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Thus he made known his simple wants to the rest of us, and we were as gentle to him as a large family generally is to a lame duck. Because he was passionately devoted to softboiled eggs and called them "guggies," we nicknamed him "Guggy" or more briefly, "Gug." We taught him to fetch bread and molasses for us as we lay in bed on winter mornings, but his hand was clumsy and he never learned to cut a delicate slice of bread. He was, however, a good man on cookies, and with the instinct of a mouse, always found the cooky-tin, no matter where my mother hid it. I can see Gug now, nosing about in the semi-darkness of a frosty pantry, trailing the elusive hermit-cooky to its newest lair, and climbing the backstairs to share the spoil with his clamorous elders.
When he was five years old the truss was thrown away, just as the advertisement had prophesied; Guggy's vocabulary increased; he learned to stay awake till six-thirty in the evening, and under these encouraging auspices, we began to groom him, at the age of six, for the hurly-burly of the kindergarten.
The "childs' garden" was strong meat for Guggy. He liked it so well he stayed there three years. A younger sister Laura passed him flatfooted in his one hundred and fiftyfirst attempt to arrange some colored pegs in parallel rows. Guggy made no statement when Laura went ahead of him into the second grade. He was too much engrossed in the fascinating problem of arranging his pegs to bother about such piddling, extraneous matters as promotions. A year later, with the pegs still puzzling him, Guggy was sweetly kissed by his
kindergarten teacher and shoved upward into the next grade.
For the next five years his progress was not rapid, but his demeanor was untroubled, his deportment impeccable. Because he was a big boy he was given a seat in the back of the room where he scrawled monstrous strange hieroglyphics in his copy-books, added dozens of columns incorrectly, and could never locate any given sea or river on the map. But he was hugged for a darling by all his teachers, and after formally repeating the year's work, was duly thrust onward. His report-cards always told the same story: "Charles tries hard. Is backward in arithmetic, spelling and reading. Conduct excellent. P. S. Isn't there some way for him to get help at home?"
I remember trying to help Guggy with his geography one night after supper. I was at that time a senior in high school and cherished a superb contempt for the higgledypiggledy methods of grammar school pedagogy. I'd show this youngster how to get his studies! So I barricaded the parlor door to keep the other kids out, and turned to my young pupil.
"Now Guggy," I began briskly, "we're going to talk about geography. All about rivers and oceans and steppes—
Guggy seemed intelligently concerned. "What's a steppe?" he asked. "Don't you know what a steppe is?"
"Nope. We haven't had steppes yet. We're only up to Europe.'
"Well, there are steppes in Europe, that is, if you consider Europe and Asia one continent. Geologically they are, you know. Hasn't your cock
eyed geography teacher ever told you anything about Eurasia?"
"She never said anything about it in our room. We're only on islands now; we had peninsulas when Miss Abbott was sick last week, but she's back now and we're having islands."
"Well then, name and locate some of the world's largest islands?"
After eighty seconds of silence, I was convinced that islands played no part in Guggy's universe. So to save myself further embarrassment, I rattled off a few names:
"Madagascar, Luzon, Corsicahere Guggy, just look at this map of the world. Anything you see surrounded by water, that's an island."
Guggy scrutinized the map vaguely. After three minutes of inspection he paused to query;
"The green is water, isn't it?" "Yes, all the green is water." Another minute's scrutiny. Then he looked up amiably, and remarked; "Why, everything's an island. . I never knew that before."
Butter was not easier to influence than Guggy. He would accede to any suggestion, follow all advice, and pull chestnuts out of any one's fire. If the gang wanted to smoke or play rummy, Guggy had a cellar. If a pear-tree had to be looted, Guggy was boosted up the tree. So one day when Patrolman Dane forcibly accompanied by Master Guggy Ralston, rang the door-bell and asked for my mother, I suspected what had long seemed imminent: gullible Guggy had been gulled into some piece of rascality by his tribal betters. Anyway, there was the ponderous cop holding a pop-eyed Guggy by the scruff of his collar.
"What's Charley been up to?" asked my mother, sensing in the tableau all that she had ever secretly feared.
"This young man's been stealing bicycles, ma'am. Two's been stolen now in a week, and he admits he took both of them."
