Kit: an American Boy

Kit : an American Boy

By

Jennie A. Eustace

        I

His sponsors had called him Christopher Bainbridge Bryce.
The boy would have preferred something shorter and
simpler, perhaps even "a rusty name unwashed by baptism" so
that it had been just a good, comfortable mouthful for the other
boys to designate him by.

It is not surprising therefore, that at an early age various cur-
tailments were adopted ; Kit, and Chris, and Crit ; and some
boys had fallen into the way, at one time, of calling him Stub.
But his mother, resenting this on the ground that perhaps it had
been suggested by the fact of his being such a little lad, and having
such short, sturdy, round little legs, remonstrated with him on
the subject to such effect that Stub enjoyed but a short-lived
popularity.

"I don't want any one to call me Stub again. My name is
Kit." Being the respected leader of the majority of his fellows
in spite of short legs, small bones, and few years—he was only
twelve—that settled it. Kit he was to every one from that day.

With one exception.

Brawn and muscle yield unwillingly to diminutive superiority.

The Yellow Book—Vol. XIII. o

Goliath's

238 Kit : an American Boy

Goliath's cry, "Give me a Man, that we may fight together,"
was uttered in contempt of David's size. But in the days of the
Philistines, no less than now, a very small hand, directed by an
accurate eye and a powerful conviction, was found quite large
enough to inject a fatal significance into so simple a weapon as a
slung-shot.

Neil Morgan was only one year older than Kit, but he was
several years larger and heavier, and he scoffed at Kit's peaceful
rule of his followers. He himself went in for tearing off his coat
at the slightest provocation, and, in the parlance of the boys,
"squaring up," calling out as he did so :

"Come on ! If any one wants to fight, let him come
on!"

His combative fists had long burned to belabour Kit's calm,
well-tempered anatomy, and Kit's attitude towards the use of his
sobriquet furnished the opportunity. He publicly announced that
Stub was in every way a suitable name for such a stub of a boy,
and declared his intention of distinguishing him by it whenever he
saw fit.

This coming to Kit's knowledge, he resolved upon Morgan's
early downfall.

"Of course she will feel sore about it," he reflected, "but that
fellow must be settled."

Kit, like other leaders the world over, through all the ages,
exercised his generalship, as he did all else, with the consideration
of one fair goddess ever in his mind. He called his goddess Judy.
Church records witnessed that she had been baptized Helen Judith,
hut Judy fell in with his theory regarding easy, comfortable
names.

Judy was the passion of Kit's life, the lode-star of his existence.
He knew no childish ambition whose realisation was not to benefit

her ;

By Jennie A. Eustace 239

her ; he indulged no roseate dreams in whose radiance she did not
shine pre-eminent. Every boyish triumph was incomplete until
her approval crowned it, and her rebuke could rob the proudest
victory of its glory.

No boy ever lived who despised effeminate qualities in his
sex more than Kit did, but whenever the service of Judy required
it he could perform the offices of a maid with incredible
delicacy.

He knew a dozen little secrets of her toilet, and took pleasure in
seeing that she always performed them to the enhancement of her
beauty and her comfort.

He had acquired the knack of arranging her veil to please her.
He studied the weather to know what wraps she required. He
buttoned her boots. If her head ached and she was tired, he
brushed her hair with a soothing hand. And he took the fondest
pride in carefully opening the fingers of her new gloves by gently
blowing his warm breath into them before she put them on. This
last was a special invention of his own which had found much
favour in her eyes. He made her the trusted confidante of every
secret of his heart, and her judgment on all subjects was as an
oracle to him.

And Judy, on her part, paid back this wealth of homage and
devotion in equal measure and greater ; for Judy was Kit's fair
young mother, and Kit was Judy's all.

Any serious difference of opinion between them was extremely
rare, and when—as in the case of Morgan—the possibility of one
arose, Kit knew no peace until, to quote himself, he had "had it
out" with her.

"It will have to come to it," he announced to her one day.

"What is it this time, Comfort ?" Whenever Kit appeared
particularly troubled Judy called him Comfort. She knew that it

flattered

240 Kit : an American Boy

flattered the proudest boast of his little life, and was a bit of
strategy which never failed to reassure him.

"Morgan ; he insists on 'Stub,' and wants a fight."

