FICTION

you ROLL YOUR O

She knew all about wolves in sheep’s clothing but it was a bit of a shock to fall in love with a man who kept finding an octopus in a trout pool

KALMAN PHILLIPS March 15 1938
FICTION

you ROLL YOUR O

She knew all about wolves in sheep’s clothing but it was a bit of a shock to fall in love with a man who kept finding an octopus in a trout pool

KALMAN PHILLIPS March 15 1938

you ROLL YOUR O

KALMAN PHILLIPS

THE SLOUCHING night was already crouched beneath the trees, reaching out long shadowy lingers to gather in the violet remnants of twilight which still lingered on the lawns rolling away from the thick-beamed wooden verandah. Two birds or they might have been bats—dipped and then swooped up again, swallowed in the sky. Penny thought of Jim Cameron as he must have sat there, puffing on his thick old pi|xi, watching the darkness wrap itself slowly around him. Her lithe young shoulders moved quickly to shake off the sudden deep pain that flashed inside her. This had been her father's retreat his escape from his money and the world the side of him she’d never known. He’d never taken her with him when he’d come up heresaid she’d lxlonely and bored away from her friends. But Penny knew' he’d been secretly afraid she’d bring her world with her and destroy his refuge. Well, it was all hers now, to do with as she liked. But it was just a little bit lonely.

The tall flat-cheeked man sitting on the railing flicked his cigarette into the bushes and oup. He said, “I’ve been wanting to talk to you. Penny. Seriously. This is as good a time as any.”

“What is it?”

“You. What you’re going to do."

Penny shrugged and smiled a little helplessly. “What is there? Live here for a while. Then, maybe, go somewhere else. I’m just fed up with the old round for a little, that’s all. It’s different with dad gone. Everything doesn’t seem just a game any more. Don’t w’orry, Eric. I’ll get along.” “You think you will.” Eric Spalding’s dark eyebrow's drew together slightly. “Penny. I was your father’s doctor. He thought quite a bit of my advice, generally. Do you think you can listen to a little prescribing for yourself?” Penny looked at him. at the hard-muscled face with the keen eyes and narrow capable mouth. She nodded. "I can listen. 1 may even follow it. You’ve held things together for me, straightened me up after dad was gone. 1 won’t forget that.”

“That all w-ent with my job. This doesn’t. This goes with what yours is going to be.” He looked out over the railing and then looked back at her. “You were right a minute ago. Penny. You said life didn’t seem a game. It isn't. You’re going to find that out, now that you’re on your own. You’re young. You’re very attractive. People have always given you things. Get used to the fact that that’s over. You have control over a gtxxl deal of money, and from here out it’s going to be a case of people trying to get things from you. You’re alone and you’re a girl, and the world will think you’re soft. They’ll try to use you, use your softness, to take what they can. Can you be tough, Penny?”

Penny’s lower lip pushed out a little. “My feet are on the ground, Eric. They’re staying there. I am tough.” “Good. If you’ll treat every sheep as though there may be a wolf howling underneath, you won’t get hurt. I’m going down to the village now, put through a few calls to the city, and then get some sleep. I’ll come over in the morning before I leave and help you decide what you want done to fix up the place.”

“Thanks, Eric." Penny smiled at him. “You've been terribly sweet. I really appreciate ” She broke off with a start as something cold touched her hand. She looked down at a tall sleek black dog with a long dignified head, who was at her with austere approval, she having evidently passed the sniffing test.

A figure appeared out of the trees. “Buck! Hey, Buck, you idiot!” He saw them on the verandah, hesitated, and then approached and looked up at them anxiously. "You haven't seen a dog, have you?”

"DENNY looked down. The big animal was resting on his haunches, still regarding her intently. “Well, there's someone here, but he's more ducal than doggy.”

“That's him.” The man. who appeared to he young and lean and a trifle shaggy as to hair, sighed. "Always busting in on people. And you can't teach him manners. The royal prerogative, you know. I named him the Duke of Buckingham in a spirit of whimsy when he was a pup, and the young turnip spends all his time living up to his title.” "Doberman, isn’t he?” Penny patted the regal but receptive head.

The young man nodded. "Hope we didn’t disturb you. I’m your neighbor on the east. Heard you’d taken possession and thought I’d come over and visit. I brought Buck along for tone. He generally dresses me up sort of tophatty effect.” He shook his head sadly. “The duke let me

dowm this time. Anyhow, I’m Peter Gregg, and if you ever want to borrow a cup of sugar—”

“If I might make the suggestion,” Eric interrupted rather coldly, “it might be just as well if you postponed your visit for a bit. Miss Cameron has had a long trip, and the unpacking and everything has left her a little tired. You don’t mind, do you?”

