Eleanor H. Porter
Part 3 out of 4
"And where is Cyril?" asked Mrs. Stetson, coming into the room at
William stirred restlessly.
"Well, Cyril couldn't--couldn't come," stammered William with an
uneasy glance at his brother.
Billy laughed unexpectedly.
"It's too bad--about Mr. Cyril's not coming," she murmured. And
again Bertram caught the twinkle in the downcast eyes.
To Bertram the twinkle looked interesting, and worth pursuit; but
at the very beginning of the chase Calderwell's card came up, and
that ended--everything, so Bertram declared crossly to himself.
Billy found her dirt to dig in, and her furnace to shake, in
Brookline. There were closets, too, and a generous expanse of
veranda. They all belonged to a quaint little house perched on the
side of Corey Hill. From the veranda in the rear, and from many of
the windows, one looked out upon a delightful view of many-hued,
many-shaped roofs nestling among towering trees, with the wide
sweep of the sky above, and the haze of faraway hills at the
"In fact, it's as nearly perfect as it can be--and not take angel-
wings and fly away," declared Billy. "I have named it 'Hillside.'"
Very early in her career as house-owner, Billy decided that however
delightful it might be to have a furnace to shake, it would not be
at all delightful to shake it; besides, there was the new motor car
to run. Billy therefore sought and found a good, strong man who
had not only the muscle and the willingness to shake the furnace,
but the skill to turn chauffeur at a moment's notice. Best of all,
this man had also a wife who, with a maid to assist her, would take
full charge of the house, and thus leave Billy and Mrs. Stetson
free from care. All these, together with a canary, and a kitten as
near like Spunk as could be obtained, made Billy's household.
"And now I'm ready to see my friends," she announced.
"And I think your friends will be ready to see you," Bertram
And they were--at least, so it appeared. For at once the little
house perched on the hillside became the Mecca for many of the
Henshaws' friends who had known Billy as William's merry, eighteen-
year-old namesake. There were others, too, whom Billy had met
abroad; and there were soft-stepping, sweet-faced old women and an
occasional white-whiskered old man--Aunt Hannah's friends--who
found that the young mistress of Hillside was a charming hostess.
There were also the Henshaw "boys," and there was always
Calderwell--at least, so Bertram declared to himself sometimes.
Bertram came frequently to the little house on the hill, even more
frequently than William; but Cyril was not seen there so often. He
came once at first, it is true, and followed Billy from room to
room as she proudly displayed her new home. He showed polite
interest in her view, and a perfunctory enjoyment of the tea she
prepared for him. But he did not come again for some time, and
when he did come, he sat stiffly silent, while his brothers did
most of the talking.
As to Calderwell--Calderwell seemed suddenly to have lost his
interest in impenetrable forests and unclimbable mountains.
Nothing more intricate than the long Beacon Street boulevard, or
more inaccessible than Corey Hill seemed worth exploring,
apparently. According to Calderwell's own version of it, he had
"settled down"; he was going to "be something that was something."
And he did spend sundry of his morning hours in a Boston law office
with ponderous, calf-bound volumes spread in imposing array on the
desk before him. Other hours--many hours--he spent with Billy.
One day, very soon, in fact, after she arrived in Boston, Billy
asked Calderwell about the Henshaws.
"Tell me about them," she said. "Tell me what they have been doing
all these years."
"Tell you about them! Why, don't you know?"
She shook her head.
"No. Cyril says nothing. William little more--about themselves;
and you know what Bertram is. One can hardly separate sense from
nonsense with him."
"You don't know, then, how splendidly Bertram has done with his
"No; only from the most casual hearsay. Has he done well then?"
"Finely! The public has been his for years, and now the critics
are tumbling over each other to do him honor. They rave about his
'sensitive, brilliant, nervous touch,'--whatever that may be; his
'marvelous color sense'; his 'beauty of line and pose.' And they
quarrel over whether it's realism or idealism that constitutes his
"I'm so glad! And is it still the 'Face of a Girl'?"
"Yes; only he's doing straight portraiture now as well. It's got
to be quite the thing to be 'done' by Henshaw; and there's many a
fair lady that has graciously commissioned him to paint her
portrait. He's a fine fellow, too--a mighty fine fellow. You may
not know, perhaps, but three or four years ago he was--well, not
wild, but 'frolicsome,' he would probably have called it. He got
in with a lot of fellows that--well, that weren't good for a chap
of Bertram's temperament."
Calderwell turned sharply.
"Did YOU know Seaver?" he demanded in obvious surprise.
"I used to SEE him--with Bertram."
"Oh! Well, he WAS one of them, unfortunately. But Bertram shipped
him years ago."
Billy gave a sudden radiant smile--but she changed the subject at
"And Mr. William still collects, I suppose," she observed.
"Jove! I should say he did! I've forgotten the latest; but he's a
fine fellow, too, like Bertram."
"That chap's a poser for me, Billy, and no mistake. I can't make
"What's the matter?"
"I don't know. Probably I'm not 'tuned to his pitch.' Bertram
told me once that Cyril was very sensitively strung, and never
responded until a certain note was struck. Well, I haven't ever
found that note, I reckon."
"I never heard Bertram say that, but I think I know what he means;
and he's right, too. I begin to realize now what a jangling
discord I must have created when I tried to harmonize with him
three years ago! But what is he doing in his music?"
The other shrugged his shoulders.
"Same thing. Plays occasionally, and plays well, too; but he's so
erratic it's difficult to get him to do it. Everything must be
just so, you know--air, light, piano, and audience. He's got
another book out, I'm told--a profound treatise on somebody's
something or other--musical, of course."
"And he used to write music; doesn't he do that any more?"
"I believe so. I hear of it occasionally through musical friends
of mine. They even play it to me sometimes. But I can't stand for
much of it--his stuff--really, Billy."
"'Stuff' indeed! And why not?" An odd hostility showed in Billy's
Again Calderwell shrugged his shoulders.
"Don't ask me. I don't know. But they're always dead slow, somber
things, with the wail of a lost spirit shrieking through them."
"But I just love lost spirits that wail," avowed Billy, with more
than a shade of reproach in her voice.
Calderwell stared; then he shook his head.
"Not in mine, thank you;" he retorted whimsically. "I prefer my
spirits of a more sane and cheerful sort."
The girl laughed, but almost instantly she fell silent.
"I've been wondering," she began musingly, after a time, "why some
one of those three men does not--marry."
"You wouldn't wonder--if you knew them better," declared Calderwell.
"Now think. Let's begin at the top of the Strata--by the way,
Bertram's name for that establishment is mighty clever! First,
Cyril: according to Bertram Cyril hates 'all kinds of women and
other confusion'; and I fancy Bertram hits it about right. So that
settles Cyril. Then there's William--you know William. Any girl
would say William was a dear; but William isn't a MARRYING man. Dad
says,"--Calderwell's voice softened a little--"dad says that William
and his young wife were the most devoted couple that he ever saw;
and that when she died she seemed to take with her the whole of
William's heart--that is, what hadn't gone with the baby a few years
before. There was a boy, you know, that died."
"Yes, I know," nodded Billy, quick tears in her eyes. "Aunt Hannah
"Well, that counts out William, then," said Calderwell, with an air
"But how about Bertram? You haven't settled Bertram," laughed
"Bertram!" Calderwell's eyes widened. "Billy, can you imagine
Bertram's making love in real earnest to a girl?"
"Why, I--don't--know; maybe!" Billy tipped her head from side to
side as if she were viewing a picture set up for her inspection.
"Well, I can't. In the first place, no girl would think he was
serious; or if by any chance she did, she'd soon discover that it
was the turn of her head or the tilt of her chin that he admired--
TO PAINT. Now isn't that so?"
Billy laughed, but she did not answer.
"It is, and you know it," declared Calderwell. "And that settles
him. Now you can see, perhaps, why none of these men--will marry."
It was a long minute before Billy spoke.
"Not a bit of it. I don't see it at all," she declared with
roguish merriment. "Moreover, I think that some day, some one of
them--will marry, Sir Doubtful!"
Calderwell threw a quick glance into her eyes. Evidently something
he saw there sent a swift shadow to his own. He waited a moment,
then asked abruptly:
"Billy, WON'T you marry me?"
Billy frowned, though her eyes still laughed.
"Hugh, I told you not to ask me that again," she demurred.
"And I told you not to ask impossibilities of me," he retorted
imperturbably. "Billy, won't you, now--seriously? "
"Seriously, no, Hugh. Please don't let us go all over that again
when we've done it so many times."
"No, let's don't," agreed the man, cheerfully. "And we don't have
to, either, if you'll only say 'yes,' now right away, without any
Billy sighed impatiently.
"Hugh, won't you understand that I'm serious?" she cried; then she
turned suddenly, with a peculiar flash in her eyes.
"Hugh, I don't believe Bertram himself could make love any more
nonsensically than you can!"