He sat down on the side of her chair, coiled his arm about her
neck, and with his round, red check resting comfortably against
her shoulder, described the situation. Judy acknowledged a thrill
of sympathy at the condition of affairs, and agreed to enter no
protest against their better adjustment.

His mind at ease respecting her attitude in the matter, his next
move was to cultivate the society of a half-dozen doubtful spirits,
respected only for their skill in sundry tricks of boyish warfare.
With these he held frequent council in the roomy loft of the
barn, greatly to the alarm and annoyance of Annie, the beautiful
chestnut mare, in the stable below, who was Kit's particular
pride and special property. He had no foolish confidence in his
own prowess as opposed to that of the young giant he proposed to
lay low, and the purpose of this first step in his plan of action
was to make himself master of the honourable science of wrestling
—that potent art in serving the ends of agility against amplitude.
Becoming familiar, however, with the startling efficacy of certain
not altogether legitimate manoeuvres of which his youthful
instructors were the proud exponents, he found himself possessed
at moments of a moral fear lest he should be tempted to resort to
similar irregularities with Morgan in case honest means should get
the worst of it.

And when, during one unusually exciting session, little Ted
Wilson, overhearing an uncomplimentary allusion to himself,
suddenly brought his detractors sprawling to earth by a sly play of
the tip of his boot, Kit could not control his enthusiasm, but threw
up his hat and gave utterance to the most emphatic expression of
approval in his vocabulary :

"By

By Jennie A. Eustace 241

"By Jove ! But that is ripping !"

Annie was not the only member of the family who was puzzled
and distressed by Kit's mysterious devotion to the barn loft.
Judy had found it impossible to look with full favour upon his, to
her, unaccountable devotion to his present associates. It had
never been her plan to insist upon any confidence from him until
he chose to give it. But for the first time this negative mode of
procedure seemed about to fail.

And so, on the morning of a certain May day, observing his
impatience to bolt his breakfast and be off to the barn for an
interval before school, she determined to follow and to learn as
much as she might without positive eavesdropping. When she
entered the barn she heard no sound but Annie's familiar whinney.
Above in the loft everything seemed quiet. She began to wonder
if Kit could be alone, when a heavy sound like the quick falling
of an inert body reached her. Kit, mastering a difficult turn,
had thrown little Wilson forcibly to the floor. This was followed
by shrill yells of approval, and Judy found herself hearing frag-
ments of speech never intended for delicate ears, and of such a
nature that for an instant she stood transfixed with angry indigna-
tion. Then, without pausing to consider any result but the
desirable one of being rid of the young barbarians overhead, she
went swiftly to the foot of the stairs, where, in sterner tones than
he had ever heard from her, she called him :

"Kit !"

There was no mistaking the meaning in that call. To every
boy who had been guilty of an oath or any other contraband
expression it meant that she had heard him, and that in her judg-
ment Kit was responsible.

And Kit himself was so bewildered with the surprise of her
being there, that for one swift moment he felt almost like a culprit.

This

242 Kit : an American Boy

This state was followed quickly, however, by a series of reflections
which left him ill-natured and sullen, and for the first time in his
life, disappointed in her.

"She didn't trust me. She sneaked !"

That was his mental summary, and to do him justice it had
some show of truth. He stood stubbornly at the head of the
stairs waiting for her to call again.

"Kit !"

"Well ?"

"I want you."

He walked slowly down, followed by his abashed coadjutors,
who lost no time in making their escape. Judy in the meantime
had walked over to the stall, where she stood quietly stroking
Annie's soft nose. Kit remained by the door watching her, his
hands thrust doggedly into his pockets, his hat on the back of his
head, and a look of unmistakable mutiny in his eyes. Judy felt
that her task was both delicate and difficult.

"I am disappointed, Kit ! That language, those boys ! What
can you see in them ?"

He had never known her to manifest so much displeasure at
anything before.

"I cannot understand it, Comfort."

A lump came into his throat at the name, but the sense of his
disappointment in her still mastered him and kept him silent. At
this point the school bell rang. The situation was becoming
extreme.

His mother realised it, and waited—devoting herself to Annie,
talking softly to her and calling her by the pet names which Kit
had invented for her from time to time. But all to no purpose,
for when she looked toward the door again he was gone. She
could see him disappearing in the direction of the school, his

hands

By Jennie A. Eustace 243

hands still in his pockets, but his hat now was drawn low over his
eyes.