The lean young man grinned. “I get it. Well, no harm in trying. Come on, Buck. It looks like we both sleep in the dog-house tonight.” He turned and sw ung off toward the trees, the Duke of Buckingham stalking majestically behind.

Penny said, “But I’m not a bit tired, Eric.”

“I know.” Eric smiled at her and nodded in the direction in which the man and dog had disappeared. “That was w'hat I meant. One of the sheep w'ho may not be a sheep. You can’t be too careful.”

DENNY was awakened the next morning by the sun. which cut its golden way through the curtains to splash dazzling swaths of yellow' on the walls of her room. An icy shower inadvertently so; the warm water didn’t seem to work erased her drowsiness and tingled her whole body. Breakfast, prepared by grizzled old Joe Davis, the caretaker, and served by his wife.

Hattie, consisted of fruit, cereal, blueberry pancakes.

Joe’s pièce de résistance and the reason that he was cooking the breakfast, and excellent coffee. It was eaten to a symphonic arrangement which seemed to have been especially prepared by the birds of the neighborhood. By the time Eric came over,

Penny was feeling much more cheerful than she had the night before.

They strolled down the rocks to the tiny crystalclear spring in back of the house first. It was filled with the reflection of hills

and sky and sun, and had the cool headiness of champagne. 1 hen they climbed back up the hill, out through the trees, and emerger! into the vivid green fields which undulated smoothly across the countryside. Penny said, “What luck ! This will do fine. Eric.”

“Golf course?"

She nodded. “It’s perfect. It’ll be expensive to lay out. probably, but I 11 have to have something to offer my friends as diversion when they come to visit me.”

“Gtxxl idea. It might get monotonous for vou up here ”

“Whatever on earth is that?” Penny nodded her head in the direction of a huge tarpaulin-covered wagon drawn by two massive white horses, which had emerged from the trees and was making its laborious wav along a crude trail across the fields.

Eric shrugged. "We’d better investigate. Whoever he

is, the fellow'’s obviously trespassing. Come on with me.”

They angled across the field and easily intercepted the slow-moving vehicle. Its driver didn’t seem very concerned. He was a small middle-aged man with a long nose and a brown parchment face from which two small startlingly bright blue eyes looked out inquisitively. He was wearing overalls and an old straw hat, which he lifted at sight of Penny. He looked down from his high seat and said, “Howdy. Nice day.”

“What are you doing here?” Eric demanded brusquely.

The small blue eyes looked surprised. “ 'Pears like you ain’t never learned good manners, young man. Guess I’ll be gettin’ along.”

Eric’s lips tightened. “What do you mean by cutting across these fields? Don’t you know this is private property’?’’

She knew all about wolves in sheep’s clothing but it was a bit of a shock to fall in love with a man who kept finding an octopus in a trout pool

The other blinked, as though what Eric had said was the essence of stupidity. “Shortest way to the railroad. Got t’get my stuff to market.” He slapped the reins on the horses' rumps. “Get up !” he said, and moved placidly past.

Eric looked after him grimly. “You’ll have a lot to contend with,” he said to Penny. “Evidently this place has been going to seed. If you’d like me to stay for a week or so-—”

“Eric!” Penny looked at him reproachfully. “You tell me to stand on my owrf feet, and then you try to hold me up. I expect a little unpleasantness. I can handle things. You just watch me!”

Eric, with a few parting suggestions about the plumbing, left shortly after lunch, and Penny, exhilarated by the fact that for the first time she was not only completely her own master but the master of all she surveyed, set out to survey

it all. She wanted to find the stream her father had always talked about, where the fighting qualities of the trout made man-eating tigers seem like Angora kittens and anything under two pounds was thrown back. Joe Davis pointed out the path to her, and she started into the woods.

HTHE GROUND was springy, carpeted with leaves, and the air had that cool delicious piny smell. Penny breathed deep, swung her arms, and walked fast. She walked fast, that is. until she suddenly discovered she was no longer alone. The Duke of Buckingham was standing in the middle of the path where it rose over a small hillock, looking down at her gravely, his head cocked to one side. Penny said. “Hello, Buck,” cordially, climbed up beside him, and looked around her.

