By shifting his position his lips came close to her bare young arm. It

tempted him.

"Don't read that nonsense," he said, his eyes on the arm. "And--I'll never

outgrow my foolishness about you, Sidney."

Then, because he could not help it, he bent over and kissed her arm.

She was just eighteen, and Joe's devotion was very pleasant. She thrilled

to the touch of his lips on her flesh; but she drew her arm away.

"Please--I don't like that sort of thing."

"Why not?" His voice was husky.

"It isn't right. Besides, the neighbors are always looking out the



The drop from her high standard of right and wrong to the neighbors'

curiosity appealed suddenly to her sense of humor. She threw back her head

and laughed. He joined her, after an uncomfortable moment. But he was

very much in earnest. He sat, bent forward, turning his new straw hat in

his hands.

"I guess you know how I feel. Some of the fellows have crushes on girls

and get over them. I'm not like that. Since the first day I saw you I've

never looked at another girl. Books can say what they like: there are

people like that, and I'm one of them."

There was a touch of dogged pathos in his voice. He was that sort, and

Sidney knew it. Fidelity and tenderness--those would be hers if she

married him. He would always be there when she wanted him, looking at her

with loving eyes, a trifle wistful sometimes because of his lack of those

very qualities he so admired in her--her wit, her resourcefulness, her

humor. But he would be there, not strong, perhaps, but always loyal.

"I thought, perhaps," said Joe, growing red and white, and talking to the

hat, "that some day, when we're older, you--you might be willing to marry

me, Sid. I'd be awfully good to you."

It hurt her to say no. Indeed, she could not bring herself to say it. In

all her short life she had never willfully inflicted a wound. And because

she was young, and did not realize that there is a short cruelty, like the

surgeon's, that is mercy in the end, she temporized.

"There is such a lot of time before we need think of such things! Can't we

just go on the way we are?"

"I'm not very happy the way we are."

"Why, Joe!"

"Well, I'm not"--doggedly. "You're pretty and attractive. When I see a

fellow staring at you, and I'd like to smash his face for him, I haven't

the right."

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