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    Chapter 3

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    Chapter 3
    Previous Chapter
    Julia, like Herbert, had been a little puzzled by Florence's expression of a partiality for the young man, Noble Dill; it was not customary for anybody to confess a weakness for him. However, the aunt dismissed the subject from her mind, as other matters pressed sharply upon her attention; she had more worries than most people guessed.

    The responsibilities of a lady who is almost officially the prettiest person in a town persistently claiming sixty-five thousand inhabitants are often heavier than the world suspects, and there were moments when Julia found the position so trying that she would have preferred to resign. She was a warm-hearted, appreciative girl, naturally unable to close her eyes to sterling merit wherever it appeared: and it was not without warrant that she complained of her relatives. The whole family, including the children, she said, regaled themselves with her private affairs as a substitute for theatre-going. But one day, a week after the irretrievable disappearance of Fifi and Mimi, she went so far as to admit a note of unconscious confession into her protest that she was getting pretty tired of being mistaken for a three-ring circus! Such was her despairing expression, and the confession lies in her use of the word "three."

    The misleading moderation of "three" was pointed out to her by her niece, whose mind at once violently seized upon the word and divested it of context--a process both feminine and instinctive, for this child was already beginning to be feminine. "Three!" she said. "Why, Aunt Julia, you must be crazy! There's Newland Sanders and Noble Dill and that old widower, Ridgley, that grandpa hates so, and Mister Clairdyce and George Plum and the two new ones from out of town that Aunt Fanny Patterson said you had at church Sunday morning--Herbert said he didn't like one of 'em's looks much, Aunt Julia. And there's Parker Kent Usher and that funny-lookin' one with the little piece of whiskers under his underlip that Noble Dill got so mad at when they were calling, and Uncle Joe laughed about, and I don't know who all! Anyhow, there's an awful lot more than three, Aunt Julia."

    Julia looked down with little favour upon the talkative caller. Florence was seated upon the shady steps of the veranda, and Julia, dressed for a walk, occupied a wicker chair above her. "Julia, dressed for a walk"--how scant the words! It was a summer walk that Julia had dressed for: and she was all too dashingly a picture of coolness on a hot day: a brunette in murmurous white, though her little hat was a film of blackest blue, and thus also in belt and parasol she had almost matched the colour of her eyes. Probably no human-made fabric could have come nearer to matching them, though she had once met a great traveller--at least he went far enough in his search for comparisons--who told her that the Czarina of Russia had owned a deep sapphire of precisely the colour, but the Czarina's was the only sapphire yet discovered that had it. One of Newland Sanders's longest Poems-to-Julia was entitled "Black Sapphires."

    Julia's harmonies in black sapphire were uncalled for. If she really had been as kind as she was too often capable of looking, she would have fastened patches over both eyes--one patch would have been useless--and she would have worn flat shoes and patronized a dressmaker with genius enough to misrepresent her. But Julia was not great enough for such generosities: she should have been locked up till she passed sixty; her sufferings deserve no pity.

    And yet an attack of the mumps during the winter had brought Julia more sympathy than the epidemic of typhoid fever in the Old Ladies' Infirmary brought all of the nine old ladies who were under treatment there. Julia was confined to her room for almost a month, during which a florist's wagon seemed permanent before the house: and a confectioner's frequently stood beside the florist's. Young Florence, an immune who had known the mumps in infancy, became an almost constant attendant upon the patient, with the result that the niece contracted an illness briefer than the aunt's, but more than equalling it in poignancy, caused by the poor child's economic struggle against waste. Florence's convalescence took place in her own home without any inquiries whatever from the outer world, but Julia's was spent in great part at the telephone. Even a poem was repeated to her by the instrument:

    How the world blooms anew To think that you Can speak again, Can hear The words of men And the dear Own voice of you.

