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A NIGHT AT THE FAIR


by


F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)


The Saturday Evening Post (July 21, 1928)



The two cities were separated only by a thin well-bridged river;
their tails curling over the banks met and mingled, and at the
juncture, under the jealous eye of each, lay, every fall, the State
Fair.  Because of this advantageous position, and because of the
agricultural eminence of the state, the fair was one of the most
magnificent in America.  There were immense exhibits of grain,
livestock and farming machinery; there were horse races and
automobile races and, lately, aeroplanes that really left the
ground; there was a tumultuous Midway with Coney Island thrillers
to whirl you through space, and a whining, tinkling hoochie-coochie
show.  As a compromise between the serious and the trivial, a grand
exhibition of fireworks, culminating in a representation of the
Battle of Gettysburg, took place in the Grand Concourse every
night.

At the late afternoon of a hot September day two boys of fifteen,
somewhat replete with food and pop, and fatigued by eight hours of
constant motion, issued from the Penny Arcade.  The one with dark,
handsome, eager eyes was, according to the cosmic inscription in
his last year's Ancient History, "Basil Duke Lee, Holly Avenue, St.
Paul, Minnesota, United States, North America, Western Hemisphere,
the World, the Universe."  Though slightly shorter than his
companion, he appeared taller, for he projected, so to speak, from
short trousers, while Riply Buckner, Jr., had graduated into long
ones the week before.  This event, so simple and natural, was
having a disrupting influence on the intimate friendship between
them that had endured for several years.

During that time Basil, the imaginative member of the firm, had
been the dominating partner, and the displacement effected by two
feet of blue serge filled him with puzzled dismay--in fact, Riply
Buckner had become noticeably indifferent to the pleasure of
Basil's company in public.  His own assumption of long trousers
had seemed to promise a liberation from the restraints and
inferiorities of boyhood, and the companionship of one who was, in
token of his short pants, still a boy was an unwelcome reminder of
how recent was his own metamorphosis.  He scarcely admitted this to
himself, but a certain shortness of temper with Basil, a certain
tendency to belittle him with superior laughter, had been in
evidence all afternoon.  Basil felt the new difference keenly.  In
August a family conference had decided that even though he was
going East to school, he was too small for long trousers.  He had
countered by growing an inch and a half in a fortnight, which added
to his reputation for unreliability, but led him to hope that his
mother might be persuaded, after all.

Coming out of the stuffy tent into the glow of sunset, the two boys
hesitated, glancing up and down the crowded highway with
expressions compounded of a certain ennui and a certain
inarticulate yearning.  They were unwilling to go home before it
became necessary, yet they knew they had temporarily glutted their
appetite for sights; they wanted a change in the tone, the motif,
of the day.  Near them was the parking space, as yet a modest yard;
and as they lingered indecisively, their eyes were caught and held
by a small car, red in color and slung at that proximity to the
ground which indicated both speed of motion and speed of life.  It
was a Blatz Wildcat, and for the next five years it represented the
ambition of several million American boys.  Occupying it, in the
posture of aloof exhaustion exacted by the sloping seat, was a
blonde, gay, baby-faced girl.

The two boys stared.  She bent upon them a single cool glance and
then returned to her avocation of reclining in a Blatz Wildcat and
looking haughtily at the sky.  The two boys exchanged a glance, but
made no move to go.  They watched the girl--when they felt that
their stares were noticeable they dropped their eyes and gazed at
the car.

After several minutes a young man with a very pink face and pink
hair, wearing a yellow suit and hat and drawing on yellow gloves,
appeared and got into the car.  There was a series of frightful
explosions; then, with a measured tup-tup-tup from the open cut-
out, insolent, percussive and thrilling as a drum, the car and the
girl and the young man whom they had recognized as Speed Paxton
slid smoothly away.

Basil and Riply turned and strolled back thoughtfully toward the
Midway.  They knew that Speed Paxton was dimly terrible--the wild
and pampered son of a local brewer--but they envied him--to ride
off into the sunset in such a chariot, into the very hush and
mystery of night, beside him the mystery of that baby-faced girl.
It was probably this envy that made them begin to shout when they
perceived a tall youth of their own age issuing from a shooting
gallery.

"Oh, El!  Hey, El!  Wait a minute!"

