Part 5 out of 6
Mamma took me off alone right after dinner, an'
she told me to tell you this joke on her a little
after she an' papa had left the house, but she said,
`Above all THINGS,' she said, `DON'T let Willie know
_I_ said to tell him.' That's just what she said,
an' here that's the very first thing I had to go an'
``Well, what of it?''
Jane quieted down. The pangs of her remorse
were lost in her love of sensationalism, and her
voice sank to the thrilling whisper which it was
one of her greatest pleasures to use. ``Did you
hear what a fuss papa was makin' when he was
dressin' for the card-party?''
``_I_ don't care if--''
``He had to go in his reg'lar clo'es!'' whispered
Jane, triumphantly. ``An' this is the joke on
mamma: you know that tailor that let papa's
dress-suit 'way, 'way out; well, Mamma thinks
that tailor must think she's crazy, or somep'm
'cause she took papa's dress-suit to him last
Monday to get it pressed for this card-party,
an she guesses he must of understood her to
tell him to do lots besides just pressin' it.
Anyway, he went an' altered it, an' he took it 'way,
'way IN again; an' this afternoon when it came
back it was even tighter 'n what it was in the first
place, an' papa couldn't BEGIN to get into it!
Well, an' so it's all pressed an' ev'ything, an' she
stopped on the way out, an' whispered to me
that she'd got so upset over the joke on her that
she couldn't remember where she put it when
she took it out o' papa's room after he gave up
tryin' to get inside of it. An' that,'' cried Jane--
``that's the funniest thing of all! Why, it's
layin' right on her bed this very minute!''
In one bound William leaped through the open
door. Two seconds sufficed for his passage
through the hall to his mother's bedroom--and
there, neatly spread upon the lace coverlet and
brighter than coronation robes, fairer than
Joseph's holy coat, It lay!
YOUTH AND MR. PARCHER
As a hurried worldling, in almost perfectly
fitting evening clothes, passed out of his
father's gateway and hurried toward the place
whence faintly came the sound of dance-music, a
child's voice called sweetly from an unidentified
window of the darkened house behind him:
``Well, ANYWAY, you try and have a good time,
William made no reply; he paused not in his
stride. Jane's farewell injunction, though
obviously not ill-intended, seemed in poor taste,
and a reply might have encouraged her to
believe that, in some measure at least, he
condescended to discuss his inner life with her. He
departed rapidly, but with hauteur. The moon
was up, but shade-trees were thick along the
sidewalk, and the hauteur was invisible to any
human eye; nevertheless, William considered it
Jane's friendly but ill-chosen ``ANYWAY'' had
touched doubts already annoying him. He was
certain to be late to the party--so late, indeed,
that it might prove difficult to obtain a proper
number of dances with the sacred girl in whose
honor the celebration was being held. Too many
were steeped in a sense of her sacredness, well
he wot! and he was unable to find room in his
apprehensive mind for any doubt that these
others would be accursedly diligent.
But as he hastened onward his spirits rose,
and he did reply to Jane, after all, though he
had placed a hundred yards between them.
``Yes, and you can bet your bottom dollar I
will, too!'' he muttered, between his determined
The very utterance of the words increased the
firmness of his decision, and at the same time
cheered him. His apprehensions fell away, and
a glamorous excitement took their place, as he
turned a corner and the music burst more loudly
upon his tingling ear. For there, not half-way
to the next street, the fairy scene lay spread
Spellbound groups of uninvited persons, most
of them colored, rested their forearms upon the
upper rail of the Parchers' picket fence, offering
to William's view a silhouette like that of a
crowd at a fire. Beyond the fence, bright forms
went skimming, shimmering, wavering over a
white platform, while high overhead the young
moon sprayed a thinner light down through the
maple leaves, to where processions of rosy globes
hung floating in the blue night. The mild breeze
trembled to the silver patterings of a harp, to the
sweet, barbaric chirping of plucked strings of
violin and 'cello--and swooned among the maple
leaves to the rhythmic crooning of a flute. And,
all the while, from the platform came the sounds
of little cries in girlish voices, and the cadenced
shuffling of young feet, where the witching dance-
music had its way, as ever and forever, with big
and little slippers.
The heart of William had behaved tumultuously
the summer long, whenever his eyes beheld
those pickets of the Parchers' fence, but now it
outdid all its previous riotings. He was forced
to open his mouth and gasp for breath, so deep
was his draught of that young wine, romance.
Yonder--somewhere in the breath-taking radiance--
danced his Queen with all her Court about
her. Queen and Court, thought William, and
nothing less exorbitant could have expressed his
feeling. For seventeen needs only some paper
lanterns, a fiddle, and a pretty girl--and
Versailles is all there!
The moment was so rich that William crossed
the street with a slower step. His mood changed:
an exaltation had come upon him, though he was
never for an instant unaware of the tragedy
beneath all this worldly show and glamor. It was
the last night of the divine visit; to-morrow the
town would lie desolate, a hollow shell in the
dust, without her. Miss Pratt would be gone--
gone utterly--gone away on the TRAIN! But to-
night was just beginning, and to-night he would
dance with her; he would dance and dance with
her--he would dance and dance like mad! He
and she, poetic and fated pair, would dance on
and on! They would be intoxicated by the lights
--the lights, the flowers, and the music. Nay,
the flowers might droop, the lights might go out,
the music cease and dawn come--she and he
would dance recklessly on--on--on!
A sense of picturesqueness--his own
picturesqueness--made him walk rather theatrically
as he passed through the groups of humble
onlookers outside the picket fence. Many of these
turned to stare at the belated guest, and William
was unconscious of neither their low estate nor
his own quality as a patrician man-about-town in
almost perfectly fitting evening dress. A faint,
cold smile was allowed to appear upon his lips,
and a fragment from a story he had read came
momentarily to his mind. . . . ``Through the
gaping crowds the young Augustan noble was
borne down from the Palatine, scornful in his
jeweled litter. . . .''
An admiring murmur reached William's ear.
``OH, oh, honey! Look attem long-tail suit! 'At's
a rich boy, honey!''
``Yessum, SO! Bet he got his pockets pack'
full o' twenty-dolluh gol' pieces right iss minute!''
``You right, honey!''
William allowed the coldness of his faint smile
to increase to become scornful. These poor
sidewalk creatures little knew what seethed
inside the alabaster of the young Augustan noble!
What was it to THEM that this was Miss Pratt's
last night and that he intended to dance and
dance with her, on and on?
Almost sternly he left these squalid lives
behind him and passed to the festal gateway.
Upon one of the posts of that gateway there
rested the elbow of a contemplative man, middle-
aged or a little worse. Of all persons having
pleasure or business within the bright inclosure,
he was, that evening, the least important; being
merely the background parent who paid the bills.
However, even this unconsidered elder shared a
thought in common with the Augustan now
approaching: Mr. Parcher had just been thinking
that there was true romance in the scene before
But what Mr. Parcher contemplated as
romance arose from the fact that these young
people were dancing on a spot where their great-
grandfathers had scalped Indians. Music was
made for them by descendants, it might well be,
of Romulus, of Messalina, of Benvenuto Cellini,
and, around behind the house, waiting to serve
the dancers with light food and drink, lounged
and gossiped grandchildren of the Congo, only a
generation or so removed from dances for which
a chance stranger furnished both the occasion
and the refreshments. Such, in brief, was Mr.
Parcher's peculiar view of what constituted the
And upon another subject preoccupying both
Mr. Parcher and William, their two views,
though again founded upon one thought, had no
real congeniality. The preoccupying subject was
the imminence of Miss Pratt's departure;--
neither Mr. Parcher nor William forgot it for an
instant. No matter what else played upon the
surface of their attention, each kept saying to
himself, underneath: ``This is the last night--the
last night! Miss Pratt is going away--going
Mr. Parcher's expression was peaceful. It was
more peaceful than it had been for a long time.
