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A NICE QUIET PLACE


by


F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)



The Saturday Evening Post (31 May, 1930)



I


All that week she couldn't decide whether she was a lollipop or a
roman candle--through her dreams, dreams that promised uninterrupted
sleep through many vacation mornings, drove a series of long,
incalculable murmuring in tune with the put-put-put of their cut-
outs, "I love you--I love you," over and over.  She wrote in the
evening:


Dear Ridge:  When I think of not being able to come to the freshman
dance with you this June, I could lie down and DIE, but mother is
sort of narrow-minded in some ways, and she feels that sixteen is
too young to go to a prom; and Lil Hammel's mother feels the same
way.  When I think of you dancing around with SOME OTHER GIRL and
hear you handing her a line, like you do to everybody, I could lie
down and SCREAM.  Oh, I KNOW--because a girl here at school met you
after I left Hot Springs at Easter.  Anyhow, if you start rushing
some other kid when you come out to Ed Bement's house party this
summer, I intend to CUT HER THROAT, or my own, or something
desperate.  And probably no one will even be sorry I'm dead.  Ha-ha--



Summer, summer, summer--bland inland sun and friendly rain.  Lake
Forest, with its thousand enchanted verandas, the dancing on the
outdoor platform at the club, and always the boys, centaurs, in new
cars.  Her mother came East to meet her, and as they walked
together out of the Grand Central Station, the symphony of promise
became so loud that Josephine's face was puckered and distorted, as
with the pressure of strong sunshine.

"We've got the best plans," her mother said.

"Oh, what?  What, mother?"

"A real change.  I'll tell you all about it when we get to the
hotel."

There was a sudden discord; a shadow fell upon Josephine's heart.

"What do you mean?  Aren't we going to Lake Forest?"

"Some place much better"--her mother's voice was alarmingly
cheerful.  "I'm saving it till we get to the hotel."

Before Mrs. Perry had left Chicago, she and Josephine's father had
decided, from observations of their own and some revelations on the
part of their elder daughter, Constance, that Josephine knew her
way around Lake Forest all too well.  The place had changed in the
twenty years that it had been the summer rendezvous of fashionable
Chicago; less circumscribed children of new families were
resoundingly in evidence and, like most parents, Mrs. Perry thought
of her daughter as one easily led into mischief by others.  The
more impartial eyes of other members of the colony had long
regarded Josephine herself as the principal agent of corruption.
But, preventive or penalty, the appalling thing to Josephine was
that the Perrys were going to a "nice quiet place" this summer.

"Mother, I simply can't go to Island Farms.  I simply--"

"Father feels--"

"Why don't you take me to a reform school if I'm so awful?  Or to
state's penitentiary?  I simply can't go to a horrible old farm
with a lot of country jakes and no fun and no friends except a lot
of hicks."

"But, dear, it's not like that at all.  They just call it Island
Farms.  In fact, your aunt's place isn't a farm; it's really a nice
little resort up in Michigan where lots of people spend the summer.
Tennis and swimming and--and fishing."

"Fishing?" repeated Josephine incredulously.  "Do you call THAT
something to do?"  She shook her head in mute incomprehension.
"I'll just be forgotten, that's all.  When it's my year to come out
nobody will know who I am.  They'll just say, 'Who in heck is this
Josephine Perry?  I never saw her around here.'  'Oh, she's just
some hick from a horrible old farm up in Michigan.  Let's not
invite her.'  Just when everybody else is having a wonderful time--"

"Nobody'll forget you in one summer, dear."

"Yes, they will.  Everybody'll have new friends and know new
dances, and I'll be up there in the backwoods, full of hayseed,
forgetting everything I know.  If it's so wonderful why isn't
Constance coming?"

Lying awake in their drawing-room on the Twentieth Century,
Josephine brooded upon the terrible injustice of it all.  She knew
that her mother was going on her account, and mostly because of the
gossip of a few ugly and jealous girls.  These ugly and jealous
girls, her relentless enemies, were not entirely creatures of
Josephine's imagination.  There was something in the frank
sensuousness of her beauty that plain women found absolutely
intolerable; they stared at her in a frightened, guarded way.