Calderwell laughed, but he frowned, too; and again he threw into
Billy's face that keenly questioning glance. He said something--a
light something--that brought the laugh to Billy's lips in spite of
herself; but he was still frowning when he left the house some
minutes later, and the shadow was not gone from his eyes.
BERTRAM DOES SOME QUESTIONING
Billy's time was well occupied. There were so many, many things
she wished to do, and so few, few hours in which to do them. First
there was her music. She made arrangements at once to study with
one of Boston's best piano teachers, and she also made plans to
continue her French and German. She joined a musical club, a
literary club, and a more strictly social club; and to numerous
church charities and philanthropic enterprises she lent more than
her name, giving freely of both time and money.
Friday afternoons, of course, were to be held sacred to the
Symphony concerts; and on certain Wednesday mornings there was to
be a series of recitals, in which she was greatly interested.
For Society with a capital S, Billy cared little; but for
sociability with a small s, she cared much; and very wide she
opened her doors to her friends, lavishing upon them a wealth of
hospitality. Nor did they all come in carriages or automobiles--
these friends. A certain pale-faced little widow over at the South
End knew just how good Miss Neilson's tea tasted on a crisp October
afternoon and Marie Hawthorn, a frail young woman who gave music
lessons, knew just how restful was Miss Neilson's couch after a
weary day of long walks and fretful pupils.
"But how in the world do you discover them all--these forlorn
specimens of humanity?" queried Bertram one evening, when he had
found Billy entertaining a freckled-faced messenger-boy with a
plate of ice cream and a big square of cake.
"Anywhere--everywhere," smiled Billy.
"Well, this last candidate for your favor, who has just gone--who's
"I don't know, beyond that his name is 'Tom,' and that he likes ice
"And you never saw him before?"
"Humph! One wouldn't think it, to see his charming air of
"Oh, but it doesn't take much to make a little fellow like that
feel at home," laughed Billy.
"And are you in the habit of feeding every one who comes to your
house, on ice cream and chocolate cake? I thought that stone
doorstep of yours was looking a little worn."
"Not a bit of it," retorted Billy. "This little chap came with a
message just as I was finishing dinner. The ice cream was
particularly good to-night, and it occurred to me that he might
like a taste; so I gave it to him."
Bertram raised his eyebrows quizzically.
"Very kind, of course; but--why ice cream?" he questioned. "I
thought it was roast beef and boiled potatoes that was supposed to
be handed out to gaunt-eyed hunger."
"It is," nodded Billy, "and that's why I think sometimes they'd
like ice cream and chocolate frosting. Besides, to give sugar
plums one doesn't have to unwind yards of red tape, or worry about
'pauperizing the poor.' To give red flannels and a ton of coal,
one must be properly circumspect and consult records and city
missionaries, of course; and that's why it's such a relief
sometimes just to hand over a simple little sugar plum and see them
For a minute Bertram was silent, then he asked abruptly:
"Billy, why did you leave the Strata?"
Billy was taken quite by surprise. A pink flush spread to her
forehead, and her tongue stumbled at first over her reply.
"Why, I--it seemed--you--why, I left to go to Hampden Falls, to be
sure. Don't you remember?" she finished gaily.
"Oh, yes, I remember THAT," conceded Bertram with disdainful
emphasis. "But why did you go to Hampden Falls?"
"Why, it--it was the only place to go--that is, I WANTED to go
there," she corrected hastily. "Didn't Aunt Hannah tell you that
I--I was homesick to get back there?"
"Oh, yes, Aunt Hannah SAID that," observed the man; "but wasn't
that homesickness a little--sudden?"
Billy blushed pink again.
"Why, maybe; but--well, homesickness is always more or less sudden;
isn't it?" she parried.
Bertram laughed, but his eyes grew suddenly almost tender.
"See here, Billy, you can't bluff worth a cent," he declared. "You
are much too refreshingly frank for that. Something was the
trouble. Now what was it? Won't you tell me, please?"
Billy pouted. She hesitated and gazed anywhere but into the
challenging eyes before her. Then very suddenly she looked
straight into them.
"Very well, there WAS a reason for my leaving," she confessed a
little breathlessly. "I--didn't want to--bother you any more--all
"No. I found out. You couldn't paint; Mr. Cyril couldn't play or
write; and--and everything was different because I was there. But
I didn't blame you--no, no!" she assured him hastily. "It was only
that I--found out."
"And may I ask HOW you obtained this most extraordinary information?"
demanded Bertram, savagely.
Billy shook her head. Her round little chin looked suddenly square
"You may ask, but I shall not tell," she declared firmly.
If Bertram had known Billy just a little better he would have let
the matter drop there; but he did not know Billy, so he asked:
"Was it anything I did--or said?"
The girl did not answer.
"Billy, was it?" Bertram's voice showed terror now.
Billy laughed unexpectedly.
"Do you think I'm going to say 'no' to a series of questions, and
then give the whole thing away by my silence when you come to the
right one?" she demanded merrily. "No, sir!"
"Well, anyhow, it wasn't I, then," sighed the man in relief; "for
you just observed that you were not going to say 'no to a series of
questions'--and that was the first one. So I've found out that
much, anyhow," he concluded triumphantly.
The girl eyed him for a moment in silence; then she shook her head.
"I'm not going to be caught that way, either," she smiled. "You
know--just what you did in the first place about it: nothing."
The man stirred restlessly and pondered. After a long pause he
adopted new tactics. With a searching study of her face to note
the slightest change, he enumerated:
"Was it Cyril, then? Will? Aunt Hannah? Kate? It couldn't have
been Pete, or Dong Ling!"
Billy still smiled inscrutably. At no name had Bertram detected so
much as the flicker of an eyelid; and with a glance half-admiring,
half-chagrined, he fell back into his chair.
"I'll give it up. You've won," he acknowledged. "But, Billy,"--
his manner changed suddenly--"I wonder if you know just what a hole
you left in the Strata when you went away."
"But I couldn't have--in the whole Strata," objected Billy. "I
occupied only one stratum, and a stratum doesn't go up and down,
you know, only across; and mine was the second floor."
Bertram gave a slow shake of his head.
"I know; but yours was a freak formation," he maintained gravely.
"It DID go up and down. Honestly, Billy, we did care--lots. Will
and I were inconsolable, and even Cyril played dirges for a week."
"Did he?" gurgled Billy, with sudden joyousness. "I'm so glad!"
"Thank you," murmured Bertram, disapprovingly. "We hadn't
considered it a subject for exultation."
"What? Oh, I didn't mean that! That is--" she stopped helplessly.
"Oh, never mind about trying to explain," interposed Bertram. "I
fancy the remedy would be worse than the disease, in this case."
"Nonsense! I only meant that I like to be missed--sometimes,"
retorted Billy, a little nettled.
"And you rejoice then to have me mope, Cyril play dirges, and Will
wander mournfully about the house with Spunkie in his arms! You
should have seen William. If his forlornness did not bring tears
to your eyes, the grace of the pink bow that lopped behind
Spunkie's left ear would surely have brought a copious flow."
Billy laughed, but her eyes grew tender.
"Did Uncle William do--that?" she asked.
"He did--and he did more. Pete told me after a time that you had
not left one thing in the house, anywhere; but one day, over behind
William's most treasured Lowestoft, I found a small shell hairpin,
and a flat brown silk button that I recognized as coming from one
of your dresses."
"Oh!" said Billy, softly. "Dear Uncle William--and how good he was
CYRIL, THE ENIGMA
Perhaps it was because Billy saw so little of Cyril that it was
Cyril whom she wished particularly to see. William, Bertram,
Calderwell--all her other friends came frequently to the little
house on the hill, Billy told herself; only Cyril held aloof--and
it was Cyril that she wanted.
Billy said that it was his music; that she wanted to hear him play,
and that she wanted him to hear her. She felt grieved and
chagrined. Not once since she had come had he seemed interested--
really interested in her music. He had asked her, it is true, in a
perfunctory way what she had done, and who her teachers had been.
But all the while she was answering she had felt that he was not
listening; that he did not care. And she cared so much! She knew
now that all her practising through the long hard months of study,
had been for Cyril. Every scale had been smoothed for his ears,
and every phrase had been interpreted with his approbation in view.
Across the wide waste of waters his face had shone like a star of
promise, beckoning her on and on to heights unknown. . . And now
she was here in Boston, but she could not even play the scale, nor
interpret the phrase for the ear to which they had been so
laboriously attuned; and Cyril's face, in the flesh, was no
beckoning star of promise, but was a thing as cold and relentless
as was the waste of waters across which it had shone in the past.
Billy did not understand it. She knew, it is true, of Cyril's
reputed aversion to women in general and to noise; but she was
neither women in general nor noise, she told herself indignantly.
