Helen Gordon Mattern
EXCEPT for two little girls playing hop-scotch on the north side of the street, Laurel Avenue was deserted. It was that zero hour between tea and dinner when the wives and mothers of the neighborhood have returned from calling or shopping and the men have not yet commenced their nightly pilgrimage homeward. Laurel Avenue, comfortably complacent and prosperous in an unostentatious sort of way. drowsed in the first heat wave of the season, resting before the cool of evening. Through open windows odd sounds drifted out—the slamming of a door, the rhythm of the latest jazz record, someone calling, "Peggy, Peggy! Where on earth is that child?"
The oblivious Peggy, in the middle of a kangaroo-like hop, wavered and came to rest on a square.
"Lookit, Pudge!” she nudged her companion, young Miss Richards. "There comes Wallie Rudd. Oh. my! lie’s all dressed up. Don’t he look swell?”
Down the opposite side of the street the subject of her remarks strolled languidly. Wallie’s carriage was dignified, his manner tinged v ith hauteur, as befitted one who had that day laid aside department store ready-mades for the full-blown glory of his first tailor-made suit.
Its grey tweed perfection clung knowingly to a rangy' young body which still held a reminiscent touch of the chubbiness of little boyhood. Although pleasantly conscious of the furore he had just caused while passing the Spencer residence, where Margy Spencer and some of her crow'd lounged on the verandah, he was nevertheless intensely preoccupied. While his imagination pictured the golden years ahead, his lips moved silently: "Roll on, thou deep and dark blue ocean, ro-1-1! Ten thousand ships pass over thee in vain !"
The vision of his predestined future as a great orator was two weeks old now. It dated from the night when, much against his will, he had been dragged by his parents to hear a famous statesman’s address. Reluctantly he had gone in. He had come out in a warm glow of enthusiasm, his feet scarcely touching the pavement. Some day he too
would sway the hearts of men with the sonorous beauty of his verbal imagery.
“Ten thousand ships pass over ...” The pop-eyed admiration levelled at him from across the street pierced his abstraction. Although indifferent to children, Wallie was not indifferent to appreciation, no matter how humble the origin. Drawing himself up, he raised his arm gracefully to his new pearl-grey hat—and just then felt an annoying, warmly moist breath against his silken ankles.
“Go back, sir!” he commanded sternly, fixing a hypnotic eye on a hound which regarded him gravely, one oversized ear bent forward interrogatively, the other laid back in hurt surprise.
“I mean it!” Wallie threatened, stiffening.
THE DOG, alarmed, retreated several paces and sat down. Disdaining to look back for fear the nuisance might construe it as a change of heart and an invitation to accompany him farther, Wallie proceeded on his way, his pace quickened by the giggles of the two little girls who watched.
He hadn’t any use for girls. Silly things, always giggling. He’d like to go and tell Mrs. Richards just what he thought of her leggy offspring. He’d like to — But another snuffle turned his thoughts elsewhere. He turned in time to see and feel the detestable hound set his playful teeth in the leg of his trousers and tug.
"Gr-r-r-r!” howled Wallie. “You good for nothing sausage! You! You . . . !”
A whirlwind descended on him in a flutter of organdie skirts and fury.
“You brute! How dare you kick my dog? I could have you arrested by the S. P. C. A!”
Wallie, stunned, began a stuttering apology.
“He tore my trousers. I didn’t mean to kick him. I turned around just as he took hold, and when I moved my leg he fell over.”
“Who do you think you’re trying to kid?” the damsel retorted snappily. “I don’t believe you; and anyway, what did you look around for?” She clutched the struggling hound to her bosom and hinted darkly: “I bet you turned to coax him on. I bet you were trying to steal my dog !”
It was too much for Wallie.
“Say, listen!” he snorted. “Think I’d steal that thing? I wouldn’t have that ole dog as a gift. Bunch of haywire like that. Huh!”
“Oh!” she gasped, her eyes flashing. “How dare you! He’s a Dalmatian spitz terrier and a very valuable dog. You were trying to coax him away !”
