
and if, as was said, the hand of every
man was against him and his hand
against every man you could not have
guessed it to see the small, lean hand
of Peanut locked closely in his own,
and the two wandering over the moun-
tain together in those days that were
now no more and would never more
return. There remained to Peanut
only their memory and the barren
comfort of a grave and an epitaph.

Yet these were much to the lonely
child. When he had pushed through
the bushes to the grave he felt close
to Sam, while the vigor of the epitaph,
which he could read, because this
much the Rose had taught him, was
somehow satisfying. The last line af-


forded him special comfort. It as-
sured him that no one would ever
dare to take Sam away.

It did not occur to him that there
was anything objectionable in the
lines. He did not know that epitaphs
are not so true, as a rule; while as for
the emphasis, it was of the sort he knew
best. That he did not use those
words himself was only for the same
reason that he did not chew tobacco
yet, or drink whisky. He had been
assured by the Rose that these luxu-
ries were not for little boys, and he had
been willing to wait. He was glad,
however, that Sam, who had indulged
liberally in the good things of life,
could still have the best on his tomb-

Portions of the inscription puzzled
him. He did not know that there



had been a price on the outlaw's head,
and he wondered why the "greaser,"
referred to in line three, should want
to kill Sam. Neither did he realize
that line two doubtless alluded to
the Blazer's slight valuation of life in
general, rather than to any disregard
of his own particular existence. Pea-
nut failed to understand why it was
that Sam had not cared for life when
by living he could come home now and
then and show him the trout brook,
and make whistles for him, and visit
the eagle's nest in the cliff. Why,
once they had even found a cave, and
in it a shot and dying mother bear,
with two little bears, that were now
big bears and still came to the cabin
to be fed. When it rained they had
sometimes run for this cave, to build
a fire at the mouth of it and to lie

2 7


there and watch the blaze and talk
and play with the bears until the rain
was over. What was the reason, then,
that Sam had not cared to live and
have all these things when he, Peanut,
had cared for them so much?

He cared for them still. He could
find his way to the brook and the ea-
gle's nest, and to the cave where the
bears were always glad to see him,
especially when he brought food. The
innumerable squirrels and birds and
other wood-folk were his own; yet
from them all he turned each day
to Sam's grave, there to live over
again those other days when Sam had
taught him the lore and kinship of the
mountains, and when, hand in hand,
they had pushed through vines and
leaves to visit the forest people to-



Often when it was bright and warm
he stayed by the grave most of the
day, and sometimes, with his face
down in the grass, he would talk to
Sam. When it stormed he crept un-
der the bushes and felt a deep com-
miseration for the lonely mound with
the rain pelting down upon it. There
had been times in winter, when the
snow was deepest, that he could not
go at all. On these days he moped
in the house with the Rose, who
since Sam's death had supplied their
meager wants by doing mending and
an occasional washing for the mining-
camp below. She had grown rather
fat and silent and spent most of her
days playing solitaire and telling her
own fortune with a greasy pack of
cards, which diversions did not appeal
to Peanut.



But in supposing that Peanut had
come out into the clearing to see the
stage pass, the driver had been wholly
wrong. Sam had never cared for the
stage or for people. In fact, he had
rather avoided those things, Peanut
thought, and he knew Sam always
had good reasons for what he did.
When the boy saw strangers climbing
the steep hill to visit the grave he fled
hastily into the bushes, where, lying
hid, he watched to see that they did
not carry anything away save perhaps
an occasional walking-stick or a hand-
ful of goldenrod. When they laughed
and talked loudly he was fiercely
angry, and thought he understood
why it was that Sam had preferred
the society of the quiet wood-folk.

With those of his own age Peanut

had had but one experience. Twice


i >

the Rose had prevailed upon him to
go with her to the mining-camp, and
on the last of these occasions a boy
the only one in the camp had de-
frauded him of his best whistle and
of such other valuables as had been
upon his person at the time. He had
received in exchange some yellow ore,
which the boy had insisted was gold,
but which the Rose declared to be
slag, and worthless. It was his first
experience with deception.

Peanut had refused to go to the
camp again.


