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Miss Billy's Decision by Eleanor H. Porter

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Contact Mike Lough


Author of ``Miss Billy,'' etc.

My Cousin Helen


Miss Billy's Decision



Calderwell had met Mr. M. J. Arkwright in
London through a common friend; since then
they had tramped half over Europe together in a
comradeship that was as delightful as it was unusual.
As Calderwell put it in a letter to his sister, Belle:

``We smoke the same cigar and drink the same
tea (he's just as much of an old woman on that
subject as I am!), and we agree beautifully on
all necessary points of living, from tipping to late
sleeping in the morning; while as for politics and
religion--we disagree in those just enough to
lend spice to an otherwise tame existence.''

Farther along in this same letter Calderwell
touched upon his new friend again.

``I admit, however, I would like to know his
name. To find out what that mysterious `M. J.'
stands for has got to be pretty nearly an obsession
with me. I am about ready to pick his pocket or
rifle his trunk in search of some lurking `Martin'
or `John' that will set me at peace. As it is, I
confess that I have ogled his incoming mail and
his outgoing baggage shamelessly, only to be
slapped in the face always and everlastingly by
that bland `M. J.' I've got my revenge, now,
though. To myself I call him `Mary Jane'--
and his broad-shouldered, brown-bearded six feet
of muscular manhood would so like to be called
`Mary Jane'! By the way, Belle, if you ever
hear of murder and sudden death in my direction,
better set the sleuths on the trail of Arkwright.
Six to one you'll find I called him `Mary Jane'
to his face!''

Calderwell was thinking of that letter now, as
he sat at a small table in a Paris caf. Opposite
him was the six feet of muscular manhood, broad
shoulders, pointed brown beard, and all--and he
had just addressed it, inadvertently, as ``Mary

During the brief, sickening moment of silence
after the name had left his lips, Calderwell was
conscious of a whimsical realization of the lights,
music, and laughter all about him.

``Well, I chose as safe a place as I could!'' he
was thinking. Then Arkwright spoke.

``How long since you've been in correspondence
with members of my family?''


Arkwright laughed grimly.

``Perhaps you thought of it yourself, then--
I'll admit you're capable of it,'' he nodded, reaching
for a cigar. ``But it so happens you hit upon
my family's favorite name for me.''

``_Mary Jane!_ You mean they actually _call_
you that?''

``Yes,'' bowed the big fellow, calmly, as he
struck a light. ``Appropriate!--don't you

Calderwell did not answer. He thought he
could not.

``Well, silence gives consent, they say,'' laughed
the other. ``Anyhow, you must have had _some_
reason for calling me that.''

``Arkwright, what _does_ `M. J.' stand for?''
demanded Calderwell.

``Oh, is that it?'' smiled the man opposite.
``Well, I'll own those initials have been something
of a puzzle to people. One man declares they're
`Merely Jokes'; but another, not so friendly, says
they stand for `Mostly Jealousy' of more fortunate
chaps who have real names for a handle. My
small brothers and sisters, discovering, with the
usual perspicacity of one's family on such matters,
that I never signed, or called myself anything but
`M. J.,' dubbed me `Mary Jane.' And there you
have it.''

``Mary Jane! You!''

Arkwright smiled oddly.

``Oh, well, what's the difference? Would you
deprive them of their innocent amusement? And
they do so love that `Mary Jane'! Besides,
what's in a name, anyway?'' he went on, eyeing
the glowing tip of the cigar between his fingers.
`` `A rose by any other name--'--you've heard
that, probably. Names don't always signify, my
dear fellow. For instance, I know a `Billy'--but
he's a girl.''

Calderwell gave a sudden start.

``You don't mean Billy--Neilson?''

The other turned sharply.

``Do _you_ know Billy Neilson?''

Calderwell gave his friend a glance from
scornful eyes.

``Do I know Billy Neilson?'' he cried. ``Does
a fellow usually know the girl he's proposed to
regularly once in three months? Oh, I know I'm
telling tales out of school, of course,'' he went on,
in response to the look that had come into the
brown eyes opposite. ``But what's the use?
Everybody knows it--that knows us. Billy herself
got so she took it as a matter of course--and
refused as a matter of course, too; just as she
would refuse a serving of apple pie at dinner, if
she hadn't wanted it.''

``Apple pie!'' scouted Arkwright.

Calderwell shrugged his shoulders.

``My dear fellow, you don't seem to realize it,
but for the last six months you have been assisting
at the obsequies of a dead romance.''

``Indeed! And is it--buried, yet?''

