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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.

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