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Miss Billy's Decision by Eleanor H. Porter

Part 3 out of 7

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Bertram's arms did not loosen. His eyes had
grown mutinous again.

``That is,'' she amended, ``I must be practising
my part of--the understudy, you know.''

``You darling!'' breathed Bertram again; this
time, however, he let her go.

``But, honestly, is it all necessary?'' he sighed
despairingly, as she seated herself and gathered
the table-cloth into her lap. ``Do you have to do
so much of it all?''

``I do,'' smiled Billy, ``unless you want your
brother to run the risk of leading his bride to
the altar and finding her robed in a kitchen
apron with an egg-beater in her hand for a

Bertram laughed.

``Is it so bad as that?''

``No, of course not--quite. But never have
I seen a bride so utterly oblivious to clothes as
Marie was till one day in despair I told her that
Cyril never could bear a dowdy woman.''

``As if Cyril, in the old days, ever could bear
any sort of woman!'' scoffed Bertram, merrily.

``I know; but I didn't mention that part,''
smiled Billy. ``I just singled out the dowdy

``Did it work?''

Billy made a gesture of despair.

``Did it work! It worked too well. Marie gave
me one horrified look, then at once and immediately
she became possessed with the idea that she
_was_ a dowdy woman. And from that day to
this she has pursued every lurking wrinkle and
every fold awry, until her dressmaker's life isn't
worth the living; and I'm beginning to think
mine isn't, either, for I have to assure her at
least four times every day now that she is _not_
a dowdy woman.''

``You poor dear,'' laughed Bertram. ``No
wonder you don't have time to give to me!''

A peculiar expression crossed Billy's face.

``Oh, but I'm not the _only_ one who, at times,
is otherwise engaged, sir,'' she reminded him.

``What do you mean?''

``There was yesterday, and last Monday, and
last week Wednesday, and--''

``Oh, but you _let_ me off, then,'' argued
Bertram, anxiously. ``And you said--''

``That I didn't wish to interfere with your
work--which was quite true,'' interrupted Billy
in her turn, smoothly. ``By the way,''--Billy
was examining her stitches very closely now
--``how is Miss Winthrop's portrait coming

``Splendidly!--that is, it _was_, until she began
to put off the sittings for her pink teas and
folderols. She's going to Washington next week, too,
to be gone nearly a fortnight,'' finished Bertram, gloomily.

``Aren't you putting more work than usual
into this one--and more sittings?''

``Well, yes,'' laughed Bertram, a little shortly.
``You see, she's changed the pose twice already.''

``Changed it!''

``Yes. Wasn't satisfied. Fancied she wanted
it different.''

``But can't you--don't you have something to
say about it?''

``Oh, yes, of course; and she claims she'll
yield to my judgment, anyhow. But what's the
use? She's been a spoiled darling all her life, and
in the habit of having her own way about everything.
Naturally, under those circumstances,
I can't expect to get a satisfactory portrait,
if she's out of tune with the pose. Besides, I will
own, so far her suggestions have made for
improvement--probably because she's been happy
in making them, so her expression has been good.''

Billy wet her lips.

``I saw her the other night,'' she said lightly.
(If the lightness was a little artificial Bertram did
not seem to notice it.) ``She is certainly--very

``Yes.'' Bertram got to his feet and began to
walk up and down the little room. His eyes were
alight. On his face the ``painting look'' was king.
``It's going to mean a lot to me--this picture,
Billy. In the first place I'm just at the point in
my career where a big success would mean a lot
--and where a big failure would mean more.
And this portrait is bound to be one or the other
from the very nature of the thing.''

``I-is it?'' Billy's voice was a little faint.

``Yes. First, because of who the sitter is, and
secondly because of what she is. She is, of course,
the most famous subject I've had, and half the
artistic world knows by this time that Marguerite
Winthrop is being done by Henshaw. You can
see what it'll be--if I fail.''

``But you won't fail, Bertram!''

The artist lifted his chin and threw back his

``No, of course not; but--'' He hesitated,
frowned, and dropped himself into a chair. His
eyes studied the fire moodily. ``You see,'' he
resumed, after a moment, ``there's a peculiar,
elusive something about her expression--''
(Billy stirred restlessly and gave her thread so
savage a jerk that it broke)``--a something
that isn't easily caught by the brush. Anderson
and Fullam--big fellows, both of them--didn't
catch it. At least, I've understood that neither
her family nor her friends are satisfied with _their_
portraits. And to succeed where Anderson and
Fullam failed--Jove! Billy, a chance like that
doesn't come to a fellow twice in a lifetime!''
Bertram was out of his chair, again, tramping
up and down the little room.

Billy tossed her work aside and sprang to her
feet. Her eyes, too, were alight, now.

``But you aren't going to fail, dear,'' she cried,
holding out both her hands. ``You're going to

Bertram caught the hands and kissed first one
then the other of their soft little palms.

``Of course I am,'' he agreed passionately,
leading her to the sofa, and seating himself at her

``Yes, but you must really _feel_ it,'' she urged;
``feel the `_sure_' in yourself. You have to!--to
doing things. That's what I told Mary Jane yesterday,
when he was running on about what _he_
wanted to do--in his singing, you know.''

Bertram stiffened a little. A quick frown came
to his face.

``Mary Jane, indeed! Of all the absurd names
to give a full-grown, six-foot man! Billy, do, for
pity's sake, call him by his name--if he's got

Billy broke into a rippling laugh.

``I wish I could, dear,'' she sighed ingenuously.

``Honestly, it bothers me because I _can't_ think
of him as anything but `Mary Jane.' It seems
so silly!''

``It certainly does--when one remembers
his beard.''

``Oh, he's shaved that off now. He looks
rather better, too.''

Bertram turned a little sharply.

``Do you see the fellow--often?''

Billy laughed merrily.

``No. He's about as disgruntled as you are
over the way the wedding monopolizes everything.
He's been up once or twice to see Aunt Hannah
and to get acquainted, as he expresses it, and once
he brought up some music and we sang; but he
declares the wedding hasn't given him half a show.''

``Indeed! Well, that's a pity, I'm sure,''
rejoined Bertram, icily.

Billy turned in slight surprise.

``Why, Bertram, don't you like Mary Jane?''

``Billy, for heaven's sake! _Hasn't_ he got any
name but that?''

Billy clapped her hands together suddenly.

``There, that makes me think. He told Aunt
Hannah and me to guess what his name was, and
we never hit it once. What do you think it is?
The initials are M. J.''

``I couldn't say, I'm sure. What is it?''

``Oh, he didn't tell us. You see he left us to
guess it.''

``Did he?''

``Yes,'' mused Billy, abstractedly, her eyes on
the dancing fire. The next minute she stirred and
settled herself more comfortably in the curve
of her lover's arm. ``But there! who cares
what his name is? I'm sure I don't.''

``Nor I,'' echoed Bertram in a voice that he
tried to make not too fervent. He had not
forgotten Billy's surprised: ``Why, Bertram, don't
you like Mary Jane?'' and he did not like to call
forth a repetition of it. Abruptly, therefore, he
changed the subject. ``By the way, what did
you do to Pete to-day?'' he asked laughingly.
``He came home in a seventh heaven of happiness
babbling of what an angel straight from the sky
Miss Billy was. Naturally I agreed with him
on that point. But what did you do to him?''

Billy smiled.

