Part 2 out of 7
``But--'' Billy hesitated, and turned her
eyes away. She saw then that many curious
glances were already being flung in her direction.
The color in her cheeks deepened. With an odd
little gesture she seemed to toss something aside.
``Never mind,'' she laughed a little hysterically.
``If you'll pick up your bag, please, Mr.
Mary Jane, and come with me. John and Peggy
are waiting. Or--I forgot--you have a trunk,
The man raised a protesting hand.
``Thank you; but, Miss Neilson, really--I
couldn't think of trespassing on your hospitality
--now, you know.''
``But we--we invited you,'' stammered Billy.
He shook his head.
``You invited _Miss_ Mary Jane.''
Billy bubbled into low laughter.
``I beg your pardon, but it _is_ funny,'' she sighed.
``You see _I_ came once just the same way, and
now to have the tables turned like this! What
will Aunt Hannah say--what will everybody
say? Come, I want them to begin--to say it,''
she chuckled irrepressibly.
``Thank you, but I shall go to a hotel, of course.
Later, if you'll be so good as to let me call, and
``But I'm afraid Aunt Hannah will think--''
Billy stopped abruptly. Some distance away
she saw John coming toward them. She turned
hurriedly to the man at her side. Her eyes still
danced, but her voice was mockingly serious.
``Really, Mr. Mary Jane, I'm afraid you'll have
to come to dinner; then you can settle the rest
with Aunt Hannah. John is almost upon us--
and _I_ don't want to make explanations. Do you?''
``John,'' she said airily to the somewhat dazed
chauffeur (who had been told he was to meet a
young woman), ``take Mr. Arkwright's bag,
please, and show him where Peggy is waiting.
It will be five minutes, perhaps, before I can come
--if you'll kindly excuse me,'' she added to
Arkwright, with a flashing glance from merry
eyes. ``I have some--telephoning to do.''
All the way to the telephone booth Billy was
trying to bring order out of the chaos of her mind;
but all the way, too, she was chuckling.
``To think that this thing should have happened
to _me!_'' she said, almost aloud. ``And here I
am telephoning just like Uncle William--Bertram
said Uncle William _did_ telephone about _me!_''
In due course Billy had Aunt Hannah at the
other end of the wire.
``Aunt Hannah, listen. I'd never have
believed it, but it's happened. Mary Jane is--a
Billy heard a dismayed gasp and a muttered
``Oh, my grief and conscience!'' then a shaking
``I say, Mary Jane is a man.'' Billy was
enjoying herself hugely.
``Yes; a great big man with a brown beard.
He's waiting now with John and I must go.''
``But, Billy, I don't understand,'' chattered
an agitated voice over the line. ``He--he called
himself `Mary Jane.' He hasn't any business
to be a big man with a brown beard! What shall
we do? We don't want a big man with a brown
Billy laughed roguishly.
``I don't know. _You_ asked him! How he
will like that little blue room--Aunt Hannah!''
Billy's voice turned suddenly tragic. ``For pity's
sake take out those curling tongs and hairpins,
and the work-basket. I'd _never_ hear the last of
it if he saw those, I know. He's just that kind!''
A half stifled groan came over the wire.
``Billy, he can't stay here.''
Billy laughed again.
``No, no, dear; he won't, I know. He says
he's going to a hotel. But I had to bring him home
to dinner; there was no other way, under the
circumstances. He won't stay. Don't you worry.
But good-by. I must go. _Remember those curling
tongs!_'' And the receiver clicked sharply against
In the automobile some minutes later, Billy
and Mr. M. J. Arkwright were speeding toward
Corey Hill. It was during a slight pause in the
conversation that Billy turned to her companion
with a demure:
``I telephoned Aunt Hannah, Mr. Arkwright.
I thought she ought to be--warned.''
``You are very kind. What did she say?--if
I may ask.''
There was a brief moment of hesitation before
``She said you called yourself `Mary Jane,'
and that you hadn't any business to be a big man
with a brown beard.''
``I'm afraid I owe Aunt Hannah an apology,''
he said. He hesitated, glanced admiringly at the
glowing, half-averted face near him, then went
on decisively. He wore the air of a man who has
set the match to his bridges. ``I signed both
letters `M. J. Arkwright,' but in the first one
I quoted a remark of a friend, and in that remark
I was addressed as `Mary Jane.' I did not know
but Aunt Hannah knew of the nickname.''
(Arkwright was speaking a little slowly now, as if
weighing his words.) ``But when she answered,
I saw that she did not; for, from something she
said, I realized that she thought I was a real
Mary Jane. For the joke of the thing I let it pass.
But--if she noticed my letter carefully, she saw
that I did not accept your kind invitation to give
`Mary Jane' a home.''
``Yes, we noticed that,'' nodded Billy, merrily.
``But we didn't think you meant it. You see
we pictured you as a shy young thing. But,
really,'' she went on with a low laugh, ``you see
your coming as a masculine `Mary Jane' was
particularly funny--for me; for, though perhaps
you didn't know it, I came once to this very same
city, wearing a pink, and was expected to be Billy,
a boy. And only to-day a lady warned me that
your coming might even things up. But I didn't
believe it would--a Mary Jane!''
Arkwright laughed. Again he hesitated, and
seemed to be weighing his words.
``Yes, I heard about that coming of yours.
I might almost say--that's why I--let the
mistake pass in Aunt Hannah's letter,'' he said.
Billy turned with reproachful eyes.
``Oh, how could--you? But then--it was a
temptation!'' She laughed suddenly. ``What
sinful joy you must have had watching me hunt
for `Mary Jane.' ''
``I didn't,'' acknowledged the other, with
unexpected candor. ``I felt--ashamed. And when
I saw you were there alone without Aunt Hannah,
I came very near not speaking at all--until I
realized that that would be even worse, under the
``Of course it would,'' smiled Billy, brightly;
``so I don't see but I shall have to forgive you,
after all. And here we are at home, Mr. Mary
Jane. By the way, what did you say that `M. J.'
did stand for?'' she asked, as the car came to a
The man did not seem to hear; at least he did
not answer. He was helping his hostess to alight.
A moment later a plainly agitated Aunt Hannah
--her gray shawl topped with a huge black one
--opened the door of the house.
OLD FRIENDS AND NEW
At ten minutes before six on the afternoon of
Arkwright's arrival, Billy came into the living-
room to welcome the three Henshaw brothers,
who, as was frequently the case, were dining at
Bertram thought Billy had never looked prettier
than she did this afternoon with the bronze sheen
of her pretty house gown bringing out the bronze
lights in her dark eyes and in the soft waves of
her beautiful hair. Her countenance, too, carried
a peculiar something that the artist's eye was quick
to detect, and that the artist's fingers tingled to
put on canvas.
``Jove! Billy,'' he said low in her ear, as he
greeted her, ``I wish I had a brush in my hand
this minute. I'd have a `Face of a Girl' that
would be worth while!''
Billy laughed and dimpled her appreciation;
but down in her heart she was conscious of a
vague unrest. Billy wished, sometimes, that she
did not so often seem to Bertram--a picture.
She turned to Cyril with outstretched hand.
