The City Urchin and the Chaste Villagers

    AFTER the brief encounters between the Hedge boy and Jimmie Trescott and the Hedge boy and Willie Dalzel, the neighborhood which contained the homes of the boys was, as far as child life is concerned, in a state resembling

anarchy. This was owing to the signal overthrow and shameful retreat of the

boy who had for several years led a certain little clan by the nose. The

adherence of the little community did not go necessarily to the boy who

could whip all the others, but it certainly could not go to a boy who had

run away in a manner that made his shame patent to the whole world. Willie

Dalzel found himself in a painful position. This tiny tribe which had

followed him with such unwavering faith was now largely engaged in whistling and catcalling and hooting. He chased a number of them into the sanctity of their own yards, but from these coigns they continued to ridicule him.

   But it must not be supposed that the fickle tribe went over in a body to

the new light. They did nothing of the sort. They occupied themselves with

avenging all which they had endured -- gladly enough, too -- for many

months. As for the Hedge boy, he maintained a curious timid reserve, minding his own business with extreme care, and going to school with that deadly punctuality of which his mother was the genius. Jimmie Trescott suffered no adverse criticism from his fellows. He was entitled to be beaten by a boy who had made Willie Dalzel bellow like a bull-calf and run away. Indeed, he received some honors. He had confronted a very superior boy and received a bang in the eye which for a time was the wonder of the children, and he had not bellowed like a bull-calf. As a matter of fact, he was often invited to tell how it had felt, and this he did with some pride, claiming

arrogantly that he had been superior to any particular pain.

   Early in the episode he and the Hedge boy had patched up a treaty. Living

next door to each other, they could not fail to have each other often in

sight. One afternoon they wandered together in the strange indefinite

diplomacy of boyhood. As they drew close the new boy suddenly said,


   "Yes," said Jimmie, and the new boy bestowed upon him an apple. It was

one of those green-coated winter-apples which lie for many months in safe

and dry places, and can at any time be brought forth for the persecution of

the unwary and inexperienced. An older age would have fled from this apple,

but to the unguided youth of Jimmie Trescott it was a thing to be possessed

and cherished. Wherefore this apple was the emblem of something more than a

truce, despite the fact that it tasted like wet Indian meal; and Jimmie

looked at the Hedge boy out of one good eye and one bunged eye. The

long-drawn animosities of men have no place in the life of a boy. The boy's

mind is flexible; he readjusts his position with an ease which is derived

from the fact -- simply -- that he is not yet a man.

   But there were other and more important matters. Johnnie Hedge's exploits

had brought him into such prominence among the schoolboys that it was

necessary to settle a number of points once and for all. There was the usual

number of boys in the school who were popularly known to be champions in

their various classes. Among these Johnnie Hedge now had to thread his way,

every boy taking it upon himself to feel anxious that Johnnie's exact

position should be soon established. His fame as a fighter had gone forth to

the world, but there were other boys who had fame as fighters, and the world

was extremely anxious to know where to place the new-comer. Various heroes

were urged to attempt this classification. Usually it is not accounted a

matter of supreme importance, but in this boy life it was essential.

   In all cases the heroes were backward enough. It was their followings who

agitated the question. And so Johnnie Hedge was more or less beset.

   He maintained his bashfulness. He backed away from altercation. It was

plain that to bring matters to a point he must be forced into a quarrel. It

was also plain that the proper person for the business was some boy who

could whip Willie Dalzel, and these formidable warriors were distinctly

averse to undertaking the new contract. It is a kind of a law in boy life

that a quiet, decent, peace-loving lad is able to thrash a wide-mouthed

talker. And so it had transpired that by a peculiar system of elimination

most of the real chiefs were quiet, decent, peace-loving boys, and they had

no desire to engage in a fight with a boy on the sole grounds that it was

not known who could whip. Johnnie Hedge attended his affairs, they attended their affairs, and around them waged this discussion of relative merit. Jimmie Trescott took a prominent part in these arguments. He contended that Johnnie Hedge could thrash any boy in the world. He was certain of it, and to any one who opposed him he said, "You just get one of those smashes in the eye, and then you'll see." In the mean time there was a grand and impressive silence in the direction of Willie Dalzel. He had gathered remnants of his clan, but the main parts of his sovereignty were scattered to the winds. He was an enemy.

   Owing to the circumspect behavior of the new boy, the commotions on the

school grounds came to nothing. He was often asked, "Kin you lick him?" And he invariably replied, "I dun'no'." This idea of waging battle with the

entire world appalled him.

