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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesSeventeen - Chapter XVI. THE SHOWER
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Seventeen - Chapter XVI. THE SHOWER Post by :Dave_Espino Category :Long Stories Author :Booth Tarkington Date :February 2011 Read :492

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Seventeen - Chapter XVI. THE SHOWER

She continued to be thoughtful until after
lunch, when, upon the sun's disappearance
behind a fat cloud, Jane and the heavens
exchanged dispositions for the time--the heavens
darkened and Jane brightened. She was in the
front hall, when the sunshine departed rather
abruptly, and she jumped for joy, pointing to the
open door. ``Look! Looky there!'' she called
to her brother. Richly ornamented, he was
descending the front stairs, his embellishments
including freshly pressed white trousers, a new
straw hat, unusual shoes, and a blasphemous
tie. ``I'm goin' to get to sail my boat,'' Jane
shouted. ``It's goin' to rain.''

``It is not,'' said William, irritated. ``It's
not going to anything like rain. I s'pose you
think it ought to rain just to let you sail that
chunk of wood!''

``It's goin' to rain--it's goin' to rain!'' (Jane
made a little singsong chant of it.) ``It's goin'
to rain--it gives Willie a pain--it's goin' to rain
--it gives Willie a pain--it's goin' to--''

He interrupted her sternly. ``Look here!
You're old enough to know better. I s'pose you
think there isn't anything as important in the
world as your gettin' the chance to sail that little
boat! I s'pose you think business and everything
else has got to stop and get ruined, maybe,
just to please you!'' As he spoke he walked to
an umbrella-stand in the hall and deliberately
took therefrom a bamboo walking-stick of his
father's. Indeed, his denunciation of Jane's
selfishness about the weather was made partly to
reassure himself and settle his nerves, strained
by the unusual procedure he contemplated, and
partly to divert Jane's attention. In the latter
effort he was unsuccessful; her eyes became
strange and unbearable.

She uttered a shriek:

``Willie's goin' to carry a CANE!''

``You hush up!'' he said, fiercely, and hurried
out through the front door. She followed him to
the edge of the porch; she stood there while he
made his way to the gate, and she continued to
stand there as he went down the street, trying to
swing the cane in an accustomed and unembarrassed
manner.

Jane made this difficult.

``Willie's got a CANE!'' she screamed. ``He's
got papa's CANE!'' Then, resuming her little
chant, she began to sing: ``It's goin' to rain--
Willie's got papa's cane--it's goin' to rain--
Willie's got papa's cane!'' She put all of her
voice into a final effort. ``MISS PRATT'LL GET WET
IF YOU DON'T TAKE AN UMBERELLER-R-R!''

The attention of several chance pedestrians
had been attracted, and the burning William,
breaking into an agonized half-trot, disappeared
round the corner. Then Jane retired within the
house, feeling that she had done her duty. It
would be his own fault if he got wet.

Rain was coming. Rain was in the feel of the
air--and in Jane's hope.

She was not disappointed. Mr. Genesis, so
secure of fair weather in the morning, was proved
by the afternoon to be a bad prophet. The fat
cloud was succeeded by others, fatter; a corpulent
army assailed the vault of heaven, heavy
outriders before a giant of evil complexion and
devastating temper.

An hour after William had left the house,
the dust in the streets and all loose paper and
rubbish outdoors rose suddenly to a considerable
height and started for somewhere else. The trees
had colic; everything became as dark as winter
twilight; streaks of wildfire ran miles in a second,
and somebody seemed to be ripping up sheets
of copper and tin the size of farms. The rain
came with a swish, then with a rattle, and then
with a roar, while people listened at their garret
doorways and marveled. Window-panes turned
to running water;--it poured.

Then it relented, dribbled, shook down a few
last drops; and passed on to the countryside.
Windows went up; eaves and full gutters plashed
and gurgled; clearer light fell; then, in a moment,
sunshine rushed upon shining green trees and
green grass; doors opened--and out came the
children!

Shouting, they ran to the flooded gutters.
Here were rivers, lakes, and oceans for navigation;
easy pilotage, for the steersman had but to wade
beside his craft and guide it with a twig. Jane's
timely boat was one of the first to reach the
water.

