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Miss Billy’s Decision, CHAPTER IX

by Eleanor H. Porter

A RUG, A PICTURE, AND A GIRL AFRAID
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 spick-
and-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
Spunk!”

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 matter-
of-course air that was unmistakable–and to Bertram,
adorable.  Bertram’s eyes, as they rested
on Billy, were even fonder than were his
brother’s.

“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
declared.

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
eyes.

“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
was:

“Come, come, I got you up here to look at the
rug.”

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
feet.

“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?
–glass?”

“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
hear.

“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
blush.

“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
again.

“But how–when did you do them?” queried
Marie.

“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 scarf-
draped 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
was–Billy.

“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
hands.

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
panted.

“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
look.”

“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.

Miss Billy’s Decision, CHAPTER XIII

by Eleanor H. Porter

CYRIL AND A WEDDING
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
voice.

“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!”

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 r<o^>le, 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 horror-
stricken.  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!_”

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,
please.”

“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
cake!”

“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
said:

“And didn’t Cyril behave beautifully?  ‘Most
every time I looked at him he was talking to some
woman.”

“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
subject.

“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
friends.”

“As–_Mary Jane?_” asked Bertram, a little
stiffly.

“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
William.

“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,
boy?”

“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,
no!”

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
question.

“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
next.

“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.

A PÆAN.

by Edgar Allan Poe

I.        How shall the burial rite be read?
            The solemn song be sung?
          The requiem for the loveliest dead,
            That ever died so young?
II.       Her friends are gazing on her,
            And on her gaudy bier,
          And weep!–oh! to dishonor
            Dead beauty with a tear!
III.     They loved her for her wealth–
           And they hated her for her pride–
          But she grew in feeble health,
            And they _love_ her–that she died.
IV.      They tell me (while they speak
           Of her “costly broider’d pall”)
         That my voice is growing weak–
           That I should not sing at all–
V.       Or that my tone should be
           Tun’d to such solemn song
         So mournfully–so mournfully,
           That the dead may feel no wrong.
VI.      But she is gone above,
           With young Hope at her side,
         And I am drunk with love
           Of the dead, who is my bride.–

VII.     Of the dead–dead who lies
           All perfum’d there,
         With the death upon her eyes.
           And the life upon her hair.
VIII.    Thus on the coffin loud and long
           I strike–the murmur sent
         Through the gray chambers to my song,
           Shall be the accompaniment.
IX.      Thou diedst in thy life’s June–
           But thou didst not die too fair:
         Thou didst not die too soon,
           Nor with too calm an air.
X.       From more than friends on earth,
           Thy life and love are riven,
         To join the untainted mirth
           Of more than thrones in heaven.–
XI.      Therefore, to thee this night
           I will no requiem raise,
         But waft thee on thy flight,
           With a Pæan of old days.

In Vain

by Emily Dickinson
I CANNOT live with you,
It would be life,
And life is over there
Behind the shelf

The sexton keeps the key to,
Putting up
Our life, his porcelain,
Like a cup

Discarded of the housewife,
Quaint or broken;
A newer Sevres pleases,
Old ones crack.

I could not die with you,
For one must wait
To shut the other’s gaze down, –
You could not.

And I, could I stand by
And see you freeze,
Without my right of frost,
Death’s privilege?

Nor could I rise with you,
Because your face
Would put out Jesus’,
That new grace

Glow plain and foreign
On my homesick eye,
Except that you, than he
Shone closer by.

They’d judge us — how?
For you served Heaven, you know,
Or sought to;
I could not,

Because you saturated sight,
And I had no more eyes
For sordid excellence
As Paradise.

And were you lost, I would be,
Though my name
Rang loudest
On the heavenly fame.

And were you saved,
And I condemned to be
Where you were not,
That self were hell to me.

So we must keep apart,
You there, I here,
With just the door ajar
That oceans are,
And prayer,
And that pale sustenance,
Despair!

Winter. A Dirge

by Robert Burns
    The wintry west extends his blast,
      And hail and rain does blaw;
    Or the stormy north sends driving forth
      The blinding sleet and snaw;
    While tumbling brown, the burn comes down,
      And roars frae bank to brae;
    And bird and beast in covert rest,
      And pass the heartless day.

    “The sweeping blast, the sky o’ercast,”
      The joyless winter day
    Let others fear, to me more dear
      Than all the pride of May:
    The tempest’s howl, it soothes my soul,
      My griefs it seems to join;
    The leafless trees my fancy please,
      Their fate resembles mine!

    Thou Power Supreme, whose mighty scheme
      These woes of mine fulfil,
    Here, firm, I rest, they must be best,
      Because they are Thy will!
    Then all I want (O, do thou grant
      This one request of mine!)
    Since to enjoy Thou dost deny,
      Assist me to resign!

Gon to the War

by Horatio Alger, Jr.

My Charlie has gone to the war,
  My Charlie so brave and tall;
He left his plough in the furrow,
  And flew at his country’s call.
May God in safety keep him,–
  My precious boy–my all!

My heart is pining to see him;
  I miss him every day;
My heart is weary with waiting,
  And sick of the long delay,–
But I know his country needs him,
  And I could not bid him stay.

I remember how his face flushed,
  And how his color came,
When the flash from the guns of Sumter
  Lit the whole land with flame,
And darkened our country’s banner
  With the crimson hue of shame.

“Mother,” he said, then faltered,–
  I felt his mute appeal;
I paused– if you are a mother,
  You know what mothers feel,
When called to yield their dear ones
  To the cruel bullet and steel.

