The Seventh Tutor by Ralph Henry Barbour
"I'm being perfectly honest with you," said dad. "I tell you frankly that I don't expect you to succeed, Mr. Wigg----"
"Twigg," corrected the chap in the basket chair.
"Pardon me; Twigg. The boy is simply unmanageable, especially where study is concerned. He--but, there, perhaps it will be best if I don't prejudice you too much. You'll have a free hand; I shan't interfere between you. The last tutor came to me every day with the story of his troubles. I paid him to keep them to himself; I don't want to hear them. I simply hand the boy over to you and say: 'Here he is; make a gentleman of him if you can, and incidentally get him ready for college. Punish him whenever you see fit. Take any method in doing it you like, so long as you don't forget you're a gentleman; brutality I won't stand.'"
I wished I could see the chap's face; but I couldn't; just his feet. He wore low patent leathers.
"If at the end of one month," dad went on, "you have managed to get the upper hand, we'll continue the arrangement. If you have failed I shall have no further need of you. In the meanwhile, until then, you're a member of the family, free to come and go as you like. See that you're comfortable. That's all, I guess. Want to try it?"
"Yes," said the chap. I didn't like the way he said it, though; it sounded so kind of certain. All the others had been a bit nervous when dad got to that point.
"Very well," dad answered. "We'll call it settled. As--er--as a--sidelight on Raymond's code of honor, Mr. Twigg--you said Twigg?--I'll mention that for the last few minutes he has been listening to our conversation from behind the hall door. You may come out now, Raymond."
I went out, grinning. It was all well enough for dad to talk about "the last few minutes," but I was sure he hadn't known I was there until I kicked the door after the chap said "yes" like that. The chap got out of his chair and looked at me as though they hadn't been talking about me for half an hour.
"Raymond, this is Mr. John Twigg, your new tutor," said dad.
"Thought it was about time for another," I said. Twigg held out his hand, and so I shook with him. He shook different from the others; sort of as though he had bones and things inside his fingers instead of cotton wool.
"Glad to see you," he said. "Hope we'll get on together."
"Oh, I'll get on," said I; "but I don't know about you."
"That'll do, Raymond," said dad angrily. "I don't expect you to act like a gentleman; but you might at least be less of a cad."
"I ain't a cad!" I muttered.
"What else are you when you listen behind doors to things you're not expected to hear? When you talk like a gutter snipe and act--"
"You're a liar!" I shouted. "Liar! Liar! Liar!"
Dad's face got purple like it always does when he's mad, and his hands shook. For a moment I thought he was going to jump for me; he never has, no matter how mad he gets. Then he leaned back again in his chair and turned to Twigg with a beast of a sneer on his face.
"You see?" he asked, with a shrug. "Nice, sweet-tempered, clean-tongued youth, isn't he? Want to call it off?"
I looked scowlingly at Twigg. He was leaning back, hands in pockets, looking at me through half-closed eyes as though I was a side show at a circus. I stared back at him defiantly. "Have a look," I jeered. He raised a finger and scratched the side of his nose without taking his eyes off me, just as though he was a doctor trying to decide what nasty stuff to give me. After a bit I dropped my eyes; I tried not to, but they got to blinking.
"No," said Twigg. "If you don't mind I'll walk back to the station and telegraph for my trunk."
"Sit still," said dad, "and I'll get the cart around. Or you can write your message and I'll have Forbes send it."
"Thanks," said Twigg, "I'd like the walk." He turned to me. "Want to go along?"
I grinned at him.
"No, I don't want to go along," I said mockingly.
He didn't seem to notice.
"Luncheon is at--?"
"Two o'clock," said dad.
Dad went into the house, and Twigg put a gray felt hat on his head and strode off down the drive. I sat on the porch rail and watched him. He looked about five feet eight inches, and was broad across the shoulders. He had a good walk. I slouched when I walked. After he was out of sight I rather wished I'd gone along. There wasn't anything particular to do at home, and I could have told him about the other tutors; there's some things that dad doesn't know.
