Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership



F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)

Saturday Evening Post (March 30, 1929)

Basil Duke Lee and Riply Buckner, Jr., sat on the Lees' front steps
in the regretful gold of a late summer afternoon.  Inside the house
the telephone sang out with mysterious promise.

"I thought you were going home," Basil said.

"I thought you were."

"I am."

"So am I."

"Well, why don't you go, then?"

"Why don't you, then?"

"I am."

They laughed, ending with yawning gurgles that were not laughed out
but sucked in.  As the telephone rang again, Basil got to his feet.

"I've got to study trig before dinner."

"Are you honestly going to Yale this fall?" demanded Riply


"Everybody says you're foolish to go at sixteen."

"I'll be seventeen in September.  So long.  I'll call you up

Basil heard his mother at the upstairs telephone and he was
immediately aware of distress in her voice.

"Yes. . . .  Isn't that awful, Everett! . . .  Yes. . . .  Oh-h
my!"  After a minute he gathered that it was only the usual worry
about business and went on into the kitchen for refreshments.
Returning, he met his mother hurrying downstairs.  She was blinking
rapidly and her hat was on backward--characteristic testimony to
her excitement.

"I've got to go over to your grandfather's."

"What's the matter, mother?"

"Uncle Everett thinks we've lost a lot of money."

"How much?" he asked, startled.

"Twenty-two thousand dollars apiece.  But we're not sure."

She went out.

"Twenty-two thousand dollars!" he repeated in an awed whisper.

His ideas of money were vague and somewhat debonair, but he had
noticed that at family dinners the immemorial discussion as to
whether the Third Street block would be sold to the railroads had
given place to anxious talk of Western Public Utilities.  At half-
past six his mother telephoned for him to have his dinner, and with
growing uneasiness he sat alone at the table, undistracted by The
Mississippi Bubble, open beside his plate.  She came in at seven,
distraught and miserable, and dropping down at the table, gave him
his first exact information about finance--she and her father and
her brother Everett had lost something more than eighty thousand
dollars.  She was in a panic and she looked wildly around the
dining room as if money were slipping away even here, and she
wanted to retrench at once.

"I've got to stop selling securities or we won't have anything,"
she declared.  "This leaves us only three thousand a year--do you
realize that, Basil?  I don't see how I can possibly afford to send
you to Yale."

His heart tumbled into his stomach; the future, always glowing like
a comfortable beacon ahead of him, flared up in glory and went out.
His mother shivered, and then emphatically shook her head.

"You'll just have to make up your mind to go to the state

"Gosh!" Basil said.

Sorry for his shocked, rigid face, she yet spoke somewhat sharply,
as people will with a bitter refusal to convey.

"I feel terribly about it--your father wanted you to go to Yale.
But everyone says that, with clothes and railroad fare, I can count
on it costing two thousand a year.  Your grandfather helped me to
send you to St. Regis School, but he always thought you ought to
finish at the state university."

After she went distractedly upstairs with a cup of tea, Basil sat
thinking in the dark parlor.  For the present the loss meant only
one thing to him--he wasn't going to Yale after all.  The sentence
itself, divorced from its meaning, overwhelmed him, so many times
had he announced casually, "I'm going to Yale," but gradually he
realized how many friendly and familiar dreams had been swept away.
Yale was the faraway East, that he had loved with a vast nostalgia
since he had first read books about great cities.  Beyond the
dreary railroad stations of Chicago and the night fires of
Pittsburgh, back in the old states, something went on that made his
heart beat fast with excitement.  He was attuned to the vast,
breathless bustle of New York, to the metropolitan days and nights
that were tense as singing wires.  Nothing needed to be imagined
there, for it was all the very stuff of romance--life was as vivid
and satisfactory as in books and dreams.

But first, as a sort of gateway to that deeper, richer life, there
was Yale.  The name evoked the memory of a heroic team backed up
against its own impassable goal in the crisp November twilight, and
later, of half a dozen immaculate noblemen with opera hats and
canes standing at the Manhattan Hotel bar.  And tangled up with its
triumphs and rewards, its struggles and glories, the vision of the
inevitable, incomparable girl.

