Monday, November 5, 2007


My Cousin Maud
Miss Billy--Married
``I, Bertram, take thee, Billy,'' chanted the
white-robed clergyman.
`` `I, Bertram, take thee, Billy,' '' echoed the
tall young bridegroom, his eyes gravely tender.
``To my wedded wife.''
`` `To my wedded wife.' '' The bridegroom's
voice shook a little.
``To have and to hold from this day forward.''
`` `To have and to hold from this day
forward.' '' Now the young voice rang with
triumph. It had grown strong and steady.
``For better for worse.''
`` `For better for worse.' ''
``For richer for poorer,'' droned the clergyman,
with the weariness of uncounted repetitions.
`` `For richer for poorer,' '' avowed the
bridegroom, with the decisive emphasis of one to
whom the words are new and significant.
``In sickness and in health.''
`` `In sickness and in health.' ''
``To love and to cherish.''
`` `To love and to cherish.' '' The younger
voice carried infinite tenderness now.
``Till death us do part.''
`` `Till death us do part,' '' repeated the
bridegroom's lips; but everybody knew that what his
heart said was: ``Now, and through all eternity.''
``According to God's holy ordinance.''
`` `According to God's holy ordinance.' ''
``And thereto I plight thee my troth.''
`` `And thereto I plight thee my troth.' ''
There was a faint stir in the room. In one
corner a white-haired woman blinked tear-wet
eyes and pulled a fleecy white shawl more closely
about her shoulders. Then the minister's voice
sounded again.
``I, Billy, take thee, Bertram.''
`` `I, Billy, take thee, Bertram.' ''
This time the echoing voice was a feminine one,
low and sweet, but clearly distinct, and vibrant
with joyous confidence, on through one after another
of the ever familiar, but ever impressive
phrases of the service that gives into the hands
of one man and of one woman the future happiness,
each of the other.
The wedding was at noon. That evening Mrs.
Kate Hartwell, sister of the bridegroom, wrote
the following letter:
BOSTON, July 15th.
``MY DEAR HUSBAND:--Well, it's all over
with, and they're married. I couldn't do one
thing to prevent it. Much as ever as they would
even listen to what I had to say--and when
they knew how I had hurried East to say it, too,
with only two hours' notice!
``But then, what can you expect? From time
immemorial lovers never did have any sense;
and when those lovers are such irresponsible
flutterbudgets as Billy and Bertram--!
``And such a wedding! I couldn't do anything
with _that_, either, though I tried hard. They had
it in Billy's living-room at noon, with nothing
but the sun for light. There was no maid of honor,
no bridesmaids, no wedding cake, no wedding
veil, no presents (except from the family, and from
that ridiculous Chinese cook of brother William's,
Ding Dong, or whatever his name is. He tore in
just before the wedding ceremony, and insisted
upon seeing Billy to give her a wretched little
green stone idol, which he declared would bring
her `heap plenty velly good luckee' if she
received it before she `got married.' I wouldn't
have the hideous, grinning thing around, but
William says it's real jade, and very valuable, and
of course Billy was crazy over it--or pretended
to be). There was no trousseau, either, and no
reception. There was no anything but the bridegroom;
and when I tell you that Billy actually
declared that was all she wanted, you will understand
how absurdly in love she is--in spite of all
those weeks and weeks of broken engagement
when I, at least, supposed she had come to her
senses, until I got that crazy note from Bertram
a week ago saying they were to be married today.
``I can't say that I've got any really
satisfactory explanation of the matter. Everything has
been in such a hubbub, and those two ridiculous
children have been so afraid they wouldn't be
together every minute possible, that any really
rational conversation with either of them was out
of the question. When Billy broke the engagement
last spring none of us knew why she had done
it, as you know; and I fancy we shall be almost
as much in the dark as to why she has--er--mended
it now, as you might say. As near as I
can make out, however, she thought he didn't
want her, and he thought she didn't want him. I
believe matters were still further complicated by
a girl Bertram was painting, and a young fellow
that used to sing with Billy--a Mr. Arkwright.
``Anyhow, things came to a head last spring,
Billy broke the engagement and fled to parts unknown
with Aunt Hannah, leaving Bertram here
in Boston to alternate between stony despair and
reckless gayety, according to William; and it was
while he was in the latter mood that he had that
awful automobile accident and broke his arm--
and almost his neck. He was wildly delirious,
and called continually for Billy.
``Well, it seems Billy didn't know all this;
but a week ago she came home, and in some way
found out about it, I think through Pete--William's
old butler, you know. Just exactly what
happened I can't say, but I do know that she
dragged poor old Aunt Hannah down to Bertram's
at some unearthly hour, and in the rain;
and Aunt Hannah couldn't do a thing with her.
All Billy would say, was, `Bertram wants me.'
And Aunt Hannah told me that if I could have
seen Billy's face I'd have known that she'd have
gone to Bertram then if he'd been at the top of
the Himalaya Mountains, or at the bottom of the
China Sea. So perhaps it's just as well--for
Aunt Hannah's sake, at least--that he was in
no worse place than on his own couch at home.
Anyhow, she went, and in half an hour they
blandly informed Aunt Hannah that they were
going to be married to-day.
``Aunt Hannah said she tried to stop that, and
get them to put it off till October (the original
date, you know), but Bertram was obdurate.
And when he declared he'd marry her the next
day if it wasn't for the new license law, Aunt
Hannah said she gave up for fear he'd get a special
dispensation, or go to the Governor or the President,
or do some other dreadful thing. (What a
funny old soul Aunt Hannah is!) Bertram told
_me_ that he should never feel safe till Billy was
really his; that she'd read something, or hear
something, or think something, or get a letter
from me (as if anything _I_ could say would do
any good-or harm!), and so break the engagement
``Well, she's his now, so I suppose he's
satisfied; though, for my part, I haven't changed my
mind at all. I still say that they are not one bit
suited to each other, and that matrimony will
simply ruin his career. Bertram never has loved
and never will love any girl long--except to
paint. But if he simply _would_ get married, why
couldn't he have taken a nice, sensible domestic
girl that would have kept him fed and
``Not but that I'm very fond of Billy, as you
know, dear; but imagine Billy as a wife--worse
yet, a mother! Billy's a dear girl, but she knows
about as much of real life and its problems as--
as our little Kate. A more impulsive, irresponsible,
regardless-of-consequences young woman I
never saw. She can play divinely, and write
delightful songs, I'll acknowledge; but what is that
when a man is hungry, or has lost a button?
``Billy has had her own way, and had everything
she wanted for years now--a rather dangerous
preparation for marriage, especially marriage
to a fellow like Bertram who has had _his_
own way and everything _he's_ wanted for years.
Pray, what's going to happen when those ways
conflict, and neither one gets the thing wanted?
``And think of her ignorance of cooking--but,
there! What's the use? They're married now,
and it can't be helped.
``Mercy, what a letter I've written! But I,
had to talk to some one; besides, I'd promised I
to let you know how matters stood as soon as I
could. As you see, though, my trip East has been
practically useless. I saw the wedding, to be
sure, but I didn't prevent it, or even postpone
it--though I meant to do one or the other, else
I should never have made that tiresome journey
half across the continent at two hours' notice.
``However, we shall see what we shall see. As
for me, I'm dead tired. Good night.
``Affectionately yours,
Quite naturally, Mrs. Kate Hartwell was not
the only one who was thinking that evening of
the wedding. In the home of Bertram's brother
Cyril, Cyril himself was at the piano, but where
his thoughts were was plain to be seen--or
rather, heard; for from under his fingers there
came the Lohengrin wedding march until all the
room seemed filled with the scent of orange
blossoms, the mistiness of floating veils, and the
echoing peals of far-away organs heralding the
``Fair Bride and Groom.''
Over by the table in the glowing circle of the
shaded lamp, sat Marie, Cyril's wife, a dainty
sewing-basket by her side. Her hands, however,
lay idly across the stocking in her lap.
As the music ceased, she drew a long sigh.
What a perfectly beautiful wedding that
was! she breathed.
Cyril whirled about on the piano stool.
``It was a very sensible wedding,'' he said with
``They looked so happy--both of them,''
went on Marie, dreamily; ``so--so sort of above
and beyond everything about them, as if nothing
ever, ever could trouble them--_now_.''
Cyril lifted his eyebrows.
``Humph! Well, as I said before, it was a very
_sensible_ wedding,'' he declared.
This time Marie noticed the emphasis. She
laughed, though her eyes looked a little troubled.
``I know, dear, of course, what you mean. _I_
thought our wedding was beautiful; but I would
have made it simpler if I'd realized in time how
``How I abhorred pink teas and purple
pageants,'' he finished for her, with a frowning
smile. ``Oh, well, I stood it--for the sake of
what it brought me.'' His face showed now only
the smile; the frown had vanished. For a man
known for years to his friends as a ``hater of
women and all other confusion,'' Cyril Henshaw
was looking remarkably well-pleased with himself.
His wife of less than a year colored as she
met his gaze. Hurriedly she picked up her
The man laughed happily at her confusion.
``What are you doing? Is that my stocking?''
he demanded.
A look, half pain, half reproach, crossed her
``Why, Cyril, of course not! You--you told
me not to, long ago. You said my darns made--
``Ho! I meant I didn't want to _wear_ them,''
retorted the man, upon whom the tragic wretchedness
of that half-sobbed ``bunches'' had been
quite lost. ``I love to see you _mending_ them,''
he finished, with an approving glance at the
pretty little picture of domesticity before him.
A peculiar expression came to Marie's eyes.
Why, Cyril, you mean you _like_ to have me
mend them just for--for the sake of seeing me
do it, when you _know_ you won't ever wear
``Sure!'' nodded the man, imperturbably.
Then, with a sudden laugh, he asked: ``I wonder
now, does Billy love to mend socks?''
Marie smiled, but she sighed, too, and shook
her head.
``I'm afraid not, Cyril.''
``Nor cook?''
Marie laughed outright this time. The vaguely
troubled look had fled from her eyes
``Oh, Billy's helped me beat eggs and butter
sometimes, but I never knew her to cook a thing
or want to cook a thing, but once; then she
spent nearly two weeks trying to learn to make
puddings--for you.''
``For _me!_''
Marie puckered her lips queerly.
``Well, I supposed they were for you at the
time. At all events she was trying to make them
for some one of you boys; probably it was really
for Bertram, though.''
``Humph!'' grunted Cyril. Then, after a
minute, he observed: ``I judge Kate thinks
Billy'll never make them--for anybody. I'm
afraid Sister Kate isn't pleased.''
``Oh, but Mrs. Hartwell was--was disappointed
in the wedding,'' apologized Marie,
quickly. ``You know she wanted it put off
anyway, and she didn't like such a simple one.
``Hm-m; as usual Sister Kate forgot it wasn't
her funeral--I mean, her wedding,'' retorted
Cyril, dryly. ``Kate is never happy, you know,
unless she's managing things.''
``Yes, I know,'' nodded Marie, with a frowning
smile of recollection at certain features of her own
``She doesn't approve of Billy's taste in guests,
either,'' remarked Cyril, after a moment's silence.
``I thought her guests were lovely,'' spoke up
Marie, in quick defense. ``Of course, most of
her social friends are away--in July; but Billy
is never a society girl, you know, in spite of the
way Society is always trying to lionize her and
``Oh, of course Kate knows that; but she says
it seems as if Billy needn't have gone out and
gathered in the lame and the halt and the blind.''
``Nonsense!'' cried Marie, with unusual sharpness
for her. ``I suppose she said that just because
of Mrs. Greggory's and Tommy Dunn's
``Well, they didn't make a real festive-looking
wedding party, you must admit,'' laughed Cyril;
``what with the bridegroom's own arm in a sling,
too! But who were they all, anyway?''
``Why, you knew Mrs. Greggory and Alice, of
course--and Pete,'' smiled Marie. ``And wasn't
Pete happy? Billy says she'd have had Pete if
she had no one else; that there wouldn't have
been any wedding, anyway, if it hadn't been for
his telephoning Aunt Hannah that night.''
``Yes; Will told me.''
``As for Tommy and the others--most of
them were those people that Billy had at her
home last summer for a two weeks' vacation--
people, you know, too poor to give themselves
one, and too proud to accept one from ordinary
charity. Billy's been following them up and
doing little things for them ever since--sugarplums
and frosting on their cake, she calls it; and they
adore her, of course. I think it was lovely of her
to have them, and they did have such a good
time! You should have seen Tommy when you
played that wedding march for Billy to enter the
room. His poor little face was so transfigured
with joy that I almost cried, just to look at him.
Billy says he loves music--poor little fellow!''
``Well, I hope they'll be happy, in spite of
Kate's doleful prophecies. Certainly they looked
happy enough to-day,'' declared Cyril, patting a
yawn as he rose to his feet. ``I fancy Will and
Aunt Hannah are lonesome, though, about now,''
he added.
``Yes,'' smiled Marie, mistily, as she gathered
up her work. ``I know what Aunt Hannah's
doing. She's helping Rosa put the house to
rights, and she's stopping to cry over every slipper
and handkerchief of Billy's she finds. And she'll
do that until that funny clock of hers strikes
twelve, then she'll say `Oh, my grief and
conscience--midnight!' But the next minute she'll
remember that it's only half-past eleven, after
all, and she'll send Rosa to bed and sit patting
Billy's slipper in her lap till it really is midnight
by all the other clocks.''
Cyril laughed appreciatively.
``Well, I know what Will is doing,'' he declared.
``Will is in Bertram's den dozing before the
fireplace with Spunkie curled up in his lap.''
As it happened, both these surmises were not
far from right. In the Strata, the Henshaws' old
Beacon Street home, William was sitting before
the fireplace with the cat in his lap, but he was
not dozing. He was talking.
``Spunkie,'' he was saying, ``your master,
Bertram, got married to-day--and to Miss
Billy. He'll be bringing her home one of these
days--your new mistress. And such a mistress!
Never did cat or house have a better!
``Just think; for the first time in years this old
place is to know the touch of a woman's hand
--and that's what it hasn't known for almost
twenty years, except for those few short months
six years ago when a dark-eyed girl and a little
gray kitten (that was Spunk, your predecessor,
you know) blew in and blew out again before we
scarcely knew they were here. That girl was
Miss Billy, and she was a dear then, just as she is
now, only now she's coming here to stay. She's
coming home, Spunkie; and she'll make it a
home for you, for me, and for all of us. Up to
now, you know, it hasn't really been a home, for
years--just us men, so. It'll be very different,
Spunkie, as you'll soon find out. Now mind,
madam! We must show that we appreciate all
this: no tempers, no tantrums, no showing of
claws, no leaving our coats--either yours or
mine--on the drawing-room chairs, no tracking
in of mud on clean rugs and floors! For we're
going to have a home, Spunkie--a home!''
At Hillside, Aunt Hannah was, indeed, helping
Rosa to put the house to rights, as Marie had
said. She was crying, too, over a glove she had
found on Billy's piano; but she was crying over
something else, also. Not only had she lost Billy,
but she had lost her home.
To be sure, nothing had been said during that
nightmare of a week of hurry and confusion about
Aunt Hannah's future; but Aunt Hannah knew
very well how it must be. This dear little house
on the side of Corey Hill was Billy's home, and
Billy would not need it any longer. It would be
sold, of course; and she, Aunt Hannah, would go
back to a ``second-story front'' and loneliness in
some Back Bay boarding-house; and a second
story front and loneliness would not be easy now,
after these years of home--and Billy.
No wonder, indeed, that Aunt Hannah sat
crying and patting the little white glove in her
hand. No wonder, too, that--being Aunt Hannah--
she reached for the shawl near by and
put it on, shiveringly. Even July, to-night, was
cold--to Aunt Hannah.
In yet another home that evening was the
wedding of Billy Neilson and Bertram Henshaw
uppermost in thought and speech. In a certain
little South-End flat where, in two rented rooms,
lived Alice Greggory and her crippled mother,
Alice was talking to Mr. M. J. Arkwright,
commonly known to his friends as ``Mary Jane,''
owing to the mystery in which he had for so long
shrouded his name.
Arkwright to-night was plainly moody and ill
at ease.
``You're not listening. You're not listening at
all,'' complained Alice Greggory at last, reproachfully.
With a visible effort the man roused himself.
``Indeed I am,'' he maintained.
``I thought you'd be interested in the
wedding. You used to be friends--you and Billy.''
The girl's voice still vibrated with reproach.
There was a moment's silence; then, a little
harshly, the man said:
``Perhaps--because I wanted to be more
than--a friend--is why you're not satisfied with
my interest now.''
A look that was almost terror came to Alice
Greggory's eyes. She flushed painfully, then
grew very white.
``You mean--''
``Yes,'' he nodded dully, without looking up.
``I cared too much for her. I supposed Henshaw
was just a friend--till too late.''
There was a breathless hush before, a little
unsteadily, the girl stammered:
``Oh, I'm so sorry--so very sorry! I--I
didn't know.''
``No, of course you didn't. I've almost told
you, though, lots of times; you've been so good
to me all these weeks.'' He raised his head now,
and looked at her, frank comradeship in his
The girl stirred restlessly. Her eyes swerved
a little under his level gaze.
``Oh, but I've done nothing--n-nothing,'' she
stammered. Then, at the light tap of crutches
on a bare floor she turned in obvious relief.
``Oh, here's mother. She's been in visiting with
Mrs. Delano, our landlady. Mother, Mr. Arkwright
is here.''
Meanwhile, speeding north as fast as steam
could carry them, were the bride and groom.
The wondrousness of the first hour of their journey
side by side had become a joyous certitude
that always it was to be like this now.
``Bertram,'' began the bride, after a long
minute of eloquent silence.
``Yes, love.''
``You know our wedding was very different
from most weddings.''
``Of course it was!''
``Yes, but _really_ it was. Now listen.'' The
bride's voice grew tenderly earnest. ``I think
our marriage is going to be different, too.''
``Yes.'' Billy's tone was emphatic. ``There
are so many common, everyday marriages where
--where-- Why, Bertram, as if you could ever
be to me like--like Mr. Carleton is, for instance!''
``Like Mr. Carleton is--to you?'' Bertram's
voice was frankly puzzled.
``No, no! As Mr. Carleton is to Mrs. Carleton,
I mean.''
``Oh!'' Bertram subsided in relief.
``And the Grahams and Whartons, and the
Freddie Agnews, and--and a lot of others.
Why, Bertram, I've seen the Grahams and the
Whartons not even speak to each other a whole
evening, when they've been at a dinner, or
something; and I've seen Mrs. Carleton not even
seem to know her husband came into the room.
I don't mean quarrel, dear. Of course we'd never
_quarrel!_ But I mean I'm sure we shall never
get used to--to you being you, and I being I.''
``Indeed we sha'n't,'' agreed Bertram, rapturously.
``Ours is going to be such a beautiful marriage!''
``Of course it will be.''
``And we'll be so happy!''
``I shall be, and I shall try to make you so.''
``As if I could be anything else,'' sighed Billy,
blissfully. ``And now we _can't_ have any
misunderstandings, you see.''
``Of course not. Er--what's that?''
``Why, I mean that--that we can't ever repeat
hose miserable weeks of misunderstanding.
Everything is all explained up. I _know_, now,
that you don't love Miss Winthrop, or just girls
--any girl--to paint. You love me. Not the
tilt of my chin, nor the turn of my head; but
``I do--just you.'' Bertram's eyes gave the
caress his lips would have given had it not been
for the presence of the man in the seat across the
aisle of the sleeping-car.
``And you--you know now that I love you
--just you?''
``Not even Arkwright?''
``Not even Arkwright,'' smiled Billy.
There was the briefest of hesitations; then, a
little constrainedly, Bertram asked:
``And you said you--you never _had_ cared for
Arkwright, didn't you?''
For the second time in her life Billy was
thankful that Bertram's question had turned upon _her_
love for Arkwright, not Arkwright's love for her.
In Billy's opinion, a man's unrequited love for a
girl was his secret, not hers, and was certainly
one that the girl had no right to tell. Once
before Bertram had asked her if she had ever
cared for Arkwright, and then she had answered
emphatically, as she did now:
``Never, dear.''
``I thought you said so,'' murmured Bertram,
relaxing a little.
``I did; besides, didn't I tell you?'' she went
on airily, ``I think he'll marry Alice Greggory.
Alice wrote me all the time I was away, and--
oh, she didn't say anything definite, I'll admit,''
confessed Billy, with an arch smile; ``but she
spoke of his being there lots, and they used to
know each other years ago, you see. There was
almost a romance there, I think, before the
Greggorys lost their money and moved away from all
their friends.''
``Well, he may have her. She's a nice girl--
a mighty nice girl,'' answered Bertram, with the
unmistakably satisfied air of the man who knows
he himself possesses the nicest girl of them all.
Billy, reading unerringly the triumph in his
voice, grew suddenly grave. She regarded her
husband with a thoughtful frown; then she drew
a profound sigh.
``Whew!'' laughed Bertram, whimsically. ``So
soon as this?''
``Bertram!'' Billy's voice was tragic.
``Yes, my love.'' The bridegroom pulled his
face into sobriety; then Billy spoke, with solemn
``Bertram, I don't know a thing about--
cooking--except what I've been learning in
Rosa's cook-book this last week.''
Bertram laughed so loud that the man across
the aisle glanced over the top of his paper
``Rosa's cook-book! Is that what you were
doing all this week?''
``Yes; that is--I tried so hard to learn
something,'' stammered Billy. ``But I'm
afraid I didn't--much; there were so many
things for me to think of, you know, with
only a week. I believe I _could_ make peach
fritters, though. They were the last thing I
Bertram laughed again, uproariously; but, at
Billy's unchangingly tragic face, he grew
suddenly very grave and tender.
``Billy, dear, I didn't marry you to--to get a
cook,'' he said gently.
Billy shook her head.
``I know; but Aunt Hannah said that even if
I never expected to cook, myself, I ought to know
how it was done, so to properly oversee it. She
said that--that no woman, who didn't know how
to cook and keep house properly, had any business
to be a wife. And, Bertram, I did try, honestly,
all this week. I tried so hard to remember when
you sponged bread and when you kneaded it.''
``I don't ever need--_yours_,'' cut in Bertram,
shamelessly; but he got only a deservedly stern
glance in return.
``And I repeated over and over again how
many cupfuls of flour and pinches of salt and
spoonfuls of baking-powder went into things;
but, Bertram, I simply could not keep my mind
on it. Everything, everywhere was singing to
me. And how do you suppose I could remember
how many pinches of flour and spoonfuls of salt
and cupfuls of baking-powder went into a loaf
of cake when all the while the very teakettle on
the stove was singing: `It's all right--Bertram
loves me--I'm going to marry Bertram!'?''
``You darling!'' (In spite of the man across
the aisle Bertram did almost kiss her this time.)
``As if anybody cared how many cupfuls of
baking-powder went anywhere--with that in
your heart!''
``Aunt Hannah says you will--when you're
hungry. And Kate said--''
Bertram uttered a sharp word behind his teeth.
``Billy, for heaven's sake don't tell me what
Kate said, if you want me to stay sane, and not
attempt to fight somebody--broken arm, and
all. Kate _thinks_ she's kind, and I suppose she
means well; but--well, she's made trouble
enough between us already. I've got you now,
sweetheart. You're mine--all mine--'' his
voice shook, and dropped to a tender whisper--
`` `till death us do part.' ''
``Yes; `till death us do part,' '' breathed Billy.
And then, for a time, they fell silent.
`` `I, Bertram, take thee, Billy,' '' sang the
whirring wheels beneath them, to one.
`` `I, Billy, take thee, Bertram,' '' sang the
whirring wheels beneath them, to the other.
While straight ahead before them both, stretched
fair and beautiful in their eyes, the wondrous
path of life which they were to tread together.
On the first Sunday after the wedding Pete
came up-stairs to tell his master, William, that
Mrs. Stetson wanted to see him in the drawingroom.
William went down at once.
``Well, Aunt Hannah,'' he began, reaching out
a cordial hand. ``Why, what's the matter?'' he
broke off concernedly, as he caught a clearer view
of the little old lady's drawn face and troubled
``William, it's silly, of course,'' cried Aunt
Hannah, tremulously, ``but I simply had to go
to some one. I--I feel so nervous and
unsettled! Did--did Billy say anything to you--
what she was going to do?''
``What she was going to do? About what?
What do you mean?''
``About the house--selling it,'' faltered Aunt
Hannah, sinking wearily back into her chair.
William frowned thoughtfully.
``Why, no,'' he answered. ``It was all so
hurried at the last, you know. There was really
very little chance to make plans for anything--
except the wedding,'' he finished, with a smile.
``Yes, I know,'' sighed Aunt Hannah. ``Everything
was in such confusion! Still, I didn't know
but she might have said something--to you.''
``No, she didn't. But I imagine it won't be
hard to guess what she'll do. When they get
back from their trip I fancy she won't lose much
time in having what things she wants brought
down here. Then she'll sell the rest and put the
house on the market.''
``Yes, of--of course,'' stammered Aunt Hannah,
pulling herself hastily to a more erect position.
``That's what I thought, too. Then don't
you think we'd better dismiss Rosa and close the
house at once?''
``Why--yes, perhaps so. Why not? Then
you'd be all settled here when she comes home.
I'm sure, the sooner you come, the better I'll be
pleased,'' he smiled.
Aunt Hannah turned sharply.
``Here!'' she ejaculated. ``William Henshaw,
you didn't suppose I was coming _here_ to live,
did you?''
It was William's turn to look amazed.
``Why, of course you're coming here! Where
else should you go, pray?''
``Where I was before--before Billy came--to
you,'' returned Aunt Hannah a little tremulously,
but with a certain dignity. ``I shall take a room
in some quiet boarding-house, of course.''
``Nonsense, Aunt Hannah! As if Billy would
listen to that! You came before; why not come
Aunt Hannah lifted her chin the fraction of an
``You forget. I was needed before. Billy is a
married woman now. She needs no chaperon.''
``Nonsense!'' scowled William, again. ``Billy
will always need you.''
Aunt Hannah shook her head mournfully.
``I like to think--she wants me, William,
but I know, in my heart, it isn't best.''
``Why not?''
There was a moment's pause; then, decisively
came the answer.
``Because I think young married folks should
not have outsiders in the home.''
William laughed relievedly.
``Oh, so that's it! Well, Aunt Hannah, you're
no outsider. Come, run right along home and
pack your trunk.''
Aunt Hannah was plainly almost crying; but
she held her ground.
``William, I can't,'' she reiterated.
``But--Billy is such a child, and--''
For once in her circumspect life Aunt Hannah
was guilty of an interruption.
``Pardon me, William, she is not a child. She
is a woman now, and she has a woman's problems
to meet.''
``Well, then, why don't you help her meet
them?'' retorted William, still with a whimsical
But Aunt Hannah did not smile. For a minute
she did not speak; then, with her eyes studiously
averted, she said:
``William, the first four years of my married
life were--were spoiled by an outsider in our
home. I don't mean to spoil Billy's.''
William relaxed visibly. The smile fled from
his face.
``Why--Aunt--Hannah!'' he exclaimed.
The little old lady turned with a weary sigh.
``Yes, I know. You are shocked, of course.
I shouldn't have told you. Still, it is all past
long ago, and--I wanted to make you understand
why I can't come. He was my husband's
eldest brother--a bachelor. He was good and
kind, and meant well, I suppose; but--he
interfered with everything. I was young, and
probably headstrong. At all events, there was
constant friction. He went away once and
stayed two whole months. I shall never forget
the utter freedom and happiness of those months
for us, with the whole house to ourselves. No,
William, I can't come.'' She rose abruptly and
turned toward the door. Her eyes were wistful,
and her face was still drawn with suffering; but
her whole frail little self quivered plainly with
high resolve. ``John has Peggy outside. I must
``But--but, Aunt Hannah,'' began William,
She lifted a protesting hand.
``No, don't urge me, please. I can't come here.
But--I believe I won't close the house till Billy
gets home, after all,'' she declared. The next
moment she was gone, and William, dazedly,
from the doorway, was watching John help her
into Billy's automobile, called by Billy and half
her friends, ``Peggy,'' short for ``Pegasus.''
Still dazedly William turned back into the
house and dropped himself into the nearest chair.
What a curious call it had been! Aunt Hannah
had not acted like herself at all. Not once had
she said ``Oh, my grief and conscience!'' while
the things she _had_ said--! Someway, he had
never thought of Aunt Hannah as being young,
and a bride. Still, of course she must have been
--once. And the reason she gave for not coming
there to live--the pitiful story of that outsider
in her home! But she was no outsider! She was
no interfering brother of Billy's--
William caught his breath suddenly, and held
it suspended. Then he gave a low ejaculation
and half sprang from his chair.
Spunkie, disturbed from her doze by the fire,
uttered a purring ``me-o-ow,'' and looked up inquiringly.
For a long minute William gazed dumbly into
the cat's yellow, sleepily contented eyes; then he
said with tragic distinctness:
``Spunkie, it's true: Aunt Hannah isn't Billy's
husband's brother, but--I am! Do you hear?
I _am!_''
``Pur-r-me-ow!'' commented Spunkie; and
curled herself for another nap.
There was no peace for William after that. In
vain he told himself that he was no ``interfering''
brother, and that this was his home and
had been all his life; in vain did he declare
emphatically that he could not go, he would not go;
that Billy would not wish him to go: always before
his eyes was the vision of that little bride of
years long gone; always in his ears was the echo
of Aunt Hannah's ``I shall never forget the utter
freedom and happiness of those months for us,
with the whole house to ourselves.'' Nor, turn
which way he would, could he find anything to
comfort him. Simply because he was so fearfully
looking for it, he found it--the thing that had
for its theme the wretchedness that might be
expected from the presence of a third person in the
new home.
Poor William! Everywhere he met it--the
hint, the word, the story, the song, even; and
always it added its mite to the woeful whole.
Even the hoariest of mother-in-law jokes had its
sting for him; and, to make his cup quite full, he
chanced to remember one day what Marie had
said when he had suggested that she and Cyril
come to the Strata to live: ``No; I think young
folks should begin by themselves.''
Unhappy, indeed, were these days for William.
Like a lost spirit he wandered from room
to room, touching this, fingering that. For long
minutes he would stand before some picture, or
some treasured bit of old mahogany, as if to
stamp indelibly upon his mind a thing that was
soon to be no more. At other times, like a man
without a home, he would go out into the Common
or the Public Garden and sit for hours on
some bench--thinking.
All this could have but one ending, of course.
Before the middle of August William summoned
Pete to his rooms.
``Oh, Pete, I'm going to move next week,''
he began nonchalantly. His voice sounded as if
moving were a pleasurable circumstance that
occurred in his life regularly once a month. ``I'd
like you to begin to pack up these things, please,
The old servant's mouth fell open.
``You're goin' to--to what, sir?'' he stammered.
``Move--_move_, I said.'' William spoke with
unusual harshness.
Pete wet his lips.
``You mean you've sold the old place, sir?--
that we--we ain't goin' to live here no longer?''
``Sold? Of course not! _I'm_ going to move
away; not you.''
If Pete could have known what caused the
sharpness in his master's voice, he would not
have been so grieved--or, rather, he would have
been grieved for a different reason. As it was he
could only falter miserably:
``_You_ are goin' to move away from here!''
``Yes, yes, man! Why, Pete, what ails you?
One would think a body never moved before.''
``They didn't--not you, sir.''
William turned abruptly, so that his face could
not be seen. With stern deliberation he picked
up an elaborately decorated teapot; but the
valuable bit of Lowestoft shook so in his hand
that he set it down at once. It clicked sharply
against its neighbor, betraying his nervous hand.
Pete stirred.
``But, Mr. William,'' he stammered thickly;
``how are you--what'll you do without-- There
doesn't nobody but me know so well about your
tea, and the two lumps in your coffee; and
there's your flannels that you never put on till I
get 'em out, and the woolen socks that you'd
wear all summer if I didn't hide 'em. And--
and who's goin' to take care of these?'' he
finished, with a glance that encompassed the
overflowing cabinets and shelves of curios all about
His master smiled sadly. An affection that had
its inception in his boyhood days shone in his
eyes. The hand in which the Lowestoft had
shaken rested now heavily on an old man's bent
shoulder--a shoulder that straightened itself in
unconscious loyalty under the touch.
``Pete, you have spoiled me, and no mistake.
I don't expect to find another like you. But
maybe if I wear the woolen socks too late you'll
come and hunt up the others for me. Eh?''
And, with a smile that was meant to be quizzical,
William turned and began to shift the teapots
about again.
``But, Mr. William, why--that is, what will
Mr. Bertram and Miss Billy do--without you?''
ventured the old man.
There was a sudden tinkling crash. On the
floor lay the fragments of a silver-luster teapot.
The servant exclaimed aloud in dismay, but
his master did not even glance toward his once
treasured possession on the floor.
``Nonsense, Pete!'' he was saying in a
particularly cheery voice. ``Have you lived all these
years and not found out that newly-married
folks don't _need_ any one else around? Come,
do you suppose we could begin to pack these
teapots to-night?'' he added, a little feverishly.
``Aren't there some boxes down cellar?''
``I'll see, sir,'' said Pete, respectfully; but the
expression on his face as he turned away showed
that he was not thinking of teapots--nor of
boxes in which to pack them.
Mr. and Mrs. Bertram Henshaw were expected
home the first of September. By the thirty-first
of August the old Beacon Street homestead facing
the Public Garden was in spick-and-span order,
with Dong Ling in the basement hovering over a
well-stocked larder, and Pete searching the rest
of the house for a chair awry, or a bit of dust
Twice before had the Strata--as Bertram
long ago dubbed the home of his boyhood--
been prepared for the coming of Billy, William's
namesake: once, when it had been decorated
with guns and fishing-rods to welcome the ``boy''
who turned out to be a girl; and again when
with pink roses and sewing-baskets the three
brothers got joyously ready for a feminine Billy
who did not even come at all.
The house had been very different then. It
had been, indeed, a ``strata,'' with its distinctive
layers of fads and pursuits as represented by
Bertram and his painting on one floor, William
and his curios on another, and Cyril with his
music on a third. Cyril was gone now. Only
Pete and his humble belongings occupied the top
floor. The floor below, too, was silent now, and
almost empty save for a rug or two, and a few
pieces of heavy furniture that William had not
cared to take with him to his new quarters on
top of Beacon Hill. Below this, however, came
Billy's old rooms, and on these Pete had lavished
all his skill and devotion.
Freshly laundered curtains were at the windows,
dustless rugs were on the floor. The old
work-basket had been brought down from the
top-floor storeroom, and the long-closed piano
stood invitingly open. In a conspicuous place,
also, sat the little green god, upon whose
exquisitely carved shoulders was supposed to rest the
``heap plenty velly good luckee'' of Dong Ling's
On the first floor Bertram's old rooms and the
drawing-room came in for their share of the
general overhauling. Even Spunkie did not escape,
but had to submit to the ignominy of a
bath. And then dawned fair and clear the first
day of September, bringing at five o'clock the
bride and groom.
Respectfully lined up in the hall to meet them
were Pete and Dong Ling: Pete with his wrinkled
old face alight with joy and excitement; Dong
Ling grinning and kotowing, and chanting in a
high-pitched treble:
``Miss Billee, Miss Billee--plenty much welcome,
Miss Billee!''
``Yes, welcome home, Mrs. _Henshaw!_'' bowed
Bertram, turning at the door, with an elaborate
flourish that did not in the least hide his tender
pride in his new wife.
Billy laughed and colored a pretty pink.
``Thank you--all of you,'' she cried a little
unsteadily. ``And how good, good everything
does look to me! Why, where's Uncle William?''
she broke off, casting hurriedly anxious eyes
about her.
``Well, I should say so,'' echoed Bertram.
``Where is he, Pete? He isn't sick, is he?''
A quick change crossed the old servant's face.
He shook his head dumbly.
Billy gave a gleeful laugh.
``I know--he's asleep!'' she caroled, skipping
to the bottom of the stairway and looking up
``Ho, Uncle William! Better wake up, sir. The
folks have come!''
Pete cleared his throat.
``Mr. William isn't here, Miss--ma'am,'' he
corrected miserably.
Billy smiled, but she frowned, too.
``Not here! Well, I like that,'' she pouted;
``--and when I've brought him the most beautiful
pair of mirror knobs he ever saw, and all the
way in my bag, too, so I could give them to him
the very first thing,'' she added, darting over to
the small bag she had brought in with her. ``I'm
glad I did, too, for our trunks didn't come,'' she
continued laughingly. ``Still, if he isn't here to
receive them-- There, Pete, aren't they beautiful?''
she cried, carefully taking from their wrappings
two exquisitely decorated porcelain discs
mounted on two long spikes. ``They're Batterseas--
the real article. I know enough for
that; and they're finer than anything he's got.
Won't he be pleased?''
``Yes, Miss--ma'am, I mean,'' stammered
the old man.
``These new titles come hard, don't they,
Pete?'' laughed Bertram.
Pete smiled faintly.
``Never mind, Pete,'' soothed his new mistress.
``You shall call me `Miss Billy' all your life if
you want to. Bertram,'' she added, turning to
her husband, ``I'm going to just run up-stairs
and put these in Uncle William's rooms so they'll
be there when he comes in. We'll see how soon
he discovers them!''
Before Pete could stop her she was half-way
up the first flight of stairs. Even then he tried
to speak to his young master, to explain that
Mr. William was not living there; but the words
refused to come. He could only stand dumbly
In a minute it came--Billy's sharp, startled
``Bertram! Bertram!''
Bertram sprang for the stairway, but he had
not reached the top when he met his wife coming
down. She was white-faced and trembling.
``Bertram--those rooms--there's not so
much as a teapot there! Uncle William's--
``Gone!'' Bertram wheeled sharply. ``Pete,
what is the meaning of this? Where is my
brother?'' To hear him, one would think he
suspected the old servant of having hidden his
Pete lifted a shaking hand and fumbled with
his collar.
``He's moved, sir.''
``Moved! Oh, you mean to other rooms--to
Cyril's.'' Bertram relaxed visibly. ``He's
upstairs, maybe.''
Pete shook his head.
``No. sir. He's moved away--out of the
house, sir.''
For a brief moment Bertram stared as if he
could not believe what his ears had heard. Then,
step by step, he began to descend the stairs.
``Do you mean--to say--that my brother
--has moved-gone away--_left_--his _home?_''
he demanded.
``Yes, sir.''
Billy gave a low cry.
``But why--why?'' she choked, almost stumbling
headlong down the stairway in her effort
to reach the two men at the bottom. ``Pete,
why did he go?''
There was no answer.
``Pete,''--Bertram's voice was very sharp--
``what is the meaning of this? Do you know
why my brother left his home?''
The old man wet his lips and swallowed chokingly,
but he did not speak.
``I'm waiting, Pete.''
Billy laid one hand on the old servant's arm
--in the other hand she still tightly clutched the
mirror knobs.
``Pete, if you do know, won't you tell us,
please?'' she begged.
Pete looked down at the hand, then up at the
troubled young face with the beseeching eyes.
His own features worked convulsively. With a
visible effort he cleared his throat.
``I know--what he said,'' he stammered, his
eyes averted.
``What was it?''
There was no answer.
``Look here, Pete, you'll have to tell us, you
know,'' cut in Bertram, decisively, ``so you might
as well do it now as ever.''
Once more Pete cleared his throat. This time
the words came in a burst of desperation.
``Yes, sir. I understand, sir. It was only that
he said--he said as how young folks didn't _need_
any one else around. So he was goin'.''
``Didn't _need_ any one else!'' exclaimed Bertram,
plainly not comprehending.
``Yes, sir. You two bein' married so, now.''
Pete's eyes were still averted.
Billy gave a low cry.
``You mean--because _I_ came?'' she demanded.
``Why, yes, Miss--no--that is--'' Pete
stopped with an appealing glance at Bertram.
``Then it was--it _was_--on account of _me_,''
choked Billy.
Pete looked still more distressed
``No, no!'' he faltered. ``It was only that
he thought you wouldn't want him here now.''
``Want him here!'' ejaculated Bertram.
``Want him here!'' echoed Billy, with a sob.
``Pete, where is he?'' As she asked the question
she dropped the mirror knobs into her open bag,
and reached for her coat and gloves--she had
not removed her hat.
Pete gave the address.
``It's just down the street a bit and up the
hill,'' he added excitedly, divining her purpose.
``It's a sort of a boarding-house, I reckon.''
``A _boarding-house_--for Uncle William!''
scorned Billy, her eyes ablaze. ``Come, Bertram,
we'll see about that.''
Bertram reached out a detaining hand.
``But, dearest, you're so tired,'' he demurred.
``Hadn't we better wait till after dinner, or till
``After dinner! To-morrow!'' Billy's eyes
blazed anew. ``Why, Bertram Henshaw, do
you think I'd leave that dear man even one
minute longer, if I could help it, with a notion in
his blessed old head that we didn't _want_ him?''
``But you said a little while ago you had a
headache, dear,'' still objected Bertram. ``If
you'd just eat your dinner!''
``Dinner!'' choked Billy. ``I wonder if you
think I could eat any dinner with Uncle William
turned out of his home! I'm going to find Uncle
William.'' And she stumbled blindly toward the
Bertram reached for his hat. He threw a
despairing glance into Pete's eyes.
``We'll be back--when we can,'' he said, with
a frown.
``Yes, sir,'' answered Pete, respectfully. Then,
as if impelled by some hidden force, he touched
his master's arm. ``It was that way she looked,
sir, when she came to _you_--that night last
July--with her eyes all shining,'' he whispered.
A tender smile curved Bertram's lips. The
frown vanished from his face.
``Bless you, Pete--and bless her, too!'' he
whispered back. The next moment he had hurried
after his wife.
The house that bore the number Pete had
given proved to have a pretentious doorway, and
a landlady who, in response to the summons of
the neat maid, appeared with a most impressive
rustle of black silk and jet bugles.
No, Mr. William Henshaw was not in his
rooms. In fact, he was very seldom there. His
business, she believed, called him to State Street
through the day. Outside of that, she had been
told, he spent much time sitting on a bench in
the Common. Doubtless, if they cared to search,
they could find him there now.
``A bench in the Common, indeed!'' stormed
Billy, as she and Bertram hurried down the wide
stone steps. ``Uncle William--on a bench!''
``But surely now, dear,'' ventured her
husband, ``you'll come home and get your
Billy turned indignantly.
``And leave Uncle William on a bench in the
Common? Indeed, no! Why, Bertram, you
wouldn't, either,'' she cried, as she turned
resolutely toward one of the entrances to the Common.
And Bertram, with the ``eyes all shining''
still before him, could only murmur: ``No, of
course not, dear!'' and follow obediently where
she led.
Under ordinary circumstances it would have
been a delightful hour for a walk. The sun had
almost set, and the shadows lay long across the
grass. The air was cool and unusually bracing
for a day so early in September. But all this
was lost on Bertram. Bertram did not wish to
take a walk. He was hungry. He wanted his
dinner; and he wanted, too, his old home with
his new wife flitting about the rooms as he had
pictured this first evening together. He wanted
William, of course. Certainly he wanted William;
but if William would insist on running away
and sitting on park benches in this ridiculous
fashion, he ought to take the consequences--
until to-morrow.
Five, ten, fifteen minutes passed. Up one path
and down another trudged the anxious-eyed Billy
and her increasingly impatient husband. Then
when the fifteen weary minutes had become a
still more weary half-hour, the bonds Bertram
had set on his temper snapped.
``Billy,'' he remonstrated despairingly, ``do,
please, come home! Don't you see how highly
improbable it is that we should happen on William
if we walked like this all night? He might
move--change his seat--go home, even. He
probably has gone home. And surely never before
did a bride insist on spending the first evening
after her return tramping up and down a public
park for hour after hour like this, looking for any
man. _Won't_ you come home?''
But Billy had not even heard. With a glad little
cry she had darted to the side of the humped-up
figure of a man alone on a park bench just ahead
of them.
``Uncle William! Oh, Uncle William, how
could you?'' she cried, dropping herself on to
one end of the seat and catching the man's arm
in both her hands.
``Yes, how could you?'' demanded Bertram,
with just a touch of irritation, dropping himself
on to the other end of the seat, and catching
the man's other arm in his one usable
The bent shoulders and bowed head straightened
up with a jerk.
``Well, well, bless my soul! If it isn't our little
bride,'' cried Uncle William, fondly. ``And the
happy bridegroom, too. When did you get
``We haven't got home,'' retorted Bertram,
promptly, before his wife could speak. ``Oh, we
looked in at the door an hour or so back; but we
didn't stay. We've been hunting for you ever
``Nonsense, children!'' Uncle William spoke
with gay cheeriness; but he refused to meet
either Billy's or Bertram's eyes.
``Uncle William, how could you do it?''
reproached Billy, again.
``Do what?'' Uncle William was plainly
fencing for time.
``Leave the house like that?''
``Ho! I wanted a change.''
``As if we'd believe that!'' scoffed Billy.
``All right; let's call it you've had the change,
then,'' laughed Bertram, ``and we'll send over
for your things to-morrow. Come--now let's
go home to dinner.''
William shook his head. He essayed a gay
``Why, I've only just begun. I'm going to
stay--oh, I don't know how long I'm going to
stay,'' he finished blithely.
Billy lifted her chin a little.
``Uncle William, you aren't playing square.
Pete told us what you said when you left.''
``Eh? What?'' William looked up with
startled eyes.
``About--about our not _needing_ you. So we
know, now, why you left; and we _sha'n't stand_
``Pete? That? Oh, that--that's nonsense
I--I'll settle with Pete.''
Billy laughed softly.
``Poor Pete! Don't. We simply dragged it
out of him. And now we're here to tell you that
we _do_ want you, and that you _must_ come back.''
Again William shook his head. A swift shadow
crossed his face.
``Thank you, no, children,'' he said dully.
You're very kind, but you don't need me. I
should be just an interfering elder brother. I
should spoil your young married life.'' (William's
voice now sounded as if he were reciting a welllearned
lesson.)'' If I went away and stayed two
months, you'd never forget the utter freedom and
joy of those two whole months with the house all
to yourselves.''
``Uncle William,'' gasped Billy, ``what _are_
you talking about?''
``About--about my not going back, of course.''
``But you are coming back,'' cut in Bertram,
almost angrily. ``Oh, come, Will, this is utter
nonsense, and you know it! Come, let's go home
to dinner.''
A stern look came to the corners of William's
mouth--a look that Bertram understood well.
``All right, I'll go to dinner, of course; but
I sha'n't stay,'' said William, firmly. ``I've
thought it all out. I know I'm right. Come,
we'll go to dinner now, and say no more about
it,'' he finished with a cheery smile, as he rose to
his feet. Then, to the bride, he added: ``Did
you have a nice trip, little girl?''
Billy, too, had risen, now, but she did not
seem to have heard his question. In the fast
falling twilight her face looked a little white.
``Uncle William,'' she began very quietly, ``do
you think for a minute that just because I married
your brother I am going to live in that house
and turn you out of the home you've lived in all
your life?''
``Nonsense, dear! I'm not turned out. I just
go,'' corrected Uncle William, gayly.
With superb disdain Billy brushed this aside.
``Oh, no, you won't,'' she declared; ``but--
_I shall_.''
``Billy!'' gasped Bertram.
``My--my dear!'' expostulated William,
``Uncle William! Bertram! Listen,'' panted
Billy. ``I never told you much before, but I'm
going to, now. Long ago, when I went away with
Aunt Hannah, your sister Kate showed me how
dear the old home was to you--how much you
thought of it. And she said--she said that I had
upset everything.'' (Bertram interjected a sharp
word, but Billy paid no attention.) ``That's
why I went; and _I shall go again_--if you don't
come home to-morrow to stay, Uncle William.
Come, now let's go to dinner, please. Bertram's
hungry,'' she finished, with a bright smile.
There was a tense moment of silence. William
glanced at Bertram; Bertram returned the glance
--with interest.
``Er--ah--yes; well, we might go to dinner,''
stammered William, after a minute.
``Er--yes,'' agreed Bertram. And the three
fell into step together.
Billy did not leave the Strata this time.
Before twenty-four hours had passed, the last
cherished fragment of Mr. William Henshaw's
possessions had been carefully carried down the
imposing steps of the Beacon Hill boarding-house
under the disapproving eyes of its bugle-adorned
mistress, who found herself now with a month's
advance rent and two vacant ``parlors'' on her
hands. Before another twenty-four hours had
passed her quondam boarder, with a tired sigh,
sank into his favorite morris chair in his old
familiar rooms, and looked about him with contented
eyes. Every treasure was in place, from
the traditional four small stones of his babyhood
days to the Batterseas Billy had just brought him.
