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Thursday, November 07, 2013

Sam’s Beau

Guest Blogger Dept.: Herewith, the only Penrod story by Booth Tarkington that wasn’t collected into one of the three Penrod books. Probably because it features Penrod’s best friend, Sam Williams, in a contretemps typical of Tarkington’s sensibility. As a contemporary reader, you will have trouble with some of the language. For better or worse, it was unremarkable for its time. The story appeared in the April 1917 issue of Hearst’s Cosmopolitan magazine.


SAM WILLIAMS was always cheerful—unless something unpleasant happened to him. That is to say, Sam was no dreamer; consequently, he was not moody—though, of course, he had been in love, for he was now eleven years of age. He still hazily recalled, sometimes, a day in his eighth year when he suddenly felt the desire to let a certain little girl ride upon his velocipede because she had yellowish hair. For several afternoons he had brought the velocipede to the sidewalk in front of her house, that she might ride; but finally he decided that she was riding too much, and pushed her off—and had quite a little trouble with her mother about it, he remembered.

Drawing by Worth Brehm
That was long, long ago, and nothing resembling it had happened again. During all this time, Sam’s apathy in the presence of girls (no matter how yellowish their hair) was placid and complete. When comrades requested a statement of his views, Sam issued one of sincere neutrality. He leaned neither one way nor the other, he said. He didn’t hate ‘em, and he didn’t like ‘em.

He was never interested, even, in that petulant little belle, Marjorie Jones. He had no eyes for amber curls, and he looked at Marjorie’s as he looked at chairs or a wall. Marjorie’s exquisite profile meant nothing to Sam, though once, when he was dancing with her at the Friday  Afternoon Dancing Class, his curiosity was roused by some accessories to the beauty of her remarkable eyes.

“You got awful long eye-winkers, Marjorie,” he said. “Don’t they sting when you got a cold?”

Then he sighed, but only because he was tired of dancing. His apathy was of the true bachelor stuff, untrustworthy and whimsically treacherous; and it vanished in the manner which is characteristic of it. Susceptibility is a condition, a mood; and anyone may be in that condition without suspecting it, just as anyone may have his foot go to sleep without suspecting it. Sam had seen Mabel Rorebeck probably a thousand times, and never once had he a definite thought about her, much less an emotion.

But the afternoon when Mabel appeared at the Friday Afternoon Dancing Class in a blue-velvet dress with round silver buttons, remindful of little sleigh-hells, Sam was stricken. Of course, he constructed no definition of his sensations; they did not shape themselves as words in his mind at all. What he felt was a warmishness in the upper part of his chest; and whenever he looked at the silver buttons, he wished that etiquette permitted him to exchange his seat for one nearer Mabel.

As soon as Professor Bartet permitted an optional selection of partners, Sam danced with her. And afterward, when the lesson was over, he yielded to a strong desire to kind-of-stand-around near Mabel as much as possible. He lingered in the hall until she departed with a couple of busily gossiping friends; then he followed the group, at a distance of about half a block, and affected to be sneezing whenever one of them glanced back at him.

This action with his handkerchief was for purposes of impersonation; it seemed to Sam that he thus perfectly gave the impression of a boy not in the least following anybody but bound upon an important errand which merely happened to be in that direction. Even grown people sometimes imagine that they are disguising their intentions by devices as curiously transparent; but deceptive byplay usually draws sharper attention to the real purpose of the byplayer. Besides, the little girls had correctly estimated the work of the new dress. They rallied Mabel, who made contemptuous faces, and it would have startled Sam had he overheard their conversation.

“Go on!” one urged another. “It’s your turn to make him get out his ole hankachiff and sneeze again.”