Well, then, why not work his way through Yale?  In a moment the
idea had become a reality.  He began walking rapidly up and down
the room, declaring half aloud, "Of course, that's the thing to
do."  Rushing upstairs, he knocked at his mother's door and
announced in the inspired voice of a prophet:  "Mother, I know what
I'm going to do!  I'm going to work my way through Yale."

He sat down on her bed and she considered uncertainly.  The men in
her family had not been resourceful for several generations, and
the idea startled her.

"It doesn't seem to me you're a boy who likes to work," she said.
"Besides, boys who work their way through college have scholarships
and prizes, and you've never been much of a student."

He was annoyed.  He was ready for Yale a year ahead of his age and
her reproach seemed unfair.

"What would you work at?" she said.

"Take care of furnaces," said Basil promptly.  "And shovel snow off
sidewalks.  I think they mostly do that--and tutor people.  You
could let me have as much money as it would take to go to the state

"We'll have to think it over."

"Well, don't you worry about anything," he said emphatically,
"because my earning my way through Yale will really make up for the
money you've lost, almost."

"Why don't you start by finding something to do this summer?"

"I'll get a job tomorrow.  Maybe I can pile up enough so you won't
have to help me.  Good night, Mother."

Up in his room he paused only to thunder grimly to the mirror that
he was going to work his way through Yale, and going to his
bookcase, took down half a dozen dusty volumes of Horatio Alger,
unopened for years.  Then, much as a postwar young man might
consult the George Washington Condensed Business Course, he sat at
his desk and slowly began to turn the pages of Bound to Rise.

Two days later, after being insulted by the doorkeepers, office
boys and telephone girls of the Press, the Evening News, the
Socialist Gazette and a green scandal sheet called the Courier, and
assured that no one wanted a reporter practically seventeen, after
enduring every ignominy prepared for a young man in a free country
trying to work his way through Yale, Basil Duke Lee, too "stuck-up"
to apply to the parents of his friends, got a position with the
railroad, through Eddie Parmelee, who lived across the way.

At 6.30 the following morning, carrying his lunch, and a new suit
of overalls that had cost four dollars, he strode self-consciously
into the Great Northern car shops.  It was like entering a new
school, except that no one showed any interest in him or asked him
if he was going out for the team.  He punched a time clock, which
affected him strangely, and without even an admonition from the
foreman to "go in and win," was put to carrying boards for the top
of a car.

Twelve o'clock arrived; nothing had happened.  The sun was blazing
hot and his hands and back were sore, but no real events had
ruffled the dull surface of the morning.  The president's little
daughter had not come by, dragged by a runaway horse; not even a
superintendent had walked through the yard and singled him out with
an approving eye.  Undismayed, he toiled on--you couldn't expect
much the first morning.

He and Eddie Parmelee ate their lunches together.  For several
years Eddie had worked here in vacations; he was sending himself to
the state university this fall.  He shook his head doubtfully over
the idea of Basil's earning his way through Yale.

"Here's what you ought to do," he said:  "You borrow two thousand
dollars from your mother and buy twenty shares in Ware Plow and
Tractor.  Then go to a bank and borrow two thousand more with those
shares for collateral, and with that two thousand buy twenty more
shares.  Then you sit on your back for a year, and after that you
won't have to think about earning your way through Yale."

"I don't think mother would give me two thousand dollars."

"Well, anyhow, that's what I'd do."

If the morning had been uneventful, the afternoon was distinguished
by an incident of some unpleasantness.  Basil had risen a little,
having been requested to mount to the top of a freight car and help
nail the boards he had carried in the morning.  He found that
nailing nails into a board was more highly technical than nailing
tacks into a wall, but he considered that he was progressing
satisfactorily when an angry voice hailed him from below:

"Hey, you!  Get up!"

He looked down.  A foreman stood there, unpleasantly red in the

"Yes, you in the new suit.  Get up!"

Basil looked about to see if someone was lying down, but the two
sullen hunyaks seemed to be hard at work and it grew on him that he
was indeed being addressed.

"I beg your pardon, sir," he said.