In fact, he wore the look of a man who had been
through the mill but now contemplated a restful
and health-restoring vacation. For there are
people in this world who have no respect for the
memory of Ponce de Leon, and Mr. Parcher had
come to be of their number. The elimination
of William from his evenings had lightened the
burden; nevertheless, Mr. Parcher would have
stated freely and openly to any responsible party
that a yearning for the renewal of his youth had
not been intensified by his daughter's having as
a visitor, all summer long, a howling belle of
eighteen who talked baby-talk even at breakfast
and spread her suitors all over the small house--
and its one veranda--from eight in the morning
until hours of the night long after their mothers
(in Mr. Parcher's opinion) should have sent their
fathers to march them home. Upon Mr. Parcher's
optimism the effect of so much unavoidable
observation of young love had been fatal; he
declared repeatedly that his faith in the human
race was about gone. Furthermore, his physical
constitution had proved pathetically vulnerable
to nightly quartets, quintets, and even octets, on
the porch below his bedchamber window, so that
he was wont to tell his wife that never, never
could he expect to be again the man he had been
in the spring before Miss Pratt came to visit
May. And, referring to conversations which he
almost continuously overheard, perforce, Mr.
Parcher said that if this was the way HE talked at
that age, he would far prefer to drown in an
ordinary fountain, and be dead and done with it,
than to bathe in Ponce de Leon's.
Altogether, the summer had been a severe one;
he doubted that he could have survived much
more of it. And now that it was virtually over,
at last, he was so resigned to the departure of his
daughter's lovely little friend that he felt no
regret for the splurge with which her visit was
closing. Nay, to speed the parting guest--such
was his lavish mood--twice and thrice over would
he have paid for the lights, the flowers, the music,
the sandwiches, the coffee, the chicken salad, the
cake, the lemonade-punch, and the ice-cream.
Thus did the one thought divide itself
between William and Mr. Parcher, keeping itself
deep and pure under all their other thoughts.
``Miss Pratt is going away!'' thought William
and Mr. Parcher. ``Miss PRATT is going away--
The unuttered words advanced tragically
toward the gate in the head of William at the same
time that they moved contentedly away in the
head of Mr. Parcher; for Mr. Parcher caught
sight of his wife just then, and went to join her
as she sank wearily upon the front steps.
``Taking a rest for a minute?'' he inquired.
``By George! we're both entitled to a good LONG
rest, after to-night! If we could afford it, we'd
go away to a quiet little sanitarium in the hills,
somewhere, and--'' He ceased to speak and
there was the renewal of an old bitterness in his
expression as his staring eyes followed the
movements of a stately young form entering the
gateway. ``Look at it!'' said Mr. Parcher in a
whisper. ``Just look at it!''
``Look at what?'' asked his wife.
``That Baxter boy!'' said Mr. Parcher, as
William passed on toward the dancers. ``What's he
think he's imitating--Henry Irving? Look at his
``He walks that way a good deal, lately, I've
noticed,'' said Mrs. Parcher in a tired voice.
``So do Joe Bullitt and--''
``He didn't even come to say good evening to
you,'' Mr. Parcher interrupted. ``Talk about
MANNERS, nowadays! These young--''
``He didn't see us.''
``Well, we're used to that,'' said Mr. Parcher.
``None of 'em see us. They've worn holes in all
the cane-seated chairs, they've scuffed up the
whole house, and I haven't been able to sit down
anywhere down-stairs for three months without
sitting on some dam boy; but they don't even
know we're alive! Well, thank the Lord, it's
over--after to-night!'' His voice became
reflective. ``That Baxter boy was the worst, until
he took to coming in the daytime when I was
down-town. I COULDN'T have stood it if he'd
kept on coming in the evening. If I'd had to
listen to any more of his talking or singing,
either the embalmer or the lunatic-asylum would
have had me, sure! I see he's got hold of his
daddy's dress-suit again for to-night.''
``Is it Mr. Baxter's dress-suit?'' Mrs. Parcher
inquired. ``How do you know?''
Mr. Parcher smiled. ``How I happen to know
is a secret,'' he said. ``I forgot about that. His
little sister, Jane, told me that Mrs. Baxter had
hidden it, or something, so that Willie couldn't
wear it, but I guess Jane wouldn't mind my telling
YOU that she told me especially as they're
letting him use it again to-night. I suppose he
feels grander 'n the King o' Siam!''
``No,'' Mrs. Parcher returned, thoughtfully.
``I don't think he does, just now.'' Her gaze
was fixed upon the dancing-platform, which most
of the dancers were abandoning as the music fell
away to an interval of silence. In the center of
the platform there remained one group, consisting
of Miss Pratt and five orators, and of the
orators the most impassioned and gesticulative
``They all seem to want to dance with her all
the time,'' said Mrs. Parcher. ``I heard her
telling one of the boys, half an hour ago, that all she
could give him was either the twenty-eighth regular
dance or the sixteenth `extra.' ''
``The what?'' Mr. Parcher demanded, whirling
to face her. ``Do they think this party's going to
keep running till day after to-morrow?'' And
then, as his eyes returned to the group on the
platform, ``That boy seems to have quite a touch
of emotional insanity,'' he remarked, referring to
William. ``What IS the matter with him?''
``Oh, nothing,'' his wife returned. ``Only
trying to arrange a dance with her. He seems to be
Nothing could have been more evident
than William's difficulties. They continued
to exist, with equal obviousness, when the
group broke up in some confusion, after a few
minutes of animated discussion; Mr. Wallace
Banks, that busy and executive youth, bearing
Miss Pratt triumphantly off to the lemonade-
punch-bowl, while William pursued Johnnie Watson
and Joe Bullitt. He sought to detain them
near the edge of the platform, though they
appeared far from anxious to linger in his
company; and he was able to arrest their attention
only by clutching an arm of each. In fact, the
good feeling which had latterly prevailed among
these three appeared to be in danger of
disintegrating. The occasion was too vital; and the
watchword for ``Miss Pratt's last night'' was
``Now you look here, Johnnie,'' William said,
vehemently, ``and you listen, too, Joe! You both
got seven dances apiece with her, anyway, all on
account of my not getting here early enough, and
you got to--''
``It wasn't because of any such reason,'' young
Mr. Watson protested. ``I asked her for mine
two days ago.''
``Well, THAT wasn't fair, was it?'' William cried.
``Just because I never thought of sneaking in
ahead like that, you go and--''
``Well, you ought to thought of it,'' Johnnie
retorted, jerking his arm free of William's grasp.
``I can't stand here GABBIN' all night!'' And he
``Joe,'' William began, fastening more securely
upon Mr. Bullitt--``Joe, I've done a good many
favors for you, and--''
``I've got to see a man,'' Mr. Bullitt
interrupted. ``Lemme go, Silly Bill. There's some
body I got to see right away before the next
dance begins. I GOT to! Honest I have!''
William seized him passionately by the lapels
of his coat. ``Listen, Joe. For goodness' sake
can't you listen a MINUTE? You GOT to give me--''
``Honest, Bill,'' his friend expostulated,
backing away as forcefully as possible, ``I got to find
a fellow that's here to-night and ask him about
something important before--''
``Ye gods! Can't you wait a MINUTE?'' William
cried, keeping his grip upon Joe's lapels.
``You GOT to give me anyway TWO out of all your
dances with her! You heard her tell me, yourself,
that she'd be willing if you or Johnnie
``Well, I only got five or six with her, and a
couple extras. Johnnie's got seven. Whyn't
you go after Johnnie? I bet he'd help you out,
all right, if you kept after him. What you want
to pester ME for, Bill?''
The brutal selfishness of this speech, as well as
its cold-blooded insincerity, produced in William
the impulse to smite. Fortunately, his only hope
lay in persuasion, and after a momentary struggle
with his own features he was able to conceal
what he desired to do to Joe's.
He swallowed, and, increasing the affectionate
desperation of his clutch upon Mr. Bullitt's
lapels, ``Joe,'' he began, huskily--``Joe, if _I_'d got
six reg'lar and two extras with Miss Pratt her last
night here, and you got here late, and it wasn't
your fault--I couldn't help being late, could I?
It wasn't my fault I was late, I guess, was it?