    This was Newland Sanders. He was just out of college, a reviewer, a poet, and once, momentarily, an atheist. It was Newland who was present and said such a remarkable thing when Julia had the accident to her thumb-nail in closing the double doors between the living-room and the library, where her peculiar old father sat reading. "To see you suffer," Newland said passionately as she nursed her injury:--"to see you in pain, that is the one thing in the universe which I feel beyond all my capacities. Do you know, when you are made to suffer pain, then I feel that there is no God!"

    This strong declaration struck Herbert as one of the most impressive things he had ever heard, though he could not account for its being said to any aunt of his. Herbert had just dropped in without the formality of ringing the bell, and had paused in the hall, outside the open door of the living-room. He considered the matter, after Newland had spoken, and concluded to return to his own place of residence without disturbing anybody at his grandfather's. At home he found his mother and father entertaining one of his uncles, one of his aunts, two of his great-uncles, one of his great-aunts, and one of his grown-up cousins, at cards: and he proved to be warranted in believing that they would all like to know what he had heard. Newland's statement became quite celebrated throughout the family: and Julia, who had perceived almost a sacred something in his original fervour, changed her mind after hearing the words musingly repeated, over and over, by her fat old Uncle Joe.

    Florence thought proper to remind her of this to-day, after Julia's protest containing the too moderately confessional word "three."

    "If you don't want to be such a circus," the niece continued, reasoning perfectly, "I don't see what you always keep leadin' all of 'em on all the time just the same for."

    "Who've you heard saying that, Florence?" her aunt demanded.

    "Aunt Fanny Patterson," Florence replied absently. "F'r instance, Aunt Julia, I don't see what you want to go walking with Newland Sanders for, when you said yourself you wished he was dead, or somep'n, after there got to be so muck talk in the family and everywhere about his sayin' all that about the Bible when you hurt your thumb. All the family----"

    Julia sighed profoundly. "I wish 'all the family' would try to think about themselves for just a little while! There's entirely too little self-centredness among my relatives to suit me!"

    "Why, it's only because you're related to me that I pay the very slightest attention to what goes on here," Florence protested. "It's my own grandfather's house, isn't it? Well, if you didn't live here, and if you wasn't my own grandfather's daughter, Aunt Julia, I wouldn't ever pay the very slightest attention to you! Anyway, I don't much criticize all these people that keep calling on you--anyway not half as much as Herbert does. Herbert thinks he always hass to act so critical, now his voice is changing."

    "At your age," said Julia, "my mind was on my schoolbooks."

    "Why, Aunt Julia!" Florence exclaimed in frank surprise. "Grandpa says just the opposite from that. I've heard him say, time and time and time again, you always were this way, ever since you were four years old."

    "What way?" asked her aunt.

    "Like you are now, Aunt Julia. Grandpa says by the time you were fourteen it got so bad he had to get a new front gate, the way they leaned on it. He says he hoped when you grew up he'd get a little peace in his own house, but he says it's worse, and never for one minute the livelong day can he----"

    "I know," Julia interrupted. "He talks like a Christian Martyr and behaves like Nero. I might warn you to keep away from him, by the way, Florence. He says that either you or Herbert was over here yesterday and used his spectacles to cut a magazine with, and broke them. I wouldn't be around here much if I were you until he's got over it."

    "It must have been Herbert broke 'em," said Florence promptly.

    "Papa thinks it was you. Kitty Silver told him it was."

    "Mean ole reptile!" said Florence, alluding to Mrs. Silver; then she added serenely, "Well, grandpa don't get home till five o'clock, and it's only about a quarter of two now. Aunt Julia, what are you waitin' around here for?"

    "I told you; I'm going walking."

    "I mean: Who with?"

    Miss Atwater permitted herself a light moan. "With Mr. Sanders and Mr. Ridgely, Florence."

    Florence's eyes grew large and eager. "Why, Aunt Julia, I thought those two didn't speak to each other any more!"

    "They don't," Julia assented in a lifeless voice. "It just happened that Mr. Sanders and Mr. Ridgley and Mr. Dill, all three, asked me to take a walk this afternoon at two o'clock."