I found Twigg kept a diary. He went to the city on the Wednesday afternoon after he came, and I rubbered around to see what I could find. The diary was in his table drawer. It was awful dull rot until I got to the last page or two. The day before he'd written a lot about me. This was it; I copied it:
"Fourth day at Braemere. First desire to throw it up and acknowledge defeat quite gone. Am determined to see it through. I think I can win. At all events the thing won't lack interest. Can't flatter myself that I've made much headway. R. is like a rhinoceros. Can't find a vulnerable spot anywhere. He seems morally calloused. I say seems because I can scarcely believe that a boy of sixteen can really be as absolutely unmoral as he appears. Perhaps, eventually, I will find an Achilles' heel.
"Mr. Dale stands by his agreement. He never offers to interfere. So much the better. Mr. D.'s attitude toward R. is humorous as well as lamentable. He views the boy as though he were entirely irresponsible for his being. It is plain that he sees no connection between the boy's extraordinary character and his own; yet they are alike in many particulars; one could almost express my meaning by saying that R. is his father in an uncultivated state. Mr. D. ascribes the boy's faults to the other side of the house; he is convinced that the ungovernable temper and lack of moral sense are unfortunate inheritances from the late Mrs. D. Probably this is true in a measure. R. was the only child. The mother died at his birth. Mr. D, returned to this country when R. was four years old, and purchased this estate. Here the boy has grown up practically neglected. During twelve years Mr. D. has been out of the country the better part of eight. The boy has been left to the care of servants. For the past three years he has been in the hands of tutors, whose periods of service ran from one week to three months. I am the seventh in line to attempt the work.
"Physically R. is in good shape. He is fond of outdoor life; likes horses, dogs and animals generally; rides well; shoots and fishes. Mentally he is decidedly above normal, but quite untrained. Hates study. Would grade about third year in Latin school. I shall begin at the bottom with him. It's going to be a hard pull, but I'm going to win out."
I was going to empty the ink bottle over the pages; but I knew if I did he'd hide the book or lock it up, and I wanted to see what else he'd write. So I put it back in the drawer. I was sure I'd have him done to a turn in a month. But it was going to take longer than with the other fools, though.
"That'll do," said Twigg. "You haven't studied a lick, have you?"
"Not a lick," I answered.
"When do you think of beginning?" he asked.
"Not going to begin at all."
"Oh, poppycock, my boy." He tossed down the Latin book and yawned. "Don't you want to go to college?"
"No; not if I've got to study all that darned stuff."
"What kind of stuff?"
"Darned stuff, I said. You heard me, didn't you?"
"Yes; but I thought perhaps I'd mistaken. Well, we'll try this again to-morrow. How about mathematics?"
"Not prepared? German ditto, I presume?"
"I haven't studied at all, I tell you."
"Well, we know where to begin to-morrow, don't we? Is there any decent fishing around here?"
"Find out," I muttered.
"Oh, well, I didn't suppose there was," he answered. "It's an out-of-the-way spot up here, anyway."
"That's a lie! There's as good trout and pickerel fishing here as there is anywhere in the State, if you know the proper place to look for it."
"Maybe; maybe there are lions and tigers if you know where to look for them. But I'll believe it when I see them."
He yawned again and looked out the window and drummed on the desk. After a bit I said:
"You city fellows think you know it all, don't you? If you want fishing I'll take you where you'll get it."
"I'm not particular about it," he said. "I know about what that sort of fishing is; sit on a bank or stand up to your waist in water all day, and catch two little old four-ounce trout and a sunfish."
I jumped up.
"I guess I know more about this place than you do," I cried angrily. "You come with me and I'll show you fish."
"Too sunny, isn't it?" he asked.
"Not for where I mean."
"Got an extra rod?"
"Yes; you can take my split bamboo--if you won't go and bust it."
"All right; if I break it I'll buy you another. Fish from the bank, do you? or shall I put boots on?"
"Boots. Got any?"
"Yes. I'll go up and put them on. Take those books off with you, please. You won't have time for studying before night."
"I won't then, either," I said.
"Well, anyhow, we won't leave them here. Let's keep the shop looking ship-shape. By the way, it's a bit late, isn't it? How about lunch?"
"Take some grub with us. I'll tell Annie to put some up. I'll meet you on the steps in ten minutes."
"All right; I'll be there. Er--Raymond!"
"Huh?" said I.
"You've forgotten the books."
