blazing nights of darkness. With spurious cheerfulness she announced
everywhere, "I guess I'm a born spinster," and "No one will ever marry
a plain schoolma'am like me," and "You men, great big noisy bothersome
creatures, we women wouldn't have you round the place, dirtying up nice
clean rooms, if it wasn't that you have to be petted and guided. We just
ought to say 'Scat!' to all of you!"
But when a man held her close at a dance, even when "Professor"
George Edwin Mott patted her hand paternally as they considered the
naughtinesses of Cy Bogart, she quivered, and reflected how superior she
was to have kept her virginity.
In the autumn of 1911, a year before Dr. Will Kennicott was married,
Vida was his partner at a five-hundred tournament. She was thirty-four
then; Kennicott about thirty-six. To her he was a superb, boyish,
diverting creature; all the heroic qualities in a manly magnificent
body. They had been helping the hostess to serve the Waldorf salad and
coffee and gingerbread. They were in the kitchen, side by side on a
bench, while the others ponderously supped in the room beyond.
Kennicott was masculine and experimental. He stroked Vida's hand, he put
his arm carelessly about her shoulder.
"Don't!" she said sharply.
"You're a cunning thing," he offered, patting the back of her shoulder
in an exploratory manner.
While she strained away, she longed to move nearer to him. He bent over,
looked at her knowingly. She glanced down at his left hand as it touched
her knee. She sprang up, started noisily and needlessly to wash the
dishes. He helped her. He was too lazy to adventure further--and too
used to women in his profession. She was grateful for the impersonality
of his talk. It enabled her to gain control. She knew that she had
skirted wild thoughts.
A month after, on a sleighing-party, under the buffalo robes in the
bob-sled, he whispered, "You pretend to be a grown-up schoolteacher, but
you're nothing but a kiddie." His arm was about her. She resisted.
"Don't you like the poor lonely bachelor?" he yammered in a fatuous way.
"No, I don't! You don't care for me in the least. You're just practising
"You're so mean! I'm terribly fond of you."
"I'm not of you. And I'm not going to let myself be fond of you,
He persistently drew her toward him. She clutched his arm. Then she
the other hand, people like Carol Kennicott put too much stress on all
this art. Folks ought to appreciate lovely things, but just the same,
they got to be practical and--they got to look at things in a practical
Smiling, passing each other the pressed-glass pickle-dish, seeing Mrs.
Gurrey's linty supper-cloth irradiated by the light of intimacy, Vida
and Raymie talked about Carol's rose-colored turban, Carol's sweetness,
Carol's new low shoes, Carol's erroneous theory that there was no need
of strict discipline in school, Carol's amiability in the Bon Ton,
Carol's flow of wild ideas, which, honestly, just simply made you
nervous trying to keep track of them.
About the lovely display of gents' shirts in the Bon Ton window as
dressed by Raymie, about Raymie's offertory last Sunday, the fact that
there weren't any of these new solos as nice as "Jerusalem the Golden,"
and the way Raymie stood up to Juanita Haydock when she came into the
store and tried to run things and he as much as told her that she was
so anxious to have folks think she was smart and bright that she
said things she didn't mean, and anyway, Raymie was running the
shoe-department, and if Juanita, or Harry either, didn't like the way he
ran things, they could go get another man.
About Vida's new jabot which made her look thirty-two (Vida's estimate)
or twenty-two (Raymie's estimate), Vida's plan to have the high-school
Debating Society give a playlet, and the difficulty of keeping the
younger boys well behaved on the playground when a big lubber like Cy
Bogart acted up so.
About the picture post-card which Mrs. Dawson had sent to Mrs. Cass from
Pasadena, showing roses growing right outdoors in February, the change
in time on No. 4, the reckless way Dr. Gould always drove his auto, the
reckless way almost all these people drove their autos, the fallacy of
supposing that these socialists could carry on a government for as much
as six months if they ever did have a chance to try out their theories,
and the crazy way in which Carol jumped from subject to subject.
Vida had once beheld Raymie as a thin man with spectacles, mournful
drawn-out face, and colorless stiff hair. Now she noted that his jaw was
square, that his long hands moved quickly and were bleached in a refined
manner, and that his trusting eyes indicated that he had "led a clean
life." She began to call him "Ray," and to bounce in defense of his
unselfishness and thoughtfulness every time Juanita Haydock or Rita
Gould giggled about him at the Jolly Seventeen.
On a Sunday afternoon of late autumn they walked down to Lake
Minniemashie. Ray said that he would like to see the ocean; it must be a
grand sight; it must be much grander than a lake, even a great big lake.
Vida had seen it, she stated modestly; she had seen it on a summer trip
to Cape Cod.
"Have you been clear to Cape Cod? Massachusetts? I knew you'd traveled,
but I never realized you'd been that far!"
Made taller and younger by his interest she poured out, "Oh my yes.
It was a wonderful trip. So many points of interest through
Massachusetts--historical. There's Lexington where we turned back
the redcoats, and Longfellow's home at Cambridge, and Cape Cod--just
everything--fishermen and whale-ships and sand-dunes and everything."
She wished that she had a little cane to carry. He broke off a willow
"My, you're strong!" she said.
"No, not very. I wish there was a Y. M. C. A. here, so I could take up
regular exercise. I used to think I could do pretty good acrobatics, if
I had a chance."
"I'm sure you could. You're unusually lithe, for a large man."
"Oh no, not so very. But I wish we had a Y. M. It would be dandy to have
lectures and everything, and I'd like to take a class in improving
the memory--I believe a fellow ought to go on educating himself and
improving his mind even if he is in business, don't you, Vida--I guess
I'm kind of fresh to call you 'Vida'!"
"I've been calling you 'Ray' for weeks!"
He wondered why she sounded tart.
He helped her down the bank to the edge of the lake but dropped her hand
abruptly, and as they sat on a willow log and he brushed her sleeve, he
delicately moved over and murmured, "Oh, excuse me--accident."
She stared at the mud-browned chilly water, the floating gray reeds.
"You look so thoughtful," he said.
She threw out her hands. "I am! Will you kindly tell me what's the use
of--anything! Oh, don't mind me. I'm a moody old hen. Tell me about your
plan for getting a partnership in the Bon Ton. I do think you're right:
Harry Haydock and that mean old Simons ought to give you one."