Sam continued to follow, and now and then the sun struck white fire from the round buttons; little silver arrows sped to the smitten heart. But when the group reached Mabel’s gate and paused there, chattering and derisively expectant, Sam had not the courage to pass. He halted, a few yards away, and consulted an imaginary document or note-book under shelter of his coat. He frowned, shook his head, turned decisively, and started for home. Nothing could have been clearer than that he carried about him secret instructions which did not permit him to complete his errand at this time; and yet a vocal tinkling, as silvery as those sleigh-bell buttons, broke out in the vicinity of the Rorebecks’ open gate, and followed him mockingly until he was out of hearing. Upon a subsequent corner, he encountered his friend Penrod Schofield, and replied evasively to intrusive inquiries.

“I haven’t been anywhere, I tell you!” he insisted. “I don’t care if I did say I’d help train Duke. I got a right to go where I please, haven’t I?”

“Well, come on,” said Penrod, giving a tug to the bit of clothes-line, by which he held in leash his apprehensive little old dog, Duke. “I got a harness all fixed up, and we can hitch him up to the wheelbarrow and train him lots o’ things before dark. Come on hitch up our good ole horse, Sam!”

And so, making way for immediate preoccupations, blue and silver passed from Sam’s mind; but they were in it again when he woke the following morning. Throughout that day, indeed, and the next, this symptom recurred, the vision being one of a small figure with a vague head, vaguer legs, feet, and hands, but brightly distinct in regard to blue velvet and silver buttons. Nevertheless, it was certainly not mere raiment that really affected Sam so deeply, because, on Monday afternoon, when he chanced to encounter Mabel on the street, she was wearing a  brown-cloth dress with no visible buttons of any kind, and he felt that same warmishness in the upper part of his chest. Moreover, the warmishness now increased its area, extending so greatly as to suffuse his ears. He pretended not to see her; he frowned and breathed hard as with business cares, and strode briskly on.

Tuesday afternoon, he walked by her house, whistling—not whistling a tune—just whistling. She may have heard him, may have gazed forth from a window; but this is uncertain. Sam did not look to see; his eyes were fixed upon something important far ahead, where there was nothing.

On Wednesday, he came by in a like manner—not once but thrice—always going in the same direction, which might have indicated to an observer that Sam had a mania for walking around that block. On Thursday, he appeared again. For his was a faithful nature, and just as he reached the gate, a fat white cat passed through the air near Sam’s head in the concluding episode of a fit. Its own head collided with the bark of a shade-tree, and the cat dropped upon the sidewalk at Sam’s feet. It lay there, gasping unpleasantly. Simultaneously, a shriek disturbed Sam’s already tingling ears, and Mabel appeared, running from the back yard to the front.

“It’s Carrie!” she cried. “Oh, I’m so frightened!” Then she uttered another shriek as Sam gallantly prepared to defend her with the first weapon to his hand. “Don’t!” Mabel screamed. “Don’t hit Carrie with a rock! We don’t want our cat hit with a rock, Sam Williams!”

The logical Sam dropped the stone and looked about him. “What I better hit her with?” he asked.

“Don’t you dare hit her with anything!”

“Well, you said—”

Drawing by Worth Brehm
“Oh, my good gracious,” Mabel wailed, ‘’I’m so frightened! The cook says it’s too much meat. She was sittin’ on my lap in the kitchen, and all of a sudden—oh, she scared me so! And then the cook opened the door, and after she knocked ‘most everything upside down in there, and broke the cook’s lookin’-glass, she tore on out, and went all over the back yard first—and she kept makin’ a noise just like a pinwheel on the Fourth o’ July—and then she came out here. Oh, Carrie’s always been the quietest cat—and then to go and have sumpthing like this happen!”

“She’ll come to, perty soon,” said Sam. “I’ve seen cats have fits, and they always come to, afterwhile, once they kind o’ quiet down like this.”

“Bring her in!” cried Mabel. “Bring her in the yard, because somebody might step on her if we leave her out on the sidewalk!” But, as Sam obeyed, she screamed again: “Don’t! Don’t do that!

“Do what?” Sam inquired mildly, as he entered the gate, carrying the epileptic. “What’s the matter, Mabel?”

Stop it!” wailed Mabel, wringing her hands.

“Stop what?”