It was only recently that gossip had begun to worry Josephine.  Her
own theory was that, though at thirteen or fourteen she had been
"speedy"--a convenient word that lacked the vulgar implication of
"fast"--she was now trying to do her best, and a difficult enough
business it was, without the past being held against her; for the
only thing she cared about in the world was being in love and being
with the person she currently loved.

Toward midnight her mother spoke to her softly and found that she
was asleep.  Turning on the berth light, she looked for a moment at
the flushed young face, smoothed now of all its disappointment by a
faint, peculiar smile.  She leaned over and kissed Josephine's
brow, behind which, doubtless, were passing in review those tender
and eagerly awaited orgies of which she was to be deprived this
summer.


II


Into Chicago, resonant with shrill June clamor; out to Lake Forest,
where her friends moved already in an aura of new boys, new tunes,
parties and house parties yet to be.  One concession was granted
her--she was to come back from Island Farms in time for Ed Bement's
house party--which is to say, for Ridgeway Saunders' visit, the
first of September.

Then northward, leaving all gayety behind, to the nice quiet place,
implicit in its very station, which breathed no atmosphere of
hectic arrivals or feverish partings: there was her aunt, her
fifteen-year-old cousin, Dick, with the blank resentful stare of
youth in spectacles, there were the dozen or so estates with tired
people asleep inside them and the drab village three miles away.
It was worse, even, than Josephine had imagined; to her the
vicinity was literally unpopulated, for, as a representative of her
generation, she stood alone.  In despair, she buried herself in
ceaseless correspondence with the outer world or, as a variant,
played tennis with Dick and carried on a slow indifferent quarrel
at his deliberately spiteful immaturity.

"Are you going to be this way always?" she demanded, breaking down
at his stupidity one day.  "Can't you do anything about it?  Does
it hurt?"

"What way?"  Dick shambled around the tennis net in the way that so
offended her.

"Oh, such a pill!  You ought to be sent away to some good school."

"I am going to be."

"Why, at your age most of the boys in Chicago have cars of their
own."

"Too many," he responded.

"How do you mean?" Josephine flared up.

"I heard my aunt say there was too much of that there.  That's why
they made you come up here.  You're too much for that sort of
thing."

Josephine flushed.  "Couldn't you HELP being such a pill, if you
honestly tried?"

"I don't know," admitted Dick.  "I don't even think that maybe I AM
one."

"Oh, yes, you are.  I can assure you of that."

It occurred to her, not very hopefully, that under proper
supervision something might be made of him.  Perhaps she could
teach him to dance or have him learn to drive his mother's car.
She went to the extent of trying to smarten him up, to make him
wash his hands bidiurnally and to soak his hair and cleave it down
the middle.  She suggested that he would be more beautiful without
his spectacles, and he obediently bumped around without them for
several afternoons.  But when he developed a feverish headache one
night and confessed to his mother why he had been "so utterly
insane," Josephine gave him up without a pang.

But she could have cared for almost anyone.  She wanted to hear the
mystical terminology of love, to feel the lift and pull inside
herself that each one of a dozen affairs had given her.  She had
written, of course, to Ridgeway Saunders.  He answered.  She wrote
again.  He answered--but after two weeks.  On the first of August,
with one month gone and one to go, came a letter from Lillian
Hammel, her best friend in Lake Forest.


Dearest Jo:  You said to write you every single thing, and I will,
but some of it will be sort of a fatal blow to you--about Ridgeway
Saunders.  Ed Bement visited him in Philadelphia, and he says he is
so crazy about a girl there that he wants to leave Yale and get
married.  Her name is Evangeline Ticknor and she was fired from
Foxcroft last year for smoking; quite a speed and said to be
beautiful and something like you, from what I hear.  Ed said that
Ridgeway was so crazy about her that he wouldn't even come out here
in September unless Ed invited her, too; so Ed did.  Probably a lot
you care!  You've probably had lots of crushes up there where you
are, or aren't there any attractive boys--


Josephine walked slowly up and down her room.  Her parents had what
they wanted now; the plot against her was complete.  For the first
time in her life she had been thrown over, and by the most
attractive, the most desirable boy she had ever known, cut out by a
girl "very much like herself."  Josephine wished passionately that
she had been fired from school--then the family might have given up
and let her alone.

