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MOTHERING ON PERILOUS
(KENTUCKY MOUNTAIN SKETCHES)
VI. THE TENDER PASSION
BY LUCY FURMAN
Author of "Stories of a Sanctified Town"
HE first boy whose acquaintance Miss Loring made at the Settlement School on Perilous was Philip Sidney Floyd. The day succeeding her arrival at the school she spent in bed, nursing bones. and bruises, the usual procedure after the two-days' wagon-trip across the mountains from the railroad, and Philip brought up a pitcher of water to her room. He was a handsome, engaging boy, with beautiful brown eyes. Upon inquiry, she learned that he was twelve and a half, that his paw had got his name out of a book, that his maw had died when he was a baby, and his paw when he was ten, that he had come from over on Wace, but had no home now except the school, where he had lived during the previous term, and had remained to work for "the women" during the summer. His name, his beauty,
his orphaned condition, all appealed, and Miss Loring cultivated his acquaintance during the days that followed. Later, when, at her own earnest request, she went over to live at the small boys' cottage, and became within a week the delighted mother of twelve, she had, and continued to have, the feeling that Philip was the first-born, though in reality Joab, Taulbee, and Absalom were all older than he.
There was a great deal in him to minister to maternal pride. The Floyds were one of the most prominent and intelligent families in the mountains, and Philip did not fail to carry out their traditions, being a natural leader, a principal in fights, a "chooser" in games, a fine scholar, and a prodigious worker. Young as he was, he had helped with the carpenter-work on
the new school-house that summer, and after school began he was actually permitted to make walnut furniture in the shop for the Big House, doing better work than most of the grown-up boys. Absorbed in these important pursuits, it is small wonder that he failed or scorned to cultivate minor virtues, such as cleanliness, courtesy, and the like, and that expectations, based on his name, of finding him a pattern of chivalry soon vanished in the light of common day. "The glass of fashion and the mould of form" he may be said to have been, in a sense, but in an undesirable sense. The revolts headed by him in those first few days against nightgowns, tooth-brushes, and similar innovations, were such as to try Miss Loring's soul. It is small wonder that the younger boys felt warranted in neglecting or omitting disagreeable rites, when at breakfast over at the Big House (fortunately Miss Loring and her boys had a table to themselves) this conversation could take place: "Philip, have you washed your face?" "Yes."
bath each boy must present himself in his clean nightgown at the sitting-room door, for inspection as to head and feet, neck and ears. Not that ears were expected to be really clean except once a week,-Sunday mornings,-when Miss Loring went the rounds herself, and made painful explorations into all the crannies.
On these occasions it seemed to her that Philip's ears were always in a worse condition than anybody's; and this, together with his generally soiled and unkempt appearance at all times, continued to be a blow to that pride in the first-born natural to all women. "Philip," she would say, with a groan, "you could be the handsomest boy on this place if you only would."
"Handsome never earnt his salt," he would reply contemptuously. "When a man steps in the door, looks flies up the chimley."
Her efforts to inculcate that courteous behavior which should bear some correspondence to his name also met with discouragement. Going to and from church, and during Sunday afternoon walks, for instance, Miss Loring insisted that her boys should remove their hats whenever they met a woman.
"What for?" demanded Philip.
"To show the respect you feel for all women and girls," she exclaimed.
"But I don't feel none," he replied candidly; "I hain't got no use for none of 'em. They never done nothing for me. I'd ruther take off my hat to a cow: I git something back from her." And to entreaties that he should say, "Yes, ma'am," and "No, ma'am," to herself and all other women, because it was more polite, he offered the objection: "Polite 's a lickspittle. I don't aim to be polite; I don't have to. I'm able to git what I
On Thursday night of that first week, when Miss Loring announced to the boys that regular baths must begin at once, and that four of them must make preparations to wash themselves all over immediately after study-hour, a shout of delight went up. "Whoopee! We git to go in the creek! Git to go in Perilous!" Every boy demanded to be one of the lucky four. When she explained that she did not mean for them to go in the creek, but to heat water in the big kettles out in the back yard, carry it to the tubs in the washhouse, and wash themselves thoroughly in there, howls of indignation succeeded. "Dad burn if I'll do it!" "I'll go home first!" "I hain't no woman!" "Creeks is for men!" And it was Philip who exclaimed cuttingly, "Nobody but quare women would wash in a house when there's a creek handy!”