Pete, as of yore, was hovering near with a dustcloth.
Bertram's gay whistle sounded from the
floor below. William Henshaw was at home again.
This much accomplished, Billy went to see
Aunt Hannah.
Aunt Hannah greeted her affectionately, though
with tearfully troubled eyes. She was wearing
a gray shawl to-day topped with a black one--
sure sign of unrest, either physical or mental, as
all her friends knew.
``I'd begun to think you'd forgotten--me,''
she faltered, with a poor attempt at gayety.
``You've been home three whole days.''
``I know, dearie,'' smiled Billy; ``and 'twas
a shame. But I have been so busy! My trunks
came at last, and I've been helping Uncle William
get settled, too.''
Aunt Hannah looked puzzled.
``Uncle William get settled? You mean--
he's changed his room?''
Billy laughed oddly, and threw a swift glance
into Aunt Hannah's face.
``Well, yes, he did change,'' she murmured;
``but he's moved back now into the old quarters.
Er--you haven't heard from Uncle William
then, lately, I take it.''
``No.'' Aunt Hannah shook her head
abstractedly. ``I did see him once, several weeks
ago; but I haven't, since. We had quite a talk,
then; and, Billy, I've been wanting to speak to
you,'' she hurried on, a little feverishly. ``I
didn't like to leave, of course, till you did come
home, as long as you'd said nothing about your
plans; but--''
``Leave!'' interposed Billy, dazedly. ``Leave
where? What do you mean?''
``Why, leave here, of course, dear. I mean.
I didn't like to get my room while you were
away; but I shall now, of course, at once.''
``Nonsense, Aunt Hannah! As if I'd let you
do that,'' laughed Billy.
Aunt Hannah stiffened perceptibly. Her lips
looked suddenly thin and determined. Even the
soft little curls above her ears seemed actually
to bristle with resolution.
``Billy,'' she began firmly, ``we might as well
understand each other at once. I know your
good heart, and I appreciate your kindness. But
I can not come to live with you. I shall not. It
wouldn't be best. I should be like an interfering
elder brother in your home. I should spoil your
young married life; and if I went away for two
months you'd never forget the utter joy and
freedom of those two months with the whole
house ali to yourselves.''
At the beginning of this speech Billy's eyes
had still carried their dancing smile, but as the
peroration progressed on to the end, a dawning
surprise, which soon became a puzzled questioning,
drove the smile away. Then Billy sat suddenly erect.
``Why, Aunt Hannah, that's exactly what
Uncle William--'' Billy stopped, and regarded
Aunt Hannah with quick suspicion. The next
moment she burst into gleeful laughter.
Aunt Hannah looked grieved, and not a little
surprised; but Billy did not seem to notice
``Oh, oh, Aunt Hannah--you, too! How
perfectly funny!'' she gurgled. ``To think you
two old blesseds should get your heads together
like this!''
Aunt Hannah stirred restively, and pulled the
black shawl more closely about her.
``Indeed, Billy, I don't know what you mean
by that,'' she sighed, with a visible effort at selfcontrol;
``but I do know that I can not go to live
with you.''
``Bless your heart, dear, I don't want you to,''
soothed Billy, with gay promptness.
``Oh! O-h-h,'' stammered Aunt Hannah, surprise,
mortification, dismay, and a grieved hurt
bringing a flood of color to her face. It is one
thing to refuse a home, and quite another to have
a home refused you.
``Oh! O-h-h, Aunt Hannah,'' cried Billy,
turning very red in her turn. ``Please, _please_ don't
look like that. I didn't mean it that way. I do
want you, dear, only--I want you somewhere
else more. I want you--here.''
``Here!'' Aunt Hannah looked relieved, but
``Yes. Don't you like it here?''
``Like it! Why, I love it, dear. You know I
do. But you don't need this house now, Billy.''
``Oh, yes, I do,'' retorted Billy, airily. ``I'm
going to keep it up, and I want you here.
``Fiddlededee, Billy! As if I'd let you keep up
this house just for me,'' scorned Aunt Hannah.
`` 'Tisn't just for you. It's for--for lots of
``My grief and conscience, Billy! What are
you talking about?''
Billy laughed, and settled herself more
comfortably on the hassock at Aunt Hannah's feet.
``Well, I'll tell you. Just now I want it for
Tommy Dunn, and the Greggorys if I can get
them, and maybe one or two others. There'll
always be somebody. You see, I had thought
I'd have them at the Strata.''
``Tommy Dunn--at the Strata!''
Billy laughed again ruefully.
``O dear! You sound just like Bertram,'' she
pouted. ``He didn't want Tommy, either, nor
any of the rest of them.''
``The rest of them!''
``Well, I could have had a lot more, you know,
the Strata is so big, especially now that Cyril
has gone, and left all those empty rooms. _I_ got
real enthusiastic, but Bertram didn't. He just
laughed and said `nonsense!' until he found I
was really in earnest; then he--well, he said
`nonsense,' then, too--only he didn't laugh,''
finished Billy, with a sigh.
Aunt Hannah regarded her with fond, though
slightly exasperated eyes.
``Billy, you are, indeed, a most extraordinary
young woman--at times. Surely, with you, a
body never knows what to expect--except the
``Why, Aunt Hannah!--and from you, too!''
reproached Billy, mischievously; but Aunt Hannah
had yet more to say.
``Of course Bertram thought it was nonsense.
The idea of you, a bride, filling up your house
with--with people like that! Tommy Dunn,
``Oh, Bertram said he liked Tommy all right,''
sighed Billy; ``but he said that that didn't mean
he wanted him for three meals a day. One would
think poor Tommy was a breakfast food! So
that is when I thought of keeping up this house,
you see, and that's why I want you here--to
take charge of it. And you'll do that--for me,
won't you?''
Aunt Hannah fell back in her chair.
Why, y-yes, Billy, of course, if--if you want
it. But what an extraordinary idea, child!''
Billy shook her head. A deeper color came to
her cheeks, and a softer glow to her eyes.
``I don't think so, Aunt Hannah. It's only
that I'm so happy that some of it has just got to
overflow somewhere, and this is going to be the
overflow house--a sort of safety valve for me,
you see. I'm going to call it the Annex--it will
be an annex to our home. And I want to keep it
full, always, of people who--who can make the
best use of all that extra happiness that I can't
possibly use myself,'' she finished a little
tremulously. ``Don't you see?''
``Oh, yes, I _see_,'' replied Aunt Hannah, with a
fond shake of the head.
``But, really, listen--it's sensible,'' urged
Billy. ``First, there's Tommy. His mother died
last month. He's at a neighbor's now, but they're
going to send him to a Home for Crippled Children;
and he's grieving his heart out over it.
I'm going to bring him here to a real home--
the kind that doesn't begin with a capital letter.
He adores music, and he's got real talent, I think.
Then there's the Greggorys.''
Aunt Hannah looked dubious.
``You can't get the Greggorys to--to use any
of that happiness, Billy. They're too proud.''
Billy smiled radiantly.
``I know I can't get them to _use_ it, Aunt
Hannah, but I believe I can get them to _give_ it,''
she declared triumphantly. ``I shall ask Alice
Greggory to teach Tommy music, and I shall
ask Mrs. Greggory to teach him books; and I
shall tell them both that I positively need them
to keep you company.''
``Oh, but Billy,'' bridled Aunt Hannah, with
prompt objection.
``Tut, tut!--I know you'll be willing to be
thrown as a little bit of a sop to the Greggorys'
pride,'' coaxed Billy. ``You just wait till I get
the Overflow Annex in running order. Why,
Aunt Hannah, you don't know how busy you're
going to be handing out all that extra happiness
that I can't use!''
``You dear child!'' Aunt Hannah smiled
mistily. The black shawl had fallen unheeded
to the floor now. ``As if anybody ever had any
more happiness than one's self could use!''
``I have,'' avowed Billy, promptly, ``and it's
going to keep growing and growing, I know.''
``Oh, my grief and conscience, Billy, don't!''
exclaimed Aunt Hannah, lifting shocked hands of
remonstrance. ``Rap on wood--do! How can
you boast like that?''
Billy dimpled roguishly and sprang to her feet{.??}
``Why, Aunt Hannah, I'm ashamed of you!
To be superstitious like that--you, a good
Aunt Hannah subsided shamefacedly.
``Yes, I know, Billy, it is silly; but I just can't
help it.''
``Oh, but it's worse than silly, Aunt Hannah,''
teased Billy, with a remorseless chuckle. ``It's
really _heathen!_ Bertram told me once that it
dates 'way back to the time of the Druids--
appealing to the god of trees, or something like that
--when you rap on wood, you know.''
``Ugh!'' shuddered Aunt Hannah. ``As if
I would, Billy! How is Bertram, by the by?''
A swift shadow crossed Billy's bright face.
``He's lovely--only his arm.''
``His arm! But I thought that was better.''
``Oh, it is,'' drooped Billy, ``but it gets along
so slowly, and it frets him dreadfully. You know
he never can do anything with his left hand, he
says, and he just hates to have things done for
him--though Pete and Dong Ling are quarreling
with each other all the time to do things for
him, and I'm quarreling with both of them to do
them for him myself! By the way, Dong Ling
is going to leave us next week. Did you know
``Dong Ling--leave!''
``Yes. Oh, he told Bertram long ago he
should go when we were married; that he had
plenty much money, and was going back to China,
and not be Melican man any longer. But I don't
think Bertram thought he'd do it. William says
Dong Ling went to Pete, however, after we left,
and told him he wanted to go; that he liked the
little Missee plenty well, but that there'd be too
much hen-talk when she got back, and--''
``Why, the impudent creature!''
Billy laughed merrily.
``Yes; Pete was furious, William says, but
Dong Ling didn't mean any disrespect, I'm sure.
He just wasn't used to having petticoats around,
and didn't want to take orders from them; that's
``But, Billy, what will you do?''
``Oh, Pete's fixed all that lovely,'' returned
Billy, nonchalantly. ``You know his niece lives
over in South Boston, and it seems she's got a
daughter who's a fine cook and will be glad to
come. Mercy! Look at the time,'' she broke off,
glancing at the clock. ``I shall be late to dinner,
and Dong Ling loathes anybody who's late to his
meals--as I found out to my sorrow the night
we got home. Good-by, dear. I'll be out soon
again and fix it all up--about the Annex, you
know.'' And with a bright smile she was gone.
``Dear me,'' sighed Aunt Hannah, stooping to
pick up the black shawl; ``dear me! Of course
everything will be all right--there's a girl coming,
even if Dong Ling is going. But--but--
Oh, my grief and conscience, what an extraordinary
child Billy is, to be sure--but what a dear
one!'' she added, wiping a quick tear from her
eye. ``An Overflow Annex, indeed, for her `extra
happiness'! Now isn't that just like Billy?''
September passed and October came, bringing
with it cool days and clear, crisp evenings royally
ruled over by a gorgeous harvest moon. According
to Billy everything was just perfect--except,
of course, poor Bertram's arm; and even the
fact that that gained so slowly was not without
its advantage (again according to Billy), for it
gave Bertram more time to be with her.
``You see, dear, as long as you _can't_ paint,'' she
told him earnestly, one day, ``why, I'm not
really hindering you by keeping you with me so
``You certainly are not,'' he retorted, with a
``Then I may be just as happy as I like over
it,'' settled Billy, comfortably.
``As if you ever could hinder me,'' he ridiculed.
``Oh, yes, I could,'' nodded Billy, emphatically.
``You forget, sir. That was what worried
me so. Everybody, even the newspapers and
magazines, said I _would_ do it, too. They said I'd
slay your Art, stifle your Ambition, destroy your
Inspiration, and be a nuisance generally. And
Kate said--''
``Yes. Well, never mind what Kate said,''
interrupted the man, savagely.
Billy laughed, and gave his ear a playful
``All right; but I'm not going to do it, you
know--spoil your career, sir. You just wait,''
she continued dramatically. ``The minute your
arm gets so you can paint, I myself shall conduct
you to your studio, thrust the brushes into your
hand, fill your palette with all the colors of the
rainbow, and order you to paint, my lord, paint!
But--until then I'm going to have you all I
like,'' she finished, with a complete change of
manner, nestling into the ready curve of his good
left arm.
``You witch!'' laughed the man, fondly.
``Why, Billy, you couldn't hinder me. You'll _be_
my inspiration, dear, instead of slaying it. You'll
see. _This_ time Marguerite Winthrop's portrait
is going to be a success.''
Billy turned quickly.
``Then you are--that is, you haven't--I
mean, you're going to--paint it?''
``I just am,'' avowed the artist. ``And this
time it'll be a success, too, with you to help.''
Billy drew in her breath tremulously.
``I didn't know but you'd already started it,''
she faltered.
He shook his head.
``No. After the other one failed, and Mr.
Winthrop asked me to try again, I couldn't _then_.
I was so troubled over you. That's the time you
did hinder me,'' he smiled. ``Then came your
note breaking the engagement. Of course I knew
too much to attempt a thing like that portrait
then. But now--_now_--!'' The pause and the
emphasis were eloquent.
``Of course, _now_,'' nodded Billy, brightly, but
a little feverishly. ``And when do you begin?''
``Not till January. Miss Winthrop won't be
back till then. I saw J. G. last week, and I told
him I'd accept his offer to try again.''
``What did he say?''
``He gave my left hand a big grip and said:
`Good!--and you'll win out this time.' ''
``Of course you will,'' nodded Billy, again,
though still a little feverishly. ``And this time
I sha'n't mind a bit if you do stay to luncheon,
and break engagements with me, sir,'' she went
on, tilting her chin archly, ``for I shall know it's
the portrait and not the sitter that's really
keeping you. Oh, you'll see what a fine artist's wife
I'll make!''
``The very best,'' declared Bertram so ardently
that Billy blushed, and shook her head in reproof.
``Nonsense! I wasn't fishing. I didn't mean it
that way,'' she protested. Then, as he tried to
catch her, she laughed and danced teasingly out
of his reach.
Because Bertram could not paint, therefore,
Billy had him quite to herself these October days;
nor did she hesitate to appropriate him. Neither,
on his part, was Bertram loath to be appropriated.
Like two lovers they read and walked and talked
together, and like two children, sometimes, they
romped through the stately old rooms with
Spunkie, or with Tommy Dunn, who was a frequent
guest. Spunkie, be it known, was renewing
her kittenhood, so potent was the influence of
the dangling strings and rolling balls that she
encountered everywhere; and Tommy Dunn, with
Billy's help, was learning that not even a pair
of crutches need keep a lonely little lad from a
frolic. Even William, roused from his afterdinner
doze by peals of laughter, was sometimes
inveigled into activities that left him breathless,
but curiously aglow. While Pete, polishing silver
in the dining-room down-stairs, smiled indulgently
at the merry clatter above--and forgot
the teasing pain in his side.
But it was not all nonsense with Billy, nor gay
laughter. More often it was a tender glow in the
eyes, a softness in the voice, a radiant something
like an aura of joy all about her, that told how
happy indeed were these days for her. There
was proof by word of mouth, too--long talks
with Bertram in the dancing firelight when they
laid dear plans for the future, and when she tried
so hard to make her husband understand what a
good, good wife she intended to be, and how she
meant never to let anything come between them.
It was so earnest and serious a Billy by this
time that Bertram would turn startled, dismayed
eyes on his young wife; whereupon, with a very
Billy-like change of mood, she would give him
one of her rare caresses, and perhaps sigh:
``Goosey--it's only because I'm so happy,
happy, happy! Why, Bertram, if it weren't for
that Overflow Annex I believe I--I just couldn't
It was Bertram who sighed then, and who
prayed fervently in his heart that never might he
see a real shadow cloud that dear face.
Thus far, certainly, the cares of matrimony
had rested anything but heavily upon the shapely
young shoulders of the new wife. Domestic affairs
at the Strata moved like a piece of well-oiled
machinery. Dong Ling, to be sure, was not there;
but in his place reigned Pete's grandniece, a freshfaced,
capable young woman who (Bertram
declared) cooked like an angel and minded her own
business like a man. Pete, as of yore, had full
charge of the house; and a casual eye would see
few changes. Even the brothers themselves saw
few, for that matter.
True, at the very first, Billy had donned a
ruffled apron and a bewitching dust-cap, and had
traversed the house from cellar to garret with a
prettily important air of ``managing things,'' as
she suggested changes right and left. She had
summoned Pete, too, for three mornings in
succession, and with great dignity had ordered the
meals for the day. But when Bertram was
discovered one evening tugging back his favorite
chair, and when William had asked if Billy were
through using his pipe-tray, the young wife had
concluded to let things remain about as they
were. And when William ate no breakfast one
morning, and Bertram aggrievedly refused dessert
that night at dinner, Billy--learning through an
apologetic Pete that Master William always had
to have eggs for breakfast no matter what else
there was, and that Master Bertram never ate
boiled rice--gave up planning the meals. True,
for three more mornings she summoned Pete for
``orders,'' but the orders were nothing more nor
less than a blithe ``Well, Pete, what are we going
to have for dinner to-day?'' By the end of a
week even this ceremony was given up, and before
a month had passed, Billy was little more
than a guest in her own home, so far as
responsibility was concerned.
Billy was not idle, however; far from it. First,
there were the delightful hours with Bertram.
Then there was her music: Billy was writing a
new song--the best she had ever written, Billy
``Why, Bertram, it can't help being that,'' she
said to her husband, one day. ``The words just
sang themselves to me right out of my heart;
and the melody just dropped down from the sky.
And now, everywhere, I'm hearing the most
wonderful harmonies. The whole universe is
singing to me. If only now I can put it on paper
what I hear! Then I can make the whole
universe sing to some one else!''
Even music, however, had to step one side for
the wedding calls which were beginning to be
received, and which must be returned, in spite
of the occasional rebellion of the young husband.
There were the more intimate friends to be seen,
also, and Cyril and Marie to be visited. And
always there was the Annex.
The Annex was in fine running order now, and
was a source of infinite satisfaction to its founder
and great happiness to its beneficiaries. Tommy
Dunn was there, learning wonderful things from
books and still more wonderful things from the
piano in the living-room. Alice Greggory and
her mother were there, too--the result of much
persuasion. Indeed, according to Bertram, Billy
had been able to fill the Annex only by telling
each prospective resident that he or she was
absolutely necessary to the welfare and happiness
of every other resident. Not that the house was
full, either. There were still two unoccupied
``But then, I'm glad there are,'' Billy had
declared, ``for there's sure to be some one that I'll
want to send there.''
``Some _one_, did you say?'' Bertram had retorted,
meaningly; but his wife had disdained to
answer this.
Billy herself was frequently at the Annex.
She told Aunt Hannah that she had to come often
to bring the happiness--it accumulated so fast.
Certainly she always found plenty to do there,
whenever she came. There was Aunt Hannah to
be read to, Mrs. Greggory to be sung to, and
Tommy Dunn to be listened to; for Tommy
Dunn was always quivering with eagerness to
play her his latest ``piece.''
Billy knew that some day at the Annex she
would meet Mr. M. J. Arkwright; and she told
herself that she hoped she should.
Billy had not seen Arkwright (except on the
stage of the Boston Opera House) since the day
he had left her presence in white-faced, stonyeyed
misery after declaring his love for her, and
learning of her engagement to Bertram. Since
then, she knew, he had been much with his old
friend, Alice Greggory. She did not believe,
should she see him now, that he would be either
white-faced, or stony-eyed. His heart, she was
sure, had gone where it ought to have gone in the
first place--to Alice. Such being, in her opinion,
the case, she longed to get the embarrassment
of a first meeting between themselves over
with, for, after that, she was sure, their old
friendship could be renewed, and she would be in a
position to further this pretty love affair between
him and Alice. Very decidedly, therefore, Billy
wished to meet Arkwright. Very pleased, consequently,
was she when, one day, coming into the
living-room at the Annex, she found the man
sitting by the fire.
Arkwright was on his feet at once.
``Miss--Mrs. H--Henshaw,'' he stammered
``Oh, Mr. Arkwright,'' she cried, with just a
shade of nervousness in her voice as she advanced,
her hand outstretched. ``I'm glad to see you.''
``Thank you. I wanted to see Miss Greggory,''
he murmured. Then, as the unconscious rudeness
of his reply dawned on him, he made matters
infinitely worse by an attempted apology. ``That
is, I mean--I didn't mean--'' he began to
stammer miserably.
Some girls might have tossed the floundering
man a straw in the shape of a light laugh intended
to turn aside all embarrassment--but not Billy.
Billy held out a frankly helping hand that was
meant to set the man squarely on his feet at her
``Mr. Arkwright, don't, please,'' she begged
earnestly. ``You and I don't need to beat about
the bush. I _am_ glad to see you, and I hope you're
glad to see me. We're going to be the best of
friends from now on, I'm sure; and some day,
soon, you're going to bring Alice to see me, and
we'll have some music. I left her up-stairs. She'll
be down at once, I dare say--I met Rosa going
up with your card. Good-by,'' she finished with
a bright smile, as she turned and walked rapidly
from the room.
Outside, on the steps, Billy drew a long
``There,'' she whispered; ``that's over--and
well over!'' The next minute she frowned vexedly.
She had missed her glove. ``Never mind!
I sha'n't go back in there for it now, anyway,''
she decided.
In the living-room, five minutes later, Alice
Greggory found only a hastily scrawled note
waiting for her.
``If you'll forgive the unforgivable,'' she read
``you'll forgive me for not being here when you
come down. `Circumstances over which I have
no control have called me away.' May we let
it go at that?
As Alice Greggory's amazed, questioning eyes
left the note they fell upon the long white glove
on the floor by the door. Half mechanically she
crossed the room and picked it up; but almost at
once she dropped it with a low cry.
``Billy! He--saw--Billy!'' Then a flood
of understanding dyed her face scarlet as she
turned and fled to the blessedly unseeing walls
of her own room.
Not ten minutes later Rosa tapped at her door
with a note.
``It's from Mr. Arkwright, Miss. He's downstairs.''
Rosa's eyes were puzzled, and a bit
``Mr. Arkwright!''
``Yes, Miss. He's come again. That is, I
didn't know he'd went--but he must have, for
he's come again now. He wrote something in a
little book; then he tore it out and gave it to me.
He said he'd wait, please, for an answer.''
``Oh, very well, Rosa.''
Miss Greggory took the note and spoke with
an elaborate air of indifference that was meant to
express a calm ignoring of the puzzled questioning
in the other's eyes. The next moment she read
this in Arkwright's peculiar scrawl:
``If you've already forgiven the unforgivable,
you'll do it again, I know, and come down-stairs.
Won't you, please? I want to see you.''
Miss Greggory lifted her head with a jerk.
Her face was a painful red.
``Tell Mr. Arkwright I can't possibly--'' She
came to an abrupt pause. Her eyes had encountered
Rosa's, and in Rosa's eyes the puzzled questioning
was plainly fast becoming a shrewd suspicion.
There was the briefest of hesitations; then,
lightly, Miss Greggory tossed the note aside.
``Tell Mr. Arkwright I'll be down at once,
please,'' she directed carelessly, as she turned
back into the room.
But she was not down at once. She was not
down until she had taken time to bathe her red
eyes, powder her telltale nose, smoothe her ruffled
hair, and whip herself into the calm, steady-eyed,
self-controlled young woman that Arkwright
finally rose to meet when she came into the room.
``I thought it was only women who were privileged
to change their mind,'' she began brightly;
but Arkwright ignored her attempt to conventionalize
the situation.
``Thank you for coming down,'' he said, with
a weariness that instantly drove the forced smile
from the girl's lips. ``I--I wanted to--to talk
to you.''
``Yes?'' She seated herself and motioned him
to a chair near her. He took the seat, and then
fell silent, his eyes out the window.
``I thought you said you--you wanted to
talk, she reminded him nervously, after a
``I did.'' He turned with disconcerting abruptness.
``Alice, I'm going to tell you a story.''
I shall be glad to listen. People always like
stories, don't they?''
``Do they?'' The somber pain in Arkwright's
eyes deepened. Alice Greggory did not know it,
but he was thinking of another story he had once
told in that same room. Billy was his listener
then, while now-- A little precipitately he began
to speak.
``When I was a very small boy I went to visit
my uncle, who, in his young days, had been quite
a hunter. Before the fireplace in his library was
a huge tiger skin with a particularly lifelike head.
The first time I saw it I screamed, and ran and
hid. I refused then even to go into the room
again. My cousins urged, scolded, pleaded, and
laughed at me by turns, but I was obdurate. I
would not go where I could see the fearsome thing
again, even though it was, as they said, `nothing
but a dead old rug!'
``Finally, one day, my uncle took a hand in the
matter. By sheer will-power he forced me to go
with him straight up to the dreaded creature, and
stand by its side. He laid one of my shrinking
hands on the beast's smooth head, and thrust
the other one quite into the open red mouth with
its gleaming teeth.
`` `You see,' he said, `there's absolutely nothing
to fear. He can't possibly hurt you. Just as
if you weren't bigger and finer and stronger in
every way than that dead thing on the floor!'
``Then, when he had got me to the point where
of my own free will I would walk up and touch
the thing, he drew a lesson for me.
`` `Now remember,' he charged me. `Never
run and hide again. Only cowards do that.
Walk straight up and face the thing. Ten to one
you'll find it's nothing but a dead skin masquerading
as the real thing. Even if it isn't if it's
alive--face it. Find a weapon and fight it.
Know that you are going to conquer it and
you'll conquer. Never run. Be a man. Men
don't run, my boy!' ''
Arkwright paused, and drew a long breath. He
did not look at the girl in the opposite chair. If
he had looked he would have seen a face transfigured.
``Well,'' he resumed, ``I never forgot that tiger
skin, nor what it stood for, after that day when
Uncle Ben thrust my hand into its hideous, but
harmless, red mouth. Even as a kid I began,
then, to try--not to run. I've tried ever since
But to-day--I did run.''
Arkwright's voice had been getting lower and
lower. The last three words would have been
almost inaudible to ears less sensitively alert than
were Alice Greggory's. For a moment after the
words were uttered, only the clock's ticking broke
the silence; then, with an obvious effort, the man
roused himself, as if breaking away from some
benumbing force that held him.
``Alice, I don't need to tell you, after what I
said the other night, that I loved Billy Neilson.
That was bad enough, for I found she was pledged
to another man. But to-day I discovered something
worse: I discovered that I loved Billy _Henshaw_--
another man's wife. And--I ran. But
I've come back. I'm going to face the thing. Oh,
I'm not deceiving myself! This love of mine is
no dead tiger skin. It's a beast, alive and alert
--God pity me!--to destroy my very soul. But
I'm going to fight it; and--I want you to help
The girl gave a half-smothered cry. The man
turned, but he could not see her face distinctly.
Twilight had come, and the room was full of
shadows. He hesitated, then went on, a little
more quietly.
``That's why I've told you all this--so you
would help me. And you will, won't you?''
There was no answer. Once again he tried to
see her face, but it was turned now quite away
from him.
``You've been a big help already, little girl.
Your friendship, your comradeship--they've
been everything to me. You're not going to make
me do without them--now?''
``No--oh, no!'' The answer was low and a
little breathless; but he heard it.
``Thank you. I knew you wouldn't.'' He
paused, then rose to his feet. When he spoke
again his voice carried a note of whimsical
lightness that was a little forced. ``But I must go--
else you _will_ take them from me, and with good
reason. And please don't let your kind heart
grieve too much--over me. I'm no deep-dyed
villain in a melodrama, nor wicked lover in a tenpenny
novel, you know. I'm just an everyday
man in real life; and we're going to fight this thing
out in everyday living. That's where your help
is coming in. We'll go together to see Mrs. Bertram
Henshaw. She's asked us to, and you'll do
it, I know. We'll have music and everyday talk.
We'll see Mrs. Bertram Henshaw in her own home
with her husband, where she belongs; and--I'm
not going to run again. But--I'm counting on
your help, you know,'' he smiled a little wistfully,
as he held out his hand in good-by.
One minute later Alice Greggory, alone, was
hurrying up-stairs.
``I can't--I can't--I know I can't,'' she was
whispering wildly. Then, in her own room, she
faced herself in the mirror. ``Yes--you--can,
Alice Greggory,'' she asserted, with swift change
of voice and manner. ``This is _your_ tiger skin,
and you're going to fight it. Do you understand?
--fight it! And you're going to win, too. Do you
want that man to know you--_care_?''
It was toward the last of October that Billy
began to notice her husband's growing restlessness.
Twice, when she had been playing to him,
she turned to find him testing the suppleness of
his injured arm. Several times, failing to receive
an answer to her questions, she had looked up to
discover him gazing abstractedly at nothing in
They read and walked and talked together, to
be sure, and Bertram's devotion to her lightest
wish was beyond question; but more and more
frequently these days Billy found him hovering
over his sketches in his studio; and once, when he
failed to respond to the dinner-bell, search
revealed him buried in a profound treatise on ``The
Art of Foreshortening.''
Then came the day when Billy, after an hour's
vain effort to imprison within notes a tantalizing
melody, captured the truant and rain down to the
studio to tell Bertram of her victory.
But Bertram did not seem even to hear her.
True, he leaped to his feet and hurried to meet her,
his face radiantly aglow; but she had not ceased
to speak before he himself was talking.
``Billy, Billy, I've been sketching,'' he cried.
``My hand is almost steady. See, some of those
lines are all right! I just picked up a crayon
and--'' He stopped abruptly, his eyes on Billy's
face. A vaguely troubled shadow crossed his
own. ``Did--did you--were you saying anything
in--in particular, when you came in?'' he
For a short half-minute Billy looked at her
husband without speaking. Then, a little queerly,
she laughed.
``Oh, no, nothing at all in _particular_,'' she
retorted airily. The next moment, with one of her
unexpected changes of manner, she darted across
the room, picked up a palette, and a handful of
brushes from the long box near it. Advancing
toward her husband she held them out dramatically.
``And now paint, my lord, paint!'' she
commanded him, with stern insistence, as she
thrust them into his hands.
Bertram laughed shamefacedly.
``Oh, I say, Billy,'' he began; but Billy had
Out in the hall Billy was speeding up-stairs,
talking fiercely to herself.
``We'll, Billy Neilson Henshaw, it's come!
Now behave yourself. _That was the painting look!_
You know what that means. Remember, he belongs
to his Art before he does to you. Kate and
everybody says so. And you--you expected
him to tend to you and your silly little songs. Do
you want to ruin his career? As if now he could
spend all his time and give all his thoughts to
you! But I--I just hate that Art!''
``What did you say, Billy?'' asked William, in
mild surprise, coming around the turn of the
balustrade in the hall above. ``Were you speaking
to me, my dear?''
Billy looked up. Her face cleared suddenly,
and she laughed--though a little ruefully.
``No, Uncle William, I wasn't talking to you,''
she sighed. ``I was just--just administering
first aid to the injured,'' she finished, as she
whisked into her own room.
``Well, well, bless the child! What can she
mean by that?'' puzzled Uncle William, turning
to go down the stairway.
Bertram began to paint a very little the next
day. He painted still more the next, and yet more
again the day following. He was like a bird let
out of a cage, so joyously alive was he. The old
sparkle came back to his eye, the old gay smile to
his lips. Now that they had come back Billy
realized what she had not been conscious of
before: that for several weeks past they had not
been there; and she wondered which hurt the
more--that they had not been there before, or
that they were there now. Then she scolded
herself roundly for asking the question at all.
They were not easy--those days for Billy,
though always to Bertram she managed to show
a cheerfully serene face. To Uncle William, also,
and to Aunt Hannah she showed a smiling countenance;
and because she could not talk to anybody
else of her feelings, she talked to herself.
This, however, was no new thing for Billy to do
From earliest childhood she had fought things out
in like manner.
``But it's so absurd of you, Billy Henshaw,''
she berated herself one day, when Bertram had
become so absorbed in his work that he had
forgotten to keep his appointment with her for a
walk. ``Just because you have had his constant
attention almost every hour since you were married
is no reason why you should have it every
hour now, when his arm is better! Besides, it's
exactly what you said you wouldn't do--object--
to his giving proper time to his work.''
``But I'm not objecting,'' stormed the other
half of herself. ``I'm _telling_ him to do it. It's
only that he's so--so _pleased_ to do it. He doesn't
seem to mind a bit being away from me. He's
actually happy!''
``Well, don't you want him to be happy in his
work? Fie! For shame! A fine artist's wife you
are. It seems Kate was right, then; you _are_ going
to spoil his career!''
``Ho!'' quoth Billy, and tossed her head.
Forthwith she crossed the room to her piano and
plumped herself down hard on to the stool. Then,
from under her fingers there fell a rollicking melody
that seemed to fill the room with little dancing
feet. Faster and faster sped Billy's fingers;
swifter and swifter twinkled the little dancing
feet. Then a door was jerked open, and Bertram's
voice called:
The music stopped instantly. Billy sprang from
her seat, her eyes eagerly seeking the direction
from which had come the voice. Perhaps--_perhaps_
Bertram wanted her. Perhaps he was not
going to paint any longer that morning, after all.
``Billy!'' called the voice again. ``Please, do
you mind stopping that playing just for a little
while? I'm a brute, I know, dear, but my brush
_will_ try to keep time with that crazy little tune of
yours, and you know my hand is none too steady,
anyhow, and when it tries to keep up with that
jiggety, jig, jig, jiggety, jig, jig--! _Do_ you mind,,
darling, just--just sewing, or doing something
still for a while?''
All the light fled from Billy's face, but her voice,
when she spoke, was the quintessence of cheery
``Why, no, of course not, dear.''
``Thank you. I knew you wouldn't,'' sighed
Bertram. Then the door shut.
For a long minute Billy stood motionless before
she glanced at her watch and sped to the telephone.
``Is Miss Greggory there, Rosa?'' she called
when the operator's ring was answered.
``Mis' Greggory, the lame one?''
``No; _Miss_ Greggory--Miss Alice.''
``Oh! Yes'm.''
``Then won't you ask her to come to the telephone,
There was a moment's wait, during which Billy's
small, well-shod foot beat a nervous tattoo on
the floor.
``Oh, is that you, Alice?'' she called then.
``Are you going to be home for an hour or two?''
``Why, y-yes; yes, indeed.''
``Then I'm coming over. We'll play duets,
sing--anything. I want some music.''
``Do! And--Mr. Arkwright is here. He'll
``Mr. Arkwright? You say he's there? Then
I won't-- Yes, I will, too.'' Billy spoke with
renewed firmness. ``I'll be there right away.
Good-by.'' And she hung up the receiver, and
went to tell Pete to order John and Peggy at once.
``I suppose I ought to have left Alice and Mr.
Arkwright alone together,'' muttered the young
wife feverishly, as she hurriedly prepared for
departure. ``But I'll make it up to them later.
I'm going to give them lots of chances. But today--
to-day I just had to go--somewhere!''
At the Annex, with Alice Greggory and
Arkwright, Billy sang duets and trios, and reveled in
a sonorous wilderness of new music to her heart's
content. Then, rested, refreshed, and at peace
with all the world, she hurried home to dinner
and to Bertram.
``There! I feel better,'' she sighed, as she took
off her hat in her own room; ``and now I'll go
find Bertram. Bless his heart--of course he
didn't want me to play when he was so busy!''
Billy went straight to the studio, but Bertram
was not there. Neither was he in William's room,
nor anywhere in the house. Down-stairs in the
dining-room Pete was found looking rather white,
leaning back in a chair. He struggled at once to
his feet, however, as his mistress entered the
Billy hurried forward with a startled exclamation.
``Why, Pete, what is it? Are you sick?'' she
cried, her glance encompassing the half-set table.
``No, ma'am; oh, no, ma'am!'' The old man
stumbled forward and began to arrange the knives
and forks. ``It's just a pesky pain--beggin'
yer pardon--in my side. But I ain't sick. No,
Billy frowned and shook her head. Her eyes
were on Pete's palpably trembling hands.
``But, Pete, you are sick,'' she protested. ``Let
Eliza do that.''
Pete drew himself stiffly erect. The color had
begun to come back to his face.
``There hain't no one set this table much but
me for more'n fifty years, an' I've got a sort of
notion that nobody can do it just ter suit me.
Besides, I'm better now. It's gone--that pain.''
``But, Pete, what is it? How long have you
had it?''
``I hain't had it any time, steady. It's the
comin' an' goin' kind. It seems silly ter mind it
at all; only, when it does come, it sort o' takes
the backbone right out o' my knees, and they
double up so's I have ter set down. There, ye
see? I'm pert as a sparrer, now!'' And, with
stiff celerity, Pete resumed his task.
His mistress still frowned.
``That isn't right, Pete,'' she demurred, with
a slow shake of her head. ``You should see a
The old man paled a little. He had seen a
doctor, and he had not liked what the doctor
had told him. In fact, he stubbornly refused to
believe what the doctor had said. He straightened
himself now a little aggressively.
``Humph! Beggin' yer pardon, Miss--ma'am,
but I don't think much o' them doctor chaps.''
Billy shook her head again as she smiled
and turned away. Then, as if casually, she
``Oh, did Mr. Bertram go out, Pete?''
``Yes, Miss; about five o'clock. He said he'd
be back to dinner.''
``Oh! All right.''
From the hall the telephone jangled sharply.
``I'll go,'' said Pete's mistress, as she turned
and hurried up-stairs.
It was Bertram's voice that answered her
opening ``Hullo.''
``Oh, Billy, is that you, dear? Well, you're
just the one I wanted. I wanted to say--that
is, I wanted to ask you--'' The speaker cleared
his throat a little nervously, and began all over
again. ``The fact is, Billy, I've run across a
couple of old classmates on from New York, and
they are very anxious I should stay down to dinner
with them. Would you mind--very much if I
A cold hand seemed to clutch Billy's heart.
She caught her breath with a little gasp and tried
to speak; but she had to try twice before the
words came.
``Why, no--no, of course not!'' Billy's voice
was very high-pitched and a little shaky, but it
was surpassingly cheerful.
``You sure you won't be--lonesome?'' Bertram's
voice was vaguely troubled.
``Of course not!''
``You've only to say the word, little girl,''
came Bertram's anxious tones again, ``and I
won't stay.''
Billy swallowed convulsively. If only, only he
would _stop_ and leave her to herself! As if she were
going to own up that _she_ was lonesome for _him_--
if _he_ was not lonesome for _her!_
``Nonsense! of course you'll stay,'' called Billy,
still in that high-pitched, shaky treble. Then,
before Bertram could answer, she uttered a gay
``Good-by!'' and hung up the receiver.
Billy had ten whole minutes in which to cry
before Pete's gong sounded for dinner; but she
had only one minute in which to try to efface
the woefully visible effects of those ten minutes
before William tapped at her door, and called:
``Gone to sleep, my dear? Dinner's ready.
Didn't you hear the gong?''
``Yes, I'm coming, Uncle William.'' Billy
spoke with breezy gayety, and threw open the
door; but she did not meet Uncle William's eyes.
Her head was turned away. Her hands were
fussing with the hang of her skirt.
``Bertram's dining out, Pete tells me,'' observed
William, with cheerful nonchalance, as they went
down-stairs together.
Billy bit her lip and looked up sharply. She
had been bracing herself to meet with disdainful
indifference this man's pity--the pity due a poor
neglected wife whose husband _preferred_ to dine
with old classmates rather than with herself.
Now she found in William's face, not pity, but a
calm, even jovial, acceptance of the situation as a
matter of course. She had known she was going
to hate that pity; but now, curiously enough, she
was conscious only of anger that the pity was
not there--that she might hate it.
She tossed her head a little. So even William
--Uncle William--regarded this monstrous thing
as an insignificant matter of everyday experience.
Maybe he expected it to occur frequently--every
night, or so. Doubtless he did expect it to occur
every night, or so. Indeed! Very well. As if she
were going to show _now_ that she cared whether
Bertram were there or not! They should see.
So with head held high and eyes asparkle, Billy
marched into the dining-room and took her accustomed place.
It was a brilliant dinner--because Billy made
it so. At first William met her sallies of wit with
mild surprise; but it was not long before he rose
gallantly to the occasion, and gave back full
measure of retort. Even Pete twice had to turn
his back to hide a smile, and once his hand shook
so that the tea he was carrying almost spilled.
This threatened catastrophe, however, seemed to
frighten him so much that his face was very grave
throughout the rest of the dinner.
Still laughing and talking gayly, Billy and
Uncle William, after the meal was over, ascended
to the drawing-room. There, however, the man,
in spite of the young woman's gay badinage, fell
to dozing in the big chair before the fire, leaving
Billy with only Spunkie for company--Spunkie,
who, disdaining every effort to entice her into a
romp, only winked and blinked stupid eyes, and
finally curled herself on the rug for a nap.
Billy, left to her own devices, glanced at her
Half-past seven! Time, almost, for Bertram
to be coming. He had said ``dinner''; and, of
course, after dinner was over he would be coming
home--to her. Very well; she would show him
that she had at least got along without him as
well as he had without her. At all events he
would not find her forlornly sitting with her nose
pressed against the window-pane! And forthwith
Billy established herself in a big chair (with its
back carefully turned toward the door by which
Bertram would enter), and opened a book.
Five, ten, fifteen minutes passed. Billy
fidgeted in her chair, twisted her neck to look out
into the hall--and dropped her book with a
Uncle William jerked himself awake, and
Spunkie opened sleepy eyes. Then both settled
themselves for another nap. Billy sighed, picked
up her book, and flounced back into her chair.
But she did not read. Disconsolately she sat
staring straight ahead--until a quick step on
the sidewalk outside stirred her into instant action.
Assuming a look of absorbed interest she twitched
the book open and held it before her face. . . .
But the step passed by the door: and Billy saw
then that her book was upside down.
Five, ten, fifteen more minutes passed. Billy
still sat, apparently reading, though she had not
turned a page. The book now, however, was
right side up. One by one other minutes passed
till the great clock in the hall struck nine long
``Well, well, bless my soul!'' mumbled Uncle
William, resolutely forcing himself to wake up.
``What time was that?''
``Nine o'clock.'' Billy spoke with tragic
distinctness, yet very cheerfully.
``Eh? Only nine?'' blinked Uncle William.
``I thought it must be ten. Well, anyhow, I
believe I'll go up-stairs. I seem to be unusually
Billy said nothing. `` `Only nine,' indeed!''
she was thinking wrathfully.
At the door Uncle William turned.
``You're not going to sit up, my dear, of
course,'' he remarked.
For the second time that evening a cold hand
seemed to clutch Billy's heart.
_Sit up!_ Had it come already to that? Was
she even now a wife who had need to _sit up_ for
her husband?
``I really wouldn't, my dear,'' advised Uncle
William again. ``Good night.''
``Oh, but I'm not sleepy at all, yet,'' Billy
managed to declare brightly. ``Good night.''
Then Uncle William went up-stairs.
Billy turned to her book, which happened to
be one of William's on ``Fake Antiques.''
`` `To collect anything, these days, requires
expert knowledge, and the utmost care and
discrimination,' '' read Billy's eyes. ``So Uncle
William _expected_ Bertram was going to spend the
whole evening as well as stay to dinner!'' ran
Billy's thoughts. `` `The enormous quantity of
bijouterie, Dresden and Battersea enamel ware
that is now flooding the market, is made on the
Continent--and made chiefly for the American
trade,' '' continued the book.
``Well, who cares if it is,'' snapped Billy, springing
to her feet and tossing the volume aside.
``Spunkie, come here! You've simply got to
play with me. Do you hear? I want to be gay
--_gay_--GAY! He's gay. He's down there with
those men, where he wants to be. Where he'd
_rather_ be than be with me! Do you think I want
him to come home and find me moping over a
stupid old book? Not much! I'm going to have
him find me gay, too. Now, come, Spunkie;
hurry--wake up! He'll be here right away, I'm
sure.'' And Billy shook a pair of worsted reins,
hung with little soft balls, full in Spunkie's face.
But Spunkie would not wake up, and Spunkie
would not play. She pretended to. She bit at
the reins, and sank her sharp claws into the
dangling balls. For a fleeting instant, even,
something like mischief gleamed in her big yellow eyes.
Then the jaws relaxed, the paws turned to velvet,
and Spunkie's sleek gray head settled slowly back
into lazy comfort. Spunkie was asleep.
Billy gazed at the cat with reproachful eyes.
``And you, too, Spunkie,'' she murmured.
Then she got to her feet and went back to her
chair. This time she picked up a magazine and
began to turn the leaves very fast, one after another.
Half-past nine came, then ten. Pete appeared
at the door to get Spunkie, and to see that everything
was all right for the night.
``Mr. Bertram is not in yet?'' he began doubtfully.
Billy shook her head with a bright smile.
``No, Pete. Go to bed. I expect him every
minute. Good night.''
``Thank you, ma'am. Good night.''
The old man picked up the sleepy cat and went
down-stairs. A little later Billy heard his quiet
steps coming back through the hall and ascending
the stairs. She listened until from away at the
top of the house she heard his door close. Then
she drew a long breath.
Ten o'clock--after ten o'clock, and Bertram
not there yet! And was this what he called dinner?
Did one eat, then, till ten o'clock, when one
dined with one's friends?
Billy was angry now--very angry. She was
too angry to be reasonable. This thing that her
husband had done seemed monstrous to her,
smarting, as she was, under the sting of hurt
pride and grieved loneliness--the state of mind
into which she had worked herself. No longer
now did she wish to be gay when her husband
came. No longer did she even pretend to assume
indifference. Bertram had done wrong. He had
been unkind, cruel, thoughtless, inconsiderate of
her comfort and happiness. Furthermore he _did
not_ love her as well as she did him or he never,
never could have done it! She would let him see,
when he came, just how hurt and grieved she was
--and how disappointed, too.
Billy was walking the floor now, back and forth,
back and forth.
Half-past ten came, then eleven. As the eleven
long strokes reverberated through the silent
house Billy drew in her breath and held it suspended.
A new look came to her eyes. A growing
terror crept into them and culminated in a
frightened stare at the clock.
Billy ran then to the great outer door and pulled
it open. A cold wind stung her face, and caused
her to shut the door quickly. Back and forth she
began to pace the floor again; but in five minutes
she had run to the door once more. This time
she wore a heavy coat of Bertram's which she
caught up as she passed the hall-rack.
Out on to the broad top step Billy hurried, and
peered down the street. As far as she could see
not a person was in sight. Across the street in
the Public Garden the wind stirred the gray
tree-branches and set them to casting weird
shadows on the bare, frozen ground. A warning
something behind her sent Billy scurrying into
the house just in time to prevent the heavy door's
closing and shutting her out, keyless, in the cold.
Half-past eleven came, and again Billy ran to
the door. This time she put the floor-mat against
the casing so that the door could not close. Once
more she peered wildly up and down the street,
and across into the deserted, wind-swept Garden.
There was only terror now in Billy's face. The
anger was all gone. In Billy's mind there was not
a shadow of doubt--something had happened to
Bertram was ill--hurt--dead! And he was
so good, so kind, so noble; such a dear, dear
husband! If only she could see him once. If only
she could ask his forgiveness for those wicked,
unkind, accusing thoughts. If only she could
tell him again that she did love him. If only--
Far down the street a step rang sharply on the
frosty air. A masculine figure was hurrying toward
the house. Retreating well into the shadow of the
doorway, Billy watched it, her heart pounding
against her side in great suffocating throbs.
Nearer and nearer strode the approaching figure
until Billy had almost sprung to meet it with a
glad cry--almost, but not quite; for the figure
neither turned nor paused, but marched straight
on--and Billy saw then, under the arc light, a
brown-bearded man who was not Bertram at all.
Three times during the next few minutes did
the waiting little bride on the doorstep watch
with palpitating yearning a shadowy form appear,
approach--and pass by. At the third
heart-breaking disappointment, Billy wrung her
hands helplessly.
``I don't see how there can be--so many--
utterly _useless_ people in the world!'' she choked.
Then, thoroughly chilled and sick at heart, she
went into the house and closed the door.
Once again, back and forth, back and forth,
Billy took up her weary vigil. She still wore the
heavy coat. She had forgotten to take it off.
Her face was pitifully white and drawn. Her
eyes were wild. One of her hands was nervously
caressing the rough sleeve of the coat as it hung
from her shoulder.
Billy gave a sharp cry and ran into the hall.
Yes, it was twelve o'clock. And now, always,
all the rest of the dreary, useless hours that that
clock would tick away through an endless existence,
she would have to live--without Bertram.
