James Trottingham Minton
had a cousin who lived in
St. Louis. "Cousin Mary,"
Lucy Putnam discovered by
a process of elimination,
was the one topic on which
the reticent Mr. Minton could
become talkative. Mary was
his ideal, almost. Let a girl
broach the weather, he grew
halt of speech; should she
bring up literature, his replies
were almost inane; let her
seek to show that she kept
abreast of the times, and
talk of politics-then Jimmy
seemed to harbor a great fear
in his own soul. But give
him the chance to make a few
remarks about his cousin Mary
and he approached eloquence.
For this reason Lucy Putnam
was wise enough to ask him
something about Mary every
Now, the question arises:
Why should Lucy Putnam,
or any other girl, take
any interest in a man who
was so thoroughly bashful
that his trembling efforts
to converse made the light
quivering aspen look like
a ten-ton obelisk for calmness?
The reason was, and is,
that woman has the same
eye for babies and men.
The more helpless these
objects, the more interested
are the women. The man who
makes the highest appeal
to a woman is he whose tongue
cleaves to the roof of his
mouth and who does not know
what to do with his hands
in her presence. She must
be a princess, he a slave.
Each knows this premise
is unsupported by facts,
yet it is a joyous fiction
while it lasts. James Trottingham
Minton was not a whit bashful
when with men. No. He called
on Mr. Putnam at his office,
and with the calmness of
an agent collecting rent,
asked him for the hand of
Mr. Putnam said good-naturedly,
"of course I haven't
any objections to make.
Seems to me that's a matter
to be settled between you
Jimmy smiled confidentially.
"I suppose you're
right, Mr. Putnam. But,
you see, I've never had
the nerve to say anything
about it to her."
"Tut, tut. Nothing
to be scared of. Nothing
at all. What's the matter
with you, young man? In
my day, if a fellow wanted
to marry a girl he wouldn't
go and tell her father.
He'd marry her first and
then ask the old man where
they should live."
Mr. Putnam chuckled heavily.
Mr. Putnam was possessed
of a striking fund of reminiscences
of how young men used to
"Of course, Mr. Putnam,"
Jimmy said. "But the
girls nowadays are different,
and a fel-"
"Not a bit of it.
No, sir. Women haven't changed
since Eve's time. You mustn't
get woman mixed up with
dry goods stores, Jimmy.
Don't you know there's lots
of fellows nowadays that
fall in love with the fall
styles? Ha, ha!"
It was not all clear to
Minton, but he laughed dutifully.
His was a diplomatic errand,
and the half of diplomacy
is making the victim think
you are in agreement with
"Yes, sir," Putnam
chuckled on, "I'll
bet that silk and ruffles
and pink shades over the
lamp have caused more proposals
than all the dimples and
bright eyes in the world.
Eh, Jimmy? But you haven't
"But you're not going to
marry me. You want Lucy. You'll
have to speak to her about it."
"Now look, Mr. Putnam, I
can come to you and ask you for
her, and it's the same thing."
"Not by a hundred miles,
my boy. If I told Lucy you had
said that, she wouldn't be at
home next time you called. The
trouble with you is that you don't
understand women. You've got to
talk direct to them."
Jimmy looked hopelessly out of
"No; what you say to me
and what I say to you hasn't any
more to do with you and Lucy than
if you were selling me a bill
of goods. I like you, Jimmy, and
I've watched your career so far
with interest, and I look for
great things from you in the future,
and that's why I say to you to
go ahead and get Lucy, and good
luck to you both."
Mr. Putnam took up some papers
from his desk and pretended to
be studying them, but from the
tail of his eye he gathered the
gloom that was settling over Jimmy's
face. The elder man enjoyed the
"Well, Mr. Putnam,"
Jimmy asked, "why can't you
just tell Lucy for me that I have
asked you, and that you say it's
all right? Then when I go to see
her next time, it'll all be arranged
"Le' me see. Didn't I read
a poem or something at school
about some one who hadn't sand
enough to propose to a girl and
who got another man to ask her?
But it wasn't her own father.
Why, Jimmy, if you haven't courage
enough to propose to a girl, what
do you suppose will be your finish
if she marries you? A married
man has to have spunk."
"I've got the spunk all
right, but you understand how
"Sure! Let me give you some
advice. When you propose to a
girl, you don't have to come right
out and ask her to marry you."
