Part 2 out of 6
ten minutes, Young Doc, peering through the leaves of the
summerhouse, saw Missy and her convoy coming across the lawn. Missy
was walking along very solemnly, with only an occasional skip to
betray the ebullition within her.
But it was on the tall girl that Young Doc's gaze was riveted, the
slender graceful figure which, for all its loveliness, had something
pathetically drooping about it--like a lily with a storm-bruised
Something in Young Doc's throat clicked, and every last trace of
resentment and wounded pride magically dissolved. He went straight
to her in the doorway, and for a moment they stood there as if
forgetful of everyone else in the world. Neither spoke, as is the
way of those whose minds and hearts are full of inarticulate things.
Then it was Doc who broke the silence.
"By the way, Missy," he said in quite an ordinary tone, "there are
some of those sugar pills in a bag out in the Ford. You'll find them
tucked in a corner of the seat."
Obediently Missy departed to get the treat. And when she returned,
not too quickly, Miss Princess was laughing and crying both at once,
and Young Doc was openly squeezing both her hands.
"Missy," he hailed, "run in and ask your mother if you can go for a
ride. Needn't mention Miss Princess is going along."
O, it is a wonderful world! Swiftly back at the trysting place with
the necessary permission, tucked into the Ford between the two happy
lovers, "away they did race until soon lost to view."
And exactly the same happy purpose as that in the Poem! For, half-
way down the stretch of Boulevard, Miss Princess squeezed her hand
"We're going over to Somerville, darling, to be married, and you're
to be one of the witnesses."
Missy's heart surged with delight--O, it was a wonderful world! Then
a dart of remembrance came, and a big tear spilled out and ran down
her cheek. Miss Princess, in the midst of a laugh, looked down and
"Why, darling, what is it?" she cried anxiously.
"My Pink Dress--I just happened to think of it. But it doesn't
really make any difference." However Missy's eyes were wet and
shining with an emotion she couldn't quite control.
With eyes which were shining with many emotions, the man and girl,
over her head, regarded each other. It was the man who spoke first,
slowing down the car as he did so.
"Don't you think we'd better run back to Miss Martin's and get it?"
For answer, his sweetheart leaned across Missy and kissed him.
A fifteen minutes' delay, and again the Ford was headed towards
Somerville and the County Courthouse; but now an additional
passenger, a big brown box, was hugged between Missy's knees. In the
County Courthouse she did not forget to guard this box tenderly all
the time Young Doc and Miss Princess were scurrying around musty
offices, interviewing important, shirt-sleeved men, and signing
papers--not even when she herself was permitted to sign her name to
an imposing document, "just for luck," as Doc laughingly said.
Then he bent his head to hear what Miss Princess wanted to whisper
to him, and they both laughed some more; and then he said something
to the shirtsleeved men, and they laughed; and then--O, it is a
wonderful world!--Miss Princess took her into a dusty, paper-
littered inner office, lifted the Pink Dress out of the box, dressed
Missy up in it, fluffed out the "wave" in her front hair, and
exclaimed that she was the loveliest little flower-girl in the whole
"Even without the flower-hat and the pink stockings?"
"Even without the flower-hat and the pink stockings," said Miss
Princess with such assurance that Missy cast off doubt forever.
After the Wedding--and never in Romance was such a gay, laughing
Wedding--when again they were all packed in the Ford, Missy gave a
"I kind of knew it," she confided. "For I dreamed it all, two nights
running. Both times I had on the Pink Dress, and both times it was
Doc. I'm so happy it's Doc."
And over her head the other two looked in each other's eyes.
LIKE A SINGING BIRD
She was fourteen, going on fifteen; and the world was a fascinating
place. There were people who found Cherryvale a dull, poky little
town to live in, but not Melissa. Not even in winter, when school
and lessons took up so much time that it almost shut out reading and
the wonderful dreams which reading is bound to bring you. Yet even
school-especially high school the first year-was interesting. The
more so when there was a teacher like Miss Smith, who looked too
pretty to know so much about algebra and who was said to get a
letter every day from a lieutenant-in the Philippines! Then there
was ancient history, full of things fascinating enough to make up
for algebra and physics. But even physics becomes suddenly thrilling
at times. And always literature! Of course "grades" were bothersome,
and sometimes you hated to show your monthly report to your parents,
who seemed to set so much store by it; and sometimes you almost
envied Beulah Crosswhite, who always got an A and who could ask
questions which disconcerted even the teachers.
Yes, even school was interesting. However, summertime was best,
although then you must practice your music lesson two hours instead
of one a day, dust the sitting room, and mind the baby. But you
could spend long, long hours in the summerhouse, reading poetry out
of the big Anthology and-this a secret-writing poetry yourself! It
was heavenly to write poetry. Something soft and warm seemed to ooze
through your being as you sat out there and watched the sorrow of a
drab, drab sky; or else, on a bright day, a big shining cloud aloft
like some silver-gold fairy palace and, down below, the smell of
warm, new-cut grass, and whispers of little live things everywhere!
It was then that you felt you'd have died if you couldn't have
It was on such a lilting day of June, and Melissa's whole being in
tune with it, that she was called in to the midday dinner-and
received the invitation.
Father had brought it from the post office and handed it to her with
exaggerated solemnity. "For Miss Melissa Merriam," he announced.
Yes! there was her name on the tiny envelope.
And, on the tiny card within, written in a painstaking, cramped
Mr. Raymond Bonner At Home Wednesday June Tenth R.S.V.P. 8 P.M.
With her whole soul in her mouth, which made it quite impossible to
speak, she passed the card to her mother and waited. "Oh," said
mother, "an evening party."
Melissa's soul dropped a trifle: it still clogged her throat, but
she was able to form words.
"You KNOW you're not to ask to go to evening parties, Missy."
Mother's tone was as firm as doom.
Missy turned her eyes to father.
"Don't look at me with those big saucers!" he smiled. "Mother's the
So Missy turned her eyes back again. "Mother, PLEASE-"
But mother shook her head. "You're too young to begin such things,
Missy. I don't know what this town's coming to--mere babies running
round at night, playing cards and dancing!"
"Don't start teasing, Missy. It won't do any good."
So Missy didn't start teasing, but her soul remained choking in her
throat. It made it difficult for her to swallow, and nothing tasted
good, though they had lamb chops, which she adored.
"Eat your meat, Missy," adjured mother. Missy tried to obey and felt
that she was swallowing lumps of lead.
But in the afternoon everything miraculously changed. Kitty Allen
and her mother came to call. Kitty was her chum, and lived in the
next block, up the hill. Kitty was beautiful, with long curls which
showed golden glints in the sun. She had a whim that she and Missy,
sometimes, should have dresses made exactly alike-for instance, this
summer, their best dresses of pink dotted mull. Missy tried to enjoy
the whim with Kitty, but she couldn't help feeling sad at seeing how
much prettier Kitty could look in the same dress. If only she had
During the call the party at the Bonners' was mentioned. Mrs. Allen
was going to "assist" Mrs. Bonner. She suggested that Missy might
accompany Kitty and herself.
"I hadn't thought of letting Missy go," said Mrs. Merriam. "She
seems so young to start going out evenings that way."
"I know just how you feel," replied Mrs. Allen. "I feel just the
same way. But as long as I've got to assist, I'm willing Kitty
should go this time; and I thought you mightn't object to Missy's
going along with us."
"Oh, mother!" Missy's tone was a prayer.
And her mother, smiling toward her a charming, tolerant smile as if
to say: ."Well, what can one do in the face of those eyes?" finally
After that the afternoon went rushing by on wings of joy. When the
visitors departed Missy had many duties to perform, but they were
not dull, ordinary duties; they were all tinted over with rainbow
colours. She stemmed strawberries in the kitchen where Marguerite,
the hired girl, was putting up fruit, and she loved the pinkish-red
and grey-green of the berries against the deep yellow of the bowl.
She loved, too, the colour of the geraniums against the green-
painted sill just beside her. And the sunlight making leafwork
brocade on the grass out the window! There were times when
combinations of colour seemed the most beautiful thing in the world.
Then she had to mind the baby for a while, and she took him out on
the side lawn and pretended to play croquet with him. The baby
wasn't quite three, and it was delicious to see him, with mallet and
ball before a wicket, trying to mimic the actions of his elders.
Poppylinda, Missy's big black cat, wanted to play too, and succeeded
in getting between the baby's legs and upsetting him. But the baby
was under a charm; he only picked himself up and laughed. And Missy
was sure that black Poppy also laughed.
That night at supper she didn't have much chance to talk to father
about the big event, for he had brought an old friend home to
supper. Missy was rather left out of the conversation. She felt glad
for that; it is hard to talk to old people; it is hard to express to
them the thoughts and feelings that possess you. Besides, to-night
she didn't want to talk to anyone, nor to listen. She only wanted to
sit immersed in that soft, warm, fluttering deliciousness.
Just as the meal was over the hall telephone rang and, at a sign
from mother, she excused herself to answer it. From outside the door
she heard father's friend say: "What beautiful eyes!" Could he be
speaking of her?
The evening, as the afternoon had been, was divine. When Missy was
getting ready for bed she leaned out of the window to look at the
night, and the fabric of her soul seemed to stretch out and mingle
with all that dark, luminous loveliness. It seemed that she herself
was a part of the silver moon high up there, a part of the white,
shining radiance which spread down and over leaves and grass
everywhere. The strong, damp scent of the ramblers on the porch
seemed to be her own fragrant breath, and the black shadows pointing
out from the pine trees were her own blots of sadness--sadness vague
and mysterious, with more of pleasure in it than pain.
She could hardly bear to leave this mysterious, fascinating night;
to leave off thinking the big, vague thoughts the night always
called forth; but she had to light the gas and set about the
business of undressing.
But, first, she paused to gaze at herself in the looking-glass. For
the millionth time she wished she were pretty like Kitty Allen. And
Kitty would wear her pink dotted mull to the party. Missy sighed.
Then meditatively she unbraided her long, mouse-coloured braids;
twisted them into tentative loops over her ears; earnestly studied
the effect. No; her hair was too straight and heavy. She tried to
imagine undulating waves across her forehead-if only mother would
let her use crimpers! Perhaps she would! And then, perhaps, she
wouldn't look so plain. She wished she were not so plain; the
longing to be pretty made her fairly ache.