Her mother had been kind, and Jane, with
shoes and stockings left behind her on the porch,
was a happy sailor as she waded knee-deep along
the brimming curbstones. At the corner below
the house of the Baxters, the street was flooded
clear across, and Jane's boat, following the
current, proceeded gallantly onward here, sailed
down the next block, and was thoughtlessly
entering a sewer when she snatched it out of the
water. Looking about her, she perceived a
gutter which seemed even lovelier than the one
she had followed. It was deeper and broader
and perhaps a little browner, wherefore she
launched her ship upon its dimpled bosom and
explored it as far as the next sewer-hole or
portage. Thus the voyage continued for several
blocks with only one accident--which might have
happened to anybody. It was an accident in the
nature of a fall, caused by the sliding of Jane's
left foot on some slippery mud. This treacherous
substance, covered with water, could not have
been anticipated; consequently Jane's emotions
were those of indignation rather than of culpability.
Upon rising, she debated whether or not
she should return to her dwelling, inclining to
the opinion that the authorities there would have
taken the affirmative; but as she was wet not
much above the waist, and the guilt lay all upon
the mud, she decided that such an interruption
of her journey would be a gross injustice to herself.
Navigation was reopened.

Presently the boat wandered into a miniature
whirlpool, grooved in a spiral and pleasant
to see. Slowly the water went round and round,
and so did the boat without any assistance from
Jane. Watching this movement thoughtfully,
she brought forth from her drenched pocket some
sodden whitish disks, recognizable as having been
crackers, and began to eat them. Thus absorbed,
she failed at first to notice the approach of two
young people along the sidewalk.

They were the entranced William and Miss
Pratt; and their appearance offered a suggestive
contrast in relative humidity. In charming and
tender-colored fabrics, fluffy and cool and summery,
she was specklessly dry; not a drop had
touched even the little pink parasol over her
shoulder, not one had fallen upon the tiny white
doglet drowsing upon her arm. But William was
wet--he was still more than merely damp,
though they had evidently walked some distance
since the rain had ceased to fall. His new hat
was a mucilaginous ruin; his dank coat sagged;
his shapeless trousers flopped heavily, and his
shoes gave forth marshy sounds as he walked.

No brilliant analyst was needed to diagnose
this case. Surely any observer must have said:
``Here is a dry young lady, and at her side walks
a wet young gentleman who carries an umbrella
in one hand and a walking-stick in the other.
Obviously the young lady and gentleman were
out for a stroll for which the stick was
sufficient, and they were caught by the rain.
Before any fell, however, he found her a place of
shelter--such as a corner drug-store and then
himself gallantly went forth into the storm for an
umbrella. He went to the young lady's house,
or to the house where she may be visiting, for,
if he had gone to his own he would have left
his stick. It may be, too, that at his own, his
mother would have detained him, since he is
still at the age when it is just possible sometimes
for mothers to get their sons into the house when
it rains. He returned with the umbrella to the
corner drug-store at probably about the time
when the rain ceased to fall, because his extreme
moistness makes necessary the deduction that
he was out in all the rain that rained. But he
does not seem to care.''

The fact was that William did not even know
that he was wet. With his head sidewise and his
entranced eyes continuously upon the pretty face
so near, his state was almost somnambulistic. Not
conscious of his soggy garments or of the deluged
streets, he floated upon a rosy cloud, incense
about him, far-away music enchanting his ears.

If Jane had not recognized the modeling of his
features she might not have known them to be
William's, for they had altered their grouping
to produce an expression with which she was
totally unfamiliar. To be explicit, she was
unfamiliar with this expression in that place--
that is to say, upon William, though she had seen
something like it upon other people, once or
twice, in church.