``Oh, no,'' sighed Calderwell, cheerfully. ``I
shall go back one of these days, I'll warrant, and
begin the same old game again; though I will
acknowledge that the last refusal was so very
decided that it's been a year, almost, since I received
it. I think I was really convinced, for a while,
that--that she didn't want that apple pie,'' he
finished with a whimsical lightness that did not
quite coincide with the stern lines that had come
to his mouth.

For a moment there was silence, then Calderwell
spoke again.

``Where did you know--Miss Billy?''

``Oh, I don't know her at all. I know of her--
through Aunt Hannah.''

Calderwell sat suddenly erect.

``Aunt Hannah! Is she your aunt, too?
Jove! This _is_ a little old world, after all; isn't

``She isn't my aunt. She's my mother's third
cousin. None of us have seen her for years, but
she writes to mother occasionally; and, of course,
for some time now, her letters have been running
over full of Billy. She lives with her, I believe;
doesn't she?''

``She does,'' rejoined Calderwell, with an
unexpected chuckle. ``I wonder if you know how she
happened to live with her, at first.''

``Why, no, I reckon not. What do you mean?''

Calderwell chuckled again.

``Well, I'll tell you. You, being a `Mary Jane,'
ought to appreciate it. You see, Billy was named
for one William Henshaw, her father's chum,
who promptly forgot all about her. At eighteen,
Billy, being left quite alone in the world, wrote to
`Uncle William' and asked to come and live with


``But it wasn't well. William was a forty-year-
old widower who lived with two younger brothers,
an old butler, and a Chinese cook in one of those
funny old Beacon Street houses in Boston. `The
Strata,' Bertram called it. Bright boy--Bertram!''

``The Strata!''

``Yes. I wish you could see that house,
Arkwright. It's a regular layer cake. Cyril--he's
the second brother; must be thirty-four or five
now--lives on the top floor in a rugless, curtainless,
music-mad existence--just a plain crank.
Below him comes William. William collects things
--everything from tenpenny nails to teapots, I
should say, and they're all there in his rooms.
Farther down somewhere comes Bertram. He's
_the_ Bertram Henshaw, you understand; the artist.''

``Not the `Face-of-a-Girl' Henshaw?''

``The same; only of course four years ago he
wasn't quite so well known as he is now. Well, to
resume and go on. It was into this house, this
masculine paradise ruled over by Pete and Dong
Ling in the kitchen, that Billy's nave request for
a home came.''

``Great Scott!'' breathed Arkwright, appreciatively.

``Yes. Well, the letter was signed `Billy.'
They took her for a boy, naturally, and after something
of a struggle they agreed to let `him' come.
For his particular delectation they fixed up a room
next to Bertram with guns and fishing rods, and
such ladylike specialties; and William went to the
station to meet the boy.''

``With never a suspicion?''

``With never a suspicion.''


``Well, `he' came, and `she' conquered. I
guess things were lively for a while, though. Oh,
there was a kitten, too, I believe, `Spunk,' who
added to the gayety of nations.''

``But what did the Henshaws do?''

``Well, I wasn't there, of course; but Bertram
says they spun around like tops gone mad for a
time, but finally quieted down enough to summon
a married sister for immediate propriety, and to
establish Aunt Hannah for permanency the next

``So that's how it happened! Well, by
George!'' cried Arkwright.

``Yes,'' nodded the other. ``So you see there
are untold possibilities just in a name. Remember
that. Just suppose _you_, as Mary Jane, should
beg a home in a feminine household--say in
Miss Billy's, for instance!''

``I'd like to,'' retorted Arkwright, with
sudden warmth.

Calderwell stared a little.

The other laughed shamefacedly.

``Oh, it's only that I happen to have a
devouring curiosity to meet that special young lady.
I sing her songs (you know she's written some
dandies!), I've heard a lot about her, and I've
seen her picture.'' (He did not add that he had
also purloined that same picture from his mother's
bureau--the picture being a gift from Aunt
Hannah.) ``So you see I would, indeed, like to
occupy a corner in the fair Miss Billy's household.
I could write to Aunt Hannah and beg a home
with her, you know; eh?''

``Of course! Why don't you--`Mary Jane'?''
laughed Calderwell. ``Billy'd take you all right.
She's had a little Miss Hawthorn, a music teacher,
there for months. She's always doing stunts of
that sort. Belle writes me that she's had a dozen
forlornites there all this last summer, two or three
at a time-tired widows, lonesome old maids,
and crippled kids--just to give them a royal
good time. So you see she'd take you, without a
doubt. Jove! what a pair you'd make: Miss
Billy and Mr. Mary Jane! You'd drive the
suffragettes into conniption fits--just by the sound
of you!''