Jimmy caught at the straw.
"You don't?" he asked.
"Certainly not. There's
half a dozen ways of letting her
know that you want her. Usually-always,
I may say-she knows it anyway,
and unless she wants you she'll
not let you tell her so. But if
I wanted a short, sharp 'No' from
a girl, I'd get her father to
ask her to marry me."
"Then you mean that I've
got to ask her myself?"
"To be sure."
"I can't do it, Mr. Putnam;
"Why, I'd feel as if the
postman and everybody else knew
"Jim Minton, I'm disgusted
with you. I thought you were a
young man with some enterprise,
but if you lose your courage over
such an every-day affair as proposing
to a girl-"
"But men don't propose every
"Somebody is proposing to
somebody every day. It goes on
all the time. No, sir; I wash
my hands of it. I'll not withdraw
my consent, and you have my moral
support and encouragement, but
getting married is the same as
getting into trouble-you have
to handle your own case."
"But, Mr. Putnam-"
"You'll only go over the
same ground again. Good morning.
I don't want to hear any more
of this until it is settled one
way or the other. I'll not help
and I'll not hinder. It-It's up
With this colloquial farewell
Mr. Putnam waved his hand and
turned to his papers. Jimmy accumulated
his hat and stick, and left, barren
That night he took Lucy to see
"Romeo and Juliet."
The confidence and enthusiasm
of Romeo merely threw him into
a deeper despair of his own ability
as a suitor, and made him even
more taciturn and stumbling of
speech than ever. His silence
grew heavier and heavier, until
at last Lucy threw out her never-failing
life-line. She asked him about
his cousin Mary.
"By the way," he said,
brightening up, "Cousin Mary
is going through here one day
"Is she? How I should like
to know her. If she is anything
like you she must be very agreeable."
"She isn't like me, but
she is agreeable. Won't you let
me try to bring you two together-at
lunch down-town, or something
"It would be fine."
"I'll do it. I'll arrange
it just as soon as I see her."
Then silence, pall-like, fell
again upon them. Jimmy thought
of Romeo, and Lucy thought of-Romeo,
let us say. When a young man and
a young woman, who are the least
bit inclined one to another, witness
Shakespeare's great educative
effort, the young woman can not
help imagining herself leaning
over the balcony watching the
attempts of the young man to clamber
up the rope ladder.
After he had gone that night,
Lucy sat down for a soul communion
with herself. Pity the woman who
does not have soul communions.
She who can sit side by side with
herself and make herself believe
that she is perfectly right and
proper in thinking and believing
as she does, is happy. The first
question Lucy Putnam put to her
subliminal self was: "Do
I love Jimmy?" Subliminal
self, true to sex, equivocated.
It said: "I am not sure."
Whereupon Lucy asked: "Why
do I love him?" Then ensued
the debate. Subliminal self said
it was because he was a clean,
good-hearted, manly fellow. Lucy
responded that he was too bashful.
"He is handsome," retorted
subliminal self. "But there
are times when he grows so abashed
that he is awkward." Subliminal
self said he would outgrow that.
"But there are other men
who are just as nice, just as
handsome, and just as clever,
who are not so overwhelmingly
shy," argued Lucy. Whereat
subliminal self drew itself up
proudly and demanded: "Name
one!" And Lucy was like the
person who can remember faces,
but has no memory at all for names.
Cousin Mary came to town as she
had promised, and she made Cousin
Jimmy drop his work and follow her
through the shops half the morning.
Cousin Mary was all that Cousin
Jimmy had ever said of her. She
was pretty and she was genial. When
these attributes are combined in
a cousin they invite confidences.
The two were standing on a corner,
waiting for a swirl of foot passengers,
carriages and street-cars, to
be untangled, when Mary heard
Jimmy making some remark about
"So, she's the one, is she,
"Well-er-I-I don't know.
"Certainly I see. Who wouldn't?
Is she pretty, Jimmy?"
Jimmy saw a pathway through the
crowd and led his cousin to the
farther curb before answering:
"Yes, she is very pretty."
"Tell me all about her.
How long have you known her? How
did you meet her? Is she tall
or short? Is she dark or fair?
Is she musical? Oh, I am just
dying to know all about her!"
All the way down State Street
Jimmy talked. All the way down
State Street he was urged on and
aided and abetted by the questions
and comments of Cousin Mary, and
when they had buffeted their way
over Jackson to Michigan Avenue
and found breathing room, she
turned to him and asked pointedly:
"When is it to be?"
