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    Chapter 13

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    Chapter 13
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    It was a pretty morning, two weeks after Julia's Dance; and blue and lavender shadows, frayed with mid-summer sunshine, waggled gayly across the grass beneath the trees of the tiny orchard, but trembled with timidity as they hurried over the abnormal surfaces of Mrs. Silver as she sat upon the steps of the "back porch." Her right hand held in security one end of a leather leash; the other end of the leash was fastened to a new collar about the neck of an odd and fascinating dog. Seated upon the brick walk at her feet, he was regarding her with a gravity that seemed to discomfort her. She was unable to meet his gaze, and constantly averted her own whenever it furtively descended to his. In fact, her expression and manner were singular, denoting embarrassment, personal hatred, and a subtle bedazzlement. She could not look at him, yet could not keep herself from looking at him. There was something here that arose out of the depths of natural character; it was intrinsic in the two personalities, that is to say; and was in addition to the bitterness consequent upon a public experience, just past, which had been brought upon Mrs. Silver partly by the dog's appearance (in particular the style and colour of his hair) and partly by his unprecedented actions in her company upon the highway.

    She addressed him angrily, yet with a profound uneasiness.

    "Dog!" she said. "You ain't feelin' as skittish as whut you did, li'l while ago, is you? My glory! I dess would like to lay my han' to you' hide once, Mister! I take an' lam you this livin' minute if I right sho' you wouldn't take an' bite me."

    She jerked the leash vindictively, upon which the dog at once "sat up" on his haunches, put his forepaws together above his nose, in an attitude of prayer, and looked at her inscrutably from under the great bang of hair that fell like a black chrysanthemum over his forehead. Beneath this woolly lambrequin his eyes were visible as two garnet sparks of which the coloured woman was only too nervously aware. She gasped.

    "Look-a-here, dog, who's went an' ast you to take an' pray fer 'em?"

    He remained motionless and devout.

    "My goo'niss!" she said to him. "If you goin' keep on thisaway whut you is been, I'm goin' to up an' go way from here, ri' now!" Then she said a remarkable thing. "Listen here, Mister! I ain' never los' no gran' child, an' I ain' goin' 'dop' no stranger fer one, neither!"

    The explanation rests upon the looks and manners of him whom she addressed. This dog was of a kind at the top of dog kingdoms. His size was neither insignificant nor great; probably his weight would have been between a fourth and a third of a St. Bernard's. He had the finest head for adroit thinking that is known among dogs; and he had an athletic body, the forepart muffled and lost in a mass of corded black fleece, but the rest of him sharply clipped from the chest aft; and his trim, slim legs were clipped, though tufts were left at his ankles, and at the tip of his short tail, with two upon his hips, like fanciful buttons of an imaginary jacket; for thus have such dogs been clipped to a fashion proper and comfortable for them ever since (and no doubt long before) an Imperial Roman sculptor so chiselled one in bas-relief. In brief, this dog, who caused Kitty Silver so much disquietude, as she sat upon the back steps at Mr. Atwater's, belonged to that species of which no Frenchman ever sees a specimen without smiling and murmuring: "Caniche!" He was that golden-hearted little clown of all the world, a French Poodle.

    To arrive at what underlay Mrs. Silver's declaration that she had never lost a grandchild and had no intention of adopting a stranger in the place of one, it should be first understood that in many respects she was a civilized person. The quality of savagery, barbarism, or civilization in a tribe may be tested by the relations it characteristically maintains with domestic animals; and tribes that eat dogs are often inferior to those inclined to ceremonial cannibalism. Likewise, the civilization, barbarism, or savagery of an individual may be estimated by the same test, which sometimes gives us evidence of sporadic reversions to mud. Such reversions are the stomach priests: whatever does not minister to their own bodily inwards is a "parasite." Dogs are "parasites"; they should not live, because to fat and eat them somehow appears uncongenial. "Kill Dogs and Feed Pigs," they write to the papers, and, with a Velasquez available, would burn it rather than go chilly. "Kill dogs, feed pigs, and let me eat the pigs!" they cry, even under no great stress, these stern economists who have not noticed how wasteful the Creator is proved to be if He made themselves. They take the strictly intestinal view of life. It is not intelligent; parasite bacilli will get them in the end.

