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Miss Billy Married by Eleanor H. Porter

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pride,'' coaxed Billy. ``You just wait till I get
the Overflow Annex in running order. Why,
Aunt Hannah, you don't know how busy you're
going to be handing out all that extra happiness
that I can't use!''

``You dear child!'' Aunt Hannah smiled
mistily. The black shawl had fallen unheeded
to the floor now. ``As if anybody ever had any
more happiness than one's self could use!''

``I have,'' avowed Billy, promptly, ``and it's
going to keep growing and growing, I know.''

``Oh, my grief and conscience, Billy, don't!''
exclaimed Aunt Hannah, lifting shocked hands of
remonstrance. ``Rap on wood--do! How can
you boast like that?''

Billy dimpled roguishly and sprang to her feet{.??}

``Why, Aunt Hannah, I'm ashamed of you!
To be superstitious like that--you, a good

Aunt Hannah subsided shamefacedly.

``Yes, I know, Billy, it is silly; but I just can't
help it.''

``Oh, but it's worse than silly, Aunt Hannah,''
teased Billy, with a remorseless chuckle. ``It's
really _heathen!_ Bertram told me once that it
dates 'way back to the time of the Druids--
appealing to the god of trees, or something like that
--when you rap on wood, you know.''

``Ugh!'' shuddered Aunt Hannah. ``As if
I would, Billy! How is Bertram, by the by?''

A swift shadow crossed Billy's bright face.

``He's lovely--only his arm.''

``His arm! But I thought that was better.''

``Oh, it is,'' drooped Billy, ``but it gets along
so slowly, and it frets him dreadfully. You know
he never can do anything with his left hand, he
says, and he just hates to have things done for
him--though Pete and Dong Ling are quarreling
with each other all the time to do things for
him, and I'm quarreling with both of them to do
them for him myself! By the way, Dong Ling
is going to leave us next week. Did you know

``Dong Ling--leave!''

``Yes. Oh, he told Bertram long ago he
should go when we were married; that he had
plenty much money, and was going back to China,
and not be Melican man any longer. But I don't
think Bertram thought he'd do it. William says
Dong Ling went to Pete, however, after we left,
and told him he wanted to go; that he liked the
little Missee plenty well, but that there'd be too
much hen-talk when she got back, and--''

``Why, the impudent creature!''

Billy laughed merrily.

``Yes; Pete was furious, William says, but
Dong Ling didn't mean any disrespect, I'm sure.
He just wasn't used to having petticoats around,
and didn't want to take orders from them; that's

``But, Billy, what will you do?''

``Oh, Pete's fixed all that lovely,'' returned
Billy, nonchalantly. ``You know his niece lives
over in South Boston, and it seems she's got a
daughter who's a fine cook and will be glad to
come. Mercy! Look at the time,'' she broke off,
glancing at the clock. ``I shall be late to dinner,
and Dong Ling loathes anybody who's late to his
meals--as I found out to my sorrow the night
we got home. Good-by, dear. I'll be out soon
again and fix it all up--about the Annex, you
know.'' And with a bright smile she was gone.

``Dear me,'' sighed Aunt Hannah, stooping to
pick up the black shawl; ``dear me! Of course
everything will be all right--there's a girl coming,
even if Dong Ling is going. But--but--
Oh, my grief and conscience, what an extraordinary
child Billy is, to be sure--but what a dear
one!'' she added, wiping a quick tear from her
eye. ``An Overflow Annex, indeed, for her `extra
happiness'! Now isn't that just like Billy?''



September passed and October came, bringing
with it cool days and clear, crisp evenings royally
ruled over by a gorgeous harvest moon. According
to Billy everything was just perfect--except,
of course, poor Bertram's arm; and even the
fact that that gained so slowly was not without
its advantage (again according to Billy), for it
gave Bertram more time to be with her.

``You see, dear, as long as you _can't_ paint,'' she
told him earnestly, one day, ``why, I'm not
really hindering you by keeping you with me so

``You certainly are not,'' he retorted, with a

``Then I may be just as happy as I like over
it,'' settled Billy, comfortably.

``As if you ever could hinder me,'' he ridiculed.

``Oh, yes, I could,'' nodded Billy, emphatically.
``You forget, sir. That was what worried
me so. Everybody, even the newspapers and
magazines, said I _would_ do it, too. They said I'd
slay your Art, stifle your Ambition, destroy your
Inspiration, and be a nuisance generally. And
Kate said--''

``Yes. Well, never mind what Kate said,''
interrupted the man, savagely.

Billy laughed, and gave his ear a playful

``All right; but I'm not going to do it, you
know--spoil your career, sir. You just wait,''
she continued dramatically. ``The minute your
arm gets so you can paint, I myself shall conduct
you to your studio, thrust the brushes into your
hand, fill your palette with all the colors of the
rainbow, and order you to paint, my lord, paint!
But--until then I'm going to have you all I
like,'' she finished, with a complete change of
manner, nestling into the ready curve of his good
left arm.

``You witch!'' laughed the man, fondly.
``Why, Billy, you couldn't hinder me. You'll _be_
my inspiration, dear, instead of slaying it. You'll
see. _This_ time Marguerite Winthrop's portrait
is going to be a success.''

Billy turned quickly.

``Then you are--that is, you haven't--I
mean, you're going to--paint it?''

``I just am,'' avowed the artist. ``And this
time it'll be a success, too, with you to help.''

Billy drew in her breath tremulously.

``I didn't know but you'd already started it,''
she faltered.

He shook his head.

``No. After the other one failed, and Mr.
Winthrop asked me to try again, I couldn't _then_.
I was so troubled over you. That's the time you
did hinder me,'' he smiled. ``Then came your
note breaking the engagement. Of course I knew
too much to attempt a thing like that portrait
then. But now--_now_--!'' The pause and the
emphasis were eloquent.

``Of course, _now_,'' nodded Billy, brightly, but
a little feverishly. ``And when do you begin?''

``Not till January. Miss Winthrop won't be
back till then. I saw J. G. last week, and I told
him I'd accept his offer to try again.''

``What did he say?''

``He gave my left hand a big grip and said:
`Good!--and you'll win out this time.' ''

``Of course you will,'' nodded Billy, again,
though still a little feverishly. ``And this time
I sha'n't mind a bit if you do stay to luncheon,
and break engagements with me, sir,'' she went
on, tilting her chin archly, ``for I shall know it's
the portrait and not the sitter that's really
keeping you. Oh, you'll see what a fine artist's wife
I'll make!''

``The very best,'' declared Bertram so ardently
that Billy blushed, and shook her head in reproof.

``Nonsense! I wasn't fishing. I didn't mean it
that way,'' she protested. Then, as he tried to
catch her, she laughed and danced teasingly out
of his reach.

Because Bertram could not paint, therefore,
Billy had him quite to herself these October days;
nor did she hesitate to appropriate him. Neither,
on his part, was Bertram loath to be appropriated.
Like two lovers they read and walked and talked
together, and like two children, sometimes, they
romped through the stately old rooms with
Spunkie, or with Tommy Dunn, who was a frequent
guest. Spunkie, be it known, was renewing
her kittenhood, so potent was the influence of
the dangling strings and rolling balls that she
encountered everywhere; and Tommy Dunn, with
Billy's help, was learning that not even a pair
of crutches need keep a lonely little lad from a
frolic. Even William, roused from his after-
dinner doze by peals of laughter, was sometimes
inveigled into activities that left him breathless,
but curiously aglow. While Pete, polishing silver
in the dining-room down-stairs, smiled indulgently
at the merry clatter above--and forgot
the teasing pain in his side.

But it was not all nonsense with Billy, nor gay
laughter. More often it was a tender glow in the
eyes, a softness in the voice, a radiant something
like an aura of joy all about her, that told how
happy indeed were these days for her. There
was proof by word of mouth, too--long talks
with Bertram in the dancing firelight when they
laid dear plans for the future, and when she tried
so hard to make her husband understand what a
good, good wife she intended to be, and how she
meant never to let anything come between them.

