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HOME > Classical Novels > The Worst Boy in Town > CHAPTER XIV. PAYING FOR A SPREE.
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CHAPTER XIV. PAYING FOR A SPREE.
When next Jack became conscious of his own existence, it was with a conviction that the giant who looked like Shantz the butcher had set his feet against a mountain or something, and was bracing himself with all his force against the top of Jack's head. Then he felt assured that the giant had taken out Jack's eyes, filling the cavities with two enormous leaden balls, and that the giant had filled his mouth with wool, and put ice under his back, having first run an unyielding iron rod all the way through his spinal column, and that the giant had bound his knees and elbows in splints so that neither could be bent, and then had fiendishly set a great fire blazing in front of his face. After what seemed hours of dumb terror, Jack succeeded in parting his eyelids, and the leaden balls within them answered the natural purpose of eyes pretty well, for he saw that he was lying on the ground, with the sun, already several hours high, shining right in his face, and that he was quite close to a fence, and out of the way of any of the beaten paths of the town.

Then he found he could move one of his arms from the shoulder, and then, after considerable effort, he could bend his elbow, and he felt the other elbow and assured himself that it was not bound after all. Then he managed to raise himself by one arm, though the iron rod in his spine was not as elastic as he could have wished, and a cautious look upward and a painful twisting of his neck showed that the giant was no longer pressing on the top of his head, though the sense of compression still remained. This soon gave way to a sensation of lightness, and Jack fell backward; though he managed to turn upon his side a moment or two after.

Some misty moments were consumed in attempts to determine who he was and how he had come to be in that particular place, the final result being that Jack became convinced that he had been drunk. The mere recalling of his last experiences of the previous night made him so lightheaded that he clutched frantically at a tuft of grass to keep himself from tumbling upward. Then he realized that he had never before in his life been so terribly thirsty, so he entered the side gate of the garden near which he had been lying, and drank freely from the well-pail. Even this exertion left him so shaky that he had barely strength enough to get outside the garden before he dropped. Then he curled up outside the fence, shaded his eyes with one hand, and determined that the sun had never before been so bright.

Then he set himself to thinking. His father and nice little Mattie Barker came into his mind, arm in arm as it were, but the latter soon drove out the former, with the result of making the young man more miserable than he had ever been under the oppressive terrors of parental wrath. He had barely escaped losing her by being suspected of incendiarism and being a confessed gambler, but what were these to a genuine, positive case of drunkenness? No one had seen him in his present condition—at least, it was safe to assume that no one had, for to see a drunken person in Doveton was to talk about him, with the result of soon having a crowd of lookers-on. He had not meant to get drunk, but, honestly, had he ever deliberately intended to do any of the dreadful deeds of which he had been guilty! Once, while lounging in a courtroom, and in the cessation of putty-blowing which he had thought wise while the sheriff's eye seemed upon him, he heard a lawyer inform a jury that the law always considered the intention of the wrong-doer, and now Jack wished that his adored might have heard that address. He wondered if Matt could be trusted to carry her a message about something else, and then lead conversation deftly toward the unintentional wrong-doers of the world, and impress upon little Mattie the fact of which he had been informed in court. But, no, Matt was such a literal fellow.

Meanwhile, there had been an unusual commotion in the Wittingham household. Jack not having responded to the breakfast bell, the servant was sent to awaken him, but she returned with the information that he was not in his bed, nor had he been there during the night, for the coverlid and pillows were as smooth as if untouched. Then the doctor growled and Mrs. Wittingham fretted; and the doctor said he supposed the young scamp had gone home with Matt, and Mrs. Wittingham hoped the boy had not gone to the river and got drowned in the dark; and the doctor said he did not see why women always imagined improbable things as soon as anything happened that was out of the usual order, and Mrs. Wittingham said she could not understand why men always would be unsympathetic just when there were aching hearts that longed for tenderness; and the doctor called himself a brute, upon which Mrs. Wittingham disposed of a tear or two which had come unbidden, and the doctor declared that the skin of the young reprobate should pay for those tears. But the cuticle alluded to did not appear, either with or without its natural occupant, nor could a search of the stable throw any light upon the mystery.

Then the doctor drove to Matt's, and discovered that the boy was not there, and he stopped at the jail, ostensibly to ask about the keeper's baby, but really to give the official a chance to say something, if Jack had got into trouble and his old quarters again. But still he remained uninformed, so he began to interview such boys as were visible; these knew nothing, as boys always do when questioned about one of their own number who seems to be wanted by his right guardians. No one had seen him since the balloon caught fire, though they quieted one very unscientific fear of the doctor's by declaring positively that he had not gone heavenward with the balloon itself.

Suddenly the doctor was accosted by Shantz the butcher, who was driving by, and who said:

"Doctor, you know dot bad boy dot you got?"

The doctor admitted that he did.

"Vell, den," said Shantz; "yust you hear vat I say—better it is dot you do it. You not keep dot boy some oder blace, den I kick him some oder blace, py shimminy cracious! Dat's yust vat it is, I dell you."

"What had he done to you?" asked the doctor.

"Vat he has done?" echoed Shantz. "Vell, vat he didn't mebbe come pooty nigh a dooin', dot ding is mighty bad, now I dell you. He drew a pig sponge full of fire at my hogs. You dink I vant to sell roast hogs? No, sir! an' ven I do, I puts 'em over de fire—I not put de fire right ofer de hogs, an' den git yust lots of boys to come an' laugh vile de pigs is squeaking, cause I reckon dey don't like to be roasted midout being killed before dot."

"Why didn't you thrash him, if you caught him at such a trick?" asked the doctor.

"Vy didn't I?" asked Shantz. "Vell, I yust did, but 'twasn't no goot; he vouldn't holler, but yust tumbled on de ground an' vas vorse as a whole dressed pig to pick up again."

A few questions as to time and place followed, and the doctor drove hurriedly off, vowing to himself that if Shantz had really injured the boy, the burly German should have a large account to settle. To tell a man to punish Jack was one thing—to find that the man had taken the doctor at his word, and in advance, too, was quite another. The doctor drove toward Shantz's house, looking carefully about him and asking questions of every one he met, so it came to pass that just as Jack was wondering how to get home and explain his absence without telling the whole truth, he heard his father's voice, startingly near at hand, shouting:

"Jack, did ............
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