The distraught youth strode to her. “The party—” he choked. “Where—”
“They all stayed pretty long,” said Jane, “but the last ones said they had to go home to their dinners when papa came, a little while ago. Johnnie Watson was carryin’ Flopit for that Miss Pratt.”
William dropped into the chair beside which Jane had established herself upon the floor. Then he uttered a terrible cry and rose.
Again Jane had painted a sunset she had not intended.
ROMANCE OF STATISTICS
On a warm morning, ten days later, William stood pensively among his mother’s flowerbeds behind the house, his attitude denoting a low state of vitality. Not far away, an aged negro sat upon a wheelbarrow in the hot sun, tremulously yet skilfully whittling a piece of wood into the shape of a boat, labor more to his taste, evidently, than that which he had abandoned at the request of Jane. Allusion to this preference for a lighter task was made by Genesis, who was erecting a trellis on the border of the little garden.
“Pappy whittle all day,” he chuckled. “Whittle all night, too! Pappy, I thought you ‘uz goin’ to git ‘at long bed all spade’ up fer me by noon. Ain’t ’at what you tole me?”
“You let him alone, Genesis,” said Jane, who sat by the old man’s side, deeply fascinated. “There’s goin’ to be a great deal of rain in the next few days maybe, an’ I haf to have this boat ready.”
The aged darky lifted his streaky and diminished eyes to the burnished sky, and laughed. “Rain come some day, anyways,” he said. “We git de boat ready ‘fo’ she fall, dat sho.” His glance wandered to William and rested upon him with feeble curiosity. “Dat ain’ yo’ pappy, is it?” he asked Jane.
“I should say it isn’t!” she exclaimed. “It’s Willie. He was only seventeen about two or three months ago, Mr. Genesis.” This was not the old man’s name, but Jane had evolved it, inspired by respect for one so aged and so kind about whittling. He was the father of Genesis, and the latter, neither to her knowledge nor to her imagination, possessed a surname.
“I got cat’rack in my lef’ eye,” said Mr. Genesis, “an’ de right one, she kine o’ tricksy, too. Tell black man f’um white man, little f’um big.”
“I’d hate it if he was papa,” said Jane, confidentially. “He’s always cross about somep’m, because he’s in love.” She approached her mouth to her whittling friend’s ear and continued in a whisper: “He’s in love of Miss Pratt. She’s out walkin’ with Joe Bullitt. I was in the front yard with Willie, an’ we saw ’em go by. He’s mad.”
William did not hear her. Moodily, he had discovered that there was something amiss with the buckle of his belt, and, having ungirded himself, he was biting the metal tongue of the buckle in order to straighten it. This fell under the observation of Genesis, who remonstrated.