Miss Billy's Decision
Eleanor H. Porter

Part 4 out of 7

melody, and to make a few little changes in the
words, maybe. Oh, Aunt Hannah, you don't
know how good it seems to get into my music

``Yes, yes, dear, of course; but--'' Aunt
Hannah's sentence ended in a vaguely troubled

Billy turned in surprise.

``Why, Aunt Hannah, aren't you glad? You
_said_ you'd be glad!''

``Yes, dear; and I am--very glad. It's only
--if it doesn't take too much time--and if
Bertram doesn't mind.''

Billy flushed. She laughed a little bitterly.

``No, it won't take too much time, I fancy,
and--so far as Bertram is concerned--if what
Sister Kate says is true, Aunt Hannah, he'll
be glad to have me occupy a little of my time with
something besides himself.''

``Fiddlededee!'' bristled Aunt Hannah.

``What did she mean by that?''

Billy smiled ruefully.

``Well, probably I did need it. She said it
night before last just before she went home with
Uncle William. She declared that I seemed to
forget entirely that Bertram belonged to his Art
first, before he belonged to me; and that it was
exactly as she had supposed it would be--a
perfect absurdity for Bertram to think of marrying

``Fiddlededee!'' ejaculated the irate Aunt
Hannah, even more sharply. ``I hope you have
too much good sense to mind what Kate says,

``Yes, I know,'' sighed the girl; ``but of course
I can see some things for myself, and I suppose
I did make--a little fuss about his going to
New York the other night. And I will own that
I've had a real struggle with myself sometimes,
lately, not to mind--his giving so much time
to his portrait painting. And of course both of
those are very reprehensible--in an artist's wife,''
she finished, a little tremulously.

``Humph! Well, I don't think I should worry
about that,'' observed Aunt Hannah with grim

``No, I don't mean to,'' smiled Billy, wistfully.
``I only told you so you'd understand that it
was just as well if I did have something to take
up my mind--besides Bertram. And of course
music would be the most natural thing.''

``Yes, of course,'' agreed Aunt Hannah.

``And it seems actually almost providential
that Mary--I mean Mr. Arkwright is here to
help me, now that Cyril is gone,'' went on Billy,
still a little wistfully.

``Yes, of course. He isn't like--a stranger,''
murmured Aunt Hannah. Aunt Hannah's voice
sounded as if she were trying to convince herself
--of something.

``No, indeed! He seems just like one of the
family to me, almost as if he were really--your
niece, Mary Jane,'' laughed Billy.

Aunt Hannah moved restlessly.

``Billy,'' she hazarded, ``he knows, of course,
of your engagement?''

``Why, of course he does, Aunt Hannah
everybody does!'' Billy's eyes were plainly surprised.

``Yes, yes, of course--he must,'' subsided
Aunt Hannah, confusedly, hoping that Billy
would not divine the hidden reason behind her
question. She was relieved when Billy's next
words showed that she had not divined it.

``I told you, didn't I? He's coming up this
afternoon. He can't get here till five, though;
but he's so interested! He's about as crazy over
the thing as I am. And it's going to be fine, Aunt
Hannah, when it's done. You just wait and see!''
she finished gayly, as she tripped from the

Left to herself, Aunt Hannah drew a long

``I'm glad she didn't suspect,'' she was
thinking. ``I believe she'd consider even the _question_
disloyal to Bertram--dear child! And of course
Mary''--Aunt Hannah corrected herself with
cheeks aflame--``I mean Mr. Arkwright does

It was just here, however, that Aunt Hannah
was mistaken. Mr. Arkwright did not--know.
He had not reached Boston when the engagement
was announced. He knew none of Billy's friends
in town save the Henshaw brothers. He had
not heard from Calderwell since he came to Boston.
The very evident intimacy of Billy with the
Henshaw brothers he accepted as a matter of
course, knowing the history of their acquaintance,
and the fact that Billy was Mr. William Henshaw's
namesake. As to Bertram being Billy's lover--
that idea had long ago been killed at birth by
Calderwell's emphatic assertion that the artist
would never care for any girl--except to paint.
Since coming to Boston, Arkwright had seen
little of the two together. His work, his friends,
and his general mode of life precluded that.
Because of all this, therefore, Arkwright did not--
know; which was a pity--for Arkwright, and
for some others.

Promptly at five o'clock that afternoon,
Arkwright rang Billy's doorbell, and was admitted
by Rosa to the living-room, where Billy was at
the piano.

Billy sprang to her feet with a joyous word of

``I'm so glad you've come,'' she sighed happily.
``I want you to hear the melody your pretty
words have sung to me. Though, maybe, after
all, you won't like it, you know,'' she finished
with arch wistfulness.

``As if I could help liking it,'' smiled the man,
trying to keep from his voice the ecstatic delight
that the touch of her hand had brought

Billy shook her head and seated herself again
at the piano.

``The words are lovely,'' she declared, sorting
out two or three sheets of manuscript music from
the quantity on the rack before her. ``But there's
one place--the rhythm, you know--if you could
change it. There!--but listen. First I'm going
to play it straight through to you.'' And she
dropped her fingers to the keyboard. The next
moment a tenderly sweet melody--with only a
chord now and then for accompaniment--filled
Arkwright's soul with rapture. Then Billy began
to sing, very softly, the words!

No wonder Arkwright's soul was filled with
rapture. They were his words, wrung straight
from his heart; and they were being sung by
the girl for whom they were written. They
were being sung with feeling, too--so evident
a feeling that the man's pulse quickened, and his
eyes flashed a sudden fire. Arkwright could not
know, of course, that Billy, in her own mind, was
singing that song--to Bertram Henshaw.

The fire was still in Arkwright's eyes when the
song was ended; but Billy very plainly did not
see it. With a frowning sigh and a murmured
``There!'' she began to talk of ``rhythm'' and
``accent'' and ``cadence''; and to point out
with anxious care why three syllables instead of
two were needed at the end of a certain line.
From this she passed eagerly to the accompaniment,
and Arkwright at once found himself lost
in a maze of ``minor thirds'' and ``diminished
sevenths,'' until he was forced to turn from the
singer to the song. Still, watching her a little
later, he noticed her absorbed face and eager
enthusiasm, her earnest pursuance of an elusive
harmony, and he wondered: did she, or did she
not sing that song with feeling a little while before?

Arkwright had not settled this question to his
own satisfaction when Aunt Hannah came in
at half-past five, and he was conscious of a vague
disappointment as he rose to greet her. Billy,
however, turned an untroubled face to the newcomer.

``We're doing finely, Aunt Hannah,'' she cried.
Then, suddenly, she flung a laughing question
to the man. ``How about it, sir? Are we going
to put on the title-page: `Words by Mary Jane
Arkwright'--or will you unveil the mystery
for us now?''

``Have you guessed it?'' he bantered.

``No--unless it's `Methuselah John.' We
did think of that the other day.''

``Wrong again!'' he laughed.

``Then it'll have to be `Mary Jane,' '' retorted
Billy, with calm naughtiness, refusing to meet
Aunt Hannah's beseechingly reproving eyes.
Then suddenly she chuckled. ``It would be a
combination, wouldn't it? `Words by Mary
Jane Arkwright. Music by Billy Neilson'!
We'd have sighing swains writing to `Dear Miss
Arkwright,' telling how touching were _her_ words;
and lovelorn damsels thanking _Mr_. Neilson for
_his_ soul-inspiring music!''

``Billy, my dear!'' remonstrated Aunt Hannah, faintly.

``Yes, yes, I know; that was bad--and I
won't again, truly,'' promised Billy. But her
eyes danced, and the next moment she had whirled
about on the piano stool and dashed into a Chopin
waltz. The room itself, then, seemed to be full
of the twinkling feet of elves.



Immediately after breakfast the next morning,
Billy was summoned to the telephone.

