Miss Mink's Soldier and Other Stories


better. Each khaki-clad figure that dotted the congregation claimed her attention as a possible candidate for hospitality. And each one that presented himself to her vision was indignantly repudiated. One was too old, another too young, one too stylish, another had forgotten to wash his ears. She found a dozen excuses for withholding her invitation. But this morning as she sat upright and uncompromising in her short pew, she was suddenly thrown into a state of agitation by the appearance in the aisle of an un-ushered soldier who, after hesitating beside one or two pews, slipped into the seat beside her. It seemed almost as if Providence had taken a hand and since she had refused to select a soldier, had prompted a soldier to select her. During the service she sat gazing straight at the minister without comprehending a word that he said. Never once did her glance stray to that khaki-clad figure beside her, but her thoughts played around him like lightning. What if she should get up her courage and ask him to dinner, how would she ever be able to walk out the street with him! And once she had got him to her cottage, what on earth would she talk to him about? Her hands grew cold as she thought about it. Yet something warned her it was now or never, and that it was only by taking the hated step and getting it over with, that she could regain the peace of mind that had of late deserted her. The Doxology found her weakening, but the Benediction stiffened her resolve, and when the final Amen sounded, she turned blindly to the man beside her, and said, hardly above her breath: "If you ain't got any place to go to dinner, you can come home with me." The tall figure turned toward her, and a pair of melancholy brown eyes looked down into hers: "You will excuse if I do not quite comprehend your meaning," he said politely, with a strong foreign accent. Miss Mink was plunged into instant panic; suppose he was a German? Suppose she should be convicted for entertaining a spy! Then she remembered his uniform and was slightly reassured. "I said would you come home to dinner with me?" she repeated weakly, with a fervent prayer that he would decline. But the soldier had no such intention. He bowed gravely, and picked up his hat and overcoat. Miss Mink, looking like a small tug towing a big steamer, shamefacedly made her way to the nearest exit, and got him out through the Sunday-school room. She would take him home through a side street, feed him and send him away as soon as possible. It was a horrible ordeal, but Miss Mink was not one to turn back once she had faced a difficult situation. As they passed down the broad steps into the brilliant October sunshine, she noticed with relief that his shoes were not muddy. Then, before she could make other observations, her mind was entirely preoccupied with a large, firm hand that grasped her elbow, and seemed to half lift her slight weight from step to step. Miss Mink's

Alice Caldwell Hegan Rice

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