Then slowly the words of that man crept across her memory: "What
beautiful eyes!" Could he have meant her? She stared at the eyes
which stared back from the looking-glass till she had the odd
sensation that they were something quite strange and Allen to her:
big, dark, deep, and grave eyes, peering out from some unknown
consciousness. And they were beautiful eyes!
Suddenly she was awakened from her dreams by a voice at the door:
"Missy, why in the world haven't you gone to bed?"
Missy started and blushed as though discovered in mischief.
"What have you been doing with your hair?"
"Oh, just experimenting. Mother, may I have it crimped for the
"I don't know--we'll see. Now hurry and jump into bed."
After mother had kissed her good night and gone, and after the light
had been turned out, Missy lay awake for a long time.
Through the lace window curtains shone the moonlight, a gleaming
path along which Missy had often flown out to be a fairy. It is
quite easy to be a fairy. You lie perfectly still, your arms
stretched out like wings. Then you fix your eyes on the moonlight
and imagine you feel your wings stir. And the first thing you know
you feel yourself being wafted through the window, up through the
silver-tinged air. You touch the clouds with your magic wand, and
from them fall shimmering jewels.
Missy was fourteen, going on fifteen, but she could still play being
But to-night, though the fairy path stretched invitingly to her very
bed, she did not ride out upon it. She shut her eyes, though she
felt wide-awake. She shut her eyes so as to see better the pictures
that came before them.
With her eyes shut she could see herself quite plainly at the party.
She looked like herself, only much prettier. Yes, and a little
older, perhaps. Her pink dotted mull was easily recognizable, though
it had taken on a certain ethereally chic quality--as if a rosy
cloud had been manipulated by French fingers. Her hair was a soft,
bright, curling triumph. And when she moved she was graceful as a
swaying flower stem.
As Missy watched this radiant being which was herself she could see
that she was as gracious and sweet-mannered as she was beautiful;
perhaps a bit dignified and reserved, but that is always fitting.
No wonder the other girls and the boys gathered round her,
captivated. All the boys were eager to dance with her, and when she
danced she reminded you of a swaying lily. Most often her partner
was Raymond himself. Raymond danced well too. And he was the
handsomest boy at his party. He had blonde hair and deep, soft black
eyes like his father, who was the handsomest as well as the richest
man in Cherryvale. And he liked her, for last year, their first year
in high school, he used to study the Latin lesson with her and wait
for her after school and carry her books home for her. He had done
that although Kitty Allen was much prettier than she and though
Beulah Crosswhite was much, much smarter. The other girls had teased
her about him, and the boys must have teased Raymond, for after a
while he had stopped walking home with her. She didn't know whether
she was gladder or sorrier for that. But she knew that she was glad
he did not ignore that radiant, pink-swathed guest who, in her
beautiful vision, was having such a glorious time at his party.
Next morning she awoke to find a soft, misty rain greying the world
outside her window. Missy did not mind that; she loved rainy days--
they made you feel so pleasantly sad. For a time she lay quiet,
watching the slant, silvery threads and feeling mysteriously,
fascinatingly, at peace. Then Poppy, who always slept at the foot of
her bed, awoke with a tremendous yawning and stretching--exactly the
kind of "exercises" that young Doc Alison prescribed for father, who
hated to get up in the mornings!
Then Poppy, her exercises done, majestically trod the coverlet to
salute her mistress with the accustomed matinal salutation which
Missy called a kiss. Mother did not approve of Poppy's "kisses," but
Missy argued to herself that the morning one, dependable as an alarm
clock, kept her from oversleeping.
She hugged Poppy, jumped out of bed, and began dressing. When she
got downstairs breakfast was ready and the house all sweetly
diffused with the dreamy shadows that come with a rainy day.
Father had heard the great news and bantered her: "So we've got a
society queen in our midst!"
"I think," put in Aunt Nettie, "that it's disgraceful the way they
put children forward these days."
"I wouldn't let Missy go if Mrs. Allen wasn't going to be there to
look after her," said mother.
"Mother, may I have the hem of my pink dress let down?" asked Missy.
At that father laughed, and Aunt Nettie might just as well have
said: "I told you so!" as put on that expression.
"It's my first real party," Missy went on, "and I'd like to look as
pretty as I can."
Something prompted father, as he rose from the table, to pause and
lay his hand on Missy's shoulder.
"Can't you get her a new ribbon or something, mother?" he asked.
"Maybe a new sash," answered mother reflectively. "They've got some
pretty brocaded pink ribbon at Bonner's."
After which Missy finished her breakfast in a rapture. It is queer
how you can eat, and like what you eat very much, and yet scarcely
taste it at all.
When the two hours of practicing were over, mother sent her down
town to buy the ribbon for the sash--a pleasant errand. She changed
the black tie on her middy blouse to a scarlet one and let the ends
fly out of her grey waterproof cape. Why is it that red is such a
divine colour on a rainy day?
Upon her return there was still an hour before dinner, and she sat
by the dining-room window with Aunt Nettie, to darn stockings.
"Well, Missy," said Aunt Nettie presently, "a penny for your
Missy looked up vaguely, at a loss. "I wasn't thinking of anything
exactly," she said.
"What were you smiling about?"
"Was I smiling?"
Just then mother entered and Aunt Nettie said: "Missy smiles, and
doesn't know it. Party!"
But Missy knew it wasn't the party entirely. Nor was it entirely the
sound of the rain swishing, nor the look of the trees quietly
weeping, nor of the vivid red patches of geranium beds. Everything
could have been quite different, and still she'd have felt happy.
Her feeling, mysteriously, was as much from things INSIDE her as
from things outside.
After dinner was over and the baby minded for an hour, mother made
the pink-brocaded sash. It was very lovely. Then she had an hour to
herself, and since the rain wouldn't permit her to spend it in the
summerhouse, she took a book up to her own room. It was a book of
poems from the Public Library.
The first poem she opened to was one of the most marvellous things
she had ever read--almost as wonderful as "The Blessed Damozel." She
was glad she had chanced upon it on a rainy day, and when she felt
like this. It was called "A Birthday," and it went:
My heart is like a singing bird Whose nest is in a watered shoot; My
heart is like an apple tree Whose boughs are bent with thickset
fruit; My heart is like a rainbow shell That paddles in a halcyon
sea; My heart is gladder than all these, Because my love is come to
Raise me a dais of silk and down; Hang it with vair and purple dyes;
Carve it with doves and pomegranates, And peacocks with a hundred
eyes; Work in it gold and silver grapes, In leaves and silver
fleurs-de-lys, Because the birthday of my life Is come; my love is
come to me.
The poem expressed beautifully what she might have answered when
Aunt Nettie asked why she smiled. Only, even though she herself
could have expressed it so beautifully then, it was not the kind of
answer you'd dream of making to Aunt Nettie.
Thp next morning Missy awoke to find the rain gone and warm, golden
sunshine filtering through the lace curtains. She dressed herself
quickly, while the sunshine smiled and watched her toilet. After
breakfast, at the piano, her fingers found the scales tiresome. Of
themselves they wandered off into unexpected rhythms which seemed to
sing aloud: Work it in gold and silver grapes, In leaves and silver
fieurs-de-lys . . . Raise me a dais of silk and down; Hang it with
vair and purple dyes . . .
She was idly wondering what a "vair" might be when her dreams were
crashed into by mother's reproving voice: "Missy, what are you
doing? If you don't get right down to practicing, there'll be no
Abashed, Missy made her fingers behave, but not her heart. It was
singing a tune far out of harmony with chromatic exercises, and she
was glad her mother could not hear.
The tune kept right on throughout dinner. During the meal she was
called to the telephone, and at the other end was Raymond; he wanted
her to save him the first dance that evening. What rapture--this was
what happened to the beautiful belles you read about!
After dinner mother and Aunt Nettie went to call upon some ladies
they hoped wouldn't be at home--what funny things grown-ups do! The
baby was taking his nap, and Missy had a delicious long time ahead
in which to be utterly alone.
She took the library book of poems and a book of her father's out to
the summerhouse. First she opened the book of her father's. It was a
translation of a Russian book, very deep and moving and sad and
incomprehensible. A perfectly fascinating book! It always filled her
with vague, undefinable emotions. She read: "O youth, youth! Thou
carest for nothing: thou possessest, as it were, all the treasures
of the universe; even sorrow comforts thee, even melancholy becomes
thee; thou art self-confident and audacious; thou sayest: 'I alone
live--behold!' But the days speed on and vanish without a trace and
without reckoning, and everything vanishes in thee, like wax in the
sun, like snow. . ."
Missy felt sublime sadness resounding through her soul. It was
intolerable that days should speed by irrevocably and vanish, like
wax in the sun, like snow. She sighed. But even as she sighed the
feeling of sadness began to slip away. So she turned to the poem
discovered last night, and read it over happily.
The title, "A Birthday," made her feel that Raymond Bonner was
somehow connected with it. This was his birthday--and that brought
her thoughts back definitely to the party. Mother had said that
presents were not expected, that they were getting too big to
exchange little presents, yet she would have liked to carry him some
little token. The ramblers and honeysuckle above her head sniffed at
her in fragrant suggestion--why couldn't she just take him some
Acting on the impulse, Missy jumped up and began breaking off the
loveliest blooms. But after she had gathered a big bunch a swift
wave of self-consciousness swept over her. What would they say at
the house? Would they let her take them? Would they understand? And
a strong distaste for their inevitable questions, for the
explanations which she could not explain definitely even to herself,
prompted her not to carry the bouquet to the house. Instead she ran,
got a pitcher of water, carried it back to the summerhouse and left
the flowers temporarily there, hoping to figure out ways and means
At the house she discovered that the baby was awake, so she had to
hurry back to take care of him. She always loved to do that; she
didn't mind that a desire to dress up in her party attire had just
struck her, for the baby always entered into the spirit of her
performances. While she was fastening up the pink dotted mull, Poppy
walked inquisitively in and sat down to oversee this special,
important event. Missy succeeded with the greatest difficulty in
adjusting the brocaded sash to her satisfaction. She regretted her
unwaved hair, but mother was going to crimp it herself in the
evening. The straight, everyday coiffure marred the picture in the
mirror, yet, aided by her imagination, it was pleasing. She stood
with arms extended in a languid, graceful pose, her head thrown
back, gazing with half-closed eyes at something far, far beyond her
own eyes in the glass.
