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About a boy who is bright but impulsive and energetic!

Claude Lightfoot
or, How the Problem was Solved

“My God!” cried the atheist, jumping back and falling against Jordan. “What’s that?”

“It’s so hard to imagine almost any small boy changing into a man, but in most you can see a faint streak of seriousness. But Claude strikes me as being the concentrated essence of small boy, and I can’t even begin to imagine how or when he’ll change.” —Page 16

In which Claude puzzles Frank Elmwood . . . 1
In which Claude attracts the attention
of his teacher 17
In which Claude surprises his sister Kate, and
John Winter surprises everybody . 28
In which Claude cultivates the acquaintance of
Mr. Russel and becomes a member of the
“Highfliers” . . 43
In which the reader obtains a glimpse of Claude
and Kate at home . . 51
In which Claude loses his temper and puts
himself decidedly in the wrong . . 61
In which Claude astonishes his examiners in
catechism and Harry Archer in matters
of baseball . . . 71
In which Claude pitches against the Rockaways
and meets with another trial . . 80
In which Claude spends two days in bed . . 93
In which Claude meets with his cross 101
In which Claude makes his escape . . 109
In which Kate and Claude are bitterly
disappointed . 113
In which Mr. Russel unwittingly prophesies 121
In which Willie Hardy, the “light villain” of the
story, appears upon the scene . . 128
In which Claude amuses himself with a bull 139
In which Claude takes to poetry 149
In which is given an account of a novel fishing
expedition . . . 159
In which Claude gives an exhibition in diving
and is taken prisoner . . . 173
In which Kate brings Claude joyful news . . 182
Father Barry’s story 185
In which Claude tells a story . . 215
In which Willie Hardy acts as guide with
unfortunate results, and Claude, on
being found, makes the most astounding
declaration of his life . . . 230
The new Tarcisius . 242
Conclusion . . 257

Chapter I

“That newcomer’s a queer boy,” observed John Winter.
“He’s lively as a kitten,” said Rob Collins.
“I’ve been keeping an eye on him ever since the beginning of recess, and I don’t think there’s a square foot of ground in the college yard he hasn’t passed over. He’s tripped up five or six fellows already and just managed to get off being kicked at least twice. I think,” added Rob solemnly, and bringing
into use the latest knowledge he had gleaned from a passing fit of attention in Chemistry class, “I really do think that he’s one of the Mercury Compounds.”
Whereupon Frank Elmwood, the third of the group, rang a “chestnut bell,” in answer to which Rob indignantly disclaimed any attempt at joking.
“Look,” exclaimed John, breaking in upon the playful dispute of these two bosom friends, “your Compound of Mercury is going to get into trouble, I’m afraid; he’s fooling around Worden!”
“Worden will kick him, sure,” prophesied Rob.
“Yes, and hard, too, the overgrown bully,” commented Frank, with a certain amount of bitterness in his voice and a frown upon his pale, energetic face.
The three speakers were leaning at ease against the storm door which opens upon the playground of Milwaukee College [that is, Academy]. It was ten o’clock recess, and the yard was everywhere alive with moving human figures. Like birds of swift passage, baseballs were flying through the air in all directions, and, on the run, of course, the multitudinous legs of small boys were moving from point to point. During recess the younger students seldom condescend to walk but, yielding to their natural and healthy inclinations, spend that quarter of an hour in a state of what is for the most part breathless animation. But among all these flying figures, the newcomer was eminently conspicuous. He seemed to move upon springs which, in their perfection, just fell short of

