HE PUNCHED the bell. The door choked. He heard Nan calling down his name.

('I've got so much to tell you,' she had said on the phone just now.)

He bounded up the stairs, they slipped arms around each other's waists, and went through the Uttle hall of the flat into what the girls' Aunt Emily called the back room—a big shabby room with a wide window, beyond which the city of San Francisco fell away.

Dorothy was there. 'Hi, Johnny,' she greeted him. 'How was Columbia University? Did you learn everything?' ,^.

'Oh, pretty near,' he said amiably. 'How are your He looked down at Nan. 'His hand still held her Hghtly at the waist.

'Dear John,' said Nan Padgett, articulating precisely, as if she had practiced this, 'I'm in love!' Her brown eyes shone with the news. 'I'm engaged to be married!'

Well, he gave her credit for being direct and for being prompt with this blow.

''You kinda look it, Nan,' he said gravely, and took his hand slowly away. ''Weill I want to hear . . .'

Dorothy said, 'Don't worry. You're going to hear! She's got no more than her left toe on the ground. First, come help me mix you a drink.'

'I sure will,' said Johnny.

He saw Nan go waltzing away toward the big window. Maybe she felt reheved to have told him. He turned into the little closed-in pantry where Dorothy had assembled the makings. He Hterally couldn't see Dorothy. He dumped in-

gredients together, tasted. As he swallowed he said to himself, O.K. swallow it. AU right, you got it down.

Now he could see Dorothy's blonde head and Dorothy's anxious blue eyes.

'I had a hunch, you know,' he said cozily. (She didn't have to know how recent the hunch was.) 'Don't you worry about me, Dot.'

Dorothy said indignantly, 'She's about wild. She's on Cloud Nine.'

'As it should be.' He patted Dorothy's shoulder to stop her. He wouldn't talk about Nan in a comer.

Dorothy was Nan's cousin, a little the older of the two— certainly the more worldly one. Dorothy had beaux by the dozen. Maybe Dorothy could never reach Cloud Nine any more.

He swallowed again, put the shaker on the tray and carried the tray into the big room. 'Start at the beginning,' he said cheerfully.

'His name is Richardson Bartee. I wish he were here. But he had to go back this week and tend to business. He's flying up on Friday.' Nan tumbled all this out.

'From where is he flying up?' asked Johnny politely.

'Oh, listen ...' Nan lit on the couch and patted an invitation. John sat downi beside her, marveling. Nan was usually the shy one, the little one with the quaint defensive air of dignity. Now she seemed bursting with joyous energy. 'How can I tell you about him! He's big and— and good-looking and—' Words wouldn't do what Nan's face was doing in the way of description. 'He's got a vineyard. Or anyhow, his family has. And a winery. Imaginel And I'm going to Hve in the south—'

'With vine leaves in your hair.' Johnny grinned across at Dorothy. 'I see what you mean,' he said. 'This kid is off the ground all right.'

Dorothy was sitting and sipping. Dorothy, usually so casual and gay, didn't smile.

Nan put her hand on the cushion between them. 'Ah, Johnny, we've been awful fond of each other, you and I. And I always will be fond of you. But it never was hke this! Do you believe me?'

He stiffened a little with the stab of this. He reminded himseff how young she was. 'I believe you.' He went on

gallantly, 'I won't say the old ticker isn't a little bent, honey, but it's still going.'

Nan sighed.

Johnny put his nose in the glass. 'When and where did you meet this fellow?' he asked her dreaming face.

'Two months ago. Mr. Copeland introduced us.'

'Why wasn't I written? Never mind, don't answer that.'' He knew the answer very well. How could she have written him, or anyone, a day-by-day description of falHng in love. 'What say we all go some very fancy place for

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