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Seventeen - Chapter XXII. FORESHADOWINGS Post by :travisdu Category :Long Stories Author :Booth Tarkington Date :February 2011 Read :2697

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Seventeen - Chapter XXII. FORESHADOWINGS

Now the last rose had blown; the dandelion
globes were long since on the wind;
gladioli and golden-glow and salvia were here;
the season moved toward asters and the goldenrod.
This haloed summer still idled on its way,
yet all the while sped quickly; like some languid
lady in an elevator.

There came a Sunday--very hot.

Mr. and Mrs. Baxter, having walked a scorched
half-mile from church, drooped thankfully into
wicker chairs upon their front porch, though
Jane, who had accompanied them, immediately
darted away, swinging her hat by its ribbon and
skipping as lithesomely as if she had just come
forth upon a cool morning.

``I don't know how she does it!'' her father
moaned, glancing after her and drying his forehead
temporarily upon a handkerchief. ``That
would merely kill me dead, after walking in
this heat.''

Then, for a time, the two were content to sit
in silence, nodding to occasional acquaintances
who passed in the desultory after-church
procession. Mr. Baxter fanned himself with sporadic
little bursts of energy which made his straw hat
creak, and Mrs. Baxter sighed with the heat, and
gently rocked her chair.

But as a group of five young people passed
along the other side of the street Mr. Baxter
abruptly stopped fanning himself, and, following
the direction of his gaze, Mrs. Baxter ceased to
rock. In half-completed attitudes they leaned
slightly forward, sharing one of those pauses
of parents who unexpectedly behold their offspring.

``My soul!'' said William's father. ``Hasn't
that girl gone home YET?''

``He looks pale to me,'' Mrs. Baxter murmured,
absently. ``I don't think he seems at all well,

During seventeen years Mr. Baxter had gradually
learned not to protest anxieties of this kind,
unless he desired to argue with no prospect of
ever getting a decision. ``Hasn't she got any
HOME?'' he demanded, testily. ``Isn't she ever
going to quit visiting the Parchers and let people
have a little peace?''

Mrs. Baxter disregarded this outburst as he
had disregarded her remark about William's
pallor. ``You mean Miss Pratt?'' she inquired,
dreamily, her eyes following the progress of her
son. ``No, he really doesn't look well at all.''

``Is she going to visit the Parchers all summer?''
Mr. Baxter insisted.

``She already has, about,'' said Mrs. Baxter.

``Look at that boy!'' the father grumbled.
``Mooning along with those other moon-calves--
can't even let her go to church alone! I wonder
how many weeks of time, counting it out in
hours, he's wasted that way this summer?''

``Oh, I don't know! You see, he never goes
there in the evening.''

``What of that? He's there all day, isn't he?
What do they find to talk about? That's the
mystery to me! Day after day; hours and hours--
My soul! What do they SAY?''

Mrs. Baxter laughed indulgently. ``People are
always wondering that about the other ages.
Poor Willie! I think that a great deal of the
time their conversation would be probably about
as inconsequent as it is now. You see Willie
and Joe Bullitt are walking one on each side of
Miss Pratt, and Johnnie Watson has to walk
behind with May Parcher. Joe and Johnnie are
there about as much as Willie is, and, of course,
it's often his turn to be nice to May Parcher. He
hasn't many chances to be tete-a-tete with Miss

``Well, she ought to go home. I want that boy
to get back into his senses. He's in an awful

``I think she is going soon,'' said Mrs. Baxter.
``The Parchers are to have a dance for her
Friday night, and I understand there's to be a
floor laid in the yard and great things. It's a
farewell party.''

``That's one mercy, anyhow!''

``And if you wonder what they say,'' she
resumed, ``why, probably they're all talking
about the party. And when Willie IS alone with
her--well, what does anybody say?'' Mrs. Baxter
interrupted herself to laugh. ``Jane, for
instance--she's always fascinated by that darky,
Genesis, when he's at work here in the yard, and
they have long, long talks; I've seen them from
the window. What on earth do you suppose
they talk about? That's where Jane is now.
She knew I told Genesis I'd give him something
if he'd come and freeze the ice-cream for us to-
day, and when we got here she heard the freezer
and hopped right around there. If you went out
to the back porch you'd find them talking
steadily--but what on earth about I couldn't
guess to save my life!''

And yet nothing could have been simpler: as
a matter of fact, Jane and Genesis (attended by
Clematis) were talking about society. That is to
say, their discourse was not sociologic; rather it
was of the frivolous and elegant. Watteau
prevailed with them over John Stuart Mill--in a
word, they spoke of the beau monde.

