“No, you must listen, Ramsey, and let me speak now. What I meant was that we shouldn’t be quite so much distressed by your being seen with a girl who dressed in better taste and seemed to have some notion of refinement, though of course it’s only natural she wouldn’t, with a father who is just a sort of ward politician, I understand, and a mother we don’t know, and of course shouldn’t care to. But, oh, Ramsey! if you had to make yourself so conspicuous why couldn’t you be a little bit more fastidious? Your father wouldn’t have minded nearly so much if it had been a self-respecting, intellectual girl. We both say that if you must be so ridiculous at your age as to persist in seeing more of one girl than another, why, oh why, don’t you go and see some really nice girl like Dora Yocum?”
Ramsey was already dangerously distended, as an effect of the earlier part of her discourse, and the word “fastidious” almost exploded him; but upon the climax, “Dora Yocum,” he blew up with a shattering report and, leaving fragments of incoherence ricocheting behind him, fled shuddering from the house.
For the rest of the school term he walked home with Milla every afternoon and on sundays appeared to have become a resolute Baptist. It was supposed (by the interested members of the high-school class) that Ramsey and Milla were “engaged.” Ramsey sometimes rather supposed they were himself, and the dim idea gave him a sensation partly pleasant, but mostly apprehensive: he was afraid.
He was afraid that the day was coming when he ought to kiss her.
Vacation, in spite of increased leisure, may bring inconvenience to people in Ramsey’s strange but not uncommon condition. At home his constant air was that of a badgered captive plaintively silent under injustice; and he found it difficult to reply calmly when asked where he was going—an inquiry addressed to him, he asserted, every time he touched his cap, even to hang it up!
The amount of evening walking he did must also have been a trial to his nerves, on account of fatigue, though the ground covered was not vast. Milla’s mother and father were friendly people but saw no reason to “move out of house and home,” as Mr. Rust said, when Milla had “callers”; and on account of the intimate plan of their small dwelling a visitor’s only alternative to spending the evening with Mr. and Mrs. Rust as well as with Milla, was to invite her to “go out walking.”
Evening after evening they walked and walked and walked, usually in company—at perhaps the distance of half a block—with Albert Paxton and Sadie Clews, though Ramsey now and then felt disgraced by having fallen into this class; for sometimes it was apparent that Albert casually had his arm about Sadie’s waist. This allured Ramsey somewhat, but terrified him more. He didn’t know how such matters were managed.