``Nothing--only engaged him for our butler
--for life.''

``Oh, I see. That was dear of you, Billy.''

``As if I'd do anything else! And now for
Dong Ling, I suppose, some day.''

Bertram chuckled.

``Well, maybe I can help you there,'' he hinted.
``You see, his Celestial Majesty came to me
himself the other day, and said, after sundry and
various preliminaries, that he should be `velly
much glad' when the `Little Missee' came to
live with me, for then he could go back to China
with a heart at rest, as he had money `velly
much plenty' and didn't wish to be `Melican
man' any longer.''

``Dear me,'' smiled Billy, ``what a happy
state of affairs--for him. But for you--do you
realize, young man, what that means for you?
A new wife and a new cook all at once? And you
know I'm not Marie!''

``Ho! I'm not worrying,'' retorted Bertram
with a contented smile; ``besides, as perhaps
you noticed, it wasn't Marie that I asked--to
marry me!''



Mrs. Kate Hartwell, the Henshaw brothers'
sister from the West, was expected on the tenth.
Her husband could not come, she had written,
but she would bring with her, little Kate, the
youngest child. The boys, Paul and Egbert,
would stay with their father.

Billy received the news of little Kate's coming
with outspoken delight.

``The very thing!'' she cried. ``We'll have
her for a flower girl. She was a dear little creature,
as I remember her.''

Aunt Hannah gave a sudden low laugh.

``Yes, I remember,'' she observed. ``Kate
told me, after you spent the first day with her,
that you graciously informed her that little Kate
was almost as nice as Spunk. Kate did not fully
appreciate the compliment, I fear.''

Billy made a wry face.

``Did I say that? Dear me! I _was_ a terror
in those days, wasn't I? But then,'' and she
laughed softly, ``really, Aunt Hannah, that was
the prettiest thing I knew how to say, for I
considered Spunk the top-notch of desirability.''

``I think I should have liked to know Spunk,''
smiled Marie from the other side of the sewing

``He was a dear,'' declared Billy. ``I had
another 'most as good when I first came to Hillside,
but he got lost. For a time it seemed as if I never
wanted another, but I've about come to the conclusion
now that I do, and I've told Bertram to find
one for me if he can. You see I shall be lonesome
after you're gone, Marie, and I'll have to have
_something_,'' she finished mischievously.

``Oh, I don't mind the inference--as long as
I know your admiration of cats,'' laughed Marie.

``Let me see; Kate writes she is coming the
tenth,'' murmured Aunt Hannah, going back
to the letter in her hand.

``Good!'' nodded Billy. ``That will give time
to put little Kate through her paces as flower

``Yes, and it will give Big Kate time to _try_ to
make your breakfast a supper, and your roses
pinks--or sunflowers,'' cut in a new voice, dryly.

``Cyril!'' chorussed the three ladies in horror,
adoration, and amusement--according to whether
the voice belonged to Aunt Hannah, Marie, or

Cyril shrugged his shoulders and smiled.

``I beg your pardon,'' he apologized; ``but
Rosa said you were in here sewing, and I told
her not to bother. I'd announce myself. Just
as I got to the door I chanced to hear Billy's
speech, and I couldn't resist making the amendment.
Maybe you've forgotten Kate's love of
managing--but I haven't,'' he finished, as he
sauntered over to the chair nearest Marie.

``No, I haven't--forgotten,'' observed Billy,

``Nor I--nor anybody else,'' declared a
severe voice--both the words and the severity
being most extraordinary as coming from the
usually gentle Aunt Hannah.

``Oh, well, never mind,'' spoke up Billy, quickly.
``Everything's all right now, so let's forget it.
She always meant it for kindness, I'm sure.''

``Even when she told you in the first place
what a--er--torment you were to us?'' quizzed

``Yes,'' flashed Billy. ``She was being kind to
_you_, then.''

``Humph!'' vouchsafed Cyril.

For a moment no one spoke. Cyril's eyes were
on Marie, who was nervously trying to smooth
back a few fluffy wisps of hair that had escaped
from restraining combs and pins.

``What's the matter with the hair, little girl?''
asked Cyril in a voice that was caressingly irritable.
``You've been fussing with that long-
suffering curl for the last five minutes!''

Marie's delicate face flushed painfully.

``It's got loose--my hair,'' she stammered,
``and it looks so dowdy that way!''

Billy dropped her thread suddenly. She sprang
for it at once, before Cyril could make a move to
get it. She had to dive far under a chair to capture
it--which may explain why her face was so
very red when she finally reached her seat again.

On the morning of the tenth, Billy, Marie, and
Aunt Hannah were once more sewing together,
this time in the little sitting-room at the end of
the hall up-stairs.

Billy's fingers, in particular, were flying very

``I told John to have Peggy at the door at
eleven,'' she said, after a time; ``but I think I
can finish running in this ribbon before then. I
haven't much to do to get ready to go.''

``I hope Kate's train won't be late,'' worried
Aunt Hannah.

``I hope not,'' replied Billy; ``but I told Rosa
to delay luncheon, anyway, till we get here. I--''
She stopped abruptly and turned a listening ear
toward the door of Aunt Hannah's room, which
was open. A clock was striking. ``Mercy!
that can't be eleven now,'' she cried. ``But it
must be--it was ten before I came up-stairs.''
She got to her feet hurriedly.

Aunt Hannah put out a restraining hand.

``No, no, dear, that's half-past ten.''

``But it struck eleven.''

``Yes, I know. It does--at half-past ten.''

``Why, the little wretch,'' laughed Billy,
dropping back into her chair and picking up her work
again. ``The idea of its telling fibs like that and
frightening people half out of their lives! I'll
have it fixed right away. Maybe John can do it
--he's always so handy about such things.''

``But I don't want it fixed,'' demurred Aunt

Billy stared a little.

``You don't want it fixed! Maybe you like
to have it strike eleven when it's half-past ten!''
Billy's voice was merrily sarcastic.

``Y-yes, I do,'' stammered the lady,
apologetically. ``You see, I--I worked very hard to
fix it so it would strike that way.''

``_Aunt Hannah!_''

``Well, I did,'' retorted the lady, with
unexpected spirit. ``I wanted to know what time it
was in the night--I'm awake such a lot.''

``But I don't see.'' Billy's eyes were perplexed.
``Why must you make it tell fibs in order to--to
find out the truth?'' she laughed.

Aunt Hannah elevated her chin a little.

``Because that clock was always striking one.''


``Yes--half-past, you know; and I never
knew which half-past it was.''

``But it must strike half-past now, just the

``It does.'' There was the triumphant ring of
the conqueror in Aunt Hannah's voice. ``But
now it strikes half-past _on the hour_, and the clock
in the hall tells me _then_ what time it is, so I don't

For one more brief minute Billy stared, before
a sudden light of understanding illumined her
face. Then her laugh rang out gleefully.

``Oh, Aunt Hannah, Aunt Hannah,'' she
gurgled. ``If Bertram wouldn't call you the limit
--making a clock strike eleven so you'll know it's
half-past ten!''

Aunt Hannah colored a little, but she stood
her ground.

``Well, there's only half an hour, anyway, now,
that I don't know what time it is,'' she maintained,
``for one or the other of those clocks strikes the
hour every thirty minutes. Even during those
never-ending three ones that strike one after
the other in the middle of the night, I can tell
now, for the hall clock has a different sound for
the half-hours, you know, so I can tell whether
it's one or a half-past.''