``Oh, yes, Marie's coming,'' she smiled in
answer to the quick shifting of Cyril's eyes to the
hall doorway. ``And Aunt Hannah, too. They're
``And Mary Jane?'' demanded William, a
``Will's getting nervous,'' volunteered Bertram,
airily. ``He wants to see Mary Jane. You see
we've told him that we shall expect him to see
that she doesn't bother us four too much, you
know. He's expected always to remove her quietly
but effectually, whenever he sees that she is
likely to interrupt a t
Will wants to see Mary Jane.''
Billy began to laugh hysterically. She dropped
into a chair and raised both her hands, palms
``Don't, don't--please don't!'' she choked,
``or I shall die. I've had all I can stand, already.''
``All you can stand?''
``What do you mean?''
``Is she so--impossible?'' This last was from
Bertram, spoken softly, and with a hurried glance
toward the hall.
Billy dropped her hands and lifted her head.
By heroic effort she pulled her face into sobriety
--all but her eyes--and announced:
``Mary Jane is--a man.''
Three masculine forms sat suddenly erect.
``Yes. Oh, Uncle William, I know now just
how you felt--I know, I know,'' gurgled Billy,
incoherently. ``There he stood with his pink
just as I did--only he had a brown beard, and
he didn't have Spunk--and I had to telephone
to prepare folks, just as you did. And the room
--the room! I fixed the room, too,'' she babbled
breathlessly, ``only I had curling tongs and hair
pins in it instead of guns and spiders!''
``Child, child! what _are_ you talking about?''
William's face was red.
``A _man!_--_Mary Jane!_'' Cyril was merely
``Billy, what does this mean?'' Bertram had
grown a little white.
Billy began to laugh again, yet she was plainly
trying to control herself.
``I'll tell you. I must tell you. Aunt Hannah
is keeping him up-stairs so I can tell you,'' she
panted. ``But it was so funny, when I expected
a girl, you know, to see him with his brown
beard, and he was so tall and big! And, of course,
it made me think how _I_ came, and was a girl
when you expected a boy; and Mrs. Carleton
had just said to-day that maybe this girl would
even things up. Oh, it was so funny!''
``Billy, my-my dear,'' remonstrated Uncle
``But what _is_ his name?'' demanded Cyril.
``Did the creature sign himself `Mary Jane'?''
``I don't know his name, except that it's `M.
J.'--and that's how he signed the letters. But
he _is_ called `Mary Jane' sometimes, and in the
letter he quoted somebody's speech--I've
forgotten just how--but in it he was called `Mary
Jane,' and, of course, Aunt Hannah took him
for a girl,'' explained Billy, grown a little more
``Didn't he write again?'' asked William.
``Well, why didn't he correct the mistake,
then?'' demanded Bertram.
``He didn't want to, I guess. He thought it
was too good a joke.''
``Joke!'' scoffed Cyril.
``But, see here, Billy, he isn't going to live here
--now?'' Bertram's voice was almost savage.
``Oh, no, he isn't going to live here--now,''
interposed smooth tones from the doorway.
``Mr.--Arkwright!'' breathed Billy, confusedly.
Three crimson-faced men sprang to their feet.
The situation, for a moment, threatened embarrassed
misery for all concerned; but Arkwright,
with a cheery smile, advanced straight toward
Bertram, and held out a friendly hand.
``The proverbial fate of listeners,'' he said
easily; ``but I don't blame you at all. No,
`he' isn't going to live here,'' he went on,
grasping each brother's hand in turn, as Billy
murmured faint introductions; ``and what is more,
he hereby asks everybody's pardon for the annoyance
his little joke has caused. He might add
that he's heartily-ashamed of himself, as well;
but if any of you--'' Arkwright turned to the
three tall men still standing by their chairs--
``if any of you had suffered what he has at the
hands of a swarm of youngsters for that name's
sake, you wouldn't blame him for being tempted
to get what fun he could out of Mary Jane--if
there ever came a chance!''
Naturally, after this, there could be nothing
stiff or embarrassing. Billy laughed in relief,
and motioned Mr. Arkwright to a seat near her.
William said ``Of course, of course!'' and shook
hands again. Bertram and Cyril laughed
shamefacedly and sat down. Somebody said: ``But
what does the `M. J.' stand for, anyhow?''
Nobody answered this, however; perhaps
because Aunt Hannah and Marie appeared just
then in the doorway.
Dinner proved to be a lively meal. In the
newcomer, Bertram met his match for wit and satire;
and ``Mr. Mary Jane,'' as he was promptly called
by every one but Aunt Hannah, was found to
be a most entertaining guest.
After dinner somebody suggested music.
Cyril frowned, and got up abruptly. Still
frowning, he turned to a bookcase near him and
began to take down and examine some of the
Bertram twinkled and glanced at Billy.
``Which is it, Cyril?'' he called with cheerful
impertinence; ``stool, piano, or audience that is
the matter to-night?''
Only a shrug from Cyril answered.
``You see,'' explained Bertram, jauntily, to
Arkwright, whose eyes were slightly puzzled,
``Cyril never plays unless the piano and the pedals
and the weather and your ears and my watch
and his fingers are just right!''
``Nonsense!'' scorned Cyril, dropping his book
and walking back to his chair. ``I don't feel
like playing to-night; that's all.''
``You see,'' nodded Bertram again.
``I see,'' bowed Arkwright with quiet amusement.
``I believe--Mr. Mary Jane--sings,'' observed
Billy, at this point, demurely.
``Why, yes, of course, ' chimed in Aunt Hannah
with some nervousness. ``That's what she--I
mean he--was coming to Boston for--to study
``Won't you sing, please?'' asked Billy. ``Can
you--without your notes? I have lots of songs
if you want them.''
For a moment--but only a moment--Arkwright
hesitated; then he rose and went to the
With the easy sureness of the trained musician
his fingers dropped to the keys and slid into
preliminary chords and arpeggios to test the touch of
the piano; then, with a sweetness and purity that
made every listener turn in amazed delight, a
well-trained tenor began the ``Thro' the leaves
the night winds moving,'' of Schubert's Serenade.
Cyril's chin had lifted at the first tone. He was
listening now with very obvious pleasure. Bertram,
too, was showing by his attitude the keenest
appreciation. William and Aunt Hannah, resting
back in their chairs, were contentedly nodding their
approval to each other. Marie in her corner was
motionless with rapture. As to Billy--Billy
was plainly oblivious of everything but the song
and the singer. She seemed scarcely to move or
to breathe till the song's completion; then there
came a low ``Oh, how beautiful!'' through her
Bertram, looking at her, was conscious of a
``Arkwright, you're a lucky dog,'' he declared
almost crossly. ``I wish I could sing like that!''
``I wish I could paint a `Face of a Girl,' ''
smiled the tenor as he turned from the piano.
``Oh, but, Mr. Arkwright, don't stop,'' objected
Billy, springing to her feet and going to her music
cabinet by the piano. ``There's a little song
of Nevin's I want you to sing. There, here it is.
Just let me play it for you.'' And she slipped into
the place the singer had just left.
It was the beginning of the end. After Nevin
came De Koven, and after De Koven, Gounod.
Then came Nevin again, Billy still playing the
accompaniment. Next followed a duet. Billy
did not consider herself much of a singer, but her
voice was sweet and true, and not without training.
It blended very prettily with the clear, pure
William and Aunt Hannah still smiled contentedly
in their chairs, though Aunt Hannah had
reached for the pink shawl near her--the music
had sent little shivers down her spine. Cyril,
with Marie, had slipped into the little reception-
room across the hall, ostensibly to look at some
plans for a house, although--as everybody
knew--they were not intending to build for a
Bertram, still sitting stiffly erect in his chair,
was not conscious of a vague irritation now.
