Mark Tidd_ His Adventures and Strategies
“GO FOR BATTEN. I’M RIGHT HERE, AND I’LL LOOK AFTER BILL”
My name is Martin—James Briggs Martin—butalmost everybody calls me Tallow,because once when I was younger I saw oldUncle Ike Bond rubbing tallow on his boots toshine them, and then hurried home and fixedmine up with the stub of a candle and went toschool. I guess it couldn’t have smelled verygood, for everybody seemed to notice it, eventeacher, and she asked me what in the worldI’d been getting into. After that all the boyscalled me Tallow, and always will, I guess.
I tell you about me first only because I’mwriting this account of what happened. MarkTidd is really the fellow I’m writing about, andMark’s father and mother, and the engineMr. Tidd was inventing out in his barn, andsome other folks who will be told about intheir places. I helped some; so did PlunkSmalley and Binney Jenks, but Mark Tidddid most of it. Mark Tidd sounds like a shortname, doesn’t it? But it isn’t short at all, forit’s merely what’s left of Marcus AureliusFortunatus Tidd, which was what he waschristened, mostly out of Gibbon’s Decline andFall of the Roman Empire, a big book thatMr. Tidd was so fond of reading that he neverread much of anything else except the papers.
Mark Tidd was the last of us four boys tomove to Wicksville. I was born there, andso was Plunk Smalley, but Binney Jenksmoved over from Sunfield when he was five.Mark he didn’t come to town until a littleover a year ago, and Plunk and me saw himget off the train at the depot. I guess the carmust have been glad when he did get off, forhe looked like he almost filled it up. Yes, sir,when he came out of the door he had tosqueeze to get through. He was the fattestboy I ever saw, or ever expect to see, and thefunniest-looking. His head was round and’most as big as a pretty good-sized pumpkin,and his cheeks were so fat they almost coveredup his eyes. The rest of him was asround as his face, and Plunk said one of hislegs was as big as all six of Plunk’s andBinney’s and mine put together. I guess itwas bigger. When Plunk and me saw himwe just rolled over and kicked up our legs andhollered.
“I hope he’s goin’ to live in Wicksville,”says Plunk, “’cause we won’t care then if acircus never comes.”
A fat boy like that is a good thing to have ina town, so when things sort of slow down youcan always go and have fun with him. Atany rate, that was what we thought then. Itseemed to us that Marcus Aurelius FortunatusTidd was a ready-made joke put right intoour hands for us to fool with, but afterwardwe changed our minds considerable.
Mark’s father and mother got off the trainafter him, and his father said something tohim we couldn’t hear. Mark waddled acrossthe platform to where Uncle Ike Bond’s busstood waiting, and Plunk and me listened tohear what he would say.
“D-d-do you c-carry p-p-p-passengers inthat b-bus?” Yes, sir, he said it just likethat!
Well, Plunk he looked at me and I looked athim, and he soaked me in the ribs and Ismashed his hat down over his eyes, we wereso tickled. If we had been going to plan afunny kid we couldn’t have done half so well.We’d have forgot something sure. But nothingwas forgot in Mark Tidd, even to thestutter.
Old Uncle Ike looked down off his seat atMark, and his eyes popped out like he couldn’tbelieve what they saw. He waited a minutebefore he said anything, sort of planning in hismind what he was going to say, I guess. Thatwas a way Uncle Ike had, and then he usuallysaid something queer. This time he says:
“Passengers? What? Me carry passengers?No. I’ve just got this bus backed uphere to stiddy the depot platform. The railroadcomp’ny pays me to do it.”
Mark Tidd he looked solemn at Uncle Ike,and Uncle Ike looked solemn at him. ThenMark says, respectful and not impertinent:
“If I was to sit here and hold down thep-p-platform could you drive my folks? Icould keep it from m-m-movin’ much.”
Uncle Ike blinked. “Son,” says he, “climbaboard, if this here rattletrap looks safe toyou, and fetch along your folks. We’ll leavethe platform stand without hitchin’ for wunst.”