Arkwright laughed quietly; then he frowned.

``But how about it?'' he asked. ``I thought
she was keeping house with Aunt Hannah. Didn't
she stay at all with the Henshaws?''

``Oh, yes, a few months. I never knew just
why she did leave, but I fancied, from something
Billy herself said once, that she discovered she
was creating rather too much of an upheaval in
the Strata. So she took herself off. She went to
school, and travelled considerably. She was over
here when I met her first. After that she was with
us all one summer on the yacht. A couple of
years ago, or so, she went back to Boston, bought
a house and settled down with Aunt Hannah.''

``And she's not married--or even engaged?''

``Wasn't the last I heard. I haven't seen her
since December, and I've heard from her only
indirectly. She corresponds with my sister, and
so do I--intermittently. I heard a month ago
from Belle, and _she_ had a letter from Billy in
August. But I heard nothing of any engagement.''

``How about the Henshaws? I should think
there might be a chance there for a romance-- a
charming girl, and three unattached men.''

Calderwell gave a slow shake of the head.

``I don't think so. William is--let me see--
nearly forty-five, I guess, by this time; and he
isn't a marrying man. He buried his heart with
his wife and baby years ago. Cyril, according to
Bertram, `hates women and all other confusion,'
so that ought to let him out. As for Bertram
himself--Bertram is `only Bertram.' He's always
been that. Bertram loves girls--to paint; but
I can't imagine him making serious love to any
one. It would always be the tilt of a chin or the
turn of a cheek that he was admiring--to paint.

No, there's no chance for a romance there, I'll

``But there's--yourself.''

Calderwell's eyebrows rose the fraction of an

``Oh, of course. I presume January or February
will find me back there,'' he admitted with a
sigh and a shrug. Then, a little bitterly, he added:
``No, Arkwright. I shall keep away if I can. I
_know_ there's no chance for me--now.''

``Then you'll leave me a clear field?'' bantered
the other.

``Of course--`Mary Jane,' '' retorted Calderwell,
with equal lightness.

``Thank you.''

``Oh, you needn't,'' laughed Calderwell. ``My
giving you the right of way doesn't insure you a
thoroughfare for yourself--there are others, you
know. Billy Neilson has had sighing swains about I
her, I imagine, since she could walk and talk. She
is a wonderfully fascinating little bit of femininity,
and she has a heart of pure gold. All is, I envy
the man who wins it--for the man who wins
that, wins her.''

There was no answer. Arkwright sat with his
eyes on the moving throng outside the window
near them. Perhaps he had not heard. At all
events, when he spoke some time later, it was of a
matter far removed from Miss Billy Neilson, or
the way to her heart. Nor was the young lady
mentioned between them again that day.

Long hours later, just before parting for the
night, Arkwright said:

``Calderwell, I'm sorry, but I believe, after all,
I can't take that trip to the lakes with you. I--
I'm going home next week.''

``Home! Hang it, Arkwright! I'd counted on
you. Isn't this rather sudden?''

``Yes, and no. I'll own I've been drifting about
with you contentedly enough for the last six
months to make you think mountain-climbing and
boat-paddling were the end and aim of my existence.
But they aren't, you know, really.''

``Nonsense! At heart you're as much of a
vagabond as I am; and you know it.''

``Perhaps. But unfortunately I don't happen
to carry your pocketbook.''

``You may, if you like. I'll hand it over any
time,'' grinned Calderwell.

``Thanks. You know well enough what I
mean,'' shrugged the other.

There was a moment's silence; then Calderwell

``Arkwright, how old are you?''


``Good! Then you're merely travelling to
supplement your education, see?''

``Oh, yes, I see. But something besides my
education has got to be supplemented now, I reckon.''

``What are you going to do?''

There was an almost imperceptible hesitation;
then, a little shortly, came the answer:

``Hit the trail for Grand Opera, and bring up,
probably--in vaudeville.''

Calderwell smiled appreciatively.

``You _can_ sing like the devil,'' he admitted.

``Thanks,'' returned his friend, with uplifted
eyebrows. ``Do you mind calling it `an angel'
--just for this occasion?''

``Oh, the matine-girls will do that fast enough.
But, I say, Arkwright, what are you going to do
with those initials then?''

``Let 'em alone.''