    "But Noble Dill isn't going?"

    "No," said Julia. "I was fortunate enough to remember that I'd already promised someone else when he asked me. That's what I didn't remember when Mr. Ridgely asked me."

    "I'd have gone with Noble Dill," Florence said firmly. "Noble Dill is my Very Ideal! I'd marry him to-morrow."

    "It seems to me," her aunt remarked, "I heard your mother telling somebody the other day that you had said the same thing about the King of Spain."

    Florence laughed. "Oh, that was only a passing fancy," she said lightly. "Aunt Julia, what's Newland Sanders supposed to do?"

    "I think he hasn't entered any business or profession yet."

    "I bet he couldn't," her niece declared. "What's that old Ridgely supposed to be? Just a widower?"

    "Never mind!"

    "And that George Plum's supposed to do something or other around Uncle Joe's ole bank, isn't he?" Florence continued.

    "'Supposed'!" Julia protested. "What is all this 'supposed to be'? Where did you catch that horrible habit? You know the whole family worries over your superciliousness, Florence; but until now I've always thought it was just the way your face felt easiest. If it's going to break out in your talk, too, it's time you began to cure yourself of it."

    "Oh, it doesn't hurt anything!" Florence made careless response, and, as she saw the thin figure of young Mr. Sanders approaching in the distance, "Look!" she cried, pointing. "Why, he doesn't even compare to Noble Dill!"

    "Don't point at people!"

    "Well, he's nothing much to point at!" She lowered her finger. "It's no depredation to me, Aunt Julia, to give up pointing at Newland Sanders. Atch'ly, I wouldn't give Noble Dill's little finger for a hunderd and fifty Newland Sanderses!"

    Julia smiled faintly as she watched Mr. Sanders, who seemed not yet to be aware of her, because he thought it would be better to reach the gate and lift his hat just there. "What has brought on all this tenderness in favour of Mr. Dill, Florence?"

    Her niece's eyes, concentrated in thought, then became dreamy. "I like him because he's so uncouth," she said. "I think he's the uncouthest of any person I ever saw."

    "'Uncouth'?"

    "Yes," said Florence. "Herbert said I was uncouth, and I looked it up in the ditchanary. It said, 'Rare, exquisite, elegant, unknown, obs, unfamiliar, strange,' and a whole lot else. I never did know a word that means so much, I guess. What's 'obs' mean, Aunt Julia?"

    "Hush!" said Julia, rising, for Mr. Sanders had made a little startled movement as he reached the gate and caught sight of her; and now, straw hat in hand, he was coming up the brick walk that led to the veranda. His eyes were fixed upon Julia with an intensity that seemed to affect his breathing; there was a hushedness about him. And Florence, in fascination, watched Julia's expression and posture take on those little changes that always seemed demanded of her by the approach of a young or youngish man, or a nicely dressed old one. By almost imperceptible processes the commonplace moment became dramatic at once.

    "You!" said Newland in a low voice.

    And Julia, with an implication as flattering as the gesture was graceful, did not wait till he was within reach, but suddenly extended her welcoming hand at arm's length. He sprang forward convulsively and grasped it, as if forever.

    "You see my little niece?" Julia said. "I think you know her."

    "Know her?" Mr. Sanders repeated; then roused his faculties and gave Florence a few fingers dangling coldly after their recent emotion. "Florence. Oh, yes, Florence."

    Florence had not risen, but remained seated upon the steps, her look and air committed to that mood of which so much complaint had been made. "How do you do," she said. "There's Mr. Ridgely."

    "Where?" Newland asked loudly.

    "Comin' in at the gate," said Florence. "He's goin' walkin' with you, too."

    In this crisis, Mr. Sanders's feeling was obviously one of startled anguish. He turned to Julia.

    "Why, this is terrible!" he said. "You told me----"

    "Sh!" she warned him; and whispered hastily, all in a breath: "Couldn't-be-helped-explain-next-time-I-see-you." Then she advanced a gracious step to meet the newcomer.

