The summer evenings were long. It was not dark, yet. Presently Tom
checked his whistle. A stranger was before him--a boy a shade larger
than himself. A new-comer of any age or either sex was an im-pressive
curiosity in the poor little shabby village of St. Petersburg. This boy
was well dressed, too--well dressed on a week-day. This was simply as
astounding. His cap was a dainty thing, his close-buttoned blue cloth
roundabout was new and natty, and so were his pantaloons. He had shoes
on--and it was only Friday. He even wore a necktie, a bright bit of
ribbon. He had a citified air about him that ate into Tom's vitals. The
more Tom stared at the splendid marvel, the higher he turned up his nose
at his finery and the shabbier and shabbier his own outfit seemed to
him to grow. Neither boy spoke. If one moved, the other moved--but only
sidewise, in a circle; they kept face to face and eye to eye all the
time. Finally Tom said:
"I can lick you!"
"I'd like to see you try it."
"Well, I can do it."
"No you can't, either."
"Yes I can."
"No you can't."