Well, if I was in YOUR place I wouldn't act the way
you and Johnnie do--not in a thousand years I
wouldn't! I'd say, `You want a couple o' my
dances with Miss Pratt, ole man? Why, CERTAINLY--' ''
``Yes, you would!'' was the cynical comment of
Mr. Bullitt, whose averted face and reluctant
shoulders indicated a strong desire to conclude
the interview. ``To-night, especially!'' he
``Look here, Joe,'' said William, desperately,
``don't you realize that this is the very last night
Miss Pratt's going to be in this town?''
``You bet I do!'' These words, though vehement,
were inaudible; being formed in the mind
of Mr. Bullitt, but, for diplomatic reasons, not
projected upon the air by his vocal organs.
William continued: ``Joe, you and I have been
friends ever since you and I were boys.'' He
spoke with emotion, but Joe had no appearance
of being favorably impressed. ``And when I look
back,'' said William, ``I expect I've done more
favors for you than I ever have for any oth--''
But Mr. Bullitt briskly interrupted this
appealing reminiscence. ``Listen here, Silly Bill,''
he said, becoming all at once friendly and
encouraging--'' Bill, there's other girls here you
can get dances with. There's one or two of 'em
sittin' around in the yard. You can have a bully
time, even if you did come late.'' And, with the
air of discharging happily all the obligations of
which William had reminded him, he added,
``I'll tell you THAT much, Bill!''
``Joe, you got to give me anyway ONE da--''
``Look!'' said Mr. Bullitt, eagerly. ``Look
sittin' yonder, over under that tree all by herself!
That's a visiting girl named Miss Boke; she's
visiting some old uncle or something she's got
livin' here, and I bet you could--''
``Joe, you GOT to--''
``I bet that Miss Boke's a good dancer, Bill,''
Joe continued, warmly. ``May Parcher says
so. She was tryin' to get me to dance with
her myself, but I couldn't, or I would of.
Honest, Bill, I would of! Bill, if I was you
I'd sail right in there before anybody else got
a start, and I'd--''
``Ole man,'' said William, gently, ``you
remember the time Miss Pratt and I had an
engagement to go walkin', and you wouldn't of
seen her for a week on account of your aunt
dyin' in Kansas City, if I hadn't let you go along
with us? Ole man, if you--''
But the music sounded for the next dance, and
Joe felt that it was indeed time to end this
uncomfortable conversation. ``I got to go, Bill,''
he said. ``I GOT to!''
``Wait just one minute,'' William implored.
``I want to say just this: if--''
``Here!'' exclaimed Mr. Bullitt. ``I got to GO!''
``I know it. That's why--''
Heedless of remonstrance, Joe wrenched himself
free, for it would have taken a powerful
and ruthless man to detain him longer. ``What
you take me for?'' he demanded, indignantly.
``I got this with Miss PRATT!''
And evading a hand which still sought to
clutch him, he departed hotly.
. . . Mr. Parcher's voice expressed wonder, a
little later, as he recommended his wife to turn
her gaze in the direction of ``that Baxter boy''
again. ``Just look at him!'' said Mr. Parcher.
``His face has got more genuine idiocy in it than
I've seen around here yet, and God knows I've
been seeing some miracles in that line this
``He's looking at Lola Pratt,'' said Mrs.
``Don't you suppose I can see that?'' Mr.
Parcher returned, with some irritation. ``That's
what's the trouble with him. Why don't he QUIT
looking at her?''
``I think probably he feels badly because she's
dancing with one of the other boys,'' said his
``Then why can't he dance with somebody else
himself?'' Mr. Parcher inquired, testily. ``Instead
of standing around like a calf looking out
of the butcher's wagon! By George! he looks
as if he was just going to MOO!''
``Of course he ought to be dancing with
somebody,'' Mrs. Parcher remarked, thoughtfully.
``There are one or two more girls than boys here,
and he's the only boy not dancing. I believe
I'll--'' And, not stopping to complete the sentence,
she rose and walked across the interval of
grass to William. ``Good evening, William,'' she
said, pleasantly. ``Don't you want to dance?''
``Ma'am?'' said William, blankly, and the eyes
he turned upon here were glassy with anxiety.
He was still determined to dance on and on and
on with Miss Pratt, but he realized that there
were great obstacles to be overcome before he
could begin the process. He was feverishly
awaiting the next interregnum between dances--
then he would show Joe Bullitt and Johnnie
Watson and Wallace Banks, and some others who
had set themselves in his way, that he was
``abs'lutely not goin' to stand it!''
He couldn't stand it, he told himself, even if he
wanted to--not to-night! He had ``been through
enough'' in order to get to the party, he thought,
thus defining sufferings connected with his costume,
and now that he was here he WOULD dance
and dance, on and on, with Miss Pratt.
Anything else was unthinkable.
He HAD to!
``Don't you want to dance?'' Mrs. Parcher
repeated. ``Have you looked around for a girl
without a partner?''
He continued to stare at her, plainly having
no comprehension of her meaning.
``Girl?'' he echoed, in a tone of feeble inquiry.
She smiled and nodded, taking his arm. ``You
come with me,'' she said. ``I'LL fix you up!''
William suffered her to conduct him across
the yard. Intensely preoccupied with what he
meant to do as soon as the music paused, he was
somewhat hazy, but when he perceived that he
was being led in the direction of a girl, sitting
solitary under one of the maple-trees, the sudden
shock of fear aroused his faculties.
``What--where--'' he stammered, halting and
seeking to detach himself from his hostess.
``What is it?'' she asked.
``I got--I got to--'' William began, uneasily.
``I got to--''
His purpose was to excuse himself on the
ground that he had to find a man and tell him
something important before the next dance, for in
the confusion of the moment his powers refused
him greater originality. But the vital part of
his intended excuse remained unspoken, being
disregarded and cut short, as millions of other
masculine diplomacies have been, throughout the
centuries, by the decisive action of ladies.
Miss Boke had been sitting under the maple-
tree for a long time--so long, indeed, that she
was acquiring a profound distaste for forestry
and even for maple syrup. In fact, her state of
mind was as desperate, in its way, as William's;
and when a hostess leads a youth (in almost
perfectly fitting conventional black) toward a girl
who has been sitting alone through dance after
dance, that girl knows what that youth is going
to have to do.
It must be confessed for Miss Boke that her
eyes had been upon William from the moment
Mrs. Parcher addressed him. Nevertheless, as
the pair came toward her she looked casually
away in an indifferent manner. And yet this
may have been but a seeming unconsciousness,
for upon the very instant of William's halting,
and before he had managed to stammer ``I got
to--'' for the fourth time, Miss Boke sprang to
her feet and met Mrs. Parcher more than halfway.
``Oh, Mrs. Parcher!'' she called, coming forward.
``I got--'' the panic-stricken William again
hastily began. ``I got to--''
``Oh, Mrs. Parcher,'' cried Miss Boke, ``I've
been SO worried! There's a candle in that
Japanese lantern just over your head, and I
think it's going out.''
``I'll run and get a fresh one in a minute,'' said
Mrs. Parcher, smiling benevolently and retaining
William's arm with a little difficulty. ``We were
just coming to find you. I've brought--''
``I got to--I got to find a m--'' William made
a last, stricken effort.
``Miss Boke, this is Mr. Baxter,'' said Mrs.
Parcher, and she added, with what seemed to
William hideous garrulity, ``He and you both
came late, dear, and he hasn't any dances
engaged, either. So run and dance, and have a
nice time together.''
Thereupon this disastrous woman returned to
her husband. Her look was conscientious; she
thought she had done something pleasant!
The full horror of his position was revealed to
William in the relieved, confident, proprietor's
smile of Miss Boke. For William lived by a code
from which no previous experience had taught
him any means of escape. Mrs. Parcher had
made the statement--so needless and so ruinous--
that he had no engagements; and in his dismay
he had been unable to deny this fatal truth; he
had been obliged to let it stand. Henceforth, he
was committed absolutely to Miss Boke until
either some one else asked her to dance, or
(while yet in her close company) William could
obtain an engagement with another girl. The
latter alternative presented certain grave
difficulties, also contracting William to dance with
the other girl before once more obtaining his
freedom, but undeniably he regarded it from the
first as the more hopeful.
