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The Apostasy of William Dodge by Stanley Waterloo

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The Apostasy of William Dodge by Stanley Waterloo


by Stanley Waterloo

Billy Dodge rose from a seat near the door, and gave the two ladies chairs. Kate looked at him and smiled. The voice of the speaker seemed far away as she thought of the boy and his enthusiasms. Of all the earnest and sincere converts in the Lakeside House none could compare with Master William Dodge, the only son of the mistress of the place. He might be only eleven years old, he might be the most freckled boy in the block, but he had received new light, and he had his convictions. He had listened, and he had learned. He had learned that if you "hold a thought" and carry it around with you on a piece of paper, and read it from time to time throughout the day, it will bring you strength and give you victory in all the affairs of life. He thought the matter over much, for he had great need. He wanted help.

Of Master William Dodge, known as Billy, it may be said that in school he had ordinarily more fights on his hands than any other boy of his age and size, and it may be said, also, that as a rule, where the chances were anywhere near even, he came out "on top." But doggedly brave as the little freckled villain was, he had down in the bottom of his heart an appreciation that some day Jim McMasters might lick him. Jim McMasters was a boy only some six months older than Billy, of North of Ireland blood--than which there is none better--a lank, scrawny, reddish-haired youngster, freckled almost as profusely as Billy. Three times had they met in noble battle, and three times had Billy been the conqueror, but somehow the spirit of young McMasters did not seem particularly broken, nor did he become a serf. Billy felt that the air was full of portent, and he didn't like it.

It was just at this time that to Billy came the conviction that by "holding the thought" he would have what he called "the bulge on Jim," and having the energy of his convictions, he promptly set to the work of getting up texts which he could carry around in his pocket and which would make him just invincible. He talked cautiously with Mandy Make as to good watch-words, in no way revealing his designs, and from her secured certain texts which she had herself unconsciously memorized from many hearings of Jowler preachers. They were:

"Fight the good fight."
"Never give up."
"He never fails who dies in a good cause."
"Never say die."

For a time Billy was content with these quotations, written in a school-boy hand upon brown paper, and carried in his left-hand trousers pocket, but later he discovered that most of the scientists in the house who "held a thought" themselves prepared their own little bit of manuscript to be carried and read during the day, and that the text was made to apply to their special needs. Billy, after much meditation, concluded this was the thing for him, and with great travail he composed and wrote out the new texts which he should carry constantly and which should be his bulwark. Here they are:

"Ketch hold prompt and hang on."
"Strike from the shoulder."
"A kick for a blow, always bestow."
"When you get a good thing, keep it--keep it."
"When you get a black cat, skin it to the tail."

Only a week later one William Dodge and one Jim McMasters again met in more or less mortal combat, and one William Dodge, repeating the shorter of his texts as he fought, was again the victor.

"Gimme Christian Science!" he said to himself, as he put on his coat after the fray was over.

* * * * * *

Billy Dodge was fast drifting, although unconsciously, toward a crisis in his religious and worldly experiences. At school, during the last term, and so far in the summer vacation, his scheme of fortifying his physical powers with mental stimulants in the form of warlike "thoughts" had worked well. His chief rival for the honors of war, an energetic youngster, whose name, Jim McMasters, proclaimed his Irish ancestry, he had soundly thrashed more than once since adopting his new tactics. So far Billy had found that to hold the thought, "Ketch hold prompt and hang on," while he acted vigorously upon that stirring sentiment, meant victory, and he had more than once tried the efficacy of, "Strike from the shoulder," under adverse conditions and with success.

It was during this summer of anxiety to the more important personages of this story that Billy Dodge was called upon to prove the practical value of his belief in the supremacy of mind over matter, and although Billy emerged from the trial none the worse for his experience, it effected a radical change in his views.

Jim McMasters returned one summer's day from a short camping excursion in the Michigan woods. He had been the only boy in a party of young men, and during their spare hours, as the members of the fishing party were lying around camp, they had instructed Jim in a few of the first principles of the noble science of self-defense. This unselfish action on the part of his elders was brought about by Jim's bitter complaints of Billy's treatment of himself in a fair fight, and by his dire thirst for vengeance.

And so Jim McMasters came back to the city a dangerous opponent, and he looked it. Even Billy, secure in the prestige of former victories, and armed with hidden weapons--namely, the "thoughts" he so tenaciously held--felt some misgivings when he saw Jim and noted his easy, swaggering mien.

"I've got to lick him again," thought Billy, "and I've got to be good and ready for him this time. I must get a set of thoughts well learned and hold 'em, or I'll be lammed out of my life."

The youngsters met one day, each with his following of admirers, in a vacant lot not far from the Lakeside House. There was a queer look in Jim's eye when he hailed Billy, and there was instant response in language of a violent character from the young disciple of Christian Science. As the two stood in a ring of boys, each watching the other and alert to catch some advantage of beginning, Billy was certainly the most unconcerned, and he appeared to advantage. He was occupied throughout every nerve and vein of his being, first in "holding the thought" he had fixed upon for this special occasion, and second, by his plan of attack, for Billy made it a point always to take the initiative in a fight.