Then suddenly she began to dance. She danced with her feet, her
arms, her hands, her soul. She felt within her the grace of stately
beauties, the heartbeat of dew-jewelled fairies, the longings of
untrammelled butterflies--dancing, she could have flown up to heaven
at that moment! A gurgle of sound interrupted her; it was the baby.
"Do you like me, baby?" she cried. "Am I beautiful, baby?"
Baby, now, could talk quite presentably in the language of grown-
ups. But in addition he knew all kinds of wise, unintelligible
words. Missy knew that they were wise, even though she could not
understand their meaning, and she was glad the baby chose, this
time, to answer in that secret jargon.
She kissed the baby and, in return, the baby smiled his secret
smile. Missy was sure that Poppy then smiled too, a secret smile; so
she kissed Poppy also. How wonderful, how mysterious, were the
smiles of baby and Poppy! What unknown thoughts produced them?
At this point her cogitations were interrupted and her playacting
spoiled by the unexpected return of mother and Aunt Nettie. It
seemed that certain of the ladies had obligingly been "out."
"What in the world are you doing, Missy?" asked mother.
Missy suddenly felt herself a very foolish-appearing object in her
party finery. She tried to make an answer, but the right words were
difficult to find.
"Party!" said Aunt Nettie significantly.
Missy, still standing in mute embarrassment, couldn't have explained
how it was not the party entirely.
Mother did not scold her for dressing up.
"Better get those things off, dear," she said kindly, "and come in
and let me curl your hair. I'd better do it before supper, before
the baby gets cross." The crimped coiffure was an immense success;
even in her middy blouse Missy felt transformed. She could have
kissed herself in the glass!
"Do you think I look pretty, mother?" she asked. "You mustn't think
of such things, dear." But, as mother stooped to readjust a waving
lock, her fingers felt marvellously tender to Missy's forehead.
Evening arrived with a sunset of grandeur and glory. It made
everything look as beautiful as it should look on the occasion of a
festival. The beautiful and festive aspect of the world without, and
of, her heart within, made it difficult to eat supper. And after
supper it was hard to breathe naturally, to control her nervous
fingers as she dressed.
At last, with the help of mother and Aunt Nettie, her toilet was
finished: the pink-silk stockings and slippers shimmering beneath
the lengthened pink mull; the brocaded pink ribbon now become a
huge, pink-winged butterfly; and, mother's last touch, a pink
rosebud holding a tendril--a curling tendril--artfully above the
left ear! Missy felt a stranger to herself as, like some gracious
belle and fairy princess and airy butterfly all compounded into one,
she walked--no, floated down the stairs.
"Well!" exclaimed father, "behold the Queen of the Ball!" But Missy
did not mind his bantering tone. The expression of his eyes told her
that he thought she looked pretty.
Presently Mrs. Allen and Kitty, in the Allens' surrey, stopped by
for her. With them was a boy she had never seen before, a tall, dark
boy in a blue-grey braided coat and white duck trousers--a military
He was introduced as Kitty's cousin, Jim Henley. Missy had heard
about this Cousin Jim who was going to visit Cherryvale some time
during the summer; he had arrived rather unexpectedly that day.
Kitty herself--in pink dotted mull, of course--was looking rather
wan. Mrs. Allen explained she had eaten too much of the candy Cousin
Jim had brought her.
Cousin Jim, with creaking new shoes, leaped down to help Missy in.
She had received her mother's last admonition, her father's last
banter, Aunt Nettie's last anxious peck at her sash, and was just
lifting her foot to the surrey step when suddenly she said: "Oh!"
"What is it?" asked mother. "Forgotten something?"
Missy had forgotten something. But how, with mother's inquiring eyes
upon her, and father's and Aunt Nettie's and Mrs. Allen's and
Kitty's and Cousin Jim's inquiring eyes upon her, could she mention
Raymond's bouquet in the summerhouse? How could she get them? What
should she say? And what would they think? "No," she answered
hesitantly. "I guess not." But the bright shining of her pleasure
was a little dimmed. She could not forget those flowers waiting,
waiting there in the summerhouse. She worried more about them, so
pitifully abandoned, than she did about Raymond's having to go
without a remembrance.
Missy sat in the back seat with Mrs. Allen, Kitty in front with her
cousin. Now and then he threw a remark over his shoulder, and
smiled. He had beautiful white teeth which gleamed out of his dark-
skinned face, and he seemed very nice. But he wasn't as handsome as
Raymond, nor as nice--even if he did wear a uniform.
When they reached the Bonners they saw it all illumined for the
party. The Bonners' house was big and square with a porch running
round three sides, the most imposing house in Cherryvale. Already
strings of lanterns were lighted on the lawn, blue and red and
yellow orbs. The lights made the trees and shrubs seem shadowy and
remote, mysterious creatures awhisper over their own business.
Not yet had many guests arrived, but almost immediately they
appeared in such droves that it seemed they must have come up
miraculously through the floor. The folding camp chairs which lined
the parlours and porches (the rented chairs always seen at
Cherryvale parties and funerals) were one moment starkly exposed and
the next moment hidden by light-hued skirts and by stiffly held,
Sunday-trousered dark legs. For a while that stiffness which
inevitably introduces a formal gathering of youngsters held them
unnaturally bound. But just as inevitably it wore away, and by the
time the folding chairs were drawn up round the little table where
"hearts" were to be played, voices were babbling, and laughter was
to be heard everywhere for no reason at all.
At Missy's table sat Raymond Bonner, looking handsomer than ever
with his golden hair and his eyes like black velvet pansies. There
was another boy who didn't count; and then there was the most
striking creature Missy had ever seen. She was a city girl visiting
in town, an older, tall, red-haired girl, with languishing, long-
lashed eyes. She wore a red chiffon dress, lower cut than was worn
in Cherryvale, which looked like a picture in a fashion magazine.
But it was not her chic alone that made her so striking. It was her
manner. Missy was, not sure that she knew what "sophisticated"
meant, but she decided that the visiting girl's air of self-
possession, of calm, almost superior assurance, denoted
sophistication. How eloquent was that languid way of using her fan!
In this languishing-eyed presence she herself did not feel at her
best; nor was she made happier by the way Raymond couldn't keep his
eyes off the visitor. She played her hand badly, so that Raymond and
his alluring partner "progressed" to the higher table while she
remained with the boy who didn't count. But, as luck would have it,
to take the empty places, from the head table, vanquished, came
Cousin Jim and his partner. Jim now played opposite her, and laughed
over his "dumbness" at the game.
"I feel sorry for you!" he told Missy. "I'm a regular dub at this
"I guess I'm a 'dub' too." It was impossible not to smile back at
that engaging flash of white teeth in the dark face.
This time, however, neither of them proved "dubs." Together they
"progressed" to the next higher table. Cousin Jim assured her it was
all due to her skill. She almost thought that, perhaps, she was
skillful at "hearts," and for the first time she liked the silly
Eventually came time for the prizes--and then dancing. Dancing Missy
liked tremendously. Raymond claimed her for the first waltz. Missy
wondered, a little wistfully, whether now he mightn't be regretting
that pre-engagement, whether he wouldn't rather dance it with the
languishing-eyed girl he was following about.
But as soon as the violin and piano, back near the library window,
began to play, Raymond came straight to Missy and made his charming
bow. They danced through the two parlours and then out to the porch
and round its full length; the music carried beautifully through the
open windows; it was heavenly dancing outdoors like that. Too soon
it was over.
"Will you excuse me?" Raymond asked in his polite way. "Mother wants
to see me about something. I hate to run away, but--"
Scarcely had he gone when Mrs. Allen, with Jim in tow, came hurrying
"Oh, Missy! I've been looking for you everywhere. Kitty's awfully
sick. She was helping with the refreshments and got hold of some
pickles. And on top of all that candy--"
"Oh!" commiserated Missy.
"I've got to get her home at once," Mrs. Allen went on. "I hate to
take you away just when your good time's beginning, but--"
"Why does she have to go?" Jim broke in. "I can take you and Kitty
home, and then come back, and take her home after the party's over."
He gave a little laugh. "You see that gives me an excuse to see the
party through myself!"
Mrs. Allen eyed Missy a little dubiously.
"Oh, Mrs. Allen, couldn't I?"
"I don't know--I said I'd bring you home myself."
"Oh, Mrs. Allen! Please!" Missy's eyes pleaded even more than her
"Well, I don't see why not," decided Kitty's mother, anxious to
return to her own daughter. "Jim will take good care of you, and
Mrs. Bonner will send you all home early."
When Mrs. Allen, accompanied by her nephew, had hurried away, Missy
had an impulse to wander alone, for a moment, out into the
deliciously alluring night. She loved the night always, but just now
it looked indescribably beautiful. The grounds were deserted, but
the lanterns, quivering in the breeze, seemed to be huge live glow-
worms suspended up there in the dark. It was enchantment. Stepping
lightly, holding her breath, sniffing at unseen scents, hearing
laughter and dance music from far away as if in another world, she
penetrated farther and farther into the shadows. An orange-coloured
moon was pushing its way over the horizon, so close she could surely
reach out her hands and touch it!
And then, too near to belong to any other world, and quite
distinctly, she heard a voice beyond the rose arbour:
"Oh, yes! Words sound well! But the fact remains you didn't ask me
for the first dance."
Missy knew that drawling yet strangely assured voice. Almost, with
its tones, she could see the languorously uplifted eyes, the
provoking little gesture of fan at lips. Before she could move,
whether to advance or to flee, Raymond replied:
"I wanted to ask you--you know I wanted to ask you!"
"Oh, yes, you did!" replied the visiting girl ironically.
"I did!" protested Raymond.
"Well, why didn't you then?"
"I'd already asked somebody else. I couldn't!"