“Let go her tail!” she shouted. “Don’t carry her by her tail!

“Oh,” said Sam mildly; and he obeyed, dropping the cat upon the grass. “You said bring it in here, and so—”

“I didn’t tell you by her tail, did I?” Mabel interrupted fiercely. “We don’t want our cat carried, around by her tail—do we?—even if she does have fits. You didn’t haf to go pick her up by her tail, did you?”

“No,” Sam admitted, and his heart smote him. Mabel was almost weeping.

“She hadn’t ever done anything to you, had she?”


“Well, then, what’d you haf to go and do that to her for?”

“Well,” said Sam, “it’s use’ly the best way to carry ‘em. ‘Specially if a cat’s got a fit, it’s handy, because they don’t hardly know what’s happening when they’re in a fit. And, anyway, it doesn’t hurt a cat much, even when it knows what’s goin’ on, because a colored boy told me their tail’s hitched onto sumpthing inside of ‘em a good deal tighter than it looks. He told me he knew all about it, because he saw one after a wagon—”

“Stop!” Mabel shrieked, clapping her hands over her ears. “Be quiet! Hush up!

“Well, I only—”

“It hurt Carrie,” Mabel insisted. “I know it did! How’d you like to have some big, ugly, ole, sneezy boy do that way to you if you were a poor little kitty?”

In this reproach, there was a word which made Sam thoughtful, and he became dimly reminiscent in silence while Mabel knelt upon the ground and addressed words of commiseration to the sufferer.

“Poo’ ‘ittle Tarrie!” she said softly. “Wuzzoo have oo’ poo’ ‘ittle tail pulled by ole sneezy rastal?”

“I didn’t exackly pull it, Mabel,” Sam protested mildly. “I just carried her that way a minute, because—”

But Mabel paid no attention to him.

“Poo’ ‘ittle Tarrie!” she murmured. “Ess ‘tis!” she said soothingly, as if agreeing with a complaint just uttered by Carrie. “Bad ‘nuff to have horrable ole fit wivout horrable ole boy pullum’s tail! Ess ‘tis! Poo’, sweet ‘ittle—”

She would have continued, but, at this juncture, Carrie rose, and, in a rueful and morbid manner, walked slowly away, crawled through a hole under the latticework beneath the front porch, and disappeared for convalescence in that seclusion.

“She’s all right,” said Sam cheeringly. “I expeck she feels pretty good already.”

“1 expeck her tail doesn’t!” Mabel felt called upon to say, and she added, with severity, “Boys are pretty different from girls.”

This truthful generalization deepened Sam’s established inferiority; but he was none the less conscious of the warmishness inspired by Mabel’s presence, nor had he any desire to depart. On the contrary.

“Well, I guess I better kind of stay around here,” he said. “I guess prob’bly you’ll need me to get your cat out from under the porch for you, afterwhile.”

“I guess we won’t anything of the sort want you to get our cat out from under the porch for us afterwhile,” Mabel returned tartly. “I’ll thank you to please notice we’ve got a colored furnace-man that comes three times a day, and he’s hired to do anything we ask him to—if we need anybody to get our cat out from under the porch for us afterwhile, thank you, Mister Sam Williams!”

“Well, I just thought maybe I better,” Sam said, in apology.

“Well, then,” Mabel responded promptly, “you better think sumpthing different. Anyway, I guess Carrie knows enough to come out herself, when she gets ready to, without being pulled out by her tail!”

“1 wasn’t goin’ to pu—”

“I don’t care what you were goin’ to do!” interposed this cold demoiselle, of whom people often remarked that she was just like her mother though her father was a nice man. “I’ll thank you to please notice we don’t require any assistance, Mister Sammy Williams, thank you!”

Sam began to feel that he would do well to go home. The bitterness which went so far as to employ such words as “require” and “assistance” failed to rouse any reciprocal bitterness in him, but he perceived that he was not wanted. He would cheerfully have stayed, in spite of that, if Mabel had been a shade less discouraging about it.

