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nie Bee a short farewell, had a glimpse of her stout Aunt Annie ascending the stairway, heavily tired after the long day, an institution flourishing elsewhere than in great cities. Minnie Bee's stout Uncle Joe, owner of a small harness shop much patronized by college men who kept horses, came to stand for a moment in the door, pipe in mouth.
"Good evening, young gentlemen," he said.
Through an open window Roddy took in a small, bright parlor, its one rock of refuge Minnie Bee's piano, about which swirled waves of flimsiness.
"Well," said Wirt.
They went bareheaded down the steps, turning for a final glance at the awfully pretty picture of Minnie Bee with her golden hair streaming in the moonlight.
A few yards down the street they met another crowd bound for Minnie Bee's front porch. Wirt indicated the silent Roddy to them.
"Just had him to Minnie Bee's. First time. Don't speak to him. It 's dangerous to waken them suddenly."
They pretended sympathetic understanding, and passed, tiptoeing with exaggerated caution. Their laughter broke behind the two. Beneath a street light Roddy stopped and regarded Wirt.
"You must n't misunderstand, you know," said Wirt in a careless tone.
"I'm not misunderstanding the darned insolent way you fellows have with her," said Roddy, scornfully. “Rapunzel, Rapunzel!' I like your nerve.
"So does Minnie Bee," said Wirt. "Why, confound you, Rod, she's a regular pet with us all. She's had a crowd of boys on that front porch ever since she was fifteen. Every one of them adored her. I adore her. So do you-what?" "And that fellow, Seaton?"
"Say," said Wirt, going on, "it's a queer thing, but, do you know, I believe Seaton's working himself up to the point of asking Minnie Bee to marry him." "That brute!" said Roddy, shortly and hotly.
At Roddy's tone Wirt began to laugh
immoderately, steering him the while. toward a tree-pillared lawn. Beyond the columns of the tree-trunks appeared the columns of the porch, rising as tall as trees to the mansion's roof. Withdrawn in the seclusion offered by these sat a placid group composed of Miss Page Presley, her mama, and her little sister Virginia.
Other boys dropped in. Miss Presley's hair was long and black, and would have been almost startlingly effective streaming. around her against the glimmering white background of house front, but no one said, "Snow White, Snow White, let down your hair."
The sturdy, graying professor of Greek, her father, came to stand for a moment in the door, cigar in hand.
"Good evening, young gentlemen," he said.
As they bade the family good night Roddy glimpsed a familiar type of interior, spacious, cool, set discreetly about with old, valuable, rather terribly permanent possessions.
"Nice girl, Page," commented Wirt as they strolled off across the sparsely lighted campus, "but slow," he added, yawning.
On the porch of Roddy's temporary home sat the remainder of his temporary family: Cousin Andrew Morrison, professor of Latin, peacefully asleep in his long chair; Cousin Sally, his wife; and Roberta, their daughter.
Berta was one of those girls who never look girlish because they weigh ten pounds too much and have Roman noses. There was a kind fiction among her girl friends. to the effect that Berta disliked boys.
She considered her brother Wirt and her cousin Roddy with suspicion which might be characterized as serial. It was always likely that they had been up to something of which she would disapprove could she find them out.
"Well, Rod 's been initiated at last," announced Wirt, out of a mere impish desire to start something.
He gave Roddy his laughing, narrowed look, and settled himself comfortably on the railing. Roddy took the porch swing near Berta.
"That girl!" said Berta.
"If you mean Minnie Bee," murmured Wirt.
"Why, Berta, I 'm sure Minnie Bee is a very nice, sweet, young girl," put in Cousin Sally, indescribably mingling patronage of Minnie Bee with ladylike disapproval of Berta's too violent emphasis.
"And I warn you right now, Roddy Ivor," continued Berta, "that if I meet you out walking with her you need n't expect me to speak to you. I don't speak to my own brother in those circumstances."
A tolerant smile grew on Roddy's lips. "Women," said Wirt. It seemed to cover the ground for him.
"I presume," said Berta, "that you 'd like me to call on Minnie Bee?"
Wirt addressed Roddy:
"That lovely, refined, talented girl is n't good enough for Berta, here, to visit."
