The Heart of Arethusab
by Francis Barton Fox
THE HEART OF ARETHUSA
FRANCES BARTON FOX
With a Frontispiece by F. W. Read
Boston Small, Maynard and Company Publishers
Copyright, 1918 By Small, Maynard &Company (Incorporated)
GEORGE MADDEN MARTIN
Who found me young; full ignorant of the trade
To which my soul aspired. So it was she made,
With friendly kindness of a generous heart,
Some of her busy hours to know still worthier aim;
Seeing that I learned a trifle of the writing game.
And in what I've written, she has had her part.
THE HEART OF ARETHUSA
At the end of a long, straight avenue of symmetrically developed
water maple trees (the trunks of all the trees whitewashed to precisely
the same height from the ground) the house gleamed creamy-white,
directly facing the Pike. Its broad front door came exactly within the
middle distance of this vista of maples, as though the long-ago builder
had known that Miss Eliza's orderly soul would have suffered much
unhappiness had it swerved a fraction from the centre and, looking
forward to the time when she should rule at the Farm, had planned it
all to save her the trouble of a change. Miss Eliza would have been
sorely tempted to move either the house or the avenue, had not the
front door been so placed as to be viewed from the exact middle of that
avenue; such was her passion for neatness and precision.
And there was not a weed nor a ragged-looking patch of grass in the
whole length of the brown dirt road between those evenly grown maples;
nor a weed nor a ragged-looking patch of grass in the whole of the
front yard, enclosed in its white board fence with the one flat board
laid all around the top.
This was a board whose position and height from the ground had
always made it irresistible to Arethusa. It had been one of the chief
delights of an active childhood and adolescence to walk it as far as
possible before falling off. The day she had negotiated the entire
fence without once losing her balance, to return in triumph to the
stile where Timothy awaited her, marked an epoch in her development;
for it was the last stronghold of Timothy's achievements, as should
properly distinguish the boy from the girl, which had thus far held out
against her. And it was quite a long way around the top of that fence;
the yard was large.
There was no gate into the yard. Those who came to call at the Farm
on wheels stopped their vehicle at the end of the avenue outside, by
the worn hitching-post with its iron chain and ring, and climbed an
old-fashioned stile right from the carriage-block to a straight walk of
bricks, laid in a queer criss-cross pattern, that led up to the house.
It was a low-built house, wide-flung, the eaves coming close down
over the second-story windows: and one might almost have stepped from
the windows of the first floor directly out on to the flagged walk that
ran along the whole front. It had a curious appearance of having grown
where it was. One could imagine, without very much effort, that it had
not been built as were other houses, but had grown up gradually like
some queer sort of solid plant.
The pillars of the small front porch were covered thick with a white
clematis in full bloom, the pride of Miss Eliza's heart; and well might
she be proud, for no other clematis for miles around ever bloomed so
profusely or so largely. Flowers nodded gayly in the smallest of formal
gardens at one end of the house and honeysuckle vines clambered over
frames by the summer-house sheltering the cistern at the other end; but
both vines and flowers climbed and nodded in the most orderly manner,
for they were all Miss Eliza's plants.
The house was painted every other spring, painted this creamy-white,
and it always seemed a cleaner white than any other white house in the
country, no matter if those others were painted just as often. The
outside shutters to the twinkling square-paned windows were green, a
rich, dark green, that had not been changed since time began for the
Farm. On the second day of May every other year (unless that day fell
on Sunday) John Gibson drove out from town and began painting at the
Farm. If it rained, he painted inside the porches first; but he put one
coat of paint all over everything paintable before he was through. He
always stayed out at the Farm until his work was done, and then he
drove back to town again, to wait until the then two-years' distant
second day of May should bring him back.
And everything that was done on the Farm was done in just such
well-grooved ruts of habit.
* * * * *
It had been unbearably hot and close all day long.
The brazen, hard-blue sky had seemed to be pressing a blanket of
thick, humid air closer and closer to the earth as if bent upon the
suffocation of everything living. Everybody at the Farm had been sure
it was brewing a storm. They had hoped a good rainstorm; and now ... It
was almost come.
Down on the horizon the clouds were piling up in great black and
dark grey masses, with here and there a lighter grey that showed
ominously against its darker background; cloud masses shot through
every now and then with an angry-looking red or orange flash that was
immediately answered by a low rumble of ever nearing thunder.
The wind had risen, after this gasping day without a breath of air
stirring anywhere, and now it blew refreshingly cold and clear almost
directly from the north.
It flattened the long parched grass in the yard. It danced the
leaves on the trees about so gayly and so madly as they turned their
more prominently veined sides to view (which Arethusa knew was almost a
sure indication of rain), it did not seem possible their slender stems
could hold them to the bending and twisting branches. Indeed, some of
them could not hold on and the wind gathered these up and carried them
along with bits of twigs and grass to pile up in the fence corners and
wait for that sorely needed drink of water there. A garden chair in
front of the house rocked violently as though some restless ghost were
occupying it and then overturned with a crash. The dust gathered up in
the brown dirt road in great swirls and whirled away like miniature
cyclone-clouds in their funnel shape towards the Pike to meet other
swirls of a lighter dust and go whirling still farther away, until the
wind grew tired of such sport and dropped them. The birds' nest in the
north cornice which Miss Eliza had been after for weeks blew down, and
the straw and bits of feathers were scattered all over the yard; but
only to be caught again by the wind and carried on somewhere else. The
green shutters on the house swung out on their fastenings as far as
they could and then banged back against the house with a tiny crash of
There seemed nothing that the wind overlooked. Even the clouds, as
they piled higher and higher and blacker and blacker, had the
appearance of being driven by the wind, nearer and nearer the Farm.
Arethusa ran out of the front door and down the long, flagged walk
towards the quince bushes, far at the very end of the yard, to meet the
storm. She held out her arms to the wind and drank in great deep
breaths of its refreshing coolness. It tossed her skirts about her and
blew the great rope of coppery red hair which ordinarily hung loosely
plaited down her back so that it streamed straight out behind her just
like a candle flame.
Of all the things that happened with which she was acquainted,
Arethusa loved best a thunder-storm. She felt no slightest tinge of
fear; to be out of doors in the wind and rain with thunder crashing and
rolling and great flashes of lightning splitting wide the heavens,
every now and then, left nothing to be desired towards the perfection
of the situation. She had sometimes fancied, after an unusually wide
and vivid flash, that she had really been able to see a wee bit of a
way into that Heavenly City which she had been taught was high above
her, behind all that sky, in the blinding brightness.
But Arethusa's aunts had altogether different ideas, not one of them
(save perhaps Miss Asenath, somewhat) understanding in the least this
strange and illogical desire to watch the play of the elements out of
doors when she could be safe inside a house. It was always their very
first move, when a storm was threatened, to bid her remain indoors.
To-day though, so far, the gods had seemed to be with her; she had
escaped without being seen. And if her luck continued to hold, she
might get clear away to Miss Asenath's Woods before her Aunt 'Liza
caught her and haled her back. For they had not had such a glorious
storm as this would be, if its promise were made good, for months and
There was a flash of lightning that seemed to play all about the
girl running swiftly down the walk; a crash of thunder that seemed to
make every window pane in the house rattle in echo, and a few, big,
splashing drops of rain fell.
Arethusa stretched her arms high and stood on tiptoe to meet them.
She shook her hair loose from its plait and threw back her head, loving
it allthe wind and the dark sky and the tense feeling of readiness
for the storm with which everything seemed chargedwith an almost
pagan joy. She even began a dance, a fantastic sort of lonely quadrille
(if it could be given any special name), there on the flagged walk by
the end of the house.
The call came very faint and far away.
Louder this time, and much nearer, but Arethusa heeded it not if she
heard; her dance continued uninterrupted. She swayed like a tall lily
to the wind, with a few little steps one way and then a few little
steps the other; holding out her cotton skirts; her hair blown all
about her like a great, red cloud. There was something elfin, something
wild and woodsy, in her manner of dancing; the nymph whose name she
bore might so have welcomed a storm in her woods of ancient Greece.
And Miss Eliza Redfield's own energetic little person, as trig and
trim as a tiny ship with all sails closely reefed, even in this
boisterous wind, bore down upon her niece. Miss Eliza's grey crown of
glory, parted in the middle with precision and to the exactitude of a
hair, was totally unruffled and remained drawn down across her forehead
in smooth, satiny bands of an evenness and rigidity which no other
hair, save Miss Eliza's, could possibly have.
She pushed her shiny glasses to the end of her sharp, little nose
and over them surveyed the disheveled maiden before her.
What are you doing? she asked crisply.
Arethusa turned her glowing face to her aunt, but without pausing in
her dance. Oh, this glorious storm, Aunt 'Liza! I ...
Miss Eliza waved her hand. You need not answer. I can see quite
plainly, for myself, it is something foolish. You should not be out
here. Come on into the house, Arethusa. Your Aunt 'Titia and I and your
Aunt 'Senath wish to talk to you. In the sitting-room.
Oh, not right now, Aunt 'Liza, please! Can't I ...
No, you can't. Come on into the house. How many times do you have
to be told a thing, Arethusa? You know very well how much your Aunt
'Titia objects to your running around in a storm in this outlandish
Oh, but Aunt 'Liza, it's not storming yet. Just thundering a
little, pleaded Arethusa. Please let me stay out until it really
begins. Please! I'll come right in then. I promise. Please!
And this effectually nipped in the bud Arethusa's faint little
effort to have her own way.
But it would have been nipped effectually sooner or later, for no
one ever dreamed of standing up for long against Miss Eliza, or of
being so rash as to contemplate such as actual disobedience. Although
her stature was that of a child and her figure slight in proportion,
she concentrated as much energy and leadership in those four feet
eleven inches, as if the figures had been reversed.
Blish, the negro boy who did all the hardest and heaviest work
around the house, inside and out, and who stood six feet three in his
stockings, hung his head abjectly as before an offended Goliath when
his diminutive mistress scolded him for a task she considered
slightingly performed. Blish had an honest and ingrained terror of Miss
Eliza's wrath and the lashings she could give with her tongue: and he
was not alone among those on the Farm in this terror.
So Arethusa abandoned her dance and, with her hair still hanging,
meekly followed Miss Eliza towards the front door.
We have had a letter from your father, began Miss Eliza, as this
strange Indian-file procession of very tiny old lady and very tall
young girl proceeded back along the flagged walk on which it had issued
forth in distinct sections such a short while before.
Oh! Arethusa lunged forward and grabbed Miss Eliza around
her neck. When, Aunt 'Liza? When? This morning? What did he say? Why
didn't you tell me? Did he say anything for me? Oh, Aunt 'Liza, what
did he say?
These staccato questions were poured forth as fast as it is possible
for human lips to utter words.
Miss Eliza extricated herself from the embrace without interrupting
We considered it best, your Aunt 'Titia and I and your Aunt
'Senath, (She never spoke of herself and Arethusa's other great-aunts
in any different way or order, and why, no one could tell) to discuss
it thoroughly among ourselves before we said anything to you about it.
It was a very unexpected letter; almost a shock, I might say, the
contents. It came yesterday afternoon. I wish, Arethusa, that you would
learn not to be so violent. You could have asked me about it without
nearly strangling me.
Every fibre of Arethusa's body quivered with impatience. What little
self-control she had, and Miss Eliza would have named it none at all,
was only managed with the greatest difficulty. Behind her aunt's
leadership she proceeded with little hops and skips. Her tongue burned
with all the rest of those questions she was so longing to ask.
A Letter from Father in the house ever since yesterday afternoon,
and she had not even seen it! It was the one time in weeks that she had
not gone down to the mail-box for the mail! So it always happened!
Suddenly Miss Eliza turned.
You make me so nervous, Arethusa, jumping up and down that way
behind me, I could scream! Can't you walk! Then she added, half
to herself and rather irrelevantly too, considering the gist of the
foregoing conversation. I must say that I question very strongly the
wisdom of Sister 'Titia's decision.
All decisions were, nine cases out of ten, wholly Miss Eliza's; but
in conversation responsibility for them was generally shifted to Miss
Arethusa made a noble effort to compose herself and did her very
utmost to walk as she had been requested.
From long experience of her aunt, she knew it would do no earthly
good to ask a single one of those questions she so desired to have
answered. Miss Eliza told a person all that was necessary when she was
quite ready for it, herself, and without the least regard as to the
state of feverish impatience to which such a proceeding might bring a
petitioner. And very often, Arethusa had also discovered, questioning
delayed the wished-for loosening of Miss Eliza's tongue.
Miss Eliza paused to shut the front door carefully behind them,
latching it against the storm; and Arethusa ran on ahead into the
sitting-room at one end of the big, square hall, a dog-trot hall
which went straight through the centre of the house from front porch to
This place known as the sitting-room was a nondescript apartment
crowded with furniture of varied sorts, till every available space was
occupied by something. It was too crowded to be really pleasing when
one entered it for the first time and yet it possessed certain and
unmistakable charm; which was a charm Miss Asenath may have given. Her
couch dominated everything, drawn across between the two south windows.
But whatever it was, one undoubtedly had a feeling of something about
the sitting-room which made it lovable after being in it the shortest
The furniture which made it seem crowded ran from a new and shiny
sewing-machine of very recent purchase, through some pieces belonging
unmistakably to the period of temperamentally carved walnut of a
generation or so ago, back to the plain wood and simple lines of
Colonial days. Miss Eliza's high old secretary, placed to get the best
possible light for her slightly near-sighted eyes which she obstinately
refused to admit were anything but perfect in their vision, was of the
last description. The secretary stood open always, and was of a
consistently immaculate order. The neat little piles of papers and
account-books in the various pigeon-holes were arranged so precisely
they looked as if they had never been touched since first put in their
places, and yet the owner spent many industrious moments, nearly every
day, working with them. The piano, which sat almost directly opposite
the secretary, was of a trifle later construction. It was large and
square, of inlaid rosewood, with handsomely carved legs, and had
mother-of-pearl keys faintly tinged with brown all around their edges.
From end to end, lengthwise of its top, was a long narrow piece of dark
red satin decorated with bunches of tall cat-tails heavily painted in
oils. Scattered music lay all over the piano, on the music-rack,
sliding down on the keys, and in small, untidy piles hastily placed on
the red satin cover. Its scattered condition was conclusive evidence
that Arethusa had been handling it, for she was the only person on the
place who ever scattered anything about so untidily. There was a wicker
sewing-basket in the room, Miss Letitia's property. And a large and
pompous what-not of black walnut, elaborately and fantastically carved,
guarded the corner nearest the door, bearing as its pièce de resistance
a bunch of wax flowers under a glass case, flowers shaped by Miss
Asenath's gentle fingers a great many years ago; one or two shells
wearing landscapes in oilsof colors and tints never yet seen in an
actual landscapealso reminiscent of Miss Asenath's artistic girlhood;
and several other non-utilitarian objects of varying degrees of beauty,
according to the personal taste of the beholder. A much larger shell
than those on the what-not, with a landscape containing a cow and other
objects no doubt intended as human, propped open the door into the
hall. A white marble clock, with a large piece of white coral lying on
its top and under a glass case like the wax flowers, ticked away on the
high mantel in the dignified and quiet way which befitted a clock
belonging to the Redfields. And there were many other pieces of
furniture and bits of old-fashioned ornament in the room.
The various generations and the lives which each one had lived at
the Farm might almost be known by observation of these things in the
sitting-room. Each generation and its occupations had seemed to leave
behind it an imprint in furniture and ornament.
But had the sitting-room not been a room of rather unusual
dimensions, it could never have held all of the diversified objects
gathered in it. And they were gathered in it of real necessity, for all
the life of the house centered about Miss Asenath, and in this room she
spent her whole waking time. Miss Asenath had not left the couch
between the two south windows for over fifty years, except to be lifted
from it to her bed at night and back to it again in the morning for
She was as tiny as Miss Eliza, but even thinner, and her delicate
features made her profile seem like a deliciously tinted cameo against
the faded tan of the sitting-room wall. She had an abundance of soft
white hair that waved like a fleecy cloud about her face. Her skin was
white and waxen clear; her loose gown was of woolly material, white and
spotless; the pillows piled all around her were all in immaculate white
cases; and though her lips still held a faded rose and her eyes gleamed
dark, the only real spot of color anywhere immediately about her was a
fluffy wool afghan of a heaven-like shade of deep blue spread across
the lower part of her helpless body.
Miss Asenath loved all that had color: the gold of sunlight across
the sitting-room floor; the green of the grass and the waxen-leaved
coral honeysuckle just outside the sitting-room windows; she even loved
the wax flowers because they were so gay. But Miss Letitia loved just
as dearly to dress her all in white to match her hair and skin (Miss
Letitia was the seamstress for the whole family); so there was a
compromise. Miss Asenath wore the soft white gowns of Miss Letitia's
making and, with Miss Letitia's own connivance, indulged her fancy for
colors in her afghans, which she had in every conceivable shade.
Long ago, Miss Asenath had had a Romance.
She had always been the acknowledged beauty of the family in her
Dresden china loveliness, and she had been little more than a child
when love had come to her in all the wonder and ecstacy of loving that
belongs to youth. But a fall from her riding horse had left her pinned
to this couch, never to walk again, so she had sent her boy-lover away.
And although she had known him grow old and had watched him live a
full life apart from hers (a life actually ended only a very few years
ago), she had seemed to see him always as the boy belonging to her
girlhood, to those months she had claimed him as her own. She wore his
picture in a locket at her throat hung on a piece of ribbon the color
of the afghan for that day. It was a miniature of a smiling boy with
waving blonde hair brushed high above his forehead in an unmistakable
roll, with eyes of a very deep shade of blue, and dressed in a high
stock and much be-ruffled shirt, and a blue coat adorned with brass
Arethusa dearly loved all of this, the Romance and the Locket. She
made it her special bit in the dressing of Miss Asenath every morning
to hang the locket on its bit of ribbon and tie the tiny bow around
Miss Asenath's frail neck.
She often wondered just how it would seem when one was old to have
been the Heroine of a Situation exactly like a story book. She pictured
it as a dramatic scene of renunciation between the lovers, both
satisfyingly well-favoredfor Miss Asenath's beauty was a tradition
and the boy in the locket was undeniably good to look upon; and her
natural inclination to romance was aided by the reading of many
old-fashioned novels of unbridled sentimentality.
Arethusa loved Miss Asenath herself even more than the Romance,
though everyone loved her; no one could help it. Even Miss Eliza's
crisp tones softened when she spoke to her.
* * * * *
Arethusa plumped herself down on her special hassock right beside
Miss Asenath's couch. It was a hassock with a wool-worked top of
fearful reds and greens and yellows, which always stood just in that
place so Arethusa could sit close to Miss Asenath. Miss Asenath smiled
a welcome, and then with her slender fingers, so waxen white against
the glowing color of the girl's hair, began plaiting up the loose red
mass lest Miss Eliza should notice it and scold Arethusa for running
about with her hair unbound.
The room was stifling.
Every window was closed tight, and the blinds drawn down, in
addition, making a semi-darkness. For Miss Letitia was afraid of
storms, thunder storms especially. At the very first distant rumble of
thunder she always closed every opening in the house.
She sat bolt upright in the centre of the room, her plump little
person enthroned upon a leather pillowlightning never struck through
feathersand her never idle fingers were busy crocheting a
rose-colored afghan for Miss Asenath. Miss Letitia decidedly preferred
steel needles both for crocheting and knitting, but steel was dangerous
to use during a stormit attracted lightning, so her steel needles
were all safe in the very bottom of her bureau drawer underneath her
plain assortment of chemises and petticoats. And she had wheeled the
sewing machine into the very farthest and darkest corner of the room.
Miss Letitia was like nothing in the world so much as a ridiculously
fat edition of Miss Eliza. But she lacked Miss Eliza's precision, and
she could never, even with several conscientious trials, get her hair
parted exactly in the middle. Arethusa sometimes on very special
occasions parted it for her. Miss Eliza liked to see her sister as neat
as herself. She liked Miss Letitia's apparel to have the same trim look
as her own instead of the comfortably untidy appearance it did have.
But, as Miss Letitia plaintively expressed it, when taken to task
because she was not just so, It's a great deal easier, Sister, to pin
things down on a thin person, because there isn't any strain.
Arethusa picked up the last copy of the Christian Observer,
which was lying near Miss Asenath, and fanned herself vigorously. Her
efforts to cool herself were so vigorous that in a very few moments she
was wet with perspiration and much warmer than she had been before she
started to fan. She felt as if she were about to suffocate in this
close room after her glorious little run in the breath of the cold
May I open a window, Aunt 'Titia, she begged, Please, mayn't I?
It's not storming yet, and, and, I'm so hot!
Never open a window in a storm, 'Thusa. It's a very dangerous thing
Miss Letitia iooked at her great-niece just as severely as she knew
how, though the severe effect she intended was somewhat marred by that
perennial twinkle in her eyes and the rosy cloud in her lap below her
round, rosy face. Such a setting made her look more like a grown-up
cherub than anything else at the moment.
The whole room, even with its closed blinds, was suddenly
illuminated by a blinding glow, and a crashing roll of thunder followed
Miss Letitia screamed.
Mercy on us! How awful! That was so near. Sister 'Liza, you'd
better get a pillow! 'Thusa...!
Always, in a storm, one of Miss Letitia's first duties was to
bulwark Miss Asenath who could not get pillows for herself, and so the
latter was almost buried in them. Miss Asenath passed one of her many
over to Arethusa, who sat on it obediently. Then the gentle creature on
the couch rewarded her with a pat; by this conveying her loving
intelligence of just how much the sitting on the hot, stuffy protection
Miss Letitia insisted upon was hated, and her recognition of the
magnanimity of doing so with murmuring. But it was Miss Asenath's way
to make anything but good behaviour in her immediate vicinity well-nigh
Next, she reached over and took the Christian Observer from
Arethusa's hot grasp, and began herself to fan the overheated girl very
slowly and quietly.
If you sit quite still, dear, she said softly, you'll cool off in
just a moment.
Miss Eliza's sturdy uprightness disdained the safety first aid of
pillows. She was a fatalist.
If I'm struck, then I'm struck, she said, with the finality that
admits of no argument.
Arethusa sat quietly on her hassock and under Miss Asenath's gentle
regularity of fanning she cooled off gradually, but her impatience was
in no wise abated. Father's letter was still undiscussed; and Arethusa
wished that Miss Eliza would hurry and tell her about it, and what he
had said. She seemed so very much longer than usual in getting started
on what her niece considered the most burning question of the hour.
She told Miss Letitia about the fall of the bird's nest which she
had noticed on her trip to get Arethusa, and Miss Letitia agreed with
her sister that it was a blessing that the wind had blown it down
before it rained, else the gutter would surely have flooded again. They
discussed with zeal the advisability of putting wire netting over the
gutter end to keep those birds from re-building, and the length of time
the storm was in actually coming. Miss Letitia ventured the prediction
that it was to be a hard rain and she certainly hoped that Blish had
remembered to put the barrels under that broken place in the north-east
water spout to catch all the rain-water that was possible: and Miss
Eliza replied with asperity that if he had not remembered it, he would
find himself sorry. But she really considered it decidedly remiss in
Jere Conway not to have fixed that spout weeks ago; she herself had
told him about it on her last visit to town. Jere Conway was getting
lazier and lazier as he got older and less attentive to business.
Although she hated very much to employ a strange man, still if he put
off much longer fixing that spout, she was going to send for the new
tin-smith at the Junction.
Finally, Arethusa felt that she could not stand all this irrelevancy
another second; her impatient longing had to be expressed.
Please, Aunt 'Liza, what did Father say?
Miss Eliza dropped her glasses to the end of her nose.
You must learn to wait, Arethusa. You are much too impatient. Like
Miss Asenath's gentle voice interposed, But why not tell her,
Sister? Right now?
So Miss Eliza proceeded.
Your father, she announced, in a tone that plainly indicated her
hearty disapproval of the whole affair, and plunging at once into the
very middle of her subject, has married again!
Married again! echoed Arethusa, uncertainly.
The effect of her aunt's disclosure was as though some one had
thrown a bulky object at her quite unexpectedly.
That's what I said, I believe. It's what I intended to say. Shut
your mouth, child,you look half-witted with it open that way. I
always did think he would. And I must confess I never thought he'd wait
near as long as he has. Though I'm no great believer in second
But, Aunt 'Liza ...
Miss Eliza frowned at the interruption.
Will you wait, Arethusa? Till I finish!
Arethusa might have retorted, and very properly, that nothing had
been really begun as yet, by jumping into a middle without preamble.
But then, Miss Eliza had her own most individual way of doing
everything, even to telling of the contents of important letters.
When I have finished, you may read his letter for yourself. His new
wife, she crowded a quantity of scorn into those two words, wants you
to come visit them. He says she does. They both do. She has sent ...
Arethusa sprang, starry-eyed, from her hassock. Her hands flew,
clasped, up to her heart to hold its beating down.
To Europe? Oh, Aunt 'Liza!
Will you wait!! I must say! To Europe, indeed! He's in
And then Arethusa gave such a shriek of joy that it echoed through
and through the house. Mandy, in the kitchen, looked inquiringly at
Blish as it penetrated there. Miss Asenath smiled; Miss Letitia's
crochet needle slipped clear out of the stitch she was just taking: and
Miss Eliza put her hands over her ears.
Arethusa!! If you don't sit down!...
So Arethusa subsided to the hassock, still quivering. Miss Asenath
gave her a reassuring pat and her frail hand was grabbed and held
tight. Such composure as could be managed came easier with something to
Miss Eliza continued her tale.
Yes, his new wife, thank heaven, is an American, and I reckon she
wants to live at home. Then to herself, parenthetically, I was always
afraid he'd marry one of those frog-eating foreigners he's been
trotting around with so long, and I must say I'm mightily surprised
that he didn't.
She paused a moment and looked at Arethusa over her glasses as if
Arethusa were the one to blame for this situation. Although the girl
did not dare open her mouth in face of such an expression, she gave a
little jump of impatience. It did seem as if Miss Eliza might finish
telling It, and tell It straight, in some sort of order, if she were
going to tell It at all.
They want you to come visit them, repeated Miss Eliza, after her
parenthesis and the little pause, and your father's sent the money, as
he says, for your 'immediate needs.' Over one hundred dollars it is. He
says his wife gave it to him. She must be mighty well-off. 'Immediate
needs,' indeed! I can buy your whole winter wardrobe with that money!
Then once more did Arethusa rush recklessly in where angels would
have feared to tread.
Oh, Aunt 'Liza!... A belated discretion came to her aid before she
Miss Eliza frowned again. Her lips drew ominously down, and
reprimand of some sort was plainly to be detected hovering there, but,
for some obscure reason, she also changed her mind.
Your Aunt 'Titia, she said, rather mildly, and thus apparently
shifting all responsibility for any evil, which might ensue from this
step to Miss Letitia's plumper shoulders, your Aunt 'Titia has decided
that so long as this is nearly August, there's no earthly use in your
going to visit them until fall. So I'm going to write your father that.
He may not like it, because he wants you right away, his letter says.
But it would be downright foolishness to get you more summer clothes
this late in the season; and you haven't near enough now, nor the right
kind, to visit in a city. It's just like him, for all the world, this
whole affair. Letting you alone for this long, and then all of a sudden
wanting you to be bundled right off to him! You'll be needing winter
clothes in a month or two, she finished decidedly, so you're going in
the fall. Then she added, much more to herself, however, than to
Arethusa, But I must say, I strongly doubt the wisdom of your going at
She settled back in her chair with the air of one having said her
say, but leaving her niece with a feeling strongly resembling
Miss Eliza had simply flung these few facts at her without any
elaboration; sketched in the bare outlines to what, viewed by Arethusa,
a whole volume might be added without doing anywhere near full justice
to the Subject. There was that matter of the new wife, especially.
One's only father does not get married every day, and to dismiss the
lady of his choice by simply stating her existence does not gratify a
thousandth part of natural curiosity. Her father, she knew, had written
more than just the simple fact of his marriage. If he had done just
that; then it was certainly not her father who had written the letter.
Miss Eliza had not told her when ... or where ... or ...
Arethusa gazed at her aunt, clasping and unclasping her hands
helplessly; her lips parted for speech, but no words came, for so many
words trembled there, they literally dammed one another up.
I ... Did Father ... she managed to gasp, finally.
But Miss Eliza seemed to read through this inadequacy of expression
some of that chaos of thought which whirled round and round in
Arethusa's brain. She reached down in the little leather pocket that
always hung at her belt and drew out a large, square envelope.
Here, child, I said you could read it, and although her tone was
as sharp as always, it was not unkind. That woman he married. You want
to know, I reckon. Some more about her. It's perfectly natural. He's
gone into all sorts of raptures over her, of course. He wouldn't be
Ross Worthington if he hadn't. And she is very probably just an
ordinary female woman.
Arethusa seized the outstretched envelope eagerly.
May I...? she asked.
She spoke to Miss Asenath, who nodded a permission to the unfinished
but evident request before either of the other aunts had a chance to
So Arethusa was off like the wind, unheeding of the anxious call
Miss Letitia sent after her.
Out through the back of the house this time, and on through the
kitchen where she paused only long enough to squeeze Mandy, one of her
staunchest allies and a certain sharer in all joys, to whirl her clear
around from her table where she was working, and to wave the Letter at
her excitedly and then plunge on, leaving Mandy absolutely breathless
with the suddenness of this onslaught.
The rain was falling now, slowly but steadily, in big heavy drops,
and the darkest clouds were lowering, apparently right above her head;
but the flying girl paid no attention to these evidences of the
imminence of her storm. She held the Letter pressed close against her
as if to protect it and made straight for Miss Asenath's Woods, via the
Arethusa flung herself flat on a mossy spot of ground underneath the
largest and tallest of the trees in Miss Asenath's Woods.
Like the vaulted ceiling of a huge green cathedral, the branches far
above her curved in graceful arches. And they were so thickly
interlaced and grown with leaves, that although this first slow-falling
rain of the storm could be distinctly heard in its noisy pattering on
those leaves, very little came through them, save an extra large and
splashing drop every now and then.
Having run every step of the way from the house, Arethusa was
completely out of breath: and she could only lie panting for some
moments, the Letter still clutched to her breast.
The wind had died down, and it was as hot and close out here in the
open under the trees as it had seemed in the shut-up sitting room. But
she was far from any thought of physical discomfort now.
* * * * *
At the beginning of Miss Asenath's Romance those many years ago, her
father, Arethusa's great-grandfather Redfield, had set aside this strip
of woodland in which to build his daughter a house.
It was not nearly so heavily wooded then, and the lovers had
wandered over it and selected a spot for the little home, mute evidence
of their choice of site remaining in a half-dug foundation, overgrown
with vines and weeds and almost indistinguishable save for the few
heavy stones that marked one side of the depression. But the walls of
the little house had risen in fancy for her with such reality, that,
when the sad ending to her love-story came and the building was
abandoned, at Miss Asenath's request the woodland was fenced off.
Hence, its name of Miss Asenath's Woods. She had never gone there
since the day when with her own hands she had spread a layer of mortar
between two stones for luck, but she knew every inch of it as it was
now, every tree and bush, from Arethusa's vivid description. Arethusa's
imagination could for herself, from Miss Asenath's telling, place the
little house on its ghostly foundation in all the actuality it was once
to have had.
Arethusa loved the woodland quite as much as Miss Asenath did, even
apart from the significance of its connections with her aunt's
love-story. It was the only spot on the place that Miss Eliza did not
keep straight; the only bit of the Farm that was not inspected, often,
by that keen glance which, even if a trifle near-sighted, so little
escaped. But she never went near the woodland on any pretext.
There was nothing combed or fixed about Miss Asenath's Woods; no
white-washed trees or clipped grass. Bees droned and birds sang and
wild-flowers bloomed there all uninterrupted; squirrels chattered in
the trees, friends of Arethusa's that were tame enough to perch on her
shoulder if she sat quite still; and funny little, Molly-cotton-tail
rabbits often scampered in front of her while she was reading, so close
she could have touched them. It was a bit of nature that no human hand
had ever spoiled, the never finished foundation was only an addition in
its suggestion; therefore, the girl's woodsy heart claimed it as her
very own, although by name it belonged to Miss Asenath.
But, since the time she was a wee scrap and, running away from Miss
Eliza's scolding, had stumbled on this enchanted spot entirely by
accident and had brought her dolls down here for play, Arethusa had
found congenial occupation in the woodland. And now that she was older,
she spent long hours of reading and dreaming instead of play.
In her favorite position, flat on her stomach with her heels in the
air and her chin propped in her hands (which position Miss Eliza
contended was far removed from the dignity befitting Arethusa's years
and had forbidden in her, Miss Eliza's, presence) she read
old-fashioned novels that she smuggled out of the bookcase in the
parlor. When the book was closed, she invariably added long chapters of
her own fancy to the lived happily ever after ending. Yet all that
she read did not, by any means, end thus happily, for she loved sad
stories also. She knew The Scottish Chiefs almost by heart. It was
foolish, perhaps, to lie under the trees and read sobbingly until she
could hardly see what she was reading for the tears, and then dab at
her eyes with a sopping wet handkerchief; but ... it was Arethusa. She
was most Incurably Romantick.
She kept a few of her greatest favorites here in this hollow tree in
the centre of the woodland, for a story one likes cannot be read too
often, thought this gentle reader.
Here also, for the hollow tree somewhat resembled a treasure chest
in its interior, she had a length of green of the same soft shade as
the lichen of the woods around her. It was a green ribbon so thoroughly
satisfying in its color that only to spread it out on the grass where
her eyes might gaze upon it delighted Arethusa's soul.
Some day.... Some day.... She would have a green dress of just that
identical shade. And Aunt 'Liza may say all she pleases about my
Of which bit of meditated defiance, Miss Eliza remained in total
For Arethusa's hair was an uncompromising red. It was a deep, rich
brown-red in shadow and a burnished coppery-red in the sunlight,
wonderful to behold, but still red. And there was a decided difference
of opinion between Miss Eliza and her niece as to the color most
suitable for the clothes that were to be worn with such a top-knot.
Miss Eliza was horrified at the bare thought of any but the plainest of
shades beside it; generally standing up strongly for blue, a very dark
blue. Arethusa, although she rather preferred other colors of an
infinite variety, would not have minded blue so much had Miss Eliza's
selections been less depressingly somber. Abortive attempts to enliven
her wardrobe were immediately crushed with scathing references to the
fiery locks. And the wardrobe remained of an unwaveringly dull tone.
According to Miss Eliza, Arethusa's red hair was wholly to blame for
her temper, which was of a somewhat quick and lively nature. She
seemed, at times, almost to consider it a deep disgrace to the family
that her niece should be so crowned. Arethusa was the only red-haired
person that had ever been in the whole family connection, so far as
anyone knew; an off-shoot, so to speak. But Miss Asenath dearly loved
its bright color, and she was never tired of running her fingers
through the ruddy masses and of curling and twisting the little shining
tendrils of curls that clustered in the nape of the girl's neck.
Arethusa had the warm white skin that nearly always accompanies red
locks, somewhat freckled, it is true, but not enough so really to
matter; and deep greenish-grey eyes, rimmed all around with the most
unbelievably long lashes. They were real Irish eyes, which excitement
darkened and made to shine like big stars. It naturally followed that
they were dark and starry the greater part of the time, for she was
Arethusa and in an almost constant state of excitement.
And she was quite tall and slender, very unlike the Redfields. They
were all small and compactly built; but Arethusa had got her height
from her father.
* * * * *
Having arrived almost at a state of natural breathing once more,
Arethusa rolled over and spread the Letter out before her. She studied
her father's bold handwriting with shining eyes, and kissed his
When she was a baby of about six months or so her father had given
her into Miss Eliza's keeping and started for a foreign trip, of a few
months, he had said then. But that was nearly eighteen years ago, and
he was still on the other side, with never so much as the most flying
visit to the little daughter in America in all that time. Yet the love
and loyalty of that little daughter had never wavered from the day Miss
Asenath had put his photograph into her tiny hands, and taught her to
call it Father, and to kiss it through the glass.
This love and loyalty were not founded upon memories, for she had
none. They were given a father created by her own vivid fancy, aided by
the photograph. This was a faded likeness of an unusually handsome man
with waving hair of an eccentric length and bold dark eyes smiling
straight out of the picture as if he were just about to speak to the
Arethusa who worshipped it. He wore a Byronic sort of collar, with a
wide tie, and his shoulders were draped in an Italian military cape,
effectively thrown back from the one wide frog that clasped it just
below the flowing ends of the tie. So he was not like other fathers;
not at all like those most commonplace male parents with which Arethusa
was acquainted. He was far more like the Hero in one of those
sentimental novels she never tired of reading. She could but give him
all the most desirable of the attributes of the men-folk who lived in
those pages; for they seemed so far superior to any man she knew in the
Miss Asenath, with her stories of him, had helped unconsciously in
the creation of this ideal. Miss Asenath had loved him very
dearly,loved his bright youth as she did all youth. Miss Eliza's bark
was always much worse than her bite, and she, although she spoke very
slightingly of him at times, had been quite fond of him. So, too, had
Miss Letitia. The little daughter had grown up in an atmosphere that
fostered her hero-worship.
Arethusa's most carefully cherished Dream, through childhood to the
very present time, had been that some day this wonderful father of hers
would come home, here to the Farm. She had planned their meeting, to
the smallest detail, many and many a time. And he had written that he
was coming, over and over again; only to add a little later that he
would not be able to get across this year. But these repeated
disappointments had in no wise chilled the glow of his daughter's
And now ... he was actually on this side of the Atlantic! No longer
the broad ocean rolled between them. If he had not come clear back to
the Farm, he had come much nearer to it than he had ever been In
Arethusa's recollection of him; and, moreover, he had come with a
Small wonder that Arethusa was excited!
But the Letter.... The Letter would tell her all about it.
My dear Miss Eliza, it ran
I may as well come to the point at onceyou always liked that
best, as I recalland tell you that I am married; was married
Italy, at the American Consulate at Florence, the second of
June. My wife is the very finest woman God ever made, bar none;
save perhaps you ladies to whom I write. And I, who was ever
peace, will fight to a finish him who avers aught to the
I cannot expect you, who have never seen her, to share my
enthusiasm, of course. But if you knew her, Miss Eliza, if you
Words fail me in an effort at description, but will it suffice
say that I am perfectly satisfied to gaze at her all day long,
in and day out? This surely must convey something to you who
me well of old and will remember that I was ever most critical,
having the idea then that my bent was artistic.
I could hardly believe in my own good fortune, Miss Eliza, when
she said she would have me. I asked her all over again,
immediately, just to make sure. So now the former Miss Elinor
Harvey is Mrs. Ross Worthington.
To make a long story short, I have told her about Arethusa, and
she is most anxious to know her new daughter. As she is
of considerably more of this world's goods than is your humble
servantthe one thing I have against hershe has insisted
herself enclosing a check for our daughter's immediate needs,
this daughter is to come as soon as you and Miss Letitia can
her ready. Don't be sparing with this check; I am instructed to
add, more will be sent if necessary.
My wifeI do love to write that word, Miss Eliza,says that
will write, herself, very shortly. She is most busy at present,
turning her house upside down from garret to cellar, but she
that when it is finished it will be a most beautiful house.
Give my love to Miss Letitia and my darling daughter, Arethusa,
and my most knightly devotion always to Miss Asenath, bless
My wife joins me in all kind wishes for your household.
Arethusa hugged herself ecstatically and then pressed her lips to
the Letter until the ink smudged. It was a wonderful Letter!
And the whole of the situation revealed in it appealed to her. The
Romance (a love story brought even nearer home than Miss Asenath's, for
it was her own dearest father who was living it right now); the Beauty
of the bride, so plainly stated, and Arethusa loved beauty with all the
fire of her romantic young soul; and the bride's Wealth, undoubtedly
intimated, which gave the necessary touch of luxury to the picture, for
Arethusa loved the fleshpots also, if an innocent liking for silks and
satins and baronial halls could be called love of the fleshpots,it
was as perfect a situation as any created by any one of her favorite
novelists. She was visioning a Rarely Handsome Couple, hand in hand,
moving with slow and stately grace through the vast halts of a Mansion.
Elinor was a beautiful name; far more beautiful than any other
name she knew.
In short, being constitutionally unable to do anything by halves,
Arethusa fell most completely in love with the newcomer into the
family, when she might have had other feelings about her, perhaps just
as strong. But there was not the slightest trace of anything resembling
resentment in the daughter's heart that a strange woman had taken the
first place with her father; she would not have understood if anyone
had suggested to her that it might be permissible under the
circumstances. There was only a very deep gratitude that flooded her
whole being. She realised quite plainly from the Letter that it was
owing a great deal to the New Wife that her dream of so many years
was coming true. She had brought Ross back to America, so much nearer
to his daughter, and she had sent her, Arethusa, (sent it herself
because it was positively so stated) the money whereby she was to make
reality that long anticipated meeting.
But she did not waste much time in speculation as to the spending of
that check for her immediate needs; such would have been truly idle
dreaming. Miss Eliza would spend it. She would attend to the providing
of a wardrobe for the visit, and that wardrobe would be utilitarian
first and foremost, and durable. All of Miss Eliza's purchases had the
virtue of durability. For best, perhaps, Arethusa might have a silk
dress (her Sunday silk of the season before was almost worn out), but
it would be a dark blue one, undoubtedly; and one was convinced before
it was even bought that it would be a sensible dress.
Had Arethusa had the spending of the money her outfit might present
a very different appearance.
* * * * *
She had been so absorbed in her Letter that she had not noticed that
the storm had begun to increase in violence. The wind was rising again
and the rain was beginning to come rapidly through the leaves.
Suddenly, with a roar like the approach of some vast army across the
fields, it came from the northwest in a blinding sheet, and in just a
moment she was drenched. She scrambled hastily to her feet and thrust
the Letter far down in the hollow of the tree to keep it dry, and then,
flattened herself against the trunk to watch, as much protected as she
could be, and with the intensest admiration, this masterpiece of the
Storm King. She was not in the least bit frightened of the vivid
lightning that played almost incessantly about her, or of the rolling
and crashing thunder. She lifted up her face to feel the rain upon it,
and smiled in sheer joy of the wonderful beauty of the graceful long
sweep of that failing rain.
But with a crack of thunder which Miss Letitia would have said was
near, most certainly, for it sounded as though the heavens themselves
were fallen, Arethusa's eyes closed involuntarily.
Timothy Jarvis was making preparations to salt the cattle down in
the V lot on his place (so-called because a wedge of the Redfield
property carved out a bit of its very centre) when those angry black
clouds began piling up.
He was not very weather wise as yet, this sturdy boy farmer,
Timothy, and so his study of the brooding sky did not help him as much,
in his prognostication of what it would bring forth, as it might have
helped older folk more acquainted with the vagaries of weather. Mandy
or Miss Eliza or Blish could have told him that black clouds in the
north west always meant a bad storm, and one that came quickly. But
Timothy thought of his sleek red cattle, of which he was so proud,
which were needing salt so dreadfully, and he decided that he had
plenty of time in which to go on ahead and finish his job before the
storm should really break. He hated to leave them until every last one
had had a chance at the coarse salt he spread out for them on the rocks
by the Branch. And the clouds would probably go on piling up that way
for some hours.
So sure was he that this prediction was correct that he sent the man
who was helping him back to the barn with the mule and spring-wagon,
and planned to walk himself. He wanted a look at the bunch in the
wood-lot, and now, while he was so near it, was as good a time as he
could find in which to visit that other herd.
But the first falling drops caught him before he was half way to the
wood-lot, so he turned around without attempting that visit and started
for home. Then that great downpour which had trapped Arethusa under the
hollow tree caught him just as he was passing Miss Asenath's Woods, and
he decided to go on up to the Redfield house, as it was so much nearer
than his own; nearly a mile and a half nearer, this way.
He climbed the snake fence into the woodland and splashed rapidly
through the wet growth. The big leaves that he brushed in passing,
emptied their load of water upon him; Timothy was getting wetter and
wetter, but rather enjoying it all. Then he spied Arethusa propped up
against her tree with her eyes shut tight, and he stopped short in
Her eyes flew open. She screamed; for Timothy had appeared before
her as suddenly as though he had come in that clap of thunder.
Timothy! You nasty thing! You scared me almost to death!
What on earth are you doing out here?
Picking water lilies! she replied pertly.
You must have fallen in then, because I never did see anything just
as wet! But I thought you weren't afraid of storms?
I'm not. I love 'em.
Why do you screw up your eyes for when it thunders then? he asked,
teasingly, as at another terrific sound her eyes shut just as tight as
But she only made a face at him in reply.
Does Miss 'Liza know you're out here? Timothy demanded next.
I'll just bet she doesn't, he contradicted calmly. You better
come go in. You are wet clear through.
So are you, retorted Arethusa.
I think you had better come go in, persisted Timothy. Honest,
Arethusa! It's dangerous, he added, quickly, for just as he spoke a
great tree in the outer edge of the woodland went crashing to the
I shan't go in. She stamped her foot for emphasis. Run along,
Timothy, if you're afraid. I'm going to stay. I love it!
That implication of fear put him on his masculine mettle at once.
I'm not afraid, he declared, stoutly. It's just foolish, that's
all. Come on, Arethusa.
She resented this tone of authority.
No! she said, most positively.
Well, then ... I'll take you, announced Timothy, equally positive.
I just can't let you tempt Providence this way.
Her eyes blazed dark. If you so much as dare touch me, Timothy
Jarvis, even; I'll ... I'll.... Words failed her.
Timothy regarded her in helpless exasperation. Being very well
acquainted with Arethusa and Arethusa's ways, he knew that she would
have retaliated in some very real and immediate fashion, had he made a
single move to carry out his threat. And nothing he could do along this
line would have brought the going in any nearer, for in a scuffle she
was quite as strong as he was.
They had been forced to converse in shouts in order to be heard
above the noise of the storm through the swaying and bending trees, and
the whole affair:the loud argument which got nowhere, and the
subsequent tableau of the girl and himself standing here under the big
tree glaring at each other while the fury of the rain lashed against
them and the storm dinned about them, suddenly struck Timothy as funny.
Stop laughing! screamed Arethusa, angrily.
I can't help it! Youyou look so perfectly funny! Timothy's mirth
pealed forth again.
Arethusa's hair hung about her face in long, wet locks; her eyes, in
her white face, were like great, dark pools of wrath; and she had
spread her arms out behind her against the tree as if she had gripped
it to hold should Timothy attempt force to make her leave her
You look just like a drowned rat, yourself! she exclaimed
furiously. Andand you've got a whole pond in your Jimmy!
So Timothy took off his big Jimmy hat and shook the pool of rain
water out of the curved brim.
Had she not been so angry with him, Arethusa might have likened him
then to a young river god instead of a drowned rat, and the
comparison would have fitted much better. And with his blonde head,
which the dampness had merely made to wave a little more, for his
thickly plaited straw hat had somewhat protected it from a thorough
wetting, she might even have called him a young Viking, without any
very great misuse of metaphor; Timothy was so thoroughly of the
outdoors in his appearance, with all his youthful strength.
His deep blue eyes gleamed with determination as plainly as the grey
eyes opposite him gleamed with anger, for Timothy meant that Arethusa
should go into the house; and that without much more delay.
But he changed his tactics to accomplish this. Although he was
nothing of a weather prophet, he displayed, at times, wisdom rather
beyond his years.
Arethusa, do be reasonable, now, he said, in the most friendly of
coaxing tones. Suppose that tree should be struck; you'd be killed. I
That wouldn't make very much difference, she replied, naughtily.
But he ignored this interruption. I might enjoy doing this some
other time, Arethusa, when the lightning and thunder aren't so bad.
This is the very worst electrical storm we've had this whole summer.
And you know that I never do mind being out in the rain, don't you?
I've always been quite wilting to play Alpheus for you, whenever you
wanted. (Timothy had studied mythology when he was in Freeport at
college.) But think, he added, much more seriously, think of poor
Miss 'Titia. You can be sure she's just having one fit right after the
other with you out here. I call it dirt mean to make her suffer so. And
it's not a bit like you to be mean, Arethusa, not a bit.
The picture Timothy presented of Miss Letitia's distress was all the
more sad to contemplate because she knew it, only too well, to be true.
She was getting a trifle tired of it, besides: it was only obstinacy
that had kept her out so long. Yet it would never do to have him find
that out. She conveyed the intelligence to him that nothing in the wide
world but the thought of Miss Letitia and Miss Letitia's unhappiness
would ever have dragged her away from the tree, lest he become unduly
convinced of the idea that any of his other, and more immediately
personal, arguments had influenced.
And, she added, I wanted to get real wet, for just once. But I
couldn't get any wetter if I stayed. My shoes slosh now.
He agreed with her perfectly. Without a doubt they do; I can hear
'em. You were certainly well named Arethusa, you crazy thing! He
tucked her arm in his with an authoritative air, Let's run for it.
Nothing suited Arethusa better.
They had a glorious race through the wet orchard and brought up with
a grand flourish on the back porch, where Mandy greeted their finale
with many horrified exclamations and much gesturing.
Ef Mis' 'Liza wuz to see you! Ef Mis' 'Liza wuz jes' to see you all
Well, she mustn't, cautioned Timothy. Stop making so much noise,
Mandy, and smuggle Arethusa in.
I don't really care if she does see me, Arethusa herself announced
most recklessly. I've had so much fun! Listen.... She slapped her wet
dress against her, Doesn't that make a funny sound? And, oh, Timothy,
see what a puddle I've made already, just running off me!! Look!
Mis' Titia's ben havin' one hystik after anothah, Arethusie, she
were so sure you wuz struck w'en we heered that big tree go down in
Mis' 'Senath's Woods. An' Mis' 'Liza's....
Well, Arethusa! I must say that this is a performance!
And the three on the back porch turned to see Miss Eliza regarding
them grimly from the kitchen doorway.
Timothy gallantly removed his Jimmy hat and bowed, but Miss Eliza's
expression did not soften in the least.
I don't think she's hurt at all, Miss 'Liza, he said, with the
worthy intent to soothe, I found her in Miss 'Senath's Woods and
brought her in.
I can see she isn't, replied Miss Eliza.
Arethusa glared at Timothy for his statement of the situation.
Arethusa, continued Miss Eliza, I must say that I think this is
going a little bit too far. You have almost made your Aunt 'Titia ill
by running off in this storm. You know perfectly well just how they
affect her. And I brought you into the houseonce. You were certainly
expected to stay. Sometimes you seem to me to be absolutely lacking in
any finer sensibilities; especially in consideration for others. And
you behave just like a child!
Oh, Miss 'Liza, interposed Timothy, please don't jack Arethusa up
so hard! I know she didn't mean to make Miss 'Titia ill. She loves a
storm herself, so much, that she doesn't always remember that other
people are afraid of them. But she did come in just as soon as she
remembered it. She....
You needn't say all that stuff, Timothy Jarvis, interrupted
Arethusa, angrily, I reckon I can tell Aunt 'Liza anything I want,
without you butting in. I'm sorry about Aunt 'Titia, Aunt 'Liza, I
truly am, and I'll go right straight and tell her so; but....
That will do, Arethusa, interrupted Miss Eliza, in her turn.
Don't add rudeness to Timothy to the rest of your behaviour. And
you've been told a number of times not to use that vulgar expression.
Timothy is not a goat. But there is not the slightest use in my
standing here arguing with you over your disobedience while you and
Timothy are catching your death of cold. You'd better take off those
wet shoes and go right up to your room and change the rest of your
thingsimmediately. Mandy will make you a hot lemonade. And I want it
drunk this time. We won't take any risks from this escapade. (Arethusa
hated hot lemonade.) And, Timothy, you will stay to supper, of course.
We are a household of women, and I have nothing to offer you as dry
clothes except those old garments of Mr. Worthington's. But at least
they are warm and dry, and will be better than what you have on. You
just go on up to the west bed-room and I'll send them to you there.
Timothy shan't wear Father's clothes!
Arethusa toed the mark, although with a very bad grace.
It wasn't me that invited you to supper, Timothy Jarvis, she
announced, as a small measure of retaliation, remember that, please!
And I don't want you, either!
I'm sorry, replied Timothy calmly, and his eyes danced, because
I'm going to stay. Miss 'Liza asked me. Mandy's going to have hot
biscuit,I see 'em; and Miss 'Liza'll get me out some of her
strawberry preserves, I know.
Miss Eliza smiled indulgently at this request, and reached down into
her leather pocket for the key to the preserve closet.
You better make lots of biscuit, Mandy, continued Timothy; I'm as
hungry as a bear.
Arethusa sniffed disdainfully and, with her red head high in the
air, started off down the passage in the direction of the sitting-room.
Where are you going? called Miss Eliza after her.
To tell Aunt 'Titia I'm sorry I scared her.
Did you hear me tell you to take off your shoes and go straight to
your room? Miss Eliza's tone was awful.