``Of course,'' chuckled Billy.

``I'm sure I think it's a splendid idea,'' chimed
in Marie, valiantly; ``and I'm going to write it
to mother's Cousin Jane right away. She's an
invalid, and she's always lying awake nights
wondering what time it is. The doctor says
actually he believes she'd get well if he could find
some way of letting her know the time at night,
so she'd get some sleep; for she simply can't
go to sleep till she knows. She can't bear a light
in the room, and it wakes her all up to turn an
electric switch, or anything of that kind.''

``Why doesn't she have one of those phosphorous
things?'' questioned Billy.

Marie laughed quietly.

``She did. I sent her one,--and she stood it
just one night.''

``Stood it!''

``Yes. She declared it gave her the creeps,
and that she wouldn't have the spooky thing
staring at her all night like that. So it's got to
be something she can hear, and I'm going to
tell her Mrs. Stetson's plan right away.''

``Well, I'm sure I wish you would,'' cried that
lady, with prompt interest; ``and she'll like it,
I'm sure. And tell her if she can hear a _town_
clock strike, it's just the same, and even better;
for there aren't any half-hours at all to think of

``I will--and I think it's lovely,'' declared

``Of course it's lovely,'' smiled Billy, rising;
``but I fancy I'd better go and get ready to meet
Mrs. Hartwell, or the `lovely' thing will be telling
me that it's half-past eleven!'' And she
tripped laughingly from the room.

Promptly at the appointed time John with
Peggy drew up before the door, and Billy, muffled
in furs, stepped into the car, which, with its
protecting top and sides and glass wind-shield, was
in its winter dress.

``Yes'm, 'tis a little chilly, Miss,'' said John,
in answer to her greeting, as he tucked the heavy
robes about her.

``Oh, well, I shall be very comfortable, I'm
sure,'' smiled Billy. ``Just don't drive too rapidly,
specially coming home. I shall have to get a
limousine, I think, when my ship comes in, John.''

John's grizzled old face twitched. So evident
were the words that were not spoken that Billy
asked laughingly:

``Well, John, what is it?''

John reddened furiously.

``Nothing, Miss. I was only thinkin' that if
you didn't 'tend ter haulin' in so many other
folks's ships, yours might get in sooner.''

``Why, John! Nonsense! I--I love to haul
in other folks's ships,'' laughed the girl, embarrassedly.

``Yes, Miss; I know you do,'' grunted John.

Billy colored.

``No, no--that is, I mean--I don't do it--
very much,'' she stammered.

John did not answer apparently; but Billy
was sure she caught a low-muttered, indignant
``much!'' as he snapped the door shut and took
his place at the wheel.

To herself she laughed softly. She thought she
possessed the secret now of some of John's
disapproving glances toward her humble guests of
the summer before.



At the station Mrs. Hartwell's train was found
to be gratifyingly on time; and in due course
Billy was extending a cordial welcome to a tall,
handsome woman who carried herself with an
unmistakable air of assured competence. Accompanying
her was a little girl with big blue eyes
and yellow curls.

``I am very glad to see you both,'' smiled Billy,
holding out a friendly hand to Mrs. Hartwell,
and stooping to kiss the round cheek of the little

``Thank you, you are very kind,'' murmured
the lady; ``but--are you alone, Billy? Where
are the boys?''

``Uncle William is out of town, and Cyril is
rushed to death and sent his excuses. Bertram
did mean to come, but he telephoned this morning
that he couldn't, after all. I'm sorry, but I'm
afraid you'll have to make the best of just me,''
condoled Billy. ``They'll be out to the house this
evening, of course--all but Uncle William. He
doesn't return until to-morrow.''

``Oh, doesn't he?'' murmured the lady, reaching
for her daughter's hand.

Billy looked down with a smile.

``And this is little Kate, I suppose,'' she said,
``whom I haven't seen for such a long, long time.
Let me see, you are how old now?''

``I'm eight. I've been eight six weeks.''

Billy's eyes twinkled.

``And you don't remember me, I suppose.''

The little girl shook her head.

``No; but I know who you are,'' she added,
with shy eagerness. ``You're going to be my
Aunt Billy, and you're going to marry my Uncle
William--I mean, my Uncle Bertram.''

Billy's face changed color. Mrs. Hartwell
gave a despairing gesture.

``Kate, my dear, I told you to be sure and
remember that it was your Uncle Bertram now.
You see,'' she added in a discouraged aside to
Billy, ``she can't seem to forget the first one.
But then, what can you expect?'' laughed Mrs.
Hartwell, a little disagreeably. ``Such abrupt
changes from one brother to another are somewhat
disconcerting, you know.''

Billy bit her lip. For a moment she said nothing,
then, a little constrainedly, she rejoined:

``Perhaps. Still--let us hope we have the
right one, now.''

Mrs. Hartwell raised her eyebrows.

``Well, my dear, I'm not so confident of that.
_My_ choice has been and always will be--William.''

Billy bit her lip again. This time her brown
eyes flashed a little.

``Is that so? But you see, after all, _you_ aren't
making the--the choice.'' Billy spoke lightly,
gayly; and she ended with a bright little laugh, as
if to hide any intended impertinence.

It was Mrs. Hartwell's turn to bite her lip--
and she did it.

``So it seems,'' she rejoined frigidly, after the
briefest of pauses.

It was not until they were on their way to
Corey Hill some time later that Mrs. Hartwell
turned with the question:

``Cyril is to be married in church, I suppose?''

``No. They both preferred a home wedding.''

``Oh, what a pity! Church weddings are so

``To those who like them,'' amended Billy in
spite of herself.

``To every one, I think,'' corrected Mrs.
Hartwell, positively.

Billy laughed. She was beginning to discern
that it did not do much harm--nor much good
--to disagree with her guest.

``It's in the evening, then, of course?''
pursued Mrs. Hartwell.

``No; at noon.''

``Oh, how could you let them?''

``But they preferred it, Mrs. Hartwell.''

``What if they did?'' retorted the lady, sharply.
``Can't you do as you please in your own home?
Evening weddings are so much prettier! We
can't change now, of course, with the guests all
invited. That is, I suppose you do have guests!''

Mrs. Hartwell's voice was aggrievedly despairing.

``Oh, yes,'' smiled Billy, demurely. ``We have
guests invited--and I'm afraid we can't change
the time.''

``No, of course not; but it's too bad. I
conclude there are announcements only, as I got no

``Announcements only,'' bowed Billy.

``I wish Cyril had consulted _me_, a little, about
this affair.''

Billy did not answer. She could not trust herself
to speak just then. Cyril's words of two
days before were in her ears: ``Yes, and it will
give Big Kate time to try to make your breakfast
supper, and your roses pinks--or sunflowers.''

In a moment Mrs. Hartwell spoke again.

``Of course a noon wedding is quite pretty
if you darken the rooms and have lights--you're
going to do that, I suppose?''

Billy shook her head slowly.

``I'm afraid not, Mrs. Hartwell. That isn't
the plan, now.''

``Not darken the rooms!'' exclaimed Mrs.
Hartwell. ``Why, it won't--'' She stopped
suddenly, and fell back in her seat. The look of
annoyed disappointment gave way to one of
confident relief. ``But then, _that can_ be changed,''
she finished serenely.

