Dear reader, do you remember the boy of your school who did the heavy falling through the ice and was always about to break his neck, but managed to live through it all? Do you call to mind the youth who never allowed anybody else to fall out of a tree and break his collar bone when he could attend to it himself? Every school has to secure the services of such a boy before it can succeed, and so our school had one. When I entered the school I saw at a glance that the board had neglected to provide itself with a boy whose duty it was to nearly kill himself every few days in order to keep up the interest so I applied for the position. I secured it without any trouble whatever. The board understood at once from my bearing that I would succeed. And I did not betray the trust they had reposed in me.
Before the first term was over I had tried to climb two trees at once and been carried home on a stretcher; been pulled out of the river with my lungs full of water, and artificial respiration resorted to; been jerked around over the north half of the county by a fractious horse whose halter I had tied to my leg, and which leg is now three inches longer than the other; together with various other little early eccentricities which I cannot at this moment call to mind. My parents at last got so that along about 2 o’clock P.M. they would look anxiously out of the window and say, “Isn’t it about time for the boys to get here with William’s remains? They generally get here before 2 o’clock.”
One day five or six of us were playing “I spy” around our barn. Every body knows how to play “I spy.” One shuts his eyes and counts 100, for instance, while the others hide. Then he must find the rest and say “I spy” so-and-so and touch the “goal” before they do. If anybody beats him to the goal the victim has to “blind” over again.
Well, I knew the ground pretty well, and could drop twenty feet out of the barn window and strike on a pile of straw so as to land near the goal, touch it, and let the crowd in free without getting found out. I did this several times and got the blinder, James Bang, pretty mad. After a boy has counted 500 or 600, and worked hard to gather in the crowd, only to get jeered and laughed at by the boys, he loses his temper. It was so with James Cicero Bang. I knew that he almost hated me, and yet I went on. Finally, in the fifth ballot, I saw a good chance to slide down and let the crowd in again as I had done on former occasions. I slipped out of the window and down the side of the barn about two feet, when I was detained unavoidably. There was a “batten” on the barn that was loose at the upper end. I think I was wearing my father’s vest on that day, as he was away from home, and I frequently wore his clothes when he was absent. Anyhow the vest was too large, and when I slid down that loose board ran up between the vest and my person in such a way as to suspend me about eighteen feet from the ground, in a prominent but very uncomfortable position.
I remember it quite distinctly. James C. Bang came around where he could see me. He said: “I spy Billy Nye and touch the goal before him.” No one came to remove the barn. No one came to sympathize with me in my great sorrow and isolation. Every little while James C. Bang would come around the corner and say: “Oh, I see ye. You needn’t think you’re out of sight up there. I can see you real plain. You better come down and blind. I can see ye up there!”
I tried to unbutton my vest and get down there and lick James, but it was of no use. It was a very trying time. I can remember how I tried to kick myself loose, but failed. Sometimes I would kick the barn and sometimes I would kick a large hole in the horizon. Finally I was rescued by a neighbor who said he didn’t want to see a good barn kicked into chaos just to save a long-legged boy that wasn’t worth over six bits.
It affords me great pleasure to add that while I am looked up to and madly loved by every one that does not know me, Jas. C. Bang is brevet president of a fractured bank, taking a lonely bridal tour by himself in Europe and waiting for the depositors to die of old age.
The mills of the gods grind slowly, but they most generally get there with both feet. (Adapted from the French by permission.)