Although Arethusa towered a good head and shoulders over Miss Eliza,
she obeyed as meekly as the tiniest child. She returned to the kitchen
to remove her shoes and then went down the side passage to the boxed-in
steps, Miss Eliza surveying her sternly all the while.
As Arethusa passed Timothy on her way out of the kitchen, she leaned
close to him and whispered, I'll fix you for all this, Timothy Jarvis!
You just wait and see if I don't!
It was hardly fair to blame Timothy for any of it, but if she had
threatened to fix Miss Eliza total annihilation would have followed
immediately. Yet overcharged feelings must be somehow relieved.
With the disappearance of her niece, Miss Eliza took occasion to
apologize to the guest of the evening for any and all of her behaviour,
which might have appeared unseemly. This proceeding so delighted
Timothy he could hardly repress a whoop; for he well knew that nothing
would make Arethusa so furious as to know her aunt had apologized (to
him) for anything she had done.
One of the chief joys of Timothy's existence was teasing Arethusa.
What fun to tell her of this!
Miss Eliza presided with gentle dignity at the head of the supper
table. She seemed to shed some of her militant spirit when seated
before the white expanse of table-cloth on her own board. Hospitality
was her passion; nothing so thoroughly delighted her as a guest in the
Mandy had made floating custard for dessert this evening, and when
Miss Eliza helped it, she helped it with a deprecatory air, as though
despite its superlative value as a custard which she very well knew, it
really was not fit to be offered to a guest: it might do for just the
family. Timothy ate as many as three meals every week of his life in
this very dining-room, but not being a member of the immediate home
circle, he came quite under the head of guests.
At the other end of the table Miss Letitia carved the beautifully
pink old ham into paper thin slices. She was still visibly nervous and
her hands trembled a bit, every now and then (that storm had been a
terrible experience); but such was habit with Miss Letitia that not a
single slice was a bit ragged or a sliver too thick.
Arethusa had paid Miss Letitia a visit just before supper to make
her peace, and Miss Letitia had forgiven her, as she always did. And
even had she suffered far more on the girl's account than she actually
had, who could have resisted such pleading to be forgiven? Contrition
had been so plainly visible in those grey-green eyes, and Arethusa had
given so many kissessoft and fleeting as thistledown they were, yet
very satisfactory to Miss Letitia as kissesthat it was quite
impossible for Miss Letitia not to believe in the perfect genuineness
of Arethusa's apology.
She had promised fervently, Never, so long as I live, to run out in
a stormever again. Hope I may die right in my tracks if I do!
While Miss Letitia had deprecated the latter part of that promise as
savoring slightly of sacrilege, she had accepted the first part in good
faith; and experience should have taught her otherwise.
Miss Asenath had one whole side of the table to herself, her couch
took up so much room. It was Blish's duty, generally, to wheel the
couch across the hall from the sitting-room, but whenever Timothy
stayed to meals, he took this office upon himself. And he took it with
a gallantry and old-fashioned deference that brought a faint pink flush
to Miss Asenath's soft old cheek. Timothy was a great favorite of hers.
He and Arethusa sat together on the other side; but Arethusa ignored
him just as much as possible. Timothy took special delight in moving
such dishes of eatables as were nearest him too far away from his
neighbor for her to reach herself, so that she would be forced to ask
him for them. She might have eaten her supper, and managed very well,
without any of this food that Timothy had commandeered, had not one of
those dishes been the plate of biscuit, an absolute necessity.
Miss Eliza's sharp eyes would certainly have noticed, had her niece
helped herself to too many at a time, so poor Arethusa was most
unpleasantly situated. And every request that she was forced to make
for that plate of bread, for Timothy pretended every now and then not
to hear the first time she asked, added to her fury with him.
But this continued warfare did not seem to affect Timothy's appetite
in the slightest. He consumed a most alarming quantity of biscuits and
those strawberry preserves Miss Eliza had produced in his honor.
When he was receiving his third helping of ham, Arethusa leaned over
close and whispered in his ear, but very, very softly, so that Miss
Eliza would not hear her, Pig!
She also lost no single opportunity of conveying to him, though much
more by expression than by actual word of mouth, how exceedingly
ridiculous she thought he looked in his borrowed clothing. It was far
too small for him in every possible way. Ross Worthington was a large
man, but Timothy was even larger. He topped Arethusa, who was quite
tall for a girl, by considerably more than half a head, and he was
built all over in proportion.
When he was not covertly teasing his next-door neighbor, Timothy
carried on a very polite conversation with Miss Eliza on sundry country
matters. He complimented the stand of corn in the Redfield lot near
that V lot of his own, and told her that it did not seem to show the
need of rain so badly as did his corn; and Miss Eliza bridled at the
compliment. She was proud of her ability as a farmer, and that the
Redfield Farm could hold its own among the other farms in the county,
even after all the male members of the family had been long gone to
their reward, was due solely to Miss Eliza's indefatigable energy. She
deserved the compliment; and any others of like tenor that Timothy
might have given.
But she was modestly deprecatory, though her old eyes did shine, and
her appreciation was written all over her. That had always been a wet
piece of ground, said Miss Eliza; she hadn't been so sure corn would do
at all well there. She was a bit surprised herself.
It was rather sad, remarked Timothy, after a bit, that this rain
couldn't have come just two or three weeks sooner. He was afraid that
some of their farmer friends had lost some money by the drought.
Miss Eliza agreed that it was sad. She specified one or two persons
whose crops had not seemed to her to be quite up to the mark. And there
was a field or two of her own which, if Timothy were to see, he would
not compliment quite so highly; but this rain would work wonders in a
great many places. It hadn't come altogether too late.
In a slight lull which followed Timothy's third helping to ham, Miss
Letitia asked Arethusa if she had brought her father's letter back to
the house with her.
Arethusa's eyes shone immediately.
Yes, she replied. Then she remembered, No, I didn't either. I
left it down in the Hollow Tree.
It happened to be my letter, said Miss Eliza, drily.
I know, but it won't be hurt. I can get it tomorrow. It'll keep
perfectly safe and dry. And, oh Aunt 'Liza, please let me go now! He
said just as soon as I could get ready. Please don't make me wait 'til
Go where? enquired Timothy.
Arethusa pretended that she had not heard him. Miss Eliza, however,
Ross Worthington has married again, Timothy, and come back to
America. He wants Arethusa to come make him a visit.
Timothy dropped the biscuit he was holding halfway to his mouth.
Since I was a yellow pup! he ejaculated feelingly.
You still are one, Arethusa remarked sweetly for him alone; but
Timothy magnanimously allowed this interpolation to pass without
He married an American, thank heaven, continued Miss Eliza,
married her over there somewhere. In Italy, I think he said. She seems
to be well-off. It was she sent the money to Arethusa for the visit.
Timothy picked up his biscuit, in his agitation he rebuttered it
extravagantly on top of butter already there, and resumed operations.
Well, he said, between mouthfuls, this is certainly some bunch of
news to hand a fellow all of a sudden. Arethusa's father married!
That's enough by itself for a starter! For to the twenty-two year old
mind of Timothy, Ross Worthington seemed far too aged for anything like
matrimony. But wanting Arethusa to come visit him! You going to let
her go, Miss Liza?
Of course she is! burst from Arethusa, indignantly.
Sister 'Titia and I and Sister 'Senath, replied Miss Eliza to
Timothy's question, as calmly as if Arethusa had not opened her mouth,
have decided to let her go in the fall. Though I must say I'm not sure
it's wise to let her go at all. I never did think it was a very good
place for girls, or boys, either, for that matter, the city. Still,
Arethusa's never been and a little visit might not do her any harm.
After all, he's her father when you get right down, and I reckon he
won't let anything happen to his own flesh and blood.
No, agreed Timothy, with becoming gravity, although his blue eyes
danced merrily, I don't suppose he would. What city is it, Miss
He don't say. It's just like him. But the envelope was post-marked
'Lewisburg,' so I reckon it's pretty safe to say that's where he is.
I'm glad it's in the State. I wouldn't want Arethusa traveling too
Arethusa was irritated beyond her always slight endurance by this
little discussion of her and her affairs, carried on so much as if she
were not present. She plunged suddenly into the conversation without
I'm not going just to visit, she announced, flatly, I'm going to
Live. Father didn't say just 'visit.'
This created all the stir she could have wished; a chorus of outcry
from Miss Eliza and Miss Letitia and Timothy. Only Miss Asenath smiled.
Arethusa pushed her chair back from the table and surveyed them all
I reckon I can go live with my own father!
Of course not, snapped Miss Eliza; you live here!
Of course you do, affirmed Timothy; it's perfectly foolish to
talk of living any place else but here, Arethusa. And even if you do go
make your father a visit, you won't stay very long. I know. You see,
I've been there and I know what it's like, and I know you, too,
Arethusa; so I know very well you won't want to stay!
With this calm assurance and assumption of superiority on Timothy's
part, Arethusa's rage at him boiled over, openly, despite Miss Eliza's
Nobody asked your opinion, Timothy Jarvis, that I heard! And you
know absolutely nothing whatever about what I'm going to do!
Oh, yes, but I do, he replied, still maddeningly superior, I
Arethusa fairly quivered in her fury.
You do not, she interrupted, in flat contradiction. I'm
going there to live. And if you want to know just why, Timothy
Jarvis, it's because then I shan't ever have to lay eyes on you again!
Arethusa! from Miss Eliza.
Whereat Arethusa, retaining some small remnants of the instinct for
self-preservation, subsided, though her eyes still blazed with honest
anger directed at Timothy. And when Miss Eliza's attention was
distracted elsewhere for a brief moment, she seized the occasion to
whisper to him; Don't you dare stay a minute after supper, Timothy;
don't you dare! I'll go right straight to bed if you do!
Which wouldn't harm me at all, if you did, he whispered pleasantly
in reply, just yourself. And Miss 'Liza wouldn't let you do it anyway,
even if I stayed and you wanted to. She'd say it was rude, and you know
it. But don't worry; keep your shirt on, he added, most inelegantly,
I've got something else to do, so I'm going right on home. Then, very
meanly, for it was taking a rather unfair advantage, as Miss Eliza's
gimlet eyes were just then boring right through Arethusa to prevent any
outburst of suitable venom from her, And, take it from me, Arethusa,
you won't stay long in Lewisburg.
He escaped to Miss Asenath's side to wheel the couch back into the
sitting-room, as Miss Eliza had risen just as he finished that last
speech and signified that supper was over. Arethusa remained seated for
a moment, speechless with wrath, and with that helpless, cheated
feeling she always experienced when the last word was Timothy's.
The rain had stopped, so the guest departed with immediacy for home,
wearing his borrowed clothing and carrying his own under his arm, much
to Arethusa's further ire. She considered that he might just as well
have changed before he left, for his own things had got perfectly dry
by the roaring kitchen stove.
Then came the lecture for her niece which had been steadily
gathering momentum with Miss Eliza for some little time. But Arethusa
sat on the end of Miss Asenath's couch, to hold her hand, and did not
mind it quite so much. Besides, in the depths of her conscience, she
was guiltily aware of rather deserving it.
After the atmosphere had cleared, conversation once more veered
around to the Letter, and the aunts sat in solemn consultation over it
and the proposed visit and Arethusa.
One of the most agitating parts of this whole affair was the actual
traveling that must be done by Arethusa in order to reach her father.
Miss Eliza's first idea was to find out if anyone in the County
would be making a trip to the City this fall and to place her niece
under that person's protection; provided that person was of the
irreproachable character she deemed requisite before being entrusted
with such a charge.
Miss Letitia then ventured to mention, most timidly, the State Fair,
which was held in Lewisburg every September. Some one of the county's
agricultural population would most surely be going there then.
Perhaps Timothy, answered Miss Eliza, graciously conceding Miss
Letitia a stroke of real mentality in her suggestion. If he was
planning to attend, it would be just the thing; the girl could go with
him. She was sorry she had not broached the subject at supper.
But Arethusa vehemently opposed this idea. She would not go a single
step with Timothy. And why could she not go alone, anyway? She was
quite large enough, and she was all of eighteen this summer.
This very radical departure from the established order of things
raised a storm of protest immediately from Miss Letitia and Miss Eliza;
Miss Eliza especially. Such was not to be considered for a moment! An
absolutely unprotected female traveling alone! And a young female at
No, said Miss Eliza, firmly.
If the worst came to the worst, and it could not possibly be managed
any other way, she would go with Arethusa herself, rather than have her
make that four hour trip totally unattended; at which presented
alternative Arethusa's mobile face clouded over most completely. This
was a much worse prospect than Timothy.
Miss Eliza and Miss Letitia suggested and counter-suggested, and
then rejected everything. No one idea seemed altogether to suit.
Now all this commotion over the trip and Arethusa's making it alone
was really not so uncalled-for when one realized all the circumstances.
She had never been on a railroad train; never having spent longer
than a portion of a day away from the Farm in all of her eighteen
years, nor slept, even for one night, under any other roof.
The family did their shopping in Blue Spring, five miles away down
the Pike, only by courtesy a town. It was a town of six hundred
inhabitants, including babes in arms and counting very carefully. On
two most memorable occasions Arethusa had visited the county-seat,
twelve miles farther on, on the same Pike (for Blue Spring had
preempted a portion of the State road as its Main street); and these
were occasions truly never to be forgotten. For there ran the railroad,
through the heart of the town; there were electric lights and paved
streets; the little place in its aping of a city gave her glimpses of a
world of fascinating bustle and confusion. To Arethusa, the county-seat
seemed bewilderingly active and alive.
But Miss Eliza was not much of a believer in going to town, and she
considered it a waste of time to drive about merely to be driving. The
old-fashioned surrey, with its dark green felt upholstery, and its
flapping curtains, was rarely taken out of the barn without a distinct
objective point in view. Church and prayer-meeting at the tiny frame
house of worship on the Pike were the principal dissipations of this
household of women. Though Arethusa had often rebelled inwardly at
these arbitrary decisions which so limited her excursions abroad,
outward rebellion would have done her no good; Miss Eliza was firm and
ruled her little kingdom with a rod of iron.
Under cover of the discussion between Miss Eliza and Miss Letitia,
Miss Asenath was having a few ideas of her own on other subjects.
Why, she asked Arethusa, in her soft voice, why do you dislike
Timothy so much, dear?
Dislike Timothy, Aunt 'Senath! Arethusa's eyes opened wide in
surprise, Why, I don't, at all! I like him just lots!
Then why, continued Miss Asenath, smiling just a little, do you
quarrel with him so?
I don't quarrel with him, Aunt 'Senath, dear.... Not.... Not
much.... added for the sake of honesty, after thought.
I thought you all had rather a bad time at supper.
Oh, that, Arethusa tossed her head, that was all Timothy's fault.
He's.... He's just awful sometimes. He makes me so mad I could
just.... both hands clenched, and he had on father's clothes!
I see. But he's worn them before, dear.
I know he has, Aunt 'Senath, and every time he does, it makes me
just as mad. He.... He doesn't belong in Father's clothes! They don't
suit him at all!
Miss Asenath was silent.
'Way deep down in her heart was a Wish; but it was a Wish she had
never expressed to anyone because she was wise, and she knew that
wishes expressed were often not granted.
Timothy and Arethusa were nearer and dearer to her than any two
people in the world. Timothy was his grandfather over again, name and
all, she sometimes thought.
Miss Asenath had not resented it when that first Timothy Jarvis had
married. It had hurt her a little, naturally, when she had first heard
of it; but her loving heart had very soon understood. An active man
could not be expected to view those months before that terrible fall as
did she, pinned always to the one spot. There were long hours of both
day and night in which she had naught to do but to lie still and
remember the joy of those months. And nothing could ever take that away
from her, she told herself: it was hers for always, and it was a great
deal. So she had clung to her miniature and her memories and sent for
him to wish him happiness; and she had wished it with her whole soul
from the bottom of her heart. She had loved his sons and daughters when
they came, but even more than they, she loved this grandson and
And to see Timothy and Arethusa pick up the threads of her
love-story where she had laid them down would almost have compensated
Miss Asenath for living all these years with only memories.
Miss Asenath laid her hand on the locket at her throat, and fell to
Timothy, said Arethusa, half to herself, Timothy and I get along
just beautifully sometimes ... when he behaves. But he knows all the
things I hate, and I think he does them just for spite to see me get
mad. He says he likes to see me get mad, and I ... just like a goose,
go right straight ahead and get mad for him. But I'll fix Timothy
Jarvis yet for to-night! Just let him wait! If he thinks I'm going to
let him ride all over me like that, he's mightily mistaken! Timothy
Jarvis!! with a most scornful emphasis, her voice rising.
Miss Asenath was conscious, although her thoughts were so very far
away, of the vindictiveness of this ending, and smiled; Miss Eliza,
catching Timothy's name through the sound of her own conversation,
What did you say about Timothy, Arethusa?
Miss Eliza had a Wish also, but her Wish was quite often expressed;
she had other ideas than Miss Asenath. She kept Arethusa fully
cognizant of what her heart most earnestly desired.
Nothing very much, Aunt 'Liza.
Yes, you did. I heard you. Arethusa, Miss Eliza straightened her
glasses and attacked directly, the way you treated Timothy at the
supper-table ... all through the meal.... It's beyond my comprehension
how you can! But he was a gentleman through the whole thing, I must
say, a perfect gentleman. Which ought to make you more than ever
ashamed of yourself. Sometimes I'm forced to think that all the
training your Aunt 'Titia and I and your Aunt 'Senath have given you
has gone for naught. To treat a guest in your own home the way you did
Timothy! I was scandalised!! Simply scandalized! But I must say that
Timothy behaved like a gentleman.
It was what Timothy would have termed dirt mean of Miss Eliza to
add this extra chapter to the thorough scolding for the afternoon which
she had given Arethusa such a short while before. But Timothy was Miss
Eliza's most vulnerable spot; one of her few weaknesses.
He always does, muttered Arethusa, according to you. But you
don't hear anything he says, he's too smart!
What's that? Miss Eliza looked quite ready for battle.
Nothing, Aunt 'Liza.
There was something. You said something about Timothy, Arethusa,
for I heard you ... again. That habit of yours of answering 'nothing,'
when I ask you to repeat what you have said, is decidedly
Miss Eliza reached around for a copy of the Christian Observer
which was lying on the sitting room table (the most secular reading she
ever did were the stories and articles in its pages) and settled her
shiny glasses firmly on the bridge of her nose. Then she drew the lamp
nearer and turned it up just a trifle, preparing to enjoy a long
discussion of the burning of Servetus which she had been saving for
several weeks to read when she would have time to do so uninterrupted.
It was signed Calvinist, and Miss Eliza had the feeling that she was
going to agree with every word of it.
Then as a parting shot, as she rattled the pages open:
You must conduct yourself more like a lady with Timothy, Arethusa,
or I'm very much afraid he won't want to marry you.
Won't want to marry me! Arethusa sprang hotly from her seat on the
couch. It's me that don't want to marry Timothy!
You do not know what you are saying, very coldly and decidedly
from Miss Eliza. Of course you want to. It is fitting in every way,
most fitting. He is the right age, the families have known each other
always, and the lands adjoin.
This with Miss Eliza was the clinching argument. The Jarvis Farm was
on both sides of the Pike, but on one side it enclosed the Redfield
Farm north and west and south, and went nearly to town. The V lot,
especially, seemed to Miss Eliza to be in a position that made
annexation desirable. The marriage of Timothy and Arethusa would make
one Farm of the two, and straighten all those irregular boundaries.
When so made, it would be by far the largest individual piece of
property in the County. For to Arethusa, as the sole descendant of the
Redfields, would go some day all the land of their owning, and to
Timothy had already been left the home Farm of his grandfather, because
of his name.
I shall never marry Timothy, said Arethusa, Never! If the land
was plaited in and out, I never would!
Miss Eliza put the Christian Observer down in her lap; her
glasses slipped to the end of her nose.
Oh, Sister, don't!
Miss Letitia gazed distressfully from Miss Eliza to Arethusa, and
then back to Miss Eliza again. Her round, good-natured little face was
all drawn up and distorted with worry, just as it always was when war
threatened, even remotely, between Miss Eliza and Arethusa. And these
bouts concerning the girl's marriage to Timothy occurred so often
without any advantage to either side.
Because I shan't.
That's no reason. You must have some sort of a reason. You can have
no really valid objection to Timothy, Arethusa. He is quite handsome,
and very likeable. I am devoted to him, myself.
Miss Asenath felt quite like answering for Arethusa that this last
statement was most irrelevant, but she refrained. There was really no
use in adding the slightest fuel to flames already sufficiently high.
You speak of the land being plaited in and out, continued Miss
Eliza, looking sternly over her glasses. That was a most foolish
remark. Such a thing could never be, and you know it. I do not want you
to marry Timothy for his land, of course. I merely mention its
situation as next to what will some day be your own as making the
alliance just that much more desirable. For heaven knows what will
happen to the Farm when you do get it, if you haven't some sensible man
to take care of it for you! But there are other things about Timothy
that would make him a husband any girl could be proud of. There are
plenty of them in this very County would jump at the chance you've
They're very welcome to him!
Arethusa thought it best not to say this too loud, but unfortunately
Miss Eliza heard.
I'm ashamed of you, Arethusa, if you're not ashamed of yourself.
It's throwing away the opportunity of a life-time. I wish I was young,
and in your shoes. Have you refused him lately?
No answer from Arethusa. She picked at the soft blue fleece of Miss
Asenath's comfort until she had collected quite a little pile of down,
which she made into a ball and put as carefully to one side as if she
intended it for some future use. Miss Asenath watched her
sympathetically. If it would have done the slightest good she would
have entered the breach, but when Miss Eliza reached the stage of her
argument of pointblank questions, it meant pursuit to the bitter end.
Miss Letitia was not so wise. She had made three attempts to catch
the loop of the same stitch in her crocheting, and failed each time, in
her excitement. This was a most unusual performance for her. Her
crochet needle poised in mid-air.
Sister, she pleaded, please. I wouldn't ask the child such a
personal question, if I were you. Please!
Please what, 'Titia? Miss Eliza was distracted for the fraction of
a moment to Miss Letitia. Why do you sit there saying, 'Please,' in
that silly way? I will ask my niece Arethusa anything I wish. When I
was young we were supposed to answer all the questions of our elders,
personal or not, as you call them. Arethusa!
When Miss Eliza spoke of my niece Arethusa, it meant business. The
poor niece turned desperately, and just in time to receive the
broadside of a still more emphatic, Arethusa!
Yes, I have, Aunt 'Liza. Timothy has asked me to marry him every
summer since I was five years old, and in between times too, and I've
said, 'No,' every single time. And if he keeps on asking me until I'm
five hundred years old, I'll still keep on saying, 'no!' I shall never,
never, marry Timothy!
She left her refuge of the couch and started toward the door.
I did not hear you asking permission to leave the room, Arethusa,
and I do wish you would not exaggerate so violently. It is simply
telling falsehoods. You told two in that one sentence. You know
perfectly well Timothy hasn't been asking you to marry him since he was
ninea child of that age doesn't think of marriage. And you also know
just as well as I do that you'll not live to be five hundred, it's
absurd to make such statements. Come back here, Arethusa? Now what is
your real reason for acting this way whenever I speak to you of
Timothy. I want to know? You know just how your Aunt 'Titia and I and
your Aunt 'Senath feel about it. Why do you persist in going against
Arethusa gazed wildly around the room. She seemed to hunt on walls
and floor an answer to the uncompromisingly plain question. Close to
the door she was poised like some wild bird arrested in its flight. One
glance that included Miss Asenath and Miss Letitia absolved them both
from participation in the scheme so clear to Miss Eliza's heart.
I don't love Timothy, she said, at last, desperately.
But I don't!
Bah!... Love! Miss Eliza was thoroughly disgusted. What do you
want to be so mawkish and sentimental for? Just like your father! You
like Timothy, don't you? Then that's quite enough.
But I couldn't marry anybody I didn't love. The persecuted one
edged a little bit of a way nearer to the door.
You don't know any thing about it, declared Miss Eliza, flatly.
What you call love is just pure silly!
Well, Arethusa despairingly presented her final bit of reasoning,
I hate Timothy! I think it's the very ugliest name I ever heard. I
could never be happy married to anybody called 'Timothy'.
Miss Eliza sniffed. The girl was getting more and more foolish!
That certainly means nothing!
I always thought 'Timothy' was a good name, came softly from Miss
Asenath. I always liked 'Timothy' very much myself.
Arethusa melted suddenly. She remembered.
How could she have been so cruel as to say such a thing and hurt
dear Aunt 'Senath's feelings? With a rush she was across the room and
both strong young arms had clasped the frail figure of the best-loved
aunt closely to her.
Oh, Aunt 'Senath, Aunt 'Senath! she sobbed, wildly penitent. I
was a beast! I didn't think! Your Timothy was a lovely name!
It sounded a trifle illogical and inconsistent, but Miss Asenath
seemed to understand perfectly. She whispered her forgiveness to the
weeping Arethusa, who could only squeeze her and murmur incoherent
avowals of her lack of intent to be unkind. To be unkind to Aunt 'Titia
was bad enough, but to be unkind to Aunt 'Senath! It was the last word
It all depends on what we think of the person, what we may think of
the name, Arethusa, dear, said Miss Asenath. I know you didn't mean
And Arethusa wept some more, scalding tears of still another sort of
penitence: Aunt 'Senath was such a darling! The back of Miss Asenath's
woolly white wrapper was rapidly getting damper and damper.
Such scenes as the one just past generally ended in just this way,
with Arethusa's tears; and the tears nearly always cleared the air.
Miss Eliza took up the Christian Observer once more, and Miss
Letitia resumed her rosy crocheting, after raveling out almost a whole
row which she had put in as wrong as was possible.
If I were you, Arethusa, remarked Miss Eliza drily, after awhile,
looking up from her magazine to bend her sharp glance on the pair on
the sofa, I would not crush my aunt into jelly in order to show her
your sorrow at being so thoughtless and unfeeling. And you will make
her quite ill; very likely it will bring on one of her bad headaches,
if you carry on much longer that way.
Miss Asenath's headaches were periods of much anxiety for all the
family, with the great suffering they brought the gentle invalid.
Arethusa drew away from the couch abruptly. She felt suddenly
overwhelmed with her inability ever to do the right thing; a feeling
which Miss Eliza was quite often successful in arousing in her niece.
Miss Asenath offered her own cobwebby handkerchief to dry Arethusa's
reddened eyes. Then she asked Miss Eliza if she would not be good
enough to read aloud to them for awhile. Miss Asenath had some of the
makings of a diplomat.
None of the roomful of women would really listen, for Miss Letitia
would be far too intent on counting stitches, and Miss Asenath would
dream, and to Arethusa, Miss Eliza's choice of reading matter was
anything but interesting; but Miss Eliza herself would be made
beatific. She considered herself somewhat gifted as an elocutionist;
during her course at the old Freeport Seminary, now so long ago, she
had had the most lady-like of instruction. She prided herself on her
ability to put expression into her reading. Thus would amiability be
especially restored in her quarter, and poor, persecuted Arethusa might
have a little while in which to attain some degree of calmness once
So Miss Asenath patted the place at her side invitingly. Arethusa
cuddled up very close; Miss Eliza went back to the beginning of her
article, having read a paragraph or two; and peace began to reign with
the very first word of the reading aloud.
When Miss Eliza's voice, with all the proper inflections, had
followed the various whys and wherefores of the death of Servetus to a
triumphant conclusion, she was a different person. All the sharpness
aroused by Arethusa's seeming scorn of Timothy had disappeared. She was
even ready to say, when her niece stooped to kiss her good-night, that
she was sorry if she had made her unhappy in her manner of discussing
Timothy, and Timothy's matrimonial possibilities; and this was a very
great concession for Miss Eliza.
But you are making a great big mistake, Arethusa, she could not
help adding, every way, in not taking Timothy while you can.
Yet it was amiably said, and did not cause the slightest excitement.
Which goes but to prove more surely that Miss Asenath seemed to have
missed her calling.
That was such a pretty girl that just went past us, Ross.
Elinor Worthington's smiling glance followed the girl far down the
For the creature was so deliciously young, everything about her; her
slenderness; the joyful way she swung when she walked; even the cut of
her clothes spelled youth. And she was undeniably pretty, with eyes
like bits of blue sky and quantities of silky, corn-colored hair. Her
mouth was almost too large, but even that could not spoil the essential
prettiness of her. She was laughing at her escort, with glowing
upturned face, as they swept past Elinor and Ross in their quiet
corner, and her laugh displayed an unusually straight row of the
whitest teeth imaginable.
Was she? Ross seemed most indifferent. I didn't notice her. I
never look at other women when you're around, my dear.
Elinor laughed. You goose! But 'way deep down in her heart she
couldn't help feeling a bit flattered.
It was just past tea-time on the big home-coming liner, and it might
seem as if all of its voyagers were taking an afternoon stroll. There
was only one more dayto-morrowleft of the voyage before Boston
Harbor, and everyone was full of the repressed excitement and
restlessness of getting home. The decks were alive with couples and
single folk, passing and repassing in both directions; some very
briskly in real constitutionals, and some much more leisurely as though
merely for the occupation of movement.
But Ross felt very lazy. He had buried himself deep in his
steamer-chair and refused to budge an inch when Elinor had suggested
that they might join that strolling throng.
I'm a married man now, he said, and I don't have to worry about
exercising to keep my figure. Besides, I had much rather sit here in
the corner and hold your hand under the rug.
So Elinor had humored him about the sitting still, and arranged a
fat pillow under his head the way he liked it best; but she had no
intention of permitting that even so newly married a couple as
themselves should be seen holding hands in broad daylight on a crowded
deck. Whereat, Ross pretended to sulk; he tilted his cap far down over
his eyes; thrust his hands deep into his coat pockets and sprawled
full-length in his chair. Though instead of conveying to the passers-by
any idea of displeasure, with anything or anybody, his attitude only
succeeded in picturing lazy comfort.
Arethusa would hardly have known this Ross Worthington reclining so
easefully in the steamer-chair as the original of her beloved
photograph. She might have recognized the eyes, keen and bright in
their glance as ever, and with the same debonair smiling; but the wavy
dark hair was clipped as closely as the hair of any other male biped
and had greyed a trifle just at the temples. He was less like a
novelist's creation, and more like the men Arethusa had known in the
flesh, in his appearance, certainly. For this older Ross Worthington
had discarded Italian military capes and Byronic collars and flowing
ties for more conventional attire. He was as commonplace and ordinary
as to clothing, in every respect, as any other man on that huge
But Elinor Worthington would have attracted attention almost
anywhere, and more than one of the pedestrians had given her a second
glance of surreptitious admiration as they passed her. She was rather a
wonderful looking person. Ross's raptures had not been altogether
exaggeration. She had a world of soft white hair, pure white it was,
worn simply coiled around a beautifully shaped head; its elderly color
in strange and attractive contrast to the smooth youthfulness of her
lovely skin. Her eyes were brown, a warm, dark brown, under long dark
lashes and slightly arched dark eyebrows; and the tiny gleam of
unmistakable fun that lurked in their quiet depths was again a contrast
to the almost classical severity of finely cut features, straight nose,
and delicately chiseled mouth, and cleanly rounded chin. And she was as
graceful in her slender tallness as the girl she had admiredthis
woman of forty or more. It was small wonder that Ross had declared he
loved to look at her.
Here in this corner with her husband, Elinor Worthington was all
herself. She glowed like a rose, with none of the little stiffness in
her manner she so often unfortunately showed to strangers and which
only the discerning few correctly named as shyness. To the majority of
people she was likely to seem cold, almost distant.
What are you thinking about? You look so serious and far away,
Ross remarked after an interval of silence.
He believed in the power of the spoken word. It was not given him to
remain quiet for long. He might have managed it with the communion of a
hand-clasp; but without, it was impossible.
Just then the pretty girl and her escort passed by them again.
Elinor's brown eyes watched the pair this second time until they had
turned the corner of the deck.
That girl, she said, half wistfully, she is so delicious and
young. I can't help wishing she were mine. There is something too
utterly adorable about a young girl.
She seems merely silly to me, Ross replied. I don't see anything
particularly interesting or unusual about her that should make you want
to own her, or any other callow young thing her age. However, if you
say she is adorable, I suppose she is.... Merciful Heavens!!
And I never thought of her, I'll swear, until this very moment! he
Thought of who?
What child? Ross, will you kindly make one remark that is
intelligible? What on earth are you talking about? Or who?
My child. He turned his face to hers, ruefully smiling. Heaven
knows what you'll think of me! But.... But, Elinor, I'll swear I never
thought of her until this very moment!
His wife very nearly went over backwards.
She had thought she was getting used to Ross, and had been sure she
was quite prepared for anything he might do or say that smacked of the
unusual, which seemed to be one of his peculiar gifts; but this far
surpassed anything yet. She had known him very well for nearly three
years and while he had once, long ago, told her of a previous marriage,
he had never mentioned the existence of a child; or intimated in any
way that there were any ties to have drawn him to America.
But that gleam of fun was not in her brown eyes for nothing, and so
she laughed. And it was such a merry peal of unrestrained mirth that
Ross rose, deeply offended.
There is nothing at all ludicrous in this, I assure you, Elinor.
It's quite serious!
I am quite ready to believe it is. But, Ross, I.... Please think
for just a moment. I can't help laughing. It is rather funny!
Then he smiled himself. One of his greatest charms was the ability
to view his own performances, as it were, from a detached perspective.
You're quite right there, I'll have to admit. To leave you in
ignorance of any family, and suddenly, after months and years of such
ignorance, produce a daughter!
You say a daughter? Are there, Elinor's eyes danced mischievously,
are there any sons you have concealed at home, in case I should admire
a passing small boy? Are you going to spend the rest of your life thus
immediately granting my idle wishes?
No, I'm afraid I've done my very best. I'm no genie of the lamp,
although it does look a bit like it.
Then sit down and tell me all about her, she patted his empty
chair invitingly. Begin at the very beginning and tell me everything
you can about your daughter.
Ross obediently draped himself once more in the steamer-chair. But
he buried his chin deep in his hands and sat staring long without
speaking, across the slowly rising and falling rail, at the sea.
His own disclosure had been, as much, if not more, of a shock to
himself as it had been to Elinor. He had not thought very definitely of
Arethusa in weeks, or even months; and now, suddenly with the chance
passing of another young female creature, and his wife's admiration of
her, his daughter's personality had intruded itself as one which must
be reckoned with, and taken somewhat into his calculations. For the
first time he realized that he had not been considering his child at
all, in any plans he had made for the future; and the thought was a bit
What is her name? prompted Elinor.
Yes. I know it's a most awful mouthful. But her mother named her,
his voice softened, her own name was Matilda; and she had always
disliked it so. How long the time had been since he had thought of the
mother, either! Once more he stared across the rail, out at the sunlit
Elinor laid her hand gently on his arm for just a moment; a fleeting
caress of sympathy for his sobered mood.
Ross, dear, her speaking voice was unusually beautiful, as soft
and clear as a bell, but it had never sounded more like low music than
just now. Ross, would you tell me something about her? Arethusa's
mother, I mean. But if you'd rather not.... I've no sort of wish to
arouse any memories which might hurt; but I can't help feeling, dear,
that I would like to know something about her. I've never asked you
before, because it seemed impertinent; but I really do not mean it at
all in that sense.
I know, he answered slowly. But it was all so long ago, Elinor,
there is nothing left to hurt. It seems sometimes now as if I had
dreamed every bit of it. She was a slip of a thing; just a girl.
It had not been very long, his first cycle of love.
It was just a little more than two years from the summer day he had
first met her, with her cornflower eyes as blue as the ribbons on the
muslin dress she wore, and her dainty tininess, until that summer day
when he had turned away from a low mound in the country cemetery, with
hot rebellion in his heart that the one had been taken and the other
He had not wanted to go to that country party. With all a city boy's
superiority he had yawned at the suggestion; then decided to go just to
watch the rubes; and there he had found her, and his visit to the
distant cousin had assumed a new significance. After they were married,
he had wanted to take her away with him, but she had clung to her own
home; and so he had stayed with her on the Redfield Farm, making lazy
efforts to learn a trade that had no sort of attraction for him, just
because she wished it.
But after she was gone, the farming had lost its excuse for being,
and the tiny baby daughter, who cried when he picked her up, and who
only wanted to eat and sleep, had no real power to hold him where she
was. He wandered restlessly about the country-side, trying to find some
place where the mother's personality had never been; and then one day
he had announced to Miss Eliza that he was going abroad, to work at
something congenial where no memories made it hard for him to stay. He
had not intended to remain very long, a year or two perhaps. But Ross
followed the line of least resistance nearly always, and the friends he
had made and the life he had lived had proved attractive; little by
little the ties that had bound him to the Farm had slackened, until he
hardly felt them at all.
Time had done what his first hot, youthful grief would never have
admitted that it could do, and had faded the glowing colors in the
pictures of that chapter in his life; and it was now, as he had said,
almost like something dreamed.
Then she died just after Arethusa was born?
That was an odd name to give her, dear; 'Arethusa'! Was she named
No, just because her mother liked it. I was a great goose in those
days, with large ideas of the necessity for the revival of Grecian
'pure beauty,' as I called it. Heaven knows where I got the phrase! I
had just graduated from college that June before I met her and I had a
lot of stuff I had taken to the country with me. Then I sent for more.
I used to devour volumes about vase paintings, and classical ideals,
and I read worlds of it aloud to her. Miss Eliza used to think it was
atheistic, I'm quite sure. She didn't say so, but she wouldn't let me
read my mythology in the house at least, aloud. Matilda and I had to go
down to the Branch, so we wouldn't be heard. It was from Bulfinch, I
believe, she got the story of the fountain nymph that seemed to appeal
to her so strangely. And I was quite willing to saddle my daughter with
it; it was like taking a firm stand for my ideas. They were hardly
ideals. He sighed.
You poor babies! said Elinor softly, to herself.
What did you do with the little girl, Ross?
Her great-aunts kept her. The same women, Miss Eliza and Miss
Letitia Redfield, that had raised her mother. Matilda's mother was
their sister. Miss Asenath, the third aunt, is a cripple. You must know
her some day, Elinor. She is 'pure beauty' and pure everything else.
And what a friend she was to me when I needed her!
How old would she be?
Who, Miss Asenath? About seventy.
No, of course not, dear goose! Arethusa.
Oh, I don't know. Eighteen, I suppose. Yes, just about.
Elinor looked for a moment as if she did not believe what she had
heard him say.
I'm all attention.
Am I to understand that you actually haven't seen that child for
eighteen whole years!
Well, I told you why I didn't go back home just at first, Elinor. A
scrap of an infant who seemed to thoroughly dislike the sound of my
voice, for as I remember it, she howled vociferously every time I went
near her, was not much attraction. And then I just put off going back
and kept putting it off, year after year. Now do you still
wondersuddenly whimsicalthat I could forget all about her?
I never wonder at anything you do, Ross, replied his wife. Her
tone was grave. I gave that up a long time ago. But I would call your
behaviour, in this instance, heartless; if I didn't know you well
enough to know you wouldn't really be consciously harsh to a fly.
Heartless! he echoed.
Yes, heartless! she repeated firmly. Your own child! And eighteen
whole years! Oh, Ross!
But she's been well taken care of, he protested, though somewhat
Very probably she has. But you're her father. I verily believe,
Ross Worthington, she added suddenly, that you haven't even told her
you were going to be married!
The pendulum of Ross's moods swung very rapidly, as rapidly as ever
that of his daughter. The little softness aroused by the thought of
Arethusa's mother had passed, and now his eyes were full of
No, he replied, I will have to confess that I haven't. I didn't
think she would be very much interested. And 'Where ignorance is
bliss,' you know.
Oh, come now, Elinor, do make some allowances! You ought to be
feeling flattered, instead of getting all up in the air about it. It
shows such a complete absorption in you, I think. But I did mean to
write, if it will make you feel any less convinced that I'm a hardened
wretch with no natural affections. I've really never seen her, in a
sense, and writing to a person you've never seen is.... Don't look so
stern, Woman, I do write her often. I'll have you to know my daughter
and I are very good friends.
How often? pursued Elinor, remorselessly.
Once or twice, or maybe three times a year. I never make a point of
counting letters with anyone. It seems so terribly small!
Elinor shook her head helplessly. Oh, Ross, Ross, she sighed.
Thank heaven, there's only one of you!
Yes, he answered, very placidly. Thank heaven! I was never in the
least ambitious to be a twin!
And now it was the wife's turn to stare out at the sea and think of
She was even more vexed with Ross for this dreadful neglect of his
daughter than she had shown him. Elinor had a very high ideal of
parenthood. Her own happy childhood, with a father and mother who had
included her as the third in all their pleasures and even in every day
commonplaces, as naturally as they had included themselves, had given
her no hazy picture of what a very beautiful thing such a relation
could be. She could not understand how Ross could take the idea of his
fatherhood so very indifferently. Surely he must love his child!
When Elinor loved, she gave royally of herself. If she spoiled the
objects of her affection a bit, along with this giving, it was not a
sort of spoiling that hurt. So now her heart went straight across the
miles that still separated them and found Arethusa. That she was Ross's
daughter was reason enough by itself, thought Ross's wife, to love her,
had not the story of that blue-eyed girl who had died so long ago, also
drawn Elinor's heart to the motherless baby the girl had left. And the
motherless baby was grown!
Elinor could not help wondering how Arethusa would feel about her
father's re-marriage; she was bound to have some ideas on such a
subject. It was cruel of Ross to leave her so long in ignorance. He had
been married over a month; six whole weeks in fact. He should have
written to the Farm as soon as his marriage was a settled fact. But he
would not have been Ross if he had. A slight smile flitted across
Elinor's face at this thought of the consistency of the whole
She felt as if it had devolved upon her to make all of this neglect
up to Arethusa, and to love down the resentment, if there was any at
all. And so she could not know the girl a moment too soon.
Ross, what were you going to do about Arethusa? Did you think of
going down to see her when we got home?
I haven't had time to think very much about any of it yet. I had
left her out of things altogether until just this afternoon, by
forgetting about her. Why?
Well, then, Elinor's voice trembled slightly, please let me write
and ask her to come and see us, in Lewisburg. Away from the aunts. So
we can get acquainted by ourselves. And.... And then.... Ross ... if
she likes us, we can keep her with us and make three in the family.
Does any one wonder, he murmured, apparently to the world at
large, that I love this woman as much as I do? Elinor, dearest, it is
very plain to me that I am going to be very jealous of my own
Do be serious, Ross.
I am, never was more so in my life.
You mean.... I may write her to come? You ought to write to her
too, she was as eager as any girl. And I shall send her the money for
the trip. It will be my first gift to my new daughter.
No, said Ross, very decidedly, to the end of this speech, I can't
let you do that.
And all the eagerness died out of Elinor's face.
Oh, Ross, now please don't spoil it all by being a mule, she
pleaded. We have so many of these disagreeable arguments about money,
and it is so very foolish! Why can't I send Arethusa a little check
without your behaving so!
Because I won't have you, that's why. Arethusa isn't your
incumbrance, in any way. She's my daughter, and I'm not such a
pauper that I can't manage to support her, for I most certainly did not
marry you to have you caring for my various relatives. You write your
letter, and I'll enclose the check.
You haven't been treating her very much as if she were your
daughter. The gentle Elinor could not help saying this and saying it
She so rarely let her temper slip for even the fraction of a moment,
but Ross was always so horrid and obstinate about this question of
money. He never seemed to realize her side of it; that one of the
greatest joys of its possession was what she could do for him and
others that she loved by means of it. To say that she should not have
the very simple pleasure of sending a trifle of her abundance to
Arethusa, was almost too much! The little thought had caused such a
glow when it had come.
I shall do just what I please with my own money, she continued,
and send every bit of it to Arethusa if I wish. You have no earthly
right to forbid me any natural use of it.
But this money of his wife's was a thing about which Ross
Worthington was almost foolishly sensitive. The fact that Elinor's
monetary possession far exceeded his had kept him a great many months
from asking her to marry him, when the most casual observer might have
read his secret with the greatest ease. So enormous was the discrepancy
between their quotas of this world's good that more than one spiteful
minded person had intimated it had had something to do with his choice.
He knew this only too well, and the thought rankled. Elinor had so
much; she could do so much; she could do so much more for herself than
he could ever do for her that it was a great sore spot. They were to
live in Elinor's house; ride about in Elinor's expensive automobile; be
waited upon like royalty, as he phrased it, by Elinor's servants; they
were even now, after a lengthy argument about it, traveling home with
Elinor's wealth in a far more luxurious manner than he had ever been
able to travel on his own money.
The most foolish sort of false pride considered this offer to send a
check to Arethusa a sort of finishing straw. He would keep all
expenditure for his daughter strictly for himself.
I wish you would! I wish you would send it all to somebody! I wish
to goodness you didn't have a cent of the money! He rose, his jaw set
savagely, and turned away. I didn't marry you for it, though from the
way you spend it on me I'm not at all surprised that a great many
people say I did!
And he was off down the deck in an almost blind rage. Arethusa's
temper came not so much from the fact that her hair was red, as right
straight from her father.
Elinor stared after him, too hurt to want to follow him, or to try
to call him back. They had had many a heated discussion as to which
portion of the expense she was to bear and what was to be left for him,
but none had gone so far; never degenerated into as real a quarrel as
But Ross was too tempestuously moody to remain angry long. It needed
only one turn of the deck for him to be back at her feet, ready to
humble himself in the dirt in the abjectness of his apology.
The outcome of it was that Ross himself wrote a letter to enclose
Elinor's check, that letter Arethusa had kissed under the hollow tree.
It required much persuasion on the part of his wife to keep him from
describing the whole affair in detail, how abominably he had acted
about the check, and how badly he had made her feel. It would make his
abasement more complete and lasting in effect, he said, if some one
else were to know about it. Ross, like Arethusa, did nothing by halves.
Yet Miss Eliza unwittingly disappointed Elinor's eagerness to see
Arethusa, by announcing that Arethusa could not come until the fall. It
was far more of a disappointment to his wife than it was to Ross. Ross
was very happy with things just as they were.
Elinor made a room ready for the girl to be her very own, when doing
over the rest of her house; and she put into it all the love and little
personal touches that Arethusa's own mother might have given it.
She might not be, she said, thoughtfully considering when
selecting the wall-paper, a pink or blue person at all. Ross doesn't
know the color of her eyes or hair or anything that he ought to. He's
been woefully remiss as a parent. White might perhaps be safest.
Which choice was surely most fortunate.
So white with a silky, silvery stripe was chosen for the walls of
the big, sunny room with its rows of windows on two sides which had
been set aside as Arethusa's. It was a white ground with garlands of
flowers in soft pastel shades near the ceiling. And green, a soft, dull
green, was chosen for the side curtains of those sunny windows, and for
the sofa cushions and the upholstery on the window seats and the
squshy chairs. The largest pieces of furniture were of a satiny brown
walnut combined with cane. There was a green rug, the color of the moss
in Arethusa's own beloved woods and so soft and thick that her feet
would sink deep into it, for the floor. Then Elinor put a long, soft
sofa at the foot of the bed, and Arethusa's room was ready for her
The bath-room adjoining, which was also to belong to the daughter of
the house, was white, shiny tile from floor to ceiling, and it
contained every conceivable device known to the mind of a modern
plumber that makes for comfort in a bath-room. Could Elinor have but
glimpsed the high-backed tin tub in which Arethusa had bathed all of
her life at the Farm!
You've done too much, was Ross's comment, when Elinor showed him
this nest, and spent a fortune besides, on my child. When....
Our child, interrupted Elinor gently, I thought we had settled
that once for all. Please, Ross, don't be eternally dragging in the
cost of things.... I didn't bring you up here for that.... But tell me
if you think Arethusa will like it.
Like it! Ye gods! Think of the Farm! And the woman asks if Arethusa
will like it!
But Arethusa's actual coming was postponed by Miss Eliza for various
reasons several times. The correspondence on this subject was all
between her and Elinor, for Miss Eliza wrote a stilted, old-fashioned
hand, not easy to read, which Ross's impatience refused to take the
time to decipher.
First, it was hard finding suitable company for Arethusa,no date
could be fixed until that was settled; and then Miss Letitia had a
little spell of illness and the making of the clothes was interrupted;
and so on. But the last postponement, until late October, was the
Worthingtons' own fault. It was far too hot in Lewisburg that
September, so off they scurried to the seashore before Arethusa was
nearly ready to join them.
Just like Ross Worthington, said Miss Eliza, grimly, when the
letter telling of this move reached the Farm. He just can't stay put.
I reckon the Lord didn't make the place where he'd be happy long at a
Arethusa sat on a big, smooth stone at the edge of the Branch, under
the low-drooping willow tree that leaned far over those clear waters,
and absent-mindedly flipped at the water with a long switch broken from
the tree. Under the stone it was cool shadow and the rocks on the
bottom of the Branch gleamed invitingly green. Something like a
fresh-water seaweed moved slowly back and forth, as Arethusa stirred
the water above it. But for all its inviting appearance, it was
treacherously slimy. It would have been hard for even nimble-footed
Arethusa to keep her balance on those rocks. A tiny snake darted out
from under the big stone and shot across to the other side; Arethusa
leaned far over to watch it.
A baby snake, she exclaimed delightedly. I wonder if there're any
more! Then she poked farther back under the stone, but no more
appeared. It was probably the only child in its family, thought
Arethusa. It was rather late for baby snakes.
She straightened up once more and resumed her absent-minded
switching at the water. Farther out, where the shadow of the weeping
willow did not reach, the sunlight shone with dazzling brightness on
the water, and the hundreds of little drops that flew off the end of
Arethusa's switch gleamed like tiny diamonds as they fell back into the
It was a terrifically hot day.
The September sun blazed away so fiercely that the whole landscape
drooped under it. Even Arethusa, whose enthusiasm no amount of ordinary
heat had the power to lessen, felt wilted.
But despite the heat, work on her outfit for the Visit did not
slacken. Miss Letitia and Miss Eliza were sewing away for dear life.
Even Arethusa herself had been pressed into service. Miss Eliza
believed in being ready for your occasions; rather ready with a long
waiting, than not be ready. She would have the simple wardrobe finished
and all carefully packed days before it was time to leave so there
would be no flurry at the last moment; Miss Eliza hated flurry.
But Arethusa did not sew with ease. What little she knew of that art
had been acquired with painful effort. And with the heat and her
uncontrollable excitement when she considered what this work was for,
the sewing had stuck to her hands so badly this morning, and the thread
had knotted with such diabolic persistency, that Miss Asenath had taken
it all away from her and suggested that she run outside for awhile. She
was, however, to remain within easy calling distance of the house, so
she had come down here to the willow tree at the Branch.
It was just a little over a month now until Arethusa was actually to
go. She had counted the days on the calendar until October twenty-fifth
and then multiplied them by twenty-four. And every night, with puckered
brow and moistened pencil and great care so that no smallest mistake
should be made in so important a subtraction, she subtracted
twenty-four more from those hours still remaining. The number of
figures on the slip of yellow paper stuck in the mirror of her bureau
had increased as the size of the remainder decreased with each passing
day. This method of showing the flight of time appealed to her very
strongly. It made it seem as if so much more had been covered every day
when she subtracted twenty-four from the larger number of hours, than
if she simply took one away from the number of days.
She lay back on the big stone and clasped her hands under her head,
smiling up into the willow branches as if she saw something there which
pleased her exceedingly. And so did any contemplation of the limitless
possibilities for happiness before her in the Visit bring just such a
smile to curve her lips. A few sweat-bees buzzed half-heartedly about
her head, but Arethusa did not even trouble to brush them away. It was
too hot for any more exertion than was absolutely necessary.
Miss Johnson, Arethusa's fox terrier, sat right beside her mistress,
with her small red tongue hanging out at one side of her mouth, and
panting as if her small heart would burst through her ribs.
Miss Johnson had been the gift of Timothy, who owned her mother. But
it had needed all his blandishments to induce Miss Eliza to allow
Arethusa to have the little dog, for Miss Eliza cared nothing whatever
for dogs of any kind or size or degree, either far or near. And once
Timothy's cajolements had carried his point, and Miss Johnson had taken
up her abode at the Farm, she had been hedged about with restrictions.
She was never permitted to set foot inside the sacred precincts of the
house, or even on either porch, or to go near the flower garden; and
she knew it quite as well as anybody. Experience still remains the best
of teachers. When Miss Eliza appeared on her horizon, Miss Johnson
would put what was left of her tail between her legs and scuttle for
cover. She was a wise little dog, and did not have to be told who
wielded brooms and slapped.
But out in the open, her disposition was much less humble. She and
Arethusa were boon companions; her mistress had the whole of that small
heart which thumped so violently. One of her paws rested on a dumpy,
round stick which she had selected as a good plaything, and she gave a
short, sharp bark of frantic appeal when she saw Arethusa lie down on
It was never too hot for Miss John to play at chasing sticks; her
energy never flagged in the least, even though it might seem that she
would pant herself to death the very next moment.