If only she could see him once more! But she
could not. He was dead. He must be dead, now.
Here it was twelve o'clock, and--
There came a quick step, the click of a key in
the lock, then the door swung back and Bertram,
big, strong, and merry-eyed, stood before her.
``Well, well, hullo,'' he called jovially. Why,
Billy, what's the matter?'' he broke off, in quite
a different tone of voice.
And then a curious thing happened. Billy,
who, a minute before, had been seeing only a dear,
noble, adorable, _lost_ Bertram, saw now suddenly
only the man that had stayed _happily_ till midnight
with two friends, while she--she--
``Matter! Matter!'' exclaimed Billy sharply,
then. ``Is this what you call staying to dinner,
Bertram Henshaw?''
Bertram stared. A slow red stole to his
forehead. It was his first experience of coming home
to meet angry eyes that questioned his behavior
--and he did not like it. He had been, perhaps,
a little conscience-smitten when he saw how late
he had stayed; and he had intended to say he
was sorry, of course. But to be thus sharply
called to account for a perfectly innocent good
time with a couple of friends--! To come home
and find Billy making a ridiculous scene like
this--! He--he would not stand for it! He--
Bertram's lips snapped open. The angry retort
was almost spoken when something in the piteously
quivering chin and white, drawn face opposite
stopped it just in time.
``Why, Billy--darling!'' he murmured instead.
It was Billy's turn to change. All the anger
melted away before the dismayed tenderness in
those dear eyes and the grieved hurt in that dear
``Well, you--you--I--'' Billy began to cry.
It was all right then, of course, for the next
minute she was crying on Bertram's big, broad
shoulder; and in the midst of broken words,
kisses, gentle pats, and inarticulate croonings,
the Big, Bad Quarrel, that had been all ready to
materialize, faded quite away into nothingness.
``I didn't have such an awfully good time, anyhow,
avowed Bertram, when speech became
rational. ``I'd rather have been home with you.''
``Nonsense!'' blinked Billy, valiantly. ``Of
course you had a good time; and it was perfectly
right you should have it, too! And I--I hope
you'll have it again.''
``I sha'n't,'' emphasized Bertram, promptly,
``--not and leave you!''
Billy regarded him with adoring eyes.
``I'll tell you; we'll have 'em come here,'' she
proposed gayly.
``Sure we will,'' agreed Bertram.
``Yes; sure we will,'' echoed Billy, with a
contented sigh. Then, a little breathlessly, she
added: ``Anyhow, I'll know--where you are.
I won't think you're--dead!''
``You--blessed--little-goose!'' scolded
Bertram, punctuating each word with a kiss.
Billy drew a long sigh.
``If this is a quarrel I'm going to have them
often,'' she announced placidly.
``Billy!'' The young husband was plainly
``Well, I am--because I like the making-up,
dimpled Billy, with a mischievous twinkle as she
broke from his clasp and skipped ahead up the
The next morning, under the uncompromising
challenge of a bright sun, Billy began to be
uneasily suspicious that she had been just a bit
unreasonable and exacting the night before. To
make matters worse she chanced to run across a
newspaper criticism of a new book bearing the
ominous title: ``When the Honeymoon Wanes
A Talk to Young Wives.''
Such a title, of course, attracted her
supersensitive attention at once; and, with a curiously
faint feeling, she picked up the paper and began to
As the most of the criticism was taken up with
quotations from the book, it was such sentences
as these that met her startled eyes:
``Perhaps the first test comes when the young
wife awakes to the realization that while her husband
loves her very much, he can still make
plans with his old friends which do not include
herself. . . . Then is when the foolish wife lets
her husband see how hurt she is that he can want
to be with any one but herself. . . . Then is
when the husband--used all his life to independence,
perhaps--begins to chafe under these new
bonds that hold him so fast. . . . No man likes
to be held up at the end of a threatened scene and
made to give an account of himself. . . . Before
a woman has learned to cultivate a comfortable
indifference to her husband's comings and goings,
she is apt to be tyrannical and exacting.''
`` `Comfortable indifference,' indeed!'' stormed
Billy to herself. ``As if I ever could be comfortably
indifferent to anything Bertram did!''
She dropped the paper; but there were still
other quotations from the book there, she knew;
and in a moment she was back at the table reading them.
``No man, however fondly he loves his wife,
likes to feel that she is everlastingly peering into
the recesses of his mind, and weighing his every
act to find out if he does or does not love her today
as well as he did yesterday at this time. . . .
Then, when spontaneity is dead, she is the chief
mourner at its funeral. . . . A few couples never
leave the Garden of Eden. They grow old hand
in hand. They are the ones who bear and forbear;
who have learned to adjust themselves to
the intimate relationship of living together. . . .
A certain amount of liberty, both of action and
thought, must be allowed on each side. . . . The
family shut in upon itself grows so narrow that all
interest in the outside world is lost. . . . No
two people are ever fitted to fill each other's
lives entirely. They ought not to try to do it.
If they do try, the process is belittling to each,
and the result, if it is successful, is nothing less
than a tragedy; for it could not mean the highest
ideals, nor the truest devotion. . . . Brushing up
against other interests and other personalities is
good for both husband and wife. Then to each
other they bring the best of what they have
found, and each to the other continues to be new
and interesting. . . . The young wife, however,
is apt to be jealous of everything that turns her
husband's attention for one moment away from
herself. She is jealous of his thoughts, his words,
his friends, even his business. . . . But the wife
who has learned to be the clinging vine when her
husband wishes her to cling, and to be the sturdy
oak when clinging vines would be tiresome, has
solved a tremendous problem.''
At this point Billy dropped the paper. She
flung it down, indeed, a bit angrily. There were
still a few more words in the criticism, mostly the
critic's own opinion of the book; but Billy did
not care for this. She had read quite enough--
boo much, in fact. All that sort of talk might be
very well, even necessary, perhaps (she told herself),
for ordinary husbands and wives! but for
her and Bertram--
Then vividly before her rose those initial quoted
``Perhaps the first test comes when the young
wife awakes to the realization that while her husband
loves her very much, he can still make
plans with his old friends which do not include
Billy frowned, and put her finger to her lips.
Was that then, last night, a ``test''? Had she
been ``tyrannical and exacting''? Was she
``everlastingly peering into the recesses'' of Bertram's
mind and ``weighing his every act''?
Was Bertram already beginning to ``chafe''
under these new bonds that held him?
No, no, never that! She could not believe that.
But what if he should sometime begin to chafe?
What if they two should, in days to come,
degenerate into just the ordinary, everyday married
folk, whom she saw about her everywhere, and
for whom just such horrid books as this must be
written? It was unbelievable, unthinkable. And
yet, that man had said--
With a despairing sigh Billy picked up the paper
once more and read carefully every word again.
When she had finished she stood soberly thoughtful,
her eyes out of the window.
After all, it was nothing but the same old story.
She was exacting. She did want her husband's
every thought. She _gloried_ in peering into every
last recess of his mind if she had half a chance.
She was jealous of his work. She had almost
hated his painting--at times. She had held him
up with a threatened scene only the night before
and demanded that he should give an account
of himself. She had, very likely, been the clinging
vine when she should have been the sturdy
Very well, then. (Billy lifted her head and
threw back her shoulders.) He should have no
further cause for complaint. She would be an
oak. She would cultivate that comfortable
indifference to his comings and goings. She would
brush up against other interests and personalities
so as to be ``new'' and ``interesting'' to her
husband. She would not be tyrannical, exacting,
or jealous. She would not threaten scenes, nor
peer into recesses. Whatever happened, she
would not let Bertram begin to chafe against
those bonds!
Having arrived at this heroic and (to her)
eminently satisfactory state of mind, Billy turned
from the window and fell to work on a piece of
manuscript music.
`` `Brush up against other interests,' '' she
admonished herself sternly, as she reached for her
Theoretically it was beautiful; but practically--
Billy began at once to be that oak. Not an
hour after she had first seen the fateful notice of
``When the Honeymoon Wanes,'' Bertram's ring
sounded at the door down-stairs.
Bertram always let himself in with his latchkey;
but, from the first of Billy's being there, he
had given a peculiar ring at the bell which would
bring his wife flying to welcome him if she were
anywhere in the house. To-day, when the bell
sounded, Billy sprang as usual to her feet, with a
joyous ``There's Bertram!'' But the next moment
she fell back.
``Tut, tut, Billy Neilson Henshaw! Learn to
cultivate a comfortable indifference to your
husband's comings and goings,'' she whispered
fiercely. Then she sat down and fell to work again.
A moment later she heard her husband's voice
talking to some one--Pete, she surmised. ``Here?
You say she's here?'' Then she heard Bertram's
quick step on the stairs. The next minute, very
quietly, he came to her door.
``Ho!'' he ejaculated gayly, as she rose to
receive his kiss. ``I thought I'd find you asleep,
when you didn't hear my ring.''
Billy reddened a little.
``Oh, no, I wasn't asleep.''
``But you didn't hear--'' Bertram stopped
abruptly, an odd look in his eyes. ``Maybe you
did hear it, though,'' he corrected.
Billy colored more confusedly. The fact that
she looked so distressed did not tend to clear
Bertram's face.
``Why, of course, Billy, I didn't mean to insist
on your coming to meet me,'' he began a little
stiffly; but Billy interrupted him.
``Why, Bertram, I just love to go to meet you,''
she maintained indignantly. Then, remembering
just in time, she amended: ``That is, I did love
to meet you, until--'' With a sudden realization
that she certainly had not helped matters any,
she came to an embarrassed pause.
A puzzled frown showed on Bertram's face.
``You did love to meet me until--'' he repeated
after her; then his face changed. ``Billy,
you aren't--you _can't_ be laying up last night
against me!'' he reproached her a little irritably.
``Last night? Why, of course not,'' retorted
Billy, in a panic at the bare mention of the
``test'' which--according to ``When the Honeymoon
Wanes''--was at the root of all her misery.
Already she thought she detected in Bertram's
voice signs that he was beginning to chafe
against those ``bonds.'' ``It is a matter of--
of the utmost indifference to me what time you
come home at night, my dear,'' she finished airily,
as she sat down to her work again.
Bertram stared; then he frowned, turned on
his heel and left the room. Bertram, who knew
nothing of the ``Talk to Young Wives'' in the
newspaper at Billy's feet, was surprised, puzzled,
and just a bit angry.
Billy, left alone, jabbed her pen with such force
against her paper that the note she was making
became an unsightly blot.
``Well, if this is what that man calls being
`comfortably indifferent,' I'd hate to try the
_un_comfortable kind,'' she muttered with emphasis.
Notwithstanding what Billy was disposed to
regard as the non-success of her first attempt to
profit by the ``Talk to Young Wives;'' she still
frantically tried to avert the waning of her honeymoon.
Assiduously she cultivated the prescribed
``indifference,'' and with at least apparent enthusiasm
she sought the much-to-be-desired ``outside
interests.'' That is, she did all this when she
thought of it when something reminded her
of the sword of destruction hanging over her
happiness. At other times, when she was just being
happy without question, she was her old self
impulsive, affectionate, and altogether adorable.
Naturally, under these circumstances, her conduct
was somewhat erratic. For three days, perhaps,
she would fly to the door at her husband's
ring, and hang upon his every movement. Then,
for the next three, she would be a veritable will-o'-
the-wisp for elusiveness, caring, apparently, not
one whit whether her husband came or went
until poor Bertram, at his wit's end, scourged
himself with a merciless catechism as to what he
had done to vex her. Then, perhaps, just when
he had nerved himself almost to the point of asking
her what was the trouble, there would come
another change, bringing back to him the old
Billy, joyous, winsome, and devoted, plainly
caring nothing for anybody or anything but
himself. Scarcely, however, would he become sure
that it was his Billy back again before she was off
once more, quite beyond his reach, singing with
Arkwright and Alice Greggory, playing with
Tommy Dunn, plunging into some club or church
work--anything but being with him.
That all this was puzzling and disquieting to
Bertram, Billy not once suspected. Billy, so far
as she was concerned, was but cultivating a
comfortable indifference, brushing up against outside
interests, and being an oak.
December passed, and January came, bringing
Miss Marguerite Winthrop to her Boston home.
Bertram's arm was ``as good as ever'' now,
according to its owner; and the sittings for the new
portrait began at once. This left Billy even more
to her own devices, for Bertram entered into his
new work with an enthusiasm born of a glad relief
from forced idleness, and a consuming eagerness
to prove that even though he had failed the first
time, he could paint a portrait of Marguerite
Winthrop that would be a credit to himself, a
conclusive retort to his critics, and a source of
pride to his once mortified friends. With his
whole heart, therefore, he threw himself into the
work before him, staying sometimes well into the
afternoon on the days Miss Winthrop could find
time between her social engagements to give him
a sitting.
It was on such a day, toward the middle of the
month, that Billy was called to the telephone at
half-past twelve o'clock to speak to her husband.
``Billy, dear,'' began Bertram at once, ``if you
don't mind I'm staying to luncheon at Miss Winthrop's
kind request. We've changed the pose--
neither of us was satisfied, you know--but we
haven't quite settled on the new one. Miss
Winthrop has two whole hours this afternoon that
she can give me if I'll stay; and, of course, under
the circumstances, I want to do it.''
``Of course,'' echoed Billy. Billy's voice was
indomitably cheerful.
``Thank you, dear. I knew you'd understand,''
sighed Bertram, contentedly. ``You see, really,
two whole hours, so--it's a chance I can't afford
to lose.''
``Of course you can't,'' echoed Billy, again.
``All right then. Good-by till to-night,'' called
the man.
``Good-by,'' answered Billy, still cheerfully.
As she turned away, however, she tossed her head.
``A new pose, indeed!'' she muttered, with some
asperity. ``Just as if there could be a _new_ pose
after all those she tried last year!''
Immediately after luncheon Pete and Eliza
started for South Boston to pay a visit to Eliza's
mother, and it was soon after they left the house
that Bertram called his wife up again.
``Say, dearie, I forgot to tell you,'' he began,
``but I met an old friend in the subway this
morning, and I--well, I remembered what you
said about bringing 'em home to dinner next
time, so I asked him for to-night. Do you mind?
``Mind? Of course not! I'm glad you did,''
plunged in Billy, with feverish eagerness. (Even
now, just the bare mention of anything connected
with that awful ``test'' night was enough to set
Billy's nerves to tingling.) ``I want you to always
bring them home, Bertram.''
``All right, dear. We'll be there at six o'clock
then. It's--it's Calderwell, this time. You
remember Calderwell, of course.''
``Not--_Hugh_ Calderwell?'' Billy's question
was a little faint.
``Sure!'' Bertram laughed oddly, and lowered
his voice. ``I suspect _once_ I wouldn't have
brought him home to you. I was too jealous.
But now--well, now maybe I want him to see
what he's lost.''
But Bertram only laughed mischievously, and
called a gay ``Good-by till to-night, then!''
Billy, at her end of the wires, hung up the
receiver and backed against the wall a little
Calderwell! To dinner--Calderwell! Did
she remember Calderwell? Did she, indeed! As
if one could easily forget the man that, for a year
or two, had proposed marriage as regularly (and
almost as lightly!) as he had torn a monthly leaf
from his calendar! Besides, was it not he, too,
who had said that Bertram would never love any
girl, _really_; that it would be only the tilt of her
chin or the turn of her head that he loved--to
paint? And now he was coming to dinner--and
with Bertram.
Very well, he should see! He should see that
Bertram _did_ love her; _her_--not the tilt of her
chin nor the turn of her head. He should see how
happy they were, what a good wife she made, and
how devoted and _satisfied_ Bertram was in his
home. He should see! And forthwith Billy
picked up her skirts and tripped up-stairs to select
her very prettiest house-gown to do honor to the
occasion. Up-stairs, however, one thing and another
delayed her, so that it was four o'clock when
she turned her attention to her toilet; and it was
while she was hesitating whether to be stately
and impressive in royally sumptuous blue velvet
and ermine, or cozy and tantalizingly homy{sic} in
bronze-gold crpe de Chine and swan's-down,
that the telephone bell rang again.
Eliza and Pete had not yet returned; so, as
before, Billy answered it. This time Eliza's
shaking voice came to her.
``Is that you, ma'am?''
``Why, yes, Eliza?''
``Yes'm, it's me, ma'am. It's about Uncle
Pete. He's give us a turn that's 'most scared us
out of our wits.''
``Pete! You mean he's sick?''
``Yes, ma'am, he was. That is, he is, too--
only he's better, now, thank goodness,'' panted
Eliza. ``But he ain't hisself yet. He's that white
and shaky! Would you--could you--that is,
would you mind if we didn't come back till into
the evenin', maybe?''
``Why, of course not,'' cried Pete's mistress,
quickly. ``Don't come a minute before he's able,
Eliza. Don't come until to-morrow.''
Eliza gave a trembling little laugh.
``Thank you, ma'am; but there wouldn't be
no keepin' of Uncle Pete here till then. If he
could take five steps alone he'd start now. But
he can't. He says he'll be all right pretty quick,
though. He's had 'em before--these spells--
but never quite so bad as this, I guess; an' he's
worryin' somethin' turrible 'cause he can't start
for home right away.''
``Nonsense!'' cut in Mrs. Bertram Henshaw.
``Yes'm. I knew you'd feel that way,''
stammered Eliza, gratefully. ``You see, I couldn't
leave him to come alone, and besides, anyhow,
I'd have to stay, for mother ain't no more use
than a wet dish-rag at such times, she's that
scared herself. And she ain't very well, too. So
if--if you _could_ get along--''
``Of course we can! And tell Pete not to
worry one bit. I'm so sorry he's sick!''
``Thank you, ma'am. Then we'll be there
some time this evenin','' sighed Eliza.
From the telephone Billy turned away with a
troubled face.
``Pete _is_ ill,'' she was saying to herself. ``I
don't like the looks of it; and he's so faithful he'd
come if--'' With a little cry Billy stopped
short. Then, tremblingly, she sank into the
nearest chair. ``Calderwell--and he's coming to
_dinner!_'' she moaned.
For two benumbed minutes Billy sat staring
at nothing. Then she ran to the telephone and
called the Annex.
Aunt Hannah answered.
``Aunt Hannah, for heaven's sake, if you love
me,'' pleaded Billy, ``send Rosa down instanter!
Pete is sick over to South Boston, and Eliza is
with him; and Bertram is bringing Hugh Calderwell
home to dinner. _Can_ you spare Rosa?''
``Oh, my grief and conscience, Billy! Of course
I can--I mean I could--but Rosa isn't here,
dear child! It's her day out, you know.''
``O dear, of course it is! I might have known,
if I'd thought; but Pete and Eliza have spoiled
me. They never take days out at meal time--
both together, I mean--until to-night.''
``But, my dear child, what will you do?''
``I don't know. I've got to think. I _must_ do
``Of course you must! I'd come over myself
if it wasn't for my cold.''
``As if I'd let you!''
``There isn't anybody here, only Tommy.
Even Alice is gone. Oh, Billy, Billy, this only
goes to prove what I've always said, that _no_
woman _ought_ to be a wife until she's an efficient
housekeeper; and--''
``Yes, yes, Aunt Hannah, I know,'' moaned
Billy, frenziedly. ``But I am a wife, and I'm not
an efficient housekeeper; and Hugh Calderwell
won't wait for me to learn. He's coming to-night.
_To-night!_ And I've got to do something. Never
mind. I'll fix it some way. Good-by!''
``But, Billy, Billy! Oh, my grief and conscience,''
fluttered Aunt Hannah's voice across
the wires as Billy snapped the receiver into
For the second time that day Billy backed
palpitatingly against the wall. Her eyes sought
the clock fearfully.
Fifteen minutes past four. She had an hour and
three quarters. She could, of course, telephone
Bertram to dine Calderwell at a club or some
hotel. But to do this now, the very first time,
when it had been her own suggestion that he
``bring them home''--no, no, she could not do
that! Anything but that! Besides, very likely
she could not reach Bertram, anyway. Doubtless
he had left the Winthrops' by this time.
There was Marie. She could telephone Marie.
But Marie could not very well come just now, she
knew; and then, too, there was Cyril to be taken
into consideration. How Cyril would gibe at the
wife who had to call in all the neighbors just
because her husband was bringing home a friend
to dinner! How he would-- Well, he shouldn't!
He should not have the chance. So, there!
With a jerk Mrs. Bertram Henshaw pulled
herself away from the wall and stood erect. Her
eyes snapped, and the very poise of her chin
spelled determination.
Very well, she would show them. Was not
Bertram bringing this man home because he was
proud of her? Mighty proud he would be if she
had to call in half of Boston to get his dinner for
him! Nonsense! She would get it herself. Was
not this the time, if ever, to be an oak? A vine,
doubtless, would lean and cling and telephone,
and whine ``I can't!'' But not an oak. An oak
would hold up its head and say ``I can!'' An
oak would go ahead and get that dinner. She
would be an oak. She would get that dinner.
What if she didn't know how to cook bread and
cake and pies and things? One did not have to
cook bread and cake and pies just to get a dinner
--meat and potatoes and vegetables! Besides,
she _could_ make peach fritters. She knew she
could. She would show them!
And with actually a bit of song on her lips, Billy
skipped up-stairs for her ruffled apron and dustcap--
two necessary accompaniments to this
dinner-getting, in her opinion.
Billy found the apron and dust-cap with no
difficulty; but it took fully ten of her precious
minutes to unearth from its obscure hiding-place
the blue-and-gold ``Bride's Helper'' cookbook,
one of Aunt Hannah's wedding gifts.
On the way to the kitchen, Billy planned her
dinner. As was natural, perhaps, she chose the
things she herself would like to eat.
``I won't attempt anything very elaborate,''
she said to herself. ``It would be wiser to have
something simple, like chicken pie, perhaps. I
love chicken pie! And I'll have oyster stew first
--that is, after the grapefruit. Just oysters
boiled in milk must be easier than soup to make.
I'll begin with grapefruit with a cherry in it, like
Pete fixes it. Those don't have to be cooked,
anyhow. I'll have fish--Bertram loves the fish
course. Let me see, halibut, I guess, with egg
sauce. I won't have any roast; nothing but the
chicken pie. And I'll have squash and onions.
I can have a salad, easy--just lettuce and stuff.
That doesn't have to be cooked. Oh, and the
peach fritters, if I get time to make them. For
dessert--well, maybe I can find a new pie or
pudding in the cookbook. I want to use that
cookbook for something, after hunting all this
time for it!''
In the kitchen Billy found exquisite neatness,
and silence. The first brought an approving light
to her eyes; but the second, for some unapparent
reason, filled her heart with vague misgiving.
This feeling, however, Billy resolutely cast from
her as she crossed the room, dropped her book
on to the table, and turned toward the shining
black stove.
There was an excellent fire. Glowing points
of light showed that only a good draft was needed
to make the whole mass of coal red-hot. Billy,
however, did not know this. Her experience of
fires was confined to burning wood in open grates
--and wood in open grates had to be poked to
make it red and glowing. With confident alacrity
now, therefore, Billy caught up the poker, thrust
it into the mass of coals and gave them a fine
stirring up. Then she set back the lid of the
stove and went to hunt up the ingredients for
her dinner.
By the time Billy had searched five minutes
and found no chicken, no oysters, and no halibut,
it occurred to her that her larder was not,
after all, an open market, and that one's provisions
must be especially ordered to fit one's needs.
As to ordering them now--Billy glanced at the
clock and shook her head.
``It's almost five, already, and they'd never
get here in time,'' she sighed regretfully. ``I'll
have to have something else.''
Billy looked now, not for what she wanted, but
for what she could find. And she found: some
cold roast lamb, at which she turned up her nose;
an uncooked beefsteak, which she appropriated
doubtfully; a raw turnip and a head of lettuce,
which she hailed with glee; and some beets,
potatoes, onions, and grapefruit, from all of which
she took a generous supply. Thus laden she
went back to the kitchen.
Spread upon the table they made a brave
``Oh, well, I'll have quite a dinner, after all,''
she triumphed, cocking her head happily. ``And
now for the dessert,'' she finished, pouncing on
the cookbook.
It was while she was turning the leaves to find
the pies and puddings that she ran across the
vegetables and found the word ``beets'' staring
her in the face. Mechanically she read the line
``Winter beets will require three hours to cook.
Use hot water.''
Billy's startled eyes sought the clock.
Three hours--and it was five, now!
Frenziedly, then, she ran her finger down the
``Onions, one and one-half hours. Use hot
water. Turnips require a long time, but if cut
thin they will cook in an hour and a quarter.''
``An hour and a quarter, indeed!'' she moaned.
``Isn't there anything anywhere that doesn't
take forever to cook?''
``Early peas-- . . . green corn-- . . . summer
squash-- . . .'' mumbled Billy's dry lips.
``But what do folks eat in January--_January_?''
It was the apparently inoffensive sentence,
``New potatoes will boil in thirty minutes,''
that brought fresh terror to Billy's soul, and set
her to fluttering the cookbook leaves with renewed
haste. If it took _new_ potatoes thirty minutes
to cook, how long did it take old ones? In
vain she searched for the answer. There were
plenty of potatoes. They were mashed, whipped,
scalloped, creamed, fried, and broiled; they were
made into puffs, croquettes, potato border, and
potato snow. For many of these they were boiled
first--``until tender,'' one rule said.
``But that doesn't tell me how long it takes to
get 'em tender,'' fumed Billy, despairingly. ``I
suppose they think anybody ought to know that
--but I don't!'' Suddenly her eyes fell once more
on the instructions for boiling turnips, and her
face cleared. ``If it helps to cut turnips thin,
why not potatoes?'' she cried. ``I _can_ do that,
anyhow; and I will,'' she finished, with a sigh of
relief, as she caught up half a dozen potatoes and
hurried into the pantry for a knife. A few minutes
later, the potatoes, peeled, and cut almost to
wafer thinness, were dumped into a basin of cold
``There! now I guess you'll cook,'' nodded
Billy to the dish in her hand as she hurried to the
Chilled by an ominous unresponsiveness, Billy
lifted the stove lid and peered inside. Only a mass
of black and graying coals greeted her. The fire
was out.
``To think that even you had to go back on me
like this!'' upbraided Billy, eyeing the dismal
mass with reproachful gaze.
This disaster, however, as Billy knew, was not
so great as it seemed, for there was still the gas
stove. In the old days, under Dong Ling's rule,
there had been no gas stove. Dong Ling disapproved
of ``devil stoves'' that had ``no coalee,
no woodee, but burned like hellee.'' Eliza,
however, did approve of them; and not long after her
arrival, a fine one had been put in for her use. So
now Billy soon had her potatoes with a brisk
blaze under them.
In frantic earnest, then, Billy went to work.
Brushing the discarded onions, turnip, and beets
into a pail under the table, she was still confronted
with the beefsteak, lettuce, and grapefruit.
All but the beefsteak she pushed to one side
with gentle pats.
``You're all right,'' she nodded to them. ``I
can use you. You don't have to be cooked,
bless your hearts! But _you_--!'' Billy scowled
at the beefsteak and ran her finger down the index
of the ``Bride's Helper''--Billy knew how to
handle that book now.
``No, you don't--not for me!'' she muttered,
after a minute, shaking her finger at the
tenderloin on the table. ``I haven't got any `hot
coals,' and I thought a `gridiron' was where they
played football; though it seems it's some sort
of a dish to cook you in, here--but I shouldn't
know it from a teaspoon, probably, if I should
see it. No, sir! It's back to the refrigerator for
you, and a nice cold sensible roast leg of lamb for
me, that doesn't have to be cooked. Understand?
_Cooked_,'' she finished, as she carried the
beefsteak away and took possession of the hitherto
despised cold lamb.
Once more Billy made a mad search through
cupboards and shelves. This time she bore back
in triumph a can of corn, another of tomatoes, and
a glass jar of preserved peaches. In the kitchen
a cheery bubbling from the potatoes on the stove
greeted her. Billy's spirits rose with the steam.
``There, Spunkie,'' she said gayly to the cat,
who had just uncurled from a nap behind the
stove. ``Tell me I can't get up a dinner! And
maybe we'll have the peach fritters, too, ``she
chirped. ``I've got the peach-part, anyway.''
But Billy did not have the peach fritters, after
all. She got out the sugar and the flour, to be
sure, and she made a great ado looking up the
rule; but a hurried glance at the clock sent her
into the dining-room to set the table, and all
thought of the peach fritters was given up.
At five minutes of six Bertram and Calderwell
came. Bertram gave his peculiar ring and let
himself in with his latchkey; but Billy did not
meet him in the hall, nor in the drawing-room.
Excusing himself, Bertram hurried up-stairs.
Billy was not in her room, nor anywhere on that
floor. She was not in William's room. Coming
down-stairs to the hall again, Bertram confronted
William, who had just come in.
``Where's Billy?'' demanded the young husband,
with just a touch of irritation, as if he
suspected William of having Billy in his pocket.
William stared slightly.
``Why, I don't know. Isn't she here?''
``I'll ask Pete,'' frowned Bertram.
In the dining-room Bertram found no one,
though the table was prettily set, and showed
half a grapefruit at each place. In the kitchen
--in the kitchen Bertram found a din of rattling
tin, an odor of burned food--, a confusion of
scattered pots and pans, a frightened cat who peered
at him from under a littered stove, and a flushed,
disheveled young woman in a blue dust-cap and
ruffled apron, whom he finally recognized as his
``Why, Billy!'' he gasped.
Billy, who was struggling with something at
the sink, turned sharply.
``Bertram Henshaw,'' she panted, ``I used to
think you were wonderful because you could
paint a picture. I even used to think I was a
little wonderful because I could write a song.
Well, I don't any more! But I'll tell you who _is_
wonderful. It's Eliza and Rosa, and all the rest
of those women who can get a meal on to the
table all at once, so it's fit to eat!''
``Why, Billy!'' gasped Bertram again, falling
back to the door he had closed behind him.
``What in the world does this mean?''
``Mean? It means I'm getting dinner,'' choked
Billy. ``Can't you see?''
``But--Pete! Eliza!''
``They're sick--I mean he's sick; and I said
I'd do it. I'd be an oak. But how did I know
there wasn't anything in the house except stuff
that took hours to cook--only potatoes? And
how did I know that _they_ cooked in no time, and
then got all smushy and wet staying in the water?
And how did I know that everything else would
stick on and burn on till you'd used every dish
there was in the house to cook 'em in?''
``Why, Billy!'' gasped Bertram, for the third
time. And then, because he had been married
only six months instead of six years, he made the
mistake of trying to argue with a woman whose
nerves were already at the snapping point.
``But, dear, it was so foolish of you to do all this!
Why didn't you telephone? Why didn't you get
Like an irate little tigress, Billy turned at bay.
``Bertram Henshaw,'' she flamed angrily, ``if
you don't go up-stairs and tend to that man up
there, I shall _scream_. Now go! I'll be up when I
And Bertram went.
It was not so very long, after all, before Billy
came in to greet her guest. She was not stately
and imposing in royally sumptuous blue velvet
and ermine; nor yet was she cozy and homy in
bronze-gold crpe de Chine and swan's-down.
She was just herself in a pretty little morning
house gown of blue gingham. She was minus the
dust-cap and the ruffled apron, but she had a dab
of flour on the left cheek, and a smutch of crock
on her forehead. She had, too, a cut finger on her
right hand, and a burned thumb on her left. But
she was Billy--and being Billy, she advanced
with a bright smile and held out a cordial hand--
not even wincing when the cut finger came under
Calderwell's hearty clasp.
``I'm glad to see you,'' she welcomed him.
``You'll excuse my not appearing sooner, I'm
sure, for--didn't Bertram tell you?--I'm playing
Bridget to-night. But dinner is ready now,
and we'll go down, please,'' she smiled, as she
laid a light hand on her guest's arm.
Behind her, Bertram, remembering the scene
in the kitchen, stared in sheer amazement. Bertram,
it might be mentioned again, had been
married six months, not six years.
What Billy had intended to serve for a ``simple
dinner'' that night was: grapefruit with cherries,
oyster stew, boiled halibut with egg sauce, chicken
pie, squash, onions, and potatoes, peach fritters,
a ``lettuce and stuff'' salad, and some new pie
or pudding. What she did serve was: grapefruit
(without the cherries), cold roast lamb, potatoes
(a mush of sogginess), tomatoes (canned, and
slightly burned), corn (canned, and very much
burned), lettuce (plain); and for dessert, preserved
peaches and cake (the latter rather dry and
stale). Such was Billy's dinner.
The grapefruit everybody ate. The cold lamb
too, met with a hearty reception, especially after
the potatoes, corn, and tomatoes were served--
and tasted. Outwardly, through it all, Billy was
gayety itself. Inwardly she was burning up with
anger and mortification. And because she was
all this, there was, apparently, no limit to her
laughter and sparkling repartee as she talked
with Calderwell, her guest--the guest who,
according to her original plans, was to be shown how
happy she and Bertram were, what a good wife
she made, and how devoted and _satisfied_ Bertram
was in his home.
William, picking at his dinner--as only a
hungry man can pick at a dinner that is uneatable--
watched Billy with a puzzled, uneasy
frown. Bertram, choking over the few mouthfuls
he ate, marked his wife's animated face and
Calderwell's absorbed attention, and settled into
gloomy silence.
But it could not continue forever. The preserved
peaches were eaten at last, and the stale
cake left. (Billy had forgotten the coffee--
which was just as well, perhaps.) Then the four
trailed up-stairs to the drawing-room.
At nine o'clock an anxious Eliza and a remorseful,
apologetic Pete came home and descended
to the horror the once orderly kitchen and diningroom
had become. At ten, Calderwell, with very
evident reluctance, tore himself away from Billy's
gay badinage, and said good night. At two
minutes past ten, an exhausted, nerve-racked Billy
was trying to cry on the shoulders of both Uncle
William and Bertram at once.
``There, there, child, don't! It went off all
right,'' patted Uncle William.
``Billy, darling,'' pleaded Bertram, ``please
don't cry so! As if I'd ever let you step foot in
that kitchen again!''
At this Billy raised a tear-wet face, aflame with
indignant determination.
``As if I'd ever let you keep me _from_ it, Bertram
Henshaw, after this!'' she contested. ``I'm
not going to do another thing in all my life but
_cook!_ When I think of the stuff we had to eat,
after all the time I took to get it, I'm simply crazy!
Do you think I'd run the risk of such a thing as
this ever happening again?''
On the day after his dinner with Mr. and Mrs.
Bertram Henshaw, Hugh Calderwell left Boston
and did not return until more than a month had
passed. One of his first acts, when he did come,
was to look up Mr. M. J. Arkwright at the address
which Billy had given him.
Calderwell had not seen Arkwright since they
parted in Paris some two years before, after a sixmonths
tramp through Europe together. Calderwell
liked Arkwright then, greatly, and he lost
no time now in renewing the acquaintance.
The address, as given by Billy, proved to be an
attractive but modest apartment hotel near the
Conservatory of Music; and Calderwell was
delighted to find Arkwright at home in his
comfortable little bachelor suite.
Arkwright greeted him most cordially.
``Well, well,'' he cried, ``if it isn't Calderwell!
And how's Mont Blanc? Or is it the Killarney
Lakes this time, or maybe the Sphinx that I
should inquire for, eh?''
``Guess again,'' laughed Calderwell, throwing
off his heavy coat and settling himself comfortably
in the inviting-looking morris chair his
friend pulled forward.
``Sha'n't do it,'' retorted Arkwright, with a
smile. ``I never gamble on palpable uncertainties,
except for a chance throw or two, as I gave
a minute ago. Your movements are altogether
too erratic, and too far-reaching, for ordinary
mortals to keep track of.''
``Well, maybe you're right,'' grinned Calderwell,
appreciatively. ``Anyhow, you would have
lost this time, sure thing, for I've been working.''
``Seen the doctor yet?'' queried Arkwright,
coolly, pushing the cigars across the table.
``Thanks--for both,'' sniffed Calderwell, with
a reproachful glance, helping himself. ``Your
good judgment in some matters is still unimpaired,
I see,'' he observed, tapping the little gilded band
which had told him the cigar was an old favorite.
``As to other matters, however,--you're wrong
again, my friend, in your surmise. I am not sick,
and I have been working.''
``So? Well, I'm told they have very good
specialists here. Some one of them ought to
hit your case. Still--how long has it been
running?'' Arkwright's face showed only grave
``Oh, come, let up, Arkwright,'' snapped
Calderwell, striking his match alight with a vigorous
jerk. ``I'll admit I haven't ever given any _special_
indication of an absorbing passion for work. But
what can you expect of a fellow born with a
whole dozen silver spoons in his mouth? And
that's what I was, according to Bertram Henshaw.
According to him again, it's a wonder I
ever tried to feed myself; and perhaps he's right
--with my mouth already so full.''
``I should say so,'' laughed Arkwright.
``Well, be that as it may. I'm going to feed
myself, and I'm going to earn my feed, too. I
haven't climbed a mountain or paddled a canoe,
for a year. I've been in Chicago cultivating the
acquaintance of John Doe and Richard Roe.''
``You mean--law?''
``Sure. I studied it here for a while, before
that bout of ours a couple of years ago. Billy
drove me away, then.''
``Billy!--er--Mrs. Henshaw?''
``Yes. I thought I told you. She turned down
my tenth-dozen proposal so emphatically that I
lost all interest in Boston and took to the tall
timber again. But I've come back. A friend of
my father's wrote me to come on and consider a
good opening there was in his law office. I came
on a month ago, and considered. Then I went
back to pack up. Now I've come for good, and
here I am. You have my history to date. Now
tell me of yourself. You're looking as fit as a
penny from the mint, even though you have
discarded that `lovely' brown beard. Was that
a concession to--er--_Mary Jane_?''
Arkwright lifted a quick hand of protest.
`` `Michael Jeremiah,' please. There is no
`Mary Jane,' now,'' he said a bit stiffly.
The other stared a little. Then he gave a low
`` `Michael Jeremiah,' '' he repeated musingly,
eyeing the glowing tip of his cigar. ``And to
think how that mysterious `M. J.' used to
tantalize me! Do you mean,'' he added, turning
slowly, ``that no one calls you `Mary Jane'
``Not if they know what is best for them.''
``Oh!'' Calderwell noted the smouldering fire
in the other's eyes a little curiously. ``Very
well. I'll take the hint--Michael Jeremiah.''
``Thanks.'' Arkwright relaxed a little. ``To
tell the truth, I've had quite enough now--of
Mary Jane.''
``Very good. So be it,'' nodded the other, still
regarding his friend thoughtfully. ``But tell me
--what of yourself?''
Arkwright shrugged his shoulders.
``There's nothing to tell. You've seen. I'm
``Humph! Very pretty,'' scoffed Calderwell.
``Then if _you_ won't tell, I _will_. I saw Billy a
month ago, you see. It seems you've hit the trail
for Grand Opera, as you threatened to that night
in Paris; but you _haven't_ brought up in vaudeville,
as you prophesied you would do--though, for
that matter, judging from the plums some of the
stars are picking on the vaudeville stage, nowadays,
that isn't to be sneezed at. But Billy says
you've made two or three appearances already on
the sacred boards themselves--one of them a
subscription performance--and that you created
no end of a sensation.''
``Nonsense! I'm merely a student at the Opera
School here,'' scowled Arkwright.
``Oh, yes, Billy said you were that, but she also
said you wouldn't be, long. That you'd already
had one good offer--I'm not speaking of marriage--
and that you were going abroad next
summer, and that they were all insufferably
proud of you.''
``Nonsense!'' scowled Arkwright, again, coloring
like a girl. ``That is only some of--of Mrs.
Henshaw's kind flattery.''
Calderwell jerked the cigar from between his
lips, and sat suddenly forward in his chair.
``Arkwright, tell me about them. How are
they making it go?''
Arkwright frowned.
``Who? Make what go?'' he asked.
``The Henshaws. Is she happy? Is he--on
the square?''
Arkwright's face darkened.
``Well, really,'' he began; but Calderwell interrupted.
``Oh, come; don't be squeamish. You think
I'm butting into what doesn't concern me; but
I'm not. What concerns Billy does concern me.
And if he doesn't make her happy, I'll--I'll kill
In spite of himself Arkwright laughed. The
vehemence of the other's words, and the fierceness
with which he puffed at his cigar as he fell
back in his chair were most expressive
``Well, I don't think you need to load revolvers
nor sharpen daggers, just yet,'' he observed grimly.
Calderwell laughed this time, though without
much mirth.
``Oh, I'm not in love with Billy, now,'' he
explained. ``Please don't think I am. I shouldn't
see her if I was, of course.''
Arkwright changed his position suddenly, bringing
his face into the shadow. Calderwell talked
on without pausing.
``No, I'm not in love with Billy. But Billy's
a trump. You know that.''
``I do.'' The words were low, but steadily
``Of course you do! We all do. And we want
her happy. But as for her marrying Bertram--
you could have bowled me over with a soap bubble
when I heard she'd done it. Now understand:
Bertram is a good fellow, and I like him. I've
known him all his life, and he's all right. Oh, six
or eight years ago, to be sure, he got in with a set
of fellows--Bob Seaver and his clique--that
were no good. Went in for Bohemianism, and
all that rot. It wasn't good for Bertram. He's
got the confounded temperament that goes with
his talent, I suppose--though why a man can't
paint a picture, or sing a song, and keep his temper
and a level head I don't see!''
``He can,'' cut in Arkwright, with curt emphasis.
``Humph! Well, that's what I think. But,
about this marriage business. Bertram admires
a pretty face wherever he sees it--_to paint_, and
always has. Not but that he's straight as
a string with women--I don't mean that;
but girls are always just so many pictures to be
picked up on his brushes and transferred to his
canvases. And as for his settling down and
marrying anybody for keeps, right along--Great
Scott! imagine Bertram Henshaw as a _domestic_
Arkwright stirred restlessly as he spoke up in
quick defense:
``Oh, but he is, I assure you. I--I've seen
them in their home together--many times. I
think they are--very happy.'' Arkwright spoke
with decision, though still a little diffidently.
Calderwell was silent. He had picked up the
little gilt band he had torn from his cigar and was
fingering it musingly.
``Yes; I've seen them--once,'' he said, after
a minute. ``I took dinner with them when I was
on, a month ago.''
``I heard you did.''
At something in Arkwright's voice, Calderwell
turned quickly.
``What do you mean? Why do you say it like
Arkwright laughed. The constraint fled from
his manner.
``Well, I may as well tell you. You'll hear of
it. It's no secret. Mrs. Henshaw herself tells of
it everywhere. It was her friend, Alice Greggory,
who told me of it first, however. It seems
the cook was gone, and the mistress had to get
the dinner herself.''
``Yes, I know that.''
``But you should hear Mrs. Henshaw tell the
story now, or Bertram. It seems she knew nothing
whatever about cooking, and her trials and
tribulations in getting that dinner on to the
table were only one degree worse than the dinner
itself, according to her story. Didn't you--er
--notice anything?''
``Notice anything!'' exploded Calderwell. ``I
noticed that Billy was so brilliant she fairly
radiated sparks; and I noticed that Bertram was
so glum he--he almost radiated thunderclaps.
Then I saw that Billy's high spirits were all
assumed to cover a threatened burst of tears,
and I laid it all to him. I thought he'd said
something to hurt her; and I could have punched
him. Great Scott! Was _that_ what ailed them?''
``I reckon it was. Alice says that since then
Mrs. Henshaw has fairly haunted the kitchen,
begging Eliza to teach her everything, _every single
thing_ she knows!''
Calderwell chuckled.
``If that isn't just like Billy! She never does
anything by halves. By George, but she was
game over that dinner! I can see it all now.''
``Alice says she's really learning to cook, in
spite of old Pete's horror, and Eliza's pleadings
not to spoil her pretty hands.''
``Then Pete is back all right? What a faithful
old soul he is!''
Arkwright frowned slightly.
``Yes, he's faithful, but he isn't all right, by
any means. I think he's a sick man, myself.''
``What makes Billy let him work, then?''
``Let him!'' sniffed Arkwright. ``I'd like to
see you try to stop him! Mrs. Henshaw begs and
pleads with him to stop, but he scouts the idea.
Pete is thoroughly and unalterably convinced
that the family would starve to death if it weren't
for him; and Mrs. Henshaw says that she'll
admit he has some grounds for his opinion when
one remembers the condition of the kitchen and
dining-room the night she presided over them.''
``Poor Billy!'' chuckled Calderwell. ``I'd
have gone down into the kitchen myself if I'd
suspected what was going on.''
Arkwright raised his eyebrows.
``Perhaps it's well you didn't--if Bertram's
picture of what he found there when he went
down is a true one. Mrs. Henshaw acknowledges
that even the cat sought refuge under the stove.''
``As if the veriest worm that crawls ever needed
to seek refuge from Billy!'' scoffed Calderwell.
``By the way, what's this Annex I hear of? Bertram
mentioned it, but I couldn't get either of
them to tell what it was. Billy wouldn't, and
Bertram said he couldn't--not with Billy shaking
her head at him like that. So I had my suspicions.
One of Billy's pet charities?''
``She doesn't call it that.'' Arkwright's face
and voice softened. ``It is Hillside. She still
keeps it open. She calls it the Annex to her
home. She's filled it with a crippled woman, a
poor little music teacher, a lame boy, and Aunt
``But how--extraordinary!''
``She doesn't think so. She says it's just an
overflow house for the extra happiness she can't
There was a moment's silence. Calderwell laid
down his cigar, pulled out his handkerchief, and
blew his nose furiously. Then he got to his feet
and walked to the fireplace. After a minute he
``Well, if she isn't the beat 'em!'' he spluttered.
``And I had the gall to ask you if Henshaw made
her--happy! Overflow house, indeed!''
``The best of it is, the way she does it,'' smiled
Arkwright. ``They're all the sort of people
ordinary charity could never reach; and the only
way she got them there at all was to make each
one think that he or she was absolutely necessary
to the rest of them. Even as it is, they all pay
a little something toward the running expenses
of the house. They insisted on that, and Mrs.
Henshaw had to let them. I believe her chief
difficulty now is that she has not less than six
people whom she wishes to put into the two extra
rooms still unoccupied, and she can't make up
her mind which to take. Her husband says he
expects to hear any day of an Annexette to the
``Humph!'' grunted Calderwell, as he turned
and began to walk up and down the room. ``Bertram
is still painting, I suppose.''
``Oh, yes.''
``What's he doing now?''
``Several things. He's up to his eyes in work.
As you probably have heard, he met with a
severe accident last summer, and lost the use of
his right arm for many months. I believe they
thought at one time he had lost it forever. But
it's all right now, and he has several commissions
for portraits. Alice says he's doing ideal heads
again, too.''
``Same old `Face of a Girl'?''
``I suppose so, though Alice didn't say. Of
course his special work just now is painting the
portrait of Miss Marguerite Winthrop. You
may have heard that he tried it last year and
--and didn't make quite a success of it.''
``Yes. My sister Belle told me. She hears
from Billy once in a while. Will it be a go, this
``We'll hope so--for everybody's sake. I
imagine no one has seen it yet--it's not finished;
but Alice says--''
Calderwell turned abruptly, a quizzical smile
on his face.
``See here, my son,'' he interposed, ``it strikes
me that this Alice is saying a good deal--to you!
Who is she?''
Arkwright gave a light laugh.
``Why, I told you. She is Miss Alice Greggory,
Mrs. Henshaw's friend--and mine. I
have known her for years.''
``Hm-m; what is she like?''
``Like? Why, she's like--like herself, of
course. You'll have to know Alice. She's the
salt of the earth--Alice is,'' smiled Arkwright,
rising to his feet with a remonstrative gesture,
as he saw Calderwell pick up his coat. ``What's
your hurry?''
``Hm-m,'' commented Calderwell again,
ignoring the question. ``And when, may I ask,
do you intend to appropriate this--er--salt
--to--er--ah--season your own life with,
as I might say--eh?''
Arkwright laughed. There was not the slightest
trace of embarrassment in his face.
``Never. _You're_ on the wrong track, this time.
Alice and I are good friends--always have been,
and always will be, I hope.''
``Nothing more?''
``Nothing more. I see her frequently. She is
musical, and the Henshaws are good enough to
ask us there often together. You will meet her,
doubtless, now, yourself. She is frequently at
the Henshaw home.''
``Hm-m.'' Calderwell still eyed his host
shrewdly. ``Then you'll give me a clear field,
``Certainly.'' Arkwright's eyes met his friend's
gaze without swerving.
