Sisters by Kathleen Thompson Norris
The three at the table did not move for perhaps twenty slow seconds. Doctor Strickland, who had pushed back his chair, and whose hands were resting on the table before him, stared at them steadily. Anne, with a quick little hiss of surprise, smiled faintly. Alix, the unstilted, widened her eyes, and opened her mouth in unaffected astonishment. For there was no mistaking Cherry's tone.
"Doctor," said Martin, coming in, "this little girl of yours and I have something to tell you!" The old man looked at him sharply, almost sternly, looked about at the girls' faces, and was silent. But he tightened his arm about Cherry, who had fluttered to the arm of his chair.
"Are you surprised, Daddy?" Cherry laughed, with all a child's innocent exultation. The next instant Anne and Martin were shaking hands, and Alix had enveloped Cherry in an enthusiastic embrace.
"Surprised!" exclaimed Alix. "Why, aren't you surprised yourself!"
Her sister flushed exquisitely, and Martin laughed.
"We're just about knocked silly!" he confessed, and all the girls laughed joyously.
There followed a delighted confusion of talk, when each in turn remembered what she had noticed, what she had suspected, and what her first emotion had been at this moment or that. Meanwhile a place was made for Martin, and biscuits and omelette and honey and tea were put into brisk circulation. Cherry left her place beside her father, with a final kiss, and took her own chair, all dimples, flushes, smiles, and shy confidence.
"And what are your plans?" Anne asked maternally, as she poured tea.
Her uncle, who had been silent during the excitement, mildly interposed:
"I think we needn't go too fast, young people! You've only known each other a few weeks, after all; you must be pretty sure of yourselves before taking anything like a decisive step. Plenty of time--plenty of time. Mr. Lloyd can go back to his mine, and Cherry will wait for him--"
Cherry's wild-rose face coloured, and her whole body drooped.
"But I can be getting ready, and I can tell people, Dad?" she pleaded.
"We'll see," her father promised her, soothingly. He had promised her thus vaguely when, as an imperative baby years ago, she had wanted the impossible. But she was not a baby now.
"Ah, now--that won't do!" she pouted.
"You must give me a little time to get used to the idea of losing my baby, pretty," her father said. "I confess that this thing seems to have come upon me rather unexpectedly. Mr. Lloyd here and I must have some talks about his plans--"
"I know exactly how you feel, Doctor," Martin said, sensibly and sympathetically. "I realize that I should have come to you first, and asked to pay my respects to your daughter--laugh, why don't you?" he added to Alix, from whom an abrupt and startling laugh had indeed escaped in good-natured scorn.
"Nobody does that any more!" the girl said, in self-defence. "It sounded so old-fashioned!"
"Perhaps nobody does it any more, but I should have done it," Martin said briskly and seriously. "Except that it all came over me with such a rush. A week ago Cherry was only a most attractive child, to me. I'd spoken to my aunt about her and had said that I envied the man that was some day to win her, and that was all! Then the time came for me to get back to work--and I found I couldn't go! I couldn't leave her. However, I expect to be back here some time in the fall, and I thought to myself that I'd see her then, and perhaps, then--And then came last night, when I began to say good-byes, and--it happened! I know that you all hardly know me, and I know that Cherry is pretty young to settle down, but I think I can satisfy you, Doctor, that you give her into safe hands, and I believe she'll never regret trusting me!"
He had gotten to his feet as he spoke, and was holding the back of his chair, looking anxiously and eagerly into the old man's eyes. His tone, in spite of his effort to keep it light, had taken on a depth and gravity quite new to his hearers, and as Cherry, sitting next him, and fired through all her girlish being by his eloquence, turned to lay a small, warm hand on his own, the tears came to his eyes.
"Well--" said the doctor, touched himself, and in his gentlest tone, "well! It had to come, perhaps, I can't promise her to you very soon, Mr. Lloyd. But if you both are willing to wait, and if time proves this to be the real feeling, I don't believe you'll find me hard on you!"
