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so Wilfred Reginald and the Dark Horse

By James MAHONEY
Drawings by George Van Werveke

T

HE first of their crimes to reach a very sick boy, if you only knew.

the ears of Mr. Beecham, the You have n't got any feeling for me; youngest master, was Wilfred Regi- you have n't got my pain in your nald's. The morning after the Hal- stummick!" .

” lowe'en masquerade Wilfred Reginald He burst into perfectly genuine sobs. arose before any other boy in either of Miss Canfield was desperate. If Wilthe two dormitories was awake, went fred Reginald persisted in his obstiup-stairs to the infirmary in his paja- nacy, it meant that she would have two mas and slippers, put himself to bed, patients on her hands before the end of and refused to get up.

the day, and one of them an adult; for "I 'm sick," he announced to Miss Dr. Sinclair, the choir-master, would Canfield, the nurse, when she found be a nervous wreck after even-song. him there as she passed by the door on Wilfred Reginald was important. her way to her bath-room. "I have a Not only was he the chief soloist of the pain in my stummick, my head hurts cathedral choir, but the greatest boy awful, and I think I have a high fever.” soprano in the world. He meant every

Miss Canfield dropped her towels, thing to Dr. Sinclair. It was Dr. Sinran for her faithful thermometer, and clair who had developed his voice from took his temperature at once. She was the mere melodious rill it was in the relieved to find it normal.

child of nine until it had become a “Wilfred Reginald,” she said, "there wonderful flood of pure silver sound in is nothing in the world the matter with the boy of thirteen. This marvelous you, or you would have a temperature. voice had become for the choir-master I'll give you a little bicarbonate, and a cult, a second religion. If Wilfred you can go on down-stairs with the Reginald became uncomfortable from other fellows.”

overeating, the choir-master would be “I don't wanta go down-stairs!" white and drawn with anxiety; and if wailed Wilfred Reginald.

Wilfred Reginald came in with wet “Now, don't be stubborn, Wilfred feet, the choir-master would suffer all Reginald. You know you have to sing the nerve-racking tortures of a sleepto-day. There 's nothing at all the less night. With Wilfred Reginald acmatter with you, and Dr. Sinclair is tually ill or as good as ill, and cutting depending upon you for your solo. his solo, anything might happen. You must go down.”

Wilfred Reginald knew this per“I don't wanta go down-stairs!” he fectly well, and the choir-master knew wailed. He delivered his ultimatum: that he knew it.

that he knew it. He also knew that "And I'm not going to go—and—I'm this was the first time the boy had ever failed to come up to the mark. His re- After giving first aid to a limp and gard for Dr. Sinclair, combined with a prostrate Mack and carrying him in to deep artistic pride in his own amazing Miss Canfield's ministering care, he gift, had spurred him on many an oc- found the boys waiting for him in the casion to sing when, from real illness, common-room. They were pale with he had hardly strength to walk in the their terror at what had occurred, but procession in his heavy cotta. It was their eyes gleamed with eager interest the knowledge of all this which dum- in the impending catastrophe they exfounded Dr. Sinclair when Miss Can- pected for Vane. Yet their paradoxifield told him at breakfast of Wilfred cal school-boy loyalty toward him held Reginald's delinquency and implored them silent. him to help bring the child to reason. “What did he do to make you so But their combined efforts were of no furious?" the youngest master asked,

? avail, and that evening Miss Canfield's gently. "You must have had some worst predictions were justified. After reason." the most trying day in Dr. Sinclair's "I don't know, sir," answered Vane. life, she had to put an ice-cap on his “He just made me mad, that 's all.” head, give him a soothing draft for his "Aw, you do know, too!" exclaimed nerves, and keep watch over him until Carson, indignantly. They felt that he fell asleep.

their need for loyalty had passed. Monday morning, after twenty-four There had been no explosion. Vane hours in a dreary infirmary with all had not been struck down by the catathe blinds drawn, Wilfred Reginald clysmic wrath of the gods, and the made up his mind that he was suffi- anticlimax left them too flat. Unconciently convalescent to come down- sciously, they began to manufacture stairs. But the relief of Dr. Sin- drama to relieve it. “He said Queenie clair's mind was to be short-lived. The would let just anybody kiss her, and disaster Wilfred Reginald had delib- you crowned him!" erately wrought upon the music proved "Queenie's Vane's girl!” chirped one to be only the first concussion of a veri- of the youngest boys, rapturously. table tidal wave of crime that swept "She 's not so my girl, neither!" over the school.