"When is what to be?"
"Whose wedding?" Jimmy's
tone was utterly innocent.
"Whose? Yours and Lucy's,
to be sure."
"Mine and Lucy's? Why? Mary,
I've never asked her yet."
"You've never asked her!
Do you mean to tell me that when
you can talk about her for seven
or eight blocks, as you have,
you have not even asked her to
marry you? Why, James Trottingham
Minton, you ought to be ashamed
of yourself! Where does this paragon
of women live? Take me to see
her. I want to apologize for you."
"Won't it be better to get
her to come in and lunch with
us? She lives so far out you'd
miss your train east this afternoon."
"Why, yes. I asked her the
other night and she said she would."
"Then, why have you waited
so long to tell me. Where are
we to meet her?"
"Well, I didn't know for
sure what day you would be here,
so I didn't make any definite
arrangement. I'm to let her know."
"Oh, Jimmy! Jimmy! You need
a guardian, and not a guardian
angel, either. You need the other
sort. You deserve hours of punishment
for your thoughtlessness. Now
go right away and send her word
that I am here and dying to meet
"All right. We'll have lunch
here at the Annex. You'll excuse
me just a moment, and I'll send
her a telegram and ask her to
"Yes, but hurry. You should
have told her yesterday. When
will you ever learn how to be
nice to a girl?"
Jimmy, feeling somehow that he
had been guilty of a breach of
courtesy that should fill him
with remorse, hastened to the
telegraph desk and scribbled a
message to Lucy. It read:
"Please meet me and Mary
at Annex at 2 o'clock."
"Rush that," he said
to the operator.
The operator glanced over the
message and grinned.
"Certainly, sir," he
said. "This sort of a message
always goes rush. Wish you luck,
The operator has not yet completely
gathered the reason for the reproving
stare Jimmy gave him. In part
it has been explained to him.
But, as Jimmy has said since,
the man deserved censure for drawing
an erroneous conclusion from another's
It was then noon, so Jimmy and
Mary, at Mary's suggestion, got
an appetite by making another
tour of the shops. In the meantime
a snail-paced messenger boy was
climbing the Putnam steps with
the telegram in his hand.
Lucy took the telegram from the
boy and told him to wait until
she saw if there should be an
answer. She tore off the envelope,
unfolded the yellow slip of paper,
read the message, gasped, blushed
and turned and left the patient
boy on the steps.
Into the house she rushed, calling
to her mother. She thrust the
telegram into her hands, exclaiming:
"Read that! Isn't it what
we might have expected?"
"Mercy! What is it? Who's
"Nobody! It's better than
that," was Lucy's astonishing
Mrs. Putnam read the telegram,
and then beamingly drew her daughter
to her and kissed her. The two
then wrote a message, after much
counting of words, to be sent
to Jimmy. It read:
"Of course. Mama will come
with me. Telephone to papa."
When this reached Jimmy he was
nonplused. He rubbed his forehead,
studied the message, reread it,
and then handed it to Mary with
"Maybe you can make it out.
Mary knitted her brows and studied
the message in turn. At length
she handed it back.
"It is simple," she
decided. "She is a nice,
sweet girl, and she wants me to
meet her mama and papa. Or maybe
she wants us to be chaperoned."
So Jimmy and Mary waited in the
hotel parlor until Lucy should
arrive. Reminded by Mary, Jimmy
went to the 'phone and told Mr.
Putnam that Lucy was coming to
lunch with him.
"Well, that's all right,
isn't it, Jimmy?" Mr. Putnam
"Yes. But she told me to
"I don't know. But won't
you join us?"
"Is that other matter arranged,
"N-no. Not yet."
"I told you I didn't want
to see you until it was. As soon
as you wake up, let me know. Good-by."
Jimmy, red, returned to the parlor,
and there was confronted by a
vision of white, with shining
eyes and pink cheeks, who rushed
up to him and kissed him and called
him a dear old thing and said
he was the cleverest, most unconventional
man that ever was.
Limp, astounded, but delighted,
James Trottingham Minton drew
back a pace from Lucy Putnam,
who, in her dainty white dress
and her white hat and filmy white
veil, was a delectable sight.