"Get up on your knees or get out!  What the h-- do you think this

He had been sitting down as he nailed, and apparently the foreman
thought that he was loafing.  After another look at the foreman, he
suppressed the explanation that he felt steadier sitting down and
decided to just let it go.  There were probably no railroad shops
at Yale; yet, he remembered with a pang the ominous name, New York,
New Haven and Hartford.

The third morning, just as he had become aware that his overalls
were not where he had hung them in the shop, it was announced that
all men of less than six months' service were to be laid off.
Basil received four dollars and lost his overalls.  Learning that
nails are driven from a kneeling position had cost him only

In a large old-fashioned house in the old section of the city lived
Basil's great-uncle, Benjamin Reilly, and there Basil presented
himself that evening.  It was a last resort--Benjamin Reilly and
Basil's grandfather were brothers and they had not spoken for
twenty years.

He was received in the living room by the small, dumpy old man
whose inscrutable face was hidden behind a white poodle beard.
Behind him stood a woman of forty, his wife of six months, and her
daughter, a girl of fifteen.  Basil's branch of the family had not
been invited to the wedding, and he had never seen these two
additions before.

"I thought I'd come down and see you, Uncle Ben," he said with some

There was a certain amount of silence.

"Your mother well?" asked the old man.

"Oh, yes, thank you."

Mr. Reilly waited.  Mrs. Reilly spoke to her daughter, who threw a
curious glance at Basil and reluctantly left the room.  Her mother
made the old man sit down.

Out of sheer embarrassment Basil came to the point.  He wanted a
summer job in the Reilly Wholesale Drug Company.

His uncle fidgeted for a minute and then replied that there were no
positions open.


"It might be different if you wanted a permanent place, but you say
you want to go to Yale."  He said this with some irony of his own,
and glanced at his wife.

"Why, yes," said Basil.  "That's really why I want the job."

"Your mother can't afford to send you, eh?"  The note of pleasure
in his voice was unmistakable.  "Spent all her money?"

"Oh, no," answered Basil quickly.  "She's going to help me."

To his surprise, aid came from an unpromising quarter.  Mrs. Reilly
suddenly bent and whispered in her husband's ear, whereupon the old
man nodded and said aloud:

"I'll think about it, Basil.  You go in there."

And his wife repeated:  "We'll think about it.  You go in the
library with Rhoda while Mr. Reilly looks up and sees."

The door of the library closed behind him and he was alone with
Rhoda, a square-chinned, decided girl with fleshy white arms and a
white dress that reminded Basil domestically of the lacy pants that
blew among the laundry in the yard.  Puzzled by his uncle's change
of front, he eyed her abstractedly for a moment.

"I guess you're my cousin," said Rhoda, closing her book, which he
saw was The Little Colonel, Maid of Honor.

"Yes," he admitted.

"I heard about you from somebody."  The implication was that her
information was not flattering.

"From who?"

"A girl named Elaine Washmer."

"Elaine Washmer!"  His tone dismissed the name scornfully.  "That

"She's my best friend."  He made no reply.  "She said you thought
you were wonderful."

Young people do not perceive at once that the giver of wounds is
the enemy and the quoted tattle merely the arrow.  His heart
smoldered with wrath at Elaine Washmer.

"I don't know many kids here," said the girl, in a less aggressive
key.  "We've only been here six months.  I never saw such a stuck-
up bunch."

"Oh, I don't think so," he protested.  "Where did you live before?"

"Sioux City.  All the kids have much more fun in Sioux City."

Mrs. Reilly opened the door and called Basil back into the living
room.  The old man was again on his feet.

"Come down tomorrow morning and I'll find you something," he said.

"And why don't you have dinner with us tomorrow night?" added Mrs.
Reilly, with a cordiality wherein an adult might have detected
disingenuous purpose.

"Why, thank you very much."

His heart, buoyant with gratitude, had scarcely carried him out the
door before Mrs. Reilly laughed shortly and called in her daughter.

"Now we'll see if you don't get around a little more," she
announced.  "When was it you said they had those dances?"

"Thursdays at the College Club and Saturdays at the Lake Club,"
said Rhoda promptly.

"Well, if this young man wants to hold the position your father has
given him, you'll go to them all the rest of the summer."