Genesis turned the handle of the freezer with
his left hand, allowing his right the freedom of
gesture which was an intermittent necessity when
he talked. In the matter of dress, Genesis had
always been among the most informal of his race,
but to-day there was a change almost unnerving
to the Caucasian eye. He wore a balloonish suit
of purple, strangely scalloped at pocket and cuff,
and more strangely decorated with lines of small
parasite buttons, in color blue, obviously buttons
of leisure. His bulbous new shoes flashed back
yellow fire at the embarrassed sun, and his collar
(for he had gone so far) sent forth other sparkles,
playing upon a polished surface over an inner
graining of soot. Beneath it hung a simple,
white, soiled evening tie, draped in a manner
unintended by its manufacturer, and heavily
overburdened by a green glass medallion of the
Emperor Tiberius, set in brass.

``Yesm,'' said Genesis. ``Now I'm in 'at
Swim--flyin' roun' ev'y night wif all lem blue-
vein people--I say, `Mus' go buy me some
blue-vein clo'es! Ef I'm go'n' a START, might's
well start HIGH!' So firs', I buy me thishere gol'
necktie pin wi' thishere lady's face carved out o'
green di'mon', sittin' in the middle all 'at gol'.
'Nen I buy me pair Royal King shoes. I got a
frien' o' mine, thishere Blooie Bowers; he say
Royal King shoes same kine o' shoes HE wear, an'
I walk straight in 'at sto' where they keep 'em
at. `Don' was'e my time showin' me no ole-
time shoes,' I say. `Run out some them big,
yella, lump-toed Royal Kings befo' my eyes, an'
firs' pair fit me I pay price, an' wear 'em right
off on me!' 'Nen I got me thishere suit o' clo'es
--OH, oh! Sign on 'em in window: `Ef you wish
to be bes'-dress' man in town take me home fer
six dolluhs ninety-sevum cents.' ` 'At's kine o'
suit Genesis need,' I say. `Ef Genesis go'n' a
start dressin' high, might's well start top!' ''

Jane nodded gravely, comprehending the
reasonableness of this view. ``What made you
decide to start, Genesis?'' she asked, earnestly. ``I
mean, how did it happen you began to get
this way?''

``Well, suh, 'tall come 'bout right like kine
o' slidin' into it 'stid o' hoppin' an' jumpin'. I'z
spen' the even' at 'at lady's house, Fanny, what
cook nex' do', las' year. Well, suh, 'at lady
Fanny, she quit privut cookin', she kaytliss--''

``She's what?'' Jane asked. ``What's that
mean, Genesis--kaytliss?''

``She kaytuhs,'' he explained. ``Ef it's a man
you call him kaytuh; ef it's a lady, she's a
kaytliss. She does kaytun fer all lem blue-vein
fam'lies in town. She make ref'eshmuns, bring
waituhs--'at's kaytun. You' maw give big dinnuh,
she have Fanny kaytuh, an' don't take no
trouble 'tall herself. Fanny take all 'at trouble.''

``I see,'' said Jane. ``But I don't see how her
bein' a kaytliss started you to dressin' so high,

``Thishere way. Fanny say, `Look here,
Genesis, I got big job t'morra night an' I'm man
short, 'count o' havin' to have a 'nouncer.' ''

``A what?''

``Fanny talk jes' that way. Goin' be big
dinnuh-potty, an' thishere blue-vein fam'ly tell
Fanny they want whole lot extry sploogin'; tell
her put fine-lookin' cullud man stan' by drawin'-
room do'--ask ev'ybody name an' holler out
whatever name they say, jes' as they walk in.
Thishere fam'ly say they goin' show what's what,
'nis town, an' they boun' Fanny go git 'em a
'nouncer. `Well, what's mattuh YOU doin' 'at
'nouncin'?' Fanny say. `Who--me?' I tell her.
`Yes, you kin, too!' she say, an' she say she len'
me 'at waituh suit yoosta b'long ole Henry
Gimlet what die' when he owin' Fanny sixteen
dolluhs--an' Fanny tuck an' keep 'at waituh suit.
She use 'at suit on extry waituhs when she got
some on her hands what 'ain't got no waituh suit.
`You wear 'at suit,' Fanny say, 'an' you be good
'nouncer, 'cause you' a fine, big man, an' got a
big, gran' voice; 'nen you learn befo' long be a
waituh, Genesis, an' git dolluh an' half ev'y even'
you waitin ', 'sides all 'at money you make cuttin'
grass daytime.' Well, suh, I'z stan' up doin' 'at
'nouncin' ve'y nex' night. White lady an' ge'l-
mun walk todes my do', I step up to 'em--I step
up to 'em thisaway.''