He had to give form to the fatal invitation.
``M'av this dance 'thyou?'' he muttered, doggedly.
``Vurry pleased to!'' Miss Boke responded,
whereupon they walked in silence to the platform,
stepped upon its surface, and embraced.
They made a false start.
They made another.
They stood swaying to catch the time; then
made another. After that they tried again, and
were saved from a fall only by spasmodic and
Miss Boke laughed tolerantly, as if forgiving
William for his awkwardness, and his hot heart
grew hotter with that injustice. She was a large,
ample girl, weighing more than William (this
must be definitely claimed in his behalf), and she
had been spending the summer at a lakeside
hotel where she had constantly danced ``man's
part.'' To paint William's predicament at a
stroke, his partner was a determined rather than
a graceful dancer--and their efforts to attune
themselves to each other and to the music were
in a fair way to attract general attention.
A coarse chuckle, a half-suppressed snort,
assailed William's scarlet ear, and from the corner
of his eye he caught a glimpse of Joe Bullitt
gliding by, suffused; while over Joe's detested
shoulder could be seen the adorable and piquant
face of the One girl--also suffused.
``Doggone it!'' William panted.
``Oh, you mustn't be discouraged with yourself,''
said Miss Boke, genially. ``I've met lots
of Men that had trouble to get started and
turned out to be right good dancers, after all. It
seems to me we're kind of workin' against each
other. I'll tell you--you kind of let me do the
guiding and I'll get you going fine. Now! ONE,
two, ONE, two! There!''
William ceased to struggle for dominance, and
their efforts to ``get started'' were at once
successful. With a muscular power that was
surprising, Miss Boke bore him out into the circling
current, swung him round and round, walked him
backward half across the platform, then swung
him round and round and round again. For a
girl, she ``guided'' remarkably well; nevertheless,
a series of collisions, varying in intensity,
marked the path of the pair upon the rather
crowded platform. In such emergencies Miss
Boke proved herself deft in swinging William to
act as a buffer, and he several times found himself
heavily stricken from the rear; anon his face
would be pressed suffocatingly into Miss Boke's
hair, without the slightest wish on his part for
such intimacy. He had a helpless feeling, fully
warranted by the circumstances. Also, he soon
became aware that Miss Boke's powerful ``guiding''
was observed by the public; for, after one
collision, more severe than others, a low voice
hissed in his ear:
``SHE WON'T HURT YOU MUCH, SILLY BILL. SHE'S
ONLY IN FUN!''
This voice belonged to the dancer with whom
he had just been in painful contact, Johnnie
Watson. However, Johnnie had whirled far
upon another orbit before William found a retort,
and then it was a feeble one.
``I wish YOU'D try a few dances with her!''
he whispered, inaudibly, but with unprecedented
bitterness, as the masterly arm of his partner
just saved him from going over the edge of the
platform. ``I bet she'd kill you!''
More than once he tried to assert himself and
resume his natural place as guide, but each time
he did so he immediately got out of step with his
partner, their knees collided embarrassingly, they
staggered and walked upon each other's insteps--
and William was forced to abandon the unequal
``I just love dancing,'' said Miss Boke, serenely.
``Don't you, Mr. Baxter?''
``What?'' he gulped. ``Yeh.''
``It's a beautiful floor for dancing, isn't
``I just love dancing,'' Miss Boke thought
proper to declare again. ``Don't you love it, Mr.
This time he considered his enthusiasm to be
sufficiently indicated by a nod. He needed all
``It's lovely,'' she murmured. ``I hope they
don't play `Home, Sweet Home' very early at
parties in this town. I could keep on like this
To the gasping William it seemed that she
already had kept on like this all night, and he
expressed himself in one great, frank, agonized
moan of relief when the music stopped. ``I sh'
think those musicians 'd be dead!'' he said, as he
wiped his brow. And then discovering that May
Parcher stood at his elbow, he spoke hastily to
her. ``M'av the next 'thyou?''
But Miss Parcher had begun to applaud the
musicians for an encore. She shook her head.
``Next's the third extra,'' she said. ``And,
anyhow, this one's going to be encored now. You can
have the twenty-second--if there IS any!''
William threw a wild glance about him, looking
for other girls, but the tireless orchestra began to
play the encore, and Miss Boke, who had been
applauding, instantly cast herself upon his bosom.
``Come on!'' she cried. ``Don't let's miss a second
of it; It's just glorious!''
When the encore was finished she seized William's
arm, and, mentioning that she'd left her
fan upon the chair under the maple-tree, added,
``Come on! Let's go get it QUICK!''
Under the maple-tree she fanned herself and
talked of her love for dancing until the music
sounded again. ``Come on!'' she cried, then.
``Don't let's miss a second of it! It's just
And grasping his arm, she propelled him toward
the platform with a merry little rush.
So passed five dances. Long, long dances.
Likewise five encores. Long encores.
At every possible opportunity William hailed
other girls with a hasty ``M'av the next
'thyou?'' but he was indeed unfortunate to
have arrived so late.
The best he got was a promise of ``the nine-
teenth--if there IS any!''
After each dance Miss Boke conducted him
back to the maple-tree, aloof from the general
throng, and William found the intermissions
almost equal to his martyrdoms upon the platform.
But, as there was a barely perceptible balance in
their favor, he collected some fragments of his
broken spirit, when Miss Boke would have borne
him to the platform for the sixth time, and begged
to ``sit this one out,'' alleging that he had ``kind
of turned his ankle, or something,'' he believed.
The cordial girl at once placed him upon the
chair and gallantly procured another for herself.
In her solicitude she sat close to him, looking
fondly at his face, while William, though now
and then rubbing his ankle for plausibility's sake,
gazed at the platform with an expression which
Gustave Dore would gratefully have found
suggestive. William was conscious of a voice
continually in action near him, but not of what it
said. Miss Boke was telling him of the dancing
``up at the lake'' where she had spent the summer,
and how much she had loved it, but William
missed all that. Upon the many-colored platform
the ineffable One drifted to and fro, back
and forth; her little blonde head, in a golden net,
glinting here and there like a bit of tinsel blowing
across a flower-garden.
And when that dance and its encore were over
she went to lean against a tree, while Wallace
Banks fanned her, but she was so busy with
Wallace that she did not notice William, though
she passed near enough to waft a breath of
violet scent to his wan nose. A fragment of her
silver speech tinkled in his ear:
``Oh, Wallie Banks! Bid pid s'ant have
Bruvva Josie-Joe's dance 'less Joe say so. Lola
MUS' be fair. Wallie mustn't--''
``That's that Miss Pratt,'' observed Miss Boke,
following William's gaze with some interest.
``You met her yet?''
``Yeh,'' said William.
``She's been visiting here all summer,'' Miss
Boke informed him. ``I was at a little tea this
afternoon, and some of the girls said this Miss
Pratt said she'd never DREAM of getting engaged
to any man that didn't have seven hundred and
fifty thousand dollars. I don't know if it's true
or not, but I expect so. Anyway, they said they
heard her say so.''
William lifted his right hand from his ankle
and passed it, time after time, across his damp
forehead. He did not believe that Miss Pratt
could have expressed herself in so mercenary a
manner, but if she HAD--well, one fact in British
history had so impressed him that he remembered
it even after Examination: William Pitt, the
younger, had been Prime Minister of England at
If an Englishman could do a thing like that,
surely a bright, energetic young American needn't
feel worried about seven hundred and fifty
thousand dollars! And although William, at
seventeen, had seldom possessed more than seven
hundred and fifty cents, four long years must
pass, and much could be done, before he would
reach the age at which William Pitt attained the
premiership--coincidentally a good, ripe,
marriageable age. Still, seven hundred and fifty
thousand dollars is a stiffish order, even allowing
four long years to fill it; and undoubtedly Miss
Boke's bit of gossip added somewhat to the
already sufficient anxieties of William's evening.
