air sides to the ground . . .” Vance dropped the little volume, and pressing his hands against his eyes let the frail music filter through him. This poetry had another quality of newness quite its own — something elusive as the shy beauty of a cold spring evening. Beddoes . . . that was the name. Another unknown! Was he a contemporary of those others, Marlowe and Ford, who lived so long before theWillows was built, almost before the Hudson River had a name? Or was he not, rather with an exquisite new note, trying to lure back the earlier music? How could a boy from Euphoria hope to find his way through this boundless forest of English poetry, called hither and thither by all these wild-winged birds pouring down their music on him? As he stood groping and gazing, in the litter and confusion of the ravaged shelves, his eyes fell on a title which seemed to hold out help. Half Hours with the Best Authors — stoutish volumes in worn black cloth, with queer pinnacled gilt lettering. Well, at least they would tell him who were supposed to be the best authors when the book was written — put him wise on that, anyhow. He reached for a volume, and settled himself down again. The book was not, as Vance had expected, a series of “half hour” essays on the best authors. Charles Knight (that was the man’s name) had simply ranged through a library like Miss Lorburn’s, about eighty years ago, gathered this bloom and that, and bound them together with the fewest words. Vance, accustomed to short~cuts to culture, had expected an early version of the “five-foot shelf”; he found, instead, the leisurely selections of an anthologist to whom it had obviously not occurred that he might have readers too hurried to dwell on the more recondite beauties of English literature. The choice of the poetry did not greatly interest Vance, after Lamb’s Specimens and the Beddoes volume; but as his eye travelled on he found himself receiving for the first time — except when he had first read his Bible as literature — the mighty shock of English prose. For the moment it affected him almost more powerfully than the poetry, such a sense it gave of endlessly subtle intricacies of rhythm and movement, such a great tidal pressure as he could feel only, and not define. “Methinks I see in my mind a noble and puissant nation rousing herself like a strong man after sleep, and shaking her invincible locks; methinks I see her as an eagle nursing her mighty youth, and kindling her undazzled eyes at the full mid-day beam; purging and unsealing her long abused sight at the fountain itself of heavenly radiance . . . .” “The light of the world in the turning of the creation was spread abroad like a curtain, and dwelt nowhere, but filled the expansum with a dissemination great as the unfoldings of the air’s looser garment, or the wilder fringes of the fire, without knots, or order, or combination; but God gathered the beams in his hand, and united them into a globe of fire, and all the light of the world became the body of the sun.” What a fellow could say, if he had the chance, and the habit of words and sentences like that! Vance shut the volume and sat gazing ahead of him. The blood was beating in his temples. The walls of dark musty books seemed to sway and dissolve, letting him into that new world of theirs — a world of which he must somehow acquire the freedom. “I must find out — I must find out.” He repeated the words chantingly, unmeaningly, as if they had been an incantation. Then slowly his mind began to clear, to become again able to follow its own movements. What he needed, no doubt, to enter that world, was EDUCATION— the very thing he thought he already had! It was not only the books into which he had been dipping that told him of his need. Every word, every allusion caught at the Eaglewood lunch table had opened new vistas of conjecture. Of course each human agglomeration, down to the smallest village, had its local idioms, its own range of allusions, its stock of jokes and forms of irony. At the Tracys’, for instance, you heard the Paul’s Landing vernacular, as you heard that of Euphoria at Vance’s family table; but all that was different. Vance had known instantly that the language, the intonations, the allusions of Eaglewood did not belong peculiarly to Paul’s Landing, were indeed hardly concerned with it, but embraced, though so lightly flitting, great areas extending not only to New York and beyond, but backward through this mysterious past which was so much newer to Vance than any present. These easy affable people could talk — did talk — about everything! Everything, that is, but the exclusively local matters which had formed the staple of the only conversation Vance had ever heard. What they talked of was simply ALL THE REST; and he could see that they did it without the least intention of showing-off, the least consciousness that their scope