"That's all I ask, sir!" Martin said, resuming his seat and his dinner. And for the rest of the meal harmony and gaiety reigned.
Alix shot an occasional glance at Anne, who was flushed, but as usual busy and charming over the tea cups. Alix knew that Anne was inwardly writhing; indeed she felt a sort of emotional shock herself. Yesterday the mere talk of a lover for any one of them was delightfully thrilling and vague--to-night Cherry was actually engaged! The older girls' romantic speculations were flat enough now; Cherry had the actual thing.
There was no jealousy in Alix's heart, as there definitely was in Anne's, of the man. But Alix felt envious of the superior experience--why, he would kiss Cherry! No man had ever kissed Alix. Cherry would be the admired and envied girl among all the girls; married at eighteen, it was so beautifully flattering and satisfying to be married young!
She looked at her father's face, a troubled face to-night. He was watching the lovers regretfully; he did not disguise it. Their quick plans, the readiness with which they solved the tremendous problems to come, the light-heartedness with which they were hurrying toward the future--had he and the older Charity been like that, twenty-five years ago, when they had had supper at her mother's house, and told the great news? He remembered himself, an eager, enthusiastic lover--had he really given better promise then than this handsome young fellow was giving to-night? He tried to remember the older Charity's mother; what she had said, what expression her face had worn, and it seemed to him that he could dimly recall reluctance and pain and gravity in that long-ago look.
After dinner Cherry and Martin, in all the ecstatic first delight of recognized love, went out to the wide front porch, where there were wicker chairs, under the rose vines. Alix alone laughed at them as they went. Anne, with a storm in her heart, played noisily on the piano, and the doctor, after giving the doorway where Cherry had disappeared a wistful look, restlessly took to his armchair and his book, in such desolation of spirit as he had not known since the dark day of her mother's death.
The next day Alix and the engaged pair walked up to invite Peter to a tennis foursome on the old Blithedale court. It was a Saturday, and as he usually dined with them, or asked them to dine with him on Saturday, they were not surprised to find him busy with a charcoal burner, under the trees, compounding a marvellous dish of chicken, tomatoes, cream, and mushrooms, or to have his first words a caution not to tip things over if they wanted any dinner. His Chinese cook was hovering about, but Peter himself was chef.
"Stop your messing one second!" Alix said, catching him by the arm. And as he straightened up she added, with a little awkward laugh, "Congratulate these creatures--they--they're going to be married! Why don't you congratulate them!"
Peter gave one long look at Martin and Cherry, who stood laughing, but a little confused and self-conscious, too, in the grassy path. With a shock like death in his heart, he realized that it was all over. Their protection of her, their suspicions, had come too late. Blind child that she was, she was committed to this fascinating and mysterious adventure.
His face grew dark with a sudden rush of blood. "Peter hates to have any one else know a thing before he does!" Alix explained this later. But he went to them quickly, and shook hands with Martin, and was presently reproaching Cherry for her secretiveness in his old, or almost his old, way.
"Of course nobody's to know--Dad insisted on that!" said Cherry's soft, proud little voice.
"Did you suspect yesterday, Peter?" Alix asked, tasting the sauce, and bunching her fingers immediately afterward to send a rapturous kiss into the air as an indication of its deliciousness. "Yesterday when they went off after the tree, I mean?"
"I had my own suspicions!" he returned, and Cherry--his little, gay, lovely Cherry!--laughed happily. He arranged that they were to play the tennis here on his own courts, and later dine with him, but under his hospitality and under the golden beauty of the day it was all pain--pain--pain. It was agony to see her with him, beginning to taste the rapture of love given and returned; it was agony to have the conversation return always to Martin and Cherry, to the first love affair. When they wandered away to the brook, and stood talking, the girl's head dropped, her cheek flushed, but her face raised quickly now and then for a flashing look, Peter felt that he could have killed this newcomer, this thief, this usurper of the place that he himself might have filled.
"Dad's always said he disapproved of long engagements," Alix commented, amusedly, "but you ought to hear him now! This thing-- he won't even call it an engagement--it's an understanding, or a preference--is to be a profound secret, and Cherry's to be twenty- one before any one else but ourselves knows--"
"Your father is quite right!" Peter said sharply, in his most elderly manner. They were resting after the first set, and Cherry and Martin, in the opposite court, were out of hearing.
"When your hair gets tossed back that way," Alix observed innocently, "lots more gray shows! I think you're turning gray pretty young, Peter, aren't you? Are you forty yet? You're not forty, are you?"
"I'm thirty-six," Peter answered briefly. "My father was gray at twenty-seven!" he added, after a pause.
"I have a gray hair," Alix started. "People talk about the first gray hair--"
Peter did not hear her. There was beginning of a little hope in his heart. Girls did not always fulfill their first engagements, did not often do so, in fact. The thing was a secret; it might well come to nothing, after all.
That was the beginning, and after it, although it was arranged between them all that nothing should be changed, and that nobody but themselves should share the secret, somehow life seemed different. Two or three days after the momentous day of the raising of the rose tree, Martin Lloyd went to his mine at El Nido, and the interrupted current of life in the brown bungalow supposedly found its old groove.
But nothing was the same. The doctor, in the first place, was more silent and thoughtful than the girls had ever seen him before. Anne and Alix knew that he was not happy about Cherry's plans, if the younger girl did not. He sighed, sat silently looking off from his book in the summer evenings, fell into deep musing even at his meals. With Alix only he talked of the engagement, and she knew from his comments, his doubtful manner, that he felt it to be a mistake. The ten years' difference between Cherry and Martin distressed him; he spoke of it again and again. In June he sent Cherry to a long-planned house-party at Menlo Park, but the girl came back after the third day. "I didn't have any fun," she confessed, "I had to tell Olive, about me and Martin, I mean. The boys there were all kids!"
Cherry was changed, too, and not only in the expected and natural ways, Alix thought. She had always had a generous share of the family devotion, but she entirely eclipsed the others now. Her daily letter from Martin, her new prospects, not only increased her importance in the other girls' eyes, but innocently inflated her own self-confidence. She received a diamond ring, and although at her father's request she did not show it for a few weeks, eventually it slipped mysteriously from the little chamois bag on her neck, and duly appeared on her left hand. She had promised to keep the engagement "or understanding, or preference," a profound secret, but this was impossible. First one intimate friend and then another was allowed to gasp and exclaim over the news. The time came when Anne decided that it was not "decent" not to let Martin's aunt know of it, when all these other people knew. Finally came a dinner to the Norths', when Cherry's health was drunk, and then the engagement presents began to come in.
"But it's July now," Cherry said, innocently, "and I think we were pretty smart to keep it a secret so long! Don't you, Dad? And we've been engaged three months, now, so that it looks as if waiting wasn't going to change our minds, doesn't it?"
He could not chill her gay confidence; he had always spoiled her. Her father only looked tenderly into the blue eyes, and tightened his big arm protectingly about the slender young shoulders. But he was deeply depressed. There seemed nothing to say. Cherry was of age; she was sure of herself. She was truly in love with this presentable young man. Doctor Strickland felt that he did not know Martin--the man to whom he gave his lovely daughter he would have hoped to know intimately for years. There was nothing to be said against young Lloyd. It was only--mused the doctor, aghast--only what was being done in the world every day. But he was staggered by the bright readiness with which all of them--Cherry, Martin, the other girls--accepted the stupendous fact that Cherry was to be married.
She was quite frankly and delightedly discussing trousseau now, too entirely absorbed in her own happiness to see that the other girls had lives to live as well as she. Did Anne mind if she divided her share of the silver from theirs; did Alix think she would ever want any of Mother's lace?
"I got my cards yesterday," she said one day, "I was passing the shop, and I thought I might as well! The woman looked at me so queerly; she said: 'Mrs. John Martin Lloyd. Are these for your mother?' 'No,' I said, 'they're for me!' I wish you could have seen her look. Martin says in to-day's letter that he thinks people will say I'm his daughter, and Alix--he says that you are to come up to visit us, and we're going to find you a fine husband! Won't it be funny to think of your visiting me! Oh, and Anne--did you see what Mrs. Fairfax sent me? A great big glorious fur coat! She said I would need it up there, and I guess I will! It's not new, you know; she says it isn't the real present, but it can be cut down and it will look like new."
And so on and on. The other girls listened, sympathized, and rejoiced, but it was not always easy. They could not get Cherry to be interested in any of their plans for week-end house-parties, climbs, or picnics; indeed, even to themselves their own lives seemed a trifle dull by contrast.
Anne, as usual, took her part in the summer activities of the village; she and Alix put on their white gowns and wide hats, and duly descended to strawberry fetes and church fairs and concerts, and duly laughed disarmingly when old friends expressed their pleasant suspicions of Cherry.
But Alix voiced their feelings one summer afternoon when she was sauntering into the village at her cousin's side, and began for the first time a faint criticism of Martin.
"What makes Dad mad," Alix opined, "is that Martin had it all arranged before he asked him! Took advantage of Dad, in a way. I don't think he would have felt so if they both were kids, but after all, Martin's twenty-eight--" Her voice fell. "Anne," she began, hesitatingly, "sometimes when Mrs. North says so gaily that Martin was a terror in college, and kept his whole family worrying, I feel sort of sorry for Cherry! She doesn't know as much of life as we do," twenty-one-year-old Alix finished soberly.
"I know!" Anne said quickly, perhaps a little glad to find a point where Cherry needed sympathy.
"I have a feeling that Dad thinks," Alix pursued, "that it was just because it was Cherry's first beau-I mean that Cherry waked up suddenly, don't you know? It was as if she said to herself, 'Why, I'm a woman! I can get kissed and get married and all the rest of it!'--I'm expressing this beautifully," stumbled Mix.
"I often wonder Uncle Lee doesn't forbid it!" Anne said. She had never had even a flitting thought of such a thing before, but she spoke now as if the engagement had had her heartiest disapproval from the first.
"Oh, no--why should he!" Alix remonstrated. "Martin may be the best man in the world for her. I confess," the girl added frankly, "I can't stand his aunt. I always used to like Mrs. North, too. But lately, when she's begun to tell Cherry that he is extravagant, and she must save his money for him, and that he's often been in love before, but this time she's sure it is the real thing, and that Martin has his father's delicate stomach---"
Anne laughed out, in a merry fashion not usual with her of late.
"Oh, Alix, she didn't!"
"Oh, yes, she did! And it makes me sort of sick. What does Cherry care about anybody's delicate stomach!" Alix fell silent, broke out again abruptly: "Anne--do you suppose she'll have a baby?"
Anne flushed. She considered this remark rather indelicate, and yet she liked Alix's recognition of her superior knowledge of the subject.
"I think it very likely!" she answered calmly, after a moment's hesitation. Her first impulse had been to answer, "I think it very unlikely!"
"She doesn't know anything about babies!" Alix said, somewhat worried.
"I don't, either!" Anne confessed with honesty, her brow troubled. "I've read things, here and there. I know something, of course. But I don't know much!"
"We've all read Dickens--and the Classic Myths, and things," Alix submitted. "And of course she went with us the day Dad took us to Faust! Is that about all there is to it, Nance?"
"Just--about, I guess!" Anne answered briefly. Both girls' faces were red. They had rarely touched upon these and kindred subjects in their talks with each other; they had never discussed them with any one else. Anne liked to fancy herself rather worldly wise; Alix had an independent brain and tongue. But in their household there was no older woman to illumine their confused guessing with an occasional word now and then, even if an unusually wholesome out-of-door life had not distracted their attention from the problems raised in books, and their isolation had not protected them from the careless talk of other girls of their ages.
August brought Martin, and more changes. He was delighted with his work in the El Nido mine, the "Emmy Younger," and everything he had to say about it was amusing and interesting. It was still in a rather chaotic condition, he reported, but the "stuff" was there, and he anticipated a busy winter. He was to have a cottage, a pretty crude affair, in a few weeks, right at the mine.
"How does that listen to you?" he asked Cherry. Cherry was sitting beside him, at the dinner table, on the first night of his arrival. She was thrilling still to the memory of his greeting kiss, its fresh odour of shaving soap and witch hazel, and the clean touch of his smooth-shaven cheek. She gave her father a demure and interrogative glance. Martin, following it, immediately sobered.
"Just what is your position there?" the doctor asked, pleasantly.
"A little bit of everything now," Martin answered, readily and respectfully. "Later, of course, I shall have my own special work. At present I'm doing some of the assaying, and have charge of the sluice-gang. They want me to make myself generally useful, make suggestions, take hold in every way!"
"That's the way to get on," the older man said, approvingly. Cherry looked admiringly, with all her heart in her eyes, at her husband-to-be; the other girls were impressed, too. Martin brought a new element, something masculine and modern, to their quiet dinner table. Dad and Peter were men, to be sure, but they were different. They were only a little more dear and amusing and real than the men in Dickens' novels, long familiar and beloved in the household. But Martin made the girls feel suddenly in touch with real life.
He had kissed Alix and Anne, upon arriving, and they liked it. Both the older girls, in fact, were so impressed with the brilliancy of Cherry's prospects, with the extraordinary distinction she possessed in having a promised husband, with whom to walk about the woods and to talk of the future, that they could forgive Cherry for being wrapped in a sort of dream. Her new name, her new state, her new clothes, and home and position filled her thoughts, and theirs. Martin had not been with them more than a few hours before the engagement was openly discussed, and there were constant references to Cherry's marriage.
It was a cool evening, and after dinner they all gathered about the fire; Martin and Cherry murmuring together in the ingle seat, and the others only occasionally drawing them into the general conversation. Peter and the Norths had come in for coffee, Mrs. North giving Cherry a maternal kiss as she greeted her. Alix thought that she had never seen her sister look so pretty; Cherry was wearing a new dress, of golden-brown corduroy velvet, with a deep collar and cuffs of old embroidery that had belonged to her mother. Her silk stockings were brown, and her russet slippers finished with square silver buckles. But it was at the lovely face that Alix looked, the earnest, honest blue eyes, the peach-bloom of the young cheeks, and the drooping crown of shining hair.
Somehow, a few days later, wedding plans were in the air, and they were all taking it for granted that Cherry and Martin were to be married almost immediately; in October, in fact. The doctor at first persisted that the event must wait until April, but Martin's reasonable impatience, and Cherry's plaintive "But why, Daddy?" were too much for him. Why, indeed? Cherry's mother had been married at eighteen, when that mother's husband was more than ten years older than Martin Lloyd was now.
"Would ye let it go on, Peter, eh?" the doctor asked, somewhat embarrassed, one evening when he and Peter were walking from the train in the late September twilight.
"Lord, don't ask me!" Peter said, gruffly. "I think she's too young to marry any one--but the mischief's done now! You can't lock a girl in her room, and she's the sort of girl that wouldn't be convinced by that sort of argument if you did!"
"I think I'll talk to her," her father decided. "Anything is better than having her make a mistake. I think she'll listen to me!" And a day or two later he called her into the study. It was a quiet autumn morning, foggy yet warm, with a dewy, woody sweetness in the air.
"Before we decide this thing finally," the doctor said, smiling into her bright face, "before Martin writes his people that it's settled, I want to ask you to do something. It's something you won't like to do, my little girl. I want ye to wait a while--wait a year!"
It was said. He watched the brightness fade from her glowing face, she lowered her eyes, the line of her mouth grew firm.
"Wait until you're twenty, dear. That's young enough. I've been planning a full winter for you girls; I wanted to take a house in town, entertain a little, look up a few friends! You trust me, Cherry. I only ask you to take a little time--to be sure, dear!"
Silence. She shrugged faintly, blinked the downcast eyes as if tears stung them.
"I know you don't like Martin, Dad!" she said, tremulously.
"No, no, my darling--you mustn't say that!" he said, in distress. "I like him very much--I think he's a thoroughly fine fellow! I could wish--just with an old father's selfishness--that he was a neighbour, that he didn't plan to take you away entirely. That's natural, before I give him the thing I hold most precious in the world. And that's just it, Cherry. Wait a year or two, and perhaps it will be possible to establish him here near us. You'll have a little money, dear, and Martin says himself that he would much prefer office work to this constant changing. Marriage is a great change, anyway. Everything is different; your point of view, your very personality changes with it. You'll be lonely, my dear. You'll miss your sister and Anne, and all the old friends. There are cases where it must be so, of course. But in your case--"
He stopped, discouraged. She was sitting opposite him at the shabby writing table, her elbows resting upon it, her full lips pouting with disappointment. Perhaps the one phrase of her new plans that pleased Cherry most was that she was to be carried entirely away from the familiar atmosphere in which she would always be "little Cherry," and subject to suggestions and criticisms. Now she began slowly to shake her head.
"Can't take your old father's word for it?" Doctor Strickland asked.
"It isn't that, Dad!" she protested eagerly and affectionately. "I'll wait--I have waited! I'll wait until Christmas, or April, if you say so! But it won't make any difference, nothing will. I love him and he loves me, and we always will.
"You don't know," Cherry went on, with suddenly watering eyes, "you don't know what this summer of separation has meant to us both! If we must wait longer, why, we will of course, but it will mean that I'll never have a happy instant! It will mean that I am just living along somehow--oh, I won't cry!" she interrupted, smiling with wet lashes, "I'll try to bear it decently! But sometimes I feel as if I couldn't bear it--"
A rush of tears choked her. She groped for a handkerchief, and felt, as she had felt so many times, her father's handkerchief pressed into her hand. The doctor sighed. There was nothing more to be said.
So he gave Cherry a wedding check that made her dance with joy, and there was no more seriousness. There were gowns, dinners, theatre-parties, and presents; every day brought its new surprise and new delight to Cherry. She had her cream-coloured rajah silk, but her sister and cousin persuaded her to be married in white, and it was their hands that dressed the first bride when the great day came, and fastened over her corn-coloured hair her mother's lace veil.
It was a day of soft sweetness, not too brightly summery, but warm and still under the trees. Until ten o'clock the mountain and the tops of the redwoods were tangled in scarfs of white fog, then the mellow sunlight pierced it with sudden spectacular brightening and lifting.
The little brown house was full of flowers and laughter and coming and going. Anne and Alix, flushed and excited in their bridesmaids' gowns, were nervous and tired. They had made lists and addressed envelopes, had decorated the house, had talked to milliners and florists and caterers and dressmakers, had packed and repacked Cherry's trunk and boxes. Cherry was tired and excited, too, but had no realization of it; she was carried along upon a roseate cloud of happiness and excitement.
Martin's mother and stepfather had come down from Portland, and were friendly, and pleased with everything.
"His mother," Alix told Peter, "is the sort of handsome person who keeps a boarding-house and marries a rich, adoring old Klondike man."
"Is that what she did?" Peter whispered, amused.
"She's only sixteen years older than Martin is!" Alix confided further. "She kissed Cherry and said, 'You're just a baby doll, that's what you are!' And he calls me 'Ma'am,' and Cherry 'Sister!' They've got two little children, a boy and a girl. Dad likes them both."
"Well, that's good!" Peter approved. "Does Cherry?"
"Oh, anything that belongs to Martin is perfect!" Alix answered, in indulgent scorn, as she abruptly departed to see to some detail concerning the carriages, the music, or the breakfast. She and Anne were in a constant state of worry during the morning; their plans for seating two score of persons were changed twenty times; they conspired in agitated whispers behind doors and in the pantry.
But the first wedding went well. At twelve o'clock Charity Strickland became Charity Lloyd, and was kissed and toasted and congratulated until her lovely little face was burning with colour, and her blue eyes were bewildered with fatigue. She stood in the drawing-room doorway, her bouquet with its trailing ribbons in her gloved hands, and as each one of all the old friends and neighbours made some little pre-arranged speech of an amusing or emotional nature, she met it with a receptive word or smile, hardly conscious of what she did or said. Sometimes she freed her feet from the folds of her lacy train, and sometimes gave Martin a glance backward and upward over her shoulder, once asking him to hold her flowers with a smile that several guests afterward remarked showed that those two couldn't see anything in the world but each other.
At two o'clock there were good-byes. Cherry had changed the wedding satin for the cream-coloured rajah silk then, and wore the extravagant hat. It would be many years before she would spend twenty-five dollars for a hat again, and never again would she see bronzed cocks feathers against bronzed straw without remembering the clean little wood-smelling bedroom and the hour in which she had pinned her wedding hat over her fair hair, and had gone, demure and radiant and confident, to meet her husband in the old hallway.
She was confusedly kissed, passed from hand to hand, was conscious with a sort of strange aching at her heart that she was not only far from saying the usual heart-broken things in farewell, but was actually far from feeling them. She laughed at Alix's last nonsense, promised to write--wouldn't say good-bye--would see them all soon--was coming, Martin--and so a last kiss for darling Dad, and good-bye and so many thanks and thanks to them all!
She was gone. With her the uncertain autumn sunshine vanished, and a shadow fell on the forest. The mountain, above the valley, was blotted out with fog. The brown house seemed dark and empty when the last guests had loitered away, and the last caterer had gathered up his possessions and had gone. Hong was prosaically making mutton broth for dinner; pyramids of sandwiches and little cakes stood on the sideboard.
Up in Cherry's room there was a litter of tissue papers, and pins and powder were strewn on the bureau. The bed was mashed and disordered by the weight of guests' hats and wraps that had lain there. A heap of cards, still attached to ribbons and wires, were gathered on the book-shelf, to be sent after Cherry and remind her of the donours of gifts and flowers.
Across the lower bed that had been Cherry's a pale blue Japanese wrapper had been flung. The girls had seen her wear it a hundred times; she had slipped into it to change her gown a few hours ago. Anne, excited and tired, picked it up, stared vaguely at it for a few minutes, and then knelt down beside the bed, and began to cry. Alix, the muscles about her mouth twitching, stood watching her.
"Funerals are gay compared to the way a wedding feels!" Alix said finally. "I've eaten so much candy and wedding-cake and olives and marrons, and whipped cream and crab salad that my skin feels like the barrel of a musical box! I'm going to take a walk! Come on, Nancy."
"No, I don't want to!" Anne said, wiping her eyes, and sitting back on her heels, with a long sigh and sniff. "I've got too much to do!"
Alix descended to find her father and Peter discussing fly- fishing, on the porch steps. The doctor had changed his unwonted wedding finery for his shabby old smoking jacket, but Peter still looked unnaturally well dressed. Alix stepped down to sit between them, and her father's arm went about her. She snuggled against him in an unusual mood of tenderness and quiet.
"Be nice to me!" she said, whimsically. "I'm lonely!"
"H'm!" her father said, significantly, tightening his arm. Peter moved up on the other side and locked his own arm in her free one. And so they sat, silent, depressed, their shoulders touching, their sombre eyes fixed upon the shadowy depths of the forest into which an October fog was softly and noiselessly creeping.