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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!”

Out of Egypt

by Horatio Alger, Jr.
To Egypt’s king, who ruled beside
  The reedy river’s flow,
Came God’s command, “Release, O king,
  And let my people go.”

The king’s proud heart grew hard apace;
  He marked the suppliant throng,
And said, “Nay, they must here abide;
  The weak must serve the strong.”

Straightway the Lord stretched forth his hand,
  And every stream ran blood;
The river swept towards the sea–
  A full ensanguined flood.

The haughty king beheld the land,
  By plagues afflicted sore,
But, as God’s wonders multiplied,
  Hardened his heart the more;

Until the angel of the Lord
  Came on the wings of Night,
And smote first-born of man and beast,
  In his destructive flight.

Throughout all Egypt, not a house
  Was spared this crowning woe.
Then broke the tyrant’s stubborn will;
  He bade the people go.

They gathered up their flocks and herds,
  Rejoicing to be free;
And, going forth, a mighty host,
  Encamped beside the sea.

Then Pharaoh’s heart repented him;
  He called a mighty force,
And swiftly followed on their track,
  With chariot and with horse.

Then Israel’s host were sore afraid;
  But God was on their side,
And, lo! for them a way is cleft,
  The Red-sea waves divide.

At God’s command the restless waves
  Obey the prophet’s rod;
And, through the middle of the sea,
  The people marched dry-shod.

But, when the spoilers, following close,
  Would hinder Israel’s flight,
The waters to their course return,
  The parted waves unite,

And Pharaoh’s host is swept away,
  The chariots and the horse;
And not a man is left alive
  Of all that mighty force.

So in these days God looks from heaven,
  And marks his servants’ woe;
Hear ye his voice: “Break every yoke,
  And let my people go!”

For them the Red-sea waves divide,
  The streams with crimson flow;
Therefore we mourn for our first-born;–
  Then let the people go.

They are not weak whom God befriends,
  He makes their cause His own;
And they who fight against God’s might
  Shall surely be o’erthrown.

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth

    It is an ancyent Marinere,
      And he stoppeth one of three:
    “By thy long grey beard and thy glittering eye
      “Now wherefore stoppest me?

    “The Bridegroom’s doors are open’d wide
      “And I am next of kin;
    “The Guests are met, the Feast is set,–
      “May’st hear the merry din.–

    But still he holds the wedding-guest–
      There was a Ship, quoth he–
    “Nay, if thou’st got a laughsome tale,
      “Marinere! come with me.”

    He holds him with his skinny hand,
      Quoth he, there was a Ship–
    “Now get thee hence, thou grey-beard Loon!
      “Or my Staff shall make thee skip.”

    He holds him with his glittering eye–
      The wedding guest stood still
    And listens like a three year’s child;
      The Marinere hath his will.

    The wedding-guest sate on a stone,
      He cannot chuse but hear:
    And thus spake on that ancyent man,
      The bright-eyed Marinere.

    The Ship was cheer’d, the Harbour clear’d–
      Merrily did we drop
    Below the Kirk, below the Hill,
      Below the Light-house top.

    The Sun came up upon the left,
      Out of the Sea came he:
    And he shone bright, and on the right
      Went down into the Sea.

    Higher and higher every day,
      Till over the mast at noon–
    The wedding-guest here beat his breast,
      For he heard the loud bassoon.

    The Bride hath pac’d into the Hall,
      Red as a rose is she;
    Nodding their heads before her goes
      The merry Minstralsy.

    The wedding-guest he beat his breast,
      Yet he cannot chuse but hear:
    And thus spake on that ancyent Man,
      The bright-eyed Marinere.

    Listen, Stranger! Storm and Wind,
      A Wind and Tempest strong!
    For days and weeks it play’d us freaks–
      Like Chaff we drove along.

    Listen, Stranger! Mist and Snow,
      And it grew wond’rous cauld:
    And Ice mast-high came floating by
      As green as Emerauld.

