by Booth Tarkington
A TALE OF YOUTH AND
SUMMER TIME AND
THE BAXTER FAMILY
William Sylvanus Baxter paused
for a moment of thought in front of the
drug-store at the corner of Washington Street
and Central Avenue. He had an internal question
to settle before he entered the store: he
wished to allow the young man at the soda-
fountain no excuse for saying, ``Well, make up
your mind what it's goin' to be, can't you?''
Rudeness of this kind, especially in the presence
of girls and women, was hard to bear, and though
William Sylvanus Baxter had borne it upon
occasion, he had reached an age when he found
it intolerable. Therefore, to avoid offering
opportunity for anything of the kind, he decided
upon chocolate and strawberry, mixed, before
approaching the fountain. Once there, however,
and a large glass of these flavors and diluted
ice-cream proving merely provocative, he said,
languidly--an affectation, for he could have
disposed of half a dozen with gusto: ``Well, now
I'm here, I might as well go one more. Fill 'er
up again. Same.''
Emerging to the street, penniless, he bent a
fascinated and dramatic gaze upon his reflection
in the drug-store window, and then, as he turned
his back upon the alluring image, his expression
altered to one of lofty and uncondescending
amusement. That was his glance at the passing
public. From the heights, he seemed to bestow
upon the world a mysterious derision--for William
Sylvanus Baxter was seventeen long years
of age, and had learned to present the appearance
of one who possesses inside information about life
and knows all strangers and most acquaintances
to be of inferior caste, costume, and intelligence.
He lingered upon the corner awhile, not pressed
for time. Indeed, he found many hours of these
summer months heavy upon his hands, for he had
no important occupation, unless some intermittent
dalliance with a work on geometry (anticipatory
of the distant autumn) might be thought
important, which is doubtful, since he usually
went to sleep on the shady side porch at his
home, with the book in his hand. So, having
nothing to call him elsewhere, he lounged before
the drug-store in the early afternoon sunshine,
watching the passing to and fro of the lower
orders and bourgeoisie of the middle-sized mid-
land city which claimed him (so to speak) for a
Apparently quite unembarrassed by his presence,
they went about their business, and the only
people who looked at him with any attention
were pedestrians of color. It is true that when
the gaze of these fell upon him it was instantly
arrested, for no colored person could have passed
him without a little pang of pleasure and of
longing. Indeed, the tropical violence of William
Sylvanus Baxter's tie and the strange brilliancy
of his hat might have made it positively unsafe
for him to walk at night through the negro
quarter of the town. And though no man could
have sworn to the color of that hat, whether it
was blue or green, yet its color was a saner thing
than its shape, which was blurred, tortured, and
raffish; it might have been the miniature model
of a volcano that had blown off its cone and
misbehaved disastrously on its lower slopes as well.
He had the air of wearing it as a matter of course
and with careless ease, but that was only an air--
it was the apple of his eye.
For the rest, his costume was neutral, subordinate,
and even a little neglected in the matter of a
detail or two: one pointed flap of his soft collar
was held down by a button, but the other showed
a frayed thread where the button once had been;
his low patent-leather shoes were of a luster not
solicitously cherished, and there could be no
doubt that he needed to get his hair cut, while
something might have been done, too, about
the individualized hirsute prophecies which had
made independent appearances, here and there,
upon his chin. He examined these from time
to time by the sense of touch, passing his hand
across his face and allowing his finger-tips a
slight tapping motion wherever they detected a
Thus he fell into a pleasant musing and seemed
to forget the crowded street.
II. THE UNKNOWN
He was roused by the bluff greeting of an
acquaintance not dissimilar to himself in
age, manner, and apparel.
``H'lo, Silly Bill!'' said this person,
William Sylvanus Baxter. ``What's the news?''
William showed no enthusiasm; on the
contrary, a frown of annoyance appeared upon his
brow. The nickname ``Silly Bill''--long ago
compounded by merry child-comrades from
``William'' and ``Sylvanus''--was not to his
taste, especially in public, where he preferred to
be addressed simply and manfully as ``Baxter.''
Any direct expression of resentment, however,
was difficult, since it was plain that Johnnie
Watson intended no offense whatever and but
spoke out of custom.
``Don't know any,'' William replied, coldly.
``Dull times, ain't it?'' said Mr. Watson, a little
depressed by his friend's manner. ``I heard May
Parcher was comin' back to town yesterday,
``Well, let her!'' returned William, still severe.
``They said she was goin' to bring a girl to
visit her,'' Johnnie began in a confidential tone.
``They said she was a reg'lar ringdinger and--''
``Well, what if she is?'' the discouraging Mr.
Baxter interrupted. ``Makes little difference to
ME, I guess!''
``Oh no, it don't. YOU don't take any interest
in girls! OH no!''
``No, I do not!'' was the emphatic and heartless
retort. ``I never saw one in my life I'd care
whether she lived or died!''
``Honest?'' asked Johnnie, struck by the
conviction with which this speech was uttered.
``Honest, is that so?''
``Yes, `honest'!'' William replied, sharply.
``They could ALL die, _I_ wouldn't notice!''
Johnnie Watson was profoundly impressed.
``Why, _I_ didn't know you felt that way about
'em, Silly Bill. I always thought you were kind
``Well, I do feel that way about 'em!'' said
William Sylvanus Baxter, and, outraged by the
repetition of the offensive nickname, he began
to move away. ``You can tell 'em so for me, if
you want to!'' he added over his shoulder. And
he walked haughtily up the street, leaving Mr.
Watson to ponder upon this case of misogyny,
never until that moment suspected.
It was beyond the power of his mind to grasp
the fact that William Sylvanus Baxter's cruel
words about ``girls'' had been uttered because
William was annoyed at being called ``Silly Bill''
in a public place, and had not known how to
object otherwise than by showing contempt for
any topic of conversation proposed by the
offender. This latter, being of a disposition to
accept statements as facts, was warmly interested,
instead of being hurt, and decided that here
was something worth talking about, especially
with representatives of the class so sweepingly
excluded from the sympathies of Silly Bill.
William, meanwhile, made his way toward the
``residence section'' of the town, and presently
--with the passage of time found himself
eased of his annoyance. He walked in
his own manner, using his shoulders to
emphasize an effect of carelessness which he wished
to produce upon observers. For his consciousness
of observers was abnormal, since he had
it whether any one was looking at him or not,
and it reached a crucial stage whenever he
perceived persons of his own age, but of opposite
A person of this description was encountered
upon the sidewalk within a hundred yards of his
own home, and William Sylvanus Baxter saw her
while yet she was afar off. The quiet and shady
thoroughfare was empty of all human life, at the
time, save for those two; and she was upon the
same side of the street that he was; thus it became
inevitable that they should meet, face to face, for
the first time in their lives. He had perceived,
even in the distance, that she was unknown to
him, a stranger, because he knew all the girls in
this part of the town who dressed as famously in
the mode as that! And then, as the distance
between them lessened, he saw that she was
ravishingly pretty; far, far prettier, indeed,
than any girl he knew. At least it seemed so,
for it is, unfortunately, much easier for strangers
to be beautiful. Aside from this advantage of
mystery, the approaching vision was piquant
and graceful enough to have reminded a much
older boy of a spotless white kitten, for, in spite
of a charmingly managed demureness, there was
precisely that kind of playfulness somewhere
expressed about her. Just now it was most
definite in the look she bent upon the light and
fluffy burden which she carried nestled in the
inner curve of her right arm: a tiny dog with
hair like cotton and a pink ribbon round his
neck--an animal sated with indulgence and
idiotically unaware of his privilege. He was
William did not see the dog, or it is the plain,
anatomical truth that when he saw how pretty
the girl was, his heart--his physical heart--
began to do things the like of which, experienced
by an elderly person, would have brought the
doctor in haste. In addition, his complexion
altered--he broke out in fiery patches. He
suffered from breathlessness and from pressure on
Afterward, he could not have named the color
of the little parasol she carried in her left hand,
and yet, as it drew nearer and nearer, a rosy haze
suffused the neighborhood, and the whole world
began to turn an exquisite pink. Beneath this
gentle glow, with eyes downcast in thought, she
apparently took no note of William, even when
she and William had come within a few yards of
each other. Yet he knew that she would look
up and that their eyes must meet--a thing for
which he endeavored to prepare himself by a
strange weaving motion of his neck against the
friction of his collar--for thus, instinctively, he
strove to obtain greater ease and some decent
appearance of manly indifference. He felt that
his efforts were a failure; that his agitation was
ruinous and must be perceptible at a distance of
miles, not feet. And then, in the instant of
panic that befell, when her dark-lashed eyelids
slowly lifted, he had a flash of inspiration.
He opened his mouth somewhat, and as her
eyes met his, full and startlingly, he placed three
fingers across the orifice, and also offered a slight
vocal proof that she had surprised him in the
midst of a yawn.
``Oh, hum!'' he said.
For the fraction of a second, the deep blue spark
in her eyes glowed brighter--gentle arrows of
turquoise shot him through and through--and
then her glance withdrew from the ineffable
collision. Her small, white-shod feet continued
to bear her onward, away from him, while his
own dimmed shoes peregrinated in the opposite
direction--William necessarily, yet with
excruciating reluctance, accompanying them. But
just at the moment when he and the lovely
creature were side by side, and her head turned
from him, she spoke that is, she murmured, but
he caught the words.
``You Flopit, wake up!'' she said, in the tone of
a mother talking baby-talk. ``SO indifferink!''
William's feet and his breath halted spasmodically.
For an instant he thought she had spoken
to him, and then for the first time he perceived
the fluffy head of the dog bobbing languidly
over her arm, with the motion of her walking,
and he comprehended that Flopit, and not
William Sylvanus Baxter, was the gentleman
addressed. But--but had she MEANT him?
His breath returning, though not yet operating
in its usual manner, he stood gazing after her,
while the glamorous parasol passed down the
shady street, catching splashes of sunshine
through the branches of the maple-trees; and
the cottony head of the tiny dog continued to be
visible, bobbing rhythmically over a filmy sleeve.
Had she meant that William was indifferent?
Was it William that she really addressed?
He took two steps to follow her, but a suffocating
shyness stopped him abruptly and, in a
horror lest she should glance round and detect
him in the act, he turned and strode fiercely to
the gate of his own home before he dared to look
again. And when he did look, affecting great
casualness in the action, she was gone, evidently
having turned the corner. Yet the street did
not seem quite empty; there was still something
warm and fragrant about it, and a rosy glamor
lingered in the air. William rested an elbow
upon the gate-post, and with his chin reposing in
his hand gazed long in the direction in which the
unknown had vanished. And his soul was tremulous,
for she had done her work but too well.
`` `Indifferink'!'' he murmured, thrilling at his
own exceedingly indifferent imitation of her
voice. ``Indifferink!'' that was just what he
would have her think--that he was a cold,
indifferent man. It was what he wished all girls
to think. And ``sarcastic''! He had been envious
one day when May Parcher said that Joe
Bullitt was ``awfully sarcastic.'' William had
spent the ensuing hour in an object-lesson
intended to make Miss Parcher see that William
Sylvanus Baxter was twice as sarcastic as Joe
Bullitt ever thought of being, but this great
effort had been unsuccessful, because William,
failed to understand that Miss Parcher had only
been sending a sort of message to Mr. Bullitt.
It was a device not unique among her sex; her
hope was that William would repeat her remark
in such a manner that Joe Bullitt would hear it
and call to inquire what she meant.
`` `SO indifferink'!'' murmured William,
leaning dreamily upon the gate-post. ``Indifferink!''
He tried to get the exact cooing quality of the
unknown's voice. ``Indifferink!'' And, repeating
the honeyed word, so entrancingly distorted, he
fell into a kind of stupor; vague, beautiful
pictures rising before him, the one least blurred being
of himself, on horseback, sweeping between
Flopit and a racing automobile. And then,
having restored the little animal to its mistress,
William sat carelessly in the saddle (he had the
Guardsman's seat) while the perfectly trained
steed wheeled about, forelegs in the air, preparing
to go. ``But shall I not see you again, to thank
you more properly?'' she cried, pleading. ``Some
other day--perhaps,'' he answered.
And left her in a cloud of dust.
III. THE PAINFUL AGE
Thus a shrill voice, to his ears hideously
different from that other, interrupted and dispersed
his visions. Little Jane, his ten-year-
old sister, stood upon the front porch, the door
open behind her, and in her hand she held a large
slab of bread-and-butter covered with apple
sauce and powdered sugar. Evidence that she
had sampled this compound was upon her cheeks,
and to her brother she was a repulsive sight;.
``Will-ee!'' she shrilled. ``Look! GOOD!''
And to emphasize the adjective she indelicately
patted the region of her body in which she
believed her stomach to be located. ``There's a
slice for you on the dining-room table,'' she
informed him, joyously.
Outraged, he entered the house without a word
to her, and, proceeding to the dining-room, laid
hands upon the slice she had mentioned, but
declined to eat it in Jane's company. He was in
an exalted mood, and though in no condition
of mind or body would he refuse food of almost
any kind, Jane was an intrusion he could not
suffer at this time.
He carried the refection to his own room and,
locking the door, sat down to eat, while, even as he
ate, the spell that was upon him deepened in intensity.
``Oh, eyes!'' he whispered, softly, in that cool
privacy and shelter from the world. ``Oh, eyes
The mirror of a dressing-table sent him the
reflection of his own eyes, which also were blue;
and he gazed upon them and upon the rest of his
image the while he ate his bread-and-butter and
apple sauce and sugar. Thus, watching himself
eat, he continued to stare dreamily at the mirror
until the bread-and-butter and apple sauce and
sugar had disappeared, whereupon he rose and
approached the dressing-table to study himself
at greater advantage.
He assumed as repulsive an expression as he
could command, at the same time making the
kingly gesture of one who repels unwelcome
attentions; and it is beyond doubt that he was thus
acting a little scene of indifference. Other symbolic
dramas followed, though an invisible observer
might have been puzzled for a key to some
of them. One, however, would have proved
easily intelligible: his expression having altered
to a look of pity and contrition, he turned
from the mirror, and, walking slowly to a
chair across the room, used his right hand in
a peculiar manner, seeming to stroke the air
at a point about ten inches above the back
of the chair. ``There, there, little girl,'' he
said in a low, gentle voice. ``I didn't know you
Then, with a rather abrupt dismissal of this
theme, he returned to the mirror and, after a
questioning scrutiny, nodded solemnly, forming
with his lips the words, ``The real thing--the real
thing at last!'' He meant that, after many
imitations had imposed upon him, Love--the real
thing--had come to him in the end. And as he
turned away he murmured, ``And even her name
This evidently was a thought that continued to
occupy him, for he walked up and down the room,
frowning; but suddenly his brow cleared and his
eye lit with purpose. Seating himself at a small
writing-table by the window, he proceeded to
express his personality--though with considerable
labor--in something which he did not doubt to be
Three-quarters of an hour having sufficed for
its completion, including ``rewriting and polish,''
he solemnly signed it, and then read it several
times in a state of hushed astonishment. He had
never dreamed that he could do anything like
I do not know her name
Though it would be the same
Where roses bloom at twilight
And the lark takes his flight
It would be the same anywhere
Where music sounds in air
I was never introduced to the lady
So I could not call her Lass or Sadie
So I will call her Milady
By the sands of the sea
She always will be
Just M'lady to me.
--WILLIAM SYLVANUS BAXTER, Esq., July 14
It is impossible to say how many times he
might have read the poem over, always with
increasing amazement at his new-found powers,
had he not been interrupted by the odious voice
To William, in his high and lonely mood, this
piercing summons brought an actual shudder, and
the very thought of Jane (with tokens of apple
sauce and sugar still upon her cheek, probably)
seemed a kind of sacrilege. He fiercely swore his
favorite oath, acquired from the hero of a work of
fiction he admired, ``Ye gods!'' and concealed his
poem in the drawer of the writing-table, for Jane's
footsteps were approaching his door.
``Will--ee! Mamma wants you.'' She tried
the handle of the door.
``G'way!'' he said.
``Will--ee!'' Jane hammered upon the door
with her fist. ``Will--ee!''
``What you want?'' he shouted.
Jane explained, certain pauses indicating that
her attention was partially diverted to another
slice of bread-and-butter and apple sauce and
sugar. ``Will--ee, mamma wants you--wants
you to go help Genesis bring some wash-tubs
home and a tin clo'es-boiler--from the second-
hand man's store.''
Jane repeated the outrageous message,
adding, ``She wants you to hurry--and I got some
more bread-and-butter and apple sauce and
sugar for comin' to tell you.''
William left no doubt in Jane's mind about
his attitude in reference to the whole matter.
His refusal was direct and infuriated, but, in the
midst of a multitude of plain statements which he
was making, there was a decisive tapping upon
the door at a point higher than Jane could reach,
and his mother's voice interrupted:
``Hush, Willie! Open the door, please.''
He obeyed furiously, and Mrs. Baxter walked
in with a deprecating air, while Jane followed, so
profoundly interested that, until almost the close
of the interview, she held her bread-and-butter
and apple sauce and sugar at a sort of way-
station on its journey to her mouth.
``That's a nice thing to ask me to do!'' stormed
the unfortunate William. ``Ye gods! Do you
think Joe Bullitt's mother would dare to--''
``Wait, dearie!'' Mrs. Baxter begged, pacifically.
``I just want to explain--''
`` `Explain'! Ye gods!''
``Now, now, just a minute, Willie!'' she said.
``What I wanted to explain was why it's necessary
for you to go with Genesis for the--''
``Never!'' he shouted. ``Never! You expect
me to walk through the public streets with that
awful-lookin' old nigger--''
``Genesis isn't old,'' she managed to interpolate.
But her frantic son disregarded her. ``Second-
hand wash-tubs!'' he vociferated. ``And tin
clothes-boilers! THAT'S what you want your SON
to carry through the public streets in broad daylight!
``Well, there isn't anybody else,'' she said.
``Please don't rave so, Willie, and say `Ye gods'
so much; it really isn't nice. I'm sure nobody 'll
`` `Nobody'!'' His voice cracked in anguish.
``Oh no! Nobody except the whole town! WHY,
when there's anything disgusting has to be done
in this family--why do _I_ always have to be the
one? Why can't Genesis bring the second-hand
wash-tubs without ME? Why can't the second-
hand store deliver 'em? Why can't--''
``That's what I want to tell you,'' she
interposed, hurriedly, and as the youth lifted his
arms on high in a gesture of ultimate despair,
and then threw himself miserably into a chair, she
obtained the floor. ``The second-hand store
doesn't deliver things,'' she said. ``I bought
them at an auction, and it's going out of business,
and they have to be taken away before half past
four this afternoon. Genesis can't bring them
in the wheelbarrow, because, he says, the wheel is
broken, and he says he can't possibly carry two
tubs and a wash-boiler himself; and he can't
make two trips because it's a mile and a half,
and I don't like to ask him, anyway; and it
would take too long, because he has to get back
and finish cutting the grass before your papa
gets home this evening. Papa said he HAD to!
Now, I don't like to ask you, but it really isn't
much. You and Genesis can just slip up there
``Slip!'' moaned William. `` `Just SLIP up there''!
``Genesis is waiting on the back porch,'' she
said. ``Really it isn't worth your making all this
``Oh no!'' he returned, with plaintive satire.
``It's nothing! Nothing at all!''
``Why, _I_ shouldn't mind it,'' she said; briskly,
``if I had the time. In fact, I'll have to, if you
``Ye gods!'' He clasped his head in his hands,
crushed, for he knew that the curse was upon him
and he must go. ``Ye gods!''
And then, as he stamped to the door, his tragic
eye fell upon Jane, and he emitted a final cry of
``Can't you EVER wash your face?'' he shouted;
IV. GENESIS AND CLEMATIS
Genesis and his dog were waiting just outside
the kitchen door, and of all the world
these two creatures were probably the last in
whose company William Sylvanus Baxter desired
to make a public appearance. Genesis was an
out-of-doors man and seldom made much of a
toilet; his overalls in particular betraying at
important points a lack of the anxiety he should
have felt, since only Genesis himself, instead of a
supplementary fabric, was directly underneath
them. And the aged, grayish, sleeveless and
neckless garment which sheltered him from waist
to collar-bone could not have been mistaken for a
jersey, even though what there was of it was
dimly of a jerseyesque character. Upon the feet
of Genesis were things which careful study would
have revealed to be patent-leather dancing-
pumps, long dead and several times buried; and
upon his head, pressing down his markedly criminal
ears, was a once-derby hat of a brown not
far from Genesis's own color, though decidedly
without his gloss. A large ring of strange metals
with the stone missing, adorned a finger of his
right hand, and from a corner of his mouth
projected an unlighted and spreading cigar stub
which had the appearance of belonging to its
present owner merely by right of salvage.
And Genesis's dog, scratching himself at his
master's feet, was the true complement of Genesis,
for although he was a youngish dog, and had
not long been the property of Genesis, he was a
dog that would have been recognized anywhere
in the world as a colored person's dog. He was
not a special breed of dog--though there was
something rather houndlike about him--he was
just a dog. His expression was grateful but
anxious, and he was unusually bald upon the bosom,
but otherwise whitish and brownish, with a gaunt,
haunting face and no power to look anybody in
He rose apprehensively as the fuming William
came out of the kitchen, but he was prepared to
follow his master faithfully, and when William
and Genesis reached the street the dog was
discovered at their heels, whereupon William came
to a decisive halt.
``Send that dog back,'' he said, resolutely.
``I'm not going through the streets with a dog
like that, anyhow!''
Genesis chuckled. ``He ain' goin' back,'' he
said. `` 'Ain' nobody kin make 'at dog go back. I
'ain' had him mo'n two weeks, but I don' b'lieve
Pres'dent United States kin make 'at dog go
back! I show you.'' And, wheeling suddenly,
he made ferocious gestures, shouting. ``G'on back,
The dog turned, ran back a few paces, halted,
and then began to follow again, whereupon Genesis
pretended to hurl stones at him; but the
animal only repeated his manoeuver--and he
repeated it once more when William aided Genesis
by using actual missiles, which were dodged with
almost careless adeptness.
``I'll show him!'' said William, hotly. ``I'll
show him he can't follow ME!'' He charged upon
the dog, shouting fiercely, and this seemed to do
the work, for the hunted animal, abandoning his
partial flights, turned a tucked-under tail, ran all
the way back to the alley, and disappeared from
sight. ``There!'' said William. ``I guess that 'll
``I ain' bettin' on it!'' said Genesis, as they
went on. ``He nev' did stop foll'in' me yet. I
reckon he the foll'indest dog in the worl'! Name
``Well, he can't follow ME!'' said the surging
William, in whose mind's eye lingered the vision
of an exquisite doglet, with pink-ribboned throat
and a cottony head bobbing gently over a
filmy sleeve. ``He doesn't come within a mile of
ME, no matter what his name is!''
``Name Clem fer short,'' said Genesis, amiably.
``I trade in a mandoline fer him what had her
neck kind o' busted off on one side. I couldn'
play her nohow, an' I found her, anyways. Yes-
suh, I trade in 'at mandoline fer him 'cause always
did like to have me a good dog--but I d'in'
have me no name fer him; an' this here Blooie
Bowers, what I trade in the mandoline to, he say
HE d'in have no name fer him. Say nev' did know
if WAS a name fer him 'tall. So I'z spen' the
evenin' at 'at lady's house, Fanny, what used to
be cook fer Miz Johnson, nex' do' you' maw's;
an' I ast Fanny what am I go'n' a do about it, an'
Fanny say, `Call him Clematis,' she say. ` 'At's
a nice name!' she say. `Clematis.' So 'at's name
I name him, Clematis. Call him Clem fer short,
but Clematis his real name. He'll come, whichever
one you call him, Clem or Clematis. Make
no diff'ence to him, long's he git his vittles. Clem
or Clematis, HE ain' carin'!''
William's ear was deaf to this account of the
naming of Clematis; he walked haughtily, but as
rapidly as possible, trying to keep a little in
advance of his talkative companion, who had
never received the training as a servitor which
should have taught him his proper distance from
the Young Master. William's suffering eyes were
fixed upon remoteness; and his lips moved, now
and then, like a martyr's, pronouncing inaudibly
a sacred word. ``Milady! Oh, Milady!''
Thus they had covered some three blocks of
their journey--the too-democratic Genesis chatting
companionably and William burning with
mortification--when the former broke into loud
``What I tell you?'' he cried, pointing ahead.
``Look ayonnuh! NO, suh, Pres'dent United
States hisse'f ain' go tell 'at dog stay home!''
And there, at the corner before them, waited
Clematis, roguishly lying in a mud-puddle in the
gutter. He had run through alleys parallel to
their course--and in the face of such demoniac
cunning the wretched William despaired of
evading his society. Indeed, there was nothing
to do but to give up, and so the trio proceeded,
with William unable to decide which contaminated
him more, Genesis or the loyal Clematis.
To his way of thinking, he was part of a dreadful
pageant, and he winced pitiably whenever the eye
of a respectable passer-by fell upon him. Everybody
seemed to stare--nay, to leer! And he felt
that the whole world would know his shame by
Nobody, he reflected, seeing him in such
company, could believe that he belonged to ``one of
the oldest and best families in town.'' Nobody
would understand that he was not walking with
Genesis for the pleasure of his companionship
--until they got the tubs and the wash-
boiler, when his social condition must be thought
even more degraded. And nobody, he was shudderingly
positive, could see that Clematis was not
his dog (Clematis kept himself humbly a little in
the rear, but how was any observer to know that
he belonged to Genesis and not to William?
And how frightful that THIS should befall him
on such a day, the very day that his soul had been
split asunder by the turquoise shafts of Milady's
eyes and he had learned to know the Real Thing
``Milady! Oh, Milady!''
For in the elder teens adolescence may be
completed, but not by experience, and these years
know their own tragedies. It is the time of life
when one finds it unendurable not to seem perfect
in all outward matters: in worldly position, in
the equipments of wealth, in family, and in the
grace, elegance, and dignity of all appearances in
public. And yet the youth is continually betrayed
by the child still intermittently insistent
within him, and by the child which undiplomatic
people too often assume him to be. Thus with
William's attire: he could ill have borne any
suggestion that it was not of the mode, but taking
care of it was a different matter. Also, when it
came to his appetite, he could and would eat
anything at any time, but something younger than
his years led him--often in semi-secrecy--to
candy-stores and soda-water fountains and ice-
cream parlors; he still relished green apples and
knew cravings for other dangerous inedibles.
But these survivals were far from painful to him;
what injured his sensibilities was the disposition
on the part of people especially his parents, and
frequently his aunts and uncles--to regard him
as a little boy. Briefly, the deference his soul
demanded in its own right, not from strangers
only, but from his family, was about that which
is supposed to be shown a Grand Duke visiting
his Estates. Therefore William suffered often.
But the full ignominy of the task his own
mother had set him this afternoon was not realized
until he and Genesis set forth upon the return
journey from the second-hand shop, bearing the
two wash-tubs, a clothes-wringer (which Mrs.
Baxter had forgotten to mention), and the tin
boiler--and followed by the lowly Clematis.
V. SORROWS WITHIN A BOILER
There was something really pageant-like
about the little excursion now, and the glittering
clothes-boiler, borne on high, sent flashing
lights far down the street. The wash-tubs were
old-fashioned, of wood; they refused to fit one
within the other; so William, with his right hand,
and Genesis, with his left, carried one of the tubs
between them; Genesis carried the heavy wringer
with his right hand, and he had fastened the other
tub upon his back by means of a bit of rope
which passed over his shoulder; thus the tin
boiler, being a lighter burden, fell to William.
The cover would not stay in place, but
continually fell off when he essayed to carry the
boiler by one of its handles, and he made shift to
manage the accursed thing in various ways--the
only one proving physically endurable being,
unfortunately, the most grotesque. He was forced
to carry the cover in his left hand and to place his
head partially within the boiler itself, and to support
it--tilted obliquely to rest upon his shoulders
--as a kind of monstrous tin cowl or helmet.
This had the advantage of somewhat concealing
his face, though when he leaned his head back, in
order to obtain clearer vision of what was before
him, the boiler slid off and fell to the pavement
with a noise that nearly caused a runaway, and
brought the hot-cheeked William much derisory
attention from a passing street-car. However, he
presently caught the knack of keeping it in position,
and it fell no more.
Seen from the rear, William was unrecognizable
--but interesting. He appeared to be a walking
clothes-boiler, armed with a shield and connected,
by means of a wash-tub, with a negro of informal
ideas concerning dress. In fact, the group was
whimsical, and three young people who turned in
behind it, out of a cross-street, indulged immediately
in fits of inadequately suppressed laughter,
though neither Miss May Parcher nor Mr.
Johnnie Watson even remotely suspected that
the legs beneath the clothes-boiler belonged to
an acquaintance. And as for the third of this
little party, Miss Parcher's visitor, those
peregrinating legs suggested nothing familiar to her.
``Oh, see the fun-ee laundrymans!'' she cried,
addressing a cottony doglet's head that bobbed
gently up and down over her supporting arm.
``Sweetest Flopit must see, too! Flopit, look at
the fun-ee laundrymans!''
`` 'Sh!'' murmured Miss Parcher, choking. ``He
might hear you.''
He might, indeed, since they were not five
yards behind him and the dulcet voice was clear
and free. Within the shadowy interior of the
clothes-boiler were features stricken with sudden,
utter horror. ``FLOPIT!''
The attention of Genesis was attracted by a
convulsive tugging of the tub which he supported
in common with William; it seemed passionately
to urge greater speed. A hissing issued from the
boiler, and Genesis caught the words, huskily
``Walk faster! You got to walk faster.''
The tub between them tugged forward with a
pathos of appeal wasted upon the easy-going
``I got plenty time cut 'at grass befo' you' pa
gits home,'' he said, reassuringly. ``Thishere
rope what I got my extry tub slung to is 'mos'
wo' plum thew my hide.''
Having uttered this protest, he continued to
ambulate at the same pace, though somewhat
assisted by the forward pull of the connecting
tub, an easance of burden which he found pleasant;
and no supplementary message came from
the clothes-boiler, for the reason that it was
incapable of further speech. And so the two groups
maintained for a time their relative positions,
about fifteen feet apart.
The amusement of the second group having
abated through satiety, the minds of its components
turned to other topics. ``Now Flopit must
have his darlin' 'ickle run,'' said Flopit's mistress,
setting the doglet upon the ground. ``That's
why sweetest Flopit and I and all of us came for
a walk, instead of sitting on the nice, cool porch-
kins. SEE the sweetie toddle! Isn't he adorable,
May? ISN'T he adorable, Mr. Watson?''
Mr. Watson put a useless sin upon his soul,
since all he needed to say was a mere ``Yes.''
He fluently avowed himself to have become
insane over the beauty of Flopit.
Flopit, placed upon the ground, looked like
something that had dropped from a Christmas
tree, and he automatically made use of fuzzy
legs, somewhat longer than a caterpillar's, to
patter after his mistress. He was neither
enterprising nor inquisitive; he kept close to the rim
of her skirt, which was as high as he could see,
and he wished to be taken up and carried again.
He was in a half-stupor; it was his desire to
remain in that condition, and his propulsion was
almost wholly subconscious, though surprisingly
rapid, considering his dimensions.
``My goo'ness!'' exclaimed Genesis, glancing
back over his shoulder. `` 'At li'l' thing ack like
he think he go'n a GIT somewheres!'' And then, in
answer to a frantic pull upon the tub, ``Look like
you mighty strong t'day,'' he said. ``I cain' go
no fastuh!'' He glanced back again, chuckling.
`` 'At li'l' bird do well not mix up nothin' 'ith ole
Clematis, it happened, was just coming into
view, having been detained round the corner by
his curiosity concerning a set of Louis XVI.
furniture which some house-movers were unpacking
upon the sidewalk. A curl of excelsior, in fact,
had attached itself to his nether lip, and he was
pausing to remove it--when his roving eye fell
upon Flopit. Clematis immediately decided to
let the excelsior remain where it was, lest he miss
something really important.
He approached with glowing eagerness at a
Then, having almost reached his goal, he
checked himself with surprising abruptness and
walked obliquely beside Flopit, but upon a parallel
course, his manner agitated and his brow
furrowed with perplexity. Flopit was about the
size of Clematis's head, and although Clematis
was certain that Flopit was something alive, he
could not decide what.
Flopit paid not the slightest attention to
Clematis. The self-importance of dogs, like that of
the minds of men, is in directly inverse ratio to
their size; and if the self-importance of Flopit
could have been taken out of him and given to
an elephant, that elephant would have been
Flopit continued to pay no attention to
All at once, a roguish and irresponsible mood
seized upon Clematis; he laid his nose upon the
ground, deliberating a bit of gaiety, and then,
with a little rush, set a large, rude paw upon the
sensitive face of Flopit and capsized him. Flopit
uttered a bitter complaint in an asthmatic voice.
``Oh, nassy dray bid Horror!'' cried his
mistress, turning quickly at this sound and waving a
pink parasol at Clematis. ``Shoo! DIRTY dog!
Go 'way!'' And she was able somehow to connect
him with the wash-tub and boiler, for she
added, ``Nassy laundrymans to have bad
Mr. Watson rushed upon Clematis with angry
bellowings and imaginary missiles. ``You
disgusting brute!'' he roared. ``How DARE you?''
Apparently much alarmed, Clematis lowered
his ears, tucked his tail underneath him, and fled
to the rear, not halting once or looking back until
he disappeared round the corner whence he had
come. ``There!'' said Mr. Watson. ``I guess HE
won't bother us again very soon!''
It must be admitted that Milady was one of
those people who do not mind being overheard,
no matter what they say. ``Lucky for us,'' she
said, ``we had a nice dray bid MANS to protect
us, wasn't it, Flopit?'' And she thought it
necessary to repeat something she had already made
``I expect I gave that big mongrel the fright
of his life,'' said Mr. Watson, with complacency.
``He'll probably run a mile!''
The shoulders of Genesis shook as he was towed
along by the convulsive tub. He knew from previous
evidence that Clematis possessed both a
high quality and a large quantity of persistence,
and it was his hilarious opinion that the dog had
not gone far. As a matter of fact, the head of
Clematis was at this moment cautiously extended
from behind the fence-post at the corner whither
he had fled. Viewing with growing assurance the
scene before him, he permitted himself to emerge
wholly, and sat down, with his head tilted to
one side in thought. Almost at the next corner
the clothes-boiler with legs, and the wash-tubs,
and Genesis were marching on; and just behind
them went three figures not so familiar to Clematis,
and connected in his mind with a vague,
mild apprehension. But all backs were safely
toward him, and behind them pattered that small
live thing which had so profoundly interested him.
He rose and came on apace, silently.
When he reached the side of Flopit, some eight
or nine seconds later, Clematis found himself even
more fascinated and perplexed than during their
former interview, though again Flopit seemed
utterly to disregard him. Clematis was not at
all sure that Flopit WAS a dog, but he felt that
it was his business to find out. Heaven knows,
so far, Clematis had not a particle of animosity
in his heart, but he considered it his duty to himself--
in case Flopit turned out not to be a dog--
to learn just what he was. The thing might be
Therefore, again pacing obliquely beside Flopit
(while the human beings ahead went on, unconscious
of the approaching climax behind them)
Clematis sought to detect, by senses keener than
sight, some evidence of Flopit's standing in the
zoological kingdom; and, sniffing at the top of
Flopit's head--though Clematis was uncertain
about its indeed being a head--he found himself
baffled and mentally much disturbed.
Flopit did not smell like a dog; he smelled of
Clematis frowned and sneezed as the infinitesimal
particles of sachet powder settled in
the lining of his nose. He became serious, and
was conscious of a growing feeling of dislike; he
began to be upset over the whole matter. But
his conscience compelled him to persist in his
attempt to solve the mystery; and also he remembered
that one should be courteous, no matter
what some other thing chooses to be. Hence he
sought to place his nose in contact with Flopit's,
for he had perceived on the front of the
mysterious stranger a buttony something which
might possibly be a nose.
Flopit evaded the contact. He felt that he
had endured about enough from this Apache, and
that it was nearly time to destroy him. Having
no experience of battle, save with bedroom
slippers and lace handkerchiefs, Flopit had little
doubt of his powers as a warrior. Betrayed by
his majestic self-importance, he had not the
remotest idea that he was small. Usually he saw
the world from a window, or from the seat of
an automobile, or over his mistress's arm. He
looked down on all dogs, thought them ruffianly,
despised them; and it is the miraculous truth
that not only was he unaware that he was
small, but he did not even know that he was a
dog, himself. He did not think about himself in
From these various ignorances of his sprang
his astonishing, his incredible, valor. Clematis,
with head lowered close to Flopit's, perceived
something peering at him from beneath the
tangled curtain of cottony, violet-scented stuff
which seemed to be the upper part of Flopit's
face. It was Flopit's eye, a red-rimmed eye and
sore--and so demoniacally malignant that Clematis,
indescribably startled, would have withdrawn
his own countenance at once--but it was
too late. With a fearful oath Flopit sprang
upward and annexed himself to the under lip of the
Horror gave place to indignation instantly; and
as Miss Parcher and her guest turned, screaming,
Clematis's self-command went all to pieces.
Miss Parcher became faint and leaned against
the hedge along which they had been passing, but
her visitor continued to scream, while Mr. Watson
endeavored to kick Clematis without ruining
Flopit--a difficult matter.
Flopit was baresark from the first, and the
mystery is where he learned the dog-cursing that
he did. In spite of the David-and-Goliath difference
in size it would be less than justice to deny
that a very fair dog-fight took place. It was so
animated, in truth, that the one expert in such
matters who was present found himself warmly
interested. Genesis relieved himself of the burden
of the wash-tub upon his back, dropped the
handle of that other in which he had a half-
interest, and watched the combat; his mouth,
like his eyes, wide open in simple pleasure.
He was not destined to enjoy the spectacle to
the uttermost; a furious young person struck
him a frantic, though harmless, blow with a pink
``You stop them!'' she screamed. ``You make
that horrible dog stop, or I'll have you arrested!''
Genesis rushed forward.
``You CLEM!'' he shouted.
And instantly Clematis was but a whitish and
brownish streak along the hedge. He ran like a
dog in a moving picture when they speed the
film, and he shot from sight, once more, round
the corner, while Flopit, still cursing, was seized
and squeezed in his mistress's embrace.
But she was not satisfied. ``Where's that
laundryman with the tin thing on his head?'' she
demanded. ``He ought to be arrested for having
such a dog. It's HIS dog, isn't it? Where is
Genesis turned and looked round about the
horizon, mystified. William Sylvanus Baxter and
the clothes-boiler had disappeared from sight.
``If he owns that dog,'' asserted the still furious
owner of Flopit, ``I WILL have him arrested.''
Where is he? Where is that laundryman?''
``Why, he,'' Genesis began slowly, ``HE ain' no
laundrym--'' He came to an uncertain pause.
If she chose to assume, with quick feminine intuition,
that the dog was William's and that William
was a laundryman, it was not Genesis's place to
enlighten her. `` 'Tic'larly,'' he reflected, ``since
she talk so free about gittin' people 'rested!''
He became aware that William had squirmed
through the hedge and now lay prostrate on the
other side of it, but this, likewise, was something
within neither his duty nor his inclination to
``Thishere laundryman,'' said Genesis, resuming--
``thishere laundryman what own the dog,
I reckon he mus' hopped on 'at street-car what
``Well, he OUGHT to be arrested!'' she said, and,
pressing her cheek to Flopit's, she changed her
tone. ``Izzum's ickle heart a-beatin' so floppity!
Um's own mumsy make ums all right, um's
Then with the consoling Miss Parcher's arm
about her, and Mr. Watson even more dazzled
with love than when he had first met her, some
three hours past, she made her way between
the tubs, and passed on down the street. Not
till the three (and Flopit) were out of sight
did William come forth from the hedge.
``Hi yah!'' exclaimed Genesis. `` 'At lady go'n a
'rest ev'y man what own a dog, 'f she had her
But William spoke no word.
In silence, then, they resumed their burdens
and their journey. Clematis was waiting for
them at the corner ahead.
VII. MR. BAXTER'S EVENING CLOTHES
That evening, at about half-past seven
o'clock, dinner being over and Mr. and Mrs.
Baxter (parents of William) seated in the library,
Mrs. Baxter said:
``I think it's about time for you to go and dress
for your Emerson Club meeting, papa, if you
intend to go.''
``Do I have to dress?'' Mr. Baxter asked,
``I think nearly all the men do, don't they?''
``But I'm getting old enough not to have to,
don't you think, mamma?'' he urged, appealingly.
``When a man's my age--''
``Nonsense!'' she said. ``Your figure is exactly
like William's. It's the figure that really shows
age first, and yours hasn't begun to.'' And she
added, briskly, ``Go along like a good boy and
get it ever!''
Mr. Baxter rose submissively and went up-
stairs to do as he was bid. But, after fifteen or
twenty minutes, during which his footsteps had
been audible in various parts of the house, he
called down over the banisters:
``I can't find 'em.''
``Can't find what?''
``My evening clothes. They aren't anywhere
in the house.''
``Where did you put them the last time you
wore them?'' she called.
``I don't know. I haven't had 'em on since
``All right; I'll come,'' she said, putting her
sewing upon the table and rising. ``Men never
can find anything,'' she observed, additionally, as
she ascended the stairs. ``Especially their own
On this occasion, however, as she was obliged
to admit a little later, women were not more
efficacious than the duller sex. Search high,
search low, no trace of Mr. Baxter's evening
clothes were to be found. ``Perhaps William
could find them,'' said Mrs. Baxter, a final
confession of helplessness.
But William was no more to be found than
the missing apparel. William, in fact, after
spending some time in the lower back hall, listening
to the quest above, had just gone out through
the kitchen door. And after some ensuing futile
efforts, Mr. Baxter was forced to proceed to his
club in the accoutrements of business.
He walked slowly, enjoying the full moon,
which sailed up a river in the sky--the open space
between the trees that lined the street--and as he
passed the house of Mr. Parcher he noted the fine
white shape of a masculine evening bosom gleaming
in the moonlight on the porch. A dainty figure
in white sat beside it, and there was another
white figure present, though this one was
so small that Mr. Baxter did not see it at all. It
was the figure of a tiny doglet, and it reposed
upon the black masculine knees that belonged to
the evening bosom.
Mr. Baxter heard a dulcet voice.
``He IS indifferink, isn't he, sweetest Flopit?
Seriously, though, Mr. Watson was telling me
about you to-day. He says you're the most
indifferent man he knows. He says you don't
care two minutes whether a girl lives or dies.
Isn't he a mean ole wicked sing, p'eshus Flopit!''