And then the visiting girl laughed strangely. Missy knew she knew
with whom Raymond had danced that first dance. Why did she laugh?
And Raymond--oh, oh! She had seemed to grow rooted to the ground,
unable to get away; her heart, her breathing, seemed to petrify too;
they hurt her. Why had Raymond danced with her if he didn't want to?
And why, why did that girl laugh? She suddenly felt that she must
let them know that she heard them, that she must ask why! And, in
order not to exclaim the question against her will, she covered her
mouth with both hands, and crept silently away from the rose arbour.
Without any definite purpose, borne along by an inner whirlwind of
suppressed sobs and utter despair, Missy finally found herself
nearer the entrance gate, Fortunately there was nobody to see her;
everyone--except those two--was back up there in the glare and
noise, laughing and dancing. Laughing and dancing--oh, oh! What ages
ago it seemed when she too had laughed and danced!
Oh, why hadn't she gone home with Mrs. Allen and Kitty before her
silly pleasure had turned to anguish? But, of course, that was what
life was: pain crowding elbows with pleasure always--she had read
that somewhere. She was just inevitably living Life.
Consoled a trifle by this reflection and by a certain note of
sublimity in her experience, Missy leaned against the gatepost upon
which a lantern was blinking its last shred of life, and gazed at
the slow-rising, splendid moon.
She was still there when Cousin Jim, walking quickly and his shoes
creaking loudly, returned. "Hello!" he said. "What're you doing out
"Oh, just watching the moon."
"You're a funny girl," he laughed.
"Why am I funny?" Her tone was a little wistful. "Why, moon-gazing
instead of dancing, and everything."
"But I like to dance too," emphasized Missy, as if to defend herself
against a charge.
"I'll take you up on that. Come straight in and dance the next dance
Missy obeyed. And then she knew that she had met the Dancer of the
World. At first she was pleased that her steps fitted his so well,
and then she forgot all about steps and just floated along, on
invisible gauzy wings, unconscious of her will of direction, of his
will of direction. There was nothing in the world but invisible
gauzy wings, which were herself and Jim and the music. And they were
a part of the music and the music was a part of them. It was divine.
"Say, you can dance!" said Jim admiringly when the music stopped.
"I love to dance."
"I should say you might! You dance better than any girl I ever
This, from a military uniform, was praise indeed. Missy blushed and
was moved to hide her exaltation under modesty.
"I guess the reason is because I love it so much. I feel as if it's
the music dancing--not me. Do you feel it that way?" "Never thought
of it that way," answered Jim. "But I don't know but what you're
right. Say, you ARE a funny girl, aren't you?"
But Missy knew that whatever he meant by her being a "funny girl" he
didn't dislike her for it, because he rushed on: "You must let me
have a lot of dances--every one you can spare."
After that everything was rapture. All the boys liked to dance with
Missy because she was such a good dancer, and Jim kept wanting to
cut in to get an extra dance with her himself. Somehow even the
sting of the visiting girl's laugh and of Raymond's defection seemed
to have subsided into triviality. And when Raymond came up to ask
for a dance she experienced a new and pleasurable thrill in telling
him she was already engaged. That thrill disturbed her a little. Was
it possible that she was vindictive, wicked? But when she saw Jim
approaching while Raymond was receiving his conge, she thrilled
again, simultaneously wondering whether she was, after all, but a
Jim had just been dancing with the visiting girl, so she asked: "Is
Miss Slade a good dancer?"
"Oh, fair. Not in it with you though."
Missy thrilled again, and felt wicked again--alas, how pleasant is
wickedness! "She's awfully pretty," vouchsafed Missy.
"Oh, I guess so"--indifferently.
Yet another thrill.
They took refreshments together, Jim going to get her a second glass
of lemonade and waiting upon her with devotion. Then came the time
to go home. Missy could not hold back a certain sense of triumph as,
after thanking Raymond for a glorious time, she started off, under
his inquisitive eye, arm in arm with Jim.
That unwonted arm-in-arm business confused Missy a good deal. She
had an idea it was the proper thing when one is being escorted home,
and had put her arm in his as a matter of course, but before they
had reached the gate she was acutely conscious of the touch of her
arm on his. To make matters worse, a curious wave of embarrassment
was creeping over her; she couldn't think of anything to say, and
they had walked nearly a block down moon-flooded Silver Street, with
no sound but Jim's creaking shoes, before she got out: "How do you
like Cherry vale, Mr. Henley?"
"Looks good to me," he responded.
Then silence again, save for Jim's shoes. Missy racked her brains.
What do you say to boys who don't know the same people and affairs
you do? Back there at the party things had gone easily, but they
were playing cards or dancing or eating; there had been no need for
tete-a-tete conversation. How do you talk to people you don't know?
She liked Jim, but the need to make talk was spoiling everything.
She moved along beside his creaking shoes as in a nightmare, and, as
she felt every atom of her freezing to stupidity, she desperately
forced her voice: "What a beautiful night it is!"
"Yes, it's great."
Missy sent him a sidelong glance. He didn't look exactly happy
either. Did he feel awkward too?
Creak! creak! creak! said the shoes.
"Listen to those shoes--never heard 'em squeak like that before," he
Missy, striving for a proper answer and finding none, kept on moving
through that feeling of nightmare. What was the matter with her
tongue, her brain? Was it because she didn't know Jim well enough to
talk to him? Surely not, for she had met strange boys before and not
felt like this. Was it because it was night? Did you always feel
like this when you were all dressed up and going home from an
Creak! creak! said the shoes.
Another block lay behind them.
Missy, fighting that sensation of stupidity, in anguished resolution
spoke again: "Just look at the moon--how big it is!" Jim followed
her upward glance. "Yes, it's great," he agreed.
Creak! creak! said the shoes.
A heavy, regularly punctuated pause. "Don't you love moonlight
nights?" persisted Missy.
"Yes--when my shoes don't squeak." He tried to laugh.
Missy tried to laugh too. Creak! creak! said the shoes.
Another block lay behind them.
"Moonlight always makes me feel--"
She paused. What was it moonlight always made her feel? Hardly
hearing what she was saying, she made herself reiterate banalities
about the moon. Her mind flew upward to the moon--Jim's downward to
his squeaking shoes. She lived at the other end of town from Raymond
Bonner's house, and the long walk was made up of endless
intermittent perorations on the moon, on squeaking shoes. But the
song of the shoes never ceased. Louder and louder it waxed. It
crashed into the innermost fibres of her frame, completely deafened
her mental processes. Never would she forget it: creak-creak-creak-
And the moon, usually so kind and gentle, grinned down derisively.
At last, after eons, they reached the corner of her own yard. How
unchanged, how natural everything looked here! Over there, across
the stretch of white moonlight, sat the summerhouse, symbol of peace
and every day, cloaked in its fragrant ramblers.
Ramblers! A sudden remembrance darted through Missy's perturbed
brain. Her poor flowers--were they still out there? She must carry
them into the house with her! On the impulse, without pausing to
reflect that her action might look queer, she exclaimed: "Wait a
minute!" and ran fleetly across the moonlit yard. In a second she
had the bouquet out of the pitcher and was back again beside him,
"I left them out there," she said. "I--I forgot them. And I didn't
want to leave them out there all night."
Jim bent down and sniffed at the roses. "They smell awfully sweet,
don't they?" he said.
Suddenly, without premeditation, Missy extended them to him. "You
may have them," she offered.
"I?" He received them awkwardly. "That's awfully sweet of you. Say,
you are sweet, aren't you?"
"You may have them if you want them," she repeated.
Jim, still holding the bunch awkwardly, had an inspiration.
"I do want them. And now, if they're really mine, I want to do with
them what I'd like most to do with them. May I?"
"Why, of course."
"I'd like to give them to the girl who ought to have flowers more
than any girl I know. I'd like to give them to you!"
He smiled at her daringly.
"Oh!" breathed Missy. How poetical he was!
"But," he stipulated, "on one condition. I demand one rose for
myself. And you must put it in my buttonhole for me."
With trembling fingers Missy fixed the rose in place.
They walked on up to the gate. Jim said: "In our school town the
girls are all crazy for brass buttons. They make hatpins and things.
If you'd like a button, I'd like to give you one--off my sleeve."
"Wouldn't it spoil your sleeve?" she asked tremulously.
"Oh, I can get more"--somewhat airily. "Of course we have to do
extra guard mount and things for punishment. But that's part of the
game, and no fellow minds if he's giving buttons to somebody he
Missy wasn't exactly sure she knew what "subtle" meant, but she felt
that Jim was being subtle. Oh, the romance of it! To give her a
brass button he was willing to suffer punishment. He was like a
knight of old!
As Jim was severing the button with his penknife, Missy, chancing to
glance upward, noted that the curtain of an upstairs window was
being held back by an invisible hand. That was her mother's window.
"I must go in now," she said hurriedly. "Mother's waiting up for
"Well I guess I'll see you soon. You're up at Kitty's a lot, aren't
"Yes," she murmured, one eye on the upstairs window. So many things
she had to say now. A little while ago she hadn't been able to talk.
Now, for no apparent reason, there was much to say, yet no time to
say it. How queer Life was!
"To-morrow, I expect," she hurried on. "Good night, Mr. Henley."
"Good night--Missy." With his daring, gleaming smile.
Inside the hall door, mother, wrapper-clad, met her disapprovingly.
"Missy, where in the world did you get all those flowers?"
"Ji--Kitty's cousin gave them to me."
"For the land's sake!" It required a moment for mother to find
further words. Then she continued accusingly: "I thought you were to
come home with Mrs. Allen and Kitty."
"Kitty got sick, and her mother had to take her home."
"Why didn't you come with them?"
"Oh, mother! I was having such a good time!" For the minute Missy
had forgotten there had been a shred of anything but "good time" in
the whole glorious evening. "And Mrs. Allen said I might stay and
come home with Jim and--"
"That will do," cut in mother severely. "You've taken advantage of
me, Missy. And don't let me hear evening party from you again this
The import of this dreadful dictum did not penetrate fully to
Missy's consciousness. She was too confused in her emotions, just
then, to think clearly of anything.
"Go up to bed," said mother.