Arethusa raised her head to one elbow to look very reproachfully at
I told you twice it was too hot, Miss Johnson.
Miss Johnson barked. There were almost words in that bark, it was so
Yes, 'tis. There's nothing you can say will make me think it isn't,
and it's very bad for you to run in the heat.
No, I'm not going to throw it for you. I've told you so over and
over. Besides, you ought not to want to run with an old stick when I'm
going away so soon. You ought to be glad to sit with me while you can.
But Miss Johnson believed in snatching at the pleasures of the
present rather than in preparation for the sorrows of the future. She
sat up quite straight and begged beseechingly. Her tiny fore-paws were
so irresistible in their appealing waving that Arethusa relented.
But just this once, only, she warned, as she sat up and reached
for the stick.
Miss Johnson jumped about, with excitement at the highest tension;
and her mistress lifted that round bit of wood high above her head and
threw it with a swing which had far more grace than aim, and all the
force she could muster.
And it hit Timothy, stealing up quietly to surprise her, square
between the eyes.
Suffering cats, Arethusa!
Timothy grabbed Miss Johnson's plaything and continued its flight so
very far away that the poor little dog could not find it at all,
although she searched most diligently for it for a long, long time.
Arethusa almost jumped off the big stone into the Branch.
Why don't you look where you're throwing things occasionally! You
nearly put my eyes out! There was a fast growing red spot on his nose;
Timothy rubbed it ruefully.
Served you quite right if I had! How could I know you were sneaking
there! Then Arethusa turned her back to Timothy, and she turned it
with a movement of the greatest dignity. I thought I told you last
night, she added, not to come to see me any more, ever.
Timothy was silent for a moment.... I didn't think you really meant
it, he said, miserably.
Well, I did.
Arethusa's back looked decidedly inhospitable; there was an
uncompromising rigidity about the way she stared straight before her.
Even the long rope of red hair seemed to have become suddenly as stiff
as the rest of her. It was not an attitude in a hostess conductive to
easy conversation, or to make one's thoughts flow smoothly.
Miss Johnson flew about, hunting for her stick, every now and then
coming back to Timothy with frantic little questioning yelps; but
Timothy, ordinarily such a friend of hers, paid no sort of attention.
He had eyes only for Arethusa. It was hard for Miss Johnson to
Finally, Timothy flung himself down on the ground at the side of the
big stone. Do you mind if I stay, Arethusa?
Suit yourself, she replied, indifferently. It's not on my land.
But it seems to me you have an awful lot of time to loaf around for
anybody who calls himself a farmer. There was scorn in Arethusa's
I came over here just especially to tell you I was sorry. I saw you
from the hemp-field and came.
You better go on back to the hemp-field then, said Arethusa, now
that you've said it.
Timothy gathered a handful of small stones lying near him and began
to idly skip them one by one across the Branch. It was an
accomplishment which Arethusa deeply envied him: her stones invariably
fell in without skipping. Yet she made no move to show him that she saw
how beautifully every single stone that Timothy skipped sped across the
top of the water to the other side. Miss Johnson came and sat down
between them, worn out in her vain search for her stick, and she panted
and gazed inquiringly from one to the other of her playmates, so
I don't see why, said Timothy suddenly, that you want to act this
way, Arethusa. I've said I was sorry. That ought to be quite enough;
and ... and.... Anyway, I don't see why one kiss should make you so
Oh, you don't? replied Arethusa, very sarcastically.
Life had seemed a gloomy affair to Timothy since the day he had
realized that Arethusa was actually going on this Visit. He did not
want her to go, to put it very plainly. Not that he thought she would
not have a good time; he thought she would have a good time; in fact,
he thought she would have far too good a time, his verbal expression to
Arethusa of the contrary idea, notwithstanding. Timothy had made more
than one visit to Lewisburg; he was well acquainted with the variety of
its attractions. He could not help but vision the oceans of beings of
the opposite sex it was inevitable she should meet, and he saw in these
meetings his own eclipse as a suitor.
Timothy's Ardent Wish for Arethusa and himself was identical with
Miss Asenath's Secret Hope and Miss Eliza's Openly Expressed Desire.
And Arethusa had not exaggerated in the least, to Miss Eliza, the
number of his proposals. He had been proposing to her every summer with
worthy persistence since he was nine or ten, childish though those
first proposals may have been; and sometimes twice a summer.
Ever since that time when she had made the first appeal to his
chivalry when he had met her, a chubby little scrap of only three scant
summers, wandering off down the Pike, every little footfall taking her
farther and farther away from the Farm, and she had raised her eyes,
brimming over with tears in their wonderful tangle of black lashes, and
said, with a tiny catch in her voice, I'm losted. Tate me home, Boy!;
and he, with the superior knowledge of location which seven years gives
over three, had led her safely back to Miss Elizaever since that
long-past day, Arethusa had made up the most of Timothy's world. They
had played together all through childhood and boyhood and girlhood, and
quarreled violently and much over their play, and then made up with
commendable immediacy; Timothy was the nearest approach to a brother
Arethusa had ever known. But Timothy's feeling for Arethusa had ever
been, and especially these last few years, more than a brother's love.
It was the clean whole-hearted affection which a boy gives to the one
girl in the world who seems to him superior to other girls. Even when
Timothy had gone away to a neighboring town to college, his allegiance
had never for a moment been shaken; in all those four long years he had
never seen a single maiden, among the many he had met, who came
anywhere near Arethusa in his estimation.
Timothy had had some dim idea that it might be quite wise to get her
safely promised to himself before she went away. The last point-blank
refusal she had made him, earlier in this summer, had not left him
altogether disheartened. He knew Arethusa was given to moods. Then,
too, persistence often wins the reluctant; dripping water wears away a
stone. There are a great many aphorisms dealing directly with such a
state of mind as Timothy's.
So the evening just before this hot September morning, he had
dressed himself in his very best and strolled over to the Farm, fully
determined on a definite course of action.
He had made his formal proposal for Arethusa's hand to Arethusa
herself, as they sat side by side on the top step of the worn stone
steps to the front porch. But she had laughed at him, so derisively,
that Timothy, goaded into rashness by the laughter, had kissed her with
a resounding smack. Then he had been slapped by the indignant Arethusa
until his check stung with the pain, sent straight home and told never
to come back again as long as he lived.
And he had wondered, as he cut across the fields, a chastened and a
sadder Timothy under the friendly stars which winked so
sympathetically, and rubbing his still stinging cheek as he walked, if
there would ever be anybody who would understand Arethusa. He didn't.
He could recall occasions when he had kissed her and had not been
Now Miss Eliza had unfortunately heard the conversation and the kiss
and the slap and the dismissal of Timothy, from inside the
sitting-room; and she had called Arethusa into her after the rejected
suitor had fled and outdone even herself in the quality of her
scolding. She had gone so far as to make a threat of such a truly
horrible nature that it had turned Arethusa absolutely cold with the
fear that she might really carry it out.
Arethusa had every right to be very angry with Timothy.
Timothy gathered him another little heap of stones, and one by one,
with a perfect mastery of the art, skipped those all across the water.
But he did it very gloomily, with no apparent pleasure, hardly as if
conscious of what he were doing. And Arethusa continued to stare
straight before her as if she had found new and unexpected beauties in
a familiar landscape.
I hate for us to be mad, said Timothy after awhile, making another
attempt to break the hostile little silence.
So do I, replied Arethusa non-committally.
But I expect to be mad at you as long as I live, she continued,
and Timothy lapsed into gloom once more, when you act the way you do.
I don't see why you want to be always bothering me about marrying you;
unless Aunt 'Liza puts you up to it. I don't want to marry you,
Timothy; and I'll never change my mind about it. You needn't ask me
again, ever. I want to be very good friends with you, because you're
the very oldest friend I've got, but we can't be friends if you're
going to be so silly and sentimental all the time. I hate sentimental
Had Timothy's sense of humor not deserted him absolutely, he must
have laughed at this; as it was, he took it very seriously.
Just then came a faint, Areethusa! from the direction of
the house, and Arethusa rose quickly to answer the call.
Oh, I forgot, Timothy rolled over. Miss 'Titia called to me from
the house as I came by to tell you she was ready for you.
Why didn't you tell me then, an hour ago? You've been here a half
hour at least and haven't said a word about it!
I forgot, replied Timothy humbly, thoroughly ground to the earth
by that speech of Arethusa's with its I'll be a sister to you tone.
That's evident. She probably thinks I'm lost or something by this
time. If you weren't so busy always seeing how you can annoy me, you
might remember when people give you messages to deliver! Arethusa
swept majestically off, bending her head to escape the low-growing
willow branches, and Timothy watched her miserably. But she had gone
only about six or seven paces when she turned and came back to him,
And Timothy, she announced, as sternly as Miss Eliza herself might
have spoken, if you ever even try to kiss me again, like you did last
night, I'll do something worse to you than just slap. I'll ... I'll ...
It's ... I don't like to be kissed.
But you used to kiss me, Timothy sat upright, here was his alibi
and a chance to defend himself.
I know I did, but we were babies. That was ages ago, and it's very,
very different. Grown girls don't kiss grown men. It's not nice.
It's.... It's just like poor white trash!
And with last stroke of annihilation, Arethusa departed for the
house and Miss Letitia and her fitting, with Miss Johnson trotting at
her heels, leaving Timothy in abject abandonment to misery under the
Miss Eliza eyed Arethusa over her glasses with stern displeasure.
She dropped her sewing into her lap and prepared to take the delinquent
one to task.
Where have you been all this time? Your Aunt 'Titia's been ready
and waiting for you a half hour at least.
Oh, Sister, not quite that long. Miss Letitia's deprecatory
accents made an attempt (and it could always be only an attempt) to
stem the tide of Miss Eliza's severity. It's not been more than
fifteen minutes, I'm sure.
Your aunt has been ready and waiting for you a half hour at least!
repeated Miss Eliza, firmly. Didn't you understand from her message
that she wanted you? And I had to call you, myself, finally.
Well, I didn't get any message.... Timothy didn't tell me she
wanted me, so how was I to know? I came right straight away when I
You've been quarreling with Timothy again!
I have not!
And at Arethusa's irritable tone, Miss Asenath looked up, startled.
It was so decided a contradiction, and not one of the household ever
contradicted Miss Eliza. This gentlest one was a trifle the most
discerning of the sisters, and she wondered if any other chapters to
last night's incident had been added under the willow tree.
Don't you speak to me in that manner, Arethusa, Miss Eliza was
surprised almost into a mildness of reproof.
I didn't mean to be impertinent, Aunt 'Liza, faltered the culprit.
She was a wee bit frightened at her own temerity after that emphatic
contradiction had burst forth. But anger at Timothy had over-ridden
discretion, with that question concerning him and Miss Eliza's obvious
inclination to side with him; last night's events were still clear in
Arethusa's mind, and Miss Eliza had been most unfair in her viewpoint
on that occasion. There still rankled, with both aunt and niece, a
little of the bitterness then aroused.
You are getting, remarked Miss Eliza grimly, absolutely
incomprehensible to me. Ever since that letter came from your father,
you have been utterly demoralised. I've half a mind to....
Miss Letitia hastily held up the dress to be slipped on. She felt it
was undoubtedly the moment, the moment sometimes called psychological,
at which to introduce a counter-irritant.
It was the dark blue silk dress that Arethusa had been sure she
would have. It was as beautifully made as all Miss Letitia's garments
were, but very plain; only lightened at throat and wrists with the
simplest white collar and cuffs. Arethusa was very grateful to Miss
Letitia for having made it. She expressed her gratitude by an
all-enveloping hug which ruffled the small portion of Miss Letitia's
hair remaining comparatively smooth until this moment. But she did
wish, most decidedly, that it was not quite so plain.
Miss Letitia smoothed the folds in the skirt and put a pin in one
place in the hem where she believed it hung a little bit long.
Do you think, she enquired anxiously of Miss Eliza, that it hangs
all right in other places, Sister?
If Arethusa would stop spinning around like a top long enough for
me to get a good look at it, I might be able to tell you something
about it, replied Miss Eliza, severely.
Arethusa straightened up like a drum major and began turning very
slowly, as slowly as it was possible and keep her balance at the same
time, and Miss Eliza viewed the lower edge of the garment critically
from all sides.
Yes, was her crisp verdict, I may say I think it hangs even
everywhere.... But just that one place.
Miss Letitia breathed a deep sigh of relief. Arethusa echoed the
sigh. They dreaded equally the task of hanging a skirt (when it had not
hung right at first) with Miss Eliza's accurate eyes fixed upon the
That is a very pretty dress. Sister 'Titia, remarked Miss Asenath.
She had quite a point of vantage on her couch; all fitting processes
were visible in an entirety. Don't you think so, Arethusa?
Arethusa agreed with fervency.
You'd better thank your Aunt 'Titia then, from Miss Eliza.
She did, Sister, interposed Miss Letitia hastily. She already
I didn't hear her.
Well, she gave me a lovely hug, and we both know what that means,
don't we, 'Thusa dearie?
Hum ... ph! from Miss Eliza.
Arethusa took the blue silk dress off very carefully and handed it
back to Miss Letitia for the finishing touches.
She stood straight and tall before them for just a moment, and
tilted back her head and yawned, stretching her round arms high above
her in a glorious relaxation.
Then she looked down at that exceedingly dark, blue silk dress with
dissatisfaction. Then she looked at Miss Letitia bending her grey head
far over it and putting in innumerable and almost invisible stitches
very carefully, just for Arethusa: her round, cherubic little mouth
puckering into happy smiles about something known only to herself as
Arethusa's warm heart smote her.
She swooped down upon Miss Letitia and hugged her with violence to
make up for that moment of inward dissatisfaction with Miss Letitia's
loving work. Miss Letitia's glasses were knocked off in the sudden
swoop and fell into her lap. She looked most surprised at this
unexpected proceeding, though highly gratified, as she retrieved the
glasses. Had she asked Miss Asenath about it, Miss Asenath could
probably have told her just what had been passing through Arethusa's
mind. Miss Asenath had been watching Arethusa. She was never tired of
watching her, in every smallest thing the girl did, with loving eyes
that took keen delight in her youth and life and vivid coloring.
Arethusa gazed around at the many garments in various stages that
were strewn about the room; every single one of them was hers. All the
plain white cotton under-things, one or two of them with puffings or a
bit of thread lace whipped around their edges, as a concession to the
unusualness of this occasion; the few simple shirtwaists, trimmed with
neat tucking; the medium lisle stockings Miss Eliza was marking in
pairs after a method of her own invention; the plain dark suit that
Miss Letitia had completed only that morning, and which Miss Asenath's
frail fingers were even at this moment engaged in further finishing
with a braid-binding all around the skirt to save the hem; the new hat
which Arethusa had tried on for them with the finished suit to see how
well they went together, and which was lying now on top of the piano;
and the silk dress in Miss Letitia's lap: it was all hers. But there
was nothing frivolous in the array, nothing at all light in color, save
perhaps the underclothes and the shirtwaists; there was not one purely
decorative or frilly garment such as the heart of girlhood loves. It
was a wardrobe, without doubt, entirely of Miss Eliza's choosing.
Aunt 'Liza, Arethusa knelt down by that lady's chair and put her
glowing face very close to her aunt's; her tone was most wheedling.
Aunt 'Liza, is there any of my money left?
There is, declared Miss Eliza, with satisfaction. There is. I've
saved your step-mother quite a tidy bit of what she sent. It's too bad
if Ross has married a woman with extravagant tastes just like his own;
too bad! But it would seem as if he had. All that money for just one
girl! Put your dress on again, child, you oughtn't to sit around that
way. Yes, you're going to have quite a sum to take back to your
Arethusa wished that Miss Eliza would not say step-mother with
just such an emphasis. It made her seem so undesirable a relative to
have acquired, Miss Eliza's way of saying the name. And Arethusa did
not choose to think of Elinor as anything undesirable. She was nothing
that was not perfect. She was certainly nothing that deserved to be
distinguished by such a term of reproach as that step-mother.
Practising saying Mother very softly to herself, Arethusa had come to
regard Elinor that way, without the sign of a step.
She ignored the injunction to put on her dress and leaned coaxingly
nearer to Miss Eliza, whose habitually stern expression softened
involuntarily. But how could she help it, with that glowing face
wheedling so close to her own? Miss Eliza, after all, was not wood or
Then please, Aunt 'Liza, let me have another dress?
What do you want with another dress, 'Thusa? Miss Eliza sounded
almost indulgent. This silk one makes three new ones, counting your
I know, Arethusa said, a trifle apologetically, as if she knew it
was a strange request. I know, but I want a Party Dress. I want,
and she hurried on with the expression of her want in desperate haste
lest she be stopped before she had finished, I want a Green Dress?
A green dress! Mercy on us! With your hair! Why, Arethusa
Worthington! Miss Eliza was plainly horrified.
But Arethusa Worthington nodded, most hopefully.
Nonsense! A person with hair as red as yours can't wear green! Of
all wild ideas!
I think she might look lovely in a soft shade of green, put in
Miss Asenath's sweet voice. And so why can't she have a green party
dress, Sister? If she wants one and there's plenty of money left?
Then Arethusa looked still more hopefully at Miss Eliza, for
sometimes Miss Asenath's gentle vote prevailed; but this time it was
not so to be. Miss Eliza bit off her thread with as much decision as
ever Atropos dares use in cutting hers.
You always did care a lot too much about color, 'Senath, she said,
though not in the least unkindly; no one was ever unkind to Miss
Asenath, and Arethusa is just like you. But as for getting her a green
dress to wear with that red head of hers, why it would be a waste, and
a perfectly sinful waste, of money, because I know her step-mother
wouldn't let her wear it. She would think I was crazy besides.
Both Arethusa and Miss Asenath were quite inclined to disagree with
her. Miss Asenath was wise enough to know that she could say nothing
further to change the decision; and she communicated to Arethusa, with
a shake of her head, that she was not to attempt it, either ... for the
latter's mouth had plainly opened for speech. Be it said to her
everlasting credit, that she struggled hard with this disappointment,
and turned away to put on her dress without any other plea.
Your Aunt 'Titia and I, continued Miss Eliza, (she had not seen
this bit of by-play) had about decided to get you a white dress. We
thought that if it weren't of too sheer material, you might wear it to
entertainments there in the citybecause I suppose you'll be invited
to someeven if it is cold weather, without having to take off your
underwear, which is always dangerous in winter.
I don't want an old, thick, white dress.... began Arethusa,
rebelliously, but a chorus of Arethusas interrupted her.
It was very gentle from Miss Asenath; very plaintive from Miss
Letitia, who was dreading another tilt; and very, very stern from Miss
Eliza, who added, If your Aunt 'Titia is good enough to make you a
white dress, you ought to be very grateful, instead of acting as you
do! I doubt the wisdom of your having one at all, myself, I must say. A
white dress in the winter-time! When I was a girl, I would have thought
that a great deal to have!
But Arethusa failed to be properly impressed. Her dislike of the
idea of the white dress showed so plainly in her ever-changing face,
that Miss Asenath silently held out her hand and Arethusa flew to that
haven, her couch.
I wouldn't worry, dear, about my dress, whispered Miss Asenath.
She sometimes just could not help consoling the girl, even if it was in
direct opposition to Miss Eliza, when things seemed to be too
thoroughly disappointing. You know your Aunt 'Titia will make it just
as pretty as she possibly can. I think green is lovely with red hair,
myself, even though Sister 'Liza doesn't seem to, but white is lovely
with it also. And your mother may get you some other things, very
probably; don't you remember that it said 'immediate needs' in the
letter? And if that means what I imagine it does, you may find yourself
with two party dresses when you thought you were only going to have
one. And, ended Miss Asenath, smiling, she may feel about colors just
as you and I do. I think somehow she will!
Arethusa smiled back. It was a pleasing prospect held out by Aunt
'Senath, so she took heart and hope immediately.
Miss Eliza bent her glasses upon the two conspirators on the sofa.
Don't you be telling Arethusa she would look nice in green,
'Senath, because you know very well she wouldn't. In my day,
this severely directed at Arethusa herself, so much wasn't done for
girls that they forgot how to be grateful. Nowadays, they want the
whole earth and a ring around it, into the bargain. The more you give
'em, the more they want. A green dress for Arethusa! Who on earth would
have thought of such a thing but you! If your hair wasn't quite so red,
you wouldn't be so limited in your choice of colors. A green dress!
That's Ross Worthington all over again. Wild ideas; nothing like
anybody sensible would think of ever having or doing! A green dress
with your fiery red hair!
Arethusa could not help but feel that this apostrophe to her hair
was going rather far. Miss Letitia and Miss Asenath had much the same
feeling. But Miss Letitia dared only look her sympathy, and Miss
Asenath felt it best to express hers by one of her loving little pats.
Then Miss Eliza happened to glance at the tall marble clock. She
immediately put her work down. You may finish these stockings,
Arethusa, if you think you can keep your mind on it long enough. But
just as I was doing them though; mind! It's time for me to go show
Blish about fixing that sore place on the black cow's back. He was to
be up at four.
With Miss Eliza's departure harmony reigned supreme, and Arethusa's
tongue loosened. Over the marking of her stockings, she chattered
happily to Miss Asenath and Miss Letitia. Very often, when Miss Eliza
was present, her rather dry reception of her niece's enthusiastic
presentation of ideas had a somewhat quenching effect upon the real
flow of conversation.
Did you leave Timothy down at the Branch? queried Miss Asenath,
Oh, I reckon he went on home, Arethusa answered carelessly.
She could be thus casual in her answers to Miss Asenath, for with
her no subject had pursuit unto a bitter end.
Miss Letitia finished the hem of the blue dress and laid the garment
carefully over the back of a chair. Then she reached over and took
Arethusa's pile of stockings away from her.
Suppose, dearie, she suggested, you practise a bit now. You don't
play that piece yet as well as you ought, and your father used to be a
great lover of music. He will want to hear you play.
Arethusa rose obediently and went to the piano; twirled the
squeaking stool to a lower height, and settled herself, elbows properly
rigid and head upright. Miss Letitia was her music teacher.
In fact, all of her education, domestic and academic and purely
ornamental, as Miss Eliza termed the music, had been gained at home.
Instruction in the principal branches, again Miss Eliza's name, had
been received mostly from Miss Asenath. Geography she had taught her
niece with the aid of the same faded globe that had fixed the shape of
the world and the location of its hemispheres and continents and
principal countries in her own mind. If the boundaries of any of those
countries had changed since the globe was made; if new land had been
discovered; if any hitherto obscure cities had sprung into size and
prominence during the sixty years or more that the globe had stood in
the corner of the square hall: it had made no sort of difference in the
geography lessons. Arethusa had learned history, from ancient history
books with almost obliterated names on the fly-leaves. But it had been
rather a biased version of the period connected with the Civil War
which she had learned, for Miss Eliza was very bitter about those years
of her country's existence. Her only brother, and her twin, had been
killed fighting for the Confederacy. Miss Eliza seemed to be unable to
believe that he had been killed in battle, however, for she always
spoke of him as murdered by the Yankees. So Arethusa's ideas of
events connected with this time was hardly very favorably inclined
towards the Northern side. Miss Asenath was very shaky in arithmetic;
therefore, her pupil had not got into higher mathematics. She had
paused in her figuring somewhere about the beginning of long division,
but even where she had paused she could not be said to be very steadily
The musical part of this education belonged to just about the same
date as the part which Miss Asenath had supervised. For all the pieces
Arethusa had learned by heart, which was the only way to learn music
properly so as to be able to give pleasure to others, were pieces which
Miss Letitia herself had practised with painstaking care for expression
over fifty years ago. Both musicians were quite proficient in mazurkas
and polkas and old-fashioned reels and ballads, and let us not forget
to mention variations of every conceivable variety, for Miss Letitia
possessed a whole book of variations, and it was quite a thick book.
Just at present, Arethusa was busily engaged in committing to memory
The Babbling Brook.
But her brook did not babble just precisely as Miss Letitia's did.
There was something far more fantastic and wild about the runs the
younger musician made on the tinkling square piano; runs which Miss
Letitia considered were not at all in keeping with the character of the
music she was playing. Effort had been expended by both to bring
Arethusa's brook to the state of really flowing as a brook should flow;
but it seemed so far to be hopeless.
Arethusa played it through once and Miss Letitia kept time for her
with a threaded needle.
No, dearie, she shook her head, you don't get it at all. You play
just a bit too fast sometimes, and not quite fast enough others.
So it was played all over again from the beginning by the pupil; but
still it was no better. Miss Letitia looked troubled.
I just don't see how I can make you do it differently.
Miss Asenath liked Arethusa's way of playing this particular piece
and she did not want it changed.
Perhaps, she suggested gently, the child is tired. It's been a
very hot day, and it's very hard to do anything just right on such a
day. It seems to take all the life out of one.
Miss Letitia agreed. It does so. Well, she can learn it the right
way before she leaves. There's plenty of time still.
Play something else for us, dear, said Miss Asenath. Play some of
Arethusa turned again to the piano and filled the room with the soft
sounds of Auld Robin Gray and The Low-backed Car and Annie
Under cover of the music Timothy slipped in and found a chair close
to Miss Asenath. He had been spending a very miserable time down by the
Branch. And he would never have come near the house had he not heard
the piano, for Timothy loved music intensely and he could never resist
following its sound. If Arethusa was still angry with him, he had no
intention of bothering her again; he only wanted to be allowed to
Miss Eliza came back to the sitting-room and settled once more to
her sewing. Miss Asenath closed her eyes and gave herself over to
dreaming. It was her book of ballads, and she had used to, long ago,
play them softly in just such twilights for another Timothy. Miss
Letitia's busy fingers worked away and her head nodded time.
The late summer evening with its myriads of sounds and that feeling
of restless settling down for the night that it always seems to have in
the country, slowly deepened into darkness and Arethusa still played
on. Perhaps her execution was not of the best and her fingering may
have been questionable; but she seemed to feel some of the real spirit
of the quaint old tunes she played and she put a soft expression into
them that was far more to her circle of listeners than brilliant
execution or perfect fingering. None of them could have found the
smallest fault: the music spoke to each one of them in that way each
one most wanted.
So she played on softly until Mandy came, announcing supper.
Timothy must stay, Miss Eliza insisted. But Timothy declined, even
though Arethusa, with rather strange cordiality considering what she
had said at the Branch, joined her voice to Miss Eliza's. The music had
spoken to Arethusa herself, to soften. Timothy's mood, however, was not
inclined for conversation on general topics, and at Miss Eliza's
supper-table one nearly always conversed on general topics.
The only persons at the Farm who did not go to the station to see
Arethusa off for her Trip were Miss Asenath and Nathan. Even Mandy
went, on the front seat of the surrey with Blish.
Nathan was Mandy's better half, a darkey of a deeply religious
nature. He considered a town, everything in it, and everything
connected with it, snares of the Evil One to lead men astray. Although
in his youth, and up almost until early middle age, he had been the
terror of the county seat the Saturday nights he had been paid off, he
had gotten religion along about the time of his marriage to Mandy,
and now nothing on earth could take him anywhere near any of his former
haunts. He had even refused to drive Miss Eliza to town when on one or
two occasions his services had been required. And he was the only human
being on record who had ever opposed her thus successfully.
But it happened most fortunately in this case, this feeling of his
about town, for he could remain with Miss Asenath and Mandy could go to
the station with Arethusa. Otherwise, she might have had to stay at
home, and this would almost have broken her heart.
Timothy and Timothy's mother and his aunt, who made her home with
them, also drove the six miles 'cross country to the little town of
Vandalia where Arethusa was to take the train, to bid her good-bye.
They were already present when the Farm delegation arrived, as early as
it was when they came, for Timothy wanted as many as possible of these
last moments with Arethusa. His mother had been sure it was far too
soon to start when Timothy called her, but she suffered from a chronic
inability to oppose any of his wishes, even by suggestion, so she had
left her housewifely counting of preserves and pickles without a word
of complaint to go with him.
Miss Letitia became a little tearful in her leave-taking.
Letting the dear child go off all alone by herself this way for the
very first time!
For in spite of Miss Eliza's decided and oft loudly expressed
disinclination to have her do so, to Arethusa's unbounded delight, she
was actually going alone.
Thanks to that flight of Elinor and Ross to the seashore, the State
Fair had been only a memory for more than a month. But diligent search
by Miss Eliza, in the way of inquiries at church and when in town, had
discovered a friend who was going to Lewisburg later in the Fall to
shop, and who would be more than glad to take the girl under her wing.
Then almost at the very last moment this promised company was forced to
abandon her trip and Arethusa was left high and dry. The fate of her
Visit trembled in the balance for a few days. Miss Eliza was strongly
inclined to postpone the whole affair until she could arrange things to
go with her niece herself, but she finally gave in to the pleading that
Arethusa was entirely ready. Why should she wear the first freshness
off her outfit before she made this Visit?
But if she was going alone, she was going fully-equipped so far as
advice was concerned. Miss Eliza had spent several conscientious hours
of instruction and counsel. Arethusa had been told a dozen times over
just what she was to do, and that she was to leave the train only when
it stopped for the very last time to stay, without going on. The
terminus of the line was Lewisburg.
And if you sit there a half an hour, you make sure, said Miss
A great many people, added she, especially young people, get lost by
leaving trains at wrong stations.
Miss Letitia contributed her quota also, though it was more in
actual preparation for contingencies that might arise than advice.
Arethusa's name and address had been sewed in everything she had on,
in case of accident. Miss Letitia had had a dream one night of an
unidentified body lying by a railroad track after a wreck. She dreamed
the body to be Arethusa's. Then she had read, very often, of folks
whose sense of their own identity had been taken from them most
completely by a blow on the head; this also had happened in wrecks.
Should there be a wreck and the dream come true, or the other horrible
thing happen, in either case they would never know what became of
Arethusa. The thought harrowed Miss Letitia. Fortunately, she had only
dreamed the dream the one time, so there was not quite so much danger
of it being fulfilled. Had she dreamed it three nights, Arethusa should
never have gone a step on this trip. But even had the other dreadful
thing occurred, it would have been the most careless searcher who would
have failed to discover just who Arethusa was and where she belonged,
after Miss Letitia had finished her labeling, in slanting,
old-fashioned letters on neatly bound-down squares of white linen.
The traveller carried a small packet of baking-soda, tucked into a
corner of her satchel by the long-sighted Miss Letitia, in case of
car-sickness. There was nothing so good for nausea as soda.
Arethusa wore the dark blue suit Miss Letitia had made her, with its
plain, full gathered skirt, all lined for better warmth, and its
double-breasted coat, trimmed with the buttons from one of her
great-grandfather's broadcloth suits. Her traveling waist was pongee.
Pongee is the best material to travel in that I know of, said Miss
Eliza. It never shows the least bit of soil.
It was buttoned modestly to her throat, ending in a straight line,
neither high nor low which would have been most trying to nearly
everyone, but above which Arethusa's flower face rose as lovely as
ever. Her hat was a plain round felt trimmed with two really beautiful
turkey feathers that Miss Eliza had been saving carefully since the
winter previous. Arethusa had never had a feather on a hat before (only
ribbons, the year round), and she considered these feathers the height
of elegance. Her hair was fixed on the top of her head for the very
first time in her life, a graduation from the long red plait just for
this glorious Visit. Her feeling about that heavy, unbecomingly
arranged roll, and the hairpins which held it in place, was an
indescribable mixture of pride and elation and satisfaction.
Clutched tightly in one white, cotton-gloved hand was Mandy's
contribution, a small, neatly tied-up box of lunch. Her extra money was
in a little bag on a string around her neck, where Miss Eliza had also
deposited the trunk check. There was only the tiniest possible amount
of change in her purse. She carried a hand-satchel so ancient in
appearance that it might have been the forerunner of all hand-satchels,
and her trunk was a wee round-topped affair of red leather with a
canvas cover. It was a trunk which had been last viewed by the public
when Miss Eliza and Miss Letitia attended the Centennial Exposition in
Philadelphia. Miss Eliza was not one to expend money for anything, when
what she already had was still perfectly good, albeit a trifle out of
Miss Eliza scorned to show her feelings as did Miss Letitia when she
told Arethusa good-bye. Consequently, she was even gruffer than usual
as she adjured the departing one not to make a fool of herself.
Mandy wept openly. Putting her head into a lion's mouth held no more
unknown terrors for Mandy than the making of a journey.
And Timothy prepared to wring Arethusa's hand almost off when it was
his turn to say farewell; he thought it was the most expression of his
affectionate unhappiness at seeing her leave them that would be
permitted him. But she held her face up to him in the most natural
manner to be kissed, just as she had held it up to Miss Eliza and Miss
Letitia and his mother; so Timothy, after a brief moment of hesitation
and remembrance of what Arethusa had said so emphatically about
kissing, took what the gods were offering and imprinted a very modest
salute on the sweet, upturned face.
Arethusa was so excited that she scarcely heard all of Miss Eliza's
last instructions, and she bade some of her party adieu more than once.
Timothy claimed the privilege of helping her on the train and escorting
her into the coach, and he deposited her satchel on a seat he turned
over to face her so she would be sure to have plenty of room.
She chattered away, these last few precious moments, as merrily as
if Timothy were companioning the adventure of this trip to Lewisburg,
but he found no tongue to reply. It is true that he was not allowed
very much chance, but even if he had been, there was no heart in him
for talk. Timothy was finding the actual reality of parting with
Arethusa for heaven-only-knew-how-long-a-time, far worse than its
anticipation, as bad as that had been.
The conductor called, All abo-ard!
And in sudden, desperate utterance of a wild little wish. Timothy
leaned close to Arethusa.
Kiss me good-bye again, Arethusa, he coaxed, all his young heart
in his blue eyes. Please!
Arethusa stared at him, frankly amazed at such a remarkable request.
What's the matter with you, Timothy Jarvis? Kiss you good-bye? Why,
the very idea! And what on earth do you mean by 'again'?
For she was completely unaware that in her excitement she had given
Timothy that kiss.
His spirits went clear to zero, but fortune spared him the necessity
of a reply, for the conductor called another raucous signal, and the
train began to move. Timothy had barely time to save himself from being
Arethusa stuck her head out of the car window, regardless of one of
Miss Eliza's very last and most positive instructions, and waved and
waved to the ones she had left behind on the Vandalia platform, and she
kept on waving long after they had become mere indistinguishable specks
as the train gathered speed.
Then she settled back against the luxury of her dusty red-plush seat
with a soft little sigh.
The swift motion of the train was most exhilarating, for every
single click of the car-wheels meant a turn which brought her just that
much nearer to her father and Elinor and the wonderful Visit.
After a while, when her agitation had begun to subside a trifle,
Arethusa began to remember a few of the multitude of directions Miss
Eliza had given that were most important to be carried out without
fail. She removed her hat with care and reached down into the ancient
travelling bag and brought forth a piece of manila paper in which she
wrapped it, to save its newness from flying cinders. She took off her
coat and folded it, lining outside, and hung it over the arm of the
opposite seat and rolled her white cotton gloves into a neat little
ball and put them and her purse down into her bag.
Then she drew The Dove in the Eagles' Nest out of that capacious
receptacle (Miss Asenath had advised bringing something to read and
Arethusa had not read this particular romance for a very long while),
propped herself primly way over in the corner of her seat and prepared
to do just as she had been told.
But she was far too excited to do much more than just open her book.
The fortunes of Christina and her two sons in the free city of Ulm, as
so graphically portrayed by Miss Charlotte Yonge, could generally
transport Arethusa far from the everyday events of her own world into
the actual Middle Ages that was the scene of their happening; but
to-day.... They seemed to have lost a lot of this power; she could
hardly keep her eyes on the book.
The flying landscape outside the window fascinated her at first and
after awhile her fellow travellers claimed her attention, and proved
far more interesting than even that. Miss Eliza could have no possible
objection to her niece watching them if she sat very still.
There were not very many passengers when Arethusa got on; one or two
men in the other end of the car, and several women and babies. But as
the tram rushed ever nearer to Lewisburg, the passengers increased in
A group climbed on at one of the way stations, and took a seat just
opposite Arethusa across the aisle, and they particularly attracted
her. It was composed of a woman who reminded her very strongly of Miss
Letitia in the round chubbiness of her face and her comfortable
untidiness, although she was undoubtedly much younger, and her two
children. The sex of one of them Arethusa was unable to determine just
at first, for it was so small that the cut of its blue raiment might
have served for either boy or girl; but the other one was unmistakably
of a feminine persuasion. This child had the lightest hair and eyebrows
the watcher across the aisle had ever seen, and the very palest of blue
eyes. So light were the eyebrows that only a close inspection later on
convinced Arethusa that there were any there at all.
These travellers had a great deal of baggage, several boxes and a
large telescope, as well as a huge satchel. The handle of the telescope
had been broken off at some stage of its career, and this deficiency
had been remedied by inserting under the leather straps still
remaining, a coat hanger covered with bright red silk ribbon gathered
on and tied at the hook with gay little bows.
The children were very restless; they did much moving about,
climbing in and out of the seat. The mother seemed to find it necessary
to admonish her offspring with frequency, and Arethusa discovered in
this way that the little girl's name was Helen Louise and the being
in the straight up-and-down blue garment was a boy infant who answered
to the name of Peter.
At a Junction farther down the line, a Man got on. And as the car
was pretty full by this time, he took the seat just opposite Arethusa;
that seat which Timothy had gallantly turned over for her.
He buried himself immediately in a paper he carried, but when his
neighbor's liquid laugh rang out at some ridiculous antic of Peter's,
he dropped his paper and regarded her mobile face with interest.
He was rather a nice looking man, quietly dressed in well cut
clothes and he had an air of good living about him that was quite
attractive. To any experienced traveller, the neat looking leather
cases with the brass locks, which he carried, would have been quite
sufficient to have immediately told his occupation. He travelled for a
notions house, out of Cincinnati, with a territory covering most of the
small towns in three states. It was a boring business, and offered very
little as diversion on the side; but he hoped before very long to be
much better placed. He liked girls, and the one before him was one of
the prettiest he had ever seen.
They rode facing one another for about five miles, and he watched
Arethusa, without her actually realizing she was being watched. Then
she laughed gayly at Peter once more, as his mother all but saved his
life when he pitched head first off the seat, and her eager grey eyes
caught a glimpse of the brown eyes across from her, smiling in
Isn't he the funniest little boy! exclaimed Arethusa,
involuntarily, to the sympathy.
He is, replied the Man kindly, then he added, after a bit, Are
you travelling alone, or do you belong with the funny little boy?
No, sir,... Yes, sir! replied Arethusa, suddenly covered with a
Which is which? asked the Man, laughing, and he showed attractive
The friendliness of his brown eyes and his laugh reassured Arethusa
of her momentary feeling of alarm when he had spoken. Her exclamation
had not really expected a reply, and she had been quite startled when
the sympathetic eyes to which she had addressed herself had been
discovered to have this voice belonging to them.
She blushed, and dropped her head. Then she raised it again, after a
moment, and he was still smiling at her in the same friendly fashion,
so Arethusa found courage to look at him. To her rose-colored view of
the inmates of the best of all possible worlds, he seemed in that look
to be a very nice man. It is true that Miss Eliza had warned her with
emphasis against strange men, but the Man across from her could not be
said to come anywhere near the descriptions of the Ogres against which
Arethusa had been so warned. Arethusa had not had her Red-Riding-Hood
Experience as yet, and it was her habit to trust.
They rode for a few moments silently, and then Peter did what had
been inevitable for some time that he would do, he pitched head first
out into the aisle.
Oh! exclaimed Arethusa, and she jumped clear out of her seat at
the loud and high-pitched wail with which he made known his distress.
That's too bad, said the Man. But I've been afraid he was going
to do that very thing.
So have I, answered Arethusa confidentially.
And in a very short while, she was talking away as if she had known
her new acquaintance all her life, with all the dimples and excitement
and gestures that belonged to Arethusa. But what harm to talk to such a
Nice, Kind Man? Miss Eliza had not known that she would meet this sort
of Man, she was sure. She could not possibly object to a little
Friendly Conversation with someone in the very same seat.
And he listened, truly interested, as Arethusa's enthusiasm began to
make up for the while it had been pent, in all she told him of the
coming Visit and the magnificent expectations she had of that Visit,
and of Ross and Elinor.
But the motherly looking woman across the aisle had been watching
Arethusa for some time also. And when Peter's sobs had ceased, and she
looked up once more from her family cares to see Arethusa conversing so
animatedly with her chance acquaintance, she decided at once to
interfere. She had heart enough toat leastattempt the management of
any affairs coming under her notice which did not seem to her to be
running just as they should.
She bustled over and loomed above Arethusa and her Friendly Man.
Know this man, dearie? she demanded peremptorily.
Why ... no ... I....
Arethusa almost added, Aunt 'Titia. For the tone of voice and the
little term of endearment and the woman herself were all rather
bewilderingly like her aunt.
Well, I don't reckon you ought to be talking to him then, and she
turned to the man, a self-elected champion of a lone maiden, and stared
at him as authoritatively as she had spoken to Arethusa. You're plenty
old enough to know better'n this. And you'd better get out of that seat
mighty quick, or I'll call the conductor. And you a nice-looking man,
The man turned as red as a well-cooked beet, clear down into his
immaculate collar. He wasted no time in expostulation or protest that
Arethusa's champion was interfering in something which was none of her
immediate business, but he gathered up his neat leather cases and fled
to the smoker for safety. He had meant no sort of harm, and he was so
embarrassed that he was hours recovering from the experience.
After he had disappeared down the aisle, Arethusa's defender moved
her family and most of her baggage across the way, depositing her
remarkably decorated telescope in the space between the two seats which
had faced each other for Arethusa's adventure, before the astonished
Arethusa was thoroughly aware of just what was happening.
You sit there, Helen Louise, admonished this substitute for the
Nice Man to her daughter, indicating the end of the telescope, and if
our friend wants to come back, I reckon he'll have to fall over you.
That was a horrid man, she added to Arethusa: it's the likes of him
makes it disagreeable for girls to be travelling by themselves.
Oh, no, protested Arethusa.
Yes, he were, replied Helen Louise's mother in a positive way that
indicated superior wisdom on such matters.
Arethusa bowed to the superior wisdom and the positive tone, through
long habit of her experience with Miss Eliza when she used such a tone.
But he looked like a Nice Man, she said, though feebly.
It's most always the nicest looking ones is the worst at heart. I'm
raising up Helen Louise to steer clear of anything in pants she ain't
been introduced to first by somebody she knows. It's safest.
This speech had a somewhat familiar sound, though perhaps couched
differently. Arethusa had a moment of terrified remembrance of Certain
Instructions. She looked down at the bulwark of Helen Louise and the
telescope between her and the aisle, and she suddenly felt grateful to
Helen Louise's mother.
Thank you, she said, with fervent sincerity, thank you, ma'am,
just ever so much. I never do remember anything Aunt 'Liza tells me,
You ain't got no real call to thank me, was the placid reply. I'd
be doing the same for any girl as good-looking as you be; and I'd be
hoping somebody'd do the same for my Helen Louise. It seems like it's
always most easiest for young folks to keep right on forgetting just
what they ought to be remembering.
I know, said Arethusa apologetically. But this is the first time
I ever traveled anywhere, and....
Mrs. Cherry (for such was the name of Arethusa's latest friend)
rescued her small son from his repeated attempts to plunge through the
glass in the car window, before she turned around to continue the
I should have said you had. You don't look so awfully citified, now
I come to think, but I should have certainly said you'd travelled.
Who's your Aunt 'Liza, you spoke about awhile back? Ain't you got no
Mrs. Cherry was genuinely friendly, and she was safely feminine, so
Arethusa once more launched into a glowing description of what wonders
the future held in store, and to Mrs. Cherry's interested questioning,
told what the past had been like, Timothy and all.
You certainly have got lots of folks to care about you, was the
comment, when the narrator finally paused for breath. And you ain't
never seen your Pa? Well! Well! Helen Louise and Peter and me we're
going to the city to meet Helen Louise's Pa. He's got work there and
we're going to live there now.
Helen Louise smiled all over herself at this mention of her father,
a toothless smile, but of unmistakable joy, and Arethusa's heart went
out to her immediately. Here, very evidently, was another girl-child
whose affections were centered largely in a male parent.
Helen Louise favors her Pa considerable. And they're the biggest
Helen Louise's silvery treble piped up. Papa and me just play and
play! She gave herself something like an anticipatory hug. Gee, but
I'm going to be glad to see him! I ain't seen him for a whole year
Helen Louise, don't you be telling Miss Worth'ton no story now!
warned her mother. Names had been exchanged. She ain't seen him for
more'n a month reely, but I reckon it does seem 'most a year to her.
Peter now joined his voice to the conversation for the first time,
Ma, I'm hungry.
Bless us! But it might be dinner time, now, mightn't it. Have you
got a watch, Miss Worth'ton?
Arethusa reached down into her waistband and drew forth Miss Eliza's
parting gift. Which was a watch that had seen Miss Eliza faithfully
through more than one decade, a large and handsomely chased affair of
gold on a long ribbon of black gros-grain.
The child will need a watch, said Miss Eliza.
Arethusa fully appreciated the parting gift, and she reverenced the
old-fashioned timepiece fully as much as had its former owner.
What though it was a trifle heavy in her hand as she held it to read
the dial! Was it not an actual watch and gold at that, and did not its
tiny hands count off the moments of each one of the twenty-four hours
for her to note as they flew by? And was not all of its wonder her very
A quarter to one, she announced proudly.
Well, well, you don't say so! No wonder he's hungry! You'll be
having some lunch with us, Miss Worth'ton, won't you now?
But Arethusa refused this cordial invitation. She could not possibly
eat a mouthful. Food would have stuck in her throat right on top of the
big lump of excitement that was already there. And besides the drawback
of this decided inability to swallow, she had not the slightest
sensation of hunger that would have tempted her to try to eat.
I had some lunch of my own, she shyly offered the neatly tied-up
box; Aunt 'Liza makes awfully nice jam and things and Mandy said she
was going to fix me some fried chicken. But I don't want a bit of it.
Wouldn't Helen Louise and Peter like to have it?
Helen Louise's pale blue eyes glistened at this mention of fried
chicken. Her own lunch contained no such appetizing delicacy. She had
helped to tie it up, and she knew just what was in it. This was far
superior in every way. She pulled at her mother's dress in eagerness,
and Mrs. Cherry reached down and slapped her.
Don't you act like you never had nothing in your life to eat, she
Then Helen Louise's eyes began to glisten with tears. Arethusa felt
very sorry for her. She had seemed so like a kindred spirit in her
plainly manifested father worship. So Arethusa opened the dainty little
packet of chicken and sandwiches and spread it temptingly on Helen
Louise's lap with her own hands.
Here, she said, you may have it, Helen Louise. But you'll give
Peter some? Do, she added quickly.
For Peter's large round eyes were regarding with a greediness
unmistakable the munificence of food that had been so generously
bestowed upon his sister.
Well, I will say this, remarked Mrs. Cherry, as she divided
Arethusa's contribution into equal portions between her offspring,
after the donor had succeeded in convincing her that she honestly
wanted none of it. I will say this for my children. They might be
acting like hoodlums over this here food, but they ain't never seen
none just like it before, She bit into one of Mandy's beaten biscuit
sandwiches with the pink ham in between, herself, with relish. Your
aunt must have a mighty good cook. She cert'inly must!
Watching the little Cherry's devour her lunch and the garrulity of
their mother consumed so much time for Arethusa, that almost before she
knew it the little wave of excitement denoting the nearing of a
journey's end swept through the car. The conductor passed by and
gathered the little slips of stiff paper from the men's hats; every
passenger began his or her peculiar preparations for leaving the train.
Mrs. Cherry began gathering up her boxes and parcels. Helen Louise
was sent to the water cooler to wet a handkerchief and then her face
and Peter's were vigorously scrubbed. At any other time, Mrs. Cherry
would have dragged both children to the cooler, but she was not taking
any chances with pretty, unprotected Arethusa. No one else should have
that seat of hers.
The baggageman came through the car; calling as he went,
Anybaggageyouwantdeliveredinthe-city, car-ri-age or omnibus.
It gave Arethusa a most delightful little thrill all down her spine
to hear him. She was not exactly sure he was the person to give her
check to, but decided it would be best to obey the letter of the law
this time. Miss Eliza had mentioned no baggageman, but she had been
most explicit in her directions to Arethusa that she give that check to
no one but her father.
She rescued her hat from its paper protection and put it on her
tumbled hair, from which some of the precious hairpins had fallen
during the excitement of the journey; unfolded her coat and donned it;
drew on the cotton gloves and clutched her purse and satchel once more
as when she had started, and with the death grip Miss Eliza had adjured
for fear of those pickpockets with which railway stations are always
infested, and Arethusa was Ready. And she was ready with a palpitating
heart, for the brakeman had accommodatingly called, Lewisburg, right
in her very own ear, as if he wished her to be quite sure this was the
right place to leave her seat.
Mrs. Cherry had been very busy with her progeny and her
paraphernalia and impedimenta of various sortsit was marvelous how
she managed to gather them all together with only two handsand she
was ready also. But even in the midst of this sleight of hand
performance, she did not forget her self-constituted guardianship of
Sure you're going to know your Pa? she enquired. Don't you want
me to be waiting and help you hunt for him?
No, Arethusa was very, very sure she would know him. She did not
need any help to find him.
And then with one last shrieking grind of the wheels, the train
stopped in the shed at Lewisburg, and Arethusa, all injunctions to sit
still for a half hour forgotten as if they had never been, immediately
began with her fellow passengers a movement towards the door. But so
slow was this movement that her impatient heart thought she would
never, never be out of that car.
Helen Louise's quick eyes spied, through the car window, her father,
among the crowd on the platform and she gave a joyful shout. But it was
a shout, which although loud and very near, Arethusa never even heard.
Her own eyes, star-like and intent, were busy searching that same crowd
for her own father.
Just as the music room was primarily Elinor's retreat, so was the
library the place which Ross loved best.
It was a long, narrow room; two square rooms had been thrown
together to make it, and it was lined, on the longest walls to about
half the distance from the ceiling, with low, deep, unglassed
book-cases full of books on a bewildering variety of subjects,
haphazardly arranged; some of them well worn as to bindings as if much
read. A brick fireplace of generous proportions with a high, narrow
mantel shelf of brownish red marble occupied most of one of the other,
and narrower, walls. A log fire burned there fitfully now, throwing
little dancing gleams on the brass andirons and the dark polished floor
just in front. All the chairs in the room were broad and deep and
enticingly comfortable. An enormous davenport stood at one side of the
fireplace, and there was a long, heavy table of carved mahogany
directly in front of the hearth. The few rugs in the room were all in
dull, subdued tones that melted into the floor unobtrusively.
Here, in the library, Ross spent his days in the arduous labor with
which he kept body and soul together; the translation of various bits
of the literature of Southern Europe into English. Ross was quite a
student in his way and a good deal of a linguist.
But he was not working just at this moment.
At the enormous desk between the two long windows at the end of the
room opposite the fireplace, he was reading a detective story and
playing with a bronze paper cutter at the same time, banging it up and
down on the desk.
Ross loved detective stories as much as any boy who has ever
thrilled over them, and Elinor loved to watch him read them. She stood
still in the doorway for a moment and watched him now. She could tell
by his changing expression just when the story he was reading was sad,
just when it was merry, just when the meaning was hard to understand,
and just when he began to dislike the way things were working out,
almost as well as if he read it aloud to her.
The paper cutter poised in the air for just a second, and his
eyebrows drew together in a little puzzled frown. Evidently, things
were going badly. Then the paper cutter came down on the desk with a
swoop, and his whole face lighted.
Elinor crossed the room with her swift, graceful movement, and
kissed him lightly on the tiny bald spot on the very top of his head,
which he insisted was being widened by financial worries.
Ross, Clay is waiting.
He gave her an absentminded squeezing of the hand nearest him by way
of answer without lifting his eyes from his book.
She leaned over and covered the page with one hand.
Oh, come now, he remonstrated, that's not a bit fair! That's the
most interesting place for pages and pages!
That may be, you infant, but you must stop right there. Clay is
waiting for you.
What for, please? I don't remember telling him I wanted him!
Ross Worthington! Have you actually forgotten Arethusa is coming
Ross returned, with the most commendable suddenness, from the Long
Island country place, scene of his sojourn for the last few hours where
a most fearful and intricately involved crime had been committed, to
things which were happening in Lewisburg.
Ye gods! And I had!
You ought to be ashamed to admit it!
I don't see why you say that, his air was one of mild protest.
You remembered her, didn't you? And that's what a wife's for, anyway,
one of the things, to remember what her husband ought to. What's the
use of having one if....
But Elinor hurried him into the hall without allowing him to finish
this speech, thrust his coat and hat forcibly upon him, and propelled
him on toward the open front door, and then on down the steps.