    And thro’ the drifts the snowy clifts
      Did send a dismal sheen;
    Ne shapes of men ne beasts we ken–
      The Ice was all between.

    The Ice was here, the Ice was there,
      The Ice was all around:
    It crack’d and growl’d, and roar’d and howl’d–
      Like noises of a swound.

    At length did cross an Albatross,
      Thorough the Fog it came;
    And an it were a Christian Soul,
      We hail’d it in God’s name.

    The Marineres gave it biscuit-worms,
      And round and round it flew:
    The Ice did split with a Thunder-fit;
      The Helmsman steer’d us thro’.

    And a good south wind sprung up behind,
      The Albatross did follow;
    And every day for food or play
      Came to the Marinere’s hollo!

    In mist or cloud on mast or shroud
      It perch’d for vespers nine,
    Whiles all the night thro’ fog-smoke white
      Glimmer’d the white moon-shine.

    “God save thee, ancyent Marinere!
      “From the fiends that plague thee thus–
    “Why look’st thou so?”–with my cross bow
      I shot the Albatross.

For the Consecration of a Cemetery

by Horatio Alger, Jr.

This verdant field that smiles to Heaven
  In Nature’s bright array,
From common uses set apart,
  We consecrate to-day.

“God’s Acre” be it fitly called,
  For when, beneath the sod,
We lay the dead with reverent hands,
  We yield them back to God.

And His great love, so freely given,
  Shall speak in clearer tones,
When, pacing through these hallowed walks,
  We read memorial stones.

Here let the sunshine softly fall,
  And gently drop the rain,
And Nature’s countless harmonies
  Blend one accordant strain;

That they who seek this sacred place,
  In mourning solitude,
In all this gracious company
  May have their faith renewed.

So, lifted to serener heights,
  And purified from dross,
Their trustful hearts shall rest on God,
  And profit by their loss.

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth

    The Sun came up upon the right,
      Out of the Sea came he;
    And broad as a weft upon the left
      Went down into the Sea.

    And the good south wind still blew behind,
      But no sweet Bird did follow
    Ne any day for food or play
      Came to the Marinere’s hollo!

    And I had done an hellish thing
      And it would work ‘em woe:
    For all averr’d, I had kill’d the Bird
      That made the Breeze to blow.

    Ne dim ne red, like God’s own head,
      The glorious Sun uprist:
    Then all averr’d, I had kill’d the Bird
      That brought the fog and mist.
    ‘Twas right, said they, such birds to slay
      That bring the fog and mist.

    The breezes blew, the white foam flew,
      The furrow follow’d free:
    We were the first that ever burst
      Into that silent Sea.

    Down dropt the breeze, the Sails dropt down,
      ‘Twas sad as sad could be
    And we did speak only to break
      The silence of the Sea.

    All in a hot and copper sky
      The bloody sun at noon,
    Right up above the mast did stand,
      No bigger than the moon.

    Day after day, day after day,
      We stuck, ne breath ne motion,
    As idle as a painted Ship
      Upon a painted Ocean.

    Water, water, every where
      And all the boards did shrink;
    Water, water, every where,
      Ne any drop to drink.

    The very deeps did rot: O Christ!
      That ever this should be!
    Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
      Upon the slimy Sea.

    About, about, in reel and rout
      The Death-fires danc’d at night;
    The water, like a witch’s oils,
      Burnt green and blue and white.

    And some in dreams assured were
      Of the Spirit that plagued us so:
    Nine fathom deep he had follow’d us
      From the Land of Mist and Snow.

    And every tongue thro’ utter drouth
      Was wither’d at the root;
    We could not speak no more than if
      We had been choked with soot.

    Ah wel-a-day! what evil looks
      Had I from old and young;
    Instead of the Cross the Albatross
      About my neck was hung.

THE WHIPPOORWILL AND I

by Horatio Alger, Jr.

In the hushed hours of night, when the air quite still,
I hear the strange cry of the lone whippoorwill,
Who Chants, without ceasing, that wonderful trill,
Of which the sole burden is still, “Whip-poor-Will.”

