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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Hoosier Schoolboy - Chapter 2. King Milkmaid
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The Hoosier Schoolboy - Chapter 2. King Milkmaid Post by :grimmbot Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Eggleston Date :May 2012 Read :3023

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The Hoosier Schoolboy - Chapter 2. King Milkmaid

CHAPTER II. KING MILKMAID

Pewee Rose, whose proper name was Peter Rose, had also the nickname of King Pewee. He was about fourteen years old, square built and active, of great strength for his size, and very proud of the fact that no boy in town cared to attack him. He was not bad-tempered, but he loved to be master, and there were a set of flatterers who followed him, like jackals about a lion.

As often happens, Nature had built for King Pewee a very fine body, but had forgotten to give him any mind to speak of. In any kind of chaff or banter, at any sort of talk or play where a good head was worth more than a strong arm and a broad back, King Pewee was sure to have the worst of it. A very convenient partnership had therefore grown up between him and Will Riley. Riley had muscle enough, but Nature had made him mean-spirited. He had--not exactly wit--but a facility for using his tongue, which he found some difficulty in displaying, through fear of other boys' fists. By forming a friendship with Pewee Rose, the two managed to keep in fear the greater part of the school. Will's rough tongue, together with Pewee's rude fists, were enough to bully almost any boy. They let Harvey Collins alone, because he was older, and, keeping to himself, awed them by his dignity; good-natured Bob Holliday, also, was big enough to take care of himself. But the rest were all as much afraid of Pewee as they were of the master, and as Riley managed Pewee, it behooved them to be afraid of the prime minister, Riley, as well as of King Pewee.

From the first day that Jack Dudley entered the school, dressed in brown jeans, Will Riley marked him for a victim. The air of refinement about his face showed him to be a suitable person for teasing.

Riley called him "milksop," and "sap-head"; words which seemed to the dull intellect of King Pewee exceedingly witty. And as Pewee was Riley's defender, he felt as proud of these rude nicknames as he would had he invented them and taken out a patent.

But Riley's greatest stroke of wit came one morning when he caught Jack Dudley milking the cow. In the village of Greenbank, milking a cow was regarded as a woman's work; and foolish men and boys are like savages,--very much ashamed to be found doing a woman's work. Fools always think something else more disgraceful than idleness. So, having seen Jack milking, Riley came to school happy. He had an arrow to shoot that would give great delight to the small boys.

"Good-morning, milkmaid!" he said to Jack Dudley, as he entered the school-house before school. "You milk the cow at your house, do you? Where's your apron?"

"Oh-h! Milkmaid! milkmaid! That's a good one," chimed in Pewee Rose and all his set.

Jack changed color.

"Well, what if I do milk my mother's cow? I don't milk anybody's cow but ours, do I? Do you think I'm ashamed of it? I'd be ashamed not to. I can"--but he stopped a minute and blushed--"I can wash dishes, and make good pancakes, too. Now if you want to make fun, why, make fun. I don't care." But he did care, else why should his voice choke in that way?

"Oh, girl-boy; a pretty girl-boy you are--" but here Will Riley stopped and stammered. There right in front of him was the smiling face of Susan Lanham, with a look in it which made him suddenly remember something. Susan had heard all the conversation, and now she came around in front of Will, while all the other girls clustered about her with a vague expectation of sport.

"Come, Pewee, let's play ball," said Will.

"Ah, you're running away, now; you're afraid of a girl," said Susan, with a cutting little laugh, and a toss of her black curls over her shoulder.

Will had already started for the ball-ground, but at this taunt he turned back, thrust his hands into his pockets, put on a swagger, and stammered: "No, I'm not afraid of a girl, either."

"That's about all that he isn't afraid of," said Bob Holliday.

"Oh! you're not afraid of a girl?" said Susan. "What did you run away for, when you saw me? You know that Pewee won't fight a girl. You're afraid of anybody that Pewee can't whip."

"You've got an awful tongue, Susan. We'll call you Sassy Susan," said Will, laughing at his own joke.

"Oh, it isn't my tongue you're afraid of now. You know I can tell on you. I saw you drive your cow into the stable last week. You were ashamed to milk outside, but you looked all around----"

"I didn't do it. How could you see? It was dark," and Will giggled foolishly, seeing all at once that he had betrayed himself.

"It was nearly dark, but I happened to be where I could see. And as I was coming back, a few minutes after, I saw you come out with a pail of milk, and look around you like a sneak-thief. You saw me and hurried away. You are such a coward that you are ashamed to do a little honest work. Milkmaid! Girl-boy! Coward! And Pewee Rose lets you lead him around by the nose!"

"You'd better be careful what you say, Susan," said Pewee, threateningly.

"You won't touch me. You go about bullying little boys, and calling yourself King Pewee, but you can't do a sum in long division, nor in short subtraction, for that matter, and you let fellows like Riley make a fool of you. Your father's poor, and your mother can't keep a girl, and you ought to be ashamed to let her milk the cows. Who milked your cow this morning, Pewee?"

"I don't know," said the king, looking like the king's fool.

"You did it," said Susan. "Don't deny it. Then you come here and call a strange boy a milkmaid!"

"Well, I didn't milk in the street, anyway, and he did." At this, all laughed aloud, and Susan's victory was complete. She only said, with a pretty toss of her head, as she turned away: "King Milkmaid!"

Pewee found the nickname likely to stick. He was obliged to declare on the playground the next day, that he would "thrash" any boy that said anything about milkmaids. After that, he heard no more of it. But one morning he found "King Milkmaid" written on the door of his father's cow-stable. Some boy who dared not attack Pewee, had vented his irritation by writing the hateful words on the stable, and on the fence-corners near the school-house, and even on the blackboard.

Pewee could not fight with Susan Lanham, but he made up his mind to punish the new scholar when he should have a chance. He must give somebody a beating.

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