"Oh, let 'em wait."
"All right." He sat down at the desk again.
"Ain't you going fishing?" I asked.
"No. I think not," he answered. "Somehow, while those books are here I feel that we ought to stay at home and study. I dare say the fish will be there to-morrow as well as to-day, eh?"
"Oh, all right," I said sulkily. "Only you can't make me study, you know."
I sat down and put my hands in my pockets. I looked at him out of the corners of my eyes. He didn't seem to have heard me.
"Let's see," he said after a moment. "How many lines were we to have in this?"
"I don't remember," I growled. Then I jumped up and grabbed the books. "You make me sick," I said. "I'm going fishing."
I took the books out and slammed the door as hard as it would slam.
The day after we went fishing, and got fourteen trout, I had early breakfast and rode Little Nell over to Harrisbridge and played pool with Nate Golden, whose dad has the livery stable, all morning. We had dinner at the inn, and when I got back it was nearly three o'clock. Tommy, the stable boy, told me as I rode in that Twigg had left word he wanted to see me when I got back. Well, I didn't want to see him. So I went in the kitchen way and up the back stairs to my room. When I opened the door there was Twigg, sitting in the rocker with the books all spread out on the center table.
"Hello," he said. "I'm making myself at home, you see. We're a bit late with lessons, Raymond, so I thought we might have them up here; then we won't interfere with your father's writing."
"I don't know 'em," I said.
"I'm afraid you haven't studied them. Never mind; when you get your boots off we'll go over them together. Here, hold them up. There's no use bothering with jacks when you've got some one to pull them off for you."
I let him do it. He sort of takes you by surprise sometimes and you don't know just what to say or do. Afterwards I threw myself onto the bed and lighted a cigarette. Twigg looked at me and raised his eyebrows.
"Don't smoke while lessons are going on, please," he said.
"Will if I like," I said.
"I'm afraid I can't have that."
"Well, if you don't like it you can lump it." But just the same I kept a sharp eye on him.
"Well, you're the host up here," he answered calmly. "I suppose I must consider that." Then what did he do but take out that reeking briar pipe of his, ram it full of nasty strong tobacco and begin to smoke! "One thing at a time, eh? We'll have a quiet smoke first and lessons afterwards. Tell me what you've been doing."
"None of your darned business," I said warmly.
"I suppose it isn't." He took up a book, one of Marryat's, crossed his legs and began to read. Gee! how that old pipe smelled! I laid on the bed and watched him blowing big gray clouds out under the corner of his mustache. When I'd smoked three cigarettes he looked over at me.
"Ready?" he asked.
"No, I'm not ready."
"Let me know when you are," he said. Then he filled the pipe again and went on reading. After a bit I crawled off the bed. My head felt funny, and I was almost choking with the smoke. He laid down the book and looked up at me.
"Shall we begin?" he asked.
"I don't care what you do," I growled. "I'm going outdoors."
"Not yet," said he. He got up and locked the door and put the key in his pocket. "You forget the lesson."
"You let me out, darn you!" I yelled. "I'm not going to study. You can keep me here all night and I won't study. You see if I do!"
"Don't be silly," he said, just as though he were talking to a kid. "You and I are going over those lessons if it takes to-night and to-morrow and the rest of the week. When you're ready to begin let me know; I shan't ask you again." And then he went back to that book.
After a while it began to get darkish. I went back to the bed and tried to sleep, but I couldn't. I could have killed Twigg; but there wasn't any way to do it. He kept on reading and smoking. About six o'clock he said:
"This is quite a yarn, isn't it? Somehow I never seemed to find time for Marryat when I was a boy. You've read this, of course?"
"Yes," I muttered.
"What's your favorite book?"
"I dunno; Froissart, I guess."
"Yes, that's a good one. Ever read 'Treasure Island'?"
"No; who's it by?"
"Stevenson; know him at all?"
"Did he write 'Tower of London' and those things?"
"No, he didn't. He wrote 'Kidnapped' and 'The Black Arrow' and 'David Balfour,' and a lot of other bully ones."
"'Kidnapped'?" I said. "I'd like to read that. It sounds fine."
"I'll get it for you, if you like."
"You needn't; if I want it I can get it myself, I guess."