At that me and Plunk turned to look at thefat boy’s father and mother. Mr. Tidd was along man, upward of six foot, I guess, and notvery wide. His shoulders kind of sloped likehis head was too heavy for them, and his headwas so big that it was no wonder. His hairwas getting gray in front of his ears where itshowed under his hat, and he had blue eyesand thin cheeks and a sort of far-off, pleasantexpression, like he was thinking of somethingnice a long ways away. He was leaningagainst a corner of the station reading out of abig book and paying no attention to anybody.Afterward I found out the book was Gibbon’sDecline and Fall, and that he always carried itaround with him to read in a little when he gota spare minute.
Mrs. Tidd wasn’t that kind of person atall. As soon as Plunk and me looked at herwe knew she could make bully pies, andwouldn’t get mad if her fat boy was to sneakinto the pantry and cut a slice out of one ofthem in the middle of the afternoon. Youcould tell she was patient and good-natured,but, all the same, she wasn’t the kind you couldfool. If you came home with your hair wetit wouldn’t do any good to tell her somebodythrew a pail of water on it. She was lookingaround to see what she could see, and I bet shedidn’t miss much.
The fat boy he motioned to her to come tothe bus, and she spoke to her husband. Helooked up sort of vague, nodded his head, andcame poking across the platform, holding hisbook in front of him and reading away asthough he hadn’t a minute to spare, and cleanforgot all about the valise he’d set downbeside him.
“Jeffrey,” says Mrs. Tidd, “you’ve forgotyour satchel.”
He shut his book, but kept his finger in theplace, and looked all around him. Prettysoon he saw the satchel and nodded his headat it. “So I have,” he says, “so I have,” andwent back to get it.
Then all of them got into Uncle Ike’s bus,and he stirred up his horses who had beenstanding ’most asleep, with heads drooping,and they went rattling and banging up thestreet. When Uncle Ike’s bus got startedyou could hear it half a mile. I guess it wasall loose, for it sounded like a hail-storm beatingdown on a tin roof.
“Wonder where they’re goin’?” says Plunk.
“You got to do more’n wonder if you’regoin’ to find out,” I says, and started trottingafter the bus. It wasn’t hard to keep it insight, because Uncle Ike’s horses got tiredevery little while and came to a walk.
They stopped at the old Juniper house thathad been standing vacant for six months, eversince old man Juniper went to Chicago to livewith his daughter Susy’s oldest girl that hadmarried a man with a hardware store there.The yard was full of boxes and packing-casesand furniture all done up with burlap and rope.
“They’re goin’ to live here,” Plunk yells;and I was as glad as he was. The benefitsof having a stuttering fat boy living nearyou aren’t to be sneezed at by anybody.
We found a shady place across the street andwatched to see what would happen. It’salways interesting to watch other folks work,especially if what they’re doing is hard work,and I guess carrying furniture and trunks andboxes is about as hard as anything.
Mrs. Tidd was ready for work before anybodyelse. She came to the door with a bigapron on and a cloth tied around her hair, andthe way she sailed into things was a caution.It seemed like she jumped right into themiddle of that mess, and in a minute thingswere flying. Mr. Tidd came next with hisbook under his arm and stood in the stooplooking sort of puzzled. Mrs. Tidd straightenedup, and then sat down on a packing-box.
“Jeffrey Tidd,” she said, not sharp and angry,but kind of patient and rebuking, “goright back into the house and take thoseclothes off. I knew if I didn’t stay right byyou you’d get mixed up somehow. Will youtell me why in the world you changed fromyour second-best clothes to that Sundayblack suit to move furniture?”
Mr. Tidd he looked pretty foolish and feltof his pants as though he couldn’t believethey were his best ones.
“That does beat all,” he said. “It doesbeat all creation, Libby. I wonder how theseclothes come to be on me?”
“If you didn’t have ’em on under yourothers, which ain’t impossible, you must havechanged into ’em.”
“My best suit!” he said to himself, shakinghis head like you’ve seen the elephant do atthe circus, first to one side and then to theother. “My best clothes!”
“Maybe I’d better come along and see youget into the right ones this time,” Mrs. Tiddsuggested.
“I guess you don’t need to, Libby. I’lltake these off and hang ’em in the closet, andI’ll hang my second-best ones up, too. ThenI’ll put on what’s left. That way I can’t gowrong.” He went off into the house, andMrs. Tidd flew at the piles of stuff again.
Pretty soon the fat boy came around theside of the house with a quarter of a cherrypie in his hand and the juice dripping downfaster than he