He was conscious of a very real, and a very
decided one--an irritation that was directed against
himself, against Billy, and against this man,
Arkwright; but chiefly against music, _#per se_. He
hated music. He wished he could sing. He
wondered how long it took to teach a man to sing,
anyhow; and he wondered if a man could sing--
who never had sung.
At this point the duet came to an end, and Billy
and her guest left the piano. Almost at once,
after this, Arkwright made his very graceful
adieus, and went off with his suit-case to the hotel
where, as he had informed Aunt Hannah, his room
was already engaged.
William went home then, and Aunt Hannah
went up-stairs. Cyril and Marie withdrew into
a still more secluded corner to look at their plans,
and Bertram found himself at last alone with
Billy. He forgot, then, in the blissful hour he
spent with her before the open fire, how he hated
music; though he did say, just before he went
home that night:
``Billy, how long does it take--to learn to
``Why, I don't know, I'm sure,'' replied Billy,
abstractedly; then, with sudden fervor: ``Oh,
Bertram, hasn't Mr. Mary Jane a beautiful
Bertram wished then he had not asked the
question; but all he said was:
`` `Mr. Mary Jane,' indeed! What an absurd
``But doesn't he sing beautifully?''
``Eh? Oh, yes, he sings all right,'' said
Bertram's tongue. Bertram's manner said: ``Oh,
yes, anybody can sing.''
M. J. OPENS THE GAME
On the morning after Cyril's first concert of
the season, Billy sat sewing with Aunt Hannah
in the little sitting-room at the end of the hall
upstairs. Aunt Hannah wore only one shawl this
morning,--which meant that she was feeling
``Marie ought to be here to mend these stockings,''
remarked Billy, as she critically examined
a tiny break in the black silk mesh stretched across
the darning-egg in her hand; ``only she'd want
a bigger hole. She does so love to make a beautiful
black latticework bridge across a yawning white
china sea--and you'd think the safety of an
army depended on the way each plank was laid,
too,'' she concluded.
Aunt Hannah smiled tranquilly, but she did
``I suppose you don't happen to know if Cyril
does wear big holes in his socks,'' resumed Billy,
after a moment's silence. ``If you'll believe it,
that thought popped into my head last night when
Cyril was playing that concerto so superbly. It
did, actually--right in the middle of the adagio
movement, too. And in spite of my joy and pride
in the music I had all I could do to keep from
nudging Marie right there and then and asking
her whether or not the dear man was hard on
``Billy!'' gasped the shocked Aunt Hannah;
but the gasp broke at once into what--in Aunt
Hannah--passed for a chuckle. ``If I remember
rightly, when I was there at the house with you
at first, my dear, William told me that Cyril
wouldn't wear any sock after it came to mending.''
``Horrors!'' Billy waved her stocking in
mock despair. ``That will never do in the world.
It would break Marie's heart. You know how she
dotes on darning.''
``Yes, I know,'' smiled Aunt Hannah. ``By
the way, where is she this morning?''
Billy raised her eyebrows quizzically.
``Gone to look at an apartment in Cambridge, I
believe. Really, Aunt Hannah, between her home-
hunting in the morning, and her furniture-and-
rug hunting in the afternoon, and her poring over
house-plans in the evening, I can't get her to
attend to her clothes at all. Never did I see a
bride so utterly indifferent to her trousseau as
Marie Hawthorn--and her wedding less than
a month away!''
``But she's been shopping with you once or
twice, since she came back, hasn't she? And she
said it was for her trousseau.''
``Her trousseau! Oh, yes, it was. I'll tell you
what she got for her trousseau that first day.
We started out to buy two hats, some lace for
her wedding gown, some cr
for a little dinner frock, and some silk for a couple
of waists to go with her tailored suit; and what did
we get? We purchased a new-style egg-beater and
a set of cake tins. Marie got into the kitchen
department and I simply couldn't get her out of it.
But the next day I was not to be inveigled below
stairs by any plaintive prayer for a nutmeg-
grater or a soda spoon. She _shopped_ that day, and
to some purpose. We accomplished lots.''
Aunt Hannah looked a little concerned.
``But she must have _some_ things started!''
``Oh, she has--'most everything now. _I've_
seen to that. Of course her outfit is very simple,
anyway. Marie hasn't much money, you know,
and she simply won't let me do half what I want
to. Still, she had saved up some money, and I've
finally convinced her that a trousseau doesn't
consist of egg-beaters and cake tins, and that
Cyril would want her to look pretty. That name
will fetch her every time, and I've learned to
use it beautifully. I think if I told her Cyril
approved of short hair and near-sightedness she'd
I cut off her golden locks and don spectacles on the
Aunt Hannah laughed softly.
``What a child you are, Billy! Besides, just
as if Marie were the only one in the house who is
ruled by a magic name!''
The color deepened in Billy's cheeks.
``Well, of course, any girl--cares something--
for the man she loves. Just as if I wouldn't do
anything in the world I could for Bertram!''
``Oh, that makes me think; who was that young
woman Bertram was talking with last evening--
just after he left us, I mean?''
``Miss Winthrop--Miss Marguerite Winthrop.
Bertram is--is painting her portrait, you know.''
``Oh, is that the one?'' murmured Aunt
Hannah. ``Hm-m; well, she has a beautiful face.''
``Yes, she has.'' Billy spoke very cheerfully.
She even hummed a little tune as she carefully
selected a needle from the cushion in her basket.
``There's a peculiar something in her face,''
mused Aunt Hannah, aloud.
The little tune stopped abruptly, ending in a
``Dear me! I wonder how it feels to have a
peculiar something in your face. Bertram, too,
says she has it. He's trying to `catch it,' he says.
I wonder now--if he does catch it, does she lose
it?'' Flippant as were the words, the voice that
uttered them shook a little.
Aunt Hannah smiled indulgently--Aunt Hannah
had heard only the flippancy, not the shake.
``I don't know, my dear. You might ask him
Billy made a sudden movement. The china
egg in her lap rolled to the floor.
``Oh, but I don't see him this afternoon,'' she
said lightly, as she stooped to pick up the egg.
``Why, I'm sure he told me--'' Aunt Hannah's
sentence ended in a questioning pause.
``Yes, I know,'' nodded Billy, brightly; ``but
he's told me something since. He isn't going.
He telephoned me this morning. Miss Winthrop
wanted the sitting changed from to-morrow to
this afternoon. He said he knew I'd understand.''
``Why, yes; but--'' Aunt Hannah did not
finish her sentence. The whir of an electric bell
had sounded through the house. A few moments
later Rosa appeared in the open doorway.
``It,'s Mr. Arkwright, Miss. He said as how
he had brought the music,'' she announced.
``Tell him I'll be down at once,'' directed the
mistress of Hillside.
As the maid disappeared, Billy put aside her
work and sprang lightly to her feet.
``Now wasn't that nice of him? We were
talking last night about some duets he had, and he
said he'd bring them over. I didn't know he'd
come so soon, though.''
Billy had almost reached the bottom of the
stairway, when a low, familiar strain of music drifted
out from the living-room. Billy caught her breath,
and held her foot suspended. The next moment
the familiar strain of music had become a lullaby
--one of Billy's own--and sung now by a melting
tenor voice that lingered caressingly and
understandingly on every tender cadence.
