At the far window, standing with his back to them, was Mr. Sandy Kilday. He was engaged in a fierce encounter with an unnamed monster whose eyes were green. During his pauses for breath he composed a few comprehensive and scathing remarks which he intended to bestow upon Miss Fenton at his earliest convenience. Fickleness was a thing not to be tolerated. She had confessed her preference for him over all others; she must and should prove it. Just when his indignation had reached the exploding-point, he heard his name called.
“Sandy,” cried Annette, “what do you think? Ruth is coming home! Carter is on his way to the d-depot to meet her now. She’s been gone nearly a year. I never was so crazy to see anyb-body in all my life.”
Sandy wheeled about. “Which depot?” he cried excitedly; and without apologies or farewell he dashed out of the house and down the street.
When the Pullman train came into the Clayton station, he was leaning against a truck in a pose of studied indifference. Out of the tail of his eye he watched the passengers alight.
There were the usual fat women and thin men, tired women with children, and old women with baskets, but no sign of a small girl with curls hanging down her back and dresses to her shoe-tops.
Suddenly he caught his breath. Standing in the car door, like a saint in a niche, was a radiant figure in a blue traveling-suit, with a bit of blue veil floating airily from her hat brim. She was not the little girl he was looking for, but he transferred his devotion at a bound; for long skirts and tucked-up curls rendered her tenfold more worshipful than before.
He watched her descend from her pedestal, bestow an affectionate kiss upon her brother, then look eagerly around for other familiar faces. In one heart-suspending instant her eyes met his, she hesitated in confusion, then blushed and bowed.
Sandy reeled home in utter intoxication of spirit. Even the town pump wore a halo of glorified rosy mist.
At the gate he met Mrs. Hollis returning from a funeral. With a sudden descent from his ethereal mood he pounced upon her and, in spite of violent protestations, danced her madly down the walk and deposited her breathless upon the milk-bench.
“He’s getting worse all the time,” she complained to Aunt Melvy, who had watched the performance with great glee.
“Yas,’m,” said Aunt Melvy, with a fond look at his retreating figure. “He’s jus’ like a’ Irish potato: when he ain’t powerful cold, he’s powerful hot.”
The day before the fair Sandy employed a substitute at the post-office, in order to give the entire day to preparation for the festivities to come.
Early in the morning he went to town, where, after much consultation and many changes of mind, he purchased a suit of clothes. Then he rented the town dress-suit, to the chagrin of three other boys who had each counted upon it for the coming hop.