    But the superciliousness of Florence visibly increased with this advent: Mr. Ridgely was easily old enough to be her grandfather, yet she seemed to wish it evident that she would not have cared for him even in that capacity. He was, in truth, one of those widowers who feel younger than ever, and behave as they feel. Since his loss he had shown the greatest willingness to forego whatever advantages age and experience had given him over the descendants of his old friends and colleagues, and his cheerfulness as well as his susceptibility to all that was charming had begun to make him so famous in the town that some of his contemporaries seemed to know scarce another topic. And Julia had a kinder heart, as her father bitterly complained, than most girls.

    The widower came, holding out to her a votive cluster of violets, a pink rose among them, their stems wrapped in purple; and upon the lapel of his jovial flannel coat were other violets about a pink rosebud.

    "How pretty of you!" said Julia, taking the offering; and as she pinned it at her waist, she added rather nervously, "I believe you know Mr. Sanders; he is going with us."

    She was warranted in believing the gentlemen to be acquainted, because no longer ago than the previous week they both had stated, in her presence and simultaneously, that any further communication between them would be omitted for life. Julia realized, of course, that Mr. Ridgely must find the present meeting as trying as Newland did, and, to help him bear it, she contrived to make him hear the hurried whisper: "Couldn't-be-helped-explain-some-day."

    Then with a laugh not altogether assured, she took up her parasol. "Shall we be starting?" she inquired.

    "Here's Noble Dill," said Florence, "I guess he's goin' to try to go walkin' with you, too, Aunt Julia."

    Julia turned, for in fact the gate at that moment clicked behind the nervously advancing form of Noble Dill. He came with, a bravado that was merely pitiable and he tried to snap his Orduma cigarette away with thumb and forefinger in a careless fashion, only to see it publicly disappear through an open cellar window of the house.

    "I hope there's no excelsior down there," said Newland Sanders. "A good many houses have burned to the ground just that way."

    "It fell on the cement floor," Florence reported, peering into the window. "It'll go out pretty soon."

    "Then I suppose we might as well do the same thing," said Newland, addressing Julia first and Mr. Dill second. "Miss Atwater and I are just starting for a walk."

    Mr. Ridgely also addressed the new arrival. "Miss Atwater and I are just starting for a walk."

    "You see, Noble," said the kind-hearted Julia, "I did tell you I had another engagement."

    "I came by here," Mr. Dill began in a tone commingling timidity, love, and a fatal stubbornness; "I came by here--I mean I just happened to be passing--and I thought if it was a walking-party, well, why not go along? That's the way it struck me." He paused, coughing for courage and trying to look easily genial, but not succeeding; then he added, "Well, as I say, that's the way it struck me--as it were. I suppose we might as well be starting."

    "Yes, we might," Newland Sanders said quickly; and he placed himself at Julia's left, seizing upon her parasol and opening it with determination.

    Mr. Ridgely had kept himself closely at the lady's right. "You were mistaken, my boy," he said, falsely benevolent. "It isn't a party--though there's Miss Florence, Noble. Nobody's asked her to go walking to-day!"

    Now, Florence took this satire literally. She jumped up and said brightly: "I just as soon! Let's do have a walking-party. I just as soon walk with Mr. Dill as anybody, and we can all keep together, kind of." With that, she stepped confidently to the side of her selected escort, who appeared to be at a loss how to avert her kindness.

    There was a moment of hesitation, during which a malevolent pleasure slightly disfigured the countenances of the two gentlemen with Julia; but when Florence pointed to a house across the street and remarked, "There's Great-Uncle Milford and Aunt C'nelia; they been lookin' out of their second guestroom window about half an hour," Julia uttered an exclamation.

    "Murder!" she said, and moved with decision toward the gate. "Let's go!"