It was so earnest and serious a Billy by this
time that Bertram would turn startled, dismayed
eyes on his young wife; whereupon, with a very
Billy-like change of mood, she would give him
one of her rare caresses, and perhaps sigh:

``Goosey--it's only because I'm so happy,
happy, happy! Why, Bertram, if it weren't for
that Overflow Annex I believe I--I just couldn't

It was Bertram who sighed then, and who
prayed fervently in his heart that never might he
see a real shadow cloud that dear face.

Thus far, certainly, the cares of matrimony
had rested anything but heavily upon the shapely
young shoulders of the new wife. Domestic affairs
at the Strata moved like a piece of well-oiled
machinery. Dong Ling, to be sure, was not there;
but in his place reigned Pete's grandniece, a fresh-
faced, capable young woman who (Bertram
declared) cooked like an angel and minded her own
business like a man. Pete, as of yore, had full
charge of the house; and a casual eye would see
few changes. Even the brothers themselves saw
few, for that matter.

True, at the very first, Billy had donned a
ruffled apron and a bewitching dust-cap, and had
traversed the house from cellar to garret with a
prettily important air of ``managing things,'' as
she suggested changes right and left. She had
summoned Pete, too, for three mornings in
succession, and with great dignity had ordered the
meals for the day. But when Bertram was
discovered one evening tugging back his favorite
chair, and when William had asked if Billy were
through using his pipe-tray, the young wife had
concluded to let things remain about as they
were. And when William ate no breakfast one
morning, and Bertram aggrievedly refused dessert
that night at dinner, Billy--learning through an
apologetic Pete that Master William always had
to have eggs for breakfast no matter what else
there was, and that Master Bertram never ate
boiled rice--gave up planning the meals. True,
for three more mornings she summoned Pete for
``orders,'' but the orders were nothing more nor
less than a blithe ``Well, Pete, what are we going
to have for dinner to-day?'' By the end of a
week even this ceremony was given up, and before
a month had passed, Billy was little more
than a guest in her own home, so far as
responsibility was concerned.

Billy was not idle, however; far from it. First,
there were the delightful hours with Bertram.
Then there was her music: Billy was writing a
new song--the best she had ever written, Billy

``Why, Bertram, it can't help being that,'' she
said to her husband, one day. ``The words just
sang themselves to me right out of my heart;
and the melody just dropped down from the sky.
And now, everywhere, I'm hearing the most
wonderful harmonies. The whole universe is
singing to me. If only now I can put it on paper
what I hear! Then I can make the whole
universe sing to some one else!''

Even music, however, had to step one side for
the wedding calls which were beginning to be
received, and which must be returned, in spite
of the occasional rebellion of the young husband.
There were the more intimate friends to be seen,
also, and Cyril and Marie to be visited. And
always there was the Annex.

The Annex was in fine running order now, and
was a source of infinite satisfaction to its founder
and great happiness to its beneficiaries. Tommy
Dunn was there, learning wonderful things from
books and still more wonderful things from the
piano in the living-room. Alice Greggory and
her mother were there, too--the result of much
persuasion. Indeed, according to Bertram, Billy
had been able to fill the Annex only by telling
each prospective resident that he or she was
absolutely necessary to the welfare and happiness
of every other resident. Not that the house was
full, either. There were still two unoccupied

``But then, I'm glad there are,'' Billy had
declared, ``for there's sure to be some one that I'll
want to send there.''

``Some _one_, did you say?'' Bertram had retorted,
meaningly; but his wife had disdained to
answer this.

Billy herself was frequently at the Annex.
She told Aunt Hannah that she had to come often
to bring the happiness--it accumulated so fast.
Certainly she always found plenty to do there,
whenever she came. There was Aunt Hannah to
be read to, Mrs. Greggory to be sung to, and
Tommy Dunn to be listened to; for Tommy
Dunn was always quivering with eagerness to
play her his latest ``piece.''

Billy knew that some day at the Annex she
would meet Mr. M. J. Arkwright; and she told
herself that she hoped she should.

Billy had not seen Arkwright (except on the
stage of the Boston Opera House) since the day
he had left her presence in white-faced, stony-
eyed misery after declaring his love for her, and
learning of her engagement to Bertram. Since
then, she knew, he had been much with his old
friend, Alice Greggory. She did not believe,
should she see him now, that he would be either
white-faced, or stony-eyed. His heart, she was
sure, had gone where it ought to have gone in the
first place--to Alice. Such being, in her opinion,
the case, she longed to get the embarrassment
of a first meeting between themselves over
with, for, after that, she was sure, their old
friendship could be renewed, and she would be in a
position to further this pretty love affair between
him and Alice. Very decidedly, therefore, Billy
wished to meet Arkwright. Very pleased, consequently,
was she when, one day, coming into the
living-room at the Annex, she found the man
sitting by the fire.

Arkwright was on his feet at once.

``Miss--Mrs. H--Henshaw,'' he stammered

``Oh, Mr. Arkwright,'' she cried, with just a
shade of nervousness in her voice as she advanced,
her hand outstretched. ``I'm glad to see you.''

``Thank you. I wanted to see Miss Greggory,''
he murmured. Then, as the unconscious rudeness
of his reply dawned on him, he made matters
infinitely worse by an attempted apology. ``That
is, I mean--I didn't mean--'' he began to
stammer miserably.

Some girls might have tossed the floundering
man a straw in the shape of a light laugh intended
to turn aside all embarrassment--but not Billy.
Billy held out a frankly helping hand that was
meant to set the man squarely on his feet at her

``Mr. Arkwright, don't, please,'' she begged
earnestly. ``You and I don't need to beat about
the bush. I _am_ glad to see you, and I hope you're
glad to see me. We're going to be the best of
friends from now on, I'm sure; and some day,
soon, you're going to bring Alice to see me, and
we'll have some music. I left her up-stairs. She'll
be down at once, I dare say--I met Rosa going
up with your card. Good-by,'' she finished with
a bright smile, as she turned and walked rapidly
from the room.

Outside, on the steps, Billy drew a long

``There,'' she whispered; ``that's over--and
well over!'' The next minute she frowned vexedly.
She had missed her glove. ``Never mind!
I sha'n't go back in there for it now, anyway,''
she decided.

In the living-room, five minutes later, Alice
Greggory found only a hastily scrawled note
waiting for her.

``If you'll forgive the unforgivable,'' she read
``you'll forgive me for not being here when you
come down. `Circumstances over which I have
no control have called me away.' May we let
it go at that?

As Alice Greggory's amazed, questioning eyes
left the note they fell upon the long white glove
on the floor by the door. Half mechanically she
crossed the room and picked it up; but almost at
once she dropped it with a low cry.

``Billy! He--saw--Billy!'' Then a flood
of understanding dyed her face scarlet as she
turned and fled to the blessedly unseeing walls
of her own room.

Not ten minutes later Rosa tapped at her door
with a note.

``It's from Mr. Arkwright, Miss. He's downstairs.''
Rosa's eyes were puzzled, and a bit

``Mr. Arkwright!''

``Yes, Miss. He's come again. That is, I
didn't know he'd went--but he must have, for
he's come again now. He wrote something in a
little book; then he tore it out and gave it to me.
He said he'd wait, please, for an answer.''

``Oh, very well, Rosa.''

Miss Greggory took the note and spoke with
an elaborate air of indifference that was meant to
express a calm ignoring of the puzzled questioning
in the other's eyes. The next moment she read
this in Arkwright's peculiar scrawl:

``If you've already forgiven the unforgivable,
you'll do it again, I know, and come down-stairs.
Won't you, please? I want to see you.''

Miss Greggory lifted her head with a jerk.
Her face was a painful red.

``Tell Mr. Arkwright I can't possibly--'' She
came to an abrupt pause. Her eyes had encountered
Rosa's, and in Rosa's eyes the puzzled questioning
was plainly fast becoming a shrewd suspicion.

There was the briefest of hesitations; then,
lightly, Miss Greggory tossed the note aside.

