ORANGE and GREEN
THE relationship between joel Paine and his sister Katy had never been an ordinary one;
if it had been, few of the events which crowded themselves into that eventful day just before Commencement at Cranford would have occurred. Those seconds, while Katy approached him across the Cranford station platform, probably had more to do with the forming of Joel's future, and Katy’s, than any other single thing since he was born. Had he made any other decision than th • one he did make —but it b necessary to go far back into the life of Joel Paine, hundreds of miles from the gaiety and culture of the old town of Cranford, to Higgins Crossing, to understand.
Joel was eight years old when his mother died and left them orphans, and hb mother's last words were an acknowledgment of his promise to take care of Katy. \\ hen the house« at Higgins Crossing was sold and the two children were driven across to their uncle’s farm to live, it was Joe! who held Katy in his arms until she fell asleep, exhausted from her crying at the hurricane of events she did not understand, at the incomprehensible fact that she wanted her mother and her mother did not come. For weeks he undressed her and put her to bed himself, lay beside her on the outside of the patchwork coverlet of her cot in the sharp coldness of the upstairs bedroom, looking up at the shadowy beamed ceiling and ing and telling her stories until she feíi asleep.
He was nineteen when he set forth alone for the East and Cranford University, and the singleness of his purpose, the intensity of his desire to become a lawyer, was so gTeat. that he never, even after four years at the university. realized how astonishing it was that Cranford should have taken him in as it did.
In the high school at Higgins Crossing he had heard of the various leading universities of Canada, but it was the passing-through of a famous lawyer, a graduate of Cranford and a gentleman such as Joel had never before seen, which decided him. It was by way of paving the road for his future political activities that Henry Arthur Bums was so cordial to every little overalled boy who gaped, open mouthed, at him, but .Joel didn’t know that. He knew only that this man was different from anyone he had ever known, and that he wanted to be like him. wanted a husband like him for Katy. From him, Joei learned that of all 'he universities, Cranford was perhaps the most aristocratic; it counted among its graduates as great a percentage of eminent Canadians as any other—more, in proportion to its size. Wealth, family, intellect; all three were highly represented, and even at fourteen, in Higgins Crossing, Joel knew that he wanted all three for himself and for Katy.
IT SEEMS highly unreasonable that a boy of uncultured farmer stock, completely unsophisticated, thoroughly ignorant of all the niceties and accomplishments of living,
could come to a university' such as Cranford and merge with the riling set. Joel appeared, simple, quiet-mannered, as thoroughly in need of the volume on etiquette which a facetious fellow freshman gave him as anyone can be. and spent his first Eastern Christmas at the palatial Schuyler home, in Midlands.
Perhaps his instinctive amusement at the etiquette
book which Hedge Hoyt had given him will help in explaining Joel Paine. He realized fully that between its covers were many things he did not know and should know—just as he realized that they were not to be learned by rote. The descriptions of the sufferings of the uninitiated upon using the wrong fork at dinner entertained him as much as they entertained Nicholas Schuyler, some six months later, when he picked up the book in Joel’s
room and asked about it. There lay the keynote, perhaps, to Joel’s unsought social success. Never once did it occur to him to be embarrassed when the contrast between the amenities at Higgins Crossing and Cranford became apparent. After all, he came from Higgins Crossing. And what of it? If he planned to make his home in the East, he would doubtless learn Eastern ways—and he did. He probably embarrassed the servants at the Schuyler household less than many another guest; the fact that he had not the slightest sensitiveness about the things that were new to him, raised him, in their eyes and their master’s, to a position above silly criticisms. He was Joel Paine from Higgins Crossing, and it was the University, and not he, which changed him so quickly to Joel Paine of Cranford.
The friendship between him and Nicholas Schuyler began early in their freshman year. They were all of them more or less strangers, and somehow Joel was included in Nick’s invitation to “come on over to the Cran.” The party spirit mounted; conversation gave way to singing and stunts.
‘ We will now,” announced Nick suddenly, “hear from our comrade from Higgins Crossing, on the prair-ees! Brother Paine, will you grant us a few words on the beauties of your native habitat?”
