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Seventeen by Booth Tarkington

Part 3 out of 6

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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
Miss Pratt.''

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



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
little garden.

``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.
He's mad.''

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?''
he asked.

``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--''

William paused.

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
good memory.''

``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,
Mr. Genesis.''

``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



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

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
devastating temper.

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
flawless, and--


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,

William shuddered.

``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!
All datie!''

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
the morning.

``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



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
thrown away?''

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
married, Jane!''

``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.''

``But, mamma--''

``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,
he thought.

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
play ``Virginius.''

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.''

``Of course!''

``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.''

``What did?''

``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.''

``He did?''

``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
tiny child.

``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
married state.

His condition was growing worse, every day.



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
trousers on--''

``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
Cuban Cigarettes.

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
one spot.

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
horrible George.



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 you!''

``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
unfailing sympathy.

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.



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

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