``Tell Mr. Arkwright I'll be down at once,
please,'' she directed carelessly, as she turned
back into the room.

But she was not down at once. She was not
down until she had taken time to bathe her red
eyes, powder her telltale nose, smoothe her ruffled
hair, and whip herself into the calm, steady-eyed,
self-controlled young woman that Arkwright
finally rose to meet when she came into the room.

``I thought it was only women who were privileged
to change their mind,'' she began brightly;
but Arkwright ignored her attempt to conventionalize
the situation.

``Thank you for coming down,'' he said, with
a weariness that instantly drove the forced smile
from the girl's lips. ``I--I wanted to--to talk
to you.''

``Yes?'' She seated herself and motioned him
to a chair near her. He took the seat, and then
fell silent, his eyes out the window.

``I thought you said you--you wanted to
talk, she reminded him nervously, after a

``I did.'' He turned with disconcerting abruptness.
``Alice, I'm going to tell you a story.''

I shall be glad to listen. People always like
stories, don't they?''

``Do they?'' The somber pain in Arkwright's
eyes deepened. Alice Greggory did not know it,
but he was thinking of another story he had once
told in that same room. Billy was his listener
then, while now-- A little precipitately he began
to speak.

``When I was a very small boy I went to visit
my uncle, who, in his young days, had been quite
a hunter. Before the fireplace in his library was
a huge tiger skin with a particularly lifelike head.
The first time I saw it I screamed, and ran and
hid. I refused then even to go into the room
again. My cousins urged, scolded, pleaded, and
laughed at me by turns, but I was obdurate. I
would not go where I could see the fearsome thing
again, even though it was, as they said, `nothing
but a dead old rug!'

``Finally, one day, my uncle took a hand in the
matter. By sheer will-power he forced me to go
with him straight up to the dreaded creature, and
stand by its side. He laid one of my shrinking
hands on the beast's smooth head, and thrust
the other one quite into the open red mouth with
its gleaming teeth.

`` `You see,' he said, `there's absolutely nothing
to fear. He can't possibly hurt you. Just as
if you weren't bigger and finer and stronger in
every way than that dead thing on the floor!'

``Then, when he had got me to the point where
of my own free will I would walk up and touch
the thing, he drew a lesson for me.

`` `Now remember,' he charged me. `Never
run and hide again. Only cowards do that.
Walk straight up and face the thing. Ten to one
you'll find it's nothing but a dead skin masquerading
as the real thing. Even if it isn't if it's
alive--face it. Find a weapon and fight it.
Know that you are going to conquer it and
you'll conquer. Never run. Be a man. Men
don't run, my boy!' ''

Arkwright paused, and drew a long breath. He
did not look at the girl in the opposite chair. If
he had looked he would have seen a face transfigured.

``Well,'' he resumed, ``I never forgot that tiger
skin, nor what it stood for, after that day when
Uncle Ben thrust my hand into its hideous, but
harmless, red mouth. Even as a kid I began,
then, to try--not to run. I've tried ever since
But to-day--I did run.''

Arkwright's voice had been getting lower and
lower. The last three words would have been
almost inaudible to ears less sensitively alert than
were Alice Greggory's. For a moment after the
words were uttered, only the clock's ticking broke
the silence; then, with an obvious effort, the man
roused himself, as if breaking away from some
benumbing force that held him.

``Alice, I don't need to tell you, after what I
said the other night, that I loved Billy Neilson.
That was bad enough, for I found she was pledged
to another man. But to-day I discovered something
worse: I discovered that I loved Billy _Henshaw_--
another man's wife. And--I ran. But
I've come back. I'm going to face the thing. Oh,
I'm not deceiving myself! This love of mine is
no dead tiger skin. It's a beast, alive and alert
--God pity me!--to destroy my very soul. But
I'm going to fight it; and--I want you to help

The girl gave a half-smothered cry. The man
turned, but he could not see her face distinctly.
Twilight had come, and the room was full of
shadows. He hesitated, then went on, a little
more quietly.

``That's why I've told you all this--so you
would help me. And you will, won't you?''

There was no answer. Once again he tried to
see her face, but it was turned now quite away
from him.

``You've been a big help already, little girl.
Your friendship, your comradeship--they've
been everything to me. You're not going to make
me do without them--now?''

``No--oh, no!'' The answer was low and a
little breathless; but he heard it.

``Thank you. I knew you wouldn't.'' He
paused, then rose to his feet. When he spoke
again his voice carried a note of whimsical
lightness that was a little forced. ``But I must go--
else you _will_ take them from me, and with good
reason. And please don't let your kind heart
grieve too much--over me. I'm no deep-dyed
villain in a melodrama, nor wicked lover in a ten-
penny novel, you know. I'm just an everyday
man in real life; and we're going to fight this thing
out in everyday living. That's where your help
is coming in. We'll go together to see Mrs. Bertram
Henshaw. She's asked us to, and you'll do
it, I know. We'll have music and everyday talk.
We'll see Mrs. Bertram Henshaw in her own home
with her husband, where she belongs; and--I'm
not going to run again. But--I'm counting on
your help, you know,'' he smiled a little wistfully,
as he held out his hand in good-by.

One minute later Alice Greggory, alone, was
hurrying up-stairs.

``I can't--I can't--I know I can't,'' she was
whispering wildly. Then, in her own room, she
faced herself in the mirror. ``Yes--you--can,
Alice Greggory,'' she asserted, with swift change
of voice and manner. ``This is _your_ tiger skin,
and you're going to fight it. Do you understand?
--fight it! And you're going to win, too. Do you
want that man to know you--_care_?''



It was toward the last of October that Billy
began to notice her husband's growing restlessness.
Twice, when she had been playing to him,
she turned to find him testing the suppleness of
his injured arm. Several times, failing to receive
an answer to her questions, she had looked up to
discover him gazing abstractedly at nothing in

They read and walked and talked together, to
be sure, and Bertram's devotion to her lightest
wish was beyond question; but more and more
frequently these days Billy found him hovering
over his sketches in his studio; and once, when he
failed to respond to the dinner-bell, search
revealed him buried in a profound treatise on ``The
Art of Foreshortening.''

Then came the day when Billy, after an hour's
vain effort to imprison within notes a tantalizing
melody, captured the truant and rain down to the
studio to tell Bertram of her victory.

But Bertram did not seem even to hear her.
True, he leaped to his feet and hurried to meet her,
his face radiantly aglow; but she had not ceased
to speak before he himself was talking.

``Billy, Billy, I've been sketching,'' he cried.
``My hand is almost steady. See, some of those
lines are all right! I just picked up a crayon
and--'' He stopped abruptly, his eyes on Billy's
face. A vaguely troubled shadow crossed his
own. ``Did--did you--were you saying anything
in--in particular, when you came in?'' he

For a short half-minute Billy looked at her
husband without speaking. Then, a little queerly,
she laughed.

``Oh, no, nothing at all in _particular_,'' she
retorted airily. The next moment, with one of her
unexpected changes of manner, she darted across
the room, picked up a palette, and a handful of
brushes from the long box near it. Advancing
toward her husband she held them out dramatically.
``And now paint, my lord, paint!'' she
commanded him, with stern insistence, as she
thrust them into his hands.

Bertram laughed shamefacedly.

``Oh, I say, Billy,'' he began; but Billy had

Out in the hall Billy was speeding up-stairs,
talking fiercely to herself.

``We'll, Billy Neilson Henshaw, it's come!
Now behave yourself. _That was the painting look!_
You know what that means. Remember, he belongs
to his Art before he does to you. Kate and
everybody says so. And you--you expected
him to tend to you and your silly little songs. Do
you want to ruin his career? As if now he could
spend all his time and give all his thoughts to
you! But I--I just hate that Art!''

``What did you say, Billy?'' asked William, in
mild surprise, coming around the turn of the
balustrade in the hall above. ``Were you speaking
to me, my dear?''

Billy looked up. Her face cleared suddenly,
and she laughed--though a little ruefully.

