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

But William’s father was mistaken.  Little he knew!  William was not upon the porch of the Parchers, with May Parcher and Joe Bullitt and Johnnie Watson to interfere.  He was far from there, in a land where time was not.  Upon a planet floating in pink mist, and uninhabited—­unless old Mr. Genesis and some Hindoo princes and the diligent Iowan may have established themselves in its remoter regions—­William was alone with Miss Pratt, in the conservatory.  And, after a time, they went together, and looked into the door of a room where an indefinite number of little boys—­all over three years of age—­were playing in the firelight upon a white-bear rug.  For, in the roseate gossamer that boys’ dreams are made of, William had indeed entered the married state.

His condition was growing worse, every day.

XVIII

THE BIG, FAT LUMMOX

In the morning sunshine, Mrs. Baxter stood at the top of the steps of the front porch, addressing her son, who listened impatiently and edged himself a little nearer the gate every time he shifted his weight from one foot to the other.

“Willie,” she said, “you must really pay some attention to the laws of health, or you’ll never live to be an old man.”

“I don’t want to live to be an old man,” said William, earnestly.  “I’d rather do what I please now and die a little sooner.”

“You talk very foolishly,” his mother returned.  “Either come back and put on some heavier things or take your overcoat.”

“My overcoat!” William groaned.  “They’d think I was a lunatic, carrying an overcoat in August!”

“Not to a picnic,” she said.

“Mother, it isn’t a picnic, I’ve told you a hunderd times!  You think it’s one those ole-fashion things you used to go to—­sit on the damp ground and eat sardines with ants all over ’em?  This isn’t anything like that; we just go out on the trolley to this farm-house and have noon dinner, and dance all afternoon, and have supper, and then come home on the trolley.  I guess we’d hardly of got up anything as out o’ date as a picnic in honor of Miss Pratt!”

Mrs. Baxter seemed unimpressed.

“It doesn’t matter whether you call it a picnic or not, Willie.  It will be cool on the open trolleycar coming home, especially with only those white trousers on—­”

“Ye gods!” he cried.  “I’ve got other things on besides my trousers!  I wish you wouldn’t always act as if I was a perfect child!  Good heavens! isn’t a person my age supposed to know how much clothes to wear?”

“Well, if he is,” she returned, “it’s a mere supposition and not founded on fact.  Don’t get so excited, Willie, please; but you’ll either have to give up the picnic or come in and ch—­”

“Change my ’things’!” he wailed.  “I can’t change my ‘things’!  I’ve got just twenty minutes to get to May Parcher’s—­the crowd meets there, and they’re goin’ to take the trolley in front the Parchers’ at exactly a quarter after ’leven.  Please don’t keep me any longer, mother—­I got to go!”

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