She was not so much humiliated as full of angry despair, but for
the sake of her pride, she had a letter to write immediately.  Her
eyes were bright with tears as she began:


Dearest Lil:  I was not surprised when I heard that about R. S.  I
knew he was fickle and never gave him a second THOUGHT after school
closed in June.  As a matter of fact, you know how fickle I am
myself, darling, and you can imagine that I haven't had time to let
it worry ME.  Everybody has a right to do what they want, say I.
Live and let live is my motto.  I wish you could have been here
this summer.  More WONDERFUL parties--


She paused, knowing that she should invent more circumstantial
evidence of gayety.  Pen in air, she gazed out into the deep, still
mass of northern trees.  Inventing was delicate work, and having
dealt always in realities, her imagination was ill-adapted to the
task.  Nevertheless, after several minutes a vague, synthetic
figure began to take shape in her mind.  She dipped the pen and
wrote:  "One of the darlingest--" hesitated and turned again for
inspiration to the window.

Suddenly she started and bent forward, the tears drying in her
eyes.  Striding down the road, not fifty feet from her window, was
the handsomest, the most fascinating boy she had ever seen in her
life.


III


He was about nineteen and tall, with a blond viking head; the fresh
color in his slender, almost gaunt cheeks was baked warm and dry by
the sun.  She had a glimpse of his eyes--enough to know that they
were "sad" and of an extraordinary glistening blue.  His model legs
were in riding breeches, above which he wore a soft sweater jacket
of blue chamois, and as he walked he swung a crop acrimoniously at
the overhanging leaves.

For a moment the vision endured; then the path turned into a clump
of trees and he was gone, save for the small crunch of his boots on
the pine needles.

Josephine did not move.  The dark green trees that had seemed so
lacking in promise were suddenly like a magic wall that had opened
and revealed a short cut to possible delight; the trees gave forth
a great trembling rustle.  For another instant she waited; then she
threw herself at the unfinished letter:


--he usually wears the best-looking riding clothes.  He has the
MOST beautiful eyes.  On top he usually wears a blue chamois thing
that is simply DIVINE.


IV


When her mother came in, half an hour later, she found Josephine
getting into her best afternoon dress with an expression that was
at once animated and far away.

"I thought--" she said.  "I don't suppose you'd want to come with
me and pay a few calls?"

"I'd adore to," said Josephine unexpectedly.

Her mother hesitated.  "I'm afraid it's been a rather stupid month
for you.  I didn't realize that there wouldn't be anyone your age.
But something nice has happened that I can't tell you about yet,
and perhaps I'll soon have some news for you."

Josephine did not appear to hear.

"Who shall we call on?" she demanded eagerly.  "Let's just call on
everybody, even if it takes until ten o'clock tonight.  Let's start
at the nearest house and just keep going until we've killed
everybody off."

"I don't know whether we can do that."

"Come on."  Josephine was putting on her hat.  "Let's get going,
mother."

Perhaps, Mrs. Perry thought, the summer was really making a
difference in her daughter; perhaps it was developing in her a more
gently social vein.  At each house they visited she positively
radiated animation, and displayed sincere disappointment when they
found no one home.  When her mother called it a day, the light in
her eyes went out.

"We can try again tomorrow," she said impatiently.  "We'll kill the
rest of them off.  We'll go back to those houses where there was no
one home."

It was almost seven--a nostalgic hour, for it had been the
loveliest of all at Lake Forest a year ago.  Bathed and positively
shining, one had intruded then for a last minute into the departing
day, and, sitting alone on the veranda, turned over the romantic
prospects of the night, while lighted windows sprang out on the
blurring shapes of houses, and cars flew past with people late home
from tea.

But tonight the murmurous Indian twilight of the lake country had a
promise of its own, and strolling out into the lane that passed the
house, Josephine broke suddenly into a certain walk, rather an
externallized state of mind, that had been hitherto reserved for
more sophisticated localities.  It implied, through a skimming lift
of the feet, through an impatience of the moving hips, through an
abstracted smile, lastly through a glance that fell twenty feet
ahead, that this girl was about to cross some material threshold
where she was eagerly awaited; that, in fact, she had already
crossed it in her imagination and left her surroundings behind.  It
was just at that moment she heard a strong clear whistle in front
of her and the sound as of a stick swishing through leaves:


               "Hello,
               Fris-co,
               Hello!