The reply was inaudible, and Mr. Baxter
passed on, having recognized nothing of his
``These YOUNG fellows don't have any trouble
finding their dress-suits, I guess,'' he murmured.
``Not on a night like this!''
. . . Thus William, after a hard day, came
to the gates of his romance, entering those portals
of the moon in triumph. At one stroke his dashing
raiment gave him high superiority over Johnnie
Watson and other rivals who might loom.
But if he had known to what undoing this great
coup exposed him, it is probable that Mr. Baxter
would have appeared at the Emerson Club, that
night, in evening clothes.
William's period of peculiar sensitiveness
dated from that evening, and Jane, in
particular, caused him a great deal of anxiety.
In fact, he began to feel that Jane was a
mortification which his parents might have spared him,
with no loss to themselves or to the world. Not
having shown that consideration for anybody,
they might at least have been less spinelessly
indulgent of her. William's bitter conviction
was that he had never seen a child so starved of
discipline or so lost to etiquette as Jane.
For one thing, her passion for bread-and-butter,
covered with apple sauce and powdered sugar,
was getting to be a serious matter. Secretly,
William was not yet so changed by love as to be
wholly indifferent to this refection himself, but
his consumption of it was private, whereas Jane
had formed the habit of eating it in exposed places
--such as the front yard or the sidewalk. At
no hour of the day was it advisable for a relative
to approach the neighborhood in fastidious
company, unless prepared to acknowledge kinship
with a spindly young person either eating
bread-and-butter and apple sauce and powdered
sugar, or all too visibly just having eaten bread-
and-butter and apple sauce and powdered sugar.
Moreover, there were times when Jane had
worse things than apple sauce to answer for, as
William made clear to his mother in an oration
as hot as the July noon sun which looked down
Mrs. Baxter was pleasantly engaged with a
sprinkling-can and some small flower-beds in the
shady back yard, and Jane, having returned from
various sidewalk excursions, stood close by as a
spectator, her hands replenished with the favorite
food and her chin rising and falling in gentle
motions, little prophecies of the slight distensions
which passed down her slender throat with slow,
rhythmic regularity. Upon this calm scene came
William, plunging round a corner of the house,
furious yet plaintive.
``You've got to do something about that
child!'' he began. ``I CAN not stand it!''
Jane looked at him dumbly, not ceasing, how
ever, to eat; while Mrs. Baxter thoughtfully
continued her sprinkling.
``You've been gone all morning, Willie,'' she
said. ``I thought your father mentioned at
breakfast that he expected you to put in at
least four hours a day on your mathematics
``That's neither here nor there,'' William
returned, vehemently. ``I just want to say this:
if you don't do something about Jane, I will!
Just look at her! LOOK at her, I ask you! That's
just the way she looked half an hour ago, out on
the public sidewalk in front of the house, when I
came by here with Miss PRATT! That was pleasant,
wasn't it? To be walking with a lady on the
public street and meet a member of my family
looking like that! Oh, LOVELY!''
In the anguish of this recollection his voice
cracked, and though his eyes were dry his gestures
wept for him. Plainly, he was about to reach the
most lamentable portion of his narrative. ``And
then she HOLLERED at me! She hollered, `Oh,
WILL--EE!' Here he gave an imitation of Jane's
voice, so damnatory that Jane ceased to eat for
several moments and drew herself up with a kind
of dignity. ``She hollered, `Oh, WILL--EE' at me!''
he stormed. ``Anybody would think I was about
six years old! She hollered, `Oh, Will--ee,' and
she rubbed her stomach and slushed apple sauce
all over her face, and she kept hollering,
`Will--ee!' with her mouth full. `Will--ee,
look! Good! Bread-and-butter and apple
sauce and sugar! I bet you wish YOU had
some, Will--ee!' ''
``You did eat some, the other day,'' said Jane.
``You ate a whole lot. You eat it every chance
``You hush up!'' he shouted, and returned to
his description of the outrage. ``She kept FOLLOWING
us! She followed us, hollering, `WILL--EE!'
till it's a wonder we didn't go deaf! And just
look at her! I don't see how you can stand it
to have her going around like that and people
knowing it's your child! Why, she hasn't got
Mrs. Baxter laughed. ``Oh, for this very hot
weather, I really don't think people notice or
care much about--''
`` `Notice'!'' he wailed. ``I guess Miss PRATT
noticed! Hot weather's no excuse for--for outright
obesity!'' (As Jane was thin, it is probable
that William had mistaken the meaning of this
word.) ``Why, half o' what she HAS got on has
come unfastened--especially that frightful thing
hanging around her leg--and look at her back,
I just beg you! I ask you to look at her back.
You can see her spinal cord!''
``Column,'' Mrs. Baxter corrected. ``Spinal
``What do _I_ care which it is?'' he fumed.
``People aren't supposed to go around with it
EXPOSED, whichever it is! And with apple sauce
on their ears!''
``There is not!'' Jane protested, and at the
moment when she spoke she was right. Naturally,
however, she lifted her hands to the accused ears,
and the unfortunate result was to justify William's
``LOOK!'' he cried. ``I just ask you to look!
Think of it: that's the sight I have to meet when
I'm out walking with Miss PRATT! She asked me
who it was, and I wish you'd seen her face. She
wanted to know who `that curious child' was,
and I'm glad you didn't hear the way she said it.
`Who IS that curious child?' she said, and I had
to tell her it was my sister. I had to tell Miss
PRATT it was my only SISTER!''
``Willie, who is Miss Pratt?'' asked Mrs.
Baxter, mildly. ``I don't think I've ever heard
Jane had returned to an admirable imperturbability,
but she chose this moment to interrupt
her mother, and her own eating, with remarks
delivered in a tone void of emphasis or expression.
``Willie's mashed on her,'' she said, casually.
``And she wears false side-curls. One almost
At this unspeakable desecration William's face
was that of a high priest stricken at the altar.
``She's visitin' Miss May Parcher,'' added the
deadly Jane. ``But the Parchers are awful tired
of her. They wish she'd go home, but they don't
like to tell her so.''
One after another these insults from the canaille
fell upon the ears of William. That slanders so
atrocious could soil the universal air seemed
He became icily calm.
``NOW if you don't punish her,'' he said,
deliberately, ``it's because you have lost your sense
Having uttered these terrible words, he turned
upon his heel and marched toward the house.
His mother called after him:
``Wait, Willie. Jane doesn't mean to hurt
``My feelings!'' he cried, the iciness of his
demeanor giving way under the strain of emotion.
``You stand there and allow her to speak
as she did of one of the--one of the--'' For
a moment William appeared to be at a loss,
and the fact is that it always has been a difficult
matter to describe THE bright, ineffable divinity
of the world to one's mother, especially in the
presence of an inimical third party of tender
years. ``One of the--'' he said; ``one of the--
the noblest--one of the noblest--''
Again he paused.
``Oh, Jane didn't mean anything,'' said Mrs.
Baxter. ``And if you think Miss Pratt is so nice,
I'll ask May Parcher to bring her to tea with us
some day. If it's too hot, we'll have iced tea,
and you can ask Johnnie Watson, if you like.
Don't get so upset about things, Willie!''
`` `Upset'!'' he echoed, appealing to heaven
against this word. `` `Upset'!'' And he entered
the house in a manner most dramatic.
``What made you say that?'' Mrs. Baxter
asked, turning curiously to Jane when William
had disappeared. ``Where did you hear any
``I was there,'' Jane replied, gently eating on
and on. William could come and William could
go, but Jane's alimentary canal went on forever.
``You were where, Jane?''
``At the Parchers'.''
``Oh, I see.''
``Yesterday afternoon,'' said Jane, ``when
Miss Parcher had the Sunday-school class for
lemonade and cookies.''
``Did you hear Miss Parcher say--''
``No'm,'' said Jane. ``I ate too many cookies,
I guess, maybe. Anyways, Miss Parcher said
I better lay down--''
``LIE down, Jane.''
``Yes'm. On the sofa in the liberry, an' Mrs.
Parcher an' Mr. Parcher came in there an' sat
down, after while, an' it was kind of dark, an'
they didn't hardly notice me, or I guess they
thought I was asleep, maybe. Anyways, they
didn't talk loud, but Mr. Parcher would sort of
grunt an' ack cross. He said he just wished he
knew when he was goin' to have a home again.
Then Mrs. Parcher said May HAD to ask her
Sunday-school class, but he said he never meant
the Sunday-school class. He said since Miss
Pratt came to visit, there wasn't anywhere
he could go, because Willie Baxter an' Johnnie
Watson an' Joe Bullitt an' all the other ones
like that were there all the time, an' it made him
just sick at the stummick, an' he did wish there
was some way to find out when she was goin'
home, because he couldn't stand much more talk
about love. He said Willie an' Johnnie Watson
an' Joe Bullitt an' Miss Pratt were always arguin'
somep'm about love, an' he said Willie was
the worst. Mamma, he said he didn't like the
rest of it, but he said he guessed he could stand
it if it wasn't for Willie. An' he said the reason
they were all so in love of Miss Pratt was because
she talks baby-talk, an' he said he couldn't stand
much more baby-talk. Mamma, she has the
loveliest little white dog, an' Mr. Parcher doesn't
like it. He said he couldn't go anywhere around
the place without steppin' on the dog or Willie
Baxter. An' he said he couldn't sit on his own
porch any more; he said he couldn't sit even in
the liberry but he had to hear baby-talk goin'
on SOMEwheres an' then either Willie Baxter or
Joe Bullitt or somebody or another arguin' about
love. Mamma, he said''--Jane became
impressive--``he said, mamma, he said he didn't
mind the Sunday-school class, but he couldn't
stand those dam boys!''
``Jane!'' Mrs. Baxter cried, ``you MUSTN'T
say such things!''
``I didn't, mamma. Mr. Parcher said it. He
said he couldn't stand those da--''
``JANE! No matter what he said, you mustn't
``But I'm not. I only said Mr. PARCHER said he
couldn't stand those d--''
Mrs. Baxter cut the argument short by
imprisoning Jane's mouth with a firm hand. Jane
continued to swallow quietly until released.
Then she said:
``But, mamma, how can I tell you what he
said unless I say--''
``Hush!'' Mrs. Baxter commanded. ``You
must never, never again use such a terrible and
``I won't, mamma,'' Jane said, meekly. Then
she brightened. ``Oh, _I_ know! I'll say `word'
instead. Won't that be all right?''
``I--I suppose so.''
``Well, Mr. Parcher said he couldn't stand
those word boys. That sounds all right, doesn't
Mrs. Baxter hesitated, but she was inclined to
hear as complete as possible a report of Mr. and
Mrs. Parcher's conversation, since it seemed to
concern William so nearly; and she well knew
that Jane had her own way of telling things--or
else they remained untold.
``I--I suppose so,'' Mrs. Baxter said,
``Well, they kind of talked along,'' Jane
continued, much pleased;--``an' Mr. Parcher said
when he was young he wasn't any such a--such a
word fool as these young word fools were. He
said in all his born days Willie Baxter was the
wordest fool he ever saw!''
Willie Baxter's mother flushed a little. ``That
was very unjust and very wrong of Mr. Parcher,''
she said, primly.
``Oh no, mamma!'' Jane protested. ``Mrs.
Parcher thought so, too.''
``Did she, indeed!''
``Only she didn't say word or wordest or anything
like that,'' Jane explained. ``She said it
was because Miss Pratt had coaxed him to be so
in love of her, an' Mr. Parcher said he didn't care
whose fault it was, Willie was a--a word calf an'
so were all the rest of 'em, Mr. Parcher said.
An' he said he couldn't stand it any more. Mr.
Parcher said that a whole lot of times, mamma.
He said he guess' pretty soon he'd haf to be in the
lunatic asylum if Miss Pratt stayed a few more
days with her word little dog an' her word
Willie Baxter an' all the other word calfs.
Mrs. Parcher said he oughtn't to say `word,'
mamma. She said, `Hush, hush!' to him, mamma.
He talked like this, mamma: he said, `I'll
be word if I stand it!' An' he kept gettin'
crosser, an' he said, `Word! Word! WORD!
``There!'' Mrs. Baxter interrupted, sharply.
``That will do, Jane! We'll talk about something
else now, I think.''
Jane looked hurt; she was taking great
pleasure in this confidential interview, and gladly
would have continued to quote the harried Mr.
Parcher at great length. Still, she was not
entirely uncontent: she must have had some
perception that her performance merely as a
notable bit of reportorial art--did not wholly lack
style, even if her attire did. Yet, brilliant as
Jane's work was, Mrs. Baxter felt no astonishment;
several times ere this Jane had demonstrated
a remarkable faculty for the retention
of details concerning William. And running
hand in hand with a really superb curiosity, this
powerful memory was making Jane an even
greater factor in William's life than he suspected.
During the glamors of early love, if there be
a creature more deadly than the little brother of
a budding woman, that creature is the little sister
of a budding man. The little brother at least
tells in the open all he knows, often at full
power of his lungs, and even that may be avoided,
since he is wax in the hands of bribery; but the
little sister is more apt to save her knowledge for
use upon a terrible occasion; and, no matter
what bribes she may accept, she is certain to tell
her mother everything. All in all, a young
lover should arrange, if possible, to be the
only child of elderly parents; otherwise his
mother and sister are sure to know a great
deal more about him than he knows that they
This was what made Jane's eyes so disturbing
to William during lunch that day. She ate
quietly and competently, but all the while he was
conscious of her solemn and inscrutable gaze
fixed upon him; and she spoke not once. She
could not have rendered herself more annoying,
especially as William was trying to treat her
with silent scorn, for nothing is more irksome to
the muscles of the face than silent scorn, when
there is no means of showing it except by the
expression. On the other hand, Jane's
inscrutability gave her no discomfort whatever.
In fact, inscrutability is about the most
comfortable expression that a person can wear,
though the truth is that just now Jane was not
really inscrutable at all.
She was merely looking at William and thinking
of Mr. Parcher.
IX. LITTLE SISTERS HAVE BIG EARS
The confidential talk between mother and
daughter at noon was not the last to take
place that day. At nightfall--eight o'clock in
this pleasant season--Jane was saying her
prayers beside her bed, while her mother stood
close by, waiting to put out the light.
``An' bless mamma and papa an'--'' Jane
murmured, coming to a pause. ``An'--an' bless
Willie,'' she added, with a little reluctance.
``Go on, dear,'' said her mother. ``You
``I know it, mamma,'' Jane looked up to say.
``I was just thinkin' a minute. I want to tell
you about somep'm.''
``Finish your prayers first, Jane.''
Jane obeyed with a swiftness in which there
was no intentional irreverence. Then she jumped
into bed and began a fresh revelation.
``It's about papa's clo'es, mamma.''
``What clothes of papa's? What do you
mean, Jane?'' asked Mrs. Baxter, puzzled.
``The ones you couldn't find. The ones you
been lookin' for 'most every day.''
``You mean papa's evening clothes?''
``Yes'm,'' said Jane. ``Willie's got 'em on.''
``Yes, he has!'' Jane assured her with emphasis.
``I bet you he's had 'em on every single
evening since Miss Pratt came to visit the
Parchers! Anyway, he's got 'em on now, 'cause
I saw 'em.''
Mrs. Baxter bit her lip and frowned. ``Are
you sure, Jane?''
``Yes'm. I saw him in 'em.''
``Well, I was in my bare feet after I got
undressed--before you came up-stairs--mamma,
an' I was kind of walkin' around in the hall--''
``You shouldn't do that, Jane.''
``No'm. An' I heard Willie say somep'm kind
of to himself, or like deckamation. He was inside
his room, but the door wasn't quite shut.
He started out once, but he went back for
somep'm an' forgot to, I guess. Anyway, I
thought I better look an' see what was goin' on,
mamma. So I just kind of peeked in--''
``But you shouldn't do that, dear,'' Mrs.
Baxter said, musingly. ``It isn't really quite
``No'm. Well, what you think he was do-
in'?'' (Here Jane's voice betrayed excitement
and so did her eyes.) ``He was standin' up
there in papa's clo'es before the lookin'-glass, an'
first he'd lean his head over on one side, an' then
he'd lean it over on the other side, an' then he'd
`Yes'm!'' said Jane. ``He'd give a little,
teeny BARK, mamma--kind of like a puppy,
``What?'' cried Mrs. Baxter.
``Yes'm, he did!'' Jane asserted. ``He did it
four or five times. First he'd lean his head way
over on his shoulder like this--look, mamma!--
an' then he'd lean it way over the other shoulder,
an' every time he'd do it he'd bark. `Berp-
werp!' he'd say, mamma, just like that, only not
loud at all. He said, `Berp-werp! BERP-WERP-
WERP!' You could tell he meant it for barkin',
but it wasn't very good, mamma. What you
think he meant, mamma?''
``Heaven knows!'' murmured the astonished
``An' then,'' Jane continued, ``he quit barkin'
all of a sudden, an' didn't lean his head over any
more, an' commenced actin' kind of solemn, an'
kind of whispered to himself. I think he was
kind of pretendin' he was talkin' to Miss Pratt,
or at a party, maybe. Anyways, he spoke out
loud after while not just exactly LOUD, I mean,
but anyway so's 't I could hear what he said.
Mamma--he said, `Oh, my baby-talk lady!' just
like that, mamma. Listen, mamma, here's the
way he said it: `Oh, my baby-talk lady!' ''
Jane's voice, in this impersonation, became
sufficiently soft and tremulous to give Mrs. Baxter
a fair idea of the tender yearning of the original.
`` `OH, MY BABY-TALK LADY!' '' cooed the terrible Jane.
``Mercy!'' Mrs. Baxter exclaimed. ``Perhaps
it's no wonder Mr. Parcher--'' She broke off
abruptly, then inquired, ``What did he do next,
``Next,'' said Jane, ``he put the light out, an' I
had to--well, I just waited kind of squeeged up
against the wall, an' he never saw me. He went
on out to the back stairs, an' went down the
stairs tiptoe, mamma. You know what I think,
mamma? I think he goes out that way an'
through the kitchen on account of papa's clo'es.''
Mrs. Baxter paused, with her hand upon the
key of the shaded electric lamp. ``I suppose so,''
she said. ``I think perhaps--'' For a moment
or two she wrapped herself in thought. ``Perhaps''--
she repeated, musingly--``perhaps we'll
keep this just a secret between you and me for a
little while, Jane, and not say anything to papa
about the clothes. I don't think it will hurt
them, and I suppose Willie feels they give him a
great advantage over the other boys--and papa
uses them so very little, especially since he's
grown a wee bit stouter. Yes, it will be our
secret, Jane. We'll think it over till to-morrow.''
Mrs. Baxter turned out the light, then came
and kissed Jane in the dark. ``Good night,
``G' night, mamma.'' But as Mrs. Baxter
reached the door Jane's voice was heard again.
``Yes?'' Mrs. Baxter paused.
``Mamma,'' Jane said, slowly, ``I think--I
think Mr. Parcher is a very nice man. Mamma?''
``Mamma, what do you s'pose Willie barked at
the lookin'-glass for?''
``That,'' said Mrs. Baxter, ``is beyond me.
Young people and children do the strangest
things, Jane! And then, when they get to be
middle-aged, they forget all those strange things
they did, and they can't understand what the
new young people--like you and Willie mean
by the strange things THEY do.''
``Yes'm. I bet _I_ know what he was barkin'
``You know what I think? I think he was
kind of practisin'. I think he was practisin' how
to bark at Mr. Parcher.''
``No, no!'' Mrs. Baxter laughed. ``Who ever
could think of such a thing but you, Jane!
You go to sleep and forget your nonsense!''
Nevertheless, Jane might almost have been
gifted with clairvoyance, her preposterous idea
came so close to the actual fact, for at that very
moment William was barking. He was not
barking directly at Mr. Parcher, it is true, but
within a short distance of him and all too well
within his hearing.
X. MR. PARCHER AND LOVE
Mr. Parcher, that unhappy gentleman,
having been driven indoors from his own
porch, had attempted to read Plutarch's Lives in
the library, but, owing to the adjacency of the
porch and the summer necessity for open windows,
his escape spared only his eyes and not his
suffering ears. The house was small, being but
half of a double one, with small rooms, and the
``parlor,'' library, and dining-room all about
equally exposed to the porch which ran along the
side of the house. Mr. Parcher had no refuge
except bed or the kitchen, and as he was troubled
with chronic insomnia, and the cook had callers in
the kitchen, his case was desperate. Most
unfortunately, too, his reading-lamp, the only one in
the house, was a fixture near a window, and just
beyond that window sat Miss Pratt and William
in sweet unconsciousness, while Miss Parcher
entertained the overflow (consisting of Mr.
Johnnie Watson) at the other end of the porch.
Listening perforce to the conversation of the
former couple though ``conversation'' is far
from the expression later used by Mr. Parcher to
describe what he heard--he found it impossible
to sit still in his chair. He jerked and twitched
with continually increasing restlessness;
sometimes he gasped, and other times he moaned a
little, and there were times when he muttered
``Oh, cute-ums!'' came the silvery voice of Miss
Pratt from the likewise silvery porch outside,
underneath the summer moon. ``Darlin' Flopit,
look! Ickle boy Baxter goin' make imitations of
darlin' Flopit again. See! Ickle boy Baxter
puts head one side, then other side, just like
darlin' Flopit. Then barks just like darlin' Flopit!
Ladies and 'entlemen, imitations of darlin' Flopit
by ickle boy Baxter.''
``Berp-werp! Berp-werp!'' came the voice of
William Sylvanus Baxter.
And in the library Plutarch's Lives moved
convulsively, while with writhing lips Mr. Parcher
muttered to himself.
``More, more!'' cried Miss Pratt, clapping her
hands. ``Do it again, ickle boy Baxter!''
``WORD!'' muttered Mr. Parcher.
Miss Pratt's voice became surcharged with
honeyed wonder. ``How did he learn such marv'lous,
MARV'LOUS imitations of darlin' Flopit? He
ought to go on the big, big stage and be a really
actor, oughtn't he, darlin' Flopit? He could
make milyums and milyums of dollardies,
couldn't he, darlin' Flopit?''
William's modest laugh disclaimed any great
ambition for himself in this line. ``Oh, I always
could think up imitations of animals; things like
that--but I hardly would care to--to adop' the
stage for a career. Would--you?'' (There was a
thrill in his voice when he pronounced the
ineffably significant word ``you.'')
Miss Pratt became intensely serious.
``It's my DREAM!'' she said.
William, seated upon a stool at her feet, gazed
up at the amber head, divinely splashed by the
rain of moonlight. The fire with which she spoke
stirred him as few things had ever stirred him.
He knew she had just revealed a side of herself
which she reserved for only the chosen few who
were capable of understanding her, and he fell into
a hushed rapture. It seemed to him that there
was a sacredness about this moment, and he sought
vaguely for something to say that would live up
to it and not be out of keeping. Then, like an
inspiration, there came into his head some words
he had read that day and thought beautiful. He
had found them beneath an illustration in a
magazine, and he spoke them almost instinctively.
``It was wonderful of you to say that to me,''
he said. ``I shall never forget it!''
``It's my DREAM!'' Miss Pratt exclaimed, again,
with the same enthusiasm. ``It's my DREAM.''
``You would make a glorious actress!'' he said.
At that her mood changed. She laughed a laugh
like a sweet little girl's laugh (not Jane's) and,
setting her rocking-chair in motion, cuddled the
fuzzy white doglet in her arms. ``Ickle boy
Baxter t'yin' flatterbox us, tunnin' Flopit! No'ty,
``No, no!'' William insisted, earnestly. ``I mean
``What do you think about actors and actresses
making love to each other on the stage? Do you
think they have to really feel it, or do they just
``Well,'' said Miss Pratt, weightily, ``sometimes
one way, sometimes the other.''
William's gravity became more and more
profound. ``Yes, but how can they pretend like
that? Don't you think love is a sacred thing,
Fictitious sisterships, brotherships, and cousin-
ships are devices to push things along, well known
to seventeen and even more advanced ages. On
the wonderful evening of their first meeting
William and Miss Pratt had cozily arranged to
be called, respectively, ``Ickle boy Baxter'' and
``Cousin Lola.'' (Thus they had broken down
the tedious formalities of their first twenty
``Don't you think love is sacred?'' he repeated
in the deepest tone of which his vocal cords were
``Ess,'' said Miss Pratt.
``_I_ do!'' William was emphatic. ``I think love
is the most sacred thing there is. I don't mean
SOME kinds of love. I mean REAL love. You take
some people, I don't believe they ever know what
real love means. They TALK about it, maybe, but
they don't understand it. Love is something
nobody can understand unless they feel it and
and if they don't understand it they don't feel
it. Don't YOU think so?''
``Love,'' William continued, his voice lifting
and thrilling to the great theme--``love is something
nobody can ever have but one time in their
lives, and if they don't have it then, why prob'ly
they never will. Now, if a man REALLY loves a girl,
why he'd do anything in the world she wanted
him to. Don't YOU think so?''
``Ess, 'deedums!'' said the silvery voice.
``But if he didn't, then he wouldn't,'' said
William vehemently. ``But when a man really
loves a girl he will. Now, you take a man like
that and he can generally do just about anything
the girl he loves wants him to. Say, f'rinstance,
she wants him to love her even more than he does
already--or almost anything like that--and supposin'
she asks him to. Well, he would go ahead
and do it. If they really loved each other he
He paused a moment, then in a lowered tone
he said, ``I think REAL love is sacred, don't you?''
``Don't you think love is the most sacred thing
there is--that is, if it's REAL love?''
``_I_ do,'' said William, warmly. ``I--I'm glad
you feel like that, because I think real love is the
kind nobody could have but just once in their
lives, but if it isn't REAL love, why--why most
people never have it at all, because--'' He
paused, seeming to seek for the exact phrase
which would express his meaning. ``--Because
the REAL love a man feels for a girl and a girl for a
man, if they REALLY love each other, and, you look
at a case like that, of course they would BOTH love
each other, or it wouldn't be real love well, what
_I_ say is, if it's REAL love, well, it's--it's sacred,
because I think that kind of love is always sacred.
Don't you think love is sacred if it's the real thing?''
``Ess,'' said Miss Pratt. ``Do Flopit again.
And within the library an agonized man
writhed and muttered:
``WORD! WORD! WORD--''
This hoarse repetition had become almost
. . . But out on the porch, that little, jasmine-
scented bower in Arcady where youth cried to
youth and golden heads were haloed in the moonshine,
there fell a silence. Not utter silence, for
out there an ethereal music sounded constantly,
unheard and forgotten by older ears. Time was
when the sly playwrights used ``incidental music''
in their dramas; they knew that an audience
would be moved so long as the music played;
credulous while that crafty enchantment lasted.
And when the galled Mr. Parcher wondered how
those young people out on the porch could listen
to each other and not die, it was because he did
not hear and had forgotten the music that throbs
in the veins of youth. Nevertheless, it may not
be denied that despite his poor memory this man
of fifty was deserving of a little sympathy.
It was William who broke the silence. ``How--''
he began, and his voice trembled a little. ``How
--how do you--how do you think of me when I'm
not with you?''
``Think nice-cums,'' Miss Pratt responded.
``Flopit an' me think nice-cums.''
``No,'' said William; ``I mean what name do
you have for me when you're when you're
thinking about me?''
Miss Pratt seemed to be puzzled, perhaps
justifiably, and she made a cooing sound of
``I mean like this,'' William explained.
``F'rinstance, when you first came, I always
thought of you as `Milady'--when I wrote that
poem, you know.''
``But now I don't,'' he said. ``Now I think
of you by another name when I'm alone. It--it
just sort of came to me. I was kind of just
sitting around this afternoon, and I didn't know
I was thinking about anything at all very much,
and then all of a sudden I said it to myself out
loud. It was about as strange a thing as I ever
knew of. Don't YOU think so?''
``Ess. It uz dest WEIRD!'' she answered.
``What ARE dat pitty names?''
``I called you,'' said William, huskily and
reverently, ``I called you `My Baby-Talk Lady.' ''
They were startled by a crash from within the
library; a heavy weight seemed to have fallen
(or to have been hurled) a considerable distance.
Stepping to the window, William beheld a large
volume lying in a distorted attitude at the foot
of the wall opposite to that in which the reading-
lamp was a fixture. But of all human life the
room was empty; for Mr. Parcher had given up,
and was now hastening to his bed in the last faint
hope of saving his reason.
His symptoms, however, all pointed to its
having fled; and his wife, looking up from some
computations in laundry charges, had but a
vision of windmill gestures as he passed the door
of her room. Then, not only for her, but for the
inoffensive people who lived in the other half of
the house, the closing of his own door took place
in a really memorable manner.
William, gazing upon the fallen Plutarch, had
just offered the explanation, ``Somebody must 'a'
thrown it at a bug or something, I guess,'' when
the second explosion sent its reverberations
through the house.
``My doodness!'' Miss Pratt exclaimed, jumping up.
William laughed reassuringly, remaining calm.
``It's only a door blew shut up-stairs,'' he said
``Let's sit down again--just the way we were?''
Unfortunately for him, Mr. Joe Bullitt now
made his appearance at the other end of the
porch. Mr. Bullitt, though almost a year younger
than either William or Johnnie Watson, was of a
turbulent and masterful disposition. Moreover,
in regard to Miss Pratt, his affections were in as
ardent a state as those of his rivals, and he lacked
Johnnie's meekness. He firmly declined to be
shunted by Miss Parcher, who was trying to favor
William's cause, according to a promise he had
won of her by strong pleading. Regardless of her
efforts, Mr. Bullitt descended upon William and
his Baby-Talk-Lady, and received from the latter
a honeyed greeting, somewhat to the former's
astonishment and not at all to his pleasure.
``Oh, goody-cute!'' cried Miss Pratt. ``Here's
big Bruvva Josie-Joe!'' And she lifted her little
dog close to Mr. Bullitt's face, guiding one of
Flopit's paws with her fingers. ``Stroke big
Bruvva Josie-Joe's pint teeks, darlin' Flopit.''
(Josie-Joe's pink cheeks were indicated by the
expression ``pint teeks,'' evidently, for her
accompanying action was to pass Flopit's paw lightly
over those glowing surfaces.) `` 'At's nice!'' she
remarked. ``Stroke him gently, p'eshus Flopit,
an' nen we'll coax him to make pitty singin' for
us, like us did yestiday.''
She turned to William.
``COAX him to make pitty singin'? I LOVE his
voice--I'm dest CRAZY over it. Isn't oo?''
William's passion for Mr. Bullitt's voice
appeared to be under control. He laughed coldly,
almost harshly. ``Him sing?'' he said. ``Has he
been tryin' to sing around HERE? I wonder the
family didn't call for the police!''
It was to be seen that Mr. Bullitt did not relish
the sally. ``Well, they will,'' he retorted, ``if you
ever spring one o' your solos on 'em!'' And
turning to Miss Pratt, he laughed loudly and
bitterly. ``You ought to hear Silly Bill sing--
some time when you don't mind goin' to bed sick
for a couple o' days!''
Symptoms of truculence at once became alarmingly
pronounced on both sides. William was
naturally incensed, and as for Mr. Bullitt, he
had endured a great deal from William every
evening since Miss Pratt's arrival. William's
evening clothes were hard enough for both Mr.
Watson and Mr. Bullitt to bear, without any
additional insolence on the part of the wearer.
Big Bruvva Josie-Joe took a step toward his
enemy and breathed audibly.
``Let's ALL sing,'' the tactful Miss Pratt proposed,
hastily. ``Come on, May and Cousin Johnnie-
Jump-Up,'' she called to Miss Parcher and Mr.
Watson. ``Singin'-school, dirls an' boys! Singin'-
school! Ding, ding! Singin'-school bell's a-wingin'!''
The diversion was successful. Miss Parcher
and Mr. Watson joined the other group with alacrity,
and the five young people were presently
seated close together upon the steps of the porch,
sending their voices out upon the air and up to
Mr. Parcher's window in the song they found
loveliest that summer.
Miss Pratt carried the air. William also carried
it part of the time and hunted for it the rest of
the time, though never in silence. Miss Parcher
``sang alto,'' Mr. Bullitt ``sang bass,'' and Mr.
Watson ``sang tenor''--that is, he sang as high
as possible, often making the top sound of a chord
and always repeating the last phrase of each line
before the others finished it. The melody was a
little too sweet, possibly; while the singers
thought so highly of the words that Mr. Parcher
missed not one, especially as the vocal rivalry
between Josie-Joe and Ickle Boy Baxter incited
each of them to prevent Miss Pratt from hearing
William sang loudest of all; Mr. Parcher had
at no time any difficulty in recognizing his voice.
``Oh, I love my love in the morning
And I love my love at night,
I love my love in the dawning,
And when the stars are bright.
Some may love the sunshine,
Others may love the dew.
Some may love the raindrops,
But I love only you-OO-oo!
By the stars up above
It is you I luh-HUV!
Yes, _I_ love own-LAY you!''
They sang it four times; then Mr. Bullitt
sang his solo, ``Tell her, O Golden Moon, how I
Adore her,'' William following with ``The violate
loves the cowslip, but _I_ love YEW,'' and after that
they all sang, ``Oh, I love my love in the morning,''
All this while that they sang of love, Mr.
Parcher was moving to and fro upon his bed, not
more than eighteen feet in an oblique upward-
slanting line from the heads of the serenaders.
Long, long he tossed, listening to the young
voices singing of love; long, long he thought of
love, and many, many times he spoke of it aloud,
though he was alone in the room. And in thus
speaking of it, he would give utterance to phrases
and words probably never before used in
connection with love since the world began.
His thoughts, and, at intervals, his mutterings,
continued to be active far into the night, long
after the callers had gone, and though his household
and the neighborhood were at rest, with
never a katydid outside to rail at the waning
moon. And by a coincidence not more singular
than most coincidences, it happened that at just
about the time he finally fell asleep, a young lady
at no great distance from him awoke to find her
self thinking of him.
XI. BEGINNING A TRUE FRIENDSHIP
This was Miss Jane Baxter. She opened her
eyes upon the new-born day, and her first
thoughts were of Mr. Parcher. That is, he was
already in her mind when she awoke, a circumstance
to be accounted for on the ground that his
conversation, during her quiet convalescence in
his library, had so fascinated her that in all
likelihood she had been dreaming of him. Then, too,
Jane and Mr. Parcher had a bond in common,
though Mr. Parcher did not know it. Not without
result had William repeated Miss Pratt's
inquiry in Jane's hearing: ``Who IS that curious
child?'' Jane had preserved her sang-froid, but
the words remained with her, for she was one of
those who ponder and retain in silence.
She thought almost exclusively of Mr. Parcher
until breakfast-time, and resumed her thinking
of him at intervals during the morning. Then,
in the afternoon, a series of quiet events not
unconnected with William's passion caused her to
think of Mr. Parcher more poignantly than ever;
nor was her mind diverted to a different channel
by another confidential conversation with her
mother. Who can say, then, that it was not by
design that she came face to face with Mr.
Parcher on the public highway at about five
o'clock that afternoon? Everything urges the
belief that she deliberately set herself in his path.
Mr. Parcher was walking home from his office,
and he walked slowly, gulping from time to time,
as he thought of the inevitable evening before
him. His was not a rugged constitution, and for
the last fortnight or so he had feared that it was
giving way altogether. Each evening he felt
that he was growing weaker, and sometimes he
thought piteously that he might go away for a
while. He did not much care where, though what
appealed to him most, curiously enough, was not
the thought of the country, with the flowers and
little birds; no, what allured him was the idea
that perhaps he could find lodgment for a time
in an Old People's Home, where the minimum
age for inmates was about eighty.
Walking more and more slowly, as he
approached the dwelling he had once thought of as
home, he became aware of a little girl in a
checkered dress approaching him at a gait varied by
the indifferent behavior of a barrel-hoop which
she was disciplining with a stick held in her right
hand. When the hoop behaved well, she came
ahead rapidly; when it affected to be intoxicated,
which was most often its whim, she zigzagged
with it, and gained little ground. But all the
while, and without reference to what went on
concerning the hoop, she slowly and continuously
fed herself (with her left hand) small, solemnly
relished bites of a slice of bread-and-butter covered
with apple sauce and powdered sugar.
Mr. Parcher looked upon her, and he shivered
slightly; for he knew her to be Willie Baxter's
Unaware of the emotion she produced in him,
Jane checked her hoop and halted.
``G'd afternoon, Mister Parcher,'' she said,
``Good afternoon,'' he returned, without much
Jane looked up at him trustfully and with a
strange, unconscious fondness. ``You goin' home
now, Mr. Parcher?'' she asked, turning to walk
at his side. She had suspended the hoop over
her left arm and transferred the bread-and-butter
and apple sauce and sugar to her right, so that
she could eat even more conveniently than
``I suppose so,'' he murmured.
``My brother Willie's been at your house all
afternoon,'' she remarked.
He repeated, ``I suppose so,'' but in a tone
which combined the vocal tokens of misery and
of hopeless animosity.
``He just went home,'' said Jane. ``I was 'cross
the street from your house, but I guess he didn't
see me. He kept lookin' back at your house.
Miss Pratt was on the porch.''
``I suppose so.'' This time it was a moan.
Jane proceeded to give him some information.
``My brother Willie isn't comin' back to your
house to-night, but he doesn't know it yet.''
``What!'' exclaimed Mr. Parcher.
``Willie isn't goin' to spend any more evenings
at your house at all,'' said Jane, thoughtfully.
``He isn't, but he doesn't know it yet.''
Mr. Parcher gazed fixedly at the wonderful
child, and something like a ray of sunshine
flickered over his seamed and harried face. ``Are
you SURE he isn't?'' he said. ``What makes you
``I know he isn't,'' said demure Jane. ``It's
on account of somep'm I told mamma.''
And upon this a gentle glow began to radiate
throughout Mr. Parcher. A new feeling budded
within his bosom; he was warmly attracted to
Jane. She was evidently a child to be cherished,
and particularly to be encouraged in the line of
conduct she seemed to have adopted. He wished
the Bullitt and Watson families each had a little
girl like this. Still, if what she said of William
proved true, much had been gained and life might
be tolerable, after all.
``He'll come in the afternoons, I guess,'' said
Jane. ``But you aren't home then, Mr. Parcher,
except late like you were that day of the Sunday-
school class. It was on account of what you
said that day. I told mamma.''
``Told your mamma what?''
``What you said.''
Mr. Parcher's perplexity continued. ``What
``About Willie. YOU know!'' Jane smiled fraternally.
``No, I don't.''
``It was when I was layin' in the liberry, that
day of the Sunday-school class,'' Jane told him.
``You an' Mrs. Parcher was talkin' in there about
Miss Pratt an' Willie an' everything.''
``Good heavens!'' Mr. Parcher, summoning his
memory, had placed the occasion and Jane
together. ``Did you HEAR all that?''
``Yes.'' Jane nodded. ``I told mamma all
what you said.''
``Well,'' said Jane, ``I guess it's good I did,
because look--that's the very reason mamma did
somep'm so's he can't come any more except in
daytime. I guess she thought Willie oughtn't
to behave so's't you said so many things about
him like that; so to-day she did somep'm, an' now
he can't come any more to behave that loving
way of Miss Pratt that you said you would be in
the lunatic asylum if he didn't quit. But he
hasn't found it out yet.''
``Found what out, please?'' asked Mr. Parcher,
feeling more affection for Jane every moment.
``He hasn't found out he can't come back to
your house to-night; an' he can't come back to-
morrow night, nor day-after-to-morrow night,
``Is it because your mamma is going to tell
him he can't?''
``No, Mr. Parcher. Mamma says he's too old
--an' she said she didn't like to, anyway. She
just DID somep'm.''
``What? What did she do?''
``It's a secret,'' said Jane. ``I could tell you
the first part of it--up to where the secret
begins, I expect.''
``Do!'' Mr. Parcher urged.
``Well, it's about somep'm Willie's been
WEARIN','' Jane began, moving closer to him as
they slowly walked onward. ``I can't tell you
what they were, because that's the secret--but
he had 'em on him every evening when he came
to see Miss Pratt, but they belong to papa, an'
papa doesn't know a word about it. Well, one
evening papa wanted to put 'em on, because he
had a right to, Mr. Parcher, an' Willie didn't
have any right to at all, but mamma couldn't
find 'em; an' she rummidged an' rummidged
'most all next day an' pretty near every day since
then an' never did find 'em, until don't you
believe I saw Willie inside of 'em only last night!
He was startin' over to your house to see Miss
Pratt in 'em! So I told mamma, an' she said it 'd
haf to be a secret, so that's why I can't tell you
what they were. Well, an' then this afternoon,
early, I was with her, an' she said, long as I had
told her the secret in the first place, I could come
in Willie's room with her, an' we both were
already in there anyway, 'cause I was kind of
thinkin' maybe she'd go in there to look for 'em,
``I see,'' he said, admiringly. ``I see.''
``Well, they were under Willie's window-seat,
all folded up; an' mamma said she wondered
what she better do, an' she was worried because
she didn't like to have Willie behave so's you an'
Mrs. Parcher thought that way about him. So
she said the--the secret--what Willie wears,
you know, but they're really papa's an' aren't
Willie's any more'n they're MINE--well, she said
the secret was gettin' a little teeny bit too tight
for papa, but she guessed they--I mean the
secret--she said she guessed it was already pretty
loose for Willie; so she wrapped it up, an' I went
with her, an' we took 'em to a tailor, an' she told
him to make 'em bigger, for a surprise for papa,
'cause then they'll fit him again, Mr. Parcher.
She said he must make 'em a whole lot bigger.
She said he must let 'em way, WAY out! So I
guess Willie would look too funny in 'em after
they're fixed; an' anyway, Mr. Parcher, the secret
won't be home from the tailor's for two weeks,
an' maybe by that time Miss Pratt'll be gone.''
They had reached Mr. Parcher's gate; he
halted and looked down fondly upon this child
who seemed to have read his soul. ``Do you
honestly think so?'' he asked.
``Well, anyway, Mr. Parcher,'' said Jane,
``mamma said--well, she said she's sure Willie
wouldn't come here in the evening any more
when YOU're at home, Mr. Parcher--'cause after
he'd been wearin' the secret every night this way
he wouldn't like to come and not have the secret
on. Mamma said the reason he would feel like
that was because he was seventeen years old. An'
she isn't goin' to tell him anything about it,
Mr. Parcher. She said that's the best way.''
Her new friend nodded and seemed to agree.
``I suppose that's what you meant when you said
he wasn't coming back but didn't know it yet?''
``Yes, Mr. Parcher.''
He rested an elbow upon the gate-post, gazing
down with ever-increasing esteem. ``Of course
I know your last name,'' he said, ``but I'm afraid
I've forgotten your other one.''
``Jane,'' said Mr. Parcher, ``I should like to do
something for you.''
