by Eleanor H. Porter
M. J. OPENS THE GAME
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
“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
“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
“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 home-
hunting in the morning, and her furniture-and-
rug 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.”
“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 cr<e^>pe 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 nutmeg-
grater 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
“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
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
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
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
“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?”
“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 r<o^>les 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.