Monday, November 5, 2007



Author of ``Miss Billy,'' etc.
My Cousin Helen
Miss Billy's Decision
Calderwell had met Mr. M. J. Arkwright in
London through a common friend; since then
they had tramped half over Europe together in a
comradeship that was as delightful as it was unusual.
As Calderwell put it in a letter to his sister, Belle:
``We smoke the same cigar and drink the same
tea (he's just as much of an old woman on that
subject as I am!), and we agree beautifully on
all necessary points of living, from tipping to late
sleeping in the morning; while as for politics and
religion--we disagree in those just enough to
lend spice to an otherwise tame existence.''
Farther along in this same letter Calderwell
touched upon his new friend again.
``I admit, however, I would like to know his
name. To find out what that mysterious `M. J.'
stands for has got to be pretty nearly an obsession
with me. I am about ready to pick his pocket or
rifle his trunk in search of some lurking `Martin'
or `John' that will set me at peace. As it is, I
confess that I have ogled his incoming mail and
his outgoing baggage shamelessly, only to be
slapped in the face always and everlastingly by
that bland `M. J.' I've got my revenge, now,
though. To myself I call him `Mary Jane'--
and his broad-shouldered, brown-bearded six feet
of muscular manhood would so like to be called
`Mary Jane'! By the way, Belle, if you ever
hear of murder and sudden death in my direction,
better set the sleuths on the trail of Arkwright.
Six to one you'll find I called him `Mary Jane'
to his face!''
Calderwell was thinking of that letter now, as
he sat at a small table in a Paris caf. Opposite
him was the six feet of muscular manhood, broad
shoulders, pointed brown beard, and all--and he
had just addressed it, inadvertently, as ``Mary
During the brief, sickening moment of silence
after the name had left his lips, Calderwell was
conscious of a whimsical realization of the lights,
music, and laughter all about him.
``Well, I chose as safe a place as I could!'' he
was thinking. Then Arkwright spoke.
``How long since you've been in correspondence
with members of my family?''
Arkwright laughed grimly.
``Perhaps you thought of it yourself, then--
I'll admit you're capable of it,'' he nodded, reaching
for a cigar. ``But it so happens you hit upon
my family's favorite name for me.''
``_Mary Jane!_ You mean they actually _call_
you that?''
``Yes,'' bowed the big fellow, calmly, as he
struck a light. ``Appropriate!--don't you
Calderwell did not answer. He thought he
could not.
``Well, silence gives consent, they say,'' laughed
the other. ``Anyhow, you must have had _some_
reason for calling me that.''
``Arkwright, what _does_ `M. J.' stand for?''
demanded Calderwell.
``Oh, is that it?'' smiled the man opposite.
``Well, I'll own those initials have been something
of a puzzle to people. One man declares they're
`Merely Jokes'; but another, not so friendly, says
they stand for `Mostly Jealousy' of more fortunate
chaps who have real names for a handle. My
small brothers and sisters, discovering, with the
usual perspicacity of one's family on such matters,
that I never signed, or called myself anything but
`M. J.,' dubbed me `Mary Jane.' And there you
have it.''
``Mary Jane! You!''
Arkwright smiled oddly.
``Oh, well, what's the difference? Would you
deprive them of their innocent amusement? And
they do so love that `Mary Jane'! Besides,
what's in a name, anyway?'' he went on, eyeing
the glowing tip of the cigar between his fingers.
`` `A rose by any other name--'--you've heard
that, probably. Names don't always signify, my
dear fellow. For instance, I know a `Billy'--but
he's a girl.''
Calderwell gave a sudden start.
``You don't mean Billy--Neilson?''
The other turned sharply.
``Do _you_ know Billy Neilson?''
Calderwell gave his friend a glance from
scornful eyes.
``Do I know Billy Neilson?'' he cried. ``Does
a fellow usually know the girl he's proposed to
regularly once in three months? Oh, I know I'm
telling tales out of school, of course,'' he went on,
in response to the look that had come into the
brown eyes opposite. ``But what's the use?
Everybody knows it--that knows us. Billy herself
got so she took it as a matter of course--and
refused as a matter of course, too; just as she
would refuse a serving of apple pie at dinner, if
she hadn't wanted it.''
``Apple pie!'' scouted Arkwright.
Calderwell shrugged his shoulders.
``My dear fellow, you don't seem to realize it,
but for the last six months you have been assisting
at the obsequies of a dead romance.''
``Indeed! And is it--buried, yet?''
``Oh, no,'' sighed Calderwell, cheerfully. ``I
shall go back one of these days, I'll warrant, and
begin the same old game again; though I will
acknowledge that the last refusal was so very
decided that it's been a year, almost, since I received
it. I think I was really convinced, for a while,
that--that she didn't want that apple pie,'' he
finished with a whimsical lightness that did not
quite coincide with the stern lines that had come
to his mouth.
For a moment there was silence, then Calderwell
spoke again.
``Where did you know--Miss Billy?''
``Oh, I don't know her at all. I know of her--
through Aunt Hannah.''
Calderwell sat suddenly erect.
``Aunt Hannah! Is she your aunt, too?
Jove! This _is_ a little old world, after all; isn't
``She isn't my aunt. She's my mother's third
cousin. None of us have seen her for years, but
she writes to mother occasionally; and, of course,
for some time now, her letters have been running
over full of Billy. She lives with her, I believe;
doesn't she?''
``She does,'' rejoined Calderwell, with an
unexpected chuckle. ``I wonder if you know how she
happened to live with her, at first.''
``Why, no, I reckon not. What do you mean?''
Calderwell chuckled again.
``Well, I'll tell you. You, being a `Mary Jane,'
ought to appreciate it. You see, Billy was named
for one William Henshaw, her father's chum,
who promptly forgot all about her. At eighteen,
Billy, being left quite alone in the world, wrote to
`Uncle William' and asked to come and live with
``But it wasn't well. William was a forty-yearold
widower who lived with two younger brothers,
an old butler, and a Chinese cook in one of those
funny old Beacon Street houses in Boston. `The
Strata,' Bertram called it. Bright boy--Bertram!''
``The Strata!''
``Yes. I wish you could see that house,
Arkwright. It's a regular layer cake. Cyril--he's
the second brother; must be thirty-four or five
now--lives on the top floor in a rugless, curtainless,
music-mad existence--just a plain crank.
Below him comes William. William collects things
--everything from tenpenny nails to teapots, I
should say, and they're all there in his rooms.
Farther down somewhere comes Bertram. He's
_the_ Bertram Henshaw, you understand; the artist.''
``Not the `Face-of-a-Girl' Henshaw?''
``The same; only of course four years ago he
wasn't quite so well known as he is now. Well, to
resume and go on. It was into this house, this
masculine paradise ruled over by Pete and Dong
Ling in the kitchen, that Billy's nave request for
a home came.''
``Great Scott!'' breathed Arkwright, appreciatively.
``Yes. Well, the letter was signed `Billy.'
They took her for a boy, naturally, and after something
of a struggle they agreed to let `him' come.
For his particular delectation they fixed up a room
next to Bertram with guns and fishing rods, and
such ladylike specialties; and William went to the
station to meet the boy.''
``With never a suspicion?''
``With never a suspicion.''
``Well, `he' came, and `she' conquered. I
guess things were lively for a while, though. Oh,
there was a kitten, too, I believe, `Spunk,' who
added to the gayety of nations.''
``But what did the Henshaws do?''
``Well, I wasn't there, of course; but Bertram
says they spun around like tops gone mad for a
time, but finally quieted down enough to summon
a married sister for immediate propriety, and to
establish Aunt Hannah for permanency the next
``So that's how it happened! Well, by
George!'' cried Arkwright.
``Yes,'' nodded the other. ``So you see there
are untold possibilities just in a name. Remember
that. Just suppose _you_, as Mary Jane, should
beg a home in a feminine household--say in
Miss Billy's, for instance!''
``I'd like to,'' retorted Arkwright, with
sudden warmth.
Calderwell stared a little.
The other laughed shamefacedly.
``Oh, it's only that I happen to have a
devouring curiosity to meet that special young lady.
I sing her songs (you know she's written some
dandies!), I've heard a lot about her, and I've
seen her picture.'' (He did not add that he had
also purloined that same picture from his mother's
bureau--the picture being a gift from Aunt
Hannah.) ``So you see I would, indeed, like to
occupy a corner in the fair Miss Billy's household.
I could write to Aunt Hannah and beg a home
with her, you know; eh?''
``Of course! Why don't you--`Mary Jane'?''
laughed Calderwell. ``Billy'd take you all right.
She's had a little Miss Hawthorn, a music teacher,
there for months. She's always doing stunts of
that sort. Belle writes me that she's had a dozen
forlornites there all this last summer, two or three
at a time-tired widows, lonesome old maids,
and crippled kids--just to give them a royal
good time. So you see she'd take you, without a
doubt. Jove! what a pair you'd make: Miss
Billy and Mr. Mary Jane! You'd drive the
suffragettes into conniption fits--just by the sound
of you!''
Arkwright laughed quietly; then he frowned.
``But how about it?'' he asked. ``I thought
she was keeping house with Aunt Hannah. Didn't
she stay at all with the Henshaws?''
``Oh, yes, a few months. I never knew just
why she did leave, but I fancied, from something
Billy herself said once, that she discovered she
was creating rather too much of an upheaval in
the Strata. So she took herself off. She went to
school, and travelled considerably. She was over
here when I met her first. After that she was with
us all one summer on the yacht. A couple of
years ago, or so, she went back to Boston, bought
a house and settled down with Aunt Hannah.''
``And she's not married--or even engaged?''
``Wasn't the last I heard. I haven't seen her
since December, and I've heard from her only
indirectly. She corresponds with my sister, and
so do I--intermittently. I heard a month ago
from Belle, and _she_ had a letter from Billy in
August. But I heard nothing of any engagement.''
``How about the Henshaws? I should think
there might be a chance there for a romance-- a
charming girl, and three unattached men.''
Calderwell gave a slow shake of the head.
``I don't think so. William is--let me see--
nearly forty-five, I guess, by this time; and he
isn't a marrying man. He buried his heart with
his wife and baby years ago. Cyril, according to
Bertram, `hates women and all other confusion,'
so that ought to let him out. As for Bertram
himself--Bertram is `only Bertram.' He's always
been that. Bertram loves girls--to paint; but
I can't imagine him making serious love to any
one. It would always be the tilt of a chin or the
turn of a cheek that he was admiring--to paint.
No, there's no chance for a romance there, I'll
``But there's--yourself.''
Calderwell's eyebrows rose the fraction of an
``Oh, of course. I presume January or February
will find me back there,'' he admitted with a
sigh and a shrug. Then, a little bitterly, he added:
``No, Arkwright. I shall keep away if I can. I
_know_ there's no chance for me--now.''
``Then you'll leave me a clear field?'' bantered
the other.
``Of course--`Mary Jane,' '' retorted Calderwell,
with equal lightness.
``Thank you.''
``Oh, you needn't,'' laughed Calderwell. ``My
giving you the right of way doesn't insure you a
thoroughfare for yourself--there are others, you
know. Billy Neilson has had sighing swains about I
her, I imagine, since she could walk and talk. She
is a wonderfully fascinating little bit of femininity,
and she has a heart of pure gold. All is, I envy
the man who wins it--for the man who wins
that, wins her.''
There was no answer. Arkwright sat with his
eyes on the moving throng outside the window
near them. Perhaps he had not heard. At all
events, when he spoke some time later, it was of a
matter far removed from Miss Billy Neilson, or
the way to her heart. Nor was the young lady
mentioned between them again that day.
Long hours later, just before parting for the
night, Arkwright said:
``Calderwell, I'm sorry, but I believe, after all,
I can't take that trip to the lakes with you. I--
I'm going home next week.''
``Home! Hang it, Arkwright! I'd counted on
you. Isn't this rather sudden?''
``Yes, and no. I'll own I've been drifting about
with you contentedly enough for the last six
months to make you think mountain-climbing and
boat-paddling were the end and aim of my existence.
But they aren't, you know, really.''
``Nonsense! At heart you're as much of a
vagabond as I am; and you know it.''
``Perhaps. But unfortunately I don't happen
to carry your pocketbook.''
``You may, if you like. I'll hand it over any
time,'' grinned Calderwell.
``Thanks. You know well enough what I
mean,'' shrugged the other.
There was a moment's silence; then Calderwell
``Arkwright, how old are you?''
``Good! Then you're merely travelling to
supplement your education, see?''
``Oh, yes, I see. But something besides my
education has got to be supplemented now, I reckon.''
``What are you going to do?''
There was an almost imperceptible hesitation;
then, a little shortly, came the answer:
``Hit the trail for Grand Opera, and bring up,
probably--in vaudeville.''
Calderwell smiled appreciatively.
``You _can_ sing like the devil,'' he admitted.
``Thanks,'' returned his friend, with uplifted
eyebrows. ``Do you mind calling it `an angel'
--just for this occasion?''
``Oh, the matine-girls will do that fast enough.
But, I say, Arkwright, what are you going to do
with those initials then?''
``Let 'em alone.''
``Oh, no, you won't. And you won't be `Mary
Jane,' either. Imagine a Mary Jane in Grand
Opera! I know what you'll be. You'll be `Seor
Martini Johnini Arkwrightino'! By the way,
you didn't say what that `M. J.' really did stand
for,'' hinted Calderwell, shamelessly
`` `Merely Jokes'--in your estimation,
evidently,'' shrugged the other. ``But my going
isn't a joke, Calderwell. I'm really going. And
I'm going to work.''
``But--how shall you manage?''
``Time will tell.''
Calderwell frowned and stirred restlessly in his
``But, honestly, now, to--to follow that trail
of yours will take money. And--er--'' a faint
red stole to his forehead--``don't they have--
er--patrons for these young and budding geniuses?
Why can't I have a hand in this trail, too
--or maybe you'd call it a foot, eh? I'd be no
end glad to, Arkwright.''
``Thanks, old man.'' The red was duplicated
this time above the brown silky beard. ``That
was mighty kind of you, and I appreciate it; but
it won't be necessary. A generous, but perhaps
misguided bachelor uncle left me a few thousands
a year or so ago; and I'm going to put them all
down my throat--or rather, _into_ it--before I
give up.''
``Where you going to study? New York?''
Again there was an almost imperceptible
hesitation before the answer came.
``I'm not quite prepared to say.''
``Why not try it here?''
Arkwright shook his head.
``I did plan to, when I came over but I've
changed my mind. I believe I'd rather work
while longer in America.''
``Hm-m,'' murmured Calderwell.
There was a brief silence, followed by other
questions and other answers; after which the
friends said good night.
In his own room, as he was dropping off to
sleep, Calderwell muttered drowsily:
``By George! I haven't found out yet what
that blamed `M. J.' stands for!''
In the cozy living-room at Hillside, Billy Neilson's
pretty home on Corey Hill, Billy herself sat
writing at the desk. Her pen had just traced the
date, ``October twenty-fifth,'' when Mrs. Stetson
entered with a letter in her hand.
``Writing, my dear? Then don't let me disturb
you.'' She turned as if to go.
Billy dropped her pen, sprang to her feet, flew
to the little woman's side and whirled her half
across the room.
``There!'' she exclaimed, as she plumped the
breathless and scandalized Aunt Hannah into the
biggest easy chair. ``I feel better. I just had to
let off steam some way. It's so lovely you came
in just when you did!''
``Indeed! I--I'm not so sure of that,'' stammered
the lady, dropping the letter into her lap,
and patting with agitated fingers her cap, her
curls, the two shawls about her shoulders, and the
lace at her throat. ``My grief and conscience,
Billy! Wors't you _ever_ grow up?''
``Hope not,'' purred Billy cheerfully, dropping
herself on to a low hassock at Aunt Hannah's feet.
``But, my dear, you--you're engaged!''
Billy bubbled into a chuckling laugh.
``As if I didn't know that, when I've just written
a dozen notes to announce it! And, oh, Aunt
Hannah, such a time as I've had, telling what a
dear Bertram is, and how I love, love, _love_ him,
and what beautiful eyes he has, and _such_ a nose,
``Billy!'' Aunt Hannah was sitting erect in
pale horror.
``Eh?'' Billy's eyes were roguish.
``You didn't write that in those notes!''
``Write it? Oh, no! That's only what I _wanted_
to write,'' chuckled Billy. ``What I really did
write was as staid and proper as--here, let me
show you,'' she broke off, springing to her feet and
running over to her desk. ``There! this is about
what I wrote to them all,'' she finished, whipping
a note out of one of the unsealed envelopes on the
desk and spreading it open before Aunt Hannah's
suspicious eyes.
``Hm-m; that is very good--for you,'' admitted
the lady.
``Well, I like that!--after all my stern selfcontrol
and self-sacrifice to keep out all those
things I _wanted_ to write,'' bridled Billy. ``Besides,
they'd have been ever so much more interesting
reading than these will be,'' she pouted, as
she took the note from her companion's hand.
``I don't doubt it,'' observed Aunt Hannah,
Billy laughed, and tossed the note back on the
``I'm writing to Belle Calderwell, now,'' she
announced musingly, dropping herself again on
the hassock. ``I suppose she'll tell Hugh.''
``Poor boy! He'll be disappointed.''
Billy sighed, but she uptilted her chin a little.
``He ought not to be. I told him long, long ago,
the very first time, that--that I couldn't.''
``I know, dear; but--they don't always
understand.'' Aunt Hannah sighed in sympathy
with the far-away Hugh Calderwell, as she looked
down at the bright young face near her.
There was a moment's silence; then Billy gave
a little laugh.
``He _will_ be surprised,'' she said. ``He told
me once that Bertram wouldn't ever care for any
girl except to paint. To paint, indeed! As if Bertram
didn't love me--just _me!_--if he never saw
another tube of paint!''
``I think he does, my dear.''
Again there was silence; then, from Billy's lips
there came softly:
``Just think; we've been engaged almost four
weeks--and to-morrow it'll be announced. I'm
so glad I didn't ever announce the other
``The other _two!_'' cried Aunt Hannah.
Billy laughed.
``Oh, I forgot. You didn't know about Cyril.''
``Oh, there didn't anybody know it, either
not even Cyril himself,'' dimpled Billy, mischievously.
``I just engaged myself to him in imagination,
you know, to see how I'd like it. I didn't
like it. But it didn't last, anyhow, very long--
just three weeks, I believe. Then I broke it off,''
she finished, with unsmiling mouth, but dancing
``Billy!'' protested Aunt Hannah, feebly.
``But I _am_ glad only the family knew about
my engagement to Uncle William--oh, Aunt
Hannah, you don't know how good it does seem
to call him `Uncle' again. It was always slipping
out, anyhow, all the time we were engaged; and
of course it was awful then.''
``That only goes to prove, my dear, how
entirely unsuitable it was, from the start.''
A bright color flooded Billy's face.
``I know; but if a girl _will_ think a man is asking
for a wife when all he wants is a daughter, and if
she blandly says `Yes, thank you, I'll marry you,'
I don't know what you can expect!''
``You can expect just what you got--misery,
and almost a tragedy,'' retorted Aunt Hannah,
A tender light came into Billy's eyes.
``Dear Uncle William! What a jewel he was,
all the way through! And he'd have marched
straight to the altar, too, with never a flicker of
an eyelid, I know--self-sacrificing martyr that
he was!''
``Martyr!'' bristled Aunt Hannah, with
extraordinary violence for her. ``I'm thinking that
term belonged somewhere else. A month ago,
Billy Neilson, you did not look as if you'd live
out half your days. But I suppose _you'd_ have
gone to the altar, too, with never a flicker of an
``But I thought I had to,'' protested Billy.
``I couldn't grieve Uncle William so, after Mrs.
Hartwell had said how he--he wanted me.''
Aunt Hannah's lips grew stern at the corners.
``There are times when--when I think it
would be wiser if Mrs. Kate Hartwell would attend
to her own affairs!'' Aunt Hannah's voice
fairly shook with wrath.
``Why-Aunt Hannah!'' reproved Billy in
mischievous horror. ``I'm shocked at you!''
Aunt Hannah flushed miserably.
``There, there, child, forget I said it. I ought
not to have said it, of course,'' she murmured agitatedly.
Billy laughed.
``You should have heard what Uncle William
said! But never mind. We all found out the mistake
before it was too late, and everything is
lovely now, even to Cyril and Marie. Did you
ever see anything so beatifically happy as that
couple are? Bertram says he hasn't heard a dirge
from Cyril's rooms for three weeks; and that if
anybody else played the kind of music he's been
playing, it would be just common garden ragtime!''
``Music! Oh, my grief and conscience! That
makes me think, Billy. If I'm not actually
forgetting what I came in here for,'' cried Aunt
Hannah, fumbling in the folds of her dress for the
letter that had slipped from her lap. ``I've had
word from a young niece. She's going to study
music in Boston.''
``A niece?''
``Well, not really, you know. She calls me
`Aunt,' just as you and the Henshaw boys do.
But I really am related to _her_, for her mother and
I are third cousins, while it was my husband who
was distantly related to the Henshaw family.''
``What's her name?''
`` `Mary Jane Arkwright.' Where is that
``Here it is, on the floor,'' reported Billy.
``Were you going to read it to me?'' she asked,
as she picked it up.
``Yes--if you don't mind.''
``I'd love to hear it.''
``Then I'll read it. It--it rather annoys me
in some ways. I thought the whole family understood
that I wasn't living by myself any longer
--that I was living with you. I'm sure I thought
I wrote them that, long ago. But this sounds
almost as if they didn't understand it--at least,
as if this girl didn't.''
``How old is she?''
``I don't know; but she must be some old, to
be coming here to Boston to study music, alone
--singing, I think she said.''
``You don't remember her, then?''
Aunt Hannah frowned and paused, the letter
half withdrawn from its envelope.
``No--but that isn't strange. They live West.
I haven't seen any of them for years. I know there
are several children--and I suppose I've been
told their names. I know there's a boy--the
eldest, I think--who is quite a singer, and there's
a girl who paints, I believe; but I don't seem to
remember a `Mary Jane.' ''
``Never mind! Suppose we let Mary Jane speak
for herself,'' suggested Billy, dropping her chin
into the small pink cup of her hand, and settling
herself to listen.
``Very well,'' sighed Aunt Hannah; and she
opened the letter and began to read.
``DEAR AUNT HANNAH:--This is to tell you
that I'm coming to Boston to study singing in
the school for Grand Opera, and I'm planning to
look you up. Do you object? I said to a friend
the other day that I'd half a mind to write to Aunt
Hannah and beg a home with her; and my friend
retorted: `Why don't you, Mary Jane?' But
that, of course, I should not think of doing.
``But I know I shall be lonesome, Aunt Hannah,
and I hope you'll let me see you once in a
while, anyway. I plan now to come next week
--I've already got as far as New York, as you see
by the address--and I shall hope to see you
``All the family would send love, I know.
``Grand Opera! Oh, how perfectly lovely,''
cried Billy.
``Yes, but Billy, do you think she is expecting
me to invite her to make her home with me? I
shall have to write and explain that I can't--
if she does, of course.''
Billy frowned and hesitated.
``Why, it sounded--a little--that way;
but--'' Suddenly her face cleared. ``Aunt
Hannah, I've thought of the very thing. We _will_
take her!''
``Oh, Billy, I couldn't think of letting you do
that,'' demurred Aunt Hannah. ``You're very
kind--but, oh, no; not that!''
``Why not? I think it would be lovely; and
we can just as well as not. After Marie is married
in December, she can have that room. Until
then she can have the little blue room next to me.''
``But--but--we don't know anything about
``We know she's your niece, and she's lonesome;
and we know she's musical. I shall love her for
every one of those things. Of course we'll take
``But--I don't know anything about her age.''
``All the more reason why she should be looked
out for, then,'' retorted Billy, promptly. ``Why,
Aunt Hannah, just as if you didn't want to give
this lonesome, unprotected young girl a home!''
``Oh, I do, of course; but--''
``Then it's all settled,'' interposed Billy,
springing to her feet.
``But what if we--we shouldn't like her?''
``Nonsense! What if she shouldn't like us?''
laughed Billy. ``However, if you'd feel better,
just ask her to come and stay with us a month.
We shall keep her all right, afterwards. See if we
Slowly Aunt Hannah got to her feet.
``Very well, dear. I'll write, of course, as you
tell me to; and it's lovely of you to do it. Now
I'll leave you to your letters. I've hindered you
far too long, as it is.''
``You've rested me,'' declared Billy, flinging
wide her arms.
Aunt Hannah, fearing a second dizzying whirl
impelled by those same young arms, drew her
shawls about her shoulders and backed hastily
toward the hall door.
Billy laughed.
``Oh, I won't again--to-day,'' she promised
merrily. Then, as the lady reached the arched
doorway: ``Tell Mary Jane to let us know the
day and train and we'll meet her. Oh, and Aunt
Hannah, tell her to wear a pink--a white pink;
and tell her we will, too,'' she finished gayly.
Bertram called that evening. Before the open
fire in the living-room he found a pensive Billy
awaiting him--a Billy who let herself be kissed,
it is true, and who even kissed back, shyly, adorably;
but a Billy who looked at him with wide,
almost frightened eyes.
``Why, darling, what's the matter?'' he
demanded, his own eyes growing wide and frightened.
``Bertram, it's--done!''
``What's done? What do you mean?''
``Our engagement. It's--announced. I wrote
stacks of notes to-day, and even now there are
some left for to-morrow. And then there's--the
newspapers. Bertram, right away, now, _everybody_
will know it.'' Her voice was tragic.
Bertram relaxed visibly. A tender light came
to his eyes.
``Well, didn't you expect everybody would
know it, my dear?''
``Y-yes; but--''
At her hesitation, the tender light changed
to a quick fear.
``Billy, you aren't--sorry?''
The pink glory that suffused her face answered
him before her words did.
``Sorry! Oh, never, Bertram! It's only that
it won't be ours any longer--that is, it won't
belong to just our two selves. Everybody will
know it. And they'll bow and smile and say `How
lovely!' to our faces, and `Did you ever?' to
our backs. Oh, no, I'm not sorry, Bertram; but
I am--afraid.''
Billy sighed, and gazed with pensive eyes into
the fire.
Across Bertram's face swept surprise,
consternation, and dismay. Bertram had thought he
knew Billy in all her moods and fancies; but he
did not know her in this one.
``Why, Billy!'' he breathed.
Billy drew another sigh. It seemed to come
from the very bottoms of her small, satin-slippered
``Well, I am. You're _the_ Bertram Henshaw.
You know lots and lots of people that I never
even saw. And they'll come and stand around
and stare and lift their lorgnettes and say: `Is
that the one? Dear me!' ''
Bertram gave a relieved laugh.
``Nonsense, sweetheart! I should think you
were a picture I'd painted and hung on a
``I shall feel as if I were--with all those friends
of yours. Bertram, what if they don't like it?''
Her voice had grown tragic again.
``_Like_ it!''
``Yes. The picture--me, I mean.''
``They can't help liking it,'' he retorted, with
the prompt certainty of an adoring lover.
Billy shook her head. Her eyes had gone back
to the fire.
``Oh, yes, they can. I can hear them. `What,
_she_--Bertram Henshaw's wife?--a frivolous,
inconsequential ``Billy'' like that?' Bertram!''
--Billy turned fiercely despairing eyes on her
lover--``Bertram, sometimes I wish my name
were `Clarissa Cordelia,' or `Arabella Maud,'
or `Hannah Jane'--anything that's feminine
and proper!''
Bertram's ringing laugh brought a faint smile
to Billy's lips. But the words that followed the
laugh, and the caressing touch of the man's hands
sent a flood of shy color to her face.
`` `Hannah Jane,' indeed! As if I'd exchange
my Billy for her or any Clarissa or Arabella
that ever grew! I adore Billy--flame, nature,
``And naughtiness?'' put in Billy herself.
``Yes--if there be any,'' laughed Bertram,
fondly. ``But, see,'' he added, taking a tiny box
from his pocket, ``see what I've brought for
this same Billy to wear. She'd have had it long
ago if she hadn't insisted on waiting for this
announcement business.''
``Oh, Bertram, what a beauty!'' dimpled
Billy, as the flawless diamond in Bertram's fingers
caught the light and sent it back in a flash of
flame and crimson.
``Now you are mine--really mine, sweetheart!''
The man's voice and hand shook as he
slipped the ring on Billy's outstretched finger.
Billy caught her breath with almost a sob.
``And I'm so glad to be--yours, dear,'' she
murmured brokenly. ``And--and I'll make you
proud that I am yours, even if I am just `Billy,' ''
she choked. ``Oh, I know I'll write such beautiful,
beautiful songs now.''
The man drew her into a close embrace.
``As if I cared for that,'' he scoffed lovingly.
Billy looked up in quick horror.
``Why, Bertram, you don't mean you don't
He laughed lightly, and took the dismayed
little face between his two hands.
``Care, darling? of course I care! You know
how I love your music. I care about everything
that concerns you. I meant that I'm proud of
you _now_--just you. I love _you_, you know.''
There was a moment's pause. Billy's eyes,
as they looked at him, carried a curious intentness
in their dark depths.
``You mean, you like--the turn of my head
and the tilt of my chin?'' she asked a little breathlessly.
``I adore them!'' came the prompt answer.
To Bertram's utter amazement, Billy drew
back with a sharp cry.
``No, no--not that!''
``Why, _Billy!_''
Billy laughed unexpectedly; then she sighed.
``Oh, it's all right, of course,'' she assured
him hastily. ``It's only--'' Billy stopped and
blushed. Billy was thinking of what Hugh Calderwell
had once said to her: that Bertram Henshaw
would never love any girl seriously; that it would
always be the turn of her head or the tilt of her
chin that he loved--to paint.
``Well; only what?'' demanded Bertram.
Billy blushed the more deeply, but she gave a
light laugh.
``Nothing, only something Hugh Calderwell
said to me once. You see, Bertram, I don't
think Hugh ever thought you would--marry.''
``Oh, didn't he?'' bridled Bertram. ``Well,
that only goes to show how much he knows
about it. Er--did you announce it--to
him?'' Bertram's voice was almost savage
Billy smiled.
``No; but I did to his sister, and she'll tell
him. Oh, Bertram, such a time as I had over
those notes,'' went on Billy, with a chuckle.
Her eyes were dancing, and she was seeming more
like her usual self, Bertram thought. ``You see
there were such a lot of things I wanted to say,
about what a dear you were, and how much I--I
liked you, and that you had such lovely eyes,
and a nose--''
``Billy!'' This time it was Bertram who was
sitting erect in pale horror.
Billy threw him a roguish glance.
``Goosey! You are as bad as Aunt Hannah!
I said that was what I _wanted_ to say. What
I really said was--quite another matter,''
she finished with a saucy uptilting of her
Bertram relaxed with a laugh.
``You witch!'' His admiring eyes still lingered
on her face. ``Billy, I'm going to paint you
sometime in just that pose. You're adorable!''
``Pooh! Just another face of a girl,'' teased the
adorable one.
Bertram gave a sudden exclamation.
``There! And I haven't told you, yet. Guess
what my next commission is.''
``To paint a portrait?''
``Can't. Who is it?''
``J. G. Winthrop's daughter.''
``Not _the_ J. G. Winthrop?''
``The same.''
``Oh, Bertram, how splendid!''
``Isn't it? And then the girl herself! Have you
seen her? But you haven't, I know, unless you
met her abroad. She hasn't been in Boston for
years until now.''
``No, I haven't seen her. Is she so _very_
beautiful?'' Billy spoke a little soberly.
``Yes--and no.'' The artist lifted his head
alertly. What Billy called his ``painting look''
came to his face. ``It isn't that her features
are so regular--though her mouth and chin are
perfect. But her face has so much character,
and there's an elusive something about her eyes
--Jove! If I can only catch it, it'll be the best
thing yet that I've ever done, Billy.''
``Will it? I'm so glad--and you'll get it,
I know you will,'' claimed Billy, clearing her
throat a little nervously.
``I wish I felt so sure,'' sighed Bertram. ``But
it'll be a great thing if I do get it--J. G. Winthrop's
daughter, you know, besides the merit of
the likeness itself.''
``Yes; yes, indeed!'' Billy cleared her throat
again. ``You've seen her, of course, lately?''
``Oh, yes. I was there half the morning
discussing the details--sittings and costume, and
deciding on the pose.''
``Did you find one--to suit?''
``Find one!'' The artist made a despairing
gesture. ``I found a dozen that I wanted. The
trouble was to tell which I wanted the most.''
Billy gave a nervous little laugh.
``Isn't that--unusual?'' she asked.
Bertram lifted his eyebrows with a quizzical
``Well, they aren't all Marguerite Winthrops,''
he reminded her.
``Marguerite!'' cried Billy. ``Oh, is her name
Marguerite? I do think Marguerite is the dearest
name!'' Billy's eyes and voice were wistful.
``I don't--not the _dearest_. Oh, it's all well
enough, of course, but it can't be compared for
a moment to--well, say, `Billy'!''
Billy smiled, but she shook her head.
``I'm afraid you're not a good judge of names,''
she objected.
``Yes, I am; though, for that matter, I should
love your name, no matter what it was.''
``Even if 'twas `Mary Jane,' eh?'' bantered
Billy. ``Well, you'll have a chance to find out
how you like that name pretty quick, sir. We're
going to have one here.''
``You're going to have a Mary Jane here? Do
you mean that Rosa's going away?''
``Mercy! I hope not,'' shuddered Billy. ``You
don't find a Rosa in every kitchen--and never
in employment agencies! My Mary Jane is a
niece of Aunt Hannah's,--or rather, a cousin.
She's coming to Boston to study music, and I've
invited her here. We've asked her for a month,
though I presume we shall keep her right
Bertram frowned.
``Well, of course, that's very nice for--_Mary
Jane_,'' he sighed with meaning emphasis.
Billy laughed.
``Don't worry, dear. She won't bother us any.''
``Oh, yes, she will,'' sighed Bertram. ``She'll
be 'round--lots; you see if she isn't. Billy, I
think sometimes you're almost too kind--to
other folks.''
``Never!'' laughed Billy. Besides, what would
you have me do when a lonesome young girl was
coming to Boston? Anyhow, _you're_ not the one
to talk, young man. I've known _you_ to take in
a lonesome girl and give her a home,'' she flashed
Bertram chuckled.
``Jove! What a time that was!'' he exclaimed,
regarding his companion with fond eyes. ``And
Spunk, too! Is she going to bring a Spunk?''
``Not that I've heard,'' smiled Billy; ``but she
_is_ going to wear a pink.''
``Not really, Billy?''
``Of course she is! I told her to. How do you
suppose we could know her when we saw her,
if she didn't?'' demanded the girl, indignantly.
``And what is more, sir, there will be _two_ pinks
worn this time. _I_ sha'n't do as Uncle William did,
and leave off my pink. Only think what long minutes--
that seemed hours of misery--I spent
waiting there in that train-shed, just because
I didn't know which man was my Uncle
Bertram laughed and shrugged his shoulders.
``Well, your Mary Jane won't probably turn
out to be quite such a bombshell as our Billy
did--unless she should prove to be a boy,'' he
added whimsically. ``Oh, but Billy, she _can't_
turn out to be such a dear treasure,'' finished the
man. And at the adoring look in his eyes Billy
blushed deeply--and promptly forgot all about
Mary Jane and her pink.
``I have a letter here from Mary Jane, my
dear,'' announced Aunt Hannah at the luncheon
table one day.
``Have you?'' Billy raised interested eyes
from her own letters. ``What does she say?''
``She will be here Thursday. Her train is
due at the South Station at four-thirty. She
seems to be very grateful to you for your offer to
let her come right here for a month; but she says
she's afraid you don't realize, perhaps, just what
you are doing--to take her in like that, with her
singing, and all.''
``Nonsense! She doesn't refuse, does she?''
``Oh, no; she doesn't refuse--but she doesn't
accept either, exactly, as I can see. I've read the
letter over twice, too. I'll let you judge for yourself
by and by, when you have time to read it.''
Billy laughed.
``Never mind. I don't want to read it. She's
just a little shy about coming, that's all. She'll
stay all right, when we come to meet her. What
time did you say it was, Thursday?''
``Half past four, South Station.''
``Thursday, at half past four. Let me see--
that's the day of the Carletons' `At Home,'
isn't it?''
``Oh, my grief and conscience, yes! But I had
forgotten it. What shall we do?''
``Oh, that will be easy. We'll just go to the
Carletons' early and have John wait, then take
us from there to the South Station. Meanwhile
we'll make sure that the little blue room is all ready
for her. I put in my white enamel work-basket
yesterday, and that pretty little blue case for
hairpins and curling tongs that I bought at the
fair. I want the room to look homey to her, you
``As if it could look any other way, if _you_ had
anything to do with it,'' sighed Aunt Hannah,
Billy laughed.
``If we get stranded we might ask the Henshaw
boys to help us out, Aunt Hannah. They'd
probably suggest guns and swords. That's the
way they fixed up _my_ room.''
Aunt Hannah raised shocked hands of protest.
``As if we would! Mercy, what a time that
Billy laughed again.
``I never shall forget, _never_, my first glimpse of
that room when Mrs. Hartwell switched on the
lights. Oh, Aunt Hannah, I wish you could have
seen it before they took out those guns and
``As if I didn't see quite enough when I saw
William's face that morning he came for me!''
retorted Aunt Hannah, spiritedly.
``Dear Uncle William! What an old saint he
has been all the way through,'' mused Billy aloud.
``And Cyril--who would ever have believed that
the day would come when Cyril would say to
me, as he did last night, that he felt as if Marie
had been gone a month. It's been just seven days,
you know.''
``I know. She comes to-morrow, doesn't she?''
``Yes, and I'm glad. I shall tell Marie she
needn't leave Cyril on _my_ hands again. Bertram
says that at home Cyril hasn't played a dirge
since his engagement; but I notice that up here
--where Marie might be, but isn't--his tunes
would never be mistaken for ragtime. By the
way,'' she added, as she rose from the table,
``that's another surprise in store for Hugh
Calderwell. He always declared that Cyril wasn't a
marrying man, either, any more than Bertram.
You know he said Bertram only cared for girls
to paint; but--'' She stopped and looked
inquiringly at Rosa, who had appeared at that
moment in the hall doorway.
``It's the telephone, Miss Neilson. Mr.
Bertram Henshaw wants you.''
A few minutes later Aunt Hannah heard Billy
at the piano. For fifteen, twenty, thirty minutes
the brilliant scales and arpeggios rippled through
the rooms and up the stairs to Aunt Hannah, who
knew, by the very sound of them, that some
unusual nervousness was being worked off at the
finger tips that played them. At the end of fortyfive
minutes Aunt Hannah went down-stairs.
``Billy, my dear, excuse me, but have you
forgotten what time it is? Weren't you going out
with Bertram?''
Billy stopped playing at once, but she did not
turn her head. Her fingers busied themselves
with some music on the piano.
``We aren't going, Aunt Hannah,'' she said.
``Bertram can't.''
``Well, he didn't want to--so of course I
said not to. He's been painting this morning on
a new portrait, and she said he might stay to
luncheon and keep right on for a while this
afternoon, if he liked. And--he did like, so he
``Why, how--how--'' Aunt Hannah stopped
``Oh, no, not at all,'' interposed Billy, lightly.
``He told me all about it the other night. It's
going to be a very wonderful portrait; and, of
course, I wouldn't want to interfere with--his
work!'' And again a brilliant scale rippled from
Billy's fingers after a crashing chord in the bass.
Slowly Aunt Hannah turned and went up-stairs.
Her eyes were troubled. Not since Billy's engagement
had she heard Billy play like that.
Bertram did not find a pensive Billy awaiting
him that evening. He found a bright-eyed,
flushed-cheeked Billy, who let herself be kissed
--once--but who did not kiss back; a blithe,
elusive Billy, who played tripping little melodies,
and sang jolly little songs, instead of sitting
before the fire and talking; a Billy who at last
turned, and asked tranquilly:
``Well, how did the picture go?''
Bertram rose then, crossed the room, and took
Billy very gently into his arms.
``Sweetheart, you were a dear this noon to
let me off like that,'' he began in a voice shaken
with emotion. ``You don't know, perhaps,
exactly what you did. You see, I was nearly
wild between wanting to be with you, and wanting
to go on with my work. And I was just at that
point where one little word from you, one hint
that you wanted me to come anyway--and I
should have come. But you didn't say it, nor hint
it. Like the brave little bit of inspiration that you
are, you bade me stay and go on with my work.''
The ``inspiration's'' head drooped a little
lower, but this only brought a wealth of soft
bronze hair to just where Bertram could lay his
cheek against it--and Bertram promptly took
advantage of his opportunity. ``And so I stayed,
Billy, and I did good work; I know I did good
work. Why, Billy,''--Bertram stepped back
now, and held Billy by the shoulders at arms'
length--``Billy, that's going to be the best
work I've ever done. I can see it coming even
now, under my fingers.''
Billy lifted her head and looked into her lover's
face. His eyes were glowing. His cheeks were
flushed. His whole countenance was aflame with
the soul of the artist who sees his vision taking
shape before him. And Billy, looking at him, felt
``Oh, Bertram, I'm proud, proud, _proud_ of
you!'' she breathed. ``Come, let's go over to
the fire-and talk!''
Billy with John and Peggy met Marie Hawthorn
at the station. ``Peggy'' was short for
``Pegasus,'' and was what Billy always called
her luxurious, seven-seated touring car.
``I simply won't call it `automobile,' '' she
had declared when she bought it. ``In the first
place, it takes too long to say it, and in the second
place, I don't want to add one more to the nineteen
different ways to pronounce it that I hear
all around me every day now. As for calling it
my `car,' or my `motor car'--I should expect
to see a Pullman or one of those huge black trucks
before my door, if I ordered it by either of those
names. Neither will I insult the beautiful thing
by calling it a `machine.' Its name is Pegasus.
I shall call it `Peggy.' ''
And ``Peggy'' she called it. John sniffed his
disdain, and Billy's friends made no secret of
their amused tolerance; but, in an astonishingly
short time, half the automobile owners of her
acquaintance were calling their own cars ``Peggy'';
and even the dignified John himself was heard to
order ``some gasoline for Peggy,'' quite as a
matter of course.
When Marie Hawthorn stepped from the train
at the North Station she greeted Billy with
affectionate warmth, though at once her blue eyes
swept the space beyond expectantly and eagerly.
Billy's lips curved in a mischievous smile.
``No, he didn't come,'' she said. ``He didn't
want to--a little bit.''
Marie grew actually pale.
``Didn't _want_ to!'' she stammered.
Billy gave her a spasmodic hug.
``Goosey! No, he didn't--a _little_ bit; but
he did a great _big_ bit. As if you didn't know he
was dying to come, Marie! But he simply
couldn't--something about his concert Monday
night. He told me over the telephone; but
between his joy that you were coming, and his
rage that he couldn't see you the first minute
you did come, I couldn't quite make out what was
the trouble. But he's coming to dinner to-night,
so he'll doubtless tell you all about it.''
Marie sighed her relief.
``Oh, that's all right then. I was afraid he
was sick--when I didn't see him.''
Billy laughed softly.
``No, he isn't sick, Marie; but you needn't go
away again before the wedding--not to leave
him on my hands. I wouldn't have believed
Cyril Henshaw, confirmed old bachelor and
avowed woman-hater, could have acted the part
of a love-sick boy as he has the last week or
The rose-flush on Marie's cheek spread to the
roots of her fine yellow hair.
``Billy, dear, he--he didn't!''
``Marie, dear--he--he did!''
Marie laughed. She did not say anything,
but the rose-flush deepened as she occupied herself
very busily in getting her trunk-check from
the little hand bag she carried.
Cyril was not mentioned again until the two
girls, veils tied and coats buttoned, were snugly
ensconced in the tonneau, and Peggy's nose was
turned toward home. Then Billy asked:
``Have you settled on where you're going to
``Not quite. We're going to talk of that
to-night; but we _do_ know that we aren't going
to live at the Strata.''
Marie stirred uneasily at the obvious
disappointment and reproach in her friend's voice.
``But, dear, it wouldn't be wise, I'm sure,''
she argued hastily. ``There will be you and
``We sha'n't be there for a year, nearly,'' cut
in Billy, with swift promptness. ``Besides, I
think it would be lovely--all together.''
Marie smiled, but she shook her head.
``Lovely--but not practical, dear.''
Billy laughed ruefully.
``I know; you're worrying about those puddings
of yours. You're afraid somebody is going to
interfere with your making quite so many as you
want to; and Cyril is worrying for fear there'll
be somebody else in the circle of his shaded lamp
besides his little Marie with the light on her hair,
and the mending basket by her side.''
``Billy, what are you talking about?''
Billy threw a roguish glance into her friend's
amazed blue eyes.
``Oh, just a little picture Cyril drew once for
me of what home meant for him: a room with
a table and a shaded lamp, and a little woman
beside it with the light on her hair and a great
basket of sewing by her side.''
Marie's eyes softened.
``Did he say--that?''
``Yes. Oh, he declared he shouldn't want her
to sit under that lamp all the time, of course;
but he hoped she'd like that sort of thing.''