After the discovery was made that the wash-house and a nude condition offered exceptional opportunities for wrestling and fighting undisturbed, objections to indoor bathing were withdrawn. The only trouble was that the bathing itself was apt to be lost sight of; and Miss Loring was compelled to make a rule that after his
want without it."
This last was only too true; he was not only able, but willing, to get what he wanted, by means fair or foul. The creed of the old robber-barons,
That they should take who have the power, And they should keep who can,
was accepted by all the boys, but more especially and enthusiastically by Philip. He would coolly snatch a corn-dodger from Keats, a drumstick from Jason, a biscuit from Hen, a sweet-potato from Nucky,
whenever his own supply ran out; and at other places his depredations were even worse. But what hurt Miss Loring most of all (for she really had a great tenderness for Philip) was one morning when little Iry Atkins's father had ridden over from Rakeshin and brought Iry a fine, yellow, mellow apple. He had generously offered to share it with Miss Loring, and, on her refusal, he was standing in the sitting-room door, eating it as frugally and lingeringly as possible, when Philip came along, snatched it out of his hand, bit off three fourths of it, and calmly handed back the fragment to "the pure scholar," who, howling dismally, yet had no redress. Miss Loring pounced upon the culprit.
"To think you could be guilty of such base conduct!" she exclaimed indignantly -"robbing a little boy who can't defend himself! And when you have plenty of shop-money laid by to get all the apples you want, and he has n't a cent! I should think you'd be everlastingly ashamed of yourself!"
"I was behind the door when shame passed by," replied the robber, flippantly.
"You certainly were," agreed Miss Loring, severely; "I would not have believed that a boy named Philip Sidney could possibly do such a deed." Then she told him the story of the great Sir Philip, mortally wounded at Zutphen, fevered and athirst, handing the cup of water to the dying soldier beside him, with the words, "Your need is greater than mine." "And that," she said, "is what your name requires you to live up to-helping and protecting, instead of robbing, those weaker than yourself."
Philip considered a moment. "I'll bet he never done it," he remarked. "No man 'd be such a fool. I bet it 's just a slander they made up on him."
"I'll give you ample time to think over that 'slander,'" said Miss Loring; "you shall lose six hours' playtime as punishment."
This took some of the wind out of Philip's sails. The children who lived in the Settlement School were kept very hard at work and study, getting only an hour and a half for play out of the twenty-four. Four days without play was a pretty severe sentence, and should have borne more noticeable fruits than it did.
one day, Philip ran over to the cottage, bringing a large watermelon he had just bought, the first of the season. The other eleven cottage boys followed him like the tail of a kite, their eyes fairly starting out with eagerness. But after laying open its pink juiciness to the gaze of all, on the back steps, he invited only Taulbee Bolling to share it with him. While the two gorged, the others stood sadly around, watching the luscious mouthfuls disappear. Miss Loring came along as the last went down, and as Geordie Yonts was bargaining for the rinds.
"Why did n't you divide with all of them?" she asked when she had called Philip into her room.
"Then there would n't have been a patching for nobody," he replied. "Why, I could have et it every grain myself, easy, and would, if Taulbee had n't 'a' gone pardners with me a-Monday on pawpaws, and last week on gingercakes. None of them others hain't never offered me bite nor sup of nothin'; nor never will, 'cause they hain't got nothin' to give."
"But can't you be generous? Can't you give without hope of getting?"
"Gee! no, by grab! Generous don't put no bread in my belly. I'm a-goin' to feed the boy that feeds me."
Even with Taulbee, who soon became his special friend and "pardner," give and take was carefully kept count of. One day in late October Miss Loring heard Philip say, as he held out a handful of chestnuts to Taulbee: "Don't take more 'n five. You 're owing me now. You hain't gone treat for allus!" Perfect candor was the sure, if rocky, foundation of their relationship.
