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