     How do you do, my dear?
     I only wish that you were here."


Her heart beat a familiar tattoo; she realized that they would pass
each other just where a last rift of sunset came down through the
pines.


               "Hello,
               Fris-co,
               Hel-lo!"


There he was, a fine shape against the foreground.  His gallant
face, drawn in a single dashing line, his chamois vest, so blue--
she was near enough that she could have touched it.  Then she
realized with a shock that he had passed without noticing her
proximity by a single flicker of his unhappy eyes.

"The conceited pill!" she thought indignantly.  "Of all the
conceited--"

She was silent during dinner; at the end she said to her aunt, with
small preliminary:

"I passed the most conceited-looking young man today.  I wonder who
he could have been."

"Maybe it was the nephew of old Dorrance," offered Dick, "or the
fellow staying at old Dorrance's.  Somebody said it was his nephew
or some sort of relation."

His mother said pointedly to Josephine:  "We don't see the
Dorrances.  Mr. Charles Dorrance considered that my husband was
unjust to him about our boundary some years ago.  Old Mr. Dorrance
was a very stubborn man indeed."

Josephine wondered if that was why he had failed to respond this
afternoon.  It was a silly reason.

But next day, at the same place, at the same hour, he literally
jumped at her soft "Good evening"; he stared at her with
unmistakable signs of dismay.  Then his hand went up as if to
remove a hat, found none, and he bowed instead and went on by.

But Josephine turned swiftly and walked at his side, smiling.

"You might be more sociable.  You really shouldn't be so exclusive,
since we're the only two people in this place.  I do think it's
silly to let older people influence young people."

He was walking so fast that she could scarcely keep up with him.

"Honestly, I'm a nice girl," she persisted, still smiling.  "Quite
a few people rush me at dances and I once had a blind man in love
with me."

They were almost at her aunt's gate, still walking furiously.

"Here's where I live," she said.

"Then I'll say good-by."

"What IS the matter?" she demanded.  "How CAN you be so rude?"

His lips formed the words, "I'm sorry."

"I suppose you've got to hurry home so you can stare at yourself at
the mirror."

She knew this was untrue.  He wore his good looks in almost an
apologetic way.  But it reached him, for he came to a precipitate
halt, immediately moving off a little.

"Excuse my rudeness," he exploded.  "But I'm not used to girls."

She was too winded to answer.  But as her shaken composure
gradually returned, she became aware of an odd weariness in his
face.

"At least you might talk to me for a minute, if I don't come any
nearer."

After a moment's hesitation he hoisted himself tentatively onto a
fence rail.

"If you're so frightened of females, isn't it time something was
done about it?" she inquired.

"It's too late."

"Never," she said positively.  "Why, you're missing half of life.
Don't you want to marry and have children and make some woman a
fine wife--I mean, a fine husband?"

In answer he only shivered.

"I used to be terribly timid myself," she lied kindly.  "But I saw
that I was missing half of life."

"It isn't a question of will power.  It's just that I'm a little
crazy on the subject.  A minute ago I had an instinct to throw a
stone at you.  I know it's terrible, so if you'll excuse me--"

He jumped down off the fence, but she cried quickly:  "Wait!  Let's
talk it all over."

He lingered reluctantly.

"Why, in Chicago," she said, "any man as good-looking as you could
have any girl he wanted.  Everyone would simply pursue him."

The idea seemed to distress him still further; his face grew so sad
that impulsively she moved nearer, but he swung one leg over the
fence.

"All right.  We'll talk about something else," she conceded.
"Isn't this the most dismal place you ever saw?  I was supposed to
be a speed in Lake Forest, so the family sentenced me to this, and
I've had the most KILL-ing month, just sitting and twirling my
thumbs.  Then yesterday I looked out the window and saw you."

"What do you mean you were a speed?" he inquired.

"Just sort of speedy--you know, sort of pash."

He got up--this time with an air of finality.

"You really must excuse me.  I know I'm an idiot on this woman
question, but there's nothing to do about it."

"Will you meet me here tomorrow?"

"Heavens, no!"

Josephine was suddenly angry; she had humbled herself enough for
one afternoon.  With a cold nod, she started homeward down the
lane.

