Short Stories
All Titles

In Association with Amazon.com

Home > Authors Index > Ellis Parker Butler > Kilo > This page

Kilo, a novel by Ellis Parker Butler

Chapter 13. "Second: A Small Present"

< Previous
Table of content
Next >
_ CHAPTER XIII. "Second: A Small Present"

The next morning Eliph' Hewlitt purchased the two-pound box of candy in the pictured box that had long been considered by the druggist a foolish investment. For months it had reposed in the end of the toilet soap case awaiting a purchaser, and had acquired a sweet odor of scented soap mingled with the plainer odor of cut castile, and no one had been so extravagant as to buy it. Once the druggist had tried to persuade the candy salesman to take it back in exchange for more salable goods, but after taking it from the show-case and smelling it the drummer refused. At the opposite end of the case the druggist kept his plush manicure and brush-and-comb sets, with a few lumps of camphor scattered among them to discourage moths, but the odor of camphor did not hurt the candy. The scented soap protected it from the camphor. When Kilo buys scented soap she likes to have it really scented.

Miss Sally, when the small boy Eliph' secured as a messenger had delivered the box of candy, knew well enough what it meant. The neatly written card, "From Yours very truly, E. Hewlitt," did not suggest much, perhaps, but in Kilo friends do not scatter two-pound boxes of candy recklessly about. To receive a two-pound box on Christmas would have been a suspicious circumstance, for a smaller box would have done quite as well between friends, but to send a two-pound box on a day that was no holiday at all, but just a plain day of the week, could stand for but one of two things--the giver was insane, or he had "intentions," and Miss Sally knew very well that Eliph' Hewlitt was not insane. Unless on the subject of Jarby's Encyclopedia.

She carried the box of candy to Mrs. Smith, and showed her the card.

"How lovely!" cried Mrs. Smith, an exclamation which might have meant either the box of candy or the sentiment that inspired the sender, and then added, "How odd! It smells like soap!"

"That's a sign it's good candy," said Miss Sally. "The candy Rudge sells always smells of soap, an' he handles only the best, so when you see candy that smells that way you know it's good. This is Rudge's candy, sure enough, for I know this box by heart. Rudge has had it in his show case ever since the firm was Crimmins & Rudge. It must be some stale by this time, but the box is pretty."

"I don't suppose Mr. Hewlitt knew it was stale," said Mrs. Smith, "He evidently tried to get the best he could."

"Yes," admitted Miss Sally. "He wouldn't know this box of candy so well as we town folks do, him bein' a newcomer here. I suppose Rudge gave him a discount off the price on account of the box bein' soiled a little. I hope to goodness that man wasn't so foolish as to go an' pay straight sixty cents a pound for it. He got cheated if he did, an' I'll tell him so when I see him next." She slowly untied the red ribbon that bound the box, and rolled it neatly around the fingers of her left hand, to lay away for future use. "Now, what do you suppose that man sent it to me for?" she asked.

Mrs. Smith smiled, for she knew Miss Sally was asking the question merely that she might have her own belief made sure by the words of another.

"Because he's in love, of course," said Mrs. Smith. "Because he is desperately in love. It is a romance, my dear."

Miss Sally looked doubtfully toward Susan, who was curled up on the old sofa in the corner of the room. She was not sure that such matters should be discussed before one so young, but Susan would have refused to leave the room, even if asked, and she resented the questioning glance that Miss Sally had thrown at Mrs. Smith.

"'Courtship--How to Make Love--How to Win the Affections--How To Hold Them When Won,'" she said gaily. "'First, get acquainted; second, make small presents, such as flowers, books or candy; third, ask for the lady's hand.' You needn't look at me that way, Miss Sally; I know all about it. I read it in Jarby's Encyclopedia."

"Lands sakes!" exclaimed Miss Sally. "And me and him only got well acquainted last night at the festival. I never heard of such a thing!"

"It's love at first sight," teased Mrs. Smith. "He will probably be around this afternoon to propose, and we can have the wedding this evening."

"Well, he needn't come this afternoon, if he's got it in his mind to come," said Miss Sally shortly, "for I won't be at home. I ain't goin' to be rushed that way, not by no man. I don't say but Mr. Hewlitt is a clever spoken man, Mrs. Smith, when he ain't talkin' books, but I ain't in the habit of bein' courted like I was a Seidlitz powder, and had to be drunk down before I stopped fizzin'. That may be some folks way of doin' it, but it ain't mine."

"Nor Colonel Guthrie's," suggested Mrs. Smith.

"If the Colonel's slow it ain't his fault," said Miss Sally. "He'd be quick enough if I'd let him, but I can't see no hurry, one way or another. I don't say but that a husband is a good thing to have, mind you! I guess I'm like all other women and want to have one some time, but so long as I've got pa I'm in no hurry. He's as much trouble as a husband would be, and as grumpy when things don't go to suit him. Sometimes I feel like in the end I'd choose to marry the Colonel, since it wouldn't be so much of a change, the Colonel bein' like pa in some ways, such as bein' economical; and then again I feel like I'd prefer Skinner, just because he'd BE a change. I'd be always sure of gettin' good meat, for one thing, and I'd insist upon it. I can't a-bear tough meat.

"Shoemakers' children go without shoes," suggested Mrs. Smith.