    Mrs. Silver was not of these. True, she sometimes professed herself averse to all "animals," but this meant nothing more than her unwillingness to have her work increased by their introduction into the Atwater household. No; the appearance of the dog had stirred something queer and fundamental within her. All coloured people look startled the first time they see a French Poodle, but there is a difference. Most coloured men do not really worry much about being coloured, but many coloured women do. In the expression of a coloured man, when he looks at a black and woolly French Poodle, there is something fonder and more indulgent than there is in the expression of a coloured woman when she looks at one. In fact, when some coloured women see a French Poodle they have the air of being insulted.

    Now, when Kitty Silver had first set eyes on this poodle, an hour earlier, she looked, and plainly was, dumfounded. Never in her life had she seen a creature so black, so incredibly black, or with hair so kinky, so incredibly kinky. Julia had not observed Mrs. Silver closely nor paused to wonder what thoughts were rousing in her mind, but bade her take the poodle forth for exercise outdoors and keep him strictly upon the leash. Without protest, though wearing a unique expression, Kitty obeyed; she walked round the block with this mystifying dog; and during the promenade had taken place the episode that so upset her nerves.

    She had given a little jerk to the leash, speaking sharply to the poodle in reproach for some lingering near a wonderful sidewalk smell, imperceptible to any one except himself. Instantly the creature rose and walked beside her on his hind legs. He continued to parade in this manner, rapidly, but nevertheless as if casually, without any apparent inconvenience; and Mrs. Silver, never having seen a dog do such a thing before, for more than a yard or so, and then only under the pressure of many inducements, was unfavourably impressed. In fact, she had definitely a symptom of M. Maeterlinck's awed feeling when he found himself left alone with the talking horses: "With whom was she?"

    "Look-a-here, dog!" she said breathlessly. "Who you tryin' to skeer? You ain't no person!"

    And then a blow fell. It came from an elderly but ever undignified woman of her own race, who paused, across the street, and stood teetering from side to side in joyful agitation, as she watched the approach of Mrs. Silver with her woolly little companion beside her. When this smaller silhouette in ink suddenly walked upright, the observer's mouth fell open, and there was reason to hope that it might remain so, in silence, especially as several other pedestrians had stopped to watch the poodle's uncalled-for exhibition. But all at once the elderly rowdy saw fit to become uproarious.

    "Hoopsee!" she shouted. "Oooh, Gran'ma!"

    * * * * * * *

    And so, when the poodle "sat up," unbid, to pray, while Kitty Silver rested upon the back steps, on her return from the excursion, she fiercely informed him that she had never lost a grandchild and that she would not adopt a stranger in place of one; her implication being that he, a stranger, had been suggested for the position and considered himself eligible for it.

    He continued to pray, not relaxing a hair.

    "Listen to me, dog," said Kitty Silver. "Is you a dog, or isn't you a dog? Whut is you, anyway?"

    But immediately she withdrew the question. "I ain't astin' you!" she exclaimed superstitiously. "If you isn't no dog, don't you take an' tell me whut you is: you take an' keep it to you'se'f, 'cause I don' want to listen to it!"

    For the garnet eyes beneath the great black chrysanthemum indeed seemed to hint that their owner was about to use human language in a human voice. Instead, however, he appeared to be content with his little exhibition, allowed his forepaws to return to the ground, and looked at her with his head wistfully tilted to one side. This reassured her and even somewhat won her. There stirred within her that curious sense of relationship evoked from the first by his suggestive appearance; fondness was being born, and an admiration that was in a way a form of Narcissism. She addressed him in a mollified voice:

    "Whut you want now? Don' tell me you' hungry, 'cause you awready done et two dog biskit an' big saucer milk. Whut you stick you' ole black face crossways at me fer, honey?"

    But just then the dog rose to look pointedly toward the corner of the house. "Somebody's coming," he meant.

    "Who you spectin', li'l dog?" Mrs. Silver inquired.

    Florence and Herbert came round the house, Herbert trifling with a tennis ball and carrying a racket under his arm. Florence was peeling an orange.

    "For Heavenses' sakes!" Florence cried. "Kitty Silver, where on earth'd this dog come from?"

    "B'long you' Aunt Julia."

    "When'd she get him?"

    "Dess to-day."

    "Who gave him to her?"

    "She ain't sayin'."

    "You mean she won't tell?"