"Wait!"

Now that there was thirty feet between them, his timidity had left
him.  She was tempted to go back, resisted the impulse with
difficulty.

"I'll be here tomorrow," she said coolly.

Walking slowly home, she saw, by instinct rather than logic, that
there was something here she failed to understand.  In general, a
lack of self-confidence was enough to disqualify any boy from her
approval; it was the unforgivable sin, the white flag, the refusal
of battle.  Yet now that this young man was out of sight, she saw
him as he had appeared the previous afternoon--unself-conscious,
probably arrogant, utterly debonair.  Again she wondered if the
unpleasantness between the families could be responsible for his
attitude.

In spite of their unsatisfactory conversation, she was happy.  In
the soft glow of the sunset it seemed certain that it would all
come right tomorrow.  Already the oppressive sense of being wasted
had deserted her.  The boy who had passed her window yesterday
afternoon was capable of anything--love, drama, or even that
desperate recklessness that she loved best of all.

Her mother was waiting on the veranda.

"I wanted to see you alone," she said, "because I thought Aunt
Gladys would be offended if you looked too delighted.  We're going
back to Lake Forest tomorrow."

"Mother!"

"Constance is announcing her engagement tomorrow and getting
married in ten days.  Malcolm Libby is in the State Department and
he's ordered abroad.  Isn't it wonderful?  Your sister's opening up
the Lake Forest house today."

"It'll be marvellous."  After a moment Josephine repeated, with
more conviction:  "Perfectly marvellous."

Lake Forest--she could feel the fast-beating excitement of it
already.  Yet there was something missing, as if the note of an
essential trumpet had become separated from the band.  For five
weeks she had passionately hated Island Farms, but glancing around
her in the gathering dusk, she felt rather sorry for it, a little
ashamed of her desertion.

Throughout dinner the odd feeling persisted.  She would be deep in
exciting thoughts that began, "Won't it be fun to--" then the
imminent brilliance would fade and there would be a stillness
inside her like the stillness of these Michigan nights.  That was
what was lacking in Lake Forest--a stillness for things to happen
in, for people to walk into.

"We'll be terribly busy," her mother said.  "Next week there'll be
bridesmaids in the house, and parties, and the wedding itself.  We
should have left tonight."

Josephine went up to her room immediately and sat looking out into
the darkness.  Too bad; a wasted summer after all.  If yesterday
had happened sooner she might have gone away with some sense of
having lived after all.  Too late.  "But there'll be lots of boys,"
she told herself--Ridgeway Saunders.

She could hear their confident lines, and somehow they rang silly
on her ears.  Suddenly she realized that what she was regretting
was not the lost past but the lost future, not what had not been
but what would never be.  She stood up, breathing quickly.

A few minutes later she left the house by a side door and crossed
the lawn to the gardener's gate.  She heard Dick call after her
uncertainly, but she did not answer.  It was dark and cool, and the
feeling that the summer was rushing away from her.  As if to
overtake it, she walked faster, and in ten minutes turned in at the
gate of the Dorrance house, set behind the jagged silhouettes of
many trees.  Someone on the veranda hailed her as she came near:

"Good evening.  I can't see who it is."

"It's the girl who was so fresh this afternoon."

She heard him catch his breath suddenly.

"May I sit here on the steps for a moment?  See?  Quite safe and
far away.  I came to say good-by, because we're going home
tomorrow."

"Are you really?"  She could not tell whether his tone showed
concern or relief.  "It'll be very quiet."

"I want to explain about this afternoon, because I don't want you
to think I was just being fresh.  Usually I like boys with more
experience, but I just thought that since we were the only ones
here, we might manage to have a good time, and there weren't any
days to waste."

"I see."  After a moment he asked, "What will you do in Lake
Forest?  Be a--a speed?"

"I don't much care what I do.  I've wasted the whole six weeks."

She heard him laugh.

"I gather from your tone that someone is going to have to pay for
it," he said.

"I hope so," she answered rather grimly.  She felt tears rise in
her eyes.  Everything was wrong.  Everything seemed to be fixed
against her.

"Please let me come up there on the settee," she asked suddenly.

There was a creak as it stopped swinging.

