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It hands Toots a punch it will hit
something soft and easy and unnat
ural I ain't training the boy for a
poet or seamstress," I says.
"Do you think you understand the
lad? I don't myself," says she, kind
of doubtful; but I thought I did, and
there's where I bust my puckering
"What's the matter now, you lob
ster?" says I to him, talking like a
section boss when he comes in to din
ner that night with his face shiny
from the towel. He looks at me a
minute with his eyes wide, and I see
his upper lips a-tremblin' like the
whinny of a horse. "Tell him he's a
lobster himself," says, his mother,
near heart-bust herself, but it was" too
late. The boy commenced to blub
ber like a kitten under water.
"What's the matter now?" I yells,
banging on the table enough to jump
the ice off the butter? "Speak up,
man, and air your troubles!"
He stopped heaving sobs and
straightened up, looking at me with
his big blue eyes squinted up. "You're
all against me," he yells.-"Nobody
cares what "happens to me. I'll get
even with you. You wouldn't care if
I died!" And upon my word he walk
ed out of the room like a prizefighter.
We had quite a few times like that,
and sure as shooting the boy was
learning to be a man. "You don't
love me," he'd say, "so leave me
alone. Mind your own business." .
It was just before the spring storms
that he went off one day and 'didn't
come home till midnight. I talked
pretty stiff to Annie about going to
Bleep and letting the bojr take his own
experiences, but a man's a boy's fath
er, and I might as well tell you I heard
the clock on the town hall every hour
till I caught the sound of somebody
sneaking into the barn. I pulled on a
pair of shoes and some clothes and
slid down and out through the back
way. It was still pretty cold weather,
with a lot of stars peppered in the
black sky lighting up the places
jehere the snow patches were' left,
and I could, see the boy squeezing
through the barn door.
"Mike," says I.
"Yes," says he.
"Where've you been?" I says.
"Won't tell," says he, picking up a
broken ax handle. "I ain't going back
on my friends, and you ain't going to
wallop me, either."
I seen the shine of his eyes, and
something says to me: "Look out,
Jim, take it easy." Sol says: "We're
your friends and this is your home,
He gives a sniff and started for the
house. It weren't till he got to the
back door that he drops his ax han
dle and bursts out crying, sitting
down on the step and shaking and
putting his face in his sleeve. "There
ain't anybody here cares nothing
about irie," he says, chciking. "Yoii're
all against me."
That was the first time,' Twice aft
er that he was gone all night. Annie
was near crazy and I ain't a-going to
say it didn't rasp on me some. We
didn't find out where he went because
you couldn't have got it put of him
with a derrick. "Never mind," says I,
"it's making a man of him! He ain't
soft any more. And my way's the
way, all right"
The end came during the week of
the" equinox storm.
I guess it was about ten o'clock
when the wind shewed a blind off the
house and set others slamming and I
sat up in bed breathing hard and feel
ing queer for the wild night outside.
After a minute I got up and looked
out the window. .
And as r was looking I thought I
seen a shadow blacker than the rest
fighting its way toward the road.
"Goon!" says! to myself, "the hoy
wouldn't light out on a night like
this?" and then I wondered why I
thought it was him. But when I went
around to shut the blinds and looked
into his room, the bed hadn't been
opened, and the lad was gone.
Well, I made up my mind I wouldn't
say nothing to the wife till morning,
X V-lim . J t.i