The path sloped down, widening abruptly, and melted

into the mossy banks of a deep brook which galloped and tumbled over rocks, broadening into a racing stream directly beneath her. Near the other side of the stream, hip-booted and thigh-deep in the water, with a basket dangling at his side and a fly-studded felt hat on his head, stood Peter Gregg. He was casting, the long line curling gracefully away from the tip of his fishing rod. Penny watched him reel in. He didn't look nearly so suspicious in the daytime. He was tall and lcx)se-limbed, and he had a nice mouth, though, of course, unscrupulous. He was, after all, what they called poaching or something. She shouted, “Hello, there!”

He looked around with a startled jerk of his head. Then he saw her and grinned a very unshamefaced grin for a poacher. “Hullo. Sleep off that tired feeling?”

Penny thought she’d shelve unpleasant accusations on such a splendid day and nodded. “Having any luck?” “I don't know. It depends on what I'm doing.”

“Don’t you know what you’re doing?”

He shrugged ruefully. “I think I'm fishing. The fish think I’m only out for the exercise. So far they seem to be right. And if it’s exercise I’m after, I’m getting it."

“How do you manage to keep your balance?” Penny demanded curiously. “Aren’t you afraid of stumbling over something?”

He chuckled. “Me? I know every boulder in the bottom of this stream. Fishing here for years, and I haven’t toppled yet. Watch.” He moved toward her with jaunty carelessness. His foot slipped suddenly, the fishing basket swung around, he teetered for one breath-taking moment, and then he fell, backward into the water, with a tremendous splash.

Penny sat down on the bank, laughing helplessly. She couldn’t stop. He looked so completely desolate sitting there, soaking wet, reaching for his drenched hat and his basket. He waded across and climbed up the bank. Penny managed to gasp, “You—you haven’t slipped yet— years ...” and then went off into another spasm.

He rubbed the back of his head. “I didn’t slip. It was— well an octopus pulled me under. The place is full of them.”

“A—a what?”

“Octopus. O for occipital, c for cider—you don’t mean to say you didn’t see him, do you?”

Penny stopped laughing and looked at him gravely. “Of course I saw him. You poor boy. You must be exhausted after your terrific struggle. You're sure you aren’t hurt?” "Just wet.” He sat down next to her, unlaced his lxx>ts, turned them upside down, and poured the water out of them. Then he chuckled suddenly. “That’s what I get. I never could impress people.”

“But you did me. Tremendously. I don’t know when I’ve seen as magnificent a splash.”

‘That’s nothing. You should see me on a springboard. There’s still a dent in the last lake I dived into. If you like, I’ll show you the stomach that did the denting.” He took off his short jacket.

“Oh, I believe you.” Penny hastily assured him. “I even believe the octopus.”

He grinned. “Mere badinage. The jacket’s wet,” he explained. “I only exhibit by request, so you needn't worry. Perfect spot, isn’t it?”

SHE NODDED, looking around at the shafts of sun creeping through the trees and feeling very much at home with this damp but cheerful young man. “Just right. It won’t need much fixing over at all.”

He straightened with an alarmed start. “You -you're going to do something to it? Fix something over?”

“Naturally. It certainly isn’t any good for swimming now."

“But it is. It’s fine. The trout do wonderfully. Why, ask any fish—”

“I lack fins, a little detail you may have overlooked. And my friends have no gills. We need something a little deeper. Something you can dent with your stomach while diving without also denting the bottom with your head. A small dam down below there by those big trees and a little digging will make this into a splendid pool.”

His eyebrows were very worried. “It’ll ruin it. It’ll ruin the fishing. It’ll ruin everything.”

Penny shrugged and firmed her chin. It was just as well to let him know right now that there was no gelatine in her spine. “Ruin it for you, perhaps, but I don't fish. Neither do most of my friends. You’ll just have to find another stream.”

“I see.” He looked at the water in moody reflection for a moment. “You're rather accustomed to having your own way, aren’t you?”

Penny didn’t know whether she exactly liked the way he said that, but she nodded. "In some things.”

His shoulders moved suddenly, resignedly. “Okay. I don’t suppose it's your fault, anyway. Money and stuff like that—I imagine it does make a difference.” He turned to her, and he was smiling. “Have your dam, and I won’t give one. What’s a few mere speckled four-pounders between neighbors? What are you doing tomorrow?”

“I haven’t thought about that yet. Been too busy with today.” Continued on page 38

Continued from page. 13—Starts on page 12 -

“Lunch with me?”

