Part 3 out of 6
to the whirlwind of anguish within herself.
She lay there tense, strangling a desperate impulse to sob. La Beale
Isoud had died of love--and now Aunt Isabel was already sickening.
She half-realized that people don't die of love nowadays--that
happened only in the Middle Ages; yet, there in the black stormy
night, strange, horrible fancies overruled the sane convictions of
daytime. It was fearfully significant, Aunt Isabel's sickening so
quickly, so mysteriously. And immediately after Mr. Saunders's
departure. That was exactly what La Beale Isoud always did whenever
Sir Tristram was obliged to leave her; Sir Tristram was continually
having to flee away, a kind of knight of the road, too--to this
battle or that tourney or what-not--"here to-day, gone to-morrow,
never able to stay where his heart would wish."
At last exhaustion had its way with the taut, quivering little body;
the hot eyelids closed; the burning cheek relaxed on the pillow.
When she awoke, the sun, which is so blithely indifferent to
sufferings of earth, was high up in a clear sky. The new-washed air
was cool and sparkling as a tonic. Missy's physical being felt more
refreshed than she cared to admit; for her turmoil of spirit had
awakened with her, and she felt her body should be in keeping.
By the time she got dressed and downstairs, Uncle Charlie had
breakfasted and was about to go down town. He said Aunt Isabel was
still in bed, but much better.
"She had no business to drink all those sodas," he said. "Her
stomach was already upset from all that ice-cream and cake the night
before--and the hot weather and all--"
Missy was scarcely listening to the last. One phrase had caught her
ear: "Her stomach upset!"--How could Uncle Charlie?
But when she went up to Aunt Isabel's room later, the latter
reiterated that unromantic diagnosis. But perhaps she was
pretending. That would be only natural.
Missy regarded the convalescent; she seemed quite cheerful now,
though wan. And not so lovely as she generally did. Missy couldn't
forbear a leading remark.
"I'm terribly sorry Mr. Saunders had to go away so soon." She strove
for sympathetic tone, but felt inexpert and self-conscious.
"Terribly sorry. I can't--"
And then, suddenly, Aunt Isabel laughed--laughed!--and said a
"What! You, too, Missy? Oh, that's too funny!"
Missy stared--reproach, astonishment, bewilderment, contending in
Aunt Isabel continued that delighted gurgle.
"Mr. Saunders is a notorious heart-breaker--but I didn't realize he
was capturing yours so speedily!"
Striving to keep her dignity, Missy perhaps made her tone more
severe than she intended.
"Well," she accused, "didn't he capture yours, Aunt Isabel?"
Then Aunt Isabel, still laughing a little, but with a serious shade
creeping into her eyes, reached out for one of Missy's hands and
smoothed it gently between her own.
"No, dear; I'm afraid your Uncle Charlie has that too securely
Something in Aunt Isabel's voice, her manner, her eyes, even more
than her words, convinced Missy that she was speaking the real
truth. It was all a kind of wild jumbled day-dream she'd been
having. La Beale Aunt Isabel wasn't in love with Mr. Saunders after
all! She was in love with Uncle Charlie. There had been no romantic
undermeaning in all that harp-ukelele business, in the flasket of
ice-cream soda, in the mysterious sickness. The sickness wasn't even
mysterious any longer. Aunt Isabel had only had an "upset."
Deeply stirred, Missy withdrew her hand.
"I think I forgot to open my bed to air," she said, and hurried away
to her own room. But, oblivious of the bed, she stood for a long
time at the window, staring out at nothing.
Yes; Romance had died out in the Middle Ages. . .
She was still standing there when the maid called her to the
telephone. It was Raleigh Peters on the wire, asking to take her to
the dance that night. She accepted, but without enthusiasm. Where
were the thrills she had expected to experience while receiving the
homage paid a visiting girl? He was just a grocery clerk named
Yes; Romance had died out in the Middle Ages. . .
She felt very blase as she hung up the receiver.
IN THE MANNER OF THE DUCHESS
It was raining--a gentle, trickling summer rain, when, under a heap
of magazines near a heavenly attic window, Missy and Tess came upon
the paper-backed masterpieces of "The Duchess."
The volume Missy chanced first to select for reading was entitled
"Airy Fairy Lilian." The very first paragraph was arresting:
Down the broad oak staircase--through the silent hall--into the
drawing-room runs Lilian, singing as she goes. The room is deserted;
through the half-closed blinds the glad sunshine is rushing, turning
to gold all on which its soft touch lingers, and rendering the
large, dull, handsome apartment almost comfortable. . .
"Broad oak staircase"--"drawing-room"--"large, dull, handsome
Then on to the description of the alluring heroine:
. . . the face is more than pretty, it is lovely--the fair, sweet,
childish face, framed in by its yellow hair; her great velvety eyes,
now misty through vain longing, are blue as the skies above her; her
nose is pure Greek; her forehead low, but broad, is partly shrouded
by little wandering threads of gold that every now and then break
loose from bondage, while her lashes, long and dark, curl upward
from her eyes, as though hating to conceal the beauty of the
exquisite azure within. . . There is a certain haughtiness about her
that contrasts curiously but pleasantly with her youthful expression
and laughing, kissable mouth. She is straight and lissome as a young
ash tree; her hands and feet are small and well-shaped; in a word,
she is chic from the crown of her fair head down to her little
arched instep . . .
Missy sighed; how wonderful it must be to be a creature so endowed
by the gods!
Missy--Melissa--now, at the advanced age of fifteen, had supposed
she knew all the wonders of books. She had learned to read the Book
of Life: its enchantments, so many and so varied in Cherryvale, had
kept her big grey eyes wide with smiles or wonder or, just
occasionally, darkened with the mystery of sorrow. There was the
reiterant magic of greening spring; and the long, leisurely days of
delicious summer; the companionship of a quaint and infinitely
interesting baby brother, and of her own cat--majesty incarnate on
four black legs; and then, just lately, this exciting new "best
friend," Tess O'Neill. Tess had recently moved to Cherryvale, and
was "different"--different even from Kitty Allen, though Missy had
suffered twinges about letting anyone displace Kitty. But--
And, now, here it was in Tess's adorable attic (full of treasures
discarded by departed tenants of the old Smith place) that Missy
turned one of Life's milestones and met "the Duchess."
Missy had loved to read the Bible (good stories there, and beautiful
words that made you tingle solemnly); and fairy tales never old;
and, almost best of all, the Anthology, full of poetry, that made
you feel a strange live spirit back of the wind and a world of
mysteries beyond the curtain of the sky.
The lure of letters was turned loud and seductive as the Blue Danube
played on a golden flute by a boy king with his crown on!
Tess glanced up from her reading.
"How's your book?" she enquired.
"Oh, it's wonderful," breathed Missy.
"Mine, too. Here's a description that reminds me a little of you."
"Yes. It's about the heroine--Phyllis. She's not pretty, but she's
got a strange, underlying charm."
Missy held her breath. She was ashamed to ask Tess to read the
description of the strangely charming heroine, but Tess knew what
friendship demanded, and read:
"'I am something over five-feet-two, with brown hair that hangs in
rich chestnut tresses far below my waist.'"
"Oh," put in Missy modestly, while her heart palpitated, "my hair is
"No," denied Tess authoritatively, "you've got nut-brown locks. And
your eyes, too, are something like Phyllis's eyes--great grey eyes
with subtle depths. Only yours haven't got saucy hints in them."
Missy wished her eyes included the saucy hints. However, she was
enthralled by Tess's comparison, though incomplete. Was it possible
Tess was right?
Missy wasn't vain, but she'd heard before that she had "beautiful
eyes." Perhaps Tess WAS right. Missy blushed and was silent. Just
then, even had she known the proper reply to make, she couldn't have
voiced it. As "the Duchess" might have phrased it, she was
"naturally covered with confusion."
But already Tess had flitted from the delightfully embarrassing
theme of her friend's looks.
"Wouldn't it be grand," she murmured dreamily, "to live in England?"
"Yes--grand," murmured Missy in response.
"Everything's so--so baronial over there."
Baronial!--as always, Tess had hit upon the exact word. Missy sighed
again. She had always loved Cherryvale, always been loyal to it; but
no one could accuse Cherryvale of being "baronial."
That evening, when Missy went upstairs to smooth her "nut-brown
locks" before supper, she gazed about her room with an expression of
faint dissatisfaction. It was an adequate, even pretty room, with
its flowered wall-paper and lace curtains and bird's-eye maple
"set"; and, by the window, a little drop-front desk where she could
sit and write at the times when feeling welled in her till it
demanded an outlet.
But, now, she had an inner confused vision of "lounging-chairs"
covered with pale-blue satin; of velvet, spindle-legged tables hung
with priceless lace and bearing Dresden baskets smothered in
flowers. Oh, beautiful! If only to her, Missy, such habitation might
However, when she started to "brush up" her hair, she eyed it with a
regard more favourable than usual. "Rich chestnut tresses!" She
lingered to contemplate, in the mirror, the great grey eyes which
looked back at her from their subtle depths. She had a suspicion the
act was silly, but it was satisfying.
That evening at the supper-table marked the beginning of a phase in
Missy's life which was to cause her family bewilderment, secret
surmise, amusement and some anxiety.
During the meal she talked very little. She had learned long ago to
keep her thoughts to herself, because old people seldom understand
you. Often they ask embarrassing questions and, even if they don't
laugh at you, you have the feeling they may be laughing inside. Her
present thoughts were so delectable and engrossing that Missy did
not always hear when she was spoken to. Toward the end of the meal,
just as she caught herself in the nick of time about to pour vinegar
instead of cream over her berries, mother said:
"Well, Missy, what's the day-dream this time?"
Missy felt her cheeks "crimson with confusion." Yesterday, at such a
question, she would have made an evasive answer; but now, so much
was she one with the charming creature of her thoughts, she forgot
to be cautious. She cast her mother a pensive glance from her great
"I don't know--I just feel sort of triste."