``Oh, good morning, Uncle William,'' she called,
in answer to the masculine voice that replied to
her ``Hullo.''

``Billy, are you very busy this morning?''

``No, indeed--not if you want me.''

``Well, I do, my dear.'' Uncle William's
voice was troubled. ``I want you to go with me,
if you can, to see a Mrs. Greggory. She's got a
teapot I want. It's a genuine Lowestoft, Harlow
says. Will you go?''

``Of course I will! What time?''

``Eleven if you can, at Park Street. She's
at the West End. I don't dare to put it off for
fear I'll lose it. Harlow says others will have to
know of it, of course. You see, she's just made up
her mind to sell it, and asked him to find a
customer. I wouldn't trouble you, but he says
they're peculiar--the daughter, especially--and
may need some careful handling. That's why I
wanted you--though I wanted you to see the tea-pot,
too,--it'll be yours some day, you know.''

Billy, all alone at her end of the line, blushed.
That she was one day to be mistress of the Strata
and all it contained was still anything but ``common''
to her.

``I'd love to see it, and I'll come gladly; but
I'm afraid I won't be much help, Uncle William,''
she worried.

``I'll take the risk of that. You see, Harlow
says that about half the time she isn't sure she
wants to sell it, after all.''

``Why, how funny! Well, I'll come. At
eleven, you say, at Park Street?''

``Yes; and thank you, my dear. I tried to
get Kate to go, too; but she wouldn't. By the
way, I'm going to bring you home to luncheon.
Kate leaves this afternoon, you know, and it's
been so snowy she hasn't thought best to try to
get over to the house. Maybe Aunt Hannah would
come, too, for luncheon. Would she?''

``I'm afraid not,'' returned Billy, with a rueful
laugh. ``She's got _three_ shawls on this morning,
and you know that always means that she's
felt a draft somewhere--poor dear. I'll tell her,
though, and I'll see you at eleven,'' finished Billy,
as she hung up the receiver.

Promptly at the appointed time Billy met Uncle
William at Park Street, and together they set
out for the West End street named on the paper
in his pocket. But when the shabby house on
the narrow little street was reached, the man looked
about him with a troubled frown.

``I declare, Billy, I'm not sure but we'd better
turn back,'' he fretted. ``I didn't mean to take
you to such a place as this.''

Billy shivered a little; but after one glance at
the man's disappointed face she lifted a determined

``Nonsense, Uncle William! Of course you
won't turn back. I don't mind--for myself;
but only think of the people whose _homes_ are
here,'' she finished, just above her breath.

Mrs. Greggory was found to be living in two
back rooms at the top of four flights of stairs,
up which William Henshaw toiled with increasing
weariness and dismay, punctuating each flight
with a despairing: ``Billy, really, I think we
should turn back!''

But Billy would not turn back, and at last
they found themselves in the presence of a white-
haired, sweet-faced woman who said yes, she
was Mrs. Greggory; yes, she was. Even as she
uttered the words, however, she looked fearfully
over her shoulders as if expecting to hear from
the hall behind them a voice denying her assertion.

Mrs. Greggory was a cripple. Her slender
little body was poised on two once-costly crutches.
Both the worn places on the crutches, and the
skill with which the little woman swung herself
about the room testified that the crippled condition
was not a new one.

Billy's eyes were brimming with pity and
dismay. Mechanically she had taken the chair
toward which Mrs. Greggory had motioned her.
She had tried not to seem to look about her; but
there was not one detail of the bare little room,
from its faded rug to the patched but spotless
tablecloth, that was not stamped on her brain.

Mrs. Greggory had seated herself now, and
William Henshaw had cleared his throat nervously.
Billy did not know whether she herself were the
more distressed or the more relieved to hear him

``We--er--I came from Harlow, Mrs. Greggory.
He gave me to understand you had an--
er--teapot that--er--'' With his eyes on
the cracked white crockery pitcher on the table,
William Henshaw came to a helpless pause.

A curious expression, or rather, series of
expressions crossed Mrs. Greggory's face. Terror,
joy, dismay, and relief seemed, one after the other
to fight for supremacy. Relief in the end
conquered, though even yet there was a second
hurriedly apprehensive glance toward the door
before she spoke.

``The Lowestoft! Yes, I'm so glad!--that
is, of course I must be glad. I'll get it.'' Her
voice broke as she pulled herself from her chair.
There was only despairing sorrow on her face

The man rose at once.

``But, madam, perhaps--don't let me--'' I
he began stammeringly. ``Of course--Billy!''
he broke off in an entirely different voice. ``Jove!
What a beauty!''

Mrs. Greggory had thrown open the door of
a small cupboard near the collector's chair,
disclosing on one of the shelves a beautifully shaped
teapot, creamy in tint, and exquisitely decorated
in a rose design. Near it set a tray-like plate of
the same ware and decoration.

``If you'll lift it down, please, yourself,''
motioned Mrs. Greggory. ``I don't like to--with
these,'' she explained, tapping the crutches at
her side.

With fingers that were almost reverent in their
appreciation, the collector reached for the teapot.
His eyes sparkled.

``Billy, look, what a beauty! And it's a
Lowestoft, too, the real thing--the genuine, true soft
paste! And there's the tray--did you notice?''
he exulted, turning back to the shelf. ``You
_don't_ see that every day! They get separated,
most generally, you know.''

``These pieces have been in our family for
generations,'' said Mrs. Greggory with an accent
of pride. ``You'll find them quite perfect, I

``Perfect! I should say they were,'' cried the

``They are, then--valuable?'' Mrs. Greggory's
voice shook.

``Indeed they are! But you must know that.''

``I have been told so. Yet to me their chief
value, of course, lies in their association. My
mother and my grandmother owned that teapot,
sir.'' Again her voice broke.

William Henshaw cleared his throat.

``But, madam, if you do not wish to sell--''
He stopped abruptly. His longing eyes had gone
back to the enticing bit of china.

Mrs. Greggory gave a low cry.

``But I do--that is, I must. Mr. Harlow
says that it is valuable, and that it will bring
in money; and we need--money.'' She threw
a quick glance toward the hall door, though she
did not pause in her remarks. ``I can't do much
at work that pays. I sew--'' she nodded
toward the machine by the window--'' but with
only one foot to make it go-- You see, the
other is--is inclined to shirk a little,'' she finished
with a wistful whimsicality.

Billy turned away sharply. There was a lump
in her throat and a smart in her eyes. She was
conscious suddenly of a fierce anger against--
she did not know what, exactly; but she fancied
it was against the teapot, or against Uncle William
for wanting the teapot, or for _not_ wanting
it--if he did not buy it.

``And so you see, I do very much wish to sell,''

Mrs. Greggory said then. ``Perhaps you will
tell me what it would be worth to you,'' she concluded

The collector's eyes glowed. He picked up
the teapot with careful rapture and examined
it. Then he turned to the tray. After a moment
he spoke.

``I have only one other in my collection as
rare,'' he said. ``I paid a hundred dollars for
that. I shall be glad to give you the same for
this, madam.''

Mrs. Greggory started visibly.

``A hundred dollars? So much as that?'' she
cried almost joyously. ``Why, nothing else that
we've had has brought-- Of course, if it's worth
that to you--'' She paused suddenly. A quick
step had sounded in the hall outside. The next
moment the door flew open and a young woman,
who looked to be about twenty-three or twenty-
four years old, burst into the room.

``Mother, only think, I've--'' She stopped,
and drew back a little. Her startled eyes went
from one face to another, then dropped to
the Lowestoft teapot in the man's hands. Her
expression changed at once. She shut the door
quickly and hurried forward.

``Mother, what is it? Who are these people?''
she asked sharply.

Billy lifted her chin the least bit. She was
conscious of a feeling which she could not name:
Billy was not used to being called ``these people''
in precisely that tone of voice. William Henshaw,
too, raised his chin. He, also, was not in the habit
of being referred to as ``these people.''

