“’Indifferink’!” he murmured, thrilling at his own exceedingly indifferent imitation of her voice. “Indifferink!” that was just what he would have her think—that he was a cold, indifferent man. It was what he wished all girls to think. And “sarcastic”! He had been envious one day when May Parcher said that Joe Bullitt was “awfully sarcastic.” William had spent the ensuing hour in an object-lesson intended to make Miss Parcher see that William Sylvanus Baxter was twice as sarcastic as Joe Bullitt ever thought of being, but this great effort had been unsuccessful, because William, failed to understand that Miss Parcher had only been sending a sort of message to Mr. Bullitt. It was a device not unique among her sex; her hope was that William would repeat her remark in such a manner that Joe Bullitt would hear it and call to inquire what she meant.
“’So indifferink’!” murmured William, leaning dreamily upon the gate-post. “Indifferink!” He tried to get the exact cooing quality of the unknown’s voice. “Indifferink!” And, repeating the honeyed word, so entrancingly distorted, he fell into a kind of stupor; vague, beautiful pictures rising before him, the one least blurred being of himself, on horseback, sweeping between Flopit and a racing automobile. And then, having restored the little animal to its mistress, William sat carelessly in the saddle (he had the Guardsman’s seat) while the perfectly trained steed wheeled about, forelegs in the air, preparing to go. “But shall I not see you again, to thank you more properly?” she cried, pleading. “Some other day—perhaps,” he answered.
And left her in a cloud of dust.
THE PAINFUL AGE
Thus a shrill voice, to his ears hideously different from that other, interrupted and dispersed his visions. Little Jane, his ten-year-old sister, stood upon the front porch, the door open behind her, and in her hand she held a large slab of bread-and-butter covered with apple sauce and powdered sugar. Evidence that she had sampled this compound was upon her cheeks, and to her brother she was a repulsive sight.
“Will-ee!” she shrilled. “Look! Good!” And to emphasize the adjective she indelicately patted the region of her body in which she believed her stomach to be located. “There’s a slice for you on the dining-room table,” she informed him, joyously.
Outraged, he entered the house without a word to her, and, proceeding to the dining-room, laid hands upon the slice she had mentioned, but declined to eat it in Jane’s company. He was in an exalted mood, and though in no condition of mind or body would he refuse food of almost any kind, Jane was an intrusion he could not suffer at this time.
He carried the refection to his own room and, locking the door, sat down to eat, while, even as he ate, the spell that was upon him deepened in intensity.