She was only the little maid, grown three years older, who had sat
at his feet and adoringly listened to all that he had been pleased
to say in the old days at the top of the Strata. And he had been
kind then--very kind, Billy declared stoutly. He had been patient
and interested, too, and he had seemed not only willing, but glad
to teach her, while now--
Sometimes Billy thought she would ask him candidly what was the
matter. But it was always the old, frank Billy that thought this;
the impulsive Billy, that had gone up to Cyril's rooms years before
and cheerfully announced that she had come to get acquainted. It
was never the sensible, circumspect Billy that Aunt Hannah had for
three years been shaping and coaxing into being. But even this
Billy frowned rebelliously, and declared that sometime something
should be said that would at least give him a chance to explain.
In all the weeks since Billy's purchase of Hillside, Cyril had been
there only twice, and it was nearly Thanksgiving now. Billy had
seen him once or twice, also, at the Beacon Street house, when she
and Aunt Hannah had dined there; but on all these occasions he had
been either the coldly reserved guest or the painfully punctilious
host. Never had he been in the least approachable.
"He treats me exactly as he treated poor little Spunk that first
night," Billy declared hotly to herself.
Only once since she came had Billy heard Cyril play, and that was
when she had shared the privilege with hundreds of others at a
public concert. She had sat then entranced, with her eyes on the
clean-cut handsome profile of the man who played with so sure a
skill and power, yet without a note before him. Afterward she had
met him face to face, and had tried to tell him how moved she was;
but in her agitation, and because of a strange shyness that had
suddenly come to her, she had ended only in stammering out some
flippant banality that had brought to his face merely a bored smile
Twice she had asked him to play for her; but each time he had
begged to be excused, courteously, but decidedly.
"It's no use to tease," Bertram had interposed once, with an airy
wave of his hands. "This lion always did refuse to roar to order.
If you really must hear him, you'll have to slip up-stairs and camp
outside his door, waiting patiently for such crumbs as may fall
from his table."
"Aren't your metaphors a little mixed?" questioned Cyril irritably.
"Yes, sir," acknowledged Bertram with unruffled temper. "but I
don't mind if Billy doesn't. I only meant her to understand that
she'd have to do as she used to do--listen outside your door."
Billy's cheeks reddened.
"But that is what I sha'n't do," she retorted with spirit. "And,
moreover, I still have hopes that some day he'll play to me."
"Maybe," conceded Bertram, doubtfully; "if the stool and the piano
and the pedals and the weather and his fingers and your ears and my
watch are all just right--then he'll play."
"Nonsense!" scowled Cyril. "I'll play, of course, some day. But
I'd rather not today." And there the matter had ended. Since then
Billy had not asked him to play.
THE OLD ROOM--AND BILLY
Thanksgiving was to be a great day in the Henshaw family. The
Henshaw brothers were to entertain. Billy and Aunt Hannah had been
invited to dinner; and so joyously hospitable was William's
invitation that it would have included the new kitten and the
canary if Billy would have consented to bring them.
Once more Pete swept and garnished the house, and once more Dong
Ling spoiled uncounted squares of chocolate trying to make the
baffling fudge. Bertram said that the entire Strata was a-quiver.
Not but that Billy and Aunt Hannah had visited there before, but
that this was different. They were to come at noon this time.
This visit was not to be a tantalizing little piece of stiffness an
hour and a half long. It was to be a satisfying, whole-souled
matter of half a day's comradeship, almost like old times. So once
more the roses graced the rooms, and a flaring pink bow adorned
Spunkie's fat neck; and once more Bertram placed his latest "Face
of a Girl" in the best possible light. There was still a
difference, however, for this time Cyril did not bring any music
down to the piano, nor display anywhere a copy of his newest book.
The dinner was to be at three o'clock, but by special invitation
the guests were to arrive at twelve; and promptly at the appointed
hour they came.
"There, this is something like," exulted Bertram, when the ladies,
divested of their wraps, toasted their feet before the open fire in
"Indeed it is, for now I've time to see everything--everything
you've done since I've been gone," cried Billy, gazing eagerly
"Hm-m; well, THAT wasn't what I meant," shrugged Bertram.
"Of course not; but it's what I meant," retorted Billy. "And there
are other things, too. I expect there are half a dozen new 'Old
Blues' and black basalts that I want to see; eh, Uncle William?"
she finished, smiling into the eyes of the man who had been gazing
at her with doting pride for the last five minutes.
"Ho! Will isn't on teapots now," quoth Bertram, before his brother
had a chance to reply. "You might dangle the oldest 'Old Blue'
that ever was before him now, and he'd pay scant attention if he
happened at the same time to get his eyes on some old pewter chain
with a green stone in it."
Billy laughed; but at the look of genuine distress that came into
William's face, she sobered at once.
"Don't you let him tease you, Uncle William," she said quickly.
"I'm sure pewter chains with green stones in them sound just
awfully interesting, and I want to see them right away now. Come,"
she finished, springing to her feet, "take me up-stairs, please,
and show them to me."
William shook his head and said, "No, no!" protesting that what he
had were scarcely worth her attention; but even while he talked he
rose to his feet and advanced half eagerly, half reluctantly,
toward the door.
"Nonsense," said Billy, fondly, as she laid her hand on his arm.
"I know they are very much worth seeing. Come!" And she led the
way from the room. "Oh, oh!" she exclaimed a few moments later, as
she stood before a small cabinet in one of William's rooms. "Oh,
oh, how pretty!"
"Do you like them? I thought you would," triumphed William, quick
joy driving away the anxious fear in his eyes. "You see, I--I
thought of you when I got them--every one of them. I thought you'd
like them. But I haven't very many, yet, of course. This is the
latest one." And he tenderly lifted from its black velvet mat a
curious silver necklace made of small, flat, chain-linked disks,
heavily chased, and set at regular intervals with a strange, blue-
Billy hung above it enraptured.
"Oh, what a beauty! And this, I suppose, is Bertram's 'pewter
chain'! 'Pewter,' indeed!" she scoffed. "Tell me, Uncle William,
where did you get it?"
And uncle William told, happily, thirstily, drinking in Billy's
evident interest with delight. There were, too, a quaintly-set
ring and a cat's-eye brooch; and to each belonged a story which
William was equally glad to tell. There were other treasures,
also: buckles, rings, brooches, and necklaces, some of dull gold,
some of equally dull silver; but all of odd design and curious
workmanship, studded here and there with bits of red, green,
yellow, blue, and flame-colored stones. Very learnedly then from
William's lips fell the new vocabulary that had come to him with
his latest treasures: chrysoprase, carnelian, girasol, onyx,
plasma, sardonyx, lapis lazuli, tourmaline, chrysolite, hyacinth,
"They are lovely, perfectly lovely!" breathed Billy, when the last
chain had slipped through her fingers into William's hand. "I
think they are the very nicest things you ever collected."
"So do I," agreed the man, emphatically. "And they are--different,
"They are," said Billy, "very--different." But she was not looking
at the jewelry: her eyes were on a small shell hairpin and a brown
silk button half hidden behind a Lowestoft teapot.
On the way down-stairs William stopped a moment at Billy's old
"I wish you were here now," he said wistfully. "They're all ready
for you--these rooms."
"Oh, but why don't you use them?--such pretty rooms!" cried Billy,
William gave a gesture of dissent.
"We have no use for them; besides, they belong to you and Aunt
Hannah. You left your imprint long ago, my dear--we should not
feel at home in them."
"Oh, but you should! You mustn't feel like that!" objected Billy,
hurriedly crossing the room to the window to hide a sudden
nervousness that had assailed her. "And here's my piano, too, and
open!" she finished gaily, dropping herself upon the piano stool
and dashing into a brilliant mazourka.
Billy, like Cyril, had a way of working off her moods at her finger
tips; and to-day the tripping notes and crashing chords told of a
nervous excitement that was not all joy. From the doorway William
watched her flying fingers with fond pride, and it was very
reluctantly that he acceded to Pete's request to go down-stairs for
a moment to settle a vexed question concerning the table
Billy, left alone, still played, but with a difference. The
tripping notes slowed into a weird melody that rose and fell and
lost itself in the exquisite harmony that had been born of the
crashing chords. Billy was improvising now, and into her music had
crept something of her old-time longing when she had come to that
house a lonely, orphan girl, in search of a home. On and on she
played; then with a discordant note, she suddenly rose from the
piano. She was thinking of Kate, and wondering if, had Kate not
"managed" the little room would still be home.
So swiftly did Billy cross to the door that the man on the stairs
outside had not time to get quite out of sight. Billy did not see
his face, however; she saw only a pair of gray-trousered legs
disappearing around the curve of the landing above. She thought
nothing of it until later when dinner was announced, and Cyril came
down-stairs; then she saw that he, and he only, that afternoon wore
trousers of that particular shade of gray.
The dinner was a great success. Even the chocolate fudge in the
little cut glass bonbon dishes was perfect; and it was a question
whether Pete or Dong Ling tried the harder to please.
