Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Seventeen by Booth Tarkington

Part 4 out of 6

Adobe PDF icon
Download Seventeen pdf
File size: 0.6 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

effusions of pride on the part of a passing hen,
she thought fit to laugh and say:

``She yust laid egg.''

William shuddered. This grossness in the presence
of Miss Pratt was unthinkable. His mind
refused to deal with so impossible a situation; he
could not accept it as a fact that such words had
actually been uttered in such a presence. And
yet it was the truth; his incredulous ears still
sizzled. ``She yust laid egg!'' His entire skin
became flushed; his averted eyes glazed themselves
with shame.

He was not the only person shocked by the
ribaldry of the Swedish lady named Anna. Joe
Bullitt and Johnnie Watson, on the outskirts of
the group, went to Wallace Banks, drew him
aside, and, with feverish eloquence, set his
responsibilities before him. It was his duty, they
urged, to have an immediate interview with this
free-spoken Anna and instruct her in the proprieties.
Wallace had been almost as horrified as
they by her loose remark, but he declined the
office they proposed for him, offering, however,
to appoint them as a committee with authority
in the matter--whereupon they retorted with
unreasonable indignation, demanding to know
what he took them for.

Unconscious of the embarrassment she had
caused in these several masculine minds, the
Swedish lady named Anna led the party onward,
continuing her agricultural lecture. William
walked mechanically, his eyes averted and looking
at no one. And throughout this agony he
was burningly conscious of the blasphemed
presence of Miss Pratt beside him.

Therefore, it was with no little surprise, when
the party came out of the barn, that William
beheld Miss Pratt, not walking at his side, but
on the contrary, sitting too cozily with George
Crooper upon a fallen tree at the edge of a peach-
orchard just beyond the barn-yard. It was Miss
Parcher who had been walking beside him, for
the truant couple had made their escape at the
beginning of the Swedish lady's discourse.

In vain William murmured to himself, ``Flopit
love ole friends best.'' Purple and black again
descended upon his soul, for he could not disguise
from himself the damnatory fact that George
had flitted with the lady, while he, wretched William,
had been permitted to take care of the dog!

A spark of dignity still burned within him. He
strode to the barn-yard fence, and, leaning over it,
dropped Flopit rather brusquely at his mistress's
feet. Then, without a word even without a look
--William walked haughtily away, continuing his
stern progress straight through the barn-yard
gate, and thence onward until he found himself
in solitude upon the far side of a smoke-house,
where his hauteur vanished.

Here, in the shade of a great walnut-tree which
sheltered the little building, he gave way--not to
tears, certainly, but to faint murmurings and
little heavings under impulses as ancient as young
love itself. It is to be supposed that William
considered his condition a lonely one, but if all the
seventeen-year-olds who have known such half-
hours could have shown themselves to him then,
he would have fled from the mere horror of
billions. Alas! he considered his sufferings a new
invention in the world, and there was now inspired
in his breast a monologue so eloquently bitter
that it might deserve some such title as A Passion
Beside the Smoke-house. During the little time
that William spent in this sequestration he
passed through phases of emotion which would
have kept an older man busy for weeks and left
him wrecked at the end of them.

William's final mood was one of beautiful
resignation with a kick in it; that is, he nobly gave
her up to George and added irresistibly that
George was a big, fat lummox! Painting pictures,
such as the billions of other young sufferers
before him have painted, William saw
himself a sad, gentle old bachelor at the family
fireside, sometimes making the sacrifice of his
reputation so that SHE and the children might
never know the truth about George; and he gave
himself the solace of a fierce scene or two with
George: ``Remember, it is for them, not you--
you THING!''

After this human little reaction he passed to
a higher field of romance. He would die for
George and then she would bring the little boy
she had named William to the lonely headstone--
Suddenly William saw himself in his true and
fitting character--Sydney Carton! He had
lately read A Tale of Two Cities, immediately
re-reading until, as he would have said, he ``knew
it by heart''; and even at the time he had seen
resemblances between himself and the appealing
figure of Carton. Now that the sympathy between
them was perfected by Miss Pratt's preference
for another, William decided to mount the
scaffold in place of George Crooper. The scene
became actual to him, and, setting one foot upon
a tin milk-pail which some one had carelessly
left beside the smoke-house, he lifted his eyes to
the pitiless blue sky and unconsciously assumed
the familiar attitude of Carton on the steps of
the guillotine. He spoke aloud those great last

``It is a far, far better thing that I do, than
I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that
I go to--''

A whiskered head on the end of a long,
corrugated red neck protruded from the smoke-
house door.

``What say?'' it inquired, huskily.

``Nun-nothing!'' stammered William.

Eyes above whiskers became fierce. ``You
take your feet off that milk-bucket. Say! This
here's a sanitary farm. 'Ain't you got any more
sense 'n to go an'--''

But William had abruptly removed his foot
and departed.

He found the party noisily established in the
farm-house at two long tables piled with bucolic
viands already being violently depleted. Johnnie
Watson had kept a chair beside himself vacant for
William. Johnnie was in no frame of mind to sit
beside any ``chattering girl,'' and he had
protected himself by Joe Bullitt upon his right and
the empty seat upon his left. William took it,
and gazed upon the nearer foods with a slight
renewal of animation.

He began to eat; he continued to eat; in fact,
he did well. So did his two comrades. Not that
the melancholy of these three was dispersed--
far from it! With ineffaceable gloom they ate
chicken, both white meat and dark, drumsticks,
wishbones, and livers; they ate corn-on-the-cob,
many ears, and fried potatoes and green peas
and string-beans; they ate peach preserves and
apricot preserves and preserved pears; they ate
biscuits with grape jelly and biscuits with crab-
apple jelly; they ate apple sauce and apple butter
and apple pie. They ate pickles, both cucumber
pickles and pickles made of watermelon rind;
they ate pickled tomatoes, pickled peppers, also
pickled onions. They ate lemon pie.

At that, they were no rivals to George Crooper,
who was a real eater. Love had not made his
appetite ethereal to-day, and even the attending
Swedish lady named Anna felt some apprehension
when it came to George and the gravy,
though she was accustomed to the prodigies
performed in this line by the robust hands on the
farm. George laid waste his section of the
table, and from the beginning he allowed himself
scarce time to say, ``I dunno why it is.'' The
pretty companion at his side at first gazed
dumfounded; then, with growing enthusiasm for
what promised to be a really magnificent
performance, she began to utter little ejaculations of
wonder and admiration. With this music in his
ears, George outdid himself. He could not resist
the temptation to be more and more astonishing
as a heroic comedian, for these humors sometimes
come upon vain people at country dinners.

George ate when he had eaten more than he
needed; he ate long after every one understood
why he was so vast; he ate on and on sheerly
as a flourish--as a spectacle. He ate even
when he himself began to understand that there
was daring in what he did, for his was a toreador
spirit so long as he could keep bright eyes fastened
upon him.

Finally, he ate to decide wagers made upon his
gorging, though at times during this last period
his joviality deserted him. Anon his damp brow
would be troubled, and he knew moments of



When George did stop, it was abruptly,
during one of these intervals of sobriety,
and he and Miss Pratt came out of the
house together rather quietly, joining one of the
groups of young people chatting with after-
dinner languor under the trees. However, Mr.
Crooper began to revive presently, in the sweet
air of outdoors, and, observing some of the more
flashing gentlemen lighting cigarettes, he was
moved to laughter. He had not smoked since
his childhood--having then been bonded through
to twenty-one with a pledge of gold--and he
feared that these smoking youths might feel
themselves superior. Worse, Miss Pratt might be
impressed, therefore he laughed in scorn, saying:

``Burnin' up ole trash around here, I expect!''
He sniffed searchingly. ``Somebody's set some
ole rags on fire.'' Then, as in discovery, he
cried, ``Oh no, only cigarettes!''

Miss Pratt, that tactful girl, counted four
smokers in the group about her, and only one
abstainer, George. She at once defended the
smokers, for it is to be feared that numbers
always had weight with her. ``Oh, but cigarettes
is lubly smell!'' she said. ``Untle Georgiecums
maybe be too 'ittle boy for smokings!''

This archness was greeted loudly by the
smokers, and Mr. Crooper was put upon his
mettle. He spoke too quickly to consider
whether or no the facts justified his assertion.
``Me? I don't smoke paper and ole carpets. I
smoke cigars!''

He had created the right impression, for Miss
Pratt clapped her hands. ``Oh, 'plendid! Light
one, Untle Georgiecums! Light one ever 'n' ever
so quick! P'eshus Flopit an' me we want see
dray, big, 'normous man smoke dray, big,
'normous cigar!''