Joel rose slowly, his brown eyes grave before Schuyler’s dancing blue ones. He had had none of the social training of prep-schools, which lay behind these other boys, banding them together; he had never, in fact, been before in a group of young men of his own age. He hesitated for a moment, wondering what was expected of him, and then, because he did not know, he began literally to talk of Higgins Crossing.
But what a talk!
The superintendent of schools in Higgins Crossing was
old Judge Higgins, just as he was selectman, notary, lawyer, and owner of the nearest approach to a department store which the town boasted. He was not, and never had been, a judge, but the combination of his venerable figure and his local importance, had long ago made a title of some sort a necessity. Higgins Crossing did not run to colonels. The Judge, finding little opportunity for exercising that silver tongue which had started him on his career, had opened a course in elocution at the high school; the frame building shook as his voice and gestures held classes spellbound. Automobiles, tractors, telephones, other symbols of the modern world had reached Higgins Crossing, but the oratory of Judge Haliburton’s day still ruled, ripened and seasoned, even, by the years that had passed since that worthy gentleman held forth. The rockribbed coasts of Cape Breton, and the sunny shores of British Columbia were mentioned upon the slightest provocation, and as Joel stood up, facing Nick Schuyler, and letting out his voice, phrase after phrase came back to him, with all their accompaniments of gesture and intonation.
THE group was rocking with laughter after the second minute of it; Joel continued and Nick Schuyler fell to the floor, and rolled, kicking his heels in the air hysterically. Joel, grave, quiet, went on; as he realized, how humorous the Judge really was, he accepted the realization with that adaptability which made him what he eventually became. His mind raced back over nineteen years of Dominion Days and Twenty-fourthofMays and plucked whole sentences from memory. At the end of the oration, Joel Paine was firmly established in the heart of Nicholas Schuyler.
This story is really about Katy, so we must not continue with the details of Joel’s progress at Cranford. It is necessary only to know, briefly, that at the end of his freshman year, he had more friends than any other man in the university; when his sophomore year was completed, he had won the contest and been appointed assistant business manager of the University paper and caught the attention of professors and faculty; in his junior year, he made good his promises and chose, from the various clubs he was invited to Join, the most exclusive and envied club of all; and in his senior year, several Toronto and Montreal law firms were casting their eyes occasionally in his direction.
Everyone who knew Joel knew Katy. At first they could hardly believe that it was to a sister that he wrote that daily bulky letter; that the equally bulky letters which came each day to Cranford were not from the most faithful of sweethearts. Snapshots showed the change, from a long-legged, flying-haired girl of fourteen, to a lovely, clear-eyed young person of eighteen. And from Cranford to Higgins Crossing, by way of his Majesty’s mails, Joel continued his bringing up of Katy. A few days after the sending of a large box from the local stationery store, her letters ceased appearing in pale pink envelopes and came on heavy gray paper such as Nick Schuyler s mother might have used; photographs of her showed becoming garments obviously not. purchased at Judge Higgins’ emporium. Joel was beginning to study the girls who came to Cranford proms, and to worry about Katy.
He had wanted to bring her to Cranford in his junior year, but the trip was expensive and there was his education to consider, first, of all. Once he was established as a lawyer, supported by t he connections he had made at the university, Katy’s future was, he felt, secure. The salary which he received as business manager of the t ranford paper had been banked in her name, and now. the week before Commencement, Katy was on her way to join him
Und possibly remain in the East—it might be for ever. He had all the impatience of a lover in those days after Katy had boarded the local train at Higgins Crossing, on the first step of her journey east. It was four long years since he had seen her, and in that time, Joel had learned many things about girls. If a girl fell flat, it was almost irrevocable. Too many times had he seen young women, much press-agented before their arrival at Cranford, call forth a downward twist of every masculine thumb in the university. He had learned, too, that a man was frequently accepted in social circles to which his sisters were uninvited; there were several examples of that among the students whose families were Cranford people. The Schuyler butler, silent social spokesman for the Schuyler family, had accepted him without question. But would fee accept Katy?
Í Joel worried exceedingly, during those days while he prepared Katy’s room at the Cranford Inn. Things that had disturbed him not at all, in his own first years at Cranford, loomed up, large and important, in connection .with Katy. Unconsciously, little streams of acquired snobbery crept forth; he found himself wondering about Katy’s table manners, her voice, her general appearance.