Arbitrary groups formed by the hazards of money or geography may be
sufficiently quarrelsome and dull, but for sheer unpleasantness the
condition of young people who have been thrust together by a common
unpopularity can be compared only with that of prisoners herded in
a cell.  In Basil's eyes the guests at the little dinner the
following night were a collection of cripples.  Lewis and Hector
Crum, dullard cousins who were tolerable only to each other; Sidney
Rosen, rich but awful; ugly Mary Haupt, Elaine Washmer, and Betty
Geer, who reminded Basil of a cruel parody they had once sung to
the tune of Jungle Town:

     Down below the hill
     There lives a pill
     That makes me ill,
       And her name is Betty Geer.
       We had better stop right here. . . .
     She's so fat,
     She looks just like a cat,
     And she's the queen of pills.

Moreover, they resented Basil, who was presumed to be "stuck-up,"
and walking home afterward, he felt dreary and vaguely exploited.
Of course, he was grateful to Mrs. Reilly for her kindness, yet he
couldn't help wondering if a cleverer boy couldn't have got out of
taking Rhoda to the Lake Club next Saturday night.  The proposal
had caught him unaware; but when he was similarly trapped the
following week, and the week after that, he began to realize the
situation.  It was a part of his job, and he accepted it grimly,
unable, nevertheless, to understand how such a bad dancer and so
unsociable a person should want to go where she was obviously a
burden.  "Why doesn't she just sit at home and read a book," he
thought disgustedly, "or go away somewhere--or sew?"

It was one Saturday afternoon while he watched a tennis tournament
and felt the unwelcome duty of the evening creep up on him, that he
found himself suddenly fascinated by a girl's face a few yards
away.  His heart leaped into his throat and the blood in his pulse
beat with excitement; and then, when the crowd rose to go, he saw
to his astonishment that he had been staring at a child ten years
old.  He looked away, oddly disappointed; after a moment he looked
back again.  The lovely, self-conscious face suggested a train of
thought and sensation that he could not identify.  As he passed on,
forgoing a vague intention of discovering the child's identity,
there was beauty suddenly all around him in the afternoon; he could
hear its unmistakable whisper, its never-inadequate, never-failing
promise of happiness.  "Tomorrow--one day soon now--this fall--
maybe tonight."  Irresistibly compelled to express himself, he sat
down and tried to write to a girl in New York.  His words were
stilted and the girl seemed cold and far away.  The real image on
his mind, the force that had propelled him into this state of
yearning, was the face of the little girl seen that afternoon.

When he arrived with Rhoda Sinclair at the Lake Club that night, he
immediately cast a quick look around to see what boys were present
who were indebted to Rhoda or else within his own sphere of
influence.  This was just before cutting-in arrived, and ordinarily
he was able to dispose of half a dozen dances in advance, but
tonight an older crowd was in evidence and the situation was
unpromising.  However, as Rhoda emerged from the dressing room he
saw Bill Kampf and thankfully bore down upon him.

"Hello, old boy," he said, exuding personal good will.  "How about
dancing once with Rhoda tonight?"

"Can't," Bill answered briskly.  "We've got people visiting us.
Didn't you know?"

"Well, why couldn't we swap a dance anyhow?"

Bill looked at him in surprise.

"I thought you knew," he exclaimed.  "Erminie's here.  She's been
talking about you all afternoon."

"Erminie Bibble!"

"Yes.  And her father and mother and her kid sister.  Got here this

Now, indeed, the emotion of two hours before bubbled up in Basil's
blood, but this time he knew why.  It was the little sister of
Erminie Gilbert Labouisse Bibble whose strangely familiar face had
so attracted him.  As his mind swung sharply back to a long
afternoon on the Kampfs' veranda at the lake, ages ago, a year ago,
a real voice rang in his ear, "Basil!" and a sparkling little
beauty of fifteen came up to him with a fine burst of hurry, taking
his hand as though she was stepping into the circle of his arm.

"Basil, I'm so glad!"  Her voice was husky with pleasure, though
she was at the age when pleasure usually hides behind grins and
mumbles.  It was Basil who was awkward and embarrassed, despite the
intention of his heart.  He was a little relieved when Bill Kampf,
more conscious of his lovely cousin than he had been a year ago,
led her out on the floor.