“Well, I guess there isn’t so much use my waitin’, then,” he said feebly.

“I guess there isn’t!”

“Well,” he said, slowly, “if you did want me to get that cat out, I’d be willin’ to do it, and I wouldn’t hurt her. It doesn’t do a cat a bit of harm, but I’d get hold of her without pullin’ it. Honest, I wouldn’t even touch it, Mabel!”

“Yes—and you better not!” For thus Mabel proved little amenable to his plaintive approach. “My father’ll be home in about an hour, and if you went and hurt our cat some more, and I told him about it, I guess you’d see!”

Sam began to explain again that he had neither injured nor pained the cat. He wasted his breath, for Carrie was not the real issue between them. Mabel wore blue velvet and silver buttons to the dancing class, but she did not wish to be followed home on that account by any ole sneezing boy. She resented being teased; she thought being teased made a person ridiculous; the other little girls had teased her—and Sam was the cause.

“I don’t care if you prove it didn’t hurt Carrie a million times!” she exclaimed, interrupting. “I just politely thank you to notice you needn’t hang around our porch to get her out, either!”

“Well—” said Sam vaguely.

“Well,” said Mabel, “I don’t see what you always want to hang around here for, anyway.”

Sam looked at her in natural surprise.

“Well,” he said, beginning to think that to remain much longer might cause him to feel awkward. “Well, I guess you must be kind of hintin’ for me to go home.”

Mabel tossed her head.

“I didn’t either hint. It’s not polite.”

“Well then,” said the literal-minded Sam; “I don’t haf to go home yet. I just as soon stay as go.”

Mabel made no response, but, beginning to hum a tune, turned away; then, kneeling, peered through the lattice-work under the porch.

“Poo’ ‘ittle Tarrie’s tick yet?” she said softly.

Sam moved a step toward the gate, but halted and began to use the toe of his right shoe as a gimlet, boring into the ground; whereupon Miss Rorebeck ceased to speak soothingly to Carrie. Instead, she called over her shoulder:

“Sam Williams, I’d like to know if you think that’s your grass you’re diggin’ up that way! I thank you to kindly notice this grass belongs to my father, and if you want any grass to dig up, go and get some of your own father’s grass.”

Sam sighed. Undeniably, this was a discouraging wooing. Again he moved slowly toward the gate.

He had not reached it when a jibing cry shrilled up from behind a bush in the next yard.

‘’Sammy and May-bul! Oh, oh, oh!”

Mabel rose angrily to her feet.

“You hush up, Jennie Miles!” she cried. “I’ve told him to go home a hunderd times!”

“Yes, you have!” the shrill voice mocked; and Miss Miles stepped forth. She was one of those gossipy members of the dancing class who had walked home with Mabel on Friday afternoon. “Oh, yes, you have!” she cried, brightest malice in her eyes. “May-bul and Sam-my! Oh, oh, oh!” Sam was as pink as the inside of a watermelon.

“Well, I guess I’ll haf to be gettin’ on up the street,” he muttered. But Jennie Miles inelegantly vaulted the fence and approached him.

“So you haf to go soon as I come around!” she said tauntingly. “You don’t want to play unless you can play with Mabel, I guess!”

“We weren’t playin’,” Sam said uncomfortably.

“I should think not!” the indignant Mabel exclaimed. “You b’lieve I want to play with Mister Sammy Williams? Or any other ole sneezy boy, for the matter o’ that?”

Oh, no!” Jennie mocked her. “You don’t!”

“You hush up!”

Miss Miles became more humanly genial.

“Well, let’s play somep’m,” she suggested and, exhibiting a small, square sack which she held in her hand, “Let’s play bean-bag,” she said.

“I just as soon,” said Sam quickly. “I don’t know’s I got much to do, anyhow, this afternoon.”

“You play, Mabel?”

“Well, I will if I got to.”

“Come on, then!” And Jennie tossed the bag in the air, and caught it. “I’ll be teacher, and you and Sam pupils.”