The unjustly accused one opened his mouth to reply in kind, then he remembered. This vulgar brawl was unseemly. Drawing himself up, he began with quiet force—page twenty-six, Art of Public Speaking: Quiet force is often more effective than a spectacular form of address.
“My dear lady, I regret very much—”
“Don’t talk to me!” flounced the lady as she turned to depart. “You were trying to steal my dog, and anyway you kicked him. I’m going right home to tell my father. Ducky’s a very valuable dog, and he’ll have to be protected. I know all about you; you’re that dreadful Rudd boy!” “Boloney!” the future orator shouted after her as she darted off ahead of him. From across the street his erstwhile admirers danced up and down, catcalling, “Wallie Rudd fights with girls ! Wallie Rudd fights with girls !” He made a threatening move toward the curb and they fled, screaming.
CLAD in an old suit of flannels, Wallie made a belated appearance at the family dinner table. Brushing aside a dissertation on the virtue of punctuality, he demanded of his father:
“Say, who lives in the old Jackson house now?”
“I don’t know. Yes, I do. People by the name of Wilcox. Newcomers. Moved here from Freedom. Why?”
But Wallie was absorbed in his dinner. He wasn’t going to let himself be drawn into a conversation about the Wilcox family. His elders had a curious habit of seizing the slightest pretext to pry into his innermost life; a violation of his privacy he had found unendurable as his sixteenth birthday approached.
“Wallie,” asked his mother, “where’s your new suit? I thought you had it on, dear.”
“Don’t talk with your mouth full, darling. You’re too
big a boy to do that.”
“Wallie,” asked his father, “what were you doing in your room before dinner? Was there someone up there with you? I thought I heard you talking.”
Wallie scowled and groaned. Gosh, what a life! Did he have to tell everything he knew? You’d think they’d be tickled to death because he was interested in self-improvement. He renewed his vow that if he ever reached thirtyfive, the age of his elderly mother, he’d remember his own harassed youth and show some understanding of the younger generation.
“I trust,” he said coldly and formally, “that I was not disturbing you.”
“Wallie,” frowned his mother, “I won’t have you being rude to daddy. And don’t talk in that absurd way. You’d better change your ways, young man, or you won’t get your dance next month.”
“Aw, mom, I didn’t mean nothin’. But do I have to tell everything? Can’t I have no privacy?”
“ ‘Any’ privacy, Wallie.”
Disgruntled he got up and made for the door. His maternal parent called after him, “You didn’t ask to be excused, Wallie,” just as his father ordered: “Answer the telephone, Wallie ”
He came back reluctantly. “It's for you, dad.”
On his way upstairs he heard his father’s voice rising more and more excitedly. Something seemed to be wrong with the old man. That was like old people—always getting excited about something. He lingered, hanging over the banister.
“I’m quite sure he wouldn’t do anything of the sort . . . Certainly not . . . Wallie wouldn’t hurt a fly . . . You’d better begin at home . . . No, I’m not trying to be nasty . . . Very well, I’ll ask him, but I say your girl is
The receiver slammed violently on the hook, and the listener in the upper hall tiptoed into his room and closed the door softly.
“Wallie! Wallie! Nan! Where’d that boy go to?” Mr. Rudd’s steps clattered on the stairs and Wallie’s door was opened. “Oh, here you are! Wallie, I’ve just had a call from those new people in the Jackson house. Wilcox says his daughter says you kicked her dog. What about it?” “Oh, apple sauce. I never kicked her dog. I wouldn’t touch the dam ole thing. Bunch of haywire like that ^ The mutt followed me down the street. He just fell over.” “Now, Wallie! There’s more to it than that. I want the truth.”
GOADED, his son leaped from the bed and pulled open
his closet door.
“There!” he said dramatically, pointing to his natty new trousers. “Look at that. I guess if anyone has a right to kick, I have. Her ole dog tore them.”
There was a howl of rage from paterfamilias.
