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The Project Gutenberg EBook of Skippy Bedelle, by Owen Johnson This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net Title: Skippy Bedelle His Sentimental Progress From the Urchin to the Complete Man of the World Author: Owen Johnson Illustrator: Ernest Fuhr Release Date: May 14, 2008 [EBook #25465] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK SKIPPY BEDELLE *** Produced by David Garcia, Emmy and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net SKIPPY BEDELLE [i] By Owen Johnson Lawrenceville Stories THE PRODIGIOUS HICKEY THE VARMINT THE TENNESSEE SHAD SKIPPY BEDELLE —————— STOVER AT YALE THE WASTED GENERATION BLUE BLOOD CHILDREN OF DIVORCE [ii] [iii] SKIPPY BEDELLE HIS SENTIMENTAL PROGRESS FROM THE URCHIN TO THE COMPLETE MAN OF THE WORLD BY OWEN JOHNSON WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY ERNEST FUHR They walked in silence, oppressed by the greatness of their grief. FRONTISPIECE. See page 279 BOSTON LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY 1937 Copyright, 1922, BY OWEN JOHNSON. [iv] —————— All rights reserved PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA To CHARLES HANSON TOWNE FOR AULD LANG SYNE [v] PREFACE LIKEWISE A DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES the first youth, the Bedelle Mosquito-Proof U NTILbrought agreat disillusions of his of consolation and Foot Regulator and the Bedelle's opinionSocks, had new sentimental need understanding, Skippy of the feminine sex had been decidedly monastic. During the first twenty-five years of their existence, he regarded them as unmitigated nuisances, and pondering on them, he often wondered at the hidden purposes of the Creator. Later they might possibly serve some purpose by marrying and adding to the world's supply of boys. In a further progress, a sort of penitential progress, they became more valuable members of society, as maiden aunts who tipped you on the quiet, and grandmothers who mitigated parental severity and knew the exquisite art of ginger snaps, crisp and brown. But before the skirted animal, which resembled but was quite unlike a man, had atoned for the error of her birth, Skippy refused to take her seriously. There were boys even younger than he who wore girls' jewelry, who wrote and received what were called "mash notes," and who flaunted these sentimentalities openly. He knew [vi] [vii] wrote and received what were called "mash notes," and who flaunted these sentimentalities openly. He knew such incomprehensible males did exist. There were three on his block and he had thrashed them all soundly and been thrashed for having thrashed them, which of course convinced him in his biblical estimate that women were created for the confusion of man. Skippy's prejudice was of long root. From an early age he had been afflicted with sisters; one older and one younger, and he could find no mitigating circumstances between the sister who could hit you and could not be hit back, who never romped without pretending to howl, and the sister who put you at your ease when you had tripped over the parlor rug, by asking publicly: "John, have you washed behind your ears?" The thought of girls was inalienably connected in his memory with unnecessary washing up; with boring parties; with stiff collars; with unending polishing of shoes; humiliating walks down the avenue, stammering, idiotic phrases, while from every window the eyes of malicious friends were set in mockery. Girls never slid down the banisters or fell out of apple trees, or snapped garter snakes, or raised white mice or collected splinters coasting down the icehouse roof. Girls were always spruced up and shining; always covered with pink ribbons and waiting for callers; always dressing and undressing; always kissing their worst enemies in public instead of giving them a dig in the ribs or treading on their toes and whispering under their breath: "Wait till I catch you outside; I'll tear the hide off er yer!" Girls spoiled vacations. It was on account of girls, to give them something to do, that dancing schools were invented; that pews in churches were stiff and uncomfortable; that ministers stormed and threatened until the hour hand had gone its round. In a word, wherever life was drab, or stiff, or formal, wherever prohibitions intervened to check the young impulse, wherever the policing principle showed itself, at the bottom somewhere the feminine sex must be the cause. Gradually, of course, some mitigation came to this inveterate contempt; gradually he did begin to distinguish between girls as such and women. He saw that some such line of demarcation must be drawn but it was still confused and hazy. Later on it was undoubtedly true that woman must play some part in a man's life; this much he gathered from novels and the ways of those giants to his imagination, the great Turkey Reiter and Charlie de Soto. Undoubtedly in the long process of evolution from the clam to the stripling, morality was the contribution of the imitative monkey period each boy passes as he merges towards perfect manhood. A thousand supplications, commandings, and exhortations cannot accomplish what the spectacle of a Turkey Reiter or a Charlie de Soto or a Dink Stover instantly achieves in its casual Olympic passing. Such, with all due respect to the efforts of secondary education, are the real moral forces of youth. When therefore Skippy had made choice of his heroes and slavishly set himself in imitation, he had been unpleasantly disturbed by their evident friendliness to the sex he despised and after much mental perturbation perceived that sooner or later he, too, would share the common lot and actually take pleasure in explaining to something pink and white, with large rolling eyes and smiling teeth, that the game of baseball is played with a ball and a bat and that the fielder and not the batter is chasing the ball, that the difference between baseball and football is that a baseball hurts the hands and a football hurts the foot. Some day when he grew to be Captain of the Eleven like Dink Stover undoubtedly he would condescend to be gazed at and flattered and fondled. If Dink Stover could stand the way Tough McCarthy's sister hung on his arm and flirted openly before the whole school—why of course in permitting such a display of affection Dink Stover was right, for Dink Stover could do no wrong. Some day, then, like his hero, he would condescend to be adored. Some day his turn would come as they sang at the immortal Weber and Fields: "For I must love some one, And it may as well be you." But all this was in the uncharted future. His attitude toward the