was wider than other people’s — did it naturally, carelessly, just as his mother talked about electric cookers, his father about local real estat cheap nike air max e, Mrs. Tracy about Laura Lou’s school picnics and Upton’s job at the nursery. The inference was, not that the Spears and their friends were an isolated group, parading their superior attainments before each other, but that they belonged to a class, a society, a type of people, who naturally breathed this larger air, possessed this privilege of moving freely backward and forward in time and space, and were so used to it all that they took the same faculty for granted in others — even in a boy like Vance Weston. Well, there was no reason why a boy like Vance Weston shouldn’t, some day or other, acquire a like faculty. He had been brought up in the creed that there was nothing a fellow from Euphoria, the cradle of all the Advantages, couldn’t attain to. Only — how? It seemed to him that the gulf was untraversable. If only he could have been left alone in that library, left there for half a year, perhaps. . . . But even so, he felt that he needed some kind of tuition to prepare him for the library. The Past was too big, too complicated, too aloof, to surren cheap nike air max trainers der its secrets so lightly. College again? College meant to him sports and more sports, secret societies, class scraps and fraternity rushing, with restricted intervals of mechanical cramming, and the glib unmeaning recital of formulas — his courses provided a formula for everything! But all that had nothing to do with all THIS . . . . Besides, thinking about college was a waste of time. Even had he been willing to submit again to the same routine, he hadn’t the me nike air max sale ans to re-educate himself, and he could not ask his father to pay his expenses twice over. Mr. Weston, Vance knew, regarded him as an investment which ought already to be bringing in something. After the boy’s illness his father had recognized the necessity of his taking a holiday; and being a man who always did things handsomely when his doing so was visible to others, he had agreed, besides paying the trip to New York and back, and Vance’s board at the Tracys’, to allow him a hundred dollars a month for four months. Vance had received half the sum before starting, with a warning to be careful and not make a fool of himself; and his father’s gesture, which became generally known on Mapledale Avenue, was thought very liberal, and worthy of Lorin Weston. But Vance, at the same time, was given to understand that as soon as his summer’s rest was over he was to “make good.” His father, having reluctantly come round to the idea of his going into journalism instead of real estate, had obtained the promise of a job for him on the Free Speaker, and was already swaggering at club meetings about the nuisance of having a literary fellow in the family. “Problem most of you fellows aren’t up against, I guess? Fact is, Mrs. Weston has a way-back culture complex in her family, and it’s a microbe you can’t seem to eradicate.” This was all very well — and nobody liked swaggering better than the silent Lorin Weston; but Vance knew that he liked to have his swagger justified with the least possible delay. The only hope lay in returning as often as he could to this silent room, and trying to hack a way through the dense jungle of the past. But he was not sure it would be possible. He was aware that Mrs. Tracy, though she made no comment, wondered at his meetings with Miss Spear at the Willows, and at the permission given him to range among the books. He had spent two whole days there since his lunch at Eaglewood, and on this second day no one had come down from the “bi nike air max classic g house,” as Mrs. Tracy called it, to let him in, and he had been obliged to go back to Paul’s Landing and ask her for the keys. “I don’t know as I ought to,” Mrs. Tracy had said as she handed them over; and then: “Oh, well, I suppose it’s all right if THEY say so.” She referred to the Spears as “they,” with a certain tartness, since she had learned of Vance’s having lunched at Eaglewood. “Well, I never! Mebbe som nike air max e time they’ll remember that Upton and Laura Lou are related to them too.” Vance felt that in asking for the keys he had vaguely offended her, and he was sorry; but he could not give up the books. New York had completely vanished from his thoughts. He had the sense to understand that, to a boy like himself, New York could offer no opportunity comparable to this. He must learn something first — then try his luck there. When he had found himself, at the Eaglewood lunch table, seated next to the literary critic whose name, in his confusion, he had not caught, he had acted at once on the deep instinct which always made him seize on what was meant for his own nourishment, in however new and unfamiliar