"Poor little man!" she sighed. She knew there were tears
under the brim.

The mid-day recess did not improve matters. Kit continued to
maintain his sullen silence, and this time Judy did not attempt to
break it. He found her busy finishing a flannel blouse which she
had made for him to wear in some athletic sports that were to
take place on the next day. They had modelled this garment
between them, and the sight of her thus employed brought up the
troublesome lump to his throat again. He made no overture to a
peace, however, but finished his meal and hurried back to his
lessons. Judy followed him to the door, and watched the little
figure out of sight. When he reached the corner whose turning
shut him from her view, he looked back and saw her standing
there.

"Oh, Judy, Judy !" It was a genuine sob that burst from him
as he hastened on.

"Dear, dear little Judy! But she finished the blouse just the
same."

Altogether it was proving the most miserable day of Kit's
young existence, and he could never look back upon it without a
certain degree of suffering.

When school was dismissed, he set out for the athletic grounds
with several companions for an hour's final practice against
to-morrow's contests. Within hearing distance behind him were
Morgan and his cohorts, bound for the same destination and with
the same object in view. Kit was bent on excelling to-morrow
—partly, to be sure, to outdo the other boys, but more than all
just now to make Judy proud of him again. She would be there
to see him, seated in the comfortable little phaeton behind Annie.

Indeed,

244 Kit : an American Boy

Indeed, what event had ever taken place in his little life at which
she had not been present—and, for the matter of that, Annie, too,
provided it had been any function at which a self-respecting
horse could appear ? After practice he would go home to her
and straighten out the wretched affair of the morning, and to-
morrow with everything between them smooth and right once
more, why— A glad little sigh at the happy prospect was escaping
him, when his ears caught an expression from the crowd in the
rear that sent the angry blood into his cheeks. He felt his
fingers suddenly tingle with a desire to clutch something, and
even his sturdy little legs began to tremble with excitement.

Could it be that on this of all days he was to settle scores with
the enemy ? It flashed upon him that no day could be fitter.
His quarrel with Judy, her distress, his own miserable heart-ache
—nothing could suit him better than to avenge these, and to
accomplish Morgan's downfall in the same hour.

It is in the young male blood to scent battle and to gloat over
it ; and a significant silence had fallen upon both groups of boys.
Kit himself strode on, waiting for the repetition of the attack
which he felt would soon come.

"His—mother's—little—Stub !" He heard it drawled forth a
second time. The words were Morgan's, and there was a
challenge in them. Quicker than it takes to tell it, Kit turned
and faced the foe.

"Come on !" It was Morgan who spoke again, but the
words were no more than uttered, when, with the rapidity of
lightning, out shot a determined little fist in a left lead-off for
Morgan's head, instantly followed up by a cut from an equally
determined little right. And then, faster and faster, and more
and more determined with each succeeding play, now here, now
there, first for Judy and then for himself, his blows fell like hail

on

By Jennie A. Eustace 245

on face, on head, on ribs ; and Kit seemed transformed into a
living incarnation of physical dynamics. In vain did Morgan try
to recover himself. Kit realised that it was the opportunity of
his righting career, and at the first return blow he proceeded to
put into practice those arts which he had learned from his now
deposed trainers. The hold, the heave, the click—it is not to be
supposed that he knew them by these technical terms, but he
executed them all with an effectiveness that was maddening and
bewildering. Morgan would have been glad to cry quits, but
nothing would satisfy Kit now but to see him literally in the
dust; and watching his chance he suddenly sprang upon the
other's bulky frame, locking himself firmly about his waist by the
knees, and with a quick downward and backward movement of
his hands and arms, he pulled Morgan's legs from under him and
sent him to the ground an inert mass, himself falling with him
and literally pinning the young blusterer to earth.

For a few quiet seconds the two combatants eyed each other
curiously ; Morgan, still dazed from the concussion of the fall,
stared at Kit in a half appealing way, while Kit, burning with
excitement and conscious of victory, returned the look with one
of calm disdain.

"What is my name now ?"

"K—K—Kit !"

Then he calmly rose—and went home and made his peace
with Judy.



        II


Need it be told that Kit was a victor in the next day's sports ?

When a boy has thrashed his enemy and become good friends
with his mother, who and what can beat him ?