"Please don't.  I hate to ask you, but really I'll have to go if
you do.  Let's talk about--Do you like horses?"

She got up swiftly, mounted the steps and walked toward the corner
where he sat.

"No," she said, "I think that what I'd like would be to be liked by
you."

In the light of the moon just lifting over the woods his face was
positively haggard.  He jumped to his feet; then his hands were on
her arms and he was drawing her slowly toward him.

"You simply want to be kissed," he was saying through scarcely
opened lips.  "I knew it the first time I saw that mouth of yours--
that perfectly selfish, self-sufficient look that--"

Suddenly he dropped his arms and stepped away from her with a
gesture of horror.

"Don't stop!" she cried.  "Do anything, tell me anything, even if
it isn't complimentary.  I don't care."

But he had vaulted swiftly over the railing and, with his hands
clasping the back of his head, was walking across the lawn.  In a
minute she overtook him and stood beseechingly in his path, her
small bosom rising and falling.

"Why do you suppose I'm here?" he demanded suddenly.  "Do you think
I'm alone?"

"What--"

"My wife is with me."

Josephine shivered.

"Oh--oh--then why doesn't anybody know?"

"Because my wife is--my wife is colored."

If it had not been so dark Josephine would have seen that for an
instant he was laughing silently and uncontrollably.

"Oh," she repeated.

"I didn't know," he continued.

In spite of a subconscious scepticism, an uncanny feeling stole
over Josephine.

"What dealings could I have with a girl like you?"

She began to weep softly.

"Oh, I'm sorry.  If I could only help you."

"You can't help me."  He turned gruffly away.

"You want me to go."

He nodded.

"All right.  I'll go."

Still sobbing, she half walked, half backed away from him,
intimidated now, yet still hoping he would call to her.  When she
saw him for the last time from the gate, he was standing where she
had left him, his fine thin face clear and handsome in the suddenly
streaming light of an emergent moon.

She had gone a quarter of a mile down the road when she became
conscious of running footsteps behind her.  Before she could do
more than start and turn anxiously, a figure sprang out at her.  It
was her cousin, Dick.

"Oh!" she cried.  "You frightened me!"

"I followed you here.  You had no business going out at night like
this."

"What a sneaky thing!" she said contemptuously.

They walked along side by side.

"I heard you with that fellow.  You had a crush on him, didn't
you?"

"Will you be quiet!  What does a horrible little pill like you know
about anything?"

"I know a lot," said Dick glumly.  "I know there's too much of that
sort of thing at Lake Forest."

She scorned to answer; they reached her aunt's gate in silence.

"I tell you one thing," he said uncertainly.  "I'll bet you
wouldn't want your mother to know about this."

"You mean you're going to my mother?"

"Just hold your horses.  I was going to say I wouldn't say anything
about it--"

"I should hope not."

"--on one condition."

"Well?"

"The condition is--"  He fidgeted uncomfortably.  "You told me once
that a lot of girls at Lake Forest had kissed boys and never
thought anything about it."

"Yes."  Suddenly she guessed what was coming, and an astonished
laugh rose to her lips.

"Well, will you, then--kiss me?"

A vision of her mother arose--of a return to Lake Forest in chains.
Deciding quickly, she bent toward him.  Less than a minute later
she was in her room, almost hysterical with tears and laughter.
That, then, was the kiss with which destiny had seen fit to crown
the summer.


V


Josephine's sensational return to Lake Forest that August marked a
revision of opinion about her; it can be compared to the moment
when the robber bandit evolved through sheer power into the feudal
seignior.

To the three months of nervous energy conserved since Easter
beneath the uniform of her school were added six weeks of
resentment--added, that is, as the match might be said to be added
to the powder.  For Josephine exploded with an audible, visible
bang; for weeks thereafter pieces of her were gathered up from Lake
Forest's immaculate lawns.

It began quietly; it began with the long-awaited house party, on
the first evening of which she was placed next to the unfaithful
Ridgeway Saunders at dinner.