"May I put my flowers in water first?"
"Yes, but be quick about it."
Missy would have liked to carry the flowers up to her own room, to
sleep there beside her while she slept, but mother wouldn't
understand and there would be questions which she didn't know how to
Mother was offended with her. Dimly she felt unhappy about that, but
she was too happy to be definitely unhappy. Anyway, mother followed
to unfasten her dress, to help take down her hair, to plait the
mouse-coloured braids. She wanted to be alone, yet she liked the
touch of mother's hands, unusually gentle and tender. Why was mother
gentle and tender with her when she was offended?
At last mother kissed her good night, and she was alone in her
little bed. It was hard to get to sleep. What an eventful party it
had been! Since supper time she seemed to have lived years and
years. She had been a success even though Raymond Bonner had said--
that. Anyway, Jim was a better dancer than Raymond, and handsomer
and nicer--besides the uniform. He was more poetical too--much more.
What was it he had said about liking her? . . . better dancer than
any other. . . Funny she should feel so happy after Raymond . . .
Maybe she was just a vain, inconstant, coquettish . . .
She strove to focus on the possibility of her frailty. She turned
her face to the window. Through the lace curtains shone the
moonlight, the gleaming path along which she had so often flown out
to be a fairy. But to-night she didn't wish to be a fairy; just to
be herself . . .
The moonlight flowed in and engulfed her, a great, eternal, golden-
white mystery. And its mystery became her mystery. She was the
mystery of the moon, of the universe, of Life. And the tune in her
heart, which could take on so many bewildering variations, became
the Chant of Mystery. How interesting, how tremendously, ineffably
interesting was Life! She slept.
MISSY TACKLES ROMANCE
Melissa was out in the summerhouse, reading; now and then lifting
her eyes from the big book on her lap to watch the baby at play.
With a pail of sand, a broken lead-pencil and several bits of twig,
the baby had concocted an engrossing game. Melissa smiled
indulgently at his absurd absorption; while the baby, looking up,
smiled back as one who would say: "What a stupid game reading is to
waste your time with!"
For the standpoint of three-years-old is quite different from that
of fourteen-going-on-fifteen. Missy now felt almost grown-up; it had
been eons since SHE was a baby, and three; even thirteen lay back
across a chasm so wide her thoughts rarely tried to bridge it.
Besides, her thoughts were kept too busy with the present. Every day
the world was presenting itself as a more bewitching place.
Cherryvale had always been a thrilling place to live in; but this
was the summer which, surely, would ever stand out in italics in her
mind. For, this summer, she had come really to know Romance.
Her more intimate acquaintance with this enchanting phenomenon had
begun in May, the last month of school, when she learned that Miss
Smith, her Algebra teacher, received a letter every day from an army
officer. An army officer!--and a letter every day! And she knew Miss
Smith very well, indeed! Ecstasy! Miss Smith, who looked too pretty
to know so much about Algebra, made an adorable heroine of Romance.
But she was not more adorable-looking than Aunt Isabel. Aunt Isabel
was Uncle Charlie's wife, and lived in Pleasanton; Missy was going
to Pleasanton in just three days, now, and every time she thought of
the visit, she felt delicious little tremors of anticipation. What
an experience that would be! For father and mother and grandpa and
grandma and all the other family grown-ups admitted that Uncle
Charlie's marriage to Aunt Isabel was romantic. Uncle Charlie had
been forty-three--very, very old, even older than father--and a
"confirmed bachelor" when, a year ago last summer, he had married
Aunt Isabel. Aunt Isabel was much younger, only twenty; that was
what made the marriage romantic.
Like Miss Smith, Aunt Isabel had big violet eyes and curly golden
hair. Most heroines seemed to be like that. The reflection saddened
Missy. Her own eyes were grey instead of violet, her hair straight
and mouse-coloured instead of wavy and golden.
Even La Beale Isoud was a blonde, and La Beale Isoud, as she had
recently discovered, was one of the Romantic Queens of all time. She
knew this fact on the authority of grandpa, who was enormously wise.
Grandpa said that the beauteous lady was a heroine in all languages,
and her name was spelled Iseult, and Yseult, and Isolde, and other
queer ways; but in "The Romance of King Arthur" it was spelled La
Beale Isoud. "The Romance of King Arthur" was a fascinating book,
and Missy was amazed that, up to this very summer, she had passed by
the rather ponderous volume, which was kept on the top shelf of the
"secretary," as uninteresting-looking. Uninteresting!
It was "The Romance of King Arthur" that, this July afternoon, lay
open on Missy's lap while she minded the baby in the summerhouse.
Already she knew by heart its "deep" and complicated story, and,
now, she was re-reading the part which told of Sir Tristram de
Liones and his ill-fated love for La Beale Isoud. It was all very
sad, yet very beautiful.
Sir Tristram was a "worshipful knight" and a "harper passing all
other." He got wounded, and his uncle, King Mark, "let purvey a fair
vessel, well victualled," and sent him to Ireland to be healed.
There the Irish King's daughter, La Beale Isoud, "the fairest maid
and lady in the world," nursed him back to health, while Sir
Tristram "learned her to harp."
That last was an odd expression. In Cherryvale it would be
considered bad grammar; but, evidently, grammar rules were different
in olden times. The unusual phraseology of the whole narrative
fascinated Missy; even when you could hardly understand it, it was--
inspiring. Yes, that was the word. In inspiring! That was because it
was the true language of Romance. The language of Love . . . Missy's
thoughts drifted off to ponder the kind of language the army officer
used to Miss Smith; Uncle Charlie to Aunt Isabel . . .
She came back to the tale of La Beale Isoud.
Alas! true love must ever suffer at the hands of might. For the
harper's uncle, old King Mark himself, decided to marry La Beale
Isoud; and he ordered poor Sir Tristram personally to escort her
from Ireland. And Isoud's mother entrusted to two servants a magical
drink which they should give Isoud and King Mark on their wedding-
day, so that the married pair "either should love the other the days
of their life."
But, Tristram and La Beale Isoud found that love-drink! Breathing
quickly, Missy read the fateful part:
"It happened so that they were thirsty, and it seemed by the colour
and the taste that it was a noble wine. When Sir Tristram took the
flasket in his hand, and said, 'Madam Isoud, here is the best drink
that ever ye drunk, that Dame Braguaine, your maiden, and
Gouvernail, my servant, have kept for themselves.' Then they laughed
(laughed--think of it!) and made good cheer, and either drank to
other freely. And they thought never drink that ever they drank was
so sweet nor so good. But by that drink was in their bodies, they
loved either other so well that never their love departed for weal
neither for woe." (Think of that, too!)
Missy gazed at the accompanying illustration: La Beale Isoud
slenderly tall in her straight girdled gown of grey-green velvet,
head thrown back so that her filleted golden hair brushed her
shoulders, violet eyes half-closed, and an "antique"-looking metal
goblet clasped in her two slim hands; and Sir Tristram so
imperiously dark and handsome in his crimson, fur-trimmed doublet,
his two hands stretched out and gripping her two shoulders, his
black eyes burning as if to look through her closed lids. What a
tremendous situation! Love that never would depart for weal neither
Missy sighed. For she had read and re-read what was the fullness of
their woe. And she couldn't help hating King Mark, even if he was
Isoud's lawful lord, because he proved himself such a recreant and
false traitor to true love. Of course, he WAS Isoud's husband; and
Missy lived in Cherryvale, where conventions were not complicated
and were strictly adhered to; else scandal was the result. But she
told herself that this situation was different because it was an
unusual kind of love. They couldn't help themselves. It wasn't their
fault. It was the love-drink that did it. Besides, it happened in
the Middle Ages . . .
Suddenly her reverie was blasted by a compelling disaster. The baby,
left to his own devices, had stuck a twig into his eye, and was
uttering loud cries for attention. Missy remorsefully hurried over
and kissed his hurt. As if healed thereby, the baby abruptly ceased
crying; even sent her a little wavering smile. Missy gazed at him
and pondered: why do babies cry over their tiny troubles, and so
often laugh over their bigger ones? She felt an immense yearning
over babies--over all things inexplicable.
That evening after supper, grandpa and grandma came over for a
little while. They all sat out on the porch and chatted. It was very
beautiful out on the porch,--greying twilight, and young little
stars just coming into being, all aquiver as if frightened.
The talk turned to Missy's imminent visit.
"Aren't you afraid you'll get homesick?" asked grandma.
It was Missy's first visit away from Cherryvale without her mother.
A year ago she would have dreaded the separation, but now she was
almost grown-up. Besides, this very summer, in Cherryvale, she had
seen how for some reason, a visiting girl seems to excite more
attention than does a mere home girl. Missy realized that, of
course, she wasn't so "fashionable" as was the sophisticated Miss
Slade from Macon City who had so agitated Cherryvale, yet she was
pleased to try the experience for herself. Moreover, the visit was
to be at Uncle Charlie's!
"Oh, no," answered Missy. "Not with Uncle Charlie and Aunt Isabel.
She's so pretty and wears such pretty clothes--remember that grey
silk dress with grey-topped shoes exactly to match?"
"I think she has shoes to match everything, even her wrappers," said
grandma rather drily. "Isabel's very extravagant."
"Extravagance becomes a virtue when Isabel wears the clothes,"
commented grandpa. Grandpa often said "deep" things like that, which
were hard to understand exactly.
"She shouldn't squander Charlie's money," insisted grandma.
"Charlie doesn't seem to mind it," put in mother in her gentle way.
"He's as pleased as Punch buying her pretty things."
"Yes--poor Charlie!" agreed grandma. "And there's another thing:
Isabel's always been used to so much attention, I hope she won't
give poor Charlie anxiety."
Why did grandma keep calling him "poor" Charlie? Missy had always
understood that Uncle Charlie wasn't poor at all; he owned the
biggest "general store" in Pleasanton and was, in fact, the "best-
fixed" of the whole Merriam family.
But, save for fragments, she soon lost the drift of the family
discussion. She was absorbed in her own trend of thoughts. At Uncle
Charlie's she was sure of encountering Romance. Living-and-breathing
Romance. And only two days more! How could she wait?