Billy opened her lips, but she shut them without
speaking. After a minute she opened them again.

``You might consult--Cyril--about that,''
she said in a quiet voice.

``Yes, I will,'' nodded Mrs. Hartwell, brightly.
She was looking pleased and happy again. ``I
love weddings. Don't you? You can _do_ so much
with them!''

``Can you?'' laughed Billy, irrepressibly.

``Yes. Cyril is happy, of course. Still, I
can't imagine _him_ in love with any woman.''

``I think Marie can.''

``I suppose so. I don't seem to remember her
much; still, I think I saw her once or twice when
I was on last June. Music teacher, wasn't she?''

``Yes. She is a very sweet girl.''

``Hm-m; I suppose so. Still, I think 'twould
have been better if Cyril could have selected some
one that _wasn't_ musical--say a more domestic
wife. He's so terribly unpractical himself about
household matters.''

Billy gave a ringing laugh and stood up. The
car had come to a stop before her own door.

``Do you? Just you wait till you see Marie's
trousseau of--egg-beaters and cake tins,'' she

Mrs. Hartwell looked blank.

``Whatever in the world do you mean, Billy?''
she demanded fretfully, as she followed her hostess
from the car. ``I declare! aren't you ever going
to grow beyond making those absurd remarks
of yours?''

``Maybe--sometime,'' laughed Billy, as she
took little Kate's hand and led the way up the

Luncheon in the cozy dining-room at Hillside
that day was not entirely a success. At least
there were not present exactly the harmony and
tranquillity that are conceded to be the best
sauce for one's food. The wedding, of course,
was the all-absorbing topic of conversation; and
Billy, between Aunt Hannah's attempts to be
polite, Marie's to be sweet-tempered, Mrs. Hartwell's
to be dictatorial, and her own to be pacifying
as well as firm, had a hard time of it. If it had
not been for two or three diversions created by
little Kate, the meal would have been, indeed, a
dismal failure.

But little Kate--most of the time the
personification of proper little-girlhood--had a
disconcerting faculty of occasionally dropping a
word here, or a question there, with startling
effect. As, for instance, when she asked Billy
``Who's going to boss your wedding?'' and again
when she calmly informed her mother that when _she_
was married she was not going to have any wedding
at all to bother with, anyhow. She was going to
elope, and she should choose somebody's chauffeur,
because he'd know how to go the farthest and fastest
so her mother couldn't catch up with her and
tell her how she ought to have done it.

After luncheon Aunt Hannah went up-stairs
for rest and recuperation. Marie took little Kate
and went for a brisk walk--for the same
purpose. This left Billy alone with her guest.

``Perhaps you would like a nap, too, Mrs.
Hartwell,'' suggested Billy, as they passed into
the living-room. There was a curious note of almost
hopefulness in her voice.

Mrs. Hartwell scorned naps, and she said so
very emphatically. She said something else, too.

``Billy, why do you always call me `Mrs. Hartwell'
in that stiff, formal fashion? You used to
call me `Aunt Kate.' ''

``But I was very young then.'' Billy's voice
was troubled. Billy had been trying so hard for
the last two hours to be the graciously cordial
hostess to this woman--Bertram's sister.

``Very true. Then why not `Kate' now?''

Billy hesitated. She was wondering why it
seemed so hard to call Mrs. Hartwell ``Kate.''

``Of course,'' resumed the lady, ``when you're
Bertram's wife and my sister--''

``Why, of course,'' cried Billy, in a sudden
flood of understanding. Curiously enough, she
had never before thought of Mrs. Hartwell as _her_
sister. ``I shall be glad to call you `Kate'--if
you like.''

``Thank you. I shall like it very much, Billy,''
nodded the other cordially. ``Indeed, my dear,
I'm very fond of you, and I was delighted to hear
you were to be my sister. If only--it could have
stayed William instead of Bertram.''

``But it couldn't,'' smiled Billy. ``It wasn't
William--that I loved.''

``But _Bertram!_--it's so absurd.''

``Absurd!'' The smile was gone now.

``Yes. Forgive me, Billy, but I was about as
much surprised to hear of Bertram's engagement
as I was of Cyril's.''

Billy grew a little white.

``But Bertram was never an avowed--woman-
hater, like Cyril, was he?''

`` `Woman-hater'--dear me, no! He was
a woman-lover, always. As if his eternal `Face
of a Girl' didn't prove that! Bertram has always
loved women--to paint. But as for his ever
taking them seriously--why, Billy, what's the

Billy had risen suddenly.

``If you'll excuse me, please, just a few
minutes,'' Billy said very quietly. ``I want to
speak to Rosa in the kitchen. I'll be back--soon.''

In the kitchen Billy spoke to Rosa--she
wondered afterwards what she said. Certainly she did
not stay in the kitchen long enough to say much.
In her own room a minute later, with the door
fast closed, she took from her table the photograph
of Bertram and held it in her two hands,
talking to it softly, but a little wildly.

``I didn't listen! I didn't stay! Do you hear?
I came to you. She shall not say anything that
will make trouble between you and me. I've
suffered enough through her already! And she
doesn't _know_--she didn't know before, and she
doesn't now. She's only imagining. I will not
not--_not_ believe that you love me--just to
paint. No matter what they say--all of them!
I _will not!_''

Billy put the photograph back on the table
then, and went down-stairs to her guest. She
smiled brightly, though her face was a little pale.

``I wondered if perhaps you wouldn't like some
music,'' she said pleasantly, going straight to
the piano.

``Indeed I would!'' agreed Mrs. Hartwell.

Billy sat down then and played--played as
Mrs. Hartwell had never heard her play before.

``Why, Billy, you amaze me,'' she cried, when
the pianist stopped and whirled about. ``I had
no idea you could play like that!''

Billy smiled enigmatically. Billy was thinking
that Mrs. Hartwell would, indeed, have been
surprised if she had known that in that playing
were herself, the ride home, the luncheon, Bertram,
and the girl--whom Bertram _did not love only
to paint!_



The twelfth was a beautiful day. Clear, frosty
air set the blood to tingling and the eyes to sparkling,
even if it were not your wedding day; while
if it were--

It _was_ Marie Hawthorn's wedding day, and
certainly her eyes sparkled and her blood tingled
as she threw open the window of her room and
breathed long and deep of the fresh morning air
before going down to breakfast.

``They say `Happy is the bride that the sun
shines on,' '' she whispered softly to an English
sparrow that cocked his eye at her from a
neighboring tree branch. ``As if a bride wouldn't
be happy, sun or no sun,'' she scoffed tenderly,
as she turned to go down-stairs.

As it happens, however, tingling blood and
sparkling eyes are a matter of more than weather,
or even weddings, as was proved a little later
when the telephone bell rang.

Kate answered the ring.

``Hullo, is that you, Kate?'' called a despairing

``Yes. Good morning, Bertram. Isn't this
a fine day for the wedding?''

``Fine! Oh, yes, I suppose so, though I must
confess I haven't noticed it--and you wouldn't,
if you had a lunatic on your hands.''

``A lunatic!''

``Yes. Maybe you have, though. Is Marie
rampaging around the house like a wild creature,
and asking ten questions and making twenty
threats to the minute?''

``Certainly not! Don't be absurd, Bertram.
What do you mean?''

``See here, Kate, that show comes off at twelve
sharp, doesn't it?''