And why should I whip him? Strange visitant,
Has he been playing truant this long summer day?
I listened a moment; more clear and more shrill
Rang the voice of the bird, as he cried, “Whip-poor-Will.”

But what has poor Will done? I ask you once more;
I’ll whip him, don’t fear, if you’ll tell me what for.
I paused for an answer; o’er valley and hill
Rang the voice of the bird, as he cried, “Whip-poor-Will.”

Has he come to your dwelling, by night or by day,
And snatched the young birds from their warm nest away?
I paused for an answer; o’er valley and hill
Rang the voice of the bird, as he cried, “Whip-poor-Will.”

Well, well, I can hear you, don’t have any fears,
I can hear what is constantly dinned in my ears.
The obstinate bird, with his wonderful trill,
Still made but one answer, and that, “Whip-poor-Will.”

But what HAS poor Will done? I prithee explain;
I’m out of all patience, don’t mock me again.
The obstinate bird, with his wonderful trill,
Still made the same answer, and that, “Whip-poor-Will.”

Well, have your own way, then; but if you won’t tell,
I’ll shut down the window, and bid you farewell;
But of one thing be sure, I won’t whip him until
You give me some reason for whipping poor Will.

I listened a moment, as if for reply,
But nothing was heard but the bird’s mocking cry.
I caught the faint echo from valley and hill;   
It breathed the same burden, that strange “Whip-poor-Will.”

Dreamland

by Edgar Allan Poe
  By a route obscure and lonely,
  Haunted by ill angels only,
  Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT,
  On a black throne reigns upright,
  I have reached these lands but newly
  From an ultimate dim Thule–
  From a wild weird clime that lieth, sublime,
    Out of SPACE–out of TIME.

  Bottomless vales and boundless floods,
  And chasms, and caves, and Titan woods,
  With forms that no man can discover
  For the dews that drip all over;
  Mountains toppling evermore
  Into seas without a shore;
  Seas that restlessly aspire,
  Surging, unto skies of fire;
  Lakes that endlessly outspread
  Their lone waters–lone and dead,
  Their still waters–still and chilly
  With the snows of the lolling lily.

  By the lakes that thus outspread
  Their lone waters, lone and dead,–
  Their sad waters, sad and chilly
  With the snows of the lolling lily,–

  By the mountains–near the river
  Murmuring lowly, murmuring ever,–
  By the gray woods,–by the swamp
  Where the toad and the newt encamp,–
  By the dismal tarns and pools
    Where dwell the Ghouls,–
  By each spot the most unholy–
  In each nook most melancholy,–

  There the traveller meets aghast
  Sheeted Memories of the past–
  Shrouded forms that start and sigh
  As they pass the wanderer by–
  White-robed forms of friends long given,
  In agony, to the Earth–and Heaven.

  For the heart whose woes are legion
  ‘Tis a peaceful, soothing region–
  For the spirit that walks in shadow
  ‘Tis–oh, ’tis an Eldorado!
  But the traveller, travelling through it,
  May not–dare not openly view it;
  Never its mysteries are exposed
  To the weak human eye unclosed;
  So wills its King, who hath forbid
  The uplifting of the fringed lid;
  And thus the sad Soul that here passes
  Beholds it but through darkened glasses.

  By a route obscure and lonely,
  Haunted by ill angels only.

  Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT,
  On a black throne reigns upright,
  I have wandered home but newly
  From this ultimate dim Thule.

SUMMER HOURS

by Horatio Alger, Jr.
It is the year’s high noon,
  The earth sweet incense yields,
  And o’er the fresh, green fields
Bends the clear sky of June.

I leave the crowded streets,
  The hum of busy life,
  Its clamor and its strife,
To breathe thy perfumed sweets.

O rare and golden hours!
  The bird’s melodious song,
  Wavelike, is borne along
Upon a strand of flowers.