Penny’s eyebrows went up. “You mean there’s a civilized eating place within twenty miles?”

He shook his head. "Not exactly civilized. My place.”

“Etchings?”

“Just scenery. I’ll come and get you. Will you come?”

Penny looked at him. She liked the tiny wrinkles at the comer of his eyes which deepened when he smiled. And she was a little bit curious about him. He seemed to belong in the country but not to the country, and she wanted to know how he lived. “All right,” she said, “if you don’t mind my bringing a bar of chocolate along, just in case.”

PETER GREGG lived in a small, sturdily built shack on the side of the hill overlooking the valley. The chocolate proved to be unnecessary. Lunch, prepared by himself, consisted of broiled brook trout, the result, as he explained, of an early morning foraging expedition, and the unusual combination for her of Brussels sprouts and chestnuts. The trout was delicious and the blend of sprouts and chestnuts excellent. Afterward they sat on the porch while Peter Gregg smoked his pipe and Penny looked down over the patchwork fields, garnished with thick groves of trees. “Like it here?” he demanded.

She nodded. ‘Though I suppose I’d have gone hungry if you hadn’t had any luck this morning. Just what do you do? You can’t exist entirely on fish, can you?” “I draw.”

“Interest on bonds?”

“Pictures.”

Penny observed him carefully. He didn’t look like an artist. He didn’t even look like an artist that doesn’t look like an artist. She said, “Landscapes?”

“Animated cartoons. Gertrude the Goose.. You may have seen her. My origination. I take a three-month vacation from the horrors of Hollywood every year and come up here.”

“Oh.” Penny was undecided whether or not to be impressed. She had seen Gertrude the Goose once, liked her. but she had imagined her creator as a rolypoly sort of person with a button nose, and Peter Gregg was neither rolypoly nor buttonnosed. “Have you any of your pictures here?”

“I’m always prepared to meet my public.” He brought out a folio filled with Gertrude the Goose, with every conceivable expression on her face. Penny examined it while he explained something of all the work that went into the making of an animated cartoon. Then they walked dowm through the fields and the trees to the brook. He sat down on the bank, took off his shoes and stockings, and rolled his trousers up above his knees.

“What on earth do you think you’re doing?” she demanded.

“Redeeming myself. Showing you that last time was only an accident. Are you a girl of little faith?”

“Big faith. Little confidence.”

“Have no fear. If my name were Stephen, people would call me Sure-footed Steve.” He lifted her in his arms and stepped into the stream. Halfway across he looked down at her and grinned. “See?” he said. Then his foot slid off a rock, he lurched wildly, and Penny felt the shock of the cool water as his feet shot out from under him. She arose, gasping. He was sitting in the brook, only his head above water, looking at her blankly.

“Another octopus?” she managed, pushing her hair away from her eyes.

“Accident,” he said. “Pure accident. Never happen again in a thousand years. Come back, and we’ll try it again.”

“No!” Penny said it vehemently, but she was laughing as she climbed up the bank. They made their dripping way to her house together. Penny was wet, but she discovered she didn’t mind being wet. It was fun being wet. Somehow, on the way back, he was calling her Penny and she was calling him Peter, and it seemed as though they had been doing it for years.

HE CALLED her Penny and she called him Peter very often during the next few weeks. They explored the countryside together on two decrepit horses Peter had dug up in the village, berry-picked in the approved berry-picking manner, scratching themselves with thorns but filling up two big pails, discovered that neither of them knew anything about birds but that both of them liked to watch them, and Peter painted a landscape, a really good landscape, just to show Penny he could do it. They also watched the sun go down while the fireflies danced, woke up early to watch it come up, and one night under Continued on page 41

Continued from page 38 the stars on the hill they watched the moon rise and set, and Penny wondered why Peter didn’t try to kiss her, and wondered even more what she’d do if he did.

She’d written to Eric about the pool and the dam, and, with his customary efficiency, he'd seen to things. A crew of men had been engaged from a near-by town, and work was progressing very rapidly, the concrete wall being already completed, and the deepening well under way. Eric came up himself that week-end, bringing with him a group of men to start work on the golf course. He was delighted to find that she wasn’t bored with the place yet, until she told him about Peter Gregg.

He frowned. “You’re quite sure you’re not making a fool of yourself, Penny?” Penny lifted her eyebrows. “No more than usual. What do you mean?”

“This Gregg fellow. You really know nothing about him, do you?”

