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Miss Billy's Decision by Eleanor H. Porter

Part 7 out of 7

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``_Hinder me!_ What are you talking about,

Billy drew a quivering sigh.

``Well, to begin with, Kate said--''

``Good heavens! Is Kate in _this_, too?''
Bertram's voice was savage now.

``Well, she wrote a letter.''

``I'll warrant she did! Great Scott, Billy!
Don't you know Kate by this time?''

``Y-yes, I said so, too. But, Bertram, what she
wrote was true. I found it everywhere, afterwards--
in magazines and papers, and even in

``Humph! Well, dearie, I don't know yet what
you found, but I do know you wouldn't have found
it at all if it hadn't been for Kate--and I wish I
had her here this minute!''

Billy giggled hysterically.

``I don't--not _right_ here,'' she cooed, nestling
comfortably against her lover's arm. ``But you
see, dear, she never _has_ approved of the marriage.''

``Well, who's doing the marrying--she, or I?''
``That's what I said, too--only in another
way,'' sighed Billy. ``But she called us flyaway
flutterbudgets, and she said I'd ruin your career,
if I did marry you.''

``Well, I can tell you right now, Billy, you will
ruin it if you don't!'' declared Bertram. ``That's
what ailed me all the time I was painting that
miserable portrait. I was so worried--for fear I'd
lose you.''

``Lose me! Why, Bertram Henshaw, what do
you mean?''

A shamed red crept to the man's forehead.

``Well, I suppose I might as well own up now as
any time. I was scared blue, Billy, with jealousy

Billy laughed gayly--but she shifted her
position and did not meet her lover's eyes.

``Arkwright? Nonsense!'' she cried. ``Why,
he's going to marry Alice Greggory. I know he is!
I can see it as plain as day in her letters. He's
there a lot.''

``And you never did think for a minute, Billy,
that you cared for him?'' Bertram's gaze searched
Billy's face a little fearfully. He had not been
slow to mark that swift lowering of her eyelids.
But Billy looked him now straight in the face--
it was a level, frank gaze of absolute truth.

``Never, dear,'' she said firmly. (Billy was so
glad Bertram had turned the question on _her_ love
instead of Arkwright's!) ``There has never really
been any one but you.''

``Thank God for that,'' breathed Bertram, as he
drew the bright head nearer and held it close.

After a minute Billy stirred and sighed happily.

``Aren't lovers the beat'em for imagining
things?'' she murmured.

``They certainly are.''

``You see--I wasn't in love with Mr. Arkwright.''

``I see--I hope.''

`` And--and you didn't care _specially_ for--for
Miss Winthrop?''

``Eh? Well, no!'' exploded Bertram. ``Do you
mean to say you really--''

Billy put a soft finger on his lips.

``Er--`people who live in _glass houses_,' you
know,'' she reminded him, with roguish eyes.

Bertram kissed the finger and subsided.

``Humph!'' he commented.

There was a long silence; then, a little
breathlessly, Billy asked:

``And you don't--after all, love me--just to

``Well, what is that? Is that Kate, too?''
demanded Bertram, grimly.

Billy laughed.

``No--oh, she said it, all right, but, you see,
_everybody_ said that to me, Bertram; and that's
what made me so--so worried sometimes when
you talked about the tilt of my chin, and all that.''

``Well, by Jove!'' breathed Bertram.

There was another silence. Then, suddenly,
Bertram stirred.

``Billy, I'm going to marry you to-morrow,'' he
announced decisively.

Billy lifted her head and sat back in palpitating

``Bertram! What an absurd idea!''

``Well, I am. I don't _know_ as I can trust you
out of my sight till _then!_ You'll read something,
or hear something, or get a letter from Kate after
breakfast to-morrow morning, that will set you
`saving me' again; and I don't want to be saved
--that way. I'm going to marry you to-morrow.
I'll get--'' He stopped short, with a sudden
frown. ``Confound that law! I forgot. Great
Scott, Billy, I'll have to trust you five days, after
all! There's a new law about the license. We've
_got_ to wait five days--and maybe more, counting
in the notice, and all.''

Billy laughed softly.

``Five days, indeed, sir! I wonder if you think
I can get ready to be married in five days.''

``Don't want you to get ready,'' retorted
Bertram, promptly. ``I saw Marie get ready, and I
had all I wanted of it. If you really must have all
those miles of tablecloths and napkins and doilies
and lace rufflings we'll do it afterwards,--not before.''


``Besides, I _need_ you to take care of me,'' cut in
Bertram, craftily.

``Bertram, do you--really?''

The tender glow on Billy's face told its own
story, and Bertram's eager eyes were not slow to
read it.

``Sweetheart, see here, dear,'' he cried softly,
tightening his good left arm. And forthwith he
began to tell her how much he did, indeed, need

``Billy, my dear!'' It was Aunt Hannah's
plaintive voice at the doorway, a little later. ``We
must go home; and William is here, too, and wants
to see you.''

Billy rose at once as Aunt Hannah entered the

``Yes, Aunt Hannah, I'll come; besides--'' she
glanced at Bertram mischievously--'' I shall
need all the time I've got to prepare for--my

``Your wedding! You mean it'll be before--
October?'' Aunt Hannah glanced from one to the
other uncertainly. Something in their smiling
faces sent a quick suspicion to her eyes.

``Yes,'' nodded Billy, demurely. ``It's next
Tuesday, you see.''

``Next Tuesday! But that's only a week away,''
gasped Aunt Hannah.

``Yes, a week.''

``But, child, your trousseau--the wedding--
the--the--a week!'' Aunt Hannah could not
articulate further.

``Yes, I know; that is a good while,'' cut in
Bertram, airily. ``We wanted it to-morrow, but we
had to wait, on account of the new license law.
Otherwise it wouldn't have been so long, and--''

But Aunt Hannah was gone. With a low-
breathed ``Long! Oh, my grief and conscience--
_William!_'' she had fled through the hall door.

``Well, it _is_ long,'' maintained Bertram, with
tender eyes, as he reached out his hand to say

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