``My name is Henshaw, Miss--Greggory, I
presume,'' he said quietly. ``I was sent here by
Mr. Harlow.''

``About the teapot, my dear, you know,''
stammered Mrs. Greggory, wetting her lips with
an air of hurried apology and conciliation. ``This
gentleman says he will be glad to buy it. Er--
my daughter, Alice, Mr. Henshaw,'' she hastened
on, in embarrassed introduction; ``and Miss--''

``Neilson,'' supplied the man, as she looked at
Billy, and hesitated.

A swift red stained Alice Greggory's face. With
barely an acknowledgment of the introductions
she turned to her mother.

``Yes, dear, but that won't be necessary now.
As I started to tell you when I came in, I have two
new pupils; and so''--turning to the man again
``I thank you for your offer, but we have decided
not to sell the teapot at present.'' As she finished
her sentence she stepped one side as if to make
room for the strangers to reach the door.

William Henshaw frowned angrily--that was
the man; but his eyes--the collector's eyes--
sought the teapot longingly. Before either the
man or the collector could speak, however; Mrs.
Greggory interposed quick words of remonstrance.

``But, Alice, my dear,'' she almost sobbed.
``You didn't wait to let me tell you. Mr. Henshaw
says it is worth a hundred dollars to him.
He will give us--a hundred dollars.''

``A hundred dollars!'' echoed the girl, faintly.

It was plain to be seen that she was wavering.
Billy, watching the little scene, with mingled
emotions, saw the glance with which the girl
swept the bare little room; and she knew that
there was not a patch or darn or poverty spot in
sight, or out of sight, which that glance did not

Billy was wondering which she herself desired
more--that Uncle William should buy the Lowestoft,
or that he should not. She knew she wished
Mrs. Greggory to have the hundred dollars.
There was no doubt on that point. Then Uncle
William spoke. His words carried the righteous
indignation of the man who thinks he has been
unjustly treated, and the final plea of the collector
who sees a coveted treasure slipping from his grasp.

``I am very sorry, of course, if my offer has
annoyed you,'' he said stiffly. ``I certainly
should not have made it had I not had Mrs.
Greggory's assurance that she wished to sell the

Alice Greggory turned as if stung.

``_Wished to sell!_'' She repeated the words
with superb disdain. She was plainly very angry.
Her blue-gray eyes gleamed with scorn, and her
whole face was suffused with a red that had swept
to the roots of her soft hair. ``Do you think a
woman _wishes_ to sell a thing that she's treasured
all her life, a thing that is perhaps the last visible
reminder of the days when she was living--not
merely existing?''

``Alice, Alice, my love!'' protested the sweet-
faced cripple, agitatedly.

``I can't help it,'' stormed the girl, hotly. ``I
know how much you think of that teapot that
was grandmother's. I know what it cost you to
make up your mind to sell it at all. And then to
hear these people talk about your _wishing_ to
sell it! Perhaps they think, too, we _wish_ to live
in a place like this; that we _wish_ to have rugs
that are darned, and chairs that are broken, and
garments that are patches instead of clothes!''

``Alice!'' gasped Mrs. Greggory in dismayed

With a little outward fling of her two hands
Alice Greggory stepped back. Her face had grown
white again.

``I beg your pardon, of course,'' she said in a
voice that was bitterly quiet. ``I should not
have spoken so. You are very kind, Mr. Henshaw,
but I do not think we care to sell the Lowestoft

Both words and manner were obviously a
dismissal; and with a puzzled sigh William Henshaw
picked up his hat. His face showed very clearly
that he did not know what to do, or what to say;
but it showed, too, as clearly, that he longed to
do something, or say something. During the
brief minute that he hesitated, however, Billy
sprang forward.

``Mrs. Greggory, please, won't you let _me_ buy
the teapot? And then--won't you keep it for
me--here? I haven't the hundred dollars with
me, but I'll send it right away. You will let me
do it, won't you?''

It was an impulsive speech, and a foolish one,
of course, from the standpoint of sense and logic
and reasonableness; but it was one that might be
expected, perhaps, from Billy.

Mrs. Greggory must have divined, in a way,
the spirit that prompted it, for her eyes grew wet,
and with a choking ``Dear child!'' she reached
out and caught Billy's hand in both her own--
even while she shook her head in denial.

Not so her daughter. Alice Greggory flushed
scarlet. She drew herself proudly erect.

``Thank you,'' she said with crisp coldness;
``but, distasteful as darns and patches are to us,
we prefer them, infinitely, to--charity!''

``Oh, but, please, I didn't mean--you didn't
understand,'' faltered Billy.

For answer Alice Greggory walked deliberately
to the door and held it open.

``Oh, Alice, my dear,'' pleaded Mrs. Greggory
again, feebly.

``Come, Billy! We'll bid you good morning,
ladies,'' said William Henshaw then, decisively.
And Billy, with a little wistful pat on Mrs.
Greggory's clasped hands, went.

Once down the long four flights of stairs and
out on the sidewalk, William Henshaw drew a long

``Well, by Jove! Billy, the next time I take
you curio hunting, it won't be to this place,'' he

``Wasn't it awful!'' choked Billy.

``Awful! The girl was the most stubborn,
unreasonable, vixenish little puss I ever saw. I
didn't want her old Lowestoft if she didn't want
to sell it! But to practically invite me there, and
then treat me like that!'' scolded the collector, his
face growing red with anger. ``Still, I was sorry
for the poor little old lady. I wish, somehow, she
could have that hundred dollars!'' It was the
man who said this, not the collector.

``So do I,'' rejoined Billy, dolefully. ``But
that girl was so--so queer!'' she sighed, with a
frown. Billy was puzzled. For the first time,
perhaps, in her life, she knew what it was to have
her proffered ``ice cream'' disdainfully refused.



Kate and little Kate left for the West on the
afternoon of the fifteenth, and Bertram arrived
from New York that evening. Notwithstanding
the confusion of all this, Billy still had time to
give some thought to her experience of the morning
with Uncle William. The forlorn little room with
its poverty-stricken furnishings and its crippled
mistress was very vivid in Billy's memory.
Equally vivid were the flashing eyes of Alice
Greggory as she had opened the door at the last.

``For,'' as Billy explained to Bertram that
evening, after she had told him the story of the
morning's adventure, ``you see, dear, I had never
been really _turned out_ of a house before!''

``I should think not,'' scowled her lover,
indignantly; ``and it's safe to say you never will
again. The impertinence of it! But then, you
won't see them any more, sweetheart, so we'll
just forget it.''

``Forget it! Why, Bertram, I couldn't! You
couldn't, if you'd been there. Besides, of course
I shall see them again!''

Bertram's jaw dropped.

``Why, Billy, you don't mean that Will, or
you either, would try again for that trumpery

``Of course not,'' flashed Billy, heatedly. ``It
isn't the teapot--it's that dear little Mrs.
Greggory. Why, dearie, you don't know how poor
they are! Everything in sight is so old and thin
and worn it's enough to break your heart. The
rug isn't anything but darns, nor the tablecloth,
either--except patches. It's awful, Bertram!''

``I know, darling; but _you_ don't expect to buy
them new rugs and new tablecloths, do you?''

Billy gave one of her unexpected laughs.

``Mercy!'' she chuckled. ``Only picture Miss
Alice's face if I _should_ try to buy them rugs and
tablecloths! No, dear,'' she went on more seriously,
``I sha'n't do that, of course--though I'd like
to; but I shall try to see Mrs. Greggory again,
if it's nothing more than a rose or a book or a new
magazine that I can take to her.''

``Or a smile--which I fancy will be the best
gift of the lot,'' amended Bertram, fondly.

Billy dimpled and shook her head.

``Smiles--my smiles--are not so valuable,
I'm afraid--except to you, perhaps,'' she

``Self-evident facts need no proving,'' retorted
Bertram. ``Well, and what else has happened
in all these ages I've been away?''

