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Rope   By: (1887-1936)

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Author of "The Man Nobody Knew," etc.






As Henry came blithely into the house with a heavy suit case in one hand and a cumbersome kit bag in the other, his Aunt Mirabelle marched out like a grenadier from the living room, and posted herself in the hallway to watch him approach. There was this much to say for Aunt Mirabelle: she was at least consistent, and for twenty years she had worn the same expression whenever she looked at him. During that period the rest of the world and Henry had altered, developed, advanced but not Aunt Mirabelle. She had changed neither the style of her clothes nor the nature of her convictions; she had disapproved of Henry when he was six, and therefore, she disapproved of him today. To let him know it, she regarded him precisely as though he were still six, and had forgotten to wash his face.

"I suppose," remarked Aunt Mirabelle, in her most abrasive voice, "I suppose you're waiting for me to say I hope you had a good time. Well, I'm not a going to say it, because it wouldn't be true, and I wouldn't want to have it sitting on my conscience. Of course, some people haven't got much of any conscience for anything to sit on, anyway. If they did, they'd be earnest, useful citizens. If they did, then once in a while they'd think about something else besides loud ties and silk socks and golf. And they wouldn't be gallivanting off on house parties for a week at a time, either; they'd be tending to their business if they had any. And if they hadn't, they ought to."

Henry put down the bag and the suit case, removed his straw hat, and grinned, with a fair imitation of cheerfulness. He had never learned how to handle Aunt Mirabelle, and small wonder; for if he listened in silence, he was called sulky; if he disputed her, he was called flippant; if he agreed with her, she accused him of fraud; and if he obeyed his natural instincts, and treated her with tolerant good humour, she usually went on a conversation strike, and never weakened until after the twelfth apology. Whatever he did was wrong, so that purely on speculation, he grinned, and said what came to his tongue.

"Maybe so," said Henry, "maybe so, but conscience is a plant of slow growth," and immediately after he had said this, he wished that he had chosen a different epigram something which wasn't so liable to come back at him, later, like a boomerang.

"Humph!" said Aunt Mirabelle. "It is, is it? Well, if I was in your place, I'd be impatient for it to grow faster."

Henry shook his head. "No, I don't believe you would. I've read somewhere that impatience dries the blood more than age or sorrow." He assumed an air of critical satisfaction. "The bird that wrote that had pretty good technique, don't you think?"

She shrugged her shoulders. "All right, Henry. Be pert. But I know what made you so almighty anxious to sneak off on this house party; and I know whose account it was you went on, too, and I don't see for the life of me why your uncle hasn't put his foot down." She sighed, as though in deep mourning. "I did hope you'd grow up different from these other boys, Henry, but you're all of you just alike. When you get old enough, do you pick out some pure, innocent, sensible, young woman that's been trained the way girls were trained in my day? No. You go and make fools of yourselves over these short skirted little hussies all powdered up like a box of marshmallows. And as long as they're spry enough and immodest enough to do all these new bunny dances and what not, you think that's a sure sign they'll make good wives and mothers. Humph. Makes me sick."

In spite of himself, Henry lost his artificial grin, and began to turn dull red. "I wouldn't go quite so far as to say that."

"Well," retorted Aunt Mirabelle, "I didn't hardly expect you would. But you'll go far enough to see one of 'em, I notice... Continue reading book >>

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