They walked toward the end of
the long parlor where Mary was sitting,
but half way down the room they
were stopped by Mrs. Putnam. She
put both hands on Jimmy's shoulders,
gave him a motherly kiss on one
cheek, and sighed:
"Jimmy, you will be kind
to my little girl?"
Jimmy looked from mother to daughter
in dumb bewilderment. Certainly
this was the most remarkable conduct
he ever had dreamed of. Yet, Mrs.
Putnam's smile was so affectionate
and kind, her eyes met his with
such a tender look that he intuitively
felt that all was right as right
should be. And yet-why should
they act as they did?
Into the midst of his reflections
burst Lucy's chum, Alice Jordan.
"I've a notion to kiss him,
too!" she cried.
Jimmy stonily held himself in
readiness to be kissed. If kissing
went by favor he was pre-eminently
a favored one. But Lucy clutched
his arm with a pretty air of ownership
and forbade Alice.
"Indeed, you will not. It
wouldn't be good form now. After-afterward,
you may. Just once. Isn't that
"Perfectly," he replied,
his mind still whirling in an
effort to adjust actualities to
his conception of what realities
The four had formed a little
group to themselves in the center
of the parlor, Lucy clinging to
Jimmy's arm, Mrs. Putnam eying
them both with a happy expression,
and Alice fluttering from one
to the other, assuring them that
they were the handsomest couple
she ever had seen, that they ought
to be proud of each other, and
that Mrs. Putnam ought to be proud
of them, and that she was sure
nobody in all the world ever,
ever could be as sublimely, beatifically
happy as they would be, and that
they must be sure to let her come
to visit them.
"And," she cried, admiringly,
stopping to pat Jimmy on his unclutched
arm, "I just think your idea
of proposing by telegraph was
the brightest thing I ever heard
It is to be written to the everlasting
credit of James Trottingham Minton
that he restrained himself from
uttering the obvious remark on
hearing this. Two words from him
would have wrecked the house of
cards. Instead, he blushed and
smiled modestly. Slowly it was
filtering into his brain that
by some unusual, unexpected, unprecedented
freak of fortune his difficulties
had been overcome; that some way
or other he had proposed and had
"I shall always cherish
that telegram," Lucy declared,
leaning more affectionately toward
Jimmy. "If that grimy-faced
messenger boy had not gone away
so quickly with my answer I should
have kissed him!"
"I've got the telegram here,
dear," said Mrs. Putnam.
"Oh, let's see it again,"
Alice begged. "I always wanted
to hear a proposal, but it is
some satisfaction to see one."
Mrs. Putnam opened her hand satchel,
took out the telegram, unfolded
it slowly, and they all looked
at it, Jimmy gulping down a great
choke of joy as he read:
"Please meet me and marry
at Annex at two o'clock."
His bashfulness fell from him
as a garment. He took the message,
saying he would keep it, so that
it might not be lost. Then he piloted
the two girls and Mrs. Putnam to
the spot where Mary had been waiting
patiently and wonderingly.
"Mary," he said boldly,
without a tremor in his voice,
"I want you to meet the future
Mrs. Minton, and my future mother-in-law,
Mrs. Putnam, and my future-what
are you to me, anyhow, Alice?"
"I'm a combination flower
girl, maid of honor and sixteen
bridesmaids chanting the wedding
march," she laughed.
"And when," Mary gasped,
"when is this to be?"
"At two o'clock," Lucy
"Oh, Jimmy! You wretch!
You never told me a word about
it. But never mind. I bought the
very thing for a wedding gift
Jimmy tore himself away from
the excited laughter and chatter,
ran to the telephone and got Mr.
Putnam on the wire.
"This is Minton," he
"Who? Oh! Jimmy? Well?"
"Well, I've fixed that up."
"Good. And when is it to
"Right away. Here at the
Annex. I want you to go and get
the license for me on your way
"Come, come, Jimmy. Don't
be in such precipitate haste."
"You told me that was the
only way to arrange these matters."
"Humph! Did I? Well, I'll
get the license for you-"
"Good-by, then. I've got
to telephone for a minister."
The minister was impressed at
once with the value of haste in
coming, and on his way back to
the wedding party Jimmy stopped
long enough to hand a five-dollar
bill to the telegraph operator.
"Thank you, sir," said
the astonished man. "I have
been worrying for fear I had made
a mistake about your message."
"You did. You made the greatest
mistake of your life. Thank you!"