William and Johnnie Watson, who had been
hovering morbidly, unable to resist the lodestone,
came nearer, Johnnie being just in time to hear
his cousin's reply.

``I--I forgot my cigar-case.''

Johnnie's expression became one of biting
skepticism. ``What you talkin' about, George?
Didn't you promise Uncle George you'd never
smoke till you're of age, and Uncle George said
he'd give you a thousand dollars on your twenty-
first birthday? What 'd you say about your

George felt that he was in a tight place, and
the lovely eyes of Miss Pratt turned upon him
questioningly. He could not flush, for he was
already so pink after his exploits with
unnecessary nutriment that more pinkness was
impossible. He saw that the only safety for him
lay in boisterous prevarication. ``A thousand
dollars!'' he laughed loudly. ``I thought that
was real money when I was ten years old! It
didn't stand in MY way very long, I guess! Good
ole George wanted his smoke, and he went after
it! You know how I am, Johnnie, when I go
after anything. I been smokin' cigars I dunno
how long!'' Glancing about him, his eye became
reassured; it was obvious that even Johnnie had
accepted this airy statement as the truth, and to
clinch plausibility he added: ``When I smoke, I
smoke! I smoke cigars straight along--light one
right on the stub of the other. I only wish I had
some with me, because I miss 'em after a meal.
I'd give a good deal for something to smoke
right now! I don't mean cigarettes; I don't
want any paper--I want something that's all

William's pale, sad face showed a hint of color.
With a pang he remembered the package of
My Little Sweetheart All-Tobacco Cuban Cigarettes
(the Package of Twenty for Ten Cents)
which still reposed, untouched, in the breast
pocket of his coat. His eyes smarted a little
as he recalled the thoughts and hopes that had
accompanied the purchase; but he thought,
``What would Sydney Carton do?''

William brought forth the package of My
Little Sweetheart All-Tobacco Cuban Cigarettes
and placed it in the large hand of George Crooper.
And this was a noble act, for William believed
that George really wished to smoke. ``Here,'' he
said, ``take these; they're all tobacco. I'm
goin' to quit smokin', anyway.'' And, thinking
of the name, he added, gently, with a significance
lost upon all his hearers, ``I'm sure you ought to
have 'em instead of me.''

Then he went away and sat alone upon the

``Light one, light one!'' cried Miss Pratt.
``Ev'ybody mus' be happy, an' dray, big,
'normous man tan't be happy 'less he have his
all-tobatto smote. Light it, light it!''

George drew as deep a breath as his diaphragm,
strangely oppressed since dinner, would permit,
and then bravely lit a Little Sweetheart. There
must have been some valiant blood in him,
for, as he exhaled the smoke, he covered a slight
choking by exclaiming, loudly: ``THAT'S good!
That's the ole stuff! That's what I was lookin'

Miss Pratt was entranced. ``Oh, 'plendid!''
she cried, watching him with fascinated eyes.
``Now take dray, big, 'normous puffs! Take
dray, big, 'NORMOUS puffs!''

George took great, big, enormous puffs.

She declared that she loved to watch men
smoke, and William's heart, as he sat on the
distant fence, was wrung and wrung again by the
vision of her playful ecstasies. But when he saw
her holding what was left of the first Little
Sweetheart for George to light a second at its
expiring spark, he could not bear it. He dropped
from the fence and moped away to be out of sight
once more. This was his darkest hour.

Studiously avoiding the vicinity of the smoke-
house, he sought the little orchard where he had
beheld her sitting with George; and there he sat
himself in sorrowful reverie upon the selfsame
fallen tree. How long he remained there is
uncertain, but he was roused by the sound of music
which came from the lawn before the farm-
house. Bitterly he smiled, remembering that
Wallace Banks had engaged Italians with harp,
violin, and flute, promising great things for
dancing on a fresh-clipped lawn--a turf floor
being no impediment to seventeen's dancing.
Music! To see her whirling and smiling sunnily
in the fat grasp of that dancing bear! He
would stay in this lonely orchard; SHE would not
miss him.

But though he hated the throbbing music and
the sound of the laughing voices that came to
him, he could not keep away--and when he
reached the lawn where the dancers were, he
found Miss Pratt moving rhythmically in the thin
grasp of Wallace Banks. Johnnie Watson
approached, and spoke in a low tone, tinged with
spiteful triumph.

``Well, anyway, ole fat George didn't get the
first dance with her! She's the guest of honor,
and Wallace had a right to it because he did all
the work. He came up to 'em and ole fat
George couldn't say a thing. Wallace just took
her right away from him. George didn't say
anything at all, but I s'pose after this dance he'll
be rushin' around again and nobody else 'll have
a chance to get near her the rest of the afternoon.
My mother told me I ought to invite him over
here, out I had no business to do it; he don't
know the first principles of how to act in a town
he don't live in!''

``Where'd he go?'' William asked, listlessly,
for Mr. Crooper was nowhere in sight.

``I don't know--he just walked off without
sayin' anything. But he'll be back, time this
dance is over, never you fear, and he'll grab her
again and-- What's the matter with Joe?''

Joseph Bullitt had made his appearance at a
corner of the house, some distance from where
they stood. His face was alert under the impulse
of strong excitement, and he beckoned fiercely.
``Come here!'' And, when they had obeyed,
``He's around back of the house by a kind of
shed,'' said Joe. ``I think something's wrong.
Come on, I'll show him to you.''

But behind the house, whither they followed
him in vague, strange hope, he checked them.
``LOOK THERE!'' he said.

His pointing finger was not needed. Sounds
of paroxysm drew their attention sufficiently--
sounds most poignant, soul-rending, and
lugubrious. William and Johnnie perceived the
large person of Mr. Crooper; he was seated upon
the ground, his back propped obliquely against
the smoke-house, though this attitude was not
maintained constantly.

Facing him, at a little distance, a rugged figure
in homely garments stood leaning upon a hoe
and regarding George with a cold interest.
The apex of this figure was a volcanic straw hat,
triangular in profile and coned with an open
crater emitting reddish wisps, while below the hat
were several features, but more whiskers, at the
top of a long, corrugated red neck of sterling
worth. A husky voice issued from the whiskers,
addressing George.

``I seen you!'' it said. ``I seen you eatin'!
This here farm is supposed to be a sanitary farm,
and you'd ought of knew better. Go it, doggone
you! Go it!''

George complied. And three spectators,
remaining aloof, but watching zealously, began
to feel their lost faith in Providence returning
into them; their faces brightened slowly, and
without relapse. It was a visible thing how the
world became fairer and better in their eyes
during that little while they stood there. And
William saw that his Little Sweethearts had been
an inspired purchase, after all; they had
delivered the final tap upon a tottering edifice.
George's deeds at dinner had unsettled, but
Little Sweethearts had overthrown--and now
there was awful work among the ruins, to an
ironical accompaniment of music from the front
yard, where people danced in heaven's sunshine!

This accompaniment came to a stop, and
Johnnie Watson jumped. He seized each of his
companions by a sleeve and spoke eagerly, his
eyes glowing with a warm and brotherly light.
``Here!'' he cried. ``We better get around there
--this looks like it was goin' to last all afternoon.
Joe, you get the next dance with her, and just
about time the music slows up you dance her
around so you can stop right near where Bill
will be standin', so Bill can get her quick for the
dance after that. Then, Bill, you do the same
for me, and I'll do the same for Joe again, and
then, Joe, you do it for Bill again, and then Bill
for me--and so on. If we go in right now and
work together we can crowd the rest out, and
there won't anybody else get to dance with her
the whole day! Come on quick!''

United in purpose, the three ran lightly to the
dancing-lawn, and Mr. Bullitt was successful,
after a little debate, in obtaining the next dance
with the lovely guest of the day. ``I did promise
big Untle Georgiecums,'' she said, looking about

``Well, I don't think he'll come,'' said Joe.
``That is, I'm pretty sure he won't.''

A shade fell upon the exquisite face. ``No'ty.
Bruvva Josie-Joe! The Men ALWAYS tum when
Lola promises dances. Mustn't be rude!''

``Well--'' Joe began, when he was interrupted
by the Swedish lady named Anna, who spoke
to them from the steps of the house. Of the
merrymakers they were the nearest.

``Dot pick fella,'' said Anna, ``dot one dot
eats--we make him in a petroom. He holler!
He tank he neet some halp.''

``Does he want a doctor?'' Joe asked.