    Thus the little procession started, Mr. Sanders and the sprightly widower at Beauty's side, with Florence and Mr. Dill so close behind that, before they had gone a block, Newland found it necessary to warn this rear rank that the heels of his new shoes were not part of the pavement. After that the rear rank, a little abashed, consented to fall back some paces. Julia's heightened colour, meanwhile, was little abated by some slight episodes attending the progress of the walking-party. Her Aunt Fanny Patterson, rocking upon a veranda, rose and evidently called to someone within the house, whereupon she was joined by her invalid sister, Aunt Harriet, with a trained nurse and two elderly domestics, a solemnly whispering audience. And in the front yard of "the Henry Atwater house," at the next corner, Herbert underwent a genuine bedazzlement, but he affected more. His violent gaze dwelt upon Florence, and he permitted his legs slowly to crumple under him, until, just as the party came nearest him, he lay prostrate upon his back in a swoon. Afterward he rose and for a time followed in a burlesque manner; then decided to return home.

    "Old heathen!" said Florence, glancing back over her shoulder as he disappeared from view.

    Mr. Dill was startled from a reverie inspired by the back of Julia's head. "'Heathen'?" he said, in plaintive inquiry.

    "I meant Herbert," Florence informed him. "Cousin Herbert Atwater. He was following us, walking Dutch."

    "'Cousin Herbert Atwater'?" said Noble dreamily. "'Dutch'?"

    "He won't any more," said Florence. "He always hass to show off, now his voice is changing." She spoke, and she also walked, with dignity--a rather dashing kind of dignity, which was what Herbert's eccentricity of gait intended to point out injuriously. In fact, never before had Florence been so impressed with herself; never before, indeed, had she been a member of a grown-up non-family party; never before had she gone walking with an actual adult young man for her escort; and she felt that she owed it to her position to appear in as brilliant an aspect as possible. She managed to give herself a rhythmical, switching motion, causing her kneelength skirt to swing from side to side--a pomp that brought her a great deal of satisfaction as she now and then caught the effect by twisting her neck enough to see down behind, over her shoulder.

    But her poise was temporarily threatened when the walking-party passed her own house. Her mother happened to be sitting near an open window upstairs, and, after gazing forth with warm interest at Julia and her two outwalkers, Mrs. Atwater's astonished eyes fell upon Florence taking care of the overflow. Florence bowed graciously.

    "Florence!" her mother called down from the window: whereupon both Florence and her Aunt Julia were instantly apprehensive, for Mrs. George Atwater's lack of tact was a legend in the family. "Florence! Where on earth are you going?"

    "Never mind!" Florence thought best to respond. "Never mind!"

    "You'd better come in," Mrs. Atwater called, her voice necessarily louder as the party moved onward.

    "Never mind!" Florence called back.

    Mrs. Atwater leaned out of the window. "Where are you going? Come back and get your hat. You'll get a sunstroke!"

    Florence was able to conceal her indignation, and merely waved a hand in airy dismissal as they passed from Mrs. Atwater's sight, leaving her still shouting.

    The daughter smiled negligently and shrugged her shoulders. "She'll get over it!" she said.

    "Who?"

    "My mother. She was the one makin' all that noise," said Florence. "Sometimes I do what she says: sometimes I don't. It's all accordings to the way I feel." She looked up in her companion's face, and her expression became politely fond as she thought how uncouth he was, for in Florence's eye Noble Dill was truly rare, exquisite, and unfamiliar; and she believed that he was obs, too, whatever that meant. She often thought about him, and no longer ago than yesterday she had told Kitty Silver that she couldn't see "how Aunt Julia could look at anybody else!"