``Oh, no, you won't. And you won't be `Mary
Jane,' either. Imagine a Mary Jane in Grand
Opera! I know what you'll be. You'll be `Seor
Martini Johnini Arkwrightino'! By the way,
you didn't say what that `M. J.' really did stand
for,'' hinted Calderwell, shamelessly

`` `Merely Jokes'--in your estimation,
evidently,'' shrugged the other. ``But my going
isn't a joke, Calderwell. I'm really going. And
I'm going to work.''

``But--how shall you manage?''

``Time will tell.''

Calderwell frowned and stirred restlessly in his

``But, honestly, now, to--to follow that trail
of yours will take money. And--er--'' a faint
red stole to his forehead--``don't they have--
er--patrons for these young and budding geniuses?
Why can't I have a hand in this trail, too
--or maybe you'd call it a foot, eh? I'd be no
end glad to, Arkwright.''

``Thanks, old man.'' The red was duplicated
this time above the brown silky beard. ``That
was mighty kind of you, and I appreciate it; but
it won't be necessary. A generous, but perhaps
misguided bachelor uncle left me a few thousands
a year or so ago; and I'm going to put them all
down my throat--or rather, _into_ it--before I
give up.''

``Where you going to study? New York?''

Again there was an almost imperceptible
hesitation before the answer came.

``I'm not quite prepared to say.''

``Why not try it here?''

Arkwright shook his head.

``I did plan to, when I came over but I've
changed my mind. I believe I'd rather work
while longer in America.''

``Hm-m,'' murmured Calderwell.

There was a brief silence, followed by other
questions and other answers; after which the
friends said good night.

In his own room, as he was dropping off to
sleep, Calderwell muttered drowsily:

``By George! I haven't found out yet what
that blamed `M. J.' stands for!''



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,

``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,

Billy laughed, and tossed the note back on the

``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

``The other _two!_'' cried Aunt Hannah.

Billy laughed.

``Oh, I forgot. You didn't know about 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

``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,

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

``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

``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

``All the family would send love, I know.

``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

``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

``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

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.



Bertram called that evening. Before the open
fire in the living-room he found a pensive Billy
awaiting him--a Billy who let herself be kissed,
it is true, and who even kissed back, shyly, adorably;
but a Billy who looked at him with wide,
almost frightened eyes.

``Why, darling, what's the matter?'' he
demanded, his own eyes growing wide and frightened.

``Bertram, it's--done!''

``What's done? What do you mean?''

``Our engagement. It's--announced. I wrote
stacks of notes to-day, and even now there are
some left for to-morrow. And then there's--the
newspapers. Bertram, right away, now, _everybody_
will know it.'' Her voice was tragic.

Bertram relaxed visibly. A tender light came
to his eyes.

``Well, didn't you expect everybody would
know it, my dear?''

``Y-yes; but--''

At her hesitation, the tender light changed
to a quick fear.

``Billy, you aren't--sorry?''

The pink glory that suffused her face answered
him before her words did.

``Sorry! Oh, never, Bertram! It's only that
it won't be ours any longer--that is, it won't
belong to just our two selves. Everybody will
know it. And they'll bow and smile and say `How
lovely!' to our faces, and `Did you ever?' to
our backs. Oh, no, I'm not sorry, Bertram; but
I am--afraid.''



Billy sighed, and gazed with pensive eyes into
the fire.

Across Bertram's face swept surprise,
consternation, and dismay. Bertram had thought he
knew Billy in all her moods and fancies; but he
did not know her in this one.

``Why, Billy!'' he breathed.

Billy drew another sigh. It seemed to come
from the very bottoms of her small, satin-slippered

``Well, I am. You're _the_ Bertram Henshaw.
You know lots and lots of people that I never
even saw. And they'll come and stand around
and stare and lift their lorgnettes and say: `Is
that the one? Dear me!' ''

Bertram gave a relieved laugh.

``Nonsense, sweetheart! I should think you
were a picture I'd painted and hung on a

``I shall feel as if I were--with all those friends
of yours. Bertram, what if they don't like it?''
Her voice had grown tragic again.

``_Like_ it!''

``Yes. The picture--me, I mean.''

``They can't help liking it,'' he retorted, with
the prompt certainty of an adoring lover.

Billy shook her head. Her eyes had gone back
to the fire.

``Oh, yes, they can. I can hear them. `What,
_she_--Bertram Henshaw's wife?--a frivolous,
inconsequential ``Billy'' like that?' Bertram!''
--Billy turned fiercely despairing eyes on her
lover--``Bertram, sometimes I wish my name
were `Clarissa Cordelia,' or `Arabella Maud,'
or `Hannah Jane'--anything that's feminine
and proper!''