Marie threw a quick glance at the stolid back
of John beyond the two empty seats in front of
them. Although she knew he could not hear her
words, instinctively she lowered her voice.
``Did you know--then--about--me?'' she
asked, with heightened color.
``No, only that there was a girl somewhere
who, he hoped, would sit under the lamp some
day. And when I asked him if the girl did like
that sort of thing, he said yes, he thought so;
for she had told him once that the things she liked
best of all to do were to mend stockings and
make puddings. Then I knew, of course, 'twas
you, for I'd heard you say the same thing. So
I sent him right along out to you in the summerhouse.''
The pink flush on Marie's face grew to a red
one. Her blue eyes turned again to John's broad
back, then drifted to the long, imposing line of
windowed walls and doorways on the right. The
automobile was passing smoothly along Beacon
Street now with the Public Garden just behind
them on the left. After a moment Marie turned
to Billy again.
``I'm so glad he wants--just puddings and
stockings,'' she began a little breathlessly. ``You
see, for so long I supposed he _wouldn't_ want anything
but a very brilliant, talented wife who could
play and sing beautifully; a wife he'd be proud
of--like you.''
``Me? Nonsense!'' laughed Billy. ``Cyril
never wanted me, and I never wanted him--only
once for a few minutes, so to speak, when I thought,
I did. In spite of our music, we aren't a mite
congenial. I like people around; he doesn't.
I like to go to plays; he doesn't. He likes rainy
days, and I abhor them. Mercy! Life with me
for him would be one long jangling discord, my
love, while with you it'll be one long sweet song!''
Marie drew a deep breath. Her eyes were fixed
on a point far ahead up the curveless street.
``I hope it will, indeed!'' she breathed.
Not until they were almost home did Billy
say suddenly:
``Oh, did Cyril write you? A young relative
of Aunt Hannah's is coming to-morrow to stay
a while at the house.''
``Er--yes, Cyril told me,'' admitted Marie.
Billy smiled.
``Didn't like it, I suppose; eh?'' she queried
``N-no, I'm afraid he didn't--very well . He
said she'd be--one more to be around.''
``There, what did I tell you?'' dimpled Billy.
``You can see what you're coming to when you
do get that shaded lamp and the mending basket!''
A moment later, coming in sight of the house,
Billy saw a tall, smooth-shaven man standing on
the porch. The man lifted his hat and waved it
gayly, baring a slightly bald head to the sun.
``It's Uncle William--bless his heart!'' cried
Billy. ``They're all coming to dinner, then he
and Aunt Hannah and Bertram and I are going
down to the Hollis Street Theatre and let you and
Cyril have a taste of what that shaded lamp is
going to be. I hope you won't be lonesome,''
she finished mischievously, as the car drew up
before the door.
After a week of beautiful autumn weather,
Thursday dawned raw and cold. By noon an
east wind had made the temperature still more
At two o'clock Aunt Hannah tapped at Billy's
chamber door. She showed a troubled face to
the girl who answered her knock.
``Billy, _would_ you mind very much if I asked
you to go alone to the Carletons' and to meet
Mary Jane?'' she inquired anxiously.
``Why, no--that is, of course I should _mind_,
dear, because I always like to have you go to
places with me. But it isn't necessary. You
aren't sick; are you?''
``N-no, not exactly; but I have been sneezing
all the morning, and taking camphor and sugar
to break it up--if it is a cold. But it is so raw
and Novemberish out, that--''
``Why, of course you sha'n't go, you poor
dear! Mercy! don't get one of those dreadful
colds on to you before the wedding! Have you felt
a draft? Where's another shawl?'' Billy turned
and cast searching eyes about the room--Billy
always kept shawls everywhere for Aunt Hannah's
shoulders and feet. Bertram had been known
to say, indeed, that a room, according to Aunt
Hannah, was not fully furnished unless it contained
from one to four shawls, assorted as to size
and warmth. Shawls, certainly, did seem to be
a necessity with Aunt Hannah, as she usually
wore from one to three at the same time--which
again caused Bertram to declare that he always
counted Aunt Hannah's shawls when he wished
to know what the thermometer was.
``No, I'm not cold, and I haven't felt a draft,''
said Aunt Hannah now. ``I put on my thickest
gray shawl this morning with the little pink one
for down-stairs, and the blue one for breakfast;
so you see I've been very careful. But I _have_
sneezed six times, so I think 'twould be safer not
to go out in this east wind. You were going to
stop for Mrs. Granger, anyway, weren't you?
So you'll have her with you for the tea.''
``Yes, dear, don't worry. I'll take your cards
and explain to Mrs. Carleton and her daughters.''
``And, of course, as far as Mary Jane is
concerned, I don't know her any more than you do;
so I couldn't be any help there,'' sighed Aunt
``Not a bit,'' smiled Billy, cheerily. ``Don't
give it another thought, my dear. I sha'n't
have a bit of trouble. All I'll have to do is to
look for a girl alone with a pink. Of course I'll
have mine on, too, and she'll be watching for me.
So just run along and take your nap, dear, and be
all rested and ready to welcome her when she
comes,'' finished Billy, stooping to give the soft,
faintly pink cheek a warm kiss.
``Well, thank you, my dear; perhaps I will,''
sighed Aunt Hannah, drawing the gray shawl
about her as she turned away contentedly.
Mrs. Carleton's tea that afternoon was, for
Billy, not an occasion of unalloyed joy. It was the
first time she had appeared at a gathering of
any size since the announcement of her engagement;
and, as she dolefully told Bertram afterwards,
she had very much the feeling of the picture
hung on the wall.
``And they _did_ put up their lorgnettes and say,
`Is _that_ the one?' '' she declared; ``and I know
some of them finished with `Did you ever?' too,''
she sighed.
But Billy did not stay long in Mrs. Carleton's
softly-lighted, flower-perfumed rooms. At ten
minutes past four she was saying good-by to a
group of friends who were vainly urging her to
remain longer.
``I can't--I really can't,'' she declared. ``I'm
due at the South Station at half past four to
meet a Miss Arkwright, a young cousin of Aunt
Hannah's, whom I've never seen before. We're
to meet at the sign of the pink,'' she explained
smilingly, just touching the single flower she
Her hostess gave a sudden laugh.
``Let me see, my dear; if I remember rightly,
you've had experience before, meeting at this
sign of the pink. At least, I have a very vivid
recollection of Mr. William Henshaw's going once
to meet a _boy_ with a pink, who turned out to be
a girl. Now, to even things up, your girl should
turn out to be a boy!''
Billy smiled and reddened.
``Perhaps--but I don't think to-day will
strike the balance,'' she retorted, backing toward
the door. ``This young lady's name is `Mary
Jane'; and I'll leave it to you to find anything
very masculine in that!''
It was a short drive from Mrs. Carleton's
Commonwealth Avenue home to the South Station,
and Peggy made as quick work of it as the
narrow, congested cross streets would allow.
In ample time Billy found herself in the great
waiting-room, with John saying respectfully in
her ear:
``The man says the train comes in on Track
Fourteen, Miss, an' it's on time.''
At twenty-nine minutes past four Billy left
her seat and walked down the train-shed platform
to Track Number Fourteen. She had pinned
the pink now to the outside of her long coat, and
it made an attractive dash of white against the
dark-blue velvet. Billy was looking particularly
lovely to-day. Framing her face was the big
dark-blue velvet picture hat with its becoming
white plumes.
During the brief minutes' wait before the clanging
locomotive puffed into view far down the long
track, Billy's thoughts involuntarily went back
to that other watcher beside a train gate not
quite five years before.
``Dear Uncle William!'' she murmured
tenderly. Then suddenly she laughed--so nearly
aloud that a man behind her gave her a covert
glance from curious eyes. ``My! but what a
jolt I must have been to Uncle William!'' Billy
was thinking.
The next minute she drew nearer the gate and
regarded with absorbed attention the long line
of passengers already sweeping up the narrow
aisle between the cars.
Hurrying men came first, with long strides,
and eyes that looked straight ahead. These
Billy let pass with a mere glance. The next group
showed a sprinkling of women--women whose
trig hats and linen collars spelled promptness as
well as certainty of aim and accomplishment.
To these, also, Billy paid scant attention. Couples
came next--the men anxious-eyed, and usually
walking two steps ahead of their companions;
the women plainly flustered and hurried, and
invariably buttoning gloves or gathering up trailing
ends of scarfs or boas.
The crowd was thickening fast, now, and Billy's
eyes were alert. Children were appearing, and
young women walking alone. One of these wore
a bunch of violets. Billy gave her a second glance.
Then she saw a pink--but it was on the coat lapel
of a tall young fellow with a brown beard; so with
a slight frown she looked beyond down the line.
Old men came now, and old women; fleshy
women, and women with small children and babies.
Couples came, too--dawdling couples, plainly
newly married: the men were not two steps
ahead, and the women's gloves were buttoned and
their furs in place.
Gradually the line thinned, and soon there were
left only an old man with a cane, and a young
woman with three children. Yet nowhere had
Billy seen a girl wearing a white carnation, and
walking alone.
With a deeper frown on her face Billy turned
and looked about her. She thought that somewhere
in the crowd she had missed Mary Jane,
and that she would find her now, standing near.
But there was no one standing near except the
good-looking young fellow with the little pointed
brown beard, who, as Billy noticed a second
time, was wearing a white carnation.
As she glanced toward him, their eyes met.
Then, to Billy's unbounded amazement, the man
advanced with uplifted hat.
``I beg your pardon, but is not this--Miss
Billy drew back with just a touch of hauteur.
``Y-yes,'' she murmured.
``I thought so--yet I was expecting to see
you with Aunt Hannah. I am M. J. Arkwright,
Miss Neilson.''
For a brief instant Billy stared dazedly.
``You don't mean--Mary Jane?'' she gasped.
``I'm afraid I do.'' His lips twitched.
``But I thought--we were expecting--''
She stopped helplessly. For one more brief
instant she stared; then, suddenly, a swift
change came to her face. Her eyes danced.
``Oh--oh!'' she chuckled. ``How perfectly
funny! You _have_ evened things up, after
all. To think that Mary Jane should be a--''
She paused and flashed almost angrily suspicious
eyes into his face. ``But mine _was_ `Billy,' ''
she cried. ``Your name isn't really--Mary
``I am often called that.'' His brown eyes
twinkled, but they did not swerve from their
direct gaze into her own.
``But--'' Billy hesitated, and turned her
eyes away. She saw then that many curious
glances were already being flung in her direction.
The color in her cheeks deepened. With an odd
little gesture she seemed to toss something aside.
``Never mind,'' she laughed a little hysterically.
``If you'll pick up your bag, please, Mr.
Mary Jane, and come with me. John and Peggy
are waiting. Or--I forgot--you have a trunk,
of course?''
The man raised a protesting hand.
``Thank you; but, Miss Neilson, really--I
couldn't think of trespassing on your hospitality
--now, you know.''
``But we--we invited you,'' stammered Billy.
He shook his head.
``You invited _Miss_ Mary Jane.''
Billy bubbled into low laughter.
``I beg your pardon, but it _is_ funny,'' she sighed.
``You see _I_ came once just the same way, and
now to have the tables turned like this! What
will Aunt Hannah say--what will everybody
say? Come, I want them to begin--to say it,''
she chuckled irrepressibly.
``Thank you, but I shall go to a hotel, of course.
Later, if you'll be so good as to let me call, and
``But I'm afraid Aunt Hannah will think--''
Billy stopped abruptly. Some distance away
she saw John coming toward them. She turned
hurriedly to the man at her side. Her eyes still
danced, but her voice was mockingly serious.
``Really, Mr. Mary Jane, I'm afraid you'll have
to come to dinner; then you can settle the rest
with Aunt Hannah. John is almost upon us--
and _I_ don't want to make explanations. Do you?''
``John,'' she said airily to the somewhat dazed
chauffeur (who had been told he was to meet a
young woman), ``take Mr. Arkwright's bag,
please, and show him where Peggy is waiting.
It will be five minutes, perhaps, before I can come
--if you'll kindly excuse me,'' she added to
Arkwright, with a flashing glance from merry
eyes. ``I have some--telephoning to do.''
All the way to the telephone booth Billy was
trying to bring order out of the chaos of her mind;
but all the way, too, she was chuckling.
``To think that this thing should have happened
to _me!_'' she said, almost aloud. ``And here I
am telephoning just like Uncle William--Bertram
said Uncle William _did_ telephone about _me!_''
In due course Billy had Aunt Hannah at the
other end of the wire.
``Aunt Hannah, listen. I'd never have
believed it, but it's happened. Mary Jane is--a
Billy heard a dismayed gasp and a muttered
``Oh, my grief and conscience!'' then a shaking
``I say, Mary Jane is a man.'' Billy was
enjoying herself hugely.
``A _ma-an!_''
``Yes; a great big man with a brown beard.
He's waiting now with John and I must go.''
``But, Billy, I don't understand,'' chattered
an agitated voice over the line. ``He--he called
himself `Mary Jane.' He hasn't any business
to be a big man with a brown beard! What shall
we do? We don't want a big man with a brown
Billy laughed roguishly.
``I don't know. _You_ asked him! How he
will like that little blue room--Aunt Hannah!''
Billy's voice turned suddenly tragic. ``For pity's
sake take out those curling tongs and hairpins,
and the work-basket. I'd _never_ hear the last of
it if he saw those, I know. He's just that kind!''
A half stifled groan came over the wire.
``Billy, he can't stay here.''
Billy laughed again.
``No, no, dear; he won't, I know. He says
he's going to a hotel. But I had to bring him home
to dinner; there was no other way, under the
circumstances. He won't stay. Don't you worry.
But good-by. I must go. _Remember those curling
tongs!_'' And the receiver clicked sharply against
the hook.
In the automobile some minutes later, Billy
and Mr. M. J. Arkwright were speeding toward
Corey Hill. It was during a slight pause in the
conversation that Billy turned to her companion
with a demure:
``I telephoned Aunt Hannah, Mr. Arkwright.
I thought she ought to be--warned.''
``You are very kind. What did she say?--if
I may ask.''
There was a brief moment of hesitation before
Billy answered.
``She said you called yourself `Mary Jane,'
and that you hadn't any business to be a big man
with a brown beard.''
Arkwright laughed.
``I'm afraid I owe Aunt Hannah an apology,''
he said. He hesitated, glanced admiringly at the
glowing, half-averted face near him, then went
on decisively. He wore the air of a man who has
set the match to his bridges. ``I signed both
letters `M. J. Arkwright,' but in the first one
I quoted a remark of a friend, and in that remark
I was addressed as `Mary Jane.' I did not know
but Aunt Hannah knew of the nickname.''
(Arkwright was speaking a little slowly now, as if
weighing his words.) ``But when she answered,
I saw that she did not; for, from something she
said, I realized that she thought I was a real
Mary Jane. For the joke of the thing I let it pass.
But--if she noticed my letter carefully, she saw
that I did not accept your kind invitation to give
`Mary Jane' a home.''
``Yes, we noticed that,'' nodded Billy, merrily.
``But we didn't think you meant it. You see
we pictured you as a shy young thing. But,
really,'' she went on with a low laugh, ``you see
your coming as a masculine `Mary Jane' was
particularly funny--for me; for, though perhaps
you didn't know it, I came once to this very same
city, wearing a pink, and was expected to be Billy,
a boy. And only to-day a lady warned me that
your coming might even things up. But I didn't
believe it would--a Mary Jane!''
Arkwright laughed. Again he hesitated, and
seemed to be weighing his words.
``Yes, I heard about that coming of yours.
I might almost say--that's why I--let the
mistake pass in Aunt Hannah's letter,'' he said.
Billy turned with reproachful eyes.
``Oh, how could--you? But then--it was a
temptation!'' She laughed suddenly. ``What
sinful joy you must have had watching me hunt
for `Mary Jane.' ''
``I didn't,'' acknowledged the other, with
unexpected candor. ``I felt--ashamed. And when
I saw you were there alone without Aunt Hannah,
I came very near not speaking at all--until I
realized that that would be even worse, under the
``Of course it would,'' smiled Billy, brightly;
``so I don't see but I shall have to forgive you,
after all. And here we are at home, Mr. Mary
Jane. By the way, what did you say that `M. J.'
did stand for?'' she asked, as the car came to a
The man did not seem to hear; at least he did
not answer. He was helping his hostess to alight.
A moment later a plainly agitated Aunt Hannah
--her gray shawl topped with a huge black one
--opened the door of the house.
At ten minutes before six on the afternoon of
Arkwright's arrival, Billy came into the livingroom
to welcome the three Henshaw brothers,
who, as was frequently the case, were dining at
Bertram thought Billy had never looked prettier
than she did this afternoon with the bronze sheen
of her pretty house gown bringing out the bronze
lights in her dark eyes and in the soft waves of
her beautiful hair. Her countenance, too, carried
a peculiar something that the artist's eye was quick
to detect, and that the artist's fingers tingled to
put on canvas.
``Jove! Billy,'' he said low in her ear, as he
greeted her, ``I wish I had a brush in my hand
this minute. I'd have a `Face of a Girl' that
would be worth while!''
Billy laughed and dimpled her appreciation;
but down in her heart she was conscious of a
vague unrest. Billy wished, sometimes, that she
did not so often seem to Bertram--a picture.
She turned to Cyril with outstretched hand.
``Oh, yes, Marie's coming,'' she smiled in
answer to the quick shifting of Cyril's eyes to the
hall doorway. ``And Aunt Hannah, too. They're
``And Mary Jane?'' demanded William, a
little anxiously
``Will's getting nervous,'' volunteered Bertram,
airily. ``He wants to see Mary Jane. You see
we've told him that we shall expect him to see
that she doesn't bother us four too much, you
know. He's expected always to remove her quietly
but effectually, whenever he sees that she is
likely to interrupt a tte--tte. Naturally, then,
Will wants to see Mary Jane.''
Billy began to laugh hysterically. She dropped
into a chair and raised both her hands, palms
``Don't, don't--please don't!'' she choked,
``or I shall die. I've had all I can stand, already.''
``All you can stand?''
``What do you mean?''
``Is she so--impossible?'' This last was from
Bertram, spoken softly, and with a hurried glance
toward the hall.
Billy dropped her hands and lifted her head.
By heroic effort she pulled her face into sobriety
--all but her eyes--and announced:
``Mary Jane is--a man.''
``A _man!_''
Three masculine forms sat suddenly erect.
``Yes. Oh, Uncle William, I know now just
how you felt--I know, I know,'' gurgled Billy,
incoherently. ``There he stood with his pink
just as I did--only he had a brown beard, and
he didn't have Spunk--and I had to telephone
to prepare folks, just as you did. And the room
--the room! I fixed the room, too,'' she babbled
breathlessly, ``only I had curling tongs and hair
pins in it instead of guns and spiders!''
``Child, child! what _are_ you talking about?''
William's face was red.
``A _man!_--_Mary Jane!_'' Cyril was merely
``Billy, what does this mean?'' Bertram had
grown a little white.
Billy began to laugh again, yet she was plainly
trying to control herself.
``I'll tell you. I must tell you. Aunt Hannah
is keeping him up-stairs so I can tell you,'' she
panted. ``But it was so funny, when I expected
a girl, you know, to see him with his brown
beard, and he was so tall and big! And, of course,
it made me think how _I_ came, and was a girl
when you expected a boy; and Mrs. Carleton
had just said to-day that maybe this girl would
even things up. Oh, it was so funny!''
``Billy, my-my dear,'' remonstrated Uncle
William, mildly.
``But what _is_ his name?'' demanded Cyril.
``Did the creature sign himself `Mary Jane'?''
exploded Bertram.
``I don't know his name, except that it's `M.
J.'--and that's how he signed the letters. But
he _is_ called `Mary Jane' sometimes, and in the
letter he quoted somebody's speech--I've
forgotten just how--but in it he was called `Mary
Jane,' and, of course, Aunt Hannah took him
for a girl,'' explained Billy, grown a little more
coherent now.
``Didn't he write again?'' asked William.
``Well, why didn't he correct the mistake,
then?'' demanded Bertram.
Billy chuckled.
``He didn't want to, I guess. He thought it
was too good a joke.''
``Joke!'' scoffed Cyril.
``But, see here, Billy, he isn't going to live here
--now?'' Bertram's voice was almost savage.
``Oh, no, he isn't going to live here--now,''
interposed smooth tones from the doorway.
``Mr.--Arkwright!'' breathed Billy, confusedly.
Three crimson-faced men sprang to their feet.
The situation, for a moment, threatened embarrassed
misery for all concerned; but Arkwright,
with a cheery smile, advanced straight toward
Bertram, and held out a friendly hand.
``The proverbial fate of listeners,'' he said
easily; ``but I don't blame you at all. No,
`he' isn't going to live here,'' he went on,
grasping each brother's hand in turn, as Billy
murmured faint introductions; ``and what is more,
he hereby asks everybody's pardon for the annoyance
his little joke has caused. He might add
that he's heartily-ashamed of himself, as well;
but if any of you--'' Arkwright turned to the
three tall men still standing by their chairs--
``if any of you had suffered what he has at the
hands of a swarm of youngsters for that name's
sake, you wouldn't blame him for being tempted
to get what fun he could out of Mary Jane--if
there ever came a chance!''
Naturally, after this, there could be nothing
stiff or embarrassing. Billy laughed in relief,
and motioned Mr. Arkwright to a seat near her.
William said ``Of course, of course!'' and shook
hands again. Bertram and Cyril laughed
shamefacedly and sat down. Somebody said: ``But
what does the `M. J.' stand for, anyhow?''
Nobody answered this, however; perhaps
because Aunt Hannah and Marie appeared just
then in the doorway.
Dinner proved to be a lively meal. In the
newcomer, Bertram met his match for wit and satire;
and ``Mr. Mary Jane,'' as he was promptly called
by every one but Aunt Hannah, was found to
be a most entertaining guest.
After dinner somebody suggested music.
Cyril frowned, and got up abruptly. Still
frowning, he turned to a bookcase near him and
began to take down and examine some of the
Bertram twinkled and glanced at Billy.
``Which is it, Cyril?'' he called with cheerful
impertinence; ``stool, piano, or audience that is
the matter to-night?''
Only a shrug from Cyril answered.
``You see,'' explained Bertram, jauntily, to
Arkwright, whose eyes were slightly puzzled,
``Cyril never plays unless the piano and the pedals
and the weather and your ears and my watch
and his fingers are just right!''
``Nonsense!'' scorned Cyril, dropping his book
and walking back to his chair. ``I don't feel
like playing to-night; that's all.''
``You see,'' nodded Bertram again.
``I see,'' bowed Arkwright with quiet amusement.
``I believe--Mr. Mary Jane--sings,'' observed
Billy, at this point, demurely.
``Why, yes, of course, ' chimed in Aunt Hannah
with some nervousness. ``That's what she--I
mean he--was coming to Boston for--to study
Everybody laughed.
``Won't you sing, please?'' asked Billy. ``Can
you--without your notes? I have lots of songs
if you want them.''
For a moment--but only a moment--Arkwright
hesitated; then he rose and went to the
With the easy sureness of the trained musician
his fingers dropped to the keys and slid into
preliminary chords and arpeggios to test the touch of
the piano; then, with a sweetness and purity that
made every listener turn in amazed delight, a
well-trained tenor began the ``Thro' the leaves
the night winds moving,'' of Schubert's Serenade.
Cyril's chin had lifted at the first tone. He was
listening now with very obvious pleasure. Bertram,
too, was showing by his attitude the keenest
appreciation. William and Aunt Hannah, resting
back in their chairs, were contentedly nodding their
approval to each other. Marie in her corner was
motionless with rapture. As to Billy--Billy
was plainly oblivious of everything but the song
and the singer. She seemed scarcely to move or
to breathe till the song's completion; then there
came a low ``Oh, how beautiful!'' through her
parted lips.
Bertram, looking at her, was conscious of a
vague irritation.
``Arkwright, you're a lucky dog,'' he declared
almost crossly. ``I wish I could sing like that!''
``I wish I could paint a `Face of a Girl,' ''
smiled the tenor as he turned from the piano.
``Oh, but, Mr. Arkwright, don't stop,'' objected
Billy, springing to her feet and going to her music
cabinet by the piano. ``There's a little song
of Nevin's I want you to sing. There, here it is.
Just let me play it for you.'' And she slipped into
the place the singer had just left.
It was the beginning of the end. After Nevin
came De Koven, and after De Koven, Gounod.
Then came Nevin again, Billy still playing the
accompaniment. Next followed a duet. Billy
did not consider herself much of a singer, but her
voice was sweet and true, and not without training.
It blended very prettily with the clear, pure
William and Aunt Hannah still smiled contentedly
in their chairs, though Aunt Hannah had
reached for the pink shawl near her--the music
had sent little shivers down her spine. Cyril,
with Marie, had slipped into the little receptionroom
across the hall, ostensibly to look at some
plans for a house, although--as everybody
knew--they were not intending to build for a
Bertram, still sitting stiffly erect in his chair,
was not conscious of a vague irritation now.
He was conscious of a very real, and a very
decided one--an irritation that was directed against
himself, against Billy, and against this man,
Arkwright; but chiefly against music, _#per se_. He
hated music. He wished he could sing. He
wondered how long it took to teach a man to sing,
anyhow; and he wondered if a man could sing--
who never had sung.
At this point the duet came to an end, and Billy
and her guest left the piano. Almost at once,
after this, Arkwright made his very graceful
adieus, and went off with his suit-case to the hotel
where, as he had informed Aunt Hannah, his room
was already engaged.
William went home then, and Aunt Hannah
went up-stairs. Cyril and Marie withdrew into
a still more secluded corner to look at their plans,
and Bertram found himself at last alone with
Billy. He forgot, then, in the blissful hour he
spent with her before the open fire, how he hated
music; though he did say, just before he went
home that night:
``Billy, how long does it take--to learn to
``Why, I don't know, I'm sure,'' replied Billy,
abstractedly; then, with sudden fervor: ``Oh,
Bertram, hasn't Mr. Mary Jane a beautiful
Bertram wished then he had not asked the
question; but all he said was:
`` `Mr. Mary Jane,' indeed! What an absurd
``But doesn't he sing beautifully?''
``Eh? Oh, yes, he sings all right,'' said
Bertram's tongue. Bertram's manner said: ``Oh,
yes, anybody can sing.''
On the morning after Cyril's first concert of
the season, Billy sat sewing with Aunt Hannah
in the little sitting-room at the end of the hall
upstairs. Aunt Hannah wore only one shawl this
morning,--which meant that she was feeling
unusually well.
``Marie ought to be here to mend these stockings,''
remarked Billy, as she critically examined
a tiny break in the black silk mesh stretched across
the darning-egg in her hand; ``only she'd want
a bigger hole. She does so love to make a beautiful
black latticework bridge across a yawning white
china sea--and you'd think the safety of an
army depended on the way each plank was laid,
too,'' she concluded.
Aunt Hannah smiled tranquilly, but she did
not speak.
``I suppose you don't happen to know if Cyril
does wear big holes in his socks,'' resumed Billy,
after a moment's silence. ``If you'll believe it,
that thought popped into my head last night when
Cyril was playing that concerto so superbly. It
did, actually--right in the middle of the adagio
movement, too. And in spite of my joy and pride
in the music I had all I could do to keep from
nudging Marie right there and then and asking
her whether or not the dear man was hard on
his hose.''
``Billy!'' gasped the shocked Aunt Hannah;
but the gasp broke at once into what--in Aunt
Hannah--passed for a chuckle. ``If I remember
rightly, when I was there at the house with you
at first, my dear, William told me that Cyril
wouldn't wear any sock after it came to mending.''
``Horrors!'' Billy waved her stocking in
mock despair. ``That will never do in the world.
It would break Marie's heart. You know how she
dotes on darning.''
``Yes, I know,'' smiled Aunt Hannah. ``By
the way, where is she this morning?''
Billy raised her eyebrows quizzically.
``Gone to look at an apartment in Cambridge, I
believe. Really, Aunt Hannah, between her homehunting
in the morning, and her furniture-andrug
hunting in the afternoon, and her poring over
house-plans in the evening, I can't get her to
attend to her clothes at all. Never did I see a
bride so utterly indifferent to her trousseau as
Marie Hawthorn--and her wedding less than
a month away!''
``But she's been shopping with you once or
twice, since she came back, hasn't she? And she
said it was for her trousseau.''
Billy laughed.
``Her trousseau! Oh, yes, it was. I'll tell you
what she got for her trousseau that first day.
We started out to buy two hats, some lace for
her wedding gown, some crpe de Chine and net
for a little dinner frock, and some silk for a couple
of waists to go with her tailored suit; and what did
we get? We purchased a new-style egg-beater and
a set of cake tins. Marie got into the kitchen
department and I simply couldn't get her out of it.
But the next day I was not to be inveigled below
stairs by any plaintive prayer for a nutmeggrater
or a soda spoon. She _shopped_ that day, and
to some purpose. We accomplished lots.''
Aunt Hannah looked a little concerned.
``But she must have _some_ things started!''
``Oh, she has--'most everything now. _I've_
seen to that. Of course her outfit is very simple,
anyway. Marie hasn't much money, you know,
and she simply won't let me do half what I want
to. Still, she had saved up some money, and I've
finally convinced her that a trousseau doesn't
consist of egg-beaters and cake tins, and that
Cyril would want her to look pretty. That name
will fetch her every time, and I've learned to
use it beautifully. I think if I told her Cyril
approved of short hair and near-sightedness she'd
I cut off her golden locks and don spectacles on the
Aunt Hannah laughed softly.
``What a child you are, Billy! Besides, just
as if Marie were the only one in the house who is
ruled by a magic name!''
The color deepened in Billy's cheeks.
``Well, of course, any girl--cares something--
for the man she loves. Just as if I wouldn't do
anything in the world I could for Bertram!''
``Oh, that makes me think; who was that young
woman Bertram was talking with last evening--
just after he left us, I mean?''
``Miss Winthrop--Miss Marguerite Winthrop.
Bertram is--is painting her portrait, you know.''
``Oh, is that the one?'' murmured Aunt
Hannah. ``Hm-m; well, she has a beautiful face.''
``Yes, she has.'' Billy spoke very cheerfully.
She even hummed a little tune as she carefully
selected a needle from the cushion in her basket.
``There's a peculiar something in her face,''
mused Aunt Hannah, aloud.
The little tune stopped abruptly, ending in a
nervous laugh.
``Dear me! I wonder how it feels to have a
peculiar something in your face. Bertram, too,
says she has it. He's trying to `catch it,' he says.
I wonder now--if he does catch it, does she lose
it?'' Flippant as were the words, the voice that
uttered them shook a little.
Aunt Hannah smiled indulgently--Aunt Hannah
had heard only the flippancy, not the shake.
``I don't know, my dear. You might ask him
this afternoon.''
Billy made a sudden movement. The china
egg in her lap rolled to the floor.
``Oh, but I don't see him this afternoon,'' she
said lightly, as she stooped to pick up the egg.
``Why, I'm sure he told me--'' Aunt Hannah's
sentence ended in a questioning pause.
``Yes, I know,'' nodded Billy, brightly; ``but
he's told me something since. He isn't going.
He telephoned me this morning. Miss Winthrop
wanted the sitting changed from to-morrow to
this afternoon. He said he knew I'd understand.''
``Why, yes; but--'' Aunt Hannah did not
finish her sentence. The whir of an electric bell
had sounded through the house. A few moments
later Rosa appeared in the open doorway.
``It,'s Mr. Arkwright, Miss. He said as how
he had brought the music,'' she announced.
``Tell him I'll be down at once,'' directed the
mistress of Hillside.
As the maid disappeared, Billy put aside her
work and sprang lightly to her feet.
``Now wasn't that nice of him? We were
talking last night about some duets he had, and he
said he'd bring them over. I didn't know he'd
come so soon, though.''
Billy had almost reached the bottom of the
stairway, when a low, familiar strain of music drifted
out from the living-room. Billy caught her breath,
and held her foot suspended. The next moment
the familiar strain of music had become a lullaby
--one of Billy's own--and sung now by a melting
tenor voice that lingered caressingly and
understandingly on every tender cadence.
Motionless and almost breathless, Billy waited
until the last low ``lul-la-by'' vibrated into
silence; then with shining eyes and outstretched
hands she entered the living-room.
``Oh, that was--beautiful,'' she breathed.
Arkwright was on his feet instantly. His eyes,
too, were alight.
``I could not resist singing it just once--
here,'' he said a little unsteadily, as their hands
``But to hear my little song sung like that!
I couldn't believe it was mine,'' choked Billy,
still plainly very much moved. ``You sang it as
I've never heard it sung before.''
Arkwright shook his head slowly.
``The inspiration of the room--that is all,'',
he said. ``It is a beautiful song. All of your songs
are beautiful.''
Billy blushed rosily.
``Thank you. You know--more of them,
``I think I know them all--unless you have
some new ones out. Have you some new ones,
Billy shook her head.
``No; I haven't written anything since last
``But you're going to?''
She drew a long sigh.
``Yes, oh, yes. I know that _now_--'' With a
swift biting of her lower lip Billy caught herself
up in time. As if she could tell this man, this
stranger, what she had told Bertram that night
by the fire--that she knew that now, _now_ she
would write beautiful songs, with his love, and
his pride in her, as incentives. ``Oh, yes, I think
I shall write more one of these days,'' she finished
lightly. ``But come, this isn't singing duets! I
want to see the music you brought.''
They sang then, one after another of the duets.
To Billy, the music was new and interesting.
To Billy, too, it was new (and interesting) to hear
her own voice blending with another's so perfectly
--to feel herself a part of such exquisite harmony.
``Oh, oh!'' she breathed ecstatically, after the
last note of a particularly beautiful phrase. ``I
never knew before how lovely it was to sing
``Nor I,'' replied Arkwright in a voice that was
not quite steady.
Arkwright's eyes were on the enraptured face
of the girl so near him. It was well, perhaps,
that Billy did not happen to turn and catch their
expression. Still, it might have been better if
she had turned, after all. But Billy's eyes were
on the music before her. Her fingers were busy
with the fluttering pages, searching for another
``Didn't you?'' she murmured abstractedly.
``I supposed _you'd_ sung them before; but you
see I never did--until the other night. There,
let's try this one!''
``This one'' was followed by another and
another. Then Billy drew a long breath.
``There! that must positively be the last,''
she declared reluctantly. ``I'm so hoarse now
I can scarcely croak. You see, I don't pretend
to sing, really.''
``Don't you? You sing far better than some
who do, anyhow,''retorted the man, warmly.
``Thank you,'' smiled Billy; ``that was nice
of you to say so--for my sake--and the others
aren't here to care. But tell me of yourself. I
haven't had a chance to ask you yet; and--I
think you said Mary Jane was going to study for
Grand Opera.''
Arkwright laughed and shrugged his shoulders.
``She is; but, as I told Calderwell, she's quite
likely to bring up in vaudeville.''
``Calderwell! Do you mean--Hugh Calderwell?''
Billy's cheeks showed a deeper color.
The man gave an embarrassed little laugh. He
had not meant to let that name slip out just yet.
``Yes.'' He hesitated, then plunged on
recklessly. ``We tramped half over Europe together
last summer.''
``Did you?'' Billy left her seat at the piano
for one nearer the fire. ``But this isn't telling
me about your own plans,'' she hurried on a little
precipitately. ``You've studied before, of course.
Your voice shows that.''
``Oh, yes; I've studied singing several years,
and I've had a year or two of church work,
besides a little concert practice of a mild sort.''
``Have you begun here, yet?''
``Y-yes, I've had my voice tried.''
Billy sat erect with eager interest.
``They liked it, of course?''
Arkwright laughed.
``I'm not saying that.''
``No, but I am,'' declared Billy, with conviction.
``They couldn't help liking it.''
Arkwright laughed again. Just how well they
had ``liked it'' he did not intend to say. Their
remarks had been quite too flattering to repeat
even to this very plainly interested young woman
--delightful and heart-warming as was this same
show of interest, to himself.
``Thank you,'' was all he said.
Billy gave an excited little bounce in her
``And you'll begin to learn rles right away?''
``I already have, some--after a fashion--before
I came here.''
``Really? How splendid! Why, then you'll
be acting them next right on the Boston Opera
House stage, and we'll all go to hear you. How
perfectly lovely! I can hardly wait.''
Arkwright laughed--but his eyes glowed with
``Aren't you hurrying things a little?'' he
``But they do let the students appear,''
argued Billy. ``I knew a girl last year who went on
in `Aida,' and she was a pupil at the School.
She sang first in a Sunday concert, then they put
her in the bill for a Saturday night. She did
splendidly--so well that they gave her a chance
later at a subscription performance. Oh, you'll
be there--and soon, too!''
``Thank you! I only wish the powers that
could put me there had your flattering enthusiasm
on the matter,'' he smiled.
``I don't worry any,'' nodded Billy, ``only
please don't `arrive' too soon--not before the
wedding, you know,'' she added jokingly. ``We
shall be too busy to give you proper attention
until after that.''
A peculiar look crossed Arkwright's face.
``The--_wedding?_'' he asked, a little faintly.
``Yes. Didn't you know? My friend, Miss
Hawthorn, is to marry Mr. Cyril Henshaw next
The man opposite relaxed visibly.
``Oh, _Miss Hawthorn!_ No, I didn't know,''
he murmured; then, with sudden astonishment
he added: ``And to Mr. Cyril, the musician,
did you say?''
``Yes. You seem surprised.''
``I am.'' Arkwright paused, then went on
almost defiantly. ``You see, Calderwell was
telling me only last September how very
unmarriageable all the Henshaw brothers were. So
I am surprised--naturally,'' finished Arkwright,
as he rose to take his leave.
A swift crimson stained Billy's face.
``But surely you must know that--that--''
``That he has a right to change his mind, of
course,'' supplemented Arkwright smilingly,
coming to her rescue in the evident confusion that
would not let her finish her sentence. ``But
Calderwell made it so emphatic, you see, about
all the brothers. He said that William had lost
his heart long ago; that Cyril hadn't any to lose;
and that Bertram--''
``But, Mr. Arkwright, Bertram is--is--''
Billy had moistened her lips, and plunged hurriedly
in to prevent Arkwright's next words. But again
was she unable to finish her sentence, and again
was she forced to listen to a very different
completion from the smiling lips of the man at her
``Is an artist, of course,'' said Arkwright.
``That's what Calderwell declared--that it
would always be the tilt of a chin or the curve
of a cheek that the artist loved--to paint.''
Billy drew back suddenly. Her face paled.
As if _now_ she could tell this man that Bertram
Henshaw was engaged to her! He would find it
out soon, of course, for himself; and perhaps he,
like Hugh Calderwell, would think it was the
curve of _her_ cheek, or the tilt of _her_ chin--
Billy lifted her chin very defiantly now as she
held out her hand in good-by.
Thanksgiving came. Once again the Henshaw
brothers invited Billy and Aunt Hannah to spend
the day with them. This time, however, there
was to be an additional guest present in the person
of Marie Hawthorn.
And what a day it was, for everything and
everybody concerned! First the Strata itself: from
Dong Ling's kitchen in the basement to Cyril's
domain on the top floor, the house was as spickand-
span as Pete's eager old hands could make
it. In the drawing-room and in Bertram's den
and studio, great clusters of pink roses perfumed
the air, and brightened the sombre richness of
the old-time furnishings. Before the open fire
in the den a sleek gray cat--adorned with a huge
ribbon bow the exact shade of the roses (Bertram
had seen to that!)--winked and blinked sleepy
yellow eyes. In Bertram's studio the latest ``Face
of a Girl'' had made way for a group of canvases
and plaques, every one of which showed Billy
Neilson in one pose or another. Up-stairs, where
William's chaos of treasures filled shelves and
cabinets, the place of honor was given to a small
black velvet square on which rested a pair of
quaint Battersea enamel mirror knobs. In Cyril's
rooms--usually so austerely bare--a handsome
Oriental rug and several curtain-draped chairs
hinted at purchases made at the instigation of
a taste other than his own.
When the doorbell rang Pete admitted the
ladies with a promptness that was suggestive
of surreptitious watching at some window. On
Pete's face the dignity of his high office and the
delight of the moment were fighting for mastery.
The dignity held firmly through Mrs. Stetson's
friendly greeting; but it fled in defeat when Billy
Neilson stepped over the threshold with a cheery
``Good morning, Pete.''
``Laws! But it's good to be seein' you here
again,'' stammered the man,--delight now in
sole possession.
``She'll be coming to stay, one of these days,
Pete,'' smiled the eldest Henshaw, hurrying forward.
``I wish she had now,'' whispered Bertram, who,
in spite of William's quick stride, had reached
Billy's side first.
From the stairway came the patter of a man's
slippered feet.
``The rug has come, and the curtains, too,''
called a ``householder'' sort of voice that few
would have recognized as belonging to Cyril
Henshaw. ``You must all come up-stairs and
see them after dinner.'' The voice, apparently,
spoke to everybody; but the eyes of the owner
of the voice plainly saw only the fair-haired young
woman who stood a little in the shadow behind
Billy, and who was looking about her now as at
something a little fearsome, but very dear.
``You know--I've never been--where you
live--before,'' explained Marie Hawthorn in a
low, vibrant tone, when Cyril bent over her to
take the furs from her shoulders.
In Bertram's den a little later, as hosts and
guests advanced toward the fire, the sleek gray
cat rose, stretched lazily, and turned her head
with majestic condescension.
``Well, Spunkie, come here,'' commanded Billy,
snapping her fingers at the slow-moving creature
on the hearthrug. ``Spunkie, when I am your
mistress, you'll have to change either your name
or your nature. As if I were going to have such
a bunch of independent moderation as you
masquerading as an understudy to my frisky little
Everybody laughed. William regarded his
namesake with fond eyes as he said:
``Spunkie doesn't seem to be worrying.'' The
cat had jumped into Billy's lap with a matterof-
course air that was unmistakable--and to Bertram,
adorable. Bertram's eyes, as they rested
on Billy, were even fonder than were his
``I don't think any one is--_worrying_,'' he
said with quiet emphasis.
Billy smiled.
``I should think they might be,'' she answered.
``Only think how dreadfully upsetting I was in
the first place!''
William's beaming face grew a little stern.
``Nobody knew it but Kate--and she didn't
_know_ it; she only imagined it,'' he said tersely.
Billy shook her head.
``I'm not so sure,'' she demurred. ``As I look
back at it now, I think I can discern a few
evidences myself--that I was upsetting. I was a
bother to Bertram in his painting, I am sure.''
``You were an inspiration,'' corrected Bertram.
``Think of the posing you did for me.''
A swift something like a shadow crossed Billy's
face; but before her lover could question its
meaning, it was gone.
``And I know I was a torment to Cyril.'' Billy
had turned to the musician now.
``Well, I admit you were a little--upsetting,
at times,'' retorted that individual, with something
of his old imperturbable rudeness.
``Nonsense!'' cut in William, sharply. ``You
were never anything but a comfort in the house,
Billy, my dear--and you never will be.''
``Thank you,'' murmured Billy, demurely.
``I'll remember that--when Pete and I disagree
about the table decorations, and Dong Ling
doesn't like the way I want my soup seasoned.''
An anxious frown showed on Bertram's face.
``Billy,'' he said in a low voice, as the others
laughed at her sally, ``you needn't have Pete
nor Dong Ling here if you don't want them.''
``Don't want them!'' echoed Billy, indignantly.
``Of course I want them!''
``But--Pete _is_ old, and--''
``Yes; and where's he grown old? For whom
has he worked the last fifty years, while he's
been growing old? I wonder if you think I'd
let Pete leave this house as long as he _wants_ to
stay! As for Dong Ling--''
A sudden movement of Bertram's hand arrested
her words. She looked up to find Pete in
the doorway.
``Dinner is served, sir,'' announced the old
butler, his eyes on his master's face.
William rose with alacrity, and gave his arm
to Aunt Hannah.
``Well, I'm sure we're ready for dinner,'' he
It was a good dinner, and it was well served.
It could scarcely have been otherwise with Dong
Ling in the kitchen and Pete in the dining-room
doing their utmost to please. But even had the
turkey been tough instead of tender, and even
had the pies been filled with sawdust instead of
with delicious mincemeat, it is doubtful if four
at the table would have known the difference:
Cyril and Marie at one end were discussing where
to put their new sideboard in their dining-room,
and Bertram and Billy at the other were talking
of the next Thanksgiving, when, according to
Bertram, the Strata would have the ``dearest
little mistress that ever was born.'' As if, under
these circumstances, the tenderness of the turkey
or the toothsomeness of the mince pie mattered!
To Aunt Hannah and William, in the centre of
the table, however, it did matter; so it was well,
of course, that the dinner was a good one.
``And now,'' said Cyril, when dinner was over,
``suppose you come up and see the rug.''
In compliance with this suggestion, the six
trailed up the long flights of stairs then, Billy
carrying an extra shawl for Aunt Hannah--
Cyril's rooms were always cool.
``Oh, yes, I knew we should need it,'' she nodded
to Bertram, as she picked up the shawl from the
hall stand where she had left it when she came
in. ``That's why I brought it.''