``Show, indeed!'' retorted Kate, indignantly.
``The _wedding_ is at noon sharp--as the best man
should know very well.''

``All right; then tell Billy, please, to see that it
is sharp, or I won't answer for the consequences.''

``What do you mean? What is the matter?''

``Cyril. He's broken loose at last. I've been
expecting it all along. I've simply marvelled at
the meekness with which he has submitted himself
to be tied up with white ribbons and topped
with roses.''

``Nonsense, Bertram!''

``Well, it amounts to that. Anyhow, he thinks
it does, and he's wild. I wish you could have
heard the thunderous performance on his piano
with which he woke me up this morning. Billy
says he plays everything--his past, present,
and future. All is, if he was playing his future
this morning, I pity the girl who's got to live it
with him.''


Bertram chuckled remorselessly.

``Well, I do. But I'll warrant he wasn't
playing his future this morning. He was playing his
present--the wedding. You see, he's just waked
up to the fact that it'll be a perfect orgy of women
and other confusion, and he doesn't like it. All
the samee,{sic} I've had to assure him just fourteen
times this morning that the ring, the license, the
carriage, the minister's fee, and my sanity are
all O. K. When he isn't asking questions he's
making threats to snake the parson up there an
hour ahead of time and be off with Marie before a
soul comes.''

``What an absurd idea!''

``Cyril doesn't think so. Indeed, Kate, I've
had a hard struggle to convince him that the
guests wouldn't think it the most delightful
experience of their lives if they should come and
find the ceremony over with and the bride gone.''

``Well, you remind Cyril, please, that there
are other people besides himself concerned in
this wedding,'' observed Kate, icily.

``I have,'' purred Bertram, ``and he says all
right, let them have it, then. He's gone now to
look up proxy marriages, I believe.''

``Proxy marriages, indeed! Come, come, Bertram,
I've got something to do this morning
besides to stand here listening to your nonsense.
See that you and Cyril get here on time--that's
all!'' And she hung up the receiver with an
impatient jerk.

She turned to confront the startled eyes of the
bride elect.

``What is it? Is anything wrong--with
Cyril?'' faltered Marie.

Kate laughed and raised her eyebrows slightly.

``Nothing but a little stage fright, my dear.''

``Stage fright!''

``Yes. Bertram says he's trying to find some
one to play his rle, I believe, in the ceremony.''

``_Mrs. Hartwell!_''

At the look of dismayed terror that came into
Marie's face, Mrs. Hartwell laughed reassuringly.

``There, there, dear child, don't look so horror-
stricken. There probably never was a man yet
who wouldn't have fled from the wedding part
of his marriage if he could; and you know how
Cyril hates fuss and feathers. The wonder to me
is that he's stood it as long as he has. I thought I
saw it coming, last night at the rehearsal--and
now I know I did.''

Marie still looked distressed.

``But he never said--I thought--'' She
stopped helplessly.

``Of course he didn't, child. He never said
anything but that he loved you, and he never
thought anything but that you were going to be
his. Men never do--till the wedding day. Then
they never think of anything but a place to run,''
she finished laughingly, as she began to arrange
on a stand the quantity of little white boxes
waiting for her.

``But if he'd told me--in time, I wouldn't have
had a thing--but the minister,'' faltered Marie.

``And when you think so much of a pretty
wedding, too? Nonsense! It isn't good for a
man, to give up to his whims like that!''

Marie's cheeks grew a deeper pink. Her
nostrils dilated a little.

``It wouldn't be a `whim,' Mrs. Hartwell, and
I should be _glad_ to give up,'' she said with decision.

Mrs. Hartwell laughed again, her amused eyes
on Marie's face.

``Dear me, child! don't you know that if men
had their way, they'd--well, if men married
men there'd never be such a thing in the world
as a shower bouquet or a piece of wedding cake!''

There was no reply. A little precipitately
Marie turned and hurried away. A moment
later she was laying a restraining hand on Billy,
who was filling tall vases with superb long-stemmed
roses in the kitchen.

``Billy, please,'' she panted, ``couldn't we
do without those? Couldn't we send them to
some--some hospital?--and the wedding cake,
too, and--''

``The wedding cake--to some _hospital!_''

``No, of course not--to the hospital. It
would make them sick to eat it, wouldn't it?''
That there was no shadow of a smile on Marie's
face showed how desperate, indeed, was her state
of mind. ``I only meant that I didn't want them
myself, nor the shower bouquet, nor the rooms
darkened, nor little Kate as the flower girl--and
would you mind very much if I asked you not
to be my maid of honor?''


Marie covered her face with her hands then and
began to sob brokenly; so there was nothing for
Billy to do but to take her into her arms with
soothing little murmurs and pettings. By degrees,
then, the whole story came out.

Billy almost laughed--but she almost cried,
too. Then she said:

``Dearie, I don't believe Cyril feels or acts
half so bad as Bertram and Kate make out, and,
anyhow, if he did, it's too late now to--to send
the wedding cake to the hospital, or make any
other of the little changes you suggest.'' Billy's
lips puckered into a half-smile, but her eyes were
grave. ``Besides, there are your music pupils
trimming the living-room this minute with evergreen,
there's little Kate making her flower-girl
wreath, and Mrs. Hartwell stacking cake boxes
in the hall, to say nothing of Rosa gloating over
the best china in the dining-room, and Aunt
Hannah putting purple bows into the new lace
cap she's counting on wearing. Only think how
disappointed they'd all be if I should say: `Never
mind--stop that. Marie's just going to have a
minister. No fuss, no feathers!' Why, dearie,
even the roses are hanging their heads for grief,''
she went on mistily, lifting with gentle fingers
one of the full-petalled pink beauties near her.
``Besides, there's your--guests.''

``Oh, of course, I knew I couldn't--really,''
sighed Marie, as she turned to go up-stairs, all
the light and joy gone from her face.

Billy, once assured that Marie was out of
hearing, ran to the telephone.

Bertram answered.

``Bertram, tell Cyril I want to speak to him,

``All right, dear, but go easy. Better strike
up your tuning fork to find his pitch to-day.
You'll discover it's a high one, all right.''

A moment later Cyril's tersely nervous ``Good
morning, Billy,'' came across the line.

Billy drew in her breath and cast a hurriedly
apprehensive glance over her shoulder to make
sure Marie was not near.

``Cyril,'' she called in a low voice, ``if you care
a shred for Marie, for heaven's sake call her up
and tell her that you dote on pink roses, and pink
ribbons, and pink breakfasts--and pink wedding

``But I don't.''

``Oh, yes, you do--to-day! You would--if
you could see Marie now.''

``What do you mean?''

``Nothing, only she overheard part of Bertram's
nonsensical talk with Kate a little while ago, and
she's ready to cast the last ravelling of white satin
and conventionality behind her, and go with you
to the justice of the peace.''

``Sensible girl!''

``Yes, but she can't, you know, with fifty
guests coming to the wedding, and twice as many
more to the reception. Honestly, Cyril, she's
broken-hearted. You must do something. She's
--coming!'' And the receiver clicked sharply
into place.

Five minutes later Marie was called to the
telephone. Dejectedly, wistful-eyed, she went.
Just what were the words that hummed across the
wire into the pink little ear of the bride-to-be,
Billy never knew; but a Marie that was anything
but wistful-eyed and dejected left the telephone
a little later, and was heard very soon in the room
above trilling merry snatches of a little song.
Contentedly, then, Billy went back to her roses.