Motionless and almost breathless, Billy waited
until the last low ``lul-la-by'' vibrated into
silence; then with shining eyes and outstretched
hands she entered the living-room.
``Oh, that was--beautiful,'' she breathed.
Arkwright was on his feet instantly. His eyes,
too, were alight.
``I could not resist singing it just once--
here,'' he said a little unsteadily, as their hands
``But to hear my little song sung like that!
I couldn't believe it was mine,'' choked Billy,
still plainly very much moved. ``You sang it as
I've never heard it sung before.''
Arkwright shook his head slowly.
``The inspiration of the room--that is all,'',
he said. ``It is a beautiful song. All of your songs
Billy blushed rosily.
``Thank you. You know--more of them,
``I think I know them all--unless you have
some new ones out. Have you some new ones,
Billy shook her head.
``No; I haven't written anything since last
``But you're going to?''
She drew a long sigh.
``Yes, oh, yes. I know that _now_--'' With a
swift biting of her lower lip Billy caught herself
up in time. As if she could tell this man, this
stranger, what she had told Bertram that night
by the fire--that she knew that now, _now_ she
would write beautiful songs, with his love, and
his pride in her, as incentives. ``Oh, yes, I think
I shall write more one of these days,'' she finished
lightly. ``But come, this isn't singing duets! I
want to see the music you brought.''
They sang then, one after another of the duets.
To Billy, the music was new and interesting.
To Billy, too, it was new (and interesting) to hear
her own voice blending with another's so perfectly
--to feel herself a part of such exquisite harmony.
``Oh, oh!'' she breathed ecstatically, after the
last note of a particularly beautiful phrase. ``I
never knew before how lovely it was to sing
``Nor I,'' replied Arkwright in a voice that was
not quite steady.
Arkwright's eyes were on the enraptured face
of the girl so near him. It was well, perhaps,
that Billy did not happen to turn and catch their
expression. Still, it might have been better if
she had turned, after all. But Billy's eyes were
on the music before her. Her fingers were busy
with the fluttering pages, searching for another
``Didn't you?'' she murmured abstractedly.
``I supposed _you'd_ sung them before; but you
see I never did--until the other night. There,
let's try this one!''
``This one'' was followed by another and
another. Then Billy drew a long breath.
``There! that must positively be the last,''
she declared reluctantly. ``I'm so hoarse now
I can scarcely croak. You see, I don't pretend
to sing, really.''
``Don't you? You sing far better than some
who do, anyhow,''retorted the man, warmly.
``Thank you,'' smiled Billy; ``that was nice
of you to say so--for my sake--and the others
aren't here to care. But tell me of yourself. I
haven't had a chance to ask you yet; and--I
think you said Mary Jane was going to study for
Arkwright laughed and shrugged his shoulders.
``She is; but, as I told Calderwell, she's quite
likely to bring up in vaudeville.''
``Calderwell! Do you mean--Hugh Calderwell?''
Billy's cheeks showed a deeper color.
The man gave an embarrassed little laugh. He
had not meant to let that name slip out just yet.
``Yes.'' He hesitated, then plunged on
recklessly. ``We tramped half over Europe together
``Did you?'' Billy left her seat at the piano
for one nearer the fire. ``But this isn't telling
me about your own plans,'' she hurried on a little
precipitately. ``You've studied before, of course.
Your voice shows that.''
``Oh, yes; I've studied singing several years,
and I've had a year or two of church work,
besides a little concert practice of a mild sort.''
``Have you begun here, yet?''
``Y-yes, I've had my voice tried.''
Billy sat erect with eager interest.
``They liked it, of course?''
``I'm not saying that.''
``No, but I am,'' declared Billy, with conviction.
``They couldn't help liking it.''
Arkwright laughed again. Just how well they
had ``liked it'' he did not intend to say. Their
remarks had been quite too flattering to repeat
even to this very plainly interested young woman
--delightful and heart-warming as was this same
show of interest, to himself.
``Thank you,'' was all he said.
Billy gave an excited little bounce in her
``And you'll begin to learn r
``I already have, some--after a fashion--before
I came here.''
``Really? How splendid! Why, then you'll
be acting them next right on the Boston Opera
House stage, and we'll all go to hear you. How
perfectly lovely! I can hardly wait.''
Arkwright laughed--but his eyes glowed with
``Aren't you hurrying things a little?'' he
``But they do let the students appear,''
argued Billy. ``I knew a girl last year who went on
in `Aida,' and she was a pupil at the School.
She sang first in a Sunday concert, then they put
her in the bill for a Saturday night. She did
splendidly--so well that they gave her a chance
later at a subscription performance. Oh, you'll
be there--and soon, too!''
``Thank you! I only wish the powers that
could put me there had your flattering enthusiasm
on the matter,'' he smiled.
``I don't worry any,'' nodded Billy, ``only
please don't `arrive' too soon--not before the
wedding, you know,'' she added jokingly. ``We
shall be too busy to give you proper attention
until after that.''
A peculiar look crossed Arkwright's face.
``The--_wedding?_'' he asked, a little faintly.
``Yes. Didn't you know? My friend, Miss
Hawthorn, is to marry Mr. Cyril Henshaw next
The man opposite relaxed visibly.
``Oh, _Miss Hawthorn!_ No, I didn't know,''
he murmured; then, with sudden astonishment
he added: ``And to Mr. Cyril, the musician,
did you say?''
``Yes. You seem surprised.''
``I am.'' Arkwright paused, then went on
almost defiantly. ``You see, Calderwell was
telling me only last September how very
unmarriageable all the Henshaw brothers were. So
I am surprised--naturally,'' finished Arkwright,
as he rose to take his leave.
A swift crimson stained Billy's face.
``But surely you must know that--that--''
``That he has a right to change his mind, of
course,'' supplemented Arkwright smilingly,
coming to her rescue in the evident confusion that
would not let her finish her sentence. ``But
Calderwell made it so emphatic, you see, about
all the brothers. He said that William had lost
his heart long ago; that Cyril hadn't any to lose;
and that Bertram--''
``But, Mr. Arkwright, Bertram is--is--''
Billy had moistened her lips, and plunged hurriedly
in to prevent Arkwright's next words. But again
was she unable to finish her sentence, and again
was she forced to listen to a very different
completion from the smiling lips of the man at her
``Is an artist, of course,'' said Arkwright.
``That's what Calderwell declared--that it
would always be the tilt of a chin or the curve
of a cheek that the artist loved--to paint.''
Billy drew back suddenly. Her face paled.
As if _now_ she could tell this man that Bertram
Henshaw was engaged to her! He would find it
out soon, of course, for himself; and perhaps he,
like Hugh Calderwell, would think it was the
curve of _her_ cheek, or the tilt of _her_ chin--
Billy lifted her chin very defiantly now as she
held out her hand in good-by.
A RUG, A PICTURE, AND A GIRL AFRAID
Thanksgiving came. Once again the Henshaw
brothers invited Billy and Aunt Hannah to spend
the day with them. This time, however, there
was to be an additional guest present in the person
of Marie Hawthorn.