    "She ain't sayin'," Kitty Silver repeated. "I ast her. I say, I say: 'Miss Julia, ma'am,' I say, 'Miss Julia, ma'am, who ever sen' you sech a unlandish-lookin' dog?' I say. All she say when I ast her: 'Nemmine!' she say, dess thataway. 'Nemmine!' she say. I reckon she ain't goin' tell nobody who give her this dog."

    "He's certainly a mighty queer-lookin' dog," said Herbert. "I've seen a few like that, but I can't remember where. What kind is he, Kitty Silver?"

    "Miss Julia tell me he a poogle dog."

    "A poodle," Florence corrected her, and then turned to Herbert in supercilious astonishment. "A French Poodle! My goodness! I should think you were old enough to know that much, anyway--goin' on fourteen years old!"

    "Well, I did know it," he declared. "I kind of knew it, anyhow; but I sort of forgot it for once. Do you know if he bites, Kitty Silver?"

    She was noncommittal. "He ain't bit nobody yit."

    "I don't believe he'll bite," said Florence. "I bet he likes me. He looks like he was taking a fancy to me, Kitty Silver. What's his name?"




    "What a funny name! Are you sure, Kitty Silver?"

    "Gammire whut you' Aunt Julia tole me," Mrs. Silver insisted. "You kin go on in the house an' ast her; she'll tell you the same."

    "Well, anyway, I'm not afraid of him," said Florence; and she stepped closer to the poodle, extending her hand to caress him. Then she shouted as the dog, at her gesture, rose to his hind legs, and, as far as the leash permitted, walked forward to meet her. She flung her arms about him rapturously.

    "Oh, the lovely thing!" she cried. "He walks on his hind legs! Why, he's crazy about me!"

    "Let him go," said Herbert. "I bet he don't like you any more than he does anybody else. Leave go of him, and I bet he shows he likes me better than he does you."

    But when Florence released him, Gammire caressed them both impartially. He leaped upon one, then upon the other, and then upon Kitty Silver with a cordiality that almost unseated her.

    "Let him off the leash," Florence cried. "He won't run away, 'cause the gates are shut. Let him loose and see what he'll do."

    Mrs. Silver snapped the catch of the leash, and Gammire departed in the likeness of a ragged black streak. With his large and eccentric ears flapping back in the wind and his afterpart hunched in, he ran round and round the little orchard like a dog gone wild. Altogether a comedian, when he heard children shrieking with laughter, he circled the more wildly; then all upon an unexpected instant came to a dead halt, facing his audience, his nose on the ground between his two forepaws, his hindquarters high and unstooping. And, seeing they laughed at this, too, he gave them enough of it, then came back to Kitty Silver and sat by her feet, a spiral of pink tongue hanging from a wide-open mouth roofed with black.

    Florence resumed the peeling of her orange.

    "Who do you think gave Gammire to Aunt Julia?" she asked.

    "I ain't stedyin' about it."

    "Yes, but who do you guess?"

    "I ain't----"

    "Well, but if you had to be burned to death or guess somebody, who would you guess?"

    "I haf to git burn' up," said Kitty Silver. "Ev'y las' caller whut comes here is give her some doggone animal awready. Mista Sammerses, he give her them two Berjum cats, an' ole Mister Ridgways whut los' his wife, he give you' Aunt Julia them two canaries that tuck an' hopped out the cage an' then out the window, las' week, one day, when you' grampaw was alone in the room with 'em; an' Mista George Plummers, he give her that Airydale dog you' grampaw tuck an' give to the milkman; an' Mista Ushers, he give her them two pups whut you' grampaw tuck an' skeer off the place soon as he laid eyes on 'em, an' thishere Mista Clairidge, he give her that ole live allagatuh from Florida whut I foun' lookin' at me over the aidge o' my kitchen sink--ugly ole thing!--an' you' grampaw tuck an' give it to the greenhouse man. Ain't none nem ge'lmun goin' try an' give her no mo' animals, I bet! So how anybody goin' guess who sen' her thishere Gammire? Nobody lef' whut ain't awready sen' her one an' had the gift spile."

    "Yes, there is," said Florence.


    "Noble Dill."

    "That there li'l young Mista Dills?" Kitty Silver cried. "Listen me! Thishere dog 'spensive dog."

    "I don't care; I bet Noble Dill gave him to her."