``Up at the lake,'' Miss Boke chattered on,
``we got to use the hotel dining-room for the
hops. It's a floor a good deal like this floor is
to-night--just about oily enough and as nice a
floor as ever I danced on. We have awf'ly good
times up at the lake. 'Course there aren't so
many Men up there, like there are here to-night,
and I MUST say I AM glad to get a chance to dance
with a Man again! I told you you'd dance all
right, once we got started, and look at the way
it's turned out: our steps just suit exactly! If I
must say it, I could scarcely think of anybody I
EVER met I'd rather dance with. When anybody's
step suits in with mine, that way, why, I LOVE to
dance straight through an evening with one person,
the way we're doing.''
Dimly, yet with strong repulsion, William
perceived that their interminable companionship
had begun to affect Miss Boke with a liking for
him. And as she chattered chummily on, revealing
this increasing cordiality all the while--
though her more obvious topics were dancing,
dancing-floors, and ``the lake''--the reciprocal
sentiment roused in his breast was that of Sindbad
the Sailor for the Old Man of the Sea.
He was unable to foresee a future apart from
her; and when she informed him that she preferred
his style of dancing to all other styles
shown by the Men at this party, her thus singling
him out for praise only emphasized, in his mind,,
that point upon which he was the most embittered.
``Yes!'' he reflected. ``It had to be ME!''
With all the crowd to choose from, Mrs. Parcher
had to go and pick on HIM! All, all the others
went about, free as air, flitting from girl to girl--
girls that danced like girls! All, all except
William, danced with Miss PRATT! What Miss Pratt
had offered HIM was a choice between the thirty-
second dance and the twenty-first extra. THAT
was what he had to look forward to: the thirty-
second reg'lar or the twenty-first extra!
Meanwhile, merely through eternity, he was
sealed unto Miss Boke.
The tie that bound them oppressed him as if
it had been an ill-omened matrimony, and he sat
beside her like an unwilling old husband. All
the while, Miss Boke had no appreciation whatever
of her companion's real condition, and, when
little, spasmodic, sinister changes appeared in his
face (as they certainly did from time to time) she
attributed them to pains in his ankle. However,
William decided to discard his ankle, after they
had ``sat out'' two dances on account of it. He
decided that he preferred dancing, and said he
guessed he must be better.
So they danced again--and again.
When the fourteenth dance came, about half
an hour before midnight, they were still dancing
It was upon the conclusion of this fourteenth
dance that Mr. Parcher mentioned to his wife a
change in his feelings toward William. ``I've
been watching him,'' said Mr. Parcher, ``and I
never saw true misery show plainer. He's having
a really horrible time. By George! I hate him,
but I've begun to feel kind of sorry for him!
Can't you trot up somebody else, so he can get
away from that fat girl?''
Mrs. Parcher shook her head in a discouraged
way. ``I've tried, and I've tried, and I've tried!''
``Well, try again.''
``I can't now.'' She waved her hand toward
the rear of the house. Round the corner marched
a short procession of negroes, bearing trays; and
the dancers were dispersing themselves to chairs
upon the lawn ``for refreshments.''
``Well, do something,'' Mr. Parcher urged.
``We don't want to find him in the cistern in the
Mrs. Parcher looked thoughtful, then brightened.
``_I_ know!'' she said. ``I'll make May and
Lola and their partners come sit in this little
circle of chairs here, and then I'll go and bring
Willie and Miss Boke to sit with them. I'll give Willie
the seat at Lola's left. You keep the chairs.''
Straightway she sped upon her kindly errand.
It proved successful, so successful, indeed, that
without the slightest effort--without even a hint
on her part--she brought not only William and
his constant friend to sit in the circle with Miss
Pratt, Miss Parcher and their escorts, but Mr.
Bullitt, Mr. Watson, Mr. Banks, and three other
young gentlemen as well. Nevertheless, Mrs.
Parcher managed to carry out her plan, and
after a little display of firmness, saw William
satisfactorily established in the chair at Miss Pratt's
At last, at last, he sat beside the fairy-like
creature, and filled his lungs with infinitesimal
particles of violet scent. More: he was no sooner
seated than the little blonde head bent close to
his; the golden net brushed his cheek. She
``No'ty ickle boy Batster! Lola's last night,
an' ickle boy Batster fluttin'! Flut all night wif
dray bid dirl!''
William made no reply.
There are occasions, infrequent, of course,
when even a bachelor is not flattered by being
accused of flirting. William's feelings toward
Miss Boke had by this time come to such a
pass that he, regarded the charge of flirting
with her as little less than an implication of
grave mental deficiency. And well he remembered
how Miss Pratt, beholding his subjugated
gymnastics in the dance, had grown pink with
laughter! But still the rose-leaf lips whispered:
``Lola saw! Lola saw bad boy Batster under
dray bid tree fluttin' wif dray bid dirl. Fluttin'
all night wif dray bid 'normous dirl!''
Her cruelty was all unwitting; she intended
to rally him sweetly. But seventeen is deathly
serious at such junctures, and William was in a
sensitive condition. He made no reply in words.
Instead, he drew himself up (from the waist,
that is, because he was sitting) with a kind of
proud dignity. And that was all.
``Oo tross?'' whispered Lola.
He spake not.
`` 'Twasn't my fault about dancing,'' she said.
``Bad boy! What made you come so late?''
He maintained his silence and the accompanying
icy dignity, whereupon she made a charming
``Oo be so tross,'' she said, ``Lola talk to nice
Man uvver side of her!''
With that she turned her back upon him and
prattled merrily to the gentleman of sixteen upon
Still and cold sat William. Let her talk to the
Man at the other side of her as she would, and
never so gaily, William knew that she was conscious
every instant of the reproachful presence
upon her left. And somehow these moments of
quiet and melancholy dignity became the most
satisfactory he had known that evening. For as
he sat, so silent, so austere, and not yet eating,
though a plate of chicken salad had been placed
upon his lap, he began to feel that there was
somewhere about him a mysterious superiority
which set him apart from other people--and
above them. This quality, indefinable and lofty,
had carried him through troubles, that very
night, which would have wrecked the lives of
such simple fellows as Joe Bullitt and Johnnie
Watson. And although Miss Pratt continued
to make merry with the Man upon her right, it
seemed to William that this was but outward
show. He had a strange, subtle impression that
the mysterious superiority which set him apart
from others was becoming perceptible to her--
that she was feeling it, too.
Alas! Such are the moments Fate seizes upon
to play the clown!
Over the chatter and laughter of the guests
rose a too familiar voice. ``Lemme he'p you to
nice tongue samwich, lady. No'm? Nice green
lettuce samwich, lady?''
``Nice tongue samwich, suh? Nice lettuce
samwich, lady?'' he could be heard vociferating--
perhaps a little too much as if he had
sandwiches for sale. ``Lemme jes' lay this nice
green lettuce samwich on you' plate fer you,
His wide-spread hand bore the tray of
sandwiches high overhead, for his style in waiting
was florid, though polished. He walked with a
faint, shuffling suggestion of a prance, a lissome
pomposity adopted in obedience to the art-sense
within him which bade him harmonize himself
with occasions of state and fashion. His manner
was the super-supreme expression of graciousness,
but the graciousness was innocent, being but an
affectation and nothing inward--for inwardly
Genesis was humble. He was only pretending to
be the kind of waiter he would like to be.
And because he was a new waiter he strongly
wished to show familiarity with his duties--
familiarity, in fact, with everything and everybody.
This yearning, born of self-doubt, and intensified
by a slight touch of gin, was beyond question
the inspiration of his painful behavior when
he came near the circle of chairs where sat Mr.
and Mrs. Parcher, Miss Parcher, Miss Pratt,
Miss Boke, Mr. Watson, Mr. Bullitt, others--and
``Nice tongue samwich, lady!'' he announced,
semi-cake-walking beneath his high-borne tray.