And what a day it was, for everything and
everybody concerned! First the Strata itself: from
Dong Ling's kitchen in the basement to Cyril's
domain on the top floor, the house was as spick-
and-span as Pete's eager old hands could make
it. In the drawing-room and in Bertram's den
and studio, great clusters of pink roses perfumed
the air, and brightened the sombre richness of
the old-time furnishings. Before the open fire
in the den a sleek gray cat--adorned with a huge
ribbon bow the exact shade of the roses (Bertram
had seen to that!)--winked and blinked sleepy
yellow eyes. In Bertram's studio the latest ``Face
of a Girl'' had made way for a group of canvases
and plaques, every one of which showed Billy
Neilson in one pose or another. Up-stairs, where
William's chaos of treasures filled shelves and
cabinets, the place of honor was given to a small
black velvet square on which rested a pair of
quaint Battersea enamel mirror knobs. In Cyril's
rooms--usually so austerely bare--a handsome
Oriental rug and several curtain-draped chairs
hinted at purchases made at the instigation of
a taste other than his own.
When the doorbell rang Pete admitted the
ladies with a promptness that was suggestive
of surreptitious watching at some window. On
Pete's face the dignity of his high office and the
delight of the moment were fighting for mastery.
The dignity held firmly through Mrs. Stetson's
friendly greeting; but it fled in defeat when Billy
Neilson stepped over the threshold with a cheery
``Good morning, Pete.''
``Laws! But it's good to be seein' you here
again,'' stammered the man,--delight now in
``She'll be coming to stay, one of these days,
Pete,'' smiled the eldest Henshaw, hurrying forward.
``I wish she had now,'' whispered Bertram, who,
in spite of William's quick stride, had reached
Billy's side first.
From the stairway came the patter of a man's
``The rug has come, and the curtains, too,''
called a ``householder'' sort of voice that few
would have recognized as belonging to Cyril
Henshaw. ``You must all come up-stairs and
see them after dinner.'' The voice, apparently,
spoke to everybody; but the eyes of the owner
of the voice plainly saw only the fair-haired young
woman who stood a little in the shadow behind
Billy, and who was looking about her now as at
something a little fearsome, but very dear.
``You know--I've never been--where you
live--before,'' explained Marie Hawthorn in a
low, vibrant tone, when Cyril bent over her to
take the furs from her shoulders.
In Bertram's den a little later, as hosts and
guests advanced toward the fire, the sleek gray
cat rose, stretched lazily, and turned her head
with majestic condescension.
``Well, Spunkie, come here,'' commanded Billy,
snapping her fingers at the slow-moving creature
on the hearthrug. ``Spunkie, when I am your
mistress, you'll have to change either your name
or your nature. As if I were going to have such
a bunch of independent moderation as you
masquerading as an understudy to my frisky little
Everybody laughed. William regarded his
namesake with fond eyes as he said:
``Spunkie doesn't seem to be worrying.'' The
cat had jumped into Billy's lap with a matter-
of-course air that was unmistakable--and to Bertram,
adorable. Bertram's eyes, as they rested
on Billy, were even fonder than were his
``I don't think any one is--_worrying_,'' he
said with quiet emphasis.
``I should think they might be,'' she answered.
``Only think how dreadfully upsetting I was in
the first place!''
William's beaming face grew a little stern.
``Nobody knew it but Kate--and she didn't
_know_ it; she only imagined it,'' he said tersely.
Billy shook her head.
``I'm not so sure,'' she demurred. ``As I look
back at it now, I think I can discern a few
evidences myself--that I was upsetting. I was a
bother to Bertram in his painting, I am sure.''
``You were an inspiration,'' corrected Bertram.
``Think of the posing you did for me.''
A swift something like a shadow crossed Billy's
face; but before her lover could question its
meaning, it was gone.
``And I know I was a torment to Cyril.'' Billy
had turned to the musician now.
``Well, I admit you were a little--upsetting,
at times,'' retorted that individual, with something
of his old imperturbable rudeness.
``Nonsense!'' cut in William, sharply. ``You
were never anything but a comfort in the house,
Billy, my dear--and you never will be.''
``Thank you,'' murmured Billy, demurely.
``I'll remember that--when Pete and I disagree
about the table decorations, and Dong Ling
doesn't like the way I want my soup seasoned.''
An anxious frown showed on Bertram's face.
``Billy,'' he said in a low voice, as the others
laughed at her sally, ``you needn't have Pete
nor Dong Ling here if you don't want them.''
``Don't want them!'' echoed Billy, indignantly.
``Of course I want them!''
``But--Pete _is_ old, and--''
``Yes; and where's he grown old? For whom
has he worked the last fifty years, while he's
been growing old? I wonder if you think I'd
let Pete leave this house as long as he _wants_ to
stay! As for Dong Ling--''
A sudden movement of Bertram's hand arrested
her words. She looked up to find Pete in
``Dinner is served, sir,'' announced the old
butler, his eyes on his master's face.
William rose with alacrity, and gave his arm
to Aunt Hannah.
``Well, I'm sure we're ready for dinner,'' he
It was a good dinner, and it was well served.
It could scarcely have been otherwise with Dong
Ling in the kitchen and Pete in the dining-room
doing their utmost to please. But even had the
turkey been tough instead of tender, and even
had the pies been filled with sawdust instead of
with delicious mincemeat, it is doubtful if four
at the table would have known the difference:
Cyril and Marie at one end were discussing where
to put their new sideboard in their dining-room,
and Bertram and Billy at the other were talking
of the next Thanksgiving, when, according to
Bertram, the Strata would have the ``dearest
little mistress that ever was born.'' As if, under
these circumstances, the tenderness of the turkey
or the toothsomeness of the mince pie mattered!
To Aunt Hannah and William, in the centre of
the table, however, it did matter; so it was well,
of course, that the dinner was a good one.
``And now,'' said Cyril, when dinner was over,
``suppose you come up and see the rug.''
In compliance with this suggestion, the six
trailed up the long flights of stairs then, Billy
carrying an extra shawl for Aunt Hannah--
Cyril's rooms were always cool.
``Oh, yes, I knew we should need it,'' she nodded
to Bertram, as she picked up the shawl from the
hall stand where she had left it when she came
in. ``That's why I brought it.''
``Oh, my grief and conscience, Cyril, how _can_
you stand it?--to climb stairs like this,'' panted
Aunt Hannah, as she reached the top of the last
flight and dropped breathlessly into the nearest
chair--from which Marie had rescued a curtain
just in time.
``Well, I'm not sure I could--if I were always
to eat a Thanksgiving dinner just before,'' laughed
Cyril. ``Maybe I ought to have waited and let
you rest an hour or two.''
``But 'twould have been too dark, then, to see the
rug,'' objected Marie. ``It's a genuine Persian--
a Kirman, you know; and I'm so proud of it,''
she added, turning to the others. ``I wanted you
to see the colors by daylight. Cyril likes it better,
anyhow, in the daytime.''
``Fancy Cyril _liking_ any sort of a rug at any
time,'' chuckled Bertram, his eyes on the rich,
softly blended colors of the rug before him.
``Honestly, Miss Marie,'' he added, turning to the
little bride elect, ``how did you ever manage to
get him to buy _any_ rug? He won't have so much
as a ravelling on the floor up here to walk on.''
A startled dismay came into Marie's blue
``Why, I thought he wanted rugs,'' she
faltered. ``I'm sure he said--''
``Of course I want rugs,'' interrupted Cyril,
irritably. ``I want them everywhere except in
my own especial den. You don't suppose I want
to hear other people clattering over bare floors
all day, do you?''