I wander far away,
  Where, through the forest trees,
  Sports the cool summer breeze,
In wild and wanton play.

A patriarchal elm
  Its stately form uprears,
  Which twice a hundred years
Has ruled this woodland realm.

I sit beneath its shade,
  And watch, with careless eye,
  The brook that babbles by,
And cools the leafy glade.

In truth I wonder not,
  That in the ancient days
  The temples of God’s praise
Were grove and leafy grot.

The noblest ever planned,
  With quaint device and rare,
  By man, can ill compare
With these from God’s own hand.

Pilgrim with way-worn feet,
  Who, treading life’s dull round,
  No true repose hast found,
Come to this green retreat.

For bird, and flower, and tree,
  Green fields, and woodland wild,
  Shall bear, with voices mild,
Sweet messages to thee.

Voices of the Night

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Pleasant it was, when woods were green,
  And winds were soft and low,
To lie amid some sylvan scene.
Where, the long drooping boughs between,
Shadows dark and sunlight sheen
  Alternate come and go;

Or where the denser grove receives
  No sunlight from above,
But the dark foliage interweaves
In one unbroken roof of leaves,
Underneath whose sloping eaves
  The shadows hardly move.

Beneath some patriarchal tree
  I lay upon the ground;
His hoary arms uplifted he,
And all the broad leaves over me
Clapped their little hands in glee,
  With one continuous sound;–

A slumberous sound, a sound that brings
  The feelings of a dream,
As of innumerable wings,
As, when a bell no longer swings,
Faint the hollow murmur rings
  O’er meadow, lake, and stream.

And dreams of that which cannot die,
  Bright visions, came to me,
As lapped in thought I used to lie,
And gaze into the summer sky,
Where the sailing clouds went by,
  Like ships upon the sea;

Dreams that the soul of youth engage
  Ere Fancy has been quelled;
Old legends of the monkish page,
Traditions of the saint and sage,
Tales that have the rime of age,
  And chronicles of Eld.

And, loving still these quaint old themes,
  Even in the city’s throng
I feel the freshness of the streams,
That, crossed by shades and sunny gleams,
Water the green land of dreams,
  The holy land of song.

Therefore, at Pentecost, which brings
  The Spring, clothed like a bride,
When nestling buds unfold their wings,
And bishop’s-caps have golden rings,
Musing upon many things,
  I sought the woodlands wide.

The green trees whispered low and mild;
  It was a sound of joy!
They were my playmates when a child,
And rocked me in their arms so wild!
Still they looked at me and smiled,
  As if I were a boy;

And ever whispered, mild and low,
  “Come, be a child once more!”
And waved their long arms to and fro,
And beckoned solemnly and slow;
O, I could not choose but go
  Into the woodlands hoar,–

Into the blithe and breathing air,
  Into the solemn wood,
Solemn and silent everywhere
Nature with folded hands seemed there
Kneeling at her evening prayer!
  Like one in prayer I stood.

Before me rose an avenue
  Of tall and sombrous pines;
Abroad their fan-like branches grew,
And, where the sunshine darted through,
Spread a vapor soft and blue,
  In long and sloping lines.

And, falling on my weary brain,
  Like a fast-falling shower,
The dreams of youth came back again,
Low lispings of the summer rain,
Dropping on the ripened grain,
  As once upon the flower.

Visions of childhood!  Stay, O stay!
  Ye were so sweet and wild!
And distant voices seemed to say,
“It cannot be!  They pass away!
Other themes demand thy lay;
  Thou art no more a child!

“The land of Song within thee lies,
  Watered by living springs;
The lids of Fancy’s sleepless eyes
Are gates unto that Paradise,
Holy thoughts, like stars, arise,
  Its clouds are angels’ wings.

“Learn, that henceforth thy song shall be,
  Not mountains capped with snow,
Nor forests sounding like the sea,
Nor rivers flowing ceaselessly,
Where the woodlands bend to see
  The bending heavens below.