Elwood Leaming turned around and waited.  He was the dissipated one
among the nice boys of the town--he had drunk beer, he had learned
from chauffeurs, he was already thin from too many cigarettes.  As
they greeted him eagerly, the hard, wise expression of a man of the
world met them in his half-closed eyes.

"Hello, Rip.  Put it there, Rip.  Hello, Basil, old boy.  Put it
there."

"What you doing, El?" Riply asked.

"Nothing.  What are you doing?"

"Nothing."

Elwood Leaming narrowed his eyes still further, seemed to give
thought, and then made a decisive clicking sound with his teeth.

"Well, what do you say we pick something up?" he suggested.  "I saw
some pretty good stuff around here this afternoon."

Riply and Basil drew tense, secret breaths.  A year before they had
been shocked because Elwood went to the burlesque shows at the Star--
now here he was holding the door open to his own speedy life.

The responsibility of his new maturity impelled Riply to appear
most eager.  "All right with me," he said heartily.

He looked at Basil.

"All right with me," mumbled Basil.

Riply laughed, more from nervousness than from derision.  "Maybe
you better grow up first, Basil."  He looked at Elwood, seeking
approval.  "You better stick around till you get to be a man."

"Oh, dry up!" retorted Basil.  "How long have you had yours?  Just
a week!"

But he realized that there was a gap separating him from these two,
and it was with a sense of tagging them that he walked along
beside.

Glancing from right to left with the expression of a keen and
experienced frontiersman, Elwood Leaming led the way.  Several
pairs of strolling girls met his mature glance and smiled
encouragingly, but he found them unsatisfactory--too fat, too plain
or too hard.  All at once their eyes fell upon two who sauntered
along a little ahead of them, and they increased their pace, Elwood
with confidence, Riply with its nervous counterfeit and Basil
suddenly in the grip of wild excitement.

They were abreast of them.  Basil's heart was in his throat.  He
looked away as he heard Elwood's voice.

"Hello, girls!  How are you this evening?"

Would they call for the police?  Would his mother and Riply's
suddenly turn the corner?

"Hello, yourself, kiddo!"

"Where you going, girls?"

"Nowhere."

"Well, let's all go together."

Then all of them were standing in a group and Basil was relieved to
find that they were only girls his own age, after all.  They were
pretty, with clear skins and red lips and maturely piled up hair.
One he immediately liked better than the other--her voice was
quieter and she was shy.  Basil was glad when Elwood walked on with
the bolder one, leaving him and Riply to follow with the other,
behind.

The first lights of the evening were springing into pale existence;
the afternoon crowd had thinned a little, and the lanes, empty of
people, were heavy with the rich various smells of pop corn and
peanuts, molasses and dust and cooking Wienerwurst and a not-
unpleasant overtone of animals and hay.  The Ferris wheel, pricked
out now in lights, revolved leisurely through the dusk; a few empty
cars of the roller coaster rattled overhead.  The heat had blown
off and there was the crisp stimulating excitement of Northern
autumn in the air.

They walked.  Basil felt that there was some way of talking to this
girl, but he could manage nothing in the key of Elwood Leaming's
intense and confidential manner to the girl ahead--as if he had
inadvertently discovered a kinship of tastes and of hearts.  So to
save the progression from absolute silence--for Riply's contribution
amounted only to an occasional burst of silly laughter--Basil
pretended an interest in the sights they passed and kept up a sort
of comment thereon.

"There's the six-legged calf.  Have you seen it?"

"No, I haven't."

"There's where the man rides the motorcycle around.  Did you go
there?"

"No, I didn't."

"Look!  They're beginning to fill the balloon.  I wonder what time
they start the fireworks."

"Have you been to the fireworks?"

"No, I'm going tomorrow night.  Have you?"

"Yes, I been every night.  My brother works there.  He's one of
them that helps set them off."

"Oh!"

He wondered if her brother cared that she had been picked up by
strangers.  He wondered even more if she felt as silly as he.  It
must be getting late, and he had promised to be home by half-past
seven on pain of not being allowed out tomorrow night.  He walked
up beside Elwood.

"Hey, El," he asked, "where we going?"

Elwood turned to him and winked.  "We're going around the Old
Mill."

"Oh!"

Basil dropped back again--became aware that in his temporary
absence Riply and the girl had linked arms.  A twinge of jealousy
went through him and he inspected the girl again and with more
appreciation, finding her prettier than he had thought.  Her eyes,
dark and intimate, seemed to have wakened at the growing brilliance
of the illumination overhead; there was the promise of excitement
in them now, like the promise of the cooling night.