Nice green lettuce sam--'' He came suddenly
to a dramatic dead-stop as he beheld William
sitting before him, wearing that strange new
dignity and Mr. Baxter's evening clothes. ``Name
o' goo'ness!'' Genesis exclaimed, so loudly that
every one looked up. ``How in the livin' worl'
you evuh come to git here? You' daddy sut'ny
mus' 'a' weakened 'way down 'fo' he let you
wear his low-cut ves' an' pants an' long-tail
coat! I bet any man fifty cents you gone an'
stole 'em out aftuh he done went to bed!''
And he burst into a wild, free African laugh.
At seventeen such things are not embarrassing;
they are catastrophical. But, mercifully,
catastrophes often produce a numbness in the
victims. More as in a trance than actually
William heard the outbreak of his young
companions; and, during the quarter of an hour
subsequent to Genesis's performance, the oft-
renewed explosions of their mirth made but a
kind of horrid buzzing in his ears. Like sounds
borne from far away were the gaspings of Mr.
and Mrs. Parcher, striving with all their strength
to obtain mastery of themselves once more.
. . . A flourish of music challenged the
dancers. Couples appeared upon the platform.
The dreadful supper was over.
The ineffable One, supremely pink, rose from
her seat at William's side and moved toward the
platform with the glowing Joe Bullitt. Then
William, roused to action by this sight, sprang
to his feet and took a step toward them. But
it was only one weak step.
A warm and ample hand placed itself firmly
inside the crook of his elbow. ``Let's get started
for this one before the floor gets all crowded
up,'' said Miss Boke.
Miss Boke danced and danced with him; she
danced him on--and on--and on----
At half past one the orchestra played ``Home,
Sweet Home.'' As the last bars sounded, a
group of earnest young men who had surrounded
the lovely guest of honor, talking vehemently,
broke into loud shouts, embraced one another and
capered variously over the lawn. Mr. Parcher
beheld from a distance these manifestations, and
then, with an astonishment even more profound,
took note of the tragic William, who was running
toward him, radiant--Miss Boke hovering futilely
in the far background.
``What's all the hullabaloo?'' Mr. Parcher inquired.
``Miss Pratt!'' gasped William. ``Miss Pratt!''
``Well, what about her?''
And upon receiving William's reply, Mr.
Parcher might well have discerned behind it the
invisible hand of an ironic but recompensing
Providence making things even--taking from the
one to give to the other.
``She's going to stay!'' shouted the happy
William. ``She's promised to stay another
And then, mingling with the sounds of
rejoicing, there ascended to heaven the stricken
cry of an elderly man plunging blindly into the
house in search of his wife.
Observing the monotonously proper behavior
of the sun, man had an absurd idea
and invented Time. Becoming still more absurd,
man said, ``So much shall be a day; such and
such shall be a week. All weeks shall be the same
length.'' Yet every baby knows better! How
long for Johnnie Watson, for Joe Bullitt, for
Wallace Banks--how long for William Sylvanus
Baxter was the last week of Miss Pratt? No one
can answer. How long was that week for Mr.
Parcher? Again the mind is staggered.
Many people, of course, considered it to be a
week of average size. Among these was Jane.
Throughout seven days which brought some
tense moments to the Baxter household, Jane
remained calm; and she was still calm upon the
eighth morning as she stood in the front yard of
her own place of residence, gazing steadily across
the street. The object of her grave attention
was an ample brick house, newly painted white
after repairs and enlargements so inspiring to
Jane's faculty for suggesting better ways of
doing things, that the workmen had learned to
address her, with a slight bitterness, as ``Madam
Throughout the process of repair, and until the
very last of the painting, Jane had considered this
house to be as much her property as anybody's;
for children regard as ownerless all vacant houses
and all houses in course of construction or radical
alteration. Nothing short of furniture--intimate
furniture in considerable quantity--hints that
the public is not expected. However, such a
hint, or warning, was conveyed to Jane this
morning, for two ``express wagons'' were standing
at the curb with their backs impolitely toward
the brick house; and powerful-voiced men
went surging to and fro under fat arm-chairs,
mahogany tables, disarticulated bedsteads, and
baskets of china and glassware; while a harassed
lady appeared in the outer doorway, from time
to time, with gestures of lamentation and
entreaty. Upon the sidewalk, between the wagons
and the gate, was a broad wet spot, vaguely
circular, with a partial circumference of broken
glass and extinct goldfish.
Jane was forced to conclude that the brick
house did belong to somebody, after all. Wherefore,
she remained in her own yard, a steadfast
spectator, taking nourishment into her system
at regular intervals. This was beautifully
automatic: in each hand she held a slice of bread,
freely plastered over with butter, apple sauce, and
powdered sugar; and when she had taken somewhat
from the right hand, that hand slowly
descended with its burden, while, simultaneously,
the left began to rise, reaching the level of her
mouth precisely at the moment when a little
wave passed down her neck, indicating that the
route was clear. Then, having made delivery,
the left hand sank, while the right began to rise
again. And, so well had custom trained Jane's
members, never once did she glance toward either
of these faithful hands or the food that it
supported; her gaze was all the while free to remain
upon the house across the way and the great
doings before it.
After a while, something made her wide eyes
grow wider almost to their utmost. Nay, the
event was of that importance her mechanical
hands ceased to move and stopped stock-still,
the right half-way up, the left half-way down, as if
because of sudden motor trouble within Jane.
Her mouth was equally affected, remaining open
at a visible crisis in the performance of its duty.
These were the tokens of her agitation upon
beholding the removal of a dolls' house from one of
the wagons. This dolls' house was at least five
feet high, of proportionate breadth and depths
the customary absence of a facade disclosing an
interior of four luxurious floors, with stairways,
fireplaces, and wall-paper. Here was a mansion
wherein doll-duchesses, no less, must dwell.
Straightway, a little girl ran out of the open
doorway of the brick house and, with a self-
importance concentrated to the point of shrewishness,
began to give orders concerning the disposal
of her personal property, which included (as she
made clear) not only the dolls' mansion, but also
three dolls' trunks and a packing-case of fair
size. She was a thin little girl, perhaps half a
year younger than Jane; and she was as soiled,
particularly in respect to hands, brow, chin, and
the knees of white stockings, as could be expected
of any busybodyish person of nine or ten whose
mother is house-moving. But she was gifted--
if we choose to put the matter in the hopeful,
sweeter way--she was gifted with an unusually
loud and shrill voice, and she made herself
heard over the strong-voiced men to such emphatic
effect that one of the latter, with the dolls'
mansion upon his back, paused in the gateway
to acquaint her with his opinion that of all
the bossy little girls he had ever seen, heard, or
heard of, she was the bossiest.
``THE worst!'' he added.
The little girl across the street was of course
instantly aware of Jane, though she pretended
not to be; and from the first her self-importance
was in large part assumed for the benefit of the
observer. After a momentary silence, due to her
failure to think of any proper response to the
workman who so pointedly criticized her, she
resumed the peremptory direction of her affairs.
She ran in and out of the house, her brow dark
with frowns, her shoulders elevated; and by
every means at her disposal she urged her audience
to behold the frightful responsibilities of
one who must keep a thousand things in her head
at once, and yet be ready for decisive action at
There may have been one weakness in this
strong performance: the artistic sincerity of it
was a little discredited by the increasing
frequency with which the artist took note of her
effect. During each of her most impressive
moments, she flashed, from the far corner of her eye,
two questions at Jane: ``How about THAT one?
Are you still watching Me?''
Then, apparently in the very midst of her
cares, she suddenly and without warning ceased
to boss, walked out into the street, halted, and
stared frankly at Jane.
Jane had begun her automatic feeding again.
She continued it, meanwhile seriously returning
the stare of the new neighbor. For several minutes
this mutual calm and inoffensive gaze was
protracted; then Jane, after swallowing the last
morsel of her supplies, turned her head away and
looked at a tree. The little girl, into whose eyes
some wistfulness had crept, also turned her head
and looked at a tree. After a while, she advanced
to the curb on Jane's side of the street, and,
swinging her right foot, allowed it to kick the
Jane came out to the sidewalk and began to
kick one of the fence-pickets.