“There is a forest where the din
  Of iron branches sounds!
A mighty river roars between,
And whosoever looks therein
Sees the heavens all black with sin,
  Sees not its depths, nor bounds.

“Athwart the swinging branches cast,
  Soft rays of sunshine pour;
Then comes the fearful wintry blast
Our hopes, like withered leaves, fail fast;
Pallid lips say, ‘It is past!
  We can return no more!,

“Look, then, into thine heart, and write!
  Yes, into Life’s deep stream!
All forms of sorrow and delight,
All solemn Voices of the Night,
That can soothe thee, or affright,–
  Be these henceforth thy theme.”

Miss Billy’s Decision, CHAPTER II

by Eleanor H. Porter
AUNT HANNAH GETS A LETTER
In the cozy living-room at Hillside, Billy Neilson’s
pretty home on Corey Hill, Billy herself sat
writing at the desk.  Her pen had just traced the
date, “October twenty-fifth,” when Mrs. Stetson
entered with a letter in her hand.

“Writing, my dear?  Then don’t let me disturb
you.”  She turned as if to go.

Billy dropped her pen, sprang to her feet, flew
to the little woman’s side and whirled her half
across the room.

“There!” she exclaimed, as she plumped the
breathless and scandalized Aunt Hannah into the
biggest easy chair.  “I feel better.  I just had to
let off steam some way.  It’s so lovely you came
in just when you did!”

“Indeed! I–I’m not so sure of that,” stammered
the lady, dropping the letter into her lap,
and patting with agitated fingers her cap, her
curls, the two shawls about her shoulders, and the
lace at her throat.  “My grief and conscience,
Billy!  Wors’t you _ever_ grow up?”

“Hope not,” purred Billy cheerfully, dropping
herself on to a low hassock at Aunt Hannah’s feet.

“But, my dear, you–you’re engaged!”

Billy bubbled into a chuckling laugh.

“As if I didn’t know that, when I’ve just written
a dozen notes to announce it!  And, oh, Aunt
Hannah, such a time as I’ve had, telling what a
dear Bertram is, and how I love, love, _love_ him,
and what beautiful eyes he has, and _such_ a nose,
and–”

“Billy!”  Aunt Hannah was sitting erect in
pale horror.

“Eh?” Billy’s eyes were roguish.

“You didn’t write that in those notes!”

“Write it?  Oh, no!  That’s only what I _wanted_
to write,” chuckled Billy.  “What I really did
write was as staid and proper as–here, let me
show you,” she broke off, springing to her feet and
running over to her desk.  “There! this is about
what I wrote to them all,” she finished, whipping
a note out of one of the unsealed envelopes on the
desk and spreading it open before Aunt Hannah’s
suspicious eyes.

“Hm-m; that is very good–for you,” admitted
the lady.

“Well, I like that!–after all my stern self-
control and self-sacrifice to keep out all those
things I _wanted_ to write,” bridled Billy.  “Besides,
they’d have been ever so much more interesting
reading than these will be,” she pouted, as
she took the note from her companion’s hand.

“I don’t doubt it,” observed Aunt Hannah,
dryly.

Billy laughed, and tossed the note back on the
desk.

“I’m writing to Belle Calderwell, now,” she
announced musingly, dropping herself again on
the hassock.  “I suppose she’ll tell Hugh.”

“Poor boy!  He’ll be disappointed.”

Billy sighed, but she uptilted her chin a little.

“He ought not to be.  I told him long, long ago,
the very first time, that–that I couldn’t.”

“I know, dear; but–they don’t always
understand.”  Aunt Hannah sighed in sympathy
with the far-away Hugh Calderwell, as she looked
down at the bright young face near her.

There was a moment’s silence; then Billy gave
a little laugh.

“He _will_ be surprised,” she said.  “He told
me once that Bertram wouldn’t ever care for any
girl except to paint.  To paint, indeed!  As if Bertram
didn’t love me–just _me!_–if he never saw
another tube of paint!”

