Windy McPherson's Son HTML version

Windy McPherson, the father of the Caxton newsboy, Sam McPherson, had been war
touched. The civilian clothes that he wore caused an itching of the skin. He could not
forget that he had once been a sergeant in a regiment of infantry and had commanded a
company through a battle fought in ditches along a Virginia country road. He chafed
under the fact of his present obscure position in life. Had he been able to replace his
regimentals with the robes of a judge, the felt hat of a statesman, or even with the night
stick of a village marshal life might have retained something of its sweetness, but to have
ended by becoming an obscure housepainter in a village that lived by raising corn and by
feeding that corn to red steers --ugh!--the thought made him shudder. He looked with
envy at the blue coat and the brass buttons of the railroad agent; he tried vainly to get into
the Caxton Cornet Band; he got drunk to forget his humiliation and in the end he fell to
loud boasting and to the nursing of a belief within himself that in truth not Lincoln nor
Grant but he himself had thrown the winning die in the great struggle. In his cups he said
as much and the Caxton corn grower, punching his neighbour in the ribs, shook with
delight over the statement.
When Sam was a twelve year old, barefooted boy upon the streets a kind of backwash of
the wave of glory that had swept over Windy McPherson in the days of '61 lapped upon
the shores of the Iowa village. That strange manifestation called the A. P. A. movement
brought the old soldier to a position of prominence in the community. He founded a local
branch of the organisation; he marched at the head of a procession through the streets; he
stood on a corner and pointing a trembling forefinger to where the flag on the
schoolhouse waved beside the cross of Rome, shouted hoarsely, "See, the cross rears
itself above the flag! We shall end by being murdered in our beds!"
But although some of the hard-headed, money-making men of Caxton joined the
movement started by the boasting old soldier and although for the moment they vied with
him in stealthy creepings through the streets to secret meetings and in mysterious
mutterings behind hands the movement subsided as suddenly as it had begun and only
left its leader more desolate.
In the little house at the end of the street by the shores of Squirrel Creek, Sam and his
sister Kate regarded their father's warlike pretensions with scorn. "The butter is low,
father's army leg will ache to-night," they whispered to each other across the kitchen
Following her mother's example, Kate, a tall slender girl of sixteen and already a bread
winner with a clerkship in Winney's drygoods store, remained silent under Windy's
boasting, but Sam, striving to emulate them, did not always succeed. There was now and
then a rebellious muttering that should have warned Windy. It had once burst into an
open quarrel in which the victor of a hundred battles withdrew defeated from the field.
Windy, half-drunk, had taken an old account book from a shelf in the kitchen, a relic of
his days as a prosperous merchant when he had first come to Caxton, and had begun