"Who was that?" Rhoda demanded, as he returned in a daze.  "I never
saw her around."

"Just a girl."  He scarcely knew what he was saying.

"Well, I know that.  What's her name?"

"Minnie Bibble, from New Orleans."

"She certainly looks conceited.  I never saw anybody so affected in
my life."

"Hush!" Basil protested involuntarily.  "Let's dance."

It was a long hour before Basil was relieved by Hector Crum, and
then several dances passed before he could get possession of
Minnie, who was now the center of a moving whirl.  But she made it
up to him by pressing his hand and drawing him out to a veranda
which overhung the dark lake.

"It's about time," she whispered.  With a sort of instinct she
found the darkest corner.  "I might have known you'd have another

"I haven't," he insisted in horror.  "That's a sort of a cousin of

"I always knew you were fickle.  But I didn't think you'd forget me
so soon."

She had wriggled up until she was touching him.  Her eyes, floating
into his, said, What does it matter?  We're alone.

In a curious panic he jumped to his feet.  He couldn't possibly
kiss her like this--right at once.  It was all so different and
older than a year ago.  He was too excited to do more than walk up
and down and say, "Gosh, I certainly am glad to see you,"
supplementing this unoriginal statement with an artificial laugh.

Already mature in poise, she tried to soothe him: "Basil, come and
sit down!"

"I'll be all right," he gasped, as if he had just fainted.  "I'm a
little fussed, that's all."

Again he contributed what, even to his pounding ears, sounded like
a silly laugh.

"I'll be here three weeks.  Won't it be fun?"  And she added, with
warm emphasis:  "Do you remember on Bill's veranda that afternoon?"

All he could find to answer was:  "I work now in the afternoon."

"You can come out in the evenings, Basil.  It's only half an hour
in a car."

"I haven't got a car."

"I mean you can get your family's car."

"It's an electric."

She waited patiently.  He was still romantic to her--handsome,
incalculable, a little sad.

"I saw your sister," he blurted out.  Beginning with that, he might
bridge this perverse and intolerable reverence she inspired.  "She
certainly looks like you."

"Does she?"

"It was wonderful," he said.  "Wonderful!  Let me tell you--"

"Yes, do."  She folded her hands expectantly in her lap.

"Well, this afternoon--"

The music had stopped and started several times.  Now, in an
intermission, there was the sound of determined footsteps on the
veranda, and Basil looked up to find Rhoda and Hector Crum.

"I got to go home, Basil," squeaked Hector in his changing voice.
"Here's Rhoda."

Take Rhoda out to the dock and push her in the lake.  But only
Basil's mind said this; his body stood up politely.

"I didn't know where you were, Basil," said Rhoda in an aggrieved
tone.  "Why didn't you come back?"

"I was just coming."  His voice trembled a little as he turned to
Minnie.  "Shall I find your partner for you?"

"Oh, don't bother," said Minnie.  She was not angry, but she was
somewhat astonished.  She could not be expected to guess that the
young man walking away from her so submissively was at the moment
employed in working his way through Yale.

From the first, Basil's grandfather, who had once been a regent at
the state university, wanted him to give up the idea of Yale, and
now his mother, picturing him hungry and ragged in a garret,
adjoined her persuasions.  The sum on which he could count from her
was far below the necessary minimum, and although he stubbornly
refused to consider defeat, he consented, "just in case anything
happened," to register at the university for the coming year.

In the administration building he ran into Eddie Parmelee, who
introduced his companion, a small, enthusiastic Japanese.

"Well, well," said Eddie.  "So you've given up Yale!"

"I given up Yale," put in Mr. Utsonomia, surprisingly.  "Oh, yes,
long time I given up Yale."  He broke into enthusiastic laughter.
"Oh, sure.  Oh, yes."

"Mr. Utsonomia's a Japanese," explained Eddie, winking.  "He's a
sub-freshman too."

"Yes, I given up Harvard, Princeton too," continued Mr. Utsonomia.
"They give me choice back in my country.  I choose here."

"You did?" said Basil, almost indignantly.