He considered taking her other arm, but it was too late; she and
Riply were laughing together at something--rather, at nothing.  She
had asked him what he laughed at all the time and he had laughed
again for an answer.  Then they both laughed hilariously and
sporadically together.

Basil looked disgustedly at Riply.  "I never heard such a silly
laugh in my life," he said indignantly.

"Didn't you?" chuckled Riply Buckner.  "Didn't you, little boy?"

He bent double with laughter and the girl joined in.  The words
"little boy" had fallen on Basil like a jet of cold water.  In his
excitement he had forgotten something, as a cripple might forget
his limp only to discover it when he began to run.

"You think you're so big!" he exclaimed.  "Where'd you get the
pants?  Where'd you get the pants?"  He tried to work this up with
gusto and was about to add: "They're your father's pants," when he
remembered that Riply's father, like his own, was dead.

The couple ahead reached the entrance to the Old Mill and waited
for them.  It was an off hour, and half a dozen scows bumped in the
wooden offing, swayed by the mild tide of the artificial river.
Elwood and his girl got into the front seat and he promptly put his
arm around her.  Basil helped the other girl into the rear seat,
but, dispirited, he offered no resistance when Riply wedged in and
sat down between.

They floated off, immediately entering upon a long echoing
darkness.  Somewhere far ahead a group in another boat were
singing, their voices now remote and romantic, now nearer and yet
more mysterious, as the canal doubled back and the boats passed
close to each other with an invisible veil between.

The three boys yelled and called, Basil attempting by his
vociferousness and variety to outdo Riply in the girl's eyes, but
after a few moments there was no sound except his own voice and the
continual bump-bump of the boat against the wooden sides, and he
knew without looking that Riply had put his arm about the girl's
shoulder.

They slid into a red glow--a stage set of hell, with grinning
demons and lurid paper fires--he made out that Elwood and his girl
sat cheek to cheek--then again into the darkness, with the gently
lapping water and the passing of the singing boat now near, now far
away.  For a while Basil pretended that he was interested in this
other boat, calling to them, commenting on their proximity.  Then
he discovered that the scow could be rocked and took to this poor
amusement until Elwood Leaming turned around indignantly and cried:

"Hey!  What are you trying to do?"

They came out finally to the entrance and the two couples broke
apart.  Basil jumped miserably ashore.

"Give us some more tickets," Riply cried.  "We want to go around
again."

"Not me," said Basil with elaborate indifference.  "I have to go
home."

Riply began to laugh in derision and triumph.  The girl laughed
too.

"Well, so long, little boy," Riply cried hilariously.

"Oh, shut up!  So long, Elwood."

"So long, Basil."

The boat was already starting off; arms settled again about the
girls' shoulders.

"So long, little boy!"

"So long, you big cow!" Basil cried.  "Where'd you get the pants?
Where'd you get the pants?"

But the boat had already disappeared into the dark mouth of the
tunnel, leaving the echo of Riply's taunting laughter behind.



It is an ancient tradition that all boys are obsessed with the idea
of being grown.  This is because they occasionally give voice to
their impatience with the restraints of youth, while those great
stretches of time when they are more than content to be boys find
expression in action and not in words.  Sometimes Basil wanted to
be just a little bit older, but no more.  The question of long
pants had not seemed vital to him--he wanted them, but as a costume
they had no such romantic significance as, for example, a football
suit or an officer's uniform, or even the silk hat and opera cape
in which gentlemen burglars were wont to prowl the streets of New
York by night.

But when he awoke next morning they were the most important
necessity in his life.  Without them he was cut off from his
contemporaries, laughed at by a boy whom he had hitherto led.  The
actual fact that last night some chickens had preferred Riply to
himself was of no importance in itself, but he was fiercely
competitive and he resented being required to fight with one hand
tied behind his back.  He felt that parallel situations would occur
at school, and that was unbearable.  He approached his mother at
breakfast in a state of wild excitement.

"Why, Basil," she protested in surprise, "I thought when we talked
it over you didn't especially care."

"I've got to have them," he declared.  "I'd rather be dead than go
away to school without them."

"Well, there's no need of being silly."

"It's true--I'd rather be dead.  If I can't have long trousers I
don't see any use in my going away to school."

His emotion was such that the vision of his demise began actually
to disturb his mother.