"Tristy?" repeated her astonished parent, using Missy's
pronunciation. "Yes--sad, you know."
"My goodness! What makes you sad?"
But Missy couldn't answer that. Unexpected questions often bring
unexpected answers, and not till after she'd made use of the
effective new word, did Missy pause to ponder whether she was really
sad or not. But, now, she couldn't very well admit her lack of the
emotion, so she repeated the pensive glance.
"Does one ever know why one's sad?" she asked in a bewitchingly
appealing tone. .
"Well, I imagine that sometimes one dees," put in Aunt Nettie,
Missy ignored Aunt Nettie; often it was best to ignore Aunt Nettie--
she was mother's old-maid sister, and she "understood" even less
than mother did.
Luckily just then, Marguerite, the coloured hired girl, came to
clear off the table. Missy regarded her capable but undistinguished
"I wish they had butlers in Cherryvale," she observed, incautious
"Butlers!--for mercy's sake!" ejaculated Aunt Nettie.
"What books have you got out from the library now, Missy?" asked
father. It was an abrupt change of topic, but Missy was glad of the
chance to turn from Aunt Nettie's derisive smile.
"Why--let me see. 'David Harum' and 'The History of Ancient Greece'
-that's all I think. And oh, yes--I got a French dictionary on my
way home this afternoon."
"Oh! A French dictionary!" commented father.
"It isn't books, Horace," remarked Aunt Nettie, incomprehensibly.
"It's that O'Neill girl."
"What's that O'Neill girl?" demanded Missy, in a low, suppressed
"Well, if you ask me, her head's full of--"
But a swift gesture from mother brought Aunt Nettie to a sudden
But Missy, suspecting an implied criticism of her friend, began with
"I implore you to desist from making any insinuation against Tess
O'Neill. I'm very proud to be epris with her!" (Missy made the
climactic word rhyme with "kiss.")
There was a little hush after this outburst from the usually
reserved Missy. Father and mother stared at her and then at each
other. But Aunt Nettie couldn't refrain from a repetition of the
"E-priss!" And she actually giggled!
At the sound, Missy felt herself growing "deathly mute, even to the
lips", but she managed to maintain a mien of intense composure.
"What does that mean, Missy?" queried father.
He was regarding her kindly, with no hint of hidden amusement.
Father was a tall, quiet and very wise man, and Missy had sometimes
found it possible to talk with him about the unusual things that
rose up to fascinate her. She didn't distrust him so much as most
So she smiled at him and said informatively:
"It means to be in intense sympathy with."
"Oh, I see. Did you find that in the French dictionary?"
"Well, I see we'll all have to be taking up foreign languages if
we're to have such an accomplished young lady in the house."
He smiled at her in a way that made her almost glad, for a moment,
that he was her father instead of a Duke who might surround her with
baronial magnificence. Mother, too, she couldn't help loving,
though, in her neat, practical gingham dress, she was so unlike Lady
Chetwoode, the mother in "Airy Fairy Lilian." Lady Chetwoode wore
dainty caps, all white lace and delicate ribbon bows that matched in
colour her trailing gown. Her small and tapering hands were covered
with rings. She walked with a slow, rather stately step, and there
was a benignity about her that went straight to the heart. . . Well,
there was something about mother, too, that went straight to the
heart. Missy wouldn't trade off her mother for the world.
But when, later, she wandered into the front parlour, she couldn't
help wishing it were a "drawing-room." And when she moved on out to
the side porch, she viewed with a certain discontent the peaceful
scene before her. Usually she had loved the side porch at the sunset
hour: the close fragrance of honeysuckles which screened one end,
the stretch of slick green grass and the nasturtium bed aflame like
an unstirring fire, the trees rustling softly in the evening breeze-
-yes, she loved it all for the very tranquillity, the poignant
tranquillity of it.
But that was before she realized there were in the world vast swards
that swept beyond pleasure-grounds (what WERE "pleasure-grounds"?),
past laughing brooklets and gurgling streams, on to the Park where
roamed herds of many-antlered deer and where mighty oaks flung their
arms far and wide; while mayhap, on a topmost branch, a crow swayed
and swung as the soft wind rushed by, making an inky blot upon the
brilliant green, as if it were a patch upon the alabaster cheek of
some court belle . . .
But there were no vast swards nor pleasure-grounds nor Parks of
antlered deer in Cherryvale.
Then Poppylinda, the majestic black cat, trod up the steps of the
porch and rubbed herself against her mistress's foot, as if saying,
"Anyhow, I'm here!"
Missy reached down and lifted Poppy to her lap. She adored Poppy;
but she couldn't help reflecting that a Skye terrier (though she had
never seen one) was a more distinguished kind of pet than a black
cat. A black cat was--well, bourgeois (the last rhyming with
"boys"). Airy fairy Lilian's pet was a Skye. It was named Fifine,
and was very frisky. Lilian, as she sat exchanging sprightly
badinage with her many admirers, was wont to sit with her hand perdu
beneath the silky Fifine in her lap.
"No, no, Fifine! Down, sir!" murmured Missy absently.
Poppy, otherwise immobile, blinked upward an inquiring gaze.
"Naughty Fifine! You MUST not kiss my fingers, sir!"
Poppy blinked again. Who might this invisible Fifine be? Her
mistress was conversing in a very strange manner; and the strangest
part of it was that she was looking straight into Poppy's own eyes.
Poppy didn't know it, but her name was no longer Poppylinda. It was
That night Missy went to bed in her own little room in Cherryvale;
but, strange as it may seem to you, she spent the hours till waking
far across the sea, in a manor-house in baronial England.
After that, for a considerable period, only the body, the husk of
her, resided in Cherryvale; the spirit, the pulsing part of her, was
in the land of her dreams. Events came and passed and left her
unmarked. Even the Evans elopement brought no thrill; the affair of
a youth who clerks in a bank and a girl who works in a post office
is tame business to one who has been participating in the panoplied
romances of the high-born.
Missy lived, those days, to dream in solitude or to go to Tess's
where she might read of further enchantments. Then, too, at Tess's,
she had a confidante, a kindred spirit, and could speak out of what
was filling her soul. There is nothing more satisfying than to be
able to speak out of what is filling your soul. The two of them got
to using a special parlance when alone. It was freely punctuated
with phrases so wonderfully camouflaged that no Frenchman would have
guessed that they were French.
"Don't I hear the frou-frou of silken skirts?" inquired Missy one
afternoon when she was in Tess's room, watching her friend comb the
golden tresses which hung in rich profusion about her shoulders.
"It's the mater," answered Tess. "She's dressed to pay some visits
to the gentry. Later she's to dine at the vicarage. She's ordered
out the trap, I believe."
"Oh, not the governess-cart?"
Yes, Tess said it WAS the governess-cart; and her answer was as
solemn as Missy's question.
It was that same "dinner" at the "vicarage"--in Cherryvale one dines
at mid-day, and the Presbyterian minister blindly believed he had
invited the O'Neills for supper--that gave Tess one of her most
brilliant inspirations. It came to her quite suddenly, as all true
inspirations do. The Marble Hearts would give a dinner-party!
The Marble Hearts were Missy's "crowd," thus named after Tess had
joined it. Of course, said Tess, they must have a name. A
fascinating fount of ideas was Tess's. She declared, now, that they
MUST give a dinner-party, a regular six o'clock function. Life for
the younger set in Cherryvale was so bourgeois, so ennuye. It
devolved upon herself and Missy to elevate it. So, at the next
meeting of the crowd, they would broach the idea. Then they'd make
all the plans; decide on the date and decorations and menu, and who
would furnish what, and where the fete should be held. Perhaps
Missy's house might be a good place. Yes. Missy's dining room was
large, with the porch just outside the windows--a fine place for the
Missy listened eagerly to all the earlier features of the scheme--
she knew Tess could carry any point with the crowd; but about the
last suggestion she felt misgivings. Mother had very strange, old-
fashioned notions about some things. She MIGHT be induced to let
Missy help give an evening dinner-party, though she held that
fifteen-year-old girls should have only afternoon parties; but to be
persuaded to lend her own house for the affair--that would be an
achievement even for Tess!
However miracles continue to happen in this cut-and-dried world.
When the subject was broached to Missy's mother with carefully
considered tact, she bore up with puzzling but heavenly equanimity.
She looked thoughtfully at the two girls in turn, and then gazed out
"A six o'clock dinner-party, you say?" she repeated, her eyes
apparently fixed on the nasturtium bed.
"Yes, Mrs. Merriam." It was Tess who answered. Missy's heart, an
anxious lump in her throat, hindered speech.
"For heaven's sake! What next?" ejaculated Aunt Nettie.
Mrs. Merriam regarded the nasturtiums for a second longer before she
brought her eyes back to the two young faces and broke the tense
"What made you think you wanted to give a dinner-party?"
Oh, rapture! Missy's heart subsided an inch, and she drew a long
breath. But she wisely let Tess do the replying.
"Oh, everything in Cherryvale's so passe' and ennuye'. We want to do
something novel--something really distingue'--if you know what I
"I believe I do," replied Mrs. Merriam gravely.
"Dis-tinn-gwy!" repeated Aunt Nettie. "Well, if you ask me--" But
Mrs. Merriam silenced her sister with an unobtrusive gesture. She
turned to the two petitioners.
"You think an evening dinner would be--distinngwy?"
"Oh, yes--the way we've planned it out!" affirmed Tess. She, less
diffident than Missy, was less reserved in her disclosures. She went
on eagerly: "We've got it all planned out. Five courses: oyster
cocktails; Waldorf salad; veal loaf, Saratoga chips, devilled eggs,
dill pickles, mixed pickles, chow-chow and peach pickles: heavenly
hash; and ice-cream with three kinds of cake. And small cups of
demitasse, of course."
"Three kinds of cake?"