"Sure, more strong here.  More peasants come, with strength and
odor of ground."

Basil stared at him.  "You like that?" he asked incredulously.

Utsonomia nodded.  "Here I get to know real American peoples.
Girls too.  Yale got only boys."

"But they haven't got college spirit here," explained Basil

Utsonomia looked blankly at Eddie.

"Rah-rah!" elucidated Eddie, waving his arms.  "Rah-rah-rah!  You

"Besides, the girls here--" began Basil, and stopped.

"You know girls here?" grinned Utsonomia.

"No, I don't know them," said Basil firmly.  "But I know they're
not like the girls that you'd meet down at the Yale proms.  I don't
think they even have proms here.  I don't mean the girls aren't all
right, but they're just not like the ones at Yale.  They're just

"I hear you got a crush on Rhoda Sinclair," said Eddie.

"Yes, I have!" said Basil ironically.

"They used to invite me to dinner sometimes last spring, but since
you take her around to all the club dances--"

"Good-bye," said Basil hastily.  He exchanged a jerky bow for Mr.
Utsonomia's more formal dip, and departed.

From the moment of Minnie's arrival the question of Rhoda had begun
to assume enormous proportions.  At first he had been merely
indifferent to her person and a little ashamed of her lacy, oddly
reminiscent clothes, but now, as he saw how relentlessly his
services were commandeered, he began to hate her.  When she
complained of a headache, his imagination would eagerly convert it
into a long, lingering illness from which she would recover only
after college opened in the fall.  But the eight dollars a week
which he received from his great-uncle would pay his fare to New
Haven, and he knew that if he failed to hold this position his
mother would refuse to let him go.

Not suspecting the truth, Minnie Bibble found the fact that he only
danced with her once or twice at each hop, and was then strangely
moody and silent, somehow intriguing.  Temporarily, at least, she
was fascinated by his indifference, and even a little unhappy.  But
her precociously emotional temperament would not long stand
neglect, and it was agony for Basil to watch several rivals
beginning to emerge.  There were moments when it seemed too big a
price to pay even for Yale.

All his hopes centered upon one event.  That was a farewell party
in her honor for which the Kampfs had engaged the College Club and
to which Rhoda was not invited.  Given the mood and the moment, he
might speed her departure knowing that he had stamped himself
indelibly on her heart.

Three days before the party he came home from work at six to find
the Kampfs' car before his door and Minnie sitting alone on the
front porch.

"Basil, I had to see you," she said.  "You've been so funny and
distant to me."

Intoxicated by her presence on his familiar porch, he found no
words to answer.

"I'm meeting the family in town for dinner and I've got an hour.
Can't we go somewhere?  I've been frightened to death your mother
would come home and think it was fresh for me to call on you."  She
spoke in a whisper, though there was no one close enough to hear.
"I wish we didn't have the old chauffeur.  He listens."

"Listens to what?" Basil asked, with a flash of jealousy.

"He just listens."

"I'll tell you," he proposed:  "We'll have him drop us by grampa's
house and I'll borrow the electric."

The hot wind blew the brown curls around her forehead as they
glided along Crest Avenue.

That he contributed the car made him feel more triumphantly astride
the moment.  There was a place he had saved for such a time as this--
a little pigtail of a road left from the excavations of Prospect
Park, where Crest Avenue ran obliviously above them and the late
sun glinted on the Mississippi flats a mile away.

The end of summer was in the afternoon; it had turned a corner, and
what was left must be used while there was yet time.

Suddenly she was whispering in his arms, "You're first, Basil--
nobody but you."

"You just admitted you were a flirt."

"I know, but that was years ago.  I used to like to be called fast
when I was thirteen or fourteen, because I didn't care what people
said; but about a year ago I began to see there was something
better in life--honestly, Basil--and I've tried to act properly.
But I'm afraid I'll never be an angel."

The river flowed in a thin scarlet gleam between the public baths
and the massed tracks upon the other side.  Booming, whistling,
faraway railroad sounds reached them from down there; the voices of
children playing tennis in Prospect Park sailed frailly overhead.