Wait a minute here, Ross came back from halfway to the automobile,
Aren't you going? For it had penetrated his consciousness that she
had not come any farther than the top step.
She blushed a trifle. I ... I thought I wouldn't.
All her shyness was up in arms.
It was very probably going to be hard enough at best, this first
meeting with Arethusa, without staging it before a crowd of prying eyes
in a railroad station. In spite of all her longing to see and know the
girl, and her loving preparation, now that the moment was actually
come, Elinor's shyness intruded and kept her at home.
Ross understood (it was one of the very nicest things about him, his
understanding) but as he was feeling a bit the same way himself, he
would have liked the bulwark of her presence. Two shy folk to back each
other up are in not nearly so bad a fix as the one who goes it alone.
So he stood hesitatingly in the middle of the front walk, slowly
drawing on his gloves. Perhaps Elinor would change her mind.
You'll be late, she warned.
But still he hesitated. How in the dickens am I going to know the
child? I haven't the remotest idea what she's like. I may miss her
altogether. I think I need you.
His statement of not knowing what Arethusa was like was perfectly
true, for in none of her letters had Miss Eliza once mentioned
Arethusa's personal appearance and Elinor had never thought to ask
You should have told her, he continued, almost reproachfully, to
wear a red carnation or something. I am quite sure I shan't be able to
find her. And you're so much smarter than I am. Your woman's intuition
is a great thing to have in a search, You better come go 'long.
Elinor came down the walk to where he was and gave him a push. Do
go on, Ross. You really will miss her altogether, if you don't. And I
haven't time to dress now, so I can't possibly go. She probably looks
like her mother or some member of the family.
Now, I don't know about that, he answered, still lingering. She
may not at all. I don't look like my mother, and you....
Oh, please go on and stop fooling! Though she laughed, his wife's
patience was ebbing. It would be dreadful for Arethusa to come and find
no one to meet her. You always hurry so, Ross, when there's no real
necessity for it and won't when there is!
Ross decided that the moment for actual departure was certainly at
hand, so he made haste to the automobile.
Arethusa, after descending from the train with her satchel and purse
still clutched firmly, followed the crowd across the tracks under the
shed, toward the iron gates she had to pass through to reach the
station proper. Her busy grey eyes had failed to find anyone among
those menfolks just around the train who at all resembled her mental
picture of her father. And as she hurried after the crowd, still
watching for him, it seemed to Arethusa that there were more people in
this comparatively small space than she had ever seen in one company
before, in all of her life. So many of them were men, she noted; so
many of them were men with nice faces who might have been the fathers
of travelling daughters they had come to meet.
She felt a sudden and most unexpected bewilderment sweep over her as
she looked about. How would she ever find her father here, among all
these hundreds and hundreds of people? She was carried along,
unresisting in her panic, clear through the gates without being aware
she had passed them, and pushed aside by the impatient throng against
one of the iron pillars that supported the roof of the platform at one
side of the station.
From this point, she could not help but watch all the glad meetings
about her, of sisters and brothers and husbands and wives, and various
other relationships (there were some she was quite positive were
fathers and daughters), and she watched them with something like envy;
for so far as she could tell, everyone who had got off the train had
been immediately seized by some person who seemed superlatively glad to
see him or her. Yes, every human being but Arethusa Worthington seemed
to have been met by somebody.
Then a cold little fear clutched at her heart; suppose....
Suppose.... she had made a mistake and this was not Lewisburg, after
But it must be! Had not the brakeman accommodatingly told her so
right in her very own ear? And the Cherrys had been going to Lewisburg,
and they had got off with Arethusa. She was surely in the right
The next most natural supposition was that no one had come to meet
her. And then the wildest and most unreasoning terror of this
situation, directly grown from some of those travellers' tales of her
aunts' weaving, overwhelmed Arethusa. She stood closer to the pillar as
a sort of protection.
Such an Ending to the Joyfully Begun Journey!
The Cherry family had been so long in their greetings that they were
among the last to pass by the unmet traveller and her pillar. Mrs.
Cherry, seeing that the girl was alone, crossed the platform to her,
the whole collection of Cherrys trailing in her rear.
Found your Pa yet, dearie? she asked cheerfully.
This is the pretty Miss Worth'ton I was telling you about we saw on
the train, Cherry, to her husband, and This is Helen Louise's Pa, to
Arethusa managed to acknowledge this introduction, but being in such
a state of mind as she was, she could not make her acknowledgment very
Helen Louise was dancing up and down and hanging on to one hand of a
man who could have been nothing else but a close relation to the little
girl, pale blue eyes and pale eyebrows and all. The daughter certainly
favored her Pa considerable as her mother had said.
My Papa, Helen Louise announced happily.
Mrs. Cherry sensed something wrong. She looked at Arethusa more
closely. You ain't found him? Here, Cherry, you take the children and
the bundles and put them in the waitin'-room and then come straight
back here and we'll help Miss Worth'ton hunt her father.
I don't want to be put in the waitin'-room! wailed Helen Louise in
protest, I want to stay with Papa!
Mrs. Cherry was reproving her and starting her off in the direction
of the designated depository, when Arethusa interrupted the
proceedings. She did not want Mrs. Cherry, kind as she had been and
kind as her intentions still were to continue being, with her just now.
If this was a fiasco to her Beautiful Dream she needed a few moments to
face it alone. A funny sort of little pride gave her this feeling. She
had talked to Mrs. Cherry so glowingly and at such length about her
father and her Visit.
But Mr. Cherry, till just now silent, had a suggestion to make.
S'pose, he drawled, if Miss Worth'ton wants to wait by herself here,
Maria, me and you set inside awhile, and then if she finds she reely
has missed him somehow, I might help her to look him up, mebbe.
Arethusa considered this a decidedly brilliant idea. It relieved her
of present society, which though friendly was irksome, and promised
She rewarded the tall, thin father of Helen Louise with a misty
Mrs. Cherry thought it very good, also. Miss Worth'ton wasn't to
worry a mite now, not a mite. If her father didn't come for her, the
Cherry family would escort her right up to his front door.
So the little procession trailed away and left Arethusa once more
alone, and most disconsolate, against her kindly iron pillar.
The station had gradually become deserted, until there were only a
few employees pottering about here and there, and one lone man standing
talking to the blue-capped man at the gate.
Arethusa's mental picture of her father had been very clear. All
this while she had been looking for the handsome youth of the wavy dark
hair, eccentrically long, and the graceful Italian military cape. And
she had been looking for him without adding a single year to his age,
perfectly confident she would know him anywhere.
Ross had really been on time, despite his fooling. He had arrived
before the first passenger left Arethusa's train. And he had waited
until every human being had gone before starting to leave himself, so
he was the lone man Arethusa saw questioning the gatekeeper.
Elinor's last suggestion that the daughter might resemble her mother
had been taken literally, and all these moments Ross's search had been
for a tiny, dainty bit of a girl with cornflower eyes. When the crowd
had somewhat thinned, he had noticed Arethusa and her prettiness and
her height, standing so forlornly by herself, had mentally labeled Miss
Letitia's costuming, a Godey's Ladies' Book relic, and had turned
away again to his search for the Dresden china daughter, who did not
seem to be anywhere about. Ross was vexed to have been snatched from
his book for this fruitless trip to the station. If Miss Eliza had
postponed Arethusa's coming once more, she should have written them
about it, or telegraphed; for they should surely have been notified.
As he passed Arethusa on his way out he saw that her grey eyes under
their long black lashes (he noticed them first because they were such
unusually beautiful eyes) were full of shining tears, some of which
were beginning to roll, unashamed, down the girl's cheek. A damsel in
distress always appealed to Ross, for no knight of the time of
tournaments had no more real chivalry in his composition, and so he
Could I help you in any way? he asked courteously. Are you in
Arethusa was just on the point of seeking Mr. Cherry and his
promised assistance, when out of the bleak expanse of that awful and
lonely platform Providence had sent this other help: a Man with
reassuring grey hairs and a smile which she could not possibly mistake
for anything but kindness. She seized it gratefully: and there would be
no embarrassment of a Mrs. Cherry connected with it. This new Man knew
nothing of any Dream that had been shattered. And if he lived in
Lewisburg, he most probably knew her father. Her experience with
municipalities was that everybody in a town knew everybody else and all
their affairs into the bargain. And she was far past remembering
Certain Instructions in such a Crisis.
She turned to Ross, a tear-stained face on which her gratitude at
his offer struggled with her woes and the Horror of the Situation.
My ... my fa-ther.... she began brokenly, and then gulped, and
It sounded very much like a greeting of the man before her, but it
was only that her unruly voice refused entirely to respond to her
efforts to use it.
Ross's look searched her quickly, up and down. She was as unlike the
child he had expected to find as he could have found in a day's long
journey; but there could hardly be two sets of fathers and daughters in
so similar a predicament in the same station.
I think you've found him, right here, he said lightly, to down a
curious little feeling that suddenly surged through his heart, if
you're Miss Arethusa Worthington, that is. I'm....
Arethusa waited not for him to finish with a definite announcement
of his identity; she needed no further words to convince her of just
who he was. And although this was far, far from being what she had
always visioned the wonder of their Meeting, she put her whole soul
into her side of it.
She flung both arms tight around his neck as if she never intended
to let him go; and sobbed violently, salty tears that soaked clear
through the expensive tweed of his new suit. But these were not the
tears of unhappiness which he had noticed and which had caused him to
stop and make his offer of help; they were tears of joy for the sheer
relief that his bodily presence gave to his volatile daughter. With the
impulsive suddenness of her embrace her hat had flown clear off, but
Arethusa recked not, in such a moment, of hats with precious and
beautiful turkey feathers, and she lost, of necessity, her careful grip
of her purse and satchel.
Ross, for a moment or two, was entirely bereft of coherent thought
by the suddenness of her movement. He was nearly strangled by the
clinging arms, and a trifle embarrassed besides; for it was not every
day that a strange young lady precipitated herself into his arms and
sobbed so violently. That it was a daughter whose acquaintance he was
making for the very first time, did not altogether deprive the
situation of its strangeness.
Here, he said, when he began to recover somewhat, here, buck up,
child! Buck up. This won't do at all, you know. Let's go home and
Arethusa bucked up.
She drew away from him as suddenly as she had grabbed him and
blushed hotly all over with a most unusual accession of sudden shyness.
And Ross made straight for the waiting automobile without further
parley. She followed behind him in silence, but about halfway she
stopped and clapped her hand to her head.
Oh, my hat! she exclaimed. And I've lost my purse and satchel!
Ross turned around and went back to find them.
But the purse was gone beyond any power of their finding it, though
hat and satchel were safely retrieved and progress once more resumed.
This is Miss Arethusa, Clay, said Ross, when the chauffeur jumped
down to open the door of the machine and took charge of the ancient
Clay touched his cap respectfully.
But to the surprise of both men Arethusa's acknowledgement of this
introduction was a shy and old-fashioned courtesy Miss Letitia had
taught her. She murmured politely, I'm very glad to meet you, and
extended her hand.
Clay very nearly dropped the handbag.
But something in the friendly smiling of the grey eyes that regarded
him made Clay himself to smile warmly in return, and Arethusa had made
a friend. He grasped the out-stretched fingers lightly, in the spirit
in which they had been offered, and said with unmistakable cordiality,
I'm awfully glad you've come, Miss Arethusa. Home, Mr. Worthington?
Home, replied Ross, smiling at him for his kind quickness.
And then Clay slammed the door upon Ross and Arethusa and climbed up
in front. Arethusa was just a bit puzzled at first, and then she
decided it was the City.
She had had no previous dealings of intimacy with automobiles, the
nearest she had ever been to one was to watch them fly past down the
Pike. The word chauffeur would have conveyed no meaning to her mind,
nor have given her any idea of his place in the general scheme of
things connected with machines. She had thought the good-looking,
well-dressed youth in his natty Norfolk suit and cap was some friend of
her father's out for a ride with him, and so it was quite in order that
he should be introduced. People often took their friends driving in the
country. It was just a bit strange that he should do the driving and
not her father, but it did not bother her long; and after a while, she
was rather glad that the friend did sit in front.
She abandoned herself to Complete Happiness against those
marvelously soft cushions in the limousine. She dearly loved to ride,
and she did not get near enough of it at the Farm. In fact, motion of
any sort had a charm for Arethusa. But she had never felt motion so
superlative as this. It was even more exhilarating than the train had
been, so swiftly they moved forward, and so silently.
Her momentary shyness with her father began to disappear under the
influence of her enjoyment. She glanced around at him from under her
long lashes and found him watching her.
His daughter's appearance was proving interestingly mystifying to
Ross. Where in the world had she got that red hair and those wonderful
Irish eyes? She had not a single feature like her mother. Her tallness,
he thought, could be said to have come straight from him. And that
ever-changing play of expression across her face,it was quite
Though thus watching her, from the moment they had sat down, Ross
was rather at a loss how to begin conversation; he had not entirely
recovered from that first embrace. But he could not help, however,
replying to her smile, the friendliest possible smile, with which she
conveyed to him her delight in the machine.
So you like to ride?
I love it! she answered, enthusiastically. This.... It's
just like flying!
Ross liked this unbridled ecstasy; it was decidedly refreshing.
Ever ridden in one before?
Arethusa shook her head vigorously.
But I should certainly have thought automobiles had penetrated to
Some people in town have them, Arethusa came quickly to the
defence of her county, but it's nobody I really know. Timothy was
going to get one, but his silo blew down and he couldn't this summer;
because he put up a concrete one in its place and it cost so much.
Who is Timothy?
Why, Timothy is.... Why, Timothy.... He's just Timothy Jarvis ...
Father. She added the Father a trifle shyly, it being the very first
time she had ever addressed that title to him in person. Aunt 'Liza
wants me to marry him, she continued, as if that ought to explain
Ross remembered the Jarvises. I see, but how about you? He found
that shy little Father most attractive. He wished she would say it
Arethusa laughed. Why, he's my very best friend and I've known him
always and always. Of course I'm not going to marry him! I couldn't
marry Timothy ... Father. You have to fall in love with the person you
Then it seems I may gather from your remarks, and Ross was most
highly entertained by those same remarks, that you can't possibly fall
in love with a person you've known always!
It doesn't ever happen in books, said Arethusa, seriously, and
they're supposed to be just like things really are, aren't they? I've
read just oceans of love-stories. I just adore them! she added, with
Ross's smile broadened. But truth, they say, is stranger than
fiction, and he was about to add something to Arethusa's further
mystification, when the automobile stopped.
It had stopped in front of a huge, brick house, painted grey, with
tall, narrow windows indicative of the high ceilings within, and a
high, pointed roof of grey and red slate. It was a house which had
originally been much smaller, but it had been added to until it was
spread out, all over a lot which was unusually wide for a city lot,
with huge excrescences of wings on each side.
It was not a handsome house, and the most kindly intentioned critic
could never have called it so. Elinor had never been able to do much
towards the improvement of the outward appearance, however much she had
beautified the interior. But it had been her home since she was too
small to remember any other, and she loved it dearly despite its
deficiencies from an artistic standpoint outwardly. Ross thought it a
hideous pile. He said its only redeeming feature was that it so
undoubtedly looked respectable.
But Arethusa could find no fault with it. She admired it
unaffectedly as they went up the walk toward it.
Do you live here, Father? she asked, breathlessly. She had
considered at first the possibility that it might be a hotel. It's so
awfully big! Why, Father, it's every bit as big as our County Court
House! Which was till now the largest building she had ever seen.
She regarded the stately proportions of the facade with awe. Had she
not been with her father, she would never have found the courage to
lift that shining knocker in the center of the broad paneled door. She
would have gone on past this place, she was sure; it seemed so much too
large for the family of two she had come to visit.
Elinor's loving impatience had taken her to the library windows more
than once to watch for their coming. It seemed so long that Ross had
been gone. When the automobile was heard to stop, she rushed to the
front door to open it herself, flinging it wide as a hospitable
indication of how glad she was to welcome Arethusa. But with her hand
still on the door knob, she paused and drew back. This tall, slim
child, every bit as tall as she was herself, with her ardent grey eyes,
and that mass of tumbled red hair down her back, for Arethusa's various
exciting experiences had been hard for the coiffure with which she had
started from home, was not the girl Elinor had led herself to expect as
Ross's daughter. Arethusa, furthermore, was bareheaded, having
forgotten all about her hat and left it in the machine. This, as well
as the quaint costume of Miss Letitia's designing, added to Elinor's
little feeling of surprise.
And Arethusa stopped short also, just inside the door, and shyness
descended upon her once more with this, her first glimpse of the new
But whatever Elinor's expression might be said to resemble,
Arethusa's in return after that first look was one of absolute and
unalloyed admiration. In her wildest flights of anticipatory imaginings
as to the appearance of her father's wife, founded on that Letter of
his that had so positively indicated her beauty, Arethusa had never
been able to paint such a picture as she actually saw. For Elinor's
young brown eyes, under her white hair, the lovely glow of her skin,
and her slender gracefulness clothed in that clinging, fascinatingly
smoky-colored gown she wore (a color she much affected), seemed to the
beauty worshipper who regarded her to make her the most Altogether
Beautiful Human Being that she, Arethusa, had ever gazed upon.
Well, remarked Ross; he thought the funny little silence had
lasted quite long enough, I hope you two will know each other the next
time you happen to meet anywhere!
Then was Elinor given one of those same disarming smiles with which
Arethusa had won her father in the automobile, and anything else but
immediate and complete friendship was impossible after such a Smile,
however unlike the girl expected the one who had come might be.
Clay had brought in the forgotten hat when he came with the satchel,
and he hovered about in the background of the hall until he could
communicate to Ross that Miss Arethusa's trunk had not been attended
to. Should he go right straight back for it? Clay was somewhat used to
the remembering of things which Ross had not remembered; rarely a day
passed that he did not have to do something of this kind.
My trunk! Arethusa's mind made a complete somersault at this
intrusion of so commonplace an article into the happy family greetings
and the joy of finding Elinor as dear as she looked. I ... I forgot
all about it! she faltered.
It doesn't matter, comforted Elinor, there's no harm done at all.
Just give Clay the check and he'll go see about it!
A wild search for it followed immediately. Arethusa had entirely
forgotten where it had been put. Down into the very depths of the
satchel she dived, to emerge unrewarded. Was it by any chance in that
Visions of Miss Eliza rose before her, making more frantic the
efforts to locate it. How many times had she said, Whatever you do,
Arethusa, don't you dare lose that trunk check!
She sank weakly to the floor to lean her head despairingly against
the heavy newel post of the stairway.
What will Aunt 'Liza say? she cried, with the hopelessness of one
already condemned. Oh, what will she say?
It does not need even a clever mind like mine to deduce from my
daughter's behaviour that Miss Eliza remains unchanged through the
changing years, murmured Ross in Elinor's ear. Tempus may fugit, but
Miss Eliza's disposition stands perfectly still.
Suddenly, Arethusa's hand flew to clasp her throat. She looked up at
them with a little laugh, her face clearing as if by magic.
How awfully stupid of me! I remember now where it is! She drew the
tiny bag on its cord out of the neck of her blouse. She put it in
here, so I wouldn't lose it. Her relief was great and thoroughly
genuine. Whee, she sighed, just suppose I had lost it!
It was all too much for Ross. He could scarcely manage to untie that
bag for the check, he was so hilarious.
You needn't laugh that way, said Arethusa defensively. You don't
know what Aunt 'Liza can be like when she's mad! If you did, you
But I do, he replied, I do. That's the reason I laugh. It brings
her back to me so plainly.
It had brought her back to Arethusa very plainly also. She
remembered some Instructions Miss Eliza had given, which the time had
come to carry out.
I must lie down and rest now, she said to Elinor.
Are you very tired, dear? We'll go right up to your room.
No, I'm really not a bit tired, explained Arethusa, as she
scrambled to her feet to start upstairs, not the very weeniest bit.
But Aunt 'Liza said I must lie down and rest just as soon as I got
Elinor looked a trifle puzzled. But if you're really not tired....
But I must rest. Aunt 'Liza said so.
Arethusa was sure that she had disobeyed Miss Eliza enough for one
day, in the forgetting what she had said about strange men and the
attitude to be adopted towards them, and she had gone on from that to
lose her purse. There was no telling how long Miss Eliza's arm might
be, how far her wrath might reach. It was best not to tempt Providence.
She would rest.
Wait, said Ross as an answer to his wife's bewilderment, just
wait until you know Miss Eliza and all of this will be fully
A reward of some description was surely due Miss Eliza's niece for
her behaviour on this occasion, for no creature ever felt less like
even the outward semblance of resting than did Arethusa. While regard
for the strictest truth will not permit it to be stated that much rest
was obtained from her method of carrying out Miss Eliza's command;
still, she remained in her room with every appearance of obedience and
intervals were spent on the squshy green sofa, when she could have
talked and talked to Ross and Elinor the entire afternoon without the
slightest hint of fatigue.
Arethusa's delight in her room more than repaid Elinor for any
trouble which the fixing of it might have been. Her little gasping
Oh! when the door was first opened, and the silent, shining-eyed gaze
around afterwards were the most genuine and appreciated tribute of
admiration she could have given.
She would never have dreamed that the mere gathering together of
furniture and pictures and other objects of familiar names which were
the commonplaces of everyday life at the Farm could present an
appearance so beautiful. When once on the sofa, tucked under a fluffy
green coverlid by Elinor's kind hands, she could not stay for long. A
hundred times did she bob up to examine various fascinating objects
that attracted her attention as her eager regard explored while she lay
The bath-room delighted her beyond any power of her expression. It
was a far more wonderful piece of work as a bath-room than the one at
Timothy's house which she had deeply envied him ever since it had been
put in. That hot and cold water should run together for one's cleansing
without the trouble of fetching them in heavy buckets from a far-away
kitchen, had seemed to Arethusa the acme of luxury when she had first
glimpsed the new bath-room at Timothy's.
There was but one faucet at the Farm, and that was in the kitchen,
by the sink. Miss Eliza had made this one concession to modernity
because she could not help but see that it saved a lot of bother in
very cold weather. The plumbing arrangements, however, were of the most
primitive. She scorned the suggestion that a bath-room be added; an
Arethusa made up her mind immediately to write Timothy of the
glories of her washing paraphernalia as being far superior to his. It
was so far superior, in fact, that there were things in that region of
white tile and flashing nickel whose specific use she failed to see.
There was nothing just like it at Timothy's.
She decided also, after a rather longer interval than usual spent on
the sofa, to take a bath this very afternoon; now, before supper time.
But the dainty little silver clock on her mantel was chiming half-past
six before she had finished her toilet; she had spent so long and
luxurious a time in that wonderful porcelain tub. And there was so much
to be admired all around her.
Her hair, to her great sorrow, she could not make stay up on top of
her head at all, and she was forced to leave it plaited down her back
as of old. She was vaguely dissatisfied with the youthful look it gave
her, so arranged, but it could not be helped. She had lost most of her
hairpins when it had tumbled down, and Miss Eliza had provided but the
She wondered why there had been no call of Arethusa! as when she
was late to supper at the Farm; for she must be late, very late. Six
o'clock was the supper hour at home. She hastily slipped on the skirt
to the blue suit and the pongee waist, without stopping to bother with
anything in her trunk, which had been opened and placed in her room for
her. How dreadful to be so late to her first meal!
Arethusa fairly plunged down the front stairs, but once at the
bottom, she paused uncertainly. She had no idea where the dining-room
was. Then she heard voices not far away and she followed the sound into
the library, where she found Ross and Elinor in front of a gloriously
burning wood fire. But they were both garbed in what to her
inexperienced eyes seemed the most pronounced party garments. Ross had
donned a Tuxedo and pinned a tiny, pink rose in his buttonhole. Elinor
wore a black gown that was very low in the neck to Arethusa, although
in reality it was the most modest of décolletage, and a few of the same
pink roses were clustered at her belt.
I was so afraid I was late, began Arethusa breathlessly, then she
stopped short, halfway across the room, when she fully realized the
costuming of the pair before the fire.
Oh, you all are giving a Party and I didn't know anything about
it! she exclaimed.
Ross raised himself just a trifle from the comfortable depths of his
chair. Are you quite rested? he enquired gravely.
But she scarcely heard that he spoke. Oh, I just wish I'd known it
was a Party! she repeated. I wish I'd known! She glanced down at the
plainness of her own attire and then at Elinor's simple evening frock.
Her face clouded. And then a truly dreadful thought intruded itself.
Perhaps she was not even expected at this Party; that may have been why
she had not been called.
Her troubled grey eyes spelled something of this to Elinor, so she
pulled a plump chair a little nearer to her own and patted it
invitingly, just as Miss Asenath patted the couch for Arethusa to join
It isn't a party, Arethusa dear, said Elinor. Come over by us and
be sociable and I'll tell you all about it.
She explained to Arethusa that it was just three years ago on the
twenty-fifth of October (this very night) that she and Ross had first
met each other, at a dinner at the Baronne de Braunecker's in Paris
when she had been visiting the Baronne and Ross had come as a guest to
the dinner given in her honor.
I fell in love with her on the spot, interrupted Ross, and I
could hardly wait for morning so I could go back to call on her.
Arethusa flashed her father a brief smile of appreciation for this
bit of information and proceeded to grow more and more enraptured with
the whole affair as Elinor added to the narrative. They were
celebrating the occasion of that meeting this evening, she continued.
Ross had sent her the flowers, touching the cluster at her belt, for
she had worn pink roses at the Baronne's dinner; and they were to have
for this anniversary meal as many things as Elinor had been able to
remember they had eaten together at the first one.
Arethusa's eyes sparkled.
What a darling idea! This keeping of the Anniversary of so Memorable
an Occasion! Her romantic heart thought it came very near being more
thrilling than a Real Party! It was a way of living after her own
conception of life!
But if I had known about it I could have dressed up, too. I
have a Party Dress!
You have plenty of time to go put it on, if you wish. Elinor
smiled for the little air of pride with which the girl had announced
her possession. There's oceans of time for you to change. Dinner isn't
Arethusa bounded from her chair. Oh, really ... may I?
Elinor nodded. Would you like me to help you? she added.
But Arethusa was already halfway up the front stairs by the time she
had finished her friendly offer.
She dived down into her trunk, recklessly pitching out and aside all
those garments Miss Eliza had folded so carefully and placed into it as
she had considered Arethusa would be needing them. For the one white
dress Miss Letitia had made for parties was far down towards the very
bottom of the trunk. It is well that Miss Eliza did not see this
Still further down, Arethusa lifted up a box she had put there
herself, tucking it in when Miss Eliza had not been present to observe,
and from it she drew that length of green ribbon which she loved.
Unknown to her aunt, it had travelled all the way from the hollow tree
to Lewisburg for Arethusa's adorning.
I will not! she said aloud, defiantly, as though Miss Eliza
were actually present in person forbidding the tying-on of that
decoration, I will not wear a blue ribbon! I will wear This!
Then Arethusa, thus arrayed in her best, descended the stairs once
She crossed the library towards the two by the fire, this time
stepping proudly in a consciousness of clothes, holding her head high.
Her cheeks were adorably flushed, and her eyes were almost black under
her long dark lashes.
The dress was very becoming, even if it were not of the accepted
standards for formal evening wear. Miss Letitia had spre'd herse'f,
so Mandy said, on that dress. It was a trifle sheerer than Miss Eliza
had at first intended it to be, thanks to Miss Asenath's gentle
persuasion; round in the neck and even a bit low, for with fingers that
trembled in their excited daring Miss Letitia had cut it down farther
than the line Miss Eliza had indicated as modest and becoming. And then
there was no way to fill it in.
But 'Thusa had such a pretty neck, said the guilty seamstress to
herself; and what did an inch or so matter in the end?
In Arethusa's simple soul, even with her love of gew-gaws, as Miss
Eliza phrased it, there was no smallest room for envy. This white
garment of hers had been bought and made for a party dress, and it was
the most party party dress she had ever possessed; her mother's black
gown was plainly a party dress also: therefore, to Arethusa's mind,
they were similarly arrayed for an Occasion. She could admire
whole-heartedly the soft sweep of the folds of Elinor's gown without
one iota of unhappiness because her own frock hung in straight thick
gathers with but a ruffle edged with lace at the bottom of the skirt
for its trimming.
I put on my Best Dress, she said happily, because it was your
Anniversary. I know Aunt 'Liza would say I should have put on my blue
silk, but it's so dark, and it's not dress-up a bit.
Elinor and Ross exchanged glances, but forebore to smile at the
best dress. Somehow she appealed to them both more at this very
moment than she had in any mood shown before.
Ross sprang from his chair and recklessly denuded a large bowl on
the big mahogany table of most of its burden of pink roses, and
gallantly presented them to his daughter to put in her green belt, so
that she might also be wearing the Anniversary Flowers.
For the Queen Rose in the rosebud garden of girls, he said, with a
low, sweeping bow as he presented them, which enraptured Arethusa. And
the words had a vaguely familiar sound, as of poetry. Arethusa adored
Yet the warm-hearted blossoms themselves, thought Ross, were really
no more fresh and glowing than the girl whose fluttering fingers strove
to tuck them in the ribbon around her waist just as Elinor had her
Bless her heart! said Elinor to herself, as she noted Arethusa's
little glance at the flowers she wore and the little effort at
imitation. And she shall have a real party frock to-morrow. The very
prettiest I can find!
When George, the African Butler, an imposing personage of almost
unnatural blandness, a few moments later announced dinner as served, to
Arethusa's view he appeared to be dressed for the Party also. She was
gladder then than ever that she had gone up and changed her dress.
The round dining-table with its gleaming silver and glass, the tall,
ivory-colored candles, burning without shades in silver candlesticks,
and the huge centerpiece (of the Flowers of the Occasion) was far more
of a picture than Arethusa had ever known such an ordinary thing as a
dining-table to present. And all around the room were more roses, in
bowls and tall vases, until it seemed a veritable bower of them, dimly
lighted away from the candle glow by shaded sconces against the walls.
Arethusa drew a deep, sharp breath of ecstasy at all this
loveliness. She did not want to sit down in the chair George held for
her at first, but just to stand and look, and look. At home, they ate
at night under an oil lamp hanging by chains from the ceiling, and the
supper table at the Farm had never, in all its existence as a supper
table, been a fairy scene such as this. But Ross and Elinor were
sitting down, and so almost unconsciously Arethusa slid into her own
chair, still admiring.
She examined the silver articles at her place with interest. There
seemed to be so many for only one person. Why did they put all their
silver on the table this way at once? For it surely looked to Arethusa
as if that was what had been done. It was very pretty, she admitted,
but seemed curious. She made no audible comment, however, remembering
that Miss Eliza had said that it was most ill-bred audibly to remark
anything as curious seen in another person's house. Their ways might be
strangely different, but it was never the part of a lady to allude to
Arethusa's bouillon gave her no real trouble. It had a familiar
appearance and one ate soup with a spoon, even at the Farm. She
selected the spoon among that brave array that invited selection spread
so accommodatingly before her, which seemed to her to best fit the cup
in size; and conscious now of the lack of that lunch she could not eat,
for she was very hungry, she ate every bit of this first course with
relish, even lifting the cup as she noticed Elinor do once very
daintily, to drain it of its last drop. She longed for more, but it is
never polite to ask for a second helping, when a guest.
The bouillon drunk, and the gold and white cups removed, came George
bearing a large silver platter whereon reposed what Arethusa at first
thought to be flowers of some description. But it seemed queer to cook
flowers and serve them for food, as they seemed to be intended.
Arethusa did not like the appearance of those strange, spiky,
dark-green things, and it made it very easy to remember one of Miss
Eliza's earliest lessons that something must be left for the servants
in the kitchen, and never to take everything on a dish, there being
only three of these unknown objects on that platter, so she refused
with unforced politeness when they came her way.
Oh, come now, remonstrated Ross, surely you want an artichoke!
Artichoke! The name made Arethusa giggle.
Try one, suggested Elinor, for this is one of the things I
happened to remember we had at our first dinner together.
Whereupon she changed her mind, servants or no servants in the
kitchen, for Arethusa was Celebrating.
There was no spoon on the platter. There was nothing in the shape of
implements to assist this thing over to her plate save a large, wide
fork and a pancake turner. At least, it resembled a pancake turner. It
was strange to see such use for one, and to help herself to food such
as this and in this manner. It proved a bit awkward in the attempt. The
artichoke, too, made it more awkward. It behaved like something alive,
and hesitated for a second on the tip of the pancake turner, balanced
uncertainly; then plunged to ignominy and darkness, under the table.
And Arethusa had made the noblest of efforts to manage it!
She looked up quickly in Elinor's direction, braced for the
reprimand. Such an occasion would have proved the finest of grist for
Miss Eliza's mill; but Elinor merely smiled kindly at the embarrassed
guest, and requested George to fetch Miss Arethusa another artichoke.
This one was retrieved in triumph.
But once on her plate, Arethusa eyed it distrustfully. How did she
eat it, now that she had it? Did she cut it up before hand, or what?
Which one of her many knives and forks did she use for it? Then her
quick glance noted how Elinor peeled off a leaf, so she did the same.
Like it? from Ross, after her first mouthful.
Arethusa looked doubtfully at the artichoke. Recollections of Miss
Eliza as to the criticism of food put before one, made her temporize.
I know other things I've eaten that I like much better. She was
perfectly courteous in manner, but her tone decidedly lacked in
enthusiasm. Then she added, hastily, fearing that she might have
offended by even this statement, I may get used to it, if I eat enough
of them. Aunt 'Liza says you can acquire tastes. She smiled at Ross
apologetically. I never saw one before, you know.
You'll do, Arethusa, laughed Ross.
And Elinor smilingly told her that its eating was not at all
compulsory, but Arethusa was game. When she celebrated, she celebrated
with no half measure, so she finished her artichoke to the last bitter
leaf, though she did not like that last leaf any better than she had
But it would be most unfair to chronicle all of Arethusa's
vicissitudes and mistakes during the course of that long dinner; her
struggles with her strange multitude of table-ware, which had a
propensity for disappearing decidedly odd, but to which Ross's own
augmented supply might have given her a clue, had she looked more
sharply near his plate, and the eating of dishes new to her and not
always liked. For, new dishes or not, Arethusa partook with heartiness
of everything that came her way; even to the tiny cup of coffee at the
very end, with its baby spoon which had so enraptured her as like a
doll's, and which had vanished mysteriously before she could use it so
that George had had to bring another.
She sighed the sigh of the well-fed when it was all over.
I feel just like I would burst, she announced, as she pushed back
from the table. We don't have half this much to eat at night at home!
Would you, asked Ross, most amused, like to go to bed and sleep
it off? The instinct for which the lower animals are so commended leads
them to some such sensible proceeding after over-feeding, I believe.
Go to bed! exclaimed Arethusa, indignant at the bare suggestion.
Why, we never think of going to bed at the Farm before nine or
half-past; and sometimes, even ten!
Ye gods! What hours! I'm surprised at Miss Eliza's permitting it!
And Arethusa could not possibly tell, from his expression, whether
he was joking or not.
He strolled slowly across the hall to the music room, his daughter
following, the idea stirring within her brain that this new-found
father was inclined to be as much of a tease as Timothy, and that his
teasing was a trifle hard to understand. Elinor was going to play for
them. She played every night to Ross unless they went out somewhere.
I can plainly see, Arethusa, my child, Ross added, plainly see
where we're going to prove a most demoralizing influence for Miss
Eliza's careful rearing.
In the morning, Arethusa wrote the letter to Miss Eliza she had been
bidden to write as soon as possible after arrival in Lewisburg, giving
a sketchy description of her trip and the information that it had been
accomplished in safety, without mentioning a single one of the friends
made on the train; or that she had almost missed her father; or that
she was now minus a purse.
But immediately after this duty was done she wrote another letter;
to Miss Asenath this one, and it was overflowing with spirits and
exuberant retrospect of all that had happened to her since she left the
Farm. Into this effort she put her encounter with the strange man, Mrs.
Cherry and Helen Louise and Peter and Mr. Cherry; how nearly she and
Ross had missed connection and how terribly she had felt; the loss of
her purse, and her fear that the check had been gone also; just how
exciting this glorious Visit had already proved.
It was a long letter and a breathless one, with many missing words
all down the pages, for Arethusa's mind was working so much faster than
she could move her pen that it was quite impossible to get in every
syllable. But Miss Asenath would understand.
Arethusa described at length the wonders of this big house where she
was a guest, and the superlative Beauty of the room she had been given
for her very own. She told of that Anniversary Dinner, and the
Artichoke; of all her troubles with the strange food and the
bewildering number of knives and forks and spoons. She also told Miss
Asenath of Elinor's music.
Elinor made sounds to issue from a piano that Arethusa had never
dreamed that instrument was capable of accomplishing. With her slender
fingers on those black and ivory keys, the big, black box had sobbed
and laughed, and even talked ordinarily at her bidding.
Arethusa left her chair, and crept nearer and nearer to the musician
until she was almost on top of the piano bench herself, in her absorbed
interest. Her hands clasped over her heart to still the curious little
ache the music made her to feel there, with her lips parted slightly
and her eyes like big stars; she had scarcely dared breathe. She wished
suddenly for Timothy, for Timothy worshipped music. He loved even to
hear her, Arethusa, play. And she was sure he had never heard any music
such as this.
It was not what Miss Letitia would have called playing with
expression; it was not as she had tried to teach Arethusa. Elinor's
long, white hands just seemed to wander over the keys, as softly
aimless as if she had no slightest idea what the next note was to be;
they strayed from themes which aroused to an ecstasy into simple
melodies that left a haunting sense that they had not been finished.
Sometimes the piano scarcely seemed to sound; sometimes it crashed in
grand chords, as if the musician's playing had changed with her mood.
And Arethusa had listened, full of vague longings she did not
understand, feeling when it ended that it was ended far too soon; and
Ross had smoked silently, blowing great, blue wreaths about his head,
one after another. There had been no single word from either to break
the spell of the music.
Arethusa wrote away, the wrinkles of composition between her brows
and her writing becoming more and more ragged as the letter proceeded.
Her feet were twined in the rounds of her chair, her arms were spread
out all over the top of the big desk with a great display of elbows,
and she was ungracefully humped as to back; for when Arethusa wrote,
her whole body responded to the effort.
Close beside her lay Boris, Ross's Great Dane, a dignified animal of
unusual beauty. Ordinarily, he was so indifferent and sometimes so
disagreeable to strangers that he was rarely allowed where they were,
yet he had adopted Arethusa at sight when first introduced just after
breakfast, and he had not left her side since. Most people were
frightened nearly speechless when Boris merely opened his mouth to
yawn; but he had not frightened Arethusa. She had voted him the most
wonderful dog she had ever seen, and pleased Ross immensely by her lack
Every now and then when she stopped in her writing to open her
cramped fingers for a moment and gaze admiringly around the room, she
would stoop and pat Boris. And she would stroke him wherever her hand
happened to fall, and he did not seem to resent it in the least, which
was something most unusual.
Ross was in the library, sprawled on the big davenport, and watching
the girl and the dog with keen delight in the picture they made. He had
never known Boris to make friends thus suddenly, in all the six years
he had owned him; even Elinor was a bit afraid of the splendid
Elinor had been in the library also most of the morning, talking to
Ross while Arethusa performed a Duty; but she had been called out to
the telephone. When she came back, her first words were for Arethusa.
I have an invitation for you.
For me! Arethusa's pen dropped abruptly in the middle of
her page to make a large and sprawling splash of ink.
Yes, for you. That was Mrs. Chestnut on the telephone. I had told
her you were coming to visit us, and so she called up to invite you to
the dinner-dance she is giving Friday night, if you were here.
Oh, would that be a Party, a Real Party? The excited scribe
abandoned her letter altogether, and followed Elinor over by the
fire-place, nearer to Ross and the davenport, Isn't that a Party?
I should say it was!
I've never been to a Party, apologetically explained Arethusa,
and I've wanted to go to one ever since I can remember. Aunt 'Senath
said there would be parties in the City, and that I might be invited!
But.... some of the glow began to fade, I don't know Mrs. Chestnut,
That doesn't make any difference this time, Arethusa dear, because
she's one of my best friends. And all her parties are wonderful, so if
you've really never been to any at all, you're starting in in the right
way to enjoy them, said Elinor, and Arethusa glowed once more. I had
hardly dared hope she would invite you, she continued, because I
supposed her list was made up long ago. It's for Emily, her daughter.
You'll like Emily; she's just about your age, and she's coming out this
winter. It's to be at the Boden Hotel, I think she said. But she's
going to send an escort for you.
What richness of prospect!
Yet with her joy, Arethusa puzzled for a moment over some of the
obscurer items of her mother's speech.
Why doesn't she have her party at home instead of a hotel, she
enquired, and what is Emily coming out of?
Your mother used the wrong words, Arethusa, volunteered Ross from
the davenport; she means to say that Mrs. Chestnut's daughter is on
exhibition after some years of careful preparation by her mother for
just this event and will be gladly presented to the man offering to
take her off her mother's weary hands. Said mother will be fearfully
disappointed, if, after all this trouble and expense, no man should
offer. And as to her not having the party at her home, she thinks far
too much of her furniture and Persian rugs and pale pink walls to allow
her daughter's callow young friends to romp around among them for a
Arethusa looked at him uncertainly, but his expression was one of
perfect seriousness. It was even a trifle sad.
Is she really like that, Father?
Really like that, replied Ross sorrowfully.
Then, announced Arethusa with decision, and her red mouth pursed
disapprovingly, I don't believe that I want to go to her party!
Elinor struggled between exasperation and a desire to laugh.
Mrs. Chestnut is lovely, Arethusa, and so is her daughter. They
only have the dance at the hotel because their own house is too small
for so many people at once. Everyone has their large parties there
nowadays. If you are going to believe everything your father says,
you'll be having a very hard time. And if he keeps on talking this way,
I'll have to send him out. You mustn't pay so much attention to him.
Nice, wifely speech, that, observed Ross.
But Arethusa had glimpsed the laughter in his quizzical dark eyes.
She realized now he had been teasing, so she turned clear away from him
to give all her attention to Elinor, who could be more trusted.
Do you know how to dance, dear? asked Elinor.
Some, replied Arethusa, Timothy taught me down in the barn. Aunt
'Liza says dancing is very wicked, (Miss Eliza had a truly deep and
honest horror of round dances). But Timothy says it isn't a bit wrong,
and I just love it! She doesn't know, added almost
confidentially, that Timothy ever showed me how.
'Tis just as well, I suppose, murmured Ross.
Arethusa had proved an apt pupil to Timothy's friendly instructions
when he had come home from college and passed on his acquirements in
the art terpsichorean. The lessons had taken place in the central,
biggest space in the barn, as she had said, with Timothy humming an
accompaniment until breathless, and then she taking up the tune in her
turn. This little taste of the joys of dancing had made her long for
more. She failed to see how anything that made for such pure and
unadulterated delight could be so wicked as Miss Eliza insisted that it
I'm glad you know something about it, said Elinor, really
relieved. I was afraid perhaps you didn't, and you would hardly have
the time to learn. And, Arethusa dearest, tactfully feeling her way,
fearing to spoil the girl's innocent happiness in the garment, was
that white dress you wore last night your very best?
Yes, ma'am. The eager face lighted still more. And it's the
lowest necked dress I ever did have, and it has the shortest sleeves!
They're nearly up to my elbow. Aunt 'Liza didn't want it made that way,
so low, nor so thin, either; because she said I wouldn't be able to
wear my underwear with it, and she's afraid it's dangerous for me to
take it off. But I rolled it up last night and in at the neck, and it
didn't show very much. Did it?
Elinor and Ross were almost equally affected by this speech.
Shades of the summer of seventy-six! was his rather inappropriate
And Elinor's expression seemed to Arethusa to be one of incredulity,
so she turned back her shirtwaist cuff to prove her statement, and
showed the end of a long, knit sleeve.
I don't like to wear it a single bit, she said, but Aunt 'Liza
makes me. I have to put it on when we have the first heavy frost and I
can't take it off until the tenth of May.
I am becoming more and more convinced that Miss Eliza's peculiar
talents are entirely lost in the place she occupies, replied Ross,
But the white dress, low as its proud owner seemed to consider it,
and as thin, and in spite of Miss Letitia's loving effort expended on
it for just such occasions as parties, would hardly serve for the
Chestnuts' dinner-dance, thought Elinor.
And so, ere very much time were sped, Arethusa discovered Miss
Asenath to have been a true prophet. She was to have another Party
Frock. She and Elinor started off immediately to get It; but they had
to get It ready-made, for there was not near enough time before the
Party for a dressmaker's services to have accomplished the sort of
Frock that Elinor wanted Arethusa to have.
They went in the automobile, to Arethusa's great delight, and the
palatial establishment where it stopped, and which Elinor told her had
the prettiest dresses in town to offer in just such emergencies as
this, was so enormous a place and so filled to overflowing with
scurrying people, that Arethusa wondered if every human being in
Lewisburg had not come a-buying this morning, and right in this
particular shop. She was not used to stores where she bumped into
somebody at every other step. She apologized several times from the
front door to the elevator, for such collisions; because her delighted
eyes would insist in wandering to the bewilderment of riches displayed
on every side, instead of finding her a passage through the crowd. She
could not understand how Elinor could pass them all so calmly by,
looking so straight ahead. Had she not been afraid of losing her,
Arethusa would have stopped, more than once, for a little closer view.
They went up in the elevator to the third floor, and the elevator
was another new sensation for Arethusa. There were no elevators within
miles of the Farm.
The whole third floor was entirely given over to ready-made garments
of every description; cloaks and suits and dresses of every conceivable
variety of cloth and color, hanging carelessly over tables and chairs,
and neatly displayed inside lighted glass cases, and girls were rushing
about carrying still more piled in their arms. There were more clothes
then Arethusa had imagined could ever have been made, right here on the
one floor of this huge shop.
To the floor-walker who stepped up to greet them, Elinor conveyed
her desire to buy a dress for Arethusa; And I should like Miss Rosa,
Mr. Wells, if she's not too busy.
Mr. Wells, bowing grandly from the waist, ushered them into a small
room hung all around with mirrors, and disappeared. Then he reappeared
in a few moments to announce that Miss Rosa would be with them very
shortly, if Mrs. Worthington would be so kind as to wait.
Arethusa was simply overcome by the rapidity with which events moved
forward, to carry her with them. Speech was an impossibility. She could
only follow Elinor silently.
She sat and gazed about her in the little mirrored room. Her quaint
figure was repeated again and again on all sides in a very bewildering
way; and she noted that the hat of each Arethusa had somehow got
crooked far down over one ear. She straightened it immediately. There
were many Elinors in the mirrors also, and Arethusa admired the grace
of those reflections with unaffected showing of her admiration. She
especially admired the soft sweep of Elinor's long stole of moleskin.
There was no more envy in her regard of the difference of their
appearance in these many unmistakable evidences of it than there had
been when they had both been dressed for the Anniversary the night
before. Arethusa rejoiced that Elinor was such a Beautiful Creature;
and it was Perfect Bliss to be with her and watch her lovely clothes,
without worrying about herself in any way.
Miss Rosa did not keep them waiting long, and at Elinor's request
when she did come, she flitted away in a business-like manner that
spelled a knowledge of what was wanted, to return bearing an armful of
color; pale blues and pinks and lavenders and whites and deeper creams,
in the softest of satins and silks and chiffons and lace. Among all
this loveliness was glimpsed by Arethusa a fleck of green.
Mother, this whispered to Elinor, as Miss Rosa in her modish and
well-fitting black crepe de chine and her air of knowing what she was
about, was just a trifle awe-inspiring, do you suppose that would be a
But Miss Rosa heard the whisper. She smiled in a friendly way at
Arethusa, for Miss Rosa was a kindly soul, and produced from the very
bottom of her pile of beautiful things a Green Frock of the identical
shade so beloved by Arethusa.
Arethusa drew in her breath with a sharp, little sound. Oh, that is
the One I want! Oh, Mother, may I have....
But she had had too long a training by Miss Eliza for it to desert
her with too great a suddenness. The dress looked neither sensible nor
durable when Miss Rosa held it spread out to plainer view; in fact, it
had every possible appearance of being neither. And it was so wonderful
a mass of chiffon and silk and lace that Arethusa began to remember
sundry lessons in economy also; she feared its cost would prove
terrific. She had never seen anything nearly so Wonderful in the shape
of a Gown before. Then too, those caustic remarks of so positive a
nature concerning green with her red hair, which Miss Eliza had spoken
so often in her hearing, began to worm themselves into her
The happy expression, roused by the first sight of this creation,
faded quite noticeably.
What's the matter? inquired Elinor. I think that's the dress of
all dresses for you, dear. If you like it. Don't you, Miss Rosa?
Miss Rosa nodded. Yes, indeed, Miss Worthington has the very hair
and eyes for this, and the skin as well.
Then did Arethusa's spirits soar to touch heaven once more. She
turned such an illumined face to Elinor as Elinor had never seen; she
was all aquiver in her sudden joy.
Aunt 'Senath was right! Darling Aunt 'Senath was right! She said
not everybody would be like Aunt 'Liza; that some people would be sure
to think green was all right with my hair! Aunt 'Liza never has let me
have anything but blue, and I've wanted a green dress for a thousand
years. But this one looks so.... she paused uncertainly, and reddened.
She did not like to mention its cost, since Elinor was making her a
gift, but Miss Eliza was a good teacher.
Expensive? finished Elinor, laughing. I don't imagine it is. But
I'll do the worrying about that. If you want it, you may have it. It
rests with you to say.
Arethusa blushed more deeply, but it was a radiant blush, even if
embarrassed, for Elinor's words, if intended as words of correction,
were not spoken in the tone Arethusa associated with corrections. She
fingered at the Green Dress, almost caressingly. To own this Gorgeous
Thing for her very own!
Suppose we try it on, suggested Miss Rosa, amused at Arethusa's
Arethusa's coat was off before the kindly suggestion was quite
finished, then she looked at Miss Rosa.
Elinor read the hesitating thought. It's all right, she said.
Miss Rosa must fit it for you, you know.
So Miss Rosa whisked off Arethusa's shirtwaist for her, and her
skirt, and even manipulated that uncompromisingly unbeautiful
protection which Miss Eliza insisted was all that kept the healthy
Arethusa from dying of pneumonia in the winter season, in such a very
capable way that it could not possibly show; and slipped the dainty
gown over the girl's ruddy head. And it fitted her as if it had been
made especially to her measurement.
Arethusa stared into the mirror directly before her, and into the
ones all around her, twisting and turning to see every inch of her
back, lost in ecstasy at the contemplation of her glorified self in
these Wonderful Reflections. Even the heavy black lace shoes, ugly
shoes from a country store, which showed so plainly below her green
skirt, had no sort of power to spoil for Arethusa the general effect of
It was the most Beautiful Dress in the world, she was sure.
The skirt billowed and flowed around her in soft generous folds of
pale green chiffon and lace draped over an underskirt of green silk,
and caught to it here and there with bunches of tiny flowers in odd,
bright colors. The waist had a high, soft girdle of the green silk, and
some of the little flowers were sewed around one side of it against the
gathers of the skirt; and a tight little bunch of them was right in the
middle of her back at the very top of the girdle, from which hung
narrow, flowing sash-ends that were tied into the fulness of the skirt
with other wee bunches of the flowers. Some of these flowers were
nestled about in the lace on the upper part of the waist as if they had
grown there, and some caught up the short lace sleeves.
How do you like it? asked Elinor. It was really rather a
I love it! burst from Arethusa. I think it is Perfectly
Beautiful! Then she turned around. But I just know, Mother, that Aunt
'Liza won't like it at all.
Why, what on earth has Miss Eliza to do with it?
You see, seriously, she has always said just what I should wear,
and she tells Aunt 'Titia just how to make them.
I understand, dear, but you're in Lewisburg now; and ... I can't
see possibly how Miss Eliza could have a single objection to make.
But Arethusa knew only too well.
Couldn't I have a guimpe with it? she suggested hopefully; if I
had a guimpe, it would look different.
It would indeed!
A guimpe! echoed both Elinor and Miss Rosa.
Arethusa nodded, and turned once more to the mirror, It's the
sleeves she wouldn't like, she lifted one to show its lack as a sleeve
from Miss Eliza's point of view, and the neck, besides. It's ever so
much lower than my white dress, I always used to wear guimpes with
dresses like this. I don't mean just like this, added hastily, for a
blunder had been committed, but when it had sleeves as short, and
didn't come up any higher.
I never heard of such a thing, declared Elinor. And, Arethusa, I
can't believe that even Miss Eliza would make you wear a guimpe with an
But then Elinor did not know Miss Eliza.
And, Anything on earth that you would do to that dress, Mrs.
Worthington, would spoil it, said Miss Rosa, warmly. It's absolutely
perfect just as it is. And I'm almost sure, Miss Arethusa, that your
aunt would say so herself if she could see it.