"Well," explained Tess, "you see Beula and Beth and Kitty all want
cake for their share--they say their mothers won't be bothered with
anything else. We're dividing the menu up between us, you know."
"I see. And what have you allotted to Missy?"
Missy herself found courage to answer this question; Mother's grave
inquiries were bringing her intense relief.
"I thought maybe I could furnish the heavenly hash, Mother."
"Heavenly hash?" Mother looked perplexed. "What's that?"
"I don't know," admitted Missy. "But I liked the name--it's so
alluring. Beulah suggested it--I guess she knows the recipe."
"I think it's all kinds of fruit chopped together," volunteered
"But aren't you having a great deal of fruit--and pickles?"
suggested Mrs. Merriam mildly.
"Oh, well," explained Tess, rather grandly, "at a swell function you
don't have to have many substantial viands, you know."
"Oh, I nearly forgot--this is to be a swell function."
"Yes, the real thing," said Tess proudly. "Potted palms and hand-
painted place-cards and orchestra music and candle shades and
"Candle shades?--won't it be daylight at six o'clock?"
"Well, then, we'll pull down the window shades," said Tess,
undisturbed. "Candle-light '11 add--"
Aunt Nettie, who couldn't keep still any longer, cut in:
"Will you tell me where you're going to get an orchestra?"
"Oh," said Tess, with an air of patience, "we're going to fix the
date on a band-practice night. I guess they'd be willing to practice
on your porch if we gave them some ice-cream and cake."
"My word!" gasped Aunt Nettie.
"Music always adds so much e'clat to an affair," pursued Tess,
"The band practicing '11 add a-clatter, all right," commented Aunt
Nettie, adding a syllable to Tess's triumphant word.
Missy, visioning the seductive scene of Tess's description, did not
notice her aunt's sarcasm.
"If only we had a butler!" she murmured dreamily.
Aunt Nettie made as if to speak again, but caught an almost
imperceptible signal from her sister.
"Surely, Mary," she began, "you don't mean to say you're--"
Another almost imperceptible gesture.
"Remember, Nettie, that when there's poison in the system, it is
best to let it out as quickly as possible."
What on earth was Mother talking about?
But Missy was too thrilled by the leniency of her mother's attitude
to linger on any side-question--anyway, grown-ups were always making
incomprehensible remarks. She came back swiftly to the important
"And may we really have the party here, Mother?"
Mother smiled at her, a rather funny kind of smile.
"I guess so--the rest of us may as well have the benefit."
What did Mother mean? . . .
But oh, rapture!
Tess and Missy wrote the invitations themselves and decided to
deliver them in person, and Missy had no more prevision of all that
decision meant than Juliet had when her mother concluded she would
give the ball that Romeo butted in on.
Tess said they must do it with empressement, meaning she would
furnish an equipage for them to make their rounds in. Her father was
a doctor, and had turned the old Smith place into a sanitarium; and,
to use the Cherryvale word, he had several "rigs." However, when the
eventful day for delivery arrived, Tess discovered that her father
had disappeared with the buggy while her mother had "ordered out"
the surrey to take some ladies to a meeting of the Missionary
That left only an anomalous vehicle, built somewhat on the lines of
a victoria, in which Tim, "the coachman" (in Cherryvale argot known
as "the hired man"), was wont to take convalescent patients for an
airing. Tess realized the possible lack of dignity attendant upon
having to sit in the driver's elevated seat; but she had no choice,
and consoled herself by terming it "the box."
A more serious difficulty presented itself in the matter of suitable
steeds. One would have preferred a tandem of bright bays or, failing
these, spirited ponies chafing at the bit and impatiently tossing
their long, waving manes. But one could hardly call old Ben a steed
at all, and he proved the only animal available that afternoon. Ben
suffered from a disability of his right rear leg which caused him to
raise his right haunch spasmodically when moving. The effect was
rhythmic but grotesque, much as if Ben thought he was turkey-
trotting. Otherwise, too, Ben was unlovely. His feet were by no
means dainty, his coat was a dirty looking dappled-white, and his
mane so attenuated it needed a toupee. As if appreciating his
defects, Ben wore an apologetic, almost timid, expression of
countenance, which greatly belied his true stubbornness of
Not yet aware of the turn-out they must put up with, about two
o'clock that afternoon Missy set out for Tess's house. She departed
unobtrusively by the back door and side gate. The reason for this
almost surreptitious leave-taking was in the package she carried
under her arm. It held her mother's best black silk skirt, which
boasted a "sweep"; a white waist of Aunt Nettie's; a piece of
Chantilly lace which had once been draped on mother's skirt but was
destined, to-day, to become a "mantilla"; and a magnificent "willow
plume" snipped from Aunt Nettie's Sunday hat. This plume, when
tacked to Missy's broad leghorn, was intended to be figuratively as
well as literally the crowning feature of her costume.
Tess, too, had made the most of her mother's absence at the
Missionary Society. Unfortunately Mrs. O'Neill had worn her black
silk skirt, but her blue dimity likewise boasted a "sweep." A
bouquet of artificial poppies (plucked from a hat of "the mater's")
added a touch of colour to Tess's corsage. And she, also, had
acquired a "willow plume."
Of course it was Tess who had thought to provide burnt matches and
an extra poppy--artificial. The purpose of the former was to give a
"shadowy look" under the eyes; of the latter, moistened, to lend a
"rosy flush" to cheek and lip.
Missy was at first averse to these unfamiliar aids to beauty.
"Won't it make your face feel sort of queer--like it needed
washing?" she demurred.
"Don't talk like a bourgeois," said Tess.
Missy applied the wet poppy.
At the barn, "the coachman" was luckily absent, so Tess could
harness up her steed without embarrassing questions. At the sight of
the steed of the occasion, Missy's spirits for a moment sagged a
bit; nor did old Ben present a more impressive appearance when,
finally, he began to turkey-trot down Maple Avenue. His right haunch
lifted--fell--lifted--fell, in irritating rhythm as his bulky feet
clumped heavily on the macadam. Tess had insisted that Missy should
occupy the driver's seat with her, though Missy wanted to recline
luxuriously behind, perhaps going by home to pick up Poppy--that is,
Fifine--to hold warm and perdu in her lap. But practical Tess
pointed out that such an act might attract the attention of Mrs.
Merriam and bring the adventure to an end. They proceeded down Maple
Avenue. It was Tess's intention to turn off at Silver Street, to
leave the first carte d'invitation at the home of Mr. Raymond
Bonner. These documents were proudly scented (and incidentally
spotted) from Mrs. O'Neill's cologne bottle.
Young Mr. Bonner resided in one of the handsomest houses in
Cherryvale, and was himself the handsomest boy in the crowd.
Besides, he had more than once looked at Missy with soft eyes--the
girls "teased" Missy about Raymond. It was fitting that Raymond
should receive the first billet doux. So, at the corner of Maple and
Silver, Tess pulled the rein which should have turned Ben into the
shady street which led to Raymond's domicile. Ben moved his head
impatiently, and turkey-trotted straight ahead. Tess pulled the rein
more vigorously; Ben twitched his head still more like a swear word
and, with a more pronounced shrug of his haunch, went undivertingly
"What's the matter?" asked Missy. "Is Ben a little--wild?"
"No--I don't think so," replied Tess, but her tone was anxious. "I
guess that it's just that he's used to Tim. Then I'm sort of out of
"Well, we can just as well stop at Lester's first, and come back by
But when Tess attempted to manoeuvre Ben into Lester's street, Ben
still showed an inalienable and masterful preference for Maple
Avenue. Doggedly ahead he pursued his turkey-trotting course, un-
mindful of tuggings, coaxings, or threats, till, suddenly, at the
point where Maple runs into the Public Square, he made a turn into
Main so abrupt as to send the inner rear wheel up onto the curb.
"My!" gasped Missy, regaining her balance. "He IS wild, isn't he? Do
you think, maybe--"
She stopped suddenly. In front of the Post Office and staring at
them was that new boy she had heard about--it must be he; hadn't
Kitty Allen seen him and said he was a brunette? Even in her
agitated state she could but notice that he was of an unusual
appearance--striking. He somewhat resembled Archibald Chesney, one
of airy fairy Lilian's suitors. Like Archibald, the stranger was
tall and eminently gloomy in appearance. His hair was of a rare
blackness; his eyes were dark--a little indolent, a good deal
passionate--smouldering eyes! His eyebrows were arched, which gave
him an air of melancholy protest against the world in general. His
nose was of the high-and-mighty order that comes under the
denomination of aquiline, or hooked, as may suit you best. However
he did not shade his well-cut mouth with a heavy, drooping moustache
as did Archibald, for which variation Missy was intensely grateful.
Despite Lilian's evident taste for moustached gentlemen, Missy
didn't admire these "hirsute adornments."
She made all these detailed observations in the second before blond
Raymond Bonner, handsomer but less interesting-looking than the
stranger, came out of the Post Office, crying:
"Hello, girls! What's up?--joined the circus?"
This bantering tone, these words, were disconcerting. And before,
during their relentless progress down Maple Avenue, the expressions
of certain people sitting out on front porches or walking along the
street, had occasioned uncertainty as to their unshadowed
empressement. Still no doubts concerning her own personal get-up had
clouded Missy's mind. And the dark Stranger was certainly regarding
her with a look of interest in his indolent eyes. Almost you might
say he was staring. It must be admiration of her toilette. She was
glad she was looking so well--she wished he might hear the frou-frou
of her silken skirt when she walked!
The consciousness of her unusually attractive appearance made
Missy's blood race intoxicatingly. It made her feel unwontedly
daring. She did an unwontedly daring thing. She summoned her courage
and returned the Strange Boy's stare--full. But she was embarrassed
when she found herself looking away suddenly--blushing. Why couldn't
she hold that gaze?--why must she blush? Had he noticed her lack of
savoir-faire? More diffidently she peeped at him again to see
whether he had. It seemed to her that his expression had altered. It
was a subtle change; but, somehow, it made her blush again. And turn
her eyes away again--more quickly than before. But there was a
singing in her brain. The dark, interesting-looking Stranger LIKED
her to look at him--LIKED her to blush and look away!