``You see that ole fatty?'' asked the little girl,
pointing to one of the workmen, thus sufficiently
``That's the one broke the goldfish,'' said the
little girl. There was a pause during which she
continued to scuff the curbstone with her shoe,
Jane likewise scuffing the fence-picket. ``I'm
goin' to have papa get him arrested,'' added the
``My papa got two men arrested once,'' Jane
said, calmly. ``Two or three.''
The little girl's eyes, wandering upward, took
note of Jane's papa's house, and of a fierce young
gentleman framed in an open window up-stairs.
He was seated, wore ink upon his forehead, and
tapped his teeth with a red penholder.
``Who is that?'' she asked.
``Is it your papa?''
``NO-O-O-O!'' Jane exclaimed. ``It's WILLIE!''
``Oh,'' said the little girl, apparently satisfied.
Each now scuffed less energetically with her
shoe; feet slowed down; so did conversation, and,
for a time, Jane and the stranger wrapped themselves
in stillness, though there may have been
some silent communing between them. Then the
new neighbor placed her feet far apart and
leaned backward upon nothing, curving her front
outward and her remarkably flexible spine inward
until a profile view of her was grandly semicircular.
Jane watched her attentively, but without
comment. However, no one could have doubted that
the processes of acquaintance were progressing
``Let's go in our yard,'' said Jane.
The little girl straightened herself with a slight
gasp, and accepted the invitation. Side by side,
the two passed through the open gate, walked
gravely forth upon the lawn, and halted, as by
common consent. Jane thereupon placed her
feet wide apart and leaned backward upon nothing,
attempting the feat in contortion just
performed by the stranger.
``Look,'' she said. ``Look at ME!''
But she lacked the other's genius, lost her
balance, and fell. Born persistent, she
immediately got to her feet and made fresh efforts.
``No! Look at ME!'' the little girl cried,
becoming semicircular again. ``This is the way.
I call it `puttin' your stummick out o' joint.'
You haven't got yours out far enough.''
``Yes, I have,'' said Jane, gasping.
``Well, to do it right, you must WALK that way.
As soon as you get your stummick out o' joint,
you must begin an' walk. Look! Like this.''
And the little girl, having achieved a state of
such convexity that her braided hair almost
touched the ground behind her, walked
successfully in that singular attitude.
``I'm walkin','' Jane protested, her face not
quite upside down. ``Look! I'M walkin' that
way, too. My stummick--''
There came an outraged shout from above, and
a fierce countenance, stained with ink, protruded
from the window.
``Stop that! Stop putting your stomach out
in front of you like that! It's disgraceful!''
Both young ladies, looking rather oppressed,
resumed the perpendicular. ``Why doesn't he like
it?'' the stranger asked in a tone of pure wonder.
``I don't know,'' said Jane. ``He doesn't like
much of anything. He's seventeen years old.''
After that, the two stared moodily at the
ground for a little while, chastened by the severe
presence above; then Jane brightened.
``_I_ know!'' she exclaimed, cozily. ``Let's play
callers. Right here by this bush 'll be my house.
You come to call on me, an' we'll talk about our
chuldren. You be Mrs. Smith an' I'm Mrs.
Jones.'' And in the character of a hospitable
matron she advanced graciously toward the new
neighbor. ``Why, my dear Mrs. SMITH, come
right IN! I THOUGHT you'd call this morning. I
want to tell you about my lovely little daughter.
She's only ten years old, an' says the brightest
THINGS! You really must--''
But here Jane interrupted herself abruptly,
and, hopping behind the residential bush, peeped
over it, not at Mrs. Smith, but at a boy of ten or
eleven who was passing along the sidewalk.
Her expression was gravely interested, somewhat
complacent; and Mrs. Smith was not so lacking
in perception that she failed to understand how
completely--for the time being, at least--calling
The boy whistled briskly, ``My country, 'tis
of thee,'' and though his knowledge of the
air failed him when he finished the second line,
he was not disheartened, but began at the
beginning again, continuing repeatedly after this
fashion to offset monotony by patriotism. He
whistled loudly; he walked with ostentatious
intent to be at some heavy affair in the distance;
his ears were red. He looked neither to the right
nor to the left.
That is, he looked neither to the right nor to
the left until he had passed the Baxters' fence.
But when he had gone as far as the upper corner
of the fence beyond, he turned his head and
looked back, without any expression--except that
of a whistler--at Jane. And thus, still whistling
``My country, 'tis of thee,'' and with blank pink
face over his shoulder, he proceeded until he was
out of sight.
``Who was that boy?'' the new neighbor then
``It's Freddie,'' said Jane, placidly. ``He's in
our Sunday-school. He's in love of me.''
Again the outraged and ink-stained countenance
glared down from the window.
``What you want?'' Jane asked.
``What you MEAN talking about such things?''
William demanded. ``In all my life I never
heard anything as disgusting! Shame on you!''
The little girl from across the street looked
upward thoughtfully. ``He's mad,'' she
remarked, and, regardless of Jane's previous
information, ``It IS your papa, isn't it?'' she
``No!'' said Jane, testily. ``I told you five
times it's my brother Willie.''
``Oh!'' said the little girl, and, grasping the fact
that William's position was, in dignity and
authority, negligible, compared with that which she
had persisted in imagining, she felt it safe to tint
her upward gaze with disfavor. ``He acts kind
of crazy,'' she murmured.
``He's in love of Miss Pratt,'' said Jane.
``She's goin' away to-day. She said she'd go
before, but to-day she IS! Mr. Parcher, where
she visits, he's almost dead, she's stayed so long.
She's awful, I think.''
William, to whom all was audible, shouted,
hoarsely, ``I'll see to YOU!'' and disappeared from
``Will he come down here?'' the little girl
asked, taking a step toward the gate.
``No. He's just gone to call mamma. All
she'll do' ll be to tell us to go play somewheres
else. Then we can go talk to Genesis.''
``Genesis. He's puttin' a load of coal in the
cellar window with a shovel. He's nice.''
``What's he put the coal in the window
``He's a colored man,'' said Jane.
``Shall we go talk to him now?''
``No,'' Jane said, thoughtfully. ``Let's be
playin' callers when mamma comes to tell us to
go 'way. What was your name?''
``No, it wasn't.''
``It is too, Rannie,'' the little girl insisted.
``My whole name's Mary Randolph Kirsted, but
my short name's Rannie.''
Jane laughed. ``What a funny name!'' she
said. ``I didn't mean your real name; I meant
your callers' name. One of us was Mrs. Jones,
and one was--''
``I want to be Mrs. Jones,'' said Rannie.
``Oh, my DEAR Mrs. Jones,'' Jane began at
once, ``I want to tell you about my lovely
chuldren. I have two, one only seven years old, and
``Jane!'' called Mrs. Baxter from William's
``You must go somewhere else to play. Willie's
trying to work at his studies up here, and he says
you've disturbed him very much.''
The obedient Jane and her friend turned to go,
and as they went, Miss Mary Randolph Kirsted
allowed her uplifted eyes to linger with increased
disfavor upon William, who appeared beside
Mrs. Baxter at the window.
``I tell you what let's do,'' Rannie suggested in
a lowered voice. ``He got so fresh with us, an'
made your mother come, an' all, let's--let's--''
``Let's what?'' Jane urged her, in an eager
``Let's think up somep'n he won't like--an'
They disappeared round a corner of the house,
their heads close together.
Up-stairs, Mrs. Baxter moved to the door
of her son's room, pretending to be unconscious
of the gaze he maintained upon her. Mustering
courage to hum a little tune and affecting
inconsequence, she had nearly crossed the
threshold when he said, sternly:
``And this is all you intend to say to that
``Why, yes, Willie.''
``And yet I told you what she said!'' he cried.
``I told you I HEARD her stand there and tell that
dirty-faced little girl how that idiot boy that's
always walkin' past here four or five times a
day, whistling and looking back, was in `love
of' her! Ye gods! What kind of a person will
she grow up into if you don't punish her for
havin' ideas like that at her age?''