On the way to Worden, he startled Charlie Pierson, the quietest lad in the college, by leaping clean over his shoulders. Charlie had been standing engrossed in watching a game, his head bent forward, his hands clasped behind his back and, fortunately for the nonce, his legs spread so as to afford
him a good purchase for the shock, when, without warning, the young madcap came flying over his head.
“Confound your cheek!” cried Charlie, the lazy, benevolent smile on his face almost disappearing; “if I catch you, I’ll pound your muscle till it’s sore!” And as he spoke, he took after the dancing madcap.
“Whoop! Hi! Hi! Catch me,” sang out Rob’s Chemical Compound, as with his head craned so as to keep his pursuer in sight, he broke into a swift run, followed heavily and clumsily by Charlie, who was not given to hard exercise.
Now it so happened that Dan Dockery, a lively lad and intimate friend of Charlie, had been intently watching the proceedings of the young vaulter. Taking advantage of the fleeing boy’s position of head, Dan planted himself, without being observed, in the path of the runner. As he had desired, a collision
followed. Dan staggered back a few steps, while the lively youth bounded to one side like a rubber ball, rolled over and over, rose with a spring and a bound and, before Charlie could catch him, sprang away and dashed head first into the stomach of no less a person than the bully Worden. For the moment, Worden lost all power of speech, but retained sufficient presence of mind to grasp his unwitting assailant in a vise-like grip.

Thus caught in the toils, the newcomer set about a process of wriggling and squirming which it is difficult to imagine and impossible to set down. Legs and arms writhed and bent, while the whole body twisted and turned in every conceivable posture, till the eye became dazed and blurred in following the swift changes. But Worden, still choking and gasping, held on grimly. The small boy who butted him in the stomach was not likely to forget the incident to the last day of his life.

“You wretched little rowdy!” he began, recovering his breath and endeavoring to put his captive into a position where he could best be kicked, “I’ll teach you a lesson.”
By way of reply, the small boy effected a miraculous wriggle which brought him through Worden’s legs and rendered the intended operation of kicking, for the time being, impracticable. But Worden still preserved his hold and at once made a strenuous effort to bring the wriggler back into position. At this point Pierson and Dockery, who despised Worden, as bullies are wont to be despised by the small boy, came to the rescue. They sang in unison,

Worden, Worden Went a-birdin’
On a summer’s day:
Worden, Worden, went a-birdin’
And the birds they flew away.

And then by way of chorus, a dozen youngsters in the vicinity chimed in with—

Worden, Worden went a-birdin’
And didn’t he run away.