But the two days flew by in a flurry of mending, and running
ribbons, and polishing all her shoes and wearing old dresses to keep
her good ones clean, and, finally, packing. It was all so exciting
that only at the last minute just before the trunk was shut, did she
remember to tuck in "The Romance of King Arthur."
At the depot in Pleasanton, Aunt Isabel alone met her; Uncle Charlie
was "indisposed." Missy was sorry to hear that. For she had liked
Uncle Charlie even before he had become Romantic. He was big and
silent like father and grandpa and you had a feeling that, like
them, he understood you more than did most grown-ups.
She liked Aunt Isabel, too; she couldn't have helped that, because
Aunt Isabel was so radiantly beautiful. Missy loved all beautiful
things. She loved the heavenly colour of sunlight through the
stained-glass windows at church; the unquenchable blaze of her
nasturtium bed under a blanket of grey mist; the corner street-lamp
reflecting on the wet sidewalk; the smell of clean, sweet linen
sheets; the sound of the brass band practicing at night, blaring but
unspeakably sad through the distance; the divine mystery of faint-
tinted rainbows; trees in moonlight turned into great drifts of
And she loved shining ripples of golden hair; and great blue eyes
that laughed in a sidewise glance and then turned softly pensive in
a second; and a sweet high voice now vivacious and now falling into
hushed cadences; and delicate white hands always restlessly
fluttering; and, a drifting, elusive fragrance, as of wind-swept
petals. . .
All of which meant that she loved Aunt Isabel very much; especially
in the frilly, pastel-flowered organdy she was wearing to-day--an
"extravagant" dress, doubtless, but lovely enough to justify that.
Naturally such a person as Aunt Isabel would make her home a
beautiful place. It was a "bungalow." Missy had often regretted that
her own home had been built before the vogue of the bungalow. And
now, when she beheld Aunt Isabel's enchanting house, the solid,
substantial furnishings left behind in Cherryvale lost all their
savour for her, even the old-fashioned "quaintness" of grandma's
For Aunt Isabel's house was what Pleasanton termed "artistic." It
had white-painted woodwork, and built-in bookshelves instead of
ordinary bookcases, and lots of window-seats, and chintz draperies
which trailed flowers or birds or peacocks, which were like a
combination of both, and big wicker chairs with deep cushions--all
very bright and cosy and beautiful. In the living-room were some
Chinese embroideries which Missy liked, especially when the sun came
in and shone upon their soft, rich colours; she had never before
seen Chinese embroideries and, thus, encountered a brand-new love.
Then Aunt Isabel was the kind of woman who keeps big bowls of fresh
flowers sitting around in all the rooms, even if there's no party--a
delightful habit. Missy was going to adore watching Aunt Isabel's
pretty, restless hands flutter about as, each morning, she arranged
the fresh flowers in their bowls.
Even in Missy's room there was a little bowl of jade-green pottery,
a colour which harmonized admirably with sweet peas, late roses,
nasturtiums, or what-not. And all the furniture in that room was
painted white, while the chintz bloomed with delicate little
The one inharmonious element was that of Uncle Charlie's
indisposition--not only the fact that he was suffering, but also the
nature of his ailment. For Uncle Charlie, it developed, had been
helping move a barrel of mixed-pickles in the grocery department of
his store, and the barrel had fallen full-weight upon his foot and
broken his big toe. Missy realized that, of course, a tournament
with a sword-thrust in the heart, or some catastrophe like that,
would have meant a more dangerous injury; but--a barrel of pickles!
And his big toe! Any toe was unromantic. But the BIG toe! That was
somehow the worst of all.
Uncle Charlie, however, spoke quite openly of the cause of his
trouble. Also of its locale. Indeed, he could hardly have concealed
the latter, as his whole foot was bandaged up, and he had to hobble
about, very awkwardly, with the aid of a cane.
Uncle Charlie's indisposition kept him from accompanying Missy and
Aunt Isabel to an ice-cream festival which was held on the
Congregational church lawn that first night. Aunt Isabel was a
Congregationalist; and, as mother was a Presbyterian and grandma a
Methodist, Missy was beginning to feel a certain kinship with all
This festival proved to be a sort of social gathering, because the
Congregational church in Pleasanton was attended by the town's
"best" people. The women were as stylishly dressed as though they
were at a bridge party--or a tournament. The church lawn looked very
picturesque with red, blue and yellow lanterns--truly a fair lawn
and "well victualled" with its ice-cream tables in the open. Large
numbers of people strolled about, and ate, and chatted and laughed.
The floating voices of people you couldn't see, the flickering light
of the lanterns, the shadows just beyond their swaying range, all
made it seem gay and alluring, so that you almost forgot that it was
only a church festival.
A big moon rose up from behind the church-tower, a beautiful and
medieval-looking combination. Missy thought of those olden-time
feasts "unto kings and dukes," when there was revel and play, and
"all manner of noblesse." And, though none but her suspected it, the
little white-covered tables became long, rough-hewn boards, and the
Congregational ladies' loaned china became antique-looking pewter,
and the tumblers of water were golden flaskets of noble wine. Missy,
who was helping Aunt Isabel serve at one of the tables, attended her
worshipful patrons with all manner of noblesse. She was glad she was
wearing her best pink mull with the brocaded sash.
Aunt Isabel's table was well patronized. It seemed to Missy that
most of the men present tried to get "served" here. Perhaps it was
because they admired Aunt Isabel. Missy couldn't have blamed them
for that, because none of the other Congregational ladies was half
as pretty. To-night Aunt Isabel had on a billowy pale-blue organdy,
and she looked more like an angel than ever. An ethereally radiant,
laughing, vivacious angel. And whenever she moved near you, you
caught a ghostly whiff of that delicious perfume. (Missy now knows
Aunt Isabel got it from little sachet bags, tucked away with her
clothes, and from an "atomizer" which showered a delicate, fairy-
like spray of fragrance upon her hair.) There was one young man, who
was handsome in a dark, imperious way, who hung about and ate so
much ice-cream that Missy feared lest he should have an "upset" to-
Also, there was another persevering patron for whom she surmised,
with modest palpitation, Aunt Isabel might not be the chief
attraction. The joy of being a visiting girl was begun! This
individual was a talkative, self-confident youth named Raleigh
Peters. She loved the name Raleigh--though for the Peters part she
didn't care so much. And albeit, with the dignity which became her
advancing years, she addressed him as "Mr. Peters," in her mind she
preferred to think of him as "Raleigh." Raleigh, she learned (from
himself), was the only son of a widowed mother and, though but
little older than Missy, had already started making his own way by
clerking in Uncle Charlie's store. He clerked in the grocery
department, the prosperity of which, she gathered, was largely due
to his own connection with it. Some day, he admitted, he was going
to own the biggest grocery store in the State. He was thrillingly
independent and ambitious and assured. All that seemed admirable,
but--if only he hadn't decided on groceries! "Peters' Grocery
Store!" Missy thought of jousting, of hawking, of harping, customs
which noble gentlemen used to follow, and sighed.
But Raleigh, unaware that his suit had been lost before it started,
accompanied them all home. "All" because the dark and imperiously
handsome young man went along, too. His name was Mr. Saunders, and
Missy had now learned he was a "travelling man" who came to
Pleasanton to sell Uncle Charlie merchandise; he was also quite a
friend of the family's, she gathered, and visited them at the house.
When they reached home, Mr. Saunders suggested stopping in a minute
to see how Uncle Charlie was. However, Uncle Charlie, it turned out,
was already in bed.
"But you needn't go yet, anyway," said Aunt Isabel. "It's heavenly
out here on the porch."
"Doesn't the hour wax late?" demurred Mr. Saunders. "Wax late!"--
What quaint, delightful language he used!
"Oh, it's still early. Stay a while, and help shake off the
atmosphere of the festival--those festivals bore me to death!"
Odd how women can act one way while they're feeling another way!
Missy had supposed, at the festival, that Aunt Isabel was having a
particularly enjoyable time.
"Stay and let's have some music," Aunt Isabel went on. "You left
your ukelele here last week."
So the handsome Mr. Saunders played the ukelele!--How wonderfully
that suited his type. And it was just the kind of moonlight night
for music. Missy rejoiced when Mr. Saunders decided to stay, and
Aunt Isabel went in the house for the ukelele. It was heavenly when
Mr. Saunders began to play and sing. The others had seated
themselves in porch chairs, but he chose a place on the top step,
his head thrown back against a pillar, and the moon shining full on
his dark, imperious face. His bold eyes now gazed dreamily into
distance as, in a golden tenor that seemed to melt into the
moonlight itself, he sang:
"They plucked the stars out of the blue, dear, Gave them to you,
dear, For eyes . . . "
The ukelele under his fingers thrummed out a soft, vibrant,
melancholy accompaniment. It was divine! Here surely was a "harper
passing all other!" Mr. Saunders looked something like a knight,
too--all but his costume. He was so tall and dark and handsome; and
his dark eyes were bold, though now so soft from his own music.
The music stopped. Aunt Isabel jumped up from her porch chair, left
the shadows, and seated herself beside him on the moonlit top.
"That looks easy," she said. "Show me how to do it."
She took the ukelele from him. He showed her how to place her
fingers--their fingers got tangled up--they laughed.
Missy started to laugh, too, but stopped right in the middle of it.
A sudden thought had struck her, remembrance of another beauteous
lady who had been "learned" to harp. She gazed down on Aunt Isabel--
how beautiful there in the white moonlight! So fair and slight, the
scarf-thing around her shoulders like a shroud of mist, hair like
unto gold, eyes like the stars of heaven. Her eyes were now lifted
laughingly to Mr. Saunders'. She was so close he must catch that
faintly sweetness of her hair. He returned the look and started to
sing again; while La Beale--no, Aunt Isabel--
Even the names were alike!
Missy drew in a quick, sharp breath. Mr. Saunders, now smiling
straight at Aunt Isabel as she tried to pick the chords, went on:
"They plucked the stars out of the blue, dear, Gave them to you,
dear, For eyes . . ."
How expressively he sang those words! Missy became troubled. Of
course Romance was beautiful but those things belonged in ancient
times. You wouldn't want things like that right in your own family,
especially when Uncle Charlie already had a broken big toe . . .