Bertram's ringing laugh brought a faint smile
to Billy's lips. But the words that followed the
laugh, and the caressing touch of the man's hands
sent a flood of shy color to her face.

`` `Hannah Jane,' indeed! As if I'd exchange
my Billy for her or any Clarissa or Arabella
that ever grew! I adore Billy--flame, nature,

``And naughtiness?'' put in Billy herself.

``Yes--if there be any,'' laughed Bertram,
fondly. ``But, see,'' he added, taking a tiny box
from his pocket, ``see what I've brought for
this same Billy to wear. She'd have had it long
ago if she hadn't insisted on waiting for this
announcement business.''

``Oh, Bertram, what a beauty!'' dimpled
Billy, as the flawless diamond in Bertram's fingers
caught the light and sent it back in a flash of
flame and crimson.

``Now you are mine--really mine, sweetheart!''
The man's voice and hand shook as he
slipped the ring on Billy's outstretched finger.

Billy caught her breath with almost a sob.

``And I'm so glad to be--yours, dear,'' she
murmured brokenly. ``And--and I'll make you
proud that I am yours, even if I am just `Billy,' ''
she choked. ``Oh, I know I'll write such beautiful,
beautiful songs now.''

The man drew her into a close embrace.

``As if I cared for that,'' he scoffed lovingly.

Billy looked up in quick horror.

``Why, Bertram, you don't mean you don't

He laughed lightly, and took the dismayed
little face between his two hands.

``Care, darling? of course I care! You know
how I love your music. I care about everything
that concerns you. I meant that I'm proud of
you _now_--just you. I love _you_, you know.''

There was a moment's pause. Billy's eyes,
as they looked at him, carried a curious intentness
in their dark depths.

``You mean, you like--the turn of my head
and the tilt of my chin?'' she asked a little breathlessly.

``I adore them!'' came the prompt answer.

To Bertram's utter amazement, Billy drew
back with a sharp cry.

``No, no--not that!''

``Why, _Billy!_''

Billy laughed unexpectedly; then she sighed.

``Oh, it's all right, of course,'' she assured
him hastily. ``It's only--'' Billy stopped and
blushed. Billy was thinking of what Hugh Calderwell
had once said to her: that Bertram Henshaw
would never love any girl seriously; that it would
always be the turn of her head or the tilt of her
chin that he loved--to paint.

``Well; only what?'' demanded Bertram.

Billy blushed the more deeply, but she gave a
light laugh.

``Nothing, only something Hugh Calderwell
said to me once. You see, Bertram, I don't
think Hugh ever thought you would--marry.''

``Oh, didn't he?'' bridled Bertram. ``Well,
that only goes to show how much he knows
about it. Er--did you announce it--to
him?'' Bertram's voice was almost savage

Billy smiled.

``No; but I did to his sister, and she'll tell
him. Oh, Bertram, such a time as I had over
those notes,'' went on Billy, with a chuckle.
Her eyes were dancing, and she was seeming more
like her usual self, Bertram thought. ``You see
there were such a lot of things I wanted to say,
about what a dear you were, and how much I--I
liked you, and that you had such lovely eyes,
and a nose--''

``Billy!'' This time it was Bertram who was
sitting erect in pale horror.

Billy threw him a roguish glance.

``Goosey! You are as bad as Aunt Hannah!
I said that was what I _wanted_ to say. What
I really said was--quite another matter,''
she finished with a saucy uptilting of her

Bertram relaxed with a laugh.

``You witch!'' His admiring eyes still lingered
on her face. ``Billy, I'm going to paint you
sometime in just that pose. You're adorable!''

``Pooh! Just another face of a girl,'' teased the
adorable one.

Bertram gave a sudden exclamation.

``There! And I haven't told you, yet. Guess
what my next commission is.''

``To paint a portrait?''


``Can't. Who is it?''

``J. G. Winthrop's daughter.''

``Not _the_ J. G. Winthrop?''

``The same.''

``Oh, Bertram, how splendid!''

``Isn't it? And then the girl herself! Have you
seen her? But you haven't, I know, unless you
met her abroad. She hasn't been in Boston for
years until now.''

``No, I haven't seen her. Is she so _very_
beautiful?'' Billy spoke a little soberly.

