Foxy





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

dangerous stroke.



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

with impunity.



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

jealous hatred.



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

slabs.



"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.





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