``No, Uncle William, I wasn't talking to you,''
she sighed. ``I was just--just administering
first aid to the injured,'' she finished, as she
whisked into her own room.

``Well, well, bless the child! What can she
mean by that?'' puzzled Uncle William, turning
to go down the stairway.

Bertram began to paint a very little the next
day. He painted still more the next, and yet more
again the day following. He was like a bird let
out of a cage, so joyously alive was he. The old
sparkle came back to his eye, the old gay smile to
his lips. Now that they had come back Billy
realized what she had not been conscious of
before: that for several weeks past they had not
been there; and she wondered which hurt the
more--that they had not been there before, or
that they were there now. Then she scolded
herself roundly for asking the question at all.

They were not easy--those days for Billy,
though always to Bertram she managed to show
a cheerfully serene face. To Uncle William, also,
and to Aunt Hannah she showed a smiling countenance;
and because she could not talk to anybody
else of her feelings, she talked to herself.
This, however, was no new thing for Billy to do
From earliest childhood she had fought things out
in like manner.

``But it's so absurd of you, Billy Henshaw,''
she berated herself one day, when Bertram had
become so absorbed in his work that he had
forgotten to keep his appointment with her for a
walk. ``Just because you have had his constant
attention almost every hour since you were married
is no reason why you should have it every
hour now, when his arm is better! Besides, it's
exactly what you said you wouldn't do--object--
to his giving proper time to his work.''

``But I'm not objecting,'' stormed the other
half of herself. ``I'm _telling_ him to do it. It's
only that he's so--so _pleased_ to do it. He doesn't
seem to mind a bit being away from me. He's
actually happy!''

``Well, don't you want him to be happy in his
work? Fie! For shame! A fine artist's wife you
are. It seems Kate was right, then; you _are_ going
to spoil his career!''

``Ho!'' quoth Billy, and tossed her head.
Forthwith she crossed the room to her piano and
plumped herself down hard on to the stool. Then,
from under her fingers there fell a rollicking melody
that seemed to fill the room with little dancing
feet. Faster and faster sped Billy's fingers;
swifter and swifter twinkled the little dancing
feet. Then a door was jerked open, and Bertram's
voice called:


The music stopped instantly. Billy sprang from
her seat, her eyes eagerly seeking the direction
from which had come the voice. Perhaps--_perhaps_
Bertram wanted her. Perhaps he was not
going to paint any longer that morning, after all.
``Billy!'' called the voice again. ``Please, do
you mind stopping that playing just for a little
while? I'm a brute, I know, dear, but my brush
_will_ try to keep time with that crazy little tune of
yours, and you know my hand is none too steady,
anyhow, and when it tries to keep up with that
jiggety, jig, jig, jiggety, jig, jig--! _Do_ you mind,,
darling, just--just sewing, or doing something
still for a while?''

All the light fled from Billy's face, but her voice,
when she spoke, was the quintessence of cheery

``Why, no, of course not, dear.''

``Thank you. I knew you wouldn't,'' sighed
Bertram. Then the door shut.

For a long minute Billy stood motionless before
she glanced at her watch and sped to the telephone.

``Is Miss Greggory there, Rosa?'' she called
when the operator's ring was answered.

``Mis' Greggory, the lame one?''

``No; _Miss_ Greggory--Miss Alice.''

``Oh! Yes'm.''

``Then won't you ask her to come to the telephone,

There was a moment's wait, during which Billy's
small, well-shod foot beat a nervous tattoo on
the floor.

``Oh, is that you, Alice?'' she called then.
``Are you going to be home for an hour or two?''

``Why, y-yes; yes, indeed.''

``Then I'm coming over. We'll play duets,
sing--anything. I want some music.''

``Do! And--Mr. Arkwright is here. He'll

``Mr. Arkwright? You say he's there? Then
I won't-- Yes, I will, too.'' Billy spoke with
renewed firmness. ``I'll be there right away.
Good-by.'' And she hung up the receiver, and
went to tell Pete to order John and Peggy at once.

``I suppose I ought to have left Alice and Mr.
Arkwright alone together,'' muttered the young
wife feverishly, as she hurriedly prepared for
departure. ``But I'll make it up to them later.
I'm going to give them lots of chances. But to-
day--to-day I just had to go--somewhere!''

At the Annex, with Alice Greggory and
Arkwright, Billy sang duets and trios, and reveled in
a sonorous wilderness of new music to her heart's
content. Then, rested, refreshed, and at peace
with all the world, she hurried home to dinner
and to Bertram.

``There! I feel better,'' she sighed, as she took
off her hat in her own room; ``and now I'll go
find Bertram. Bless his heart--of course he
didn't want me to play when he was so busy!''

Billy went straight to the studio, but Bertram
was not there. Neither was he in William's room,
nor anywhere in the house. Down-stairs in the
dining-room Pete was found looking rather white,
leaning back in a chair. He struggled at once to
his feet, however, as his mistress entered the

Billy hurried forward with a startled exclamation.

``Why, Pete, what is it? Are you sick?'' she
cried, her glance encompassing the half-set table.

``No, ma'am; oh, no, ma'am!'' The old man
stumbled forward and began to arrange the knives
and forks. ``It's just a pesky pain--beggin'
yer pardon--in my side. But I ain't sick. No,

Billy frowned and shook her head. Her eyes
were on Pete's palpably trembling hands.

``But, Pete, you are sick,'' she protested. ``Let
Eliza do that.''

Pete drew himself stiffly erect. The color had
begun to come back to his face.

``There hain't no one set this table much but
me for more'n fifty years, an' I've got a sort of
notion that nobody can do it just ter suit me.
Besides, I'm better now. It's gone--that pain.''

``But, Pete, what is it? How long have you
had it?''

``I hain't had it any time, steady. It's the
comin' an' goin' kind. It seems silly ter mind it
at all; only, when it does come, it sort o' takes
the backbone right out o' my knees, and they
double up so's I have ter set down. There, ye
see? I'm pert as a sparrer, now!'' And, with
stiff celerity, Pete resumed his task.

His mistress still frowned.

``That isn't right, Pete,'' she demurred, with
a slow shake of her head. ``You should see a

The old man paled a little. He had seen a
doctor, and he had not liked what the doctor
had told him. In fact, he stubbornly refused to
believe what the doctor had said. He straightened
himself now a little aggressively.

``Humph! Beggin' yer pardon, Miss--ma'am,
but I don't think much o' them doctor chaps.''

Billy shook her head again as she smiled
and turned away. Then, as if casually, she

``Oh, did Mr. Bertram go out, Pete?''

``Yes, Miss; about five o'clock. He said he'd
be back to dinner.''

``Oh! All right.''

From the hall the telephone jangled sharply.

``I'll go,'' said Pete's mistress, as she turned
and hurried up-stairs.

It was Bertram's voice that answered her
opening ``Hullo.''

``Oh, Billy, is that you, dear? Well, you're
just the one I wanted. I wanted to say--that
is, I wanted to ask you--'' The speaker cleared
his throat a little nervously, and began all over
again. ``The fact is, Billy, I've run across a
couple of old classmates on from New York, and
they are very anxious I should stay down to dinner
with them. Would you mind--very much if I

A cold hand seemed to clutch Billy's heart.
She caught her breath with a little gasp and tried
to speak; but she had to try twice before the
words came.

``Why, no--no, of course not!'' Billy's voice
was very high-pitched and a little shaky, but it
was surpassingly cheerful.

``You sure you won't be--lonesome?'' Bertram's
voice was vaguely troubled.

``Of course not!''

``You've only to say the word, little girl,''
came Bertram's anxious tones again, ``and I
won't stay.''

Billy swallowed convulsively. If only, only he
would _stop_ and leave her to herself! As if she were
going to own up that _she_ was lonesome for _him_--
if _he_ was not lonesome for _her!_

``Nonsense! of course you'll stay,'' called Billy,
still in that high-pitched, shaky treble. Then,
before Bertram could answer, she uttered a gay
``Good-by!'' and hung up the receiver.

