“That’s talkin’ business!” shouted Penrod. “Everybody keep still a minute. Everybody!”
He took command of the situation at once, displaying a fine capacity for organization and system. It needed only a few minutes to set order in the place of confusion and to determine, with the full concurrence of all parties, the conditions under which Georgie Bassett was to defend his claim by undergoing what may be perhaps intelligibly defined as the Herman test. Georgie declared he could do it easily. He was in a state of great excitement and in no condition to think calmly or, probably, he would not have made the attempt at all. Certainly he was overconfident.
It was during the discussion of the details of this enterprise that Georgie’s mother, a short distance down the street, received a few female callers, who came by appointment to drink a glass of iced tea with her, and to meet the Rev. Mr. Kinosling. Mr. Kinosling was proving almost formidably interesting to the women and girls of his own and other flocks. What favour of his fellow clergymen a slight precociousness of manner and pronunciation cost him was more than balanced by the visible ecstasies of ladies. They blossomed at his touch.
He had just entered Mrs. Bassett’s front door, when the son of the house, followed by an intent and earnest company of four, opened the alley gate and came into the yard. The unconscious Mrs. Bassett was about to have her first experience of a fatal coincidence. It was her first, because she was the mother of a boy so well behaved that he had become a proverb of transcendency. Fatal coincidences were plentiful in the Schofield and Williams families, and would have been familiar to Mrs. Bassett had Georgie been permitted greater intimacy with Penrod and Sam.
Mr. Kinosling sipped his iced tea and looked about, him approvingly. Seven ladies leaned forward, for it was to be seen that he meant to speak.
“This cool room is a relief,” he said, waving a graceful hand in a neatly limited gesture, which everybody’s eyes followed, his own included. “It is a relief and a retreat. The windows open, the blinds closed—that is as it should be. It is a retreat, a fastness, a bastion against the heat’s assault. For me, a quiet room—a quiet room and a book, a volume in the hand, held lightly between the fingers. A volume of poems, lines metrical and cadenced; something by a sound Victorian. We have no later poets.”
“Swinburne?” suggested Miss Beam, an eager spinster. “Swinburne, Mr. Kinosling? Ah, Swinburne!”
“Not Swinburne,” said Mr. Kinosling chastely. “No.”
That concluded all the remarks about Swinburne.
Miss Beam retired in confusion behind another lady; and somehow there became diffused an impression that Miss Beam was erotic.
“I do not observe your manly little son,” Mr. Kinosling addressed his hostess.