She forgot that the music was beautiful, the night bewitching; she
even forgot to listen to what Raleigh was saying, till he leaned
forward and demanded irately:
"Say! you haven't gone to sleep, have you?"
Missy gave a start, blinked, and looked self-conscious.
"Oh, excuse me," she murmured. "I guess I was sort of dreaming."
Mr. Saunders, overhearing, glanced up at her.
"The spell of moon and music, fair maid?" he asked. And, though he
smiled, she didn't feel that he was making fun of her.
Again that quaint language! A knight of old might have talked that
way! But Missy, just now, was doubtful as to whether a knight in the
flesh was entirely desirable.
It was with rather confused emotions that, after the visitors had
departed and she had told Aunt Isabel good night, Missy went up to
the little white-painted, cretonne-draped room. Life was
interesting, but sometimes it got very queer.
After she had undressed and snapped off the light, she leaned out of
the window and looked at the night for a long time. Missy loved the
night; the hordes of friendly little stars which nodded and
whispered to one another; the round silver moon, up there at some
enigmatic distance yet able to transfigure the whole world with
fairy-whiteness--turning the dew on the grass into pearls, the
leaves on the trees into trembling silver butterflies, and the dusty
street into a breadth of shimmering silk. At night, too, the very
flowers seemed to give out a sweeter odour; perhaps that was because
you couldn't see them.
Missy leaned farther out the window to sniff in that damp, sweet
scent of unseen flowers, to feel the white moonlight on her hand.
She had often wished that, by some magic, the world might be enabled
to spin out its whole time in such a gossamer, irradiant sheen as
this--a sort of moon-haunted night-without-end, keeping you tingling
with beautiful, blurred, indescribable feelings.
But to-night, for the first time, Missy felt skeptical as to that
earlier desire. She still found the night beautiful--oh,
inexpressibly beautiful!--but moonlight nights were what made lovers
want to look into each other's eyes, and sing each other love songs
"with expression." To be sure, she had formerly considered this very
tendency an elysian feature of such nights; but that was when she
thought that love always was right for its own sake, that true
lovers never should be thwarted. She still held by that belief; and
yet--she visioned Uncle Charlie, dear Uncle Charlie, so fond of
buying Aunt Isabel extravagant organdies and slippers to match; so
like grandpa and father--and King Mark!
Missy had always hated King Mark, the lawful husband, the enemy of
true love. But Romance gets terribly complicated when it threatens
to leave the Middle Ages, pop right in on you when you are visiting
in Pleasanton; and when the lawful husband is your own Uncle
Charlie--poor Uncle Charlie!--lying in there suffering with his
broken--well there was no denying it was his big toe.
Missy didn't know that her eyes had filled--tears sometimes came so
unexpectedly nowadays--till a big drop splashed down on her hand.
She felt very, very sad. Often she didn't mind being sad. Sometimes
she even enjoyed it in a peculiar way on moonlit nights; found a
certain pleasant poignancy of exaltation in the feeling. But there
are different kinds of sadness. To-night she didn't like it. She
forsook the moonlit vista and crept into bed.
The next morning she overslept. Perhaps it was because she wasn't in
her own little east room at home, where the sun and Poppy, her cat,
vied to waken her; or perhaps because it had turned intensely hot
and sultry during the night--the air seemed to glue down her eyelids
so as to make waking up all the harder.
It was Sunday, and, when she finally got dressed and downstairs, the
house was still unusually quiet. But she found Uncle Charlie in his
"den" with the papers. He said Aunt Isabel was staying in bed with a
headache; and he himself hobbled into the dining room with Missy,
and sat with her while the maid (Aunt Isabel called her hired girl a
"maid") gave her breakfast.
Uncle Charlie seemed cheerful despite his--his trouble. And
everything seemed so peaceful and beautiful that Missy could hardly
realize that ever Tragedy might come to this house. Somewhere in the
distance church bells were tranquilly sounding. Out in the kitchen
could be heard the ordinary clatter of dishes. And in the dining
room it was very, very sweet. The sun filtered through the gently
swaying curtains, touching vividly the sweet peas on the breakfast-
table. The sweet peas were arranged to stand upright in a round,
shallow bowl, just as if they were growing up out of a little pool--
a marvellously artistic effect. The china was very artistic, too,
Japanese, with curious-looking dragons in soft old-blue. And, after
the orange, she had a finger-bowl with a little sprig of rose-
geranium she could crunch between her fingers till it sent out a
heavenly odour. It was just like Aunt Isabel to have rose-geranium
in her finger-bowls!
Her mind was filled with scarcely defined surmises concerning Aunt
Isabel, her unexpected headache, and the too handsome harper. But
Uncle Charlie, unsuspecting, talked on in that cheerful strain. He
was teasing Missy because she liked the ham and eggs and muffins,
and took a second helping of everything.
"Good thing I can get groceries at wholesale!" he bantered. "Else
I'd never dare ask you to visit me!"
Missy returned his smile, grateful that the matter of her appetite
might serve to keep him jolly a little while longer. Perhaps he
didn't even suspect, yet. DID he suspect? She couldn't forbear a
"What seems to be the matter with Aunt Isabel, Uncle Charlie?"
"Why, didn't I tell you she has a headache?'
"Oh! a headache." She was silent a second; then, as if there was
something strange about this malady, she went on: "Did she SAY she
had a headache?"
"Of course, my dear. It's a pretty bad one. I guess it must be the
weather." It was hot. Uncle Charlie had taken off his coat and was
in his shirt sleeves--she was pleased to note it was a silken shirt;
little beads of perspiration stood out on his forehead, and on his
head where it was just beginning to get bald. Somehow, the fact that
he looked so hot had the effect of making her feel even more tender
toward him. So, though she thirsted for information, not for the
world would she have aroused his suspicions by questions. And she
made her voice very casual, when she finally enquired:
"By the way, that Mr. Saunders who brought us home is awfully
handsome. Sort of gallant looking, don't you think?"
Uncle Charlie laughed; then shook his finger at her in mock
"Oh, Missy! You've fallen, too?"
Missy gulped; Uncle Charlie had made an unwitting revelation! But
she tried not to give herself away; still casual, she asked:
"Oh! do other people fall?"
"All the ladies fall for Saunders," said Uncle Charlie.
Missy hesitated, then hazarded:
"Aunt Isabel, too?"
"Oh, yes." Uncle Charlie looked pathetically unconcerned. "Aunt
Isabel likes to have him around. He often comes in handy at dances."
It would be just like Mr. Saunders to be a good dancer!
"He harps well, too," she said meditatively.
"What's that?" enquired Uncle Charlie.
"Oh, I mean that thing he plays."
"The ukelele. Yes, Saunders is a wizard with it. But in spite of
that he's a good fellow." (What did "in spite of that" mean--didn't
Uncle Charlie approve of harpers?)
He continued: "He sometimes goes on fishing-trips with me."
Fishing-trips! From father Missy had learned that this was the
highest proof of camaraderie. So Uncle Charlie didn't suspect. He
was harbouring the serpent in his very bosom. Missy crumpled the
fragrant rose-geranium reflectively between her fingers.
Then Uncle Charlie suggested that she play something for him on the
piano. And Missy, feeling every minute tenderer toward him because
she must keep to herself the dreadful truths which would hurt him if
he knew, hurried to his side, took away his cane, and put her own
arm in its place for him to lean on. And Uncle Charlie seemed to
divine there was something special in her deed, for he reached down
and patted the arm which supported him, and said:
"You're a dear child, Missy."
In the living-room the sun was shining through the charming,
cretonne-hung bay window and upon the soft, rich colours of the
Chinese embroideries. The embroideries were on the wall beyond the
piano, so that she could see them while she played. Uncle Charlie
wasn't in her range of vision unless she turned her head; but she
could smell his cigar, and could sense him sitting there very quiet
in a big wicker chair, smoking, his eyes half closed, his bandaged
foot stretched out on a little stool.
And her poignant feeling of sympathy for him, sitting there thus,
and her rapturous delight in the sun-touched colours of the
embroideries, and the hushed peace of the hot Sabbath morning, all
seemed to intermingle and pierce to her very soul. She was glad to
play the piano. When deeply moved she loved to play, to pour out her
feelings in dreamy melodies and deep vibrant harmonies with queer
minor cadences thrown in--the kind of music you can play "with
expression," while you vision mysterious, poetic pictures.
After a moment's reflection, she decided on "The Angel's Serenade";
she knew it by heart, and adored playing it. There was something
brightly-sweet and brightly-sad in those strains of loveliness; she
could almost hear the soft flutter of angelic wings, almost see the
silvery sheen of them astir. And, oddly, all that sheen and stir,
all that sadly-sweet sound, seemed to come from within herself--just
as if her own soul were singing, instead of the piano keyboard.
And with Missy, to play "The Angel's Serenade" was to crave playing
more such divine pieces; she drifted on into "Traumerei"; "Simple
Confession"; "One Sweetly Solemn Thought," with variations. She
played them all with extra "expression," putting all her loving
sympathy for Uncle Charlie into her finger-tips. And he must have
been soothed by it, for he dozed off, and came to with a start when
she finally paused, to tell her how beautifully she played.
Then began a delicious time of talking together. Uncle Charlie was
like grandpa--the kind of man you enjoyed talking with, about deep,
unusual things. They talked about music, and the meaning of the
pieces she'd played. Then about reading. He asked her what she was
"This is your book, isn't it?" he enquired, picking up "The Romances
of King Arthur" from the table beside him. Heavens! how tactless of
her to have brought it down this morning! But there was nothing for
her to do, save to act in a natural, casual manner.
"Yes," she said.
Uncle Charlie opened the book. Heavens! it fell open at the
illustration of the two lovers drinking the fateful potion!
"Which is your favourite legend?" he asked.
Missy was too nervous to utter anything but the simple truth.
"The story of Sir Tristram and La Beale Isoud," she answered.
"Ah," said Uncle Charlie. He gazed at the picture she knew so well.
What was he thinking?
"Why is it your favourite?" he went on.