But Miss Rorebeck promptly objected.

“I don’t want to be a pupil if he’s got to be the other one. I lots rather die!”

Miss Miles made the same objection on her own part, and, after some discussion not at all complimentary to Sam, it was settled that he should be the “teacher,” and he took his place, some distance away, facing the two ladies.

“All ready, Mabel?” he asked, preparing to toss the bag.

“Wait a minute!” she said. “1 got to whisper to Jennie.”

Then, while Sam stood waiting, she whispered at considerable length to her willing neighbor. The communication seemed to be important, for, as Jennie listened, she opened her mouth repeatedly, each time making a little sound expressive of a shock to her moral sense. Also, she frequently turned her head to stare at Sam with a good imitation of horror, so that it was not difficult for the patient “teacher” to perceive that he was the subject of Mabel’s discourse.

“He does?” Jennie asked, with intentional hoarseness.

Mabel nodded in affirmation, biting her lip to express condemnation.

Pulls ‘em?” asked Jennie.

“Whenever he sees one,” Mabel assured her solemnly.

Sam coughed placatively.

“Well, don’t you want to begin?” he suggested.

He tossed the bag to Mabel; she returned it, and he was swinging his arm to throw it to Jennie when the latter begged a moment’s grace.

“Wait!” she exclaimed. “I want to whisper to Mabel. I just thought o’ somep’m’.”

And again the two busy heads went together. This time, the communication evidently partook of comedy, for, while Jennie whispered, her comrade clapped her hands and gurgled with laughter.

“No! Wait!” Mabel cried. “I got a better name we can call him. Let’s call him—” And the rest was inaudible to Sam.

Each demoiselle continued to whisper to the other in turn, and, at intervals, both expressed exquisite amusement over matters secret from Sam but seeming to concern him, though he endeavored to appear unembarrassed. This became difficult at times, especially when the young ladies shot their bright glances at him during fits of laughter.

“Wonder what ole crow would think o’ that!” Jennie gurgled, and her mirth thereupon became so great that she was forced to lean upon her companion.

“Oh, I expeck ole crow would like it!” returned Miss Rorebeck, sharing the convulsion. “Ole crow—”

“I bet ole crow’s got the stummick-ache!” shrieked Jennie, and at this climax the two embraced uproariously.

Sam stared at them uneasily—the repetition of the Cryptic phrase “ole crow,” always accompanied by glances in his direction, caused him to suspect that some hidden reference was intended, perhaps to himself. However, as he was unable to comprehend how “ole crow” might be considered descriptive of his person, he did not at once come to any conclusion in the matter.

He failed to understand that, in the derisive arts, girls are less conventional than boys. The latter are prone to employ stock epithets from the shelf, and, if possible, to select them with some thought to the case in hand; whereas little girls take a great range and are often delighted to call a derided person anything whatever, belike a coined word or a phrase invented on the spur of the moment, such as “old crow.” And little girls are also superior to boys in creating and controlling such a situation as that wherein the perplexed Sam now found himself.

Sporadic instances have caused the delusion, petted by the centuries, that boys tease girls. Boys are the more intimate with outdoors, and, of course, not many have been able to resist proving to girls that grasshoppers and the like are dangerous to nobody; but this (with a little harmless chasing) is almost the end of their offending. On the other hand, it is almost impossible for a lone boy to find himself in the company of more than one of the gentler sex without the ladies forming an offensive alliance for his belittling and worse. And, having no chivalry to prevent them, little girls go to all lengths and are horridly inventive. Sam was in bad hands this day.

“Are you ready for the bean-bag, Jennie?” he asked.

Suddenly, Mabel stopped laughing and assumed an air of languor.

“I’m tired playin’ bean-bag,” she announced.

“So’m I,” Miss Miles agreed promptly.

“I tell you what we’ll do,” said Mabel. “Sam, you sit down in the grass and shut your eyes and count five hundred, and don’t open your eyes till you’re through.”

Sam obediently sat.