``Doctor? No! He want make him in a
amyoulance for hospital!''

``I'll go look at him,'' Johnnie Watson
volunteered, running up. ``He's my cousin, and I
guess I got to take the responsibility.''

Miss Pratt paid the invalid the tribute of one
faintly commiserating glance toward the house.
``Well,'' she said, ``if people would rather eat too
much than dance!'' She meant ``dance with
ME!'' though she thought it prettier not to say
so. ``Come on, Bruvva Josie-Joe!'' she cried,

And a little later Johnnie Watson approached
her where she stood with a restored and refulgent
William, about to begin the succeeding dance.
Johnnie dropped into her hand a ring, receiving
one in return. ``I thought I better GET it,'' he
said, offering no further explanation. ``I'll take
care of his until we get home. He's all right,''
said Johnnie, and then perceiving a sudden
advent of apprehension upon the sensitive brow
of William, he went on reassuringly: ``He's
doin' as well as anybody could expect; that is--
after the crazy way he DID! He's always been
considered the dumbest one in all our relations--
never did know how to act. I don't mean he's
exactly not got his senses, or ought to be watched,
anything like that--and of course he belongs to
an awful good family--but he's just kind of the
black sheep when it comes to intelligence, or
anything like that. I got him as comfortable as a
person could be, and they're givin' him hot water
and mustard and stuff, but what he needs now is
just to be kind of quiet. It'll do him a lot o'
good,'' Johnnie concluded, with a spark in his
voice, ``to lay there the rest of the afternoon and
get quieted down, kind of.''

``You don't think there's any--'' William
began, and, after a pause, continued--``any hope
--of his getting strong enough to come out and
dance afterwhile?''

Johnnie shook his head. ``None in the
world!'' he said, conclusively. ``The best we can
do for him is to let him entirely alone till after
supper, and then ask nobody to sit on the back
seat of the trolley-car goin' home, so we can
make him comfortable back there, and let him
kind of stretch out by himself.''

Then gaily tinkled harp, gaily sang flute and
violin! Over the greensward William lightly
bore his lady, while radiant was the cleared sky
above the happy dancers. William's fingers
touched those delicate fingers; the exquisite
face smiled rosily up to him; undreamable sweetness
beat rhythmically upon his glowing ears;
his feet moved in a rhapsody of companionship
with hers. They danced and danced and danced!

Then Joe danced with her, while William and
Johnnie stood with hands upon each other's
shoulders and watched, mayhap with longing,
but without spite; then Johnnie danced with her
while Joe and William watched--and then William
danced with her again.

So passed the long, ineffable afternoon away--
ah, Seventeen!

``. . . 'Jav a good time at the trolley-party?''
the clerk in the corner drug-store inquired that

``Fine!'' said William, taking his overcoat
from the hook where he had left it.

``How j' like them Little Sweethearts I sold

``FINE!'' said William.



Now the last rose had blown; the dandelion
globes were long since on the wind;
gladioli and golden-glow and salvia were here;
the season moved toward asters and the goldenrod.
This haloed summer still idled on its way,
yet all the while sped quickly; like some languid
lady in an elevator.

There came a Sunday--very hot.

Mr. and Mrs. Baxter, having walked a scorched
half-mile from church, drooped thankfully into
wicker chairs upon their front porch, though
Jane, who had accompanied them, immediately
darted away, swinging her hat by its ribbon and
skipping as lithesomely as if she had just come
forth upon a cool morning.

``I don't know how she does it!'' her father
moaned, glancing after her and drying his forehead
temporarily upon a handkerchief. ``That
would merely kill me dead, after walking in
this heat.''

Then, for a time, the two were content to sit
in silence, nodding to occasional acquaintances
who passed in the desultory after-church
procession. Mr. Baxter fanned himself with sporadic
little bursts of energy which made his straw hat
creak, and Mrs. Baxter sighed with the heat, and
gently rocked her chair.

But as a group of five young people passed
along the other side of the street Mr. Baxter
abruptly stopped fanning himself, and, following
the direction of his gaze, Mrs. Baxter ceased to
rock. In half-completed attitudes they leaned
slightly forward, sharing one of those pauses
of parents who unexpectedly behold their offspring.

``My soul!'' said William's father. ``Hasn't
that girl gone home YET?''

``He looks pale to me,'' Mrs. Baxter murmured,
absently. ``I don't think he seems at all well,

During seventeen years Mr. Baxter had gradually
learned not to protest anxieties of this kind,
unless he desired to argue with no prospect of
ever getting a decision. ``Hasn't she got any
HOME?'' he demanded, testily. ``Isn't she ever
going to quit visiting the Parchers and let people
have a little peace?''

Mrs. Baxter disregarded this outburst as he
had disregarded her remark about William's
pallor. ``You mean Miss Pratt?'' she inquired,
dreamily, her eyes following the progress of her
son. ``No, he really doesn't look well at all.''

``Is she going to visit the Parchers all summer?''
Mr. Baxter insisted.

``She already has, about,'' said Mrs. Baxter.

``Look at that boy!'' the father grumbled.
``Mooning along with those other moon-calves--
can't even let her go to church alone! I wonder
how many weeks of time, counting it out in
hours, he's wasted that way this summer?''

``Oh, I don't know! You see, he never goes
there in the evening.''

``What of that? He's there all day, isn't he?
What do they find to talk about? That's the
mystery to me! Day after day; hours and hours--
My soul! What do they SAY?''

Mrs. Baxter laughed indulgently. ``People are
always wondering that about the other ages.
Poor Willie! I think that a great deal of the
time their conversation would be probably about
as inconsequent as it is now. You see Willie
and Joe Bullitt are walking one on each side of
Miss Pratt, and Johnnie Watson has to walk
behind with May Parcher. Joe and Johnnie are
there about as much as Willie is, and, of course,
it's often his turn to be nice to May Parcher. He
hasn't many chances to be tete-a-tete with Miss

``Well, she ought to go home. I want that boy
to get back into his senses. He's in an awful

``I think she is going soon,'' said Mrs. Baxter.
``The Parchers are to have a dance for her
Friday night, and I understand there's to be a
floor laid in the yard and great things. It's a
farewell party.''

``That's one mercy, anyhow!''

``And if you wonder what they say,'' she
resumed, ``why, probably they're all talking
about the party. And when Willie IS alone with
her--well, what does anybody say?'' Mrs. Baxter
interrupted herself to laugh. ``Jane, for
instance--she's always fascinated by that darky,
Genesis, when he's at work here in the yard, and
they have long, long talks; I've seen them from
the window. What on earth do you suppose
they talk about? That's where Jane is now.
She knew I told Genesis I'd give him something
if he'd come and freeze the ice-cream for us to-
day, and when we got here she heard the freezer
and hopped right around there. If you went out
to the back porch you'd find them talking
steadily--but what on earth about I couldn't
guess to save my life!''

And yet nothing could have been simpler: as
a matter of fact, Jane and Genesis (attended by
Clematis) were talking about society. That is to
say, their discourse was not sociologic; rather it
was of the frivolous and elegant. Watteau
prevailed with them over John Stuart Mill--in a
word, they spoke of the beau monde.

Genesis turned the handle of the freezer with
his left hand, allowing his right the freedom of
gesture which was an intermittent necessity when
he talked. In the matter of dress, Genesis had
always been among the most informal of his race,
but to-day there was a change almost unnerving
to the Caucasian eye. He wore a balloonish suit
of purple, strangely scalloped at pocket and cuff,
and more strangely decorated with lines of small
parasite buttons, in color blue, obviously buttons
of leisure. His bulbous new shoes flashed back
yellow fire at the embarrassed sun, and his collar
(for he had gone so far) sent forth other sparkles,
playing upon a polished surface over an inner
graining of soot. Beneath it hung a simple,
white, soiled evening tie, draped in a manner
unintended by its manufacturer, and heavily
overburdened by a green glass medallion of the
Emperor Tiberius, set in brass.