“Peter? Well, he detests sardines and subways and seems to like me. What more is there?”

“Seriously, Penny.”

“Well—no, I suppose not. But you can’t expect me to be wary of everyone, Eric. Besides, he hasn’t asked for a thing yet.”

“Yet,” Eric emphasized. “Eyes still open, my dear?”

“Wide open.’’

“Feet still on the ground?”

Penny nodded. “Maybe you’re right, Eric. Maybe I was dreaming a little. You’ve fixed that, though. You certainly bring a person down to earth. En garde it is, then, and the devil take the hindmost.” Eric smiled approvingly. “Remember that, and he’ll never take you.” He stood up. “I’ll be running along. But Penny—” “Yes, Eric?”

“If you’re ever tired of fighting alone.. Penny looked at the blazing logs crackling in the fireplace. She knew what he meant. She’d known it for a long time, and she’d often wondered what she’d do. But she didn’t do anything. She said, “Thank you, Eric.”

“Good-by, Penny.” The door closed quietly behind him.

Penny stared into the fire thoughtfully. Eric was everything she should have, she supposed. But she couldn’t dream with Eric. He thought carefree, unthinking, impulsive things ridiculous. And he was right, of course. Only . . . Penny shook her head impatiently, called herself a fool, and went to bed.

SHE SPENT a restless day the Monday after Eric had left. Work on the golf course had started, and she walked down to see that. Then she walked over to inspect the pool, which was practically finished and looked very inviting. After that she read a little, but was impatient with what she was reading and soon put it down. She was wondering what had happened to Peter Gregg. He had run down to the city for the week-end, she knew, to see about some contracts. But he should have been back long before this, and she was a little irritated by the fact that he hadn’t come over to see her.

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It was after dinner, and she was sitting on the porch in the gathering twilight, when the stately form of the Duke of Buckingham appeared out of the trees, to be followed shortly afterward by Peter Gregg. Penny greeted him rather coldly, but he didn’t seem to notice. His customary lightheartedness was conspicuously absent, and there was a disturbed line between his eyebrows. He sat down in the chair next to hers and lit his pipe slowly. She asked him how his trip was. and he said it was all right. Then he asked her how her week-end was, and she said it was all right. Then he turned to her suddenly.

“Penny, what is all this?”

She stared at him, surprised at his intensity. “What is all what?”

“This golf-course business. Why are you so insistent on ruining this place? Y'ou’re taking all the natural beauty out of it and turning it into an amusement park.” Penny sat up straight in her chair, bridling. “I’m sorry if you don’t like it. Peter. I do.’

“It isn’t a question of me liking it. What about the farmers around here?”

“Well, what about them?”

“I was speaking to Henry Johnson this afternoon. He has the farm next to my place and he came over to see me. He’s worried. He said he was trying to take a wagonload of stuff to the railroad today when he was stopped by some men who told him he couldn’t cross your fields. He has to cross your fields. All the farmers in this neighborhood have to. They’d have to travel about six miles to find another passable way to the railroad.”

Penny thought about what Eric had told her and stiffened. “I’m sorry. You certainly can’t expect me to have a cart road running across a golf course and have my friends play around hay wagons as hazards, can you?”

“I don’t. Junk the golf course.” “You’re being ridiculous, Peter.” “Penny, listen. Golf is only a game. You’re interfering with the way these men make their living. Can’t you see there are different values to these things?”

“I can see that you’re trying to bully me into doing something I don’t want to do. It’s no use. Peter.”

He stood up, his chin setting grimly. “Y'ou mean you won’t have the ordinary everyday common civility to let these farmers cross your fields just because your friends want to bat little white balls around with sticks?”

Penny flushed. “I mean I’m not the jellyfish you evidently think I am. This is my property to do with as I like, and I like what I’m doing with it.”

The muscles at the base of his jaws tightened. “All right !” he said. “If that’s the way you want it, that’s the way you’re going to get it. Good night!” He strode off the porch, the duke at his side, and Penny had the curious feeling that he had slammed a door behind him, though there was no door to slam. But the indignation seething inside her was an unhappy indignation. somehow, and it was tinged with uneasiness. There was something in the set of his shoulders as he swung off toward the trees which gave the impression that the matter might be closed as far as she was concerned, but it wasn’t closed as far as he was concerned.

HER UNEASINESS proved well founded. There was a dull boom the next morning as she was breakfasting and, while Joe Davis was of the opinion that it was merely blasting from a near-by quarry, Penny thought it had come from the direction of the pool. She finished her coffee hurriedly and went out to investigate.