She felt oddly light-headed--like someone unknown to herself. She
wanted to laugh and chatter about she knew not what. She wanted to--
But here certain external happenings cruelly grabbed her attention.
Old Ben, who had seemed to slow down obligingly upon the girls'
greeting of Raymond, had refused to heed Tess's tugging effort to
bring him to a standstill. To be sure, he moved more slowly, but
move he did, and determinedly; till--merciful heaven!--he came to a
dead and purposeful halt in front of the saloon. Not "a saloon," but
Now, more frantically than she had urged him to pause, Tess implored
Ben to proceed. No local standards are so hide-bound as those of a
small town, and in Cherryvale it was not deemed decently
permissible, but disgraceful, to have aught to do with liquor. "The
saloon" was far from a "respectable" place even for men to visit;
and for two girls to drive up openly--brazenly--
"Get up, Ben! Get up!" rang an anguished duet.
Missy reached over and helped wallop the rains. Oh, this pain!--this
faintness! She now comprehended the feeling which had so often
overcome the fair ladies of England when enmeshed in some frightful
situation. They, on such upsetting occasions, had usually sunk back
"Please ring the bell--a glass of wine!" And Missy, while reading,
had been able to vision herself, in some like quandary, also
ordering a "glass of wine"; but, now! . . . the wine was only too
terribly at hand!
"Get up!--there's a good old Ben!"
"Good old Ben--get up!"
But he was not a good old Ben. He was a mean old Ben--mean with
inborn, incredibly vicious stubbornness. How terrible to live to
come to this! But Missy was about to learn what a tangled web Fate
weaves, and how amazingly she deceives sometimes when life looks
darkest. Raymond and the Stranger (Missy knew his name was Ed Brown;
alas! but you can't have everything in this world) started forth to
rescue at the same time, knocked into each other, got to Ben's head
simultaneously, and together tugged and tugged at the bridle.
Ben stood planted, with his four huge feet firmly set, defying any
force in heaven or earth to budge them. His head, despite all the
boys could do, maintained a relaxed attitude--a contradiction in
terms justified by the facts--and also with a certain sidewise
inclination toward the saloon. It was almost as if he were watching
the saloon door. In truth, that is exactly what old Ben was doing.
He was watching for Tim. Ben had good reason for knowing Tim's ways
since, for a considerable time, no one save Tim had deigned to drive
him. Besides having a natural tendency toward being "set in his
ways," Ben had now reached the time of life when one, man or beast,
is likely to become a creature of habit. Thus he had unswervingly
followed Tim's route to Tim's invariable first halt; and now he
stood waiting Tim's reappearance through the saloon door. Other
volunteer assistants, in hordes, hordes, and laughing as if this
awful calamity were a huge joke, had joined Raymond and the Other.
Missy was flamingly aware of them, of their laughter, their stares,
their jocular comments.
But they all achieved nothing; and relief came only when Ben's
supreme faith was rewarded when Tim, who had been spending his
afternoon off in his favourite club, was attracted from his checker-
game in the "back room" by some hubbub in the street and came
inquisitively to the front door.
Ben, then, pricked his ears and showed entire willingness to depart.
Tim, after convincing himself that he wasn't drunk and "seeing
things," climbed up on the "box"; the two girls, "naturally covered
with confusion," were only too glad to sink down unobtrusively into
the back seat. Not till they were at the sanitarium again, did they
remember the undelivered invitations; but quickly they agreed to put
on stamps and let Tim take them, without empressement, to the Post
All afternoon Missy burned and chilled in turn. Oh, it was too
dreadful! What would people say? What would her parents, should they
hear, do? And what, oh what would the interesting-looking Stranger
think? Oh, what a contretemps!
If she could have heard what the Stranger actually did say, she
would still have been "covered with confusion"--though of a more
pleasurable kind. He and Raymond were become familiar acquaintances
by this time. "What's the matter with 'em?" he had inquired as the
steed Ben turkey-trotted away. "Doing it on a bet or something?"
"Dunno," replied Raymond. "The blonde one's sort of bughouse,
anyway. And the other one, Missy Merriam, gets sorta queer streaks
sometimes--you don't know just what's eating her. She's sorta funny,
but she's a peach, all right."
"She the one with the eyes?"
Raymond suddenly turned and stared at the new fellow.
"Yes," he assented, almost reluctantly.
"Some eyes!" commented the other, gazing after the vanishing
Raymond looked none too pleased. But it was too late, now, to spike
Fate's spinning wheel. Missy was terribly cast down by the
afternoon's history; but not so cast down that she had lost sight of
the obligation to invite to her dinner a boy who had rescued her--
anyhow, he had tried to rescue her, and that was the same thing. So
a carte must be issued to "Mr. Ed Brown." After all, what's in a
name?--hadn't Shakespeare himself said that?
At supper, Missy didn't enjoy her meal. Had father or mother heard?
Once she got a shock: she glanced up suddenly and caught father's
eyes on her with a curious expression. For a second she was sure he
knew; but he said nothing, only looked down again and went on eating
That evening mother suggested that Missy go to bed early. "You
didn't eat your supper, and you look tired out," she explained.
Missy did feel tired--terribly tired; but she wouldn't have admitted
it, for fear of being asked the reason. Did mother, perhaps, know?
Missy had a teasing sense that, under the placid, commonplace
conversation, there was something unspoken. A curious and
uncomfortable feeling. But, then, as one ascertains increasingly
with every year one lives, Life is filled with curious and often
uncomfortable feelings. Which, however, one would hardly change if
one could, because all these things make Life so much more complex,
therefore more interesting. The case of Ben was in point: if he had
not "cut up," it might have been weeks before she got acquainted
with the Dark Stranger!
Still pondering these "deep" things, Missy took advantage of her
mother's suggestion and went up to undress. She was glad of the
chance to be alone.
But she wasn't to be alone for yet a while. Her mother followed her
and insisted on helping unfasten her dress, turning down her bed,
bringing some witch-hazel to bathe her forehead--a dozen little
pretexts to linger. Mother did not always perform these offices.
Surely she must suspect. Yet, if she did suspect, why her kindness?
Why didn't she speak out, and demand explanations?
Mothers are sometimes so mystifying!
The time for the good night kiss came and went with no revealing
word from either side. The kiss was unusually tender, given and
received. Left alone at last, on her little, moon-whitened bed,
Missy reflected on her great fondness for her mother. No; she
wouldn't exchange her dear mother, not even for the most
aristocratic lady in England.
Then, as the moon worked its magic on her fluttering lids, the
flowered wall-paper, the bird's-eye maple furniture, all dissolved
in air, and in their place magically stood, faded yet rich, lounges
and chairs of velvet; priceless statuettes; a few bits of bric-a-
brac worth their weight in gold; several portraits of beauties well-
known in the London and Paris worlds, frail as they were fair, false
as they were piquante; tobacco-stands and meerschaum pipes and
cigarette-holders; a couple of dogs snoozing peacefully upon the
hearth-rug; a writing-table near the blazing grate and, seated
Yes! It was he! Though the room was Archibald Chesney's "den," the
seated figure was none other than Ed Brown! . . .
A shadow falls across the paper on which he is writing--he glances
up--beholds an airy fairy vision regarding him with a saucy smile--a
slight graceful creature clothed in shell-pink with daintiest lace
frillings at the throat and wrists, and with a wealth of nut-brown
locks brought low on her white brow, letting only the great grey
eyes shine out.
"What are you writing, sir?" she demands, sending him a bewitching
"Only a response to your gracious invitation, Lady Melissa," he
replies, springing up to kiss her tapering fingers. . . The moon
seals the closed eyelids down with a kiss.
The day of days arrived.
Missy got up while the rest of the household was still sleeping. For
once she did not wait for Poppy's kiss to awaken her. The empty bed
surprised and disconcerted Poppy--that is, Fifine--upon her
appearance. But much, these days, was happening to surprise and
disconcert Poppy--that is, Fifine.
Fifine finally located her mistress down in the back parlour,
occupied with shears and a heap of old magazines. Missy was clipping
sketches from certain advertisements, which she might trace upon
cardboard squares and decorate with water-colour. These were to be
the "place-cards"--an artistic commission Missy had put off from day
to day till, now, at the last minute, she was constrained to rise
early, with a rushed and remorseful feeling. A situation familiar to
She succeeded in concentrating herself upon the work with the
greatest difficulty. For, after breakfast, there began a great
bustling with brooms and carpet-sweepers and dusters; and, no sooner
was the house swept than appeared a gay and chattering swarm to
garnish it: "Marble Hearts" with collected "potted palms" and "cut
flowers" and cheesecloth draperies of blue and gold--the "club
colours" which, upon the sudden need for club colours, had been
Missy betook herself to her room, but it was filled up with two of
the girls and a bolt of cheesecloth; to the dining room, but there
was no inspiration in the sight of Marguerite polishing the spare
silver; to the side porch, but one cannot work where giggling girls
sway and shriek on tall ladders, hanging paper-lanterns; to the
summerhouse, but even to this refuge the Baby followed her, finally
upsetting the water-colour box.
The day went rushing past. Enticing odours arose from the kitchen.
The grocery wagon came, and came again. The girls went home. A
sketchy lunch was eaten off the kitchen table, and father stayed
down town. The girls reappeared. They overran the kitchen, peeling
oranges and pineapples and bananas for "heavenly hash." Marguerite
grew cross. The Baby, who missed his nap, grew cross. And Missy, for
some reason, grew sort of cross, too; she resented the other girls'
unrestrainable hilarity. They wouldn't be so hilarious if it were
their own households they were setting topsy-turvy; if they had
sixteen "place-cards" yet to finish. In England, the hostess's
entertainments went more smoothly. Things were better arranged
Gradually the girls drifted home to dress; the house grew quiet.
