Among the less intimate friends of
his mother was a young widow with a little girl about
a year younger than Keith. For some reason unknown
to the boy, those two came to see his mother several
times that Spring. It was the first time in his
life Keith met a girl on familiar terms.
Clara was slender and elfish, with
a wealth of yellow tresses falling down her back.
She was tender and gay, too, and Keith liked to hear
her laugh. When they played, she was always ready
to fall in with any whim of Keith’s.
One afternoon, when the days were
growing longer, Clara’s mother asked permission
to leave her with the Wellanders while she attended
to some business in the neighbourhood. Keith’s
mother was occupied in the kitchen in some manner
making her wish to have the door to the living-room
closed. Thus the two children were left to play
He never could remember how it began,
and he could not tell what put the idea in his head....
It was a new game, and she played
it as readily as any other he might have proposed.
They had crawled so far into his own corner by the
window that they were almost hidden behind mamma’s
At first they whispered to each other,
eagerly as children do, but only with the eagerness
they might have shown if playing hide-and-seek.
Then he raised her little dress, and she didn’t
seem to mind. He also undid his own dress, and
they studied each other’s bodies, noting the
The end of it was that they laid down
together on the floor. He put his mouth to hers
and hugged her just as tightly as he could. When
they had been lying in way for a while, he whispered
“Isn’t it nice?”
And she dutifully whispered back: “It is!”
A few minutes later they were playing
with his tin soldiers, and soon after Clara’s
mother returned to take her away.
During their entire play both doors
had remained closed. Keith was quite sure of
that. He had looked before he started the new
game, although he was not aware of trespassing on
Afterwards he felt rather uneasy.
There was a distinct sense of risk attaching to that
game, and he wondered whether Clara might tell her
mother. At the same time the thought of what he
had done filled him with inexplicable satisfaction,
as if, in some way, he had put something over on the
As for his own mother she
seemed to be watching him with unusual concern during
the next few days, and he could not escape a suspicion
that she knew. Closed doors did not seem to prevent
grown-up people from knowing what children did.
At the same time he wondered why he
and Clara should not be playing as they had done.
There was really nothing to it. And the comparisons
they had made took no hold of his imagination.
The differences revealed he accepted as he accepted
anything that had no direct bearing on his own happiness.
As far as he could recall afterwards,
he never saw Clara again. Nor did he seem to