But

246 Kit : an American Boy

But his victory was not an altogether easy one, nor was it an
assured one until the very finish. Four lads besides himself—
each a winner in at least one previous contest of the afternoon—
were pitted against each other for the final affair of the day, a
mile walk.

The four were all taller than Kit, with longer legs and capable
of greater stride. But he was known among the boys as a stayer.
Moreover he possessed the faculty of keeping his wits about him
notwithstanding much weariness of the flesh. Frequent practice
had made him familiar with every foot of the track. He knew at
what turns it declined and where it ascended, and just where
over-tired feet would be apt to trip and fall.

The five boys had circled the half-mile course once, and as
they passed the judge's stand each one was holding his own. Kit,
Neil Morgan, and little Wilson were ahead and abreast, the other
two slightly behind. In this order they continued for the next
three hundred yards. Then Morgan pushed ahead, lengthening
his stride and quickening his pace until he opened an awkward
gap between himself and the others. Kit felt keenly the dis-
advantage of his short legs, but no effort he might make could
disarrange geometrical certainties. The base of a triangle could
not be made to measure more than the united length of its two
other sides. He kept pluckily on, however, side by side with
Wilson, neither gaining nor losing until they both reached a point
on the track directly across from the grand stand, where for a
distance of fifty feet a thicket of willows shut off their small
figures from the judge's eyes. When they emerged from behind
this screen, Wilson was seen not only in advance of Kit, but
leading Morgan also by several feet.

Knowing his opportunity, he had taken advantage of it, and as
soon as they were well within the shade of the trees he had broken

into

By Jennie A. Eustace 247

into a quick run for a space of twenty feet and more. Kit, not
altogether surprised by this manoeuvre—memories of the barn-loft
were still with him—was unmoved by it save for an ominous
tightening of the lips and a deepening of the red in his cheeks.
But poor Morgan, certain of victory, and over-elated by the safe
lead he had honestly won, was so confounded by the vision of
Wilson passing him that tears of disappointment blinded him, and
he ambled from side to side of the track, thus permitting Kit,
doggedly plodding on in a straight line, soon to overtake and pass
him.

The fourth and fifth boys having fallen behind, the race now
lay between Wilson and Kit. The former, jubilant over the
advantage he had unlawfully gained, was swinging along with an
air of great confidence, his head well up in the air and his eyes
straight ahead. The crowd in the grand stand had already
awarded the race to him, Kit's followers no less than the others.
Judy, sitting behind Annie over among the carriages at the right
of the stand, felt her heart beat a little faster than usual at the
prospect of Kit's defeat, but not all her fond ambition could
shorten that dangerous lead.

Kit alone had not given up. He kept resolutely on, his eyes
fixed on Wilson, and every muscle strained to its utmost. He
knew that thirty feet this side of the wire there was a treacherous
dip in the track. Twice in practice he had encountered it, and in
emerging from it the unexpected rise under his feet had thrown
him to the ground. Did Wilson know of it too ?

Kit based his one final hope on the answer to this query.

And now the forward boy was directly in the line of the pitfall ;
nearer and nearer, and still he had given no sign of attempting to
avoid it. Kit's anxiety was becoming painful. And now Wilson
was within half a dozen paces of the spot. Would he go straight

into

248 Kit : an American Boy

into it ? Would he swerve to the right—to the left ! But even
as Kit calculated the chances, the other had reached it. He
tripped, he stumbled, he recovered himself. He tripped again,
again he stumbled, and with an angry oath which reached Kit's
ears and recalled with comical force Judy's shock of yesterday, he
fell his full length on the track. By the time he had well regained
his footing, Kit had passed him and was under the wire.

Half an hour later Annie was speeding Judy and Kit up the
avenue toward home at a rollicking pace. No one knew better
than Annie that Kit had won. Indeed, had he not told her so
himself as he rubbed his cheek against her nose before climbing
in beside Judy ?

"Did you see me get there, old girl ?" And she had replied
with a happy and intelligent neigh that she had seen him get there,
and was proud of him.



            III


The world was not quite right with Annie. Down in the
large pleasant pasture field she spent much of her time in sad
rumination. She had little else to do these days and might be
seen standing for hours at a time with her chin resting lazily on
the gate, which shut her in from the highway stretching along by
the river. Sometimes Judy stood there too, looking out on the
road, with her arm about Annie's neck.

