FICTION

SLEDS

In which Squeaky learns about life from the boy whose Mom "looked awful hungry"

DORIS HEDGES December 15 1938
FICTION

SLEDS

In which Squeaky learns about life from the boy whose Mom "looked awful hungry"

DORIS HEDGES December 15 1938

SLEDS

In which Squeaky learns about life from the boy whose Mom "looked awful hungry"

DORIS HEDGES

THE SLED was low and small, and it stuck here and there on the gravel patches that the snow had relinquished. Philip trudged along slowly, on his way to the field at the bottom of the garden, past the stables. There was a slope there, of sorts. Once he looked over his shoulder at the sled, trying to believe in the glamour of its newness, but there was no one to show it to. It just seemed rather heavy for such a tiny sled.

He stopixid at the gates, a small, lonely figure. There was no sound, even from the stables. Little drops of water dripped from the trees, lie could hear them. Then, suddenly, there was a faint shout of laughter from outside the gates. Cries. Boys'voices. Erom the big hill, where he had been forbidden to slide. There was laughter and fun going on, and his heart ached. The water dripping from the trees, the utter quiet, hurt him. Almost without volition, he found himself outside the gates, looking toward the big hill on the opjxisite side of the road.

He stood very quietly for some minutes. Me could see the boys on the hill in the distance. Then, making up his mind, he started to cross the road, but the sled stuck, so he picked it up and staggered across with it in his arms, rather redder in the face than usual. At the top of the lull, he paused.

They were all together, a group of them, mostly boys bigger than he, probably from the suburb at the foot of the hill. Their voices sounded loud and frightening, now that he had come so close. They did not see him. They were all jumbled together, roughhousing, sliding down helter-skelter, any old how, everyone on top of everyone else. Often they did not bother to climb to the top of the hill but suddenly started down from halfway up. with loutish laughter. But they were quite obviously having fun.

Philip stood at one side, watching, for a long time, and then without allowing himself to think any more alxwt it, he faced his little sled downward and started off crabwise. gathering speed as he went. I le lay on his face as his fatherhad taught him, and used his feet to strier with Halfway down, he came too dose to the little group of lx>ys on the upward climb, and with a flick of the foot he turned the sled off, avoiding them. They shouted after him. He arrived at the bottom with terrifying s|x*ed. but exhilaration swept through him at the memory of their voices, greeting him. He came to a stop, the nose of his sled turning up the new snow. Immediately he was off the sled and starting up the hill, straight this time, pulling his sled in tintracks of the others.

After all. it wasn't such a big hill, lie was at the top in no time. The voices were right above him. frightening again, but not so frightening as they had sounded from his own gateway. Now there was something in the laughter that drew him irresistibly, lie came nearer the group, unconsciously wist ful “Look who’s here!”

Silence fell. They were all eyeing him. not exactly with hostility but warily.

“I’ll race you down.”

His own voice sounder! funny and weak. Before the sound of it had dit'd away there was a kxisening of tension, and quite casually one of them said:

“Okay, Squeaky, let's go.”

Philip flushed, but he said quickly:

“I’ll Ix't 1 beat you down.”

His heart was hammering, but he flung the red sled about and himself onto it. and was after the others as they started downward, not paying much attention to him. Philip steered with all his might, but the three big boys on the other sled were gcxxl ballast, and it lx-at him badly. They were tumbling off as he slid toward them.

” I hat s .1 sissy sled. ” one »kt hem said, but it was a kindly voice. 1 he boy was short, with grey eyes wide apart. His nose was running, and lie put up a dirty mit tened hand and wiped it. 1 íe sniffled.

“What’s your name, Squeaky?” he asked.

T_JE LEFT the others and strolled over toward Philip.

looking at him curiously. Philip got to his feet, and switched his sled around nervously, watching the little wave of loose snowas it fell away from the runners.

“My name is Squeaky,” he said.

Something new in him seemed about to burst. The grey eyes studied him. They did not look at his clothes or his “sissy sled,” they were looking right at him. into him. It w’as the first time Philip had ever been stared at like that. He looked back, liking it; uncomfortable but liking it. Then the grey eyes were smiling, and the boy said: “Where’d ya get the limousine?”

His glance, contemptuously impersonal, embraced Philip and his accoutrement, the blue mitts, the smart coat, the fine little thin face.

“My mother bought it fyr me.”

“Gee,” said the short boy. “Momma bought it.”