It was a pretty wedding, a very pretty wedding.
Every one said that. The pink and green of the
decorations, the soft lights (Kate had had her
way about darkening the rooms), the pretty frocks
and smiling faces of the guests all helped. Then
there were the dainty flower girl, little Kate, the
charming maid of honor, Billy, the stalwart,
handsome best man, Bertram, to say nothing of
the delicately beautiful bride, who looked like
some fairy visitor from another world in the floating
shimmer of her gossamer silk and tulle. There
was, too, not quite unnoticed, the bridegroom;
tall, of distinguished bearing, and with features
that were clear cut and-to-day-rather pale.

Then came the reception--the ``women and
confusion ``of Cyril's fears--followed by the
going away of the bride and groom with its merry
warfare of confetti and old shoes.

At four o'clock, however, with only William
and Bertram remaining for guests, something like
quiet descended at last on the little house.

``Well, it's over,'' sighed Billy, dropping
exhaustedly into a big chair in the living-room.

``And _well_ over,'' supplemented Aunt Hannah,
covering her white shawl with a warmer blue one.

``Yes, I think it was,'' nodded Kate. ``It
was really a very pretty wedding.''

``With your help, Kate--eh?'' teased William.

``Well, I flatter myself I did do some good,''
bridled Kate, as she turned to help little Kate
take the flower wreath from her head.

``Even if you did hurry into my room and scare
me into conniption fits telling me I'd be late,''
laughed Billy.

Kate tossed her head.

``Well, how was I to know that Aunt Hannah's
clock only meant half-past eleven when it struck
twelve?'' she retorted.

Everybody laughed.

``Oh, well, it was a pretty wedding,'' declared
William, with a long sigh.

``It'll do--for an understudy,'' said Bertram
softly, for Billy's ears alone.

Only the added color and the swift glance
showed that Billy heard, for when she spoke she

``And didn't Cyril behave beautifully? 'Most
every time I looked at him he was talking to some

``Oh, no, he wasn't--begging your pardon,
my dear,'' objected Bertram. ``I watched him,
too, even more closely than you did, and it was
always the _woman_ who was talking to _Cyril!_''

Billy laughed.

``Well, anyhow,'' she maintained, ``he listened.
He didn't run away.''

``As if a bridegroom could!'' cried Kate.

``I'm going to,'' avowed Bertram, his nose in
the air.

``Pooh!'' scoffed Kate. Then she added
eagerly: ``You must be married in church, Billy,
and in the evening.''

Bertram's nose came suddenly out of the air.
His eyes met Kate's squarely.

``Billy hasn't decided yet how _she_ does want
to be married,'' he said with unnecessary emphasis.

Billy laughed and interposed a quick change of

``I think people had a pretty good time, too,
for a wedding, don't you?'' she asked. ``I was
sorry Mary Jane couldn't be here--'twould have
been such a good chance for him to meet our

``As--_Mary Jane?_'' asked Bertram, a little

``Really, my dear,'' murmured Aunt Hannah,
``I think it _would_ be more respectful to call him
by his name.''

``By the way, what is his name?'' questioned

``That's what we don't know,'' laughed Billy.

``Well, you know the `Arkwright,' don't you?''
put in Bertram. Bertram, too, laughed, but it
was a little forcedly. ``I suppose if you knew his
name was `Methuselah,' you wouldn't call him
that--yet, would you?''

Billy clapped her hands, and threw a merry
glance at Aunt Hannah.

``There! we never thought of `Methuselah,' ''
she gurgled gleefully. ``Maybe it _is_ `Methuselah,'
now--`Methuselah John'! You see, he's told
us to try to guess it,'' she explained, turning to
William; ``but, honestly, I don't believe, whatever
it is, I'll ever think of him as anything but `Mary
Jane.' ''

``Well, as far as I can judge, he has nobody
but himself to thank for that, so he can't do any
complaining,'' smiled William, as he rose to go.
``Well, how about it, Bertram? I suppose you're
going to stay a while to comfort the lonely--eh,

``Of course he is--and so are you, too, Uncle
William,'' spoke up Billy, with affectionate
cordiality. ``As if I'd let you go back to a forlorn
dinner in that great house to-night! Indeed,

William smiled, hesitated, and sat down.

``Well, of course--'' he began.

``Yes, of course,'' finished Billy, quickly.
``I'll telephone Pete that you'll stay here--both
of you.''

It was at this point that little Kate, who had
been turning interested eyes from one brother
to the other, interposed a clear, high-pitched

``Uncle William, didn't you _want_ to marry my
going-to-be-Aunt Billy?''

``Kate!'' gasped her mother, ``didn't I tell
you--'' Her voice trailed into an incoherent
murmur of remonstrance.

Billy blushed. Bertram said a low word under
his breath. Aunt Hannah's ``Oh, my grief and
conscience!'' was almost a groan.

William laughed lightly.

``Well, my little lady,'' he suggested, ``let
us put it the other way and say that quite probably
she didn't want to marry me.''

``Does she want to marry Uncle Bertram?''
``Kate!'' gasped Billy and Mrs. Hartwell together
this time, fearful of what might be coming

``We'll hope so,'' nodded Uncle William,
speaking in a cheerfully matter-of-fact voice, intended
to discourage curiosity.

The little girl frowned and pondered. Her
elders cast about in their minds for a speedy
change of subject; but their somewhat scattered
wits were not quick enough. It was little Kate
who spoke next.

``Uncle William, would she have got Uncle
Cyril if Aunt Marie hadn't nabbed him first?''

``Kate!'' The word was a chorus of dismay
this time.

Mrs. Hartwell struggled to her feet.

``Come, come, Kate, we must go up-stairs--to
bed,'' she stammered.

The little girl drew back indignantly.

``To bed? Why, mama, I haven't had my
supper yet!''

``What? Oh, sure enough--the lights! I
forgot. Well, then, come up--to change your
dress,'' finished Mrs. Hartwell, as with a despairing
look and gesture she led her young daughter
from the room.



Billy came down-stairs on the thirteenth of
December to find everywhere the peculiar flatness
that always follows a day which for weeks has
been the focus of one's aims and thoughts and

``It's just as if everything had stopped at Marie's
wedding, and there wasn't anything more to do,''
she complained to Aunt Hannah at the breakfast
table. ``Everything seems so--queer!''

``It won't--long, dear,'' smiled Aunt Hannah,
tranquilly, as she buttered her roll, ``specially
after Bertram comes back. How long does he
stay in New York?''

``Only three days; but I'm just sure it's going
to seem three weeks, now,'' sighed Billy. ``But
he simply had to go--else he wouldn't have

``I've no doubt of it,'' observed Aunt Hannah.
And at the meaning emphasis of her words,
Billy laughed a little. After a minute she said

``I had supposed that I could at least have a sort
of `after the ball' celebration this morning picking
up and straightening things around. But John
and Rosa have done it all. There isn't so much
as a rose leaf anywhere on the floor. Of course
most of the flowers went to the hospital last night,
anyway. As for Marie's room--it looks as
spick-and-span as if it had never seen a scrap
of ribbon or an inch of tulle.''

``But--the wedding presents?''