``Yesm,'' said Genesis. ``Now I'm in 'at
Swim--flyin' roun' ev'y night wif all lem blue-
vein people--I say, `Mus' go buy me some
blue-vein clo'es! Ef I'm go'n' a START, might's
well start HIGH!' So firs', I buy me thishere gol'
necktie pin wi' thishere lady's face carved out o'
green di'mon', sittin' in the middle all 'at gol'.
'Nen I buy me pair Royal King shoes. I got a
frien' o' mine, thishere Blooie Bowers; he say
Royal King shoes same kine o' shoes HE wear, an'
I walk straight in 'at sto' where they keep 'em
at. `Don' was'e my time showin' me no ole-
time shoes,' I say. `Run out some them big,
yella, lump-toed Royal Kings befo' my eyes, an'
firs' pair fit me I pay price, an' wear 'em right
off on me!' 'Nen I got me thishere suit o' clo'es
--OH, oh! Sign on 'em in window: `Ef you wish
to be bes'-dress' man in town take me home fer
six dolluhs ninety-sevum cents.' ` 'At's kine o'
suit Genesis need,' I say. `Ef Genesis go'n' a
start dressin' high, might's well start top!' ''

Jane nodded gravely, comprehending the
reasonableness of this view. ``What made you
decide to start, Genesis?'' she asked, earnestly. ``I
mean, how did it happen you began to get
this way?''

``Well, suh, 'tall come 'bout right like kine
o' slidin' into it 'stid o' hoppin' an' jumpin'. I'z
spen' the even' at 'at lady's house, Fanny, what
cook nex' do', las' year. Well, suh, 'at lady
Fanny, she quit privut cookin', she kaytliss--''

``She's what?'' Jane asked. ``What's that
mean, Genesis--kaytliss?''

``She kaytuhs,'' he explained. ``Ef it's a man
you call him kaytuh; ef it's a lady, she's a
kaytliss. She does kaytun fer all lem blue-vein
fam'lies in town. She make ref'eshmuns, bring
waituhs--'at's kaytun. You' maw give big dinnuh,
she have Fanny kaytuh, an' don't take no
trouble 'tall herself. Fanny take all 'at trouble.''

``I see,'' said Jane. ``But I don't see how her
bein' a kaytliss started you to dressin' so high,

``Thishere way. Fanny say, `Look here,
Genesis, I got big job t'morra night an' I'm man
short, 'count o' havin' to have a 'nouncer.' ''

``A what?''

``Fanny talk jes' that way. Goin' be big
dinnuh-potty, an' thishere blue-vein fam'ly tell
Fanny they want whole lot extry sploogin'; tell
her put fine-lookin' cullud man stan' by drawin'-
room do'--ask ev'ybody name an' holler out
whatever name they say, jes' as they walk in.
Thishere fam'ly say they goin' show what's what,
'nis town, an' they boun' Fanny go git 'em a
'nouncer. `Well, what's mattuh YOU doin' 'at
'nouncin'?' Fanny say. `Who--me?' I tell her.
`Yes, you kin, too!' she say, an' she say she len'
me 'at waituh suit yoosta b'long ole Henry
Gimlet what die' when he owin' Fanny sixteen
dolluhs--an' Fanny tuck an' keep 'at waituh suit.
She use 'at suit on extry waituhs when she got
some on her hands what 'ain't got no waituh suit.
`You wear 'at suit,' Fanny say, 'an' you be good
'nouncer, 'cause you' a fine, big man, an' got a
big, gran' voice; 'nen you learn befo' long be a
waituh, Genesis, an' git dolluh an' half ev'y even'
you waitin ', 'sides all 'at money you make cuttin'
grass daytime.' Well, suh, I'z stan' up doin' 'at
'nouncin' ve'y nex' night. White lady an' ge'l-
mun walk todes my do', I step up to 'em--I step
up to 'em thisaway.''

Here Genesis found it pleasant to present the
scene with some elaboration. He dropped the
handle of the freezer, rose, assumed a stately,
but ingratiating, expression, and ``stepped up'' to
the imagined couple, using a pacing and rhythmic
gait--a conservative prance, which plainly indicated
the simultaneous operation of an orchestra.
Then bending graciously, as though the persons
addressed were of dwarfish stature, `` 'Scuse me,''
he said, ``but kin I please be so p'lite as to 'quiah
you' name?'' For a moment he listened attentively,
then nodded, and, returning with the same
aristocratic undulations to an imaginary doorway
near the freezer, ``Misto an' Missuz Orlosko
Rinktum!'' he proclaimed, sonorously.

``WHO?'' cried Jane, fascinated. ``Genesis,
'nounce that again, right away!''

Genesis heartily complied.

``Misto an' Missuz Orlosko Rinktum!'' he

``Was that really their names?'' she asked,

``Well, I kine o' fergit,'' Genesis admitted,
resuming his work with the freezer. ``Seem like
I rickalect SOMEBODY got name good deal like
what I say, 'cause some mighty blue-vein names
at 'at dinnuh-potty, yessuh! But I on'y git to
be 'nouncer one time, 'cause Fanny tellin' me
nex' fam'ly have dinnuh-potty make heap o' fun.
Say I done my 'nouncin' GOOD, but say what's
use holler'n' names jes' fer some the neighbors or
they own aunts an' uncles to walk in, when ev'y-
body awready knows 'em? So Fanny pummote
me to waituh, an' I roun' right in amongs' big
doin's mos' ev'y night. Pass ice-cream, lemonade,
lemon-ice, cake, samwitches. `Lemme han'
you li'l' mo' chicken salad, ma'am'--` 'Low me be
so kine as to git you f'esh cup coffee, suh'--'S
way ole Genesis talkin' ev'y even' 'ese days!''

Jane looked at him thoughtfully. ``Do you like
it better than cuttin' grass, Genesis?'' she asked.

He paused to consider. ``Yes'm--when ban'
play all lem TUNES! My goo'ness, do soun' gran'!''

``You can't do it to-night, though, Genesis,''
said Jane. ``You haf to be quiet on Sunday
nights, don't you?''

``Yes'm. 'Ain' got no mo' kaytun till nex'
Friday even'.''

``Oh, I bet that's the party for Miss Pratt at
Mr. Parcher's!'' Jane cried. ``Didn't I guess

``Yes'm. I reckon I'm a-go'n' a see one you'
fam'ly 'at night; see him dancin'--wait on him
at ref'eshmuns.''

Jane's expression became even more serious
than usual. ``Willie? I don't know whether he's
goin', Genesis.''

``Lan' name!'' Genesis exclaimed. ``He die ef
he don' git INvite to 'at ball!''

``Oh, he's invited,'' said Jane. ``Only I think
maybe he won't go.''

``My goo'ness! Why ain' he goin'?''

Jane looked at her friend studiously before
replying. ``Well, it's a secret,'' she said, finally,
``but it's a very inter'sting one, an' I'll tell you
if you never tell.''

``Yes'm, I ain' tellin' nobody.''

Jane glanced round, then stepped a little closer
and told the secret with the solemnity it deserved.
``Well, when Miss Pratt first came to visit Miss
May Parcher, Willie used to keep papa's evening
clo'es in his window-seat, an' mamma wondered
what HAD become of 'em. Then, after dinner,
he'd slip up there an' put 'em on him, an' go out
through the kitchen an' call on Miss Pratt.
Then mamma found 'em, an' she thought he
oughtn't to do that, so she didn't tell him or
anything, an' she didn't even tell papa, but she
had the tailor make 'em ever an' ever so much
bigger, 'cause they were gettin' too tight for papa.
An' well, so after that, even if Willie could get
'em out o' mamma's clo'es-closet where she keeps
'em now, he'd look so funny in 'em he couldn't
wear 'em. Well, an' then he couldn't go to pay
calls on Miss Pratt in the evening since then,
because mamma says after he started to go
there in that suit he couldn't go without it, or
maybe Miss Pratt or the other ones that's in love
of her would think it was pretty queer, an' maybe
kind of expeck it was papa's all the time.
Mamma says she thinks Willie must have worried
a good deal over reasons to say why he'd
always go in the daytime after that, an' never
came in the evening, an' now they're goin' to
have this party, an' she says he's been gettin'
paler and paler every day since he heard about it.
Mamma says he's pale SOME because Miss Pratt's
goin' away, but she thinks it's a good deal more
because, well, if he would wear those evening
clo'es just to go CALLIN', how would it be to go
to that PARTY an' not have any! That's what
mamma thinks--an', Genesis, you promised you'd
never tell as long as you live!''

``Yes'm. _I_ ain' tellin','' Genesis chuckled.
``I'm a-go'n' agit me one nem waituh suits befo'
long, myse'f, so's I kin quit wearin' 'at ole Henry
Gimlet suit what b'long to Fanny, an' have me
a privut suit o' my own. They's a secon'-han'
sto' ovuh on the avynoo, where they got swaller-
tail suits all way f'um sevum dolluhs to nineteem
dolluhs an' ninety-eight cents. I'm a--''

Jane started, interrupting him. `` 'SH!'' she
whispered, laying a finger warningly upon her lips.