“What do we do then?” he inquired.

We’ll show you when the time comes.”

Sam closed his eyes honorably, and, as he began to count, was aware of a giggle and a flurry of skirts—then silence. When he had counted five hundred, he opened his eyes and beheld his hostess and her maiden guest at an open window up-stairs. They were seated, regaling themselves with cake and milk; they were rosy with merriment.

“Oh, no”—Mabel addressed herself to Jennie—“I’d never think o’ givin’ any refreshments to some ole crow!

Ole crows wouldn’t eat nice fresh cake and milk, anyhow!” added Miss Miles.

Sam rubbed his head and called to them: “Well, what’s the rest of the game? You said—”

“Wait,” said Jennie. “We’ll show you when we come down.”

After finishing the light collation—they were deliberate about it—they disappeared from the window, but delayed so long before coming out to the yard that Sam began to fear something prevented them and that he might not see Mabel again until the next day at the dancing class. But finally they came, each wearing a grave expression and each keeping her hands behind her.

“Now,” said Jennie, “we’ll go on with the game. You haf to be blindfolded now, Sam.”

“What for?”

“’Cause it’s part of the game,” said Jennie. “It’s a game Mabel made up, and she wants you to be blindfolded. Don’t you, Mabel?”

“Well, all right,” said Sam. “I don’t care.”

Jennie forthwith displayed what she had been carrying behind her—nothing more disquieting than a large white handkerchief—but Mabel did not exhibit her own burden.

“Now we’ll show you what’s goin’ to happen next,” said Jennie, as she bound the handkerchief tightly about Sam’s head.

Something was rubbed lightly down his cheek, and a faint odor came to his nose—an odor that was familiar and not unpleasant; but he could not identify it.

“What is that?” he asked uneasily.

“It’s only part o’ the game,” Jennie answered, in a strangled voice. “Go on, Mabel!”

“We call this game, ‘Strokin’ the good ole pony,” said Mabel softly. “You’re the pony. and I’m strokin’ you.”

And the light substance which had passed down one of his cheeks now passed down the other. It was then applied to his chin, and subsequently to every part of his face except his eyes.

“Stand still!” Mabel commanded, as he moved nervously. “I’m just finishin’ your ears.”

“Oh, oh, oh!” Jennie Miles shrieked suddenly. Her voice grew fainter, so that Sam was able to make out that she had rushed away from his vicinity. Then he could hear her sputtering and gurgling in the distance.

And then, as a masculine acquaintance of Sam’s happened to pass that way, other sputterings and gurglings joined Jennie’s. The light substance ceased to rub Sam’s ears; he heard footfalls hastily departing, and felt that he stood alone. Afar, he heard uproarious rejoicings.

“Oh, look at the big nigger!” bellowed a boy’s voice.

Sam tugged at the handkerchief, jerked it from his eyes—and beheld, across the yard, his hostess and Miss Miles and the new arrival contorting themselves grotesquely in extremities of joy. The new arrival was Penrod Schofield.

Sam gazed at them blankly, comprehending nothing. Then he rubbed his face with his fingers—and looked at his fingers.

Burnt cork!

“Oh, look at the big nigger!” shouted Penrod.

“Well—” said Sam vaguely.

“Nigger!” squealed Miss Miles tauntingly.

“Nigger!” echoed the heartless Mabel. (Her mother was not at home that afternoon, and, for the time, both Jennie and her hostess were in a high stage of emancipation.)

“Well,” honest Sam began, “what do I do now? I mean, if the game—”

“Game’s over!” Mabel shouted. “Nigger! Ole crow!

“Pulls cats’ tails!” cried Jennie.

“He pulled Carrie’s!” added Mabel. “Ole nigger sneezy crow!”

Epithet is sometimes strangely infectious. Penrod was without any feeling whatever against Sam, but he could not resist the mob spirit that now ruled the afternoon. He caught it.