``Oh, my grief and conscience, Cyril, how _can_
you stand it?--to climb stairs like this,'' panted
Aunt Hannah, as she reached the top of the last
flight and dropped breathlessly into the nearest
chair--from which Marie had rescued a curtain
just in time.
``Well, I'm not sure I could--if I were always
to eat a Thanksgiving dinner just before,'' laughed
Cyril. ``Maybe I ought to have waited and let
you rest an hour or two.''
``But 'twould have been too dark, then, to see the
rug,'' objected Marie. ``It's a genuine Persian--
a Kirman, you know; and I'm so proud of it,''
she added, turning to the others. ``I wanted you
to see the colors by daylight. Cyril likes it better,
anyhow, in the daytime.''
``Fancy Cyril _liking_ any sort of a rug at any
time,'' chuckled Bertram, his eyes on the rich,
softly blended colors of the rug before him.
``Honestly, Miss Marie,'' he added, turning to the
little bride elect, ``how did you ever manage to
get him to buy _any_ rug? He won't have so much
as a ravelling on the floor up here to walk on.''
A startled dismay came into Marie's blue
``Why, I thought he wanted rugs,'' she
faltered. ``I'm sure he said--''
``Of course I want rugs,'' interrupted Cyril,
irritably. ``I want them everywhere except in
my own especial den. You don't suppose I want
to hear other people clattering over bare floors
all day, do you?''
``Of course not!'' Bertram's face was
preternaturally grave as he turned to the little music
teacher. ``I hope, Miss Marie, that you wear
rubber heels on your shoes,'' he observed solicitously.
Even Cyril laughed at this, though all he said
``Come, come, I got you up here to look at the
Bertram, however, was not to be silenced.
``And another thing, Miss Marie,'' he resumed,
with the air of a true and tried adviser. ``Just
let me give you a pointer. I've lived with your
future husband a good many years, and I know
what I'm talking about.''
``Bertram, be still,'' growled Cyril.
Bertram refused to be still.
``Whenever you want to know anything about
Cyril, listen to his playing. For instance: if,
after dinner, you hear a dreamy waltz or a sleepy
nocturne, you may know that all is well. But if
on your ears there falls anything like a dirge, or
the wail of a lost spirit gone mad, better look to
your soup and see if it hasn't been scorched, or
taste of your pudding and see if you didn't put
in salt instead of sugar.''
``Bertram, will you be still?'' cut in Cyril,
testily, again.
``After all, judging from what Billy tells me,''
resumed Bertram, cheerfully, ``what I've said
won't be so important to you, for you aren't the
kind that scorches soups or uses salt for sugar.
So maybe I'd better put it to you this way: if you
want a new sealskin coat or an extra diamond
tiara, tackle him when he plays like this!'' And
with a swift turn Bertram dropped himself to the
piano stool and dashed into a rollicking melody
that half the newsboys of Boston were whistling.
What happened next was a surprise to every one.
Bertram, very much as if he were a naughty
little boy, was jerked by a wrathful brother's
hand off the piano stool. The next moment the
wrathful brother himself sat at the piano, and
there burst on five pairs of astonished ears a
crashing dissonance which was but the prelude
to music such as few of the party often heard.
Spellbound they listened while rippling runs
and sonorous harmonies filled the room to overflowing,
as if under the fingers of the player there
were--not the keyboard of a piano--but the
violins, flutes, cornets, trombones, bass viols
and kettledrums of a full orchestra.
Billy, perhaps, of them all, best understood.
She knew that in those tripping melodies and
crashing chords were Cyril's joy at the presence
of Marie, his wrath at the flippancy of Bertram,
his ecstasy at that for which the rug and curtains
stood--the little woman sewing in the radiant
circle of a shaded lamp. Billy knew that all this
and more were finding voice at Cyril's finger tips.
The others, too, understood in a way; but they,
unlike Billy, were not in the habit of finding on
a few score bits of wood and ivory a vent for their
moods and fancies.
The music was softer now. The resounding
chords and purling runs had become a bell-like
melody that wound itself in and out of a maze of
exquisite harmonies, now hiding, now coming out
clear and unafraid, like a mountain stream emerging
into a sunlit meadow from the leafy shadows
of its forest home.
In a breathless hush the melody quivered into
silence. It was Bertram who broke the pause
with a long-drawn:
``By George!'' Then, a little unsteadily:
``If it's I that set you going like that, old chap,
I'll come up and play ragtime every day!''
Cyril shrugged his shoulders and got to his
``If you've seen all you want of the rug we'll
go down-stairs,'' he said nonchalantly.
``But we haven't!'' chorussed several indignant
voices. And for the next few minutes not even
the owner of the beautiful Kirman could find
any fault with the quantity or the quality of the
attention bestowed on his new possession. But
Billy, under cover of the chatter, said reproachfully
in his ear:
``Oh, Cyril, to think you can play like that--
and won't--on demand!''
``I can't--on demand,'' shrugged Cyril again.
On the way down-stairs they stopped at
William's rooms.
``I want you to see a couple of Batterseas I
got last week,'' cried the collector eagerly, as he
led the way to the black velvet square. ``They're
fine--and I think she looks like you,'' he finished,
turning to Billy, and holding out one of the knobs,
on which was a beautifully executed miniature of
a young girl with dark, dreamy eyes.
``Oh, how pretty!'' exclaimed Marie, over
Billy's shoulder. ``But what are they?''
The collector turned, his face alight.
``Mirror knobs. I've got lots of them. Would
you like to see them--really? They're right here.''
The next minute Marie found herself looking
into a cabinet where lay a score or more of round
and oval discs of glass, porcelain, and metal,
framed in silver, gilt, and brass, and mounted on
long spikes.
``Oh, how pretty,'' cried Marie again; ``but
how--how queer! Tell me about them, please.''
William drew a long breath. His eyes glistened.
William loved to talk--when he had a curio
and a listener.
``I will. Our great-grandmothers used them,
you know, to support their mirrors, or to fasten
back their curtains,'' he explained ardently.
``Now here's another Battersea enamel, but it
isn't so good as my new ones--that face is almost
a caricature.''
``But what a beautiful ship--on that round
one!'' exclaimed Marie. ``And what's this one?
``Yes; but that's not so rare as the others.
Still, it's pretty enough. Did you notice this
one, with the bright red and blue and green on
the white background?--regular Chinese mode
of decoration, that is.''
``Er--any time, William,'' began Bertram,
mischievously; but William did not seem to
``Now in this corner,'' he went on, warming
to his subject, ``are the enamelled porcelains.
They were probably made at the Worcester works
--England, you know; and I think many of them
are quite as pretty as the Batterseas. You see
it was at Worcester that they invented that
variation of the transfer printing process that
they called bat printing, where they used oil
instead of ink, and gelatine instead of paper. Now
engravings for that kind of printing were usually
in stipple work--dots, you know--so the prints
on these knobs can easily be distinguished from
those of the transfer printing. See? Now, this
one is--''
``Er, of course, William, any time--''
interposed Bertram again, his eyes twinkling.
William stopped with a laugh.
``Yes, I know. 'Tis time I talked of something
else, Bertram,'' he conceded.
``But 'twas lovely, and I _was_ interested,
really,'' claimed Marie. ``Besides, there are such
a lot of things here that I'd like to see,'' she
finished, turning slowly about.
``These are what he was collecting last year,''
murmured Billy, hovering over a small cabinet
where were some beautiful specimens of antique
jewelry brooches, necklaces, armlets, Rajah
rings, and anklets, gorgeous in color and exquisite
in workmanship.
``Well, here is something you _will_ enjoy,''
declared Bertram, with an airy flourish. ``Do
you see those teapots? Well, we can have tea
every day in the year, and not use one of them
but five times. I've counted. There are exactly
seventy-three,'' he concluded, as he laughingly
led the way from the room.
``How about leap year?'' quizzed Billy.
``Ho! Trust Will to find another `Old Blue'
or a `perfect treasure of a black basalt' by that
time,'' shrugged Bertram.
Below William's rooms was the floor once
Bertram's, but afterwards given over to the use
of Billy and Aunt Hannah. The rooms were open
to-day, and were bright with sunshine and roses;
but they were very plainly unoccupied.
``And you don't use them yet?'' remonstrated
Billy, as she paused at an open door.
``No. These are Mrs. Bertram Henshaw's
rooms,'' said the youngest Henshaw brother in a
voice that made Billy hurry away with a dimpling
``They were Billy's--and they can never seem
any one's but Billy's, now,'' declared William to
Marie, as they went down the stairs.
``And now for the den and some good stories
before the fire,'' proposed Bertram, as the six
reached the first floor again.
``But we haven't seen your pictures, yet,''
objected Billy.
Bertram made a deprecatory gesture.
``There's nothing much--'' he began; but
he stopped at once, with an odd laugh. ``Well,
I sha'n't say _that_,'' he finished, flinging open the
door of his studio, and pressing a button that
flooded the room with light. The next moment,
as they stood before those plaques and panels
and canvases--on each of which was a pictured
``Billy''--they understood the change in his
sentence, and they laughed appreciatively.
`` `Much,' indeed!'' exclaimed William.
``Oh, how lovely!'' breathed Marie.
``My grief and conscience, Bertram! All these
--and of Billy? I knew you had a good many,
but--'' Aunt Hannah paused impotently, her
eyes going from Bertram's face to the pictures
``But how--when did you do them?'' queried
``Some of them from memory. More of them
from life. A lot of them were just sketches that
I did when she was here in the house four or five
years ago,'' answered Bertram; ``like this,
for instance.'' And he pulled into a better light
a picture of a laughing, dark-eyed girl holding
against her cheek a small gray kitten, with alert,
bright eyes. ``The original and only Spunk,''
he announced.
``What a dear little cat!'' cried Marie.
``You should have seen it--in the flesh,''
remarked Cyril, dryly. ``No paint nor painter
could imprison that untamed bit of Satanic mischief
on any canvas that ever grew!''
Everybody laughed--everybody but Billy.
Billy, indeed, of them all, had been strangely
silent ever since they entered the studio. She
stood now a little apart. Her eyes were wide, and
a bit frightened. Her fingers were twisting the
corners of her handkerchief nervously. She was
looking to the right and to the left, and everywhere
she saw--herself.
Sometimes it was her full face, sometimes her
profile; sometimes there were only her eyes
peeping from above a fan, or peering from out
brown shadows of nothingness. Once it was
merely the back of her head showing the mass of
waving hair with its high lights of burnished
bronze. Again it was still the back of her head
with below it the bare, slender neck and the scarfdraped
shoulders. In this picture the curve of a
half-turned cheek showed plainly, and in the
background was visible a hand holding four playing
cards, at which the pictured girl was evidently
looking. Sometimes it was a merry Billy with
dancing eyes; sometimes a demure Billy with long
lashes caressing a flushed cheek. Sometimes it
was a wistful Billy with eyes that looked straight
into yours with peculiar appeal. But always it
``There, I think the tilt of this chin is perfect.''
It was Bertram speaking.
Billy gave a sudden cry. Her face whitened.
She stumbled forward.
``No, no, Bertram, you--you didn't mean
the--the tilt of the chin,'' she faltered wildly.
The man turned in amazement.
``Why--Billy!'' he stammered. ``Billy,
what is it?''
The girl fell back at once. She tried to laugh
lightly. She had seen the dismayed questioning
in her lover's eyes, and in the eyes of William and
the others.
``N-nothing,'' she gesticulated hurriedly. ``It
was nothing at all, truly.''
``But, Billy, it _was_ something.'' Bertram's
eyes were still troubled. ``Was it the picture?
I thought you liked this picture.''
Billy laughed again--this time more naturally.
``Bertram, I'm ashamed of you--expecting
me to say I `like' any of this,'' she scolded, with
a wave of her hands toward the omnipresent
Billy. ``Why, I feel as if I were in a room with
a thousand mirrors, and that I'd been discovered
putting rouge on my cheeks and lampblack on
my eyebrows!''
William laughed fondly. Aunt Hannah and
Marie gave an indulgent smile. Cyril actually
chuckled. Bertram only still wore a puzzled
expression as he laid aside the canvas in his
Billy examined intently a sketch she had found
with its back to the wall. It was not a pretty
sketch; it was not even a finished one, and Billy
did not in the least care what it was. But her
lips cried interestedly:
``Oh, Bertram, what is this?''
There was no answer. Bertram was still
engaged, apparently, in putting away some sketches.
Over by the doorway leading to the den Marie
and Aunt Hannah, followed by William and Cyril,
were just disappearing behind a huge easel.
In another minute the merry chatter of their
voices came from the room beyond. Bertram
hurried then straight across the studio to the
girl still bending over the sketch in the corner.
``Bertram!'' gasped Billy, as a kiss brushed
her cheek.
``Pooh! They're gone. Besides, what if they
did see? Billy, what was the matter with the
tilt of that chin?''
Billy gave an hysterical little laugh--at least,
Bertram tried to assure himself that it was a
laugh, though it had sounded almost like a sob.
``Bertram, if you say another word about--
about the tilt of that chin, I shall _scream!_'' she
``Why, Billy!''
With a nervous little movement Billy turned
and began to reverse the canvases nearest her.
``Come, sir,'' she commanded gayly. ``Billy
has been on exhibition quite long enough. It is
high time she was turned face to the wall to
meditate, and grow more modest.''
Bertram did not answer. Neither did he make
a move to assist her. His ardent gray eyes were
following her slim, graceful figure admiringly.
``Billy, it doesn't seem true, yet, that you're
really mine,'' he said at last, in a low voice shaken
with emotion.
Billy turned abruptly. A peculiar radiance
shone in her eyes and glorified her face. As
she stood, she was close to a picture on an easel
and full in the soft glow of the shaded lights
above it.
``Then you _do_ want me,'' she began, ``--just
_me!_--not to--'' she stopped short. The man
opposite had taken an eager step toward her. On
his face was the look she knew so well, the look
she had come almost to dread--the ``painting
``Billy, stand just as you are,'' he was saying.
``Don't move. Jove! But that effect is perfect
with those dark shadows beyond, and just your
hair and face and throat showing. I declare,
I've half a mind to sketch--'' But Billy, with
a little cry, was gone.
The early days in December were busy ones,
certainly, in the little house on Corey Hill. Marie
was to be married the twelfth. It was to be a home
wedding, and a very simple one--according to
Billy, and according to what Marie had said it
was to be. Billy still serenely spoke of it as a
``simple affair,'' but Marie was beginning to be
fearful. As the days passed, bringing with them
more and more frequent evidences either tangible
or intangible of orders to stationers, caterers,
and florists, her fears found voice in a protest.
``But Billy, it was to be a _simple_ wedding,''
she cried.
``And so it is.''
``But what is this I hear about a breakfast?''
Billy's chin assumed its most stubborn squareness.
``I don't know, I'm sure, what you did hear,''
she retorted calmly.
Billy laughed. The chin was just as stubborn,
but the smiling lips above it graced it with an
air of charming concession.
``There, there, dear,'' coaxed the mistress of
Hillside, ``don't fret. Besides, I'm sure I should
think you, of all people, would want your guests
``But this is so elaborate, from what I hear.''
``Nonsense! Not a bit of it.''
``Rosa says there'll be salads and cakes and
ices--and I don't know what all.''
Billy looked concerned.
``Well, of course, Marie, if you'd _rather_ have
oatmeal and doughnuts,'' she began with kind
solicitude; but she got no farther.
``Billy!'' besought the bride elect. ``Won't
you be serious? And there's the cake in wedding
boxes, too.''
``I know, but boxes are so much easier and
cleaner than--just fingers,'' apologized an anxiously
serious voice.
Marie answered with an indignant, grieved
glance and hurried on.
``And the flowers--roses, dozens of them,
in December! Billy, I can't let you do all this
for me.''
``Nonsense, dear!'' laughed Billy. ``Why, I
love to do it. Besides, when you're gone, just
think how lonesome I'll be! I shall have to adopt
somebody else then--now that Mary Jane has
proved to be nothing but a disappointing man
instead of a nice little girl like you,'' she finished
Marie did not smile. The frown still lay
between her delicate brows.
``And for my trousseau--there were so many
things that you simply would buy!''
``I didn't get one of the egg-beaters,'' Billy
reminded her anxiously.
Marie smiled now, but she shook her head, too.
``Billy, I cannot have you do all this for me.''
``Why not?''
At the unexpectedly direct question, Marie
fell back a little.
``Why, because I--I can't,'' she stammered.
``I can't get them for myself, and--and--''
``Don't you love me?''
A pink flush stole to Marie's face.
``Indeed I do, dearly.''
``Don't I love you?''
The flush deepened.
``I--I hope so.''
``Then why won't you let me do what I want
to, and be happy in it? Money, just money,
isn't any good unless you can exchange it for
something you want. And just now I want pink roses
and ice cream and lace flounces for you. Marie,''
--Billy's voice trembled a little--``I never had a
sister till I had you, and I have had such a good
time buying things that I thought you wanted!
But, of course, if you don't want them--'' The
words ended in a choking sob, and down went
Billy's head into her folded arms on the desk
before her.
Marie sprang to her feet and cuddled the bowed
head in a loving embrace.
``But I do want them, dear; I want them all--
every single one,'' she urged. ``Now promise me
--promise me that you'll do them all, just as
you'd planned! You will, won't you?''
There was the briefest of hesitations, then came
the muffled reply:
``Yes--if you really want them.''
``I do, dear--indeed I do. I love pretty
weddings, and I--I always hoped that I could
have one--if I ever married. So you must
know, dear, how I really do want all those things,''
declared Marie, fervently. ``And now I must go.
I promised to meet Cyril at Park Street at three
o'clock.'' And she hurried from the room--and
not until she was half-way to her destination did
it suddenly occur to her that she had been urging,
actually urging Miss Billy Neilson to buy for
her pink roses, ice cream, and lace flounces.
Her cheeks burned with shame then. But
almost at once she smiled.
``Now wasn't that just like Billy?'' she was
saying to herself, with a tender glow in her eyes.
It was early in December that Pete came one
day with a package for Marie from Cyril. Marie
was not at home, and Billy herself went downstairs
to take the package from the old man's
``Mr. Cyril said to give it to Miss Hawthorn,''
stammered the old servant, his face lighting up
as Billy entered the room; ``but I'm sure he
wouldn't mind _your_ taking it.''
``I'm afraid I'll have to take it, Pete, unless
you want to carry it back with you,'' she smiled.
``I'll see that Miss Hawthorn has it the very first
moment she comes in.''
``Thank you, Miss. It does my old eyes good
to see your bright face.'' He hesitated, then
turned slowly. ``Good day, Miss Billy.''
Billy laid the package on the table. Her eyes
were thoughtful as she looked after the old man,
who was now almost to the door. Something
in his bowed form appealed to her strangely. She
took a quick step toward him.
``You'll miss Mr. Cyril, Pete,'' she said pleasantly.
The old man stopped at once and turned. He
lifted his head a little proudly.
``Yes, Miss. I--I was there when he was
born. Mr. Cyril's a fine man.''
``Indeed he is. Perhaps it's your good care
that's helped, some--to make him so,'' smiled
the girl, vaguely wishing that she could say
something that would drive the wistful look from the
dim old eyes before her.
For a moment Billy thought she had succeeded.
The old servant drew himself stiffly erect. In
his eyes shone the loyal pride of more than fifty
years' honest service. Almost at once, however,
the pride died away, and the wistfulness returned.
``Thank ye, Miss; but I don't lay no claim to
that, of course,'' he said. ``Mr. Cyril's a fine
man, and we shall miss him; but--I cal'late
changes must come--to all of us.''
Billy's brown eyes grew a little misty.
``I suppose they must,'' she admitted.
The old man hesitated; then, as if impelled
by some hidden force, he plunged on:
``Yes; and they'll be comin' to you one of
these days, Miss, and that's what I was wantin'
to speak to ye about. I understand, of course,
that when you get there you'll be wantin' younger
blood to serve ye. My feet ain't so spry as they
once was, and my old hands blunder sometimes,
in spite of what my head bids 'em do. So I wanted
to tell ye--that of course I shouldn't expect to
stay. I'd go.''
As he said the words, Pete stood with head and
shoulders erect, his eyes looking straight forward
but not at Billy.
``Don't you _want_ to stay?'' The girlish voice
was a little reproachful.
Pete's head drooped.
``Not if--I'm not wanted,'' came the husky
With an impulsive movement Billy came
straight to the old man's side and held out her
Amazement, incredulity, and a look that was
almost terror crossed the old man's face; then a
flood of dull red blotted them all out and left only
worshipful rapture. With a choking cry he took
the slim little hand in both his rough and twisted
ones much as if he were possessing himself of
a treasured bit of eggshell china.
``Miss Billy!''
``Pete, there aren't a pair of feet in Boston,
nor a pair of hands, either, that I'd rather have
serve me than yours, no matter if they stumble
and blunder all day! I shall love stumbles and
blunders--if you make them. Now run home,
and don't ever let me hear another syllable about
your leaving!''
They were not the words Billy had intended
to say. She had meant to speak of his long,
faithful service, and of how much they appreciated
it; but, to her surprise, Billy found her
own eyes wet and her own voice trembling, and
the words that she would have said she found
fast shut in her throat. So there was nothing
to do but to stammer out something--anything,
that would help to keep her from yielding to
that absurd and awful desire to fall on the old
servant's neck and cry.
``Not another syllable!'' she repeated sternly.
``Miss Billy!'' choked Pete again. Then he
turned and fled with anything but his usual
Bertram called that evening. When Billy
came to him in the living-room, her slender self
was almost hidden behind the swirls of damask
linen in her arms.
Bertram's eyes grew mutinous.
``Do you expect me to hug all that?'' he demanded.
Billy flashed him a mischievous glance.
``Of course not! You don't _have_ to hug
anything, you know.''
For answer he impetuously swept the offending
linen into the nearest chair and drew the girl
into his arms.
``Oh! And see how you've crushed poor Marie's
table-cloth!'' she cried, with reproachful eyes.
Bertram sniffed imperturbably.
``I'm not sure but I'd like to crush Marie,''
he alleged.
``I can't help it. See here, Billy.'' He loosened
his clasp and held the girl off at arm's length,
regarding her with stormy eyes. ``It's Marie,
Marie, Marie--always. If I telephone in the
morning, you've gone shopping with Marie.
If I want you in the afternoon for something,
you're at the dressmaker's with Marie. If I call
in the evening--''
``I'm here,'' interrupted Billy, with decision.
``Oh, yes, you're here,'' admitted Bertram,
aggrievedly, ``and so are dozens of napkins,
miles of table-cloths, and yards upon yards of
lace and flummydiddles you call `doilies.' They
all belong to Marie, and they fill your arms and
your thoughts full, until there isn't an inch of
room for me. Billy, when is this thing going to
Billy laughed softly. Her eyes danced.
``The twelfth;--that is, there'll be a--pause,
``Well, I'm thankful if--eh?'' broke off the
man, with a sudden change of manner. ``What
do you mean by `a pause'?''
Billy cast down her eyes demurely.
``Well, of course _this_ ends the twelfth with
Marie's wedding; but I've sort of regarded it as
an--understudy for one that's coming next
October, you see.''
``Billy, you darling!'' breathed a supremely
happy voice in a shell-like ear--Billy was not
at arm's length now.
Billy smiled, but she drew away with gentle
``And now I must go back to my sewing,''
she said.
Bertram's arms did not loosen. His eyes had
grown mutinous again.
``That is,'' she amended, ``I must be practising
my part of--the understudy, you know.''
``You darling!'' breathed Bertram again; this
time, however, he let her go.
``But, honestly, is it all necessary?'' he sighed
despairingly, as she seated herself and gathered
the table-cloth into her lap. ``Do you have to do
so much of it all?''
``I do,'' smiled Billy, ``unless you want your
brother to run the risk of leading his bride to
the altar and finding her robed in a kitchen
apron with an egg-beater in her hand for a
Bertram laughed.
``Is it so bad as that?''
``No, of course not--quite. But never have
I seen a bride so utterly oblivious to clothes as
Marie was till one day in despair I told her that
Cyril never could bear a dowdy woman.''
``As if Cyril, in the old days, ever could bear
any sort of woman!'' scoffed Bertram, merrily.
``I know; but I didn't mention that part,''
smiled Billy. ``I just singled out the dowdy
``Did it work?''
Billy made a gesture of despair.
``Did it work! It worked too well. Marie gave
me one horrified look, then at once and immediately
she became possessed with the idea that she
_was_ a dowdy woman. And from that day to
this she has pursued every lurking wrinkle and
every fold awry, until her dressmaker's life isn't
worth the living; and I'm beginning to think
mine isn't, either, for I have to assure her at
least four times every day now that she is _not_
a dowdy woman.''
``You poor dear,'' laughed Bertram. ``No
wonder you don't have time to give to me!''
A peculiar expression crossed Billy's face.
``Oh, but I'm not the _only_ one who, at times,
is otherwise engaged, sir,'' she reminded him.
``What do you mean?''
``There was yesterday, and last Monday, and
last week Wednesday, and--''
``Oh, but you _let_ me off, then,'' argued
Bertram, anxiously. ``And you said--''
``That I didn't wish to interfere with your
work--which was quite true,'' interrupted Billy
in her turn, smoothly. ``By the way,''--Billy
was examining her stitches very closely now
--``how is Miss Winthrop's portrait coming
``Splendidly!--that is, it _was_, until she began
to put off the sittings for her pink teas and
folderols. She's going to Washington next week, too,
to be gone nearly a fortnight,'' finished Bertram, gloomily.
``Aren't you putting more work than usual
into this one--and more sittings?''
``Well, yes,'' laughed Bertram, a little shortly.
``You see, she's changed the pose twice already.''
``Changed it!''
``Yes. Wasn't satisfied. Fancied she wanted
it different.''
``But can't you--don't you have something to
say about it?''
``Oh, yes, of course; and she claims she'll
yield to my judgment, anyhow. But what's the
use? She's been a spoiled darling all her life, and
in the habit of having her own way about everything.
Naturally, under those circumstances,
I can't expect to get a satisfactory portrait,
if she's out of tune with the pose. Besides, I will
own, so far her suggestions have made for
improvement--probably because she's been happy
in making them, so her expression has been good.''
Billy wet her lips.
``I saw her the other night,'' she said lightly.
(If the lightness was a little artificial Bertram did
not seem to notice it.) ``She is certainly--very
``Yes.'' Bertram got to his feet and began to
walk up and down the little room. His eyes were
alight. On his face the ``painting look'' was king.
``It's going to mean a lot to me--this picture,
Billy. In the first place I'm just at the point in
my career where a big success would mean a lot
--and where a big failure would mean more.
And this portrait is bound to be one or the other
from the very nature of the thing.''
``I-is it?'' Billy's voice was a little faint.
``Yes. First, because of who the sitter is, and
secondly because of what she is. She is, of course,
the most famous subject I've had, and half the
artistic world knows by this time that Marguerite
Winthrop is being done by Henshaw. You can
see what it'll be--if I fail.''
``But you won't fail, Bertram!''
The artist lifted his chin and threw back his
``No, of course not; but--'' He hesitated,
frowned, and dropped himself into a chair. His
eyes studied the fire moodily. ``You see,'' he
resumed, after a moment, ``there's a peculiar,
elusive something about her expression--''
(Billy stirred restlessly and gave her thread so
savage a jerk that it broke)``--a something
that isn't easily caught by the brush. Anderson
and Fullam--big fellows, both of them--didn't
catch it. At least, I've understood that neither
her family nor her friends are satisfied with _their_
portraits. And to succeed where Anderson and
Fullam failed--Jove! Billy, a chance like that
doesn't come to a fellow twice in a lifetime!''
Bertram was out of his chair, again, tramping
up and down the little room.
Billy tossed her work aside and sprang to her
feet. Her eyes, too, were alight, now.
``But you aren't going to fail, dear,'' she cried,
holding out both her hands. ``You're going to
Bertram caught the hands and kissed first one
then the other of their soft little palms.
``Of course I am,'' he agreed passionately,
leading her to the sofa, and seating himself at her
``Yes, but you must really _feel_ it,'' she urged;
``feel the `_sure_' in yourself. You have to!--to
doing things. That's what I told Mary Jane yesterday,
when he was running on about what _he_
wanted to do--in his singing, you know.''
Bertram stiffened a little. A quick frown came
to his face.
``Mary Jane, indeed! Of all the absurd names
to give a full-grown, six-foot man! Billy, do, for
pity's sake, call him by his name--if he's got
Billy broke into a rippling laugh.
``I wish I could, dear,'' she sighed ingenuously.
``Honestly, it bothers me because I _can't_ think
of him as anything but `Mary Jane.' It seems
so silly!''
``It certainly does--when one remembers
his beard.''
``Oh, he's shaved that off now. He looks
rather better, too.''
Bertram turned a little sharply.
``Do you see the fellow--often?''
Billy laughed merrily.
``No. He's about as disgruntled as you are
over the way the wedding monopolizes everything.
He's been up once or twice to see Aunt Hannah
and to get acquainted, as he expresses it, and once
he brought up some music and we sang; but he
declares the wedding hasn't given him half a show.''
``Indeed! Well, that's a pity, I'm sure,''
rejoined Bertram, icily.
Billy turned in slight surprise.
``Why, Bertram, don't you like Mary Jane?''
``Billy, for heaven's sake! _Hasn't_ he got any
name but that?''
Billy clapped her hands together suddenly.
``There, that makes me think. He told Aunt
Hannah and me to guess what his name was, and
we never hit it once. What do you think it is?
The initials are M. J.''
``I couldn't say, I'm sure. What is it?''
``Oh, he didn't tell us. You see he left us to
guess it.''
``Did he?''
``Yes,'' mused Billy, abstractedly, her eyes on
the dancing fire. The next minute she stirred and
settled herself more comfortably in the curve
of her lover's arm. ``But there! who cares
what his name is? I'm sure I don't.''
``Nor I,'' echoed Bertram in a voice that he
tried to make not too fervent. He had not
forgotten Billy's surprised: ``Why, Bertram, don't
you like Mary Jane?'' and he did not like to call
forth a repetition of it. Abruptly, therefore, he
changed the subject. ``By the way, what did
you do to Pete to-day?'' he asked laughingly.
``He came home in a seventh heaven of happiness
babbling of what an angel straight from the sky
Miss Billy was. Naturally I agreed with him
on that point. But what did you do to him?''
Billy smiled.
``Nothing--only engaged him for our butler
--for life.''
``Oh, I see. That was dear of you, Billy.''
``As if I'd do anything else! And now for
Dong Ling, I suppose, some day.''
Bertram chuckled.
``Well, maybe I can help you there,'' he hinted.
``You see, his Celestial Majesty came to me
himself the other day, and said, after sundry and
various preliminaries, that he should be `velly
much glad' when the `Little Missee' came to
live with me, for then he could go back to China
with a heart at rest, as he had money `velly
much plenty' and didn't wish to be `Melican
man' any longer.''
``Dear me,'' smiled Billy, ``what a happy
state of affairs--for him. But for you--do you
realize, young man, what that means for you?
A new wife and a new cook all at once? And you
know I'm not Marie!''
``Ho! I'm not worrying,'' retorted Bertram
with a contented smile; ``besides, as perhaps
you noticed, it wasn't Marie that I asked--to
marry me!''
Mrs. Kate Hartwell, the Henshaw brothers'
sister from the West, was expected on the tenth.
Her husband could not come, she had written,
but she would bring with her, little Kate, the
youngest child. The boys, Paul and Egbert,
would stay with their father.
Billy received the news of little Kate's coming
with outspoken delight.
``The very thing!'' she cried. ``We'll have
her for a flower girl. She was a dear little creature,
as I remember her.''
Aunt Hannah gave a sudden low laugh.
``Yes, I remember,'' she observed. ``Kate
told me, after you spent the first day with her,
that you graciously informed her that little Kate
was almost as nice as Spunk. Kate did not fully
appreciate the compliment, I fear.''
Billy made a wry face.
``Did I say that? Dear me! I _was_ a terror
in those days, wasn't I? But then,'' and she
laughed softly, ``really, Aunt Hannah, that was
the prettiest thing I knew how to say, for I
considered Spunk the top-notch of desirability.''
``I think I should have liked to know Spunk,''
smiled Marie from the other side of the sewing
``He was a dear,'' declared Billy. ``I had
another 'most as good when I first came to Hillside,
but he got lost. For a time it seemed as if I never
wanted another, but I've about come to the conclusion
now that I do, and I've told Bertram to find
one for me if he can. You see I shall be lonesome
after you're gone, Marie, and I'll have to have
_something_,'' she finished mischievously.
``Oh, I don't mind the inference--as long as
I know your admiration of cats,'' laughed Marie.
``Let me see; Kate writes she is coming the
tenth,'' murmured Aunt Hannah, going back
to the letter in her hand.
``Good!'' nodded Billy. ``That will give time
to put little Kate through her paces as flower
``Yes, and it will give Big Kate time to _try_ to
make your breakfast a supper, and your roses
pinks--or sunflowers,'' cut in a new voice, dryly.
``Cyril!'' chorussed the three ladies in horror,
adoration, and amusement--according to whether
the voice belonged to Aunt Hannah, Marie, or
Cyril shrugged his shoulders and smiled.
``I beg your pardon,'' he apologized; ``but
Rosa said you were in here sewing, and I told
her not to bother. I'd announce myself. Just
as I got to the door I chanced to hear Billy's
speech, and I couldn't resist making the amendment.
Maybe you've forgotten Kate's love of
managing--but I haven't,'' he finished, as he
sauntered over to the chair nearest Marie.
``No, I haven't--forgotten,'' observed Billy,
``Nor I--nor anybody else,'' declared a
severe voice--both the words and the severity
being most extraordinary as coming from the
usually gentle Aunt Hannah.
``Oh, well, never mind,'' spoke up Billy, quickly.
``Everything's all right now, so let's forget it.
She always meant it for kindness, I'm sure.''
``Even when she told you in the first place
what a--er--torment you were to us?'' quizzed
``Yes,'' flashed Billy. ``She was being kind to
_you_, then.''
``Humph!'' vouchsafed Cyril.
For a moment no one spoke. Cyril's eyes were
on Marie, who was nervously trying to smooth
back a few fluffy wisps of hair that had escaped
from restraining combs and pins.
``What's the matter with the hair, little girl?''
asked Cyril in a voice that was caressingly irritable.
``You've been fussing with that longsuffering
curl for the last five minutes!''
Marie's delicate face flushed painfully.
``It's got loose--my hair,'' she stammered,
``and it looks so dowdy that way!''
Billy dropped her thread suddenly. She sprang
for it at once, before Cyril could make a move to
get it. She had to dive far under a chair to capture
it--which may explain why her face was so
very red when she finally reached her seat again.
On the morning of the tenth, Billy, Marie, and
Aunt Hannah were once more sewing together,
this time in the little sitting-room at the end of
the hall up-stairs.
Billy's fingers, in particular, were flying very
``I told John to have Peggy at the door at
eleven,'' she said, after a time; ``but I think I
can finish running in this ribbon before then. I
haven't much to do to get ready to go.''
``I hope Kate's train won't be late,'' worried
Aunt Hannah.
``I hope not,'' replied Billy; ``but I told Rosa
to delay luncheon, anyway, till we get here. I--''
She stopped abruptly and turned a listening ear
toward the door of Aunt Hannah's room, which
was open. A clock was striking. ``Mercy!
that can't be eleven now,'' she cried. ``But it
must be--it was ten before I came up-stairs.''
She got to her feet hurriedly.
Aunt Hannah put out a restraining hand.
``No, no, dear, that's half-past ten.''
``But it struck eleven.''
``Yes, I know. It does--at half-past ten.''
``Why, the little wretch,'' laughed Billy,
dropping back into her chair and picking up her work
again. ``The idea of its telling fibs like that and
frightening people half out of their lives! I'll
have it fixed right away. Maybe John can do it
--he's always so handy about such things.''
``But I don't want it fixed,'' demurred Aunt
Billy stared a little.
``You don't want it fixed! Maybe you like
to have it strike eleven when it's half-past ten!''
Billy's voice was merrily sarcastic.
``Y-yes, I do,'' stammered the lady,
apologetically. ``You see, I--I worked very hard to
fix it so it would strike that way.''
``_Aunt Hannah!_''
``Well, I did,'' retorted the lady, with
unexpected spirit. ``I wanted to know what time it
was in the night--I'm awake such a lot.''
``But I don't see.'' Billy's eyes were perplexed.
``Why must you make it tell fibs in order to--to
find out the truth?'' she laughed.
Aunt Hannah elevated her chin a little.
``Because that clock was always striking one.''
``Yes--half-past, you know; and I never
knew which half-past it was.''
``But it must strike half-past now, just the
``It does.'' There was the triumphant ring of
the conqueror in Aunt Hannah's voice. ``But
now it strikes half-past _on the hour_, and the clock
in the hall tells me _then_ what time it is, so I don't
For one more brief minute Billy stared, before
a sudden light of understanding illumined her
face. Then her laugh rang out gleefully.
``Oh, Aunt Hannah, Aunt Hannah,'' she
gurgled. ``If Bertram wouldn't call you the limit
--making a clock strike eleven so you'll know it's
half-past ten!''
Aunt Hannah colored a little, but she stood
her ground.
``Well, there's only half an hour, anyway, now,
that I don't know what time it is,'' she maintained,
``for one or the other of those clocks strikes the
hour every thirty minutes. Even during those
never-ending three ones that strike one after
the other in the middle of the night, I can tell
now, for the hall clock has a different sound for
the half-hours, you know, so I can tell whether
it's one or a half-past.''
``Of course,'' chuckled Billy.
``I'm sure I think it's a splendid idea,'' chimed
in Marie, valiantly; ``and I'm going to write it
to mother's Cousin Jane right away. She's an
invalid, and she's always lying awake nights
wondering what time it is. The doctor says
actually he believes she'd get well if he could find
some way of letting her know the time at night,
so she'd get some sleep; for she simply can't
go to sleep till she knows. She can't bear a light
in the room, and it wakes her all up to turn an
electric switch, or anything of that kind.''
``Why doesn't she have one of those phosphorous
things?'' questioned Billy.
Marie laughed quietly.
``She did. I sent her one,--and she stood it
just one night.''
``Stood it!''
``Yes. She declared it gave her the creeps,
and that she wouldn't have the spooky thing
staring at her all night like that. So it's got to
be something she can hear, and I'm going to
tell her Mrs. Stetson's plan right away.''
``Well, I'm sure I wish you would,'' cried that
lady, with prompt interest; ``and she'll like it,
I'm sure. And tell her if she can hear a _town_
clock strike, it's just the same, and even better;
for there aren't any half-hours at all to think of
``I will--and I think it's lovely,'' declared
``Of course it's lovely,'' smiled Billy, rising;
``but I fancy I'd better go and get ready to meet
Mrs. Hartwell, or the `lovely' thing will be telling
me that it's half-past eleven!'' And she
tripped laughingly from the room.
Promptly at the appointed time John with
Peggy drew up before the door, and Billy, muffled
in furs, stepped into the car, which, with its
protecting top and sides and glass wind-shield, was
in its winter dress.
``Yes'm, 'tis a little chilly, Miss,'' said John,
in answer to her greeting, as he tucked the heavy
robes about her.
``Oh, well, I shall be very comfortable, I'm
sure,'' smiled Billy. ``Just don't drive too rapidly,
specially coming home. I shall have to get a
limousine, I think, when my ship comes in, John.''
John's grizzled old face twitched. So evident
were the words that were not spoken that Billy
asked laughingly:
``Well, John, what is it?''
John reddened furiously.
``Nothing, Miss. I was only thinkin' that if
you didn't 'tend ter haulin' in so many other
folks's ships, yours might get in sooner.''
``Why, John! Nonsense! I--I love to haul
in other folks's ships,'' laughed the girl, embarrassedly.
``Yes, Miss; I know you do,'' grunted John.
Billy colored.
``No, no--that is, I mean--I don't do it--
very much,'' she stammered.
John did not answer apparently; but Billy
was sure she caught a low-muttered, indignant
``much!'' as he snapped the door shut and took
his place at the wheel.
To herself she laughed softly. She thought she
possessed the secret now of some of John's
disapproving glances toward her humble guests of
the summer before.
At the station Mrs. Hartwell's train was found
to be gratifyingly on time; and in due course
Billy was extending a cordial welcome to a tall,
handsome woman who carried herself with an
unmistakable air of assured competence. Accompanying
her was a little girl with big blue eyes
and yellow curls.
``I am very glad to see you both,'' smiled Billy,
holding out a friendly hand to Mrs. Hartwell,
and stooping to kiss the round cheek of the little
``Thank you, you are very kind,'' murmured
the lady; ``but--are you alone, Billy? Where
are the boys?''
``Uncle William is out of town, and Cyril is
rushed to death and sent his excuses. Bertram
did mean to come, but he telephoned this morning
that he couldn't, after all. I'm sorry, but I'm
afraid you'll have to make the best of just me,''
condoled Billy. ``They'll be out to the house this
evening, of course--all but Uncle William. He
doesn't return until to-morrow.''
``Oh, doesn't he?'' murmured the lady, reaching
for her daughter's hand.
Billy looked down with a smile.
``And this is little Kate, I suppose,'' she said,
``whom I haven't seen for such a long, long time.
Let me see, you are how old now?''
``I'm eight. I've been eight six weeks.''
Billy's eyes twinkled.
``And you don't remember me, I suppose.''
The little girl shook her head.
``No; but I know who you are,'' she added,
with shy eagerness. ``You're going to be my
Aunt Billy, and you're going to marry my Uncle
William--I mean, my Uncle Bertram.''
Billy's face changed color. Mrs. Hartwell
gave a despairing gesture.
``Kate, my dear, I told you to be sure and
remember that it was your Uncle Bertram now.
You see,'' she added in a discouraged aside to
Billy, ``she can't seem to forget the first one.
But then, what can you expect?'' laughed Mrs.
Hartwell, a little disagreeably. ``Such abrupt
changes from one brother to another are somewhat
disconcerting, you know.''
Billy bit her lip. For a moment she said nothing,
then, a little constrainedly, she rejoined:
``Perhaps. Still--let us hope we have the
right one, now.''
Mrs. Hartwell raised her eyebrows.
``Well, my dear, I'm not so confident of that.
_My_ choice has been and always will be--William.''
Billy bit her lip again. This time her brown
eyes flashed a little.
``Is that so? But you see, after all, _you_ aren't
making the--the choice.'' Billy spoke lightly,
gayly; and she ended with a bright little laugh, as
if to hide any intended impertinence.
It was Mrs. Hartwell's turn to bite her lip--
and she did it.
``So it seems,'' she rejoined frigidly, after the
briefest of pauses.
It was not until they were on their way to
Corey Hill some time later that Mrs. Hartwell
turned with the question:
``Cyril is to be married in church, I suppose?''
``No. They both preferred a home wedding.''
``Oh, what a pity! Church weddings are so
``To those who like them,'' amended Billy in
spite of herself.
``To every one, I think,'' corrected Mrs.
Hartwell, positively.
Billy laughed. She was beginning to discern
that it did not do much harm--nor much good
--to disagree with her guest.
``It's in the evening, then, of course?''
pursued Mrs. Hartwell.
``No; at noon.''
``Oh, how could you let them?''
``But they preferred it, Mrs. Hartwell.''
``What if they did?'' retorted the lady, sharply.
``Can't you do as you please in your own home?
Evening weddings are so much prettier! We
can't change now, of course, with the guests all
invited. That is, I suppose you do have guests!''
Mrs. Hartwell's voice was aggrievedly despairing.
``Oh, yes,'' smiled Billy, demurely. ``We have
guests invited--and I'm afraid we can't change
the time.''
``No, of course not; but it's too bad. I
conclude there are announcements only, as I got no
``Announcements only,'' bowed Billy.
``I wish Cyril had consulted _me_, a little, about
this affair.''
Billy did not answer. She could not trust herself
to speak just then. Cyril's words of two
days before were in her ears: ``Yes, and it will
give Big Kate time to try to make your breakfast
supper, and your roses pinks--or sunflowers.''
In a moment Mrs. Hartwell spoke again.
``Of course a noon wedding is quite pretty
if you darken the rooms and have lights--you're
going to do that, I suppose?''
Billy shook her head slowly.
``I'm afraid not, Mrs. Hartwell. That isn't
the plan, now.''
``Not darken the rooms!'' exclaimed Mrs.
Hartwell. ``Why, it won't--'' She stopped
suddenly, and fell back in her seat. The look of
annoyed disappointment gave way to one of
confident relief. ``But then, _that can_ be changed,''
she finished serenely.
Billy opened her lips, but she shut them without
speaking. After a minute she opened them again.
``You might consult--Cyril--about that,''
she said in a quiet voice.
``Yes, I will,'' nodded Mrs. Hartwell, brightly.
She was looking pleased and happy again. ``I
love weddings. Don't you? You can _do_ so much
with them!''
``Can you?'' laughed Billy, irrepressibly.
``Yes. Cyril is happy, of course. Still, I
can't imagine _him_ in love with any woman.''
``I think Marie can.''
``I suppose so. I don't seem to remember her
much; still, I think I saw her once or twice when
I was on last June. Music teacher, wasn't she?''