“Your new pants ! And right where it’ll show. Well, it’s your mother’s fault. I told her you were too young for tailor mades. And you go and tear them the first day. Don’t you talk to me again about a tailor-made suit until you learn to take care of things, young man!”
Wallie was moved to indignant protest.
Here’s a tale to chuckle over—the trials and triumphs of a Juliet whose dog had an appetite and a Romeo who wore edible trousers
“You talk as if it was my fault. I couldn’t help it if the mutt tore my pants, could I? I guess I’m not to blame. They ought to pay for them,” he added, in a desperate attempt to turn the lightning elsewhere.
He was successful beyond his wildest dreams. The new idea appealed immediately.
“So he ought. The nerve of that fellow. I’ll go right over and tell him to chase himself. He can pay for your pants. Fold them up, Wallie, and I’ll take them with me.”
“You’ll do nothing of the sort. Jack Rudd,” his wife announced, appearing in the doorway. “Let Wallie fight his own battles. I’m not going to have you get into a scrap with the Wilcoxes like the one we had with the Simpsons.”
Grunting indignantly, her spouse regarded her with a fiery eye.
“Say, if you think I’m going to let any old fossil tell me when to discipline my own son, you’re crazy. I’m going over there right now.”
“Don’t ‘Jacky’ me! I never heard of such nerve.”
“All right,” she gave in despairingly. “I’ll go with you. Brush your hair, Jack. You look as if you’d been in a fight already.”
She pushed him, protesting, out of the door and down the hall. Wallie could hear her voice soothing, arguing, sympathizing. He was fleetingly sorry for his mother. Must be awful to live with a man like his dad who was always getting het up over every little ole thing.
With a sigh of relief he heard the front door bang. Picking up The Art of Public Speaking, he opened it. Simultaneously he began to think of all the brilliant things he might have said to the organdie skirt. He might, for instance, have said, “Madam, I do not care for canines. I can assure you your dog is in no danger from me.” Or he might have bowed gallantly and said, “Any possession of beauty’s is safe with me.”
That would have fixed her. Wallie sighed dreamily as he saw in retrospect her lovely brown eyes lose their hostility and grow wide with admiration.
He wondered what the fellows were like in Freedom. Probably a bunch of low-brows. Freedom was a hick town. He wondered what grade she was in. Perhaps his own. He hoped not. Living as she did in their part of town, she was almost sure to get in with his gang. Well, as one of the undisputed leaders of the younger set, he would make it quite clear from the start that he wouldn’t tolerate her. Gee, he was sleepy ! This first hot weather got a fellow. For some reason or other. The Art of Public Speaking didn't seem very interesting tonight. He wondered if it was worth all the effort it would take to become a great orator. He had about all the studying he wanted in school . . . The organdie skirt drifted across his mind’s eye . . . Crazy girl . . . And what a dog!
The book dropped from his inert hands.
TT WAS dark when the banging of the front door roused him. He winced, knowing from the way tire door slammed that strife of some sort had entered the house. For a moment he bitterly regretted having shown the torn pants to his father. If he had waited, he could have taken his mother into his confidence and dad wouldn’t have known anything about the disaster. But the regret was only a passing thought, quickly eased. Virtuously he reflected that after all it was only right that those people should pay the bill. Turning over on the lounge, he emitted a snore he hoped was convincing. The door opened and his mother came in, switching on a flood of light.
“Wallie, are you awake? Wake up, Wallie! Well, I hope
you're satisfied. Your father has gone and had a row with Mr. Wilcox in spite of all I could do to stop him. I never heard of anything so ridiculous. Are you listening? ’ ’ “Yeh, I’m listening.”
“Mrs. Wilcox and I had about smoothed the thing over, when that brat came in. She had the nerve to insinuate you tried to coax her dog away, and of course it was all off then. I could have choked that saucy little‘baggage of a girl.”
“Who?” asked Wallie.