“Nigger!” he yelled; and he began to caper derisively in a circle round Sam. “Hi, Mister Big Nigger!” he shouted. “Ole sneezy crow nigger! Ole Sammy Williams isn’t anything but a big ole sneezy crow nigger!”

Sam began to feel offended. Penrod was outrageous—and had never worn a blue-velvet dress with silver buttons.

“You shut up, you ole Penrod Schofield you!” said Sam crossly.

“Nigger!” shouted Penrod, insanely circling. “Nigger! Sneaked off to play with girls! Caught ole Sammy playin’ with girls! Nigger!”

“I am not!” Sam insisted hotly. “If I’m a nigger, you’re one, too, because I’m the same color you are!”

“Nigger! Got caught playin’ with girls!”

Sam doubled his list.

“You better quit!” he said.

“Nigger! Got caught pl—”


Sam’s fist dusted Penrod’s jacket in front. The next instant, Penrod returned this favor; the two boys embraced, plunged to earth full-length, rose, and flailed.

Fragments of language came from them.

“Got ‘ny sense?” “Playin’ with gir—” “Ole durn fool!” “Big Mister Nig—” ”I’ll show you!”

They clenched again, went down again, rose again, flailed again; then they went to earth for the third time, and now Penrod managed to secure himself firmly on top.

The emancipated ones jumped up and down, uttering Valkyrie cries.

“That’s right, Penrod!” Mabel shouted loudly. “Pound him, Penrod! Pound him!” But Penrod rose, and began to dust his clothes.

“We weren’t fightin’,” he explained, with condescension.

Sam got up ruefully.
Drawing by Worth Brehm

“I guess I better go round to the pump and get washed up,” he said.

“I should think you better!” was the spiteful comment of the strange lady of his heart.

Sam trudged off to the back yard without more ado. There, at a cistern-pump, he washed himself copiously and with energy, though not very effectively. Then he looked about for something to dry him, and his eye fell upon bath-towels on a clothes-line. He approached them.

“Don’t you dare!” cried a shrill young voice. “Mister Sam Williams, don’t you dare to touch those towels!” Sam halted, and Mabel came forth from behind an angle of the kitchen wall. “I just thought you’d be up to sumpthing like that!” she said. “I was watchin’ you. You let those towels alone! You want to ruin ‘em?”

“Well, what am I goin’ to dry on?” he asked plaintively.

“How should I know? You can go wet—all I care!”

Sam looked puzzled, for a moment; then he pulled several handfuls of dried leaves from a bush and rubbed his dampness therewith.

“There!” he said presently. “I guess I’m all right now. I look all right now, don’t I, Mabel?”

She regarded him with incredulity.

“Well!” she said, marveling. “Well! If you cert’nly aren’t the awfulest-lookin’ thing I ever saw!”

Sam stared at her, and she stared at Sam. The warmishness rose in his upper chest. He adored her.

“Mabel,” he said, “you’re my beau.”

Mabel cast her eyes upon the ground, and, as she did so, a sudden shyness possessed Sam. He turned, and walked rapidly away. An instant later, he broke into a run. for Mabel had found what she was looking for upon the ground, and a hotly hurled clothes-pin came in sharp contact with the back of his neck.

Another fluttered rapidly by his head.

Another touched his ear.

Others followed.

A shower of clothes-pins whizzed about him.

Penrod was waiting for him in the front yard; Miss Miles had disappeared.

“What you runnin’ for?” Penrod inquired.

“Oh, nothin’,” Sam panted. He was a little embarrassed, but recovered his equanimity as they walked up the street together. He became thoughtful.

Penrod likewise was thoughtful.

“My!” he said presently. “My, but Mabel’s got a red place on the end of her nose!”

“She has not!” Sam exclaimed instantly. Penrod was surprised.

“Why’n’t you think so?” he asked.

“Cause she’s my beau!” Sam answered.

“I bet she isn’t!”

“She is, too!”

“Since when?”

“I told her to-day,” Sam said decisively.

“Oh!” said Penrod.

And both of them appeared to consider the affair absolutely and finally settled.

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