``Yes. She is a very sweet girl.''
``Hm-m; I suppose so. Still, I think 'twould
have been better if Cyril could have selected some
one that _wasn't_ musical--say a more domestic
wife. He's so terribly unpractical himself about
household matters.''
Billy gave a ringing laugh and stood up. The
car had come to a stop before her own door.
``Do you? Just you wait till you see Marie's
trousseau of--egg-beaters and cake tins,'' she
Mrs. Hartwell looked blank.
``Whatever in the world do you mean, Billy?''
she demanded fretfully, as she followed her hostess
from the car. ``I declare! aren't you ever going
to grow beyond making those absurd remarks
of yours?''
``Maybe--sometime,'' laughed Billy, as she
took little Kate's hand and led the way up the
Luncheon in the cozy dining-room at Hillside
that day was not entirely a success. At least
there were not present exactly the harmony and
tranquillity that are conceded to be the best
sauce for one's food. The wedding, of course,
was the all-absorbing topic of conversation; and
Billy, between Aunt Hannah's attempts to be
polite, Marie's to be sweet-tempered, Mrs. Hartwell's
to be dictatorial, and her own to be pacifying
as well as firm, had a hard time of it. If it had
not been for two or three diversions created by
little Kate, the meal would have been, indeed, a
dismal failure.
But little Kate--most of the time the
personification of proper little-girlhood--had a
disconcerting faculty of occasionally dropping a
word here, or a question there, with startling
effect. As, for instance, when she asked Billy
``Who's going to boss your wedding?'' and again
when she calmly informed her mother that when _she_
was married she was not going to have any wedding
at all to bother with, anyhow. She was going to
elope, and she should choose somebody's chauffeur,
because he'd know how to go the farthest and fastest
so her mother couldn't catch up with her and
tell her how she ought to have done it.
After luncheon Aunt Hannah went up-stairs
for rest and recuperation. Marie took little Kate
and went for a brisk walk--for the same
purpose. This left Billy alone with her guest.
``Perhaps you would like a nap, too, Mrs.
Hartwell,'' suggested Billy, as they passed into
the living-room. There was a curious note of almost
hopefulness in her voice.
Mrs. Hartwell scorned naps, and she said so
very emphatically. She said something else, too.
``Billy, why do you always call me `Mrs. Hartwell'
in that stiff, formal fashion? You used to
call me `Aunt Kate.' ''
``But I was very young then.'' Billy's voice
was troubled. Billy had been trying so hard for
the last two hours to be the graciously cordial
hostess to this woman--Bertram's sister.
``Very true. Then why not `Kate' now?''
Billy hesitated. She was wondering why it
seemed so hard to call Mrs. Hartwell ``Kate.''
``Of course,'' resumed the lady, ``when you're
Bertram's wife and my sister--''
``Why, of course,'' cried Billy, in a sudden
flood of understanding. Curiously enough, she
had never before thought of Mrs. Hartwell as _her_
sister. ``I shall be glad to call you `Kate'--if
you like.''
``Thank you. I shall like it very much, Billy,''
nodded the other cordially. ``Indeed, my dear,
I'm very fond of you, and I was delighted to hear
you were to be my sister. If only--it could have
stayed William instead of Bertram.''
``But it couldn't,'' smiled Billy. ``It wasn't
William--that I loved.''
``But _Bertram!_--it's so absurd.''
``Absurd!'' The smile was gone now.
``Yes. Forgive me, Billy, but I was about as
much surprised to hear of Bertram's engagement
as I was of Cyril's.''
Billy grew a little white.
``But Bertram was never an avowed--womanhater,
like Cyril, was he?''
`` `Woman-hater'--dear me, no! He was
a woman-lover, always. As if his eternal `Face
of a Girl' didn't prove that! Bertram has always
loved women--to paint. But as for his ever
taking them seriously--why, Billy, what's the
Billy had risen suddenly.
``If you'll excuse me, please, just a few
minutes,'' Billy said very quietly. ``I want to
speak to Rosa in the kitchen. I'll be back--soon.''
In the kitchen Billy spoke to Rosa--she
wondered afterwards what she said. Certainly she did
not stay in the kitchen long enough to say much.
In her own room a minute later, with the door
fast closed, she took from her table the photograph
of Bertram and held it in her two hands,
talking to it softly, but a little wildly.
``I didn't listen! I didn't stay! Do you hear?
I came to you. She shall not say anything that
will make trouble between you and me. I've
suffered enough through her already! And she
doesn't _know_--she didn't know before, and she
doesn't now. She's only imagining. I will not
not--_not_ believe that you love me--just to
paint. No matter what they say--all of them!
I _will not!_''
Billy put the photograph back on the table
then, and went down-stairs to her guest. She
smiled brightly, though her face was a little pale.
``I wondered if perhaps you wouldn't like some
music,'' she said pleasantly, going straight to
the piano.
``Indeed I would!'' agreed Mrs. Hartwell.
Billy sat down then and played--played as
Mrs. Hartwell had never heard her play before.
``Why, Billy, you amaze me,'' she cried, when
the pianist stopped and whirled about. ``I had
no idea you could play like that!''
Billy smiled enigmatically. Billy was thinking
that Mrs. Hartwell would, indeed, have been
surprised if she had known that in that playing
were herself, the ride home, the luncheon, Bertram,
and the girl--whom Bertram _did not love only
to paint!_
The twelfth was a beautiful day. Clear, frosty
air set the blood to tingling and the eyes to sparkling,
even if it were not your wedding day; while
if it were--
It _was_ Marie Hawthorn's wedding day, and
certainly her eyes sparkled and her blood tingled
as she threw open the window of her room and
breathed long and deep of the fresh morning air
before going down to breakfast.
``They say `Happy is the bride that the sun
shines on,' '' she whispered softly to an English
sparrow that cocked his eye at her from a
neighboring tree branch. ``As if a bride wouldn't
be happy, sun or no sun,'' she scoffed tenderly,
as she turned to go down-stairs.
As it happens, however, tingling blood and
sparkling eyes are a matter of more than weather,
or even weddings, as was proved a little later
when the telephone bell rang.
Kate answered the ring.
``Hullo, is that you, Kate?'' called a despairing
``Yes. Good morning, Bertram. Isn't this
a fine day for the wedding?''
``Fine! Oh, yes, I suppose so, though I must
confess I haven't noticed it--and you wouldn't,
if you had a lunatic on your hands.''
``A lunatic!''
``Yes. Maybe you have, though. Is Marie
rampaging around the house like a wild creature,
and asking ten questions and making twenty
threats to the minute?''
``Certainly not! Don't be absurd, Bertram.
What do you mean?''
``See here, Kate, that show comes off at twelve
sharp, doesn't it?''
``Show, indeed!'' retorted Kate, indignantly.
``The _wedding_ is at noon sharp--as the best man
should know very well.''
``All right; then tell Billy, please, to see that it
is sharp, or I won't answer for the consequences.''
``What do you mean? What is the matter?''
``Cyril. He's broken loose at last. I've been
expecting it all along. I've simply marvelled at
the meekness with which he has submitted himself
to be tied up with white ribbons and topped
with roses.''
``Nonsense, Bertram!''
``Well, it amounts to that. Anyhow, he thinks
it does, and he's wild. I wish you could have
heard the thunderous performance on his piano
with which he woke me up this morning. Billy
says he plays everything--his past, present,
and future. All is, if he was playing his future
this morning, I pity the girl who's got to live it
with him.''
Bertram chuckled remorselessly.
``Well, I do. But I'll warrant he wasn't
playing his future this morning. He was playing his
present--the wedding. You see, he's just waked
up to the fact that it'll be a perfect orgy of women
and other confusion, and he doesn't like it. All
the samee,{sic} I've had to assure him just fourteen
times this morning that the ring, the license, the
carriage, the minister's fee, and my sanity are
all O. K. When he isn't asking questions he's
making threats to snake the parson up there an
hour ahead of time and be off with Marie before a
soul comes.''
``What an absurd idea!''
``Cyril doesn't think so. Indeed, Kate, I've
had a hard struggle to convince him that the
guests wouldn't think it the most delightful
experience of their lives if they should come and
find the ceremony over with and the bride gone.''
``Well, you remind Cyril, please, that there
are other people besides himself concerned in
this wedding,'' observed Kate, icily.
``I have,'' purred Bertram, ``and he says all
right, let them have it, then. He's gone now to
look up proxy marriages, I believe.''
``Proxy marriages, indeed! Come, come, Bertram,
I've got something to do this morning
besides to stand here listening to your nonsense.
See that you and Cyril get here on time--that's
all!'' And she hung up the receiver with an
impatient jerk.
She turned to confront the startled eyes of the
bride elect.
``What is it? Is anything wrong--with
Cyril?'' faltered Marie.
Kate laughed and raised her eyebrows slightly.
``Nothing but a little stage fright, my dear.''
``Stage fright!''
``Yes. Bertram says he's trying to find some
one to play his rle, I believe, in the ceremony.''
``_Mrs. Hartwell!_''
At the look of dismayed terror that came into
Marie's face, Mrs. Hartwell laughed reassuringly.
``There, there, dear child, don't look so horrorstricken.
There probably never was a man yet
who wouldn't have fled from the wedding part
of his marriage if he could; and you know how
Cyril hates fuss and feathers. The wonder to me
is that he's stood it as long as he has. I thought I
saw it coming, last night at the rehearsal--and
now I know I did.''
Marie still looked distressed.
``But he never said--I thought--'' She
stopped helplessly.
``Of course he didn't, child. He never said
anything but that he loved you, and he never
thought anything but that you were going to be
his. Men never do--till the wedding day. Then
they never think of anything but a place to run,''
she finished laughingly, as she began to arrange
on a stand the quantity of little white boxes
waiting for her.
``But if he'd told me--in time, I wouldn't have
had a thing--but the minister,'' faltered Marie.
``And when you think so much of a pretty
wedding, too? Nonsense! It isn't good for a
man, to give up to his whims like that!''
Marie's cheeks grew a deeper pink. Her
nostrils dilated a little.
``It wouldn't be a `whim,' Mrs. Hartwell, and
I should be _glad_ to give up,'' she said with decision.
Mrs. Hartwell laughed again, her amused eyes
on Marie's face.
``Dear me, child! don't you know that if men
had their way, they'd--well, if men married
men there'd never be such a thing in the world
as a shower bouquet or a piece of wedding cake!''
There was no reply. A little precipitately
Marie turned and hurried away. A moment
later she was laying a restraining hand on Billy,
who was filling tall vases with superb long-stemmed
roses in the kitchen.
``Billy, please,'' she panted, ``couldn't we
do without those? Couldn't we send them to
some--some hospital?--and the wedding cake,
too, and--''
``The wedding cake--to some _hospital!_''
``No, of course not--to the hospital. It
would make them sick to eat it, wouldn't it?''
That there was no shadow of a smile on Marie's
face showed how desperate, indeed, was her state
of mind. ``I only meant that I didn't want them
myself, nor the shower bouquet, nor the rooms
darkened, nor little Kate as the flower girl--and
would you mind very much if I asked you not
to be my maid of honor?''
Marie covered her face with her hands then and
began to sob brokenly; so there was nothing for
Billy to do but to take her into her arms with
soothing little murmurs and pettings. By degrees,
then, the whole story came out.
Billy almost laughed--but she almost cried,
too. Then she said:
``Dearie, I don't believe Cyril feels or acts
half so bad as Bertram and Kate make out, and,
anyhow, if he did, it's too late now to--to send
the wedding cake to the hospital, or make any
other of the little changes you suggest.'' Billy's
lips puckered into a half-smile, but her eyes were
grave. ``Besides, there are your music pupils
trimming the living-room this minute with evergreen,
there's little Kate making her flower-girl
wreath, and Mrs. Hartwell stacking cake boxes
in the hall, to say nothing of Rosa gloating over
the best china in the dining-room, and Aunt
Hannah putting purple bows into the new lace
cap she's counting on wearing. Only think how
disappointed they'd all be if I should say: `Never
mind--stop that. Marie's just going to have a
minister. No fuss, no feathers!' Why, dearie,
even the roses are hanging their heads for grief,''
she went on mistily, lifting with gentle fingers
one of the full-petalled pink beauties near her.
``Besides, there's your--guests.''
``Oh, of course, I knew I couldn't--really,''
sighed Marie, as she turned to go up-stairs, all
the light and joy gone from her face.
Billy, once assured that Marie was out of
hearing, ran to the telephone.
Bertram answered.
``Bertram, tell Cyril I want to speak to him,
``All right, dear, but go easy. Better strike
up your tuning fork to find his pitch to-day.
You'll discover it's a high one, all right.''
A moment later Cyril's tersely nervous ``Good
morning, Billy,'' came across the line.
Billy drew in her breath and cast a hurriedly
apprehensive glance over her shoulder to make
sure Marie was not near.
``Cyril,'' she called in a low voice, ``if you care
a shred for Marie, for heaven's sake call her up
and tell her that you dote on pink roses, and pink
ribbons, and pink breakfasts--and pink wedding
``But I don't.''
``Oh, yes, you do--to-day! You would--if
you could see Marie now.''
``What do you mean?''
``Nothing, only she overheard part of Bertram's
nonsensical talk with Kate a little while ago, and
she's ready to cast the last ravelling of white satin
and conventionality behind her, and go with you
to the justice of the peace.''
``Sensible girl!''
``Yes, but she can't, you know, with fifty
guests coming to the wedding, and twice as many
more to the reception. Honestly, Cyril, she's
broken-hearted. You must do something. She's
--coming!'' And the receiver clicked sharply
into place.
Five minutes later Marie was called to the
telephone. Dejectedly, wistful-eyed, she went.
Just what were the words that hummed across the
wire into the pink little ear of the bride-to-be,
Billy never knew; but a Marie that was anything
but wistful-eyed and dejected left the telephone
a little later, and was heard very soon in the room
above trilling merry snatches of a little song.
Contentedly, then, Billy went back to her roses.
It was a pretty wedding, a very pretty wedding.
Every one said that. The pink and green of the
decorations, the soft lights (Kate had had her
way about darkening the rooms), the pretty frocks
and smiling faces of the guests all helped. Then
there were the dainty flower girl, little Kate, the
charming maid of honor, Billy, the stalwart,
handsome best man, Bertram, to say nothing of
the delicately beautiful bride, who looked like
some fairy visitor from another world in the floating
shimmer of her gossamer silk and tulle. There
was, too, not quite unnoticed, the bridegroom;
tall, of distinguished bearing, and with features
that were clear cut and-to-day-rather pale.
Then came the reception--the ``women and
confusion ``of Cyril's fears--followed by the
going away of the bride and groom with its merry
warfare of confetti and old shoes.
At four o'clock, however, with only William
and Bertram remaining for guests, something like
quiet descended at last on the little house.
``Well, it's over,'' sighed Billy, dropping
exhaustedly into a big chair in the living-room.
``And _well_ over,'' supplemented Aunt Hannah,
covering her white shawl with a warmer blue one.
``Yes, I think it was,'' nodded Kate. ``It
was really a very pretty wedding.''
``With your help, Kate--eh?'' teased William.
``Well, I flatter myself I did do some good,''
bridled Kate, as she turned to help little Kate
take the flower wreath from her head.
``Even if you did hurry into my room and scare
me into conniption fits telling me I'd be late,''
laughed Billy.
Kate tossed her head.
``Well, how was I to know that Aunt Hannah's
clock only meant half-past eleven when it struck
twelve?'' she retorted.
Everybody laughed.
``Oh, well, it was a pretty wedding,'' declared
William, with a long sigh.
``It'll do--for an understudy,'' said Bertram
softly, for Billy's ears alone.
Only the added color and the swift glance
showed that Billy heard, for when she spoke she
``And didn't Cyril behave beautifully? 'Most
every time I looked at him he was talking to some
``Oh, no, he wasn't--begging your pardon,
my dear,'' objected Bertram. ``I watched him,
too, even more closely than you did, and it was
always the _woman_ who was talking to _Cyril!_''
Billy laughed.
``Well, anyhow,'' she maintained, ``he listened.
He didn't run away.''
``As if a bridegroom could!'' cried Kate.
``I'm going to,'' avowed Bertram, his nose in
the air.
``Pooh!'' scoffed Kate. Then she added
eagerly: ``You must be married in church, Billy,
and in the evening.''
Bertram's nose came suddenly out of the air.
His eyes met Kate's squarely.
``Billy hasn't decided yet how _she_ does want
to be married,'' he said with unnecessary emphasis.
Billy laughed and interposed a quick change of
``I think people had a pretty good time, too,
for a wedding, don't you?'' she asked. ``I was
sorry Mary Jane couldn't be here--'twould have
been such a good chance for him to meet our
``As--_Mary Jane?_'' asked Bertram, a little
``Really, my dear,'' murmured Aunt Hannah,
``I think it _would_ be more respectful to call him
by his name.''
``By the way, what is his name?'' questioned
``That's what we don't know,'' laughed Billy.
``Well, you know the `Arkwright,' don't you?''
put in Bertram. Bertram, too, laughed, but it
was a little forcedly. ``I suppose if you knew his
name was `Methuselah,' you wouldn't call him
that--yet, would you?''
Billy clapped her hands, and threw a merry
glance at Aunt Hannah.
``There! we never thought of `Methuselah,' ''
she gurgled gleefully. ``Maybe it _is_ `Methuselah,'
now--`Methuselah John'! You see, he's told
us to try to guess it,'' she explained, turning to
William; ``but, honestly, I don't believe, whatever
it is, I'll ever think of him as anything but `Mary
Jane.' ''
``Well, as far as I can judge, he has nobody
but himself to thank for that, so he can't do any
complaining,'' smiled William, as he rose to go.
``Well, how about it, Bertram? I suppose you're
going to stay a while to comfort the lonely--eh,
``Of course he is--and so are you, too, Uncle
William,'' spoke up Billy, with affectionate
cordiality. ``As if I'd let you go back to a forlorn
dinner in that great house to-night! Indeed,
William smiled, hesitated, and sat down.
``Well, of course--'' he began.
``Yes, of course,'' finished Billy, quickly.
``I'll telephone Pete that you'll stay here--both
of you.''
It was at this point that little Kate, who had
been turning interested eyes from one brother
to the other, interposed a clear, high-pitched
``Uncle William, didn't you _want_ to marry my
going-to-be-Aunt Billy?''
``Kate!'' gasped her mother, ``didn't I tell
you--'' Her voice trailed into an incoherent
murmur of remonstrance.
Billy blushed. Bertram said a low word under
his breath. Aunt Hannah's ``Oh, my grief and
conscience!'' was almost a groan.
William laughed lightly.
``Well, my little lady,'' he suggested, ``let
us put it the other way and say that quite probably
she didn't want to marry me.''
``Does she want to marry Uncle Bertram?''
``Kate!'' gasped Billy and Mrs. Hartwell together
this time, fearful of what might be coming
``We'll hope so,'' nodded Uncle William,
speaking in a cheerfully matter-of-fact voice, intended
to discourage curiosity.
The little girl frowned and pondered. Her
elders cast about in their minds for a speedy
change of subject; but their somewhat scattered
wits were not quick enough. It was little Kate
who spoke next.
``Uncle William, would she have got Uncle
Cyril if Aunt Marie hadn't nabbed him first?''
``Kate!'' The word was a chorus of dismay
this time.
Mrs. Hartwell struggled to her feet.
``Come, come, Kate, we must go up-stairs--to
bed,'' she stammered.
The little girl drew back indignantly.
``To bed? Why, mama, I haven't had my
supper yet!''
``What? Oh, sure enough--the lights! I
forgot. Well, then, come up--to change your
dress,'' finished Mrs. Hartwell, as with a despairing
look and gesture she led her young daughter
from the room.
Billy came down-stairs on the thirteenth of
December to find everywhere the peculiar flatness
that always follows a day which for weeks has
been the focus of one's aims and thoughts and
``It's just as if everything had stopped at Marie's
wedding, and there wasn't anything more to do,''
she complained to Aunt Hannah at the breakfast
table. ``Everything seems so--queer!''
``It won't--long, dear,'' smiled Aunt Hannah,
tranquilly, as she buttered her roll, ``specially
after Bertram comes back. How long does he
stay in New York?''
``Only three days; but I'm just sure it's going
to seem three weeks, now,'' sighed Billy. ``But
he simply had to go--else he wouldn't have
``I've no doubt of it,'' observed Aunt Hannah.
And at the meaning emphasis of her words,
Billy laughed a little. After a minute she said
``I had supposed that I could at least have a sort
of `after the ball' celebration this morning picking
up and straightening things around. But John
and Rosa have done it all. There isn't so much
as a rose leaf anywhere on the floor. Of course
most of the flowers went to the hospital last night,
anyway. As for Marie's room--it looks as
spick-and-span as if it had never seen a scrap
of ribbon or an inch of tulle.''
``But--the wedding presents?''
``All carried down to the kitchen and half
packed now, ready to go over to the new home.
John says he'll take them over in Peggy this
afternoon, after he takes Mrs. Hartwell's trunk to
Uncle William's.''
``Well, you can at least go over to the
apartment and work,'' suggested Aunt Hannah, hopefully.
``Humph! Can I?'' scoffed Billy. ``As if I
could--when Marie left strict orders that not
one thing was to be touched till she got here.
They arranged everything but the presents before
the wedding, anyway; and Marie wants to fix
those herself after she gets back. Mercy! Aunt
Hannah, if I should so much as move a plate one
inch in the china closet, Marie would know it--
and change it when she got home,'' laughed Billy,
as she rose from the table. ``No, I can't go to
work over there.''
``But there's your music, my dear. You said
you were going to write some new songs after the
``I was,'' sighed Billy, walking to the window,
and looking listlessly at the bare, brown world
outside; ``but I can't write songs--when there
aren't any songs in my head to write.''
``No, of course not; but they'll come, dear, in
time. You're tired, now,'' soothed Aunt Hannah,
as she turned to leave the room.
``It's the reaction, of course,'' murmured Aunt
Hannah to herself, on the way up-stairs. ``She's
had the whole thing on her hands--dear child!''
A few minutes later, from the living-room,
came a plaintive little minor melody. Billy was
at the piano.
Kate and little Kate had, the night before, gone
home with William. It had been a sudden
decision, brought about by the realization that
Bertram's trip to New York would leave William
alone. Her trunk was to be carried there to-day,
and she would leave for home from there, at the
end of a two or three days' visit.
It began to snow at twelve o'clock. All the
morning the sky had been gray and threatening;
and the threats took visible shape at noon in
myriads of white snow feathers that filled the
air to the blinding point, and turned the brown,
bare world into a thing of fairylike beauty. Billy,
however, with a rare frown upon her face, looked
out upon it with disapproving eyes.
``I _was_ going in town--and I believe I'll go
now,'' she cried.
``Don't, dear, please don't,'' begged Aunt
Hannah. ``See, the flakes are smaller now, and
the wind is coming up. We're in for a blizzard--
I'm sure we are. And you know you have some
cold, already.''
``All right,'' sighed Billy. ``Then it's me for the
knitting work and the fire, I suppose,'' she finished,
with a whimsicality that did not hide the wistful
disappointment of her voice.
She was not knitting, however, she was sewing
with Aunt Hannah when at four o'clock Rosa
brought in the card.
Billy glanced at the name, then sprang to her
feet with a glad little cry.
``It's Mary Jane!'' she exclaimed, as Rosa
disappeared. ``Now wasn't he a dear to think
to come to-day? You'll be down, won't you?''
Aunt Hannah smiled even while she frowned.
``Oh, Billy!'' she remonstrated. ``Yes, I'll
come down, of course, a little later, and I'm glad
_Mr. Arkwright_ came,'' she said with reproving
Billy laughed and threw a mischievous glance
over her shoulder.
``All right,'' she nodded. ``I'll go and tell
_Mr. Arkwright_ you'll be down directly.''
In the living-room Billy greeted her visitor
with a frankly cordial hand.
``How did you know, Mr. Arkwright, that I
was feeling specially restless and lonesome today?''
she demanded.
A glad light sprang to the man's dark eyes.
``I didn't know it,'' he rejoined. ``I only
knew that I was specially restless and lonesome
Arkwright's voice was not quite steady. The
unmistakable friendliness in the girl's words and
manner had sent a quick throb of joy to his
heart. Her evident delight in his coming had
filled him with rapture. He could not know that
it was only the chill of the snowstorm that had
given warmth to her handclasp, the dreariness
of the day that had made her greeting so cordial,
the loneliness of a maiden whose lover is away
that had made his presence so welcome.
``Well, I'm glad you came, anyway,'' sighed
Billy, contentedly; ``though I suppose I ought
to be sorry that you were lonesome--but I'm
afraid I'm not, for now you'll know just how I
felt, so you won't mind if I'm a little wild and
erratic. You see, the tension has snapped,'' she
added laughingly, as she seated herself.
``The wedding, you know. For so many weeks
we've been seeing just December twelfth, that
we'd apparently forgotten all about the thirteenth
that came after it; so when I got up this morning
I felt just as you do when the clock has
stopped ticking. But it was a lovely wedding,
Mr. Arkwright. I'm sorry you could not be
``Thank you; so am I--though usually, I
will confess, I'm not much good at attending
`functions' and meeting strangers. As perhaps
you've guessed, Miss Neilson, I'm not particularly
a society chap.''
``Of course you aren't! People who are doing
things--real things--seldom are. But we aren't
the society kind ourselves, you know--not
the capital S kind. We like sociability, which is
vastly different from liking Society. Oh, we have
friends, to be sure, who dote on `pink teas and
purple pageants,' as Cyril calls them; and we even
go ourselves sometimes. But if you had been here
yesterday, Mr. Arkwright, you'd have met lots
like yourself, men and women who are doing
things: singing, playing, painting, illustrating,
writing. Why, we even had a poet, sir--only
he didn't have long hair, so he didn't look the
part a bit,'' she finished laughingly.
``Is long hair--necessary--for poets?''
Arkwright's smile was quizzical.
``Dear me, no; not now. But it used to be,
didn't it? And for painters, too. But now they
look just like--folks.''
Arkwright laughed.
``It isn't possible that you are sighing for the
velvet coats and flowing ties of the past, is it,
Miss Neilson?''
``I'm afraid it is,'' dimpled Billy. ``I _love_
velvet coats and flowing ties!''
``May singers wear them? I shall don them at
once, anyhow, at a venture,'' declared the man,
Billy smiled and shook her head.
``I don't think you will. You all like your
horrid fuzzy tweeds and worsteds too well!''
``You speak with feeling. One would almost
suspect that you already had tried to bring about
a reform--and failed. Perhaps Mr. Cyril, now,
or Mr. Bertram--'' Arkwright stopped with
a whimsical smile.
Billy flushed a little. As it happened, she had,
indeed, had a merry tilt with Bertram on that
very subject, and he had laughingly promised
that his wedding present to her would be a velvet
house coat for himself. It was on the point of
Billy's tongue now to say this to Arkwright;
but another glance at the provoking smile on
his lips drove the words back in angry confusion.
For the second time, in the presence of this man,
Billy found herself unable to refer to her engagement
to Bertram Henshaw--though this time
she did not in the least doubt that Arkwright
already knew of it.
With a little gesture of playful scorn she rose
and went to the piano.
``Come, let us try some duets,'' she suggested.
``That's lots nicer than quarrelling over velvet
coats; and Aunt Hannah will be down presently
to hear us sing.''
Before she had ceased speaking, Arkwright was
at her side with an exclamation of eager acquiescence.
It was after the second duet that Arkwright
asked, a little diffidently.
``Have you written any new songs lately?''
``You're going to?''
``Perhaps--if I find one to write.''
``You mean--you have no words?''
``Yes--and no. I have some words, both of
my own and other people's; but I haven't found
in any one of them, yet--a melody.''
Arkwright hesitated. His right hand went
almost to his inner coat pocket--then fell back
at his side. The next moment he picked up a
sheet of music.
``Are you too tired to try this?'' he
A puzzled frown appeared on Billy's face.
``Why, no, but--''
``Well, children, I've come down to hear the
music,'' announced Aunt Hannah, smilingly,
from the doorway; ``only--Billy, _will_ you run
up and get my pink shawl, too? This room _is_
colder than I thought, and there's only the white
one down here.''
``Of course,'' cried Billy, rising at once. ``You
shall have a dozen shawls, if you like,'' she laughed,
as she left the room.
What a cozy time it was--the hour that
followed, after Billy returned with the pink shawl!
Outside, the wind howled at the windows and
flung the snow against the glass in sleety crashes.
Inside, the man and the girl sang duets until they
were tired; then, with Aunt Hannah, they feasted
royally on the buttered toast, tea, and frosted
cakes that Rosa served on a little table before the
roaring fire. It was then that Arkwright talked
of himself, telling them something of his studies,
and of the life he was living.
``After all, you see there's just this difference
between my friends and yours,'' he said, at last.
``Your friends _are_ doing things. They've succeeded.
Mine haven't, yet--they're only _trying_.''
``But they will succeed,'' cried Billy.
``Some of them,'' amended the man.
``Not--all of them?'' Billy looked a little
Arkwright shook his head slowly.
``No. They couldn't--all of them, you know.
Some haven't the talent, some haven't the
perseverance, and some haven't the money.''
``But all that seems such a pity-when they've
tried,'' grieved Billy.
``It is a pity, Miss Neilson. Disappointed
hopes are always a pity, aren't they?''
``Y-yes,'' sighed the girl. ``But--if there
were only something one could do to--help!''
Arkwright's eyes grew deep with feeling, but
his voice, when he spoke, was purposely light.
``I'm afraid that would be quite too big a
contract for even your generosity, Miss Neilson--
to mend all the broken hopes in the world,'' he
``I have known great good to come from great
disappointments, ``remarked Aunt Hannah, a
bit didactically.
``So have I,'' laughed Arkwright, still
determined to drive the troubled shadow from the
face he was watching so intently. ``For instance:
a fellow I know was feeling all cut up last Friday
because he was just too late to get into Symphony
Hall on the twenty-five-cent admission. Half
an hour afterwards his disappointment was turned
to joy--a friend who had an orchestra chair
couldn't use his ticket that day, and so handed
it over to him.''
Billy turned interestedly.
``What are those twenty-five-cent tickets to
the Symphony?''
``Then--you don't know?''
``Not exactly. I've heard of them, in a vague
``Then you've missed one of the sights of Boston
if you haven't ever seen that long line of patient
waiters at the door of Symphony Hall of a Friday
``Morning! But the concert isn't till afternoon!''
``No, but the waiting is,'' retorted Arkwright.
``You see, those admissions are limited--five
hundred and five, I believe--and they're rush
seats, at that. First come, first served; and if
you're too late you aren't served at all. So the
first arrival comes bright and early. I've heard
that he has been known to come at peep of day
when there's a Paderewski or a Melba for a
drawing card. But I've got my doubts of that.
Anyhow, I never saw them there much before
half-past eight. But many's the cold, stormy
day I've seen those steps in front of the Hall
packed for hours, and a long line reaching away
up the avenue.''
Billy's eyes widened.
``And they'll stand all that time and wait?''
``To be sure they will. You see, each pays
twenty-five cents at the door, until the limit is
reached, then the rest are turned away. Naturally
they don't want to be turned away, so they try
to get there early enough to be among the fortunate
five hundred and five. Besides, the earlier
you are, the better seat you are likely to get.''
``But only think of _standing_ all that time!''
``Oh, they bring camp chairs, sometimes, I've
heard, and then there are the steps. You don't
know what a really fine seat a stone step is--if
you have a _big_ enough bundle of newspapers to
cushion it with! They bring their luncheons, too,
with books, papers, and knitting work for fine
days, I've been told--some of them. All the
comforts of home, you see,'' smiled Arkwright.
``Why, how--how dreadful!'' stammered
``Oh, but they don't think it's dreadful at
all,'' corrected Arkwright, quickly. ``For twentyfive
cents they can hear all that you hear down
in your orchestra chair, for which you've paid so
high a premium.''
``But who--who are they? Where do they
come from? Who _would_ go and stand hours like
that to get a twenty-five-cent seat?'' questioned
``Who are they? Anybody, everybody, from
anywhere? everywhere; people who have the
music hunger but not the money to satisfy it,''
he rejoined. ``Students, teachers, a little milliner
from South Boston, a little dressmaker from Chelsea,
a housewife from Cambridge, a stranger from
the uttermost parts of the earth; maybe a widow
who used to sit down-stairs, or a professor who has
seen better days. Really to know that line, you
should see it for yourself, Miss Neilson,'' smiled
Arkwright, as he reluctantly rose to go. ``Some
Friday, however, before you take your seat, just
glance up at that packed top balcony and judge
by the faces you see there whether their owners
think they're getting their twenty-five-cents'
worth, or not.''
``I will,'' nodded Billy, with a smile; but the
smile came from her lips only, not her eyes:
Billy was wishing, at that moment, that she
owned the whole of Symphony Hall--to give
away. But that was like Billy. When she was
seven years old she had proposed to her Aunt Ella
that they take all the thirty-five orphans from the
Hampden Falls Orphan Asylum to live with them,
so that little Sallie Cook and the other orphans
might have ice cream every day, if they wanted
it. Since then Billy had always been trying--in
a way--to give ice cream to some one who
wanted it.
Arkwright was almost at the door when he
turned abruptly. His face was an abashed red.
From his pocket he had taken a small folded
``Do you suppose--in this--you might find
--that melody?'' he stammered in a low voice.
The next moment he was gone, having left in
Billy's fingers a paper upon which was written
in a clear-cut, masculine hand six four-line stanzas.
Billy read them at once, hurriedly, then more
``Why, they're beautiful,'' she breathed, ``just
beautiful! Where did he get them, I wonder?
It's a love song--and such a pretty one! I
believe there _is_ a melody in it,'' she exulted, pausing
to hum a line or two. ``There is--I know there
is; and I'll write it--for Bertram,'' she finished,
crossing joyously to the piano.
Half-way down Corey Hill at that moment,
Arkwright was buffeting the wind and snow.
He, too, was thinking joyously of those stanzas--
joyously, yet at the same time fearfully.
Arkwright himself had written those lines--though
not for Bertram.
On the fourteenth of December Billy came
down-stairs alert, interested, and happy. She
had received a dear letter from Bertram (mailed
on the way to New York), the sun was shining,
and her fingers were fairly tingling to put on paper
the little melody that was now surging riotously
through her brain. Emphatically, the restlessness
of the day before was gone now. Once more
Billy's ``clock'' had ``begun to tick.''
After breakfast Billy went straight to the
telephone and called up Arkwright. Even one
side of the conversation Aunt Hannah did not
hear very clearly; but in five minutes a radiantfaced
Billy danced into the room.
``Aunt Hannah, just listen! Only think--
Mary Jane wrote the words himself, so of course
I can use them!''
``Billy, dear, _can't_ you say `Mr. Arkwright'?''
pleaded Aunt Hannah.
Billy laughed and gave the anxious-eyed little
old lady an impulsive hug.
``Of course! I'll say `His Majesty' if you like,
dear,'' she chuckled. ``But did you hear--did
you realize? They're his own words, so there's
no question of rights or permission, or anything.
And he's coming up this afternoon to hear my
melody, and to make a few little changes in the
words, maybe. Oh, Aunt Hannah, you don't
know how good it seems to get into my music
``Yes, yes, dear, of course; but--'' Aunt
Hannah's sentence ended in a vaguely troubled
Billy turned in surprise.
``Why, Aunt Hannah, aren't you glad? You
_said_ you'd be glad!''
``Yes, dear; and I am--very glad. It's only
--if it doesn't take too much time--and if
Bertram doesn't mind.''
Billy flushed. She laughed a little bitterly.
``No, it won't take too much time, I fancy,
and--so far as Bertram is concerned--if what
Sister Kate says is true, Aunt Hannah, he'll
be glad to have me occupy a little of my time with
something besides himself.''
``Fiddlededee!'' bristled Aunt Hannah.
``What did she mean by that?''
Billy smiled ruefully.
``Well, probably I did need it. She said it
night before last just before she went home with
Uncle William. She declared that I seemed to
forget entirely that Bertram belonged to his Art
first, before he belonged to me; and that it was
exactly as she had supposed it would be--a
perfect absurdity for Bertram to think of marrying
``Fiddlededee!'' ejaculated the irate Aunt
Hannah, even more sharply. ``I hope you have
too much good sense to mind what Kate says,
``Yes, I know,'' sighed the girl; ``but of course
I can see some things for myself, and I suppose
I did make--a little fuss about his going to
New York the other night. And I will own that
I've had a real struggle with myself sometimes,
lately, not to mind--his giving so much time
to his portrait painting. And of course both of
those are very reprehensible--in an artist's wife,''
she finished, a little tremulously.
``Humph! Well, I don't think I should worry
about that,'' observed Aunt Hannah with grim
``No, I don't mean to,'' smiled Billy, wistfully.
``I only told you so you'd understand that it
was just as well if I did have something to take
up my mind--besides Bertram. And of course
music would be the most natural thing.''
``Yes, of course,'' agreed Aunt Hannah.
``And it seems actually almost providential
that Mary--I mean Mr. Arkwright is here to
help me, now that Cyril is gone,'' went on Billy,
still a little wistfully.
``Yes, of course. He isn't like--a stranger,''
murmured Aunt Hannah. Aunt Hannah's voice
sounded as if she were trying to convince herself
--of something.
``No, indeed! He seems just like one of the
family to me, almost as if he were really--your
niece, Mary Jane,'' laughed Billy.
Aunt Hannah moved restlessly.
``Billy,'' she hazarded, ``he knows, of course,
of your engagement?''
``Why, of course he does, Aunt Hannah
everybody does!'' Billy's eyes were plainly surprised.
``Yes, yes, of course--he must,'' subsided
Aunt Hannah, confusedly, hoping that Billy
would not divine the hidden reason behind her
question. She was relieved when Billy's next
words showed that she had not divined it.
``I told you, didn't I? He's coming up this
afternoon. He can't get here till five, though;
but he's so interested! He's about as crazy over
the thing as I am. And it's going to be fine, Aunt
Hannah, when it's done. You just wait and see!''
she finished gayly, as she tripped from the
Left to herself, Aunt Hannah drew a long
``I'm glad she didn't suspect,'' she was
thinking. ``I believe she'd consider even the _question_
disloyal to Bertram--dear child! And of course
Mary''--Aunt Hannah corrected herself with
cheeks aflame--``I mean Mr. Arkwright does
It was just here, however, that Aunt Hannah
was mistaken. Mr. Arkwright did not--know.
He had not reached Boston when the engagement
was announced. He knew none of Billy's friends
in town save the Henshaw brothers. He had
not heard from Calderwell since he came to Boston.
The very evident intimacy of Billy with the
Henshaw brothers he accepted as a matter of
course, knowing the history of their acquaintance,
and the fact that Billy was Mr. William Henshaw's
namesake. As to Bertram being Billy's lover--
that idea had long ago been killed at birth by
Calderwell's emphatic assertion that the artist
would never care for any girl--except to paint.
Since coming to Boston, Arkwright had seen
little of the two together. His work, his friends,
and his general mode of life precluded that.
Because of all this, therefore, Arkwright did not--
know; which was a pity--for Arkwright, and
for some others.
Promptly at five o'clock that afternoon,
Arkwright rang Billy's doorbell, and was admitted
by Rosa to the living-room, where Billy was at
the piano.
Billy sprang to her feet with a joyous word of
``I'm so glad you've come,'' she sighed happily.
``I want you to hear the melody your pretty
words have sung to me. Though, maybe, after
all, you won't like it, you know,'' she finished
with arch wistfulness.
``As if I could help liking it,'' smiled the man,
trying to keep from his voice the ecstatic delight
that the touch of her hand had brought
Billy shook her head and seated herself again
at the piano.
``The words are lovely,'' she declared, sorting
out two or three sheets of manuscript music from
the quantity on the rack before her. ``But there's
one place--the rhythm, you know--if you could
change it. There!--but listen. First I'm going
to play it straight through to you.'' And she
dropped her fingers to the keyboard. The next
moment a tenderly sweet melody--with only a
chord now and then for accompaniment--filled
Arkwright's soul with rapture. Then Billy began
to sing, very softly, the words!
No wonder Arkwright's soul was filled with
rapture. They were his words, wrung straight
from his heart; and they were being sung by
the girl for whom they were written. They
were being sung with feeling, too--so evident
a feeling that the man's pulse quickened, and his
eyes flashed a sudden fire. Arkwright could not
know, of course, that Billy, in her own mind, was
singing that song--to Bertram Henshaw.
The fire was still in Arkwright's eyes when the
song was ended; but Billy very plainly did not
see it. With a frowning sigh and a murmured
``There!'' she began to talk of ``rhythm'' and
``accent'' and ``cadence''; and to point out
with anxious care why three syllables instead of
two were needed at the end of a certain line.
From this she passed eagerly to the accompaniment,
and Arkwright at once found himself lost
in a maze of ``minor thirds'' and ``diminished
sevenths,'' until he was forced to turn from the
singer to the song. Still, watching her a little
later, he noticed her absorbed face and eager
enthusiasm, her earnest pursuance of an elusive
harmony, and he wondered: did she, or did she
not sing that song with feeling a little while before?
Arkwright had not settled this question to his
own satisfaction when Aunt Hannah came in
at half-past five, and he was conscious of a vague
disappointment as he rose to greet her. Billy,
however, turned an untroubled face to the newcomer.
``We're doing finely, Aunt Hannah,'' she cried.
Then, suddenly, she flung a laughing question
to the man. ``How about it, sir? Are we going
to put on the title-page: `Words by Mary Jane
Arkwright'--or will you unveil the mystery
for us now?''
``Have you guessed it?'' he bantered.
``No--unless it's `Methuselah John.' We
did think of that the other day.''
``Wrong again!'' he laughed.
``Then it'll have to be `Mary Jane,' '' retorted
Billy, with calm naughtiness, refusing to meet
Aunt Hannah's beseechingly reproving eyes.
Then suddenly she chuckled. ``It would be a
combination, wouldn't it? `Words by Mary
Jane Arkwright. Music by Billy Neilson'!
We'd have sighing swains writing to `Dear Miss
Arkwright,' telling how touching were _her_ words;
and lovelorn damsels thanking _Mr_. Neilson for
_his_ soul-inspiring music!''
``Billy, my dear!'' remonstrated Aunt Hannah, faintly.
``Yes, yes, I know; that was bad--and I
won't again, truly,'' promised Billy. But her
eyes danced, and the next moment she had whirled
about on the piano stool and dashed into a Chopin
waltz. The room itself, then, seemed to be full
of the twinkling feet of elves.
Immediately after breakfast the next morning,
Billy was summoned to the telephone.
``Oh, good morning, Uncle William,'' she called,
in answer to the masculine voice that replied to
her ``Hullo.''
``Billy, are you very busy this morning?''
``No, indeed--not if you want me.''
``Well, I do, my dear.'' Uncle William's
voice was troubled. ``I want you to go with me,
if you can, to see a Mrs. Greggory. She's got a
teapot I want. It's a genuine Lowestoft, Harlow
says. Will you go?''
``Of course I will! What time?''
``Eleven if you can, at Park Street. She's
at the West End. I don't dare to put it off for
fear I'll lose it. Harlow says others will have to
know of it, of course. You see, she's just made up
her mind to sell it, and asked him to find a
customer. I wouldn't trouble you, but he says
they're peculiar--the daughter, especially--and
may need some careful handling. That's why I
wanted you--though I wanted you to see the tea-pot,
too,--it'll be yours some day, you know.''
Billy, all alone at her end of the line, blushed.
That she was one day to be mistress of the Strata
and all it contained was still anything but ``common''
to her.
``I'd love to see it, and I'll come gladly; but
I'm afraid I won't be much help, Uncle William,''
she worried.
``I'll take the risk of that. You see, Harlow
says that about half the time she isn't sure she
wants to sell it, after all.''
``Why, how funny! Well, I'll come. At
eleven, you say, at Park Street?''
``Yes; and thank you, my dear. I tried to
get Kate to go, too; but she wouldn't. By the
way, I'm going to bring you home to luncheon.
Kate leaves this afternoon, you know, and it's
been so snowy she hasn't thought best to try to
get over to the house. Maybe Aunt Hannah would
come, too, for luncheon. Would she?''
``I'm afraid not,'' returned Billy, with a rueful
laugh. ``She's got _three_ shawls on this morning,
and you know that always means that she's
felt a draft somewhere--poor dear. I'll tell her,
though, and I'll see you at eleven,'' finished Billy,
as she hung up the receiver.
Promptly at the appointed time Billy met Uncle
William at Park Street, and together they set
out for the West End street named on the paper
in his pocket. But when the shabby house on
the narrow little street was reached, the man looked
about him with a troubled frown.
``I declare, Billy, I'm not sure but we'd better
turn back,'' he fretted. ``I didn't mean to take
you to such a place as this.''
Billy shivered a little; but after one glance at
the man's disappointed face she lifted a determined
``Nonsense, Uncle William! Of course you
won't turn back. I don't mind--for myself;
but only think of the people whose _homes_ are
here,'' she finished, just above her breath.
