At five o’clock everybody was summoned again to the rendezvous for a ceremony preliminary to departure: the class found itself in a large circle, standing, and sang “The Star Spangled Banner.” Ordinarily, on such an open-air and out-of-school occasion, Ramsey would have joined the chorus uproariously with the utmost blatancy of which his vocal apparatus was capable; and most of the other boys expressed their humour by drowning out the serious efforts of the girls; but he sang feebly, not much more than humming through his teeth. Standing beside Milla, he was incapable of his former inelegancies and his voice was in a semi-paralyzed condition, like the rest of him.
Opposite him, across the circle, Dora Yocum stood a little in advance of those near her, for of course she led the singing. Her clear and earnest voice was distinguishable from all others, and though she did not glance toward Ramsey he had a queer feeling that she was assuming more superiority than ever, and that she was icily scornful of him and Milla. The old resentment rose—he’d “show” that girl yet, some day!
When the song was over, cheers were given for the class, “the good ole class of Nineteen Fourteen,” the school, the teachers, and for the picnic, thus officially concluded; and then the picnickers, carrying their baskets and faded wild flowers and other souvenirs and burdens, moved toward the big “express wagons” which were to take them back into the town. Ramsey got his guitar case, and turned to Milla.
“Well—” he said.
“Well what, Ramsey?”
“Why, no,” said Milla. “Anyways not yet. You can go back in the same wagon with me. It’s going to stop at the school and let us out there, and then you could walk home with me if you felt like it. You could come all the way to our gate with me, I expect, unless you’d be late home for your supper.”
“Well—well, I’d be perfectly willing,” Ramsey said. “Only I heard we all had to go back in whatever wagon we came out in, and I didn’t come in the same wagon with you, so—”
Milla laughed and leaned toward him a little. “I already ’tended to that,” she said confidentially. “I asked Johnnie Fiske, that came out in my wagon, to go back in yours, so that makes room for you.”
“Well—then I guess I could do it.” He moved toward the wagon with her. “I expect it don’t make much difference one way or the other.”
“And you can carry my basket if you want to,” she said, adding solicitously, “Unless it’s too heavy when you already got your guitar case to carry, Ramsey.”
This thoughtfulness of hers almost overcame him; she seemed divine. He gulped, and emotion made him even pinker than he had been under the mayonnaise.
“I—I’ll be glad to carry the basket, too,” he faltered. “It-it don’t weigh anything much.”
“Well, let’s hurry, so’s we can get places together.”