Billy brought her hands together with a sudden

``Oh, and I haven't told you!'' she exclaimed.
``I'm writing a new song--a love song. Mary
Jane wrote the words. They're beautiful.''

Bertram stiffened.

``Indeed! And is--Mary Jane a poet, with
all the rest?'' he asked, with affected lightness.

``Oh, no, of course not,'' smiled Billy; ``but
these words _are_ pretty. And they just sang
themselves into the dearest little melody right away.
So I'm writing the music for them.''

``Lucky Mary Jane!'' murmured Bertram,
still with a lightness that he hoped would pass
for indifference. (Bertram was ashamed of himself,
but deep within him was a growing consciousness
that he knew the meaning of the vague irritation
that he always felt at the mere mention of
Arkwright's name.) ``And will the title-page
say, `Words by Mary Jane Arkwright'?'' he

``That's what I asked him,'' laughed Billy.

``I even suggested `Methuselah John' for a
change. Oh, but, dearie,'' she broke off with shy
eagerness, ``I just want you to hear a little of
what I've done with it. You see, really, all the
time, I suspect, I've been singing it--to you,''
she confessed with an endearing blush, as she
sprang lightly to her feet and hurried to the

It was a bad ten minutes that Bertram Henshaw
spent then. How he could love a song and hate
it at the same time he did not understand; but
he knew that he was doing exactly that. To hear
Billy carol ``Sweetheart, my sweetheart!'' with
that joyous tenderness was bliss unspeakable--
until he remembered that Arkwright wrote the
``Sweetheart, my sweetheart!'' then it was--
(Even in his thoughts Bertram bit the word off
short. He was not a swearing man.) When he
looked at Billy now at the piano, and thought of
her singing--as she said she had sung--that
song to him all through the last three days, his
heart glowed. But when he looked at her and
thought of Arkwright, who had made possible
that singing, his heart froze with terror.

From the very first it had been music that
Bertram had feared. He could not forget that
Billy herself had once told him that never would
she love any man better than she loved her music;
that she was not going to marry. All this had
been at the first--the very first. He had boldly
scorned the idea then, and had said:

``So it's music--a cold, senseless thing of
spidery marks on clean white paper--that is
my only rival!''

He had said, too, that he was going to win.
And he had won--but not until after long weeks
of fearing, hoping, striving, and despairing--this
last when Kate's blundering had nearly made her
William's wife. Then, on that memorable day
in September, Billy had walked straight into his
arms; and he knew that he had, indeed, won.
That is, he had supposed that he knew--until
Arkwright came.

Very sharply now, as he listened to Billy's
singing, Bertram told himself to be reasonable,
to be sensible; that Billy did, indeed, love him.
Was she not, according to her own dear assertion,
singing that song to him? But it was Arkwright's
song. He remembered that, too--and grew faint
at the thought. True, he had won when his rival,
music, had been a ``cold, senseless thing of spidery
marks'' on paper; but would that winning stand
when ``music'' had become a thing of flesh and
blood--a man of undeniable charm, good looks,
and winsomeness; a man whose thoughts, aims,
and words were the personification of the thing
Billy, in the long ago, had declared she loved best
of all--music?

Bertram shivered as with a sudden chill; then
Billy rose from the piano.

``There!'' she breathed, her face shyly radiant
with the glory of the song. ``Did you--like

Bertram did his best; but, in his state of mind,
the very radiance of her face was only an added
torture, and his tongue stumbled over the words
of praise and appreciation that he tried to say.
He saw, then, the happy light in Billy's eyes
change to troubled questioning and grieved
disappointment; and he hated himself for a
jealous brute. More earnestly than ever, now,
he tried to force the ring of sincerity into his voice;
but he knew that he had miserably failed when
he heard her falter:

``Of course, dear, I--I haven't got it nearly
perfected yet. It'll be much better, later.''

``But it s{sic} fine, now, sweetheart--indeed it is,''
protested Bertram, hurriedly.

``Well, of course I'm glad--if you like it,''
murmured Billy; but the glow did not come back
to her face.



Those short December days after Bertram's
return from New York were busy ones for everybody.
Miss Winthrop was not in town to give
sittings for her portrait, it is true; but her absence
only afforded Bertram time and opportunity to
attend to other work that had been more or less
delayed and neglected. He was often at Hillside,
however, and the lovers managed to snatch many
an hour of quiet happiness from the rush and
confusion of the Christmas preparations.

Bertram was assuring himself now that his
jealous fears of Arkwright were groundless. Billy
seldom mentioned the man, and, as the days
passed, she spoke only once of his being at the
house. The song, too, she said little of; and
Bertram--though he was ashamed to own it to
himself--breathed more freely.

The real facts of the case were that Billy had
told Arkwright that she should have no time to
give attention to the song until after Christmas;
and her manner had so plainly shown him that
she considered himself synonymous with the song,
that he had reluctantly taken the hint and kept

``I'll make her care for me sometime--for
something besides a song,'' he told himself with
fierce consolation--but Billy did not know this.

Aside from Bertram, Christmas filled all of
Billy's thoughts these days. There were such a
lot of things she wished to do.

``But, after all, they're only sugarplums, you
know, that I'm giving, dear,'' she declared to
Bertram one day, when he had remonstrated with
with her for so taxing her time and strength.
``I can't really do much.''

``Much!'' scoffed Bertram.

``But it isn't much,, honestly--compared to
what there is to do,'' argued Billy. ``You see,
dear, it's just this,'' she went on, her bright face
sobering a little. ``There are such a lot of people
in the world who aren't really poor. That is, they
have bread, and probably meat, to eat, and enough
clothes to keep them warm. But when you've
said that, you've said it all. Books, music, fun,
and frosting on their cake they know nothing
about--except to long for them.''

``But there are the churches and the charities,
and all those long-named Societies--I thought
that was what they were for,'' declared Bertram,
still a little aggrievedly, his worried eyes on Billy's
tired face.

``Oh, but the churches and charities don't
frost cakes nor give sugarplums,'' smiled Billy.
``And it's right that they shouldn't, too,'' she
added quickly. ``They have more than they can
do now with the roast beef and coal and flannel
petticoats that are really necessary.''

``And so it's just frosting and sugarplums, is
it--these books and magazines and concert
tickets and lace collars for the crippled boy, the
spinster lady, the little widow, and all the rest
of those people who were here last summer?''

Billy turned in confused surprise.

``Why, Bertram, however in the world did
you find out about all--that?''

``I didn't. I just guessed it--and it seems
`the boy guessed right the very first time,' ''
laughed Bertram, teasingly, but with a tender
light in his eyes. ``Oh, and I suppose you'll be
sending a frosted cake to the Lowestoft lady,
too, eh?''

Billy's chin rose to a defiant stubbornness.

``I'm going to try to--if I can find out what
kind of frosting she likes.''

``How about the Alice lady--or perhaps
I should say, the Lady Alice?'' smiled the man.

Billy relaxed visibly.

``Yes, I know,'' she sighed. ``There is--the
Lady Alice. But, anyhow, she can't call a Christmas
present `charity'--not if it's only a little
bit of frosting!'' Billy's chin came up again.

``And you're going to, really, dare to send her

``Yes,'' avowed Billy. ``I'm going down there
one of these days, in the morning--''

``You're going down there! Billy--not

``Yes. Why not?''

``But, dearie, you mustn't. It was a horrid
place, Will says.''

``So it was horrid--to live in. It was
everything that was cheap and mean and forlorn. But
it was quiet and respectable. 'Tisn't as if I didn't
know the way, Bertram; and I'm sure that where
that poor crippled woman and daughter are safe,
I shall be. Mrs. Greggory is a lady, Bertram, well-
born and well-bred, I'm sure--and that's the
pity of it, to have to live in a place like that!
They have seen better days, I know. Those
pitiful little worn crutches of hers were
mahogany, I'm sure, Bertram, and they were silver

Bertram made a restless movement.