Jane looked down, and with eyes modestly
lowered she swallowed the last fragment of the
bread-and-butter and apple sauce and sugar
which had been the constantly evanescent
companion of their little walk together. She was
not mercenary; she had sought no reward.
``Well, I guess I must run home,'' she said.
And with one lift of her eyes to his and a shy
laugh--laughter being a rare thing for Jane--
she scampered quickly to the corner and was
But though she cared for no reward, the
extraordinary restlessness of William, that evening,
after dinner, must at least have been of
great interest to her. He ascended to his own
room directly from the table, but about twenty
minutes later came down to the library, where
Jane was sitting (her privilege until half after
seven) with her father and mother. William
looked from one to the other of his parents and
seemed about to speak, but did not do so. Instead,
he departed for the upper floor again and
presently could be heard moving about energetically
in various parts of the house, a remote
thump finally indicating that he was doing something
with a trunk in the attic.
After that he came down to the library again
and once more seemed about to speak, but did
not. Then he went up-stairs again, and came
down again, and he was still repeating this process
when Jane's time-limit was reached and she
repaired conscientiously to her little bed. Her
mother came to hear her prayers and to turn out
the light; and--when Mrs. Baxter had passed out
into the hall, after that, Jane heard her speaking
to William, who was now conducting what seemed
to be excavations on a serious scale in his own
``Oh, Willie, perhaps I didn't tell you, but--
you remember I'd been missing papa's evening
clothes and looking everywhere for days and
``Ye--es,'' huskily from William.
``Well, I found them! And where do you
suppose I'd put them? I found them under
your window-seat. Can you think of anything
more absurd than putting them there and then
forgetting it? I took them to the tailor's to
have them let out. They were getting too tight
for papa, but they'll be all right for him when the
tailor sends them back.''
What the stricken William gathered from this
it is impossible to state with accuracy; probably
he mixed some perplexity with his emotions.
Certainly he was perplexed the following evening
Jane did not appear at the table. ``Poor
child! she's sick in bed,'' Mrs. Baxter explained
to her husband. ``I was out, this afternoon, and
she ate nearly ALL of a five-pound box of candy.''
Both the sad-eyed William and his father
were dumfounded. ``Where on earth did she
get a five-pound box of candy?'' Mr. Baxter
``I'm afraid Jane has begun her first affair,''
said Mrs. Baxter. ``A gentleman sent it to her.''
``What gentleman?'' gasped William.
And in his mother's eyes, as they slowly came
to rest on his in reply, he was aware of an
inscrutability strongly remindful of that inscrutable
look of Jane's.
``Mr. Parcher,'' she said, gently.
XII. PROGRESS OF THE SYMPTOMS
Mrs. BAXTER'S little stroke of diplomacy
had gone straight to the mark,
she was a woman of insight. For every reason
she was well content to have her son spend his
evenings at home, though it cannot be claimed
that his presence enlivened the household, his
condition being one of strange, trancelike
irascibility. Evening after evening passed, while he
sat dreaming painfully of Mr. Parcher's porch;
but in the daytime, though William did not
literally make hay while the sun shone, he at
least gathered a harvest somewhat resembling
hay in general character.
One afternoon, having locked his door to
secure himself against intrusion on the part of
his mother or Jane, William seated himself
at his writing-table, and from a drawer therein
took a small cardboard box, which he uncovered,
placing the contents in view before him upon
the table. (How meager, how chilling a word is
``contents''!) In the box were:
A faded rose.
Several other faded roses, disintegrated into
Three withered ``four-leaf clovers.''
A white ribbon still faintly smelling of violets.
A small silver shoe-buckle.
A large pearl button.
A small pearl button.
A tortoise-shell hair-pin.
A cross-section from the heel of a small slipper.
A stringy remnant, probably once an improvised
wreath of daisies.
Four or five withered dandelions.
Other dried vegetation, of a nature now
William gazed reverently upon this junk of
precious souvenirs; then from the inner pocket
of his coat he brought forth, warm and crumpled,
a lumpish cluster of red geranium blossoms, still
aromatic and not quite dead, though naturally,
after three hours of such intimate confinement,
they wore an unmistakable look of suffering.
With a tenderness which his family had never
observed in him since that piteous day in his
fifth year when he tried to mend his broken doll,
William laid the geranium blossoms in the cardboard
box among the botanical and other relics.
His gentle eyes showed what the treasures
meant to him, and yet it was strange that they
should have meant so much, because the source
of supply was not more than a quarter of a mile
distant, and practically inexhaustible. Miss
Pratt had now been a visitor at the Parchers'
for something less than five weeks, but she
had made no mention of prospective departure,
and there was every reason to suppose that she
meant to remain all summer. And as any
foliage or anything whatever that she touched,
or that touched her, was thenceforth suitable for
William's museum, there appeared to be some
probability that autumn might see it so enlarged
as to lack that rarity in the component items
which is the underlying value of most collections.
William's writing-table was beside an open
window, through which came an insistent whirring,
unagreeable to his mood; and, looking down
upon the sunny lawn, he beheld three lowly
creatures. One was Genesis; he was cutting
the grass. Another was Clematis; he had
assumed a transient attitude, curiously triangular,
in order to scratch his ear, the while his anxious
eyes never wavered from the third creature.
This was Jane. In one hand she held a little
stack of sugar-sprinkled wafers, which she slowly
but steadily depleted, unconscious of the
increasingly earnest protest, at last nearing agony,
in the eyes of Clematis. Wearing unaccustomed
garments of fashion and festivity, Jane stood, in
speckless, starchy white and a blue sash, watching
the lawn-mower spout showers of grass as the
powerful Genesis easily propelled it along over
lapping lanes, back and forth, across the yard.
From a height of illimitable loftiness the owner
of the cardboard treasury looked down upon the
squat commonplaceness of those three lives.
The condition of Jane and Genesis and Clematis
seemed almost laughably pitiable to him, the
more so because they were unaware of it. They
breathed not the starry air that William breathed,
but what did it matter to them? The wretched
things did not even know that they meant
nothing to Miss Pratt!
Clematis found his ear too pliable for any great
solace from his foot, but he was not disappointed;
he had expected little, and his thoughts were
elsewhere. Rising, he permitted his nose to follow
his troubled eyes, with the result that it touched
the rim of the last wafer in Jane's external
This incident annoyed William. ``Look there!''
he called from the window. ``You mean to eat
that cake after the dog's had his face on it?''
Jane remained placid. ``It wasn't his face.''
``Well, if it wasn't his face, I'd like to know
``It wasn't his face,'' Jane repeated. ``It was
his nose. It wasn't all of his nose touched it,
either. It was only a little outside piece of his
``Well, are you going to eat that cake, I ask
Jane broke off a small bit of the wafer. She
gave the bit to Clematis and slowly ate what
remained, continuing to watch Genesis and
apparently unconscious of the scorching gaze from
``I never saw anything as disgusting as long
as I've lived!'' William announced. ``I wouldn't
'a' believed it if anybody'd told me a sister of
mine would eat after--''
``I didn't,'' said Jane. ``I like Clematis, anyway.''
``Ye gods!'' her brother cried. ``Do you think
that makes it any better? And, BY the WAY,'' he
continued, in a tone of even greater severity, ``I'd
a like to know where you got those cakes. Where'd
you get 'em, I'd just like to inquire?''
``In the pantry.'' Jane turned and moved
toward the house. ``I'm goin' in for some more,
William uttered a cry; these little cakes were
sacred. His mother, growing curious to meet a
visiting lady of whom (so to speak) she had
heard much and thought more, had asked May
Parcher to bring her guest for iced tea, that
afternoon. A few others of congenial age had been
invited: there was to be a small matinee, in fact,
for the honor and pleasure of the son of the house,
and the cakes of Jane's onslaught were part of
Mrs. Baxter's preparations. There was no telling
where Jane would stop; it was conceivable that
Miss Pratt herself might go waferless.
William returned the cardboard box to its
drawer with reverent haste; then, increasing the
haste, but dropping the reverence, he hied himself
to the pantry with such advantage of longer
legs that within the minute he and the wafers
appeared in conjunction before his mother, who
was arranging fruit and flowers upon a table in
William entered in the stained-glass attitude
of one bearing gifts. Overhead, both hands
supported a tin pan, well laden with small cakes and
wafers, for which Jane was silently but repeatedly
and systematically jumping. Even under the
stress of these efforts her expression was cool and
collected; she maintained the self-possession that
was characteristic of her.
Not so with William; his cheeks were flushed,
his eyes indignant. ``You see what this child is
doing?'' he demanded. ``Are you going to let her
``Ruin?'' Mrs. Baxter repeated, absently,
refreshing with fair water a bowl of flowers upon
the table. ``Ruin?''
``Yes, ruin!'' William was hotly emphatic,
``If you don't do something with her it 'll all be
ruined before Miss Pr--before they even get
Mrs. Baxter laughed. ``Set the pan down,
``Set it DOWN?'' he echoed, incredulously
``With that child in the room and grabbing
``There!'' Mrs. Baxter took the pan from him,
placed it upon a chair, and with the utmost coolness
selected five wafers and gave them to Jane.
``I'd already promised her she could have five
more. You know the doctor said Jane's digestion
was the finest he'd ever misunderstood. They
won't hurt her at all, Willie.''
This deliberate misinterpretation of his motives
made it difficult for William to speak. ``Do YOU
think,'' he began, hoarsely, ``do you THINK--''
``They're so small, too,'' Mrs. Baxter went on.
``SHE probably wouldn't be sick if she ate them
``My heavens!'' he burst forth. ``Do you think
I was worrying about--'' He broke off, unable to
express himself save by a few gestures of despair.
Again finding his voice, and a great deal of it, he
demanded: ``Do you realize that Miss PRATT will
be here within less than half an hour? What do
you suppose she'd think of the people of this
town if she was invited out, expecting decent
treatment, and found two-thirds of the cakes
eaten up before she got there, and what was left
of 'em all mauled and pawed over and crummy
and chewed-up lookin' from some wretched
CHILD?'' Here William became oratorical, but not
with marked effect, since Jane regarded him with
unmoved eyes, while Mrs. Baxter continued to
be mildly preoccupied in arranging the table.
In fact, throughout this episode in controversy
the ladies' party had not only the numerical but
the emotional advantage. Obviously, the
approach of Miss Pratt was not to them what it
was to William. ``I tell you,'' he declaimed;--
``yes, I tell you that it wouldn't take much
of this kind of thing to make Miss Pratt think
the people of this town were--well, it wouldn't
take much to make her think the people of this
town hadn't learned much of how to behave in
society and were pretty uncilivized!'' He
corrected himself . ``Uncivilized! And to think
Miss Pratt has to find that out in MY house!
``Now, Willie,'' said Mrs. Baxter, gently,
``you'd better go up and brush your hair again
before your friends come. You mustn't let yourself
get so excited.''
`` `Excited!' '' he cried, incredulously. ``Do
you think I'm EXCITED? Ye gods!''
He smote his hands together and, in his despair
of her intelligence, would have flung himself
down upon a chair, but was arrested half-way by
simultaneous loud outcries from his mother and
``Don't sit on the CAKES!'' they both screamed.
Saving himself and the pan of wafers by a
supreme contortion at the last instant, William
decided to remain upon his feet. ``What do I
care for the cakes?'' he demanded, contemptuously,
beginning to pace the floor. ``It's the
question of principle I'm talking about! Do you
think it's right to give the people of this town a
poor name when strangers like Miss PRATT come
``Willie!'' His mother looked at him hopelessly.
``Do go and brush your hair. If you
could see how you've tousled it you would.''
He gave her a dazed glance and strode from
Jane looked after him placidly. ``Didn't he
talk funny!'' she murmured.
``Yes, dear,'' said Mrs. Baxter. She shook her
head and uttered the enigmatic words, ``They
``I mean Willie, mamma,'' said Jane. ``If it's
anything about Miss Pratt. he always talks awful
funny. Don't you think Willie talks awful funny
if it's anything about Miss Pratt, mamma?''
``What, mamma?'' Jane asked as her mother
``Well--it happens. People do get like that at
his age, Jane.''
``No, I suppose not everybody. Just some.''
Jane's interest was roused. ``Well, do those
that do, mamma,'' she inquired, ``do they all act
``No,'' said Mrs. Baxter. ``That's the trouble;
you can't tell what's coming.''
Jane nodded. ``I think I know,'' she said.
``You mean Willie--''
William himself interrupted her. He returned
violently to the doorway, his hair still tousled,
and, standing upon the threshold, said, sternly:
``What is that child wearing her best dress
``Willie!'' Mrs. Baxter cried. ``Go brush your
``I wish to know what that child is all dressed
up for?'' he insisted.
``To please you! Don't you want her to look
her best at your tea?''
``I thought that was it!'' he cried, and upon
this confirmation of his worst fears he did
increased violence to his rumpled hair. ``I
suspected it, but I wouldn't 'a' believed it! You
mean to let this child--you mean to let--'' Here
his agitation affected his throat and his utterance
became clouded. A few detached phrases fell
from him: ``--Invite MY friends--children's
party--ye gods!--think Miss Pratt plays dolls--''
``Jane will be very good,'' his mother said. ``I
shouldn't think of not having her, Willie, and
you needn't bother about your friends; they'll be
very glad to see her. They all know her, except
Miss Pratt, perhaps, and--'' Mrs. Baxter
paused; then she asked, absently: ``By the way,
haven't I heard somewhere that she likes
pretending to be a little girl, herself?''
``Yes,'' said Mrs. Baxter, remaining calm;
``I'm sure I've heard somewhere that she likes
to talk `baby-talk.' ''
Upon this a tremor passed over William, after
which he became rigid. ``You ask a lady to your
house,'' he began, ``and even before she gets here,
before you've even seen her, you pass judgment
upon one of the--one of the noblest--''
``Good gracious! _I_ haven't `passed judgment.'
If she does talk `baby-talk,' I imagine she does it
very prettily, and I'm sure I've no objection.
And if she does do it, why should you be insulted
by my mentioning it?''
``It was the way you said it,'' he informed her,
``Good gracious! I just said it!'' Mrs. Baxter
laughed, and then, probably a little out of
patience with him, she gave way to that innate
mischievousness in such affairs which is not unknown
to her sex. ``You see, Willie, if she pretends to
be a cunning little girl, it will be helpful to Jane
to listen and learn how.''
William uttered a cry; he knew that he was
struck, but he was not sure how or where. He
was left with a blank mind and no repartee.
Again he dashed from the room.
In the hall, near the open front door, he came
to a sudden halt, and Mrs. Baxter and Jane heard
him calling loudly to the industrious Genesis:
``Here! You go cut the grass in the back yard,
and for Heaven's sake, take that dog with you!''
``Grass awready cut roun' back,'' responded
the amiable voice of Genesis, while the lawn-
mower ceased not to whir. ``Cut all 'at back yod
``Well, you can't cut the front yard now. Go
around in the back yard and take that dog with
``Nemmine 'bout 'at back yod! Ole Clem ain'
``You hear what I tell you?'' William shouted.
``You do what I say and you do it quick!''
Genesis laughed gaily. ``I got my grass to
``You decline to do what I command you?''
``Yes, indeedy! Who pay me my wages? 'At's
MY boss. You' ma say, 'Genesis, you git all 'at
lawn mowed b'fo' sundown.' No, suh! Nee'n'
was'e you' bref on me, 'cause I'm got all MY time
good an' took up!''
Once more William presented himself fatefully
to his mother and Jane. ``May I just kindly ask
you to look out in the front yard?''
``I'm familiar with it, Willie,'' Mrs. Baxter
returned, a little wearily.
``I mean I want you to look at Genesis.''
``I'm familiar with his appearance, too,'' she
said. ``Why in the world do you mind his cutting
William groaned. ``Do you honestly want
guests coming to this house to see that awful old
darky out there and know that HE'S the kind of
servants we employ? Ye gods!''
``Why, Genesis is just a neighborhood outdoors
darky, Willie; he works for half a dozen
families besides us. Everybody in this part of
town knows him.''
``Yes,'' he cried, ``but a lady that didn't live
here wouldn't. Ye gods! What do you suppose
she WOULD think? You know what he's got on!''
``It's a sort of sleeveless jersey he wears, Willie,
``No, you DON'T think that!'' he cried, with
great bitterness. ``You know it's not a jersey!
You know perfectly well what it is, and yet you
expect to keep him out there when--when one of
the one of the nobl--when my friends arrive!
And they'll think that's our DOG out there, won't
they? When intelligent people come to a house
and see a dog sitting out in front, they think it's
the family in the house's dog, don't they?''
William's condition becoming more and more
disordered, he paced the room, while his agony rose
to a climax. ``Ye gods! What do you think Miss
Pratt will think of the people of this town, when
she's invited to meet a few of my friends and the
first thing she sees is a nigger in his undershirt?
What 'll she think when she finds that child's
eaten up half the food, and the people have to
explain that the dog in the front yard belongs to
the darky--'' He interrupted himself with a
groan: ``And prob'ly she wouldn't believe it.
Anybody'd SAY they didn't own a dog like that!
And that's what you want her to see, before she
even gets inside the house! Instead of a regular
gardener in livery like we ought to have, and a
bulldog or a good Airedale or a fox-hound, or
something, the first things you want intelligent
people from out of town to see are that awful old
darky and his mongrel scratchin' fleas and like
as not lettin' 'em get on other people! THAT'd be
nice, wouldn't it? Go out to tea expecting decent
treatment and get fl--''
Mrs. Baxter managed to obtain his attention.
``If you'll go and brush your hair I'll
send Genesis and Clematis away for the rest of
the afternoon. And then if you 'll sit down
quietly and try to keep cool until your friends
get here, I'll--''
`` `Quietly'!'' he echoed, shaking his head over
this mystery. ``I'm the only one that IS quiet
around here. Things 'd be in a fine condition to
receive guests if I didn't keep pretty cool, I
``There, there,'' she said, soothingly. ``Go and
brush your hair. And change your collar, Willie;
it's all wilted. I'll send Genesis away.''
His wandering eye failed to meet hers with any
intelligence. ``Collar,'' he muttered, as if in
``Change it!'' said Mrs. Baxter, raising her
voice. ``It's WILTED.''
He departed in a dazed manner.
Passing through the hall, he paused abruptly,
his eye having fallen with sudden disapproval
upon a large, heavily framed, glass-covered
engraving, ``The Battle of Gettysburg,'' which
hung upon the wall, near the front door. Undeniably,
it was a picture feeble in decorative
quality; no doubt, too, William was right in
thinking it as unworthy of Miss Pratt, as were
Jane and Genesis and Clematis. He felt that she
must never see it, especially as the frame had
been chipped and had a corner broken, but it was
more pleasantly effective where he found it than
where (in his nervousness) he left it. A few
hasty jerks snapped the elderly green cords by
which it was suspended; then he laid the picture
upon the floor and with his handkerchief made a
curious labyrinth of avenues in the large oblong
area of fine dust which this removal disclosed
upon the wall. Pausing to wipe his hot brow
with the same implement, he remembered that
some one had made allusions to his collar and
hair, whereupon he sprang to the stairs, mounted
two at a time, rushed into his own room, and
confronted his streaked image in the mirror.
XIII. AT HOME TO HIS FRIENDS
After ablutions, he found his wet hair plastic,
and easily obtained the long, even sweep
backward from the brow, lacking which no male
person, unless bald, fulfilled his definition of a
man of the world. But there ensued a period of
vehemence and activity caused by a bent collar-
button, which went on strike with a desperation
that was downright savage. The day was warm
and William was warmer; moisture bedewed him
afresh. Belated victory no sooner arrived than
he perceived a fatal dimpling of the new collar,
and was forced to begin the operation of exchanging
it for a successor. Another exchange, however,
he unfortunately forgot to make: the
handkerchief with which he had wiped the wall
remained in his pocket.
Voices from below, making polite laughter,
warned him that already some of the bidden
party had arrived, and, as he completed the
fastening of his third consecutive collar, an
ecstasy of sound reached him through the open
window--and then, Oh then! his breath behaved
in an abnormal manner and he began to tremble.
It was the voice of Miss Pratt, no less!
He stopped for one heart-struck look from his
casement. All in fluffy white and heliotrope she
was--a blonde rapture floating over the sidewalk
toward William's front gate. Her little white
cottony dog, with a heliotrope ribbon round his
neck, bobbed his head over her cuddling arm; a
heliotrope parasol shielded her infinitesimally
from the amorous sun. Poor William!
Two youths entirely in William's condition of
heart accompanied the glamorous girl and hung
upon her rose-leaf lips, while Miss Parcher
appeared dimly upon the outskirts of the group,
the well-known penalty for hostesses who entertain
such radiance. Probably it serves them right.
To William's reddening ear Miss Pratt's voice
came clearly as the chiming of tiny bells, for she
spoke whimsically to her little dog in that tinkling
childlike fashion which was part of the spell she
``Darlin' Flopit,'' she said, ``wake up! Oo
tummin' to tea-potty wiz all de drowed-ups.
P'eshus Flopit, wake up!''
Dizzy with enchantment, half suffocated, his
heart melting within him, William turned from
the angelic sounds and fairy vision of the
window. He ran out of the room, and plunged down
the front stairs. And the next moment the crash
of breaking glass and the loud thump-bump of a
heavily falling human body resounded through
Mrs. Baxter, alarmed, quickly excused herself
from the tea-table, round which were gathered
four or five young people, and hastened to the
front hall, followed by Jane. Through the open
door were seen Miss Pratt, Miss Parcher, Mr.
Johnnie Watson and Mr. Joe Bullitt coming leisurely
up the sunny front walk, laughing and unaware
of the catastrophe which had just occurred
within the shadows of the portal. And at a little
distance from the foot of the stairs William was
seated upon the prostrate ``Battle of Gettysburg.''
``It slid,'' he said, hoarsely. ``I carried it
upstairs with me''--he believed this--``and somebody
brought it down and left it lying flat on
the floor by the bottom step on purpose to trip
me! I stepped on it and it slid.'' He was in a
state of shock: it seemed important to impress
upon his mother the fact that the picture had
not remained firmly in place when he stepped
upon it. ``It SLID, I tell you!''
``Get up, Willie!'' she urged, under her breath,
and as he summoned enough presence of mind to
obey, she beheld ruins other than the wrecked
engraving. She stifled a cry. ``WILLIE! Did the
glass cut you?''
He felt himself. ``No'm.''
``It did your trousers! You'll have to change
Some of William's normal faculties were
restored to him by one hasty glance at the back of
his left leg, which had a dismantled appearance.
A long blue strip of cloth hung there, with white
``HURRY!'' said Mrs. Baxter. And hastily gathering
some fragments of glass, she dropped them
upon the engraving, pushed it out of the way,
and went forward to greet Miss Pratt and her
As for William, he did not even pause to close
his mouth, but fled with it open. Upward he
sped, unseen, and came to a breathless halt upon
the landing at the top of the stairs.
As it were in a dream he heard his mother's
hospitable greetings at the door, and then the
little party lingered in the hall, detained by Miss
Pratt's discovery of Jane.
``Oh, tweetums tootums ickle dirl!'' he heard
the ravishing voice exclaim. ``Oh, tootums ickle
``It cost a dollar and eighty-nine cents,'' said
Jane. ``Willie sat on the cakes.''
``Oh no, he didn't,'' Mrs. Baxter laughed. ``He
``He had to go up-stairs,'' said Jane. And as
the stricken listener above smote his forehead,
she added placidly, ``He tore a hole in his
She seemed about to furnish details, her mood
being communicative, but Mrs. Baxter led the
way into the ``living-room''; the hall was vacated,
and only the murmur of voices and laughter
reached William. What descriptive information
Jane may have added was spared his hearing,
which was a mercy.
And yet it may be that he could not have felt
worse than he did; for there IS nothing worse than
to be seventeen and to hear one of the Noblest
girls in the world told by a little child that you
sat on the cakes and tore a hole in your clo'es.
William leaned upon the banister railing and
thought thoughts about Jane. For several long,
seething moments he thought of her exclusively.
Then, spurred by the loud laughter of rivals and
the agony of knowing that even in his own
house they were monopolizing the attention of
one of the Noblest, he hastened into his own,
room and took account of his reverses.
Standing with his back to the mirror, he
obtained over his shoulder a view of his trousers
which caused him to break out in a fresh
perspiration. Again he wiped his forehead with the
handkerchief, and the result was instantly visible
in the mirror.
The air thickened with sounds of frenzy, followed
by a torrential roar and great sputterings
in a bath-room, which tumult subsiding, William
returned at a tragic gallop to his room and, having
removed his trousers, began a feverish examination
of the garments hanging in a clothes-
closet. There were two pairs of flannel trousers
which would probably again be white and possible,
when cleaned and pressed, but a glance
showed that until then they were not to be
considered as even the last resort of desperation.
Beside them hung his ``last year's summer suit''
of light gray.
Feverishly he brought it forth, threw off his
coat, and then--deflected by another glance at
the mirror--began to change his collar again.
This was obviously necessary, and to quicken
the process he decided to straighten the bent
collar-button. Using a shoe-horn as a lever, he
succeeded in bringing the little cap or head of the
button into its proper plane, but, unfortunately,
his final effort dislodged the cap from the rod
between it and the base, and it flew off
malignantly into space. Here was a calamity; few
things are more useless than a decapitated collar-
button, and William had no other. He had made
sure that it was his last before he put it on, that
day; also he had ascertained that there was none
in, on, or about his father's dressing-table.
Finally, in the possession of neither William nor
his father was there a shirt with an indigenous
For decades, collar-buttons have been on the
hand-me-down shelves of humor; it is a mistake
in the catalogue. They belong to pathos. They
have done harm in the world, and there have
been collar-buttons that failed when the destinies
of families hung upon them. There have been
collar-buttons that thwarted proper matings.
There have been collar-buttons that bore last
hopes, and, falling to the floor, NEVER were found!
William's broken collar-button was really the
only collar-button in the house, except such as
were engaged in serving his male guests below.
At first he did not realize the extent of his
misfortune. How could he? Fate is always
expected to deal its great blows in the grand
manner. But our expectations are fustian
spangled with pinchbeck; we look for tragedy
to be theatrical. Meanwhile, every day before
our eyes, fate works on, employing for its
instruments the infinitesimal, the ignoble and the
petty--in a word, collar-buttons.
Of course William searched his dressing-
table and his father's, although he had been
thoroughly over both once before that day. Next
he went through most of his mother's and Jane's
accessories to the toilette; through trinket-boxes,
glove-boxes, hairpin-boxes, handkerchief-cases--
even through sewing-baskets. Utterly he
convinced himself that ladies not only use no collar-
buttons, but also never pick them up and put
them away among their own belongings. How
much time he consumed in this search is difficult
to reckon;--it is almost impossible to believe
that there is absolutely no collar-button in a
And what William's state of mind had become
is matter for exorbitant conjecture. Jane,
arriving at his locked door upon an errand, was
bidden by a thick, unnatural voice to depart.
``Mamma says, `What in mercy's name is the
matter?' '' Jane called. ``She whispered to me,
`Go an' see what in mercy's name is the matter
with Willie; an' if the glass cut him, after all; an'
why don't he come down'; an' why don't you,
Willie? We're all havin' the nicest time!''
``You g'way!'' said the strange voice within
the room. ``G'way!''
``Well, did the glass cut you?''
``No! Keep quiet! G'way!''
``Well, are you EVER comin' down to your
``Yes, I am! G'way!''
Jane obeyed, and William somehow completed
the task upon which he was engaged. Genius
had burst forth from his despair; necessity had
become a mother again, and William's collar was
in place. It was tied there. Under his necktie
was a piece of string.
He had lost count of time, but he was frantically
aware of its passage; agony was in the
thought of so many rich moments frittered away;
up-stairs, while Joe Bullitt and Johnnie Watson
made hay below. And there was another spur
to haste in his fear that the behavior of Mrs.
Baxter might not be all that the guest of honor
would naturally expect of William's mother.
As for Jane, his mind filled with dread; shivers
passed over him at intervals.
It was a dismal thing to appear at a ``party''
(and that his own) in ``last summer's suit,'' but
when he had hastily put it on and faced the
mirror, he felt a little better--for three or four
seconds. Then he turned to see how the back of
And collapsed in a chair, moaning.
XIV. TIME DOES FLY
He remembered now what he had been too
hurried to remember earlier. He had worn
these clothes on the previous Saturday, and,
returning from a glorified walk with Miss Pratt,
he had demonstrated a fact to which his near-
demolition of the wafers, this afternoon, was
additional testimony. This fact, roughly stated,
is that a person of seventeen, in love, is liable
to sit down anywhere. William had dreamily
seated himself upon a tabouret in the library,
without noticing that Jane had left her open
paint-box there. Jane had just been painting
sunsets; naturally all the little blocks of color
were wet, and the effect upon William's pale-
gray trousers was marvelous--far beyond the
capacity of his coat to conceal. Collar-
buttons and children's paint-boxes--those are the
trolls that lie in wait!
The gray clothes and the flannel trousers had
been destined for the professional cleaner, and
William, rousing himself from a brief stupor,
made a piteous effort to substitute himself for
that expert so far as the gray trousers were
concerned. He divested himself of them and brought
water, towels, bath-soap, and a rubber bath-
sponge to the bright light of his window; and;
there, with touching courage and persistence,
he tried to scrub the paint out of the cloth. He
obtained cloud studies and marines which would
have interested a Post-Impressionist, but upon
trousers they seemed out of place.
There came one seeking and calling him again;
raps sounded upon the door, which he had not
forgotten to lock.
``Willie,'' said a serious voice, ``mamma wants
to know what in mercy's name is the matter!
She wants to know if you know for mercy's name
what time it is! She wants to know what in
mercy's name you think they're all goin' to think!
``Well, she said I had to find out what in
mercy's name you're doin', Willie.''
``You tell her,'' he shouted, hoarsely--``tell her
I'm playin' dominoes! What's she THINK I'm
``I guess''--Jane paused, evidently to complete
the swallowing of something--``I guess she
thinks you're goin' crazy. I don't like Miss
Pratt, but she lets me play with that little dog.
It's name's Flopit!''
``You go 'way from that door and stop bothering
me,'' said William. ``I got enough on my
``Mamma looks at Miss Pratt,'' Jane remarked.
``Miss Pratt puts cakes in that Mr. Bullitt's
mouth and Johnnie Watson's mouth, too. She's
William made it plain that these bulletins from
the party found no favor with him. He bellowed,
``If you don't get away from that DOOR--''
Jane was interested in the conversation, but
felt that it would be better to return to the
refreshment-table. There she made use of her
own conception of a whisper to place before
her mother a report which was considered
interesting and even curious by every one present;
though, such was the courtesy of the little
assembly, there was a general pretense of not
``I told him,'' thus whispered Jane, ``an' he
said, `You g'way from that door or I'll do
somep'm'--he didn't say what, mamma. He
said, `What you think I'm doin'? I'm playin'
dominoes.' He didn't mean he WAS playin'
dominoes, mamma. He just said he was. I
think maybe he was just lookin' in the lookin'-
glass some more.''
Mrs. Baxter was becoming embarrassed. She
resolved to go to William's room herself at the
first opportunity; but for some time her
conscientiousness as a hostess continued to occupy
her at the table, and then, when she would have
gone, Miss Pratt detained her by a roguish appeal
to make Mr. Bullitt and Mr. Watson behave.
Both refused all nourishment except such as was
placed in their mouths by the delicate hand of
one of the Noblest, and the latter said that really
she wanted to eat a little tweetie now and
then herself, and not to spend her whole time
feeding the Men. For Miss Pratt had the
same playfulness with older people that she had
with those of her own age; and she elaborated
her pretended quarrel with the two young gentlemen,
taking others of the dazzled company into
her confidence about it, and insisting upon
``Mamma Batster's'' acting formally as judge
to settle the difficulty. However, having thus
arranged matters, Miss Pratt did not resign the
center of interest, but herself proposed a
compromise: she would continue to feed Mr. Bullitt
and Mr. Watson ``every other tweetie''--that is,
each must agree to eat a cake ``all by him own
self,'' after every cake fed to him. So the
comedietta went on, to the running accompaniment
of laughter, with Mr. Bullitt and Mr.
Watson swept by such gusts of adoration they
were like to perish where they sat. But Mrs.
Baxter's smiling approval was beginning to be
painful to the muscles of her face, for it was
hypocritical. And if William had known her
thoughts about one of the Noblest, he could only
have attributed them to that demon of groundless
prejudice which besets all females, but most
particularly and outrageously the mothers and
sisters of Men.
A colored serving-maid entered with a laden
tray, and, having disposed of its freight of bon-
bons among the guests, spoke to Mrs. Baxter in
a low voice.
``Could you manage step in the back hall a
minute, please, ma'am?''
Mrs. Baxter managed and, having closed the
door upon the laughing voices, asked, quickly--
``What is it, Adelia? Have you seen Mr. William?
Do you know why he doesn't come down?''
``Yes'm,'' said Adelia. ``He gone mighty near
out his head, Miz Baxter.''
``Yes'm. He come floppin' down the back
stairs in his baf-robe li'l' while ago. He jes'
gone up again. He 'ain't got no britches, Miz
``No'm,'' said Adelia. ``He 'ain't got no
britches at all.''
A statement of this kind is startling under
Almost any circumstances, and it is unusually so
when made in reference to a person for whom a
party is being given. Therefore it was not
unreasonable of Mrs. Baxter to lose her breath.
``But--it can't BE!'' she gasped. ``He has!
He has plenty!''
``No'm, he 'ain't,'' Adelia assured her. ``An'
he's carryin' on so I don't scarcely think he
knows much what he's doin', Miz Baxter. He
brung down some gray britches to the kitchen
to see if I couldn' press an' clean 'em right quick:
they was the ones Miss Jane, when she's paintin'
all them sunsets, lef' her paint-box open, an' one
them sunsets got on these here gray britches,
Miz Baxter; an' hones'ly, Miz Baxter, he's fixed
'em in a condishum, tryin' to git that paint out,
I don't believe it 'll be no use sendin' 'em to the
cleaner. `Clean 'em an' press 'em QUICK?' I says.
`I couldn' clean 'em by Resurreckshum, let alone
pressin' 'em!' No'm! Well, he had his blue
britches, too, but they's so ripped an' tore an'
kind o' shredded away in one place, the cook she
jes' hollered when he spread 'em out, an' he
didn' even ast me could I mend 'em. An' he
had two pairs o' them white flannen britches, but
hones'ly, Miz Baxter, I don't scarcely think
Genesis would wear 'em, the way they is now!
`Well,' I says, `ain't but one thing lef' to do _I_ can
see,' I says. `Why don't you go put on that
nice black suit you had las' winter?' ''
``Of course!'' Mrs. Baxter cried. ``I'll go
``No'm,'' said Adelia. ``You don' need to.
He's up in the attic now, r'arin' roun' 'mongs'
them trunks, but seem to me like I remember
you put that suit away under the heavy blankets
in that big cedar ches' with the padlock. If you
jes' tell me where is the key, I take it up to him.''
``Under the bureau in the spare room,'' said
Mrs. Baxter. ``HURRY!''
Adelia hurried; and, fifteen minutes later,
William, for the last time that afternoon, surveyed
himself in his mirror. His face showed the
strain that had been upon him and under which
he still labored; the black suit was a map of
creases, and William was perspiring more freely
than ever under the heavy garments. But at
least he was clothed.
He emptied his pockets, disgorging upon the
floor a multitude of small white spheres, like
marbles. Then, as he stepped out into the hall,
he discovered that their odor still remained about
him; so he stopped and carefully turned his
pockets inside out, one after the other, but finding
that he still smelled vehemently of the ``moth-
balls,'' though not one remained upon him, he
went to his mother's room and sprinkled violet
toilet-water upon his chest and shoulders. He
disliked such odors, but that left by the moth-
balls was intolerable, and, laying hands upon a
canister labeled ``Hyacinth,'' he contrived to pour
a quantity of scented powder inside his collar,
thence to be distributed by the force of gravity
so far as his dampness permitted.
Lo, William was now ready to go to his party!
Moist, wilted, smelling indeed strangely, he was
But when he reached the foot of the stairs he
discovered that there was one thing more to be
done. Indignation seized him, and also a creeping
fear chilled his spine, as he beheld a lurking
shape upon the porch, stealthily moving toward
the open door. It was the lowly Clematis, dog
William instantly divined the purpose of
Clematis. It was debatable whether Clematis
had remained upon the premises after the
departure of Genesis, or had lately returned thither
upon some errand of his own, but one thing was
certain, and the manner of Clematis--his attitude,
his every look, his every gesture--made
it as clear as day. Clematis had discovered, by
one means or another, the presence of Flopit in
the house, and had determined to see him personally.
Clematis wore his most misleading expression;
a stranger would have thought him shy and
easily turned from his purpose--but William was
not deceived. He knew that if Clematis meant
to see Flopit, a strong will, a ready brain, and
stern action were needed to thwart him; but
at all costs that meeting must be prevented.
Things had been awful enough, without that!
He was well aware that Clematis could not be
driven away, except temporarily, for nothing was
further fixed upon Clematis than his habit of
retiring under pressure, only to return and return
again. True, the door could have been shut in
the intruder's face, but he would have sought
other entrance with possible success, or, failing
that, would have awaited in the front yard the
dispersal of the guests and Flopit's consequent
emerging. This was a contretemps not to be
The door of the living-room was closed, muffling
festal noises and permitting safe passage
through the hall. William cast a hunted look
over his shoulder; then he approached Clematis.
``Good ole doggie,'' he said, huskily. ``Hyuh,
Clem! Hyuh, Clem!''
Clematis moved sidelong, retreating with his
head low and his tail denoting anxious thoughts.
``Hyuh, Clem!'' said William, trying, with
only fair success, to keep his voice from sounding
venomous. ``Hyuh, Clem!''
Clematis continued his deprecatory retreat.
Thereupon William essayed a ruse--he pretended
to nibble at something, and then extended
his hand as if it held forth a gift of food. ``Look,
Clem,'' he said. ``Yum-yum! Meat, Clem!
For once Clematis was half credulous. He did
not advance, but he elongated himself to investigate
the extended hand, and the next instant
found himself seized viciously by the scruff of
the neck. He submitted to capture in absolute
silence. Only the slightest change of countenance
betrayed his mortification at having been
found so easy a gull; this passed, and a look
of resolute stoicism took its place.
He refused to walk, but offered merely nominal
resistance, as a formal protest which he wished
to be of record, though perfectly understanding
that it availed nothing at present. William
dragged him through the long hall and down a
short passageway to the cellar door. This he
opened, thrust Clematis upon the other side of it,
closed and bolted it.
Immediately a stentorian howl raised blood-
curdling echoes and resounded horribly through
the house. It was obvious that Clematis
intended to make a scene, whether he was present
at it or not. He lifted his voice in sonorous
dolor, stating that he did not like the cellar
and would continue thus to protest as long as
he was left in it alone. He added that he was
anxious to see Flopit and considered it an
unexampled outrage that he was withheld from the
Smitten with horror, William reopened the
door and charged down the cellar stairs after
Clematis, who closed his caitiff mouth and gave
way precipitately. He fled from one end of the
cellar to the other and back, while William
pursued; choking, and calling in low, ferocious tones:
``Good doggie! Good ole doggie! Hyuh, Clem!
Meat, Clem, meat--''
There was dodging through coal-bins; there
was squirming between barrels; there was high
jumping and broad jumping, and there was a final
aspiring but baffled dash for the top of the cellar
stairs, where the door, forgotten by William,
stood open. but it was here that Clematis,
after a long and admirable exhibition of ingenuity,
no less than agility, submitted to capture.
That is to say, finding himself hopelessly pinioned,
he resumed the stoic.
Grimly the panting and dripping William
dragged him through the kitchen, where the cook
cried out unintelligibly, seeming to summon
Adelia, who was not present. Through the back
yard went captor and prisoner, the latter now
maintaining a seated posture--his pathetic
conception of dignity under duress. Finally, into
a small shed or tool-house, behind Mrs. Baxter's
flower-beds, went Clematis in a hurried and
spasmodic manner. The instant the door slammed
he lifted his voice--and was bidden to use it now
as much as he liked.
Adelia, with a tray of used plates, encountered
the son of the house as he passed through the
kitchen on his return, and her eyes were those of
one who looks upon miracles.
William halted fiercely.
``What's the matter?'' he demanded. ``Is
my face dirty?''
``You mean, are it too dirty to go in yonduh
to the party?'' Adelia asked, slowly. ``No, suh;
you look all right to go in there. You lookin'
jes' fine to go in there now, Mist' Willie!''
Something in her tone struck him as peculiar,
even as ominous, but his blood was up--he would
not turn back now. He strode into the hall and
opened the door of the ``living-room.''
Jane was sitting on the floor, busily painting
sunsets in a large blank-book which she had
obtained for that exclusive purpose.
She looked up brightly as William appeared in
the doorway, and in answer to his wild gaze she
``I got a little bit sick, so mamma told me
to keep quiet a while. She's lookin' for you all
over the house. She told papa she don't know
what in mercy's name people are goin' to think
about you, Willie.''
The distraught youth strode to her. ``The
party--'' he choked. ``WHERE--''
``They all stayed pretty long,'' said Jane,
``but the last ones said they had to go home to
their dinners when papa came, a little while ago.
Johnnie Watson was carryin' Flopit for that
William dropped into the chair beside which
Jane had established herself upon the floor.
Then he uttered a terrible cry and rose.
Again Jane had painted a sunset she had not
XV. ROMANCE OF STATISTICS
On a warm morning, ten days later, William
stood pensively among his mother's flower-
beds behind the house, his attitude denoting a
low state of vitality. Not far away, an aged
negro sat upon a wheelbarrow in the hot sun,
tremulously yet skilfully whittling a piece of
wood into the shape of a boat, labor more to his
taste, evidently, than that which he had abandoned
at the request of Jane. Allusion to this
preference for a lighter task was made by Genesis,
who was erecting a trellis on the border of the
``Pappy whittle all day,'' he chuckled. ``Whittle
all night, too! Pappy, I thought you 'uz
goin' to git 'at long bed all spade' up fer me by
noon. Ain't 'at what you tole me?''
``You let him alone, Genesis,'' said Jane, who
sat by the old man's side, deeply fascinated.
``There's goin' to be a great deal of rain in the
next few days. maybe, an' I haf to have this boat
The aged darky lifted his streaky and diminished
eyes to the burnished sky, and laughed.
``Rain come some day, anyways,'' he said. ``We
git de boat ready 'fo' she fall, dat sho.'' His
glance wandered to William and rested upon him
with feeble curiosity. ``Dat ain' yo' pappy, is
it?'' he asked Jane.