Mrs. Baxter regarded him mildly, not replying,
and he went on, with loud indignation:
``I never heard of such a thing! That Worm
walkin' past here four or five times a day just to
look at JANE! And her standing there, calmly
tellin' that sooty-faced little girl, `He's in love of
me'! Why, it's enough to sicken a man! Honestly,
if I had my way, I'd see that both she and
that little Freddie Banks got a first-class whipping!''
``Don't you think, Willie,'' said Mrs. Baxter--
``don't you think that, considering the rather
noncommittal method of Freddie's courtship, you are
suggesting extreme measures?''
``Well, SHE certainly ought to be punished!'' he
insisted, and then, with a reversal to agony, he
shuddered. ``That's the least of it!'' he cried.
``It's the insulting things you always allow her to
say of one of the noblest girls in the United
States--THAT'S what counts! On the very last
day--yes, almost the last hour--that Miss Pratt's
in this town, you let your only daughter stand
there and speak disrespectfully of her--and then
all you do is tell her to `go and play somewhere
else'! I don't understand your way of bringing
up a child,'' he declared, passionately. ``I do
``There, there, Willie,'' Mrs. Baxter said.
``You're all wrought up--''
``I am NOT wrought up!'' shouted William.
``Why should I be charged with--''
``Now, now!'' she said. ``You'll feel better to-morrow.''
``What do you mean by that?'' he demanded,
For reply she only shook her head in an odd
little way, and in her parting look at him there
was something at once compassionate, amused,
``You'll be all right, Willie,'' she said, softly,
and closed the door.
Alone, William lifted clenched hands in a series
of tumultuous gestures at the ceiling; then he
moaned and sank into a chair at his writing-
table. Presently a comparative calm was
restored to him, and with reverent fingers he took
from a drawer a one-pound box of candy, covered
with white tissue-paper, girdled with blue ribbon.
He set the box gently beside him upon the table;
then from beneath a large, green blotter drew
forth some scribbled sheets. These he placed
before him, and, taking infinite pains with his
handwriting, slowly copied:
DEAR LOLA--I presume when you are reading these lines
it will be this afternoon and you will be on the train moving
rapidly away from this old place here farther and farther
from it all. As I sit here at my old desk and look back
upon it all while I am writing this farewell letter I hope when
you are reading it you also will look back upon it all and
think of one you called (Alias) Little Boy Baxter. As I
sit here this morning that you are going away at last I
look back and I cannot rember any summer in my whole
life which has been like this summer, because a great change
has come over me this summer. If you would like to know
what this means it was something like I said when John
Watson got there yesterday afternoon and interupted
what I said. May you enjoy this candy and think of the
giver. I will put something in with this letter. It is
something maybe you would like to have and in exchange
I would give all I possess for one of you if you would send
it to me when you get home. Please do this for now my
heart is braking.
WILLIAM S. BAXTER (ALIAS) LITTLE BOY BAXTER.
William opened the box of candy and placed
the letter upon the top layer of chocolates. Upon
the letter he placed a small photograph (wrapped
in tissue-paper) of himself. Then, with a pair of
scissors, he trimmed an oblong of white cardboard
to fit into the box. Upon this piece of
cardboard he laboriously wrote, copying from a
tortured, inky sheet before him:
BY WILLIAM S. BAXTER
The sunset light
Fades into night
But never will I forget
The smile that haunts me yet
Through the future four long years
I hope you will remember with tears
Whate'er my rank or station
Whilst receiving my education
Though far away you seem
I will see thee in dream.
He placed his poem between the photograph
and the letter, closed the box, and tied the tissue-
paper about it again with the blue ribbon.
Throughout these rites (they were rites both in
spirit and in manner) he was subject to little
catchings of the breath, half gulp, half sigh.
But the dolorous tokens passed, and he sat with
elbows upon the table, his chin upon his hands,
reverie in his eyes. Tragedy had given way to
gentler pathos;--beyond question, something had
measurably soothed him. Possibly, even in this
hour preceding the hour of parting, he knew a
little of that proud amazement which any poet
is entitled to feel over each new lyric miracle
Perhaps he was helped, too, by wondering what
Miss Pratt would think of him when she read ``In
Dream,'' on the train that afternoon. For reasons
purely intuitive, and decidedly without foundation
in fact, he was satisfied that no rival
farewell poem would be offered her, and so it may
be that he thought ``In Dream'' might show her
at last, in one blaze of light, what her eyes had
sometimes fleetingly intimated she did perceive
in part--the difference between William and
such every-day, rather well-meaning, fairly good-
hearted people as Joe Bullitt, Wallace Banks,
Johnnie Watson, and others. Yes, when she
came to read ``In Dream,'' and to ``look back
upon it all,'' she would surely know--at last!
And then, when the future four long years
(while receiving his education) had passed, he
would go to her. He would go to her, and she
would take him by the hand, and lead him to her
father, and say, ``Father, this is William.''
But William would turn to her, and, with the
old, dancing light in his eyes, ``No, Lola,'' he
would say, ``not William, but Ickle Boy Baxter!
Always and always, just that for you; oh, my
And then, as in story and film and farce and
the pleasanter kinds of drama, her father would
say, with kindly raillery, ``Well, when you two
young people get through, you'll find me in the
library, where I have a pretty good BUSINESS
proposition to lay before YOU, young man!''
And when the white-waistcoated, white-side-
burned old man had, chuckling, left the room,
William would slowly lift his arms; but Lola
would move back from him a step--only a step--
and after laying a finger archly upon her lips to
check him, ``Wait, sir!'' she would say. ``I have
a question to ask you, sir!''
``What question, Lola?''
``THIS question, sir!'' she would reply. ``In all
that summer, sir, so long ago, why did you never
tell me what you WERE, until I had gone away and
it was too late to show you what I felt? Ah,
Ickle Boy Baxter, I never understood until I
looked back upon it all, after I had read `In
Dream,' on the train that day! THEN I KNEW!''
``And now, Lola?'' William would say. ``Do
you understand me, NOW?''
Shyly she would advance the one short step
she had put between them, while he, with lifted,
yearning arms, this time destined to no
At so vital a moment did Mrs. Baxter knock at
his door and consoling reverie cease to minister
unto William. Out of the rosy sky he dropped,
falling miles in an instant, landing with a bump.
He started, placed the sacred box out of sight,
and spoke gruffly.
``What you want?''
``I'm not coming in, Willie,'' said his mother.
``I just wanted to know--I thought maybe you
were looking out of the window and noticed where
those children went.''
``Jane and that little girl from across the
street--Kirsted, her name must be.''
``No. I did not.''
``I just wondered,'' Mrs. Baxter said, timidly.
``Genesis thinks he heard the little Kirsted girl
telling Jane she had plenty of money for car-
fare. He thinks they went somewhere on a
street-car. I thought maybe you noticed
``I told you I did not.''
``All right,'' she said, placatively. ``I didn't
mean to bother you, dear.''
Following this there was a silence; but no
sound of receding footsteps indicated Mrs.
Baxter's departure from the other side of the
``Well, what you WANT?'' William shouted.
``Nothing--nothing at all,'' said the compassionate
voice. ``I just thought I'd have lunch a
little later than usual; not till half past one.
That is if--well, I thought probably you meant
to go to the station to see Miss Pratt off on the
Even so friendly an interest as this must have
appeared to the quivering William an intrusion in
his affairs, for he demanded, sharply:
``How'd you find out she's going at one
``Why--why, Jane mentioned it,'' Mrs. Baxter
replied, with obvious timidity. ``Jane said--''
She was interrupted by the loud, desperate
sound of William's fist smiting his writing-table,
so sensitive was his condition. ``This is just
unbearable!'' he cried. ``Nobody's business is safe
from that child!''
``Why, Willie, I don't see how it matters if--''
He uttered a cry. ``No! Nothing matters!
Nothing matters at all! Do you s'pose I want
that child, with her insults, discussing when Miss
Pratt is or is not going away? Don't you know
there are SOME things that have no business to be
talked about by every Tom, Dick, and Harry?''