"Now stop that silly talk and come and eat your breakfast.  You can
go down and buy some at Barton Leigh's this morning."

Mollified, but still torn by the urgency of his desire, Basil
strode up and down the room.

"A boy is simply helpless without them," he declared vehemently.
The phrase pleased him and he amplified it.  "A boy is simply and
utterly helpless without them.  I'd rather be dead than go away to
school--"

"Basil, stop talking like that.  Somebody has been teasing you
about it."

"Nobody's been teasing me," he denied indignantly--"nobody at all."

After breakfast, the maid called him to the phone.

"This is Riply," said a tentative voice.  Basil acknowledged the
fact coldly.  "You're not sore about last night, are you?" Riply
asked.

"Me?  No.  Who said I was sore?"

"Nobody.  Well, listen, you know about us going to the fireworks
together tonight."

"Yes."  Basil's voice was still cold.

"Well, one of those girls--the one Elwood had--has got a sister
that's even nicer than she is, and she can come out tonight and you
could have her.  And we thought we could meet about eight, because
the fireworks don't start till nine."

"What do?"

"Well, we could go on the Old Mill again.  We went around three
times more last night."

There was a moment's silence.  Basil looked to see if his mother's
door was closed.

"Did you kiss yours?" he demanded into the transmitter.

"Sure I did!"  Over the wire came the ghost of a silly laugh.
"Listen, El thinks he can get his auto.  We could call for you at
seven."

"All right," agreed Basil gruffly, and he added, "I'm going down
and get some long pants this morning."

"Are you?"  Again Basil detected ghostly laughter.  "Well, you be
ready at seven tonight."

Basil's uncle met him at Barton Leigh's clothing store at ten, and
Basil felt a touch of guilt at having put his family to all this
trouble and expense.  On his uncle's advice, he decided finally on
two suits--a heavy chocolate brown for every day and a dark blue
for formal wear.  There were certain alterations to be made but it
was agreed that one of the suits was to be delivered without fail
that afternoon.

His momentary contriteness at having been so expensive made him
save carfare by walking home from downtown.  Passing along Crest
Avenue, he paused speculatively to vault the high hydrant in front
of the Van Schellinger house, wondering if one did such things in
long trousers and if he would ever do it again.  He was impelled to
leap it two or three times as a sort of ceremonial farewell, and
was so engaged when the Van Schellinger limousine turned into the
drive and stopped at the front door.

"Oh, Basil," a voice called.

A fresh delicate face, half buried under a mass of almost white
curls, was turned toward him from the granite portico of the city's
second largest mansion.

"Hello, Gladys."

"Come here a minute, Basil."

He obeyed.  Gladys Van Schellinger was a year younger than Basil--a
tranquil, carefully nurtured girl who, so local tradition had it,
was being brought up to marry in the East.  She had a governess and
always played with a certain few girls at her house or theirs, and
was not allowed the casual freedom of children in a Midwestern
city.  She was never present at such rendezvous as the Whartons'
yard, where the others played games in the afternoons.

"Basil, I wanted to ask you something--are you going to the State
Fair tonight?"

"Why, yes, I am."

"Well, wouldn't you like to come and sit in our box and watch the
fireworks?"

Momentarily he considered the matter.  He wanted to accept, but he
was mysteriously impelled to refuse--to forgo a pleasure in order
to pursue a quest that in cold logic did not interest him at all.

"I can't.  I'm awfully sorry."

A shadow of discontent crossed Gladys' face.  "Oh?  Well, come and
see me sometime soon, Basil.  In a few weeks I'm going East to
school."

He walked on up the street in a state of dissatisfaction.  Gladys
Van Schellinger had never been his girl, nor indeed anyone's girl,
but the fact that they were starting away to school at the same
time gave him a feeling of kinship for her--as if they had been
selected for the glamorous adventure of the East, chosen together
for a high destiny that transcended the fact that she was rich and
he was only comfortable.  He was sorry that he could not sit with
her in her box tonight.

By three o'clock, Basil, reading the Crimson Sweater up in his
room, began giving attentive ear to every ring at the bell.  He
would go to the head of the stairs, lean over and call, "Hilda, was
that a package for me?"  And at four, dissatisfied with her
indifference, her lack of feeling for important things, her
slowness in going to and returning from the door, he moved
downstairs and began attending to it himself.  But nothing came.
He phoned Barton Leigh's and was told by a busy clerk:  "You'll get
that suit.  I'll guarantee that you'll get that suit."  But he did
not believe in the clerk's honor and he moved out on the porch and
watched for Barton Leigh's delivery wagon.