``I should say it isn't!'' she exclaimed. ``It's
Willie. He was only seventeen about two or
three months ago, Mr. Genesis.'' This was not
the old man's name, but Jane had evolved it,
inspired by respect for one so aged and so kind
about whittling. He was the father of Genesis,
and the latter, neither to her knowledge nor to
her imagination, possessed a surname.
``I got cat'rack in my lef' eye,'' said Mr.
Genesis, ``an' de right one, she kine o' tricksy,
too. Tell black man f'um white man, little f'um
``I'd hate it if he was papa,'' said Jane,
confidentially. ``He's always cross about somep'm,
because he's in love.'' She approached her
mouth to her whittling friend's ear and continued
in a whisper: ``He's in love of Miss Pratt.
She's out walkin' with Joe Bullitt. I was in the
front yard with Willie, an' we saw 'em go by.
William did not hear her. Moodily, he had
discovered that there was something amiss with
the buckle of his belt, and, having ungirded
himself, he was biting the metal tongue of the
buckle in order to straighten it. This fell under
the observation of Genesis, who remonstrated.
``You break you' teef on 'at buckle,'' he said.
``No, I won't, either,'' William returned,
``Ain' my teef,'' said Genesis. ``Break 'em,
you want to!''
The attention of Mr. Genesis did not seem to be
attracted to the speakers; he continued his whittling
in a craftsman-like manner, which brought
praise from Jane.
``You can see to whittle, Mr. Genesis,'' she
said. ``You whittle better than anybody in the
``I speck so, mebbe,'' Mr. Genesis returned,
with a little complacency. ``How ole yo' pappy?''
``Oh, he's OLD!'' Jane explained.
William deigned to correct her. ``He's not
old, he's middle-aged.''
``Well, suh,'' said Mr. Genesis, ``I had three
chillum 'fo' I 'uz twenty. I had two when I 'uz
William showed sudden interest. ``You did!''
he exclaimed. ``How old were you when you
had the first one?''
``I 'uz jes' yo' age,'' said the old man. ``I 'uz
``By George!'' cried William.
Jane seemed much less impressed than William,
seventeen being a long way from ten,
though, of course, to seventeen itself hardly any
information could be imagined as more interesting
than that conveyed by the words of the aged
Mr. Genesis. The impression made upon William
was obviously profound and favorable.
``By George!'' he cried again.
``Genesis he de youngis' one,'' said the old
man. ``Genesis he 'uz bawn when I 'uz sixty-one.''
William moved closer. ``What became of the
one that was born when you were seventeen?''
``Well, suh,'' said Mr. Genesis, ``I nev' did
At this, Jane's interest equaled William's.
Her eyes consented to leave the busy hands
of the aged darky, and, much enlarged, rose to
his face. After a little pause of awe and
sympathy she inquired:
``Was it a boy or a girl?''
The old man deliberated within himself.
``Seem like it mus' been a boy.''
``Did it die?'' Jane asked, softly.
``I reckon it mus' be dead by now,'' he
returned, musingly. ``Good many of 'em dead:
what I KNOWS is dead. Yes'm, I reckon so.''
``How old were you when you were married?''
William asked, with a manner of peculiar
earnestness;--it was the manner of one who
addresses a colleague.
``Me? Well, suh, dat 'pen's.'' He seemed to
search his memory. ``I rickalect I 'uz ma'ied
once in Looavle,'' he said.
Jane's interest still followed the first child.
``Was that where it was born, Mr. Genesis?'' she
He looked puzzled, and paused in his whittling
to rub his deeply corrugated forehead. ``Well,
suh, mus' been some bawn in Looavle. Genesis,''
he called to his industrious son, ``whaih 'uz YOU
``Right 'n 'is town,'' laughed Genesis. ``You
fergit a good deal, pappy, but I notice you don'
fergit come to meals!''
The old man grunted, resuming his whittling
busily. ``Hain' much use,'' he complained.
``Cain' eat nuff'm 'lessen it all gruelly. Man
cain' eat nuff'm 'lessen he got teef. Genesis,
di'n' I hyuh you tellin' dis white gemmun take
caih his teef--not bite on no i'on?''
William smiled in pity. ``I don't need to
bother about that, I guess,'' he said. ``I can
crack nuts with my teeth.''
``Yes, suh,'' said the old man. ``You kin now.
Ev'y nut you crac' now goin' cos' you a yell
when you git 'long 'bout fawty an' fifty. You
crack nuts now an' you'll holler den!''
``Well, I guess I won't worry myself much now
about what won't happen till I'm forty or fifty,''
said William. ``My teeth 'll last MY time, I
That brought a chuckle from Mr. Genesis.
``Jes' listen!'' he exclaimed. ``Young man
think he ain' nev' goin' be ole man. Else he think,
`Dat ole man what I'm goin' to be, dat ain'
goin' be me 'tall--dat goin' be somebody else!
What I caih 'bout dat ole man? I ain't a-goin'
take caih o' no teef fer HIM!' Yes, suh, an' den
when he GIT to be ole man, he say, `What become
o' dat young man I yoosta be? Where is dat
young man agone to? He 'uz a fool, dat's what
--an' _I_ ain' no fool, so he mus' been somebody
else, not me; but I do jes' wish I had him hyuh
'bout two minutes--long enough to lam him
fer not takin' caih o' my teef fer me!' Yes, suh!''
William laughed; his good humor was restored
and he found the conversation of Mr. Genesis
attractive. He seated himself upon an upturned
bucket near the wheelbarrow, and reverted to a
former theme. ``Well, I HAVE heard of people
getting married even younger 'n you were,'' he said.
``You take India, for instance. Why, they get
married in India when they're twelve, and even
seven and eight years old.''
``They do not!'' said Jane, promptly. ``Their
mothers and fathers wouldn't let 'em, an' they
wouldn't want to, anyway.''
``I suppose you been to India and know all
about it!'' William retorted. ``For the matter o'
that, there was a young couple got married in
Pennsylvania the other day; the girl was only
fifteen, and the man was sixteen. It was in the
papers, and their parents consented, and said
it was a good thing. Then there was a case in
Fall River, Massachusetts, where a young man
eighteen years old married a woman forty-one
years old; it was in the papers, too. And I
heard of another case somewhere in Iowa--a boy
began shaving when he was thirteen, and shaved
every day for four years, and now he's got a full
beard, and he's goin' to get married this year--
before he's eighteen years old. Joe Bullitt's got
a cousin in Iowa that knows about this case--he
knows the girl this fellow with the beard is
goin' to marry, and he says he expects it 'll turn
out the best thing could have happened. They're
goin' to live on a farm. There's hunderds of
cases like that, only you don't hear of more'n
just a few of 'em. People used to get married at
sixteen, seventeen, eighteen--anywhere in there
--and never think anything of it at all. Right up
to about a hunderd years ago there were more
people married at those ages than there were
along about twenty-four and twenty-five, the way
they are now. For instance, you take Shakespeare--''
Mr. Genesis was scraping the hull of the miniature
boat with a piece of broken glass, in lieu of
sandpaper, but he seemed to be following his
young friend's remarks with attention. William
had mentioned Shakespeare impulsively, in the
ardor of demonstrating his point; however, upon
second thought he decided to withdraw the name.
``I mean, you take the olden times,'' he went
on; ``hardly anybody got married after they
were nineteen or twenty years old, unless they
were widowers, because they were all married
by that time. And right here in our own county,
there were eleven couples married in the last
six months under twenty-one years of age.
I've got a friend named Johnnie Watson; his
uncle works down at the court-house and told
him about it, so it can't be denied. Then there
was a case I heard of over in--''
Mr. Genesis uttered a loud chuckle. ``My
goo'ness!'' he exclaimed. ``How you c'leck all'
dem fac's? Lan' name! What puzzlin' ME is
how you 'member 'em after you done c'leck 'em.
Ef it uz me I couldn't c'leck 'em in de firs' place,
an' ef I could, dey wouldn' be no use to me,
'cause I couldn't rickalect 'em!''
``Well, it isn't so hard,'' said William, ``if you
kind of get the hang of it.'' Obviously pleased,
he plucked a spear of grass and placed it between
his teeth, adding, ``I always did have a pretty
``Mamma says you're the most forgetful boy
she ever heard of,'' said Jane, calmly. ``She
says you can't remember anything two minutes.''
William's brow darkened. ``Now look here--''
he began, with severity.
But the old darky intervened. ``Some folks
got good rickaleckshum an' some folks got bad,''
he said, pacifically. ``Young white germmun
rickalect mo' in two minute dan what I kin in two
Jane appeared to accept this as settlement of
the point at issue, while William bestowed upon
Mr. Genesis a glance of increased favor. William's
expression was pleasant to see; in fact,
it was the pleasantest expression Jane had seen
him wearing for several days. Almost always,
lately, he was profoundly preoccupied, and so
easily annoyed that there was no need to be
careful of his feelings, because--as his mother
observed--he was ``certain to break out about
every so often, no matter what happened!''
``I remember pretty much everything,'' he
said, as if in modest explanation of the performance
which had excited the aged man's admira-
tion. ``I can remember things that happened
when I was four years old.''
``So can I,'' said Jane. ``I can remember
when I was two. I had a kitten fell down the
cistern and papa said it hurt the water.''
``My goo'ness!'' Mr. Genesis exclaimed. ``An'
you 'uz on'y two year ole, honey! Bes' _I_ kin do
is rickalect when I 'uz 'bout fifty.''
``Oh no!'' Jane protested. ``You said you
remembered havin' a baby when you were seventeen,
``Yes'm,'' he admitted. ``I mean rickalect
good like you do 'bout yo' li'l' cat an' all how yo'
pappy tuck on 'bout it. I kin rickalect SOME,
but I cain' rickalect GOOD.''
William coughed with a certain importance.
``Do you remember,'' he asked, ``when you
were married, how did you feel about it? Were
you kind of nervous, or anything like that, before-
Mr. Genesis again passed a wavering hand
across his troubled brow.
``I mean,'' said William, observing his
perplexity, ``were you sort of shaky--f'rinstance, as
if you were taking an important step in life?''
``Lemme see.'' The old man pondered for a
moment. ``I felt mighty shaky once, I rickalect;
dat time yalla m'latta man shootin' at me
f 'um behime a snake-fence.''
``Shootin' at you!'' Jane cried, stirred from her
accustomed placidity. ``Mr. Genesis! What
DID he do that for?''
``Nuff'm!'' replied Mr. Genesis, with feeling.
``Nuff'm in de wide worl'! He boun' to shoot
SOMEbody, an' pick on me 'cause I 'uz de
He closed his knife, gave the little boat a final
scrape with the broken glass, and then a soothing
rub with the palm of his hand. ``Dah, honey,''
he said--and simultaneously factory whistles began
to blow. ``Dah yo' li'l' steamboat good as I
kin git her widout no b'iler ner no smoke-
stack. I reckon yo' pappy 'll buy 'em fer you.''
Jane was grateful. ``It's a beautiful boat,
Mr. Genesis. I do thank you!''
Genesis, the son, laid aside his tools and
approached. ``Pappy finish whittlin' spang on
'em noon whistles,'' he chuckled. ``Come 'long,
pappy. I bet you walk fas' 'nuff goin' todes
dinnuh. I hear fry-cakes ploppin' in skillet!''
Mr. Genesis laughed loudly, his son's words
evidently painting a merry and alluring picture; and
the two, followed by Clematis, moved away in
the direction of the alley gate. William and
Jane watched the brisk departure of the antique
with sincere esteem and liking.
``He must have been sixteen,'' said William,
``When?'' Jane asked.
William, in deep thought, was still looking
after Mr. Genesis; he was almost unconscious
that he had spoken aloud and he replied, automatically:
``When he was married.''
Then, with a start, he realized into how great a
condescension he had been betrayed, and hastily
added, with pronounced hauteur, ``Things you
don't understand. You run in the house.''
Jane went into the house, but she did not
carry her obedience to the point of running.
She walked slowly, and in that state of profound
reverie which was characteristic of her when she
was immersed in the serious study of William's
XVI. THE SHOWER
She continued to be thoughtful until after
lunch, when, upon the sun's disappearance
behind a fat cloud, Jane and the heavens
exchanged dispositions for the time--the heavens
darkened and Jane brightened. She was in the
front hall, when the sunshine departed rather
abruptly, and she jumped for joy, pointing to the
open door. ``Look! Looky there!'' she called
to her brother. Richly ornamented, he was
descending the front stairs, his embellishments
including freshly pressed white trousers, a new
straw hat, unusual shoes, and a blasphemous
tie. ``I'm goin' to get to sail my boat,'' Jane
shouted. ``It's goin' to rain.''
``It is not,'' said William, irritated. ``It's
not going to anything like rain. I s'pose you
think it ought to rain just to let you sail that
chunk of wood!''
``It's goin' to rain--it's goin' to rain!'' (Jane
made a little singsong chant of it.) ``It's goin'
to rain--it gives Willie a pain--it's goin' to rain
--it gives Willie a pain--it's goin' to--''
He interrupted her sternly. ``Look here!
You're old enough to know better. I s'pose you
think there isn't anything as important in the
world as your gettin' the chance to sail that little
boat! I s'pose you think business and everything
else has got to stop and get ruined, maybe,
just to please you!'' As he spoke he walked to
an umbrella-stand in the hall and deliberately
took therefrom a bamboo walking-stick of his
father's. Indeed, his denunciation of Jane's
selfishness about the weather was made partly to
reassure himself and settle his nerves, strained
by the unusual procedure he contemplated, and
partly to divert Jane's attention. In the latter
effort he was unsuccessful; her eyes became
strange and unbearable.
She uttered a shriek:
``Willie's goin' to carry a CANE!''
``You hush up!'' he said, fiercely, and hurried
out through the front door. She followed him to
the edge of the porch; she stood there while he
made his way to the gate, and she continued to
stand there as he went down the street, trying to
swing the cane in an accustomed and unembarrassed
Jane made this difficult.
``Willie's got a CANE!'' she screamed. ``He's
got papa's CANE!'' Then, resuming her little
chant, she began to sing: ``It's goin' to rain--
Willie's got papa's cane--it's goin' to rain--
Willie's got papa's cane!'' She put all of her
voice into a final effort. ``MISS PRATT'LL GET WET
IF YOU DON'T TAKE AN UMBERELLER-R-R!''
The attention of several chance pedestrians
had been attracted, and the burning William,
breaking into an agonized half-trot, disappeared
round the corner. Then Jane retired within the
house, feeling that she had done her duty. It
would be his own fault if he got wet.
Rain was coming. Rain was in the feel of the
air--and in Jane's hope.
She was not disappointed. Mr. Genesis, so
secure of fair weather in the morning, was proved
by the afternoon to be a bad prophet. The fat
cloud was succeeded by others, fatter; a corpulent
army assailed the vault of heaven, heavy
outriders before a giant of evil complexion and
An hour after William had left the house,
the dust in the streets and all loose paper and
rubbish outdoors rose suddenly to a considerable
height and started for somewhere else. The trees
had colic; everything became as dark as winter
twilight; streaks of wildfire ran miles in a second,
and somebody seemed to be ripping up sheets
of copper and tin the size of farms. The rain
came with a swish, then with a rattle, and then
with a roar, while people listened at their garret
doorways and marveled. Window-panes turned
to running water;--it poured.
Then it relented, dribbled, shook down a few
last drops; and passed on to the countryside.
Windows went up; eaves and full gutters plashed
and gurgled; clearer light fell; then, in a moment,
sunshine rushed upon shining green trees and
green grass; doors opened--and out came the
Shouting, they ran to the flooded gutters.
Here were rivers, lakes, and oceans for navigation;
easy pilotage, for the steersman had but to wade
beside his craft and guide it with a twig. Jane's
timely boat was one of the first to reach the
Her mother had been kind, and Jane, with
shoes and stockings left behind her on the porch,
was a happy sailor as she waded knee-deep along
the brimming curbstones. At the corner below
the house of the Baxters, the street was flooded
clear across, and Jane's boat, following the
current, proceeded gallantly onward here, sailed
down the next block, and was thoughtlessly
entering a sewer when she snatched it out of the
water. Looking about her, she perceived a
gutter which seemed even lovelier than the one
she had followed. It was deeper and broader
and perhaps a little browner, wherefore she
launched her ship upon its dimpled bosom and
explored it as far as the next sewer-hole or
portage. Thus the voyage continued for several
blocks with only one accident--which might have
happened to anybody. It was an accident in the
nature of a fall, caused by the sliding of Jane's
left foot on some slippery mud. This treacherous
substance, covered with water, could not have
been anticipated; consequently Jane's emotions
were those of indignation rather than of culpability.
Upon rising, she debated whether or not
she should return to her dwelling, inclining to
the opinion that the authorities there would have
taken the affirmative; but as she was wet not
much above the waist, and the guilt lay all upon
the mud, she decided that such an interruption
of her journey would be a gross injustice to herself.
Navigation was reopened.
Presently the boat wandered into a miniature
whirlpool, grooved in a spiral and pleasant
to see. Slowly the water went round and round,
and so did the boat without any assistance from
Jane. Watching this movement thoughtfully,
she brought forth from her drenched pocket some
sodden whitish disks, recognizable as having been
crackers, and began to eat them. Thus absorbed,
she failed at first to notice the approach of two
young people along the sidewalk.
They were the entranced William and Miss
Pratt; and their appearance offered a suggestive
contrast in relative humidity. In charming and
tender-colored fabrics, fluffy and cool and summery,
she was specklessly dry; not a drop had
touched even the little pink parasol over her
shoulder, not one had fallen upon the tiny white
doglet drowsing upon her arm. But William was
wet--he was still more than merely damp,
though they had evidently walked some distance
since the rain had ceased to fall. His new hat
was a mucilaginous ruin; his dank coat sagged;
his shapeless trousers flopped heavily, and his
shoes gave forth marshy sounds as he walked.
No brilliant analyst was needed to diagnose
this case. Surely any observer must have said:
``Here is a dry young lady, and at her side walks
a wet young gentleman who carries an umbrella
in one hand and a walking-stick in the other.
Obviously the young lady and gentleman were
out for a stroll for which the stick was
sufficient, and they were caught by the rain.
Before any fell, however, he found her a place of
shelter--such as a corner drug-store and then
himself gallantly went forth into the storm for an
umbrella. He went to the young lady's house,
or to the house where she may be visiting, for,
if he had gone to his own he would have left
his stick. It may be, too, that at his own, his
mother would have detained him, since he is
still at the age when it is just possible sometimes
for mothers to get their sons into the house when
it rains. He returned with the umbrella to the
corner drug-store at probably about the time
when the rain ceased to fall, because his extreme
moistness makes necessary the deduction that
he was out in all the rain that rained. But he
does not seem to care.''
The fact was that William did not even know
that he was wet. With his head sidewise and his
entranced eyes continuously upon the pretty face
so near, his state was almost somnambulistic. Not
conscious of his soggy garments or of the deluged
streets, he floated upon a rosy cloud, incense
about him, far-away music enchanting his ears.
If Jane had not recognized the modeling of his
features she might not have known them to be
William's, for they had altered their grouping
to produce an expression with which she was
totally unfamiliar. To be explicit, she was
unfamiliar with this expression in that place--
that is to say, upon William, though she had seen
something like it upon other people, once or
twice, in church.
William's thoughts might have seemed to her
as queer as his expression, could she have known
them. They were not very definite, however,
taking the form of sweet, vague pictures of the
future. These pictures were of married life; that
is, married life as William conceived it for himself
and Miss Pratt--something strikingly different
from that he had observed as led by his
mother and father, or their friends and relatives.
In his rapt mind he beheld Miss Pratt walking
beside him ``through life,'' with her little parasol
and her little dog--her exquisite face always
lifted playfully toward his own (with admiration
underneath the playfulness), and he heard
her voice of silver always rippling ``baby-talk''
throughout all the years to come. He saw her
applauding his triumphs--though these remained
indefinite in his mind, and he was unable to
foreshadow the business or profession which
was to provide the amazing mansion (mainly
conservatory) which he pictured as their home.
Surrounded by flowers, and maintaining a private
orchestra, he saw Miss Pratt and himself
growing old together, attaining to such ages as
thirty and even thirty-five, still in perfect
harmony, and always either dancing in the evenings
or strolling hand in hand in the moonlight.
Sometimes they would visit the nursery, where
curly-headed, rosy cherubs played upon a white-
bear rug in the firelight. These were all boys
and ready-made, the youngest being three years
old and without a past.
They would be beautiful children, happy with
their luxurious toys on the bear rug, and they
would NEVER be seen in any part of the house
except the nursery. Their deportment would be
The aviator struck a hole in the air; his heart
misgave him. Then he came to earth--a sickening
drop, and instantaneous.
There was Jane, a figurine in a plastic state
and altogether disgraceful;--she came up out of
the waters and stood before them with feet of
clay, indeed; pedestaled upon the curbstone.
``Who IS that CURIOUS child?'' said Miss Pratt,
``Was she calling YOU?'' Miss Pratt asked,
``Willie, I told you you better take an umbereller,''
said Jane, ``instead of papa's cane.'' And
she added, triumphantly, ``Now you see!''
Moving forward, she seemed to have in mind
a dreadful purpose; there was something about
her that made William think she intended casually
to accompany him and Miss Pratt.
``You go home!'' he commanded, hoarsely.
Miss Pratt uttered a little scream of surprise
and recognition. ``It's your little sister!'' she
exclaimed, and then, reverting to her favorite
playfulness of enunciation, `` 'Oor ickle sissa!''
she added, gaily, as a translation. Jane
misunderstood it; she thought Miss Pratt meant
``OUR little sister.''
``Go home!'' said William.
``No'ty, no'ty!'' said Miss Pratt, shaking her
head. ``Me 'fraid oo's a no'ty, no'ty ickle dirl!
Jane advanced. ``I wish you'd let me carry
Flopit for you,'' she said.
Giving forth another gentle scream, Miss Pratt
hopped prettily backward from Jane's extended
hands. ``Oo-oo!'' she cried, chidingly. ``Mustn't
touch! P'eshus Flopit all soap-water-wash clean.
Ickle dirly all muddy-nassy! Ickle dirly must
doe home, det all soap-water-wash clean like NICE
ickle sissa. Evabody will love 'oor ickle sissa den,''
she concluded, turning to William. ``Tell 'oor
ickle sissa MUS' doe home det soap-water-wash!''
Jane stared at Miss Pratt with fixed solemnity
during the delivery of these admonitions, and it
was to be seen that they made an impression
upon her. Her mouth slowly opened, but she
spake not. An extraordinary idea had just begun
to make itself at home in her mind. It was an
idea which had been hovering in the neighborhood
of that domain ever since William's comments
upon the conversation of Mr. Genesis, in
``Go home!'' repeated William, and then, as
Jane stood motionless and inarticulate, transfixed
by her idea, he said, almost brokenly, to his
dainty companion, ``I DON'T know what you'll
think of my mother! To let this child--''
Miss Pratt laughed comfortingly as they
started on again. ``Isn't mamma's fault, foolish
boy Baxter. Ickle dirlies will det datie!''
The profoundly mortified William glanced back
over his shoulder, bestowing upon Jane a look in
which bitterness was mingled with apprehension.
But she remained where she was, and did not
follow. That was a little to be thankful for, and
he found some additional consolation in believing
that Miss Pratt had not caught the frightful
words, ``papa's cane,'' at the beginning of the
interview. He was encouraged to this belief by
her presently taking from his hand the decoration
in question and examining it with tokens of
pleasure. `` 'Oor pitty walk'-'tick,'' she called it,
with a tact he failed to suspect. And so he
began to float upward again; glamors enveloped
him and the earth fell away.
He was alone in space with Miss Pratt once
XVII. JANE'S THEORY
The pale end of sunset was framed in the
dining-room windows, and Mr. and Mrs. Baxter
and the rehabilitated Jane were at the table, when
William made his belated return from the afternoon's
excursion. Seating himself, he waived his
mother's references to the rain, his clothes, and
probable colds, and after one laden glance at
Jane denoting a grievance so elaborate that he
despaired of setting it forth in a formal complaint
to the Powers--he fell into a state of trance. He
took nourishment automatically, and roused himself
but once during the meal, a pathetic encounter
with his father resulting from this awakening.
``Everybody in town seemed to be on the
streets, this evening, as I walked home,'' Mr.
Baxter remarked, addressing his wife. ``I suppose
there's something in the clean air after a
rain that brings 'em out. I noticed one thing,
though; maybe it's the way they dress nowadays,
but you certainly don't see as many pretty girls
on the streets as there used to be.''
William looked up absently. ``I used to think
that, too,'' he said, with dreamy condescension,
``when I was younger.''
Mr. Baxter stared.
``Well, I'll be darned!'' he said.
``Papa, papa!'' his wife called, reprovingly.
``When you were younger!'' Mr. Baxter repeated,
with considerable irritation. ``How old
d' you think you are?''
``I'm going on eighteen,'' said William, firmly.
``I know plenty of cases--cases where--'' He
paused, relapsing into lethargy.
``What's the matter with him?'' Mr. Baxter
inquired, heatedly, of his wife.
William again came to life. ``I was saying that
a person's age is different according to circumstances,''
he explained, with dignity, if not lucidity.
``You take Genesis's father. Well, he was
married when he was sixteen. Then there was a
case over in Iowa that lots of people know about
and nobody thinks anything of. A young man
over there in Iowa that's seventeen years old
began shaving when he was thirteen and shaved
every day for four years, and now--''
He was interrupted by his father, who was no
longer able to contain himself. ``And now I suppose
he's got WHISKERS!'' he burst forth. ``There's
an ambition for you! My soul!''
It was Jane who took up the tale. She had
been listening with growing excitement, her eyes
fixed piercingly upon William. ``He's got a
beard!'' she cried, alluding not to her brother,
but to the fabled Iowan. ``I heard Willie tell ole
Mr. Genesis about it.''
``It seems to lie heavily on your mind,'' Mr.
Baxter said to William. ``I suppose you feel that
in the face of such an example, your life between
the ages of thirteen and seventeen has been virtually
William had again relapsed, but he roused
himself feebly. ``Sir?'' he said.
``What IS the matter with him?'' Mr. Baxter
demanded. ``Half the time lately he seems to be
hibernating, and only responds by a slight twitching
when poked with a stick. The other half of
the time he either behaves like I-don't-know-
what or talks about children growing whiskers in
Iowa! Hasn't that girl left town yet?''
William was not so deep in trance that this
failed to stir him. He left the table.
Mrs. Baxter looked distressed, though, as the
meal was about concluded, and William had partaken
of his share in spite of his dreaminess, she
had no anxieties connected with his sustenance.
As for Mr. Baxter, he felt a little remorse,
undoubtedly, but he was also puzzled. So plain a
man was he that he had no perception of the
callous brutality of the words ``THAT GIRL'' when
applied to some girls. He referred to his mystification
a little later, as he sat with his evening
paper in the library.
``I don't know what I said to that tetchy boy
to hurt him,'' he began in an apologetic tone.
``I don't see that there was anything too rough
for him to stand in a little sarcasm. He needn't
be so sensitive on the subject of whiskers, it
seems to me.''
Mrs. Baxter smiled faintly and shook her head.
It was Jane who responded. She was seated
upon the floor, disporting herself mildly with her
paint-box. ``Papa, I know what's the matter
with Willie,'' she said.
``Do you?'' Mr. Baxter returned. ``Well, if
you make it pretty short, you've got just about
long enough to tell us before your bedtime.''
``I think he's married,'' said Jane.
``What!'' And her parents united their hilarity.
``I do think he's married,'' Jane insisted,
unmoved. ``I think he's married with that Miss
``Well,'' said her father, ``he does seem upset,
and it may be that her visit and the idea of
whiskers, coming so close together, is more than
mere coincidence, but I hardly think Willie is
``Well, then,'' she returned, thoughtfully, ``he's
almost married. I know that much, anyway.''
``What makes you think so?''
``Well, because! I KIND of thought he must be
married, or anyways somep'm, when he talked to
Mr. Genesis this mornin'. He said he knew how
some people got married in Pennsylvania an'
India, an' he said they were only seven or eight
years old. He said so, an' I heard him; an' he
said there were eleven people married that were
only seventeen, an' this boy in Iowa got a full
beard an' got married, too. An' he said Mr.
Genesis was only sixteen when HE was married.
He talked all about gettin' married when you're
seventeen years old, an' he said how people
thought it was the best thing could happen. So
I just KNOW he's almost married!''
Mr. Baxter chuckled, and Mrs. Baxter smiled,
but a shade of thoughtfulness, a remote anxiety,
tell upon the face of the latter.
``You haven't any other reason, have you,
Jane?'' she asked.
``Yes'm,'' said Jane, promptly. ``An' it's a
more reason than any! Miss Pratt calls you
`mamma' as if you were HER mamma. She does
it when she talks to Willie.''
``Yes m, I HEARD her. An' Willie said, `I don't
know what you'll think about mother.' He said,
`I don't know what you'll think about mother,'
to Miss Pratt.''
Mrs. Baxter looked a little startled, and her
husband frowned. Jane mistook their expressions
for incredulity. ``They DID, mamma,'' she
protested. ``That's just the way they talked to
each other. I heard 'em this afternoon, when
Willie had papa's cane.''
``Maybe they were doing it to tease you, if you
were with them,'' Mr. Baxter suggested.
``I wasn't with 'em. I was sailin' my boat,
an' they came along, an' first they never saw me,
an' Willie looked--oh, papa, I wish you'd seen
him!'' Jane rose to her feet in her excitement.
``His face was so funny, you never saw anything
like it! He was walkin' along with it turned sideways,
an' all the time he kept walkin' frontways,
he kept his face sideways--like this, papa. Look,
papa!'' And she gave what she considered a
faithful imitation of William walking with Miss
Pratt. ``Look, papa! This is the way Willie
went. He had it sideways so's he could see Miss.
Pratt, papa. An' his face was just like this.
Look, papa!'' She contorted her features in a
terrifying manner. ``Look, papa!''
``Don't, Jane!'' her mother exclaimed.
``Well, I haf to show papa how Willie looked,
don't I?'' said Jane, relaxing. ``That's just the way
he looked. Well, an' then they stopped an' talked
to me, an' Miss Pratt said, `It's our little sister.' ''
``Did she really?'' Mrs. Baxter asked, gravely,
``Yes'm, she did. Soon as she saw who I was,
she said, `Why, it's our little sister!' Only she
said it that way she talks--sort of foolish. `It's
our ittle sissy'--somep'm like that, mamma.
She said it twice an' told me to go home an' get
washed up. An' Miss Pratt told Willie--Miss
Pratt said, `It isn't mamma's fault Jane's so
dirty,' just like that. She--''
``Are you sure she said `our little sister'?''
said Mrs. Baxter.
``Why, you can ask Willie! She said it that
funny way. `Our 'ittle sissy'; that's what she
said. An' Miss Pratt said, `Ev'rybody would
love our little sister if mamma washed her in soap
an' water!' You can ask Willie; that's exackly
what Miss Pratt said, an' if you don't believe it
you can ask HER. If you don't want to believe it,
why, you can ask--''
``Hush, dear,'' said Mrs. Baxter. ``All this
doesn't mean anything at all, especially such
nonsense as Willie's thinking of being married.
It's your bedtime.''
``Well, but MAMMA--''
``Was that all they said?'' Mr. Baxter inquired.
Jane turned to him eagerly. ``They said all
lots of things like that, papa. They--''
``Nonsense!'' Mrs. Baxter in interrupted. ``Come,
it's bedtime. I'll go up with you. You mustn't
think such nonsense.''
``Come along, Jane!''
Jane was obedient in the flesh, but her spirit
was free; her opinions were her own. Disappointed
in the sensation she had expected to
produce, she followed her mother out of the
room wearing the expression of a person who
says, ``You'll SEE--some day when everything's
Mr. Baxter, left alone, laughed quietly, lifted
his neglected newspaper to obtain the light at
the right angle, and then allowed it to languish
upon his lap again. Frowning, he began to tap
the floor with his shoe.
He was trying to remember what things were
in his head when he was seventeen, and it was
difficult. It seemed to him that he had been a
steady, sensible young fellow--really quite a man
--at that age. Looking backward at the blur of
youthful years, the period from sixteen to twenty-
five appeared to him as ``pretty much all of a
piece.'' He could not recall just when he stopped
being a boy; it must have been at about fifteen,
All at once he sat up stiffly in his chair, and the
paper slid from his knee. He remembered an
autumn, long ago, when he had decided to abandon
the educational plans of his parents and
become an actor. He had located this project
exactly, for it dated from the night of his
seventeenth birthday, when he saw John McCullough
Even now Mr. Baxter grew a little red as he
remembered the remarkable letter he had written,
a few weeks later, to the manager of a passing
theatrical company. He had confidently
expected an answer, and had made his plans to
leave town quietly with the company and afterward
reassure his parents by telegraph. In fact,
he might have been on the stage at this moment,
if that manager had taken him. Mr. Baxter
began to look nervous.
Still, there is a difference between going on the
stage and getting married. ``I don't know,
though!'' Mr. Baxter thought. ``And Willie's
certainly not so well balanced in a GENERAL way as
I was.'' He wished his wife would come down
and reassure him, though of course it was all
But when Mrs. Baxter came down-stairs she
did not reassure him. ``Of course Jane's too
absurd!'' she said. ``I don't mean that she `made
it up'; she never does that, and no doubt this
little Miss Pratt did say about what Jane thought
she said. But it all amounts to nothing.''
``Willie's just going through what several of
the other boys about his age are going through--
like Johnnie Watson and Joe Bullitt and Wallace
Banks. They all seem to be frantic over her.''
``I caught a glimpse of her the day you had
her to tea. She's rather pretty.''
``Adorably! And perhaps Willie has been just
a LITTLE bit more frantic than the others.''
``He certainly seems in a queer state!''
At this his wife's tone became serious. ``Do
you think he WOULD do as crazy a thing as that?''
Mr. Baxter laughed. ``Well, I don't know
what he'd do it ON! I don't suppose he has more
than a dollar in his possession.''
``Yes, he has,'' she returned, quickly. ``Day
before yesterday there was a second-hand furniture
man here, and I was too busy to see him,
but I wanted the storeroom in the cellar cleared
out, and I told Willie he could have whatever
the man would pay him for the junk in there, if
he'd watch to see that they didn't TAKE anything.
They found some old pieces that I'd forgotten,
underneath things, and altogether the man paid
Willie nine dollars and eighty-five cents.''
``But, mercy-me!'' exclaimed Mr. Baxter, ``the
girl may be an idiot, but she wouldn't run away
and marry a boy just barely seventeen on nine
dollars and eighty-five cents!''
``Oh no!'' said Mrs. Baxter. ``At least, I
don't THINK so. Of course girls do as crazy things
as boys sometimes--in their way. I was think-
ing--'' She paused. ``Of COURSE there couldn't be
anything in it, but it did seem a little strange.''
``Why, just before I came down-stairs, Adelia
came for the laundry; and I asked her if she'd
seen Willie; and she said he'd put on his dark suit
after dinner, and he went out through the kitchen,
carrying his suit-case.''
``Of course,'' Mrs. Baxter went on, slowly, ``I
COULDN'T believe he'd do such a thing, but he
really is in a PREPOSTEROUS way over this little
Miss Pratt, and he DID have that money--''
``By George!'' Mr. Baxter got upon his feet.
``The way he talked at dinner, I could come
pretty near believing he hasn't any more brains
LEFT than to get married on nine dollars and
eighty-five cents! I wouldn't put it past him!
By George, I wouldn't!''
``Oh, I don't think he would,'' she remonstrated,
feebly. ``Besides, the law wouldn't permit it.''
Mr. Baxter paced the floor. ``Oh, I suppose
they COULD manage it. They could go to some
little town and give false ages and--'' He broke
off. ``Adelia was sure he had his suit-case?''
She nodded. ``Do you think we'd better go
down to the Parchers'? We'd just say we came
to call, of course, and if--''
``Get your hat on,'' he said. ``I don't think
there's anything in it at all, but we'd just as well
drop down there. It can't HURT anything.''
``Of course, I don't think--'' she began.
``Neither do I,'' he interrupted, irascibly. ``But
with a boy of his age crazy enough to think he's
in love, how do WE know what 'll happen? We're
only his parents! Get your hat on.''
But when the uneasy couple found themselves
upon the pavement before the house of the
Parchers, they paused under the shade-trees in
the darkness, and presently decided that it was
not necessary to go in. Suddenly their uneasiness
had fallen from them. From the porch came
the laughter of several young voices, and then one
silvery voice, which pretended to be that of a
``Oh, s'ame! S'ame on 'oo, big Bruvva Josie-
Joe! Mus' be polite to Johnny Jump-up, or tant
play wiv May and Lola!''
``That's Miss Pratt,'' whispered Mrs. Baxter.
``She's talking to Johnnie Watson and Joe Bullitt
and May Parcher. Let's go home; it's all right.
Of course I knew it would be.''
``Why, certainly,'' said Mr. Baxter, as they
turned. ``Even if Willie were as crazy as that,
the little girl would have more sense. I wouldn't
have thought anything of it, if you hadn't told me
about the suit-case. That looked sort of queer.''
She agreed that it did, but immediately added
that she had thought nothing of it. What had
seemed more significant to her was William's
interest in the early marriage of Genesis's father,
and in the Iowa beard story, she said. Then she
said that it WAS curious about the suit-case.
And when they came to their own house again,
there was William sitting alone and silent upon
the steps of the porch.
``I thought you'd gone out, Willie,'' said his
mother, as they paused beside him.
``Adelia said you went out, carrying your suit-case.''
``Oh yes,'' he said, languidly. ``If you leave
clothes at Schwartz's in the evening they have
'em pressed in the morning. You said I looked
damp at dinner, so I took 'em over and left 'em
``I see.'' Mrs. Baxter followed her husband
to the door, but she stopped on the threshold
and called back:
``Don't sit there too long, Willie.''
``The dew is falling and it rained so hard to-
day--I'm afraid it might be damp.''
``Come on,'' Mr. Baxter said to his wife.
``He's down on the Parchers' porch, not out in
front here. Of course he can't hear you. It's
three blocks and a half.''
But William's father was mistaken. Little he
knew! William was not upon the porch of the
Parchers, with May Parcher and Joe Bullitt and
Johnnie Watson to interfere. He was far from
there, in a land where time was not. Upon a
planet floating in pink mist, and uninhabited--
unless old Mr. Genesis and some Hindoo princes
and the diligent Iowan may have established
themselves in its remoter regions--William was
alone with Miss Pratt, in the conservatory. And,
after a time, they went together, and looked into
the door of a room where an indefinite number of
little boys--all over three years of age--were
playing in the firelight upon a white-bear rug.
For, in the roseate gossamer that boys' dreams
are made of, William had indeed entered the
His condition was growing worse, every day.
XVIII. THE BIG, FAT LUMMOX
In the morning sunshine, Mrs. Baxter stood
at the top of the steps of the front porch,
addressing her son, who listened impatiently and
edged himself a little nearer the gate every time
he shifted his weight from one foot to the other.
``Willie,'' she said, ``you must really pay some
attention to the laws of health, or you'll never
live to be an old man.''
``I don't want to live to be an old man,'' said
William, earnestly. ``I'd rather do what I please
now and die a little sooner.''
``You talk very foolishly,'' his mother returned.
``Either come back and put on some heavier
THINGS or take your overcoat.''
``My overcoat!'' William groaned. ``They'd
think I was a lunatic, carrying an overcoat in
``Not to a picnic,'' she said.
``Mother, it isn't a picnic, I've told you a
hunderd times! You think it's one those ole-
fashion things YOU used to go to--sit on the damp
ground and eat sardines with ants all over 'em?
This isn't anything like that; we just go out on
the trolley to this farm-house and have noon
dinner, and dance all afternoon, and have supper,
and then come home on the trolley. I guess we'd
hardly of got up anything as out o' date as a
picnic in honor of Miss PRATT!''
Mrs. Baxter seemed unimpressed.
``It doesn't matter whether you call it a picnic
or not, Willie. It will be cool on the open trolley-
car coming home, especially with only those white
``Ye gods!'' he cried. ``I've got other things
on besides my trousers! I wish you wouldn't
always act as if I was a perfect child! Good
heavens! isn't a person my age supposed to know
how much clothes to wear?''
``Well, if he is,'' she returned, ``it's a mere
supposition and not founded on fact. Don't get so
excited, Willie, please; but you'll either have to
give up the picnic or come in and ch--''
``Change my `things'!'' he wailed. ``I can't
change my `things'! I've got just twenty minutes
to get to May Parcher's--the crowd meets
there, and they're goin' to take the trolley in
front the Parchers' at exactly a quarter after
'leven. PLEASE don't keep me any longer, mother
--I GOT to go!''
She stepped into the hall and returned
immediately. ``Here's your overcoat, Willie.''
His expression was of despair. ``They'll think
I'm a lunatic and they'll say so before everybody
--and I don't blame 'em! Overcoat on a hot day
like this! Except me, I don't suppose there was
ever anybody lived in the world and got to be
going on eighteen years old and had to carry his
silly old overcoat around with him in August--
because his mother made him!''
``Willie,'' said Mrs. Baxter, ``you don't know
how many thousands and thousands of mothers
for thousands and thousands of years have kept
their sons from taking thousands and thousands
of colds--just this way!''
He moaned. ``Well, and I got to be called a
lunatic just because you're nervous, I s'pose. All
She hung it upon his arm, kissed him; and he
departed in a desperate manner.
However, having worn his tragic face for three
blocks, he halted before a corner drug-store, and
permitted his expression to improve as he gazed
upon the window display of My Little Sweetheart
All-Tobacco Cuban Cigarettes, the Package of
Twenty for Ten Cents. William was not a
smoker--that is to say, he had made the usual
boyhood experiments, finding them discouraging;
and though at times he considered it humorously
man-about-town to say to a smoking friend,
``Well, _I_'ll tackle one o' your ole coffin-nails,'' he
had never made a purchase of tobacco in his life.
But it struck him now that it would be rather
debonair to disport himself with a package of
Little Sweethearts upon the excursion.
And the name! It thrilled him inexpressibly,
bringing a tenderness into his eyes and a glow
into his bosom. He felt that when he should
smoke a Little Sweetheart it would be a tribute
to the ineffable visitor for whom this party was
being given--it would bring her closer to him.
His young brow grew almost stern with determination,
for he made up his mind, on the spot,
that he would smoke oftener in the future--he
would become a confirmed smoker, and all his life
he would smoke My Little Sweetheart All-Tobacco
He entered and managed to make his purchase
in a matter-of-fact way, as if he were doing
something quite unemotional; then he said to the
``Oh, by the by--ah--''
The clerk stared. ``Well, what else?''