Mrs. Greggory was found to be living in two
back rooms at the top of four flights of stairs,
up which William Henshaw toiled with increasing
weariness and dismay, punctuating each flight
with a despairing: ``Billy, really, I think we
should turn back!''
But Billy would not turn back, and at last
they found themselves in the presence of a whitehaired,
sweet-faced woman who said yes, she
was Mrs. Greggory; yes, she was. Even as she
uttered the words, however, she looked fearfully
over her shoulders as if expecting to hear from
the hall behind them a voice denying her assertion.
Mrs. Greggory was a cripple. Her slender
little body was poised on two once-costly crutches.
Both the worn places on the crutches, and the
skill with which the little woman swung herself
about the room testified that the crippled condition
was not a new one.
Billy's eyes were brimming with pity and
dismay. Mechanically she had taken the chair
toward which Mrs. Greggory had motioned her.
She had tried not to seem to look about her; but
there was not one detail of the bare little room,
from its faded rug to the patched but spotless
tablecloth, that was not stamped on her brain.
Mrs. Greggory had seated herself now, and
William Henshaw had cleared his throat nervously.
Billy did not know whether she herself were the
more distressed or the more relieved to hear him
``We--er--I came from Harlow, Mrs. Greggory.
He gave me to understand you had an--
er--teapot that--er--'' With his eyes on
the cracked white crockery pitcher on the table,
William Henshaw came to a helpless pause.
A curious expression, or rather, series of
expressions crossed Mrs. Greggory's face. Terror,
joy, dismay, and relief seemed, one after the other
to fight for supremacy. Relief in the end
conquered, though even yet there was a second
hurriedly apprehensive glance toward the door
before she spoke.
``The Lowestoft! Yes, I'm so glad!--that
is, of course I must be glad. I'll get it.'' Her
voice broke as she pulled herself from her chair.
There was only despairing sorrow on her face
The man rose at once.
``But, madam, perhaps--don't let me--'' I
he began stammeringly. ``Of course--Billy!''
he broke off in an entirely different voice. ``Jove!
What a beauty!''
Mrs. Greggory had thrown open the door of
a small cupboard near the collector's chair,
disclosing on one of the shelves a beautifully shaped
teapot, creamy in tint, and exquisitely decorated
in a rose design. Near it set a tray-like plate of
the same ware and decoration.
``If you'll lift it down, please, yourself,''
motioned Mrs. Greggory. ``I don't like to--with
these,'' she explained, tapping the crutches at
her side.
With fingers that were almost reverent in their
appreciation, the collector reached for the teapot.
His eyes sparkled.
``Billy, look, what a beauty! And it's a
Lowestoft, too, the real thing--the genuine, true soft
paste! And there's the tray--did you notice?''
he exulted, turning back to the shelf. ``You
_don't_ see that every day! They get separated,
most generally, you know.''
``These pieces have been in our family for
generations,'' said Mrs. Greggory with an accent
of pride. ``You'll find them quite perfect, I
``Perfect! I should say they were,'' cried the
``They are, then--valuable?'' Mrs. Greggory's
voice shook.
``Indeed they are! But you must know that.''
``I have been told so. Yet to me their chief
value, of course, lies in their association. My
mother and my grandmother owned that teapot,
sir.'' Again her voice broke.
William Henshaw cleared his throat.
``But, madam, if you do not wish to sell--''
He stopped abruptly. His longing eyes had gone
back to the enticing bit of china.
Mrs. Greggory gave a low cry.
``But I do--that is, I must. Mr. Harlow
says that it is valuable, and that it will bring
in money; and we need--money.'' She threw
a quick glance toward the hall door, though she
did not pause in her remarks. ``I can't do much
at work that pays. I sew--'' she nodded
toward the machine by the window--'' but with
only one foot to make it go-- You see, the
other is--is inclined to shirk a little,'' she finished
with a wistful whimsicality.
Billy turned away sharply. There was a lump
in her throat and a smart in her eyes. She was
conscious suddenly of a fierce anger against--
she did not know what, exactly; but she fancied
it was against the teapot, or against Uncle William
for wanting the teapot, or for _not_ wanting
it--if he did not buy it.
``And so you see, I do very much wish to sell,''
Mrs. Greggory said then. ``Perhaps you will
tell me what it would be worth to you,'' she concluded
The collector's eyes glowed. He picked up
the teapot with careful rapture and examined
it. Then he turned to the tray. After a moment
he spoke.
``I have only one other in my collection as
rare,'' he said. ``I paid a hundred dollars for
that. I shall be glad to give you the same for
this, madam.''
Mrs. Greggory started visibly.
``A hundred dollars? So much as that?'' she
cried almost joyously. ``Why, nothing else that
we've had has brought-- Of course, if it's worth
that to you--'' She paused suddenly. A quick
step had sounded in the hall outside. The next
moment the door flew open and a young woman,
who looked to be about twenty-three or twentyfour
years old, burst into the room.
``Mother, only think, I've--'' She stopped,
and drew back a little. Her startled eyes went
from one face to another, then dropped to
the Lowestoft teapot in the man's hands. Her
expression changed at once. She shut the door
quickly and hurried forward.
``Mother, what is it? Who are these people?''
she asked sharply.
Billy lifted her chin the least bit. She was
conscious of a feeling which she could not name:
Billy was not used to being called ``these people''
in precisely that tone of voice. William Henshaw,
too, raised his chin. He, also, was not in the habit
of being referred to as ``these people.''
``My name is Henshaw, Miss--Greggory, I
presume,'' he said quietly. ``I was sent here by
Mr. Harlow.''
``About the teapot, my dear, you know,''
stammered Mrs. Greggory, wetting her lips with
an air of hurried apology and conciliation. ``This
gentleman says he will be glad to buy it. Er--
my daughter, Alice, Mr. Henshaw,'' she hastened
on, in embarrassed introduction; ``and Miss--''
``Neilson,'' supplied the man, as she looked at
Billy, and hesitated.
A swift red stained Alice Greggory's face. With
barely an acknowledgment of the introductions
she turned to her mother.
``Yes, dear, but that won't be necessary now.
As I started to tell you when I came in, I have two
new pupils; and so''--turning to the man again
``I thank you for your offer, but we have decided
not to sell the teapot at present.'' As she finished
her sentence she stepped one side as if to make
room for the strangers to reach the door.
William Henshaw frowned angrily--that was
the man; but his eyes--the collector's eyes--
sought the teapot longingly. Before either the
man or the collector could speak, however; Mrs.
Greggory interposed quick words of remonstrance.
``But, Alice, my dear,'' she almost sobbed.
``You didn't wait to let me tell you. Mr. Henshaw
says it is worth a hundred dollars to him.
He will give us--a hundred dollars.''
``A hundred dollars!'' echoed the girl, faintly.
It was plain to be seen that she was wavering.
Billy, watching the little scene, with mingled
emotions, saw the glance with which the girl
swept the bare little room; and she knew that
there was not a patch or darn or poverty spot in
sight, or out of sight, which that glance did not
Billy was wondering which she herself desired
more--that Uncle William should buy the Lowestoft,
or that he should not. She knew she wished
Mrs. Greggory to have the hundred dollars.
There was no doubt on that point. Then Uncle
William spoke. His words carried the righteous
indignation of the man who thinks he has been
unjustly treated, and the final plea of the collector
who sees a coveted treasure slipping from his grasp.
``I am very sorry, of course, if my offer has
annoyed you,'' he said stiffly. ``I certainly
should not have made it had I not had Mrs.
Greggory's assurance that she wished to sell the
Alice Greggory turned as if stung.
``_Wished to sell!_'' She repeated the words
with superb disdain. She was plainly very angry.
Her blue-gray eyes gleamed with scorn, and her
whole face was suffused with a red that had swept
to the roots of her soft hair. ``Do you think a
woman _wishes_ to sell a thing that she's treasured
all her life, a thing that is perhaps the last visible
reminder of the days when she was living--not
merely existing?''
``Alice, Alice, my love!'' protested the sweetfaced
cripple, agitatedly.
``I can't help it,'' stormed the girl, hotly. ``I
know how much you think of that teapot that
was grandmother's. I know what it cost you to
make up your mind to sell it at all. And then to
hear these people talk about your _wishing_ to
sell it! Perhaps they think, too, we _wish_ to live
in a place like this; that we _wish_ to have rugs
that are darned, and chairs that are broken, and
garments that are patches instead of clothes!''
``Alice!'' gasped Mrs. Greggory in dismayed
With a little outward fling of her two hands
Alice Greggory stepped back. Her face had grown
white again.
``I beg your pardon, of course,'' she said in a
voice that was bitterly quiet. ``I should not
have spoken so. You are very kind, Mr. Henshaw,
but I do not think we care to sell the Lowestoft
Both words and manner were obviously a
dismissal; and with a puzzled sigh William Henshaw
picked up his hat. His face showed very clearly
that he did not know what to do, or what to say;
but it showed, too, as clearly, that he longed to
do something, or say something. During the
brief minute that he hesitated, however, Billy
sprang forward.
``Mrs. Greggory, please, won't you let _me_ buy
the teapot? And then--won't you keep it for
me--here? I haven't the hundred dollars with
me, but I'll send it right away. You will let me
do it, won't you?''
It was an impulsive speech, and a foolish one,
of course, from the standpoint of sense and logic
and reasonableness; but it was one that might be
expected, perhaps, from Billy.
Mrs. Greggory must have divined, in a way,
the spirit that prompted it, for her eyes grew wet,
and with a choking ``Dear child!'' she reached
out and caught Billy's hand in both her own--
even while she shook her head in denial.
Not so her daughter. Alice Greggory flushed
scarlet. She drew herself proudly erect.
``Thank you,'' she said with crisp coldness;
``but, distasteful as darns and patches are to us,
we prefer them, infinitely, to--charity!''
``Oh, but, please, I didn't mean--you didn't
understand,'' faltered Billy.
For answer Alice Greggory walked deliberately
to the door and held it open.
``Oh, Alice, my dear,'' pleaded Mrs. Greggory
again, feebly.
``Come, Billy! We'll bid you good morning,
ladies,'' said William Henshaw then, decisively.
And Billy, with a little wistful pat on Mrs.
Greggory's clasped hands, went.
Once down the long four flights of stairs and
out on the sidewalk, William Henshaw drew a long
``Well, by Jove! Billy, the next time I take
you curio hunting, it won't be to this place,'' he
``Wasn't it awful!'' choked Billy.
``Awful! The girl was the most stubborn,
unreasonable, vixenish little puss I ever saw. I
didn't want her old Lowestoft if she didn't want
to sell it! But to practically invite me there, and
then treat me like that!'' scolded the collector, his
face growing red with anger. ``Still, I was sorry
for the poor little old lady. I wish, somehow, she
could have that hundred dollars!'' It was the
man who said this, not the collector.
``So do I,'' rejoined Billy, dolefully. ``But
that girl was so--so queer!'' she sighed, with a
frown. Billy was puzzled. For the first time,
perhaps, in her life, she knew what it was to have
her proffered ``ice cream'' disdainfully refused.
Kate and little Kate left for the West on the
afternoon of the fifteenth, and Bertram arrived
from New York that evening. Notwithstanding
the confusion of all this, Billy still had time to
give some thought to her experience of the morning
with Uncle William. The forlorn little room with
its poverty-stricken furnishings and its crippled
mistress was very vivid in Billy's memory.
Equally vivid were the flashing eyes of Alice
Greggory as she had opened the door at the last.
``For,'' as Billy explained to Bertram that
evening, after she had told him the story of the
morning's adventure, ``you see, dear, I had never
been really _turned out_ of a house before!''
``I should think not,'' scowled her lover,
indignantly; ``and it's safe to say you never will
again. The impertinence of it! But then, you
won't see them any more, sweetheart, so we'll
just forget it.''
``Forget it! Why, Bertram, I couldn't! You
couldn't, if you'd been there. Besides, of course
I shall see them again!''
Bertram's jaw dropped.
``Why, Billy, you don't mean that Will, or
you either, would try again for that trumpery
``Of course not,'' flashed Billy, heatedly. ``It
isn't the teapot--it's that dear little Mrs.
Greggory. Why, dearie, you don't know how poor
they are! Everything in sight is so old and thin
and worn it's enough to break your heart. The
rug isn't anything but darns, nor the tablecloth,
either--except patches. It's awful, Bertram!''
``I know, darling; but _you_ don't expect to buy
them new rugs and new tablecloths, do you?''
Billy gave one of her unexpected laughs.
``Mercy!'' she chuckled. ``Only picture Miss
Alice's face if I _should_ try to buy them rugs and
tablecloths! No, dear,'' she went on more seriously,
``I sha'n't do that, of course--though I'd like
to; but I shall try to see Mrs. Greggory again,
if it's nothing more than a rose or a book or a new
magazine that I can take to her.''
``Or a smile--which I fancy will be the best
gift of the lot,'' amended Bertram, fondly.
Billy dimpled and shook her head.
``Smiles--my smiles--are not so valuable,
I'm afraid--except to you, perhaps,'' she
``Self-evident facts need no proving,'' retorted
Bertram. ``Well, and what else has happened
in all these ages I've been away?''
Billy brought her hands together with a sudden
``Oh, and I haven't told you!'' she exclaimed.
``I'm writing a new song--a love song. Mary
Jane wrote the words. They're beautiful.''
Bertram stiffened.
``Indeed! And is--Mary Jane a poet, with
all the rest?'' he asked, with affected lightness.
``Oh, no, of course not,'' smiled Billy; ``but
these words _are_ pretty. And they just sang
themselves into the dearest little melody right away.
So I'm writing the music for them.''
``Lucky Mary Jane!'' murmured Bertram,
still with a lightness that he hoped would pass
for indifference. (Bertram was ashamed of himself,
but deep within him was a growing consciousness
that he knew the meaning of the vague irritation
that he always felt at the mere mention of
Arkwright's name.) ``And will the title-page
say, `Words by Mary Jane Arkwright'?'' he
``That's what I asked him,'' laughed Billy.
``I even suggested `Methuselah John' for a
change. Oh, but, dearie,'' she broke off with shy
eagerness, ``I just want you to hear a little of
what I've done with it. You see, really, all the
time, I suspect, I've been singing it--to you,''
she confessed with an endearing blush, as she
sprang lightly to her feet and hurried to the
It was a bad ten minutes that Bertram Henshaw
spent then. How he could love a song and hate
it at the same time he did not understand; but
he knew that he was doing exactly that. To hear
Billy carol ``Sweetheart, my sweetheart!'' with
that joyous tenderness was bliss unspeakable--
until he remembered that Arkwright wrote the
``Sweetheart, my sweetheart!'' then it was--
(Even in his thoughts Bertram bit the word off
short. He was not a swearing man.) When he
looked at Billy now at the piano, and thought of
her singing--as she said she had sung--that
song to him all through the last three days, his
heart glowed. But when he looked at her and
thought of Arkwright, who had made possible
that singing, his heart froze with terror.
From the very first it had been music that
Bertram had feared. He could not forget that
Billy herself had once told him that never would
she love any man better than she loved her music;
that she was not going to marry. All this had
been at the first--the very first. He had boldly
scorned the idea then, and had said:
``So it's music--a cold, senseless thing of
spidery marks on clean white paper--that is
my only rival!''
He had said, too, that he was going to win.
And he had won--but not until after long weeks
of fearing, hoping, striving, and despairing--this
last when Kate's blundering had nearly made her
William's wife. Then, on that memorable day
in September, Billy had walked straight into his
arms; and he knew that he had, indeed, won.
That is, he had supposed that he knew--until
Arkwright came.
Very sharply now, as he listened to Billy's
singing, Bertram told himself to be reasonable,
to be sensible; that Billy did, indeed, love him.
Was she not, according to her own dear assertion,
singing that song to him? But it was Arkwright's
song. He remembered that, too--and grew faint
at the thought. True, he had won when his rival,
music, had been a ``cold, senseless thing of spidery
marks'' on paper; but would that winning stand
when ``music'' had become a thing of flesh and
blood--a man of undeniable charm, good looks,
and winsomeness; a man whose thoughts, aims,
and words were the personification of the thing
Billy, in the long ago, had declared she loved best
of all--music?
Bertram shivered as with a sudden chill; then
Billy rose from the piano.
``There!'' she breathed, her face shyly radiant
with the glory of the song. ``Did you--like
Bertram did his best; but, in his state of mind,
the very radiance of her face was only an added
torture, and his tongue stumbled over the words
of praise and appreciation that he tried to say.
He saw, then, the happy light in Billy's eyes
change to troubled questioning and grieved
disappointment; and he hated himself for a
jealous brute. More earnestly than ever, now,
he tried to force the ring of sincerity into his voice;
but he knew that he had miserably failed when
he heard her falter:
``Of course, dear, I--I haven't got it nearly
perfected yet. It'll be much better, later.''
``But it s{sic} fine, now, sweetheart--indeed it is,''
protested Bertram, hurriedly.
``Well, of course I'm glad--if you like it,''
murmured Billy; but the glow did not come back
to her face.
Those short December days after Bertram's
return from New York were busy ones for everybody.
Miss Winthrop was not in town to give
sittings for her portrait, it is true; but her absence
only afforded Bertram time and opportunity to
attend to other work that had been more or less
delayed and neglected. He was often at Hillside,
however, and the lovers managed to snatch many
an hour of quiet happiness from the rush and
confusion of the Christmas preparations.
Bertram was assuring himself now that his
jealous fears of Arkwright were groundless. Billy
seldom mentioned the man, and, as the days
passed, she spoke only once of his being at the
house. The song, too, she said little of; and
Bertram--though he was ashamed to own it to
himself--breathed more freely.
The real facts of the case were that Billy had
told Arkwright that she should have no time to
give attention to the song until after Christmas;
and her manner had so plainly shown him that
she considered himself synonymous with the song,
that he had reluctantly taken the hint and kept
``I'll make her care for me sometime--for
something besides a song,'' he told himself with
fierce consolation--but Billy did not know this.
Aside from Bertram, Christmas filled all of
Billy's thoughts these days. There were such a
lot of things she wished to do.
``But, after all, they're only sugarplums, you
know, that I'm giving, dear,'' she declared to
Bertram one day, when he had remonstrated with
with her for so taxing her time and strength.
``I can't really do much.''
``Much!'' scoffed Bertram.
``But it isn't much,, honestly--compared to
what there is to do,'' argued Billy. ``You see,
dear, it's just this,'' she went on, her bright face
sobering a little. ``There are such a lot of people
in the world who aren't really poor. That is, they
have bread, and probably meat, to eat, and enough
clothes to keep them warm. But when you've
said that, you've said it all. Books, music, fun,
and frosting on their cake they know nothing
about--except to long for them.''
``But there are the churches and the charities,
and all those long-named Societies--I thought
that was what they were for,'' declared Bertram,
still a little aggrievedly, his worried eyes on Billy's
tired face.
``Oh, but the churches and charities don't
frost cakes nor give sugarplums,'' smiled Billy.
``And it's right that they shouldn't, too,'' she
added quickly. ``They have more than they can
do now with the roast beef and coal and flannel
petticoats that are really necessary.''
``And so it's just frosting and sugarplums, is
it--these books and magazines and concert
tickets and lace collars for the crippled boy, the
spinster lady, the little widow, and all the rest
of those people who were here last summer?''
Billy turned in confused surprise.
``Why, Bertram, however in the world did
you find out about all--that?''
``I didn't. I just guessed it--and it seems
`the boy guessed right the very first time,' ''
laughed Bertram, teasingly, but with a tender
light in his eyes. ``Oh, and I suppose you'll be
sending a frosted cake to the Lowestoft lady,
too, eh?''
Billy's chin rose to a defiant stubbornness.
``I'm going to try to--if I can find out what
kind of frosting she likes.''
``How about the Alice lady--or perhaps
I should say, the Lady Alice?'' smiled the man.
Billy relaxed visibly.
``Yes, I know,'' she sighed. ``There is--the
Lady Alice. But, anyhow, she can't call a Christmas
present `charity'--not if it's only a little
bit of frosting!'' Billy's chin came up again.
``And you're going to, really, dare to send her
``Yes,'' avowed Billy. ``I'm going down there
one of these days, in the morning--''
``You're going down there! Billy--not
``Yes. Why not?''
``But, dearie, you mustn't. It was a horrid
place, Will says.''
``So it was horrid--to live in. It was
everything that was cheap and mean and forlorn. But
it was quiet and respectable. 'Tisn't as if I didn't
know the way, Bertram; and I'm sure that where
that poor crippled woman and daughter are safe,
I shall be. Mrs. Greggory is a lady, Bertram, wellborn
and well-bred, I'm sure--and that's the
pity of it, to have to live in a place like that!
They have seen better days, I know. Those
pitiful little worn crutches of hers were
mahogany, I'm sure, Bertram, and they were silver
Bertram made a restless movement.
``I know, dear; but if you had some one with
you! It wouldn't do for Will, of course, nor me--
under the circumstances. But there's Aunt
Hannah--'' He paused hopefully.
Billy chuckled.
``Bless your dear heart! Aunt Hannah would
call for a dozen shawls in that place--if she had
breath enough to call for any after she got to
the top of those four flights!''
``Yes, I suppose so,'' rejoined Bertram, with
an unwilling smile. ``Still--well, you _can_ take
Rosa,'' he concluded decisively.
``How Miss Alice would like that--to catch
me going `slumming' with my maid!'' cried
Billy, righteous indignation in her voice. ``Honestly,
Bertram, I think even gentle Mrs. Greggory
wouldn't stand for that.''
``Then leave Rosa outside in the hall,'' planned
Bertram, promptly; and after a few more arguments,
Billy finally agreed to this.
It was with Rosa, therefore, that she set out
the next morning for the little room up four flights
on the narrow West End street.
Leaving the maid on the top stair of the fourth
flight, Billy tapped at Mrs. Greggory's door. To
her joy Mrs. Greggory herself answered the
``Oh! Why--why, good morning,'' murmured
the lady, in evident embarrassment. ``Won't
you--come m?''
``Thank you. May I?--just a minute?''
smiled Billy, brightly.
As she entered the room, Billy threw a hasty
look about her. There was no one but themselves
present. With a sigh of satisfaction, therefore,
the girl took the chair Mrs. Greggory offered,
and began to speak.
``I was down this way--that is, I came this
way this morning,'' she began a little hastily;
``and I wanted just to come up and tell you how
sorry I was about--about that teapot the other
day. We didn't want it, of course--if you didn't
want us to have it.''
A swift change crossed Mrs. Greggory's
perturbed face.
``Oh, then you didn't come for it again--today,''
she said. ``I'm so glad! I didn't want to
``Indeed I didn't come for it--and we sha'n't
again. Don't worry about that, please.''
Mrs. Greggory sighed.
``I'm afraid you thought me very rude and--and
impossible the other day,'' she stammered. ``And
please let me take this opportunity right now to
apologize for my daughter. She was overwrought
and excited. She didn't know what she was saying
or doing, I'm sure. She was ashamed, I think after
you left.''
Billy raised a quick hand of protest.
``Don't, please don't, Mrs. Greggory,'' she
``But it was our fault that you came. We
_asked_ you to come--through Mr. Harlow,'' rejoined
the other, hurriedly. ``And Mr. Henshaw
--was that his name?--was so kind in every
way. I'm glad of this chance to tell you how much
we really did appreciate it--and _your_ offer, too,
which we could not, of course, accept,'' she finished,
the bright color flooding her delicate face.
Again Billy raised a protesting hand; but the
little woman in the opposite chair hurried on.
There was still more, evidently, that she wished
to say.
``I hope Mr. Henshaw did not feel too
disappointed--about the Lowestoft. We didn't want
to let it go if we could help it; and we hope now
to keep it.''
``Of course,'' murmured Billy, sympathetically.
``My daughter knew, you see, how much I have
always thought of it, and she was determined that
I should not give it up. She said I should have
that much left, anyway. You see--my daughter
is very unreconciled, still, to things as they are;
and no wonder, perhaps. They are so different
--from what they were!'' Her voice broke a
``Of course,'' said Billy again, and this time
the words were tinged with impatient indignation.
``If only there were something one could do to
``Thank you, my dear, but there isn't--indeed
there isn't,'' rejoined the other, quickly; and
Billy, looking into the proudly lifted face, realized
suddenly that daughter Alice had perhaps
inherited some traits from mother. ``We shall
get along very well, I am sure. My daughter
has still another pupil. She will be home soon to
tell you herself, perhaps.''
Billy rose with a haste so marked it was almost
impolite, as she murmured:
``Will she? I'm afraid, though, that I sha'n't
see her, after all, for I must go. And may I leave
these, please?'' she added, hurriedly unpinning
the bunch of white carnations from her coat.
``It seems a pity to let them wilt, when you can
put them in water right here.'' Her studiously
casual voice gave no hint that those particular
pinks had been bought less than half an hour
before of a Park Street florist so that Mrs.
Greggory _might_ put them in water--right there.
``Oh, oh, how lovely!'' breathed Mrs. Greggory,
her face deep in the feathery bed of sweetness.
Before she could half say ``Thank you,'' however?
she found herself alone.
Christmas came and went; and in a flurry of
snow and sleet January arrived. The holidays
over, matters and things seemed to settle down
to the winter routine.
Miss Winthrop had prolonged her visit in
Washington until after Christmas, but she had
returned to Boston now--and with her she had
brought a brand-new idea for her portrait; an
idea that caused her to sweep aside with superb
disdain all poses and costumes and sketches to
date, and announce herself with disarming
winsomeness as ``all ready now to really begin!''
Bertram Henshaw was vexed, but helpless.
Decidedly he wished to paint Miss Marguerite
Winthrop's portrait; but to attempt to paint it when
all matters were not to the lady's liking were
worse than useless, unless he wished to hang
this portrait in the gallery of failures along with
Anderson's and Fullam's--and that was not
the goal he had set for it. As to the sordid money
part of the affair--the great J. G. Winthrop
himself had come to the artist, and in one terse
sentence had doubled the original price and
expressed himself as hopeful that Henshaw would
put up with ``the child's notions.'' It was the
old financier's next sentence, however, that put
the zest of real determination into Bertram, for
because of it, the artist saw what this portrait
was going to mean to the stern old man, and how
dear was the original of it to a heart that was
commonly reported ``on the street'' to be made
of stone.
Obviously, then, indeed, there was nothing for
Bertram Henshaw to do but to begin the new portrait.
And he began it--though still, it must be
confessed, with inward questionings. Before a
week had passed, however, every trace of irritation
had fled, and he was once again the absorbed
artist who sees the vision of his desire taking
palpable shape at the end of his brush.
``It's all right,'' he said to Billy then, one
evening. ``I'm glad she changed. It's going to be
the best, the very best thing I've ever done--I
think! by the sketches.''
``I'm so glad!'' exclaimed Billy. ``I'm so
glad!'' The repetition was so vehement that it
sounded almost as if she were trying to convince
herself as well as Bertram of something that was
not true.
But it was true--Billy told herself very
indignantly that it was; indeed it was! Yet the
very fact that she had to tell herself this, caused
her to know how perilously near she was to being
actually jealous of that portrait of Marguerite
Winthrop. And it shamed her.
Very sternly these days Billy reminded herself
of what Kate had said about Bertram's belonging
first to his Art. She thought with mortification,
too, that it _did_ look as if she were not the proper
wife for an artist if she were going to feel like
this--always. Very resolutely, then, Billy turned
to her music. This was all the more easily done,
for, not only did she have her usual concerts and
the opera to enjoy, but she had become interested
in an operetta her club was about to give; also
she had taken up the new song again. Christmas
being over, Mr. Arkwright had been to the house
several times. He had changed some of the words
and she had improved the melody. The work
on the accompaniment was progressing finely
now, and Billy was so glad!--when she was
absorbed in her music she forgot sometimes that
she was ever so unfit an artist's sweetheart as to
be--jealous of a portrait.
It was quite early in the month that the
usually expected ``January thaw'' came, and
it was on a comparatively mild Friday at this time
that a matter of business took Billy into the
neighborhood of Symphony Hall at about eleven
o'clock in the morning. Dismissing John and
the car upon her arrival, she said that she would
later walk to the home of a friend near by, where
she would remain until it was time for the
Symphony Concert.
This friend was a girl whom Billy had known
at school. She was studying now at the Conservatory
of Music; and she had often urged Billy
to come and have luncheon with her in her tiny
apartment, which she shared with three other
girls and a widowed aunt for housekeeper. On
this particular Friday it had occurred to Billy
that, owing to her business appointment at eleven
and the Symphony Concert at half-past two, the
intervening time would give her just the
opportunity she had been seeking to enable her to
accept her friend's invitation. A question asked,
and enthusiastically answered in the affirmative,
over the telephone that morning, therefore, had
speedily completed arrangements, and she had
agreed to be at her friend's door by twelve o'clock,
or before.
As it happened, business did not take quite so
long as she had expected, and half-past eleven
found her well on her way to Miss Henderson's
In spite of the warm sunshine and the slushy
snow in the streets, there was a cold, raw wind,
and Billy was beginning to feel thankful that she
had not far to go when she rounded a corner and
came upon a long line of humanity that curved
itself back and forth on the wide expanse of steps
before Symphony Hall and then stretched itself
far up the Avenue.
``Why, what--'' she began under her breath;
then suddenly she understood. It was Friday.
A world-famous pianist was to play with the
Symphony Orchestra that afternoon. This must
be the line of patient waiters for the twenty-fivecent
balcony seats that Mr. Arkwright had told
about. With sympathetic, interested eyes, then,
Billy stepped one side to watch the line, for a moment.
Almost at once two girls brushed by her, and
one was saying:
``What a shame!--and after all our struggles
to get here! If only we hadn't lost that other
``We're too late--you no need to hurry!''
the other wailed shrilly to a third girl who was
hastening toward them. ``The line is 'way beyond
the Children's Hospital and around the
corner now--and the ones there _never_ get in!''
At the look of tragic disappointment that crossed
the third girl's face, Billy's heart ached. Her
first impulse, of course, was to pull her own
symphony ticket from her muff and hurry forward
with a ``Here, take mine!'' But that _would_ hardly
do, she knew--though she would like to see
Aunt Hannah's aghast face if this girl in the red
sweater and white tam-o'-shanter should suddenly
emerge from among the sumptuous satins and
furs and plumes that afternoon and claim the
adjacent orchestra chair. But it was out of the
question, of course. There was only one seat, and
there were three girls, besides all those others.
With a sigh, then, Billy turned her eyes back to
those others--those many others that made up
the long line stretching its weary length up the
There were more women than men, yet the
men were there: jolly young men who were
plainly students; older men whose refined faces and
threadbare overcoats hinted at cultured minds and
starved bodies; other men who showed no hollows
in their cheeks nor near-holes in their garments. It
seemed to Billy that women of almost all sorts
were there, young, old, and middle-aged; students
in tailored suits, widows in crape and veil; girls
that were members of a merry party, women that
were plainly forlorn and alone.
Some in the line shuffled restlessly; some stood
rigidly quiet. One had brought a camp stool;
many were seated on the steps. Beyond, where the
line passed an open lot, a wooden fence afforded
a convenient prop. One read a book, another a
paper. Three were studying what was probably
the score of the symphony or of the concerto they
expected to hear that afternoon.
A few did not appear to mind the biting wind,
but most of them, by turned-up coat-collars or
bent heads, testified to the contrary. Not far
from Billy a woman nibbled a sandwich furtively,
while beyond her a group of girls were hilariously
merry over four triangles of pie which they held
up where all might see.
Many of the faces were youthful, happy, and
alert with anticipation; but others carried a
wistfulness and a weariness that made Billy's
heart ache. Her eyes, indeed, filled with quick
tears. Later she turned to go, and it was then that
she saw in the line a face that she knew--a face
that drooped with such a white misery of spent
strength that she hurried straight toward it with
a low cry.
``Miss Greggory!'' she exclaimed, when she
reached the girl. ``You look actually ill. Are
you ill?''
For a brief second only dazed questioning
stared from the girl's blue-gray eyes. Billy knew
when the recognition came, for she saw the painful
color stain the white face red.
``Thank you, no. I am not ill, Miss Neilson,''
said the girl, coldly.
``But you look so tired out!''
``I have been standing here some time; that
is all.''
Billy threw a hurried glance down the farreaching
line that she knew had formed since the
girl's two tired feet had taken their first position.
``But you must have come--so early! It
isn't twelve o'clock yet,'' she faltered.
A slight smile curved Alice Greggory's lips.
``Yes, it was early,'' she rejoined a little bitterly;
``but it had to be, you know. I wanted to hear
the music; and with this soloist, and this weather,
I knew that many others--would want to hear
the music, too.''
``But you look so white! How much longer--
when will they let you in?'' demanded Billy,
raising indignant eyes to the huge, gray-pillared
building before her, much as if she would pull
down the walls if she could, and make way for
this tired girl at her side.
Miss Greggory's thin shoulders rose and fell
in an expressive shrug.
``Half-past one.''
Billy gave a dismayed cry.
``Half-past one--almost two hours more!
But, Miss Greggory, you can't--how can you
stand it till then? You've shivered three times
since I came, and you look as if you were going
to faint away.''
Miss Greggory shook her head.
``It is nothing, really,'' she insisted. ``I am
quite well. It is only--I didn't happen to feel
like eating much breakfast this morning; and
that, with no luncheon--'' She let a gesture
finish her sentence.
``No luncheon! Why--oh, you couldn't leave
your place, of course,'' frowned Billy.
``No, and''--Alice Greggory lifted her
head a little proudly--``I do not care to eat
--here.'' Her scornful eyes were on one of the
pieces of pie down the line--no longer a triangle.
``Of course not,'' agreed Billy, promptly. She
paused, frowned, and bit her lip. Suddenly her
face cleared. ``There! the very thing,'' she
exulted. ``You shall have my ticket this afternoon,
Miss Greggory, then you won't have to stay here
another minute. Meanwhile, there is an excellent
``Thank you--no. I couldn't do that,'' cut
in the other, sharply, but in a low voice.
``But you'll take my ticket,'' begged Billy.
Miss Greggory shook her head.
``Certainly not.''
``But I want you to, please. I shall be very
unhappy if you don't,'' grieved Billy.
The other made a peremptory gesture.
``_I_ should be very unhappy if I did,'' she said
with cold emphasis. ``Really, Miss Neilson,''
she went on in a low voice, throwing an apprehensive
glance at the man ahead, who was apparently
absorbed in his newspaper, ``I'm afraid
I shall have to ask you to let me go on in my own
way. You are very kind, but there is nothing you
can do; nothing. You were very kind, too, of
course, to send the book and the flowers to mother
at Christmas; but--''
``Never mind that, please,'' interrupted Billy,
hurriedly. Billy's head was lifted now. Her eyes
were no longer pleading. Her round little chin
looked square and determined. ``If you simply
will not take my ticket this afternoon, you _must_
do this. Go to some restaurant near here and
get a good luncheon--something that will sustain
you. I will take your place here.''
``_Miss Neilson!_''
Billy smiled radiantly. It was the first time
she had ever seen Alice Greggory's haughtily
cold reserve break into anything like naturalness
--the astonished incredulity of that ``Miss
Neilson!'' was plainly straight from the heart;
so, too, were the amazed words that followed.
``_You_--will stand _here?_''
``Certainly; I will keep your place. Don't
worry. You sha'n't lose it.'' Billy spoke with a
smiling indifference that was meant to convey
the impression that standing in line for a twentyfive-
cent seat was a daily habit of hers. ``There's
a restaurant only a little way--right down
there,'' she finished. And before the dazed Alice
Greggory knew quite what was happening she
found herself outside the line, and the other in
her place.
``But, Miss Neilson, I can't--you mustn't--''
she stammered; then, because of something in
the unyieldingness of the square young chin above
the sealskin coat, and because she could not (she
knew) use actual force to drag the owner of that
chin out of the line, she bowed her head in acquiescence.
``Well, then--I will, long enough for some
coffee and maybe a sandwich. And--thank you,''
she choked, as she turned and hurried away.
Billy drew the deep breath of one who has
triumphed after long struggles--but the breath
broke off short in a gasp of dismay: coming
straight up the Avenue toward her was the one
person in the world Billy wished least to see at
that moment--Bertram Henshaw. Billy remembered
then that she had twice lately heard her
lover speak of calling at the Boston Opera House
concerning a commission to paint an ideal head
to represent ``Music'' for some decorative
purpose. The Opera House was only a short distance
up the Avenue. Doubtless he was on his way there
He was very near by this time, and Billy held
her breath suspended. There was a chance, of
course, that he might not notice her; and Billy
was counting on that chance--until a gust of
wind whirled a loose half-sheet of newspaper from
the hands of the man in front of her, and naturally
attracted Bertram's eyes to its vicinity--and to
hers. The next moment he was at her side and
his dumfounded but softly-breathed ``_Billy!_''
was in her ears.
Billy bubbled into low laughter--there were
such a lot of funny situations in the world, and
of them all this one was about the drollest, she
``Yes, I know,'' she gurgled. ``You don't have
to say it-your face is saying even more than
your tongue _could!_ This is just for a girl I know.
I'm keeping her place.''
Bertram frowned. He looked as if he were
meditating picking Billy up and walking off with
``But, Billy,'' he protested just above his breath,
``this isn't sugarplums nor frosting; it's plain
suicide--standing out in this wind like this!
Besides--'' He stopped with an angrily despairing
glance at her surroundings.
``Yes, I know,'' she nodded, a little soberly,
understanding the look and answering that first;
``it isn't pleasant nor comfortable, in lots of
ways--but _she's_ had it all the morning. As for the
cold--I'm as warm as toast. It won't be long,
anyway; she's just gone to get something to eat.
Then I'm going to May Henderson's for luncheon.''
Bertram sighed impatiently and opened his
lips--only to close them with the words unsaid.
There was nothing he could do, and he had already
said too much, he thought, with a savage glance
at the man ahead who still had enough of his paper
left to serve for a pretence at reading. As Bertram
could see, however, the man was not reading a word
--he was too acutely conscious of the handsome
young woman in the long sealskin coat behind
him. Billy was already the cynosure of dozens
of eyes, and Bertram knew that his own arrival
on the scene had not lessened the interest of the
owners of those eyes. He only hoped devoutly
that no one in the line knew him ar Billy, and that
no one quite knew what had happened. He did
not wish to see himself and his fiance the subject
of inch-high headlines in some evening paper
figuring as:
``Talented young composer and her famous
artist lover take poor girl's place in a twenty-fivecent
ticket line.''
He shivered at the thought.
``Are you cold?'' worried Billy. ``If you are,
don't stand here, please!''
He shook his head silently. His eyes were
searching the street for the only one whose coming
could bring him relief.
It must have been but a coffee-and-sandwich
luncheon for the girl, for soon she came. The man
surmised that it was she, as soon as he saw her, and
stepped back at once. He had no wish for introductions.
A moment later the girl was in Billy's
place, and Billy herself was at his side.
``That was Alice Greggory, Bertram,'' she
told him, as they walked on swiftly; ``and
Bertram, she was actually almost _crying_ when
she took my place.''
``Humph! Well, I should think she'd better
be,'' growled Bertram, perversely.
``Pooh! It didn't hurt me any, dearie,'' laughed
Billy with a conciliatory pat on his arm as they
turned down the street upon which her friend
lived. ``And now can you come in and see May a
``I'm afraid not,'' regretted Bertram. ``I
wish I could, but I'm busier than busy to-day--
and I was _supposed_ to be already late when I saw
you. Jove, Billy, I just couldn't believe my eyes!''
``You looked it,'' twinkled Billy. ``It was worth
a farm just to see your face!''
``I'd want the farm--if I was going through
that again,'' retorted the man, grimly--Bertram
was still seeing that newspaper heading.
But Billy only laughed again.
Arkwright called Monday afternoon by
appointment; and together he and Billy put the
finishing touches to the new song.
It was when, with Aunt Hannah, they were
having tea before the fire a little later, that Billy
told of her adventure the preceding Friday afternoon
in front of Symphony Hall.
``You knew the girl, of course--I think you
said you knew the girl,'' ventured Arkwright.
``Oh, yes. She was Alice Greggory. I met her
with Uncle William first, over a Lowestoft teapot.
Maybe you'd like to know _how_ I met her,'' smiled
``Alice Greggory?'' Arkwright's eyes showed a
sudden interest. ``I used to know an Alice Greggory,
but it isn't the same one, probably. Her
mother was a cripple.''
Billy gave a little cry.
``Why, it is--it must be! _My_ Alice Greggory's
mother is a cripple. Oh, do you know them,
``Well, it does look like it,'' rejoined Arkwright,
showing even deeper interest. ``I haven't seen
them for four or five years. They used to live
in our town. The mother was a little sweetfaced
woman with young eyes and prematurely
white hair.''
``That describes my Mrs. Greggory exactly,''
cried Billy's eager voice. ``And the daughter?''
``Alice? Why--as I said, it's been four years
since I've seen her.'' A touch of constraint had
come into Arkwright's voice which Billy's keen
ear was quick to detect. ``She was nineteen then
and very pretty.''
``About my height, and with light-brown hair
and big blue-gray eyes that look steely cold when
she's angry?'' questioned Billy.
``I reckon that's about it,'' acknowledged the
man, with a faint smile.
``Then they _are_ the ones,'' declared the girl,
plainly excited. ``Isn't that splendid? Now we
can know them, and perhaps do something for
them. I love that dear little mother already,
and I think I should the daughter--if she didn't
put out so many prickers that I couldn't get near
her! But tell us about them. How did they
come here? Why didn't you know they were
``Are you good at answering a dozen questions
at once?'' asked Aunt Hannah, turning smiling
eyes from Billy to the man at her side.
``Well, I can try,'' he offered. ``To begin
with, they are Judge Greggory's widow and daughter.
They belong to fine families on both sides,
and they used to be well off--really wealthy,
for a small town. But the judge was better at
money-making than he was at money-keeping,
and when he came to die his income stopped, of
course, and his estate was found to be in bad
shape through reckless loans and worthless
investments. That was eight years ago. Things
went from bad to worse then, until there was almost
nothing left.''
``I knew there was some such story as that
back of them,'' declared Billy. ``But how do
you suppose they came here?''
``To get away from--everybody, I suspect,''
replied Arkwright. ``That would be like them.
They were very proud; and it isn't easy, you
know, to be nobody where you've been somebody.
It doesn't hurt quite so hard--to be nobody where
you've never been anything but nobody.''
``I suppose so,'' sighed Billy. ``Still--they
must have had friends.''
``They did, of course; but when the love of
one's friends becomes _too_ highly seasoned with
pity, it doesn't make a pleasant morsel to swallow,
specially if you don't like the taste of the pity--
and there are people who don't, you know. The
Greggorys were that kind. They were morbidly
so. From their cheap little cottage, where they
did their own work, they stepped out in their
shabby garments and old-fashioned hats with
heads even more proudly erect than in the old
days when their home and their gowns and their
doings were the admiration and envy of the town.
You see, they didn't want--that pity.''
``I _do_ see,'' cried Billy, her face aglow with
sudden understanding; ``and I don't believe
pity would be--nice!'' Her own chin was held
high as she spoke.
``It must have been hard, indeed,'' murmured
Aunt Hannah with a sigh, as she set down her
``It was,'' nodded Arkwright. ``Of course
Mrs. Greggory, with her crippled foot, could do
nothing to bring in any money except to sew a
little. It all depended on Alice; and when matters
got to their worst she began to teach. She was
fond of music, and could play the piano well; and
of course she had had the best instruction she
could get from city teachers only twenty miles
away from our home town. Young as she was--
about seventeen when she began to teach, I think
--she got a few beginners right away, and in
two years she had worked up quite a class,
meanwhile keeping on with her own studies, herself.
``They might have carried the thing through,
maybe,'' continued Arkwright, ``and never
_apparently_ known that the `pity' existed, if it
hadn't been for some ugly rumors that suddenly
arose attacking the Judge's honesty in an old
matter that somebody raked up. That was too
much. Under this last straw their courage broke
utterly. Alice dismissed every pupil, sold almost
all their remaining goods--they had lots of quite
valuable heirlooms; I suspect that's where your
Lowestoft teapot came in--and with the money
thus gained they left town. Until they could
go, they scarcely showed themselves once on the
street, they were never at home to callers, and
they left without telling one soul where they were
going, so far as we could ever learn.''
``Why, the poor dears!'' cried Billy. ``How
they must have suffered! But things will be
different now. You'll go to see them, of course,
and--'' At the look that came into Arkwright's
face, she stopped in surprise.
``You forget; they wouldn't wish to see me,''
demurred the man. And again Billy noticed the
odd constraint in his voice.
``But they wouldn't mind _you--here_,'' argued
``I'm afraid they would. In fact, I'm sure they'd
refuse entirely to see me.''
Billy's eyes grew determined.
``But they can't refuse--if I bring about a
meeting just casually, you know,'' she challenged.
Arkwright laughed.
``Well, I won't pretend to say as to the
consequences of that,'' he rejoined, rising to his feet;
``but they might be disastrous. Wasn't it you
yourself who were telling me a few minutes ago
how steely cold Miss Alice's eyes got when she
was angry?''