``Yes--and no.'' The artist lifted his head
alertly. What Billy called his ``painting look''
came to his face. ``It isn't that her features
are so regular--though her mouth and chin are
perfect. But her face has so much character,
and there's an elusive something about her eyes
--Jove! If I can only catch it, it'll be the best
thing yet that I've ever done, Billy.''

``Will it? I'm so glad--and you'll get it,
I know you will,'' claimed Billy, clearing her
throat a little nervously.

``I wish I felt so sure,'' sighed Bertram. ``But
it'll be a great thing if I do get it--J. G. Winthrop's
daughter, you know, besides the merit of
the likeness itself.''

``Yes; yes, indeed!'' Billy cleared her throat
again. ``You've seen her, of course, lately?''

``Oh, yes. I was there half the morning
discussing the details--sittings and costume, and
deciding on the pose.''

``Did you find one--to suit?''

``Find one!'' The artist made a despairing
gesture. ``I found a dozen that I wanted. The
trouble was to tell which I wanted the most.''

Billy gave a nervous little laugh.

``Isn't that--unusual?'' she asked.

Bertram lifted his eyebrows with a quizzical

``Well, they aren't all Marguerite Winthrops,''
he reminded her.

``Marguerite!'' cried Billy. ``Oh, is her name
Marguerite? I do think Marguerite is the dearest
name!'' Billy's eyes and voice were wistful.

``I don't--not the _dearest_. Oh, it's all well
enough, of course, but it can't be compared for
a moment to--well, say, `Billy'!''

Billy smiled, but she shook her head.

``I'm afraid you're not a good judge of names,''
she objected.

``Yes, I am; though, for that matter, I should
love your name, no matter what it was.''

``Even if 'twas `Mary Jane,' eh?'' bantered
Billy. ``Well, you'll have a chance to find out
how you like that name pretty quick, sir. We're
going to have one here.''

``You're going to have a Mary Jane here? Do
you mean that Rosa's going away?''

``Mercy! I hope not,'' shuddered Billy. ``You
don't find a Rosa in every kitchen--and never
in employment agencies! My Mary Jane is a
niece of Aunt Hannah's,--or rather, a cousin.
She's coming to Boston to study music, and I've
invited her here. We've asked her for a month,
though I presume we shall keep her right

Bertram frowned.

``Well, of course, that's very nice for--_Mary
Jane_,'' he sighed with meaning emphasis.

Billy laughed.

``Don't worry, dear. She won't bother us any.''

``Oh, yes, she will,'' sighed Bertram. ``She'll
be 'round--lots; you see if she isn't. Billy, I
think sometimes you're almost too kind--to
other folks.''

``Never!'' laughed Billy. Besides, what would
you have me do when a lonesome young girl was
coming to Boston? Anyhow, _you're_ not the one
to talk, young man. I've known _you_ to take in
a lonesome girl and give her a home,'' she flashed

Bertram chuckled.

``Jove! What a time that was!'' he exclaimed,
regarding his companion with fond eyes. ``And
Spunk, too! Is she going to bring a Spunk?''

``Not that I've heard,'' smiled Billy; ``but she
_is_ going to wear a pink.''

``Not really, Billy?''

``Of course she is! I told her to. How do you
suppose we could know her when we saw her,
if she didn't?'' demanded the girl, indignantly.
``And what is more, sir, there will be _two_ pinks
worn this time. _I_ sha'n't do as Uncle William did,
and leave off my pink. Only think what long minutes--
that seemed hours of misery--I spent
waiting there in that train-shed, just because
I didn't know which man was my Uncle

Bertram laughed and shrugged his shoulders.

``Well, your Mary Jane won't probably turn
out to be quite such a bombshell as our Billy
did--unless she should prove to be a boy,'' he
added whimsically. ``Oh, but Billy, she _can't_
turn out to be such a dear treasure,'' finished the
man. And at the adoring look in his eyes Billy
blushed deeply--and promptly forgot all about
Mary Jane and her pink.



``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

``As if it could look any other way, if _you_ had
anything to do with it,'' sighed Aunt Hannah,

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

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

``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.''


``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

``Why, how--how--'' Aunt Hannah stopped

``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

``Oh, Bertram, I'm proud, proud, _proud_ of
you!'' she breathed. ``Come, let's go over to
the fire-and talk!''



Billy with John and Peggy met Marie Hawthorn
at the station. ``Peggy'' was short for
``Pegasus,'' and was what Billy always called
her luxurious, seven-seated touring car.

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

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

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

Billy's lips curved in a mischievous smile.

``No, he didn't come,'' she said. ``He didn't
want to--a little bit.''