``I mean,'' said William, hurriedly, ``there's
something I wanted to 'tend to, now I happen to
be here. I was on my way to take this overcoat
to--to get something altered at the tailor's for
next winter. 'Course I wouldn't want it till
winter, but I thought I might as well get it DONE.''
He paused, laughing carelessly, for greater plaus-
ibility. ``I thought he'd prob'ly want lots of
time on the job--he's a slow worker, I've noticed
--and so I decided I might just as well go ahead
and let him get at it. Well, so I was on my way
there, but I just noticed I only got about six
minutes more to get to a mighty important
engagement I got this morning, and I'd like to
leave it here and come by and get it on my way
home, this evening.''
``Sure,'' said the clerk. ``Hang it on that
hook inside the p'scription-counter. There's one
there already, b'longs to your friend, that young
Bullitt fella. He was in here awhile ago and said
he wanted to leave his because he didn't have
time to take it to be pressed in time for next
winter. Then he went on and joined that crowd
in Mr. Parcher's yard, around the corner, that's
goin' on a trolley-party. I says, `I betcher mother
maje carry it,' and he says, `Oh no. Oh no,'
he says. `Honest, I was goin' to get it pressed!'
You can hang yours on the same nail.''
The clerk spoke no more, and went to serve
another customer, while William stared after him
a little uneasily. It seemed that here was a man
of suspicious nature, though, of course, Joe
Bullitt's shallow talk about getting an overcoat
pressed before winter would not have imposed
upon anybody. However, William felt strongly
that the private life of the customers of a store
should not be pried into and speculated about by
employees, and he was conscious of a distaste
for this clerk.
Nevertheless, it was with a lighter heart that
he left his overcoat behind him and stepped out
of the side door of the drug-store. That brought
him within sight of the gaily dressed young
people, about thirty in number, gathered upon
the small lawn beside Mr. Parcher's house.
Miss Pratt stood among them, in heliotrope
and white, Flopit nestling in her arms. She was
encircled by girls who were enthusiastically
caressing the bored and blinking Flopit; and when
William beheld this charming group, his breath
became eccentric, his knee-caps became cold and
convulsive, his neck became hot, and he broke
into a light perspiration.
She saw him! The small blonde head and the
delirious little fluffy hat above it shimmered a
nod to him. Then his mouth fell unconsciously
open, and his eyes grew glassy with the intensity
of meaning he put into the silent response he sent
across the picket fence and through the interstices
of the intervening group. Pressing with his
elbow upon the package of cigarettes in his pocket,
he murmured, inaudibly, ``My Little Sweetheart,
always for you!''--a repetition of his vow that,
come what might, he would forever remain a
loyal smoker of that symbolic brand. In fact,
William's mental condition had never shown one
moment's turn for the better since the fateful
day of the distracting visitor's arrival.
Mr. Johnnie Watson and Mr. Joe Bullitt met
him at the gate and offered him hearty greeting.
All bickering and dissension among these three
had passed. The lady was so wondrous impartial
that, as time went on, the sufferers had come
to be drawn together, rather than thrust asunder,
by their common feeling. It had grown to be a
bond uniting them; they were not so much rivals
as ardent novices serving a single altar, each
worshiping there without visible gain over the
other. Each had even come to possess, in the
eyes of his two fellows, almost a sacredness as a
sharer in the celestial glamor; they were tender
one with another. They were in the last stages.
Johnnie Watson had with him to-day a visitor
of his own--a vastly overgrown person of eighteen,
who, at Johnnie's beckoning, abandoned a
fair companion of the moment and came forward
as William entered the gate.
``I want to intradooce you to two of my most
int'mut friends, George,'' said Johnnie, with the
anxious gravity of a person about to do something
important and unfamiliar. ``Mr. Baxter, let me
intradooce my cousin, Mr.Crooper. Mr.Crooper,
this is my friend, Mr. Baxter.''
The gentlemen shook hands solemnly, saying,
``'M very glad to meet you,'' and Johnnie turned
to Joe Bullitt. ``Mr. Croo--I mean, Mr. Bullitt,
let me intradooce my friend, Mr. Crooper--I
mean my cousin, Mr. Crooper. Mr. Crooper is a
cousin of mine.''
``Glad to make your acquaintance, Mr.
Crooper,'' said Joe. ``I suppose you're a cousin
of Johnnie's, then?''
``Yep,'' said Mr. Crooper, becoming more
informal. ``Johnnie wrote me to come over for
this shindig, so I thought I might as well come.''
He laughed loudly, and the others laughed with
the same heartiness. ``Yessir,'' he added, ``I
thought I might as well come, 'cause I'm pretty
apt to be on hand if there's anything doin'!''
``Well, that's right,'' said William, and while
they all laughed again, Mr. Crooper struck his
cousin a jovial blow upon the back.
``Hi, ole sport!'' he cried, ``I want to meet that
Miss Pratt before we start. The car'll be along
pretty soon, and I got her picked for the girl I'm
goin' to sit by.''
The laughter of William and Joe Bullitt,
designed to express cordiality, suddenly became
flaccid and died. If Mr. Crooper had been a
sensitive person he might have perceived the chilling
disapproval in their glances, for they had just
begun to be most unfavorably impressed with
him. The careless loudness--almost the
notoriety--with which he had uttered Miss Pratt's
name, demanding loosely to be presented to her,
regardless of the well-known law that a lady must
first express some wish in such matters--these
were indications of a coarse nature sure to be more
than uncongenial to Miss Pratt. Its presence
might make the whole occasion distasteful to her
--might spoil her day. Both William and Joe
Bullitt began to wonder why on earth Johnnie
Watson didn't have any more sense than to
invite such a big, fat lummox of a cousin to the
This severe phrase of theirs, almost simultaneous
in the two minds, was not wholly a failure as
a thumb-nail sketch of Mr. George Crooper.
And yet there was the impressiveness of size
about him, especially about his legs and chin.
At seventeen and eighteen growth is still going
on, sometimes in a sporadic way, several parts
seeming to have sprouted faster than others.
Often the features have not quite settled down
together in harmony, a mouth, for instance,
appearing to have gained such a lead over the rest
of a face, that even a mother may fear it can
never be overtaken. Voices, too, often seem
misplaced; one hears, outside the door, the bass
rumble of a sinister giant, and a mild boy, thin
as a cricket, walks in. The contrary was George
Crooper's case; his voice was an unexpected
piping tenor, half falsetto and frequently girlish
--as surprising as the absurd voice of an elephant.
He had the general outwardness of a vast and
lumpy child. His chin had so distanced his other
features that his eyes, nose, and brow seemed
almost baby-like in comparison, while his mountainous
legs were the great part of the rest of
him. He was one of those huge, bottle-shaped
boys who are always in motion in spite of their
cumbersomeness. His gestures were continuous,
though difficult to interpret as bearing upon the
subject of his equally continuous conversation;
and under all circumstances he kept his conspicuous
legs incessantly moving, whether he was
going anywhere or remaining in comparatively
His expression was pathetically offensive, the
result of his bland confidence in the audible
opinions of a small town whereof his father was
the richest inhabitant--and the one thing about
him, even more obvious than his chin, his legs,
and his spectacular taste in flannels, was his
perfect trust that he was as welcome to every one
as he was to his mother. This might some day
lead him in the direction of great pain, but on
the occasion of the ``subscription party'' for Miss
Pratt it gave him an advantage.
``When do I get to meet that cutie?'' he
insisted, as Johnnie Watson moved backward from
the cousinly arm, which threatened further flailing.
``You intradooced me to about seven I
can't do much FOR, but I want to get the howdy
business over with this Miss Pratt, so I and she
can get things started. I'm goin' to keep her
busy all day!''
``Well, don't be in such a hurry,'' said Johnnie,
uneasily. ``You can meet her when we get out
in the country--if I get a chance, George.''
``No, sir!'' George protested, jovially. ``I
guess you're sad birds over in this town, but look
out! When I hit a town it don't take long till
they all hear there's something doin'! You know
how I am when I get started, Johnnie!'' Here
he turned upon William, tucking his fat arm
affectionately through William's thin one. ``Hi,
sport! Ole Johnnie's so slow, YOU toddle me over
and get me fixed up with this Miss Pratt, and
I'll tell her you're the real stuff--after we get
He was evidently a true cloud-compeller, this
XIX. ``I DUNNO WHY IT IS''
William extricated his arm, huskily muttering
words which were lost in the general
outcry, ``Car's coming!'' The young people
poured out through the gate, and, as the car
stopped, scrambled aboard. For a moment
everything was hurried and confused. William
struggled anxiously to push through to Miss
Pratt and climb up beside her, but Mr. George
Crooper made his way into the crowd in a beaming,
though bull-like manner, and a fat back in
a purple-and-white ``blazer'' flattened William's
nose, while ponderous heels damaged William's
toes; he was shoved back, and just managed to
clamber upon the foot-board as the car started.
The friendly hand of Joe Bullitt pulled him to a
seat, and William found himself rubbing his nose
and sitting between Joe and Johnnie Watson,
directly behind the dashing Crooper and Miss
Pratt. Mr. Crooper had already taken Flopit
upon his lap.
``Dogs are always crazy 'bout me,'' they heard
him say, for his high voice was but too audible
over all other sounds. ``Dogs and chuldren. I
dunno why it is, but they always take to me.
My name's George Crooper, Third, Johnnie Watson's
cousin. He was tryin' to intradooce me
before the car came along, but he never got the
chance. I guess as this shindig's for you, and I'm
the only other guest from out o' town, we'll have
to intradooce ourselves--the two guests of honor,
as it were.''
Miss Pratt laughed her silvery laugh, murmured
politely, and turned no freezing glance
upon her neighbor. Indeed, it seemed that she
was far from regarding him with the distaste
anticipated by William and Joe Bullitt. ``Flopit
look so toot an' tunnin','' she was heard to
remark. ``Flopit look so 'ittle on dray, big,
'normous man's lap.''
Mr. Crooper laughed deprecatingly. ``He does
look kind of small compared with the good ole
man that's got charge of him, now! Well, I
always was a good deal bigger than the fellas I
went with. I dunno why it is, but I was always
kind of quicker, too, as it were--and the strongest
in any crowd I ever got with. I'm kind of muscle-
bound, I guess, but I don't let that interfere with
my quickness any. Take me in an automobile,
now--I got a racin'-car at home--and I keep my
head better than most people do, as it were. I
can kind of handle myself better; I dunno why
it is. My brains seem to work better than other
people's, that's all it is. I don't mean that I
got more sense, or anything like that; it's just
the way my brains work; they kind of put me
at an advantage, as it were. Well, f'rinstance,
if I'd been livin' here in this town and joined in
with the crowd to get up this party, well, it
would of been done a good deal diff'rent. I won't
say better, but diff'rent. That's always the way
with me if I go into anything, pretty soon I'm
running the whole shebang; I dunno why it is.
The other people might try to run it their way
for a while, but pretty soon you notice 'em beginning
to step out of the way for good ole George.
I dunno why it is, but that's the way it goes.
Well, if I'd been running THIS party I'd of had
automobiles to go out in, not a trolley-car where
you all got to sit together--and I'd of sent over
home for my little racer and I'd of taken you
out in her myself. I wish I'd of sent for it,
anyway. We could of let the rest go out in the
trolley, and you and I could of got off by ourselves:
I'd like you to see that little car. Well,
anyway, I bet you'd of seen something pretty
different and a whole lot better if I'd of come
over to this town in time to get up this party
``For US,'' Miss Pratt corrected him, sunnily.
``Bofe strangers--party for us two--all bofe!''
And she gave him one of her looks.
Mr. Crooper flushed with emotion; he was
annexed; he became serious. ``Say,'' he said,
``that's a mighty smooth hat you got on.'' And
he touched the fluffy rim of it with his forefinger.
His fat shoulders leaned toward her yearningly.
``We'd cert'nly of had a lot better time sizzin'
along in that little racer I got,'' he said. ``I'd
like to had you see how I handle that little car.
Girls over home, they say they like to go out
with me just to watch the way I handle her;
they say it ain't so much just the ride, but more
the way I handle that little car. I dunno why
it is, but that's what they say. That's the way
I do anything I make up my mind to tackle,
though. I don't try to tackle everything--there's
lots o' things I wouldn't take enough interest in
'em, as it were--but just lemme make up my
mind once, and it's all off; I dunno why it is.
There was a brakeman on the train got kind of
fresh: he didn't know who I was. Well, I just
put my hand on his shoulder and pushed him
down in his seat like this''--he set his hand upon
Miss Pratt's shoulder. ``I didn't want to hit
him, because there was women and chuldren in
the car, so I just shoved my face up close to
him, like this. `I guess you don't know how
much stock my father's got in this road,' I says.
Did he wilt? Well, you ought of seen that brakeman
when I got through tellin' him who I was!''
``Nassy ole brateman!'' said Miss Pratt, with
Mr. Crooper's fat hand, as if unconsciously,
gave Miss Pratt's delicate shoulder a little pat
in reluctant withdrawal. ``Well, that's the way
with me,'' he said. ``Much as I been around this
world, nobody ever tried to put anything over on
me and got away with it. They always come
out the little end o' the horn; I dunno why it is.
Say, that's a mighty smooth locket you got on
the end o' that chain, there.'' And again stretching
forth his hand, in a proprietor-like way, he
began to examine the locket.
Three hot hearts, just behind, pulsated hatred
toward him; for Johnnie Watson had perceived
his error, and his sentiments were now linked to
those of Joe Bullitt and William. The unhappiness
of these three helpless spectators was the
more poignant because not only were they
witnesses of the impression of greatness which
George Crooper was obviously producing upon
Miss Pratt, but they were unable to prevent
themselves from being likewise impressed.
They were not analytical; they dumbly
accepted George at his own rating, not even being
able to charge him with lack of modesty. Did
he not always accompany his testimonials to
himself with his deprecating falsetto laugh and
``I dunno why it is,'' an official disclaimer of
merit, ``as it were''? Here was a formidable
candidate, indeed--a traveler, a man of the world,
with brains better and quicker than other people's
brains; an athlete, yet knightly--he would not
destroy even a brakeman in the presence of
women and children--and, finally, most enviable
and deadly, the owner and operator of a ``little
racer''! All this glitter was not far short of
overpowering; and yet, though accepting it as
fact, the woeful three shared the inconsistent
belief that in spite of everything George was
nothing but a big, fat lummox. For thus they
even rather loudly whispered of him--almost as
if hopeful that Miss Pratt, and mayhap George
himself, might overhear.
Impotent their seething! The overwhelming
Crooper pursued his conquering way. He leaned
more and more toward the magnetic girl, his
growing tenderness having that effect upon him,
and his head inclining so far that his bedewed
brow now and then touched the fluffy hat. He
was constitutionally restless, but his movements
never ended by placing a greater distance
between himself and Miss Pratt, though they
sometimes discommoded Miss Parcher, who sat at
the other side of him--a side of him which
appeared to be without consciousness. He played
naively with Miss Pratt's locket and with the
filmy border of her collar; he flicked his nose for
some time with her little handkerchief, loudly
sniffing its scent; and finally he became interested
in a ring she wore, removed it, and tried
unsuccessfully to place it upon one of his own
``I've worn lots o' girls' rings on my watch-fob.
I'd let 'em wear mine on a chain or something.
I guess they like to do that with me,'' he said.
``I dunno why it is.''
At this subtle hint the three unfortunates held
their breath, and then lost it as the lovely girl
acquiesced in the horrible exchange. As for
William, life was of no more use to him. Out of
the blue heaven of that bright morning's promise
had fallen a pall, draping his soul in black and
purple. He had been horror-stricken when first
the pudgy finger of George Crooper had touched
the fluffy edge of that sacred little hat; then,
during George's subsequent pawings and leanings,
William felt that he must either rise and murder
or go mad. But when the exchange of rings was
accomplished, his spirit broke and even resentment
oozed away. For a time there was no room
in him for anything except misery.
Dully, William's eyes watched the fat shoulders
hitching and twitching, while the heavy arms
flourished in gesture and in further pawings.
Again and again were William's ears afflicted
with, ``I dunno why it is,'' following upon tribute
after tribute paid by Mr. Crooper to himself, and
received with little cries of admiration and sweet
child-words on the part of Miss Pratt. It was a
long and accursed ride.
XX. SYDNEY CARTON
At the farm-house where the party were to dine,
Miss Pratt with joy discovered a harmonium
in the parlor, and, seating herself, with all the
girls, Flopit, and Mr. George Crooper gathered
around her, she played an accompaniment, while
George, in a thin tenor of detestable sweetness,
sang ``I'm Falling in Love with Some One.''
His performance was rapturously greeted,
especially by the accompanist. ``Oh, wunnerfulest
Untle Georgiecums!'' she cried, for that was now
the gentleman's name. ``If Johnnie McCormack
hear Untle Georgiecums he go shoot umself dead--
Bang!'' She looked round to where three figures
hovered morosely in the rear. ``Tum on, sin'
chorus, Big Bruvva Josie-Joe, Johnny Jump-up,
an' Ickle Boy Baxter. All over adain, Untle
Georgiecums! Boys an' dirls all sin' chorus.
And so the heartrending performance continued
until it was stopped by Wallace Banks, the
altruistic and perspiring youth who had charge
of the subscription-list for the party, and the
consequent collection of assessments. This
entitled Wallace to look haggard and to act as
master of ceremonies. He mounted a chair.
``Ladies and gentlemen,'' he bellowed, ``I want
to say--that is--ah--I am requested to announce t
that before dinner we're all supposed to take a
walk around the farm and look at things, as this
is supposed to be kind of a model farm or
supposed to be something like that. There's a
Swedish lady named Anna going to show us
around. She's out in the yard waiting, so please
follow her to inspect the farm.''
To inspect a farm was probably the least of
William's desires. He wished only to die in some
quiet spot and to have Miss Pratt told about it in
words that would show her what she had thrown
away. But he followed with the others, in the
wake of the Swedish lady named Anna, and as
they stood in the cavernous hollow of the great
barn he found his condition suddenly improved.
Miss Pratt turned to him unexpectedly and
placed Flopit in his arms. ``Keep p'eshus Flopit
cozy,'' she whispered. ``Flopit love ole friends
William's heart leaped, while a joyous warmth
spread all over him. And though the execrable
lummox immediately propelled Miss Pratt forward--
by her elbow--to hear the descriptive
remarks of the Swedish lady named Anna, William's
soul remained uplifted and entranced. She
had not said ``like''; she had said, ``Flopit LOVE
ole friends best''! William pressed forward valiantly,
and placed himself as close as possible
upon the right of Miss Pratt, the lummox being
upon her left. A moment later, William wished
that he had remained in the rear.
This was due to the unnecessary frankness of
the Swedish lady named Anna, who was briefly
pointing out the efficiency of various agricultural
devices. Her attention being diverted by some
effusions of pride on the part of a passing hen,
she thought fit to laugh and say:
``She yust laid egg.''
William shuddered. This grossness in the presence
of Miss Pratt was unthinkable. His mind
refused to deal with so impossible a situation; he
could not accept it as a fact that such words had
actually been uttered in such a presence. And
yet it was the truth; his incredulous ears still
sizzled. ``She yust laid egg!'' His entire skin
became flushed; his averted eyes glazed themselves
He was not the only person shocked by the
ribaldry of the Swedish lady named Anna. Joe
Bullitt and Johnnie Watson, on the outskirts of
the group, went to Wallace Banks, drew him
aside, and, with feverish eloquence, set his
responsibilities before him. It was his duty, they
urged, to have an immediate interview with this
free-spoken Anna and instruct her in the proprieties.
Wallace had been almost as horrified as
they by her loose remark, but he declined the
office they proposed for him, offering, however,
to appoint them as a committee with authority
in the matter--whereupon they retorted with
unreasonable indignation, demanding to know
what he took them for.
Unconscious of the embarrassment she had
caused in these several masculine minds, the
Swedish lady named Anna led the party onward,
continuing her agricultural lecture. William
walked mechanically, his eyes averted and looking
at no one. And throughout this agony he
was burningly conscious of the blasphemed
presence of Miss Pratt beside him.
Therefore, it was with no little surprise, when
the party came out of the barn, that William
beheld Miss Pratt, not walking at his side, but
on the contrary, sitting too cozily with George
Crooper upon a fallen tree at the edge of a peach-
orchard just beyond the barn-yard. It was Miss
Parcher who had been walking beside him, for
the truant couple had made their escape at the
beginning of the Swedish lady's discourse.
In vain William murmured to himself, ``Flopit
love ole friends best.'' Purple and black again
descended upon his soul, for he could not disguise
from himself the damnatory fact that George
had flitted with the lady, while he, wretched William,
had been permitted to take care of the dog!
A spark of dignity still burned within him. He
strode to the barn-yard fence, and, leaning over it,
dropped Flopit rather brusquely at his mistress's
feet. Then, without a word even without a look
--William walked haughtily away, continuing his
stern progress straight through the barn-yard
gate, and thence onward until he found himself
in solitude upon the far side of a smoke-house,
where his hauteur vanished.
Here, in the shade of a great walnut-tree which
sheltered the little building, he gave way--not to
tears, certainly, but to faint murmurings and
little heavings under impulses as ancient as young
love itself. It is to be supposed that William
considered his condition a lonely one, but if all the
seventeen-year-olds who have known such half-
hours could have shown themselves to him then,
he would have fled from the mere horror of
billions. Alas! he considered his sufferings a new
invention in the world, and there was now inspired
in his breast a monologue so eloquently bitter
that it might deserve some such title as A Passion
Beside the Smoke-house. During the little time
that William spent in this sequestration he
passed through phases of emotion which would
have kept an older man busy for weeks and left
him wrecked at the end of them.
William's final mood was one of beautiful
resignation with a kick in it; that is, he nobly gave
her up to George and added irresistibly that
George was a big, fat lummox! Painting pictures,
such as the billions of other young sufferers
before him have painted, William saw
himself a sad, gentle old bachelor at the family
fireside, sometimes making the sacrifice of his
reputation so that SHE and the children might
never know the truth about George; and he gave
himself the solace of a fierce scene or two with
George: ``Remember, it is for them, not you--
After this human little reaction he passed to
a higher field of romance. He would die for
George and then she would bring the little boy
she had named William to the lonely headstone--
Suddenly William saw himself in his true and
fitting character--Sydney Carton! He had
lately read A Tale of Two Cities, immediately
re-reading until, as he would have said, he ``knew
it by heart''; and even at the time he had seen
resemblances between himself and the appealing
figure of Carton. Now that the sympathy between
them was perfected by Miss Pratt's preference
for another, William decided to mount the
scaffold in place of George Crooper. The scene
became actual to him, and, setting one foot upon
a tin milk-pail which some one had carelessly
left beside the smoke-house, he lifted his eyes to
the pitiless blue sky and unconsciously assumed
the familiar attitude of Carton on the steps of
the guillotine. He spoke aloud those great last
``It is a far, far better thing that I do, than
I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that
I go to--''
A whiskered head on the end of a long,
corrugated red neck protruded from the smoke-
``What say?'' it inquired, huskily.
``Nun-nothing!'' stammered William.
Eyes above whiskers became fierce. ``You
take your feet off that milk-bucket. Say! This
here's a sanitary farm. 'Ain't you got any more
sense 'n to go an'--''
But William had abruptly removed his foot
He found the party noisily established in the
farm-house at two long tables piled with bucolic
viands already being violently depleted. Johnnie
Watson had kept a chair beside himself vacant for
William. Johnnie was in no frame of mind to sit
beside any ``chattering girl,'' and he had
protected himself by Joe Bullitt upon his right and
the empty seat upon his left. William took it,
and gazed upon the nearer foods with a slight
renewal of animation.
He began to eat; he continued to eat; in fact,
he did well. So did his two comrades. Not that
the melancholy of these three was dispersed--
far from it! With ineffaceable gloom they ate
chicken, both white meat and dark, drumsticks,
wishbones, and livers; they ate corn-on-the-cob,
many ears, and fried potatoes and green peas
and string-beans; they ate peach preserves and
apricot preserves and preserved pears; they ate
biscuits with grape jelly and biscuits with crab-
apple jelly; they ate apple sauce and apple butter
and apple pie. They ate pickles, both cucumber
pickles and pickles made of watermelon rind;
they ate pickled tomatoes, pickled peppers, also
pickled onions. They ate lemon pie.
At that, they were no rivals to George Crooper,
who was a real eater. Love had not made his
appetite ethereal to-day, and even the attending
Swedish lady named Anna felt some apprehension
when it came to George and the gravy,
though she was accustomed to the prodigies
performed in this line by the robust hands on the
farm. George laid waste his section of the
table, and from the beginning he allowed himself
scarce time to say, ``I dunno why it is.'' The
pretty companion at his side at first gazed
dumfounded; then, with growing enthusiasm for
what promised to be a really magnificent
performance, she began to utter little ejaculations of
wonder and admiration. With this music in his
ears, George outdid himself. He could not resist
the temptation to be more and more astonishing
as a heroic comedian, for these humors sometimes
come upon vain people at country dinners.
George ate when he had eaten more than he
needed; he ate long after every one understood
why he was so vast; he ate on and on sheerly
as a flourish--as a spectacle. He ate even
when he himself began to understand that there
was daring in what he did, for his was a toreador
spirit so long as he could keep bright eyes fastened
Finally, he ate to decide wagers made upon his
gorging, though at times during this last period
his joviality deserted him. Anon his damp brow
would be troubled, and he knew moments of
XXI. MY LITTLE SWEETHEARTS
When George did stop, it was abruptly,
during one of these intervals of sobriety,
and he and Miss Pratt came out of the
house together rather quietly, joining one of the
groups of young people chatting with after-
dinner languor under the trees. However, Mr.
Crooper began to revive presently, in the sweet
air of outdoors, and, observing some of the more
flashing gentlemen lighting cigarettes, he was
moved to laughter. He had not smoked since
his childhood--having then been bonded through
to twenty-one with a pledge of gold--and he
feared that these smoking youths might feel
themselves superior. Worse, Miss Pratt might be
impressed, therefore he laughed in scorn, saying:
``Burnin' up ole trash around here, I expect!''
He sniffed searchingly. ``Somebody's set some
ole rags on fire.'' Then, as in discovery, he
cried, ``Oh no, only cigarettes!''
Miss Pratt, that tactful girl, counted four
smokers in the group about her, and only one
abstainer, George. She at once defended the
smokers, for it is to be feared that numbers
always had weight with her. ``Oh, but cigarettes
is lubly smell!'' she said. ``Untle Georgiecums
maybe be too 'ittle boy for smokings!''
This archness was greeted loudly by the
smokers, and Mr. Crooper was put upon his
mettle. He spoke too quickly to consider
whether or no the facts justified his assertion.
``Me? I don't smoke paper and ole carpets. I
He had created the right impression, for Miss
Pratt clapped her hands. ``Oh, 'plendid! Light
one, Untle Georgiecums! Light one ever 'n' ever
so quick! P'eshus Flopit an' me we want see
dray, big, 'normous man smoke dray, big,
William and Johnnie Watson, who had been
hovering morbidly, unable to resist the lodestone,
came nearer, Johnnie being just in time to hear
his cousin's reply.
``I--I forgot my cigar-case.''
Johnnie's expression became one of biting
skepticism. ``What you talkin' about, George?
Didn't you promise Uncle George you'd never
smoke till you're of age, and Uncle George said
he'd give you a thousand dollars on your twenty-
first birthday? What 'd you say about your
George felt that he was in a tight place, and
the lovely eyes of Miss Pratt turned upon him
questioningly. He could not flush, for he was
already so pink after his exploits with
unnecessary nutriment that more pinkness was
impossible. He saw that the only safety for him
lay in boisterous prevarication. ``A thousand
dollars!'' he laughed loudly. ``I thought that
was real money when I was ten years old! It
didn't stand in MY way very long, I guess! Good
ole George wanted his smoke, and he went after
it! You know how I am, Johnnie, when I go
after anything. I been smokin' cigars I dunno
how long!'' Glancing about him, his eye became
reassured; it was obvious that even Johnnie had
accepted this airy statement as the truth, and to
clinch plausibility he added: ``When I smoke, I
smoke! I smoke cigars straight along--light one
right on the stub of the other. I only wish I had
some with me, because I miss 'em after a meal.
I'd give a good deal for something to smoke
right now! I don't mean cigarettes; I don't
want any paper--I want something that's all
William's pale, sad face showed a hint of color.
With a pang he remembered the package of
My Little Sweetheart All-Tobacco Cuban Cigarettes
(the Package of Twenty for Ten Cents)
which still reposed, untouched, in the breast
pocket of his coat. His eyes smarted a little
as he recalled the thoughts and hopes that had
accompanied the purchase; but he thought,
``What would Sydney Carton do?''
William brought forth the package of My
Little Sweetheart All-Tobacco Cuban Cigarettes
and placed it in the large hand of George Crooper.
And this was a noble act, for William believed
that George really wished to smoke. ``Here,'' he
said, ``take these; they're all tobacco. I'm
goin' to quit smokin', anyway.'' And, thinking
of the name, he added, gently, with a significance
lost upon all his hearers, ``I'm sure you ought to
have 'em instead of me.''
Then he went away and sat alone upon the
``Light one, light one!'' cried Miss Pratt.
``Ev'ybody mus' be happy, an' dray, big,
'normous man tan't be happy 'less he have his
all-tobatto smote. Light it, light it!''
George drew as deep a breath as his diaphragm,
strangely oppressed since dinner, would permit,
and then bravely lit a Little Sweetheart. There
must have been some valiant blood in him,
for, as he exhaled the smoke, he covered a slight
choking by exclaiming, loudly: ``THAT'S good!
That's the ole stuff! That's what I was lookin'
Miss Pratt was entranced. ``Oh, 'plendid!''
she cried, watching him with fascinated eyes.
``Now take dray, big, 'normous puffs! Take
dray, big, 'NORMOUS puffs!''
George took great, big, enormous puffs.
She declared that she loved to watch men
smoke, and William's heart, as he sat on the
distant fence, was wrung and wrung again by the
vision of her playful ecstasies. But when he saw
her holding what was left of the first Little
Sweetheart for George to light a second at its
expiring spark, he could not bear it. He dropped
from the fence and moped away to be out of sight
once more. This was his darkest hour.
Studiously avoiding the vicinity of the smoke-
house, he sought the little orchard where he had
beheld her sitting with George; and there he sat
himself in sorrowful reverie upon the selfsame
fallen tree. How long he remained there is
uncertain, but he was roused by the sound of music
which came from the lawn before the farm-
house. Bitterly he smiled, remembering that
Wallace Banks had engaged Italians with harp,
violin, and flute, promising great things for
dancing on a fresh-clipped lawn--a turf floor
being no impediment to seventeen's dancing.
Music! To see her whirling and smiling sunnily
in the fat grasp of that dancing bear! He
would stay in this lonely orchard; SHE would not
But though he hated the throbbing music and
the sound of the laughing voices that came to
him, he could not keep away--and when he
reached the lawn where the dancers were, he
found Miss Pratt moving rhythmically in the thin
grasp of Wallace Banks. Johnnie Watson
approached, and spoke in a low tone, tinged with
``Well, anyway, ole fat George didn't get the
first dance with her! She's the guest of honor,
and Wallace had a right to it because he did all
the work. He came up to 'em and ole fat
George couldn't say a thing. Wallace just took
her right away from him. George didn't say
anything at all, but I s'pose after this dance he'll
be rushin' around again and nobody else 'll have
a chance to get near her the rest of the afternoon.
My mother told me I ought to invite him over
here, out I had no business to do it; he don't
know the first principles of how to act in a town
he don't live in!''
``Where'd he go?'' William asked, listlessly,
for Mr. Crooper was nowhere in sight.
``I don't know--he just walked off without
sayin' anything. But he'll be back, time this
dance is over, never you fear, and he'll grab her
again and-- What's the matter with Joe?''
Joseph Bullitt had made his appearance at a
corner of the house, some distance from where
they stood. His face was alert under the impulse
of strong excitement, and he beckoned fiercely.
``Come here!'' And, when they had obeyed,
``He's around back of the house by a kind of
shed,'' said Joe. ``I think something's wrong.
Come on, I'll show him to you.''
But behind the house, whither they followed
him in vague, strange hope, he checked them.
``LOOK THERE!'' he said.
His pointing finger was not needed. Sounds
of paroxysm drew their attention sufficiently--
sounds most poignant, soul-rending, and
lugubrious. William and Johnnie perceived the
large person of Mr. Crooper; he was seated upon
the ground, his back propped obliquely against
the smoke-house, though this attitude was not
Facing him, at a little distance, a rugged figure
in homely garments stood leaning upon a hoe
and regarding George with a cold interest.
The apex of this figure was a volcanic straw hat,
triangular in profile and coned with an open
crater emitting reddish wisps, while below the hat
were several features, but more whiskers, at the
top of a long, corrugated red neck of sterling
worth. A husky voice issued from the whiskers,
``I seen you!'' it said. ``I seen you eatin'!
This here farm is supposed to be a sanitary farm,
and you'd ought of knew better. Go it, doggone
you! Go it!''
George complied. And three spectators,
remaining aloof, but watching zealously, began
to feel their lost faith in Providence returning
into them; their faces brightened slowly, and
without relapse. It was a visible thing how the
world became fairer and better in their eyes
during that little while they stood there. And
William saw that his Little Sweethearts had been
an inspired purchase, after all; they had
delivered the final tap upon a tottering edifice.
George's deeds at dinner had unsettled, but
Little Sweethearts had overthrown--and now
there was awful work among the ruins, to an
ironical accompaniment of music from the front
yard, where people danced in heaven's sunshine!
This accompaniment came to a stop, and
Johnnie Watson jumped. He seized each of his
companions by a sleeve and spoke eagerly, his
eyes glowing with a warm and brotherly light.
``Here!'' he cried. ``We better get around there
--this looks like it was goin' to last all afternoon.
Joe, you get the next dance with her, and just
about time the music slows up you dance her
around so you can stop right near where Bill
will be standin', so Bill can get her quick for the
dance after that. Then, Bill, you do the same
for me, and I'll do the same for Joe again, and
then, Joe, you do it for Bill again, and then Bill
for me--and so on. If we go in right now and
work together we can crowd the rest out, and
there won't anybody else get to dance with her
the whole day! Come on quick!''
United in purpose, the three ran lightly to the
dancing-lawn, and Mr. Bullitt was successful,
after a little debate, in obtaining the next dance
with the lovely guest of the day. ``I did promise
big Untle Georgiecums,'' she said, looking about
``Well, I don't think he'll come,'' said Joe.
``That is, I'm pretty sure he won't.''
A shade fell upon the exquisite face. ``No'ty.
Bruvva Josie-Joe! The Men ALWAYS tum when
Lola promises dances. Mustn't be rude!''
``Well--'' Joe began, when he was interrupted
by the Swedish lady named Anna, who spoke
to them from the steps of the house. Of the
merrymakers they were the nearest.
``Dot pick fella,'' said Anna, ``dot one dot
eats--we make him in a petroom. He holler!
He tank he neet some halp.''
``Does he want a doctor?'' Joe asked.
``Doctor? No! He want make him in a
amyoulance for hospital!''
``I'll go look at him,'' Johnnie Watson
volunteered, running up. ``He's my cousin, and I
guess I got to take the responsibility.''
Miss Pratt paid the invalid the tribute of one
faintly commiserating glance toward the house.
``Well,'' she said, ``if people would rather eat too
much than dance!'' She meant ``dance with
ME!'' though she thought it prettier not to say
so. ``Come on, Bruvva Josie-Joe!'' she cried,
And a little later Johnnie Watson approached
her where she stood with a restored and refulgent
William, about to begin the succeeding dance.
Johnnie dropped into her hand a ring, receiving
one in return. ``I thought I better GET it,'' he
said, offering no further explanation. ``I'll take
care of his until we get home. He's all right,''
said Johnnie, and then perceiving a sudden
advent of apprehension upon the sensitive brow
of William, he went on reassuringly: ``He's
doin' as well as anybody could expect; that is--
after the crazy way he DID! He's always been
considered the dumbest one in all our relations--
never did know how to act. I don't mean he's
exactly not got his senses, or ought to be watched,
anything like that--and of course he belongs to
an awful good family--but he's just kind of the
black sheep when it comes to intelligence, or
anything like that. I got him as comfortable as a
person could be, and they're givin' him hot water
and mustard and stuff, but what he needs now is
just to be kind of quiet. It'll do him a lot o'
good,'' Johnnie concluded, with a spark in his
voice, ``to lay there the rest of the afternoon and
get quieted down, kind of.''
``You don't think there's any--'' William
began, and, after a pause, continued--``any hope
--of his getting strong enough to come out and
Johnnie shook his head. ``None in the
world!'' he said, conclusively. ``The best we can
do for him is to let him entirely alone till after
supper, and then ask nobody to sit on the back
seat of the trolley-car goin' home, so we can
make him comfortable back there, and let him
kind of stretch out by himself.''
Then gaily tinkled harp, gaily sang flute and
violin! Over the greensward William lightly
bore his lady, while radiant was the cleared sky
above the happy dancers. William's fingers
touched those delicate fingers; the exquisite
face smiled rosily up to him; undreamable sweetness
beat rhythmically upon his glowing ears;
his feet moved in a rhapsody of companionship
with hers. They danced and danced and danced!
Then Joe danced with her, while William and
Johnnie stood with hands upon each other's
shoulders and watched, mayhap with longing,
but without spite; then Johnnie danced with her
while Joe and William watched--and then William
danced with her again.
So passed the long, ineffable afternoon away--
``. . . 'Jav a good time at the trolley-party?''
the clerk in the corner drug-store inquired that
``Fine!'' said William, taking his overcoat
from the hook where he had left it.
``How j' like them Little Sweethearts I sold
``FINE!'' said William.
Now the last rose had blown; the dandelion
globes were long since on the wind;
gladioli and golden-glow and salvia were here;
the season moved toward asters and the goldenrod.
This haloed summer still idled on its way,
yet all the while sped quickly; like some languid
lady in an elevator.
There came a Sunday--very hot.
Mr. and Mrs. Baxter, having walked a scorched
half-mile from church, drooped thankfully into
wicker chairs upon their front porch, though
Jane, who had accompanied them, immediately
darted away, swinging her hat by its ribbon and
skipping as lithesomely as if she had just come
forth upon a cool morning.
``I don't know how she does it!'' her father
moaned, glancing after her and drying his forehead
temporarily upon a handkerchief. ``That
would merely kill me dead, after walking in
Then, for a time, the two were content to sit
in silence, nodding to occasional acquaintances
who passed in the desultory after-church
procession. Mr. Baxter fanned himself with sporadic
little bursts of energy which made his straw hat
creak, and Mrs. Baxter sighed with the heat, and
gently rocked her chair.
But as a group of five young people passed
along the other side of the street Mr. Baxter
abruptly stopped fanning himself, and, following
the direction of his gaze, Mrs. Baxter ceased to
rock. In half-completed attitudes they leaned
slightly forward, sharing one of those pauses
of parents who unexpectedly behold their offspring.
``My soul!'' said William's father. ``Hasn't
that girl gone home YET?''
``He looks pale to me,'' Mrs. Baxter murmured,
absently. ``I don't think he seems at all well,
During seventeen years Mr. Baxter had gradually
learned not to protest anxieties of this kind,
unless he desired to argue with no prospect of
ever getting a decision. ``Hasn't she got any
HOME?'' he demanded, testily. ``Isn't she ever
going to quit visiting the Parchers and let people
have a little peace?''
Mrs. Baxter disregarded this outburst as he
had disregarded her remark about William's
pallor. ``You mean Miss Pratt?'' she inquired,
dreamily, her eyes following the progress of her
son. ``No, he really doesn't look well at all.''
``Is she going to visit the Parchers all summer?''
Mr. Baxter insisted.
``She already has, about,'' said Mrs. Baxter.
``Look at that boy!'' the father grumbled.
``Mooning along with those other moon-calves--
can't even let her go to church alone! I wonder
how many weeks of time, counting it out in
hours, he's wasted that way this summer?''
``Oh, I don't know! You see, he never goes
there in the evening.''
``What of that? He's there all day, isn't he?
What do they find to talk about? That's the
mystery to me! Day after day; hours and hours--
My soul! What do they SAY?''
Mrs. Baxter laughed indulgently. ``People are
always wondering that about the other ages.
Poor Willie! I think that a great deal of the
time their conversation would be probably about
as inconsequent as it is now. You see Willie
and Joe Bullitt are walking one on each side of
Miss Pratt, and Johnnie Watson has to walk
behind with May Parcher. Joe and Johnnie are
there about as much as Willie is, and, of course,
it's often his turn to be nice to May Parcher. He
hasn't many chances to be tete-a-tete with Miss
``Well, she ought to go home. I want that boy
to get back into his senses. He's in an awful
``I think she is going soon,'' said Mrs. Baxter.
``The Parchers are to have a dance for her
Friday night, and I understand there's to be a
floor laid in the yard and great things. It's a
``That's one mercy, anyhow!''
``And if you wonder what they say,'' she
resumed, ``why, probably they're all talking
about the party. And when Willie IS alone with
her--well, what does anybody say?'' Mrs. Baxter
interrupted herself to laugh. ``Jane, for
instance--she's always fascinated by that darky,
Genesis, when he's at work here in the yard, and
they have long, long talks; I've seen them from
the window. What on earth do you suppose
they talk about? That's where Jane is now.
She knew I told Genesis I'd give him something
if he'd come and freeze the ice-cream for us to-
day, and when we got here she heard the freezer
and hopped right around there. If you went out
to the back porch you'd find them talking
steadily--but what on earth about I couldn't
guess to save my life!''
And yet nothing could have been simpler: as
a matter of fact, Jane and Genesis (attended by
Clematis) were talking about society. That is to
say, their discourse was not sociologic; rather it
was of the frivolous and elegant. Watteau
prevailed with them over John Stuart Mill--in a
word, they spoke of the beau monde.
Genesis turned the handle of the freezer with
his left hand, allowing his right the freedom of
gesture which was an intermittent necessity when
he talked. In the matter of dress, Genesis had
always been among the most informal of his race,
but to-day there was a change almost unnerving
to the Caucasian eye. He wore a balloonish suit
of purple, strangely scalloped at pocket and cuff,
and more strangely decorated with lines of small
parasite buttons, in color blue, obviously buttons
of leisure. His bulbous new shoes flashed back
yellow fire at the embarrassed sun, and his collar
(for he had gone so far) sent forth other sparkles,
playing upon a polished surface over an inner
graining of soot. Beneath it hung a simple,
white, soiled evening tie, draped in a manner
unintended by its manufacturer, and heavily
overburdened by a green glass medallion of the
Emperor Tiberius, set in brass.