ONE day in late August the stage
stopped to let a woman climb
the hill. Women visited the grave
now and then, and Miss Cynthia
Schofield, age thirty -four, a teacher in
a Chicago public institution of learn-
ing, was just the one to improve such
an opportunity. For Miss Schofield
was progressive in the matter of
acquiring knowledge. She spent each
summer in some elemental region, of
which she made numerous photo-
graphs and notes. These she used
later in certain illustrated evening lec-
tures called " In-gatherings," given by


Miss Schofield for the benefit of per-
sons with fewer opportunities; also
for the purpose of adding a trifle to
her own modest income. She was
"doing the mines" this year, and her
present destination was the camp, two
miles farther down. The desperado's
grave and history would make a pic-
turesque addition to her collection.

The climb was harder than it ap-
peared from below. Being the only
passenger, the driver had told her to
take her time, and more than once
she leaned against a boulder to look
down into the dark ravine made
famous by some of Blazer's earlier
exploits. She recognized the artistic
value of the fact that his last resting-
place overlooked the scene of his for-
mer depredations. She must cer-
tainly bring this out well in her



lecture, and as she toiled upward
she was forming in her mind certain
phrases, with a view to this result.
Then she pushed gently between two
small cedars into the opening where
the grave was.

At first glance she saw only some
bushes and fireweed about the black-
ened stumps, and the riotous mass of
goldenrod which possessed one corner
of the little clearing. Then just by
the goldenrod she saw the grave, and
paused, for, face down upon it, asleep,
lay a meager barefoot boy with faded

Miss Schofield was, first of all, the
artist. She had anticipated nothing
so rich in value as this, and with deft
hands she adjusted the camera and
secured the range. There came a
sharp click, and the outlaw's grave,



the goldenrod, the fireweed, the black
stumps, and the faded sleeping boy
had been added to her store of choice

There had been still another result.
The snap of the shutter had brought
the light figure to its feet, like some
spry wood creature as suddenly dis-
turbed. An instant more and he
would have darted away into the
bushes; only, Miss Schofield spoke just
then, and with persuasiveness the re-
sult of long pedagogical training.

"Don't go! Oh, please don't!" she
pleaded, gently. "Please wait. ;.'?!?
want so much to speak to you."

Peanut had no particular reason for
being afraid of women. The only one
he had studied at close range had been
kind to him to the point of indulgence.
There was something in the voice of



this one that held him fast. The wom-
an came a step closer. She seemed
young and beautiful to Peanut.

"Please tell me your name," she


"Oh, that is what they call you,
perhaps. Your real name, I mean."

The boy made no reply at first to
this comment. He seemed gathering
something from the mists of mem-

"Sam told me that it used to be
longer than that," he ventured at last,
very slowly. "He told me once that
it was Philip Nutt, but he said P.
was the same as Philip, and that
he thought Peanut fit me bet-

Panic seemed about to return, as
the result of this long speech, and



once more it required the soothing
diplomacy of Miss Schofield to de-
tain him.

"How very nice," she said. "And
now won't you please tell me where
you live, and about Sam and the

Again Peanut hesitated. Then he
pointed behind him.

"I live up there; and Sam, he
why he's in the grave, and dam the
man that moves his bones."

Miss Schofield had been unprepared
for this. Her emotion, however, was
mistaken by Peanut for incredulity.
"I can show it to you on the board,"
he insisted, eagerly.

The woman came up close, now,
and followed where his wisp of a
finger pointed. As he indicated each
line, he repeated it with a sort of



monotonous tenderness, laying special
emphasis on the last.

"Here lies the body of Blazer Sam,
For life he didn't care a dam
He was plugged by a greaser unbeknowns,
And dam the man that moves his bones."

Miss Schofield's look of concern be-
came one of sympathetic understand-
ing. The waif turned to her.

:< You didn't want to take Sam
away, anyhow, did you?"

"Oh, no indeed! I don't want to
take any one away She hesitated
and looked down into the wistful face
before her. "At least, not Sam," she
qualified. "I have already taken a
picture of the grave and you shall
have one of them. Tell me, Philip,
whom you live with, so I shall know
how to send it."



The sound of his name thus spoken
may have awakened a sort of dignity
in the waif.

"I live with the Rose of Texas,"
he said, gravely. "Me an' Sam both
did, till Sam was plugged by a greaser
unbeknowns, and

Miss Schofield interrupted rather

"Never mind the next line, Philip.
I remember it. Just a moment

She had taken out her note-book
and was puzzling over the proper
entry. "Philip Nutt, alias Peanut,
Care of the Rose of Texas, former
housekeeper for Blazer Sam." It
seemed a doubtful combination to in-
trust to the mail service. Then her
face lighted with a sudden resolution.

"Show me just where you live,



The boy turned and pointed up the

"That big spruce grows by the
house. It's on the rocks behind it."