``All right. However, I suppose you'll tell me,
as I did you, once, that a right of way in such a
case doesn't mean a thoroughfare for the party
interested. If my memory serves me, I gave
you right of way in Paris to win the affections
of a certain elusive Miss Billy here in
Boston, if you could. But I see you didn't
seem to improve your opportunities,'' he finished
Arkwright stooped, of a sudden, to pick up a
bit of paper from the floor.
``No,'' he said quietly. ``I didn't seem to
improve my opportunities.'' This time he did
not meet Calderwell's eyes.
The good-byes had been said when Calderwell
turned abruptly at the door.
``Oh, I say, I suppose you're going to that
devil's carnival at Jordan Hall to-morrow night.''
``Devil's carnival! You don't mean--Cyril
Henshaw's piano recital!''
``Sure I do,'' grinned Calderwell, unabashed.
``And I'll warrant it'll be a devil's carnival, too.
Isn't Mr. Cyril Henshaw going to play his own
music? Oh, I know I'm hopeless, from your
standpoint, but I can't help it. I like mine with
some go in it, and a tune that you can find without
hunting for it. And I don't like lost spirits
gone mad that wail and shriek through ten perfectly
good minutes, and then die with a gasping
moan whose home is the tombs. However, you're
going, I take it.''
``Of course I am,'' laughed the other. ``You
couldn't hire Alice to miss one shriek of those
spirits. Besides, I rather like them myself, you
``Yes, I suppose you do. You're brought up
on it--in your business. But me for the `Merry
Widow' and even the hoary `Jingle Bells' every
time! However, I'm going to be there--out of
respect to the poor fellow's family. And, by the
way, that's another thing that bowled me over
--Cyril's marriage. Why, Cyril hates women!''
``Not all women--we'll hope,'' smiled Arkwright.
``Do you know his wife?''
``Not much. I used to see her a little at Billy's.
Music teacher, wasn't she? Then she's the same
sort, I suppose.''
``But she isn't,'' laughed Arkwright. Oh,
she taught music, but that was only because of
necessity, I take it. She's domestic through and
through, with an overwhelming passion for
making puddings and darning socks, I hear. Alice
says she believes Mrs. Cyril knows every dish
and spoon by its Christian name, and that there's
never so much as a spool of thread out of order
in the house.''
``But how does Cyril stand it--the trials and
tribulations of domestic life? Bertram used to
declare that the whole Strata was aquiver with
fear when Cyril was composing, and I remember
him as a perfect bear if anybody so much as
whispered when he was in one of his moods. I
never forgot the night Bertram and I were up in
William's room trying to sing `When Johnnie
comes marching home,' to the accompaniment
of a banjo in Bertram's hands, and a guitar in
mine. Gorry! it was Hugh that went marching
home that night.''
``Oh, well, from reports I reckon Mrs. Cyril
doesn't play either a banjo or a guitar,'' smiled
Arkwright. ``Alice says she wears rubber heels
on her shoes, and has put hushers on all the chairlegs,
and felt-mats between all the plates and
saucers. Anyhow, Cyril is building a new house,
and he looks as if he were in a pretty healthy
condition, as you'll see to-morrow night.''
``Humph! I wish he'd make his music healthy,
then,'' grumbled Calderwell, as he opened the
February brought busy days. The public
opening of the Bohemian Ten Club Exhibition
was to take place the sixth of March, with a
private view for invited guests the night before;
and it was at this exhibition that Bertram planned
to show his portrait of Marguerite Winthrop.
He also, if possible, wished to enter two or three
other canvases, upon which he was spending all
the time he could get.
Bertram felt that he was doing very good work
now. The portrait of Marguerite Winthrop was
coming on finely. The spoiled idol of society had
at last found a pose and a costume that suited her,
and she was graciously pleased to give the artist
almost as many sittings as he wanted. The
``elusive something'' in her face, which had
previously been so baffling, was now already caught
and held bewitchingly on his canvas. He was
confident that the portrait would be a success.
He was also much interested in another piece of
work which he intended to show called ``The
Rose.'' The model for this was a beautiful young
girl he had found selling flowers with her father
in a street booth at the North End.
On the whole, Bertram was very happy these
days. He could not, to be sure, spend quite so
much time with Billy as he wished; but she
understood, of course, as did he, that his work must
come first. He knew that she tried to show him
that she understood it. At the same time, he
could not help thinking, occasionally, that Billy
did sometimes mind his necessary absorption in
his painting.
To himself Bertram owned that Billy was, in
some ways, a puzzle to him. Her conduct was
still erratic at times. One day he would seem to
be everything to her; the next--almost nothing,
judging by the ease with which she relinquished
his society and substituted that of some one else:
Arkwright, or Calderwell, for instance.
And that was another thing. Bertram was
ashamed to hint even to himself that he was
jealous of either of those men. Surely, after what
had happened, after Billy's emphatic assertion
that she had never loved any one but himself,
it would seem not only absurd, but disloyal, that
he should doubt for an instant Billy's entire
devotion to him, and yet--there were times when
he wished he _could_ come home and not always
find Alice Greggory, Calderwell, Arkwright, or
all three of them strumming the piano in the
drawing-room! At such times, always, though,
if he did feel impatient, he immediately demanded
of himself: ``Are you, then, the kind of husband
that begrudges your wife young companions of
her own age and tastes to help her while away the
hours that you cannot possibly spend with her
This question, and the answer that his better
self always gave to it, were usually sufficient to
send him into some florists for a bunch of violets
for Billy, or into a candy shop on a like atoning
As to Billy--Billy, too, was busy these days
chief of her concerns being, perhaps, attention
to that honeymoon of hers, to see that it did
not wane. At least, the most of her thoughts,
and many of her actions, centered about that
Billy had the book, now--the ``Talk to Young
Wives.'' For a time she had worked with only
the newspaper criticism to guide her; but, coming
at last to the conclusion that if a little was good,
more must be better, she had shyly gone into a
bookstore one day and, with a pink blush, had
asked for the book. Since bringing it home she
had studied assiduously (though never if Bertram
was near), keeping it well-hidden, when not in
use, in a remote corner of her desk.
There was a good deal in the book that Billy
did not like, and there were some statements that
worried her; but yet there was much that she
tried earnestly to follow. She was still striving
to be the oak, and she was still eagerly endeavoring
to brush up against those necessary outside
interests. She was so thankful, in this connection,
for Alice Greggory, and for Arkwright and Hugh
Calderwell. It was such a help that she had
them! They were not only very pleasant and
entertaining outside interests, but one or another
of them was almost always conveniently within
Then, too, it pleased her to think that she was
furthering the pretty love story between Alice
and Mr. Arkwright. And she _was_ furthering it.
She was sure of that. Already she could see how
dependent the man was on Alice, how he looked
to her for approbation, and appealed to her on
all occasions, exactly as if there was not a move
that he wanted to make without her presence
near him. Billy was very sure, now, of Arkwright.
She only wished she were as much so of Alice.
But Alice troubled her. Not but that Alice was
kindness itself to the man, either. It was only a
peculiar something almost like fear, or constraint,
that Billy thought she saw in Alice's eyes, sometimes,
when Arkwright made a particularly intimate
appeal. There was Calderwell, too. He,
also, worried Billy. She feared he was going to
complicate matters still more by falling in love
with Alice, himself; and this, certainly, Billy did
not want at all. As this phase of the matter
presented itself, indeed, Billy determined to
appropriate Calderwell a little more exclusively to
herself, when the four were together, thus leaving
Alice for Arkwright. After all, it was rather
entertaining--this playing at Cupid's assistant.
If she _could_ not have Bertram all the time, it was
fortunate that these outside interests were so
Most of the mornings Billy spent in the kitchen,
despite the remonstrances of both Pete and Eliza.
Almost every meal, now, was graced with a palatable
cake, pudding, or muffin that Billy would
proudly claim as her handiwork. Pete still served
at table, and made strenuous efforts to keep up
all his old duties; but he was obviously growing
weaker, and really serious blunders were beginning
to be noticeable. Bertram even hinted once
or twice that perhaps it would be just as well to
insist on his going; but to this Billy would not
give her consent. Even when one night his poor
old trembling hands spilled half the contents of
a soup plate over a new and costly evening gown
of Billy's own, she still refused to have him dismissed.
``Why, Bertram, I wouldn't do it,'' she declared
hotly; ``and you wouldn't, either. He's been
here more than fifty years. It would break his
heart. He's really too ill to work, and I wish he
would go of his own accord, of course; but I
sha'n't ever tell him to go--not if he spills soup
on every dress I've got. I'll buy more--and more,
if it's necessary. Bless his dear old heart! He
thinks he's really serving us--and he is, too.''
``Oh, yes, you're right, he _is!_'' sighed Bertram,
with meaning emphasis, as he abandoned the
In addition to her ``Talk to Young Wives,''
Billy found herself encountering advice and comment
on the marriage question from still other
quarters--from her acquaintances (mostly the
feminine ones) right and left. Continually she
was hearing such words as these:
``Oh, well, what can you expect, Billy? You're
an old married woman, now.''
``Never mind, you'll find he's like all the rest
of the husbands. You just wait and see!''
``Better begin with a high hand, Billy. Don't
let him fool you!''
``Mercy! If I had a husband whose business
it was to look at women's beautiful eyes, peachy
cheeks, and luxurious tresses, I should go crazy!
It's hard enough to keep a man's eyes on yourself
when his daily interests are supposed to be
just lumps of coal and chunks of ice, without
flinging him into the very jaws of temptation
like asking him to paint a pretty girl's picture!''
In response to all this, of course, Billy could
but laugh, and blush, and toss back some gay reply,
with a careless unconcern. But in her heart
she did not like it. Sometimes she told herself
that if there were not any advice or comment from
anybody--either book or woman--if there
were not anybody but just Bertram and herself,
life would be just one long honeymoon forever
and forever.
Once or twice Billy was tempted to go to Marie
with this honeymoon question; but Marie was
very busy these days, and very preoccupied. The
new house that Cyril was building on Corey Hill,
not far from the Annex, was almost finished, and
Marie was immersed in the subject of housefurnishings
and interior decoration. She was,
too, still more deeply engrossed in the fashioning
of tiny garments of the softest linen, lace, and
woolen; and there was on her face such a look of
beatific wonder and joy that Billy did not like to
so much as hint that there was in the world such
a book as ``When the Honeymoon Wanes: A
Talk to Young Wives.''
Billy tried valiantly these days not to mind
that Bertram's work was so absorbing. She tried
not to mind that his business dealt, not with
lumps of coal and chunks of ice, but with beautiful
women like Marguerite Winthrop who asked
him to luncheon, and lovely girls like his model
for ``The Rose'' who came freely to his studio
and spent hours in the beloved presence, being
studied for what Bertram declared was absolutely
the most wonderful poise of head and
shoulders that he had ever seen.
Billy tried, also, these days, to so conduct
herself that not by any chance could Calderwell
suspect that sometimes she was jealous of Bertram's
art. Not for worlds would she have had
Calderwell begin to get the notion into his head
that his old-time prophecy concerning Bertram's
caring only for the turn of a girl's head or the
tilt of her chin--to paint, was being fulfilled.
Hence, particularly gay and cheerful was Billy
when Calderwell was near. Nor could it be said
that Billy was really unhappy at any time. It
was only that, on occasion, the very depth of her
happiness in Bertram's love frightened her, lest
it bring disaster to herself or Bertram.
Billy still went frequently to the Annex. There
were yet two unfilled rooms in the house. Billy
was hesitating which two of six new friends of
hers to choose as occupants; and it was one day
early in March, after she had been talking the
matter over with Aunt Hannah, that Aunt
Hannah said:
``Dear me, Billy, if you had your way I believe
you'd open another whole house!''
``Do you know?--that's just what I'm thinking
of,'' retorted Billy, gravely. Then she laughed
at Aunt Hannah's shocked gesture of protest.
``Oh, well, I don't expect to,'' she added. ``I
haven't lived very long, but I've lived long enough
to know that you can't always do what you
want to.''
``Just as if there were anything _you_ wanted to
do that you don't do, my dear,'' reproved Aunt
Hannah, mildly.
``Yes, I know.'' Billy drew in her breath with
a little catch. ``I have so much that is lovely;
and that's why I need this house, you know, for
the overflow,'' she nodded brightly. Then, with
a characteristic change of subject, she added:
``My, but you should have tasted of the popovers
I made for breakfast this morning!''
``I should like to,'' smiled Aunt Hannah.
``William says you're getting to be quite a cook.''
``Well, maybe,'' conceded Billy, doubtfully.
``Oh, I can do some things all right; but just
wait till Pete and Eliza go away again, and Bertram
brings home a friend to dinner. That'll
tell the tale. I think now I could have something
besides potato-mush and burned corn--but
maybe I wouldn't, when the time came. If only
I could buy everything I needed to cook with,
I'd be all right. But I can't, I find.''
``Can't buy what you need! What do you
Billy laughed ruefully.
``Well, every other question I ask Eliza, she
says: `Why, I don't know; you have to use
your judgment.' Just as if I had any judgment
about how much salt to use, or what dish to take!
Dear me, Aunt Hannah, the man that will grow
judgment and can it as you would a mess of peas,
has got his fortune made!''
``What an absurd child you are, Billy,'' laughed
Aunt Hannah. ``I used to tell Marie-- By the
way, how is Marie? Have you seen her lately?''
``Oh, yes, I saw her yesterday,'' twinkled Billy.
``She had a book of wall-paper samples spread
over the back of a chair, two bunches of samples
of different colored damasks on the table before
her, a `Young Mother's Guide' propped open
in another chair, and a pair of baby's socks in
her lap with a roll each of pink, and white, and
blue ribbon. She spent most of the time, after
I had helped her choose the ribbon, in asking me
if I thought she ought to let the baby cry and
bother Cyril, or stop its crying and hurt the
baby, because her `Mother's Guide' says a certain
amount of crying is needed to develop a baby's
Aunt Hannah laughed, but she frowned, too.
``The idea! I guess Cyril can stand proper
crying--and laughing, too--from his own
child!'' she said then, crisply.
``Oh, but Marie is afraid he can't,'' smiled
Billy. ``And that's the trouble. She says that's
the only thing that worries her--Cyril.''
``Nonsense!'' ejaculated Aunt Hannah.
``Oh, but it isn't nonsense to Marie,'' retorted
Billy. ``You should see the preparations she's
made and the precautions she's taken. Actually,
when I saw those baby's socks in her lap, I didn't
know but she was going to put rubber heels on
them! They've built the new house with deadening
felt in all the walls, and Marie's planned
the nursery and Cyril's den at opposite ends of
the house; and she says she shall keep the baby
there _all_ the time--the nursery, I mean, not the
den. She says she's going to teach it to be a quiet
baby and hate noise. She says she thinks she
can do it, too.''
``Humph!'' sniffed Aunt Hannah, scornfully.
``You should have seen Marie's disgust the
other day,'' went on Billy, a bit mischievously.
``Her Cousin Jane sent on a rattle she'd made
herself, all soft worsted, with bells inside. It
was a dear; but Marie was horror-stricken.
`My baby have a rattle?' she cried. `Why,
what would Cyril say? As if he could stand a
rattle in the house!' And if she didn't give that
rattle to the janitor's wife that very day, while
I was there!''
``Humph!'' sniffed Aunt Hannah again, as
Billy rose to go. ``Well, I'm thinking Marie has
still some things to learn in this world--and
Cyril, too, for that matter.''
``I wouldn't wonder,'' laughed Billy, giving
Aunt Hannah a good-by kiss.
Bertram Henshaw had no disquieting forebodings
this time concerning his portrait of Marguerite
Winthrop when the doors of the Bohemian
Ten Club Exhibition were thrown open to members
and invited guests. Just how great a popular
success it was destined to be, he could not know,
of course, though he might have suspected it
when he began to receive the admiring and hearty
congratulations of his friends and fellow-artists
on that first evening.
Nor was the Winthrop portrait the only jewel
in his crown on that occasion. His marvelously
exquisite ``The Rose,'' and his smaller ideal
picture, ``Expectation,'' came in for scarcely less
commendation. There was no doubt now. The
originator of the famous ``Face of a Girl'' had
come into his own again. On all sides this was
the verdict, one long-haired critic of international
fame even claiming openly that Henshaw had not
only equaled his former best work, but had gone
beyond it, in both artistry and technique.
It was a brilliant gathering. Society, as usual,
in costly evening gowns and correct swallow-tails
rubbed elbows with names famous in the world of
Art and Letters. Everywhere were gay laughter
and sparkling repartee. Even the austere-faced
J. G. Winthrop unbent to the extent of grim smiles
in response to the laudatory comments bestowed
upon the pictured image of his idol, his beautiful
As to the great financier's own opinion of the
work, no one heard him express it except, perhaps,
the artist; and all that he got was a grip of the
hand and a ``Good! I knew you'd fetch it this
time, my boy!'' But that was enough. And,
indeed, no one who knew the stern old man needed
to more than look into his face that evening to
know of his entire satisfaction in this portrait
soon to be the most recent, and the most cherished
addition to his far-famed art collection.
As to Bertram--Bertram was pleased and
happy and gratified, of course, as was natural;
but he was not one whit more so than was Bertram's
wife. Billy fairly radiated happiness and
proud joy. She told Bertram, indeed, that if he
did anything to make her any prouder, it would
take an Annex the size of the Boston Opera House
to hold her extra happiness.
``Sh-h, Billy! Some one will hear you,''
protested Bertram, tragically; but, in spite of his
horrified voice, he did not look displeased.
For the first time Billy met Marguerite
Winthrop that evening. At the outset there was just
a bit of shyness and constraint in the young wife's
manner. Billy could not forget her old insane
jealousy of this beautiful girl with the envied
name of Marguerite. But it was for only a moment,
and soon she was her natural, charming self.
Miss Winthrop was fascinated, and she made
no pretense of hiding it. She even turned to
Bertram at last, and cried:
``Surely, now, Mr. Henshaw, you need never
go far for a model! Why don't you paint your
Billy colored. Bertram smiled.
``I have,'' he said. ``I have painted her many
times. In fact, I have painted her so often that
she once declared it was only the tilt of her chin
and the turn of her head that I loved--to
paint,'' he said merrily, enjoying Billy's pretty
confusion, and not realizing that his words really
distressed her. ``I have a whole studio full of
`Billys' at home.''
``Oh, have you, really?'' questioned Miss
Winthrop, eagerly. ``Then mayn't I see them?
Mayn't I, please, Mrs. Henshaw? I'd so love
``Why, of course you may,'' murmured both
the artist and his wife.
``Thank you. Then I'm coming right away.
May I? I'm going to Washington next week,
you see. Will you let me come to-morrow at--
at half-past three, then? Will it be quite
convenient for you, Mrs. Henshaw?''
``Quite convenient. I shall be glad to see
you,'' smiled Billy. And Bertram echoed his
wife's cordial permission.
``Thank you. Then I'll be there at half-past
three,'' nodded Miss Winthrop, with a smile, as
she turned to give place to an admiring group,
who were waiting to pay their respects to the
artist and his wife.
There was, after all, that evening, one fly in
Billy's ointment.
It fluttered in at the behest of an old
acquaintance--one of the ``advice women,'' as
Billy termed some of her too interested
``Well, they're lovely, perfectly lovely, of
course, Mrs. Henshaw,'' said this lady, coming up
to say good-night. ``But, all the samee{sic}, I'm
glad my husband is just a plain lawyer. Look
out, my dear, that while Mr. Henshaw is stealing
all those pretty faces for his canvases--just look
out that the fair ladies don't turn around and steal
his heart before you know it. Dear me, but you
must be so proud of him!''
``I am,'' smiled Billy, serenely; and only the
jagged split that rent the glove on her hand, at
that moment, told of the fierce anger behind that
``As if I couldn't trust Bertram!'' raged Billy
passionately to herself, stealing a surreptitious
glance at her ruined glove. ``And as if there
weren't ever any perfectly happy marriages--
even if you don't ever hear of them, or read of
Bertram was not home to luncheon on the day
following the opening night of the Bohemian Ten
Club. A matter of business called him away
from the house early in the morning; but he
told his wife that he surely would be on hand for
Miss Winthrop's call at half-past three o'clock
that afternoon.
``Yes, do,'' Billy had urged. ``I think she's
lovely, but you know her so much better than I
do that I want you here. Besides, you needn't
think _I'm_ going to show her all those Billys of
yours. I may be vain, but I'm not quite vain
enough for that, sir!''
``Don't worry,'' her husband had laughed.
``I'll be here.''
As it chanced, however, something occurred
an hour before half-past three o'clock that drove
every thought of Miss Winthrop's call from
Billy's head.
For three days, now, Pete had been at the home
of his niece in South Boston. He had been forced,
finally, to give up and go away. News from him
the day before had been anything but reassuring,
and to-day, Bertram being gone, Billy had suggested
that Eliza serve a simple luncheon and go
immediately afterward to South Boston to see
how her uncle was. This suggestion Eliza had
followed, leaving the house at one o'clock.
Shortly after two Calderwell had dropped in
to bring Bertram, as he expressed it, a bunch of
bouquets he had gathered at the picture show
the night before. He was still in the drawingroom,
chatting with Billy, when the telephone
bell rang.
``If that's Bertram, tell him to come home;
he's got company,'' laughed Calderwell, as Billy
passed into the hall.
A moment later he heard Billy give a startled
cry, followed by a few broken words at short
intervals. Then, before he could surmise what had
happened, she was back in the drawing-room
again, her eyes full of tears.
``It's Pete,'' she choked. ``Eliza says he can't
live but a few minutes. He wants to see me once
more. What shall I do? John's got Peggy out
with Aunt Hannah and Mrs. Greggory. It was so
nice to-day I made them go. But I must get
there some way--Pete is calling for me. Uncle
William is going, and I told Eliza where she might
reach Bertram; but what shall _I_ do? How shall
I go?''
Calderwell was on his feet at once.
``I'll get a taxi. Don't worry--we'll get
there. Poor old soul--of course he wants to see
you! Get on your things. I'll have it here in no
time,'' he finished, hurrying to the telephone.
``Oh, Hugh, I'm so glad I've got _you_ here,''
sobbed Billy, stumbling blindly toward the
stairway. ``I'll be ready in two minutes.''
And she was; but neither then, nor a little later
when she and Calderwell drove hurriedly away
from the house, did Billy once remember that
Miss Marguerite Winthrop was coming to call
that afternoon to see Mrs. Bertram Henshaw and
a roomful of Billy pictures.
Pete was still alive when Calderwell left Billy
at the door of the modest little home where
Eliza's mother lived.
``Yes, you're in time, ma'am,'' sobbed Eliza;
``and, oh, I'm so glad you've come. He's been
askin' and askin' for ye.''
From Eliza Billy learned then that Mr. William
was there, but not Mr. Bertram. They had not
been able to reach Mr. Bertram, or Mr. Cyril.
Billy never forgot the look of reverent adoration
that came into Pete's eyes as she entered the
room where he lay.
``Miss Billy--my Miss Billy! You were so
good-to come,'' he whispered faintly.
Billy choked back a sob.
``Of course I'd come, Pete,'' she said gently,
taking one of the thin, worn hands into both her
soft ones.
It was more than a few minutes that Pete lived.
Four o'clock came, and five, and he was still with
them. Often he opened his eyes and smiled.
Sometimes he spoke a low word to William or
Billy, or to one of the weeping women at the foot
of the bed. That the presence of his beloved
master and mistress meant much to him was
plain to be seen.
``I'm so sorry,'' he faltered once, ``about that
pretty dress--I spoiled, Miss Billy. But you
know--my hands--''
``I know, I know,'' soothed Billy; ``but don't
worry. It wasn't spoiled, Pete. It's all fixed
``Oh, I'm so glad,'' sighed the sick man. After
another long interval of silence he turned to
``Them socks--the medium thin ones--you'd
oughter be puttin' 'em on soon, sir, now. They're
in the right-hand corner of the bottom drawer--
you know.''
``Yes, Pete; I'll attend to it,'' William managed
to stammer, after he had cleared his throat.
Eliza's turn came next.
``Remember about the coffee,'' Pete said to
her, ``--the way Mr. William likes it. And always
eggs, you know, for--for--'' His voice
trailed into an indistinct murmur, and his eyelids
drooped wearily.
One by one the minutes passed. The doctor
came and went: there was nothing he could do.
At half-past five the thin old face became again
alight with consciousness. There was a good-by
message for Bertram, and one for Cyril. Aunt
Hannah was remembered, and even little Tommy
Dunn. Then, gradually, a gray shadow crept
over the wasted features. The words came more
brokenly. The mind, plainly, was wandering,
for old Pete was young again, and around him
were the lads he loved, William, Cyril, and
Bertram. And then, very quietly, soon after the
clock struck six, Pete fell into the beginning of
his long sleep.
It was a little after half-past three o'clock that
afternoon when Bertram Henshaw hurried up
Beacon Street toward his home. He had been
delayed, and he feared that Miss Winthrop would
already have reached the house. Mindful of
what Billy had said that morning, he knew how
his wife would fret if he were not there when the
guest arrived. The sight of what he surmised to
be Miss Winthrop's limousine before his door
hastened his steps still more. But as he reached
the house, he was surprised to find Miss Winthrop
herself turning away from the door.
``Why, Miss Winthrop,'' he cried, ``you're not
going _now!_ You can't have been here any--yet!''
``Well, no, I--I haven't,'' retorted the lady,
with heightened color and a somewhat peculiar
emphasis. ``My ring wasn't answered.''
``Wasn't answered!'' Bertram reddened
angrily. ``Why, what can that mean? Where's
the maid? Where's my wife? Mrs. Henshaw
must be here! She was expecting you.''
Bertram, in his annoyed amazement, spoke
loudly, vehemently. Hence he was quite plainly
heard by the group of small boys and girls who
had been improving the mild weather for a frolic
on the sidewalk, and who had been attracted to
his door a moment before by the shining magnet
of the Winthrop limousine with its resplendently
liveried chauffeur. As Bertram spoke, one of
the small girls, Bessie Bailey, stepped forward and
piped up a shrill reply.
``She ain't, Mr. Henshaw! She ain't here.
I saw her go away just a little while ago.''
Bertram turned sharply.
``You saw her go away! What do you mean?''
Small Bessie swelled with importance. Bessie
was thirteen, in spite of her diminutive height.
Bessie's mother was dead, and Bessie's caretakers
were gossiping nurses and servants, who
frequently left in her way books that were much
too old for Bessie to read--but she read them.
``I mean she ain't here--your wife, Mr. Henshaw.
She went away. I saw her. I guess likely
she's eloped, sir.''
Bessie swelled still more importantly. To her
experienced eyes the situation contained all the
necessary elements for the customary flight of
the heroine in her story-books, as here, now,
was the irate, deserted husband.
``Sure! And 'twas just before you came--
quite a while before. A big shiny black automobile
like this drove up--only it wasn't quite
such a nice one--an' Mrs. Henshaw an' a man
came out of your house an' got in, an' drove
right away _quick!_ They just ran to get into it,
too--didn't they?'' She appealed to her young
mates grouped about her.
A chorus of shrill exclamations brought Mr.
Bertram Henshaw suddenly to his senses. By a
desperate effort he hid his angry annoyance as
he turned to the manifestly embarrassed young
woman who was already descending the steps.
``My dear Miss Winthrop,'' he apologized
contritely, ``I'm sure you'll forgive this seeming
great rudeness on the part of my wife. Notwithstanding
the lurid tales of our young friends here,
I suspect nothing more serious has happened
than that my wife has been hastily summoned to
Aunt Hannah, perhaps. Or, of course, she may
not have understood that you were coming to-day
at half-past three--though I thought she did.
But I'm so sorry--when you were so kind as to
come--'' Miss Winthrop interrupted with a
quick gesture.
``Say no more, I beg of you,'' she entreated.
``Mrs. Henshaw is quite excusable, I'm sure.
Please don't give it another thought,'' she
finished, as with a hurried direction to the man who
was holding open the door of her car, she stepped
inside and bowed her good-byes.
Bertram, with stern self-control, forced
himself to walk nonchalantly up his steps, leisurely
take out his key, and open his door, under the
interested eyes of Bessie Bailey and her friends;
but once beyond their hateful stare, his demeanor
underwent a complete change. Throwing aside
his hat and coat, he strode to the telephone.
``Oh, is that you, Aunt Hannah?'' he called
crisply, a moment later. ``Well, if Billy's there
will you tell her I want to speak to her,
``Billy?'' answered Aunt Hannah's slow, gentle
tones. ``Why, my dear boy, Billy isn't here!''
``She isn't? Well, when did she leave? She's
been there, hasn't she?''
``Why, I don't think so, but I'll see, if you
like. Mrs. Greggory and I have just this minute
come in from an automobile ride. We would
have stayed longer, but it began to get chilly, and
I forgot to take one of the shawls that I'd laid
``Yes; well, if you will see, please, if Billy has
been there, and when she left,'' said Bertram,
with grim self-control.
``All right. I'll see,'' murmured Aunt Hannah.
In a few moments her voice again sounded across
the wires. ``Why, no, Bertram, Rosa says she
hasn't been here since yesterday. Isn't she there
somewhere about the house? Didn't you know
where she was going?''
``Well, no, I didn't--else I shouldn't have
been asking you,'' snapped the irate Bertram
and hung up the receiver with most rude haste,
thereby cutting off an astounded ``Oh, my grief
and conscience!'' in the middle of it.
The next ten minutes Bertram spent in going
through the whole house, from garret to basement.
Needless to say, he found nothing to
enlighten him, or to soothe his temper. Four
o'clock came, then half-past, and five. At five
Bertram began to look for Eliza, but in vain.
At half-past five he watched for William; but
William, too, did not come.
Bertram was pacing the floor now, nervously.
He was a little frightened, but more mortified
and angry. That Billy should have allowed Miss
Winthrop to call by appointment only to find
no hostess, no message, no maid, even, to answer
her ring--it was inexcusable! Impulsiveness,
unconventionality, and girlish irresponsibility were
all very delightful, of course--at times; but
not now, certainly. Billy was not a girl any
longer. She was a married woman. _Something_
was due to him, her husband! A pretty picture
he must have made on those steps, trying to
apologize for a truant wife, and to laugh off that
absurd Bessie Bailey's preposterous assertion at
the same time! What would Miss Winthrop
think? What could she think? Bertram fairly
ground his teeth with chagrin, at the situation
in which he found himself.
Nor were matters helped any by the fact that
Bertram was hungry. Bertram's luncheon had
been meager and unsatisfying. That the kitchen
down-stairs still remained in silent, spotless order
instead of being astir with the sounds and smells
of a good dinner (as it should have been) did not
improve his temper. Where Billy was he could
not imagine. He thought, once or twice, of
calling up some of her friends; but something
held him back from that--though he did try to
get Marie, knowing very well that she was probably
over to the new house and would not answer.
He was not surprised, therefore, when he received
no reply to his ring.
That there was the slightest truth in Bessie
Bailey's absurd ``elopement'' idea, Bertram did
not, of course, for an instant believe. The only
thing that rankled about that was the fact that
she had suggested such a thing, and that Miss
Winthrop and those silly children had heard
her. He recognized half of Bessie's friends as
neighborhood youngsters, and he knew very well
that there would be many a quiet laugh at his
expense around various Beacon Street dinnertables
that night. At the thought of those
dinner-tables, he scowled again. _He_ had no
dinner-table--at least, he had no dinner on it!
Who the man might be Bertram thought he
could easily guess. It was either Arkwright or
Calderwell, of course; and probably that tiresome
Alice Greggory was mixed up in it somehow.
He did wish Billy--
Six o'clock came, then half-past. Bertram was
indeed frightened now, but he was more angry,
and still more hungry. He had, in fact, reached
that state of blind unreasonableness said to be
peculiar to hungry males from time immemorial.
At ten minutes of seven a key clicked in the
lock of the outer door, and William and Billy
entered the hall.
It was almost dark. Bertram could not see
their faces. He had not lighted the hall at all.
``Well,'' he began sharply, ``is this the way
you receive your callers, Billy? I came home
and found Miss Winthrop just leaving--no one
here to receive her! Where've you been? Where's
Eliza? Where's my dinner? Of course I don't
mean to scold, Billy, but there is a limit to even
my patience--and it's reached now. I can't
help suggesting that if you would tend to your
husband and your home a little more, and go
gallivanting off with Calderwell and Arkwright
and Alice Greggory a little less, that-- Where is
Eliza, anyway?'' he finished irritably, switching
on the lights with a snap.
There was a moment of dead silence. At
Bertram's first words Billy and William had
stopped short. Neither had moved since. Now
William turned and began to speak, but Billy
interrupted. She met her husband's gaze steadily.
``I will be down at once to get your dinner,''
she said quietly. ``Eliza will not come to-night.
Pete is dead.''
Bertram started forward with a quick cry.
``Dead! Oh, Billy! Then you were--_there!_
But his wife did not apparently hear him. She
passed him without turning her head, and went
on up the stairs, leaving him to meet the sorrowful,
accusing eyes of William.
The young husband's apologies were profuse
and abject. Bertram was heartily ashamed of
himself, and was man enough to acknowledge it.
Almost on his knees he begged Billy to forgive
him; and in a frenzy of self-denunciation he
followed her down into the kitchen that night,
piteously beseeching her to speak to him, to just
_look_ at him, even, so that he might know he was
not utterly despised--though he did, indeed,
deserve to be more than despised, he moaned.
At first Billy did not speak, or even vouchsafe
a glance in his direction. Very quietly she went
about her preparations for a simple meal, paying
apparently no more attention to Bertram than as
if he were not there. But that her ears were only
seemingly, and not really deaf, was shown very
clearly a little later, when, at a particularly abject
wail on the part of the babbling shadow at her
heels, Billy choked into a little gasp, half laughter,
half sob. It was all over then. Bertram had
her in his arms in a twinkling, while to the floor
clattered and rolled a knife and a half-peeled
baked potato.
Naturally, after that, there could be no more
dignified silences on the part of the injured wife.
There were, instead, half-smiles, tears, sobs, a
tremulous telling of Pete's going and his messages,
followed by a tearful listening to Bertram's story
of the torture he had endured at the hands of
Miss Winthrop, Bessie Bailey, and an empty,
dinnerless house. And thus, in one corner of the
kitchen, some time later, a hungry, desperate
William found them, the half-peeled, cold baked
potato still at their feet.
Torn between his craving for food and his
desire not to interfere with any possible peacemaking,
William was obviously hesitating what
to do, when Billy glanced up and saw him. She
saw, too, at the same time, the empty, blazing
gas-stove burner, and the pile of half-prepared
potatoes, to warm which the burner had long
since been lighted. With a little cry she broke
away from her husband's arms.
``Mercy! and here's poor Uncle William,
bless his heart, with not a thing to eat yet!''
They all got dinner then, together, with many
a sigh and quick-coming tear as everywhere they
met some sad reminder of the gentle old hands
that would never again minister to their comfort.
It was a silent meal, and little, after all, was
eaten, though brave attempts at cheerfulness
and naturalness were made by all three. Bertram,
especially, talked, and tried to make sure
that the shadow on Billy's face was at least not
the one his own conduct had brought there.
``For you do--you surely do forgive me, don't
you?'' he begged, as he followed her into the
kitchen after the sorry meal was over.
``Why, yes, dear, yes,'' sighed Billy, trying to
``And you'll forget?''
There was no answer.
``Billy! And you'll forget?'' Bertram's voice
was insistent, reproachful.
Billy changed color and bit her lip. She looked
plainly distressed.
``Billy!'' cried the man, still more reproachfully.
``But, Bertram, I can't forget--quite yet,''
faltered Billy.
Bertram frowned. For a minute he looked as
if he were about to take up the matter seriously
and argue it with her; but the next moment he
smiled and tossed his head with jaunty playfulness--
Bertram, to tell the truth, had now had
quite enough of what he privately termed
``scenes'' and ``heroics''; and, manlike, he was
very ardently longing for the old easy-going
friendliness, with all unpleasantness banished to
``Oh, but you'll have to forget,'' he claimed,
with cheery insistence, ``for you've promised to
forgive me--and one can't forgive without forgetting.
So, there!'' he finished, with a smilingly
determined ``now-everything-is-just-as-it-was-before'' air.
Billy made no response. She turned hurriedly
and began to busy herself with the dishes at the
sink. In her heart she was wondering: could
she ever forget what Bertram had said? Would
anything ever blot out those awful words: ``If
you would tend to your husband and your home
a little more, and go gallivanting off with Calderwell
and Arkwright and Alice Greggory a little
less--''? It seemed now that always, for evermore,
they would ring in her ears; always, for
evermore, they would burn deeper and deeper
into her soul. And not once, in all Bertram's
apologies, had he referred to them--those words
he had uttered. He had not said he did not mean
them. He had not said he was sorry he spoke
them. He had ignored them; and he expected
that now she, too, would ignore them. As if
she could!'' If you would tend to your husband
and your home a little more, and go gallivanting
off with Calderwell and Arkwright and Alice
Greggory a little less--'' Oh, if only she could,
When Billy went up-stairs that night she ran
across her ``Talk to Young Wives'' in her desk.
With a half-stifled cry she thrust it far back out
of sight.
``I hate you, I hate you--with all your old
talk about `brushing up against outside interests'!''
she whispered fiercely. ``Well, I've
`brushed'--and now see what I've got for it!''
Later, however, after Bertram was asleep, Billy
crept out of bed and got the book. Under the
carefully shaded lamp in the adjoining room she
turned the pages softly till she came to the sentence:
``Perhaps it would be hard to find a more
utterly unreasonable, irritable, irresponsible creature
than a hungry man.'' With a long sigh she
began to read; and not until some minutes later
did she close the book, turn off the light, and steal
back to bed.
During the next three days, until after the
funeral at the shabby little South Boston house,
Eliza spent only about half of each day at the
Strata. This, much to her distress, left many of
the household tasks for her young mistress to
perform. Billy, however, attacked each new duty
with a feverish eagerness that seemed to make the
performance of it very like some glad penance
done for past misdeeds. And when--on the day
after they had laid the old servant in his last
resting place--a despairing message came from
Eliza to the effect that now her mother was very
ill, and would need her care, Billy promptly told
Eliza to stay as long as was necessary; that they
could get along all right without her.
``But, Billy, what _are_ we going to do?''
Bertram demanded, when he heard the news. ``We
must have somebody!''
``_I'm_ going to do it.''
``Nonsense! As if you could!'' scoffed Bertram.
Billy lifted her chin.
``Couldn't I, indeed,'' she retorted. ``Do you
realize, young man, how much I've done the last
three days? How about those muffins you had
this morning for breakfast, and that cake last
night? And didn't you yourself say that you
never ate a better pudding than that date puff
yesterday noon?''
Bertram laughed and shrugged his shoulders.
``My dear love, I'm not questioning your
_ability_ to do it,'' he soothed quickly. ``Still,'' he
added, with a whimsical smile, ``I must remind
you that Eliza has been here half the time, and
that muffins and date puffs, however delicious,
aren't all there is to running a big house like this.
Besides, just be sensible, Billy,'' he went on more
seriously, as he noted the rebellious gleam coming
into his young wife's eyes; ``you'd know you
couldn't do it, if you'd just stop to think. There's
the Carletons coming to dinner Monday, and my
studio Tea to-morrow, to say nothing of the
Symphony and the opera, and the concerts you'd
lose because you were too dead tired to go to them.
You know how it was with that concert yesterday
afternoon which Alice Greggory wanted you
to go to with her.''
``I didn't--want--to go,'' choked Billy,
under her breath.
``And there's your music. You haven't done
a thing with that for days, yet only last week
you told me the publishers were hurrying you for
that last song to complete the group.''
``I haven't felt like--writing,'' stammered
Billy, still half under her breath.
``Of course you haven't,'' triumphed Bertram.
``You've been too dead tired. And that's just
what I say. Billy, you _can't_ do it all yourself!''
``But I want to. I want to--to tend to
things,'' faltered Billy, with a half-fearful glance
into her husband's face.
Billy was hearing very loudly now that accusing
``If you'd tend to your husband and your home
a little more--'' Bertram, however, was not
hearing it, evidently. Indeed, he seemed never
to have heard it--much less to have spoken it.
`` `Tend to things,' '' he laughed lightly.
``Well, you'll have enough to do to tend to the
maid, I fancy. Anyhow, we're going to have one.
I'll just step into one of those--what do you call
'em?--intelligence offices on my way down and
send one up,'' he finished, as he gave his wife a
good-by kiss.
An hour later Billy, struggling with the broom
and the drawing-room carpet, was called to the
telephone. It was her husband's voice that came
to her.
``Billy, for heaven's sake, take pity on me.
Won't you put on your duds and come and engage
your maid yourself?''
``Why, Bertram, what's the matter?''
``Matter? Holy smoke! Well, I've been to
three of those intelligence offices--though why
they call them that I can't imagine. If ever there
was a place utterly devoid of intelligence-but
never mind! I've interviewed four fat ladies,
two thin ones, and one medium with a wart. I've
cheerfully divulged all our family secrets, promised
every other half-hour out, and taken oath
that our household numbers three adult members,
and no more; but I simply _can't_ remember
how many handkerchiefs we have in the wash
each week. Billy, will you come? Maybe you
can do something with them. I'm sure you
``Why, of course I'll come,'' chirped Billy.
``Where shall I meet you?''
Bertram gave the street and number.
``Good! I'll be there,'' promised Billy, as she
hung up the receiver.
Quite forgetting the broom in the middle of the
drawing-room floor, Billy tripped up-stairs to
change her dress. On her lips was a gay little
song. In her heart was joy.
``I rather guess _now_ I'm tending to my husband
and my home!'' she was crowing to herself.
Just as Billy was about to leave the house the
telephone bell jangled again.
It was Alice Greggory.
``Billy, dear,'' she called, ``can't you come
out? Mr. Arkwright and Mr. Calderwell are
here, and they've brought some new music. We
want you. Will you come?''
``I can't, dear. Bertram wants me. He's sent
for me. I've got some _housewifely_ duties to perform
to-day,'' returned Billy, in a voice so curiously
triumphant that Alice, at her end of the
wires, frowned in puzzled wonder as she turned
away from the telephone.
Bertram told a friend afterwards that he never
knew the meaning of the word ``chaos'' until he
had seen the Strata during the weeks immediately
following the laying away of his old servant.
``Every stratum was aquiver with apprehension,''
he declared; ``and there was never any
telling when the next grand upheaval would rock
the whole structure to its foundations.''
Nor was Bertram so far from being right. It
was, indeed, a chaos, as none knew better than
did Bertram's wife.
Poor Billy! Sorry indeed were these days for
Billy; and, as if to make her cup of woe full to
overflowing, there were Sister Kate's epistolary
``I told you so,'' and Aunt Hannah's ever
recurring lament: ``If only, Billy, you were a
practical housekeeper yourself, they wouldn't
impose on you so!''
Aunt Hannah, to be sure, offered Rosa, and
Kate, by letter, offered advice--plenty of it.
But Billy, stung beyond all endurance, and fairly
radiating hurt pride and dogged determination,
disdained all assistance, and, with head held high,
declared she was getting along very well, very
well indeed!
And this was the way she ``got along.''
First came Nora. Nora was a blue-eyed, blackhaired
Irish girl, the sixth that the despairing
Billy had interviewed on that fateful morning
when Bertram had summoned her to his aid.
Nora stayed two days. During her reign the
entire Strata echoed to banged doors, dropped
china, and slammed furniture. At her departure
the Henshaws' possessions were less by four cups,
two saucers, one plate, one salad bowl, two cut
glass tumblers, and a teapot--the latter William's
choicest bit of Lowestoft.
Olga came next. Olga was a Treasure. She
was low-voiced, gentle-eyed, and a good cook.
She stayed a week. By that time the growing
frequency of the disappearance of sundry small
articles of value and convenience led to Billy's
making a reluctant search of Olga's room--and
to Olga's departure; for the room was, indeed, a
treasure house, the Treasure having gathered
unto itself other treasures.
Following Olga came a period of what Bertram
called ``one night stands,'' so frequently were the
dramatis person below stairs changed. Gretchen
drank. Christine knew only four words of English:
salt, good-by, no, and yes; and Billy found
need occasionally of using other words. Mary
was impertinent and lazy. Jennie could not even
boil a potato properly, much less cook a dinner.
Sarah (colored) was willing and pleasant, but
insufferably untidy. Bridget was neatness itself,
but she had no conception of the value of time.
Her meals were always from thirty to sixty
minutes late, and half-cooked at that. Vera
sang--when she wasn't whistling--and as she
was generally off the key, and always off the
tune, her almost frantic mistress dismissed her
before twenty-four hours had passed. Then came
Mary Ellen.
Mary Ellen began well. She was neat, capable,
and obliging; but it did not take her long to
discover just how much--and how little--her
mistress really knew of practical housekeeping.
Matters and things were very different then.
Mary Ellen became argumentative, impertinent,
and domineering. She openly shirked her work,
when it pleased her so to do, and demanded
perquisites and privileges so insolently that even
William asked Billy one day whether Mary Ellen
or Billy herself were the mistress of the Strata:
and Bertram, with mock humility, inquired how
_soon_ Mary Ellen would be wanting the house.
Billy, in weary despair, submitted to this bullying
for almost a week; then, in a sudden accession
of outraged dignity that left Mary Ellen gasping
with surprise, she told the girl to go.
And thus the days passed. The maids came
and the maids went, and, to Billy, each one seemed
a little worse than the one before. Nowhere was
there comfort, rest, or peacefulness. The nights
were a torture of apprehension, and the days an
even greater torture of fulfilment. Noise, confusion,
meals poorly cooked and worse served, dust,
disorder, and uncertainty. And this was _home_,
Billy told herself bitterly. No wonder that Bertram
telephoned more and more frequently that
he had met a friend, and was dining in town. No
wonder that William pushed back his plate almost
every meal with his food scarcely touched, and
then wandered about the house with that hungry,
homesick, homeless look that nearly broke her
heart. No wonder, indeed!
And so it had come. It was true. Aunt Hannah
and Kate and the ``Talk to Young Wives''
were right. She had not been fit to marry Bertram.
She had not been fit to marry anybody.
Her honeymoon was not only waning, but going
into a total eclipse. Had not Bertram already
declared that if she would tend to her husband
and her home a little more--
Billy clenched her small hands and set her
round chin squarely.
Very well, she would show them. She would
tend to her husband and her home. She fancied
she could _learn_ to run that house, and run it well!
And forthwith she descended to the kitchen and
told the then reigning tormentor that her wages
would be paid until the end of the week, but
that her services would be immediately dispensed
Billy was well aware now that housekeeping
was a matter of more than muffins and date puffs.
She could gauge, in a measure, the magnitude of
the task to which she had set herself. But she
did not falter; and very systematically she set
about making her plans.
With a good stout woman to come in twice a
week for the heavier work, she believed she could
manage by herself very well until Eliza could come
back. At least she could serve more palatable
meals than the most of those that had appeared
lately; and at least she could try to make a home
that would not drive Bertram to club dinners,
and Uncle William to hungry wanderings from
room to room. Meanwhile, all the time, she could
be learning, and in due course she would reach
that shining goal of Housekeeping Efficiency,
short of which--according to Aunt Hannah and
the ``Talk to Young Wives''--no woman need
hope for a waneless honeymoon.
So chaotic and erratic had been the household
service, and so quietly did Billy slip into her new
role, that it was not until the second meal after
the maid's departure that the master of the house
discovered what had happened. Then, as his
wife rose to get some forgotten article, he questioned,
with uplifted eyebrows:
``Too good to wait upon us, is my lady now,
``My lady is waiting on you,'' smiled Billy.
``Yes, I see _this_ lady is,'' retorted Bertram,
grimly; ``but I mean our real lady in the kitchen.
Great Scott, Billy, how long are you going to
stand this?''
Billy tossed her head airily, though she shook
in her shoes. Billy had been dreading this moment.
``I'm not standing it. She's gone,'' responded
Billy, cheerfully, resuming her seat. ``Uncle
William, sha'n't I give you some more pudding?''
``Gone, so soon?'' groaned Bertram, as William
passed his plate, with a smiling nod. ``Oh,
well,'' went on Bertram, resignedly, ``she stayed
longer than the last one. When is the next one
``She's already here.''
Bertram frowned.
``Here? But--you served the dessert, and--''
At something in Billy's face, a quick suspicion
came into his own. ``Billy, you don't mean that
``Yes,'' she nodded brightly, ``that's just what
I mean. I'm the next one.''