After dinner the family gathered in the drawing-room and chatted
pleasantly. Bertram displayed his prettiest and newest pictures,
and Billy played and sung--bright, tuneful little things that she
knew Aunt Hannah and Uncle William liked. If Cyril was pleased or
displeased, he did not show it--but Billy had ceased to play for
Cyril's ears. She told herself that she did not care; but she did
wonder: was that Cyril on the stairs, and if so--what was he doing
"MUSIC HATH CHARMS"
Two days after Thanksgiving Cyril called at Hillside.
"I've come to hear you play," he announced abruptly.
Billy's heart sung within her--but her temper rose. Did he think
then that he had but to beckon and she would come--and at this late
day, she asked herself. Aloud she said:
"Play? But this is 'so sudden'! Besides, you have heard me."
The man made a disdainful gesture.
"Not that. I mean play--really play. Billy, why haven't you
played to me before?"
Billy's chin rose perceptibly.
"Why haven't you asked me?" she parried.
To Billy's surprise the man answered this with calm directness.
"Because Calderwell said that you were a dandy player, and I don't
care for dandy players."
Billy laughed now.
"And how do you know I'm not a dandy player, Sir Impertinent?" she
"Because I've heard you--when you weren't."
"Thank you," murmured Billy.
Cyril shrugged his shoulders.
"Oh, you know very well what I mean," he defended. "I've heard
you; that's all."
"That doesn't signify."
Billy was silent for a moment, her eyes gravely studying his face.
Then she asked:
"Were you long--on that stairway?"
"Eh? What? Oh!" Cyril's forehead grew suddenly pink. "Well?" he
finished a little aggressively.
"Oh, nothing," smiled the girl. "Of course people who live in
glass houses must not throw stones."
"Very well then, I did listen," acknowledged the man, testily. "I
liked what you were playing. I hoped, down-stairs later, that
you'd play it again; but you didn't. I came to-day to hear it."
Again Billy's heart sung within her--but again her temper rose,
"I don't think I feel like it," she said sweetly, with a shake of
her head. "Not to-day."
For a brief moment Cyril stared frowningly; then his face lighted
with his rare smile.
"I'm fairly checkmated," he said, rising to his feet and going
straight to the piano.
For long minutes he played, modulating from one enchanting
composition to another, and finishing with the one "all chords with
big bass notes" that marched on and on--the one Billy had sat long
ago on the stairs to hear.
"There! Now will you play for me?" he asked, rising to his feet,
and turning reproachful eyes upon her.
Billy, too, rose to her feet. Her face was flushed and her eyes
were shining. Her lips quivered with emotion. As was always the
case, Cyril's music had carried her quite out of herself.
"Oh, thank you, thank you," she sighed. "You don't know--you can't
know how beautiful it all is--to me!"
"Thank you. Then surely now you'll play to me," he returned.
A look of real distress came to Billy's face.
"But I can't--not what you heard the other day," she cried
remorsefully. "You see, I was--only improvising."
Cyril turned quickly.
"Only improvising! Billy, did you ever write it down--any of your
An embarrassed red flew to Billy's face.
"Not--not that amounted to--well, that is, some--a little," she
"Let me see it."
"No, no, I couldn't--not YOU!"
Again the rare smile lighted Cyril's eyes.
"Billy, let me see that paper--please."
Very slowly the girl turned toward the music cabinet. She
hesitated, glanced once more appealingly into Cyril's face, then
with nervous haste opened the little mahogany door and took from
one of the shelves a sheet of manuscript music. But, like a shy
child with her first copy book, she held it half behind her back as
she came toward the piano.
"Thank you," said Cyril as he reached far out for the music. The
next moment he seated himself again at the piano.
Twice he played the little song through carefully, slowly.
"Now, sing it," he directed.
Falteringly, in a very faint voice, and with very many breaths
taken where they should not have been taken, Billy obeyed.
"When we want to show off your song, Billy, we won't ask you to
sing it," observed the man, dryly, when she had finished.
Billy laughed and dimpled into a blush.
"When I want to show off my song I sha'n't be singing it to you for
the first time," she pouted.
Cyril did not answer. He was playing over and over certain
harmonies in the music before him.
"Hm-m; I see you've studied your counterpoint to some purpose," he
vouchsafed, finally; then: "Where did you get the words?"
The girl hesitated. The flush had deepened on her face.
"Well, I--" she stopped and gave an embarrassed laugh. "I'm like
the small boy who made the toys. 'I got them all out of my own
head, and there's wood enough to make another.'"
"Hm-m; indeed!" grunted the man. "Well, have you made any others?"
"One--or two, maybe."
"Let me see them, please."
"I think--we've had enough--for today," she faltered.
"I haven't. Besides, if I could have a couple more to go with
this, it would make a very pretty little group of songs."
"'To go with this'! What do you mean?"
"To the publishers, of course."
"Certainly. Did you think you were going to keep these songs to
"But they aren't worth it! They can't be--good enough!"
Unbelieving joy was in Billy's voice.
"No? Well, we'll let others decide that," observed Cyril, with a
shrug. "All is, if you've got any more wood--like this--I advise
you to make it up right away."
"But I have already!" cried the girl, excitedly. "There are lots
of little things that I've--that is, there are--some," she
corrected hastily, at the look that sprang into Cyril's eyes.
"Oh, there are," laughed Cyril. "Well, we'll see what--" But he
did not see. He did not even finish his sentence; for Billy's
maid, Rosa, appeared just then with a card.
"Show Mr. Calderwell in here," said Billy. Cyril said nothing--
aloud; which was well. His thoughts, just then, were better left
MARIE, WHO LONGS TO MAKE PUDDINGS
Wonderful days came then to Billy. Four songs, it seemed, had been
pronounced by competent critics decidedly "worth it"--unmistakably
"good enough"; and they were to be brought out as soon as possible.
"Of course you understand," explained Cyril, "that there's no 'hit'
expected. Thank heaven they aren't that sort! And there's no
great money in it, either. You'd have to write a masterpiece like
'She's my Ju-Ju Baby' or some such gem to get the 'hit' and the
money. But the songs are fine, and they'll take with cultured
hearers. We'll get them introduced by good singers, of course, and
they'll be favorites soon for the concert stage, and for parlors."
Billy saw a good deal of Cyril now. Already she was at work
rewriting and polishing some of her half-completed melodies, and
Cyril was helping her, by his interest as well as by his criticism.
He was, in fact, at the house very frequently--too frequently,
indeed, to suit either Bertram or Calderwell. Even William frowned
sometimes when his cozy chats with Billy were interrupted by
Cyril's appearing with a roll of new music for her to "try"; though
William told himself that he ought to be thankful if there was
anything that could make Cyril more companionable, less reserved
and morose. And Cyril WAS different--there was no disputing that.
Calderwell said that he had come "out of his shell"; and Bertram
told Billy that she must have "found his note and struck it good
Billy was very happy. To the little music teacher, Marie Hawthorn,
she talked more freely, perhaps, than she did to any one else.
"It's so wonderful, Marie--so wonderfully wonderful," she said one
day, "to sit here in my own room and sing a little song that comes
from somewhere, anywhere, out of the sky itself. Then by and by,
that little song will fly away, away, over land and sea; and some
day it will touch somebody's heart just as it has touched mine.
Oh, Marie, is it not wonderful?"
"It is, dear--and it is not. Your songs could not help reaching
somebody's heart. There's nothing wonderful in that."
"But I mean it. They are beautiful; and so is--Mr. Henshaw's
"Yes, it is," murmured Billy, abstractedly.
There was a long pause, then Marie asked with shy hesitation:
"Do you think, Miss Billy--that he would care? I listened
yesterday when he was playing to you. I was up here in your room,
but when I heard the music I--I went out, on the stairs and sat
down. Was it very--bad of me?"
Billy laughed happily.
"If it was, he can't say anything," she reassured her. "He's done
the same thing himself--and so have I."
"HE has done it!"
"Yes. It was at his home last Thanksgiving. It was then that he
found out--about my improvising."
"Oh-h!" Marie's eyes were wistful. "And he cares so much now for
"Does he? Do you think he does?" demanded Billy.
"I know he does--and for the one who makes it, too."
"Nonsense!" laughed Billy, with pinker cheeks. "It's the music,
not the musician, that pleases him. Mr. Cyril doesn't like women."
"He doesn't like women!"
"No. But don't look so shocked, my dear. Every one who knows Mr.
Cyril knows that."
"But I don't think--I believe it," demurred Marie, gazing straight
into Billy's eyes. "I'm sure I don't believe it."
Under the little music teacher's steady gaze Billy flushed again.
The laugh she gave was an embarrassed one, but through it vibrated
a pleased ring.
"Nonsense!" she exclaimed, springing to her feet and moving
restlessly about the room. With the next breath she had changed
the subject to one far removed from Mr. Cyril and his likes and
Some time later Billy played, and it was then that Marie drew a
"How beautiful it must be to play--like that," she breathed.
"As if you, a music teacher, could not play!" laughed Billy.