Missy's head was aching. Flushed and paint-daubed, she bent over the
Mother came to the door.
"Hadn't you better be getting dressed, dear?--it's half-past five."
Half-past five! Heavens! Missy bent more feverishly over the "place-
cards"; there were still two left to colour.
"I'll lay out your dotted Swiss for you," offered mother kindly.
At this mention of her "best dress," Missy found time for a pang of
vain desire. She wished she had a more befitting dinner gown. A
black velvet, perhaps; a "picture dress" with rare old lace, and no
other adornment save diamonds in her hair and ears and round her
throat and wrists.
But, then, velvet might be too hot for August. She visioned herself
in an airy creation of batiste--very simple, but the colour
combination a ravishing mingling of palest pink and baby-blue, with
ribbons fluttering; delicately tinted long gloves; delicately tinted
slippers and silken stockings on her slender, high-arched feet; a
few glittering rings on her restless fingers; one blush-pink rose in
her hair which, simply arranged, suffered two or three stray
rippling locks to wander wantonly across her forehead.
"Missy! It's ten minutes to six! And you haven't even combed your
hair!" It was mother at the door again.
The first guest arrived before Missy had got her hair "smoothed up"-
-no time, tonight, to try any rippling, wanton effects. She could
hear the swelling sound of voices and laughter in the distance--oh,
dreadful! Her fingers became all thumbs as she sought to get into
the dotted swiss, upside down.
Mother came in just in time to extricate her, and buttoned the dress
with maddeningly deliberate fingers.
"Now, don't fret yourself into a headache, dear," she said in a
voice meant to be soothing. "The party won't run away--just let
The musicians, out on the side porch, were already beginning their
blaring preparations when the hostess, at last, ran down the stairs
and into the front parlour. Her agitation had no chance to subside
before they must file out to the dining room. Missy hadn't had time
before to view the completely embellished dining room and, now, in
all its glory and grandeur, it struck her full force: the potted
palms screening the windows through which floated strains of music,
streamers of blue and gold stretching from the chandelier to the
four corners of the room in a sort of canopy, the long white table
with its flowers and gleaming silver--
It might almost have been the scene of a function at Chetwoode Manor
In a kind of dream she was wafted to the head of the table; for,
since the function was at her house, Missy had been voted the
presiding place of honour. It is a very great responsibility to sit
in the presiding place of honour. From that conspicuous position one
leads the whole table's activities: conversing to the right,
laughing to the left, sharply on the lookout for any conversational
gap, now and then drawing muted tete-a-tetes into a harmonic unison.
She is, as it were, the leader of an orchestra of which the
individual diners are the subsidiary instruments. Upon her watchful
resourcefulness hangs the success of a dinner-party. But Missy,
though a trifle fluttered, had felt no anxiety; she knew so well
just how Lady Chetwoode had managed these things.
The hostess must also, of course, direct the nutrimental as well as
the conversational process of the feast. She is served first, and
takes exactly the proper amount of whatever viand in exactly the
proper way and manipulates it with exactly the proper fork or knife
or spoon. But Missy had felt no anticipatory qualms.
She was possessed of a strange, almost a lightheaded feeling.
Perhaps the excitement of the day, the rush at the last, had
something to do with it. Perhaps the spectacle of the long, adorned
table, the scent of flowers, the sound of music, the dark eyes of
Mr. Edward Brown who was seated at her right hand.
(Dear old faithful Ben!--to think of how his devotion to tippling
Tim had brought Edward Brown into her life!)
She felt a stranger to herself. Something in her soared
intoxicatingly. The sound of her own gay chatter came to her from
afar--as from a stranger. Mr. Brown kept on looking at her.
The butler appeared, bringing the oyster cocktails (a genteel
delicacy possible in an inland midsummer thanks to the canning
industry), and proceeded to serve them with empressement.
The butler was really the climactic triumph of the event. And he was
Missy's own inspiration. She had been racking her brains for some
way to eliminate the undistinguished Marguerite, to conjure through
the very strength of her desire some approach to a proper servitor.
If only they had ONE of those estimable beings in Cherry vale! A
butler, preferably elderly, and "steeped in respectability" up to
his port-wine nose; one who would hover around the table, adjusting
this dish affectionately and straightening that, and who, whenever
he left the room, left it with a velvet step and an almost inaudible
sigh of satisfaction . . .
And then, quite suddenly, she had hit upon the idea of "Snowball"
Saunders. Snowball had come to the house to borrow the Merriams'
ice-cream freezer. There was to be an informal "repast" at the
Shriners' hall, and Snowball engineered all the Shriners' gustatory
festivities from "repasts" to "banquets." Sometimes, at the
banquets, he even wore a dress suit. It was of uncertain lineage and
too-certain present estate, yet it was a dress suit. It was the
recollection of the dress suit that had given Missy her inspiration.
To be sure, in England, butlers were seldom "coloured," but in
Cherry vale one had to make some concessions.
The butler was wearing his dress suit as he came bearing the oyster
"Hello, Snowball!" greeted Raymond Bonner, genially. "Didn't know
you were invited to-night."
Snowball!? what a gosherie! With deliberate hauteur Missy spoke:
"Oh, Saunders, don't forget to fill the glasses with ice-water."
Raymond cast her an astonished look, but, perhaps because he was
more impressed by the formality of the function than he would have
admitted, refrained from any bantering comment.
The hostess, then, with a certain righteous complacence, lowered her
eyes to her cocktail glass.
It was the first time, so carried away had she been with this new,
intoxicating feeling, that she had really noticed what she was
eating--how she was eating it.
She was eating her oysters with her after-dinner coffee spoon!
The tiny-pronged oyster fork was lying there on the cloth,
Oh, good heavens!
An icy chill of mortification crept down her spine, spread out
through her whole being. She had made a mistake--SHE, the hostess!
A whirlwind of mortal shame stormed round and round within her. If
only she could faint dead away in her chair! If only she could weep,
and summon mother! Or die! Or even if she could sink down under the
table and hide away from sight. But she didn't know how to faint;
and hostesses do not weep for their mothers; and, in real life,
people never die at the crucial moments; nor do they crawl under
tables. All she could do was to force herself. at last, to raise her
stricken eyelids and furtively regard her guests.
Oh, dear heaven!
They were all--ALL of them--eating their oyster cocktails with their
after-dinner coffee spoons!
Missy didn't know why, at that sight, she had to fight off a spasm
of laughter. She felt she must scream out in laughter, or die.
All at once she realized that Mr. Brown was speaking to her.
"What's the matter?" he was saying. "Want to sneeze?"
That struck her so funny that she laughed; and then she felt better.
"I was just terribly upset," she found herself explaining almost
naturally, "because I suddenly found myself eating the oyster
cocktail with the coffee spoon."
"Oh, isn't this the right implement?" queried Mr. Brown,
contemplating his spoon. "Well, if you ask ME, I'm glad you started
off with it--this soupy stuff'd be the mischief to get away with
with a fork."
Archibald Chesney wouldn't have talked that way. But, nevertheless,
Missy let her eyelids lift up at him in a smile.
"I'm glad you didn't know it was a mistake," she murmured. "I was
"Girls are funny," Mr. Brown replied to that. "Always worrying over
nothing." He returned her smile. "But YOU needn't ever worry."
What did he mean by that? But something in his dark eyes, gazing at
her full, kept Missy from asking the question, made her swiftly
lower her lashes.
"I bet YOU could start eating with a toothpick and get away with
it," he went on.
Did he mean her social savoir-faire--or did he mean--
Just then the butler appeared at her left hand to remove the
cocktail course. She felt emboldened to remark, with an air of ease:
"Oh, Saunders, don't forget to lay the spoons when you serve the
Mr. Brown laughed.
"Oh, say!" he chortled, "you ARE funny when you hand out that
No; he surely hadn't meant admiration for her savoir-faire; yet, for
some reason, Missy didn't feel disappointed. She blushed, and found
it entrancingly difficult to lift her eyelids.
The function, rather stiffly and quite impressively, continued its
way without further contretemps. It was, according to the most
aristocratic standards, highly successful. To be sure, after the
guests had filed solemnly from the table and began to dance on the
porches, something of the empressement died away; but Missy was
finding Mr. Brown too good a dancer to remember to be critical. She
forgot altogether, now, to compare him with the admired Archibald.
Missy danced with Mr. Brown so much that Raymond Bonner grew openly
sulky. Missy liked Raymond, and she was sure she would never want to
do anything unkind--yet why, at the obvious ill temper of Raymond
Bonner, did she feel a strange little delicious thrill?
Oh, she was having a glorious time!
Once she ran across father, lurking unobtrusively in a shadowed
"Well," he remarked, "I see that Missy's come back for a breathing-
Just what did father mean by that?
But she was having too good a time to wonder long. Too good a time
to remember whether or not it was in the baronial spirit. She was
entirely uncritical when, the time for good nights finally at hand,
Mr. Brown said to her:
"Well, a fine time was had by all! I guess I "don't have to tell YOU
Archibald Chesney would never have put it that way. Yet Missy, with
Mr. Brown's eyes upon her in an openly admiring gaze, wouldn't have
had him changed one bit.
But, when at last sleep came to her in her little white bed, on the
silvery tide of the moon, it carried a dream to slip up under the
tight-closed eyes. . .
The ball is at its height. The door of the conservatory opens and a
fair young creature steals in. She is fairer than the flowers
themselves as, with a pretty consciousness of her own grace, she
advances into the bower. Her throat is fair and rounded under the
diamonds that are no brighter than her own great grey eyes; her nut-
brown locks lie in heavy masses on her well-shaped head, while
across her forehead a few rebellious tresses wantonly wander.
She suddenly sees in the shadows that other figure which has started
perceptibly at her entrance; a tall and eminently gloomy figure,
with hair of a rare blackness, and eyes dark and insouciant but
With a silken frou-frou she glides toward him, happy and radiant,
for she is in her airiest mood tonight.