"I certainly felt pretty badly when you threw me over," Josephine
said indifferently--to rid him of any lingering idea that he had
thrown her over.  Once she had chilled him into wondering if, after
all, he had come off best in the affair, she turned to the man on
the other side.  By the time the salad was served, Ridgeway was
explaining himself to her.  And his girl from the East, Miss
Ticknor, was becoming increasingly aware of what an obnoxious
person Josephine Perry was.  She made the mistake of saying so to
Ridgeway.  Josephine made no such mistake; toward the end of dinner
she merely asked him the innocent question as to who was his friend
with the high button shoes.

By ten o'clock Josephine and Ridgeway were out in somebody's car--
far out where the colony becomes a prairie.  As minute by minute
she grew wearier of his softness, his anguish increased.  She let
him kiss her, just to be sure; and it was a desperate young man who
returned to his host's that night.

All next day his eyes followed her about miserably; Miss Ticknor
was unexpectedly called East the following afternoon.  This was
pathetic, but certainly someone had to pay for Josephine's summer.
That score settled, she returned her attention to her sister's
wedding.

Immediately on her return she had demanded a trousseau in keeping
with the splendor of a maid of honor, and under cover of the family
rush had so managed to equip herself as to add a charming year to
her age.  Doubtless this contributed to the change of attitude
toward her, for though her emotional maturity, cropping out of a
schoolgirl dress, had seemed not quite proper, in more sophisticated
clothes she was an incontestable little beauty; and as such she was
accepted by at least the male half of the wedding party.

Constance was openly hostile.  On the morning of the wedding
itself, she unburdened herself to her mother.

"I do hope you'll take her in hand after I'm gone, mother.  It's
really unendurable the way she's behaving.  None of the bridesmaids
have had a good time."

"Let's not worry," Mrs. Perry urged.  "After all, she's had a very
quiet summer."

"I'm not worrying about HER," said Constance indignantly.

The wedding party were lunching at the club, and Josephine found
herself next to a jovial usher who had arrived inebriated and
remained in that condition ever since.  However, it was early
enough in the day for him to be coherent.

"The belle of Chicago, the golden girl of the golden West.  Oh, why
didn't I come out here this summer?"

"I wasn't here.  I was up in a place called Island Farms."

"Ah!" he exclaimed.  "Ah-ha!  That accounts for a lot of things--
that accounts for the sudden pilgrimage of Sonny Dorrance."

"Of who?"

"The famous Sonny Dorrance, the shame of Harvard, but the maiden's
prayer.  Now don't tell me you didn't exchange a few warm glances
with Sonny Dorrance."

"But isn't he," she demanded faintly--"isn't he supposed to be--
married?"

He roared with laughter.

"Married--sure, married to a mulatto!  You didn't fall for THAT old
line.  He always pulls it when he's reacting from some violent
affair--that's to protect himself while he recovers.  You see, his
whole life has been cursed by that fatal beauty."

In a few minutes she had the story.  Apart from everything else,
Sonny Dorrance was fabulously rich--women had pursued him since he
was fifteen--married women, débutantes, chorus girls.  It was
legendary.

There actually had been plots to entangle him into marriage, to
entangle him into anything.  There was the girl who tried to kill
herself, there was the one who tried to kill him.  Then, this
spring, there was the annulled marriage business that had cost him
an election to Porcellian at Harvard, and was rumored to have cost
his father fifty thousand dollars.

"And now," Josephine asked tensely, "you say he doesn't like
women?"

"Sonny?  I tell you he's the most susceptible man in America.  This
last thing shook him, and so he keeps off admirers by telling them
anything.  But by this time next month he'll be involved again."

As he talked, the dining room faded out like a scene in a moving
picture, and Josephine was back at Island Farms, staring out the
window, as a young man appeared between the pine trees.

"He was afraid of me," she thought to herself, her heart tapping
like a machine gun.  "He thought I was like the others."

Half an hour later she interrupted her mother in the midst of the
wedding's last and most violent confusion.

"Mother, I want to go back to Island Farms for the rest of the
summer," she said at once.

Mrs. Perry looked at her in a daze, and Josephine repeated her
statement.

"Why, in less than a month you'll be starting back to school."

"I want to go anyhow."

"I simply can't understand you.  In the first place, you haven't
been invited, and in the second place, I think a little gayety is
good for you before you go back to school, and in the third place,
I want you here with me."

"Mother," Josephine wailed, "don't you understand?  I want to go!
You take me up there all summer when I don't want to go, and just
when I DO want to, you make me stay in this ghastly place.  Let me
tell you this isn't any place for a sixteen-year-old girl, if you
knew everything."