``Of course not!'' Bertram's face was
preternaturally grave as he turned to the little music
teacher. ``I hope, Miss Marie, that you wear
rubber heels on your shoes,'' he observed solicitously.
Even Cyril laughed at this, though all he said
``Come, come, I got you up here to look at the
Bertram, however, was not to be silenced.
``And another thing, Miss Marie,'' he resumed,
with the air of a true and tried adviser. ``Just
let me give you a pointer. I've lived with your
future husband a good many years, and I know
what I'm talking about.''
``Bertram, be still,'' growled Cyril.
Bertram refused to be still.
``Whenever you want to know anything about
Cyril, listen to his playing. For instance: if,
after dinner, you hear a dreamy waltz or a sleepy
nocturne, you may know that all is well. But if
on your ears there falls anything like a dirge, or
the wail of a lost spirit gone mad, better look to
your soup and see if it hasn't been scorched, or
taste of your pudding and see if you didn't put
in salt instead of sugar.''
``Bertram, will you be still?'' cut in Cyril,
``After all, judging from what Billy tells me,''
resumed Bertram, cheerfully, ``what I've said
won't be so important to you, for you aren't the
kind that scorches soups or uses salt for sugar.
So maybe I'd better put it to you this way: if you
want a new sealskin coat or an extra diamond
tiara, tackle him when he plays like this!'' And
with a swift turn Bertram dropped himself to the
piano stool and dashed into a rollicking melody
that half the newsboys of Boston were whistling.
What happened next was a surprise to every one.
Bertram, very much as if he were a naughty
little boy, was jerked by a wrathful brother's
hand off the piano stool. The next moment the
wrathful brother himself sat at the piano, and
there burst on five pairs of astonished ears a
crashing dissonance which was but the prelude
to music such as few of the party often heard.
Spellbound they listened while rippling runs
and sonorous harmonies filled the room to overflowing,
as if under the fingers of the player there
were--not the keyboard of a piano--but the
violins, flutes, cornets, trombones, bass viols
and kettledrums of a full orchestra.
Billy, perhaps, of them all, best understood.
She knew that in those tripping melodies and
crashing chords were Cyril's joy at the presence
of Marie, his wrath at the flippancy of Bertram,
his ecstasy at that for which the rug and curtains
stood--the little woman sewing in the radiant
circle of a shaded lamp. Billy knew that all this
and more were finding voice at Cyril's finger tips.
The others, too, understood in a way; but they,
unlike Billy, were not in the habit of finding on
a few score bits of wood and ivory a vent for their
moods and fancies.
The music was softer now. The resounding
chords and purling runs had become a bell-like
melody that wound itself in and out of a maze of
exquisite harmonies, now hiding, now coming out
clear and unafraid, like a mountain stream emerging
into a sunlit meadow from the leafy shadows
of its forest home.
In a breathless hush the melody quivered into
silence. It was Bertram who broke the pause
with a long-drawn:
``By George!'' Then, a little unsteadily:
``If it's I that set you going like that, old chap,
I'll come up and play ragtime every day!''
Cyril shrugged his shoulders and got to his
``If you've seen all you want of the rug we'll
go down-stairs,'' he said nonchalantly.
``But we haven't!'' chorussed several indignant
voices. And for the next few minutes not even
the owner of the beautiful Kirman could find
any fault with the quantity or the quality of the
attention bestowed on his new possession. But
Billy, under cover of the chatter, said reproachfully
in his ear:
``Oh, Cyril, to think you can play like that--
and won't--on demand!''
``I can't--on demand,'' shrugged Cyril again.
On the way down-stairs they stopped at
``I want you to see a couple of Batterseas I
got last week,'' cried the collector eagerly, as he
led the way to the black velvet square. ``They're
fine--and I think she looks like you,'' he finished,
turning to Billy, and holding out one of the knobs,
on which was a beautifully executed miniature of
a young girl with dark, dreamy eyes.
``Oh, how pretty!'' exclaimed Marie, over
Billy's shoulder. ``But what are they?''
The collector turned, his face alight.
``Mirror knobs. I've got lots of them. Would
you like to see them--really? They're right here.''
The next minute Marie found herself looking
into a cabinet where lay a score or more of round
and oval discs of glass, porcelain, and metal,
framed in silver, gilt, and brass, and mounted on
``Oh, how pretty,'' cried Marie again; ``but
how--how queer! Tell me about them, please.''
William drew a long breath. His eyes glistened.
William loved to talk--when he had a curio
and a listener.
``I will. Our great-grandmothers used them,
you know, to support their mirrors, or to fasten
back their curtains,'' he explained ardently.
``Now here's another Battersea enamel, but it
isn't so good as my new ones--that face is almost
``But what a beautiful ship--on that round
one!'' exclaimed Marie. ``And what's this one?
``Yes; but that's not so rare as the others.
Still, it's pretty enough. Did you notice this
one, with the bright red and blue and green on
the white background?--regular Chinese mode
of decoration, that is.''
``Er--any time, William,'' began Bertram,
mischievously; but William did not seem to
``Now in this corner,'' he went on, warming
to his subject, ``are the enamelled porcelains.
They were probably made at the Worcester works
--England, you know; and I think many of them
are quite as pretty as the Batterseas. You see
it was at Worcester that they invented that
variation of the transfer printing process that
they called bat printing, where they used oil
instead of ink, and gelatine instead of paper. Now
engravings for that kind of printing were usually
in stipple work--dots, you know--so the prints
on these knobs can easily be distinguished from
those of the transfer printing. See? Now, this
``Er, of course, William, any time--''
interposed Bertram again, his eyes twinkling.
William stopped with a laugh.
``Yes, I know. 'Tis time I talked of something
else, Bertram,'' he conceded.
``But 'twas lovely, and I _was_ interested,
really,'' claimed Marie. ``Besides, there are such
a lot of things here that I'd like to see,'' she
finished, turning slowly about.
``These are what he was collecting last year,''
murmured Billy, hovering over a small cabinet
where were some beautiful specimens of antique
jewelry brooches, necklaces, armlets, Rajah
rings, and anklets, gorgeous in color and exquisite
``Well, here is something you _will_ enjoy,''
declared Bertram, with an airy flourish. ``Do
you see those teapots? Well, we can have tea
every day in the year, and not use one of them
but five times. I've counted. There are exactly
seventy-three,'' he concluded, as he laughingly
led the way from the room.
``How about leap year?'' quizzed Billy.
``Ho! Trust Will to find another `Old Blue'
or a `perfect treasure of a black basalt' by that
time,'' shrugged Bertram.
Below William's rooms was the floor once
Bertram's, but afterwards given over to the use
of Billy and Aunt Hannah. The rooms were open
to-day, and were bright with sunshine and roses;
but they were very plainly unoccupied.
``And you don't use them yet?'' remonstrated
Billy, as she paused at an open door.
``No. These are Mrs. Bertram Henshaw's
rooms,'' said the youngest Henshaw brother in a
voice that made Billy hurry away with a dimpling
``They were Billy's--and they can never seem
any one's but Billy's, now,'' declared William to
Marie, as they went down the stairs.
``And now for the den and some good stories
before the fire,'' proposed Bertram, as the six
reached the first floor again.
``But we haven't seen your pictures, yet,''
Bertram made a deprecatory gesture.