"Not like that, dear. You know it is not like that."
"But you are so accurate, Marie, and you can read at sight so
"Oh, yes, like a little machine, I know!" scorned the usually
gentle Marie, bitterly. "Don't they have a thing of metal that
adds figures like magic? Well, I'm like that. I see g and I play
g; I see d and I play d; I see f and I play f; and after I've seen
enough g's and d's and f's and played them all, the thing is done.
"Why, Marie! Marie, my dear!" The second exclamation was very
tender, for Marie was crying.
"There! I knew I should some day have it out--all out," sobbed
Marie. "I felt it coming."
"Then perhaps you'll--you'll feel better now," stammered Billy.
She tried to say more--other words that would have been a real
comfort; but her tongue refused to speak them. She knew so well,
so woefully well, how very wooden and mechanical the little music
teacher's playing always had been. But that Marie should realize
it herself like this--the tragedy of it made Billy's heart ache.
At Marie's next words, however, Billy caught her breath in
"But you see it wasn't music--it wasn't ever music that I wanted--
to do," she confessed.
"It wasn't music! But what--I don't understand," murmured Billy.
"No, I suppose not," sighed the other. "You play so beautifully
"But I thought you loved music."
"I do. I love it dearly--in others. But I can't--I don't want to
make it myself."
"But what do you want to do?"
Marie laughed suddenly.
"Do you know, my dear, I have half a mind to tell you what I do
like to do--just to make you stare."
"Well?" Billy's eyes were wide with interest.
"I like best of anything to--darn stockings and make puddings."
"Rank heresy, isn't it?" smiled Marie, tearfully. "But I do,
truly. I love to weave the threads evenly in and out, and see a
big hole close. As for the puddings I don't mean the common bread-
and-butter kind, but the ones that have whites of eggs and fruit,
and pretty quivery jellies all ruby and amber lights, you know."
"You dear little piece of domesticity," laughed Billy. "Then why
in the world don't you do these things?"
"I can't, in my own kitchen; I can't afford a kitchen to do them
in. And I just couldn't do them--right along--in other people's
"But why do you--play?"
"I was brought up to it. You know we had money once, lots of it,"
sighed Marie, as if she were deploring a misfortune. "And mother
was determined to have me musical. Even then, as a little tot, I
liked pudding-making, and after my mud-pie days I was always
begging mother to let me go down into the kitchen, to cook. But
she wouldn't allow it, ever. She engaged the most expensive
masters and set me practising, always practising. I simply had to
learn music; and I learned it like the adding machine. Then
afterward, when father died, and then mother, and the money flew
away, why, of course I had to do something, so naturally I turned
to the music. It was all I could do. But--well, you know how it
is, dear. I teach, and teach well, perhaps, so far as the
mechanical part goes; but as for the rest--I am always longing for
a cozy corner with a basket of stockings to mend, or a kitchen
where there is a pudding waiting to be made."
"You poor dear!" cried Billy. "I've a pair of stockings now that
needs attention, and I've been just longing for one of your
'quivery jellies all ruby and amber lights' ever since you
mentioned them. But--well, is there anything I could do to help?"
"Nothing, thank you," sighed Marie, rising wearily to her feet, and
covering her eyes with her hand for a moment. "My head aches
shockingly, but I've got to go this minute and instruct little
Jennie Knowls how to play the wonderful scale of G with a black key
in it. Besides, you do help me, you have helped me, you are always
helping me, dear," she added remorsefully; "and it's wicked of me
to make that shadow come to your eyes. Please don't think of it,
or of me, any more." And with a choking little sob she hurried
from the room, followed by the amazed, questioning, sorrowful eyes
"I'M GOING TO WIN"
Nearly all of Billy's friends knew that Bertram Henshaw was in love
with Billy Neilson before Billy herself knew it. Not that they
regarded it as anything serious--"it's only Bertram" was still said
of him on almost all occasions. But to Bertram himself it was very
The world to Bertram, indeed, had come to assume a vastly different
aspect from what it had displayed in times past. Heretofore it had
been a plaything which like a juggler's tinsel ball might be tossed
from hand to hand at will. Now it was no plaything--no glittering
bauble. It was something big and serious and splendid--because
Billy lived in it; something that demanded all his powers to do,
and be--because Billy was watching; something that might be a Hades
of torment or an Elysium of bliss--according to whether Billy said
"no" or "yes."
Since Thanksgiving Bertram had known that it was love--this
consuming fire within him; and since Thanksgiving he had known,
too, that it was jealousy--this fierce hatred of Calderwell. He
was ashamed of the hatred. He told himself that it was unmanly,
unkind, and unreasonable; and he vowed that he would overcome it.
At times he even fancied that he had overcome it; but always the
sight of Calderwell in Billy's little drawing-room or of even the
man's card on Billy's silver tray was enough to show him that he
There were others, too, who annoyed Bertram not a little, foremost
of these being his own brothers. Still he was not really worried
about William and Cyril, he told himself. William he did not
consider to be a marrying man; and Cyril--every one knew that Cyril
was a woman-hater. He was doubtless attracted now only by Billy's
music. There was no real rivalry to be feared from William and
Cyril. But there was always Calderwell, and Calderwell was
serious. Bertram decided, therefore, after some weeks of feverish
unrest, that the only road to peace lay through a frank avowal of
his feelings, and a direct appeal to Billy to give him the great
boon of her love.
Just here, however, Bertram met with an unexpected difficulty. He
could not find words with which to make his avowal or to present
his appeal. He was surprised and annoyed. Never before had he
been at a loss for words--mere words. And it was not that he
lacked opportunity. He walked, drove, and talked with Billy, and
always she was companionable, attentive to what he had to say.
Never was she cold or reserved. Never did she fail to greet him
with a cheery smile.
Bertram concluded, indeed, after a time, that she was too
companionable, too cheery. He wished she would hesitate, stammer,
blush; be a little shy. He wished that she would display surprise,
annoyance, even--anything but that eternal air of comradeship. And
then, one afternoon in the early twilight of a January day, he
freed his mind, quite unexpectedly.
"Billy, I wish you WOULDN'T be so--so friendly!" he exclaimed in a
voice that was almost sharp.
Billy laughed at first, but the next moment a shamed distress drove
the merriment quite out of her face.
"You mean that I presume on--on our friendship?" she stammered.
"That you fear that I will again--shadow your footsteps?" It was
the first time since the memorable night itself that Billy had ever
in Bertram's presence referred to her young guardianship of his
welfare. She realized now, suddenly, that she had just been giving
the man before her some very "sisterly advice," and the thought
sent a confused red to her cheeks.
Bertram turned quickly.
"Billy, that was the dearest and loveliest thing a girl ever did--
only I was too great a chump to appreciate it!" finished Bertram in
a voice that was not quite steady.
"Thank you," smiled the girl, with a slow shake of her head and a
relieved look in her eyes; "but I'm afraid I can't quite agree to
that." The next moment she had demanded mischievously: "Why,
then, pray, this unflattering objection to my--friendliness now?"
"Because I don't want you for a friend, or a sister, or anything
else that's related," stormed Bertram, with sudden vehemence. "I
don't want you for anything but--a wife! Billy, WON'T you marry
Again Billy laughed--laughed until she saw the pained anger leap to
the gray eyes before her; then she became grave at once.
"Bertram, forgive me. I didn't think you could--you can't be--
"But I am."
Billy shook her head.
"But you don't love me--not ME, Bertram. It's only the turn of my
head or--or the tilt of my chin that you love--to paint," she
protested, unconsciously echoing the words Calderwell had said to
her weeks before. "I'm only another 'Face of a Girl.'"
"You're the only 'Face of a girl' to me now, Billy," declared the
man, with disarming tenderness.
"No, no, not that," demurred Billy, in distress. "You don't mean
it. You only think you do. It couldn't be that. It can't be!"
"But it is, dear. I think I have loved you ever since that night
long ago when I saw your dear, startled face appealing to me from
beyond Seaver's hateful smile. And, Billy, I never went once with
Seaver again--anywhere. Did you know that?"
"No; but--I'm glad--so glad!"
"And I'm glad, too. So you see, I must have loved you then, though
unconsciously, perhaps; and I love you now."
"No, no, please don't say that. It can't be--it really can't be.
I--I don't love you--that way, Bertram."
The man paled a little.
"Billy--forgive me for asking, but it's so much to me--is it that
there is--some one else?" His voice shook.
"No, no, indeed! There is no one."
Billy's forehead grew pink. She laughed nervous1y.
"No, no, never!"
"But there are others, so many others!"
"Nonsense, Bertram; there's no one--no one, I assure you!"
"It's not William, of course, nor Cyril. Cyril hates women."
A deeper flush came to Billy's face. Her chin rose a little; and
an odd defiance flashed from her eyes. But almost instantly it was
gone, and a slow smile had come to her lips.