"Is not my dress charming, Mr. Brown?" she cries with charming
naivete. "Does it not become me?"
"It is as lovely as its wearer," replied the other, with a
"Pouf! What a simile! Who dares compare me with a paltry gown?"
Then, laughing at his discomfiture, the coquette, with slow
nonchalance, gathers up her long train.
"But I'll forgive you--this once," she concedes, "for there is
positively no one to take poor little me back to the ballroom."
And Lady Melissa slips her hand beneath Mr. Brown's arm, and glances
up at him with laughing, friendly eyes. . .
No one in Cherryvale ever got a word from Melissa about the true
inwardness of the spiritual renaissance she experienced the winter
that the Reverend MacGill came to the Methodist church; naturally
not her father nor mother nor Aunt Nettie, because grown-ups, though
nice and well-meaning, with their inability to "understand," and
their tendency to laugh make one feel shy and reticent about the
really deep and vital things. And not even Tess O'Neill, Missy's
chum that year, a lively, ingenious, and wonderful girl, was in this
case clever enough to obtain complete confidence.
Once before Missy had felt the flame divine--a deep, vague kind of
glow all subtly mixed up with "One Sweetly Solemn Thought" and such
slow, stirring, minor harmonies, and with sunlight stealing through
the stained-glass window above the pulpit in colourful beauty that
pierced to her very soul. But that was a long time ago, when she was
a little thing--only ten. Now she was nearly sixteen. Things were
different. One now was conscious of the reality of inward
inexperiences: these must influence life--one's own and, haply, the
lives of others. What Missy did not emphasize in her mind was the
mystery of how piety evolved from white fox furs and white fox furs
finally evolved from piety. But she did perceive that it would be
hopeless to try to explain her motives about Arthur as mixed up with
the acquisition of the white fox furs. . . No; not even Tess O'Neill
could have grasped the true inwardness of it all.
It all began, as nearly as one could fix on a concrete beginning,
with Genevieve Hicks's receiving a set of white fox furs for
Christmas. The furs were soft and silky and luxurious, and Genevieve
might well have been excused for wearing them rather triumphantly.
Missy wasn't at all envious by nature and she tried to be fair-
minded in this case, but she couldn't help begrudging Genevieve her
Genevieve had paraded her becoming new finery past the Merriam
residence on several Sunday afternoons, but this wasn't the entire
crux of Missy's discontent. Genevieve and the white fox furs were
escorted by Arthur Summers.
Now, Arthur had more than once asked Missy herself to "go walking"
on Sunday afternoons. But Mrs. Merriam had said Missy was too young
for such things. And when Missy, in rebuttal, once pointed out the
promenading Genevieve, Mrs. Merriam had only replied that
Genevieve's mother ought to know better--that Genevieve was a
frivolous-minded girl, anyway.
Missy, peering through the parlour lace curtains, made no answer;
but she thought: "Bother! Everybody can go walking but me!"
Then she thought:
"She's laughing awful loud. She is frivolous-minded."
"He looks as if he's having a good time, too; he's laughing back
straight at her. I wonder if he thinks she's very pretty."
"I wish I had some white fox furs."
That evening at the supper-table Missy voiced her desire. There were
just the four of them at the table--father, mother, Aunt Nettie and
herself. Missy sat silent, listening to the talk of the grownups;
but their voices floated to her as detached, far-off sounds, because
she was engrossed in looking at a mental picture; a red-haired,
laughing, admiring-eyed boy walking along beside a girl in white fox
furs--and the girl was not Genevieve Hicks. The delights of the
vision must have reflected in her face because finally her father
"Well, Missy, what's all the smiling about?"
Missy blushed as if she'd been caught in mischief; but she answered,
wistfully rather than hopefully:
"I was just thinking how nice it would be if I had some white fox
"For heaven's sake!" commented mother. "When you've already got a
new set not two months old!"
Missy didn't reply to that; she didn't want to seem unappreciative.
It was true she had a new set, warm and serviceable, but--well, a
short-haired, dark-brown collarette hasn't the allure of a fluffy,
Mother was going on: "That ought to do you two winters at least--if
"I don't know what the present generation is coming to," put in Aunt
Nettie with what seemed to Missy entire irrelevance. Aunt Nettie was
a spinster, even older than Missy's mother, and her lack of
understanding and her tendency to criticize and to laugh was
especially dreaded by her niece.
"Nowadays girls still in knee-skirts expect to dress and act like
"I wasn't expecting the white fox furs," said Missy defensively. "I
was just thinking how nice it would be to have them." She was silent
a moment, then added: "I think if I had some white fox furs I'd be
the happiest person in the world."
"That doesn't strike me as such a large order for complete
happiness," observed father, smiling at her.
Missy smiled back at him. In another these words might have savoured
of irony, but Missy feared irony from her father less than from any
other old person.
Father was a big, silent man but he was always kind and particularly
lovable; and he "understood" better than most "old people."
"What is the special merit of these white fox furs?" he went on, and
something in the indulgent quality of his tone, something in the
expression of his eyes, made hope stir timidly to birth in her bosom
and rise to shine from her eyes.
But before she could answer, mother spoke. "I can tell you that.
That flighty Hicks girl went by here this afternoon wearing some.
That Summers boy who clerks in Pieker's grocery was with her. He
once wanted Missy to go walking with him and I had to put my foot
down. She doesn't seem to realize she's too young for such things.
Her brown furs will do her for this season--and next season too!"
Mother put on a stern, determined kind of look, almost hard. Into
the life of every woman who is a mother there comes a time when she
learns, suddenly, that her little girl is trying not to be a little
girl any longer but to become a woman. It is a hard moment for
mothers, and no wonder that they seem unwarrantedly adamantine. Mrs.
Merriam instinctively knew that wanting furs and wanting boys
spelled the same evil. But Missy, who was fifteen instead of thirty-
seven and whose emotions and desires were still as hazy and
uncorrelated as they were acute, stared with bewildered hurt at this
unjust harshness in her usually kind parent.
Then she turned large, pleading eyes upon her father; he had shown
a dawning interest in the subject of white fox furs. But Mr.
Merriam, now, seemed to have lost the issue of furs in the newer
issue of boys.
"What's this about the Summers boy?" he demanded. "It's the first
I've ever heard of this business."
"He only wanted me to go walking, father. All the rest of the girls
go walking with boys." "Indeed! Well, you won't. Nor for a good many
Such unexpected shortness and sharpness from father made her feel
suddenly wretched; he was even worse than mother.
"Who is he, anyway?" he exploded further.
Missy's lips were twitching inexplicably; she feared to essay
speech, but it was mother who answered.
"He's that red-headed boy who clerks in Pieker's grocery."
"Arthur's a nice boy," Missy then attempted courageously. "I don't
think he ought to be blamed just because he's poor and--"
Her defence ended ignominiously in a choking sound. She wasn't one
who cried easily and this unexpected outburst amazed herself; she
could not, to have saved her life, have told why she cried.
Her father reached over and patted her hand.
"I'm not blaming him because he's poor, daughter. It's just that I
don't want you to start thinking about the boys for a long while
yet. Not about Arthur or any other boy. You're just a little girl."
Missy knew very well that she was not "just a little girl," but she
knew, too, that parents nourish many absurd ideas. And though father
was now absurd, she couldn't help feeling tender toward him when he
called her "daughter" in that gentle tone. So, sighing a secret
little sigh, she smiled back at him a misty smile which he took for
comprehension and a promise. The subject of white fox furs seemed
closed; Missy was reluctant to re-open it because, in some
intangible way, it seemed bound up with the rather awkward subject
After supper father conversed with her about a piece she was reading
in the Sunday Supplement, and seemed anxious to make her feel happy
and contented. So softened was he that, when Tess telephoned and
invited Missy to accompany the O'Neill family to the Methodist
church that evening, he lent permission to the unusual excursion.
The unusualness of it--the Merriams performed their Sabbath
devotions at 11 A.M.--served to give Missy a greater thrill than
usually attends going to church. Besides, since the Merriams were
Presbyterians, going to the Methodist church held a certain novelty-
-savouring of entertainment--and diversion from the same old
congregation, the same old church choir, and the same old preacher.
In literal truth, also, the new Methodist preacher was not old; he
was quite young. Missy had already heard reports of him. Some of the
Methodist girls declared that though ugly he was perfectly
fascinating; and grandpa and grandma Merriam, who were Methodists
(as had been her own father before he married mother, a
Presbyterian), granted that he was human as well as inspired.
As Missy entered the Methodist church that evening with the
O'Neills, it didn't occur to her memory that it was in this very
edifice she had once felt the flame divine. It was once when her
mother was away visiting and her less rigidly strict grandparents
had let her stay up evenings and attend revival meetings with them.
But all that had happened long ago--five years ago, when she was a
little thing of ten. One forgets much in five years. So she felt no
stir of memory and no presentiment of a coincidence to come.
Reverend MacGill, the new minister, at first disappointed her. He
was tall and gaunt; and his face was long and gaunt, lighted with
deep-set, smouldering, dark eyes and topped with an unruly thatch of
dark hair. Missy thought him terribly ugly until he smiled, and then
she wasn't quite so sure. As the sermon went on and his harsh but
flexible voice mounted, now and then, to an impassioned height, she
would feel herself mounting with it; then when it fell again to
calmness, she would feel herself falling, too. She understood why
grandma called him "inspired." And once when his smile, on one of
its sudden flashes from out that dark gauntness of his face, seemed
aimed directly at her she felt a quick, responsive, electric thrill.
The Methodist girls were right--he was fascinating.
She didn't wait until after the service to express her approbation
to Tess--anyway, to a fifteen-year-old surreptitiousness seems to
add zest to any communication. She tore a corner from the hymnal
fly-leaf and scribbled her verdict while the elder O'Neills and most
of the old people were kneeling in prayer. Assuring herself that all
nearby heads to be dreaded were reverentially bent, she passed the
missive. As she did so she chanced to glance up toward the minister.