He turned to the others and laughed hoarsely. Something in the reply seemed to amuse them, because they all laughed loudly. But there was no animosity in it. Philip squirmed a little. He switched the sled around again.

“Well, c’mon,” he said, and once more his voice broke

with excitement, so that they all laughed again. Philip felt

suddenly full of courage. They all started up the hill together, two of the boys pulling

the larger sled, and Philip tugging at his.

After a minute, the grey-eyed boy put out his hand and lent his weight to the rojie.

His hand felt hard and strong, and he pulled without effort. The sled’s nose lifted from the ground and Philip's exhilaration increased. The two hands fitted together.

At the top, the boy took possession of the sled.

“Let’s ride the limousine,” he said. He turned the sled downward. The three of them pik'd on and Philip was left, but he flung himself on top of them, and the sled started crazily away. They were all shouting with sheer animal laughter. Philip joined in, shrill, happy.

“You can slide on it again,” he said fxilitely.

His friend, however, was picking himself up with an air of finality.

“Gotta get goin',” he said. “It must be near four o’clock.”

Dismay fell upon Philip.

“Where are you going?” lie asked.

The other boys turned and started up the hill again without seeming to care.

“So long. Dusty,” one of them called. “See y a tomorra.”

The grey-eyed boy started walking away, without so much as a backward glance at Philip. He seemed suddenly, utterly preoccupied, as though Philip no longer existed. His face had changed.

"Hey,” said Philip.

I lis voice annoyed him again, it sounded so like his new nickname. He started hurrying after the lx>v, the red sled jerking in his wake. The boy paid no attention. He had thrust his hands into his ¡xxkets, and somehow he had become akx>f, unapproachable.

' I ley.” sail Philip again, a little breathlessly. He caught up with the boy. “Have you really got to go, honest?”

T)HI LI P'S very heart was in it. Perhaps he would not have this chance for fun again. It was the first time he had ever disobeyed his mother in an important thing. He would tx‘ punished for it, but somehow it didn’t seem to be wrong. He panted with the effort of keeping up with the other boy’s stride. The sled swung from side to side.

“Say, Dusty,” said Philip timidly, “why'n’t you stay and play some more? It’s early.”

Suddenly the boy they called Dusty turned on him. The grey eyes were quite

hard, the boy’s whole personality had become shrunken. “I’m goin’ because I’ve gotta go somewheres, see?”

He stared at Philip again, as he had done before. Philip stared back. Both of them had stopped. It seemed that something had to be explained between them, but neither of them knew how to do it.

“I gotta work,” said Dusty. “I’m not a ploot like you, I’ve gotta job.”

“A—a job?”

“Sure, deliverin’ goods.”

“What sort?”

“Oh, just goods, groceries.”

“Gee, with a horse?” Philip’s eyes lit up.

“Bike in summer, sleigh in winter,” said the boy briefly. He started to walk away again.

“Oh, wait, please,” said Philip. “Couldn’t we—I mean, well, could we use my sled?”

The boy stopped in his tracks. He grinned. “Say. you’re a funny little cuss,” he said. “No, we couldn’t.”

“I'm coming,” said Philip. His face, his thin little face, was set.

“Oh. no, you're not!”

The boy turned on him again.

“You go on home!” he said, much as one would speak to a dog. Philip had never been addressed in that fashion before.

“You can’t talk to me like that,” he said, rather desprately. He dropped the rop of the sled and squared up to the boy. The boy made no move. Philip's heart was thumping. He waited to be hit. and hit hard. He intended to fight for it anyhow, whatever “it” was.

But Dusty still made no move.

“You’re a good kid. at that.” he said quietly. It was amazing how different his voice was, all the rasp gone out of it. It sounded nice now. like anybody’s, not like the voice of someone from another world. This was the sort of voice Philip could understand, but he still held himself in the correct boxing attitude.

“Take it easy, youngster.” the boy said. He grinned. “Say. how old are ya?” he asked.

“I’m nine.” said Philip. “How old are you?”

“Fourteen.”

Philip's hand dropped, and his mouth opened. The boy was not much taller than himself, and certainly looked no older. Premature trouble and not enough proper food had stunted him. But his eyes were fine, and Philip had seen nothing else from the beginning.

“I never thought you were so old.” he said shyly. “I I guess I seem pretty young. I guess-1 better be going,”

The boy looked at him hard. He put out his hand and gripped Philip’s shoulder. He looked at the sled with its dangling rope.