"What nonsense to be bothering me with just at this time!"

Josephine threw up her hands in despair; the tears were streaming
down her cheeks.

"It's ruining me here!" she cried.  "Nobody thinks of anything but
boys and dances from morning till night.  They go out in their cars
and kiss them from morning till night."

"Well, I know my little girl doesn't do anything like that."

Josephine hesitated, taken a little aback.

"Well, I will," she announced.  "I'm weak.  You told me I was.  I
always do what anybody tells me to do, and all these boys are just
simply immoral, that's all.  The first thing you know I'll be
entirely ruined, and then you'll be sorry you didn't let me go to
Island Farms.  You'll be sorry--"

She was working herself into hysteria.  Her distracted mother took
her by the shoulders and forced her down into a chair.

"I've never heard such silly talk.  If you weren't so old I'd spank
you.  If you keep this up you'll be punished."

Suddenly dry-eyed, Josephine got up and stalked out of the room.
Punished!  They had been punishing her all summer, and now they
refused to punish her, refused to send her away.  Oh, she was tired
of trying.  If she could think of something really awful to do, so
that they would send her away forever--

Mr. Malcolm Libby, the prospective bridegroom, happened upon her
fifteen minutes later, in an obscure corner of the garden.  He was
pacing restlessly about, steadying himself for the rehearsal at
four o'clock and for the ceremony two hours later.

"Why, hello!" he cried.  "Why, what's the matter?  You've been
crying."

He sat down on the bench, full of sympathy for Constance's little
sister.

"I'm not crying," she sobbed.  "I'm just angry."

"About Constance going away?  Don't you think I'll take good care
of her?"

Leaning over, he patted her hand.  If he had seen the look that
flashed suddenly across her face it would have alarmed him, for it
was curiously like the expression associated with a prominent
character in Faust.

When she spoke, her voice was calm, almost cool, and yet tenderly
sad:

"No, that wasn't it.  It was something else."

"Tell me about it.  Maybe I can help."

"I was crying"--she hesitated delicately--"I was crying because
Constance has all the luck."

Half an hour later when, with the rehearsal twenty minutes late,
the frantic bride-to-be came searching through the garden and
happened upon them suddenly, Malcolm Libby's arm was around
Josephine, who seemed dissolved in uncontrollable grief, and on his
face was a wildly harassed expression she had never seen there
before.  Constance gave a little gasping cry and sank down upon the
pebbled path.

The next hour passed in an uproar.  There was a doctor; there were
shut doors; there was Mr. Malcolm Libby in an agonized condition,
the sweat pouring off his brow, explaining to Mrs. Perry over and
over that he could explain if he could only see Constance.  There
was Josephine, tight-lipped, in a room, being talked to coldly by
various members of the family.  There was the clamor of arriving
guests; then frantic last minutes' patching up of things, with
Constance and Malcolm in each other's arms and Josephine,
unforgiven, being bundled into her dress.

Then a solemn silence fell and, moving to music, the maid of honor,
her head demurely bowed, followed her sister up the two aisles of
people that crowded the drawing-room.  It was a lovely, sad
wedding; the two sisters, light and dark, were a lovely contrast;
there was as much interest in one as in the other.  Josephine had
become a great beauty and the prophets were busy; she stood for the
radiant future, there at her sister's side.

The crush was so great at the reception that not until it was over
was Josephine missed.  And long before nine o'clock, before Mrs.
Perry had time to be uneasy, a note from the station had been
handed in at the door:


My Dearest Mother:  Ed Bement brought me here in his car, and I am
catching the train to Island Farms at seven.  I have wired the
housekeeper to meet me, so don't worry.  I feel I have behaved
TERRIBLY and am ashamed to FACE anyone, and I am punishing myself
as I deserve by going back to the SIMPLE life.  It is, after all,
better for a girl of sixteen, I feel, and when you think it over
you will agree.  With dearest love.

                                                    Josephine.


After all, thought Mrs. Perry, perhaps it was just as well.  Her
husband was really angry, and she herself was exhausted and didn't
feel up to another problem at the moment.  Perhaps a nice quiet
place was best.




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