``I know, dear; but if you had some one with
you! It wouldn't do for Will, of course, nor me--
under the circumstances. But there's Aunt
Hannah--'' He paused hopefully.

Billy chuckled.

``Bless your dear heart! Aunt Hannah would
call for a dozen shawls in that place--if she had
breath enough to call for any after she got to
the top of those four flights!''

``Yes, I suppose so,'' rejoined Bertram, with
an unwilling smile. ``Still--well, you _can_ take
Rosa,'' he concluded decisively.

``How Miss Alice would like that--to catch
me going `slumming' with my maid!'' cried
Billy, righteous indignation in her voice. ``Honestly,
Bertram, I think even gentle Mrs. Greggory
wouldn't stand for that.''

``Then leave Rosa outside in the hall,'' planned
Bertram, promptly; and after a few more arguments,
Billy finally agreed to this.

It was with Rosa, therefore, that she set out
the next morning for the little room up four flights
on the narrow West End street.

Leaving the maid on the top stair of the fourth
flight, Billy tapped at Mrs. Greggory's door. To
her joy Mrs. Greggory herself answered the

``Oh! Why--why, good morning,'' murmured
the lady, in evident embarrassment. ``Won't
you--come m?''

``Thank you. May I?--just a minute?''
smiled Billy, brightly.

As she entered the room, Billy threw a hasty
look about her. There was no one but themselves
present. With a sigh of satisfaction, therefore,
the girl took the chair Mrs. Greggory offered,
and began to speak.

``I was down this way--that is, I came this
way this morning,'' she began a little hastily;
``and I wanted just to come up and tell you how
sorry I was about--about that teapot the other
day. We didn't want it, of course--if you didn't
want us to have it.''

A swift change crossed Mrs. Greggory's
perturbed face.

``Oh, then you didn't come for it again--to-
day,'' she said. ``I'm so glad! I didn't want to

``Indeed I didn't come for it--and we sha'n't
again. Don't worry about that, please.''

Mrs. Greggory sighed.

``I'm afraid you thought me very rude and--and
impossible the other day,'' she stammered. ``And
please let me take this opportunity right now to
apologize for my daughter. She was overwrought
and excited. She didn't know what she was saying
or doing, I'm sure. She was ashamed, I think after
you left.''

Billy raised a quick hand of protest.

``Don't, please don't, Mrs. Greggory,'' she

``But it was our fault that you came. We
_asked_ you to come--through Mr. Harlow,'' rejoined
the other, hurriedly. ``And Mr. Henshaw
--was that his name?--was so kind in every
way. I'm glad of this chance to tell you how much
we really did appreciate it--and _your_ offer, too,
which we could not, of course, accept,'' she finished,
the bright color flooding her delicate face.

Again Billy raised a protesting hand; but the
little woman in the opposite chair hurried on.
There was still more, evidently, that she wished
to say.

``I hope Mr. Henshaw did not feel too
disappointed--about the Lowestoft. We didn't want
to let it go if we could help it; and we hope now
to keep it.''

``Of course,'' murmured Billy, sympathetically.

``My daughter knew, you see, how much I have
always thought of it, and she was determined that
I should not give it up. She said I should have
that much left, anyway. You see--my daughter
is very unreconciled, still, to things as they are;
and no wonder, perhaps. They are so different
--from what they were!'' Her voice broke a

``Of course,'' said Billy again, and this time
the words were tinged with impatient indignation.
``If only there were something one could do to

``Thank you, my dear, but there isn't--indeed
there isn't,'' rejoined the other, quickly; and
Billy, looking into the proudly lifted face, realized
suddenly that daughter Alice had perhaps
inherited some traits from mother. ``We shall
get along very well, I am sure. My daughter
has still another pupil. She will be home soon to
tell you herself, perhaps.''

Billy rose with a haste so marked it was almost
impolite, as she murmured:

``Will she? I'm afraid, though, that I sha'n't
see her, after all, for I must go. And may I leave
these, please?'' she added, hurriedly unpinning
the bunch of white carnations from her coat.
``It seems a pity to let them wilt, when you can
put them in water right here.'' Her studiously
casual voice gave no hint that those particular
pinks had been bought less than half an hour
before of a Park Street florist so that Mrs.
Greggory _might_ put them in water--right there.

``Oh, oh, how lovely!'' breathed Mrs. Greggory,
her face deep in the feathery bed of sweetness.
Before she could half say ``Thank you,'' however?
she found herself alone.


Christmas came and went; and in a flurry of
snow and sleet January arrived. The holidays
over, matters and things seemed to settle down
to the winter routine.

Miss Winthrop had prolonged her visit in
Washington until after Christmas, but she had
returned to Boston now--and with her she had
brought a brand-new idea for her portrait; an
idea that caused her to sweep aside with superb
disdain all poses and costumes and sketches to
date, and announce herself with disarming
winsomeness as ``all ready now to really begin!''

Bertram Henshaw was vexed, but helpless.
Decidedly he wished to paint Miss Marguerite
Winthrop's portrait; but to attempt to paint it when
all matters were not to the lady's liking were
worse than useless, unless he wished to hang
this portrait in the gallery of failures along with
Anderson's and Fullam's--and that was not
the goal he had set for it. As to the sordid money
part of the affair--the great J. G. Winthrop
himself had come to the artist, and in one terse
sentence had doubled the original price and
expressed himself as hopeful that Henshaw would
put up with ``the child's notions.'' It was the
old financier's next sentence, however, that put
the zest of real determination into Bertram, for
because of it, the artist saw what this portrait
was going to mean to the stern old man, and how
dear was the original of it to a heart that was
commonly reported ``on the street'' to be made
of stone.

Obviously, then, indeed, there was nothing for
Bertram Henshaw to do but to begin the new portrait.
And he began it--though still, it must be
confessed, with inward questionings. Before a
week had passed, however, every trace of irritation
had fled, and he was once again the absorbed
artist who sees the vision of his desire taking
palpable shape at the end of his brush.

``It's all right,'' he said to Billy then, one
evening. ``I'm glad she changed. It's going to be
the best, the very best thing I've ever done--I
think! by the sketches.''

``I'm so glad!'' exclaimed Billy. ``I'm so
glad!'' The repetition was so vehement that it
sounded almost as if she were trying to convince
herself as well as Bertram of something that was
not true.

But it was true--Billy told herself very
indignantly that it was; indeed it was! Yet the
very fact that she had to tell herself this, caused
her to know how perilously near she was to being
actually jealous of that portrait of Marguerite
Winthrop. And it shamed her.

Very sternly these days Billy reminded herself
of what Kate had said about Bertram's belonging
first to his Art. She thought with mortification,
too, that it _did_ look as if she were not the proper
wife for an artist if she were going to feel like
this--always. Very resolutely, then, Billy turned
to her music. This was all the more easily done,
for, not only did she have her usual concerts and
the opera to enjoy, but she had become interested
in an operetta her club was about to give; also
she had taken up the new song again. Christmas
being over, Mr. Arkwright had been to the house
several times. He had changed some of the words
and she had improved the melody. The work
on the accompaniment was progressing finely
now, and Billy was so glad!--when she was
absorbed in her music she forgot sometimes that
she was ever so unfit an artist's sweetheart as to
be--jealous of a portrait.

It was quite early in the month that the
usually expected ``January thaw'' came, and
it was on a comparatively mild Friday at this time
that a matter of business took Billy into the
neighborhood of Symphony Hall at about eleven
o'clock in the morning. Dismissing John and
the car upon her arrival, she said that she would
later walk to the home of a friend near by, where
she would remain until it was time for the
Symphony Concert.