His mother came home at five.  "There were probably more
alterations than they thought," she suggested helpfully.  "You'll
probably get it tomorrow morning."

"Tomorrow morning!" he exclaimed incredulously.  "I've got to have
that suit tonight."

"Well, I wouldn't be too disappointed if I were you, Basil.  The
stores all close at half-past five."

Basil took one agitated look up and down Holly Avenue.  Then he got
his cap and started on a run for the street car at the corner.  A
moment later a cautious afterthought caused him to retrace his
steps with equal rapidity.

"If they get here, keep them for me," he instructed his mother--a
man who thought of everything.

"All right," she promised dryly, "I will."

It was later than he thought.  He had to wait for a trolley, and
when he reached Barton Leigh's he saw with horror that the doors
were locked and the blinds drawn.  He intercepted a last clerk
coming out and explained vehemently that he had to have his suit
tonight.  The clerk knew nothing about the matter. . . .  Was Basil
Mr. Schwartze?

No, Basil was not Mr. Schwartze.  After a vague argument wherein he
tried to convince the clerk that whoever promised him the suit
should be fired, Basil went dispiritedly home.

He would not go to the fair without his suit--he would not go at
all.  He would sit at home and luckier boys would go adventuring
along its Great White Way.  Mysterious girls, young and reckless,
would glide with them through the enchanted darkness of the Old
Mill, but because of the stupidity, selfishness and dishonesty of a
clerk in a clothing store he would not be there.  In a day or so
the fair would be over--forever--those girls, of all living girls
the most intangible, the most desirable, that sister, said to be
nicest of all--would be lost out of his life.  They would ride off
in Blatz Wildcats into the moonlight without Basil having kissed
them.  No, all his life--though he would lose the clerk his
position:  "You see now what your act did to me"--he would look
back with infinite regret upon that irretrievable hour.  Like most
of us, he was unable to perceive that he would have any desires in
the future equivalent to those that possessed him now.

He reached home; the package had not arrived.  He moped dismally
about the house, consenting at half-past six to sit silently at
dinner with his mother, his elbows on the table.

"Haven't you any appetite, Basil?"

"No, thanks," he said absently, under the impression he had been
offered something.

"You're not going away to school for two more weeks.  Why should it
matter--"

"Oh, that isn't the reason I can't eat.  I had a sort of headache
all afternoon."

Toward the end of the meal his eye focused abstractedly on some
slices of angel cake; with the air of a somnambulist, he ate three.

At seven he heard the sounds that should have ushered in a night of
romantic excitement.

The Leaming car stopped outside, and a moment later Riply Buckner
rang the bell.  Basil rose gloomily.

"I'll go," he said to Hilda.  And then to his mother, with vague
impersonal reproach, "Excuse me a minute.  I just want to tell them
I can't go to the fair tonight."

"But of course you can go, Basil.  Don't be silly.  Just because--"

He scarcely heard her.  Opening the door, he faced Riply on the
steps.  Beyond was the Leaming limousine, an old high car,
quivering in silhouette against the harvest moon.

Clop-clop-clop!  Up the street came the Barton Leigh delivery
wagon.  Clop-clop!  A man jumped out, dumped an iron anchor to the
pavement, hurried along the street, turned away, turned back again,
came toward them with a long square box in his hand.

"You'll have to wait a minute," Basil was calling wildly.  "It
can't make any difference.  I'll dress in the library.  Look here,
if you're a friend of mine, you'll wait a minute."  He stepped out
on the porch.  "Hey, El, I've just got my--got to change my
clothes.  You can wait a minute, can't you?"

The spark of a cigarette flushed in the darkness as El spoke to the
chauffeur; the quivering car came to rest with a sigh and the skies
filled suddenly with stars.



Once again the fair--but differing from the fair of the afternoon
as a girl in the daytime differs from her radiant presentation of
herself at night.  The substance of the cardboard booths and
plaster palaces was gone, the forms remained.  Outlined in lights,
these forms suggested things more mysterious and entrancing than
themselves, and the people strolling along the network of little
Broadways shared this quality, as their pale faces singly and in
clusters broke the half darkness.