    Florence's selection of Noble Dill for the bright favourite of her dreams was one of her own mysteries. Noble was not beautiful, neither did he present to the ordinary eye of man anything especially rare, exquisite, unfamiliar, or even so distinguished as to be obsolete. He was about twenty-two, but not one of those book-read sportsmen of that age, confident in clothes and manner, easy travellers and debonair; that is to say, Noble was not of the worldly type twenty-two. True, he had graduated from the High-school before entering his father's Real Estate and Insurance office, but his geographical experiences (in particular) had been limited to three or four railway excursions, at special rates, to such points of interest as Mammoth Cave and Petoskey, Michigan. His other experiences were not more sparkling, and except for the emotions within him, he was in all the qualities of his mind as well as in his bodily contours and the apparel sheltering the latter, the most commonplace person in Florence's visible world. The inner areas of the first and second fingers of his left hand bore cigarette stains, seemingly indelible: the first and second fingers of his right hand were strongly ornamented in a like manner; tokens proving him ambidextrous to but a limited extent, however. Moreover, his garments and garnitures were not comparable to those of either Newland Sanders or that dapper antique, Mr. Ridgely. Noble's straw hat might have brightened under the treatment of lemon juice or other restorative; his scarf was folded to hide a spot that worked steadily toward a complete visibility, and some recent efforts upon his trousers with a tepid iron, in his bedchamber at home, counteracted but feebly that tendency of cloth to sculpture itself in hummocks upon repeated pressure of the human knee.

    All in all, nothing except the expression of Noble's face and the somewhat ill-chosen pansy in his buttonhole hinted of the remarkable. Yet even here was a thing for which he was not responsible himself; it was altogether the work of Julia. What her work was, in the case of Noble Dill, may be expressed in a word--a word used not only by the whole Atwater family connection, in completely expressing Noble's condition, but by Noble's own family connection as well. This complete word was "awful."

    Florence was the one exception on the Atwater side: she was far, far from thinking or speaking of Noble Dill in that way, although, until she looked up "uncouth" in Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, she had not found suitable means to describe him. And now, as she walked at his side, she found her sensations to be nothing short of thrilling. For it must be borne in mind that this was her first and wholly unexpected outburst into society; the experience was that of an obscure aerolite suddenly become a noble meteor. She longed to say or do something magnificent--something strange and exhilarating, in keeping with her new station in life.

    It was this longing, and by no means a confirmed unveracity, that prompted her to amplify her comments upon her own filial independence. "Oh, I guess I pretty near never do anything I don't want to," she said. "I kind of run the house to suit myself. I guess if the truth had to be told, I just about run the whole Atwater family, when it comes to that!"

    The statement was so noticeable that it succeeded in turning Noble's attention from the back of Julia's head. "You do?" he said. "Well, that seems queer," he added absently.

    "Oh, I don't know!" she laughed. In her increasing exaltation things appeared actually to be as she wished them to be; an atmosphere both queenly and adventurous seemed to invest her, and any remnants of human caution in her were assuaged by the circumstance that her Aunt Julia's attention was subject to the strong demands necessarily imposed upon anybody taking a walk between two gentlemen who do not "speak" to each other. "Oh, I don't know," said Florence. "The family's used to it by this time, I guess. The way I do things, they haf to be, I guess. When they don't like it I don't say much for a while, then I just----" She paused, waiting for her imagination to supply a sequel to the drama just sketched. "Well, I guess they kind of find out they better step around pretty lively," she concluded darkly. "They don't bother around too much!"

    "I suppose not," said Noble, his vacancy and credulity continuing to dovetail perfectly.

    "You bet not!" the exuberant Florence thought proper to suggest as a preferable expression. And then she had an inspiration to enliven his dreamy interest in her conversation. "Grandpa, he's the one I kind of run most of all of 'em. He's about fifty or sixty, and so he hasn't got too much sense. What I mean, he hasn't got too much sense left, you know. So I haf to sort of take holt every now and then." She lowered her voice a little, some faint whisper of discretion reaching her inward ear. "Aunt Julia can't do a thing with him. I guess that's maybe the reason she kind of depen's on me so much; or anyway somep'n like that. You know, f'r instance, I had to help talk grandpa into lettin' her send to New York for her things. Aunt Julia gets all her things in New York."

    Undeniably, Mr. Dill's interest flickered up. "Things?" he repeated inquiringly. "Her things?"