This friend was a girl whom Billy had known
at school. She was studying now at the Conservatory
of Music; and she had often urged Billy
to come and have luncheon with her in her tiny
apartment, which she shared with three other
girls and a widowed aunt for housekeeper. On
this particular Friday it had occurred to Billy
that, owing to her business appointment at eleven
and the Symphony Concert at half-past two, the
intervening time would give her just the
opportunity she had been seeking to enable her to
accept her friend's invitation. A question asked,
and enthusiastically answered in the affirmative,
over the telephone that morning, therefore, had
speedily completed arrangements, and she had
agreed to be at her friend's door by twelve o'clock,
or before.

As it happened, business did not take quite so
long as she had expected, and half-past eleven
found her well on her way to Miss Henderson's

In spite of the warm sunshine and the slushy
snow in the streets, there was a cold, raw wind,
and Billy was beginning to feel thankful that she
had not far to go when she rounded a corner and
came upon a long line of humanity that curved
itself back and forth on the wide expanse of steps
before Symphony Hall and then stretched itself
far up the Avenue.

``Why, what--'' she began under her breath;
then suddenly she understood. It was Friday.
A world-famous pianist was to play with the
Symphony Orchestra that afternoon. This must
be the line of patient waiters for the twenty-five-
cent balcony seats that Mr. Arkwright had told
about. With sympathetic, interested eyes, then,
Billy stepped one side to watch the line, for a moment.

Almost at once two girls brushed by her, and
one was saying:

``What a shame!--and after all our struggles
to get here! If only we hadn't lost that other

``We're too late--you no need to hurry!''
the other wailed shrilly to a third girl who was
hastening toward them. ``The line is 'way beyond
the Children's Hospital and around the
corner now--and the ones there _never_ get in!''

At the look of tragic disappointment that crossed
the third girl's face, Billy's heart ached. Her
first impulse, of course, was to pull her own
symphony ticket from her muff and hurry forward
with a ``Here, take mine!'' But that _would_ hardly
do, she knew--though she would like to see
Aunt Hannah's aghast face if this girl in the red
sweater and white tam-o'-shanter should suddenly
emerge from among the sumptuous satins and
furs and plumes that afternoon and claim the
adjacent orchestra chair. But it was out of the
question, of course. There was only one seat, and
there were three girls, besides all those others.
With a sigh, then, Billy turned her eyes back to
those others--those many others that made up
the long line stretching its weary length up the

There were more women than men, yet the
men were there: jolly young men who were
plainly students; older men whose refined faces and
threadbare overcoats hinted at cultured minds and
starved bodies; other men who showed no hollows
in their cheeks nor near-holes in their garments. It
seemed to Billy that women of almost all sorts
were there, young, old, and middle-aged; students
in tailored suits, widows in crape and veil; girls
that were members of a merry party, women that
were plainly forlorn and alone.

Some in the line shuffled restlessly; some stood
rigidly quiet. One had brought a camp stool;
many were seated on the steps. Beyond, where the
line passed an open lot, a wooden fence afforded
a convenient prop. One read a book, another a
paper. Three were studying what was probably
the score of the symphony or of the concerto they
expected to hear that afternoon.

A few did not appear to mind the biting wind,
but most of them, by turned-up coat-collars or
bent heads, testified to the contrary. Not far
from Billy a woman nibbled a sandwich furtively,
while beyond her a group of girls were hilariously
merry over four triangles of pie which they held
up where all might see.

Many of the faces were youthful, happy, and
alert with anticipation; but others carried a
wistfulness and a weariness that made Billy's
heart ache. Her eyes, indeed, filled with quick
tears. Later she turned to go, and it was then that
she saw in the line a face that she knew--a face
that drooped with such a white misery of spent
strength that she hurried straight toward it with
a low cry.

``Miss Greggory!'' she exclaimed, when she
reached the girl. ``You look actually ill. Are
you ill?''

For a brief second only dazed questioning
stared from the girl's blue-gray eyes. Billy knew
when the recognition came, for she saw the painful
color stain the white face red.

``Thank you, no. I am not ill, Miss Neilson,''
said the girl, coldly.

``But you look so tired out!''

``I have been standing here some time; that
is all.''

Billy threw a hurried glance down the far-
reaching line that she knew had formed since the
girl's two tired feet had taken their first position.

``But you must have come--so early! It
isn't twelve o'clock yet,'' she faltered.

A slight smile curved Alice Greggory's lips.

``Yes, it was early,'' she rejoined a little bitterly;
``but it had to be, you know. I wanted to hear
the music; and with this soloist, and this weather,
I knew that many others--would want to hear
the music, too.''

``But you look so white! How much longer--
when will they let you in?'' demanded Billy,
raising indignant eyes to the huge, gray-pillared
building before her, much as if she would pull
down the walls if she could, and make way for
this tired girl at her side.

Miss Greggory's thin shoulders rose and fell
in an expressive shrug.

``Half-past one.''

Billy gave a dismayed cry.

``Half-past one--almost two hours more!
But, Miss Greggory, you can't--how can you
stand it till then? You've shivered three times
since I came, and you look as if you were going
to faint away.''

Miss Greggory shook her head.

``It is nothing, really,'' she insisted. ``I am
quite well. It is only--I didn't happen to feel
like eating much breakfast this morning; and
that, with no luncheon--'' She let a gesture
finish her sentence.

``No luncheon! Why--oh, you couldn't leave
your place, of course,'' frowned Billy.

``No, and''--Alice Greggory lifted her
head a little proudly--``I do not care to eat
--here.'' Her scornful eyes were on one of the
pieces of pie down the line--no longer a triangle.

``Of course not,'' agreed Billy, promptly. She
paused, frowned, and bit her lip. Suddenly her
face cleared. ``There! the very thing,'' she
exulted. ``You shall have my ticket this afternoon,
Miss Greggory, then you won't have to stay here
another minute. Meanwhile, there is an excellent

``Thank you--no. I couldn't do that,'' cut
in the other, sharply, but in a low voice.

``But you'll take my ticket,'' begged Billy.

Miss Greggory shook her head.

``Certainly not.''

``But I want you to, please. I shall be very
unhappy if you don't,'' grieved Billy.

The other made a peremptory gesture.

``_I_ should be very unhappy if I did,'' she said
with cold emphasis. ``Really, Miss Neilson,''
she went on in a low voice, throwing an apprehensive
glance at the man ahead, who was apparently
absorbed in his newspaper, ``I'm afraid
I shall have to ask you to let me go on in my own
way. You are very kind, but there is nothing you
can do; nothing. You were very kind, too, of
course, to send the book and the flowers to mother
at Christmas; but--''

``Never mind that, please,'' interrupted Billy,
hurriedly. Billy's head was lifted now. Her eyes
were no longer pleading. Her round little chin
looked square and determined. ``If you simply
will not take my ticket this afternoon, you _must_
do this. Go to some restaurant near here and
get a good luncheon--something that will sustain
you. I will take your place here.''

``_Miss Neilson!_''

Billy smiled radiantly. It was the first time
she had ever seen Alice Greggory's haughtily
cold reserve break into anything like naturalness
--the astonished incredulity of that ``Miss
Neilson!'' was plainly straight from the heart;
so, too, were the amazed words that followed.

``_You_--will stand _here?_''

``Certainly; I will keep your place. Don't
worry. You sha'n't lose it.'' Billy spoke with a
smiling indifference that was meant to convey
the impression that standing in line for a twenty-
five-cent seat was a daily habit of hers. ``There's
a restaurant only a little way--right down
there,'' she finished. And before the dazed Alice
Greggory knew quite what was happening she
found herself outside the line, and the other in
her place.

``But, Miss Neilson, I can't--you mustn't--''
she stammered; then, because of something in
the unyieldingness of the square young chin above
the sealskin coat, and because she could not (she
knew) use actual force to drag the owner of that
chin out of the line, she bowed her head in acquiescence.

``Well, then--I will, long enough for some
coffee and maybe a sandwich. And--thank you,''
she choked, as she turned and hurried away.