Billy had ten whole minutes in which to cry
before Pete's gong sounded for dinner; but she
had only one minute in which to try to efface
the woefully visible effects of those ten minutes
before William tapped at her door, and called:

``Gone to sleep, my dear? Dinner's ready.
Didn't you hear the gong?''

``Yes, I'm coming, Uncle William.'' Billy
spoke with breezy gayety, and threw open the
door; but she did not meet Uncle William's eyes.
Her head was turned away. Her hands were
fussing with the hang of her skirt.

``Bertram's dining out, Pete tells me,'' observed
William, with cheerful nonchalance, as they went
down-stairs together.

Billy bit her lip and looked up sharply. She
had been bracing herself to meet with disdainful
indifference this man's pity--the pity due a poor
neglected wife whose husband _preferred_ to dine
with old classmates rather than with herself.
Now she found in William's face, not pity, but a
calm, even jovial, acceptance of the situation as a
matter of course. She had known she was going
to hate that pity; but now, curiously enough, she
was conscious only of anger that the pity was
not there--that she might hate it.

She tossed her head a little. So even William
--Uncle William--regarded this monstrous thing
as an insignificant matter of everyday experience.
Maybe he expected it to occur frequently--every
night, or so. Doubtless he did expect it to occur
every night, or so. Indeed! Very well. As if she
were going to show _now_ that she cared whether
Bertram were there or not! They should see.

So with head held high and eyes asparkle, Billy
marched into the dining-room and took her accustomed place.



It was a brilliant dinner--because Billy made
it so. At first William met her sallies of wit with
mild surprise; but it was not long before he rose
gallantly to the occasion, and gave back full
measure of retort. Even Pete twice had to turn
his back to hide a smile, and once his hand shook
so that the tea he was carrying almost spilled.
This threatened catastrophe, however, seemed to
frighten him so much that his face was very grave
throughout the rest of the dinner.

Still laughing and talking gayly, Billy and
Uncle William, after the meal was over, ascended
to the drawing-room. There, however, the man,
in spite of the young woman's gay badinage, fell
to dozing in the big chair before the fire, leaving
Billy with only Spunkie for company--Spunkie,
who, disdaining every effort to entice her into a
romp, only winked and blinked stupid eyes, and
finally curled herself on the rug for a nap.

Billy, left to her own devices, glanced at her

Half-past seven! Time, almost, for Bertram
to be coming. He had said ``dinner''; and, of
course, after dinner was over he would be coming
home--to her. Very well; she would show him
that she had at least got along without him as
well as he had without her. At all events he
would not find her forlornly sitting with her nose
pressed against the window-pane! And forthwith
Billy established herself in a big chair (with its
back carefully turned toward the door by which
Bertram would enter), and opened a book.

Five, ten, fifteen minutes passed. Billy
fidgeted in her chair, twisted her neck to look out
into the hall--and dropped her book with a

Uncle William jerked himself awake, and
Spunkie opened sleepy eyes. Then both settled
themselves for another nap. Billy sighed, picked
up her book, and flounced back into her chair.
But she did not read. Disconsolately she sat
staring straight ahead--until a quick step on
the sidewalk outside stirred her into instant action.
Assuming a look of absorbed interest she twitched
the book open and held it before her face. . . .
But the step passed by the door: and Billy saw
then that her book was upside down.

Five, ten, fifteen more minutes passed. Billy
still sat, apparently reading, though she had not
turned a page. The book now, however, was
right side up. One by one other minutes passed
till the great clock in the hall struck nine long

``Well, well, bless my soul!'' mumbled Uncle
William, resolutely forcing himself to wake up.
``What time was that?''

``Nine o'clock.'' Billy spoke with tragic
distinctness, yet very cheerfully.

``Eh? Only nine?'' blinked Uncle William.
``I thought it must be ten. Well, anyhow, I
believe I'll go up-stairs. I seem to be unusually

Billy said nothing. `` `Only nine,' indeed!''
she was thinking wrathfully.

At the door Uncle William turned.

``You're not going to sit up, my dear, of
course,'' he remarked.

For the second time that evening a cold hand
seemed to clutch Billy's heart.

_Sit up!_ Had it come already to that? Was
she even now a wife who had need to _sit up_ for
her husband?

``I really wouldn't, my dear,'' advised Uncle
William again. ``Good night.''

``Oh, but I'm not sleepy at all, yet,'' Billy
managed to declare brightly. ``Good night.''

Then Uncle William went up-stairs.

Billy turned to her book, which happened to
be one of William's on ``Fake Antiques.''

`` `To collect anything, these days, requires
expert knowledge, and the utmost care and
discrimination,' '' read Billy's eyes. ``So Uncle
William _expected_ Bertram was going to spend the
whole evening as well as stay to dinner!'' ran
Billy's thoughts. `` `The enormous quantity of
bijouterie, Dresden and Battersea enamel ware
that is now flooding the market, is made on the
Continent--and made chiefly for the American
trade,' '' continued the book.

``Well, who cares if it is,'' snapped Billy, springing
to her feet and tossing the volume aside.
``Spunkie, come here! You've simply got to
play with me. Do you hear? I want to be gay
--_gay_--GAY! He's gay. He's down there with
those men, where he wants to be. Where he'd
_rather_ be than be with me! Do you think I want
him to come home and find me moping over a
stupid old book? Not much! I'm going to have
him find me gay, too. Now, come, Spunkie;
hurry--wake up! He'll be here right away, I'm
sure.'' And Billy shook a pair of worsted reins,
hung with little soft balls, full in Spunkie's face.

But Spunkie would not wake up, and Spunkie
would not play. She pretended to. She bit at
the reins, and sank her sharp claws into the
dangling balls. For a fleeting instant, even,
something like mischief gleamed in her big yellow eyes.
Then the jaws relaxed, the paws turned to velvet,
and Spunkie's sleek gray head settled slowly back
into lazy comfort. Spunkie was asleep.

Billy gazed at the cat with reproachful eyes.

``And you, too, Spunkie,'' she murmured.
Then she got to her feet and went back to her
chair. This time she picked up a magazine and
began to turn the leaves very fast, one after another.

Half-past nine came, then ten. Pete appeared
at the door to get Spunkie, and to see that everything
was all right for the night.

``Mr. Bertram is not in yet?'' he began doubtfully.

Billy shook her head with a bright smile.

``No, Pete. Go to bed. I expect him every
minute. Good night.''

``Thank you, ma'am. Good night.''

The old man picked up the sleepy cat and went
down-stairs. A little later Billy heard his quiet
steps coming back through the hall and ascending
the stairs. She listened until from away at the
top of the house she heard his door close. Then
she drew a long breath.

Ten o'clock--after ten o'clock, and Bertram
not there yet! And was this what he called dinner?
Did one eat, then, till ten o'clock, when one
dined with one's friends?

Billy was angry now--very angry. She was
too angry to be reasonable. This thing that her
husband had done seemed monstrous to her,
smarting, as she was, under the sting of hurt
pride and grieved loneliness--the state of mind
into which she had worked herself. No longer
now did she wish to be gay when her husband
came. No longer did she even pretend to assume
indifference. Bertram had done wrong. He had
been unkind, cruel, thoughtless, inconsiderate of
her comfort and happiness. Furthermore he _did
not_ love her as well as she did him or he never,
never could have done it! She would let him see,
when he came, just how hurt and grieved she was
--and how disappointed, too.

Billy was walking the floor now, back and forth,
back and forth.

Half-past ten came, then eleven. As the eleven
long strokes reverberated through the silent
house Billy drew in her breath and held it suspended.
A new look came to her eyes. A growing
terror crept into them and culminated in a
frightened stare at the clock.

Billy ran then to the great outer door and pulled
it open. A cold wind stung her face, and caused
her to shut the door quickly. Back and forth she
began to pace the floor again; but in five minutes
she had run to the door once more. This time
she wore a heavy coat of Bertram's which she
caught up as she passed the hall-rack.