"I really haven't got such a line as everybody thinks, Basil, for I
mean a lot of what I say way down deep, and nobody believes me.
You know how much alike we are, and in a boy it doesn't matter, but
a girl has to control her feelings, and that's hard for me, because
I'm emotional."

"Haven't you kissed anybody since you've been in St. Paul?"


He saw she was lying, but it was a brave lie.  They talked from
their hearts--with the half truths and evasions peculiar to that
organ, which has never been famed as an instrument of precision.
They pieced together all the shreds of romance they knew and made
garments for each other no less warm than their childish passion,
no less wonderful than their sense of wonder.

He held her away suddenly, looked at her, made a strained sound of
delight.  There it was, in her face touched by sun--that promise--
in the curve of her mouth, the tilted shadow of her nose on her
cheek, the point of dull fire in her eyes--the promise that she
could lead him into a world in which he would always be happy.

"Say I love you," he whispered.

"I'm in love with you."

"Oh, no; that's not the same."

She hesitated.  "I've never said the other to anybody."

"Please say it."

She blushed the color of the sunset.

"At my party," she whispered.  "It'd be easier at night."

When she dropped him in front of his house she spoke from the
window of the car:

"This is my excuse for coming to see you.  My uncle couldn't get
the club Thursday, so we're having the party at the regular dance
Saturday night."

Basil walked thoughtfully into the house; Rhoda Sinclair was also
giving a dinner at the College Club dance Saturday night.

It was put up to him frankly.  Mrs. Reilly listened to his
tentative excuses in silence and then said:

"Rhoda invited you first for Saturday night, and she already has
one girl too many.  Of course, if you choose to simply turn your
back on your engagement and go to another party, I don't know how
Rhoda will feel, but I know how I should feel."

And the next day his great-uncle, passing through the stock room,
stopped and said:  "What's all this trouble about parties?"

Basil started to explain, but Mr. Reilly cut him short.  "I don't
see the use of hurting a young girl's feelings.  You better think
it over."

Basil had thought it over; on Saturday afternoon he was still
expected at both dinners and he had hit upon no solution at all.

Yale was only a month away now, but in four days Erminie Bibble
would be gone, uncommitted, unsecured, grievously offended, lost
forever.  Not yet delivered from adolescence, Basil's moments of
foresight alternated with those when the future was measured by a
day.  The glory that was Yale faded beside the promise of that
incomparable hour.

On the other side loomed up the gaunt specter of the university,
with phantoms flitting in and out its portals that presently
disclosed themselves as peasants and girls.  At five o'clock, in a
burst of contempt for his weakness, he went to the phone and left
word with a maid at the Kampfs' house that he was sick and couldn't
come tonight.  Nor would he sit with the dull left-overs of his
generation--too sick for one party, he was too sick for the other.
The Reillys could have no complaint as to that.

Rhoda answered the phone and Basil tried to reduce his voice to a
weak murmur:

"Rhoda, I've been taken sick.  I'm in bed now," he murmured feebly,
and then added:  "The phone's right next to the bed, you see; so I
thought I'd call you up myself."

"You mean to say you can't come?"  Dismay and anger were in her

"I'm sick in bed," he repeated doggedly.  "I've got chills and a
pain and a cold."

"Well, can't you come anyhow?" she asked, with what to the invalid
seemed a remarkable lack of consideration.  "You've just got to.
Otherwise there'll be two extra girls."

"I'll send someone to take my place," he said desperately.  His
glance, roving wildly out the window, fell on a house over the way.
"I'll send Eddie Parmelee."

Rhoda considered.  Then she asked with quick suspicion:  "You're
not going to that other party?"

"Oh, no; I told them I was sick too."

Again Rhoda considered.  Eddie Parmelee was mad at her.

"I'll fix it up," Basil promised.  "I know he'll come.  He hasn't
got anything to do tonight."

A few minutes later he dashed across the street.  Eddie himself,
tying a bow on his collar, came to the door.  With certain
reservations, Basil hastily outlined the situation.  Would Eddie go
in his place?

"Can't do it, old boy, even if I wanted to.  Got a date with my
real girl tonight."

"Eddie, I'd make it worth your while," he said recklessly.  "I'd
pay you for your time--say, five dollars."