Marie grew actually pale.

``Didn't _want_ to!'' she stammered.

Billy gave her a spasmodic hug.

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

Marie sighed her relief.

``Oh, that's all right then. I was afraid he
was sick--when I didn't see him.''

Billy laughed softly.

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

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

``Billy, dear, he--he didn't!''

``Marie, dear--he--he did!''

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

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

``Have you settled on where you're going to

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


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

``But, dear, it wouldn't be wise, I'm sure,''
she argued hastily. ``There will be you and

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

Marie smiled, but she shook her head.

``Lovely--but not practical, dear.''

Billy laughed ruefully.

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

``Billy, what are you talking about?''

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

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

Marie's eyes softened.

``Did he say--that?''

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

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

``Did you know--then--about--me?'' she
asked, with heightened color.

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

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

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

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

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

``I hope it will, indeed!'' she breathed.

Not until they were almost home did Billy
say suddenly:

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

``Er--yes, Cyril told me,'' admitted Marie.

Billy smiled.

``Didn't like it, I suppose; eh?'' she queried

``N-no, I'm afraid he didn't--very well . He
said she'd be--one more to be around.''

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

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

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



After a week of beautiful autumn weather,
Thursday dawned raw and cold. By noon an
east wind had made the temperature still more

At two o'clock Aunt Hannah tapped at Billy's
chamber door. She showed a troubled face to
the girl who answered her knock.

``Billy, _would_ you mind very much if I asked
you to go alone to the Carletons' and to meet
Mary Jane?'' she inquired anxiously.

``Why, no--that is, of course I should _mind_,
dear, because I always like to have you go to
places with me. But it isn't necessary. You
aren't sick; are you?''

``N-no, not exactly; but I have been sneezing
all the morning, and taking camphor and sugar
to break it up--if it is a cold. But it is so raw
and Novemberish out, that--''

``Why, of course you sha'n't go, you poor
dear! Mercy! don't get one of those dreadful
colds on to you before the wedding! Have you felt
a draft? Where's another shawl?'' Billy turned
and cast searching eyes about the room--Billy
always kept shawls everywhere for Aunt Hannah's
shoulders and feet. Bertram had been known
to say, indeed, that a room, according to Aunt
Hannah, was not fully furnished unless it contained
from one to four shawls, assorted as to size
and warmth. Shawls, certainly, did seem to be
a necessity with Aunt Hannah, as she usually
wore from one to three at the same time--which
again caused Bertram to declare that he always
counted Aunt Hannah's shawls when he wished
to know what the thermometer was.

``No, I'm not cold, and I haven't felt a draft,''
said Aunt Hannah now. ``I put on my thickest
gray shawl this morning with the little pink one
for down-stairs, and the blue one for breakfast;
so you see I've been very careful. But I _have_
sneezed six times, so I think 'twould be safer not
to go out in this east wind. You were going to
stop for Mrs. Granger, anyway, weren't you?
So you'll have her with you for the tea.''

``Yes, dear, don't worry. I'll take your cards
and explain to Mrs. Carleton and her daughters.''

``And, of course, as far as Mary Jane is
concerned, I don't know her any more than you do;
so I couldn't be any help there,'' sighed Aunt

``Not a bit,'' smiled Billy, cheerily. ``Don't
give it another thought, my dear. I sha'n't
have a bit of trouble. All I'll have to do is to
look for a girl alone with a pink. Of course I'll
have mine on, too, and she'll be watching for me.
So just run along and take your nap, dear, and be
all rested and ready to welcome her when she
comes,'' finished Billy, stooping to give the soft,
faintly pink cheek a warm kiss.

``Well, thank you, my dear; perhaps I will,''
sighed Aunt Hannah, drawing the gray shawl
about her as she turned away contentedly.

Mrs. Carleton's tea that afternoon was, for
Billy, not an occasion of unalloyed joy. It was the
first time she had appeared at a gathering of
any size since the announcement of her engagement;
and, as she dolefully told Bertram afterwards,
she had very much the feeling of the picture
hung on the wall.

``And they _did_ put up their lorgnettes and say,
`Is _that_ the one?' '' she declared; ``and I know
some of them finished with `Did you ever?' too,''
she sighed.

But Billy did not stay long in Mrs. Carleton's
softly-lighted, flower-perfumed rooms. At ten
minutes past four she was saying good-by to a
group of friends who were vainly urging her to
remain longer.

