From: Glengarry Schooldays
After the expulsion of the master, the Twentieth School fell upon evil
days, for the trustees decided that it would be better to try "gurl"
teachers, as Hughie contemptuously called them; and this policy
prevailed for two or three years, with the result that the big boys left
the school, and with their departure the old heroic age passed away, to
be succeeded by an age soft, law-abiding, and distinctly commercial.
The spirit of this unheroic age was incarnate in the person of "Foxy"
Ross. Foxy got his name, in the first instance, from the peculiar pinky
red shade of hair that crowned his white, fat face, but the name stuck
to him as appropriately descriptive of his tricks and his manners. His
face was large, and smooth, and fat, with wide mouth, and teeth that
glistened when he smiled. His smile was like his face, large, and
smooth, and fat. His eyes, which were light gray--white, Hughie called
them--were shifty, avoiding the gaze that sought to read them, or
piercingly keen, according as he might choose.
After the departure of the big boys, Foxy gradually grew in influence
until his only rival in the school was Hughie. Foxy's father was the
storekeeper in the Twentieth, and this brought within Foxy's reach
possibilities of influence that gave him an immense advantage over
Hughie. By means of bull's-eyes and "lickerish" sticks, Foxy could win
the allegiance of all the smaller boys and many of the bigger ones,
while with the girls, both big and small, his willingness to please
and his smooth manners won from many affection, and from the rest
toleration, although Betsy Dan Campbell asserted that whenever Foxy Ross
came near her she felt something creeping up her backbone.
With the teacher, too, Foxy was a great favorite. He gave her worshipful
reverence and many gifts from his father's store, eloquent of his
devotion. He was never detected in mischief, and was always ready to
expose the misdemeanors of the other boys. Thus it came that Foxy was
the paramount influence within the school.
Outside, his only rival was Hughie, and at times Hughie's rivalry became
dangerous. In all games that called for skill, activity, and reckless
daring, Hughie was easily leader. In "Old Sow," "Prisoner's Base,"
but especially in the ancient and noble game of "Shinny," Hughie shone
peerless and supreme. Foxy hated games, and shinny, the joy of those
giants of old, who had torn victory from the Sixteenth, and even from
the Front one glorious year, was at once Foxy's disgust and terror. As
a little boy, he could not for the life of him avoid turning his back to
wait shuddering, with humping shoulders, for the enemy's charge, and in
anything like a melee, he could not help jumping into the air at every
And thus he brought upon himself the contempt even of boys much smaller
than himself, who, under the splendid and heroic example of those who
led them, had only one ambition, to get a whack at the ball, and
this ambition they gratified on every possible occasion reckless of
consequences. Hence, when the last of the big boys, Thomas Finch,
against whose solid mass hosts had flung themselves to destruction,
finally left the school, Foxy, with great skill, managed to divert the
energies of the boys to games less violent and dangerous, and by means
of his bull's-eyes and his liquorice, and his large, fat smile, he drew
after him a very considerable following of both girls and boys.
The most interesting and most successful of Foxy's schemes was the game
of "store," which he introduced, Foxy himself being the storekeeper. He
had the trader's genius for discovering and catering to the weaknesses
of people, and hence his store became, for certain days of the week,
the center of life during the recreation hours. The store itself was a
somewhat pretentious successor to the little brush cabin with wide open
front, where in the old days the boys used to gather, and lying upon
piles of fragrant balsam boughs before the big blazing fire placed in
front, used to listen to the master talk, and occasionally read.
Foxy's store was built of slabs covered with thick brush, and set off
with a plank counter and shelves, whereon were displayed his wares.
His stock was never too large for his personal transportation, but its
variety was almost infinite, bull's-eyes and liquorice, maple sugar
and other "sweeties," were staples. Then, too, there were balls of gum,
beautifully clear, which in its raw state Foxy gathered from the ends
of the pine logs at the sawmill, and which, by a process of boiling and
clarifying known only to himself, he brought to a marvelous perfection.
But Foxy's genius did not confine itself to sweets. He would buy and
sell and "swap" anything, but in swapping no bargain was ever completed
unless there was money for Foxy in the deal. He had goods second-hand
and new, fish-hooks and marbles, pot-metal knives with brass handles,
slate-pencils that would "break square," which were greatly desired by
all, skate-straps, and buckskin whangs.
But Foxy's financial ability never displayed itself with more brilliancy
than when he organized the various games of the school so as to have
them begin and end with the store. When the river and pond were covered
with clear, black ice, skating would be the rage, and then Foxy's store
would be hung with skate-straps, and with cedar-bark torches, which
were greatly in demand for the skating parties that thronged the pond
at night. There were no torches like Foxy's. The dry cedar bark any one
could get from the fences, but Foxy's torches were always well soaked
in oil and bound with wire, and were prepared with such excellent skill
that they always burned brighter and held together longer than any
others. These cedar-bark torches Foxy disposed of to the larger boys
who came down to the pond at night. Foxy's methods of finance were
undoubtedly marked by ability, and inasmuch as his accounts were never
audited, the profits were large and sure. He made it a point to purchase
a certain proportion of his supplies from his father, who was proud of
his son's financial ability, but whether his purchases always equaled
his sales no one ever knew.
If the pond and river were covered with snow, then Foxy would organize
a deer-hunt, when all the old pistols in the section would be brought
forth, and the store would display a supply of gun caps, by the
explosion of which deadly ammunition the deer would be dropped in their
tracks, and drawn to the store by prancing steeds whose trappings had
been purchased from Foxy.
When the interest in the deer-hunt began to show signs of waning, Foxy
would bring forth a supply of gunpowder, for the purchase of which
any boy who owned a pistol would be ready to bankrupt himself. In
this Hughie took a leading part, although he had to depend upon the
generosity of others for the thrilling excitement of bringing down his
deer with a pistol-shot, for Hughie had never been able to save coppers
enough to purchase a pistol of his own.