“If ye’ll learn me how to talk like you do, ya kin come along for a bit." he said.

TOY flooded into Philip. Without a word, he turned and picked up the rope, his hands trembling. The two came out onto the road. As they walked, the sled stuck on the pavement, and Dusty, with a friendly cynicism in his eyes, stooped and gathered it up under his arm. They trudged on for a moment in silence. Then Dusty said abruptly: “What'll yer ma say alxmt yer not bein’ at school s'a ft er noon?”

“I've been sick,” said Philip diffidently, “an’ my mother says I'm not well enough to go to school yet. but my father says I’ve got to be toughened. My father wants me to go to public school after Christmas, but my mother wants me to go on having a governess. They had a nawlul quarrel about it this morning.”

It was a long speech, and it was all he could do to keep up with Dustv’s long steps and get his breath at the same time. “I don’t want to go to school,” said Philip. “I’d rather have a job, like you.”

“You get all the schoolin’ ya can!” said Dusty with sudden force. He turned and looked sideways at Philip, his grey eyes dark and intense. “If ya don’t get eddicated.” he said, “ya’ll never be anything.” And then he added, low and soft, half reluctantly: “Like me.”

Philip looked at him in amazement. This was a new idea to him that a boy like Dusty could actually want to go to school, should feel as he obviously did alxmt it. There had been, in Dusty’s voice, an adult bitterness that Philip did not understand. It troubled him. Here was this mystery again, the mystery of the difference in people that no one had been able to explain to him. He looked eagerly into Dusty’s grey eyes, probing for the answer. There was something in Dusty’s expression when he looked at Philip that gave Philip a feeling of being superior, and yet at the same time he felt he was not superior at all.

“Dusty.” he said, “why’n’t you go to school if you want to so much?”

“Gee.” said Dusty, “your sort asks the dumbest quest ions.”

Philip flushed again. He hated the sound of those words, “your sort,” spoken with such contempt. There was something wrong.

They were trudging along rapidly now, Dusty still carrying the sled.

"There’s the store, you wait here,” said Dusty.

He put the sled down on the street opposite a small grocery store. Philip leaner! against a lamp pst, his face thought Ink He Uxiked ac ross at the door of the shop, and as he watched it the lights came on. making it look better. Dusk was creeping down over the city. Dusty’s silhouette presently apparrd against the lighted dixirway. He made a gesture toward Philip, indicating that he was to wait where he was. Philip waited. Dusty disappeared into the narrow lane at the side of the store, and after a minute he returned, dragging a sled with a Ixix attached to it. He pulled the sled into the street, well at the side of the store, out of tinlane of light from the dcxirway, and then he beckoned to Philip to come along over.

When Philip got across tin* street, dragging his own sled. Dusty had finished dumping packages into the box on his own sled. They bulged out at the top. He put the empty lx>x quickly on the little red sled, and said to Philip:

“W ait here. I’ll be back.” Philip stcxxl quietly beside the two sleds. He had never been in a street of this sort before, and he seemed a quaint figure. One or two people passed on the wet pavement, slopping along, looking cold and pale. He watched the feet/ noticing the fact that the shoes were mostly old and dirty, even the women’s. He looked down at his own blue stockings, splashed with mud but still "sissy,” lie contemplated taking them oil. Suddenly he felt a hand on his collar, pulling him backward, and a hand at his

neck, dragging at his scarf. Instinctively he put up his strong little hands and resisted, pulled against the attack. A rough voice said. ‘Wou gimme that scarf!”

Philip could see his assailant now', a big lout, of a lx>y i,, a leather jacket who smelled of sweat and dirt, and Philip hated that even more than the prsonal handling. He was perfectly silent. It never occurred to him to cry out. He simply clung to the scarf, which was almost strangling him. He saw the Ixiy’s hand clenched to strike him and flinched away from it. but unex|x*ctcdly the Ixiy s grip loosened, and Dusty’s voice, in a low fury, vas saying things that Philip did not exactly understand but which sounded comforting. T he marauder backed away from Dusty. He was twice his size, and he made a half-hearted move toward Ph il ip agai n. but. Dust y was on him like a fury. kicking and hitting. T he lx»y put up his hand to shield his face, with a strangely futile gesture. Then he turned and ran off. I )usty turned to Phili]), and pulled the scarf into place. He looked grim, but not particularly excited.