This was too much for the hero of these
doggerels: releasing his intended victim, he started off in chase of his serenaders. The cause of all this disturbance now made directly for the trio, who were still leaning against the storm door.
“What a stout pair of legs he’s got!” exclaimed Collins. “And he moves with such ease. I never saw a little chap in knee breeches yet that looked so strong and so graceful.”
“Yes,” assented Elmwood. “And at the same time, he has such a sunny face: it’s a healthy face too. It’s not too chubby, and his complexion is really fine.”
“And look at the smile he wears,” continued John Winter. “It’s what I would call sympathetic.”
“Ahem!” grunted Rob.
“I mean,” said John coloring, “that it makes you feel jolly and gay to look at it. You can see from the straight way he holds himself and from his build that he’s a mighty strong little chap. He looks sunny—that’s the word. His hair is really sunny. He’s really a pretty boy.”
“Pshaw!” growled Frank, “sunniness may be the right word, but prettiness certainly isn’t. Almost any little boy, who’s dressed well and who’s not thoroughly bad, looks pretty. But this little chap is interesting.”
“Hallo, Specksy!” cried the object of these remarks, who had been staring at his critics for full half a minute. Rob and John joined in a laugh at Frank’s
expense. Though only seventeen, Frank wore spectacles.
“Hallo, Sublimate of Mercury!”
“You’re another, and twice anything you call me!” came the quick answer. “I say, I like this school immensely. There’s a yard to it where a fellow’s got room enough to move around in.”
“What school did you go to before you came here?” Frank inquired.
“Sixteenth District till a few days ago.”
“What happened then?”
“I got expelled.” As he made his answer, he favored Frank with a series of winks. He had blue eyes, not over-large, but with a snap and sparkle about them which added much to the sunshininess of his appearance.
“Stop your winking and tell us why you were expelled,” pursued Frank.
The artless youth had been hopping about impatiently during this dialogue, and, as Frank put him the last question, he flew at John Winter, seized John’s hat and, without further ado, took to his heels. With an ejaculation expressive partly of amusement, partly of annoyance, John took after him. He was the youngest and smallest of the trio—indeed, though a member of the class of Poetry, he still went about in knickerbockers—but in running he was second to none of his class fellows. After a sharp pursuit, he captured the snatcher of hats and brought him back wriggling to Frank and Rob.
“Now,” puffed John, retaining his firm grasp on our young friend’s wrist, “tell us about your being expelled.”
“I was expelled for nothing—there!” with a wriggle. “Let me go, will you?” More wriggles. “Let me go, I say!” Still more wriggles.
“Ow-w-w-w! Stop squeezing!”
And in a seeming paroxysm of pain, the wriggler fell into a complete state of collapse and hung limp, a dead weight from John’s hand, while lines and spasms of pain chased about his most expressive face. Softened by pity, John let go. In a flash, the limpness was gone, and the brightest, happiest, sunniest boy, his hair shot with gold and dancing to its owner’s motions, was hopping and skipping before the three poets, his right thumb raised to his pretty little nose and four fingers wriggling like the fingers of an excited Italian in the heart of the Italian game of Mora.
“Yah! yah!—fooled you, didn’t I? Oh, didn’t I take him in, Specksy?”
“Tell us how you got expelled,” said Rob, “and I’ll give you some chocolate caramels.”
There was a cessation of hop and skip.
“How many?”
“Five or six.”
“Will you give me one to start on?”
Rob handed him a caramel.
“Now,” continued the sunny one, as he put the candy in his mouth, “how’ll I know that you’ll give me the rest?”
“Well I suppose you can trust me.”
“No, you don’t. I know your brother Walter, and he says you’re no good. You just pass those caramels over to Specksy; I like Specksy.” And the frank young gentleman glanced at Elmwood with open admiration.
“All right, Johnny,” said Rob, as he executed the condition.
“You needn’t call me Johnny,” continued the newcomer, sidling toward Frank and making a sudden but unsuccessful grab at the candy in his hand. “My name is Claude— Claude Lightfoot, and don’t you forget it, Specksy.”
In answer to this appeal, Frank gave him a caramel.
“We’re not particular about your name,” put in John Winter, anxious to quote What’s in a name? That which we call a rose . . .
“Just what I was going to say,” interrupted Elmwood, with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. “Go on, Claude, and tell us about your expulsion.”
“It was all on account of a billy goat and a lightning rod.”
“Ah!” said Rob. “Did the billy goat strike the lightning rod?”
Before replying, Claude extorted a third caramel from Frank.
“No, it didn’t. Last Wednesday a fellow stumped me to bring my billy goat to school. General Jackson (that was his name) behaved like a gentleman as long as we were outside the school building. I tied him up in the yard; but just as soon as I started to go into school, General Jackson began to get frisky;
and then the fellow that stumped me loosed him, and he came bumping in after me—”
“Who? The fellow that stumped you?”
“No, the General. I wanted to run him out; but a lot of fellows stood at the door and shooed at him. Then General Jackson got mad and went just a-tearing down that hall and sent a lot of girls a-squealing, and one or two of them sprawling; and I came charging after. Some of those girls said that I was
setting him on. I caught the General after he had scared the wits out of two of the women teachers—one of ’em had her hand on her breast and it was heaving like anything, and the other was standing on a chair with her skirts gathered about her, the way they all do when they see a mouse. The principal came down on me then—”
“Where did he come down on you?”
“On my hands—both of them, and said that next time I cut up, he’d expel me for being something or other—uncursable, I think he said.”
“Incorrigible, you mean, Claude,” suggested Winter.