All his friends helped enthusiastically in decorating the little room overlooking the campus; Alice Schuyler, Nick’s older sister, appeared with her car loaded with cushions and knick-knacks; when Redge Hoyt brought his offering of a sofa-pillow of felt, loud and out of keeping with the rest of the room, in its woven strips of the Cranford colors, orange and green, he concealed it behind Alice’s rose colored cushions.
ON THE day before Katy’s arrival, Alice appeared with a basket of flowers.
“I do hope that Katy isn’t going to be too tired after the trip,” she said, as she set about the vases, smiling at Joel as she worked. “There’ll be just time for her to wash and l'est a minute before Nick’s tea. Then dinner at our house and the dance.” Her clear gray eyes shone suddenly. “Gosh, Joel, wait ’til you see the head-dress Mother got for me yesterday. It’s going to knock ’em cold!” Her cheeks seemed to warm, in anticipation of the decoration. “A silver band with little bunches of grapes—pearls—at the sides. There’s always such a mob at these dances that I like to have something distinctive so’s my friends can find me.”
“I don’t think you need to worry about that,” Joel
returned, smiling. He liked to see the calm, composed Alice grow enthusiastic over such things as head dresses. Their friendship had progressed in leaps over the details of Katy’s arrival.
What fun it was going to be to buy things like that for Katy! And again, mingled with his pleasure, he bad a slight feeling of chill. He did want Alice to like Katy, to approve of her. Sometimes they seemed so widely separated, Higgins Crossing—and Midlands!
Nick was unable to go with him to the station to meet Katy—the tea which was to take place at their club was filling all his time and Alice’s—and an hour before the train was due, Joel left his room, and started across the campus toward the main street of Cranford.
The entire town was decorated for Commencement: over the broad square of lawn before Valentine Hall, the oldest and most lovely of the buildings on the campus, Japanese lanterns had already been strung; the grass was almost hidden by the crowds of students and girls in bright’y colored frocks and hats.
Members of the graduating class escorted knots of people from, building to building; the shops along the main street were hung with bunting, flanked by a polished line of parked motors. Joel walked along, nodding and speaking to acquaintances, excitement hot in his heart. Graduation—and the beginning of life for Katy! He had the entire week so carefully planned, from the moment she set foot on the platform.. No girl in Canada was to have such a week; no other girl at Cranford would go to so many of the “best” parties, meet so many of the leading people.
The sun was doing its work, casting a golden radiance over the old town, and refraining with admirable tact and skill from becoming too hot; the breeze was tempered exactly to flutter ribbons and skirts, to make the heavily leaved trees sway and the lanterns and flags glimmer in the light, without being strong enough to disarrange coiffures or whisk off hats. Even the long line of shops, meat-markets, hardware stores, cigar shops, haberdasheries, seemed lovely; their windows gleamed from washing, their displays were arranged temptingly. The souvenir stores, with their riot of pennants, pillows and knickknacks, everything from handkerchiefs and silk stockings to letter-paper and grotesque dolls, in the Cranford orange and green, were gay, rather than cheap, to-day. The world was at its best for Katy, and she was ariiving in half an hour!
The station platform was already packed with students ; the road was banked with cars; voices rose higher and more high, and Joel felt that he could scarcely contain his excitement. He strolled across to where Redge Hoyt and Billy Sandford stood waiting, and stopped to talk with them.
When the first whistle of the engine shot through the chorus of human sounds, a red flush swept over Joel’s face; the crowd surged nearer the edge of the platform; as the winding smoke, and then the stubby black front of the engine, wobbling importantly from side to side, came into sight about the curve, voices died down.
HE STOOD at the centre of the platform, looking eagerly from one direction to another for the sight of her. Everywhere about him groups were merging; elderly women, exquisitely frocked, with marcelled hair waving up smoothly beneath gleaming hats; elderly gentlemen, trying not to show too much their pleasure and excitement at the occasion; girls, dozens of them—it seemed to Joel that they were all pretty, all charming! And the whole scene was so nice. It seemed as though the great god of Things Smart and Correct were hovering over the concrete platform, beamingi There was nothing cheap, nothing tawdry, and he felt a first snobbish puli at his heart at the inviolate correctness of Cranford, the good taste—yes, the aristocracy of it!
He turned abruptly, at a groan from Redge Hoyt. “Gawd!” said Redge. “Look at it!”
