THE PREACHER'S BOY
BY JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY
I rickollect the little tad, back, years and years ago--
"The Preacher's Boy" that every one despised and hated so!
A meek-faced little feller, with white eyes and foxy hair,
And a look like he expected ser'ous trouble everywhere:
A sort o' fixed expression of suspicion in his glance;
His bare-feet always scratched with briers; and green stains on his pants;
Molasses-marks along his sleeves; his cap-rim turned behind--
And so it is "The Preacher's Boy" is brought again to mind!
My fancy even brings the sly marauder back so plain,
I see him jump our garden-fence and slip off down the lane;
And I seem to holler at him and git back the old reply:
"Oh, no: your peaches is too green fer such a worm as I!"
Fer he scorned his father's phrases--every holy one he had--
"As good a man," folks put it, "as that boy of his was bad!"
And again from their old buggy-shed, I hear the "rod unspared"--
Of course that never "spoiled the child" for which nobody cared!
If any neighber ever found his gate without a latch,
Or rines around the edges of his watermelon-patch;
His pasture-bars left open; or his pump-spout chocked with clay,
He'd swear 'twas "that infernal Preacher's Boy," right away!
When strings was stretched acrost the street at night, and some one got
An everlastin' tumble, and his nose broke, like as not,
And laid it on "The Preacher's Boy"--no powers, low ner high,
Could ever quite substantiate that boy's alibi!
And did nobody like the boy?--Well, all the pets in town
Would eat out of his fingers; and canaries would come down
And leave their swingin' perches and their fish-bone jist to pick
The little warty knuckles that the dogs would leap to lick--
No little snarlin', snappin' fiste but what would leave his bone
To foller, ef he whistled, in that tantalizin' tone
That made the goods-box whittler blasphemeusly protest
"He couldn't tell, 'twixt dog and boy, which one was ornriest!"
'Twas such a little cur as this, onc't, when the crowd was thick
Along the streets, a drunken corner-loafer tried to kick,
When a sudden foot behind him tripped him up, and falling so
He "marked his man," and jerked his gun--drawed up and let 'er go!
And the crowd swarmed round the victim--holding close against his breast
The little dog unharmed, in arms that still, as they caressed,
Grew rigid in their last embrace, as with a smile of joy
He recognized the dog was saved. So died "The Preacher's Boy"!
When it appeared, before the Squire, that fatal pistolball
Was fired at "a dangerous beast," and not the boy at all,
And the facts set forth established,--it was like-befittin' then
To order out a possy of the "city councilmen"
To kill the dog! But, strange to tell, they searched the country round,
And never hide-ner-hair of that "said" dog was ever found!
And, somehow, then I sorto' thought--and half-way think, to-day--
The spirit of "The Preacher's Boy" had whistled him away.