“Yes,” said Ramsey, disarmed and guileless in the face of diplomacy. “I only told you about all this, Fred, because it seemed—well, it seemed so kind o’ funny to me.”
Fred affected not to hear. “What did you say, Ramsey?”
Ramsey looked vaguely disturbed. “I said—why, I said it all seemed kind o’—” He paused, then repeated plaintively: “Well, to me, it all seemed kind o’—kind o’ funny.”
“What did?” Fred inquired, but as he glanced in seeming naivete at his companion, something he saw in the latter’s eye warned him, and suddenly Fred thought it would be better to run.
Ramsey chased him all the way to the “frat house.”
Ramsey was not quite athlete enough for any of the ’varsity teams; neither was he an antagonist safely encountered, whether in play or in earnest, and during the next few days he taught Fred Mitchell to be cautious. The chaffer learned that his own agility could not save him from Ramsey, and so found it wiser to contain an effervescence which sometimes threatened to burst him. Ramsey as a victim was a continuous temptation, he was so good-natured and yet so furious.
After Commencement, when the roommates had gone home, Mr. Mitchell’s caution extended over the long sunshiny months of summer vacation; he broke it but once and then in well-advised safety, for the occasion was semi-public. The two were out for a stroll on a July Sunday afternoon; and up and down the street young couples lolled along, young families and baby carriages straggled to and from the houses of older relatives, and the rest of the world of that growing city was rocking and fanning itself on its front veranda.
“Here’s a right pretty place, isn’t it, Ramsey? don’t you think?” Fred remarked innocently, as they were passing a lawn of short-clipped, bright green grass before a genial-looking house, fresh in white paint and cool in green-and-white awnings. A broad veranda, well populated just now, crossed the front of the house; fine trees helped the awnings to give comfort against the sun; and Fred’s remark was warranted. Nevertheless, he fell under the suspicion of his companion, who had begun to evince some nervousness before Fred spoke.
“What place do you mean?”
“The Yocum place,” said Mr. Mitchell. “I hear the old gentleman’s mighty prosperous these days. They keep things up to the mark, don’t they, Ramsey?”
“I don’t know whether they do or whether they don’t,” Ramsey returned shortly.
Fred appeared to muse regretfully. “It looks kind of empty now, though,” he said, “with only Mr. and Mrs. Yocum and their three married daughters, and eight or nine children on the front porch!”
“You wait till I get you where they can’t see us!” Ramsey warned him, fiercely.
“You can’t do it!” said Fred, manifesting triumph. “We’ll both stop right here in plain sight of the whole Yocum family connection till you promise not to touch me.”