   A war for complete supremacy of the tribe which had been headed by Willie

Dalzel was fought out in the country of the tribe. It came to pass that a

certain half-dime blood-and-thunder pamphlet had a great vogue in the tribe

at this particular time. This story relates the experience of a lad who

began his career as cabin boy on a pirate ship. Throughout the first fifteen

chapters he was rope's-ended from one end of the ship to the other end, and

very often he was felled to the deck by a heavy fist. He lived through

enough hardships to have killed a battalion of Turkish soldiers, but in the

end he rose upon them. Yes, he rose upon them. Hordes of pirates fell before

his intrepid arm, and in the last chapters of the book he is seen jauntily

careering on his own hook as one of the most gallous pirate captains that

ever sailed the seas.

   Naturally, when this tale was thoroughly understood by the tribe, they

had to dramatize it, although it was a dramatization that would gain no

royalties for the author. Now it was plain that the urchin who was cast for

the cabin-boy's part would lead a life throughout the first fifteen chapters

which would attract few actors. Willie Dalzel developed a scheme by which

some small lad would play cabin boy during this period of misfortune and abuse, and then, when the cabin boy came to the part where he slew all his enemies and reached his zenith, that he, Willie Dalzel, should take the part.

   This fugitive and disconnected rendering of a great play opened in Jimmie

Trescott's back garden. The path between the two lines of gooseberry bushes

was elected unanimously to be the ship. Then Willie Dalzel insisted that

Homer Phelps should be the cabin-boy. Homer tried the position for a time,

and then elected that he would resign in favor of some other victim. There

was no other applicant to succeed him, whereupon it became necessary to

press some boy. Jimmie Trescott was a great actor, as is well known, but he

steadfastly refused to engage for the part. Ultimately they seized upon

little Dan Earl, whose disposition was so milky and docile that he would do

whatever anybody asked of him. But Dan Earl made the one firm revolt of his

life after trying existence as cabin-boy for some ten minutes. Willie Dalzel

was in despair. Then he suddenly sighted the little brother of Johnnie

Hedge, who had come into the garden, and in a poor little stranger sort of

fashion was looking wistfully at the play. When he was invited to become the

cabin boy he accepted joyfully, thinking that it was his initiation into the

tribe. Then they proceeded to give him the rope's end and to punch him with

a realism which was not altogether painless. Directly he began to cry out.

They exhorted him not to cry out, not to mind it, but still they continued

to hurt him.

   There was a commotion among the gooseberry bushes, two branches were

swept aside, and Johnnie Hedge walked down upon them. Every boy stopped in his tracks. Johnnie was boiling with rage.

   "Who hurt him?" he said, ferociously.

"Did you?" He had looked at Willie Dalzel.

   Willie Dalzel began to mumble: "We was on'y playin'. Wasn't nothin' fer

him to cry fer."

   The new boy had at his command some big phrases, and he used them. "I am goin' to whip you within an inch of your life. I am goin' to tan the hide

off'n you." And immediately there was a mixture -- an infusion of two boys

which looked as if it had been done by a chemist. The other children stood

back, stricken with horror. But out of this whirl they presently perceived

the figure of Willie Dalzel seated upon the chest of the Hedge boy.

   "Got enough?" asked Willie, hoarsely.

   "No," choked out the Hedge boy. Then there was another flapping and

floundering, and finally another calm.

   "Got enough?" asked Willie.

   "No," said the Hedge boy. A sort of war-cloud again puzzled the sight of

the observers. Both combatants were breathless, bloodless in their faces,

and very weak.

   "Got enough?" said Willie.

   "No," said the Hedge boy. The carnage was again renewed. All the

spectators were silent but Johnnie Hedge's little brother, who shrilly

exhorted him to continue the struggle. But it was not plain that the Hedge

boy needed any encouragement, for he was crying bitterly, and it has been

explained that when a boy cried it was a bad time to hope for peace. He had

managed to wriggle over upon his hands and knees. But Willie Dalzel was

tenaciously gripping him from the back, and it seemed that his strength

would spend itself in futility. The bear cub seemed to have the advantage of

the working model of the windmill. They heaved, uttered strange words, wept, and the sun looked down upon them with steady, unwinking eye.

   Peter Washington came out of the stable and observed this tragedy of the

back garden. He stood transfixed for a moment, and then ran towards it,

shouting: "Hi! What's all dish yere? Hi! Stopper dat, stopper dat, you two!

For lan' sake, what's all dish yere?" He grabbed the struggling boys and

pulled them apart. He was stormy and fine in his indignation. "For lan'

sake! You two kids act like you gwine mad dogs. Stopper dat!" The whitened,

tearful, soiled combatants, their clothing all awry, glared fiercely at each

other as Peter stood between them, lecturing. They made several futile

attempts to circumvent him and again come to battle. As he fended them off

with his open hands he delivered his reproaches at Jimmie. "I's s'prised at

you! I suhtainly is!"

   "Why?" said Jimmie. "I 'ain't done nothin'. What have I done?"