Joel looked. It was stepping from the last car, small and slight, peering about like a bird—and a bird of such plumage as would have caused revolution in the most tropic of jungles.
“Orange and green!” continued Redge, in an agonized, hollow mirth. “Rah for Cranford! Z-z-z-z-z! Gawd, who d’you s’pose it belongs to?”
Joel did not answer; he could not move his eyes from the girl who, still looking for someone, approached them. Her skirt was a soft, pleated affair of orange silk, that clear, screaming orange at Cranford, and a silk sweater of emerald green covered the white blouse above it. Dark curling hair was dipping and blowing beneath a floppy hat of green straw, a hat that was sprawling with unnatural orange poppies. A handbag, striped of the Cranford colors, dangled from a slim bare wrist; the other hand hung straight down, a tight line from the drooping
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Orange and Green
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shoulder, beneath the weight of the large, black travelling bag Joel had sent her just a week before.
In his agony, Joel did not hear Redge’s continued mumbling. It was only a few seconds before Katy recognized him, dropped her bag, and started in a run for his arms, but in those few seconds, emotions made a world’s speed record in Joel Paine’s soul. The first instinct to flee, to hop on the last car of the already moving train and go on with it, was only an illusory thing. He knew he could not do that. Rage, shame, humiliation, disgust, bitterness—a. whole thesaurus of abstractions followed one after the other, until the truth, the essence of the occasion, came through to his understanding. No. one but a cad could blame her for it. Higgins Crossing! How could Katy have known? How could he have neglected to tell her?
The raucous laughter of a cluster of undergraduates behind him brought him up sharp. Little beasts! Little snobs! Couldn’t they understand what it meant? Couldn’t they see that it was a compliment, sincere, unsophisticated; a compliment to him and to the university from a mind so simple as not to understand these purely arbitrary matters of taste, of the Things that are Done? He turned and glared at the students, started toward Katy. Whatever happened, on this day which now loomed ahead so endlessly, Katy must never know! And she wouldn’t if he could help it. Little Katy!
“Joel! Oh, Joel!”
The oval face beneath the awful, flopping hat was suddenly streaked with tears that glistened and trembled in her joy at seeing him. Her little mouth—he
had forgotten how little and pretty it was —was quivering; the large brown eyes held adoration.
HE FOLDED her in his arms, and at the remembrance of all the other times he had held her so—the long drive to Uncle Warren’s after the house had been sold, the countless nights in that cold attic bedroom, the occasions of hundreds of little tragedies of broken dolls and chloroformed kittens—the snickers of the correct Cranford crowd were brushed into unreality.
She disentangled herself from him and stood, her eyes wide with happiness.
“Oh, Joel, how handsome you’ve grown! How wonderful!” Her lips parted and he could see her breast rising and falling beneath the vivid sweater. “Everyone’s looking at us, darling. But I couldn’t help it—I was so glad to see you. Oh, Joel—four whole years!” Tears began to stream from her eyes again, and Joel felt that his own eyes were moist.
He picked up her bag, set back his shoulders defiantly.
“You look lovely, dear,” he told her gently. “I think it was dear of you—to. . ” Her face brightened. “It was all right, wasn’t it? For a minute I wasn’t sure. In the Union station, the conductor was so funny when he asked if I was going to Cranford. And people sort of looked at me. But it’s your college, Joel, and— “You’re lovely,” Joel insisted, and as he led her to a taxi and helped her inside, his mind, smartingly conscious of eyes following them, leaped on ahead like a scout. What was he going to do with her? What could he do to shelter her from the ruthlessness of the young crowd which was overflowing Cranford? There was no hiding her, nothing to do but to keep her so occupied that she would not notice. Regretfully—not for himself but for her— he checked off Nick Schuyler’s tea. He did not doubt that Nick would be tactful, kind; he knew that Alice, aftef her first shock of horror, would do her best to help, but there were some things one did not demand of friends. The presence of Katy, in her grotesque costume, would be almost a sacrilege at that most correct of correct clubs; he could imagine Webb, the old Negro who had served there for twenty years, rolling his eyes.