``Nonsense!'' exploded Bertram, wrathfully.
``Oh, come, Billy, we've been all over this
before. You know I can't have it.''
``Yes, you can. You've got to have it,''
retorted Billy, still with that disarming, airy
cheerfulness. ``Besides, 'twon't be half so bad as you
think. Wasn't that a good pudding to-night?
Didn't you both come back for more? Well, I
made it.''
``Puddings!'' ejaculated Bertram, with an
impatient gesture. ``Billy, as I've said before, it takes
something besides puddings to run this house.''
``Yes, I know it does,'' dimpled Billy, ``and
I've got Mrs. Durgin for that part. She's coming
twice a week, and more, if I need her. Why,
dearie, you don't know anything about how
comfortable you're going to be! I'll leave it to
Uncle William if--''
But Uncle William had gone. Silently he had
slipped from his chair and disappeared. Uncle
William, it might be mentioned in passing, had
never quite forgotten Aunt Hannah's fateful call
with its dire revelations concerning a certain
unwanted, superfluous, third-party husband's
brother. Remembering this, there were times
when he thought absence was both safest and
best. This was one of the times.
``But, Billy, dear,'' still argued Bertram,
irritably, ``how can you? You don't know how.
You've had no experience.''
Billy threw back her shoulders. An ominous
light came to her eyes. She was no longer airily
``That's exactly it, Bertram. I don't know
how--but I'm going to learn. I haven't had
experience--but I'm going to get it. I _can't_
make a worse mess of it than we've had ever
since Eliza went, anyway!''
``But if you'd get a maid--a good maid,''
persisted Bertram, feebly.
``I had _one_--Mary Ellen. She was a good
maid--until she found out how little her mistress
knew; then--well, you know what it was
then. Do you think I'd let that thing happen to
me again? No, sir! I'm going into training for
--my next Mary Ellen!'' And with a very
majestic air Billy rose from the table and began
to clear away the dishes.
Billy was not a young woman that did things
by halves. Long ago, in the days of her childhood,
her Aunt Ella had once said of her: ``If
only Billy didn't go into things all over, so; but
whether it's measles or mud pies, I always know
that she'll be the measliest or the muddiest of any
child in town!'' It could not be expected, therefore,
that Billy would begin to play her new rle
now with any lack of enthusiasm. But even had
she needed any incentive, there was still ever
ringing in her ears Bertram's accusing: ``If you'd
tend to your husband and your home a little
more--'' Billy still declared very emphatically
that she had forgiven Bertram; but she knew, in
her heart, that she had not forgotten.
Certainly, as the days passed, it could not be
said that Billy was not tending to her husband
and her home. From morning till night, now,
she tended to nothing else. She seldom touched
her piano--save to dust it--and she never
touched her half-finished song-manuscript, long
since banished to the oblivion of the music
cabinet. She made no calls except occasional flying
visits to the Annex, or to the pretty new home
where Marie and Cyril were now delightfully
settled. The opera and the Symphony were over
for the season, but even had they not been, Billy
could not have attended them. She had no time.
Surely she was not doing any ``gallivanting''
now, she told herself sometimes, a little aggrievedly.
There was, indeed, no time. From morning
until night Billy was busy, flying from one task
to another. Her ambition to have everything
just right was equalled only by her dogged
determination to ``just show them'' that she could do
this thing. At first, of course, hampered as she
was by ignorance and inexperience, each task
consumed about twice as much time as was necessary.
Yet afterwards, when accustomedness had
brought its reward of speed, there was still for
Billy no time; for increased knowledge had only
opened the way to other paths, untrodden and
alluring. Study of cookbooks had led to the
study of food values. Billy discovered suddenly
that potatoes, beef, onions, oranges, and
puddings were something besides vegetables, meat,
fruit, and dessert. They possessed attributes
known as proteids, fats, and carbohydrates.
Faint memories of long forgotten school days
hinted that these terms had been heard before;
but never, Billy was sure, had she fully realized
what they meant.
It was at this juncture that Billy ran across a
book entitled ``Correct Eating for Efficiency.''
She bought it at once, and carried it home in
triumph. It proved to be a marvelous book.
Billy had not read two chapters before she began
to wonder how the family had managed to live
thus far with any sort of success, in the face of
their dense ignorance and her own criminal carelessness
concerning their daily bill of fare.
At dinner that night Billy told Bertram and
William of her discovery, and, with growing
excitement, dilated on the wonderful good that it
was to bring to them.
``Why, you don't know, you can't imagine
what a treasure it is!'' she exclaimed. ``It gives
a complete table for the exact balancing of food.''
``For what?'' demanded Bertram, glancing up.
``The exact balancing of food; and this book
says that's the biggest problem that modern scientists
have to solve.''
``Humph!'' shrugged Bertram. ``Well, you
just balance my food to my hunger, and I'll agree
not to complain.''
``Oh, but, Bertram, it's serious, really,'' urged
Billy, looking genuinely distressed. ``Why, it
says that what you eat goes to make up what you
are. It makes your vital energies. Your brain
power and your body power come from what you
eat. Don't you see? If you're going to paint a
picture you need something different from what
you would if you were going to--to saw wood;
and what this book tells is--is what I ought to
give you to make you do each one, I should think,
from what I've read so far. Now don't you see
how important it is? What if I should give you
the saw-wood kind of a breakfast when you were
just going up-stairs to paint all day? And what
if I should give Uncle William a--a soldier's
breakfast when all he is going to do is to go down
on State Street and sit still all day?''
``But--but, my dear,'' began Uncle William,
looking slightly worried, ``there's my eggs that
I _always_ have, you know.''
``For heaven's sake, Billy, what _have_ you got
hold of now?'' demanded Bertram, with just a
touch of irritation.
Billy laughed merrily.
``Well, I suppose I didn't sound very logical,''
she admitted. ``But the book--you just wait.
It's in the kitchen. I'm going to get it.'' And
with laughing eagerness she ran from the room.
In a moment she had returned, book in hand.
``Now listen. _This_ is the real thing--not
my garbled inaccuracies. `The food which we
eat serves three purposes: it builds the body
substance, bone, muscle, etc., it produces heat in
the body, and it generates vital energy. Nitrogen
in different chemical combinations contributes
largely to the manufacture of body substances;
the fats produce heat; and the starches and
sugars go to make the vital energy. The nitrogenous
food elements we call proteins; the fats
and oils, fats; and the starches and sugars
(because of the predominance of carbon), we call
carbohydrates. Now in selecting the diet for the
day you should take care to choose those foods
which give the proteins, fats, and carbohydrates
in just the right proportion.' ''
``Oh, Billy!'' groaned Bertram.
``But it's so, Bertram,'' maintained Billy,
anxiously. ``And it's every bit here. I don't
have to guess at it at all. They even give the
quantities of calories of energy required for
different sized men. I'm going to measure you
both to-morrow; and you must be weighed, too,''
she continued, ignoring the sniffs of remonstrance
from her two listeners. ``Then I'll know just
how many calories to give each of you. They say
a man of average size and weight, and sedentary
occupation, should have at least 2,000 calories--
and some authorities say 3,000--in this proportion:
proteins, 300 calories, fats, 350 calories,
carbohydrates, 1,350 calories. But you both are
taller than five feet five inches, and I should think
you weighed more than 145 pounds; so I can't
tell just yet how many calories you will need.''
``How many we will need, indeed!'' ejaculated
``But, my dear, you know I have to have my
eggs,'' began Uncle William again, in a worried
``Of course you do, dear; and you shall have
them,'' soothed Billy, brightly. ``It's only that
I'll have to be careful and balance up the other
things for the day accordingly. Don't you see?
Now listen. We'll see what eggs are.'' She
turned the leaves rapidly. ``Here's the food
table. It's lovely. It tells everything. I never
saw anything so wonderful. A--b--c--d--e
--here we are. `Eggs, scrambled or boiled, fats
and proteins, one egg, 100.' If it's poached it's
only 50; but you like yours boiled, so we'll have
to reckon on the 100. And you always have
two, so that means 200 calories in fats and
proteins. Now, don't you see? If you can't have
but 300 proteins and 350 fats all day, and you've
already eaten 200 in your two eggs, that'll leave
just--er--450 for all the rest of the day,--of
fats and proteins, you understand. And you've
no idea how fast that'll count up. Why, just one
serving of butter is 100 of fats, and eight almonds
is another, while a serving of lentils is 100 of
proteins. So you see how it'll go.''
``Yes, I see,'' murmured Uncle William, casting
a mournful glance about the generously laden
table, much as if he were bidding farewell to a
departing friend. ``But if I should want more
to eat--'' He stopped helplessly, and Bertram's
aggrieved voice filled the pause.
``Look here, Billy, if you think I'm going to
be measured for an egg and weighed for an almond,
you're much mistaken; because I'm not.
I want to eat what I like, and as much as I like,
whether it's six calories or six thousand!''
Billy chuckled, but she raised her hands in
pretended shocked protest.
``Six thousand! Mercy! Bertram, I don't
know what would happen if you ate that quantity;
but I'm sure you couldn't paint. You'd
just have to saw wood and dig ditches to use up
all that vital energy.''
``Humph!'' scoffed Bertram.
``Besides, this is for _efficiency_,'' went on Billy,
with an earnest air. ``This man owns up that
some may think a 2,000 calory ration is altogether
too small, and he advises such to begin with
3,000 or even 3,500--graded, of course, according
to a man's size, weight, and occupation. But
he says one famous man does splendid work on
only 1,800 calories, and another on even 1,600.
But that is just a matter of chewing. Why,
Bertram, you have no idea what perfectly wonderful
things chewing does.''
``Yes, I've heard of that,'' grunted Bertram;
``ten chews to a cherry, and sixty to a spoonful
of soup. There's an old metronome up-stairs
that Cyril left. You might bring it down and
set it going on the table--so many ticks to a
mouthful, I suppose. I reckon, with an incentive
like that to eat, just about two calories would
do me. Eh, William?''
``Bertram! Now you're only making fun,''
chided Billy; ``and when it's really serious, too.
Now listen,'' she admonished, picking up the
book again. `` `If a man consumes a large
amount of meat, and very few vegetables, his
diet will be too rich in protein, and too lacking in
carbohydrates. On the other hand, if he consumes
great quantities of pastry, bread, butter,
and tea, his meals will furnish too much energy,
and not enough building material.' There, Bertram,
don't you see?''
``Oh, yes, I see,'' teased Bertram. ``William,
better eat what you can to-night. I foresee it's
the last meal of just _food_ we'll get for some time.
Hereafter we'll have proteins, fats, and
carbohydrates made into calory croquettes, and--''
``Bertram!'' scolded Billy.
But Bertram would not be silenced.
``Here, just let me take that book,'' he insisted,
dragging the volume from Billy's reluctant fingers.
``Now, William, listen. Here's your breakfast
to-morrow morning: strawberries, 100 calories;
whole-wheat bread, 75 calories; butter, 100
calories (no second helping, mind you, or you'd
ruin the balance and something would topple);
boiled eggs, 200 calories; cocoa, 100 calories--
which all comes to 570 calories. Sounds like an
English bill of fare with a new kind of foreign
money, but 'tisn't, really, you know. Now for
luncheon you can have tomato soup, 50 calories;
potato salad--that's cheap, only 30 calories,
and--'' But Billy pulled the book away then,
and in righteous indignation carried it to the
``You don't deserve anything to eat,'' she
declared with dignity, as she returned to the diningroom.
``No?'' queried Bertram, his eyebrows
uplifted. ``Well, as near as I can make out we
aren't going to get--much.''
But Billy did not deign to answer this.
In spite of Bertram's tormenting gibes, Billy
did, for some days, arrange her meals in accordance
with the wonderful table of food given in
``Correct Eating for Efficiency.'' To be sure,
Bertram, whatever he found before him during
those days, anxiously asked whether he were
eating fats, proteins, or carbohydrates; and he
worried openly as to the possibility of his meal's
producing one calory too much or too little, thus
endangering his ``balance.''
Billy alternately laughed and scolded, to the
unvarying good nature of her husband. As it
happened, however, even this was not for long,
for Billy ran across a magazine article on food
adulteration; and this so filled her with terror
lest, in the food served, she were killing her
family by slow poison, that she forgot all about
the proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Her talk
these days was of formaldehyde, benzoate of
soda, and salicylic acid.
Very soon, too, Billy discovered an exclusive
Back Bay school for instruction in household
economics and domestic hygiene. Billy investigated
it at once, and was immediately aflame with
enthusiasm. She told Bertram that it taught
everything, _everything_ she wanted to know; and
forthwith she enrolled herself as one of its most
devoted pupils, in spite of her husband's protests
that she knew enough, more than enough, already.
This school attendance, to her consternation,
Billy discovered took added time; but in some
way she contrived to find it to take.
And so the days passed. Eliza's mother, though
better, was still too ill for her daughter to leave
her. Billy, as the warm weather approached,
began to look pale and thin. Billy, to tell the
truth, was working altogether too hard; but she
would not admit it, even to herself. At first the
novelty of the work, and her determination to
conquer at all costs, had given a fictitious strength
to her endurance. Now that the novelty had
become accustomedness, and the conquering a
surety, Billy discovered that she had a back that
could ache, and limbs that, at times, could almost
refuse to move from weariness. There was still,
however, one spur that never failed to urge her
to fresh endeavor, and to make her, at least
temporarily, forget both ache and weariness; and
that was the comforting thought that now,
certainly, even Bertram himself must admit that
she was tending to her home and her husband.
As to Bertram--Bertram, it is true, had at
first uttered frequent and vehement protests
against his wife's absorption of both mind and
body in ``that plaguy housework,'' as he termed
it. But as the days passed, and blessed order
superseded chaos, peace followed discord, and
delicious, well-served meals took the place of the
horrors that had been called meals in the past, he
gradually accepted the change with tranquil
satisfaction, and forgot to question how it was
brought about; though he did still, sometimes,
rebel because Billy was always too tired, or too
busy, to go out with him. Of late, however, he
had not done even this so frequently, for a new
``Face of a Girl'' had possessed his soul; and all
his thoughts and most of his time had gone to
putting on canvas the vision of loveliness that his
mind's eye saw.
By June fifteenth the picture was finished.
Bertram awoke then to his surroundings. He
found summer was upon him with no plans made
for its enjoyment. He found William had started
West for a two weeks' business trip. But what he
did not find one day--at least at first--was his
wife, when he came home unexpectedly at four
o'clock. And Bertram especially wanted to find
his wife that day, for he had met three people
whose words had disquieted him not a little.
First, Aunt Hannah. She had said:
``Bertram, where is Billy? She hasn't been
out to the Annex for a week; and the last time she
was there she looked sick. I was real worried
about her.''
Cyril had been next.
``Where's Billy?'' he had asked abruptly.
``Marie says she hasn't seen her for two weeks.
Marie's afraid she's sick. She says Billy didn't
look well a bit, when she did see her.''
Calderwell had capped the climax. He had
``Great Scott, Henshaw, where have you been
keeping yourself? And where's your wife? Not
one of us has caught more than a glimpse of her
for weeks. She hasn't sung with us, nor played
for us, nor let us take her anywhere for a month
of Sundays. Even Miss Greggory says _she_ hasn't
seen much of her, and that Billy always says
she's too busy to go anywhere. But Miss Greggory
says she looks pale and thin, and that _she_
thinks she's worrying too much over running the
house. I hope she isn't sick!''
``Why, no, Billy isn't sick. Billy's all right,''
Bertram had answered. He had spoken lightly,
nonchalantly, with an elaborate air of carelessness;
but after he had left Calderwell, he had
turned his steps abruptly and a little hastily
toward home.
And he had not found Billy--at least, not at
once. He had gone first down into the kitchen
and dining-room. He remembered then, uneasily,
that he had always looked for Billy in the kitchen
and dining-room, of late. To-day, however, she
was not there.
On the kitchen table Bertram did see a book
wide open, and, mechanically, he picked it up.
It was a much-thumbed cookbook, and it was
open where two once-blank pages bore his wife's
handwriting. On the first page, under the printed
heading ``Things to Remember,'' he read these
``That rice swells till every dish in the house
is full, and that spinach shrinks till you can't
find it.
``That beets boil dry if you look out the window.
``That biscuits which look as if they'd been
mixed up with a rusty stove poker haven't really
been so, but have only got too much undissolved
soda in them.''
There were other sentences, but Bertram's eyes
chanced to fall on the opposite page where the
``Things to Remember'' had been changed to
``Things to Forget''; and here Billy had written
just four words: ``Burns,'' ``cuts,'' and
``yesterday's failures.''
Bertram dropped the book then with a spasmodic
clearing of his throat, and hurriedly resumed
his search. When he did find his wife, at
last, he gave a cry of dismay--she was on her
own bed, huddled in a little heap, and shaking
with sobs.
``Billy! Why, Billy!'' he gasped, striding to
the bedside.
Billy sat up at once, and hastily wiped her eyes.
``Oh, is it you, B-Bertram? I didn't hear you
come in. You--you s-said you weren't coming
till six o'clock!'' she choked.
``Billy, what is the meaning of this?''
``N-nothing. I--I guess I'm just tired.''
``What have you been doing?'' Bertram spoke
sternly, almost sharply. He was wondering why
he had not noticed before the little hollows in
his wife's cheeks. ``Billy, what have you been
``Why, n-nothing extra, only some sweeping,
and cleaning out the refrigerator.''
``Sweeping! Cleaning! _You!_ I thought Mrs.
Durgin did that.''
``She does. I mean she did. But she couldn't
come. She broke her leg--fell off the stepladder
where she was three days ago. So I _had_ to do it.
And to-day, someway, everything went wrong.
I burned me, and I cut me, and I used two sodas
with not any cream of tartar, and I should think
I didn't know anything, not anything!'' And
down went Billy's head into the pillows again in
another burst of sobs.
With gentle yet uncompromising determination,
Bertram gathered his wife into his arms and carried
her to the big chair. There, for a few minutes,
he soothed and petted her as if she were a
tired child--which, indeed, she was.
``Billy, this thing has got to stop,'' he said then.
There was a very inexorable ring of decision in his
``What thing?''
``This housework business.''
Billy sat up with a jerk.
``But, Bertram, it isn't fair. You can't--you
mustn't--just because of to-day! I _can_ do it.
I have done it. I've done it days and days, and
it's gone beautifully--even if they did say I
``Couldn't what?''
``Be an e-efficient housekeeper.''
``Who said you couldn't?''
``Aunt Hannah and K-Kate.''
Bertram said a savage word under his breath.
``Holy smoke, Billy! I didn't marry you for a
cook or a scrub-lady. If you _had_ to do it, that
would be another matter, of course; and if we did
have to do it, we wouldn't have a big house like
this for you to do it in. But I didn't marry for a
cook, and I knew I wasn't getting one when I
married you.''
Billy bridled into instant wrath.
``Well, I like that, Bertram Henshaw! Can't
I cook? Haven't I proved that I can cook?''
Bertram laughed, and kissed the indignant lips
till they quivered into an unwilling smile.
``Bless your spunky little heart, of course you
have! But that doesn't mean that I want you
to do it. You see, it so happens that you can do
other things, too; and I'd rather you did those.
Billy, you haven't played to me for a week, nor
sung to me for a month. You're too tired every
night to talk, or read together, or go anywhere
with me. I married for companionship--not
cooking and sweeping!''
Billy shook her head stubbornly. Her mouth
settled into determined lines.
``That's all very well to say. You aren't
hungry now, Bertram. But it's different when
you are, and they said 'twould be.''
``Humph! `They' are Aunt Hannah and
Kate, I suppose.''
``Yes--and the `Talk to Young Wives.' ''
``The w-what?''
Billy choked a little. She had forgotten that
Bertram did not know about the ``Talk to Young
Wives.'' She wished that she had not mentioned
the book, but now that she had, she would make
the best of it. She drew herself up with dignity.
``It's a book; a very nice book. It says lots
of things--that have come true.''
``Where is that book? Let me see it, please.''
With visible reluctance Billy got down from her
perch on Bertram's knee, went to her desk and
brought back the book.
Bertram regarded it frowningly, so frowningly
that Billy hastened to its defense.
``And it's true--what it says in there, and
what Aunt Hannah and Kate said. It _is_ different
when they're hungry! You said yourself if I'd
tend to my husband and my home a little more,
Bertram looked up with unfeigned amazement.
``I said what?'' he demanded.
In a voice shaken with emotion, Billy repeated
the fateful words.
``I never--when did I say that?''
``The night Uncle William and I came home
For a moment Bertram stared dumbly; then a
shamed red swept to his forehead.
``Billy, _did_ I say that? I ought to be shot if
I did. But, Billy, you said you'd forgiven
``I did, dear--truly I did; but, don't you see?
--it was true. I _hadn't_ tended to things. So I've
been doing it since.''
A sudden comprehension illuminated Bertram's
``Heavens, Billy! And is that why you haven't
been anywhere, or done anything? Is that why
Calderwell said to-day that you hadn't been with
them anywhere, and that-- Great Scott, Billy!
Did you think I was such a selfish brute as
``Oh, but when I was going with them I _was_
following the book--I thought,'' quavered Billy;
and hurriedly she turned the leaves to a carefully
marked passage. ``It's there--about the outside
interests. See? I _was_ trying to brush up
against them, so that I wouldn't interfere with
your Art. Then, when you accused me of
gallivanting off with--'' But Bertram swept her
back into his arms, and not for some minutes
could Billy make a coherent speech again.
Then Bertram spoke.
``See here, Billy,'' he exploded, a little shakily,
``if I could get you off somewhere on a desert
island, where there weren't any Aunt Hannahs or
Kates, or Talks to Young Wives, I think there'd
be a chance to make you happy; but--''
``Oh, but there was truth in it,'' interrupted
Billy, sitting erect again. ``I _didn't_ know how to
run a house, and it was perfectly awful while we
were having all those dreadful maids, one after
the other; and no woman should be a wife who
doesn't know--''
``All right, all right, dear,'' interrupted
Bertram, in his turn. ``We'll concede that point, if
you like. But you _do_ know now. You've got
the efficient housewife racket down pat even to the
last calory your husband should be fed; and I'll
warrant there isn't a Mary Ellen in Christendom
who can find a spot of ignorance on you as big as
a pinhead! So we'll call that settled. What you
need now is a good rest; and you're going to have
it, too. I'm going to have six Mary Ellens here
to-morrow morning. Six! Do you hear? And
all you've got to do is to get your gladdest rags
together for a trip to Europe with me next month.
Because we're going. I shall get the tickets tomorrow,
_after_ I send the six Mary Ellens packing
up here. Now come, put on your bonnet. We're
going down town to dinner.''
Bertram did not engage six Mary Ellens the
next morning, nor even one, as it happened; for
that evening, Eliza--who had not been unaware
of conditions at the Strata--telephoned to say
that her mother was so much better now she
believed she could be spared to come to the Strata
for several hours each day, if Mrs. Henshaw
would like to have her begin in that way.
Billy agreed promptly, and declared herself
as more than willing to put up with such an
arrangement. Bertram, it is true, when he heard
of the plan, rebelled, and asserted that what Billy
needed was a rest, an entire rest from care and
labor. In fact, what he wanted her to do, he said,
was to gallivant--to gallivant all day long.
``Nonsense!'' Billy had laughed, coloring to
the tips of her ears. ``Besides, as for the work,
Bertram, with just you and me here, and with all
my vast experience now, and Eliza here for several
hours every day, it'll be nothing but play for this
little time before we go away. You'll see!''
``All right, I'll _see_, then,'' Bertram had nodded
meaningly. ``But just make sure that it _is_ play
for you!''
``I will,'' laughed Billy; and there the matter
had ended.
Eliza began work the next day, and Billy did
indeed soon find herself ``playing'' under
Bertram's watchful insistence. She resumed her
music, and brought out of exile the unfinished
song. With Bertram she took drives and walks;
and every two or three days she went to see
Aunt Hannah and Marie. She was pleasantly
busy, too, with plans for her coming trip; and
it was not long before even the remorseful
Bertram had to admit that Billy was looking and
appearing quite like her old self.
At the Annex Billy found Calderwell and
Arkwright, one day. They greeted her as if she had
just returned from a far country.
``Well, if you aren't the stranger lady,'' began
Calderwell, looking frankly pleased to see her.
``We'd thought of advertising in the daily press
somewhat after this fashion: `Lost, strayed, or
stolen, one Billy; comrade, good friend, and kind
cheerer-up of lonely hearts. Any information
thankfully received by her bereft, sorrowing
friends.' ''
Billy joined in the laugh that greeted this sally,
but Arkwright noticed that she tried to change
the subject from her own affairs to a discussion
of the new song on Alice Greggory's piano.
Calderwell, however, was not to be silenced.
``The last I heard of this elusive Billy,'' he
resumed, with teasing cheerfulness, ``she was running
down a certain lost calory that had slipped
away from her husband's breakfast, and--''
Billy wheeled sharply.
``Where did you get hold of that?'' she demanded.
``Oh, I didn't,'' returned the man, defensively.
``I never got hold of it at all. I never even saw
the calory--though, for that matter, I don't
think I should know one if I did see it! What we
feared was, that, in hunting the lost calory, you
had lost yourself, and--'' But Billy would hear
no more. With her disdainful nose in the air she
walked to the piano.
``Come, Mr. Arkwright,'' she said with dignity.
``Let's try this song.''
Arkwright rose at once and accompanied her
to the piano.
They had sung the song through twice when
Billy became uneasily aware that, on the other
side of the room, Calderwell and Alice Greggory
were softly chuckling over something they had
found in a magazine. Billy frowned, and twitched
the corners of a pile of music, with restless fingers.
``I wonder if Alice hasn't got some quartets
here somewhere,'' she murmured, her disapproving
eyes still bent on the absorbed couple across
the room.
Arkwright was silent. Billy, throwing a
hurried glance into his face, thought she detected
a somber shadow in his eyes. She thought, too,
she knew why it was there. So possessed had
Billy been, during the early winter, of the idea
that her special mission in life was to inaugurate
and foster a love affair between disappointed Mr.
Arkwright and lonely Alice Greggory, that now
she forgot, for a moment, that Arkwright himself
was quite unaware of her efforts. She thought
only that the present shadow on his face must
be caused by the same thing that brought worry
to her own heart--the manifest devotion of
Calderwell to Alice Greggory just now across the
room. Instinctively, therefore, as to a coworker
in a common cause, she turned a disturbed face
to the man at her side.
``It is, indeed, high time that I looked after
something besides lost calories,'' she said
significantly. Then, at the evident uncomprehension
in Arkwright's face, she added: ``Has it
been going on like this--very long?''
Arkwright still, apparently, did not understand.
``Has--what been going on?'' he questioned.
``That--over there,'' answered Billy,
impatiently, scarcely knowing whether to be more
irritated at the threatened miscarriage of her
cherished plans, or at Arkwright's (to her)
wilfully blind insistence on her making her meaning
more plain. ``Has it been going on long--such
utter devotion?''
As she asked the question Billy turned and
looked squarely into Arkwright's face. She saw,
therefore, the great change that came to it, as
her meaning became clear to him. Her first
feeling was one of shocked realization that
Arkwright had, indeed, been really blind. Her
second--she turned away her eyes hurriedly from
what she thought she saw in the man's countenance.
With an assumedly gay little cry she sprang to
her feet.
``Come, come, what are you two children
chuckling over?'' she demanded, crossing the
room abruptly. ``Didn't you hear me say I
wanted you to come and sing a quartet?''
Billy blamed herself very much for what she
called her stupidity in so baldly summoning
Arkwright's attention to Calderwell's devotion to
Alice Greggory. She declared that she ought to
have known better, and she asked herself if this
were the way she was ``furthering matters''
between Alice Greggory and Arkwright.
Billy was really seriously disturbed. She had
never quite forgiven herself for being so blind to
Arkwright's feeling for herself during those days
when he had not known of her engagement to
Bertram. She had never forgotten, either, the
painful scene when he had hopefully told of his
love, only to be met with her own shocked
repudiation. For long weeks after that, his face had
haunted her. She had wished, oh, so ardently,
that she could do something in some way to bring
him happiness. When, therefore, it had come to
her knowledge afterward that he was frequently
with his old friend, Alice Greggory, she had been
so glad. It was very easy then to fan hope into
conviction that here, in this old friend, he had
found sweet balm for his wounded heart; and she
determined at once to do all that she could do to
help. So very glowing, indeed, was her eagerness
in the matter, that it looked suspiciously as if she
thought, could she but bring this thing about,
that old scores against herself would be erased.
Billy told herself, virtuously, however, that
not only for Arkwright did she desire this marriage
to take place, but for Alice Greggory. In
the very nature of things Alice would one day be
left alone. She was poor, and not very strong.
She sorely needed the shielding love and care of a
good husband. What more natural than that her
old-time friend and almost-sweetheart, M. J.
Arkwright, should be that good husband?
That really it was more Arkwright and less
Alice that was being considered, however, was
proved when the devotion of Calderwell began to
be first suspected, then known for a fact. Billy's
distress at this turn of affairs indicated very
plainly that it was not just a husband, but a
certain one particular husband that she desired
for Alice Greggory. All the more disturbed was
she, therefore, when to-day, seeing her three
friends together again for the first time for some
weeks, she discovered increased evidence that her
worst fears were to be realized. It was to be
Alice and Calderwell, not Alice and Arkwright.
Arkwright was again to be disappointed in his
dearest hopes.
Telling herself indignantly that it could not
be, it _should_ not be, Billy determined to remain
after the men had gone, and speak to Alice. Just
what she would say she did not know. Even
what she could say, she was not sure. But
certainly there must be something, some little thing
that she could say, which would open Alice's eyes
to what she was doing, and what she ought to
It was in this frame of mind, therefore, that
Billy, after Arkwright and Calderwell had gone,
spoke to Alice. She began warily, with assumed
``I believe Mr. Arkwright sings better every
time I hear him.''
There was no answer. Alice was sorting music
at the piano.
``Don't you think so?'' Billy raised her voice
a little.
Alice turned almost with a start.
``What's that? Oh, yes. Well, I don't know;
maybe I do.''
``You would--if you didn't hear him any
oftener than I do,'' laughed Billy. ``But then,
of course you do hear him oftener.''
``I? Oh, no, indeed. Not so very much
oftener.'' Alice had turned back to her music.
There was a slight embarrassment in her manner.
``I wonder--where--that new song--is,'' she
Billy, who knew very well where the song lay,
was not to be diverted.
``Nonsense! As if Mr. Arkwright wasn't
always telling how Alice liked this song, and didn't
like that one, and thought the other the best yet!
I don't believe he sings a thing that he doesn't
first sing to you. For that matter, I fancy he
asks your opinion of everything, anyway.''
``Why, Billy, he doesn't!'' exclaimed Alice, a
deep red flaming into her cheeks. ``You know he
Billy laughed gleefully. She had not been slow
to note the color in her friend's face, or to ascribe
to it the one meaning she wished to ascribe to it.
So sure, indeed, was she now that her fears had
been groundless, that she flung caution to the
``Ho! My dear Alice, you can't expect us all
to be blind,'' she teased. ``Besides, we all think
it's such a lovely arrangement that we're just
glad to see it. He's such a fine fellow, and we like
him so much! We couldn't ask for a better husband
for you than Mr. Arkwright, and--'' From
sheer amazement at the sudden white horror
in Alice Greggory's face, Billy stopped short.
``Why, Alice!'' she faltered then.
With a visible effort Alice forced her trembling
lips to speak.
``My husband--_Mr. Arkwright!_ Why, Billy,
you couldn't have seen--you haven't seen--
there's nothing you _could_ see! He isn't--he
wasn't--he can't be! We--we're nothing but
friends, Billy, just good friends!''
Billy, though dismayed, was still not quite
``Friends! Nonsense! When--''
But Alice interrupted feverishly. Alice, in an
agony of fear lest the true state of affairs should
be suspected, was hiding behind a bulwark of
``Now, Billy, please! Say no more. You're
quite wrong, entirely. You'll never, never hear of
my marrying Mr. Arkwright. As I said before,
we're friends--the best of friends; that is all.
We couldn't be anything else, possibly!''
Billy, plainly discomfited, fell back; but she
threw a sharp glance into her friend's flushed
``You mean--because of--Hugh Calderwell?''
she demanded. Then, for the second time
that afternoon throwing discretion to the winds,
she went on plaintively: ``You won't listen, of
course. Girls in love never do. Hugh is all right,
and I like him; but there's more real solid worth
in Mr. Arkwright's little finger than there is in
Hugh's whole self. And--'' But a merry peal
of laughter from Alice Greggory interrupted.
``And, pray, do you think I'm in love with
Hugh Calderwell?'' she demanded. There was
a curious note of something very like relief in her
``Well, I didn't know,'' began Billy, uncertainly.
``Then I'll tell you now,'' smiled Alice. ``I'm
not. Furthermore, perhaps it's just as well that
you should know right now that I don't intend
to marry--ever.''
``Oh, Alice!''
``No.'' There was determination, and there
was still that curious note of relief in the girl's
voice. It was as if, somewhere, a great danger
had been avoided. ``I have my music. That is
enough. I'm not intending to marry.''
``Oh, but Alice, while I will own up I'm glad it
isn't Hugh Calderwell, there _is_ Mr. Arkwright,
and I did hope--'' But Alice shook her head
and turned resolutely away. At that moment,
too, Aunt Hannah came in from the street, so
Billy could say no more.
Aunt Hannah dropped herself a little wearily
into a chair.
``I've just come from Marie's,'' she said.
``How is she?'' asked Billy.
Aunt Hannah smiled, and raised her eyebrows.
``Well, just now she's quite exercised over
another rattle--from her cousin out West, this
time. There were four little silver bells on it,
and she hasn't got any janitor's wife now to give
it to.''
Billy laughed softly, but Aunt Hannah had
more to say.
``You know she isn't going to allow any toys
but Teddy bears and woolly lambs, of which, I
believe, she has already bought quite an assortment.
She says they don't rattle or squeak. I
declare, when I see the woolen pads and rubber
hushers that that child has put everywhere all
over the house, I don't know whether to laugh
or cry. And she's so worried! It seems Cyril
must needs take just this time to start composing
a new opera or symphony, or something; and
never before has she allowed him to be interrupted
by anything on such an occasion. But what he'll
do when the baby comes she says she doesn't
know, for she says she can't--she just can't keep
it from bothering him some, she's afraid. As if
any opera or symphony that ever lived was of
more consequence than a man's own child!''
finished Aunt Hannah, with an indignant sniff, as
she reached for her shawl.
It was early in the forenoon of the first day of
July that Eliza told her mistress that Mrs.
Stetson was asking for her at the telephone. Eliza's
face was not a little troubled.
``I'm afraid, maybe, it isn't good news,'' she
stammered, as her mistress hurriedly arose.
``She's at Mr. Cyril Henshaw's--Mrs. Stetson
is--and she seemed so terribly upset about something
that there was no making real sense out of
what she said. But she asked for you, and said
to have you come quick.''
Billy, her own face paling, was already at the
``Yes, Aunt Hannah. What is it?''
``Oh, my grief and conscience, Billy, if you
_can_, come up here, please. You must come!
_Can't_ you come?''
``Why, yes, of course. But--but--_Marie!_
The--the _baby!_''
A faint groan came across the wires.
``Oh, my grief and conscience, Billy! It isn't
_the_ baby. It's _babies!_ It's twins--boys. Cyril
has them now--the nurse hasn't got here yet.''
``Twins! _Cyril_ has them!'' broke in Billy,
``Yes, and they're crying something terrible.
We've sent for a second nurse to come, too, of
course, but she hasn't got here yet, either. And
those babies--if you could hear them! That's
what we want you for, to--''
But Billy was almost laughing now.
``All right, I'll come out--and hear them,''
she called a bit wildly, as she hung up the receiver.
Some little time later, a palpably nervous maid
admitted Billy to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Cyril
Henshaw. Even as the door was opened, Billy
heard faintly, but unmistakably, the moaning
wails of two infants.
``Mrs. Stetson says if you will please to help
Mr. Henshaw with the babies,'' stammered the
maid, after the preliminary questions and
answers. ``I've been in when I could, and they're
all right, only they're crying. They're in his den.
We had to put them as far away as possible--
their crying worried Mrs. Henshaw so.''
``Yes, I see,'' murmured Billy. ``I'll go to
them at once. No, don't trouble to come. I
know the way. Just tell Mrs. Stetson I'm here,
please,'' she finished, as she tossed her hat and
gloves on to the hall table, and turned to go upstairs.
Billy's feet made no sound on the soft rugs.
The crying, however, grew louder and louder as
she approached the den. Softly she turned the
knob and pushed open the door. She stopped
short, then, at what she saw.
Cyril had not heard her, nor seen her. His
back was partly toward the door. His coat was
off, and his hair stood fiercely on end as if a
nervous hand had ruffled it. His usually pale face
was very red, and his forehead showed great drops
of perspiration. He was on his feet, hovering
over the couch, at each end of which lay a rumpled
roll of linen, lace, and flannel, from which emerged
a prodigiously puckered little face, two uncertainly
waving rose-leaf fists, and a wail of protesting
rage that was not uncertain in the least.
In one hand Cyril held a Teddy bear, in the
other his watch, dangling from its fob chain.
Both of these he shook feebly, one after the other,
above the tiny faces.
``Oh, come, come, pretty baby, good baby,
hush, hush,'' he begged agitatedly.
In the doorway Billy clapped her hands to her
lips and stifled a laugh. Billy knew, of course,
that what she should do was to go forward at
once, and help this poor, distracted man; but
Billy, just then, was not doing what she knew
she ought to do.
With a muttered ejaculation (which Billy, to
her sorrow, could not catch) Cyril laid down the
watch and flung the Teddy bear aside. Then, in
very evident despair, he gingerly picked up one
of the rumpled rolls of flannel, lace, and linen,
and held it straight out before him. After a
moment's indecision he began awkwardly to jounce
it, teeter it, rock it back and forth, and to pat it
``Oh, come, come, pretty baby, good baby,
hush, hush,'' he begged again, frantically.
Perhaps it was the change of position; perhaps
it was the novelty of the motion, perhaps it was
only utter weariness, or lack of breath. Whatever
the cause, the wailing sobs from the bundle
in his arms dwindled suddenly to a gentle whisper,
then ceased altogether.
With a ray of hope illuminating his drawn
countenance, Cyril carefully laid the baby down and
picked up the other. Almost confidently now he
began the jouncing and teetering and rocking
as before.
``There, there! Oh, come, come, pretty baby,
good baby, hush, hush,'' he chanted again.
This time he was not so successful. Perhaps
he had lost his skill. Perhaps it was merely the
world-old difference in babies. At all events, this
infant did not care for jerks and jounces, and
showed it plainly by emitting loud and yet louder
wails of rage--wails in which his brother on the
couch speedily joined.
``Oh, come, come, pretty baby, good baby,
hush, hush--_confound it_, HUSH, I say!'' exploded
the frightened, weary, baffled, distracted man,
picking up the other baby, and trying to hold
both his sons at once.
Billy hurried forward then, tearfully, remorsefully,
her face all sympathy, her arms all tenderness.
``Here, Cyril, let me help you,'' she cried.
Cyril turned abruptly.
``Thank God, _some_ one's come,'' he groaned,
holding out both the babies, with an exuberance
of generosity. ``Billy, you've saved my life!''
Billy laughed tremulously.
``Yes, I've come, Cyril, and I'll help every bit
I can; but I don't know a thing--not a single
thing about them myself. Dear me, aren't they
cunning? But, Cyril, do they always cry so?''
The father-of-an-hour drew himself stiffly erect.
``Cry? What do you mean? Why shouldn't
they cry?'' he demanded indignantly. ``I want
you to understand that Doctor Brown said those
were A number I fine boys! Anyhow, I guess
there's no doubt they've got lungs all right,'' he
added, with a grim smile, as he pulled out his
handkerchief and drew it across his perspiring
Billy did not have an opportunity to show Cyril
how much or how little she knew about babies,
for in another minute the maid had appeared
with the extra nurse; and that young woman,
with trained celerity and easy confidence,
assumed instant command, and speedily had peace
and order restored.
Cyril, freed from responsibility, cast longing
eyes, for a moment, upon his work; but the next
minute, with a despairing glance about him, he
turned and fled precipitately.
Billy, following the direction of his eyes,
suppressed a smile. On the top of Cyril's manuscript
music on the table lay a hot-water bottle. Draped
over the back of his favorite chair was a pinkbordered
baby blanket. On the piano-stool rested
a beribboned and beruffled baby's toilet basket.
From behind the sofa pillow leered ridiculously
the Teddy bear, just as it had left Cyril's
desperate hand.
No wonder, indeed, that Billy smiled. Billy
was thinking of what Marie had said not a week
``I shall keep the baby, of course, in the nursery.
I've been in homes where they've had baby
things strewn from one end of the house to the
other; but it won't be that way here. In the first
place, I don't believe in it; but, even if I did, I'd
have to be careful on account of Cyril. Imagine
Cyril's trying to write his music with a baby in
the room! No! I shall keep the baby in the
nursery, if possible; but wherever it is, it won't
be anywhere near Cyril's den, anyway.''
Billy suppressed many a smile during the days
that immediately followed the coming of the
twins. Some of the smiles, however, refused to
be suppressed. They became, indeed, shamelessly
audible chuckles.
Billy was to sail the tenth, and, naturally,
during those early July days, her time was pretty
much occupied with her preparations for departure;
but nothing could keep her from frequent,
though short, visits to the home of her brotherin-
The twins were proving themselves to be fine,
healthy boys. Two trained maids, and two
trained nurses ruled the household with a rod of
iron. As to Cyril--Billy declared that Cyril
was learning something every day of his life now.
``Oh, yes, he's learning things,'' she said to
Aunt Hannah, one morning; ``lots of things.
For instance: he has his breakfast now, not when
he wants it, but when the maid wants to give it
to him--which is precisely at eight o'clock every
morning. So he's learning punctuality. And for
the first time in his life he has discovered the
astounding fact that there are several things
more important in the world than is the special
piece of music he happens to be composing--
chiefly the twins' bath, the twins' nap, the twins'
airing, and the twins' colic.''
Aunt Hannah laughed, though she frowned,
``But, surely, Billy, with two nurses and the
maids, Cyril doesn't have to--to--'' She
came to a helpless pause.
``Oh, no,'' laughed Billy; ``Cyril doesn't have
to really attend to any of those things--though
I have seen each of the nurses, at different times,
unhesitatingly thrust a twin into his arms and
bid him hold the child till she comes back. But
it's this way. You see, Marie must be kept quiet,
and the nursery is very near her room. It worries
her terribly when either of the children cries.
Besides, the little rascals have apparently fixed up
some sort of labor-union compact with each other,
so that if one cries for something or nothing, the
other promptly joins in and helps. So the nurses
have got into the habit of picking up the first
disturber of the peace, and hurrying him to
quarters remote; and Cyril's den being the most
remote of all, they usually fetch up there.''
``You mean--they take those babies into
Cyril's den--_now_?'' Even Aunt Hannah was
plainly aghast.
``Yes,'' twinkled Billy. ``I fancy their
Hygienic Immaculacies approved of Cyril's bare
floors, undraped windows, and generally knickknackless
condition. Anyhow, they've made his
den a sort of--of annex to the nursery.''
``But--but Cyril! What does he say?''
stammered the dumfounded Aunt Hannah. ``Think
of Cyril's standing a thing like that! Doesn't he
do anything--or say anything?''
Billy smiled, and lifted her brows quizzically.
``My dear Aunt Hannah, did you ever know
_many_ people to have the courage to `say things'
to one of those becapped, beaproned, bespotless
creatures of loftily superb superiority known as
trained nurses? Besides, you wouldn't recognize
Cyril now. Nobody would. He's as meek as
Moses, and has been ever since his two young sons
were laid in his reluctant, trembling arms. He
breaks into a cold sweat at nothing, and moves
about his own home as if he were a stranger and
an interloper, endured merely on sufferance in
this abode of strange women and strange babies.''
``Nonsense!'' scoffed Aunt Hannah.
``But it's so,'' maintained Billy, merrily.
``Now, for instance. You know Cyril always
has been in the habit of venting his moods on the
piano (just as I do, only more so) by playing
exactly as he feels. Well, as near as I can gather,
he was at his usual trick the next day after the
twins arrived; and you can imagine about what
sort of music it would be, after what he had been
through the preceding forty-eight hours.
``Of course I don't know exactly what
happened, but Julia--Marie's second maid, you
know--tells the story. She's been with them
long enough to know something of the way the
whole household always turns on the pivot of
the master's whims; so she fully appreciated the
situation. She says she heard him begin to play,
and that she never heard such queer, creepy,
shivery music in her life; but that he hadn't been
playing five minutes before one of the nurses
came into the living-room where Julia was dusting,
and told her to tell whoever was playing to
stop that dreadful noise, as they wanted to take
the twins in there for their nap.
`` `But I didn't do it, ma'am,' Julia says. `I
wa'n't lookin' for losin' my place, an' I let the
young woman do the job herself. An' she done
it, pert as you please. An' jest as I was seekin'
a hidin'-place for the explosion, if Mr. Henshaw
didn't come out lookin' a little wild, but as meek
as a lamb; an' when he sees me he asked wouldn't
I please get him a cup of coffee, good an' strong.
An' I got it.'
``So you see,'' finished Billy, ``Cyril is
learning things--lots of things.''
``Oh, my grief and conscience! I should say
he was,'' half-shivered Aunt Hannah. ``_Cyril_
looking meek as a lamb, indeed!''
Billy laughed merrily.
``Well, it must be a new experience--for
Cyril. For a man whose daily existence for years
has been rubber-heeled and woolen-padded, and
whose family from boyhood has stood at attention
and saluted if he so much as looked at them,
it must be quite a change, as things are now.
However, it'll be different, of course, when Marie
is on her feet again.''
``Does she know at all how things are going?''
``Not very much, as yet, though I believe she
has begun to worry some. She confided to me
one day that she was glad, of course, that she
had two darling babies, instead of one; but
that she was afraid it might be hard, just at first,
to teach them both at once to be quiet; for
she was afraid that while she was teaching one,
the other would be sure to cry, or do something
``Do something noisy, indeed!'' ejaculated
Aunt Hannah.
``As for the real state of affairs, Marie doesn't
dream that Cyril's sacred den is given over to
Teddy bears and baby blankets. All is, I hope
she'll be measurably strong before she does find
it out,'' laughed Billy, as she rose to go.
William came back from his business trip the
eighth of July, and on the ninth Billy and Bertram
went to New York. Eliza's mother was so
well now that Eliza had taken up her old quarters
in the Strata, and the household affairs were
once more running like clockwork. Later in the
season William would go away for a month's
fishing trip, and the house would be closed.
Mr. and Mrs. Bertram Henshaw were not
expected to return until the first of October; but
with Eliza to look after the comfort of William,
the mistress of the house did no worrying. Ever
since Pete's going, Eliza had said that she
preferred to be the only maid, with a charwoman to
come in for the heavier work; and to this arrangement
her mistress had willingly consented, for the
Marie and the babies were doing finely, and
Aunt Hannah's health, and affairs at the Annex,
were all that could be desired. As Billy, indeed,
saw it, there was only one flaw to mar her perfect
content on this holiday trip with Bertram, and
that was her disappointment over the very evident
disaster that had come to her cherished
matrimonial plans for Arkwright and Alice
Greggory. She could not forget Arkwright's face that
day at the Annex, when she had so foolishly called
his attention to Calderwell's devotion; and she
could not forget, either, Alice Greggory's very
obvious perturbation a little later, and her
suspiciously emphatic assertion that she had no
intention of marrying any one, certainly not
Arkwright. As Billy thought of all this now, she
could not but admit that it did look dark for
Arkwright--poor Arkwright, whom she, more
than any one else in the world, perhaps, had a
special reason for wishing to see happily married.
There was, then, this one cloud on Billy's
horizon as the big boat that was to bear her across
the water steamed down the harbor that beautiful
July day.
As it chanced, naturally, perhaps, not only was
Billy thinking of Arkwright that morning, but
Arkwright was thinking of Billy.