surroundings. Here, at least, he said to himself, was an editor — a journalist! He had no idea if The Hour were a daily (as its name seemed to imply), or some kind of highbrow review nike air max 95 (as he feared); but whatever it was, it might give him his chance — and here he was sitting next to the very man who had the power to open its columns to him. But he found it less easy than he had imagined. The great man (whom they all addressed simply as “George” or “Frenny”) was evidently trying to be friendly, in his dry sardonic way; but he paid no heed to Mrs. Spear’s allusions to “our young poet,” and his remarks to Vance were merely perfunctory questions as to his life in the West, and his present sojourn at the Tracys’. Once indeed he asked, blinking absently at the boy through his glasses: “And what’s the next move to be?” but on Vance’s answering: “I want to get onto a newspaper,” his interest seemed to flag. “Oh, of course,” he merely said, as who should imply; “What’s the use of expecting anything different in a world of sameness?” and the blood which had rushed cheap nike air max 90/2013 shoes australia online store to Vance’s face ebbed back to his heart. A few hours earlier, as he talked of his poetry with Halo Spear by the mountain pool, everything had seemed possible; now he thought bitterly: “When it comes down to hardpan girls don’t know anything anyhow.” And it gave him a grim satisfaction to class his mountain nymph in the common category. But when she reminded him of his promise to help her with the books his feeling veered to adoration, and her appearance at the Willows, vivid and inspiring, instantly lifted him to the brow of Thundertop. “She carries that pool everywhere with her,” he thought, and was seized by the desire to embody the fancy in a new poem; and when she, broke off in her dusting and sorting to say: “I gave your poetry to George Frenside to read last night,” he was too much agitated to thank her, or to put a question. A moment later, she seemed to forget what she had said, carried away by a dip into Andrew Marv nike air max 90 ell (What — he didn’t know “The Coy Mistress”? Oh, but he must just listen to this!); and finally, after whirling him on from one book to another for an hour or so, she vanished as suddenly as she had come to join the mysterious “Lewis,” the fellow she was going to marry, Vance supposed. She came back the next day, and the next. On the fourth she promised to leave her keys with him and to meet him again at the Willows the next morning; but she carried the keys off with her, and he had to get the hired man, who scrutinized him sulkily, to lock up. And the fifth day there had been no sign of her . . . and now twilight would soon be falling, and it was time to go. Show his poetry to George Frenside (if that was the man’s name)? Much chance he’d ever hear of that again . . . likely as not she’d never even done it; just meant to, and forgotten. For if she had, wouldn’t she have had something to report — even if unfavourable? It wasn’t likely she’d stick at telling him a few more home truths, after the stiff dose she’d already adminis cheap nike air max tered! Perhaps on second thoughts she’d decided the stuff wasn’t worth showing. And yet, hadn’t she told him in so many words that she HAD shown it? No, what she had said, literally, was: “I gave Frenside your poetry to read.” Well, the great critic probably hadn’t taken advantage of his opportunity — perhaps she’d put him off in advance with her comments. “Urge” not a noun! And that nonsense about “dawn” and “lor nike air max 1 n” not being good rhymes! God, to see a tone-deaf woman laying down the law — and all Eaglewood kowtowing! Well, he had to laugh at the thought of those stuffed oracles sitting up there and telling each other what was what. . . . What the hell’d he care for their opinion, anyhow — of his poetry, or of himself? Lot of self-opiniated amateurs . . . he had to laugh. . . . Well, he’d go to New York the next day, and look round on his own, and see what the professionals thought about him. . . . After all, he could describe himself as being on the staff of the Free Speaker. Suddenly a shadow cut off the western sunlight slanting on his book, and he saw one of the young men from Eaglewood leaning on the window and looking in at him — not the fair dissatisfied-looking one they called “Lewis,” but the other: Halo’s brother Lorburn. http://www.righteouspups.org.au/90.aspx Lorburn Spear put his hand on the sill, said “Hullo — still at it?” and vaulted into the room. In the middle of the floor he paused, his hands in his pockets, and gazed about with an amused smile and ironically lifted brows. He was slim and dark, like Halo, with the same carefully drawn features as his father, but more height and less majesty than Mr. Spear. An easy accessible sort of fellow; a fellow Vance felt he could have taken a