“Jane. Their brat of a daughter. It’s easy to see Mrs. Wilcox can’t do a thing with her. She just twists that silly old father of hers around her finger. It’s too bad. I think I’d have liked Mrs. Wilcox, and Mr. Wilcox has joined your father's service club and the Country Club.” Moving toward the door, she sighed and said plaintively: “I do wish you wouldn’t drag your father into your rows, Wallie. It makes so much trouble.”
"I didn’t,” Wallie began vigorously, and then stopped. “All right, mom,” he muttered resignedly.
JACK!” called Mrs. Rudd from the garden. “Oh, Jack!
Do come out and look at the Lady Ashton ! It’s drooping, and I found a caterpillar on it. I wonder if it needs a spray?”
Standing beneath the open window of the living room, a mumble reached her straining ears: “Wannareadmupap!” She interpreted it with the ease of long practice. “You can read your paper after dinner, Jack. Do come out. It’s so lovely, and I want you to look at the Lady Ashton."
No answer being forthcoming, she shrugged her shoulders and strolled down the path. The garden was a riot of roses, some in full bloom, some with tinted buds just peeping from beneath glossy green leaves. In the middle of the
After all. better men than he had suffered and bled from the injustice and misunderstanding of those about them.
garden a tiny fountain threw a spray of cool diamond drops into the early evening air. Over the summerhouse clambered a mass of baby rambler roses, and in the farthest comer, beneath the shadow of the great elm tree, the oldfashioned flower beds flung a spicy sweet challenge to the rest of the garden.
Mrs. Rudd, bending to touch the Sweet William with loving fingers, wrinkled her dainty nose with pleasure as she drank in the fragrance of mignonette and candytuft. A fat ladybug scurried into sight, and, pursuing it absently, she wondered a little about her two inexplicable males. Obviously something had gone wrong down town today or daddy wouldn't refuse to come out. As for Wallie—
Moving reluctantly toward the conservatory door, she debated the question. Should she ask Jack what had gone wrong, or shouldn’t she? If the matter was serious, ignoring the storm signals would be an unforgivable omission. If it wasn’t serious, talking about it might make it grow nn importance. To ask or not to ask, that was the question.
Pausing in the living-room door, she surveyed her spouse, sunk in the corner of the chesterfield, gloomily absorbed in the evening edition. There was no sign of her son. and an
Continued on page 50
Continued, from page 23
attentive ear failed to detect any stir above stairs. Concern about Wallie wiped all diplomacy from her mind.
“Where’s Wallie, Jack? Hasn’t he come in yet?”
As she stood looking fown at him, she felt faintly aggrieved. After all, Wallie was as much his son as hers. He ought to be more interested.
“Jack, I’m worried about him. I wish you’d listen to me. He’s been acting so mysteriously lately.”
“I can’t understand. Nan,” said Mr. Rudd judicially, “why you fuss so much over that boy. Now, my mother raised six sons, and she never fussed over us at all. And no one,” he remarked complacently, folding his paper, “can say that she didn’t do a good job.”
FOR a second the light of battle shone in the eyes of his pretty wife. But she put the challenge aside for the moment to be used at some other time, if and when needed, and returned to her subject.
“Yes. But Jack, do listen. I feel so helpless with him. I don’t know a thing about him any more, or where and how he spends his time.” .
Her voice, quivering unmistakably, reached its target. The head of the house, unable to listen unmoved to that appeal, searched for a grain of comfort.
“You'll just have to leam to be grateful for small mercies, Nan. At least he’s stopped attitudinizing all over the place and talking like Jane Austen. And yesterday I found The Art of Public Speaking in the ash barrel, so we’re through with that nonsense.”
“Yes, but what’s he up to? He’s been teasing me for weeks to give this dance, and now that the invitations are out he doesn’t seem to care a bit. When I remember what a darling baby he used to be!” The quiver had become a wobble. “We don’t try to understand him. Jack. For the last year he’s been like a stranger to me. Of course,” she philosophized, “other mothers have their troubles too. Ethel Walsh was telling me that Grant has a girl, and she says he's perfectly impossible. Thank goodness Wallie doesn’t care for girls.”