``There's nothing much--'' he began; but
he stopped at once, with an odd laugh. ``Well,
I sha'n't say _that_,'' he finished, flinging open the
door of his studio, and pressing a button that
flooded the room with light. The next moment,
as they stood before those plaques and panels
and canvases--on each of which was a pictured
``Billy''--they understood the change in his
sentence, and they laughed appreciatively.
`` `Much,' indeed!'' exclaimed William.
``Oh, how lovely!'' breathed Marie.
``My grief and conscience, Bertram! All these
--and of Billy? I knew you had a good many,
but--'' Aunt Hannah paused impotently, her
eyes going from Bertram's face to the pictures
``But how--when did you do them?'' queried
``Some of them from memory. More of them
from life. A lot of them were just sketches that
I did when she was here in the house four or five
years ago,'' answered Bertram; ``like this,
for instance.'' And he pulled into a better light
a picture of a laughing, dark-eyed girl holding
against her cheek a small gray kitten, with alert,
bright eyes. ``The original and only Spunk,''
``What a dear little cat!'' cried Marie.
``You should have seen it--in the flesh,''
remarked Cyril, dryly. ``No paint nor painter
could imprison that untamed bit of Satanic mischief
on any canvas that ever grew!''
Everybody laughed--everybody but Billy.
Billy, indeed, of them all, had been strangely
silent ever since they entered the studio. She
stood now a little apart. Her eyes were wide, and
a bit frightened. Her fingers were twisting the
corners of her handkerchief nervously. She was
looking to the right and to the left, and everywhere
Sometimes it was her full face, sometimes her
profile; sometimes there were only her eyes
peeping from above a fan, or peering from out
brown shadows of nothingness. Once it was
merely the back of her head showing the mass of
waving hair with its high lights of burnished
bronze. Again it was still the back of her head
with below it the bare, slender neck and the scarf-
draped shoulders. In this picture the curve of a
half-turned cheek showed plainly, and in the
background was visible a hand holding four playing
cards, at which the pictured girl was evidently
looking. Sometimes it was a merry Billy with
dancing eyes; sometimes a demure Billy with long
lashes caressing a flushed cheek. Sometimes it
was a wistful Billy with eyes that looked straight
into yours with peculiar appeal. But always it
``There, I think the tilt of this chin is perfect.''
It was Bertram speaking.
Billy gave a sudden cry. Her face whitened.
She stumbled forward.
``No, no, Bertram, you--you didn't mean
the--the tilt of the chin,'' she faltered wildly.
The man turned in amazement.
``Why--Billy!'' he stammered. ``Billy,
what is it?''
The girl fell back at once. She tried to laugh
lightly. She had seen the dismayed questioning
in her lover's eyes, and in the eyes of William and
``N-nothing,'' she gesticulated hurriedly. ``It
was nothing at all, truly.''
``But, Billy, it _was_ something.'' Bertram's
eyes were still troubled. ``Was it the picture?
I thought you liked this picture.''
Billy laughed again--this time more naturally.
``Bertram, I'm ashamed of you--expecting
me to say I `like' any of this,'' she scolded, with
a wave of her hands toward the omnipresent
Billy. ``Why, I feel as if I were in a room with
a thousand mirrors, and that I'd been discovered
putting rouge on my cheeks and lampblack on
William laughed fondly. Aunt Hannah and
Marie gave an indulgent smile. Cyril actually
chuckled. Bertram only still wore a puzzled
expression as he laid aside the canvas in his
Billy examined intently a sketch she had found
with its back to the wall. It was not a pretty
sketch; it was not even a finished one, and Billy
did not in the least care what it was. But her
lips cried interestedly:
``Oh, Bertram, what is this?''
There was no answer. Bertram was still
engaged, apparently, in putting away some sketches.
Over by the doorway leading to the den Marie
and Aunt Hannah, followed by William and Cyril,
were just disappearing behind a huge easel.
In another minute the merry chatter of their
voices came from the room beyond. Bertram
hurried then straight across the studio to the
girl still bending over the sketch in the corner.
``Bertram!'' gasped Billy, as a kiss brushed
``Pooh! They're gone. Besides, what if they
did see? Billy, what was the matter with the
tilt of that chin?''
Billy gave an hysterical little laugh--at least,
Bertram tried to assure himself that it was a
laugh, though it had sounded almost like a sob.
``Bertram, if you say another word about--
about the tilt of that chin, I shall _scream!_'' she
With a nervous little movement Billy turned
and began to reverse the canvases nearest her.
``Come, sir,'' she commanded gayly. ``Billy
has been on exhibition quite long enough. It is
high time she was turned face to the wall to
meditate, and grow more modest.''
Bertram did not answer. Neither did he make
a move to assist her. His ardent gray eyes were
following her slim, graceful figure admiringly.
``Billy, it doesn't seem true, yet, that you're
really mine,'' he said at last, in a low voice shaken
Billy turned abruptly. A peculiar radiance
shone in her eyes and glorified her face. As
she stood, she was close to a picture on an easel
and full in the soft glow of the shaded lights
``Then you _do_ want me,'' she began, ``--just
_me!_--not to--'' she stopped short. The man
opposite had taken an eager step toward her. On
his face was the look she knew so well, the look
she had come almost to dread--the ``painting
``Billy, stand just as you are,'' he was saying.
``Don't move. Jove! But that effect is perfect
with those dark shadows beyond, and just your
hair and face and throat showing. I declare,
I've half a mind to sketch--'' But Billy, with
a little cry, was gone.
A JOB FOR PETE--AND FOR BERTRAM
The early days in December were busy ones,
certainly, in the little house on Corey Hill. Marie
was to be married the twelfth. It was to be a home
wedding, and a very simple one--according to
Billy, and according to what Marie had said it
was to be. Billy still serenely spoke of it as a
``simple affair,'' but Marie was beginning to be
fearful. As the days passed, bringing with them
more and more frequent evidences either tangible
or intangible of orders to stationers, caterers,
and florists, her fears found voice in a protest.
``But Billy, it was to be a _simple_ wedding,''
``And so it is.''
``But what is this I hear about a breakfast?''
Billy's chin assumed its most stubborn squareness.
``I don't know, I'm sure, what you did hear,''
she retorted calmly.
Billy laughed. The chin was just as stubborn,
but the smiling lips above it graced it with an
air of charming concession.
``There, there, dear,'' coaxed the mistress of
Hillside, ``don't fret. Besides, I'm sure I should
think you, of all people, would want your guests
``But this is so elaborate, from what I hear.''
``Nonsense! Not a bit of it.''
``Rosa says there'll be salads and cakes and
ices--and I don't know what all.''
Billy looked concerned.
``Well, of course, Marie, if you'd _rather_ have
oatmeal and doughnuts,'' she began with kind
solicitude; but she got no farther.
``Billy!'' besought the bride elect. ``Won't
you be serious? And there's the cake in wedding
``I know, but boxes are so much easier and
cleaner than--just fingers,'' apologized an anxiously
Marie answered with an indignant, grieved
glance and hurried on.
``And the flowers--roses, dozens of them,
in December! Billy, I can't let you do all this
``Nonsense, dear!'' laughed Billy. ``Why, I
love to do it. Besides, when you're gone, just
think how lonesome I'll be! I shall have to adopt
somebody else then--now that Mary Jane has
proved to be nothing but a disappointing man
instead of a nice little girl like you,'' she finished
Marie did not smile. The frown still lay
between her delicate brows.