The boys hurried to their rendezvous, finding the girls in the deep
shadow of the Temple of Wheat.  Their forms had scarcely merged
into a group when Basil became aware that something was wrong.  In
growing apprehension, he glanced from face to face and, as the
introductions were made, he realized the appalling truth--the
younger sister was, in point of fact, a fright, squat and dingy,
with a bad complexion brooding behind a mask of cheap pink powder
and a shapeless mouth that tried ceaselessly to torture itself into
the mold of charm.

In a daze he heard Riply's girl say, "I don't know whether I ought
to go with you.  I had a sort of date with another fellow I met
this afternoon."

Fidgeting, she looked up and down the street, while Riply, in
astonishment and dismay, tried to take her arm.

"Come on," he urged.  "Didn't I have a date with you first?"

"But I didn't know whether you'd come or not," she said perversely.

Elwood and the two sisters added their entreaties.

"Maybe I could go on the Ferris wheel," she said grudgingly, "but
not the Old Mill.  This fellow would be sore."

Riply's confidence reeled with the blow; his mouth fell ajar, his
hand desperately pawed her arm.  Basil stood glancing now with
agonized politeness at his own girl, now at the others, with an
expression of infinite reproach.  Elwood alone was successful and
content.

"Let's go on the Ferris wheel," he said impatiently.  "We can't
stand here all night."

At the ticket booth the recalcitrant Olive hesitated once more,
frowning and glancing about as if she still hoped Riply's rival
would appear.

But when the swooping cars came to rest she let herself be
persuaded in, and the three couples, with their troubles, were
hoisted slowly into the air.

As the car rose, following the imagined curve of the sky, it
occurred to Basil how much he would have enjoyed it in other
company, or even alone, the fair twinkling beneath him with new
variety, the velvet quality of the darkness that is on the edge of
light and is barely permeated by its last attenuations.  But he was
unable to hurt anyone whom he thought of as an inferior.  After a
minute he turned to the girl beside him.

"Do you live in St. Paul or Minneapolis?" he inquired formally.

"St. Paul.  I go to Number 7 School."  Suddenly she moved closer.
"I bet you're not so slow," she encouraged him.

He put his arm around her shoulder and found it warm.  Again they
reached the top of the wheel and the sky stretched out overhead,
again they lapsed down through gusts of music from remote
calliopes.  Keeping his eyes turned carefully away, Basil pressed
her to him, and as they rose again into darkness, leaned and kissed
her cheek.

The significance of the contact stirred him, but out of the corner
of his eye he saw her face--he was thankful when a gong struck
below and the machine settled slowly to rest.

The three couples were scarcely reunited outside when Olive uttered
a yelp of excitement.

"There he is!" she cried.  "That Bill Jones I met this afternoon--
that I had the date with."

A youth of their own age was approaching, stepping like a circus
pony and twirling, with the deftness of a drum major, a small
rattan cane.  Under the cautious alias, the three boys recognized a
friend and contemporary--none other than the fascinating Hubert
Blair.

He came nearer.  He greeted them all with a friendly chuckle.  He
took off his cap, spun it, dropped it, caught it, set it jauntily
on the side of his head.

"You're a nice one," he said to Olive.  "I waited here fifteen
minutes this evening."

He pretended to belabor her with the cane; she giggled with
delight.  Hubert Blair possessed the exact tone that all girls of
fourteen, and a somewhat cruder type of grown women, find
irresistible.  He was a gymnastic virtuoso and his figure was in
constant graceful motion; he had a jaunty piquant nose, a disarming
laugh and a shrewd talent for flattery.  When he took a piece of
toffee from his pocket, placed it on his forehead, shook it off and
caught it in his mouth, it was obvious to any disinterested
observer that Riply was destined to see no more of Olive that
night.

So fascinated were the group that they failed to see Basil's eyes
brighten with a ray of hope, his feet take four quick steps
backward with all the guile of a gentleman burglar, his torso
writhe through the parting of a tent wall into the deserted
premises of the Harvester and Tractor Show.  Once safe, Basil's
tensity relaxed, and as he considered Riply's unconsciousness of
the responsibilities presently to devolve upon him, he bent double
with hilarious laughter in the darkness.



Ten minutes later, in a remote part of the fairgrounds, a youth
made his way briskly and cautiously toward the fireworks exhibit,
swinging as he walked a recently purchased rattan cane.  Several
girls eyed him with interest, but he passed them haughtily; he was
weary of people for a brief moment--a moment which he had almost
mislaid in the bustle of life--he was enjoying his long pants.