Penny stopped with a horrified gasp when she reached the end of the path. Peter Gregg was sitting at the other side of the stream, his shoulders propped up against a tree, calmly smoking a pipe. But he hadn’t provoked the gasp. It was what lay between them. The stream no longer swirled into peaceful calm under the restraining influence of the dam. It was a Continued on page 43

Continued from page 41 mad thing once again sweeping swiftly past, skirting boulders and bouncing frivolously over rocks. Down below, by the trees, the water poured joyously through a huge gap in the concrete wall, chuckling gleefully over its regained freedom. Penny stared at it, utterly dumfounded.

Peter Gregg looked across at her. “Good morning,” he said.

Penny turned slowly and surveyed him, a pulse pounding in her temples. “You— you did it. You blew up my dam. You did this stupid, spiteful—”

“Not spiteful.” His voice was cool, and her anger seemed to meet his somewhere above the middle of the stream. “It was just that you didn’t deserve the pool.” “Didn’t deserve it!” Penny blazed at him. “Who are you to tell me what I deserve? What right have you to destroy my things?”

“More right than you have to come down here and ruin things for the farmers who’ve lived on this land all their lives.”

“I—I’ll have you arrested !” Penny was so mad she was trembling. “I will! I’ll have you thrown into jail!”

“Oh, no you won’t. You can’t. As a matter of fact, I might do as much for you, if I cared to.”

Penny laughed a bitter derisive laugh. “What for? Passing a red light?” “Trespassing.”

“On my own land?”

“It’s not your land.” He stood up and knocked out his pipe. There was an unhappy furrow in his forehead. “Dam it, Penny, it you snap at the world, it’s not going to roll over and play dead. It’s going to snap right back. Life always has been a struggle, but it isn’t a war unless you make it one, and you’re making it one. The people up here were all ready to like you when you came up. And you’d be surprised how pleasant they could make things for you if you’d let them. But you never gave them a chance. You were suspicious of them, and that made them suspicious of you. How about an armistice?”

“After this?” Penny indicated the dam with a furious flick of her hand. “After you blow up my pool?”

“I didn’t blow up your pool. I just untied the noose that was choking my stream. You see, it is my stream.”

“But—but it isn’t.” Penny stared at him. “It can’t be. Dad always told me about it. He’s been fishing here for at least five years.”

PETER GREGG looked down at the ground. “Jim Cameron was my friend. He could have had anything I had. You were his daughter, and that went for you too. That was why I was going to let you have your pool. Jim talked about you often, and I felt as though it were my job to see that you were happy. He always said I wouldn’t like you, though.” He laughed shortly. “Funny, that, isn’t it?” Something caught in Penny’s throat. “Dad said that?”

He nodded. “I think he was a little bit afraid of you, in a way. Too much finishing school. Said I’d have sense enough to keep away from you. But he was wrong.” Peter Gregg looked away, into the trees. “You see, I’m a fool. I fell in love with you.”

“You—you what?”

“I love you. Go ahead. Laugh. I don’t show it, do I? Taking away your toys. But I do.”

Penny wanted to speak, but there was a choking fullness in her throat. The anger in her was all gone, driven out by a vibrant pulsing warmth. The sun streamed through the trees in bright full-bodied friendly shafts and melted all the resisting stiffness out of her. She said, “Peter.”

He turned. “It’s all right. I’m going away next week. I won’t bother you.” “You don’t bother me.” There was a surging something in her, right down to her toes. “I—I’ve been such a fool ! Peter, if I met the world halfway, do you think it would move its half?”

He nodded, puzzled.

Penny kicked off her shoes. She stepped down and gingerly waded into the brook. In the middle she stopped and looked at him. “I’m waiting, Peter.”

The pucker in his forehead deepened, and he hesitated.

She said, “Must I go all the way, then?” He stepped into the stream.

Penny moved close to him. “You’re my world, Peter. I love you.” Then his cool clean mouth on hers made her forget the stream. Her foot skidded suddenly, she stumbled, clung to him, and they both went down together. He pulled her up, laughing and wet.

“Slip?” he demanded.

“Don’t be silly.” Penny smiled up into his eyes. “The octopus got me too.” Then he kissed her again, and the brook, skirling past, gurgled blithe approval and lifted its spray-tipped nose aloofly as it galloped over the remnants of the dam.