His heart sank. He was glad that it was only a short time before they could leave Cranford forever. Alice and Nick would be friendly to Katy, but never in the world could they understand such a breach of all that they had been brought up to consider good taste. They knew things instinctively; they did not have the painful years of learning. And he had hoped that Nick especially would like Katy, that he might rush her a bit, might....
“I haven’t got any clothes,” Katy was babbling, her fingers twining about his hand as she talked. “I thought I’d wait and get ’em here in the East where you could pick ’em out. There’s just my old blue jersey and an evening dress in my bag. Miss Simms and I made this suit-— at least I got the sweater and hat at Judge Higgins.’ Isn’t the hat pretty?”
Joel nodded, and was suddenly amazed by the realization that it was pretty. That soft straw, dipping about her little face, the flowers, creeping over the wide brim....
“Oh, it’s lovely, lovely, lovely, here!” Katy was murmuring. “Oh, Joel, I’m so proud of you! And you’re going to be a lawyer now and—honest, Joel, I don’t always babble like this! But I’m so glad to see you and everything’s so wonderful that—oh, Joel!”
THEY had reached Valentine Hall and the campus. If it had been crowded before, it was as nothing to the swarms that moved slowly, kaleidoscopically, over the velvet grass, now.
“We’ll put your bag in your room and let you wash and then we’ll come down here,” Joel said.
Katy’s chatter made up for his silence while these preliminaries were accomplished; in her room he tried to bring himself to the point of suggesting that she change into the old blue jersey, but somehow he couldn’t. She was so proud of the new dress, the Cranford dress! He drew a long breath as he preceded her to the street, let her hook her arm through his as they started toward the campus.
Somehow he kept the color low in his face; with the determination of a man counting sheep in their transit over a fence, to woo sleep, he kept his thoughts
rigidly on Katy, the little sister who obeyed him so faithfully, who was blossoming so exquisitely beneath his own guidance.
It seemed incredible to him that she was still unconscious of the glances directed toward them, of the badly suppressed giggles, the low-voiced exclamations of the undergraduate puppies. But it was all so new to her, so strange and wonderful, that she had no place for thoughts of herself; as Joel bowed to person after person, she bristled with pride in him.
He had thought that they would be lost in the crowd outside Valentine Hall. He was telling Katy something of its history, and she was standing a little apart from him, her eyes round as they consumed the beauty of the old yellow brick building, and the network of lanterns that swung between the elms, when Alice Schuyler reached out from the crowd and caught his hand.
“Come on over early, Joel,” she said. “We’ll need your help. Nick’s got an awful gang coming. Oh—where’s Katy?”
He watched her, tall and slender, perfectly poised, a picture of all that breeding and money can do for a young woman, as her eyes drifted past him to his sister. It seemed to Joel that a little shiver of distaste ran from the soft feathers of her gray hat, down the length of the exquisite gray frock to the suede slippers with their cut-steel buckles.
“Katy, dear,” said Joel, and he wondered that she did not notice the dryness of his voice, “this is Alice Schuyler of whom you’ve heard me speak. Nick’s sister.”
Katy turned radiantly towards them, and in that instant, Joel saw a strange thing happen. He was looking at Alice Schuyler, at the delicately chiselled, rather classic face, at the fair hair beneath her feather hat, and he saw her expression soften as he had never before seen it, saw a kind of mist come over her too-clear gray eyes, a new curve to her firm mouth. She held out a long gloved hand and Katy’s bare one slipped into it.
“I’m so glad to meet you, Katy Paine,” she was saying in that cool voice of hers. “Joel has told us so much about you. We’re going to see a lot of each other, you know.”
AND Joel, turning back to Katy, away ■ from the kindness of his friend, saw the radiance ebb from her flushed face, saw the entire melting process that had taken place in Alice Schuyler reversed in his little sister’s countenance. There was a catch in her voice, an embarrassed shrillness, as she spoke to Alice Schuyler; her eyes avoided Joel’s; her hands dropped awkwardly to her sides.
Joel looked at Alice, agonized.
“Isn’t it all pretty and gay?” Alice was making conversation. “All the lanterns and frocks...”
“Yes,” interrupted Katy, flatly.
“We’ve got to be going.” Joel had tucked Katy’s limp arm through his and she started to follow obediently.
“Oh, no!" said Alice. “Please, Joel . ...” She looked at him imploringly. “Please wait here. There’s something I’ve got to do—I’ll be back in a minute. Please. ...” She darted, a suggestion of panic in her manner, through a rift in the crowd.