liking to if only — if what? Perhaps it was that his eyes were too close together. Grandma Scrimser always used to say: “Don’t you ever trust a man whose eyes are near enough to be always whispering to each other.” And then she went and trusted everybody — even Grandpa! Fact was, Grandma liked axioms the way you like olives; it never occurred to her they were meant for anything but to roll unde nike air max 90 r your tongue . . . . “Well,” said Lorry Spear pleasantly, “this is luck, finding you still in the mausoleum. I suppose Halo set you the job and then chucked you? Thought so. She promised to pick me up by and by, but will she? Have you made any amusing finds? Cigarette? No?” He drew out his own, lit one, and dropped into the chair nearest Vance’s. “There ought to be things here, you know,” he went on sending his eyes sharply about him while his attention still seemed to be centred on Vance. “Things?” Vance echoed excitedly: “I should say so! See here — do you know this?” He pushed across the table the volume of Half Hours, open at Beddoes. Lorry Spear stared, took the book up, glanced at the title page and threw it down. “Well — I don’t believe there’d be any bids for that unless it took the ragpicker’s fancy.” “The ragpick nike air max 90 sale er —?” The young men stared at each other, and Lorry laughed. “Oh, I see: you’re a reader. Halo told me. It’s a conceivable branch of the business, of course.” “Business —?” “Business of book-collecting. That’s what books are for, isn’t it? Even people who read ’em have to collect them. But personally I’ve never thought they were meant to be read. You can get all the talk you want — and too much — from live people; I never could see the point of dragging in the dead. The beauty of books is their makeup: like a woman’s. What’s a woman without clothes and paint? Next to nothing, believe me, after you’ve worn off the first surprise. . . . And a book without the right paper, the right type, the right binding, the right date on the title page; well, it’s a blank to me, that’s all.” He got up again, cigarette in hand, and lounged across the room. “Don’t suppose there’s much here, anyhow. I’ve always meant to take a look, and never had time. . . . There might be some Americana — never can tell. The best thing about these ancestors was that they never threw anything away. Didn’t value things; didn’t know about them; but just hung on to them. I shouldn’t wonder — Oh, see here! HULLO!” He stretched his long arm toward an upper shelf, reached down a volume, and stood absorbed. Vance watched him curiously. He had never seen anyone so easy, self-assured, and yet careless as this brother of Miss Spear’s. “Thought you didn’t care about reading,” he remarked at length, amused at his visitor’s absorption. Young Spear gave a start, and laid the book down. “Oh, I was turning out paradoxes — they madden my family, but amuse me. Trouble about reading at Eaglewood is that whatever you get hold of everybody’s been there before you. No discoveries to be made. But YOU don’t read, do you — you write? You’ll find nobody can do both. What’s your line? Poetry?” Vance was trembling with excitement, as he always did when anyone touched on his vocation. But his recent experiences had caused a sort of protective skin to grow over his secret sensibilities — or was it that really the eyes of this good-looking young man were too close together? Vance could imagine having all kinds of a good time with him, but not talking to him of anything that lay under that skin. “Oh, I guess there’ll be time for me to choose a line later,” he said. “I’m in the reading stage still. And this old house interests me. Where I come from everything’s bran’ new — houses and books and everything. We throw ’em out when they get shabby. And I like looking at all these things that folks have kept right along — hung onto, as you say.” Lorburn Spear looked at him with interest, with sympathy even, Vance thought. For a second his smile had the fugitive radiance of his sister’s. “Why, yes, I see your point: what you might call the novelty of permanence. And this place certainly has character, though old Tom Lorburn is too stupid to see it. And our Cousin Elinor had character too! Good head, eh?” He glanced up at the portrait, still with that odd air of keeping hold of Vance while he looked away from him. “You know she did a good deal to the house when she inherited it. This room expresses one side of her; her maturity, her acceptance. But when she did the drawing rooms she was frivolous, she still dreamed of dancing — she’d read Byron on the waltz, poor girl! What an appetizer it must have been to those women to have so many things forbidden! Seen the rest of the rooms? No? Oh, but they’re worth it. Come along before it gets too dark.” Gaily, with his long free step, he led the way across the patterned parquet, and Vance