Eddie considered, there was hesitation in his eyes, but he shook
his head.

"It isn't worth it, Basil.  You ought to see what I'm going out
with tonight."

"You could see her afterward.  They only want you--I mean me--
because they've got more girls than men for dinner--and listen,
Eddie, I'll make it ten dollars."

Eddie clapped him on the shoulder.

"All right, old boy, I'll do it for an old friend.  Where's the

More than a week's salary melted into Eddie's palm, but another
sort of emptiness accompanied Basil back across the street--the
emptiness of the coming night.  In an hour or so the Kampfs'
limousine would draw up at the College Club and--time and time
again his imagination halted miserably before that single picture,
unable to endure any more.

In despair he wandered about the dark house.  His mother had let
the maid go out and was at his grandfather's for dinner, and
momentarily Basil considered finding some rake like Elwood Leaming
and going down to Carling's Restaurant to drink whiskey, wines and
beer.  Perhaps on her way back to the lake after the dance, Minnie,
passing by, would see his face among the wildest of the revelers
and understand.

"I'm going to Maxim's," he hummed to himself desperately; then he
added impatiently:  "Oh, to heck with Maxim's!"

He sat in the parlor and watched a pale moon come up over the
Lindsays' fence at McKubben Street.  Some young people came by,
heading for the trolley that went to Como Park.  He pitied their
horrible dreariness--they were not going to dance with Minnie at
the College Club tonight.

Eight-thirty--she was there now.  Nine--they were dancing between
courses to "Peg of My Heart" or doing the Castle Walk that Andy
Lockheart brought home from Yale.

At ten o'clock he heard his mother come in, and almost immediately
the phone rang.  For a moment he listened without interest to her
voice; then abruptly he sat up in his chair.

"Why, yes; how do you do, Mrs. Reilly. . . .  Oh, I see. . . .  Oh.
. . .  Are you sure it isn't Basil you want to speak to? . . .
Well, frankly, Mrs. Reilly, I don't see that it's my affair."

Basil got up and took a step toward the door; his mother's voice
was growing thin and annoyed:  "I wasn't here at the time and I
don't know who he promised to send."

Eddie Parmelee hadn't gone after all--well, that was the end.

". . . Of course not.  It must be a mistake.  I don't think Basil
would possibly do that; I don't think he even knows any Japanese."

Basil's brain reeled.  For a moment he was about to dash across the
street after Eddie Parmelee.  Then he heard a definitely angry note
come into his mother's voice:

"Very well, Mrs. Reilly.  I'll tell my son.  But his going to Yale
is scarcely a matter I care to discuss with you.  In any case, he
no longer needs anyone's assistance."

He had lost his position and his mother was trying to put a proud
face on it.  But her voice continued, soaring a little:

"Uncle Ben might be interested to know that this afternoon we sold
the Third Street block to the Union Depot Company for four hundred
thousand dollars."

Mr. Utsonomia was enjoying himself.  In the whole six months in
America he had never felt so caught up in its inner life before.
At first it had been a little hard to make plain to the lady just
whose place it was he was taking, but Eddie Parmelee had assured
him that such substitutions were an American custom, and he was
spending the evening collecting as much data upon American customs
as possible.

He did not dance, so he sat with the elderly lady until both the
ladies went home, early and apparently a little agitated, shortly
after dinner.  But Mr. Utsonomia stayed on.  He watched and he
wandered.  He was not lonesome; he had grown accustomed to being

About eleven he sat on the veranda pretending to be blowing the
smoke of a cigarette--which he hated--out over the city, but really
listening to a conversation which was taking place just behind.  It
had been going on for half an hour, and it puzzled him, for
apparently it was a proposal, and it was not refused.  Yet, if his
eyes did not deceive him, the contracting parties were of an age
that Americans did not associate with such serious affairs.
Another thing puzzled him even more: obviously, if one substituted
for an absent guest, the absent guest should not be among those
present, and he was almost sure that the young man who had just
engaged himself for marriage was Mr. Basil Lee.  It would be bad
manners to intrude now, but he would urbanely ask him about a
solution of this puzzle when the state university opened in the

This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia