Miss Billy's Decision by Eleanor H. Porter
Chapter V. Marie Speaks Her Mind
Billy with John and Peggy met Marie Hawthorn at the station. "Peggy" was short for "Pegasus," and was what Billy always called her luxurious, seven-seated touring car.
"I simply won't call it `automobile,' " she had declared when she bought it. "In the first place, it takes too long to say it, and in the second place, I don't want to add one more to the nineteen different ways to pronounce it that I hear all around me every day now. As for calling it my `car,' or my `motor car'--I should expect to see a Pullman or one of those huge black trucks before my door, if I ordered it by either of those names. Neither will I insult the beautiful thing by calling it a `machine.' Its name is Pegasus. I shall call it `Peggy.' "
And "Peggy" she called it. John sniffed his disdain, and Billy's friends made no secret of their amused tolerance; but, in an astonishingly short time, half the automobile owners of her acquaintance were calling their own cars "Peggy"; and even the dignified John himself was heard to order "some gasoline for Peggy," quite as a matter of course.
When Marie Hawthorn stepped from the train at the North Station she greeted Billy with affectionate warmth, though at once her blue eyes swept the space beyond expectantly and eagerly.
Billy's lips curved in a mischievous smile.
"No, he didn't come," she said. "He didn't want to--a little bit."
Marie grew actually pale.
"Didn't want to!" she stammered.
Billy gave her a spasmodic hug.
"Goosey! No, he didn't--a little bit; but he did a great big bit. As if you didn't know he was dying to come, Marie! But he simply couldn't--something about his concert Monday night. He told me over the telephone; but between his joy that you were coming, and his rage that he couldn't see you the first minute you did come, I couldn't quite make out what was the trouble. But he's coming to dinner to-night, so he'll doubtless tell you all about it."
Marie sighed her relief.
"Oh, that's all right then. I was afraid he was sick--when I didn't see him."
Billy laughed softly.
"No, he isn't sick, Marie; but you needn't go away again before the wedding--not to leave him on my hands. I wouldn't have believed Cyril Henshaw, confirmed old bachelor and avowed woman-hater, could have acted the part of a love-sick boy as he has the last week or two."
The rose-flush on Marie's cheek spread to the roots of her fine yellow hair.
"Billy, dear, he--he didn't!"
"Marie, dear--he--he did!"
Marie laughed. She did not say anything, but the rose-flush deepened as she occupied herself very busily in getting her trunk-check from the little hand bag she carried.
Cyril was not mentioned again until the two girls, veils tied and coats buttoned, were snugly ensconced in the tonneau, and Peggy's nose was turned toward home. Then Billy asked:
"Have you settled on where you're going to live?"
"Not quite. We're going to talk of that to-night; but we do know that we aren't going to live at the Strata."
Marie stirred uneasily at the obvious disappointment and reproach in her friend's voice.
"But, dear, it wouldn't be wise, I'm sure," she argued hastily. "There will be you and Bertram--"
"We sha'n't be there for a year, nearly," cut in Billy, with swift promptness. "Besides, I think it would be lovely--all together."
Marie smiled, but she shook her head.
"Lovely--but not practical, dear."
Billy laughed ruefully.
"I know; you're worrying about those puddings of yours. You're afraid somebody is going to interfere with your making quite so many as you want to; and Cyril is worrying for fear there'll be somebody else in the circle of his shaded lamp besides his little Marie with the light on her hair, and the mending basket by her side."
"Billy, what are you talking about?"
Billy threw a roguish glance into her friend's amazed blue eyes.
"Oh, just a little picture Cyril drew once for me of what home meant for him: a room with a table and a shaded lamp, and a little woman beside it with the light on her hair and a great basket of sewing by her side."
Marie's eyes softened.
"Did he say--that?"
"Yes. Oh, he declared he shouldn't want her to sit under that lamp all the time, of course; but he hoped she'd like that sort of thing."
Marie threw a quick glance at the stolid back of John beyond the two empty seats in front of them. Although she knew he could not hear her words, instinctively she lowered her voice.
"Did you know--then--about--me?" she asked, with heightened color.
"No, only that there was a girl somewhere who, he hoped, would sit under the lamp some day. And when I asked him if the girl did like that sort of thing, he said yes, he thought so; for she had told him once that the things she liked best of all to do were to mend stockings and make puddings. Then I knew, of course, 'twas you, for I'd heard you say the same thing. So I sent him right along out to you in the summer- house."
The pink flush on Marie's face grew to a red one. Her blue eyes turned again to John's broad back, then drifted to the long, imposing line of windowed walls and doorways on the right. The automobile was passing smoothly along Beacon Street now with the Public Garden just behind them on the left. After a moment Marie turned to Billy again.
"I'm so glad he wants--just puddings and stockings," she began a little breathlessly. "You see, for so long I supposed he wouldn't want anything but a very brilliant, talented wife who could play and sing beautifully; a wife he'd be proud of--like you."
"Me? Nonsense!" laughed Billy. "Cyril never wanted me, and I never wanted him--only once for a few minutes, so to speak, when I thought, I did. In spite of our music, we aren't a mite congenial. I like people around; he doesn't. I like to go to plays; he doesn't. He likes rainy days, and I abhor them. Mercy! Life with me for him would be one long jangling discord, my love, while with you it'll be one long sweet song!"
Marie drew a deep breath. Her eyes were fixed on a point far ahead up the curveless street.
"I hope it will, indeed!" she breathed.
Not until they were almost home did Billy say suddenly:
"Oh, did Cyril write you? A young relative of Aunt Hannah's is coming to-morrow to stay a while at the house."
"Er--yes, Cyril told me," admitted Marie.
"Didn't like it, I suppose; eh?" she queried shrewdly.
"N-no, I'm afraid he didn't--very well . He said she'd be--one more to be around."
"There, what did I tell you?" dimpled Billy. "You can see what you're coming to when you do get that shaded lamp and the mending basket!"
A moment later, coming in sight of the house, Billy saw a tall, smooth-shaven man standing on the porch. The man lifted his hat and waved it gayly, baring a slightly bald head to the sun.
"It's Uncle William--bless his heart!" cried Billy. "They're all coming to dinner, then he and Aunt Hannah and Bertram and I are going down to the Hollis Street Theatre and let you and Cyril have a taste of what that shaded lamp is going to be. I hope you won't be lonesome," she finished mischievously, as the car drew up before the door.