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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 195 pages of information about Seventeen.

“There!” Mrs. Baxter interrupted, sharply.  “That will do, Jane!  We’ll talk about something else now, I think.”

Jane looked hurt; she was taking great pleasure in this confidential interview, and gladly would have continued to quote the harried Mr. Parcher at great length.  Still, she was not entirely uncontent:  she must have had some perception that her performance merely as a notable bit of reportorial art—­did not wholly lack style, even if her attire did.  Yet, brilliant as Jane’s work was, Mrs. Baxter felt no astonishment; several times ere this Jane had demonstrated a remarkable faculty for the retention of details concerning William.  And running hand in hand with a really superb curiosity, this powerful memory was making Jane an even greater factor in William’s life than he suspected.

During the glamors of early love, if there be a creature more deadly than the little brother of a budding woman, that creature is the little sister of a budding man.  The little brother at least tells in the open all he knows, often at full power of his lungs, and even that may be avoided, since he is wax in the hands of bribery; but the little sister is more apt to save her knowledge for use upon a terrible occasion; and, no matter what bribes she may accept, she is certain to tell her mother everything.  All in all, a young lover should arrange, if possible, to be the only child of elderly parents; otherwise his mother and sister are sure to know a great deal more about him than he knows that they know.

This was what made Jane’s eyes so disturbing to William during lunch that day.  She ate quietly and competently, but all the while he was conscious of her solemn and inscrutable gaze fixed upon him; and she spoke not once.  She could not have rendered herself more annoying, especially as William was trying to treat her with silent scorn, for nothing is more irksome to the muscles of the face than silent scorn, when there is no means of showing it except by the expression.  On the other hand, Jane’s inscrutability gave her no discomfort whatever.  In fact, inscrutability is about the most comfortable expression that a person can wear, though the truth is that just now Jane was not really inscrutable at all.

She was merely looking at William and thinking of Mr. Parcher.

IX

LITTLE SISTERS HAVE BIG EARS

The confidential talk between mother and daughter at noon was not the last to take place that day.  At nightfall—­eight o’clock in this pleasant season—­Jane was saying her prayers beside her bed, while her mother stood close by, waiting to put out the light.

“An’ bless mamma and papa an’—­” Jane murmured, coming to a pause.  “An’—­an’ bless Willie,” she added, with a little reluctance.

“Go on, dear,” said her mother.  “You haven’t finished.”

“I know it, mamma,” Jane looked up to say.  “I was just thinkin’ a minute.  I want to tell you about somep’m.”

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