"Yes, I know. Every one--says that Cyril hates women," she
"Then, Billy, I sha'n't give up!" vowed Bertram, softly. "Sometime
you WILL love me!"
"No, no, I couldn't. That is, I'm not going to--to marry,"
"Not going to marry!"
"No. There's my music--you know how I love that, and how much it
is to me. I don't think there'll ever be a man--that I'll love
Bertram lifted his head. Very slowly he rose till his splendid six
feet of clean-limbed strength and manly beauty towered away above
the low chair in which Billy sat. His mouth showed new lines about
the corners, and his eyes looked down very tenderly at the girl
beside him; but his voice, when he spoke, had a light whimsicality
that deceived even Billy's ears.
"And so it's music--a cold, senseless thing of spidery marks on
clean white paper--that is my only rival," he cried. "Then I'll
warn you, Billy, I'll warn you. I'm going to win!" And with that
he was gone.
"I'M NOT GOING TO MARRY"
Billy did not know whether to be more amazed or amused at Bertram's
proposal of marriage. She was vexed; she was very sure of that.
To marry Bertram? Absurd! . . . Then she reflected that, after
all, it was only Bertram, so she calmed herself.
Still, it was annoying. She liked Bertram, she had always liked
him. He was a nice boy, and a most congenial companion. He never
bored her, as did some others; and he was always thoughtful of
cushions and footstools and cups of tea when one was tired. He
was, in fact, an ideal friend, just the sort she wanted; and it was
such a pity that he must spoil it all now with this silly
sentimentality! And of course he had spoiled it all. There was no
going back now to their old friendliness. He would be morose or
silly by turns, according to whether she frowned or smiled; or else
he would take himself off in a tragic sort of way that was very
disturbing. He had said, to be sure, that he would "win." Win,
indeed! As if she could marry Bertram! When she married, her
choice would fall upon a man, not a boy; a big, grave, earnest man
to whom the world meant something; a man who loved music, of
course; a man who would single her out from all the world, and show
to her, and to her only, the depth and tenderness of his love; a
man who--but she was not going to marry, anyway, remembered Billy,
suddenly. And with that she began to cry. The whole thing was so
"tiresome," she declared, and so "absurd."
Billy rather dreaded her next meeting with Bertram. She feared--
she knew not what. But, as it turned out, she need not have feared
anything, for he met her tranquilly, cheerfully, as usual; and he
did nothing and said nothing that he might not have done and said
before that twilight chat took place.
Billy was relieved. She concluded that, after all, Bertram was
going to be sensible. She decided that she, too, would be
sensible. She would accept him on this, his chosen plane, and she
would think no more of his "nonsense."
Billy threw herself then even more enthusiastically into her
beloved work. She told Marie that after all was said and done,
there could not be any man that would tip the scales one inch with
music on the other side. She was a little hurt, it is true, when
Marie only laughed and answered:
"But what if the man and the music both happen to be on the same
side, my dear; what then?"
Marie's voice was wistful, in spite of the laugh--so wistful that
it reminded Billy of their conversation a few weeks before.
"But it is you, Marie, who want the stockings to darn and the
puddings to make," she retorted playfully. "Not I! And, do you
know? I believe I shall turn matchmaker yet, and find you a man;
and the chiefest of his qualifications shall be that he's
wretchedly hard on his hose, and that he adores puddings."
"No, no, Miss Billy, don't, please!" begged the other, in quick
terror. "Forget all I said the other day; please do! Don't tell--
She was so obviously distressed and frightened that Billy was
"There, there, 'twas only a jest, of course," she soothed her.
"But, really Marie, it is the dear, domestic little mouse like
yourself that ought to be somebody's wife--and that's the kind men
are looking for, too."
Marie gave a slow shake of her head.
"Not the kind of man that is somebody, that does something," she
objected; "and that's the only kind I could--love. HE wants a wife
that is beautiful and clever, that can do things like himself--LIKE
HIMSELF!" she iterated feverishly.
Billy opened wide her eyes.
"Why, Marie, one would think--you already knew--such a man," she
The little music teacher changed her position, and turned her eyes
"I do, of course," she retorted in a merry voice, "lots of them.
Don't you? Come, we've discussed my matrimonial prospects quite
long enough," she went on lightly. "You know we started with
yours. Suppose we go back to those."
"But I haven't any," demurred Billy, as she turned with a smile to
greet Aunt Hannah, who had just entered the room. "I'm not going
to marry; am I, Aunt Hannah?"
"Er--what? Marry? My grief and conscience, what a question,
Billy! Of course you're going to marry--when the time comes!"
exclaimed Aunt Hannah.
Billy laughed and shook her head vigorously. But even as she
opened her lips to reply, Rosa appeared and announced that Mr.
Calderwell was waiting down-stairs. Billy was angry then, for
after the maid was gone, the merriment in Aunt Hannah's laugh only
matched that in Marie's--and the intonation was unmistakable.
"Well, I'm not!" declared Billy with pink cheeks and much
indignation, as she left the room. And as if to convince herself,
Marie, Aunt Hannah, and all the world that such was the case, she
refused Calderwell so decidedly that night when he, for the half-
dozenth time, laid his hand and heart at her feet, that even
Calderwell himself was convinced--so far as his own case was
concerned--and left town the next day.
Bertram told Aunt Hannah afterward that he understood Mr. Calderwell
had gone to parts unknown. To himself Bertram shamelessly owned
that the more "unknown" they were, the better he himself would be
MARIE FINDS A FRIEND
It was on a very cold January afternoon, and Cyril was hurrying up
the hill toward Billy's house, when he was startled to see a
slender young woman sitting on a curbstone with her head against an
electric-light post. He stopped abruptly.
"I beg your pardon, but--why, Miss Hawthorn! It is Miss Hawthorn;
Under his questioning eyes the girl's pale face became so painfully
scarlet that in sheer pity the man turned his eyes away. He
thought he had seen women blush before, but he decided now that he
"I'm sure--haven't I met you at Miss Neilson's? Are you ill?
Can't I do something for you?" he begged.
"Yes--no--that is, I AM Miss Hawthorn, and I've met you at Miss
Neilson's," stammered the girl, faintly. "But there isn't
anything, thank you, that you can do--Mr. Henshaw. I stopped to--
The man frowned.
"But, surely--pardon me, Miss Hawthorn, but I can't think it your
usual custom to choose an icy curbstone for a resting place, with
the thermometer down to zero. You must be ill. Let me take you to
"No, no, thank you," cried the girl, struggling to her feet, the
vivid red again flooding her face. "I have a lesson--to give."
"Nonsense! You're not fit to give a lesson. Besides, they are all
folderol, anyway, half of them. A dozen lessons, more or less,
won't make any difference; they'll play just as well--and just as
atrociously. Come, I insist upon taking you to Miss Neilson's."
"No, no, thank you! I really mustn't. I--" She could say no
more. A strong, yet very gentle hand had taken firm hold of her
arm in such a way as half to support her. A force quite outside of
herself was carrying her forward step by step--and Miss Hawthorn
was not used to strong, gentle hands, nor yet to a force quite
outside of herself. Neither was she accustomed to walk arm in arm
with Mr. Cyril Henshaw to Miss Billy's door. When she reached
there her cheeks were like red roses for color, and her eyes were
like the stars for brightness. Yet a minute later, confronted by
Miss Billy's astonished eyes, the stars and the roses fled, and a
very white-faced girl fell over in a deathlike faint in Cyril
Marie was put to bed in the little room next to Billy's, and was
peremptorily hushed when faint remonstrance was made. The next
morning, white-faced and wide-eyed, she resolutely pulled herself
half upright, and announced that she was all well and must go home--
home to Marie was a six-by-nine hall bed-room in a South End
Very gently Billy pushed her back on the pillow and laid a
detaining hand on her arm.
"No, dear. Now, please be sensible and listen to reason. You are
my guest. You did not know it, perhaps, for I'm afraid the
invitation got a little delayed. But you're to stay--oh, lots of
"I--stay here? Why, I can't--indeed, I can't," protested Marie.
"But that isn't a bit of a nice way to accept an invitation,"
disapproved Billy. "You should say, 'Thank you, I'd be delighted,
I'm sure, and I'll stay.'"
In spite of herself the little music teacher laughed, and in the
laugh her tense muscles relaxed.
"Miss Billy, Miss Billy, what is one to do with you? Surely you
know--you must know that I can't do what you ask!"
"I'm sure I don't see why not," argued Billy. "I'm merely giving
you an invitation and all you have to do is to accept it."
"But the invitation is only the kind way your heart has of covering
another of your many charities," objected Marie; "besides, I have
to teach. I have my living to earn."
"But you can't," demurred the other. "That's just the trouble.
Don't you see? The doctor said last night that you must not teach
again this winter."
"Not teach--again--this winter! No, no, he could not be so cruel
"It wasn't cruel, dear; it was kind. You would be ill if you
attempted it. Now you'll get better. He says all you need is rest
and care--and that's exactly what I mean my guest shall have."