My heart stood still for a moment,
  Struck with a mighty woe;
A faint as of death came o’er me,
  I am a mother, you know,
But I sternly checked my weakness,
  And firmly bade him “Go.”

Wherever the fight is fiercest
  I know that my boy will be;
Wherever the need is sorest
  Of the stout arms of the free.
May he prove as true to his country
  As he has been true to me.

My home is lonely without him,
  My hearth bereft of joy,
The thought of him who has left me
  My constant sad employ;
But God has been good to the mother,–
  She shall not blush for her boy.

“In Youth I Have Known One:

by Edgar Allan Poe
          How often we forget all time, when lone
          Admiring Nature’s universal throne;
          Her woods–her wilds–her mountains–the intense
          Reply of Hers to Our intelligence!
I.        In youth I have known one with whom the Earth
            In secret communing held–as he with it,
          In daylight, and in beauty, from his birth:
            Whose fervid, flickering torch of life was lit
          From the sun and stars, whence he had drawn forth
            A passionate light such for his spirit was fit–
          And yet that spirit knew–not in the hour
            Of its own fervor–what had o’er it power.
II.       Perhaps it may be that my mind is wrought
            To a ferver [1] by the moonbeam that hangs o’er,
          But I will half believe that wild light fraught
            With more of sovereignty than ancient lore
          Hath ever told–or is it of a thought
            The unembodied essence, and no more
          That with a quickening spell doth o’er us pass
            As dew of the night-time, o’er the summer grass?
III.      Doth o’er us pass, when, as th’ expanding eye
            To the loved object–so the tear to the lid
          Will start, which lately slept in apathy?
            And yet it need not be–(that object) hid
          From us in life–but common–which doth lie
            Each hour before us–but then only bid
          With a strange sound, as of a harp-string broken
            T’ awake us–’Tis a symbol and a token–
IV.       Of what in other worlds shall be–and given
            In beauty by our God, to those alone
          Who otherwise would fall from life and Heaven
            Drawn by their heart’s passion, and that tone,
          That high tone of the spirit which hath striven
            Though not with Faith–with godliness–whose throne
          With desperate energy ‘t hath beaten down;
            Wearing its own deep feeling as a crown.
 

A Valentine

by Edgar Allan Poe

For her this rhyme is penned, whose luminous eyes,
       Brightly expressive as the twins of Leda,
  Shall find her own sweet name, that, nestling lies
       Upon the page, enwrapped from every reader.
  Search narrowly the lines!–they hold a treasure
       Divine–a talisman–an amulet
  That must be worn at heart. Search well the measure–
       The words–the syllables! Do not forget
  The trivialest point, or you may lose your labor!
       And yet there is in this no Gordian knot
  Which one might not undo without a sabre,
       If one could merely comprehend the plot.
  Enwritten upon the leaf where now are peering
       Eyes scintillating soul, there lie perdus
  Three eloquent words oft uttered in the hearing
       Of poets by poets–as the name is a poet’s, too.
  Its letters, although naturally lying
       Like the knight Pinto–Mendez Ferdinando–
  Still form a synonym for Truth–Cease trying!
       You will not read the riddle, though you do the best you can do.

Dreamland

by Edgar Allan Poe
  By a route obscure and lonely,
  Haunted by ill angels only,
  Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT,
  On a black throne reigns upright,
  I have reached these lands but newly
  From an ultimate dim Thule–
  From a wild weird clime that lieth, sublime,
    Out of SPACE–out of TIME.

  Bottomless vales and boundless floods,
  And chasms, and caves, and Titan woods,
  With forms that no man can discover
  For the dews that drip all over;
  Mountains toppling evermore
  Into seas without a shore;
  Seas that restlessly aspire,
  Surging, unto skies of fire;
  Lakes that endlessly outspread
  Their lone waters–lone and dead,
  Their still waters–still and chilly
  With the snows of the lolling lily.

  By the lakes that thus outspread
  Their lone waters, lone and dead,–
  Their sad waters, sad and chilly
  With the snows of the lolling lily,–

  By the mountains–near the river
  Murmuring lowly, murmuring ever,–
  By the gray woods,–by the swamp
  Where the toad and the newt encamp,–
  By the dismal tarns and pools
    Where dwell the Ghouls,–
  By each spot the most unholy–
  In each nook most melancholy,–

  There the traveller meets aghast
  Sheeted Memories of the past–
  Shrouded forms that start and sigh
  As they pass the wanderer by–
  White-robed forms of friends long given,
  In agony, to the Earth–and Heaven.

  For the heart whose woes are legion
  ‘Tis a peaceful, soothing region–
  For the spirit that walks in shadow
  ‘Tis–oh, ’tis an Eldorado!
  But the traveller, travelling through it,
  May not–dare not openly view it;
  Never its mysteries are exposed
  To the weak human eye unclosed;
  So wills its King, who hath forbid
  The uplifting of the fringed lid;
  And thus the sad Soul that here passes
  Beholds it but through darkened glasses.

  By a route obscure and lonely,
  Haunted by ill angels only.

  Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT,
  On a black throne reigns upright,
  I have wandered home but newly
  From this ultimate dim Thule.

The Book of Martyrs

by Emily Dickinson

Read, sweet, how others strove,
Till we are stouter;
What they renounced,
Till we are less afraid;
How many times they bore
The faithful witness,
Till we are helped,
As if a kingdom cared!

Read then of faith
That shone above the fagot;
Clear strains of hymn
The river could not drown;
Brave names of men
And celestial women,
Passed out of record
Into renown!

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