“I think he does, my dear.”

Again there was silence; then, from Billy’s lips
there came softly:

“Just think; we’ve been engaged almost four
weeks–and to-morrow it’ll be announced.  I’m
so glad I didn’t ever announce the other
two!”

“The other _two!_” cried Aunt Hannah.

Billy laughed.

“Oh, I forgot.  You didn’t know about Cyril.”

“Cyril!”

“Oh, there didn’t anybody know it, either
not even Cyril himself,” dimpled Billy, mischievously.
“I just engaged myself to him in imagination,
you know, to see how I’d like it.  I didn’t
like it.  But it didn’t last, anyhow, very long–
just three weeks, I believe.  Then I broke it off,”
she finished, with unsmiling mouth, but dancing
eyes.

“Billy!” protested Aunt Hannah, feebly.

“But I _am_ glad only the family knew about
my engagement to Uncle William–oh, Aunt
Hannah, you don’t know how good it does seem
to call him `Uncle’ again.  It was always slipping
out, anyhow, all the time we were engaged; and
of course it was awful then.”

“That only goes to prove, my dear, how
entirely unsuitable it was, from the start.”

A bright color flooded Billy’s face.

“I know; but if a girl _will_ think a man is asking
for a wife when all he wants is a daughter, and if
she blandly says `Yes, thank you, I’ll marry you,’
I don’t know what you can expect!”

“You can expect just what you got–misery,
and almost a tragedy,” retorted Aunt Hannah,
severely.

A tender light came into Billy’s eyes.

“Dear Uncle William!  What a jewel he was,
all the way through!  And he’d have marched
straight to the altar, too, with never a flicker of
an eyelid, I know–self-sacrificing martyr that
he was!”

“Martyr!” bristled Aunt Hannah, with
extraordinary violence for her.  “I’m thinking that
term belonged somewhere else.  A month ago,
Billy Neilson, you did not look as if you’d live
out half your days.  But I suppose _you’d_ have
gone to the altar, too, with never a flicker of an
eyelid!”

“But I thought I had to,” protested Billy.
“I couldn’t grieve Uncle William so, after Mrs.
Hartwell had said how he–he wanted me.”

Aunt Hannah’s lips grew stern at the corners.

“There are times when–when I think it
would be wiser if Mrs. Kate Hartwell would attend
to her own affairs!” Aunt Hannah’s voice
fairly shook with wrath.

“Why-Aunt Hannah!” reproved Billy in
mischievous horror.  “I’m shocked at you!”

Aunt Hannah flushed miserably.

“There, there, child, forget I said it.  I ought
not to have said it, of course,” she murmured agitatedly.

Billy laughed.

“You should have heard what Uncle William
said!  But never mind.  We all found out the mistake
before it was too late, and everything is
lovely now, even to Cyril and Marie.  Did you
ever see anything so beatifically happy as that
couple are?  Bertram says he hasn’t heard a dirge
from Cyril’s rooms for three weeks; and that if
anybody else played the kind of music he’s been
playing, it would be just common garden ragtime!”

“Music!  Oh, my grief and conscience!  That
makes me think, Billy.  If I’m not actually
forgetting what I came in here for,” cried Aunt
Hannah, fumbling in the folds of her dress for the
letter that had slipped from her lap.  “I’ve had
word from a young niece.  She’s going to study
music in Boston.”

“A niece?”

“Well, not really, you know.  She calls me
`Aunt,’ just as you and the Henshaw boys do.
But I really am related to _her_, for her mother and
I are third cousins, while it was my husband who
was distantly related to the Henshaw family.”

“What’s her name?”

“ `Mary Jane Arkwright.’  Where is that
letter?”

“Here it is, on the floor,” reported Billy.
“Were you going to read it to me?” she asked,
as she picked it up.

“Yes–if you don’t mind.”

“I’d love to hear it.”