``I can't--I really can't,'' she declared. ``I'm
due at the South Station at half past four to
meet a Miss Arkwright, a young cousin of Aunt
Hannah's, whom I've never seen before. We're
to meet at the sign of the pink,'' she explained
smilingly, just touching the single flower she

Her hostess gave a sudden laugh.

``Let me see, my dear; if I remember rightly,
you've had experience before, meeting at this
sign of the pink. At least, I have a very vivid
recollection of Mr. William Henshaw's going once
to meet a _boy_ with a pink, who turned out to be
a girl. Now, to even things up, your girl should
turn out to be a boy!''

Billy smiled and reddened.

``Perhaps--but I don't think to-day will
strike the balance,'' she retorted, backing toward
the door. ``This young lady's name is `Mary
Jane'; and I'll leave it to you to find anything
very masculine in that!''

It was a short drive from Mrs. Carleton's
Commonwealth Avenue home to the South Station,
and Peggy made as quick work of it as the
narrow, congested cross streets would allow.
In ample time Billy found herself in the great
waiting-room, with John saying respectfully in
her ear:

``The man says the train comes in on Track
Fourteen, Miss, an' it's on time.''

At twenty-nine minutes past four Billy left
her seat and walked down the train-shed platform
to Track Number Fourteen. She had pinned
the pink now to the outside of her long coat, and
it made an attractive dash of white against the
dark-blue velvet. Billy was looking particularly
lovely to-day. Framing her face was the big
dark-blue velvet picture hat with its becoming
white plumes.

During the brief minutes' wait before the clanging
locomotive puffed into view far down the long
track, Billy's thoughts involuntarily went back
to that other watcher beside a train gate not
quite five years before.

``Dear Uncle William!'' she murmured
tenderly. Then suddenly she laughed--so nearly
aloud that a man behind her gave her a covert
glance from curious eyes. ``My! but what a
jolt I must have been to Uncle William!'' Billy
was thinking.

The next minute she drew nearer the gate and
regarded with absorbed attention the long line
of passengers already sweeping up the narrow
aisle between the cars.

Hurrying men came first, with long strides,
and eyes that looked straight ahead. These
Billy let pass with a mere glance. The next group
showed a sprinkling of women--women whose
trig hats and linen collars spelled promptness as
well as certainty of aim and accomplishment.
To these, also, Billy paid scant attention. Couples
came next--the men anxious-eyed, and usually
walking two steps ahead of their companions;
the women plainly flustered and hurried, and
invariably buttoning gloves or gathering up trailing
ends of scarfs or boas.

The crowd was thickening fast, now, and Billy's
eyes were alert. Children were appearing, and
young women walking alone. One of these wore
a bunch of violets. Billy gave her a second glance.
Then she saw a pink--but it was on the coat lapel
of a tall young fellow with a brown beard; so with
a slight frown she looked beyond down the line.

Old men came now, and old women; fleshy
women, and women with small children and babies.
Couples came, too--dawdling couples, plainly
newly married: the men were not two steps
ahead, and the women's gloves were buttoned and
their furs in place.

Gradually the line thinned, and soon there were
left only an old man with a cane, and a young
woman with three children. Yet nowhere had
Billy seen a girl wearing a white carnation, and
walking alone.

With a deeper frown on her face Billy turned
and looked about her. She thought that somewhere
in the crowd she had missed Mary Jane,
and that she would find her now, standing near.
But there was no one standing near except the
good-looking young fellow with the little pointed
brown beard, who, as Billy noticed a second
time, was wearing a white carnation.

As she glanced toward him, their eyes met.
Then, to Billy's unbounded amazement, the man
advanced with uplifted hat.

``I beg your pardon, but is not this--Miss

Billy drew back with just a touch of hauteur.

``Y-yes,'' she murmured.

``I thought so--yet I was expecting to see
you with Aunt Hannah. I am M. J. Arkwright,
Miss Neilson.''

For a brief instant Billy stared dazedly.

``You don't mean--Mary Jane?'' she gasped.

``I'm afraid I do.'' His lips twitched.

``But I thought--we were expecting--''
She stopped helplessly. For one more brief
instant she stared; then, suddenly, a swift
change came to her face. Her eyes danced.

``Oh--oh!'' she chuckled. ``How perfectly
funny! You _have_ evened things up, after
all. To think that Mary Jane should be a--''
She paused and flashed almost angrily suspicious
eyes into his face. ``But mine _was_ `Billy,' ''
she cried. ``Your name isn't really--Mary

``I am often called that.'' His brown eyes
twinkled, but they did not swerve from their
direct gaze into her own.

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