Billy knew by the way the man spoke that, for
some reason, he did not wish to prolong the subject
of his meeting the Greggorys. She made a quick
shift, therefore, to another phase of the matter.
``But tell me, please, before you go, how did
those rumors come out--about Judge Greggory's
honesty, I mean?''
``Why, I never knew, exactly,'' frowned Arkwright,
musingly. ``Yet it seems, too, that
mother did say in one letter, while I was in Paris,
that some of the accusations had been found to
be false, and that there was a prospect that the
Judge's good name might be saved, after all.''
``Oh, I wish it might,'' sighed Billy. ``Think
what it would mean to those women!''
``'Twould mean everything,'' cried Arkwright,
warmly; ``and I'll write to mother to-night, I will,
and find out just what there is to it-if anything.
Then you can tell them,'' he finished a little stiffly.
``Yes--or you,'' nodded Billy, lightly. And
because she began at once to speak of something
else, the first part of her sentence passed without
The door had scarcely closed behind Arkwright
when Billy turned to Aunt Hannah a beaming
``Aunt Hannah, did you notice?'' she cried,
``how Mary Jane looked and acted whenever Alice
Greggory was spoken of? There was something
between them--I'm sure there was; and they
quarrelled, probably.''
``Why, no, dear; I didn't see anything unusual,''
murmured the elder lady.
``Well, I did. And I'm going to be the fairy
godmother that straightens everything all out,
too. See if I'm not! They'd make a splendid
couple, Aunt Hannah. I'm going right down
there to-morrow.''
``Billy, my dear!'' exclaimed the more
conservative old lady, ``aren't you taking things a
little too much for granted? Maybe they don't
wish for--for a fairy godmother!''
``Oh, _they_ won't know I'm a fairy godmother
--not one of them; and of course I wouldn't
mention even a hint to anybody,'' laughed Billy.
``I'm just going down to get acquainted with the
Greggorys; that's all. Only think, Aunt Hannah,
what they must have suffered! And look at the
place they're living in now--gentlewomen like
``Yes, yes, poor things, poor things!'' sighed
Aunt Hannah.
``I hope I'll find out that she's really good--at
teaching, I mean--the daughter,'' resumed Billy,
after a moment's pause. ``If she is, there's one
thing I can do to help, anyhow. I can get some
of Marie's old pupils for her. I _know_ some of
them haven't begun with a new teacher, yet; and
Mrs. Carleton told me last Friday that neither
she nor her sister was at all satisfied with the one
their girls _have_ taken. They'd change, I know, in
a minute, at my recommendation--that is, of
course, if I can _give_ the recommendation,''
continued Billy, with a troubled frown. ``Anyhow,
I'm going down to begin operations to-morrow.''
True to her assertion, Billy went down to the
Greggorys' the next day. This time she did not
take Rosa with her. Even Aunt Hannah conceded
that it would not be necessary. She had
not been gone ten minutes, however, when the
telephone bell rang, and Rosa came to say that
Mr. Bertram Henshaw wanted to speak with Mrs.
``Rosa says that Billy's not there,'' called
Bertram's aggrieved voice, when Aunt Hannah
had said, ``Good morning, my boy.''
``Dear me, no, Bertram. She's in a fever of
excitement this morning. She'll probably tell you
all about it when you come out here to-night.
You _are_ coming out to-night, aren't you?''
``Yes; oh, yes! But what is it? Where's she
Aunt Hannah laughed softly.
``Well, she's gone down to the Greggorys'.''
``The Greggorys'! What--again?''
``Oh, you might as well get used to it, Bertram,''
bantered Aunt Hannah, ``for there'll be a good
many `agains,' I fancy.''
``Why, Aunt Hannah, what do you mean?''
Bertram's voice was not quite pleased.
``Oh, she'll tell you. It's only that the
Greggorys have turned out to be old friends of Mr.
``_Friends_ of Arkwright's!'' Bertram's voice
was decidedly displeased now.
``Yes; and there's quite a story to it all, as
well. Billy is wildly excited, as you'd know she
would be. You'll hear all about it to-night, of
``Yes, of course,'' echoed Bertram. But there
was no ring of enthusiasm in his voice, neither
then, nor when he said good-by a moment later.
Billy, meanwhile, on her way to the Greggory
home, was, as Aunt Hannah had said, ``wildly
excited.'' It seemed so strange and wonderful
and delightful--the whole affair: that she should
have found them because of a Lowestoft teapot,
that Arkwright should know them, and that there
should be the chance now that she might help
them--in some way; though this last, she knew,
could be accomplished only through the exercise
of the greatest tact and delicacy. She had not
forgotten that Arkwright had told her of their
hatred of pity.
In the sober second thought of the morning,
Billy was not sure now of a possible romance in
connection with Arkwright and the daughter,
Alice; but she had by no means abandoned the
idea, and she meant to keep her eyes open--and
if there should be a chance to bring such a thing
about--! Meanwhile, of course, she should not
mention the matter, even to Bertram.
Just what would be her method of procedure
this first morning, Billy had not determined. The
pretty potted azalea in her hand would be
excuse for her entrance into the room. After that,
circumstances must decide for themselves.
Mrs. Greggory was found to be alone at home as
before, and Billy was glad. She would rather begin
with one than two, she thought. The little woman
greeted her cordially, gave misty-eyed thanks for
the beautiful plant, and also for Billy's kind
thoughtfulness Friday afternoon. From that she
was very skilfully led to talk more of the daughter;
and soon Billy was getting just the information
she wanted--information concerning the character,
aims, and daily life of Alice Greggory.
``You see, we have some money--a very little,''
explained Mrs. Greggory, after a time; ``though
to get it we have had to sell all our treasures--
but the Lowestoft, ``with a quick glance into
Billy's eyes. ``We need not, perhaps, live in
quite so poor a place; but we prefer--just now
--to spend the little money we have for something
other than imitation comfort--lessons, for
instance, and an occasional concert. My daughter
is studying even while she is teaching. She hopes
to train herself for an accompanist, and for a
teacher. She does not aspire to concert solo work.
She understands her limitations.''
``But she is probably--very good--at teaching.''
Billy hesitated a little.
``She is; very good. She has the best of
recommendations.'' A little proudly Mrs. Greggory
gave the names of two Boston pianists--names
that would carry weight anywhere.
Unconsciously Billy relaxed. She did not know
until that moment how she had worried for fear
she could not, conscientiously, recommend this
Alice Greggory.
``Of course,'' resumed the mother, ``Alice's
pupils are few, and they pay low prices; but she
is gaining. She goes to the houses, of course.
She herself practises two hours a day at a house
up on Pinckney Street. She gives lessons to a
little girl in return.''
``I see,'' nodded Billy, brightly; ``and I've
been thinking, Mrs. Greggory--maybe I know
of some pupils she could get. I have a friend who
has just given hers up, owing to her marriage.
Sometime, soon, I'm going to talk to your daughter,
if I may, and--''
``And here she is right now,'' interposed Mrs.
Greggory, as the door opened under a hurried
Billy flushed and bit her lip. She was disturbed
and disappointed. She did not particularly wish
to see Alice Greggory just then. She wished even
less to see her when she noted the swift change that
came to the girl's face at sight of herself.
``Oh! Why-good morning, Miss Neilson,''
murmured Miss Greggory with a smile so forced
that her mother hurriedly looked to the azalea
in search of a possible peacemaker.
``My dear, see,'' she stammered, ``what Miss
Neilson has brought me. And it's so full of
blossoms, too! And she says it'll remain so for
a long, long time--if we'll only keep it wet.''
Alice Greggory murmured a low something--
a something that she tried, evidently, very hard
to make politely appropriate and appreciative.
Yet her manner, as she took off her hat and coat
and sat down, so plainly said: ``You are very kind,
of course, but I wish you would keep yourself
and your plants at home!'' that Mrs. Greggory
began a hurried apology, much as if the words
had indeed been spoken.
``My daughter is really ill this morning. You
mustn't mind--that is, I'm afraid you'll think
--you see, she took cold last week; a bad cold--
and she isn't over it, yet,'' finished the little woman
in painful embarrassment.
``Of course she took cold--standing all
those hours in that horrid wind, Friday!'' cried
Billy, indignantly.
A quick red flew to Alice Greggory's face.
Billy saw it at once and fervently wished she had
spoken of anything but that Friday afternoon.
It looked almost as if she were _reminding_ them of
what she had done that day. In her confusion,
and in her anxiety to say something--anything
that would get their minds off that idea--she
uttered now the first words that came into her
head. As it happened, they were the last words
that sober second thought would have told her
to say.
``Never mind, Mrs. Greggory. We'll have her
all well and strong soon; never fear! Just wait
till I send Peggy and Mary Jane to take her out
for a drive one of these mild, sunny days. You
have no idea how much good it will do her!''
Alice Greggory got suddenly to her feet. Her
face was very white now. Her eyes had the
steely coldness that Billy knew so well. Her
voice, when she spoke, was low and sternly controlled.
``Miss Neilson, you will think me rude, of
course, especially after your great kindness to me
the other day; but I can't help it. It seems to me
best to speak now before it goes any further.''
``Alice, dear,'' remonstrated Mrs. Greggory,
extending a frightened hand.
The girl did not turn her head nor hesitate;
but she caught the extended hand and held it
warmly in both her own, with gentle little pats,
while she went on speaking.
``I'm sure mother agrees with me that it is
best, for the present, that we keep quite to
ourselves. I cannot question your kindness, of
course, after your somewhat unusual favor the
other day; but I am very sure that your friends,
Miss Peggy, and Miss Mary Jane, have no real
desire to make my acquaintance, nor--if you'll
pardon me--have I, under the circumstances,
any wish to make theirs.''
``Oh, Alice, Alice,'' began the little mother, in
dismay; but a rippling laugh from their visitor
brought an angry flush even to her gentle face.
Billy understood the flush, and struggled for
``Please--please, forgive me!'' she choked.
``But you see--you couldn't, of course, know
that Mary Jane and Peggy aren't _girls_. They're
just a man and an automobile!''
An unwilling smile trembled on Alice Greggory's
lips; but she still stood her ground.
``After all, girls, or men and automobiles,
Miss Neilson--it makes little difference. They're
--charity. And it's not so long that we've been
objects of charity that we quite really enjoy it--
There was a moment's hush. Billy's eyes had
filled with tears.
``I never even _thought_--charity,'' said Billy,
so gently that a faint red stole into the white
cheeks opposite.
For a tense minute Alice Greggory held herself
erect; then, with a complete change of manner
and voice, she released her mother's hand, dropped
into her own chair again, and said wearily:
``I know you didn't, Miss Neilson. It's all
my foolish pride, of course. It's only that I was
thinking how dearly I would love to meet girls
again--just as _girls!_ But--I no longer have
any business with pride, of course. I shall be
pleased, I'm sure,'' she went on dully, ``to accept
anything you may do for us, from automobile
rides to--to red flannel petticoats.''
Billy almost--but not quite--laughed. Still,
the laugh would have been near to a sob, had it
been given. Surprising as was the quick transition
in the girl's manner, and absurd as was the
juxtaposition of automobiles and red flannel
petticoats, the white misery of Alice Greggory's face
and the weary despair of her attitude were tragic
--specially to one who knew her story as did
Billy Neilson. And it was because Billy did know
her story that she did not make the mistake now
of offering pity. Instead, she said with a bright
smile, and a casual manner that gave no hint
of studied labor:
``Well, as it happens, Miss Greggory, what I
want to-day has nothing whatever to do with
automobiles or red flannel petticoats. It's a
matter of straight business.'' (How Billy blessed
the thought that had so suddenly come to her!)
``Your mother tells me you play accompaniments.
Now a girls' club, of which I am a member, is
getting up an operetta for charity, and we need
an accompanist. There is no one in the club who
is able, and at the same time willing, to spend
the amount of time necessary for practice and
rehearsals. So we had decided to hire one outside,
and I have been given the task of finding one. It
has occurred to me that perhaps you would be
willing to undertake it for us. Would you?''
Billy knew, at once, from the quick change in
the other's face and manner, that she had taken
exactly the right course to relieve the strain of
the situation. Despair and lassitude fell away
from Alice Greggory almost like a garment. Her
countenance became alert and interested.
``Indeed I would! I should be glad to do it.''
``Good! Then can you come out to my home
sometime to-morrow, and go over the music with
me? Rehearsals will not begin until next week;
but I can give you the music, and tell you
something of what we are planning to do.''
``Yes. I could come at ten in the morning for
an hour, or at three in the afternoon for two
hours or more,'' replied Miss Greggory, after a
moment's hesitation.
``Suppose we call it in the afternoon, then,''
smiled Billy, as she rose to her feet. ``And now I
must go--and here's my address,'' she finished,
taking out her card and laying it on the table
near her.
For reasons of her own Billy went away that
morning without saying anything more about
the proposed new pupils. New pupils were not
automobile rides nor petticoats, to be sure--but
she did not care to risk disturbing the present
interested happiness of Alice Greggory's face by
mentioning anything that might be construed as
too officious an assistance.
On the whole, Billy felt well pleased with her
morning's work. To Aunt Hannah, upon her
return, she expressed herself thus:
``It's splendid--even better than I hoped. I
shall have a chance to-morrow, of course, to see
for myself just how well she plays, and all that.
I'm pretty sure, though, from what I hear, that
that part will be all right. Then the operetta
will give us a chance to see a good deal of her,
and to bring about a natural meeting between her
and Mary Jane. Oh, Aunt Hannah, I couldn't
have _planned_ it better--and there the whole
thing just tumbled into my hands! I knew it had
the minute I remembered about the operetta.
You know I'm chairman, and they left me to
get the accompanist; and like a flash it came to
me, when I was wondering _what_ to say or do to
get her out of that awful state she was in--`Ask
her to be your accompanist.' And I did. And I'm
so glad I did! Oh, Aunt Hannah, it's coming out
lovely!--I know it is.''
To Billy, Alice Greggory's first visit to Hillside
was in every way a delight and a satisfaction. To
Alice, it was even more than that. For the first
time in years she found herself welcomed into a
home of wealth, culture, and refinement as an equal;
and the frank cordiality and naturalness of her
hostess's evident expectation of meeting a
congenial companion was like balm to a sensitive
soul rendered morbid by long years of superciliousness
and snubbing.
No wonder that under the cheery friendliness
of it all, Alice Greggory's cold reserve vanished,
and that in its place came something very like
her old ease and charm of manner. By the time
Aunt Hannah--according to previous agreement
--came into the room, the two girls were laughing
and chatting over the operetta as if they had known
each other for years.
Much to Billy's delight, Alice Greggory, as a
musician, proved to be eminently satisfactory.
She was quick at sight reading, and accurate.
She played easily, and with good expression.
Particularly was she a good accompanist, possessing
to a marked degree that happy faculty of _accompanying_
a singer: which means that she neither
led the way nor lagged behind, being always
exactly in sympathetic step--than which nothing
is more soul-satisfying to the singer.
It was after the music for the operetta had been
well-practised and discussed that Alice Greggory
chanced to see one of Billy's own songs lying near
her. With a pleased smile she picked it up.
``Oh, you know this, too!'' she cried. ``I
played it for a lady only the other day. It's so
pretty, I think--all of hers are, that I have seen.
Billy Neilson is a girl, you know, they say, in
spite of--``She stopped abruptly. Her eyes
grew wide and questioning. ``Miss Neilson--it
can't be--you don't mean--is your name--it
_is--you!_'' she finished joyously, as the telltale
color dyed Billy's face. The next moment her
own cheeks burned scarlet. ``And to think of
my letting _you_ stand in line for a twenty-five-cent
admission!'' she scorned.
``Nonsense!'' laughed Billy. ``It didn't hurt
me any more than it did you. Come!''--in
looking about for a quick something to take her
guest's attention, Billy's eyes fell on the manuscript
copy of her new song, bearing Arkwright's
name. Yielding to a daring impulse, she drew
it hastily forward. ``Here's a new one--a brandnew
one, not even printed yet. Don't you think
the words are pretty?'' she asked.
As she had hoped, Alice Greggory's eyes, after
they had glanced half-way through the first page,
sought the name at the left side below the title.
`` `Words by M. J.--' ''--there was a
visible start, and a pause before the `` `Arkwright' ''
was uttered in a slightly different tone.
Billy noted both the start and the pause--and
gloried in them.
``Yes; the words are by M. J. Arkwright,'' she
said with smooth unconcern, but with a covert
glance at the other's face. ``Ever hear of him?''
Alice Greggory gave a short little laugh.
``Probably not--this one. I used to know
an M. J. Arkwright, long ago; but he wasn't--a
poet, so far as I know,'' she finished, with a little
catch in her breath that made Billy long to take
her into a warm embrace.
Alice Greggory turned then to the music. She
had much to say of this--very much; but she
had nothing more whatever to say of Mr. M. J.
Arkwright in spite of the tempting conversation
bait that Billy dropped so freely. After that,
Rosa brought in tea and toast, and the little
frosted cakes that were always such a favorite
with Billy's guests. Then Alice Greggory said
good-by--her eyes full of tears that Billy pretended
not to see.
``There!'' breathed Billy, as soon as she had
Aunt Hannah to herself again. ``What did I
tell you? Did you see Miss Greggory's start
and blush and hear her sigh just over the _name_
of M. J. Arkwright? Just as if--! Now I want
them to meet; only it must be casual, Aunt Hannah--
casual! And I'd rather wait till Mary
Jane hears from his mother, if possible, so if there
_is_ anything good to tell the poor girl, he can tell
``Yes, of course. Dear child!--I hope he can,''
murmured Aunt Hannah. (Aunt Hannah had
ceased now trying to make Billy refrain from the
reprehensible ``Mary Jane.'' In fact, if the truth
were known, Aunt Hannah herself in her thoughts
--and sometimes in her words--called him
``Mary Jane.'') ``But, indeed, my dear, I didn't
see anything stiff, or--or repelling about Miss
Greggory, as you said there was.''
``There wasn't--to-day,'' smiled Billy.
``Honestly, Aunt Hannah, I should never have known
her for the same girl--who showed me the door
that first morning,'' she finished merrily, as she
turned to go up-stairs.
It was the next day that Cyril and Marie came
home from their honeymoon. They went directly
to their pretty little apartment on Beacon Street,
Brookline, within easy walking distance of Billy's
own cozy home.
Cyril intended to build in a year or two.
Meanwhile they had a very pretty, convenient home
which was, according to Bertram, ``electrified to
within an inch of its life, and equipped with
everything that was fireless, smokeless, dustless, and
laborless.'' In it Marie had a spotlessly white
kitchen where she might make puddings to her
heart's content.
Marie had--again according to Bertram--
``a visiting acquaintance with a maid.'' In
other words, a stout woman was engaged to come
two days in the week to wash, iron, and scrub;
also to come in each night to wash the dinner
dishes, thus leaving Marie's evenings free--``for
the shaded lamp,'' Billy said.
Marie had not arrived at this--to her, delightful--
arrangement of a ``visiting acquaintance''
without some opposition from her friends. Even
Billy had stood somewhat aghast.
``But, my dear, won't it be hard for you, to do
so much?'' she argued one day. ``You know
you aren't very strong.''
``I know; but it won't be hard, as I've planned
it,'' replied Marie, ``specially when I've been
longing for years to do this very thing. Why, Billy,
if I had to stand by and watch a maid do all these
things I want to do myself, I should feel just like
--like a hungry man who sees another man eating
up his dinner! Oh, of course,'' she added plaintively,
after Billy's laughter had subsided, ``I
sha'n't do it always. I don't expect to. Of course,
when we have a house--I'm not sure, then,
though, that I sha'n't dress up the maid and order
her to receive the calls and go to the pink teas,
while I make her puddings,'' she finished saucily,
as Billy began to laugh again.
The bride and groom, as was proper, were, soon
after their arrival, invited to dine at both William's
and Billy's. Then, until Marie's ``At Homes''
should begin, the devoted couple settled down to
quiet days by themselves, with only occasional
visits from the family to interrupt--``interrupt''
was Bertram's word, not Marie's. Though it is
safe to say it was not far different from the one
Cyril used--in his thoughts.
Bertram himself, these days, was more than
busy. Besides working on Miss Winthrop's portrait,
and on two or three other commissions, he
was putting the finishing touches to four pictures
which he was to show in the exhibition soon to be
held by a prominent Art Club of which he was
the acknowledged ``star'' member. Naturally,
therefore, his time was well occupied. Naturally,
too, Billy, knowing this, lashed herself more
sternly than ever into a daily reminder of Kate's
assertion that he belonged first to his Art.
In pursuance of this idea, Billy was careful to
see that no engagement with herself should in any
way interfere with the artist's work, and that
no word of hers should attempt to keep him at her
side when ART called. (Billy always spelled
that word now in her mind with tall, black letters
--the way it had sounded when it fell from Kate's
lips.) That these tactics on her part were beginning
to fill her lover with vague alarm and a very
definite unrest, she did not once suspect. Eagerly,
therefore,--even with conscientious delight--
she welcomed the new song-words that Arkwright
brought--they would give her something else
to take up her time and attention. She welcomed
them, also, for another reason: they would bring
Arkwright more often to the house, and this
would, of course, lead to that ``casual meeting''
between him and Alice Greggory when the
rehearsals for the operetta should commence--
which would be very soon now. And Billy did
so long to bring about that meeting!
To Billy, all this was but ``occupying her mind,''
and playing Cupid's assistant to a worthy young
couple torn cruelly apart by an unfeeling fate.
To Bertram--to Bertram it was terror, and woe,
and all manner of torture; for in it Bertram saw
only a growing fondness on the part of Billy for
Arkwright, Arkwright's music, Arkwright's words,
and Arkwright's friends.
The first rehearsal for the operetta came on
Wednesday evening. There would be another on
Thursday afternoon. Billy had told Alice Greggory
to arrange her pupils so that she could stay
Wednesday night at Hillside, if the crippled mother
could get along alone--and she could, Alice had
said. Thursday forenoon, therefore, Alice Greggory
would, in all probability, be at Hillside, specially
as there would doubtless be an appointment or
two for private rehearsal with some nervous soloist
whose part was not progressing well. Such being
the case, Billy had a plan she meant to carry out.
She was highly pleased, therefore, when Thursday
morning came, and everything, apparently, was
working exactly to her mind.
Alice was there. She had an appointment at
quarter of eleven with the leading tenor, and another
later with the alto. After breakfast, therefore,
Billy said decisively:
``Now, if you please, Miss Greggory, I'm going
to put you up-stairs on the couch in the sewingroom
for a nap.''
``But I've just got up,'' remonstrated Miss
``I know you have,'' smiled Billy; ``but you
were very late to bed last night, and you've got
a hard day before you. I insist upon your resting.
You will be absolutely undisturbed there, and
you must shut the door and not come down-stairs
till I send for you. Mr. Johnson isn't due till
quarter of eleven, is he?''
``Then come with me,'' directed Billy, leading
the way up-stairs. ``There, now, don't come down
till I call you,'' she went on, when they had reached
the little room at the end of the hall. ``I'm going
to leave Aunt Hannah's door open, so you'll
have good air--she isn't in there. She's writing
letters in my room, Now here's a book, and you
_may_ read, but I should prefer you to sleep,'' she
nodded brightly as she went out and shut the
door quietly. Then, like the guilty conspirator
she was, she went down-stairs to wait for Arkwright.
It was a fine plan. Arkwright was due at ten
o'clock--Billy had specially asked him to come
at that hour. He would not know, of course, that
Alice Greggory was in the house; but soon after
his arrival Billy meant to excuse herself for a
moment, slip up-stairs and send Alice Greggory
down for a book, a pair of scissors, a shawl for
Aunt Hannah--anything would do for a pretext,
anything so that the girl might walk into the
living-room and find Arkwright waiting for her
alone. And then-- What happened next was,
in Billy's mind, very vague, but very attractive
as a nucleus for one's thoughts, nevertheless.
All this was, indeed, a fine plan; but-- (If
only fine plans would not so often have a ``but''!)
In Billy's case the ``but'' had to do with things
so apparently unrelated as were Aunt Hannah's
clock and a negro's coal wagon. The clock struck
eleven at half-past ten, and the wagon dumped
itself to destruction directly in front of a trolley
car in which sat Mr. M. J. Arkwright, hurrying
to keep his appointment with Miss Billy Neilson.
It was almost half-past ten when Arkwright
finally rang the bell at Hillside. Billy greeted
him so eagerly, and at the same time with such
evident disappointment at his late arrival, that
Arkwright's heart sang with joy.
``But there's a rehearsal at quarter of eleven,''
exclaimed Billy, in answer to his hurried explanation
of the delay; ``and this gives so little time
for--for--so little time, you know,'' she finished
in confusion, casting frantically about in
her mind for an excuse to hurry up-stairs and
send Alice Greggory down before it should be
quite too late.
No wonder that Arkwright, noting the sparkle
in her eye, the agitation in her manner, and the
embarrassed red in her cheek, took new courage.
For so long had this girl held him at the end of a
major third or a diminished seventh; for so long
had she blithely accepted his every word and act
as devotion to music, not herself--for so long
had she done all this that he had come to fear
that never would she do anything else. No
wonder then, that now, in the soft radiance of the
strange, new light on her face, his own face
glowed ardently, and that he leaned forward
with an impetuous rush of eager words.
``But there is time, Miss Billy--if you'd give
me leave--to say--''
``I'm afraid I kept you waiting,'' interrupted
the hurried voice of Alice Greggory from the hall
doorway. ``I was asleep, I think, when a clock
somewhere, striking eleven-- Why, Mr.--Arkwright!''
Not until Alice Greggory had nearly crossed the
room did she see that the man standing by her
hostess was--not the tenor she had expected to
find--but an old acquaintance. Then it was
that the tremulous ``Mr.-Arkwright!'' fell from
her lips.
Billy and Arkwright had turned at her first
words. At her last, Arkwright, with a halfdespairing,
half-reproachful glance at Billy, stepped
``Miss Greggory!--you _are_ Miss Alice Greggory,
I am sure,'' he said pleasantly.
At the first opportunity Billy murmured a
hasty excuse and left the room. To Aunt Hannah
she flew with a woebegone face.
``Oh, Aunt Hannah, Aunt Hannah,'' she
wailed, half laughing, half crying; ``that wretched
little fib-teller of a clock of yours spoiled it
``Spoiled it! Spoiled what, child?''
``My first meeting between Mary Jane and
Miss Greggory. I had it all arranged that they
were to have it _alone_; but that miserable little
fibber up-stairs struck eleven at half-past ten,
and Miss Greggory heard it and thought she was
fifteen minutes late. So down she hurried, half
awake, and spoiled all my plans. Now she's
sitting in there with him, in chairs the length of
the room apart, discussing the snowstorm last
night or the moonrise this morning--or some
other such silly thing. And I had it so beautifully
``Well, well, dear, I'm sorry, I'm sure,'' smiled
Aunt Hannah; ``but I can't think any real harm
is done. Did Mary Jane have anything to tell
her--about her father, I mean?''
Only the faintest flicker of Billy's eyelid testified
that the everyday accustomedness of that ``Mary
Jane'' on Aunt Hannah's lips had not escaped her.
``No, nothing definite. Yet there was a little.
Friends are still trying to clear his name, and I
believe are meeting with increasing success. I
don't know, of course, whether he'll say anything
about it to-day--_now_. To think I had to be
right round under foot like that when they met!''
went on Billy, indignantly. ``I shouldn't have
been, in a minute more, though. I was just trying
to think up an excuse to come up and send down
Miss Greggory, when Mary Jane began to tell
me something--I haven't the faintest idea what
--then _she_ appeared, and it was all over. And
there's the doorbell, and the tenor, I suppose; so
of course it's all over now,'' she sighed, rising to go
As it chanced, however, it was not the tenor,
but a message from him--a message that brought
dire consternation to the Chairman of the Committee
of Arrangements. The tenor had thrown
up his part. He could not take it; it was too
difficult. He felt that this should be told--at once
rather than to worry along for another week or
two, and then give up. So he had told it.
``But what shall we do, Miss Greggory?''
appealed Billy. ``It _is_ a hard part, you know;
but if Mr. Tobey can't take it, I don't know who
can. We don't want to hire a singer for it, if we can
help it. The profits are to go to the Home for
Crippled Children, you know,'' she explained,
turning to Arkwright, ``and we decided to hire
only the accompanist.''
An odd expression flitted across Miss Greggory's
``Mr. Arkwright used to sing--tenor,'' she
observed quietly.
``As if he didn't now--a perfectly glorious
tenor,'' retorted Billy. ``But as if _he_ would take
For only a brief moment did Arkwright hesitate;
then blandly he suggested:
``Suppose you try him, and see.''
Billy sat suddenly erect.
``Would you, really? _Could_ you--take the
time, and all?'' she cried.
``Yes, I think I would--under the circumstances,''
he smiled. ``I think I could, too,
though I might not be able to attend all the
rehearsals. Still, if I find I have to ask permission,
I'll endeavor to convince the powers-that-be that
singing in this operetta will be just the steppingstone
I need to success in Grand Opera.''
``Oh, if you only would take it,'' breathed Billy,
``we'd be so glad!''
``Well,'' said Arkwright, his eyes on Billy's
frankly delighted face, ``as I said before--under
the circumstances I think I would.''
``Thank you! Then it's all beautifully settled,''
rejoiced Billy, with a happy sigh; and unconsciously
she gave Alice Greggory's hand near her
a little pat.
In Billy's mind the ``circumstances'' of
Arkwright's acceptance of the part were Alice Greggory
and her position as accompanist, of course.
Billy would have been surprised indeed--and
dismayed--had she known that in Arkwright's
mind the ``circumstances'' were herself, and the
fact that she, too, had a part in the operetta,
necessitating her presence at rehearsals, and hinting
at a delightful comradeship impossible, perhaps, otherwise.
February came The operetta, for which
Billy was working so hard, was to be given the
twentieth. The Art Exhibition, for which Bertram
was preparing his four pictures, was to open the
sixteenth, with a private view for specially
invited friends the evening before.
On the eleventh day of February Mrs. Greggory
and her daughter arrived at Hillside for a tendays'
visit. Not until after a great deal of pleading
and argument, however, had Billy been able
to bring this about.
``But, my dears, both of you,'' Billy had at
last said to them; ``just listen. We shall have
numberless rehearsals during those last ten days
before the thing comes off. They will be at all
hours, and of all lengths. You, Miss Greggory,
will have to be on hand for them all, of course,
and will have to stay all night several times,
probably. You, Mrs. Greggory, ought not to
be alone down here. There is no sensible, valid
reason why you should not both come out to the
house for those ten days; and I shall feel seriously
hurt and offended if you do not consent to do
``But--my pupils,'' Alice Greggory had demurred.
``You can go in town from my home at any
time to give your lessons, and a little shifting
about and arranging for those ten days will enable
you to set the hours conveniently one after another,
I am sure, so you can attend to several on
one trip. Meanwhile your mother will be having
a lovely time teaching Aunt Hannah how to
knit a new shawl; so you won't have to be
worrying about her.''
After all, it had been the great good and pleasure
which the visit would bring to Mrs. Greggory that
had been the final straw to tip the scales. On the
eleventh of February, therefore, in the company
of the once scorned ``Peggy and Mary Jane,''
Alice Greggory and her mother had arrived at
Ever since the first meeting of Alice Greggory
and Arkwright, Billy had been sorely troubled
by the conduct of the two young people. She had,
as she mournfully told herself, been able to make
nothing of it. The two were civility itself to each
other, but very plainly they were not at ease in
each other's company; and Billy, much to her
surprise, had to admit that Arkwright did not
appear to appreciate the ``circumstances'' now
that he had them. The pair called each other,
ceremoniously, ``Mr. Arkwright,'' and ``Miss
Greggory''--but then, that, of course, did not
``signify,'' Billy declared to herself.
``I suppose you don't ever call him `Mary
Jane,' '' she said to the girl, a little mischievously,
one day.
`` `Mary Jane'? Mr. Arkwright? No, I don't,''
rejoined Miss Greggory, with an odd smile. Then,
after a moment, she added: ``I believe his brothers
and sisters used to, however.''
``Yes, I know,'' laughed Billy. ``We thought
he was a real Mary Jane, once.'' And she told
the story of his arrival. ``So you see,'' she
finished, when Alice Greggory had done laughing
over the tale, ``he always will be `Mary Jane' to
us. By the way, what is his name?''
Miss Greggory looked up in surprise.
``Why, it's--'' She stopped short, her eyes
questioning. ``Why, hasn't he ever told you?''
she queried.
Billy lifted her chin.
``No. He told us to guess it, and we have
guessed everything we can think of, even up to
`Methuselah John'; but he says we haven't
hit it yet.''
`` `Methuselah John,' indeed!'' laughed the
other, merrily.
``Well, I'm sure that's a nice, solid name,''
defended Billy, her chin still at a challenging
tilt. ``If it isn't `Methuselah John,' what is it,
But Alice Greggory shook her head. She, too,
it seemed, could be firm, on occasion. And though
she smiled brightly, all she would say, was:
``If he hasn't told you, I sha'n't. You'll have
to go to him.''
``Oh, well, I can still call him `Mary Jane,' ''
retorted Billy, with airy disdain.
All this, however, so far as Billy could see, was
not in the least helping along the cause that had
become so dear to her--the reuniting of a pair
of lovers. It occurred to her then, one day, that
perhaps, after all, they were not lovers, and did
not wish to be reunited. At this disquieting
thought Billy decided, suddenly, to go almost to
headquarters. She would speak to Mrs. Greggory
if ever the opportunity offered. Great was her
joy, therefore, when, a day or two after the
Greggorys arrived at the house, Mrs. Greggory's
chance reference to Arkwright and her daughter
gave Billy the opportunity she sought.
``They used to know each other long ago, Mr.
Arkwright tells me,'' Billy began warily.
The quietly polite monosyllable was not very
encouraging, to be sure; but Billy, secure in her
conviction that her cause was a righteous one,
refused to be daunted.
``I think it was so romantic--their running
across each other like this, Mrs. Greggory,'' she
murmured. ``And there _was_ a romance, wasn't
there? I have just felt in my bones that there
was--a romance!''
Billy held her breath. It was what she had
meant to say, but now that she had said it, the
words seemed very fearsome indeed--to say to
Mrs. Greggory. Then Billy remembered her
Cause, and took heart--Billy was spelling it
now with a capital C.
For a long minute Mrs. Greggory did not
answer--for so long a minute that Billy's breath
dropped into a fluttering sigh, and her Cause
became suddenly ``IMPERTINENCE'' spelled
in black capitals. Then Mrs. Greggory spoke
slowly, a little sadly.
``I don't mind saying to you that I did hope,
once, that there would be a romance there. They
were the best of friends, and they were wellsuited
to each other in tastes and temperament.
I think, indeed, that the romance was well under
way (though there was never an engagement)
when--'' Mrs. Greggory paused and wet her
lips. Her voice, when she resumed, carried the
stern note so familiar to Billy in her first acquaintance
with this woman and her daughter. ``As
I presume Mr. Arkwright has told you, we have
met with many changes in our life--changes
which necessitated a new home and a new mode
of living. Naturally, under those circumstances,
old friends--and old romances--must change,
``But, Mrs. Greggory,'' stammered Billy, ``I'm
sure Mr. Arkwright would want--'' An uplifted
hand silenced her peremptorily.
``Mr. Arkwright was very kind, and a gentleman,
always,'' interposed the lady, coldly; ``but
Judge Greggory's daughter would not allow herself
to be placed where apologies for her father
would be necessary--_ever!_ There, please, dear
Miss Neilson, let us not talk of it any more,''
begged Mrs. Greggory, brokenly.
``No, indeed, of course not!'' cried Billy; but
her heart rejoiced.
She understood it all now. Arkwright and Alice
Greggory had been almost lovers when the charges
against the Judge's honor had plunged the family
into despairing humiliation. Then had come the
time when, according to Arkwright's own story,
the two women had shut themselves indoors, refused
to see their friends, and left town as soon
as possible. Thus had come the breaking of
whatever tie there was between Alice Greggory
and Arkwright. Not to have broken it would have
meant, for Alice, the placing of herself in a position
where, sometime, apologies must be made for
her father. This was what Mrs. Greggory had
meant--and again, as Billy thought of it, Billy's
heart rejoiced.
Was not her way clear now before her? Did
she not have it in her power, possibly--even
probably--to bring happiness where only sadness
was before? As if it would not be a simple thing
to rekindle the old flame--to make these two
estranged hearts beat as one again!
Not now was the Cause an IMPERTINENCE
in tall black letters. It was, instead, a shining
beacon in letters of flame guiding straight to
Billy went to sleep that night making plans
for Alice Greggory and Arkwright to be thrown
together naturally--``just as a matter of course,
you know,'' she said drowsily to herself, all in
the dark.
Some three or four miles away down Beacon
Street at that moment Bertram Henshaw, in the
Strata, was, as it happened, not falling asleep.
He was lying broadly and unhappily awake Bertram
very frequently lay broadly and unhappily
awake these days--or rather nights. He told
himself, on these occasions, that it was perfectly
natural--indeed it was!--that Billy should be
with Arkwright and his friends, the Greggorys,
so much. There were the new songs, and the
operetta with its rehearsals as a cause for it all.
At the same time, deep within his fearful soul
was the consciousness that Arkwright, the Greggorys,
and the operetta were but Music--Music,
the spectre that from the first had dogged his
With Billy's behavior toward himself, Bertram
could find no fault. She was always her sweet,
loyal, lovable self, eager to hear of his work,
earnestly solicitous that it should be a success.
She even--as he sometimes half-irritably
remembered--had once told him that she realized
he belonged to Art before he did to himself; and
when he had indignantly denied this, she had only
laughed and thrown a kiss at him, with the remark
that he ought to hear his sister Kate's opinion of
that matter. As if he wanted Kate's opinion on
that or anything else that concerned him and
Once, torn by jealousy, and exasperated at the
frequent interruptions of their quiet hours
together, he had complained openly.
``Actually, Billy, it's worse than Marie's
wedding,'' he declared, ``_Then_ it was tablecloths
and napkins that could be dumped in a chair.
_Now_ it's a girl who wants to rehearse, or a woman
that wants a different wig, or a telephone message
that the sopranos have quarrelled again. I loathe
that operetta!''
Billy laughed, but she frowned, too.
``I know, dear; I don't like that part. I wish
they _would_ let me alone when I'm with you! But
as for the operetta, it is really a good thing, dear,
and you'll say so when you see it. It's going to
be a great success--I can say that because my
part is only a small one, you know. We shall
make lots of money for the Home, too, I'm sure.''
``But you're wearing yourself all out with it,
dear,'' scowled Bertram.
``Nonsense! I like it; besides, when I'm doing
this I'm not telephoning you to come and amuse
me. Just think what a lot of extra time you have
for your work!''
``Don't want it,'' avowed Bertram.
``But the _work_ may,'' retorted Billy, showing
all her dimples. ``Never mind, though; it'll all
be over after the twentieth. _This_ isn't an understudy
like Marie's wedding, you know,'' she finished demurely.
``Thank heaven for that!'' Bertram had
breathed fervently. But even as he said the words
he grew sick with fear. What if, after all, this
_were_ an understudy to what was to come later
when Music, his rival, had really conquered?
Bertram knew that however secure might seem
Billy's affection for himself, there was still in
his own mind a horrid fear lest underneath that
security were an unconscious, growing fondness
for something he could not give, for some one
that he was not--a fondness that would one day
cause Billy to awake. As Bertram, in his morbid
fancy pictured it, he realized only too well what
that awakening would mean to himself.
The private view of the paintings and drawings
of the Brush and Pencil Club on the evening of
the fifteenth was a great success. Society sent
its fairest women in frocks that were pictures in
themselves. Art sent its severest critics and its
most ardent devotees. The Press sent reporters
that the World might know what Art and Society
were doing, and how they did it.
Before the canvases signed with Bertram
Henshaw's name there was always to be found an
admiring group representing both Art and Society
with the Press on the outskirts to report. William
Henshaw, coming unobserved upon one such group,
paused a moment to smile at the various more or
less disconnected comments.
``What a lovely blue!''
``Marvellous color sense!''
``Now those shadows are--''
``He gets his high lights so--''
``I declare, she looks just like Blanche Payton!''
``Every line there is full of meaning.''
``I suppose it's very fine, but--''
``Now, I say, Henshaw is--''
``Is this by the man that's painting Margy
Winthrop's portrait?''
``It's idealism, man, idealism!''
``I'm going to have a dress just that shade of
``Isn't that just too sweet!''
``Now for realism, I consider Henshaw--''
``There aren't many with his sensitive, brilliant
``Oh, what a pretty picture!''
William moved on then.
Billy was rapturously proud of Bertram that
evening. He was, of course, the centre of
congratulations and hearty praise. At his side,
Billy, with sparkling eyes, welcomed each smiling
congratulation and gloried in every commendatory
word she heard.
``Oh, Bertram, isn't it splendid! I'm so proud
of you,'' she whispered softly, when a moment's
lull gave her opportunity.
``They're all words, words, idle words,'' he
laughed; but his eyes shone.
``Just as if they weren't all true!'' she bridled,
turning to greet William, who came up at that
moment. ``Isn't it fine, Uncle William?'' she
beamed. ``And aren't we proud of him?''
``We are, indeed,'' smiled the man. ``But if
you and Bertram want to get the real opinion of
this crowd, you should go and stand near one
of his pictures five minutes. As a sort of crazy--
quilt criticism it can't be beat.''
``I know,'' laughed Bertram. ``I've done it,
in days long gone.''
``Bertram, not really?'' cried Billy.
``Sure! As if every young artist at the first
didn't don goggles or a false mustache and study
the pictures on either side of his own till he could
paint them with his eyes shut!''
``And what did you hear?'' demanded the girl.
``What didn't I hear?'' laughed her lover.
``But I didn't do it but once or twice. I lost my
head one day and began to argue the question
of perspective with a couple of old codgers who
were criticizing a bit of foreshortening that was
my special pet. I forgot my goggles and sailed
in. The game was up then, of course; and I
never put them on again. But it was worth a
farm to see their faces when I stood `discovered'
as the stage-folk say.''
``Serves you right, sir--listening like that,''
scolded Billy.
Bertram laughed and shrugged his shoulders.
``Well, it cured me, anyhow. I haven't done
it since,'' he declared.
It was some time later, on the way home, that
Bertram said:
``It was gratifying, of course, Billy, and I
liked it. It would be absurd to say I didn't like
the many pleasant words of apparently sincere
appreciation I heard to-night. But I couldn't
help thinking of the next time--always the next
``The next time?'' Billy's eyes were slightly
``That I exhibit, I mean. The Bohemian Ten
hold their exhibition next month, you know. I
shall show just one picture--the portrait of
Miss Winthrop.''
``Oh, Bertram!''
``It'll be `Oh, Bertram!' then, dear, if it isn't
a success,'' he sighed. ``I don't believe you realize
yet what that thing is going to mean for me.''
``Well, I should think I might,'' retorted
Billy, a little tremulously, ``after all I've heard
about it. I should think _everybody_ knew you were
doing it, Bertram. Actually, I'm not sure Marie's
scrub-lady won't ask me some day how Mr.
Bertram's picture is coming on!''
``That's the dickens of it, in a way,'' sighed
Bertram, with a faint smile. ``I am amazed--
and a little frightened, I'll admit--at the universality
of the interest. You see, the Winthrops
have been pleased to spread it, for one reason or
another, and of course many already know of
the failures of Anderson and Fullam. That's
why, if I should fail--''
``But you aren't going to fail,'' interposed
the girl, resolutely.
``No, I know I'm not. I only said `if,' '' fenced
the man, his voice not quite steady.
``There isn't going to be any `if,' '' settled
Billy. ``Now tell me, when is the exhibition?''
``March twentieth--the private view. Mr.
Winthrop is not only willing, but anxious, that I
show it. I wasn't sure that he'd want me to--
in an exhibition. But it seems he does. His
daughter says he has every confidence in the
portrait and wants everybody to see it.''
``That's where he shows his good sense,''
declared Billy. Then, with just a touch of constraint,
she asked: ``And how is the new, latest pose
coming on?''
``Very well, I think,'' answered Bertram, a
little hesitatingly. ``We've had so many, many
interruptions, though, that it is surprising how
slow it is moving. In the first place, Miss
Winthrop is gone more than half the time (she goes
again to-morrow for a week!), and in this portrait
I'm not painting a stroke without my model before
me. I mean to take no chances, you see; and Miss
Winthrop is perfectly willing to give me all the
sittings I wish for. Of course, if she hadn't changed
the pose and costume so many times, it would
have been done long ago--and she knows it.''
``Of course--she knows it,'' murmured Billy,
a little faintly, but with a peculiar intonation in
her voice.
``And so you see,'' sighed Bertram, ``what the
twentieth of March is going to mean for me.''
``It's going to mean a splendid triumph!''
asserted Billy; and this time her voice was not
faint, and it carried only a ring of loyal confidence.
``You blessed comforter!'' murmured Bertram,
giving with his eyes the caress that his lips would
so much have preferred to give--under more
propitious circumstances.
The sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth of
February were, for Billy, and for all concerned
in the success of the operetta, days of hurry,
worry, and feverish excitement, as was to be
expected, of course. Each afternoon and every
evening saw rehearsals in whole, or in parts. A
friend of the Club-president's sister-in-law-a
woman whose husband was stage manager of a
Boston theatre--had consented to come and
``coach'' the performers. At her appearance
the performers--promptly thrown into nervous
spasms by this fearsome nearness to the ``real
thing''--forgot half their cues, and conducted
themselves generally like frightened school children
on ``piece day,'' much to their own and every one
else's despair. Then, on the evening of the
nineteenth, came the final dress rehearsal on the stage
of the pretty little hall that had been engaged for
the performance of the operetta.
The dress rehearsal, like most of its kind, was,
for every one, nothing but a nightmare of discord,
discouragement, and disaster. Everybody's nerves
were on edge, everybody was sure the thing would
be a ``flat failure.'' The soprano sang off the
key, the alto forgot to shriek ``Beware, beware!''
until it was so late there was nothing to beware of;
the basso stepped on Billy's trailing frock and
tore it; even the tenor, Arkwright himself, seemed
to have lost every bit of vim from his acting. The
chorus sang ``Oh, be joyful!'' with dirge-like
solemnity, and danced as if legs and feet were
made of wood. The lovers, after the fashion
of amateur actors from time immemorial, ``made
love like sticks.''
Billy, when the dismal thing had dragged its
way through the final note, sat ``down front,''
crying softly in the semi-darkness while she was
waiting for Alice Greggory to ``run it through
just once more'' with a pair of tired-faced, fluffyskirted
fairies who could _not_ learn that a duet
meant a _duet_--not two solos, independently
hurried or retarded as one's fancy for the moment
To Billy, just then, life did not look to be even
half worth the living. Her head ached, her throat
was going-to-be-sore, her shoe hurt, and her dress
--the trailing frock that had been under the
basso's foot--could not possibly be decently
repaired before to-morrow night, she was sure.
Bad as these things were, however, they were
only the intimate, immediate woes. Beyond and
around them lay others many others. To be
sure, Bertram and happiness were supposed to
be somewhere in the dim and uncertain future;
but between her and them lay all these other
woes, chief of which was the unutterable tragedy
of to-morrow night.
It was to be a failure, of course. Billy had
calmly made up her mind to that, now. But then,
she was used to failures, she told herself. Was
she not plainly failing every day of her life to
bring about even friendship between Alice Greggory
and Arkwright? Did they not emphatically and
systematically refuse to be ``thrown together,''
either naturally, or unnaturally? And yet--
whenever again could she expect such opportunities
to further her Cause as had been hers the
past few weeks, through the operetta and its
rehearsals? Certainly, never again! It had been
a failure like all the rest; like the operetta, in
Billy did not mean that any one should know
she was crying. She supposed that all the performers
except herself and the two earth-bound
fairies by the piano with Alice Greggory were gone.
She knew that John with Peggy was probably
waiting at the door outside, and she hoped that
soon the fairies would decide to go home and go
to bed, and let other people do the same. For her
part, she did not see why they were struggling
so hard, anyway. Why needn't they go ahead
and sing their duet like two solos if they wanted
to? As if a little thing like that could make a
feather's weight of difference in the grand total
of to-morrow night's wretchedness when the final
curtain should have been rung down on their
``Miss Neilson, you aren't--crying!''
exclaimed a low voice; and Billy turned to find
Arkwright standing by her side in the dim light.
``Oh, no--yes--well, maybe I was, a little,''
stammered Billy, trying to speak very unconcernedly.
``How warm it is in here! Do you
think it's going to rain?--that is, outdoors,
of course, I mean.''
Arkwright dropped into the seat behind Billy
and leaned forward, his eyes striving to read the
girl's half-averted face. If Billy had turned,
she would have seen that Arkwright's own face
showed white and a little drawn-looking in the
feeble rays from the light by the piano. But Billy
did not turn. She kept her eyes steadily averted;
and she went on speaking--airy, inconsequential words.
``Dear me, if those girls _would_ only pull together!
But then, what's the difference? I supposed
you had gone home long ago, Mr. Arkwright.''
``Miss Neilson, you _are_ crying!'' Arkwright's
voice was low and vibrant. ``As if anything or
anybody in the world _could_ make _you_ cry! Please
--you have only to command me, and I will
sally forth at once to slay the offender.'' His
words were light, but his voice still shook with
Billy gave an hysterical little giggle. Angrily
she brushed the persistent tears from her eyes.
``All right, then; I'll dub you my Sir Knight,''
she faltered. ``But I'll warn you--you'll have
your hands full. You'll have to slay my headache,
and my throat-ache, and my shoe that hurts,
and the man who stepped on my dress, and--and
everybody in the operetta, including myself.''
``Everybody--in the operetta!'' Arkwright
did look a little startled, at this wholesale slaughter.
``Yes. Did you ever see such an awful, awful
thing as that was to-night?'' moaned the girl.
Arkwright's face relaxed.
``Oh, so _that's_ what it is!'' he laughed lightly.
``Then it's only a bogy of fear that I've got to
slay, after all; and I'll despatch that right now
with a single blow. Dress rehearsals always go
like that to-night. I've been in a dozen, and I
never yet saw one go half decent. Don't you
worry. The worse the rehearsal, the better the
performance, every time!''
Billy blinked off the tears and essayed a smile
as she retorted:
``Well, if that's so, then ours to-morrow night
ought to be a--a--''
``A corker,'' helped out Arkwright, promptly;
``and it will be, too. You poor child, you're worn
out; and no wonder! But don't worry another
bit about the operetta. Now is there anything
else I can do for you? Anything else I can slay?''
Billy laughed tremulously.
``N-no, thank you; not that you can--slay, I
fancy,'' she sighed. ``That is--not that you
_will_,'' she amended wistfully, with a sudden
remembrance of the Cause, for which he might
do so much--if he only would.
Arkwright bent a little nearer. His breath
stirred the loose, curling hair behind Billy's ear.
His eyes had flashed into sudden fire.
``But you don't know what I'd do if I could,''
he murmured unsteadily. ``If you'd let me tell
you--if you only knew the wish that has lain
closest to my heart for--''
``Miss Neilson, please,'' called the despairing
voice of one of the earth-bound fairies; ``Miss
Neilson, you _are_ there, aren't you?''
``Yes, I'm right here,'' answered Billy, wearily.
Arkwright answered, too, but not aloud--which
was wise.
``Oh dear! you're tired, I know,'' wailed the
fairy, ``but if you would please come and help
us just a minute! Could you?''
``Why, yes, of course.'' Billy rose to her feet,
still wearily.
Arkwright touched her arm. She turned and
saw his face. It was very white--so white that
her eyes widened in surprised questioning.
As if answering the unspoken words, the man
shook his head.
``I can't, now, of course,'' he said. ``But there
_is_ something I want to say--a story I want to
tell you--after to-morrow, perhaps. May I?''
To Billy, the tremor of his voice, the suffering
in his eyes, and the ``story'' he was begging to
tell could have but one interpretation: Alice
Greggory. Her face, therefore, was a glory of
tender sympathy as she reached out her hand in
``Of course you may,'' she cried. ``Come any
time after to-morrow night, please,'' she smiled
encouragingly, as she turned toward the stage.
Behind her, Arkwright stumbled twice as he
walked up the incline toward the outer door--
stumbled, not because of the semi-darkness of
the little theatre, but because of the blinding
radiance of a girl's illumined face which he had, a
moment before, read all unknowingly exactly
A little more than twenty-four hours later,
Billy Neilson, in her own room, drew a long breath
of relief. It was twelve o'clock on the night of
the twentieth, and the operetta was over.
To Billy, life was eminently worth living tonight.
Her head did not ache, her throat was not
sore, her shoe did not hurt, her dress had been
mended so successfully by Aunt Hannah, and with
such comforting celerity, that long before night
one would never have suspected the filmy thing
had known the devastating tread of any man's
foot. Better yet, the soprano had sung exactly
to key, the alto had shrieked ``Beware!'' to
thrilling purpose, Arkwright had shown all his
old charm and vim, and the chorus had been prodigies
of joyousness and marvels of lightness. Even
the lovers had lost their stiffness, while the two
earth-bound fairies of the night before had found
so amiable a meeting point that their solos sounded,
to the uninitiated, very like, indeed, a duet. The
operetta was, in short, a glorious and gratifying
success, both artistically and financially. Nor was
this all that, to Billy, made life worth the living:
Arkwright had begged permission that evening
to come up the following afternoon to tell her
his ``story''; and Billy, who was so joyously
confident that this story meant the final crowning
of her Cause with victory, had given happy consent.
Bertram was to come up in the evening, and
Billy was anticipating that, too, particularly:
it had been so long since they had known a really
free, comfortable evening together, with nothing
to interrupt. Doubtless, too, after Arkwright's
visit of the afternoon, she would be in a position
to tell Bertram the story of the suspended romance
between Arkwright and Miss Greggory, and perhaps
something, also, of her own efforts to bring
the couple together again. On the whole, life
did, indeed, look decidedly worth the living as
Billy, with a contented sigh, turned over to go
to sleep.
Promptly at the suggested hour on the day
after the operetta, Arkwright rang Billy Neilson's
doorbell. Promptly, too, Billy herself came into
the living-room to greet him.
Billy was in white to-day--a soft, creamy
white wool with a touch of black velvet at her
throat and in her hair. The man thought she
had never looked so lovely: Arkwright was still
under the spell wrought by the soft radiance of
Billy's face the two times he had mentioned his
Until the night before the operetta Arkwright
had been more than doubtful of the way that
story would be received, should he ever summon
the courage to tell it. Since then his fears had been
changed to rapturous hopes. It was very eagerly,
therefore, that he turned now to greet Billy as
she came into the room.
``Suppose we don't have any music to-day.
Suppose we give the whole time up to the story,''
she smiled brightly, as she held out her hand.
Arkwright's heart leaped; but almost at once
it throbbed with a vague uneasiness. He would
have preferred to see her blush and be a little
shy over that story. Still--there was a chance,
of course, that she did not know what the story
was. But if that were the case, what of the radiance
in her face? What of-- Finding himself
in a tangled labyrinth that led apparently only
to disappointment and disaster, Arkwright pulled
himself up with a firm hand.
``You are very kind,'' he murmured, as he
relinquished her fingers and seated himself near her.
``You are sure, then, that you wish to hear the
``Very sure,'' smiled Billy.
Arkwright hesitated. Again he longed to see
a little embarrassment in the bright face opposite.
Suddenly it came to him, however, that if Billy
knew what he was about to say, it would manifestly
not be her part to act as if she knew! With
a lighter heart, then, he began his story.
``You want it from the beginning?''
``By all means! I never dip into books, nor
peek at the ending. I don't think it's fair to
the author.''
``Then I will, indeed, begin at the beginning,''
smiled Arkwright, ``for I'm specially anxious
that you shall be--even more than `fair' to
me.'' His voice shook a little, but he hurried on.
``There's a--girl--in it; a very dear, lovely
``Of course--if it's a nice story,'' twinkled
``And--there's a man, too. It's a love story,
you see.''
``Again of course--if it's interesting.'' Billy
laughed mischievously, but she flushed a little.
``Still, the man doesn't amount to much, after
all, perhaps. I might as well own up at the
beginning--I'm the man.''
``That will do for you to say, as long as you're
telling the story,'' smiled Billy. ``We'll let it
pass for proper modesty on your part. But I
shall say--the personal touch only adds to the
Arkwright drew in his breath.
``We'll hope--it'll really be so,'' he murmured.
There was a moment's silence. Arkwright
seemed to be hesitating what to say.
``Well?'' prompted Billy, with a smile. ``We
have the hero and the heroine; now what happens
next? Do you know,'' she added, ``I have always
thought that part must bother the storywriters--
to get the couple to doing interesting
things, after they'd got them introduced.''
Arkwright sighed.
``Perhaps--on paper; but, you see, my story
has been _lived_, so far. So it's quite different.''
``Very well, then--what did happen?'' smiled
``I was trying to think--of the first thing.
You see it began with a picture, a photograph
of the girl. Mother had it. I saw it, and wanted
it, and--'' Arkwright had started to say ``and
took it.'' But he stopped with the last two words
unsaid. It was not time, yet, he deemed, to tell
this girl how much that picture had been to him
for so many months past. He hurried on a little
precipitately. ``You see, I had heard about this
girl a lot; and I liked--what I heard.''
``You mean--you didn't know her--at the
first?'' Billy's eyes were surprised. Billy had
supposed that Arkwright had always known Alice
``No, I didn't know the girl--till afterwards.
Before that I was always dreaming and wondering
what she would be like.''
``Oh!'' Billy subsided into her chair, still
with the puzzled questioning in her eyes.
``Then I met her.''
``And she was everything and more than I had
pictured her.''
``And you fell in love at once?'' Billy's voice
had grown confident again.
``Oh, I was already in love,'' sighed Arkwright.
``I simply sank deeper.''
``Oh-h!'' breathed Billy, sympathetically.
``And the girl?''
``She didn't care--or know--for a long time.
I'm not really sure she cares--or knows--even
now.'' Arkwright's eyes were wistfully fixed on
Billy's face.
``Oh, but you can't tell, always, about girls,''
murmured Billy, hurriedly. A faint pink had
stolen to her forehead. She was thinking of Alice
Greggory, and wondering if, indeed, Alice did
care; and if she, Billy, might dare to assure this
man--what she believed to be true--that his
sweetheart was only waiting for him to come to
her and tell her that he loved her.
Arkwright saw the color sweep to Billy's forehead,
and took sudden courage. He leaned forward
eagerly. A tender light came to his eyes.
The expression on his face was unmistakable.
``Billy, do you mean, really, that there is--
hope for me?'' he begged brokenly.
Billy gave a visible start. A quick something
like shocked terror came to her eyes. She drew
back and would have risen to her feet had the
thought not come to her that twice before she had
supposed a man was making love to her, when
subsequent events proved that she had been
mortifyingly mistaken: once when Cyril had told her of
his love for Marie; and again when William had
asked her to come back as a daughter to the house
she had left desolate.
Telling herself sternly now not to be for the third
time a ``foolish little simpleton,'' she summoned
all her wits, forced a cheery smile to her lips,
and said:
``Well, really, Mr. Arkwright, of course I
can't answer for the girl, so I'm not the one to
give hope; and--''
``But you are the one,'' interrupted the man,
passionately. ``You're the only one! As if from
the very first I hadn't loved you, and--''
``No, no, not that--not that! I'm mistaken!
I'm not understanding what you mean,'' pleaded
a horror-stricken voice. Billy was on her feet
now, holding up two protesting hands, palms outward.
``Miss Neilson, you don't mean--that you
haven't known--all this time--that it was
you?'' The man, now, was on his feet, his eyes
hurt and unbelieving, looking into hers.
Billy paled. She began slowly to back away.
Her eyes, still fixed on his, carried the shrinking
terror of one who sees a horrid vision.
``But you know--you _must_ know that I am
not yours to win!'' she reproached him sharply.
``I'm to be Bertram Henshaw's--_wife_.'' From
Billy's shocked young lips the word dropped with
a ringing force that was at once accusatory and
prohibitive. It was as if, by the mere utterance
of the word, wife, she had drawn a sacred circle
about her and placed herself in sanctuary.
From the blazing accusation in her eyes
Arkwright fell back.
``Wife! You are to be Bertram Henshaw's
wife!'' he exclaimed. There was no mistaking
the amazed incredulity on his face.
Billy caught her breath. The righteous
indignation in her eyes fled, and a terrified appeal
took its place.
``You don't mean that you _didn't--know?_''
she faltered.
There was a moment's silence. A power quite
outside herself kept Billy's eyes on Arkwright's
face, and forced her to watch the change there
from unbelief to belief, and from belief to set
``No, I did not know,'' said the man then,
dully, as he turned, rested his arm on the mantel
behind him, and half shielded his face with his
Billy sank into a low chair. Her fingers fluttered
nervously to her throat. Her piteous, beseeching
eyes were on the broad back and bent head of
the man before her.
``But I--I don't see how you could have
helped--knowing,'' she stammered at last. ``I
don't see how such a thing could have happened
that you shouldn't know!''
``I've been trying to think, myself,'' returned
the man, still in a dull, emotionless voice.
``It's been so--so much a matter of course.
I supposed everybody knew it,'' maintained
``Perhaps that's just it--that it was--so much
a matter of course,'' rejoined the man. ``You
see, I know very few of your friends, anyway--
who would be apt to mention it to me.''
``But the announcements--oh, you weren't
here then,'' moaned Billy. ``But you must have
known that--that he came here a good deal--
that we were together so much!''
``To a certain extent, yes,'' sighed Arkwright.
``But I took your friendship with him and his
brothers as--as a matter of course. _That_ was
_my_ `matter of course,' you see,'' he went on
bitterly. ``I knew you were Mr. William
Henshaw's namesake, and Calderwell had told me
the story of your coming to them when you were
left alone in the world. Calderwell had said, too,
that--'' Arkwright paused, then hurried on a
little constrainedly--``well, he said something
that led me to think Mr. Bertram Henshaw was
not a marrying man, anyway.''
Billy winced and changed color. She had
noticed the pause, and she knew very well what
it was that Calderwell had said to occasion that
pause. Must _always_ she be reminded that no one
expected Bertram Henshaw to love any girl--
except to paint?
``But--but Mr. Calderwell must know about
the engagement--now,'' she stammered.
``Very likely, but I have not happened to
hear from him since my arrival in Boston. We
do not correspond.''
There was a long silence, then Arkwright spoke
``I think I understand now--many things.
I wonder I did not see them before; but I never
thought of Bertram Henshaw's being-- If
Calderwell hadn't said--'' Again Arkwright
stopped with his sentence half complete, and again
Billy winced. ``I've been a blind fool. I was
so intent on my own-- I've been a blind fool;
that's all,'' repeated Arkwright, with a break
in his voice.
Billy tried to speak, but instead of words,
there came only a choking sob.
Arkwright turned sharply.
``Miss Neilson, don't--please,'' he begged.
``There is no need that you should suffer--too.''
``But I am so ashamed that such a thing _could_
happen,'' she faltered. ``I'm sure, some way, I
must be to blame. But I never thought. I was
blind, too. I was wrapped up in my own affairs.
I never suspected. I never even _thought_ to
suspect! I thought of course you knew. It was
just the music that brought us together, I
supposed; and you were just like one of the family,
anyway. I always thought of you as Aunt Hannah's--''
She stopped with a vivid blush.
``As Aunt Hannah's niece, Mary Jane, of
course,'' supplied Arkwright, bitterly, turning back
to his old position. ``And that was my own fault,
too. My name, Miss Neilson, is Michael Jeremiah,''
he went on wearily, after a moment's
hesitation, his voice showing his utter abandonment
to despair. ``When a boy at school I got
heartily sick of the `Mike' and the `Jerry' and
the even worse `Tom and Jerry' that my young
friends delighted in; so as soon as possible I
sought obscurity and peace in `M. J.' Much
to my surprise and annoyance the initials proved
to be little better, for they became at once the
biggest sort of whet to people's curiosity. Naturally,
the more determined persistent inquirers
were to know the name, the more determined I
became that they shouldn't. All very silly and
very foolish, of course. Certainly it seems so
now,'' he finished.
Billy was silent. She was trying to find
something, _anything_, to say, when Arkwright began
speaking again, still in that dull, hopeless voice
that Billy thought would break her heart.
``As for the `Mary Jane'--that was another
foolishness, of course. My small brothers and
sisters originated it; others followed, on occasion,
even Calderwell. Perhaps you did not know, but
he was the friend who, by his laughing question,
`Why don't you, Mary Jane?' put into my head
the crazy scheme of writing to Aunt Hannah and
letting her think I was a real Mary Jane. You
see what I stooped to do, Miss Neilson, for the
chance of meeting and knowing you.''
Billy gave a low cry. She had suddenly
remembered the beginning of Arkwright's story. For
the first time she realized that he had been talking
then about herself, not Alice Greggory.
``But you don't mean that you--cared--
that I was the--'' She could not finish.
Arkwright turned from the mantel with a
gesture of utter despair.
``Yes, I cared then. I had heard of you. I
had sung your songs. I was determined to meet
you. So I came--and met you. After that
I was more determined than ever to win you. Perhaps
you see, now, why I was so blind to--to
any other possibility. But it doesn't do any
good--to talk like this. I understand now. Only,
please, don't blame yourself,'' he begged as he
saw her eyes fill with tears. The next moment he
was gone.
Billy had turned away and was crying softly,
so she did not see him go.
Bertram called that evening. Billy had no
story now to tell--nothing of the interrupted
romance between Alice Greggory and Arkwright.
Billy carefully, indeed, avoided mentioning
Arkwright's name.
Ever since the man's departure that afternoon,
Billy had been frantically trying to assure herself
that she was not to blame; that she would not
be supposed to know he cared for her; that it
had all been as he said it was--his foolish
blindness. But even when she had partially comforted
herself by these assertions, she could not by any
means escape the haunting vision of the man's
stern-set, suffering face as she had seen it that
afternoon; nor could she keep from weeping at
the memory of the words he had said, and at
the thought that never again could their pleasant
friendship be quite the same--if, indeed, there
could be any friendship at all between them.
But if Billy expected that her red eyes, pale
cheeks, and generally troubled appearance and
unquiet manner were to be passed unnoticed by
her lover's keen eyes that evening, she found
herself much mistaken.
``Sweetheart, what _is_ the matter?'' demanded
Bertram resolutely, at last, when his more
indirect questions had been evasively turned aside.
``You can't make me think there isn't something
the trouble, because I know there is!''
``Well, then, there is, dear,'' smiled Billy,
tearfully; ``but please just don't let us talk of
it. I--I want to forget it. Truly I do.''
``But I want to know so _I_ can forget it,''
persisted Bertram. ``What is it? Maybe I could
She shook her head with a little frightened
``No, no--you can't help--really.''
``But, sweetheart, you don't know. Perhaps
I could. Won't you _tell_ me about it?''
Billy looked distressed.
``I can't, dear--truly. You see, it isn't
quite mine--to tell.''
``Not yours!''
``But it makes you feel bad?''
``Then can't I know that part?''
``Oh, no--no, indeed, no! You see--it
wouldn't be fair--to the other.''
Bertram stared a little. Then his mouth set
into stern lines.
``Billy, what are you talking about? Seems
to me I have a right to know.''
Billy hesitated. To her mind, a girl who would
tell of the unrequited love of a man for herself,
was unspeakably base. To tell Bertram
Arkwright's love story was therefore impossible.
Yet, in some way, she must set Bertram's mind
at rest.
``Dearest,'' she began slowly, her eyes wistfully
pleading, ``just what it is, I can't tell you. In
a way it's another's secret, and I don't feel that
I have the right to tell it. It's just something
that I learned this afternoon.''
``But it has made you cry!''
``Yes. It made me feel very unhappy.''
``Then--it was something you couldn't help?''
To Bertram's surprise, the face he was watching
so intently flushed scarlet.
``No, I couldn't help it--now; though I
might have--once.'' Billy spoke this last just
above her breath. Then she went on, beseechingly:
``Bertram, please, please don't talk of it any more.
It--it's just spoiling our happy evening together!''
Bertram bit his lip, and drew a long sigh.
``All right, dear; you know best, of course--
since I don't know _anything_ about it,'' he finished
a little stiffly.
Billy began to talk then very brightly of Aunt
Hannah and her shawls, and of a visit she had
made to Cyril and Marie that morning.
``And, do you know? Aunt Hannah's clock
_has_ done a good turn, at last, and justified its
existence. Listen,'' she cried gayly. ``Marie
had a letter from her mother's Cousin Jane.
Cousin Jane couldn't sleep nights, because she
was always lying awake to find out just what time
it was; so Marie had written her about Aunt
Hannah's clock. And now this Cousin Jane has
fixed _her_ clock, and she sleeps like a top, just
because she knows there'll never be but half an hour
that she doesn't know what time it is!''
Bertram smiled, and murmured a polite ``Well,
I'm sure that's fine!''; but the words were
plainly abstracted, and the frown had not left
his brow. Nor did it quite leave till some time
later, when Billy, in answer to a question of his
about another operetta, cried, with a shudder:
``Mercy, I hope not, dear! I don't want to
_hear_ the word `operetta' again for a year!''
Bertram smiled, then, broadly. He, too,
would be quite satisfied not to hear the word
``operetta'' for a year. Operetta, to Bertram,
meant interruptions, interferences, and the
constant presence of Arkwright, the Greggorys,
and innumerable creatures who wished to rehearse
or to change wigs--all of which Bertram
abhorred. No wonder, therefore, that he smiled,
and that the frown disappeared from his brow.
He thought he saw, ahead, serene, blissful days
for Billy and himself.
As the days, however, began to pass, one by
one, Bertram Henshaw found them to be anything
but serene and blissful. The operetta, with its
rehearsals and its interruptions, was gone,
certainly; but he was becoming seriously troubled
about Billy.
Billy did not act natural. Sometimes she
seemed like her old self; and he breathed more
freely, telling himself that his fears were
groundless. Then would come the haunting shadow to
her eyes, the droop to her mouth, and the nervousness
to her manner that he so dreaded. Worse
yet, all this seemed to be connected in some strange
way with Arkwright. He found this out by accident
one day. She had been talking and laughing
brightly about something, when he chanced
to introduce Arkwright's name.
``By the way, where is Mary Jane these days?''
he asked then.
``I don't know, I'm sure. He hasn't been here
lately,'' murmured Billy, reaching for a book on
the table.
At a peculiar something in her voice, he had
looked up quickly, only to find, to his great
surprise, that her face showed a painful flush as she
bent over the book in her hand.
He had said nothing more at the time, but he
had not forgotten. Several times, after that, he
had introduced the man's name, and never had
it failed to bring a rush of color, a biting of the
lip, or a quick change of position followed always by
the troubled eyes and nervous manner that he had
learned to dread. He noticed then that never, of
her own free will, did she herself mention the man;
never did she speak of him with the old frank
lightness as ``Mary Jane.''
By casual questions asked from time to time,
Bertram had learned that Arkwright never came
there now, and that the song-writing together
had been given up. Curiously enough, this
discovery, which would once have filled Bertram
with joy, served now only to deepen his distress.
That there was anything inconsistent in the fact
that he was more frightened now at the man's
absence than he had been before at his presence,
did not occur to him. He knew only that he was
frightened, and badly frightened.
Bertram had not forgotten the evening after
the operetta, and Billy's tear-stained face on
that occasion. He dated the whole thing, in fact,
from that evening. He fell to wondering one day
if that, too, had anything to do with Arkwright.
He determined then to find out. Shamelessly--
for the good of the cause--he set a trap for
Billy's unwary feet.
Very adroitly one day he led the talk straight
to Arkwright; then he asked abruptly:
``Where is the chap, I wonder! Why, he hasn't
shown up once since the operetta, has he?''
Billy, always truthful,--and just now always
embarrassed when Arkwright's name was mentioned,--
walked straight into the trap.
``Oh, yes; well, he was here once--the day
after the operetta. I haven't seen him since.''
Bertram answered a light something, but his
face grew a little white. Now that the trap had
been sprung and the victim caught, he almost
wished that he had not set any trap at all.
He knew now it was true. Arkwright had been
with Billy the day after the operetta, and her
tears and her distress that evening had been caused
by something Arkwright had said. It was Arkwright's
secret that she could not tell. It was
Arkwright to whom she must be fair. It was
Arkwright's sorrow that she ``could not help--now.''
Naturally, with these tools in his hands, and
aided by days of brooding and nights of sleeplessness,
it did not take Bertram long to fashion The
Thing that finally loomed before him as The Truth.
He understood it all now. Music had conquered.
Billy and Arkwright had found that they loved
each other. On the day after the operetta, they
had met, and had had some sort of scene together
--doubtless Arkwright had declared his love.
That was the ``secret'' that Billy could not tell
and be ``fair.'' Billy, of course,--loyal little
soul that she was,--had sent him away at once.
Was her hand not already pledged? That was
why she could not ``help it-now.'' (Bertram
writhed in agony at the thought.) Since that
meeting Arkwright had not been near the house.
Billy had found, however, that her heart had gone
with Arkwright; hence the shadow in her eyes,
the nervousness in her manner, and the embarrassment
that she always showed at the mention of
his name.
That Billy was still outwardly loyal to himself,
and that she still kept to her engagement, did
not surprise Bertram in the least. That was like
Billy. Bertram had not forgotten how, less than
a year before, this same Billy had held herself
loyal and true to an engagement with William,
because a wretched mistake all around had caused
her to give her promise to be William's wife under
the impression that she was carrying out William's
dearest wish. Bertram remembered her face as
it had looked all those long summer days while
her heart was being slowly broken; and he thought
he could see that same look in her eyes now. All
of which only goes to prove with what woeful
skill Bertram had fashioned this Thing that was
looming before him as The Truth.
The exhibition of ``The Bohemian Ten'' was
to open with a private view on the evening of
the twentieth of March. Bertram Henshaw's
one contribution was to be his portrait of Miss
Marguerite Winthrop--the piece of work that
had come to mean so much to him; the piece
of work upon which already he felt the focus of
multitudes of eyes.
Miss Winthrop was in Boston now, and it was
during these early March days that Bertram was
supposed to be putting in his best work on the
portrait; but, unfortunately, it was during these
same early March days that he was engaged, also,
in fashioning The Thing--and the two did not
The Thing, indeed, was a jealous creature,
and would brook no rival. She filled his eyes
with horrid visions, and his brain with sickening
thoughts. Between him and his model she flung
a veil of fear; and she set his hand to trembling,
and his brush to making blunders with the paints
on his palette.
Bertram saw The Thing, and saw, too, the
grievous result of her presence. Despairingly
he fought against her and her work; but The
Thing had become full grown now, and was The
Truth. Hence she was not to be banished. She
even, in a taunting way, seemed sometimes to
be justifying her presence, for she reminded him:
``After all, what's the difference? What do
you care for this, or anything again if Billy
is lost to you?''
But the artist told himself fiercely that he did
care--that he must care--for his work; and
he struggled--how he struggled!--to ignore
the horrid visions and the sickening thoughts,
and to pierce the veil of fear so that his hand
might be steady and his brush regain its skill.
And so he worked. Sometimes he let his work
remain. Sometimes one hour saw only the erasing
of what the hour before had wrought. Sometimes
the elusive something in Marguerite Winthrop's
face seemed right at the tip of his brush--on the
canvas, even. He saw success then so plainly
that for a moment it almost--but not quite--
blotted out The Thing. At other times that
elusive something on the high-bred face of his
model was a veritable will-o'-the-wisp, refusing to
be caught and held, even in his eye. The artist
knew then that his picture would be hung with
Anderson's and Fullam's.
But the portrait was, irrefutably, nearing
completion, and it was to be exhibited the
twentieth of the month. Bertram knew these for
If for Billy those first twenty days of March
did not carry quite the tragedy they contained
for Bertram, they were, nevertheless, not really
happy ones. She was vaguely troubled by a
curious something in Bertram's behavior that
she could not name; she was grieved over Arkwright's
sorrow, and she was constantly probing
her own past conduct to see if anywhere she could
find that she was to blame for that sorrow. She
missed, too, undeniably, Arkwright's cheery presence,
and the charm and inspiration of his music.
Nor was she finding it easy to give satisfactory
answers to the questions Aunt Hannah, William,
and Bertram so often asked her as to where Mary
Jane was.
Even her music was little comfort to her these
days. She was not writing anything. There
was no song in her heart to tempt her to write.
Arkwright's new words that he had brought her
were out of the question, of course. They had
been put away with the manuscript of the
completed song, which had not, fortunately, gone to
the publishers. Billy had waited, intending to
send them together. She was so glad, now, that
she had waited. Just once, since Arkwright's
last call, she had tried to sing that song. But
she had stopped at the end of the first two lines.
The full meaning of those words, as coming from
Arkwright, had swept over her then, and she
had snatched up the manuscript and hidden it
under the bottom pile of music in her cabinet
. . . And she had presumed to sing that love song
to Bertram!
Arkwright had written Billy once--a kind,
courteous, manly note that had made her cry. He
had begged her again not to blame herself, and he
had said that he hoped he should be strong
enough sometime to wish to call occasionally--
if she were willing--and renew their pleasant
hours with their music; but, for the present, he
knew there was nothing for him to do but to stay
away. He had signed himself ``Michael Jeremiah
Arkwright''; and to Billy that was the most
pathetic thing in the letter--it sounded so hopeless
and dreary to one who knew the jaunty
``M. J.''
Alice Greggory, Billy saw frequently. Billy
and Aunt Hannah were great friends with the
Greggorys now, and had been ever since the
Greggorys' ten-days' visit at Hillside. The cheery
little cripple, with the gentle tap, tap, tap of her
crutches, had won everybody's heart the very
first day; and Alice was scarcely less of a favorite,
after the sunny friendliness of Hillside had thawed
her stiff reserve into naturalness.
Billy had little to say to Alice Greggory of
Arkwright. Billy was no longer trying to play
Cupid's assistant. The Cause, for which she
had so valiantly worked, had been felled by
Arkwright's own hand--but that there were still
some faint stirrings of life in it was evidenced by
Billy's secret delight when one day Alice Greggory
chanced to mention that Arkwright had called
the night before upon her and her mother.
``He brought us news of our old home,'' she
explained a little hurriedly, to Billy. ``He had
heard from his mother, and he thought some
things she said would be interesting to us.''
``Of course,'' murmured Billy, carefully
excluding from her voice any hint of the delight she
felt, but hoping, all the while, that Alice would
continue the subject.
Alice, however, had nothing more to say; and
Billy was left in entire ignorance of what the news
was that Arkwright had brought. She suspected,
though, that it had something to do with Alice's
father--certainly she hoped that it had; for
if Arkwright had called to tell it, it must be good.
Billy had found a new home for the Greggorys;
although at first they had drawn sensitively back,
and had said that they preferred to remain where
they were, they had later gratefully accepted it.
A little couple from South Boston, to whom Billy
had given a two weeks' outing the summer before,
had moved into town and taken a flat in the South
End. They had two extra rooms which they had
told Billy they would like to let for light housekeeping,
if only they knew just the right people
to take into such close quarters with themselves.
Billy at once thought of the Greggorys, and spoke
of them. The little couple were delighted, and
the Greggorys were scarcely less so when they
at last became convinced that only a very little
more money than they were already paying
would give themselves a much pleasanter home,
and would at the same time be a real boon to two
young people who were trying to meet expenses.
So the change was made, and general happiness
all round had resulted--so much so, that Bertram
had said to Billy, when he heard of it:
``It looks as if this was a case where your cake
is frosted on both sides.''
``Nonsense! This isn't frosting--it's business,''
Billy had laughed.
``And the new pupils you have found for Miss
Alice--they're business, too, I suppose?''
``Certainly,'' retorted Billy, with decision.
Then she had given a low laugh and said: ``Mercy!
If Alice Greggory thought it was anything _but_
business, I verily believe she would refuse every
one of the new pupils, and begin to-night to carry
back the tables and chairs herself to those wretched
rooms she left last month!''
Bertram had smiled, but the smile had been
a fleeting one, and the brooding look of gloom that
Billy had noticed so frequently, of late, had come
back to his eyes.
Billy was not a little disturbed over Bertram
these days. He did not seem to be his natural,
cheery self at all. He talked little, and what he
did say seldom showed a trace of his usually
whimsical way of putting things. He was kindness
itself to her, and seemed particularly anxious
to please her in every way; but she frequently
found his eyes fixed on her with a sombre questioning
that almost frightened her. The more she
thought of it, the more she wondered what the
question was, that he did not dare to ask; and
whether it was of herself or himself that he would
ask it--if he did dare. Then, with benumbing
force, one day, a possible solution of the mystery
came to her, he had found out that it was true
(what all his friends had declared of him)--he
did not really love any girl, except to paint!
The minute this thought came to her, Billy
thrust it indignantly away. It was disloyal to
Bertram and unworthy of herself, even to think
such a thing. She told herself then that it was
only the portrait of Miss Winthrop that was
troubling him. She knew that he was worried
over that. He had confessed to her that actually
sometimes he was beginning to fear his hand had
lost its cunning. As if that were not enough to
bring the gloom to any man's face--to any
No sooner, however, had Billy arrived at this
point in her mental argument, than a new element
entered--her old lurking jealousy, of which she
was heartily ashamed, but which she had never
yet been able quite to subdue; her jealousy of
the beautiful girl with the beautiful name (not
Billy), whose portrait had needed so much time
and so many sittings to finish. What if Bertram
had found that he loved _her?_ What if that were
why his hand had lost its cunning--because,
though loving her, he realized that he was bound
to another, Billy herself?
This thought, too, Billy cast from her at once as
again disloyal and unworthy. But both thoughts,
having once entered her brain, had made for themselves
roads over which the second passing was
much easier than the first--as Billy found to
her sorrow. Certainly, as the days went by,
and as Bertram's face and manner became more
and more a tragedy of suffering, Billy found it
increasingly difficult to keep those thoughts
from wearing their roads of suspicion into horrid
deep ruts of certainty.
Only with William and Marie, now, could Billy
escape from it all. With William she sought
new curios and catalogued the old. With Marie
she beat eggs and whipped cream in the shining
kitchen, and tried to think that nothing in the
world mattered except that the cake in the oven
should not fall.
Bertram feared that he knew, before the portrait
was hung, that it was a failure. He was sure
that he knew it on the evening of the twentieth
when he encountered the swiftly averted eyes
of some of his artist friends, and saw the perplexed
frown on the faces of others. But he knew,
afterwards, that he did not really know it--till
he read the newspapers during the next few days.
There was praise--oh, yes; the faint praise
that kills. There was some adverse criticism,
too; but it was of the light, insincere variety that
is given to mediocre work by unimportant artists.
Then, here and there, appeared the signed
critiques of the men whose opinion counted--
and Bertram knew that he had failed. Neither
as a work of art, nor as a likeness, was the portrait
the success that Henshaw's former work would
seem to indicate that it should have been. Indeed,
as one caustic pen put it, if this were to be taken
as a sample of what was to follow--then the
famous originator of ``The Face of a Girl'' had
``a most distinguished future behind him.''
Seldom, if ever before, had an exhibited
portrait attracted so much attention. As Bertram
had said, uncounted eyes were watching for it
before it was hung, because it was a portrait of
the noted beauty, Marguerite Winthrop, and
because two other well-known artists had failed
where he, Bertram Henshaw, was hoping to succeed.
After it was hung, and the uncounted eyes
had seen it--either literally, or through the eyes
of the critics--interest seemed rather to grow
than to lessen, for other uncounted eyes wanted
to see what all the fuss was about, anyway. And
when these eyes had seen, their owners talked.
Nor did they, by any means, all talk against the
portrait. Some were as loud in its praise as were
others in its condemnation; all of which, of
course, but helped to attract more eyes to the
cause of it all.
For Bertram and his friends these days were,
naturally, trying ones. William finally dreaded
to open his newspaper. (It had become the fashion,
when murders and divorces were scarce, occasionally
to ``feature'' somebody's opinion of the
Henshaw portrait, on the first page--something
that had almost never been known to happen before.)
Cyril, according to Marie, played ``perfectly
awful things on his piano every day, now.'' Aunt
Hannah had said ``Oh, my grief and conscience!''
so many times that it melted now into a wordless
groan whenever a new unfriendly criticism of the
portrait met her indignant eyes.
Of all Bertram's friends, Billy, perhaps not
unnaturally, was the angriest. Not only did she,
after a time, refuse to read the papers, but she
refused even to allow certain ones to be brought
into the house, foolish and unreasonable as she
knew this to be.
As to the artist himself, Bertram's face showed
drawn lines and his eyes sombre shadows, but his
words and manner carried a stolid indifference
that to Billy was at once heartbreaking and maddening.
``But, Bertram, why don't you do something?
Why don't you say something? Why don't you
act something?'' she burst out one day.
The artist shrugged his shoulders.
``But, my dear, what can I say, or do, or act?''
he asked.
``I don't know, of course,'' sighed Billy. ``But
I know what I'd like to do. I should like to go
out and--fight somebody!''
So fierce were words and manner, coupled as
they were with a pair of gentle eyes ablaze and
two soft little hands doubled into menacing fists,
that Bertram laughed.
``What a fiery little champion it is, to be sure,''
he said tenderly. ``But as if fighting could do any
good--in this case!''
Billy's tense muscles relaxed. Her eyes filled
with tears.
``No, I don't suppose it would,'' she choked,
beginning to cry, so that Bertram had to turn
``Come, come, dear,'' he begged; ``don't take
it so to heart. It's not so bad, after all. I've
still my good right hand left, and we'll hope
there's something in it yet--that'll be worth
``But _this_ one isn't bad,'' stormed Billy. ``It's
splendid! I'm sure, I think it's a b-beautiful
portrait, and I don't see _what_ people mean by
talking so about it!''
Bertram shook his head. His eyes grew sombre
``Thank you, dear. But I know--and you
know, really--that it isn't a splendid portrait.
I've done lots better work than that.''
``Then why don't they look at those, and let
this alone?'' wailed Billy, with indignation.
``Because I deliberately put up this for them to
see,'' smiled the artist, wearily.
Billy sighed, and twisted in her chair.
``What does--Mr. Winthrop say?'' she asked
at last, in a faint voice.
Bertram lifted his head.
``Mr. Winthrop's been a trump all through,
dear. He's already insisted on paying for this--
and he's ordered another.''
``Yes. The old fellow never minces his words,
as you may know. He came to me one day, put
his hand on my shoulder, and said tersely: `Will
you give me another, same terms? Go in, boy,
and win. Show 'em! I lost the first ten thousand
I made. I didn't the next!' That's all he said.
Before I could even choke out an answer he was
gone. Gorry! talk about his having a `heart
of stone'! I don't believe another man in the
country would have done that--and done it in
the way he did--in the face of all this talk,''
finished Bertram, his eyes luminous with feeling.
Billy hesitated.
``Perhaps--his daughter--influenced him--some.''
``Perhaps,'' nodded Bertram. ``She, too, has
been very kind, all the way through.''
Billy hesitated again.
``But I thought--it was going so splendidly,''
she faltered, in a half-stifled voice.
``So it was--at the first.''
``Then what--ailed it, at the last, do you
suppose?'' Billy was holding her breath till he
should answer.
The man got to his feet.
``Billy, don't--don't ask me,'' he begged.
``Please don't let's talk of it any more. It can't
do any good! I just flunked--that's all. My
hand failed me. Maybe I tried too hard. Maybe
I was tired. Maybe something--troubled me.
Never mind, dear, what it was. It can do no
good even to think of that--now. So just let's
--drop it, please, dear,'' he finished, his face
working with emotion.
And Billy dropped it--so far as words were
concerned; but she could not drop it from her
thoughts--specially after Kate's letter came.
Kate's letter was addressed to Billy, and it said,
after speaking of various other matters:
``And now about poor Bertram's failure.''
(Billy frowned. In Billy's presence no one was
allowed to say ``Bertram's failure''; but a letter
has a most annoying privilege of saying what it
pleases without let or hindrance, unless one tears
it up--and a letter destroyed unread remains always
such a tantalizing mystery of possibilities!
So Billy let the letter talk.) ``Of course we have
heard of it away out here. I do wish if Bertram
_must_ paint such famous people, he would manage
to flatter them up--in the painting, I mean, of
course--enough so that it might pass for a success!
``The technical part of all this criticism I don't
pretend to understand in the least; but from what
I hear and read, he must, indeed, have made a
terrible mess of it, and of course I'm very sorry
--and some surprised, too, for usually he paints
such pretty pictures!
``Still, on the other hand, Billy, I'm not
surprised. William says that Bertram has been
completely out of fix over something, and as gloomy
as an owl, for weeks past; and of course, under
those circumstances, the poor boy could not be
expected to do good work. Now William, being a
man, is not supposed to understand what the
trouble is. But I, being a woman, can see through
a pane of glass when it's held right up before me;
and I can guess, of course, that a woman is at the
bottom of it--she always is!--and that you,
being his special fancy at the moment'' (Billy
almost did tear the letter now--but not quite),
``are that woman.
``Now, Billy, you don't like such frank talk, of
course; but, on the other hand, I know you do not
want to ruin the dear boy's career. So, for heaven's
sake, if you two have been having one of those
quarrels that lovers so delight in--do, please, for
the good of the cause, make up quick, or else quarrel
harder and break it off entirely--which, honestly,
would be the better way, I think, all around.
``There, there, my dear child, don't bristle up!
I am very fond of you, and would dearly love to
have you for a sister--if you'd only take William,
as you should! But, as you very well know, I never
did approve of this last match at all, for either of
your sakes.
``He can't make you happy, my dear, and you
can't make him happy. Bertram never was--
and never will be--a marrying man. He's too
temperamental--too thoroughly wrapped up in
his Art. Girls have never meant anything to him
but a beautiful picture to paint. And they never
will. They can't. He's made that way. Listen!
I can prove it to you. Up to this winter he's
always been a care-free, happy, jolly fellow, and you
_know_ what beautiful work he has done. Never
before has he tied himself to any one girl till last
fall. Then you two entered into this absurd engagement.
