The Revenge

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William was a scout. The fact was well known. There was no one within a five-mile radius of William's home who did not know it. Sensitive old ladies had fled shuddering from their front windows when William marched down the street singing (the word is a euphemism) his scout songs in his strong young voice. Curious smells emanated from the depth of the garden where William performed mysterious culinary operations. One old lady whose cat had disappeared looked at William with dour suspicion in her eye whenever he passed. Even the return of her cat a few weeks later did not remove the hostility from her gaze whenever it happened to rest upon William.

William's family had welcomed the suggestion of William's becoming a scout.

"It will keep him out of mischief," they had said.

They were notoriously optimistic where William was concerned.

William's elder brother only was doubtful.

"You know what William is," he said, and in that dark saying much was contained.

Things went fairly smoothly for some time. He took the scouts' law of a daily deed of kindness in its most literal sense. He was to do one (and one only) deed of kindness a day. There were times when he forced complete strangers, much to their embarrassment, to be the unwilling recipients of his deed of kindness. There were times when he answered any demand for help with a cold: "No, I've done it to-day."

He received with saint-like patience the eloquence of his elder sister when she found her silk scarf tied into innumerable knots.

"Well, they're jolly good knots," was all he said.

He had been looking forward to the holidays for a long time. He was to "go under canvas" at the end of the first week.

The first day of the holidays began badly. William's father had been disturbed by William, whose room was just above and who had spent most of the night performing gymnastics as instructed by his scout-master.

"No, he didn't say do it at nights, but he said do it. He said it would make us grow up strong men. Don't you want me to grow up a strong man? He's ever so strong an' he did 'em. Why shun't I?"

His mother found a pan with the bottom burnt out and at once accused William of the crime. William could not deny it.

"Well, I was makin' sumthin', sumthin' he'd told us an' I forgot it. Well, I've got to make things if I'm a scout. I didn't mean to forget it. I won't forget it next time. It's a rotten pan, anyway, to burn itself into a hole jus' for that."

At this point William's father received a note from a neighbour whose garden adjoined William's and whose life had been rendered intolerable by William's efforts upon his bugle.

The bugle was confiscated.

Darkness descended upon William's soul.

"Well," he muttered, "I'm goin' under canvas next week an' I'm jolly glad I'm goin'. P'r'aps you'll be sorry when I'm gone."

He went out into the garden and stood gazing moodily into space, his hands in the pocket of his short scout trousers, for William dressed on any and every occasion in his official costume.

"Can't even have the bugle," he complained to the landscape. "Can't even use their rotten ole pans. Can't tie knots in any of their ole things. Wot's the good of bein' a scout?"

His indignation grew and with it a desire to be avenged upon his family.

"I'd like to do somethin'," he confided to a rose bush with a ferocious scowl. "Somethin' jus' to show 'em."

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