``Yesm,'' said Genesis. ``Now I'm in 'at
Swim--flyin' roun' ev'y night wif all lem blue-
vein people--I say, `Mus' go buy me some
blue-vein clo'es! Ef I'm go'n' a START, might's
well start HIGH!' So firs', I buy me thishere gol'
necktie pin wi' thishere lady's face carved out o'
green di'mon', sittin' in the middle all 'at gol'.
'Nen I buy me pair Royal King shoes. I got a
frien' o' mine, thishere Blooie Bowers; he say
Royal King shoes same kine o' shoes HE wear, an'
I walk straight in 'at sto' where they keep 'em
at. `Don' was'e my time showin' me no ole-
time shoes,' I say. `Run out some them big,
yella, lump-toed Royal Kings befo' my eyes, an'
firs' pair fit me I pay price, an' wear 'em right
off on me!' 'Nen I got me thishere suit o' clo'es
--OH, oh! Sign on 'em in window: `Ef you wish
to be bes'-dress' man in town take me home fer
six dolluhs ninety-sevum cents.' ` 'At's kine o'
suit Genesis need,' I say. `Ef Genesis go'n' a
start dressin' high, might's well start top!' ''
Jane nodded gravely, comprehending the
reasonableness of this view. ``What made you
decide to start, Genesis?'' she asked, earnestly. ``I
mean, how did it happen you began to get
``Well, suh, 'tall come 'bout right like kine
o' slidin' into it 'stid o' hoppin' an' jumpin'. I'z
spen' the even' at 'at lady's house, Fanny, what
cook nex' do', las' year. Well, suh, 'at lady
Fanny, she quit privut cookin', she kaytliss--''
``She's what?'' Jane asked. ``What's that
``She kaytuhs,'' he explained. ``Ef it's a man
you call him kaytuh; ef it's a lady, she's a
kaytliss. She does kaytun fer all lem blue-vein
fam'lies in town. She make ref'eshmuns, bring
waituhs--'at's kaytun. You' maw give big dinnuh,
she have Fanny kaytuh, an' don't take no
trouble 'tall herself. Fanny take all 'at trouble.''
``I see,'' said Jane. ``But I don't see how her
bein' a kaytliss started you to dressin' so high,
``Thishere way. Fanny say, `Look here,
Genesis, I got big job t'morra night an' I'm man
short, 'count o' havin' to have a 'nouncer.' ''
``Fanny talk jes' that way. Goin' be big
dinnuh-potty, an' thishere blue-vein fam'ly tell
Fanny they want whole lot extry sploogin'; tell
her put fine-lookin' cullud man stan' by drawin'-
room do'--ask ev'ybody name an' holler out
whatever name they say, jes' as they walk in.
Thishere fam'ly say they goin' show what's what,
'nis town, an' they boun' Fanny go git 'em a
'nouncer. `Well, what's mattuh YOU doin' 'at
'nouncin'?' Fanny say. `Who--me?' I tell her.
`Yes, you kin, too!' she say, an' she say she len'
me 'at waituh suit yoosta b'long ole Henry
Gimlet what die' when he owin' Fanny sixteen
dolluhs--an' Fanny tuck an' keep 'at waituh suit.
She use 'at suit on extry waituhs when she got
some on her hands what 'ain't got no waituh suit.
`You wear 'at suit,' Fanny say, 'an' you be good
'nouncer, 'cause you' a fine, big man, an' got a
big, gran' voice; 'nen you learn befo' long be a
waituh, Genesis, an' git dolluh an' half ev'y even'
you waitin ', 'sides all 'at money you make cuttin'
grass daytime.' Well, suh, I'z stan' up doin' 'at
'nouncin' ve'y nex' night. White lady an' ge'l-
mun walk todes my do', I step up to 'em--I step
up to 'em thisaway.''
Here Genesis found it pleasant to present the
scene with some elaboration. He dropped the
handle of the freezer, rose, assumed a stately,
but ingratiating, expression, and ``stepped up'' to
the imagined couple, using a pacing and rhythmic
gait--a conservative prance, which plainly indicated
the simultaneous operation of an orchestra.
Then bending graciously, as though the persons
addressed were of dwarfish stature, `` 'Scuse me,''
he said, ``but kin I please be so p'lite as to 'quiah
you' name?'' For a moment he listened attentively,
then nodded, and, returning with the same
aristocratic undulations to an imaginary doorway
near the freezer, ``Misto an' Missuz Orlosko
Rinktum!'' he proclaimed, sonorously.
``WHO?'' cried Jane, fascinated. ``Genesis,
'nounce that again, right away!''
Genesis heartily complied.
``Misto an' Missuz Orlosko Rinktum!'' he
``Was that really their names?'' she asked,
``Well, I kine o' fergit,'' Genesis admitted,
resuming his work with the freezer. ``Seem like
I rickalect SOMEBODY got name good deal like
what I say, 'cause some mighty blue-vein names
at 'at dinnuh-potty, yessuh! But I on'y git to
be 'nouncer one time, 'cause Fanny tellin' me
nex' fam'ly have dinnuh-potty make heap o' fun.
Say I done my 'nouncin' GOOD, but say what's
use holler'n' names jes' fer some the neighbors or
they own aunts an' uncles to walk in, when ev'y-
body awready knows 'em? So Fanny pummote
me to waituh, an' I roun' right in amongs' big
doin's mos' ev'y night. Pass ice-cream, lemonade,
lemon-ice, cake, samwitches. `Lemme han'
you li'l' mo' chicken salad, ma'am'--` 'Low me be
so kine as to git you f'esh cup coffee, suh'--'S
way ole Genesis talkin' ev'y even' 'ese days!''
Jane looked at him thoughtfully. ``Do you like
it better than cuttin' grass, Genesis?'' she asked.
He paused to consider. ``Yes'm--when ban'
play all lem TUNES! My goo'ness, do soun' gran'!''
``You can't do it to-night, though, Genesis,''
said Jane. ``You haf to be quiet on Sunday
nights, don't you?''
``Yes'm. 'Ain' got no mo' kaytun till nex'
``Oh, I bet that's the party for Miss Pratt at
Mr. Parcher's!'' Jane cried. ``Didn't I guess
``Yes'm. I reckon I'm a-go'n' a see one you'
fam'ly 'at night; see him dancin'--wait on him
Jane's expression became even more serious
than usual. ``Willie? I don't know whether he's
``Lan' name!'' Genesis exclaimed. ``He die ef
he don' git INvite to 'at ball!''
``Oh, he's invited,'' said Jane. ``Only I think
maybe he won't go.''
``My goo'ness! Why ain' he goin'?''
Jane looked at her friend studiously before
replying. ``Well, it's a secret,'' she said, finally,
``but it's a very inter'sting one, an' I'll tell you
if you never tell.''
``Yes'm, I ain' tellin' nobody.''
Jane glanced round, then stepped a little closer
and told the secret with the solemnity it deserved.
``Well, when Miss Pratt first came to visit Miss
May Parcher, Willie used to keep papa's evening
clo'es in his window-seat, an' mamma wondered
what HAD become of 'em. Then, after dinner,
he'd slip up there an' put 'em on him, an' go out
through the kitchen an' call on Miss Pratt.
Then mamma found 'em, an' she thought he
oughtn't to do that, so she didn't tell him or
anything, an' she didn't even tell papa, but she
had the tailor make 'em ever an' ever so much
bigger, 'cause they were gettin' too tight for papa.
An' well, so after that, even if Willie could get
'em out o' mamma's clo'es-closet where she keeps
'em now, he'd look so funny in 'em he couldn't
wear 'em. Well, an' then he couldn't go to pay
calls on Miss Pratt in the evening since then,
because mamma says after he started to go
there in that suit he couldn't go without it, or
maybe Miss Pratt or the other ones that's in love
of her would think it was pretty queer, an' maybe
kind of expeck it was papa's all the time.
Mamma says she thinks Willie must have worried
a good deal over reasons to say why he'd
always go in the daytime after that, an' never
came in the evening, an' now they're goin' to
have this party, an' she says he's been gettin'
paler and paler every day since he heard about it.
Mamma says he's pale SOME because Miss Pratt's
goin' away, but she thinks it's a good deal more
because, well, if he would wear those evening
clo'es just to go CALLIN', how would it be to go
to that PARTY an' not have any! That's what
mamma thinks--an', Genesis, you promised you'd
never tell as long as you live!''
``Yes'm. _I_ ain' tellin','' Genesis chuckled.
``I'm a-go'n' agit me one nem waituh suits befo'
long, myse'f, so's I kin quit wearin' 'at ole Henry
Gimlet suit what b'long to Fanny, an' have me
a privut suit o' my own. They's a secon'-han'
sto' ovuh on the avynoo, where they got swaller-
tail suits all way f'um sevum dolluhs to nineteem
dolluhs an' ninety-eight cents. I'm a--''
Jane started, interrupting him. `` 'SH!'' she
whispered, laying a finger warningly upon her lips.
William had entered the yard at the back
gate, and, approaching over the lawn, had
arrived at the steps of the porch before Jane
perceived him. She gave him an apprehensive look,
but he passed into the house absent-mindedly,
not even flinching at sight of Clematis--and Mrs.
Baxter was right, William did look pale.
``I guess he didn't hear us,'' said Jane, when
he had disappeared into the interior. ``He acks
awful funny!'' she added, thoughtfully. ``First
when he was in love of Miss Pratt, he'd be mad
about somep'm almost every minute he was
home. Couldn't anybody say ANYthing to him
but he'd just behave as if it was frightful, an' then
if you'd see him out walkin' with Miss Pratt,
well, he'd look like--like--'' Jane paused; her
eye fell upon Clematis and by a happy inspiration
she was able to complete her simile with
remarkable accuracy. ``He'd look like the way
Clematis looks at people! That's just EXACTLY the
way he'd look, Genesis, when he was walkin' with
Miss Pratt; an' then when he was home he got
so quiet he couldn't answer questions an' wouldn't
hear what anybody said to him at table or anywhere,
an' papa 'd nearly almost bust. Mamma
'n' papa 'd talk an' talk about it, an' ''--she
lowered her voice--``an' I knew what they were
talkin' about. Well, an' then he'd hardly ever get
mad any more; he'd just sit in his room, an'
sometimes he'd sit in there without any light, or he'd
sit out in the yard all by himself all evening,
maybe; an' th'other evening after I was in bed
I heard 'em, an' papa said--well, this is what
papa told mamma.'' And again lowering her
voice, she proffered the quotation from her
father in atone somewhat awe-struck: ``Papa
said, by Gosh! if he ever 'a' thought a son of his
could make such a Word idiot of himself he
almost wished we'd both been girls!''
Having completed this report in a violent
whisper, Jane nodded repeatedly, for emphasis,
and Genesis shook his head to show that he was
as deeply impressed as she wished him to be.
``I guess,'' she added, after a pause ``I guess
Willie didn't hear anything you an' I talked
about him, or clo'es, or anything.''
She was mistaken in part. William had caught
no reference to himself, but he had overheard
something and he was now alone in his room,
thinking about it almost feverishly. ``A secon'-
han' sto' ovuh on the avynoo, where they got
swaller-tail suits all way f'um sevum dolluhs to
nineteem dolluhs an' ninety-eight cents.''
. . . Civilization is responsible for certain
longings in the breast of man--artificial longings,
but sometimes as poignant as hunger and thirst.
Of these the strongest are those of the maid for
the bridal veil, of the lad for long trousers, and of
the youth for a tailed coat of state. To the
gratification of this last, only a few of the early joys
in life are comparable. Indulged youths, too
rich, can know, to the unctuous full, neither the
longing nor the gratification; but one such as
William, in ``moderate circumstances,'' is privileged
to pant for his first evening clothes as the
hart panteth after the water-brook--and sometimes,
to pant in vain. Also, this was a crisis in
William's life: in addition to his yearning for such
apparel, he was racked by a passionate urgency.
As Jane had so precociously understood, unless
he should somehow manage to obtain the proper
draperies he could not go to the farewell dance
for Miss Pratt. Other unequipped boys could go
in their ordinary ``best clothes,'' but William could
not; for, alack! he had dressed too well too soon!
He was in desperate case.
The sorrow of the approaching great departure
was but the heavier because it had been so long
deferred. To William it had seemed that this
flower-strewn summer could actually end no more
than he could actually die, but Time had begun its
awful lecture, and even Seventeen was listening.
Miss Pratt, that magic girl, was going home.
XXIII. FATHERS FORGET
To the competent twenties, hundreds of miles
suggesting no impossibilities, such departures
may be rending, but not tragic. Implacable, the
difference to Seventeen! Miss Pratt was going
home, and Seventeen could not follow; it could
only mourn upon the lonely shore, tracing little
angelic footprints left in the sand.
To Seventeen such a departure is final; it is a
And now it seemed possible that William might
be deprived even of the last romantic consolations:
of the ``last waltz together,'' of the last,
last ``listening to music in the moonlight
together''; of all those sacred lasts of the ``last
He had pleaded strongly for a ``dress-suit'' as
a fitting recognition of his seventeenth birthday
anniversary, but he had been denied by his father
with a jocularity more crushing than rigor. Since
then--in particular since the arrival of Miss
Pratt--Mr. Baxter's temper had been growing
steadily more and more even. That is, as
affected by William's social activities, it was
uniformly bad. Nevertheless, after heavy
brooding, William decided to make one final appeal
before he resorted to measures which the
necessities of despair had caused him to contemplate.
He wished to give himself every chance for a
good effect; therefore, he did not act hastily,
but went over what he intended to say, rehearsing
it with a few appropriate gestures, and even
taking some pleasure in the pathetic dignity of
this performance, as revealed by occasional
glances at the mirror of his dressing-table. In
spite of these little alleviations, his trouble was
great and all too real, for, unhappily, the previous
rehearsal of an emotional scene does not prove
the emotion insincere.
Descending, he found his father and mother
still sitting upon the front porch. Then, standing
before them, solemn-eyed, he uttered a preluding
cough, and began:
``Father,'' he said in a loud voice, ``I have
``Dear me!'' Mrs. Baxter exclaimed, not
perceiving that she was interrupting an intended
oration. ``Willie, you DO look pale! Sit down,
poor child; you oughtn't to walk so much in this
``Father,'' William repeated. ``Fath--''
``I suppose you got her safely home from
church,'' Mr. Baxter said. ``She might have
been carried off by footpads if you three boys
hadn't been along to take care of her!''
But William persisted heroically. ``Father--''
he said. ``Father, I have come to--''
``What on earth's the matter with you?''
Mr. Baxter ceased to fan himself; Mrs. Baxter
stopped rocking, and both stared, for it had
dawned upon them that something unusual was
beginning to take place.
William backed to the start and tried it again.
``Father, I have come to--'' He paused and
gulped, evidently expecting to be interrupted,
but both of his parents remained silent, regarding
him with puzzled surprise. ``Father,'' he began
once more, ``I have come--I have come to--to
place before you something I think it's your duty
as my father to undertake, and I have thought
over this step before laying it before you.''
``My soul!'' said Mr. Baxter, under his breath.
``At my age,'' William continued, swallowing,
and fixing his earnest eyes upon the roof of the
porch, to avoid the disconcerting stare of his
father--``at my age there's some things that ought
to be done and some things that ought not to be
done. If you asked me what I thought OUGHT to
be done, there is only one answer: When any-
body as old as I am has to go out among other
young men his own age that already got one, like
anyway half of them HAVE, who I go with, and
their fathers have already taken such a step,
because they felt it was the only right thing to do,
because at my age and the young men I go with's
age, it IS the only right thing to do, because that
is something nobody could deny, at my age--''
Here William drew a long breath, and, deciding
to abandon that sentence as irrevocably tangled,
began another: ``I have thought over this step,
because there comes a time to every young man
when they must lay a step before their father
before something happens that they would be
sorry for. I have thought this undertaking over,
and I am certain it would be your honest duty--''
``My soul!'' gasped Mr. Baxter. ``I thought I
knew you pretty well, but you talk like a stranger
to ME! What is all this? What you WANT?''
``A dress-suit!'' said William.
He had intended to say a great deal more
before coming to the point, but, although through
nervousness he had lost some threads of his
rehearsed plea, it seemed to him that he was
getting along well and putting his case with some
distinction and power. He was surprised and
hurt, therefore, to hear his father utter a wordless
shout in a tone of wondering derision.
`I have more to say--'' William began.
But Mr. Baxter cut him off. ``A dress-suit!''
he cried. ``Well, I'm glad you were talking about
SOMETHING, because I honestly thought it must be
too much sun!''
At this, the troubled William brought his eyes
down from the porch roof and forgot his rehearsal.
He lifted his hand appealingly. ``Father,''
he said, ``I GOT to have one!''
`` `Got to'!'' Mr. Baxter laughed a laugh that
chilled the supplicant through and through. ``At
your age I thought I was lucky if I had ANY suit
that was fit to be seen in. You're too young,
Willie. I don't want you to get your mind on
such stuff, and if I have my way, you won't have
a dress-suit for four years more, anyhow.''
``Father, I GOT to have one. I got to have one
right away!'' The urgency in William's voice
was almost tearful. ``I don't ask you to have it
made, or to go to expensive tailors, but there's
plenty of good ready-made ones that only cost
about forty dollars; they're advertised in the
paper. Father, wouldn't you spend just forty
dollars? I'll pay it back when I'm in business;
Mr. Baxter waved all this aside. ``It's not the
money. It's the principle that I'm standing for,
and I don't intend--''
``Father, WON'T you do it?''
``No, I will not!''
William saw that sentence had been passed and
all appeals for a new trial denied. He choked,
and rushed into the house without more ado.
``Poor boy!'' his mother said.
``Poor boy nothing!'' fumed Mr. Baxter.
``He's about lost his mind over that Miss Pratt.
Think of his coming out here and starting a regular
debating society declamation before his
mother and father! Why, I never heard anything
like it in my life! I don't like to hurt his
feelings, and I'd give him anything I could
afford that would do him any good, but all he
wants it for now is to splurge around in at this
party before that little yellow-haired girl! I
guess he can wear the kind of clothes most of the
other boys wear--the kind _I_ wore at parties--
and never thought of wearing anything else.
What's the world getting to be like? Seventeen
years old and throws a fit because he can't have
Mrs. Baxter looked thoughtful. ``But--but
suppose he felt he couldn't go to the dance unless
he wore one, poor boy--''
``All the better,'' said Mr. Baxter, firmly. ``Do
him good to keep away and get his mind on
``Of course,'' she suggested, with some
timidity, ``forty dollars isn't a great deal of money,
and a ready-made suit, just to begin with--''
Naturally, Mr. Baxter perceived whither she
was drifting. ``Forty dollars isn't a thousand,''
he interrupted, ``but what you want to throw it
away for? One reason a boy of seventeen
oughtn't to have evening clothes is the way he
behaves with ANY clothes. Forty dollars! Why,
only this summer he sat down on Jane's open
paint-box, twice in one week!''
``Well--Miss Pratt IS going away, and the
dance will be her last night. I'm afraid it would
really hurt him to miss it. I remember once,
before we were engaged--that evening before papa
took me abroad, and you--''
``It's no use, mamma,'' he said. ``We were
both in the twenties--why, _I_ was six years older
than Willie, even then. There's no comparison
at all. I'll let him order a dress-suit on his
twenty-first birthday and not a minute before.
I don't believe in it, and I intend to see that he
gets all this stuff out of his system. He's got to
learn some hard sense!''
Mrs. Baxter shook her head doubtfully, but
she said no more. Perhaps she regretted a little
that she had caused Mr. Baxter's evening clothes
to be so expansively enlarged--for she looked
rather regretful. She also looked rather
incomprehensible, not to say cryptic, during the long
silence which followed, and Mr. Baxter resumed
his rocking, unaware of the fixity of gaze which
his wife maintained upon him--a thing the most
loyal will do sometimes.
The incomprehensible look disappeared before
long; but the regretful one was renewed in the
mother's eyes whenever she caught glimpses of
her son, that day, and at the table, where
William's manner was gentle--even toward his
Underneath that gentleness, the harried self of
William was no longer debating a desperate
resolve, but had fixed upon it, and on the following
afternoon Jane chanced to be a witness of some
resultant actions. She came to her mother with
an account of them.
``Mamma, what you s'pose Willie wants of
those two ole market-baskets that were down
``Well, he carried 'em in his room, an' then he
saw me lookin'; an' he said, `G'way from here!'
an' shut the door. He looks so funny! What's
he want of those ole baskets, mamma?''
``I don't know. Perhaps he doesn't even know,
But William did know, definitely. He had set
the baskets upon chairs, and now, with pale
determination, he was proceeding to fill them. When
his task was completed the two baskets contained:
One ``heavy-weight winter suit of clothes.''
One ``light-weight summer suit of clothes.''
One straw hat.
Two pairs of white flannel trousers.
Two Madras shirts.
Two flannel shirts.
Two silk shirts.
Seven soft collars.
Three silk neckties.
One crocheted tie.
Eight pairs of socks.
One pair of patent-leather shoes.
One pair of tennis-shoes.
One two-foot shelf of books, consisting of several
sterling works upon mathematics, in a damaged
condition; five of Shakespeare's plays,
expurgated for schools and colleges, and also
damaged; a work upon political economy, and
another upon the science of physics; Webster's
Collegiate Dictionary; How to Enter a Drawing-
Room and Five Hundred Other Hints; Witty Sayings
from Here and There; Lorna Doone; Quentin
Durward; The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, a
very old copy of Moths, and a small Bible.
William spread handkerchiefs upon the two
over-bulging cargoes, that their nature might not
be disclosed to the curious, and, after listening a
moment at his door, took the baskets, one upon
each arm, then went quickly down the stairs and
out of the house, out of the yard, and into the
alley--by which route he had modestly chosen
. . . After an absence of about two hours he
returned empty-handed and anxious. ``Mother,
I want to speak to you,'' he said, addressing Mrs
Baxter in a voice which clearly proved the strain
of these racking days. ``I want to speak to you
about something important.''
``Please send Jane away. I can't talk about
important things with a child in the room.''
Jane naturally wished to stay, since he was
going to say something important. ``Mamma,
do I HAF to go?''
``Just a few minutes, dear.''
Jane walked submissively out of the door,
leaving it open behind her. Then, having gone about
six feet farther, she halted and, preserving a
breathless silence, consoled herself for her banishment
by listening to what was said, hearing it all
as satisfactorily as if she had remained in the
room. Quiet, thoughtful children, like Jane,
avail themselves of these little pleasures oftener
than is suspected.
``Mother,'' said William, with great intensity,
``I want to ask you please to lend me three dollars
and sixty cents.''
``What for, Willie?''
``Mother, I just ask you to lend me three
dollars and sixty cents.''
``But what FOR?''
``Mother, I don't feel I can discuss it any; I
simply ask you: Will you lend me three dollars
and sixty cents?''
Mrs. Baxter laughed gently. ``I don't think
I could, Willie, but certainly I should want to
know what for.''
``Mother, I am going on eighteen years of age,
and when I ask for a small sum of money like
three dollars and sixty cents I think I might be
trusted to know how to use it for my own good
without having to answer questions like a ch--''
``Why, Willie,'' she exclaimed, ``you ought to
have plenty of money of your own!''
``Of course I ought,'' he agreed, warmly. ``If
you'd ask father to give me a regular allow--''
``No, no; I mean you ought to have plenty
left out of that old junk and furniture I let you
sell last month. You had over nine dollars!'
``That was five weeks ago,'' William explained,
``But you certainly must have some of it left.
Why, it was MORE than nine dollars, I believe!
I think it was nearer ten. Surely you haven't--''
``Ye gods!'' cried the goaded William. ``A
person going on eighteen years old ought to be
able to spend nine dollars in five weeks without
everybody's acting like it was a crime! Mother,
I ask you the simple question: Will you PLEASE
lend me three dollars and sixty cents?''
``I don't think I ought to, dear. I'm sure
your father wouldn't wish me to, unless you'll
tell me what you want it for. In fact, I won't
consider it at all unless you do tell me.''
``You won't do it?'' he quavered.
She shook her head gently. ``You see, dear,
I'm afraid the reason you don't tell me is because
you know that I wouldn't give it to you if I
knew what you wanted it for.''
This perfect diagnosis of the case so
disheartened him that after a few monosyllabic
efforts to continue the conversation with dignity
he gave it up, and left in such a preoccupation
with despondency that he passed the surprised
Jane in the hall without suspecting what she
had been doing.
That evening, after dinner, he addressed to his
father an impassioned appeal for three dollars
and sixty cents, laying such stress of pathos on
his principal argument that if he couldn't have
a dress-suit, at least he ought to be given three
dollars and sixty CENTS (the emphasis is William's)
that Mr. Baxter was moved in the direction
of consent--but not far enough. ``I'd like
to let you have it, Willie,'' he said, excusing
himself for refusal, ``but your mother felt SHE
oughtn't to do it unless you'd say what you
wanted it for, and I'm sure she wouldn't like me
to do it. I can't let you have it unless you get
her to say she wants me to.''
Thus advised, the unfortunate made another
appeal to his mother the next day, and, having
brought about no relaxation of the situation,
again petitioned his father, on the following
evening. So it went; the torn and driven William
turning from parent to parent; and surely, since
the world began, the special sum of three dollars
and sixty cents has never been so often mentioned
in any one house and in the same space of
time as it was in the house of the Baxters during
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday
of that oppressive week.
But on Friday William disappeared after
breakfast and did not return to lunch.
XXIV. CLOTHES MAKE THE MAN
Mrs. Baxter was troubled. During the
afternoon she glanced often from the
open window of the room where she had gone to
sew, but the peaceful neighborhood continued
to be peaceful, and no sound of the harassed
footsteps of William echoed from the pavement.
However, she saw Genesis arrive (in his week-
day costume) to do some weeding, and Jane
immediately skip forth for mingled purposes of
observation and conversation.
``What DO they say?'' thought Mrs. Baxter,
observing that both Jane and Genesis were unusually
animated. But for once that perplexity was
to be dispersed. After an exciting half-hour
Jane came flying to her mother, breathless.
``Mamma,'' she cried, ``I know where Willie is!
Genesis told me, 'cause he saw him, an' he
talked to him while he was doin' it.''
``Doing what? Where?''
``Mamma, listen! What you think Willie's
doin'? I bet you can't g--''
``Jane!'' Mrs Baxter spoke sharply. ``Tell
me what Genesis said, at once.''
``Yes'm. Willie's sittin' in a lumber-yard that
Genesis comes by on his way from over on the
avynoo where all the colored people live--an' he's
countin' knot-holes in shingles.''
``He is WHAT?''
``Yes'm. Genesis knows all about it, because
he was thinkin' of doin' it himself, only he says
it would be too slow. This is the way it is,
mamma. Listen, mamma, because this is just
exackly the way it is. Well, this lumber-yard
man got into some sort of a fuss because he
bought millions an' millions of shingles, mamma,
that had too many knots in, an' the man don't
want to pay for 'em, or else the store where he
bought 'em won't take 'em back, an' they got to
prove how many shingles are bad shingles, or
somep'm, an' anyway, mamma, that's what
Willie's doin'. Every time he comes to a bad
shingle, mamma, he puts it somewheres else,
or somep'm like that, mamma, an' every time
he's put a thousand bad shingles in this other
place they give him six cents. He gets the six
cents to keep, mamma--an' that's what he's been
doin' all day!''
``Oh, but that's nothing, mamma--just you
wait till you hear the rest. THAT part of it isn't
anything a TALL, mamma! You wouldn't hardly
notice that part of it if you knew the other part
of it, mamma. Why, that isn't ANYTHING!'' Jane
made demonstrations of scorn for the insignificant
information already imparted.
``I want to know everything Genesis told
you,'' said her mother, ``and I want you to tell
it as quickly as you can.''
``Well, I AM tellin' it, mamma!'' Jane
protested. ``I'm just BEGINNING to tell it. I can't
tell it unless there's a beginning, can I? How
could there be ANYTHING unless you had to begin
``Try your best to go on, Jane!''
``Yes'm. Well, Genesis says-- Mamma!''
Jane interrupted herself with a little outcry.
``Oh! I bet THAT'S what he had those two market-
baskets for! Yes, sir! That's just what he did!
An' then he needed the rest o' the money an'
you an' papa wouldn't give him any, an' so he
began countin' shingles to-day 'cause to-night's
the night of the party an' he just HASS to have it!''
Mrs. Baxter, who had risen to her feet,
recalled the episode of the baskets and sank into a
chair. ``How did Genesis know Willie wanted
forty dollars, and if Willie's pawned something how
did Genesis know THAT? Did Willie tell Gen--''
``Oh no, mamma, Willie didn't want forty
``But he couldn't get even the cheapest ready-
made dress-suit for fourteen dollars.''
``Mamma, you're gettin' it all mixed up!''
Jane cried. ``Listen, mamma! Genesis knows
all about a second-hand store over on the avynoo;
an' it keeps 'most everything, an' Genesis says
it's the nicest store! It keeps waiter suits all
the way up to nineteen dollars and ninety-nine
cents. Well, an' Genesis wants to get one of
those suits, so he goes in there all the time, an'
talks to the man an' bargains an' bargains with
him, 'cause Genesis says this man is the
bargainest man in the wide worl', mamma! That's
what Genesis says. Well, an' so this man's name
is One-eye Beljus, mamma. That's his name,
an' Genesis says so. Well, an' so this man that
Genesis told me about, that keeps the store--I
mean One-eye Beljus, mamma--well, One-eye
Beljus had Willie's name written down in a book,
an' he knew Genesis worked for fam'lies that
have boys like Willie in 'em, an' this morning
One-eye Beljus showed Genesis Willie's name
written down in this book, an' One-eye Beljus
asked Genesis if he knew anybody by that name
an' all about him. Well, an' so at first Genesis
pretended he was tryin' to remember, because he
wanted to find out what Willie went there for.
Genesis didn't tell any stories, mamma; he just
pretended he couldn't remember, an' so, well,
One-eye Beljus kept talkin' an' pretty soon
Genesis found out all about it. One-eye Beljus
said Willie came in there an' tried on the coat
of one of those waiter suits--''
``Oh no!'' gasped Mrs. Baxter.
``Yes'm, an' One-eye Beljus said it was the
only one that would fit Willie, an' One-eye
Beljus told Willie that suit was worth fourteen
dollars, an' Willie said he didn't have any money,
but he'd like to trade something else for it.
Well, an' so One-eye Beljus said this was an
awful fine suit an' the only one he had that
had b'longed to a white gentleman. Well, an'
so they bargained, an' bargained, an' bargained,
an' BARGAINED! An' then, well, an' so at last
Willie said he'd go an' get everything that
b'longed to him, an' One-eye Beljus could pick
out enough to make fourteen dollars' worth,
an' then Willie could have the suit. Well, an'
so Willie came home an' put everything he had
that b'longed to him into those two baskets,
mamma--that's just what he did, 'cause Genesis
says he told One-eye Beljus it was everything
that b'longed to him, an' that would take two
baskets, mamma. Well, then, an' so he told
One-eye Beljus to pick out fourteen dollars'
worth, an' One-eye Beljus ast Willie if he didn't
have a watch. Well, Willie took out his watch
an' One-eye Beljus said it was an awful bad
watch, but he would put it in for a dollar; an'
he said, `I'll put your necktie pin in for forty
cents more,' so Willie took it out of his necktie
an' then One-eye Beljus said it would take all
the things in the baskets to make I forget how
much, mamma, an' the watch would be a dollar
more, an' the pin forty cents, an' that would
leave just three dollars an' sixty cents more for
Willie to pay before he could get the suit.''
Mrs. Baxter's face had become suffused with
high color, but she wished to know all that
Genesis had said, and, mastering her feelings
with an effort, she told Jane to proceed--a
command obeyed after Jane had taken several long
``Well, an' so the worst part of it is, Genesis
says, it's because that suit is haunted.''
``Yes'm,'' said Jane, solemnly; ``Genesis says
it's haunted. Genesis says everybody over on
the avynoo knows all about that suit, an' he says
that's why One-eye Beljus never could sell it
before. Genesis says One-eye Beljus tried to sell
it to a colored man for three dollars, but the man
said he wouldn't put in on for three hunderd
dollars, an' Genesis says HE wouldn't, either,
because it belonged to a Dago waiter that--that--''
Jane's voice sank to a whisper of unctuous horror.
She was having a wonderful time! ``Mamma,
this Dago waiter, he lived over on the avynoo,
an' he took a case-knife he'd sharpened--
AN' HE CUT A LADY'S HEAD OFF WITH IT!''
Mrs. Baxter screamed faintly.
``An' he got hung, mamma! If you don't
believe it, you can ask One-eye Beljus--I guess HE
knows! An' you can ask--''
``An' he sold this suit to One-eye Beljus when
he was in jail, mamma. He sold it to him before
he got hung, mamma.''
But Jane couldn't hush now. ``An' he had
that suit on when he cut the lady's head off,
mamma, an' that's why it's haunted. They
cleaned it all up excep' a few little spots of
``JANE!'' shouted her mother. ``You must not
talk about such things, and Genesis mustn't tell,
you stories of that sort!''
``Well, how could he help it, if he told me about
Willie?'' Jane urged, reasonably.
``Never mind! Did that crazy ch-- Did
Willie LEAVE the baskets in that dreadful place?''
``Yes'm--an' his watch an' pin,'' Jane
informed her, impressively. ``An' One-eye Beljus
wanted to know if Genesis knew Willie, because
One-eye Beljus wanted to know if Genesis
thought Willie could get the three dollars an;
sixty cents, an' One-eye Beljus wanted to know
if Genesis thought he could get anything more
out of him besides that. He told Genesis he
hadn't told Willie he COULD have the suit, after
all; he just told him he THOUGHT he could, but he
wouldn't say for certain till he brought him the
three dollars an' sixty cents. So Willie left all
his things there, an' his watch an--''
``That will do!'' Mrs. Baxter's voice was
sharper than it had ever been in Jane's recollection.
``I don't need to hear any more--and I
don't WANT to hear any more!''
Jane was justly aggrieved. ``But, mamma,
it isn't MY fault!''
Mrs. Baxter's lips parted to speak, but she
checked herself. ``Fault?'' she said, gravely.
``I wonder whose fault it really is!''
And with that she went hurriedly into William's
room and made a brief inspection of his
clothes-closet and dressing-table. Then, as Jane
watched her in awed silence, she strode to the
window, and called, loudly:
``Yes'm?'' came the voice from below.
``Go to that lumber-yard where Mr. William
is at work and bring him here to me at once.
If he declines to come, tell him--'' Her voice
broke oddly; she choked, but Jane could not
decide with what emotion. ``Tell him--tell him
I ordered you to use force if necessary! Hurry!''
Jane ran to the window in time to see Genesis
departing seriously through the back gate.
``Don't talk to me now, Jane,'' Mrs. Baxter
said, crisply. ``I want you to go down in the
yard, and when Willie comes tell him I'm waiting
for him here in his own room. And don't come
with him, Jane. Run!''
``Yes, mamma.'' Jane was pleased with this
appointment; she anxiously desired to be the
first to see how Willie ``looked.''
. . . He looked flurried and flustered and
breathless, and there were blisters upon the reddened
palms of his hands. ``What on earth's the
matter, mother?'' he asked, as he stood panting
before her. ``Genesis said something was wrong,
and he said you told him to hit me if I wouldn't
``Oh NO!'' she cried. ``I only meant I thought
perhaps you wouldn't obey any ordinary message--''
``Well, well, it doesn't matter, but please hurry
and say what you want to, because I got to get
``No,'' Mrs. Baxter said, quietly, ``you're not
going back to count any more shingles, Willie.
How much have you earned?''
He swallowed, but spoke bravely. ``Thirty-
six cents. But I've been getting lots faster the
last two hours and there's a good deal of time
before six o'clock. Mother--''
``No,'' she said. ``You're going over to that
horrible place where you've left your clothes and
your watch and all those other things in the two
baskets, and you're going to bring them home
``Mother!'' he cried, aghast. ``Who told you?''
``It doesn't matter. You don't want your
father to find out, do you? Then get those
things back here as quickly as you can. They'll
have to be fumigated after being in that den.''
``They've never been out of the baskets,'; he
protested, hotly, ``except just to be looked at.
They're MY things, mother, and I had a right to
do what I needed to with 'em, didn't I?'' His
utterance became difficult. ``You and father
just CAN'T understand--and you won't do anything
to help me--''
``Willie, you can go to the party,'' she said,
gently. ``You didn't need those frightful clothes
``I do!'' he cried. ``I GOT to have 'em! I CAN'T
go in my day clo'es! There's a reason you
wouldn't understand why I can't. I just CAN'T!''
``Yes,'' she said, ``you can go to the party.''
``I can't, either! Not unless you give me three
dollars and twenty-four cents, or unless I can
get back to the lumber-yard and earn the rest
``No!'' And the warm color that had rushed
over Mrs. Baxter during Jane's sensational
recital returned with a vengeance. Her eyes
flashed. ``If you'd rather I sent a policeman for
those baskets, I'll send one. I should prefer to
do it--much! And to have that rascal arrested.
If you don't want me to send a policeman you
can go for them yourself, but you must start
within ten minutes, because if you don't I'll
telephone headquarters. Ten minutes, Willie,
and I mean it!''
He cried out, protesting. She would make him
a thing of scorn forever and soil his honor, if she
sent a policeman. Mr. Beljus was a fair and
honest tradesman, he explained, passionately,
and had not made the approaches in this matter.
Also, the garments in question, though not
entirely new, nor of the highest mode, were of good
material and in splendid condition. Unmistakably
they were evening clothes, and such a
bargain at fourteen dollars that William would
guarantee to sell them for twenty after he had
worn them this one evening. Mr. Beljus himself
had said that he would not even think of
letting them go at fourteen to anybody else, and
as for the two poor baskets of worn and useless
articles offered in exchange, and a bent scarf-
pin and a worn-out old silver watch that had
belonged to great-uncle Ben--why, the ten dollars
and forty cents allowed upon them was
beyond all ordinary liberality; it was almost
charity. There was only one place in town where
evening clothes were rented, and the suspicious
persons in charge had insisted that William obtain
from his father a guarantee to insure the return
of the garments in perfect condition. So that
was hopeless. And wasn't it better, also, to
wear clothes which had known only one previous
occupant (as was the case with Mr. Beljus's
offering) than to hire what chance hundreds had
hired? Finally, there was only one thing to be
considered and this was the fact that William
HAD to have those clothes!
``Six minutes,'' said Mrs. Baxter, glancing
implacably at her watch. ``When it's ten I'll
And the end of it was, of course, victory for
the woman--victory both moral and physical.
Three-quarters of an hour later she was
unburdening the contents of the two baskets and
putting the things back in place, illuminating
these actions with an expression of strong
distaste--in spite of broken assurances that Mr.
Beljus had not more than touched any of the
articles offered to him for valuation.
. . . At dinner, which was unusually early that
evening, Mrs. Baxter did not often glance toward
her son; she kept her eyes from that white face
and spent most of her time in urging upon Mr.
Baxter that he should be prompt in dressing for a
card-club meeting which he and she were to attend
that evening. These admonitions of hers
were continued so pressingly that Mr. Baxter,
after protesting that there was no use in being a
whole hour too early, groaningly went to dress
without even reading his paper.
William had retired to his own room, where he
lay upon his bed in the darkness. He heard the
evening noises of the house faintly through the
closed door: voices and the clatter of metal and
china from the far-away kitchen, Jane's laugh in
the hall, the opening and closing of the doors.
Then his father seemed to be in distress about
something. William heard him complaining to
Mrs. Baxter, and though the words were indistinct,
the tone was vigorously plaintive. Mrs.
Baxter laughed and appeared to make light of
his troubles, whatever they were--and presently
their footsteps were audible from the stairway;
the front door closed emphatically, and they were
Everything was quiet now. The open window
showed as a greenish oblong set in black, and
William knew that in a little while there would
come through the stillness of that window the
distant sound of violins. That was a moment he
dreaded with a dread that ached. And as he lay
on his dreary bed he thought of brightly lighted
rooms where other boys were dressing eagerly
faces and hair shining, hearts beating high--boys
who would possess this last evening and the ``last
waltz together,'' the last smile and the last sigh.
It did not once enter his mind that he could
go to the dance in his ``best suit,'' or that
possibly the other young people at the party would
be too busy with their own affairs to notice
particularly what he wore. It was the unquestionable
and granite fact, to his mind, that the whole
derisive World would know the truth about his
earlier appearances in his father's clothes. And
that was a form of ruin not to be faced. In the
protective darkness and seclusion of William's
bedroom, it is possible that smarting eyes relieved
themselves by blinking rather energetically; it is
even possible that there was a minute damp spot
upon the pillow. Seventeen cannot always manage
the little boy yet alive under all the coverings.
Now arrived that moment he had most painfully
anticipated, and dance-music drifted on the
night;--but there came a tapping upon his door
and a soft voice spoke.
With a sharp exclamation William swung his
legs over the edge of the bed and sat up. Of all
things he desired not, he desired no conversation
with, or on the part of, Jane. But he had
forgotten to lock his door--the handle turned, and a
dim little figure marched in.
``Willie, Adelia's goin' to put me to bed.''
``You g'way from here,'' he said, huskily. ``I
haven't got time to talk to you. I'm busy.''
``Well, you can wait a minute, can't you?'' she
asked, reasonably. ``I haf to tell you a joke on
``I don't want to hear any jokes!''
``Well, I HAF to tell you this one 'cause she told
me to! Oh!'' Jane clapped her hand over her
mouth and jumped up and down, offering a
fantastic silhouette against the light of the Open
door. ``Oh, oh, OH!''
``She said I mustn't, MUSTN'T tell that she told
me to tell! My goodness! I forgot that!
Mamma took me off alone right after dinner, an'
she told me to tell you this joke on her a little
after she an' papa had left the house, but she said,
`Above all THINGS,' she said, `DON'T let Willie know
_I_ said to tell him.' That's just what she said,
an' here that's the very first thing I had to go an'
``Well, what of it?''
Jane quieted down. The pangs of her remorse
were lost in her love of sensationalism, and her
voice sank to the thrilling whisper which it was
one of her greatest pleasures to use. ``Did you
hear what a fuss papa was makin' when he was
dressin' for the card-party?''
``_I_ don't care if--''
``He had to go in his reg'lar clo'es!'' whispered
Jane, triumphantly. ``An' this is the joke on
mamma: you know that tailor that let papa's
dress-suit 'way, 'way out; well, Mamma thinks
that tailor must think she's crazy, or somep'm
'cause she took papa's dress-suit to him last
Monday to get it pressed for this card-party,
an she guesses he must of understood her to
tell him to do lots besides just pressin' it.