Joel and Katy stood silent.
“She’s very pretty,” said Katy finally, in that dull voice that had supplanted her gaiety. “Distinguished.” Her sombre eyes raked the crowd about them, pausing at one feminine figure after another.
They did not. look at one another. Joel did not understand how Katy had learned, but he knew that he could not meet her eyes. Why hadn’t he explained to her before—gently, affectionately? Why hadn’t he made her change to the blue jersey? It would have hurt; but it would have hurt less than this. She would never forgive him. And....
“There you are!”
It was Nick Schuyler’s voice, gay, joyous, lovable.
Katy looked up and saw him. the man who stood beside her brother in that snapshot she had had framed and hung beside her mirror at Higgins Crossing, the man who symbolized to her all that Cranford should have meant to them both. He was not so tall as Joel, and more slenderly built; he was blond to an extreme, only where his sister’s fairness was crisp and shining, his was lustrous like sunlight; fair hair with honey-colored shadows, a small moustache above a mouth that continu-
ally twitched with amusement at life.
Joel did not look at him; he did not have to. Nick had already, seized both of Katy’s hands in his.
“I’m so sorry I couldn’t get to the train with Joel,” he was saying. “You know we all feel as though you were our little sister, too. Heard so much about you. Hope we aren’t going to frighten you to death by acting as if we were life-long friends. I know I feel as though I were!”
Against her will, her pride, Katy found herself shyly returning his smile.
“Alice was just telling me about your frock,” said Nick, rapidly ignoring the expressions that flashed over the faces of brother and sister. “It’s perfectly bully of you to do it. None of the girls wear Cranford colors any more except at games •—don’t know what’s got into them. Why, I think you’re the only girl here to-day! When I was a freshman, lots of them used to come in orange and green, but they’re getting too self-conscious or something. And I think it’s such a thoroughly nice thing to do—such a pretty compliment to the old university. Us old grads get sentimental, don’t we, Joel?”
He had slipped his arm through Katy’s, and Joel, dazed was following them through the crowd.
“Joel’s told you about my tea, of course?” Nick was continuing blithely. “I wanted Alice to wear the Cranford colors for it and receive with me—this week is our last chance at being really Cranfordites. We’ll be old, old men in a few days now. But would she do it? Not she!” He grinned down at Katy. “You know what girls are like. She had this new gray thing, and I don’t suppose an earthquake or the death of the whole blinking Schuyler family would have made her wear anything else. Snob!”
THEY were pushing their way across the campus, Nicholas Schuyler, son and heir to the Schuyler fortunes, confident, gay, irreproachable, and Joel Paine, the youngster from the West for whom everyone predicted such a brilliant future, with a pretty, dark-eyed little person wearing the Cranford colors, between them. Nick was leaning towards Katy, and many a feminine heart felt a twinge of jealousy as they passed.
“Here’s what!” Nick continued “You’re going to receive with me—you can’t get out of it. I’ve just sent Alice off to find an old blazer—relic of the days when we weren’t so gosh-darn sophisticated and weren’t afraid to flaunt our colors. Orange and green. And you and I are going to do the honors. We’re going to be the receiving committee.” '
He pressed Katy’s arm, ever so slightly, in his enthusiasm..
“Meet Mr. and Mrs. Cranford! Pretty good, huh?” He smiled guilelessly at Joel.
“Nick—•” Joel’s voice was husky. He might have known that a friend like Nick would come through. Katy was radiant again, delighted. Yet his own heart was heavy at the thought of what might have been. Nick must think Katy a bit attractive to be so nice to her. And if only...
“Any suggestions?” Nick inquired blándly. “No? Well, don’t butt in, then. Me an’ Katy, we’re going to manage things. And you, my promising young man, are a rank outsider!”
They were already on the outskirts of the crowd, and Nick guided them across the campus toward the Cranford’s clubs. He was talking rapidly, pointing out one building after another, keeping running a stream of anecdotes and absurd exaggerations that soon called forth Joel’s laugh in chorus with Katy’s giggles.
Several members of the club were gathered in the little panelled room at the right of the door.