cried Vane, forgetting his troubles in

the joy of approaching conflict. "She's 82

Wilfred Reginald's girl. He invited No apparent cause could be found her, I guess." for the riot of deviltry that seethed be- “You kissed her, anyhow,yelled neath the calm and beautiful exterior Carson, "and she 's your girl. I would the boys presented in the choir to an n't kiss any ol girls." enraptured congregation. The reason "Aw, Carson,” shrieked one of the for it all might never have been known youngest boys, "you kissed her yourif Vane had not knocked Mack uncon- self! I sawr it-behind the gymnasscious with a broken beer-bottle. In yum door!” he added rhythmically. the general conflict of emotion pro- "Well, she's not my girl, anyhow!" duced by this infuriated assault, their claimed Carson, defiantly. tongues were loosened, and the young- “She 's Wilfred Reginald's,” reest master found his first clue.

peated Vane.

"She 's not,” said Wilfred Reginald. the masquerade, and he knew only too

“Queenie 's Vane's girl! Queenie 's well what might be the background of Vane's girl!chanted a Greek chorus one invited by Wilfred Reginald of youngest boys in ecstasy.

Koontz, that child of high-flaming “She would n't dance with you, genius and low, sordid extraction. neither," Vane went on, determined to After he had satisfactorily disposed of divert the ridicule from himself. “She Vane for the present, he kept Carson, would n't dance with any boy in noth- who seemed to be one of the principal ing but a crummy ol' clown suit. She figures in the drama, until they were told me so.”

alone in the common-room together. "She did so dance with me!" yelled “Tell me, Carson,” he began seriWilfred Reginald. "I can prove it." ously, "for it is something I really must

“Nothing but the first dance," said know. Why did you kiss Queenie Vane, contemptuously, “an' she had Kelly?” to do that. A girl just has to dance the "I did n't want to," protested the first dance with the fellow what invites boy. "Really, I did n't." her. An' that's why you stayed in the "Well, why on earth did you do it, infirmary that day an’ would n't sing, then?” an' everything. You were afraid we'd “She made me, sir.” laugh at you because the girl you in- “Oh,” said the master. Then he vited would n't dance with you. Yah! added, “How could she make you kiss you were a 'fraid-cat!”

her?"Queenie would n't dance with him!” “She said, if I did n't, I was—I was chanted the Greek chorus. "Queenie slow.” would n't dance with WIL-furd REG'- "Oh," said the master again. It was nuld!”

worse than he had believed. "What an Tears of humiliation came to Wil- awful child!” he said as he strode down fred Reginald's eyes, but he managed the hall, “and what an ungodly name!" a parting shot.

He was thinking of Queenie Kelly. "Well, I guess a nice clown suit 's That evening he went to confer with just as good as your mother's old the head-master before he led Vane jacket with ruffles sewed on it."

into the presence. Vane had appeared at the masquer- Cherchez la femme," said the headade ingeniously disguised as a "court- master, thoughtfully. "We must not ier under Louis XIV."

allow her to be invited again." The master had let the argument

But the effects of Queenie's depravproceed until he had gleaned enough ity continued. The school post-box facts to form a basis for further inves- was full every day of letters bearing tigation, and then he brought it to an Queenie Kelly's East Twenty-third abrupt close by announcing that the Street address. Stone, the steadiest next one to speak would go to the boy in the school, who plugged away school-room at once. He wanted to at everything he did until he had taken know more definitely the precise char- every prize the school had to offer, acter of Queenie's depredations. He took to using the study hour for the remembered distinctly the spectacular composition of long epistles to the enappearance of the vulgar little girl at chantress, and his average declined