But neither did Miss Rosa know Miss Eliza.
And Arethusa did.
She stepped slowly down from the little platform where she had been
standing for the better view all around, and her grey eyes filled
rapidly with the bitter tears of disappointment. It was Tragedy to give
it up! But if there was to be no guimpe....
Her fumbling fingers were reaching under the flowers at the girdle
for the hooks which had fastened her into it, when Elinor stopped her.
Elinor had set her heart on Arethusa having that Green Dress from
the first moment of seeing her in it. It seemed to Elinor to suit the
girl as if, as Miss Rosa had enthusiastically declared, somebody had
sat down before her and studied her style. Her namesake nymph might
have worn the gown just as it was without a single change to make it
more airy or more like captured sea-foam in its fluttering draperies.
It belonged with Arethusa's hair and her greenish eyes. She would never
find another frock, if they looked all day, which would be half so
becoming. But there was no slightest use in buying it if this bugbear
of Miss Eliza's disapproval would continue to rear its serpent head to
Arethusa's further unhappiness.
Arethusa, she demanded, don't you think I know every bit as much
about clothes as Miss Eliza?
Arethusa could but smile through the tears she was winking back at
the utter ridiculousness of this question. She looked at Elinor's
wonderfully made suit and her furs and the dark purple velvet hat she
wore that was so attractive against her white hair, and then memory
showed her Miss Eliza, trotting about in the sensible and comfortably
cut garments she affected the year round.
More, she declared, with honesty and emphasis.
And do you imagine for a single instant that I would be letting you
wear anything that was not at all right for you to wear?
Arethusa shook her head decidedly. That was not exactly the point.
But if I only had.... she began, uncertainly.
Miss Rosa, asked Elinor desperately, have you such a thing as a
Miss Rosa had, she was sure, somewhere about.
Would you mind bringing it?
So the guimpe was brought, a lace guimpe with long, lace sleeves,
and a high collared neck of lace.
Arethusa could have cried at the way it made her look. It ruined her
Wonderful Frock; even she, inexperienced in such frocks, could tell
that with ease. It was a real relief to get it off, and view herself
once more as she had been at first arrayed, without it.
Now don't you see?
Yes, Arethusa saw.
And do you suppose, pursued Elinor, that Miss Eliza, as sensible
as you say she is, would want to spoil an already beautiful dress that
No, Arethusa could not believe that even Miss Eliza would want to be
so unfeeling to beautiful dresses such as this. She could not help but
think, she who had seen it and worn it, both ways, that Miss Eliza
would be forced to select, as the prettier, the dress without the
guimpe. There was really no choice, thought Arethusa, between them.
She smiled at her many reflections once more, and strutted a bit,
back and forth, to watch her draperies float about her.
I'm rather sorry, remarked Elinor, that you needed so much
convincing that I had any idea what was best.
Arethusa stopped short, and turned in alarm. Why, Mother....
But Elinor's merry brown eyes were smiling at her, and Arethusa
understood. She swooped upon her joyously, with the danger of damage to
the Green Gown in her sudden movement, and hugged her mother swiftly.
It's just, she exclaimed, it's just that if you knew Aunt 'Liza
you would understand!
Ross had also said something of the kind, only the day before. So
Elinor was beginning to feel a rather respectful interest in Miss
Then Arethusa and Elinor, the dress carefully removed and folded
into a box that they might take it with them, while Arethusa's jealous
eyes watched until the last knot was fast in the string which tied that
box, departed happily to a lower floor in search of slippers and
stockings to match and complete the costume.
These purchased, and deposited with the dress-box in the automobile,
Elinor directed Clay to drive to Parnell's.
We'll go get a soda water, she said, after this trying morning.
But I don't feel the least bit sick, remonstrated Arethusa, with
memories of Miss Letitia's packet of soda tucked into the corner of her
Later, she told Arethusa she was very likely to be needing Miss
Letitia's sort, when after her second glass of a beverage of a most
seductive taste, she expressed a desire for a third drink of this new
and altogether charming soda water.
Arethusa had not the faintest idea what a dinner-dance might be.
She knew very well what a dinner was, and she could conceive of the
glories of a dance, but as a combination they eluded her. The only
picture she could form for herself of such an entertainment was a
strange conglomeration of eating and dancing; eating for awhile, and
then dancing; and so on, first one and then the other, until time to go
home. But whatever the exact nature of it, it would be her Very First
Hitherto, her expeditions into the social world had compassed
nothing more shattering to her nervous system than church
entertainments and occasional spend-the-days. Miss Eliza was no very
great believer in Parties as an influence for good in Arethusa's
Arethusa, had she been permitted, would have gone straight to bed
and slept soundly and dreamlessly until Friday night, asking only to be
waked when it was time that she dress before seeking the scene of
festivity. But her preparation for the Event helped to pass the two
days that she must wait.
She had once, long ago, found in the garret at the Farm, when poking
about there on a rainy day that had kept her housed, a little book with
her grandmother's name in faded writing on the fly-leaf.
Its title, almost indistinguishable outside on the worn board
covers, but plainly enough visible within, read:
Advice to Young Ladies
A Former Belle
This little volume she had brought with her to Lewisburg, packed in
the box with her green ribbon, the box that had been slipped into the
canvas-covered trunk unknown to Miss Eliza. Arethusa had been very sure
there would be Parties for her to attend; had not Miss Asenath told her
so? Had not a dress for them been provided? And the book would clear up
her ignorance of the line of conduct recognized as to be followed at
The first time she had read it, it had seemed to her to cover every
contingency that might arise in the most varied and active of social
careers. But there was absolutely nothing in it, she was sorry to see,
when she fished it out of the trunk and climbed into her window-seat to
study it this day before the Party, relating at all directly to
dinner-dances; although two whole chapters were devoted to a full
discussion of the subject of dinners.
She went through the pages again and again, but not once did the
magic word she hunted greet her eyes. Then she went back to a paragraph
in one of those chapters headed Dinners, which had particularly
attracted her attention.
A Young Lady, so it ran, should be thoroughly conversant with
the affairs of the day and able to take part in an intelligent
and lively way in conversation regarding the same with her
guests, most especially that member of the other sex next whom
may be seated at the festive board. In a manner of the proper
reserve and deference to masculine opinion, she should endeavor
to introduce topics that would promote animated and interested
discussion among those nearest her, thus adding to the
of the party and assisting the efforts of her hostess to make
the occasion prove an auspicious Event, which is one of the
first requirements of the true guest. It is well, also, before
attending a dinner-party, where most of the evening's
inevitably consists of conversation over the delicious viands,
be ready with thoughts formed for expression as opinions in
to the polite arts; to be well-read in the current novels such
are proper for young females of good family to have read: for
and discussion may often be led adroitly in such directions
pleasure and profit.
Here, Arethusa dropped the little book, bitterly disappointed, to
look out of her window for awhile at the automobiles whirling past her
down Lenox Avenue. She leaned her head against the window-casing and
reviewed what she had read.
After all, there was nothing to help her very much. She knew
scarcely anything about the affairs of the day. Miss Eliza had never
allowed her to touch the only newspaper that came to the Farm, not
considering her old enough. She had not the vaguest idea what the
polite arts were, and as to the books she had read, she was very
uncertain whether they might be called current novels.
She picked up her book to read further and discovered that....
Poetry may often be introduced with charm and effect. A few
of verse, judiciously interspersed with the conversation;
of the thought of our great masters of the world of rhyme
from the ruby lips of the young and fair daughters of Eve, have
often caused a masculine heart to beat faster and to be thrown
around the lovely borrower of words an atmosphere of gentle and
refined erudition that nothing else could so well impart.
Arethusa brightened up. Here, she felt more at home.
She could certainly learn Poetry! In fact, she had no need to learn
it, for she already knew quite a lot. She had read The Family Poetry
Book through from cover to cover, a hundred times at least. It
contained a great deal of Scott and Burns, and many long-delightful
ballads such as Lord Ullin's Daughter, and The Cruel Sister, as
well as Irish melodies that charmed with their plaintive atmosphere.
England, however, had not been neglected, for the work of the Lake
Poets held a prominent place, and there was much of Tennyson, his May
Queen cycle, and Sir Galahad. The Prisoner of Chillon was
Arethusa's favorite of Byron's representation; she knew it from end to
end. And she knew all of those specifically named off by heart, for the
swinging lines of a ballad form were Arethusa's idea of what real
poetry should be. But the compilers of the big brown book, which was
sacred to the marble-topped center table in the parlor at the Farm, had
not stayed entirely on the other side of the ocean; and so Arethusa
could recite many of the verses of our own sweetest singers of that
day; as well as many that were scattered throughout the book that were
signed Anonymous; and many that had been written by dead and gone men
and women whose very existence would have been forgotten by a fickle
world, had not The Family Poetry Book preserved an imperishable
record of their achievements.
Yes, exulted Arethusa, I know some Poetry!
She read on, greatly cheered.
Conversation, continued the quaint little pamphlet of advice,
best carried on if some definite topic is introduced. This,
however, must he accomplished with ease and grace, lest a
of awkwardness be aroused.
Arethusa descended to the library and hunted up a dictionary, to
look for topic.
She discovered it to be:
The subject of any distinct portion of a discourse; a theme or
subject as of talk or thought.
This was fairly clear. I might find a Topic, she thought, for she
surely could not quote poetry all through the evening. I might read
about something I could talk about.
Her eyes roved restlessly down the same row of the bookcase where
she had got the dictionary. It was nearly all Encyclopedia, stretching
away in a formidable array of volumes exactly alike, except for the
tiny gold lettering across the center of the back. She lifted out one
at random, the L's, and it opened accommodatingly of its own accord,
when its heaviness slid out of her grasp, to Lepidoptera. Which was a
strange and almost unpronounceable word; but the pictures which
accompanied this text were somewhat explanatory of its meaning, being
all of familiar looking butterflies and moths.
Arethusa grew interested. She spread herself comfortably out on the
floor, there in the corner, and began to read; and she gleaned as she
read several facts that might with profit be introduced into a
For instance; she learned that there were over fifty different
families of these Lepidoptera, and that all of these family divisions
were divided also, so many times that they have never all been counted
or classified; that all common moths and butterflies belonged under
this big head, as well as some cousins, so aristocratic and so
wonderful in their colorings that Arethusa exclaimed aloud over their
beauty in the large plate on the page just opposite; and that every
single, solitary member of every family, whether of high or low degree,
came from some sort of caterpillar. She discovered that these
Lepidoptera had traits of character which still further differentiated
them. They were exceedingly finicky about their food, she read; the
meat of one variety seemed to be the deadly poison of another. And some
of them could live under the water; some drowned in a drop of rain.
She committed to memory some of the most interesting and peculiar of
the names of the families, so as to be ready when the member of the
other sex next whom she was seated at the festive board should become
so interested in her Topic of Conversation as to inquire.
One of these names was Nymphlidae, which the writer of the article
declared was the largest family of all; and included the commonest of
the gaily colored butterflies one saw flying about every day. Arethusa
took a deep personal interest in this family, because of its name. She
was well acquainted with nymphs, and knew exactly where her own pretty
name had been found. This was all sure to prove interesting to her
fellow diners-out. It was most fascinating to read.
Elinor and Nettie, Elinor's maid, helped Arethusa to dress for the
It was well that she had their assistance, for she could never have
got into that Green Frock alone and unaided. There was an intricacy and
invisibility of fastening about it that her trembling, excited fingers
could never have managed. Nettie, with the air of an artist loving her
work, piled Arethusa's hair up high to show the sweep of the line of
her neck and head which Elinor, watching critically from the green
sofa, decided was particularly good. And Nettie poked and pulled and
fussed with Arethusa as one who dressed a beloved doll, and the result
was altogether good.
Ross had hied himself to the florist and his daughter was the
recipient of her first flowers, an anonymous bouquet of
lilies-of-the-valley which caused much excitement, largely compounded
of pleasure, when they arrived; and which looked just as if they had
grown with the other wee blossoms out of the green of the frock when
Elinor pinned them at its waist.
Arethusa found it hard to believe that the reflection she gazed at
in her own long mirror was herself, even after seeing that other so
glorified Arethusa in the mirrors of the shop the other day; for this
was still more Wonderful. It was metamorphosis from the crown of her
head to the soles of her feet. The new arrangement of her hair imparted
an air of quaint dignity that was immensely becoming and that made her
appear a trifle older. Its piled masses shown like burnished copper
under the bright glare of numerous electric lights; and under the same
brilliance her arms and neck seemed more like creamy satin than ever.
She noted with deep satisfaction that the tiny bridge of freckles which
she considered absolutely spoiled her nose, was almost invisible when
viewed by this artificial illumination. She struck one satin slipper
from under the edge of her dress and lifted her skirts high to see her
feet. They looked Perfectly Wonderful also. She did not know them as
her own feet.
Elinor had gone to find Ross to show him the completed debutante, so
Arethusa had time alone in which to admire to her heart's content.
She curtsied to the figure in the mirror, a long, sweeping,
old-fashioned curtsey that ended with a cheese, and the billowy gown
spread itself out around her shimmeringly like the party frock of some
belle of long ago; the Former Belle of her little book might have
curtsied and looked just so. This charmed her utterly, and she did it
again and again.
Then Arethusa suddenly leaned close to the mirrored figure and
kissed its face fleetingly.
Oh, but you are beautiful! Beautiful! I'm so glad you're
And Ross and Elinor, arriving at the door just in time to hear the
exclamation, slipped away again lest they should spoil her rapture in
this impersonal admiration of her own fair self, by letting her know
that they had heard.
Mrs. Chestnut was sending a youth by name of Harrison to escort
Arethusa to the Party, a youth who did not want to come. He had fully
intended to go alone to the festivities since his own particular
inamorata was already provided with company, and thus he would have the
best of chances to show this lady a real time.
But Mrs. Chestnut, being his own blood aunt, felt perfectly
privileged to call upon him in emergencies, and so his carefully laid
plans were all upset with the country jane shoved upon him for the
He was one of the few beaux of Lewisburg who possessed an
automobileentirely his ownin which to carry ladies to Parties. When
he appeared with it, he handed the cocoon that was introduced to him as
Arethusa into the back seat and climbed, ungraciously, in front all by
himself. Conversation on the road to the Party was clearly an
impossibility, so Arethusa reviewed her knowledge of the article on
Lepidoptera, and recited under her breath a few selections of the
Poetry she had deemed most appropriate for use on this occasion. She
was as ready for eventualities as she knew how to be.
Mr. Harrison dumped his cocoon in the dressing-room and departed, in
search of a little refreshing man-talk before taking up his arduous
duties in connection with Arethusa.
As Elinor had instructed her to wait until he should return for her,
Arethusa waited. But they had been so late in their coming that the few
girls who had been in the room when she arrived, were soon gone with
their liveliness and laughter, and the tardiest guest was left alone.
She sat on the extreme edge of a chair quite near the door as she
waited, and tapped her feet impatiently.
The Party seemed already to be in full swing; music was playing, and
she caught a glimpse of dancers in the large ball room at the other end
of the hall. It was maddening to be so near It and not a part of It.
She went to the door and peered out. She considered that Mr. Harrison
was entirely too long in returning. But he was amusing himself in the
hall, and was not in the least hurry to take up the burden of his
One of the men in the little group where he stood, whose eyes were
towards that dressing-room door, noticed Arethusa.
Who's the stranger? he enquired, And she's some looker, too,
The whole group turned as one man to stare in Arethusa's direction.
Mr. Harrison was unpleasantly reminded of what was before him.
I've got a skirt in there, he muttered, and I might as well go
get her, I reckon.
This one yours? Confide in us, Harry, and introduce us, immediately
if not sooner. The idea of your keeping anything like that all to
No. Mr. Harrison was admiring Arethusa's lovely, eager face. I
haven't any idea who she is! Wish I did know! But mine's a hayseed,
daughter of a friend of Aunt Nell's up from the country for the very
first time in her life! That's what I drew for being in the family!
Well, pray for me, fellows, for here goes!
He made straight for Arethusa.
With each step he took towards her, the greater his admiration grew.
Mr. Harrison's affections fluttered from girl to girl like a moth in a
room, full of candles, unable to settle down steadily to one particular
flame. He did not recognize Arethusa as his lady for the evening. He
had been so late in going for her that she had been all muffled and
waiting for him when he arrived. And he had not cared to look very
closely at the figure in those wrappings. Mr. Harrison asked very
little of the damsels he honored with his attention, save that they be
pretty. He decided, without the slightest hesitancy, that Arethusa was
the prettiest girl he had ever seen.
She did not see him coming, or even hear his approach, with all her
thought for the gay scene before her, until he asked her if she would
mind telling Miss Worthington that Mr. Harrison was waiting for her.
Then she turned and smiled such a welcome of him from her shining
eyes, that the weather-vane of Mr. Harrison's volatile affections
veered to point straight Arethusa-ward.
Oh, it's you! I'm so glad! I've been wishing you'd come! I thought
maybe you'd forgotten!
And the weather-vane became firmly fixed.
But Mr. Harrison felt as if some audible apology were surely due
this dream of a girl for all those unkind things he had thought (and
uttered), earlier in the evening, that her entertainment should have
devolved upon himself. He considered himself now the very luckiest of
Arethusa laughed at his attempt at vindication of his first greeting
of her, that ripply soft laugh of hers, and the susceptible Mr.
Harrison named it the most musical, and the prettiest, laugh he had
You didn't know me, did you? I don't wonder, because I was so
wrapped up when you came for me, and it was Mother's cloak! She thought
I might take cold, because I'm not used to going out at night, and my
own cloak wasn't near warm enough, she said; and so she....
Then Arethusa paused, and flushed prettily with embarrassment. One
did not confide such intimate personalities to strange gentlemen at
Parties, she was quite sure, from that close study of the little book.
She must be more careful of her tongue.
But Mr. Harrison cared not a bit what she said, or whether she ever
said anything at all. She was a joy for him to behold if she never
opened her mouth. He escorted her, with the pride of a personal
possession, to Mrs. Chestnut and introduced her. Mrs. Chestnut held her
hand kindly for a moment and spoke of Elinor, and expressed a Hope that
Arethusa would have a Good Time; then passed her on to Emily, who was
almost hidden behind a mass of roses she carried, and so excited at the
Whole Affair, she could pay no real attention to Arethusa; but she
managed to transfer her to her older sister just next; and the older
sister to a cousin or so next to her, and a bosom friend or two thrown
in for good measure.
It was a long receiving line and Arethusa was so utterly bewildered
long before she had ever reached the end of it, by this way she was
shoved, so to speak, from person to person, without ever really finding
out who half of them were, for it would seem as if there had been a
conspiracy to mumble the names spoken to Arethusa, that she could
almost have fled the Party. The Advice to Young Ladies had said
nothing of such a proceeding as being part of the Routine of Parties,
nor had Elinor made any mention of it. Arethusa was totally unprepared.
And it was, as an experience, well calculated to dampen even the
exuberance of spirits with which Arethusa had fared forth to this new
adventure. Everyone about her seemed to know everyone else intimately;
she had no part in the gay greetings of old friends. It made her feel
herself, as she watched, the only stranger at the Dinner Dance.
So she clung to Mr. Harrison for an old acquaintance, as to a rock
in a weary land of unfamiliar surroundings. But such clinging was
really unnecessary; for he wanted not to leave her side. Arethusa's
little confusion only made her prettier.
Am I going to sit by you at the dinner-table? she asked him, when
she had summoned sufficient courage to add this bit to the general
uproar of pleasant conversation. It would help matters mightily, if she
I don't know, he began slowly, but then he added, very briskly
indeed, but I can go find out and change the cards around if you're
Oh, don't leave me! Don't leave me! Arethusa fairly shrieked this
request, and she grabbed at his coat-tails as he started away. Please
don't go off and leave me!
Consequently, he was forced to leave her when they finally sought
the dining-room, and he was miles away on the other side of the huge
apartment at another table. Arethusa found herself next to a perfectly
strange youth, a rotund, almost moon-faced individual with eyes that
danced good-humoredly behind glasses.
This person addressed himself strictly to business, weeding out from
the silver by his plate with such a reassuring air of knowing that he
did the right thing, a small article shaped like a tiny pitchfork, that
Arethusa followed suit immediately.
But she had a very decided dislike of eating blindly ahead without
knowing what it was she ate, and although the objects before her
presented a rather familiar appearance, she wanted to be quite
positive. Having somewhat recovered her spirits by this time, it was
not so hard to ask her neighbor the question. He did not look at all
formidable, and one talked to one's partner at dinners, so the Advice
had said, and it had not specified any condition of previously knowing
Would you mind telling me, inquired Arethusa, as courteously as
possible, what these are?
But her neighbor paid no attention.
She repeated her request, raising her voice a trifle. Maybe he's
deaf, she thought.
And this time he turned, I beg your pardon.... But did you speak to
Yes, she replied, I asked you to tell me what these were.
He stared at her, surprised into a direct reply, Why, they're
Arethusa examined them critically. No wonder they had looked so
familiar! But they're raw! she exclaimed.
It's an oyster cocktail! Of course they're raw!
But I never saw them this way before! I didn't know people ate raw
fish at Parties! I.... This is the Very First Party I ever went to,
she explained. It was surely extenuation enough for any ignorance of
the customs of such gatherings!
His glance searched her, up and down. He struggled visibly with
amusement. It was all he could do not to laugh outright.
I suppose you're visiting here? he remarked, after awhile, when
speech was once more somewhat of a possibility.
Arethusa thought it was most polite of him to show this interest.
I'm Arethusa Worthington.
Arethusa Worthington! The youth was all real interest and
animation at once. Not Mr. Ross Worthington's daughter! Why, I ... I'm
proud to call him one of my best friends! I'm just crazy about that
man! I met him abroad. And so you're really his daughter! I certainly
am glad to meet you! Now, that I think, of it, I believe he did tell me
the other day that you were coming!
Arethusa smiled all over, showing every dimple; she felt at home
immediately with any friend of her father's, self-announced though he
My name's Watts, Miss Worthington, he continued, William Watts.
But most people call me 'Billy.'
I don't know you quite well enough yet to call you 'Billy,' she
replied, seriously reproving. But wasn't it just dear that we happened
to sit next to each other?
Mr. Watts enthusiastically agreed. And acquaintanceship established
on this firm foundation, he turned his attention once more to food.
Don't you like oysters?
Yes, but they look so horrid! Ugh! Arethusa shivered. Generally,
I love 'em, but these are raw! I never ate any raw ones before!
Go ahead and try them, he urged in all friendliness. If you like
them at all, you'll like them this way, too, I'll bet.
But she still hung back, I don't know how.
It's perfectly easy. Just like this. He speared one and lifted it
to show her.
Arethusa watched the operation, fascinated at his skill, but she
shook her head with decision when he suggested that she do likewise.
I couldn't possibly. I believe I'd drop it. That little pitchfork
thing doesn't look near big enough to hold such an enormous oyster.
Oh, you won't drop any, he encouraged; nobody ever has that I
have heard of. Go on and try.
No, she shook her head again, no, I don't believe I will. I think
I'd much rather practice at home first.
For it looked far too difficult to attempt thus offhand, even though
reassured that none had ever been dropped. And should one really miss
its way to her mouth and fall off the pitchfork thing to land in her
lap? Well, the Dress was far too beautiful and too precious to be
risked so foolishly. Those oysters had a most slimy appearance.
There was a little silence while the epicurean Mr. Watts consumed
his oysters unaccompanied.
Arethusa wondered if the time was ripe for her to introduce into the
Conversation the Subject of Lepidoptera, but if it was, she was quite
at a loss how to do so with ease and grace. Perhaps a little Poetry
would be appreciated, but there was nothing as yet with which it could
be interspersed. None of the verses she knew had any remotest
application to what had been said so far.
Mr. Watts finished his oysters to the very last one, and then turned
her way with a little sigh of satisfaction.
You certainly did make a mistake this time, Miss Worthington, for
those were perfectly bully. This hotel is rather famous for its sea
food, you know, especially for oysters.
Now Arethusa was getting somewhat tired of hearing of these bivalves
and their extremely succulent taste; she did not want the entire
evening to be given over to a discussion of oysters. There were other
things. The Subject she had been at such pains to prepare, for
instance, would make a much more interesting Conversation. So she
plunged right in.
Do you know anything about Leplep-e-e-top-dera? she asked, with
a charming and social smile.
He looked frankly puzzled.
Moths and butterflies, she added, in explanation to that
No, I bite. What about 'em?
I thought they would be nice for us to talk about. I read about
them in the Encyclopedia so I could. The 'Advice to Young Ladies' said
at a dinner you must always have something to talk about.
But this member of the other sex next whom she was seated at the
festive board was not at all affected by her attempt to make the
evening pleasant as Arethusa had been led by the little book to believe
he would be; for after a momentary stare, he began to laugh.
He went through all the gamut of mirth. He gurgled. He giggled. He
shrieked. He roared. And he even pounded on the table.
Oh, but this is rich! he gasped. My word! But this is rich! It's
the very richest thing I ever heard!
His unseemly merriment attracted the attention of nearly everybody
Arethusa was rather startled by his laughter at first, and then she
was infuriated; for she realized that it was laughter directed straight
at her. Timothy could have told Mr. Watts that it was very unsafe to
laugh at Arethusa; that she hated nothing in the world so much as to be
laughed at. Her eyes darkened with anger, and the mirthful one was
given the full battery of their wrathful blazing.
But he did not even pause. He laughed on and on, uncontrollably.
So she reached over and pinched him with all the power of strong
young fingers on the very fleshiest part of his arm.
His laughter stopped abruptly. Say, he exclaimed, that hurt like
I meant it to hurt! breathed Arethusa, and she turned as far away
from him as was possible, owing to the fact that their chairs were so
She was trembling all over with her rage, and he mistook it for
I didn't mean to make you cry, Miss Worthington, he began.
Her angry dark eyes flashed around at him for a moment. I'm not
crying! she announced with emphasis, and then turned away from him
But that one brief glance had shown him how far she was from tears.
Well, I most certainly didn't mean to make you mad, he had only to
change the words of his apology. But ... that was funny!
Why? she demanded, peremptorily, half turning back to face him.
It just was! You ask your father! Arethusa's expression remained
most unrelenting. But I really do beg your pardon, in all humbleness,
for laughing at you. It was horribly rude of me, I'll have to admit,
and I'm certainly sorry that I did it. So do forgive me this time, and
let's go on being friends. Please.... he coaxed.
Arethusa softened, just the least bit. But why was it so funny,
what I said? You didn't tell me. Oughtn't I to have said it?
It wasn't what you said. There wasn't anything so dead wrong in
that. You could talk about such creatures all you wanted, I suppose,
and still not commit anything that wasn't right according to Hoyle. It
was the way you handed it out that got my goat so completely! He
gurgled reminiscently. But listen here, Miss Arethusa, you do just
what I'm telling you and you let the natural history alone for the rest
of this party, no matter what your book said about it. You can the
high-brow stuff from now on, and you'll get along better.
She could plainly tell that every word of this was meant as advice
between friends. It was impossible to construe Mr. Watts' manner as
anything but eagerness to help. And it sounded delightfully like
Timothy in their happier moments.
Her face broke into a forgiving smile.
She informed her repentant neighbor of how he had pleasantly
reminded her of Timothy; just who Timothy was, and all about him. Mr.
Watts was the personification of absorbed interest. Timothy sounded to
him as if he might be a human being, he declared, and quite worth
Arethusa and her adjacent member of the other sex managed to get
along famously for the rest of the dinner, oblivious to the fact that
each had another person on the other side, Mr. Watts because he did not
like the girl in blue at his left, and Arethusa because she was almost
unconscious that there was anybody else at this table beside their two
selves. Mr. Watts was quite sufficient for her entertainment.
As the courses proceeded and Arethusa ate and laughed and chattered
away, from time to time her glance roved around the huge dining-room,
so gorgeously decorated for this occasion, admiring everything she saw,
the diners themselves, as well as the decorations. There were some very
pretty girls at this Party, as well as some passably handsome men; and
Arethusa liked the contrast of the sombre black and white of the men's
attiring silhouetted against the gay dresses of the girls near them.
And she liked to watch them as they laughed and talked together.
Among the faces which most interested her was one, a man's face, to
which she returned again and again to steal a look. Finally, she asked
Mr. Watts to tell her who he was.
The one next to the girl with the feather fan, at that second table
by the pillar.
Oh, that? That's Gridley Bennet.
There was something in the way he said the name that made Arethusa
ask if there was anything wrong with Mr. Bennet.
Nothing I know of. He's just our prize debutante's delight.
Lady-killer, he amplified. All the girls are crazy about him.
I don't wonder! Arethusa's own admiration was wholly undisguised
by now. He's the handsomest man I ever saw! she added recklessly.
He's handsome enough, I reckon, but he knows it almost too well.
And he just hates himself!
That's a horrid thing to say about anybody; I don't believe it at
all! And how on earth could he help knowing he's good-looking if he
ever looks in the mirror! There's no harm in knowing you're
good-looking if you are!
The subject of this discussion looked far more as those charming
gentlemen pictured in the advertising sections of our various current
magazines to show the superiority of certain brands of collars and
other necessary articles of manly garb were intended to look than the
artists have ever been able to make the pictures. He was superbly tall
and broad of shoulder; in every way he fulfilled the most exacting
requirements of what a Hero should be. No dream of a Prince Charming
could have formed a being half so well-fitted for the role as this
He wore his faultless dress clothes as if they had been a veritable
part of him, not something donned for the few hours of this evening.
And he had gold-tipped eyelashes every bit as long as Arethusa's own
(she could tell that they were even so far away as she sat from him),
and the most irresistible of smiles. He smiled with commendable
frequency. Perhaps he knew that his rows of teeth were as perfect as
ordinary human teeth could very well be, and that this superlative
smile was in consequence no trifling addition to his other attractions
of person. He had a little trick of flinging his head back when he
laughed aloud, that showed to still greater advantage all of these
wonderful teeth, and his eyelashes, and even called attention to the
perfect straightness of his handsome nose.
He laughed for Arethusa's benefit as she watched him, and she smiled
in sympathy for such a charming laugh, although she was so far across
the room from him she could have no idea why he laughed.
And then she gazed and gazed at him, unashamed; a tiny sigh
fluttered through her parted red lips.
I wish I could meet Him!
That's perfectly simple, remarked Mr. Watts. Introductions
haven't gone out yet, as I have heard. His tone was scornful, but it
was all lost on Arethusa.
Could you introduce me? eagerly.
I might, if really urged. Then he added, half to himself, It's a
regular slaughter of the innocents whenever Grid Bennet goes to a
debutante party. He ought to be barred from 'em by law.
I think you're jealous of him, said Arethusa reprovingly.
I haven't a thing to be jealous of him about, and just to prove it,
And as the Party was all beginning to rise from the tables, Mr.
Watts headed straight for Mr. Bennet. He was a trifle disgusted with
Arethusa for this display of enthusiasm over Gridley Bennet. His type
did not appeal to Mr. Watts very much.
But it certainly did to Arethusa.
A nearer view of Mr. Bennet showed him to her as even handsomer than
she had thought at a distance. The Introduction was a Momentous Affair,
far more of a Real Event than any introduction in which Arethusa had
ever participated. Mr. Bennet's manner of bending over her hand in his
acknowledgment of it called loudly for satin knee breeches and lace
ruffles, silver buckled shoon and a decorative sword, as the most
appropriate accompaniments. It was delightfully suggestive, to the
thrilled Arethusa, of the pages of her favorite novels of those days
when ladies' hands were kissed in public.
Grid's squshy manner would get him anywhere he wanted with the
skirts, even if he didn't have the looks to back it up, commented Mr.
Watts, with inward dryness, of the meeting.
I've been watching you for some time, Miss Worthington, was Mr.
Bennet's flattering opening to the conversation, and I was planning an
introduction to you just as soon as dinner was over.
Now he very probably had not noticed her at all until Billy Watts
had him face to face with her, but he could no more help saying such
things than he could help his breathing. He was built just that way.
But Arethusa found no reason to doubt the sincerity of these
charming words. And his little way of looking at her and of leaning
toward her as he talked, were a perfect corollary, seeming to single
her out from among all these hundred or more feminine beings in the
vast room as the one whose company he most ardently desired. These
other stupid folks do not exist for me at present, proclaimed his
manner, and I am just where I most want to be.
Her heart fluttered painfully. She could only stand there at first,
silently flushing and paling by turns, at a loss for the words of a
reply that should suitably acknowledge such a marvelous greeting of her
insignificant self. Then the music started up in the ball room at the
other end of the hall, and she moved away with all the rest of the
Party toward the sound, at Mr. Bennet's side, still quite unable to
find her generally so-ready tongue.
Shall we dance? asked Mr. Bennet courteously, as they walked. His
voice was another of his distinct attractions, rather deep and with the
slightest possible drawl.
Arethusa paused just under the broad arch of the ball-room doorway,
and so Mr. Bennet paused also, to watch the dancers for a moment, all
of them bending and turning and twisting to a tune of such impelling
rhythm that it would have made a wooden-legged man almost to attempt
the impossible, and then to curse his fate; then she lifted troubled
eyes to Mr. Bennet.
But I don't dance what they're dancing.
Oh, yes, you do, I'm sure, with the intimation in his tone that
she was sure to be the very best dancer on the floor. It's only the
Arethusa could not help but laugh.
Well, it certainly doesn't look anything like the one-step that
I know! You see, Mr. Bennet, I've never been to any Parties.
Timothy just taught me some down in our barn. She was beginning to
feel a little less awed by his magnificence as a Man, for he was, after
all, human, and quite inclined to be kind.
Then let me give you another lesson, now.... Do, please. You won't
really need it as a lesson though, I know.
Still she hesitated. Yet her feet unconsciously kept time to the gay
music as she stood, just watching.
Surely you won't confer a favor on this Timothy person you'd deny
to me, and Arethusa was quite convinced there was a wee tinge of
reproachful jealousy in Mr. Bennet's attractive voice. I may not prove
to be so good a teacher as he is, but I shall certainly do my best.
Arethusa laughed again; with real merriment this time.
The very idea of Timothy as a better teacher of anything than this
Wonderful Mr. Bennet!
The picture of herself in those blue print dresses she wore around
the Farm and Timothy in khaki trousers and blue flannel shirt, hopping
about on the barn floor (which, though clean-swept and smooth, was
hardly meant for dancing) to tunes which were hummed and whistled by
each alternately, rose before her; and she compared it in its utter
inferiority with this picture of herself in this Heavenly Green Frock
and Mr. Bennet in his Perfect Evening Clothes, the shining floor which
stretched away from them, and the lilt of the band music which went to
her head like wine.
She shook her head. But suppose I should fall down or something.
This floor looks so dreadfully slick and hard to stand up on. I
wouldn't mind a bit if I was awkward with Timothy. But....
I'm getting rather jealous of Timothy, I'm afraid, said Mr.
Bennet. Miss Worthington, you couldn't be awkward if you tried. And
you won't fall down, I can promise to take care of that. Please give me
this great pleasure.
So Arethusa allowed herself to be thus charmingly persuaded.
But it must be confessed that their start was a bit awkward.
Arethusa was horribly self-conscious, and not at all sure, despite
his reassurance, that she was going to manage this new venture. After a
few moments, however, and his low-spoken command to let herself be
guided, her natural-born instinct to dance asserted itself, the
self-consciousness wore away, and she was one-stepping with the best of
any on that floor.
She was more certainly meant for a dancer. She was as light as a
feather, for all her height, and like a piece of thistledown she swayed
and circled about the room in perfect time to the music. She seemed to
feel instinctively the beat of the measures, and her flying feet obeyed
Mr. Bennet's guidance, as if he and she had danced together all of
their lives. Mr. Bennet himself was a truly wonderful exponent of the
art. He danced with a grace and ease that few men ever attain, and he
had an arm of sureness at his partner's back that took her safely
through that crowded room without a single bump or mishap. Had Arethusa
but known it, there was no one at the Party who could so well have
conducted her in her first real effort of this kind as Mr. Bennet.
It was over much too soon to please her. She could have gone on for
hours, just like that without a pause, and without once tiring.
Why, you dance beautifully! exclaimed Mr. Bennet, when the music
stopped. I verily believe, very softly, that you were fibbing when
you said you had danced so little!
She looked up at him shyly, from under her long lashes, and blushed
just a bit. That was you. I couldn't have danced with anyone else that
way. Timothy doesn't dance at all like that!
Now this was the rankest ingratitude on Arethusa's part. For had it
not been for Timothy's surreptitious lessons, so kindly and willingly
given, she would never have experienced the intense pleasure of this
one-step with Mr. Bennet. But Arethusa was honestly surprised at her
own swallow-like ability to keep time to music that was played instead
Then Mr. Harrison caught sight of her and rushed across the room to
claim her. He had been hunting everywhere for her, he declared.
Then Mr. Watts came in his turn, and inquired saucily, as he broke
in, if she had found Mr. Bennet as charming as he looked. But she
laughed at him merrily, for his friendly teasing. She was too happy to
be offended at anything.
And she laughed and chatted away with these two oldest acquaintances
her most enthusiastic and Arethusa-like self; with every one introduced
to her she had just as Wonderful a Time. There were a great many who
asked to be introduced to her, for her shining eyes and her very
evident enjoyment of everything she did made her an object of interest
to nearly everybody who observed her. Arethusa was really one of the
belles of the evening; such unreserved happiness as hers is bound to
attract. Consequently, the Party fulfilled her most sanguine
expectations as to what a Party should be, although she did not know
how large was her own personal share in this fulfillment.
She entirely forgot that she had ever prepared a Topic of
Conversation for the Occasion; she made no other mention of moths and
butterflies; not once did she quote a line of Poetry. Her words poured
forth in as mad a rush, as gaily inconsequential, as the words of the
most hardened Party-goer who has ever been an assistance to her hostess
in adding to the enjoyment of her fellow guests. Without making any
conscious effort to do so, Arethusa followed Mr. Watts' kindly advice,
and his words as to the result proved delightfully true.
The terpsichorean attempts which she made during the evening without
Mr. Bennet's able guidance, might have been managed with a little more
gratifying success, had not her eyes been so prone to follow him in his
whirling about the room, wherever she could, as he honored other ladies
with his attentions. But when she did miss step, or stumbled, her
apologies were so pretty, and she was so sincere in her confused
regrets, that it could make no difference to any one with his heart in
the right place.
Yet Mr. Bennet came back to Arethusa herself quite often to ask for
dancesa truly flattering number of timesfor it was a kindly fate
that had given her that lightness of foot and her undeniable grace.
Then too, Mr. Bennet, like Mr. Watts, knew Ross rather well, and he
wanted to be nice to Ross's daughter for various reasons. And last, but
not least, her ingenuous admiration of his own attractive person amused
Mr. Bennet more than he had been amused for a long while.
There was one last wild romp of a dance as an encore from the more
good-natured members of the orchestra, while the other musicians packed
their instruments, and then the First Real Party was only a thing to be
Mr. Bennet made a special point of telling Arethusa good-night, and
he bent lingeringly over her hand as he did so, in his own inimitable
way of making it seem the very hardest parting he had ever had to make.
I'm coming to see you some time, if I may, he said.
Her heart almost stopped beating at this. Then it raced on again to
beat in quick, little jumps. She lifted young, frankly adoring eyes to
the handsome man before her, and quite suddenly, without a word of real
warning, Arethusa knew....
She had fallen in love!
But it was not as she had fallen in love with Elinor, and it was not
such love as she gave Ross or Miss Asenath or even Timothy; for this
was without doubt the Miracle she had read about so many times under
the hollow tree in Miss Asenath's Woods. And it had come just as she
had always dreamed it would come, with a Hand-clasp and a Glance.
The hand in Mr. Bennet's holding trembled and grew cold before
Arethusa could withdraw it. Her misbehaving heart almost interfered
with her breathing. But the world around them went on as casually
unaware of the Miracle as if neither Arethusa nor Mr. Bennet existed,
when it should surely have been hushed into a Startled Silence by What
All through that night, Arethusa wandered with a tall man of
long-lashed hazel eyes of marvelous beauty, through a country which was
a Country of Rare Delight, even if only a Country of Dreaming. And as
they wandered, he bent his head again and again to whisper, in a deep
drawling voice, Words which bore a remarkable resemblance to some of
the lyrics of the early nineteenth-century poets, and the pages of
conversation in Arethusa's much read romances.
What though the Gentleman of the Dream wore a modern suit of
commonplace evening clothes, instead of Ruffles and a Velvet Coat and
Satin Small-clothes? It did not prevent, in the Dream, his pressing his
Hand to his Heart at moments when it was logical that he should have
done so, nor did it rob his Voice of the Proper Passionate Inflection.
Nor did it keep the cardiac region of the Arethusa of the Dream from
fluttering in an altogether delightful way.
Ross took Arethusa out to the Country Club for a round of golf the
next afternoon, and as it was the first and only time she had ever
spied a golf club, it is not at all difficult to imagine what sort of
game she played. It deserved a name all of its own; and her method of
holding her club would have brought tears to the eyes of any true
devotee of the sport. But from the standpoint of pure enjoyment for the
two most intimately concerned, the occasion was a great success.
I don't believe I care very much for golf, she remarked decidedly,
after she had almost dug a trench around her ball on the second tee,
and I believe you move that ball, Father, when I'm not looking with my
stick up over my head.
Ross protested his innocence, and insisted that she try once more.
So she did. But when she missed it this time also, she was firm in her
resolve to quit.
You do move it, Father! she repeated. I just know you do! To
tease me! Because, why shouldn't my stick come down in the right place
when I know exactly where it is when I start to hit it, if you don't
push it away?
Because of one of the cardinal rules of the game, my dear, 'Keep
your eye on the ball.' You are demonstrating its truth of that aphorism
every time you take your eye off.
But how can I? retorted Arethusa. I've only got two eyes. How can
I watch my ball and my stick and where I'm going to knock it, and
everything, when they won't look but one way at once? I'm not
Ross gave it up as beyond his powers of reasoning.
So Arethusa put her driver back in the bag and announced that she
would do the caddying. But as conversation is one of the things most
unnecessary to a caddy, she could hardly be said to approach perfection
in this rôle, either, though as Ross, very fortunately, did not take
his golf with any too much seriousness, they got along in fine shape.
Arethusa was outspoken in her loyal admiration of each one of his
shots, and when he made one drive of two hundred yards and over, her
proud delight was manifest all over the course.
She had not even begun to exhaust the dinner-dance and the Wonderful
Mr. Bennet as congenial topics of conversation, although the
breakfast-table and the luncheon-table had heard much of both, so she
continued to find a great deal to say about them as they
walked,especially about Mr. Bennet, upon which subject she enlarged
to Ross's amusement. But Arethusa did not consider that his replies to
her raptures were suitably enthusiastic.
Now don't you really think he's good-looking, Father?
Undoubtedly so, my dear.
I think, Arethusa's expression was dreamy, and her eyes were far
away, apparently on the hazy skyline, I think that he looks just like
It spoiled Ross's drive from the seventh tee completely. He sliced
far over into the tall grass, and as she had not been watching as a
caddy should, they had to go on without ever finding the ball.
While they were on the fourteenth fairway it began to rain in hard
pelting drops, a fulfillment of the morning's promise of a heavy gray
sky. Arethusa was in her element then, and as there was no Miss Eliza
to drag her in by the power of her will, to all of Ross's entreaties
that they seek shelter with more haste, she turned a deaf and unheeding
ear. He was far more of a hot-house plant than his daughter, so he
caught a violent cold from his drenching in the chilly fall rain, which
made itself promptly known with much sneezing before he had gone to bed
Arethusa was thoroughly conscience-stricken when he was unable to
get up the next morning. She felt personally responsible for his aches
and pains and his fever. It was her duty, she decided, as the
contributing cause of it all, to nurse and amuse him. She refused to
budge from his side for the next several days, indefatigable in her
attentions. She read aloud to him, jumping up from her chair with
almost every turning of a page to plump up his pillows with zeal, and
to demand if he wanted anything. Arethusa was hardly a gentle nurse,
even if a conscientious one. She fetched him veritable gallons of
ice-water, and carried up his meals with her own fair hands. And while
he dozed, at intervals through the days, she stayed near him, dreaming
of Mr. Bennet. Ross accepted all of this solicitude with a lazy
nonchalance, not in the least averse to being fussed over.
All of Sunday afternoon, Arethusa watched anxiously for Mr. Bennet.
Had he not said that he was coming to call?
But he did not come, although Mr. Harrison and Billy Watts and
several other acquaintances made at the Party did. She denied herself
to all of these visitors. How could she leave her sick father for such
By Wednesday afternoon, however, Ross was undeniably better. Even
Arethusa could see that he was, in spite of the fact that he continued
to complain. But it was such complaining as only too plainly indicated
that he was loth to relinquish any of this delightful attention he was
receiving. So when George announced a caller who had asked for Miss
Worthington, Elinor, who had just that moment come back from down-town
with those two new and widely advertised detective stories for Ross's
amusement which he had earlier in the day expressed a desire to see,
said that she would begin the reading aloud in Arethusa's place, and
that Arethusa must receive the visitor.
And you'll like Candace Warren, I think. She's rather a dear girl.
I suppose she came to see you because I know her mother so well. It was
very kind of her. To Elinor's rose-colored view of youth, all young
girls were attractive because of what they were.
I think it was perfectly lovely! chanted Arethusa happily.
She would certainly see Miss Warren, come to call on a stranger in
her city, just because of her mother's friendship for Elinor! There was
a warm little glow in her heart at the thought of the kindness shown
her by so many people for the sake of Ross and Elinor; the Chestnuts,
and Mr. Watts, innumerable others at the dinner-dance, and now Miss
I'll send George in with tea a little later on, said Elinor, if
you would like to have it.
Then Arethusa's face clouded somewhat, But I wanted to have supper
up here again!
Not supper, Arethusa, it's just afternoon tea. I thought perhaps it
might help you to get acquainted.
That was very different. It might be great fun to have afternoon
tea. She had read about it, and it had always sounded most delightful
in the reading.
But Aunt 'Liza says I can't pour anything, she added doubtfully.
She never lets me at home. She says my fingers are all thumbs.
George could pour it for her, if she wished.
And so with these trifling details arranged, and the tea a settled
prospect, Arethusa went in search of Miss Warren.
She ran gaily down the wide front steps, humming a little tune, and
skipped into the small reception room at the side of the hall, both
hands cordially outstretched.
I think it was perfectly dear of you to come to see me! she
Miss Warren rose politely from the spindle-legged sofa where she had
been sitting, and touched one of the outstretched hands with rather
extraordinary limpness. She murmured something altogether
Arethusa's cordiality felt somewhat thrown back upon herself. She
sat down abruptly in the nearest chair. Miss Warren resumed her place
on the sofa. There was a long silence, while the visitor covertly
studied her hostess, and the hostess openly observed the details of her
visitor's appearance with the frankest interest.
Arethusa thought Miss Warren was very pretty. She had coal black
hair, although very little of it showed from under her hat, bright
black eyes, and a wonderfully white skin with a great deal of color in
her lips and cheeks.
But it was her clothes that really most intensely interested the
For Miss Warren was exceedingly well-dressed in garments that could
but excite admiration. She wore silky furs as black as her hair, soft
and long and smoothly shining. Arethusa had a childish longing to
stroke them. Miss Warren's suit was made of a marvelous sort of stuff
unlike any material Arethusa had ever seen, dark wine in color, and it
spelled Paris in every well-cut line. The blouse she wore was a
superlative affair of lace and delicacy and tracings of fine
embroidery. It could never have been called a shirtwaist, as
Arethusa's plain garments of the same shape with their simple rows of
tucking were named. From one daintily gloved hand she dangled a gold
purse, and several other small articles of the same metal of an unknown
Arethusa's glance traveled downward, still admiring, and there it
paused. For it was hard in the first glimpse to determine just where
Miss Warren's feet could be, in those long narrow shoes, with the ends
just like pointed pencils. It did not seem possible that human toes, of
the number of five, could fit into one of those shoes. Arethusa looked
suddenly at her own feet, and as Miss Warren's eyes were at that moment
upon them also, they seemed to Arethusa to appear very large, and very
awkward to have as feet, in her comfortable house slippers with the
broad, round toes. She tucked them as far under her chair as she could,
and felt a little hot. Miss Eliza had selected those slippers, as a
special privilege of an extra pair of shoes for the Visit. But they
were a half-size larger than Arethusa ordinarily wore, because they had
been the only pair obtainable at Tobin's, in Blue Spring. She had never
minded this fact before, but by contrast with Miss Warren's so slim
foot-covering they looked really dreadful.
Arethusa found it quite impossible to admire Miss Warren's hat,
although liking everything else she wore so much. It was much too small
to conform to Arethusa's ideas of beauty in a hat, and it came so close
down over the visitor's delicate eyebrows, that it seemed impossible
that she could have much of that black hair tucked underneath it.
Arethusa began to feel a trifle better, minding the difference in feet
and the house-slippers a little less, as she remembered her own
glorious mop of redness; which, although so undesirable in color, could
never have been squeezed into so small a space as that hat represented.
I think it was perfectly dear of you to come to see me, said
Arethusa for the second time.
But the words elicited very little more response than they had when
Miss Warren seemed to be glad that Arethusa should feel as she did
about her coming to call, but there was no real animation in her
The hostess cast around for sentiments, which if uttered, might
loosen her visitor's tongue, but the visitor fortunately loosened it of
her own accord.
Do you like Lewisburg, Miss Worthington? Is this your first visit
Yes, and I just love it! declared Arethusa, Everybody is
perfectly darling to me! I went to a dinner-dance the other night and
had the Most Heavenly Time! Mrs. Chestnut's it was, at the Hotel. Were
Miss Warren had not been invited, she was sorry to say. She
volunteered the information that she was a second-year girl, and that
she believed that very few of them had been asked.
While her information as to the cause of it shed very little light,
Arethusa was exceedingly regretful that her visitor had missed such a
Wonderful Party. She described it in detail for the one so
unfortunately deprived of first-hand enjoyment of the Heavenly Affair,
bringing Mr. Bennet into the narrative.
Did Miss Warren, by any chance, know Mr. Bennet?
Miss Warren did.
Arethusa waxed more eloquent upon so moving a theme.
But Miss Warren had not added that Mr. Bennet had recently been
devoting quite a little of his valuable time and attention to herself,
and that there was very little of Mr. Bennet's charm that Arethusa
could mention which she did not already know. One of the reasons she
had called so promptly when her mother suggested a visit to Mr.
Worthington's daughter was because she had been informed that Mr.
Bennet had rushed the visiting lady at the Chestnut's dinner-dance,
and so a very natural curiosity as to the personality of the visiting
lady craved gratification as soon as possible.
Mr. Bennet as a subject was exhausted before very long, for Miss
Warren was so very unresponsive that it was hard to continue the
discussion of him in just the way it had started. Arethusa felt a
shyness descending upon her at the cold reception of her enthusiasm for
the Wonderful Being who had so recently come into her life. Rhapsodies
are well-nigh impossible unless the mood of the listener answers in
some small degree.
So the conversation languished once more.
Miss Warren languidly dangled her gold purse and stared through the
lace curtains of the window nearest her. It was gloriously autumnal as
to weather this afternoon, and the world was gay to the vision. The
trees were bright with their rapidly turning Joseph's coat of foliage,
and the sunlight streamed like liquid gold. Overhead, the sky was the
very clearest of bright blues. Lenox Avenue was unusually full of those
who had been tempted out to revel in it; babies and nurses strolled
past on the sidewalk, and loaded automobiles sped by in a sort of
procession in the street.
Arethusa's regard was largely for the outside also. It was such a
day as she adored. Then, feeling it was quite beyond her power to sit
so unsociably so close to anyone in the same room, when it was so
glorious a world they were both viewing, she turned back to Miss Warren
with a friendly little smile.
It's a perfectly beautiful day, isn't it?
Miss Warren seemed to thaw a trifle. It's just gorgeous outside!
I like fall better than spring, always, replied Arethusa, and
especially when it's like this.
Yes, agreed Miss Warren.
The silence descended once more, to be first broken by Miss Warren
with the polite inquiry, Do you play bridge, Miss Worthington?
Arethusa's surprised gray eyes were removed from the window to which
they had returned with the silence, to be fixed on Miss Warren.
Do I what? she exclaimed.
Miss Warren made this contribution to conversation for no other
reason than that it had a strong personal appeal. And from her point of
view, it had more possibilities as a theme for development than had the
weather; the silence had grown almost oppressive.
Arethusa laughed gaily. She had played a game called London Bridge
when she was quite small, she and Timothy and the little darkies from
the washer-woman's cabin, and they had all liked it very much as a
game; but they had never thought of calling it just bridge.
I used to play London Bridge when I was little, but of course I
I meant cards, explained the visitor with a well-bred smile. I'm
perfectly mad about it. Though some people do like auction better, I
Her smile had nettled her hostess. It had a calm superiority about
it that was rather trying. No, she replied, shortly. No, I don't
know anything about it, or that other thing either. Aunt 'Liza says
playing cards are wicked.