followed, captivated by the image of a young Miss Lorburn who still dreamed of dancing, and to whom so many things were sweet because forbidden. “Yet she ended in her library . . . .” he thought. Lorry Spear was a stimulating guide. His quick touches woke the dumb rooms to life, lit the dusky wax candles in chandeliers and wall brackets, drew a Weber waltz from the slumbering piano, peopled the floor with gaily circling couples, even made Vance see the dotted muslins and billowy tarlatans looped with camellias of the young women with their ringlets and sandalled feet. He found the cleverest words, made it all visible and almost tangible, knew even what flowers there would have been in the ornate porcelain vases: mignonette and pinks, with heavy pink roses, he decided: “Yes — I ought to have been a theatrical decorator; would be, if only the boss would put up the cash. But to do that they’d have to sell Eaglewood — or marry Halo to a millionaire,” he added with an impatient laugh. Upstairs he took Vance over the funny bedrooms, so big and high~ceilinged, with beds of mahogany or rosewood, and the lace-looped toilet tables (like the ladies’ ball-dresses) with gilt mirror frames peeping through the festoons, and big marble-topped washstands that carried carafes and goblets of cut glass, porcelain basins and ewers with flower garlands. In one of the dressing rooms (Miss Lorburn’s) there was a specially ornate toilet set, with a ewer in the shape of a swan with curving throat and flattened wings, and a basin like a nest of rushes. “Poor Elinor — I supposed she dreamed of a Lohengrin before the letter, and hoped to find a baby in the bulrushes,” Lorry commented; and Vance, understanding the allusions, felt a pang of sympathy for the lonely woman. At the end of the passage, in one of the freakish towers, was a circular room with blue brocade curtains and tufted furniture, the walls hung with large coloured lithographs of peasant girls dancing to tambourines, and young fellows in breeches and velvet jackets who drove oxcarts laden with ripe grapes. “The Italy of her day,” Lorry smiled. “She must have done this boudoir in the Lohengrin stage. And she ended in spectacles, cold and immaculate, reading Coleridge all alone. Brr!” He broke off, and turned to the window. “Hullo! Isn’t that Halo?” The hoarse bark of the Eaglewood motor sounded at the gate. “Come along down,” Lorry continued. “You’d better take advantage of the lift home. Besides, it’s too dark to do much more here.” They started down the stairs, but in the hall Vance hesitated. “I’ve left the books piled up anyhow. Guess I’d better go back and put them on the shelves.” He realized suddenly that for the last two days he had done neither dusting nor sorting, and wondered what Miss Spear would say if she saw the havoc he had created. “Not on your life!” Lorry enjoined him. “You could hardly see a yard before your nose in the library by this time, and lighting up is strictly forbidden. Might set the old place on fire. If it was mine I’d do it, and collect the insurance; but old Tom don’t need to, curse him.” He stopped short, and clapped his hand on his waistcoat pocket. “I must have left my cigarette case in there. Yes, I remember. You wait here — ” He spun down the polished floor of the drawing-rooms and disappeared. Vance waited impatiently. Although the June sky outside was still full of daylight it was dark already in the hall with its sombre panelling and heavy oak stairs. Now and then he heard the croak of the Eaglewood motor and he wondered how much longer Miss Spear would deign to wait. Between the motor calls the silence was oppressive. What could young Spear have done with his cigarette case? Once Vance thought he heard the banging of a window in the distance. Could it be that he had forgotten to close the windows in the library? But he was sure he had not; and the sound took on the ghostly resonance of unexplained noises. Perhaps that silly Laura Lou was right to be scared — as dusk fell it became easier to believe that the Willows might be haunted. Vance started back across the echoing parquet to the library; but halfway he met Lorry returning. “Couldn’t find the damn thing,” he grumbled. “Got the keys, eh?” Vance said he had, and they moved toward the door. On the threshold Lorry paused, and turned to him again with Halo’s smile. “You haven’t got ten dollars you don’t know what to do with? Like a fool I let Lewis and Frenside keep me up half the night playing poker. . . . Well, that’s white of you. Thanks. Settle next week. And don’t mention it to Halo, will you? The old people are down on poker . . . and on everything else I want to do.” Vance turned the key in the front door, and the two walked through the long grass to the gate. Vance felt grown-up and important. It put him at his ease with Lorry’s sister to have a secret between men to keep from