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The Cock Of The Walk
DOWN the road, kicking up the dust until he marched, soldier-wise, in a cloud of it, that
rose and grimed his moist face and added to the heavy, brown powder upon the wayside
weeds and flowers, whistling a queer, tuneless thing, which yet contained definite
sequences -- the whistle of a bird rather than a boy -- approached Johnny Trumbull, aged
ten, small of his age, but accounted by his mates mighty.
Johnny came of the best and oldest family in the village, but it was in some respects an
undesirable family for a boy. In it survived, as fossils survive in ancient nooks and
crannies of the earth, old traits of race, unchanged by time and environment. Living in a
house lighted by electricity, the mental conception of it was to the Trumbulls as the
conception of candles; with telephones at hand, they unconsciously still conceived of
messages delivered with the old saying, "Ride, ride," etc., and relays of post-horses. They
locked their doors, but still had latch-strings in mind. Johnny's father was a physician,
adopting modern methods of surgery and prescription, yet his mind harked back to
cupping and calomel, and now and then he swerved aside from his path across the field of
the present into the future and plunged headlong, as if for fresh air, into the traditional
past, and often with brilliant results.
Johnny's mother was a college graduate. She was the president of the woman's club. She
read papers savoring of such feminine leaps ahead that they were like gymnastics, but she
walked homeward with the gait of her great-grandmother, and inwardly regarded her
husband as her lord and master. She minced genteelly, lifting her quite fashionable skirts
high above very slender ankles, which were hereditary. Not a woman of her race had ever
gone home on thick ankles, and they had all gone home. They had all been at home, even
if abroad -- at home in the truest sense. At the club, reading her inflammatory paper, Cora
Trumbull's real self remained at home intent upon her mending, her dusting, her house
economics. It was something remarkably like her astral body which presided at the club.
As for her unmarried sister Janet, who was older and had graduated from a young ladies'
seminary instead of a college, whose early fancy had been guided into the lady-like ways
of antimacassars and pincushions and wax flowers under glass shades, she was a
straighter proposition. No astral pretensions had Janet. She stayed, body and soul
together, in the old ways, and did not even project her shadow out of them. There is
seldom room enough for one's shadow in one's earliest way of life, but there was plenty
for Janet's. There had been a Janet unmarried in every Trumbull family for generations.
That in some subtle fashion accounted for her remaining single. There had also been an
unmarried Jonathan Trumbull, and that accounted for Johnny's old bachelor uncle
Jonathan. Jonathan was a retired clergyman. He had retired before he had preached long,
because of doctrinal doubts, which were hereditary. He had a little, dark study in Johnny's
father's house, which was the old Trumbull homestead, and he passed much of his time
there, debating within himself that matter of doctrines.