Chapter XXXI - Over The Fence
Penrod was out in the yard, staring at the empty marquee. The sun was on the horizon line, so far behind the back fence, and a western window of the house blazed in gold unbearable to the eye: his day was nearly over. He sighed, and took from the inside pocket of his new jacket the "sling-shot" aunt Sarah Crim had given him that morning.
He snapped the rubbers absently. They held fast; and his next impulse was entirely irresistible. He found a shapely stone, fitted it to the leather, and drew back the ancient catapult for a shot. A sparrow hopped upon a branch between him and the house, and he aimed at the sparrow, but the reflection from the dazzling window struck in his eyes as he loosed the leather.
He missed the sparrow, but not the window. There was a loud crash, and to his horror he caught a glimpse of his father, stricken in mid-shaving, ducking a shower of broken glass, glittering razor flourishing wildly. Words crashed with the glass, stentorian words, fragmentary but collossal.
Penrod stood petrified, a broken sling in his hand. He could hear his parent's booming descent of the back stairs, instant and furious; and then, red-hot above white lather, Mr. Schofield burst out of the kitchen door and hurtled forth upon his son.
"What do you mean?" he demanded, shaking Penrod by the shoulder. "Ten minutes ago, for the very first time in our lives, your mother and I were saying we were proud of you, and here you go and throw a rock at me through the window when I'm shaving for dinner!"
"I didn't!" Penrod quavered. "I was shooting at a sparrow, and the sun got in his eyes, and the sling broke----"
"Where'd you get that devilish thing? Don't you know I've forbidden you a thousand times----"
"It ain't mine," said Penrod. "It's yours."
"Yes, sir," said the boy meekly. "Aunt Sarah Crim gave it to me this morning and told me to give it back to you. She said she took it away from you thirty-five years ago. You killed her hen, she said. She told me some more to tell you, but I've forgotten."
"Oh!" said Mr. Schofield.
He took the broken sling in his hand, looked at it long and thoughtfully--and he looked longer, and quite as thoughtfully, at Penrod. Then he turned away, and walked toward the house.
"I'm sorry, papa," said Penrod.
Mr. Schofield coughed, and, as he reached the door, called back, but without turning his head.
"Never mind, little boy. A broken window isn't much harm."
When he had gone in, Penrod wandered down the yard to the back fence, climbed upon it, and sat in reverie there.
A slight figure appeared, likewise upon a fence, beyond two neighbouring yards.
"Yay, Penrod!" called comrade Sam Williams.
"Yay!" returned Penrod, mechanically.
"I caught Billy Blue Hill!" shouted Sam, describing retribution in a manner perfectly clear to his friend. "You were mighty lucky to get out of it."
"I know that!"
"You wouldn't of, if it hadn't been for Marjorie."
"Well, don't I know that?" Penrod shouted, with heat.
"Well, so long!" called Sam, dropping from his fence; and the friendly voice came then, more faintly, "Many happy returns of the day, Penrod!"
And now, a plaintive little whine sounded from below Penrod's feet, and, looking down, he saw that Duke, his wistful, old, scraggly dog sat in the grass, gazing seekingly up at him.
The last shaft of sunshine of that day fell graciously and like a blessing upon the boy sitting on the fence. Years afterward, a quiet sunset would recall to him sometimes the gentle evening of his twelfth birthday, and bring him the picture of his boy self, sitting in rosy light upon the fence, gazing pensively down upon his wistful, scraggly, little old dog, Duke. But something else, surpassing, he would remember of that hour, for, in the side street, close by, a pink skirt flickered from behind a shade tree to the shelter of the fence, there was a gleam of amber curls, and Penrod started, as something like a tiny white wing fluttered by his head, and there came to his ears the sound of a light laugh and of light footsteps departing, the laughter tremulous, the footsteps fleet.
In the grass, between Duke's forepaws, there lay a white note, folded in the shape of a cocked hat, and the sun sent forth a final amazing glory as Penrod opened it and read:
"Your my bow."