"I see, Philip. I can find it easily.
I must be going now, for the stage is
waiting, but I shall stop a day or
two at the mines below here. I will
come to-morrow and learn just how
to send the picture. Good -by till
then, Philip."

She took his thin brown hand in her
own soft palm. The mother instinct
welled up strong. She hungered to
gather him to her breast, but he was
already drawing back rather fearful-
ly. A step away she turned to wave
another good-by.

Peanut had disappeared among the


THE Rose of Texas sat in the open
door of her cabin. The Rose
might have been beautiful once it is
proper to give any woman past middle
age the benefit of this possibility and
there may have been a time when the
Rose had deserved her name and been
fully equal in value to the Colt .44,
three ponies, and five hundred dollars
in gold which Sam had stacked up
against her, and so, with the aid of
three other knaves, attached her to
his household. On a stone a few feet
distant sat Peanut, in deep reverie.

The Rose was first to break the silence.


"I reckon it's the best thing for
you, Peanut," she said, and there was
a sort of resolute hopelessness in her
voice. "It '11 be mighty lonesome, of
course, without you, but when you
get so you can write you can send
me a letter now and then. I guess
I can read 'em. I ain't tried any for
a good while, but if you make 'em
plain, mebbe I can spell 'em out. It's
a good chance, Peanut, an' I don't
s'pose you'd ever get another. Then
you'll learn figgerin', too."

"What's that, Rose? What's fig-

"Why, it's like writin', only it's
countin', on paper. It's to keep folks
from cheatin' you, in a trade."

Peanut recalled his experience with
the boy at the mines. The boy prob-
ably knew about figgerin'.



How long does it take to learn

jerin', Rose?"

"Oh, I dun'no'. Mebbe a year."

"Then can I come back to you an'
the bears, an' Sam's grave?"

: 'You won't want to. You'll be
learnin' other things an' seein' new
places an' fine folks. You won't
want to come back to the hills, even if
you could. But you can write, an'
you'll have a picter of Sam's grave,
like the kind she showed us to-day.
She seems like she'd be mighty good
to you, an' I reckon you'll have to go,

"But I'm comin' back, Rose, when
I've learnt figgerin' an' seen all the
places. I'm comin' back to locate a
mine an' make money for us. You
can't stay here always alone. An'
our bears would forgit me if I was

3 23


gone too long. You'll feed 'em jest
the same, won't you, Rose, when I
ain't here?"

The woman's voice broke a little
as she assured him that the big brown
bears that lumbered down the moun-
tain every day for refuse should still
be cared for in his absence.

"She's comin' in the mornin'," the
Rose continued, "an' if yer goin', you
want to be ready. Put on yer winter
shoes an' yer hat an' yer other shirt.
'Tain't much of a outfit, but it's
more'n you come with, an' she's goin'
to pervide fur you. I've got a little
scrap o' money, though, Peanut, an'
I want you to take it along. You
ain't to spend it unless somethin'
happens an' she ain't there. She'll
pervide when she is. Jest keep it so
you know where it is. If you ever



get lost, er need anything when she
ain't at home, then use it, but keep
it as long as you can."

The woman's hand had gone down
to the hem of her skirt and under her
knee. It came up holding a small
roll of currency.

"There's ten dollars here, Peanut;
it won't buy much, but it would go a
long ways if you was lost and hungry.
Keep it in the little sack, with Sam's
ambertype an' the last whistle he
made you, an' don't let the sack out
o' yer hands."

The boy took the money curiously.
He had never possessed any before.
He opened the bills and looked first
at one, then at the other. He went
into the cabin presently and deposited
them in a small buckskin bag which
Sam had given him for his treasures.



When Miss Schofield appeared next
morning he was sitting stiffly in his
winter shoes and hat, his wet, faded
hair plastered close, the little bag con-
cealed about his neck. He was quite

The Rose was wiping her eyes as
she saw them pass down the mountain
in the direction of Sam's grave. She
was wondering what she was going
to do without Peanut. She did not
realize that perhaps Cynthia Scho-
field was wondering equally what she
was going to do with him what was
to be the outcome of the philanthrop-
ic impulse and heart hunger that had
led her into taking the pathetic little
creature by her side, away from his
beloved hills, to begin a new develop-
ment in a strange atmosphere and
amid alien surroundings.