As for Jim, that active descendant of the Celts failed to exhibit that alarm and apprehension which should appertain to a young gentleman of his age when facing an antagonist who had "whaled" him repeatedly. His face was neither sallow with long dread, nor white with present fear before his former conqueror. In fact, it must be said of him that he capered about in a fashion not particularly graceful. He rose upon the ends of his toes and made wild feints which Billy did not understand. It was hard, under such disquieting circumstances, to hold a thought, and Billy found himself struggling in mind for equilibrium while he stood forward to the attack. He aimed a wild blow at his capering opponent, and drove into soundless air only, and before he could recover himself the capering opponent had "landed" on Billy's cheek in a most surprising but altogether unrefreshing manner.

The concussion made the cheek the color of an old-fashioned peony, and the jar caused the nose to bleed a little as the astonished Billy staggered back under the impact of a clenched fist.

Then the real fight began, but Billy, though he made a strong effort to rally, was beaten, and he knew, or thought he knew, why he was beaten. "It was holding the thought that done it," he faltered, as he fell after a quick stroke from Jim. He lay quiet on the grass, and his one wish was to die. He fixed his mind resolutely upon this wish, but failed to die at once; indeed he felt every moment the reviving forces of life throbbing through his tough young body. How could he look up and face his victorious foe? He decided rather to continue his efforts to die, and forthwith stiffened out into such rigidity as can be observed only in the bodies of those who have been dead forty-eight hours.

This manoeuver frightened the lads around him. "See here!" said Johnny Flynn, "Billy's hurt bad, an' we ought to do something."

"He looks dead!" whimpered little Davy Runnion, the smallest boy present, and he ran off to tell Jim McMasters, who stood at ease, at a short distance, arranging his disordered dress.

The victor faltered as he looked upon Billy's stiffened limbs.

"We must take him home," he said, ruefully.

Four boys lifted Billy, two at his shoulders, two at his feet. In the center he sagged slightly, despite his silent efforts to be rigidity itself. The small procession was preceded by a rabble of white-faced small boys, while the rear was guarded by Jim McMasters, meditating on the reflection that victory might be too dearly bought. Just as they reached the front steps of Mrs. Dodge's house, and were beginning the tug up toward the door, Jim burst into a loud bawl, and this so much disconcerted the youngsters who were carrying Billy that they almost dropped him on the white door-stone.

Johnny Flynn gave a mighty ring at the door-bell, and then fled down the steps and ran to the street corner, where he stood, one foot in the air, ready to run when the door opened. The neat maid who answered the bell gave a little shriek when she saw Billy's inanimate form. The boys pushed by her, dumped their burden upon the big hall sofa, and rushed out before any questions could be asked. It was plain enough, however, that Billy had got the worst of the fight. "And sure enough he deserves it," mentally pronounced the servant maid as she ran to call her mistress.

Mrs. Dodge gave a dismal shriek when she saw Billy. She sent the maid for Dr. Gordon, and sat down on the sofa with Billy's head in her lap. This was ignominious, and Billy decided to live. He opened his eyes, and in a faint voice asked for water.

When the man of medicine arrived he ordered the vanquished to bed. In the goodness of his heart, pitying the household of women, he even carried Billy upstairs and assisted in undressing him. The doctor noticed during this process various small folded papers flying out of Billy's pockets, but he did not know their meaning. It was left for Cora and Pearl, later in the day, to pick them up and examine them. Alas for Billy's faith!

In his own boyish handwriting were his inspiring "thoughts," "Never say die," "Ketch hold prompt," etc. Billy turned his face to the wall with a groan as the twins laid the slips of paper on his pillow.

That evening, after Billy had held a long session of sweet, silent thought, for he could not sleep, and had eaten a remarkably good supper, he opened his mind to his mother.

"No more of these for me," he began, brushing the texts from his bed onto the floor.

"Of what, Willy?" questioned Mrs. Dodge.

"No more holdin' the thought, and all that," said Billy. "I'm through. Had too much. That's what did me up. If I hadn't been trying to think that blamed thought, I'd 'a' seen Jim a-comin'."

"But, Willy," expostulated Mrs. Dodge, "you must hold fast."

"Hold nothin'!" said Billy. He arose and sat up very straight in the bed. "I tell you I am goin' to have no more nonsense. Gimme quinine, hell, a gold basis, and capital punishment! That's my platform from this on. I'm goin' to look up a good Sunday-school to-morrow, in a church with a steeple on it, and a strict, regular minister, and all the fixin's. Remember, mother, after this I travel on my muscle weekdays, and keep Sunday like a clock!"

The twins picked up the scattered thoughts from the floor--Billy was lying in his mother's room--and their eyes were big with wonder.

"Burn 'em!" commanded Billy. Then, on second thought, he relented slightly. "Keep 'em yourself if you want to," he said to the twins. "Holdin' the thought may be all right for girls, but with boys it don't work!"

~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~

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