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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesSeventeen - Chapter XX. SYDNEY CARTON
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Seventeen - Chapter XX. SYDNEY CARTON Post by :ebookWarrior Category :Long Stories Author :Booth Tarkington Date :February 2011 Read :1143

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Seventeen - Chapter XX. SYDNEY CARTON

At the farm-house where the party were to dine,
Miss Pratt with joy discovered a harmonium
in the parlor, and, seating herself, with all the
girls, Flopit, and Mr. George Crooper gathered
around her, she played an accompaniment, while
George, in a thin tenor of detestable sweetness,
sang ``I'm Falling in Love with Some One.''

His performance was rapturously greeted,
especially by the accompanist. ``Oh, wunnerfulest
Untle Georgiecums!'' she cried, for that was now
the gentleman's name. ``If Johnnie McCormack
hear Untle Georgiecums he go shoot umself dead--
Bang!'' She looked round to where three figures
hovered morosely in the rear. ``Tum on, sin'
chorus, Big Bruvva Josie-Joe, Johnny Jump-up,
an' Ickle Boy Baxter. All over adain, Untle
Georgiecums! Boys an' dirls all sin' chorus.

And so the heartrending performance continued
until it was stopped by Wallace Banks, the
altruistic and perspiring youth who had charge
of the subscription-list for the party, and the
consequent collection of assessments. This
entitled Wallace to look haggard and to act as
master of ceremonies. He mounted a chair.

``Ladies and gentlemen,'' he bellowed, ``I want
to say--that is--ah--I am requested to announce t
that before dinner we're all supposed to take a
walk around the farm and look at things, as this
is supposed to be kind of a model farm or
supposed to be something like that. There's a
Swedish lady named Anna going to show us
around. She's out in the yard waiting, so please
follow her to inspect the farm.''

To inspect a farm was probably the least of
William's desires. He wished only to die in some
quiet spot and to have Miss Pratt told about it in
words that would show her what she had thrown
away. But he followed with the others, in the
wake of the Swedish lady named Anna, and as
they stood in the cavernous hollow of the great
barn he found his condition suddenly improved.

Miss Pratt turned to him unexpectedly and
placed Flopit in his arms. ``Keep p'eshus Flopit
cozy,'' she whispered. ``Flopit love ole friends

William's heart leaped, while a joyous warmth
spread all over him. And though the execrable
lummox immediately propelled Miss Pratt forward--
by her elbow--to hear the descriptive
remarks of the Swedish lady named Anna, William's
soul remained uplifted and entranced. She
had not said ``like''; she had said, ``Flopit LOVE
ole friends best''! William pressed forward valiantly,
and placed himself as close as possible
upon the right of Miss Pratt, the lummox being
upon her left. A moment later, William wished
that he had remained in the rear.

This was due to the unnecessary frankness of
the Swedish lady named Anna, who was briefly
pointing out the efficiency of various agricultural
devices. Her attention being diverted by some
effusions of pride on the part of a passing hen,
she thought fit to laugh and say:

``She yust laid egg.''

William shuddered. This grossness in the presence
of Miss Pratt was unthinkable. His mind
refused to deal with so impossible a situation; he
could not accept it as a fact that such words had
actually been uttered in such a presence. And
yet it was the truth; his incredulous ears still
sizzled. ``She yust laid egg!'' His entire skin
became flushed; his averted eyes glazed themselves
with shame.

He was not the only person shocked by the
ribaldry of the Swedish lady named Anna. Joe
Bullitt and Johnnie Watson, on the outskirts of
the group, went to Wallace Banks, drew him
aside, and, with feverish eloquence, set his
responsibilities before him. It was his duty, they
urged, to have an immediate interview with this
free-spoken Anna and instruct her in the proprieties.
Wallace had been almost as horrified as
they by her loose remark, but he declined the
office they proposed for him, offering, however,
to appoint them as a committee with authority
in the matter--whereupon they retorted with
unreasonable indignation, demanding to know
what he took them for.

Unconscious of the embarrassment she had
caused in these several masculine minds, the
Swedish lady named Anna led the party onward,
continuing her agricultural lecture. William
walked mechanically, his eyes averted and looking
at no one. And throughout this agony he
was burningly conscious of the blasphemed
presence of Miss Pratt beside him.

Therefore, it was with no little surprise, when
the party came out of the barn, that William
beheld Miss Pratt, not walking at his side, but
on the contrary, sitting too cozily with George
Crooper upon a fallen tree at the edge of a peach-
orchard just beyond the barn-yard. It was Miss
Parcher who had been walking beside him, for
the truant couple had made their escape at the
beginning of the Swedish lady's discourse.

In vain William murmured to himself, ``Flopit
love ole friends best.'' Purple and black again
descended upon his soul, for he could not disguise
from himself the damnatory fact that George
had flitted with the lady, while he, wretched William,
had been permitted to take care of the dog!

A spark of dignity still burned within him. He
strode to the barn-yard fence, and, leaning over it,
dropped Flopit rather brusquely at his mistress's
feet. Then, without a word even without a look
--William walked haughtily away, continuing his
stern progress straight through the barn-yard
gate, and thence onward until he found himself
in solitude upon the far side of a smoke-house,
where his hauteur vanished.

Here, in the shade of a great walnut-tree which
sheltered the little building, he gave way--not to
tears, certainly, but to faint murmurings and
little heavings under impulses as ancient as young
love itself. It is to be supposed that William
considered his condition a lonely one, but if all the
seventeen-year-olds who have known such half-
hours could have shown themselves to him then,
he would have fled from the mere horror of
billions. Alas! he considered his sufferings a new
invention in the world, and there was now inspired
in his breast a monologue so eloquently bitter
that it might deserve some such title as A Passion
Beside the Smoke-house. During the little time
that William spent in this sequestration he
passed through phases of emotion which would
have kept an older man busy for weeks and left
him wrecked at the end of them.

