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Verbal Expression » Blog Archive » Miss Billy’s Decision, CHAPTER III
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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.

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