"I don't know--because it's so romantic, I guess. And so sad and
"Ah, yes," said Uncle Charlie. "You have a feeling for the classic,
I see. You call her 'Isoud'?"
That pleased Missy; and, despite her agitation over this malaprop
theme, she couldn't resist the impulse to air her lately acquired
"Yes, but she has different names in all the different languages,
you know. And she was the most beautiful lady or maiden that ever
"Is that so?" said Uncle Charlie. "More beautiful than your Aunt
Missy hesitated, confused; the conversation was getting on dangerous
ground. "Why, I guess they're the same type, don't you? I've often
thought Aunt Isabel looks like La Beale Isoud."
Uncle Charlie smiled again at her--an altogether cheerful kind of
smile; no, he didn't suspect any tragic undercurrent beneath this
pleasant-sounding conversation. All he said was:
"Aunt Isabel should feel flattered--but I hope she finds a happier
"Yes, I hope so," breathed Missy, rather weakly.
Then Uncle Charlie at last closed the book.
"Poor Tristram and Isolde," he said, as if speaking an epitaph.
But Missy caught her breath. Uncle Charlie felt sorry for the ill-
fated lovers. Oh, if he only knew!
At dinner time (on Sundays they had midday dinner here), Aunt Isabel
came down to the table. She said her head was better, but she looked
pale; and her blue eyes were just like the Blessed Damozel's,
"deeper than the depth of waters stilled at even." Yet, pale and
quiet like this, she seemed even more beautiful than ever,
especially in that adorable lavender negligee--with slippers to
match. Missy regarded her with secret fascination.
After dinner, complaining of the heat, Aunt Isabel retired to her
room again. She suggested that Missy take a nap, also. Missy didn't
think she was sleepy, but, desiring to be alone with her bewildered
thoughts, she went upstairs and lay down. The better to think things
over, she closed her eyes; and when she opened them to her amazement
there was Aunt Isabel standing beside the bed--a radiant vision in
pink organdy this time--and saying:
"Wake up, sleepy-head! It's nearly six o'clock!"
Aunt Isabel, her vivacious self once more, with gentle fingers (Oh,
hard not to love Aunt Isabel!) helped Missy get dressed for supper.
It was still so hot that, at supper, everyone drank a lot of ice-tea
and ate a lot of ice-cream. Missy felt in a steam all over when they
rose from the table and went out to sit on the porch. It was very
serene, for all the sultriness, out on the porch; and Aunt Isabel
was so sweet toward Uncle Charlie that Missy felt her gathering
suspicions had something of the unreal quality of a nightmare. Aunt
Isabel was reading aloud to Uncle Charlie out of the Sunday paper.
Beautiful! The sunset was carrying away its gold like some bold
knight with his captured, streaming-tressed lady. The fitful breeze
whispered in the rhythm of olden ballads. Unseen church bells sent
long-drawn cadences across the evening hush. And the little stars
quivered into being, to peer at the young poignancy of feeling which
cannot know what it contributes to the world. . .
Everything was idyllic--that is, almost idyllic--till, suddenly
Uncle Charlie spoke:
"Isn't that Saunders coming up the street?"
Why, oh why, did Mr. Saunders have to come and spoil everything?
But poor Uncle Charlie seemed glad to see him--just as glad as Aunt
Isabel. Mr. Saunders sat up there amongst them, laughing and joking,
now and then directing one of his quaint, romantic-sounding phrases
at Missy. And she pretended to be pleased with him--indeed, she
would have liked Mr. Saunders under any other circumstances.
Presently he exclaimed:
"By my halidome, I'm hot! My kingdom for a long, tall ice-cream
And Uncle Charlie said:
"Well, why don't you go and get one? The drug store's just two
blocks around the corner."
"A happy suggestion," said Mr. Saunders. He turned to Aunt Isabel.
"Will you join me?"
"Indeed I will," she answered. "I'm stifling."
Then Mr. Saunders looked at Missy.
"And you, fair maid?"
Missy thought a cool soda would taste good.
At the drug store, the three of them sat on tall stools before the
white marble counter, and quaffed heavenly cold soda from high
glasses in silver-looking flaskets. "Poor Charlie! He likes soda,
so," remarked Aunt Isabel.
"Why not take him some?"
Missy didn't know you could do that, but the drug store man said it
would be all right.
Then they all started home again, Aunt Isabel carrying the silver-
It was when they were about half-way, that Aunt Isabel suddenly
"Do you know, I believe I could drink another soda? I feel hotter
than ever--and it looks so good!"
"Why not drink it, then?" asked Mr. Saunders.
"Oh, no," said Aunt Isabel.
"Do," he insisted. "We can go back and get another."
"Well, I'll take a taste," she said.
On the words, she lifted the flasket to her lips and took a long
draught. Then Mr. Saunders, laughing, caught it from her, and he
took a long draught.
Missy felt a wave of icy horror sweep down her spine. She wanted to
cry out in protest. For, even while she stared at them, at Aunt
Isabel in pink organdie and Mr. Saunders in blue serge dividing the
flasket of soda between them, a vision presented itself clearly
before her eyes:
La Beale Isoud slenderly tall in a straight girdled gown of grey-
green velvet, head thrown back so that her filleted golden hair
brushed her shoulders, violet eyes half-closed, and an "antique"-
looking flasket clasped in her two slim hands; and Sir Tristram so
imperiously dark and handsome in his crimson, fur-trimmed doublet,
his two hands stretched out and gripping her two shoulders, his
black eyes burning as if to look through her closed lids--the
magical love-potion. . . love that never would depart for weal
neither for woe. . .
Missy closed her eyes tight, as if fearing what they might behold in
the flesh. But when she opened them again, Aunt Isabel was only
gazing into the drained flasket with a rueful expression.
Then they went back and got another soda for Uncle Charlie. And poor
Uncle Charlie, unsuspecting, seemed to enjoy it.
During the remainder of that evening Missy was unusually subdued.
She realized, of course, that there were no love-potions nowadays;
that they existed only in the Middle Ages; and that the silver
flasket contained everyday ice-cream soda. And she wasn't sure she
knew exactly what the word "symbol" meant, but she felt that somehow
the ice-cream soda, shared between them, was symbolic of that
famous, fateful drink. She wished acutely that this second episode,
so singularly parallel, hadn't happened.
She was still absorbed in gloomy meditations when Mr. Saunders arose
"Oh, it's early yet," protested Uncle Charlie--dear, kind, ignorant
"But I've got to catch the ten-thirty-five," said Mr. Saunders.
"Why can't you stay over till to-morrow night," suggested Aunt
Isabel. She had risen, too, and now put her hand on Mr. Saunders's
sleeve; her face looked quite pleading in the moonlight. "There's to
be a dance in Odd Fellows' Hall."
"I'd certainly love to stay." He even dared to take hold of her hand
openly. "But I've got to be in Paola in the morning, and Blue Mound
"The orchestra's coming down from Macon City," she cajoled.
"Now, don't make it any harder for me," begged Mr. Saunders, smiling
down at her.
Aunt Isabel petulantly drew away her hand.
"You're selfish! And Charlie laid up and all!"
Mr. Saunders outspread his hands in a helpless gesture.
"Well, you know the hard lot of the knight of the road--here to-day,
gone to-morrow, never able to stay where his heart would wish!"
Missy caught her breath; how incautiously he talked!
After Mr. Saunders was gone, Aunt Isabel sat relapsed in her porch
chair, very quiet. Missy couldn't keep her eyes off of that lovely,
apathetic figure. Once Aunt Isabel put her hand to her head.
"Head hitting it up again?" asked Uncle Charlie solicitously.
Aunt Isabel nodded.
"You'd better get to bed, then," he said. And, despite his wounded
toe, he wouldn't let her attend to the shutting-up "chores," but,
accompanied by Missy, hobbled around to all the screen doors
himself. Poor Uncle Charlie!
It was hard for Missy to get to sleep that night. Her brain was a
dark, seething whirlpool. And the air seemed to grow thicker and
thicker; it rested heavily on her hot eyelids, pressed suffocatingly
against her throat. And when, finally, she escaped her thoughts in
sleep, it was only to encounter them again in troubled dreams.
She was awakened abruptly by a terrific noise. Oh, Lord! what was
it? She sat up. It sounded as if the house were falling down. Then
the room, the whole world, turned suddenly a glaring, ghostly white-
-then a sharp, spiteful, head-splitting crack of sound--then
heavier, staccato volleys--then a baneful rumble, dying away.
A thunder-storm! Oh, Lord! Missy buried her face in her pillow.
Nothing in the world so terrified her as thunder-storms.
She seemed to have lain there ages, scarcely breathing, when, in a
little lull, above the fierce swish of rain she thought she heard
voices. Cautiously she lifted her head; listened. She had left her
door open for air and, now, she was sure she heard Uncle Charlie's
deep voice. She couldn't hear what he was saying. Then she heard
Aunt Isabel's voice, no louder than uncle Charlie's but more
penetrating; it had a queer note in it--almost as if she were
crying. Suddenly she did cry out!--And then Uncle Charlie's deep
Missy's heart nearly stopped beating. Could it be that Uncle Charlie
had found out?--That he was accusing Aunt Isabel and making her cry?
But surely they wouldn't quarrel in a thunder-storm! Lightning might
hit the house, or anything!
The conjunction of terrors was too much for Missy to bear. Finally
she crept out of bed and to the door. An unmistakable moan issued
from Aunt Isabel's room. And then she saw Uncle Charlie, in bath-
robe and pajamas, coming down the hall from the bathroom. He was
carrying a hot-water bottle.
"Why, what's the matter, Missy?" he asked her. "The storm frighten
Missy nodded; she couldn't voice those other horrible fears which
were tormenting her.
"Well, the worst is over now," he said reassuringly. "Run back to
bed. Your aunt's sick again--I've just been filling the hot-water
bottle for her."
"Is she--very sick?" asked Missy tremulously.
"Pretty sick," answered Uncle Charlie. "But there's nothing you can
do. Jump back into bed."
So Missy crept back, and listened to the gradual steadying down of
the rain. She was almost sorry, now, that the whirlwind of frantic
elements had subsided; that had been a sort of terrible complement
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