Oh, dear heaven! He was looking straight down at her. He had seen
her--the O'Neill pew was only three rows back. It was too awful.
What would he think of her? An agony of embarrassment and shame
swept over her.
And then--could she believe her eyes?--right in the midst of his
prayer, his harshly melodious voice rising and falling with never a
break--the Reverend MacGill smiled. Smiled straight at her--there
could be no mistake. And a knowing, sympathetic, understanding kind
of smile! Yes, he was human.
She liked him better than she had ever thought it possible to like a
minister--especially an ugly one, and one whom she'd never "met."
But after service she "met" him at the door, where he was standing
to shake hands with the departing worshippers. As Mrs. O'Neill
introduced her, rather unhappily, as "one of Tess's little friends,"
he flashed her another smile which said, quite plainly: "I saw you
up to your pranks, young lady!" But it was not until after Dr. and
Mrs. O'Neill had passed on that he said aloud: "That was all right--
all I ask is that you don't look so innocent when your hands are at
Oh, she adored his smile!
The following Sunday evening she was invited to the O'Neills' for
supper, and the Reverend MacGill was invited too. The knowledge of
this interesting meeting impending made it possible for her to view
Genevieve and Arthur, again out on a Sunday afternoon stroll, with a
certain equanimity. Genevieve, though very striking and vivacious in
her white fox, was indubitably a frivolous-minded girl; she, Missy,
was going to eat supper with the Reverend MacGill. Of course white
fox furs were nice, and Arthur's eyelashes curled up in an
attractive way, but there are higher, more ennobling things in life.
The Reverend MacGill did not prove disappointing on closer
acquaintance. Grandpa said he knew everything there is to know about
the Bible, but the Reverend MacGill did not talk about it. In a way
this was a pity, as his talk might have been instructive, but he got
Tess and Missy to talking about themselves instead. Not in the way
that makes you feel uncomfortable, as many older people do, but just
easy, chatty, laughing comradeship. You could talk to him almost as
though he were a boy of the "crowd."
It developed that the Reverend MacGill was planning a revival. He
said he hoped that Tess and Missy would persuade all their young
friends to attend. As Missy agreed to ally herself with his crusade,
she felt a sort of lofty zeal glow up in her. It was a pleasantly
superior kind of feeling. If one can't be fashionable and frivolous
one can still be pious.
In this noble missionary spirit she managed to be in the kitchen the
next time Arthur delivered the groceries from Pieker's. She asked
him to attend the opening session of the revival the following
Sunday night. Arthur blushed and stammered a little, so that, since
Arthur wasn't given to embarrassment, Missy at once surmised he had
a "date." Trying for an impersonal yet urbane and hospitable manner,
"Of course if you have an engagement, we hope you'll feel free to
bring any of your friends with you."
"Well," admitted Arthur, "you see the fact is I HAVE got a kind of
date. Of course if I'd KNOWN--"
"Oh, that's all right," she cut in with magnificent ease." I wasn't
asking you to go with me. Reverend MacGill just appointed me on a
kind of informal committee, you know--I'm asking Raymond Bonner and
all the boys of the crowd."
"You needn't rub it in--I get you. Swell chance of YOU ever wanting
to make a date!"
His sulkiness of tone, for some reason, gratified her. Her own
became even more gracious as she said again: "We hope you can come.
And bring any of your friends you wish."
She was much pleased with this sustained anonymity she had given
When the opening night of the Methodist revival arrived, most of the
"crowd" might have been seen grouped together in one of the rearmost
pews of the church. Arthur and Genevieve were there, Genevieve in
her white fox furs, of course. She was giggling and making eyes as
if she were at a party or a movie show instead of in church. Missy--
who had had to do a great deal of arguing in order to be present
with her, so to speak, guests--preserved a calm, sweet, religious
manner; it was far too relentlessly Christian to take note of
waywardness. But the way she hung on the words of the minister,
joined in song, bowed her head in prayer, should have been rebuke
enough to any light conduct. It did seem to impress Arthur; for,
looking at her uplifted face and shining eyes, as in her high, sweet
treble, she sang, "Throw Out the Life-Line," he lost the point of
one of Genevieve's impromptu jokes and failed to laugh in the right
place. Genevieve noticed his lapse. She also noticed the reason. She
herself was not a whit impressed by Missy's devotions, but she was
unduly quiet for several minutes. Then she stealthily tore a bit of
leaf from her hymnal--the very page on which she and other frail
mortals were adjured to throw out life-lines--and began to fashion
it into a paper-wad.
The service had now reached the stage of prayer for repentant
sinners. Reverend MacGill was doing the praying, but members of the
congregation were interjecting, "Glory Hallelujah!" "Praise be His
Name!" and the other worshipful ejaculations which make a sort of
running accompaniment on such occasions. Missy thought the
interruptions, though proper and lending an atmosphere of fervour,
rather a pity because they spoiled the effective rise and fall of
the minister's voice. There was one recurrent nasal falsetto which
especially threw you off the religious track. It belonged to old
Mrs. Lemon. Everybody knew she nagged at and overworked and half-
starved that ragged little Sims orphan she'd adopted, but here she
was making the biggest noise of all!
However, much as she wished old Mrs. Lemon to stop, Missy could not
approve of what she, just then, saw take place in her own pew.
Genevieve was whispering and giggling again. Missy turned to look.
Genevieve pressed a paper-wad into Arthur's hand, whispered and
giggled some more. And then, to Missy's horror, Arthur took
surreptitious but careful aim with the wad. It landed squarely on
old Mrs. Lemon's ear, causing a "Blessed be the Lo--" to part midway
in scandalized astonishment. Missy herself was scandalized. Of
course old Mrs. Lemon was a hypocrite--but to be hit on the ear
while the name of the Saviour was on her lips! Right on the ear!
Missy couldn't help mentally noting Arthur's fine marksmanship, but
she felt it her duty to show disapproval of a deed so utterly
She bestowed an openly withering look on the desecrators.
"She dared me to," whispered Arthur--the excuse of the original
Without other comment Missy returned her stern gaze to the pulpit.
She held it there steadfast though she was conscious of Genevieve,
undaunted, urging Arthur to throw another wad. He, however, refused.
That pleased Missy, for it made it easier to fix the blame for the
breach of religious etiquette upon Genevieve alone. Of course, it
was Genevieve who was really to blame. She was a frivolous, light-
minded girl. She was a bad influence for Arthur.
Yet, when it came time for the "crowd" to disperse and Arthur told
her good night as though nothing had happened, Missy deemed it only
consistent with dignity to maintain extreme reserve.
"Oh, fudge, Missy! Don't be so stand-offish!" Arthur was very
appealing when he looked at you like that--his eyes so mischievous
under their upcurling lashes. But Missy made herself say firmly:
"You put me in a rather awkward position, Arthur. You know Reverend
MacGill entrusted me to--"
"Oh, come out of it!" interrupted Arthur, grinning.
Missy sighed in her heart. She feared Arthur was utterly
unregenerate. Especially, when as he turned to Genevieve--who was
tugging at his arm--he gave the Reverend MacGill's missionary an
open wink. Missy watched the white fox furs, their light-minded
wearer and her quarry all depart together; commiseration for the
victim vied with resentment against the temptress. Poor Arthur!
She herself expected to be taken home by the O'Neills, but to her
surprise she found her father waiting in the church vestibule. He
said he had decided to come and hear the new minister, and Missy
never suspected it was the unrest of a father who sees his little
girl trying to become a big girl that had dragged him from his
house-slippers and smoking-jacket this snowy evening.
They walked homeward through the swirling flakes in silence. That
was one reason why Missy enjoyed being with her father--she could be
so companionably silent with him. She trudged along beside him,
half-consciously trying to match his stride, while her thoughts flew
But presently father spoke.
"He's very eloquent, isn't he?"
"He?--who?" She struggled to get her thoughts back home.
Her father peered at her through the feathery gloom.
"Why, the preacher--Reverend MacGill."
"Oh, yes." She shook herself mentally. "He's perfectly fasci--" she
broke off, remembering she was talking to a grown-up. "He's very
inspired," she amended.
Another pause. Again it was father who spoke first.
"Who was the boy who threw the paper-wad?"
Involuntarily Missy's hold on his arm loosened. Then father had
seen. That was bad. Doubtless many others had seen--old people who
didn't understand the circumstances. It was very bad for Arthur's
reputation. Poor Arthur!
"Threw the paper-wad?" she asked back evasively.
"Yes, the red-headed boy. Wasn't it that Summers fellow?"
That Summers fellow!--Arthur's reputation was already gone!
"Wasn't it?" persisted father.
Evasion was no longer possible. Anyway, it might be best to try to
explain just how it was--to set poor Arthur right. So she replied:
"Yes, it was Arthur--but it wasn't his fault, exactly."
"Not HIS fault? Whose in thunder was it?"
Missy hesitated. She didn't like talking scandal of anyone directly-
-and, besides, there were likeable traits in Genevieve despite her
"Well," she said, "it's just that Arthur is under a kind of wrong
influence--if you know what I mean."
"Yes, I know that influences count for a good deal," answered father
in the serious way she loved in him. Father DID understand more than
most grown-ups. And Reverend MacGill was like him in that. She found
time fleetingly to wish that Reverend MacGill were in some way
related to her. Too bad that he was a little too young for Aunt
Nettie; and, perhaps, too old for--she caught herself up, blushing
in the dark, as father went on:
"Just what kind of influence is undermining this Arthur fellow?"