But even Judy's arm could not console her. Perhaps it only
served to remind her more forcibly of how sadly she missed from
her neck another arm, a smaller one, and two dear little stirruped
feet from her sides, and a dear little figure from her back. What
a time it seemed since she had felt them. How she longed for a
race down the road with that light buoyant weight on her back.

She

By Jennie A. Eustace 249

She was becoming a veritable sluggard. Were her days of useful-
ness and activity over ? Should he never need her again ?

At this point in her daily musing there usually came in sight at
the bend of the road the cause of all her dolour. At first it looked
each time to Annie like an immense ball rolling very fast. But
as it approached it invariably resolved itself into that well-loved
and sadly missed little figure mounted on what she felt convinced
were two of the phaeton wheels, and working the dear little legs
up and down with the vigour and precision of a trip-hammer.

When it came quite in front of them Judy would laugh and
clap her hands and cry, "Bravo, bravo," as it sped by. And then
Annie, recognising an obligation, would try to toss up her head
with her old spirit and to follow with a glad neigh. But the
stupidest horse in the world could have seen that she made a
miserable failure of it, for there was no gladness in it—more of a
sob, if a horse knows anything about a sob.

To come to the point, Kit had surrendered to a bicycle.

Morning, noon, and night, for the past two months, it had
absorbed every spare hour. There had been a rather difficult
argument with Judy at the first, but having once yielded, she
became as enthusiastic a partisan as Kit himself. It was a
distinguishing trait in her that she entered into every experience
of his with as much active interest as though the experience were
her own. She speedily made herself an authority, therefore, on
gearing, and adjustment, and saddles, and pedals, and all the rest,
that he might enjoy an advantage at every point. She took the
keenest pride in his riding. It was not enough that he could
make the best time and the longest distance ; he must be the best
to look upon as well. And so she devised the trimmest of
costumes and the neatest of caps. And he must sit correctly and
he must pedal properly, until, taking it all in all, Kit's bicycle

period

250 Kit : an American Boy

period developed into the most engrossing one yet known to
either himself or to Judy.

And in the meantime Annie continued sad and neglected.
Joe, the stable-boy, noticing her moping condition, said one day
to Kit :

"'Pears like she don't feel first rate."

Then Kit went into the stall where Joe was grooming her and
rubbed her nose and talked to her.

"You are getting proud, old girl, and lazy. That is all that
ails you. That 'bike' is the greatest friend you ever had. You
can take it easy now for the rest of your natural life—a nice
comfortable pasture, plenty to eat, and nothing to do. Oh, you
lucky old lady ! Give her a bran-mash, Joe ; that will put her
all right." And he was gone.

Annie's soft brown eyes followed Kit's figure up the lane with
an appealing look. A bran-mash ? What was a bran-mash to a
faithful old friend, whose only illness was a longing for the baby
boy who eight years before had first been put astride her back and
who every day since, until these last miserable weeks, had fondled
her and ridden her and driven her ?

How should she ever make him understand ?

Was a mere machine to supplant a lifetime's devotion ?

Her friend, indeed ! She would not have answered for that
friend's safety had it been just then within reach of two well-shod
hoofs. Nothing to do for the rest of her natural life ! There
was the rub. She had always been such a necessary member of
the family—so willing, so proud of her usefulness ! And now, in
the very hey-day of her powers, to be cast aside ! Had she failed
to carry him fast enough ? She would challenge any wheel made
to beat her. Had she ever rebelled at distance or time ? Never !
And yet—and yet—— No more mad rides down the river bank !

No

By Jennie A. Eustace 251

No more racing ! No more wild charges home from the park,
passing everything on the road, with Judy and Kit sitting proudly
behind her ! No more all-day rambles through woods and along
the lake ! No more of anything that was !

Annie's heart was as heavy as a horse's heart could well be ;
heavy, and a little indignant as well. Accordingly, when Joe,
following instructions, placed the bran-mash in the measure before
her, she tipped it over with a viciousness never before seen in her
and resolutely refused to take it.

But that was her one and only offence. From that day she
bore ills with the dignity of a dethroned monarch ; and if Kit's
neglect wounded her, she only betrayed it by an added gentleness
to him on those now rare occasions when he remembered her.

And so the bright summer slipped away, and October with its
mellow fulness was at hand.

