Jimmy had spent his entire youth in urging her to accept everything that was his, and he hailed this as a good omen.
“I have a l-letter here for dad,” she went on, fidgeting about uneasily and watching the door. “I don’t want him to g-get it until after the last train goes to-night. Will you see that he d-doesn’t get it before nine o’clock?”
Jimmy took the letter and looked blankly from it to Annette.
“Why, it’s from you!”
“What if it is, you b-booby?” she cried sharply; then she changed her tactics and looked up appealingly through the little square window.
“Oh, Jimmy, do help me out! That’s a d-dear! I’m in no end of a scrape. You’ll do as I ask, now w-w-won’t you?”
Jimmy surrendered on the spot.
“Now,” said Annette, greatly relieved, “find out what time the d-down train starts, and if it’s on time.”
“It ought to start at three,” reported Jimmy after consulting the telegraph operator. “It’s an hour late on account of the snow. Expecting somebody?”
She shook her head.
“Going to the city yourself?”
“Of course not. Whatever made you think that?” she cried with unnecessary vehemence. Then, changing the subject abruptly, she added: “G-guess who has come home?”
“Who?” cried Jimmy, with palpitating ears.
“Sandy Kilday. You never saw anybody look so g-grand. He’s gotten to be a regular swell, and he walks like this.”
Annette held her umbrella horizontally, squared her shoulders, and swung bravely across the room.
“Sandy Kilday?” gasped Jimmy, with a clutch at the letter in his pocket. “Where’s he at?”
“He’s trying to get up from the d-depot. He has been an hour coming two squares. Everybody has stopped him, from Mr. Moseley on down to the b-blacksmith’s twins.”
“Is he coming this way?” asked Jimmy, wild-eyed and anxious.
Annette stepped to the window.
“Yes; they are crossing the street now.” She opened the sash and, snatching a handful of snow, rolled it into a ball, which she sailed out of the window. It was promptly answered by one from below, which whirled past her and shattered itself against the wall.
“Dare, dare, double dare!” she called as she flung handfuls of loose snow from the window-ledge. A quick volley of balls followed, then the door burst open. Sandy and Ruth Nelson stood laughing on the threshold.
“Hello, partner!” sang out Sandy to Jimmy. “Still at the old work, I see! Do you mind how you taught me to count the change when I first sold stamps?”
Jimmy tried to smile, but his effort was a failure. The interesting tangle of facts and circumstances faded from his mind, and he resorted instinctively to nature’s first law. With an agitated countenance, he sought self-preservation by waving Sandy’s letter behind him in a frantic effort to banish, if possible, the odor of his guilt.