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twenty-five per cent. Even Desmond, his soul a recrudescence of her after the the devout, plunged incontinently into post-Lenten dance. Already Dr. Sinsin. He was the boy who, after wear

clair had announced that he was preing out the knees of his knickers pray- paring a musical surprise to spring uping in the cathedral, and the knees of on a waiting world the very Sunday his pajamas praying beside his bed, following the Saturday night upon had rifled his mother's pocket-book of which this dance was to be given, and fifty cents, which, it developed, he the youngest master talked the matter added to his weekly allowance for the over with Miss Hanson, the house purchase of a box of candy as a present mother. The head-master also spoke to Queenie. Desmond managed to to her about it. obtain a pious satisfaction from his Two weeks before every dance the one sin after a blameless life. a

boys wrote upon little slips of paper “Now,” said he, “I won't have to the names and addresses of those whom make up something to confess the next they wished to invite, which, under time I make my self-examination.” promise of strict secrecy, they gave to

Miss Hanson. If by chance there lin$ 3

gered in any of their minds a memory Although time and the shortness of of the siren strong enough to induce the memories of children slowly ef- an invitation, she could simply omit it fected a reconstruction, and by the from her list. Christmas holidays Queenie was com- “I was on the point of not sending pletely forgotten as far as the young- the first one,” she said.

“I had some est master could ascertain, he feared in idea of what she might be like.”

Well, there's no fear of Wilfred Reginald doing it again,” said the youngest master. “She pretty thoroughly sat on him the last time, and it looks as if the others have forgotten her."

"Even if they have n't," said Miss Hanson, meaningly, "a slip of paper is a very easy thing to lose."

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§ 4 The months after the Christmas holidays passed with nothing untoward to interrupt the even tenor of school life, with the possible exception of Wilfred Reginald's unaccountable behavior with regard to his weekly allowance. He refused to spend a penny of it, and deliberately cut himself off from all excursions and parties involving any expenditure, however small. He even took to walking all the long

Well, I guess a nice clown suit's just as

good as your mother's old jacket

a

distance home on Sunday evenings, no observance which was one of her many matter how bleak the weather, to contributions to the tone of the school. avoid spending car-fare.

“For once you are mistaken,” she This worried Dr. Sinclair, who said to the youngest master; “Wilfred passed every winter a constant prey to Reginald has done it again.' the terror of a possible epidemic of What do you mean, Miss Hanson?sore throats, and he began giving Wil- "He has invited Queenie" fred Reginald car-fare for the week- "He's simply unaccountable!” he ends. Late one Sunday evening he declared, almost dropping his coffeeencountered the boy half-way between cup. the cathedral and Twenty-third Street, “It hurt me very much not to send trudging doggedly home, fingering the the invitation,” she continued, "for I nickels of the unspent car-fare in his believe he is counting on it. He has the pocket.

most gorgeous collection of clothes in "Have you no regard whatsoever," the lower drawer of his chiffonnier" exploded the great choir-master, fright- “So that 's what they ’re for!" said ening the child half out of his wits, the youngest master. “I've been won"for the greatest voice God ever sent dering what he might be up to, but I a cathedral choir?

never suspectedThe perfidy of Wilfred Reginald "That he was attempting a sartorial with regard to the unspent nickels es- conquest of the lady?" rumbled the caped him entirely, but from that time head-master, with an appreciative on he lived in mortal dread of what twinkle. that extraordinary child might do. "The 'crummy ol' clown suit,'" said It presently appeared that Wilfred the youngest master—“of course that's Reginald was indulging a secret pas- it!" sion with his ill-got hoardings, and the The choir-master, who up to this news was noised abroad that he was time had taken no part in the convercollecting fine raiment and concealing sation, was becoming redder and redit in the lower drawer of his chiffon- der with excitement. His face was nier. First arrived a pair of trousers nearly purple with emotion as he of dazzling white flannel. Later came fairly shouted: a shirt of crêpe de Chine. These two “That invitation must be sent!" garments were followed by a long suc- “Dr. Sinclair," exclaimed Miss Hancession of smaller accessories, includ- son, "have you forgotten the last ing a violent purple tie brocaded with time she came?" gold, and a pair of socks that would "It will be worse if she does n't come. have put to shame Joseph in his spec- The service is too important. If he tacular coat and Solomon in all his discovers that we did n't invite her, glory.

you cannot tell what that child will do. It was not until a few weeks before I cannot risk it. He 'll do something the post-Lenten dance that the root of outlandish. He'll ruin the service. this strange passion became apparent. He won't sing." Miss Hanson was presiding over the "Are we dealing with temperamental ritual of the masters' coffee in the operatic stars, Dr. Sinclair?" asked common-room after Sunday dinner, an Miss Hanson, smiling.

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