"Her cousins are 'n't lovely and refined and talented, and you know perfectly well, Wirt Morrison, that, while Minnie Bee may be all you say, we girls can't possibly take her up. Heaven knows I'm not snobbish," said Berta; "no one can accuse me of that. I dare say Minnie Bee is much better looking and far cleverer than I am; but my relatives are at least presentable, and I know who my ancestors were."
A faint frown developed between Roddy's fine brows. Minnie Bee's cousins had been pointed out to him, vivid little girls with big, bold eyes and noisy voices. No harm in them, but not the girls you 'd want your sister to be seen with; yet Minnie Bee had to be seen with them. Beyond doubt Minnie Bee's cousins were regrettable.
"Think I'll go on up," said Roddy, rising.
"Me, too," said Wirt.
He came on into Roddy's room. "Confound such a town as this, anyhow!" said Wirt.
He sat down on the foot of Roddy's bed and lighted up.
"Clear out, I tell you!" said Roddy, who wished to think about Minnie Bee in peace.
"First," said Wirt, "there 's the military gang."
"I'll put you out," promised Roddy. "The military gang," repeated Wirt, wafting a smoke ring perfect enough to be a fairy's bracelet, "which considers itself just a little bit better than anything else on earth because it has to do with the art of bossing the earth about."
"Tell me something I don't know," begged Roddy.
"And the college men are nearly as bad. Any doddering old professor of the deadest language there is thinks himself the superior of the cleverest business man in town."
"I told you I would," said Roddy, now in pajamas. He started for Wirt, who fended him off, laughing.
"And the larger merchants lord it over the smaller chaps, like Minnie Bee's uncle. Everybody's got some one to look down on until at length we arrive at,—” he nodded toward the stately colored gentleman who was bringing in a carafe of drinking water,-"and even there-" he broke off abruptly. "Sam," he said, "did you see Dan Medley about hunting me up a dog for Miss Minnie Bee?"
"Now, Mr. Wirt," said Sam, "yo' do not want t' 'ave no doin's at all wid dat po' white trash of a Dan Medlar. I'll fin' yo' a pup fo' de young lady fus day I takes off."
He went out grandly, having settled the
"What did I tell you?" demanded Wirt. "Talk about India."
"Not to me," said Roddy, removing the slenderer Wirt by main strength from the bed, and shoving him doorward. "You 're worse than any of them. You were quite surprised a while back because that surly brute of a Seaton might actually ask a beautiful girl a thousand times too good for him actually to marry him, damn him!"
Almost incoherently did Roddy thus assist the shamelessly laughing Wirt into the hall. He retreated alone into his room, holding the door ajar a moment to add, "And you."
He closed the door on Wirt, drew up his one arm-chair until it faced the window, and lay back in it in all the luxury of pajamas and a good conscience. His slippered feet on the window-sill tipped him back delightfully. His clasped hands made an absolutely comfortable pillow for his head. His eyes dwelt dreamily on a confused welter of small, moon-gilded clouds as he listened to his Cousin Andrew putting the house off to bed downstairs. There ensued a deep silence. Roddy, basking in it, began at last to think intelligently about Minnie Bee. He concluded that what she really needed was a friend.
Now, Roddy had given this matter of friendship deep thought since a certain disillusioning love-affair of his the previous year, and he had reached the conclusion that friendship with a girl whose nature was at once strong and yielding, tonic and sweet, might be an almost ideal relation. Of course one would prefer a beautiful girl. It was apparent to the most casual observer that Minnie Bee had an excess of adulation. It seemed clear to Roddy that he had been told off by destiny to disclose to her the soberer charms of friendship.
In pursuance of this purpose he called at Minnie Bee's the following afternoon. He had to cut math to do this; but Roddy was not one of those who ascribe undue importance to the academic aspect of a college career. It did not weigh upon his conscience in the least; but it would have vexed him could he have guessed the inopportuneness of his call, in the early afternoon, to a busy young woman.
When the bell rang Minnie Bee was, in fact, nearly worn out with the difficulty of deciding a question of much importance. All morning she had been sitting on the edge of her bed surrounded by lengths of filmy white stuff which she was converting into a dress. She was now en
gaged in trying on the dress. It was all concluded except the neck. She was not satisfied with the neck. She had made a fichu for it. Then she had decided against the fichu. She would have the neck cut square. It might be more becoming cut square. So she turned it in square.