‘Amen to that,” her Jack agreed fervently. “That would be the last straw. Don’t worry about him, darling. He’s just got growing pains. I can’t understand it though, for I was never like that. I never gave my parents a speck of trouble.”
“I’m sure you didn't,” she murmured, sniffing delicately.
Somewhat comforted, she sank down beside him and, picking up the other half of the paper, ran an abstracted eye over the society columns.
“Madge Foster has her sister-in-law staying with her,” she remarked. "I wonder
if I ought to give a tea for her? What do you think, Jack?”
Aware presently that the paper in her husband’s hands was being punished ruthlessly, she gave in.
“What’s the matter, dear? Did anything go wrong today?”
Her eyes widened at the violence of his snort of rage.
“Did anything go wrong today? Did anything go—! Well, just this! Wilcox and I were put on the same committee at the club, and I told them right out I wouldn’t serve on it.” He snorted again and then looked at her suspiciously. “What are you laughing at? Well, of course, if you think it’s funny.” For before she could check it, the merest ghost of a giggle had escaped her.
“Oh, Jack, darling,” she protested. “I wasn’t laughing. You know I wouldn’t laugh. I realize how uncomfortable it is for you,” she went on diplomatically, “and I was just wondering if you and Mr. Wilcox hadn’t better forget your row. After all, why should two grown men keep up a little thing like a children’s quarrel?”
He sat up and glared at her.
“You call that a little thing? An old rabbit like that accusing my son of vicious, depraved cruelty to a dog? And what a dog! He’s an insult to all self-respecting hounds.”
“What did he say,” she wanted to know, “when you refused to serve on the committee with him?”
“He called me a—a kewpie !” Rudd finally got out, and an outraged silence fell.
“Well!” said Mrs. Rudd, thoroughly aroused at last. “Of all the nerve! Just because you’ve been putting on a few pounds lately. I’d rather have you a little overweight than a string bean like that old
HER son appeared in the doorway.
“Say, mom, can I have that cheque Uncle Ormond gave me?”
Irritability colored her answer. “What do you want it for? You distinctly told me to keep it for you until next winter.”
“Well, I’ve changed my mind. I want it
He shifted from one foot to the other, looking pained.
“Do I have to explain every little thing to you? Isn’t it my money? Of course if it isn’t . . . ” his voice trailed off reproachfully.
“Give it to him,” the head of the house ordered impatiently, now well launched on his tale. “And then I said, ‘What do you mean, kewpie?’ ”
“Are you going to give it to me, mom, or do I have to wait all night?”
“Must you have it this minute? Oh, all right. Go upstairs and look in the left-hand drawer in my writing desk. Not the big one; the little one at the top. But I think
you ought to tell me what you want it for, Wallie.” she called after her son’s retreating
‘‘So I said, ‘What do you mean kewpie . .
Sounds of furious banging came down from overhead, and Mrs. Rudd rose hastily.
“Excuse me, Jack! I’ll be right back. He’ll have everything all over the place if I don’t go up.”
A flushed face looked up from the debris on the floor.
“Gosh, mom, I can’t find it! What’ve you done with it?”
Wallie jiggled about impatiently, making futile little snatches at everything blue that bore any resemblance to the missing cheque as she began resignedly to straighten out the mess.
“Here it is, Wallie. You turned out every drawer except the right one. I wish you’d tell me what you want it for.”
But already he had vanished. That straight young back was always turned away these days, she thought a little wistfully. But fussing wouldn’t help any. This phase would pass as all the others had done, and in between times he always came back to her. Putting things straight in her dainty little French desk, she thought indignantly of Mr. Wilcox. Kewpie indeed! Well, maybe daddy would pay a little more attention to his calories now.