About seven I began to get awfully hungry. Twigg lighted the gas and filled his pipe again. It made me feel sick and funny inside just to see him do it.
"You stop smoking that smelly thing in my room," I said.
"I beg your pardon, I'm sure," he said. "Just remember, however, that it was I who objected to smoking in the first place." He put his pipe down. There was a knock at the door and Annie asked if we were there.
"Yes, all right," Twigg said. "Please tell Mr. Dale that Raymond and I are going to do some studying before dinner, and ask him not to wait."
"It's a lie!" I yelled. "He's locked me in. You tell my father he's locked me in, and won't let me have any dinner. Do you hear, Annie?"
"Yes, Mr. Raymond." It sounded as though she was giggling.
"You might leave some cold meat and a pitcher of milk on the sideboard, Annie; enough for two," said Twigg. "If we get through by nine we'll look for it."
"Very well, sir," she answered.
"You--you think you're smart, don't you?" I sobbed. "I'll--I'll get even for this, you bet!"
I don't care! I was hungry, and the wretched old tobacco smoke made me feel funny. You'd have cried, too. He made believe he didn't hear me.
"You're just a big, ugly bully! If I was bigger I'd smash your face! Do you hear me?"
"Yes, my boy, and----"
"I'm not your boy! I hate you, you--you----"
"And let me remind you that you're wasting time." He took out his watch. "It's now a quarter after seven. If we're not through up here by nine, there'll be no dinner for either of us."
"Glad of it! Hope you'll starve to death. I'm--I'm not hungry. I had dinner at Harrisbridge with Nate Golden."
"Who's Nate Golden?" he asked.
"None of your business. If he was here I'd get him to lick you!"
"Lucky for me he isn't here, eh?" Then he went back to reading. I got hungrier and hungrier and had little pains inside me. I put a pillow over my head so he wouldn't hear me crying. Then, after a long while I got up and went to the table and took up a book. He didn't pay any attention. I went back and sat on the bed for a minute. Then I took up the book again and threw it down so it would make a noise. He looked around.
"Ah, Raymond," he said, "all ready? Suppose we start with the Latin!"
There wasn't any use not studying, because he didn't play fair. No man has any right to starve you. So I studied some every day after that. Old Gabbett, the chap I had before Twigg, used to shrug his shoulders when I wouldn't study, and tell me I was a good-for-nothing and would live to be hung. Then he'd go off to his room and let me alone. Browning, the chap before old Gab, used to get jolly mad and throw books at me, and swear to beat the band. I used to swear back and call him Sissy. He was a Sissy; he was about nineteen and didn't have any mustache or muscle, and he couldn't do a thing except study and play patience. It was rather good fun, though, getting him mad; it was mighty easy, too. But Twigg was different from any of them. When he wasn't putting it onto me he wasn't such a bad sort--for a tutor.
Anyhow, he wasn't a Sissy. He could catch fish and ride fine, and he could beat me at target shooting with a .32 rifle. He told me one day that he was stroke on his crew for two years. I guess that's where he got his big shoulders and muscles. You ought to see his muscles. We went in swimming one day and I saw them. I'll bet he was the strongest chap up our way. After he had been there a couple of weeks he went to the city again; and I read his diary. But there wasn't anything in it about me except one thing which he had written on June 15th. It said:
"R.'s propensity for eavesdropping and similar ungentlemanly actions renders it unadvisable to write anything here that I do not want read by others. Were it not for the aforesaid propensity and one or two lesser faults I could like the boy immensely. I have hopes, however, that when he realizes how contemptible and petty these things are he will cease doing them. He told me once that his favorite book was Froissart. I wonder if he thinks Froissart was ever guilty of listening behind doors, spying into others' diaries and swearing like a tough?"
Wonder how he knew?
* * * * *
Two days after he went to town I met him going out of the house with some golf sticks. I went along with him to the meadow and watched him hitting the little white ball. After a bit he let me try it. It wasn't easy, though, you bet! But when I'd sort of got the hang of it I could hit them right well. He said I did bully and if I liked I could help him lay out a nine-hole course the next afternoon and we'd have some games. So we did. We paced off the distances between the holes and put up sticks with bits of white cloth on them. The housekeeper gave us an old sheet. And the next day we played a game. Of course he beat me. But he said I would make a good player if I tried hard and kept at it. After that we used to play almost every day, if it wasn't too hot. Only if I didn't have my lessons good he wouldn't play.
