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Miss Billy’s Decision, CHAPTER V

by Eleanor H. Porter

MARIE SPEAKS HER MIND
Billy with John and Peggy met Marie Hawthorn
at the station.  “Peggy” was short for
“Pegasus,” and was what Billy always called
her luxurious, seven-seated touring car.

“I simply won’t call it `automobile,’ ” she
had declared when she bought it.  “In the first
place, it takes too long to say it, and in the second
place, I don’t want to add one more to the nineteen
different ways to pronounce it that I hear
all around me every day now.  As for calling it
my `car,’ or my `motor car’–I should expect
to see a Pullman or one of those huge black trucks
before my door, if I ordered it by either of those
names.  Neither will I insult the beautiful thing
by calling it a `machine.’  Its name is Pegasus.
I shall call it `Peggy.’ ”

And “Peggy” she called it.  John sniffed his
disdain, and Billy’s friends made no secret of
their amused tolerance; but, in an astonishingly
short time, half the automobile owners of her
acquaintance were calling their own cars “Peggy”;
and even the dignified John himself was heard to
order “some gasoline for Peggy,” quite as a
matter of course.

When Marie Hawthorn stepped from the train
at the North Station she greeted Billy with
affectionate warmth, though at once her blue eyes
swept the space beyond expectantly and eagerly.

Billy’s lips curved in a mischievous smile.

“No, he didn’t come,” she said.  “He didn’t
want to–a little bit.”

Marie grew actually pale.

“Didn’t _want_ to!” she stammered.

Billy gave her a spasmodic hug.

“Goosey!  No, he didn’t–a _little_ bit; but
he did a great _big_ bit.  As if you didn’t know he
was dying to come, Marie!  But he simply
couldn’t–something about his concert Monday
night.  He told me over the telephone; but
between his joy that you were coming, and his
rage that he couldn’t see you the first minute
you did come, I couldn’t quite make out what was
the trouble.  But he’s coming to dinner to-night,
so he’ll doubtless tell you all about it.”

Marie sighed her relief.

“Oh, that’s all right then.  I was afraid he
was sick–when I didn’t see him.”

Billy laughed softly.

“No, he isn’t sick, Marie; but you needn’t go
away again before the wedding–not to leave
him on my hands.  I wouldn’t have believed
Cyril Henshaw, confirmed old bachelor and
avowed woman-hater, could have acted the part
of a love-sick boy as he has the last week or
two.”

The rose-flush on Marie’s cheek spread to the
roots of her fine yellow hair.

“Billy, dear, he–he didn’t!”

“Marie, dear–he–he did!”

Marie laughed.  She did not say anything,
but the rose-flush deepened as she occupied herself
very busily in getting her trunk-check from
the little hand bag she carried.

Cyril was not mentioned again until the two
girls, veils tied and coats buttoned, were snugly
ensconced in the tonneau, and Peggy’s nose was
turned toward home.  Then Billy asked:

“Have you settled on where you’re going to
live?”

“Not quite.  We’re going to talk of that
to-night; but we _do_ know that we aren’t going
to live at the Strata.”

“Marie!”

Marie stirred uneasily at the obvious
disappointment and reproach in her friend’s voice.

“But, dear, it wouldn’t be wise, I’m sure,”
she argued hastily.  “There will be you and
Bertram–”

“We sha’n't be there for a year, nearly,” cut
in Billy, with swift promptness.  “Besides, I
think it would be lovely–all together.”

Marie smiled, but she shook her head.

“Lovely–but not practical, dear.”

Billy laughed ruefully.

“I know; you’re worrying about those puddings
of yours.  You’re afraid somebody is going to
interfere with your making quite so many as you
want to; and Cyril is worrying for fear there’ll
be somebody else in the circle of his shaded lamp
besides his little Marie with the light on her hair,
and the mending basket by her side.”

“Billy, what are you talking about?”

Billy threw a roguish glance into her friend’s
amazed blue eyes.

“Oh, just a little picture Cyril drew once for
me of what home meant for him: a room with
a table and a shaded lamp, and a little woman
beside it with the light on her hair and a great
basket of sewing by her side.”

Marie’s eyes softened.

“Did he say–that?”

“Yes.  Oh, he declared he shouldn’t want her
to sit under that lamp all the time, of course;
but he hoped she’d like that sort of thing.”

Marie threw a quick glance at the stolid back
of John beyond the two empty seats in front of
them.  Although she knew he could not hear her
words, instinctively she lowered her voice.

“Did you know–then–about–me?” she
asked, with heightened color.

“No, only that there was a girl somewhere
who, he hoped, would sit under the lamp some
day.  And when I asked him if the girl did like
that sort of thing, he said yes, he thought so;
for she had told him once that the things she liked
best of all to do were to mend stockings and
make puddings.  Then I knew, of course, ’twas
you, for I’d heard you say the same thing.  So
I sent him right along out to you in the summer-
house.”

The pink flush on Marie’s face grew to a red
one.  Her blue eyes turned again to John’s broad
back, then drifted to the long, imposing line of
windowed walls and doorways on the right.  The
automobile was passing smoothly along Beacon
Street now with the Public Garden just behind
them on the left.  After a moment Marie turned
to Billy again.

“I’m so glad he wants–just puddings and
stockings,” she began a little breathlessly.  “You
see, for so long I supposed he _wouldn’t_ want anything
but a very brilliant, talented wife who could
play and sing beautifully; a wife he’d be proud
of–like you.”

“Me?  Nonsense!” laughed Billy.  “Cyril
never wanted me, and I never wanted him–only
once for a few minutes, so to speak, when I thought,
I did.  In spite of our music, we aren’t a mite
congenial.  I like people around; he doesn’t.
I like to go to plays; he doesn’t.  He likes rainy
days, and I abhor them.  Mercy!  Life with me
for him would be one long jangling discord, my
love, while with you it’ll be one long sweet song!”

Marie drew a deep breath.  Her eyes were fixed
on a point far ahead up the curveless street.

“I hope it will, indeed!” she breathed.

Not until they were almost home did Billy
say suddenly:

“Oh, did Cyril write you?  A young relative
of Aunt Hannah’s is coming to-morrow to stay
a while at the house.”

“Er–yes, Cyril told me,” admitted Marie.

Billy smiled.

“Didn’t like it, I suppose; eh?” she queried
shrewdly.

“N-no, I’m afraid he didn’t–very well .  He
said she’d be–one more to be around.”

“There, what did I tell you?” dimpled Billy.
“You can see what you’re coming to when you
do get that shaded lamp and the mending basket!”

A moment later, coming in sight of the house,
Billy saw a tall, smooth-shaven man standing on
the porch.  The man lifted his hat and waved it
gayly, baring a slightly bald head to the sun.

“It’s Uncle William–bless his heart!” cried
Billy.  “They’re all coming to dinner, then he
and Aunt Hannah and Bertram and I are going
down to the Hollis Street Theatre and let you and
Cyril have a taste of what that shaded lamp is
going to be.  I hope you won’t be lonesome,”
she finished mischievously, as the car drew up
before the door.

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