Quick tears came to the sick girl's eyes.
"There couldn't be a kinder heart than yours, Miss Billy," she
murmured, "but I couldn't--I really couldn't be a burden to you
like this. I shall go to some hospital."
"But you aren't going to be a burden. You are going to be my
friend and companion."
"A companion--and in bed like this?"
"Well, THAT wouldn't be impossible," smiled Billy; "but, as it
happens you won't have to put that to the test, for you'll soon be
up and dressed. The doctor says so. Now surely you will stay."
There was a long pause. The little music teacher's eyes had left
Billy's face and were circling the room, wistfully lingering on the
hangings of filmy lace, the dainty wall covering, and the exquisite
water colors in their white-and-gold frames. At last she drew a
"Yes, I'll stay," she breathed rapturously; "but--you must let me
"Help? Help what?"
"Help you; your letters, your music-copying, your accounts--
anything, everything. And if you don't let me help,"--the music
teacher's voice was very stern now--"if you don't let me help, I
shall go home just--as--soon--as--I--can--walk!"
"Dear me!" dimpled Billy. "And is that all? Well, you shall help,
and to your heart's content, too. In fact, I'm not at all sure
that I sha'n't keep you darning stockings and making puddings all
the time," she added mischievously, as she left the room.
Miss Hawthorn sat up the next day. The day following, in one of
Billy's "fluttery wrappers," as she called them, she walked all
about the room. Very soon she was able to go down-stairs, and in
an astonishingly short time she fitted into the daily life as if
she had always been there. She was, moreover, of such assistance
to Billy that even she herself could see the value of her work; and
so she stayed, content.
The little music teacher saw a good deal of Billy's friends then,
particularly of the Henshaw brothers; and very glad was Billy to
see the comradeship growing between them. She had known that
William would be kind to the orphan girl, but she had feared that
Marie would not understand Bertram's nonsense or Cyril's reserve.
But very soon Bertram had begged, and obtained, permission to try
to reproduce on canvas the sheen of the fine, fair hair, and the
veiled bloom of the rose-leaf skin that were Marie's greatest
charms; and already Cyril had unbent from his usual stiffness
enough to play to her twice. So Billy's fears on that score were
at an end.
THE ENGAGEMENT OF ONE
Many times during those winter days Billy thought of Marie's words:
"But what if the man and the music both happen to be on the same
side?" They worried her, to some extent, and, curiously, they
pleased and displeased her at the same time.
She told herself that she knew very well, of course, what Marie
meant: it was Cyril; he was the man, and the music. But was Cyril
beginning to care for her; and did she want him to? Very seriously
one day Billy asked herself these questions; very calmly she argued
the matter in her mind--as was Billy's way.
She was proud, certainly, of what her influence had apparently done
for Cyril. She was gratified that to her he was showing the real
depth and beauty of his nature. It WAS flattering to feel that
she, and only she, had thus won the regard of a professional woman-
hater. Then, besides all this, there was his music--his glorious
music. Think of the bliss of living ever with that! Imagine life
with a man whose soul would be so perfectly attuned to hers that
existence would be one grand harmony! Ah, that, truly, would be
the ideal marriage! But she had planned not to marry. Billy
frowned now, and tapped her foot nervously. It was, indeed, most
puzzling--this question, and she did not want to make a mistake.
Then, too, she did not wish to wound Cyril. If the dear man HAD
come out of his icy prison, and were reaching out timid hands to
her for her help, her interest, her love--the tragedy of it, if
he met with no response! . . . . This vision of Cyril with
outstretched hands, and of herself with cold, averted eyes was the
last straw in the balance with Billy. She decided suddenly that
she did care for Cyril--a little; and that she probably could care
for him a great deal. With this thought, Billy blushed--already in
her own mind she was as good as pledged to Cyril.
It was a great change for Billy--this sudden leap from girlhood and
irresponsibility to womanhood and care; but she took it fearlessly,
resolutely. If she was to be Cyril's wife she must make herself
fit for it--and in pursuance of this high ideal she followed Marie
into the kitchen the very next time the little music teacher went
out to make one of her dainty desserts that the family liked so
"I'll just watch, if you don't mind," announced Billy.
"Why, of course not," smiled Marie, "but I thought you didn't like
to make puddings."
"I don't," owned Billy, cheerfully.
"Then why this--watchfulness?"
"Nothing, only I thought it might be just as well if I knew how to
make them. You know how Cyril--that is, ALL the Henshaw boys like
every kind you make."
The egg in Marie's hand slipped from her fingers and crashed
untidily on the shelf. With a gleeful laugh Billy welcomed the
diversion. She had not meant to speak so plainly. It was one
thing to try to fit herself to be Cyril's wife, and quite another
to display those efforts so openly before the world.
The pudding was made at last, but Marie proved to be a nervous
teacher. Her hand shook, and her memory almost failed her at one
or two critical points. Billy laughingly said that it must be
stage fright, owing to the presence of herself as spectator; and
with this Marie promptly, and somewhat effusively, agreed.
So very busy was Billy during the next few days, acquiring her new
domesticity, that she did not notice how little she was seeing of
Cyril. Then she suddenly realized it, and asked herself the reason
for it. Cyril was at the house certainly, just as frequently as he
had been; but she saw that a new shyness in herself had developed
which was causing her to be restless in his presence, and was
leading her to like better to have Marie or Aunt Hannah in the room
when he called. She discovered, too, that she welcomed William,
and even Bertram, with peculiar enthusiasm--if they happened to
interrupt a tete-a-tete with Cyril.
Billy was disturbed at this. She told herself that this shyness
was not strange, perhaps, inasmuch as her ideas in regard to love
and marriage had undergone so abrupt a change; but it must be
overcome. If she was to be Cyril's wife, she must like to be with
him--and of course she really did like to be with him, for she had
enjoyed his companionship very much during all these past weeks.
She set herself therefore, now, determinedly to cultivating Cyril.
It was then that Billy made a strange and fearsome discovery: there
were some things about Cyril that she did--not--like!
Billy was inexpressibly shocked. Heretofore he had been so high,
so irreproachable, so god-like!--but heretofore he had been a
friend. Now he was appearing in a new role--though unconsciously,
she knew. Heretofore she had looked at him with eyes that saw only
the delightful and marvelous unfolding of a coldly reserved nature
under the warmth of her own encouraging smile. Now she looked at
him with eyes that saw only the possibilities of that same nature
when it should have been unfolded in a lifelong companionship. And
what she saw frightened her. There was still the music--she
acknowledged that; but it had come to Billy with overwhelming force
that music, after all, was not everything. The man counted, as
well. Very frankly then Billy stated the case to herself.
"What passes for 'fascinating mystery' in him now will be plain
moroseness--sometime. He is 'taciturn' now; he'll be--cross, then.
It is 'erratic' when he won't play the piano to-day; but a few
years from now, when he refuses some simple request of mine, it
will be--stubbornness. All this it will be--if I don't love him;
and I don't. I know I don't. Besides, we aren't really congenial.
I like people around; he doesn't. I like to go to plays; he
doesn't. He likes rainy days; I abhor them. There is no doubt of
it--life with him would not be one grand harmony; it would be one
jangling discord. I simply cannot marry him. I shall have to
break the engagement!
Billy spoke with regretful sorrow. It was evident that she grieved
to bring pain to Cyril. Then suddenly the gloom left her face: she
had remembered that the "engagement" was just three weeks old--and
was a profound secret, not only to the bridegroom elect, but to all
the world as well--save herself!
Billy was very happy after that. She sang about the house all day,
and she danced sometimes from room to room, so light were her feet
and her heart. She made no more puddings with Marie's supervision,
but she was particularly careful to have the little music teacher
or Aunt Hannah with her when Cyril called. She made up her mind,
it is true, that she had been mistaken, and that Cyril did not love
her; still she wished to be on the safe side, and she became more
and more averse to being left alone with him for any length of
CYRIL HAS SOMETHING TO SAY
Long before spring Billy was forced to own to herself that her
fancied security from lovemaking on the part of Cyril no longer
existed. She began to suspect that there was reason for her fears.
Cyril certainly was "different." He was more approachable, less
reserved, even with Marie and Aunt Hannah. He was not nearly so
taciturn, either, and he was much more gracious about his playing.
Even Marie dared to ask him frequently for music, and he never
refused her request. Three times he had taken Billy to some play
that she wanted to see, and he had invited Marie, too, besides Aunt
Hannah, which had pleased Billy very much. He had been at the same
time so genial and so gallant that Billy had declared to Marie
afterward that he did not seem like himself at all, but like some
Marie had disagreed with her, it is true, and had said stiffly:
"I'm sure I thought he seemed very much like himself." But that
had not changed Billy's opinion at all.