her. Chapter 12 Vance turned over slowly, opened his eyes, pushed back his rumpled hair, and did not at first make out where he was. He thought the bed was a double one, black walnut with carved ornaments and a pink mosquito net, on the wall facing him a large photograph of a fat man with a Knights of Pythias badge and a stiff collar, and a gramophone shrieking out the Volga Boat Song somewhere below. Then the vision merged into the more familiar one of his neat little room at Euphoria, of college photographs and trophies on the walls, and the sound of early splashing in the white-tiled bathroom at the end of the passage. But this picture also failed to adapt itself to his clearing vision, and gradually he thought: “Why, I’m back at Paul’s Landing,” and the sloping ceiling, the flies banging against the pane, the glimpse, outside, of a patch of currant bushes backed by sultry blue woods, came to him with mingled reassurance and alarm. “What the hell — ” he thought. Oh — he knew now. That baseball game over in New Jersey had been Upton’s idea. It was a Saturday, the day after Lorry Spear’s visit to the Willows. When Vance got back to the Tracys’ Upton had been waiting at the gate, his eyes bursting out of his head. A fellow had given him tickets: Bunty Hayes, a reporter on the Paul’s Landing paper. They could leave next morning by the first train, take a look round in New York, and reach the field in good time. As it was a Saturday there would be no difficulty in Upton’s getting off. Vance was struck by the change in him: his pale face flushed, his shy evasive eyes burning with excitement, his very way of moving and walking full of a swagger and self-importance which made him seem years older. Indoors, under Mrs. Tracy’s eyes, he relapsed at once into the shy shambling boy with callous hands and boots covered with mud from the nursery. Mrs. Tracy did not oppose the plan, or did so only on the ground of Vance’s health. They had a long hot day before them, and could not get home till ten or eleven o’clock at night. He must remember that he was just getting over a bad illness. . . . But Vance refused to be regarded as an invalid, or even as a convalescent. He was well again, he declared, and equal to anything. Mrs. Tracy could not but acknowledge how much he had gained during his fortnight at Paul’s Landing; and she finally gave a colourless assent to the expedition, on condition that the two youths should take the earliest possible train home, and keep out of bad company — like that Bunty Hayes, she added. Vance and Upton knew it was not her way to acquiesce joyfully in any suggestion which broke the routine of life, and after giving her the requisite assurances they began their preparations lightheartedly. In the morning, when they came down to gulp the cold coffee and sandwiches she had laid out overnight, Vance was astonished to find Laura Lou in the kitchen, in her refurbished yellow muslin, with a becoming shade-hat on her silvery-golden head. “You’re going to take me, aren’t you? I’ve warmed the coffee and boiled some eggs for you,” she said to Vance in her childish way; and it caused him a pang when Upton, with a brother’s brutality, reminded her that she knew Bunty’d only given him two tickets. Her lower lip began to tremble, her big helpless gray eyes to fill: Vance asked himself with inward vexation whether he ought to surrender his ticket to this tiresome child. But before he had made up his mind Upton cut short his sister’s entreaties. “We’re going with a lot of fellows: you know Mother wouldn’t hear of it. What’s all the fuss about anyway? You’ve got that school picnic this afternoon. That’s what you were doing up your dress for yesterday. Don’t you take any notice of her, Vance.” She ran from the room, crimson and half crying; and Vance ate his eggs with compunction and relief. He didn’t want any girl on his hands the first day he saw New York . . . . They were there only a couple of hours, and there was no use trying to hunt up an editor. The most he could achieve was a distant view of the most notable skyscrapers, a gasp at Fifth Avenue and a dip into Broadway, before dashing to the Pennsylvania Station for the Jersey train. From that moment they were caught up in the baseball crowd, a crowd of which he had never seen the like. Life became a perspiring struggle, a struggle for air, for a foothold, for a sight of anything but the hot dripping napes and shoulder blades that hemmed them in. Finally, somehow, they had reached the field, got through the gates, found their places, discovered Bunty Hayes nearby with a crowd of congenial spirits, and settled down to the joys of spectatorship — or such glimpses of it as their seats permitted. It was a comfort to Vance to reflect that he had been right not to give his ticket to Laura Lou; such a frail creature could hardly have come alive out of the battle. The