Arkwright had thought frequently of Billy
during the last few days, particularly since that
afternoon meeting at the Annex when the four
had renewed their old good times together. Up
to that day Arkwright had been trying not to
think of Billy. He had been ``fighting his tiger
skin.'' Sternly he had been forcing himself to
meet her, to see her, to talk with her, to sing with
her, or to pass her by--all with the indifference
properly expected to be shown in association with
Mrs. Bertram Henshaw, another man's wife. He
had known, of course, that deep down in his heart
he loved her, always had loved her, and always
would love her. Hopelessly and drearily he
accepted this as a fact even while with all his might
fighting that tiger skin. So sure was he, indeed,
of this, so implicitly had he accepted it as an
unalterable certainty, that in time even his efforts
to fight it became almost mechanical and unconscious
in their stern round of forced indifference.
Then came that day at the Annex--and the
discovery: the discovery which he had made
when Billy called his attention to Calderwell and
Alice Greggory across the room in the corner;
the discovery which had come with so blinding a
force, and which even now he was tempted to
question as to its reality; the discovery that not
Billy Neilson, nor Mrs. Bertram Henshaw, nor
even the tender ghost of a lost love held the
center of his heart--but Alice Greggory.
The first intimation of all this had come with
his curious feeling of unreasoning hatred and
blind indignation toward Calderwell as, through
Billy's eyes, he had seen the two together. Then
had come the overwhelming longing to pick up
Alice Greggory and run off with her--somewhere,
anywhere, so that Calderwell could not follow.
At once, however, he had pulled himself up
short with the mental cry of ``Absurd!'' What
was it to him if Calderwell did care for Alice
Greggory? Surely he himself was not in love
with the girl. He was in love with Billy; that
It was all confusion then, in his mind, and he
was glad indeed when he could leave the house.
He wanted to be alone. He wanted to think.
He must, in some way, thrash out this astounding
thing that had come to him.
Arkwright did not visit the Annex again for
some days. Until he was more nearly sure of
himself and of his feelings, he did not wish to see
Alice Greggory. It was then that he began to
think of Billy, deliberately, purposefully, for it
must be, of course, that he had made a mistake,
he told himself. It must be that he did, really,
still care for Billy--though of course he ought
not to.
Arkwright made another discovery then. He
learned that, however deliberately he started in
to think of Billy, he ended every time in thinking
of Alice. He thought of how good she had been
to him, and of how faithful she had been in helping
him to fight his love for Billy. Just here he
decided, for a moment, that probably, after all,
his feeling of anger against Calderwell was merely
the fear of losing this helpful comradeship that
he so needed. Even with himself, however, Arkwright
could not keep up this farce long, and very
soon he admitted miserably that it was not the
comradeship of Alice Greggory that he wanted or
needed, but the love.
He knew it now. No longer was there any use
in beating about the bush. He did love Alice
Greggory; but so curiously and unbelievably
stupid had he been that he had not found it out
until now. And now it was too late. Had not
even Billy called his attention to the fact of
Calderwell's devotion? Besides, had not he himself,
at the very first, told Calderwell that he
might have a clear field?
Fool that he had been to let another thus lightly
step in and win from under his very nose what
might have been his if he had but known his own
mind before it was too late!
But was it, after all, quite too late? He and
Alice were old friends. Away back in their young
days in their native town they had been, indeed,
almost sweethearts, in a boy-and-girl fashion.
It would not have taken much in those days, he
believed, to have made the relationship more
interesting. But changes had come. Alice had
left town, and for years they had drifted apart.
Then had come Billy, and Billy had found Alice,
thus bringing about the odd circumstance of their
renewing of acquaintanceship. Perhaps, at that
time, if he had not already thought he cared for
Billy, there would have been something more
than acquaintanceship.
But he _had_ thought he cared for Billy all these
years; and now, at this late day, to wake up and
find that he cared for Alice! A pretty mess he
had made of things! Was he so inconstant then,
so fickle? Did he not know his own mind five
minutes at a time? What would Alice Greggory
think, even if he found the courage to tell her?
What could she think? What could anybody
Arkwright fairly ground his teeth in impotent
wrath--and he did not know whether he were
the most angry that he did not love Billy, or that
he had loved Billy, or that he loved somebody else
It was while he was in this unenviable frame of
mind that he went to see Alice. Not that he had
planned definitely to speak to her of his discovery,
nor yet that he had planned not to. He had,
indeed, planned nothing. For a man usually so
decided as to purpose and energetic as to action,
he was in a most unhappy state of uncertainty
and changeableness. One thing only was unmistakably
clear to him, and that was that he must
see Alice.
For months, now, he had taken to Alice all his
hopes and griefs, perplexities and problems; and
never had he failed to find comfort in the shape
of sympathetic understanding and wise counsel.
To Alice, therefore, now he turned as a matter of
course, telling himself vaguely that, perhaps,
after he had seen Alice, he would feel better.
Just how intimately this particular problem of
his concerned Alice herself, he did not stop to
realize. He did not, indeed, think of it at all from
Alice's standpoint--until he came face to face
with the girl in the living-room at the Annex.
Then, suddenly, he did. His manner became at
once, consequently, full of embarrassment and
quite devoid of its usual frank friendliness.
As it happened, this was perhaps the most
unfortunate thing that could have occurred, so far
as it concerned the attitude of Alice Greggory,
for thereby innumerable tiny sparks of suspicion
that had been tormenting the girl for days were
instantly fanned into consuming flames of conviction.
Alice had not been slow to note Arkwright's
prolonged absence from the Annex. Coming as
it did so soon after her most disconcerting talk
with Billy in regard to her own relations with
him, it had filled her with frightened questionings.
If Billy had seen things to make her think of
linking their names together, perhaps Arkwright
himself had heard some such idea put forth
somewhere, and that was why he was staying
away--to show the world that there was no
foundation for such rumors. Perhaps he was
even doing it to show _her_ that--
Even in her thoughts Alice could scarcely
bring herself to finish the sentence. That Arkwright
should ever suspect for a moment that
she cared for him was intolerable. Painfully
conscious as she was that she did care for him,
it was easy to fear that others must be conscious
of it, too. Had she not already proof that Billy
suspected it? Why, then, might not it be quite
possible, even probable, that Arkwright suspected
it, also; and, because he did suspect it, had
decided that it would be just as well, perhaps, if
he did not call so often.
In spite of Alice's angry insistence to herself
that, after all, this could not be the case--
that the man _knew_ she understood he still loved
Billy--she could not help fearing, in the face
of Arkwright's unusual absence, that it might
yet be true. When, therefore, he finally did
appear, only to become at once obviously embarrassed
in her presence, her fears instantly became
convictions. It was true, then. The man
did believe she cared for him, and he had been
trying to teach her--to save her.
To teach her! To save her, indeed! Very
well, he should see! And forthwith, from that
moment, Alice Greggory's chief reason for living
became to prove to Mr. M. J. Arkwright that
he needed not to teach her, to save her, nor yet
to sympathize with her.
``How do you do?'' she greeted him, with a
particularly bright smile. ``I'm sure I _hope_ you
are well, such a beautiful day as this.''
``Oh, yes, I'm well, I suppose. Still, I have
felt better in my life,'' smiled Arkwright, with
some constraint.
``Oh, I'm sorry,'' murmured the girl, striving
so hard to speak with impersonal unconcern that
she did not notice the inaptness of her reply.
``Eh? Sorry I've felt better, are you?''
retorted Arkwright, with nervous humor. Then,
because he was embarrassed, he said the one
thing he had meant not to say: ``Don't you think
I'm quite a stranger? It's been some time since
I've been here.''
Alice, smarting under the sting of what she
judged to be the only possible cause for his
embarrassment, leaped to this new opportunity to
show her lack of interest.
``Oh, has it?'' she murmured carelessly.
``Well, I don't know but it has, now that I come
to think of it.''
Arkwright frowned gloomily. A week ago he
would have tossed back a laughingly aggrieved
remark as to her unflattering indifference to his
presence. Now he was in no mood for such
joking. It was too serious a matter with him.
``You've been busy, no doubt, with--other
matters,'' he presumed forlornly, thinking of
``Yes, I have been busy,'' assented the girl.
``One is always happier, I think, to be busy.
Not that I meant that I needed the work to _be_
happy,'' she added hastily, in a panic lest he
think she had a consuming sorrow to kill.
``No, of course not,'' he murmured abstractedly,
rising to his feet and crossing the room to
the piano. Then, with an elaborate air of trying
to appear very natural, he asked jovially:
``Anything new to play to me?''
Alice arose at once.
``Yes. I have a little nocturne that I was
playing to Mr. Calderwell last night.''
``Oh, to Calderwell!'' Arkwright had stiffened
``Yes. _He_ didn't like it. I'll play it to you
and see what you say,'' she smiled, seating herself
at the piano.
``Well, if he had liked it, it's safe to say I
shouldn't,'' shrugged Arkwright.
``Nonsense!'' laughed the girl, beginning to
appear more like her natural self. ``I should
think you were Mr. Cyril Henshaw! Mr. Calderwell
_is_ partial to ragtime, I'll admit. But there
are some good things he likes.''
``There are, indeed, _some_ good things he likes,''
returned Arkwright, with grim emphasis, his
somber eyes fixed on what he believed to be the
one especial object of Calderwell's affections at
the moment.
Alice, unaware both of the melancholy gaze
bent upon herself and of the cause thereof,
laughed again merrily.
``Poor Mr. Calderwell,'' she cried, as she let her
fingers slide into soft, introductory chords. ``He
isn't to blame for not liking what he calls our lost
spirits that wail. It's just the way he's made.''
Arkwright vouchsafed no reply. With an
abrupt gesture he turned and began to pace the
room moodily. At the piano Alice slipped from
the chords into the nocturne. She played it
straight through, then, with a charm and skill
that brought Arkwright's feet to a pause before
it was half finished.
``By George, that's great!'' he breathed, when
the last tone had quivered into silence.
``Yes, isn't it--beautiful?'' she murmured.
The room was very quiet, and in semi-darkness.
The last rays of a late June sunset had been filling
the room with golden light, but it was gone now.
Even at the piano by the window, Alice had barely
been able to see clearly enough to read the notes
of her nocturne.
To Arkwright the air still trembled with the
exquisite melody that had but just left her fingers.
A quick fire came to his eyes. He forgot everything
but that it was Alice there in the half-light
by the window--Alice, whom he loved. With a
low cry he took a swift step toward her.
Instantly the girl was on her feet. But it was
not toward him that she turned. It was away--
resolutely, and with a haste that was strangely
like terror.
Alice, too, had forgotten, for just a moment.
She had let herself drift into a dream world where
there was nothing but the music she was playing
and the man she loved. Then the music had
stopped, and the man had spoken her name.
Alice remembered then. She remembered Billy,
whom this man loved. She remembered the long
days just passed when this man had stayed away,
presumably to teach _her_--to save _her_. And
now, at the sound of his voice speaking her name,
she had almost bared her heart to him.
No wonder that Alice, with a haste that looked
like terror, crossed the floor and flooded the room
with light.
``Dear me!'' she shivered, carefully avoiding
Arkwright's eyes. ``If Mr. Calderwell were here
now he'd have some excuse to talk about our lost
spirits that wail. That _is_ a creepy piece of music
when you play it in the dark!'' And, for fear
that he should suspect how her heart was aching,
she gave a particularly brilliant and joyous smile.
Once again at the mention of Calderwell's name
Arkwright stiffened perceptibly. The fire left
his eyes. For a moment he did not speak; then,
gravely, he said:
``Calderwell? Yes, perhaps he would; and--
you ought to be a judge, I should think. You see
him quite frequently, don't you?''
``Why, yes, of course. He often comes out
here, you know.''
``Yes; I had heard that he did--since _you_
His meaning was unmistakable. Alice looked
up quickly. A prompt denial of his implication
was on her lips when the thought came to her
that perhaps just here lay a sure way to prove to
this man before her that there was, indeed, no
need for him to teach her, to save her, or yet to
sympathize with her. She could not affirm, of
course; but she need not deny--yet.
``Nonsense!'' she laughed lightly, pleased that
she could feel what she hoped would pass for a
telltale color burning her cheeks. ``Come, let
us try some duets,'' she proposed, leading the
way to the piano. And Arkwright, interpreting
the apparently embarrassed change of subject
exactly as she had hoped that he would interpret
it, followed her, sick at heart.
`` `O wert thou in the cauld blast,' '' sang
Arkwright's lips a few moments later.
``I can't tell her now--when I _know_ she cares
for Calderwell,'' gloomily ran his thoughts, the
while. ``It would do no possible good, and would
only make her unhappy to grieve me.''
`` `O wert thou in the cauld blast,' '' chimed
in Alice's alto, low and sweet.
``I reckon now he won't be staying away from
here any more just to _save_ me!'' ran Alice's
thoughts, palpitatingly triumphant.
Arkwright did not call to see Alice Greggory
for some days. He did not want to see Alice now.
He told himself wearily that she could not help
him fight this tiger skin that lay across his path,
The very fact of her presence by his side would,
indeed, incapacitate himself for fighting. So he
deliberately stayed away from the Annex until
the day before he sailed for Germany. Then he
went out to say good-by.
Chagrined as he was at what he termed his
imbecile stupidity in not knowing his own heart all
these past months, and convinced, as he also was,
that Alice and Calderwell cared for each other,
he could see no way for him but to play the part
of a man of kindliness and honor, leaving a clear
field for his preferred rival, and bringing no
shadow of regret to mar the happiness of the girl
he loved.
As for being his old easy, frank self on this last
call, however, that was impossible; so Alice found
plenty of fuel for her still burning fires of
suspicion--fires which had, indeed, blazed up anew
at this second long period of absence on the part
of Arkwright. Naturally, therefore, the call was
anything but a joy and comfort to either one.
Arkwright was nervous, gloomy, and abnormally
gay by turns. Alice was nervous and abnormally
gay all the time. Then they said good-by and
Arkwright went away. He sailed the next day,
and Alice settled down to the summer of study
and hard work she had laid out for herself.
On the tenth of September Billy came home.
She was brown, plump-cheeked, and smiling. She
declared that she had had a perfectly beautiful
time, and that there couldn't be anything in the
world nicer than the trip she and Bertram had
taken--just they two together. In answer to
Aunt Hannah's solicitous inquiries, she asserted
that she was all well and rested now. But there
was a vaguely troubled questioning in her eyes
that Aunt Hannah did not quite like. Aunt
Hannah, however, said nothing even to Billy
herself about this.
One of the first friends Billy saw after her return
was Hugh Calderwell. As it happened Bertram
was out when he came, so Billy had the first halfhour
of the call to herself. She was not sorry for
this, as it gave her a chance to question Calderwell
a little concerning Alice Greggory--something
she had long ago determined to do at the
first opportunity.
``Now tell me everything--everything about
everybody,'' she began diplomatically, settling
herself comfortably for a good visit.
``Thank you, I'm well, and have had a
passably agreeable summer, barring the heat, sundry
persistent mosquitoes, several grievous disappointments,
and a felon on my thumb,'' he began, with
shameless imperturbability. ``I have been to
Revere once, to the circus once, to Nantasket
three times, and to Keith's and the `movies' ten
times, perhaps--to be accurate. I have also--
But perhaps there was some one else you desired
to inquire for,'' he broke off, turning upon
his hostess a bland but unsmiling countenance.
``Oh, no, how could there be?'' twinkled Billy.
``Really, Hugh, I always knew you had a pretty
good opinion of yourself, but I didn't credit you
with thinking you were _everybody_. Go on. I'm
so interested!''
Hugh chuckled softly; but there was a plaintive
tone in his voice as he answered.
``Thanks, no. I've rather lost my interest
now. Lack of appreciation always did discourage
me. We'll talk of something else, please. You
enjoyed your trip?''
``Very much. It just couldn't have been
``You were lucky. The heat here has been
something fierce!''
``What made you stay?''
``Reasons too numerous, and one too heartbreaking,
to mention. Besides, you forget,'' with
dignity. ``There is my profession. I have joined
the workers of the world now, you know.''
``Oh, fudge, Hugh!'' laughed Billy. ``You
know very well you're as likely as not to start
for the ends of the earth to-morrow morning!''
Hugh drew himself up.
``I don't seem to succeed in making people
understand that I'm serious,'' he began aggrievedly.
``I--'' With an expressive flourish
of his hands he relaxed suddenly, and fell back
in his chair. A slow smile came to his lips.
``Well, Billy, I'll give up. You've hit it,'' he
confessed. ``I _have_ thought seriously of starting tomorrow
morning for _half-way_ to the ends of the
``Well, I have. Even this call was to be a
good-by--if I went.''
``Oh, Hugh! But I really thought--in spite
of my teasing--that you had settled down, this
``Yes, so did I,'' sighed the man, a little soberly.
``But I guess it's no use, Billy. Oh, I'm coming
back, of course, and link arms again with their
worthy Highnesses, John Doe and Richard Roe;
but just now I've got a restless fit on me. I want
to see the wheels go 'round. Of course, if I had
my bread and butter and cigars to earn, 'twould
be different. But I haven't, and I know I haven't;
and I suspect that's where the trouble lies. If it
wasn't for those natal silver spoons of mine that
Bertram is always talking about, things might be
different. But the spoons are there, and always
have been; and I know they're all ready to dish
out mountains to climb and lakes to paddle in,
any time I've a mind to say the word. So--I
just say the word. That's all.''
``And you've said it now?''
``Yes, I think so; for a while.''
``And--those reasons that _have_ kept you here
all summer,'' ventured Billy, ``they aren't in--
er--commission any longer?''
Billy hesitated, regarding her companion
meditatively. Then, with the feeling that she had
followed a blind alley to its termination, she
retreated and made a fresh start.
``Well, you haven't yet told me everything
about everybody, you know,'' she hinted
smilingly. ``You might begin that--I mean the
less important everybodies, of course, now that
I've heard about you.''
``Oh, Aunt Hannah, and the Greggorys, and
Cyril and Marie, and the twins, and Mr. Arkwright,
and all the rest.''
``But you've had letters, surely.''
``Yes, I've had letters from some of them, and
I've seen most of them since I came back. It's
just that I wanted to know _your_ viewpoint of
what's happened through the summer.''
``Very well. Aunt Hannah is as dear as ever,
wears just as many shawls, and still keeps her
clock striking twelve when it's half-past eleven.
Mrs. Greggory is just as sweet as ever--and a
little more frail, I fear,--bless her heart! Mr.
Arkwright is still abroad, as I presume you know.
I hear he is doing great stunts over there, and
will sing in Berlin and Paris this winter. I'm
thinking of going across from Panama later. If
I do I shall look him up. Mr. and Mrs. Cyril
are as well as could be expected when you realize
that they haven't yet settled on a pair of names
for the twins.''
``I know it--and the poor little things three
months old, too! I think it's a shame. You've
heard the reason, I suppose. Cyril declares that
naming babies is one of the most serious and
delicate operations in the world, and that, for his
part, he thinks people ought to select their own
names when they've arrived at years of discretion.
He wants to wait till the twins are eighteen,
and then make each of them a birthday present
of the name of their own choosing.''
``Well, if that isn't the limit!'' laughed
Calderwell. ``I'd heard some such thing before, but
I hadn't supposed it was really so.''
``Well, it is. He says he knows more tomboys
and enormous fat women named `Grace' and
`Lily,' and sweet little mouse-like ladies staggering
along under a sonorous `Jerusha Theodosia'
or `Zenobia Jane'; and that if he should name
the boys `Franz' and `Felix' after Schubert
and Mendelssohn as Marie wants to, they'd as
likely as not turn out to be men who hated the
sound of music and doted on stocks and dry
``Humph!'' grunted Calderwell. ``I saw Cyril
last week, and he said he hadn't named the twins
yet, but he didn't tell me why. I offered him
two perfectly good names myself, but he didn't
seem interested.''
``What were they?''
``Eldad and Bildad.''
``Hugh!'' protested Billy.
``Well, why not?'' bridled the man. ``I'm
sure those are new and unique, and really musical,
too--'way ahead of your Franz and Felix.''
``But those aren't really names!''
``Indeed they are.''
``Where did you get them?''
``Off our family tree, though they're Bible
names, Belle says. Perhaps you didn't know, but
Sister Belle has been making the dirt fly quite
lively of late around that family tree of ours, and
she wrote me some of her discoveries. It seems
two of the roots, or branches--say, are ancestors
roots, or branches?--were called Eldad and
Bildad. Now I thought those names were good
enough to pass along, but, as I said before, Cyril
wasn't interested.''
``I should say not,'' laughed Billy. ``But,
honestly, Hugh, it's really serious. Marie wants
them named _something_, but she doesn't say much
to Cyril. Marie wouldn't really breathe, you
know, if she thought Cyril disapproved of breathing.
And in this case Cyril does not hesitate to
declare that the boys shall name themselves.''
``What a situation!'' laughed Calderwell.
``Isn't it? But, do you know, I can
sympathize with it, in a way, for I've always mourned
so over _my_ name. `Billy' was always such a
trial to me! Poor Uncle William wasn't the only
one that prepared guns and fishing rods to entertain
the expected boy. I don't know, though,
I'm afraid if I'd been allowed to select my name
I should have been a `Helen Clarabella' all my
days, for that was the name I gave all my dolls,
with `first,' `second,' `third,' and so on, added
to them for distinction. Evidently I thought that
`Helen Clarabella' was the most feminine
appellation possible, and the most foreign to the
despised `Billy.' So you see I can sympathize
with Cyril to a certain extent.''
``But they must call the little chaps _something_,
now,'' argued Hugh.
Billy gave a sudden merry laugh.
``They do,'' she gurgled, ``and that's the funniest
part of it. Oh, Cyril doesn't. He always calls
them impersonally `they' or `it.' He doesn't
see much of them anyway, now, I understand.
Marie was horrified when she realized how the
nurses had been using his den as a nursery annex
and she changed all that instanter, when she took
charge of things again. The twins stay in the
nursery now, I'm told. But about the names--
the nurses, it seems, have got into the way of
calling them `Dot' and `Dimple.' One has a
dimple in his cheek, and the other is a little smaller
of the two. Marie is no end distressed, particularly
as she finds that she herself calls them that;
and she says the idea of boys being `Dot' and
``I should say so,'' laughed Calderwell. ``Not
I regard that as worse than my `Eldad' and
`Bildad.' ''
``I know it, and Alice says-- By the way,
you haven't mentioned Alice, but I suppose you
see her occasionally.''
Billy paused in evident expectation of a reply.
Billy was, in fact, quite pluming herself on the
adroit casualness with which she had introduced
the subject nearest her heart.
Calderwell raised his eyebrows.
``Oh, yes, I see her.''
``But you hadn't mentioned her.''
There was the briefest of pauses; then with a
half-quizzical dejection, there came the remark:
``You seem to forget. I told you that I stayed
here this summer for reasons too numerous, and
one too heart-breaking, to mention. She was
the _one_.''
``You mean--''
``Yes. The usual thing. She turned me down.
Oh, I haven't asked her yet as many times as I
did you, but--''
Hugh tossed her a grim smile and went on
``I'm older now, of course, and know more,
perhaps. Besides, the finality of her remarks was
not to be mistaken.''
Billy, in spite of her sympathy for Calderwell,
was conscious of a throb of relief that at least one
stumbling-block was removed from Arkwright's
possible pathway to Alice's heart.
``Did she give any special reason?'' hazarded
Billy, a shade too anxiously.
``Oh, yes. She said she wasn't going to marry
anybody--only her music.''
``Nonsense!'' ejaculated Billy, falling back in
her chair a little.
``Yes, I said that, too,'' gloomed the man;
``but it didn't do any good. You see, I had
known another girl who'd said the same thing
once.'' (He did not look up, but a vivid red
flamed suddenly into Billy's cheeks.) ``And she
--when the right one came--forgot all about
the music, and married the man. So I naturally
suspected that Alice would do the same thing.
In fact, I said so to her. I was bold enough to
even call the man by name--I hadn't been
jealous of Arkwright for nothing, you see--but
she denied it, and flew into such an indignant
allegation that there wasn't a word of truth in it,
that I had to sue for pardon before I got
anything like peace.''
``Oh-h!'' said Billy, in a disappointed voice,
falling quite back in her chair this time.
``And so that's why I'm wanting especially
just now to see the wheels go 'round,'' smiled
Calderwell, a little wistfully. ``Oh, I shall get
over it, I suppose. It isn't the first time, I'll
own--but some day I take it there will be a last
time. Enough of this, however! You haven't
told me a thing about yourself. How about it?
When I come back, are you going to give me a
dinner cooked by your own fair hands? Going
to still play Bridget?''
Billy laughed and shook her head.
``No; far from it. Eliza has come back, and
her cousin from Vermont is coming as second girl
to help her. But I _could_ cook a dinner for you if
I had to now, sir, and it wouldn't be potato-mush
and cold lamb,'' she bragged shamelessly, as there
sounded Bertram's peculiar ring, and the click of
his key in the lock.
It was the next afternoon that Billy called on
Marie. From Marie's, Billy went to the Annex,
which was very near Cyril's new house; and there,
in Aunt Hannah's room, she had what she told
Bertram afterwards was a perfectly lovely visit.
Aunt Hannah, too, enjoyed the visit very much,
though yet there was one thing that disturbed
her--the vaguely troubled look in Billy's eyes,
which to-day was more apparent than ever. Not
until just before Billy went home did something
occur to give Aunt Hannah a possible clue as to
what was the meaning of it. That something
was a question from Billy.
``Aunt Hannah, why don't I feel like Marie
did? why don't I feel like everybody does in
books and stories? Marie went around with such
a detached, heavenly, absorbed look in her eyes,
before the twins came to her home. But I don't.
I don't find anything like that in my face, when I
look in the glass. And I don't feel detached and
absorbed and heavenly. I'm happy, of course;
but I can't help thinking of the dear, dear times
Bertram and I have together, just we two, and I
can't seem to imagine it at all with a third person
``Billy! _Third person_, indeed!''
``There! I knew 'twould shock you,'' mourned
Billy. It shocks me. I _want_ to feel detached
and heavenly and absorbed.''
``But Billy, dear, think of it--calling your
own baby a third person!''
Billy sighed despairingly.
``Yes, I know. And I suppose I might as well
own up to the rest of it too. I--I'm actually afraid
of babies, Aunt Hannah! Well, I am,'' she
reiterated, in answer to Aunt Hannah's gasp of
disapproval. ``I'm not used to them at all. I never
had any little brothers and sisters, and I don't
know how to treat babies. I--I'm always afraid
they'll break, or something. I'm just as afraid
of the twins as I can be. How Marie can handle
them, and toss them about as she does, I don't
``Toss them about, indeed!''
``Well, it looks that way to me,'' sighed Billy.
``Anyhow, I know I can never get to handle them
like that--and that's no way to feel! And I'm
ashamed of myself because I _can't_ be detached
and heavenly and absorbed,'' she added, rising
to go. ``Everybody always is, it seems, but just
``Fiddlededee, my dear!'' scoffed Aunt Hannah,
patting Billy's downcast face. ``Wait till a
year from now, and we'll see about that thirdperson
bugaboo you're worrying about. _I'm_
not worrying now; so you'd better not!''
On the day Cyril Henshaw's twins were six
months old, a momentous occurrence marked the
date with a flaming red letter of remembrance;
and it all began with a baby's smile.
Cyril, in quest of his wife at about ten o'clock
that morning, and not finding her, pursued his
search even to the nursery--a room he very
seldom entered. Cyril did not like to go into the
nursery. He felt ill at ease, and as if he were
away from home--and Cyril was known to abhor
being away from home since he was married.
Now that Marie had taken over the reins of
government again, he had been obliged to see very
little of those strange women and babies. Not
but that he liked the babies, of course. They were
his sons, and he was proud of them. They should
have every advantage that college, special training,
and travel could give them. He quite
anticipated what they would be to him--when
they really knew anything. But, of course, _now_,
when they could do nothing but cry and wave
their absurd little fists, and wobble their heads
in so fearsome a manner, as if they simply did
not know the meaning of the word backbone--
and, for that matter, of course they didn't--
why, he could not be expected to be anything
but relieved when he had his den to himself again,
with a reasonable chance of finding his manuscript
as he had left it, and not cut up into a ridiculous
string of paper dolls holding hands, as he had
once found it, after a visit from a woman with a
small girl.
Since Marie had been at the helm, however,
he had not been troubled in such a way. He had,
indeed, known almost his old customary peace
and freedom from interruption, with only an
occasional flitting across his path of the strange
women and babies--though he had realized, of
course, that they were in the house, especially in
the nursery. For that reason, therefore, he always
avoided the nursery when possible. But to-day
he wanted his wife, and his wife was not to be
found anywhere else in the house. So, reluctantly,
he turned his steps toward the nursery, and, with
a frown, knocked and pushed open the door.
``Is Mrs. Henshaw here?'' he demanded, not
over gently.
Absolute silence greeted his question. The man
saw then that there was no one in the room save
a baby sitting on a mat in the middle of the floor,
barricaded on all sides with pillows.
With a deeper frown the man turned to go, when
a gleeful ``Ah--goo!'' halted his steps midway.
He wheeled sharply.
``Er--eh?'' he queried, uncertainly eyeing
his small son on the floor.
``Ah--goo!'' observed the infant (who had
been very lonesome), with greater emphasis; and
this time he sent into his father's eyes the most
bewitching of smiles.
``Well, by George!'' murmured the man,
weakly, a dawning amazement driving the frown
from his face.
``Spgggh--oo--wah!'' gurgled the boy, holding
out two tiny fists.
A slow smile came to the man's face.
``Well, I'll--be--darned,'' he muttered halfshamefacedly,
wholly delightedly. ``If the rascal
doesn't act as if he--knew me!''
``Ah--goo--spggghh!'' grinned the infant,
toothlessly, but entrancingly.
With almost a stealthy touch Cyril closed the
door back of him, and advanced a little dubiously
toward his son. His countenance carried a mixture
of guilt, curiosity, and dogged determination
so ludicrous that it was a pity none but baby eyes
could see it. As if to meet more nearly on a level
this baffling new acquaintance, Cyril got to his
knees--somewhat stiffly, it must be confessed
--and faced his son.
``Goo--eee--ooo--yah!'' crowed the baby
now, thrashing legs and arms about in a transport
of joy at the acquisition of this new playmate.
``Well, well, young man, you--you don't say
so!'' stammered the growingly-proud father,
thrusting a plainly timid and unaccustomed finger
toward his offspring. ``So you do know me,
eh? Well, who am I?''
``Da--da!'' gurgled the boy, triumphantly
clutching the outstretched finger, and holding on
with a tenacity that brought a gleeful chuckle to
the lips of the man.
``Jove! but aren't you the strong little beggar,
though! Needn't tell me you don't know a good
thing when you see it! So I'm `da-da,' am I?''
he went on, unhesitatingly accepting as the pure
gold of knowledge the shameless imitation vocabulary
his son was foisting upon him. ``Well, I
expect I am, and--''
``Oh, Cyril!'' The door had opened, and
Marie was in the room. If she gave a start of
surprise at her husband's unaccustomed attitude,
she quickly controlled herself. ``Julia said you
wanted me. I must have been going down the
back stairs when you came up the front, and--''
``Please, Mrs. Henshaw, is it Dot you have in
here, or Dimple?'' asked a new voice, as the second
nurse entered by another door.
Before Mrs. Henshaw could answer, Cyril, who
had got to his feet, turned sharply.
``Is it--_who_?'' he demanded.
``Oh! Oh, Mr. Henshaw,'' stammered the girl.
``I beg your pardon. I didn't know you were here.
It was only that I wanted to know which baby it
was. We thought we had Dot with us, until--''
``Dot! Dimple!'' exploded the man. ``Do
you mean to say you have given my _sons_ the
ridiculous names of `_Dot_' and `_Dimple_'?''
``Why, no--yes--well, that is--we had to
call them something,'' faltered the nurse, as with
a despairing glance at her mistress, she plunged
through the doorway.
Cyril turned to his wife.
``Marie, what is the meaning of this?'' he demanded.
``Why, Cyril, dear, don't--don't get so
wrought up,'' she begged. It's only as Mary said,
we _had_ to call them something, and--''
``Wrought up, indeed!'' interrupted Cyril,
savagely. ``Who wouldn't be? `Dot' and `Dimple'!
Great Scott! One would think those boys
were a couple of kittens or puppies; that they
didn't know anything--didn't have any brains!
But they have--if the other is anything like this
one, at least,'' he declared, pointing to his son on
the floor, who, at this opportune moment joined
in the conversation to the extent of an appropriate
``There, hear that, will you?'' triumphed the
father. ``What did I tell you? That's the way
he's been going on ever since I came into the
room; The little rascal knows me--so soon!''
Marie clapped her fingers to her lips and turned
her back suddenly, with a spasmodic little cough;
but her husband, if he noticed the interruption,
paid no heed.
``Dot and Dimple, indeed!'' he went on
wrathfully. ``That settles it. We'll name those boys
to-day, Marie, _to-day!_ Not once again will I let
the sun go down on a Dot and a Dimple under
my roof.''
Marie turned with a quick little cry of happiness.
``Oh, Cyril, I'm so glad! I've so wanted to
have them named, you know! And shall we call
them Franz and Felix, as we'd talked?''
``Franz, Felix, John, James, Paul, Charles--
anything, so it's sane and sensible! I'd even
adopt Calderwell's absurd Bildad and--er--
Tomdad, or whatever it was, rather than have
those poor little chaps insulted a day longer with
a `Dot' and a `Dimple.' Great Scott!'' And,
entirely forgetting what he had come to the
nursery for, Cyril strode from the room.
``Ah--goo--spggggh!'' commented baby
from the middle of the floor.
It was on a very windy March day that Bertram
Henshaw's son, Bertram, Jr., arrived at
the Strata. Billy went so far into the Valley of
the Shadow of Death for her baby that it was
some days before she realized in all its importance
the presence of the new member of her
family. Even when the days had become weeks,
and Bertram, Jr., was a month and a half old,
the extreme lassitude and weariness of his young
mother was a source of ever-growing anxiety to
her family and friends. Billy was so unlike herself,
they all said.
``If something could only rouse her,''
suggested the Henshaw's old family physician one
day. ``A certain sort of mental shock--if not
too severe--would do the deed, I think, and
with no injury--only benefit. Her physical
condition is in just the state that needs a stimulus
to stir it into new life and vigor.''
As it happened, this was said on a certain
Monday. Two days later Bertram's sister Kate, on
her way with her husband to Mr. Hartwell's old
home in Vermont, stopped over in Boston for a
two days' visit. She made her headquarters at
Cyril's home, but very naturally she went, without
much delay, to pay her respects to Bertram, Jr.
``Mr. Hartwell's brother isn't well,'' she
explained to Billy, after the greetings were over.
``You know he's the only one left there, since
Mother and Father Hartwell came West. We
shall go right on up to Vermont in a couple of
days, but we just had to stay over long enough
to see the baby; and we hadn't ever seen the
twins, either, you know. By the way, how perfectly
ridiculous Cyril is over those boys!''
``Is he?'' smiled Billy, faintly.
``Yes. One would think there were never any
babies born before, to hear him talk. He thinks
they're the most wonderful things in the world--
and they are cunning little fellows, I'll admit.
But Cyril thinks they _know_ so much,'' went on
Kate, laughingly. ``He's always bragging of
something one or the other of them has done.
Think of it--_Cyril!_ Marie says it all started
from the time last January when he discovered
the nurses had been calling them Dot and Dimple.''
``Yes, I know,'' smiled Billy again, faintly,
lifting a thin, white, very un-Billy-like hand to
her head.
Kate frowned, and regarded her sister-in-law
``Mercy! how you look, Billy!'' she exclaimed,
with cheerful tactlessness. ``They said you did,
but, I declare, you look worse than I thought.''
Billy's pale face reddened perceptibly.
``Nonsense! It's just that I'm so--so tired,''
she insisted. ``I shall be all right soon. How
did you leave the children?''
``Well, and happy--'specially little Kate,
because mother was going away. Kate is mistress,
you know, when I'm gone, and she takes
herself very seriously.''
``Mistress! A little thing like her! Why, she
can't be more than ten or eleven,'' murmured
``She isn't. She was ten last month. But
you'd think she was forty, the airs she gives
herself, sometimes. Oh, of course there's Nora, and
the cook, and Miss Winton, the governess, there
to really manage things, and Mother Hartwell
is just around the corner; but little Kate _thinks_
she's managing, so she's happy.''
Billy suppressed a smile. Billy was thinking
that little Kate came naturally by at least one
of her traits.
``Really, that child is impossible, sometimes,''
resumed Mrs. Hartwell, with a sigh. ``You
know the absurd things she was always saying
two or three years ago, when we came on to
Cyril's wedding.''
``Yes, I remember.''
``Well, I thought she would get over it. But
she doesn't. She's worse, if anything; and sometimes
her insight, or intuition, or whatever you
may call it, is positively uncanny. I never know
what she's going to remark next, when I take her
anywhere; but it's safe to say, whatever it is, it'll
be unexpected and _usually_ embarrassing to somebody.
And--is that the baby?'' broke off Mrs.
Hartwell, as a cooing laugh and a woman's voice
came from the next room.
``Yes. The nurse has just brought him in, I
think,'' said Billy.
``Then I'll go right now and see him,''
rejoined Kate, rising to her feet and hurrying into
the next room.
Left alone, Billy lay back wearily in her
reclining-chair. She wondered why Kate always
tired her so. She wished she had had on her blue
kimono, then perhaps Kate would not have
thought she looked so badly. Blue was always
more becoming to her than--
Billy turned her head suddenly. From the
next room had come Kate's clear-cut, decisive
``Oh, no, I don't think he looks a bit like his
father. That little snubby nose was never the
Henshaw nose.''
Billy drew in her breath sharply, and pulled
herself half erect in her chair. From the next
room came Kate's voice again, after a low murmur
from the nurse.
``Oh, but he isn't, I tell you. He isn't one bit
of a Henshaw baby! The Henshaw babies are
always _pretty_ ones. They have more hair, and
they look--well, different.''
Billy gave a low cry, and struggled to her feet.
``Oh, no,'' spoke up Kate, in answer to
another indistinct something from the nurse. ``I
don't think he's near as pretty as the twins. Of
course the twins are a good deal older, but they
have such a _bright_ look,--and they did have,
from the very first. I saw it in their tiniest baby
pictures. But this baby--''
``_This_ baby is _mine_, please,'' cut in a
tremulous, but resolute voice; and Mrs. Hartwell
turned to confront Bertram, Jr.'s mother,
manifestly weak and trembling, but no less
manifestly blazing-eyed and determined.
``Why, Billy!'' expostulated Mrs. Hartwell,
as Billy stumbled forward and snatched the child
into her arms.
``Perhaps he doesn't look like the Henshaw
babies. Perhaps he isn't as pretty as the twins.
Perhaps he hasn't much hair, and does have a
snub nose. He's my baby just the same, and I
shall not stay calmly by and see him abused!
Besides, _I_ think he's prettier than the twins ever
thought of being; and he's got all the hair I want
him to have, and his nose is just exactly what a
baby's nose ought to be!'' And, with a superb
gesture, Billy turned and bore the baby away.
When the doctor heard from the nurse of Mrs.
Hartwell's visit and what had come of it, he only
gave a discreet smile, as befitted himself and the
occasion; but to his wife privately, that night,
the doctor said, when he had finished telling the
``And I couldn't have prescribed a better pill
if I'd tried!''
``_Pill_--Mrs. Hartwell! Oh, Harold,'' reproved
the doctor's wife, mildly.
But the doctor only chuckled the more, and
``You wait and see.''
If Billy's friends were worried before because
of her lassitude and lack of ambition, they were
almost as worried now over her amazing alertness
and insistent activity. Day by day, almost hour
by hour, she seemed to gain in strength; and every
bit she acquired she promptly tested almost to
the breaking point, so plainly eager was she to
be well and strong. And always, from morning
until night, and again from night until morning,
the pivot of her existence, around which swung
all thoughts, words, actions, and plans, was the
sturdy little plump-cheeked, firm-fleshed atom
of humanity known as Bertram, Jr. Even Aunt
Hannah remonstrated with her at last.
``But, Billy, dear,'' she exclaimed, ``one would
almost get the idea that you thought there wasn't
a thing in the world but that baby!''
Billy laughed.
``Well, do you know, sometimes I 'most think
there isn't,'' she retorted unblushingly.
``Billy!'' protested Aunt Hannah; then, a
little severely, she demanded: ``And who was it
that just last September was calling this same
only-object-in-the-world a third person in your
``Third person, indeed! Aunt Hannah, did I?
Did I really say such a dreadful thing as that?
But I didn't know, then, of course. I couldn't
know how perfectly wonderful a baby is, especially
such a baby as Bertram, Jr., is. Why, Aunt Hannah,
that little thing knows a whole lot already.
He's known me for weeks; I know he has. And
ages and ages ago he began to give me little smiles
when he saw me. They were smiles--real smiles!
Oh, yes, I know nurse said they weren't smiles at
the first,'' admitted Billy, in answer to Aunt
Hannah's doubting expression. ``I know nurse said
it was only wind on his stomach. Think of it--
wind on his stomach! Just as if I didn't know the
difference between my own baby's smile and wind
on his stomach! And you don't know how soon
he began to follow my moving finger with his
``Yes, I tried that one day, I remember,''
observed Aunt Hannah demurely. ``I moved my
finger. He looked at the ceiling--_fixedly_.''
``Well, probably he _wanted_ to look at the
ceiling, then,'' defended the young mother, promptly.
``I'm sure I wouldn't give a snap for a baby if he
didn't sometimes have a mind of his own, and
exercise it!''
``Oh, Billy, Billy,'' laughed Aunt Hannah,
with a shake of her head as Billy turned away,
chin uptilted.
By the time Bertram, Jr., was three months
old, Billy was unmistakably her old happy, merry
self, strong and well. Affairs at the Strata once
more were moving as by clockwork--only this
time it was a baby's hand that set the clock, and
that wound it, too.
Billy told her husband very earnestly that now
they had entered upon a period of Enormous
Responsibility. The Life, Character, and Destiny
of a Human Soul was intrusted to their care, and
they must be Wise, Faithful, and Efficient. They
must be at once Proud and Humble at this
their Great Opportunity. They must Observe,
Learn, and Practice. First and foremost in their
eyes must always be this wonderful Important
Bertram laughed at first very heartily at Billy's
instructions, which, he declared, were so bristling
with capitals that he could fairly see them drop
from her lips. Then, when he found how really
very much in earnest she was, and how hurt she
was at his levity, he managed to pull his face into
something like sobriety while she talked to him,
though he did persist in dropping kisses on her
cheeks, her chin, her finger-tips, her hair, and the
little pink lobes of her ears--``just by way of
punctuation'' to her sentences, he said. And he
told her that he wasn't really slighting her lips,
only that they moved so fast he could not catch
them. Whereat Billy pouted, and told him severely
that he was a bad, naughty boy, and that
he did not deserve to be the father of the dearest,
most wonderful baby in the world.
``No, I know I don't,'' beamed Bertram, with
cheerful unrepentance; ``but I am, just the same,''
he finished triumphantly. And this time he contrived
to find his wife's lips.
``Oh, Bertram,'' sighed Billy, despairingly.
``You're an old dear, of course, and one just
can't be cross with you; but you don't, you just
_don't_ realize your Immense Responsibility.''
``Oh, yes, I do,'' maintained Bertram so
seriously that even Billy herself almost believed
In spite of his assertions, however, it must be
confessed that Bertram was much more inclined
to regard the new member of his family as just
his son rather than as an Important Trust; and
there is little doubt that he liked to toss him in
the air and hear his gleeful crows of delight,
without any bother of Observing him at all. As
to the Life and Character and Destiny intrusted
to his care, it is to be feared that Bertram just
plain gloried in his son, poked him in the ribs,
and chuckled him under the chin whenever he
pleased, and gave never so much as a thought to
Character and Destiny. It is to be feared, too,
that he was Proud without being Humble, and
that the only Opportunity he really appreciated
was the chance to show off his wife and baby to
some less fortunate fellow-man.
But not so Billy. Billy joined a Mothers' Club
and entered a class in Child Training with an
elaborate system of Charts, Rules, and Tests.
She subscribed to each new ``Mothers' Helper,''
and the like, that she came across, devouring each
and every one with an eagerness that was
tempered only by a vague uneasiness at finding so
many differences of opinion among Those Who
Undeniably Billy, if not Bertram, was indeed
realizing the Enormous Responsibility, and was
keeping ever before her the Important Trust.
In June Bertram took a cottage at the South
Shore, and by the time the really hot weather arrived
the family were well settled. It was only
an hour away from Boston, and easy of access,
but William said he guessed he would not go; he
would stay in Boston, sleeping at the house, and
getting his meals at the club, until the middle of
July, when he was going down in Maine for his
usual fishing trip, which he had planned to take
a little earlier than usual this year.
``But you'll be so lonesome, Uncle William,''
Billy demurred, ``in this great house all alone!''
``Oh, no, I sha'n't,'' rejoined Uncle William.
``I shall only be sleeping here, you know,'' he
finished. with a slightly peculiar smile.
It was well, perhaps, that Billy did not exactly
realize the significance of that smile, nor the
unconscious emphasis on the word ``sleeping,'' for
it would have troubled her not a little.
William, to tell the truth, was quite anticipating
that sleeping. William's nights had not been
exactly restful since the baby came. His evenings,
too, had not been the peaceful things they
were wont to be.
Some of Billy's Rules and Tests were strenuously
objected to on the part of her small son,
and the young man did not hesitate to show it.
Billy said that it was good for the baby to cry,
that it developed his lungs; but William was very
sure that it was not good for _him_. Certainly,
when the baby did cry, William never could help
hovering near the center of disturbance, and he
always _had_ to remind Billy that it might be a pin,
you know, or some cruel thing that was hurting.
As if he, William, a great strong man, could sit
calmly by and smoke a pipe, or lie in his comfortable
bed and sleep, while that blessed little baby
was crying his heart out like that! Of course, if
one did not _know_ he was crying-- Hence William's
anticipation of those quiet, restful nights
when he could not know it.
Very soon after Billy's arrival at the cottage,
Aunt Hannah and Alice Greggory came down for
a day's visit. Aunt Hannah had been away from
Boston for several weeks, so it was some time
since she had seen the baby.
``My, but hasn't he grown!'' she exclaimed,
picking the baby up and stooping to give him a
snuggling kiss. The next instant she almost
dropped the little fellow, so startling had been
Billy's cry.
``No, no, wait, Aunt Hannah, please,'' Billy
was entreating, hurrying to the little corner
cupboard. In a moment she was back with a small
bottle and a bit of antiseptic cotton. ``We
always sterilize our lips now before we kiss him--
it's so much safer, you know.''
Aunt Hannah sat down limply, the baby still
in her arms.
``Fiddlededee, Billy! What an absurd idea!
What have you got in that bottle?''
``Why, Aunt Hannah, it's just a little simple
listerine,'' bridled Billy, ``and it isn't absurd at
all. It's very sensible. My `Hygienic Guide for
Mothers' says--''
``Well, I suppose I may kiss his hand,'' interposed
Aunt Hannah, just a little curtly, ``without
subjecting myself to a City Hospital treatment!''
Billy laughed shamefacedly, but she still held
her ground.
``No, you can't--nor even his foot. He might
get them in his mouth. Aunt Hannah, why does
a baby think that everything, from his own toes
to his father's watch fob and the plush balls on a
caller's wrist-bag, is made to eat? As if I could
sterilize everything, and keep him from getting
hold of germs somewhere!''
``You'll have to have a germ-proof room for
him,'' laughed Alice Greggory, playfully snapping
her fingers at the baby in Aunt Hannah's
Billy turned eagerly.
``Oh, did you read about that, too?'' she
cried. ``I thought it was _so_ interesting, and I
wondered if I could do it.''
Alice stared frankly.
``You don't mean to say they actually _have_
such things,'' she challenged.
``Well, I read about them in a magazine,''
asserted Billy, ``--how you could have a germproof
room. They said it was very simple, too.
Just pasteurize the air, you know, by heating it
to one hundred and ten and one-half degrees
Fahrenheit for seventeen and one-half minutes. I
remember just the figures.''
``Simple, indeed! It sounds so,'' scoffed Aunt
Hannah, with uplifted eyebrows.
``Oh, well, I couldn't do it, of course,'' admitted
Billy, regretfully. ``Bertram never'd stand for
that in the world. He's always rushing in to show
the baby off to every Tom, Dick and Harry and
his wife that comes; and of course if you opened
the nursery door, that would let in those germ
things, and you _couldn't_ very well pasteurize your
callers by heating them to one hundred and ten
and one-half degrees for seventeen and one-half
minutes! I don't see how you could manage such
a room, anyway, unless you had a system of--
of rooms like locks, same as they do for water in
``Oh, my grief and conscience--locks,
indeed!'' almost groaned Aunt Hannah. ``Here,
Alice, will you please take this child--that is, if
you have a germ-proof certificate about you to
show to his mother. I want to take off my bonnet
and gloves.''