William had entered the yard at the back
gate, and, approaching over the lawn, had
arrived at the steps of the porch before Jane
perceived him. She gave him an apprehensive look,
but he passed into the house absent-mindedly,
not even flinching at sight of Clematis--and Mrs.
Baxter was right, William did look pale.

``I guess he didn't hear us,'' said Jane, when
he had disappeared into the interior. ``He acks
awful funny!'' she added, thoughtfully. ``First
when he was in love of Miss Pratt, he'd be mad
about somep'm almost every minute he was
home. Couldn't anybody say ANYthing to him
but he'd just behave as if it was frightful, an' then
if you'd see him out walkin' with Miss Pratt,
well, he'd look like--like--'' Jane paused; her
eye fell upon Clematis and by a happy inspiration
she was able to complete her simile with
remarkable accuracy. ``He'd look like the way
Clematis looks at people! That's just EXACTLY the
way he'd look, Genesis, when he was walkin' with
Miss Pratt; an' then when he was home he got
so quiet he couldn't answer questions an' wouldn't
hear what anybody said to him at table or anywhere,
an' papa 'd nearly almost bust. Mamma
'n' papa 'd talk an' talk about it, an' ''--she
lowered her voice--``an' I knew what they were
talkin' about. Well, an' then he'd hardly ever get
mad any more; he'd just sit in his room, an'
sometimes he'd sit in there without any light, or he'd
sit out in the yard all by himself all evening,
maybe; an' th'other evening after I was in bed
I heard 'em, an' papa said--well, this is what
papa told mamma.'' And again lowering her
voice, she proffered the quotation from her
father in atone somewhat awe-struck: ``Papa
said, by Gosh! if he ever 'a' thought a son of his
could make such a Word idiot of himself he
almost wished we'd both been girls!''

Having completed this report in a violent
whisper, Jane nodded repeatedly, for emphasis,
and Genesis shook his head to show that he was
as deeply impressed as she wished him to be.
``I guess,'' she added, after a pause ``I guess
Willie didn't hear anything you an' I talked
about him, or clo'es, or anything.''

She was mistaken in part. William had caught
no reference to himself, but he had overheard
something and he was now alone in his room,
thinking about it almost feverishly. ``A secon'-
han' sto' ovuh on the avynoo, where they got
swaller-tail suits all way f'um sevum dolluhs to
nineteem dolluhs an' ninety-eight cents.''

. . . Civilization is responsible for certain
longings in the breast of man--artificial longings,
but sometimes as poignant as hunger and thirst.
Of these the strongest are those of the maid for
the bridal veil, of the lad for long trousers, and of
the youth for a tailed coat of state. To the
gratification of this last, only a few of the early joys
in life are comparable. Indulged youths, too
rich, can know, to the unctuous full, neither the
longing nor the gratification; but one such as
William, in ``moderate circumstances,'' is privileged
to pant for his first evening clothes as the
hart panteth after the water-brook--and sometimes,
to pant in vain. Also, this was a crisis in
William's life: in addition to his yearning for such
apparel, he was racked by a passionate urgency.

As Jane had so precociously understood, unless
he should somehow manage to obtain the proper
draperies he could not go to the farewell dance
for Miss Pratt. Other unequipped boys could go
in their ordinary ``best clothes,'' but William could
not; for, alack! he had dressed too well too soon!

He was in desperate case.

The sorrow of the approaching great departure
was but the heavier because it had been so long
deferred. To William it had seemed that this
flower-strewn summer could actually end no more
than he could actually die, but Time had begun its
awful lecture, and even Seventeen was listening.

Miss Pratt, that magic girl, was going home.



To the competent twenties, hundreds of miles
suggesting no impossibilities, such departures
may be rending, but not tragic. Implacable, the
difference to Seventeen! Miss Pratt was going
home, and Seventeen could not follow; it could
only mourn upon the lonely shore, tracing little
angelic footprints left in the sand.

To Seventeen such a departure is final; it is a

And now it seemed possible that William might
be deprived even of the last romantic consolations:
of the ``last waltz together,'' of the last,
last ``listening to music in the moonlight
together''; of all those sacred lasts of the ``last
evening together.''

He had pleaded strongly for a ``dress-suit'' as
a fitting recognition of his seventeenth birthday
anniversary, but he had been denied by his father
with a jocularity more crushing than rigor. Since
then--in particular since the arrival of Miss
Pratt--Mr. Baxter's temper had been growing
steadily more and more even. That is, as
affected by William's social activities, it was
uniformly bad. Nevertheless, after heavy
brooding, William decided to make one final appeal
before he resorted to measures which the
necessities of despair had caused him to contemplate.

He wished to give himself every chance for a
good effect; therefore, he did not act hastily,
but went over what he intended to say, rehearsing
it with a few appropriate gestures, and even
taking some pleasure in the pathetic dignity of
this performance, as revealed by occasional
glances at the mirror of his dressing-table. In
spite of these little alleviations, his trouble was
great and all too real, for, unhappily, the previous
rehearsal of an emotional scene does not prove
the emotion insincere.

Descending, he found his father and mother
still sitting upon the front porch. Then, standing
before them, solemn-eyed, he uttered a preluding
cough, and began:

``Father,'' he said in a loud voice, ``I have
come to--''

``Dear me!'' Mrs. Baxter exclaimed, not
perceiving that she was interrupting an intended
oration. ``Willie, you DO look pale! Sit down,
poor child; you oughtn't to walk so much in this

``Father,'' William repeated. ``Fath--''

``I suppose you got her safely home from
church,'' Mr. Baxter said. ``She might have
been carried off by footpads if you three boys
hadn't been along to take care of her!''

But William persisted heroically. ``Father--''
he said. ``Father, I have come to--''

``What on earth's the matter with you?''
Mr. Baxter ceased to fan himself; Mrs. Baxter
stopped rocking, and both stared, for it had
dawned upon them that something unusual was
beginning to take place.

William backed to the start and tried it again.
``Father, I have come to--'' He paused and
gulped, evidently expecting to be interrupted,
but both of his parents remained silent, regarding
him with puzzled surprise. ``Father,'' he began
once more, ``I have come--I have come to--to
place before you something I think it's your duty
as my father to undertake, and I have thought
over this step before laying it before you.''

``My soul!'' said Mr. Baxter, under his breath.
``My soul!''

``At my age,'' William continued, swallowing,
and fixing his earnest eyes upon the roof of the
porch, to avoid the disconcerting stare of his
father--``at my age there's some things that ought
to be done and some things that ought not to be
done. If you asked me what I thought OUGHT to
be done, there is only one answer: When any-
body as old as I am has to go out among other
young men his own age that already got one, like
anyway half of them HAVE, who I go with, and
their fathers have already taken such a step,
because they felt it was the only right thing to do,
because at my age and the young men I go with's
age, it IS the only right thing to do, because that
is something nobody could deny, at my age--''
Here William drew a long breath, and, deciding
to abandon that sentence as irrevocably tangled,
began another: ``I have thought over this step,
because there comes a time to every young man
when they must lay a step before their father
before something happens that they would be
sorry for. I have thought this undertaking over,
and I am certain it would be your honest duty--''

``My soul!'' gasped Mr. Baxter. ``I thought I
knew you pretty well, but you talk like a stranger
to ME! What is all this? What you WANT?''

``A dress-suit!'' said William.

He had intended to say a great deal more
before coming to the point, but, although through
nervousness he had lost some threads of his
rehearsed plea, it seemed to him that he was
getting along well and putting his case with some
distinction and power. He was surprised and
hurt, therefore, to hear his father utter a wordless
shout in a tone of wondering derision.

`I have more to say--'' William began.

But Mr. Baxter cut him off. ``A dress-suit!''
he cried. ``Well, I'm glad you were talking about
SOMETHING, because I honestly thought it must be
too much sun!''

At this, the troubled William brought his eyes
down from the porch roof and forgot his rehearsal.
He lifted his hand appealingly. ``Father,''
he said, ``I GOT to have one!''

`` `Got to'!'' Mr. Baxter laughed a laugh that
chilled the supplicant through and through. ``At
your age I thought I was lucky if I had ANY suit
that was fit to be seen in. You're too young,
Willie. I don't want you to get your mind on
such stuff, and if I have my way, you won't have
a dress-suit for four years more, anyhow.''

