"Well, I know. It's jam--that's what it is. Forty times I've said if you
didn't let that jam alone I'd skin you. Hand me that switch."
The switch hovered in the air--the peril was desperate--
"My! Look behind you, aunt!"
The old lady whirled round, and snatched her skirts out of danger.
The lad fled on the instant, scrambled up the high board-fence, and
disappeared over it.
His aunt Polly stood surprised a moment, and then broke into a gentle
"Hang the boy, can't I never learn anything? Ain't he played me tricks
enough like that for me to be looking out for him by this time? But old
fools is the biggest fools there is. Can't learn an old dog new tricks,
as the saying is. But my goodness, he never plays them alike, two days,
and how is a body to know what's coming? He 'pears to know just how long
he can torment me before I get my dander up, and he knows if he can make
out to put me off for a minute or make me laugh, it's all down again and
I can't hit him a lick. I ain't doing my duty by that boy, and that's
the Lord's truth, goodness knows. Spare the rod and spile the child,
as the Good Book says. I'm a laying up sin and suffering for us both,
I know. He's full of the Old Scratch, but laws-a-me! he's my own
dead sister's boy, poor thing, and I ain't got the heart to lash him,
somehow. Every time I let him off, my conscience does hurt me so, and
every time I hit him my old heart most breaks. Well-a-well, man that is
born of woman is of few days and full of trouble, as the Scripture
says, and I reckon it's so. He'll play hookey this evening, * and [*
Southwestern for "afternoon"] I'll just be obleeged to make him work,
tomorrow, to punish him. It's mighty hard to make him work Saturdays,
when all the boys is having holiday, but he hates work more than he
hates anything else, and I've got to do some of my duty by him, or
I'll be the ruination of the child."