“Then I’ll read it.  It–it rather annoys me
in some ways.  I thought the whole family understood
that I wasn’t living by myself any longer
–that I was living with you.  I’m sure I thought
I wrote them that, long ago.  But this sounds
almost as if they didn’t understand it–at least,
as if this girl didn’t.”

“How old is she?”

“I don’t know; but she must be some old, to
be coming here to Boston to study music, alone
–singing, I think she said.”

“You don’t remember her, then?”

Aunt Hannah frowned and paused, the letter
half withdrawn from its envelope.

“No–but that isn’t strange.  They live West.
I haven’t seen any of them for years.  I know there
are several children–and I suppose I’ve been
told their names.  I know there’s a boy–the
eldest, I think–who is quite a singer, and there’s
a girl who paints, I believe; but I don’t seem to
remember a `Mary Jane.’ ”

“Never mind!  Suppose we let Mary Jane speak
for herself,” suggested Billy, dropping her chin
into the small pink cup of her hand, and settling
herself to listen.

“Very well,” sighed Aunt Hannah; and she
opened the letter and began to read.
“DEAR AUNT HANNAH:–This is to tell you
that I’m coming to Boston to study singing in
the school for Grand Opera, and I’m planning to
look you up.  Do you object?  I said to a friend
the other day that I’d half a mind to write to Aunt
Hannah and beg a home with her; and my friend
retorted:  `Why don’t you, Mary Jane?’  But
that, of course, I should not think of doing.

“But I know I shall be lonesome, Aunt Hannah,
and I hope you’ll let me see you once in a
while, anyway.  I plan now to come next week
–I’ve already got as far as New York, as you see
by the address–and I shall hope to see you
soon.

“All the family would send love, I know.
                         “M. J. ARKWRIGHT.”
“Grand Opera!  Oh, how perfectly lovely,”
cried Billy.

“Yes, but Billy, do you think she is expecting
me to invite her to make her home with me?  I
shall have to write and explain that I can’t–
if she does, of course.”

Billy frowned and hesitated.

“Why, it sounded–a little–that way;
but–”  Suddenly her face cleared.  “Aunt
Hannah, I’ve thought of the very thing.  We _will_
take her!”

“Oh, Billy, I couldn’t think of letting you do
that,” demurred Aunt Hannah.  “You’re very
kind–but, oh, no; not that!”

“Why not?  I think it would be lovely; and
we can just as well as not.  After Marie is married
in December, she can have that room.  Until
then she can have the little blue room next to me.”

“But–but–we don’t know anything about
her.”

“We know she’s your niece, and she’s lonesome;
and we know she’s musical.  I shall love her for
every one of those things.  Of course we’ll take
her!”

“But–I don’t know anything about her age.”

“All the more reason why she should be looked
out for, then,” retorted Billy, promptly.  “Why,
Aunt Hannah, just as if you didn’t want to give
this lonesome, unprotected young girl a home!”

“Oh, I do, of course; but–”

“Then it’s all settled,” interposed Billy,
springing to her feet.

“But what if we–we shouldn’t like her?”

“Nonsense!  What if she shouldn’t like us?”
laughed Billy.  “However, if you’d feel better,
just ask her to come and stay with us a month.
We shall keep her all right, afterwards.  See if we
don’t!”

Slowly Aunt Hannah got to her feet.

“Very well, dear.  I’ll write, of course, as you
tell me to; and it’s lovely of you to do it.  Now
I’ll leave you to your letters.  I’ve hindered you
far too long, as it is.”

“You’ve rested me,” declared Billy, flinging
wide her arms.

Aunt Hannah, fearing a second dizzying whirl
impelled by those same young arms, drew her
shawls about her shoulders and backed hastily
toward the hall door.

Billy laughed.

“Oh, I won’t again–to-day,” she promised
merrily.  Then, as the lady reached the arched
doorway:  “Tell Mary Jane to let us know the
day and train and we’ll meet her.  Oh, and Aunt
Hannah, tell her to wear a pink–a white pink;
and tell her we will, too,” she finished gayly.

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