“That’s it. I only heard the word once, and I was too excited to notice how he said it. So I went home and made up my mind not to take any more risks. But the next day, a fellow stumped me just before class to climb up the lightning rod to the third story and offered me a big apple if I’d do it. I forgot to think, and caught hold of that lightning rod and began to climb it hand over hand—.”
“Where did you learn to climb?” Frank inquired.
“I didn’t learn at all, Specksy: it just came natural, I reckon. So I got up almost as high as the second story when one of those lady teachers saw me from a third story window.
And maybe she didn’t yell! Then a couple of other teachers, of course they were ladies, who heard her singing out, put their heads out, and they just howled, and I tell you I began to work my way down as fast as I knew how; but it was no use. Before I got to the ground, the principal was standing at
the door and making eyes at me through his specks. When I got on my feet, he asked me whether I could find my way home. He was awful funny with me—”
“Sarcastic, you mean,” said Rob.
“Maybe I do—anyhow it was a funny way of being funny. He told me never to show my face in that school again; and that fellow wouldn’t give me the apple, either. He wouldn’t even give me half. So I went home feeling bad about it all—”
“Especially about the apple,” suggested Frank.
“That’s so, Specksy; it was mean. I told Ma and Kate all about it. You see I wanted them to fix it all right with Pa, who’s awful fond of the public schools.”
“Did he go to the public schools himself?”
“No; he was born in Canada and didn’t come here till he was twenty.”
“Well, Claude,” said Frank, “it’s about time for you to come to a Catholic school anyhow.”
“Sure. It suits me all over,” answered Claude, who was now making repeated endeavors to touch the back of his neck with the sole of his right foot. “Ma’s been wanting me to go ever since I left Miss Wilton’s private school two months ago. She and my sister Kate are anxious for me to get ready for my First Communion. Pa was vexed and wanted to put me to work. When Ma and Kate won him over, then the President of this College didn’t seem to care about taking
a boy that had been expelled. Then I got a letter from Miss Wilton, and Kate had a long talk with the President, and now I’m here on trial. Pa says he hopes they’ll expel me from this College too. But Pa is so careful about me; you see he wants me to be an American.”
“Why,” put in John, “were you born in New Zealand?”
“Aw, now, aren’t you funny? I was born here just as much as you were, and twice as much too. Pa thinks that if a boy wants to be an American he’s got to go to an American school.”
“What’s the matter with this college?” queried Rob.
“I don’t know what’s—” Here Claude sprang upon Elmwood’s back and was within a little of bringing that dignified young gentleman to the ground. As Claude’s evident intention was merely to demonstrate the warmth of his friendship, Frank contented himself with reaching back after Claude and setting the young bundle of nerves upon his feet again.
“If you don’t behave yourself, sir,” he said with a suppressed smile, “I’ll put you over my knee.”
Claude was about to make some derisive comment upon this remark when suddenly his face changed, and he darted away like a minnow when it catches sight of a pike. Worden, in this instance, was the pike. He came rushing past the three poets with an expression of anticipatory triumph when Frank Elmwood caught him by the arm. Quick as thought young Winter, who was something of a wag and a tease, seized Worden’s right hand and shook it warmly.
“How are you, Worden? Glad to see you!” cried John, with a malicious grin.
“And I say, Worden, old boy, you’re losing your dignity,” added Frank. “What’s your hurry, anyhow?”
Worden, fully Frank’s equal in size and weight, was meantime endeavoring to break away from the strong, nervous grasp upon his arm, and of two minds as to swearing at these grinning captors.
“Look here, Elmwood, let go. Drop my hand, Winter. Let go, I say. Let go. Conf— you fellows are making a fool of me.”
“They might just as well try to make a square circle,” put in Rob, as with a bow and a smile he advanced to welcome amiable Mr. Worden, who for a wonder kept his temper, lest something worse should happen to him.
“Is the Mercury arrangement out of reach yet?” asked Frank of Rob.
“Sure! He’s at the far end of the yard, trying to see how high he can kick.”
“All right: you can go, Worden, and next time you get after a small boy, you heroic fraud, we hope you’ll have worse luck than you had now.”
Worden looked bowie knives at Frank, puffed his lower lip into a baby pout, stuck his thumbs in his vest and walked away with a sorry attempt at dignity. He made no further offer that day to wreak vengeance on Claude; for, although he was not a boy of fine discernment, there was something in the tone of Frank’s voice which he recognized as a note of warning. As Worden walked away, Frank’s face settled into an expression of study. He took off his glasses and, while eyeing them with his severest look, rubbed them vigorously.
“A penny for your thoughts, Frank,” ventured Rob.
“I’m thinking of that sunny scalawag who is now kicking his legs about as though there never had been a yesterday, and it never occurred to him that there’d be a tomorrow. He’s bound to have hard times, just as sure as he lives to grow up. At present he has about as much sense of responsibility as a
kitten. Now, I’m wondering how he’ll develop. It’s so hard to imagine almost any small boy changing into a man, but in most you can see a faint streak of seriousness. But Claude strikes me as being the concentrated essence of small boy, and I can’t even begin to imagine how or when he’ll change.”
“Oh, I guess it’ll come about in the ordinary way,” said John Winter. “We were all small boys once—you needn’t grin at me because I’m in knickerbockers. I can write verses and essays—and yet three years ago, I used to wonder how boys in Poetry class could do those things.”
“I think you’ve given the true solution,” said Rob. “We change with years: and Claude will take his medicine just as we did and change in the usual way.”
“I don’t believe it: I can’t imagine it,” said Frank.
And Frank was right. Claude’s change was not to be the work of time. The difficulties of that change, its seeming impossibility and its sudden accomplishment form the subject matter of this narrative.