To Billy's mind, nothing but love could so have softened the stern
Cyril she had known. She was, therefore, all the more careful
these days to avoid a tete-a-tete with him, though she was not
always successful, particularly owing to Marie's unaccountable
perverseness in so often having letters to write or work to do,
just when Billy most wanted her to make a safe third with herself
and Cyril. It was upon such an occasion, after Marie had abruptly
left them alone together, that Cyril had observed, a little
"Billy, I wish you wouldn't say again what you said ten minutes ago
when Miss Marie was here."
"What was that?"
A very silly reference to that old notion that you and every one
else seem to have that I am a 'woman-hater.'"
Billy's heart skipped a beat. One thought, pounded through her
brain and dinned itself into her ears--at all costs Cyril must not
be allowed to say that which she so feared; he must be saved from
"Woman-hater? Why, of course you're a woman-hater," she cried
merrily. "I'm sure, I--I think it's lovely to be a woman-hater."
The man opened wide his eyes; then he frowned angrily.
"Nonsense, Billy, I know better. Besides, I'm in earnest, and I'm
not a woman-hater."
"Oh, but every one says you are," chattered Billy. "And, after
all, you know it IS distinguishing!"
With a disdainful exclamation the man sprang to his feet. For a
time he paced the room in silence, watched by Billy's fearful eyes;
then he came back and dropped into the low chair at Billy's side.
His whole manner had undergone a complete change. He was almost
shamefaced as he said:
"Billy, I suppose I might as well own up. I don't think I did
think much of women until I saw--you."
Billy swallowed and wet her lips. She tried to speak; but before
she could form the words the man went on with his remarks; and
Billy did not know whether to be the more relieved or frightened
"But you see now it's different. That's why I don't like to sail
any longer under false colors. There's been a change--a great and
wonderful change that I hardly understand myself."
"That's it! You don't understand it, I'm sure," interposed Billy,
feverishly. "It may not be such a change, after all. You may be
deceiving yourself," she finished hopefully.
The man sighed.
"I can't wonder you think so, of course," he almost groaned. "I
was afraid it would be like that. When one's been painted black
all one's life, it's not easy to change one's color, of course."
"Oh, but I didn't say that black wasn't a very nice color,"
stammered Billy, a little wildly.
"Thank you." Cyril's heavy brows rose and fell the fraction of an
inch. "Still, I must confess that just now I should prefer another
He paused, and Billy cast distractedly about in her mind for a
simple, natural change of subject. She had just decided to ask him
what he thought of the condition of the Brittany peasants, when he
questioned abruptly, and in a voice that was not quite steady:
"Billy, what should you say if I should tell you that the avowed
woman-hater had strayed so far from the prescribed path as to--to
like one woman well enough as to want to--marry her?"
The word was like a match to the gunpowder of Billy's fears. Her
self-control was shattered instantly into bits.
"Marry? No, no, you wouldn't--you couldn't really be thinking of
that," she babbled, growing red and white by turns. "Only think
how a wife would--would b-bother you!"
"Bother me? When I loved her?"
"But just think--remember! She'd want cushions and rugs and
curtains, and you don't like them; and she'd always be talking and
laughing when you wanted quiet; and she--she'd want to drag you out
to plays and parties and--and everywhere. Indeed, Cyril, I'm sure
you'd never like a wife--long!" Billy stopped only because she had
no breath with which to continue.
Cyril laughed a little grimly.
"You don't draw a very attractive picture, Billy. Still, I'm not
afraid. I don't think this particular--wife would do any of those
things--to trouble me."
"Oh, but you don't know, you can't tell," argued the girl.
"Besides, you have had so little experience with women that you'd
just be sure to make a mistake at first. You want to look around
very carefully--very carefully, before you decide."
"I have looked around, and very carefully, Billy. I know that in
all the world there is just one woman for me."
Billy struggled to her feet. Mingled pain and terror looked from
her eyes. She began to speak wildly, incoherently. She wondered
afterward just what she would have said if Aunt Hannah had not come
into the room at that moment and announced that Bertram was at the
door to take her for a sleigh-ride if she cared to go.
"Of course she'll go," declared Cyril, promptly, answering for her.
"It is time I was off anyhow." To Billy, he said in a low voice:
"You haven't been very encouraging, little girl--in fact, you've
been mighty discouraging. But some day--some other day, I'll try
to make clear to you--many things."
Billy greeted Bertram very cordially. It was such a relief--his
cheery, genial companionship! The air, too, was bracing, and all
the world lay under a snow-white blanket of sparkling purity.
Everything was so beautiful, so restful!
It was not surprising, perhaps, that the very frankness of Billy's
joy misled Bertram a little. His blood tingled at her nearness,
and his eyes grew deep and tender as he looked down at her happy
face. But of all the eager words that were so near his lips, not
one reached the girl's ears until the good-byes were said; then
wistfully Bertram hazarded:
"Billy, don't you think, sometimes, that I'm gaining--just a little
on that rival of mine--that music?"
Billy's face clouded. She shook her head gently.
"Bertram, please don't--when we've had such a beautiful hour
together," she begged. "It troubles me. If you do, I can't go--
"But you shall go again," cried Bertram, bravely smiling straight
into her eyes. "And there sha'n't ever anything in the world
trouble you, either--that I can help!"
WILLIAM IS WORRIED
Billy's sleigh-ride had been due to the kindness of a belated
winter storm that had surprised every one the last of March. After
that, March, as if ashamed of her untoward behavior, donned her
sweetest smiles and "went out" like the proverbial lamb. With the
coming of April, and the stirring of life in the trees, Billy, too,
began to be restless; and at the earliest possible moment she made
her plans for her long anticipated "digging in the dirt."
Just here, much to her surprise, she met with wonderful assistance
from Bertram. He seemed to know just when and where and how to
dig, and he displayed suddenly a remarkable knowledge of landscape
gardening. (That this knowledge was as recent in its acquirement
as it was sudden in its display, Billy did not know.) Very
learnedly he talked of perennials and annuals; and without
hesitation he made out a list of flowering shrubs and plants that
would give her a "succession of bloom throughout the season." His
words and phrases smacked loudly of the very newest florists'
catalogues, but Billy did not notice that. She only wondered at
the seemingly exhaustless source of his wisdom.
"I suspect 'twould have been better if we'd begun things last
fall," he told her frowningly one day. "But there's plenty we can
do now anyway; and we'll put in some quick-growing things, just for
this season, until we can get the more permanent things established."
And so they worked together, studying, scheming, ordering plants
and seeds, their two heads close together above the gaily colored
catalogues. Later there was the work itself to be done, and though
strong men did the heavier part, there was yet plenty left for
Billy's eager fingers--and for Bertram's. And if sometimes in the
intimacy of seed-sowing and plant-setting, the touch of the
slenderer fingers sent a thrill through the browner ones, Bertram
made no sign. He was careful always to be the cheerful, helpful
assistant--and that was all.
Billy, it is true, was a little disturbed at being quite so much
with Bertram. She dreaded a repetition of some such words as had
been uttered at the end of the sleigh-ride. She told herself that
she had no right to grieve Bertram, to make it hard for him by
being with him; but at the very next breath, she could but
question; did she grieve him? Was it hard for him to have her with
him? Then she would glance at his eager face and meet his buoyant
smile--and answer "no." After that, for a time, at least, her
fears would be less.
Systematically Billy avoided Cyril these days. She could not
forget his promise to make many things clear to her some day. She
thought she knew what he meant--that he would try to convince her
(as she had tried to convince herself) that she would make a good
wife for him.
Billy was very sure that if Cyril could be prevented from speaking
his mind just now, his mind would change in time; hence her
determination to give his mind that opportunity.
Billy's avoidance of Cyril was the more easily accomplished because
she was for a time taking a complete rest from her music. The new
songs had been finished and sent to the publishers. There was no
excuse, therefore, for Cyril's coming to the house on that score;
and, indeed, he seemed of his own accord to be making only
infrequent visits now. Billy was pleased, particularly as Marie
was not there to play third party. Marie had taken up her teaching
again, much to Billy's distress.
"But I can't stay here always, like this," Marie had protested.
"But I should like to keep you!" Billy had responded, with no less
Marie had been firm, however, and had gone, leaving the little
house lonely without her.
Aside from her work in the garden Billy as resolutely avoided
Bertram as she did Cyril. It was natural, therefore, that at this
crisis she should turn to William with a peculiar feeling of
restfulness. He, at least, would be safe, she told herself. So
she frankly welcomed his every appearance, sung to him, played to
him, and took long walks with him to see some wonderful bracelet or
necklace that he had discovered in a dingy little curio-shop.
William was delighted. He was very fond of his namesake, and he
had secretly chafed a little at the way his younger brothers had
monopolized her attention. He was rejoiced now that she seemed to
be turning to him for companionship; and very eagerly he accepted
all the time she could give him.
William had, in truth, been growing more and more lonely ever since
Billy's brief stay beneath his roof years before. Those few short
weeks of her merry presence had shown him how very forlorn the
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