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- Dawn - 6/52 -


To be sure, in this last undertaking, his efforts were not always successful. The lines wavered and blurred and were far from clear. Still, they were not half so bad as the print in books; and if it should not get any worse--Besides, had he not always loved to draw cats and dogs and faces ever since he could hold a pencil?

And so, with some measure of hope as to the results, he was setting himself to be that great and famous artist that his father said he must be.

But it was not all work for Keith these summer days. There were games and picnics and berry expeditions with the boys and girls, all of which he hailed with delight--one did not have to read, or even study wavering lines and figures, on picnics or berrying expeditions! And that WAS a relief. To be sure, there was nearly always Mazie, and if there was Mazie, there was bound to be Dorothy. And Dorothy had said-- Some way he could never see Dorothy without remembering what she did say on that day he had come home from Uncle Joe Harrington's.

Not that he exactly blamed her, either. For was not he himself acting as if he felt the same way and did not like to look at blind persons? Else why did he so persistently keep away from Uncle Joe now? Not once, since that first day, had he been up to see the poor old blind man. And before--why, before he used to go several times a week.

CHAPTER IV

SCHOOL

And so the summer passed, and September came. And September brought a new problem--school. And school meant books.

Two days before school began Keith sought Susan Betts in the kitchen.

"Say, Susan, that was awfully good johnny-cake we had this morning."

Susan picked up another plate to dry and turned toward her visitor. Her face was sternly grave, though there was something very like a twinkle in her eye.

"There ain't no cookies, if that's what you're wantin'," she said.

"Aw, Susan, I never said a word about cookies."

"Then what is it you want? It's plain to be seen there's something, I ween."

"My, how easy you do make rhymes, Susan. What's that 'I ween' mean?"

"Now, Keith Burton, this beatin' the bush like this don't do one mite of good. You might jest as well out with it first as last. Now, what is it you want?"

Keith drew a long sigh.

"Well, Susan, there IS something--a little something--only I meant what I said about the johnny-cake and the rhymes; truly, I did."

"Well?" Susan was smiling faintly.

"Susan, you know you can make dad do anything."

Susan began to stiffen, and Keith hastened to disarm her.

"No, no, truly! This is the part I want. You CAN make dad do anything; and I want you to do it for me."

"Do what?"

"Make him let me off from school any more."

"Let you off from school!" In her stupefied amazement Susan actually forgot to pick up another plate from the dishpan.

"Yes. Tell him I'm sick, or 't isn't good for me. And truly, 't isn't good for me. And truly, I am quite a little sick, Susan. I don't feel well a bit. There's a kind of sinking feeling in my stomach, and---"

But Susan had found her wits and her tongue by this time, and she gave free rein to her wrath.

"Let you off from school, indeed! Why, Keith Burton, I'm ashamed of you--an' you that I've always boasted of! What do you want to do--grow up a perfect ignominious?"

Keith drew back resentfully, and uptilted his chin.

"No, Susan Betts, I'm not wanting to be a--a ignominious, and I don't intend to be one, either. I'm going to be an artist--a great big famous artist, and I don't NEED school for that. How are multiplication tables and history and grammar going to help me paint big pictures? That's what I want to know. But I'm afraid that dad-- Say, WON'T you tell dad that I don't NEED books any more, and---"But he stopped short, so extraordinary was the expression that had come to Susan Betts's face. If it were possible to think of Susan Betts as crying, he should think she was going to cry now.

"Need books? Why, child, there ain't nobody but what needs books. An' I guess I know! What do you suppose I wouldn't give now if I could 'a' had books an' book-learnin' when I was young? I could 'a' writ real poetry then that would sell. I could 'a' spoke out an' said things that are in my soul, an' that I CAN'T say now, 'cause I don't know the words that--that will impress what I mean. Now, look a-here, Keith Burton, you're young. You've got a chance. Do you see to it that you make good. An' it's books that will help you do it."

"But books won't help me paint, Susan."

"They will, too. Books will help you do anything."

"Then you won't ask dad?"

"Indeed, I won't."

"But I don't see how books---" With a long sigh Keith turned away.

In the studio the next morning he faced his father.

"Dad, you can't learn to paint pictures by just READING how to do it, can you?"

"You certainly cannot, my boy."

"There! I told Susan Betts so, but she wouldn't LISTEN to me. And so-- I don't have to go to school any more, do I?"

"Don't have to go to school any more! Why, Keith, what an absurd idea! Of course you've got to go to school!"

"But just to be an artist and paint pictures, I don't see---"

But his father cut him short and would not listen.

Five minutes later a very disappointed, disheartened young lad left the studio and walked slowly down the hall.

There was no way out of it. If one were successfully to be Jerry and Ned and dad and one's self, all in one, there was nothing but school and more school, and, yes, college, that would give one the proper training. Dad had said it.

Keith went to school the next morning. With an oh-well-I-don't-care air he slung his books over his shoulder and swung out the gate, whistling blithely.

It might not be so bad, after all, he was telling himself. Perhaps the print would be plainer now. Anyway, he could learn a lot in class listening to the others; and maybe some of the boys would study with him, and do the reading part.

But it was not to be so easy as Keith hoped for. To begin with, the print had not grown any clearer. It was more blurred than ever. To be sure, it was much worse with one eye than with the other; but he could not keep one eye shut all the time. Besides--his eyes ached now if he tried to use them much, and grew red and inflamed, and he was afraid his father would notice them. He began to see strange flashes of rainbow light now, too. And sometimes little haloes around the lamp flame. As if one could study books with all that!

True, he learned something in class--but naturally he was never called upon to recite what had already been given, so he invariably failed miserably when it came to his turn. Even the "boy to study with" proved to be a delusion and a snare, for no boy was found who cared to do "all the reading," without being told the reason why it was expected of him--and that was exactly what Keith was straining every nerve to keep to himself.

And so week in and week out Keith stumbled along through those misery- filled days, each one seemingly a little more unbearable than the last. Of course, it could not continue indefinitely, and Keith, in his heart, knew it. Almost every lesson was more or less of a failure, and recitation hour was a torture and a torment. The teacher alternately reproved and reproached him, with frequent appeals to his pride, holding up for comparison his splendid standing of the past. His classmates gibed and jeered mercilessly. And Keith stood it all. Only a tightening of his lips and a new misery in his eyes showed that he had heard and understood. He made neither apology nor explanation. Above all, by neither word nor sign did he betray that, because the print in his books was blurred, he could not study.

Then came the day when his report card was sent to his father, and he himself was summoned to the studio to answer for it.

"Well, my son, what is the meaning of that?"

Keith had never seen his father look so stern. He was holding up the card, face outward. Keith knew that the damning figures were there, and he suspected what they were, though he could see only a blurred mass of indistinct marks. With one last effort he attempted still to cling to his subterfuge.

"What--what is it?" he stammered.

"'What is it?'--and in the face of a record like that!" cried his father sternly. "That's exactly what I want to know. What is it? Is


Dawn - 6/52

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