   "Y-y-you done 'courage dese yere kids to scrap," said Peter, virtuously.

   "Me?" cried Jimmie. "I 'ain't had nothin' to do with it."

   "I raikon you 'ain't," retorted Peter, with heavy sarcasm. "I raikon you

been er-prayin', 'ain't you?" Turning to Willie Dalzel, he said, "You jest

take an' run erlong outer dish yere or I'll jest nachually take an'

damnearkill you." Willie Dalzel went. To the new boy Peter said: "You look

like you had some saince, but I raikon you don't know no more'n er rabbit.

You jest take an' trot erlong off home, an' don' lemme caitch you round yere

er-fightin' or I'll break yer back." The Hedge boy moved away with dignity,

followed by his little brother. The latter, when he had placed a sufficient

distance between himself and Peter, played his fingers at his nose and

called out:

   "Nig-ger-r-r! Nig-ger-r-r!"

   Peter Washington's resentment poured out upon Jimmie.

   "'Pears like you never would understan' you ain't reg'lar common trash.

You take an' 'sociate with an'body what done come erlong."

   "Aw, go on," retorted Jimmie, profanely. "Go soak your head, Pete."

   The remaining boys retired to the street, whereupon they perceived Willie

Dalzel in the distance. He ran to them.

   "I licked him! Didn't I, now?"

   From the Whilomville point of view he was entitled to a favorable answer.

They made it. "Yes," they said, "you did."

   "I run in," cried Willie, "an' I grabbed 'im, an' afore he knew what it

was I throwed 'im. An' then it was easy." He puffed out his chest and smiled

like an English recruiting-sergeant. "An' now," said he, suddenly facing

Jimmie Trescott, "whose side were you on?"

   The question was direct and startling. Jimmie gave back two paces. "He

licked you once," he explained, haltingly.

   "He never saw the day when he could lick one side of me. I could lick him

with my left hand tied behind me. Why, I could lick him when I was asleep."

Willie Dalzel was magnificent.

   A gate clicked, and Johnnie Hedge was seen to be strolling toward them.

   "You said," he remarked, coldly, "you licked me, didn't you?"

   Willie Dalzel stood his ground. "Yes," he said, stoutly.

   "Well, you're a liar," said the Hedge boy.

   "You're another," retorted Willie.

   "No, I ain't, either, but you're a liar."

   "You're another," retorted Willie.

   "Don't you dare tell me I'm a liar, or I'll smack your mouth for you,"

said the Hedge boy.

   "Well, I did, didn't I?" barked Willie. "An' whatche goin' to do about


   "I'm goin' to lam you," said the Hedge boy.

   He approached to attack warily, and the other boys held their breaths.

Willie Dalzel winced back a pace. "Hol' on a minute," he cried, raising his

palm. "I'm not -- "

   But the comic windmill was again in motion, and between gasps from his

exertions Johnnie Hedge remarked, "I'll show -- you whether -- you kin --

lick me -- or not."

   The first blows did not reach home on Willie, for he backed away with

expedition, keeping up his futile cry, "Hol' on a minute." Soon enough a

swinging fist landed on his cheek. It did not knock him down, but it hurt

him a little and frightened him a great deal. He suddenly opened his mouth

to an amazing and startling extent, tilted back his head, and howled, while

his eyes, glittering with tears, were fixed upon this scowling butcher of a

Johnnie Hedge. The latter was making slow and vicious circles, evidently

intending to renew the massacre.

   But the spectators really had been desolated and shocked by the terrible

thing which had happened to Willie Dalzel. They now cried out: "No, no;

don't hit 'im any more! Don't hit 'im any more!"

   Jimmie Trescott, in a panic of bravery, yelled, "We'll all jump on you if

you do."

   The Hedge boy paused, at bay. He breathed angrily, and flashed his glance

from lad to lad. They still protested: "No, no; don't hit 'im any more.

Don't hit 'im no more."

   "I'll hammer him until he can't stand up," said Johnnie, observing that

they all feared him. "I'll fix him so he won't know hisself, an' if any of

you kids bother with me -- "

   Suddenly he ceased, he trembled, he collapsed. The hand of one

approaching from behind had laid hold upon his ear, and it was the hand of

one whom he knew.

   The other lads heard a loud, iron-filing voice say, "Caught ye at it

again, ye brat, ye." They saw a dreadful woman with gray hair, with a sharp

red nose, with bare arms, with spectacles of such magnifying quality that

her eyes shone through them like two fierce white moons. She was Johnnie

Hedge's mother. Still holding Johnnie by the ear, she swung out swiftly and

dexterously, and succeeded in boxing the ears of two boys before the crowd

regained its presence of mind and stampeded. Yes, the war for supremacy was

over, and the question was never again disputed. The supreme power was Mrs. Hedge.