    Mrs. Silver hooted. "Go way! That there young li'l Mista Dills, he ain' nev' did show no class, no way nor no time. He be hunderd year ole b'fo' you see him in autamobile whut b'long to him. Look at a way some nem fine big rich men like Mista Clairidge an' Mista Ridgways take an' th'ow they money aroun'! New necktie ev'y time you see 'em; new straw hat right spang the firs' warm day. Ring do' bell. I say, I say: 'Walk right in, Mista Ridgways.' Slip me dollah bill dess like that! Mista Sammerses an' Mista Plummers, an' some nem others, they all show class. Look Mista Sammerses' spectickles made turtle back; fancy turtle, too. I ast Miss Julia; she tell me they fancy turtle. Gol' rim spectickles ain't in it; no ma'am! Mista Sammerses' spectickles--jes' them rims on his spectickles alone--I bet they cos' mo'n all whut thishere young li'l Mista Dills got on him from his toes up an' his skin out. I bet Mista Plummers th'ow mo' money aroun' dess fer gittin' his pants press' than whut Mista Dills afford to spen' to buy his'n in the firs' place! He lose his struggle, 'cause you' Aunt Julia, she out fer the big class. Thishere Gammire, he dog cos' money; he show class same you' Aunt Julia. Ain't neither one of 'em got to waste they time on nobody whut can't show no mo' class than thishere li'l young dish-cumbobbery Mista Dills!"

    "I don't care," Florence said stubbornly. "He could of saved up and saved up, and if he saved up long enough he could of got enough money to buy a dog like Gammire, because you can get money enough for anything if you're willing to save up long enough. Anyway, I bet he's the one gave him to her."

    Herbert joined Kitty Silver in laughter. "Florence is always talkin' about Noble Dill," he said. "She's sort of crazy, anyway, though."

    "It runs in the family," Florence retorted, automatically. "I caught it from my cousins. Anyhow, I don't think there's a single one of any that wants to marry Aunt Julia that's got the slightest co'parison to Noble Dill. I admire him because he's so uncouth."

    "He so who?" Kitty Silver inquired.


    "Yes'm," said Mrs. Silver.

    "It's in the ditchanary," Florence explained. "It means rare, elegant, exquisite, obs, unknown, and a whole lot else."

    "It does not," Herbert interposed. "It means kind of countrified."

    "You go look in the ditchanary," his cousin said severely. "Then, maybe, you'll know what you're talkin' about just for once. Anyhow, I do like Noble Dill, and I bet so does Aunt Julia."

    Kitty Silver shook her head. "He lose his struggle, honey! Miss Julia, she out fer the big class. She ain't stedyin' about him 'cept maybe dess to let him run her erran's. She treat 'em all mighty nice, 'cause the mo' come shovin' an' pushin' each other aroun', class or no class, why, the mo' harder that big class got to work to git her--an' the mo' she got after her the mo' keeps a-comin'. But thishere young li'l Mista Dills, I kine o' got strong notion he liable not come no mo' 'tall!" Her tone had become one of reminiscent amusement, which culminated in a burst of laughter. "Whee!" she concluded. "After las' night, I reckon thishere Mista Dills better keep away from the place--yes'm!"

    Florence looked thoughtful, and for the time said nothing. It was Herbert who asked: "Why'd Noble Dill better stay away from here?"

    "You' grampaw," Mrs. Silver said, shaking her head. "You' grampaw!"

    "What about grandpa?" said Herbert. "What'd he do last night?"

    "'Do'? Oh, me!" Then Mrs. Silver uttered sounds like the lowing of kine, whereby she meant to indicate her inability to describe Mr. Atwater's performance. "Well, ma'am," she said, in the low and husky voice of simulated exhaustion, "all I got to say: you' grampaw beat hisse'f! He beat hisse'f!"

    "How d'you mean? How could he----"

    "He beat hisse'f! He dess out-talk hisse'f! No, ma'am; I done hear him many an' many an' many's the time, but las' night he beat hisse'f."

    "What about?"

    "Nothin' in the wide worl' but dess thishere young li'l Noble Dills whut we talkin' about this livin' minute."

    "What started him?"