"They wouldn't if I was their mother, an' I'll tell Skinner so, if I choose to marry him an' he tries to send home any but the best meat he's got in the shop," said Miss Sally firmly. "That's one man, if I marry him, I won't take no foolishness from. When a man is castin' his eyes my way, an' then has to have a city ordinance made to compel him to do me the favor of buyin' four fire-extinguishers off of me, that ain't no earthly use to me, I'll let him know I'm going to have my way about some things when we're married. I know well enough I ain't such a beauty that Skinner an' the Colonel is what you might call infatuated with me, and I don't expect 'em to be. Pa's got money, and if he didn't have I guess the Colonel an' Skinner wouldn't bother their heads about me much; but if they like me for pa's money now I guess they'll like me for it just as well after they marry me, for I'll have it well known that money don't go out of my name. And I'll let this book agent man know it too. If it's pa's money he's in such a hurry to get, he'll find out his mistake."

"I rather like the book agent," said Mrs. Smith. "He doesn't seem to me at all the adventurer type."

"His whiskers do make him look like a preacher," said Miss Sally, "if that's what you mean; but if he means business he ought to know I ain't the kind of bird to be caught with boxes of candy. Neither Skinner nor the Colonel is so silly as to think that."

She smoothed her apron across her knees, and looked at its checked pattern.

"Seems to me," she said, with a touch of regret, "this ain't no time or age for such foolishness. It ain't as if I was a girl like Susan there. Boxes of candy an' Susan would match up like pale blue an' white. I guess the safe thing is to make choice of one that ain't a stranger. I've done business with Skinner years an' years, sellin' him calves an' buyin' meat off of him; an' as for the Colonel, I guess I know all his bad points as well as his good ones. The Colonel has been a friend of pa's a long time."

So it happened that when Eliph' Hewlitt called at Miss Sally's that afternoon he did not find her at home. Mrs. Smith received him and tried to make up by her kindness for the disappointment Eliph' evidently felt. She thanked him in Miss Sally's name for the beautiful box of candy--although Miss Sally had left no such word--and drew him on to talk of Jarby & Goss, the publishers of the Encyclopedia, and of his own adventures. The longer she talked with the little man the better her opinion of him became, and she saw that he was gentle, shrewd, capable and sincere--sincere evening his wildest enthusiasm for Jarby's Encyclopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art. When he arose to go he stood a moment hesitatingly with his hat in his hand. He coughed apologetically.

"I hope Miss Sally like the little token of esteem; the box of candy;" he said, looking up into Mrs. Smith's face anxiously, "it isn't as if I was used to such matters. My preference would have been a book; a good book; a book that I could recommend to man, woman or child, containing in a condensed form all the world's knowledge, from the time of Adam to the present day, with an index for ready reference, and useful information for every day of the year. It was my intention to have given her such a book, which would have been a proper vehicle to convey to her my--my regard, but I learned only last night that she already had a copy of that work, without which no home is complete, and which is published by Jarby & Goss, New York, five dollars, bound in cloth; seven fifty, morocco. I learned that she already had one."

"She told you I had given her my copy?" asked Mrs. Smith.

"Yes," said Eliph' simply. "So I could not present her with a copy of that work. My preference was to give a work of literature; I am a worker in the field of literature, and it would have been more appropriate. But I could give her nothing but the best of its kinds, and where find another such book as Jarby's Encyclopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art? Nowhere! There is no other. This book combining in one volume selections from the world's best literature, recipes for the home, advice for every period of existence, together with one thousand and one other subjects, forms in itself a volume unequaled in the history of literature. No person should be without it."

"I know, Mr. Hewlitt," pleaded Mrs. Smith, smiling, "but I have already bought two copies. Don't you thing you ought to let me off with that?"

"I was not trying to sell you one," said Eliph' with embarrassment. "I hoped----" He paused and coughed behind his hand again. "You know my intention in sending a present to Miss Briggs," he said bravely. "I admire her greatly. I--to me she is, in fact, a Jarby's Encyclopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art among women."

"Dear Mr. Hewlitt," said Mrs. Smith, taking his hand, "I understand. And I wish you all the good fortune in the world. I shall do all I can to help you."

"Thank you," said Eliph', shaking her hand as if she was an old acquaintance he ad met after long years of separation. "So you understand that I can feel the same to no other woman. Not even to--to anyone." He wiped his forehead with his disengaged hand. "So I feel that you will not misunderstand me if I ask you to accept a copy of Jarby's Encyclopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art, bound in morocoo, seven fifty. I mean gratis. No home should be without one."

"Why, it is very kind of you to suggest such a thing," said Mrs. Smith, "and I'm sure I'll be glad to own a copy."

"I'm glad to have you," said Eliph'. "I wanted to give you one, but I didn't want you to think I meant it in the way I meant what I sent to Miss Sally. I was afraid you might, or that Miss Sally might. But I don't mean it that way."

"I know you don't," said Mrs. Smith heartily. "And if Miss Sally is jealous I will tell her she is quite mistaken. But if you will let a woman that has had a little experience advise you, do not be too hasty. Do not try to hurry matters too much. It would spoil everything if you pressed for an answer too soon and received an unfavorable one. And I'm afraid it would be an unfavorable one if you put it to the test now."

Eliph's countenance fell. It said plainly enough that he understood her to mean that the Colonel and Skinner were more apt to be favorably received.

"I'm afraid so," said Mrs. Smith regretfully. "You know they are older acquaintances, and Miss Sally is not one of those who think new friends are best."

"I was coming again to-night," said Eliph'. "Perhaps I'd better not say anything to-night. Perhaps I had better wait until to-morrow."

"Wait until next month, or next year," advised Mrs. Smith. "There is no hurry. Something may turn up." _

Read next: Chapter 14. Something Turns Up

Read previous: Chapter 12. Getting Acquainted

Table of content of Kilo


Post your review
Your review will be placed after the table of content of this book