William's final mood was one of beautiful
resignation with a kick in it; that is, he nobly gave
her up to George and added irresistibly that
George was a big, fat lummox! Painting pictures,
such as the billions of other young sufferers
before him have painted, William saw
himself a sad, gentle old bachelor at the family
fireside, sometimes making the sacrifice of his
reputation so that SHE and the children might
never know the truth about George; and he gave
himself the solace of a fierce scene or two with
George: ``Remember, it is for them, not you--
you THING!''

After this human little reaction he passed to
a higher field of romance. He would die for
George and then she would bring the little boy
she had named William to the lonely headstone--
Suddenly William saw himself in his true and
fitting character--Sydney Carton! He had
lately read A Tale of Two Cities, immediately
re-reading until, as he would have said, he ``knew
it by heart''; and even at the time he had seen
resemblances between himself and the appealing
figure of Carton. Now that the sympathy between
them was perfected by Miss Pratt's preference
for another, William decided to mount the
scaffold in place of George Crooper. The scene
became actual to him, and, setting one foot upon
a tin milk-pail which some one had carelessly
left beside the smoke-house, he lifted his eyes to
the pitiless blue sky and unconsciously assumed
the familiar attitude of Carton on the steps of
the guillotine. He spoke aloud those great last

``It is a far, far better thing that I do, than
I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that
I go to--''

A whiskered head on the end of a long,
corrugated red neck protruded from the smoke-
house door.

``What say?'' it inquired, huskily.

``Nun-nothing!'' stammered William.

Eyes above whiskers became fierce. ``You
take your feet off that milk-bucket. Say! This
here's a sanitary farm. 'Ain't you got any more
sense 'n to go an'--''

But William had abruptly removed his foot
and departed.

He found the party noisily established in the
farm-house at two long tables piled with bucolic
viands already being violently depleted. Johnnie
Watson had kept a chair beside himself vacant for
William. Johnnie was in no frame of mind to sit
beside any ``chattering girl,'' and he had
protected himself by Joe Bullitt upon his right and
the empty seat upon his left. William took it,
and gazed upon the nearer foods with a slight
renewal of animation.

He began to eat; he continued to eat; in fact,
he did well. So did his two comrades. Not that
the melancholy of these three was dispersed--
far from it! With ineffaceable gloom they ate
chicken, both white meat and dark, drumsticks,
wishbones, and livers; they ate corn-on-the-cob,
many ears, and fried potatoes and green peas
and string-beans; they ate peach preserves and
apricot preserves and preserved pears; they ate
biscuits with grape jelly and biscuits with crab-
apple jelly; they ate apple sauce and apple butter
and apple pie. They ate pickles, both cucumber
pickles and pickles made of watermelon rind;
they ate pickled tomatoes, pickled peppers, also
pickled onions. They ate lemon pie.

At that, they were no rivals to George Crooper,
who was a real eater. Love had not made his
appetite ethereal to-day, and even the attending
Swedish lady named Anna felt some apprehension
when it came to George and the gravy,
though she was accustomed to the prodigies
performed in this line by the robust hands on the
farm. George laid waste his section of the
table, and from the beginning he allowed himself
scarce time to say, ``I dunno why it is.'' The
pretty companion at his side at first gazed
dumfounded; then, with growing enthusiasm for
what promised to be a really magnificent
performance, she began to utter little ejaculations of
wonder and admiration. With this music in his
ears, George outdid himself. He could not resist
the temptation to be more and more astonishing
as a heroic comedian, for these humors sometimes
come upon vain people at country dinners.

George ate when he had eaten more than he
needed; he ate long after every one understood
why he was so vast; he ate on and on sheerly
as a flourish--as a spectacle. He ate even
when he himself began to understand that there
was daring in what he did, for his was a toreador
spirit so long as he could keep bright eyes fastened
upon him.

Finally, he ate to decide wagers made upon his
gorging, though at times during this last period
his joviality deserted him. Anon his damp brow
would be troubled, and he knew moments of

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When George did stop, it was abruptly,during one of these intervals of sobriety,and he and Miss Pratt came out of thehouse together rather quietly, joining one of thegroups of young people chatting with after-dinner languor under the trees. However, Mr.Crooper began to revive presently, in the sweetair of outdoors, and, observing some of the moreflashing gentlemen lighting cigarettes, he wasmoved to laughter. He had not smoked sincehis childhood--having then been bonded throughto twenty-one with a pledge of gold--and hefeared that these smoking youths might feelthemselves superior. Worse, Miss Pratt might beimpressed, therefore he laughed in scorn, saying:``Burnin' up

Seventeen - Chapter XIX. 'I DUNNO WHY IT IS' Seventeen - Chapter XIX. 'I DUNNO WHY IT IS'

Seventeen - Chapter XIX. 'I DUNNO WHY IT IS'
William extricated his arm, huskily mutteringwords which were lost in the generaloutcry, ``Car's coming!'' The young peoplepoured out through the gate, and, as the carstopped, scrambled aboard. For a momenteverything was hurried and confused. Williamstruggled anxiously to push through to MissPratt and climb up beside her, but Mr. GeorgeCrooper made his way into the crowd in a beaming,though bull-like manner, and a fat back ina purple-and-white ``blazer'' flattened William'snose, while ponderous heels damaged William'stoes; he was shoved back, and just managed toclamber upon the foot-board as the car started. The friendly hand of Joe Bullitt pulled him to