The delicate black eyebrows of the visitor lifted a little.
It's too bad if you don't play. There're so many bridge parties
given here. And, she added, Mr. Bennet plays a beautiful game.
Arethusa decided that Miss Warren was not nearly so pretty as she
had at first considered her.
At this critical juncture, George made his entrance with the
tea-tray. Arethusa remembered she was a hostess and had a guest. She
enquired if the guest would care for some tea.
The guest would be delighted to have some tea. She was famished, she
But Arethusa made no reply to this sally. She had not yet forgiven
that last remark about Mr. Bennet's ability as a bridge-player.
While the tea and its attendant sandwiches were consumed almost in
silence, Arethusa did some thinking. When in Rome do as the Romans do
is an excellent old saw, and although Miss Eliza's views on the subject
of games played with a deck of cards were firm and had been expressed
so as not to be mistaken, Arethusa was meditating open defiance. If the
Wonderful Mr. Bennet played bridge, then she, Arethusa, would learn the
game, Miss Eliza or no Miss Eliza.
Over her last sandwich, she eyed Miss Warren.
Is it very hard to learn?
That.... That card game you called 'bridge'?
Miss Warren laughed with softness. Arethusa was really rather
Why, not at all, I think, for some people. Would you care to learn?
I'd be delighted to teach you myself, sometime. Mr. Bennet says I play
a very good game.
Arethusa choked on her sandwich.
I don't think I shall bother you, she said, pointedly; Mr.
Bennet would show me, if I asked him, I reckon.
Once more Miss Warren's well-bred and superior smile shone forth to
arouse resentment. I think if I were you, Miss Worthington, that I
would ask some one else first, because, very kindly, Gridley Bennet
is a perfect old maid about his game. It bores him almost to tears to
play with a poor player or a beginner. I've heard him say so more than
once. And men just simply hate that sort of thing when they do hate it,
The air with which Miss Warren called the Wonderful Mr. Bennet by
his Christian name was galling. It bespoke a degree of intimacy with
his charming self from which Arethusa felt herself far removed. And her
manner of stating his likes and dislikes was that of one who knew.
Arethusa boiled over.
I didn't ask your advice! she exploded. And when I want any of
it, I'll let you know!
Miss Warren looked surprised.
Why, I.... she began, and then she decided that it was time to
leave. She could not quarrel with Arethusa, and Arethusa looked very
ready to quarrel.
As Miss Warren made her way gracefully homeward along the avenue,
she decided that she really had nothing to fear from Mr. Bennet's
casual attentions to the visiting lady at parties. She was countrified
and queer, and her clothes were awful. Miss Warren knew Mr. Bennet to
be a gentleman of taste. Yet she was glad she had made the call, for
she had rather enjoyed it. It would be fun to tell Gladys, friend
nearest her heart, all about it.
Arethusa went up the stairs about three at a time, and burst into
Ross's room like a small whirlwind, cheeks glowing and hands still
clenched in righteous anger at Miss Warren.
Well, well, exclaimed Ross, what has happened? Did not the fair
Candace come up to expectations?
I thought you said she was a dear girl! Arethusa looked accusingly
And isn't she? asked Ross mischievously.
She's ... she's a cat! said Arethusa with emphasis. She said
perfectly awful things to me, and she was as nasty as could be to me
about Mr. Bennet!
So that is where the shoe pinches! Elinor, dearest, methinks there
is one of your friends' daughters who has no sort of attraction for our
daughter. But Arethusa, my child, I told you, when you first mentioned
his name, that he was in a class apart. I told you that he was no
lonely floweret wasting his sweetness on the desert air, and that the
competition where you would compete was keen. I told you....
Ross, for heaven's sake! laughed Elinor.
Arethusa is only finding out the truth of my words, replied Ross
seriously. She will learn to depend on her father with one or two more
experiences of this kind.
Arethusa perched herself on the arm of Ross's big chair, and Ross
tweaked at her ear affectionately. Is that not so, mine own daughter?
Arethusa disregarded this question, and asked one of her own.
Could I learn bridge, do you reckon?
Ross jumped. Shades of Miss Eliza!
But could I? recklessly; Miss Warren said Mr. Bennet played a
beautiful game and she said it was cards and that he was fond of it.
I see. I've heard that he did. Well, something will have to be done
about this. Myself, being the sort of player from whom the bridge world
runs as one man cannot help you much. But Elinor might. She is said to
be somewhat proficient at it. We'll give Arethusa a bridge-party, how
about it, Belovedest?
Elinor agreed, and so Ross suggested a lesson right away.
And Arethusa was just starting off to fetch some cards and have
George bring what Elinor spoke of a card-table, when George himself
knocked at the door to announce that Miss Arethusa was wanted on the
Mr. Bennet wishes to speak to her.
Bridge lessons were forgotten as if they had never been heard of.
Every vestige of color left Arethusa's face. Her hands clasped tightly
over her suddenly tumultuous heart.
To.... To me, George? To me, she stammered; are you real sure he
said to me?
George nodded, smiling. He said, 'Miss Worthington,' very
plain, Miss Arethusa.
Then the deepest of red flamed back into her checks and she scuttled
off down the hall so fast that she upset every single rug in her path.
Mr. Bennett was Waiting at the telephone!
Arethusa's trembling fingers could hardly find the telephone
receiver at first, and even when once located, they could scarcely keep
it to her ear.
Hello! her greeting was soft and almost breathless.
Hello! And she recognized the deep drawl immediately. Is this
Miss Worthington at the 'phone?
Yes, it's me, all right! Arethusa was too excited to be quite
grammatical. But I've been running to get here, and I've lost my
At the other end of the line, Mr. Bennet smiled rather broadly, and
his stenographer, just then depositing a pile of letters to be signed
on his desk, could not help wondering what the young lady had said that
was so funny. Mr. Bennet did not often smile so into a mere telephone.
Well, this is Gridley Bennet talking.
I knew it was! happily.
And I should like to know if you have any engagement for to-morrow
Oh, Mr. Bennet!
Of course, I haven't! Arethusa considered it a foregone conclusion
that if he wanted her for anything, she was free.
Then will you go to see the 'Earl and His Girl' with me?
What is that?
A musical comedy, and quite a good one, I've heard them say.
Is.... Is it the Theater?
Why.... Yes! Certainly! This surprised him just a bit.
Oh, Mr. Bennet! exclaimed Arethusa once more.
I take it, then, you'll go with me?
You just bet! I should just love it! Why, I've never been to the
Theater in all my life! Not even to the Opera House in Hawesville!
Hawesville was the county-seat.
Mr. Bennet laughed outright then. He had been smiling right straight
through this conversation, to the deep interest of his blonde
stenographer, who smiled herself in sympathy for the laugh. She took a
frank pride in Mr. Bennet's popularity, his many invitations and his
telephone calls. It was something to be stenographer to the very
handsomest man in the fourteen-story building without his being one of
the very nicest to work for, as well.
That surely makes it all the better, said Mr. Bennet, and I'll
call for you about eight. Then he added, being what he was, I was
rather afraid I wasn't going to be allowed this great pleasure; I was
sure one of those many youths that surrounded you the other evening had
been before me.
Well, they haven't. And I'm awfully glad they weren't, because I
would so much rather go with you.
It was only the truth which Arethusa spoke, just as she had been
taught it was best to do on every occasion.
Mr. Bennet was still smiling when he hung up the receiver and turned
to the blonde stenographer. Please get me two seats for to-morrow
night at the Masonic, Miss Ford. You'd better telephone first to see
what they have, and then you can go after them. He looked up at the
tall clock between the office windows. And you needn't come back any
more to-night, unless you yourself have something to do, he added
kindly, because these letters were all, and I can mail them. Just
bring the tickets with you to-morrow.
Miss Ford, with a beaming face, sat down to telephone for the seats
which were to introduce Arethusa to the world of the theater, while Mr.
Bennet busied himself with the signing of his letters.
It was a kindly Providence that spared Arethusa the loss of life or
limb on her way back to impart this Marvelous piece of news, for such a
plunge across slippery floors was never made before. Ross and Elinor
seemed quite as excited over it as she could have wished, and had a
very proper appreciation of the Signal Honor paid their daughter by the
Princely-looking Mr. Bennet, although Ross was rather regretful that he
had not realized before that she had never attended the theater. He
would have taken her himself.
Elinor's most immediate concern was for the costume, and after due
deliberation of Arethusa's slender wardrobe, it was decided a purchase
must be made for this Occasion.
The next day was the longest that Arethusa had ever spent, in spite
of all that had to be done toward getting ready for the theater
expedition. The hands of the little silver clock on her mantel seemed
to Arethusa to be afflicted with a sort of palsy, during the last hours
of that day. She consulted them with frequency, but they never seemed
to move forward enough to be noticeable. And deeming something to have
happened to the clock, for surely time could not creep so slowly by,
she was ready and waiting for Mr. Bennet long before the stroke of
On this visit to Miss Rosa, she had produced a Dress of the soft
colors of the tinted autumn leaves, shading into almost the color of
the bronzy hair of the girl who was to wear it. It was made with soft
skirt on top of soft skirt, in these tones, of shimmering chiffon. It
was as Wonderful a Frock in its way as the Green Frock itself. Arethusa
fairly held her breath with delight when she saw it. And as it was such
a very Momentous Occasion, far too momentous for anything borrowed to
be worn, Elinor purchased her daughter, to wear with this dress, a
cloak of soft velvet in deep olive green with a collar of fluffy brown
fur that framed her glowing face in the most fascinating way possible.
So Mr. Bennet could not help but approve her appearance as he handed
her into the automobile. He liked those ladies he escorted to
festivities to do him credit. He was as much addicted to a liking for
feminine loveliness as was ever Mr. Harrison. For Mr. Bennet had looked
in the mirror often, and being a person of discernment, had liked what
he had seen there; and he had a deep and abiding sense of the fitness
of things. Had the gods been less kind to Arethusa in the matter of
looks, undoubtedly her adoration of Mr. Bennet must have remained of a
distance. But even a more carping critic than her escort could have
found no fault with her this evening; from the crown of her ruddy head
to the soles of her satin slippered feet, she was joy to the eye.
The theater lobby was full when they arrived, of a good-natured
crowd that laughed and chatted and greeted its acquaintances gayly as
it moved slowly toward the inside entrance; where the women whose bare
necks gleamed white in their settings of silks and velvets and furs,
with their dress-suited men folks, were separated, like the sheep from
the goats, for the downstairs of the theater, from the more plainly
attired who climbed balconyward. Mr. Bennet and his lady belonged
unmistakably with the sheep.
It would be a good house, judging from this number waiting to get
inside. It was the first night of a much heralded show, with the
original New York company, its advance notices had said; and it had
called forth what the morning newspapers of Lewisburg delighted to call
a representative audience.
Arethusa recognized, among the many, one or two faces she had seen
to know at the dinner-dance, and so she could nod and smile a greeting
or so, as she and Mr. Bennet pushed forward, with the rest of that
crowd. But the people around her pressed against her so closely, that
all unknown to Mr. Bennet, she timidly grasped the skirt of his
overcoat and gripped it tightly for an anchor should they be forced
apart. It was a fearful thought. What on earth would she do, if
she lost him in that swarm of folks?
But once in the more open space inside, she breathed more easily,
and could lose her hold, for separation was no longer to be really
She looked about her then, as Mr. Bennet divested himself of that
anchoring overcoat, and they waited for an usher, and, Arethusa-like,
was deeply impressed with all that her eyes rested upon; the glittering
crystal chandeliers that gleamed like hundreds of diamonds high above
her, the distorted pair of cupids, unnaturally fat, who swayed from
garlands of stiff flowers over the proscenium arch, the badly
anatomized ladies on the ceiling, riding impossible blue clouds; the
gorgeousness of many gilded columns, and even the bright red plush of
the seats. Arethusa's tastes were ever slightly rococo.
They were barely seated when the curtain rose, to a fanfare of sound
more deafening than musical, and she gave a long drawn out and
delighted, O ... Oh! for a really pleasing riot of color was
The advertising of this musical show had not so very far falsified
its attractions. There was plenty of action in the piece, much trotting
on and off the stage; a great many songs with an exceedingly active
chorus doing its best, and the dancing was unusually good. It had a big
company of principals, well costumed; and such music as was offered was
But Mr. Bennet gave up all pretense of watching the performance
after a little while and devoted his attention entirely to Arethusa,
for he had never seen anyone before who so personified enjoyment. Her
eyes, great, deep pools of darkness, were glued immovably to the scene
before her. A soft flush came and went in her cheeks. She clutched the
programme that had been given her at the door tightly in one hand. She
had made no move to open it. She had no time to waste on programmes.
Once, at a very exciting moment, when the villain was eavesdropping
within a hand's distance of the handsome Earl of the piece, she grabbed
Mr. Bennet's arm and squeezed it painfully, almost totally unaware
whose arm it was.
Then the curtain went down with a grand flourish to a long roll from
the snare drum. It went up again, an encore to much applause, then
down; then up and down swiftly several times. Arethusa clapped a great
split right through the middle of her brand new gloves. The curtain
descended once more, and this time.... It stayed. The lights in the
theater flashed on.
It had seemed all too short a period of pleasure. Arethusa sighed as
she rose and reached behind her for her Green Cloak.
I wish, she said, regretfully, I wish it had lasted longer!
Lasted longer! exclaimed Mr. Bennet, Why!...
Isn't it over? she almost shrieked.
Over! Good gracious, child! That was only the first act! I believe
there are two more, before it's over.
Two more! Oh! Goody! Arethusa plumped herself down again with such
solid decision to stay where she was, that had her seat not been
strongly made, she might have gone clear through it. But I saw men
going out! And I thought of course that was all! It did seem awfully
That there should be two whole more acts; such richness of prospect!
The curtain rose for the second act, and Arethusa's smile began to
widen in glad anticipation. Then it faded, and her expression changed
to that of one rather bewildered. She looked all about her, but no one
else seemed at all affected as she was herself. Everybody in the
audience was gazing intently, and with pleasure, at the stage.
What's the matter? inquired Mr. Bennet.
Arethusa nodded towards the frolicking chorus girls who were just
immediately back of the foot-lights, all with arms out-stretched to
their responsive audience, singing vociferously of unintelligible
It's.... It's the girls.
They.... They have on pa ... pajamas. She stumbled a little over
Yes.... encouraged Mr. Bennet once more.
They must have been resting, replied Arethusa.
Pa ... pajamas are bedclothes, she explained, blushing just a bit.
Yes, I know, said Mr. Bennet kindly, but I don't just see.... He
glanced back at the stage.
I reckon they put them on to rest between the acts, continued
Arethusa, because they must have been tired, after dancing so hard,
and the curtain must have gone up so quick they didn't have time to
change. They must be awfully embarrassed to come out before us like
that. I think it's mean to laugh at them. I wouldn't laugh for anything
The picture conjured up by this speech of Arethusa's, of the chorus
girls changing wildly to pajamas and reclining after the arduous labors
of the first act, tickled Mr. Bennet more than anything that had
happened on the stage, even the best efforts of the expensive comedian.
And the effect upon him of the idea was the very same effect that the
idea of moths and butterflies as a Topic of Conversation for Parties
had had upon Mr. Watts, when Arethusa had presented it to him at the
Mr. Bennet laughed.
His laughter was much more refined and less boisterous than that of
Mr. William Watts, but Arethusa realized, nevertheless, that he was
laughing at her. He was not laughing at the chorus girls who had been
caught unawares by a rising curtain, in garments in which they had not
intended that they should be seen; but he was laughing at her,
Arethusa. Whatever it was she had said this time that was wrong, she
had made herself ridiculous enough for the Wonderful Mr. Bennet to
laugh at her!
Her throat filled suddenly with a perfectly solid lump. Something
back of her eyes began to smart unbearably, and they filled also,
filled quickly with tears that so blinded her that she could not see
even her own shimmering lap. Her hands trembled unmanageably, until the
programme dropped from their uncertain grasp, and she fumbled about to
find that handkerchief which was so badly needed. She dabbed at her
eyes with it, and winked back those tears as best she could, biting her
lips fiercely to keep from sobbing outright. But there were so many
tears and they came so fast that they brimmed clear over, and some
fell, great shining drops, on the yellow chiffon of her dress. Her tiny
handkerchief was all unavailing to quench this flow, and in a very
short while it was only a small lump of wet. Her head drooped lower and
It was absolute and overwhelming humiliation.
Mr. Bennet heard a queer little sound at his side, a little sound
that she was quite unable to control, and he turned to see this weeping
Why, my dear little girl! he exclaimed, bending over. What on
She managed to swallow a small portion of the lump that filled her
throat. You.... You laughed at me! she said brokenly. You laughed at
So he had. But Mr. Bennet was very sure that this was not the time
to acknowledge it.
He was genuinely distressed to see her cry, but his interest was
more acute that something be done to stop it before too much attention
was accorded them. Mr. Bennet disliked very much to be made at all
He slid one arm gently along the back of her seat. Arethusa was
conscious of this movement through her unhappiness, and she could not
help being thrilled at the thought of that Wonderful Arm being where it
was. Mr. Bennet, however, knew very well just how far it might go. Miss
Eliza herself thought no more of the proprieties than did Mr. Bennet.
Then he leaned protectingly close. Arethusa thrilled some more.
Did you imagine for a moment that I was laughing at you! And his
rich drawling voice was so convincing that she believed him
immediately. Indeed, I was not! There was something very funny just
then that you missed. Why, I wouldn't laugh at you for
all the world!
Arethusa smiled through her tears at him like a veritable bit of
I didn't like to think you would. But.... But.... It seemed just
exactly like you were!
You misjudged me dreadfully!
And this time he sounded so reproachful that she was just as ashamed
of herself for so misjudging him, as she had been humiliated the moment
before because she had thought herself the object of his mirth.
I ... I'm sorry, she faltered. Would Mr. Bennet ever be able to
forgive such a misinterpretation of his charming laugh?
But Mr. Bennet was a truly magnanimous soul, and it seemed that he
So an atmosphere of enjoyment once more restored, Arethusa turned
her attention back to the chorus ladies, who had in the meantime
clothed themselves in garments belonging less to the hours of rest and
more to those of activity, and responded to their antics to amuse as
she had before that most unfortunate episode.
She sighed a gusty sigh of real forlornness when the curtain had
descended in such a way that it could not possibly be construed by even
inexperienced theatergoers to mean anything but that it was all over.
It doesn't last near long enough, not near! she said, regretfully,
as she was being helped into the Green Cloak.
Mr. Bennet produced his watch. I don't know just how long you
expected it to last, he replied, but right this moment it happens to
be ten minutes past eleven; which means that we have been here almost
Arethusa regarded him open-eyed and open-mouthed.
Why, it hasn't seemed like any time at all!
Well, it seems to me that if you enjoyed it so much, we'll have to
come again some time very soon. Shall we?
Arethusa accepted this invitation with undoubted pleasure.
I'll be a little more careful, though, in my selection of our next
play, so there will be nothing in it you could misunderstand that might
possibly spoil a few moments for us. I don't want any spoiled moments
with you, tenderly.
Arethusa blushed deeply and her head drooped.
She had spoiled it, all by herself; those moments of
unhappiness had been all her own fault, because she was such a goose.
This play had been as near perfection as a play could be, thought she,
who knew so little of plays. At the next one, she herself would see
that nothing of the kind occurred. She had learned her lesson, and
there would be no more misinterpretation of Mr. Bennet's charming
Mr. Bennet was just a bit conscience-stricken in the morning by the
way he had turned that episode, when reviewing it at his office. She
was a dear child. The Worthington interest was a solid one. There were
dollars galore that stood to that name in various financial
institutions, and when one is a dealer in the commodities known as
stocks and bonds, one must not let the smallest chance slip by to
cement a friendship outside which might prove to extend itself into the
business world. There was no telling how quickly bread cast upon the
waters might return. At least, it could do no sort of harm. She was a
Which explains why Arethusa received a long green box, brought to
her by George as she ate her luncheon. It was a box of American
Beauties with stems a yard long, roses that were far too beautiful as
roses to be real, and that seemed to Arethusa to have gathered all the
perfume of heaven within their deep, red centers. She sniffed and
smelled them in ecstasy; and stroked the glossy green leaves that
spread out from their stems, so marvelous as leaves. She could hardly
part with them that they might be put in the tallest vase on the
library table, which would display their beauty to the greatest
Inside the box was a tiny note....
Would Miss Worthington do Mr. Bennet the honor of reserving the
date of the January Cotillion for him?
But that's so awfully far off, objected Arethusa, as she read this
communication aloud to her interested parents. It's only the first of
November right now!
It was entirely too lovely of Mr. Bennet to send her roses; it
heaped coals of fire with effective vengeance. She was almost ashamed
to accept them. But she did wish that he had made that engagement for
something a trifle closer at hand.
You little goose! exclaimed Ross. Why, that is the event
of the whole Lewisburg season! And not one debutante in ten out of a
winter ever gets to go! As superlative as I'll have to admit Mr.
Bennet's taste in flowers, I believe most girls would care far more
about that invitation than they would about the roses!
Really! Arethusa brightened up considerably.
I'd let a man laugh at me every day from now till Christmas if he'd
ask me to go to the January Cotillion with him, continued Ross, that
is, if I was a young lady with any hope of being a social success.
But he wasn't laughing at me, protested his daughter. She had
narrated the affair in detail. I told you that, Father. He said very
positively he wasn't laughing at me!
Well, replied Ross, it makes no difference what caused his mirth,
it seems to me that I'd assuredly welcome it, with such effect!
Arethusa was going shopping, and going shopping for the very first
time in her life, alone.
And thereby hangs a tale.
Wednesday coming was Miss Asenath's birthday, and Arethusa had
completely lost track of that important fact to forget it until this
Monday morning. She, who had given Miss Asenath something, if only a
tight bouquet of flowers from the plants brought into the house for the
winter, every birthday anniversary since she was old enough to lisp
birfday and comprehend its significance, had forgotten that this
event was so near. She could have made her a gift as she generally did
had there been time to finish it and send it so it would reach the Farm
on the twentieth; but it would not be a birthday gift if Miss Asenath
did not get it on her birthday (this was logic to Arethusa); so in her
distress she had appealed to Elinor.
And Elinor, after asking if Miss Asenath ever wore shawls and
learning that she did all the winter through, suggested that Arethusa
purchase her a rose-colored shoulder shawl of silk and several yards of
rose-colored ribbon to match for the locket. If it was started today,
it would reach there in time.
So Arethusa was to take the automobile, as Elinor had a Board
meeting of importance this morning and could not go with her; seek the
magnificent establishment where she had accompanied her mother so many
times to shop; inquire of a floor-walker the location of the department
of shawls; purchase one of the same, and charge it to Elinor's name and
address; and return home in the machine. Such were the directions given
They seemed to cover every detail for the buying of Miss Asenath's
birthday gift; and, moreover, sounded very simple. As viewed by
Arethusa, although Miss Eliza would have been horrified at the bare
suggestion, she could surely buy one rose-colored silk shawl without
She loved her reflection in the mirror when she was dressed for this
adventure; a jaunty new hat with a flyaway feather, a new suit, and
even gloves and shoes as slim as Miss Warren's. And besides, pride of
her heart, her costume was enhanced with furs of rich, dark brown, as
silky smooth in appearance as those she had envied that visitor who had
been so trying a visitor. There was also, a half-formed Hope within
that when she looked so well as she did this morning she would meet the
Wonderful Mr. Bennet somewhere downtown that made her eyes shine, which
added to the attractiveness of the reflection.
She left the car in front of the big shop and bade Clay wait for her
with an air of dignity that was an almost ludicrous imitation of
Elinor's manner of uttering the same words. Clay smiled broadly as he
touched his cap, recognizing her model.
Arethusa tripped gayly into the store and a polite and obsequious
gentleman escorted her to that counter where she might find shawls, and
directed that she be waited upon, immediately.
The very prettiest girl among those in this department stepped
forward. She was the one which Arethusa might have chosen to wait upon
her, had she been choosing. But she was a dreadfully tired-looking
girl, even more tired looking than pretty, Arethusa noticed when she
was closer. She had great dark circles under her eyes and a pathetic
sort of droop to the corners of her mouth. Her black dress made her
look still more forlorn, for she was very pale and it accentuated the
But the girl smiled at Arethusa; she could not help it, tired as she
looked and really was, for Arethusa's eagerness to purchase was so
I want to see silk shawls, announced Arethusa, rose-colored silk
A bewildering variety of shawls was immediately spread before her,
in every conceivable shade of the color she had requested. How Miss
Asenath would have loved that heap of gayety! Arethusa found it
terribly difficult to make a choice. She picked out three as the
prettiest of the collection, after much deliberation and selection and
rejection; but each one was so lovely that she wanted every one of them
for Miss Asenath. Then she made an appeal to the girl.
Which of these do you think is the very prettiest? It's for
an old lady; the dearest old lady!
The girl bent her dark head over the shawls Arethusa was holding.
Is it for your grandmother?
No, replied Arethusa. It's for my Aunt 'Senath. She's an
Then, of necessity almost, she must tell Miss Asenath's interesting
story, beginning way back at the very beginning, with the Romance
before the Fall. Her sympathetic telling of her Tale, her gestures and
her earnest voice, attracted every other girl at that counter, for it
was not a very busy morning, so that long before she had finished, four
or five other heads were bent in solemn consultation above the three
shawls from which final choice was to be made. They could not all agree
as to the one most desirable; tastes were different as to which shade
of rose would really be most becoming and best for Miss Asenath.
Finally, Arethusa and Jessie (for so the first girl's name had been
discovered to be) decided that majority must rule as always, and
selected as Miss Asenath's birthday gift what they themselves and two
of the other girls liked best, the one that was in between in tone.
I can get ribbon just this color, can't I? asked the shopper
anxiously, once her choice was actually made.
For the locket? inquired Jessie.
Sure you can. Suppose you just take this over to the ribbon counter
and match it right now, it's just in the next aisle, and then you can
bring it back to me.
Arethusa went away joyfully, bearing the shawl.
Ain't you afraid, Jess, to let her go off like that? asked one of
Jessie's contemporaries, of a more distrustful turn of mind. 'Sposin'
she don't come back with it? It ain't paid for, and she never told you
who she was.
Oh, she'll come back, replied Jessie, confidently, She'll come
back, all right. I ain't the least bit afraid. 'Specially when she
looks as much like an angel as she talks! I wish there was more like
her to wait on, and then it wouldn't be so hard to be standing here all
day long. Yes, ma'am, these shawls are all silk, to a personage who
had paused to examine the wares which Jessie had not yet put away.
It would be impossible to mention her in any way save as a
personage. She exuded superiority and a consciousness of a high
station in life from every aristocratic pore.
I doubt it. They look rather cheap. She tossed the whole heap
aside, contemptuously. Have you nothing any better?
No, ma'am, these are the best.
That's old Mrs. Bixby, whispered one of the clerks in a tone of
heartfelt awe to the girl next her, as the lady seated herself before
the counter. And she is some swell, too, believe me, Molly Davis!
Money! Just buckets of it!
Mrs. Bixby seemed rather disdainful of what Jessie had to offer her
in the way of shawls. She continued to toss them to right and left,
scattering them so carelessly about that one or two fell to the floor
of the aisle and were retrieved by a near-by floor-walker, who glanced
at poor Jessie, as much as to say, Don't you let that happen again!
I see nothing here I'd really have, remarked Mrs. Bixby, at last.
Then as she turned, she caught sight of an acquaintance across the
aisle, who had loitered there hoping for the sun of her smile, to whom
she beckoned imperiously; and who came swiftly for whatever was desired
of her, at this nod, much as a menial runs in answer to the nod of a
I've got it!
Arethusa came back with the shawl and several yards of rose-colored
ribbon that matched it as perfectly as if woven especially to be worn
with it to hold the Locket.
Jessie's face broke into welcoming smiles. Most of the other clerks
smiled also. Arethusa's honest joy in her purchases was truly
refreshing after Mrs. Bixby.
Isn't that a perfectly beautiful match? Arethusa asked of them all
impartially, with enthusiasm. And yet Aunt 'Liza always says I have no
sort of taste! Can't you just see darling Aunt 'Senath in all her white
clothes with this lovely rose color next to her?
It was not at all hard for Jessie to imagine the picture after the
vivid description she had received of Miss Asenath. I'll bet she'll
look just lovely, she declared warmly, and it certainly is a splendid
match! No one could have matched it better!
The other girls made a smiling affirmation to this verdict.
Mrs. Bixby turned around from her own conversation at the sudden
sound of these animated voices so close to her and lifted her gold
lorgnette to examine Arethusa.
This girl was waiting on me, I believe, she said, indicating
Jessie with a wave of her aristocratic hand, and speaking in a
pleasantly acid tone that was intended to consign Arethusa to
But Arethusa gave no smallest sign of doing so.
She was waiting on me, long before you ever saw her!
That lorgnette could but irritate Arethusa.
Mrs. Bixby glanced up and down, and then through her.
Indeed! I think you're mistaken! Then to Jessie. I wasn't
But you said.... began poor Jessie.
She was torn between her desire to serve Arethusa, whom, girl-like,
she had voted a darling, and her great fear of offending one so
powerful as Mrs. Bixby. The floor-walker suddenly turned his attention
in their direction, which added to her agitation. But she need not have
worried quite so much; her first customer made a sturdy champion of any
cause, and she was still most undaunted, lorgnette or no lorgnette.
There's a whole stack of girls here, declared Arethusa hotly, and
just because you can't help being disagreeable, you want the same one I
have! Jessie sold me this shawl before you ever came, and she let me
take it over to match it in ribbon!
Mrs. Bixby displayed an interest. She raised the lorgnette once
Indeed! And had you paid for it?
It's none of your business whether I had or not! It's not your
store, is it? But I hadn't, so there, if you really want to know!
I shall report you immediately, said Mrs. Bixby, majestically to
Jessie, for allowing goods to be taken away from your counter without
being paid for, and for not waiting on your customers properly. You
were very impudent. And....
Why, you're a horrible old woman! interrupted Arethusa, as if the
discovery was most surprising. A perfectly horrible old woman! But go
right ahead and report, if you want to! I reckon it won't hurt anything
very much, because I brought the shawl back and I'm going to charge it
right now, this very minute!
And you, continued Mrs. Bixby, once more consigning the
tempestuously excited Arethusa to nothingness with her glance, are the
most decidedly ill-bred young person I ever saw!
She sailed away and sought the floor-walker.
His glance, after a brief conversation with her, was sternly
directed in the direction of the shawl department. He nodded several
times in answer to what she said to him, and finally bowed her
deferentially towards the outer door.
Arethusa turned to Jessie, whose rather frail hands were trembling
in their effort to fold her shawls, and her sympathetic heart ached for
this evident distress.
I wouldn't mind, Jessie. That old beast can't really do anything
that would hurt you, can she?
I don't know, miserably.
Was it very wrong to let me take the shawl to have it matched
before I had paid for it?
It's against the rules. People could steal things that way. But I
knew you'd bring it right back.
That nasty old thing! Arethusa leaned earnestly across the
counter-top. I'll buy two or three shawls. Would it be all right
Jessie was forced to a smile at this suggested method of
straightening out the affair.
That wouldn't make very much difference about this, I'm afraid. And
besides, I don't suppose your mother would like your doing it, very
She wouldn't care, affirmed the daughter, stoutly. She wouldn't
care the least bit. She's the loveliest person in the world! Suddenly,
an altogether new idea seized her. They won't discharge you, will
they? It was a horrible thought!
Oh, no! That is, I don't suppose so. It depends on what she said,
mostly. If she told the truth, I might just get reprimanded. They'll
dock me probably, though; but that's almost as bad to me right now, as
being discharged, bitterly; I need every single cent of my money.
Oh, well, Arethusa patted Jessie consolingly on the arm, Don't
you worry! I'll get Father to fix it up for you. He knows Mr. Redmond
awfully well. He plays golf with him, and he told me Mr. Redmond owned
this store, even if his name isn't on the sign. So he'll fix it!
She departed, serenity restored all around; for Ross would surely
manage it so that Jessie should not suffer for being kind.
But before she was out of the establishment, she unfortunately
encountered Mrs. Bixby near the door, who raised her lorgnette and
surveyed the Ill-bred young person through it again. She so aroused
Arethusa's ire that she rushed furiously out of the shop and went
headlong on up the street. She had gone quite a block, when she ran ...
bang! into a man person, who in her excitement she had not noticed as
You seem to be in a very great hurry this fine morning, said a
familiar voice, and she looked up.
There was Mr. Bennet smiling at her; standing in the middle of the
sidewalk, irreproachably groomed as always, very much Mr. Bennet, and
evidently glad to see her.
Arethusa was glad to see him also. She clasped her hands, parcel and
all, and dimpled charmingly.
I'm just as mad as I can be! That nasty old beast of a woman!
What old beast of a woman?
Arethusa launched into explanation.
And as the narrative progressed, Mr. Bennet's inward amusement grew.
Arethusa was primed with names, and so he recognised Mrs. Bixby for his
aunt, the mentor of their rather extensive family connection. He would
have given anything to have seen the encounter! And he would have
backed Arethusa for winner without any hesitancy, as well as he knew
his dictatorial relative.
And will you, Mr. Bennet, finished Jessie's champion imploringly,
will you go back and see that man with me and fix it so they won't do
anything to Jessie?
It might be better to fix things up now with Mr. Bennet's able
assistance, than to wait until later on to speak to Ross.
Certainly, said Mr. Bennet, kindly, I'll be very glad to; if you
think I can do any good.
Arethusa was absolutely sure of this. Was he not Mr. Bennet?
Mr. Platt, the floor-walker to whom Mrs. Bixby had complained of
Jessie, was also an assistant manager, and he was very glad to have the
facts in this particular case, he said, when Arethusa and Mr. Bennet
had hunted him up; Arethusa to do most of the talking, and Mr. Bennet
to smile and look on, and impress the one who had Jessie's sentence
within his power to make either good or bad, by just the fact of his
appearance and his air of being someone of importance, which was so
decidedly Mr. Bennet's air. The other lady, added Mr. Platt to his
speech apologetically, had slightly misrepresented things. She had
accused the girl of impudence and inattention, which had sounded bad.
And in a store of this size.... But when a customer got excited, she
was not always just accurate, yet they could not tell....
Mr. Bennet was most amused by this little dig at his aunt. Arethusa
was vigorous in her defense of Jessie, and her denial that Jessie had
been at all impudent. And her indignation had made her so pretty, with
her flushed cheeks, that Mr. Platt smiled paternally and told her that
it would be all right. Probably she herself might like to stop by and
tell Jessie so? Nothing suited Arethusa better; so with Mr. Bennet in
tow, this pleasant duty was performed, and then once more she sought
Now come go to lunch with me, said Mr. Bennet, as they paused
under the iron and glass porte-cochere for a moment. It's lunch time,
he added, and maybe considerably after. I was on my way when I met
Arethusa's eyes sparkled at the thought. But do girls go to lunch
down-town with gentlemen?
He assured her that they often did, and as Arethusa had no further
scruples of any sort to add, he led the way across the street to the
big Patterson Hotel; the shop where shawls and excitement had been
found was exactly opposite.
Arethusa followed him on into the dining-room, her heart beating
such an excited tattoo against her chest she was very glad that the
band on the little balcony at one end of the room was playing so loudly
just then, else she was quite certain that Mr. Bennet, and even the
tall and imposing head waiter who was so courteously showing them to a
table, would have heard that pounding heart.
It was certainly a Real Adventure.
They were piloted to a spot which Mr. Bennet, from the door-way when
they had first stepped inside, had selected for its attractions, a
little table for two far over in the corner, just enough removed from
the band for the music to be a pleasant accompaniment to the business
of luncheon, instead of an interruption, as it often was when closer to
it. The table held a lighted candle lamp shaded with a soft
rose-colored shade of fluted silk (and not all of the tables boasted
little lamps) which seemed to add most delightfully to the intimacy of
Arethusa leaned her elbows on the table, and looked happily at Mr.
Bennet, sitting so close to her on the other side of the white cloth,
ordering a lunch for her to eat. There was a charming intimacy about
the situation which could not help but appeal.
Isn't this fun! she exclaimed. Just us!
Mr. Bennet thought it was, indeed.
And he added instructions to the waiter, about the food which was to
be prepared for Arethusa to eat, which further added to the Charm of
things. The waiter hurried off with their order, as if he himself
deemed it no ordinary order.
Then, while they waited, Arethusa unrolled her parcel and showed Mr.
Bennet the shawl and told him all about Miss Asenath.
It would be wonderful to be loved the way your aunt has loved that
man all these years, he said softly, when the Tale was ended, for
Arethusa had crowded every single bit of Romance connected with it into
Her long eyelashes drooped suddenly over her eyes, and the little
flush which always came so quickly spread over her face and neck. Her
unruly heart beat even faster.
There was a soft, long silence, and Mr. Bennet, admiring the light
of the candle lamp on Arethusa's ruddy hair, smiled to himself as he
watched her. He had an idea that he knew just about what she was
Arethusa was thinking that Mr. Bennet was undoubtedly the sort of
man that one would be sure to love just that way.
Now Mr. Bennet knew very well how Arethusa felt about him, and this
without any real conceit on his part. Arethusa was a woefully
transparent young person; she had never learned there are times when it
might seem best to dissemble a little. Mr. Bennet knew, perhaps, better
than she did herself, the exact state of her Feeling in regard to him.
There were some essential points on which they would not have agreed at
all; but still.... His main idea as to just how Arethusa felt was
He leaned back in his chair, and continued to watch her. He could
almost have laughed aloud at her pretty confusion. Arethusa's nervous
fingers crumbled up a perfectly good slice of bread until it could be
of no use of any kind to anybody, her head still bent. If the Situation
had such charm, it had not lost altogether the power to embarrass, when
Words that could cause such Thoughts were softly spoken by a rich and
The waiter helped matters considerably by bringing in the soup.
Soup has never been regarded as much in the way of a reliever of
embarrassment, but it proved to be something of the kind in this
particular case. Arethusa's tongue was loosened again, and she
chattered of inconsequential topics of variety, but none of them
brought such moments as the one just past. There was much to be said to
Mr. Bennet, for they had grown to be great friends in the last few
weeks and had many interests in common.
It was an unusually nice little luncheon that Mr. Bennet had
ordered; and it was perfect eaten so, just the two of them, thought
Arethusa. It was prolonged quite beyond the time generally allotted for
luncheons, for it was almost half-past three when they emerged from the
Well, what shall we do now? asked Mr. Bennet. He glanced at his
watch and then shut it with a snap. I don't believe I'll go back to
the office again this afternoon; that is.... How about you? Are you
free? What do you say to a moving-picture show?
Arethusa was delighted. She had nothing whatever to do, and she
adored the movies. She had seen a few with Ross and Elinor.
So Mr. Bennet stepped back into the Hotel to telephone Miss Ford
that he would not be back that afternoon; and then they strolled side
by side up the street, he and Arethusa, hunting for the picture show
which seemed to have the most to offer.
The one they finally chose to attend proved to be so exciting that
Arethusa scarcely breathed a word to him until it was all over, and the
film had gone around and started to go around again, so that she could
be perfectly sure she had seen every bit of it. There was a great deal
of honest realism about the acting done on the screen for Arethusa,
photography though it might be. A smothered scream had attested to Mr.
Bennet the genuineness of her fear for her own safety during a portion
of this picture's running, and her sudden jump when the evil-looking
Indian had shot the handsome cowboy, and the little sound of distress
she had made, told him that although movie guns were said to fire blank
cartridges, they inflicted actual damage for Arethusa.
It was dark when they left the moving-picture theatre, and well
after five. Winter days seem woefully short.
Well, what shall we do now? asked Mr. Bennet, for the second time.
I suppose, though, it will be home. It's so late.
Arethusa stopped short in the middle of the crowded sidewalk, full
of folks who were plainly impatient to get somewhere, and very probably
it was home, flowing past her on either side, all unregarded. She
grabbed Mr. Bennet frantically by one arm.
Oh, Mr. Bennet!
What's the matter? Did you leave something in the theater?
No! But I've left Clay waiting in the machine for me all this time
in front of that store, and I never thought of him once until you said,
The last part of this information was wafted on the breeze to Mr.
Bennet, for Arethusa had started off down the street with the swiftness
of the wind itself. He followed her immediately, but considerably more
slowly as to locomotion (he was no sprinter and Mr. Bennet rarely
forgot his dignity) and with the parcel containing Miss Asenath's
birthday gift in one hand. Arethusa had dropped it directly at his feet
in her excitement. When he caught up with her, she was standing in
front of the shop gazing wildly up and down the street, for no Clay and
no automobile were to be discovered anywhere.
The door attendant, when questioned by Mr. Bennet, said that he
remembered the chauffeur referred to very well. He had seemed to be
very worried about the young lady, and had left his car several times
to ask him if he had seen her come out. But he had driven off some time
ago, about three hours ago, the door attendant thought it was, to be as
exact as he could.
Mr. Bennet took Arethusa home in a taxicab to an excited and
When Clay had come back without her, with his strange story of
having waited for her, and that she had never returned to the machine,
Ross had been perfectly sure that she had been kidnapped, and he had
gone impetuously to the police station to start an immediate search.
Elinor was prostrate in her room, visioning all sorts of dreadful
things that might have happened to an Arethusa always too prone to make
chance acquaintances, when Arethusa herself, as repentant and contrite
a cause of it all as it was possible for her to be, walked in.
Elinor would not allow Ross to scold her after she heard Arethusa's
sobbing explanation, that she was having such a good time she forgot
everything else; for she said that he was really more to blame for that
than anyone concerned.
Which rather cryptic statement, if Arethusa failed of comprehension,
seemed to be quite clear to her father.
The winter sped away until Christmas, on wings of fleetness that
made the days seem as if they had only been hours since Arethusa had
come to Lewisburg. Life was crowded so full of new experiences and
happenings that she had absolutely no smallest room or time for any
moments of home-sickness for the Farm. And then.... There was Mr.
Now Arethusa honestly interested Mr. Bennet.
It was not alone her unabashed and open admiration of himself which
amused while it flattered, just a little, for he was only human; but
she had an unbounding enthusiasm for everything she saw and did which
made it a real delight to be with her anywhere, at dance, or theater or
football game or moving picture. There was nothing blasé or jaded of
any of life's offerings about Arethusa. She developed, as the days
passed, into a young lady much sought after by the male of the species;
for this same quality which endeared her to Mr. Bennet brought her many
other suitors. And, argued Arethusa, being very much in love with one
Charming Person does not prevent one from having a very good time with
others of the same sex, when the opportunity is presented.
But the Core of her Heart undoubtedly remained true to her First
Love, the Wonderful Mr. Bennet.
He was still, of all the men she had met, the one whose approach
made her heart heat faster; whose voice, even coming from afar over the
telephone, had the power to make her thrill; and around whom she
builded innocent little castles in the air intended for the Perfect
Bliss of two, in which she always saw herself as the other person, and
which made her blush as she sat all alone and builded them. But even a
more sophisticated maiden than Arethusa might have been led to the
building of air castles by Mr. Bennet's manner, singling her out, as it
undoubtedly seemed to do, from among all those girls of his
acquaintance as the one with whom he most cared to be.
This affair, as it progressed, amused Ross immensely.
He teased his daughter most unmercifully about Mr. Bennet, and she
blushed and bridled over the teasing as any orthodox lovelorn miss
should, and has since the beginning of time, when the name of her
Beloved is taken in vain. There was no real harm in the object upon
which she had so settled her affections, said Ross to Arethusa. She was
only about the twenty-fifth girl, to the certain knowledge of all
Lewisburg, whom he had graciously permitted to be thus crazy about
his handsome self; it was a disease positively certain to attack every
debutante in the town in her turn; and so on. But Arethusa's invariable
reply to such very disagreeable remarks was that no one in his right
mind would consider blaming those girls in the least.
But as much as Mr. Bennet sought her company, it was Ross and not
Mr. Bennet, who had the pleasure of escorting her to her first football
game, on Thanksgiving day. And perhaps it was just as well, for on this
Occasion she created more excitement than the game itself by falling
down in between the rows of seats as she bodily assisted the ball of
her chosen side up the field to goal.
The automobile was another never ending source of delight. Clay had
become a sworn ally. He was at her beck and call with cheerful
willingness to do whatsoever she commanded, at any hour of the day or
night; and the weather was never too unseasonable to go out with a
machine if Miss Arethusa wanted it. Hitherto, Clay had been as careful
of those two shining cars in Elinor's garage as if they had been bound
to suffer permanently from mud splashes and rain drops. He taught her
how to run, first the smaller one and then the limousine, as Arethusa
insisted she be allowed to try it. She was so strong and quick that she
soon learned, and she really liked the larger car better, as it was
more powerful. Many an hour was spent out with Clay these first wintry
days, out on frosted country roads that crackled under the heavy tires
as they rushed along.
Arethusa, somehow, never went on one of these expeditions but that
she wished for Timothy. He would have loved it, she was sure; the
rushing through the country on wings of a swiftness almost
unbelievable, and feeling the heart of the big thing throbbing
underneath her and responding to her slightest touch as quickly as if
it had been a toy, instead of a monster that required a whole wide
street in which to be turned.
Ross informed her she was in a fair way to make some headlines for
breakfast tables, which he interpreted as meaning:
BEAUTIFUL YOUNG DAUGHTER OF WEALTHY PARENTS ELOPES WITH
Then Arethusa must tell her father and Elinor all that she had
learned about Clay in these many rides, and about the girl he hoped to
marry some day, and about the invalid sister whom he supported.
For Elinor, warm-hearted as she was and as kind to everyone about
her, had not even known of their existence until Arethusa told her. But
Arethusa had been more than once to call at the tiny cottage where
Clay's invalid sister lived with the two stronger ones who worked, and
she had carried books and fruit to the sweet-faced girl whose only
glimpse of the big world was what was brought to her in her own room by
those who loved her. Arethusa's friendships never stopped contented
with knowing a person; she had to know all about them. She had met the
fianceé at the cottage many times, and she thoroughly approved of her
for Clay. And both of these girls adored Arethusa.
It was from one of these excursions she was returning when she
brought the automobile to such an abrupt stop, that Clay, who had
yielded her the wheel at her request and was not noticing just then at
all, was almost thrown out of his seat.
There's Mrs. Cherry, screamed Arethusa. Oh, Mrs. Cherry! Mrs.
It was undoubtedly Mrs. Cherry and Helen Louise and Peter; Mrs.
Cherry holding a hand of each child and strolling slowly along gazing
into shop windows gaily decorated and full of Christmas things. Quite a
bit more prosperous-looking trio than of old they were, but Mrs.
Cherry, for all the better clothes, was still just as comfortably
untidy as ever.
Arethusa waved wildly, fearful lest her friend should enter the
store into whose windows she was at that moment gazing, and miss her
altogether. But Mrs. Cherry turned around at this last wild cry, and
looked uncertainly up and down the crowded street and across, directly
at Arethusa, without recognizing her, or without locating the call.
Here, Clay, Arethusa began clambering ungracefully over the brakes
and handles around the wheel of the car, and across him before he could
move. Here, you take it, I must go speak to Mrs. Cherry!
Well, if it ain't Miss Worth'ton! exclaimed Mrs. Cherry when
Arethusa had reached her, after a rather dangerous scramble between
trucks and horses and street cars.
Mrs. Cherry beamed all over in expansive greeting; Peter sidled
shyly behind her generous proportions, as for shelter; and Helen Louise
smiled, timidly, a slightly more toothless smile than hers had been,
even a few weeks past.
Arethusa held out both hands. Oh, I'm so glad to see you!
I've thought about you often and often and wondered where you were and
what you were doing. And Helen Louise and Peter!
You look just as pretty as a peach! declared Mrs. Cherry, with
hearty warmth, grasping those outstretched hands to pump them
vigorously, up and down. I never would have knowed you!
Come get in the automobile, invited Arethusa, and then we can
talk. And oh! seized with a sudden inspiration, go home to lunch with
me, it's most lunch time now! Please, please, Mrs. Cherry!
Mrs. Cherry demurred. But Peter pulled at a fold of her skirt, the
word lunch had aroused in him a strong, if sudden, sense of lack.
Ma, I'm hungry! he said.
Well, that's nothing very new, you're always that, replied his
Helen Louise had been focused in round-eyed admiration on the
Beautiful Lady before her, without uttering a word; now she murmured
something indistinguishable above the roar about her. Her mother
stopped to catch it.
Well, I reckon there ain't no harm in it, if you're right sure it
won't be no trouble to anybody. Helen Louise ain't never been in a auto
before and she says she's tired and wants to ride.... I reckon she
might be.... I'm most wore out myself. We've done a sight of walking
this morning. I've been aiming to bring these children down here ever'
day for a week, and never got clear 'round to it, tel to-day. It was
something sorter like Providence done kept me busy, I reckon, Miss
Worth'ton, I wouldn't have seen you no other day, p'raps. Law, but your
Pa must be a rich man, Miss Worth'ton, to be owning a thing like this
For under cover of Mrs. Cherry's volubility, Arethusa had piloted
the whole family safely to the automobile.
Mrs. Cherry leaned back on the cushions as one to the manner born.
Helen Louise was frankly overawed by the unaccustomed magnificence of
the limousine, and seemed to shrink before it with visibility. Peter's
eyes grew rounder and rounder with each passing moment. All of
Arethusa's efforts to draw Helen Louise into the conversation failed;
she seemed stricken absolutely tongue-tied. Even a reference to her
father failed to arouse to animation. Peter sat stiffly erect, also
silent, one grubby hand tightly clutching his mother's sleeve as if he
feared the catastrophe of losing her through the swiftness of his
But Mrs. Cherry well supplied any lack of words from her children.
I've wondered and wondered myself, about you, Miss Worth'ton, ever
so many times sence that trip we rode on the cars together. Whether you
found your Pa and everything like you was thinking you would and if you
been having a good time like you said you knew you was going to.
Oh, I've had a Heavenly Time! Arethusa cried, Just a Perfectly
Heavenly Time, Mrs. Cherry! And everyone is so Perfectly Lovely to me!
That's 'cause you're what you are, remarked Mrs. Cherry, shrewdly.
She was loud in her sincere admiration of the ungainly pile where
the Worthingtons lived; it seemed a superbly beautiful exterior to her
ideas. But when George, who for all the dinginess of his skin had a
classic countenance and a dignity of bearing which the Prime Minister
of England might well have envied him, opened the front door for
Arethusa and her cavalcade, Mrs. Cherry was suddenly stricken as
tongue-tied as Helen Louise.
George himself came nearer to losing his equilibrium than ever he
had in all his years of efficient service, when he saw what his young
lady had in tow; but he concealed his agitation with real credit to his
Is Mother in, George?
She's in the music room, Miss Arethusa.
Then Arethusa remembered Something, all at once. It was Something
that brought panic. She took Mrs. Cherry and her progeny into the
library as rapidly as it was possible for her to move them onward
without actually pushing them.
I'll go find Mother, she said, hurriedly.
She left them seated, in a row of stiff attitudes of discomfort on
the big davenport, Peter still with a tight hold of his mother, who sat
erect and glassy-eyed beside him. George had been almost too much for
Elinor was just coming out of the music room as Arethusa rushed
toward her down the hall.
Did I hear you talking to any one, dear? You're rather late. I'm
afraid you barely have time to dress.
Mother, exclaimed Arethusa, and the sound was tragedy whispered,
I forgot it was your party to-day and I met Mrs. Cherry down-town, and
I brought her home to lunch with me!
Mrs. Cherry? Who...?
The one who was so nice to me on the train. I told you about her,
don't you remember? But, Mother, I honestly did forget all about your
party! Honest to goodness! What shall I do!
She was somewhat used to Arethusa's impulsiveness by this time, so
this did not seem such a very surprising thing for her to do.
And, Mother, Arethusa's hissing whisper grew yet more tragic, I
brought Helen Louise and Peter home with me too, they were with her
when I met her!
Peter and Helen Louise!! Who on earth are they?
Elinor could not help but think that this last was going a
bit far; for adding three to a carefully arranged luncheon for ten
would be somewhat of a strain.
Her children! Arethusa was wildly penitent. Her eyes began filling
with her ever-ready tears. Oh, Mother, I was just so glad to see her!
I really didn't mean to do anything to mess up your party! I was just
so glad to see her! She was so awfully nice to me that day!
Don't cry, Arethusa, said Elinor absently, don't cry, please! It
isn't worth tears. We'll fix it somehow.
Yet the situation was a bit peculiar, without a doubt. The Cherry
family could not be sent home, though at the same time, Elinor had a
vision of some of those worthy ladies she had invited to her luncheon
should the Cherry children join the Party. Just what had best be
Arethusa had a gleam first.