“Dirty bum.” he said. “C’mon, kid, here’s your load.” 1 íe grinned. It was as though he had not just pr formed a feat of heroism. He was prfectly unconcerned; he tk the enormous bag of broken bits of bread, open at the top, that he had dropped when he came to Philip s rescue, and dum|x*d it into the Ixix on the red sled.

"C’mon. let’s get goin’,” he said.

PHILIP was out of breath and his heart beat rather sickeningly, but it seemed up to him not to show anything, so he picked up the rope of his sled and prepared to start. He was in a state of confusion such as he had never experienced before, but one thing he was sure of a warm, almost idiotic, feeling of gratitude and appreciation. Little sparks of happiness went through him in a divinely frxilish flood. He wanted to jump and run about. But Dusty’s face looked tired and sober, as he twisted the rop of his own heavily laden sled around his wrist. They started away, but the door of the store was flung opn and a man’s voice shouted :

“Hey. you!”

Dusty turned around quickly, dropp'd the rop, and ran toward the man standing there. Philip saw his face in the light and noticed that his eyes were frightened.

“Ye good-for-nottin’!”

There was a blow, quite a heavy blow, on Dusty’s ear, and the parcel was thrown at him roughly. The man said: “Once more you forget, and I fire you!"

The door slammed. Slowly. Dusty came back to the sleds, to Philip. His face showed a mark where the blow' had landed. His lips were trembling a little. Philip stared at him in horror. Tears started to his eyes. Dusty walked slowly, soberly, round to the front of the sled, and put the package on top of his own load. In silence, they moved off. Philip could feel the great waves of fear coming from Dusty. He could not bear it. He said :

“Gee, Dusty, why’d you let him hit you?”

The road curved a little and the patch of snow widened, so he pulled his sled abreast of Dusty’s. He looked at Dusty, but Dusty was silent. Philip could see that he was still afraid. But of what? Dusty had proved himself a lion in the face of the thief who had tried to steal Philip’s scarf.

“Gee, Dusty—” he began, but Dusty said gruffly:

“Oh, shut up. That was the boss.” But he said it wearily.

Philip sighed. He was getting a little tired himself. All at once he noticed that it was evening, that the houses had lights in the windows. He would be late for supper. The whole thing, the enormity of his adventure in disobedience, swept over him.

“Does your mother let you stay out after dark?” he said, and knew before the words were out how stupid they were. Wasn’t Dusty fourteen and a man? Dusty was stopping. He pulled his sled in close to the pavement.

“Leave your load in here,” he said. He pointed. Philip saw a forbiddingly darkened doorway, but he took the bag of crusts from his sled and obediently approached it. There was no bell, and Dusty said from the roadway:

“Bang on the door.”

Philip’s mittened hand beat at the door,

and he could hear f(X)tsteps coming, dragging along inside. The door opened and a woman stood there, shielding herself from the cold. She had a thin face, the cheeks fallen in, and grey hair, neatly arranged. She was all bent over, and she wore a shawl over a cotton housedress. There was a candle on the table behind her. It flickered. The woman took the bag of bread from Philip, and peered around him into the street.

“You there, son?” she called in a high, sweet voice.

“Ya, mom; meet the pal, Squeaky.”

Her face lighted up, and she smiled at Philip in an ordinary way, just as though nothing odd was happening.

“Don’t be late, dear,” she called to Dusty. She was smiling at Philip aloofly as she closed the door, still hiding behind it to protect herself from the cold.

Philip came back to Dusty slowly, very slowly. He wanted time. He did not know what he ought to say, and he had been born tactful.

“That’s my mom,” said Dusty, “an’ that’s why I let the boss hit me. I gotta let ’im. I gotta keep my job. It’s all we got to eat with.” He spoke patiently, as though to a child.

“Gee,” said Philip, keeping all feeling out of his voice.

“Ya better beat it now,” said Dusty. He walked to Philip’s sled, and took the box from it a little anxiously. He stooped and dusted the paint with his thin mitten, rubbing at a scratch. When he straightened up again, he was grinning. His grey eyes, with that direct glance, looked right into Philip’s.

“You go on home now,” he said, but this time the command was friendly. He turned away resolutely, as he had done on the hill.

‘‘So long,” said Philip wistfully. He did not follow. He watched Dusty’s progress.

“G’wan.beat it, Squeaky,”called Dusty, and waved.