Judy, always more or less influenced by that subtle melancholy
of the autumn, was this year particularly affected by it. It was a
singular trait of Kit's almost passionate affection for her, that when-
ever she was ill he bore himself toward her with something almost
approaching harshness. It seemed to be his only method of pulling
himself together against a nameless horror which any lack of her
accustomed force always suggested to him. He could not look
back to the time when that horror had not played a part in his
thought of her. On that never-to-be-forgotten first day of his
school-life, when his little feet had raced home to her and she had
caught him to her heart after their first few hours' separation, his
first cry had been :

"Oh, Judy, Judy ! I was afraid I might not find you
here !"

And that had been the unspoken fear of all his home-comings
ever since. Afraid he might not find her ! And this fear had

grown

252 Kit : an American Boy

grown and grown, and made riot in his imagination until every
tiny ill to which she became subject developed into a possible
monster of evil. One day a spark from the grate had caught in
her dress and burned it. When he came from his lessons she
laughingly told him of it, and for days after he had been almost
afraid to go into that same room to look for her, lest he should
find that a second spark had accomplished more ghastly results.
Again, an irritation in her throat had produced a violent fit of
coughing, and he had seen a speck of blood upon her handkerchief.
Thereupon the horror took a new form, and for weeks he endured
the agony of a new suspense. His bedroom was just across the
passage from hers, and she, dreaming one night, had called out in
her sleep. Wakened by her voice, he had rushed to her, only to
find her lying white and peaceful. But the sight had so suggested
that other "dreamless sleep," that, awe-stricken, he had fled back to
his own room, where he had locked himself in and sobbed the night
away. And after this for many weeks, in spite of her entreaties,
he closed his door at night and refused her the solace of calling
across to him, as was her wont, until she fell asleep—for Judy dis-
liked solitude and the dark. But his moist pillow had the same
story to tell every morning.

And Judy never knew.

It was his one secret from her. He found it easier to be misunder-
stood, than to put the horror in words, and chose rather to
appear hard and sullen to her than to yield to it in her presence.

So it happened that on a particular day of this particular
October, coming into her room and finding her lying on her bed,
pale and weak, his heart suddenly leaped to his thoat in an agony
of suffering, but he only said :

"I cannot think why you lie about such a fine day, Judy. You
would be much better out of doors."

And

By Jennie A. Eustace 253

And Judy answering that she felt a bit tired and ill, he abruptly
left her—but only to linger outside her door heart-broken, hollow-
eyed, and afraid. Later, when the doctor came, he comforted
Kit and smiled at his anxious questions. His mother was sure to
be all right in the morning. But Kit, with the keen prescience
of intense affection, realised that she was as she had never been
before. When night came, he stole quietly in to her and put
his cheek against hers, but he could not trust himself to
speak. Then he crept back to his own room, where he threw
himself upon the bed, fully dressed, to wait for the morning.
Before many hours had passed, however, a cry of pain aroused
him :

"Kit ! Kit !" He was at her side in a bound. "The
doctor, Kit ! I cannot breathe."

In looking back at it afterwards he never could remember how
he found his cap or how he got out of doors. His first distinct
consciousness was when he found himself on the road in front of
the house mounted on his bicycle and starting on what seemed
to him a race against time for Judy's life. What words can
describe the tension of his feelings ? All the accumulated suffer-
ing of that awful fear was at work within him. How he flew !
What time he made from the start ! Old Doctor Morton lived
four miles down the river—but before he could strike the river
road he must go a mile in the opposite direction, and then half as
far again to the right. That mile and a half seemed a mile and a
half of treason to Judy. But on, on, —even while he was
deploring it, he had accomplished it. And now he had turned
into the smooth highway, running along by the river bank, and
following Annie's pasture for a quarter of a mile. Little thought
of Annie, however, was in his mind to-night—little thought
of anything but Judy and speed. The road, the trees, the moon,

The Yellow Book—Vol. XIII. P

the

254 Kit : an American Boy

the fences, even the blades of grass, seemed all to whisper her
name—Judy—Judy !