    "Whut start him?" Mrs. Silver echoed with sudden loudness. "My goo'niss! He b'en started ev' since the very firs' time he ev' lay eyes on him prancin' up the front walk to call on Miss Julia. You' grampaw don' like none nem callers, but he everlas'n'ly did up an' take a true spite on thishere li'l Dills!"

    "I mean," said Herbert, "what started him last night?"

    "Them cigareets," said Kitty Silver. "Them cigareets whut thishere Noble Dills smoke whiles he settin' out on the front po'che callin' on you' Aunt Julia. You' grampaw mighty funny man about smellin'! You know's well's I do he don't even like the smell o' violet. Well, ma'am, if he can't stan' violet, how in the name o' misery he goin' stan' the smell nem cigareets thishere Dills smoke? I can't hardly stan' 'em myse'f. When he light one on the front po'che, she sif' all through the house, an' come slidin' right the whole way out to my kitchen, an' bim! she take me in the nose! You' grampaw awready tole Miss Julia time an' time again if that li'l Dills light dess one mo' on his front po'che he goin' to walk out there an' do some harm! Co'se she nev' tuck an' pay no 'tention, 'cause Miss Julia, she nev' pay no 'tention to nobody; an' she like caller have nice time--she ain' goin' tell 'em you' grampaw make such a fuss. 'Yes, 'deed, kine frien',' she say, she say, when they ast her: 'Miss Julia, ma'am,' they say, 'I like please strike a match fer to light my cigareet if you please, ma'am.' She say: 'Light as many as you please, kine frien',' she say, she say. She say: 'Smell o' cigareet dess deligh'ful li'l smell,' she say. 'Go 'head an' smoke all you kin stan',' she say, "cause I want you injoy you'se'f when you pay call on me,' she say. Well, so thishere young li'l Dills settin' there puffin' an' blowin' his ches' out and in, an' feelin' all nice 'cause it about the firs' time this livin' summer he catch you' Aunt Julia alone to hisse'f fer while--an' all time the house dess fillin' up, an' draf' blowin' straight at you' grampaw whur he settin' in his liberry. Ma'am, he sen' me out an' tell her come in, he got message mighty important fer to speak to her. So she tell thishere Dills wait a minute, an' walk in the liberry. Oh, ladies!"

    "What'd he say?" Herbert asked eagerly.

    "He di'n' say nothin'," Mrs. Silver replied eloquently. "He hollered."

    "What did he holler?"

    "He want know di'n' he never tell her thishere Dills can't smoke no mo' cigareets on his property, an' di'n' he tell her he was'n' goin' allow him on the place if he did? He say she got to go back on the po'che an' run thishere li'l Dills off home. He say he give her fair choice; she kin run him off, or else he go on out and chase him away hisse'f. He claim li'l Dills ain' got no biznuss roun' callin' nowhere 't all, 'cause he on'y make about eighteen dollars a week an' ain't wuth it. He say----"

    She was confirmed in this report by an indignant interruption from Florence. "That's just what he did say, the old thing! I heard him, myself, and if you care to ask me, I'll be glad to inform you that I think grandpa's conduck was simply insulting!"

    "'Deed it were!" said Mrs. Silver. "An' dess whut he claim hisse'f he mean it fer! But you tell me, please, how you hear whut you' grampaw say? He mighty noisy, but you nev' could a-hear him plumb to whur you live."

    "I wasn't home," said Florence. "I was over here."

    "Then you mus' 'a' made you'se'f mighty skimpish, 'cause I ain't seen you!"

    "Nobody saw me. I wasn't in the house," said Florence, "I was out in front."

    "Whurbouts 'out in front'?"

    "Well, I was sitting on the ground, up against the latticework of the front porch."

    "Whut fur?"

    "Well, it was dark," said Florence. "I just kind of wanted to see what might be going on."

    "An' you hear all whut you' grampaw take on about an' ev'ything?"

    "I should say so! You could of heard him lots farther than where I was."

    "Lan' o' misery!" Kitty Silver cried. "If you done hear him whur you was, thishere li'l Dills mus' a-hear him mighty plain?"

    "He did. How could he help it? He heard every word, and pretty soon he came down off the porch and stood a minute; then he went on out the gate, and I don't know whether he went home or not, because it was too dark to see. But he didn't come back."

    "Yo' right he didn'!" exclaimed Mrs. Silver. "I reckon he got fo'thought 'nough fer that, anyhow! I bet he ain't nev' goin' come back neither. You' grampaw say he goin' be fix fer him, if he do."