Philip turned away. The tears came back into his eyes, and he felt ashamed of them. He blinked. He twisted the rope around his wrist as Dusty had done, and started at a jog trot back toward the main street.

IT WAS half-past five when he arrived in front of the porch of the great house. All the way up the drive he had been comparing it with those others. Lights burned brightly from windows, both above and below, outlining it, as though in pride of its size and solidity. Philip dragged his sled to the steps and stopped for a moment, thinking. For the first time in his life, he had done something against parental prohibition without the feeling that it was entirely wrong. That was confusing, and he had to think out what to say about it.

He climbed the steps, dragging the sled, bumping, after him. As he pushed open the door, which had been ajar, Maggie, the maid, came hurrying out of the dining room.

‘‘Master Phil, where have you been?” She looked searchingly at his face and saw that he was tired. She t(x>k his cap, and the mitts he was pulling off.

“Hurry now, yer ma’s cross,” she said, sympathy in her voice.

“Pm sorry Pm late,” he said. Together, hastily, they got his outdoor clothes off.

“Run now and wash yer hands, ready for yer tay,” she said, but before he could get away, John Trevor came out of the living room with a cocktail glass in his hand and said:

“Never mind the hands; come in here, son, we’ve been worrying.”

“I’m sorry, dad,” said Philip.

He followed his father into the room. His mother sat in a low chair before the lire. She wore something that glimmered and had brown fur at the sleeves, and her hands came out of the fur, white, with red nails. She did not notice the tiredness in his thin face and started to upbraid him immediately. She had had a fright about him. Philip sUxxl looking at the rug. Her voice, as always, went through his nerves, unpleasantly. Ending it, she said:

“Well, why don’t you speak? Where were you? We looked everywhere.”

There was a silence.

“You were sliding on the big hill. I know you were,” she said. “With those common boys I see there sometimes.” She spoke as though she expected him to lie about it.

1 íe stiffened. I lis father had gone across to the table where the drinks stexxi. and was not giving him any help.

“Dad,” «lid Philip with desperation in his voice, ‘"please tell her I . . . There were things—oh, it’s no use!”

“Now, Philip, don’t you dare lie to me.” His mother’s voice again, like a great iron wall, t(x> high to climb, ever. Hopelessness, loneliness, flooded him. Tears came to his eyes.

“Answer your mother, son,” said John Trevor gently. He had turned. He saw the tears. I lis voice had gone incredibly soft and understanding. Philip lifted his head. He looked at his mother, straight.

“Yes, 1 did,” he said, and stopped. He wasn’t going to try to explain, it would hurt too much. He had tried many times to explain things to those blue sjx-cks in his mother’s beautiful eyes, and had come away with the same hopelessness.

"How dared you!” she «lid. “You’ve got to be punished.”

She would have continued, but John Trevor said quietly:

“I’ll handle this. Marie.”

He came across to Philip and put his ann around him.

“Time for some hot soup or something,” he said. “We’ll talk it over in the dining room.”

“Just look at his dirty hands,” she said, disgust in her voice.

“Go and wash them, son,” said John Trevor, at the door. Philip ran quickly to the washroom. He gave his hands a quick soaping, and wiped them hastily. The tears had dried. Excitement was in him again, joy of life, and the fun in everything, and the loveliness of being home, and the secure feeling of his father waiting for him in the dining room.

He burst into the nxim.

“Where’s my eggs? Gee, I’m hungry!”

TLTIS FATHER was sitting sideways across the table from him, a cigarette in his fingers, his long legs crossed easily. He looked at Philip searchingly. He had liked the way the boy had obeyed him in answering that accusation about lying. He himself was more resentful about that than Philip. He could see that Philip had had some important boy experience. It was time the boy learned something about life. Up to now he had seemed nothing but a baby, kept so by his mother’s coddling. But lately, there had been a sort of hunger in him, a deep kind of loneliness. He had not known what to do about it, and had thought that public school would be a solution. He recognized in his son a quality which he himself had never had and never needed in his own youth, a desire to understand what makes the human wheels go round in such a diverse fashion. One of Phil’s first questions on the subject had been, “Dad, are you a king?” and the boy had found it difficult to accept his father’s denial. John Trevor had seen the beginnings of social consciousness, a rare kind of social consciousness, germinating. He had wondered, worried about it. It was all so totally different from his own beginnings, which had been cheerfully and unthinkingly and selfishly acceptant of all good things. But Philip had always been the sort of small person who gave away his cake to the butcher boy. John Trevor’s eyes were warm as he watched his son eating his supper.