``Father, I GOT to have one. I got to have one
right away!'' The urgency in William's voice
was almost tearful. ``I don't ask you to have it
made, or to go to expensive tailors, but there's
plenty of good ready-made ones that only cost
about forty dollars; they're advertised in the
paper. Father, wouldn't you spend just forty
dollars? I'll pay it back when I'm in business;
I'll work--''

Mr. Baxter waved all this aside. ``It's not the
money. It's the principle that I'm standing for,
and I don't intend--''

``Father, WON'T you do it?''

``No, I will not!''

William saw that sentence had been passed and
all appeals for a new trial denied. He choked,
and rushed into the house without more ado.

``Poor boy!'' his mother said.

``Poor boy nothing!'' fumed Mr. Baxter.
``He's about lost his mind over that Miss Pratt.
Think of his coming out here and starting a regular
debating society declamation before his
mother and father! Why, I never heard anything
like it in my life! I don't like to hurt his
feelings, and I'd give him anything I could
afford that would do him any good, but all he
wants it for now is to splurge around in at this
party before that little yellow-haired girl! I
guess he can wear the kind of clothes most of the
other boys wear--the kind _I_ wore at parties--
and never thought of wearing anything else.
What's the world getting to be like? Seventeen
years old and throws a fit because he can't have
a dress-suit!''

Mrs. Baxter looked thoughtful. ``But--but
suppose he felt he couldn't go to the dance unless
he wore one, poor boy--''

``All the better,'' said Mr. Baxter, firmly. ``Do
him good to keep away and get his mind on
something else.''

``Of course,'' she suggested, with some
timidity, ``forty dollars isn't a great deal of money,
and a ready-made suit, just to begin with--''

Naturally, Mr. Baxter perceived whither she
was drifting. ``Forty dollars isn't a thousand,''
he interrupted, ``but what you want to throw it
away for? One reason a boy of seventeen
oughtn't to have evening clothes is the way he
behaves with ANY clothes. Forty dollars! Why,
only this summer he sat down on Jane's open
paint-box, twice in one week!''

``Well--Miss Pratt IS going away, and the
dance will be her last night. I'm afraid it would
really hurt him to miss it. I remember once,
before we were engaged--that evening before papa
took me abroad, and you--''

``It's no use, mamma,'' he said. ``We were
both in the twenties--why, _I_ was six years older
than Willie, even then. There's no comparison
at all. I'll let him order a dress-suit on his
twenty-first birthday and not a minute before.
I don't believe in it, and I intend to see that he
gets all this stuff out of his system. He's got to
learn some hard sense!''

Mrs. Baxter shook her head doubtfully, but
she said no more. Perhaps she regretted a little
that she had caused Mr. Baxter's evening clothes
to be so expansively enlarged--for she looked
rather regretful. She also looked rather
incomprehensible, not to say cryptic, during the long
silence which followed, and Mr. Baxter resumed
his rocking, unaware of the fixity of gaze which
his wife maintained upon him--a thing the most
loyal will do sometimes.

The incomprehensible look disappeared before
long; but the regretful one was renewed in the
mother's eyes whenever she caught glimpses of
her son, that day, and at the table, where
William's manner was gentle--even toward his
heartless father.

Underneath that gentleness, the harried self of
William was no longer debating a desperate
resolve, but had fixed upon it, and on the following
afternoon Jane chanced to be a witness of some
resultant actions. She came to her mother with
an account of them.

``Mamma, what you s'pose Willie wants of
those two ole market-baskets that were down

``Why, Jane?''

``Well, he carried 'em in his room, an' then he
saw me lookin'; an' he said, `G'way from here!'
an' shut the door. He looks so funny! What's
he want of those ole baskets, mamma?''

``I don't know. Perhaps he doesn't even know,
himself, Jane.''

But William did know, definitely. He had set
the baskets upon chairs, and now, with pale
determination, he was proceeding to fill them. When
his task was completed the two baskets contained:

One ``heavy-weight winter suit of clothes.''

One ``light-weight summer suit of clothes.''

One cap.

One straw hat.

Two pairs of white flannel trousers.

Two Madras shirts.

Two flannel shirts.

Two silk shirts.

Seven soft collars.

Three silk neckties.

One crocheted tie.

Eight pairs of socks.

One pair of patent-leather shoes.

One pair of tennis-shoes.

One overcoat.

Some underwear.

One two-foot shelf of books, consisting of several
sterling works upon mathematics, in a damaged
condition; five of Shakespeare's plays,
expurgated for schools and colleges, and also
damaged; a work upon political economy, and
another upon the science of physics; Webster's
Collegiate Dictionary; How to Enter a Drawing-
Room and Five Hundred Other Hints; Witty Sayings
from Here and There; Lorna Doone; Quentin
Durward; The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, a
very old copy of Moths, and a small Bible.

William spread handkerchiefs upon the two
over-bulging cargoes, that their nature might not
be disclosed to the curious, and, after listening a
moment at his door, took the baskets, one upon
each arm, then went quickly down the stairs and
out of the house, out of the yard, and into the
alley--by which route he had modestly chosen
to travel.

. . . After an absence of about two hours he
returned empty-handed and anxious. ``Mother,
I want to speak to you,'' he said, addressing Mrs
Baxter in a voice which clearly proved the strain
of these racking days. ``I want to speak to you
about something important.''

``Yes, Willie?''

``Please send Jane away. I can't talk about
important things with a child in the room.''

Jane naturally wished to stay, since he was
going to say something important. ``Mamma,
do I HAF to go?''

``Just a few minutes, dear.''

Jane walked submissively out of the door,
leaving it open behind her. Then, having gone about
six feet farther, she halted and, preserving a
breathless silence, consoled herself for her banishment
by listening to what was said, hearing it all
as satisfactorily as if she had remained in the
room. Quiet, thoughtful children, like Jane,
avail themselves of these little pleasures oftener
than is suspected.

``Mother,'' said William, with great intensity,
``I want to ask you please to lend me three dollars
and sixty cents.''

``What for, Willie?''

``Mother, I just ask you to lend me three
dollars and sixty cents.''

``But what FOR?''

``Mother, I don't feel I can discuss it any; I
simply ask you: Will you lend me three dollars
and sixty cents?''

Mrs. Baxter laughed gently. ``I don't think
I could, Willie, but certainly I should want to
know what for.''

``Mother, I am going on eighteen years of age,
and when I ask for a small sum of money like
three dollars and sixty cents I think I might be
trusted to know how to use it for my own good
without having to answer questions like a ch--''

``Why, Willie,'' she exclaimed, ``you ought to
have plenty of money of your own!''

``Of course I ought,'' he agreed, warmly. ``If
you'd ask father to give me a regular allow--''

``No, no; I mean you ought to have plenty
left out of that old junk and furniture I let you
sell last month. You had over nine dollars!'

``That was five weeks ago,'' William explained,

``But you certainly must have some of it left.
Why, it was MORE than nine dollars, I believe!
I think it was nearer ten. Surely you haven't--''

``Ye gods!'' cried the goaded William. ``A
person going on eighteen years old ought to be
able to spend nine dollars in five weeks without
everybody's acting like it was a crime! Mother,
I ask you the simple question: Will you PLEASE
lend me three dollars and sixty cents?''

``I don't think I ought to, dear. I'm sure
your father wouldn't wish me to, unless you'll
tell me what you want it for. In fact, I won't
consider it at all unless you do tell me.''

``You won't do it?'' he quavered.

She shook her head gently. ``You see, dear,
I'm afraid the reason you don't tell me is because
you know that I wouldn't give it to you if I
knew what you wanted it for.''

This perfect diagnosis of the case so
disheartened him that after a few monosyllabic
efforts to continue the conversation with dignity
he gave it up, and left in such a preoccupation
with despondency that he passed the surprised
Jane in the hall without suspecting what she
had been doing.

That evening, after dinner, he addressed to his
father an impassioned appeal for three dollars
and sixty cents, laying such stress of pathos on
his principal argument that if he couldn't have
a dress-suit, at least he ought to be given three
dollars and sixty CENTS (the emphasis is William's)
that Mr. Baxter was moved in the direction
of consent--but not far enough. ``I'd like
to let you have it, Willie,'' he said, excusing
himself for refusal, ``but your mother felt SHE
oughtn't to do it unless you'd say what you
wanted it for, and I'm sure she wouldn't like me
to do it. I can't let you have it unless you get
her to say she wants me to.''

Thus advised, the unfortunate made another
appeal to his mother the next day, and, having
brought about no relaxation of the situation,
again petitioned his father, on the following
evening. So it went; the torn and driven William
turning from parent to parent; and surely, since
the world began, the special sum of three dollars
and sixty cents has never been so often mentioned
in any one house and in the same space of
time as it was in the house of the Baxters during
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday
of that oppressive week.