William's thoughts might have seemed to her
as queer as his expression, could she have known
them. They were not very definite, however,
taking the form of sweet, vague pictures of the
future. These pictures were of married life; that
is, married life as William conceived it for himself
and Miss Pratt--something strikingly different
from that he had observed as led by his
mother and father, or their friends and relatives.
In his rapt mind he beheld Miss Pratt walking
beside him ``through life,'' with her little parasol
and her little dog--her exquisite face always
lifted playfully toward his own (with admiration
underneath the playfulness), and he heard
her voice of silver always rippling ``baby-talk''
throughout all the years to come. He saw her
applauding his triumphs--though these remained
indefinite in his mind, and he was unable to
foreshadow the business or profession which
was to provide the amazing mansion (mainly
conservatory) which he pictured as their home.
Surrounded by flowers, and maintaining a private
orchestra, he saw Miss Pratt and himself
growing old together, attaining to such ages as
thirty and even thirty-five, still in perfect
harmony, and always either dancing in the evenings
or strolling hand in hand in the moonlight.
Sometimes they would visit the nursery, where
curly-headed, rosy cherubs played upon a white-
bear rug in the firelight. These were all boys
and ready-made, the youngest being three years
old and without a past.

They would be beautiful children, happy with
their luxurious toys on the bear rug, and they
would NEVER be seen in any part of the house
except the nursery. Their deportment would be
flawless, and--

``WILL-EE!''

The aviator struck a hole in the air; his heart
misgave him. Then he came to earth--a sickening
drop, and instantaneous.

``WILL-EE!''

There was Jane, a figurine in a plastic state
and altogether disgraceful;--she came up out of
the waters and stood before them with feet of
clay, indeed; pedestaled upon the curbstone.

``Who IS that CURIOUS child?'' said Miss Pratt,
stopping.

William shuddered.

``Was she calling YOU?'' Miss Pratt asked,
incredulously.

``Willie, I told you you better take an umbereller,''
said Jane, ``instead of papa's cane.'' And
she added, triumphantly, ``Now you see!''

Moving forward, she seemed to have in mind
a dreadful purpose; there was something about
her that made William think she intended casually
to accompany him and Miss Pratt.

``You go home!'' he commanded, hoarsely.

Miss Pratt uttered a little scream of surprise
and recognition. ``It's your little sister!'' she
exclaimed, and then, reverting to her favorite
playfulness of enunciation, `` 'Oor ickle sissa!''
she added, gaily, as a translation. Jane
misunderstood it; she thought Miss Pratt meant
``OUR little sister.''

``Go home!'' said William.

``No'ty, no'ty!'' said Miss Pratt, shaking her
head. ``Me 'fraid oo's a no'ty, no'ty ickle dirl!
All datie!''

Jane advanced. ``I wish you'd let me carry
Flopit for you,'' she said.

Giving forth another gentle scream, Miss Pratt
hopped prettily backward from Jane's extended
hands. ``Oo-oo!'' she cried, chidingly. ``Mustn't
touch! P'eshus Flopit all soap-water-wash clean.
Ickle dirly all muddy-nassy! Ickle dirly must
doe home, det all soap-water-wash clean like NICE
ickle sissa. Evabody will love 'oor ickle sissa den,''
she concluded, turning to William. ``Tell 'oor
ickle sissa MUS' doe home det soap-water-wash!''

Jane stared at Miss Pratt with fixed solemnity
during the delivery of these admonitions, and it
was to be seen that they made an impression
upon her. Her mouth slowly opened, but she
spake not. An extraordinary idea had just begun
to make itself at home in her mind. It was an
idea which had been hovering in the neighborhood
of that domain ever since William's comments
upon the conversation of Mr. Genesis, in
the morning.

``Go home!'' repeated William, and then, as
Jane stood motionless and inarticulate, transfixed
by her idea, he said, almost brokenly, to his
dainty companion, ``I DON'T know what you'll
think of my mother! To let this child--''

Miss Pratt laughed comfortingly as they
started on again. ``Isn't mamma's fault, foolish
boy Baxter. Ickle dirlies will det datie!''

The profoundly mortified William glanced back
over his shoulder, bestowing upon Jane a look in
which bitterness was mingled with apprehension.
But she remained where she was, and did not
follow. That was a little to be thankful for, and
he found some additional consolation in believing
that Miss Pratt had not caught the frightful
words, ``papa's cane,'' at the beginning of the
interview. He was encouraged to this belief by
her presently taking from his hand the decoration
in question and examining it with tokens of
pleasure. `` 'Oor pitty walk'-'tick,'' she called it,
with a tact he failed to suspect. And so he
began to float upward again; glamors enveloped
him and the earth fell away.

He was alone in space with Miss Pratt once
more.

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