But if Miss Schofield had any mis-
givings as to the wisdom of her under-
taking, she was upheld by the thought
that her purpose was altogether right-
eous, and would be justified by results.
The fact that as they passed Sam's
grave Peanut flung himself upon it
and wept, and refused to be comforted,
only strengthened her belief that he
would one day glorify her for having
removed him from the influence of
former companionships.


JT having developed that at some
former period Blazer Sam had
been known by the surname Hopkins,
Miss Schofield had agreed with the
Rose that the latter should receive
her mail under the very respectable
superscription of Mrs. Rose Hopkins,
and at the camp post j office arrange-
ments had been made to this end.
Miss Schofield had further agreed to
write. Also that Peanut should write
as soon as he was able to do so.

If the Rose went oftener to the
camp now, and, bringing home heavier
bundles, filled longer days with harder


work, it may have been only that she
was providing for an old age that could
not be far distant, or very luxurious
at best.

If the mail service possessed a new
attraction for her, she did not show it.
Her years of lonely secretive life had
been not without their effect. She
made no inquiries for letters, and
seemed rather surprised when one
day in September the storekeeper,
who was also postmaster, laid a sealed
envelope with her package of coffee
on the counter.

Both the address and the letter
were printed type-written. The
Rose did not understand this process,
and was deeply grateful to Miss Scho-
field for taking extra pains to make
the reading easy. It was not a long
letter, telling only of her safe arrival


in Chicago with Philip, and the fact
that he was already at school, where
he would learn very fast. Her friends
thought a great deal of her "little
mountain boy," but she was trying not
to let them spoil him. She wished to
keep his nature as fresh and beautiful
as the mountains themselves, adding
only such education as would make
him understand the higher life, and
such knowledge of the world as would
fit him to take his part in it by and
by. Philip had sent greetings to
"Rose and the bears." He would
write before long, himself. He could
already shape the letters, and was at
his work constantly. If the Rose
needed anything, she was of course to
let Miss Schofield know. Meantime,
she remained, etc., etc.

On the whole it was a satisfactory


missive. Peanut was safe and remem-
bered her. He was learning to write,
and would send, by and by, letters of
his own. To the Rose of Texas the
type-written sheet containing these
assurances became of more value than
all her former possessions. She pinned
it against the cabin wall where she
could see it and pause before it as she
passed in her work.

Only, in one sentence of the let-
ter there was a pang. She had
called him her "little mountain boy."
The Rose wondered vaguely if this
meant that she herself had surren-
dered all claim. The sentence about
the "higher life" rather pleased her.
She took it to mean a more preten-
tious mode of Hying. If Peanut
should visit her by and by he would
probably come in a buggy, wearing a



high hat such as she had seen on rich
mine speculators. She resolved to
make an effort herself to live up to
this higher life and so preserve
something of her claim on Pea-

She recalled a tradition that women
of the higher life did not drink
whisky at least not regularly. She
would give up her toddies by de-
grees, of course but in time enough
to do without them almost altogether
when Peanut arrived. In the matter
of clothes, she had noticed that those
worn by Miss Schofield had been
quite plain, not at all like her own
gaudy finery of former years. She
would get some very plain clothes,
gradually, as she could earn the
money, and have them ready for
Peanut's return. She would also piece


together the remnants of her meager

She obtained at once such literature
as could be had at the camp, and
patiently pored over a government
survey, and a mutilated primary
arithmetic contributed by one of her
patrons. A line to Miss Schofield
would have brought her quantities of
educational matter, but this fact did
not occur to her. Indeed, the possi-
bility of ever writing at all did not
enter into her dreams.

In October came the first letter
from Peanut:

DER ROSE, The house-es are hi
as hils and thair is nois al the tim.


The writing was very round and
plain. It seemed marvelous to the


Rose that he could do it already.
He would reach the higher life sooner
than she had thought. She would
leave out her "between" toddies to-

A week later brought still another
letter. Already there was improve-

DEAR ROSE, Thare are no hills
here. I luk at my pic-cher of Sams
grav ev-ry day. I am lern-ing fig-
grin, they call it num-ber work.


After that, letters came almost
every week, and became the chief life
interest of the lonely woman above
the clearing. She pinned them side
by side to the wall of her cabin, that
she might read them without the wear
of handling. She learned each by



heart as it came, but this in no way
destroyed the joy of after - perusal.
She compared the writing, too, and
his rapid improvement gratified her
and spurred her to vigorous new

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Online LibraryAlbert Bigelow PainePeanut; the story of a boy → online text (page 1 of 3)