But on Friday William disappeared after
breakfast and did not return to lunch.



Mrs. Baxter was troubled. During the
afternoon she glanced often from the
open window of the room where she had gone to
sew, but the peaceful neighborhood continued
to be peaceful, and no sound of the harassed
footsteps of William echoed from the pavement.
However, she saw Genesis arrive (in his week-
day costume) to do some weeding, and Jane
immediately skip forth for mingled purposes of
observation and conversation.

``What DO they say?'' thought Mrs. Baxter,
observing that both Jane and Genesis were unusually
animated. But for once that perplexity was
to be dispersed. After an exciting half-hour
Jane came flying to her mother, breathless.

``Mamma,'' she cried, ``I know where Willie is!
Genesis told me, 'cause he saw him, an' he
talked to him while he was doin' it.''

``Doing what? Where?''

``Mamma, listen! What you think Willie's
doin'? I bet you can't g--''

``Jane!'' Mrs Baxter spoke sharply. ``Tell
me what Genesis said, at once.''

``Yes'm. Willie's sittin' in a lumber-yard that
Genesis comes by on his way from over on the
avynoo where all the colored people live--an' he's
countin' knot-holes in shingles.''

``He is WHAT?''

``Yes'm. Genesis knows all about it, because
he was thinkin' of doin' it himself, only he says
it would be too slow. This is the way it is,
mamma. Listen, mamma, because this is just
exackly the way it is. Well, this lumber-yard
man got into some sort of a fuss because he
bought millions an' millions of shingles, mamma,
that had too many knots in, an' the man don't
want to pay for 'em, or else the store where he
bought 'em won't take 'em back, an' they got to
prove how many shingles are bad shingles, or
somep'm, an' anyway, mamma, that's what
Willie's doin'. Every time he comes to a bad
shingle, mamma, he puts it somewheres else,
or somep'm like that, mamma, an' every time
he's put a thousand bad shingles in this other
place they give him six cents. He gets the six
cents to keep, mamma--an' that's what he's been
doin' all day!''

``Good gracious!''

``Oh, but that's nothing, mamma--just you
wait till you hear the rest. THAT part of it isn't
anything a TALL, mamma! You wouldn't hardly
notice that part of it if you knew the other part
of it, mamma. Why, that isn't ANYTHING!'' Jane
made demonstrations of scorn for the insignificant
information already imparted.



``I want to know everything Genesis told
you,'' said her mother, ``and I want you to tell
it as quickly as you can.''

``Well, I AM tellin' it, mamma!'' Jane
protested. ``I'm just BEGINNING to tell it. I can't
tell it unless there's a beginning, can I? How
could there be ANYTHING unless you had to begin
it, mamma?''

``Try your best to go on, Jane!''

``Yes'm. Well, Genesis says-- Mamma!''
Jane interrupted herself with a little outcry.
``Oh! I bet THAT'S what he had those two market-
baskets for! Yes, sir! That's just what he did!
An' then he needed the rest o' the money an'
you an' papa wouldn't give him any, an' so he
began countin' shingles to-day 'cause to-night's
the night of the party an' he just HASS to have it!''

Mrs. Baxter, who had risen to her feet,
recalled the episode of the baskets and sank into a
chair. ``How did Genesis know Willie wanted
forty dollars, and if Willie's pawned something how
did Genesis know THAT? Did Willie tell Gen--''

``Oh no, mamma, Willie didn't want forty
dollars--only fourteen!''

``But he couldn't get even the cheapest ready-
made dress-suit for fourteen dollars.''

``Mamma, you're gettin' it all mixed up!''
Jane cried. ``Listen, mamma! Genesis knows
all about a second-hand store over on the avynoo;
an' it keeps 'most everything, an' Genesis says
it's the nicest store! It keeps waiter suits all
the way up to nineteen dollars and ninety-nine
cents. Well, an' Genesis wants to get one of
those suits, so he goes in there all the time, an'
talks to the man an' bargains an' bargains with
him, 'cause Genesis says this man is the
bargainest man in the wide worl', mamma! That's
what Genesis says. Well, an' so this man's name
is One-eye Beljus, mamma. That's his name,
an' Genesis says so. Well, an' so this man that
Genesis told me about, that keeps the store--I
mean One-eye Beljus, mamma--well, One-eye
Beljus had Willie's name written down in a book,
an' he knew Genesis worked for fam'lies that
have boys like Willie in 'em, an' this morning
One-eye Beljus showed Genesis Willie's name
written down in this book, an' One-eye Beljus
asked Genesis if he knew anybody by that name
an' all about him. Well, an' so at first Genesis
pretended he was tryin' to remember, because he
wanted to find out what Willie went there for.
Genesis didn't tell any stories, mamma; he just
pretended he couldn't remember, an' so, well,
One-eye Beljus kept talkin' an' pretty soon
Genesis found out all about it. One-eye Beljus
said Willie came in there an' tried on the coat
of one of those waiter suits--''

``Oh no!'' gasped Mrs. Baxter.

``Yes'm, an' One-eye Beljus said it was the
only one that would fit Willie, an' One-eye
Beljus told Willie that suit was worth fourteen
dollars, an' Willie said he didn't have any money,
but he'd like to trade something else for it.
Well, an' so One-eye Beljus said this was an
awful fine suit an' the only one he had that
had b'longed to a white gentleman. Well, an'
so they bargained, an' bargained, an' bargained,
an' BARGAINED! An' then, well, an' so at last
Willie said he'd go an' get everything that
b'longed to him, an' One-eye Beljus could pick
out enough to make fourteen dollars' worth,
an' then Willie could have the suit. Well, an'
so Willie came home an' put everything he had
that b'longed to him into those two baskets,
mamma--that's just what he did, 'cause Genesis
says he told One-eye Beljus it was everything
that b'longed to him, an' that would take two
baskets, mamma. Well, then, an' so he told
One-eye Beljus to pick out fourteen dollars'
worth, an' One-eye Beljus ast Willie if he didn't
have a watch. Well, Willie took out his watch
an' One-eye Beljus said it was an awful bad
watch, but he would put it in for a dollar; an'
he said, `I'll put your necktie pin in for forty
cents more,' so Willie took it out of his necktie
an' then One-eye Beljus said it would take all
the things in the baskets to make I forget how
much, mamma, an' the watch would be a dollar
more, an' the pin forty cents, an' that would
leave just three dollars an' sixty cents more for
Willie to pay before he could get the suit.''

Mrs. Baxter's face had become suffused with
high color, but she wished to know all that
Genesis had said, and, mastering her feelings
with an effort, she told Jane to proceed--a
command obeyed after Jane had taken several long

``Well, an' so the worst part of it is, Genesis
says, it's because that suit is haunted.''


``Yes'm,'' said Jane, solemnly; ``Genesis says
it's haunted. Genesis says everybody over on
the avynoo knows all about that suit, an' he says
that's why One-eye Beljus never could sell it
before. Genesis says One-eye Beljus tried to sell
it to a colored man for three dollars, but the man
said he wouldn't put in on for three hunderd
dollars, an' Genesis says HE wouldn't, either,
because it belonged to a Dago waiter that--that--''
Jane's voice sank to a whisper of unctuous horror.
She was having a wonderful time! ``Mamma,
this Dago waiter, he lived over on the avynoo,
an' he took a case-knife he'd sharpened--

Mrs. Baxter screamed faintly.

``An' he got hung, mamma! If you don't
believe it, you can ask One-eye Beljus--I guess HE
knows! An' you can ask--''


``An' he sold this suit to One-eye Beljus when
he was in jail, mamma. He sold it to him before
he got hung, mamma.''

``Hush, Jane!''

But Jane couldn't hush now. ``An' he had
that suit on when he cut the lady's head off,
mamma, an' that's why it's haunted. They
cleaned it all up excep' a few little spots of

``JANE!'' shouted her mother. ``You must not
talk about such things, and Genesis mustn't tell,
you stories of that sort!''

``Well, how could he help it, if he told me about
Willie?'' Jane urged, reasonably.

``Never mind! Did that crazy ch-- Did
Willie LEAVE the baskets in that dreadful place?''