``Take him? Of course I'll take him,'' laughed
Alice; ``and right under his mother's nose, too,''
she added, with a playful grimace at Billy. ``And
we'll make pat-a-cakes, and send the little pigs
to market, and have such a beautiful time that
we'll forget there ever was such a thing in the
world as an old germ. Eh, babykins?''
``Babykins'' cooed his unqualified approval
of this plan; but his mother looked troubled.
``That's all right, Alice. You may play with
him,'' she frowned doubtfully; ``but you mustn't
do it long, you know--not over five minutes.''
``Five minutes! Well, I like that, when I've
come all the way from Boston purposely to see
him,'' pouted Alice. ``What's the matter now?
Time for his nap?''
``Oh, no, not for--thirteen minutes,'' replied
Billy, consulting the watch at her belt. ``But
we never play with Baby more than five minutes
at a time. My `Scientific Care of Infants' says
it isn't wise; that with some babies it's positively
dangerous, until after they're six months old. It
makes them nervous, and forces their mind, you
know,'' she explained anxiously. ``So of course
we'd want to be careful. Bertram, Jr., isn't quite
four, yet.''
``Why, yes, of course,'' murmured Alice,
politely, stopping a pat-a-cake before it was half
The infant, as if suspecting that he was being
deprived of his lawful baby rights, began to fret
and whimper.
``Poor itty sing,'' crooned Aunt Hannah, who,
having divested herself of bonnet and gloves,
came hurriedly forward with outstretched hands.
``Do they just 'buse 'em? Come here to your old
auntie, sweetems, and we'll go walkee. I saw a
bow-wow--such a tunnin' ickey wickey bowwow
on the steps when I came in. Come, we go
see ickey wickey bow-wow?''
``Aunt Hannah, _please!_'' protested Billy, both
hands upraised in horror. ``_Won't_ you say `dog,'
and leave out that dreadful `ickey wickey'?
Of course he can't understand things now, really,
but we never know when he'll begin to, and we
aren't ever going to let him hear baby-talk at all,
if we can help it. And truly, when you come to
think of it, it is absurd to expect a child to talk
sensibly and rationally on the mental diet of
`moo-moos' and `choo-choos' served out to
them. Our Professor of Metaphysics and Ideology
in our Child Study Course says that nothing
is so receptive and plastic as the Mind of a Little
Child, and that it is perfectly appalling how we
fill it with trivial absurdities that haven't even
the virtue of being accurate. So that's why we're
trying to be so careful with Baby. You didn't
mind my speaking, I know, Aunt Hannah.''
``Oh, no, of course not, Billy,'' retorted Aunt
Hannah, a little tartly, and with a touch of sarcasm
most unlike her gentle self. ``I'm sure I
shouldn't wish to fill this infant's plastic mind
with anything so appalling as trivial inaccuracies.
May I be pardoned for suggesting, however,''
she went on as the baby's whimper threatened to
become a lusty wail, ``that this young gentleman
cries as if he were sleepy and hungry?''
``Yes, he is,'' admitted Billy.
``Well, doesn't your system of scientific training
allow him to be given such trivial absurdities
as food and naps?'' inquired the lady, mildly.
``Of course it does, Aunt Hannah,'' retorted
Billy, laughing in spite of herself. ``And it's
almost time now. There are only a few more
minutes to wait.''
``Few more minutes to wait, indeed!'' scorned
Aunt Hannah. ``I suppose the poor little fellow
might cry and cry, and you wouldn't set that
clock ahead by a teeny weeny minute!''
``Certainly not,'' said the young mother,
decisively. ``My `Daily Guide for Mothers' says
that a time for everything and everything in its
time, is the very A B C and whole alphabet of
Right Training. He does everything by the clock,
and to the minute,'' declared Billy, proudly.
Aunt Hannah sniffed, obviously skeptical and
rebellious. Alice Greggory laughed.
``Aunt Hannah looks as if she'd like to bring
down her clock that strikes half an hour ahead,''
she said mischievously; but Aunt Hannah did not
deign to answer this.
``How long do you rock him?'' she demanded
of Billy. ``I suppose I may do that, mayn't I?''
``Mercy, I don't rock him at all, Aunt
Hannah,'' exclaimed Billy.
``Nor sing to him?''
``Certainly not.''
``But you did--before I went away. I
remember that you did.''
``Yes, I know I did,'' admitted Billy, ``and I
had an awful time, too. Some evenings, every
single one of us, even to Uncle William, had to
try before we could get him off to sleep. But that
was before I got my `Efficiency of Mother and
Child,' or my `Scientific Training,' and, oh, lots
of others. You see, I didn't know a thing then,
and I loved to rock him, so I did it--though the
nurse said it wasn't good for him; but I didn't
believe _her_. I've had an awful time changing; but
I've done it. I just put him in his little crib, or
his carriage, and after a while he goes to sleep.
Sometimes, now, he doesn't cry hardly any. I'm
afraid, to-day, though, he will,'' she worried.
``Yes, I'm afraid he will,'' almost screamed
Aunt Hannah, in order to make herself heard
above Bertram, Jr., who, by this time, was voicing
his opinion of matters and things in no uncertain
It was not, after all, so very long before peace
and order reigned; and, in due course, Bertram,
Jr., in his carriage, lay fast asleep. Then, while
Aunt Hannah went to Billy's room for a short
rest, Billy and Alice went out on to the wide
veranda which faced the wonderful expanse of sky
and sea.
``Now tell me of yourself,'' commanded Billy,
almost at once. ``It's been ages since I've heard
or seen a thing of you.''
``There's nothing to tell.''
``Nonsense! But there must be,'' insisted
Billy. ``You know it's months since I've seen
anything of you, hardly.''
``I know. We feel quite neglected at the
Annex,'' said Alice.
``But I don't go anywhere,'' defended Billy.
``I can't. There isn't time.''
``Even to bring us the extra happiness?''
smiled Alice.
A quick change came to Billy's face. Her eyes
glowed deeply.
``No; though I've had so much that ought to
have gone--such loads and loads of extra happiness,
which I couldn't possibly use myself!
Sometimes I'm so happy, Alice, that--that I'm
just frightened. It doesn't seem as if anybody
ought to be so happy.''
``Oh, Billy, dear,'' demurred Alice, her eyes
filling suddenly with tears.
``Well, I've got the Annex. I'm glad I've got
that for the overflow, anyway,'' resumed Billy,
trying to steady her voice. ``I've sent a whole
lot of happiness up there mentally, if I haven't
actually carried it; so I'm sure you must have
got it. Now tell me of yourself.''
``There's nothing to tell,'' insisted Alice, as
``You're working as hard as ever?''
``New pupils?''
``Yes, and some concert engagements--good
ones, for next season. Accompaniments, you
Billy nodded.
``Yes; I've heard of you already twice, lately,
in that line, and very flatteringly, too.''
``Have you? Well, that's good.''
``Hm-m.'' There was a moment's silence,
then, abruptly, Billy changed the subject. ``I
had a letter from Belle Calderwell, yesterday.''
She paused expectantly, but there was no comment.
``You don't seem interested,'' she frowned,
after a minute.
Alice laughed.
``Pardon me, but--I don't know the Lady,
you see. Was it a good letter?''
``You know her brother.''
``Very true.'' Alice's cheeks showed a deeper
color. ``Did she say anything of him?''
``Yes. She said he was coming back to Boston
next winter.''
``Yes. She says that this time he declares he
really _is_ going to settle down to work,'' murmured
Billy, demurely, with a sidelong glance at her
companion. ``She says he's engaged to be married
--one of her friends over there.''
There was no reply. Alice appeared to be
absorbed in watching a tiny white sail far out at sea.
Again Billy was silent. Then, with studied
carelessness, she said:
``Yes, and you know Mr. Arkwright, too. She
told of him.''
``Yes? Well, what of him?'' Alice's voice
was studiedly indifferent.
``Oh, there was quite a lot of him. Belle had
just been to hear him sing, and then her brother
had introduced him to her. She thinks he's perfectly
wonderful, in every way, I should judge.
In fact, she simply raved over him. It seems that
while we've been hearing nothing from him all
winter, he's been winning no end of laurels for
himself in Paris and Berlin. He's been studying,
too, of course, as well as singing; and now he's
got a chance to sing somewhere--create a rle, or
something--Belle said she wasn't quite clear on
the matter herself, but it was a perfectly splendid
chance, and one that was a fine feather in his cap.''
``Then he won't be coming home--that is,
to Boston--at all this winter, probably,'' said
Alice, with a cheerfulness that sounded just a
little forced.
``Not until February. But he is coming then.
He's been engaged for six performances with the
Boston Opera Company--as a star tenor, mind
you! Isn't that splendid?''
``Indeed it is,'' murmured Alice.
``Belle writes that Hugh says he's improved
wonderfully, and that even he can see that his
singing is marvelous. He says Paris is wild over
him; but--for my part, I wish he'd come home
and stay here where he belongs,'' finished Billy,
a bit petulantly.
``Why, why, Billy!'' murmured her friend, a
curiously startled look coming into her eyes.
``Well, I do,'' maintained Billy; then,
recklessly, she added: ``I had such beautiful plans
for him, once, Alice. Oh, if you only could have
cared for him, you'd have made such a splendid
A vivid scarlet flew to Alice's face.
``Nonsense!'' she cried, getting quickly to
her feet and bending over one of the flower boxes
along the veranda railing. ``Mr. Arkwright
never thought of marrying me--and I'm not
going to marry anybody but my music.''
Billy sighed despairingly.
``I know that's what you say now; but if--''
She stopped abruptly. Around the turn of the
veranda had appeared Aunt Hannah, wheeling
Bertram, Jr., still asleep in his carriage.
``I came out the other door,'' she explained
softly. ``And it was so lovely I just had to go
in and get the baby. I thought it would be so
nice for him to finish his nap out here.''
Billy arose with a troubled frown.
``But, Aunt Hannah, he mustn't--he can't
stay out here. I'm sorry, but we'll have to take
him back.''
Aunt Hannah's eyes grew mutinous.
``But I thought the outdoor air was just the
thing for him. I'm sure your scientific hygienic
nonsense says _that!_''
``They do--they did--that is, some of them
do,'' acknowledged Billy, worriedly; ``but they
differ, so! And the one I'm going by now says
that Baby should always sleep in an _even_
temperature--seventy degrees, if possible; and that's
exactly what the room in there was, when I left
him. It's not the same out here, I'm sure. In
fact I looked at the thermometer to see, just
before I came out myself. So, Aunt Hannah, I'm
afraid I'll have to take him back.''
``But you used to have him sleep out of doors
all the time, on that little balcony out of your
room,'' argued Aunt Hannah, still plainly unconvinced.
``Yes, I know I did. I was following the other
man's rules, then. As I said, if only they wouldn't
differ so! Of course I want the best; but it's so
hard to always know the best, and--''
At this very inopportune moment Master Bertram
took occasion to wake up, which brought
even a deeper wrinkle of worry to his fond mother's
forehead; for she said that, according to the
clock, he should have been sleeping exactly ten
and one-half more minutes, and that of course he
couldn't commence the next thing until those ten
and one-half minutes were up, or else his entire
schedule for the day would be shattered. So what
she should do with him for those should-havebeen-
sleeping ten minutes and a half, she did not
know. All of which drew from Aunt Hannah
the astounding exclamation of:
``Oh, my grief and conscience, Billy, if you
aren't the--the limit!'' Which, indeed, she
must have been, to have brought circumspect
Aunt Hannah to the point of actually using slang.
The Henshaw family did not return to the
Strata until late in September. Billy said that
the sea air seemed to agree so well with the baby
it would be a pity to change until the weather
became really too cool at the shore to be comfortable.
William came back from his fishing trip in
August, and resumed his old habit of sleeping at the
house and taking his meals at the club. To be
sure, for a week he went back and forth between
the city and the beach house; but it happened
to be a time when Bertram, Jr., was cutting a
tooth, and this so wore upon William's sympathy--
William still could not help insisting
it _might_ be a pin--that he concluded peace lay
only in flight. So he went back to the Strata.
Bertram had stayed at the cottage all summer,
painting industriously. Heretofore he had taken
more of a vacation through the summer months,
but this year there seemed to be nothing for him
to do but to paint. He did not like to go away
on a trip and leave Billy, and she declared she
could not take the baby nor leave him, and that
she did not need any trip, anyway.
``All right, then, we'll just stay at the beach,
and have a fine vacation together,'' he had answered her.
As Bertram saw it, however, he could detect
very little ``vacation'' to it. Billy had no time
for anything but the baby. When she was not
actually engaged in caring for it, she was studying
how to care for it. Never had she been
sweeter or dearer, and never had Bertram loved
her half so well. He was proud, too, of her
devotion, and of her triumphant success as a mother;
but he did wish that sometimes, just once in a
while, she would remember she was a wife, and
pay a little attention to him, her husband.
Bertram was ashamed to own it, even to
himself, but he was feeling just a little abused that
summer; and he knew that, in his heart, he was
actually getting jealous of his own son, in spite
of his adoration of the little fellow. He told
himself defensively that it was not to be expected
that he should not want the love of his wife, the
attentions of his wife, and the companionship
of his wife--a part of the time. It was nothing
more than natural that occasionally he should like
to see her show some interest in subjects not
mentioned in Mothers' Guides and Scientific
Trainings of Infants; and he did not believe he
could be blamed for wanting his residence to be
a home for himself as well as a nursery for his
Even while he thus discontentedly argued with
himself, however, Bertram called himself a selfish
brute just to think such things when he had
so dear and loving a wife as Billy, and so fine and
splendid a baby as Bertram, Jr. He told himself,
too, that very likely when they were back in
their own house again, and when motherhood
was not so new to her, Billy would not be so
absorbed in the baby. She would return to her old
interest in her husband, her music, her friends,
and her own personal appearance. Meanwhile
there was always, of course, for him, his
painting. So he would paint, accepting gladly what
crumbs of attention fell from the baby's table,
and trust to the future to make Billy none the
less a mother, perhaps, but a little more the
Just how confidently he was counting on this
coming change, Bertram hardly realized himself;
but certainly the family was scarcely settled at
the Strata before the husband gayly proposed
one evening that he and Billy should go to the
theater to see ``Romeo and Juliet.''
Billy was clearly both surprised and shocked.
``Why, Bertram, I can't--you know I can't!''
she exclaimed reprovingly.
Bertram's heart sank; but he kept a brave
``Why not?''
``What a question! As if I'd leave Baby!''
``But, Billy, dear, you'd be gone less than three
hours, and you say Delia's the most careful of
Billy's forehead puckered into an anxious
``I can't help it. Something might happen
to him, Bertram. I couldn't be happy a minute.''
``But, dearest, aren't you _ever_ going to leave
him?'' demanded the young husband, forlornly.
``Why, yes, of course, when it's reasonable
and necessary. I went out to the Annex yesterday
afternoon. I was gone almost two whole
``Well, did anything happen?''
``N-no; but then I telephoned, you see,
several times, so I _knew_ everything was all right.''
``Oh, well, if that's all you want, I could
telephone, you know, between every act,'' suggested
Bertram, with a sarcasm that was quite lost on
the earnest young mother.
``Y-yes, you could do that, couldn't you?''
conceded Billy; ``and, of course, I _haven't_ been
anywhere much, lately.''
``Indeed I could,'' agreed Bertram, with a
promptness that carefully hid his surprise at her
literal acceptance of what he had proposed as a
huge joke. ``Come, is it a go? Shall I telephone
to see if I can get seats?''
``You think Baby'll surely be all right?''
``I certainly do.''
``And you'll telephone home between every
``I will.'' Bertram's voice sounded almost as
if he were repeating the marriage service.
``And we'll come straight home afterwards as
fast as John and Peggy can bring us?''
``Then I think--I'll--go,'' breathed Billy,
tremulously, plainly showing what a momentous
concession she thought she was making. ``I do
love `Romeo and Juliet,' and I haven't seen it
for ages!''
``Good! Then I'll find out about the tickets,''
cried Bertram, so elated at the prospect of having
an old-time evening out with his wife that
even the half-hourly telephones did not seem too
great a price to pay.
When the time came, they were a little late in
starting. Baby was fretful, and though Billy
usually laid him in his crib and unhesitatingly
left the room, insisting that he should go to sleep
by himself in accordance with the most approved
rules in her Scientific Training; yet to-night she
could not bring herself to the point of leaving the
house until he was quiet. Hurried as they were
when they did start, Billy was conscious of Bertram's
frowning disapproval of her frock.
``You don't like it, of course, dear, and I don't
blame you,'' she smiled remorsefully.
``Oh, I like it--that is, I did, when it was
new,'' rejoined her husband, with apologetic
frankness. ``But, dear, didn't you have anything
else? This looks almost--well, mussy,
you know.''
``No--well, yes, maybe there were others,''
admitted Billy; ``but this was the quickest and
easiest to get into, and it all came just as I was
getting Baby ready for bed, you know. I am a
fright, though, I'll acknowledge, so far as clothes
go. I haven't had time to get a thing since Baby
came. I must get something right away, I suppose.''
``Yes, indeed,'' declared Bertram, with
emphasis, hurrying his wife into the waiting automobile.
Billy had to apologize again at the theater, for
the curtain had already risen on the ancient quarrel
between the houses of Capulet and Montague,
and Billy knew her husband's special abhorrence
of tardy arrivals. Later, though, when well
established in their seats, Billy's mind was plainly
not with the players on the stage.
``Do you suppose Baby _is_ all right?'' she
whispered, after a time.
``Sh-h! Of course he is, dear!''
There was a brief silence, during which Billy
peered at her program in the semi-darkness.
Then she nudged her husband's arm ecstatically.
``Bertram, I couldn't have chosen a better
play if I'd tried. There are _five_ acts! I'd forgotten
there were so many. That means you can
telephone four times!''
``Yes, dear.'' Bertram's voice was sternly
``You must be sure they tell you exactly how
Baby is.''
``All right, dear. Sh-h! Here's Romeo.''
Billy subsided. She even clapped a little in
spasmodic enthusiasm. Presently she peered at
her program again.
``There wouldn't be time, I suppose, to telephone
between the scenes,'' she hazarded wistfully.
``There are sixteen of those!''
``Well, hardly! Billy, you aren't paying one
bit of attention to the play!''
``Why, of course I am,'' whispered Billy,
indignantly. ``I think it's perfectly lovely, and
I'm perfectly contented, too--since I found out
about those five acts, and as long as I _can't_ have
the sixteen scenes,'' she added, settling back in
her seat.
As if to prove that she was interested in the
play, her next whisper, some time later, had to
do with one of the characters on the stage.
``Who's that--the nurse? Mercy! We
wouldn't want her for Baby, would we?''
In spite of himself Bertram chuckled this time.
Billy, too, laughed at herself. Then, resolutely,
she settled into her seat again.
The curtain was not fairly down on the first
act before Billy had laid an urgent hand on her
husband's arm.
``Now, remember; ask if he's waked up, or
anything,'' she directed. ``And be sure to say I'll
come right home if they need me. Now hurry.''
``Yes, dear.'' Bertram rose with alacrity.
``I'll be back right away.''
``Oh, but I don't want you to hurry _too_ much,''
she called after him, softly. ``I want you to take
plenty of time to ask questions.''
``All right,'' nodded Bertram, with a quizzical
smile, as he turned away.
Obediently Bertram asked all the question
she could think of, then came back to his wife.
There was nothing in his report that even Billy
could disapprove of, or worry about; and with
almost a contented look on her face she turned
toward the stage as the curtain went up on the
second act.
``I love this balcony scene,'' she sighed happily.
Romeo, however, had not half finished his
impassioned love-making when Billy clutched her
husband's arm almost fiercely.
``Bertram,'' she fairly hissed in a tragic
whisper, ``I've just happened to think! Won't it be
awful when Baby falls in love? I know I shall
just hate that girl for taking him away from me!''
``Sh-h! _Billy!_'' expostulated her husband,
choking with half-stifled laughter. ``That woman
in front heard you, I know she did!''
``Well, I shall,'' sighed Billy, mournfully,
turning back to the stage.
`` `Good night, good night! parting is such sweet sorrow,
That I shall say good night, till it be morrow,'''
sighed Juliet passionately to her Romeo.
``Mercy! I hope not,'' whispered Billy flippantly
in Bertram's ear. ``I'm sure I don't want
to stay here till to-morrow! I want to go home
and see Baby.''
``_Billy!_'' pleaded Bertram so despairingly,
that Billy, really conscience-smitten, sat back in
her seat and remained, for the rest of the act,
very quiet indeed.
Deceived by her apparent tranquillity, Bertram
turned as the curtain went down.
``Now, Billy, surely you don't think it'll be
necessary to telephone so soon as this again,'' he
Billy's countenance fell.
``But, Bertram, you _said_ you would! Of course
if you aren't willing to--but I've been counting on
hearing all through this horrid long act, and--''
``Goodness me, Billy, I'll telephone every
minute for you, of course, if you want me to,''
cried Bertram, springing to his feet, and trying
not to show his impatience.
He was back more promptly this time.
``Everything 0. K.,'' he smiled reassuringly
into Billy's anxious eyes. ``Delia said she'd just
been up, and the little chap was sound asleep.''
To the man's unbounded surprise, his wife
grew actually white.
``Up! Up!'' she exclaimed. ``Do you mean
that Delia went down-stairs to _stay_, and left my
baby up there alone?''
``But, Billy, she said he was all right,''
murmured Bertram, softly, casting uneasy sidelong
glances at his too interested neighbors.
`` `All right'! Perhaps he was, _then_--but he
may not be, later. Delia should stay in the next
room all the time, where she could hear the least
``Yes, dear, she will, I'm sure, if you tell her
to,'' soothed Bertram, quickly. ``It'll be all
right next time.''
Billy shook her head. She was obviously near
to crying.
``But, Bertram, I can't stand it to sit here
enjoying myself all safe and comfortable, and know
that Baby is _alone_ up there in that great big room!
Please, _please_ won't you go and telephone Delia
to go up _now_ and stay there?''
Bertram, weary, sorely tried, and increasingly
aware of those annoyingly interested neighbors,
was on the point of saying a very decided no; but
a glance into Billy's pleading eyes settled it.
Without a word he went back to the telephone.
The curtain was up when he slipped into his
seat, very red of face. In answer to Billy's hurried
whisper he shook his head; but in the short
pause between the first and second scenes he said,
in a low voice:
``I'm sorry, Billy, but I couldn't get the house
at all.''
``Couldn't get them! But you'd just been
talking with them!''
``That's exactly it, probably. I had just
telephoned, so they weren't watching for the bell.
Anyhow, I couldn't get them.''
``Then you didn't get Delia at all!''
``Of course not.''
``And Baby is still--all alone!''
``But he's all right, dear. Delia's keeping
watch of him.''
For a moment there was silence; then, with
clear decisiveness carne Billy's voice.
``Bertram, I am going home.''
``I am.''
``Billy, for heaven's sake don't be a silly goose!
The play's half over already. We'll soon be going,
Billy's lips came together in a thin little
determined line.
``Bertram, I am going home now, please,'' she
said. ``You needn't come with me; I can go
Bertram said two words under his breath which
it was just as well, perhaps, that Billy--and the
neighbors--did not hear; then he gathered up
their wraps and, with Billy, stalked out of the
At home everything was found to be absolutely
as it should be. Bertram, Jr., was peacefully
sleeping, and Delia, who had come up from
downstairs, was sewing in the next room.
``There, you see,'' observed Bertram, a little
Billy drew a long, contented sigh.
``Yes, I see; everything is all right. But that's
exactly what I wanted to do, Bertram, you know
--to _see for myself_,'' she finished happily.
And Bertram, looking at her rapt face as she
hovered over the baby's crib, called himself a
brute and a beast to mind _anything_ that could
make Billy look like that.
Bertram did not ask Billy very soon again to
go to the theater. For some days, indeed, he did
not ask her to do anything. Then, one evening,
he did beg for some music.
``Billy, you haven't played to me or sung to
me since I could remember,'' he complained. ``I
want some music.''
Billy gave a merry laugh and wriggled her
fingers experimentally.
``Mercy, Bertram! I don't believe I could
play a note. You know I'm all out of practice.''
``But why _don't_ you practice?''
``Why, Bertram, I can't. In the first place I
don't seem to have any time except when Baby's
asleep; and I can't play then-I'd wake him
Bertram sighed irritably, rose to his feet, and
began to walk up and down the room. He came
to a pause at last, his eyes bent a trifle
disapprovingly on his wife.
``Billy, dear, _don't_ you wear anything but
those wrapper things nowadays?'' he asked plaintively.
Again Billy laughed. But this time a troubled
frown followed the laugh.
``I know, Bertram, I suppose they do look
dowdy, sometimes,'' she confessed; ``but, you
see, I hate to wear a really good dress--Baby
rumples them up so; and I'm usually in a hurry
to get to him mornings, and these are so easy to
slip into, and so much more comfortable for me
to handle him in!''
``Yes, of course, of course; I see,'' mumbled
Bertram, listlessly taking up his walk again.
Billy, after a moment's silence, began to talk
animatedly. Baby had done a wonderfully cunning
thing that morning, and Billy had not had
a chance yet to tell Bertram. Baby was growing
more and more cunning anyway, these days,
and there were several things she believed she
had not told him; so she told them now.
Bertram listened politely, interestedly. He
told himself that he _was_ interested, too. Of
course he was interested in the doings of his own
child! But he still walked up and down the room
a little restlessly, coming to a halt at last by the
window, across which the shade had not been
``Billy,'' he cried suddenly, with his old
boyish eagerness, ``there's a glorious moon. Come
on! Let's take a little walk--a real fellow-andhis-
best-girl walk! Will you?''
``Mercy! dear, I couldn't,'' cried Billy
springing to her feet. ``I'd love to, though, if I could,''
she added hastily, as she saw disappointment
cloud her husband's face. ``But I told Delia she
might go out. It isn't her regular evening, of
course, but I told her I didn't mind staying with
Baby a bit. So I'll have to go right up now.
She'll be going soon. But, dear, you go and take
your walk. It'll do you good. Then you can
come back and tell me all about it--only you
must come in quietly, so not to wake the baby,''
she finished, giving her husband an affectionate
kiss, as she left the room.
After a disconsolate five minutes of solitude,
Bertram got his hat and coat and went out for
his walk--but he told himself he did not expect
to enjoy it.
Bertram Henshaw knew that the old rebellious
jealousy of the summer had him fast in its grip.
He was heartily ashamed of himself, but he could
not help it. He wanted Billy, and he wanted her
then. He wanted to talk to her. He wanted to
tell her about a new portrait commission he had
just obtained; and he wanted to ask her what she
thought of the idea of a brand-new ``Face of a
Girl'' for the Bohemian Ten Exhibition next
March. He wanted--but then, what would be
the use? She would listen, of course, but he
would know by the very looks of her face that
she would not be really thinking of what he was
saying; and he would be willing to wager his best
canvas that in the very first pause she would tell
about the baby's newest tooth or latest toy. Not
but that he liked to hear about the little fellow,
of course; and not but that he was proud as Punch
of him, too; but that he would like sometimes to
hear Billy talk of something else. The sweetest
melody in the world, if dinned into one's ears day
and night, became something to be fled from.
And Billy ought to talk of something else, too!
Bertram, Jr., wonderful as he was, really was not
the only thing in the world, or even the only baby;
and other people--outsiders, their friends--
had a right to expect that sometimes other
matters might be considered--their own, for
instance. But Billy seemed to have forgotten this.
No matter whether the subject of conversation
had to do with the latest novel or a trip to Europe,
under Billy's guidance it invariably led straight
to Baby's Jack-and-Jill book, or to a perambulator
journey in the Public Garden. If it had not
been so serious, it would have been really funny
the way all roads led straight to one goal. He
himself, when alone with Billy, had started the
most unusual and foreign subjects, sometimes,
just to see if there were not somewhere a little
bypath that did not bring up in his own nursery.
He never, however, found one.
But it was not funny; it was serious. Was this
glorious gift on parenthood to which he had looked
forward as the crowning joy of his existence, to
be nothing but a tragedy that would finally wreck
his domestic happiness? It could not be. It
must not be. He must he patient, and wait.
Billy loved him. He was sure she did. By and
by this obsession of motherhood, which had her
so fast in its grasp, would relax. She would
remember that her husband had rights as well as
her child. Once again she would give him the
companionship, love, and sympathetic interest
so dear to him. Meanwhile there was his work.
He must bury himself in that. And fortunate,
indeed, he was, he told himself, that he had
something so absorbing.
It was at this point in his meditations that
Bertram rounded a corner and came face to face
with a man who stopped him short with a
``Isn't it--by George, it is Bertie Henshaw!
Well, what do you think of that for luck?--and
me only two days home from `Gay Paree'!''
``Oh, Seaver! How are you? You _are_ a stranger!''
Bertram's voice and handshake were a bit
more cordial than they would have been had he
not at the moment been feeling so abused and
forlorn. In the old days he had liked this Bob Seaver
well. Seaver was an artist like himself, and was
good company always. But Seaver and his crowd
were a little too Bohemian for William's taste;
and after Billy came, she, too, had objected to
what she called ``that horrid Seaver man.'' In
his heart, Bertram knew that there was good
foundation for their objections, so he had avoided
Seaver for a time; and for some years, now, the
man had been abroad, somewhat to Bertram's
relief. To-night, however, Seaver's genial smile
and hearty friendliness were like a sudden burst
of sunshine on a rainy day--and Bertram detested
rainy days. He was feeling now, too, as
if he had just had a whole week of them.
``Yes, I am something of a stranger here,''
nodded Seaver. ``But I tell you what, little old
Boston looks mighty good to me, all the same.
Come on! You're just the fellow we want. I'm
on my way now to the old stamping ground.
Come--right about face, old chap, and come with
Bertram shook his head.
``Sorry--but I guess I can't, to-night,'' he
sighed. Both gesture and words were unhesitating,
but the voice carried the discontent of a
small boy, who, while the sun is still shining, has
been told to come into the house.
``Oh, rats! Yes, you can, too. Come on!
Lots of the old crowd will be there--Griggs,
Beebe, Jack Jenkins, and Tully. We need you
to complete the show.''
``Jack Jenkins? Is he here?'' A new eagerness
had come into Bertram's voice.
``Sure! He came on from New York last night.
Great boy, Jenkins! Just back from Paris fairly
covered with medals, you know.''
``Yes, so I hear. I haven't seen him for four
``Better come to-night then.''
``No-o,'' began Bertram, with obvious
reluctance. ``It's already nine o'clock, and--''
``Nine o'clock!'' cut in Seaver, with a broad
grin. ``Since when has your limit been nine
o'clock? I've seen the time when you didn't mind
nine o'clock in the morning, Bertie! What's
got-- Oh, I remember. I met another friend
of yours in Berlin; chap named Arkwright--
and say, he's some singer, you bet! You're
going to hear of him one of these days. Well, he
told me all about how you'd settled down now--
son and heir, fireside bliss, pretty wife, and all
the fixings. But, I say, Bertie, doesn't she let
you out--_any_?''
``Nonsense, Seaver!'' flared Bertram in
annoyed wrath.
``Well, then, why don't you come to-night?
If you want to see Jenkins you'll have to; he's
going back to New York to-morrow.''
For only a brief minute longer did Bertram
hesitate; then he turned squarely about with an
air of finality.
``Is he? Well, then, perhaps I will,'' he said.
``I'd hate to miss Jenkins entirely.''
``Good!'' exclaimed his companion, as they
fell into step. ``Have a cigar?''
``Thanks. Don't mind if I do.''
If Bertram's chin was a little higher and his
step a little more decided than usual, it was all
merely by way of accompaniment to his thoughts.
Certainly it was right that he should go, and
it was sensible. Indeed, it was really almost
imperative--due to Billy, as it were--after that
disagreeable taunt of Seaver's. As if she did not
want him to go when and where he pleased! As
if she would consent for a moment to figure in
the eyes of his friends as a tyrannical wife who
objected to her husband's passing a social evening
with his friends! To be sure, in this particular
case, she might not favor Seaver's presence,
but even she would not mind this once--
and, anyhow, it was Jenkins that was the attraction,
not Seaver. Besides, he himself was no
undeveloped boy now. He was a man, presumedly
able to take care of himself. Besides, again, had
not Billy herself told him to go out and enjoy the
evening without her, as she had to stay with the
baby? He would telephone her, of course, that
he had met some old friends, and that he might
be late; then she would not worry.
And forthwith, having settled the matter in
his mind, and to his complete satisfaction, Bertram
gave his undivided attention to Seaver, who
had already plunged into an account of a recent
Art Exhibition he had attended in Paris.
October proved to be unusually mild, and
about the middle of the month, Bertram, after
much unselfish urging on the part of Billy, went
to a friend's camp in the Adirondacks for a week's
stay. He came back with an angry, lugubrious
face--and a broken arm.
``Oh, Bertram! And your right one, too--
the same one you broke before!'' mourned Billy,
``Of course,'' retorted Bertram, trying in vain
to give an air of jauntiness to his reply. ``Didn't
want to be too changeable, you know!''
``But how did you do it, dear?''
``Fell into a silly little hole covered with
underbrush. But--oh, Billy, what's the use? I
did it, and I can't undo it--more's the pity!''
``Of course you can't, you poor boy,''
sympathized Billy; ``and you sha'n't be tormented with
questions. We'll just be thankful 'twas no worse.
You can't paint for a while, of course; but we
won't mind that. It'll just give Baby and me a
chance to have you all to ourselves for a time,
and we'll love that!'
``Yes, of course,'' sighed Bertram, so abstractedly
that Billy bridled with pretty resentment.
``Well, I like your enthusiasm, sir,'' she frowned.
``I'm afraid you don't appreciate the blessings
you do have, young man! Did you realize what
I said? I remarked that you could be with _Baby_
and _me_,'' she emphasized.
Bertram laughed, and gave his wife an affectionate
``Indeed I do appreciate my blessings, dear--
when those blessings are such treasures as you
and Baby, but--'' Only his doleful eyes fixed
on his injured arm finished his sentence.
``I know, dear, of course, and I understand,''
murmured Billy, all tenderness at once.
They were not easy for Bertram--those following
days. Once again he was obliged to accept
the little intimate personal services that he
so disliked. Once again he could do nothing but
read, or wander disconsolately into his studio
and gaze at his half-finished ``Face of a Girl.''
Occasionally, it is true, driven nearly to desperation
by the haunting vision in his mind's eye, he
picked up a brush and attempted to make his
left hand serve his will; but a bare half-dozen
irritating, ineffectual strokes were usually enough
to make him throw down his brush in disgust.
He never could do anything with his left hand,
he told himself dejectedly.
Many of his hours, of course, he spent with
Billy and his son, and they were happy hours,
too; but they always came to be restless ones
before the day was half over. Billy was always
devotion itself to him--when she was not
attending to the baby; he had no fault to find with
Billy. And the baby was delightful--he could
find no fault with the baby. But the baby _was_
fretful--he was teething, Billy said--and he
needed a great deal of attention; so, naturally,
Bertram drifted out of the nursery, after a time,
and went down into his studio, where were his
dear, empty palette, his orderly brushes, and
his tantalizing ``Face of a Girl.'' From the
studio, generally, Bertram went out on to the street.
Sometimes he dropped into a fellow-artist's
studio. Sometimes he strolled into a club or
caf where he knew he would be likely to find
some friend who would help him while away a
tiresome hour. Bertram's friends quite vied with
each other in rendering this sort of aid, so much
so, indeed, that--naturally, perhaps--Bertram
came to call on their services more and more
Particularly was this the case when, after the
splints were removed, Bertram found, as the days
passed, that his arm was not improving as it
should improve. This not only disappointed and
annoyed him, but worried him. He remembered
sundry disquieting warnings given by the physician
at the time of the former break--warnings
concerning the probable seriousness of a repetition
of the injury. To Billy, of course, Bertram
said nothing of all this; but just before Christmas
he went to see a noted specialist.
An hour later, almost in front of the learned
surgeon's door, Bertram met Bob Seaver.
``Great Scott, Bertie, what's up?'' ejaculated
Seaver. ``You look as if you'd seen a ghost.''
``I have,'' answered Bertram, with grim
bitterness. ``I've seen the ghost of--of every `Face
of a Girl' I ever painted.''
``Gorry! So bad as that? No wonder you
look as if you'd been disporting in graveyards,''
chuckled Seaver, laughing at his own joke
``What's the matter--arm on a rampage to
He paused for reply, but as Bertram did not
answer at once, he resumed, with gay insistence:
``Come on! You need cheering up. Suppose
we go down to Trentini's and see who's
``All right,'' agreed Bertram, dully. ``Suit
Bertram was not thinking of Seaver, Trentini's,
or whom he might find there. Bertram was thinking
of certain words he had heard less than half
an hour ago. He was wondering, too, if ever
again he could think of anything but those words.
``The truth?'' the great surgeon had said.
``Well, the truth is--I'm sorry to tell you the
truth, Mr. Henshaw, but if you will have it--
you've painted the last picture you'll ever paint
with your right hand, I fear. It's a bad case.
This break, coming as it did on top of the serious
injury of two or three years ago, was bad enough;
but, to make matters worse, the bone was imperfectly
set and wrongly treated, which could not
be helped, of course, as you were miles away from
skilled surgeons at the time of the injury. We'll
do the best we can, of course; but--well, you
asked for the truth, you remember; so I had to
give it to you.''
Bertram made up his mind at once that, for
the present, at least, he would tell no one what
the surgeon had said to him. He had placed
himself under the man's care, and there was nothing
to do but to take the prescribed treatment
and await results as patiently as he could.
Meanwhile there was no need to worry Billy, or
William, or anybody else with the matter.
Billy was so busy with her holiday plans that
she was only vaguely aware of what seemed to
be an increase of restlessness on the part of her
husband during those days just before Christmas.
``Poor dear, is the arm feeling horrid to-day?''
she asked one morning, when the gloom on her
husband's face was deeper than usual.
Bertram frowned and did not answer directly.
``Lots of good I am these days!'' he exclaimed,
his moody eyes on the armful of many-shaped,
many-sized packages she carried. ``What are
those for-the tree?''
``Yes; and it's going to be so pretty, Bertram,''
exulted Billy. ``And, do you know, Baby
positively acts as if he suspected things--little as
he is,'' she went on eagerly. ``He's as nervous
as a witch. I can't keep him still a minute!''
``How about his mother?'' hinted Bertram,
with a faint smile.
Billy laughed.
``Well, I'm afraid she isn't exactly calm
herself,'' she confessed, as she hurried out of the
room with her parcels.
Bertram looked after her longingly, despondently.
``I wonder what she'd say if she--knew,''
he muttered. ``But she sha'n't know--till she
just has to,'' he vowed suddenly, under his breath,
striding into the hall for his hat and coat.
Never had the Strata known such a Christmas
as this was planned to be. Cyril, Marie, and the
twins were to be there, also Kate, her husband
and three children, Paul, Egbert, and little Kate,
from the West. On Christmas Day there was
to be a big family dinner, with Aunt Hannah
down from the Annex. Then, in concession to
the extreme youth of the young host and his twin
cousins, there was to be an afternoon tree. The
shades were to be drawn and the candles lighted,
however, so that there might be no loss of effect.
In the evening the tree was to be once more loaded
with fascinating packages and candy-bags, and
this time the Greggorys, Tommy Dunn, and all
the rest from the Annex were to have the fun all
over again.
From garret to basement the Strata was aflame
with holly, and aglitter with tinsel. Nowhere
did there seem to be a spot that did not have its
bit of tissue paper or its trail of red ribbon. And
everything--holly, ribbon, tissue, and tinsel--
led to the mysteriously closed doors of the great
front drawing-room, past which none but Billy
and her accredited messengers might venture.
No wonder, indeed, that even Baby scented
excitement, and that Baby's mother was not
exactly calm. No wonder, too, that Bertram, with
his helpless right arm, and his heavy heart, felt
peculiarly forlorn and ``out of it.'' No wonder,
also, that he took himself literally out of it with
growing frequency.
Mr. and Mrs. Hartwell and little Kate were
to stay at the Strata. The boys, Paul and
Egbert, were to go to Cyril's. Promptly at the
appointed time, two days before Christmas, they
arrived. And from that hour until two days after
Christmas, when the last bit of holly, ribbon,
tissue, and tinsel disappeared from the floor,
Billy moved in a whirl of anxious responsibility
that was yet filled with fun, frolic, and laughter.
It was a great success, the whole affair.
Everybody seemed pleased and happy--that is,
everybody but Bertram; and he very plainly tried to
seem pleased and happy. Even Cyril unbent to
the extent of not appearing to mind the noise
one bit; and Sister Kate (Bertram said) found
only the extraordinarily small number of four
details to change in the arrangements. Baby
obligingly let his teeth-getting go, for the
occasion, and he and the twins, Franz and Felix, were
the admiration and delight of all. Little Kate,
to be sure, was a trifle disconcerting once or twice,
but everybody was too absorbed to pay much
attention to her. Billy did, however, remember
her opening remarks.
``Well, little Kate, do you remember me?''
Billy had greeted her pleasantly.
``Oh, yes,'' little Kate had answered, with a
winning smile. ``You're my Aunt Billy what
married my Uncle Bertram instead of Uncle
William as you said you would first.''
Everybody laughed, and Billy colored, of
course; but little Kate went on eagerly:
``And I've been wanting just awfully to see
you,'' she announced.
``Have you? I'm glad, I'm sure. I feel highly
flattered,'' smiled Billy.
``Well, I have. You see, I wanted to ask you
something. Have you ever wished that you _had_
married Uncle William instead of Uncle Bertram,
or that you'd tried for Uncle Cyril before Aunty
Marie got him?''
``Kate!'' gasped her horrified mother. ``I
told you-- You see,'' she broke off, turning to
Billy despairingly. ``She's been pestering me
with questions like that ever since she knew she
was coming. She never has forgotten the way
you changed from one uncle to the other. You
may remember; it made a great impression on
her at the time.''
``Yes, I--I remember,'' stammered Billy,
trying to laugh off her embarrassment.
``But you haven't told me yet whether you
did wish you'd married Uncle William, or Uncle
Cyril,'' interposed little Kate, persistently.
``No, no, of course not!'' exclaimed Billy,
with a vivid blush, casting her eyes about for a
door of escape, and rejoicing greatly when she
spied Delia with the baby coming toward them.
``There, look, my dear, here's your new cousin,
little Bertram!'' she exclaimed. ``Don't you
want to see him?''
Little Kate turned dutifully.
``Yes'm, Aunt Billy, but I'd rather see the
twins. Mother says _they're_ real pretty and cunning.''
``Er--y-yes, they are,'' murmured Billy, on
whom the emphasis of the ``they're'' had not
been lost.
Naturally, as may be supposed, therefore,
Billy had not forgotten little Kate's opening remarks.
Immediately after Christmas Mr. Hartwell
and the boys went back to their Western home,
leaving Mrs. Hartwell and her daughter to make
a round of visits to friends in the East. For
almost a week after Christmas they remained at
the Strata; and it was on the last day of their
stay that little Kate asked the question that
proved so momentous in results.
Billy, almost unconsciously, had avoided tte-
-ttes with her small guest. But to-day they
were alone together.
``Aunt Billy,'' began the little girl, after a
meditative gaze into the other's face, ``you _are_
married to Uncle Bertram, aren't you?''
``I certainly am, my dear,'' smiled Billy,
trying to speak unconcernedly.
``Well, then, what makes you forget it?''
``What makes me forget-- Why, child, what
a question! What do you mean? I don't forget
it!'' exclaimed Billy, indignantly.
``Then what _did_ mother mean? I heard her
tell Uncle William myself--she didn't know I
heard, though--that she did wish you'd remember
you were Uncle Bertram's wife as well as
Cousin Bertram's mother.''
Billy flushed scarlet, then grew very white.
At that moment Mrs. Hartwell came into the
room. Little Kate turned triumphantly.
``There, she hasn't forgotten, and I knew she
hadn't, mother! I asked her just now, and she
said she hadn't.''
``Hadn't what?'' questioned Mrs. Hartwell,
looking a little apprehensively at her sister-inlaw's
white face and angry eyes.
``Hadn't forgotten that she was Uncle Bertram's
``Kate,'' interposed Billy, steadily meeting
her sister-in-law's gaze, ``will you be good enough
to tell me what this child is talking about?''
Mrs. Hartwell sighed, and gave an impatient
``Kate, I've a mind to take you home on the
next train,'' she said to her daughter. ``Run
away, now, down-stairs. Your Aunt Billy and I
want to talk. Come, come, hurry! I mean what
I say,'' she added warningly, as she saw unmistakable
signs of rebellion on the small young
``I wish,'' pouted little Kate, rising reluctantly,
and moving toward the door, ``that you
didn't always send me away just when I wanted
most to stay!''
``Well, Kate?'' prompted Billy, as the door
closed behind the little girl.
``Yes, I suppose I'll have to say it now, as
long as that child has put her finger in the pie.
But I hadn't intended to speak, no matter what
I saw. I promised myself I wouldn't, before I
came. I know, of course, how Bertram and Cyril,
and William, too, say that I'm always interfering
in affairs that don't concern me--though,
for that matter, if my own brother's affairs don't
concern me, I don't know whose should!
``But, as I said, I wasn't going to speak this
time, no matter what I saw. And I haven't--
except to William, and Cyril, and Aunt Hannah;
but I suppose somewhere little Kate got
hold of it. It's simply this, Billy. It seems
to me it's high time you began to realize that
you're Bertram's wife as well as the baby's
``That, I am-- I don't think I quite understand,''
said Billy, unsteadily.
``No, I suppose you don't,'' sighed Kate,
``though where your eyes are, I don't see--or,
rather, I do see: they're on the baby, _always_.
It's all very well and lovely, Billy, to be a devoted
mother, and you certainly are that. I'll
say that much for you, and I'll admit I never
thought you would be. But _can't_ you see what
you're doing to Bertram?''
``_Doing to Bertram!_--by being a devoted
mother to his son!''
``Yes, doing to Bertram. Can't you see what
a change there is in the boy? He doesn't act
like himself at all. He's restless and gloomy and
entirely out of sorts.''
``Yes, I know; but that's his arm,'' pleaded
Billy. ``Poor boy--he's so tired of it!''
Kate shook her head decisively.
``It's more than his arm, Billy. You'd see
it yourself if you weren't blinded by your
absorption in that baby. Where is Bertram every
evening? Where is he daytimes? Do you realize
that he's been at home scarcely one evening
since I came? And as for the days--he's almost
never here.''
``But, Kate, he can't paint now, you know,
so of course he doesn't need to stay so closely
at home,'' defended Billy. ``He goes out to find
distraction from himself.''
``Yes, `distraction,' indeed,'' sniffed Kate.
``And where do you suppose he finds it? Do
you _know_ where he finds it? I tell you, Billy,
Bertram Henshaw is not the sort of man that
should find too much `distraction' outside his
home. His tastes and his temperament are
altogether too Bohemian, and--''
Billy interrupted with a peremptorily upraised
``Please remember, Kate, you are speaking
of my husband to his wife; and his wife has perfect
confidence in him, and is just a little particular
as to what you say.''
``Yes; well, I'm speaking of my brother, too,
whom I know very well,'' shrugged Kate. ``All
is, you may remember sometime that I warned
you--that's all. This trusting business is all
very pretty; but I think 'twould be a lot prettier,
and a vast deal more sensible, if you'd give him
a little attention as well as trust, and see if you
can't keep him at home a bit more. At least
you'll know whom he's with, then. Cyril says
he saw him last week with Bob Seaver.''
``With--Bob--Seaver?'' faltered Billy,
changing color.
``Yes. I see you remember him,'' smiled
Kate, not quite agreeably. ``Perhaps now
you'll take some stock in what I've said, and
remember it.''
``I'll remember it, certainly,'' returned Billy,
a little proudly. ``You've said a good many
things to me, in the past, Mrs. Hartwell, and
I've remembered them all--every one.''
It was Kate's turn to flush, and she did it.
``Yes, I know. And I presume very likely
sometimes there _hasn't_ been much foundation
for what I've said. I think this time, however,
you'll find there is,'' she finished, with an air of
hurt dignity.