This indecision of Minnie Bee's may seem strange to writing men whose heroines always know to a shade their most becoming color, to a line their most enhancing style; but the reader may as well know the truth, which is that a girl goes through youth in an agony of indecision. What if she loses her complexion and gets gray, before ever chancing on the color and style created for her alone? Did the fichu look better, after all? Minnie Bee kept her caller waiting while she tried it on again. She twitched it off in a despairing mood, and went down with the neck square.
"Did I come too soon?" asked Roddy, fancying surprise in her greeting; but that was only because she had supposed it to be Seaton. "I thought maybe you'd play for me if there was n't a crowd," wheedled Roddy.
It does n't matter what Minnie Bee played. It was beautiful and sad, and as she played it her face was rapt away from little things. Roddy, leaning there, listening, had a resentful feeling for Minnie Bee, as for one on whom fate had played blundering tricks. She met his eyes nervously.
"Do you really like music?" asked Minnie Bee.
Roddy answered her with a musing smile.
"Then please go sit down," said Minnie Bee.
Roddy went to sit in the window-seat. Minnie Bee was a lovely profile now. Her white throat pulsed with song. The September breezes made serious love to her hair. In the filmy white dress with the neck cut square she looked as angelic as the guardian saint of melody.
Her hands fluttered slowly into quiet on the keys. A movement of Roddy's made her glance around. He was stand
ing up, as if to go, and smiling gravely down on her.
"Thank you for the music," said Roddy. “Do you mind my saying that you looked exactly like an angel, with all that white stuff floating around you, and the sun in your hair, while you were singing?"
Minnie Bee looked down at the white stuff. An impulse had its mad way with her.
"Wait a minute," she said. In a twinkling she was running up-stairs. In another she was running back, trailing at white triangle covered with infinitesimal ruffles. She tossed this over one shoulder, reached back, and coaxed it over the other. "Now," said Minnie Bee, "I want an unbiased opinion."
"It sounds technical," said Roddy, "but I'll do my best."
"I can't decide about the neck of this dress," said Minnie Bee. "Does it look better this way or"-she twitched off the fichu-"this?"
"Ruffles," said Roddy, instantly, "and a rose."
One was peering in. He rewarded its curiosity by presenting it to Minnie Bee, who had donned the fichu again. She placed the rose where it belonged, and endeavored to survey herself in a tiny oval of purely ornamental mirror hanging between the windows. Roddy felt that it should have been a pier-glass. He would have liked two full-lengths of Minnie Bee just then. He looked at his hat again, smiling slightly. Perhaps he was thinking that this again was something which could never have happened at Pagie Presley's.
"Oh, don't go yet," said Minnie Bee. She sat down in the window-seat and patted the cushion beside her.
Roddy, however, took a chair, which he drew up facing her. He leaned forward in it, his clasped hands dropped between his knees.
"This is my third year here," said Roddy. "How queer that no one ever brought me to see you before."
Minnie Bee was n't going to tell Roddy that some one had asked to bring him two years before, and that she had
said pettishly: "Another Ivor boy! No, thank you." Nor was she going to tell him that he had been brought now only because she could n't very well have refused his own cousin; but how could she have imagined this Ivor boy to be so different from his brothers, who were notorious.
She said, rather flustered:
"I must have known your brothers," which was not at all what she wished to say.
Roddy's lips twitched. He saw at once that that explained it, though inadvertently.
"Come for a walk," he said suddenly, after a reflective pause. He had not meant to cut Greek, too.
"In this?" asked Minnie Bee.
Even a boy could see that the white ruffles might not survive the climb Roddy was contemplating. He looked vividly
"But if you would n't mind waiting?" "Certainly not. Run along," said Roddy, much relieved.
She ran along, and he looked after her approvingly. What a sensible girl now!
When Minnie Bee came back, unbelievably soon, Roddy thought her less an angel, perhaps, but the prettiest thing he had ever seen in his life. Yet she had on her oldest serge skirt, a far from new blue-silk middy, and a shabby cap of Confederate gray that one of the cadets had given her when she was a small girl. Her feet in their little brown shoes literally danced along. Something was singing itself in her golden head. hummed it:
"Lo! there hath been dawning
She did n't remember any more of it; just that much was all she needed. She continued to hum it as they went out in the blue day. She did n't ask where they were going; even when it seemed a long way she did n't ask. Even when they began to climb and climb she did n't ask.
"I don't know whether you 've ever been up here," said Roddy, breaking a