He remembered with a peculiar sense of thankfulness that he
had spent an hour that very day in putting his wheel in condition.
He had cleaned it, and oiled it, and pumped it, and every screw
had been made tight and fast. And now, with head well forward
and feet firmly working, he braced himself for his quick and
noiseless flight. Almost unconsciously to himself he began to
calculate the time he was making—how long it would take to
reach the doctor, the delay there, the return. An hour should
accomplish it all and find him back with her again. What
gratitude he felt for this sure, silent steed he was riding ! No
loss of time in saddling and bridling ! A horse was all very good
when one had time, but not even Annie with all her speed could
equal this quiet, swift carrier that had supplanted her. A sense
of exultation mingled with his anxiety for Judy, as he realised how
quickly he could bring aid to her. His hand resting easily on the
bars, his body inclining farther and farther forward, his speed
increased at every revolution. It seemed to him that wings could
not have borne him faster. A mile ! Another quarter ! He
knew every inch of the way. Another half ! Here was Annie's
pasture ! How he was going it ! How Annie would prick up
her ears if she could see his pace ! And then—snap ! A sound
like the report of a pistol and Kit's steed had failed him. Too
tightly pumped for his mad haste, a tire had exploded. He was
on his feet in a flash and studying the situation. He looked at
the flattened, useless wheel—he thought of Judy's plight, and for
one weak moment all his strength forsook him. Down on his
face he threw himself in an abandonment of suffering, and in one
long, loud sob cried out his anguish :

"Oh, Judy ! Poor, poor little Judy !"

But

By Jennie A. Eustace 255

But hark ! His sob was not fully spent, when he lifted his
head with a throb of returning hope. Could he believe his ears ?
Whose friendly voice had he heard ring out on the night in
answer to his cry ? With a shout he sprang to his feet, and
called aloud. Again that welcome response, followed now by the
sound of hurrying steps he knew so well.

"It is! It is! Annie, Annie, Annie !" He had not been
deceived. He was over the fence like a ball, and down at the gate
as fast as his feet could carry him, calling in half-sobs as he ran :

"Annie, Annie, old girl! Hurry! Hurry! It's for Judy,
Annie—it's for Judy !" And in shorter time than pen can write
it, he was on her bare back and away.

What need to explain ?

Annie, nibbling the night away under the moon, in the pas-
ture, had been startled from her pensive meditation by that heart-
breaking cry of her young master. Catching its note of despair,
like the loyal servant that she was, she had lifted her voice in
loud, quick, sympathetic response.

A neighbour was heard to say, the following day : "That
mare of Bryce's whinnied like she wanted to wake up the whole
town last night."

As to Annie herself, she could not guess what catastrophe had
brought Kit to her in such distress at this hour of the night, but
she felt intuitively that the vindication of the entire equine race
might depend upon her speed. With his hands gripped firmly on
her neck, and his knees pressed well into her sides, Kit held his
breath at the pace she set. On, on like the wind ! And the
clatter of her hoofs played good part too, for, long before the
house was reached, their sound had struck Doctor Morton's keen
ears like a call to duty, and brought him to the door before Kit
had turned into the yard.

"She

256 Kit : an American Boy

"She is worse, doctor. You are to come—come at once !"

Then they raced back, and the old doctor mounted on his tall,
raw-boned gray, came in no mean second.

When the morning broke it found Judy better. Relief had
come to her at a critical moment, and an awkward crisis was
safely passed.

A week later, almost herself again, she and Kit stood by the
drive, while Joe led out Annie, harnessed to the little phaeton.

"She is a proud steppin' beast, Master Kit—and no mistake—
and have more spirit than a two-year-old."

"Yes, Joe ; you are right."

When Judy was comfortably seated, and her cushions properly
placed, Kit sprang in by her side and took the reins.

"What have you done about that tire, Joe ?"

"Mended it, sir."

"Well—I am rather off wheeling for the present. The thing
is yours, if you like. I shan't want it again. Here ! mind your-
self, old girl. What are you up to ?"

But Annie could not help it. With a snort of triumph she
dashed down the drive and out into the road, and refused to be
reined up until she had gone a mad mile or two.

Later, Kit explained :

"A wheel is right enough for sport, Judy, but you can't count
on anything in trouble that doesn't know how to feel. Annie is
good enough for me."





MLA citation: Eustace, Jennie A. "Kit: an American Boy." The Yellow Book 13 (April 1897): 237-256. The Yellow Nineties Online. Ed. Dennis Denisoff and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra. Ryerson University. Web. [Date of access]. http://1890s.ca/HTML.aspx?s=YBV13_eustace_kit.html