Out on to the broad top step Billy hurried, and
peered down the street. As far as she could see
not a person was in sight. Across the street in
the Public Garden the wind stirred the gray
tree-branches and set them to casting weird
shadows on the bare, frozen ground. A warning
something behind her sent Billy scurrying into
the house just in time to prevent the heavy door's
closing and shutting her out, keyless, in the cold.

Half-past eleven came, and again Billy ran to
the door. This time she put the floor-mat against
the casing so that the door could not close. Once
more she peered wildly up and down the street,
and across into the deserted, wind-swept Garden.

There was only terror now in Billy's face. The
anger was all gone. In Billy's mind there was not
a shadow of doubt--something had happened to

Bertram was ill--hurt--dead! And he was
so good, so kind, so noble; such a dear, dear
husband! If only she could see him once. If only
she could ask his forgiveness for those wicked,
unkind, accusing thoughts. If only she could
tell him again that she did love him. If only--

Far down the street a step rang sharply on the
frosty air. A masculine figure was hurrying toward
the house. Retreating well into the shadow of the
doorway, Billy watched it, her heart pounding
against her side in great suffocating throbs.
Nearer and nearer strode the approaching figure
until Billy had almost sprung to meet it with a
glad cry--almost, but not quite; for the figure
neither turned nor paused, but marched straight
on--and Billy saw then, under the arc light, a
brown-bearded man who was not Bertram at all.

Three times during the next few minutes did
the waiting little bride on the doorstep watch
with palpitating yearning a shadowy form appear,
approach--and pass by. At the third
heart-breaking disappointment, Billy wrung her
hands helplessly.

``I don't see how there can be--so many--
utterly _useless_ people in the world!'' she choked.
Then, thoroughly chilled and sick at heart, she
went into the house and closed the door.

Once again, back and forth, back and forth,
Billy took up her weary vigil. She still wore the
heavy coat. She had forgotten to take it off.
Her face was pitifully white and drawn. Her
eyes were wild. One of her hands was nervously
caressing the rough sleeve of the coat as it hung
from her shoulder.


Billy gave a sharp cry and ran into the hall.

Yes, it was twelve o'clock. And now, always,
all the rest of the dreary, useless hours that that
clock would tick away through an endless existence,
she would have to live--without Bertram.
If only she could see him once more! But she
could not. He was dead. He must be dead, now.
Here it was twelve o'clock, and--

There came a quick step, the click of a key in
the lock, then the door swung back and Bertram,
big, strong, and merry-eyed, stood before her.

``Well, well, hullo,'' he called jovially. Why,
Billy, what's the matter?'' he broke off, in quite
a different tone of voice.

And then a curious thing happened. Billy,
who, a minute before, had been seeing only a dear,
noble, adorable, _lost_ Bertram, saw now suddenly
only the man that had stayed _happily_ till midnight
with two friends, while she--she--

``Matter! Matter!'' exclaimed Billy sharply,
then. ``Is this what you call staying to dinner,
Bertram Henshaw?''

Bertram stared. A slow red stole to his
forehead. It was his first experience of coming home
to meet angry eyes that questioned his behavior
--and he did not like it. He had been, perhaps,
a little conscience-smitten when he saw how late
he had stayed; and he had intended to say he
was sorry, of course. But to be thus sharply
called to account for a perfectly innocent good
time with a couple of friends--! To come home
and find Billy making a ridiculous scene like
this--! He--he would not stand for it! He--

Bertram's lips snapped open. The angry retort
was almost spoken when something in the piteously
quivering chin and white, drawn face opposite
stopped it just in time.

``Why, Billy--darling!'' he murmured instead.

It was Billy's turn to change. All the anger
melted away before the dismayed tenderness in
those dear eyes and the grieved hurt in that dear

``Well, you--you--I--'' Billy began to cry.

It was all right then, of course, for the next
minute she was crying on Bertram's big, broad
shoulder; and in the midst of broken words,
kisses, gentle pats, and inarticulate croonings,
the Big, Bad Quarrel, that had been all ready to
materialize, faded quite away into nothingness.

``I didn't have such an awfully good time, anyhow,
avowed Bertram, when speech became
rational. ``I'd rather have been home with you.''

``Nonsense!'' blinked Billy, valiantly. ``Of
course you had a good time; and it was perfectly
right you should have it, too! And I--I hope
you'll have it again.''

``I sha'n't,'' emphasized Bertram, promptly,
``--not and leave you!''

Billy regarded him with adoring eyes.

``I'll tell you; we'll have 'em come here,'' she
proposed gayly.

``Sure we will,'' agreed Bertram.

``Yes; sure we will,'' echoed Billy, with a
contented sigh. Then, a little breathlessly, she
added: ``Anyhow, I'll know--where you are.
I won't think you're--dead!''

``You--blessed--little-goose!'' scolded
Bertram, punctuating each word with a kiss.

Billy drew a long sigh.

``If this is a quarrel I'm going to have them
often,'' she announced placidly.

``Billy!'' The young husband was plainly

``Well, I am--because I like the making-up,
dimpled Billy, with a mischievous twinkle as she
broke from his clasp and skipped ahead up the



The next morning, under the uncompromising
challenge of a bright sun, Billy began to be
uneasily suspicious that she had been just a bit
unreasonable and exacting the night before. To
make matters worse she chanced to run across a
newspaper criticism of a new book bearing the
ominous title: ``When the Honeymoon Wanes
A Talk to Young Wives.''

Such a title, of course, attracted her
supersensitive attention at once; and, with a curiously
faint feeling, she picked up the paper and began to

As the most of the criticism was taken up with
quotations from the book, it was such sentences
as these that met her startled eyes:

``Perhaps the first test comes when the young
wife awakes to the realization that while her husband
loves her very much, he can still make
plans with his old friends which do not include
herself. . . . Then is when the foolish wife lets
her husband see how hurt she is that he can want
to be with any one but herself. . . . Then is
when the husband--used all his life to independence,
perhaps--begins to chafe under these new
bonds that hold him so fast. . . . No man likes
to be held up at the end of a threatened scene and
made to give an account of himself. . . . Before
a woman has learned to cultivate a comfortable
indifference to her husband's comings and goings,
she is apt to be tyrannical and exacting.''

`` `Comfortable indifference,' indeed!'' stormed
Billy to herself. ``As if I ever could be comfortably
indifferent to anything Bertram did!''

She dropped the paper; but there were still
other quotations from the book there, she knew;
and in a moment she was back at the table reading them.

``No man, however fondly he loves his wife,
likes to feel that she is everlastingly peering into
the recesses of his mind, and weighing his every
act to find out if he does or does not love her to-
day as well as he did yesterday at this time. . . .
Then, when spontaneity is dead, she is the chief
mourner at its funeral. . . . A few couples never
leave the Garden of Eden. They grow old hand
in hand. They are the ones who bear and forbear;
who have learned to adjust themselves to
the intimate relationship of living together. . . .
A certain amount of liberty, both of action and
thought, must be allowed on each side. . . . The
family shut in upon itself grows so narrow that all
interest in the outside world is lost. . . . No
two people are ever fitted to fill each other's
lives entirely. They ought not to try to do it.
If they do try, the process is belittling to each,
and the result, if it is successful, is nothing less
than a tragedy; for it could not mean the highest
ideals, nor the truest devotion. . . . Brushing up
against other interests and other personalities is
good for both husband and wife. Then to each
other they bring the best of what they have
found, and each to the other continues to be new
and interesting. . . . The young wife, however,
is apt to be jealous of everything that turns her
husband's attention for one moment away from
herself. She is jealous of his thoughts, his words,
his friends, even his business. . . . But the wife
who has learned to be the clinging vine when her
husband wishes her to cling, and to be the sturdy
oak when clinging vines would be tiresome, has
solved a tremendous problem.''