One day I got behind the stone wall--we called it Stoney Bunker--and couldn't get out, and said "darn." And Twigg picked up the balls and started back to the house.
"Golf's a gentleman's game, Raymond," he said. "We'll wait until yon get your temper back."
That made me mad and I swore some more. And there wasn't any more golf for nearly a week. He won't get mad, too; that's what makes it so beastly. It got pretty hot the last of the month and there wasn't much to do except lay around and read. We had lessons before breakfast sometimes while it was nice and cool on the veranda; and in the forenoon we went swimming. One day he asked if I wanted him to read to me. I said he could if he liked. I wanted him to, but I didn't want him to know it. So we sat on the lawn and he read "Kidnapped," the book he'd spoken about. It was a Scotch story and simply great. After that when the afternoons were too hot for golf or riding he'd read.
I forgot to say that dad went away about the middle of the month and stayed a week, I guess.
"Hello," said Twigg, "where are you going?"
"Oh, just for a ride," I said. He was on the porch and so I pulled Little Nell up alongside the rail.
"All right; wait a minute, and I'll go along. Do you mind?"
"She doesn't like to stand," I muttered.
"She won't have to long." He grabbed the railing and vaulted over onto the drive, and I saw that he had his riding breeches and boots on.
"All right," I said. "I'll wait here."
He nodded and went over to the stables. When he was out of sight I jammed Little Nell with the spurs and tore down the drive lickety-cut. I was going over to Harrisbridge to see Nate Golden, but I didn't want to tell Twigg because he was so cranky; always trying to keep me at home. It was Sunday morning, and kind of cloudy and sultry. When I got to the road I turned Nell to the right before I remembered that I'd be in sight of the house for a quarter of a mile. But I wasn't going to turn back then, so I made for the beginning of the woods as fast as Nell could make it. I knew it would take Twigg two or three minutes to saddle Sultan, and by that time I could be out of reach.
But Twigg is always doing things you don't expect him to. When I got to the edge of the woods I looked toward the house and what did I see but Twigg on Sultan trying to head me off by riding across the meadow. Just as I looked Sultan took the panel fence with a rush, got over finely and came thundering across the turf.
"All right," I said to myself. "If it's a race you're after you can have it with me now!"
Through the woods the road is a bit soft and spongy in places and so I pulled Nell down a little. Then came a long hill; and by the time I was on top of that I could hear Sultan rushing along behind. I gave Nell her head then, for it was a good, solid road and straight as a die for over a mile. She hadn't been out of the stall for two days, and maybe she didn't tear things up! Pretty soon I looked back. There was Twigg and Sultan just coming up over the hill. They'd gained some. I touched Nell with the spur and she laid back her ears and just flew! That mile didn't last long, I tell you. When I got to the Fork I switched off to the left toward Harrisbridge; it was dusty, and I was pretty sure Twigg wouldn't know which way I'd gone. The road wound sharp to the left and I'd be out of sight before Twigg reached the Fork. Two or three minutes later I pulled up a bit and listened. I couldn't hear a sound. I chuckled and let Nell come down to a trot, thinking, of course, Twigg had kept the right-hand road and was humping it away toward Evan's Mills. Then I got to thinking about it and somehow I kind of wished I hadn't been so darned smart. It seemed sort of mean because I'd said I'd wait for him and I hadn't. You see, Twigg had such fool ideas on some things, like keeping his word to you and all that. I had half a mind to turn around and go back and look for him. But just then I heard a crashing in the brush on the left and looked back and there was Twigg and Sultan trotting through the woods toward the road. He'd cut the corner on me! I made believe I didn't see him, and pretty soon he rode up to the stone wall and jumped Sultan over into the road almost beside me.
"Well," he said, smiling, "you gave me quite a run!"
"Yes; but I knew Nell could beat that beast and so I slowed down."
"That's all right, then. I thought at first you were trying to give me the slip, but I knew you'd said you'd wait and so I concluded you wanted some fun."
"Yes," I said.
"This is the Harrisbridge road, isn't it?" he asked.