As she turned to leave the room, one last piece of paper caught her eye. Probably something she had clipped and forgotten. But it was not of her gleaning. It had been clipped from the advertising section of the daily newspaper and read:
"Have your dogs trained by a professional trainer. Dogs taught to stand properly during judging. Satisfaction absolutely guaranteed. Rates reasonable. Apply Jones’ Kennels.”
Puzzled, she slipped it in the pocket of her blue linen dress. Perhaps daddy would know where it came from.
Wallie emerged from his room as the dinner gong sounded, and, slipping her hand through his arm, they went down the stairs together. This tall young son of hers! A pang shot through her as she realized he topped her by an inch. She must try to be more understanding and sympathetic. Squeezing his arm lightly, she said :
“Wallie, wouldn’t you like to go to a show
“I don’t want any dinner, mom. I got to go out.”
“Nonsense, Wallie. Of course you want your dinner. I can’t have you running all over the place without your meals. And besides, I want to talk to you about your dance. I must engage the music tomorrow and Bella wants to know about supper.” “Gosh, mom, I don’t care what you have
Tactfully she reminded him, as she led him unwillingly toward the dining room, that until recently that dance had been the essence of his heart's desire.
Mr. Rudd, glancing up as Bella brought in the roast, surveyed his heir’s sartorial perfection with an unappreciative eye.
“That a new tie, Wallie? Where’d you get it? By gummy! It’s the one I’ve been looking all over the place for, young man! Who told you you could help yourself to my ties?”
“Don’t nag the child, ” his wife interposed. “Finish telling me what happened at the club today, daddy. I never liked that tie on you, anyway.”
“Mom,” said Wallie, “I wish you’d send an invitation to Jane Wilcox.” He ducked his head and buried his nose in a glass of water as his parents started in speechless amazement.
“Jane Wilcox!” his mother stammered when she had at last regained her voice. “Wallie, are you crazy?”
“Well,” he mumbled, “she goes around with the same crowd, and they’ll think it’s kinda funny if she isn’t asked.”
TN THIS domestic crisis Mr. Rudd came nobly to the rescue of his astounded little wife. Clearing his throat, he addressed his offspring with commendable repression:
“I’m surprised at you, Walter. Here your mother and I are involved in a most unpleasant situation through no fault of our own, and yet you suggest inviting that brat to your dance.”
Wallie reddened uncomfortably. “You don't need to get excited,” he muttered still lower. “I just thought it would look kinda funny. You’re always talkin’ about what people will say, and I just thought— Of course I don’t want her, but I just thought—”
“Keep right on thinking,” his mother advised him crisply. “You can think till doomsday before I’d have that saucy little snippet in my house. Daddy,” she said, calming herself with an effort, “which orchestra do you think we’d better have?” “Mom,” said Wallie over the remnants of a piece of apple pie, “I want a fancydress party.”
“Now, Wallie,” she moaned, “what next? I asked you if you wanted a masquerade and you said you didn’t. You said ‘No, no, no!’ when I tried to persuade you. You don’t know what you want.”
"I do, too. I want a masquerade. I’ve changed my mind.”
A deeper flush stained the soft pink of his mother’s face. Drawing herself up, she announced with spirit:
“Well, you can’t have it. I’m not going to telephone every one of those mothers. That’s settled.”
Bella, bringing in the finger bowls, looked at her with the reproachful familiarity of an old servant. Even Jack seemed to think she was a little hard-hearted although he said, nothing.
Defeat clouded Wallie’s brow for a second, but another gulp of water appeared to revive him, for with undiminished vigor he staged a counterattack.
“Well, if I can’t have a masquerade, I don’t want a party at all. I’ll just tell the gang I’ve changed my mind and call it off,” he announced flatly.
The head of the house was moved to protest.
“Does it really make so much difference, Nan?”
“Only this,” she retorted: “it means a lot more work for me. I’ll have to telephone every one of those mothers and think up new decorations and favors. And I’ll have to get a costume for Wallie and—”
“You don’t neither,” her son assured her triumphantly. “I’ve rented a costume already. So there!”
Although beaten, she could not resist one last dig.