    "Yes, that was while he was standing there," said Florence ruefully. "He heard all that, too."

    "Miss Julia, she s'picion' he done hear somep'm 'nother, I guess," Kitty Silver went on. "She shet the liberry do' right almos' on you' grampaw's nose, whiles he still a-rampin', an' she slip out on the po'che, an' take look 'roun'; then go on up to her own room. I 'uz up there, while after that, turn' down her bed; an' she injoyin' herse'f readin' book. She feel kine o' put out, I reckon, but she ain't stedyin' about no young li'l Dills. She want 'em all to have nice time an' like her, but she goin' lose this one, an' she got plenty to spare. She show too much class fer to fret about no Dills."

    "I don't care," said Florence. "I think she ought to whether she does or not, because I bet he was feeling just awful. And I think grandpa behaved like an ole hoodlum."

    "That'll do," Herbert admonished her sternly. "You show some respect for your relations, if you please."

    But his loyalty to the Atwater family had a bad effect on Florence. "Oh, will I?" she returned promptly. "Well, then, if you care to inquire my opinion, I just politely think grandpa ought to be hanged."

    "See here----"

    But Florence and Kitty Silver interrupted him simultaneously.

    "Look at that!" Florence cried.

    "My name!" exclaimed Kitty Silver.

    It was the strange taste of Gammire that so excited them. Florence had peeled her orange and divided it rather fairly into three parts, but the vehemence she exerted in speaking of her grandfather had caused her to drop one of these upon the ground. Gammire promptly ate it, "sat up" and adjusted his paws in prayer for more.

    "Now you listen me!" said Kitty Silver. "I ain't see no dog eat orange in all my days, an' I ain't see nobody else whut see dog eat orange! No, ma'am, an' I ain't nev' hear o' nobody else whut ev' see nobody whut see dog eat orange!"

    Herbert decided to be less impressed. "Oh, I've heard of dogs that'd eat apples," he said. "Yes, and watermelon and nuts and things." As he spoke he played with the tennis ball upon his racket, and concluded by striking the ball high into the air. Its course was not true; and it descended far over toward the orchard, where Herbert ran to catch it--but he was not quick enough. At the moment the ball left the racket Gammire abandoned his prayers: his eyes, like a careful fielder's, calculating and estimating, followed the swerve of the ball in the breeze, and when it fell he was on the correct spot. He caught it.

    Herbert shouted. "He caught it on the fly! It must have been an accident. Here----" And he struck the ball into the air again. It went high--twice as high as the house--and again Gammire "judged" it; continuously shifting his position, his careful eyes never leaving the little white globe, until just before the last instant of its descent he was motionless beneath it. He caught it again, and Herbert whooped.

    Gammire brought the ball to him and invited him to proceed with the game. That there might be no mistaking his desire, Gammire "sat up" and prayed; nor did he find Herbert anything loth. Out of nine chances Gammire "muffed" the ball only twice, both times excusably, and Florence once more flung her arms about the willing performer.

    "Who do you s'pose trained this wonderful, darling doggie?" she cried.

    Mrs. Silver shook her marvelling head. "He mus' 'a' come thataway," she said. "I bet nobody 't all ain' train him; he do whut he want to hisse'f. That Gammire don' ast nobody to train him."

    "Oh, goodness!" Florence said, with sudden despondency. "It's awful!"

    "Whut is?"

    "To think of as lovely a dog as this having to face grandpa!"

    "'Face' him!" Kitty Silver echoed forebodingly. "I reckon you' grampaw do mo'n dess 'face' him."

    "That's what I mean," Florence explained. "I expect he's just brute enough to drive him off."

    "Yes'm," said Mrs. Silver. "He git madder ev'y time somebody sen' her new pet. You' grampaw mighty nervous man, an' everlas'n'ly do hate animals."

    "He hasn't seen Gammire, has he?"

    "Don't look like it, do it?" said Kitty Silver. "Dog here yit."

    "Well, then I----" Florence paused, glancing at Herbert, for she had just been visited by a pleasant idea and had no wish to share it with him. "Is Aunt Julia in the house?"

    "She were, li'l while ago."

    "I want to see her about somep'n I ought to see her about," said Florence. "I'll be out in a minute."
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