Chapter II

Claude, during the morning hour preceding recess, had passed through all the formalities required of a newcomer. It was after his first interview with our three poets that he made his first appearance in the class of Third Academic. Frank Elmwood had discovered a problem in Claude; it devolved upon the teacher of Third Academic to attempt the solution.

Mr. Grace was an excellent teacher. In point of order, his was a model class; and his pupils, with scarcely an exception, were impressed by the piety and devotion which he taught by example as well as by word. But his influence was by no means in keeping with the respect which he inspired. Many of his scholars—all his lively boys, in fact—were content with simply admiring him. They did not understand their teacher; he did not understand them. His words of counsel, his exhortations failed to reach their hearts. They revered Mr. Grace; they esteemed him; they would be willing, were the matter directed to their attention, to sign a petition for his speedy canonization and to give witness to his heroic virtues: but the heights of their admiration reached that thinner air where there is no thriving growth of imitation.

Mr. Grace had never been a real boy. He had grown from childhood to manhood with his eyes fixed upon the upper realms. His school companions had called him a saint, and, unstinted in their words of praise, had subjected him to all manner of teasing. Without meaning it, they had frequently not stopped short of downright cruelty. The “saint” had borne his trials with such openeyed wonder and unchanging meekness that he had in the long run subdued nearly all his tormentors. Nevertheless, these petty persecutions had left upon him an indelible impression. He had noticed, without accounting for the fact, that there were two kinds of boys—boys that teased him, and boys that did not. His observations moving a step further had led him to perceive that those who teased him were wild, noisy, full of life, and that those who did not were gentle, quiet and pleasant of manner. Now Mr. Grace had nothing of the dramatic faculty. He could not put himself in another’s place. As a boy, he could not understand his lively companions; as a man he met with the same difficulty. He still recognized but two classes, the wild and the quiet. He was too charitable to allow himself to think any boy with whom he had to deal really bad. But if he had been forced to a decision, he would certainly have classed all quiet boys as being good and all noisy boys as being bad: and after his first hour’s experience with Claude, I dare say that he would have put that young gentleman’s name at the very head of the latter list.

But if Mr. Grace failed to sympathize with the harum-scarums, he nonetheless managed them well. He was quite a disciplinarian, and his firmness and method succeeded— only partially, it is true—in atoning for his invincible lack of insight. Mr. Grace took in at a glance something of the excessive liveliness which distinguished Claude at this period of his development and, in consequence, seated the young wriggler on the front bench which directly faced the professorial chair. Before the end of an hour, Mr. Grace discovered that, in the way of fidgeting, he had sadly underestimated Claude’s capacities.