``And for my trousseau--there were so many
things that you simply would buy!''
``I didn't get one of the egg-beaters,'' Billy
reminded her anxiously.
Marie smiled now, but she shook her head, too.
``Billy, I cannot have you do all this for me.''
At the unexpectedly direct question, Marie
fell back a little.
``Why, because I--I can't,'' she stammered.
``I can't get them for myself, and--and--''
``Don't you love me?''
A pink flush stole to Marie's face.
``Indeed I do, dearly.''
``Don't I love you?''
The flush deepened.
``I--I hope so.''
``Then why won't you let me do what I want
to, and be happy in it? Money, just money,
isn't any good unless you can exchange it for
something you want. And just now I want pink roses
and ice cream and lace flounces for you. Marie,''
--Billy's voice trembled a little--``I never had a
sister till I had you, and I have had such a good
time buying things that I thought you wanted!
But, of course, if you don't want them--'' The
words ended in a choking sob, and down went
Billy's head into her folded arms on the desk
Marie sprang to her feet and cuddled the bowed
head in a loving embrace.
``But I do want them, dear; I want them all--
every single one,'' she urged. ``Now promise me
--promise me that you'll do them all, just as
you'd planned! You will, won't you?''
There was the briefest of hesitations, then came
the muffled reply:
``Yes--if you really want them.''
``I do, dear--indeed I do. I love pretty
weddings, and I--I always hoped that I could
have one--if I ever married. So you must
know, dear, how I really do want all those things,''
declared Marie, fervently. ``And now I must go.
I promised to meet Cyril at Park Street at three
o'clock.'' And she hurried from the room--and
not until she was half-way to her destination did
it suddenly occur to her that she had been urging,
actually urging Miss Billy Neilson to buy for
her pink roses, ice cream, and lace flounces.
Her cheeks burned with shame then. But
almost at once she smiled.
``Now wasn't that just like Billy?'' she was
saying to herself, with a tender glow in her eyes.
It was early in December that Pete came one
day with a package for Marie from Cyril. Marie
was not at home, and Billy herself went downstairs
to take the package from the old man's
``Mr. Cyril said to give it to Miss Hawthorn,''
stammered the old servant, his face lighting up
as Billy entered the room; ``but I'm sure he
wouldn't mind _your_ taking it.''
``I'm afraid I'll have to take it, Pete, unless
you want to carry it back with you,'' she smiled.
``I'll see that Miss Hawthorn has it the very first
moment she comes in.''
``Thank you, Miss. It does my old eyes good
to see your bright face.'' He hesitated, then
turned slowly. ``Good day, Miss Billy.''
Billy laid the package on the table. Her eyes
were thoughtful as she looked after the old man,
who was now almost to the door. Something
in his bowed form appealed to her strangely. She
took a quick step toward him.
``You'll miss Mr. Cyril, Pete,'' she said pleasantly.
The old man stopped at once and turned. He
lifted his head a little proudly.
``Yes, Miss. I--I was there when he was
born. Mr. Cyril's a fine man.''
``Indeed he is. Perhaps it's your good care
that's helped, some--to make him so,'' smiled
the girl, vaguely wishing that she could say
something that would drive the wistful look from the
dim old eyes before her.
For a moment Billy thought she had succeeded.
The old servant drew himself stiffly erect. In
his eyes shone the loyal pride of more than fifty
years' honest service. Almost at once, however,
the pride died away, and the wistfulness returned.
``Thank ye, Miss; but I don't lay no claim to
that, of course,'' he said. ``Mr. Cyril's a fine
man, and we shall miss him; but--I cal'late
changes must come--to all of us.''
Billy's brown eyes grew a little misty.
``I suppose they must,'' she admitted.
The old man hesitated; then, as if impelled
by some hidden force, he plunged on:
``Yes; and they'll be comin' to you one of
these days, Miss, and that's what I was wantin'
to speak to ye about. I understand, of course,
that when you get there you'll be wantin' younger
blood to serve ye. My feet ain't so spry as they
once was, and my old hands blunder sometimes,
in spite of what my head bids 'em do. So I wanted
to tell ye--that of course I shouldn't expect to
stay. I'd go.''
As he said the words, Pete stood with head and
shoulders erect, his eyes looking straight forward
but not at Billy.
``Don't you _want_ to stay?'' The girlish voice
was a little reproachful.
Pete's head drooped.
``Not if--I'm not wanted,'' came the husky
With an impulsive movement Billy came
straight to the old man's side and held out her
Amazement, incredulity, and a look that was
almost terror crossed the old man's face; then a
flood of dull red blotted them all out and left only
worshipful rapture. With a choking cry he took
the slim little hand in both his rough and twisted
ones much as if he were possessing himself of
a treasured bit of eggshell china.
``Pete, there aren't a pair of feet in Boston,
nor a pair of hands, either, that I'd rather have
serve me than yours, no matter if they stumble
and blunder all day! I shall love stumbles and
blunders--if you make them. Now run home,
and don't ever let me hear another syllable about
They were not the words Billy had intended
to say. She had meant to speak of his long,
faithful service, and of how much they appreciated
it; but, to her surprise, Billy found her
own eyes wet and her own voice trembling, and
the words that she would have said she found
fast shut in her throat. So there was nothing
to do but to stammer out something--anything,
that would help to keep her from yielding to
that absurd and awful desire to fall on the old
servant's neck and cry.
``Not another syllable!'' she repeated sternly.
``Miss Billy!'' choked Pete again. Then he
turned and fled with anything but his usual
Bertram called that evening. When Billy
came to him in the living-room, her slender self
was almost hidden behind the swirls of damask
linen in her arms.
Bertram's eyes grew mutinous.
``Do you expect me to hug all that?'' he demanded.
Billy flashed him a mischievous glance.
``Of course not! You don't _have_ to hug
anything, you know.''
For answer he impetuously swept the offending
linen into the nearest chair and drew the girl
into his arms.
``Oh! And see how you've crushed poor Marie's
table-cloth!'' she cried, with reproachful eyes.
Bertram sniffed imperturbably.
``I'm not sure but I'd like to crush Marie,''
``I can't help it. See here, Billy.'' He loosened
his clasp and held the girl off at arm's length,
regarding her with stormy eyes. ``It's Marie,
Marie, Marie--always. If I telephone in the
morning, you've gone shopping with Marie.
If I want you in the afternoon for something,
you're at the dressmaker's with Marie. If I call
in the evening--''
``I'm here,'' interrupted Billy, with decision.
``Oh, yes, you're here,'' admitted Bertram,
aggrievedly, ``and so are dozens of napkins,
miles of table-cloths, and yards upon yards of
lace and flummydiddles you call `doilies.' They
all belong to Marie, and they fill your arms and
your thoughts full, until there isn't an inch of
room for me. Billy, when is this thing going to
Billy laughed softly. Her eyes danced.
``The twelfth;--that is, there'll be a--pause,
``Well, I'm thankful if--eh?'' broke off the
man, with a sudden change of manner. ``What
do you mean by `a pause'?''
Billy cast down her eyes demurely.
``Well, of course _this_ ends the twelfth with
Marie's wedding; but I've sort of regarded it as
an--understudy for one that's coming next
October, you see.''
``Billy, you darling!'' breathed a supremely
happy voice in a shell-like ear--Billy was not
at arm's length now.
Billy smiled, but she drew away with gentle
``And now I must go back to my sewing,''