“Wish to present my friend and eon’ spirator, Miss Katy Paine,” Nick announced to them. “For the afternoon, my bride, and the university’s.” He beckoned to one of them., a tall, red-haired boy whom Joel knew only slightly. “Will you show Miss Paine about a bit?” he demanded. “Paine and I have to get some things ready for the show. Stand to your colors, Katy!”
As they disappeared, Joel saw the group of men close in about his sister.
HE WÄS searching for some words with which to thank Nick, to justify Katy, but Schuyler gave him no opportunity. He was bubbling over with praises of Katy, boiling with bits of gossip of the day. Regret swelled in the bosom of Joel Paine. That last glance at the room, where Katy was waiting had showed him. that
Nick was handling the situation successfully; Qo one was going to know. No one, thought Joel bitterly, but the two people for whom, he had wanted Katy to be at her best!
They made a splash of color at the door of the clubhouse, Nick, blond and handsome in his striped blazer and white trousers, Kàty,*brilliant eyed and cheeked, glowing from, her compliments, in her green and orange. She had taken off her hat and her brown curls framed her little face; time after time, Joel saw her glance dart across the space between them and meet young Schuyler’s, saw that they were exchanging phrases between greeting to new guests.
Didn’t she know, after all? Didn’t she realize that Nick was just being polite?
Alice, too, made a point of telling him how lovely she thought Katy was, and Joel squirmed beneath her praises. Alice, so cool and correct in her gray gown!
There was no doubt that Katy was popular with the others, but somehow it brought Joel no consolation. If they knew that Katy had come down from Toronto in that rig! If they knew!
Yet he was grateful for the crowds that blocked the moment of reckoning, the moment when he must thank them.; grateful that Alice took Katy in her car, collected her suitcase at the Inn and drove out ahead to Midlands with her. A dinner and a dance yet to be gone through—but at least Katy would be wearing another dress. With sudden misgivings, he wondered if her evening gown would show as little taste. She had said it was white....
He was talking to a pretty young thing in pink, when Alice and Katy entered the Schuyler living-room., down the long open stairway, and he broke off in the middle of a sentence.
Alice was wearing a blue gown, tall and lovely as ever, her fair hair braided and twisted about her head. And beside her was a slight figure which drew all eyes like a magnet, a figure in the most simple of white evening frocks, untrimmed, undistinguished, a background for the exquisite combination of silver and misty pearls that lay on her brown curls.
Joel had been at Cranford for four years, and he had watched women closely, always with an eye to Katy. He had seen girls in gowns fresh from the hands of the best designers of Paris, gowns that were sketched and copied in magazines all over the country. At the Schuyler’s, he had met his first countess, met many women whose names were bywords in Canadian society, who were well bred as fine horses are well bred. And he knew that it was not his imagination that gave to Katy the quiet dignity of a princess, and the beauty that only a young girl, at her first real party, can have.
Nick was already crossing the room towards them, and Joel, forgetful of the pink-gowned debutante, lunged to Alice’s side.
'“Isn’t she lovely?” Alice breathed, before he could speak.
Gratitude, relief, were choking Joel’s voice. “Oh, Alice, .your head-dress..”
“It couldn’t look lovelier, could it?” she responded with a pride that was almost maternal. “She’s like a fairy princess, Joel. And' the freshness—the youth of her! She m.akes me feel a million years old.”
And suddenly Joel realized that no brother need make explanations for the lovely little thing who was standing by the casement window, beside Nick Schuyler. No explanations to Alice, to Nick—or to her! No one but a fool like himself, from Higgins Crossing, need apologize for the simplicity that had planned a dress of orange and green and worn it exquisitely, or that could carry off a plain white frock from home as though it were the robe of a young empress.
He glanced again at the pair by the window, and Alice, her hand resting lightly on his arm, followed his eyes. Katy was listening, her lips parted, her little head thrown back, while Nick spoke earnestly.
“It’s been a wonderful day,” he was saying softly. “And it was wonderful of you to play the game as you did. You looked so lovely and you made me feel so—-sort of proud. It was nice being Mr. and Mrs. Cranford, wasn’t it? We were all afternoon. And now we’re not any more. You’re Katy Paine and I’m Nick Schuyler, and. ...” He broke off suddenly, and his blue eyes clouded with amazement. “Say, I’ve only known you just a day, haven’t I?” he demanded.