Billy made no reply, perhaps because Delia,
at that moment, brought in the baby.
Mrs. Hartwell and little Kate left the Strata
the next morning. Until then Billy contrived
to keep, before them, a countenance serene, and
a manner free from unrest. Even when, after
dinner that evening, Bertram put on his hat and
coat and went out, Billy refused to meet her sisterin-
law's meaning gaze. But in the morning,
after they had left the house, Billy did not
attempt to deceive herself. Determinedly, then,
she set herself to going over in her mind the past
months since the baby came; and she was appalled
at what she found. Ever in her ears, too,
was that feared name, ``Bob Seaver''; and ever
before her eyes was that night years ago when,
as an eighteen-year-old girl, she had followed
Bertram and Bob Seaver into a glittering caf
at eleven o'clock at night, because Bertram had
been drinking and was not himself. She remembered
Bertram's face when he had seen her, and
what he had said when she begged him to come
home. She remembered, too, what the family
had said afterward. But she remembered, also,
that years later Bertram had told her what that
escapade of hers had really done for him, and
that he believed he had actually loved her from
that moment. After that night, at all events,
he had had little to do with Bob Seaver.
And now Seaver was back again, it seemed--
and with Bertram. They had been seen together.
But if they had, what could she do? Surely she
could hardly now follow them into a public caf
and demand that Seaver let her husband come
home! But she could keep him at home, perhaps.
(Billy quite brightened at this thought.) Kate
had said that she was so absorbed in Baby that
her husband received no attention at all. Billy
did not believe this was true; but if it were true,
she could at least rectify that mistake. If it were
attention that he wanted--he should want no
more. Poor Bertram! No wonder that he had
sought distraction outside! When one had a
horrid broken arm that would not let one do anything,
what else could one do?
Just here Billy suddenly remembered the book,
``A Talk to Young Wives.'' If she recollected
rightly, there was a chapter that covered the very
claim Kate had been making. Billy had not
thought of the book for months, but she went
at once to get it now. There might be, after all,
something in it that would help her.
``The Coming of the First Baby.'' Billy
found the chapter without difficulty and settled
herself to read, her countenance alight with
interest. In a surprisingly short time, however,
a new expression came to her face; and at last a
little gasp of dismay fell from her lips. She looked
up then, with a startled gaze.
_Had_ her walls possessed eyes and ears all
these past months, only to give instructions to
an unseen hand that it might write what the
eyes and ears had learned? For it was such
sentences as these that the conscience-smitten
Billy read:
``Maternity is apt to work a miracle in a woman's
life, but sometimes it spells disaster so far
as domestic bliss is concerned. The young mother,
wrapped up in the delights and duties of motherhood,
utterly forgets that she has a husband.
She lives and moves and has her being in the
nursery. She thinks baby, talks baby, knows
only baby. She refuses to dress up, because it
is easier to take care of baby in a frowzy wrapper.
She will not go out with her husband for fear
something might happen to the baby. She gives
up her music because baby won't let her practice.
In vain her husband tries to interest her
in his own affairs. She has neither eyes nor ears
for him, only for baby.
``Now no man enjoys having his nose put out
of joint, even by his own child. He loves his
child devotedly, and is proud of him, of course;
but that does not keep him from wanting the society
of his wife occasionally, nor from longing
for her old-time love and sympathetic interest.
It is an admirable thing, certainly, for a woman
to be a devoted mother; but maternal affection
can be carried too far. Husbands have some
rights as well as offspring; and the wife who
neglects her husband for her babies does so at her
peril. Home, with the wife eternally in the
nursery, is apt to be a dull and lonely thing to the
average husband, so he starts out to find amusement
for himself--and he finds it. Then is the
time when the new little life that is so precious,
and that should have bound the two more closely
together, becomes the wedge that drives them
Billy did not read any more. With a little
sobbing cry she flung the book back into her
desk, and began to pull off her wrapper. Her
fingers shook. Already she saw herself a Monster,
a Wicked Destroyer of Domestic Bliss with
her thoughtless absorption in Baby, until he had
become that Awful Thing--a _Wedge_. And Bertram--
poor Bertram, with his broken arm! She
had not played to him, nor sung to him, nor gone
out with him. And when had they had one of
their good long talks about Bertram's work and
But it should all be changed now. She would
play, and sing, and go out with him. She would
dress up, too. He should see no more wrappers.
She would ask about his work, and seem
interested. She _was_ interested. She remembered
now, that just before he was hurt, he had told
her of a new portrait, and of a new ``Face of a
Girl'' that he had planned to do. Lately he had
said nothing about these. He had seemed
discouraged--and no wonder, with his broken arm!
But she would change all that. He should see!
And forthwith Billy hurried to her closet to pick
out her prettiest house frock.
Long before dinner Billy was ready, waiting in
the drawing-room. She had on a pretty little blue
silk gown that she knew Bertram liked, and she
watched very anxiously for Bertram to come up the
steps. She remembered now, with a pang, that he
had long since given up his peculiar ring; but she
meant to meet him at the door just the same.
Bertram, however, did not come. At a quarter
before six he telephoned that he had met some
friends, and would dine at the club.
``My, my, how pretty we are!'' exclaimed
Uncle William, when they went down to dinner
together. ``New frock?''
``Why, no, Uncle William,'' laughed Billy, a
little tremulously. ``You've seen it dozens of
``Have I?'' murmured the man. ``I don't
seem to remember it. Too bad Bertram isn't
here to see you. Somehow, you look unusually
pretty to-night.''
And Billy's heart ached anew.
Billy spent the evening practicing--softly,
to be sure, so as not to wake Baby--but _practicing_.
As the days passed Billy discovered that it
was much easier to say she would ``change
things'' than it was really to change them. She
changed herself, it is true--her clothes, her
habits, her words, and her thoughts; but it was
more difficult to change Bertram. In the first
place, he was there so little. She was dismayed
when she saw how very little, indeed, he was at
home--and she did not like to ask him outright
to stay. That was not in accordance with her
plans. Besides, the ``Talk to Young Wives''
said that indirect influence was much to be
preferred, always, to direct persuasion--which
last, indeed, usually failed to produce results.
So Billy ``dressed up,'' and practiced, and
talked (of anything but the baby), and even
hinted shamelessly once or twice that she would
like to go to the theater; but all to little avail.
True, Bertram brightened up, for a minute, when
he came home and found her in a new or a favorite
dress, and he told her how pretty she looked.
He appeared to like to have her play to him, too,
even declaring once or twice that it was quite
like old times, yes, it was. But he never noticed
her hints about the theater, and he did not seem
to like to talk about his work, even a little bit.
Billy laid this last fact to his injured arm. She
decided that he had become blue and discouraged,
and that he needed cheering up, especially
about his work; so she determinedly and
systematically set herself to doing it.
She talked of the fine work he had done, and
of the still finer work he would yet do, when his
arm was well. She told him how proud she was
of him, and she let him see how dear his Art was
to her, and how badly she would feel if she thought
he had really lost all his interest in his work and
would never paint again. She questioned him
about the new portrait he was to begin as soon
as his arm would let him; and she tried to arouse
his enthusiasm in the picture he had planned to
show in the March Exhibition of the Bohemian
Ten, telling him that she was sure his arm would
allow him to complete at least one canvas to hang.
In none of this, however, did Bertram appear
in the least interested. The one thing, indeed,
which he seemed not to want to talk about, was
his work; and he responded to her overtures on
the subject with only moody silence, or else with
almost irritable monosyllables; all of which not
only grieved but surprised Billy very much. For,
according to the ``Talk to Young Wives,'' she
was doing exactly what the ideal, sympathetic,
interested-in-her-husband's-work wife should do.
When February came, bringing with it no
change for the better, Billy was thoroughly
frightened. Bertram's arm plainly was not
improving. He was more gloomy and restless than
ever. He seemed not to want to stay at home
at all; and Billy knew now for a certainty that he
was spending more and more time with Bob
Seaver and ``the boys.''
Poor Billy! Nowhere could she look these days
and see happiness. Even the adored baby seemed,
at times, almost to give an added pang. Had he
not become, according to the ``Talk to Young
Wives'' that awful thing, a _Wedge_? The Annex,
too, carried its sting; for where was the need of
an overflow house for happiness now, when there
was no happiness to overflow? Even the little
jade idol on Billy's mantel Billy could not bear
to see these days, for its once bland smile had
become a hideous grin, demanding, ``Where,
now, is your heap plenty velly good luckee?''
But, before Bertram, Billy still carried a bravely
smiling face, and to him still she talked earnestly
and enthusiastically of his work--which last,
as it happened, was the worst course she could
have pursued; for the one thing poor Bertram
wished to forget, just now, was--his work.
Early in February came Arkwright's appearance
at the Boston Opera House--the first since
he had sung there as a student a few years before.
He was an immediate and an unquestioned success.
His portrait adorned the front page of almost
every Boston newspaper the next morning,
and captious critics vied with each other to do
him honor. His full history, from boyhood up,
was featured, with special emphasis on his recent
triumphs in New York and foreign capitals. He
was interviewed as to his opinion on everything
from vegetarianism to woman's suffrage; and
his preferences as to pies and pastimes were given
headline prominence. There was no doubt of it.
Mr. M. J. Arkwright was a star.
All Arkwright's old friends, including Billy,
Bertram, Cyril, Marie, Calderwell, Alice Greggory,
Aunt Hannah, and Tommy Dunn, went to
hear him sing; and after the performance he held
a miniature reception, with enough adulation to
turn his head completely around, he declared
deprecatingly. Not until the next evening, however,
did he have an opportunity for what he
called a real talk with any of his friends; then,
in Calderwell's room, he settled back in his chair
with a sigh of content.
For a time his own and Calderwell's affairs
occupied their attention; then, after a short pause,
the tenor asked abruptly:
``Is there anything--wrong with the Henshaws,
Calderwell came suddenly erect in his chair.
``Thank you! I hoped you'd introduce that
subject; though, for that matter, if you hadn't,
I should. Yes, there is--and I'm looking to
you, old man, to get them out of it.''
``I?'' Arkwright sat erect now.
``What do you mean?''
``In a way, the expected has happened--
though I know now that I didn't really expect
it to happen, in spite of my prophecies. You may
remember I was always skeptical on the subject
of Bertram's settling down to a domestic hearthstone.
I insisted 'twould be the turn of a girl's
head and the curve of her cheek that he wanted
to paint.''
Arkwright looked up with a quick frown.
``You don't mean that Henshaw has been cad
enough to find another--''
Calderwell threw up his hand.
``No, no, not that! We haven't that to deal
with--yet, thank goodness! There's no woman
in it. And, really, when you come right down to
it, if ever a fellow had an excuse to seek diversion,
Bertram Henshaw has--poor chap! It's just
this. Bertram broke his arm again last October.''
``Yes, so I hear, and I thought he was looking
``He is. It's a bad business. 'Twas improperly
set in the first place, and it's not doing well
now. In fact, I'm told on pretty good authority
that the doctor says he probably will never use
it again.''
``Oh, by George! Calderwell!''
``Yes. Tough, isn't it? 'Specially when you
think of his work, and know--as I happen to--
that he's particularly dependent on his right
hand for everything. He doesn't tell this
generally, and I understand Billy and the family
know nothing of it--how hopeless the case is,
I mean. Well, naturally, the poor fellow has
been pretty thoroughly discouraged, and to get
away from himself he's gone back to his old
Bohemian habits, spending much of his time with
some of his old cronies that are none too good
for him--Seaver, for instance.''
``Bob Seaver? Yes, I know him.'' Arkwright's
lips snapped together crisply.
``Yes. He said he knew you. That's why I'm
counting on your help.''
``What do you mean?''
``I mean I want you to get Henshaw away
from him, and keep him away.''
Arkwright's face darkened with an angry
``Great Scott, Calderwell! What are you
talking about? Henshaw is no kid to be toted
home, and I'm no nursery governess to do the
Calderwell laughed quietly.
``No; I don't think any one would take you
for a nursery governess, Arkwright, in spite of
the fact that you are still known to some of your
friends as `Mary Jane.' But you can sing a song,
man, which will promptly give you a through
ticket to their innermost sacred circle. In fact,
to my certain knowledge, Seaver is already planning
a jamboree with you at the right hand of
the toastmaster. There's your chance. Once
in, stay in--long enough to get Henshaw
``But, good heavens, Calderwell, it's impossible!
What can I do?'' demanded Arkwright,
savagely. ``I can't walk up to the man, take
him by the ear, and say: `Here, you, sir--march
home!' Neither can I come the `I-am-holierthan-
thou' act, and hold up to him the mirror
of his transgressions.''
``No, but you can get him out of it _some_ way.
You can find a way--for Billy's sake.''
There was no answer, and, after a moment,
Calderwell went on more quietly.
``I haven't seen Billy but two or three times
since I came back to Boston--but I don't need
to, to know that she's breaking her heart over
something. And of course that something is--
There was still no answer. Arkwright got up
suddenly, and walked to the window.
``You see, I'm helpless,'' resumed Calderwell.
``I don't paint pictures, nor sing songs, nor write
stories, nor dance jigs for a living--and you
have to do one or another to be in with that set.
And it's got to be a Johnny-on-the-spot with
Bertram. All is, something will have to be done
to get him out of the state of mind and body
he's in now, or--''
Arkwright wheeled sharply.
``When did you say this jamboree was going
to be?'' he demanded.
``Next week, some time. The date is not settled.
They were going to consult you.''
``Hm-m,'' commented Arkwright. And,
though his next remark was a complete change
of subject, Calderwell gave a contented sigh.
If, when the proposition was first made to him,
Arkwright was doubtful of his ability to be a
successful ``Johnny-on-the-spot,'' he was even
more doubtful of it as the days passed, and he
was attempting to carry out the suggestion.
He had known that he was undertaking a most
difficult and delicate task, and he soon began to
fear that it was an impossible one, as well. With
a dogged persistence, however, he adhered to his
purpose, ever on the alert to be more watchful,
more tactful, more efficient in emergencies.
Disagreeable as was the task, in a way, in
another way it was a great pleasure to him. He
was glad of the opportunity to do anything for
Billy; and then, too, he was glad of something
absorbing enough to take his mind off his own
affairs. He told himself, sometimes, that this
helping another man to fight his tiger skin was
assisting himself to fight his own.
Arkwright was trying very hard not to think
of Alice Greggory these days. He had come back
hoping that he was in a measure ``cured'' of his
``folly,'' as he termed it; but the first look into
Alice Greggory's blue-gray eyes had taught him
the fallacy of that idea. In that very first meeting
with Alice, he feared that he had revealed
his secret, for she was plainly so nervously distant
and ill at ease with him that he could but
construe her embarrassment and chilly dignity as
pity for him and a desire to show him that she
had nothing but friendship for him. Since then
he had seen but little of her, partly because he
did not wish to see her, and partly because his
time was so fully occupied. Then, too, in a roundabout
way he had heard a rumor that Calderwell
was engaged to be married; and, though no feminine
name had been mentioned in connection
with the story, Arkwright had not hesitated
to supply in his own mind that of Alice Greggory.
Beginning with the ``jamboree,'' which came
off quite in accordance with Calderwell's prophecies,
Arkwright spent the most of such time as
was not given to his professional duties in
deliberately cultivating the society of Bertram and
his friends. To this extent he met with no difficulty,
for he found that M. J. Arkwright, the
new star in the operatic firmament, was obviously
a welcome comrade. Beyond this it was not so
easy. Arkwright wondered, indeed, sometimes,
if he were making any progress at all. But still
he persevered.
He walked with Bertram, he talked with Bertram,
unobtrusively he contrived to be near Bertram
almost always, when they were together
with ``the boys.'' Gradually he won from him
the story of what the surgeon had said to him,
and of how black the future looked in
consequence. This established a new bond between
them, so potent that Arkwright ventured to test
it one day by telling Bertram the story of the
tiger skin--the first tiger skin in his uncle's
library years ago, and of how, since then, any
difficulty he had encountered he had tried to treat
as a tiger skin. In telling the story he was careful
to draw no moral for his listener, and to preach
no sermon. He told the tale, too, with all possible
whimsical lightness of touch, and immediately
at its conclusion he changed the subject.
But that he had not failed utterly in his design
was evidenced a few days later when Bertram
grimly declared that he guessed _his_ tiger skin
was a lively beast, all right.
The first time Arkwright went home with
Bertram, his presence was almost a necessity.
Bertram was not quite himself that night. Billy
admitted them. She had plainly been watching
and waiting. Arkwright never forgot the look
on her face as her eyes met his. There was a
curious mixture of terror, hurt pride, relief, and
shame, overtopped by a fierce loyalty which almost
seemed to say aloud the words: ``Don't
you dare to blame him!''
Arkwright's heart ached with sympathy and
admiration at the proudly courageous way in
which Billy carried off the next few painful
minutes. Even when he bade her good night a little
later, only her eyes said ``thank you.'' Her lips
were dumb.
Arkwright often went home with Bertram after
that. Not that it was always necessary--
far from it. Some time, indeed, elapsed before
he had quite the same excuse again for his presence.
But he had found that occasionally he
could get Bertram home earlier by adroit
suggestions of one kind or another; and more and
more frequently he was succeeding in getting
him home for a game of chess.
Bertram liked chess, and was a fine player.
Since breaking his arm he had turned to games
with the feverish eagerness of one who looks for
something absorbing to fill an unrestful mind.
It was Seaver's skill in chess that had at first
attracted Bertram to the man long ago; but Bertram
could beat him easily--too easily for much
pleasure in it now. So they did not play chess
often these days. Bertram had found that, in
spite of his injury, he could still take part in
other games, and some of them, if not so intricate
as chess, were at least more apt to take his
mind off himself, especially if there were a bit
of money up to add zest and interest.
As it happened, however, Bertram learned
one day that Arkwright could play chess--and
play well, too, as he discovered after their first
game together. This fact contributed not a
little to such success as Arkwright was having
in his efforts to wean Bertram from his undesirable
companions; for Bertram soon found out
that Arkwright was more than a match for himself,
and the occasional games he did succeed in
winning only whetted his appetite for more.
Many an evening now, therefore, was spent by
the two men in Bertram's den, with Billy
anxiously hovering near, her eyes longingly
watching either her husband's absorbed face or the
pretty little red and white ivory figures, which
seemed to possess so wonderful a power to hold
his attention. In spite of her joy at the chessmen's
efficacy in keeping Bertram at home, however,
she was almost jealous of them.
``Mr. Arkwright, couldn't you show _me_ how to
play, sometime?'' she said wistfully, one evening,
when the momentary absence of Bertram
had left the two alone together. ``I used to
watch Bertram and Marie play years ago; but
I never knew how to play myself. Not that I
can see where the fun is in just sitting staring at
a chessboard for half an hour at a time, though!
But Bertram likes it, and so I--I want to learn
to stare with him. Will you teach me?''
``I should be glad to,'' smiled Arkwright.
``Then will you come, maybe, sometimes
when Bertram is at the doctor's? He goes every
Tuesday and Friday at three o'clock for treatment.
I'd rather you came then for two reasons:
first, because I don't want Bertram to know
I'm learning, till I can play _some_; and, secondly,
because--because I don't want to take you
away--from him.''
The last words were spoken very low, and were
accompanied by a painful blush. It was the
first time Billy had ever hinted to Arkwright,
in words, that she understood what he was trying
to do.
``I'll come next Tuesday,'' promised Arkwright,
with a cheerfully unobservant air. Then Bertram
came in, bringing the book of Chess Problems,
for which he had gone up-stairs.
Promptly at three o'clock Tuesday afternoon
Arkwright appeared at the Strata, and for the
next hour Billy did her best to learn the names
and the moves of the pretty little ivory men.
But at the end of the hour she was almost ready
to give up in despair.
``If there weren't so many kinds, and if they
didn't all insist on doing something different, it
wouldn't be so bad,'' she sighed. ``But how can
you be expected to remember which goes diagonal,
and which crisscross, and which can't go
but one square, and which can skip 'way across
the board, 'specially when that little pawn-thing
can go straight ahead _two_ squares sometimes,
and the next minute only one (except when it
takes things, and then it goes crooked one square)
and when that tiresome little horse tries to go
all ways at once, and can jump 'round and hurdle
over _anybody's_ head, even the king's--how can
you expect folks to remember? But, then, Bertram
remembers,'' she added, resolutely, ``so I
guess I can.''
Whenever possible, after that, Arkwright came
on Tuesdays and Fridays, and, in spite of her
doubts, Billy did very soon begin to ``remember.''
Spurred by her great desire to play with Bertram
and surprise him, Billy spared no pains to learn
well her lessons. Even among the baby's books
and playthings these days might be found a
``Manual of Chess,'' for Billy pursued her study
at all hours; and some nights even her dreams
were of ruined, castles where kings and queens
and bishops disported themselves, with pawns
for servants, and where a weird knight on horseback
used the castle's highest tower for a hurdle,
landing always a hundred yards to one side of
where he would be expected to come down.
It was not long, of course, before Billy could
play a game of chess, after a fashion, but she
knew just enough to realize that she actually
knew nothing; and she knew, too, that until she
could play a really good game, her moves would
not hold Bertram's attention for one minute.
Not at present, therefore, was she willing Bertram
should know what she was attempting to do.
Billy had not yet learned what the great
surgeon had said to Bertram. She knew only that
his arm was no better, and that he never voluntarily
spoke of his painting. Over her now seemed
to be hanging a vague horror. Something was
the matter. She knew that. But what it was
she could not fathom. She realized that Arkwright
was trying to help, and her gratitude,
though silent, knew no bounds. Not even to
Aunt Hannah or Uncle William could she speak
of this thing that was troubling her. That they,
too, understood, in a measure, she realized. But
still she said no word. Billy was wearing a proud
little air of aloofness these days that was heartbreaking
to those who saw it and read it aright
for what it was: loyalty to Bertram, no matter
what happened. And so Billy pored over her
chessboard feverishly, tirelessly, having ever
before her longing eyes the dear time when Bertram,
across the table from her, should sit happily
staring for half an hour at a move she had
Whatever Billy's chess-playing was to signify,
however, in her own life, it was destined to play
a part in the lives of two friends of hers that was
most unexpected.
During Billy's very first lesson, as it chanced,
Alice Greggory called and found Billy and Arkwright
so absorbed in their game that they did
not at first hear Eliza speak her name.
The quick color that flew to Arkwright's face
at sight of herself was construed at once by Alice
as embarrassment on his part at being found
tte--tte with Bertram Henshaw's wife. And
she did not like it. She was not pleased that he
was there. She was less pleased that he blushed
for being there.
It so happened that Alice found him there
again several times. Alice gave a piano lesson
at two o'clock every Tuesday and Friday afternoon
to a little Beacon Street neighbor of Billy's,
and she had fallen into the habit of stepping in
to see Billy for a few minutes afterward, which
brought her there at a little past three, just after
the chess lesson was well started.
If, the first time that Alice Greggory found
Arkwright opposite Billy at the chess-table, she
was surprised and displeased, the second and third
times she was much more so. When it finally
came to her one day with sickening illumination,
that always the tte--ttes were during Bertram's
hour at the doctor's, she was appalled.
What could it mean? Had Arkwright given
up his fight? Was he playing false to himself
and to Bertram by trying thus, on the sly, to win
the love of his friend's wife? Was this man,
whom she had so admired for his brave stand,
and to whom all unasked she had given her heart's
best love (more the pity of it!)--was this idol
of hers to show feet of clay, after all? She could
not believe it. And yet--
Sick at heart, but imbued with the determination
of a righteous cause, Alice Greggory resolved,
for Billy's sake, to watch and wait. If
necessary she should speak to some one--though
to whom she did not know. Billy's happiness
should not be put in jeopardy if she could help it.
Indeed, no!
As the weeks passed, Alice came to be more
and more uneasy, distressed, and grieved. Of
Billy she could believe no evil; but of Arkwright
she was beginning to think she could believe
everything that was dishonorable and despicable.
And to believe that of the man she still loved--
no wonder that Alice did not look nor act like
herself these days.
Incensed at herself because she did love him,
angry at him because he seemed to be proving
himself so unworthy of that love, and genuinely
frightened at what she thought was the fastapproaching
wreck of all happiness for her dear
friend, Billy, Alice did not know which way to
turn. At the first she had told herself confidently
that she would ``speak to somebody.'' But, as
time passed, she saw the impracticability of that
idea. Speak to somebody, indeed! To whom?
When? Where? What should she say? Where
was her right to say anything? She was not
dealing with a parcel of naughty children who had
pilfered the cake jar! She was dealing with grown
men and women, who, presumedly, knew their
own affairs, and who, certainly, would resent
any interference from her. On the other hand,
could she stand calmly by and see Bertram lose
his wife, Arkwright his honor, Billy her happiness,
and herself her faith in human nature, all
because to do otherwise would be to meddle in other
people's business? Apparently she could, and
should. At least that seemed to be the rle which
she was expected to play.
It was when Alice had reached this unhappy
frame of mind that Arkwright himself unexpectedly
opened the door for her.
The two were alone together in Bertram
Henshaw's den. It was Tuesday afternoon. Alice
had called to find Billy and Arkwright deep in
their usual game of chess. Then a matter of
domestic affairs had taken Billy from the room.
``I'm afraid I'll have to be gone ten minutes,
or more,'' she had said, as she rose from the table
reluctantly. ``But you might be showing Alice
the moves, Mr. Arkwright,'' she had added, with
a laugh, as she disappeared.
``Shall I teach you the moves?'' he had smiled,
when they were alone together.
Alice's reply had been so indignantly short
and sharp that Arkwright, after a moment's
pause, had said, with a whimsical smile that yet
carried a touch of sadness:
``I am forced to surmise from your answer
that you think it is _you_ who should be teaching
_me_ moves. At all events, I seem to have been
making some moves lately that have not suited
you, judging by your actions. Have I offended
you in any way, Alice?''
The girl turned with a quick lifting of her head.
Alice knew that if ever she were to speak, it must
be now. Never again could she hope for such
an opportunity as this. Suddenly throwing
circumspect caution quite aside, she determined
that she would speak. Springing to her feet she
crossed the room and seated herself in Billy's
chair at the chess-table.
``Me! Offend me!'' she exclaimed, in a low
voice. ``As if I were the one you were offending!''
``Why, _Alice!_'' murmured the man, in obvious
Alice raised her hand, palm outward.
``Now don't, _please_ don't pretend you don't
know,'' she begged, almost piteously. ``Please
don't add that to all the rest. Oh, I understand,
of course, it's none of my affairs, and I wasn't
going to speak,'' she choked; ``but, to-day, when
you gave me this chance, I had to. At first I
couldn't believe it,'' she plunged on, plainly hurrying
against Billy's return. ``After all you'd
told me of how you meant to fight it--your
tiger skin. And I thought it merely _happened_
that you were here alone with her those days I
came. Then, when I found out they were _always_
the days Mr. Henshaw was away at the doctor's,
I had to believe.''
She stopped for breath. Arkwright, who, up
to this moment had shown that he was completely
mystified as to what she was talking
about, suddenly flushed a painful red. He was
obviously about to speak, but she prevented him
with a quick gesture.
``There's a little more I've got to say, please.
As if it weren't bad enough to do what you're
doing _at all_, but you must needs take it at such
a time as this when--when her husband _isn't_
doing just what he ought to do, and we all know
it--it's so unfair to take her now, and try to--
to win-- And you aren't even fair with him,''
she protested tremulously. ``You pretend to
be his friend. You go with him everywhere. It's
just as if you were _helping_ to--to pull him down.
You're one with the whole bunch.'' (The blood
suddenly receded from Arkwright's face, leaving
it very white; but if Alice saw it, she paid no
heed.) ``Everybody says you are. Then to
come here like this, on the sly, when you know
he can't be here, I-- Oh, can't you see what
you're doing?''
There was a moment's pause, then Arkwright
spoke. A deep pain looked from his eyes. He
was still very pale, and his mouth had settled
into sad lines.
``I think, perhaps, it may be just as well if I
tell you what I _am_ doing--or, rather, trying to
do,'' he said quietly.
Then he told her.
``And so you see,'' he added, when he had
finished the tale, ``I haven't really accomplished
much, after all, and it seems the little I have
accomplished has only led to my being misjudged
by you, my best friend.''
Alice gave a sobbing cry. Her face was scarlet.
Horror, shame, and relief struggled for mastery
in her countenance.
``Oh, but I didn't know, I didn't know,'' she
moaned, twisting her hands nervously. ``And
now, when you've been so brave, so true--for
me to accuse you of-- Oh, can you _ever_ forgive
me? But you see, knowing that you _did_ care for
her, it did look--'' She choked into silence,
and turned away her head.
He glanced at her tenderly, mournfully.
``Yes,'' he said, after a minute, in a low voice.
``I can see how it did look; and so I'm going to
tell you now something I had meant never to tell
you. There really couldn't have been anything in
that, you see, for I found out long ago that it was
gone--whatever love there had been for--
``But your--tiger skin!''
``Oh, yes, I thought it was alive,'' smiled
Arkwright, sadly, ``when I asked you to help me
fight it. But one day, very suddenly, I discovered
that it was nothing but a dead skin of dreams
and memories. But I made another discovery,
too. I found that just beyond lay another one,
and that was very much alive.''
``Another one?'' Alice turned to him in
wonder. ``But you never asked me to help you fight
--that one!''
He shook his head.
``No; I couldn't, you see. You couldn't have
helped me. You'd only have hindered me.''
``Hindered you?''
``Yes. You see, it was my love for--you,
that I was fighting--then.''
Alice gave a low cry and flushed vividly; but
Arkwright hurried on, his eyes turned away.
``Oh, I understand. I know. I'm not asking
for--anything. I heard some time ago of your
engagement to Calderwell. I've tried many
times to say the proper, expected pretty speeches,
but--I couldn't. I will now, though. I do.
You have all my tenderest best wishes for your
happiness--dear. If long ago I hadn't been
such a blind fool as not to know my own
``But--but there's some mistake,'' interposed
Alice, palpitatingly, with hanging head.
``I--I'm not engaged to Mr. Calderwell.''
Arkwright turned and sent a keen glance into
her face.
``But I heard that Calderwell--'' He stopped
``You heard that Mr. Calderwell was engaged,
very likely. But--it so happens he isn't engaged--
to me,'' murmured Alice, faintly.
``But, long ago you said--'' Arkwright
paused, his eyes still keenly searching her face.
``Never mind what I said--long ago,'' laughed
Alice, trying unsuccessfully to meet his gaze.
``One says lots of things, at times, you know.''
Into Arkwright's eyes came a new light, a
light that plainly needed but a breath to fan it
into quick fire.
``Alice,'' he said softly, ``do you mean that
maybe now--I needn't try to fight--that other
tiger skin?''
There was no answer.
Arkwright reached out a pleading hand.
``Alice, dear, I've loved you so long,'' he begged
unsteadily. ``Don't you think that sometime,
if I was very, very patient, you could just _begin_
--to care a little for me?''
Still there was no answer. Then, slowly, Alice
shook her head. Her face was turned quite away
--which was a pity, for if Arkwright could have
seen the sudden tender mischief in her eyes, his
own would not have become so somber.
``Not even a little bit?''
``I couldn't ever--begin,'' answered a halfsmothered
``Alice!'' cried the man, heart-brokenly.
Alice turned now, and for a fleeting instant
let him see her eyes, glowing with the love so
long kept in relentless exile.
``I couldn't, because, you see-I began--
long ago,'' she whispered.
``Alice!'' It was the same single word, but
spoken with a world of difference, for into it now
was crowded all the glory and the wonder of a
great love. ``Alice!'' breathed the man again;
and this time the word was, oh, so tenderly whispered
into the little pink and white ear of the girl
in his arms.
``I got delayed,'' began Billy, in the doorway.
``Oh-h!'' she broke off, beating a hushed, but
precipitate, retreat.
Fully thirty minutes later, Billy came to the
door again. This time her approach was heralded
by a snatch of song.
``I hope you'll excuse my being gone so long,''
she smiled, as she entered the room where her
two guests sat decorously face to face at the chesstable.
``Well, you know you said you'd be gone ten
minutes,'' Arkwright reminded her, politely.
``Yes, I know I did.'' And Billy, to her credit,
did not even smile at the man who did not know
ten minutes from fifty.
After all, it was the baby's hand that did it,
as was proper, and perhaps to be expected; for
surely, was it not Bertram, Jr.'s place to show
his parents that he was, indeed, no Wedge, but
a dear and precious Tie binding two loving, loyal
hearts more and more closely together? It
would seem, indeed, that Bertram, Jr., thought
so, perhaps, and very bravely he set about it;
though, to carry out his purpose, he had to turn
his steps into an unfamiliar way--a way of pain,
and weariness, and danger.
It was Arkwright who told Bertram that the
baby was very sick, and that Billy wanted him.
Bertram went home at once to find a distracted,
white-faced Billy, and a twisted, pain-racked
little creature, who it was almost impossible to
believe was the happy, laughing baby boy he
had left that morning.
For the next two weeks nothing was thought
of in the silent old Beacon Street house but the
tiny little life hovering so near Death's door that
twice it appeared to have slipped quite across
the threshold. All through those terrible weeks
it seemed as if Billy neither ate nor slept; and
always at her side, comforting, cheering, and
helping wherever possible was Bertram, tender,
loving, and marvelously thoughtful.
Then came the turning point when the universe
itself appeared to hang upon a baby's
breath. Gradually, almost imperceptibly, came
the fluttering back of the tiny spirit into the
longing arms stretched so far, far out to meet and
hold it. And the father and the mother, looking
into each other's sleepless, dark-ringed eyes,
knew that their son was once more theirs to love
and cherish.
When two have gone together with a dear one
down into the Valley of the Shadow of Death,
and have come back, either mourning or rejoicing,
they find a different world from the one they
had left. Things that were great before seem
small, and some things that were small seem
great. At least Bertram and Billy found their
world thus changed when together they came
back bringing their son with them.
In the long weeks of convalescence, when the
healthy rosiness stole bit by bit into the baby's
waxen face, and the light of recognition and
understanding crept day by day into the baby's
eyes, there was many a quiet hour for heart-toheart
talks between the two who so anxiously
and joyously hailed every rosy tint and fleeting
sparkle. And there was so much to tell, so much
to hear, so much to talk about! And always,
running through everything, was that golden
thread of joy, beside which all else paled--that
they had Baby and each other. As if anything
else mattered!
To be sure, there was Bertram's arm. Very
early in their talks Billy found out about that.
But Billy, with Baby getting well, was not to be
daunted, even by this.
``Nonsense, darling--not paint again,
indeed! Why, Bertram, of course you will,'' she
cried confidently.
``But, Billy, the doctor said,'' began Bertram;
but Billy would not even listen.
``Very well, what if he did, dear?'' she
interrupted. ``What if he did say you couldn't use
your right arm much again?'' Billy's voice broke
a little, then quickly steadied into something very
much like triumph. ``You've got your left one!''
Bertram shook his head.
``I can't paint with that.''
``Yes, you can,'' insisted Billy, firmly. ``Why,
Bertram, what do you suppose you were given
two arms for if not to fight with both of them?
And I'm going to be ever so much prouder of
what you paint now, because I'll know how splendidly
you worked to do it. Besides, there's Baby.
As if you weren't ever going to paint for Baby!
Why, Bertram, I'm going to have you paint Baby,
one of these days. Think how pleased he'll be
to see it when he grows up! He's nicer, anyhow,
than any old `Face of a Girl' you ever did.
Paint? Why, Bertram, darling, of course you're
going to paint, and better than you ever did before!''
Bertram shook his head again; but this time
he smiled, and patted Billy's cheek with the tip
of his forefinger.
``As if I could!'' he disclaimed. But that
afternoon he went into his long-deserted studio and
hunted up his last unfinished picture. For some
time he stood motionless before it; then, with a
quick gesture of determination, he got out his
palette, paints, and brushes. This time not until
he had painted ten, a dozen, a score of strokes,
did he drop his brush with a sigh and carefully
erase the fresh paint on the canvas. The next
day he worked longer, and this time he allowed
a little, a very little, of what he had done to
The third day Billy herself found him at his
``I wonder--do you suppose I could?'' he
asked fearfully.
``Why, dearest, of course you can! Haven't
you noticed? Can't you see how much more you
can do with your left hand now? You've _had_ to
use it, you see. _I've_ seen you do a lot of things
with it, lately, that you never used to do at all.
And, of course, the more you do with it, the more
you can!''
``I know; but that doesn't mean that I can
paint with it,'' sighed Bertram, ruefully eyeing
the tiny bit of fresh color his canvas showed for
his long afternoon's work.
``You wait and see,'' nodded Billy, with so
overwhelming a cheery confidence that Bertram,
looking into her glowing face, was conscious of a
curious throb of exultation, almost as if already
the victory were his.
But it was not always of Bertram's broken
arm, nor even of his work that they talked. Bertram,
hanging over the baby's crib to assure himself
that the rosiness and the sparkle were really
growing more apparent every day, used to wonder
sometimes how ever in the world he could
have been jealous of his son. He said as much
one day to Billy.
To Billy it was a most astounding idea.
``You mean you were actually jealous of your
own baby?'' she gasped. ``Why, Bertram, how
could-- And was that why you--you sought
distraction and-- Oh, but, Bertram, that was
all my f-fault,'' she quavered remorsefully. ``I
wouldn't play, nor sing, nor go to walk, nor
anything; and I wore horrid frowzy wrappers all the
time, and--''
``Oh, come, come, Billy,'' expostulated the
man. ``I'm not going to have you talk like that
about _my wife!_''
``But I did--the book said I did,'' wailed
``The book? Good heavens! Are there any
books in this, too?'' demanded Bertram.
``Yes, the same one; the--the `Talks to
Young Wives,' '' nodded Billy. And then,
because some things had grown small to them, and
some others great, they both laughed happily.
But even this was not quite all; for one
evening, very shyly, Billy brought out the chessboard.
``Of course I can't play well,'' she faltered;
``and maybe you don't want to play with me at
But Bertram, when he found out why she had
learned, was very sure he did want very much
to play with her.
Billy did not beat, of course. But she did
several times experience--for a few blissful minutes
--the pleasure of seeing Bertram sit motionless,
studying the board, because of a move she had
made. And though, in the end, her king was
ignominiously trapped with not an unguarded
square upon which to set his poor distracted
foot, the memory of those blissful minutes when
she had made Bertram ``stare'' more than paid
for the final checkmate.
By the middle of June the baby was well
enough to be taken to the beach, and Bertram
was so fortunate as to secure the same house
they had occupied before. Once again William
went down in Maine for his fishing trip, and the
Strata was closed. In the beach house Bertram
was painting industriously--with his left hand.
Almost he was beginning to feel Billy's enthusiasm.
Almost he was believing that he _was_ doing
good work. It was not the ``Face of a Girl,'' now.
It was the face of a baby: smiling, laughing, even
crying, sometimes; at other times just gazing
straight into your eyes with adorable soberness.
Bertram still went into Boston twice a week for
treatment, though the treatment itself had
changed. The great surgeon had sent him to
still another specialist.
``There's a chance--though perhaps a small
one,'' he had said. ``I'd like you to try it, anyway.''
As the summer advanced, Bertram thought
sometimes that he could see a slight improvement
in his injured arm; but he tried not to
think too much about this. He had thought
the same thing before, only to be disappointed
in the end. Besides, he was undeniably interested
just now in seeing if he _could_ paint with
his left hand. Billy was so sure, and she had
said that she would be prouder than ever of him,
if he could--and he would like to make Billy
proud! Then, too, there was the baby--he had
no idea a baby could be so interesting to paint.
He was not sure but that he was going to like to
paint babies even better than he had liked to
paint his ``Face of a Girl'' that had brought
him his first fame.
In September the family returned to the Strata.
The move was made a little earlier this year on
account of Alice Greggory's wedding.
Alice was to be married in the pretty livingroom
at the Annex, just where Billy herself had
been married a few short years before; and
Billy had great plans for the wedding--not
all of which she was able to carry out, for
Alice, like Marie before her, had very strong
objections to being placed under too great
``And you see, really, anyway,'' she told Billy,
``I owe the whole thing to you, to begin with--
even my husband.''
``Nonsense! Of course you don't,'' disputed
``But I do. If it hadn't been for you I should
never have found him again, and of _course_ I
shouldn't have had this dear little home to be
married in. And I never could have left mother
if she hadn't had Aunt Hannah and the Annex
which means you. And if I hadn't found Mr.
Arkwright, I might never have known how--
how I could go back to my old home (as I am
going on my honeymoon trip), and just know that
every one of my old friends who shakes hands
with me isn't pitying me now, because I'm my
father's daughter. And that means you; for you
see I never would have known that my father's
name was cleared if it hadn't been for you.
``Oh, Alice, please, please,'' begged Billy,
laughingly raising two protesting hands. ``Why
don't you say that it's to me you owe just breathing,
and be done with it?''
``Well, I will, then,'' avowed Alice, doggedly.
``And it's true, too, for, honestly, my dear, I
don't believe I would have been breathing to-day,
nor mother, either, if you hadn't found us that
morning, and taken us out of those awful rooms.''
``I? Never! You wouldn't let me take you
out,'' laughed Billy. ``You proud little thing!
Maybe _you've_ forgotten how you turned poor
Uncle William and me out into the cold, cold
world that morning, just because we dared to
aspire to your Lowestoft teapot; but I haven't!''
``Oh, Billy, please, _don't_,'' begged Alice, the
painful color staining her face. ``If you knew
how I've hated myself since for the way I acted
that day--and, really, you did take us away
from there, you know.''
``No, I didn't. I merely found two good
tenants for Mr. and Mrs. Delano,'' corrected Billy,
with a sober face.
``Oh, yes, I know all about that,'' smiled Alice,
affectionately; ``and you got mother and me
here to keep Aunt Hannah company and teach
Tommy Dunn; and you got Aunt Hannah here
to keep us company and take care of Tommy
Dunn; and you got Tommy Dunn here so Aunt
Hannah and we could have somebody to teach
and take care of; and, as for the others,--''
But Billy put her hands to her ears and fled.
The wedding was to be on the fifteenth. From
the West Kate wrote that of course it was none
of her affairs, particularly as neither of the
interested parties was a relation, but still she should
think that for a man in Mr. Arkwright's position,
nothing but a church wedding would do at all,
as, of course, he did, in a way, belong to the
public. Alice, however, declared that perhaps he
did belong to the public, when he was Don Somebodyor-
other in doublet and hose; but when he
was just plain Michael Jeremiah Arkwright in
a frock coat he was hers, and she did not propose
to make a Grand Opera show of her wedding.
And as Arkwright, too, very much disapproved
of the church-wedding idea, the two were married
in the Annex living-room at noon on the fifteenth
as originally planned, in spite of Mrs. Kate
Hartwell's letter.
It was soon after the wedding that Bertram
told Billy he wished she would sit for him with
Bertram, Jr.
``I want to try my hand at you both together,''
he coaxed.
``Why, of course, if you like, dear,'' agreed
Billy, promptly, ``though I think Baby is just
as nice, and even nicer, alone.''
Once again all over Bertram's studio began
to appear sketches of Billy, this time a glorified,
tender Billy, with the wonderful mother-love in
her eyes. Then, after several sketches of trial
poses, Bertram began his picture of Billy and
the baby together.
Even now Bertram was not sure of his work.
He knew that he could not yet paint with his old
freedom and ease; he knew that his stroke was
not so sure, so untrammeled. But he knew, too,
that he had gained wonderfully, during the summer,
and that he was gaining now, every day.
To Billy he said nothing of all this. Even to
himself he scarcely put his hope into words; but in
his heart he knew that what he was really painting
his ``Mother and Child'' picture for was the
Bohemian Ten Club Exhibition in March--if
he could but put upon canvas the vision that was
spurring him on.
And so Bertram worked all through those
short winter days, not always upon the one picture,
of course, but upon some picture or sketch
that would help to give his still uncertain left
hand the skill that had belonged to its mate.
And always, cheering, encouraging, insisting on
victory, was Billy, so that even had Bertram
been tempted, sometimes, to give up, he could
not have done so--and faced Billy's grieved,
disappointed eyes. And when at last his work
was completed, and the pictured mother and
child in all their marvelous life and beauty seemed
ready to step from the canvas, Billy drew a long
ecstatic breath.
``Oh, Bertram, it _is_, it is the best work you
have ever done.'' Billy was looking at the baby.
Always she had ignored herself as part of the
picture. ``And won't it be fine for the Exhibition!''
Bertram's hand tightened on the chair-back
in front of him. For a moment he could not
speak. Then, a bit huskily, he asked:
``Would you dare--risk it?''
``Risk it! Why, Bertram Henshaw, I've
meant that picture for the Exhibition from the
very first--only I never dreamed you could get
it so perfectly lovely. _Now_ what do you say
about Baby being nicer than any old `Face of a
Girl' that you ever did?'' she triumphed.
And Bertram, who, even to himself, had not
dared whisper the word exhibition, gave a tremulous
laugh that was almost a sob, so overwhelming
was his sudden realization of what faith and
confidence had meant to Billy, his wife.
If there was still a lingering doubt in Bertram's
mind, it must have been dispelled in less than
an hour after the Bohemian Ten Club Exhibition
flung open its doors on its opening night. Once
again Bertram found his picture the cynosure
of all admiring eyes, and himself the center of an
enthusiastic group of friends and fellow-artists
who vied with each other in hearty words of
congratulation. And when, later, the feared critics,
whose names and opinions counted for so much
in his world, had their say in the daily press and
weekly reviews, Bertram knew how surely indeed
he had won. And when he read that ``Henshaw's
work shows now a peculiar strength, a sort of
reserve power, as it were, which, beautiful as was
his former work, it never showed before,'' he
smiled grimly, and said to Billy:
``I suppose, now, that was the fighting I did
with my good left hand, eh, dear?''
But there was yet one more drop that was to
make Bertram's cup of joy brim to overflowing.
It came just one month after the Exhibition in the
shape of a terse dozen words from the doctor.
Bertram fairly flew home that day. He had no
consciousness of any means of locomotion. He
thought he was going to tell his wife at once his
great good news; but when he saw her, speech
suddenly fled, and all that he could do was to
draw her closely to him with his left arm and hide
his face.
``Why, Bertram, dearest, what--what is it?''
stammered the thoroughly frightened Billy.
``Has anything-happened?''
``No, no--yes--yes, everything has happened.
I mean, it's going to happen,'' choked
the man. ``Billy, that old chap says that I'm
going to have my arm again. Think of it--my
good right arm that I've lost so long!''
``_Oh, Bertram!_'' breathed Billy. And she, too,
fell to sobbing.
Later, when speech was more coherent, she
``Well, anyway, it doesn't make any difference
_how_ many beautiful pictures you p-paint, after
this, Bertram, I _can't_ be prouder of any than I
am of the one your l--left hand did.''
``Oh, but I have you to thank for all that,
``No, you haven't,'' disputed Billy, blinking
teary eyes; ``but--'' she paused, then went on
spiritedly, ``but, anyhow, I--I don't believe
any one--not even Kate--can say _now_ that--
that I've been a hindrance to you in your c-career!''
``Hindrance!'' scoffed Bertram, in a tone that
left no room for doubt, and with a kiss that left
even less, if possible.
Billy, for still another minute, was silent; then,
with a wistfulness that was half playful, half
serious, she sighed:
``Bertram, I believe being married is something
like clocks, you know, 'specially at the
``Clocks, dear?''
``Yes. I was out to Aunt Hannah's to-day.
She was fussing with her clock--the one that
strikes half an hour ahead--and I saw all those
quantities of wheels, little and big, that have to
go just so, with all the little cogs fitting into all
the other little cogs just exactly right. Well,
that's like marriage. See? There's such a lot
of little cogs in everyday life that have to be
fitted so they'll run smoothly--that have to be
adjusted, 'specially at the first.''
``Oh, Billy, what an idea!''
``But it's so, really, Bertram. Anyhow, I
know my cogs were always getting out of place
at the first,'' laughed Billy. ``And I was like
Aunt Hannah's clock, too, always going off half
an hour ahead of time. And maybe I shall be so
again, sometimes. But, Bertram,''--her voice
shook a little--``if you'll just look at my face
you'll see that I tell the right time there, just as
Aunt Hannah's clock does. I'm sure, always,
I'll tell the right time there, even if I do go off
half an hour ahead!''
``As if I didn't know that,'' answered
Bertram, very low and tenderly. ``Besides, I reckon
I have some cogs of my own that need adjusting!''