``All carried down to the kitchen and half
packed now, ready to go over to the new home.
John says he'll take them over in Peggy this
afternoon, after he takes Mrs. Hartwell's trunk to
Uncle William's.''

``Well, you can at least go over to the
apartment and work,'' suggested Aunt Hannah, hopefully.

``Humph! Can I?'' scoffed Billy. ``As if I
could--when Marie left strict orders that not
one thing was to be touched till she got here.
They arranged everything but the presents before
the wedding, anyway; and Marie wants to fix
those herself after she gets back. Mercy! Aunt
Hannah, if I should so much as move a plate one
inch in the china closet, Marie would know it--
and change it when she got home,'' laughed Billy,
as she rose from the table. ``No, I can't go to
work over there.''

``But there's your music, my dear. You said
you were going to write some new songs after the

``I was,'' sighed Billy, walking to the window,
and looking listlessly at the bare, brown world
outside; ``but I can't write songs--when there
aren't any songs in my head to write.''

``No, of course not; but they'll come, dear, in
time. You're tired, now,'' soothed Aunt Hannah,
as she turned to leave the room.

``It's the reaction, of course,'' murmured Aunt
Hannah to herself, on the way up-stairs. ``She's
had the whole thing on her hands--dear child!''

A few minutes later, from the living-room,
came a plaintive little minor melody. Billy was
at the piano.

Kate and little Kate had, the night before, gone
home with William. It had been a sudden
decision, brought about by the realization that
Bertram's trip to New York would leave William
alone. Her trunk was to be carried there to-day,
and she would leave for home from there, at the
end of a two or three days' visit.

It began to snow at twelve o'clock. All the
morning the sky had been gray and threatening;
and the threats took visible shape at noon in
myriads of white snow feathers that filled the
air to the blinding point, and turned the brown,
bare world into a thing of fairylike beauty. Billy,
however, with a rare frown upon her face, looked
out upon it with disapproving eyes.

``I _was_ going in town--and I believe I'll go
now,'' she cried.

``Don't, dear, please don't,'' begged Aunt
Hannah. ``See, the flakes are smaller now, and
the wind is coming up. We're in for a blizzard--
I'm sure we are. And you know you have some
cold, already.''

``All right,'' sighed Billy. ``Then it's me for the
knitting work and the fire, I suppose,'' she finished,
with a whimsicality that did not hide the wistful
disappointment of her voice.

She was not knitting, however, she was sewing
with Aunt Hannah when at four o'clock Rosa
brought in the card.

Billy glanced at the name, then sprang to her
feet with a glad little cry.

``It's Mary Jane!'' she exclaimed, as Rosa
disappeared. ``Now wasn't he a dear to think
to come to-day? You'll be down, won't you?''

Aunt Hannah smiled even while she frowned.

``Oh, Billy!'' she remonstrated. ``Yes, I'll
come down, of course, a little later, and I'm glad
_Mr. Arkwright_ came,'' she said with reproving

Billy laughed and threw a mischievous glance
over her shoulder.

``All right,'' she nodded. ``I'll go and tell
_Mr. Arkwright_ you'll be down directly.''

In the living-room Billy greeted her visitor
with a frankly cordial hand.

``How did you know, Mr. Arkwright, that I
was feeling specially restless and lonesome to-
day?'' she demanded.

A glad light sprang to the man's dark eyes.

``I didn't know it,'' he rejoined. ``I only
knew that I was specially restless and lonesome

Arkwright's voice was not quite steady. The
unmistakable friendliness in the girl's words and
manner had sent a quick throb of joy to his
heart. Her evident delight in his coming had
filled him with rapture. He could not know that
it was only the chill of the snowstorm that had
given warmth to her handclasp, the dreariness
of the day that had made her greeting so cordial,
the loneliness of a maiden whose lover is away
that had made his presence so welcome.

``Well, I'm glad you came, anyway,'' sighed
Billy, contentedly; ``though I suppose I ought
to be sorry that you were lonesome--but I'm
afraid I'm not, for now you'll know just how I
felt, so you won't mind if I'm a little wild and
erratic. You see, the tension has snapped,'' she
added laughingly, as she seated herself.


``The wedding, you know. For so many weeks
we've been seeing just December twelfth, that
we'd apparently forgotten all about the thirteenth
that came after it; so when I got up this morning
I felt just as you do when the clock has
stopped ticking. But it was a lovely wedding,
Mr. Arkwright. I'm sorry you could not be

``Thank you; so am I--though usually, I
will confess, I'm not much good at attending
`functions' and meeting strangers. As perhaps
you've guessed, Miss Neilson, I'm not particularly
a society chap.''

``Of course you aren't! People who are doing
things--real things--seldom are. But we aren't
the society kind ourselves, you know--not
the capital S kind. We like sociability, which is
vastly different from liking Society. Oh, we have
friends, to be sure, who dote on `pink teas and
purple pageants,' as Cyril calls them; and we even
go ourselves sometimes. But if you had been here
yesterday, Mr. Arkwright, you'd have met lots
like yourself, men and women who are doing
things: singing, playing, painting, illustrating,
writing. Why, we even had a poet, sir--only
he didn't have long hair, so he didn't look the
part a bit,'' she finished laughingly.

``Is long hair--necessary--for poets?''
Arkwright's smile was quizzical.

``Dear me, no; not now. But it used to be,
didn't it? And for painters, too. But now they
look just like--folks.''

Arkwright laughed.

``It isn't possible that you are sighing for the
velvet coats and flowing ties of the past, is it,
Miss Neilson?''

``I'm afraid it is,'' dimpled Billy. ``I _love_
velvet coats and flowing ties!''

``May singers wear them? I shall don them at
once, anyhow, at a venture,'' declared the man,

Billy smiled and shook her head.

``I don't think you will. You all like your
horrid fuzzy tweeds and worsteds too well!''

``You speak with feeling. One would almost
suspect that you already had tried to bring about
a reform--and failed. Perhaps Mr. Cyril, now,
or Mr. Bertram--'' Arkwright stopped with
a whimsical smile.

Billy flushed a little. As it happened, she had,
indeed, had a merry tilt with Bertram on that
very subject, and he had laughingly promised
that his wedding present to her would be a velvet
house coat for himself. It was on the point of
Billy's tongue now to say this to Arkwright;
but another glance at the provoking smile on
his lips drove the words back in angry confusion.
For the second time, in the presence of this man,
Billy found herself unable to refer to her engagement
to Bertram Henshaw--though this time
she did not in the least doubt that Arkwright
already knew of it.

With a little gesture of playful scorn she rose
and went to the piano.

``Come, let us try some duets,'' she suggested.
``That's lots nicer than quarrelling over velvet
coats; and Aunt Hannah will be down presently
to hear us sing.''

Before she had ceased speaking, Arkwright was
at her side with an exclamation of eager acquiescence.

It was after the second duet that Arkwright
asked, a little diffidently.

``Have you written any new songs lately?''


``You're going to?''

``Perhaps--if I find one to write.''

``You mean--you have no words?''

``Yes--and no. I have some words, both of
my own and other people's; but I haven't found
in any one of them, yet--a melody.''

Arkwright hesitated. His right hand went
almost to his inner coat pocket--then fell back
at his side. The next moment he picked up a
sheet of music.

``Are you too tired to try this?'' he

A puzzled frown appeared on Billy's face.

