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HOME > Classical Novels > The Worst Boy in Town > CHAPTER XIII. THE BOY WHO WAS NOT AFRAID.
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When Jack emerged from his enforced retirement of the week, it was with an aristocratic complexion, a fine sense of rectitude, and a powerful conviction that in spite of his unsavory reputation having had additional light cast upon it by the burning stable, there still was something worth living for, and that the something aforesaid was nice little Mattie Barker. The bouquet she had sent him had been carefully preserved throughout the week, though it had not always been easy to secrete it on the approach of his mother and father. Why he should have hidden it from them he could not have told, for they would have assumed that he had culled it himself, and they were more than glad on account of the new regard for flowers he had shown since his sickness; but it made Jack feel very manly to hide that bouquet, to imagine that it would be removed if discovered, and to think of the desperate deeds he would do rather than have it torn from him.

In spite of love, however, the boy felt somewhat as a discharged criminal is supposed to feel. He did not know where to go, or what to do. The prohibition of the society of other boys had been strengthened by new and stringent clauses. Jack could not very well seek out girls to play with, unless he chose to run the risk of being laughed at, and being suspected of fickleness by nice little Mattie Barker. His recent conversations with his mother had not been of a variety of which he wanted more, his father was pleasant enough of speech—when not pre-occupied—but he would persist in affixing a moral or a warning to every sentence he spoke, and though Jack felt sure that no person living had a higher regard for moral applications than himself, he did not care to have them in everything. His father liked butter, as was proper enough, but did he mix it with everything he put in his mouth—cake, coffee, fruit, etc.? Jack rather thought not.

Perhaps the doctor had never heard of the pope's bull against the comet and its impotence, or he might have evolved a moral application for his own use, in the matter of prohibiting Jack from associating with other boys. No matter how earnestly the world, in the time of the pope alluded to, expressed its objections to associating with comets, the comet came right along as straight as a due deference to solar control would allow. And the order of seclusion imposed upon Jack did not make him any the less yearned after by his late playmates. It began to be noticed, by boys of observing habits, that the youth of Doveton were falling into ruts, and showing no inclination to depart from them; that there was nothing particular to do; that the procession of games, each according to its season, was lapsing into irregularity; that nobody got up anything new, and the only plausible reason seemed to be the absence of Jack. In a general convention of boys it was agreed, with but two dissenting voices—those of the jugged loafer and the buttonless Pinkshaw twin—that what society needed was to have Jack resume his place in it, and the two dissenters were informed that if they didn't make the vote unanimous they would find it advisable to move to the next town.

Then it was informally resolved that Jack's father was an old hog, and a protest from lame Joey Wilson, who declared that during his own illness, which had made him lame, the doctor had been just lovely to him, only made it more inexcusable that the doctor should not be better to Jack. To such a pitch of indignation did the feeling against the doctor arise, that after the nine o'clock evening bell broke up the convention, the braver and more close-tongued boys expressed their disapprobation of the doctor's course by building a rail fence, some forty lengths long, around the doctor's front gate, carrying the rails from a pasture a square away. To remove this fence, and replace the rails in their rightful positions, required all of Jack's time during the following week, noting which fact the boys doubted whether their operation against the doctor had been a positive success, while Jack himself perceived, as he perspired, that even sympathy has its penalties.

But he adhered manfully to his good resolutions. As the time for the next Puttytop demonstration approached, he determined that he would leave all his delightful devices to the friend who suggested them to him, while to Matt, who one day sneaked to the fence and asked when that new torpedo blower could be had, Jack tragically exclaimed, "Get thee behind me, Satan." To be sure, he said it before he had taken time to ponder upon the advisability of saying it, and the instant it escaped his lips he wished he had only thought it instead of uttering it; but none of this reconsideration had any effect upon Matt, for on receipt of the unexpected reply, he had bestowed just one frightened look upon Jack and then taken to his heels, and remained invisible to Jack through all subsequent days until he received an apologetic note, after which confidence was restored by supplementary proceedings at the front gate.

The great Puttytop demonstration was effected without disturbance, but there were some signs of despondency manifested by those interested in the local ticket, which Puttytop helped and was helped by, for the Germans, incensed by the treatment which Nuderkopf Trinkelspiel had received, made their grievance an affair of nationality, and went over bodily to the Baggs faction. As the few last days of the campaign approached, Jack's patriotic spirit began to chafe at inaction, and he finally became excited to the pitch of asking his father whether he might not take part in the great and final Baggs torchlight procession. The doctor was astonished by the temerity of this request, but he was himself a Baggs man, Doveton was too far from any great city for politics to have become exclusively rowdyish, the marshals of the procession were nearly all church members, Jack had been quiet for a long time, so the doctor gave his assent, taking the precaution, however, to make a personal appeal to each marshal to keep an eye on the boy.

Jack was overjoyed, and proceeded at once to make a transparency and covered it with stirring mottoes. Then he made another, a very fine one it was, too, which he embellished with the inscription, "Truth crushed to earth shall rise again," and this he presented to Nuderkopf Trinkelspiel. But Nuderkopf intimated that he had had enough of politics to last him until the next campaign, so he used the sympathetic transparency to shield a plant of late tomatoes from the frost, and when Jack learned this he confided to Matt that he washed his hands of that ungrateful Dutchman, then and forever.

Somehow Jack had frequent and imperative needs to consult other boys before the night of the procession, but each time he asked the permission of his father, and made known the subjects of the conversation desired, until the doctor began to believe that Jack was really trying to do right. As for the subjects of consultation with the boys, they ranged all the way from lights for transparencies to the particular style and succession of hoots to be uttered on passing Puttytop headquarters. Upon this last-named affair Jack bestowed a great deal of time, and, finally, having gone to Matt's for something, and found nearly all the boys in the Bolton barn, he conducted a rehearsal with such success that within five seconds after the first note had sounded, the Bolton horse had started back in wild affright, snapped his halter-strap, and bumped the side of the barn behind him so forcibly that he was stiff for a month afterward.

When the procession finally formed, Jack's transparency was the observed of all observers. On one side he had acknowledged hi............
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