Could Mrs. Cherry, she suggested timidly, could Mrs. Cherry come
to your Party and let me eat with Helen Louise and Peter in the
breakfast room? Would it make very much difference? And this was the
noblest piece of self-sacrifice on Arethusa's part which any human
being has ever performed, for above all else on earth, save the
Wonderful Mr. Bennet, she loved a Party. Would it make very much
difference if I didn't come?
Elinor considered that there were possibilities in this Idea of such
real worth that it almost atoned for the lapse which had made it
necessary of existence. She could tell better, however, after seeing
Mrs. Cherry whether it could be carried out in its entirety or modified
So she and Arethusa proceeded to the library.
Peter had somewhat recovered himself during the moments of
Arethusa's absence and was now engaged in climbing first into one big
chair and then another, and bounding out. It was a charming pastime,
but one in which Helen Louise had refused to join. She still sat just
as at first, like a small graven image, with stiff little flaxen plaits
sticking out from each side of her head, and staring straight before
her, with unblinking pale blue eyes, at the log fire. Her small hands
were clasped between her rigid little knees, and her feet, owing to the
fact that she was small and the davenport was large, were far from the
floor and extended at direct right angles from her body. She did not
even move at the entrance of Arethusa with Elinor.
Mrs. Cherry, like her son, was rapidly coming to herself after that
encounter with the magnificent George. She was reclining now, at ease,
and her eyes were roving busily about, and she made little ejaculations
under her breath with each new object she spied.
Elinor was exceedingly gracious when Arethusa introduced her to the
unexpected guest, although she hardly acknowledged the meeting with the
unadulterated cordiality as the other party to it, for Mrs. Cherry had
been born cordial. But no one, least of all Mrs. Cherry herself, would
have gathered from Elinor's manner that plans for a formal luncheon had
been a trifle upset. She explained that she was having a few friends of
her own to lunch and that she believed that it might be pleasanter for
the children to have theirs separately. Grown folks and their
conversation were very tiring to children. Mrs. Cherry agreed with all
But Elinor also was of the opinion that the Cherry family had best
lunch en masse, with Arethusa, and so adroitly did she manage this part
of the affair that Mrs. Cherry ever afterwards firmly believed it was
she, herself, who had suggested that she join Helen Louise and Peter
and the younger hostess, rather than Elinor's older guests.
The division of luncheon guests which Arethusa headed was safely
garnered in the breakfast room with only a narrow margin of time to
spare before Elinor's division arrived.
Mrs. Cherry was treated there to a collation that so long as she
lived remained distinctive, with a white-capped maid in a black dress
and much befrilled apron to serve it in courses just as the other
luncheon was served. She ate from egg-shell china, and drank from
glasses, so crystal clear and thin, that they long stood to Mrs. Cherry
as a synonym for perfection.
It's as purty as them glasses of Mis' Worth'ton's, was her final
word of praise.
And Helen Louise and Peter ate and ate and ate, until their hostess
began to be anxious and wondered where they were putting it all.
Then George smuggled in the Victrola, and behind carefully closed
doors Arethusa gave a Concert which endeared her to a music-loving
Helen Louise forever, as the brightest memory of her life. Clay took
them home in the automobile, with a little ride through the Park
beforehand, so that the Cherrys' cup of bliss was almost too full.
Arethusa went with them, but when she had come back, it was much too
late to join that Real Party of Elinor's.
Miss Eliza would not have considered Elinor's method of dealing with
Arethusa any sort of punishment for such a performance as she had been
guilty of this day, but Elinor knew only too well what a real
punishment it was.
It was a most subdued Arethusa who came down to the dinner-table
that evening, although very eager to know all the details of the Affair
she had missed. Even Helen Louise and Peter and their mother, charming
as they were, had not proven any sort of substitutes for the Luncheon
with Elinor's friends to which Arethusa had looked forward so long.
Did Miss Grant come? she asked.
She was somewhat of a worshipper at Miss Grant's shrine these days
(Miss Grant was a Real, Live Author whose books Arethusa had read) and
it had been planned that she would sit next to her.
It was a disappointing answer, for Arethusa had vaguely hoped that
for some reason she had stayed away.
Yes, volunteered Ross, your Celebrity was here, and in fine form.
I heard her delightful voice as I came in, myself. It has a penetrating
quality that probably arises from being so much in the Public Eye.
Arethusa squirmed, unhappily.
Did she ask where I was? hopefully.
No, dear, very gently from Elinor, I don't suppose she thought
for a moment that you were to be there. You know I was just letting you
come with all those older women, Arethusa, because I was so anxious for
you to really know some of my friends.
You certainly got yourself in Dutch, my daughter, said Ross, for
starting up that rival entertainment. And it's a mighty good thing, I
expect, that the adulated Miss Drusilla Grant did not know you felt
that way about her coming to dine. She would have been deeply offended,
I know. She's not used to slights. I doubt very much if she'd ever let
you pick up her handkerchief after such an affront.
Ross! exclaimed Elinor, for he had made Arethusa's punishment
almost too complete.
Her downcast head and the trembling of her hands indicated a
struggle with distress, and he reached across the table and patted her
arm kindly. Cheer up, child, he said, laughing, she doesn't know a
thing about it, and nobody's going to be mean enough to tell her. We
just won't let it happen again.
Arethusa looked up, her eyes bright with tears, and the fervency of
her promise that she would think like everything first, hereafter, made
Elinor hope that the Recording Angel gives credit for Real Sincerity of
* * * * *
Christmas came in snowy and blustery.
It was an ideal Christmas Day, and just such a one as Arethusa had
never spent before; with a Christmas Tree in the morning, and a table
full of guests in the middle of the day, callers all afternoon long,
and presents galore, in the shape of boxes of candy and flowers and
many other equally useful articles that were showered upon her by
Mr. Bennet sent another box of American Beauties which Arethusa
carried upstairs to put in her own room, so that she could see them the
very first thing in the morning and the last thing at night, and she
meant to make them last as long as clipped stems and fresh water could
make them. His Gift....
It was a Wonderful, Wonderful Day, one that was never to be
There was a dance that night out at the Country Club, and Arethusa
had a new dress for it especially. She had a very guilty feeling
sometimes when she thought of Miss Eliza and the rows of new garments
that hung in the closet of the green and white room. It was a
gloriously romping, Christmasy dance, for the college boys and girls,
and Arethusa wished very much that Timothy could have been in
attendance; and this in spite of the fact that she had Mr. Bennet. But
it was such an Occasion as Timothy would have loved, with formality
thrown to the four winds and everybody just bent on having as much fun
as was possible; even the men's evening clothes seemed to partake of
the festival feeling and appeared to be worn with a rakish air quite
unlike their customary somber wearing. The girls' dresses, of course,
all fluttered with the spirit of the season; and voices were gay, and
eyes were bright.
Arethusa had never been conscious of the lack of Timothy at any
other dance, because they had all been, every one, so unlike anything
that she could associate with him. But this dance on Christmas night
was so different, so suitable for Timothy, that she did wish he could
have been there.
Probably it helped her a little in this wish that he had sent her,
all the way from Miss Asenath's Woods, a great box of mistletoe and
holly (she and Timothy had gathered mistletoe and holly there together
every Christmas since she could remember) and she had had a little
homesick moment when she opened it; it brought the Farm, with all its
dear inmates, so plainly before her. Christmas was very quiet there; it
seemed more like a real Holy Day, and less like a Holiday, than it did
Arethusa had sent Timothy a watch fob for Christmas, one with his
fraternity emblem on it which she knew that he had long ardently
desired; and books which she had thought would surely appeal to his
taste in reading; and handkerchiefs, beautiful big squares of linen,
shakily marked in his initials with her own fair fingers.
The box she had sent to the Farm itself made Miss Eliza close her
lips grimly and think unutterable things about the deadly wickedness of
extravagance. She uttered some things before she had closed her lips,
quite forcibly, but as Arethusa was not present, it could not do much
good. Arethusa did not forget a single creature at the Farm. Beginning
with Miss Asenath, every living thing had a gift. Miss Johnson had a
collar of wonderfully shiny, brassy beauty; old Baldy, the horse, had a
new blanket; and there was even a catnip ball for the grey cat that
slept in front of Mandy's stove. There were so many cats at the Farm
that it was quite impossible to remember them all, but Arethusa
reasoned that they would all enjoy a catnip ball.
Never, in all of the history of the season, did any one ever have
such a Christmas Glow as this of Arethusa's. And it was extended most
lavishly to everyone she met through these days, whether she knew them
or not, old and young, rich or poor, from smiling lips and starry eyes.
A Real Spirit of Christmas, Ross called her, red hair and all!
But after Christmas was over, there was no actual subsiding of
Excitement. For on New Year's Day Elinor was giving Arethusa a Party,
her First Party of her Very Own; and it was to be the most Wonderful
Party that had ever been given.
And Timothy had been invited. His was the very first invitation
But Timothy wrote that he was sorry, but he could not come.
He thought that Arethusa's letters home had lately been almost too
full of a person by the name of Bennet, and torn between a curiosity to
observe this person for himself in the flesh, and a disinclination to
place himself in a position that should give her the opportunity to
express her preference in public, the latter won.
Arethusa stormed and raged, as was quite to be expected.
It was so stupid of him to refuse! He would spoil the whole Party if
he did not come! She almost cried with vexation as she read his letter
at the breakfast-table.
He's just got to come, that's all! Nasty thing! And I'll just bet
he waited till right now to write so it would be too late for me to
write to him again! That would be just like him! He's had that
invitation two whole weeks! Oh, I just hate him for acting this way!
I shouldn't think you would be so anxious to have a person you
hated at your Party, remarked Ross.
Of course I want Timothy to come, replied Arethusa, with decision.
More than anyone else except you and Mother.
More than Mr. Bennet even? asked her father, wickedly.
No reply of any kind was made to this sally.
But why couldn't Timothy come? Why did he want to be so horrid for?
And she expressed herself with many more ejaculations of a like nature,
until finally Ross suggested that it might be a wise plan to send
Timothy a telegram of urgency.
Arethusa seized with pleasure on this idea.
When she learned that he would receive it this very morning, if it
was started immediately, she left the breakfast-table to get her hat
and coat, telling George to notify Clay that she wanted the machine
right away. She insisted on personal attention to this important
affair, refusing to trust the telephone, although Elinor assured her it
would go just as surely. Her own handwriting, said Arethusa, would have
far more effect on Timothy than the handwriting of any stranger. She
knew very little about telegrams.
So Ross gave her all the details of the sending of one, and told her
where it might be done, and Arethusa departed gaily with Clay, who had
been called from his breakfast to serve her. She explained to him on
the ride down-town how very important it all was, and just how
necessary that Timothy receive this message with despatch, so that
Clay, being a sensible person, could not help but feel it more vital
than his breakfast.
The telegraph operator at the Patterson Hotel where Ross had told
her to go, was an obliging youth at all times, and he felt still more
obliging when Arethusa's vivid face appeared before him and her eager
voice announced that she wanted to send a telegram; and was this the
It was. He informed her further that she could send ten words for
Ten words was a great many; she could say almost twice as much as
she wanted to in ten words.
Her first attempt went something on this order....
Dear TimothyI will never speak to you again as long as I live
if you don't come to my party. You just must come.
Arethusa read it in triumph. It expressed just what she wanted to
express to Timothy. Then she counted the words she had written, and her
facial expression changed radically. She leaned over the counter toward
Does it have to be ten words?
If it's a telegram, Miss, unless you want to pay the charges for
the extra words. It might be a day letter, he suggested.
Is a telegram quicker?
Then it must be a telegram.
She counted the words over again, but they remained considerably
more than ten.
But I've got to say all that, she said, aloud, I've just got to!
She tried once more, and once more after that. The capacity of ten
words for expressing what one wished to say seemed to decrease with
each trial to write the telegram. The operator volunteered his
professional help, after he had watched her spoil several blanks. He
smiled slightly as he read the one she handed him, gratefully accepting
his kind offer.
You've never sent one before, have you, Miss?
Arethusa propped her elbows on the high counter, and rested her chin
on them so she could regard his work. No, I haven't, and she smiled
down at him so charmingly he could almost have franked that telegram
through. But I thought ten words was oceans.
No, Miss, it isn't very many. He scratched out the Dear Timothy,
she had written You don't generally say that.
You don't! Why, how do you know who it's for?
You have the address and that doesn't cost you anything.
Arethusa stood on tip-toe and leaned far over the counter to see
what he was doing. She was as close to him as it was possible for her
to get with a large piece of furniture in between them.
Let's see it? she asked, breathlessly, when he had finished
It read, in the operator's version:
Must come to party, very displeased if you do not.
Her face clouded. But I wanted to tell him that I wouldn't speak to
him again if he didn't come. I know he won't, unless I do. Let me come
around where you are, can't I? And can't you say that, that I won't
speak to him?
The very obliging youth indicated a little gate at one side where
she might find a way in, and Arethusa joined him in consultation over
the message. Two heads are always better than one.
In its final form, the telegram read:
Will never speak to you again if you don't come.
Which proved to be perfectly satisfactory, and lived up to all the
good reputations of telegrams; for it fetched Timothy.
Arethusa met him herself, at the station, when he came the morning
of the Party. She was so Glad to see him! She flung both arms around
his neck and more than one soft kiss was pressed warmly against his
cheek: Timothy all unresisting.
Oh, Timothy! Timothy!! Timothy!!!
It was a far more enthusiastic greeting than he had dared let
himself expect he would have. He returned her many soft kisses with one
very vigorous osculation that landed near one eyebrow as she bobbed up
and down beside him, and which was immediately rubbed off with the back
of Arethusa's glove.
You're always so awfully rough. But.... Oh, Timothy!
She grabbed him firmly by one arm, as if she really feared he might
escape her and the Party even now, though actually in Lewisburg, and
led him to where Clay waited for them with the big red automobile. To
Clay, she introduced her charge with the simple announcement, He
really came, Clay. But no other was needed, for the chauffeur knew who
it was with Arethusa, and all about him. Timothy's fame had gone before
him; Arethusa had not made a single warm friend since she had left the
Farm who had not at least heard of Timothy.
She pushed him into the car and banged the door. Then she seated
herself close to him, and bounced up and down on the cushions happily.
Say right away what a wonderful automobile you think this is,
Timothy was perfectly obedient.
I can run it, all by myself. You don't believe it, but I can. I'll
show you some day, maybe to-morrow. Oh, Timothy, I'm so awfully,
awfully glad you came! How is Aunt 'Senath and all of them? How is Miss
Johnson? Oh, I would never forgive you if you hadn't! That's a new suit
you have on! suddenly leaning forward to pounce on the portion of the
trouser leg that showed from under his overcoat, And it's a new
overcoat, too! Why, Timothy!
Timothy pleaded guilty to both accusations.
You look awfully nice! Arethusa gave him a very violent hug most
unexpectedly. Oh, but it was so dear of you to come! And, Timothy,
we're going to have a perfectly wonderful Party!
Timothy longed to give Arethusa a hug in return for this one, but he
really did not dare. She would probably have called him rough again,
for his way of hugging. He looked at her a trifle sadly. She seemed to
Timothy such a far-away Arethusa, in spite of all this enthusiasm. And
after that look, he felt her more unapproachable than at first. He
could not tell exactly what it was; perhaps, her clothes.
Arethusa caught his glance at her furs and saucy little hat, with
its fly-away feather, and preened herself just a bit.
How do you like me? My new things? Aren't they darling?
Yes, replied Timothy, but there was not very much warmth in his
tone. And I like you in anything; but I believe I like you better in
what Miss 'Titia makes you.
In what Aunt 'Titia makes me! she exclaimed, horrified at
Timothy's poor taste. Of course you don't! You can't! But she added,
quickly, for her loyal heart felt that something was not quite right
about the sound of that speech. Aunt 'Titia's clothes look better at
home, on the Farm! They wouldn't do at all for town! But she's a Dear
to make them for me, and I love them! They're perfectly all right in
That's where I like you better, replied Timothy decidedly, and
very briskly and warmly this time. On the Farm! And in the country!
Oh, Timothy, don't begin and gloom now! Please don't! That's a
dear! Arethusa clasped her hands imploringly. Please, please, don't
gloom! I'm not going to fuss with you once while you're here, not once!
I promise, honest! So there!
This should have been very cheering news. But Timothy merely
remarked with calmness that she shouldn't have time to do much fussing,
anyway, since he was going home on the morning train.
Why, Timothy Jarvis!
Yes, he repeated, the early morning train was the train he fully
intended to take.
No, you're not!
Arethusa was very firm about it, but then so was he. And a quarrel
seemed most imminent, in spite of Arethusa's earnest promise, had they
not very fortunately arrived at the house in Lenox Avenue just in time
to prevent the disagreement from becoming disagreeable.
Ross liked Timothy immensely. He liked his bigness, and his honest
youngness, and his clean-heartedness, written all over him. Elinor
liked him too. And the boy had not been in the house five minutes
before Ross and Elinor both had read his story in his blue eyes. Those
blue eyes never once left Arethusa.
Arethusa's tongue certainly seemed swung in the middle during the
rest of this day. But then there were two whole months and over to make
up. They came within really dangerous hailing distance of an affray
several times, sad to relate, when Timothy planted himself in one
position, immovable, and she firmly entrenched herself in another. He
did not seem to be able to approve of a single thing she had to tell
him about the various and sundry occupations with which she filled her
days in Lewisburg. But a person in so supremely felicitous a mood as
Arethusa was in at the prospect of her very own Party, could not
actually quarrel with anybody, however obstinate he might be; so the
hours sped happily by, and the pitfalls were somehow avoided.
Doesn't Timothy look just perfectly heavenly when he has on a dress
Arethusa asked this pointed question very proudly of her parents
when she led him into the library that evening after dinner, to show
them how nice he looked, just before the Party came. She held him by
one hand, quite as if she had been a fond mother exhibiting an only
child whose toilette was solely of her personal making. One could
easily have imagined her actually responsible for the cut and fit of
But he did look well, undeniably. Ross said that Baldur the
Beautiful might have looked just like him, if they had ever worn dress
suits in Valhalla, with his wavy blonde head and his sea blue eyes, and
his splendid bigness. Although Arethusa knew no myths of the Northland,
something about Ross's compliment to Timothy pleased her; she was proud
to show him off as such a handsome creature.
But Timothy very nearly spoiled matters by inquiring who sent her
the flowers she wore at her belt, as they stood together in front of
the library fire, in such an I-have-a-right-to-know manner, that she
slapped him and told him to mind his own business. And so the Party,
after all, began for Timothy with unhappiness.
Arethusa was wearing a white dress on this Occasion, but it was a
glorified White Dress, of such beauty, that some other name would
surely have to be found for Miss Letitia's loving effort; it would be
clearly impossible to speak of them both as white dresses. Her hair
was piled high on her head in a way that Timothy had never seen her
wear it, and that he vaguely did not like, because it made her look so
much older. And in her low-necked gown and wearing the flowers another
man had sent her, she seemed to Timothy more than ever of a world
apart. She was like an Arethusa met for the first time. He wished
intensely that he could gather her up and carry her back to the country
where he considered she so indisputably belonged, to be the old
Arethusa once more. He looked gloomily down the length of the library,
which had been cleared for dancing of all its furniture, and that
presented an expanse of shining floor on which the firelight danced and
gleamed enticingly, and wished another wish. He wished that he himself
had stayed at home. Why had he gone contrary to the dictates of his
common sense and come in answer to that telegram? Arethusa did not
really want him; did not really care, now that he was here. She was
altogether changed; and, thought Timothy, rather soberly, his head
resting on one hand as he leaned against the mantel-shelf and stared
down into the fire, it was not at all for the better.
But Timothy was to be still more unhappy before the evening had got
fairly started. For in Arethusa's transparent face and her eyes lifted
adoringly to the Wonderful Mr. Bennet, the very first time he saw her
dance with him, poor Timothy read his Certain Doom. As he had predicted
before she had ever left the Farm, so it had come to pass.
Timothy left his station by the tall library mantel and wandered
across the room to an inconspicuous corner, where he propped his manly
form up against the wall and followed Arethusa with his eyes, totally
unregardful of anything else in their line of vision, as she swayed and
dipped like a snow fairy in her airy white gown, about the room. He was
no great adept in the concealment of his feelings; his tragedy was
visible so that all they who ran might read, even the swiftest.
He refused to dance. And he could have danced, knowing how very
well. Was not Arethusa's present proficiency some evidence of this
fact? But Timothy was sure that his heart was broken; and how could he
dance with a broken heart? So he sulked in his corner and the moments
of the Party sped by joyfully and all too quickly, for everybody else.
Arethusa's guests, with the sole exception of Timothy, seemed to be
having the very best of times.
She was far too happy herself to notice his unhappiness very much,
although she did fly over to him once or twice to beg him to behave and
stop being such an awful gloom. And she made him dance with her, one
single one-step; a rite which was performed by Timothy promptly at her
request, but in a stony silence on his part. When it was over, he
discovered that somebody had pre-empted his little corner, a very silly
couple were giggling foolishly in the spot which had been sacred to
sorrow all evening long; so he betook himself to the doorway into the
hall, and propped himself up against the jamb, where he continued his
unhappy observation of Arethusa's proceedings.
Ross watched him with amusement.
It is woefully apparent, he remarked to Elinor, just what is
eating our friend, Timothy.
He looked around for Mr. Bennet, and he found him dancing with
Arethusa at the moment; then he looked back at Timothy once more, and
he could easily tell that Timothy's somber blue eyes had seen just
exactly what he had seen; Arethusa and Mr. Bennet so obviously enjoying
each other's company.
Shall I go over there and tell him, do you think, that he is giving
himself most unnecessary pain over my daughter's present state of mind,
which is only a phase? Or do you believe, my Fount of all Wisdom, that
I had best let matters stand as they are?
I'd really let him alone, Ross, about that, I think. For he
wouldn't believe a single word you could say to him. He has right now
what he considers conclusive evidence, what his own eyes have told him.
He and Arethusa are a pair of the youngest things I ever saw, bless
their hearts! But please do go talk to him about something, Ross,
because I cannot bear to see him follow that child around any longer
with that utterly hopeless expression.
So Ross, as a dutiful spouse, sauntered over to Timothy in his
doorway and made a most noble, and really commendable effort,
considering the total lack of real response he received, which is so
dampening to all such efforts, to interest him in conversation. Timothy
answered with all the politeness due to Mr. Worthington, but without
the slightest zeal for pursuit of any one of the subjects which were
introduced, in succession, as each one seemed to fail to arouse
animation. Elinor's real intention in sending her husband to fill this
breach was not a complete success, for the boy's eyes never once rested
upon his interlocutor; they still remained fixed wherever Arethusa was.
Timothy adhered to his announced intention of leaving on the
following morning, much to Arethusa's fury.
She tried coaxing and threats of future silence, and even tears; all
to no avail. Timothy's resolution was absolutely unshaken. His
Good-bye, Arethusa! was of the very essence of tragedy. Ross found it
necessary to look hastily in another direction.
Please stay, Timothy, pleaded Arethusa for about the hundredth
time, even after this Good-bye! Please stay! Then as a supreme
inducement and a last resort.... Mr. Bennet said last night that if
you would, he would get you an invitation to the January Cotillion next
week. Everybody is crazy for them; they give so awfully few away. But
he can get you one, and he said he'd be very glad to, too. He's a
She had been holding tight to Timothy's hands all this while in her
effort to induce him to prolong his visit; but now he rudely wrenched
them loose and drew himself to the very tallest of his tall self.
I wouldn't go anywhere that man was, he exclaimed fiercely, if he
paid me a million dollars a minute! Not unless it was to his funeral,
and I'd attend that with the greatest pleasure, and even pay for the
privilege of getting into the cemetery!
Timothy Jarvis! Aren't you ashamed of yourself? Mr. Bennet said he
liked you! He was being kind!
Well, he needn't be kind to me, for I certainly don't want any of
his kindness! I can get along a great deal better without it! You can
tell him that from me, if you please! And I most certainly
didn't like him! He's a four-flusher, for fair, if ever I
And before Arethusa had even begun to recover from the Awfulness of
this Speech, Timothy of the Sore Heart had run on down the steps, was
safe in the automobile, and Clay had driven away with him.
Arethusa could not possibly follow.
But Ross would have stopped her if she had even tried, for he had
promised Timothy he might go to the station absolutely alone. Timothy
had asked him before breakfast. For once, Arethusa's wishes had been
over-ridden; she had made all sorts of loud objections to the carrying
out of this idea. But Ross knew, as well as if Timothy had given him
his reason for making this request, that the miserable boy who was so
sure he was leaving his Life's Happiness, forever, would far rather say
a farewell to that Happiness in the presence of folks that he knew to
help him keep a grip on himself than to wait until the last moments at
the station; those moments when a parting is so surely at hand, that it
brings a breaking-down even to those who would be strongest, sometimes.
It was so like Timothy to have the last word and then run away, that
after Arethusa got over her violent anger with him for the Words of
Blasphemy he had spoken of the Wonderful Mr. Bennet, she laughed and
laughed at the thought. How many times he had done the very same thing!
Then came what Ross had called the Real Event of the Seasonthat
long looked-forward-to January Cotillion.
The January Cotillion was always held in the very oldest hotel in
Lewisburg. All other really fashionable entertainments had long ago
ceased to be given there, for it was very far down-town, the heart of
the wholesale district had crept up around it, and its character had
somewhat changed of late years; but still, January after January, the
Cotillion Club continued to give its one yearly and important event
within these historic portals. And historic portals they truly were,
for the ancient hostelry went back long before the Civil War to trace
its beginnings. Dickens was said to have slept under its roof, on his
memorable visit to America; duels, in those days when such settlements
of affairs of honor were winked at by the law of the community, had not
only found the reasons for being duels within these walls, but had
actually been fought in that high-ceilinged old lobby. In one or two
places could still be seen the traces of bullet marks that had gone
wild. The most beautiful woman of her day in America had, in answer to
a laughing challenge that she do so, ridden her horse straight up those
broad front steps and into the dining-room. The stories in connection
with the old hotel were many and varied.
Its ball-room, unlike the ball-rooms in the newer hotels in town,
was on the second floor. It was popularly supposed to be built on
springs and had long been considered to be the best dancing floor in
No one really remembered now who had first instituted the January
Cotillion; just what long ago leader of society had first had the idea.
But it was still kept up, just as it had been started, winter after
winter; and had so firmly established itself as the real social
tradition of Lewisburg that invitations to it were almost fought for,
and no one who had one, or could have one (saving Timothy) had ever
been known to decline it. Once a year the Lewisburg aristocracy left
its familiar haunts and betook itself to this old building by the
water's edge to spend an evening of gayety within its dingy walls.
There were other dances given here, it is true, by the Sons and
Daughters of the Morning, and the Pleasure Club, and the West End
Society; but they were frowned upon by the truly socially elect, not
one of whom would have wanted to be seen here by acquaintances as a
frivoler, except on the one consecrated evening of the year, the second
Tuesday in every January.
Arethusa had gathered all of this knowledge concerning the January
Cotillion, and she was quite properly impressed to have been invited to
The old ball-room had been made into fairyland for the Occasion, and
as Arethusa stood in between the tall fluted columns that flanked its
magnificent old doorway on either side, and looked about her, her eyes
sparkled with delight. The walls, so sadly in need of a renewal of
their frescoing, had been latticed with thin white strips to the edge
of the heavy molding on the ceiling, and in this lattice work was
twined smilax most lavishly. Bay trees and tall palms had been used to
make recesses like little rooms, in several places, and these each
seemed to fairly shriek at the beholder, Do come and sit out a dance
in me! That's just what I was put here for! Oh, do come!
The faded upholstery on the tall, high-backed chairs had been
covered over with slips of rose-colored chintz, and in each little
recess had been placed a matching sofa. It was a very bad color to be
close to Arethusa's hair, but so thoroughly pleasing to see that she
never once thought of the other side of it. The crystal-draped
chandeliers had all had their electric light bulbs shaded with big,
pink tissue-paper roses, and extra lights, similarly shaded, had been
scattered throughout the green and the lattice work on the walls. The
whole room was bathed in a soft, rosy glow. An orchestra played all
unseen behind a thick bank of palms on a little platform at the far end
of the room. It had quite the effect of music at a distance.
Isn't it beautiful! Arethusa drew a long, long breath of
admiration. Oh, isn't it just beautiful!
Yes, replied Mr. Bennet. The decorations are always rather good.
But his agreement altogether lacked a proper fervency, for he had a
wretched cold of the thoroughly uncomfortable kind, and he did not feel
fervent about anything in the world.
Arethusa was all solicitude. You don't feel very well, do you? I'm
so sorry! Let's go sit down in one of those dear little places. They
had been rather early in their arrival at the January Cotillion, hardly
anybody was here as yet. Wouldn't you like to? She was almost
maternal in her desire to make him as comfortable as possible.
And Mr. Bennet was quite agreeable to the idea of being made
comfortable. So they strolled almost the length of the ball-room to
find a little recess far enough away from the door, so that Arethusa
could be sure there would be no draught to make his cold worse.
The little recess she finally selected was so well screened with
green that their occupancy of it on the pink chintz-covered sofa was as
effectively hidden from the ball-room proper as if they had actually
been in some other apartment. This delighted Arethusa.
We'll call This One ours, she said, with an air of proprietorship,
patting the sofa, and we'll come back here and sit in it every now and
It would be nice to sit out a dance or two, suggested Mr. Bennet,
He was rather inclined to the opinion it would be quite beyond his
powers to dance the evening straight through.
His suggestion was received with ecstasy by the Romantic Arethusa.
For to sit in this rose-colored recess, side by side on a rose-colored
sofa with the Wonderful Mr. Bennet, with a rose-colored glow all over
them, while the orchestra played dreamy music afar off and the rest of
the world of the Cotillion whirled unconsciously by, appeared to
Arethusa as the most that any girl could ask of fate. There was nothing
more Perfect as a Situation to be offered to anyone, she was quite
The January Cotillion, in these days of trots and one-steps and
hesitations, had of recent seasons become almost a misnomer for this
particular party. There was no cotillion at all about it, save for a
grand march of all the couples in the early part of the evening, and
the fact that favors had remained a feature. But why waste time in the
performance of slow figures when one might be joyfully trotting? Yet
tradition could by no means dispense with the favors; they were most
highly prized. And a feminine person who went through more than three
seasons of Lewisburg society without her share of spoils from the
January Cotillion, was indisputably a Rank Failure.
But Arethusa had no lack of favors from the very beginning of this
affair, thus indicating partners. Her spoils were amply sufficient for
her to show in proof that she was a Social Success, and not a Failure.
Mr. Bennet was not once forced to exert himself, when he felt so very
little like exertion, to find gentlemen who were willing to dance with
her; they flocked around her of their own accord. So instead of making
any effort to join the romp, after he had performed a Duty in the grand
march, he lolled against a pillar by the door and watched it all, which
was much more to his taste this particular evening.
A man detached himself, after awhile, from the group of stags in
the center of the room and strolled over to join Mr. Bennet.
Don't seem to see you dancing much with the fair Arethusa, he
said. What's the matter, Grid? Feeling anyways seedy?
Got a peach of a cold, replied Mr. Bennet.
Which is plain to be seen, now that I look more closely. You're not
nearly so pretty with it, either. Rubs off considerable of your usual
irresistible bloom. Beauing Arethusa Worthington for a change, I
The afflicted one nodded.
Well, she's one girl that I know that you never have to bother
about showing a time to; she has it all by herself. I'll hand it to her
there. So there's no real use in your sticking around up here. Come on
down with me and we'll play a round or two of pool. It'll be much
better for you than standing up here in this draughty hall.
Mr. Bennet demurred.
Oh, come on! I've no business clearing out, either, but we won't
stay a minute.... It'll do you good.
Just what medicinal properties a game of pool may be said to possess
was not made plain, but Mr. Bennet seemed, after a moment or two of
thought, inclined to agreement with the idea. He cast a weather eye
about for Arethusa, but as her dancing partner had changed since he
last observed her, not five whole minutes before, he felt himself
perfectly safe in leaving her to her own devices for awhile, while he
sought more congenial occupation than that of a mere spectator of the
enjoyment of others.
Arethusa saw him, as he turned away from the ball-room door and his
shapely back disappeared down the hall, and her warm heart smote her at
He feels just perfectly rotten, I know!
And she.... She was dancing around gayly, enjoying herself leaving
him so wretched and alone! She visioned him stretched out somewhere in
another room on a lumpy hotel sofa, suffering!
She grew so distraught as this vision broadened in its scope as to
the Misery of the Wonderful Mr. Bennet, that she missed step with Billy
Watts, with whom she was dancing, entirely. She then stepped squarely
on his foot, and missed the time again. And it was not only once or
twice she did this most unpardonable thing, but three distinct times in
Billy stopped short in the middle of the floor, disgusted.
See here, Arethusa, what's the matter with you? I've asked you the
same question about sixty times, and you've just been climbing all over
Billy had somewhat adopted Timothy's tone with Arethusa. They were
the oldest and best of friends by now, and he gave himself all the
privileges of such a friend. Arethusa liked it ... generally.
She was most apologetic.
I'm sorry, Billy. (She knew him quite well enough after these
weeks to drop the formal, Mr. Watts.) I wasn't thinking about my
feet just then. I was worrying about Mr. Bennet, He's real sick
tonight, and he just went out somewhere. Do you reckon I'd better go
see what's the matter with him?
Well, of all things! Billy seized her forcibly around the waist
and swung her back into the throng of dancers. There's nothing the
matter with that nut! He's probably off enjoying himself in his own
But Arethusa wrenched herself away from his grasp; her quick anger
You just take that back right now, Billy Watts! Mr. Bennet's not a
nut. And he's sick, he told me so himself! If you don't take it back, I
won't dance another step with you, not one!
Billy laughed, good-naturedly. I didn't say he wasn't sick, did I?
But you don't have to trail around after him nursing him; he's plenty
old enough, and ugly enough to take care of himself.
Billy Watts! You are perfectly horrid!
Oh, come on, Arethusa, and stop getting all up in the air over
nothing! He took hold of her again, but she jerked angrily away.
Don't be a goose, he added, everybody in the room's looking at you!
I don't care a bit if they are!
Do you want me to run out and look up your sick friend and hold his
head or anything? I will, if it'll please you very much! Because I sure
didn't mean to set you off like this! Come on now, Arethusa, and be a
This offer to go look after the suffering Mr. Bennet, although of a
wording hardly as respectful as she considered seemly, mollified
Arethusa to the extent of finishing out this dance with Billy. But it
was not at all necessary that he actually carry out his offer when the
dance was really over, for just as the last strains of music were
sounding, Mr. Bennet re-appeared from the direction of the hall.
Arethusa left Billy abruptly, standing open-mouthed in the middle of
the floor at the suddenness of her departure, and without a single word
of apology for leaving him, to greet Mr. Bennet with outstretched hands
and anxious inquiry into the state of his immediate physical being. The
answer was reassuring and one calculated to raise her spirits. Mr.
Bennet believed he felt much better. Arethusa beamed.
Do you want to dance this with me? asked Mr. Bennet, then; for
just at that very moment the music started once more.
Do you feel well enough to be dancing? Anxiety and solicitude were
in voice and manner.
Yes, indeed. It seems to me I haven't danced with you to amount to
anything this evening. And I couldn't let it all slip by that way.
What's the use of being here with you, if other men have all the
And off they started together to the sound of a waltz that could not
have helped but make the stiffest possible person dance like an angel,
no matter how badly he might have danced before hearing this particular
tune. It was a strain of melody with a haunting tinge of delicious
melancholy. It aroused all sorts of queer, indistinct little longings,
and aching memories of other happy times irretrievably past. Its sound
seemed meant to dream by, or to make love by; ordinary speech seemed a
real sacrilege while it quivered in the air.
Mr. Bennet had a little way when he danced with Arethusa (or when he
danced with any girl alive for that matter, although she did not know
this) of making it seem as though he thought that they were the one and
only couple in all Christendom who had ever danced together for the
dance to amount to anything worth remembering; as though she were the
only girl he had ever really cared to dance with; and as though now,
with bodies tuned to the one strain of those violins sobbing their soft
refrain over and over, he had reached Paradise with the girl in his
The music stopped.
Arethusa sighed with a funny little catch of her breath. That ...
that sounded just like Heaven, she said, softly.
Mr. Bennet bent his handsome head. Was it only the music? he
He could not help asking it, and asking it just exactly as he did.
Arethusa laughed, it was a most subdued little sound of
embarrassment, and her only answer. And partly the spell of that
wonderful music, and partly her quaint worship of the man standing
beside her, made her wish to get away from the crowd and their
chattering talk of nothings for a wee while.
Let's go sit in our little room, she suggested, with a bit of
emphasis on the our.
An encore to that waltz was starting just as they reached the
entrance to the green recess, and Mr. Bennet hesitated. Shall we go
back and try this?
But Arethusa shook her head.
She had a vague feeling that no other Waltz in all her life, no
matter how many more she might dance hereafter, was ever going to be as
perfect as the One just danced had been. And she could not spoil its
memory by so immediately dancing another waltz to the very same tune.
So they went instead into the little recess and sat down on the
rose-colored sofa, side by side, and without saying a word for a long
time. Such music demanded silence, especially when listened to in such
a setting. And the rose-colored lights threw the softest sort of glow
all over them.
Mr. Bennet reclined a little in his corner of the sofa, with his
feet gracefully outstretched and his ankles crossed, his arms folded,
watching Arethusa, for her head was downcast and turned away from him,
and she could not know that he was watching her. He smiled a bit as he
always did whenever he watched her this way when she was not noticing.
But Arethusa may have felt his look, although she did not turn
around to really see it, or it may have been those shy little thoughts
of him which were at the moment filling her head which caused it, for a
soft flush suddenly ran all over her neck, and even up behind her ears.
Mr. Bennet's smile broadened, perceptibly.
If anyone had asked him just then what he thought of Arethusa, he
would have said that she was a very pretty girl, in his opinion; the
prettiest girl, in fact, that he had known for some time. Mr. Bennet
had even found himself wondering, on several occasions lately, if he
was not beginning to think too much of Arethusa and her prettiness;
just a little bit more than was quite wise, from his own point of view.
There was very open admiration in his face as he studied her now. He
noticed the tiny curls at the back of her neck, warm from dancing to be
twisted in the tightest little rings; they were the most babyish
looking little curls he had ever seen, he thought. And he distinctly
liked that proud little way she carried her head. He moved just a
trifle, then, so that he could see more of her face; how her
extraordinarily long lashes swept her cheek, and her adorable nose,
which was ever so slightly retroussée. Timothy, in some of those
moments when Arethusa was inclined to be most trying, had called it a
pug nose, but Mr. Bennet's ideas were much more poetical. And he
could see her mouth, with her red lips curved in a slight smile;
Arethusa had a very pretty mouth.
And then quite suddenly, without himself having any really
preconceived idea that he was going to do such a thing, Mr. Bennet
leaned over and kissed Arethusa. He kissed her square on her sweet
And almost immediately, he kissed her the second time.
Arethusa had been startled by his first kiss, very naturally; it had
broken rudely into her shy dreams to scatter them far away and bring
her back to reality. But she returned his second salutation with all of
her young soul. Then she sprang up from the sofa, gently disengaging
herself from the arm he had half slipped around her.
Now, you mustn't kiss me any more, she said, with a quaint air of
Mr. Bennet was somewhat startled by this, himself; and then rather
amused. He had hardly intended to do so again, being a trifle ashamed
of himself already, but Arethusa's reasons for anything were always
Why not? he enquired.
Because.... She blushed deeply, rosy-red.
Because.... She looked down for just a moment, then raised her
head with an adorable air of dignity most becoming, you mustn't kiss
me any more until after we're married. Aunt 'Liza always says a girl
Married! The thoroughly startled Mr. Bennet sank backward on the
pink sofa. Why....
Yes, repeated Arethusa. Then something in his expression suddenly
frightened her; her face went chalk white. Why.... Why did you....
I think you've misunderstood me, began Mr. Bennet, gently, I
didn't mean.... Then he stopped awkwardly. For once in his life the
Wonderful Mr. Bennet was at an utter loss for the words with which to
continue a conversation with a lady.
You ki ... kissed me, said Arethusa.
But Mr. Bennet made no reply. It was a Fact which it was unnecessary
to confirm, and could not be denied.
And di ... didn't you ... you mean, she continued slowly, that
you wanted to marry me? She brought each word of this question out
with difficulty. I thought me ... men never kissed girls that way
unless they wanted to marry them? This last was also an interrogation.
No, replied Mr. Bennet, uncomfortably, not necessarily.
She began backing away from him, her eyes fixed upon him, wide with
a sort of horror.
My dear child....
I'm not your dear child! Arethusa was suddenly so angry that she
trembled with rage from head to foot. Don't come anywhere near me,
she exploded, as Mr. Bennet started towards her.
She stuck her hands straight out in front of her as if to push him
away, and Mr. Bennet stopped short where he was.
If you'll let me explain, he said, I think I can. I didn't....
That is, I'm just as sorry as I can be. And I really didn't mean a
single thing! But this was a very wrong beginning.
It made matters, already bad enough, very much worse. He had Kissed
her and he had Not Meant a Single Thing! There was Deep Disgrace for
Arethusa in this simple declaration.
Now Arethusa's rearing by Miss Eliza had been according to a few
very simple Rules for Conduct, which were nevertheless as ironbound and
unalterable as the most complicated laws that were ever framed. And one
of those Rules was that no really Nice girl would ever permit herself
to be kissed by a man unless she had every intention of marrying him
immediately or was already married to him. Miss Eliza had often said
that she would far rather see Arethusa dead and cold in her coffin than
to see her the sort of girl who thought so little of herself as to kiss
a man she was not to marry. This was really at the bottom of Arethusa's
expressed objection to being kissed by Timothy on those occasions when
such unexpected conduct of his had so displeased her. She had no
intention of ever marrying Timothy, whatever his own intentions might
have been; therefore, it seemed to Arethusa, according to this Miss
Elizian Guide for the Proper Behavior of Nice Young Ladies, it was
wrong for him to salute her in any such fashion, or for her to permit
him to. It is true that she had kissed Timothy herself under the stress
of such excitement as arrivals and departures, but such salutations
were really in a class quite apart, and of their own.
Into the Kiss she had given Mr. Bennet, Arethusa had put her
construction of the meaning of his unexpected action founded upon these
ideas of kisses, and her sentiments in regard to him, and all the
thoughts and dreams about him in which she had linked their two selves
together: only to find that Mr. Bennet himself had no such ideas of
kisses, and had evidently had no such thoughts and dreams. Is there any
one to wonder at her sudden feeling of humiliation? She rubbed fiercely
at her lips with the back of one hand, as if to remove the visible and
outward sign of her feeling of Disgrace. Then the color surged back
into her face; and once more, hot Rage mounted high, flashing its
signal from her stormy eyes and quick breathing.
I hate you! she exclaimed, suddenly, Oh ... I hate you!
Please listen to me just a moment, Arethusa. I....
Don't say anything to me! She stamped one foot with angry
emphasis. I won't listen! I don't want to hear anything you have to
say! And Timothy was exactly right about you! Oh...!
She flung herself face downward on the rose-colored sofa and began
to sob violently, her shoulders quivering; burying her head farther and
farther back into the corner of the sofa until it seemed more like a
piled up heap of party finery huddled there than an actual girl.
This was truly Dreadful!
Mr. Bennet stood, man-fashion, helplessly above her, with an
overpowering desire to flee far from those tears; and yet with a strong
conviction, at the same time, that he ought to stay and at least
attempt a justification of what had been so sadly misconstrued, if
there was any earthly way in which it could be justified. He was
willing to say, or to do, anything which she might demand of him, to
straighten it out. The sobs decreased in intensity and so Mr. Bennet
Arethusa.... he began.
Then Arethusa's sobs stopped altogether as abruptly almost as they
had begun, and she rose majestically from the sofa, keeping her
tear-stained face averted.
I asked you not to speak to me. And I'm going home, not once did
she look, even in his direction. By myself, she added, positively.
I can't let you do a thing like that....
It has nothing whatever to do with what you can't let, and I
shall scream out loud right here, if you start to try to follow me!
Will you let me apologize then, at least, before you go? If you
insist on going?
No, you can't apologize. I don't want a single one of your
Mr. Bennet felt as weak as the proverbial water in the face of such
personified determination as was Arethusa. He meekly permitted her to
leave the little recess of palms and to fly across the ball room floor
while he stood as one hypnotized without moving. When he had recovered
his powers of locomotion sufficiently to follow, she was just coming
out of the dressing room door wrapped in her green cloak. The sight of
the green cloak almost unnerved him again. He had not dreamed that the
child would carry out her wild plan of going home. He had thought that
she might retire to the dressing-room for awhile, but that she would
surely recover before many moments were flown. He took one or two
half-hearted steps forward. The Wonderful Mr. Bennet had no precedent
established for his guidance in this predicament. He was all at sea; no
such situation had ever befallen him before. Arethusa was the only lady
he had ever taken to a Party who had gone home without him. Would
decided pursuit be too undignified; or could he risk a Scene?
Arethusa caught a glimpse of him in his uncertain regard of her, as
he stood near the ball-room entrance, and off she flew like the wind in
the direction she judged the stairs to be, luckily finding them right
there; for she could not risk the waiting for the elevator to come up
and get her. He should not be given the slightest opportunity to speak
to her again!
She plunged madly down one long flight of wide steps, broken by
several landings, to find herself in the wide old lobby, where the
startled night clerk was aroused from his dozing, for this ancient inn
was far from lively at this hour of the night especially in this part
of it, by her sudden entrance; and he went to hunt for Clay at her
breathless request. Very fortunately, for Arethusa's impulsive
departing, he had not driven off anywhere, but was easily located by
the obliging clerk among a small group of chauffeurs who were lounging
in the barber shop; while Arethusa waited impatiently in the lobby,
casting fearful glances in the direction of first the stairs and then
the elevator, fully expectant of seeing Mr. Bennet appear from either
direction. Clay was slightly mystified at this sudden summons, so early
in the evening, but like a good chauffeur and the friend of Arethusa's
which he so truly was, he asked no questions; and unfastened the back
door for her, having driven in the back way without a word of comment.
Arethusa knew that Ross and Elinor would still be up at this early
hour, within hearing of the opening of the front door, and she wanted
to slip into the house without their knowledge. She was quite sure that
their interrogations would fall fast and furious; a natural curiosity
which would have to be gratified as to the Reason for this unexpectedly
early return from the Real Event of the Season.
It was a Silent and Miserable Maiden who thus went home so
prematurely from what was to have been the most Marvelous Affair ever
attended, huddled back into one corner of the limousine; and it was a
still more Silent and Miserable Maiden who crept softly up the back
stairs and sought her room, where she undressed entirely in the dark
and climbed immediately into bed.
And the grey hours of the dawning found her still wakeful under the
same green silk coverlid beneath which she had slept so many, many
nights with Happy Dreaming of the Wonderful Mr. Bennet and his very
This was the very first night in all of her healthy young life that
Arethusa did not go to sleep just as soon as her head had touched the
Over and over again her active imagination re-lived for her that
scene with Mr. Bennet, and her whole body seemed to burn with the
Disgrace of his Kiss. She writhed and twisted and turned in her bed,
but she could not get away from the Shame of it, anywhere; and the way
Mr. Bennet had looked when he had said she had misunderstood him.
Miss Eliza's convictions upon all subjects were most decided, but on
no single subject were they more decided than on this very one of a
Kiss. No Decent Woman, said Miss Eliza with a terrible emphasis, would
allow a man's lips to Touch hers, or permit him to embrace her, unless
there were Matrimonial Intentions.
But poor Arethusa's Intentions had all been Matrimonial, however Mr.
Bennet's, for with all her heart she had given of her very best. Her
shy building of air castles for the Perfect Bliss of Two, through all
these golden weeks just past, superinduced, one might say, by Mr.
Bennet's attitude of unmistakable delight in her companionship, had led
to this catastrophe of a misunderstanding.
And as the hours wore on the feeling of humiliation at having so
misunderstood with her thought that he had wanted to marry her when he
had Kissed her, grew and grew until it was almost unbearable.
Then, quite suddenly, she sat bolt upright in bed. For an Idea
concerning Mr. Bennet, no longer prefixed the Wonderful, had wormed
itself into her brain without her having the slightest conception how
it had got there, and now it presented itself to her, fully formed.
Mr. Bennet was very decidedly one of the very sort of men Miss
Eliza had been so careful to warn her against!
He was one of those Awful Male Beings who were nice to girls to win
their affections, only to deceive them!
No one in the world could have been nicer to any girl than Mr.
Bennet had been to her! And he had most certainly won her Affections!
And she had most certainly been completely deceived! His had been the
Kiss of a Judas! So Arethusa would undoubtedly have named it had she
known any of the classification of Kisses. But one thing about the
Whole Affair loomed Large and Certain; she had gone contrary to Miss
Eliza's Expressed Wishes once more! And this time, it was with what
This made it twice that she had lapsed from the path pointed out for
her treading in her intercourse with the members of the other sex; the
man on the train, and now ... Mr. Bennet! The man of the train appeared
before Arethusa at the moment. She had thought him such a nice man,
until superior wisdom had informed her differently. Yet that affair had
ended comparatively smoothly, thanks to Mrs. Cherry. There was no
punishment Miss Eliza could fairly inflict for that, beyond scolding a
little. But this! What would Miss Eliza ever do if she found this out?
And Arethusa had thought Mr. Bennet a Nice man also. Nay, more than
merely nice; he had seemed Perfect. It was quite plain to Arethusa that
she knew nothing whatever about men. The best thing for her to do
hereafter would be walk in directions where they were not to be found.
Arethusa decided, going back to the very beginning for about the
hundredth time, and reviewing this Affair in this new light of Miss
Eliza's regard of it, that her lips had best be locked so closely
together in regard to her Fall from Grace that Inquisitional Torture
would not be strong enough to force it from her.
No, whatever happened hereafter under her eagle eye that so little
escaped, to cause the pouring forth of the vials of her wrath upon
Arethusa's head, Miss Eliza must never, never know of the Bennet
Escapade. And further considering It, from the other angle of her deep
humiliation of having misunderstood, she also decided that no human
being should ever learn, from her own lips, of the Great Shame that had
befallen the daughter of the House of Worthington this Fatal Evening of
the January Cotillion.
The first wan light of dawn struggling through her half drawn blinds
found Arethusa thus, still wakeful, and still miserably thoughtful; but
a little while after she had heard the first milkman's cart rattle past
in the street, she fell into a troubled slumber of vague, unpleasant
dreams that made her toss and mutter in her sleep. They were Dreams of
Miss Eliza's fury in a personified form, and of Mr. Bennet,
cloven-hoofed, with horns upon his handsome head and grinning as
diabolically as any fiend (that half-sad, half-sweet smile of his she
had so loved distorted thus!) both of which phantoms pursued her
wheresoever she fled in her dreaming to escape them, even to the
uttermost parts of the earth; sometimes they were together in pursuit,
and sometimes they pursued singly. But they gave her no chance to get
away from either of them.
She slept straight on through the breakfast hour, for they rarely
disturbed her when she had been to a party the night before, and did
not waken until nearly noon. Then for a long while she lay there
conscious that something Terrible had happened to her, but not wholly
conscious, through the heaviness of her waking, just what it was. But
it dawned upon her fully in time, and she turned and buried her face in
her pillow with a little miserable cry.
It was the greyest sort of day, a real January day, with leaden
clouds that hung low to the earth. Snow clouds, they would have called
them at the Farm. When Arethusa looked out of the window, she was glad
that the sun was not shining: for what a mockery of Absolute
Unhappiness a sunshiny day would have seemed!
She dragged herself out of bed, and dressed herself slowly; it was
as if she were trying to postpone her inevitable appearance in public
as long as possible. When she had finished she stood and stared
intently at herself in the mirror. In such reality were the shame and
humiliation of the night just past still with her, that she could not
be sure that the roundness of that Kiss did not show plainly on her
lips for the observation of all beholders. But even her closest
scrutiny could not detect anything actually visibly different about her
mouth, though her eyes had unaccustomed deep shadows painted darkly
under them, and her face looked queerly white and drawn.
Arethusa drew herself to her fullest height and shook her shoulders
decidedly once or twice; Ross and Elinor must not know about This. They
must not even be permitted to suspect that anything was wrong.
They were just starting luncheon when she went downstairs.
Elinor glanced at Arethusa who came slowly into the little breakfast
room, where they always lunched, to greet her gayly.
Did you have a good.... she began with eagerness, but she stopped
when she noticed those dark circles under the grey eyes, and her own
eyes widened in alarm, Why, Arethusa, dearest, what on earth has
And Arethusa, completely unnerved by the kindness of the anxious
tone, flew across the room and flopped down on the floor by Elinor's
chair, to bury her head in Elinor's lap and weep uncontrollably.