But deer-hunting with pistols was forbidden by the teacher from the day
when Hughie, in his eagerness to bring his quarry down, left his ramrod
in his pistol, and firing at Aleck Dan Campbell at point-blank range,
laid him low with a lump on the side of his head as big as a marble. The
only thing that saved Aleck's life, the teacher declared, was his
thick crop of black hair. Foxy was in great wrath at Hughie for his
recklessness, which laid the deer-hunting under the teacher's ban, and
which interfered seriously with the profits of the store.
But Foxy was far too great a man to allow himself to be checked by any
such misfortune as this. He was far too astute to attempt to defy the
teacher and carry on the forbidden game, but with great ability he
adapted the principles of deer-hunting to a game even more exciting and
profitable. He organized the game of "Injuns," some of the boys being
set apart as settlers who were to defend the fort, of which the store
was the center, the rest to constitute the invading force of savages.
The result was, that the trade in caps and gunpowder was brisker than
ever, for not only was the powder needed for the pistols, but even
larger quantities were necessary for the slow-matches which hissed their
wrath at the approaching enemy, and the mounted guns, for which earthen
ink-bottles did excellently, set out on a big stump to explode, to the
destruction of scores of creeping redskins advancing through the bush,
who, after being mutilated and mangled by these terrible explosions,
were dragged into the camp and scalped. Foxy's success was phenomenal.
The few pennies and fewer half-dimes and dimes that the boys had hoarded
for many long weeks would soon have been exhausted had Hughie not
wrecked the game.
Hughie alone had no fear of Foxy, but despised him utterly. He had stood
and yelled when those heroes of old, Murdie and Don Cameron, Curly Ross,
and Ranald Macdonald, and last but not to be despised Thomas Finch, had
done battle with the enemy from the Sixteenth or the Front, and he could
not bring himself to acknowledge the leadership of Foxy Ross, for
all his bull's-eyes and liquorice. Not but what Hughie yearned for
bull's-eyes and liquorice with great yearning, but these could not atone
to him for the loss out of his life of the stir and rush and daring of
the old fighting days. And it galled him that the boys of the Sixteenth
could flout the boys of the Twentieth in all places and on all occasions
But above all, it seemed to him a standing disgrace that the habitant
teamsters from the north, who in former days found it a necessary and
wise precaution to put their horses to a gallop as they passed the
school, in order to escape with sleighs intact from the hordes that
lined the roadway, now drove slowly past the very gate without an
apparent tremor. But besides all this, he had an instinctive shrinking
from Foxy, and sympathized with Betsy Dan in her creepy feeling whenever
he approached. Hence he refused allegiance, and drew upon himself Foxy's
It was one of Foxy's few errors in judgment that, from his desire to
humiliate Hughie and to bring him to a proper state of subjection,
he succeeded in shutting him out from the leadership in the game
of "Injuns," for Hughie promptly refused a subordinate position and
withdrew, like Achilles, to his tent. But, unlike Achilles, though he
sulked, he sulked actively, and to some purpose, for, drawing off with
him his two faithful henchmen, "Fusie"--neither Hughie nor any one else
ever knew another name for the little French boy who had drifted into
the settlement and made his home with the MacLeods--and Davie "Scotch,"
a cousin of Davie MacDougall, newly arrived from Scotland, he placed
them in positions which commanded the store entrance, and waited until
the settlers had all departed upon their expedition against the invading
Indians. Foxy, with one or two smaller boys, was left in charge of the
store waiting for trade.
In a few moments Foxy's head appeared at the door, when, whiz! a
snowball skinned his ear and flattened itself with a bang against the
"Hold on there! Stop that! You're too close up," shouted Foxy, thinking
that the invaders were breaking the rules of the game.
Bang! a snowball from another quarter caught him fair in the neck.
"Here, you fools, you! Stop that!" cried Foxy, turning in the direction
whence the snowball came and dodging round to the side of the store.
But this was Hughie's point of attack, and soon Foxy found that the only
place of refuge was inside, whither he fled, closing the door after him.
Immediately the door became a target for the hidden foe.
Meantime, the Indian war was progressing, but now and again a settler
would return to the fort for ammunition, and the moment he reached the
door a volley of snowballs would catch him and hasten his entrance. Once
in it was dangerous to come out.
By degrees Hughie augmented his besieging force from the more
adventurous settlers and Indians, and placed them in the bush
surrounding the door.
The war game was demoralized, but the new game proved so much more
interesting that it was taken up with enthusiasm and prosecuted with
vigor. It was rare sport. For the whole noon hour Hughie and his
bombarding force kept Foxy and his friends in close confinement, from
which they were relieved only by the ringing of the school bell, for at
the sound of the bell Hughie and his men, having had their game, fled
from Foxy's wrath to the shelter of the school.
When Foxy appeared it was discovered that one eye was half shut, but the
light that gleamed from the other was sufficiently baleful to give token
of the wrath blazing within, and Hughie was not a little anxious to know
what form Foxy's vengeance would take. But to his surprise, by the time
recess had come Foxy's wrath had apparently vanished, and he was willing
to treat Hughie's exploit in the light of a joke. The truth was, Foxy
never allowed passion to interfere with business, and hence he resolved
that he must swallow his rage, for he realized clearly that Hughie
was far too dangerous as a foe, and that he might become exceedingly
valuable as an ally. Within a week Hughie was Foxy's partner in
business, enjoying hugely the privilege of dispensing the store goods,
with certain perquisites that naturally attached to him as storekeeper.
Next: Foxy's Partner
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