She wished he wouldn't keep speaking of Arthur with that damning
kind of phrase. It was because she wanted to convince him that
Arthur didn't really merit it that she went further in speech than
"Well, he runs around with frivolous, light-minded people. People
who lead him on to do things he wouldn't dream of doing if they'd
let him alone. It isn't his fault if he's kind of--kind of
She paused, a little awe-stricken herself at this climactic
characterization of poor, misguided Arthur; she couldn't have told
herself just how she had arrived at it. A little confusedly she
rushed on: "He ought to have uplifting, ennobling influences in his
life--Arthur's at heart an awfully nice boy. That's why I wanted
mother to let me go walking with him. Don't you think that--maybe--
if she understood--she might let me?"
How in the world had that last question ever popped out? How had she
worked up to it? A little appalled, a little abashed, but withal
atingle at her own daring, she breathlessly, even hopefully, awaited
But father ruthlessly squashed her hopes with two fell sentences and
one terrifying oath.
"I should say not! You say he's dissipated and then in the same
breath ask me--for God's sake!"
"Well, maybe, he isn't so dissipated, father," she began
quaveringly, regretting the indiscretion into which eloquence had
"I don't care a whoop whether he is or not," said father
heartlessly. "What I want is for you to get it into your head, once
for all, that you're to have NOTHING to do with this fellow or any
Father's voice, usually so kind, had the doomsday quality that even
mother used only on very rare occasions. It reverberated in the
depths of Missy's being. They walked the last block in unbroken
silence. As they passed through the gate, walked up the front path,
shook the snow off their wraps on the porch, and entered the cosy-
lighted precincts of home, Missy felt that she was the most
wretched, lonely, misunderstood being in the world.
She said her good nights quickly and got off upstairs to her room.
As she undressed she could hear the dim, faraway sound of her
parents' voices. The sound irritated her. They pretended to love
her, but they seemed to enjoy making things hard for her! Not only
did they begrudge her a good time and white fox furs and everything,
but they wouldn't let her try to be a good influence to the world!
What was the use of renouncing earthly vanities for yourself if you
couldn't help others to renounce them, too? Of course there was a
certain pleasure, a kind of calm, peaceful satisfaction, an ecstasy
even, in letting the religious, above-the-world feeling take
possession of you. But it was selfish to keep it all to yourself. It
was your duty to pass it on, to do good works--to throw out the
life-line. And they begrudged her that--it wasn't right. Were all
parents as hard and cruel as hers?
She felt like crying; but, just then, she heard them coming up the
stairs. It would be difficult to explain her tears should one of
them look into her room on some pretext; so she jumped quickly into
bed. And, sure enough, she heard the door open. She shut her eyes.
She heard her mother's voice: "Are you asleep, dear?" Impossible to
divine that under that tender voice lay a stony heart! She emitted a
little ghost of a snore; she heard the door close again, very
For a while she lay quiet but she felt so unlike sleep that,
finally, she crept out of bed, groped for her blanket wrapper, and
went over to the window. It had stopped snowing and everything shone
palely in ghostly white. The trees were white-armed, gleaming
skeletons, the summerhouse an eerie pagoda or something, the
scurrying clouds, breaking now and showing silver edges from an
invisible moon, were at once grand and terrifying. It was all very
beautiful and mysterious and stirring. And something in her
stretched out, out, out--to the driving clouds, to the gleaming,
brandishing boughs, to the summerhouse so like something in a
picture. And, as her soul stretched out to the beauty and grandeur
and mystery of it all, there came over her a feeling of indefinable
ecstasy, a vague, keen yearning to be really good in every way. Good
to her Lord, to her father and mother and Aunt Nettie and little
brother, to the Reverend MacGill with his fascinating smile and good
works, to everybody--the whole town--the whole world. Even to
Genevieve Hicks, though she seemed so self-satisfied with her white
fox furs and giggling ways and utter worldliness--yet, there were
many things likeable about Genevieve if you didn't let yourself get
prejudiced. And Missy didn't ever want to let herself get
prejudiced--narrow and harsh and bigoted like so many Christians.
No; she wanted to be a sweet, loving, generous, helpful kind of
Christian. And to Arthur, too, of course. There must be SOME way of
She found herself, half-pondering, half-praying:
"How can I help Arthur, dear Jesus? Please help
me find some way--so that he won't go on being light-minded and
liking light-mindedness. How can I save him from his ways--maybe he
IS dissipated. Maybe he smokes cigarettes! Why does he fall for
light-mindedness? Why doesn't he feel the real beauty of services?--
the rumbling throb of the organ, and the thrill of hearing your own
voice singing sublime hymns, and the inspired swell of Reverend
MacGill's voice when he prays with such expression? It is real
ecstasy when you get the right kind of feeling--you're almost
willing to renounce earthly vanities. But Arthur doesn't realize
what it MEANS. How can I show him, dear Jesus? Because they've
forbidden me to have anything to do with him. Would it be right, for
the sake of his soul, for me to disobey them--just a little bit?.
For the sake of his soul, you know. And he's really a nice boy at
heart. THEY don't understand just how it is. But I don't think it
would be VERY wrong if I talked to him just a little--do you?"
Gradually it came over her that she was chilly; she dragged a
comforter from her bed and resumed her kneeling posture by the
window and her communings with Jesus and her conscience. Then she
discovered she was going off to sleep, so she sprang to her feet and
jumped back into bed. A great change had come over her spirit; no
longer was there any restlessness, bitterness, or ugly rebellion;
no; nothing but peace ineffable. Smiling softly, she slept.
The next morning brought confusion to the Merriam household for
father was catching the 8:37 to Macon City on a business trip, Aunt
Nettie was going along with him to do some shopping, mother was in
bed with one of her headaches, and Missy had an inexplicably sore
throat. This last calamity was attributed, in a hurried conclave in
mother's darkened room, to Missy's being out in the snow-storm the
night before. Missy knew there was another contributory cause, but
she couldn't easily have explained her vigil at the window.
"I didn't want her to go to church in the first place," mother
"Well, she won't go any more," said father darkly. Missy's heart
sank; she looked at him with mutely pleading eyes.
"And you needn't look at me like that," he added firmly. "It won't
do you the least good."
Missy's heart sank deeper. How could she hope to exert a proper
religious influence if she didn't attend services regularly herself?
But father looked terribly adamantine.
"I think you'd better stay home from school today," he continued,
"it's still pretty blustery."
So Missy found herself spending the day comparatively alone in a
preternaturally quiet house--noisy little brother off at school,
Aunt Nettie's busy tongue absent, Marguerite, the hired girl, doing
the laundry down in the basement. And mother's being sick, as always
is the case when a mother is sick, seemed to add an extra heaviness
to the pervasive stillness. The blustery day invited reading, but
Missy couldn't find anything in the house she hadn't already read;
and she couldn't go to the Public Library because of her throat. And
couldn't practice because of mother's head. Time dragged on her
hands, and Satan found the mischief--though Missy devoutly believed
that it was the Lord answering her prayer.
She was idling at the front-parlour window when she saw Picker's
delivery wagon stop at the gate. She hurried back to the kitchen,
telling herself that Marguerite shouldn't be disturbed at her
washtubs. So she herself let Arthur in. All sprinkled with snow and
ruddy-cheeked and mischievous-eyed, he grinned at her as he emptied
his basket on the kitchen table.
"Well," he bantered, "did you pray for my sins last night?"
"You shouldn't make fun of things like that," she said rebukingly.
"Gee, Missy, but you're sure a scream when you get pious!" Then he
sobered and, casually--a little too casually, enquired: "Say, I
s'pose you're going again to-night?"
Missy regretfully shook her head. "No, I've got a. sore throat." She
didn't deem it necessary to say anything about parental objections.
Arthur looked regretful, too.
"Say, that's too bad. I was thinking, maybe--"
He shuffled from one foot to the other in a way that to Missy
clearly finished his speech's hiatus: He'd been contemplating taking
HER home to-night instead of that frivolous Genevieve Hicks! What a
shame! To lose the chance to be a really good influence--for surely
getting Arthur to church again, even though for the main purpose of
seeing her home, was better than for him not to go to church at all.
It is excusable to sort of inveigle a sinner into righteous paths.
What a shame she couldn't grasp at this chance for service! But she
oughtn't to let go of it altogether; oughtn't to just abandon him,
as it were, to his fate. She puckered her brows meditatively.
"I'm not going to church, but--"
She paused, thinking hard. Arthur waited.
An inspiration came to her. "Anyway, I have to go to the library to-
night. I've got some history references to look up."
Arthur brightened. The library appealed to him as a rendezvous more
than church, anyway. Oh, ye Public Libraries of all the Cherryvales
of the land! Winter-time haunt of young love, rivalling band-
concerts in the Public Square on summer evenings! What unscholastic
reminiscences might we not hear, could book-lined shelves in the
shadowy nooks, but speak!
"About what time will you be through at the Library?" asked Arthur,
"Oh, about eight-thirty," said Missy, not pausing to reflect that
it's an inconsistent sore throat that can venture to the Library but
not to church.
"Well, maybe I'll be dropping along that way about that time,"
opined Arthur. "Maybe I'll see you there."
"That would be nice," said Missy, tingling.
She continued to tingle after he had jauntily departed with his
basket and clattered away in his delivery wagon. She had a "date"
with Arthur. The first real "date" she'd ever had! Then, resolutely
she squashed her thrills; she must remember that this meeting was
for a Christian cause. The motive was what made it all right for her
to disobey--that is, to SEEM to disobey--her parents' commands. They
didn't "understand." She couldn't help feeling a little perturbed
over her apparent disobedience and had to argue, hard with her
Then, another difficulty presented itself to her mind. Mother had
set her foot down on evening visits to the Library--mother seemed to
think girls went there evenings chiefly to meet boys! Mother would
never let her go--especially in such weather and with a sore throat.
Missy pondered long and earnestly.
The result was that, after supper, at which mother had appeared,
pale and heavy-eyed, Missy said tentatively:
"Can I run up to Kitty's a little while to See what the lessons are
"I don't think you'd better, dear," mother replied listlessly. "It
wouldn't be wise, with that throat."
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