Here Genesis found it pleasant to present the
scene with some elaboration. He dropped the
handle of the freezer, rose, assumed a stately,
but ingratiating, expression, and ``stepped up'' to
the imagined couple, using a pacing and rhythmic
gait--a conservative prance, which plainly indicated
the simultaneous operation of an orchestra.
Then bending graciously, as though the persons
addressed were of dwarfish stature, `` 'Scuse me,''
he said, ``but kin I please be so p'lite as to 'quiah
you' name?'' For a moment he listened attentively,
then nodded, and, returning with the same
aristocratic undulations to an imaginary doorway
near the freezer, ``Misto an' Missuz Orlosko
Rinktum!'' he proclaimed, sonorously.

``WHO?'' cried Jane, fascinated. ``Genesis,
'nounce that again, right away!''

Genesis heartily complied.

``Misto an' Missuz Orlosko Rinktum!'' he

``Was that really their names?'' she asked,

``Well, I kine o' fergit,'' Genesis admitted,
resuming his work with the freezer. ``Seem like
I rickalect SOMEBODY got name good deal like
what I say, 'cause some mighty blue-vein names
at 'at dinnuh-potty, yessuh! But I on'y git to
be 'nouncer one time, 'cause Fanny tellin' me
nex' fam'ly have dinnuh-potty make heap o' fun.
Say I done my 'nouncin' GOOD, but say what's
use holler'n' names jes' fer some the neighbors or
they own aunts an' uncles to walk in, when ev'y-
body awready knows 'em? So Fanny pummote
me to waituh, an' I roun' right in amongs' big
doin's mos' ev'y night. Pass ice-cream, lemonade,
lemon-ice, cake, samwitches. `Lemme han'
you li'l' mo' chicken salad, ma'am'--` 'Low me be
so kine as to git you f'esh cup coffee, suh'--'S
way ole Genesis talkin' ev'y even' 'ese days!''

Jane looked at him thoughtfully. ``Do you like
it better than cuttin' grass, Genesis?'' she asked.

He paused to consider. ``Yes'm--when ban'
play all lem TUNES! My goo'ness, do soun' gran'!''

``You can't do it to-night, though, Genesis,''
said Jane. ``You haf to be quiet on Sunday
nights, don't you?''

``Yes'm. 'Ain' got no mo' kaytun till nex'
Friday even'.''

``Oh, I bet that's the party for Miss Pratt at
Mr. Parcher's!'' Jane cried. ``Didn't I guess

``Yes'm. I reckon I'm a-go'n' a see one you'
fam'ly 'at night; see him dancin'--wait on him
at ref'eshmuns.''

Jane's expression became even more serious
than usual. ``Willie? I don't know whether he's
goin', Genesis.''

``Lan' name!'' Genesis exclaimed. ``He die ef
he don' git INvite to 'at ball!''

``Oh, he's invited,'' said Jane. ``Only I think
maybe he won't go.''

``My goo'ness! Why ain' he goin'?''

Jane looked at her friend studiously before
replying. ``Well, it's a secret,'' she said, finally,
``but it's a very inter'sting one, an' I'll tell you
if you never tell.''

``Yes'm, I ain' tellin' nobody.''

Jane glanced round, then stepped a little closer
and told the secret with the solemnity it deserved.
``Well, when Miss Pratt first came to visit Miss
May Parcher, Willie used to keep papa's evening
clo'es in his window-seat, an' mamma wondered
what HAD become of 'em. Then, after dinner,
he'd slip up there an' put 'em on him, an' go out
through the kitchen an' call on Miss Pratt.
Then mamma found 'em, an' she thought he
oughtn't to do that, so she didn't tell him or
anything, an' she didn't even tell papa, but she
had the tailor make 'em ever an' ever so much
bigger, 'cause they were gettin' too tight for papa.
An' well, so after that, even if Willie could get
'em out o' mamma's clo'es-closet where she keeps
'em now, he'd look so funny in 'em he couldn't
wear 'em. Well, an' then he couldn't go to pay
calls on Miss Pratt in the evening since then,
because mamma says after he started to go
there in that suit he couldn't go without it, or
maybe Miss Pratt or the other ones that's in love
of her would think it was pretty queer, an' maybe
kind of expeck it was papa's all the time.
Mamma says she thinks Willie must have worried
a good deal over reasons to say why he'd
always go in the daytime after that, an' never
came in the evening, an' now they're goin' to
have this party, an' she says he's been gettin'
paler and paler every day since he heard about it.
Mamma says he's pale SOME because Miss Pratt's
goin' away, but she thinks it's a good deal more
because, well, if he would wear those evening
clo'es just to go CALLIN', how would it be to go
to that PARTY an' not have any! That's what
mamma thinks--an', Genesis, you promised you'd
never tell as long as you live!''