``Now what has it been since? William wrote
me himself not a fortnight ago that he'd been
worried to death over Bertram for weeks past, he's
been so moody, so irritable, so fretted over his
work, so unlike himself. And his picture has
_failed_ dismally. Of course William doesn't
understand; but I do. I know you've probably quarrelled,
or something. You know how flighty and
unreliable you can be sometimes, Billy, and I don't
say that to mean anything against you, either--
that's _your_ way. You're just as temperamental in
your art, music, as Bertram is in his. You're
utterly unsuited to him. If Bertram is to marry
_anybody_, it should be some quiet, staid, sensible
girl who would be a _help_ to him. But when I think
of you two flyaway flutterbudgets marrying--!
``Now, for heaven's sake, Billy, _do_ make up or
something--and do it now. Don't, for pity's
sake, let Bertram ever put out another such a piece
of work to shame us all like this. Do you want to
ruin his career?
``Faithfully yours,
``P. S. _I_ think William's the one for you.
He's devoted to you, and his quiet, sensible affection
is just what your temperament needs. I _always_
thought William was the one for you. Think
it over.
``P. S. No. 2. You can see by the above that it
isn't you I'm objecting to, my dear. It's just _youand-
Bertram_. ``K.''
Billy was shaking with anger and terror by the
time she had finished reading Kate's letter. Anger
was uppermost at the moment, and with one
sweeping wrench of her trembling fingers she tore
the closely written sheets straight through the
middle, and flung them into the little wicker basket
by her desk. Then she went down-stairs and
played her noisiest, merriest Tarantella, and tried
to see how fast she could make her fingers fly.
But Billy could not, of course, play tarantellas
all day; and even while she did play them she
could not forget that waste-basket up-stairs,
and the horror it contained. The anger was still
uppermost, but the terror was prodding her at
every turn, and demanding to know just what it
was that Kate had written in that letter, anyway.
It is not strange then, perhaps, that before two
hours passed, Billy went up-stairs, took the letter
from the basket, matched together the torn
half-sheets and forced her shrinking eyes to read
every word again-just to satisfy that terror
which would not be silenced.
At the end of the second reading, Billy reminded
herself with stern calmness that it was only Kate,
after all; that nobody ought to mind what Kate
said; that certainly _she_, Billy, ought not--after
the experience she had already had with her
unpleasant interference! Kate did not know what
she was talking about, anyway. This was only
another case of her trying ``to manage.'' She
did so love to manage--everything!
At this point Billy got out her pen and paper
and wrote to Kate.
It was a formal, cold little letter, not at all the
sort that Billy's friends usually received. It
thanked Kate for her advice, and for her ``kind
willingness'' to have Billy for a sister; but it
hinted that perhaps Kate did not realize that as
long as Billy was the one who would have to _live_
with the chosen man, it would be pleasanter to
take the one Billy loved, which happened in
this case to be Bertram--not William. As for
any ``quarrel'' being the cause of whatever
fancied trouble there was with the new picture--
the letter scouted that idea in no uncertain terms.
There had been no suggestion of a quarrel even
once since the engagement.
Then Billy signed her name and took the letter
out to post immediately.
For the first few minutes after the letter had
been dropped into the green box at the corner,
Billy held her head high, and told herself that
the matter was now closed. She had sent Kate
a courteous, dignified, conclusive, effectual answer,
and she thought with much satisfaction of the
things she had said.
Very soon, however, she began to think--not
so much of what _she_ had said--but of what Kate
had said. Many of Kate's sentences were
unpleasantly vivid in her mind. They seemed,
indeed, to stand out in letters of flame, and they
began to burn, and burn, and burn. These were
some of them:
``William says that Bertram has been
completely out of fix over something, and as gloomy
as an owl for weeks past.''
``A woman is at the bottom of it--. . . you
are that woman.''
``You can't make him happy.''
``Bertram never was--and never will be--a
marrying man.''
``Girls have never meant anything to him but
a beautiful picture to paint. And they never
``Up to this winter he's always been a
carefree, happy, jolly fellow, and you _know_ what
beautiful work he has done. Never before has
he tied himself to any one girl until last
``Now what has it been since?''
``He's been so moody, so irritable, so fretted
over his work, so unlike himself; and his picture
has failed, dismally.''
``Do you want to ruin his career?''
Billy began to see now that she had not really
answered Kate's letter at all. The matter was not
closed. Her reply had been, perhaps, courteous
and dignified--but it had not been conclusive
nor effectual.
Billy had reached home now, and she was
crying. Bertram _had_ acted strangely, of late.
Bertram _had_ seemed troubled over something.
His picture _had_-- With a little shudder Billy
tossed aside these thoughts, and dug at her teary
eyes with a determined hand. Fiercely she told
herself that the matter _was_ settled. Very scornfully
she declared that it was ``only Kate,''
after all, and that she _would not_ let Kate make
her unhappy again! Forthwith she picked up a
current magazine and began to read.
As it chanced, however, even here Billy found
no peace; for the first article she opened to was
headed in huge black type:
With a little cry Billy flung the magazine far
from her, and picked up another. But even ``The
Elusiveness of Chopin,'' which she found here,
could not keep her thoughts nor her eyes from
wandering to the discarded thing in the corner,
lying ignominiously face down with crumpled,
out-flung leaves.
Billy knew that in the end she should go over
and pick that magazine up, and read that article
from beginning to end. She was not surprised,
therefore, when she did it--but she was not any
the happier for having done it.
The writer of the article did not approve of
marriage and the artistic temperament. He said
the artist belonged to his Art, and to posterity
through his Art. The essay fairly bristled with
many-lettered words and high-sounding phrases,
few of which Billy really understood. She did
understand enough, however, to feel, guiltily,
when the thing was finished, that already she had
married Bertram, and by so doing had committed
a Crime. She had slain Art, stifled Ambition,
destroyed Inspiration, and been a nuisance generally.
In consequence of which Bertram would henceforth
and forevermore be doomed to Littleness.
Naturally, in this state of mind, and with this
vision before her, Billy was anything but her
bright, easy self when she met Bertram an hour
or two later. Naturally, too, Bertram, still the
tormented victim of the bugaboo his jealous fears
had fashioned, was just in the mood to place the
worst possible construction on his sweetheart's
very evident unhappiness. With sighs, unspoken
questions, and frequently averted eyes, therefore,
the wretched evening passed, a pitiful misery to
them both.
During the days that followed, Billy thought
that the world itself must be in league with Kate,
so often did she encounter Kate's letter
masquerading under some thin disguise. She did
not stop to realize that because she was so afraid
she _would_ find it, she _did_ find it. In the books
she read, in the plays she saw, in the chance
words she heard spoken by friend or stranger--
always there was something to feed her fears in
one way or another. Even in a yellowed newspaper
that had covered the top shelf in her closet
she found one day a symposium on whether or
not an artist's wife should be an artist; and she
shuddered--but she read every opinion given.
Some writers said no, and some, yes; and some
said it all depended--on the artist and his wife.
Billy found much food for thought, some for
amusement, and a little that made for peace of
mind. On the whole it opened up a new phase
of the matter, perhaps. At all events, upon
finishing it she almost sobbed:
``One would think that just because I write a
song now and then, I was going to let Bertram
starve, and go with holes in his socks and no
buttons on his clothes!''
It was that afternoon that Billy went to see
Marie; but even there she did not escape, for
the gentle Marie all unknowingly added her mite
to the woeful whole.
Billy found Marie in tears.
``Why, Marie!'' she cried in dismay.
``Sh-h!'' warned Marie, turning agonized eyes
toward the closed door of Cyril's den.
``But, dear, what is it?'' begged Billy, with no
less dismay, but with greater caution.
``Sh-h!'' admonished Marie again.
On tiptoe, then, she led the way to a room at
the other end of the tiny apartment. Once there;
she explained in a more natural tone of voice:
``Cyril's at work on a new piece for the piano.''
``Well, what if he is?'' demanded Billy. ``That
needn't make you cry, need it?''
``Oh, no--no, indeed,'' demurred Marie, in
a shocked voice.
``Well, then, what is it?''
Marie hesitated; then, with the abandon of a
hurt child that longs for sympathy, she sobbed:
``It--it's just that I'm afraid, after all, that
I'm not good enough for Cyril.''
Billy stared frankly.
``Not _good_ enough, Marie Henshaw! Whatever
in the world do you mean?''
``Well, not good _for_ him, then. Listen! To-day,
I know, in lots of ways I must have disappointed
him. First, he put on some socks that I'd darned.
They were the first since our marriage that I'd
found to darn, and I'd been so proud and--and
happy while I _was_ darning them. But--but
he took 'em off right after breakfast and threw
'em in a corner. Then he put on a new pair, and
said that I--I needn't darn any more; that it
made--bunches. Billy, _my darns--bunches!_''
Marie's face and voice were tragic.
``Nonsense, dear! Don't let that fret you,''
comforted Billy, promptly, trying not to laugh
too hard. ``It wasn't _your_ darns; it was just
darns--anybody's darns. Cyril won't wear
darned socks. Aunt Hannah told me so long ago,
and I said then there'd be a tragedy when _you_
found it out. So don't worry over that.''
``Oh, but that isn't all,'' moaned Marie.
``Listen! You know how quiet he must have everything
when he's composing--and he ought to
have it, too! But I forgot, this morning, and put
on some old shoes that didn't have any rubber
heels, and I ran the carpet sweeper, and I rattled
tins in the kitchen. But I never thought a thing
until he opened his door and asked me _please_ to
change my shoes and let the--the confounded
dirt go, and didn't I have any dishes in the house
but what were made of that abominable tin
s-stuff,'' she finished in a wail of misery.
Billy burst into a ringing laugh, but Marie's
aghast face and upraised hand speedily reduced it
to a convulsive giggle.
``You dear child! Cyril's always like that when
he's composing,'' soothed Billy. ``I supposed you
knew it, dear. Don't you fret! Run along and
make him his favorite pudding, and by night both
of you will have forgotten there ever were such
things in the world as tins and shoes and carpet
sweepers that clatter.''
Marie shook her head. Her dismal face did not
``You don't understand,'' she moaned. ``It's
myself. I've _hindered_ him!'' She brought out the
word with an agony of slow horror. ``And only
to-day I read-here, look!'' she faltered, going
to the table and picking up with shaking hands a
Billy recognized it by the cover at once--another
like it had been flung not so long ago by her
own hand into the corner. She was not surprised,
therefore, to see very soon at the end of Marie's
trembling finger:
``Marriage and the Artistic Temperament.''
Billy did not give a ringing laugh this time.
She gave an involuntary little shudder, though she
tried valiantly to turn it all off with a light word
of scorn, and a cheery pat on Marie's heaving
shoulders. But she went home very soon; and it
was plain to be seen that her visit to Marie had
not brought her peace.
Billy knew Kate's letter, by heart, now, both in
the original, and in its different versions, and she
knew that, despite her struggles, she was being
forced straight toward Kate's own verdict: that
she, Billy, _was_ the cause, in some way, of the
deplorable change in Bertram's appearance, manner,
and work. Before she would quite surrender to
this heart-sickening belief, however, she determined
to ask Bertram himself. Falteringly, but
resolutely, therefore, one day, she questioned him.
``Bertram, once you hinted that the picture did
not go right because you were troubled over something;
and I've been wondering--was it about--
me, in any way, that you were troubled?''
Billy had her answer before the man spoke. She
had it in the quick terror that sprang to his eyes,
and the dull red that swept from his neck to his
forehead. His reply, so far as words went did not
count, for it evaded everything and told nothing.
But Billy knew without words. She knew, too,
what she must do. For the time being she took
Bertram's evasive answer as he so evidently wished
it to be taken; but that evening, after he had
gone, she wrote him a little note and broke the
engagement. So heartbroken was she--and so
fearful was she that he should suspect this--that
her note, when completed, was a cold little thing of
few words, which carried no hint that its very
coldness was but the heart-break in the disguise of
This was like Billy in all ways. Billy, had she
lived in the days of the Christian martyrs, would
have been the first to walk with head erect into the
Arena of Sacrifice. The arena now was just everyday
living, the lions were her own devouring misery,
and the cause was Bertram's best good.
From Bertram's own self she had it now--that
she had been the cause of his being troubled; so
she could doubt no longer. The only part that was
uncertain was the reason why he had been
troubled. Whether his bond to her had become
irksome because of his love for another, or because
of his love for no girl--except to paint, Billy did
not know. But that it was irksome she did not
doubt now. Besides, as if she were going to slay
his Art, stifle his Ambition, destroy his Inspiration,
and be a nuisance generally just so that _she_
might be happy! Indeed, no! Hence she broke
the engagement.
This was the letter:
``DEAR BERTRAM:--You won't make the
move, so I must. I knew, from the way you spoke
to-day, that it _was_ about me that you were
troubled, even though you generously tried to
make me think it was not. And so the picture did
not go well.
``Now, dear, we have not been happy together
lately. You have seen it; so have I. I fear our
engagement was a mistake, so I'm going to send
back your ring to-morrow, and I'm writing this
letter to-night. Please don't try to see me just
yet. You _know_ what I am doing is best--all
``Always your friend,
Billy feared if she did not mail the letter at once
she would not have the courage to mail it at all. So
she slipped down-stairs very quietly and went herself
to the post box a little way down the street;
then she came back and sobbed herself to sleep--
though not until after she had sobbed awake for
long hours of wretchedness.
When she awoke in the morning, heavy-eyed
and unrested, there came to her first the vague
horror of some shadow hanging over her, then the
sickening consciousness of what that shadow was.
For one wild minute Billy felt that she must run
to the telephone, summon Bertram, and beseech
him to return unread the letter he would receive
from her that day. Then there came to her the
memory of Bertram's face as it had looked the
night before when she had asked him if she were
the cause of his being troubled. There came, too,
the memory of Kate's scathing ``Do you want to
ruin his career?'' Even the hated magazine article
and Marie's tragic ``I've _hindered_ him!'' added
their mite; and Billy knew that she should not go
to the telephone, nor summon Bertram.
The one fatal mistake now would be to let Bertram
see her own distress. If once he should suspect
how she suffered in doing this thing, there
would be a scene that Billy felt she had not the
courage to face. She must, therefore, manage in
some way not to see Bertram--not to let him see
her until she felt more sure of her self-control no
matter what he said. The easiest way to do this
was, of course, to go away. But where? How?
She must think. Meanwhile, for these first few
hours, she would not tell any one, even Aunt
Hannah, what had happened. There must _no one_
speak to her of it, yet. That she could not endure.
Aunt Hannah would, of course, shiver, groan ``Oh,
my grief and conscience!'' and call for another
shawl; and Billy just now felt as if she should
scream if she heard Aunt Hannah say ``Oh, my
grief and conscience!''--over that. Billy went
down to breakfast, therefore, with a determination
to act exactly as usual, so that Aunt Hannah
should not know--yet.
When people try to ``act exactly as usual,'' they
generally end in acting quite the opposite; and
Billy was no exception to the rule. Hence her
attempted cheerfulness became flippantness, and
her laughter giggles that rang too frequently to be
quite sincere--though from Aunt Hannah it all
elicited only an affectionate smile at ``the dear
child's high spirits.''
A little later, when Aunt Hannah was glancing
over the morning paper--now no longer barred
from the door--she gave a sudden cry.
``Billy, just listen to this!'' she exclaimed,
reading from the paper in her hand. `` `A new tenor in
``The Girl of the Golden West.'' Appearance of
Mr. M. J. Arkwright at the Boston Opera House
to-night. Owing to the sudden illness of Dubassi,
who was to have taken the part of Johnson tonight,
an exceptional opportunity has come to a
young tenor singer, one of the most promising pupils
at the Conservatory school. Arkwright is said
to have a fine voice, a particularly good stage
presence, and a purity of tone and smoothness of execution
that few of his age and experience can show.
Only a short time ago he appeared as the duke at
one of the popular-priced Saturday night performances
of ``Rigoletto''; and his extraordinary success
on that occasion, coupled with his familiarity
with, and fitness for the part of Johnson in ``The
Girl of the Golden West,'' led to his being chosen
to take Dubassi's place to-night. His performance
is awaited with the greatest of interest.' Now
isn't that splendid for Mary Jane? I'm so glad!''
beamed Aunt Hannah.
``Of course we're glad!'' cried Billy. ``And
didn't it come just in time? This is the last week
of opera, anyway, you know.''
``But it says he sang before--on a Saturday
night,'' declared Aunt Hannah, going back to the
paper in her hand. ``Now wouldn't you have
thought we'd have heard of it, or read of it? And
wouldn't you have thought he'd have told us?''
``Oh, well, maybe he didn't happen to see us
so he could tell us,'' returned Billy with elaborate
``I know it; but it's so funny he _hasn't_ seen us,''
contended Aunt Hannah, frowning. ``You know
how much he used to be here.''
Billy colored, and hurried into the fray.
``Oh, but he must have been so busy, with all
this, you know. And of course we didn't see it in
the paper--because we didn't have any paper at
that time, probably. Oh, yes, that's my fault, I
know,'' she laughed; ``and I was silly, I'll own.
But we'll make up for it now. We'll go, of course,
I wish it had been on our regular season-ticket
night, but I fancy we can get seats somewhere;
and I'm going to ask Alice Greggory and her
mother, too. I'll go down there this morning to
tell them, and to get the tickets. I've got it all
Billy had, indeed, ``got it all planned.'' She
had been longing for something that would take
her away from the house--and if possible away
from herself. This would do the one easily, and
might help on the other. She rose at once.
``I'll go right away,'' she said.
``But, my dear,'' frowned Aunt Hannah,
anxiously, ``I don't believe I can go to-night--though
I'd love to, dearly.''
``But why not?''
``I'm tired and half sick with a headache this
morning. I didn't sleep, and I've taken cold somewhere,''
sighed the lady, pulling the top shawl a
little higher about her throat.
``Why, you poor dear, what a shame!''
``Won't Bertram go?'' asked Aunt Hannah.
Billy shook her head--but she did not meet
Aunt Hannah's eyes.
``Oh, no. I sha'n't even ask him. He said last
night he had a banquet on for to-night--one of
his art clubs, I believe.'' Billy's voice was
casualness itself.
``But you'll have the Greggorys--that is, Mrs.
Greggory _can_ go, can't she?'' inquired Aunt Hannah.
``Oh, yes; I'm sure she can,'' nodded Billy.
``You know she went to the operetta, and this is
just the same--only bigger.''
``Yes, yes, I know,'' murmured Aunt Hannah.
``Dear me! How can she get about so on those
two wretched little sticks? She's a perfect marvel
to me.''
``She is to me, too,'' sighed Billy, as she hurried
from the room.
Billy was, indeed, in a hurry. To herself she
said she wanted to get away--away! And she
got away as soon as she could.
She had her plans all made. She would go first
to the Greggorys' and invite them to attend the
opera with her that evening. Then she would get
the tickets. Just what she would do with the rest
of the day she did not know. She knew only that
she would not go home until time to dress for
dinner and the opera. She did not tell Aunt
Hannah this, however, when she left the house. She
planned to telephone it from somewhere down
town, later. She told herself that she _could not_
stay all day under the sharp eyes of Aunt Hannah
--but she managed, nevertheless, to bid that lady
a particularly blithe and bright-faced good-by.
Billy had not been long gone when the telephone
bell rang. Aunt Hannah answered it.
``Why, Bertram, is that you?'' she called, in
answer to the words that came to her across the
wire. ``Why, I hardly knew your voice!''
``Didn't you? Well, is--is Billy there?''
``No, she isn't. She's gone down to see Alice
``Oh!'' So evident was the disappointment in
the voice that Aunt Hannah added hastily:
``I'm so sorry! She hasn't been gone ten
minutes. But--is there any message?''
``No, thank you. There's no--message.'' The
voice hesitated, then went on a little constrainedly.
``How--how is Billy this morning? She--she's
all right, isn't she?''
Aunt Hannah laughed in obvious amusement.
``Bless your dear heart, yes, my boy! Has it
been such a _long_ time since last evening--when
you saw her yourself? Yes, she's all right. In
fact, I was thinking at the breakfast table how
pretty she looked with her pink cheeks and her
bright eyes. She seemed to be in such high spirits.''
An inarticulate something that Aunt Hannah
could not quite catch came across the line; then
a somewhat hurried ``All right. Thank you.
The next time Aunt Hannah was called to the
telephone, Billy spoke to her.
``Aunt Hannah, don't wait luncheon for me,
please. I shall get it in town. And don't expect me
till five o'clock. I have some shopping to do.''
``All right, dear,'' replied Aunt Hannah. ``Did
you get the tickets?''
``Yes, and the Greggorys will go. Oh, and
Aunt Hannah!''
``Yes, dear.''
``Please tell John to bring Peggy around early
enough to-night so we can go down and get the
Greggorys. I told them we'd call for them.''
``Very well, dear. I'll tell him.''
``Thank you. How's the poor head?''
``Better, a little, I think.''
``That's good. Won't you repent and go, too?''
``No--oh, no, indeed!''
``All right, then; good-by. I'm sorry!''
``So'm I. Good-by,'' sighed Aunt Hannah, as
she hung up the receiver and turned away.
It was after five o'clock when Billy got home,
and so hurried were the dressing and the dinner
that Aunt Hannah forgot to mention Bertram's
telephone call till just as Billy was ready to start
for the Greggorys'.
``There! and I forgot,'' she confessed.
``Bertram called you up just after you left this morning,
my dear.''
``Did he?'' Billy's face was turned away, but
Aunt Hannah did not notice that.
``Yes. Oh, he didn't want anything special,''
smiled the lady, ``only--well, he did ask if you
were all right this morning,'' she finished with
quiet mischief.
``Did he?'' murmured Billy again. This time
there was a little sound after the words, which
Aunt Hannah would have taken for a sob if she
had not known that it must have been a laugh.
Then Billy was gone.
At eight o'clock the doorbell rang, and a minute
later Rosa came up to say that Mr. Bertram Henshaw
was down-stairs and wished to see Mrs.
Mrs. Stetson went down at once.
``Why, my dear boy,'' she exclaimed, as she
entered the room; ``Billy said you had a banquet
on for to-night!''
``Yes, I know; but--I didn't go.'' Bertram's
face was pale and drawn. His voice did not sound
``Why, Bertram, you look ill! _Are_ you ill?''
The man made an impatient gesture.
``No, no, I'm not ill--I'm not ill at all. Rosa
says--Billy's not here.''
``No; she's gone to the opera with the Greggorys.''
``The _opera!_'' There was a grieved hurt in
Bertram's voice that Aunt Hannah quite misunderstood.
She hastened to give an apologetic
``Yes. She would have told you--she would
have asked you to join them, I'm sure, but she
said you were going to a banquet. I'm _sure_ she
said so.''
``Yes, I did tell her so--last night,'' nodded
Bertram, dully.
Aunt Hannah frowned a little. Still more
anxiously she endeavored to explain to this
disappointed lover why his sweetheart was not at home
to greet him.
``Well, then, of course, my boy, she'd never
think of your coming here to-night; and when she
found Mr. Arkwright was going to sing--''
``Arkwright!'' There was no listlessness in
Bertram's voice or manner now.
``Yes. Didn't you see it in the paper? Such a
splendid chance for him! His picture was there,
``No. I didn't see it.''
``Then you don't know about it, of course,''
smiled Aunt Hannah. ``But he's to take the part
of Johnson in `The Girl of the Golden West.'
Isn't that splendid? I'm so glad! And Billy was,
too. She hurried right off this morning to get the
tickets and to ask the Greggorys.''
``Oh!'' Bertram got to his feet a little abruptly,
and held out his hand. ``Well, then, I might as well
say good-by then, I suppose,'' he suggested with a
laugh that Aunt Hannah thought was a bit forced.
Before she could remind him again, though, that
Billy was really not to blame for not being there to
welcome him, he was gone. And Aunt Hannah
could only go up-stairs and meditate on the
unreasonableness of lovers in general, and of Bertram
in particular.
Aunt Hannah had gone to bed, but she was still
awake, when Billy came home, so she heard the
automobile come to a stop before the door, and
she called to Billy when the girl came upstairs.
``Billy, dear, come in here. I'm awake! I want
to hear about it. Was it good?''
Billy stopped in the doorway. The light from
the hall struck her face. There was no brightness
in her eyes now, no pink in her cheeks.
``Oh, yes, it was good--very good,'' she replied
``Why, Billy, how queer you answer! What
was the matter? Wasn't Mary Jane--all right?''
``Mary Jane? Oh!--oh, yes; he was very
good, Aunt Hannah.''
`` `Very good,' indeed!'' echoed the lady,
indignantly. ``He must have been!--when you speak
as if you'd actually forgotten that he sang at all,
Billy had forgotten--almost. Billy had found
that, in spite of her getting away from the house,
she had not got away from herself once, all day.
She tried now, however, to summon her acting
powers of the morning.
``But it was splendid, really, Aunt Hannah,''
she cried, with some show of animation. ``And
they clapped and cheered and gave him any number
of curtain calls. We were so proud of him!
But you see, I _am_ tired,'' she broke off wearily.
``You poor child, of course you are, and you
look like a ghost! I won't keep you another
minute. Run along to bed. Oh--Bertram didn't go
to that banquet, after all. He came here,'' she
added, as Billy turned to go.
``Bertram!'' The girl wheeled sharply.
``Yes. He wanted you, of course. I found I
didn't do, at all,'' chuckled Aunt Hannah. ``Did
you suppose I would?''
There was no answer. Billy had gone.
In the long night watches Billy fought it out
with herself. (Billy had always fought things out
with herself.) She must go away. She knew that.
Already Bertram had telephoned, and called. He
evidently meant to see her--and she could not
see him. She dared not. If she did--Billy knew
now how pitifully little it would take to make her
actually _willing_ to slay Bertram's Art, stifle his
Ambition, destroy his Inspiration, and be a nuisance
generally--if only she could have Bertram
while she was doing it all. Sternly then she asked
herself if she had no pride; if she had forgotten
that it was because of her that the Winthrop
portrait had not been a success--because of her,
either for the reason that he loved now Miss Winthrop,
or else that he loved no girl--except to
Very early in the morning a white-faced, redeyed
Billy appeared at Aunt Hannah's bedside.
``Billy!'' exclaimed Aunt Hannah, plainly appalled.
Billy sat down on the edge of the bed.
``Aunt Hannah,'' she began in a monotonous
voice as if she were reciting a lesson she had learned
by heart, ``please listen, and please try not to be
too surprised. You were saying the other day that
you would like to visit your old home town. Well,
I think that's a very nice idea. If you don't mind
we'll go to-day.''
Aunt Hannah pulled herself half erect in bed.
``Yes,'' nodded Billy, unsmilingly. ``We shall
have to go somewhere to-day, and I thought you
would like that place best.''
``But--Billy !--what does this mean?''
Billy sighed heavily.
``Yes, I understand. You'll have to know the
rest, of course. I've broken my engagement. I
don't want to see Bertram. That's why I'm going
Aunt Hannah fell nervelessly back on the pillow.
Her teeth fairly chattered.
``Oh, my grief and conscience--_Billy!_ Won't
you please pull up that blanket,'' she moaned.
``Billy, what do you mean?''
Billy shook her head and got to her feet.
``I can't tell any more now, really, Aunt
Hannah. Please don't ask me; and don't--talk.
You _will_--go with me, won't you?'' And Aunt
Hannah, with her terrified eyes on Billy's piteously
agitated face, nodded her head and choked:
``Why, of course I'll go--anywhere--with
you, Billy; but--why did you do it, why did you
do it?''
A little later, Billy, in her own room, wrote this
note to Bertram:
``DEAR BERTRAM:--I'm going away to-day.
That'll be best all around. You'll agree to that,
I'm sure. Please don't try to see me, and please
don't write. It wouldn't make either one of us
any happier. You must know that.
``As ever your friend,
Bertram, when he read it, grew only a shade
more white, a degree more sick at heart. Then he
kissed the letter gently and put it away with the
To Bertram, the thing was very clear. Billy had
come now to the conclusion that it would be wrong
to give herself where she could not give her heart.
And in this he agreed with her--bitter as it was
for him. Certainly he did not want Billy, if Billy
did not want him, he told himself. He would now,
of course, accede to her request. He would not
write to her--and make her suffer more. But to
Bertram, at that moment, it seemed that the very
sun in the heavens had gone out.
One by one the weeks passed and became a
month. Then other weeks became other months.
It was July when Billy, homesick and weary, came
back to Hillside with Aunt Hannah.
Home looked wonderfully good to Billy, in spite
of the fact that she had so dreaded to see it. Billy
had made up her mind, however, that, come sometime
she must. She could not, of course, stay always
away. Perhaps, too, it would be just as easy
at home as it was away. Certainly it could not be
any harder. She was convinced of that. Besides,
she did not want Bertram to think--
Billy had received only meagre news from Boston
since she went away. Bertram had not written
at all. William had written twice--hurt, grieved,
puzzled, questioning letters that were very hard
to answer. From Marie, too, had come letters of
much the same sort. By far the cheeriest epistles
had come from Alice Greggory. They contained,
indeed, about the only comfort Billy had known
for weeks, for they showed very plainly to Billy
that Arkwright's heart had been caught on the
rebound; and that in Alice Greggory he was finding
the sweetest sort of balm for his wounded feelings.
From these letters Billy learned, too, that
Judge Greggory's honor had been wholly vindicated;
and, as Billy told Aunt Hannah, ``anybody
could put two and two together and make
four, now.''
It was eight o'clock on a rainy July evening that
Billy and Aunt Hannah arrived at Hillside; and
it was only a little past eight that Aunt Hannah
was summoned to the telephone. When she came
back to Billy she was crying and wringing her
Billy sprang to her feet.
``Why, Aunt Hannah, what is it? What's the
matter?'' she demanded.
Aunt Hannah sank into a chair, still wringing
her hands.
``Oh, Billy, Billy, how can I tell you, how can I
tell you?'' she moaned.
``You must tell me! Aunt Hannah, what is it?''
``Oh--oh--oh! Billy, I can't--I can't!''
``But you'll have to! What is it, Aunt Hannah?''
``Bertram!'' Billy's face grew ashen. ``Quick,
quick--what do you mean?''
For answer, Aunt Hannah covered her face with
her hands and began to sob aloud. Billy, almost
beside herself now with terror and anxiety, dropped
on her knees and tried to pull away the shaking
``Aunt Hannah, you must tell me! You must
--you must!''
``I can't, Billy. It's Bertram. He's--_hurt!_''
choked Aunt Hannah, hysterically.
``Hurt! How?''
``I don't know. Pete told me.''
``Yes. Rosa had told him we were coming, and
he called me up. He said maybe I could do something.
So he told me.''
``Yes, yes! But told you what?''
``That he was hurt.''
``I couldn't hear all, but I think 'twas an
accident--automobile. And, Billy, Billy--Pete says
it's his arm--his right arm--and that maybe he
can't ever p-paint again!''
``Oh-h!'' Billy fell back as if the words had
been a blow. ``Not that, Aunt Hannah--not that!''
``That's what Pete said. I couldn't get all of it,
but I got that. And, Billy, he's been out of his
head--though he isn't now, Pete says--and--
and--and he's been calling for you.''
``For--_me?_'' A swift change came to Billy's
``Yes. Over and over again he called for you--
while he was crazy, you know. That's why Pete
told me. He said he didn't rightly understand
what the trouble was, but he didn't believe there
was any trouble, _really_, between you two; anyway,
that you wouldn't think there was, if you
could hear him, and know how he wanted you,
and--why, Billy!''
Billy was on her feet now. Her fingers were on
the electric push-button that would summon Rosa.
Her face was illumined. The next moment Rosa
``Tell John to bring Peggy to the door at once,
please,'' directed her mistress.
``Billy!'' gasped Aunt Hannah again, as the
maid disappeared. Billy was tremblingly putting
on the hat she had but just taken off. ``Billy,
what are you going to do?''
Billy turned in obvious surprise.
``Why, I'm going to Bertram, of course.''
``To Bertram! But it's nearly half-past eight,
child, and it rains, and everything!''
``But Bertram _wants_ me!'' exclaimed Billy.
``As if I'd mind rain, or time, or anything else,
``But--but--oh, my grief and conscience!''
groaned Aunt Hannah, beginning to wring her
hands again.
Billy reached for her coat. Aunt Hannah stirred
into sudden action.
``But, Billy, if you'd only wait till to-morrow,''
she quavered, putting out a feebly restraining
``To-morrow!'' The young voice rang with
supreme scorn. ``Do you think I'd wait till tomorrow--
after all this? I say Bertram _wants_
me.'' Billy picked up her gloves.
``But you broke it off, dear--you said you did;
and to go down there to-night--like this--''
Billy lifted her head. Her eyes shone. Her
whole face was a glory of love and pride.
``That was before. I didn't know. He _wants_
me, Aunt Hannah. Did you hear? He _wants_ me!
And now I won't even--hinder him, if he can't
--p-paint again!'' Billy's voice broke. The glory
left her face. Her eyes brimmed with tears, but
her head was still bravely uplifted. ``I'm going
to Bertram!''
Blindly Aunt Hannah got to her feet. Still more
blindly she reached for her bonnet and cloak on
the chair near her.
``Oh, will you go, too?'' asked Billy, abstractedly,
hurrying to the window to look for the motor
``Will I go, too!'' burst out Aunt Hannah's
indignant voice. ``Do you think I'd let you go
alone, and at this time of night, on such a wildgoose
chase as this?''
``I don't know, I'm sure,'' murmured Billy, still
abstractedly, peering out into the rain.
``Don't know, indeed! Oh, my grief and
conscience!'' groaned Aunt Hannah, setting her bonnet
hopelessly askew on top of her agitated head.
But Billy did not even answer now. Her face
was pressed hard against the window-pane.
With stiffly pompous dignity Pete opened the
door. The next moment he fell back in amazement
before the impetuous rush of a starry-eyed,
flushed-cheeked young woman who demanded:
``Where is he, Pete?''
``Miss Billy!'' gasped the old man. Then he
saw Aunt Hannah--Aunt Hannah with her bonnet
askew, her neck-bow awry, one hand bare,
and the other half covered with a glove wrong side
out. Aunt Hannah's cheeks, too, were flushed,
and her eyes starry, but with dismay and anger--
the last because she did not like the way Pete had
said Miss Billy's name. It was one matter for her
to object to this thing Billy was doing--but quite
another for Pete to do it.
``Of course it's she!'' retorted Aunt Hannah,
testily. ``As if you yourself didn't bring her here
with your crazy messages at this time of night!''
``Pete, where is he?'' interposed Billy. ``Tell
Mr. Bertram I am here--or, wait! I'll go right
in and surprise him.''
``_Billy!_'' This time it was Aunt Hannah who
gasped her name.
Pete had recovered himself by now, but he did
not even glance toward Aunt Hannah. His face
was beaming, and his old eyes were shining.
``Miss Billy, Miss Billy, you're an angel straight
from heaven, you are--you are! Oh, I'm so glad
you came! It'll be all right now--all right! He's
in the den, Miss Billy.''
Billy turned eagerly, but before she could take
so much as one step toward the door at the end of
the hall, Aunt Hannah's indignant voice arrested
``Billy-stop! You're not an angel; you're a
young woman--and a crazy one, at that! Whatever
angels do, young women don't go unannounced
and unchaperoned into young men's
rooms! Pete, go tell your master that _we_ are
here, and ask if he will receive _us_.''
Pete's lips twitched. The emphatic ``we'' and
``us'' were not lost on him. But his face was
preternaturally grave when he spoke.
``Mr. Bertram is up and dressed, ma'am. He's
in the den. I'll speak to him.''
Pete, once again the punctilious butler, stalked
to the door of Bertram's den and threw it wide
Opposite the door, on a low couch, lay Bertram,
his head bandaged, and his right arm in a sling.
His face was turned toward the door, but his eyes
were closed. He looked very white, and his
features were pitifully drawn with suffering.
``Mr. Bertram,'' began Pete--but he got no
further. A flying figure brushed by him and fell
on its knees by the couch, with a low cry.
Bertram's eyes flew open. Across his face swept
such a radiant look of unearthly joy that Pete
sobbed audibly and fled to the kitchen. Dong Ling
found him there a minute later polishing a silver
teaspoon with a fringed napkin that had been
spread over Bertram's tray. In the hall above
Aunt Hannah was crying into William's gray linen
duster that hung on the hall-rack--Aunt Hannah's
handkerchief was on the floor back at Hillside.
In the den neither Billy nor Bertram knew or
cared what had become of Aunt Hannah and Pete.
There were just two people in their world--two
people, and unutterable, incredible, overwhelming
rapture and peace. Then, very gradually it
dawned over them that there was, after all,
something strange and unexplained in it all.
``But, dearest, what does it mean--you here
like this?'' asked Bertram then. As if to make
sure that she was ``here, like this,'' he drew her
even closer--Bertram was so thankful that he
did have one arm that was usable.
Billy, on her knees by the couch, snuggled into
the curve of the one arm with a contented little
``Well, you see, just as soon as I found out tonight
that you wanted me, I came,'' she said.
``You darling! That was--'' Bertram
stopped suddenly. A puzzled frown showed
below the fantastic bandage about his head. `` `As
soon as,' '' he quoted then scornfully. ``Were
you ever by any possible chance thinking I _didn't_
want you?''
Billy's eyes widened a little.
``Why, Bertram, dear, don't you see? When
you were so troubled that the picture didn't go
well, and I found out it was about me you were
``Well?'' Bertram's voice was a little strained.
``Why, of--of course,'' stammered Billy, ``I
couldn't help thinking that maybe you had found
out you _didn't_ want me.''
``_Didn't want you!_'' groaned Bertram, his tense
muscles relaxing. ``May I ask why?''
Billy blushed.
``I wasn't quite sure why,'' she faltered; ``only,
of course, I thought of--of Miss Winthrop, you
know, or that maybe it was because you didn't
care for _any_ girl, only to paint--oh, oh, Bertram!
Pete told us,'' she broke off wildly, beginning to sob.
``Pete told you that I didn't care for any girl,
only to paint?'' demanded Bertram, angry and
``No, no,'' sobbed Billy, ``not that. It was all
the others that told me that! Pete told Aunt Hannah
about the accident, you know, and he said--
he said-- Oh, Bertram, I _can't_ say it! But that's
one of the things that made me know I _could_ come
now, you see, because I--I wouldn't hinder you,
nor slay your Art, nor any other of those dreadful
things if--if you couldn't ever--p-paint again,''
finished Billy in an uncontrollable burst of
``There, there, dear,'' comforted Bertram,
patting the bronze-gold head on his breast. ``I
haven't the faintest idea what you're talking about
--except the last; but I know there _can't_ be anything
that ought to make you cry like that. As
for my not painting again--you didn't understand
Pete, dearie. That was what they were
afraid of at first--that I'd lose my arm; but that
danger is all past now. I'm loads better. Of
course I'm going to paint again--and better than
ever before--_now!_''
Billy lifted her head. A look that was almost
terror came to her eyes. She pulled herself half
away from Bertram's encircling arm.
``Why, Billy,'' cried the man, in pained
surprise. ``You don't mean to say you're _sorry_ I'm
going to paint again!''
``No, no! Oh, no, Bertram--never that!'' she
faltered, still regarding him with fearful eyes.
``It's only--for _me_, you know. I _can't_ go back
now, and not have you--after this!--even if I
do hinder you, and--''
``_Hinder me!_ What are you talking about,
Billy drew a quivering sigh.
``Well, to begin with, Kate said--''
``Good heavens! Is Kate in _this_, too?''
Bertram's voice was savage now.
``Well, she wrote a letter.''
``I'll warrant she did! Great Scott, Billy!
Don't you know Kate by this time?''
``Y-yes, I said so, too. But, Bertram, what she
wrote was true. I found it everywhere, afterwards--
in magazines and papers, and even in
``Humph! Well, dearie, I don't know yet what
you found, but I do know you wouldn't have found
it at all if it hadn't been for Kate--and I wish I
had her here this minute!''
Billy giggled hysterically.
``I don't--not _right_ here,'' she cooed, nestling
comfortably against her lover's arm. ``But you
see, dear, she never _has_ approved of the marriage.''
``Well, who's doing the marrying--she, or I?''
``That's what I said, too--only in another
way,'' sighed Billy. ``But she called us flyaway
flutterbudgets, and she said I'd ruin your career,
if I did marry you.''
``Well, I can tell you right now, Billy, you will
ruin it if you don't!'' declared Bertram. ``That's
what ailed me all the time I was painting that
miserable portrait. I was so worried--for fear I'd
lose you.''
``Lose me! Why, Bertram Henshaw, what do
you mean?''
A shamed red crept to the man's forehead.
``Well, I suppose I might as well own up now as
any time. I was scared blue, Billy, with jealousy
Billy laughed gayly--but she shifted her
position and did not meet her lover's eyes.
``Arkwright? Nonsense!'' she cried. ``Why,
he's going to marry Alice Greggory. I know he is!
I can see it as plain as day in her letters. He's
there a lot.''
``And you never did think for a minute, Billy,
that you cared for him?'' Bertram's gaze searched
Billy's face a little fearfully. He had not been
slow to mark that swift lowering of her eyelids.
But Billy looked him now straight in the face--
it was a level, frank gaze of absolute truth.
``Never, dear,'' she said firmly. (Billy was so
glad Bertram had turned the question on _her_ love
instead of Arkwright's!) ``There has never really
been any one but you.''
``Thank God for that,'' breathed Bertram, as he
drew the bright head nearer and held it close.
After a minute Billy stirred and sighed happily.
``Aren't lovers the beat'em for imagining
things?'' she murmured.
``They certainly are.''
``You see--I wasn't in love with Mr. Arkwright.''
``I see--I hope.''
`` And--and you didn't care _specially_ for--for
Miss Winthrop?''
``Eh? Well, no!'' exploded Bertram. ``Do you
mean to say you really--''
Billy put a soft finger on his lips.
``Er--`people who live in _glass houses_,' you
know,'' she reminded him, with roguish eyes.
Bertram kissed the finger and subsided.
``Humph!'' he commented.
There was a long silence; then, a little
breathlessly, Billy asked:
``And you don't--after all, love me--just to
``Well, what is that? Is that Kate, too?''
demanded Bertram, grimly.
Billy laughed.
``No--oh, she said it, all right, but, you see,
_everybody_ said that to me, Bertram; and that's
what made me so--so worried sometimes when
you talked about the tilt of my chin, and all that.''
``Well, by Jove!'' breathed Bertram.
There was another silence. Then, suddenly,
Bertram stirred.
``Billy, I'm going to marry you to-morrow,'' he
announced decisively.
Billy lifted her head and sat back in palpitating
``Bertram! What an absurd idea!''
``Well, I am. I don't _know_ as I can trust you
out of my sight till _then!_ You'll read something,
or hear something, or get a letter from Kate after
breakfast to-morrow morning, that will set you
`saving me' again; and I don't want to be saved
--that way. I'm going to marry you to-morrow.
I'll get--'' He stopped short, with a sudden
frown. ``Confound that law! I forgot. Great
Scott, Billy, I'll have to trust you five days, after
all! There's a new law about the license. We've
_got_ to wait five days--and maybe more, counting
in the notice, and all.''
Billy laughed softly.
``Five days, indeed, sir! I wonder if you think
I can get ready to be married in five days.''
``Don't want you to get ready,'' retorted
Bertram, promptly. ``I saw Marie get ready, and I
had all I wanted of it. If you really must have all
those miles of tablecloths and napkins and doilies
and lace rufflings we'll do it afterwards,--not before.''
``Besides, I _need_ you to take care of me,'' cut in
Bertram, craftily.
``Bertram, do you--really?''
The tender glow on Billy's face told its own
story, and Bertram's eager eyes were not slow to
read it.
``Sweetheart, see here, dear,'' he cried softly,
tightening his good left arm. And forthwith he
began to tell her how much he did, indeed, need
``Billy, my dear!'' It was Aunt Hannah's
plaintive voice at the doorway, a little later. ``We
must go home; and William is here, too, and wants
to see you.''
Billy rose at once as Aunt Hannah entered the
``Yes, Aunt Hannah, I'll come; besides--'' she
glanced at Bertram mischievously--'' I shall
need all the time I've got to prepare for--my
``Your wedding! You mean it'll be before--
October?'' Aunt Hannah glanced from one to the
other uncertainly. Something in their smiling
faces sent a quick suspicion to her eyes.
``Yes,'' nodded Billy, demurely. ``It's next
Tuesday, you see.''
``Next Tuesday! But that's only a week away,''
gasped Aunt Hannah.
``Yes, a week.''
``But, child, your trousseau--the wedding--
the--the--a week!'' Aunt Hannah could not
articulate further.
``Yes, I know; that is a good while,'' cut in
Bertram, airily. ``We wanted it to-morrow, but we
had to wait, on account of the new license law.
Otherwise it wouldn't have been so long, and--''
But Aunt Hannah was gone. With a lowbreathed
``Long! Oh, my grief and conscience--
_William!_'' she had fled through the hall door.
``Well, it _is_ long,'' maintained Bertram, with
tender eyes, as he reached out his hand to say

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?