At this point Billy dropped the paper. She
flung it down, indeed, a bit angrily. There were
still a few more words in the criticism, mostly the
critic's own opinion of the book; but Billy did
not care for this. She had read quite enough--
boo much, in fact. All that sort of talk might be
very well, even necessary, perhaps (she told herself),
for ordinary husbands and wives! but for
her and Bertram--

Then vividly before her rose those initial quoted

``Perhaps the first test comes when the young
wife awakes to the realization that while her husband
loves her very much, he can still make
plans with his old friends which do not include

Billy frowned, and put her finger to her lips.
Was that then, last night, a ``test''? Had she
been ``tyrannical and exacting''? Was she
``everlastingly peering into the recesses'' of Bertram's
mind and ``weighing his every act''?
Was Bertram already beginning to ``chafe''
under these new bonds that held him?

No, no, never that! She could not believe that.
But what if he should sometime begin to chafe?
What if they two should, in days to come,
degenerate into just the ordinary, everyday married
folk, whom she saw about her everywhere, and
for whom just such horrid books as this must be
written? It was unbelievable, unthinkable. And
yet, that man had said--

With a despairing sigh Billy picked up the paper
once more and read carefully every word again.
When she had finished she stood soberly thoughtful,
her eyes out of the window.

After all, it was nothing but the same old story.
She was exacting. She did want her husband's
every thought. She _gloried_ in peering into every
last recess of his mind if she had half a chance.
She was jealous of his work. She had almost
hated his painting--at times. She had held him
up with a threatened scene only the night before
and demanded that he should give an account
of himself. She had, very likely, been the clinging
vine when she should have been the sturdy

Very well, then. (Billy lifted her head and
threw back her shoulders.) He should have no
further cause for complaint. She would be an
oak. She would cultivate that comfortable
indifference to his comings and goings. She would
brush up against other interests and personalities
so as to be ``new'' and ``interesting'' to her
husband. She would not be tyrannical, exacting,
or jealous. She would not threaten scenes, nor
peer into recesses. Whatever happened, she
would not let Bertram begin to chafe against
those bonds!

Having arrived at this heroic and (to her)
eminently satisfactory state of mind, Billy turned
from the window and fell to work on a piece of
manuscript music.

`` `Brush up against other interests,' '' she
admonished herself sternly, as she reached for her

Theoretically it was beautiful; but practically--

Billy began at once to be that oak. Not an
hour after she had first seen the fateful notice of
``When the Honeymoon Wanes,'' Bertram's ring
sounded at the door down-stairs.

Bertram always let himself in with his latchkey;
but, from the first of Billy's being there, he
had given a peculiar ring at the bell which would
bring his wife flying to welcome him if she were
anywhere in the house. To-day, when the bell
sounded, Billy sprang as usual to her feet, with a
joyous ``There's Bertram!'' But the next moment
she fell back.

``Tut, tut, Billy Neilson Henshaw! Learn to
cultivate a comfortable indifference to your
husband's comings and goings,'' she whispered
fiercely. Then she sat down and fell to work again.

A moment later she heard her husband's voice
talking to some one--Pete, she surmised. ``Here?
You say she's here?'' Then she heard Bertram's
quick step on the stairs. The next minute, very
quietly, he came to her door.

``Ho!'' he ejaculated gayly, as she rose to
receive his kiss. ``I thought I'd find you asleep,
when you didn't hear my ring.''

Billy reddened a little.

``Oh, no, I wasn't asleep.''

``But you didn't hear--'' Bertram stopped
abruptly, an odd look in his eyes. ``Maybe you
did hear it, though,'' he corrected.

Billy colored more confusedly. The fact that
she looked so distressed did not tend to clear
Bertram's face.

``Why, of course, Billy, I didn't mean to insist
on your coming to meet me,'' he began a little
stiffly; but Billy interrupted him.

``Why, Bertram, I just love to go to meet you,''
she maintained indignantly. Then, remembering
just in time, she amended: ``That is, I did love
to meet you, until--'' With a sudden realization
that she certainly had not helped matters any,
she came to an embarrassed pause.

A puzzled frown showed on Bertram's face.

``You did love to meet me until--'' he repeated
after her; then his face changed. ``Billy,
you aren't--you _can't_ be laying up last night
against me!'' he reproached her a little irritably.

``Last night? Why, of course not,'' retorted
Billy, in a panic at the bare mention of the
``test'' which--according to ``When the Honeymoon
Wanes''--was at the root of all her misery.
Already she thought she detected in Bertram's
voice signs that he was beginning to chafe
against those ``bonds.'' ``It is a matter of--
of the utmost indifference to me what time you
come home at night, my dear,'' she finished airily,
as she sat down to her work again.

Bertram stared; then he frowned, turned on
his heel and left the room. Bertram, who knew
nothing of the ``Talk to Young Wives'' in the
newspaper at Billy's feet, was surprised, puzzled,
and just a bit angry.

Billy, left alone, jabbed her pen with such force
against her paper that the note she was making
became an unsightly blot.

``Well, if this is what that man calls being
`comfortably indifferent,' I'd hate to try the
_un_comfortable kind,'' she muttered with emphasis.



Notwithstanding what Billy was disposed to
regard as the non-success of her first attempt to
profit by the ``Talk to Young Wives;'' she still
frantically tried to avert the waning of her honeymoon.
Assiduously she cultivated the prescribed
``indifference,'' and with at least apparent enthusiasm
she sought the much-to-be-desired ``outside
interests.'' That is, she did all this when she
thought of it when something reminded her
of the sword of destruction hanging over her
happiness. At other times, when she was just being
happy without question, she was her old self
impulsive, affectionate, and altogether adorable.

Naturally, under these circumstances, her conduct
was somewhat erratic. For three days, perhaps,
she would fly to the door at her husband's
ring, and hang upon his every movement. Then,
for the next three, she would be a veritable will-o'-
the-wisp for elusiveness, caring, apparently, not
one whit whether her husband came or went
until poor Bertram, at his wit's end, scourged
himself with a merciless catechism as to what he
had done to vex her. Then, perhaps, just when
he had nerved himself almost to the point of asking
her what was the trouble, there would come
another change, bringing back to him the old
Billy, joyous, winsome, and devoted, plainly
caring nothing for anybody or anything but
himself. Scarcely, however, would he become sure
that it was his Billy back again before she was off
once more, quite beyond his reach, singing with
Arkwright and Alice Greggory, playing with
Tommy Dunn, plunging into some club or church
work--anything but being with him.

That all this was puzzling and disquieting to
Bertram, Billy not once suspected. Billy, so far
as she was concerned, was but cultivating a
comfortable indifference, brushing up against outside
interests, and being an oak.

December passed, and January came, bringing
Miss Marguerite Winthrop to her Boston home.
Bertram's arm was ``as good as ever'' now,
according to its owner; and the sittings for the new
portrait began at once. This left Billy even more
to her own devices, for Bertram entered into his
new work with an enthusiasm born of a glad relief
from forced idleness, and a consuming eagerness
to prove that even though he had failed the first
time, he could paint a portrait of Marguerite
Winthrop that would be a credit to himself, a
conclusive retort to his critics, and a source of
pride to his once mortified friends. With his
whole heart, therefore, he threw himself into the
work before him, staying sometimes well into the
afternoon on the days Miss Winthrop could find
time between her social engagements to give him
a sitting.

It was on such a day, toward the middle of the
month, that Billy was called to the telephone at
half-past twelve o'clock to speak to her husband.

``Billy, dear,'' began Bertram at once, ``if you
don't mind I'm staying to luncheon at Miss Winthrop's
kind request. We've changed the pose--
neither of us was satisfied, you know--but we
haven't quite settled on the new one. Miss
Winthrop has two whole hours this afternoon that
she can give me if I'll stay; and, of course, under
the circumstances, I want to do it.''

``Of course,'' echoed Billy. Billy's voice was
indomitably cheerful.

``Thank you, dear. I knew you'd understand,''
sighed Bertram, contentedly. ``You see, really,
two whole hours, so--it's a chance I can't afford
to lose.''

``Of course you can't,'' echoed Billy, again.

``All right then. Good-by till to-night,'' called
the man.