``Yes'm. _I ain' tellin','' Genesis chuckled.
``I'm a-go'n' agit me one nem waituh suits befo'
long, myse'f, so's I kin quit wearin' 'at ole Henry
Gimlet suit what b'long to Fanny, an' have me
a privut suit o' my own. They's a secon'-han'
sto' ovuh on the avynoo, where they got swaller-
tail suits all way f'um sevum dolluhs to nineteem
dolluhs an' ninety-eight cents. I'm a--''

Jane started, interrupting him. `` 'SH!'' she
whispered, laying a finger warningly upon her lips.

William had entered the yard at the back
gate, and, approaching over the lawn, had
arrived at the steps of the porch before Jane
perceived him. She gave him an apprehensive look,
but he passed into the house absent-mindedly,
not even flinching at sight of Clematis--and Mrs.
Baxter was right, William did look pale.

``I guess he didn't hear us,'' said Jane, when
he had disappeared into the interior. ``He acks
awful funny!'' she added, thoughtfully. ``First
when he was in love of Miss Pratt, he'd be mad
about somep'm almost every minute he was
home. Couldn't anybody say ANYthing to him
but he'd just behave as if it was frightful, an' then
if you'd see him out walkin' with Miss Pratt,
well, he'd look like--like--'' Jane paused; her
eye fell upon Clematis and by a happy inspiration
she was able to complete her simile with
remarkable accuracy. ``He'd look like the way
Clematis looks at people! That's just EXACTLY the
way he'd look, Genesis, when he was walkin' with
Miss Pratt; an' then when he was home he got
so quiet he couldn't answer questions an' wouldn't
hear what anybody said to him at table or anywhere,
an' papa 'd nearly almost bust. Mamma
'n' papa 'd talk an' talk about it, an' ''--she
lowered her voice--``an' I knew what they were
talkin' about. Well, an' then he'd hardly ever get
mad any more; he'd just sit in his room, an'
sometimes he'd sit in there without any light, or he'd
sit out in the yard all by himself all evening,
maybe; an' th'other evening after I was in bed
I heard 'em, an' papa said--well, this is what
papa told mamma.'' And again lowering her
voice, she proffered the quotation from her
father in atone somewhat awe-struck: ``Papa
said, by Gosh! if he ever 'a' thought a son of his
could make such a Word idiot of himself he
almost wished we'd both been girls!''

Having completed this report in a violent
whisper, Jane nodded repeatedly, for emphasis,
and Genesis shook his head to show that he was
as deeply impressed as she wished him to be.
``I guess,'' she added, after a pause ``I guess
Willie didn't hear anything you an' I talked
about him, or clo'es, or anything.''

She was mistaken in part. William had caught
no reference to himself, but he had overheard
something and he was now alone in his room,
thinking about it almost feverishly. ``A secon'-
han' sto' ovuh on the avynoo, where they got
swaller-tail suits all way f'um sevum dolluhs to
nineteem dolluhs an' ninety-eight cents.''

. . . Civilization is responsible for certain
longings in the breast of man--artificial longings,
but sometimes as poignant as hunger and thirst.
Of these the strongest are those of the maid for
the bridal veil, of the lad for long trousers, and of
the youth for a tailed coat of state. To the
gratification of this last, only a few of the early joys
in life are comparable. Indulged youths, too
rich, can know, to the unctuous full, neither the
longing nor the gratification; but one such as
William, in ``moderate circumstances,'' is privileged
to pant for his first evening clothes as the
hart panteth after the water-brook--and sometimes,
to pant in vain. Also, this was a crisis in
William's life: in addition to his yearning for such
apparel, he was racked by a passionate urgency.

As Jane had so precociously understood, unless
he should somehow manage to obtain the proper
draperies he could not go to the farewell dance
for Miss Pratt. Other unequipped boys could go
in their ordinary ``best clothes,'' but William could
not; for, alack! he had dressed too well too soon!

He was in desperate case.

The sorrow of the approaching great departure
was but the heavier because it had been so long
deferred. To William it had seemed that this
flower-strewn summer could actually end no more
than he could actually die, but Time had begun its
awful lecture, and even Seventeen was listening.

Miss Pratt, that magic girl, was going home.

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Seventeen - Chapter XXIII. FATHERS FORGET Seventeen - Chapter XXIII. FATHERS FORGET

Seventeen - Chapter XXIII. FATHERS FORGET
To the competent twenties, hundreds of milessuggesting no impossibilities, such departuresmay be rending, but not tragic. Implacable, thedifference to Seventeen! Miss Pratt was goinghome, and Seventeen could not follow; it couldonly mourn upon the lonely shore, tracing littleangelic footprints left in the sand.To Seventeen such a departure is final; it is avanishing.And now it seemed possible that William mightbe deprived even of the last romantic consolations:of the ``last waltz together,'' of the last,last ``listening to music in the moonlighttogether''; of all those sacred lasts of the ``lastevening together.''He had pleaded strongly for a ``dress-suit'' asa fitting recognition of his


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