“Can’t you think of anything else you’d like changed. Wallie? Because you’ve got two days, and you can think of a lot in two days if you really try.”
“Aw, mom,” he deprecated negligently. “Can I be excused now? I got to see a—” “Did you want your cheque to pay for your costume, Wallie?”
But permission to leave the table had been taken for granted and once more she stared, defeated, at that straight young back.
SUMMER, as if to make up for a cool spring, had settled down in earnest to show the melting inhabitants of Holden just what it could do. On the day of Wallie’s dance the thermometer climbed dizzily,
darkness bringing no relief. Mrs. Rudd, wilting beneath the glare of electric lights and the shimmering heat and deafened by the orchestra, wondered for the hundredth time, “How can they?”
About her a crowd of masked columbines, pierrots, tramps, Indian maid , Dutch girls and Chinamen eddied tirelessly. Luck’s orchestra blared merrily, the syncopation of saxophone and drum beating rhythmically in her weary head.
“Daddy,” she whispered desperately to her bigger half, “let’s go somewhere and cool off. I’m worn out, and if I have to listen to ‘Little White Lies’ another minute, I’ll scream. That’s the fifth time in succession they’ve played it by request. It’s more than I can bear.”
Out on the verandah they gazed about them disheartened. Every nook and cranny seemed to be taken up by members of the younger set, engaged in “sitting one out.” “Come on down in the garden, Nan,” Mr. Rudd suggested, linking his arm protectingly through that of his exhausted lady. “It’ll be cooler there, and we won’t hear that infernal orchestra so plainly. Wait a minute. I’ll get a rug and we’ll sit on the
“I don’t know if we ought to leave or not, Jack,” she worried. “I don’t see Wallie anywhere, and these children shouldn’t be left alone.”
“Oh, come on,” he urged. “We can ease off on the chaperone business for a few minutes.”
He spread the rug on the grass beneath the elm tree, and drew her down beside him. With a sigh of relief she rested against him in wordless content. A tiny breeze sprang up and fanned her temples.
“This is heavenly, daddy,” she sighed. “I wish we could stay here all night.”
“Not a flapper in sight,” he grunted contentedly.
Drowsily she watched him fill his pipe and light it, the match glowing redly in the darkness. The orchestra, playing 'Little White Lies’ for the sixth time, sounded faint and far away. Two shadowy figures crossed the lawn and entered the summerhouse.
“Jack,” Mrs. Rudd whispered, nudging him, “there’s a couple in the summerhouse.” “Of course there is,” he soothed her. “They’re all over the place. But it doesn’t matter.”
"Shush!” she whispered, listening.
. . and Mr. Jones says Ducky is the finest specimen of Dalmatian spitz terrier he’s ever seen. Wasn’t it lucky you had that cheque so we could have him trained? I bet we win the blue ribbon with him,” a soft voice crowed.
Mr. Rudd struck a match and held it to his pipe. “Dogs!” he snorted. It was a painful subject.
“I had an awful time getting my mother to give me the cheque. Of course I didn’t dare tell her I wanted it—”
Mr. Rudd smoked placidly, but his wife was faintly agitated.
“Daddy,” she whispered, “I believe that’s—”
“And then I tried to get her to ask you to my dance, and she said ...”
Mrs. Rudd was sitting very erect, while her husband, pipe suspended in mid-air. stared hard at the summerhouse.
“. . . wouldn't have done a bit of good. My mother wouldn't have let me come. Daddy simply has a fit if I mention your family. I had an awful time getting out tonight. I think you’re just the cleverest to think of a masquerade party. Why if my family knew about us, I bet they’d send me to a convent and have me locked up.” The adolescent masculine voice was gloomy.
“I wish we could make them see reason. Old people are funny.”
The soft feminine voice was soothing. “Oh, Wallie. what do we care? It’s lots more romantic this way. The girls were just saying today that it’s so romantic. Me coming to your dance masked and everything. They were saying it’s just like Montague and Capulet over Romeo and Juliet!” The End