``Good-by,'' answered Billy, still cheerfully.
As she turned away, however, she tossed her head.
``A new pose, indeed!'' she muttered, with some
asperity. ``Just as if there could be a _new_ pose
after all those she tried last year!''

Immediately after luncheon Pete and Eliza
started for South Boston to pay a visit to Eliza's
mother, and it was soon after they left the house
that Bertram called his wife up again.

``Say, dearie, I forgot to tell you,'' he began,
``but I met an old friend in the subway this
morning, and I--well, I remembered what you
said about bringing 'em home to dinner next
time, so I asked him for to-night. Do you mind?

``Mind? Of course not! I'm glad you did,''
plunged in Billy, with feverish eagerness. (Even
now, just the bare mention of anything connected
with that awful ``test'' night was enough to set
Billy's nerves to tingling.) ``I want you to always
bring them home, Bertram.''

``All right, dear. We'll be there at six o'clock
then. It's--it's Calderwell, this time. You
remember Calderwell, of course.''

``Not--_Hugh_ Calderwell?'' Billy's question
was a little faint.

``Sure!'' Bertram laughed oddly, and lowered
his voice. ``I suspect _once_ I wouldn't have
brought him home to you. I was too jealous.
But now--well, now maybe I want him to see
what he's lost.''


But Bertram only laughed mischievously, and
called a gay ``Good-by till to-night, then!''

Billy, at her end of the wires, hung up the
receiver and backed against the wall a little

Calderwell! To dinner--Calderwell! Did
she remember Calderwell? Did she, indeed! As
if one could easily forget the man that, for a year
or two, had proposed marriage as regularly (and
almost as lightly!) as he had torn a monthly leaf
from his calendar! Besides, was it not he, too,
who had said that Bertram would never love any
girl, _really_; that it would be only the tilt of her
chin or the turn of her head that he loved--to
paint? And now he was coming to dinner--and
with Bertram.

Very well, he should see! He should see that
Bertram _did_ love her; _her_--not the tilt of her
chin nor the turn of her head. He should see how
happy they were, what a good wife she made, and
how devoted and _satisfied_ Bertram was in his
home. He should see! And forthwith Billy
picked up her skirts and tripped up-stairs to select
her very prettiest house-gown to do honor to the
occasion. Up-stairs, however, one thing and another
delayed her, so that it was four o'clock when
she turned her attention to her toilet; and it was
while she was hesitating whether to be stately
and impressive in royally sumptuous blue velvet
and ermine, or cozy and tantalizingly homy{sic} in
bronze-gold crpe de Chine and swan's-down,
that the telephone bell rang again.

Eliza and Pete had not yet returned; so, as
before, Billy answered it. This time Eliza's
shaking voice came to her.

``Is that you, ma'am?''

``Why, yes, Eliza?''

``Yes'm, it's me, ma'am. It's about Uncle
Pete. He's give us a turn that's 'most scared us
out of our wits.''

``Pete! You mean he's sick?''

``Yes, ma'am, he was. That is, he is, too--
only he's better, now, thank goodness,'' panted
Eliza. ``But he ain't hisself yet. He's that white
and shaky! Would you--could you--that is,
would you mind if we didn't come back till into
the evenin', maybe?''

``Why, of course not,'' cried Pete's mistress,
quickly. ``Don't come a minute before he's able,
Eliza. Don't come until to-morrow.''

Eliza gave a trembling little laugh.

``Thank you, ma'am; but there wouldn't be
no keepin' of Uncle Pete here till then. If he
could take five steps alone he'd start now. But
he can't. He says he'll be all right pretty quick,
though. He's had 'em before--these spells--
but never quite so bad as this, I guess; an' he's
worryin' somethin' turrible 'cause he can't start
for home right away.''

``Nonsense!'' cut in Mrs. Bertram Henshaw.

``Yes'm. I knew you'd feel that way,''
stammered Eliza, gratefully. ``You see, I couldn't
leave him to come alone, and besides, anyhow,
I'd have to stay, for mother ain't no more use
than a wet dish-rag at such times, she's that
scared herself. And she ain't very well, too. So
if--if you _could_ get along--''

``Of course we can! And tell Pete not to
worry one bit. I'm so sorry he's sick!''

``Thank you, ma'am. Then we'll be there
some time this evenin','' sighed Eliza.

From the telephone Billy turned away with a
troubled face.

``Pete _is_ ill,'' she was saying to herself. ``I
don't like the looks of it; and he's so faithful he'd
come if--'' With a little cry Billy stopped
short. Then, tremblingly, she sank into the
nearest chair. ``Calderwell--and he's coming to
_dinner!_'' she moaned.

For two benumbed minutes Billy sat staring
at nothing. Then she ran to the telephone and
called the Annex.

Aunt Hannah answered.

``Aunt Hannah, for heaven's sake, if you love
me,'' pleaded Billy, ``send Rosa down instanter!
Pete is sick over to South Boston, and Eliza is
with him; and Bertram is bringing Hugh Calderwell
home to dinner. _Can_ you spare Rosa?''

``Oh, my grief and conscience, Billy! Of course
I can--I mean I could--but Rosa isn't here,
dear child! It's her day out, you know.''

``O dear, of course it is! I might have known,
if I'd thought; but Pete and Eliza have spoiled
me. They never take days out at meal time--
both together, I mean--until to-night.''

``But, my dear child, what will you do?''

``I don't know. I've got to think. I _must_ do

``Of course you must! I'd come over myself
if it wasn't for my cold.''

``As if I'd let you!''

``There isn't anybody here, only Tommy.
Even Alice is gone. Oh, Billy, Billy, this only
goes to prove what I've always said, that _no_
woman _ought_ to be a wife until she's an efficient
housekeeper; and--''

``Yes, yes, Aunt Hannah, I know,'' moaned
Billy, frenziedly. ``But I am a wife, and I'm not
an efficient housekeeper; and Hugh Calderwell
won't wait for me to learn. He's coming to-night.
_To-night!_ And I've got to do something. Never
mind. I'll fix it some way. Good-by!''

``But, Billy, Billy! Oh, my grief and conscience,''
fluttered Aunt Hannah's voice across
the wires as Billy snapped the receiver into

For the second time that day Billy backed
palpitatingly against the wall. Her eyes sought
the clock fearfully.

Fifteen minutes past four. She had an hour and
three quarters. She could, of course, telephone
Bertram to dine Calderwell at a club or some
hotel. But to do this now, the very first time,
when it had been her own suggestion that he
``bring them home''--no, no, she could not do
that! Anything but that! Besides, very likely
she could not reach Bertram, anyway. Doubtless
he had left the Winthrops' by this time.

There was Marie. She could telephone Marie.
But Marie could not very well come just now, she
knew; and then, too, there was Cyril to be taken
into consideration. How Cyril would gibe at the
wife who had to call in all the neighbors just
because her husband was bringing home a friend
to dinner! How he would-- Well, he shouldn't!
He should not have the chance. So, there!

With a jerk Mrs. Bertram Henshaw pulled
herself away from the wall and stood erect. Her
eyes snapped, and the very poise of her chin
spelled determination.

Very well, she would show them. Was not
Bertram bringing this man home because he was
proud of her? Mighty proud he would be if she
had to call in half of Boston to get his dinner for
him! Nonsense! She would get it herself. Was
not this the time, if ever, to be an oak? A vine,
doubtless, would lean and cling and telephone,
and whine ``I can't!'' But not an oak. An oak
would hold up its head and say ``I can!'' An
oak would go ahead and get that dinner. She
would be an oak. She would get that dinner.

What if she didn't know how to cook bread and
cake and pies and things? One did not have to
cook bread and cake and pies just to get a dinner
--meat and potatoes and vegetables! Besides,
she _could_ make peach fritters. She knew she
could. She would show them!

And with actually a bit of song on her lips, Billy
skipped up-stairs for her ruffled apron and dust-
cap--two necessary accompaniments to this
dinner-getting, in her opinion.

Billy found the apron and dust-cap with no

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