Billy drew the deep breath of one who has
triumphed after long struggles--but the breath
broke off short in a gasp of dismay: coming
straight up the Avenue toward her was the one
person in the world Billy wished least to see at
that moment--Bertram Henshaw. Billy remembered
then that she had twice lately heard her
lover speak of calling at the Boston Opera House
concerning a commission to paint an ideal head
to represent ``Music'' for some decorative
purpose. The Opera House was only a short distance
up the Avenue. Doubtless he was on his way there

He was very near by this time, and Billy held
her breath suspended. There was a chance, of
course, that he might not notice her; and Billy
was counting on that chance--until a gust of
wind whirled a loose half-sheet of newspaper from
the hands of the man in front of her, and naturally
attracted Bertram's eyes to its vicinity--and to
hers. The next moment he was at her side and
his dumfounded but softly-breathed ``_Billy!_''
was in her ears.

Billy bubbled into low laughter--there were
such a lot of funny situations in the world, and
of them all this one was about the drollest, she

``Yes, I know,'' she gurgled. ``You don't have
to say it-your face is saying even more than
your tongue _could!_ This is just for a girl I know.
I'm keeping her place.''

Bertram frowned. He looked as if he were
meditating picking Billy up and walking off with

``But, Billy,'' he protested just above his breath,
``this isn't sugarplums nor frosting; it's plain
suicide--standing out in this wind like this!
Besides--'' He stopped with an angrily despairing
glance at her surroundings.

``Yes, I know,'' she nodded, a little soberly,
understanding the look and answering that first;
``it isn't pleasant nor comfortable, in lots of
ways--but _she's_ had it all the morning. As for the
cold--I'm as warm as toast. It won't be long,
anyway; she's just gone to get something to eat.
Then I'm going to May Henderson's for luncheon.''

Bertram sighed impatiently and opened his
lips--only to close them with the words unsaid.
There was nothing he could do, and he had already
said too much, he thought, with a savage glance
at the man ahead who still had enough of his paper
left to serve for a pretence at reading. As Bertram
could see, however, the man was not reading a word
--he was too acutely conscious of the handsome
young woman in the long sealskin coat behind
him. Billy was already the cynosure of dozens
of eyes, and Bertram knew that his own arrival
on the scene had not lessened the interest of the
owners of those eyes. He only hoped devoutly
that no one in the line knew him ar Billy, and that
no one quite knew what had happened. He did
not wish to see himself and his fiance the subject
of inch-high headlines in some evening paper
figuring as:

``Talented young composer and her famous
artist lover take poor girl's place in a twenty-five-
cent ticket line.''

He shivered at the thought.

``Are you cold?'' worried Billy. ``If you are,
don't stand here, please!''

He shook his head silently. His eyes were
searching the street for the only one whose coming
could bring him relief.

It must have been but a coffee-and-sandwich
luncheon for the girl, for soon she came. The man
surmised that it was she, as soon as he saw her, and
stepped back at once. He had no wish for introductions.
A moment later the girl was in Billy's
place, and Billy herself was at his side.

``That was Alice Greggory, Bertram,'' she
told him, as they walked on swiftly; ``and
Bertram, she was actually almost _crying_ when
she took my place.''

``Humph! Well, I should think she'd better
be,'' growled Bertram, perversely.

``Pooh! It didn't hurt me any, dearie,'' laughed
Billy with a conciliatory pat on his arm as they
turned down the street upon which her friend
lived. ``And now can you come in and see May a

``I'm afraid not,'' regretted Bertram. ``I
wish I could, but I'm busier than busy to-day--
and I was _supposed_ to be already late when I saw
you. Jove, Billy, I just couldn't believe my eyes!''

``You looked it,'' twinkled Billy. ``It was worth
a farm just to see your face!''

``I'd want the farm--if I was going through
that again,'' retorted the man, grimly--Bertram
was still seeing that newspaper heading.

But Billy only laughed again.



Arkwright called Monday afternoon by
appointment; and together he and Billy put the
finishing touches to the new song.

It was when, with Aunt Hannah, they were
having tea before the fire a little later, that Billy
told of her adventure the preceding Friday afternoon
in front of Symphony Hall.

``You knew the girl, of course--I think you
said you knew the girl,'' ventured Arkwright.

``Oh, yes. She was Alice Greggory. I met her
with Uncle William first, over a Lowestoft teapot.
Maybe you'd like to know _how_ I met her,'' smiled

``Alice Greggory?'' Arkwright's eyes showed a
sudden interest. ``I used to know an Alice Greggory,
but it isn't the same one, probably. Her
mother was a cripple.''

Billy gave a little cry.

``Why, it is--it must be! _My_ Alice Greggory's
mother is a cripple. Oh, do you know them,

``Well, it does look like it,'' rejoined Arkwright,
showing even deeper interest. ``I haven't seen
them for four or five years. They used to live
in our town. The mother was a little sweet-
faced woman with young eyes and prematurely
white hair.''

``That describes my Mrs. Greggory exactly,''
cried Billy's eager voice. ``And the daughter?''

``Alice? Why--as I said, it's been four years
since I've seen her.'' A touch of constraint had
come into Arkwright's voice which Billy's keen
ear was quick to detect. ``She was nineteen then
and very pretty.''

``About my height, and with light-brown hair
and big blue-gray eyes that look steely cold when
she's angry?'' questioned Billy.

``I reckon that's about it,'' acknowledged the
man, with a faint smile.

``Then they _are_ the ones,'' declared the girl,
plainly excited. ``Isn't that splendid? Now we
can know them, and perhaps do something for
them. I love that dear little mother already,
and I think I should the daughter--if she didn't
put out so many prickers that I couldn't get near
her! But tell us about them. How did they
come here? Why didn't you know they were

``Are you good at answering a dozen questions
at once?'' asked Aunt Hannah, turning smiling
eyes from Billy to the man at her side.

``Well, I can try,'' he offered. ``To begin
with, they are Judge Greggory's widow and daughter.
They belong to fine families on both sides,
and they used to be well off--really wealthy,
for a small town. But the judge was better at
money-making than he was at money-keeping,
and when he came to die his income stopped, of
course, and his estate was found to be in bad
shape through reckless loans and worthless
investments. That was eight years ago. Things
went from bad to worse then, until there was almost
nothing left.''

``I knew there was some such story as that
back of them,'' declared Billy. ``But how do
you suppose they came here?''

``To get away from--everybody, I suspect,''
replied Arkwright. ``That would be like them.
They were very proud; and it isn't easy, you
know, to be nobody where you've been somebody.
It doesn't hurt quite so hard--to be nobody where
you've never been anything but nobody.''

``I suppose so,'' sighed Billy. ``Still--they
must have had friends.''

``They did, of course; but when the love of
one's friends becomes _too_ highly seasoned with
pity, it doesn't make a pleasant morsel to swallow,
specially if you don't like the taste of the pity--
and there are people who don't, you know. The
Greggorys were that kind. They were morbidly
so. From their cheap little cottage, where they
did their own work, they stepped out in their
shabby garments and old-fashioned hats with
heads even more proudly erect than in the old
days when their home and their gowns and their
doings were the admiration and envy of the town.
You see, they didn't want--that pity.''

``I _do_ see,'' cried Billy, her face aglow with
sudden understanding; ``and I don't believe
pity would be--nice!'' Her own chin was held
high as she spoke.

``It must have been hard, indeed,'' murmured
Aunt Hannah with a sigh, as she set down her

``It was,'' nodded Arkwright. ``Of course
Mrs. Greggory, with her crippled foot, could do
nothing to bring in any money except to sew a
little. It all depended on Alice; and when matters
got to their worst she began to teach. She was
fond of music, and could play the piano well; and
of course she had had the best instruction she
could get from city teachers only twenty miles
away from our home town. Young as she was--
about seventeen when she began to teach, I think
--she got a few beginners right away, and in
two years she had worked up quite a class,
meanwhile keeping on with her own studies, herself.