Over her bent red head, Ross and Elinor exchanged a few eyebrow
telegrams which could be translated easily as, Gridley Bennet.
No one spoke to the sorrowing Arethusa though, and her mother
stroked her hair softly to help her somewhat toward a recovery. But
after awhile muffled words became distinguishable through the sobs.
I want to go home! Oh, I want to go home! Mayn't I go home?
Do you mean back to the Farm, dear? asked Elinor, with a nod in
Ross's direction which meant that she was quite sure that Mr. Bennet
was at the bottom of all this suffering.
Arethusa's own nod of affirmation to the question was so violent
that it shook out several hairpins.
Well, we'll see about it. Suppose you eat some lunch now, and
you'll feel much better. Then we can talk it over.
I don't want any lunch! Arethusa raised her head and looked
tragically up into the kind face which was bending over her, I want to
go home now, today. I want, and a deep sob shook her voice again, I
want Aunt 'Senath!
But you can't possibly go to-day, Arethusa, it was Ross who spoke
this time. There are no more trains that you could take to-day, except
one that gets you home at midnight; none until to-morrow morning.
Will, smiling slightly, will to-morrow morning be soon enough to
leave us? Do you think you can continue to put up with us for that
little bit of a while longer?
But his daughter made no sort of response to this attempt at levity;
her face was soberness itself.
Couldn't you tell me what is troubling you, dear? Elinor's sweet
voice was all sympathy. Could I help you in any way? You know I'd
gladly do all I can. And perhaps, if you tell me....
Then the grey eyes filled with tears once more, some of which
brimmed clear over; but Arethusa shook her head to that kind offer to
share the burden of her woe. She could not tell Elinor about it. It
would be absolutely impossible.
She could not tell anyone about it.
She would not be able to tell even Miss Asenath whom she wanted so
intensely. But since she was the very tiniest scrap she had snuggled
close up to Miss Asenath on her couch when troubles came. And she
wanted (oh, how terribly she wanted it!) to snuggle up on that couch
right now; and it was so very far away! Miss Asenath had somehow always
understood things which were hard to put in words, without Arethusa
having to make any effort to put them in words. And in her present
miserable state, she felt that Miss Asenath, with her gentle
understanding, was the only person in the whole world who would be able
to make her feel less miserable without having to be told what had
specifically caused the misery. No matter how much Miss Eliza had ever
punished her for misdeeds in the past, no matter how bad she might have
been, Miss Asenath had always loved and wanted Arethusa to come and
snuggle up to her that the sorrow might be comforted into nothing. No
childish disgrace of former years had ever been black enough to change
her feeling for the culprit.
Arethusa clung to the thought of Miss Asenath.
But lacking her right at this moment, she continued to sit on the
floor at Elinor's feet, and Elinor's kind hand lovingly patted her back
into a certain semblance of composure. George stood disapprovingly over
by the pantry door. There were times for everything, considered George,
and any mealtime was the time to be eating. An excellent lunch was
getting cold while Miss Arethusa sat on the floor; good food was being
Miss Arethusa's soup will be quite cold, he suggested, after a few
moments. George was an old family servant, and he had Certain
Privileges. Shall I bring another plate?
So it is! exclaimed Elinor. Yes, suppose you do, George. And,
Arethusa dear, you must really eat your lunch. Or breakfast, if you'd
rather call it what it is for you. I think it will make you feel much
But Arethusa was all unresponsive to Elinor's tiny bit of friendly
levity also; her face was still sober. Yet she obediently got up from
the floor and seated herself at the table to eat the steaming plate of
soup which George immediately brought. And it went down her throat much
easier than she had imagined any sort of food would go; her throat had
seemed so contracted and full of painful lumps. As she ate, her healthy
young appetite began to assert itself, and she finished all of her soup
and made a very good meal besides. Some of the color came back into her
After lunch, Ross took her into the library with him. He could not
bear to see her so strange and quiet and he hated that curious look of
misery so foreign to her young eyes.
Suppose you tell me about it, daughter, couldn't you? he
asked, when he had settled her comfortably in a big chair in front of
the fire and seated himself on the arm of it with one of his arms
protectingly across the back.
Arethusa wept stormily again.
But she could not possibly tell him about it.
For he was certain to be terribly angry with her, and no telling
what he might do to Mr. Bennet. Fathers surely had some way of
punishing men for Disgraced Daughters. It was not that any lingering
affection for Mr. Bennet made her thus anxious to shield him from any
consequences which might be legitimately his for the way he had acted;
but everyone might hear of it then, and incidentally.... It might reach
Ross could not help smiling as he looked down at his daughter,
sitting there with the warm firelight playing over her. She looked so
young, so altogether young, with her slimness and her tumbled hair, and
her childishly quivering red mouth, for all that great unhappiness in
her eyes. And even if she would not tell him the exact nature of her
trouble, Ross was almost positive that he knew what it was. He was well
acquainted with Mr. Bennet, and with Arethusa and Arethusa's worship of
Mr. Bennet, and he had had for some time a rather shrewd idea that Mr.
Bennet really thought a great deal of Arethusa. He knew also what
sometimes happened at dances, especially in rose bowers as romantic as
those that were always a feature of the January Cotillion; Ross had
been to dances himself, in his day, where there had been the equivalent
of Romantic Rose Bowers, in moons and balconies. It was all the same.
He also knew very well just what Miss Eliza's ideas were about such
things, he knew that most of this unhappiness over what had happened
was really due to Miss Eliza's rearing; yet Ross was not going to say a
word which would disclose all of this varied knowledge of his.
Further knowledge he was positive he possessed was that Arethusa
would recover before very long. If she really insisted on going back to
the Farm, Timothy was there to help in the recovery. He would
undoubtedly be of assistance along this line. This last thought almost
made Ross laugh aloud.
But Ross was not so aware as he imagined he was of just the way his
daughter felt. For it did not occur to him, for an instant, that
Arethusa's whole idea of the Wonderful Mr. Bennet had changed; that now
she saw him, instead of as the one Perfect Human Being in a very faulty
world, as a Ravening Wolf ranging within the supposedly Safe Folds of
Society seeking whom he might Devour, all unknown to the parents of his
Innocent Victims; that she felt so deeply humiliated at having
misunderstood Mr. Bennet's Intentions, and at having misconstrued them
to be as Matrimonial as her own; and so deeply disgraced at being
Kissed by him, such a Man as he had proved himself to be; and so
completely terror-stricken at the Bare Idea of Miss Eliza finding out
the very least bit of all this: that Arethusa could almost have been
torn limb from limb to have kept such knowledge from her aunt.
No, Ross's understanding did not extend itself to any of this.
But he sat in front of the wood fire with her, in the same big chair
with his arm around her, silently, as seemed to suit her mood; and
every now and then he patted her a little on the shoulder, as lovingly
as Elinor had patted her, to let her know that she was to feel sure of
his sympathy, even if she could not bring herself to confide in him,
and that he was still right there, and at her service, whenever she
should want him. Arethusa loved to have him with her; it was
delightful, just the two of them together so cozily; but every one of
his soft fatherly pats brought her near to tears as she felt it, for
she knew herself so very unworthy to receive it.
George appeared in the library about half-past three, bearing under
one arm an enormous flower box and in the other hand a card-tray with
one small white slip of cardboard upon it.
Mr. Bennet to see Miss Arethusa, he announced.
Arethusa sprang up, almost overturning Ross.
Who did you say, George?
Mr. Bennet. He extended the card-tray, and then the flower box.
I won't see Mr. Bennet! exclaimed Arethusa, all over pride
at once, and drawing herself up.
Very well, Miss Arethusa.
George turned to go, but Ross stopped him.
Wait just a moment, George. Are you quite sure, daughter, that you
hadn't better see him?
Arethusa's eyes flashed.
I won't see him, Father! I ... I.... she fairly choked over
the words, her utterance was so intense, I hate him! I never
want to see him again as long as I live!
George looked inquiringly at Mr. Worthington; this was no message
for him to be carrying to the gentleman in the reception room.
Tell Mr. Bennet, George, said Ross, in answer to the look, for he
knew that the butler wished the conventions observed on every occasion,
and he was half smiling as he said it, Tell Mr. Bennet that Miss
Arethusa wishes to be excused.
George bowed,this was much betterand disappeared.
Arethusa waited, standing poised with a queer little expression of
strained attention, until she heard the front door close; then she
sighed, a soft sigh unmistakably of relief.
Mr. Bennet turned away from the Worthington House uncertainly. He
was half of a mind to go right straight back and try to see Arethusa
once more. He was very sorry about last night. He was remorsefully
sorry, when the day had fully come. He would not have thought that
Arethusa would be inclined to view such an episode as she so very
evidently had. And yet, on further intensive consideration, he realized
that if he had stopped beforehand to give any real thought to it, at
all, he might have known that she would take it in just the way she
There was nothing really horrid about Mr. Bennet. It is to be
doubted if he had ever had a really horrid thought in all his life; but
he could not help looking like a man in a collar advertisement and he
was born with his manner. He was not himself to blame if young and
impressionable things feminine insisted upon falling in love with him.
Who could blame him for accepting such admiration and attempting, at
times, what might be considered as a slight return? Most of us like to
be admired. Mr. Bennet's biggest fault was that he was a little
selfish; right now, it was no larger cloud on the horizon of his
perfection than might be compared to the palm of one's hand, but owing
to all this admiration he so constantly received, and the fact that he
did not have to exert himself very much to make a cause for popularity,
the little cloud was growing.
But Mr. Bennet was really almost as unhappy over this affair as
Arethusa herself, after he went over it again very carefully, in the
garish light of perspective. Yet he had thought of course he would be
permitted to explain at his call this afternoon; that is, explain in so
far as he could explain. Which would surely make it all right. He was
even prepared to explain to Ross, if it was necessary, and although Mr.
Bennet realized that it would not put him in such a very good light in
the eyes of Arethusa's father, he felt that Mr. Worthington might
understand. And to explain to Ross and to appear so undignified as he
was bound to appear, would have been a very hard thing for Mr. Bennet
to do, but he was quite prepared to do it; so anxious he was to
straighten out this very Miserable Business.
Then Mr. Bennet, as he sorrowfully walked in all the bravery of a
most careful toilette made especially for this important call,
remembered the little air of dignity with which Arethusa had mentioned
marriage. He was genuinely fond of Arethusa. If it had not been for
that little cloud of selfishness, no bigger than the palm of one's
hand, which was keeping him so much in love with Mr. Bennet, he might
have been really in love with her. But there was not quite enough room
for Arethusa, although she had crowded into his heart enough for him to
give a great deal of thought to her.
She's a dear, he said aloud, a perfect dear! And I'm just as
sorry as the deuce! But any other girl....
And he poked his slender cane so deep in between the bricks of the
old-fashioned sidewalk of this conservative neighborhood that it was
wrenched out of his hand and stood there quivering, and in his
pre-occupation with the idea of Arethusa he had gone on without it
before he realized.
But then ... Arethusa was not any other girl, and she had had an
* * * * *
Open the flower box, suggested Ross, and let's see who they're
It was a truly marvelous box of blue violets then disclosed to
Arethusa's enraptured gaze. She almost forgot her unhappiness in sheer
joy of the wonder of their beauty and fragrance. They were like waxen
things in the absolute perfection of their tiny petals; and there
seemed to be hundreds of them, each as perfect as a violet ever was,
smiling at her with friendly blue faces.
No clue to the sender could be found at first, for no card was
visible. She and Ross hunted all through the box, and finally, way down
in one corner under the paper, she discovered a damp white scrap.
Mr. Gridley Warfield Bennet, it read, in irreproachably
correct Old English Script.
Into the fire immediately went flowers and box and card, and
Arethusa flopped herself back into her chair and buried her head deep
to weep such scalding tears as Niobe, synonym for those who really
weep, could not have scorned to be seen weeping. Mingled with these
tears was more than a trifle of regret that violets so supremely
beautiful must be absolutely destroyed because the gift of such a Man!
Arethusa remained determined to go home, and as she really seemed to
want to see Miss Asenath so much, Elinor made no attempt to dissuade
her of her purpose beyond reminding her of the parties she was sure to
miss by rushing off so suddenly. There were several during this very
week that Arethusa had been looking forward to. But Parties had no real
attraction for Arethusa now; their prospect failed to move her in the
least. She only desired to get away as quickly as possible from all the
scenes in any way connected with the late Wonderful Mr. Bennet; and to
avoid encounters with any of those friends of hers who might be at all
likely to guess what had happened. Arethusa felt as if she could not
bear to meet Billy Watts again, or the still faithful Mr. Harrison; or
any single, solitary one of the boys and girls she had come to know so
well these last few weeks. They had all teased her for her adoration of
Mr. Bennet, and as friendly as that teasing surely was, she could not
trust herself to face it again.
And so, early the very next morning, she took the train for Home.
She had so much more to put in her little trunk than she had had when
she came that Elinor had sent down town and got her a brand new one to
take with her instead, and she carried, as a successor to the ancient
handbag with which she had come, a smart little traveling case all
fitted out inside, that had been one of her gifts for Christmas. But
some dim idea of not hurting Miss Letitia's feelings made her don for
this returning journey the quaint little blue suit her aunt had made
Everyone in that big house, from Ross and Elinor on down the scale
of its inmates to even the outside man who cut the grass and hedges in
the summer and cared for the furnace in the winter, was sorry to see
her leave them. George forgot his immeasurable dignity as a butler long
enough for an excited display of real feeling in begging her most
earnestly to come back again, real soon. Nettie was red-eyed as she
packed, the trunk. She would miss Arethusa dreadfully. She was young,
and she loved Parties as much as the debutante herself, and it was
almost as good as going to them to help Miss Arethusa get ready for
them, and then to hear such glowing and vivid descriptions of those
Festivities as hers were when she returned home. Clay could hardly
guide his car. He, also, was going to miss Arethusa dreadfully.
You must come back, Arethusa, said Elinor, over and over again.
You must be sure to come back, and soon. For this is just as much your
home as that, you know, dear.
And Arethusa promised that she would. She surely did mean to come
back, some day. But right now she only wanted Miss Asenath.
The returning traveller was armed, as well as with her legitimate
luggage, with a huge box of candy with a flamboyantly colored lady on
its top, the shy gift of Clay; a bunch of violets identically like the
ones which had to be destroyed yesterday, from Ross; and a most
superior package of lunch that Rosalia, most marvelous of cooks, had
prepared every bit with her own hands. This really had more
significance than either of those other gifts, for it was considerable
of a condescension for Rosalia.
Ross put her and all her belongings directly into the charge of the
conductor and asked him to please see that she was comfortable every
moment, and then the train pulled out. And it pulled out bearing such a
different Arethusa from the one who had started to the city so happily
and so confident of a Wonderful Time, barely three months ago. But it
actually seemed much more like three years to Arethusa, when she
considered all that happened to her in that short calendar space.
But after all, as those wheels revolved, faster and faster, it was
hard to remain wholly unhappy. She was going back to the Farm and to
the warmest sort of welcome from all of them there, she knew; even if
she had been guilty of that which would have Miss Eliza's heartiest
condemnation should it ever come to her ears. And how glad she,
Arethusa, was that she was so soon going to see the folks at the Farm!
She was really a little homesick now, for almost the first time since
the twenty-fifth of October.
There was no Mrs. Cherry to entertain on this train, and as Arethusa
was well worn out with excitement, the whole of the latter half of her
journey she slept; and she only woke when the fatherly old conductor
bent over her to tell her she had reached Vandalia.
Arethusa stood on top of the stile a moment or two and surveyed the
old House with eyes that saw none too clearly anything that was before
them, before she climbed down; yet she had no real need to actually see
it, she knew it all, in every well-loved detail, so well.
It stood there, facing the West, and hugging the earth with that
curious appearance of having grown in its place like some sort of solid
plant, the green blinds every one swung hospitably open. The January
sun was far down in the afternoon sky, and its golden light was
reflected in every small and shining square of the square-paned front
windows, to make each twinkling pane seem to be smiling a welcome.
And it was all just as neat and precise as ever, although in winter
garb instead of that of summer. For the clematis vine over the front
porch was a matted heap of dead tendrils (they had died for the season
in an orderly way, however) and the little garden at one end of the
House was all covered over with straw for the cold weather, and queer
little miniature straw stacks were bound around all the rose bushes.
Miss Eliza's roses were never known to die during the winter. Only the
honeysuckle vine retained its greenness. All the dead leaves had been
raked out of the yard, and although the trees stood as gaunt and bare
as any other trees at this time of the year, they did not seem naked
like other trees. They leaned protectingly towards the house, and they
seemed to welcome Arethusa too.
Through the lower windows with their looped white curtains, Arethusa
caught a glimpse of the flickering of the sitting-room fire, that fire
which warmed Miss Asenath. After all, as dear as Ross and Elinor had
proved to be, and as much as she truly loved them, this was Home, as
Timothy and Miss Eliza had declared. And how good it was to see it all
once more. She had never really known before just how much it meant to
Miss Eliza had met her at the station and had scolded her vigorously
(scolding sometimes meant that Miss Eliza was trying to control her
feelings) nearly all of the six miles from Vandalia, because Arethusa
looked so badly, in Miss Eliza's opinion.
I knew no earthly good would come of it, she said, with a
satisfied, I-told-you-so air. You've come back home sick, after
gallivanting around in the city, for me to nurse. And my hands full as
they are! I knew just exactly how it would be!
But Arethusa did not mind this scolding. It was really so much a
part of the Home atmosphere that she even rather welcomed it. And she
needed a scolding, she felt, so she might as well have it for one thing
as for another. This was a mere bagatelle to what Miss Eliza would say
if she knew What had happened at the January Cotillion!
Arethusa received her tirade with such unusual meekness that Miss
Eliza was alarmed immediately, and convinced that the girl was
While the returned wanderer stood on the stile, gazing at the House,
the front door flew open and Miss Letitia bustled out, arms
outstretched. She almost ran to meet Arethusa. She could not move very
fast with such a fat little figure as hers, but she moved faster than
she had moved for some years past. And Arethusa dropped every single
thing she held and flew down the walk and met Miss Letitia before she
was really fairly started.
Oh, Aunt 'Titia, Aunt 'Titia!
There, there, crooned Miss Letitia. My! My! But we're all glad to
get you back! Sister 'Senath's done absolutely nothing but watch the
clock ever since we got your father's telegram you were coming. Why,
Dearie! For Arethusa was crying openly on Miss Letitia's comfortable
Arethusa isn't well, remarked Miss Eliza, coming up behind them
with most of the dropped belongings; she must go to bed just as soon
as she gets inside the house.
Arethusa lifted her head. I don't want to go to bed, Aunt 'Liza.
I'm not a bit sick.
Well, do stop carrying on like such a ninny, then!
But underneath all the sharpness of word and tone of this speech,
her niece could somehow read that Miss Eliza was glad to have her back
And as for Miss Asenath....
She fairly trembled as she lay on the couch and waited for Arethusa
to come to her. She wore the rose-colored birthday gift, but it was not
the rose of the shawl that had reflected that faint pink flush to each
frail cheek. And it was with all the rush of the old Arethusa across
the floor that the girl greeted her dearest of the aunts, and her
strong young arms clasped the tiny old lady close to her warm heart in
the old loving way. But this Arethusa's eyes were dewy and her voice
held a hint of tears; and they were tears which wise Miss Asenath knew
almost immediately came not from the mere gladness at being home, after
she bade Arethusa stand off so that she might look at her. Miss
Asenath, however, said nothing to anybody about her knowledge.
It was good to be at home again, Arethusa felt; good to snuggle down
in that old place of hers on the couch and hold Miss Asenath's hand
just as she used to; good to watch Miss Letitia's placidity throned in
her straight-backed chair and to see her fingers flying as usual and
the heap of work in her lap; good even to listen to Miss Eliza's
scolding tongue; and good to see Mandy when she waddled in from the
kitchen to see Arethusie and to state with positiveness that the city
did not agree with her at all. But with all of this glow of feeling
over getting Home, there was really something wrong, something lacking
about it; something Arethusa dimly sensed, but could not exactly
define. After awhile Miss Eliza gave her the clue to it, when she
imparted the news that Timothy had gone over to Hawesville to a dance.
Timothy's getting mighty giddy, she added, with great disapproval
in voice and manner. He just gads from one dance to another, all over
the county, and he's taken to calling on the town girls. That little
visit he made to you in the city had a very bad effect on him, too.
And then with a very little thought, Arethusa knew just what was
wrong with her home-coming. It was Timothy.
Timothy, who had always been a part of things for her ever since she
could remember, was not there to greet her. Timothy had gone off to a
dance and let her come home alone. Timothy, who had always said that he
cared more about Arethusa than anyone else in the world, had not seemed
to care about her coming back to the Farm. Not in the older, happier
days would he have done such a thing as this. And it was well
calculated to hurt when she was already so miserable. But then maybe he
had not known she was to come; her decision had been so sudden. This
Did Timothy know I was coming home to-day? she asked after a bit,
Miss Eliza snorted. He most certainly did. I telephoned him myself,
this morning, to let him know. That's how I happen to know where he is!
You did something to Timothy, Arethusa, when he was in the City to see
you. He hasn't been a bit the same since he came home. Gallivanting
around with those flip hussies in town! His mother's real worried about
him. And he just's running himself thin!
She would have pursued the subject further, had not Miss Asenath,
with gentle diplomacy, interrupted such pursuit. She did not feel as if
she could listen to Miss Eliza and Arethusa wrangle over Timothy when
the child had just barely got home, after being away so long.
But Arethusa would not have wrangled. She could not have wrangled
with Miss Eliza over anything in the world, much less Timothy. She
wondered who those girls in town were that he was going to see; Timothy
had always declared very emphatically his dislike of the town girls.
But she wondered to herself, without asking anybody any questions.
Miss Eliza's sharp eyes watched her niece. She noticed those unusual
dark circles under Arethusa's eyes, circles which most certainly were
not there when the girl went away; and this strange quietness with
which she had come back to them Miss Eliza did not like a bit. The
tongue of the Arethusa of three months ago would have gone like a bell
clapper under circumstances such as these. And Miss Eliza, who for all
her sharp manner and her scolding tongue, loved her niece in her own
way as much as either Miss Asenath or Miss Letitia, suddenly wished
that she had not let Arethusa make her visit to Lewisburg. She left the
sitting-room abruptly and bustled out to the back door to find Blish,
whom she scolded most vigorously, much to his astonishment and
consternation, for he could not remember a thing he had done or left
undone within the last twenty-four hours, since the last scolding, to
be scolded for.
Mandy had prepared such a supper for the Arethusa come back to them
as not even that much vaunted feast of the prodigal son, for all its
fatted calf, could equal. All of Arethusa's favorite dishes were on the
table, and it had been set with the company china. Then Mandy and Blish
and Nathan, also, came in a group to the door of the dining-room and
peeped in with good-natured dark faces stretched wide in brilliant
smiling, just to see her eat a few mouthfuls. They were so glad to have
her back at the Farm.
Arethusa choked up several times with all the homely kindnesses she
received. These dear people who loved her so, how much sweeter they
were to her than she at all deserved!
Immediately after supper, Miss Eliza made her niece go to bed. And
Arethusa went with such meekness and so altogether unprotesting, that
Miss Eliza trotted along up to her room with her, and felt anxiously of
her forehead for fever. She was quite positive now that the girl was
sick! She bustled around and helped Arethusa undress. She tucked her
tightly into the little wooden bed with its turned posts which had
always been Arethusa's very own, covering her clear up to her chin with
the blue and white squared counterpin Miss Letitia had made as a
surprise for Arethusa when she should come home. Then Miss Eliza blew
out the lamp, efficiently with one blow as always, bade Arethusa
peremptorily to go right straight to sleep, and left her. But very
unexpectedly, she came back after shutting the door, and trotted
briskly across the dark room to give Arethusa a quick little peck on
one cheek, which was Miss Eliza's only way of kissing, and to tell her
very gruffly that she was awfully glad Arethusa was at home again, and
she certainly hoped that she'd have sense enough to stay. Then she once
more bade her niece to go straight to sleep and once more departed.
But Arethusa could not go to sleep. She threw back the carefully
tucked in covers and got up out of bed, draping the new counterpin
around her shoulders, and paddled, bare-footed, over to that window of
her room which looked in the direction of Timothy's house. It was
velvety black over on that horizon, but Arethusa could find the place
where the house ought to be. It was a very beautiful night, cold and
clear and starry. Arethusa put her head down on the window-sill and
gazed up at the stars. There were millions of them, and they all seemed
to be winking straight down at her just as sympathetically as possible.
She had always loved stars.
As she watched them, a sort of mist began obscuring them from her,
and so she brushed at her eyes to wipe it away, but it only seemed to
keep on growing to be more decided as a mist; and then it dissolved
itself into tears which fell thick and fast, hot tears which splashed
on the window-sill ... all because of Timothy's treatment of her on
this home-coming afternoon. Arethusa felt as if Timothy's friendship
were lost to her forever. Shamed and humiliated by Mr. Bennet, it had
remained for life in its cruelty to add this last blow. For unless his
feeling for her was absolutely changed, he would never have treated her
like this. Arethusa knew Timothy too well.
He had read Mr. Bennet correctly, she remembered now, thinking about
her best friend; or about the one who had always, till so recently,
been her best friend. He had called Mr. Bennet a four-flusher. Would
that she had not been so blinded in her infatuation as not to heed this
warning! She could recall a great many times when Timothy had been
proved right in his deductions, which surely ought to have made her
place more value on the one concerning Mr. Bennet than she had.
Arethusa felt, just then, as if she would even rather that Miss
Eliza should know of that Episode at the January Cotillion than that
Timothy should know about it. Timothy's good opinion of her, suddenly,
seemed to Arethusa to possess a great charm.
After awhile she crept back into bed, her teeth chattering with the
cold, and cried herself to sleep.
In the days which followed Arethusa was kept very busy telling her
aunts all that she had done and seen in those three months she had been
away from them. And early in the next week, Elinor packed all of the
pretty evening frocks which Arethusa, for various scruples, had left
hanging in the closet of the green and white room in Lewisburg and sent
them down to the Farm, thinking that Arethusa had forgotten them, and
might like to have them. There was the Green Frock, and the one like
tinted autumn leaves, and the White Dress of her Very Own Party, and
many others besides, all reminders of evenings with Mr. Bennet. But
even so, Arethusa was glad to see them. She had not realized that she
loved them so dearly, until she saw them again. It was just as it had
been with the people at the Farm. She spread all the gay beauty of the
contents of that box out in the sitting room, and tried them all on,
pirouetting and turning and making vivid for the three old ladies who
listened to her the parties to which she had worn them.
Miss Letitia was loud in her outspoken admiration of every single
frock; her simple heart could not decide which one she liked best, and
her seamstress instinct marveled at the wonder of their making. Miss
Asenath was more quiet in her approval, but her eyes sparkled at the
brightness of their various colors all around her. Miss Eliza was
noncommittal, though it was very evident that she found much to
displease. When Arethusa tried on the Green Frock which she so dearly
loved, she openly expressed her displeasure.
Did your stepmother, and if ever her rigid little body had
signified disapproval of anything it did then, in every line, did your
stepmother permit you to go around dressed like that?
All the girls wear dresses like this, replied Arethusa,
Then, began Miss Eliza, with decision, but she snapped her lips
together just like a trap and did not finish.
Arethusa, with cheeks that flamed, put away the Green Dress, hung in
the darkest corner of the high old walnut wardrobe in her room. The
exhibition of the box of clothes ceased abruptly for the time being,
and Arethusa fled far away from any chance of Miss Eliza's questions.
The Green Dress had been her attire that Fatal Night of the January
Timothy took his time about coming over to see Arethusa, although,
had she but known it, it required every bit of self-control he
possessed to stay away. He had wanted to rush right over that first
afternoon, but his heart was mighty sore still, and he was taking the
only way he knew to make Arethusa understand that he did not care in
the least how much she gazed adoringly at that very objectionable Mr.
She did not see it just exactly that way, however, and as the days
went by and she watched for him and he did not come, she put her own
construction upon his behavior, and it was right along the line of her
conclusions in regard to him that night when she had gazed up at the
stars, thinking of him.
But he strolled over, late one afternoon quite formally, just as if
he, who had half lived at the Farm all of his life, was making a polite
and necessary social call upon its inmates.
Miss Eliza gave him a most vigorous tongue-lashingbefore he was
quite seated she began itfor going to dances. She considered him
headed straight for destruction and had had no opportunity to tell him
so. She had seen him but once since he came back from that visit to
Arethusa dances; ask her to tell you what it's like, he said, most
It was a horrid trick, altogether unworthy of him; but then Timothy
was young and things were going hard with him these days. And Miss
Eliza's tongue was very sharp; it cut.
So Miss Eliza immediately attacked Arethusa.
Timothy's of course mistaken. I imagined you'd be going to places
where other people did such things, that probably couldn't be helped in
a city, but I know you wouldn't so far forget all I've tried to teach
you as to indulge in it yourself. It's just public hugging, that's all
it is, dancing nowadays!
But she did, put in Timothy. I saw her.
I can answer for myself, thank you, Timothy Jarvis! Arethusa said
this with a bit of her old asperity. Yes, I danced, Aunt 'Liza; Father
and Mother let me and they didn't think anything was wrong with it.
Well, I must say! This beats anything I ever heard! I'm not
surprised at Ross Worthington, for he was always a bit free in his
ideas; but his wife certainly ought to know better than to allow a
young girl to take part in such goings on! I must say! I must say!
Miss Eliza's glasses left her nose entirely in her excitement. What
else did you do in the City that you haven't told us about?
And then ... Arethusa, to the great amazement of everybody, suddenly
burst into tears and ran out of the room.
What on earth ails the child? inquired Miss Letitia, anxiously.
She's not the least bit like herself!
She needs a tonic, answered Miss Eliza decidedly. I'll see that
she begins it, tomorrow. All that carrying-on in the City! Ross
Worthington ought to've been ashamed of himself to set by and allow
it! She shut her mouth very grimly. I'll see to it that she doesn't
go there soon again!
But he's her father, Sister, interposed Miss Asenath softly; you
must remember that.
He's her father, 'Senath, and I can't dispute it. But he's an awful
unnatural one, the way I look at things! And I reckon, when you
get right down to it, Arethusa's just as much my child as she is
anybody's, seeing how I've taken care of her ever since she was born
and had all the trouble of raising her. And if I know it, she
shan't go to Lewisburg again and come home like this, all worn out!
I just won't have it!
And it was not hard for everyone in the room, Timothy included, to
realize that Arethusa's future visits to her father would be few and
far between, if there were any.
But Miss Asenath, alone of all of them who loved her, dimly guessed
at Arethusa's real trouble. And she tried in every way she could to
make her tell, for Arethusa had written Miss Asenath pages and pages of
rhapsody of the Wonderful Mr. Bennet. But the girl veered away from
such a subject, however adroitly introduced, just like a scared rabbit.
So after a little while, Miss Asenath gave up her attempt to find out
definitely, and contented herself with showing Arethusa that no matter
what it was that was troubling her, Aunt 'Senath loved her as much as
ever. And her niece clung to the tenderness of this unfailing love as a
drowning man clings to a straw; it was the most that was left to her,
with the loss of Timothy's comradeship. She took that tonic Miss Eliza
procured for her with meek obedience, although it might seem as if Miss
Eliza had hunted until she had found the bitterest and nastiest that
she could find. But Arethusa only grew paler and thinner than ever; she
lost her appetite also, in spite of the tonic. Ere long, Miss Asenath's
intuition told her something else. It was Timothy causing this, she
believed, and not something that had happened in the City.
And it was Timothy.
He was as top-loftical and as haughty as possible. He made his
visits to the Farm of a scarcity and brevity that brought them near to
being no visits at all. Such times as he did condescend to come over to
see them, he spent the moments telling of all those gay affairs of
which he was a part and which Arethusa did not attend, with a brave
show of worldliness that deceived them all except Miss Asenath. Miss
Eliza shook her head over him. She did not like this change in Timothy.
Arethusa alternated between a desire to slap him for his suddenly
acquired society veneer which had such power to irritate her, and a
desire to weep the bitterest and most scalding tears for the
completeness of his defection. She could not help wondering, sometimes,
if he had, by any most uncanny chance, heard of that Episode at the
January Cotillion; and knew that Mr. Bennet had Kissed her and that she
had believed that he wanted to marry her and he had Not. The Thought
made her writhe in agony under the new blue and white counter-pin.
Rather would she have died a thousand deaths than to have Timothy know
of that Disgrace!
For he had been to the City twice since she had come home, with his
other gadding about; flying tripson business, it is true he had
said they wereyet he might have heard of it. All Lewisburg might be
ringing with it. Such would undoubtedly explain quite satisfactorily
his present scorn of her. He did not seem in the least anxious to marry
Timothy, however, no matter what Arethusa thought concerning him and
his gayety and his neglect of her, was having the hardest of hard
times. If Arethusa cried herself to sleep at night, and he did not,
being masculine and not much given to taking a refuge in tears, he
suffered none the less keenly. It seemed to Timothy that he would
never, as long as he lived, forget Arethusa's lovely face as she danced
with Mr. Bennet that night of her New Year's Party. Every single time
he saw her now, it seemed to bring before him the picture she was that
night; wearing Mr. Bennet's flowers (he was quite sure that he knew now
just who had sent her those flowers) and with that wonderful shine in
her eyes just for Mr. Bennet. But he was determined that she should not
know that it made any difference to him.
He loved Arethusa more than he ever had, with all the wealth of love
his clean young heart had in its power to give, now that he thought her
unattainable and with all her own affection given to another man. And
this same heart that loved her so ached and ached over Arethusa's
paleness and thinness; but he accepted Miss Eliza's explanation as the
literal one, that the winter in Lewisburg had been too much for her,
and that all she needed was a tonic. Had Timothy talked a little to
Miss Asenath, as in the old and far happier days, he might have formed
very different conclusions. Yet he would have bitten out his tongue
rather than have mentioned Mr. Bennet's hated name, even to gentle Miss
Asenath, who never failed to understand all that troubled.
So Timothy and Arethusa played at their cross purposes all through
For the winter had sped itself away somehow and before anyone was
really aware of its coming, spring had slipped upon all of them. The
days grew warm once more and Arethusa might once again take her books
back to the congenial solitude of Miss Asenath's Woods, where, with a
thick, woolly carriage rug spread on the ground under the hollow tree,
she lay for long hours and read or dreamed. Miss Eliza absolutely
refused to countenance any sitting or lying on the damp earth of spring
without that rug beneath her, in Arethusa's present state of seeming
ill-health; but she made no objections to as many hours spent in the
woodland as Arethusa pleased, only provided the rug was there too.
Timothy was very busy, as all farmers needs must be in the spring.
The garden had to be got in, and the fields plowed and planted. He did
not have nearly so much time for gadding, and Miss Eliza was pleased.
She told him she was every chance she had to do so.
Timothy looked much older, Miss Asenath thought. He had a great deal
more dignity, and his blue eyes seemed to have acquired depth. There
were stern little lines in his face that had never been there before;
just as if the boy Timothy had given place to the man. Miss Asenath
loved these evidences of his growing.
But often, when he made his rare and formal visits to the Farm of an
evening and he and Arethusa sat so decorously in front of the
sitting-room fire with the family, she watched him then a trifle sadly.
Miss Asenath believed that she would almost be glad to hear him and
Arethusa quarrel once more.
Poor children! she said to herself one night. I wonder when
they're going to even begin realising how much time they're wasting!
All these precious days are slipping by and nothing can ever bring them
And then, with her frail hands clasped on the locket at her throat,
Miss Asenath fell to dreaming.
Arethusa gathered up her woolly rug and a dog-eared copy of Jane
Eyre, which would have known almost instant confiscation if Miss Eliza
had glimpsed it in her possession, and proceeded to go down to the
woodland. It was an afternoon in early May, and unseasonably hot. As
she passed through the kitchen, Mandy paused in her bread-making and
looked around. She shook her head at the girl's evident intention, with
I wouldn' be gwine out theah to be settin' this arternoon,
Arethusie. It are gwine to rain, she stated with positiveness. Mandy
was by way of being something of a weather prophet.
Nonsense, Mandy! The sky's as blue as blue! There's not a cloud
anywhere! Arethusa dismissed the idea with laughter. Don't be such an
old prophet of evil!
Yes'sum, it are gwine to rain. Mandy left the table and went to
the door, her hands full of bread dough, to peer out at the metallic
looking sky, and 'foah ve'y long, too. See thet theah? She pointed to
a low brownish grey line far down on the horizon.
Oh that! That doesn't mean anything! Arethusa was not to be
She trailed the rug after her across the orchard and into the
woodland without noticing that it was touching the ground nearly all
Miss Asenath's Woods were very beautiful just now; they were always
at their loveliest in the spring. The May-apples were in full bloom,
and the ground was splotched with great clumps of them, with their
straight waxy stems and their pale green umbrella-like leaves, almost
hiding the delicate flowers. Everywhere, through the woodland, were all
sorts of ambitious, tiny trees which would be choked out later on by
the heaviness of the growth above them, but just at present they lifted
their beginning life towards the sun, each one as erect as possible;
making, all together, something that seemed like a miniature forest. A
love-vine, sentimentally named parasite, was starting its curling way
over one of the shrubs; the moss was tinted with new green; and blue
and white and purple violets showed their saucy faces here and there in
patches, scattered with bits of the straight dark-green of the spears
of the star of Bethlehem leaves which made a contrast for the lighter
color of the violet foliage. And the spring world was all very still,
and very peaceful.
Arethusa spread the rug underneath the Hollow Tree, and lay down
upon it, resting her head on her crossed arms. She looked above her
into the curving arch of those faraway branches, their gnarled age made
beautiful with the tenderness of young leaves. Some of these were so
small and delicately curly in their newness, they were almost like the
crumpling of a baby's fingers. Patches of the bright blue sky showed
through them all. An alert robin ran across the woodland like a very
fat little man in a terrible hurry, and he paused at the edge of the
rug to look at Arethusa inquiringly, his head on one side. But she
never moved an inch to notice him, and so, quite satisfied that she was
nothing that could harm him, he pecked about within three feet of her
Dreaming was her favorite occupation through these spring days,
dreaming of the future and what it might bring to her. And Arethusa,
believing that she knew just exactly what was to happen by reason of
what had already happened, settled the outlines of this future in her
dreaming, over and over again, without a single ray of light to break
through the darkness of her picture. She would spend it here at the
Farm, this strangely quiet Farm; more than ever a household of women,
without Timothy running in and out every day. And some day she would be
old and grey like Miss Eliza, busy farming it herself, and wearing
plain black dresses and scolding the servants when they did not do just
as she wanted. It was a blank future that contained no Timothy. But
Arethusa could not very well put Timothy into the future when he
refused to be in the present. She would always live alone, she decided,
and when she was quite old she would wear a locket like Miss Asenath's,
and people would speak of her as having had a Romance; for she had
had a Romance, and it had ended very sadly. But she would not wear
Mr. Bennet's picture in her locket; he was not worthy of that. Perhaps
she might wear Timothy's. She had a splendid picture of Timothy which
would look very well in a Locket. There were times when, comparing
them, Arethusa was quite of the opinion that Timothy was far handsomer
than Mr. Bennet. And even if he did go off and marry some one else, he
could surely have no objection to her honoring his picture so. His
grandfather had not minded Miss Asenath's ownership of his miniature,
and he had married some one else, because she had loved him when he was
young. Arethusa had always loved Timothy; she loved him now. If Timothy
would only stop to think long enough, he would remember the hundreds of
times she had told him he was the best friend she had ever had.
Timothy had found, besides his farmer's duties, another way to
occupy himself this spring. It was an automobile of very recent
acquisition, a long, dark, grey car of beauty. And nearly every night
he raced past the front gate of the Farm in it, while Arethusa stood
under the shadow of the clematis vine on the front porch and listened
for the first low hum of its motor which carried so far ahead of it
through the sleeping country, and watched to see its light come
flashing up the Pike, drawing back hastily under the vine when it was
close to the gate. Timothy had stopped once or twice and asked them all
to ride, but he had never asked Arethusa alone. And since he did not
ask her by herself, she was too proud to hop in beside him when Miss
Letitia and Miss Eliza refused his invitation. If either one of them
had gone, it would have been all right. But neither would.
No human power could have got Miss Letitia into it, and Miss Eliza
considered it such a sinful waste of money when Timothy told her how
much it had cost him, that she showed her great disapproval by
declining to even sit in it.
But nearly every night it whizzed by on the way to town, and
Arethusa watched for it in the shadow of the clematis vine.
* * * * *
Arethusa sighed deeply, and reached for Jane Eyre, at the side of
It was a most abused and mistreated copy of this work, bearing her
father's name on its fly leaf, which she had found on a recent
rummaging through the garret. A glance through its pages had made her
most anxious to read it. It seemed to be rich with sentiment and
entertainment, of a truly Romantick nature.
She had read only as far as Jane's venture into the world of Mr.
Rochester last night, when forced by the unfeeling Miss Eliza who
viewed no printed matter as of such interest as to make for any
forgetfulness of what one ought to do, with a stern call from the foot
of the stairs, to put out that light, and stop whatever it is you're
reading this minute, and go straight to sleep! Arethusa had wept
bitterly over the cruelty of the early years; she hoped, this
afternoon, to see Jane through to an uninterrupted conclusion of
Perfect Happiness such as she so unmistakably deserved.
She read eagerly; her grey-green eyes following the lines of print
without once lifting. Her only movement was the turning of the leaves,
until a large and splashing drop of something fell plump on the page
then open, and she wiped it off. But another fell, immediately after
it; then another. It was Mandy's rain.
So Arethusa rose and gathered up her rug to start for the house. In
her recently acquired submissiveness, the disobeying of Miss Eliza to
stay out in a rain seemed to have no attraction.
But the storm broke with such quickness and fury, that Arethusa got
no farther towards the house than a big oak a few yards away from the
Hollow Tree. Underneath this, she crouched, covering her head with her
arms. For the first time in her life she was frightened of a storm. But
then, she never remembered having seen such a battle of the elements as
this became, in the fewest possible moments. In fact, for years
afterwards, folks in the neighborhood spoke of happenings as being just
before, or just after, the Big Storm.
The lightning flashed so continuously that the heavens were like one
steady glare of white light; the thunder boomed and crashed in a
hideous din without any cessation. The rain beat against her as sharp
as needle points, and the wind seemed as if it were trying to lift her
off the ground to fling her back again to crush, so hard it blew.
Several trees within her observation went down, some torn up by the
roots; Arethusa could have wept miserably to see them go, these
woodland friends of hers. Jane Eyre was blown from her unheeding
grasp and against a crooked root of the oak tree. Its water-soaked
pages flapped madly back and forth; the equally water-soaked rug had
been flung against a near-by bush, wide spread like a sail.
Then suddenly, with a rush and a roar as if the world itself were
being torn from its moorings, the Hollow Tree, the very dearest of all
the growth in Miss Asenath's Woods, went crashing to the ground. It
fell through the tree against which Arethusa crouched, carrying
branches of the latter along with it. It was a pure miracle that she
was not hit by some of these flying branches, or by the Hollow Tree
itself, in its fall; for it was all around her, hemming her into a
prison of instantaneous building so that she could not move.
Undoubtedly, had she stayed under the Hollow Tree after the Storm
began, she would have been killed.
But with this last desecration the Storm seemed satisfied; its fury
abated. And ere long leaves slowly dripping and birds chirping were the
Arethusa shivered. Her teeth were chattering, partly through fear
and partly because she was really very cold. The Storm had seemed to
wring every single bit of warmth out of the air, and she had been wet
to the skin with that stinging, chilly rain. Her tears fell fast as she
reached to touch the Hollow Tree, all about her. Would that the wind
had blown down every single tree in the woodland if it had only left
her this one!
She tried to climb out. But every attempt she made was unsuccessful.
She was pinned in against the oak tree by interlocked branches which
her strength seemed unavailing to so much as disturb. It seemed that
all she could do would be to lie helplessly back and wait for somebody
to come and find her before she could get out.
But would she have to stay in this place all night before anyone did
come? And wait until they could chop her out after they came? How many
hours would that take? It might even take days! This was such a big
The thought brought a sudden overwhelming terror of her predicament.
She began calling loudly and frantically for everyone at the house;
Miss Eliza and Miss Letitia, Blish and Nathan and Mandy, but none of
them came. She even called Miss Asenath, hoping she would hear and tell
Then ... she called Timothy.
And Timothy came.
He plunged through the dripping woodland as if on wings or
seven-leagued boots, unmindful of the sloppy ground and the wet
branches which flopped back as he passed to sting his face, and he came
as straight to Arethusa as it was possible for him to come. He had
stopped at the Farm to get out of the Storm, on his way back from town,
and 'way up there at the house, standing on the back porch watching it,
he had heard her calls for Miss Eliza and the rest, and then for him.
But once in the woodland, and there was no visible evidence of her
presence, when he had been so sure just where she was to be found,
Timothy stopped running and called wildly himself for Arethusa.
Here I am! It sounded thin and like a ghost voice, coming from
underneath the piled up heap of broken tree right beside him in the
most uncanny way.
Merciful Heavens! Timothy knelt down and began making frantic
efforts to move the huge branches. Are you hurt?
Not a single bit! Arethusa's spirits began an immediate reviving.
Here was Timothy! The unmistakable cheerfulness in her tones somewhat
reassured her rescuer. Only I can't get out!
And you're quite positive you're not hurt? He asked the question
solely for the comfort of hearing her repeat that she was not. For he
did not see how she had escaped death in such a catastrophe.
Arethusa, feeling now so much happier, thought that perhaps she
might stand upright. She tried the experiment cautiously and found that
she could. Her head and shoulders appeared dryad-like above the young
green of the leaves beneath her, and leaves and branches framed her
face all around. She waved her hand energetically, and called, to
attract the stooping Timothy's attention to her present superior
His relief when he saw her was almost comical.
I'll have you out now in a jiffy!
But such was not to be the case, for although he poked and poked
about everywhere distractedly, and pulled at first one part of it and
then another, he was unable to move any of that tree, for all his great
strength. Then, very unexpectedly, sticking his head around under the
lower branches next the ground, he discovered what seemed to offer some
possibilities as a road to Arethusa. He started exploration, and very
suddenly, he was right beside her.
Now that his anxiety for her safety was no longer rampant, Timothy
could see for himself that Arethusa had not a scratch, he remembered
the present state of their relationship. That look of sternness which
made his young face seem so much older settled down, and he made
business-like preparations to help her get out, breaking off small
branches all about him.
Do you think you could crawl back the way I came in here, or do you
want me to go back up to the house and get something to cut the tree
But Arethusa was loath to leave just yet. This seemed so much like
old times, the way he had come at her call, when he had used to help
her down from hay-stacks which she had climbed too rashly, and rescue
her from all sorts of other strange situations. She could not see his
face, and so she clasped his arm, gratefully, as she had used to do in
those other days. Timothy stiffened a little, but she did not notice
Oh, Timothy! she exclaimed. Just suppose you hadn't come! I might
have had to stay here all night long!
I reckon not! Somebody would have come.
She was chilled by his tone. And when she looked up at him, his grim
expression made her draw her hand away from his arm, abruptly.
How did you get in? she asked, with dignity.
Timothy indicated the road.
So a little procession started back through that gap in the
branches, which Arethusa, had she not been so frightened, might have
found for herself without bothering him. He went first, to show the
way, and she followed, both on hands and knees. He was out when he
heard her scream.
My hair! My hair is all caught! And I can't get it undone at all!
She had not really asked for his help, but Timothy turned and crept
under the tree once more. Arethusa was badly caught. Her red hair had
been grabbed by the crookedest possible branch and it was all wound
around it as if the Hollow Tree were so determined to keep her
underneath it that either the branch or some of her hair would have to
be cut off, before it would let her go. And Arethusa's own efforts to
get loose had only succeeded in fastening her tighter.
She accepted Timothy's offer of aid as one who is forced to
something inevitable, and bent her head obediently so that he could get
at the snarl better. Timothy worked away in silence, his knees braced
in the soft ground. His fingers were never very good at this sort of
thing, and right now they seemed to become clumsiness personified. They
trembled so that the snarl seemed to grow worse and worse with each
moment. He gritted his teeth and tried his best to control his hands
and his heart, which raced and beat so loudly above the crouching girl.
He was quite sure she heard it. This nearness was almost more than he
And to have his hands buried in that fragrant mass of the hair he
loved, suddenly proved his undoing.
He stopped his ineffectual work of untangling; but Arethusa did not
know that he had until she felt herself held close to a wildly beating
heart and heard him whispering, hoarsely, Arethusa, I ... I just can't
bear it ... any longer!
Then Timothy Kissed her. He kissed her hungrily; her hair, caught in
the branches, her startled eyes, her cheeks, and last of all, her
I love you, he said, brokenly, over and over again. I love you!
And Arethusa lay very quietly, and listened to him say it.
I can't get your hair out, said Timothy, miserably, I'll go and
get somebody at the house to come, but I....
Then Arethusa spoke, softly.
I don't want you to go get somebody at the house. I want you,
yourself, to get my hair out.
He almost groaned. Why did she make things so terribly hard for him?
Suddenly, something occurred to Timothy. Arethusa had not even tried to
slap him for those kisses, nor had she made even the beginnings of a
struggle to get away; which was all most un-Arethusa like. He looked
down at her, and he saw that her eyes were full of a truly wonderful
light, a light which he had never seen in those eyes before, and it was
shining straight at him.
I want you to get my hair out, she repeated, but bef ...
before you do, T ... Timothy, please ki ... kiss me again!
Timothy did as requested.
And the whole world did seem to really be hushed into a Startled
Silence by What had happened.
And Arethusa forgot that her hair was fastened apparently
inextricably in the branches of the Hollow Tree; perhaps the Hollow
Tree had served its best purpose in crashing to the ground. She forgot
all about Mr. Bennet and that Timothy might not want to marry her if he
knew of the Episode of the January Cotillion. She forgot to question
the propriety of the number of Timothy's kisses, as too many before
their marriage. She thought of nothing in the wide, wide world but just
one thing; that never had she felt more contented than where she was,
held in the safety of these strong arms of Timothy's. They seemed to
shut her in to guard from all unhappiness or terror, or anything that
could possibly hurt her in the days to come. It was just as though she
had found a place most truly her own, made for her by Timothy's love;
and that it was exactly what she had been searching for, for a long,
But she was still Arethusa.
So after a time she stirred, and said very softly, I can't possibly
stay here all my life with my hair caught like this, Timothy, you know.
I ... I really think you'd better undo it. I asked you to.
He roused himself with a happy little laugh, and as his fingers were
not trembling so much, this attempt was quite successful, and the red
locks were soon free.
Then they crawled through the place in the branches and stood
upright, face to face, Arethusa's head drooped, and a warm flush
mounted suddenly. She could not be said to be at her best appearance,
for her hair was all matted and tangled, and wildly disheveled; her
dress was muddy to her knees, and torn in several places; there were
dirty marks on her face. But to Timothy, she had never looked lovelier
in her life.
It was his suggestion that they have a run up to the house.
Hand in hand, they set off at a mad pace through the orchard. Miss
Eliza saw them coming, for she was restlessly waiting on the back
porch; she had been waiting for some time. She was grim and
disapproving as the flushed pair brought up, panting, before her.
Well, Arethusa.... she began.
But Timothy interposed in a very masterful sort of way.
You mustn't scold her, Miss 'Liza, for she came very near being
killed! He drew Arethusa's hand through his arm with a little air of
proprietorship which did not escape unnoticed. The big Hollow Tree
fell and it pinned her down. I had an awfully hard time getting her out
from under it.
At a sudden recollection of the getting Arethusa out from under the
tree he blushed boyishly, and most violently, even through his flush of
running. Arethusa followed suit.
Hum ... ph! said Miss Eliza.
She regarded them both with keen eyes for a moment, those keen eyes
of hers that so little escaped.
Have you, she asked suddenly, and so suddenly that both boy and
girl jumped, have you decided to marry Timothy at last, Arethusa?
Yes, replied Timothy.
No, replied Arethusa, although very weakly, for it was more from
force of habit than anything else.
Timothy put his arm clear around her quite unashamed before Miss
Eliza, to the deep interest and great delight of Mandy, peering through
the kitchen door; and he drew the unresisting girl close to his side.
Yes, he repeated, with firmness, she has!
Arethusa looked up at him sideway, at the strength of his young
profile; and feeling his arm around her and remembering how strong and
sure that arm had seemed such a little while before, like a bulwark for
safety between her and anything that might threaten, she answered
meekly, almost like an echo, Yes, I have!
And this was quite in spite of the fact (and yet that may have been
the very reason why she did, for she had always declared so
emphatically that she would say, no! to any such proposition coming
from him) that Timothy had made no formal proposal of marriage to her
so far this summer.