And yet Claude was clearly on his best behavior; he opened his book with a fixed expression of resolve upon his face, and following each word with his finger end and with a painstaking movement and mumbling of the lips, he thus entered upon his college career with an output of zeal too intense to stand the wear and tear of many minutes. It was the hour assigned for Arithmetic class, and Mr. Grace had allowed his scholars five minutes to memorize the rule for compound proportion. Before half of that time had expired, Claude raised his head and, fixing his dancing eyes full upon his teacher, snapped his
fingers: forty boys grinned quietly and became interested.
“Sh!” warned the teacher.
“I know that rule, Mister. Just hear me say it.”
An unmistakable giggle went from one end of the room to the other: it was short-lived, for Mr. Grace’s stern glance was the signal for perfect stillness.
Mr. Grace left his seat and, bending over Claude, whispered in his ear: “My boy, no one is allowed to snap his fingers in this class—there’s no need of making such a noise. If you want to call my attention to anything, simply hold up your hand. Again, no one should speak in class, not even to me, without permission.”
Claude was crushed. It was not the substance of what was said that subdued him, but the manner. The quiet, subdued whisper is the strongest weapon against a youngster’s boisterousness. If he shout and the professor answer in kind, the confusion gathers force: but a whisper in return, a quiet look—these are too much. Mr. Grace knew this secret of discipline, and, I must confess, sometimes employed it to the verge of cruelty. His method of maintaining order gave no outlet to the overflow of animal spirits: he had never suffered from such an overflow himself.

Claude, with an injured expression, again bent his eyes on his book, while one hand went up absently to the top of his head and the other to his chest. The former hand began patting the fair hair, while the latter moved up and down. It was quite a feat to do this— any boy reader knows how hard it is—and
Charlie Pierson and Dan Dockery, seated behind our hero, were in a subdued ecstasy of delight at Claude’s deftness. Still conning his book, Claude’s hands absently reversed their motions, the upper hand doing the rubbing, the other the patting. Charlie felt tempted to applaud and Dan gave a snicker.
“Take your hand off your head and stop fidgeting,” whispered Mr. Grace.
“I ain’t doing nothing.”
“Study, then.”
“I know this—”
Then this poor victim of classroom discipline innocently twirled his thumbs—one going in the opposite direction to the other. Mr. Grace allowed this proceeding simple tolerance. The five minutes being up, the teacher required all to close their books and, beginning with the boy in the furthest bench,
heard the recitation. While the first boy called upon was hesitating on the last three words of the rule, Claude received the following note:
Anybody can twirl his thumbs. Why don’t you wag one of your ears?
Before he had torn this note to pieces, one of Claude’s ears twitched, quivered and actually did wag. Restraint was no longer possible: Dockery, Pierson and some half dozen boys broke into a roar. Mr. Grace had not witnessed the moving of the ear, but he perceived from the fact that the laughers were
watching Claude that the cause of the disturbance was on the front bench.
“Come here, Claude.”
With a skip and a bound, which nearly upset the class dignity for the second time, Claude was at the teacher’s desk. “Why are you trying to disturb the class?”
“I’m not trying to disturb anything. I was just trying to make my ears work, and one of them wouldn’t go.”
There are professors who would have had some difficulty in keeping serious after this naive confession. Not so Mr. Grace. He looked upon the lively boy as being capable of saying or doing anything. He never knew what the small boy might say or do at any given moment, but it was all one to him: he was ever expecting the unexpected. So he received this explanation with unimpaired seriousness.
“It’s a great loss of time for you, Claude, to give so much attention to your ears. This is the place for learning, not for gymnastics. Go to your seat, and keep quiet.”
“I can’t, Mister.”
“Try your best, Claude: if at first you don’t succeed, I’ll help you with a few lines to memorize.” And Mr. Grace smiled very sweetly.