``They might have carried the thing through,
maybe,'' continued Arkwright, ``and never
_apparently_ known that the `pity' existed, if it
hadn't been for some ugly rumors that suddenly
arose attacking the Judge's honesty in an old
matter that somebody raked up. That was too
much. Under this last straw their courage broke
utterly. Alice dismissed every pupil, sold almost
all their remaining goods--they had lots of quite
valuable heirlooms; I suspect that's where your
Lowestoft teapot came in--and with the money
thus gained they left town. Until they could
go, they scarcely showed themselves once on the
street, they were never at home to callers, and
they left without telling one soul where they were
going, so far as we could ever learn.''

``Why, the poor dears!'' cried Billy. ``How
they must have suffered! But things will be
different now. You'll go to see them, of course,
and--'' At the look that came into Arkwright's
face, she stopped in surprise.

``You forget; they wouldn't wish to see me,''
demurred the man. And again Billy noticed the
odd constraint in his voice.

``But they wouldn't mind _you--here_,'' argued

``I'm afraid they would. In fact, I'm sure they'd
refuse entirely to see me.''

Billy's eyes grew determined.

``But they can't refuse--if I bring about a
meeting just casually, you know,'' she challenged.

Arkwright laughed.

``Well, I won't pretend to say as to the
consequences of that,'' he rejoined, rising to his feet;
``but they might be disastrous. Wasn't it you
yourself who were telling me a few minutes ago
how steely cold Miss Alice's eyes got when she
was angry?''

Billy knew by the way the man spoke that, for
some reason, he did not wish to prolong the subject
of his meeting the Greggorys. She made a quick
shift, therefore, to another phase of the matter.

``But tell me, please, before you go, how did
those rumors come out--about Judge Greggory's
honesty, I mean?''

``Why, I never knew, exactly,'' frowned Arkwright,
musingly. ``Yet it seems, too, that
mother did say in one letter, while I was in Paris,
that some of the accusations had been found to
be false, and that there was a prospect that the
Judge's good name might be saved, after all.''

``Oh, I wish it might,'' sighed Billy. ``Think
what it would mean to those women!''

``'Twould mean everything,'' cried Arkwright,
warmly; ``and I'll write to mother to-night, I will,
and find out just what there is to it-if anything.
Then you can tell them,'' he finished a little stiffly.

``Yes--or you,'' nodded Billy, lightly. And
because she began at once to speak of something
else, the first part of her sentence passed without

The door had scarcely closed behind Arkwright
when Billy turned to Aunt Hannah a beaming

``Aunt Hannah, did you notice?'' she cried,
``how Mary Jane looked and acted whenever Alice
Greggory was spoken of? There was something
between them--I'm sure there was; and they
quarrelled, probably.''

``Why, no, dear; I didn't see anything unusual,''
murmured the elder lady.

``Well, I did. And I'm going to be the fairy
godmother that straightens everything all out,
too. See if I'm not! They'd make a splendid
couple, Aunt Hannah. I'm going right down
there to-morrow.''

``Billy, my dear!'' exclaimed the more
conservative old lady, ``aren't you taking things a
little too much for granted? Maybe they don't
wish for--for a fairy godmother!''

``Oh, _they_ won't know I'm a fairy godmother
--not one of them; and of course I wouldn't
mention even a hint to anybody,'' laughed Billy.
``I'm just going down to get acquainted with the
Greggorys; that's all. Only think, Aunt Hannah,
what they must have suffered! And look at the
place they're living in now--gentlewomen like

``Yes, yes, poor things, poor things!'' sighed
Aunt Hannah.

``I hope I'll find out that she's really good--at
teaching, I mean--the daughter,'' resumed Billy,
after a moment's pause. ``If she is, there's one
thing I can do to help, anyhow. I can get some
of Marie's old pupils for her. I _know_ some of
them haven't begun with a new teacher, yet; and
Mrs. Carleton told me last Friday that neither
she nor her sister was at all satisfied with the one
their girls _have_ taken. They'd change, I know, in
a minute, at my recommendation--that is, of
course, if I can _give_ the recommendation,''
continued Billy, with a troubled frown. ``Anyhow,
I'm going down to begin operations to-morrow.''



True to her assertion, Billy went down to the
Greggorys' the next day. This time she did not
take Rosa with her. Even Aunt Hannah conceded
that it would not be necessary. She had
not been gone ten minutes, however, when the
telephone bell rang, and Rosa came to say that
Mr. Bertram Henshaw wanted to speak with Mrs.

``Rosa says that Billy's not there,'' called
Bertram's aggrieved voice, when Aunt Hannah
had said, ``Good morning, my boy.''

``Dear me, no, Bertram. She's in a fever of
excitement this morning. She'll probably tell you
all about it when you come out here to-night.
You _are_ coming out to-night, aren't you?''

``Yes; oh, yes! But what is it? Where's she

Aunt Hannah laughed softly.

``Well, she's gone down to the Greggorys'.''

``The Greggorys'! What--again?''

``Oh, you might as well get used to it, Bertram,''
bantered Aunt Hannah, ``for there'll be a good
many `agains,' I fancy.''

``Why, Aunt Hannah, what do you mean?''
Bertram's voice was not quite pleased.

``Oh, she'll tell you. It's only that the
Greggorys have turned out to be old friends of Mr.

``_Friends_ of Arkwright's!'' Bertram's voice
was decidedly displeased now.

``Yes; and there's quite a story to it all, as
well. Billy is wildly excited, as you'd know she
would be. You'll hear all about it to-night, of

``Yes, of course,'' echoed Bertram. But there
was no ring of enthusiasm in his voice, neither
then, nor when he said good-by a moment later.

Billy, meanwhile, on her way to the Greggory
home, was, as Aunt Hannah had said, ``wildly
excited.'' It seemed so strange and wonderful
and delightful--the whole affair: that she should
have found them because of a Lowestoft teapot,
that Arkwright should know them, and that there
should be the chance now that she might help
them--in some way; though this last, she knew,
could be accomplished only through the exercise
of the greatest tact and delicacy. She had not
forgotten that Arkwright had told her of their
hatred of pity.

In the sober second thought of the morning,
Billy was not sure now of a possible romance in
connection with Arkwright and the daughter,
Alice; but she had by no means abandoned the
idea, and she meant to keep her eyes open--and
if there should be a chance to bring such a thing
about--! Meanwhile, of course, she should not
mention the matter, even to Bertram.

Just what would be her method of procedure
this first morning, Billy had not determined. The
pretty potted azalea in her hand would be
excuse for her entrance into the room. After that,
circumstances must decide for themselves.

Mrs. Greggory was found to be alone at home as
before, and Billy was glad. She would rather begin
with one than two, she thought. The little woman
greeted her cordially, gave misty-eyed thanks for
the beautiful plant, and also for Billy's kind
thoughtfulness Friday afternoon. From that she
was very skilfully led to talk more of the daughter;
and soon Billy was getting just the information
she wanted--information concerning the character,
aims, and daily life of Alice Greggory.

``You see, we have some money--a very little,''
explained Mrs. Greggory, after a time; ``though
to get it we have had to sell all our treasures--
but the Lowestoft, ``with a quick glance into
Billy's eyes. ``We need not, perhaps, live in
quite so poor a place; but we prefer--just now
--to spend the little money we have for something
other than imitation comfort--lessons, for
instance, and an occasional concert. My daughter
is studying even while she is teaching. She hopes
to train herself for an accompanist, and for a
teacher. She does not aspire to concert solo work.
She understands her limitations.''

``But she is probably--very good--at teaching.''
Billy hesitated a little.

``She is; very good. She has the best of
recommendations.'' A little proudly Mrs. Greggory
gave the names of two Boston pianists--names
that would carry weight anywhere.


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