He bought a bleacher seat and followed the crowd around the race
track, seeking his section.  A few Union troops were moving cannon
about in preparation for the Battle of Gettysburg, and, stopping to
watch them, he was hailed by Gladys Van Schellinger from the box
behind.

"Oh, Basil, don't you want to come and sit with us?"

He turned about and was absorbed.  Basil exchanged courtesies with
Mr. and Mrs. Van Schellinger and he was affably introduced to
several other people as "Alice Riley's boy," and a chair was placed
for him beside Gladys in front.

"Oh, Basil," she whispered, glowing at him, "isn't this fun?"

Distinctly, it was.  He felt a vast wave of virtue surge through
him.  How anyone could have preferred the society of those common
girls was at this moment incomprehensible.

"Basil, won't it be fun to go East?  Maybe we'll be on the same
train."

"I can hardly wait," he agreed gravely.  "I've got on long pants.
I had to have them to go away to school."

One of the ladies in the box leaned toward him.  "I know your
mother very well," she said.  "And I know another friend of yours.
I'm Riply Buckner's aunt."

"Oh, yes!"

"Riply's such a nice boy," beamed Mrs. Van Schillinger.

And then, as if the mention of his name had evoked him, Riply
Buckner came suddenly into sight.  Along the now empty and brightly
illuminated race track came a short but monstrous procession, a
sort of Lilliputian burlesque of the wild gay life.  At its head
marched Hubert Blair and Olive, Hubert prancing and twirling his
cane like a drum major to the accompaniment of her appreciative
screams of laughter.  Next followed Elwood Leaming and his young
lady, leaning so close together that they walked with difficulty,
apparently wrapped in each other's arms.  And bringing up the rear
without glory were Riply Buckner and Basil's late companion,
rivaling Olive in exhibitionist sound.

Fascinated, Basil stared at Riply, the expression of whose face was
curiously mixed.  At moments he would join in the general tone of
the parade with silly guffaw, at others a pained expression would
flit across his face, as if he doubted that, after all, the evening
was a success.

The procession was attracting considerable notice--so much that not
even Riply was aware of the particular attention focused upon him
from this box, though he passed by it four feet away.  He was out
of hearing when a curious rustling sigh passed over its inhabitants
and a series of discreet whispers began.

"What funny girls," Gladys said.  "Was that first boy Hubert
Blair?"

"Yes."  Basil was listening to a fragment of conversation behind:

"His mother will certainly hear of this in the morning."

As long as Riply had been in sight, Basil had been in an agony of
shame for him, but now a new wave of virtue, even stronger than the
first, swept over him.  His memory of the incident would have
reached actual happiness, save for the fact that Riply's mother
might not let him go away to school.  And a few minutes later, even
that seemed endurable.  Yet Basil was not a mean boy.  The natural
cruelty of his species toward the doomed was not yet disguised by
hypocrisy--that was all.

In a burst of glory, to the alternate strains of Dixie and The Star-
Spangled Banner, the Battle of Gettysburg ended.  Outside by the
waiting cars, Basil, on a sudden impulse, went up to Riply's aunt.

"I think it would be sort of a--a mistake to tell Riply's mother.
He didn't do any harm.  He--"

Annoyed by the event of the evening, she turned on him cool,
patronizing eyes.

"I shall do as I think best," she said briefly.

He frowned.  Then he turned and got into the Van Schellinger
limousine.

Sitting beside Gladys in the little seats, he loved her suddenly.
His hand swung gently against hers from time to time and he felt
the warm bond that they were both going away to school tightened
around them and pulling them together.

"Can't you come and see me tomorrow?" she urged him.  "Mother's
going to be away and she says I can have anybody I like."

"All right."

As the car slowed up for Basil's house, she leaned toward him
swiftly.  "Basil--"

He waited.  Her breath was warm on his cheek.  He wanted her to
hurry, or, when the engine stopped, her parents, dozing in back,
might hear what she said.  She seemed beautiful to him then; that
vague unexciting quality about her was more than compensated for by
her exquisite delicacy, the fine luxury of her life.

"Basil--Basil, when you come tomorrow, will you bring that Hubert
Blair?"

The chauffeur opened the door and Mr. and Mrs. Van Schellinger woke
up with a start.  When the car had driven off, Basil stood looking
after it thoughtfully until it turned the corner of the street.




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