"What did you do with the bicycles, Charley?" asked my mother, tacitly admitting the charge.
No answer from Charley.
"He sold them to Jacobs, the second-hand bicycle man, that's what he did, and pretty clever he is too, for a twelve-year-old kid."
"Where's the money, son?" asked mother, putting her arms around her chubby lame-duck's neck.
Stoic till now, Guggy began to blubber on her shoulder.
"I gave it to Squash and Simmy-”
"How much did they give you back?"
"Where is it now?"
"I spent it on cigarettes." (Snuffles.) Then quieter: "And they made me sick, so I threw them away."
"So you see," concluded my mother, "you really aren't a great success as a robber-chief, are you?" Then turning to the patrolman: "Officer, we'll replace the bicycles and guarantee Charley's conduct in the future. Will that be satisfactory?"
"It'll be all right this time, ma'am, but I can tell you right now that if it happens again, it'll mean reform school and the probation officer."
"Do you hear that, Charley? Reform school and prison, perhaps. Promise me now that you won't steal any more bicycles, and that you
won't play with those bad boys again. Will you promise mother?"
"Yes," said Guggy. But I, standing beside him, was afraid I could see the prison pallor yellowing his rosy cheeks.
At the age of seventeen, Guggy found himself, four years behind his time, in high school. For eighteen months he struggled with the stiffer curriculum. Every day he brought home a half-dozen books, and every evening found him in his room, puzzling over the pages of his Latin grammar, or fruitlessly experimenting with the sides of an isosceles triangle. Side A might jolly well equal side B, and B might be patently less than C, but it never could occur to Guggy that this made A also less than C. He simply could not take the most elementary of mental hurdles. With all the good-will in the world he would rush up to the barrier and try to hurl himself over it, but not once in his whole academic career did he ever lift himself
Most fellows so singularly unequipped for the scholastic racket would have tossed their books into the parlor grate, and taken a job in a broker's office. But Guggy, never. Hopelessly unable to fixate, retain or recall two ideas in sequence, he hungered and thirsted for academic fare. He would have been a notable success in some medieval monastery. His gentle stupidity would have charmed his confrères; his humility would have become proverbial; he would have run all the errands, lugged all the wood and then sat marveling at the learned debates among his more erudite brethren.
But humility and reverence were of no avail in high school. After three dismal failures in Latin and Geometry, he was dropped, and was advised by the head-master to get a job with some nice clothing store.
For six months he took a "temporary" job in a butcher shop, at eight dollars a week. Of this eight dollars he paid my mother three for board, put fifty cents in the collection box every Sunday at mass, clothed himself like a college junior, walked out with the girls and saved sixty dollars. He was so regular in his Monday morning visitations to the bank that we all thought he might be saving to get married.
"What are you going to do with your money?" I asked him one day.
"Well," he began hesitantly, “I had an idea that if I saved up a hundred dollars, that the Old Man might put another hundred with it, and-well, I thought I might go to Holton Academy for a year. What do you think?"
"Good idea," I said, amazed at his piety. "A year at Holton would just top you off. Now if you work all summer, you'll have over a hundred by September; I'll give you twentyfive and John'll give you twenty-five more. That, with the Old Man's hundred, ought to take you through the first term."
He almost choked with happiness at my approval. If I had settled ten thousand a year on him and his heirs forever, he couldn't have wrung my hand with more gratitude.
"Just think of it, Roger," he said, "a year at Holton. The studies are easier up there, and I can go out for foot-ball and debating. You'll give
"Sure, Guggy. You'd better begin reading the papers right now about the coal strike. That'll make a crackerjack subject for a debate next October."
me some dope on debating this fractional solo part, and then eulosummer, won't you?" gize "the wonderful voice of Joe Fleming, the guy that played the lead. You shoulda heard him that night.' night." For a room-mate he was fortunate enough to secure the famous Coker Doyle. Coker was halfback on the freshman team, and used to lug Guggy around everywhere, soaking up Guggy's silent admiration and borrowing his quarters. Reportcards ran true to form. "Charles is trying very hard. Performance in English and mathematics.not quite satisfactory. Deportment good. Recommendations: Outside tutoring might prove of assistance."
So every night after that Guggy used to look for news about coalmines and strikes, but the difference between anthracite and bituminous was never quite clear to him.