“You’ll choke if you gulp it down like that,” he said mildly.

Philip grinned at him. He put down the piece of bread and butter he had been wolfing. He looked at it, and the grin faded. He opened his mouth to say something. and flushed. He pushed the bread away with his finger slowly. He looked round at the contents of the table. John Trevor watched him curiously. The boy’s eyes studied it all, the silver, the beautiful china, and above all, the food, the lavishness of the food.

“I guess I’m not hungry any more,” said Philip.

“Nonsense, eat your supper,” said John Trevor, still more mildly.

“I wish,” said Philip, “gee, I wish that Dusty could be here.”

So this is it, thought John Trevor, and «lid:

“Who’s Dusty? A new friend?”

“He’s the swellest guy I know, the bravest,” said Philip, his shining eyes alight. “He’s brave, he’s so brave he practically saved my life, I guess. But he was afraid of the boss.”

He looked at his father with that intent, serious expression that John Trevor felt in his own bkxxi like a call. Here was something that needed attention. And, bygad, he was going to give it ! It was worth a lot of trouble, having a son like Phil.

"Eat your supper,” he said again, to give himself time.

Philip attacked the boiled egg on his plate again, slowly. His father waited until he had eaten it, and drunk some more milk.

“This Dusty,” he said, “where’d you pick him up?”

“On the big hill.” said Philip eagerly,

and stopjxid anxiously. He looked at his father.

“Dad, I know I shouldn’t have disobeyed,” he said. “I—-”

“Go on about Dusty,” said John Trevor. “We’ll tackle the other thing later on.” Philip’s eyes adored him for that. He took some prunes and cream from Maggie, and started eating, absently. It all came out then, the whole story of the adventure, told a little confusedly; but John Trevor was listening carefully, and as it unfolded he leaned forward on his elbows and prompted with well-chosen questions. He looked pleased and excited at the incident of the thief, and when it came to the bag of stale bread his eyes got rather dark and angry looking, but Philip knew he was feeling just as he himself had about the injustice of it.

“So now I'm going to get a job,” said Philip at the end, “like Dusty.”

HTHE TWO pairs of eyes stared into each Aother.

“Well, son.” said John Trevor at last, slowly, carefully, “are you sure you want to have a boss like Dusty’s?”

Philip wriggled. His father was making fun of him.

“Maybe I wouldn’t have to have a boss at all,” he said hopefully-.

“Everyone has a boss,” said John Trevor. “Everyone in the whole world.” He took out his cigarette case, and helped himself very slowly to a smoke.

“But if you go to school, and learn things you ought to know, about the past and about science and about human nature, you’ll be able to become a boss yourself maybe, and the more you know about all those things, the better boss you will make—a good, fair boss, not like Dusty’s, but kind and powerful and just.” He looked at his son’s strong little hand, lying on the table.

“You’ve got gcxxl hands, Phil,” he said, “the hands of a worker. I'm going to See that they have what they need to work with.” His lips set, thinking of the opposition of his wife.

“But Phil,” he said, “in order to work well and earn the right to be a boss yourself, you’ve got to have an education, the right sort of education, in school, with other boys.”

“Gee.” said Philip, his eyes shining, “that’s exactlywhat Dusty said. He said he could never be anything because he couldn’t go to school—I guess because it takes all the money he gets from the boss to eat with, an’ let his mother eat too.” He’s learned something terribly valuable, thought John Trevor. I'm grateful.

“Dusty must he a fine fellow,” he said. “We must see that he gets his chance.” Philip thumped the table with excitement.

“Gee. dad, honest?”

“Honest. A boy like Dusty must not be allowed to waste his brains in an inferior place in the community.” He laughed. “Hey, hey. I'm getting us both too highfalutin,” he said.

The two pairs of eyes met smilingly. “You’re different from Dusty, you know,” said John Trevor, still carefully. “D’you understand the difference?”

“I guess it’s because I’ve got you for a father,” said Philip. He said it quite simply, without affectation. John Trevor felt the slow color come up into his face, from sheer emotion. He had not been so touched by anyhuman wand for many years.

“If you really think that about me. I’m honored,” he said. He felt embarrassed, but Philip was not in the least. There was about him something simple and fine and direct. He was not looking at his father, but at the table again, at the food.

“Let’s take a bag of something awful nice to Dusty’s mom,” he said. “She looked awful hungry-.”