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Miss Billy’s Decision, CHAPTER IV

by Eleanor H. Porter

FOR MARY JANE
“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
know.”

“As if it could look any other way, if _you_ had
anything to do with it,” sighed Aunt Hannah,
admiringly.

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
was!”

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
spiders!”

“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 forty-
five 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.”

“_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
stayed.”

“Why, how–how–”  Aunt Hannah stopped
helplessly.

“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
suddenly–ashamed.

“Oh, Bertram, I’m proud, proud, _proud_ of
you!” she breathed.  “Come, let’s go over to
the fire-and talk!”

Bed in Summer

by Robert Louis Stevenson

In winter I get up at night,
And dress by yellow candle light.
In summer quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.

I have to go to bed and see
The birds still hopping on the tree,
Or hear the grown-up people’s feet,
Still going past me in the street.

And does it not seem hard to you,
When all the sky is clear and blue,
And I should like so much to play,
To have to go to bed by day?

Count Lepic and His Daughters

by Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas

The Children of Stare

by Walter de la Mare
  Winter is fallen early
  On the house of Stare;
Birds in reverberating flocks
  Haunt its ancestral box;
  Bright are the plenteous berries
  In clusters in the air.

  Still is the fountain’s music,
  The dark pool icy still,
Whereupon a small and sanguine sun
  Floats in a mirror on,
  Into a West of crimson,
  From a South of daffodil.

  ‘Tis strange to see young children
  In such a wintry house;
Like rabbits’ on the frozen snow
  Their tell-tale footprints go;
  Their laughter rings like timbrels
  ‘Neath evening ominous:

  Their small and heightened faces
  Like wine-red winter buds;
Their frolic bodies gentle as
  Flakes in the air that pass,
  Frail as the twirling petal
  From the briar of the woods.

  Above them silence lours,
  Still as an arctic sea;
Light fails; night falls; the wintry moon
  Glitters; the crocus soon
  Will ope grey and distracted
  On earth’s austerity:

  Thick mystery, wild peril,
  Law like an iron rod:–
Yet sport they on in Spring’s attire,
  Each with his tiny fire
  Blown to a core of ardour
  By the awful breath of God.

Renunciation

by Emily Dickinson
There came a day at summer’s full
Entirely for me;
I thought that such were for the saints,
Where revelations be.

The sun, as common, went abroad,
The flowers, accustomed, blew,
As if no soul the solstice passed
That maketh all things new.

The time was scarce profaned by speech;
The symbol of a word
Was needless, as at sacrament
The wardrobe of our Lord.

Each was to each the sealed church,
Permitted to commune this time,
Lest we too awkward show
At supper of the Lamb.

The hours slid fast, as hours will,
Clutched tight by greedy hands;
So faces on two decks look back,
Bound to opposing lands.

And so, when all the time had failed,
Without external sound,
Each bound the other’s crucifix,
We gave no other bond.

Sufficient troth that we shall rise –
Deposed, at length, the grave –
To that new marriage, justified
Through Calvaries of Love!

An Enigma

by Edgar Allan Poe 
  “Seldom we find,” says Solomon Don Dunce,
      “Half an idea in the profoundest sonnet.
    Through all the flimsy things we see at once
      As easily as through a Naples bonnet–
      Trash of all trash!–how _can_ a lady don it?
    Yet heavier far than your Petrarchan stuff–
    Owl-downy nonsense that the faintest puff
      Twirls into trunk-paper the while you con it.”
    And, veritably, Sol is right enough.
    The general tuckermanities are arrant
    Bubbles–ephemeral and _so_ transparent–
      But _this is_, now–you may depend upon it–
    Stable, opaque, immortal–all by dint
    Of the dear names that lie concealed within’t.

by Emily Dickinson

Our share of night to bear,
Our share of morning,
Our blank in bliss to fill,
Our blank in scorning.

Here a star, and there a star,
Some lose their way.
Here a mist, and there a mist,
Afterwards — day!

Miss Billy’s Decision, CHAPTER III

by Eleanor H. Porter

BILLY AND BERTRAM
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.”

“_Afraid_–Billy!”

“Yes.”

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
feet.

“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
wall.”

“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–”

“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
–care?”

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
now.

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
chin.

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?”

“Yes.”

“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
smile.

“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
along.”

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
merrily.

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
William!”

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.

The Valley of Unrest

by Edgar Allan Poe
  Once it smiled a silent dell
  Where the people did not dwell;
  They had gone unto the wars,
  Trusting to the mild-eyed stars,
  Nightly, from their azure towers,
  To keep watch above the flowers,
  In the midst of which all day
  The red sun-light lazily lay,
  Now each visitor shall confess
  The sad valley’s restlessness.
  Nothing there is motionless–
  Nothing save the airs that brood
  Over the magic solitude.
  Ah, by no wind are stirred those trees
  That palpitate like the chill seas
  Around the misty Hebrides!
  Ah, by no wind those clouds are driven
  That rustle through the unquiet Heaven
  Unceasingly, from morn till even,
  Over the violets there that lie
  In myriad types of the human eye–
  Over the lilies that wave
  And weep above a nameless grave!
  They wave:–from out their fragrant tops
  Eternal dews come down in drops.
  They weep:–from off their delicate stems
  Perennial tears descend in gems.

Success

by Emily Dickinson

Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne’er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.

Not one of all the purple host
Who took the flag to-day
Can tell the definition,
So clear, of victory,

As he, defeated, dying,
On whose forbidden ear
The distant strains of triumph
Break, agonized and clear!

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