Johnnie Watson had with him to-day a visitor of his own—a vastly overgrown person of eighteen, who, at Johnnie’s beckoning, abandoned a fair companion of the moment and came forward as William entered the gate.
“I want to intradooce you to two of my most int’mut friends, George,” said Johnnie, with the anxious gravity of a person about to do something important and unfamiliar. “Mr. Baxter, let me intradooce my cousin, Mr. Crooper. Mr. Crooper, this is my friend, Mr. Baxter.”
The gentlemen shook hands solemnly, saying,
“’M very glad to meet you,” and Johnnie turned to Joe Bullitt. “Mr. Croo—I mean, Mr. Bullitt, let me intradooce my friend, Mr. Crooper—I mean my cousin, Mr. Crooper. Mr. Crooper is a cousin of mine.”
“Glad to make your acquaintance, Mr. Crooper,” said Joe. “I suppose you’re a cousin of Johnnie’s, then?”
“Yep,” said Mr. Crooper, becoming more informal. “Johnnie wrote me to come over for this shindig, so I thought I might as well come.” He laughed loudly, and the others laughed with the same heartiness. “Yessir,” he added, “I thought I might as well come, ’cause I’m pretty apt to be on hand if there’s anything doin’!”
“Well, that’s right,” said William, and while they all laughed again, Mr. Crooper struck his cousin a jovial blow upon the back.
“Hi, ole sport!” he cried, “I want to meet that Miss Pratt before we start. The car’ll be along pretty soon, and I got her picked for the girl I’m goin’ to sit by.”
The laughter of William and Joe Bullitt, designed to express cordiality, suddenly became flaccid and died. If Mr. Crooper had been a sensitive person he might have perceived the chilling disapproval in their glances, for they had just begun to be most unfavorably impressed with him. The careless loudness—almost the notoriety—with which he had uttered Miss Pratt’s name, demanding loosely to be presented to her, regardless of the well-known law that a lady must first express some wish in such matters—these were indications of a coarse nature sure to be more than uncongenial to Miss Pratt. Its presence might make the whole occasion distasteful to her—might spoil her day. Both William and Joe Bullitt began to wonder why on earth Johnnie Watson didn’t have any more sense than to invite such a big, fat lummox of a cousin to the party.
This severe phrase of theirs, almost simultaneous in the two minds, was not wholly a failure as a thumb-nail sketch of Mr. George Crooper. And yet there was the impressiveness of size about him, especially about his legs and chin. At seventeen and eighteen growth is still going on, sometimes in a sporadic way, several parts seeming to have sprouted faster than others. Often the features have not quite settled down together in harmony, a mouth, for instance, appearing to have gained such a lead over the rest of a face, that even a mother may fear it can never be overtaken. Voices, too, often seem misplaced; one hears, outside the door, the bass rumble of a sinister giant, and a mild boy, thin as a cricket, walks in. The contrary was George Crooper’s case; his voice was an unexpected piping tenor, half falsetto and frequently girlish—as surprising as the absurd voice of an elephant.