That year at Holton was the happiest year Guggy will ever have. He played substitute guard on on the second-string freshman team, and actually started in the game against Saugus. He sent me a copy of the "Holton Helmet" with the account of the game written in chatty prepschool style, with two sentences heavily underlined. "Guggy Ralston played his usual sterling game at guard. After the first quarter he was supplanted by Chuck Wethers." The-time-we-played-Saugus prefaced his remarks for many years, and he always seemed pleased when any of us referred to him as "the sterling guard."
The debating coach sent him into the library to root out further information on the coal strike. Charley wrote me, asking for the dope and I scribbled a hasty survey of the situation and mailed it to him next day. But I could not bolster up his delivery by mail, and I think my sparse collection of data was not sufficient to win him a place on the team. No matter. He tried out for the class operetta, and his pleasant tenor voice secured him a minor part as a country swain. Whenever he came home he would sing us his
So between foot-ball and debating the autumn studies were all flunked, and when spring wore around another two hundred dollars was due on board and tuition. I quote from a letter written to me about this time, by Guggy himself:
"I meant to write to you last week but our exams came just then and I was busy studying. I don't know how I came out yet. I think I passed English Lit. and History but I didn't hit the Latin very good. Say, who wrote "The Maltese Jew?" I said Shakspere, but I knew that wasn't right. Geometry and Chem sure are tough. They got a fellow from Tech up here teaching Lab. and he always asks a lot of questions you never had in class. Well I did the best I could but I was only half through the Chem when the bell rung.
"Last night Coker and me went to a dance at Slade, the girl's seminary across the river from Holton. We didn't get back till four G.M., but we sure had a grand time. Lots of sugar
mammas. One of them said she knew a professor at Columbia named Green, and I asked her if she knew you. She said she'd heard of you. Roger, it makes the tears run down my cheeks when I think how happy I am here, and all that you and mother and father are doing for me. I wish I was smarter so I'd pass everything, like some fellows do without studying, it seems. Do you suppose I'll ever get to college? I wish I could make it somehow. Only three more years at Holton and then I'll be all set for Dartmouth or Columbia. But perhaps I'm not smart enough for Columbia-what do you think? "Say, Roger old Stodger-Scrodger, could you write to the Old Man and ask him to keep me here till June anyway? I got an idea I'm improving in my studies and Mr. Collins, the math prof., says I ought to be getting the hang of plane geometry pretty soon now. So if you'll say a word or two to Dad it'll help a lot. That two dollars you sent me sure was welcome, but don't leave yourself short on my account. The guys here owe me a lot of money, but it's all good. Well, I haven't much to say now; write me when you get time, and always pray for your bonehead brother,
So Guggy puzzled and flunked his way through the last semester and was so ecstatically happy doing it that every one dreaded the moment he'd have to be awakened. At Easter he came home in borrowed regalia, and pumped the good old Holton spirit all over the family. "The time Holton tied Andover-the night of the big fire in the dorms—the war memorial being put up for Holton service men-Holton, Holton, Holton, rah, rah, rah!" was the substance of his discourse. He had pledged allegiance to Holton with more passion than many men ever muster up for their God or country, and the pity of it was, that even in a miserable thirdrate prep school he could not meet the minimum scholastic requirements laid upon him.
Even if we had been able to furnish Guggy with money the headmaster could not have taken him back. In a kindly letter he explained his position to Guggy:
"By failing all your subjects you have made it impossible for us to have you back next year. Much as we admire your gentleness of spirit and excellent deportment, we think it best for you to discontinue your academic work at Holton. Personally I advise you to secure a position "Guggy." in some sales capacity, where your pleasing address and agreeable personality will serve you to better advantage."
Naturally the guys there would owe Guggy money. Naturally he would fail four out of five subjects, and it was only after a stiff correspondence with the Old Man that he was persuaded to keep Guggy at Holton until the end of the spring term. "After that, I'm done," was the governor's ultimatum, and I could understand that, too.
The head-master's letter did the business. That, and the Holton year-book were all that Guggy had to show for his nine months at Holton. Oh, that tragic year-book! It had a photograph of every member of the school, with a pithy descriptive sentence or two under each picture.