Anyway, he went an' altered it, an' he took it 'way,
'way IN again; an' this afternoon when it came
back it was even tighter 'n what it was in the first
place, an' papa couldn't BEGIN to get into it!
Well, an' so it's all pressed an' ev'ything, an' she
stopped on the way out, an' whispered to me
that she'd got so upset over the joke on her that
she couldn't remember where she put it when
she took it out o' papa's room after he gave up
tryin' to get inside of it. An' that,'' cried Jane--
``that's the funniest thing of all! Why, it's
layin' right on her bed this very minute!''
In one bound William leaped through the open
door. Two seconds sufficed for his passage
through the hall to his mother's bedroom--and
there, neatly spread upon the lace coverlet and
brighter than coronation robes, fairer than
Joseph's holy coat, It lay!
XXV. YOUTH AND MR. PARCHER
As a hurried worldling, in almost perfectly
fitting evening clothes, passed out of his
father's gateway and hurried toward the place
whence faintly came the sound of dance-music, a
child's voice called sweetly from an unidentified
window of the darkened house behind him:
``Well, ANYWAY, you try and have a good time,
William made no reply; he paused not in his
stride. Jane's farewell injunction, though
obviously not ill-intended, seemed in poor taste,
and a reply might have encouraged her to
believe that, in some measure at least, he
condescended to discuss his inner life with her. He
departed rapidly, but with hauteur. The moon
was up, but shade-trees were thick along the
sidewalk, and the hauteur was invisible to any
human eye; nevertheless, William considered it
Jane's friendly but ill-chosen ``ANYWAY'' had
touched doubts already annoying him. He was
certain to be late to the party--so late, indeed,
that it might prove difficult to obtain a proper
number of dances with the sacred girl in whose
honor the celebration was being held. Too many
were steeped in a sense of her sacredness, well
he wot! and he was unable to find room in his
apprehensive mind for any doubt that these
others would be accursedly diligent.
But as he hastened onward his spirits rose,
and he did reply to Jane, after all, though he
had placed a hundred yards between them.
``Yes, and you can bet your bottom dollar I
will, too!'' he muttered, between his determined
The very utterance of the words increased the
firmness of his decision, and at the same time
cheered him. His apprehensions fell away, and
a glamorous excitement took their place, as he
turned a corner and the music burst more loudly
upon his tingling ear. For there, not half-way
to the next street, the fairy scene lay spread
Spellbound groups of uninvited persons, most
of them colored, rested their forearms upon the
upper rail of the Parchers' picket fence, offering
to William's view a silhouette like that of a
crowd at a fire. Beyond the fence, bright forms
went skimming, shimmering, wavering over a
white platform, while high overhead the young
moon sprayed a thinner light down through the
maple leaves, to where processions of rosy globes
hung floating in the blue night. The mild breeze
trembled to the silver patterings of a harp, to the
sweet, barbaric chirping of plucked strings of
violin and 'cello--and swooned among the maple
leaves to the rhythmic crooning of a flute. And,
all the while, from the platform came the sounds
of little cries in girlish voices, and the cadenced
shuffling of young feet, where the witching dance-
music had its way, as ever and forever, with big
and little slippers.
The heart of William had behaved tumultuously
the summer long, whenever his eyes beheld
those pickets of the Parchers' fence, but now it
outdid all its previous riotings. He was forced
to open his mouth and gasp for breath, so deep
was his draught of that young wine, romance.
Yonder--somewhere in the breath-taking radiance--
danced his Queen with all her Court about
her. Queen and Court, thought William, and
nothing less exorbitant could have expressed his
feeling. For seventeen needs only some paper
lanterns, a fiddle, and a pretty girl--and
Versailles is all there!
The moment was so rich that William crossed
the street with a slower step. His mood changed:
an exaltation had come upon him, though he was
never for an instant unaware of the tragedy
beneath all this worldly show and glamor. It was
the last night of the divine visit; to-morrow the
town would lie desolate, a hollow shell in the
dust, without her. Miss Pratt would be gone--
gone utterly--gone away on the TRAIN! But to-
night was just beginning, and to-night he would
dance with her; he would dance and dance with
her--he would dance and dance like mad! He
and she, poetic and fated pair, would dance on
and on! They would be intoxicated by the lights
--the lights, the flowers, and the music. Nay,
the flowers might droop, the lights might go out,
the music cease and dawn come--she and he
would dance recklessly on--on--on!
A sense of picturesqueness--his own
picturesqueness--made him walk rather theatrically
as he passed through the groups of humble
onlookers outside the picket fence. Many of these
turned to stare at the belated guest, and William
was unconscious of neither their low estate nor
his own quality as a patrician man-about-town in
almost perfectly fitting evening dress. A faint,
cold smile was allowed to appear upon his lips,
and a fragment from a story he had read came
momentarily to his mind. . . . ``Through the
gaping crowds the young Augustan noble was
borne down from the Palatine, scornful in his
jeweled litter. . . .''
An admiring murmur reached William's ear.
``OH, oh, honey! Look attem long-tail suit! 'At's
a rich boy, honey!''
``Yessum, SO! Bet he got his pockets pack'
full o' twenty-dolluh gol' pieces right iss minute!''
``You right, honey!''
William allowed the coldness of his faint smile
to increase to become scornful. These poor
sidewalk creatures little knew what seethed
inside the alabaster of the young Augustan noble!
What was it to THEM that this was Miss Pratt's
last night and that he intended to dance and
dance with her, on and on?
Almost sternly he left these squalid lives
behind him and passed to the festal gateway.
Upon one of the posts of that gateway there
rested the elbow of a contemplative man, middle-
aged or a little worse. Of all persons having
pleasure or business within the bright inclosure,
he was, that evening, the least important; being
merely the background parent who paid the bills.
However, even this unconsidered elder shared a
thought in common with the Augustan now
approaching: Mr. Parcher had just been thinking
that there was true romance in the scene before
But what Mr. Parcher contemplated as
romance arose from the fact that these young
people were dancing on a spot where their great-
grandfathers had scalped Indians. Music was
made for them by descendants, it might well be,
of Romulus, of Messalina, of Benvenuto Cellini,
and, around behind the house, waiting to serve
the dancers with light food and drink, lounged
and gossiped grandchildren of the Congo, only a
generation or so removed from dances for which
a chance stranger furnished both the occasion
and the refreshments. Such, in brief, was Mr.
Parcher's peculiar view of what constituted the
And upon another subject preoccupying both
Mr. Parcher and William, their two views,
though again founded upon one thought, had no
real congeniality. The preoccupying subject was
the imminence of Miss Pratt's departure;--
neither Mr. Parcher nor William forgot it for an
instant. No matter what else played upon the
surface of their attention, each kept saying to
himself, underneath: ``This is the last night--the
last night! Miss Pratt is going away--going
Mr. Parcher's expression was peaceful. It was
more peaceful than it had been for a long time.
In fact, he wore the look of a man who had been
through the mill but now contemplated a restful
and health-restoring vacation. For there are
people in this world who have no respect for the
memory of Ponce de Leon, and Mr. Parcher had
come to be of their number. The elimination
of William from his evenings had lightened the
burden; nevertheless, Mr. Parcher would have
stated freely and openly to any responsible party
that a yearning for the renewal of his youth had
not been intensified by his daughter's having as
a visitor, all summer long, a howling belle of
eighteen who talked baby-talk even at breakfast
and spread her suitors all over the small house--
and its one veranda--from eight in the morning
until hours of the night long after their mothers
(in Mr. Parcher's opinion) should have sent their
fathers to march them home. Upon Mr. Parcher's
optimism the effect of so much unavoidable
observation of young love had been fatal; he
declared repeatedly that his faith in the human
race was about gone. Furthermore, his physical
constitution had proved pathetically vulnerable
to nightly quartets, quintets, and even octets, on
the porch below his bedchamber window, so that
he was wont to tell his wife that never, never
could he expect to be again the man he had been
in the spring before Miss Pratt came to visit
May. And, referring to conversations which he
almost continuously overheard, perforce, Mr.
Parcher said that if this was the way HE talked at
that age, he would far prefer to drown in an
ordinary fountain, and be dead and done with it,
than to bathe in Ponce de Leon's.
Altogether, the summer had been a severe one;
he doubted that he could have survived much
more of it. And now that it was virtually over,
at last, he was so resigned to the departure of his
daughter's lovely little friend that he felt no
regret for the splurge with which her visit was
closing. Nay, to speed the parting guest--such
was his lavish mood--twice and thrice over would
he have paid for the lights, the flowers, the music,
the sandwiches, the coffee, the chicken salad, the
cake, the lemonade-punch, and the ice-cream.
Thus did the one thought divide itself
between William and Mr. Parcher, keeping itself
deep and pure under all their other thoughts.
``Miss Pratt is going away!'' thought William
and Mr. Parcher. ``Miss PRATT is going away--
The unuttered words advanced tragically
toward the gate in the head of William at the same
time that they moved contentedly away in the
head of Mr. Parcher; for Mr. Parcher caught
sight of his wife just then, and went to join her
as she sank wearily upon the front steps.
``Taking a rest for a minute?'' he inquired.
``By George! we're both entitled to a good LONG
rest, after to-night! If we could afford it, we'd
go away to a quiet little sanitarium in the hills,
somewhere, and--'' He ceased to speak and
there was the renewal of an old bitterness in his
expression as his staring eyes followed the
movements of a stately young form entering the
gateway. ``Look at it!'' said Mr. Parcher in a
whisper. ``Just look at it!''
``Look at what?'' asked his wife.
``That Baxter boy!'' said Mr. Parcher, as
William passed on toward the dancers. ``What's he
think he's imitating--Henry Irving? Look at his
``He walks that way a good deal, lately, I've
noticed,'' said Mrs. Parcher in a tired voice.
``So do Joe Bullitt and--''
``He didn't even come to say good evening to
you,'' Mr. Parcher interrupted. ``Talk about
MANNERS, nowadays! These young--''
``He didn't see us.''
``Well, we're used to that,'' said Mr. Parcher.
``None of 'em see us. They've worn holes in all
the cane-seated chairs, they've scuffed up the
whole house, and I haven't been able to sit down
anywhere down-stairs for three months without
sitting on some dam boy; but they don't even
know we're alive! Well, thank the Lord, it's
over--after to-night!'' His voice became
reflective. ``That Baxter boy was the worst, until
he took to coming in the daytime when I was
down-town. I COULDN'T have stood it if he'd
kept on coming in the evening. If I'd had to
listen to any more of his talking or singing,
either the embalmer or the lunatic-asylum would
have had me, sure! I see he's got hold of his
daddy's dress-suit again for to-night.''
``Is it Mr. Baxter's dress-suit?'' Mrs. Parcher
inquired. ``How do you know?''
Mr. Parcher smiled. ``How I happen to know
is a secret,'' he said. ``I forgot about that. His
little sister, Jane, told me that Mrs. Baxter had
hidden it, or something, so that Willie couldn't
wear it, but I guess Jane wouldn't mind my telling
YOU that she told me especially as they're
letting him use it again to-night. I suppose he
feels grander 'n the King o' Siam!''
``No,'' Mrs. Parcher returned, thoughtfully.
``I don't think he does, just now.'' Her gaze
was fixed upon the dancing-platform, which most
of the dancers were abandoning as the music fell
away to an interval of silence. In the center of
the platform there remained one group, consisting
of Miss Pratt and five orators, and of the
orators the most impassioned and gesticulative
``They all seem to want to dance with her all
the time,'' said Mrs. Parcher. ``I heard her
telling one of the boys, half an hour ago, that all she
could give him was either the twenty-eighth regular
dance or the sixteenth `extra.' ''
``The what?'' Mr. Parcher demanded, whirling
to face her. ``Do they think this party's going to
keep running till day after to-morrow?'' And
then, as his eyes returned to the group on the
platform, ``That boy seems to have quite a touch
of emotional insanity,'' he remarked, referring to
William. ``What IS the matter with him?''
``Oh, nothing,'' his wife returned. ``Only
trying to arrange a dance with her. He seems to be
XXVI. MISS BOKE
Nothing could have been more evident
than William's difficulties. They continued
to exist, with equal obviousness, when the
group broke up in some confusion, after a few
minutes of animated discussion; Mr. Wallace
Banks, that busy and executive youth, bearing
Miss Pratt triumphantly off to the lemonade-
punch-bowl, while William pursued Johnnie Watson
and Joe Bullitt. He sought to detain them
near the edge of the platform, though they
appeared far from anxious to linger in his
company; and he was able to arrest their attention
only by clutching an arm of each. In fact, the
good feeling which had latterly prevailed among
these three appeared to be in danger of
disintegrating. The occasion was too vital; and the
watchword for ``Miss Pratt's last night'' was
``Now you look here, Johnnie,'' William said,
vehemently, ``and you listen, too, Joe! You both
got seven dances apiece with her, anyway, all on
account of my not getting here early enough, and
you got to--''
``It wasn't because of any such reason,'' young
Mr. Watson protested. ``I asked her for mine
two days ago.''
``Well, THAT wasn't fair, was it?'' William cried.
``Just because I never thought of sneaking in
ahead like that, you go and--''
``Well, you ought to thought of it,'' Johnnie
retorted, jerking his arm free of William's grasp.
``I can't stand here GABBIN' all night!'' And he
``Joe,'' William began, fastening more securely
upon Mr. Bullitt--``Joe, I've done a good many
favors for you, and--''
``I've got to see a man,'' Mr. Bullitt
interrupted. ``Lemme go, Silly Bill. There's some
body I got to see right away before the next
dance begins. I GOT to! Honest I have!''
William seized him passionately by the lapels
of his coat. ``Listen, Joe. For goodness' sake
can't you listen a MINUTE? You GOT to give me--''
``Honest, Bill,'' his friend expostulated,
backing away as forcefully as possible, ``I got to find
a fellow that's here to-night and ask him about
something important before--''
``Ye gods! Can't you wait a MINUTE?'' William
cried, keeping his grip upon Joe's lapels.
``You GOT to give me anyway TWO out of all your
dances with her! You heard her tell me, yourself,
that she'd be willing if you or Johnnie
``Well, I only got five or six with her, and a
couple extras. Johnnie's got seven. Whyn't
you go after Johnnie? I bet he'd help you out,
all right, if you kept after him. What you want
to pester ME for, Bill?''
The brutal selfishness of this speech, as well as
its cold-blooded insincerity, produced in William
the impulse to smite. Fortunately, his only hope
lay in persuasion, and after a momentary struggle
with his own features he was able to conceal
what he desired to do to Joe's.
He swallowed, and, increasing the affectionate
desperation of his clutch upon Mr. Bullitt's
lapels, ``Joe,'' he began, huskily--``Joe, if _I_'d got
six reg'lar and two extras with Miss Pratt her last
night here, and you got here late, and it wasn't
your fault--I couldn't help being late, could I?
It wasn't my fault I was late, I guess, was it?
Well, if I was in YOUR place I wouldn't act the way
you and Johnnie do--not in a thousand years I
wouldn't! I'd say, `You want a couple o' my
dances with Miss Pratt, ole man? Why, CERTAINLY--' ''
``Yes, you would!'' was the cynical comment of
Mr. Bullitt, whose averted face and reluctant
shoulders indicated a strong desire to conclude
the interview. ``To-night, especially!'' he
``Look here, Joe,'' said William, desperately,
``don't you realize that this is the very last night
Miss Pratt's going to be in this town?''
``You bet I do!'' These words, though vehement,
were inaudible; being formed in the mind
of Mr. Bullitt, but, for diplomatic reasons, not
projected upon the air by his vocal organs.
William continued: ``Joe, you and I have been
friends ever since you and I were boys.'' He
spoke with emotion, but Joe had no appearance
of being favorably impressed. ``And when I look
back,'' said William, ``I expect I've done more
favors for you than I ever have for any oth--''
But Mr. Bullitt briskly interrupted this
appealing reminiscence. ``Listen here, Silly Bill,''
he said, becoming all at once friendly and
encouraging--'' Bill, there's other girls here you
can get dances with. There's one or two of 'em
sittin' around in the yard. You can have a bully
time, even if you did come late.'' And, with the
air of discharging happily all the obligations of
which William had reminded him, he added,
``I'll tell you THAT much, Bill!''
``Joe, you got to give me anyway ONE da--''
``Look!'' said Mr. Bullitt, eagerly. ``Look
sittin' yonder, over under that tree all by herself!
That's a visiting girl named Miss Boke; she's
visiting some old uncle or something she's got
livin' here, and I bet you could--''
``Joe, you GOT to--''
``I bet that Miss Boke's a good dancer, Bill,''
Joe continued, warmly. ``May Parcher says
so. She was tryin' to get me to dance with
her myself, but I couldn't, or I would of.
Honest, Bill, I would of! Bill, if I was you
I'd sail right in there before anybody else got
a start, and I'd--''
``Ole man,'' said William, gently, ``you
remember the time Miss Pratt and I had an
engagement to go walkin', and you wouldn't of
seen her for a week on account of your aunt
dyin' in Kansas City, if I hadn't let you go along
with us? Ole man, if you--''
But the music sounded for the next dance, and
Joe felt that it was indeed time to end this
uncomfortable conversation. ``I got to go, Bill,''
he said. ``I GOT to!''
``Wait just one minute,'' William implored.
``I want to say just this: if--''
``Here!'' exclaimed Mr. Bullitt. ``I got to GO!''
``I know it. That's why--''
Heedless of remonstrance, Joe wrenched himself
free, for it would have taken a powerful
and ruthless man to detain him longer. ``What
you take me for?'' he demanded, indignantly.
``I got this with Miss PRATT!''
And evading a hand which still sought to
clutch him, he departed hotly.
. . . Mr. Parcher's voice expressed wonder, a
little later, as he recommended his wife to turn
her gaze in the direction of ``that Baxter boy''
again. ``Just look at him!'' said Mr. Parcher.
``His face has got more genuine idiocy in it than
I've seen around here yet, and God knows I've
been seeing some miracles in that line this
``He's looking at Lola Pratt,'' said Mrs.
``Don't you suppose I can see that?'' Mr.
Parcher returned, with some irritation. ``That's
what's the trouble with him. Why don't he QUIT
looking at her?''
``I think probably he feels badly because she's
dancing with one of the other boys,'' said his
``Then why can't he dance with somebody else
himself?'' Mr. Parcher inquired, testily. ``Instead
of standing around like a calf looking out
of the butcher's wagon! By George! he looks
as if he was just going to MOO!''
``Of course he ought to be dancing with
somebody,'' Mrs. Parcher remarked, thoughtfully.
``There are one or two more girls than boys here,
and he's the only boy not dancing. I believe
I'll--'' And, not stopping to complete the sentence,
she rose and walked across the interval of
grass to William. ``Good evening, William,'' she
said, pleasantly. ``Don't you want to dance?''
``Ma'am?'' said William, blankly, and the eyes
he turned upon here were glassy with anxiety.
He was still determined to dance on and on and
on with Miss Pratt, but he realized that there
were great obstacles to be overcome before he
could begin the process. He was feverishly
awaiting the next interregnum between dances--
then he would show Joe Bullitt and Johnnie
Watson and Wallace Banks, and some others who
had set themselves in his way, that he was
``abs'lutely not goin' to stand it!''
He couldn't stand it, he told himself, even if he
wanted to--not to-night! He had ``been through
enough'' in order to get to the party, he thought,
thus defining sufferings connected with his costume,
and now that he was here he WOULD dance
and dance, on and on, with Miss Pratt.
Anything else was unthinkable.
He HAD to!
``Don't you want to dance?'' Mrs. Parcher
repeated. ``Have you looked around for a girl
without a partner?''
He continued to stare at her, plainly having
no comprehension of her meaning.
``Girl?'' he echoed, in a tone of feeble inquiry.
She smiled and nodded, taking his arm. ``You
come with me,'' she said. ``I'LL fix you up!''
William suffered her to conduct him across
the yard. Intensely preoccupied with what he
meant to do as soon as the music paused, he was
somewhat hazy, but when he perceived that he
was being led in the direction of a girl, sitting
solitary under one of the maple-trees, the sudden
shock of fear aroused his faculties.
``What--where--'' he stammered, halting and
seeking to detach himself from his hostess.
``What is it?'' she asked.
``I got--I got to--'' William began, uneasily.
``I got to--''
His purpose was to excuse himself on the
ground that he had to find a man and tell him
something important before the next dance, for in
the confusion of the moment his powers refused
him greater originality. But the vital part of
his intended excuse remained unspoken, being
disregarded and cut short, as millions of other
masculine diplomacies have been, throughout the
centuries, by the decisive action of ladies.
Miss Boke had been sitting under the maple-
tree for a long time--so long, indeed, that she
was acquiring a profound distaste for forestry
and even for maple syrup. In fact, her state of
mind was as desperate, in its way, as William's;
and when a hostess leads a youth (in almost
perfectly fitting conventional black) toward a girl
who has been sitting alone through dance after
dance, that girl knows what that youth is going
to have to do.
It must be confessed for Miss Boke that her
eyes had been upon William from the moment
Mrs. Parcher addressed him. Nevertheless, as
the pair came toward her she looked casually
away in an indifferent manner. And yet this
may have been but a seeming unconsciousness,
for upon the very instant of William's halting,
and before he had managed to stammer ``I got
to--'' for the fourth time, Miss Boke sprang to
her feet and met Mrs. Parcher more than halfway.
``Oh, Mrs. Parcher!'' she called, coming forward.
``I got--'' the panic-stricken William again
hastily began. ``I got to--''
``Oh, Mrs. Parcher,'' cried Miss Boke, ``I've
been SO worried! There's a candle in that
Japanese lantern just over your head, and I
think it's going out.''
``I'll run and get a fresh one in a minute,'' said
Mrs. Parcher, smiling benevolently and retaining
William's arm with a little difficulty. ``We were
just coming to find you. I've brought--''
``I got to--I got to find a m--'' William made
a last, stricken effort.
``Miss Boke, this is Mr. Baxter,'' said Mrs.
Parcher, and she added, with what seemed to
William hideous garrulity, ``He and you both
came late, dear, and he hasn't any dances
engaged, either. So run and dance, and have a
nice time together.''
Thereupon this disastrous woman returned to
her husband. Her look was conscientious; she
thought she had done something pleasant!
The full horror of his position was revealed to
William in the relieved, confident, proprietor's
smile of Miss Boke. For William lived by a code
from which no previous experience had taught
him any means of escape. Mrs. Parcher had
made the statement--so needless and so ruinous--
that he had no engagements; and in his dismay
he had been unable to deny this fatal truth; he
had been obliged to let it stand. Henceforth, he
was committed absolutely to Miss Boke until
either some one else asked her to dance, or
(while yet in her close company) William could
obtain an engagement with another girl. The
latter alternative presented certain grave
difficulties, also contracting William to dance with
the other girl before once more obtaining his
freedom, but undeniably he regarded it from the
first as the more hopeful.
He had to give form to the fatal invitation.
``M'av this dance 'thyou?'' he muttered, doggedly.
``Vurry pleased to!'' Miss Boke responded,
whereupon they walked in silence to the platform,
stepped upon its surface, and embraced.
They made a false start.
They made another.
They stood swaying to catch the time; then
made another. After that they tried again, and
were saved from a fall only by spasmodic and
Miss Boke laughed tolerantly, as if forgiving
William for his awkwardness, and his hot heart
grew hotter with that injustice. She was a large,
ample girl, weighing more than William (this
must be definitely claimed in his behalf), and she
had been spending the summer at a lakeside
hotel where she had constantly danced ``man's
part.'' To paint William's predicament at a
stroke, his partner was a determined rather than
a graceful dancer--and their efforts to attune
themselves to each other and to the music were
in a fair way to attract general attention.
A coarse chuckle, a half-suppressed snort,
assailed William's scarlet ear, and from the corner
of his eye he caught a glimpse of Joe Bullitt
gliding by, suffused; while over Joe's detested
shoulder could be seen the adorable and piquant
face of the One girl--also suffused.
``Doggone it!'' William panted.
``Oh, you mustn't be discouraged with yourself,''
said Miss Boke, genially. ``I've met lots
of Men that had trouble to get started and
turned out to be right good dancers, after all. It
seems to me we're kind of workin' against each
other. I'll tell you--you kind of let me do the
guiding and I'll get you going fine. Now! ONE,
two, ONE, two! There!''
William ceased to struggle for dominance, and
their efforts to ``get started'' were at once
successful. With a muscular power that was
surprising, Miss Boke bore him out into the circling
current, swung him round and round, walked him
backward half across the platform, then swung
him round and round and round again. For a
girl, she ``guided'' remarkably well; nevertheless,
a series of collisions, varying in intensity,
marked the path of the pair upon the rather
crowded platform. In such emergencies Miss
Boke proved herself deft in swinging William to
act as a buffer, and he several times found himself
heavily stricken from the rear; anon his face
would be pressed suffocatingly into Miss Boke's
hair, without the slightest wish on his part for
such intimacy. He had a helpless feeling, fully
warranted by the circumstances. Also, he soon
became aware that Miss Boke's powerful ``guiding''
was observed by the public; for, after one
collision, more severe than others, a low voice
hissed in his ear:
``SHE WON'T HURT YOU MUCH, SILLY BILL. SHE'S
ONLY IN FUN!''
This voice belonged to the dancer with whom
he had just been in painful contact, Johnnie
Watson. However, Johnnie had whirled far
upon another orbit before William found a retort,
and then it was a feeble one.
``I wish YOU'D try a few dances with her!''
he whispered, inaudibly, but with unprecedented
bitterness, as the masterly arm of his partner
just saved him from going over the edge of the
platform. ``I bet she'd kill you!''
More than once he tried to assert himself and
resume his natural place as guide, but each time
he did so he immediately got out of step with his
partner, their knees collided embarrassingly, they
staggered and walked upon each other's insteps--
and William was forced to abandon the unequal
``I just love dancing,'' said Miss Boke, serenely.
``Don't you, Mr. Baxter?''
``What?'' he gulped. ``Yeh.''
``It's a beautiful floor for dancing, isn't
``I just love dancing,'' Miss Boke thought
proper to declare again. ``Don't you love it, Mr.
This time he considered his enthusiasm to be
sufficiently indicated by a nod. He needed all
``It's lovely,'' she murmured. ``I hope they
don't play `Home, Sweet Home' very early at
parties in this town. I could keep on like this
To the gasping William it seemed that she
already had kept on like this all night, and he
expressed himself in one great, frank, agonized
moan of relief when the music stopped. ``I sh'
think those musicians 'd be dead!'' he said, as he
wiped his brow. And then discovering that May
Parcher stood at his elbow, he spoke hastily to
her. ``M'av the next 'thyou?''
But Miss Parcher had begun to applaud the
musicians for an encore. She shook her head.
``Next's the third extra,'' she said. ``And,
anyhow, this one's going to be encored now. You can
have the twenty-second--if there IS any!''
William threw a wild glance about him, looking
for other girls, but the tireless orchestra began to
play the encore, and Miss Boke, who had been
applauding, instantly cast herself upon his bosom.
``Come on!'' she cried. ``Don't let's miss a second
of it; It's just glorious!''
When the encore was finished she seized William's
arm, and, mentioning that she'd left her
fan upon the chair under the maple-tree, added,
``Come on! Let's go get it QUICK!''
Under the maple-tree she fanned herself and
talked of her love for dancing until the music
sounded again. ``Come on!'' she cried, then.
``Don't let's miss a second of it! It's just
And grasping his arm, she propelled him toward
the platform with a merry little rush.
So passed five dances. Long, long dances.
Likewise five encores. Long encores.
At every possible opportunity William hailed
other girls with a hasty ``M'av the next
'thyou?'' but he was indeed unfortunate to
have arrived so late.
The best he got was a promise of ``the nine-
teenth--if there IS any!''
After each dance Miss Boke conducted him
back to the maple-tree, aloof from the general
throng, and William found the intermissions
almost equal to his martyrdoms upon the platform.
But, as there was a barely perceptible balance in
their favor, he collected some fragments of his
broken spirit, when Miss Boke would have borne
him to the platform for the sixth time, and begged
to ``sit this one out,'' alleging that he had ``kind
of turned his ankle, or something,'' he believed.
The cordial girl at once placed him upon the
chair and gallantly procured another for herself.
In her solicitude she sat close to him, looking
fondly at his face, while William, though now
and then rubbing his ankle for plausibility's sake,
gazed at the platform with an expression which
Gustave Dore would gratefully have found
suggestive. William was conscious of a voice
continually in action near him, but not of what it
said. Miss Boke was telling him of the dancing
``up at the lake'' where she had spent the summer,
and how much she had loved it, but William
missed all that. Upon the many-colored platform
the ineffable One drifted to and fro, back
and forth; her little blonde head, in a golden net,
glinting here and there like a bit of tinsel blowing
across a flower-garden.
And when that dance and its encore were over
she went to lean against a tree, while Wallace
Banks fanned her, but she was so busy with
Wallace that she did not notice William, though
she passed near enough to waft a breath of
violet scent to his wan nose. A fragment of her
silver speech tinkled in his ear:
``Oh, Wallie Banks! Bid pid s'ant have
Bruvva Josie-Joe's dance 'less Joe say so. Lola
MUS' be fair. Wallie mustn't--''
``That's that Miss Pratt,'' observed Miss Boke,
following William's gaze with some interest.
``You met her yet?''
``Yeh,'' said William.
``She's been visiting here all summer,'' Miss
Boke informed him. ``I was at a little tea this
afternoon, and some of the girls said this Miss
Pratt said she'd never DREAM of getting engaged
to any man that didn't have seven hundred and
fifty thousand dollars. I don't know if it's true
or not, but I expect so. Anyway, they said they
heard her say so.''
William lifted his right hand from his ankle
and passed it, time after time, across his damp
forehead. He did not believe that Miss Pratt
could have expressed herself in so mercenary a
manner, but if she HAD--well, one fact in British
history had so impressed him that he remembered
it even after Examination: William Pitt, the
younger, had been Prime Minister of England at
If an Englishman could do a thing like that,
surely a bright, energetic young American needn't
feel worried about seven hundred and fifty
thousand dollars! And although William, at
seventeen, had seldom possessed more than seven
hundred and fifty cents, four long years must
pass, and much could be done, before he would
reach the age at which William Pitt attained the
premiership--coincidentally a good, ripe,
marriageable age. Still, seven hundred and fifty
thousand dollars is a stiffish order, even allowing
four long years to fill it; and undoubtedly Miss
Boke's bit of gossip added somewhat to the
already sufficient anxieties of William's evening.
``Up at the lake,'' Miss Boke chattered on,
``we got to use the hotel dining-room for the
hops. It's a floor a good deal like this floor is
to-night--just about oily enough and as nice a
floor as ever I danced on. We have awf'ly good
times up at the lake. 'Course there aren't so
many Men up there, like there are here to-night,
and I MUST say I AM glad to get a chance to dance
with a Man again! I told you you'd dance all
right, once we got started, and look at the way
it's turned out: our steps just suit exactly! If I
must say it, I could scarcely think of anybody I
EVER met I'd rather dance with. When anybody's
step suits in with mine, that way, why, I LOVE to
dance straight through an evening with one person,
the way we're doing.''
Dimly, yet with strong repulsion, William
perceived that their interminable companionship
had begun to affect Miss Boke with a liking for
him. And as she chattered chummily on, revealing
this increasing cordiality all the while--
though her more obvious topics were dancing,
dancing-floors, and ``the lake''--the reciprocal
sentiment roused in his breast was that of Sindbad
the Sailor for the Old Man of the Sea.
He was unable to foresee a future apart from
her; and when she informed him that she preferred
his style of dancing to all other styles
shown by the Men at this party, her thus singling
him out for praise only emphasized, in his mind,,
that point upon which he was the most embittered.
``Yes!'' he reflected. ``It had to be ME!''
With all the crowd to choose from, Mrs. Parcher
had to go and pick on HIM! All, all the others
went about, free as air, flitting from girl to girl--
girls that danced like girls! All, all except
William, danced with Miss PRATT! What Miss Pratt
had offered HIM was a choice between the thirty-
second dance and the twenty-first extra. THAT
was what he had to look forward to: the thirty-
second reg'lar or the twenty-first extra!
Meanwhile, merely through eternity, he was
sealed unto Miss Boke.
The tie that bound them oppressed him as if
it had been an ill-omened matrimony, and he sat
beside her like an unwilling old husband. All
the while, Miss Boke had no appreciation whatever
of her companion's real condition, and, when
little, spasmodic, sinister changes appeared in his
face (as they certainly did from time to time) she
attributed them to pains in his ankle. However,
William decided to discard his ankle, after they
had ``sat out'' two dances on account of it. He
decided that he preferred dancing, and said he
guessed he must be better.
So they danced again--and again.
When the fourteenth dance came, about half
an hour before midnight, they were still dancing
It was upon the conclusion of this fourteenth
dance that Mr. Parcher mentioned to his wife a
change in his feelings toward William. ``I've
been watching him,'' said Mr. Parcher, ``and I
never saw true misery show plainer. He's having
a really horrible time. By George! I hate him,
but I've begun to feel kind of sorry for him!
Can't you trot up somebody else, so he can get
away from that fat girl?''
Mrs. Parcher shook her head in a discouraged
way. ``I've tried, and I've tried, and I've tried!''
``Well, try again.''
``I can't now.'' She waved her hand toward
the rear of the house. Round the corner marched
a short procession of negroes, bearing trays; and
the dancers were dispersing themselves to chairs
upon the lawn ``for refreshments.''
``Well, do something,'' Mr. Parcher urged.
``We don't want to find him in the cistern in the
Mrs. Parcher looked thoughtful, then brightened.
``_I_ know!'' she said. ``I'll make May and
Lola and their partners come sit in this little
circle of chairs here, and then I'll go and bring
Willie and Miss Boke to sit with them. I'll give Willie
the seat at Lola's left. You keep the chairs.''
Straightway she sped upon her kindly errand.
It proved successful, so successful, indeed, that
without the slightest effort--without even a hint
on her part--she brought not only William and
his constant friend to sit in the circle with Miss
Pratt, Miss Parcher and their escorts, but Mr.
Bullitt, Mr. Watson, Mr. Banks, and three other
young gentlemen as well. Nevertheless, Mrs.
Parcher managed to carry out her plan, and
after a little display of firmness, saw William
satisfactorily established in the chair at Miss Pratt's
At last, at last, he sat beside the fairy-like
creature, and filled his lungs with infinitesimal
particles of violet scent. More: he was no sooner
seated than the little blonde head bent close to
his; the golden net brushed his cheek. She
``No'ty ickle boy Batster! Lola's last night,
an' ickle boy Batster fluttin'! Flut all night wif
dray bid dirl!''
William made no reply.
There are occasions, infrequent, of course,
when even a bachelor is not flattered by being
accused of flirting. William's feelings toward
Miss Boke had by this time come to such a
pass that he, regarded the charge of flirting
with her as little less than an implication of
grave mental deficiency. And well he remembered
how Miss Pratt, beholding his subjugated
gymnastics in the dance, had grown pink with
laughter! But still the rose-leaf lips whispered:
``Lola saw! Lola saw bad boy Batster under
dray bid tree fluttin' wif dray bid dirl. Fluttin'
all night wif dray bid 'normous dirl!''
Her cruelty was all unwitting; she intended
to rally him sweetly. But seventeen is deathly
serious at such junctures, and William was in a
sensitive condition. He made no reply in words.
Instead, he drew himself up (from the waist,
that is, because he was sitting) with a kind of
proud dignity. And that was all.
``Oo tross?'' whispered Lola.
He spake not.
`` 'Twasn't my fault about dancing,'' she said.
``Bad boy! What made you come so late?''
He maintained his silence and the accompanying
icy dignity, whereupon she made a charming
``Oo be so tross,'' she said, ``Lola talk to nice
Man uvver side of her!''
With that she turned her back upon him and
prattled merrily to the gentleman of sixteen upon
Still and cold sat William. Let her talk to the
Man at the other side of her as she would, and
never so gaily, William knew that she was conscious
every instant of the reproachful presence
upon her left. And somehow these moments of
quiet and melancholy dignity became the most
satisfactory he had known that evening. For as
he sat, so silent, so austere, and not yet eating,
though a plate of chicken salad had been placed
upon his lap, he began to feel that there was
somewhere about him a mysterious superiority
which set him apart from other people--and
above them. This quality, indefinable and lofty,
had carried him through troubles, that very
night, which would have wrecked the lives of
such simple fellows as Joe Bullitt and Johnnie
Watson. And although Miss Pratt continued
to make merry with the Man upon her right, it
seemed to William that this was but outward
show. He had a strange, subtle impression that
the mysterious superiority which set him apart
from others was becoming perceptible to her--
that she was feeling it, too.
Alas! Such are the moments Fate seizes upon
to play the clown!
Over the chatter and laughter of the guests
rose a too familiar voice. ``Lemme he'p you to
nice tongue samwich, lady. No'm? Nice green
lettuce samwich, lady?''
``Nice tongue samwich, suh? Nice lettuce
samwich, lady?'' he could be heard vociferating--
perhaps a little too much as if he had
sandwiches for sale. ``Lemme jes' lay this nice
green lettuce samwich on you' plate fer you,
His wide-spread hand bore the tray of
sandwiches high overhead, for his style in waiting
was florid, though polished. He walked with a
faint, shuffling suggestion of a prance, a lissome
pomposity adopted in obedience to the art-sense
within him which bade him harmonize himself
with occasions of state and fashion. His manner
was the super-supreme expression of graciousness,
but the graciousness was innocent, being but an
affectation and nothing inward--for inwardly
Genesis was humble. He was only pretending to
be the kind of waiter he would like to be.
And because he was a new waiter he strongly
wished to show familiarity with his duties--
familiarity, in fact, with everything and everybody.
This yearning, born of self-doubt, and intensified
by a slight touch of gin, was beyond question
the inspiration of his painful behavior when
he came near the circle of chairs where sat Mr.
and Mrs. Parcher, Miss Parcher, Miss Pratt,
Miss Boke, Mr. Watson, Mr. Bullitt, others--and
``Nice tongue samwich, lady!'' he announced,
semi-cake-walking beneath his high-borne tray.
Nice green lettuce sam--'' He came suddenly
to a dramatic dead-stop as he beheld William
sitting before him, wearing that strange new
dignity and Mr. Baxter's evening clothes. ``Name
o' goo'ness!'' Genesis exclaimed, so loudly that
every one looked up. ``How in the livin' worl'
you evuh come to git here? You' daddy sut'ny
mus' 'a' weakened 'way down 'fo' he let you
wear his low-cut ves' an' pants an' long-tail
coat! I bet any man fifty cents you gone an'
stole 'em out aftuh he done went to bed!''
And he burst into a wild, free African laugh.
At seventeen such things are not embarrassing;
they are catastrophical. But, mercifully,
catastrophes often produce a numbness in the
victims. More as in a trance than actually
William heard the outbreak of his young
companions; and, during the quarter of an hour
subsequent to Genesis's performance, the oft-
renewed explosions of their mirth made but a
kind of horrid buzzing in his ears. Like sounds
borne from far away were the gaspings of Mr.
and Mrs. Parcher, striving with all their strength
to obtain mastery of themselves once more.
. . . A flourish of music challenged the
dancers. Couples appeared upon the platform.
The dreadful supper was over.
The ineffable One, supremely pink, rose from
her seat at William's side and moved toward the
platform with the glowing Joe Bullitt. Then
William, roused to action by this sight, sprang
to his feet and took a step toward them. But
it was only one weak step.
A warm and ample hand placed itself firmly
inside the crook of his elbow. ``Let's get started
for this one before the floor gets all crowded
up,'' said Miss Boke.
Miss Boke danced and danced with him; she
danced him on--and on--and on----
At half past one the orchestra played ``Home,
Sweet Home.'' As the last bars sounded, a
group of earnest young men who had surrounded
the lovely guest of honor, talking vehemently,
broke into loud shouts, embraced one another and
capered variously over the lawn. Mr. Parcher
beheld from a distance these manifestations, and
then, with an astonishment even more profound,
took note of the tragic William, who was running
toward him, radiant--Miss Boke hovering futilely
in the far background.
``What's all the hullabaloo?'' Mr. Parcher inquired.
``Miss Pratt!'' gasped William. ``Miss Pratt!''
``Well, what about her?''
And upon receiving William's reply, Mr.
Parcher might well have discerned behind it the
invisible hand of an ironic but recompensing
Providence making things even--taking from the
one to give to the other.
``She's going to stay!'' shouted the happy
William. ``She's promised to stay another
And then, mingling with the sounds of
rejoicing, there ascended to heaven the stricken
cry of an elderly man plunging blindly into the
house in search of his wife.
XXVIII. RANNIE KIRSTED
Observing the monotonously proper behavior
of the sun, man had an absurd idea
and invented Time. Becoming still more absurd,
man said, ``So much shall be a day; such and
such shall be a week. All weeks shall be the same
length.'' Yet every baby knows better! How
long for Johnnie Watson, for Joe Bullitt, for
Wallace Banks--how long for William Sylvanus
Baxter was the last week of Miss Pratt? No one
can answer. How long was that week for Mr.
Parcher? Again the mind is staggered.
Many people, of course, considered it to be a
week of average size. Among these was Jane.
Throughout seven days which brought some
tense moments to the Baxter household, Jane
remained calm; and she was still calm upon the
eighth morning as she stood in the front yard of
her own place of residence, gazing steadily across
the street. The object of her grave attention
was an ample brick house, newly painted white
after repairs and enlargements so inspiring to
Jane's faculty for suggesting better ways of
doing things, that the workmen had learned to
address her, with a slight bitterness, as ``Madam
Throughout the process of repair, and until the
very last of the painting, Jane had considered this
house to be as much her property as anybody's;
for children regard as ownerless all vacant houses
and all houses in course of construction or radical
alteration. Nothing short of furniture--intimate
furniture in considerable quantity--hints that
the public is not expected. However, such a
hint, or warning, was conveyed to Jane this
morning, for two ``express wagons'' were standing
at the curb with their backs impolitely toward
the brick house; and powerful-voiced men
went surging to and fro under fat arm-chairs,
mahogany tables, disarticulated bedsteads, and
baskets of china and glassware; while a harassed
lady appeared in the outer doorway, from time
to time, with gestures of lamentation and
entreaty. Upon the sidewalk, between the wagons
and the gate, was a broad wet spot, vaguely
circular, with a partial circumference of broken
glass and extinct goldfish.