Claude, on resuming his seat, caught hold of his desk with both hands, determined to reduce those unruly members to subjection, and set about paying attention in a fresh spurt of zeal. He seemed to forget that he had legs and feet, however, and kicked energetically into the air, one little foot and then
another flying up flush with the top of his desk. Mr. Grace, while hurrying through the recitations, ignored these demonstrations.
“Now,” said the teacher, when all had been heard, “if Claude will be good enough to put his feet where they belong and pay attention, I’ll show you how to carry out the rule you have just memorized.”

Claude was taken aback to such an extent that he could make no reply. He had been all attention. He had had his eyes fixed on Mr. Grace and had devoured his every feature. And in truth, Claude had been impressed with the fine, low, broad brow, under the mass of soft chestnut hair; with the noble eye, clear, steady, unmistakably frank; with the handsome oval of the face, pale and somewhat thin, yet revealing in its every line the student and the ascetic. Not
a trait escaped his keen, quick, inquisitive eyes. What struck him most of all was the air of holiness upon Mr. Grace’s features, and just as he was making up his mind that he liked a man teacher far better than he liked any woman teacher, there came this stinging rebuke. How in the world could he be expected to keep track of his legs while bending all his forces to bring into proper subjection his hands and fingers and head and ears, and at the same time follow everything that was going on in class?

But he was not utterly discouraged. Fastening a steady gaze upon his mischievous legs, and bringing his hands folded before him so that he could embrace them in the same glance, he resolved not to move a muscle till the end of class. It was an heroic determination. And indeed after three minutes—the while Mr. Grace went on working out in all calmness a problem at the blackboard—there was hardly a part of Claude’s anatomy which did not claim his attention.
There was an ache here, and a cramp there; his face itched, his feet threatened to go asleep, and Claude was morally certain, early as was the season, that a fly was disporting upon his neck. Ah, if he could only capture that fly! One minute passed in this state of torture; the perspiration began to gather on the young hero’s cheek. A new ache, another itch, another fly—so it appeared to Claude—then a host of itches seemed to swoop down upon him, till at length the poor boy could no longer stand under a fire so galling. He gave one wriggle and, half-rising from his seat, stretched himself at full length, ending the performance with a great sigh of relief, while class and professor watched him with rounded eyes.
“Yawning isn’t allowed,” whispered Mr. Grace at his ear.
“Can I go out, sir?”
“No; you’ve only been in ten minutes.”
“Let me go to the board and do a sum, then. I know how it’s done.”
Mr. Grace did not quite understand this young gentleman’s trouble; but by good fortune, someone had to go to the board, and in consideration of the fact that Claude was a newcomer, he granted him this last request. Our little wriggler was now in his element. Snatching up a blackboard eraser, he hopped
from one end of the board to the other—it extended the full length of the room—rubbing out everything in his track with a superfluous energy and ceasing regretfully from his labor when there was nothing more to erase.
No sooner had Mr. Grace enunciated the problem than, in a fever of energy, Claude jotted down the conditions and, not without many hops, extraordinary bendings of the legs and much flying of chalk dust, which powdered his face, worked it out perfectly.
“Please, Mister, give me another one!”
“Couldn’t you first explain the various steps you have taken?”
“Oh, yes, sir!” Whereupon our little Claude, who was very nimble of tongue and by no means timid, launched into an explanation, which he accompanied with some very expressive wriggles. His request too was granted. Mr. Grace, who was studying how to reduce this piece of animation to discipline, thought
that a half hour at the blackboard might throw some light on the question. So Claude got himself into layers of chalk, and hopped about ecstatically, and succeeded in showing that he was really first rate in arithmetic. When he returned to his seat, he was quite quiet, and beyond daubing his nose unintentionally with a bit of ink and dropping all his books with a thud upon the floor, the last quarter of his first hour in class was in every way commendable.

Taken from Claude Lightfoot, or How the Problem was Solved by TAN Books & Publishers, Inc.

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