Early in December, Philip had his thirteenth birthday, and the housekeeper herself made him the most gorgeous birthday cake any child had had during the term, with thirteen red candles burning on it, and peppermint candy, to match the candles, mashed up all through the icing, which was at least an inch thick. Every woman on the place had a tender spot in her heart for Philip, despite his indifference, and many were the loving wishes made for him as his candles were blown
That very night, over at the cottage, Hen came up from the wash-house for inEarly in September, at noon playtime spection after his bath, looking very clean
as to head and feet. As he was passing into the bedroom, however, Miss Loring called him back.
to Santa Claus for distribution, but Philip, minus collar, tie, or Sunday suit, with tousled hair and very dirty face, a soiled
"What is that dark band below your shirt, and "galluses" fastened by one nail. nightgown?" she asked.
"Nothing," he replied, stooping so that his gown would fall lower. She went over and lifted the hem of his gown to his knees, revealing the fact that the cleanness stopped half-way up, and that above that line his legs were more than dingy.
"Did n't you wash yourself all over?" she inquired.
"Not quite all."
"How much did you wash?"
"Down to my neck and half-way up my shins. That dag-gone ol' gown done shrunk up two or three inches sence the last time."
"But did n't I tell you you must wash yourself all over every single bath?" she inquired.
"That was before cold weather sot in. Philip he said down to your neck and up to your knees was enough in cold weather, and all he was aimin' to do; and that's all any of us boys been a-doing sence November come in."
"You hain't never washed as far up as your knees, son," corrected Keats, from superior heights. "You allus stop where your nightgown comes to. I told you she 'd ketch you if you done that."
Miss Loring summoned all the boys. Yes, it was true; nobody denied it, and Philip was shameless about his part in it. He lost four more days of playtime, while the other boys lost only two, in addition to being compelled, every one of them, to take a complete bath that very night, though it was already past bedtime, with Taulbee appointed monitor to see it well. done.
But the most publicly humiliating of Philip's performances came on Christmas eve, when, after children, teachers, and parents from miles around, all dressed in their best and breathless with eagerness, had waited in the school-chapel just as long as human nature could endure, the curtains were at last drawn back, revealing the glorious spruce, with its gleaming lights and glittering fruits, and stacks of presents banked around, and Santa Claus bowing and smiling in front. Who should appear on the rostrum in all the glare of the hundreds of candles, to hand the gifts
Miss Loring had a terrible feeling in the pit of her stomach, and could scarcely sit on the organ-stool for mortification.
During the holidays, all the boys except Jason went home or visiting. Although Philip had seventeen own uncles and six own aunts, all most hospitably inclined, he chose to spend most of his time with a boy friend, Dewey Lovel, over near his old home on Wace. Soon after his return to the school, he began to scratch in the most persistent and annoying manner. During study-hour in the evenings, especially, his behavior would be most trying to Miss Loring. After being reprimanded several times one night, he came later into Miss Loring's room, clawing viciously at his ankles. "I've sure got the eech," he announced. "Gimme something for it." "Got what?" she asked.
"The eech. I knowed I'd ketch it when I seed Dewey a-pawin' round so them nights I slep' with him."
"Heavens!" she exclaimed, "do you mean the itch ?"
"No, I mean the eech; the seven-year eech I reckon this here is, by the way it feels."
"I'm sure I have no idea what to do for such a disease as the itch," she said helplessly.
Philip danced on one foot, clawing his arms now. "Itch! Listen at that now, boys! She calls the eech the itch! Don't know no better! Ha! Ha!"
"What on earth do people do for it?" she asked.
"Some rubs on lard and sulphur, and some axle-grease."
"I'll ask Miss Shippen for medicine. for you to-morrow. Go along now, please; don't stand so near me."
"Get enough for two," was his parting. remark; "Taulbee 's commencing to scratch, too."
"Yes, get enough for a dozen," was her sad reflection, only too promptly verified, for within a few days her entire family was in quarantine, scratching and clawing like mad; and the next thing, she herself was experiencing all the agonies. It is King James who says somewhere, "The itch is å disease well worth the having, for