oddest thing about the adventure was the transformation of Upton. Vance would have imagined Upton to be almost as unfitted as his sister for such a test of nerve and muscle; but the timorous youth of Paul’s Landing developed, with the donning of his Sunday clothes, an unforeseen audacity and composure. The fact that Vance didn’t know the ropes seemed to give Upton a sense of superiority; he said at intervals: “Come right along; stick to me; don’t let ’em put it over on you,” in a tone of almost patronizing reassurance. And when they joined Bunty Hayes, who was one of the free spirits of Paul’s Landing, Vance was struck by the intimacy of his greeting of Upton, and by the “Hullo, Uppy boy” — “Say, that the Tracy kid?” of his companions. It was evident that Upton had already acquired the art of the double life, and that the sheepish boy who went about his job at the Paul’s Landing nursery, and clumped home for supper with mud and manure on his boots, was the pale shade of the real Upton, a dashing blade with his straw hat too far back on his pale blond hair, and a fraternity ribbon suddenly budding in his buttonhole. “Wonder if Laura Lou knows?” Vance speculated, and concluded that she did, and that brother and sister carried on their own lives under Mrs. Tracy’s unsuspecting eye. He was rather sorry now that they hadn’t brought Laura Lou after all; it would have been curious to see her blossom out like her brother. But Vance soon forgot her in the exhilaration of watching the game. It was his first holiday for months; for the dull business of convalescence had nothing to do with holiday~making. The noise and excitement about him were contagious, and he cheered and yelled with the rest, exchanged jokes with Bunty Hayes and his friends, and felt himself saturated with the vigour of all the young and vigorous life about him. But when the game was over, and the crowd began to scatter, the vitality seemed to ebb out of him as the spectators ebbed out of the stadium. It was still very hot; he had shouted himself hoarse; they had ahead of them the struggle at the station, the struggle to get into a train, the stifling journey home — and Vance began to feel that he was still a convalescent, with no reserves of strength. At Euphoria, after a ball game, a dozen people would have been ready to give him a lift home; but here he knew no one, Upton seemed to have no acquaintances but Bunty Hayes and his crowd, and Paul’s Landing, where they all came from, was a long way off. “See here — you look sick,” said Bunty Hayes, touching him on the shoulder. Vance flushed up. “Sick? I’m hot and thirsty, that’s all.” He wasn’t going to have any of that lot of Upton’s treating him like a sissy. “Well, that’s easy. Come round with us and have a cool-off. We’re all going to look in at the Crans’, close by here. This is their car: jump in, sonny.” Suddenly a motor stood there: Vance remembered piling into it with Upton, Bunty Hayes, and some other fellows; they sat on each other’s laps and on the hood. A girl who laughed very much and had blown-back hair, dyed red, was at the wheel. Where were they going? Who was she? Vance didn’t care. As the motor began to move the wind stirred in his own hair, driving it back like the girl’s, and life flowed through him again. He began to laugh, and tried to light a cigarette, but couldn’t, because there wasn’t enough elbow-room for a sardine. The others laughed at his ineffectual attempt, and another girl, perched somewhere behind him, lit a cigarette and leaned forward to push it between his lips. They were going to the Crans’, and he found out, he didn’t know how, that these two were the Cran girls — Cuty with the dyed hair at the wheel, and the younger, ‘Smeralda they called her, sitting behind him on the hood between two fellows, so that his head rested against her knees, and he felt, through his hair, the warm flesh where her scant skirt had slipped up. Once or twice, after they had left the state highway, the overloaded motor nearly stuck in the deep ruts of the country road, and everybody laughed and cheered and gave college yells till Cuty somehow got them going again. Ah, how good the cool drinks were when they got to the Crans’! It was at the back of the house, he remembered, under an arbour of scarlet runners that looked out on a long narrow yard where clothes were drying. Some of the clothes were funny little garments with lace edgings and holes for ribbon, and there was a good deal of joking about that, and he remembered Cuty Cran crying out: “No, it ain’t! No, I don’t! Mine are crepp-de-sheen. . . . Well, you come upstairs and see, then . . . .” But Cuty was not the one he fancied; and anyhow, since Floss he’d never . . . and he had young Upton to look after . . . .
http://www.righteouspups.org.au/ Vance dropped the little volume
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