Soon everyone was milling around with cookies and coffee in hand. She came up to Mark and said, “So, you're the famous Mark Twain? You know I read that article when it came out a few months ago. I really like your style.”
“Yes, I really do.” She stood smiling at him.
He felt somehow drawn to her smile. “Well,” he suggested, with a grin, “Perhaps we could discuss it more at another time.”
“How about at a picnic with me and mother tomorrow?” she suggested. “I'll bring the lunch. I've been told that I make great fried chicken.”
He shrugged and said, “Well, I don't see how a man can turn down an invite like that.”
She smiled broadly. “Great.” She turned to her mother. “Mother, can you join Mark and me on a picnic tomorrow?”
Her mother smiled. “I’d be delighted. Your stepfather has some business to take care of in town, so I would have been alone here anyway.”
Ina turned to Mark. “You can pick us up at noon.”
“I'll be here.”
Although there was a lot of conversation going on, his three friends, standing close by, were still able to hear, and smiled.
It was a nice day for a picnic. They drove to a secluded spot under a tree across from a lake. “Here's as good a spot as any.”
The three of them dismounted and Mark tied the horses to the tree. The sun shone brightly, causing the water of the lake to glimmer. The chicken was really good, as was the rest of the meal. After they ate they did talk briefly about his writing, but it was soon apparent that she had something else in mind. She inched her body closer to his as they talked. Then, at what seemed an opportune moment, she grabbed his hand.
It was the first time he had held hands with a girl and, of course, he was thrilled. Her hand felt so warm and pleasant in his. His body began to tingle with delight. He started to reach out with his other arm in order to put it around her, glancing over his shoulder at her mother, across the blanket from them. But, just then, he felt something else--a pricking sensation on one of his legs. He felt another prick, and then another. Looking down, he saw that they were being attacked by an army of ants. He stood up suddenly and yelled “Aww! Ants!” while brushing the ants off of his pants legs. She, now realizing what had happened, began brushing off her feet and lower legs and then stood as well. Her mother, though not bitten, stood up as well, probably to get a closer look at the couple.
“I guess that's a sign that we'd better be going.” he said laughingly. They had, in the process, inched closer to the lake, and, just then, a huge frog jumped out of the lake, almost splashing them with water. He laughed loudly now. “That’s another sign too. Come on.”
“Aww, now,” she pleaded. “Perhaps we could find another spot, where there are no ants—or frogs either.”
“No,” he sighed, “I think it best I take you two home.”
At her doorstep he grabbed her hand and held it for a second. But somehow it wasn't the same. His heart wasn't in it this time. He said “Goodnight,” and they did the same.
As he lay down on his bed his head was spinning as tried to think what to do. He knew down deep that she wasn’t the girl for him. They just didn’t click somehow. But, he realized that apparently she liked him a lot. He could string her along and enjoy her affections for a while. He toyed with the idea for a few minutes. Yet, he knew down deep that that just wouldn’t be fair somehow. He also knew he needed to devote himself more to his writing at the time and a relationship now would not allow for that.
Then his mind went back to that frog that had jumped up, and then he also happened to remember story he had promised Artemus. He knew now what the bet in the story would be---it would be on how high a frog could jump.”
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