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|Buttered Side Down||Edna Ferber|
|Page 4 of 6||
Mary Louise's eyes unclosed in a flash, and Mary Louise gazed upon an irate-looking, youngish man, who wore shabby slippers, and no collar with a full dress air.
"I presume that you are the janitor's beautiful daughter," growled the collarless man.
"Well, not precisely," answered Mary Louise, sweetly. "Are you the scrub-lady's stalwart son?"
"Ha!" exploded the man. "But then, all women look alike with their hair down. I ask your pardon, though."
"Not at all," replied Mary Louise. "For that matter, all men look like picked chickens with their collars off."
At that the collarless man, who until now had been standing on the top step that led up to the roof, came slowly forward, stepped languidly over a skylight or two, draped his handkerchief over a convenient chimney and sat down, hugging his long, lean legs to him.
"Nice up here, isn't it?" he remarked.
"It was," said Mary Louise.
"Ha!" exploded he, again. Then, "Where's your mirror?" he demanded.
"Mirror?" echoed Mary Louise.
"Certainly. You have the hair, the comb, the attitude, and the general Lorelei effect. Also your singing lured me to your shores."
"You didn't look lured," retorted Mary Louise. "You looked lurid."
"What's that stuff in your hand?" next demanded he. He really was a most astonishingly rude young man.
"Parsley!" shouted he, much as Charlie had done. "Well, what the----"
"Back home," elucidated Mary Louise once more, patiently, "after you've washed your hair you dry it in the back yard, sitting on the grass, in the sunshine and the breeze. And the garden smells come to you--the nasturtiums, and the pansies, and the geraniums, you know, and even that clean grass smell, and the pungent vegetable odor, and there are ants, and bees, and butterflies----"
"Go on," urged the young man, eagerly.
"And Mrs. Next Door comes out to hang up a few stockings, and a jabot or so, and a couple of baby dresses that she has just rubbed through, and she calls out to you:
"`Washed your hair?'
"`Yes,' you say. `It was something awful, and I wanted it nice for Tuesday night. But I suppose I won't be able to do a thing with it.'
"And then Mrs. Next Door stands there a minute on the clothes-reel platform, with the wind whipping her skirts about her, and the fresh smell of the growing things coming to her. And suddenly she says: `I guess I'll wash mine too, while the baby's asleep.'"
The collarless young man rose from his chimney, picked up his handkerchief, and moved to the chimney just next to Mary Louise's soap box.
"Live here?" he asked, in his impolite way.
"If I did not, do you think that I would choose this as the one spot in all New York in which to dry my hair?"
"When I said, `Live here,' I didn't mean just that. I meant who are you, and why are you here, and where do you come from, and do you sign your real name to your stuff, or use a nom de plume?"
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