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Seventeen by Booth Tarkington

Part 1 out of 6

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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
native son.

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.



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
sex, approaching.

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
half asleep!

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
the diaphragm.

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.



``OH WILL--EE!''

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
of blue!''

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
a poem.

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.

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
of Jane.


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!
Ye gods!''

``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
notice you--''

`` `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''!
Ye gods!''

``Genesis is waiting on the back porch,'' she
said. ``Really it isn't worth your making all this
fuss about.''

``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;



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
the eye.

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
show him!''

``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
at last!

``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.



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
man Clematis!''

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
sufficiently emphatic.

``Nassy laundrymans!''

``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
that way.

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
horrified Clematis.

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
went by.''

``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
p'eshus Flopit!'

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.



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?''
she insisted.

``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
last spring.''

``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
upon it.

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 get!''

``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
enough ON!''

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
column, Willie.''

``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
came off.''

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
of duty!''

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
your feelings--''

``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
such things?''

``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
wicked word.''

``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
it, mamma?''

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!
WOR--' ''

``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.



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
haven't finished.''

``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
bark, mamma.''

``He'd what?''

`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?''

``Yes, dear?''

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