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Under the guidance of the lank boy, named Wilkins, Hector left Mr. Smith's office, and walked to a barren-looking plot of ground behind the house, which served as a playground for the pupils of Smith Institute.
Wilkins scanned the new arrival closely.
"I say, Roscoe," he commenced, "what made you come here?"
"Why do boys generally come to school?" returned Hector.
"Because they have to, I suppose," answered Wilkins.
"I thought they came to study."
"Oh, you're one of that sort, are you?" asked Wilkins, curiously.
"I hope to learn something here."
"You'll get over that soon," answered Wilkins, in the tone of one who could boast of a large experience.
"I hope not. I shall want to leave school if I find I can't learn here."
"Who is it that brought you here—your father?"
"No, indeed!" answered Hector, quickly, for he had no desire to be considered the son of Allan Roscoe.
"He is my guardian," answered Hector, briefly.
They were by this time in the playground. Some dozen boys were playing baseball. They were of different ages and sizes, ranging from ten to nineteen. The oldest and largest bore such a strong personal resemblance to Socrates Smith, that Hector asked if he were his son.
"No," answered Wilkins; "he is old Sock's nephew."
"Who is old Sock?"
"Smith, of course. His name is Socrates, you know. Don't let him catch you calling him that, though."
"What sort of a fellow is this nephew?" asked Hector.
"He's a bully. He bosses the boys. It's best to keep on the right side of Jim."
"Oh, is it?" inquired Hector, smiling slightly.
"Well, I should say so."
"Suppose you don't?"
"He'll give you a thrashing."
"Does his uncle allow that?"
"Yes; I think he rather likes it."
"Don't the boys resist?"
"It won't do any good. You see, Jim's bigger than any of us."
Hector took a good look at this redoubtable Jim Smith.
He was rather loosely made, painfully homely, and about five feet nine inches in height. Nothing more need be said, as, in appearance, he closely resembled his uncle.
Jim Smith soon gave Hector an opportunity of verifying the description given of him by Wilkins.
The boy at the bat had struck a ball to the extreme boundary of the field. The fielder at that point didn't go so fast as Jim, who was pitcher, thought satisfactory, and he called out in a rough, brutal tone:
"If you don't go quicker, Archer, I'll kick you all round the field."
Hector looked at Wilkins inquiringly.
"Does he mean that?" he asked.
"Yes, he does."
"Does he ever make such a brute of himself?"
"And the boys allow it?"
"They can't help it."
"So, it seems, you have a tyrant of the school?"
"That's just it."
"Isn't there any boy among you to teach the fellow better manners? You must be cowards to submit."
"Oh, you'll find out soon that you must submit, too," said Wilkins.
"You don't know me yet," he said.
"What could you do against Jim? He's three or four inches taller than you. How old are you?"
"I shall be sixteen next month."
"And he is nineteen."
"That may be; but he'd better not try to order me round."
"You'll sing a different tune in a day or two," said Wilkins.
By this time Jim Smith had observed the new arrival.
"What's that you've got with you, Wilkins?" he demanded, pausing in his play.
"The new boy."
"His name is Roscoe."
"Ho! Hasn't he got any other name?" asked Jim, meaningly.
Wilkins had forgotten the new arrival's first name, and said so.
"What's your name, Roscoe?" asked Jim, in the tone of a superior.
Hector resented this tone, and, though he had no objection, under ordinary circumstances, to answering the question, he did not choose to gratify his present questioner.
"I don't happen to have a card with me," he answered, coldly.
"Oh, that's your answer, is it?" retorted Jim, scenting insubordination with undisguised pleasure, for he always liked the task of subduing a new boy.
"I guess you don't know who I am," said Jim, blustering.
"Oh, yes, I do."
"Well, who am I, then?"
"The bully of the school, I should suppose, from your style of behavior."
"Do you hear that, boys?" demanded Jim, in a theatrical tone, turning to the other boys.
There was a little murmur in response, but whether of approval or reprobation, it was not easy to judge.
"That boy calls me a bully! He actually has the audacity to insult me! What do you say to that?"
The boys looked uneasy. Possibly, in their secret hearts, they admired the audacity that Jim complained of; but, seeing the difference between the two boys in size and apparent strength, it did not seem to them prudent to espouse the side of Hector.
"Don't you think I ought to teach him a lesson?"
"Yes!" cried several of the smaller boys, who stood in awe of the bully.
Hector smiled slightly, but did not seem in the least intimidated.
"Jim," said Wilkins, "the boy's guardian is inside with your uncle."
This was meant as a warning, and received as such. A boy's guardian is presumed to be his friend, and it would not be exactly prudent, while the guardian was closeted with the principal, to make an assault upon the pupil.
"Very well," said Jim; "we'll postpone Roscoe's case. This afternoon will do as well. Come, boys, let us go on with the game."
"What made you speak to Jim in that way?" expostulated Wilkins. "I'm afraid you've got into hot water."
"Didn't I tell the truth about him?"
"Yes," answered Wilkins, cautiously; "but you've made an enemy of him."
"I was sure to do that, sooner or later," said Hector, unconcernedly. "It might as well be now as any time."
"Do you know what he'll do this afternoon?"
"What will he do?"
"He'll give you a thrashing."
"Without asking my permission?" asked Hector, smiling.
"You're a queer boy! Of course, he won't trouble himself about that. You don't seem to mind it," he continued, eying Hector curiously.
"Perhaps you think Jim can't hurt. I know better than that."
"Did he ever thrash you, then?"
"Half a dozen times."
"Why didn't you tell his uncle?"
"It would be no use. Jim would tell his story, and old Sock would believe him. But here's Mr. Crabb, the usher, the man I was to introduce you to."
Hector looked up, and saw advancing a young man, dressed in rusty black, with a meek and long-suffering expression, as one who was used to being browbeaten. He was very shortsighted, and wore eyeglasses.
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