``Why, no, but--''

``Well, children, I've come down to hear the
music,'' announced Aunt Hannah, smilingly,
from the doorway; ``only--Billy, _will_ you run
up and get my pink shawl, too? This room _is_
colder than I thought, and there's only the white
one down here.''

``Of course,'' cried Billy, rising at once. ``You
shall have a dozen shawls, if you like,'' she laughed,
as she left the room.

What a cozy time it was--the hour that
followed, after Billy returned with the pink shawl!
Outside, the wind howled at the windows and
flung the snow against the glass in sleety crashes.
Inside, the man and the girl sang duets until they
were tired; then, with Aunt Hannah, they feasted
royally on the buttered toast, tea, and frosted
cakes that Rosa served on a little table before the
roaring fire. It was then that Arkwright talked
of himself, telling them something of his studies,
and of the life he was living.

``After all, you see there's just this difference
between my friends and yours,'' he said, at last.
``Your friends _are_ doing things. They've succeeded.
Mine haven't, yet--they're only _trying_.''

``But they will succeed,'' cried Billy.

``Some of them,'' amended the man.

``Not--all of them?'' Billy looked a little

Arkwright shook his head slowly.

``No. They couldn't--all of them, you know.
Some haven't the talent, some haven't the
perseverance, and some haven't the money.''

``But all that seems such a pity-when they've
tried,'' grieved Billy.

``It is a pity, Miss Neilson. Disappointed
hopes are always a pity, aren't they?''

``Y-yes,'' sighed the girl. ``But--if there
were only something one could do to--help!''

Arkwright's eyes grew deep with feeling, but
his voice, when he spoke, was purposely light.

``I'm afraid that would be quite too big a
contract for even your generosity, Miss Neilson--
to mend all the broken hopes in the world,'' he

``I have known great good to come from great
disappointments, ``remarked Aunt Hannah, a
bit didactically.

``So have I,'' laughed Arkwright, still
determined to drive the troubled shadow from the
face he was watching so intently. ``For instance:
a fellow I know was feeling all cut up last Friday
because he was just too late to get into Symphony
Hall on the twenty-five-cent admission. Half
an hour afterwards his disappointment was turned
to joy--a friend who had an orchestra chair
couldn't use his ticket that day, and so handed
it over to him.''

Billy turned interestedly.

``What are those twenty-five-cent tickets to
the Symphony?''

``Then--you don't know?''

``Not exactly. I've heard of them, in a vague

``Then you've missed one of the sights of Boston
if you haven't ever seen that long line of patient
waiters at the door of Symphony Hall of a Friday

``Morning! But the concert isn't till afternoon!''

``No, but the waiting is,'' retorted Arkwright.
``You see, those admissions are limited--five
hundred and five, I believe--and they're rush
seats, at that. First come, first served; and if
you're too late you aren't served at all. So the
first arrival comes bright and early. I've heard
that he has been known to come at peep of day
when there's a Paderewski or a Melba for a
drawing card. But I've got my doubts of that.
Anyhow, I never saw them there much before
half-past eight. But many's the cold, stormy
day I've seen those steps in front of the Hall
packed for hours, and a long line reaching away
up the avenue.''

Billy's eyes widened.

``And they'll stand all that time and wait?''

``To be sure they will. You see, each pays
twenty-five cents at the door, until the limit is
reached, then the rest are turned away. Naturally
they don't want to be turned away, so they try
to get there early enough to be among the fortunate
five hundred and five. Besides, the earlier
you are, the better seat you are likely to get.''

``But only think of _standing_ all that time!''

``Oh, they bring camp chairs, sometimes, I've
heard, and then there are the steps. You don't
know what a really fine seat a stone step is--if
you have a _big_ enough bundle of newspapers to
cushion it with! They bring their luncheons, too,
with books, papers, and knitting work for fine
days, I've been told--some of them. All the
comforts of home, you see,'' smiled Arkwright.

``Why, how--how dreadful!'' stammered

``Oh, but they don't think it's dreadful at
all,'' corrected Arkwright, quickly. ``For twenty-
five cents they can hear all that you hear down
in your orchestra chair, for which you've paid so
high a premium.''

``But who--who are they? Where do they
come from? Who _would_ go and stand hours like
that to get a twenty-five-cent seat?'' questioned

``Who are they? Anybody, everybody, from
anywhere? everywhere; people who have the
music hunger but not the money to satisfy it,''
he rejoined. ``Students, teachers, a little milliner
from South Boston, a little dressmaker from Chelsea,
a housewife from Cambridge, a stranger from
the uttermost parts of the earth; maybe a widow
who used to sit down-stairs, or a professor who has
seen better days. Really to know that line, you
should see it for yourself, Miss Neilson,'' smiled
Arkwright, as he reluctantly rose to go. ``Some
Friday, however, before you take your seat, just
glance up at that packed top balcony and judge
by the faces you see there whether their owners
think they're getting their twenty-five-cents'
worth, or not.''

``I will,'' nodded Billy, with a smile; but the
smile came from her lips only, not her eyes:
Billy was wishing, at that moment, that she
owned the whole of Symphony Hall--to give
away. But that was like Billy. When she was
seven years old she had proposed to her Aunt Ella
that they take all the thirty-five orphans from the
Hampden Falls Orphan Asylum to live with them,
so that little Sallie Cook and the other orphans
might have ice cream every day, if they wanted
it. Since then Billy had always been trying--in
a way--to give ice cream to some one who
wanted it.

Arkwright was almost at the door when he
turned abruptly. His face was an abashed red.
From his pocket he had taken a small folded

``Do you suppose--in this--you might find
--that melody?'' he stammered in a low voice.
The next moment he was gone, having left in
Billy's fingers a paper upon which was written
in a clear-cut, masculine hand six four-line stanzas.

Billy read them at once, hurriedly, then more

``Why, they're beautiful,'' she breathed, ``just
beautiful! Where did he get them, I wonder?
It's a love song--and such a pretty one! I
believe there _is_ a melody in it,'' she exulted, pausing
to hum a line or two. ``There is--I know there
is; and I'll write it--for Bertram,'' she finished,
crossing joyously to the piano.

Half-way down Corey Hill at that moment,
Arkwright was buffeting the wind and snow.
He, too, was thinking joyously of those stanzas--
joyously, yet at the same time fearfully.
Arkwright himself had written those lines--though
not for Bertram.



On the fourteenth of December Billy came
down-stairs alert, interested, and happy. She
had received a dear letter from Bertram (mailed
on the way to New York), the sun was shining,
and her fingers were fairly tingling to put on paper
the little melody that was now surging riotously
through her brain. Emphatically, the restlessness
of the day before was gone now. Once more
Billy's ``clock'' had ``begun to tick.''

After breakfast Billy went straight to the
telephone and called up Arkwright. Even one
side of the conversation Aunt Hannah did not
hear very clearly; but in five minutes a radiant-
faced Billy danced into the room.

``Aunt Hannah, just listen! Only think--
Mary Jane wrote the words himself, so of course
I can use them!''

``Billy, dear, _can't_ you say `Mr. Arkwright'?''
pleaded Aunt Hannah.

Billy laughed and gave the anxious-eyed little
old lady an impulsive hug.

``Of course! I'll say `His Majesty' if you like,
dear,'' she chuckled. ``But did you hear--did
you realize? They're his own words, so there's
no question of rights or permission, or anything.
And he's coming up this afternoon to hear my

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