Best American Humorous Short Stories
Again the name acted as a spur on Ross. "With your collar and boots all dirty?" he jeered.
"They won't know you're callin'."
The boy in the road stopped short in his dusty tracks. He was an intense creature, and he
whitened at the tragic insinuation, longing for the wholesome stay and companionship of
freckle-faced Ross. "I put the dirt on o' purpose so's to look kind of careless," he half
whispered, in an agony of doubt. "S'pose I'd better go into your house and try to wash it
off? Reckon your mother would let me?"
"I've got two clean collars," announced the other boy, proudly generous. "I'll lend you
one. You can put it on while I'm getting ready. I'll tell mother that we're just stepping out
to do a little calling on the girls."
Here was an ally worthy of the cause. Abner welcomed him, in spite of certain jealous
twinges. He reflected with satisfaction that there were two Claiborne girls, and though
Alicia was so stiff and prim that no boy would ever think of calling on her, there was still
the hope that she might draw Ross's fire, and leave him, Abner, to make the numerous
remarks he had stored up in his mind from Hints and Helps to Young Men in Social and
Business Relations to Champe alone.
Mrs. Pryor received them with the easy-going kindness of the mother of one son. She
followed them into the dining-room to kiss and feed him, with an absent "Howdy, Abner;
how's your mother?"
Abner, big with the importance of their mutual intention, inclined his head stiffly and
looked toward Ross for explanation. He trembled a little, but it was with delight, as he
anticipated the effect of the speech Ross had outlined. But it did not come.
"I'm not hungry, mother," was the revised edition which the freckle-faced boy offered to
the maternal ear. "I--we are going over to Mr. Claiborne's--on--er--on an errand for
The black-eyed boy looked reproach as they clattered up the stairs to Ross's room, where
the clean collar was produced and a small stock of ties.
"You'd wear a necktie--wouldn't you?" Ross asked, spreading them upon the bureau-top.
"Yes. But make it fall carelessly over your shirt-front," advised the student of Hints and
Helps. "Your collar is miles too big for me. Say! I've got a wad of white chewing-gum;
would you flat it out and stick it over the collar button? Maybe that would fill up some.
You kick my foot if you see me turning my head so's to knock it off."
"Better button up your vest," cautioned Ross, laboring with the "careless" fall of his tie.
"Huh-uh! I want 'that easy air which presupposes familiarity with society'--that's what it
says in my book," objected Abner.