    "Yes. Everything she wears, you know."

    "Oh, yes."

    "What I was goin' to tell you," Florence continued, "you know grandpa just about hates everybody. Anyhow, he'd like to have some peace and quiet once in a while in his own house, he says, instead of all this moil and turmoil, and because the doctor said all the matter with her was she eats too much candy, and they keep sendin' more all the time--and there's somep'n the trouble with grandpa: it makes him sick to smell violets: he had it ever since he was a little boy, and he can't help it; and he hates animals, and they keep sendin' her Airedales and Persian kittens, and then there was that alligator came from Florida and upset Kitty Silver terribly--and so, you see, grandpa just hates the whole everlasting business."

    Mr. Dill nodded and spoke with conviction: "He's absolutely right; absolutely!"

    "Well, some ways he is," said Florence; and she added confidentially: "The trouble is, he seems to think you're about as bad as any of 'em."

    "What?"

    "Well!" Florence exclaimed, with upward gestures both of eye and of hand, to signify what she left untold of Mr. Atwater's orations upon his favourite subject: Noble Dill. "It's torrable!" she added.

    Noble breathed heavily, but a thought struggled in him and a brightening appeared upon him. "You mean----" he began. "Do you mean it's terrible for your Aunt Julia? Do you mean his injustice about me makes her feel terribly?"

    "No," said Florence. "No: I mean the way he goes on about everybody. But Aunt Julia's kind of used to it. And anyhow you needn't worry about him 'long as I'm on your side. He won't do anything much to you if I say not to. Hardly anything at all." And then, with almost a tenderness, as she marked the visibly insufficient reassurance of her companion, she said handsomely: "He won't say a word. I'll tell him not to."

    Noble was dazed; no novelty, for he had been dazed almost continually during the past seven months, since a night when dancing with Julia, whom he had known all his life, he "noticed for the first time what she looked like." (This was his mother's description.) Somewhere, he vaguely recalled, he had read of the extraordinary influence possessed by certain angelic kinds of children; he knew, too, what favourite grandchildren can do with grandfathers. The effect upon him was altogether base; he immediately sought by flattery to increase and retain Florence's kindness. "I always thought you seemed to know more than most girls of your age," he began.

    It was a great afternoon for Florence. From time to time she glanced over her shoulder at the switching skirt, and increased its radius of action, though this probably required more exercise, compared to the extent of ground covered, than any lady member of a walking-party had ever before taken, merely as a pedestrian. Meanwhile, she chattered on, but found time to listen to the pleasant things said to her by her companion; and though most of these were, in truth, rather vague, she was won to him more than he knew. Henceforth she was to be his champion indeed, sometimes with greater energy than he would need.

    ... The two were left alone together by Julia's gate when the walk (as short as Julia dared to make it) was over.

    "Well," Florence said, "I've had quite a nice time. I hope you enjoyed yourself nicely, too, Mr. Dill." Then her eye rose to the overhanging branch of a shade-tree near them. "Would you like to see me chin myself?" she asked, stepping beneath the branch. "I bet I could skin-the-cat on that limb! Would you like to see me do it?"

    "I would so!" the flatterer enthused.

    She became thoughtful, remembering that she was now a lady who took walks with grown gentlemen. "I can, but I won't," she said. "I used to do lots of things like that. I used to whenever I felt like it. I could chin myself four times and Herbert only three. I was lots better than Herbert when I used to do all kinds of things like that."

    "Were you?"

    She laughed as in a musing retrospect of times gone by. "I guess I used to be a pretty queer kind of a girl in those days," she said. "Well--I s'pose we ought to say good-bye for the present, so to speak, Mr. Dill."

    "I'm afraid so."

    "Well----" She stood looking at him expectantly, but he said nothing more. "Well, good-bye for the present, Mr. Dill," she said again, and, turning, walked away with dignity. But a moment later she forgot all about her skirt and scampered.
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