Best American Humorous Short Stories HTML version

A Call
By Grace MacGowan Cooke (1863- )
[From Harper's Magazine, August, 1906. Copyright, 1906, by Harper & Brothers.
Republished by the author's permission.]
A boy in an unnaturally clean, country-laundered collar walked down a long white road.
He scuffed the dust up wantonly, for he wished to veil the all-too-brilliant polish of his
cowhide shoes. Also the memory of the whiteness and slipperiness of his collar oppressed
him. He was fain to look like one accustomed to social diversions, a man hurried from
hall to hall of pleasure, without time between to change collar or polish boot. He stooped
and rubbed a crumb of earth on his overfresh neck-linen.
This did not long sustain his drooping spirit. He was mentally adrift upon the Hints and
Helps to Young Men in Business and Social Relations, which had suggested to him his
present enterprise, when the appearance of a second youth, taller and broader than
himself, with a shock of light curling hair and a crop of freckles that advertised a rich soil
threw him a lifeline. He put his thumbs to his lips and whistled in a peculiarly ear-
splitting way. The two boys had sat on the same bench at Sunday-school not three hours
before; yet what a change had come over the world for one of them since then!
"Hello! Where you goin', Ab?" asked the newcomer, gruffly.
"Callin'," replied the boy in the collar, laconically, but with carefully averted gaze.
"On the girls?" inquired the other, awestruck. In Mount Pisgah you saw the girls home
from night church, socials, or parties; you could hang over the gate; and you might walk
with a girl in the cemetery of a Sunday afternoon; but to ring a front-door bell and ask for
Miss Heart's Desire one must have been in long trousers at least three years--and the two
boys confronted in the dusty road had worn these dignifying garments barely six months.
"Girls," said Abner, loftily; "I don't know about girls--I'm just going to call on one girl--
Champe Claiborne." He marched on as though the conversation was at an end; but Ross
hung upon his flank. Ross and Champe were neighbors, comrades in all sorts of mischief;
he was in doubt whether to halt Abner and pummel him, or propose to enlist under his
"Do you reckon you could?" he debated, trotting along by the irresponsive Jilton boy.
"Run home to your mother," growled the originator of the plan, savagely. "You ain't old
enough to call on girls; anybody can see that; but I am, and I'm going to call on Champe