"It goes to lots of places."
"Harrisbridge among them?"
"Then we can keep on, eh? We might call on that friend of yours; what's his name? Nate something?"
"Nate Golden," I muttered.
"That's it. I suppose he'd be at home?"
"He doesn't like swells," I said.
"Am I a swell?"
"Yes, you are."
"And he wouldn't like me?"
"Oh, just because he wouldn't; that's why. I'm going back now."
"Very well; Harrisbridge some other day, Raymond."
We turned the nags and walked them back toward the country road. Nell was puffing hard and Sultan was in a lather; he was a bit soft. Pretty soon Twigg said:
"I'm going in to town to-morrow, Raymond; want to come along?"
"Yes," I said. Dad never would let me go to the city more than once in six months.
"Good enough; glad to have you. I'm going to run out to college in the afternoon to get some things from my trunk. Ever been out there?"
I shook my head.
"Maybe it'll interest you," he said. "I suppose you'll go there when you're ready, eh?"
"Might as well go to one as another, I guess," said I.
"Perhaps; but I'd like you to go to mine," he answered, kind of gravely. "I think it's a little better than the others, you see."
"I suppose you won't be there," I said, flicking Nell's ear with my crop.
"I'm not so sure," he said. "I'm trying for an instructorship. I get my Ph. D. next year. Then I want to go to Germany for a year to study. You're helping to pay for that," he said with a smile.
"Yes; the money I get for your tutoring is to go for that."
"Oh," I said. "Then--then you're coming back to college?"
"If they'll have me."
"Hope they won't," I said.
But I didn't.
The next Wednesday we had lessons after breakfast, because it was a good deal cooler. Twigg said I had studied first rate, and if I liked we'd have a go at golf. So we did. I beat him one up and two to play. I thought at first he was just letting me win, but he wasn't. He didn't seem to be thinking of golf and looked sort of sober all the way round. When we'd finished he said:
"Raymond, I don't think I'll have an opportunity to use my clubs again this summer, and so, if you'd like me to, I'll leave them here. I dare say you could get some fun out of them. You could get a good deal of practice that would help you a lot later on."
"Leave them?" I asked. "I--I didn't know you were going away."
"You forget that my month's up to-morrow," he answered quietly. "I was to have a month in which to see what I could do. If by the end of that time I had managed to get you in control I was to stay on. That was the agreement with your father."
"Oh," I muttered. We were sitting under the big maple tree on the lawn. I had an iron putter and was digging a hole in the turf.
"Yes," he continued, "to-morrow ends the present arrangement. I wish very much that I could go to Mr. Dale and tell him that I had won. But I can't. I haven't won, Raymond. I have gained ground, but the victory is still a long way off."
"You--you've done better than the others," I muttered.
"Have I? Well, I'm glad of that; that's something, isn't it? No man likes to acknowledge utter defeat; I'm certain I don't."
I dug away with the putter for a minute. Then I said:
"If I asked dad to let you stay, don't you think he would?"
"Perhaps; but I wouldn't want to."
"Oh, if you want to go away, all right," I grumbled.
"I meant that I wouldn't care to remain just because of a whim of yours. If I believed that by staying I could accomplish something; if I thought that you wanted me to stay, knowing that it meant hard study--much harder than any you've been doing--and cheerful obedience; in short, Raymond, if I knew that I could honestly earn my salary, I'd stay."
He took out his pipe and filled it. I shoved the earth back into the hole in the turf. Nobody said anything for a while.
"I don't mind study--much," I said presently.
"It hasn't been hard yet," he answered.
"And I don't mind doing what you tell me to. You're--you're not like Simpkins, Browning, and Gabbett."
"I haven't pulled on the curb yet," he said.
I started a new hole.
"There'd be no more Harrisbridge and Nate Golden," he said, after a bit, watching the smoke from his pipe.
I stopped digging.
"No more cigarettes; pipes are better."
"Huh," I muttered.
"No more swearing; there'd be a fine for swearing."
"I--I wouldn't care," I said.
"Sure!" I looked over at him. He was kind of smiling at me through the smoke. I tried to grin back, but my face got the twitches and there was a lump in my throat.
"You--you just stay here," I muttered.