Jane was forced to conclude that the brick
house did belong to somebody, after all. Wherefore,
she remained in her own yard, a steadfast
spectator, taking nourishment into her system
at regular intervals. This was beautifully
automatic: in each hand she held a slice of bread,
freely plastered over with butter, apple sauce, and
powdered sugar; and when she had taken somewhat
from the right hand, that hand slowly
descended with its burden, while, simultaneously,
the left began to rise, reaching the level of her
mouth precisely at the moment when a little
wave passed down her neck, indicating that the
route was clear. Then, having made delivery,
the left hand sank, while the right began to rise
again. And, so well had custom trained Jane's
members, never once did she glance toward either
of these faithful hands or the food that it
supported; her gaze was all the while free to remain
upon the house across the way and the great
doings before it.
After a while, something made her wide eyes
grow wider almost to their utmost. Nay, the
event was of that importance her mechanical
hands ceased to move and stopped stock-still,
the right half-way up, the left half-way down, as if
because of sudden motor trouble within Jane.
Her mouth was equally affected, remaining open
at a visible crisis in the performance of its duty.
These were the tokens of her agitation upon
beholding the removal of a dolls' house from one of
the wagons. This dolls' house was at least five
feet high, of proportionate breadth and depths
the customary absence of a facade disclosing an
interior of four luxurious floors, with stairways,
fireplaces, and wall-paper. Here was a mansion
wherein doll-duchesses, no less, must dwell.
Straightway, a little girl ran out of the open
doorway of the brick house and, with a self-
importance concentrated to the point of shrewishness,
began to give orders concerning the disposal
of her personal property, which included (as she
made clear) not only the dolls' mansion, but also
three dolls' trunks and a packing-case of fair
size. She was a thin little girl, perhaps half a
year younger than Jane; and she was as soiled,
particularly in respect to hands, brow, chin, and
the knees of white stockings, as could be expected
of any busybodyish person of nine or ten whose
mother is house-moving. But she was gifted--
if we choose to put the matter in the hopeful,
sweeter way--she was gifted with an unusually
loud and shrill voice, and she made herself
heard over the strong-voiced men to such emphatic
effect that one of the latter, with the dolls'
mansion upon his back, paused in the gateway
to acquaint her with his opinion that of all
the bossy little girls he had ever seen, heard, or
heard of, she was the bossiest.
``THE worst!'' he added.
The little girl across the street was of course
instantly aware of Jane, though she pretended
not to be; and from the first her self-importance
was in large part assumed for the benefit of the
observer. After a momentary silence, due to her
failure to think of any proper response to the
workman who so pointedly criticized her, she
resumed the peremptory direction of her affairs.
She ran in and out of the house, her brow dark
with frowns, her shoulders elevated; and by
every means at her disposal she urged her audience
to behold the frightful responsibilities of
one who must keep a thousand things in her head
at once, and yet be ready for decisive action at
There may have been one weakness in this
strong performance: the artistic sincerity of it
was a little discredited by the increasing
frequency with which the artist took note of her
effect. During each of her most impressive
moments, she flashed, from the far corner of her eye,
two questions at Jane: ``How about THAT one?
Are you still watching Me?''
Then, apparently in the very midst of her
cares, she suddenly and without warning ceased
to boss, walked out into the street, halted, and
stared frankly at Jane.
Jane had begun her automatic feeding again.
She continued it, meanwhile seriously returning
the stare of the new neighbor. For several minutes
this mutual calm and inoffensive gaze was
protracted; then Jane, after swallowing the last
morsel of her supplies, turned her head away and
looked at a tree. The little girl, into whose eyes
some wistfulness had crept, also turned her head
and looked at a tree. After a while, she advanced
to the curb on Jane's side of the street, and,
swinging her right foot, allowed it to kick the
Jane came out to the sidewalk and began to
kick one of the fence-pickets.
``You see that ole fatty?'' asked the little girl,
pointing to one of the workmen, thus sufficiently
``That's the one broke the goldfish,'' said the
little girl. There was a pause during which she
continued to scuff the curbstone with her shoe,
Jane likewise scuffing the fence-picket. ``I'm
goin' to have papa get him arrested,'' added the
``My papa got two men arrested once,'' Jane
said, calmly. ``Two or three.''
The little girl's eyes, wandering upward, took
note of Jane's papa's house, and of a fierce young
gentleman framed in an open window up-stairs.
He was seated, wore ink upon his forehead, and
tapped his teeth with a red penholder.
``Who is that?'' she asked.
``Is it your papa?''
``NO-O-O-O!'' Jane exclaimed. ``It's WILLIE!''
``Oh,'' said the little girl, apparently satisfied.
Each now scuffed less energetically with her
shoe; feet slowed down; so did conversation, and,
for a time, Jane and the stranger wrapped themselves
in stillness, though there may have been
some silent communing between them. Then the
new neighbor placed her feet far apart and
leaned backward upon nothing, curving her front
outward and her remarkably flexible spine inward
until a profile view of her was grandly semicircular.
Jane watched her attentively, but without
comment. However, no one could have doubted that
the processes of acquaintance were progressing
``Let's go in our yard,'' said Jane.
The little girl straightened herself with a slight
gasp, and accepted the invitation. Side by side,
the two passed through the open gate, walked
gravely forth upon the lawn, and halted, as by
common consent. Jane thereupon placed her
feet wide apart and leaned backward upon nothing,
attempting the feat in contortion just
performed by the stranger.
``Look,'' she said. ``Look at ME!''
But she lacked the other's genius, lost her
balance, and fell. Born persistent, she
immediately got to her feet and made fresh efforts.
``No! Look at ME!'' the little girl cried,
becoming semicircular again. ``This is the way.
I call it `puttin' your stummick out o' joint.'
You haven't got yours out far enough.''
``Yes, I have,'' said Jane, gasping.
``Well, to do it right, you must WALK that way.
As soon as you get your stummick out o' joint,
you must begin an' walk. Look! Like this.''
And the little girl, having achieved a state of
such convexity that her braided hair almost
touched the ground behind her, walked
successfully in that singular attitude.
``I'm walkin','' Jane protested, her face not
quite upside down. ``Look! I'M walkin' that
way, too. My stummick--''
There came an outraged shout from above, and
a fierce countenance, stained with ink, protruded
from the window.
``Stop that! Stop putting your stomach out
in front of you like that! It's disgraceful!''
Both young ladies, looking rather oppressed,
resumed the perpendicular. ``Why doesn't he like
it?'' the stranger asked in a tone of pure wonder.
``I don't know,'' said Jane. ``He doesn't like
much of anything. He's seventeen years old.''
After that, the two stared moodily at the
ground for a little while, chastened by the severe
presence above; then Jane brightened.
``_I_ know!'' she exclaimed, cozily. ``Let's play
callers. Right here by this bush 'll be my house.
You come to call on me, an' we'll talk about our
chuldren. You be Mrs. Smith an' I'm Mrs.
Jones.'' And in the character of a hospitable
matron she advanced graciously toward the new
neighbor. ``Why, my dear Mrs. SMITH, come
right IN! I THOUGHT you'd call this morning. I
want to tell you about my lovely little daughter.
She's only ten years old, an' says the brightest
THINGS! You really must--''
But here Jane interrupted herself abruptly,
and, hopping behind the residential bush, peeped
over it, not at Mrs. Smith, but at a boy of ten or
eleven who was passing along the sidewalk.
Her expression was gravely interested, somewhat
complacent; and Mrs. Smith was not so lacking
in perception that she failed to understand how
completely--for the time being, at least--calling
The boy whistled briskly, ``My country, 'tis
of thee,'' and though his knowledge of the
air failed him when he finished the second line,
he was not disheartened, but began at the
beginning again, continuing repeatedly after this
fashion to offset monotony by patriotism. He
whistled loudly; he walked with ostentatious
intent to be at some heavy affair in the distance;
his ears were red. He looked neither to the right
nor to the left.
That is, he looked neither to the right nor to
the left until he had passed the Baxters' fence.
But when he had gone as far as the upper corner
of the fence beyond, he turned his head and
looked back, without any expression--except that
of a whistler--at Jane. And thus, still whistling
``My country, 'tis of thee,'' and with blank pink
face over his shoulder, he proceeded until he was
out of sight.
``Who was that boy?'' the new neighbor then
``It's Freddie,'' said Jane, placidly. ``He's in
our Sunday-school. He's in love of me.''
Again the outraged and ink-stained countenance
glared down from the window.
``What you want?'' Jane asked.
``What you MEAN talking about such things?''
William demanded. ``In all my life I never
heard anything as disgusting! Shame on you!''
The little girl from across the street looked
upward thoughtfully. ``He's mad,'' she
remarked, and, regardless of Jane's previous
information, ``It IS your papa, isn't it?'' she
``No!'' said Jane, testily. ``I told you five
times it's my brother Willie.''
``Oh!'' said the little girl, and, grasping the fact
that William's position was, in dignity and
authority, negligible, compared with that which she
had persisted in imagining, she felt it safe to tint
her upward gaze with disfavor. ``He acts kind
of crazy,'' she murmured.
``He's in love of Miss Pratt,'' said Jane.
``She's goin' away to-day. She said she'd go
before, but to-day she IS! Mr. Parcher, where
she visits, he's almost dead, she's stayed so long.
She's awful, I think.''
William, to whom all was audible, shouted,
hoarsely, ``I'll see to YOU!'' and disappeared from
``Will he come down here?'' the little girl
asked, taking a step toward the gate.
``No. He's just gone to call mamma. All
she'll do' ll be to tell us to go play somewheres
else. Then we can go talk to Genesis.''
``Genesis. He's puttin' a load of coal in the
cellar window with a shovel. He's nice.''
``What's he put the coal in the window
``He's a colored man,'' said Jane.
``Shall we go talk to him now?''
``No,'' Jane said, thoughtfully. ``Let's be
playin' callers when mamma comes to tell us to
go 'way. What was your name?''
``No, it wasn't.''
``It is too, Rannie,'' the little girl insisted.
``My whole name's Mary Randolph Kirsted, but
my short name's Rannie.''
Jane laughed. ``What a funny name!'' she
said. ``I didn't mean your real name; I meant
your callers' name. One of us was Mrs. Jones,
and one was--''
``I want to be Mrs. Jones,'' said Rannie.
``Oh, my DEAR Mrs. Jones,'' Jane began at
once, ``I want to tell you about my lovely
chuldren. I have two, one only seven years old, and
``Jane!'' called Mrs. Baxter from William's
``You must go somewhere else to play. Willie's
trying to work at his studies up here, and he says
you've disturbed him very much.''
The obedient Jane and her friend turned to go,
and as they went, Miss Mary Randolph Kirsted
allowed her uplifted eyes to linger with increased
disfavor upon William, who appeared beside
Mrs. Baxter at the window.
``I tell you what let's do,'' Rannie suggested in
a lowered voice. ``He got so fresh with us, an'
made your mother come, an' all, let's--let's--''
``Let's what?'' Jane urged her, in an eager
``Let's think up somep'n he won't like--an'
They disappeared round a corner of the house,
their heads close together.
XXIX. ``DON'T FORGET!''
Up-stairs, Mrs. Baxter moved to the door
of her son's room, pretending to be unconscious
of the gaze he maintained upon her. Mustering
courage to hum a little tune and affecting
inconsequence, she had nearly crossed the
threshold when he said, sternly:
``And this is all you intend to say to that
``Why, yes, Willie.''
``And yet I told you what she said!'' he cried.
``I told you I HEARD her stand there and tell that
dirty-faced little girl how that idiot boy that's
always walkin' past here four or five times a
day, whistling and looking back, was in `love
of' her! Ye gods! What kind of a person will
she grow up into if you don't punish her for
havin' ideas like that at her age?''
Mrs. Baxter regarded him mildly, not replying,
and he went on, with loud indignation:
``I never heard of such a thing! That Worm
walkin' past here four or five times a day just to
look at JANE! And her standing there, calmly
tellin' that sooty-faced little girl, `He's in love of
me'! Why, it's enough to sicken a man! Honestly,
if I had my way, I'd see that both she and
that little Freddie Banks got a first-class whipping!''
``Don't you think, Willie,'' said Mrs. Baxter--
``don't you think that, considering the rather
noncommittal method of Freddie's courtship, you are
suggesting extreme measures?''
``Well, SHE certainly ought to be punished!'' he
insisted, and then, with a reversal to agony, he
shuddered. ``That's the least of it!'' he cried.
``It's the insulting things you always allow her to
say of one of the noblest girls in the United
States--THAT'S what counts! On the very last
day--yes, almost the last hour--that Miss Pratt's
in this town, you let your only daughter stand
there and speak disrespectfully of her--and then
all you do is tell her to `go and play somewhere
else'! I don't understand your way of bringing
up a child,'' he declared, passionately. ``I do
``There, there, Willie,'' Mrs. Baxter said.
``You're all wrought up--''
``I am NOT wrought up!'' shouted William.
``Why should I be charged with--''
``Now, now!'' she said. ``You'll feel better to-morrow.''
``What do you mean by that?'' he demanded,
For reply she only shook her head in an odd
little way, and in her parting look at him there
was something at once compassionate, amused,
``You'll be all right, Willie,'' she said, softly,
and closed the door.
Alone, William lifted clenched hands in a series
of tumultuous gestures at the ceiling; then he
moaned and sank into a chair at his writing-
table. Presently a comparative calm was
restored to him, and with reverent fingers he took
from a drawer a one-pound box of candy, covered
with white tissue-paper, girdled with blue ribbon.
He set the box gently beside him upon the table;
then from beneath a large, green blotter drew
forth some scribbled sheets. These he placed
before him, and, taking infinite pains with his
handwriting, slowly copied:
DEAR LOLA--I presume when you are reading these lines
it will be this afternoon and you will be on the train moving
rapidly away from this old place here farther and farther
from it all. As I sit here at my old desk and look back
upon it all while I am writing this farewell letter I hope when
you are reading it you also will look back upon it all and
think of one you called (Alias) Little Boy Baxter. As I
sit here this morning that you are going away at last I
look back and I cannot rember any summer in my whole
life which has been like this summer, because a great change
has come over me this summer. If you would like to know
what this means it was something like I said when John
Watson got there yesterday afternoon and interupted
what I said. May you enjoy this candy and think of the
giver. I will put something in with this letter. It is
something maybe you would like to have and in exchange
I would give all I possess for one of you if you would send
it to me when you get home. Please do this for now my
heart is braking.
WILLIAM S. BAXTER (ALIAS) LITTLE BOY BAXTER.
William opened the box of candy and placed
the letter upon the top layer of chocolates. Upon
the letter he placed a small photograph (wrapped
in tissue-paper) of himself. Then, with a pair of
scissors, he trimmed an oblong of white cardboard
to fit into the box. Upon this piece of
cardboard he laboriously wrote, copying from a
tortured, inky sheet before him:
BY WILLIAM S. BAXTER
The sunset light
Fades into night
But never will I forget
The smile that haunts me yet
Through the future four long years
I hope you will remember with tears
Whate'er my rank or station
Whilst receiving my education
Though far away you seem
I will see thee in dream.
He placed his poem between the photograph
and the letter, closed the box, and tied the tissue-
paper about it again with the blue ribbon.
Throughout these rites (they were rites both in
spirit and in manner) he was subject to little
catchings of the breath, half gulp, half sigh.
But the dolorous tokens passed, and he sat with
elbows upon the table, his chin upon his hands,
reverie in his eyes. Tragedy had given way to
gentler pathos;--beyond question, something had
measurably soothed him. Possibly, even in this
hour preceding the hour of parting, he knew a
little of that proud amazement which any poet
is entitled to feel over each new lyric miracle
Perhaps he was helped, too, by wondering what
Miss Pratt would think of him when she read ``In
Dream,'' on the train that afternoon. For reasons
purely intuitive, and decidedly without foundation
in fact, he was satisfied that no rival
farewell poem would be offered her, and so it may
be that he thought ``In Dream'' might show her
at last, in one blaze of light, what her eyes had
sometimes fleetingly intimated she did perceive
in part--the difference between William and
such every-day, rather well-meaning, fairly good-
hearted people as Joe Bullitt, Wallace Banks,
Johnnie Watson, and others. Yes, when she
came to read ``In Dream,'' and to ``look back
upon it all,'' she would surely know--at last!
And then, when the future four long years
(while receiving his education) had passed, he
would go to her. He would go to her, and she
would take him by the hand, and lead him to her
father, and say, ``Father, this is William.''
But William would turn to her, and, with the
old, dancing light in his eyes, ``No, Lola,'' he
would say, ``not William, but Ickle Boy Baxter!
Always and always, just that for you; oh, my
And then, as in story and film and farce and
the pleasanter kinds of drama, her father would
say, with kindly raillery, ``Well, when you two
young people get through, you'll find me in the
library, where I have a pretty good BUSINESS
proposition to lay before YOU, young man!''
And when the white-waistcoated, white-side-
burned old man had, chuckling, left the room,
William would slowly lift his arms; but Lola
would move back from him a step--only a step--
and after laying a finger archly upon her lips to
check him, ``Wait, sir!'' she would say. ``I have
a question to ask you, sir!''
``What question, Lola?''
``THIS question, sir!'' she would reply. ``In all
that summer, sir, so long ago, why did you never
tell me what you WERE, until I had gone away and
it was too late to show you what I felt? Ah,
Ickle Boy Baxter, I never understood until I
looked back upon it all, after I had read `In
Dream,' on the train that day! THEN I KNEW!''
``And now, Lola?'' William would say. ``Do
you understand me, NOW?''
Shyly she would advance the one short step
she had put between them, while he, with lifted,
yearning arms, this time destined to no
At so vital a moment did Mrs. Baxter knock at
his door and consoling reverie cease to minister
unto William. Out of the rosy sky he dropped,
falling miles in an instant, landing with a bump.
He started, placed the sacred box out of sight,
and spoke gruffly.
``What you want?''
``I'm not coming in, Willie,'' said his mother.
``I just wanted to know--I thought maybe you
were looking out of the window and noticed where
those children went.''
``Jane and that little girl from across the
street--Kirsted, her name must be.''
``No. I did not.''
``I just wondered,'' Mrs. Baxter said, timidly.
``Genesis thinks he heard the little Kirsted girl
telling Jane she had plenty of money for car-
fare. He thinks they went somewhere on a
street-car. I thought maybe you noticed
``I told you I did not.''
``All right,'' she said, placatively. ``I didn't
mean to bother you, dear.''
Following this there was a silence; but no
sound of receding footsteps indicated Mrs.
Baxter's departure from the other side of the
``Well, what you WANT?'' William shouted.
``Nothing--nothing at all,'' said the compassionate
voice. ``I just thought I'd have lunch a
little later than usual; not till half past one.
That is if--well, I thought probably you meant
to go to the station to see Miss Pratt off on the
Even so friendly an interest as this must have
appeared to the quivering William an intrusion in
his affairs, for he demanded, sharply:
``How'd you find out she's going at one
``Why--why, Jane mentioned it,'' Mrs. Baxter
replied, with obvious timidity. ``Jane said--''
She was interrupted by the loud, desperate
sound of William's fist smiting his writing-table,
so sensitive was his condition. ``This is just
unbearable!'' he cried. ``Nobody's business is safe
from that child!''
``Why, Willie, I don't see how it matters if--''
He uttered a cry. ``No! Nothing matters!
Nothing matters at all! Do you s'pose I want
that child, with her insults, discussing when Miss
Pratt is or is not going away? Don't you know
there are SOME things that have no business to be
talked about by every Tom, Dick, and Harry?''
``Yes, dear,'' she said. ``I understand, of
course. Jane only told me she met Mr. Parcher
on the street, and he mentioned that Miss Pratt
was going at one o'clock to-day. That's all
``You say you understand,'' he wailed, shaking
his head drearily at the closed door, ``and yet,
even on such a day as this, you keep TALKING!
Can't you see sometimes there's times when a
person can't stand to--''
``Yes, Willie,'' Mrs. Baxter interposed,
hurriedly. ``Of course! I'm going now. I have
to go hunt up those children, anyway. You try
to be back for lunch at half past one--and don't
worry, dear; you really WILL be all right!''
She departed, a sigh from the abyss following
her as she went down the hall. Her comforting
words meant nothing pleasant to her son, who
felt that her optimism was out of place and
tactless. He had no intention to be ``all right,'' and
he desired nobody to interfere with his misery.
He went to his mirror, and, gazing long--long
and piercingly--at the William there limned, enacted,
almost unconsciously, a little scene of parting.
The look of suffering upon the mirrored face
slowly altered; in its place came one still
sorrowful, but tempered with sweet indulgence. He
stretched out his hand, as if he set it upon a head
at about the height of his shoulder.
``Yes, it may mean--it may mean forever!''
he said in a low, tremulous voice. ``Little girl,
we MUST be brave!''
And the while his eyes gazed into the mirror,
they became expressive of a momentary pleased
surprise, as if, even in the arts of sorrow, he
found himself doing better than he knew. But his
sorrow was none the less genuine because of that.
Then he noticed the ink upon his forehead, and
went away to wash. When he returned he did
an unusual thing--he brushed his coat thoroughly,
removing it for this special purpose.
After that, he earnestly combed and brushed his
hair, and retied his tie. Next, he took from a
drawer two clean handkerchiefs. He placed one
in his breast pocket, part of the colored border
of the handkerchief being left on exhibition,
and with the other he carefully wiped his shoes.
Finally, he sawed it back and forth across them,
and, with a sigh, languidly dropped it upon the
floor, where it remained.
Returning to the mirror, he again brushed his
hair--he went so far, this time, as to brush his
eyebrows, which seemed not much altered by the
operation. Suddenly, he was deeply affected by
something seen in the glass.
``By George!'' he exclaimed aloud.
Seizing a small hand-mirror, he placed it in
juxtaposition to his right eye, and closely studied
his left profile as exhibited in the larger mirror.
Then he examined his right profile, subjecting it
to a like scrutiny emotional, yet attentive and
``By George!'' he exclaimed, again. ``By
He had made a discovery. There was a downy
shadow upon his upper lip. What he had just
found out was that this down could be seen
projecting beyond the line of his lip, like a tiny
nimbus. It could be seen in PROFILE.
``By GEORGE!'' William exclaimed.
He was still occupied with the two mirrors when
his mother again tapped softly upon his door,
rousing him as from a dream (brief but engaging)
to the heavy realities of that day.
``What you want now?''
``I won't come in,'' said Mrs. Baxter. ``I just
came to see.''
``I wondered-- I thought perhaps you needed
something. I knew your watch was out of
``F'r 'evan's sake what if it is?''
She offered a murmur of placative laughter as
her apology, and said: ``Well, I just thought
I'd tell you--because if you did intend going
to the station, I thought you probably wouldn't
want to miss it and get there too late. I've got
your hat here all nicely brushed for you. It's
nearly twenty minutes of one, Willie.''
``Yes, it is. It's--''
She had no further speech with him.
Breathless, William flung open his door, seized
the hat, racketed down the stairs, and out
through the front door, which he left open behind
him. Eight seconds later he returned at a gallop,
hurtled up the stairs and into his room, emerging
instantly with something concealed under his
coat. Replying incoherently to his mother's
inquiries, he fell down the stairs as far as the
landing, used the impetus thus given as a help
to greater speed for the rest of the descent--and
passed out of hearing.
Mrs. Baxter sighed, and went to a window
in her own room, and looked out.
William was already more than half-way to
the next corner, where there was a car-line
that ran to the station; but the distance was
not too great for Mrs. Baxter to comprehend the
nature of the symmetrical white parcel now carried
in his right hand. Her face became pensive
as she gazed after the flying slender figure:--there
came to her mind the recollection of a seventeen-
year-old boy who had brought a box of candy (a
small one, like William's) to the station, once,
long ago, when she had been visiting in another
town. For just a moment she thought of that
boy she had known, so many years ago, and a
smile came vaguely upon her lips. She wondered
what kind of a woman he had married, and how
many children he had--and whether he was a
The fleeting recollection passed; she turned
from the window and shook her head, puzzled.
``Now where on earth could Jane and that
little Kirsted girl have gone?'' she murmured.
. . . At the station, William, descending from
the street-car, found that he had six minutes to
spare. Reassured of so much by the great clock
in the station tower, he entered the building, and,
with calm and dignified steps, crossed the large
waiting-room. Those calm and dignified steps
were taken by feet which little betrayed the
tremulousness of the knees above them. Moreover,
though William's face was red, his expression--
cold, and concentrated upon high matters
--scorned the stranger, and warned the lower
classes that the mission of this bit of gentry
was not to them.
With but one sweeping and repellent glance
over the canaille present, he made sure that the
person he sought was not in the waiting-room.
Therefore, he turned to the doors which gave
admission to the tracks, but before he went out
he paused for an instant of displeasure. Hard
by the doors stood a telephone-booth, and from
inside this booth a little girl of nine or ten
was peering eagerly out at William, her eyes just
above the lower level of the glass window in the
Even a prospect thus curtailed revealed her as
a smudged and dusty little girl; and, evidently,
her mother must have been preoccupied with
some important affair that day; but to William
she suggested nothing familiar. As his glance
happened to encounter hers, the peering eyes
grew instantly brighter with excitement;--she
exposed her whole countenance at the window,
and impulsively made a face at him.
William had not the slightest recollection of
ever having seen her before.
He gave her one stern look and went on;
though he felt that something ought to be done.
The affair was not a personal one--patently,
this was a child who played about the station
and amused herself by making faces at everybody
who passed the telephone-booth--still, the
authorities ought not to allow it. People did not
come to the station to be insulted.
Three seconds later the dusty-faced little girl
and her moue were sped utterly from William's
mind. For, as the doors swung together behind
him, he saw Miss Pratt. There were no gates
nor iron barriers to obscure the view; there was
no train-shed to darken the air. She was at
some distance, perhaps two hundred feet, along
the tracks, where the sleeping-cars of the long
train would stop. But there she stood, mistakable
for no other on this wide earth!
There she stood--a glowing little figure in the
hazy September sunlight, her hair an amber mist
under the adorable little hat; a small bunch of
violets at her waist; a larger bunch of fragrant
but less expensive sweet peas in her right hand;
half a dozen pink roses in her left; her little dog
Flopit in the crook of one arm; and a one-pound
box of candy in the crook of the other--ineffable,
radiant, starry, there she stood!
Near her also stood her young hostess, and
Wallace Banks, Johnnie Watson, and Joe Bullitt
--three young gentlemen in a condition of solemn
tensity. Miss Parcher saw William as he
emerged from the station building, and she
waved her parasol in greeting, attracting the
attention of the others to him, so that they:
all turned and stared.
Seventeen sometimes finds it embarrassing
(even in a state of deep emotion) to walk two
hundred feet, or thereabout, toward a group of
people who steadfastly watch the long approach.
And when the watching group contains the lady
of all the world before whom one wishes to
appear most debonair, and contains not only her,
but several rivals, who, though FAIRLY good-
hearted, might hardly be trusted to neglect such
an opportunity to murmur something jocular
about one-- No, it cannot be said that William
appeared to be wholly without self-consciousness.
In fancy he had prophesied for this moment
something utterly different. He had seen himself
parting from her, the two alone as within a
cloud. He had seen himself gently placing his
box of candy in her hands, some of his fingers
just touching some of hers and remaining thus
lightly in contact to the very last. He had seen
himself bending toward the sweet blonde head to
murmur the few last words of simple eloquence,
while her eyes lifted in mysterious appeal to his
--and he had put no other figures, not even Miss
Parcher's, into this picture.
Parting is the most dramatic moment in young
love, and if there is one time when the lover
wishes to present a lofty but graceful appearance
it is at the last. To leave with the loved
one, for recollection, a final picture of manly
dignity in sorrow--that, above all things, is the
lover's desire. And yet, even at the beginning
of William's two-hundred-foot advance (later so
much discussed) he felt the heat surging over his
ears, and, as he took off his hat, thinking to
wave it jauntily in reply to Miss Parcher, he
made but an uncertain gesture of it, so that he
wished he had not tried it. Moreover, he had
covered less than a third of the distance, when
he became aware that all of the group were staring
at him with unaccountable eagerness, and
had begun to laugh.
William felt certain that his attire was in no
way disordered, nor in itself a cause for laughter;--
all of these people had often seen him
dressed as he was to-day, and had preserved
their gravity. But, in spite of himself, he took
off his hat again, and looked to see if anything
about it might explain this mirth, which, at his
action, increased. Nay, the laughter began to be
shared by strangers; and some set down their
hand-luggage for greater pleasure in what they
William's inward state became chaotic.
He tried to smile carelessly, to prove his
composure, but he found that he had lost almost all
control over his features. He had no knowledge
of his actual expression except that it hurt him.
In desperation he fell back upon hauteur; he
managed to frown, and walked proudly. At that
they laughed the more, Wallace Banks rudely
pointing again and again at William; and not
till the oncoming sufferer reached a spot within
twenty feet of these delighted people did he
grasp the significance of Wallace's repeated gesture
of pointing. Even then he understood only
when the gesture was supplemented by half-
``Behind you! Look BEHIND you!''
The stung youth turned.
There, directly behind him, he beheld an
exclusive little procession consisting of two damsels
in single file, the first soiled with house-moving,
the second with apple sauce.
For greater caution they had removed their
shoes; and each damsel, as she paraded, dangled
from each far-extended hand a shoe. And both
damsels, whether beneath apple sauce or dust
smudge, were suffused with the rapture of a great
They were walking with their stummicks out
At sight of William's face they squealed. They
turned and ran. They got themselves out of
Simultaneously, the air filled with solid thunder
and the pompous train shook the ground. Ah,
woe's the word! This was the thing that meant
to bear away the golden girl and honeysuckle of
the world--meant to, and would, not abating one
Now a porter had her hand-bag.
Dear Heaven! to be a porter--yes, a colored
one! What of that, NOW? Just to be a simple
porter, and journey with her to the far, strange
pearl among cities whence she had come!
The gentle porter bowed her toward the steps
of his car; but first she gave Flopit into the hands
of May Parcher, for a moment, and whispered
a word to Wallace Banks; then to Joe Bullitt;
then to Johnnie Watson;--then she ran to William.
She took his hand.
``Don't forget!'' she whispered. ``Don't
He stood stock-still. His face was blank, his
hand limp. He said nothing.
She enfolded May Parcher, kissed her
devotedly; then, with Flopit once more under her
arm, she ran and jumped upon the steps just
as the train began to move. She stood there, on
the lowest step, slowly gliding away from them,
and in her eyes there was a sparkle of tears, left,
it may be, from her laughter at poor William's
pageant with Jane and Rannie Kirsted--or, it
may be, not.
She could not wave to her friends, in answer
to their gestures of farewell, for her arms were
too full of Flopit and roses and candy and sweet
peas; but she kept nodding to them in a way
that showed them how much she thanked them
for being sorry she was going--and made it clear
that she was sorry, too, and loved them all.
``Good-by!'' she meant.
Faster she glided; the engine passed from sight
round a curve beyond a culvert, but for a moment
longer they could see the little figure upon
the steps--and, to the very last glimpse they
had of her, the small, golden head was still
nodding ``Good-by!'' Then those steps whereon
she stood passed in their turn beneath the culvert,
and they saw her no more.
Lola Pratt was gone!
Wet-eyed, her young hostess of the long
summer turned away, and stumbled against William.
``Why, Willie Baxter!'' she cried, blinking at
The last car of the train had rounded the curve
and disappeared, but William was still waving
farewell--not with his handkerchief, but with a
symmetrical, one-pound parcel, wrapped in white
tissue-paper, girdled with blue ribbon.
``Never mind!'' said May Parcher. ``Let's
all walk Up-town together, and talk about her on
the way, and we'll go by the express-office, and
you can send your candy to her by express,
XXX. THE BRIDE-TO-BE
In the smallish house which all summer long,
from morning until late at night, had
resounded with the voices of young people, echoing
their songs, murmurous with their theories of
love, or vibrating with their glee, sometimes
shaking all over during their more boisterous
moods--in that house, now comparatively so
vacant, the proprietor stood and breathed deep
``Hah!'' he said, inhaling and exhaling the air
His wife was upon the porch, outside, sewing.
The silence was deep. He seemed to listen to it
--to listen with gusto; his face slowly broadening,
a pinkish tint overspreading it. His flaccid
cheeks appeared to fill, to grow firm again, a
smile finally widening them.
``HAH!'' he breathed, sonorously. He gave
himself several resounding slaps upon the chest,
then went out to the porch and sat in a rocking-
chair near his wife. He spread himself out
expansively. ``My Glory!'' he said. ``I believe
I'll take off my coat! I haven't had my coat off,
outside of my own room, all summer. I believe
I'll take a vacation! By George, I believe I'll
stay home this afternoon!''
``That's nice,'' said Mrs. Parcher.
``Hah!'' he said. ``My Glory! I believe I'll
take off my shoes!''
And, meeting no objection, he proceeded to
carry out this plan.
``Hah-AH!'' he said, and placed his stockinged
feet upon the railing, where a number of vines,
running upon strings, made a screen between
the porch and the street. He lit a large cigar.
``Well, well!'' he said. ``That tastes good!
If this keeps on, I'll be in as good shape as I
was last spring before you know it!'' Leaning
far back in the rocking-chair, his hands
behind his head, he smoked with fervor; but
suddenly he jumped in a way which showed that his
nerves were far from normal. His feet came to
the floor with a thump, he jerked the cigar out of
his mouth, and turned a face of consternation
upon his wife.
``What's the matter?''
``Suppose,'' said Mr. Patcher, huskily--
``suppose she missed her train.''
Mrs. Parcher shook her head.
``Think not?'' he said, brightening. ``I ordered
the livery-stable to have a carriage here in
lots of time.''
``They did,'' said Mrs. Parcher, severely.
``About five dollars' worth.''
``Well, I don't mind that,'' he returned,
putting his feet up again. ``After all, she was a
mighty fine little girl in her way. The only
trouble with me was that crowd of boys;--having
to listen to them certainly liked to killed me, and
I believe if she'd stayed just one more day I'd
been a goner! Of all the dam boys I ever--''
He paused, listening.
``Mr. Parcher!'' a youthful voice repeated.
He rose, and, separating two of the vines which
screened the end of the porch from the street,
looked out. Two small maidens had paused upon
the sidewalk, and were peering over the
``Mr. Parcher,'' said Jane, as soon as his head
appeared between the vines--``Mr. Parcher, Miss
Pratt's gone. She's gone away on the cars.''
``You think so?'' he asked, gravely.
``We saw her,'' said Jane. ``Rannie an' I
were there. Willie was goin' to chase us, I guess,
but we went in the baggage-room behind trunks,
an' we saw her go. She got on the cars, an' it
went with her in it. Honest, she's gone away,
Before speaking, Mr. Parcher took a long look
at this telepathic child. In his fond eyes she was
a marvel and a darling.
``Well--THANK you, Jane!'' he said.
Jane, however, had turned her head and was
staring at the corner, which was out of his sight.
``Oo-oo-ooh!'' she murmured.
``What's the trouble, Jane?''
``Willie!'' she said. ``It's Willie an' that Joe
Bullitt, an' Johnnie Watson, an' Mr. Wallace
Banks. They're with Miss May Parcher. They're
comin' right here!''
Mr. Parcher gave forth a low moan, and turned
pathetically to his wife, but she cheered him
with a laugh.
``They've only walked up from the station
with May,'' she said. ``They won't come in.
Relieved, Mr. Parcher turned again to speak
to Jane--but she was not there. He caught
but a glimpse of her, running up the street as
fast as she could, hand in hand with her companion.
``Run, Rannie, run!'' panted Jane. ``I got
to get home an' tell mamma about it before
Willie. I bet I ketch Hail Columbia, anyway,
when he does get there!''
And in this she was not mistaken: she caught
Hail Columbia. It lasted all afternoon.
It was still continuing after dinner. Thatt
evening, when an oft-repeated yodel, followed by
a shrill-wailed, ``Jane-ee! Oh, Jane-NEE-ee!''
brought her to an open window down-stairs. In
the early dusk she looked out upon the washed face
of Rannie Kirsted, who stood on the lawn below.
``Come on out, Janie. Mamma says I can
stay outdoors an' play till half past eight.''
Jane shook her head. ``I can't. I can't go
outside the house till to-morrow. It's because
we walked after Willie with our stummicks out
``Pshaw!'' Rannie cried, lightly. ``My mother
didn't do anything to me for that.''
``Well, nobody told her on you,'' said Jane,
``Can't you come out at all?'' Rannie urged.
``Go ask your mother. Tell her--''
``How can I,'' Jane inquired, with a little heat,
``when she isn't here to ask? She's gone out to
play cards--she and papa.''
Rannie swung her foot. ``Well,'' she said,
``I guess I haf to find SOMEp'n to do! G' night!''
With head bowed in thought she moved away,
disappearing into the gray dusk, while Jane, on
her part, left the window and went to the open
front door. Conscientiously, she did not cross
the threshold, but restrained herself to looking
out. On the steps of the porch sat William,
alone, his back toward the house.
``Willie?'' said Jane, softly; and, as he made
no response, she lifted her voice a little.
``Whatchwant!'' he grunted, not moving.
``Willie, I told mamma I was sorry I made you
feel so bad.''
``All right!'' he returned, curtly.
``Well, when I haf to go to bed, Willie,'' she
said, ``mamma told me because I made you feel
bad I haf to go up-stairs by myself, to-night.''
She paused, seeming to hope that he would
say something, but he spake not.
``Willie, I don't haf to go for a while yet, but
when I do--maybe in about a half an hour--I
wish you'd come stand at the foot of the stairs
till I get up there. The light's lit up-stairs,
but down around here it's kind of dark.''
He did not answer.
``Will you, Willie?''
``Oh, all RIGHT!'' he said.
This contented her, and she seated herself so
quietly upon the floor, just inside the door, that
he ceased to be aware of her, thinking she had
gone away. He sat staring vacantly into the
darkness, which had come on with that abruptness
which begins to be noticeable in September.
His elbows were on his knees, and his body was
sunk far forward in an attitude of desolation.
The small noises of the town--that town so
empty to-night--fell upon his ears mockingly.
It seemed to him incredible that so hollow a town
could go about its nightly affairs just as usual.
A man and a woman, going by, laughed loudly at
something the man had said: the sound of their
laughter was horrid to William. And from a
great distance from far out in the country--
there came the faint, long-drawn whistle of an
That was the sorrowfulest sound of all to
William. His lonely mind's eye sought the
vasty spaces to the east; crossed prairie, and
river, and hill, to where a long train whizzed
onward through the dark--farther and farther
and farther away. William uttered a sigh, so
hoarse, so deep from the tombs, so prolonged,
that Jane, who had been relaxing herself at full
length upon the floor, sat up straight with a jerk.
But she was wise enough not to speak.
Now the full moon came masquerading among
the branches of the shade-trees; it came in the
likeness of an enormous football, gloriously
orange. Gorgeously it rose higher, cleared the
trees, and resumed its wonted impersonation of
a silver disk. Here was another mockery: What
was the use of a moon NOW?
Its use appeared straightway.
In direct coincidence with that rising moon,
there came from a little distance down the
street the sound of a young male voice, singing.
It was not a musical voice, yet sufficiently loud;
and it knew only a portion of the words and air it
sought to render, but, upon completing the portion
it did know, it instantly began again, and
sang that portion over and over with brightest
patience. So the voice approached the residence
of the Baxter family, singing what the shades of
night gave courage to sing--instead of whistle,
as in the abashing sunlight.
``My countree, 'tis of thee,
Sweet land of liber-tee,
My countree, 'tis of thee,
Sweet land of liber-tee,
My countree, 'tis of thee,
Sweet land of liber-tee,
My countree, 'tis of thee,
Sweet land of liber-tee,
My countree, 'tis--''
Jane spoke unconsciously. ``It's Freddie,'' she
William leaped to his feet; this was something
he could NOT bear! He made a bloodthirsty dash
toward the gate, which the singer was just in the
act of passing.
``You GET OUT O' HERE!'' William roared.
The song stopped. Freddie Banks fled like a
rag on the wind.
. . . Now here is a strange matter.
The antique prophets prophesied successfully;
they practised with some ease that art since lost
but partly rediscovered by M. Maeterlinck, who
proves to us that the future already exists,
simultaneously with the present. Well, if his
proofs be true, then at this very moment when
William thought menacingly of Freddie Banks,
the bright air of a happy June evening--an
evening ordinarily reckoned ten years, nine months
and twenty-one days in advance of this present
sorrowful evening--the bright air of that happy
June evening, so far in the future, was actually
already trembling to a wedding-march played
upon a church organ; and this selfsame Freddie,
with a white flower in his buttonhole, and in
every detail accoutred as a wedding usher, was
an usher for this very William who now (as we
ordinarily count time) threatened his person.
But for more miracles:
As William turned again to resume his meditations
upon the steps, his incredulous eyes fell upon
a performance amazingly beyond fantasy, and
without parallel as a means to make scorn of
him. Not ten feet from the porch--and in the
white moonlight that made brilliant the path to
the gate--Miss Mary Randolph Kirsted was
walking. She was walking with insulting pomposity
in her most pronounced semicircular manner.
``YOU GET OUT O' HERE!'' she said, in a voice as
deep and hoarse as she could make it. ``YOU
GET OUT O' HERE!''
Her intention was as plain as the moon. She
was presenting in her own person a sketch of
William, by this means expressing her opinion
of him and avenging Jane.
``YOU GET OUT O' HERE!'' she croaked.
The shocking audacity took William's breath.
He gasped; he sought for words.
``Why, you--you--'' he cried. ``You--you
sooty-faced little girl!''
In this fashion he directly addressed Miss
Mary Randolph Kirsted for the first time in his
And that was the strangest thing of this strange
evening. Strangest because, as with life itself,
there was nothing remarkable upon the surface
of it. But if M. Maeterlinck has the right
of the matter, and if the bright air of that June
evening, almost eleven years in the so-called
future, was indeed already trembling to ``Lohengrin,''
then William stood with Johnnie Watson
against a great bank of flowers at the foot of a
church aisle; that aisle was roped with white-
satin ribbons; and William and Johnnie were
waiting for something important to happen.
And then, to the strains of ``Here Comes the
Bride,'' it did--a stately, solemn, roseate, gentle
young thing with bright eyes seeking through a
veil for William's eyes.
Yes, if great M. Maeterlinck is right, it seems
that William ought to have caught at least some
eerie echo of that wedding-march, however faint
--some bars or strains adrift before their time
upon the moonlight of this September night in
his eighteenth year.
For there, beyond the possibility of any fate to
intervene, or of any later vague, fragmentary
memory of even Miss Pratt to impair, there in
that moonlight was his future before him.
He started forward furiously. ``You--you--
But he paused, not wasting his breath upon the
His bride-to-be was gone.