``Yes'm--an' his watch an' pin,'' Jane
informed her, impressively. ``An' One-eye Beljus
wanted to know if Genesis knew Willie, because
One-eye Beljus wanted to know if Genesis
thought Willie could get the three dollars an;
sixty cents, an' One-eye Beljus wanted to know
if Genesis thought he could get anything more
out of him besides that. He told Genesis he
hadn't told Willie he COULD have the suit, after
all; he just told him he THOUGHT he could, but he
wouldn't say for certain till he brought him the
three dollars an' sixty cents. So Willie left all
his things there, an' his watch an--''

``That will do!'' Mrs. Baxter's voice was
sharper than it had ever been in Jane's recollection.
``I don't need to hear any more--and I
don't WANT to hear any more!''

Jane was justly aggrieved. ``But, mamma,
it isn't MY fault!''

Mrs. Baxter's lips parted to speak, but she
checked herself. ``Fault?'' she said, gravely.
``I wonder whose fault it really is!''

And with that she went hurriedly into William's
room and made a brief inspection of his
clothes-closet and dressing-table. Then, as Jane
watched her in awed silence, she strode to the
window, and called, loudly:


``Yes'm?'' came the voice from below.

``Go to that lumber-yard where Mr. William
is at work and bring him here to me at once.
If he declines to come, tell him--'' Her voice
broke oddly; she choked, but Jane could not
decide with what emotion. ``Tell him--tell him
I ordered you to use force if necessary! Hurry!''


Jane ran to the window in time to see Genesis
departing seriously through the back gate.


``Don't talk to me now, Jane,'' Mrs. Baxter
said, crisply. ``I want you to go down in the
yard, and when Willie comes tell him I'm waiting
for him here in his own room. And don't come
with him, Jane. Run!''

``Yes, mamma.'' Jane was pleased with this
appointment; she anxiously desired to be the
first to see how Willie ``looked.''

. . . He looked flurried and flustered and
breathless, and there were blisters upon the reddened
palms of his hands. ``What on earth's the
matter, mother?'' he asked, as he stood panting
before her. ``Genesis said something was wrong,
and he said you told him to hit me if I wouldn't

``Oh NO!'' she cried. ``I only meant I thought
perhaps you wouldn't obey any ordinary message--''

``Well, well, it doesn't matter, but please hurry
and say what you want to, because I got to get
back and--''

``No,'' Mrs. Baxter said, quietly, ``you're not
going back to count any more shingles, Willie.
How much have you earned?''

He swallowed, but spoke bravely. ``Thirty-
six cents. But I've been getting lots faster the
last two hours and there's a good deal of time
before six o'clock. Mother--''

``No,'' she said. ``You're going over to that
horrible place where you've left your clothes and
your watch and all those other things in the two
baskets, and you're going to bring them home
at once.''

``Mother!'' he cried, aghast. ``Who told you?''

``It doesn't matter. You don't want your
father to find out, do you? Then get those
things back here as quickly as you can. They'll
have to be fumigated after being in that den.''

``They've never been out of the baskets,'; he
protested, hotly, ``except just to be looked at.
They're MY things, mother, and I had a right to
do what I needed to with 'em, didn't I?'' His
utterance became difficult. ``You and father
just CAN'T understand--and you won't do anything
to help me--''

``Willie, you can go to the party,'' she said,
gently. ``You didn't need those frightful clothes
at all.''

``I do!'' he cried. ``I GOT to have 'em! I CAN'T
go in my day clo'es! There's a reason you
wouldn't understand why I can't. I just CAN'T!''

``Yes,'' she said, ``you can go to the party.''

``I can't, either! Not unless you give me three
dollars and twenty-four cents, or unless I can
get back to the lumber-yard and earn the rest

``No!'' And the warm color that had rushed
over Mrs. Baxter during Jane's sensational
recital returned with a vengeance. Her eyes
flashed. ``If you'd rather I sent a policeman for
those baskets, I'll send one. I should prefer to
do it--much! And to have that rascal arrested.
If you don't want me to send a policeman you
can go for them yourself, but you must start
within ten minutes, because if you don't I'll
telephone headquarters. Ten minutes, Willie,
and I mean it!''

He cried out, protesting. She would make him
a thing of scorn forever and soil his honor, if she
sent a policeman. Mr. Beljus was a fair and
honest tradesman, he explained, passionately,
and had not made the approaches in this matter.
Also, the garments in question, though not
entirely new, nor of the highest mode, were of good
material and in splendid condition. Unmistakably
they were evening clothes, and such a
bargain at fourteen dollars that William would
guarantee to sell them for twenty after he had
worn them this one evening. Mr. Beljus himself
had said that he would not even think of
letting them go at fourteen to anybody else, and
as for the two poor baskets of worn and useless
articles offered in exchange, and a bent scarf-
pin and a worn-out old silver watch that had
belonged to great-uncle Ben--why, the ten dollars
and forty cents allowed upon them was
beyond all ordinary liberality; it was almost
charity. There was only one place in town where
evening clothes were rented, and the suspicious
persons in charge had insisted that William obtain
from his father a guarantee to insure the return
of the garments in perfect condition. So that
was hopeless. And wasn't it better, also, to
wear clothes which had known only one previous
occupant (as was the case with Mr. Beljus's
offering) than to hire what chance hundreds had
hired? Finally, there was only one thing to be
considered and this was the fact that William
HAD to have those clothes!

``Six minutes,'' said Mrs. Baxter, glancing
implacably at her watch. ``When it's ten I'll

And the end of it was, of course, victory for
the woman--victory both moral and physical.
Three-quarters of an hour later she was
unburdening the contents of the two baskets and
putting the things back in place, illuminating
these actions with an expression of strong
distaste--in spite of broken assurances that Mr.
Beljus had not more than touched any of the
articles offered to him for valuation.

. . . At dinner, which was unusually early that
evening, Mrs. Baxter did not often glance toward
her son; she kept her eyes from that white face
and spent most of her time in urging upon Mr.
Baxter that he should be prompt in dressing for a
card-club meeting which he and she were to attend
that evening. These admonitions of hers
were continued so pressingly that Mr. Baxter,
after protesting that there was no use in being a
whole hour too early, groaningly went to dress
without even reading his paper.

William had retired to his own room, where he
lay upon his bed in the darkness. He heard the
evening noises of the house faintly through the
closed door: voices and the clatter of metal and
china from the far-away kitchen, Jane's laugh in
the hall, the opening and closing of the doors.
Then his father seemed to be in distress about
something. William heard him complaining to
Mrs. Baxter, and though the words were indistinct,
the tone was vigorously plaintive. Mrs.
Baxter laughed and appeared to make light of
his troubles, whatever they were--and presently
their footsteps were audible from the stairway;
the front door closed emphatically, and they were

Everything was quiet now. The open window
showed as a greenish oblong set in black, and
William knew that in a little while there would
come through the stillness of that window the
distant sound of violins. That was a moment he
dreaded with a dread that ached. And as he lay
on his dreary bed he thought of brightly lighted
rooms where other boys were dressing eagerly
faces and hair shining, hearts beating high--boys
who would possess this last evening and the ``last
waltz together,'' the last smile and the last sigh.

It did not once enter his mind that he could
go to the dance in his ``best suit,'' or that
possibly the other young people at the party would
be too busy with their own affairs to notice
particularly what he wore. It was the unquestionable
and granite fact, to his mind, that the whole
derisive World would know the truth about his
earlier appearances in his father's clothes. And
that was a form of ruin not to be faced. In the
protective darkness and seclusion of William's
bedroom, it is possible that smarting eyes relieved
themselves by blinking rather energetically; it is
even possible that there was a minute damp spot
upon the pillow. Seventeen cannot always manage
the little boy yet alive under all the coverings.

Now arrived that moment he had most painfully
anticipated, and dance-music drifted on the
night;--but there came a tapping upon his door
and a soft voice spoke.


With a sharp exclamation William swung his
legs over the edge of the bed and sat up. Of all
things he desired not, he desired no conversation
with, or on the part of, Jane. But he had
forgotten to lock his door--the handle turned, and a
dim little figure marched in.

``Willie, Adelia's goin' to put me to bed.''

``You g'way from here,'' he said, huskily. ``I
haven't got time to talk to you. I'm busy.''

``Well, you can wait a minute, can't you?'' she
asked, reasonably. ``I haf to tell you a joke on

``I don't want to hear any jokes!''

``Well, I HAF to tell you this one 'cause she told
me to! Oh!'' Jane clapped her hand over her
mouth and jumped up and down, offering a
fantastic silhouette against the light of the Open
door. ``Oh, oh, OH!''

``What's matter?''

``She said I mustn't, MUSTN'T tell that she told
me to tell! My goodness! I forgot that!

Facebook Google Reddit Twitter Pinterest